(formerly the Freeholds of Zoda)
by T.A. Saunders ©2010 v1.5
Population: 37.8 million (45% Human, 30% Voraath, 15% Ferinal, 5% Dragonoid, 3% Shei, 2% Asyndi.)
Government Type: Guild Oligarchy (Five guilds representing the various important trade commerces of Zodasia: Jem-Cutters, Miners, Leather-workers, Trappers and Fabric-Weavers). A new guildmaster for each guild is elected every five years, and a new speaker every ten. Current Head(s) of State: Guild Speaker Byron Thames.
Alliances: Kingdom of Vyss, Irys, Windsong Republic, Kingdom of Moonfall, Farwind, Taijun, Tallis-Kah Territories.
Pacts of Nonaggression: Draconic Empire, Kingdom of Miroa, Albadosia.
NOTE: Populations do not include half-breeds of species, save for Dragonoids, due to the fact that Dragonoids are so varied onto themselves, and cannot be easily folded into either dragons, or another group. Half-Shei are considered Shei, Half-Asyndi and Asyn-Shei are considered Asyndi, and Half-Xalayi are considered Xalayi. Dracothar and Half-Giants are too few in number to accurately count in a census, nor would many opt to take one.
The following is a list of cities on the continent of Zoda. This atlas will not be an exhaustive literary work of each city, but rather a basic guide to each city and its place on the continent and further, the whole of Imarel, to give the world traveler some measure of what to expect whilst traveling abroad. Zoda as a whole is a harsh, cold continent with frozen steppes and grasslands and several mountainous areas. The primary inhabitants of the continent are Voraath, Humans, a few Wild Elves, the only clan of Dwarves known to be established on Imarel and a gobinoid race called the Masoq, who constantly war with the former four.
Unlike Tal’Rah that has distinct areas of control, all of Zoda’s cities are freeholds controlled by Northlanders that can trace their descendants to the first settlers from Shalzaar. While there are occasionally skirmishes between freeholds or nomadic tribes, by far the biggest threat are the Masoq. Like the Voraath most Masoq tend to be nomadic, however a fairly large concentration of them had taken residence in the Ruins of Blackgate, up until very recently, when the abandoned outpost was reclaimed by a group known as the Blackgate Vanguard.
Atlas of ZodaEdit
Krondhis (formerly Storm Haven)Edit
The city of Storm Haven was founded by some of the refugees of Blackgate’s fall that returned despite what had happened. Seven of the twelve that survived and a handful of mercenaries made the return voyage north, intent to lay claim to a new land, despite the horror of what happened at Blackgate. Harrowed by Masoq almost the entirety of the voyage the very ground the city sits on was the place where the mercenaries decided to make a stand against them. Despite being out-numbered nearly three to one, the superior tactics and skills of the mercenaries won out. Recognizing the area as a particularly defensible one that resides somewhat close to the sea and hills sloping to the south and north, it was decided that a new settlement would be made here.
It didn’t take long for the Voraath tribes to find this new settlement of Humans, but upon establishing that they did not keep any of the Shar’Vaire artifacts buried under Blackgate, nor had dabbled in the demon-worshiping rites of Khavos, a tentative peace was struck. Since that time Storm Haven has become perhaps the most prosperous of the freeholds of Zoda, with Zodastag a distant second. This prosperity has, in recent years prompted talks with the Republic of Windsong to add Storm Haven as part of the republic for the vast mineral wealth and bustling fishing trade it enjoys. Whether this comes to pass or not remains to be seen.
Storm Haven’s main industries are mining boromandite, iron and copper, which is particularly lucrative and deep sea fishing. A great many talented Northlander smiths reside here who have made a small fortune fashioning iron weapons for the Voraath tribes that visit to trade with the freehold, gaining in return Voraath relics that sell for a great deal of gold on the open market. Storm Haven is also a popular jump point for mercenaries and adventurers new to Zoda that may wish to explore further or chance the Ruins of Blackgate.
In 968 AC Blackgate Outpost was founded by a colony from Windsong, sent to investigate a strange black metal gate that the original expedition found standing in the middle of the steppe. Unbeknownst to them, the edifice was actually the remains of an ancient Asyndi stronghold that was destroyed sometime after the War of Twilight. The colonists built this outpost around this alien structure and began populating it with the families of the researchers and Windsong troops send to protect them.
However, the structure was not so alien to the Voraath, who knew the sorcerous marks of their former masters well. Having never encountered the shorter, less warrior-like Shalzaarian Humans before this time, the Voraath tribes did not know what to make of them initially. Friendly enough-seeming, they introduced themselves to their new, industrious neighbors and soon trade began between wandering tribes and the settlement of Blackgate Hold. All the while, however Voraath shaman would keep a mindful eye on their Human neighbors, assuring that whatever evil the Shar’Vaire had brought here eons ago remained forgotten.
By the time 972 AC rolled around, Blackgate Hold was a bustling trade post and foothold into the continent of Zoda for Humans and Elves. However, the mystery behind the Blackgate itself remained and drew the attention of many scholars from across Imarel as well as the Cult of Khavos. The infamous cult had been seeking a way to return Khavos to the mortal plane, to take vengeance for his banishment by Zorah.
Archeological digs began in various places in the Hold, including exploration into some particularly promising catacombs located in the Blackgate operation bunker itself. Despite warnings from their Voraath trading partners, the Humans delved deep and unearthed the knowledge to activate the Gate by way of a crystalline key, that had to be placed within the operating pedestal, then turned to certain runes to attune it to a particular place, or plane. The Cult of Khavos had infiltrated the archeological team working the Blackgate site and managed to acquire this crystalline key, known as the Vin les Vala or Key of Worlds then attempted to use it to unleash Khavos on the mortal world.
The cultists had an imperfect understanding of the ancient Asyndi language however and their attempt to attune the portal to bridge it to Khavos’ Abyssal plane of Xos was an flawed one, which resulted in only a partial bridging. Because of this, heroes at the outpost were able to shut down the Blackgate in time, but not before several demons escaped into the mortal realm and slaughtered all but twelve people, out of several hundred people. Out of fear and catastrophic loss of lives, the outpost was abandoned by the Windsong Republic and left to ruin.
For 350 years, only Masoq live in the Ruins of Blackgate. Not a particularly industrious people, they have made no effort to rebuild the smashed fortifications and were content to live in the squalor of the ruins and in the comfortable darkness of the catacombs. They are no taller than five and a half feet for either gender and have brimstone black skin and beady onyx eyes, wiry black hair, along with a slight hunch to their overly thin frames. Savage worshipers of forgotten fiends, the Masoq remained in the ancient catacombs during the day and wandered the ruins and beyond at night, mostly to hunt or salvage anything they can find. While not incredibly bright, they are cunning and absolutely ruthless to those they encounter, including other Masoq clans.
Near the end of 1322 AC the Blackgate Outpost was finally reclaimed after 350 years of being left abandoned, by a multinational organization called the Blackgate Vanguard, led by Commander Geriah Langsford. Entrusted with the Key of Worlds, which has been kept in secret in Windsong all these centuries, The Vanguard has established the outpost as a place to strike at the arch-villainess, Arisyeema, with the hopes of using the Blackgate as a means to strike upon her.
Nestled atop a crest of craggy mountains, Mirisar is the home to many Northlander scholars and holy men who follow the ways of Kaal. Considered a holy city to the Flamebringer, those who come upon its gates are given refuge should they seek it with the trust that they will be peaceful while they are within the small freehold. Home to the Monastery of Mirisar, many monks who seek spiritual enlightenment maintain the many books and scrolls that are housed within. Many of the faithful will make the pilgrimage to Mirisar to study at the monastery to find their faith or seek help from the monks of Kaal.
Not much else exists in Mirisar; the whole city sprung up around the monastery and nearly all the Northlanders who live here are faithful to their religion. Exports include some very well-made candles, various sorts of textiles and hand-made dolls that are considered valuable to certain collectors. It is of course an important place for those traveling northwards, to seek shelter against the brutal weather and roving Masoq raiders of the area.
Perhaps the single largest concentration of ‘city-going’ Voraath, Zodastag is a freehold symbolic of the friendship formed between the Northlanders and the Voraath. Known for their outstanding military and mercenary troupes, Zodastag often comes to the aid of other freeholds that are suffering from Masoq raiding parties or attacks from one of the the Vakar Nas and the Khag-Jaht Voraath tribes (these tribes the Voraath tradition of non-aggression). The freehold itself also acts as a neutral trading post between Firyn and Kasiq, since the two cities have no diplomatic ties and are often skirmishing with one another over territory.
Zodastag itself has no alliances to any of the other freeholds and their swords go to the highest bidder. It is not unheard of for two mercenary troupes from Zodastag to fight against one another, having accepted bids from opposing sides. While in the city however, whatever blood is spilled outside the gates remains there. This law is strictly enforced and given the honor-bound mindset of many of the Voraath that live there, such laws are almost never broken. Zodastag also enjoys a healthy trade of weapons, armor and rare magical items that have filtered up from the southern lands of Tal’Rah. While it’s likely to find all manner of dark relic in this market, it is also wise to keep such purchases very low profile. Most Voraath and many of the Northlanders here will kill a would-be necromancer where they stand without thought, if seen with some manner of black sorcerous art on their person. It goes without saying that black arts of any kind are illegal in Zodastag.
Kasiq: Of the freeholds of Zoda, Kasiq is truly considered a den of villainy by the other peoples of the continent. The only city where Masoq roam freely and associate with Humans and outcast Voraath, it has become home to several dark religions focused on the Lords of Chaos and a haven for those who are involved in occult activities. Often the target of conflict from Voraath tribes and its neighboring freehold Firyn, it’s walls are often found battered and smoldering from the latest skirmish fought at its gates. The city survives mostly on an economy based on theft, black market trade and spoils of war from their ongoing conflicts with Firyn, Kasiq is otherwise utterly corrupt and absolutely poverty stricken. The streets are barely paved and often littered with all sorts of unmentionable filth and more than occasionally, the unfortunate dead from disease or a well-placed knife.
Kasiq’s one major attraction is for those seeking assassins, warlocks and necromancers who will engage in all manner of heinous act without question, for the right price. It is also home to the only Half-Masoq to exist anywhere on Imarel, these half breeds often inherit darker qualities of both races and are considered most dangerous. A haven for the black-hearted, it is considered only a matter of time before the Voraath decide to purge it much like Blackgate was, several centuries ago.
The freehold of Firyn resides at the coldest, most inhospitable corner of Zoda and exists only to mine the precious M’aati (or Firynian Ice) gems from the frozen mountainside. Found nowhere else on Imarel, these vibrant cobalt blue gems are highly sought after by magi for their ability to store and focus magical energies (Mana). Because of their rarity Firyn is able to thrive on just this one market, however it has also made them a favorite target of Kasiq raiders who often try to break the city’s defenses to pillage mines within its fortified walls.
Many magic-users from across Imarel have traveled to Firyn to purchase their legendary gems and in so doing, find themselves being drafted into defending the city against the latest Kasiq offensive. More than once, an enterprising mage has brought a mercenary force to the city and had his bounty paid in Firynian Ice, rather than gold, for services to the city. Firyn is also known for harvesting a hardy seaweed known as Maiden’s Vine that is not only edible but can stay fresh for long periods of time once its properly dried. Not particularly tasty, it is also known to have some medicinal value to herbalists across Imarel.
Perhaps one of the oldest structures on Zoda, the ancient Hammerspark Hall had sat abandoned in the frigid cold of northern Zoda for an entire age of Imarel. The history of the hall is one not known by Asyndi, Elf or Man, but kept in the depths of the great hall itself by its keepers, the Kaal’Kor Dwarven clan of the same name. At least until 1320 AC, when the forge fires of the hall mysteriously began casting their black smoke of creation into the skies once more. Known to be an adventurous lot, the Thane and his clansmen were amongst the first to join the peace-keeping forces that helped secure the City of Sundown during her civil war in 1320 AC. It is believed that when matters were settled there, the Dwarves of Hammerspark made the great trek to the north to Zoda to reclaim their ancestral hall. Having made friends with the Northlanders and the Voraath both, by sharing secrets of rune-forging and their legendary lager, the Hammerspark Clan represents the only established presence of Dwarves on Imarel.
Little is known about the origins of the Hall, which is whispered to even predate the Forgotten Portal of Shalzaar, that brought the Elves and Humans to Imarel, from Ishaela. Some whisper the Hammerspark Dwarves built a great flying ship that landed in Zoda, others claim the Hammerspark clan may be older still and had come with Kaal when Vocoria shattered. Thane Hammerspark is said to laugh at both accounts but does not confirm either…as any good Dwarf who enjoys their name being made legendary should.