About the Ironlands of Kathig
The Old World
The Old World could no longer sustain us. We were too large in number. We had felled the forests. Our crops withered in the barren ground. The cities and villages overflowed with desperate, hungry people. Petty kings battled for scraps. We cast our fate to the sea and found the continent of Kathig, which we now call the Ironlands. A new world. A fresh start. Kathig is a diverse landscape full of conflict and danger abounding. The new and growing cities of the Ironlands are now full of life, but the wilderness remains untamed and adventure is everywhere. One wonders whether the same fate of the Old World will befall the new.
The imposing hills and mountains of the Kathig Ironlands are rich in iron ore. Most prized of all is the star-forged black iron. The dark iron is a result of the dark magic and powerful divinity at work within the continent. While few Ironlanders are blessed with the gifts of ritual spellcasting, the world itself is awash with mystical energies. Star-forged weapons are difficult to craft, hard to find materials for, and expensive to purchase, but blades of such material can cut through the strongest armors as if they were made of cloth.
Before the Ironlanders, before even the firstborn, another people lived here. Their ancient ruins are found throughout the Ironlands. Research parties are routinely sent to explore the many ruins and dungeons that dot the countryside. The peoples of ancient times were architects of wild and unusual forms of civilization, and more is sure to be gained in the research of their eras.
We have forged the Ironlands into a home. Sprawling cities and walled city-states are features of the many provinces. Villages and towns within the provinces are connected by well-trod roads. Trade caravans travel between settlements in the provinces and those in outlying regions. Even so, much of this land is untamed and no road is truly safe.
Each of our communities has its own leader, called an overseer. Every seventh spring, the people affirm their current overseer or choose a new one. Some overseers wear the iron circlet reluctantly, while others thirst for power and gain it through schemes or threats. Overseers in the largest cities wield immense power, and routinely attempt to usurp the traditions of the seventh spring, but, as yet, all have succumbed to the passing of the iron crowns from one leader to the next.
Our warbands are rallied to strike at our enemies or defend our holdings. Though not nearly as impressive as the armies that once marched across the Old World, these forces are as well-trained and equipped as their communities can manage. The banners of the warbands are adorned with depictions of their Old World history and Ironland victories. The largest of the city-states feature multiple warbands which are capable of overthrowing neighboring cities, villages, and towns, but such an occurrence has been rare in the recent timeline. Well-established treaties are in place throughout all provinces, but there are always rumblings of overthrow and the whispers of assassination plots. Defenses are primarily used to protect against the many bestial and unholy threats that roam the wilds, and particular regiments of firstborn who still see the Ironlanders as invaders.
Magic is rare and dangerous, but those few who wield the power are truly gifted. Those who are gifted with magic are called the Children of the Plane. The plane of spiritual magic coexists with the material plane of existence, and the occasional living being can access its energies. The gifted are seemingly chosen at random, with no connection to bloodline or lineage. Consequently, many Ironlanders assume it's the work of the gods. This creates a strange tension within certain provinces. In some areas of Kathig - predominantly in The Hadrofair - Children of the Plane are not trusted and are kept away from prominent positions of power; even hunted and hanged in some of the older communities. But in other areas, such as the Cronemoor Province, the Children are treated no differently than everyone else. Cronemoors embrace the strange and dark nature of the land they find themselves in. It's thought to be an extension of their newer cultural way of thinking and more cosmopolitan ways.
Our gods are many. They make themselves known through manifestations and miracles. Some say they even secretly walk among us. The priests convey the will of the gods and hold sway over many communities. In some cities, particularly in the west, priests participate in governmental control, even functioning as overseers in the more structurally disciplined societies. The various temples always hold power in all communities, with newer towns and settlements having less and less religious doctrine exerted within their walls.
Most of the firstborn live in isolation and are fiercely protective of their own lands. The elves still wear their sacred masks and war amongst their own elven clans as much as they fight outsiders. This has been their way since long before the humans arrived. And the dwarves still mine the mountain ranges, creating an ever-increasing empire under the world. The coming of the Ironlanders signaled a change for the firstborn. The initial wars were bloody and debilitating for all involved, but the elves and dwarves eventually ceded extensive swaths of territory across Kathig to the humans. This is a fact most of their kind will bring up regularly in conversation. Though the three races coexist within all 8 provinces and come into contact with one another frequently, they tend to stay within their own borders and with their own kind. That being said, there are dwarves and elves who live among the Ironlanders in every major city, and have adopted their culture as their own. They are brave souls who are never afraid of adventure and seek to explore Kathig alongside their human counterparts. The elves who live among the Ironlanders are never allowed to wear their masks again when returning to the forests, and the city dwarves are seldom given warm welcomes by their kin in the mountains.
Beasts of all sorts roam the Ironlands. They dwell primarily in the reaches, but range into the settled lands to hunt. There, they often prey on cattle, but attacks on travelers, caravans, or even settlements are not uncommon. The diversity of creatures within Kathig seems endless. From the lowly imp to the menacing dragon, there's no end to the perils that await the curious traveler. The metaphysical bridge between the magical plane and the physical plane is regularly breached by demons and their ilk, adding another layer of dread for the Ironlanders and firstborn to contend with.
We are wary of dark forests and deep waterways, for monsters lurk in those places. In the depths of the long-night, when all is wreathed in darkness, only fools venture beyond their homes. The horrors of Kathig are perhaps the most diabolical of foes throughout the landscape. While some are only seen at night and stay far from the edges of civilization, others walk freely in the day and constantly harass the common folk. From lesser haunts to the grim deathwalkers, the horrors are always a problem for those who aren't well prepared.