The Mirror of Night
The Mirrored Lands
THE NECROPOLIS – drawn in cold stone and grave dirt
- Ruled by the Undying Court
- Military stratagem: overwhelming force through the powers of undeath
- Standard of living: excellent; most manual labor is done by mindless undead, and so there is virtually no lower class
- Primary exports: All manner of foodstuffs, unrefined ores, necromantic magics
The Necropolis is an old, old city – three thousand years, if rumors are to be believed. It stands in the northeast, with the vast plains of the Desand Shelf stretching before it and the Mountains of Rhun behind it. The city itself has a great roof, an obsidian dome rising skyward in a gently curving cone, studded with spires and towers. Approaching the great citadel of black stone, the wide, dusty road is flanked on both sides by neat row upon row upon row of low, even mounds: an army of the dead buried with their weapons and armor just beneath the surface, on their feet and killing within a span of moments – a less-than-subtle reminder of how inadvisable it would be to challenge the city militarily.
The interior of the city is arranged in concentric rings, centering upon a massive spiral ramp that ascends through the levels above it and descends to a single level below. Since space is limited within the dome of the Necropolis, expansion is done downwards, through the stone beneath the city. Untold levels and sublevels create a vast network of warrens below the city, and while blueprints are available, they are centuries out of date.
The mountains behind the Necropolis are studded with mines – everything from gold, silver and copper to a substantial number of onyx mines.
The Undying Court are the nobility of the Necropolis – primarily vampires and other higher-functioning undead, including a few mummies and even a lich or two. The hungers of the Undying Court are sated by a blood tax upon the living residents of the city, and most of the people are quite happy to provide when their time comes; if that and the prospect of their corpses being turned into mindless automatons after their deaths are all it takes to put them solidly in a life of relative comfort, then so be it.
Some of the mages of the Undying Court have had centuries to perfect their art, and while they don’t possess some of the arcane secrets the artificers of Lucerne do, they’ve perfected the art and science of necromancy.
NOBILIS – drawn in dragonfire and copper sky
- Ruled by a grown red dragon and a coterie of lesser dragons
- Military stratagem: strength through superior breeding
- Standard of living: good, as the establishment of most of the primary banks here improve the quality of nearby businesses by osmosis
- Primary exports: Banking services, objects d’art, fine foodstuffs and wines
Known for its master traders and artisans, Nobilis is essentially neutral: the bank of all the nations and an economic powerhouse. Only a fool would attempt to steal from the hoard of a dragon, and so its vaults are generally regarded as the safest in the world.
A city of soaring spires and majestic arches, Nobilis is nestled amongst the mountains in the heart of the continent; it is a major trade hub, and its rulers take great care to ensure that the passes are open all year round, regardless of the weather. Pursuant to the city’s mercantile heart, fairs and festivals of all sorts are held in every season; if Lucerne is the most advanced of the nations in the known world, Nobilis is probably the most cosmopolitan.
THE SILVER MARCHES – drawn in rough frontiersmen and wild lands
- A loose collection of small towns under mutual agreements of protection
- Military strategem: very little standing army, relies mostly upon militia and adventurers to solve problems that have to be solved by force
- Standard of living: average frontier
The Silver Marches are a loose collection of towns, villages, freeholds and independent city-states; their greatest attraction to those who live in them is that they owe fealty to no lord or government greater than themselves. The Marches attract the kind of rough-and-ready folk it takes to build a society on the fringes: pioneers, frontiersmen and especially adventurers, the latter drawn by the promise of steady, lucrative work, given that the freeholders and villagers usually rely upon semi-professional freelancers to resolve dangerous situations (of which there are many, situated on the bleeding edge of civilization as they are). The situation of the Marches near to the edge of the Barrens is a great draw for adventurers as well, and on any given day there’s likely to be an expedition of treasure-seekers passing through a given town, setting up camp or perhaps returning: sometimes empty-handed, sometimes bloodied, sometimes laden with a king’s ransom in ancient treasures.
CZERNAYA – drawn in boiled turnips and high stone towers
- Rule established by the Tower of Three (a despotic triumvirate of powerful spellcasters) in a quasi-socialist system
- Military stratagem: strength through poorly-trained but overwhelming numbers, supported by highly-regimented magic-users
- Standard of living: near to piss-poor; overwhelming population boom led to the implementation of collective farms, poorly-managed resource distribution, etc.
- Primary exports: leathers, woods, all varieties of unworked stone and ores
Czernaya as a nation was established some twenty years past, the Tower of Three drawing the kingdom together out of the ruins of a collection of smaller countries torn by centuries of incessant conflict between petty warlords. While the Tower is certainly interested in keeping order – even after twenty years, the entire nation is still under martial law – they’re more interested in maintaining control than in efficient administration, and the country is rife with corruption. A population boom in the last fifteen years has left the country nearly bursting at the seams with an overwhelmingly human population, and it’s no secret that Czernaya has been doing a great deal of military buildup and posturing, though only a very small percentage of their forces are of a higher quality than conscripted peasants armed with leathers and spears.
THE HARROWHAME – drawn in iron and baked clay
- Ruled by a hobgoblin warlord and his junta
- Military stratagem: strength through superior discipline and tactics
- Standard of living: fair; the junta is concerned more with military strength than agriculture, and the nation is but a decade removed from savage anarchy.
- Primary exports: mercenaries, high-quality arms
Peopled primarily by hobgoblins now after a long and desperate internal struggle between hobgoblin and orc factions (in which the orcs were summarily driven wholesale out of the area), the Harrowhame has been replenishing its strength in the past decade by offering sanctuary to the outcasts of other areas. It has become a thriving, heterogeneous culture – it is not unusual to walk down the streets and see ogre bodyguards watching over a half-elven courtesan, or teams of kobolds and goblins engaged in driving a herd of aurochs. Creatures that might well be savage and tribal in other areas have found relative peace here, although it is a peace tempered by the hobgoblin nation’s strict sense of order. The warlord who rules is brutally efficient but has the good of his people firmly in mind.
LUCERNE – drawn in neat stone and the tang of greenery
- Generally benevolent magocracy
- Military stratagem: superior diplomacy
- Standard of living: good; fair, but supported by a good justice system and reasonable taxation
- Primary exports: arcane items of all qualities, magebred animals
Lucerne is the thaumaturgic apex of the contemporary world. Its military is small, but well-equipped and well-trained. The tiny nation’s economy is based primarily upon the mastery of its artificers; their expert insight into the mechanics of magic allows them to produce arcane wonders only dreamt of in other parts of the world, which accounts for a great deal of the city-state’s wealth. It is famed for the export of magebred animals – animals whose breeding has been carefully selected and magically manipulated down generations to produce astoundingly fine specimens. The ownership of a magebred horse is a boon to anyone who does a great deal of riding, and the ownership of such animals is a mark of status among the nobility of nearly all nations.
Another recent innovation has been the development of airships, built from extremely rare woods with inherent buoyancy and powered by bound elemental forces. Although such extravagances are affordable only by the government and by especially powerful trade costers, it’s quickly becoming apparent that the concept of the airship, if successful, will change the face of the known world in broad strokes.
RUATHAR – drawn in tilled fields and rolling rivers
- Hereditary monarchy
- Military strategem: mounted knights supplemented by pikemen and archers
- Standard of living: fair
- Primary exports: Timber, produce, fish, livestock
Second in size only to Czernaya, Ruathar is undoubtedly the wealthiest nation in terms of natural resources: its soil is rich and fertile and its forests are broad and generally tamed, free of the monsters that plague wilder lands. It boasts a complex feudal system, with duchies and baronies ruled by landed nobility who treat their serfs with varying degrees of respect. Queen Aurala de Montag is the current regent, beloved by the common folk and a significant number of the nobles as a beautiful and just ruler (although what wisdom she displays in her rulings is more likely due to the coterie of viziers and seneschals she’s accreted). The kingdom’s war-wizards are generally trained at the Tower of the Arcane Host, the country’s premier magical college; most mage-training is restricted to military pursuits, with a significant exchange program with Spellgard. The Ruathri are generally wary of Czernaya, as the larger nation has only recently coalesced on their borders out of an amalgam of poorly-organized freeholds and bandit lords, but are on excellent terms with Luxans and cordial terms with the citizens of the Necropolis and Nobilis.