World of Kator
The Anthrok Vale is a broad valley that slopes down from the Silver Mountains in the east to the Banotrys River and the Forest of Anthrok in the west. Once, long ago, the Vale was heavily forested, but centuries of farming have stripped much of the primeval forest and replaced it with a patchwork of farms, pastures filled with cattle and horses, and numerous small villages.
Despite much growth and progress many residents of the Vale claim that "Life moves at a slower pace in the Vale." The statement is a reference, perhaps, to the mild year-round weather and to the mostly rural lifestyle of its residents.
The people of the Vale are mostly human, farming and ranching the breadth of the land, but along the river there are a smattering of communities that work the local timber or fish the river. In the east, nearer to the foothills of the Silver Mountains, the population is more a mix of human and Dwarf and focused on mining the abundant local ores of silver and iron.
The Battered Coast is aptly named, not only for the frequent typhoons that regularly hammer its shores, but for the various wars, famines and other destructive chaos that seems to pass through almost as often. A land of rolling hills and plains, it is bordered on the west by the Emerald River and the Greenwood and on the east by the Scarlet River (sometimes referred to as the Blood River by the locals). Its northern border is the great escarpment known as Thorok's Wall, a massive geological formation nearly two miles high that separates the low-lands of the coast from the high plains of Bathakia.
Near the mouth of the Emerald River lies the city of Geneva, a metropolis that was once known as the greatest trade-city in all of Kator and is now one of the Free Cities of the Battered Coast. The sprawl of the city straddles the mouth of the river where it flows into the Sea of Storms and its great port encompasses nearly the entire Bay of Reeds.
Centuries ago, Geneva was the most feared of the Free Cities, its pirate navies preying upon shipping up and down the coastline while its slave-markets operated day and night. At the height of its power, Siedon Storm-Chaser destroyed the city and its wicked ways in a great typhoon that legends claim lasted for an entire year and left nothing but sinking ruins in its wake.
Bay of Shadows
The Bay of Shadows is not for the foolhardy or for the meek; its waters are known for their unpredictability. The locals have a saying, "The Bay, she is a fickle beast" and few venture beyond sight of the shore. Those crazy, or perhaps brave, enough to sail further onto the waters of the Bay risk being crushed or sunk by the numerous icebergs, eaten by Feldons that grow large enough to crush entire boats, or swallowed whole by the sudden maelstroms that appear and disappear in the deepest waters of the bay.
Local myths speak of great Feldons larger than the greatest ships in the south, larger even than the Dragons on the great battlefields of the WarMages. Other myths speak of even greater dangers on the icy waters of the Bay, of massive maelstroms miles across, to ghostly ships sailed by the spirits of those who braved the dangerous waters and perished in the depths.
The Ember Hills are unlike any found in Kator. They appear to have been sculpted from the land by some great hand. The hills are desolate one moment, green and lush the next, though no trees grow on the striated red rock of their slopes. Between these stone knolls flow numerous streams, and even though many run dry during the hot summers their beds are still surrounded by stunted trees fighting the dry climate.
Long ago the races of Kator found and named the Ember Hills, but only the Ogre have claimed them for a home. Here amongst the red rocks and strange, often surreal formations of stone, the Ogre have carved cavities into which they have built structures of stone, mud and wood.
Forest of Anthrok
It is said that when Idha, fairest of the gods, set eyes on the Forest of Anthrok she wept at its unmatched beauty and abundant wildlife. In the ages that have passed since that day the forest has seen its share of bloodshed and death, of peace and rebirth, and of everything between. Within the vastness of the forest are the ruins of long-dead kingdoms, most casualties of centuries of warfare among rival WarMages, and some that continue to be fought over to this day.
Foremost among the dangers of the forest is the great river of Banotrys, river of secrets and mists. The river's course carries it along the eastern edge of the forest as it winds its way from mountains in the distant north to the ocean far to the south. The mists created by the river's passage blanket the surrounding lands in a lonesome and beguiling fog.
In the fullness of the forest many of the trees rise hundreds of meters into the sky and little if any sunlight ever reaches the ground beneath their boughs. Elves, who call the forest Feshonn Talinadras , or "Great Nursemaid", and even the Faery build their cities in the lower limbs of the great trees, often carving into the massive trunks themselves. Few other than their own citizens have ever seen these cities, and almost none have returned to speak of it.
The battlegrounds of the Forest of Anthrok are unpredictable and known to be filled with surprises, some ancient, and others not so much. Many are the WarMagi who have found themselves caught unawares by the forest itself.
A large forest found near the Battered Coast between the Silver Mountains and the Emerald River, the Green Wood is a dense and lush forest with towering trees of Sequoia. The floor of the forest is covered with lush vegetation including many ferns as well often implausibly proportioned mushrooms. The air of the forest is humid and often permeated with a dense mist, shrouding its many secrets.
Once, centuries ago, the Green Wood covered the lands of the Battered Coast and even some of the Sundered Lands in the distant east. The trees grew tall and strong to resist the mighty typhoons that rolled in from the Sea of Storms and beneath the boughs of these great trees lived the Faery.
Over time Humans began migrating into the forest from the north and soon they were cutting down the great trees. The wood of the trees fueled the construction of great cities along the coast as well as mighty ships to fish and trade.
Eventually the Green Wood and the Faery were reduced to the lands west of the Emerald River and there they fought to keep their land free of Humans and their rapacious development. The trees still grow tall, the mists still lie heavy on the land beneath, but now the Faery watch their borders and few Humans venture into the mists of the forest.
Lake of Tears
Mountains, snow-capped and foreboding, surround the high-mountain Lake of Tears, so named because of its majestic, lonely beauty. The slopes of glaciers can be seen amongst the peaks and it is the glacial runoff that feeds the great lake, making its waters clear and intensely cold year-round.
Long ago humans came to the lake and were captivated by its beauty as well as the richness of the forests and caves that cover the mountain slopes. Great pine forests, teeming with elk and goat, cover the slopes of the mountains. The mountains themselves are rich in gold, silver and iron and even the waters of the lake itself are densely populated with large fish as well as beaver and otter.
The Lake of Tears is found at the convergence of the two great mountain chains of Kator, the Mountains of Fire to the north and the Silver Mountains to the south, and is also ringed by volcanoes. The ground is known to shake frequently and even to split, sink or rise from time to time as the mountain chains shift and war against one another.
The slopes of the mountains are dotted with tall spires, many in ruins, some still under construction. These towers, the Eyes of Razzus as they are called, are built by the residents of the Lake who believe that the lake itself is sacred and that from their heights you might catch a glimpse of Razzus Eagle-Eyed himself circling reflected in the crystalline waters below.
Mountains of Flame
The Mountains of Flame rise up from the foothills of Noralan and the Shivering Plains and stretch ever upwards towards the sky. Their tops are sharp and angular, covered perpetually with snow and ice, and wreathed by the clouds. The mountain-sides, however, are pitted with numerous fissures through which deadly gasses and lava spill frequently, the mountains live up to their name as a place of fire, smoke, ash and death.
It is among this treacherous and inhospitable landscape that the Dragonkin live. Like their larger cousins, the Dragons, the Dragonkin are at home with fire and ice and do not seem to be hindered by the fumes and ash that permeate the air around the mountains. In this environment they construct their citadels, towering spires on the slopes of the mountains, and delve their lairs into the deep lava-filled caverns at the heart of the mountains.
The greatest of these contains the Chamber of Zanithabil, the Chamber of the Elements, where the Dragonkin work powerful magic using the forces at the heart of Kator itself. Few but the Dragonkin have ever seen the Chamber, but all would be awe-struck at its immensity and the magical power swirling in its core. It is for this reason that, more than any other, the Dragonkin fight so fiercely for their homeland.
Barod's Pass is the only known crossing through which one can safely venture north into the Shivering Plains or south into the warmer southern lands. However, it is believed that others exist for Dragonkin have rarely been seen, but are often spotted both north and south of the high volcanic peaks.
Nestled between the Banotrys River and a tributary, the Crystal River, Noralan is a land of bounty. The hills and valleys are patchworks of pasture on which sheep, goat and cattle graze, littered with orchards of apple, cherry, and peach, the fruits of which are prized by people as far away as the Free Cities and Talsinta. The orchards of Noralan are famous for their sweet, crisp apples and the wonderful cider made on the presses that dot the land.
Noralan itself lies in the foothills of the Mountains of Flame and on the western side of the Lake of Tears. Cold in the winters, but temperate in the summers, the land is densely populated and has been fought over for millennia by many of the races of Kator.
During the Great War Noralan was ruled by a triumvirate of Heroic WarMages, Attis, Gilded Gattan, and Naiden the Fair. They were eventually defeated by Jonis Torrash, who went on to rule Noralan peacefully for many years and is revered by its residents even to this day.
Plains of Bathakia
The Plains of Bathakia are one of the most contested regions in all of Kator, owing to the fact that they are temperate, heavily populated, and home to a multitude of races. The grassy plains, sparse forests and scattered ranges of rolling hills are bordered on the west by the Silver Mountains, the north by the Blackwater, and the east by the Ember Hills. Nestled in the valleys are numerous villages and perched atop the hills are formidable fortresses, though many lie in ruins today, merely hinting at the glory days of the Bathakian Empire. Ancient roadways, still functional after centuries, crisscross the plains and connect the great cities of Bathakia.
Between the villages and hilltop ruins can be found the true wealth of Bathakia, its farmlands and cattle ranges. Farmed for millennia, the plains of Bathakia are temperate enough to grow a wide variety of crop from wheat and corn to olive and grape. Bathakian Wines are known for their quality and great variety of colors and flavors. Long time farmers like to boast that the Great War itself could not wholly destroy the Bathakian Wine industry for even Egemor the Mighty and the League of Nine needed wine with their meals each day.
Sea of Storms
Commerce rules the waves now, but in times past the pirates of Geneva pillaged all who risked the southern sea. Earning her name, the Sea of Storms can bring destruction to ships with sudden squalls and vicious winter Easterlies. Few sailors strike out beyond sight of the shore in these treacherous waters for the only safety from deadly squalls can be numerous coves and bays along the Battered Coast.
Some sailors, however, claim to have sailed further out into the waters and found chains of islands populated with strange peoples who some claim are cannibals or head-hunters. Others say that these peoples are tribal and worship strange gods with rituals involving human sacrifice. Whatever the truth of the tales, few have found these distant islands and even fewer have returned from the search.
Along the northern shores of the Blackwater, the River of Shadows, is found a forest known as the Shadow Wood. Dark and foreboding, it has long earned a sinister reputation. Few enter and even fewer leave. The dense canopy of the trees prevents much of the sunlight from ever reaching the ground while the roots of the ancient trees have become gnarled and exposed by the elements.
It is believed that the Lycan and Faery inhabit the dense forest, living in the shadows and darkness. But scholars also speak of evils that also reside there, preying on any unlucky enough to venture beneath the wrong bough.
Legends from the time of the Great War speak of the League of Nine, the nine greatest WarMages of the Age who banded together to fight and end that terrible war. They say that the League, and even Egemor the Mighty himself, refused to enter the forest for fear of its sinister reputation, though it is believed by some that more than one WarMage routed by the League strayed into the Shadow Wood as they fled. If so, none have been heard from since.
Far to the north, beyond the smoke-shrouded Mountains of Flame, lies a trackless region known as the Shivering Plains. A maze-like expanse of frozen vales broken by vast expanses of wind-swept tundra, shifting ice, and dense copses of evergreen, these Shivering Plains are home to few, but battled over by many. WarMages have fought over these lands for centuries though the remains of their battles are all but lost to the snow and shifting ice. Nevertheless, they continue to drive their armies north to fight and die over these cold and unforgiving lands.
Along the southern edges of the Shivering Plains, nearer to the Mountains of Flame, the land is broken by densely forested hills and steep, often perilous valleys. It is here that Giants guard the passes and battlegrounds vigorously by building great fortresses of ice and stone amidst the glaciers and deep valleys. In the taverns of the south it is said that no WarMage has ever defeated the Giants. Many claim that their strength and size makes them invincible. However, true WarMages know that a well-executed and planned strategy can triumph even on the most deadly of battlegrounds.
North, beyond the fortresses of the Giants, a trackless waste of frozen tundra and ever-changing floes of ice stretches towards the top of the world. Travel across this land is ill-advised and only the brave, the well-prepared or foolhardy bother to venture here. The Centaur, a nomadic people who move with the great mastodon herds, call this land home and are only ones capable of navigating the dangers with ease.
The Shivering Plains hold more dangers than simply the ice and wind. More than once a WarMage has found himself fighting alone on frozen battlegrounds, the howling winds his only companion. Centaur wisdom states "look first to your hooves", for the ground beneath a WarMage's feet can quickly become his most deadly enemy.
The Silver Mountains are a range that stretches from the Mountains of Flame in the north to the Sea of Storms far to the south. The range is a physical, and often political, barrier between the Anthrok Vale to the west and the Plains of Bathakia to the east.
The mountains themselves are tall and jagged with many narrow passes, canyons, and towering peaks. Their slopes are densely forested with evergreen and broadleaf trees; though often appear featureless in the deep of winter. Their name comes from the abundance of silver and iron that continue to be mined from their skin and bones.
Numerous caves, some natural but most not, riddle the sides of the Silver Mountains. Some peaks are so densely hollowed that they appear more akin to a honeycomb on a dry, clear summer day than to a stony, mountain slope. Within these caverns live the Dwarves, an industrious people who relentlessly toil in their ancestral mines, seeking the deeper riches of Kator.
Legends speak of ancient mines and even entire cities forgotten in the darkness beneath the Silver Mountains. Over the centuries, many have sought the treasures these lost places might still harbor, but few return. Dwarves are, after all, known as much for their zealous pursuit of wealth and treasure as their ability to work stone and metal. The traps and guardians the ancient Dwarves left behind when they abandoned these places are legendary.
Less than a century ago the Southern Vale was covered in dense pine forest from the flanks of the Silver Mountains to the misty edges of the Sullen Swamp. The pine trees here grew tall and proud and the land teemed with life.
In recent years, both Dwarves and Humans have begun crossing the sluggish Abath River that flows from the Silver Mountains to the Sea of Storms far to the south. There, along the river banks they have begun cutting down the tall pine trees to fuel the growing wave of pioneers that continues to cross the river from the north.
Further south and deeper into the forest few roads can be found and those that do wind through the trackless sea of trees are seldom used. Centuries ago these roads were used by the Lycan from the Sullen Marsh as they traded with neighboring kingdoms, but with their withdrawal back into the swamps their ancient roadways have been left untended and have fallen into disrepair, used only by the hardiest of travelers and tradesmen.
Steppes of Desolation
The Steppes of Desolation are aptly named for none reside in them and few bother to cross them. Stretching far to the east the Steppes are an inhospitable land of volcanic fissures, deadly gasses, and boiling waters all beneath a flat, cloudless sky.
A thousand years ago, Torgoth the Scourge of Bathakia fled across the Steppes and found power and wealth the like of which was not seen for centuries to come. None know where he acquired his power, though in the end it did not avail him for he was slain by Egemor the Mighty at the end of the Great War. Some claim that the end of the world lies beyond the Steppes, while others believe that the gods themselves wait for the brave to venture forth and claim their power.
A few travelers have been known to brave the dangers of the Steppes for there are riches to be found, from the ivory of the Horned Ektarat lizard to the gemstones found in the Glittering Pools. Those who are successful on the Steppes guard its secrets fiercely and few who venture beyond these fringes of habitation return.
The Sullen Marsh is a massive swamp that lies near the mouth of the Banotrys River where it spills into the Sea of Storms. Like the river that helped create it, the marsh lies shrouded in mist and secrecy. Massive trees grow out of the shallow, warm waters, the land beneath their roots long ago washed away leaving hollows and creating a maze-like warren of tree roots, vines, and mud.
Within the marsh live the Lycan, a deeply philosophical people who long ago built great kingdoms and studied the signs and portents of the stars themselves. The ruins of their ancient cities lay submerged in the mud while the stones of massive temples have been covered by the roots of the huge trees.
Deep in the swamp it is said that the Lycan built a great observatory that rose above the gigantic trees at the heart of the marsh. From its great height they were able to scrutinize the heavens themselves and decipher the future of Kator. The Lycan themselves never speak of it, but legends say that those ancient scholars even predicted the rise of the WarMages long before the Great War.
The Sundered Lands were once a land of rolling hills covered in golden grass, winding rivers flowing lazily towards the Sea of Storms, and herds of antelope, horse, and even elephant roaming in uncounted numbers. In those days, caravans crisscrossed the savannah and trade between the coastal cities and Bathakia flourished.
To the east of the great savannah lay the Desert of Attalan, an inhospitable span of sand that stretched far to the east beyond the reach of even the hardiest of travelers. None who were foolhardy enough to cross the savannah and attempt to traverse the desert returned. Save one.
Centuries ago the power of Satarus, death itself, sundered these lands giving them their modern name. The few who have ventured there claim that the land exists between the worlds of the living and the dead and that where once the great herds roamed now only the spirits of the fallen can be found. They say that the hunger of these spirits is insatiable and that the dead there are relentless.
Now these former grasslands that once teemed with life are avoided by all but the most daring. The great herds have long been replaced by roaming spirits, the lazy rivers were transformed into raging torrents, dark clouds possessed of terrible magic swirl and rage above, perverting the very air.
The rolling grasslands known as the Talsinta cover the lands west of the Forest of Anthrok and south to the coast of the Sea of Storms. Dominated by low hills and tall grasses, the plains are home to the Sinta; a collection of cat-like people who are often grouped together but are individual species that have lived, fought, and died together for thousands of years.
Many outside of the Sinta believe that the plains contain no secrets and that the Sinta themselves are nothing better than nomads, wandering in search of food and battle. However, long ago the Sinta built cities and conquered lands far and wide.
These ancient cities, left to crumble to dust over the millennia, are scattered across the trackless seas of grass, but many are rumored to hold secrets and treasures. The Sinta themselves, however, rarely venture to those places. They abandoned them, believing them infested by restless spirits and tainted by powerful, dark magics.
Far to the north between the Mountains of Fire and the Shivering Plains are a range of hills known as Thorok's Knees. Here, near the shores of the Bay of Shadows, among the perpetually snow-covered hills, live the Giants.
Some believe that Thorok himself slumbers here, beneath millennia of accreted ice and stone, waiting until the Day of Reckoning to return to the world of the living. The Giants believe that they are Thorok's Children and they wait eagerly for that day, while most believe it to be nothing more than myth and superstition. Nevertheless, the region is shaken frequently by tremors, a sign the Giants say of Thorok's restlessness and the approach of the Day of Reckoning.
Atop the hills and peaks are found many fortresses the Giants have hewn from the stone and ice. Near the eastern edge of the hills, close on the Bay, lies the Citadel of the Giants. This massive structure has grown over the centuries, appended and annexed with each generation, into a truly awe-inspiring collection of towers, walls, fortified gates, and keeps that cover several square miles.
Beyond the Shivering Plains, near the top of the world, lies an inhospitable region known as the Grinding Ice. Here even the Centaur, masters of the snow and ice, dare not travel for the ice is treacherous and unpredictable like some enormous, wild beast. Solid sheets of ice miles across can be stable for decades at a time, only to give way to massive whirlpools of near-frozen water grinding huge blocks of jagged ice down into the depths, without warning, in an instant
The weather above the ice is just as inhospitable, though much more predictable. Terrible storms cross the floes, day and night, churning the snow and ice into a scouring gale. And if a soul isn't crushed by the ice or flayed by the winds, he will surely freeze to death during the black nights.