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7Hex Dragons: Wildlands
The Wildlands are mostly uninhabited by humans, dwarves, elves, hobbits, etc. It includes the WildWoods, Cursed Plains, Rock Falls, Grey Marsh and various unnamed bogs, foothills and ruins.
The ruins are from an ancient society that was destroyed by Winged Shadow Demons over 1000 years ago. Some of the Winged Shadows still remain in caves, the marsh and woods. They are the source of much of the disease, mutations and undead activity in the area.
The society that collapsed was a great kingdom similar to the Assyrians or Aztecs. A harsh group who were well organized and had great shamans. They had temples to a variety of gods and possibly greater demons. They committed large scale humanoid sacrifice (especially of conquered city-states) and dabled in the darker side of the necromantic arts, some of the sacrificial rituals would turn the sacrificed into a unique Zombie. They would trap the Impressioned Remains of the tortured and executed individual and bind it to their own corpse. They used this as shock troops to help the regular troops. They had spirits bound to their temples and various artefacts. Many times these would go wrong and the bound spirit would break free and strike back.
Apparently at the Temple of the New Moon in the two largest cities, during a New Moon ritual sacrifice, they went too far, or were in the wrong place at the wrong time and an explosion of Winged Shadow Demons blew down both temples simultaneously (the only recorded time of simultaneous eruptions of Winged Shadow Demons) and effectively devoured the urban populations that didn't flee in a few weeks. Circling out they devastated the surrounding populations, effectively crushing the Kingdom and driving the small few to escape into scattered settlements west of the kingdom that eventually form the manorial patchwork of the south and east of the Borderlands). The last city in the far west to fall, Kir Ornalt, was also the newest. It survived the Calamity and became a city state in it's own right (though minus much of the power and magic of the original Kirean Kingdom). Kir Ornalt was mostly destroyed after a plague wiped out most of the population and a demon horde lead by a band of Reapers emerged from the Wildwood and stormed the weakened defenses. The TaHote tribe of the High Plains Barbarians with their newly devised Demon Cleavers attempted to push back the horde and take the city for their own as a eastern outpost against future demon incursions. However they were massacred to the last man.
The Wildlands area still has pockets of Shadow Demons and the great riches of the old Kingdom sits in ruined temples and troves. Adventurers cannot resist making forays into the ruins of the three biggest cities (the third largest city suffering the least damage of the three since it did not have a direct invasion of Shadow Demons). A little over half of parties return and only about a quarter of those got far enough to recover treasure or have interesting stories before retreating. Mt. Kir attracts many spirits and the undead are drawn there.
Many of the ruins are now inhabited by a variety of ghouls, a scattering of undead, a few demons, the most desperate of bandits, and warped creatures (giant spiders, giant rats, a few hymenopteron, etc).
To the south of the Wildwood are a hardy tribe of Centaurs and in the far west of the wood is a band of elves that have become adept at forest fighting, tracking, ambushing. They have become close allies and patrol the Wild Wood to the west and south to prevent any evil escaping. They are the Elven and Centaur Rangers. Others have volunteered to send in patrols as an elite training exercise in the art of the Ranger. So the Duchy, several Borderland Barons, Dwarves, and even some IS patrols will appear for a minimum 1 year stint to help the Elves and Centaurs. Several Combat Necromancer Brotherhoods send Necormancers, Healers and Warders to the region for training and to monitor the frequency of undead sightings and to keep abreast of diseases. Many pandemics come out of this area and are carried by wild life and merchants to other parts (the Elves and Centaurs have amazing resistance to disease after so many years here). This is one of the few place all these forces can come together peacefully, under the strict eye of the Centaur Rangers (the most numerous of the Rangers). These Centaurs and Elves are given general homage wherever they go (even if grudging in places that generally distrust Centaurs or Elves). The Elves are gifted hunters, woodsmen and wood workers, making the Elven Bows and Arrows and Ranger Cloaks amongst other things. The Elven Wizards tend to be of the defensive or magic item creation types (i.e. pentagrams, cure disease, create magic bows and arrows, etc) that support the rangers in the hunt.
The Wildwoods - The Wild Woods surround most of the old Kirean Kingdom (though they expanded to the west outside the woods). The Woods are considered haunted by the anyone living near. The sections nearest the two lead cities of the Kirean Kingdom are the worst, getting less dangerous the further West and South you get. The Elves live in the far West of the Wild Wood and the Centaurs to the South. There are colonies of giant spiders, a few hymenoteran, giant rats, etc. There are fewer undead in the forest than in the Marsh or rumbling around the ruins.
Grey Marsh - The Grey Marsh became home to many of the Winged Shadow Demons that survived after the food supply was decimated in Kirea Atlon. This is one of the main sources of undead activity as many fled to this area after the initial attack and were buried in the silt, disease, demons or starvation. It is a source of disease and mutation. Very few have ventured into the bog and returned to tell the story. It is notorious for it's disease, sulfuric odor and toxic fogs.
Rock Falls - The Rock Falls were once a beautiful series
of water falls cascading down colorful jagged rock, but lava flows
from Mt. Kira have turned it into a baren series of black shallow
slopes and acidic water flows. It is here that the water picks up
its sulfurous scent and gives the Grey Marsh its peculiar odor and
color. There are series of laval caves that the orcs and some
bandits occasionally use (and on rare occasion, Shadow Demons,
though there is no food here but the roving orcs). Footing is
treacherous, no horses or Centaurs can navigate this steep
slippery terrain unaided (the Centaur Rangers have come up with
specially spiked shoes that could be used here, but even the
Rangers don't venture here very often or for very long). Mt. Kira
bounds the far West of the Rock Falls and is a Volcano that spills
small amounts of lava every few years, though has not had a major
eruption since just after the Calamity. It houses a strong magical
field, similar to Mt. Bronar. Any wizard
working within 2 miles of the mountain finds it easier to cast
spells (GM discretion, 1-2ST less to cast a spell, and most
continuing costs I set at 1ST). Undead are easier to summon,
though no self respecting Necromancer would hang around close
enough to use it!
Little is known as the Kingdom has been effectively sealed in it's own tomb. Most of our knowledge comes from Kir Ornalt, but sadly the knot language system has not been deciphered. The Kingdom was originally human, but had so much interaction with local orc tribes (in trade and war) that there is a huge half-orc (or more likely, third/quarter orc) strain accounting for about a third of the population. These half-orcs were fully accepted in the society and attained the highest levels (several of God's Hand on Earth were half-orcs). Full orcs were tolerated but had a stigma associated with them (and accounted for about 15% of the population). They were a rural community with a strict nobility and priestly class. They committed large scale human sacrifice to create their Kirean Zombie shock troops (killing opposing captured armies, demanding slaves as tribute, etc). Originally Kirea Atlon was only a city-state, but they overcame their neighbors and ruled with an iron fist and capital punishment was particularly desirable to keep the army up. The priests were kept busy in the sacrificial pits. Their rituals revolved around the New Moon and Harvest Sacrifice (prisoners from the summer campaigns were sacrificed and turned into Kirean Zombies).
The explosion of (tens of?) thousands of Winged Shadow Demons during the New Moon ritual/sacrifice over 1000 years ago was known simply as the "Calamity". It decimated the Empire in weeks and is by far the largest explosion of Winged Shadow Demons known. The swarm of Winged shadow demons blew out of the Temple of the New Moon on the Night of the New Moon. Mt. Kir erupted and rained lava down into the fertile fields. The only advantage was it weakend the Shadow Demons as many were killed by the eruption too. Tens of thousands of Kireans were killed in a few weeks. The ghosts, Impressioned Remains and zombies left behind swarmed the swamps and ruins, roaming free or attaching to animals, the few survivors or their corpses. The plague that followed wiped out the last of the small holdings. Mutant Rats, spiders and hymenopteran moved in, immune to the diseases. Wights and Night Gaunts flourish here and Vampires, also immune to the diseases are often found here. Demons do occasionally pour out, it is suspected that there may be some kind of erratic rift near Kirea Atlon and/or Kirea Unda that allows demons to pour through every century or two. The enigmatic presence of Mt. Kir (similar to Mt. Bronar) does not help with speculations.
The three main cities were:
The Wildlands remain a place of disease, undead, a few too many demons and desparate bandits. The activity of the Wildlands ebbs and flows to an unknown rhythm, expanding disease, demons and undead increasing in activity and boldness, then suddenly collapsing back for extended periods of time. A fairly recent layer of protection has been added with the arrival of the Centaur Rangers. Several tribes of Centaurs have lived south of the Wildwood, but an increase in activity lead their tribal council to adopt a more aggressive approach. Making peace with the orc tribes to their south and amongst themselves, the Centaurs were able to send their elite force to patrol the southern border, this group became proficient and dangerous. The elves are mariners by culture, but have some woodworking skill in building their ships. They have a fascination, even romance, with the mainland and the Wildlands. Bold adventurers returned to the Elven home islands and a small but steady stream of curious elves has settled in the far West of the Wildwood. They have trained with the Centaurs for decades now. They became so competent that they moved into the far western section of the woods (the least dangerous) and have continued their close alliance with the Centaurs. The reputation of the Centaur and Elven Rangers slowly spread. Dwarves were the first to send their Elite to train with the Centaurs in exchange for superior arms and barding. Several Necromancer Brotherhoods working with the Dwarves started sending their Warders, and Combat and Physiker Necromancers to learn to fight, understand the Spirit Fields that drive the demons and undead, and cure the diseases that came out of the wood and the Grey Marsh. Soon many groups were aiding the Rangers in exchange for training elite troops and advice when dealing with local undead or demonic outbreaks. This increased respect, trade and reputation has allowed the Centaurs to increase their patrols and even penetrate into the Wood and Rocky Falls. Their finest group actually reached Kirea Atlon to do a sketchy map of the city. They were attacked by a horde of disease infected giant rats and ghouls driven by an intelligent force (Demonic?, Vampiric?). They were able to escape with significant losses. Within two days they all came down with an unknown disease that killed all but one within a month. The last one died exactly one year after the attack of causes unknown.
Lord Dranyon, Vampire Prince of Insects lived here awhile, but abandoned his mansion in the south wildwood for the ruins of Gleremere due to preasure from the Centaurs.
Kir Ornault has been well plundered and explored. Most of our knowlege of the Kingdom comes from this city and it's archives. The city was finally destroyed, after greatly weakened by plague, by the same demonic outpouring that was the undoing of the TaHote Tribe and their Demon Cleavers.