Lower Metsar

Culture

Living in the shadow of accursed Wraithwood, the people of Lower Metsar are watchful and superstitious. Penalties for malicious magic are necessarily harsh, especially where the dark arts are involved. Even benign events such as bad weather or spoiled crops are often blamed on black magic. Commoners observe bizarre rules and rituals intended to avoid harm, and even those who know better carry phony talismans in the belief that they ward off evil.

It is a realm defined by fear. Some stand vigilant against it while others shrink away from it, but it pervades every aspect of Tcerilian society. Most people keep to themselves and look upon outsiders with distrust. The various governments do the same, maintaining peaceful relations while tending matters within their own borders. Each city huddles beneath the light of its Balefire, fearing the night, waiting for the dawn to usher in a new day.

Language

The dominant language of Lower Metsar is Tceril, though most speak enough Cirth to manage conversation, especially near the ports. Opunin is frequently encountered around Rutuni, Burevan, and Vlengren from trade out of Sirison. Velysh is common near Shiredale thanks to the sylvan who live in the nearby forest. It can also be heard in Klavan due to the proximity of the unseelie court. And Drakeric is common around Dragon’s Crest, particularly among the upper crust.

Demographics

Though mistrust and prejudice run deep in Lower Metsar, the humans nonetheless find themselves mingling with several other races. In the northeast near Dragon's Crest and Shiredale, the sylvan races cling to what little forest remains untainted. Flane’s population is predominantly composed of smallfolk. Ferals are common in the west where entire family lines have succumbed to the curse of Wraithwood. The unseelie are known for stealing babies and replacing them with changelings, so dark fae are not uncommon. Despite their prevalence, they and others like them, including cambions, revenants, and riven, must conceal their true nature in most places or risk inciting a panic.

Politics

Due to their respective isolation, there is a great deal of variety in the systems of government used throughout Lower Metsar. In the north, Dragon’s Crest is an oligarchy where only those with magic, wealth, or influence can become members of the court. To the south, Glovres is a loose demarchy where laws are decided by random juries and disputes are settled through pit fighting. And in the west, Klavan is a strict stratocracy where all citizens are required to serve as members of the militia.

Despite their differences, all the governments of Lower Metsar share a common element: The Bale Wardens, a sect dedicated to Istensia whose sole duty it is to tend the Balefires, are given total autonomy. In most cases, they are accorded the same respect as nobility and may even have total legal immunity to carry on their duties.

Immortals

Istensia holds the greatest sway within Lower Metsar due to her esteemed Bale Wardens. The dark denizens of Wraithwood exalt Etejeril, as do any who consort with them, though open admission of such outside of Wraithwood is likely to warrant a public execution. History says that Githal was a hero in Dragons Crest, where he still enjoys a strong following. Ivelis was once revered by sailors along the eastern coast of Lower Metsar, but his adherents have dwindled to a handful in recent centuries.

Areas

  • Burevan - Burevan is a quiet region whose residents deal primarily in livestock. Their claim to fame is their horses, which are bred and trained to show the utmost discipline to their riders. This makes Burevan horses prized by militaries the world over. They are also used by the local militia, the Scarlet Watch, who patrol the countryside against the perils of the night.
  • Dragon's Crest - Dragon's Crest is a thriving metropolis guarded over by high walls, powerful mages, and a legion of dragon riders heralding back to the days of Githal. Easily the most populous and well-defended city on the continent, it owes its prosperity to a bustling bazaar and a local college of mages. Magic is common though heavily regulated, to the degree that all but the most basic spells require official licensure. It is ruled over by the Dragon's Court, an oligarchy exclusive to those with enough magic, wealth, or influence to be voted in by the sitting members. This status divide creates deep inequality and corruption between the ruling class and the commoners, who are kept in check by a harsh legal system.
  • Flane - Few paths through the mountains are safe enough to travel. The city of Flane lies at the mouth of the largest, a ravine known as the Whispering Vale. The smallfolk who live there tend the high walls, guarding the cities east of the mountains against possible invasion from Wraithwood. They make a living by taxing travelers, selling supplies, and hiring out mercenaries to guard caravans. Although technically a protectorate of Kraylorn, the military officials are given broad authority to govern as they see fit.
  • Glovres - The fishmongers of Glovres are known for their simple ways. Due to a large population of angori, disputes are settled through bare-knuckle pit fighting. Citizens are chosen by random lots when decisions need to be made, eliminating the need for elected officials. Consequently, very little in the way of wealth or culture ever finds its way south to Glovres’ chilly waters.
  • Klavan - The hardy folk of Klavan lead surprisingly normal lives despite their close proximity to Wraithwood. That is because every citizen of Klavan is required to train and serve as a member of the militia. In times of trouble, every man, woman, and child can be mobilized in defense of the realm, making it one of the best-defended areas despite being one of the least populated.
  • Kraylorn - Once, long ago, Kraylorn was nearly destroyed by the undead legions of Jeddit O’Jorramn. Though the region has recovered in the centuries since, ruined buildings and vast graveyards stand as testament to those dark days. Kraylorn is now a theocracy ruled over by the Bale Wardens who saved it from the verge of annihilation. It maintains a powerful military, and its envoys enjoy unparalleled clout throughout the continent. Many believe it is the stabilizing influence of Kraylorn’s wardens that keeps the other nations of Lower Metsar allied against Wraithwood rather than fighting amongst themselves.
  • Rutuni - “Fair Rutuni by the sea” is a place of haunting beauty. The aristocracy is distinct in its appreciation for the arts, particularly music and poetry. Members of Rutuni's bardic college are much sought after for performing eulogies and funeral dirges, and instruments made by its luthiers are said to be the finest in the world.
  • Shiredale - Shiredale is a sleepy region in northeastern corner of Lower Metsar. Ruled by Dragon's Crest to the south and far removed from Wraithwood, its forest is safe enough to boast a small population of sylvan. A statue in the town square celebrates an angori hero named Kodo who slew a hydra in one blow.
  • Taekron - The port city of Taekron boasts a harbor rich with trade moving in and out of Dragon’s Crest. Though technically a monarchy, it is common knowledge that Taekron’s guilds hold all the real power, reducing its king to little more than a figurehead. Corruption and organized crime are so pervasive that most merchants have given up complaining and consider it part of the cost of doing business.
  • Vlengren - The rolling plains of Vlengren are dominated by sprawling farmlands, the owners of which form the voting body of the government. The economy of Vlengren chiefly relies upon the export of wheat, barley, produce, and other crops, both inland to the other regions of Lower Metsar and by sea to Sirison and beyond.
  • Wraithwood - The cursed forest of Wraithwood dominates the western half of Lower Metsar, though its dark influence can be felt from shore to shore. Befouled by the necromancer Jeddit O’Jorramn in the Ascendant Age, nothing dwells beneath its canopy without becoming twisted in some way. Witches, wicked fairies, giant spiders, the walking dead, and other monsters make it a perilous place to venture. Some say it is haunted by the souls of the thousands slain by Jeddit’s prized smoking pipe Gravegasp, and that more go to join them every year. As they do, the forest spreads, checked only by the boundaries of the Balefires.

Mysteries

  • Creeper Keep - Somewhere east of Shiredale lake lies an abandoned castle known as Creeper Keep, so named for the malevolent plants that infest it. One story goes that a trader from a far-off land gave a gift to the local lord, a rare and fragrant seed pod. One day, the lord’s young son knocked the pod from its pedestal and ate it. The plant devoured the boy from the inside out, enslaving his corpse and spreading itself throughout the rest of the castle.
  • Gaunts - No monster of Wraithwood is so mysterious or terrifying as the gaunt. They are said to be impossibly slender, tall, and completely faceless, but dressed in finery befitting nobles. Hearing one speak will drive you mad. Seeing one up close means certain death, for the gaunt will follow you wherever you go and take you from the world body and soul before the moon has turned. The only way to appease a gaunt is to offer up your own child, cursing them to become one of the gaunts in your stead.
  • Hag Hollows - The dark arts are naturally strong in Lower Metsar. So strong, in fact, that some practitioners become warped over time, changing into inhuman hags who devour or enslave any folk they manage to capture. To this end, they fashion magical traps to lure in victims. There are stories of inviting huts appearing during sudden storms, walled gardens filled with rare herbs appearing to the sick, and even houses made of candy appearing to those dying of starvation. These hag hollows offer just what you need most, but venturing toward them is a sure way to be caught by the hag who lives there.
  • Mirror Pools - Along the banks of the Vlengren River and its many tributaries are pools of water so perfectly still that their surfaces show like mirrors. Under the light of the moon, the dark spirits within the pools stir, cursing any to gaze upon them. Some say the waters warp you, disfiguring or aging you the moment you see your own reflection. Drinking from a mirror pools inflicts a far greater curse, transforming the drinker into one of the bedeviled wildlife of Wraithwood.
  • Mother of Squirrels - The woods west of Shiredale are home to a peculiar story about a hag called the Mother of Squirrels. She is said to appear as an old druid who requests that travelers bring nuts for her animal helpers. When they do so, she reveals that their true craving is for bones. Those she does not feed to her pets she curses, turning them into giant, man-eating squirrels to do her bidding.
  • Ravening - The nights of Lower Metsar are dangerous for many reasons, but none more so than the Ravening. The very darkness comes alive and seeks out hapless victims to abduct. Some are found miles away, torn limb from limb. Others are never found at all. It is for this reason that the citizens of Lower Metsar take refuge beneath the beacons of their cities at night, and travelers take care to keep their campfires high against the shadows. Many think it is a curse laid on the land by Etejeril, or perhaps the hunger of the Wraithwood made manifest.
  • Taer Gyllyth - Hidden beneath the shadowed boughs of Wraithwood is Taer Gyllyth, the fabled court of the unseelie fae. The dark fairies are said to know the only safe paths through the forest and guard them jealously. Any who chance upon their ghastly revelries are toyed with in the most twisted ways before being allowed to die.
  • Talking Beasts - The wilderness of Lower Metsar is a place where nature itself is cursed. Some of the animals there speak as men do, though their agendas vary. Ravens are harbingers of ill omen who speak in riddles but never lies. Toads are wise and can guide travelers to safety, but are too shy to speak unless kissed first. Wolves are malevolent and will try to trick the foolish into becoming easy meals.
  • Thirteen Doors Dungeon - The college of Dragon’s Crest requires official licensure to perform advanced magic within the realm. Gaining a license involves delving into a magical dungeon consisting of 13 consecutive trials. The trials within these rooms vary from one room and tester to another. Because the test has a high failure rate and some testers have perished despite safeguards, few mages ever attempt it. Fewer still ever pass.
  • Wandering Weald - Those who venture too deep into the wilderness face something more sinister than mere monsters. The trees of Lower Metsar have a will of their own and delight in leading travelers astray. They move and shift when not being observed, changing the landscape and leading the unwary down dangerous paths. Particularly beneath the shadowy canopy of Wraithwood where it is impossible to navigate by the sky or stars, it is perilously easy to become lost.

Parlance

  • “Klavan-blooded” - An adjective to describe someone who is stalwart but grim. Living in the shadow of Wraithwood, the folk of Klavan are taught to fight and grow accustomed to tragedy from an early age.
  • “Many crowns. Few kings.” - A statement used to cast authority in an impotent light. It is often directed at the many governments of Lower Metsar, most of which claim importance but few of which have real power.
  • “Seven silvers...” - An old superstitious chant holds that keeping seven silver coins in your right pocket is a wise precaution against certain perils, including witches. The whole chant goes, "Seven silvers for the gallows. Seven silvers, on your way. Seven silvers 'neath the hollows. 'Ere you see another day." Some use different verses or reference a single line of the chant, but the general concept remains the same.