The Continent of Leng
It is called the center of the world by some, the nexus through which every trade route flows; all roads lead to Leng. Yet Leng is not changeless, though it has been called the eternal land. The land still remembers another time: a time when humans and halflings had not set foot on its shores, when dwarves and gnomes were locked away in their ancient vaults and had yet to come out to play. In its pre-history, Leng was the domain of the fey: vast wilderness and towering jungles dominated it, inhabited by mysterious and inscrutable beings as alien as they were powerful.
The Age of Mist is long in the past now, though. Humans arrived, the dwarves woke up, the orcs and giants rampaged from the north, and the ancient forests burned. The Leng of today is a very different land: a land of change and evolution in which the new is always replacing the old. Human kingdoms and empires are the dominant power of Leng, but there are still wildernesses where they fear to tread and ancient forces they cannot kill or understand.
Leng is a land of frontiers: between the mundane and the mystical. Between the old and the new. The primal forces of creation, and the abstract ideals of the new philosophers. For while the old order may be subsumed by what is to come, it will not go quietly.
The Borderlands are the wilderness regions that separate the eastern kingdoms from the harsh deserts of the Plains of Dust. They are one of the last frontiers of civilisation, and are largely lawless. Although they are a harsh people suited to a harsh place, the people of the Borderlands respect those who stand on their own two feet and have a strong sense of forthrightness and personal honor. In a land where there is no law beyond what a sword-arm and gallows can enforce, having a reputation for trustworthiness and honest dealings is more valuable than any noble title.
Kharolis is a small coastal kingdom known for its beautiful beaches of white sand. The inland portion of Kharolis is dotted with numerous lakes and broad marshes that have protected it from invasion by land throughout the course of its history; most of Kharolises major cities are concentrated on the coasts, and the Kharolian fleet is matched only by that of Arelon. Their interests are not military, however, but mercantile, and their cities bustle with the sound of trade and foreign tongues. They say that it’s impossible to impress a Kharolian; whatever it is, they saw it last year!
The City-States of Lorknir are known throughout Leng to be the mercantile center of the continent, and with good reason. Lorknir occupies the center of Leng, and many of the safest and most profitable trade routes between the east and west pass directly through it. Without a single centralised government ruling the land, each of the city-states operates autonomously. The Lorknir Agreement at least guarantees that this anarchistic state of affairs does not give rise to all-out war, and most merchants are willing to risk Lorknir’s roads with a good contingent of bodyguards. Though this does not stop the city-states of Lorknir from working against each other, it at least means that they must be subtle about how they do so.
The Forest of Lurkmoor is the southerly of Leng’s two elven forests. The high elves of Lurkmoor have long since been cut off from their cousins in the east, and have been surrounded by humans for many centuries. As a result, they’re far easier to deal with than the hostile and reclusive wood elves of Murthrid, who believe that the elves of Lurkmoor are enamoured of mortals and aping their sensibilities. And indeed, Lurkmoor is in many ways the kingdom of the young: many elves, as they grow older and more disillusioned with mortal life and mankind, eventually make the journey into the east to live amongst their brethren. Nonetheless, Lurkmoor is an ancient kingdom and its capitol city, Menhedrul, is a magnificent sight - made by the grey elves of time gone by, with a majesty unrivalled by those who came after.
The Mountainhomes of the Dwarves are spread across Leng, in the mightiest bones of the earth. However, more of them are located in the eastern lands, particularly near the mighty mountains of the north. There are five known mountain dwarven civilisations in Leng that maintain a presence on the surface. These are:
- Nilun Ebbek and Edem Azmol, in the Dagrenoth Ur Mountains.
- Rukon Zon, on the western edge of Tamora.
- Zon Sacat, in the Sacatmorul Mountains.
- Oshokthespen, in the mountain range of the same name.
In addition to these surface civilisations, it is known that there are some dwarven colonies that live entirely beneath the earth. These tend to be simple underground outposts of the surface colonies, although there are thought to be a handful of mountain dwarven civilisations that have never emerged to trade with the surface-worlders. Leng’s dwarven bastions are connected by strange supernatural paths known as the Earthen Ways. These pathways, which can only be opened by dwarven runepriests, allow civilisations which are hundreds of miles apart to maintain regular contact.
The Forest of Murthrid is the last remnant of a fey jungle that once covered all of Leng. Even though it is a fraction of what it once was, it is still one of the largest and most dangerous of Leng’s wildernesses. A vast and seemingly endless forest that sprawls across the eastern tip of the continent, the sheer size of it staggers those who see it for the first time, occupying the whole of the horizon as one looks east. Though it is widely known as the domain of the wood elves, in truth they are but one of many who reside in the trackless forest.
The wood elves do not form cities and crown rulers, as do the elves of Lurkmoor. Instead of being a member of a town or a community, as a human would, a wood elf is more likely to have a few old friends that they may not see for decades at a time, until the secret Elvenpaths that span the forest take them to one of the places where elves congregate. The wood elves can assemble surprisingly quickly when the forest is threatened, however, and the watchful eyes of the Druidic Circle are always ready to spread the word of impending danger.
Nevermoor is the homeland of halflings, and one of the most beautiful lands in all of Leng. It is a calm, gentle land - rich, arable soil that is threaded with rivers and prone to booming thunderstorms that roll across the hills and plains, providing life-giving water to the sun-drenched groves that dot the landscape. The halflings of Nevermoor are nominally vassals of a human king who rules from the city of Andor. In practice, though, they cheerfully ignore almost everything he says, and the royal family of Andor has been in decline for centuries. Although Nevermoor is a highly desirable land, its people are fiercely independent and chaotic; quite willing to bend, break or outright ignore the rule of law when it displeases them. Though small in stature, they are in their own way more formidable than any army, and far more elusive. Any who tries to bring them under their thumb will find themselves master of a populace in rebellion.
Nirkivish is young by dwarven standards, but the hill dwarves have been here for as long as their human neighbours can remember. It was first formed by mountain dwarves that, during the Reign of Monsters, chose to join forces with humanity and repel the invasion rather than hide away in the mountainhomes. For the dwarves of Nirkivish, the war never really ended. A large part of their kingdom is ancient and well-established as hill giant territory, and goblins dwell in huge numbers in the caves that dot the region. The hill dwarves remain friendly with the surrounding human kingdoms, and have strong relationships of trade with them - particularly for dwarven firegold, a fiery magical metal found nowhere else in the world.
The Kingdom of Vingaard is the heartland of the new philosophy and the so-called “young gods”. It is seen by many as a bastion of order, high ideals and justice. Although the kingdom of Vingaard itself is one of the largest in eastern Leng, it is heavily subdivided, representing the many kingdoms and fiefdoms it was assembled from in times of old. After all, Vingaard itself is barely more than a century old. According to Vintish history, it was created by divine mandate: the god Belzor, the saint Cuthbert and the holy king Eolus are the most important figures in Vintish history and folklore, and the truth of their lives has become mixed with the stuff of legend over the past century.
Vingaard is the de facto power of eastern Leng. Warden is a vassal, and Nevermoor is dependent on their protection. And in recent years they have grown more powerful, not less. Though the destruction of the dragon Zargothrax threatened the existence of the kingdom, in the wake of his defeat they have come into possession of a terrifying weapon: The Eye of Light.
The Free Peoples of Agatea are said to be the greatest merchants in the world, and they reside in a land where fortunes can be made and broken in the blink of an eye. Anyone who has spent any time in Agatea knows that it operates under different laws from the rest of the continent. Gold rushes are common, and in a place where the land itself is valuable there is constant turmoil and competition for it. Its inhabitants are fiercely individualistic, and the Agatean government is one of the loosest in all of Leng. Corruption is rife - it is a common expectation that a bribe be paid to officials at every step of the process if someone wants something done. People give very little thought to the law on a day to day basis, placing far more stock in loyalty. For this reason, local merchant princes, mafioso or organisations tend to have much more power than the government.
The Arelonian Empire is not the oldest civilisation on Leng and has fallen on hard times in recent years, but they are a naval superpower with the mightiest fleet in the continent. The Empire is ancient and decadent; once both Astinus and Agatea were mere Provinces of the Imperium, but regained their freedom more than a century ago during the “Great Rebellion”. Although all three neighbours are uneasy fellows, Arelon no longer actively seeks to conquer the other two nations of Leng’s western coasts. Instead, the Empire’s attention is turned almost entirely towards governing its colonies on the Sea of Pearls. The Arelonians worship their own pantheon, and consider their Emperors to be demigods blessed by Vulcan.
The Republic of Astinus is where people can be free. Without rulers, in a land where even the gods are equal. Astinus, where blasphemy is righteousness and morality lives in the will of the mob. Astinus is a controversial place; it is the only republic found on the entirety of Leng, and its citizenry are very proud of their ideals. Ever since its founding in the wake of Arelon’s Great Rebellion, attempts to have been made to undermine the republic, and time and time again they have been repelled. The Astinians themselves are often derided as sanctimonious preachers or flower-tongued philosophers who have lost their grip on reality; Astinians would respond that those who have not the courage for freedom are wont to grasp mockery as a poor substitute.
The Dagoth Collective is the home of the so-called “rock gnomes”, who dwell in this land of plunging canyons and towering cliffs. Most of the land would look like an untouched wilderness to a casual observer; it is only upon careful inspection that one can pick out the villages from the uninhabited areas. Anyone attempting to move troops through these apparent wilds would soon learn the error of their ways, however. It is rare to find a gnomish village of more than 500 souls, but there are some places in Dagoth where gnomes gather in greater numbers. Specifically, Dagoth has one community that might be considered a proper city by humans: the Deep Delve, a great assembly of the gnomish people in an immense and beautiful natural cavern. Although Dagoth has no central rule, the Deep Delve is also where the most important decisions are made in the Moots and Greatmoots of the Collective. It is also home to the School of Mesmers, where Leng’s most skilled illusionists can be found.
The Qolor Wastes are a dry wasteland, a continuation of the scorching sands of the Plains of Dust in the south. Qolor is not sandy, though, just dry and barren. Most of Qolor is cracked, dry earth with no water at all. When it can be found, it doesn’t well up in oases, but in tiny trickles that feed slowly into hidden basins or sheltered caves. There is only one place in Qolor where this is not true: The Lifeblood River. Yet this mighty river offers no sanctuary, for it is the home of the Karpathi. These nomadic barbarians consider Qolor a punishment - their punishment - and they rarely tolerate outsiders to pass through their lands. Anyone who would discount them as disorganised savages has not seen a Karpathi elephant-rider going to war against interlopers.
The Jungles of Blackreach are the most obscure of all Leng’s lands. Shielded by the dwarven territories of Seneschal and Oshok Thespen, Blackreach is cut off from the rest of Leng both politically and geographically. The hills of Seneschal are vast, trackless and notoriously difficult to brave for anyone who doesn’t have the friendship of the local dwarves. Oshok Thespen is, if anything, worse - only a few narrow passes lead into the jungle, and they become passable only for a few months each summer. Those who have visited describe a fearful place so separated from the rest of Leng that it is host to its own flora and fauna. Deadly poisons, strange supernatural beings, and lizards the size of castles are only a few of the fantastic stories that have come from Blackreach, but it is difficult to separate fact from fiction in these often conflicting accounts.
Khazath is a jungle kingdom that hugs the edge of the vast Plains of Dust. A series of rivers known as the Mielekkar’s Fingers stretch east from the jungle, eventually emptying into the sea. These rivers are the pulsing veins of Khazath, bringing life to otherwise barren lands. Suffused with a sense of history so weighty it can be felt in the air itself, Khazath claims to be the oldest human civilisation in all of Leng. The temples in the city of Tael Leilan are filled with ancient, crumbling papyrus scrolls that ostensibly document the entire history of Khazath from the very first days - though few have seen them.
The capitol of Khazath and its crowning glory is Tael Leilan, the “Citadel of Penance” which was allegedly constructed by the gods themselves. Against the backdrop of such a fantastical city, the people of Khazath are a divided one. The nation is ruled by the priesthood of the Custodians in name, but in the jungles outside of the cities it is the “Mage Clans” that people turn to for protection, and alchemy is the remedy for most problems.
The Plains of Dust were said to be lush and fertile lands, once. Now they are a blasted desert of trackless, scorching sands: according to legend, it was no natural event that caused this, but the wrath of the gods themselves. Those who once lived here built magnificent cities and towering edifices, which now lie as crumbling and forgotten ruins in the remote and dangerous desert. Strange things dwell in the deep desert, and even the shalafi - the nomads who call the desert home - fear the thing that they claim dwells in the desert’s center. Travellers and traders are well-advised to seek other routes between the east and west, but some brave the desert to reach Khazath. It is one of the most profitable trade routes on Leng, but without question the deadliest.