A Travelers Guide
While originally writen for the emissaries of Udar, the following volume presents an excellent overview to lands of Erendra for the beggining adventurer.
Erendra: Volume 1
By The Sage Caristen
prepared for the emissaries of Udar
at the request of King Soron
As emissaries of Udar it is only proper that you be experts on the lands from which we are birthed. Yet, while our history is rich and varied and we have many great stories and writings, the wise King Soron has noted there is yet to be a collection that describes all that we are. He has beckoned that I, the humble Sage Caristen, undertake this task.
It is a daunting task to attempt to encapsulate all that is Erendra in these pages…one I fear destined to be woefully incomplete were I to devote my entire lifetime to the task. Nonetheless, I hope the glimmer of Erendra I am able to present will give you a better understanding of the lands and her people.
While future volumes will go into great detail regarding our history, culture, religion, politics and other topics, this first volume will be spent merely acquainting you, the reader, to the lands in which we trod.
The Lands of Erendra
The lands of Erendra consist of a central continent surrounded by islands of varying sizes. It is a vast territory, stretching over 850 leagues north to south and nearly 750 leagues east to west. While the landscape is varied in every area of the land, we can generalize the geography based upon the prominent features of each area to give you a sense of the lands and what to expect as you travel.
The northern lands are cold and frequently snow covered from mid-fall through late-spring at best. The northernmost isle knows as Karvos Island is snow covered year round. The weather is foul and bitter all but the most sheltered valleys. While wildlife abounds and the seas are rich, only the most protected valleys or coastal areas warmed by the favorable sea currents can sustain crops. The few people that call this land home live in mining, fishing or hunting villages. They tend to be hardy, independent folk that are wary of strangers. Yet, if you earn their trust, it is said no one is more steadfast ally than a northlander.
The Androikos Mountains tower above the landscape in the northernmost lands, both on the east and western side of the continent. Their scale is not easily described to those who have not witnessed their grandeur. When you stand at the base of an Androikos mountain and peer up to see it meeting the clouds, know that the mountain’s peak lies somewhere at least twice again as high. The rock is said to be so hard and cold that even the most talented dwarves have great difficulty mining it (in dwarvish the Andrikos Mountains are referred to as the Coldstone Mountains). Because of this few dwarven settlements will be found in the Andrikos.
The central part of the northern lands consists of a great valley that lies between two stretches of the Andoikos Mountains known as Harderk valley. It is said that this valley once was a chain of mountains that were among the highest peaks of the Andoikos, but the mountain were sundered in the Great Cataclysm. The valley is heavily forested with pine and evergreen and filled with all forms of beast. A few hardy humans and elves make this forest home.
To the south of the Andoikos is a forest that stretches the entire breadth of Erendra. It is known by many names to the different cultures of our land, but it most commonly referred to it as the Great Northern Forest. While elves may be found in all parts of Erendra, to them the Great Northern Forest is their “mother “ and you will find their greatest numbers within its borders. Yet, while the forest’s Elven population numbers in the many thousands, they have no known cities; preferring instead to live in camps and small conclaves. These settlements, which are rumored to number in the hundreds, are moved frequently so the elves do not deplete any one area or the forest of resources. As their “mother”, the elves protect the forest and its borders from any harm. Though aloof and somewhat secretive, the elves are generally welcoming of visitors and tolerant other races who work the periphery of the forest for lumber or other resources.
Just below the Great Northern Forest like Lake Lilidan. The largest freshwater lakes in Erendra, its deep blue waters are said to have been the tears of the gods after the Great Cataclysm. Lake Lilidan is often referred to as the “Heart of Erendra” and of our own kingdom of Udar.
The central parts of Erendra are among the most varied in landscape and moderate of climate. In the very center of our land lies the Kalmire Mountains. These mountains are referred to by many as the backbone of Erendra. While at best half as high as the Andoikos, they are still a towering presence in the land and home to the dwarven underground cities of Ognedire and Stromdire. The mountains themselves contain many smaller settlements of men, dwarves, and other races. They are rich with mineral wealth so much of the activity around The Kalmires is related to mining.
To both sides of the Kalmire Mountains lie forests. To the east, the dense Forest of Devin is home to oak, elm and a wide variety of other trees. It is a great provider to the many towns and villages that ring it’s periphery with both fruit and game. Still, parts of the forest are so dense it is said that no man has ever trod there. The forest is home to a sparse population of elves as well as Wilden. Despite the populace that surrounds it, the Forest of Delvin is still a wild and largely unexplored place, so travelers should be wary when travelling inside its borders.
To the west of the Kalmire Mountains lies the Pondert Forrest. Unlike the Forest of Devin, the Pondert is more open with ponds and grassy glades throughout. There are many species of hardwoods that are culled by the numerous woodcutters that make this region their home. The various game in this forest, as well as the grassy plains and rolling hills that make up the rest of the western slopes of the Kalmire Montains, make this a rich and fertile area. The abundance of these lands feeds much of Erendra.
Off the coast lies an archipelago of grassy islands called the Equinet Isles; aptly named as they are largely inhabited by wild horses. Stallions captured from these wild herds fill stables across all of Erendra, from the stoutest draw horse to the fastest stallions.
The southern lands are among the warmest areas of Erendra, and has a huge variety if climates…from arid deserts to swampy wetland to tropical rainforest. The western reaches are by far the most moderate, consisting of grassy plains and fruit bearing forests.
The eastern reaches consist of rolling hills of grain tended to by the many farming villages of the region. A bit further south the Hadern Lowlands is filled with paddies, bogs, and swamps. The more interior areas are more wild and unexplored, sparsely populated by a few Wilden and other hermits who desire no contact with civilization. You would do well to avoid these dangerous lands.
Off the south-eastern coast is the volcanic isle of Sarn and the dwarven city of Galendire, whose forges are fired by an active volcano, Mt Nar. The metal smiths of Galendire know no peers among the dwarves, yielding exceptional works of craftsmanship. The non-dwarven population of the island exists primarily to server Galendire and barter and trade in their goods.
The central areas of the south are believed by many to have been the center of the Great Empire in eons past. What once were a fertile valleys and great cities is now a vast wasteland that no empire will lay claim to.
The center of this region is the Yatawe Wastelands. Relentless sun and blinding sandstorms winds will cause the most knowledgeable Ranger to be lost among theses dunes. Death comes quickly to those who enter this region unprepared, be it from heat or from the numerous evil creatures that make desert their home.
The desert itself is surrounded to the east and west by dry, barren mountains that sustain few plants and even fewer people. However, orcs, trolls, gnolls and other creatures have found some purchase in these mountains. As with the Yatawe Wastelands, travel these mountains with care.
To the north, an ancient barren forest looms. The spirits of this place led the elves to call this place “Gurth Taure” (Forrest of Death). Whether this place is infested with mundane beasts or evil spirits from the Shadowfell , I do not know, for few that have entered its depths have left with their lives.
To the farthest north lies the Bragol Swamp. While hardly easy travel, it does provide passage between the eastern and western kingdoms. However, much of the passage falls in unaffiliated lands making an ample retinue of guards a necessity when traveling this road, for brigands and highwaymen thrive in this area.
The southern coast also provides a passage road from east to west, and the only town of any size in the entire wasteland—Freeport. While it is indeed a port city, there is nothing in Freeport that is free. Run by the Shadowclan, it is a den of pirates and thieves that will slit your throat for the few silver you might carry in your purse or simply to win a bet on how long it will take you to bleed to death. The Shadowclan maintains its pirate fleet out of Freeport which sail the southern seas wreaking havoc. Each time the Kingdoms of Erendra have risen up against Freeport, they have found the city empty. Razing the city has proven futile, as within months it is rebuilt and the Shadowclan exacts its revenge by vicious attacks on the coastal cities of Erendra.
To the extreme south lies the Isle of Sereg. A wild jungle surrounds mountains of razor-sharp rock called the Dagnir Aear (Ocean Bane). Occasional expeditions have traveled to Sereg to attempt to gain a foothold, but the harsh land has thwarted every effort. Thus, as with the wastelands, no kingdom can lay claim to the island.
The Lands Beyond
For as long as there have been ships, sailors have had stories of far off lands just beyond the horizon. While undoubtedly many smaller, uncharted islands exist in the sea, we know that there are no other major lands for at least 200 leagues in every direction beyond our borders. While sifting through the tales told by sailors for the truth is like searching a beach for a particular grain of sand; nonetheless I would be remiss if I did try to cull some truth from these stories. Of the stories I have been told, there are a few that have a ring of truth and tell of strange lands well to the south…hundreds of leagues beyond our borders. If these lands do exist, then at least for now they lay too far beyond our borders to be a concern.
The Peoples of Erendra
While many races exist within our lands, there are a handful that make up the bulk of the population of Erendra.
In what will be considered by some a bit of vanity, I will venture to say that in the current age of Erendra, the prominent race is that of man. We outnumber the population of the other known races but a large number, and have created most of the cities, towns, and roads that mark our civilization. Humans are accepting of the other races and work well with them on common goals. Unlike some races, we do not put as much effort in honoring our past as much as looking toward the future and bettering ourselves. Perhaps this is why we’ve achieved much even though we are a relatively young race; however, as the elves and older races will point out, it is oft times our undoing.
The elves are the second most common of race of Erendra. The elves may first appear to some to be aloof and secretive, but should you gain their trust, respect their ways, and take the time to truly know them, you will find them a warm and generous people. The elves long ago abandoned their cities to live in the forests of Erendra and commune with nature. Their reason for their doing so is something the elves will not discuss, however the many ruins that dot our landscape are a testament to the great civilization that they had once built in eons past. Their calling to nature is not shared by every elf either. Many not called to the forest live quite happily among the towns of other races. The elves are ruled by a circle of elders; but their location and composition are a well guarded secret.
The dwarves are the third most populace race. Their great underground cities have been hewn from stone and rock over countless generations. The dwarves are exceptional craftsmen and metalworkers. Their works are highly prized throughout all of Erendra. As much of their kingdom is subterranean, they have learned to trade for much of their food, wood, and other necessities. They are therefore very accepting of other races, as long as there’s coin to be made. Despite their starter, the average dwarf is much hardier than then the average human. It is said a single dwarf is worth three men on the battlefield. The dwarves are lead by a conclave of the various dwarven clans who elect a leader.
The other races of the land are neither as numerous nor organized as the humans, dwarves and elves. In your travels you will see representatives of every race in the larger towns and cities; and you may find many smaller villages which may be predominantly a non-human race. By in large, my hope is you will find as I have that Erendra is a tolerant land of great diversity. While there may be some distrust among certain races, open hostility is rare in the civilized lands.
The History of Erendra
While the verbal history of Erendra as told by story weavers and bards goes back over 8 millennia, and the lands have seen the rise and fall of many empires, we must concern ourselves with those events that have forged the current age.
The Great Cataclysm
Approximately 830 years ago, all the lands were under the control of a single empire—The Great Empire. Seated in the Wonderous Floating City of Astra which hovered thousands of feet above the fertile Valley of Yetewe, this was a time of great magic and peace. The Empire was ruled by a council of wizards and mages, and their power was used to benefit all of the races of Erendra. Evil creatures, be they orc or dragon, were driven away…either deep into the earth or to another plane.
However, man is a vain creature. Eventually a few members of the council looked down from their floating city on all that they had wrought and thought themselves Gods. One sorceress in particular, Emerwen, felt that the people the council served were not worthy of their efforts. She sought to enslave the world. She manipulated and seduced her way to become the leader of the council. From there, she had the power to fill the council with like-minded mages and within a year had seized control of all of Astra and eliminated anyone who stood in her way. Eventually she turned her eyes from her fellow mages to enslave all people of the lands of Erendra. With her power, she razed entire cities and ruled the populace through fear and terror. She reawakened the evil creatures that had been driven away and used them as her army. In a few short years she methodically broke the will of the people and enslaved nearly all of them.
Still, there was resistance. Mages and warriors reemerged to strike back against her evil. Like a swarm of ants, they constantly whittled away at Emerwen’s power. When she focused on eliminating one group, a score of others would strike at her supply lines and outposts leaving her position weakened. Eventually she captured a group that had attempted to invade Astra. She tortured them mercilessly until one of them relented and told her that an army was being gathered to overthrow her. That army was being hidden deep within the Andoikos Mountains. Emerwen knew that sending her armies into the Andoikos would be fruitless. The mountains were vast and would scatter at the approach of her vast armies. She needed a method to eliminate them all at once.
In a moment of madness, she decided to use the Crystal of Astra, the arcane crystal that was the power source at the center of the city. It is said that this crystal had been a gift from the gods and that all the magic of Erendra was contained within it. It was a tiny portion of the magic within this crystal that enabled the entire city to float thousands of feet in the air.
Emerwen and her council focused a disintegrate spell through the crystal and in a single moment a third of the Andoikos mountain chain was purged from existence. The earth was sundered and earthquakes shattered the lands. Karvos Isle was created as the land split and shifted away from the main continent. Hundreds died in tidal waves, tornados, and all manner of disaster; yet Emerwen was not done. She did not know where in the Andokos mountains the rebellion had been based; and she vowed that she would see them all destroyed.
She quickly refocused the crystal on the remains of the Eastern Andoikos, and again bid her council to aid her in complete the same spell. It was said that any mage that refused was instantly banished from the city by Emerwen…teleported outside of the city wall and to a very long fall. The remainder yielded to Emerwn’s madness and began the spell anew.
It s unclear what happened next, but the consensus from the interrogations of few mages that managed to escape the disaster was that the first spell must have created a flaw in the structure of the crystal. When the second spell was channeled through it, it failed catastrophically and instead focused the power in the valley directly below the city. The spell instantly destroyed the valley, laid waste to the bulk of Emerwen’s army which was stationed there, and created what is now referred to as the Wastelands. The city was too far above the valley and was spared from the blast, but the crystal had shattered and without that magic there was nothing to keep Astra afloat. The city fell from the sky to add its destruction to the chaos that was now the Yettewe wasteland. A few mages from the city managed to teleport away during the freefall and were eventually captured, interrogated, and put to death. Leaderless, the units of her armies that were not killed in the valley quickly fell upon each other or disbanded. Though no one was able to confirm their deaths, Emerwen and her council were never heard from again and the ruins of the Wonderous Floating City of Astra were eventually lost to the sands of the wasteland.
Emerwen’s actions and the destruction of the Andoikos Mountains and the Yettewe valley have become known to all as the Great Catalclysm.
The Shadow Years
The age following Emerwen’s defeat began with great hope. The leaders of the resistance formed a ruling council who elected from their body a king….King Rowan, the first king of The Kingdom of Udar which encompassed all the known lands of Erendra. United as never before, the new King and his people set to work immediately to try to reverse the damage to the land and the people caused by Emerwen. Cities we rebuilt, roads trade routes reestablished, and people prospered.
Still, there was something amiss, for the Crystal of Astra had indeed held much of magic of Erendra within its faceted brilliance. With the crystal shattered, magic had all but left the land. Powerful mages found themselves struggling to cast even the most mundane cantrip. Perhaps this was for the best, as the legacy of Emerwen had left a deep mistrust of mages and magic within the people.
This dearth of magic ensued for nearly a 300 years. Wizards and Mages became mere librarians, struggling to keep the knowledge of the runes and spells they once so easily manipulated. Over the year, the common people of Erendra, so far removed from the mystical events of history, began to dismiss the tales of our history told by bards and scribes as nothing more than fanciful stories.
Yet, there are always those who are drawn to the quest for power…and magic is power. So it was that 294 years after the fall of Emerwen, the first shards of the Crystal of Astra was recovered by Sir Delvin of Alderen after a dangerous delve into the wastelands.
The recovery of the shards of Astra returned not only magic to the land, but strife as well. More than wealth or land, the shards provided power to those who possessed them. A parade of folly ensued as both nobleman and commoner recklessly searched the dangerous wastelands for more crystals. Most met their doom, but the occasional recovery of additional shards brought more magic, and strife back to the land.
With enough shards, a man might begin to feel he was more powerful than the true king, and so it came to pass that Erendra entered a time of blood and war. A handful of men who became powerful enough raised armies, ceded from Udar, and did battle with anyone who threatened them. During this time, Kingdoms were created and razed dozens of times over. The armies of Udar struggled to maintain the unity of Erendra, but were forced back further and further over the years. A bloody shadow fell over the land as decades of war made weary the people of Erendra.
After over 150 years of relentless war, when nearly every Erendran had given up all hope that they would see an end to war and death, a peace overture was made. It is unclear to this day which king, general, or clergyman made the first overture of peace. Some say a young boy’s prayers to Erathis over the loss of his father shamed the Gods into action and angelic messengers delivered the peace offering to each kingdom. Whether it was the intervention of the gods or a good keg of Dwarven ale, I do not know; but an accord was reached among the five kingdoms that emerged from the ashes. All the crystals were gathered and rejoined, and a clever spell was cast using its own power to join the crystal to the land. The spell was crafted in such a way that the spell itself determined how this was to occur…no king or caster would know what had become of the crystal. It might have been hidden in a mountain or the deepest part of the ocean, or perhaps recreated as a tree or rock, or maybe, as the bards are keen to sing, it became part of everyone and everything in Erendra. No one truly knows the fate of the crystal; however, as magic survives to this day we must conclude that the spell was successful and the power of the crystal still exists in some form.
The Current Era
I would like to claim that the age following the Shadow Years we a golden time of peace and prosperity for all or Erendra, but that would be far from the truth. Rather, the era we find ourselves in now is in many senses mundane. Certainly, the five kingdoms that emerged from the Shadow Years have grown and prospered. Civilization has rebuilt itself and in many cases outdone past glories. Magic permeates the land, although some say not as strongly as in once did. On the surface, the land appears to have recovered from its wounds. Yet, if you look carefully you will see that darkness lingers at the fringes of our world.
Greed and avarice still set men upon each other. Highwayman, ruffians and pirates attack and pillage honest folk. Those with power are still apt to plague upon those who are weak. Worse still, evil creatures that had seemingly been driven back after Emerwen’s fall have re-emerged stronger than before.
Yet some say this darkness is what is needed to allow the extraordinary light of Erandrans to shine through. That our fight against this evil will lead to the momentous event that will define the current age.