The Wintervale and Enemy Lands
Table of Contents
The Pass of Doom
This high and treacherous gap in the Trollheim Heights is essentially the only way to the East unless one goes by ship, for the Plateau to the south is blocked by impassable mountains that fall into the sea. The pass, however, has an evil fame, for the minions of the Dweller watch it. Two high fortifications, called the Talaglar or Doom-Spikes, stand at the most narrow section of the pass, and none pass these watchful strong places unnoticed. Black windows like eye sockets in a skull face in all directions high up on the tower, and some nameless observer keeps an unceasing vigilance here in this cold and windy location. Tales say that the rock below the Spikes is riddled with caverns and holes, and at the alien sound of some immense horn a black tide of trolls and all manner of other monstrous denizens rushes forth to hold the pass and slay or take prisoner anyone foolish enough to cross without leave of the Nameless City.
Beyond the Pass of Doom, which the Elves used to call the Dark Pass, lies the frozen expanse of the Great Glacier, a weather anomaly that has thrust down from the empty north like a greedy hand. This slowly flowing river of ice has carved a depression that spans hundreds of miles in the once fertile lands, cutting as a knife through the steppes and even the mountains. This ever-cold valley is called the Wintervale, the seat of Evil in Farland and the gateway to the realms that the Emperors of Farland called the Enemy Lands. The Great Glacier serves as a natural barrier between the Eastern and Western regions, although it truly is a realm of immense size in and of itself. Only creatures with a natural affinity for the cold make this place their home, and the evil will that seems to have spawned the Glacier also inhabits these beasts and monsters, imbuing them with a fell and dark spirit. Tribes of Frost Giants and Packs of Winter Wolves prowl the ice, hunting for food and seeking to do evil deeds. One of the denizens of the Wintervale is feared above all others, however, and the inhabitants of the Dweller's Lands regard it as the spirit of the Glacier. It is the gigantic and ancient ice-worm called Corpse-Grinder. It is unclear whether the evil worm is commanded by the Dweller but it does seem to leave the minions of the Dweller alone. Other hapless creatures lost in the expanse of the Great Ice have no such protection.
Besides the native creatures, it seems that only peoples with the permission of the Denizen of the Nameless City make it through the Great Glacier and the Pass unscathed, and all too often the only creatures that have this leave are orcs and dark folk. To the eyes, the Wintervale is a huge and featureless expanse of ice, curving down ever so slightly towards the center of the valley. Mountains and hills are visible around the perimeter of the glacier that makes up the Wintervale, but from the center of the Vale, these mountains are lost in the distance and haze. The weather on the Glacier is harsh, with biting winds and howling blizzards. Below the Trollheim Heights, the vale slopes imperceptibly southward, and forlorn travelers who survive the inhospitable and unnatural environment of the Vale often find themselves drawn by the path of least resistance to the place they most hope to avoid, to ruined towers and edifices jutting up like the broken-toothed grin of a maniac: the Nameless City.
The Nameless City
This ruined necropolis was once a thriving city whose name is now lost or unspoken. The place always had an evil repute among the Elves, however, and it is now more than ever a reputation that is deserved, for the place is in large measure truly a city of the dead. Almost all of the buildings of the city are in ruins, destroyed during the Battle of Sorrow. This terrible place is the abode of the Dweller in the Wintervale, who rules the Lords of Sin from her ice tower, the Frostspire.
The Nameless City is detailed here.
The cities of Gorug and Haigrog, or Orc-haven, are the two ancestral cities of the orc race. For many thousands of years these cities have existed, mostly as crude settlements, and they have been sacked and burned numerous times, and as many times by orcs as by other races. Until the victory of the Wintervale approximately 350 years ago, the Dweller periodically used nearly every resident of the cities in the perpetual Western Wars, which the orcs called the Wars of Orc-Pain, and as such the communities remained crude and barbaric. After the Dark Conquest, the denizens of these two cities were left in relative peace, which they promptly used to wage war on each other. Neither city was interested in decimating its population in reckless onslaughts, however, and as such they turned to solutions that were subtler, at least for orcs. The Oluk leaders of Gorug developed a secret breeding plan, to create specialized orcs and dark folk to completely and totally serve the bellicose purpose to which they are assigned. For example, the Irzuk or trackers were bred here. The Oluk race was also changed, crossed with trolls, to create a race of regenerating super-warriors called the Bazok.
A cross between the largest Oluks and trolls, Bazoks look like gigantic (7 1/2 foot tall) orcs with thick muscles and green, warty skin. They only obey Oluk orcs, whom they have been taught to respect since birth, and will destroy any other humanoid that annoys them, if Oluks are not present to restrain them. They even hate trolls, although they fear them. They have no culture, and are generally kept locked in pens between fights. Bazoks are just smart enough to resent this.
The Denizens of Orc-haven, on the other hand, cultivated the ability to create machines and engines of war. They created devices to hurl fire and rock long distances, devices to use against infantry, and gigantic self-propelled towers to scale walls. In the process of this strange arms race, these two cities developed something of a culture rare among orcs, even in the conquered and more civilized lands. They each developed ruling classes and even written histories and plans. The ruling caste of Gorug is the Leg-Breakers and the ruling tribe of Orc-haven is the Red Fangs, and both of these clans are responsible for the written records of their city. Luckily for the rest of Farland, and perhaps even for the Wintervale, the perpetual strife between these two cities retards their cultural and military progress, and both cities are still under the sway of the Nameless City and still provide troops if they are called upon to do so. (Because of their centuries of civilization, the favored class of the orcs of these cities is fighter.)
Cadocia and Human Lands
Frigid Cadocia to the north is a land that is nearly civilized. Indeed, trade and currency are possessed by the Eskimo-like Cadocians. These folk subsist through hunting, gathering, and fishing, and they have developed seaworthy ships to hunt whales. Most of the Cadocians live in small communities that move to follow the food source, but there are two cities in the land, although both are small. Majutenos boasts a population of some 5000, which swells in the summer. Laipedos is the second largest town, with a population of 2000. The Cadocians send tribute to the Nameless City and are ruled by its representatives. The average Cadocian wants nothing more than to be left alone by the brutal agents of the Vale to live his life in peace.
Along the Eastern coasts of the area called Yrrkune live oriental peoples that call themselves the Kunese. These peoples are somewhat barbaric, although they have two small cities, Guang and Shonmi. They willingly serve the Wintervale and even worship the Dweller as a god, along with Vornoth, whom they call Sodring. While these people have not been allowed to develop a full culture, they still have certain facets of their civilization that are notable. They believe above all in honor, and they will do their utmost to fulfill any oath they take, even to the extent of committing suicide if they fail.
South of the Greatwall Mountains is a huge continent called Eruna, full of wild, dark-skinned humans and all manner of beasts and monsters. The dweller has sent agents into these lands too, but he by no means holds sway, except in the city of Budum-ishi. This community, built in a fertile river-valley, consist of men with light brown skin. This city is ancient indeed, and it once held sway over a civilization that encompassed the entire area in which it is set. Now this ancient place is all that is left. The people of Budum-ishi revere their ancestors and build for them great tombs and monuments, sacrificing many slaves by walling them up alive within the crypts. They worship gods with the heads of animals, the Lord of whom is Vornok-ka, or Vornoth, pictured as a man with the head of a bat. As a people, they are concerned with dark and ancient secrets and magics of all sorts. Because orcs and barbarian folk are not skilled in this area, the wizards who of old used to provide support for the dweller's shock troops came from this region. The infamous Khadufel the Southerner, the wizard who belongs to The Eye, hails from this town.