Nations and Places
Section I: Nations
Section II: Places of Renown
“Land of the Savages”, “The Big Freezer”, these are names that I have heard often attributed to Robhovard, the steppeland on the southernmost tip of our continent. “If you go there, you’ll come back a head shorter,” is another statement commonly found.
It is a dangerous land indeed, and it is also very cold, with glaciers covering the south, down to the Cape of Drowning. Where no snow covers the ground, the only plant life are lichen and low growing shrubs, barely enough to support a decent population of herbivores. The exception is the northern third where a goodly deal of forests grow; fir trees mostly. It is not much warmer than in the south, yet the soil seems to be more fertile. Perhaps a result of the excrements of the herds of thymbairs roaming this part of Robhovard?
Mentionable features of the land are rarely found in Robhovard, a land that seems completely flat most of the time.
But features there are, and those commonly are immense. There is the Deep Gorge, a tear in the ground that seems to reach down for dozens of miles, running across Robhovard for more than a hundred miles. At some points its edges are close enough that one can jump across, at others one can hardly see the other lip of the canyon.
Glacierdale is probably a mountain, some eighty miles north of the Cape of Drowning. One cannot be sure whether there is rock beneath the tons of ice that form a giant bowl around a lake that, to my knowledge, bears no name. There must be some volcanic activity beneath Glacierdale, for the lake is hot and sulphurous. Nasty fumes rise from it, enough to make a steady man swoon.
Cornevan’s Atrocity is not really a geographical feature. No one knows for sure what it is, but legends claim that at some point in mythical past, a king named Cornevan ruled over Robhovard when the land was warm and lush. Cornevan decided that his might was larger than that of the gods, and he decided to prove it by erecting the biggest and most fantastic building of all times. With the aid of thousands of slave workers and powerful wizards, he proceeded to raise a building more than a mile wide and half a mile high.
According to legend, it was beautiful, a wondrous work of art that made many a visitor believe in Cornevan’s claim to be higher than the gods. Alas, the gods scarcely believed this claim. It had taken Cornevan’s people thirty years to finish the building, and when there was only a single stone remaining that had to be put into place, a storm drew up. The king himself had been holding the stone, and he was the first to be struck down by a lightning bolt. The legend claims that his shadow was forever burnt into the stones beneath him, and his ghost entombed in the rock. All of the building was turned to slag by the storm, melting and buckling, re-shaped into the ugliest sight imaginable. The storm afterwards swept across Robhovard, uprooting all the lush plant life, leaving behind it a trail of destruction – and icy cold that forever would pervade the land.
The people of Robhovard are a hardy sort, by necessity. For one thing there is the eternal cold, for another the sources of meat are either hard to find or have the unpleasant tendency to fight back. Icevoles lurk in the south, along with some ice dragons ranging out from their homes beyond the sea. Almost all across the land, shaggy unicorns roam, preying on sludgesifters, horses and not rarely humans. The thymbairs in the north are a splendid resource of meat, yet their tails and tusks make hunting a dangerous affair.
As a result, the Robhovardians are nomads, rarely remaining in one place for long. It may be due to this that they have never developed a proper civilization in the sense we know. They possess an interesting culture and tradition, yet “civilization” has avoided them. Probably to escape getting its head bashed in, I suppose.
For the barbarian nomads tend towards violence. Wars between the tribes are commonplace, usually over resources such as a nearby herd of thymbairs. Oh, they claim that the reasons are others, such as one chief having insulted the other, or a stolen bride, or that one of their many religious rites was interrupted. Much as I honor their culture, in all the reports I have received on the barbarians’ wars, the question of resources could always be found beneath the pretexts.
In the northern forestal regions, there are some real settlements. Few have grown to respectable size, and their populations are as diverse as one can find on Gushémal. The most important seems to be Dargozhan, a city set in a volcanic crater. (The volcano has been at rest for well over five centuries, therefore it appears a safe place. Certainly the mountain walls which are hard to scale for attackers also serve as a deterrent, whereas the valley inside is very fertile.) Dargozhan was founded one and a half century ago by a group of prisoners who had escaped from the Blue Land and decided to begin a fresh, new life away from their persecutors. There were dwarves (of all races), elves, humans and some other races among the prisoners, and all tried their best to create a new community. Little information about the Dargozhan of today can be gleaned, for the city is closed off and refuses to trade with the outside except on the rarest of circumstances. Apparently their experiment has paid off. I would hope so. History proves that the Romanii of 150 years ago were not the most easygoing sort, and in their prisons many languished whose only fault had been to tell a joke about the emperor.
Mentionable as well is Honor’s Mettle, a fortified village of knightdwarves, located at the very edge of the forestal northern region, next to the Deep Gorge. To my knowledge, it is the only permanent settlement of knightdwarves outside of Albinavia, established some thirty years ago. The residents claim that they are honoring a legendary warrior – “the Seabourne” – who came from the continent to their island. According to my Albinavian sources, this hero is very dear to their hearts, and the number of books published about his exploits is truly astonishing. (I have read two of these, and I find it doubtful a single man could have accomplished half of these feats. Hero worship certainly has inflated the Seabourne one’s achievements.) As such, it is odd that only fifty knightdwarves live in Honor’s Mettle, seven of whom are priests at their local church. They have cut out a goodly life for themselves, hunting thymbairs, tending to small farms and demanding tolls for using their bridge across the Deep Gorge. Theirs is the only bridge within at least four days’ travel, and it is broad and secure enough for six horses to ride side by side. It is also very well protected, including magical forcefields that have to be taken down by a knightdwarf wizard before a traveller may pass.
Robhovard can indeed be “The Land of the Savages”, but it also has places of pristine beauty worthy of seeing. Unfortunately a visit is dangerous, wherefore this land should only be explored by travellers as hardy as the people who live in Robhovard.