Places mentioned in the story

Kingdom_Map

The Kingdom 
The land in which this story plays out. It has an actual name, but everybody just calls it the kingdom, if they name it at all. The place is fairly isolationist and its inhabitants are both insular and generally uninterested in what happens outside its borders. A high mountain range all but splits the country in two and only in the southern region are they low enough that a road can pass east to west. The western provinces are about a quarter of the size of the eastern and hug the Sundering Mountains.

Kingstown
The capitol of the Kingdom, founded after the western provinces were conquered. It is located on the shores of the great lake. The citadel is built on, and in, an outcropping of black rock that projects some hundred meter into the lake. It is an extension of a larger rock face that shields the city from the north, while further east into the lake another part of the same outcropping barely surfaces to form an island on which the royal palace is built. Kingstown protects the Kingdom’s most fertile farmland, and is also the central market place from which caravans travel to the cities in the more mountainous regions.

Aeldburh
Also known as the western capitol. It is the biggest city in the northwest of the Kingdom, the ancestral home of the royal house and still heavily fortified against the threat of northern barbarians. The King’s Road starts here and travels south to Garnford where it crosses the rivers and then to the eastern provinces.

Hillstead
The capital of the hill country on the western side of highlands. It is however a minor city and generally only a local market center for the hill folk. The King’s Road passes through it and it is a resting point for caravans as well as a major market for draft horses, mules and oxen. Mainly because both roads to the east are too steep for any draft animal that is not fully healthy and caravans routinely exchange their animals for new ones in Hillstead.

Garnford
The biggest river flowing out of the Black Forest is fordable at only one place, around which the city of Garnford grew. It is a major garrison town, and the Marshall has equal power to the Mayor. It is the only town in the Kingdom that is not ruled by a noble house directly, but instead has a council of advisors (the wealthiest merchants) who elect a Mayor who, for half a dozen years, runs the civilian affairs of the city and its surrounding farmlands.

Glivenr
This city is located high on the slopes of the southernmost of the large mountains in the range that splits east from west. It is the most defensible city of the entire Kingdom, with one side of the city on the edge of a sheer drop of five hundred meter, and the other side of the city all but dug into the mountain. The main industry of the city is mining of metals mostly, both precious and common, but also some cheap gemstones. Its annual market is the richest of the Kingdom and therefor the place where all traders congregate each late fall. The market and fair also mark the end of the trading season and traders leaving late may find themselves stranded in the city if winter’s snowfall is early and makes the long steep road impassable.

Sundering Mountains
The range of ice-capped mountains that separates the eastern and western provinces of the Kingdom except for a narrow stretch of land at the south end. The southern-most mountain is oddly tilted and creates a highland that is almost completely covered by a dark forest with a bad reputation. Further north there is a set of three towering mountains known as the Three Sisters. There are no passes through the mountains, though in summer with a lot of skill and luck it is possible to climb to the lowest ice fields and cross them. Most who try this on a dare do not survive but experienced highland trappers sometimes make the journey.
To the west of the mountains is the narrow stretch of land that makes up the western provinces. Mostly these provinces are the valleys and in a few places the foothills of the mountains, not the broad White River Valley further west, of which the Merskaer Valley is a part. To the east of the mountains are the eastern provinces, which is mostly highlands and hill country, or both. It is a bit on the dry side, but countless rivers coming down from the mountains make it a fertile land nonetheless.

Green Mountains
This is the lesser mountain range that marks the eastern border of the Kingdom. They are lesser most only in comparison to the Sundering Mountains, whose tips usually pierce the clouds (which gave the range its name). Because the Kingdom is mostly highlands the Green Mountains do not appear as high from their western slopes. Going through one the four passes through the mountains that can reasonably be traversed — though only one is suited for trade caravans — the eastern slope of those mountains is much longer as it descends to lands that are several hundreds of meters below the level of the Kingdom. That strategic advantage has allowed the Kingdom to keep its independence against several attempts from the eastern kingdoms to conquer it. The last attempt has been over four hundred years ago though and relations are generally cordial and profitable these days.

Merskear Valley
This is valley that forms the eastern border of the Kingdom. Only the westernmost part of it belongs to the Kingdom, with the vast farmlands that make up most of it belonging to three different countries. The southern half of it, which is the largest part of the border, is a vast swampland into which hundreds of brooks and small rivers feed from the surrounding mountains. In theory the swamp is passable. In practice however nobody bothers, leaving the swamp effectively unclaimed by any country.

Rinsarri River
The great southern river. It curves around the highlands and mountains of the west and is at places several hundred meters wide. It also is deep and flows swiftly. Its banks are patrolled and heavily fortified due to the dangers of the horse nomads who roam the Southern Steppes on the other side of the river, and frequently make attempts to cross the river into the much more fertile northern lands. There are no bridges over the river and fortresses and castles can be found at regular intervals, especially in parts where the river widens out and slows down.

Blackroot River
The biggest river flowing out of the Highlands into the Rinsarri River. It is a short river, but like all mountain rivers a swift flowing one, and being fed from frequent rain it is also a deep river that carries rocks and shattered tries with it. There is only one place where this river can be forded, making it an effective choke point where access between eastern and western provinces can long be prohibitied by even a relatively small force.

The Black Forest
Bergz Gliven, the mountain of Glivenr, is elevated from a long stretch of highland. This highland is entirely covered by a dense forest that long has had a bad reputation for making people disappear in it. The name Black Forest is as much derived from that reputation as for the darkness under its dense canopy. No forester living close to the forest will put an axe in any tree he considers part of the forest, and attempts to cut down a tree will frequently end up fatal. Any wood taken from the tree tends to either rot quickly, catch fire almost spontaneously or somehow curse the building it is in. Trees beyond the invisible boundary are ordinary. Because of the nature of the forest it acts as an insurmountable barrier at the southernmost end of the mountains.

The forest road
Through the middle of the Black Forest is a narrow road, little more than a path at places, that somehow remains open and where travelers are safe from the influence of the forest. In the early days of the Kingdom attempts were made to widen this road, which made clear that even attempting to cut down a tree from the Black Forest was likely to be fatal. Attempts to harden the road were only marginally succesful. The road itself remained though, and serves as a quick route for small traders, travelers and messengers between the cities of Hillstead and Glivenr, avoiding Garnford and its toll bridge entirely.

Halfway Inn
The name the current owner has given to his inn may be lacking in creativity, but the building, and the clearing it is on, are as much an enigma as the road on which it forms the midpoint. An almost circular area that no tree will grow in, shielded from the dangers of the Black Forest. Any traveler making the journey will spend the night in the Inn, rather than risk losing the path at night and disappearing into the forest. The building existed in one form or another since before the Kingdom was founded, and while parts have been repaired and rebuilt countless times over the centuries, there is always a building and it will always find itself an innkeeper.

The Roof of the World
The Enclosed Land
These are two names for the same mythological region so far to the north that nobody has ever been able to ascertain it actually exists. The eternal winter in the north makes it impossible to travel there and survive. Few scholars in the Kingdom have even heard of the myths, and those that do consider them nothing but fanciful embellishments of dreams of magical lands.
Of course, the land actually exists, but its ruler takes great care that no rumour of its existance reaches the more inhabitable lands to the south. The reason for this secrecy remains as big a mystery even for its inhabitants as how it is possible that a small region in the eternal ice has a warm enough climate that farming is possible and people can walk around without freezing to death.

Southern Steppes
South of the Rinsarri River is a vast plain that slowly climbs up from the river until it finally reaches hill country and broken mountains some four hundred miles further south. The land is not barren, but it is ill suited for farming. As a result it has been claimed by horse nomads and their herds of sheep. Mostly the nomads fight among themselves, but frequently a small army bands together and looks at the rich and fertile lands they can see across the river. The same thing probably also happens on the southern border of the Steppes. Travel across the Steppes is possible, but it either requires an army big enough to chase off warrior bands, or it means travelling with a tribe, who take a hefty toll for offering their protection.

Southern Kingdoms
South of the steppes the hills suddenly give way to a low land where wide rivers flow slowly through fertile land. The sun is higher and brighter here and the people closest to the hills have a tanned skin to avoid getting burned. The further south one travels the darker the skins of the people become, until as rumour in the Kingdom has it, at the southern end of the world the people have a skin that is as close to pitch black as it is possible to be. Since trade with the Southern Kingdoms is rare, this of course just as easily can be tall tales spread by their traders who make the long and dangerous journey to bring their exotic goods to the northern markets and who take with them south metals, hard wood and the cheap semi-precious stones that they prize very highly.

Eastern Forest
Beyond the eastern provinces of the Kingdom is another, lesser mountain range. At the other side of that is rumoured to be a vast forest filled with mythical animals. Where those rumours came from is unknown as it is rare for a citizen of the Kingdom to want to leave, and nobody who ever traveled east across the mountain has returned with tales of a forest. There is a caravan road through the mountains that trades with the people of the east, but exactly how far the eastern edge of the world is remains unknown and the same is true of how many lands and countries there are in that direction.
The trade language of the eastern cities is known as Eastern Compact, and increasingly is taking over as the language of choice of traders in the Kingdom when talking among themselves.

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