Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Iron League

The Iron League is a rocky desert, but the land is not totally barren. Low, wiry juniper bushes and other hardy plants are scattered among the rugged hills that crowd the base of the mountains to the north and the river basin in the east supports a narrow strip of grassland that feeds the small goat herds of the Hallepi. The capital city of Shem is connected to the rest of the world by the mighty Fortress Road that runs from Irongate Pass to the Bridge of Skulls.

The Iron League was a vassal state of Gornath. Agents of the Steward collected taxes from the citizens, but the running of the country was left to an appointed governor. After the disintegration of the Empire of Zorono, the nation moved to self rule with a council of tribal leaders. The Iron League is a coalition of five Feron nations: the Bemith, Ghuvan, Hallepi, Kelan, and Shephodi. Each tribe has their own leaders and range of territory within the region claimed by the League. Each tribe has a Speaker who represents them in Shem. For the most part, each tribe handles it's own affairs but in matters that may affect the fate of League, the Speakers gather to debate and normally abide by the majority vote (at least three tribes must agree before any course of action is decided).

Life and Society: The people of the Iron League are fierce, independent nomads. Each of the tribes has their own customs and mannerisms:

The Bemith are a warrior nation, where one's prowess in battle classifies one's rank in the tribe. Women are not required to fight, but those who choose to join their male counterparts are called jhakari and are accorded full honors based on their deeds and trophies won in combat. The Bemith capture and train the poisonous Rocklizards that haunt the broken hills to use as mounts.

The Ghuvan roam the central desert and are the most xenophobic of the League's tribes. They rarely visit the capital of Shem and jealously guard their range from outsiders. They manufacture beautiful bows of horn and are believed to be the finest archers on Quindia.

The Hallepi are a matriarchy and are viewed with awe by the other tribes of the League. Their priestesses of Isis lead the tribe and it is death to look on their uncovered faces. They live in the east along the grasslands of the river basin and raise small flocks of goats and sheep. Those of the tribe who show the aptitude are trained in the ways of arcane spellcraft, but only women are admitted to ranks of the clergy learn the divine arts.

The Kellan live in the west and are continuously at war with the kobolds and wild Feron tribes who rule the Desert of Pheba. They guard the Bridge of Skulls and the broken miles of the Fortress Road near it. It is here too that the monsters of the desert are the boldest and the tribes often take refuge in the empty forts that occur along the road. The fort of Sandstone is permanently occupied by the tribe. They favor garb of all black, with men of honor being noted by dark red head coverings.

The Shephodi live in the south along the coast and are sailors of the Opporn Sea. They are fishermen and merchants and their galleys may often be seen in the port of Haven. They are shrewd businessmen and have raised haggling to an art.

Major Geographical Features: The desert of the Iron League is not the wasteland that dominates Pheba. The western expanse of the Kellan is indeed made up of shifting dunes of seemingly endless sand, but as one travels east, the dunes of the Ghuvan are split by wide shelves of orange rock where juniper bushes and other hardy plants grow. The rock traps moisture from the infrequent rains and thriving colonies of reptiles and small desert mammals may be found here. These shelves rise steadily as one goes east until the land drops away with sharp cliffs that overlook the fertile river valley of the Hallepi. Beyond the valley the land rises again to tangled canyons that eventually blend with the eastern spur of the mountains that mark the northern border of the Iron League.
Mirror Lake is a large fresh water lake, fed by streams from the northern mountains. On a calm day, these mountains are reflected in the still surface and it is this breathtaking sight that gave the lake its name. It is rumored to be bottomless and it is true that at this time, no anchor has ever found purchase more than a few miles from shore.

Sites of Interest: Shem is the capital city and consists of a core of sandstone buildings and forts, surrounded by a sea of mud-brick huts and an ocean of colorful tents. Visitors are hard pressed not to loose their way in the serpentine streets (that may change overnight as nomads arrive to trade or pack up their belongings to return to the desert).

The Fortress Road is constructed of great sandstone blocks and towers above the desert like a great wall, twenty feet high. It is wide enough for two large wagons to pass and there are forts every five miles along it's length, but these are rarely manned anymore and many in the north have fallen into disrepair.

Sandstone is one of the forts along the southern arm of the Fortress Road and serves as a permanent base for the Kellan tribe. Besides the fort, there are a dozen ancient permanent buildings, a large temple to Horus, and many of the black tents favored by the nomads of Kela.

Irongate is an ancient fortress that dominates the pass to Modria. It is manned by soldiers of Shem.

Ment is the small "capital" of the Shephodi and is located on a natural harbor. A stone quay provides berths for their fleet of galleys and the visiting ships of traders from other realms.

The Bridge of Skulls spans the river that forms the boundary between the League and the Desert of Pheba. It's name comes from the Kellan practice of adorning the old span with the skulls of it's enemies as a warning. The Kellan guard it night and day, but the casual traveler may not know they are being watched.

Plots and Rumors: Attacks by the kobolds have grown more frequent of late and raids have begun to come from the north. It was believed that the dwarves of Marzabul controlled all of the passes north of Mirror Lake. Grumblings that these kobolds were "allowed" through have sparked radical factions to accuse the dwarves of being in league with the kobolds ("They'z almost the same size, ain't they?"). The "Down With Dwarfs" movement has sparked violence against dwarves in the city of Shem and threatens to force Marzabul to end trade with the region until "good sense" has been restored.

Imports: Food, Weapons

Exports: Copper, Diamonds, Emeralds, Iron, Salt, Spices

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