Claws of the Dragon
The trolls raid the dwarfs; the dwarfs dislike the elves. The elves have no patience with humans, and the humans war with each other. But everyone hates the Therans.
• Old Barsaivian Proverb •
The province of Barsaive covers a huge expanse of land. Traveling from its southern boundary to its northern boundary would take a man 40 days on foot, or 25 days on horseback. Traveling from Barsaive’s eastern edge to its western boundary would take him 60 days on foot, or 38 days on horseback.
Though the exact borders of the province are not clearly defined, most Barsaivians accept the following landmarks as Barsaive’s boundary markers. The northern border ends at the Blood Wood, formerly called Wyrm Wood, where the Elven Queen Alachia presides over the Elven Court. The ocean of lava known as the Death’s Sea, where legend says that Death himself lies imprisoned, bounds Barsaive to the South. A blighted area known as The Wastes marks Barsaive’s western border. It includes the Poison Forest, a once-lush woodland blasted and corrupted by Horrors during The Scourge. The Aras Sea bounds Barsaive to the East, a saltwater ocean that connects Barsaive to other lands beyond the Kingdom of Throal and the Theran Empire.
The Scourge wrought terrible changes in the land of Barsaive, leeching forests and farmland of life and destroying cities, towns, and villages. Though most of Barsaive has recovered from the Scourge, with many forests re-grown and much of the land fertile again, many small mountain ravines and patches of land in the plains and jungles remain barren. Thriving towns and fertile farmland often surround these blighted spots, making their presence all the more peculiar.
The landscape of Barsaive contains forests and jungles, plains, and hilly and mountainous regions. The plains and the hills and mountains each cover roughly a quarter of Barsaive, and jungles and forests cover the remaining half. The few roads that cross this rugged terrain wind up and down hills and around the province’s plateaus and mountains, making travel by even these established routes a difficult prospect. Traveling cross-country, off the main roads, poses a multitude of dangers to the unwary.
The Scourge caused Barsaive’s temperatures and rainfall to shift drastically and frequently, leaving the landscape devoid of living vegetation, in addition to the destruction brought to it by the more beast-like Horrors. Once the Scourge ended, the land’s flora began regenerating at a phenomenal rate, and the climate stabilized to its current temperate state. The average annual temperature in the province remains moderate, rising to somewhat uncomfortable levels during the warm season and dropping only slightly during the cool season. The higher mountain regions experience cooler temperatures than the rest of the land, though the lower hill areas experience temperatures much like those in the plains and forests.
This stable climate has caused concern and speculation among Barsaive’s scholars. The lack of a true “winter” season remains a mystery, and many believe it is the last vestige of the Scourge, while many claim the heat from Death’s Sea is carried into the land by altered wind patterns. However, the present climate has its benefits, as it enables farmers to grow crops year round. The first six months of the year comprise Barsaive’s rainy season. Most of the province receives moderate rainfall of 40 to 60 inches per year, though southern Barsaive receives heavy rains. Most regions experience some precipitation throughout the year, except for areas along the Death’s Sea that suffer from constant drought.
The Namegiver races are scattered across Barsaive, with some members of each race gathered in enclaves and others living in areas of mixed racial populations. The province’s larger cities, in particular, have attracted Namegivers from all over Barsaive over the last century, making most of them places where all races mix. The table below lists the approximate distribution of the races throughout Barsaive, based on estimates garnered through years of traveling. As yet, no complete census of Barsaive exists—the fact that previously undiscovered kaers are opened every couple of months would make a census short-lived anyway.
In terms of population distribution, the province of Barsaive comprises three broad areas.
The first, the Kingdom of Throal in the Throal Mountains, includes that kingdom’s recently constructed cities and contains roughly one third of Barsaive’s population. On the slopes of the Throal Mountains, outside the gates of Throal, the hardened garahamite dwarfs farm and mine the mountains in the Throalites’ ancient ways, and to the north and east of the mountains nomadic tribes eke out a living hunting game. Tales contend that some of these primitive peoples worship Mad Passions and Horrors, but they often spring from storytellers who cater to those that would not leave the comforts of Throal’s underground cities even if the King offered another free claim to land.
The lowlands, which include most of the province’s jungles and plains as well as the Serpent River valley, provide a home to about half the population. The highlands include all of Barsaive’s mountains and plateaus, except for the Throal Mountains that make up part of the Kingdom of Throal. The mountain regions shelter approximately one sixth of Barsaive’s people, including the troll crystal raiders of the Twilight Peaks who pilot magically crafted airships through Barsaive’s skies in search of villages to raid and Theran airships to plunder.
Of the people living in the lowlands, about a quarter live in the cities of Haven, Kratas, Iopos, Jerris, Urupa, and [Travar]]. Outside the cities, the great lowland jungles and plains of Barsaive contain only one fourth of the province’s population. Ork scorchers, nomadic riders who travel the land on massive beasts, roam across the plains in primitive hunting bands and in organized, mercenary ork cavalries who sell their talents and strength to the highest bidder.
Although the Scourge ended nearly one hundred years ago and people may now freely travel the land, most prefer to gather in large population centers. As a result, the population distribution of Barsaive remains fairly static.
Travel and Trade
Though many self-sufficient villages remain scattered throughout Barsaive’s remote regions, trade has once again begun to generate wealth in most of the province. While the largest amount of trade is done using airships and the t’skrang riverboats, there is still need for overland trade routes and caravans, and many a courageous merchant travels the land with a lone wagon or two, providing the farmers in the hinterlands with the amenities of life not found in a small community, taking what the wilderness has to offer back into the cities.
Old Theran Road
A long, fortified road from pre-Scourge times runs all the way from Parlainth to the newfound city of Urupa. The white stones of this road reflect the moonlight during the night, glowing in a milky white. Trade has sprung up again, mostly between the settlements close to the road. Caravans from many merchants are a frequent sight, along with messengers and other travelers. The road remains, however, a feature of Barsaive’s east, and is unlikely to ever again see as much travel as it did when Parlainth was the shining beauty of Barsaive’s cities.
The Pilgrimage Route
Although not exactly a trade route, the pilgrimage is sacred for the t’skrang of Barsaive. The Pilgrimage Route stretches from Ayodhya near Lake Ban to the Cliff City of House Syrtis and resembles a small footpath running close along the shores of the Serpent River, passing some of the most revered t’skrang sacred sites. The Pilgrimage Route ends at the Pinnacle Gate of the Cliff City, where the pilgrims who have completed the fifteen-day journey receive a personal audience with the Shivalahala Syrtis, also known as The Prophetess. She is the leader of House Syrtis and a revered figure by every race in Barsaive for her incredible insight into the future. The pilgrim is allowed to ask one question, which the shivalahala will answer if she can divine a true reply.
After the Scourge, the dwarfs of Throal developed a caravan route that runs parallel to the southern part of the Pilgrimage Route–although out of respect for the sanctity of the path never crossing it – and from there on along the Coil River to Throal. The discovery of a passage through the Adipae Rapids has made the Coil River the prime trade route between Throal and Lake Ban, however, and mostly poor merchants and travelers on foot use the road today.
Other trade routes have sprung up in the past decades, connecting the great cities with trading ports along the Serpent River. King Varulus III saw the wisdom of providing them with distance markers—small milestones that help people navigate and guide them to his kingdom. The trade routes are usually not fortified or guarded, which makes travel along them slow and dangerous.
The most frequented and important routes run from Throal to Jerris, passing the dangerous areas around Lake Vors and Kratas, the city of thieves; and from the southern Serpent River in Barsaive’s southern heartland to the Theran foothold of Sky Point and Vivane on Barsaive’s southwestern border, circumventing the troll raiders of the Twilight Peaks and the Liaj Jungle. The mainstay of Barsaive’s bulk trade remains limited to ships, either airships or riverboats, and so a number of shorter routes connect the rivers with nearby towns. None of these routes is of any importance beyond the town it serves, though.