I continue rushing headlong into the second year of writing Coldforged material, and this year I hope to cover enough topics in preparation to print as is possible. I hope we’re in the home stretch. Here I’m continuing my atlas, turning from looking at the physical geography of the continent to the political geography of where they all live.
Following up on the article last week, let’s continue looking at the rest of the cultures and settlements here this week. I’m just going to dive right in.
The Voskag have lived in the unforgiving and bitter peaks of the Drimmak mountains for centuries, and they have adapted both themselves and their culture to make do for the shortcomings of living in such a brutal landscape. Resources are scarce at these heights and peaks, and though the Voskag could have become a warlike society that fights for what it needs, these resources have become nearly communal resources, with multiple families sharing hunting grounds, access to the sea, and what few fertile mountain valleys do exist.
Most of the towns and settlements of the Voskag – there are no known cities – have taken the utmost care to place themselves upon ground that isn’t particularly fertile or pleasant. wasting earth that could be planted on, or disturbing plentiful game is simply the farthest thing from their minds. They have semi-mobile buildings they construct and, when necessary, are moved to a new location. Sometimes it’s harsh weather, sometimes it’s the elimination of food, and other times its war with the giant and dragonkin from within the mountains, claiming territory and pushing the voskag away.
The Few permanent settlements are alongside the western fjords of the Drimmak mountains, pleasant villages along the water’s edge that are generally sheltered from the worst of the storms and difficult to locate beyond the bends and cliffs of the numerous fjords along the coast. These towns are composed outwardly of sturdy wooden houses along the foot of a massive cliff face. They then carve and build their buildings underneath and within these same cliffs, which provide shelter year round within their solid walls. It is here that, during winter, the bands from the northern peaks descend to take shelter and share the wealth, as much as it can be, that the mountain provides.
The Aloran people have lived within the cold, central plains as long as the plains have existed. Their stories tell of the founding of their empire, their old nations, and those who are long passed from this world. They have both rich traditions of living off the plains as well as building great structures, both within cities and as great monuments on the plains.
The great walled cities of the Alorans are known throughout Tysis as unassailable and powerful fulcrums of power, controlled by nobility and royalty alike. often built on one of the few hills with massive, concentric walls, they can be seen from miles away. These cities were never built around castles, who’s function in the open plains was severely reduced, with limited choke points and vital spaces, but instead were built to become defensive structures to house major portions of the population. The outer rings were left open, for pasture and safe locations, while the inside walls were taller and completely enclosed the buildings of the city. Though there are few cities still populated, they are clearly a hallmark of the Aloran culture.
Within the Northern Highlands between the Forest of Lev and the Toldiri hills, the northern highlands once hosted the smallfolk of Jeslith within the bramblethorn. After the Killbaran conquest and eventual withdrawal, the highlands have become a land inhabited both by exiles, both self-imposed and enforced, of all the kingdoms. It is dangerous to travel within the Highlands from outside, but those who live within share a brotherhood of outlaws, protecting each other and banding together to defend themselves.
The people who’ve settled within the Highlands do so in small, secluded villages. Standard sized people live in stout daub and wattle houses, with the small folk dug into the hills with great, and plentiful gardens sheltered by the large hills and small mountains, broken up with forests and clearings that provide bountiful resources. These small towns are self-sustaining, with enough livestock and land in order to provide food for themselves without having to provide for a local lord or knight.
The city of Brokensail is the focal point of piracy around Tysis, where dozens of pirate vessels and thousands of pirates live, but it is not the only location that the pirates have occupied.
Along with the small islands that surround the entirety of the continent, a multitude of small pirate sanctuaries abound. These dismal and unsanitary locations are often run by one of the fleet captains, its brothels, and taverns filled with beholden individuals who feed both rumors and gold back to them. There are some that are run by independent, non-pirate operators who seek to simply provide the needed comforts and refuge that is needed by those who ply their trade on the sea, and will accept a trading ship from any kingdom, provided they follow the rules, which apply to the pirates as well. These small, inconspicuous towns are the invisible support system that enables the Brokensail to continue operating and bringing in tribute to Jet year after year. These same communities are often cut off from many of the necessary resources of the outside world and require regular influxes of clothing, food, water, and other goods as well as the gold to purchase it, which provides the pirates an easy way to turn their blood gold into something more useful.
The Hrondring that live within the Toldiri hills keeps their small towns and villages fairly secluded, though they do not shun visitors, traders, and bards. The individuals who live here have fought both for and against the Republic of Killbarum and the Tyndarian Kingdoms since they have history, often being pawns in their political and military games as each of the great powers maneuvered for position against the other until they finally broke. Those who live in the hills are stalwart and proud, determined to maintain their independence.
The Toldiri hills have plenty of resources, scattered among the rocky ledges, winding rivers, and fertile valleys. They have plenty of locations to choose from to build large settlements, but have chosen instead to build a single, large city in the Great Valley, and live a semi-nomadic life, rotating between 3 and 4 locations throughout the year. As the season changes, the harvests conclude and the game moves on, so to do the Hrondring. Each tribe has claimed their own locations, and there are times when conflict ensues over locations as times and situations change, making some of the areas unable to support a larger populator, or too hard to work with the current, smaller size. Looking for a new location is tough, and the Hrondring will fight to protect theirs.
Their overwinter is often a small town, located in a fertile valley that is tended by the young and the old, who can maintain and upkeep it while the rest of the tribe is out gathering and preparing for the winter. It is here that many of the travelers and traders happen across, with their wooden, stone and wattle structures seeming to be haphazardly arranged, but are instead precisely spaced to allow the traveling families huts to be placed in their proper locations when they return. These huts are strongly built, if semi-temporary, buildings with wooden posts, layers of hides and a precise latticework of rope and bone that allows them to be quickly dismantled, placed for transport and re-assembled, even the large, multi-room structures can be broken down with enough knowhow, in under an hour.
The southern coast of Tyndaria had always stood on its own, a culture of people who had little in common with those from inland. They revere the ocean and the open air and the strength, building their towns and cities more along the waterways and shores than their northern neighbors. These people also have a stronger relationship with aquatic beings, trading with Merfolk, Crustan and Lokath alike, depending on the region that they live in.
The sleepy fishing village is the hallmark of the southern coast, with ramshackle wooden buildings interspersed with the few stone buildings and often a high castle nearby, on a cliff or an island nearby or even a prominent bend in the lake. They take pride in their bridges, having been constructing them for centuries, and many towns boast about the long and important history of their bridge, be it one that crosses a local waterway or leads to the castle sanctuary. The docks are often the most important and busy part of the town, bustling with people and ships alike, of all sizes and shapes, and smelling distinctly of salt fish, wafting down the shore from where the hauls of the day are being processed, those that won’t be consumed right away.
Within the Gray Morass, the children of jet sit waiting for word from their master that they will be sent into the rest of the continent to conquer it or simply rule it in his name. Until that time, however, they are content to live within his unnatural presence, basking in the ever-warm sauna that are the bogs, fens, swamps, and marshes that entangle within one another throughout the territory.
Most of the Children, be it lizard, amphibian or draconoid, have built small ramshackle villages on the few large plots of dry ground, making do with what building materials they have nearby, mostly mud, rotting logs, and moss. There is, however, a surprising number of ruins within the Morass, and some have become occupied by these new inhabitants. Built of magnificently carved stone, these locations have become focal points for the society of the Children of Jet. It is here that they have begun dismantling the old structures to create ones that more clearly reflect their ideas and goals: Great smooth-sided pyramids, dragon-carvings, and temples both to the Maltera and the Jet himself as if they are attempting to elevate him to the status of a god.
These ruined cities, said to be that of giants given the size of the structures, have become centers of commerce for the Children, as well as locations that, over the course of the years, are being transformed. The ruins, depending on their size, stability, and use, are either being repurposed and renovated to provide for the ever-growing populations or being demolished and cannibalized for new works. Shacks and huts stand side by side with ruins from centuries ago, which stand among the newly constructed monuments, temples, and mansions demanded by the leaders of the Children.
Whew! what a trip. I don’t know just yet where I am going for the next article, as these last two took a ton out of me, but being past this is a huge relief. Until next time!