First, my now standard disclaimer:
As usual, critique and opinion from the original author(s) would be particularly welcome.
- Mainly just expanded the given entries with additional info from later on in the project
- Changed Syphlo to Sylpho, as its more recogniseable and frankly, the original name sounded like a disease. Not to sound childish, but anything that sounds potentially jokey needs steering away from. Its also not like we need to be accurate to the original language.
- Added more regions to the VAST expanse that is Xaric.
- Added some of our late-comer races to the mix as well
- I've cropped both the Neverseen and Power of Ironjaw Prison hooks to include only what's common knowledge. In-tact (i.e. original versions) I'll stick in the adventure section / Ina's Lore instead
Proper Name: The Harmonious Commonwealth of Xaric
Provincial Government: Representative Democracy
Leaders: The Xarican National Congress; High Consul Rhomelos (OCA)
Provincial Capital: Threerivers
Major Cities: Theron, Ethano, Drakon, Terapten, Veron, Anselm, Sylpho, and Equus (human); Scorpion, Scarab, Mantis, Ten-Mill, Aphid, and Locust (dwarf); Ko’ako’akaumo’o (Mer); Myzgathanos (lizardfolk); Xelhone (orc)
Districts: Hammerland, Makao, The Mosquito Lakes, Northern Marches, The Red Dust Plains, Thorkold Protectorate, Rivenhold
Resources: Provender Food, Cattle, Undersea Trade
Coinage: Kerma (gold coin)
Population: Dwarves 25%, Human 30%, Orc 20%, Kobold 15% Mixed Other 10%
Languages: Common, Orc, Dwarf, Kobold, lizardman
Alignment (Government): Lawful Neutral
Alignment (Populace): Lawful Good
Prominent Faiths: Alae, Didairdin, Druidism, Embleer (nearly forgotten goddess)
The Province of Xaric is a mixture of fertile plains, vibrant coasts, sparkling rivers, and stout hills. The province covers the whole southern half of the continent of Mot, but couldn’t be more different from its mountainous neighbour in both geography and culture.
Xaric is one of the OCA’s greatest successes. It is a land of mixed views, mixed people, and mixed cultures – and generally all for the better. It’s one of the most stable and prosperous provinces on Ortho, due in no small part due to the abundant soil. The people of Xaric are held together through interdependence and mutual pride, though vigorous debate continues on the future of its provincial authorities.
Life and Society
Xaric is a mix of three predominating peoples: orc, human and dwarven. These three races were pushed together at its formation, forced to live side by side under the rule of the Harmonium in an experimental program of racial integration. So far it has paid off: All three peoples have retained much of themselves while bending to the needs of their neighbors, and everyone is prospering as a result. In fact the School of Ethics now routinely studies this Xarican history as an example of harmonious social and political construction.
The province is centered around the verdant lowlands, a heavily farmed area that resembles an ocean of swaying wheat. Thanks to proper care this land is capable of supplying food for both Xaric and its neighboring provinces, giving it a firm reputation as ‘the breadbasket of Ortho’. As a result even the most militant orcs of Motmurk have little interest in disrupting the perfectly suitable system that ensures a steady supply of food; a significant amount of Xaric’s produce goes north to feed the orcish homeland, a fact which has been used several times in the past to ‘persuade’ the tribes of Motmurk against undue interference in Xarican affairs.
Out of the reach of major cities, many of Xaric’s towns, villages, and farms are cooperative ventures, mutually owned by the local populace in a system of ‘shares’ similar to those found on a trading ship. Each locale also elects its own Prefect, who represents them in governmental affairs. Most of the population is involved in food production one way or another, either farms or driving cattle, horses, giant lizards, and other domestic beasts.
With such a strong tradition of cooperation and mutual support, more grasping Cartels need to play fair, keep a low profile, or be especially ruthless in Xaric. Most of the big Cartels would love a bigger slice of the economic pie here, but there’s a strong grass-roots movement against them. Cartel Princes sometimes disparagingly call Xaric “the land of the huihui” and concentrate their efforts on the big city trade and infrastructure. Those Cartels based in Iironda are also having particular success in introducing new airship routes and other advanced technology to the province.
Faith in Xaric is a relaxed matter of personal choice, and many inhabitants choose personal divine patron from beyond the norm (St. Cuthbert, Torm, Koriel, Paladine, Chung Kuel, K'ung Fu-tzu, or Shang-ti, to name a few). Among the Orthorian Lords of Order Alae is most popular, followed by Didairdin. Many rural Xaricans prefer variants the druidic faith however, worshiping either abstract natural order or a minor and almost forgotten local nature deity called Embleer.
On the Dwarves of Xaric
Xaric is the native land for the dwarves of Ortho. They come from the northern reaches of Xaric near the Motmurk border, and live in the rocky hills and foothills that border the orcish homeland. Local dwarves have a strong cultural connection with their Motmurkian cousins, and one could almost say that the two groups were one and the same. Most Motmurk clans are considered outposts of their Xarican homeland, who maintain a historical claim to the land beneath the mountains (though their mines rarely surface in Motmurk). Not all the free dwarves of Motmurk acknowledge or welcome their southern kin however - a sore point between several clans.
Used as a slave race prior to the establishment of the OCA, the dwarves have been unsurprisingly fierce in maintaining their independence (both before and after they joined the OCA), but have also migrated southward in the last half millennia. Although initially isolationist and suspicious of strangers, they eventually mingled with the more tolerant southerners and now participate fully in Xarican life and the Orthorian Central Authority. Modern dwarves are almost as at home above ground as beneath it these days.
On the Human Colonists of Xaric
Humans can be found everywhere in Xaric, from their coastal cities to grassy heartlands, to the cavernous dwarf hives of the northern marches.
The humans of eastern Xaric were originally colonists from the city-states of Osmopondia and share their tawny skin and narrow eyes. The original eight colonies were each based on a different animal totem: Ethano (Owl), Theron (Wolf), Drakon (Wyvern), Terapten (Horned Eagle and Crested Turtle), Veron (mouse), Anselm (lion), Sylphos (sylph), and Equus (horse). They eventually grew more prosperous than the Omospondian city-states that spawned them, and achieved independence after a long struggle. Now their independence is vouchsafed by the OCA and each colony has grown into a city in its own right, centre of a prefecture and natural chokepoint for Xarican trade caravans.
On the Orcs of Xaric
The orcs of Xaric are a curious bunch. Originally descended from exiled tribes and individuals from the (literally) cut-throat politics of Motmurk, they were an eclectic group – rough and rebellious, and often failures in the eyes of their kin.
For generations the lords of Motmurk used the southern plains as a combination dumping ground, private hunting preserve, and giant slave camp. As a result the orcs of Xaric are hardly typical of their kind. The ‘crimes’ of these orcish exiles ranged form everything from murder to cowardice in battle, to failed attempts to seize leadership of the tribes, to those orcs that didn’t simply didn’t want to worship the Arch-Devils and live a life of bloody warfare.
Due to their rebellious history and a common individualist streak, Xarican orcs tend to prefer a less formal tribal organization and a far less rigid hierarchy: The harsh tribal environment of the north was often exactly the sort of leadership their ancestors fled, and they’ve no desire to fall back into old ways. Most tribes are a fairly loose organization, surprisingly open to changes in membership, even from other races. There are exceptions to this of course (orcs close to the Motmurk border tend to follow a more northern stereotype for example), but after centuries of partnership and interdependence, most of the orcs of Xaric are noticeably friendlier and less bloodthirsty than their northern cousins. Most tribes live a nomadic life on the plains, herding cattle or horses or acting as herders, outriders, and scouts for hire. Although spread throughout the Province, orcs are most numerous in the north (near their old home) and southeast (where they excel as cattle-herders). Orcs desiring a more settled, urban life generally make for one of the human cities.
With its reputation for racial tolerance and cooperation, Xaric has quite a mix of races. Alongside the three main races can be found arretai and gnolls, ogres and scalefolk, mer and Sahaugin, and various other races. The most numerous however, are the kobolds.
The kobolds of Xaric are a distinct minority but a very vocal and industrious one. They do not (yet) have any formal representation in the province, but are instead becoming a part of the society surrounding them. The kobold heartland is the north (where they traditionally competed with the dwarves and orcs), but since pacification they have spread throughout Xaric adopting the culture and lifestyle of whoever they’re rubbing shoulders with. This strategy seems to have served them well, but it has also left them without representation in the Provincial Congress.
The government of Xaric was originally established by the Harmonium shortly after the War of Harmony. It is a construct designed to force the disparate cultures of Xaric to work together, establishing interdependence. It was believed that this would force the inhabitants to become harmonius, working with each other for the betterment of all because to do otherwise would just cause themselves harm. So far, this seems to have been a very successful and profitable strategy.
Government is divided into a set of locally run ‘prefectures’ – these allow villages and towns within Xaric to run by local dignitaries (appointed exactly how depends on the local race and culture). Harmonium Consuls – an elected rank open only to officers of Measure or higher – act as arbiters and chief magistrates for each city or major district, chairing a council made up of local prefects. Consuls have the power to sharply restrain the provincial government, but generally maintain a policy of “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.”
On a provincial level the government is run by the National Congress, consisting of thirteen members, each elected by popular vote across the nation. Four seats are required to be held by dwarves, four by orcs, and four by humans. The last position is known as The Binding Seat, acts as chairman and a tie-breaker, and may be held by any race. All sub-councils, committees and other groups within the provincial government are required to show a similar distribution in representation, and elections are held every three years. Overall the system has functioned well for centuries, but as Xaric’s racial admixture continues to diversify, its other races are starting to clamour for a more balanced representation.
High Consul Rhomelos (representative of the OCA and Harmonium) and kobold Councillor Zkalametra (present holder of the Binding Seat) between them have managed to keep the situation from degenerating further, appeasing both the racially disenfranchised and the entrenched local nobility. What will occur when either party’s term of office is up however, is anybody’s guess.
Xaric is often described as a gentle slope down to the sea, getting hotter as it goes. Its southern savannah is among the warmest places on Ortho, and life generally takes an appropriately relaxed pace: few people work through the heat of midday, instead rising early in the morning and working long into the night.
The north of Xaric is dominated by the foothills of the Motmurk mountains. The hills are rocky, with enough deposits of stone, ore, and gemstones to make the dwarven population very happy. Above ground the hills are relatively unpopulated, and are covered with oak and hickory forests. Travellers in this area should be cautious of intruding into the lands of reclusive orc families also known to live in these hills, and to beware their rangers who keep a wary eye on Motmurk.
Visitors to the dwarf hives are encouraged to pay their respects at the Ossuary of Elder Bones, a towering funeral monument formed from the remains of three hundred generations of the dwarven clans, many of whom died fighting for freedom against the orcs. The OCA is suspicious of such a nationalistic monument, but its attendants (priests of Alae) stress continually that it is only a legacy of the past, maintained with honour but not designed to encourage further antagonism. Orcs are even welcome at the shrine, though few make the pilgrimage.
In the northeastern foothills on the coast facing Ulfrheim is a close-knit region comprising of seven rural prefectures. They all follow the same religious doctrine, a cult of St. Cuthbert that practices extreme simplicity, poverty, and humility in every aspect of life. Its somber but good-hearted farmers follow strict religious law, but are also sturdy warriors: They’re famous for taking up their hoes and mallets when danger threatens, which has earned them the name ‘hammerlanders’ from nearby orc tribes.
Life is hard because the Hammerlanders eschew almost every arcane and technological convenience (indeed, these arts are entirely absent among them) but nevertheless seem content with a simple life of faith and farming. They also regularly practice stout physical exercise and martial arts based on farming tools. Combined with their hardworking lifestyle, this produces a people exceptionally strong and healthy – many are noticeably taller than others of their kind elsewhere.
Visitors are treated politely but not exactly welcomed unless they’re part of the faith. Outside trade is virtually non-existent, and among Cosmopolitan Xaricans the Hammerlands are a byword for dull, provincial, and backwards folk. There’s no doubting the stoic bravery of their Harmonium recruits however, many of which join the ranks of the Cudgelite order.
Paizunos & Erpeto
These islands enjoy warm southern breezes and a climate often found further south. Each is covered by thick jungle, and has a smoking volcano at its heart. The Harmonium watches the jungles carefully and allows no colonists from elsewhere to land – for the isles of Paizunos and Erpeto are home to reptilian monsters who have come to terms with Hardhead domination, but only want to be left alone.
The islands are each named after their rulers, ancient green dragons (a male and a female respectively), who lair in the heart of their respective mountains. Each surrounds itself with followers who seem to almost worship it: Naga, yuan-ti, lizardmen, even a few troglodytes. Half-dragon priests administer the faith of each tribe, although by careful negotiation it has been established that each dragon is worshipped only as an intermediary to the Lords of Order. Exactly how strenuously this is enforced when visitors aren’t around is unknown.
The islands were discovered and pacified by Sahaugin soldiers, who seem to almost regard the scalefolk here as equals. Emissaries from Paizunos and Erpeto are sometimes seen in coastal cities, trading obsidian and rare herbs for civilized goods. Otherwise, they keep themselves strictly to themselves.
Most of Xaric is flat plains well suited to farming and cattle-raising. The best farming land can be found on the eastern side of the continent, while highest quality Xarican beef comes from the southwest. Beyond its (extensive) rural farms however, the savannah is a rolling sea of grass home to herds of buffalo, wild horses, and other animals.
This island was a long-disputed territory between Ulfrheim and Xaric (and Motmurk before that), held by a variety of petty warlords for most of its history. The OCA eventually acknowledged it as part of Xaric, much to the chagrin of the Ulfrheim authorities. Rivenhold is virtually automatous from either state these days however, and although still inhabited by a mix of Ulfrheims and Xaricans (colloquially called ‘Riveners’), this small island is administrated by the Mer, who occupy a ring of cultivated reefs and sea-caves all around it, collectively known as Ko’ako’akaumo’o - City of High Coral Spires.
Ko’ako’akaumo’o is one of the largest Mer cities on Ortho; it has grown quickly thanks to OCA support (both political and financial) to integrate ‘Blue Ortho’ with the surface world. It stretches throughout the shallows of Rivenhold, both above and below the air-line. With recent problems of rising sea levels, building work has only increased the height of its spiraling towers.
Undersea races come to Ko’ako’akaumo’o for trade with the surface world, and the city is dominated by mercantile interests. A council of Merfolk clan elders rules the city and struggles to balance its numerous commercial interests, especially the aggressive sahaugin. Surface-world cartels also push for power in Ko’ako’akaumo’o, but this is viciously fought against by all the aquatic locals.
On land the Ulfrheim-descended Riveners are unusual for their kind in that they generally have little tolerance for lycanthropes. Rivenhold was traditionally a refuge for those who dislike, despise, or otherwise had a problem with the influence of were creatures in their home country. Officially they have no problem with the weres in modern times, but the islanders still import a lot of silver…
The Mosquito Lakes
This area of southwestern Xaric is dominated by three great bodies of water and a wide swathe of mosquito-infested swampland, which eventually leads all the way down to the sea. Although inhospitable to many humanoids (like humans, orcs, and dwarves), the flies don’t seem to bother the scalefolk, who have called it home for millennia.
Lizardmen have ruled here since long before the rise of Harmony. Motmurk never conquered it, calling it ‘The Kingdom of Flies’ and claiming it was a disease-ridden uninhabitable hellhole. Protected by their scales however, the lacerde are perfectly at home. It’s an almost exclusively a scalefolk region, although the town of Myzgathanos on the marshy coast trades with foreign ships as well as sahaugin from the Isle of Buccanos. Myzgathanos means something like ‘levee of abundant edible insects’ in the local lizardman dialect, but most sailors simply call it ‘Scaleport.’
Off the swampy coast of western Xaric is Makao, a once infamous haunt of pirates and rebels. The Harmonium put pay to their schemes by stationing a huge force of sahaugin around the island, who founded a thriving colony in the shallow sapphire waters. The wreckages of the pirate vessels they sank now form the basis of reefs and sahaugin dwellings.
Surface races farm the island and live in relative peace, but are clearly thralls of the redfins. Most of them are descended from pirates taken as prisoners, and the sahaugin keep them on a tight leash.
Near Makao is an otherwise unnamed isle that’s been converted into a single massive training camp. Known locally as ‘Dryfin Isle’ it is a Harmonium base for sahaugin and the few drylanders that liaise with them. The island includes both underwater and surface villages for use in staging mock-raids. Rumours persist that the sahaugin kidnap people to use as enemies in these ‘simulations’, but nothing has ever been proved. The island also serves as a prison for aquatic criminals, locking them up on dry land beneath the beating sun. Conditions are harsh, but – just barely - within OCA regulations; at least while any inspectors are present.
The Red Dust Plains
In the far south, brittle grasses dry beneath a baking sun, and the land is dominated by plains of dusty crimson clay. A particularly dark-skinned orc clan called the Red Dust Jaguar dwell on here in small scattered families. Unusually for their kind however, the Red Dust Jaguars have a strong tradition of psionics - in fact almost every member of the tribe seems to manifest some talent, mostly psychometabolic and telepathic talents which aid in survival and communication. They pay lip-service to the OCA but want mainly to be left alone; they seem harmless enough, and fortunately their homeland harbours few resources worth braving the dust and heat for. The source of their psychic talents remains unknown.
The Blazing Plains is also known for its insect-life (Jhary himself spent years studying here in ancient times) including giant and monstrous varieties like the ankheg, giant scorpion, and ‘trapdoor’ dire spider. These denizens won’t tolerate any dwarven hives in the area, but the small orc-tribe has carefully managed to avoid their wrath.
The biggest city on the continent is the mighty Threerivers. Here the rivers Charesh, Millwright, and Blood merge into the unified Bloodflow. A dwarven surface village originally squatted here. It was a small place, a minor waystop connecting the great dwarven communities of the north with the sea. The port of Xelhone at the Bloodflow's mouth was far more important, and even the town of Ten-Mill to the north had a bigger population and at least some local industry. Except to provide a place for weary transporters to rest, the dwarven village called Mikros had little purpose. Its rough inhabitants were mostly outcasts from the major clans; a motley collection of dwarves and more exotic monstrous humanoids come down from the mountains for reasons of their own. Their homes were stone huts, sometimes connected to local caves, and while there were a few fine inns, some stores, and some well-maintained docks – even some crafters who could repair ships - for the most part they had a rude, primitive life. There was not much there to offer dwarves.
Humans, on the other hand, were another matter entirely.
The new Harmonium government, seeing the great division between the three major races of the continent of Mot, desired to create a common ground between them. The village of Xel where rivers flowed from all three of their lands, was seen as ideal. Architect Malana Engrea of Equus colony was designated the city planner; the city itself would be part of no state or colony, but would be administrated in much the same way that Harmony’s Glory was. The dwarves and other beings who owned property in the village were allowed to keep it; their families would later become wealthy landowners in the heart of the growing city of Threerivers.
With the grand city buildings designed by Engrea, a convenient location on the banks of three major rivers, and the enthusiastic support of the Knights of Harmony, venture capital began pouring into the new city from all the pacified lands... and not all of it came from reputable sources. The most notorious investor was Enrico Blackhook, a former Thaeran pirate who had not only distinguished himself in the war with the elves but had escaped both the hobgoblin conquest of Thaera and the sahaugin occupation of his former base on Makao. Using privateer gold Enrico soon became the wealthiest mill owner in the city, and he owned many frowned-upon businesses as well such as drinking, dancing, and gambling halls.
Humans weren’t the only developers of course: Dwarven hive-clans contributed many distinctive stone buildings designed along their own insectile lines; the orcs created a great Cathedral of the Nine with its soaring bat wings, and Otaki immigrants from Thaera raised colourful roofs of sweeping slate. Sadly, much of this was destroyed when the human states rebelled during the Schism. The Cathedral of the Nine was torn down by rioters and later replaced by a great temple of Saeduenical, a courier service, and a stable. The sprawling yet stately mansion Malana Engrea designed for the governor was completely burnt (three times) and replaced by a more imposing, fortified building that would influence the renovation of Sigil’s City Barracks a few centuries later.
The city’s soul however, with its freewheeling combination of many different races and ethnic groups, remained the same. Even during the grim martial law imposed after the revolts, the expansive Threerivers’ licensed quarter found a way to remain open in spite of government disapproval.
For the people of Xaric and even elsewhere, Threerivers is the true heart of Ortho, its living spirit that endures and empowers the Harmonium’s collective song. Threerivers is very much a mixed-race city. The confluence of three rivers that gives the city its name also symbolize the confederation of the three races common to the continent: humans, dwarves, and orcs.
The Thorkhold Protectorate
This area was the site of the Thorkhold dwarves, who created Bardolpho’s Engine, which was empowered by Chaos itself. It was a hideously complex thing, impossible to look at directly without getting watery eyes and breaking into a chill sweat. Bardolpho’s Engine was eventually destroyed by a surprise strike by Scorpion saboteurs. As a result, the Thorkhold civilization vanished in a flash, leaving an oddly shaped crater where the very rock had vaporized. Pan Thaera’s first and last Xarican colony, wiped from existence.
The crater has remained abandoned right into modern times, a hole dug into the earth down to the very bedrock. While the crater itself is barren rock, the land around this ancient city is overgrown with plantlife, which seems to enjoy an unnatural level of health. Though the effect on plant life will force them to grow to a spectacular size, no fruit bearing or grain bearing plant grown in this area has produced edible results. All such plants grown in this spot have produced bitter, sour and innutritious food and therefore the land has been left to itself as useless. Officially the Harmonium keeps a watch on the area (which is administrated directly by the OCA), but the place is so lifeless and useless that there are rarely more than a few hardhead outriders and frustrated druids to keep a visitor company.
Near the tip of the continent, on the western coast, is a beach at the bottom of a steep cliff. The beach itself is unremarkable, but the cliff holds the spectacular sight of a fossilized dragon skeleton poised as if in mid-flight. The dragon appears to be an ancient silver wyrm according to the size and bone structure of the beast. No lair has been found of this primordial dragon, nor for the others are said to have haunted these lands in ages past.
Dragonbone Beach is also notable for its harborage, which provides good cliff-cover against the occasional tropical squall. A small village of Mer, Scalefolk, and others has sprung up here to cater to the needs of passing ships, and the Red Dust Jaguar orc tribe occasionally come to trade as well. It’s nameless at present, but hopes to grow into a small trading town in the future.
The Eight States (Human Cities)
Theron, Ethano, Drakon, Terapten, Veron, Anselm, Sylpho, and Equus
These were the Omospondian colonies of old, each built up around a defendable port (the colonies were originally founded by seafaring explorers, and have had more than their share of pirates and raiders). Though they are now considered only prefectures of Xaric, each is still the capital in its respective area. They share a similar architecture of marble and stone governmental buildings, often rising up in the distinctive ziggurat style of Osmopondia. Residential areas are generally built of materials more easily found in the area, usually wood or thatch. As a result, open fires are always strictly controlled, and the cities have some of the best urban fire brigades on Ortho.
Despite being primarily human settlements, the human cities are renowned as cosmopolitan melting pots, of races and creeds from all over Ortho. Many orcs, dwarves, kobolds, and scalefolk make their way to these metropolises, as do other races looking to begin a new life. As a result the lower classes of these cities has seen quite an influx of non-humans, while the upper and middle classes remain mostly human.
The Dwarven Hives Confederacy
Scorpion, Scarab, Mantis, Ten-Mill, Aphid, and Locust
These are the original dwarven settlements, rising up out of the hills and honeycombing them for literally miles beneath. Like many dwarven cities these are grand underground complexes, connected by subterranean roads and waterways, architectural marvels originally based around the principles of insect hives. For the most part these halls are built sized for dwarves alone. Though visitors are welcome they are not often comfortable in the close environment. The complexes of the dwarves roam deep, and are often divided for the use of extended family networks.
The Iron Jaw Harmony Training Center
This re-education camp is positioned near a small town in northern Xaric to help citizens with chaotic tendencies overcome their personality problems and become good lawful citizens.
The camp is arranged on a flat plateau on the mountainside. A spring bubbles up from the base of the mountain and flows down the mountainside. The main road follows the spring up to the plateau. The camp is ringed by a double-walled stone stockade. The walls are several yards apart with a trench running through the center. In between these walls at regular intervals are sets of standing stones covered in lightly glowing runes. The runes glow with swirling, chaotic colors, and the stones are the secret to the camp's success.
The camp was established when the Harmonium was expanding in its early years and was originally used for keeping prisoners of war, especially those with spell casting ability. Magic is absorbed by the ring of stones and all spells cast with in the circle must overcome a caster check as if penetrating SR with a difficulty of 30. It was this property that made the Harmonium chose the site for a camp. The second property of slowly shifting alignments of those within the stones towards lawful was discovered later.
Indeed, the prisoners who are simply deemed too chaotic in temperaments to serve adequately in society are brought to the camp are usually set loose within three to six months, and speak of good treatment and kind care. The camp is a model of how such things should be, and several individuals have volunteered to go hoping to become better citizens and shed their chaotic tendencies. The camp even boasts insane wards that with the help of doctors and healers often cure even the heavily deranged within months to a couple of years.
The Harmonium created the stockade and all structures on the plateau save for the ring of standing stones, which were there before the center’s founding. These stones are shaped like long spikes that go deep into the mountainside. The Harmonium does not know how deep the stones go, how they were made, or what they were made for. The stones absorb most any divination magic cast at them effectively preventing research attempts and there are rumors that stronger casters attempting divinations find their spells blocked deliberately, possibly by a power.
The Convent of the Rest
The Convent of the Rest is a colony for dangerous heroes of war, established by the Harmonium, in the greater prefecture of Terapten. A convent filled with brilliant warriors rendered useless when there is no more war, but who are not trusted to be permitted on other planes for fear of alien contamination. The convent is called the Rest.
At the dawn of the First Harmony, the Harmonium decided that a certain kind of terrible warrior that had been used often during the Expansion was not suited for the new, more civilized, age. The warriors were rounded up and taken to the Rest. For several generations they trained in isolation, interacting with no one outside their fortress home.
During the Schism they were once again brought out to do their atrocious work, and afterwards they were again put away.
They saw use once more in the War of Iron. Though this was far from the last military action the Harmonium would undertake, the Octave and the Council agreed that it was too much of a risk to bring them out ever again. Outsiders might not understand, and they could not risk their perfect warriors becoming contaminated by alien ideas.
The warriors of the Rest are not entirely human, nor are they entirely mortal. They’re chimeras of a sort, both living and undead, unaging and capable of surviving decapitations, but still breathing, with hearts that still beat. The Harmonium is terrified of what might happen if other factions managed to convert one. For now, then, they remain in the Rest.
The Monastery of the Seven-Fingered Palm
The Monastery of the Seven-Fingered Palm is in the lands near Theron, the northernmost of the eight human colonies. Its inhabitants are orcish devotees of the philosophy of Mount Celestia, gentle monks who allied with the Xarician human colonists against their brutal kin in the past. Quicker than sight, the monks were never caught by the minions of the Hierarchs.
Centuries later the Palm allied with the Knights of Harmony, agreeing to forget their ancient differences with their kin in order to help defeat the Flame of the North. During the Schism tensions rose once again, but by then many of the other orc clans in Xaric had been converted to the Palm’s gentle philosophy. The OCA was firm however, and enforced its ban on exemplar worship with military force. The monks fought back and were almost destroyed.
In modern times the monks officially venerate only the Lords of Order and the abstract glories of Mount Celestia, but many suspect them of secretly maintaining religious rites to the Archangels. Historically, individual monks have also been caught involved with the Cult of Empty Heaven, but the order has never been implicated. The clergy of Saeduenical would dearly love to purge the monasteries, but the monks enjoy the overwhelming support of the populace.
The second biggest city in Xaric is the port metropolis of Xelhone, where the Bloodflow River meets the Iron Sea. This city is predominantly orcish, as it was the main fortress of rebellious orc tribes against their northern cousins. The city is laid out along a bend in the Bloodflow river on a defensible hill. The hill is reinforced with stone and iron making it a supremely strong fortress against assault by land or sea. The red clay in the surrounding area, and the iron of the fortress are responsible for the naming of the river, as rust and mud have both tainted the water a deep red.
Within the fortress city may be found buildings of stone and iron, built to last for centuries of siege, in which generation after generation of orc families have lived. The streets are narrow but strictly ordered, and the roofs of buildings nearly touch overhead resulting in narrow and dim streets to ward off the bright sun. The city also digs down into the earth of the hill below it, resulting in ever deeper layers. In recent times the bottommost layers have required reinforcement against water as the construction has finally reached the water table of the area. OCA Engineers have recently begun looking to harness the water-pressure in subterranean machines, possibly heralding a new age of technological advancement for the city.
Before the humans came to Xaric, and before the dwarven clans broke the surface often enough to make their voices heard, the land was presided over by the orcish Hierarchs of Motmurk. The mountain tribes and their harsh kings would send forth their weakest kin to work the land and raise herds of cattle. Often the tribes would deliberately raid their exiled cousins, combining taxation with bloody ‘sport’ and raids.
The southern orcs became known for their failure, their softer natures, and for being malcontent weaklings. With the coming of human colonists and their negotiations with the dwarves and orcs of the area, things began to change. The Motmurk kings wished to enjoy even more fruits of others' labor, so they proclaimed the newcomers their subjects and reached their hand even further to dominate them. The Motmurk kings ruled over their weaker cousins and neighbors with a stern fist and harsh whip. The local orcs endured as they had for generations, or simply slipped far enough south that their pursuers thought the chase not worth the reward.
The human colonists of Osmopondia faced threats from many sides: Orcish pogroms, harsh Osmopondian tariffs, fierce plains wyverns and other beasts. But nevertheless they prospered. They found trading partners in the native dwarves and kobolds, although there were clans among both races who sided with the orcs and opposed the newcomers’ presence. The humans managed to survive, despite losing an irregular war of independence with their own homeland. When the Empire of Osmopondia collapsed, the colonists found themselves with hesitant allies and the attention of northern orcs eager to establish a complete dominance over the whole continent.
Into this situation came the alliance of an orc rebel and a human warleader. ‘Akhom the Blood King’ was a northern orc exiled to the south after a failed rebellion and attempt to seize rulership of the tribes. He forged strength into the southern orcs, gathering a new tribe from the rebellious discontented, and raised the fortress of Xelhone to protect his new empire. Soon after, the Blood King lead his forces northwards to scour the marches of the hierarchs’ minions. They met strong resistance however and quickly became bogged down. The northern mountains were too imposing an obstacle to his hungry army.
It was then that the Blood King's armies fortuitously met those of Lord Koriden of Theron on a mutual battlefield. The armies of the southern orcs and human colonists had both come upon a northern raiding force and - unbeknownst to each other until mid-battle - had pinned the northern orcs between them. As both viewed the raiders as a greater threat, they forged a temporary alliance to drive them back. Afterwards (and after no small amount of negotiation and contest) the two warlords forged an agreement of mutual defense. Akhom guaranteed the humans their land for farming and herding, in exchange providing his orcs with the supplies needed for their fight against the north. The colonists also provided weaponry and warriors, but the two races rarely acted under the same leadership.
In time the dwarves were drawn into the alliance as well, despite having previously been at war with the Blood King’s orcish horde themselves. Originally allied with the humans to help provide the requisite weapons and supplies for his armies, the Hives eventually made peace with the orcs and with their additional soldiers and equipment the lands that would be Xaric threw off Motmurk’s exploitation and held their ground for centuries. This was the state of things when the Harmonium arrived.
Xaric in the Age of Harmony
When they found out that the southern orcs were farming the land, their northern cousins spent years mockingly claiming that their southern kin were ‘turning human’ and this soon became subjects of jokes and derision throughout Motmurk (even today). Even when the Harmonium forged their alliance with the orcs of Motmurk, the southerners were dismissed as a stubborn but ultimately weak force. The pride of the northern orcs would tolerate no other view of the semi-permanent state of rebellion.
This changed drastically when the War of Harmony came, and the northern orc realized their southern kin were sitting atop an entire army's food supply lines. Negotiations with the orcs and humans in this area held the armies up for weeks, as the leadership of the Harmonium was hesitant to provoke the southerners into set their own fields afire, as they had threatened to if they were forced. As a result, the peoples of Xaric were assured of security against both the Hierarchs and any future Omospondian dominance. With the Harmonium's agreement and a formal province, the people of Xaric were now secure in their own rights even if its central infrastructure was something of a patchwork affair.
The Midwinter Rebellion
The Xaric states are all loyal to the Harmonium cause, but their hatred of the Hierarchs of Motmurk and the cities of Osmopondia has been the cause of unlawful tension in the past, beginning with unprovoked crimes against the orcs and cumulating in the Midwinter Rebellion when three citizens of Osmopondia became members of the Octave at once; this was too much for many in the eight states to handle; led by Haran Firebeard, a dwarf descended from the vanished Thorkhold clan, they declared independence from Ortho’s government. It was a gloriously futile stand, and the last time Xaric stood against the Orthorian Central Authority.
Investigation into the cause of such an unexpected rebellion was the Harmonium's primary goal for a year afterwards, and it was concluded that only the undue influence of Chaos on such a people would convince them to bite the hand of their proper authorities. Naturally influence from the Abyss was the prime suspect, and shortly thereafter the War of Iron began with the aim of stopping such unrest from without.
The national congress has recently seen much debate on the nature of itself. The original balance of orc, human, and dwarven representatives is being upset increasing calls for the other races of Xaric to also have some kind of representation – or two scrap the racial divide of the congress entirely in favour of open elections. The loudest voice comes from Zkalametra, holder of the so-called ‘Binding Seat’. The kobold continues to call for calmness and rational debate rather than insurrection, but his devotion to the current system is clearly starting to erode. Both sides of the argument (not to mention the Harmonium) are watching the Councillor carefully for signs that she is losing control - or the will to control - her more radical followers.
The problem is compounded by the fact that local prefectures may elect whomever they wish, and some districts the farms and villages are predominantly managed by other races that are unable to progress their careers. Lacerde, kobolds, Otaki, and even the occasional ogre find themselves all competing for a single position in the national congress, which is often taken by an orc, dwarf, or human anyway. Their cries of unfairness are loud but not yet unseemly or unlawful – although a few power hungry rabble rousers have been stirring up the underrepresented races. The High Consul is keen to avert civil strife in his province, but prefers (for the moment) to let the local legislature handle the matter if it can.
In the past few years, geological surveys have been sent to the mountain to investigate several minor earthquakes. It is theorized that the mountain is actually an extinct volcano that might be waking back up through a geological cycle. The camp is such an asset that the officials of the region are willing to put quite a few resources to try and protect it so that it may continue to be used.
There's a legend being whispered in the alleys of Threerivers. It's said a thief has recently come to the city - a thief like none ever seen before, the best thief in the world, possibly the best thief to have ever lived. Valuables and secrets are being liberated from the homes and safe-vaults of the city's most eminent personages, despite the best security money can buy. The wealthy and noble of Three Rivers are frightened and furious, the city watch and Harmonium investigators are frustrated and frightened, and whoever's behind the rash of crimes laughs at them all. The downtrodden, desperate, and unlucky take hope in the fact that the system that grinds them under is not as invincible as it seems. Their hero is a stranger to them, known only by his deeds and the anguish he visits on their betters, but they love him nonetheless. They call him the Neverseen.