Valeria

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The Empire of Valeria is renowned across the Five Realms and beyond as a land of virtue and righteousness, as well as a place of enigmatic rituals and arrogant knights. It is said to have been the site of the First Cities - the first realms of humanity before the Ancients enslaved them. By the present time it consists of numerous provinces in south-western Aluvinor, and has for millennia since its liberation been ruled by an empress, known also as the Avatar, vessel for the goddess Chiera (Keeeh-rah) on this earth. Valerians are a people devout in their belief in Chiera as the divine protector, and they seek to ever expand their empire to the lands where her light has not yet fully fallen.

Under the protection of the Empire a Valerian citizen has shelter and simple food and clean water provided for them even if they cannot afford it themselves. None are said to be left to true poverty as long as they give thanks to Chiera the Life-giver for what they receive. For those that occupy the middle-class, life consists of working well enough at their job to provide for their family and granting what excess they have to the Church. The wealthy are those have been blessed by Chiera with abilities or responsibilities of high importance, and are allowed to indulge in a greater degree of extravagance. It should be noted that piety and communal sharing does not equate to simplicity in Valeria, and even the simplest peasants are allowed and even encouraged to adorn their houses and clothing with ornamentation.

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Of special note is the wearing of Masques within Valerian society, is a prominent ritual engaged in by nobles and peasants alike. Reflecting the need in life to put a role and its responsibilities ahead of someones personality, the Masque is a formal way of representing the focus of an individual on the role. This is done though the wearing of a mask stylised in some way to the role being carried out, and can be anything as simple as one that just surrounds the eyes, to a full face mask and hood.

Women in Valeria are held in high regard and it is the duty of a man to respect and protect, and obey women to the utmost of his ability, as long as doing so would not break one of the laws of the realm. This does not mean that the men of Valeria are emasculated, for they are given ample opportunity to rise to any position in the land short of Empress, as numerous lords and heroes in the history of the Empire illustrate. The nobility in particular are men and women descended through matrilineal hereditary bloodlines where the eldest daughter takes over the affairs of the noble house when her mother dies or retires due to old age. Younger daughters take up administrative offices or go off to train as knights or mages, and any sons are encouraged to prove their honour through combat and chivalry or earn a good fortune through mercantile pursuits so as to win the hand of a lady.

Heraldry and Fashion

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The common colours in Valerian dress are whites and greens with gold accents, and gryphon or solar motifs figure heavily in ornate outfits. The most common items that a noble or person of renown will invest resources into enhancing are their masks.

The casual dress of Valerians is typically made of light woven fabrics in the style of loose shirts or blouses paired with functional trousers for both females or males, or a light three-quarter robe. Formal wear often involves more frills and ornate decoration along the sides of shirts and trousers, and it is not uncommon for women in Valeria to wear similarly ornate dresses in the manner of the Lorandarians.

Life and Society

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Family

In Valeria, both men and women can propose to anyone they desire, though arranged marriages are still often arranged by the mothers or aunts of a man or woman. It is common for a couple intending on marriage to ask the permission of the mother of a woman for her permission. If a child is born to a couple, it usually takes that last name of the matrilineal line, or if adopted the one with the higher status associated with it. Amongst the Valerian populace, it is encouraged that couples have only as many children as they can reasonably support, though state welfare support is provided for those that do end up having more.

Across the Empire and from its missionary outposts, Valeria operates a relatively comprehensive care regime for mothers and newborn children. Upon the first signs of pregnancy, Valerian women are able to visit the temples of the Church of Chiera and receive guidance and care. When it comes time to give birth, a mother will be taken in and directly tended to by the priests and priestesses of the temple. Following that they are often assisted by indentured servants of the church, appointed to help them in their activities and home tasks as they recuperate and care for the child.

Education and Employment

Education is provided freely to all youths under thirteen by the Empire. If a student’s grades are good, they are then provided full secondary education, or if not, an apprenticeship or civic service commission, though usually entailing militia duties or manual labour. Upon completion of a secondary qualification, a student can elect to gain employment of their choosing, or with a contract of service to the state, go on to tertiary education with a university or Imperial academy. Those that conclude such studies are well set up to take their place amongst the elite of Valerian society.

Entertainment

In Valeria there are a multitude of pursuits for those with time and/ or money to engage in. Aside from the cultural imports from other realms such as balls, theatres and stage-mage shows, the Empire has developed some of its own particular events such as grand operas and the quintessential masquerade ball, most often supported by orchestral scores. In outdoor pursuits, knightly jousts and provincial fairs are a common enough events that rarely fair to draw in grand crowds of spectators. In these settings, the Valerian violin is an oft heard instrument of performance that many like to dance along to.

Within the Empire, drinking is tolerated as long as it is not too excess, and drugs vary in legality from those that are merely ignored, to those that are dealt with by the full force of the Ministry of Justice if found. Personal consumption of such substances is far more tolerated than the cultivation, manufacture or dealing of them, for which the penalties can go quite high. As for sex, there are few restrictions on the practice outside of ensuring that it is consensual and considerate to the welfare of any parties involved. The practice of prostitution is even sanctioned by the Church and as long as it is conducted in a manner in accordance with their tenets prostitutes have relatively free reign with their activities. In some places the prostitutes or courtesans even have lodgings within the cloisters of the Church while they are not practicing their profession.

Life and Death

In Valeria the Church operates temple-hospitals in an extensive network to care for the populace, believing that in caring for even the lowliest peasants the overall good health of the Empire is maintained. As an extension of this belief, the Church sends teams of healers to remote parts of the Empire on humanitarian missions, and in more recent history, to other parts of the Five Realms. As such expeditionary healers are not always welcomed as warmly as one might expect, these contingents are usually supported by a capable force of paladins and soldiers.

Valerians cremate their dead and place their ashes in sacred gardens and park spaces within or near to their settlements. These places are then kept watch over by the Church, and at the first signs of re-animation, will be visited by paladins whose task it will be to put them back to rest and then deal with the reason as to why they reanimated.

Commerce and Construction

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With fertile soils and a warm temperate climate, the plains of Valeria produce abundant harvests of grain that the Empire trades with the other realms. In other parts the climate is equally suited to producing high yields of fruits, vegetables and other crops, as well as good grazing for livestock. As a result a citizen of Valeria rarely needs to fear the threat of starvation, and many attribute their prosperity to the divine blessing of Chiera.

From the abundance of crops the craftspeople of the Empire produce high quality processed foods, though the only one that tends to be exported are smoked sausages. Easier to transport and of high demand in the other realms though are the textiles such as linens and silks that are produced by Valerian weavers, so high is their quality. From the ores extracted from the mines of western Sunshore, Valerian armour is also a prized export, though only legally traded to devotees of the Church of Chiera.

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The trading clippers of the Valerian Imperial Navy are some of the fastest in the world, and capable of making the crossing from the Tarrnis Straight on Aluvinor to Port Sian on Lorandar in 18 days. They are the workhorses of the Valerian trade networks, and while not as formidable in a battle as a Sachsen galleon or an Alteraanian frigate, they can easily outrun any aggressors.

As the inheritors of the region in which humanity built its first structures, and being eager explorers, the Valerians have much history and culture to draw on for inspiration for their architectural works. Most of their civic structures follow the lines of the temples and palaces of the First Cities, with many elements also adopted from the time of the Ancients and their occupation of the continent. Vaulted ceilings and flying buttresses with frequent use of structural concrete and white marble facings lend an awe-inspiring feel to most such buildings that builders in the other realms struggle to emulate. Though much simpler and more uniform, the dwellings and commercial structures throughout the Empire are advanced in that they are designed to stay warm and dry through careful use of standardised designs devised and distributed by the Ministry of Welfare. In the more advanced settlements, houses also can take advantage of sewerage networks to help efficiently remove refuse and reduce the chance of pestilence.

Duelling Customs

The ancient practice of duelling is a custom that originated from the early days of Valeria. It is a tradition that has fallen in popularity in the last century or so, and is now mostly exercised by the nobility, primarily a challenge issued as a result of some perceived insult or aggravation. For more information, see Duelling in Sarradar.

Religion

There is only one religion and one god of the Valerians, Chiera, Light of the Sun and Creator and Protector of Humanity. Unlike the rest of the Five Realms, in Valeria the pantheon of lesser gods that is seen as Chiera’s Silver Court are treated as human saints rather than gods in of their own right. They are venerated as exemplars of humanity, but they were merely vessels for Chiera’s power, as all of the righteous divine power ultimately is hers alone.

The influence of the Church extends right throughout Valerian society, but it is not necessarily as oppressive as its detractors might portray. Citizens are encouraged to respect and acknowledge Chiera’s hand in the turning of the world and the welfare of humanity, but they are not in fact punished if they do not make appearances at a churches and can instead worship in private.

Worship of the Elemental Primes or the Elder Gods is punishable heresy, though a blind eye is often turned to visiting dignitaries from Korashur for their worship of the Primes. The ancestor worship of the Sachsens and Dra’zhar is seem as backwards and lacking in understanding. Many Valerians take it upon themselves to become missionaries and bring the light to the uninformed.

Language and Communication

The original language of what is now Valeria was the Aluvian Tongue, now mostly defunct in general speech like the Old Tongue, but maintained within academic and religious circles. It was the language of the First Cities and still dominant during the time of the An-Aluvian Empire, but when the forces of the Empire and the Lorandarians fought against the Ancients the language of Lorandar that is now known as the Common Tongue spread to the Valerians with surprising ease.

Within the empire of Valeria and in their imperial outposts across the globe, the order of Imperial Heralds plays the key role in ensuring citizens are kept up to date with important events and couriering of mail and other packages. The local Imperial Herald Office is often as much of a centre of community gathering as the local tavern or meeting hall, and in some places even fulfils those functions as well.

Crime and Punishment

Handed down from the Empress and the Twelve, the laws of the land are widely publicised via town cryers and pillars of law; the latter being broad columns erected in town squares on which are inscribed the major laws of the land for all to fairly see. To enforce the law the Empire has Archons; men and women trained as investigators and fighters to patrol the towns and lands of the Empire and dispensing justice. In the smaller towns where no permanent office of an Archon might be found, criminals are held by the town reeve until an Archon can be called in to judge the person and pass sentence.

For a Valerian the worst crimes are those that harm the Empire, and therefore treason in most forms brings with it the death penalty. Heresy and sacrilege rank almost on par with murder, and if one can avoid the death penalty, the punishment is often a sentence of a lifetime of hard labour in a distant labour camp. For lesser crimes if is rare to pay a fine, and labour in replacing what was taken or in the service of the province is expected. If the crime was a violent one, in a mirroring of service to the Hounds, a Valerian might for a time be required to train and serve with the Dawnwatch.

Military

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It is the duty of each provincial Lord and Lady to maintain a standing force of knights and soldiers that can defend their domain and together that of the Empire when called for. To supplement these standing forces, many nobles task their soldiers with providing basic training to the populace so that they may fight as militia if called for. When a battle-line is drawn the soldiers and militia form typically form ranks that reflect the foe they are up against in a manner where the weaker militia will not be crushed or worse, rout and disrupt the more disciplined soldiery. Units of knights on foot, horseback or mounted on gryphons will be used to fulfil a variety of roles such as spearheading charges, to reinforcing breaks in the lines, or protecting the flanks.

Long lines of pikes and lances is the enduring image which most foes hold after facing the armies of Valeria. Both the standing units of the provincial Lords and the citizen militias favour a 4.5 to 5.5 metre pike, while the knights of the land are famous for their use of the lance as a shock tool.

With standardised equipment throughout, shield, breastplate, greaves, bracers and helm for both the foot and horse Valerian units distinguish themselves with patterned shields. This standard equipment is supplemented in some mounted units with barding for the horses and full chainmail bringing these elite knights up to the heavy shock standard of such units as the Alteraan, but generally the lighter equipment of Valerian knights gives them higher mobility without impacting on their lethality.

While a deadly force in their own right the heavy pike formations of Valeria primarily acts as a pinning force while the lance armed mounted units maneuver to the flanks and rear of enemy forces to launch a decisive charge. In some battles, especially against foot heavy opposition, the elite foot soldiers of the standing army shatter enemy lines without support and it has become common for the Valerian knights to deploy on the opposite flank to these superior formations.

Linking the blocks of pike, Valeria fields javelin armed light infantry while a skirmish line of bow armed light infantry screens their forces in the field. Amongst the most infamous of Valerian units are the unarmoured horse scouts, who nevertheless are as heavily armed as their knightly equivalents. These units are devastatingly effective against light opponents who usually flee from better armed foes.

Government and Politics

The title of Empress is not one that is passed to her children, but rather it is bestowed by the high priestesses of Chiera on a typically unrelated girl, who often comes from humble beginnings. The young Empress is usually between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four, and if chosen is immediately required to give up her former life and brought to the capital to prepare for her rule. She spends the first twelve nights sealed within the high sanctum with a handful of attendants and the body of the former Empress before whom she prays. On the dawn of the thirteenth day she emerges and descends to the Grand Plaza where she addresses her new subjects with the wisdom and compassion of the goddess herself, before taking the throne. The Empress’s rule is near absolute, given as it is through her that the will of Chiera is done, and though she will leave the majority of the rule of the land to the Twelve, her influence can be felt at all levels of society.

Managing the affairs of the Empire primarily occurs at the level of the Twelve; the dozen high nobles selected for life in much the same way as the Empress herself. Each position has its own responsibilities, and a new member is selected by the Empress in grand contests from a pool of aspirants marked since a young age by Chiera. Some of the positions are gender specific, the others not. The Mother, Maiden and Priestess are always held by females, while the Father and Wizard are always males. The remaining positions of Sage, Artist, Hunter, Hero, Child and Trickster can be either male or female, and the final position of Syzygy is unique in that it can only be held by one of mixed gender.

Beneath the Twelve and responsible for much of the day-to-day running of the Empire are the rest of the nobility; who maintain absolute authority in their own minor provinces unless directed otherwise by one of the Twelve or the Empress herself. Serving them in turn are an assortment of lesser nobility from knights to provosts who take care of particular roles in the province and act as the primary means of interacting with the lower classes.

Power Groups and Organisations

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Church of Chiera

Though present across much of the Five Realms and indeed beyond into the Far West and the Northern Kingdoms, Valeria is undoubtedly the spiritual heart of the goddess Chiera’s worship. First appearing to guide humanity back to Aluvinor from their exile in ancient times, she has been worshipped ever since as the reason that human civilisation exists and why it thrives. From the daily prayers to the massed ceremonies her praise is sung and her protection given thanks for by all within the land. Well, almost all. The Church is a powerful figure in Valerian life, but there are those that chafe under the edicts of the state that deem her worship to be the only one true religion. As such, the Church does what it can to maintain a strong presence in all settlements in order to suppress heresy, and most Archons are devout followers of the Church.

Dernholm Court

Operating primarily within Valeria and Alteraan, but with some presence in the other parts of the Five Realms, Dernholm Court is a police organisation that seeks to prevent the illegal trading of ancient artifacts. They are only loosely tied to the Valerian state authorities through the Ministry of Justice, instead operating much as they have since the time of the High Kingdom of Lorandar as an independent authority.

The Dawnwatch

Tasked with maintaining the fortresses and watchtowers of Valeria along the Garnet Hills, the Dawnwatch consists of a mix of professional soldiers and lesser criminals serving as militia until they have atoned for their crimes. The order’s role is to protect the eastern border from Dra’zhar raiders, and occasionally extend Valerian sovereignty back out across the Arden Plains.

The Inquisition

Led by the Cardinalis Inquisitio, the Inquisition are a special branch of the Church devoted to hunting down heretics and threats to the Empire, with their mandate coming directly from the Empress herself. Though far from the oppressive and brutal order that dissidents make them out to be, for those that worship the Dark or seek to tear down the Empire they are terrifying to face if their attention is gained. In major cities they operate from secretive ‘lighthouse’ enclaves, and throughout the rest of the Empire they appear as needed.

The Night Brethren

This cult is made up of dedicated worshippers of The Dark, who plot and act to outdo the Silver Court and sway the worship of the people to its nameless gods. The cult members are mostly ordinary citizens, but they hide their true religious practices well, and it is the job of the Inquisition to track them down and expose them so that the corruption does not spread. Seemingly impossible to stamp out completely, the Brethren have existed for hundreds of years and members of their organisation have been responsible it is said for the assassination of no less than twenty different members of the Twelve and two empresses over the centuries. In a mockery of the normal masques, Brethren take to wearing grotesque masks of leather and bone to terrify their victims and instil the fear of mortality into their foes. Order of the Solar Trinity: A branch of the Church noted for their prestigious physicians and training in the arts of medicine. Many members serve within other orders and organisations, or go on missionary ventures to other realms.

Vyshanti

Said to have originated with the wildlings of Aunwe and spread to Valeria about two hundred years ago, the Vyshanti is a highly effective organisation of eco-terrorists that is well known for their sabotage of major infrastructure projects being carried out by the Empire. More than a few dams, mines and lumber mills have been forcibly abandoned after losses got too high, and as such any members of this organisation are authorised to be killed on sight.

Order of the Wolf (Hounds)

Seen as something of a backwards organisation within the Empire, the Hounds are tolerated but poorly received, especially as few ever choose to wear a Masques or pay homage to Chiera. Their time is spent primarily in the parts of the Empire less frequented by Imperial troops or Archons, helping to dispatch monsters or return order in the wake of unrest if such things occur.

Figures of Note

The Empress/The Avatar

Since the time of the founding of true human civilisation once again on Aluvinor the Empress has been seen as the divine embodiment of the goddess Chiera. This fact is most definitely true, for the Empresses eyes glow with heavenly power and her touch can bring both life and death with the merest thought. Though she rules from her palace in Ankharosar, her presence is projected manifold across the realm so that she might give blessings before a congregation, visit the sick at a hospice, or cut down foes of the Empire at the head of an army.

Though the Empress dies at the end of her human life like any other mortal, at the moment of passing her divine essence passes to the new Empress. The new Empress maintains her own personality and memory, but gains the wisdom of the goddess and the memories of her predecessors so that the strength of her rule never falters. The Twelve Guardians: As the Empress is the Avatar of Chiera, the Twelve Guardians are Lords and Ladies that fulfil a symbolic role as champions of the Twelve Saints. Some are reclusive figures such as Magnus the Wizard or Syrina the Hunter, while others like Verity the Trickster and Callista the Mother can be found mixing with lords and common folk alike.

Captain Luther Van Starke

Descended from the bloodline of one of Prince Sirastus’s generals that settled in the Calistar Vale rather than journey across the Lorandar, Captain Starke commands a fleet of Valerian dreadnaughts tasked with keeping the Stormwind straight free from piratical activity. Due to his frequent visits to Lorandar, diplomatic engagements, and his fleet’s formidable presence he has been dubbed the “King of Stormwind”, much to the consternation of the Sachsen nobles of that Great March.

Jack the Wicked

Though her real name is Jacqueline Deschain, “Jack” has risen to prominence for her slaying of several ferocious monsters including the Hydra of Lychgate and the Demon of the Black Tower, as well as the debaucherous acts that ensue in the towns she visits. Leaving a trail of discarded lovers and adoring fans wherever she goes, she has definitely gained the attention of the Inquisition, though for good or ill no-one is yet certain.

Nadia Firecloak

Tutored in the college of Evocation since the age of three, Nadia is a high-ranking member of the Inquisition. Seen by many to be far more moderate than most of her colleagues, she has worked hard to gain the trust of the people as her order continues in its task of rooting out heresy and dark practices before they undermine the empire. If her success continues, many see her as a strong contender for the next Grandmaster of the order.

Provinces

Arden Plains

Contested with the Dra’zhar, the immensely fertile Arden Plains are forced by Valerian Provosts to provide substantial tribute of food, wares and sometimes sons and daughters whenever a patrolling force comes through. As this is repeated by the Dra’zhar in their own belief that the Arden Plains belongs to them, the inhabitants of the region have become incredibly good and hiding things from their two overlords over the centuries.

Black Coast

Though often wracked by the tempestuous weather of the Stormreach Strait, the Black Coast brings in a wealth of fishing catch and sea trade from Lorandar. It’s rugged coastline is home to many small villages and no small quantity of smugglers, particularly those interested in trading magical items and exotic reagents from the Dra’zhar lands without having to pay Valerian tariffs.

Bleakmarch

Undeniably the most stressful province for a Valerian to live and operate in is that of Bleakmarch. Effectively a thin strip of land and heavily fortified settlements along the north-eastern shore of the Glimmering Bay, the province only exists because of the mineral wealth of the Dra’zhar lands that the Valerians desire to exploit. It is forced to endure frequent attacks by the Dra’zhar, and more than a handful of Valerian settlements have been completely wiped out as a result.

Calistar Vale

In ancient times this wooded and valley-crossed province was inhabited by Wildlings who warred regularly with the humans of the First Cities, and then the Ancients when they came and enslaved all the humans who did not flee. When Aluvinor was once again reconquered and Prince Sirastus led his people to the southwest, those who gave up before they got to the coast settled in the Vale. These days the inhabitants of this province call themselves Valerians, but hold to many old traditions that they have kept and had reinforced by close proximity to the Stormwind Holds.

Greycloud

Sparsely populated except by hunters, hermits and small bands of adventurers, the Isle of Greycloud is accepted for the most part to be the domain of Bestials and the Undead. During the time of the First Cities legend has it that it was home to great cities of giants who commanded the creatures of the forests and forbade outsiders from entering their realm. The first written accounts from the time of Empress Mayribelle describe how explorers found nothing apart from strange megaliths, the whispers of spirits and hostile beasts, and most believe the land to be cursed. Still, the occasional strange artefact and continued rumours of ancient treasure troves drives many explorers to seek this place out.

Sunshore

Wedged between Syndaris and the Buccaneer Coast, Sunshore Province is quite a rugged terrain in the central part and beautiful coastline and beaches at its fringes. Its main contributions to the Empire are minerals from the numerous mines and fish and olives from the coastal regions. Noticeably though, the most important output are the gryphons that the royal gyphoneers raise for the Empire in the aviaries of the Dragonspine Mountains.

Syndaris

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The core of the Valerian Empire is the province of Syndaris, named after the dragon that was slain by Queen Mayribelle that led to the founding of the First Empire. The province is a landscape of rolling hills and wide river valleys that has some of the most fertile soils in the Five Realms, and allows great quantities of crops to be grown each year to feed the Empire and fuel its trade with other realms.

Major Settlements

Ankharosar

  • Major Metropolis

The present capital of Valeria sits across a network of vast raised earthen platforms within the fertile plains of central Syndaris, and was developed by Empress Valeria when she reunified the Empire towards the end of the Age of Salvation. Formerly a small farming town and several outlying villages, she commanded the defeated to raise the city up and dig great canals so that it would not be affected by the seasonal floods. The city now is one of the most beautiful in the Five Realms with its clean waterways and majestic white buildings.

Blackreach

  • Small City

Stronghold of the Hounds. Probably the most idyllic location in Valeria is also home to one of its most heavily fortified cities. On the steep shores of the lake by the same name, Blackreach is an impregnable fortress of black volcanic rock surrounding a city of tiered quarters where the populace live. The Hounds built this fortress in ages past and have ruled over the surrounding area since, providing a safe bastion for their duties across Valeria.

Carlinnas

  • Metropolis

As the capital of the Black Coast and commercial hub for southern Valeria, this city is a vibrant sprawl of buildings and parkland built around the congruence of the Javarra and Wyndris Rivers before they empty into Blacksand Bay. In addition to receiving ships that ply the Stormreach trade routes to Lorandar and the west, many of the deep sea clippers bound for the Vyrakar colonies to the east set out from here to Land’s End before their long voyage to the distant continent and back.

Gryphoncrag

  • Large Town

Near the place where the first gryphon was tamed by the Empress, the keep and towers of Gryphoncrag house the Royal Aviary and the most experienced tamers and handlers the Empire has. From its high vaulted chambers are produced several dozen gryphons each year, though it takes the output of many cattle farms to keep the majestic creatures sustained and healthy into adulthood.

Scarlis Keep

  • Large City

Responsible for the southern extent of the Dawnwatch line, Scarlis Keep was built over a ruined castle of the First Cities by the armies of King Tallias when they returned to Aluvinor to reclaim the land from the Ancients. It has since stood more or less intact for two-thousand years and witnessed the rise and fall of several incarnations of the Empire and human city-states on the continent.

Shadowcliff

  • Small Metropolis

Though much of Valeria’s nobility and upper class would not shed a tear if Shadowcliff were wiped from the face of the world, the dense clusters of buildings and crowded markets that make up this cliffside city house many who foster the mining industry in Valeria. The shipyard too is the largest in the empire and where many of the armoured dreadnaughts are constructed.

Locations of Interest

Aluvia

This was the former capital city it is believed of the Ancients on Aluvinor, found already in ruin when humans returned from their exile to reconquer the lands, and then rebuilt to become the capital of the human An-Aluvian Empire. Its abandonment in 3:855 came after a deadly firestorm swept through the city amidst the civil war that was being waged. With almost all buildings left as a shell or completely burnt down, the survivors chose to resettle elsewhere. Since then it has seen small numbers of people come and go, with several monasteries and a small supporting settlement now being the only human habitation in the ruins.

Blightwitch Fens

In the highlands of southern Syndaris an undulating terrain of swampy ground with myriad small hillocks shelters everything it seems from brigands to rogue wizards, and various monstrous creatures. Since the historic loss of several significant military forays to try and rid the place of its inhabitants, the Fens have instead been surrounded on their northern and eastern extents with watchtowers tasked with passing word on should anything of note pass out of or into the location.

Eye of Cyclamedes

Embedded into the side of a great mountain two kilometres high, the Eye appears to be a giant moonstone estimated to be at least fifty metres at its widest point. Glowing with magical power, it has tempted many adventurers and covetous mages to attempt to pry it from its rocky embrace, but all have met with either disappointment or their doom. Simple strength has never worked, and attempts at magic result in strange backlashes that often kill the caster. Even more mysterious about the Eye are the rumours that one who looks into it closely can see figures moving inside it and watching those on the outside.

The First Cities

Buried under fields and forests and the occasional existing settlement there lie the ruins of the First Cities of the first humans to walk Sarradar. In a time of innocence before the slavery of the Ancients the humans of the First Cities devoted their time equally to working the land and learning the arts of music, painting and sculpting. Nowadays it seems all that remains are often these enigmatic creations and their depictions of a lost golden age, works that many a collector will pay a hefty price for from those without scruples.

Xargos

During a dark age when the Empire was split into fractured city states and there was no Empress on the throne, Xargos emerged as the seat of power for Emperor Malchian, who for a time ruled over much of present day Sunshore and Syndaris. He was a tyrant though who worshipped the Elder Gods, and when Valeria became Empress, she led an army that slew him and cleansed the entire fortress of its dark taint. It has since been declared off-limits, a state that is enforced harshly by the Inquisition.

Other Subjects of Note

Rites of the Silver Court

Prayers and worship for followers of the Silver Court are most commonly held at Dawn or Dusk, although this has varied over time and by region, with other periods such as high noon having fallen in and out of fashion. Some ceremonies, such as the presentation and naming of a newborn child, as well as the ordainment of priestesses, are always held at dawn, while asking for Chiera’s guidance is most common at dusk as this shows faith in the dawn to come. There is some deal of theological debate over which period of time is most appropriate for funerals or for begging the forgiveness of sins, and this tends to vary by region or personal preference. Despite all of this, Chiera is a practical goddess, so there is no major taboo for those on the battlefield or with other time constraints to simply fit in worship wherever they can.

As Chiera promotes self-sufficiency, prayers are usually worded in ways that ask for the goddess’ guidance and blessing in actions rather than her direct intervention. Prayers of thanks are also common and are often spoken at dawn or dusk and before meals. Several one line phrases are commonly used to finish prayers or as words of comfort or greetings between the faithful. These include ‘Dawn is the Constant Promise of Hope,’ and ‘The dawn will come and wash away the dark’. Another common gesture of faith (which also serves as a greeting in Valeria) is to draw the hand, palm facing outwards, across in front of the face before bringing it into a fist above the heart.

In Valeria prayers and worship are usually directed at the goddess herself; while the 12 are revered and respected as Saints it is uncommon to pray to those who are not the true Goddess. In Alteraan and other areas where the 12 are seen as true gods, praying and giving homage to the entirety of the Silver Court is the norm, with the most appropriate saint being called upon for any given situation.

The First Cities of Aluvia

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It is believed that around four thousand years before the present day, the first humans learnt the arts necessary to build houses and tend fixed crops in the verdant central plains of Syndaris in Aluvinor. They quickly raised cities made of wood and then stone to protect them from creatures of the wilderness and from each other, for at that time they were not united as they are now in Valeria. They were instead divided into a multitude of city-states between which alliances and conflicts were seemingly ever-changing, and so it became necessary for each of them to raise armies to go to war with each other.

Despite the conflict, the First Cities flourished and saw the development of arts and culture including majestic architecture exemplified in their temples and civic structures, and intricate pottery depicting scenes from everything from daily life to mythological narratives. It was during this time that the study and tutelage of the art of magic seems to have been formalised by the founding of the Scholae Arcanum in the city-state of Varcestus, near the present day city of Tirithal.

By the time that the fleets of the Ancients came ashore on Aluvinor, the human realms had spread across much of the continent and had they not been conquered, might even have ventured further in force. The first realms to fall were the Sea Kings that dwelt upon the western coast, and though skilled at sailing, had little foresight as to what would come from the west and set their citadels alight. After them came the heart of human civilisation, the confederation of advanced city states known as Aluvia, that despite fielding legions of tens of thousands of soldiers against the Ancients, fell one after another to the more powerful forces and spells of the Ancients.

Those that fared the best against the Ancients were the border tribes to the east and to the south of Aluvia. The easterners took what they could and rode out into the plains and badlands to escape the Ancients, thus avoiding the yoke of slavery. The southerners held out as best they could, using guerilla tactics practiced against their city state brethren to good effect, but in the end only buying enough time so that a mere handful of exiles made it to Land’s End and sailed by the will of the gods to the island sanctuary of Avyrnas.

Buccaneer Coast

In ancient times this coastal region was the domain of the Sea Kings; rulers of city states with powerful maritime interests that trade, allied and warred with the First Cities of Aluvia. When the Ancients came from the west the Sea Kings were the first to fall, and their cities were put to the torch with many of the inhabitants slaughtered.

Since that time the coast has resisted all long-term attempts by the Valerians and other realms to conquer or unify it. The inhabitants are a rough and colourful assortment of buccaneers and free men who make full use of the rugged topography and coastline to shelter their settlements and vessels from hostile forces.

It has become even more of a thorn in the side of the Valerian Empire in recent times since various Alteraanian merchant princes have begun signing on these buccaneers as privateers, partly to protect their own business interests, but also to target those of their competitors.