Elfstone Campaign Setting:
Geography: Empire of Tholenfold
 
 
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Location/Setting: The Empire of Tholenfold is one of the Seven Realms; the dominant countries and powers on Alcarin (see the History of the Seven Realms). Tholenfold is the Realm of Air. The country is huge, spanning about 5500 by 7500 miles. Tholenfold provides a high-magic fantasy environment, with semi-autonomous cities ruled by local magelords, flying towers, and an abundance of dragons. The geography is mainly high-mountainous, with two mountainous plains in the country's interior, and woodland and agricultural plains along the west coast. The population is mixed. Humans dominate the agricultural lands in the west, while Dwarves, Giants, Dragons and various demi-humans and exotic races are abundant in the mountain regions. The central plains are inhabited by a mix of species; a specific location's population depends strongly on its remoteness, particularly the distance to the plains' central rivers and cities. Many inhabitants are of good alignment, but neutral and evil inhabitants are frequent as well.
Economy: Tholenfold offers a rich market in magical goods and services, knowledge, alchemical components, exotic monster parts, and similar materials. It has a large mining sector as well, providing a variety of metals, stone, fuels, and gemstones. A considerable variety of food and drink is available for nationwide and international trade, due to the large geographical range. Some of the wines and liqueurs are particularly noteworthy.
Religion: Air-related religions are highly popular, as are those related to mining, power, knowledge, and magic. The patron deities of the Emperor include Githrandir (Air), Isárion (Wind), Leona (Magic), and Rhaegwyn (Kingship) (see Religion & Pantheon).
Laws and Customs: Laws differ somewhat from the usual situation in a high-fantasy setting. Slavery is legal in principle, although it is highly frowned upon by most. Consequently, slave ownership and trading are usually hidden, and some cities impose high taxes or restrictions on slavery. Personal possession and bearing of weapons are allowed, as are mercenary activities under an official writ by a city, guild or recognized mage tower. The Empire considers all sentient creatures to be residents, and (unsanctioned) killing of any such creature, whether good or evil, is illegal unless in self-defence. Particularly, anyone who attacks a dragon runs the risk of being prosecuted or, in some cases, even assassinated. Notable national feasts include Midwinter, Midsummer, Uplift (late autumn), and the Spawning Festival (mid spring). The Spawning Festival is a spring feast celebrating the arrival of new life, often with a focus on birds and similar flying creatures. Uplift commemorates the creation of Tholenfold as a nation, when the mage Tholen forged an alliance between its humanoid and dragonoid residents in order to repel an invasion by the Empire of Narre'al (see History of the Seven Realms). Various harvest and autumn festivals are observed across the country, but differ per city and region.
Government: Tholenfold is ruled by an Emperor, who usually resides in the capital city of Vilquar. The current ruler, Emperor Urmantir II, a half-dragon fighter, has been on the throne for several hundred years. Rulership is not hereditary. Instead, an emperor is selected from the nobility, by the elders of the noble houses. The basis and criteria for such selection are not entirely clear, although personal merit and achievements, and Draconic blood are known to be important. The various cities and regions maintain a large degree of self-governance, but the Emperor can take direct or indirect control of any issue he deems important to the national interest. Most cities are ruled by a mayor, elected by the residents. The mayor in turn selects a council of advisors. Many towns and villages are ruled by a local wizard or sorcerer instead, who may select a mayor for taking care of day-to-day governance. The dragon roosts (Rhals) are ruled by a council of elder wyrms. Non-nobles can own land and castles and are allowed to govern and tax small communities (mainly villages and hamlets; towns only with imperial sanction) that arise on their estates. Many such communities exist in the vast wilderness of the mountains. They are highly independent from the Empire and often do not pay imperial taxes. However, they rarely disobey direct imperial orders; those communities that do face swift destruction.
Special: Across the lands of Tholenfold, many towers, castles, and even whole city districts hover or fly above the landscape, or rest hidden on cloud tops. Some of these flying fortresses depend on recent enchantments, or simply illusions, created for the fashionable elite. Others make use of ancient wards built during the Empire's early days. Particularly noteworthy are the dragon roosts (Rhals), towns built on and above high mountain peaks by their Draconic inhabitants. Each of these places has a cloud-top district with several nests and an invisible portal leading to one or two other roosts. These devices where used to transport dragonriders during the war with Narre'al. The portals can be activated by someone of Draconic blood wearing a key created by means of a closely guarded magical ritual. Unknown to all but the Emperor and several ancient dragons and archmages, the capital city of Vilquar also hosts a dormant portal. When activated, this portal could receive or send travellers to any other Rhal-portal, including magically created temporary ones. This device will only be used if the empire is under dire threat.

LEGEND:

Important Cities and Towns (blocks and circles respectively):
Apthos: A city on the western coast, functioning as a regional trading community and important stop for traffic along the coast. It has a relatively warm coastal climate and is known for its white-plastered houses and exotic fruits.
Brokenmast: This large fortified town on the east coast has the reputation of being a rough town for rough people. It serves as a regional stronghold and safe haven against raiders and pirates. The town hosts only a handful of navy vessels, but considerably more privateers and mercenaries. The surrounding lands are geographically sheltered, compared to most of the east coast, and local agriculture is thriving. Some trade is conducted with the Northern Kingdoms, across the Silent Sea.
Cardáre: This large, heavily fortified town in the wilderness north of Tholenfold is the headquarters of the Order of the Horn of Valor, the most powerful order of paladins, clerics and other 'fighters for the greater good' on Alcarin. Located high in the mountains, the city state is well-protected by mundane and magical means. It is the start of the Knight's Trail to the Olympeak, in the far north.
Eastport: This large, fortified town is the main trading hub on the east coast. It has connections with local trade centers across the Silent Sea, particularly on Narre'al's west coast and in the Northern Kingdoms. The Southern Trade Road runs from here to the Thelrim and Quarim rivers, providing trade routes to most of the country. It also hosts a small naval force, including a number of spellcasters. The town and countryside are dotted by the towers of a fair number of mages, looking for a quiet place to study or to relax.
Kalathel: This metropolis is the capital city of the Wyrmtrough Plains. It is a centre for trade and fisheries, and it hosts many powerful sorcerers and a number of dragons. The city is located on the shores of Thelrim Lake. Its quarters sprawl along the beaches and in, on, and surrounding the huge cliffs that overlook the water. Kalathel hosts two port districts: one at the lake and one high on the cliffs, for airborne visitors. Several buildings, primarily sorcerers' abodes, hover over the lake. A crag projecting out from the cliff, is sealed off from the city by dense vegetation. It forms the headquarters of a circle of druids with influence throughout the Wyrmtrough Plains. No building is visible on the crag, however, and few druids have actually been seen anywhere near it. Another point of interest is the complex of tombs, deep within the cliffs. Several ancient dragons are buried here. This includes two specific dragons, bitter enemies, that slew each other in a cataclysmic fight. The pair could not let their dispute, whatever it may have been about, rest and they have turned undead. While they have presumably never emerged from their tombs, they covertly meddle in local affairs by means of their agents.
Ilbris Bay: This large city is a fishing and trading community. The lands to the east and south provide sufficient agricultural produce to sustain the city. The region to the west and north is much less fertile. Trade ships and rafts sail down the river with crafts and ores from the dwarves of Rhal-Torris in the north. Only a handful of reclusive mages live in this city. Some of these mages, including the city's Lord, are reputed to be necromancers.
Minas Elen: Minas Elen is an Elven kingdom, hidden in a valley high in the northern mountains. The city state consists of a small city and several surrounding villages. It is renowned for its powerful diviners and seers, which occasionally take on promising outsiders as apprentices. The Elves watch over the north-western region, including the Pilgrims' Trail, although they rarely make their presence known. While naturally wary, the Elves of Minas Elen are relatively welcoming to well-intending adventurers. Their king and many other prominent residents are former adventurers as well. The Elves play an important role in the struggle against the dark elves on Alcarin.
Lion Keep: The large, fortified town of Lion Keep is the gateway for trade with the Khrator Plains, south of Tholenfold, along the Thelrim river. The river connects with Kalathel and the Wyrmtrough Plains to the north, and the Southern Trade Road runs east to the coast and west to Udenfield. A busy local market offers a variety of local and foreign goods. The town is protected by a large keep designed to awe the southern traders (and spies). The keep hovers some 200 feet up in the air, with multiple separate turrets at various locations and altitudes surrounding it. Mages provide transport for visitors to the keep. For important guests and diplomats, a dragon is employed. Cultural influences from the southern savannas are clearly visible in the town's architecture, food, and easy-going lifestyle.
Quarim Port: A metropolis on the west coast, at the mouth of the river Quarim. It has a subtropical climate. Most mundane international travel runs through this city: over the ocean to other continents, upstream to the capital city of Vilquar and further across the continent. The city boasts many markets and bazaars, including the famous Grand Market, at which goods from all over the world can be purchased. Quarim Port is also well-known for its culinary diversity. The local Mages Guild offers fast, but expensive, teleportation services to other cities.
Rhal-Acris: A dragon roost in the southeast corner of Tholenfold. This small town is within flying distance of Eastport, Stormbridge and the entrance to the Wyrmtrough Plains. It is located on, and within, a narrow ridge of mountains and is inaccessible by foot. Its population consists mainly of dragons and other flying creatures.
Rhal-Asthar: The city of Rhal-Asthar is known as the 'mother roost'; the seat of the eldest of the dragons of Tholenfold (and most likely all of Alcarin). Astharya, an ancient female silver dragon, rules the roost. She resides in an ever-present cloud which surrounds the area's highest mountain peak. The city's daily affairs are run by her familiar, the sorcerer Vekar Ydilmesh, an Elf with slightly megalomaniac tendencies. The city boasts a large population of dragons, including several dozen ancients, as well as many half-dragons. It covers a mountain ridge and its surrounding valleys. Unlike most dragon roosts, the lower city is reachable by road. The roost also has a large semi-black market for slaves. A considerable number of evil dragons reside in Rhal-Astar as well, although the city and its dragons strive to keep up a good appearance.
Rhal-Durim: This dragon roost is located in the high mountains in the west. It guards the central Corral Plains and the northern Sylvan Plains.
Rhal-Marus: Rhal-Marus is the southernmost dragon roost. It guards the border with the Khrator Plains, the southern Sylvan Plains, the entrance to the Corral Plains, as well as the important southern trade routes. As such, it boasts a strong military force, particularly of flying beings and mages. The city is at a relatively low altitude, but it is heavily fortified and built on steep slopes.
Rhal-Talas: Located in the high eastern mountains, this small town serves as dragon roost and keep of the east coast and central Corral Plains.
Rhal-Torris: This large city boasts the largest population of the dragon roosts. Several hundred dwarves live and mine under the mountains, in addition to the dragons living on a number of mountain peaks. Melt water from the nearby Torris Glacier supplies the population with drinking water, and magma powers various workshops and smithies. The roost is a major producer of metal wares, ores and gemstones, most of which are shipped via the river to Ilbris Bay. The city also maintains airborne and magical connections with Abron Tower. Although earthquakes are frequent in the region, Dwarven engineering combined with Draconic magic makes the city relatively safe during such events.
Rhal-Zarim: This is the only dragon roost in the central mountains. The small town, perched on a single high peak, does not have a specific defensive task. Instead, it functions as a hub for dragons traveling between the western and eastern roosts.
Stormbridge: A small garrison town and castle along the Southern Trade Road. Its main function is to protect the Road and the border in the south-eastern corner of Tholenfold. The town rests on the foundations of a much older town which was destroyed long ago by a magical storm. Only its bridge remained standing.
Udenfield: Located on the Quarim River, this large trading city is a hub for nationwide travel. The Southern Trade Road starts at this town, running east to Lionkeep and Eastport. The Quarim River runs west to Quarim Port, at the west coast, and north to the capital city of Vilquar. It has excellent port facilities and affordable inns. A point of interest is its market for riding and cargo animals, including trained mundane and magical beasts and monsters. Local monster trainers offer their services for a fee. The city's Lord resides in a small, but luxurious flying keep.
Vilquar: The capital city of Tholenfold practically radiates splendour and high magic. The metropolis stretches over a huge area, with quarters in several valleys and on mountain ridges and peaks. A large part of the city hovers on magical clouds high above the landscape. Some of these clouds are connected by walkways, but most are not. Airborne transport services, such as by griffon, dragon or magical means, are available. The city is governed by a local archmage. The Mages Guild, a loose regional union of several orders of wizards and other arcanists, has considerable influence in the city's politics and daily affairs. The Guild also runs the University. Covert power struggles between local mages are not uncommon and provide ample employment opportunities for adventurers and hirelings. Buildings of note include the Emperor's Palace, located on the highest cloudtop, the Opera House, and the twenty mobile flying fortresses which house part of the nation's standing army. The Central Spire, an incredibly steep, lonely peak which rises from the middle of the Quarim River valley, hosts a temple dedicated to the Gods of the Air, and to the Feather Crystal, Tholenfold's Elfstone. A narrow stairway encircles the peak, although it is rarely used by any but the most dedicated pilgrims.
Wintrygrave: Tholenfold's northernmost town, on the east coast, is primarily known for being cold, desolate, and gloomy. The small town is regularly battered by storms and is surrounded by dangerous seas. It used to be an out-of-the-way place for locking up dangerous people, housing a complex of prisons and surrounding work camps. The place was so remote and depressing that even the wardens guarding the prison were often stationed here as punishment. After several bloody incidents in which prisoners gained control of the facility, guards joining the uprising, and help arriving much too late, the prisons were abandoned. At present, a few fishermen and farmers live here, and adventurers visit the place occasionally on monster-hunting trips.
Zanthes: A large city along Tholenfold's west coast. It is a major regional trade and agricultural centre, similar to Apthos, but with a temperate climate. The city and its region are best known for its high quality wines, produced on the river banks.

Important Sites (triangles):
Abron Tower: This mage tower is located on the highest peak in the country. Abron Tower offers spectacular views over the northern mountains and the Torris Glacier. It is home to the Third Triangle, a select and prestigious college of mages, sorcerers, and other magic users with global influence and connections. The structure itself, and the complex of buildings, caverns, rooms and passageways on and inside the mountain, form an intricate labyrinth and include hidden doorways, magical portals and links to other dimensions. Most rooms have magically controlled environments and climates. The Tower welcomes visitors on occasion, particularly those in search of lore or secrets. However, most visitors are allowed access to only a small section of the complex, and 'adequate compensation' is required for access to knowledge and public libraries.
Tholen's Forge: Tholen's Forge is a site at the southern tip of a narrow, near-vertical range of mountains that runs a hundred miles south from the northern border. Often described as one of the most impressive views in a country filled with impressive views, it offers a spectacular panorama of the Quarim River valley, Corral Plain and surrounding mountains. The site is believed to be the place where the mage Tholen forged an alliance between the humanoids and dragons of the land to counter the invading forces of Narre'al (see History of the Seven Realms). The site is considered near-sacred and is occasionally used for state ceremonies. A steep path carved into the mountainside connects it to the valley floor, where a fortified tavern provides lodging for visitors. The Pilgrims' Trail (see below) runs north from this tavern and a paved road runs south along the Quarim River.

Important Roads and Rivers:
Knights' Trail: This winding dirt trail runs from Cardáre to the Olympeak, the seat of the Gods, in the far north. It connects with the Pilgrims' Trail along the way. The Knights' Trail is used much less frequently than the Pilgrims' Trail. The trail is desolate and dangerous, although it is occasionally patrolled by Cardáre's paladins.
Pilgrims' Trail: This dirt road, running through the Mountains of the Gods, is the primary pilgrimage route to the Olympeak, far north of Tholenfold. There are inns and villages along the route, although they are sparse. While safer than the Knights' Trail, the route leads through the wilderness and is certainly not free from dangers.
Quarim River: The Quarim River runs through the Corral Plains. It is one of the two largest rivers in Tholenfold. A road follows its course from Quarim Port to Tholen's Forge. The river is the country's busiest trade route. Many villages, towns and cities, including the capital city of Vilquar, can be found along its banks. The river is also a major pilgrimage route, connecting with the Pilgrims' Trail in the north. It can be sailed up to Tholen's Forge, after which it becomes too shallow and wild.
Southern Trade Road: The Southern Trade Road connects the Quarim and Thelrim rivers with the east coast. It runs from Udenfield to Eastport, through Tholenfold's southern mountains. The section east of Lion Keep is little-used, except for the occasional military patrol. The western part, up to Udenfield, is travelled more often by mercantile caravans. The caravans generally switch to river shipping beyond these points. Fortified inns provide shelter for travelers along the road.
Thelrim River: The Thelrim River, running through the Wyrmtrough Plains, is one of the two largest rivers in Tholenfold. A road runs alongside it from Cardáre in the north to well within the Khrator Plains, south of Tholenfold. The river itself is heavily travelled, and fortified towns can be found along its course. Considering the Plain's dangers, most non-magical travel along the river takes place in caravans and under armed escort. The river can be sailed up to 100 miles south of the country's northern border.
Western Trade Road: The Western Trade Road is used mainly by local farmers to bring their produce to the towns and cities along the west coast. Trade between the coastal cities themselves usually takes place by ship, rather than by road.

Important Regions:
Albenhold: Albenhold is a rather deserted corner of Tholenfold. The reasons for this are not entirely clear. While the region is relatively barren and dry due to natural reasons, some suggest that fouler things are at play. Remnants of settlements can be found in many places, suggesting that the area may once have been more habitable. The area is however somewhat of a non-topic in Tholenfold's high society.
Corral Plains: The Corral Plains are Tholenfold's central region, surrounding the valleys of the Quarim River catchment. While referred to as plains, the region is anything but flat, consisting of rugged highlands and mountain ranges, which are however less high and less impenetrable than the country's main mountain regions. It is relatively densely populated, particularly near the rivers. Towns, mage towers, and cities dot the valleys and mountains. The capital city of Vilquar is also situated in this region. Travel takes place by river, but the region also has a good road system and aerial connections. Important sources of income in the region include pilgrimage services (for those traveling up to the Pilgrims' Trail), magical and alchemical wares and services, trade, and agriculture.
Lionvales: The rolling hills of this southern region give it a less rugged appearance than most of Tholenfold. The Lionvales are close to the Khrator Plains and a limited amount of trade takes place with the tribes of these southern savannahs.
Sylvan Plains: The Sylvan Plains are forest-covered flatlands and foothills along Tholenfold's western coast. The region is highly suitable for farming and fishing and is relatively densely populated by humans and demi-humans. Many of the country's largest cities can be found along the coast.
Thelrim Lake: This huge lake in the centre of the Wyrmtrough Plains is a major food source for the region, and the regional capital of Kalathel in particular. It is known for its excellent quality fish and edible water plants. The lake also hosts several interesting species of freshwater oysters, the pearls of which are sought-after jewellery and magical components, and flying fish. The latter prey on birds and other fish, and are believed to be the result of magical experimentation.
Torris Glacier: This immense glacier is about 700 miles in length and 70 miles wide. Its depth is unknown and its many crevasses, moulins and tunnels are to a large extent unexplored. Legends tell of entire cities or hives of strange creatures far beneath the glacier's surface. Melt water from the glacier is an important source of water for north-western Tholenfold and the cities of Rhal-Torris and Ilbris Bay in particular. The surrounding region is characterised by high volcanic and seismic activity.
Wyrmtrough Plains: The rugged eastern highlands, surrounding the valleys of the Thelrim River system, are covered in forests and grasslands. Like the Corral Plains, the Wyrmtrough Plains are anything but flat. They are much less densely populated than the Corral Plains, and considerably more dangerous to unwary visitors. The dragon population considers this region their ancestral hunting grounds, and although hunting sentient beings (at least the more peaceful and law-abiding ones) is generally frowned upon, 'hunting accidents' are not uncommon. Other monsters are abundant as well, and the weather conditions are treacherous and often violent. Several groups of rangers are known to occasionally guide travellers, particularly to pilgrims heading for Cardáre, for a fee.

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