The Plague of Issarea
The Northern Plains of Issarea are unsettled but by no means unpopulated. These verdant grasslands are home to several tribes of wandering barbarians who claim no allegiance to the throne of Issarel. The tribes were born at the dawn of the Second Age, when a Skyrtian hunter, whose name has been lost to history, led a small group of families north. The Nomad, as he is now called, was appalled by the implications of the philosophy that Freeborn was founded upon, and so he led a small band of people to disband from the newly formed kingdom.
Free from the rule of the priests, the barbarians were not forced to offer sacrifices, and over time have ceased to pay homage to any god. Today, the people of Issarea disdain the barbarians incredibly because they live off the land but do not contribute to its sustenance by making sacrifice. Popular outrage for these rebels has increased greatly in the past years, and so the king has officially declared them traitors who are a threat to the well-being of the realm. As such, he has launched a campaign to civilize the barbarian hordes, which takes form as a war of genocide.
This expanse of woods is so named because it has for centuries been home to numerous bandit lords who set themselves in open opposition to the king. Murderous, greedy, and vile, the Shadow Court—as the thieves call themselves—are disdained by all civilized members of society. Try as they might, the royal guard has never been able to root these renegades out of the forest for once and for all. This is in part due to the fact that the bandits exist in many small splinter groups that are constantly on the move, but it is also rumored that the thieves have many spies throughout the realm and even within the king’s court.
Since the foundation of Freeborn, these woods have served as the hunting grounds for the Royal Huntsmen, a highly organized band of rangers who provide game for the citizens of the capital city. King Issarel I decreed that no animal’s blood was to be spilt in these woods unless it was to feed or clothe the Freeborn. The penalty for anyone other than a Royal Huntsman killing an animal in the King’s Woods is death.
The Skyrtwood is a small stretch of forest that is perilous for all but the most skilled woodsmen. The trees themselves are rumored to have minds of their own, and the forest is ripe with dangerous feral animals said to be guardians of Animus, goddess of nature, who makes her dwelling at the center of the woods. The Skyrtwood is also home to an elven community that has learned to appease the goddess and may thus live peaceably among her animals.
Even more perilous than the Skyrtwood, Darkland is home to unnatural denizens that lure men to their doom beneath the swamp’s murky depths. Most legendary among these threats are the dreaded Fire Rats and the Stench Bogs, which are said to be so foul that a faint wind carrying their smell from a mile away is enough to knock a dwarf out for a week.
Built at the three-way fork that connects Grave, Skyrt, and Freeborn, this tavern and inn is a popular stop for traveling merchants and soldiers on patrol. It is maintained by the Keepers, a well-known family throughout eastern Issarea. Michael Keeper, patriarch of the family, is a noble and just man who serves his patrons well. The inn has been in the charge of the Keepers since it was erected in the 300th year of the Second Age. The Crossroads is a great place to go to hear the news about the kingdom or the tales of the bards. Many try to make at least one trip to the inn in their lifetime just to try the Keeper’s Stew, for it is the only meal outside of Freeborn in which one may legally eat of venison hunted in the King’s Woods; an esteem granted by King Issarel XIII to Michael’s great-grandfather for some favor performed that has been lost to legend.
Perhaps one of the bleakest locales in all of Issarea, the Maw resembles a mountain that has been cut horizontally at the base and had a massive chasm dug into it. The pit is so deep that a bottom has never been found, and very few of those who have gone in search of one have returned. The priests of Obitus, the Souleaters, sacrifice the deceased citizens of Grave into the Maw, and legend says that none who are cast into it may ever reach the afterlife. It is told by many that those swallowed by the Maw’s endless pit simply cease to exist, their souls being devoured eternally by the god of death.
This massive desert forms the eastern border of the realm and has slowly been growing for the past four hundred years, now threatening to stretch into the populated regions of Issarea. Deep within the desert is the Temple of Life, a once thriving pyramid erected in honor of Curatio, god of life. The temple, while still inhabited by the dying priesthood known as the Servants, is rarely used for significant ceremonies and rituals. This is changing, however, due to the recent decrees made by the king that give monetary incentive for citizens who offer their children for sacrifice.
Sitting within the waters of Lake Freeborn, this tiny island has seemingly no reason for bearing the name that it does. Sages, scholars, and bards cannot find any written or oral record as to how the isle was named, but it has never been known as anything else. The Isle of Wisdom is home to the Havenites, a wandering community of humans, dragonborn, elves, and half-elves. The weather conditions of the island are frequently perilous, and the denizens of the jungle make travel dangerous even for skilled woodsmen.
This enormous volcano stretches higher than any other location in the realm. The peak is inactive in the sense that it does not erupt regularly, nor has it done so for nearly two centuries, but it still hosts a bubbling cauldron of magma at its core, which is home to the fire god Vulcanus, who takes the form of a gargantuan red dragon. The Crimson Peak is part of the Wall of Fire, a mountain range that forms the western border of Issarea and is so named because the sight of the sun setting behind the mountains is as if the horizon were engulfed in flame.