The Plague of Issarea
Settlements and People
The people of Valley are built of hardy stock, comprised mostly of dwarves and dragonborn. They are a cotting of miners, smiths, and craftsmen whose skin bears a pale red complexion from centuries of life beneath the crimson dust of the mountains. The Valleyborn, as the residents are called, pay homage to the god of fire, Vulcanus. Their religious rituals consist of seasonal offerings of fine metals and jewels. The major festival of offering occurs in the spring and is called the Purification. Smiths and craftsmen work all winter long in order to produce the finest offerings for their god in hopes of appeasing his wrath. The priests of Vulcanus, known as Jewel-bearers, deliver the offerings to their god by hurling them into the magma within the Crimson Peak.
Skyrt is one of the smallest cottings in the land and gets its name from the fact that the settlement skirts the edge of two perilous regions: the Skyrtwood and Darkland Swamp. The Skyrtians are, for the most part, farmers and woodsmen who can be easily identified by their dark, worn skin. They are simple folk—consisting of humans, elves, half-elves, and halflings—who live off of the land and make offerings of their crop every winter to the god of nature, Animus. Out of fear that the surrounding natural perils will overgrow and consume their settlement, the people of Skyrt surrender the finest tenth of their harvest to their god. The priests of Animus, called the Druids, venture into the wilderness to deliver the offerings to the center of Skyrtwood and Darkland.
The settlement of Grave is gloomily perched at the foot of the Maw of the Earth. Its inhabitants, the Graven, are pale-skinned and sickly looking. Most of the population is human, elf, and half-elf. They live a rather dreary life beneath the gaze of Obitus, the Angel of Death. The Graven rely on trade with Freeborn and Skyrt to survive. In return, the monks of the small cotting offer services as scribes and sages. The greatest library in the realm can be found in this village, and the most powerful wizards of history have all been raised in Grave. The priests of Obitus, the Souleaters, appease their god by sacrificing every dead Graven body to the Maw that looms over the cotting. As a result, it is said that no Graven soul shall ever make it to the afterlife, for they have never received a proper burial.
Haven is the smallest cotting of the land, and its people are the hardiest rangers and outdoorsman in all of Issarea. Havenites are easily identified by their long, wild hair, which is often locked in dreads, and their impressive height and stature. They are a wandering tribe of humans, dragonborn, elves, and half-elves who serve the goddess of weather, Aeris. As tribute, Aeris demands that her people spend nine months of the year wandering the island, sleeping beneath the stars and enduring the hardships of the wilderness. Every summer, the nomads return to Haven, where they are allowed to take shelter for the season. Every life lost during the Roaming, as their nine month journey is called, is sacrificed to Aeris by means of a flaming burial at sea. The priests of the Weather Angel are named Stormcallers and carry out all the necessary rituals to appease their goddess.
The city of Freeborn is the largest settlement in the realm and home to King Issarel XVI. The city is so named because of a decree made by its founder four centuries ago—that no man born in the city would ever need to pay sacrifice to the gods. King Issarel I founded the city as a settlement that would be free of the fearful influence of the deities. Today, the city claims no one Archangel as its god, relying instead on the other cottings of the land to appease the powers that be. Freeborn can get away with this because of its vast military and economic power. The other settlements rely on Freeborn for protection and commerce, and so the King calls on all of the cottings to appease the wrath of the gods. The people of Freeborn come from all of the civilized races, though humans still rank the majority, and they can be recognized by a distinguishing tattoo that all citizens receive upon coming of age: a three-starred crown that is placed on the back of their right hand.
The jolly people of Underhill are simple, humble folk who can be recognized by their stocky, well-fed stature and curly hair. Most of the Hillies are halflings, but the peaceful cotting is also home to some dwarves and even a few humans. They survive mainly by farming and have some fine gem mines that are quite valuable to the Valleyborn to the north. Hillies enjoy reading, storytelling, and feasting. They are never lacking a reason to celebrate and are generally welcomed guests throughout the realm. They serve the Creator God, Logos, who demands of them only that they spend two years following their coming of age traveling the realm spreading goodwill. This journey is known as the Wayfare, and Hillies embarking on this quest can be recognized by the gnarled walking stick they wield, pulled from the Tree of Blessings that serves as a worship altar for the Bishops, the priests of Logos.