Varisia
Varisia_map.jpg

Only recently settled by colonists from the Chelaxian Empire, the wild frontier of Varisia (pronounced vah-RHIS-ee-ah) is composed of rural communities, independent city-states, cyclopean ruins, and uncharted wilderness.

Varisia has no central government. It is a collection of independent city-states that each holds sway over a small collection of towns and villages, while the wilds on the edges of their territory (including most of the area on top of the Storval Plateau) is claimed by the Shoanti. Varisian politics is dominated by the competing aims of criminal Riddleport, ambitious Magnimar, and traditionalist Korvosa. The neutral Kaer Maga is often discounted altogether, and its inhabitants prefer it that way.

Korvosa is the oldest and largest of these cities, founded as a Chelish colony in the 45th century AR, and is the only one to have established a hereditary monarchy. Thousands of dissatisfied Korvosans fled to Magnimar less than a century ago, disagreeing with their mother city's allying themselves with the new, infernally-backed Chelish government. Although Magnimar had existed before, the mass influx of new citizens made it a true rival to Korvosa's economic dominance of the region.

Far to the northwest of Magnimar and Korvosa is the pirate-haven of Riddleport. It is governed by a powerful Overlord who runs with a harsh, but decidedly laissez-faire attitude.

The smallest of Varisia's major cities is the unusual city of Kaer Maga, found on one of the highest parts of the Storval Rise. It exists in basically an anarchic state, with numerous smaller power groups looking after their own interests.

The dwarves emerged on the surface at the completion of their Quest for Sky. They established the Sky Citadel of Janderhoff in the western Mindspin Mountains. Janderhoff is a firm trading partner of Korvosa, and also retains good relations with the Shoanti. It holds the greatest concentration of dwarves in Varisia, and boasts one of the largest populations of Shoanti outside of the Cinderlands. Its smiths are well-known throughout the region.

Thassilonian Ruins
Countless gigantic monuments and buildings left over from ancient Thassilon can be found across Varisia. They have survived for over ten millennia due to the skills of their stone giant crafters and the power infused in them by the runelords. The most well-known of these include the Cyphergate of Riddleport, the Irespan of Magnimar, the Grand Mastaba of Korvosa, and the Lady's Light in the Mushfens.

In the past few hundred years, the magic protecting these structures has finally begun to fail, and have slowly been suffering from the normal effects of erosion. This has also made them more vulnerable to explorers and treasure seekers, who search for the lost treasures of their ancient owners.

Varisian Locale Details

Ashwood: While many forests in Varisia bear dark reputations, Ashwood's is legendary. Everyone within a hundred miles claims to have a relative or friend-of-a-friend who personally encountered a ghost, werewolf, or other spook within the wood's brooding borders. Yet while locals might boast excitedly and exchange tales by day, at night they bar their doors and pile firewood high. The Church of Erastil lakes these stories particularly seriously, and worshipers of O1' Deadeye are frequently seen patrolling the dells and towns along the forest's ragged edge, making sure the dark creatures within its borders stay there.

Bloodsworn Vale: The site of a bloody engagement between invading Chelish forces and desperate Shoanti barbarians, Bloodsworn Vale was a primary trade route between Cheliax and its Varisian colonies. It fell into disuse after the empire's collapse. As a few Varisian port cities grow increasingly wealthy from southern trade, many land-locked towns have begun clamoring for the pass to be reopened.

Brinewall: Originally settled by Chelaxians out of Korvosa, and once the northernmost Chelish holding in Varisia, this fortress was perfectly situated to defend against and facilitate trade with the harsh warriors from the lands of the Linnorm Kings. Despite the constant threat of Nolander barbarians, the dragon-helmed militia manning the fort's eponymous curtain wall proved more than capable of rebuffing attacks. Twenty years ago, however, all communication with the fortress stopped. Investigations revealed an empty citadel, devoid of all evidence of attack or disaster. Though most blame the Nolanders, the complete absence of bodies and pristine shape of the empty ships bobbing in the harbor speak toward a more sinister calamity.

Calphiak Mountains: The Calphiak Mountains are the youngest range in Varisia, dating back a mere 10,000 years to the cataclysmic end of the Thassilonian Empire. Today, the mountains are renowned for their high concentration of Thassilonian artifacts, most famously the Valley of Stars, a heavily etched crater many explorers believe to be a massive celestial observatory.

Celwynvian: Deep in the Mierani Forest, the ancient elven capital of Celwynian stands empty, its verdant palaces and delicate towers poised breathlessly in the half-light beneath the canopy. Avoided superstitiously by other races during the elves' long absence, the City of Emerald Rains has been quarantined since their return. Refusing all requests by outsiders to enter their ancestral home, the elves claim to have cut off the city to provide their kind with a refuge from the outside world. Those who deal with the denizens of the Mierani Forest, however, whisper that the elves themselves actually reside outside the city, fighting a hidden war to retake their capital from a sinister and unnamed force.

Chorak's Tomb: The giants of the Storval Plateau were not always the barbarians they are today, and perhaps the best proof of this lies on the tiny island in Lake Skotha known to the giants as Chorak's Tomb. Here, it is rumored, the descendants of the giant warlord's honor guard still cling to the remnants of civilization, protecting the last traces of their race's glory. All of this remains speculation, however, as any sentient creatures attempting to approach the island are bombarded with rocks or shot down with rune-carved ballista bolts. Not even other giants know what secrets lay at the island's center, and for now, beyond a few glints of metallic structures in the distance, the mystery of Chorak's Tomb goes unanswered.

Churlwood: A tangled forest choked by tenacious vines, Churlwood is almost impossible for non-natives to navigate, making it the perfect refuge for the bandit gangs and goblin tribes that raid from its borders. With its plentiful game and renowned ability to confuse even the most canny trackers, the wood is a popular destination for wanted men, its borders a haven for rogues and escaped slaves alike hence the expression, "Safe as a thief in Churlwood." Of course, what the stories of outlaw folk heroes and egalitarian bandits fail to mention is just how many men who enter the forest are never seen again.

Cinderlands: The Cinderlands take up the majority of the southern Storval Plateau, its dry, ashen soil approaching desert status in many places. Many of the plants here require fire to split open their seedpods, and in the summer, wildfires race across the badlands in vast sheets of flame ignited by the ferocious seasonal thunderstorms. In these harsh environs, only the Shoanti make any real settlements, and these generally consist of yurts and other easily transportable structures. Fire plays a central role in the lives of these upland tribes as well, and many promote harsh right-of-passage ritual in which young warriors must outpace a wildfire or run down an animal driven before the flames.

Crystalrock: Originally discovered by the dwarves of Janderhoff, who sometimes refer to it as the "Heart of the world," this massive crystalline formation hangs suspended from frail-looking crystal threads in a natural cavern far beneath the edge of the Mindspin Mountains. For hundreds of years, dwarven elders have gathered here annually to watch as the crystal suddenly convulses, sending out a deep, vibrating pulse that can be felt in creatures' bones for miles around. Recently, however, the dwarves who study Crystal rock have grown withdrawn with concern and excitement as the beating has begun speeding up, currently coinciding with the changing of the seasons.

Crystilan: While its original name has long been lost, the site called Crystilan is today among the best known Thassilonian artifacts, and has provided scholars with much of what they now know about Thassilonian life. Visible from the sea, the shining dome of translucent crystal is glorious to behold, catching the sun's light and making it too bright to stare upon directly. Up close, the adventurous can peer through the smooth, almost frictionless crystal at the chunk of city within, perfectly preserved like a fly in amber. Though many have attempted to break through and reach the great stepped temples and vast arches, no magic or weapon currently known has ever been able to mar or otherwise penetrate the crystal, and those who have attempted to tunnel under it believe the strange shield to be a perfect sphere. For now, at least, most scholars are content to transcribe the visible runes and watch the strangely deserted city as it proceeds, unchanging, through the ages toward some unknown purpose.

Curchain Hills: The hollows and grassy dells of the Curchain Hills are home to relatively peaceful tribes of Shoanti. Great herds of grazing aurochs, and several superstitious families of frontiersmen. Travelers through the region often claim that certain hills appear too similar, suggesting an unnatural formation.

Ember Lake: Presumably fed by hot springs as well as the Lampblack and Malgorian rivers, the waters of Ember Lake rise up warm from the rolling plains, certain spots along the shore steaming in the colder months. The lake is also home to strange aquatic creatures that dart like fireflies in massive schools beneath the surface. Not quite fish, these tiny creatures called "charigs" resemble salamanders, their transparent skin phosphorescing in the clear waters. Although the creatures appear harmless, locals avoid eating them, claiming that on certain nights of the year the schools assemble in flickering patterns miles wide, moving with purpose and intelligence, as if creating glowing signals visible only from the sky.

Fenwall Mountains: While few attempt to establish any real homesteads in the monster-infested Fenwall mountains, the peaks' rich lodes of iron and precious metals make them an attractive destination for those lower-class and undesirable Korvosans seeking to strike it big as prospectors. As such, the valleys of the Fenwalls are dotted with tiny one-man camps as well as heavily guarded strip-mining excavations bankrolled by larger, Korvosa-based mining concerns.

Fogscar Mountains: The dense-packed goblins of the Fogscar Mountains squabble among themselves constantly, with each stony gully seeming to host a new tribe of knee-biting scavengers. Although narrow roads run between the misty peaks, travelers seeking a shortcut between Magnimar and Roderic's Cove are advised to go well-armed and carry large stores of cheap trinkets or moderately useful garbage with which to buy off the notoriously covetous natives.

The Gnashers: The traditional home of several hill giant tribes, the Gnashers offer the brave explorer a rare glimpse into the vast giant empire that preceded human settlement in Varisia. Unfortunately, the brutish natures of its current residents make such expeditions a dangerous gamble at best.

Gruankus: Its original purpose unknown, the great stone wheel of Gruankus lies on the shore of the Varisian Gulf, its rune-carved bulk half-buried in the sand. Today, it's better remembered as the site of the negotiations between Riddleport and Magnimarian diplomats that led to the Treaty of Gruankus, which has kept traders in the Varisian Gulf nominally safe from pirate attacks for nearly a hundred years.

Guiltspur: Even the giant savages that dominate the northern Storval Plateau avoid Guiltspur, an ever-deepening excavation into ages long past, dug by giant sweat and dragon claw. Unmarked and unknown for centuries, only the coming of the aged and accursed blue dragon Cadrilkasta revealed the site of a complex Thassilonian catacomb. Now, the dragon enslaves ogres and giants to sift through the buried layers of the seemingly endless sepulcher, ignoring the impotent ghosts of the ages in pursuit of some treasure known only to her.

Hollow Mountain: Upon the largest of Rinmrake Island's jagged peaks sneers the shattered, monumental visage of a stern looking woman scowling ever south over the remnants of the titanic ancient bridge that connected Rivenrake to Argavist Island. Shorn vertically in two, the face's broken half reveals levels upon levels of exposed architecture within the mountain, while below, the ruined foundations of a dust-choked tomb of a city climb the mountainside, tempting adventurers with the promise of untold discoveries.

Hook Mountain: This massive peak, inhabited by savage tribes of inbred ogres.

Ilsurian: In the years immediately following the crumbling of the Chelaxian Empire, Korvosa was embroiled in turmoil, the various noble houses and government officials squabbling to decide where the colony's allegiance would fall. While many loyal to the old empire eventually left the city, relocating to Magnimar, theirs was not the only faction to desert the quarreling city, Ilsur, formerly a First Sword among the Knights of Aroden, advocated a shaking off of noble rule altogether and the restructuring of Korvosa as an efficient, military meritocracy. He campaigned for years but conceded failure in 4631 AR with the foundation of the Korvosan royal house. Ilsur led his troops to the coast of Lake Syrantula, where they settled in a small fishing village and dug in to await their chance to return and put the new aristocracy to the sword. Although Ilsur is long dead and his descendants are more woodsmen and fishmongers than soldiers, the village remains fiercely independent-ceding to neither Korvosan nor Magnimarian rule-and all townsfolk are required to maintain a sharp sword and train against the day when they might have to defend their freedom from tyrants.

The Iron Peaks: Although the farms in the valleys along their southwestern edge benefit from the mountains' rain shadow, the Iron Peaks are renowned as the domain of easily irritated ogres and hill giants wherever possible, locals avoid venturing beyond the range's foothills, and advise travelers to do the same.

Janderhoff: With its massive iron curtain wall and steeples of beaten copper, the dwarven stronghold of Janderhoff squats like a great armored beast among the foothills of the Mindspin Mountains. Yet, despite its forbidding appearance, the city is a bustling nexus of trade, with Shoanti and Chelaxians alike passing through the well-guarded tunnels that form the city's only entrances. Once inside, visitors quickly find themselves in the low-ceilinged markets and smithies that provide the city's livelihood. These surface buildings are mostly for reaching outsiders, as the majority of the town's population lives belowground in an intricate lattice of subterranean streets.

Kaer Maga: This anarchic cliff-top city is built inside the ruins of an ancient Thassilonian fortress.

Kodar Mountains: Tall and forbidding, the jagged snow-capped peaks of the Kodar Mountains are among the highest in the world. Only the hardiest creatures, such as storm giants, rocs, and several dragons, are able to withstand the extreme climate and treacherous cliffs. Numerous mysteries and legends have origins hidden deep within the Kodar Mountains, such as the quixotic Monastery of the Peacock Spirit, the cloud citadel of Chadra-Oon, and the lost city of Xin-Shalast.

The Lady's Light: Leaning precariously at the end of a rocky spit, the Lady's Light is a southern sailor's first glimpse of Varisia. Nearly two hundred feet high, the enormous stone lighthouse is shaped like a sensuous woman in a flowing dress that leaves one breast bare, her right hand pointing a staff that shines a brilliant beam of light out to sea at regular intervals. At the statue's base, a gigantic, strangely hinged stone door presumably leads into the lighthouse's interior, but none are known to have unlocked it in modern times.

Lake Skotha: This lake is considered holy by the local hill giants, who refuse to visit it except during funerals. Whenever one of their number dies, he is placed on a barge that is then set aflame and pushed out onto the water, that his spirit might join his ancestors on the mysterious central island. The giants don't take kindly to outsiders, but those who enter the lake find its bottom coated in a thick layer of giant bones.

Lake Stormunder: Lake Stormunder takes its name from the extensive underwater geysers that boil and chum in its depths. On its shores, fishermen are sometimes forced to take shelter as rocs skim low over the surface looking for prey.

Lake Syrantula: One of the most frequently traveled waterways in Varisia, this hundred-mile-long lake is a primary part of the trade route between Korvosan and Magnimarian holdings. Though most of the fishermen and sailors who ply its waters have little more to fear than the giant gars that are a major food source for nearby communities, none can truly say what beasts might slumber in such an enormous body of water, and most of those who live along its shores are careful to avoid the mysterious ruins that dot its southern border.

Lurkwood: Once the home of countless elves, the Lurkwood is now staunchly avoided by its one-time protectors for reasons they refuse to name. Locals whisper that the forest has come loose from the march of years, and stories circulate of travelers who wandered into it, only to emerge far younger or older than they ought to be. One thing's for certain, the seasons in Lurkwood don't appear to correspond to those of the land around it, its leaves changing colors and falling even while fanners' fields are new and green.

Malgorian Mountains: While adventurous herdsmen make this one of the most civilized mountain ranges in Varisia, it's also one of the most geologically active. Although it contains few volcanoes of any real size, geysers, hot springs, and bubbling tar pits dot the range, filling the mountains with strange and sometimes choking clouds and making travel treacherous for those unused to such hazards. Though close-mouthed about such things to other races, the gnomes of Sanas Forest seem particularly taken with these geologic features, and troops of the little folk can sometimes be found ringing a geyser long after sunset, performing some sort of private prayer or ritual.

Mierani Forest: The regional home of the elves since time immemorial, the Mierani Forest is a place of enormous, spreading trees and abundant wildlife. The Mierani elves maintain the forest as a civilized wilderness, allowing the course of nature to run unimpeded and protecting it from monstrous threats and axe wielding interlopers. While small elven communities guard the wooded fringe and wandering feral-born patrol the depths, the elves are still in the process of cleansing the forest after their centuries-long absence, their most persistent quarries being tribes of ettercaps, ravenous plants, and a singularly elusive green dragon known as Razorhorn.

Minderhal's Anvil: This ancient temple-mountain rises in honor of Minderhal, the brooding smith-god of the giants. Beyond its cracking marble pillars, the massive forge-altar still stands, its cold furnace once fed with the bodies of convicted lawbreakers. Few giants now come here, and the stone statue of the giant lord of judgment sits unattended on his throne, chin resting on his fist, staring out across the Storval Deep.

Mindspin Mountains: Filled with giants, ogres, and trolls, not to mention deep crevasses and dangerous rockslides, the Mindspin Mountains are considered a deathtrap for all but the most experienced travelers. Ironically, such dangers might be one of Varisia's greatest assets, as to date they’ve kept the warring are tribes of the Hold of Belkzen from sweeping across the range into Korvosa.

The Mobhad Leigh: With a Shoanti name meaning "steps into hell," the Mobhad Leigh has captivated imaginations for ages. A perfectly round pit in an otherwise nondescript field at the foot of the Kodar Mountains, the Leigh has so far never been conclusively proved to have a bottom. Steps spiraling along the pit's sheer walls extend down for several hundred feet before collapsing, and those who have ventured farther have never returned to say whether or not they begin again lower down. The local Shoanti generally avoid the Leigh, particularly after several of their magic-users dropped dead while attempting to scout the pit with scrying magic. Yet on certain nights of the year, flickering orange lights can be seen dancing deep within its depths.

Mundatei: The Obelisk Forest of Mundatei is no true forest, rather, when passing over the ridge into Mundatei's wide valley, the traveler’s first impression is of a vast tangle of menhirs-thousands upon thousands of ten-foot-high stones carved in places with spiraling patterns of runes. It's a breathtaking display, and rumor has long held that some of the obelisks are hollow and contain treasures. But when a group of Korvosan explorers broke open a dozen of the obelisks nearly a hundred years ago, they found that each obelisk contained a twisted, long dead human body, its limbs and expression frozen in pain and horror. That evening, the explorers' camps were assaulted by horrific undead whose flesh was hard as stone and whose eyes were horribly alive and fresh. A dozen folk were carried off by the undead, and when the survivors searched far them the next day no trace was found, but the twelve opened obelisks had reformed into their previous shapes as if they had never been touched. Few have returned to Mundatei since that fateful day.

The Mushfens: South of the Yondabakari, the land becomes a sweating tangle of boggy marshes and impenetrable mangroves, endless meres and fens capable of swallowing men without a trace. Along with the usual dangers of the swamp, the Mushfens are known for their vicious populations of frogmen, marsh giants, and faceless stalkers.

The Nolands: The Nolands are rough, stony plains where the tribes of the Linnorm Kings exile their most despicable and craven criminals. Centuries of this practice has given rise to numerous bands of berserkers who roam the land, preying upon each other, slaughtering without mercy, and feasting on the flesh of their enemies. While the Nolanders are too disorganized to prove any real threat to Varisia, residents of the Velashu Uplands and Red Mountains are constantly on guard against the savage raids of the northerners. Some Shoanti tribes banish their criminals to the Nolands as well, although such a punishment is generally seen as less honorable than a clean death.

Ravenmoor: Quaint and isolated, the residents of Ravenmoor are happy to trade with those passing through along the Lampblack River, but travelers seeking to spend the night find that none of the empty-looking inns accept boarders. Additionally, while apparently extremely pious, the residents are loath to discuss their religious beliefs with outsiders.

Red Mountains: The Red Mountains are relatively low by Varisian standards, their rocky soil rusted red with thick iron deposits. The residents, primarily miners and herdsmen, eke out meager livings from the barren hills, banding together on their shaggy upland ponies against the lawless raiders of the Nolands. So close to the berserkers, the ridges and gullies of the Red Mountains hold a natural appeal for paladins and rangers, who make it their calling to protect Varisia's northern border. Of late, the raiders appear disturbingly organized, and many of the local leaders have begun appealing to the south lands for aid, even going so far as to send emissaries to Riddleport and the Hellknights stationed in Magnimar.

Riddleport: Varisia's northernmost port, the infamous city of Riddeport is renowned as a haven for scoundrels, outcasts, and worse. Cutthroats fill its harbor and dockside brothels, with Riddleport's officers of the law being just another gang of thieves (and hardly the most powerful one at that). Yet even in such a den of inequity and vice, scholars and historians abound, attempting to decipher the runes of the great arch known as the Cyphergate, which spans the mouth of the harbor and looms over each vessel that passes into the city. Although any progress on the inscription has been kept quiet, recent excavation hints that the massive arch might actually be just one segment of a ring that extends into the cliffs surrounding the port.

Rift of Niltak: Whether the Rift of Niltak was opened by great magic or some geologic calamity, none alive today can say. Filled with strange, pulsing structures and bizarre flora, the canyon's mist-shrouded depths swarm with enormous centipede-like horrors, shrieking bat-like predators, and worse. It should be noted that accurate descriptions of the depths are made that much rarer by the high suicide rate among the few explorers who return from journeys below.

Rimeskull: From where they stand, high on the mountain's steep western slopes and staring out toward Lake Stormunder, the strange, heavy stone statues of Rimeskull, each a massive head of eroded rock-have puzzled scholars for ages. Who made them, and why they all stare fixedly west, remains a mystery, due in no small part to the while dragon Arkrhyst, who makes Rimeskull his home and is notoriously disinclined to allow guests.

Roderic's Cove: Besieged by the goblins and bandits of Churlwood on one side and pirates on the other, the port-town of Roderic's Cove submitted to Riddleport 10 years ago. To everyone's surprise, both in the town and throughout Varisia, the pirates spared the community, employing it as a shipping and trading port for merchants without the stomach to enter Riddleport. Captain Jess Gildersleeve serves as port-governor, guaranteeing that the gangs of Riddleport get their cut of the local trade while assuring her own sizable take. In the wake of a recent rash of mysteriously scuttled ships in the harbor, many citizens who remember life before the pirates' rule have chalked the sabotage up to the ghost of Sir Roderic, the town's founder and a notorious privateer, while those in power blame rebellion and insurgents. With tensions rising, many believe it's only a matter of time before the battle lines are drawn and Roderic's Cove erupts in flames of revolution.

Sanos Forest: While Whistledown is regarded by other races as the primary gnome settlement in Varisia, Sanos Forest is their true domain. Here, under sun-dappled branches bowed low with moss and fungus, the gnomes prune and twist the living plants into elaborate dwellings. Here, too, they're free to drop the masks worn among other sentient races and revel in their true natures, organizing themselves along principles unknown to outsiders. Although gnomes as a race are extremely tight-lipped about what goes on in Sanos Forest, there are whispers that somewhere deep in its heart they maintain a gateway to the First World of the fey.

Shimmerglens: This is a reputedly haunted patch of swampland.

Skull's Crossing: This is an immense Thassilonian dam.

Spindlehorn: Thousands of feet high, Spindlehorn thrusts up from the shore of the Storval Deep like a needle against the sky, its sides sheer except for the treacherous set of stairs that winds around the crooked spire until it reaches the flattened peak, an open space barely 10 feet in diameter. None know what purpose the mysterious spire once served, but tales tell of dark-robed pilgrims seen climbing the dizzying stairs but never descending.

Spire of Lemriss: Not exactly a tree, the Spire of Lemriss is an enormous spike of plant matter stretching hundreds of feet into the sky, its near-vertical sides covered in an arm-deep shell of vines and its inner structure made of twisted and braided wooden trunks sprouting from each other in an endless cascade. Within its branches, birds and rodents nest and breed, their hoots echoed from the nearby Churlwood, along with the occasion ill screeching of something far larger. While some believe the spire to be a sprouted cutting from the World Tree, its true origins remain unknown.

Stony Mountains: While one of the few relatively giant-free mountain ranges in Varisia-kept that way by the warlike Shoanti of the Tamiir-Quah-the Stony Mountains are still dangerous for the unwary, as griffons, manticores, tribes of harpies, and other dangerous creatures make the craggy peaks their home.

The Storval Deep: Filling the entire valley between the Iron Peaks and the Wyvern Mountains, the Storval Deep is a massive lake held back by an ancient dam, Skull's Crossing, at its southern tip. What’s more, the banks of the lake themselves seem curiously worked, as if carved from the surrounding stone by more than water. Although rumors abound of sunken cities, flooded mineshafts, and relics so powerful the ancients created the lake just to hide them, few have ever ventured into the dark water's unfathomed depths.

Storval Plateau: The land of Varisia is split in half by the Storval Rise, a thousand-foot-tall cliff sculpted for much of its length into ancient weatherworn statues, cliff fortresses, and strange portals into eldritch depths. The Rise separates the lush, fertile lowlands from the harsh, arid lands of the eastern plateau. Here, giants and tribes of hard-edged Shoanti hold sway, scratching an existence from the plateau hardpan or chasing herds of thundering aurochs across the sparse grasslands.

The Storval Stairs: Although sized for a colossus, the Storval Stairs are still the most expedient route from Varisia's western lowlands onto the plateau. Here, where the Storval Rise shrinks to only a few hundred feet of vertical cliff face, great stairs have been cut from the cliff, flanked on either side by enormous statues. In the thousands of years since the stairs' sculpting, lesser engineers have cut more convenient, human-sized steps and ramps into their sides, routes capable of handling entire platoons of explorers and adventurers.

The Sunken Queen: Slowly sinking into the waters of the swamp, this enormous stone pyramid is still imposing, with one entire side carved in a bas-relief of a beautiful naked woman. From the pyramid's peak extend numerous curving towers at strange angles, like growths or chimneys, and legends hold that within the Sunken Queen's austere walls lie layer upon layer of deadly catacombs filled with the secrets of the lost Thassilonian Empire.

Turtleback Ferry: This is a remote settlement.

Urglin: The broken towers of Urglin rise like a sore from the blasted plain of the Cinderlands. Once the site of an ancient city, orcs from the Hold of Belkzen have plundered and ruined anything of value through decades of squatting and abuse, building over the ruined foundations with rams shackle ghettoes of scavenged rock, iron, and bone. Outcast Shoanti, giants, half-breeds, and other monstrosities roam the treacherous streets where strength is the only law. Through the center of the city, giving it life, flows the sluggish Ooze, a stream polluted to the consistency of pudding by the citizens' waste.

Varisian Gulf: When the Thassilonian Empire shattered ten thousand years ago, much of western Varisia fell into the sea, becoming what is now known as the Varisian Gulf. Although only Hollow Mountain and a few remnants of Magnimar's great lrespan remain as reminders of nations lost to the waves, those salvagers who earn their living exploring the sea bottom here find it surprisingly rife with ruined cities and ancient relics of extraordinary size.

Velashu Uplands: The horse lords of the Velashu Uplands are widely regarded as the best horse breeders in Varisia. Astride their great destriers, the Velashans race across their domain, thanklessly protecting the southern lands and occasionally venturing to Riddleport or beyond to charge top price for their magnificent steeds.

Viperwall: Embossed with great stone serpents, the conical roofs of this brooding castle's many towers shine in the moonlight. Avoided by locals, the structure is often surrounded by a greenish haze of poisonous gas which leaks steadily from fanged sculptures in its walls.

Whistledown: Named for the distinctive wooden charms that hang from house eaves to turn the evening wind off the lake into haunting melodies, Whistledown lies at the western tip of the Fenwall Mountains, where Lake Syrantula becomes the Yondabakari once more. Although the town is home to almost as many humans as gnomes, Whistledown is generally regarded as the primary gnome settlement in Varisia, and most of the quaint white-walled cottages are sized accordingly. Although the town has a reputation as a peaceful, friendly trade stop, most non-gnome visitors find the town's nightly serenade disturbing in ways they can't quite explain.

Windsong Abbey: Established by pacifist, scholarly monks as a forum for interfaith discussion, the vast sandstone edifice of Windsong Abbey emerges from the seaside cliffs in sweeping arches and towers, stained glass windows catching the light and tunnels in its walls and foundation channeling the wind into music like that of a pipe organ. Although at one time clergy from all of Varisia's major religions, both good and evil, meet here to resolve conflicts and diplomatically further the goals of their various deities. Since Aroden's death several churches have withdrawn from the assembly, disregarding years of cooperation and collected prophecy. Although the abbey is an impressive architectural feat in its own right, the Masked Abbess and her closest advisors know it's actually built atop the ruins of a much older structure.

Wormwood Hall: Overgrown with creeping vines, this large manor house deep within the Lurkwood squats forebodingly, its windows dark and lintels covered with strange, twisting runes. While none in recent memory have ventured inside, many believe that Wormwood Hall is somehow tied to the forest's unnatural seasons.

Wyvern Mountains: This range's name says it all, and travelers here are advised to keep a sharp eye out for roving packs of the poisonous draconic predators that subsist on the mountain’s wild goats and free roaming llamas.

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MAGNIMARIAN HOLDINGS

The city of Magnimar is slowly bringing nearby settlements under its governance, setting itself up to become the capital of a fledgling nation.

Galduria: While the town of Galduria survives primarily by ferrying grain and lumber along the Lampblack River and Ember Lake, its true claim to fame is its college. By far the oldest structure in town, the Twilight Academy is one of the premier schools of magic in Varisia, rivaled only by the Stone of the Seers in Magnimar and the notorious Acadamae of Korvosa, both of which consider it an upstart devoid of their own rich heritages. Founded in Galduria specifically to avoid the political pressure and intrigues of those two cities, the Twilight Academy has a reputation as being experimental and unconventional in many of its practices, but frequent donations to public works keep locals from probing too deeply into the occasional haywire spell or necromantic accident.

Magnimar: Founded by former Korvosans seeking to throw off Chelish rule and form a democratic metropolis, the renowned city of Monuments lies at the southern tip of the Varisian Gulf, built up around one of the last surviving remnants of the enormous bridge that purportedly once stretched all the way to Hollow Mountain. It is one of the two major powers vying for control of Varisia.

Nybor: Renowned for its racial tolerance, this peaceful farming community has a greater number of half-breeds per capita than anywhere else in Varisia, and strongly encourages interracial marriages. While it occasionally draws the ire of puritan sects, many are the young Magnimarian noblewomen who are quietly bundled up and shipped off to Nybor when an illicit fling results in pregnancy.

Ravenmoor: A new small frontier town founded on the ruins of a much older Ravenmoor from centuries ago, this place has been recently been re-founded by prospectors and miners and bolstered by the rediscovery of Wave Echo Cave. The mighty Spellforge of that fabled mine is already producing impressively, and the gnome sorcerer Baron Zefer Tresendar has been formally adopted into the ranks of the Magnimar nobility. Tresendar and his friends have also re-founded the local village of Thundertree.

Sandpoint: Sandpoint is a sleepy fishing town known primarily for its excellent theater and exquisite glassblowing, and the only settlement of note on the Lost Coast. Of late, the town has been experiencing an unusual spate of murders and goblin troubles.

Wartle: A ramshackle trading post full of swampers and fur traders, Wartle perches on stilts above the muck of the Mushfens.

Wolf's Ear; At one time, Wolf's Ear was the lycanthrope version of a leper colony, where werewolves and other such persecuted humanoids could live together in relative safety and comfort. When the town was annexed by Magnimar, however, the Lord Mayor decided that such things were indecent and bankrolled a pogrom by the Church of Erastil designed to "cleanse" the town. In the ensuing bloody fracas, the Lycanthropes were driven underground, where the Magnimarian leaders, unprepared for such passionate resistance, were content to let them stay. The official Magnimarian position is that any rumors of lycanthropy are just that, and those pointing out the town's folk's unusual habits are quickly coerced into silence.

KORVOSAN HOLDINGS

The first Varisian colony established by the Chelaxian Empire, Korvosa still retains nominal control over several nearby townships in an attempt to preserve some of its former glory.

Abken: The town of Abken was founded on a belief: that given the right blend of people, a town might work as a single family, with no one man better than any other, Originally just a few families from the Korvosan underclass, this simple farming commune grew slowly, with new members admitted only through marriage or majority vote. Although friendly to strangers, the now sizeable village remains insular and tight-lipped about its internal processes, the large log palisade around the primary compound protecting its privacy, Outsiders causing trouble can expect to be subdued in short order, as every man, woman, and child is quick to raise arms in defense of their "family."

Biston: Here the shores of Lake Syrantula rise up from the water in a great overhanging cliff of stone. Covering the escarpment is an ancient and crumbling community, its caves drilled back into the rock to form a cozy, interconnected warren of ladders and ropes. Although the town is currently inhabited primarily by fishermen and farmers, its original architects are rumored to have been a now-extinct tribe of harpies.

Baslwief: Baslwief is one of the primary mining towns in the Korvosan region, its residents prying iron, copper, and rarer metals from the foothills of the Fenwall Mountains and shipping them downriver. In addition to human prospectors, the town boasts a large population of Halflings, who find the city’s frontier aesthetic much to their liking.

Korvosa: Formerly the capital of colonial Varisia, Korvosa suffered several years of turmoil after the fall of the Chelaxian Empire, and emerged from this struggle roughly equivalent with Magnimar in terms of political power, a fact that still irks many of Korvosa’s residents. These days, most of Korvosa’s decadent nobles continue to play up their ties to Cheliax and their endorsement of southern fashions, fancying themselves Varisia's center of culture and enlightenment. Whether or not such conceits are accurate, the city is certainly tied the closest to the land's imperial past.

Harse: This village perches on the spit of land where the Sarwin and Falcon Rivers meet, and the twin Harse Ferries are the easiest way for travelers in the area to cross either of the great rivers. In addition, Harse boasts the best horse and livestock breeders south of the Velashu Uplands, and each year holds an enormous rodeo designed to single out the best animals and riders.

Melfesh: The town of Melfesh stretches across the Yondabakari long piers, the river's current turning the numerous great waterwheels that power their grain and lumber mills. A vast drawbridge at the town's center raises and lowers, allowing the town to levy a toll from any ship or caravan wishing to pass, a practice that earns no love from the captains who trade on this stretch of the river.

Palin's Cove: Here the clear waters of the Falcon River turn brown and black as the factories of Palin's Cove, Formosa’s industrial center, vent waste material into its current. A relatively recent development, the factories have drawn great animosity and even violence from druids, Gozreh worshipers, and even ordinary smiths and craftsmen, but none can deny that the quality of the goods turned out by these workhouses provides a huge boost to the Korvosan economy.

Sirathu: This hamlet is both the poorest and farthest removed of Formosa’s holdings. Although generally dismissed by their "leaders" to the south as filthy peasants, the folk of Sirathu have recently come to the city's notice by rallying behind a 10-year-old child who reportedly predicts the future and urges secession from the corruption of Korvosa "before the storm breaks."

Veldraine: Known as the "Gateway to Korvosa," Veldraine is an important trade port and a key military position, given its placement at the mouth of Conqueror’s Bay. In addition to housing much of the Korvosan Navy and vast amounts of artillery, the town of Veldraine is also equipped with an enormous winch capable of raising an immense chain off the sea floor and stretching it taut across the bay's narrow mouth, sealing Korvosa off from the ocean and potentially stranding attackers in the bay, where they can easily be picked off.

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