“Contrary to popular belief, the outskirts are not where the world ends — they are precisely where it begins to unfurl.”
— Joseph Brodsky
Even with its politics and divisions, Falcon’s Reach is but one small community in a wider and wilder world. In fact, beyond its cobbled streets and slim towers there are vast stretches of wilderness before a traveler reaches the next safe destination.
The most traveled route from the city is probably down the Tien river to the Middlesea. As it flows northward, the river branches into a wide delta of swampy channels known as the Tangle. An open passage called the Cut was dredged by Venettine engineers more than a hundred years past and has become the major trade route for Arástavar lumber and finished goods from beyond. The smaller channels are often impassable or home to the region’s reptile men or other less than savory characters.
While still officially a Venetti military possession, the defense of the Cut has been ceded to the local Wardens. These homegrown heroes man the watchtowers and wayposts along the Cut, holding back the threat of the primitive marsh-dwelling reptile men and even more fearsome beasts. Their dominion gives way on the coast where the Venettine garrison based in Storr’s Haven keep control of the traffic and ensure that tariffs are fully enforced. Not to say that the Wardens deep knowledge of the Tangles have never aided a merchant to avoid unnecessary imperial attention.
There are also halflings among the Wardens, but they lean more toward slings than bows, and try to avoid hand combat as much as possible.
The reptile men of the Tangle do not actively threaten the local populace, but protect their control over the wild country with fierce determination. And, miscommunications with their saurian society have occasionally exploded into massive bloodshed on both sides.
These reptile men would be similar to the Varani as detailed here (http://imaginaeriemedia.com/2019/05/23/knight-of-the-iguana-playable-reptile-men-for-tft/), and make their lairs in the canopy, weaving wines and branches together for platforms and bridges.
Moving north and east toward the imperial capitol of Crixus is the old Amber Road. This gemstone, known as drops of the sun, was one of the earliest forms of currency on Almeri and is still widely-prized today. Its value in creating powerstones and other magical artifice boosted its value, and helped build the Venteri to the vast empire it is today. While the scope of the empire and the machinations of its noble classes have lessened its power in recent years, it remains a force to be reckoned with.
Disturbing rumors have recently claimed that the throne of the eternal empire has been usurped by a cabal of alien octopus that struck from the Middlesea aided by crablike Karikinid shock troops. If this is indeed true, no official proclamation has been made and officials from the capitol remain silent on the subject.
Down the Amber Road from Falcon’s Reach to the west the land flattens and drops into lowlands dominated by the large bay of Sycorax, known commonly as the Godless Realm. The Sycorans are a pale, slim intellectual people who have always looked to their minds to solve their problems rather than their brawn. The wide, shallow Sycorax Bay is the center of their society, and their towns and villages are built on boardwalks and artificially-raised land around this brackish tidal expanse. The Sycorans have always had a greater acceptance of wizards among their population, and have had little interest in the truth of the Pentarchy. In recent days, Sycorax has been acting with uncharacteristic unity and aggression, and it is feared that they are being aided by powers beyond their land, or even from the Scintillance beyond.
Upriver on the winding Tien are the rolling prairies and wooded vales of Tienlands dotted with small villages and outposts. Beyond that lies the vast forests of the Arástavar. This ancient woodland is home to the mighty hartwood trees that can rise to several hundred feet, and the elves that shepherd them. These folk are shy and secretive, and are sworn to protect the trees that they believe are the soul of the land. Harvesting of hartwood is a complex process, and only a handful of non-elves are even involved with it. And poaching of the lightweight, sturdy lumber is a dangerous enterprise for anyone.
The elves themselves live in small communities high in the hartwoods and communicate with each other by a network of griffin-mounted Nightriders. While the hartwood is crucial to the crafting of skyships, the elves themselves have very few, and those are usual the smaller sky skiffs manned by no more than five or six.
The Arástavar, and the snow-capped peaks on its southern boundaries, are also home to many tribes of gargoyles who often war with the elves. Their lack of more powerful magics put them at a great disadvantage in these conflicts, and the race often feels persecuted and hunted by the elves.
To the north — beyond Storr’s Haven in the depths of the storm-wracked Thessalan Expanse — rises a shallow maze of rocky reefs and stone pillars known as the Lethren Stacks. It is rumored that this was once an island kingdom that defied the will of Khark, who sunk the land in vengeance and turned its populace to octopus. While the origin is up for debate, there is no question that this region is a bane to shipping and known to harbor those aquatic raiders.
North of the stormy Middlesea lie the islands and rugged coasts of the Einen — fierce dark-skinned warriors and daring sailors of the frozen seas. But even they fear the Kivilim who live beneath the cliffs and snow-capped mountains above the fjords. These are the dwarves of legend, the small, broad, bearded bearers of the secret of steel. Their skill is unmatched, and their greed is nearly as great. They will not share their secrets, but their wares can be had if the price is right. While dwarves can be found in many mortal kingdoms, the working of the Kivilim is held in highest regard. It is said that even the giants bow to their skill.
Next time: Gods of Almeri