Introduction to Atheria: The Thousand Realms

  Here’s the next segment in the Introduction to Atheria series; this time around the Thousand Realms of the Dimensional Magic Domain. As always, the birthright packages can be found on the Races of Atheria page and the characters for the setting use the abilities from Eclipse: The Codex Persona, a classless d20 system (also available in a shareware version HERE).

   The Domain of Dimensional Magic, better known as The Thousand Realms, was the domain that welcomed humanity to Atheria some seven and a half thousand years ago. Behind them, suspended in the spaces between the worlds, Almin and the Emissary sacrificed themselves to raise near-eternal barriers – drawing on the Blood of the Dragon in a place which is not, standing within view of both the refuge they bought and the final collapse of the Ancient Realm – and barring the way to both.

   The welcome was not a warm one. Even at first glance, it was obvious that the realm the refugees had entered was a mountainous wilderness, tangled, twisted, and doubtless strewn with monsters. The refugees were scattered, many injured – and some transformed – by the Blood of the Dragon in their flight between the worlds. Their resources were exhausted, their gods slain, their great warriors and mages dead – and what little technical and magical lore they still possessed with little relevance to the laws of the world they had come to.

   Still, the barriers had been raised. Wherever they were, this world would be the only one that they or their descendants would ever know.

   The landscape of the domain is built around a core of rugged mountains, hills, and valleys – spurs of the Rian Mountains extending into the Boreal Sea – and the alluvial plains built up around them by the regular storms drifting in from the Storm Domain to the southwest. The climate varies drastically: in the west Nial and the Iretan peninsula are warmed by the currents of the Maelstorm Sea, while, in the east, Senthar is chilled by the Ice Domain. Much of the rugged landscape is covered by forests (broadleaf in the west, running to conifers in the east) or highland meadows. The fertile lowlands support the bulk of the three million inhabitants.

   Unfortunately, the domain is more than a bit unstable. It’s lands tend towards spatial distortions, trackless forest depths, portals to strange places, weird extradimensional monsters, and similar problems. This makes governing the area something of a nightmare and exacerbates the problems involved in putting down rebellions (hence, for example, Dernmarik’s ongoing problems in the Iretan highlands). Hence most authority is purely local; a patchwork of baronies, duchies, estates, freetowns, and other protectorates which are – at best – loosely united in larger confederations.

   Today the Thousand Realms include Dernmarik, the fallen realm of Senthar, and a dozen smaller realms. Thanks to the domain’s tendency to foster the rise of mighty heroes, and the carefully-conserved power bloodlines tracking back to those few who were imbued with the Blood of the Dragon (and survived) during the dimensional crossing, it’s history has been epic – filled with heroes, villains, and mighty monsters – and essentially futile. A mighty hero and his or her companions will found a kingdom, raise it to prominence – and either see it fall with them or pass it on until it is in weak hands when another mighty hero arises. Those few realms that do achieve temporary stability tend to be crushed by the periodic expansions and contractions of the Alarian Imperium.

   Currently the Kingdom of Dernmarik controls most of the Iretan Peninsula, as well as a fair chunk of the lands around the Bay of Rani – and roughly three-quarters of the total population of the domain. Unsurprisingly, given the rocky and flood-prone landscape, much of the agricultural development focuses on herding, orchards, and vine crops, with grains and similar crops restricted to the limited areas of better ground. Mining – and the export of metals and minerals to the Alarian Imperium to the south – is also a major industry. Unfortunately, while Dernmarik has established a network of strongpoints throughout the Iretan Highlands and lays claim to Nial, it must deal with constant low-level rebellions in the Highlands and only really controls a few colony-cities on Nial. The semi-nomadic herders of Nial really don’t pay a lot of attention to their supposed “overlord” and most of the cities have obtained free-city charters. Still, Dernmarik is second only to the Alarian Imperium as a military power, and possesses the only formal “navy”, in western Atheria. In conjunction with sailors from Parack, the ships of Dernmarik actually maintain some trade with HuSung and are popularly rumored to have circumnavigated the continent – a feat otherwise unheard-of.

   The government is feudal under King Jarith (crowned in 342 local, 7181 Imperial), and is fairly exceptional: a series of adroit choices of heir, arranged marriages, feudal bargains and – perhaps most importantly – a fervent embrace of the Varnic Church – have made Dernmarik exceptionally long-lived as kingdoms go in the Thousand Realms: it has survived nearly 380 years since its founding by King Farell, and may well survive for even longer. Jarith has a reputation for being reasonably fair, has several young-adult children (none of which have yet tried to overthrow him), and so far has successfully maintained a shrewd balance between the various noble houses of the domain.

   At the moment, troublemakers are being diverted into attempts to reclaim abandoned border territories, and the entire realm of Senthar, from the hordes of monsters (apparently left over from the last major monstrous incursion in 340-344) infesting them. So far, one Lord Godwin and his companions have apparently been the most successful at the project, although they have recently been severely hindered by a series of massive monster attacks and their domains are, as yet, relatively small. Dernmarik recognizes children as adults at 14. At 10 and up they have the right to leave their parents or refuse apprenticeship. Below that, they’re property of their parents. Nobles have the right to bear arms in cities and into courts and have various other privileges. Armed commoners are regarded with suspicion unless they’re associated with a noble. Approximately 15% of the population is enslaved, with a fair percentage of them being young highlanders. When the highlands were still independent, and had their own king, they recognized age of majority at 12.

   While barter is common, Dernmarik does mint currency in the form of Copper Bits (1/12’th an Erl) and Erls (in 1, 3, 4, and 6-Erl denominations). At 6 Erls – a weeks wages for a laborer – theft is no longer considered petty crime (punishable by beatings or enslavement) and may result in the death penalty. Silver Shards (worth 24 Erls) are employed by merchants and skilled craftsmen. A Shard is a weeks wages for a skilled crafter. Great merchants and nobles may deal in Golden Pounds (worth 50 Shards, or about a pound of silver – enough to support a tradesman and his family, or four or five peasant families, for a year). A few bejeweled, enchanted, Orichalcum Dragons worth 50 to 100 Pounds have been minted as display pieces, but such a coin is virtually impossible to actually spend. Unfortunately, Dernmarkian coinage must compete with the coins of the Alarian Imperium, with coins from the hundreds of other coinage systems (some using very bizarre metals or materials indeed) which have been used over the last seven millennia, with barter, and with the tendency of the miners to deal in raw lumps of precious metals. Finally, of course, Dernmarkian coins are rare in Nial and are often refused in the Iretan Highlands.

   Dernmarik – and previously Senthar – is the major stronghold of the Varnic Church, the official state religion, although the worship of Lord and Lady (hunt-fertility-harvest deities, their worship is officially banned since a major series of rebellions in 264 local) continues in the Highlands. Unsurprisingly in a realm with such a variety of extra-dimensional visitors, a wide variety of eccentric minor cults and faiths pop up on a regular basis. If they become too public, or too troublesome, they tend to be dealt with harshly.

   The plants and animals of the Thousand Realms are among the most troublesome on Atheria. Most of them manipulate the dimensions in some way – leading to animals that pop in and out of pocket dimensions, reflexively blink-teleport to avoid predators, phase through obstacles, and distort reality around them to suit themselves – and not a few acquire the Dragon-Born template via exposure to dimensional rifts or accidents with interacting birthrights. Perhaps even worse, occasional extra-dimensional animals with totally unpredictable powers and abilities put in appearances – some have even managed to establish their species in the Thousand Realms – and virtually ALL such imports will be numbered among the Dragon-Born. The Thousand Realms do indeed need their heroes very very badly.

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