The continent of Athalin was once ruled entirely by the elves of Meithannon. However, over the course of the last millennium their influence has diminished greatly to be replaced with the power of the Athalish empire on the eastern coast, which now acts as the namesake for the continent.
This great northern kingdom is populated primarily of elves. This kingdom has been in existence for roughly four thousand years, though it is now a fraction of its former size. The elves are somewhat distant towards newcomers and are not especially welcoming towards immigrants or visitors. A few non-elven explorers have set forth to explore these lands and those who have returned do so with vastly conflicting accounts of what the elven homeland looks like. The elven empire is protected with a potent magical ward which prevents any form of planar travel into their borders from without. The mountain ranges surrounding their territory are treacherous and filled with giants. The elves of Meithannon trade very little, but when they do, they do so with the nation of Meridian with whom they have a strong military alliance. Meithannon is very sparsely populated due, in part, to the very slow lifecycle of the elven people. The armies of Meithannon suffered greatly in the Tusk War over a century ago, and its military strength, based around veteran troops, has tarnished greatly. Until new recruits are trained and outfitted to the standard of the former guard (a process taking multiple centuries), the military strength of this nation, formidable though its individual soldiers may be, is spread far too thin for comfort. Meithannon is a verdant land of warm rolling hills and sparkling seas. A number of explorers recount that they have visited numerous islands in the nation, though no conclusive proof has ever been brought forward of lands beyond the elven mainland. In addition to the elves, the land is also home to a number of fearsome, though benevolent, draconic creatures known as felldrakes; a gift from Bahamut to the elven people countless centuries ago. There are countless settlements in Meithannon but traders are only encouraged to visit the capital Isille Meithannon. It is speculated that, unlike the capital, the other cities are barely populated and ill defended against attack.
Meridian was once a southern province of the Meithannon Empire, which, after the rise of the great red wyrm Tusk, was all but abandoned by the elves. There, in the shadow of the great dragon, humanity is thought to have had its humble beginnings around nine hundred years ago. After many generations, a hero among them rose to challenge the beast. Kora of Donlin banished Tusk to the Abyss for four hundred years, ushering in a golden age for humankind. She resurrected the city of Meridian as a thriving province and ruled it as part of the greater nation of Donlin. Donlin City was destroyed utterly when the dragon returned at the hands of the lich Mortalest, ushering in the short but terrible Tusk War, fought between a quickly formed elf-human alliance and the ravening hordes of the abyss pouring forth from the portal in the wake of the dragon. After the dragon’s final defeat at the hands of a legendary group of adventurers lead by Saint Anastal, a new nation was formed with Meridian as both its capital and namesake. Meridian has been much swifter than Meithannon in recovering from the horrors of the war and is now a significant power in the world. They are overshadowed however by the awesome might of the Athalish empire who could annex the lands of Meridian easily if the empress Dorensi so desired. Meridian came to the aid of Athalin during the exilic war and since then the empress has been satisfied to use Meridian as something of a waste basket into which her government can banish unwanted individuals, mostly remainders from the long-imposed Athalish caste system. With a few exceptions these newcomers adapt well to life in the nation of Meridian. Some newcomers form subversive organizations trying to plot a return to Athalin, sometimes to retake their lands, in other times to conduct acts of premeditated violence against the agents of the Athalish system. Human Meridianites are generally very devout particularly to Angelique, the Lady of Mercies; their observances lead by a sisterhood of female clergy. The Majority of mortal saints humanity reveres were born in this nation including Kora, Anastal, Tolast, and Nithalus. Meridianites have a number of euphemisms to refer to various deities; they consider it unwise to voice the names of deities unless calling on them directly.
The mighty dwarven city of Lothis Breck, deep in the earth under the northern reaches of Meridian, was recently reclaimed from the duergar by the hill dwarves in the region, who had for many centuries lived in exile in the nation of Donlin (now Meridian). In many respects the two nations still have a symbiotic bond, though they are formally distinct entities. Relations between the dwarves of Lothis Breck and the humans of Meridian are unquestionably strong. Lothis Breck is still fraught with frequent internal challenges stemming from the dark history of their city at the hands of the duergar. Although the dwarves have occupied the city for over a generation now, they still face occasional internal incursions brought on by duergar agents in their midst.
Dallaros is an arid nation populated by halflings and gnomes. In many ways, Dallaros is one of the few places truly home to the gnomes, who were relative newcomers to the prime material plane after immigrating en masse six hundred years ago from the plane of Bytopia. The gnomes and halflings of the nation now peaceably coexist, but centuries ago they formed distinct nations; the gnomes occupying the eastern portions of the realm, and halflings spread as normads across the desert. The gnomes and halflings were unified by the threat of some kind of now forgotten invading force, which legends hold was an army of dragons. The invaders were only repelled with the help of the humans to the north. The newly formed nation of Dallaros had dark times ahead, as the monarchy lead them into a period of strife and war. At the height of these dark ages, the gnomish King Graduin led his people to a conquest of the Athalish plains. The invasion was disastrous; the Athalish forces prevailed, killing Graduin in the process. Since that time the monarchy was disbanded and Dallaros has ever since been ruled by seven elected officials. These officials represent towns and districts of the capital city of Dallan. Dallaros is on good terms with Meridian, but is just shy of open hostility toward the empire of Athalin, which is renowned for its persecution of gnomes under the caste system.
The Beastlands are an area of rough terrain that separates the Athalish empire from Meridian. This terrain is well-known for producing tribal warlords among the tribes of more rugged humanoids. Some sages speculate that there may be ruins of an empire founded there before the elves of Meithannon reached these shores, as mysterious and powerful relics sometimes surface in the hands of savages there. In the last century the mages of Athalin built a number of teleportation circles to send exiles directly to Meridian but these were lost during the exilic war. Since that time an overland trading route has developed through the southern portions of the beastlands. Guards for caravans along this route are in high demand, and some caravans carrying important cargo operate with small armies surrounding them.
Recently, a fearsome Bugbear leader of the gobliniods has united a number of tribes, and has forged a goblin city in the foothills of Gold Mountain. This city poses a danger to Athalin and Meridian alike, and it is likely only a matter of time before war erupts in this region.
The Athalish Empire
The Athalish Empire, located on the eastern coast of the continent, is presently the most powerful nation in the known world. It was once a province of Meithannon but broke away shortly before the coming of Tusk.
Athal city is the cornerstone of the rise of the Athalish empire. The settlement of Athal was established over a thousand years ago at the mouth of the river Tirec. A group of ingenious merchant magi in the area made a pact with Mechalus that they and their decendants would honour him forever if he would help them forge a canal to the northern sea. This canal was built with the aid of Mechalus’ agents, and the trade between the islands and the inner sea quickly transformed the small town of Athal into the largest city in the known world. The elven aristocracy of Meithannon considered the actions of the Athalites to be blasphemous in turning away from Ataras, and considered launching an invasion. However, they were soon thereafter confronted with the Great Dragon Tusk in the province of Meridian, and were forced to let the Athalites declare independence. Athalin grew quickly from a city state to an empire, uniting the dwarves of the northern islands to the halflings of the southern plains. The ecomomy of the realm is impressive and even the lowest of elven aristocrats enjoy a level of finery unimagined by kings of other realms. The brisk pace of trade in the realm is facilitated through the maritime shipping, and through a system of perfectly straight roads uniting all neighbouring cities. In the years since the rise of Tusk, humans filtered into these lands fleeing the dragon. After six hundred years, humans now outnumber all other races in the region.
Two hundred years ago, in order to ensure the elves could retain power and preserve order in the face of growing numbers of allegedly volatile humans, a caste system was established in Athalin by Redorf III. This system required that each race fulfill a set role in society.
- Elves alone are deemed suitable for roles as bureaucrats, aristocrats, artists, and wizards.
- Dwarves are required to be skilled labourers; primarily they are miners but also are trained through apprenticeship as smiths and scribes.
- Humans are relegated the role of common workers, such as farmers, sailors, cooks, and soldiers.
- Halflings are considered the lowest of peasants who serve an entirely agricultural role under the guidance of the humans.
- Gnomes and orcs are despised and are simply banned from any labour. They are sometimes employed as slaves, but this practice is generally frowned upon; most often they are exiled.
- Those of joint heritage are generally fit into the caste of the lesser of their two heritages, although half-elves often enjoy more lofty positions within their caste than pureblood humans.
The nation is ruled by an oligarchy of elves; the descendants of the Merchant Magi overseen by Empress Dorenesi. Like her father before her, she keeps order in the face of ongoing concerns of overpopulation by ensuring a high rate of emigration, most recently to the Escher coast and Meridian. Her father Redorf III had forcefully exiled dissidents. This policy proved disastrous for the nation. A century ago, in the time shortly after the Tusk War, an army of exiles led by a potent wizard named Voxaminer returned to Athalin to try to reclaim their homes. Redorf was killed in the ensuing conflict, and the nation of Athalin was almost overrun by a force spearheaded by both chromatic and metallic dragons. Athalin was saved by virtue of reinforcements from Meridian coupled with some internal intrigue in the exile ranks culminating in Voxaminer’s complete disappearance. The exiles were then forced to return to Karalon permanently. The term Westerner refers to individuals who have ancestry in Athalin. This includes the descendants of the exiles and the settlers on the Echer coast.