Roldem is an ancient land, and is considered to be the seat of all things cultural and refined in the world. Fashion, literature, music, all flow from the court of Roldem.
The city contains a hive of shops clustered along each street, the press of people of all stripes - young, old, men and women, merchants, sailors, nobles and commoners. The scent of the sea can be found everywhere.
The Port of Roldem, harbor to the capital city, is one of the most crowded in the Sea of Kingdoms. Trade goods and passengers from the Empire of Great Kesh, the Kingdom of the Isles, and half a dozen lesser nations nearby come and go daily. Roldem is a busy port by any standard; not only are goods delivered there, but also transshipped, for Roldem is the trading capital of the Sea of Kingdoms.
The royal crest of Roldem is a dolphin leaping from a wave over a star.
The Masters' Court:
Over two hundred years before Talon of the Silver Hawk, the King of Roldem had commanded a tourney to name the greatest swordsman in the world. Nobles, commoners, soldiers and mercenaries had travelled from as far away as beyond the Girdle of Kesh - the mountains that separate the northern and southern halves of the Empire, the Far Coast of the Kingdom, and all points in between. The prize had been fabled: a broadsword fashioned from gold and studded with gems - an artefact worth a kingdom's taxes for years and years.
For two weeks the contest had continued until a local noble, a Count Versi Dango, had prevailed. To the King's astonished delight, he announced he would reject the prize, so that the King might make use of the value of the sword to pay for the construction of an academy dedicated to the blade, and there hold the contest on a regular basis: and thus the Masters' Court was born.
The King ordered the construction of the school which covered an entire city block in the heart of the island kingdom's capital, and over the years it had been rebuilt and refined, until now it resembled a palace as much as a school. Upon its completion, another tourney had been organized, and Count Dango had prevailed in defence of his rank as premier swordsman in the world.
Every fifth year the contest was held, until on his fourth defence, Count Dango was wounded in his match by the eventual winner and was forced to retire from the contest. Since then thirty-two different men have won the championship, with Talwin Hawkins the most recent.
The Disputed Lands:
Olasko, Salmater, Miskalon, Roskalon, Maladon, Semrick, Far Lorin, and Aranor.
South of Olasko lie the lands controlled by the Lords of the Border, a group of duchies constantly at one another's throats: Miskalon, Ruskalon, the Duchy of Maladon and Simrick, Salmater and Far Lorin. The only successful conquest in the history of that sad region was when Maladon subdued Simrik two hundred years before the Darkwar. All contend over the Disputed Lands, and Olasko ensures that no one quite gets the upper hand.
To Olasko's west is the Principality of Aranor. Beyond Aranor is Far Lorin and Opast. Both have close ties with the Kingdom of the Isles, though both have warred with the Isles in the past.
The southeastern corner of Olasko is a network of islands and waterways, with only one habitation of any size, the port city of Inaska. Hundreds of villages dot the thousand or more islands, which rest in what is in reality the mouth of the Anatak River. The rest of the islands are lush plantations of fruits, cotton and flax, intercut by glades full of exotic trees and animals, and a few hills high enough to encourage dry-land faming. But on the north shore of the river, above a small but thriving harbor, rested Opardum.
The city seems to be carved out of the face of the mountain, which is an illusion. From the sea, it looks as if a jumble of spirals and towers sprout out of the rock-face of a mountain thousands of feet in the air. The mountains are really a massive cliff, and at the top a relatively flat grassland ran downhill for a dozen miles to the west. There a series of fault lines cut canyons and crevasses across the entire region, making use of that land impossible to anything that couldn’t fly to reach it. Beyond that jumbled landscape lay vast grasslands and woodlands, still wild for the most part, until the city of Olasko Gateway was reached.
Compared to Rillanon, Roldem, Salador or even Krondor, Olasko has a small harbor. Behind it the city is relatively flat, then suddenly rises up on an incline, an almost evenly sloped face of soil and rock that has been terraced over the years and connected by ramps and streets. Then suddenly the citadel rises up behind, hard against the cliff-face, dug back deep into the rock.
The citadel is massive, rising ten stories above the foundations, surrounded by a wall of less than half that size. At the corners, towers rise up another twenty or so feet, so that overlapping archer fire can stop anyone coming up through the city to the citadel.
Olasko has two cultivated regions, the islands to the south, and the great rolling meadowlands and hills between Olasko Gateway and the border with the Principality of Aranor. Most of the land between Opardum and Olasko Gateway is forest and wild prairie, very dangerous to cross, so most commerce between the two cities is by the river.
The language of the region is similar to Roldemish, as settlers from that island had founded the various nations that comprised the Eastern Kingdoms. The exception being the Duchy of Maladon and Semrick, which had been settled by men from the Kingdom city of Ran. They spoke both the King’s Tongue and a local dialect of Roldemish.
Fortress of Despair:
The Fortress of Despair was an old keep, six stories tall, which overlooked the narrow passage between this island and the mainland, merely three miles away.
One of the first Dukes of Olasko built it. Then it was called Fortress Sentinel. When the City of the Guardian was built up, it sort of fell into disuse, until one of the old dukes decided to make a prison out of it.
Bardac's Holdfast is hardly a nation at all. The original ruler, King Bardac the First, was a pirate with delusions of grandeur and his descendants are hardly any more than that. Most of the "nobility" of that land are robber barons and their King rules most effectively by leaving them alone.
The city of Latagore rests upon the shore of an inlet, miles across, which gives it the appearance of having been set down by some giant hand in a crook of the shoreline.
The city has a wall around it, extending a hundred yards or more into the water. The citadel in the middle of the city rises high enough to overlook everything for miles. It was once a castle erected to defend the lake shore. The city grew up around it.
Kendrick's rises three storeys in the air and the roof is covered with stone tiles rather than thatch or wood. It is painted white, with wooden trim around the doors and windows, the shutters and doors having been painted a cheery green. Several chimneys stretch into the sky.
The inn sits in the centre of a natural clearing, but the stumps of a fair number of trees reveal that it has been enlarged over the years. The stumps are covered with grasses and brambles, but the road into the woods has been kept clear.
The walls are stout, and the forest on all sides had been cleared sufficiently to give archers on the wall a clear field of fire. The road from the woods turns abruptly halfway to the inn and circles around to gates on the other side of the inn. No ram or burning wagon caeasily be run along to destroy the iron banded gates and gain entrance. Archers in the upper windows can provide a second rank of defenders to support anyone on the wall. Murder-holes sit above each door. Hot oil or water, or arrows can be directed down at anyone in front of the door.
The Orosini were a fair race, and brown hair was considered unusual. Conted fierce hunters, even trolls usually gave the villages of the Orosini a wide berth. Orosini cooking was done over open fires or in large communal ovens, but never in a central location. They could be an emotional people, given to loud celebration in times of joy and tears in times of sorrow. Open amongst themselves, talking about their thoughts and feelings easily, even with those not of the immediate family, they appeared stolid, even taciturn to outsiders.
The Orosini possess a strong sense of honour. When a man of the Orosini saves the life of another, the man who was saved was considered to be at the call of the other. It was as if he became a member of that family, but without the privileges of that membership. He was honour-bound to ensure that his saviour's family ate, even should his own go hungry. He was obliged to help bring in his saviour's crops before his own. In every way, the rescued man was in debt to the other.
Each Orosini boy endures his naming ritual upon the midsummer day close to the time of his birth anniversary in one of the many holy places scattered throughout the region. For years beyond numbering boys had climbed Shatana Higo, and men had returned.
The Orosini believe the world is a dream, fashioned by the gods, living in the mind of the Sleeper. People are part of that dream. But to men everything is real, because who can know what is real to a god?
The Orodon are distant kin to the Orosini, though they are plainsmen and fishermen of the deep oceans, not mountain people. They have villages, but no cities, so each winter many of them journey south and in the early spring come here to the market in Latagore. There are traders who also put in at coastal villages up and down the land of the Orodon regularly.
Queala was a large village, for it had thirty families living within its walls. There were four common buildings, the men's long house, the women's round house, a community kitchen, and a bathhouse. Smaller homes filled the stockade, with only a central clearing left empty.
The village had only two walls that could readily be attacked -- the south and the west, where the main gate was. The north wall overlooked a very steep hillside which should be impossible for a significant number of men to climb; two bowmen could easily sit up on the wall there and pick off any attackers foolish enough to try to come at the village that way. The east wall overlooked a gorge that fell away sixty feet below the base of the wall.