Flintlocks & Fireballs
“Praxia: imports dead men walking, exports the walking dead”
—Latrine graffiti, work camp 7
“I saw two armies, each stretching as far as the eye could see, all composed of the long-dead, frozen in combat, as though the powers controlling them had become bored and walked away from the gaming table.”
— Kesh the Valiant
Praxia is the name given to the loosely-defined area extending from the southern-most parts of the empire, down to the south pole. Very little is known for certain about this massive region, and until recently the Empire regarded the area as a wasteland with no redeeming features, certainly not worth the effort of pacifying.
For a long time, Praxia had been of entirely academic interest: ancient ruins within the area indicated an ancient culture perhaps older even than Arakesh, but they were so few and in such a poor state of repair that barely anything about the so-called Praxians could be discerned.
Then with the discovery of the Northern continent, everything changed. Matching Praxian ruins were found in the North, and from them the secret of spellgem carving was learned. All of a sudden the ruins in the South became a military secret, with every would-be mage scrambling to find what new secret of spellgem carving might be hidden in the ruins. Currently, Imperial researchers believe that the ruins date from more than a thousand years ago, and that the culture was wiped out in the space of a few years. The drive to uncover Praxia’s past has uncovered a little of the region’s history, though it has still shed no light on the original Praxians.
At the height of the Yeboa dynasty, the then-great Arakesh shared a border with Praxian territory, though even then they knew little about their reclusive neighbours. Amedi IV was ruler of Arakesh at the time, and was a devoutly religious man. He started a great crusade to purge the world of the undead, seeing them as blasphemies against gods now lost to Senescence. With the massive resources he had at his disposal, he was wildly successful, and drove virtually all the unliving from his lands. The more intelligent saw what was coming, and ran before they were slaughtered, fleeing south into Praxian lands. Assaulted by wave after wave of powerful monsters seeking to create new territories, the Praxian people were almost wiped out overnight.
Since then, Praxia has become a battleground for necromancers and other sentient undead – those who depend on the living for sustenance tending towards the relatively hospitable north, and those fuelled by their own dark energies occupying the frozen south.
The only living native population are those unfortunates ‘kept’ by vampires and their kin, surviving as cattle in squalid villages at the foot of their lords’ castles, and they have long since lost any recollection of their old culture, their only aims being to survive as best they can until Master gets hungry.
With the decline of Arakeshi power, some undead recolonised the north, but many stayed where they were (mostly those with no need for the living) – they didn’t care about the freezing cold or the howling winds, and many reasoned that control of an area where the living couldn’t survive meant that they would be left alone to their schemes (which has proved mostly true).
The rise of the Empire sent another wave of undead (along with other non-humans) into Praxia, fleeing from death at the hands of the Imperial Legions. This wave of refugees met with a nasty suprise – even the most powerful of their Dark Lords were as children to the ancient rulers of the south, whose war had long since reached a stalemate (though by no means a peace) into sprawling fiefdoms under the control of less than a dozen massively powerful liches and vampires, who united to stamp out any power-grabs by the newcomers, killing any who were a threat, and pressing the weaker ones into service.
When the potential of the Praxian ruins was truly discovered the Empire quickly moved into the area, using convict labour pools to excavate the ruins and haul them wholesale back to Selfheim for analysis.
Knowing the reputation of the area for producing monsters, the Empire heavily fortified its dig sites and shipments. But no large-scale attack from the undead has yet occurred – whether from fear of the Empire’s response to an attack, or simply that they’re content to wait until the empire leave (the undead work on very different timescales to the living), the dead kings of the south leave the empire free from their constant turf wars. Of course, that’s little consolation to the droves of convict workers who are killed by Praxia itself, frozen to death in the howling wastes while digging in frozen ground, hunting for ruins.