Flintlocks & Fireballs
The existence of habitable lands past the barrier wastes has only been proven in the last hundred years (before then they existed only in legend), and the Empire wasted no time in expanding it’s domain. At first a trickle of state-funded expeditions crossed the deserts of the equator, followed thirty years ago by the arrival of the railroad, and the founding of the first permanent human settlements.
The North itself is an area presumed to be roughly equal in size to the known world, although the vast majority of it remains uncharted. As the North began to be colonised, explorers continued to strike further into the continent and began to discover more and more outcrops of the hazardous mineral Etherite and an increasing number of ruins similar to the ones found in the South near the city of Praxia. Not all of the murals in the Praxian ruins have been decoded, but the ones so far investigated have showed cowled, alien beings and hinted at a considerable prize: the secrets of magic.
What is known is that races now extinct (or close to it) in Imperial lands are still established in the north, and that they are well aware (from refugee tales) that humans are a major threat to their survival; only the threat of Imperial might is stopping the colonies from being slaughtered.
This is something of a problem, given that the rebellion has completely stopped use of the railroad. The Empire were preparing for a big push of soldiers across the wastes to set up a network of guard towers and keep the current colonies protected, but the rebellion has delayed this and so most of the Northern colonies are having to deal themselves with the myriad dangers of the North: orc, elf and kobold raiders, enormous wild animals, and harsh weather. What with travel to the North being so difficult and most mail coming out there highly classified, there’s not an awful lot of detail beyond this: as far as most of the Empire knows, the North is potentially an enormous moneyspinner but right now it’s a hostile, unsettled clusterfuck. Life in most colonies is now defined by the knowledge that the population are living in hostile territory, and on borrowed time.
The rebellion in Mocte has had the biggest effect on the north, largely cutting off the transport of goods and people across the continent. While trains do sometimes still run, they are sporadic, and are mostly filled with refugees both ways. The moctarim often ambush trains, but have shown no desire to actually destroy the railroad, presumably keeping it as a last ditch escape-route. Regardless, it has become impossible for the empire to effectively control it’s colonies.
- Ledersburg is the largest colony in the north, built at the end of the established railroad, and was intended to be the counterpart of the Mocte end of the route across the barrier wastes. Aside from it’s (currently inoperative) connection to the south, temporary railroads link Ledersburg to the other major northern colonies – maintainence of these lines, which were intended to be replaced within a few months, is dangerous job (given the lands they run through), but is currently the only thing keeping the other colonies from being overrun. The population of Ledersburg is a mix of those convict labourers lucky enough to survive the construction of the railroad, and those who swarmed to the north looking for business opportunity. Ironically, had the rebellion not cut the north off from the Empire, Ledersburg would probably have been fertile ground for the rebels, but the population is far too busy holding together an infrastructure that was only ever intended as temporary to worry about rebellion now.
- Dig One still doesn’t have a real name, and if the rebellion hadn’t started, it might never have felt the lack. Linked by a hastily-constructed temporary railroad to Ledersburg when the Empire realised the importance of the ruins, the site was intended to be a purely scientific station, with any needed resources being imported. Given current events, and the Imperial standing orders of “Do Not Lose Control Of This Site”, Dig One has developed into the second city of the north, and is easily the most fortified imperial colony.
- Newmoor (previously known as Volpesholm) started as a plantation based on dwarven labour – the north was full of strange new crops, and the Volpe family had intended to build their name on the associated trade. When contact with the Empire was severed, though, the father Jurgen (a minor cousin of the family) was able to give his blessings to his daughter’s love for their dwarven overseer. Within a few months, the renamed Newmoor became a dwarven city with a few human occupants, and is currently the most stable colony – the dwarven population are very nearly trusted by the northern natives, and the other human colonies depend on Newmoor for food supplies. It’s important to realise, however, that Newmoor has no connection to the rebellion, and is simply a small colony which has found itself unexpectedly in a position to redefine the law. The fact the Empire hasn’t exterminated Newmoor, or even been able to prevent knowledge of it, is a testament to how severely the Empire has lost control of the north.
- Mocayn was an attempt by the Moctarim traditionalists to avoid having to join the rebellion. The premise was simple – to send a large group to any northern jungles, and recreate the old Moctarim way of life there after slipping outside of the imperial colonies. The plan may have worked, had the jungles not been filled with creatures who knew of the Blood Wars, and reacted accordingly to a ‘human invasion’. The survivors are still unwilling to rejoin the colonies, and scratch out a living from banditry, often hiding among the rail repair crews before springing an ambush. The other survivors are those who really got to grips with their image of ancient moctarim ways, and are mostly content just to coat themselves in blood and howl at the railway.
- The railroad functions as a route from the mocte heartlands into the north. The moctarim leaders would love to leave the south and take their people north, but the use of the railroad depends on coal to power the trains – a resource that isn’t readily available from Mocte lands or the colonies.