Kalder: Nations and Peoples

William T. Thrasher

In previous installments of the Kalder developer blog we’ve looked at the general concepts behind the risen land of East Kalder and some of the key locations on its frontier. This week we take a look at West Kalder, home to the bulk of the continents' population, the birthplace of many of the setting’s heroes, and home to the kingdoms and petty empires eager to expand into East Kalder.

 

Balkazi – A mountainous nation extending from the base of The Horn and along West Kalder’s northern coast, Balkazi is dominated by independent city states each owing allegiance to the Shield Lord, a military leader charged with protecting the city states and adjudicating conflicts between them. At times a glorified functionary and at others a military dictator, the Shield Lord does not rule Balkazi as such. Rather, the Shield Lord rules the roads and mountainous wastes between the city states.

Each city state in Balkazi is free to govern itself as it sees fit provided it pays a regular levy to the Shield Lord. As a result, each city state has developed in relative isolation and peace for generations, with each city state having its own culture and industries. Robust trade between the city states, all under the supervision of the Shield Lord, binds the city states together, with many merchants extending their lines of trade into neighboring nations to increase Balkazi’s economic and cultural influence.

Though adherents to virtually any god can be found in Balkazi, Edarh of the Wheel is worshipped across all the city states for one simple reason. Balkazi plays host to the Cynosure, a caste of monks dedicated to Edarh in his aspect as both The Wheel and The Hand That Turns. Though the Cynosure was once spread thinly across all Kalder, in recent centuries they were exiled from surrounding lands and took refuge in the mountains of Balkazi. In the current age the rulers of every city state are advised by the Cynosure and their oracles, and the Shield Lord himself counseled by the Breathing Abbots, the highest order of the Cynosure attainable by the living.

 

Dufay – Enlightened and egalitarian, Dufay was once the supreme naval power in Kalder. Her mighty fleets patrolled the waters of the world, and her knightly Orders of Conquest exploited lands as distant as Tuval, and her sophisticated merchant princes traded with the Hierarchs of Tan-Gow and the God-kings of Uv. However, the golden age of Dufay may be coming to an end.

Though a small nation, the harbors and shipyards of Dufay once covered the majority of Kalder’s eastern coastline. However, with the rising of East Kalder from the sea the grand port cities of the Empire of Sails found themselves landlocked our destroyed outright in the upheaval. Cut off from the open sea and the steady influx of resources and riches it’s navies once supplied, Dufay is desperate to expand into East Kalder before its accumulated wealth runs out. Unfortunately, its attempts to establish new harbor cities in the risen land have met with disaster, and its one great success in the region, Boneyard Bay, is now in the hands of Admiral Aliz Greythorne, a woman who owes allegiance to no one but herself.

Further complicating Dufay’s desperate situation is its large elf underclass. When East Kalder first sank into the ocean the cataclysm sent countless elf refugees fleeing west. Those who fled to Dufay, then a crude nation ruled by despotic counts loosely connected by blood, were offered a simple choice by an ambitious countess who’s meager territory sat upon the newly formed Break. The elves could march back over the Break, or sign their lives and the lives of their children to the countess in exchange for refuge. Backed by the blood, magic, and expertise of the elves she sheltered, the Countess Dufay brought the other counts to heel and declared herself the first Empress of the nation that would go on to bare her name. Though nominally vassals, the elves of modern Dufay are all but slaves. It was the exploitation of elvish labor and arcane science that made Dufay a world power, and its elf population is a resource the Empire of Sails guards more jealously than any other.

 

Kovahki Nations – The northernmost lands of West Kalder, a protrusion extending up into a subarctic point known as The Horn, are composed of hills and steppes dominated by roving clans of humans and orcs known collectively as Kovahki (singular: Kovahk). The clans that make up the core of Kovahki society are too fractious and independent to be considered a nation in their own right, and out of a sense of tradition and pride each clan considers itself a nation in and of itself, albeit a nation with no fixed boarders that each Kovahk is expected to carry in their heart and defend with their life.

Culturally, there is little to distinguish human and orc Kovahki. Both live nomadic lives, both decorate their bodies with similar tattoos and ritual scars, both share a common language (Kov-Kahl: literally “the runner’s tongue”), and both engage in raiding, trade, and collecting tribute as means to support their clan. Indeed, marriage between orc and human Kovahki is common, as are the half-orcs born from such unions. It is said by clan elders that a drop of orc blood flows from the heard of all human Kovakhi, and vice versa.

Among the lands claimed by the Kovahki Nations are small tribes of sedentary peoples who engage in agriculture and metalworking, trading food and iron goods with nearby Kovahki clans in exchange for protection against raiding parties that might pass through their territory.

Outside of the Kovahki Nations proper, Kovahki can be found working as mercenaries, bandits, guides, and adventurers.

 

Talice – Formerly the spiritual center of West Kalder, the capital of the theocratic nation state of Talice is the site of the oldest known center of organized worship in West Kalder: the Axial Tabernacle of Edarh of the Wheel. The Axial Tabernacle’s influence once spread over the whole of Western Kalder, but since the exile of the Cynosure the organized worship of Edarh fell out of favor across the continent, though satellite temples of Edarh can still be found in most major cities attended by a few devout priests.

Since the Axial Schism, as the exile came to be called, Talice has maintains its independence from the major nations of West Kalder thanks to a mix of respect for the Tabernacle’s dwindling spiritual authority and fear of the Bespoken, the society of holy warriors sanctioned by the Axial Tabernacle and instructed in secret techniques that make them peerless fighters and unerring judges. Where the worship of Edarh falters the reputation of the Bespoken still inspires awe.

The upheaval of East Kalder has sparked new interest in the word of Eharh, and as people push into the risen lands the Axial Tabernacle goes with them. The powers that be in Talice seek to convert this new generation of pioneers to the faith and expand its boarders as well, transitioning from nation state to true empire in the process.

 

Undal – An ambitious nation situated along West Kalder’s southern coast, Undal was Dufay’s chief rival on the world’s seas. Possessing only a small navy and a handful of colonies along the volcanic island chain known as the Torc, Undal’s policy of offering sanctuary to privateers targeting Dufay merchantmen made it a constant thorn in the side of the Empire of Sails. When the upheaval of East Kalder left Dufay landlocked and much of her navy destroyed, Undal suddenly found itself without competition on the high seas. What followed was a period of rapid expansion as Undal attempted to seize trade routes and settlements from Dufay and head off other nations’s expansion into East Kalder by settling every promising spot along its coast. Regrettably, Undal spread itself too thin and its ambitions of empire stalled.

The final blow came when Undal dispatched Captain Aliz Greythorne of the Widow’s Spite to seize Boneyard Bay, Dufay’s new port city and the hub for sea trade in and out of East Kalder. Greythorne, bastard daughter of Undal’s late ruler Prince Alfrech, lead a massive assault into the heart of Boneyard Bay, seizing the port city after a days-long battle along sea and land. However, rather than returning home to Undal a hero, Greythorne claimed the Boneyard for herself, declared herself Admiral of the Open Waters, and turned a sizable portion of the Undalise navy into her own private fleet.

The human population of Undal rarely practices arcane magic, believing the process of memorizing and casting spells burns out the spellcaster’s mind. As a result, wizardry and sorcery are left to Undal’s elf population. Descended from elf refugees lucky enough to escape vassalage to Dufay, elves in Undal are a somewhat marginalized but free people. Every major city un Undal has an elf quarter, and within these cloistered communities many ancient traditions and arcane sciences from before the sinking of East Kalder are preserved.

 

The Hollowdeeps – Extending throughout all of West Kalder is a subterranean realm known as the Hollowdeeps. Home to dwarves, halflings, and drow, the Hollowdeeps are not a true nation, but a labyrinthine territory often contested by the humanoids who live within. Of all denizens of the Hollowdeeps, halflings are most familiar to those who dwell on the surface world. Skilled husbandmen and hearers, halflings build elaborate homestead mounds over entrances to the Hollowdeeps, tending the surrounding lands and engaging in all other industries below ground. Most dwarves live their entire lives in the Hallowdeeps, engaging in mining, quarrying, the occasional inter-clan honor duel, and turning natural caverns into architectural miracles. Seeing themselves as the elite of the Hollowdeeps, the matriarchal drow dedicate themselves to the perfection of magic, art, guile, and subtle warfare, all to advance their House above its rivals. Conflict between drow and dwarves is common, and both societies maintain cordial relations with halflings if only to have ready access to the surface world when needed. The pens of the drow are well stocked with slaves seized in surface raids or traded with the aid of unscrupulous halflings.

The upheaval of East Kalder collapsed many sections of the Hollowdeeps, opened up others, and flooded many more. As a result, members of all three Hollowdeep peoples have been pushed to the surface. Still others are discovering that the lightless tunnels of the Hollowdeeps extend into East Kalder and are eager to expand. However, progress is slow and rumors abound that the Hollowdeeps of East Kalder are fare from uninhabited.

 

We’ll look more at the gods, powers, and religions of Kalder in the next developer blog. See you then!