The Scavenger Lands
The Scavenger Lands are more than a nest of rebels against the iron-booted Realm. They represent a region of diverse nations, dominated by the cities of Nexus and Lookshy, but bound together by the Confederation of Rivers. Internal strife wracks them more than any other region. Kingdom fights kingdom for ideology, for arable land, for access to the rivers, even just to take slaves for the Guild’s traders. Yet despite this turmoil, the Scavenger Lands are also a bastion of freedom for anyone who has the strength to take it. Here, a kingdom can truly rule itself, without the Realm’s satraps leaning over the king’s shoulders. Here, a woman can worship as she wishes, without being burned alive for heresy by the Immaculate Order. A god can even accept that worship without fear of punishment.
The Scavenger Lands have paid their own price to remain free of the Realm. They are militarily dependent on the sheltering might of Lookshy, even if the Confederation of Rivers theoretically gives every nation or state a voice. The economic tendrils of The Guild are wound throughout the province tightly enough to throttle it should it so desire, making the Guild almost an unspoken ruler of the region. The Scavenger Lands are fiercely independent, however, and they intend to remain that way.
The Scavenger Lands lie to the east of the Realm, across the Inland Sea, covering the area that was once known as the River Province. During the First Age, the River Province was the heartland of the Old Realm, famed for its mineral wealth and fertile soil. It was shattered by the Great Contagion and the subsequent invasion of the Fair Folk, which decimated cities, left settled places warped and ruined, destroyed mines and twisted wide swathes of landscape. Shadowlands sprang up where the death toll was highest, and many of the region’s great manses succumbed to abandonment and decay.
After the Scarlet Empress drove back the fae, refugees from throughout Creation made their way to the River Province, remembering its fabled wealth and bounty. They found a ruined land, dark battlefields and desperate survivors, but together they worked to rebuild. Fifty years later, envoys from the Realm found fledgling city-states, many of whom saw no need to bend knee to the Scarlet Empress. Five years later, the legions of the Realm marched on the “upstart nations,” and within two years of fighting, only two major powers in the River Province remained free: Sijan and Lookshy.
However, the land was easier to take than to hold. Led by the Seventh Legion and by Legion-trained resistance cells, the armies of the River Province eventually forced the Realm’s troops back and away. Lookshy solidified the nascent links between states into a full alliance, which was fortunate for the region as two more invasions from the Realm followed and were beaten back (mainly thanks to Lookshy’s large stock of First Age weaponry and trained soldiers).
The nations of the region formed the League of Many Rivers, and while this arrangement openly embraced regional conflicts and permitted member-states to solve disputes through military force, it gave the region an identity and sent a clear signal to the Realm. For its part, Lookshy established a rigorous military society and training methods, making good use of its First Age weaponry.
The League survived a great deal of internecine warfare, another invasion from the Realm, the Arczeckh barbarian horde’s march from the Far East, and a Fair Folk invasion from the Wyld. After the Fair Folk were driven out, primarily by Nexus mercenaries and Lookshy troops, the Confederation of Rivers was formed to establish formal military and political relations between the region’s powers. Almost 200 years of peace followed, during which there was no definite threat to the Scavenger Lands’ existence.
Over the last two decades, several events have shaken the Scavenger Lands and caused major changes in the River Province’s political landscape.
Twenty years ago, the Scarlet Empress chose to instigate military conflict over the succession of Thorns, a major metropolis and key imperial tributary situated on a number of trade routes and only a few hundred miles from the edge of the Scavenger Lands. The younger son of the previous Autocrat seized power with the assistance of Imperial advisors, commandos and First Age weapons and then declared war on the Confederation of Rivers. The military of Thorns was ill-prepared when compared with the tough soldiers of the Scavenger Lands, but the Dragon-Blooded buoyed the men’s spirits and prevented the new Autocrat from seeing the dire state of affairs.
Fourteen years ago, at the Battle of Mishaka, Confederation forces finally annihilated the army of Thorns and its Dragon-Blooded allies. Popular discontent pushed Thorns to the brink of civil war, and the Autocrat stayed in power only due to his Imperial backing. The Confederation also took heavy losses in the battle. Only 100 men returned from the 3,000 troops Great Forks sent to battle, for example, and other major countries and cities suffered similar losses.
Five years ago, in Realm Year 763, the Scarlet Empress vanished.
Four years ago, armies of the dead serving the Deathlord known as The Mask of Winters invaded Thorns. Weakened by civil unrest and losses to the Confederation, its armies shattered, and its supplies nonexistent, the kingdom fell in a matter of days. Thorns is now the center of a vast and spreading shadowland.
The Scavenger Lands were thrown into turmoil by the conquest of Thorns. Not only was this a huge threat on a military level, but trade alliances, food transport and Guild operations as a whole were disrupted when the coastline around Thorns became impassible. Most disturbing of all, however, was the sheer terror of having one of the dreaded Deathlords make a move on this scale. People are still frightened, and they are right to be so. Some military alliances have been tightened, but others have begun to fray at the edges, as kingdoms and city-states attempt to make their own private arrangements with the Mask of Winters.
The Confederation of Rivers
The name “Scavenger Lands” was first bestowed on the region by the Realm as an insult and has become its name to all folk outside its borders. Natives call it the Confederation of Rivers. The Confederation is a loose collection of satrapies, dictatorships, duchies, kingdoms, principalities, republics, democracies, theocracies, city-states and other forms of government. This polyglot collection of cultures has formed its own common language, the patois known as Riverspeak—a debased form of Old Realm, filled with words from every corner of the world and propagated by post-Contagion refugees. Its lifeblood is trade, circulated by The Guild, and pirates and mercenaries follow where the money goes.
The articles of the treaty that binds the Confederation together are strict in some respects, vague in others. The most important parts are the clauses that define military contributions to common defense. The Council of the Concordat that theoretically governs the Confederation is, in fact, a haven for time-wasters, incompetents and dilettantes. Normally, they do nothing of importance, and when matters progress to requiring military intervention, then they hand the reins of responsibility over to the military experts. While the Council does serve as a forum for ideas to be put forward, any actual enforcement of those ideas takes place via bribery, backroom deals and private negotiations between affected states.
The arsenal state of Lookshy regularly hires out thousands of its soldiers as officers or trainers to the Confederation’s different countries and city-states. It organizes young officer exchanges as well, gaining a vital influence over military matters in the Confederation. While all the different nations have their own armies and preferred tactics, Lookshy has trained their military leaders, and Lookshy’s officers have served with them and know how to coordinate them. Similarly, the Confederation has no formal navy, but every country provides its own ships in the event of trouble, coordinated via Lookshy-trained officers. Pirates—or Realm forces and allies—are a constant threat along the coast, and Lookshy leads the defense of the Confederation by sea as well as by land.
The lack of a heavy Imperial presence makes the Scavenger Land much safer for Solars than the Blessed Isle or the Realm’s satrapies. Powerful beings walk the soil of Creation in these lands: Fair Folk, God-Blooded, mortal sorcerers, Dragon-Blooded, and others who the wise fear and the sensible avoid. While the Anathema are still remembered and feared in some quarters (and Lookshy in particular views the returned Solars with a wary eye), one of the Celestial Exalted can enjoy a measure of peace and security in the Confederation of Rivers. In this collection of bandit states and lawless territories, there are no wide-scale laws to be enforced—nor are there the resources necessary to enforce them.
Nations of the Scavenger Lands
There are literally hundreds of small nations, countries, and city-states in the Scavenger Lands, most of whom are members of the Confederation of Rivers but many of whom are not. Some of these nations include:
- Lookshy: Home of the Seventh Legion, and the greatest military power in the Scavenger Lands.
- Nexus: Headquarters of The Guild, and the most populous city of the East—as well as the most corrupt.
- Sijan: The city of tombs, home to the famed Morticians of Sijan, an entire city built on death.
- Great Forks: Sometimes called “the city of temples,” Great Forks is a city rules directly by its gods.
- Greyfalls: The Realm’s last major ally in the Scavenger Lands.
- Thorns: Once a major tributary of the Realm, Thorns is now a rotting shell of its former self, controlled by the undead.
- The Hundred Kingdoms: Not one nation but many. The Hundred Kingdoms region changes borders constantly as old kingdoms die, new ones arise, and existing ones merge or split.
- The Marukan Alliance: The horsemen of Marukan are among the finest riders in the world, legendary for their horse breeds and their fierce independence.
- Mishaka: A small city-state notable as the site of the battle that ended the Thorns War in RY 754. Recently won a short-lived war with Delsinar.
- Delsinar: A minor city-state near Mishaka, recently on the losing end of a war with that neighbor over jade mining rights.