Known primarily for housing the Abode of the Daystar, Haldera borders Muldonor in the west, the Emberland in the east, Wilderlund to the north and Synd to the south. The term is Ralashite for a “strong place,” and indeed this is where those fleeing the devastation of the dragon-empire of Synd found their refuge. A rugged land of beautiful vistas, deep forests, and multifold caverns crisscrossing the terrain, Halderites have been making strong places of the hills and caves since the Fourth Age. The native Halath people have bred with Shushites, imperials, Mercantines, and Valelans but the wood elves of Haldera have remained unchanging.
First settled by wood elves in the Sword Age, Haldera was little more than a source of charcoal and wood for the Shushites, of slaves for the Syndic dragons, and of good strong blue stone for the Mercantines. The Halath and the wood elves lived in relative harmony, sharing similar sorts of lifestyles—semi-nomadic, simple, and without permanent construction.
In fact, the wood elves were left so long to their own devices that they actually developed a strange state, contrary to their anarchic tendencies throughout the rest of Arunia. In Haldera they founded a permanent council-meeting of druids and ents who had been awakened by the tribes. They did a brisk trade with the forest giants of Rootwood until the Elf-Dragon War. The wood elf population was devastated, leaving their tribal federation a shadow of what it once had been. Shushite men poured into Haldera from the high plateaus, led by the legendary Shoshana of the Rose.
In what became known as Shoshana’s Treaty, the Shushites, the Halath, and the elves agreed to split the rule of the territory between them. The compact essentially guaranteed a strong mannish state would never form as it prohibited men from naming themselves lords or controlling property in excess of what they could work with their own hands and a single team of oxen.
It was some time after the war that the caves began to grow unsafe to use, filling up with renegade orcs and bugbears from the Wilderlund. In the wake of the violence, many Avaunites banded together to build up the Temple of the Daystar following ancient Shushite plans: a step-pyramid, plated in hammered gold. In time, the temple would become the center of the Avaunite faith, growing in influence until the cataclysm of the Eight Age drowned the Golden Temple and left the cult leaderless.
Today Haldera is a loosely affiliated state ruled by the Temple of the Daystar in tandem with the elvish Council of Whispers. The towns of Haldera owe nominal devotion to the temple and to the druidic circle, but in practice they rarely have occasion to interact with them. Gnolls, orcs, bugbears, and other evil creatures have been a growing concern of Haldera, plaguing even those regions flush with coin and soldiers from the temple.
Though ancient custom dictates that no man may own more land than a single team of oxen can plow in a day, this restriction doesn’t apply to temples. For this reason, the Temple of Avauna is the dominant political power in Haldera. They collect tithes from all the mannish towns there, providing for the weapons and training of their militias as well as the establishment and upkeep of a number of halls of healing throughout Haldera.
The presence of the temple has drawn a great number of new settlers to the region, which puts stress on the second half of the ancient Halathan arrangement: the elves. The wood elves of Haldera are a tightly knit community of semi-nomadic tribes who regard the very earth and trees as divine. The Temple cannot act without the express agreement of the Council of Whispers, held at the ancient grove twice a season.
While towns may have militias trained at the Temple of the Daystar and mercenaries hired by the temple’s monies, the true defenses of Haldera come in the form of the elvenwood rangers and druids. These silent watchers stand guard over the isolated settlements of men as well as the tribes of wood elves who travel through the land. The Council of Whispers is their nominal leader, but each tribe maintains its own number of rangers (only the most elite of which actually have the ranger class) and priests.
When darkness threatens Haldera, it is generally these forces that act. The Temple, as it has deep coffers, has also been known to hire up mass numbers of mercenaries to serve as a makeshift army in the case of threats of invasion. The elves, strong though they may be, are not numerous and the rangers have never been used as a true army.
The Haldera Mindset
The mannish population of Haldera has a certain frontier quality. They dwell in fortified towns amidst a vast emptiness that they cannot claim for their own by custom; something about this tends to make them protective of the land and to have little respect for those recently arrived who seek to make inroads on the untouched wild. Smallfolk of Haldera dwell peacefully in rural and pastoral settlements, often times living side-by-side near wood elf tribes.
The wood elves of Haldera are extremely numerous compared to the isolated groups that live in other places throughout the north. This has led them towards a secure culture that doesn’t require intense suspicion to survive. They freely trade with men, though they still find dwarves generally abhorrent (the burning of trees for coke and the mining of the great clay hills being a sore point between the Council of Whispers and local dwarven settlements).
There is a general sense of community amongst all those who dwell within Haldera, however. The Temple is an erstwhile protector, and Halderans often express pity for people who are the subjects of kings and potentates. They will go through great lengths to tell outsiders of the freedoms of Haldera—as much land as a man can plow, and no knights or lords swaggering over you.
Locations of Interest
The Abode of the Daystar
This massive temple complex is the heart of the Avaunite church. Dominated by the gold-plated ziggurat (built in tribute to the ancient Shushite style) where the Lights of Avauna live and determine the future of the faith, the grounds of the Abode swarm with physicians, healers, priests, emissaries, heralds, and holy warriors. The Abode is so well staffed as to neglect the expedience of walls, relying instead on their reputation amongst the monstrous foes of Haldera not to attack or harass their people. The temple also owns several rods of land outside the complex, which is tilled by Avaunite priests.
Physicians trained in Haldera are said to be the most learned in all the north, and many make pilgrimage to the Abode of the Daystar in order to improve their craft. The huge year-round population and arrival of seasonal pilgrims has transformed the Abode into a sort of self-contained city, the only such settlement in all of Haldera. Since the Temple must run the tithe-towns of the region as well, governmental offices have sprung up within the great ziggurat.
Adventurers coming into Haldera make the Abode a first stop, as the Lights generally have work that needs doing and not enough sword-arms to do it. The temple is a widespread employer of adventurers within Haldera to deal with problems like goblin overpopulation, orc raids, or even simply to clear out the often resurfacing remnants of the Necromancer’s scattered armies.
Halderans have few customs of their own that differentiate them from other folk in the region; this makes those that they do have stand out all the more.
Halderans of all faiths will not assart new land or even so much as cut down trees or uproot shrubs without first offering a prayer to Eminia and Aloran.
A bowl of milk and meat is often left out for the spirits on the step of Halderan homes at night. This may have been something learned from the smallfolk.
With dwarven settlements few and far between, metal is a far rarer resource in Haldera than many other places. Quilted jerkins are the norm for armor, and the prices of weapons and metal armor can be as high as triple what they are in other lands. Understandably, this attracts mercantile ventures seeking to sell arms and armor at high prices.
The thick clay-like ground necessitates much more irrigation and channeling than many other lands. This has led the Halderans to preserve the ancient Shushite technologies of irrigation canals and mills, assisted by the few dwarves in the region.