The Veiled Marshes
“The Veiled Marches are not a kingdom, not even a nation in the most basic sense. People from the region dislike even being lumped together as “Marchers.” Rather, they are a collection of independent city-states united only when it suits them. Because of this, the Free Marches have no capital, and what passes for a central government exists only sporadically, a sort of Landsmeet that convenes only during times of crisis."
Capital: No unified nation, no capital
Population: 1,020,800 (humans 70%, elves 15%, half-elves 5%, dwarves 5%, other 5%)
Government: Independent city-states
Religions: Church of the Sovereign One and some smaller religions
The Veiled Marches is a collective name given to the group of city-states situated in eastern Tribuhaven, south of Vana’diel and the Arcanum, east of Navarra, and north of Bastok. The three real cities with any semblance of power in the Veil Marches are Suzail, Thentia, and Eastgate, each having a leader with a title and having the special right to name a Champion of the city to represent it.
The “Marchers” are independent descendants from tough barbarians, their cities standing in a loose confederation that rarely unites on any matter unless one of their larger neighbors becomes aggressive. In this event, the Marchers can assemble a united military front that even the greatest powers cannot ignore. The Veiled Marches is best known as the breadbasket of Tribuhaven. Its farms along the banks of the Minanter River are the source of much of the continent’s food.
The Marches itself gains its namesake for containing the clearest and strongest number of shatterpoints throughout all the regions of Tribuhaven. Because of this, manifest zones are abundant here and any sort of magic seems to be amplified within this region of Tribuhaven. Many wizards and sources have tried to make their homes and laboratories in this region of the world, but are often rebuked by the Marchers who see these foreign wizards and sources as a threat to their autonomy and freedom. A surprising number of sources are born here which has caused some concern to the mothers of He-Who-Was.
Most importantly, the Marches is the birthplace of the Prophetess Alethia, who envisioned the end of days and the return of the Sovereign One.
Life and Society:
Culturally speaking, the proximity of the Marches to so many kingdoms and empires of Tribuhaven means that the population is very diverse; the region itself is wedged between them. The movement of goods and trade brings people from across the continent to the Veiled Marches, and many native-born Marchers were born of parents from another land. For example, a prominent noble might be Marcher-born, yet speaks with a distinct Jeuno accent. That being said, the region is not completely welcoming to newcomers. Many Marcher-born citizens resent the presence of foreigners and see the influence of outside nations and cultures as a threat to their way of life. In the wake of the last Tear, Westgate in particular suffered from an outgrowth of nativist sentiment, as the present of so many Bastok refugees led to a backlash from Marchers angry at what they saw as a takeover of the city by alien powers.
One of the Veiled Marches’ most celebrated events is the Grand Tourney. Participants from all over Tribuhaven converge on this festival of martial skill and valor in competition to a crown a champion of the games. The victor is awarded a coronet of sage leaves and a trophy blade known as the Celebrant, an enchanted sword made by the famed artificers of Movalpolos who inscribe the names of every champion since the first tourney. In one letter by a Veiled Marcher, he explains, “The most important thing to know about the Veiled Marches is that we’re free. We determine our own destiny, and that pleases us. Beyond that, the only other time we coalesce is when Grand Tourney comes to town. Then we boldly express our pride to any foreigner who’ll listen. We’ll kiss freedom on the lips and even lock arms with them! Alas, it lasts only a day, but there’s no harm in that, right?” It is considered one of the only binding aspect of the Veiled Marches that every Marcher shares in happily, and is a notoriously jubilant phenomenon despite its brevity.
The Veiled Marches have no central government, no king, and no capital, making the whole region difficult to protect and its economy disparate. Each city is self-governing and wary of intrusions by its neighbors, frequently leading to tensions between them as they jockey and vie for power. The government of each state also varies, the sea-port of Eastgate, for example, is officially governed by a singular ruler in the form of a Steward, but real political authority rests in the heads of the local and wealthy merchants.
During times of crisis, the most powerful merchants, generals and rulers of the Veiled Marches can convene to deal with the issue.
Something interesting in the Veiled Marches is its champions; a unique title bestowed to individuals within the Veiled Marches that have proven their ability in blood. The title is not a sign of honor, for the Champions can utilize methods that make them loved or feared. Nonetheless, they are the strongest of their city-state and often the pride of their people.
Major Geographical Features:
Vimmark Mountains: These low mountains contain treacherous and winding peaks. A few small clans of dwarves live here, enjoying their privacy despite the local displace beasts, ogres, and werewolves. The westernmost mountain is Mount Thargill, a long-dead volcano that is the home to the red dragon Balagos the Flying Flame. Balagos has imprisoned two dragons, a brown and a block, to act as guards when he is gone. These mountains are legendary for omlar gems that are very suitable for magical uses. Only a few rare omlars have been discovered in centuries, but those have fetched princely sums from wizards and sources who desire them.
Dire Wood: A ring of completely albino oak trees surround these mysterious hills in the southern parts of the Vimmark Mountains. Inside the outer ring of pale oaks stands a thicker ring of blackened and petrified trees. Within the rings, normal trees and heavy undergrowth are mixed with petrified trees, all sprouting from reddish soil. Those who pace around the outside of the Dire Wood find that it measures only a hundred miles in circumference, but those who enter the Wood find that it expands as they travel deeper inside the rings, seemingly going on for thousands of miles of broken hills and dead trees. The only break in the wild terrain occurs at the very center, where the remains of the ancient Tribuhaven archmage turned demigod Zardus the Ironist endures as a single red stone butte at the base of an ancient tower made out of pure iron and obsidian.
A circle of magical chaos emanates from the butte, contained within the ring of sentinel trees. Aberrations that have been eradicated throughout the rest of Tribuhaven seem to find refuge in the Dire Wood, haunting its tortured terrain but incapable of passing beyond the outer ring. The shatterpoints are so clear here that the crack in the Weave can even be seen by non-sources. A zone of wild magic persists greatly in the Dire Wood.
“Wizard weather,” the Dire Wood’s major supernatural effect, occasionally roars out of the wood and into the rest of the forest and sometimes into Eastgate, blasting anything around it with weird magical phenomena ranging from red snow that smells like blood to rains of fireballs.
Adventurers that trek through the wood and come back alive swear a colossal Iron Giant dwells in the middle of the forest, but there is nothing yet to confirm if this is true or not.
Minanter River: This great river carves the rough hills and forests of the Veiled Marches into a broad, deep, yet gentle valley. It is the principal route for trade and commerce in this region, linking Navarra and other nations upstream with Wycome and Thentia hundreds of miles downstream.
The Wealdath: This forest that surrounds the Minanter River is home to a surviving local tribe of elves, the Nenya, and also contains fey creatures that vigirously defend it against encroachers. Gnolls, lycanthropes, giant spiders, wyverns, and dragons (two green, a bronze, and a gold) pose occasional dangers, although they have learned to avoid the elves. Ancient portals leading to ruined elven forest kingdom in the Tirashan exist in the forest, although only the most ancient of elves know how to open them. Besides this, there is very little information about the forest itself due to the ruthlessness of the Nenya who despise the intrusion of strangers who try to defile and corrupt the forest. The Eldreth Veluuthra claims that the forbidding reputation owned by this mysterious forest is due in no small part to the activities of one of the oldest and largest cells of its organization here in the Veiled Marches.
The Wilder Veil: This dense forest in some ways defines the region of the Veiled Marches. Druids and rangers from the Gatekeepers are a constant presence in the forest, defending against aberrations, outsiders, and undead and other horrors that run amok in this forest. People seldom venture into the forest, lacking the necessary skills required to stay one step ahead of the abnormal monsters that come out from the Veil and the mouthers, trolls, and other beasts that roam down from the Vimmark Mountains. The Veil is incredibly frail in this area causing magic to run amok. Many Veil Shredders dwell in these trees in order to consort with aberrations and monsters in order to further their dark and insidious plans. The Gatekeepers have a permanent base in these woods and remain ever vigilant against the darkness that may rise again.
Nenya (metropolis, 42,269): Magically hidden in the forests of the Wealdath is Nenya, one of the last three surviving elven cities and a radiant example of the elves’ organic architecture, in which buildings are grown rather than built. Even the coarsest dwarven miner would catch his breath at his first glimpse of the palace of Queen Amlaruil (NG female elf druid).
Crystals as tall as mighty trees are riddles with spiral passageways and glass-floored living quarters. Trees grow into citadels, linked bole to bole by fluting branches. Soaring arches and shimmering fields of magical force support airy palaces that seem too fragile to exist even in a dream. Eternally vigilant warriors and mages in armor of gleaming glass guard the tranquil city against the even encroaching humans that barge onto their homeland. After the fall of Tirasahn long age by the Arcanum, the elves of Nenya have remain vigilant and hostile against the Marchers and agents of the Arcanum who wish to collect the heads of eternal elves as bounties.
Wycome (large city, 13,080): For centuries, Wycome and Eastgate have competed for trading moving across the Waking Sea. Despite the cities’ efforts to crush each other, neither has fallen. In fact, the competition has helped them both, since their price wars have increased the volume of trade moving through the coast. Wycome is somewhat less corrupt than Eastgate, but it is deeply aligned with the pirates of Vana’diel.
Thentia (metropolis, 56,651): A fiercely independent but militarily weak city on the banks of the Minanter River, Thentia is the most open city in the Veiled Marches. The city is overseen by a watch lord elected by the local nobility. The current watch lord, Gelduth Blackturret (LN male human fighter), rules with relatively little power since his position is little more than symbolic. The true power is in hands of the local nobles, old families with origins from countries outside of the Veiled Marches. These nobles are in turn supported by some of the most independent and chaotic sources in the region.
Thentia has the largest collection of powerful, disorganized sources in Tribuhaven. They live in relative peace, since many of them came here from different parts of the continent to escape the severings of the Aether Circle or the forced conscription by the Arcanum Empire. Many non-Arcanum sources escape to Thentia to start a new life and learn to somehow master their innate magical talent while not falling prey to malevolent aberrations. Because of this Thentia is known for its wild mages (complete arcane 69); sources who willingly forego the control of their magic and freely let their powers manifest in chaotic ways. These immensely strong wild mage sources include the beautiful red-maned Champion of Thentia, Revena Callordin the Wild Witch.
Due to the prevalence of sources in Thentia, slavers, raiders, and pirates think twice before attacking Thentian citizens unless they want to face the wrath of its sources.
Suzail (metropolis, 45,009): The central hold of the Church of the Sovereign One and the richest city-state in the Veiled Marches, Suzail is home to important nobles and merchant houses of the region. The center of the city is the Grand Cathedral of Sovereign Hosts, which is surrounded by gardens and the buildings of the clergy, high nobles, and wealthy merchants. Suzail is a common pilgrimage for the followers of He-Who-Was who wish to visit the birthplace of the prophetess Alethia and meditate under the Ancient White Tree of the Seers.
The city maintains a large barracks for the Song Dragon Knights of Suzail, plus stockyards, shipyards, and dozens of inns, taverns, and festhalls. The famous Conservatory of the Ineffable Chord is also found here as well. The famous ivory carvers of Suzail buy exotic exotic ivory from many lands, shape it into new and decorated forms, and export it at a greatly increased value.
The stewardess of the city is the Champion of Suzail, Grand Knight Levara Amell (LG female human bard/song dragon knight), a confident, loyal, and beautiful woman who also commands the Song Dragons. The presence of the Song Dragons and War Clerics has been more visible since the recent death of Revered Mother Emilia, as Levara wishes to assure the common people of their safety and simultaneously be prepared for riots or rebellious activities instigated by contrary nobles. She makes regular appearances to the commonfolk in order to show that she is not afraid for her life or for Suzail’s future.
In times of trouble, the city-state is protected by a patron ancient song dragon known as the Whisperer (Monsters of Faerun 44) that lives under the guise of a Suzailian woman. Very few people are aware of the song dragon’s identity besides the champion.
Eastgate (metropolis, 52,184): Eastgate is the major trading port of the Veiled Marches. It wields enough economic clout to make it the third major trading power within the region, after Thentia and Suzail. The “anything goes and everything has a price” reputation of the Veiled Marches is directly attributable to Eastgate, whose citizens are not ashamed of its reputation. On the contrary, they pride themselves on Eastgate’s status as an open city – open to all races, open to all faiths, and open to all coins. Westgate’s noble rulers, all descended from rich merchant houses, believe that personal ethics may be fine for private life but have no place in business.
Willingness to cut any deal has helped the city grow into a major economic power, but it has also created an environment in which thieves view their activities as extensions of normal business by other means. The Coterie controls nearly as much of Westgate as its official rulers do. The Antivan Crows’ assassins, extortionists, enforcers, and spies are for sale to any, meaning that the noble houses who ostensibly oppose the thieves’ guild frequently are their best clients.
Temples or shrines to evil deities, including Beshaba, Malar, and Shar are sometimes “unmentionable” in polite Eastgate society, depending on the fashion of the moment, but there’s no doubt that they exist. In contrast, the most transparent aboveground religion in Westgate is the Church of the Sovereign One, in due part to the occupation of the city by Jeuno many centuries ago and the pride the Marchers have for the famed prophetess Alethia.
The newest addition to Eastgate’s parade of novelties is a gladiatorial enterprise named the Quivering Thumb, which was started by the longtime Champion of Eastgate, Uldrid Kamell the Reaver, who wished to bring the glory of blood fights to the masses of the Marches and rulers who would pay the best for these bloody circuses. The Quivering Thumb’s new sandpit arena is popular with nobility, merchants, commoners, and even with slaves, because the Thumb promises freedom and thousand gold pieces to any slave who can survive a year in the pit. The Thumb is regarded as a “fair-fight” enterprise, in which no side of any given battle is meant to be massacred.
The Veiled Marches were once known for raiding the northern seaboard of Bastok. Navarra started out as merely a member of the Veiled Marches, but has risen in size and power far beyond any of its peers. Including this, the Veiled Marches were once part of the Arcanum Empire, evidence of which is found in the architecture of its cities – high buildings built almost all in white stone.
Uldrid Kamell, Reaver and Champion of Eastgate (CN Male Half-Orc Fighter/Ravager [very old])
Lavara Amell, Song Dragon Knight and Champion of Suzail (LG Female Human Bard/Rogue/Song Dragon Knight)
Revena Callordin, Wild Witch and Champion of Thentia (CG Female Half-Elf Sorceress/Wild Mage)
Balagos the Flying Flame (ancient male red dragon)
Queen Amlaruil (NG female elf druid)
Gelduth Blackturret (LN male human fighter) – Watch Lord of Thentia