Far from the Imperial might of Torland and the Divine might of the Bigany Church on a small continent lie the ever warring kingdoms of Arondan. These kingdoms are unable to gain a sufficient advantage over one another to achieve dominion, so knights and serfs battle each other every year. Alliances form and fracture advantages are built and lost and cities rise and fall. It has been thus for centuries, a time of Charon.
This constant strife has left the kingdoms weak and so it is left to the Risen to hold back the tide of Fallen and they are sorely presed. The Fallen use bandits and mercenary companies as a cloak to hide their activities. The Churches of Cogadh and Tionscail are highly dominant here and the inquisition is neglected. The Priests of Charon feel they can handle any threat.
The strongest kings at the moment are King Strom of Artenhill, King Dromlach of Sear and King Eben of Kracklou.
The Horn mountain range extends from The Horn itself, in the Bigany Heartland, to the Northeast as far as The Great Lake and the borders of Torland. It separates Bigany from Az-Ylar. It also extends Northwest from The Horn and separates much of Elledrin from Az-Ylar.
The mountains are very steep, incredibly tall and have very few passes. They are freezing cold and deeply covered in snow and ice all year long.
Those who travel to the Horn and find the Giants, do so only if the Giants are willing and are sworn to secrecy if the are allowed to enter. The terrain and the climate are lethal enough to put an end to all but the most hardy and determined traveller. The mountains are also swarming with monsters, especially cold based creatures such as Rhemoraz and Frost worms. Guardian and Psionic creatures are carefully placed to ensure that only those worthy of a visit, manage to get to the Giants Fortress The Diamond Halls.
Relations with the World
The Reefs are inhabited by the Horn Giants a race of Telepathic Bardic Giants. They are seldom seen outside the Horn and only leave on missions of utmost importance The Giants use their powerful abilities with the skill to manipulate the leader of other nations to maintain the balance on behalf of the Chosen.
The humanoids from Sioc have adapted to the freezing temperatures there and this can clearly be seen in their blue skin. Some sages believe that their races mixed with those from another plane.
Relations with the World
All trade with the North is controlled by Mercane. 7’ tall humanoids with six digits on each hand. Near the Bigany region all legitimate trade is carried out through Bloodskull Pass.
The Winter Palace
The Winter Palace rules the Southern Continent. Many parts of Sioc are too remote or sparsely populated for the authority to the Palace to be imposed.
They have a standing army of many mounted full plate knights in addition to the standard elven armies. They are primarily urban based though their cities have as many plants and animals as buildings and most of the buildings are built to merge with and reflect nature.
Relations with the World
Most of the country has sophisticated elven society that enjoys open relations with the rest of the world.
The Cloud Giants of Jotunheim
Tremaine, Bard of Strings wrote the following treatise about the other great settlement of Giants – Jotunheim,. Located in the Mountains to the East of the great Lake these giants tend to have more dealings with Torland than Bigany.
Jotunheim by Tremaine, Bard of the Strings
If the Storm giants of the Horn Mountains are Masters of the Discipline of Mind the Cloud Giants of the mountains north of Misneach''s cleave are masters of the discipline of war.
These giants dwell in the great city of Jotunheim, a place seen by few outside of their people. It is said to be a city of vast proportions that exists more in the clouds than the stone which is visible. The city is constantly filled with the rumble of thunder and the ominous presence of the clouds overhead, these are a grim people.
For centuries they have fought against the creatures that descend from the polar ice cap, seeking to reach the glaciers of the region to further their power base. These wars are rarely seen by human eye except in teh form of a distant thunder storm as the clouds rush together. Their brothers of the stormhave occasionally been known to march at their side against a common enemy but for the most part they are a different people with different customs and traditions.
Rumours have emerged from the few travellers that venture into the mountains of some sort of war between the cloud giants and a demon host, though none have seen any example of the host. What has been seen, however, is that a large number of the champions of that land are spending a lot of time recovering from wounds sustained in battles that not even their bards will speak of.
What of The War against Fiends and who are The Guardians of Valley of the Chain Gate
They have an Oath to protect the secrecy of the Gate. They will only accept help from Epic Level characters or the leaders of the Churches. To others they refuse to even admit that there is war.
Politics: Government and Military
The Sliabhan are ruled by a complex combination of military dictatorship, hereditary aristocracy and elected senate. Each year during The Orb, the current military leader will face a challenge from several other members of the ruling council. The winner of these martial trials will rule for the following year. There is more to these trials than simple battle prowess though. Various factions will assist the contestants in order to buy their allegiance for the coming year. A candidate supported by the Theocracy will be dripping with magic, so too will those supported by the Magocracy or the Psiocracy. The Order of The Sky, The Senate, The Monks of Air and numerous other factions will often focus much of their energy every year gathering items, wealth mounts and anything else deemed useful in the combat to support their candidate.
Occasionally several factions will support one candidate and when sufficient support is given to one individual, they are almost certain to win. In times of crisis, most factions will rally around one candidate and openly declare for him before the contest. In this case the leadership is not even contested.
The Trial usually consists of several military challenges. Again only non-lethal means are allowed. Any powers and abilities are permissible with the exception of those that are not-repeatable. The purpose of the contest is to determine who is best suited to lead and defend the Sliabhan. The winner must be able to use any powers and abilities used during the contest, for the entire year of his leadership.
As a general only Noble Mountain Elves are allowed to enter the leadership trials. However every four years a series of open games take place. Non-noble Sliabhan and others from outside the mountain realms may petition for entry. The winner of these games, which consist of lesser versions of the leadership challenge events, is permitted to participate in the leadership challenge. All winner of the games or their descendants are permitted to enter the leadership challenges. In addition every year a different senator may select a senatorial champion to enter on their behalf. They have complete discretion as to whom they pick but there are some obvious exclusions: No Fallen or Risen, No servant of The Dragon, no citizen of Torland and no enemy of The Sliabhan.
Chasing The Moon
The first is an aerial race around one of the larger settlements in which a pennant must be collected from 28 points each pennant represents a stage in the cycle of the Moon.
The number of stages is not only of religious significance but also discourages the use of teleportation magic due to the cost. A staff of teleportation, for example could be depleted by one such trip. However powerful mages with wealthy supporters have won the Chase in the past using this very method.
Traditionally this chase is won by either a Chosen Champion Sky-Knight Lord Mounted on a Griffon with Horseshoes of The Zephyr or by a Spelljammer Knight Captain on a small and highly manoeuvrable ship.
Contestants are permitted to thwart each others attempts to win the race. Only non-lethal means are permitted.
Each contestant leads a squad of 27 allies in a series of war games over an entire day from noon until noon.
The war games range from repulsing attacks from other squads - on foot or mounted on aerial beasts or in spelljamming ships, capturing pennants from isolated and guarded locations, solving magical puzzles, negotiating trapped dungeons and Resisting The Fallen (evading capture, resisting interrogation, foiling divinations, etc.).
After the war games have been concluded there are only two remaining candidates. These two will then battle each other in single combat.
Trial by Combat
The remaining two candidates must battle each other in the skies over the settlement on Charday of The Orb. Several times throughout the last few hundred years, Cogadh himself has observed the battle for the leadership of the Mountain Elves and on a handful of occasions has lent his support to a favoured candidate. For this reason, the contest is eagerly watched and heavily wagered upon, because no matter how highly stacked the battle is in favour of one candidate, there is always a chance that divine favour will shine on the underdog (if he fights well - and uses no magic).
It has little real power but has great influence. It is comprised of 28 members selected from a cross section of Sliabhan society.
The seats are held by a representative of the following groups: The Sky Knights, The Jammer Captains, The Monks of Air, The Wood-harvesters, The Herdsman druids, The Wizards of Ice And Fire, The Church of Charon, The Church of The Cycles, The Church of Shale, The Mindbenders, The Guardians of The Passes, The Scry-Watchers, The Transporters, The Network of Thieves, Spies and Assassins, The Keepers of Ancient Lore, The Fortress Builders, The Diplomats and The High Hunters, The Long Traders and The Nobles. The Aristocracy and The Military hold more seats in the Senate than the other factions. This is due to tradition. Anyone attempting to change this is viewed with suspicion.
The Mountain Elves are the most militaristic sub race of elves in Talamh. Everyone in Sliabhan society is given basic military training and can use at least on martial weapon.
The most prestigious arm of the military are the Sky-Knights.
Society: City & Countryside, Class & Station, Families
Mountain Elves call themselves The Sliabhàn [SHLEE-AV-AWN].
Art and Culture
While at first glance it might appear that the Elves of The Mountain Peaks have little time for the frivolity and pursuit of art and philosophy of other more seaward elves, there is still an indelible elven mark on the psyche of The Sliabhan. Most of their works of art however are practical, whether it be the craft of a suit of armour, sword or wand or the elegance of a perch's runway rails Sliabhan smiths, engineers and craftsmen are equal to their cousins. Their poetry, plays, art, sculpture and song are all beautiful but they all warn against complacency in the face of and implacable enemy and are full of warning tales of Sliabhan Elves who caused the death of their entire House due to being unprepared for the onslaught of the enemy.
Rare indeed is a Sliabhan artist who glorifies the pursuit of happiness as an end in itself. "Happiness is knowing that you are ready to defend the Mountain."
The Sliabhan’s most potent ally is The Church. They yielded much of their independence to The Church in order to gain several major dispensations. One of which was Draíocht permission to study magic. Many Mountain elf students were sent to the Grand Vizier of Az-Ylar to study the ways of arcane magic when the ban on arcane study was in force. Much of this lore was taken back to the isolated fortresses and hidden lofty valleys and put to use in creating defences for their lands.
This Sliabhan House is descended from an ancient High Elven Line. They are known for their quick wit and skill with arcane magics. Their Perches are primarily filled with Griffons and their Sky-Knights prefer the longsword to the lance. Those of the Noble House of Tharanaian that display an aptitude for magic are sent away to a seaward nation for arcane education once they have completed their military service.
Until the recently all Tharanaian mages were sent to Az-Ylar, however Bigany is now favoured by the Sliabhan Houses and House Tharanaian is no exception.
Once a Tharanaian mage completes his training he is required to return to the Tharanaian Perch and begin his life as a House Wizard or even, if they have been favoured by Draíocht, as Maaji.
House Tharanaian hope to acquire permission to train their own knight-wizards in the perches without having to send them to Bigany. This permission has not been granted by the Church of Shale and it may be a long many lives of men before they do so.
The Sky-Knights of House Tharanaian spend most of their time patrolling the skies around the Perches looking for invaders on land and in the air. Due to their constant vigilance and enthusiasm for enforcement, there are rarely any encounters within the borders of the Perch. Frequently Sky-Knights will range on extended patrols far beyond their own lands on order to hunt for food and sport. The Tharanaian Knight-Commander is not the only Sliabhan who believes that the best defence is an unprovoked offence.
The Griffon corps is backed up by several units if infantry and is supported by their mages, clerics and mindbenders. There are also several 'quiet work' units that come from 'The Still Perch'. These units are comprised of between one and seven Sliabhan who have specialised skills such as stealth, martial arts, spell casting thief craft, assassination, etc.
The current head of House Tharanaian is Knight-Marshall of The Griffon, Arch Duke Terios 'Dragon-Bane' Lord Commander of the Ice Hold Perches. Terios is a highly respected and renowned knight and he holds a seat in The Senate. He was to be strongly backed as a candidate for the leadership of the Sliabhan, once his heir Ivellios returned from Bigany. His heir was expelled from the Bigany Church in disgrace and Terios' backing evaporated like the morning mists over the Veiled Perch. Rumours abounded that Ivellios had been consorting with the Fallen and that a Succubus had borne a Fiendish Sliabhan child for him and that it had been sold to The Dragon for a silver ring. Not all in the Sliabhan nation have the sense to disbelieve rumours.
Terios has set to ranging further and further amongst the most dangerous icy peaks of the Tharanaian domains, seeking to die in glorious battle or destroy every foul Fallen creature skulking in the dark icy valleys. Many of his faithful knights fear that it is only a matter of time before he is slain in a grisly bloody manner fit for the bravest of The Risen. The Sliabhan dread becoming Risen.
If Terios dies, the succession of House Tharanaian is no longer clear, as the heir is currently in disgrace and rumoured to be living in squalor in some damp seaward hovel far from good clear skies and clean snow.
Climate, Flora & Fauna
A typical Sliabhan settlement consists of a collection of Fortress-Monasteries called Perches, which protect a series of small pastures and woodlands. These areas are usually inhospitable during the summer and deadly during the winter. The elves use skilful farming techniques and powerful druidic magic to gain the maximum possible yield from these lands during the few short weeks when they are fruitful. A Perch is usually situated in an impossibly inaccessible position. The only access is from the air or by magic. In some cases the Perch will be carved out of the highest peak on a mountain and will be all but invisible from below. Only small 'eyelets', used for observation of the valleys and skies below, will betray it's position.
Perches are home to the Sliabhan's most potent defences, the Sky Knights. There are several Orders of Sky Knight and there are many different mounts that are commonly used. Each Perch chooses a mount that suits the needs tastes and abilities of their Knights and animal handlers.
For example the Sliabhan Noble House Tharanaian favours Griffons as mounts. Most of the Tharanaian Perches are garrisoned by Griffon riders. However some Tharanaian Mages prefer to use Air Elementals as their mounts and other have managed to claim Manticores or even white dragons as their mounts.
Occasionally a Fortress will be built across a pass or valley in order to prevent access to Sliabhan lands, these 'Guardians' are solely for military use and are constantly on high alert and always training. Guardians are often built to resemble natural impassable mountain terrain. If attacked they will be bitterly defended and will call upon support from nearby Perches and Sky Knights.
While the Nagaranthiel Elves were subdued and enslaved by the Dragon and Torland and the Elledrin Elves took upon themselves the mantle of leadership of the Elven race, the mountain elves became more insular and developed a tradition of secrecy and defence.
The mountain elves decided to close off their lofty realms to all of the low dwelling races. All mountain passes were sealed and their fortresses were moved with magic and muscle to higher more inaccessible locations.
Mountain elves gave up the use of land based beasts of burden such as horse an oxen, in favour of flying mounts such as pegasii and griffons.
The mountain elves knew that secluding themselves would not be enough to prevent the forces of The Dragon of Nagaranthiel from pursuing them, so they formed alliances where they could.
Trade Travel and Coinage
Relations with the rest of the world.
The Sliabhan maintain an embassy in Elledrin which represents the Sliabhan all over Talamh. This is the only place where they will hear the embassies of any nation. Any attempt to contact The Sliabhan by other avenues is likely to be met with extreme resistance if not outright violence.
The Sliabhan nation is spread over the entire globe and most settlements are hundreds or thousands of miles apart. Their mastery of the air, their relationship with the spelljamming corps and their construction of teleportation gates, allows them to cover these distances far more easily than most. They retain a strong sense of being one nation despite these great distances.
The Giants of the Horn and of other mountain reaches are another race with whom The Sliabhan forged an alliance. The Storm Giant Bards and Psions agreed to allow the Elven nation to withdraw to their Mountains in a bid to maintain the balance of Talamh and to thwart the plans of The Dragon. Since this alliance was made, the Sliabhan and the Giants have assisted one another in a great number of ways and both races have benefited considerably from the arrangement. Many perches and guardians are home to frost giants and many Frost Halls are home to Sliabhan or even flights of Sky Knights. To wage war on one is to incur the wrath of the other.
The Sliabhan have a very close connection with The Church and will the Arm of The Church responsible for Spelljamming and regulation of the air. The Sliabhan have full knowledge of spelljamming technology and supply a large number of sky knights for Skyport and Spelljamming duties.