Adventuring in Anias

Copyright Gavin Bennett © 2006

Edited by Nicholas HM Caldwell for The Guild Companion

"Recovering from the recent disasters is the work of a generation. The Westerlands do not have a generation."

Overview: This is a short guide to creating adventures set in Anias. The continent is a wide, varied place, ranging from cold boreal forests in the north to great deserts in the south. It is the homeland of many of the newcomers to Cyradon. And despite the horrors of the fall of Tarahir, life must go on. Far too many warriors died in the destruction of the city. The Westerland needs heroes to heed the call to adventure, and defend the people.

Anias is a reasonably generic setting, drawing inspiration from the history of Central and Northern Europe during the early middle ages. It is the "home" setting for many of the characters of the Cyradon setting, and is generic enough to be used with the HARP rules "straight out of the book."

This article is an overview of the more settled and more widely inhabited Westerlands part of Anias.

The Land

Anias is a vast continental formation, born from the grinding of four geological plates together. The mighty Jura Mountains were driven into the sky by the collision of the old landmasses, and the Juras still mark the division between the rain swept boreal north, the hot and dry south, and the vast windy steppes of the east. Washed by the Northern Ocean to the west and the Sea of Squalls to the north, the Westerlands of Anias are cool, damp and rainy. But the cleared land tends to be relatively fertile, and though the winters are long and summers too short, it is a comfortable place to live. The Westerlands are home to the Skaldi and their kinfolk, and the deep forests are said to be the home of Elves and other strange creatures.

The further north one travels in the Westerland, the colder the climate grows, and the poorer the soil. Rain falls as snow, here, and the forest has not been tamed. Human communities grow smaller and more insular. Across the strait, the isles of Aldan lie like a string of pebbles in the great stormy ocean. There lies the seat of the old High Kingdom of the Isles, where the high king wore the Iron Crown and kept the peace of the islander tribes, and the loyal tribes of the coastlands. Further north, across the Sea of Squalls lies the ruins of the old realm of Alta, where the Storm Lords once made their great stone towers under the endless daylight of the northern summer, and the endless night of the northern winter. The west coast of Alta is still inhabited by men, a Skaldi people grown cold and hard from the washing of the storms and the wind. The northern cap of Anias is home to these men too. These two regions are known as the fjordlands, and the people are known as the Wykmen, and they are master sailors and ferocious warriors.

If a traveller ventures south, the climate warms, and dries, until one reaches the rich wine producing hills north of Caldea, and the mercantile lands of the Treaty Kingdoms. Though cooled by the sea winds, these are warm, sun drenched lands, where winter is short and mild and summer seems eternal. This is the Anjorian Bay. The grey northern ocean becomes blue, and the hills shimmer in the dawn. These were the heartlands of an empire that strode the world like a giant. This is where the men who formed Tarahiri Legions were born, and grew strong and grew proud. Follow the Anjorian Bay to the east, pass the old imperial port city of Tyria, and from there take the old imperial road to Tarahir.

The old white walled city is blackened by fire, and a few broken people live there now, beggars squatting in the ruins of what was once the mightiest city in the world. Look south, across the grassland that stretches into the endless distance. Beyond are the southlands, and the lands of the Orsai.

Follow the mountain-way north again, as the Juras march alongside you, higher and greyer with every day you walk. Cross the Amal pass by the source of the rivers, and then walk through the mountains for many days. Then, beyond, you come to the great river valley of the White Water, a long broad vale scraped flat by ancient glaciers. In the distance, beyond the river and the hills, you can see the green woods, what men call The High Weald, home to Elves and other strange beings.

Then travel east and north, following the White Water as it flows through the gap of Mircea and into the famous Emberdene highlands. There between the Sithi forests in the west and the branch of the Jura Mountains men call the Asari, lie the Marchlands, the small kingdoms of Skaldi and Mebionar who are all that stands between the Westerlands and the barbarian tribes of the mountains and the great eastern plains beyond.

There the dukes, barons and magnates of the marches keep watch - and fight amongst themselves for dominance. To the East, the High Pass opens into the salt marshes of the Ardreni and the Steppelands beyond. To the north, the ancient Dwarfhold of Winterheim looks into the ancient Elf forests, and to the east the gulf of Narden opens out onto the Sea of Squalls.

These are the Westerlands of Anias.

And this is a time of tragedy and death.

A Note on the Geographical Names

When the geographers of the old Venturer's Guild of Tarahir set about collating and compiling maps of the Westerlands of Anias, they used very generic names, meant to be of more benefit to geographers and academics than people who actually lived there. They rarely recorded the individual names of the various northern kingdoms ("these kingdoms do not last long enough" reads one notation in one book of imperial geography) and instead settled on a very general shorthand.

The region of Anias between the Asar Mountains and the Northern Ocean was described as The Westerlands. This region was divided into several sub regions. The basin of the Eiskos River and the Tarahiri "homeland" was referred to as the "heartlands." The area of the southern coast about the Bay of Otters and the Anjorian Bay became "The Southern Coast." Further north, the great forests became "The Boreal." Between the Boreal and the sea were "The Rainlands." The occasionally occupied sea valleys of the north coast beyond the Boreal (and, indeed, the western part of Alta beyond the Sea of Squalls), became "the fjordlands." The isles in the Northern Ocean (usually referred to as the Aldani Isles) became "The Western Isles" or even more commonly, "The Isles." These easy definitions made useful shorthand for the Tarahiri bureaucrats whose job it was to keep the world nice and ordered for the ruling families of Tarahir. Eventually the terms entered common currency in daily speech so people still talk about "the Rainlands" or the "Fjordlands" when describing general areas of geography.

The Peoples of the Westerland

The Elves

The Elves of the Westerlands are kin to the Arali of Cyradon. Three kindreds of Elves make their home in various places in the Westerlands. The most common elves are the Sithi (known in the heartlands and in Ambria as "Sylvan Elves"), and they make their homes in many small communities scattered through the vast forest the Skaldi call the "High Weald" or the "Great Weald."

The Sithi look to their own affairs and elect their own leaders and have little enough to do with the other Elven kindreds. The Sithi have human blood in their veins.

The second most common kindred is the Indir, the so called "Silver" or "Grey" Elves of the western isles, the forest of Narden and Bregyn in the east of the High Weald. They travel the land in silent progresses, and all owe allegiance to the memory of the Silver Queen of Beledair. The Indir are not like their Sithi kindred; where the Sithi kindred seem mortal, possessed of long life but not undying, some believe the Indir are doomed to wander the world forever, fading from flesh into a ghostly memory, but always bound to the memory of the sea.

The Alvarae are almost a memory. Once the lords of all Elvenkind in the distant past, these "High" Elves are said to be of the blood of the Dragons of Kingship, and live beyond the Crown of the World in the distant north, under the dancing lights of the Borealis. However, amongst the Indir, some have the blood of the old High Kindred, with their pure silver or burnished golden hair and eyes of sapphire.

The Mablung

The second most common people in the Westerlands are the various septs of the Mablungen. The "dwarf" folk are akin to humanity, though of an old and earthy stock. They know that in the end, they will be just a small part of the human race, a memory of a bloodline. But they also know that their people will last as long as humans will. As a result, the Mablung are tightly allied to, and culturally tied to, the human race, especially the Skaldi of the Westerlands, the peoples of the Aldani islands, and the heritage of the ancient kingdom of Alta.

In their language, Mablung means "mountain people." It does not refer to just one people, but rather at least three different septs, each with their own distinct features. Most assume that the name merely refers to the Dwarves, and by and large they are correct. Of the Mablung, the mountain dwarves of the deep warrens of the Asar and Jura Mountains are the most common. They dwell in hill forts, and in mountain valleys close to their mines and delvings. They are said to be at home deep beneath the earth, but they truly love the open skies of the high mountains, where the stars are bright and clear and the moon shines on the snow and frost. The Mablung are kin to humanity, and are especially close to the Skaldi, with whom they share a language. Some say they are descended from the spirits of the rock itself, or from the stone giants, or men who gave their very flesh to the earth. Despite the various and contradictory legends (and the Dwarves love making some new ones up - ask them the one about the talking rocks, sometime), the result is clear - a tough, strong, hard limbed race.

A smaller, but important sept of the Mablung people are the Melidhi, a people far closer to humanity, taller than their "pure" Dwarven kindred and less broad; they make their homes in the northern Aldani isles. They retain much of the strength and stamina of their slightly shorter kin, but appear far more human

Gnomes

The third important sept of the Mablung are the Gnomes. Said to be possessed of fae or Elvish blood, the Gnomes are clearly of Dwarven stock - their height gives that away - but with finer features, and a far more slender build. The gnomes claim that they are incarnate spirits, fae creatures of the earth. Dwarven wags call them "little girls" for their fine, hairless features. Some human wag called them "Dwelfs" - a half-breed of Elf and Dwarf. The term managed to offend the gnomes, the dwarves and the elves equally and many humans quietly snicker at the name. They just don't mention the word aloud where anyone who may be offended might hear it.

The Gnomes dwell close to the settlements of their kin, but prefer shallower delvings, the foothills and earthen springs. The Gnomes are tinkers, lovers of secrets, travellers and conjurors. They are addicted to puzzles and believe life is the biggest puzzle of all. They are fascinated with the art of magic, with traps, and with the "pattern that lives in all things." A surprising number of the Gnomes are monks and clerics, believing the greatest puzzle can be unlocked by studying the ways of the gods. Other Gnomes are tireless gardeners and horticulturalists, and seem capable of making even the barest hillside crag bloom.

Despite all the good-natured ribbing aimed at the gnomes by the other Mablung septs, the gnomish sense of deep spirituality and their love for life itself earns the gnomes a lot of respect and loyalty. Besides, who else can make good bread and tend beautiful orchards so high in the foothills of the Asar and Jura ranges?

The Halflings

The Halflings are a sort of "pygmy" race of men, one of the first comers to the Westerlands. They are descended from the small, dark skinned humans who first settled in what are now the Skaldi lands. Over the millennia, their skin paled and their numbers grew, but if legend is to be believed, they have grown shorter. Halflings are short, slender, childlike creatures who seem to take half a lifetime to begin to age. While young, or still wandering, the Halflings tend to be slender and wiry. This tends to run to chubbiness and then to pure fat later in life, when they settle down. Fatness is considered a mark of a life well lived and well enjoyed, so Halflings speak with pride of "letting their belt out, a bit."

Halfling is a rather condescending Skaldi term for them - it literally means "child-men" or "adolescents." The Halflings have no particular name for themselves: they merely refer to their race as "travellers." The Halflings are divided into several large family groups which they call "camps." Each camp has a long history, and young Halflings are expected to do something that will earn them a place in the history of the camp. This can mean going off and having adventures, obviously, but a well practiced healer, harpist, debater, lawyer or even warrior will also earn such an honour.

Despite an innate wanderlust, the Halflings do settle in small communities, usually on the fringes of agrarian or urban human society - close enough that they will be safe from enemies, but far enough that they will be left alone. There are several major clusters of Halfling settlements in the Westerlands. One can be found in the southern Aldani isles. Another occupies the low wooded hill country west of Ambria. Others are dotted around the Bay of Otters. In the Bay of Otters, the Halflings make a good living as in-shore fisherfolk and fish driers. They trade their catches with the wine producers of Caldea, and the wool-producing Skaldi tribes, amongst others.

The Men of Anias

The Skaldi are detailed in the Cyradon book. If you do not have that book, they are simply a normal race of men, divided into several tribes, who dwell in the vast and rugged landscape of the Westerlands. The Skaldi take their name for the warrior poets who led them past the Asar Mountains in centuries past. They all speak a common language, and Skaldi tribes can be found anywhere from the islands of Aldan, to the shores of the Northern Ocean, to the Bay of Anjoria to the borderlands of old Tarahir. Described by poets as "yellow of hair and blue of eye, and tall" the Skaldi are actually a well varied people, and have developed major cultural divergences and tribal identities. They are a warrior culture in the slow process of becoming more settled and urbanised, and their legends are still bloody sagas of feuds and war.

Aldan is the seat of the so-called Kingdom of the Isles, a loose alliance of small kingdoms all historically owing allegiance to the royal line of the Pryderi. The Pryderi were maritime kings who kept the peace along the north coast, the fjordlands and the western reaches of the sea of squalls. The Pryderi kings oversaw an ancient covenant of northern lords. The covenant lords in their storm wracked holds have an ancient history and are said to have been rivals of the Cyrads once. The Pryderi kings defeated the "storm lords" of the Sea of Squalls and made them bow to the Iron Crown of the islands. The northern Skaldi tribes named the high king of the Isles their "Bretwalda" and paid him tribute. Though the High King of the Isles was the overlord of a large realm, he struggled to keep the peace amongst the fractious people of the Isles, the Fjords and the Grey Shore. Aldan was always a good place for mercenaries to earn a bloody living.

But the last of the island kings is dead now, dead on the ice of the endless drift, and those covenant lords dream of being kings again.

The Cheltai

The Cheltai are the plainsmen, the horse tribes of the eastern steppes. Described by Westerland harpers as tall, golden skinned near-giants, the Cheltai have brought war to the Westerlands centuries ago, and many fear that they will again.

Some Cheltai (and the name, in truth, refers to but one tribe in a large group of peoples), travel in the Westerlands to trade, or earn money as a mercenary. Like the Skaldi, they are a warrior culture, which honours warriors and mighty heroes, and they don't have any particular animus towards Westerlanders as a whole. Still, when the war drums beat, they will follow their tribe's call to battle.

The Cimbrae

The Cimbrae are known as the "hill folk" by the Skaldi, and they are the descendants of the first of the "eastern tribes" to come to the Westerlands in ancient time. Their name means "the speakers" and refers to their language, Cimbraic. Closely related by blood, and distantly by language and culture, to the Skaldi, they remain a people apart, and they have often warred with the Skaldi and the Tarahiri. They are a minority people in most of the Skaldi lands, though there are many places scattered throughout the Westerlands where they are the dominant tribe. Their domains in the Aldani isles, the eastern marches and the northerly isles of the Skaldi lands are reasonably powerful realms, and respected. The Cimbrae are seen as poor and barbarous by their neighbours though. The Cimbrae make for a fearsome sight on the battlefield, painted and tattooed, and fighting like wild beasts. Still, they are a disorganised people, and too few to make a real difference.

They are the most closely related to the Mebion tribe of the Skaldi, and the Mebion still speak the Cimbraic language. The Mebion learned many of their rituals and sagas, and some of their warcraft from the Cimbrae, and both tribes have a reputation of being dour and unfriendly to outsiders. It was from the Cimbrae that one of the favourite weapons of the Skaldi came: the great longbow. For that invention alone, the Westerlands have much to thank - and despise - the Cimbrae for.

The Cruachain

The Cruachain is the old Cimbrae term for the descendants of the Fomorians of their old legends. The Skaldi call those hideous green-grey skinned creatures "orcs." The Orcs are not a major factor in the lives of people in contemporary Anias. They featured much more in the old sagas of the Cimbrae and Skaldi bards.

The Cruachain are still a threat, but a small one compared to the wars and raids of human warbands. They live in small communities on marginal land far from human habitation, and far from Mablung and Sithi. They are divided into various tribes, septs and sub-tribes (usefully documented by the Venturer's Guild as Goblins, Hobgoblins, Kobolds, Firbolg and Nemainaidh - imposing artificial divisions which don't always hold true in real life). They are individually dangerous, and their small warbands are a serious threat to isolated communities, but they count for little in the story of Anias in these hard years. Bards tend to exaggerate their involvement in any battle or border conflict, which gives the Cruachain an air of constant menace.

Ardreni

The Goblin-men of the Asar Mountains and the Boreal are an old race with a tragic history. A terrible deal with the dark powers, the Elder Fomorians, in ages past meant this once proud race of men are forever cursed with a somewhat inhuman visage. Before they called the dark powers, they were named the Men of the Ardren forest, the Ardreni. They keep that name as a remembrance of better time, and a badge of their shame. They have green-white skin and big sullen red eyes, and long clawed hands and predator's teeth. But thoughtful observers have noticed how, despite the inhuman features, the Ardreni are very human indeed. The Goblin men have been driven from their homelands, first by the Cimbrae and then by the Skaldi and now are little but a collection of small broken tribes dreaming of returning to their homelands. The curse will always burn in their veins, and they despise the "outcomer" tribes who stole the land that was once there.

But most of all, they hate the arrogant and inhuman Alvarae who enslaved them in the first place.

Recent History

Three catastrophic events have happened in the recent past in the Westerlands. Ten years ago, there was a terrible war in the north, amongst the ruins of Alta and the ice fields north of the Sea of Squalls. Few know what happened there; all that came to the Westerlands was a rumour of dire threat and terrible slaughter. The High King of the Isles, the lord of all the Aldani Kingdoms, marched along the coast of the Sea of Squalls, and at Endless Drift, on the ice, was besieged by a multitude of enemies. Few survived, but the tale of the terrible bloodshed at Endless Drift and the calm heroics of the High of the Isles and the North stirred the heart of poets everywhere. In the aftermath, the Ardreni and the Fomor-men assailed the eastern marches and the Sithi forests. There had been such "goblin wars" in the past, and though it brought death and battle, that war was soon over. Most of the men of the Skaldi kingdoms and the marchlands instead looked south to rumours of war, and the peril of Tarahir.

Two years ago, Tarahir burned, and many warriors of the Westerlands died or disappeared in the wreck. That was the year of the Lost Summer, when rains destroyed much of the crops, and the lack of men to harvest it brought the land close to famine. In the Aldani Isles, the High King's covenant men, chieftains and princes argued and plotted as to who would take the iron crown of the North and the Isles. But the Queen of the Indiri, the Grey Elves of sea and sky, appeared before them to warn them that great peril was coming, and hunger stalked the Westerlands. "Feed your people," she told them, "and look to the east, because you have not seen the end of war." The Indiri and the islanders, together with the bard-prince of Ambria, brought food and aid to the Skaldi lands, and saved the land from terrible woe.

But all heeded the Indiri Queen's words, and feared them. The covenant lords readied their beacons and marshalled their armies; but all the while they plotted and fought, and yes, murdered and pillaged, in the name of claiming the iron crown.

Then, in the spring, the beacons were lit. An alliance of Skaldi kings, Elves and Mablung took to the field against an army of foes comes out of the east and north. Ardreni and Cruachain and Firbolg were there, but also the tall men of the east on their huge horses.

A vengeance long planned was unleashed that day. When the covenant forces fought on the White Plain, and when their reserve was committed, the Fomorians emerged from the sea, and fell upon the armies from the rear.

The High Elves gave their lives for humanity; the glorious army of the High Queen stood on the White Plain by the Sea of Squalls and fought to the death to prevent the Fomorian's host pushing through the plain and past the Hill of Watching. The Indiri host, loyal to the death to their house of queens, true blooded descendants of the Alvarae, died in battle with the dark sea-demons.

And then it was over. They burned great lords of the covenant beside their men, in vast pyres that lit the night.

The survivors returned to their homeland. The covenant was broken, and the great Tesigh-council that should have been called on this high-summer's day to choose a new king, was called off. No one has the authority or renown to bring these fractious tribes and chiefs together.

The Westerlands licks its wounds, and mourns its dead, and fears what the future will bring. The winter was short, and mild, and the Harpers say that this will be a good year, and will bring a good harvest. But others look at the skies, and off to the horizon and wonder.

Starting Out...

The land needs heroes. The people need to be protected by brave warriors and they need to be inspired by canny leaders and courageous adventurers. The catastrophes of the last decade have scarred a generation. The people have no need for the petty or the mean.

When creating a character, "go big or go home." Make someone who will be heroic, who will fight until his or her last breath for his people, and do the sort of things that will have Harpers singing his or her praises for centuries to come. Make stable boys who get the chance to prove themselves against assassins. Orphan girls destined to become great mages. Create warriors who dream of something more than the annual call to weapon-take. Harpers who want to live the great stories. A girl whose father and brother are gone to Cyradon and now must take up the old family spear. The character could be a freed thrall who dreams of earning great renown. People who dream of setting the iron crown on their heads. Make heroes. A hero doesn't have to be boring, or self righteous, or flawless. The great heroes of the old German, Norse and Irish sagas were anything but. Think in terms of epics. Things may be quiet in the Westerlands for now, but that will not last. Who knows what terrors lie on the horizon? Those terrors will need folk of great heart to stand against them. This is, after all, High Adventure Roleplaying.

Creating A Character

Take the HARP core rules. Follow the instructions. Voila. Creating Anias characters needs the HARP corebook and that alone. You don't even need the Cyradon core book. Characters who come from Ambria (see below) do not need any of that information.

Write a lineage for the character. Imagine a set of ambitions. Work with the GM to create a set of motivations for your character. Describe rivalries, feuds, secret loves and dark secrets. What do the characters peers and tribal compatriots think of the character? What are the character's family's expectations of the character? Does the character have old scars? If so, tell the group about them! Did the character's father or brothers fight at any of the three disastrous military campaigns that so shaped the continent's recent history?

Equipping a character

Any piece of equipment listed in the HARP corebook is available, for the price and time described, in Ambria or the surrounding "old heartlands" of Tarahir, or the "New Tarahir" realms higher in the foothills. The major cities, the old Imperial Port of Tyria and the Academy-city of Ambria offer all these services and goods to those who can pay.

The further north one gets, however, things like plate armour and more exotic weapons such as the Main Gauche, Nunchaku, Jo, Katana and Tonfa become more and more expensive (due to rarity). In the Skaldi lands, warriors tend to be more conservative in their weapon choice. Spears, axes, bows and the occasional greatsword are a known quality, and "kill as well as they need to." The Skaldi and Aldani islanders tend to use boiled leather and "chainmail" (hereafter referred to as "mail") when they use armour at all. Still, it's almost expected that a warrior who has "taken the south-geld" and worked as a mercenary in the heartlands, will return with some interesting and exotic paraphernalia. The Skaldi don't bother replicating it, since such things rarely fit their war fighting styles and culture.

By The Harper's Halls -- The Realm of Ambria

By the Harper's Halls describes a place with a technology level something akin to 13 th century Europe (or 2 nd Century Imperial Roman Europe, for that matter), and probably the axis of the Rhine/Saone trade route and watershed in particular. It is a reasonably urbanised setting, with a goodly amount of trade bringing wealth and technology (and problems). The landscape is dotted with the remnants of a fallen empire, one which died in war and famine many centuries before. These ruins make good bases for banditry or robber barons seeking riches. They also (it is said) may conceal ancient treasures.

The realm is called Ambria. To the north and east is a wilder, less settled realm called Caldea. To the west is the remnant of the great forest-realm of Astoth. The Astothian forest swallowed most of the land when the ancient Tarahiri Empire fell. However, after several hundred years, humanity recovered from the trauma of the fall, and set about restoring trade routes and cutting back the forest. The southern border of Ambria is marked by the university-city of Fyran. The old imperial port city of Tyria lies further south, and is a mere port city now, a shadow of its former self. Tyria is, however, home to the Anjorians, and the Anjorian worshippers dream of making Tyria a great force in the world again. Together these areas form the western part of the old "Heartlands" of the Empire.

The heart of the realm is the Eiskos River. The river rises from two watersheds in the Jura Mountains, running in two major tributaries until they come together at the Ardwen Narrows. The upper eastern tributaries water the famous wine producing hills of Rhianwen, and the western tributaries fertilise the small farms of Caldea. Below the Ardwen Narrows, the river widens and slows into a great flood plain, and then wends its way south, until it reaches the ruin of the ancient city of Tyria, now slowly rebuilding. The flood plains on either side of the Eiskos are rich and fertile and between the warm sunny weather and decent rainfall, Ambria's farms are rich and prosperous.

Ambria's capital is the old river-fort city of Ardwen. Ardwen is home to the oldest continuous school for Harpers in the world, and also the oldest school for magicians. The school for magicians was formed by the Harpers themselves, to ensure that human magicians were properly trained, educated and less of a danger to themselves and others. The mages prefer not to remember this little factoid, and students of both schools are often bitter rivals. The Harpers also set up the Great Library, which was one of the jewels of the imperial world, and is not a place of learning and scholarship. Ardwen is also noted for one of its more obscure organisations - the friends of Otto.

Ambria may be wealthy and getting wealthier, but it is beset by a host of enemies - rival lords and monstrous tribes emerging from the mountains and the forests. The core of Ambria's defence is the famous Iren-Fyrd, and the Iren-Hirth. Still, it isn't enough, and in times of crisis, every able-bodied person is called to defend the realm. The lords of Ambria have sworn never to let the Harper's Hall fall, and they will bring all their resources to bear to prevent that happening. Ambria is ruled by a king elected from a hereditary council of aristocrats, and the king can be removed by a popular vote. Even when Ambria was a province in the Tarahiri Empire, the lords of Ambria still chose their ruler this way, and the practice confused and even offended Tarahiri sensibilities.

The Tarahiri changed Ambria from a hill fort built on an eyot on the river Eiskos into a marble stoned city worthy of an imperial provincial capital. But it wasn't the high walls and arrogance of the empire which kept Ambria alive when anarchy tore apart the empire; it was the people's quiet pride in their small city.

The majority of the people who dwell by the Harper's Halls are human, but the surrounding land supports small communities of Gryx, Gnomes, and Halflings. The high mountains to the east are home to communities of Dwarves, and Sylvan Elves dwell in the deep forests. The Gryx, Gnomes, Halflings and Dwarves all hold the monarch in Ambria as their overlord. The accented tongue of the Tarahiri Empire has given birth to the common tongue, enriched by Ambrian inflection and idiom. The common tongue, as spoken in Ambria is close enough to the old Tyrian that one can read old Tyrian documents with a little difficulty, but broad enough to make oneself understood to traders from elsewhere. And because the Ambrian dialect of "Tarahiri Common" is the tongue of the Harpers, the language is constantly spreading and growing. Besides, as one Harper joked, the language of Ambria is the language of love, or at least the language of an evening's seduction.

They say that the approval of the Harpers makes one a true hero. A Harper's song will make a warrior famous, a villain infamous and a coward shamed. And now, the Harpers are singing songs of Brolys the Gnome Monk, Nynyve the Elf Ranger, Kalara, Esmerril the Tyrian magician, and his rival Jorge of the north; Therris the Warrior Mage, Theone the Rogue, Lord Brockman the war leader, Phredric and Malhalla the warriors and Morgana the Enchantress.

The climate of the realm is reasonable, with cold but short winters, long warm summers, rainy springs and cool autumns.

Of Enemies and Monsters

All the races listed in Monsters: A Field Guide and the HARP core rules exist somewhere in the Westerlands of Anias. Not all of them are common, and some are assumed to have died out. Still, most are still present and still a threat.

The days of huge battles between Skaldi war bands and hordes of orcs are long gone, but there are quite a few small tribes left, living in small mountain valleys in the Asar range, and in the salt flats to the east. They may dream of uniting and making war with the tribes of mankind, but they fight amongst each other far more. The Ardreni, the goblin-men of the Asar Mountains are more common, and a greater threat.

Giants are rarely found south of the Sea of Squalls. Indeed some Harpers call the old ruined realm of Alta "the land of the Giants" as a result. Ogres and trolls are far more common and typically live close to orcish tribes, and sometimes accompany orcs on their raids. Lizardmen can be found in deep caves in the southern reaches of the Jura Mountains and some say they are distant relatives of the Nagah and Nagaral of Cyradon.

Strange creatures such as Giant Ants, Giant Beetles, Giant Rats and Giant Spiders may seem like things of legend, but every so often hives of those creatures are disturbed, and usually with tragic results.

Unicorns are said to be long extinct, but some romantic travellers have whispered to the Harpers of Ambria that even now, small herds of unicorns still dwell in the northern part of the Sithi forests. The Sithi elves will neither confirm nor deny these rumours.

Adventures

There is plenty for a young man or young lady seeking adventure to do. The land is held together by a fragile peace, but that peace could collapse at any moment. The Orsai could try and press their advantage to the south, raiding into the heartlands. The Cheltai tribes of the east are still following their herds through the endless steppes; their last chieftain died on the stony shore of the White Plain, but he has sons and other kinsmen who dream of leading the horse tribes into the Westerlands again. Ardreni goblins and the small orc tribes might invade outlying communities. Worse things, like Wyverns or Lernean Serpents may rise from their ancient slumbers. And worst of all, the Westerlands is ill-prepared to deal with any serious threat. Recovering from the recent disasters is the work of a generation. The Westerlands do not have a generation.

Closer to home, ambitious Aldani chieftains, or covenant lords might seek to grab more power or lands from weakened rivals. Such chieftains will seek to recruit useful allies - like the heroes.

Outside of politics, there is plenty to do. Trade routes from the heartlands into the north need to be re-established, and new routes explored. Old Tarahiri era tomes of magic are waiting to be recovered and deciphered. The slow collapse of Tarahir's empire left a landscape dotted with old ruins and abandoned fortifications - what lies there now?

And what of the rumours of the Shadowblades sneaking from the ports of eastern cities to infest the emporiums of the Westerlands? What of the old strange temples left by the Tarahiri legions when they departed? What about the drowned kingdom that lies beneath the blue water of the Anjorian Bay? What was the crime committed there that was so terrible?

Fighting, intrigue, exploration, learning strange magics and investigating strange crimes; grand romances, fierce rivalries and terrible blood feuds; all these adventures are waiting in the Westerlands.