For the first installment, I present the dark kingdom of Golmadras (as you may have guessed I have a thing for treacherous kingdoms laden with sorcery). I'll provide a map and overview here, and in the next several installments will elaborate on each location in greater detail, including stats and data to run it with AD&D.
Capitol City: Eramis
King: Emperor Aruzan Damar (no wife taken yet)
Allies: Saddikar, Al’Jhira, Naminthia, Caratea
Enemies: Etrurias, Octzel, Hyrkania, Sendral
A thousand years ago the ancestors of the modern Golmadrans were a mix of southern people, from the kingdoms of Karaktu. The proud and mysterious Argoseans with their dark sorcerer kings, the nomads of the great savannah plains, the dark elf exiles of Yenetai, the amazon warriors of Laibros, and the warrior-merchants of Shillarth. Karaktu had been extant in the world for as long as the Middle Kingdoms, and had evolved with its own parallel purpose and history to the rest of the world. Then the Deluge brought destruction.
Golmadran lore tells of how the rabble of old Argosea rose up against the sorcerer king, deceived in to believing he was a false god by mad prophets who claimed the Deluge was brought on by the emperor’s hubris. Amidst the time of flooding a civil war broke out. After several years of intense conflict the Emperor and his closest followers abandoned the field, and took the faithful across the Argosean Sea to settle a new land, leaving the old kingdoms to be swallowed by the rising waters of the Deluge. Thus did the exiles of Argosea come to the shores of Sylvias in the north, as they willingly went in to exile with a hundred ships and ten thousand loyal soldiers and their families; or so the official history books claim.
The sorcerer-king Aregas Damar was charismatic, but the elves could offer only temporary assistance. It was when Aregas discovered the age-old feud with the ashtarth dark elves of Modra that he realized he could turn the conflict to his advantage. Offering quiet support to Modra and the goblins of Eldrannor, Aregas backed them in a decisive and vicious coup, using his own army against the elves to sieze their coastal cities and ultimately lead the battle inland. Through clever manipulation he gained the trust of the Hyrkanians of Old Blackholm and Hyrendan, and in a matter of less than thirty years Sylvias was in his control. It was a bloody conflict, and the Suetheinurien elves were scattered.
Elvish stories of this period are muddied by poor recordings of the time, though the high elves are quick to assert that the refugees, under rulership of King Aregas Damar, betrayed the elves within but a few years, siding quickly with the scheming dark elves, forging an alliance to seize the land. Unaccustomed to betrayal of such magnitude, the high elves quickly fell and were driven back. Only a few remained as slaves at first, though they would later embrace the new order. Such was the time that the elves became a diaspora, spread throughout Lingusia, as they sought a new way of life and a new home.
The new lord of the land, Damar proclaimed himself emperor reborn and renamed the lands as Golmadras, which meant the Final Lands in Argosean. Later on he declared himself god-emperor as well, suggesting that he was immortal and all his descendants would be as well. He established a state-sponsored church of worship for himself, though he openly permitted the reverence of the ashtarth demon gods, so long as they were regarded as inferior to his own divinity. The ashtrarth chafed at this, and there was a brief civil war, before those who preferred to enjoy the benefits of cooperation accepted the new laws Damar had decreed.
More mysteriously, Damar advocated worship of the “true divinities.” These gods were ones almost no one had ever heard of: the Shadow Pantheon of Unarak, Phaedra, Eskandar, Zelkarod, Amadan and Yagatas. The cults of these gods were slow to start, and the mysterious nature of these largely unknown gods left many openly confused about the emperor’s embrace of this enigmatic faith. Nonetheless worship began, forced by the demands of the new empire.
Eventually Damar perished, though he was two more centuries in to his rule when he was assassinated. His longevity was taken as proof of his divinity by most, and the children he sired were clearly immortal (or long lived) as well. He was at last slain by his own kin, and his son, Garanus Damar, rose to take his place, declaring that his father had been released from his mortal shell to ascend to the planar realms, where he would unlock the mysteries of the cosmos.
Unknown to most, the Damar family had been given immortality by a select few: Unarak and his Shadow Pantheon. During the flight of the refugees, the shadow god had approach Damar and offered him the secret of immortality, in exchange for undying subservience. The intent, it seemed, was for the shadow gods to establish a firm foothold of worship in the mortal plane, to at last seek out true worshippers.
The real test of power for the gods of the Golmadrans came during the Plague of Unarak. The hordes of undead somehow never struck the lands of Golmadras, which became a bastion of safety as refugees from many lands traveled to seek out the safety of the kingdom, to embrace the Shadow Gods as their own.
Over the centuries Golmadras has grown strong, and the once great woodlands of Sylvias have been turned to the use of the growing empire. The current lord of Golmadras is Aruzan Damar, who proclaimed himself the new god-emperor, not merely of Golmadras but of the whole world. Many believe he is even more megalomaniacal than his ancestor. Luckily he appears not to have a sense of strategy, for military engagements against his neighbors have proved unsuccessful.
Aruzan Damar is quite insane, but extremely powerful. As a living descendant of the Argosean sorcerer kings imbued with the secrets of Prehunate longevity, he seems to excel in sorcery. Damar would like to attain control over all of the Middle Kingdoms, but he has enough trouble keeping his empire united as it is, and finds the Hyrkanians and Etrurians to be more than a match, militarily. He feels that if he can just find true divine power he will gain the necessary edge. Damar secretly reveres Xorion and Dalroth, two principle deities of the old Chaos Pantheon, consulting them for advice via the oracles of Mount Seriphar, a fact which he keeps from most so as to avoid incurring the wrath of the Shadow Pantheon.
Today Golmadras is a strict empire; a totalitarian regime which denies recognition to rival kingdoms and religions within its boundaries. It is comfortable to those who believe firmly that might makes right, and is a dangerous place in which to live for those with dissenting thought. Its merchants are generally welcome in many ports, but Golmadras tries hard to remain self-sufficient, a cultural mark of the Argoseans from old.
Although bards love to tell stories about how one day the elves will rise up to reclaim their forestlands, it is an unfortunate fact that the long war of the elves between their darker kin had taxed them severely, and the short invasion of refugees led to too many losses for the elves to safely recover from. Elves can breed but once a century it is said, and if so, then it may be many hundreds or even thousands of years before they are strong enough to contest their homeland in the mortal plane once more. Still, a handful of high elves and sylvan elves remain, quietly, in the dark woods of Golmadras, seeking time and opportunity to strike against the invaders whenever possible. These elves will never forgive the loss of their homeland, and often do not even forgive the flight of so many of their kin to distant lands, let alone the handful of “betrayer houses” which sided with the Golmadran emperor so long ago.
Eramis the Capitol
Eramis is the rough capitol of the land, centered on a vast ziggurat-palace from which the god-emperor and his house rules. It is a harsh city of blackened soot and vast urban sprawl, where cruelty and violence seem to be normal, for suffering is regarded as the only correct state of mind in the Golmadran religious state. The only open worship permitted in this city is to the god-emperor himself and the Shadow Pantheon, though worship of the ashtarth demon gods is permitted in their barrio district.
Eramis is known for its cruetly and harsh living conditions, but it remains the most popular trade port along the Iron Gulf. Merchants from far and wide are welcome here, as the emperor long ago relaxed all trade limits and tariffs to encourage growth. A side effect of this influx of foreign merchants and goods is a brisk underground economy that specializes in everything from illegal imports unattainable elsewhere to a brisk but very dangerous trade in religious artifacts, iconography and texts for those beliefs that are forbidden in the land.
This vast lone mountain was once the Oracular center of communion for the Silver Elves, but has long since been turned in to a monastery and enclave for the oracles of lost Seriphar, those ancient witches who advise the emperor in his schemes.
This remote mountain fortress is located on the remains of an even older elvish fortress, where it is rumored the emperor likes to go as a vacationretreat. The mountains are being pillaged with deep mining operations for previous metals, including mithril.
Golvad is another bustling town, but this time for being a center of pilgrimage, as it is nestled along the base of Mount Seriphar.
This coastal port along the Inner Sea is the center of the Golmadran navy in that region, which is tantamount to saying “a lot of pirates that work together.” Though they can put a huge number of ships to sea, the Golmadrans seem unable to organize such fleets in a convincing manner, insuring they are unable to do more than raid and pillage along the coasts of their antagonistic neighbors.
This coastal port is the center of the southern navy and is much like its northern cousin, rife with pirates. Zulgoth is also home to the largest demographic of nonhumans in the region, including many survivor species from sunken Karaktu. It is ruled by the rakshasa Kadraen, a good friend of the emperor’s, who lets Kadraen do as he will in his strange city.
This is the only occupied city to retain its elvish name, and has a meaningful elvish population. The silver elves who dwell here chose to be subjugated rather than leave their homeland, and they have been persecuted heavily, treated as an underclass throughout Golmadras. The city is ruled by the emperor’s favored concubine, Elatta Sectaraine, given rank of governess and the will to do as see sees fit in a once holy elvish city now turned in to a vast bastion of sin and debauchery.
The woodland elves of Sylvias’s eastern Eflin were not quite ready to leave their homeland. Located deep in the fey woods of their mountain valley, Thylanalien stands strong. Several times now have the Golmadrans climbed the nigh-uncrossable mountains to this deep wood, and each time have they been destroyed by the sylvan elves. Some believe that Thylanalien exists in the Weirding at the same time as the mortal plane, but none know for sure. Unfortunately for the sylvan elves, the emperor has found their resistance amusing, and he has declared their extermination a sport, encouraging young warlords to seek his favor by forging armies to climb the mountains and seek out the fabled sylvan city and raze it.
This eastern castle oversees the only safe past between the Southern Hyrkanian deserts and Golmadras. It is fairly nondescript, but has the usual sooty, burnt architecture so common among the Golmadrans, and is usually fair warning to those approaching that the kingdom beyond is not a pleasant place to journey for anything less than official business.
Ruins of Thystivianen
The vast ruins of Thystivianen are but one of many lost elvish cities, though this one was laid to waste by the dark elves themselves. The city contains the spectral remains of the old Tree of Life, slain in battles long ago by the dark elves, though it is said that the young god Poltrietie grew from the last of the sacred seeds of life from this tree.
To this day the haunted ruins are occupied by diverse factions of dark elves, goblins, naga, trolls, orcs and other beings seeking to inhabit them, while Golmadran treasure hunters try to find lost elvish treasure and occasional parties of vengeful silver and wood elves will arrive to slaughter the defilers as best they can.
The dark elves of the old war who sued for peace and allegiance to the emperor continue to dwell here, in a city both above and beneath the forest, named for its greatest leader, the dark queen Modra who had the vision to imagine the ashtarth rightfully retaking the sacred elvish homelands for their own. Though the ashtarth of Modra seem content, there is to this day much discord among the dark elves, envious that the Golmadrans so effectively invaded and expelled the silver elves, yet they seem to treat their dark elf allies like barely tolerated second class citizens.
Deep in the heart of Golmadras is said to have been an ancient subterranean realm, where the last of the old elvish knights sought to destroy the goblin kings of old during the era of the Early Empires. The goblin kingdom was called Kalevarsh. Little is known of this subterranean realm, but it holds a nearly mythic quality to the goblins of Skazdras.
This relatively nondescript port is home to a large population of Yenatai draconian, the weredragons of mixed dark elf and dragon blood.
This port city is largely independent of immediate Golmadran influence, and is rife with Etrurian influence as well. It is notorious for being an open port to all, including pirates.
These ancient fey hills are overrun by goblinoid tribes who thrive in the region, occasionally growing so quickly that neighboring cities must call for a periodic culling, which turns in to a minor war between humans and goblins for a time, until the beasts are driven once more deep in to the earth.
The Bleakwoods and the Goblin Swamps
This vast track of western land beyond the Great River of Light (which bisects the western and eastern dominion of Golmadras) is rife with monsters, especially the dozens of tribes of the so-called Skazdras, the Goblin Kingdoms. Noteworthy in this western region is the port of Aldromos. Several small townships can be found along the coast, but almost no human settlements can be found in the Bleakwood, and none at all in the swamplands. Among the dark elves there are several remote settlements, and a handful of fortresses paid and managed by mercenaries hired to handle the dirty work of protecting the overland roads in the region.
Aside from the many monsters and goblinoids in the region it is known that the last indigenous tribes of elves can be found within the Bleakwood, where they have dwelt for a thousand years and will continue to do so. These small but vigilant tribes of silver and wood elves struggle against the occupants of their land, taking the rare opportunity to strike out and do damage whenever possible, thus necessitating the reason several well-funded mercenary garrisons are stationed in the region.
The Bleakwood and its accompanying swamplands are also the location of ancient ruins, belong as best can be determined to a civilization that arose in the region about four thousand years ago, which prospered for a time before collapsing sometime around the era of the War of the Gods. Old Hyrkanian historical texts exist which name this land Erekantas, but little is known of this lost kingdom and its people. Elvish records that survive the period are curiously lacking on any details, though the elvish records of occupation date back eight thousand years.
Scarsad (Gorgoth Isle)
The mysterious island of Scarsad is said to hold a great temple to the Ancients, where the ancient prehunates are worshipped openly. It is even rumored that the physical forms of the prehunates themselves can be found here, engaging in cosmic meditations. Occasional heroes have sought to gain entry to this mysterious temple but the island is guarded by ferocious monsters that have successfully repelled all attacks.