Stonewall, Saints, and the Void...
The North Gate
The Kingdom of the North Gate
Bound by freezing seas on three sides, the Kingdom of The North Gate is a cold, mountainous country renowned for the quality of its fish, the quality of its beer, and the quality of its citizens, who hail from a particularly hardy stock.
The country, whose original name is lost to history, has been called The North Gate since the raising of a gigantic stone gate at the foot of the one mountain pass into the kingdom. The gate was discovered by a small group of soldiers some centuries ago, as they were digging an impromptu grave for one of their own who had fallen fatally ill on the last leg of their journey home. As the Gate fit descriptions of a similar gate from ancient legend, the soldiers reported the finding back to the king, who promptly venerated the Gate and proclaimed it the national symbol. The Kingdom’s prosperity in the intervening centuries has been attributed (mostly by those within the Kingdom) to the finding and raising of the Gate.
The North Gate Peninsula is a large landmass jutting from the northwestern edge of the continent, connected to the mainland by a narrow isthmus, through which runs a large mountain range.
The land of The North Gate is dominated by the Blackiron Mountains, the so-called Spine of the Kingdom. These mountains (black and red from heavy deposits of basalt and iron) are the remnants of a much larger volcanic range, which still lend a consider amount of geothermal activity to the entire Kingdom. The mineral rich slopes of the Blackirons provide a steady supply of nutrition for the great tracts of forest on the mid-slopes up to the tree line, and the wide grasslands at the base of the mountains. This range effectively separates the Kingdom from the mainland. A single narrow pass cuts through the treacherous peaks. Named for the ancient hero who first cut the way with his sword, it is known as Rotha’s Scar or The Rothaswathe. Folk on the southeastern side of the gate call it the Uthfor Pass. In their language “uthfor” simply means tomb.
Politically, the Kingdom is divided into five earldoms, each governed by their respective earls. In turn, the whole Kingdom is ruled by two kings: the Sea King (junior), who rules from the maritime capital Hreven-by-the-Sea; and the Mountain King (senior), who rules from the mountain fastness of Kingsforge. Years of infighting have weakened the relationship between the two kings, though in recent years no more is heard of a once-rumored split in the Kingdom. Any lingering hostilities ceased some years back when a threat from within the mountains themselves was quelled by the collective might of the sovereigns’ two armies.
To the north and the northeast, the country is bounded by the Deep White, a frozen expanse of ice-choked water commonly thought to be the northern “End of the World.” Gigantic floating ice drifts provide homes for the earthbound fauna of the region, such as walrus, seal, and polar bear, all of which support the small, iron-willed population of Kingdom natives who live on the northern shores.
A small portion of this part of the Kingdom is cut off from the Peninsula by the trailing edge of the Blackiron Mountains. This land is for all intents and purposes ungoverned by the Crown; many of its denizens are unaware that they are even part of a separate “Kingdom,” even though a portion of their labors (hunting, fishing, etc.) goes back into the State’s coffers. Here, tribal law is the master. Nomadic bands follow the migrations of the native animals and scrape their survival from the ice of the region. There are a few chieftains who have consolidated power, effectively ruling over collections of tribes. In addition, there is a nameless individual who is known simply as “King of the Deep” who is rumored to rule the entire region, answerable to the Sea King (in whose region—Hreven—this part of the frozen North falls.)
The five earldoms are as follows:
Saltern – on the southernmost tip, shaped like a broadleaf spear-tip, with the Western Sea on one side and the Saltern Bay on the other. Grassland covers the land closer to the coast on the west. Vast pastures allow Saltern’s own variety of sheep to proliferate and graze. Extensive salt marshes (from which the earldom derives its name) cover the eastern side of the spear-tip; open saltpans line the flat coastal areas, supported by whole communities of salt farmers. Forests on the slopes of the Blackirons cover the northeastern portion of the earldom. Much lumber is produced here. As well, a great deal of raw iron is mined from this part of the Blackirons.
Saltern is an incredibly wealthy region, and as such, is much favored by the Kingship. It is also the largest of the five earldoms
Earl Bœthys IX Saltern runs the earldom from the chief city of Bathsby. Bathsby is a major trading hub, as it is the southernmost and most accessible of all the cities of the North Gate Kingdom. Located on the delta of the Nidenne River, it is also a very significant—if not the most significant—port city in the entire Kingdom.
Visiland – a tectonically active archipelago, consisting of roughly forty separate islands of varying size and shape a scant few nautical miles off the coast of the mainland in the Western Sea. Due to the undersea vulcanism in the area, smaller islands have been known to rise and erode away within the span of a generation or so.
The majority of the population lives on the island of Isaberth, which is home to the only permanent settlement in the earldom. It is also the permanent home of Earl Ephancek I “Maidensbane” Visiland, notorious pirate and one-time state enemy. Over many years of rampant and brutal piracy, Ephancek managed to amass an enormous amount of wealth, holdings, and influence. During the aftermath of the mysterious assassination of the former ruler, Ephancek used this wealth to pay off and/or remove many potential successors to the earldom, as his plan for some years had to been to ultimately acquire his own province. Rumor has it that even the Sea King saw a tremendous share of the loot. Another rumor has it that the Sea King himself—a known enemy of the former earl—had a hand in the assassination of said earl.
Needless to say, the Visiland Archipelago is home to several pirate strongholds. Strangely enough, it is also the home to the Kingdom’s Navy, though the two entities never seem to interact on any meaningful level.
Politically, Visiland is allied with the Sea King, as that sovereign has ultimate sway over the Kingdom’s involvement with sea trade.
Technically, in terms of square mileage and population, Visiland is the smallest of the five earldoms.