A Tellurian Primer

Frank Mitchell

FIRST DRAFT: Feb 11, 2010

Revised: Jun 27, 2011 (magic), Jun 24, 2013 (toc, css, numbers, reorganization)

Table of Contents

1. What is Telluria?

Telluria is the largest continent on the planet of Tellus. It’s the center of human civilization, what there is of it. It’s a place where demons stalk darkened streets, city-states worship fraudulent patron gods, and the wilderness holds wonders and terrors undreamed of. Here, heroes forever strive against overwhelming forces, winning small victories against the darkness; here, wise men know that evil may wear a pretty face and a twisted body may harbor a pure heart.

Put another way, Telluria is a sword-and-sorcery world I came up with after reading just a bit of Iron Heroes. It’s an amalgam of other fantasy worlds I’ve tinkered with and discarded, and a stage where I can play with other ideas as they occur to me.

1.1. Basics

1.2. Places To Go

Below is a really rough map of northeast Telluria, where all the major civilizations reside. The continent continues westward and southward, to lands known only by rumor and supposition.

Each area offers a different type of adventure. If characters tire of one kind of campaign, they can travel elsewhere.

Below is a summary of cities and regions from the map above, a blurb or “elevator pitch” for each location, and real-world or fictional parallels.

Region or City Description Parallels
Arhan A place where men of all nations may meet and get swindled in peace. Casablanca
Asterion The Jewel of Sarkennia, conquered by the Prophet Gulam (a.k.a. the Red Prophet) in the name of the One God, and renamed Qutub. Carthage
The Border Kingdoms A hundred squabbling kingdoms separated by acres of dark, haunted forests. Medieval Germany, Balkans, Warhammer Fantasy
Dharesh The cops are demons. The criminals are worse. Gotham City
The Fertile Triangle Small farming villages on a natural flood plain feed independent walled city-states, each with its own god or gods, its own customs, and its own dark secrets. ancient Mesopotamia and Persia, Robert E. Howard's Hyborea
Gilash Center of the Church of the One God, founded by the Prophet Kashul and in no way affiliated with those heretics from Sarkennia and Thera. Antioch, Salt Lake City, Clearwater FL
Ghost Lands Forests and plains inhabited by nomadic human tribes, spirits, walking dead, giants, fairies, and stranger things. pre-Colombian North America, Faerie, Mythago Wood
Goblin Steppes Home of nomadic Goblin tribes, sworn enemies of mankind. Central Asia, Mongolia, Gloranthan Wastelands
Great Desert Big. Sandy. Hot. Oases. Nomads. Demons. Monsters. Sahara, Gobi Desert, Arabian Desert
Kaerillus A perfectly normal trading town. Ignore the windowless black tower, keep your voice down, and always keep a light on. Enjoy your stay. York (UK), Arkham (MA), Sunnydale (CA), Royston Vasey (UK), Silent Hill
Kelezni City of Spires, Center of the Sacred Valley, Palace of the Elf Queen, Courts of Intrigue, Heart of the Blessed Lands, Home of Beautiful Evil. Minas Tirith, Imrryr (capital of Melnibone)
Kymry Ginger-haired barbarians who love fighting, drinking, epic poetry, and more fighting. Celtic Europe, Wales, Scotland
Naunet River The God-King Ausare, ruler for a hundred years and counting, enforces order and guards against the machinations of Sutekh through the faceless Eyes of God. Pharaonic Egypt, Oceania (1984), Arrakis, Zhodani Consulate (Original Traveller Universe)
Nepesh Decadent, dangerous, dilapidated, corrupt; a city of a hundred gods, a thousand delights, and a hundred thousand residents -- most of them human. Biblical Babylon, Lankhmar, Shadizar
Northlands Fair-haired barbarians who love hunting, drinking, raiding, pillaging, and more drinking. Viking Scandinavia
Qutub Heart of the Holy Sarkennian Empire; you don't have to be a religious fanatic, but it helps. Constantinople/Istanbul, Omnia (Pratchett's Small Gods)
Sarkennia Plains peopled by horse nomads, once pagan, now believers in the Faith of the One God as revealed by the Prophet Gulam, and in no way affiliated with the infidels in Gilash and Thera Turkey, Scythia, Hellenic Egypt, Byzantium, the Caliphate
Thera Island city-state governed by Merchant Princes who enthusiastically endorse the Golden Rule: he who has the gold makes the rules. Athens, Tyre, Florence
Theran Islands Home to fisherfolk, pirates, goatherds, oracles, olive growers, monsters, and mystics. On smaller islands dwell monks who follow the Way of the One God as revealed to the Prophet Dalkonis, in no way affiliated with the deluded fools in Gilash and Sarkennia. Greece, Ionia, Phoenicia, Minoan civilization
Ur-Kesh Arak of Sarkennia took the throne from its tyrannical king. It's a better place, except for all these sell-swords ... Ur, Aquilonia
Verda Beautiful, immortal Elves who rule their mortal kin, enslave humans to work their plantations, and kill to preserve their Blessed Lands against all things ugly and disagreeable. mythic Ireland, Czarist Russia, Melnibone
Waset Capital of the Naunet Valley, and residence of the God-King Ausare Thebes (Egypt), Ra's planet (Stargate)
Wild Lands An untamed land of savages, lost cities, evil spirits, unspeakable monsters, strange gods, and giant lizards Africa, Central and South America, and various "lost worlds"

1.3. Demographics

Humans are by far the most populous intelligent species, found in every clime and nearly every land.

While the uneducated may speak of various “races” of man based on coloration or facial features, scholars see no difference among human populations. (On the other hand, one city-state is clearly superior to the rest, although scholars argue as to which.) Humans in and around the Theran sea tend to have brown or olive skins and black or dark brown hair. The peoples further north have paler complexions and lighter hair, with Northlanders famously having the palest complexions and fairest hair. Further south complexions get darker, culminating in the Chathic peoples of the Great Desert and the Wildlands. East of Telluria, the peoples of the Xanthic isles possess a permanent tan, while their civilized brethren in Cathay have golden complexions. The people of the far northern continent of Thule, curiously, resemble the people of Cathay and the Xanthic isles, as do some humans in the Ghost Lands. Scholars dismiss tales of blue, green, and purple humans as sheerest folly.

Sapient nonhuman or parahuman species for the most part live in limited, well-defined areas. The best-known and most common nonhumans, ranked in order of population, are as follows:

  1. The Goblins of the central steppes resemble misshapen humans with mottled green, gray, brown, and/or purple skin; most have angular and somewhat exaggerated facial features. While on average smaller than humans, individuals even within the same tribe range from the size of a child to grotesquely muscled brutes and towering beanpoles. All goblins seen by men, alive or dead, appear to be male. The appearance and location of female goblins is the subject of much scholarly speculation.

  2. The so-called “Orcs” of Orcland, a continent southwest of Telluria, have no relation to the “orks” of the Goblin Steppes (see below). They are a short, broad-shouldered people about five feet tall at adulthood; orcs grow larger as they grow older, until an inevitably fatal ailment called “The Wasting” strikes after the age of ninety. Male and female orcs have similar builds, although it’s trivial to tell the difference unless the orc is heavily armored.

  3. Subspecies of Reptilemen live at the edges of human civilization: the Great Desert, the Wild Lands, far southern Sarkennia, small remote islands of Thera, the marshes of Lukania and Dachur, and the Dragon Lands south of the Cathay Empire. As the name suggests, Reptilemen resemble upright reptiles with humanlike arms instead of forelegs, and tails to maintain their balance on birdlike feet. Desert reptilemen are man-sized, and one breed from Thera stands only four feet tall. The rest easily weigh twice as much as a human, with dagger-sharp claws and jaws that can engulf a human head. Scales range from green and blue to various shades of brown, sometimes with black or dark brown patterns. According to legend, reptilemen continue to grow after adulthood; the oldest cannot support their own weight on land and live the rest of their lives in the sea.

  4. The Elves of Verda consist of two major subspecies: High Elves and Common Elves. The High Elves split from their Common kin when they gained immortality through powerful magics. High Elves fall into three, magically divided races: the tall, pale, fair-haired and elegant Light Elves, their dusky-skinned and dark-haired kin the Dark Elves, and hulking and grotesque Trolls. In contrast, all Common Elves are essentially the same folk: shorter than most humans, lithe, olive-skinned, black-haired, with dark unreadable eyes. High Elves have prominent pointed ears, while the ears of Common Elves come to barely noticeable points.

  5. The dreaded Orks or Uruk of the central steppes destroy all in their path and leave few survivors behind. Those few witnesses describe large, muscular figures with black skin and hideous skull-like faces. Although authorities believe Orks to be a species of goblin, their trail of destruction extends far from goblin lands: Thervingia, city-states east of the Lesser Keshbaret, and even Kymry. Mercifully, true orks seem to be rare.

1.4. Flora and Fauna

Creatures of Telluria generally resemble their Earth counterparts in their respective climes. Stranger creatures live in the Ghost Lands, Wild Lands, and other unexplored regions; nearly all fit into usual ecological niches despite their odd lineage or appearance.

Orcland aborigines use several large reptilian species as mounts, hunting animals, and food. Bizarre and horrific monsters with humanlike intellects are rumored to live in the Great Desert and on certain Theran islands. The intelligent dragons and gigantic reptiles who dwell south of the Cathay Empire, on the other hand, are very real, albeit no threat outside their defined borders.

1.5. Magic

By and large, magic in Telluria is rare, dangerous, and impractical under battle conditions. Magicians fall into two non-exclusive groups:

In Telluria, the gods grant no special powers even to their devoted servants. Priests claim their gods answer prayers, although a skeptical mind attributes said “miracles” to natural causes, base sorcery, or just plain luck.

1.6. Technology

In the default era, most of Telluria is somewhere in the Iron Age. A few Bronze Age and Stone Age cultures persist, especially in the West.

The rise of the Holy Sarkennian Empire, ironically, sparks a move into the Renaissance: better weapons and defenses to repel Imperial forces, and an age of exploration motivated by Sarkennia’s missionary zeal.

In the Age of the Magi, the Fertile Triangle and Thera are still in their Bronze Age; other lands are closer to Stone Age. Asterion and Thera discover iron weapons at about the same time, and the innovation spread.

The Orclands went from sorcerous magitech to a Stone Age, and back to Bronze and Iron among the larger and less barbaric tribes. Cathay has had iron and crude gunpowder weapons for ages.

2. The Heart of Civilization

2.1. Heroic Fantasy: Ur-Kesh and the Goblin Wars

The city-state of Ur-Kesh, second only to Nepesh in size, straddles the crags that split the Keshbaret River into its Greater and Lesser streams. In times past it resembled other city-states of the Fertile Triangle: decadent nobility and officious bureaucrats overtaxing merchants and farmers, while priests demanded tithes to silent gods.

When Arak the Sarkennian arrived at the head of a small army, Ur-Kesh would never be the same. Frightened conscripts could not hope to defeat hardened mercenaries, and soon the ruling family was dead or in exile. Survivors of the Old Regime had a choice: serve King Arak or go west, into the Goblin Lands. Most took the former.

Surprisingly, Arak and his red-haired queen Otrera ruled wisely. Citizens could worship whatever gods they wished, but priests could not compel tithes. Arak, reportedly, couldn’t read, but he could count; he reduced taxes, most of which went to repair Ur-Kesh’s defenses, add aqueducts, and improve roads. Arak, his wife, and two daughters lived simply, by the standards of most rulers, and conquering warriors became semi-official protectors of the realm.

Arak’s rule was far from peaceful, though. Remnants of the old regime plotted to oust the copper-skinned barbarian. Rumors of a dark-cloaked figure coming and going to the palace fueled speculation that Arak owed his reign to dark sorcery. His younger daughter patronized a splinter sect of Ninanna, the goddess of the soil and good harvests, which shifted the cult’s focus to becoming powers behind every throne.

And then there are the Goblins.

The hatred between humans and Goblins stretches far beyond recorded history. Humans who settled on traditional Goblin lands met with swift reprisal. In lean winters, Goblins crossed the Keshbaret to raid human settlements (save Kaerillus); often they steal and leave, but larger goblins called Uruk or “orks” slay all men, women, and children they find. Humans, in turn, often slew Goblins who crossed their paths, or hunted them like animals.

In recent years, many Goblin tribes appear to have joined one of three factions: a huge, masked goblin named Zar, a group of self-styled Goblin Lords whose castle lies far within goblin territories, and a mysterious “Goblin Prince” who, incredibly, seeks to ally with humans against the other two. Scattered bands of goblins were trouble enough, but unified goblin nations threaten all-out war.

2.2. Swashbuckling: Around the Theran Sea

Smaller city-states within the Fertile Triangle have their charms, but most of the great civilizations line the Theran Sea; the greatest lies in its center, according to Therans themselves.

The Sarkennian city of Arhan, a former colony of Nepesh , does a brisk trade in just about everything, no matter how unsavory. The rise of the Third Prophet, or the Red Prophet as many outsiders call him, has caused tensions between the Sarkennian Empire and the heathen nations across the sea. Still, the merchants of Arhan have tried to keep the city neutral ground, a place where all people can come and get swindled.

In Dharesh, the legendary City of Demons, inhuman souls wearing stolen flesh walk its cobblestone streets. They’re the city’s elite guards, by an ancient pact. The criminals of Dharesh are worse. Far worse.

Until the last century, Gilash used to be just another small city-state near Nepesh. At that time, the Prophet Kashul, second prophet of the One God, abandoned wicked Nepesh and settled with his followers into Gilash. Astonished by the power of the One God (and for no other reason, despite sacrilegious rumors), the Church of the One God became both official religion and ruling body of Gilash. From it spread missionaries to all the other benighted city-states, who in their wickedness reject the words of Kashul and impiously insinuate Kashul himself wrote the Books of Revelation, and not the Holy Messengers of the One God who revealed the sayings of Dalkonis the Theran.

Nepesh, the City of Decadence, sprawls up and down the Greater Keshbaret. Many of its buildings lie untenanted, at least by humans. Other parts of the city are bustling with life, notably the Street of Temples, where myriad gods from all over the known world have displaced Nepesh’s original patron god, Kalos. Nepesh is often called “the city that never sleeps”, presumably to avoid being robbed, murdered, or enslaved. Its king Thraxes XVII rules Nepesh with a light and somewhat palsied touch, relying on his magistrates and aldermen to administer something vaguely resembling justice (assuming sufficient bribery). Still, its Market of a Thousand Delights is not to be missed; visitors will remember it as long as they live, however long that may be.

The Theran Islands, the earliest civilization on record (despite absurd claims of Dharesh, Ur-Kesh, and Nepesh), invented the writing system now used throughout the civilized world, and explored the Theran Sea when Dharesh was but a tiny desert outpost. Once ruled by the Priest-Kings of the Twelve High Gods, Thera now chooses its rulers democratically: one coin, one vote. The Merchant Princes of Thera now venture beyond the known world to the Xanthic Islands and far Cathay, seeking new peoples to swindle. Oh, the other Theran islands have their mystics and oracles and dark enchantments, fabulous beasts and island nymphs aplenty if you like that sort of thing, but the main island of Thera is the place to be.

Waset, now known as Niut-Ausare (City of Ausare), lies along the Naunet river, separated from the Great Desert by the Mountains of the Honored Dead. The cities of the Naunet worship their God-King Ausare, who died and returned to life by the power of his own godhood (with the tiniest bit of help from Eset the Wonderworker, now deceased). His masked Eyes of God ensure the happiness and obedience of all in his kingdom, and remove any disruptive individuals who in their madness oppose their benevolent God-King. The God-King allows no foreign visitors past the dockside areas of Ineb-Hedj, a small town at the mouth of the Naunet.

2.3. Knights and Preachers: Sarkennia under the Red Prophet

Horse nomads have ridden across the Sarkennian plains since time immemorial. In days long gone they worshipped ancestors and warlike gods. Then came Gulam, the Third Prophet of the One God.

As Dalkonis and Kashul before him, the Prophet Gulam spoke of Messengers who revealed that mystics and priests alike had misinterpreted the will of the One God. He wrote a book, The Laws of the One God, several hundred rules for following the One God’s will.

The Third Prophet unified many clans under the banner of his god. Gulam’s cavalry swept across the plains, converting or killing all pagans who could not escape. At last they besieged and took the city of Asterion, itself weakened by succession disputes after the disappearance and presumed death of the Witch-Queen Ashteret, sometimes called Baalat. (The Sarkennian Empire insists that no immortal “Witch-Queen” existed; in their view, a ruling pagan cult used young women to portray an “immortal” queen.) The Prophet renamed Asterion to “Qutub”, and made his day of conquest the first day of the first year of the Holy Sarkennian Empire.

Yet much work remains to be done: outlying areas have yet to hear the words of the One God, or abandon pagan ways. False gods and demons from the Wild Lands hold sway over simple folk. The Prophet has commissioned elite warriors to hunt down monsters pretending to be gods, blasphemously nicknamed “The God Slayers”. He has sent conventional troops to enforce the Laws, and teachers to show them to the True Faith.

Rumors of pagan cults within Qutub itself are, frankly, ridiculous. No sane person would worship the bizarre gods of Asterion, let alone the Witch-Queen.

3. Beyond Civilized Lands

3.1. Low Fantasy: The Border Kingdoms

Hundreds of “Border Kingdoms”, as the Fertile Triangle cities dismissively call them, dot the Thervingian Peninsula. Despite dreams of a High King, each king will make and break alliances freely if he thinks it to his advantage. Only the ginger-haired barbarians of Kymry maintain a loose confederation, based on clan relationships and the authority of priest-scholars called “druids”.

Part of the problem may be geographical: between each kingdom lies miles of forest, haunted by ghosts, werewolves, and all manner of monsters. Even coastal cities are not safe. Gold-haired Northland raiders attack Kymric and Lukanian cities often.

3.2. Faery Tales: The Ghost Lands

Most people call the forests and plains west of Kymry the “Ghost Lands”. They say powerful spirits of nature wander these lands, invisibly or in animal form. A small wood might contain a huge kingdom of barbaric splendor and bizarre topography. Tribesmen talk to their ancestors, and sometimes the ancestors talk back. Giants taller than trees terrorize small villages, and dragons slumber under smoking mountains.

So they say.

3.3. Weird Tales: Kaerillus

Kaerillus, technically on the Goblin side of the Keshbaret, is a picturesque trading town of mixed Thervingian and Kymric descent. There’s little crime, and not even goblins try to invade. The last invaders, a Northland tribe, left less than a day after arriving, before dawn; in their haste, they left swords scabbarded, armor on racks, fires lit, food and drink on tables. Local merchants made a tidy profit.

The Chamber of Commerce and the office of the Mayor welcome all visitors, although it asks them to respect the quaint customs of Kaerillus:

The Kaerillus Chamber of Commerce hopes you enjoy your stay.

3.4. Dark Fantasy: Verda, the Blessed Lands

Verda is a green and pleasant land, ruled by the Eternal Queen Talitha from her throne in Kelezni, the vast city at the center of the Sacred Valley. Its tall and fair rulers, commonly called “Light Elves”, worked powerful magics in centuries past to make themselves immortal. Their smaller, darker, and mortal cousins, the Petty Elves, serve them as foot soldiers, guards, minor functionaries, and overseers of their great plantations. Human slaves toil in the fields or tend to the needs of their betters.

Elfkind consider the unchanging realm of the Eternal Queen a paradise. There is little crime, for criminals are not permitted to live. No one could possibly oppose the pure and good and beautiful Queen, certainly no “dark elves”, “trolls”, or “wood elves” who are but fairy tales told by irresponsible slaves who will be … chastened for their error.

3.5. Exploration: The Wild Lands

Below the Great Desert and west of Sarkennia lies the Wild Lands, grasslands shading into tropical jungles. Its dark-skinned human residents range from primitive tribesmen to sprawling bronze-age kingdoms. Its nonhuman residents include reptilemen, wild beasts not seen in the north, giant lizards, demon-spawned monsters, and capricious nature spirits.

No explorer has yet found the western edge of the Wild Lands. The southeastern coast stretches south from Sarkennia to the impassible Sea of Ice, and no one has found the western coast overland.

4. Across the Great Ocean

Off the map, lands of legend and rumor await intrepid explorers.

4.1. Seafaring Adventure: Xanthic Isles

Far east lies a chain of uncounted islands, peopled with primitive hunters and fishermen with strange gods. Some tales of these isles sound unbelievable: humans ruled by octopuses, female warriors who have no need of men, living statues, fish-men, talking plants, sea monsters, giant insects, and a cure for stupidity.

According to sailors’ lore, the Xanthic Isles lead to the fabled land of Cathay.

4.2. Asian Fantasy: The Cathay Empire

Founded by the legendary Dragon Emperor, the Cathay Empire dominates its continent. The Cathay Empire is organized, hierarchical, and bureaucratic. Those who defy the Mandate of Heaven risk the wrath of heaven’s servants. Renegade lords forfeit their lives if caught, and peasants who protest against them forfeit their lives for transgressing the Divine Order. People in Cathay have no gods, just a blend of seemingly incompatible philosophies. They venerate ancestors, past emperors, mythic heroes, legendary rogues, fictional characters, and the dragons to their south.

To the north and east lie barbarian tribes who refuse Imperial rule. To the south lies the holy Dragon Lands, where only dragons and their invited guests may tread.

4.3. Post-Apocalyptic: The Orc Lands

Named “orcs” by Sarkennian explorers, the aborigines of “Orcland” generally live along the edges of the continent; the center is a desert where only crazed orcs live. Most orcs live in hunter-gatherer groups, although the eastern edges contain a few small kingdoms. Settlers of Cathay occupy islands and coastal regions of the northeast. The Holy Sarkennian Empire conquered nearly all of the coastal tribes; only one, the Ashen Hand, stood against them.

Legends tell of an ancient civilization where the desert now stands, whose military and sorcerous power exceeded their wisdom. According to the aborigines, a “Shining God” mesmerized the sorcerers of this civilization, and led to their downfall. The emblem of this deadly god is an eye; to this day the aborigines refer to eyes with euphemisms, and never draw a picture of an eye, or even the ideogram for “eye” in their language.

5. Adventures in Tellurian History

5.1. High Magic: The Era of the Magi (-1000 years)

In a prior age, the Great Magi walked the world.

How or why these humans – if they were human – could bend natural laws with but a thought, nobody knows. Some thought them gods, or the children of gods. Others spoke of power beyond the gods, beyond demons. Still others say the Magi combined innate gifts with esoteric knowledge now lost.

Whoever they were, they left their mark in history: Rojander of Dharesh who turned marauding demons into protectors, the Three Sisters of Verda who gave immortality to the High Elves, Eset of Nauet who unwisely raised Ausare from the dead, the Witch-Queen of Asterion who reigned cruelly or benevolently depending on the legend told, the Dragon Emperor who founded the Empire of Cathay.

And then there are legends yet to be told …

5.2. Mystery and Mysticism: The Time of the First Prophet (-200 years)

When the Priest-Kings still ruled Thera, an illiterate fisherman named Dalkonis Katreides had a vision. The Messenger of his vision announced that the only true god is the One God whom it served. The One God wishes mankind, his creations, to live in peace and freedom, and reject all illusions that keep him in turmoil and enslaved. In subsequent visions, he met the highest Messenger, Sophia, who warned that a great Enemy sought to rule all mankind, by feeding man’s ambition and greed, and setting up false gods to distract mankind. Further revelations concerned the true beginning of the world, and prophecies of its ending.

The Priest-King, understandably, accused and convicted Dalkonis of impiety for calling the Twelve High Gods false. By order, soldiers tied a millstone around Dalkonis’s neck and dropped him in the middle of the Theran Sea. Despite persecution, the disciples of Dalkonis revered his words, and wrote most of them in The Testaments of Dalkonis. Two generations later, the power of the Priest-Kings faded as they got poorer and the merchant class got richer.

Some mystics in the Theran islands believe that time is an illusion; Dalkonis still lives, and the Enemy replaced the Priest-Kings with indistinguishable successors.

5.3. High Fantasy: Rise and Fall of the Holy Sarkennian Empire (0 to +400 years)

For the rest of the Prophet Gulam’s life, he consolidated his power in Sarkennia. He even reached out to the Church in Gilash and Dalkonite monasteries in Thera, for whatever good it did. Upon his death, a compromise between the Prince of Qutub and the Presbyterion (Council of Elders) averted the same wars of succession that doomed Qutub’s previous rulers: the Prince and his vassals elsewhere enforced the Holy Laws, and the Presbyterion, headed by a Patriarch, interpreted the Laws and defined doctrine. An arm of the Presbyterion, the Office for the Propagation of Clear Teaching, eventually evolved into the Inquisition.

Once the Empire adapted to the Prophet’s death, its days of conquest began. Their war fleets assaulted Thera and the entire northern coast. Two decades of war later, Sarkennia had conquered Lukania, Dachur, Nepesh, Gilash, the Naunet Valley (displacing the God-King at last), parts of Thervingia, and all but the Sacred Valley of Verda. To rule each of these far provinces, weeks away by sail, Qutub appointed a Prince and an Exarch subordinate to the Prince of Qutub and the Patriarch, respectively.

Three hundred years later, the Empire discovered a small continent southwest of Sarkennia, dubbed “Orcland” after explorers likened the squat, ugly inhabitants to the legendary “orcs” of the Goblin Steppes. Ten years after that a border incident in Verda triggered the Second Elf War, also the last; Sarkennian forces streamed through a pass in the Curtain Mountains, establishing a foothold in the Sacred Valley and swiftly bringing both defeat and mortality to the High Elves.

That same year, historians say, began the decline of the Holy Sarkennian Empire. Within mere weeks of each other, the Verdan Prince expelled Inquisitors from his realm after months of unrest, a tribe of Orcland aborigines somehow defended their lands against elite Sarkennian troops, and some sort of lightning strike destroyed the Imperial Vaults in Qutub. The next few years saw the rise of at least one pagan cult within Qutub itself, and the Holy City’s increasing irrelevance to the rest of Sarkennia. The Lukanian and Dachur provinces followed Verda in declaring independence, and fragmented yet further. Soon, the Faith of Gulam splintered into a dozen sects and heretical cults, as the Church of Gilash before it.

6. Even Further Out

The known world comprises less than a third of the supercontinent of Telluria. Other areas for exploration include: