The Iron Kingdoms are by no means the only nations on the continent of Immoren. There are sizeable enclaves of Dwarves and Elves adjacent to the lands of Men, and to the west across the dark seas of the Broken Coast there is the island realm of Cryx, home to the Lord of Wyrms. The continent's eastern reaches are a hostile wasteland known as the Bloodstone Marches, in which nothing is thought to live.
Compared to the dynamic kingdoms of Men and the strange doings of the inscrutable Elves, the Dwarves are a bastion of order and reason. Their society has been without major upheaval for over a thousand years. Even their civil wars are more like duels, being organized and adjudicated by the Dwarven Parliament, known among their own kind as the Moot. The traditional leaders of the Moot are the Stone Lords, aged and respected Dwarven citizens who can trace their bloodline all the way back to the Thirteen Families who first founded the Dwarven nation. The other members of the Moot are representatives from the Hundred Houses, ancient landed nobles. It is this group that is responsible for forging the laws of Dwarven society, using an incredibly lengthy set of procedural rules known simply as the Codex.
Across all the known lands Dwarvenkind are renowned for their fine craftsmanship and engineering. Any child knows of the quality of Dwarven stonecraft, of their love of gold, gems and other treasures of the earth. What most people do not know is that the Dwarven skill in stonework is not restricted to the dark spaces of tunnels and dungeons. They also craft many magnificent castles, keeps, temples and bridges, a fact that shocks most first-time visitors to the lands of Rhul.
Elvenkind are reclusive, secretive - many would even say xenophobic. They are also chaotic and unpredictable, at least to the more ordered minds of Men and Dwarves. There is one thing for certain, though - those who approach the land of Ios without being invited do not return. What little trade there is between the Elves and other races is done in such a way as to conceal the homeland from the sight of strangers. There are rumors, of course... some say that Elvenkind are masters of the elements, that the trees and stones whisper secrets to them, or that their cities are built around the temples of living gods as old as the world itself... but no one can or will confirm any of it. Even the rare Elves that choose to leave the homeland are silent on the topic.
Elvenkind were not always so isolated. Many centuries ago the Elven nation did have enclaves scattered across the continent of Immoren, and some small groups of Elves even lived within the borders of the Iron Kingdoms. However, these small cities are now abandoned and falling into ruins, and their citizens have long since vanished. Rumors persist of wandering tribes Elven and secluded cities, but they have never been confirmed.
Today, any Elf seen outside the homeland fits one of three categories. First, there is the occasional well-protected diplomat or merchant lord. These powerful individuals may be spied rarely on the streets of Caspia or other major cities, concealed in a palanquin, conspicuous only by the masked Elven guardsmen that surround them. Second, there is the rare Elven outcast. These pathetic (and possibly dangerous) individuals have been branded and driven from the Jade Lands for some unspeakable crime - among the long-lived elves, exile to the "barbarian lands" is a fate worse than death. Lastly, there is the rarest Elf of all - one for whom wanderlust and curiosity about the world overcome their natural fear, distrust and disdain for the outside world.
Far to the west, in the pirate-infested coastal waters past the Broken Coast of western Cygnar, lie the Scharde Islands. Upon the largest isle (for which the chain is named) lies the kingdom of Cryx. The jagged, foreboding coastline of Scharde hints at the realm's true nature - it is a land even more dark and treacherous than it appears. Its inhabitants are fell troll-kin, beastly ogres, evil Men and warped half-breeds. Dwarves and Elves are all but unknown in Cryx, except perhaps as cowering slaves in the obsidian palaces of the wealthy, or as expensive livestock at the waterfront markets.
The inhabitants of this blighted land all live in fear under the shadow of their ruler, an ancient dragon named Toruk. The Lord of Wyrms, as he is known on the mainland, has utterly dominated his territory for centuries, and his privateers terrorize the western coasts of Cygnar and Ord. Toruk is believed to be the oldest dragon in the world - perhaps even the first dragon. He uses his immense size and power to stay personally involved in the politics of his realm, gleefully putting down would-be rebels or rabble-rousers with claws and fire. His royal court is held in a gigantic black stone palace, warmed by the heat of the wounded earth beneath. For now, King Toruk seems content to rule his remote island realm, but everyone fears the day he decides to expand his borders.
I've seen him crumble castles with a tap from his wing, seen him dig his enemies out of their stone lairs with claws like great steam-shovels... like a force of nature, he is. Cygnar and all the rest should pray that the Lord of Wyrms doesn't come calling, for there would be a terrible price to pay.
- Lord Admiral E. R. Samish, Ord Royal Navy
East of the Protectorate and Cygnar, the land becomes dry and harsh. Thin forests quickly give way to spires of reddish rock, baked earth and blowing sand. The land is so hostile and seemingly worthless that little exploration has been done to date, and the few brave adventurers who have attempted to cross this desert have never come back. The common wisdom is that the Bloodstone Marches are an unbreakable barrier, and what lies beyond is surely not worth the price of the crossing.
No one, not even the most mad and reclusive hermits live in this blasted and withered realm. The only settlement anywhere near the Bloodstone Marches is the small mining town of Pierson's Pit. The Pit lies on the edge of the Marches, a few leagues from the river, and the hard folk who live there make their living digging for coal or gold and shipping it out to Cygnar or Llael. The Pit-folk know more than anyone about the Bloodstone Marches, but their advice boils down to this - stay out.
In fact, the merciless lands of the Bloodstone Marches are not empty at all, but are home to a race as yet unknown to the Iron Kingdoms - the Skorne. Unknown they may be for now, but the western realms will learn of them all too soon. The Skorne, lurking in the sandy wastes just beyond the reach of Men, are preparing for war. Leading them is none other that the deposed King of Cygnar, Vinter Raelthorne IV. After escaping from his prison in the royal palace at Caspia, Raelthorne the Elder went into self-imposed exile to formulate his revenge. He vowed that he would reclaim his crown or he would see all of Cygnar burn. Either way, he would need new allies - his men were loyal to the end but now few in number.
Allies it was he found in the Skorne homeland. The Skorne are a dark, mysterious and reclusive race, leading a dreary existence in the resource-poor western deserts. Theirs was also a society paralyzed by politics; Skorne elders were too busy sneaking, plotting and backstabbing each other to mobilize the nation in any meaningful way. Despite this, they were a nation with immense latent power. Individual Skorne are formidable opponents, and the race's grasp of wizardry is at least on par with the most advanced human kingdoms. Then, there is their assortment of savage slave-beasts, the likes of which the outside world has never seen on or off the battlefield.
Into this environment of chaos and despair came Cygnar's Raelthorne the Elder. A masterful diplomat when it suited his needs, he was able to convince the Skorne elders to give him command of a small army, which he claimed he would use to lead the Skorne nation to new, rich territory - the Iron Kingdoms. Of course, Raelthorne's goals were entirely selfish. He planned to use the Skorne in his own war of vengeance. His first stop would be the vulnerable trade nexus of Corvis, and from there he planned to seize Caspia once the Skorne reinforcements arrived. By the time of Book II in the Witchfire Trilogy, Raelthorne and a small Skorne army are only days away from Corvis. The Kingdom of Cygnar believes that there is no serious threat from the unexplored Bloodstone Marches. They are mistaken...
|Introduction to the Iron Kingdoms||Beyond the Iron Kingdoms|
|Nations of the Iron Kingdoms||Deities of the Iron Kingdoms|
|Map of the Iron Kingdoms||Steamjack Preview|
Fiction - Stone and Blood * A
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