Kingmaker - Heroes of the Margreve
“The hills rise wild, and there are valleys with deep woods that no axe has ever cut. There are dark, narrow glens where the trees slope fantastically, and where thin brooklets trickle without ever having caught the glint of sunlight.
The old folk have gone away, and foreigners do not like to live there… The place is not good for imagination, and does not bring restful dreams at night."
— Calathes, Chronicler of the Pathfinder Society
The Stolen Lands encompass an area that covers approximately 35,000 square miles. There are several distinct regions within this vast territory of trackless steppes and primordial forests.
Characterized by rolling hills of brown and yellow, the landscape of the Kamelands is notable for its many rocky mounds known as kames. Grasses in the Kamelands grow quite tall—sometimes up to 4 feet—and present a difficult barrier to both travel and settlement in the region.
Among the high grass and rocky hills rise the mysterious kames, mounds of ancient stone and debris. The kames together form great, strange patterns, suggesting waymarkers, barrows, and long-destroyed walls and foundations.
Very few animals live in the Kamelands; its rare occupants include rodents, snakes, foxes, hares, and wolves. Wyverns are known to fly over the region, and boars, bears, and even owlbears sometimes travel in from the Margreve Forest to the east.
The Margreve Forest
The Old Margreve is an ancient place, already old when most of the gods were young. In time immemorial, it cradled the great spirits of nature, and its loam felt the footfalls of the old ones. As millennia passed, its roots swallowed rivers, its canopy stole the sun from vast tracts of land, and its groves crested mountains that have since weathered to hills.
In all that time, the Margreve has changed little. Time seems to transpire around it, lapping at its edges like the sea around an island. Though kingdoms rise and fall beyond its borders, the Margreve remains a world apart—a place where memories and old magic linger in the rings of trees and where new ideas never quite take root.
Very little is known about the Margreve’s interior. There is simply something wrong with the place, something that unsettles the nerves, plays upon fears, and discourages exploration. Too many stories of danger exit the wood and too many travelers do not. The few Pathfinders who have dared the Margreve’s deep trails return with strange scars, stranger stories, and too few prizes to warrant either.
From the outside, the Margreve looks like many other forests: in some places, dark, tangled, and foreboding. In other places, sun dappled and open, like an evergreen palace of towering tree pillars, ivy carpet, and wind-rustled canopy. But there is something more to it. Something hiding behind the wind and the leaves and the trees. Something living and vigilant. A presence that none who stand dwarfed amongst the trees can deny.
The Margreve spreads across the lowlands from the River Kingdom of Mivon through to the central duchies of Berovy, bifurcating the Stolen Lands cleanly, and features craggy hills, lazy streams, deep ravines, and a great variety of trees, including oak, beech, and rushleaf.
The region hosts a rich variety of wildlife as well, with elk, rivercats (a cousin to the bobcat, with a strange sort of mossy-fur), black bears, many large rodents, boars, and brush thyclacines. Stranger still are the giant owls, will-o’-wisps, owlbears, and aggressive vegetation. Gangs of trolls range the southern edge of the forest, closer to Lake Candlemere, and the ruins of many bandit hideouts dot the landscape as well, leading to rumours of long lost riches and fantastic treasures.
Tors of the Levenes
Rising from the Kamelands, the Tors of Levenies are a towering mountain range, thrusting skyward as if created by some terrible upheaval. On the western side, the Tors feature sharp cliffs and escarpments, while on the east the mountains ascend gradually, gently climbing to the summit.
Those who attempt to ascend from the east (thinking it easy) are disappointed to find the path dotted with pits, valleys, ravines, and tarns, making the ascent quite treacherous. A vast system of caves honeycombs beneath the Tors, and adventurers who return from those depths bring cautionary tales of wyverns, enormous blind snakes, and poisonous stones. Odder still are tales of enormous carvings and cave art, made by the hand of impossibly sized artists.
The frontier region known as Dunsward on the easternmost side of the Stolen Lands borders the trackless steppes of Casmaron, the ancient ruins of Iobaria, and the farthest frontiers of Taldor
Dunsward is characterized by low, grassy plains, and its most common inhabitants are proud and suspicious centaurs. They avoid what are traditionally considered human lands, adhering to some unwritten and age-old truce between themselves and the humans, but should their plains feel the imprint of human boot, they are quick to anger and violence.
The Icerime Peaks are a mountain range that mark the eastern borders of Berovy and the River Kingdoms, and the western reaches of fallen Iobaria. They run roughly from the Lake of Mists and Veils in the north, all the way down to the Castrovin Sea in the south. The Peaks are quite picturesque, capped with white snow and ice that melts every spring to produce giant waterfalls, and refills the many beautiful, clear mountain lakes. Few travel through the dangerous mountain passes to Iobaria, however, as that wasted country can offer little in terms of trade.
Scattered throughout the Icerime Peaks are entrances to mountain dungeons from the time of the ancient empire of Iobaria; some dungeons are dated even older and are haunted by ghosts and spirits of long-perished soldiers and miners who once occupied the lands
The Hooktongue Slough
Beyond the western reaches of the Margreve sink the lowlands of the Stolen Lands, a great murky swamp of rotting trees and moldy mosses. Threaded through with hundreds of slow-moving rivulets and algae-clogged brooks, the Hooktongue Slough sprawls in a massive slime pit, home to all manner of stinging insects, sickly rodents, and croaking predators.
Among the northern reaches, large snakes and strange water-striding creatures hunt in close proximity to Lake Hooktongue. To the south, several tribes of boggards inhabit high mound-islands, defending their lands against all interlopers while avoiding the ill-reputed northern lake. Trolls also make occasional forays into the southern swamps, but in wariness of the frogfolk and their strange magics they rarely attempt to expand their territory.
With such obvious dangers and countless more unknown, few humans would even consider entering the slough were it not for the azure lily, known to grow only amid the bogs just south of Lake Hooktongue. Reputed to be able to cause paralysis in any creature that breathes in its grainy blue pollen, the elusive lily has long been hunted for by bandits and assassins of all walks. While most believe the plant to be nothing more than a myth, occasionally a few pinches of a dangerous blue power appear in Pitax or Daggermark, spurring renewed interest in and searches for the plant. Such hunts, however, usually culminate in nothing more than more deaths and disappearances in the depths of the Hooktongue Slough.
One of the harsher regions of the Stolen Lands, if not the entire River Kingdoms, the region of Glenebon, also called the Glenebon Uplands, is characterized by rocky hills, tall grass, and tangled scrub, scoured by harsh winds and summer brush fires. Few trees stand above the craggy hills and little shelter exists in the dusky land, with the hilltops mounted by barren stone and the valleys filled with scrub and scree. While rain comes too often to transform the hill country into true badlands, the rugged plants that thrive in the area mean that little more than beetles, rodents, snakes, and mangy wolves prowl these hills.
Several small prides of manticores find the region to their liking, however, and range from the Branthlend Mountains across the hills and into the irradiated wastes of Numeria, fighting each other for dominance and impaling any creature larger than a hare that falls under their shadow. Further north, into Numeria, spine dragons, wendigos, and other powerful monsters haunt the loneliest of places. Here, the scrubland barely supports life and the hills are pockmarked with alien ruins from the Rain of Stars.
The western most reaches of the Margeve Forest, Thousand Voices is one of the densest forests in the known world. It features a great variety of life, and an even greater number of mysteries.
Known also as the Woods of Breath, the Thousand Voices is a strange and bewitching place, with tall beech, white oak, hemlock, and veined orger trees. Those who speak of it are quick to mention the tales of unexplained disappearances, ghosts, and winding paths which encircle and confuse those who dare tread upon them. All who speak of the Thousand Voices give the same message: avoid it, for mankind is unwelcome.
Inhabitants of the forest include numerous fey and fairy-folk, said to live in the trees, and who defend the woods against those who might cut or burn it down. Bandits speak of even stranger things lying deeper in the wood: glowing giant dragonsnails, Trees That Weep, houses of gingerbread and candy, Ghogas the Tick Mother, and the ivy-covered Castle of Knives.