Welcome to the Free Kingdoms, a fractious collection of independent kingdoms mired in a quagmire of land disputes, hereditary conflicts, and greed. Every spring war drums beat as a constantly shifting collection of petty kingdoms vie for power, land, and honor.
When they climbed from the smoking ruins of the Alliance colonies after the Cataclysm, a visionary group of nobles and military leaders joined together to forge a dream. They conceived of a land where a collective of autonomous kingdoms would be independently ruled in ways that met the unique needs of their people. A combined High Court would stand at the ready to provide guidance and leadership in times of desperate crisis or to settle intractable disputes between member kingdoms.
Well, that was the theory anyhow. The modern reality is a fractious collection of kingdoms mired in a quagmire of land disputes, hereditary conflicts, and greed induced warfare. Every spring war drums beat as a constantly shifting collection of petty kingdoms vie for power, land, and honor.
In its early days the Free Kingdoms lived up to the lofty ideals of its founders. Unfortunately, as the years passed and younger, less idealistic children took over thrones from their aging parents, the dream of the Free Kingdoms faded. Within two generations the kingdoms settled into their now familiar pattern of social maneuvering, shadowy intrigue, and war. Around that time it almost splintered into a patchwork of truly independent kingdoms, but mutual security and habit held the kingdoms together.
Lay of the Land
In the eastern Free Kingdoms lay the fertile flatlands of the western Agthorian Plains, while in west are the densely wooded highlands of the Dragontail Mountains. To the south are gently rolling hills marching up from the sea, and to the north stand the towering, snow capped peaks of the Donarzheis Mountains. Cutting through the center of the nation is the mighty Serenth River, which empties into the Amethyst Sea at the city of Hawk’s Crest, home to the High Court.
Villages Towns and Cities
Most people in the Free Kingdoms earn just enough to survive and little more. Their homes are simple wattle and daub buildings framed with heavy beams and covered by thick, thatch roofs. Scattered among these humble dwellings are the manors of the freefolk nobility. Half palace and half fortress, these impressive stone edifices are designed to provide optimal defense while simultaneously serving as a shining symbol of the owner’s wealth and status.
Towns with even minor strategic importance are walled and will have a castle to defend them. Additional fortified outposts dot the landscape at key tactical locations. The security offered by these outposts often attract a tavern keeper, a trader, a few farmers, and some craftsmen. They make their living serving the needs to the soldiers stationed there, and in time may serve as the seeds of a new town.
Law and Order
There is no common set of laws in the Free Kingdoms. Each freefolk ruler sets the law as they see fit and may change the law at any time. Accepted custom in one kingdom may be punishable by death in another. Those who are not familiar with the Kingdoms are strongly urged to find a local guide to avoid unfortunate legal misunderstandings.
If you can fight you can surely find work in the Free Kingdoms. There is always a war going on somewhere, and many of the freefolk lords and ladies pay well for the services of adventurers.
The political chaos of the Free Kingdoms also provides cover for dark hearted souls seeking to grow their personal power. Corrupt mages, blood thirsty warlords, and worse have all used the unrest of the provinces to hide their nefarious schemes. With the freefolk nobility distracted by their own scheming, it often falls to adventurers to protect the commonfolk from these evils.
While the bustling capital of Hawk’s Crest seems an unlikely place to find ruins or monsters, adventurers who travel there are in for a surprise. It turns out that the founders of the Free Kingdoms built the city atop the ruins of old Norentor, the first Alliance settlement on Aetaltis. According to legend, when the Cataclysm struck the entire city of Norentor sank into the ground. Only the tallest spires remained visible. Today a labyrinth of hastily mined tunnels, ruined chambers, and ancient buried buildings lie beneath the streets of Hawk's Crest. The chaos touched essence left over from the Cataclysm is still strong here, and adventurers are often called upon to investigate strange happenings in the maze of passages known as the Undercity.
As kingdoms rise and fall large tracts of land are regularly abandoned, sometimes for years at a time. These places revert to their wild state and are often infested with chaos spawned beastfolk, vile monsters, and sometimes even endrori. Many lords and ladies of the Free Kingdoms prefer to ignore these problems if they don't pose an immediate threat, since they know that eventually some brave adventurer will come along and clear the place out for them.
Art & Illustration
- Map of the Amethyst Sea by Mike Schley
- Winter Castle by Jack Holliday
- Cliff Castle by Winfall Design
Journey to the Undercity...
Want to learn more about the Undercity of Norentor? Check out THE UNDERCITY JOB, a short story by Dave Gross about a group of little adventurers who get themselves into big trouble when exploring the twisting passages beneath Hawk's Crest! You can find this tale of adventure in CHAMPIONS OF AETALTIS, an anthology of 17 short stories that all take place in the World of Aetaltis!
To learn more about the World of Aetaltis, check out a full index of our past content posts here!