The Arching Mountains
IntroductionThe Arching Mountains are the longest chain of mountains in Aestis and no nation or tribe has fully succeeded in settling them though in their deep wooded valleys there are numerous small fiefdoms such as the Kingdom of Durkevaal. The range runs from El’Shar in the north east of Aestis, on the very edge of the Hostar Plains and it curves south and westwards, ending at the borders of Del’Vettor and Del'Marah .The mountains serve as a natural eastern border to the Arclands and many of the more superior and insular inhabitants of the cities around the Great Arc Sea look upon the Arching Mountains as a vital natural barrier between themselves and the Outer Kingdoms. It is home to one of the greatest achievements of the Vannic and Arcish civilisations, the Library of Harenis, buried deep beneath Mount Khest. The lords of the Outer Kingdoms have generally viewed the mountains in an altogether different way. The high passes and low valleys, rivers and great lakes have served for centuries as vital trade routes between the poorer outer and richer inner realms. Currently, Veska has penetrated the small kingdoms and baronetcies that control most of the cross mountain traffic and has successfully managed to dominate those trade routes, much to the resentment of their neighbours, the Ghothars. The mountains are a vast natural wilderness full of mysteries and secrets of the past. Their peaks were the home of the Van Empire, when the Vannic Emperors decided to remove themselves from the affairs of the ‘lower dwellers’ or ordinary humanity. The Van built six immense fortresses above the low lying clouds of the Arching Mountains, the greatest of which was Daeuss Kaa. These empty and abandoned monuments to Vannic civilisation exist as partial ruins on the mountain tops, obscured by the perpetual mist and cloud in the Arching Mountain’s steep valleys. Throughout the mountains, small communities exist on the shores of the great lakes and in the foothills, often beyond the rule of even the most minor king or baron. Hunters, trappers and outcasts mark secret hidden trails across the mountains; Half Fey and Chorale are drawn to the remoteness of the mountain range, anxious to avoid contact with humanity. The mountains were heavily affected by the Sundering , with parts of the environment becoming saturated with magical energy, warping both fauna and flora, creating new life forms and reawakening old ones. From the sky fragments of the Celestial Realm rained down on the mountains and large chunks of Celestial masonry crashed into the forests and sank to the bottom of icy lakes. Wherever these parts of the world of the Keeper landed, magical beings both fair and foul were instinctively drawn to them.
The Lost World of the Vannic PeopleThe Vannic people, the first civilisation of Aestis, built their citadels including the vast fortress, Deauss Kaa, high in the peaks of the Arching Mountains. They believed that the high peaks were the home of the select few and that the connection to The Keeper could only be maintained by building mountaintop civilisations. They viewed sea-level humans with contempt and wars were waged across the Vannic empire to prevent the Vannic elite from becoming corrupted by 'life on the lower slopes'. In the millenia since the end of the empire, the great citadels, which were built high above the clouds in the mountains have all been abandoned and only a few of the towns and villages in the mountain passes once built by the Van still exist. Few who inhabit them can claim to have Vannic ancestry, instead they have become places in the cold and the mist for all manner of exiles, wanderers and outlaws to inhabit. The 'eyrie towns' are often destinations for those who wish to vanish and hide at the very margins of civilisation and so are often populated by those with hidden magical knowledge or other extraordinary powers that are a danger to themselves and others.
The Iron ArmyThe Arching Mountains are the most inhospitable terrain in Aestis and they are home to a variety of small kingdoms and principalities, tucked far out of sight of the rest of a largely disinterested continent. In order to keep the mountains safe from invading foes and from abominations that might crawl out of dimensional portals, the lords of the various sparse kingdoms across the mountains that existed centuries ago pooled their military resources to create one army that would protect the sanctity of the mountain passes. Some scholars have thought that it was the first step to the creation of a mountain kingdom across the Great Arching range. The Iron Army still exists as a force, looking down from mountain eyries, ready to fight and pour troops into the valleys and passes of the Arching mountains if an enemy army crosses. Military powers such as Dran look upon the army with an element of bemusement, wondering why it would go to such time and effort to defend mountains, but not a kingdom. As ever, the lords of the Arclands understand nothing that happens beyond their borders and care even less. The Iron Army is dedicated to the existing kingdoms in the mountains (such as Slinde for example) but also to the memory of the past. To them, the mountains are not simply a gateway between east and west, but are the place where the memories of fallen kingdoms and kings rest. As such, armies such as that of Dran must find another way round. The Iron Army is a force of stability in the mountains and, like the Wild Lands League is interested in any strangers who might be from Mordikhaan or the Black Republics. The difference is size however. With over 2,000 warriors, the Iron Army is a formidable force and one which can deploy in full plate mail with spear and shield in any mountain weather. Arclanders prefer to ignore the army but are keen to leave it in the mountains where it belongs, having the army deploy in the Arclands for any reason might not end well. It is led by the enigmatic Lord Tyge, silent brooding presence, according to those who have encountered him. He stands at nearly seven feet, betraying his part Firg heritage.
Crimson banners fluttered in the icy wind at dusk and Vereyah knelt before the Lord Eye of the Peaks, master of the western Iron Army. Behind her, on the vast mountain top courtyard stood hundreds of her companions, knights of the Iron Army whose lives were dedicated to the protection and peace of the Arching Mountains. At Vereyah’s feet was her sword and she gazed at it intently, waiting for the Lord Eye to speak. “You come to this place knight of the order, to pledge you iron will and blood?” He asked “I solemnly do,” she repeated, as thousands had done so before. “You come to this place to abandon all other loyalties, to serve and to honour your masters?” “I solemnly do,” she said. “You come to this place to protect the weak, to punish the aggressor, to act with fortitude, to act with humility, to ever seek truth and to never submit to fear?” “I solemnly do,” she said. The Lord Eye knelt down with her, producing a vial of Vannic oil from his robes. He poured a tiny droplet onto her forehead and drew the sign of a Vannic sigil for iron into her flesh. She felt a tiny glow of warmth in the her skin, distinct against the freezing mountain air. “Arise, sister,” he said, lifting her as he stood again. “Arise, arise, arise,” shouted hundreds of voices in unison. Vereyah’s initiation was complete.Do you want more lore? Get weekly updates on World Anvil and the Arclands Blog straight to your email inbox, PLUS our list of fifty mysterious trinkets to delight and enchant your adventuring party. Get your copy here.
A Fire in the Heart of KnowingOur debut Arclands novel is available here. Read A Fire In the Heart of Knowing, a story of desperate power struggles and a battle for survival in the dark lands of Mordikhaan.