Dark Lands (rɔjgraʂ)
The Four Dark Lands
The Four Dark Lands (Roj Nogra Ise in the local language, often shortened to Nojgrasz) are among the northernmost regions of Nys. Most people consider them similar to what the world would look like if the Abyss could devour or influence it. Chaotic energies linger in the lands, and dangerous creatures roam their woods. People live in small scattered villages and only a couple of larger towns.
The Dark Swan
A well-known legend recounts the Dark Lands were once the most prosperous region in Nys, at the beginning of the third era. Four kingdoms ruled over the lands until Nogry Węsz, the Dark Swan, appeared, cursing the lands, dooming them to the fate we see now. Each country decayed for different reasons: diseases overrun the western, feral frenzy the eastern, civil war the southern, while the northern became unreachable. Many believe finding and killing the fiend swan would revert the Dark Lands to their previous, prosperous condition. However, nobody knows where to find it. Others think the northern kingdom was the perpetrator of the curse since the swan flew northwards after casting it. It is unclear what they would get out of it, so many think it backlashed.
Spirits, Creatures and Other Nightmares
Foreign people describe these lands as if everything here wants to kill you. That is not true. Some creatures do want to eat you alive, like the carnivorous plants. Others want to play games with you. They may chase you, hunt you down, trap you and torture you, but may not kill you. You will miss those who just wanted to eat.
Of all the Nysian regions, the Dark Lands are currently the least suitable for civilization to prosper. Feral animals, empowered by the chaotic energies, roam the lands, looking for preys, spiteful spirits haunt woods and ponds waiting for their chance to have fun with the living. Even demons are known for lingering in the region, killing people for enjoyment and leaving a trail of corpses behind them. Tales, myths and folklore talk about the existence of benevolent spirits and recount how people should behave to attract their attention and get their help in surviving in the unforgiving lands. A common old wive's tale, for instance, describes what pregnant women should or should not do to attract benevolent spirits, the wigra kesje. Another legends recounts how the original concoction causing magic field sensitiveness trance was given by a benevolent spirit to a worthy sorcerer.
People, Villages and Towns
Every other person in the city wants to kill you: if you have two friends, be aware of one of them.
Foreigners think living in a city, behind a stone wall, would give people more chances to survive. Towns are easier to defend, fend off animals and can rely on a proper defence body. While this is true elsewhere, probably anywhere else, it is deeply false in the Dark Lands. People in the wilderness are united, helpful to each other. Different villages often hunt together, share food and seldom fight among themselves over resources. The cities are battle royals: everyone wants to kill you, stole your food, possession, anything worthy. People are hungry for valuables, be it bread, enchanted amulets, weapons or blood. Because of this hostility, most cities declined and lay now in ruin, scattered across the region. Only two major towns remain. One is Medźina, which lays in a mountain pass connecting the Rojgrasz with the Empire. The other is Remnava, towering from its hill in the middle of a plane in the southern region.
Magic and Alńe
The Alńe probably want to kill us all as much as many other creatures do, and we would happily get rid of them too if we could. But they are the only way we can survive in this hostile region. They are a necessary evil.
Living in the Dark Lands is only possible thanks to magic, in a "fight fire with fire" fashion. Most creatures, arguably including some plants, use magic and incantations to hunt, hide, or generally survive, and so do people. Every village has, usually close nearby, an isolated hut where a lonely person lives: the Alńy. They are sorcerers, people born with the gift of magic, blessed and cursed at the same time. People beware of them since they are so similar to demons: both use magic and have enough power to destroy a village. However, alńe are necessary for survival thanks to their knowledge. They know how to prepare concoctions, perform banishing, protecting and prosperity rituals and fight spirits and other creatures requiring particular techniques. Why magic works differently in the Rojgrasz than in the other regions is an open debate. In the rest of the continent, in the advanced world, people study magic as they do physics, engineering or literature. While there still seems to be a natural predisposition, nothing suggests magic is a gift. Many scholars think the chaotic energies lingering in the region can sap magical capabilities in most individuals. Others attribute this to the fear of magic: they claim every inhabitant of the Dark Lands could use magic if they tried. According to them, it's the social taboo hindering their capacities.
But, Why Then?
Do you think I like living in these cursed woods? I would leave tomorrow if given the chance. But we cannot. Nature itself opposes those trying to go away: the woods change before their eyes, the trees move in their way and animals seem drawn to hunt them. You don't want to leave. We will try to survive here and die fighting.
It is a common claim no one can decide to walk out of the Dark Lands. Many tales recount how those trying to escape were later found dead, gone crazy or otherwise unrecognizable. Scholars and researchers from other lands, who do not want to believe in the nature itself turning against travellers, attribute the difficulty of escaping to other, more logical, factors. In fact, those wanting to escape can decide where to try their luck. There are three possibilities: towards the Arkadhian New Empire, Doujate or the Frozen Lands. To exit towards Doujate in the West, one must traverse an unhealthy swamp, Praszka. Tricksters inhabit it, and sleeping in it is usually fatal. On the Empire side, in the south-east, one must instead go through Medźina, a town occupying the only mountain pass available. They say the Shadow Court makes sure no one can enter the Empire from there. Finally, to reach the closest inhabited settlement in the Frozen Lands, far in the northwest, one must walk for weeks in the snow and cold. Not your most enjoyable experience. Rojgraszian inhabitants completely disagree with them though. Some tried to escape and survived, and described how it really seemed like the land did not want them to go leave. Some people believe this behaviour to be a cry for help: the region needs the help of its people to heal, and tries, in its own twisted way, to force them to stay. Only when the Abyss will have been defeated, the land shall find peace.
What to Read Next
The Four Dark Lands, Roy Nogra Ise