Charn has spread its roots from the area of its founding in Hextus to the edge of The Desolation, the old Azure Kingdoms and the Sunset Sea in the south. It controls considerable amount of territory, having swallowed up smaller independent realms and having forged treaties with monstrous nations situated in the shadows of the Walls of the World. War was sought with the fertile western kingdoms and for awhile Charn’s size spread all the way to the borders of the Greatwood and southern Myrddion. While they collapsed under the weight of their own empire, corrupted political structures rotting from the corruption within, Charn is still a fearsome empire, despite its myriad troubles. Without a doubt, many consider Charn to be the greatest military power on the continent, simply one that lacks a coherent and stable authority at present.
The Stygian Empire of Charn is considered by many to be the sister nation to Myrddion. Charn was a theocracy, ruled by the triune churches of Taara, Maugrim and Thul, before a military strongman proclaimed himself Tyrannus Maximus. That did not last, and with Maugrim’s retreat and Taara’s rise, Charn was plunged into turmoil once more.
The temple of Taara, with the assistance of several wealthy noble houses, had already undercut much of the influence the other two faiths held within the nation and had subsequently been excluded from thee triune church. With Taara's rise, this fissure was made permanent, as the shadow elves made their move, formally seceding from Charn and establishing their own state to the east, centered on the city of Lathail in the Forest of Whispers.
To the typical Aerythian, Charn is a dark and evil empire where cruel servants of the gods of darkness and their mighty military forces endlessly crack whips over the backs of slaves, while experimenting on them in the name of arcane magic and artifice in a mad quest to recapture the glories of ancient Kulthus. They see Charn as representing all that stands for evil in the civilized world. The reality is only a little different from this and many folktales that exist about Charn have large strands of truth behind them.
Charn, a desolate nation, relied on other nations for sustenance and for the production of food. Alexandria's disappearance and the recent unrest of nations brought famine to its doorstep. The poor began to starve, as the blasted landscape gave up no food and lack of trade choked off external supplies. Hunger cults dedicated to Thul preached cannibalism; in Aby’ssa, the nobles ate too well, hoarding whatever they could find, take or appropriate. Charn assumed the mantle of a nation of monstrous atrocity, that which its enemies had always claimed it was. Poison and ruin spread across its landscape as the once insurmountable Black Wall began to crumble -- the Desolation expanded over and through the gaps; at the same time, the reuse of the Black Wall’s stones for more every day purposes by scavenging peasants became more common. Now, the Black Wall is a tattered remnant of what it used to be.
The troubles reached everywhere: even Charn's architecture was not immune. Castle Conquera's levitation and propulsion systems failed and it settled on the rim of Aby'saa's caldera where it crushed tenements and manors with equal abandon. Years later, gangs of slave slowly excavate the mountainside in attempt to settle the grounded castle.
Charn's size means that its climate varies greatly. Mountains known as Caracoroth’s Teeth form the barrier between Charn and the blasted lands of The Desolation. This mountain range rings the northern Dreadlands and is surrounded by dry arid wastelands and poisoned regions created by the experimentation of Charneth necromagic and war machines. It is still nevertheless a great deterrent against forces approaching from the north. The main pass here, known as The Gap, is well guarded and protected.
Central Charn, located around its capital of Aby’ssa, has been ruined by the overuse of Black-Tech, necromantic energies and the unsafe pushing of industrialization in order to promote and strengthen Charn’s war engine.
"Charn is like any other place," Vortal answers quietly, "The people here don't know any better. Don't know what the world is like beyond its borders. I do. The magic runs in my family's blood. We know first hand what the Garnaks did to them. My first son, Eshranti, is one of them now." He grimaces, glancing down towards the ground, continuing, "I have heard of the thing he and the others have done. Now I hope to avoid the same fate for my grandchildren here. I was a fool to've come here, but those of us that remain deserve protection and to make the best of it. You won't find an attitude like that commonly, though. Most people... they've learned to love the hate that's been bread into them. The hate... and the *fear*. I heard from ny neighbor yesterday that a gileadian cleric spread a blight and that's why the plants don't grow anymore. That Charn's been targetted because of its commitment to Law. They.. just don't *know*. And you can not trust them *to* know."
Far more fertile lands lie further south through conquered regions such as Nightlune, Tham’Dar and Valdoren. Coastal wetlands, moors and marshes dominate the Sharl Peninsula while a sultry sub-tropical climate characterizes the rotting ‘bread basket’ of the Charn Empire. Heavy rainfall and short lived but fierce storms are typical for the coastlines which are blessed with mild winters with warm breezes occurring from lands further in the south. The northern tips of the Walls of the World which separate the continent of Aeryth from the continent of Cellene form the southern borders of Charn. Volcanic activity around several mountains produce numerous rivers of fire while an enormous forest and jungle land spreads south towards the coasts from here.
Local factions began to dismantle choice buildings for kindling and parts--the great Rail fell to such needs, its supporting infrastructure being ripped apart. A portion of it remains--the section linking Aby'ssa and Valdoren, and rests beneath heavy guard. It remains the nobility's most secure access to food in the midst of the famine.
With the death of its leader and turmoil inside its crumbling Wall, Charn received a final blow when the shadow elves, under the blessing of Taara's dark hand. The elves claimed for themselves an area centered on city of Lathail in the Forest of Whispers and seceded from Charn. Today, Charn wars with them and the raiding nomads of Veyshan. The efforts keep its attention divided and for now, the nobles occupied and united.
Life and Society
Charn, in many ways, is a representation of the depths to which mankind can fall. Like Myrddion, the roots of its people can be traced back to the Eldanar and the Summer Kings. Its nobility are, for the most part, the descendents of those high men, themselves as highborn as Myrrish lords, though twisted by their desires over time and the influence of Taara and Maugrim. Over time, some houses have mixed their blood with the infernal, becoming changed in a manner similar to their land with its influence of Black Tech. Artifice and Dark Technologies have long been a part of Charneth life. Thul's call for cannibalism to ease the wages of famine has some turning to their slaves, finishing duels and bloodfeuds in creative ways and bribing magistrates for the corpses of the executed. In the tiers below the nobility, the common people are desperate.
Meeting wartime quotas for food and production consumes much of the nation's focus and labor, and Thul's hand ensures that death is no method to avoid it. Consequently, in some areas production has actually risen, and atrocity becomes a feature of the landscape in areas scarred to ruin from the use of Black Artifice.
Children born within the greater areas of Charn are tested for the potential of magic at a very young age by Charn’s elite Corp of wizards, the Shadow Council. Children who are identified as potential users of magic are usually taken away at young ages to the Grey Enclaves. There they are trained in the arts of spellcasting according to the tradition of the Shadow Council. Their arcane training is rigorous and attempts to weed out weak-willed or morally beneficient apprentices who may tempted to join the more benevolent communities to the north and west.
Even in the famine, internal trade drives the economy of Charn. External trade is rare and fraught with challenges. The lax laws and corrupt nature of both laws and people make some business practices so common place they are expected. It’s not unexpected for customers to be lied to or misled about products and the typical consumer is expected to determine the worth of something on his own before buying it.
Amongst Charn’s military, armor typically features demonic and infernal visages. Spikes, blades, great shoulder pauldrons and cloaks are all fashionable. Their weapons are similarly constructed. This is true for all from Dominion Lords to the bodyguards of the Shadow Council, the Shadow Knights.
Slaves are everywhere in Charn and used for a variety of purposes. Markets hawk their wares taken from lands as far away as the Esentran islands or Dran in the distant north. Slavery is used as a common means of punishment for a variety of crimes with indentured servants sometimes being treated barely better then true slaves. Slave raids are often made on lands adjacent to Charn but sometimes open trade is conducted with lands that are more open regarding such things.
In times past, slaves were not treated with rampant cruelty by the typical owner as Charn frowns upon the misuse of property and the crippling of it so that it cannot be used, however slaves are quickly put to the death at the first signs of uprising, disobedience and minor infractions against authorities.
However, now, slaves are not only a source of cheap labour, but they are also a source of food for the desperate. Despite the harsh penalties levied for disobedience, uprisings are becoming more common.
Charn’s various holdings are divided into regions known simply as Domains. Each Domain has an appointed Dominus or Domina who oversees it and is aided by members of The Dominion forces. These Dominion Lords, as noted above, are reclaiming their place in the power structures of Charn, and can wield significant and extensive local influence.
People, Culture, Traditions
Charn is an integrated culture with human and infernally-blooded nobles co-existing with hobgoblin and orc warlords forging allegiances with Dominion Lord Generals. Humans are still the predominant race here and they consider most monstrous races as ‘Lesser Races’ unless there are special stipulations from the local ruling authority. Treatment of Lesser Races varies from location to location and depends upon the willingness of a given Dominus to enforce their treaties.
Over the centuries, Charn’s society has evolved into a den of betrayal, intrigue, and corruption. Centuries of violence has created a society marked by common violence in the government, public entertainment, and the very streets. Criminals are sold as slaves and forced to become gladiators who are themselves treated as less than property at times. Lesser races dealt summary justice in the middle of the market place and duels are fought openly in the streets. The leaders of the various factions and government groups tolerate such behavior so long as it does not degenerate into raw chaos.
Charn's long and glorious past is celebrated by noble circles and commoners alike, with festivals supplemented by the display of artifice and necrotech. The Shadow Council's recruitment has waxed in recent years, and it has become one manner of upward mobility in desperate times.
An aristocracy established by the hierarchy of its Temple of Darkness ruled Charn without contest for many years. The Temples of Darkness itself were devoted to three of the prime evils in the world and the Charneth belief that it is the chosen nation to represent the ordered will of Thul, Gloomweaver and Bauglir (Thul, Taara and Maugrim) in this world. Behind the powers of the temples are several seemingly immortal beings; these so-called Chosen of the Gods are often picked from existing members of the clergy but have sometimes been called from other walks of life. Currently, Daraeon Teras is the Chosen of Maugrim and Barntos the Betrayer is the Chosen of Thul. If there is a Chosen of Taara, the shadow elves are not naming her; the last Chosen of Taara to visibly serve in Charn was publically executed by the old Tyrannus Maximus, giving lie to the purported immortality of the Chosen. With Taara's new rise and Animus' fall, the delicate structure unpinned Charneth politics collapsed. Vincenzo Rex was assassinated and the three church’s Chosen no longer had the power to efficiently replace him.
Daraeon Teras, the Chosen of Maugrim, is the nominal ruler of Charn, but he rules at the pleasure of a whole variety of players, all of whom jockey for power continuously. Barntos the Betrayer, Chosen of Thul, exercises considerable control throughout the realm. The merchant princes have seized power and the nobility have been weaking desperate and subtle games that quicken Illotha's influence. Rune's crumbling power left the Shadow Council’s Archmagi free to widen their base, but in consolidating their power within Charn, they lowered themselves in the purge of the Red Dragon Army, into the morass of politics. For the first time in a long time, the Shadow Council is a player in Charneth politics and not above it.
Also, with the Rex’s destruction and the Shadow Council’s purge, the Five Dragon Army has been shattered and the Black Dragon Army raises its standard alone once more. Its Dominion Lords are powerful players in Charneth politics, wielding considerable local influence and commanding the loyalty of many troops. The Black Dragon Army is almost constantly in the field, whether it is fighting in skirmishes along the Veyshan border or engaged in full-scale operations against Shal’hazar. Despite the relative weakening of Charn, it is as combat-ready and combat-capable as ever, and a force to be feared.
The primary religion of Charn has historically been the Church of Maugrim. Daraeon Teras, the current Chosen of Maugrim, is a major player in Charneth politics and the nominal ruler of the Empire. The Church's influence, though strong, wanes with Maugrim's relative retreat. This power vacuum allowed a number of other faiths to step forward into the void.
The second player in Charn’s triune theocracy was the Order of Thul. The Chosen of Thul, Eurid Barntos, is the leader of the Order, which welcomes necromancers, death priests and intelligent undead of all stripes. Unlike the Orthodoxy, the Order welcomes acolytes of death whose talents lie outside the realm of the divine. With Maugrim’s retreat and the mutual rejection between Charn and Taara’s church, Thul's faith is on the rise in the age of famine and desolation. Hunger cults have spread among the common citizenry, preaching survival through cannibalism.
At one point, followers of Kosomoth also participated in Charn’s theocracy, as junior partners. However, with Kosomoth’s disappearance, they have faded entirely into other faiths – or, in some cases, the followers themselves have just disappeared as well.
The temple of Taara is on the rise once more in Charn. During the recent exile, these followers have been fringe elements, operating in the shadows and in hidden cults. Now, the seditious faith is spreading, operating more openly as Maugrim’s influence wanes. The primary concentration of Taaran worshippers has always been found in the shadow elves of the Hexenvald, the dark woods along the southwestern border of Charn, and these links have persisted in the nearby human populations, even after Shal’hazar’s secession.
Illotha's cults too grow in influence, as the games of the nobility become more dangerous for smaller and smaller stakes.
Sites and Settlements
Aby’ssa (metropolis, 126,600): The capital city of Charn is built into an enormous crater and is the center of Charn’s industry and political and religious power. Although not a seaport, Aby’ssa sits on a number of major trading routes and important crossroads points. It is said in Charn that all roads point to Aby’ssa; it is linked to Valdoren by the only remaining Ghost Rail line. This gives the capital access to a steady supply of food from more arable lands. This city is divided into Rims. The Outer Rim is the upper class social areas of the city while the Inner Rims characterized by factories, slums, poorer housing, gangs and crime.
Conquera: The once-mobile flying castle of Charn. Conquera was a floating chunk of rock roughly four miles by six miles and nearly a mile and a half deep and home to the heads of the Maugrimite and Thulian faiths. It had been the headquarters of the broken Five Dragon Army and the old Tyrant himself. The castle, however, crashed into the Outer Rim of Aby’ssa, and is being dug into the volcano’s caldera by armies of slaves. They work to resettle the castle into the earth, though it sits unpredictably, and every year it is cushioned by more crushed corpses.
Temples of Darkness: The political power with Charn once largely lay in the hands of its priests. The Tower of Night and the Temple of Darkness is an artifact of Charn’s prior triune theocracy; it was a shared temple equally dedicated to all three deities – these days, only the altars dedicated to Maugrim and Thul are used; the wings of the temple dedicated to Taara are sealed and warded, though none dare to destroy her shrines. The influence of these dark gods is felt all throughout this labyrinth like structure from its highest towers to its deepest depths. In the depths, living gates of adamant and iron guard areas where direct communions with the gods are performed.
Valdoren: Becoming the second city in Charn. Valdoren is a major hub for food imports from Charneth colonies and across Charn's more arable south. It is also a major military logistical site for the campaign against Shal'hazar.
The Dreadlands: are most impassable these days, and seem more like an extension of the Desolation.
Aby'ssa Description (Whirlpool)
The ground grows more rugged and bouncy and rocky, as you're not on the roads, the closer you get to the crater of Aby'ssa.
Indeed, you can now look out the window and *see* it.
The crate is huge and a city that once hovered above the earth sits fallen in it.
Fallen. Not unlike the Gods that they worship.