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BACKGROUND

 

The Northern Wastes

The Northern Wastes, or Chaos Wastes as they are often called due to their proximity to the Realm of Chaos, separate said realm from the rest of the world. In this cold and barren region only the strongest of men can survive the weather and, what is even worse, the influence of the changing power of Chaos. Tribes of barbarians roam these lands, out for battle and glory in the name of their forbidden gods.

 

The Realm of Chaos

Far to the north of the lands of the Old World, the New World and Cathay lies the region known as the Realm of Chaos. It is the legendary home of immortal gods and, so it is said, of infinitely worse things than gods: the numberless and nameless monstrosities that inhabit the eternal planes. In reality, it is this and incomprehensibly more besides. In terms of mere mortal understanding, the legend alone must suffice.

Were a cartographer to take his compass and inscribe a circle about the globe's northern pole, its circumference lying upon the northern shore of the Sea of Claws, then this would serve to roughly demarcate the boundaries of the Chaos Wastes.

As he approached the centre of the Wastes, a traveller would find himself labouring beneath a storm-shaken sky a turbulent, broiling darkness pierced by lightning and blasted by roaring thunder. Here he would witness the rebellion of nature, where even the elements are said to be torn between the mortal and immortal worlds. Gargantuan pillars of black and broken stone stretch far to the left and right and beyond the horizon. These marker stones surround the angry blackness of Chaos like gigantic teeth about the gaping maw of an impossible titanic entry.

Were our traveller to step over than boundary, he would not find himself lashed by storm or shrouded by night but swallowed into a region of infinite space altogether removed from the mortal world. As words alone are incapable of describing that which lies beyond oblivion's veil, no more can mere mortal thought convey the weave in the fabric of the timeless multiverse. Thus we must leave our traveller at the Gates of Chaos where we are unable to follow, even in our imagination.

What we do know is that those who have taken that step remain forever afterwards haunted and yet driven by an understanding denied to other mortals. For surely it was not meant for mortals to wander at will in the company of gods, and no one who dares enter their realm is ever quite as once they were. The power of Chaos is to change both body and mind, as the power of fire is to burn and consume, and the winds that blow from that realm are not winds of air but of pure sorcery the vital and uncaring energy of transmutation.

 

Creatures of the east

Many strange creatures are said to live in the land of Cathay, from serpentine dragons to gigantic living stone dogs which guard the temples of the multitudinous gods of Cathay.

Travellers from the east bring stories of man-shaped beasts as equally removed from humanity as the creatures from the Drakwald. Spice merchants of Ind have spun tales of creatures with heads of the giant hunting cats they call tigers, which dwell in the dense jungles at the interior of their land. The people of Ind regard these as noble but fickle beings, as likely to fight off attackers of an Indish village as raze it to the ground. Their motives are unfathomable, but offerings of meat and rice are left in the hope of appeasing them.

 
 

The Kingdom of Cathay

Past the World Edge Mountains and across the Great Skull Lands, on the other side of the Mountains of Mourn and the vast steppes, begin the uncharted lands. Only a single path travels to the east, known as the Silk Road. It runs through the untamed steppes until its destination, the fabled kingdom of Cathay. The lure of the Silk Road is great to the merchant houses of Tilea and the Burgomeisters of the Empire, as well as the traders of Araby. But the road is far from safe: roving bandits, steppe nomads, and the vast hordes of Hobgobla-Kahn who rule the steppes are an everpresent threat, and one that cannot be taken too lightly. Only one caravan out of ten makes the trip safely.

The travellers that return from Cathay tell tales of great goblin pagodas and the inexhaustible armies of the eastern despots. They bring exotic spices and finest silks, gleaming gold, luxurious porcelain vases and all manner of strange and wonderful items from the Kingdom of the Dragon, glimpses of the mysterious glory of the distant and rich orient.

They also bring tales of jade cities and high temples where mystics probe the movements of the heavenly bodies and the positions of the stars, of the scholars who inscribe every word ever uttered by their divine Emperor.


Records of travellers tell of the thousand, thousand footsoldiers of the Emperor, the mystic brotherhoods of monks who can kill you with a touch of their hand, and the strange monkey warriors living high in the Mountains of Heaven.

Most of these tales are highly fanciful, but certainly the Empire of the Celestial Dragons must be a wondrous and rich place, but until the trade routes to the east are safe it will remain a realm of legend.

 

The Border Town Burning supplement contains a detailed Background section. To read more about this setting simply download the supplement PDF.

 
 

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