The Hero's of Kassen
Nirmathas, War Torn Wilderness
During the years of turmoil following the collapse of Cheliax, the Governor of Molthune claimed all the Fangwood as far as Lastwall as part of his newly independent nation. Soldiers from the regional capital at Canorate ensured political stability, but the woodsmen, rangers, trappers, artisans, and fisherfolk who lived between the Tourondel and Marideth Rivers and depended on the bounty of the forest realm soon realized that, just as Cheliax before had pillaged the region of resources while providing little in return, the new mandates from Canorate were simply changing the flow of exploitation from one city to another. Resentment flared as the promise of a new era collapsed, and what started as a few minor acts of sabotage soon blossomed into a guerilla war for independence.
The early years of the conf lict were bloody and disorganized, with bands of woodsmen and other irregular troops acting independently. This changed when Irgal Nirmath, a half-elf trapper, united a handful of groups into one sizable force. As his victory-count mounted, his legend spread, and Nirmath drew more rebels to the banner of Irgal’s Axe as his force came to be known and even Molthuni commanders began to respect his cunning. After 7 years of war, an uneasy border solidified and the rebels declared victory and independence in 4655. On the very night of his triumph, however, Irgal was taken by an assassin’s blade. His followers clamored to name the newborn nation Nirmathas in honor of their fallen hero. In the years since, Molthune repeatedly invaded its wayward province, and every time, its armies retreated across the Marideth River after pyrrhic campaigns against foes who refuse to stand still or to stay down.
Prominent Nirmathi gather every 4 years to elect a Forest Marshal to lead their military forces. The current marshal, Weslen Gavirk, is a compassionate and determined man well-acquainted with the jack-booted oppression enacted by Molthune in its repeated conquests of his home city, Tamran. He hopes to organize an assault on the nearly completed Fort Ramgate before the Molthuni can use it to launch an invasion. He hopes to duplicate Irgal’s feat of uniting the Nirmathi, but his is a difficult task, as every Nirmathi considers himself an army of one, with every household and village an independent company. While they usually respond to the Forest Marshal’s call to battle, disparate groups of Nirmathi often ignore battle plans in favor of their own ideas. The Fangwood is filled with such merry bands, each considering itself the embodiment of the true Nirmathi spirit. These bands fight injustice (real or perceived) as they encounter it, although they often spend as much time feuding with rivals as stymieing Molthuni incursions. Their efforts are like hacking at limbs without touching the root of the problem—amid these individual acts of heroism, the Nirmathi as a whole struggle to do more than survive.
In war and in everyday life, Nirmathi are fiercely independent. They are a people who define themselves largely by opposition to their regimented and bureaucratic former masters in Cheliax and Molthune. There is great generosity and charity of spirit in Nirmathas, but everything is mediated by the ideals of freedom, self-sufficiency, and liberty above all else. Even the best ideas are ignored or rejected if there is even the faintest hint of compulsion. To infringe upon individual rights and freedoms is to invite blood feud. The partisans of Nirmathas have learned well how to survive. Whether they can succeed in forming a nation remains to be seen.
Government: The Forest Marshal is primarily a military position, selected for skill in battle and tactical acumen. As a civil ruler, the Forest Marshal is no more than a symbol, a figurehead. Governance is entirely local, from village elders or exiled nobility to the oldest, wisest, wealthiest, or most eloquent speakers—there is no organized system of rule. Some Nirmathi advocate for a leader skilled in diplomacy, trade, and negotiation, but in an unstable land where freedom, liberty, and the individual are paramount, centralized leadership and the common good are elusive concepts. Alliances and coalitions are ephemeral and often deeply personal, and Nirmathi are quick to recoil when they perceive someone overreaching his authority.
Tamran: The ramshackle wooden city of Tamran sits perched at the mouth of the River Marideth, with much of the city built on piers and pilings over the broad marshlands of the estuary, connected by causeways, bridges, and a f lotilla of coracles and skiffs. The fortif ications that once guarded the approaches to Tamran were torn down by the Nirmathi themselves during the Freedom War when they recognized how the fortif ications played into Molthune’s advantage in traditional warfare. The walls could not withstand a Molthuni siege, and they made it harder to mount a counter-attack. By demolishing the walls, Tamran became a nigh-indefensible open city.
When Molthune threatened, Nirmathi soldiers could melt into the wild and the populace surrender, but Tamran’s proximity to the river and marshes allowed Nirmathi guerillas to inf iltrate the city at will. Molthune has “captured” Tamran on five separate occasions, but each time it found holding the city too costly and fruitless. Even when the Molthuni burned the city in frustration at the end of their last occupation, the Nirmathi rebuilt it within a year. Nirmathi proudly look to their humble city as a symbol of their tenacity, cleverness, and resiliency.
Fangwood: The relatively large forest known as Fangwood consists of a mixture of deciduous and evergreen trees, mostly various maples, f irs, and spruces. In areas where the f irs grow, close and tall, the Fangwood takes on a shadowy primeval feel that chokes the air and sends many skittish creatures into noise-induced panics. As the f ir groves give way to sparser mixes of spruces and relatively rare pines, the underbrush thickens even as the feeling of oppressive dread slackens. Most Nirmathi who live in the forest dwell in these moderate belts between the firs and maples. These spruce and fir belts give way to uncommon alders, and from those to copses of maples, often surrounding clearings or lining streams. Underbrush chokes the ground beneath the maples, but the maple groves feel safe and welcoming.
The Marching Springs: The narrow plain and foothills between the Fangwood and the eastern slopes of the Mindspin Mountains are home to an unusual water feature of unknown origin or cause. Sprays of water not unlike miniature geysers about 5 feet high leap up one after another in a slow-moving progression that winds its way throughout a region of roughly 30 square miles. The springs never erupt from exactly the same spot twice, and they leave no evidence that they appeared, other than a spot of wet ground. The Marching Springs spray roughly once every 3 minutes, with each advancing about 6 feet beyond the previous one.
Skelt: Built into a high bluff and accessible only by water-powered lifts and long, exposed ramps broken with multiple drawbridges, Skelt has a strategic position at the falls line of the River Tourondel. Its dwarf-crafted waterworks power ore-grinders and mine-lifts, while sawmills dot the river for miles below the town. Skelt long traded with the dwarf-hold of Kraggodan (a neutral party in the war with Molthune), but the opening of Bloodsworn Vale unveiled a new vista for commerce, replacing rustic muleskinner trails with full-f ledged trade routes to Korvosa and Varisia beyond.
For a land utterly dependent upon the forest for its livelihood, its economy, its safety (as the retreat for its soldiers), and even its very identity, a threat to the forest itself strikes at the very soul of Nirmathas. In the depths of the Fangwood, a strange blight has begun to grow and spread, the trees blackening, rotting, and spreading seeds of death. The deadly arbor mortis are the spirit-homes of blight-spawned fey, the accursed offspring of the corrupted dryad Arlantia. The blightspawned fey in turn spread through capturing unwary humans and binding them in the moldering vines of the arbor mortis, turning those unfortunate victims into shambling heaps of moldering rot. Whether the curse upon the trees produces these thorn-crowned naiads or whether the trees are blighted by their touch, these symbiotes represent an insidious and deadly threat to the Fangwood.