Age of Ascension
Less tamed than the Statelands, the Heartlands make up the majority of Avencian territory, and the terrain can vary wildly. Mountains surround the Heartlands on most sides, including the imposing Worldshatter range to the West. Through the center of the region runs the Firewine River, which is in truth more of a divide. Some historians theorize that this is the very line along which Taudoc closed the great wound torn from Azuyra during the creation of her two moons. Civilization is concentrated into small pockets in this expanse of land, surrounded by the dark and unknown.
- County Ironoak, also called the Vigil, guards the Firewine river at the center of the Heartlands both physically and economically. Romantic ideas of heroism and glory color opinions of the Vigil in the Statelands, but there is some truth to the stories; Ironoak was only a few generations ago, and wresting territory enough to support a city was only the beginning. Home to the Knights of the Griffon and the College of War, the city attracts adventurous new blood, which is sorely needed on the wild frontier. It also attracts skilled craftsman to supply them. It’s worth mentioning that there is a noticable tendency toward the Old Faith in Ironoak itself, compared to Valcora. Even decades after settlement of the region began, the majority of its inhabitants remain in the slowly expanding Ironoak. One exception is the troubled town of Emberhill, nestled near the heart of mysterious Cloakwood. The other, Brynfair, is built around an Aeonic cathedral that has been under construction for nearly two decades, and the town is famous for its excellent horses.
- County Innotch was arguably the most beautiful forest country in the Empire until recent years, when continuous wildfires devastated huge swathes of trees. Fortunately, the fires left the region’s many vinyards, and therefore its main export intact. The river town of Innotch remains, in all its rustic fieldstone beauty, a destination for Valcoran travellers looking for a taste of the frontier without as much danger. Notchwood itself is far from finished; rumors persist that spirits and fey folk mend the trees, when they aren’t hiding from the great hag from Coaldust Marsh. Far from peaceful, County Innotch hires teams of explorers to assess threats and oust them from the many dens and caves through the forest.
- County Greymouth is comprised mostly of desolate grey wastes, where little grows. The land itself has little to offer, save for its geysers and hot springs, which are believed to carry the powers of healing, purification, or eternal youth, depending on who you ask. Despite its lack of appeal, the Empire founded the town of Greymouth here for one reason; a yawning cavern big enough to lead an army through, which connects with the Underworld. The majority of Greymouth citizens are soldiers in charge of guarding this liability, or their families. The famous Abbey Lake, and its crumbling ruins, are said to have once been the home of the death knight Dagares, who was defeated sometime during the age of heroes.
- County Fourswords may have the most storied origins of the Heartlands territories; it was conquered not by Valcoran armies, but by adventurers who slew the king of the ogres living here. The heroes then ruled the County under Valcora’s auspices. Today, only two of the original Counts remain, one having dissappeared and the other having been lost in the catastrophic explosion that formed Accidental Lake. The entire county is set in an enormous, but shallow grassland valley, which is clear of any dense forests. The Skyhall mountains border Fourswords on the East, famed for their unusually navigable peaks, which form a crude highway for skilled climbers. At the foot of the mountains, the combined human and bronze dwarven town of Narrows is built into a chasm, carved from the stone itself.
- County Broadwood is North of Ironoak, against the Cloudhaven Mountains, which form a natural border with Lenlocke on the other side. A dense natural fog rolls down the gullies and crevices of the mountains throughout the day, into the heavy forests that cover most of the county. Though it partially borders the old growth of Emerwald, Broadwood’s trees are younger and exclusively coniferous. Naturally, this county is the center of the Empire’s lumber industry, as well as exporting game and artisan woodcrafts along the Firewine. In recent years, this land has become a point of interest for prospectors and explorers with the discovery of ruins within an expansive cave system. The county’s capital, for which the region is named, is built into a striking promontory of white rock that looms over seas of green.
- County Cromwell, or the Gotsmarch in the tongue of its natives, was the last of the counties in the Heartlands to be siezed by the Avencians. Tensions remain high between the natives of these mountainous badlands and their would-be governors. Called the Hill People by Avencians, they refuse to swear allegiance to any authority above their clan leaders. After decades of battle with roving orc tribes, they can back up their defiance. Fortunately, they do abide by the terms of their treaty with the empire, and provide shock troops for the armies. The Worldshatter mountains, to the East, are an impassible barrier of jagged peaks which span the entire continent like a spine. Despite its status as the County, the only thing Avencian about this untamed land is the iron mining town of Cromwell. Rumors persist of a clan of giants who live among the cliffs, and the massive entrance to the iron dwarves’ city of Krein can be found just South of the Aulis river falls.
- The dwarven clans of Eastiron have thus far been spared any attempt at annexation. It’s either because of mutual respect between the bronze dwarves and the Empire, or because the empire fears starting a war with entrenched dwarves in their own territory. A wide limestone plain with occasional grass cover makes up the majority of the territory. Closer to the mountains, higher and higher layers lead into ravines and canyons where the dwarves have carved settlements from the stone. The finest jewelers, goldsmiths, and engineers live in Eastiron, and it is said to be the birthplace of all Avencian clockwork.