In Highguard's northwest, Casinea is an old and wealthy territory as well as the site of the town of Anvil, the political heart of the Empire. Once entirely forested, the woodlands have slowly been felled until only Greatwood and Woodwych are still covered and within a few generations it is likely the trees of Woodwych will be gone as well. Still, the scattered hills and low mountain peaks of Syrwatch and Mareholm are rich with mines and quarries that show no signs of running out any time soon. In addition to fine marble, gold, and silver, Casinea produces excellent quality weltsilver, tempest jade, and precious stones have been mined here for centuries. Several wealthy chapters protect the quarries and mines to ensure the protection of the vital assets against barbarians and bandits.
Modern Casinea is reasonably peaceful - at least on the surface. Behind the tranquil façade there are still echoes of conflict from events that happened centuries ago. Recent threats from the Druj and the creatures of Brocéliande, have brought some old disagreements bubbling back to the surface. The fallout from political events at Anvil have inspired other chapters to take a closer look at Highguard's role in the Empire - and at their own role within their nation.
A Turbulent History
Casinea has a turbulent history. The first settlers arrived here shortly after the Highborn arrived on the shores of the Bay of Catazar, but the territory was not completely conquered for several decades. The Highborn focused primarily on civilizing Pharos, and then securing the frontier in Bastion. Casinea was heavily forested, a wilderness dominated by savage orcs who fought viciously against human settlers. Eventually tiring of raids from the north-west the patricians turned their attention to the rich woodlands and mobilized their armies to deal with the barbarians as they had dealt with those in Pharos and Bastion, They were only partially successful. Even after the eastern regions were conquered, bands of scattered orcs remained to harass settlers - indeed there are reports of orc raiders attacking into Casfall and Syrwatch as late as 150YE.
After the armies came the settlers. Casfall (originally called Newland) was quickly dominated by farms and timberyards. Within a generation, construction began on the fortification in Mareholm that would protect against the orc presence in Reikos. While clearing forest and finding stone and metal in Syrwatch (or Northwood as it was then), scouts discovered the Pool of Syrene, and the powerful Tutamen patrician family claimed the region. Their claim was contested by the Kehment family, and political wrangling eventually boiled over into armed aggression. Some historians point to this short-lived conflict as the first real sign of the corruption beginning to take root in the patrician families. The Tutamen were ultimately victorious, leaving the Kehment broken and bitter - they would eventually quit Highguard altogether for the nascent city of Sarvos to the west. The Tutamen moved their entire household to Syrene's Wisdom, and renamed the entire region after their patrician. Their presence the pace of colonization - in the east at least. While the woods were slowly cleared from Syrwatch, Mareholm, and Newland, the western woods remained wild and completely unsettled until the time of the Revelation.
When the Virtuous first began to abandon the heartlands of Highguard, a significant majority built their chapters on the frontier. For most this meant Bastion, but several chapters were established in western Mareholm and Newland. A handful of the most Ambitious and Courageous, however, sought the freedom to expand into the western woods. Several wanted isolation not only from the corrupt patricians, but even from other chapters - the solitude necessary to explore their relationship with the virtues without distractions. These rugged chapters carved out demesnes from the woods, driving the remaining orcs west and north as they did so. Even today, the chapters of western Casinea have a reputation for being insular and standoffish.
By the time of the Highborn civil war, then, Casinea was split roughly in two. The eastern regions - Syrwatch, Casfall/Newland, and Mareholm - were settled and prosperous, dominated by the patrician families, and protected by the Silent Sentinel. The wild forest regions of Greatwood and Woodwych were sparsely settled until the first exodus of those who had embraced the Revelation of Virtue. The first battles of the civil war were fought here, as the western chapters fought the patrician armies along the edge their forest in a vicious campaign that eventually saw the virtuous victorious but not without terrible losses on both sides and the near destruction of the Silent Sentinel.
Following the end of the civil war, Casinea remained a place of conflict. Highborn soldiers fought against Dawn over the northern borders, and with expeditionary forces from the independent cities of Sarvos and Tassato, as well as with vallornspawn out of Miaren and Brocéliande and orc raiding parties from Reikos. Long after peace settled over Bastion and newly-christened Necropolis, Casinea remained tumultuous right up until the Foundation of the Empire and the final conquest of Reikos in 56YE.
As with Bastion, Casinea saw an influx of refugees from beleaguered Reikos when it fell to the orcs in 367YE. For the most part, the refugees lived as guests of the existing chapters rather than creating their own. Following the final liberation of Reikos in early 380YE, the majority of these exiles chose to return across the border to the east and begin rebuilding their lives.
While the threat of the Druj in Reikos is ended, the vallorn of Brocéliande remains dangerous. In Summer 378YE, unknown forces attempted to spawn a vallorn in the Greatwood. Fortunately for the people of Casinea, Unconquered scouts from the Seventh Wave under orders of General Cuth uncovered the infestation before it could establish itself, and the threat was contained and ultimately destroyed. There are still occasional stories of unnatural creatures in the Greatwood, but the threat of a new vallorn consuming Casinea appears to have ended.
A little over a year later, however, a second major incursion took place. Just after the Summer Solstice, thick clouds of vallorn miasma spread from into Casinea, accompanied by bands of abominable insect-like ettercaps. They attacked farms and settlements near the outskirts of the dark Navarri forest. The ettercaps were little more than a nuisance, quickly dealt with by the garrison at the Silent Sentinel and Varushkan soldiers from the Northern Eagle. This incursion was only the most obvious symptom of the danger however; reports flooded in of farm and forest produce twisted and made unwholesome by the influence of the vallorn. For the most part, the threat was contained and the twisted vegetation destroyed, but some of the plants in Casinea, especially in the north, still bear the mark of the vallorn's corruption.
Since then, there have been no further threats from the vallorn, but the chapters of Casinea nonetheless keep a wary eye on their north-eastern and eastern borders. With the recent annexation of Tamarbode by the eternal Llofir, their Vigilance may prove even more important.
In Spring 380YE work began on the Blood Red Roads, a major building project sponsored by the League. The road passes through Casinea, linking Sarvos to Astolat, and ultimately through Semmerholm to Holberg. Completed shortly before the Winter Solstice 381YE, the road passes through Woodwych, Casfall, and Mareholm and is a major boon to the farms and businesses of Casinea. It has not been universally welcomed however; several of the more conservative chapters, especially the insular hermits of the Greatwood, mutter that the road will not only bring merchants but also the lose morality and licentiousness of the League to the heart of Highguard.
Location of the Senate, and the Sentinel Gate. Four times a year the powerful citizens of the Empire meet here to determine the future of their people. The ruins of the old smithy in which the First Empress took shelter from her enemies when a young woman, Anvil is said to be where the first open declaration of the dream of Empire was made. After her ascension to the Imperial throne, the Empress declared that the small settlement would be preserved for the lifetime of the Empire in memory of sacrifices made by those sheltering her. Since then Imperial parliaments have been held there, but the town itself has never been allowed to grow.
The Silent Sentinel
Standing in north-eastern, Mareholm this castle is considered one of the ugliest in the Empire, but it is also known to be one of the strongest. According to myth, the foundations of this castle were lain by the Paragon known as The Sentinel. The lower parts are made of black basalt and granite, with upper levels of later construction reinforced with white stone. The garrison is primarily Highborn, but there are detachments from all of the Imperial nations stationed here - indeed it is a common for armies on furlough in Casinea to camp in and around the castle.
Construction on the fortification began in the first few decades after the Founding, and the castle initially served as a base-of-operations for the settling of Casinea. Later, it served as a symbol of the power and dominance of the patrician families over the people of the territory. During the civil war, the castle was nearly destroyed in a terrible battle between the remaining patrician garrison and the forces of the virtuous chapters of the western woods. It was rebuilt after the war, returned to its original purpose of protecting the people of Casinea from orc bandits - and to defend against the threat of invasion from Astolat to the north. It potentially provides military support to the people of Anvil should any enemy force threaten the heart of the Empire.
During the Winter Solstice 381YE, following revelation of the research of the Heirs of Lepidus, the great hall of the Sentinel was consecrated with True Liao by Rhesa, Exarch of the Scions of Ravensfell. The Senate further commissioned a grand belltower to serve as a place of pilgrimage, and granted custodianship of the fortification and tower alike to the Castellan of the Silent Sentinel. In addition to protecting Casinea, the fortification now serves as a place of pilgrimage for followers of the Way across the known world.
In contrast to the more industrious chapters in the rest of Syrwatch, Syrene is a quiet, reasonably peaceful community. Situated in the hills west of Anvil, in the shadow of Mount Uphaz, it is guarded by a number of watchtowers and beacons including two structures apparently built by the paragon known as the Sentinel. There are several chapterhouses in and around Syrene, most of whom are dedicated to the study and application of magic, or to exploration of the virtues of Vigilance and Wisdom. Syrene is best known however as the location of the Pool of Syrene, which lies at the heart of the town. The pool has powerful, slightly sinister, magical properties and is carefully watched both by the guardians of Wintergard chapter that oversee it, and by the vigilant members of the other chapters built in and around the town.
It is tradition in Syrene that no draughir can remain in the settlement for more than three days in any given season. This is in spite of the fact that records show a significantly higher chance of draughir children being born to parents living in Syrene. Draughir are explicitly forbidden to drink or bathe in the waters of the Pool of Syrene and any draughir who are born here are quickly fostered to chapters in other parts of Casinea. This is doubly odd as the town also receives a significant amount of attention from the eternals of the Winter realm who often send their heralds to visit the pools to speak with Imperial citizens. The area seems to hold a particular interest for Sorin, Wise Rangara, and Kaela, each of whom is known as the sovereign of one of the three strong Winter regio found near Syrene.
The Pool of Syrene
The town of Syrene is a quiet community built around a small pool with potent, poorly understood magical properties. The water is fresh, clear, cool, and refreshing. Those who drink it describe the experience as uniquely soothing, allowing them to easily master their emotions and maintain a cool head in the face of provocation. More significantly however, those who bathe in the waters of the pool at least once a week enjoy improved longevity. The pool was jealously guarded by the Tutamen patrician family who carefully controlled access to it; stories from the pre-Imperial times suggest that the patricians of Syrene regularly lived to be a hundred years old, but suffered quick and painful deaths if they ventured too far from the pool that sustained them.
After the civil war, the magisters and priests of Highguard met to discuss the future of Syrene and came to the conclusion that its magical powers needed to be carefully monitored - there were dangerous unanswered questions about precisely what it was doing. The chapter of Wintergard was established and given custody of the pool. To this day they carefully guard access and Syrene is kept under close scrutiny by both magisters and the Conclave. The pool has also been linked to the fact that significantly more children born in the vicinity express the draughir lineage - indeed it is common practice for parents planning to have children to leave Syrene until after the birth.
Carefully bottled in glass vials silvered with weltsilver, the waters are known to enhance the capabilities of magicians practising certain Winter magic rituals relating to preservation and survival. A small number of vials of water from the pool are occasionally sold or (more rarely) provided as gifts by the Wintergard chapter.
Syrene's Wisdom is a Bourse resource located in Syrwatch. Custodianship of Syrene's Wisdom is an Imperial Title that brings with it a Seat on the Imperial Bourse. It produces 7 rings of ilium every season. Control is allocated to any Imperial citizen by open auction during the Spring Equinox.
Lorenzo's Legacy of Prosperity
Spread across the entire territory of Casinea are red stone stelae adorned with images of wheatsheafs and cups, surmounted by a pair of crossed butcher's cleavers forged of pure mithril. Inscriptions around the base emphasise the virtues of Ambition, Wisdom, and Prosperity. A central, large stone stands near Anvil, by Long Tom's Brewery commissioned in Winter 381YE by Nira, of Cantiarch's Hold, and paid for by Lorenzo “La Volpe” Macelliao von Temeschwar, these crimson monoliths help to harness the flows of mana through the territory.
Eastern Casfall is fertile farm land, scattered with prosperous chapters. Western Casfall is gently wooded - not the wild forests of Woodwych and Greatwood but carefully maintained by the chapters that live there. The trees have more of an air of rolling parkland than wilderness, although there are exceptions of course. Several of the older chapters here are built around the remains of patrician estates, often incorporating much of the original architecture - the estates were quite well fortified for pre-Imperial times given the proximity of the orc-haunted woodlands.
Originally named Newland, Casfall was renamed in the early days of the Empire. According to stories, Casca herself was a powerful Highborn magister who was ordered to perform a mighty work of magic to shake the ground beneath the feet of an invading orc army. Despite reservations, the ritual went ahead at the command of the Imperial Senate. Legend has it that she continued to chant even when the power grew too much and the ritual failed, splitting the ground and burying her in the rubble. Her doom is considered a lesson by many magisters in Highguard today, although some disagree about whether the message is that Loyalty must be tempered with Wisdom, or that a magician must understand the high price that some magic claims from its wielder. The settlement of Casca's Fall was built in honour of her around a shrine to Loyalty, tended to by a small chapter of the same name.
Perhaps the wildest part of Highguard, the Greatwood has never been densely settled. The few chapterhouses established here tend to be inward looking and insular. Among some of the oldest, they were also some of the last to rally under the banner of the Virtuous Assembly during the civil war - in some parts of Casinea saying someone has "a Greatwood heart" is another way of accusing them of being over-cautious. Today the chapters of Greatwood continue to enjoy their privacy and discourage visitors, preferring to pursue their own understanding of the Virtues in relative solitude. A number of the chapters of Greatwood are dedicated to study of Pride and Vigilance and over the years have provided several Cardinals to the assemblies of both virtues.
In particular, the chapters here are very reticent to allow any extensive logging of the Greatwood - perhaps understandably as during the civil war the thick woodlands provided additional protection to the chapters here. This reticence exacerbates the brooding tension between the Greatwood chapters and their cousins in Woodwych. As far as the Greatwood chapters are concerned, the southern chapters and their League allies covet the ancient trees that grow in the Greatwood and are constantly conniving to find some way to extend their money-hungry lumber businesses into the north. The construction of the Blood Red Roads in particular is seen as a potential threat to the Casinean way of life - bringing with it as it does an influx of travellers from the League and even further afield. The chapter of Beacon Ridge has been especially critical of the lack of Vigilance in the decision to encourage the intrusion of non-Highborn culture into Casinea.
For the most part, Mareholm is a relatively quiet, civilized region that has much in common with the more densely settled Bastion to the south-east. The hills and mountains are beautiful and rich with ore, and the soil here is rich and fertile. Defended by the Silent Sentinel, many of the chapterhouses here are likewise fortified. This is perhaps understandable - after all, Mareholm is the site of Anvil, the de facto Imperial capital.
The atmosphere here is not entirely peaceful. Until very recently neighbouring Reikos was occupied by vicious Druj invaders. Even with the Druj gone, there are still potential threats to the east. The powerful vallorn haunted forest of Brocéliande broods to the north-east, and the eternal Llofir has claimed bordering Tamarbode as part of its domain. While there seems to be no immediate threat from either quarter, the presence of two such unpredictable entities only a short distance from the capital of the Empire gives many cause for concern. There have been scattered signs that the Brocéliande vallorn is not as quiescent as might be hoped, and relations between the Empire and Llofir apparently remain tense.
Parts of Syrwatch are quite hilly, and have been home to Highborn mining concerns for centuries. The chapters here have a reputation for being rugged, and practical people of a martial bent - the proximity of the border with Dawn meant that even in the time of the patricians the people understood the importance of remaining Vigilant not only against orcs but against the ambitions of their fellow humans. A number of the chapters protect mineworkings, or enjoy good reputations for making weapons and armour - another reason that Casinea is considered a good place for refitting and resupplying Imperial armies.
While not as dense as Greatwood to the north, Woodwych is still heavily forested. Some of the oldest chapterhouses in Casinea - and by extension, in all of Highguard - were built here in the time before the civil war. Isolated from the patricians by the woodlands - thicker and wilder in pre-Imperial times - the chapters here were some of the first to call for open rebellion in support of the martyred Permion.
The region is known both for fine timber and for rich dragonbone deposits. Several of the chapters of Woodwych maintain extensive forest reserves, or make a reasonable profit trading along the woodland road that links the League to Casca's Doom (and to the rest of Highguard). This trade serves as a source of some tension between the chapters of Woodwych and those of the Greatwood. According to some, the more insular chapters in the north resent the Prosperity enjoyed by their southern cousins, and accuse them of having embraced the "love of money" that they say infects the people of the League.
It is no secret that relations between some of the older chapters of Woodwych and Greatwood are cool at best. Obviously, the mutual suspicion is not shared by every chapter in the two regions but it is widespread enough that it is occasionally used as a source of amusement by other Casineans. It most likely traces its roots back to the very beginning of the Virtuous Assembly, when there was a much closer relationship between the chapters of the two woodland regions.
When Permion first called for the Virtuous to guide the Highborn, there was significant disagreement between the chapters in the northern and southern forest. The Woodwych chapters broadly supported Permion, and welcomed a chance to help the Navigator to rebuild Highguard. The Greatwood chapters, heeding the cautious voice of the respected Theresa of Beacons Ridge did not agree. Theresa warned that the only possible outcome of an attempt to bring the Virtues to Highguard would be war - that the patricians would never relax their stranglehold on the nation. She was, of course, proved correct. When Permion was murdered, the Woodwych chapters were among the loudest voices calling for war, while again their cousins in the north called for a more cautious response. In the end, the Greatwood chapters joined the war alongside the rest of the Virtuous, but their reticence was neither forgotten nor forgiven.
In the centuries since, the Woodwych chapters have continued to embrace change. They welcomed trade with the League, and quickly embraced the idea of helping to found the Empire. The northern chapters continue to espouse caution - they were a solid core of opposition in the Highborn Assembly to the idea that Highguard would prosper in a union with "lesser" nations. While they grudgingly accept that the world has moved on, members of the insular chapters are often quick to point out the dangers of abandoning reliable tradition in favour of untested novelty.One story that is guaranteed to inflame the disagreement between the chapters of western Casinea is that of the supposed "secret weirwood grove" that exists somewhere in Greatwood. The source of the rumour has never been pinned down, but several times there have been accusations of a conspiracy among several of the Greatwood chapters to conceal the existence of such a grove - that it is the real source of their reticence to allow their rich woodlands to be cut. No proof of this hidden Bourse resource has ever been presented.
- All the regions of Casinea are controlled by the Highborn (and by extension the Empire), making this a staunchly Imperial territory.
- The Silent Sentinel is a second rank fortification.
- * The Blood Red Roads are a great work that provides additional income to farms and businesses owned by Highborn characters in Casinea.
- Lorenzo's Legacy of Prosperity is a great work that provides 37 crystal mana each season, spread amongst those citizens of Casinea who own mana sites.
- Some of the prominent chapters of Casinea are detailed here.