Region of Ossium.png
Even with a map, there are parts of Ossium that remain unknown to the Empire.

Overview

Ossium is the north-western territory of the Mallum, which borders Karsk and Holberg, and lies across the Semmerlak from Weirwater and Semmerholm. It is a land of dense, twisted forests and dripping marsh, rich in both natural resources and threats. Only a small portion of the territory is open - the majority of Ossium is shrouded in old, moss bearded trees, pools of stagnant water, and narrow, fast-flowing streams. The majority of the population are orcs - primarily subjects dominated by the Druj, the former masters of the territory. There are also scattered small groups of humans, primarily former slaves of the Druj or privileged enclaves such as the Ketsov.

The Empire has made some progress in encouraging the orcs to see them as liberators rather than simply more tyrants. Preachers from several Imperial nations have visited the civilian population and introduced them to the idea of the virtues, and invitations have been given to any orcs who wish to do so to travel to Skarsind and begin new lives as Imperial Orcs.

Most Imperial trade currently passes west into Karsk. There are very few actual roads in the territory, although thanks to the Navarr there are a number of newly minted trods. The Thule have apparently been working to clear a road linking their fortress and the Silent Pines to their own territory - but they have chosen to cut east and west to connect with their holdings in Krevsaty rather than forge north through the depths of the Bonewood into Skuld.

Many Varushkans are a little unhappy that there are not better roads - the lack of a road building initiative is likely to slow down the exploitation of the rich woodlands. An obvious alternative for increasing the prosperity of the territory would be to construct a port in Bittershore, now that the Sand Fishers have relocated, allowing for trade with Dawn and the western territories of Varushka.

In addition to the Crawling Depths and the Silent Pines, the territory is actually remarkably rich in raw materials. The forests are full of beggarwood and ambergelt, with extensive deposits of dragonbone reported in the Drownbark Forest. The Galath Fields and the inland portions of Bittershore are composed of rich, fertile soil that is already producing fine harvests for Varushkan settlers. There are almost no mines in the territory, however, and it seems the best locations for establishing mana sites are buried in the depths of the forests in out-of-the-way areas that in some cases are still controlled by orc bandits.

Economics

  • All forest personal resources in Ossium produce 2 additional measures
  • Any commission intended to increase production of metals in Ossium would be twice the normal cost

The rich groves and stretches of woodland in Ossium are unusually fertile and suitable for exploitation. As a result, any Varushkan who owns a forest in Ossium can expect it to produce 2 extra measures of the appropriate material every season. This benefit reflects the natural bounty of the area, coupled with a long history of under-use and should endure for many years to come.

Ossium is very poor in valuable metals. Any sinecure, ministry, great work, or similar commission designed to produce green iron, weltsilver, tempest jade, or orichalcum, or which tries to improve the production of such mines, will need twice as much in terms of materials and time.

Recent History

The invasion was preceded by the construction of the Golden Causeway, a gift from the eternal Eleonaris. In Autumn 382YE, the causeway allowed the armies of Dawn to cross the Semmerlak and invade Ossium, taking the Druj by surprise. Supported by the Golden Axe of Varushka, and by a major Thule force out of Otkodov, they quickly crushed the Bone Serpent and Amber Scorpion clans. Following initial successes on Bitter Shore and Galath Plains, Winter saw them conquer the Echofell, and culminated in a pitched battle at the Tower of the Scorpion. The Druj attempted to fight back, but with they were unable to prevent the allied forces conquering the whole of Ossium by the Spring Equinox 383YE.

During the Winter Solstice 382YE the Senate voted to assign the territory to the nation of Varushka.

Following the Autumn Equinox 383YE, the Fire of the South escorted a great number of Ossium orcs, through Varushka to Skarsind, to begin new lives far from the threat of the Mallum. Many orcs stayed behind however, refusing to leave their homes due to stubbornness or distrust of the Empire. There are also scattered human settlements in Ossium - especially in Galath Fields and Bittershore - representing former slaves of the Druj as well as people who made an "accomodation" with the orc overlords. Many - but by no means all - of these humans are of Varushkan descent.

Ossium.jpg
The forests of Ossium are dark, and full of traps for the unwary.

Points of Interest

Miasma Pillars

As of Autumn 383YE, there is a Druj miasma - an oppressive aura of despair and fear - that hangs over the entire territory. It causes nightmares and impedes efforts to settle the territory. At one time there were miasma pillars in each of the seven regions. Efforts by the Cardinal of Vigilance identified the locations of some of the stones that anchor the miasma in place, and the scouts pouring into the territory located the rest. As of the end of the Winter Solstice, it is believed that there are only two miasma pillars still standing in Ossium - one at the Fang Tree, in the Webwood, and the other somewhere in the depths of Thule-controlled Bonewood. It is not clear whether the latter pillar is active or if the warlocks of Otkodov have already removed it.

With most of the pillars supporting it destroyed by Imperial heroes, the miasma has almost entirely unravelled, but it still lies thick and oppressive over the Webwood.

Lomaa

A shambolic town on the Galath Fields, built over the Crawling Depths. The civil service has established an office here to help oversee the development of the territory. Many Varushkan settlers come here first, before dispersing across the territory, giving it a frontier feel. A number of merchants from further east are drawn here, making a quick profit selling vital supplies to the Varushkan, and it is also the site of a thriving market where representatives of the newly established vales come to sell their wares to traders intending to return east.

Ketsov

Ketsov is home to the human clan of the same name, an ambitious family who actually prospered under the Druj to an extent. They are the most eager of the Ossium natives to embrace the Varushkan egregore, being descended from settlers who crossed the border from Karsk many years ago. The inhabitants of the town and the surrounding settlements clearly have Varushkan heritage and many seem eager to adopt Varushkan ways. Symbols of the Bone Scorpion, that once adorned the town have been carefully and meticulously erased. In their place people are now putting new banners and paintings: most are variants of the stylised double-headed eagle clutching axes that is a traditional symbol of Varushka.

The Ketsov Trade Exchange was established here shortly before the Summer Solstice 383YE, allowing the Ketsov to trade that same expertise in crafting magic items that made them useful to the Druj to their new Imperial neighbours. A significant portion of the Ketsov are now reported to have been bonded to the Varushkan egregore.

The Field of Glory

This ironic name is given to the site of one of the first significant engagements between the Imperial forces and the Druj. Some twenty thousand human and orc farmers and fishers who had fled the invading force were corralled by the Druj, given makeshift weapons and driven to engage Imperial forces. The result was a bloodbath, with barely a handful of Imperials injured or slain and thousands of farmers or fisherfolk wounded and killed. The battlefield has since been discovered to be rich in marrowort, although some reports suggest the area is now haunted by the ghosts of terrified and angry orcs and humans caught between the malice of the Druj and the zeal of the Imperial armies. More information about the Field of Glory can be found in the Thousands or more wind of fortune.

The Palace of Orieb

The sprawling, partially flooded palace of Orieb is believed to have been home to the Buruk Tepel of the Bone Serpent clan. It has been abandoned, but the maze-like structure has still only been partially mapped. It is a peculiar and somewhat unsettling combination of living area, apothecary workshop, palace, political hub, and herb garden with plants growing inside the structure in internal gardens - some open to the elements and others roofed with glass or cunning wooden shutters that can be adjusted to control the amount of rain and sun that reaches them. More information about the Palace of Orieb can be found in the Thousands or more wind of fortune.

Marshstand Skerry

Standing in the Drownbark Forest, the Marshstand Skerry is a low rock that allegedly used to be tended by a ghulai of the Bone Serpent. It has apparently been abandoned since the territory was first invaded - allegedly since before the Webwood fell. The rock is surrounded by decades or perhaps even centuries worth of bones from creatures - some of them clearly humans or orcs - drowned or interred in the marshy waters to rot. The place has a poor reputation - it is both considered to be haunted and also known to be home to especially large, viciously bloodthirsty insects similar to mosquitos. More information about Marshstand Skerry can be found in the Thousands or more wind of fortune.

Tower of the Scorpion

A grand tower of white granite, surrounded by a wall topped with twisted metal razors, and standing in a large, open killing field. A network of rope bridges extends from wood towers that squat under the shadow of the walls. In the season following the Autumn Equinox 382YE, Imperial armies captured the Tower of the Scorpion from the Amber Scorpion clan, significantly damaging, but still claiming it.

Crawling Depths

The Depths are a mithril mine under the settlement of Lomaa. Custodianship of the Depths is an Imperial Title that brings with it a Seat on the Imperial Bourse. It produces 14 Imperial wains of mithril every season. Control is allocated to any Imperial citizen by open auction during the Autumn Equinox.

The Silent Pines

The Silent Pines is a large weirwood grove in the central Bonewood. It is controlled by the Thule. The human slaves who were part of the labour force used to maintain and farm the woodlands here were delivered to Kark shortly after the orcs of Otkodov cemented their hold here. Many of the inhabitants of the Galath Fields and Bittershore claim the Silent Pines are "cursed" in some fashion. Despite this, many structures across Ossium were clearly crafted from weirwood taken from the groves - the timber is very dark and the Druj often polished and varnished it in such a way to call out the patterns hidden in the wood in a way that is both attractive and somewhat unsettling.

Trods

The trods of Ossium, established by the Navarr during a brutal battle that took place in the territory during the Autumn Equinox 382YE, are only partially explored. Many of them run through dangerous, unmapped parts of the territory. It is surmised that the trods here, along with those in Karsk, help to anchor the trods - and the vallorn - of Sküld to the wider network.

Ossium Sketch.png
For some time the Empire worked with only a very vague sketch map of the territory.

Regions

The regions of Ossium have three special qualities which represent the challenges facing the Varushkans in securing the territory.

Bittershore

Bittershore was the first region of Ossium encountered by the Empire, and also the first one to be conquered. It lies along the eastern banks of the Semmerlak, and one end of the Golden Causeway is anchored here. The Causeway is quiescent at the moment, but all it would take is a Dawnish witch to open it and the shimmering bridge would stretch back across the lake to Laroc in Semmerholm. Prior to the Imperial invasion, Bittershore was home to the Sand Fisher clan of orcs. The Imperial Senate ceded the region of Misericorde in Holberg to the Sand Fishers and the entire nation moved south across the Semmerlak to Holberg.

Varushkan settlers have already begun to establish vales on the shores of the lake, taking advantage of the rich fishing opportunities and fertile farmland. As the prosperity of the region increases, the likelihood that Varushka will be able to support another Imperial army increases.

Bonewood

The northernmost region of Ossium is the Bonewood, which allegedly takes its name either from the rich profusion of beggarwood trees or from the number of bleached bones that litter the forest, remnants of many historical battles between the Druj and either the Thule or the Varushkans. Even before it was conquered by the Thule, the forest had a dire reputation for being "haunted". The local orcs tell grim tales of shadowy figures that prey on travellers among the ancient pines, leaving blood-drained corpses in their wake. The Thule have not welcomed Imperial scouts into this area. They have been polite but firm, and made it clear that they are not welcome. The pine forests have been lightly mapped; they extend north to the borders of Sküld, and west to the borders of Krevsaty. There is known to be a large weirwood forest here - the Silent Pines - which is now controlled by the Thule.

There is also a castle here - Fljajokep - controlled by the Thule. It overlooks the Silent Pines and was finished in a mere six months, the construction supplemented by powerful Autumn magic. It stands at one end of a narrow but well-travelled pathway that extends from the Silent Pines south toward Ketsov, and was used by the Druj to transport shipments of weirwood south into more open ground.

Ossium Characters

Ossium is on the list of territories new Varushkan characters can come from. For now however, the only appropriate character backgrounds for Varushkans in Ossium are "Imperial citizen from somewhere else starting a new life as a Varushkan in Ossium" or "freed human slave who has embraced Varushkan culture". An obvious example of the latter would be someone who was freed from the Crawling Depths by the armies and introduced to Varushkan ways by the soldiers of the Golden Axe or the miners of Moresvah. It is explicitly not possible to start as a member of the Ketsov family, or similar group of Druj collaborators.

It's also of course also possible to move to Ossium in-character using the normal rules for changing territory.

When creating a character from Ossium, you may wish to bear in mind that the wealth of the territory lies in its forests and marshes, rather than in its mines. Forest, farm, and herb garden personal resources are all excellent choices for characters whose home territory is Ossium, while mines are particularly poor choices.

Drownbark Forest

The last region of Ossium conquered by the Empire, the Drownbark Forest is a stinking marsh covered with moss-shrouded, dripping forest. Varushkan settlers have comparatively little experience dealing with the marshy terrain of the Drownbark Forest, and there are no vales established here.

In the depths of Drownbark Forest is the Druj town of Orieb, a settlement surrounding a sprawling and labyrinthine Druj palace. From discussions with the local populace, it appears that Orieb was the seat of one of the Druj clans that dominated Ossium - the Bone Serpent clan - ruled with an iron fist by an ancient Buruk Tepel named Bleakbane. The Buruk Tepel herself, and her apprentices, have not been accounted for. The town is composed of stinking hovels, populated by a number of freed orc and human slaves, who have thus far cooperated fully with the liberating forces. There only real concentration of Varushkans in the region is centred here - three bands of wagon raiders from Karsk and southern Volodmartz have congregated, creating a small enclave surrounding the Stinking Market where they sell valuables wrenched not only from the depths of the Drownbark Forest but also from daring raids across the border into Farweald and the Forest of Ulnak. More information about the Stinking Market can be found in the Thousands or more wind of fortune.

In Autumn 383YE, scouts reported the presence of something significantly more dangerous than even Druj bandits in the Drownbark Forest. There is at least one group of horrible unliving servants - tormented souls bound into the tormented corpses of Dawnish knights - in the Drownbark Forest. It's not clear if they are part of a larger force, or whether like the tormented souls of Reikos they have broken free of the control of their Druj masters. Regardless, the scouts deliver warnings to settlers in the area to give them a wide berth.

Echofell

The Echofell was the home of the Amber Scorpion clan of the Druj, and the site of the Tower of the Scorpion. The first real engagement of the invasion took place here when Imperial forces besieged the tower during torrential rain. The fortification was ultimately overrun and captured by the Empire - it is now garrisoned by a small force of Varushkans. A posting to the Tower of the Scorpion is seen as a particularly unpalatable tour of service by most Varushkan soldiers. While most of the Druj have been driven from the area eastward in to the the Forest of Ulnak, the woods are home to a disturbing number of unpleasant insects and poisonous creatures that seem to enjoy feasting on human blood.

Galath Fields

Along with Bittershore, the Galath Fields represent the only real open ground in Ossium. The soil here is rich, and the damp grasslands are scattered with smaller settlements belonging to native orcs, most of whom are cautiously welcoming of the Imperial presence. There are two larger settlements - the town of Lomaa which sits above the Crawling Depths, and Ketsov, home to the human clan of the same name. As with Bittershore, the Galath Fields have proved popular with Varushkan settlers, especially those from wealthy Karov looking to start new vales in the comparative safety of the new territory.

Nearweald

One of the last regions of Ossium conquered, Nearweald borders onto Farweald - the northernmost part of the Barrens. The woodlands here are dense, and broken up by maze-like game trails, and overgrown pathways. Most of the Druj who inhabited this area retreated into the Barrens once it was clear Ossium was lost, but as with the Webwood there are still a few small bands living in the depths of the woods who emerge sporadically to raid Varushkan settlements.

A particularly bloody-minded band of settlers from Livardz in Volodmartz have claimed an extensive section of the forest and despite some opposition from the bandits have established a relatively secure vale here named Karantzy from which they are engaging in extensive logging. The timber from the Nearwald is being sold to other settlers, and has proved extremely popular for helping new settlers establish vales across Bittershore and Galath Fields. Boyar Irina Karantzy and her allies are making money hand over fist. Not only from the trees themselves - Nearweald is particularly rich in precious ambergelt that has a particularly vibrant crimson colouration that is already being touted as "blood amber".

Webwood

The Webwood is a dank, almost impenetrable forest with few trails. As its name implies it is home to large numbers of spiders - many of them either very large or very venomous. There is a well-hidden structure in its depths which apparently serves as a temple or lair for orcs dedicated to the service of the eternal Arhallogen dubbed the Temple of Arhallogen. It is not entirely clear if the orcs are really Druj or not, or whether they are an example of a nation that managed to maintain some level of independence despite living in a land oppressed by the Druj. The orcs have kept very much to themselves, but there have nonetheless been disappearances reported in the area which is littered with traps and deadfalls that pose a constant threat to travelers and settlers.

The "temple" has been recognised by the Imperial Conclave as being the property of Arhallogen, and Varushkan settlers are discouraged from attempting to establish vales here. This has not stopped the most ambitious or bloody minded from starting to build along the southern and western margins.

Webwood is perhaps the most dangerous and least explored region of Ossium, and there are known to be at least two bands of Druj bandits in the depths who periodically emerge to raid Varushkan settlements, reaching as far afield as the north-western Galath Fields and the northern Echofell.

Special Qualities

Several regions of Ossium have special qualities that relate to the problems faced by the Varushkans when bringing the former Druj-dominated territory into the Empire. While the qualities are tied to specific regions, their impact covers the entire territory - so the under-developed quality effects commissions anywhere in Ossium, not only when those commissions are built in the regions specifically tied to the quality. In some ways, these qualities are similar to the army-movement restricting passes in territories such as Spiral and Skarsind - a way to create plot but do so in a player-facing way that characters can discuss in-character; so the players can see where the problems are; they can see when they've been successful at addressing a problem; and they can see how much work remains to be done. It's intended that these qualities be possible to remove through player action - and the winds of fortune offer several ways that could be done.

Under-developed

  • Bittershore, Galath Fields, Nearwald

Under the Druj, Ossium was a wild territory with minimal infrastructure. There were towns and villages, but the orcs seemed to take a perverse pleasure in ensuring that their subjects had as few comforts as possible. Roads are sparse, and barely maintained, and there was very little trade between settlements. This causes problems for the Empire - transporting materials where they need to go, and securing local labour to help build new commissions are both very challenging.

Game Effect: For each region of Ossium that has the under-developed quality, the labour costs for any commission in the territory - including fortifications and armies - are increased by a fifth. The starting position is that such costs are increased by three-fifths; should the Empire successfully remove the quality from one region the extra costs would decrease to two-fifths.

Underpopulated

  • Nearwald, Drownbark Forest, Echofell

The population of Ossium is made up of two distinct groups. The Varushkan settlers are primarily based around Bittershore and the Galath Fields, and are busy establishing new vales and exploring the opportunities represented by the territory. The former subjects of the Druj, both human and orc, are mostly keeping to themselves. Many orcs have left the territory to find new lives far from the Mallum. Most have gone to Skarsind, but a few have settled in the marshes of Holberg.

The original inhabitants who remain are deeply suspicious of the Empire, and afraid that they may be punished when the Druj inevitably return. Great swathes of the territory are almost entirely unpopulated - especially the eastern forests and marshes.While Varushkan territories are often sparsely populated compared to other Imperial nations, the lack of population here is particularly notable.

Game Effect: While any region has the underpopulated quality, Ossium cannot support an Imperial army. If the quality were removed from all regions that currently possess it, the number of armies Varushka can support would increase to three, assuming they did not lose significant amounts of territory elsewhere.

Under threat

  • Drownbark Forest, Echofell, Webwood

While the Druj have lost their grip on the territory, they have by no means been entirely driven out. The forests and marshes provide copious hiding places from which the cruel orcs are free to launch raids against both Imperial settlers and former subjects. These guerilla forces melt away when faced with serious opposition, retreating to their hidden camps, and returning after a respite to attack from another, unexpected direction. While they remain in force, Ossium can never be fully secure.

Game Effect: While a region has the Under threat quality, the orcs of the Mallum and their allies are considered to have a beachhead in that region. This means their armies will not suffer the usual penalty to take the first region in an enemy territory, as long as they are attacking a region with the under threat quality.

SummitElected
Winter Solstice 383YEVesna (Sparrow) Borkovna
Winter Solstice 382YEBelakov Zakharovich Prochnost

Recent Senate Elections

As an Imperial territory, Ossium is represented by a senator elected in the Winter. This title is currently held by Vesna (Sparrow) Borkovna; it will be reelected at Winter Solstice 384YE. The table to the right shows the citizens who have been elected to hold this title in the years since Empress Britta died.

OOC Notes

  • Every region except Bonewood belongs to Varushka, meaning Ossium is an Imperial territory. Bonewood is controlled by the Thule.
  • The Tower of the Scorpion is a rank one fortification.
  • Fljajokep in Bonewood is a rank one fortification controlled by the Thule.
  • All forest personal resources in Ossium produce 2 additional measures of the base material.
  • Any commission intended to increase production of metals in Ossium is twice as expensive

Further Reading