Never conquered by the Empire, wild and unknown
The Barrens

Overview

The Barrens describes an area to the east of Semmerholm never conquered by the Empire. Dawn maintains a series of long-established outposts on the western edge that reinforce the border against the barbarians. In general the Barrens is rich and fertile but its natural resources are almost entirely unexploited - enough to make the most jaded Varushkan merchant or wagon-raider salivate at the thought of all the untapped potential. There have been several attempts to settle it more fully, but the presence of several barbarian bandit tribes makes establishing permanent settlements impossible. Nonetheless, the Dawnish refuse to abandon their foothold in the Barrens and it serves as a common proving ground for knights-errant.

The Barrens has always been a magnet for the exiled, the disenfranchised and the disgruntled. Between 325 YE and 328 YE it was also the scene of a short-lived rogue kingdom called Montane, founded by renegades during the events of the Freedom Heresy. The lonely territory is scattered with ruins, old stone circles, solitary towers and hidden regio, any one of which could prove to be the home of some lost treasure ... or unspeakable horror.

Recent History

The Druj barbarians have dominated the eastern Barrens for a little over a century. They ruthlessly dominated the disparate barbarian tribes who had lived there previously, and installed themselves as overlords. They used the central position of the Barrens to co-ordinate attacks on Holberg and Reikos; depleted armies would withdraw to the Barrens, and be replaced by fresh armies. There is also evidence that the Druj used the Barrens to move materials (weirwood, mithril and white granite) between the two conquered territories.

This came to a dramatic end in Winter 377YE when an Imperial force ambushed and slaughtered the Druj leaders in the Barrens. This triggered an armed revolt among the subject tribes that continues today. These "indigenous orcs" appear to be made up of tribes, and the remnants of tribes, who have lived in the Barrens for a very long time.

The indigenous orcs engaged in a campaign of slaughter against every Druj enclave they could find. Druj prisoners were generally hung from the nearest branch capable of holding their weight, leading to horrifying encounters with literally dozens of dead orcs hanging from hempen nooses wherever the two orc factions clashed. They appeared unconcerned with the Dawnish citizens in Dawnguard, but once the Druj were dealt with their attention turned to relations with the Empire..

During the Spring Equinox 379YE, the Imperial Senate passed a motion declaring the three orc tribes in the Barrens to be foreigners, rather than barbarians. This meant - among other things - that while the orcs of the Barrens are recognised as foreigners, any invasion of their lands by Imperial troops would be a criminal offence.

During Summer 379YE, a delegation of indigenous orcs came to Anvil, with the assistance of the Navarr of Brocéliande. They engaged in extensive diplomacy and negotiation in pursuit of a treaty between the Empire and their nascent nation.

Following the Spring Equinox 381YE, the Druj invaded and occupied the Dawnish-held region of Dawnguard. At the same time, a concerted effort to scout the Barrens using the spy network established there confirmed suspicions that both Dourfell Keep and the Towers of the Dusk had been destroyed.

Major Features

Towers of the Dawn (ruined)

The four masively built white granite tower-keeps collectively known as the Towers of the Dawn once stood along the western borders of the Barrens in Dawnguard. This great fortification served as a base of operation for Dawnish knights exploring the Barrens, and a reminder to the orcs that while they may dominate the Barrens, they did not do so without opposition. During the Freedom Heresy, the towers were the site of an atrocity as rebellious briars murdered the yeomen and knights assigned to the First and Second towers. Ever after, the garrisons of the Towers of Dawn were unfriendly towards briars - and woe betide anyone who supported the 'virtues' of freedom within their earshot!

After several seasons of being attacked by Barrens orcs, the Towers of the Dawn were the subject of a major offensive by the Druj after the Spring Equinox 381YE. The fortification fell, smashed by overwhelming Druj force, and Dawnguard fell with it.

Spires of Dusk (Ruined)

Along the eastern borders of the Barrens two spires of white granite and weirwood once stood. Studded with spikes and surrounded by multiple rows of sharpened spikes, moats and carefully constructed pit-traps and staged-quagmires, only one safe approach existed to the towers. The entire are was overlooked by archery posts, and the trees that surrounded this Druj fortification were thick with traps and poisonous beasts. Looking on the towers sent a thrill of fear up the spine of all save the bravest knights. They glared across the Barrens toward the Towers of Dawn, and dark tales spoke of what happened to Dawnish or Navarri scouts captured in the vicinity. Occasionally, the Druj masters of the fortress released prisoners from the towers, broken in body and mind and shattered in spirit, to spread tales of cruelty and terror within the Empire.

The Druj called this fortress The Jaws of Suffering; the Dawnish chose to refer to it as the Spires of Dusk and knew that if they are ever to claim the Barrens for the Empire they would need to destroy this abominable castle. Rumours throughout 379YE claimed that the castle had actually been brought down by a combination of indigenous orc assault and powerful magic, but confirmation remained elusive until Summer 381YE when courageous scouts pressing into the far eastern parts of the territory confirmed that the castle had indeed been destroyed.

Eaves of Peytaht

On the northern borders of the Heart of Peytaht, a massive grove of weirwood trees that has been somewhat cultivated by the inhabitants of the Barrens. Part of the Great Forest, the Eaves of Peytaht are controlled by the indigenous orcs at this time; it is estimated that it might produce 25 wains of weirwood each season in Imperial hands.

The Fangs

Along the eastern coast of the Barren sea, the Fangs area a series of perhaps a dozen massive rocky columns that rise out of the water which are mined for mithril. Several similar columns protrude from the headlands around this area. There are obvious signs of mine workings, and observation indicates that there is mithril ore to recover. It appears that the mines are quite primitive – the constant threat of flooding and the natural difficulty of mining at sea mean the indigenous orcs are exploiting only a fraction of the potential of this resource.

Controlled by the indigenous orcs at this time; it is estimated that the Fangs might produce 18 wains of mithril each season in Imperial hand – or perhaps more if advanced Imperial mining techniques were employed to help deal with the difficult conditions here. This would require an initial investment of time and resources, but it is extremely unlikely that a civil servant could give an idea of what this would cost without unrestricted access to the area.

LordMarrokAurelius.jpg
Lord Marrok Aurelius of Drycastle, Saviour of the Lasses of Lacre.

Regions

Most of this information was gathered by the actions of brave Imperial forces working with a spy network constructed by order of the Imperial Senate. It is correct as of Autumn 378YE.

Dawnguard

Prior to the Druj invasion of Summer 381YE Dawnguard was the location of a number of Imperial settlements, the most prominent of which was Drycastle. It held for centuries against the barbarians of the Barrens, and the Druj armies, protecting Semmerholm and northern Broceliande alike from the depredations of the orcs. Often under attack, but never conquered, the houses of Dawn tended to be more martial than average, and much more prepared for violence than Dawnishfolk in other territories. Much glory awaited the brave knights who volunteered here for dangerous adventure, and it was a popular base of operation for both questing knights and knights-errant. Before the Druj invasion, the Towers of the Dawn watched over the western borders of the Barrens; when Dawnguard fell, the fortification fell with it.

Murderdale

Battle between orc forces and Imperial forces are common here, giving the region its name. The soil here is particularly fertile, and there are a number of ruined villages that represent previous attempts by Imperials to settle the Barrens.

Through much of 378YE, a steady stream of orcs from Brocéliande were marked moving from west to east. The presence of the Druj forces in the Carmine Fields, and their superstition of the forest of Peytaht to the south, meant that many of these recent arrivals took up residence in this region – although there has been little conflict between the indigenous orcs and the Brocéliande refugees.

Heart of Peytaht

Qualities: Forest, Watchful
The Great Forest of Peytaht stretches across the southern Barrens, and into Reikos to the south west. Stories from Highguard that describe the forest as being possessed of some dark spirit - something that partakes of the nature of a Varushkan sovereign - appear to be based on fact. The deeper a force presses into the forest the more uneasy they feel – the more they report being watched, and the more certain they become that they are unwelcome. Imperial forces have not pressed into the deeper forest. There is, however, no hint of discernible Vallorn presence here.

In the past, the forest was said to be equally hostile to human and orc, and attempts by either Imperial or barbarian forces to explore the interior invariably met with tragedy - assuming they were ever heard of again. This seems to have changed in 367YE when the Druj launched a crippling surprise attack through the forest into Reikos; it is unclear what the situation is today, however. .

There appear to be no permanent orc forces in this forest - especially now the Great Forest orcs have left the Barrens. The Druj forces that passed through the forest from Reikos, on their way to Holberg, reportedly suffered significant losses for doing so. Even today, corpses are occasionally found huddled against the boles of the massive trees, or hung by their entrails from thick branches. The orcs appear to have died in agony and great terror.

On the north-eastern borders of the forest is a massive strand of weirwood trees, one that has clearly been cultivated for some time. The Eaves of Peytaht is the equivalent of a Bourse seat that produces a bounty of weirwood each season.

The Carmine Fields

The soil on these wide plains has a red colour which the fanciful might say is from blood but is more likely due to a high clay quotient. This region is covered with isolated rice fields, and other crops that prosper on this kind of soil.

The region has clearly been settled by orc farmers and hunters for a very long time. However, as of 378YE there are signs of recent invasion; several settlements have been burnt to the ground and the populace enslaved.

Farweald

Quality: Forest
On the northern side of the Barren Sea is a damp forest that rises slowly to the north-east. As of 378YE it is occupied by what seems to be several large groups of indigenous orcs who have built makeshift fortified camps along the rivers and the eastern borders. It would provide a strategic location from which to strike across the river into Holberg.

Hope's Rest

Quality: Hills
In depth exploration of this region has proved tricky due to the rough terrain. Several times spies encountered well-hidden man-traps designed to kill – spiked pits, spring-loaded impaling arms and the like. The high hills surround a well fortified keep that appears to have only recently been completed. The southern slopes drop towards a large fresh-lake of brackish water on the other side of which are the marshy forests of Therunin.

At one point, there was a small fortification high in the hills here, named Dourfell Keep. It was not garrisoned by orcs but by humans. Imperial spies were unable to get a very close look at them but they appeared to show signs of very strong briar lineage, and the castle itself appeared to surround a strong Spring regio. Scouts reportedthe remains of dozens of rotted and skeletonised Druj bodies nailed to trees, impaled on spikes and crucified on makeshift “x”s. Popular belief suggested this was a community of briars descended from those who entered the barrens as part of the Freedom Heresy, and that they were allied with the indigenous orcs - especially those of the Great Forest tribe.

Some time before the Spring Equinox 381YE, however, Dourfell keep was destroyed. Rumour suggests that the community of briars themselves destroyed the fortification with Spring magic, to prevent it falling into Druj hands, Some exiled survivors of the community crossed into Therunin along with the Great Forest orcs in later 380YE.

The Untrod Groves

Quality: Forest
A deep, tangled forest that stretches from the hills of Hopes Rest to the very edge of the Plain of Teeth. The woods seem largely uninhabited by the orcs, and the only trails appear to be game trails, Trackless, it is easy to become lost in the groves – but reports also indicate that the woods are rich with untapped reserves of iridescent gloaming, beggarwood and dragonbone.

Bitter Strand

Quality: Coastal
The Barren sea is technically a great lake, but the waters are not drinkable – they are not as salty as the Bay of Catazar but it is obvious that some mineral gives the waters a foul taste. They are home to a vicious species of predatory fish the size of an ox with armoured plates on the head.

The northern coast is relatively smooth, but the southern coast is scattered with islands, many of them inhabited. Conquering this region would be made considerably easier by the addition of forces skilled at fighting amphibious assaults, such as the Red Wind Corsairs.

Along the eastern coast of the Barren sea, where it narrows as it feeds into the Saltmarsh, are the Fangs a series of perhaps a dozen massive rocky columns that rise out of the water which are mined for mithril.

The Bleaks

Quality: Forest
The southern forests become danker and damper as Therunin gets closer. The woods are home to a number of orc clans, many of whom live in the branches of ancient trees. There are heavily wooded marshes in the south; there are occasional sightings of both hydra and small marshwalkers.

Saltmarsh

Quality: Marsh
The eastern Barren Sea floods out across a great flat basin that contains the Saltmarsh. It is covered with treacherous rivers and streams that shift their banks regularly and without warning. The place is thick with flies and mosquitoes that leave nasty stinging welts on exposed flesh. The orcs who lived here maintain huts on stilts, and also moved about using long wooden stilts that occasionally gave them the appearance of walking on water. There appeared to be a large number of herb gardens maintained here by the indigenous orcs, no doubt captured from the Druj during the rebellion. With the Druj having largely recaptured the Barrens, it is not clear what the situation of the orcs here might be.

The Plains of Teeth

The Druj oversaw their domination of the Barrens from this broken plain, and signs suggest that now they have returned, they are starting to do so again. This area may once have been heavily forested but it was ruthlessly cleared to provide building materials for the Spires of Dusk. This fortification guarded access to the Druj lands to the east. After the Spring Equinox 381YE, it was finally confirmed (after a year or more of rumour) that the towers had been destroyed - allegedly by indigenous orc tribes working in conjunction with Imperial citizens - although the details are not common knowledge.

OOC Note

  • The Druj orcs control the entire territory.
  • Prior to the Druj invasion of Summer 381YE, there were between ten and twenty thousand Dawnish citizens living the Dawnguard. With the chaos following the invasion it is impossible to say how many are still alive. There was no substantial Dawnish population outside of Dawnguard.