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 it's 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 last year 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 indigeonous orcs have been engaging in a campaign of slaughter against every Druj enclave they can find. Druj prisoners are 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 have clashed. They appear unconcerned with the Dawnish citizens in Dawnguard, but it is impossible to predict what they will do once the Druj are dealt with.

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 a military invasion of the Barrens by Imperial forces would be a criminal offence.

Major Features

Towers of the Dawn

Along the western borders of the Barrens in Dawnguard are four massively built white granite tower-keeps collectively known as the Towers of Dawn. This great fortification serves 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 do not do so without opposition. During the Freedom Heresy, the towers were the sight to an atrocity as rebellious briars murdered the yeomen and knights assigned to the First and Second towers. To this day, the garrisons of the Towers of Dawn are unfriendly towards briars - and woe betide anyone who supports the 'virtues' of freedom within their earshot. (OOC Note: The Towers of the Dawn are a rank two fortification).

Spires of Dusk

Along the eastern borders of the Barrens are two spires of white granite and weirwood, studded with spikes and surrounded by multiple rows of sharpened spikes, moats and carefully constructed pit-traps and staged-quagmires. Only one safe approach exists to the towers, overlooked by archery posts, and the trees that surround this Druj fortification are thick with traps and poisonous beasts. Looking on the towers sends a thrill of fear up the spine of all save the bravest knights. They glare across the Barrens toward the Towers of Dawn, and dark tales speak of what happens to Dawnish or Navarri scouts captiured in the vicinity. Occasionally, the Druj masters of the fortress release 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 call this fortress The Jaws of Suffering; the Dawnish choose to refer to it as the Spires of Dusk and know that if they are ever to claim the Barrens for the Empire they will need to destroy this abominable castle.

Eaves of Peytaht

On the northern borders of the Great Forest of Peytaht, a massive grove of weirwood trees that has been somewhat cultivated by the inhabitans of the Barrens. The Eaves of Peytaht are controlled by the indigineous 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 indigineous 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.

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

Dawnguard is the location of a number of Imperial settlements, the most prominent of which is Drycastle. It is still held, as a bastion against the creatures of the Barrens. It’s often under attack, with much glory waiting the brave knights who volunteer here for dangerous adventure. This is not a place for families. Dawnguard is also the site of the Towers of the Dawn, the fortification that oversees the western borders of the Barrens. Keywords: Fortification

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 Broceliande refugees.

Heart of Peytaht

The great forest 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 discernable Vallorn presence here.

In the past, the forest was said to be equally hostile to man 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, but a major Druj force has passed through this region in the last few months – but not without cost. 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.
Keywords: Forest

The Carmine Fields

The soil on these wide plains has a red colour which the fanciful might say is from blood but is moe 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

On the nothern 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.
Keywords:Forest

Hope's Rest

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.

There is a small fortification high in the hills here, named Dourfell Keep. It is not manned by orcs but by humans. Imperial spies are not able to get a very close look at them but they appear to show signs of very strong briar lineage, and the castle itself appears to surround a strong Spring regio. As of 378YE there are signs of recent fighting here, and the remains of dozens of rotted and skeletonised orc bodies nailed to trees, impaled on spikes and crucified on makeshift “x”s. Examination suggests strongly that these bodies belonged to Druj rather than indigenous orcs. (OOC Note: Dourfell keep is a first rank fortification) Keywords: Hilly, Fortification

The Untrod Groves

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 indidate that the woods are rich with untapped reserves of iridescent gloaming, beggarwood and dragonbone.
Keywords: Forest

Bitter Strand

The Barren sea is technically a great lake, but the waters are not drinkable – they are not as salty as the Bay of Catazaar 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. Keywords: Coastal

The Bleaks

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. Keywords: Forest

Saltmarsh

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 mosquitos that leave nasty stinging welts on exposed flesh. The orcs who live here maintain huts on stilts, and also move about using long wooden stilts that occasionally give them the appearance of walking on water. There appear to be a large number of herb gardens maintained here by the indigenous orcs, no doubt captured from the Druj during the rebellion. Keywords: Marsh

The Plains of Teeth

The Druj oversaw their domination of the Barrens from this broken plain. This area may once have been heavily forested but it has been ruthlessly cleared to provide building materials for the Spires of Dusk. The spires guard access to the Druj lands to the east reports in Autumn 378YE suggest that until very recently it was apparently the site of a major siege by the indigenous armies. The walls have sustained light damage but the Druj garrison appears undimished by the attacks of indigenous orcs.
Keywords: Fortification

OOC Note