Population: 1,398,940 (72% human, 12 hobgoblin, 6% halfling, 5% half-orcs, 4% dwarves)
Government: varies by city (militocracy, theocracy, monarchy)
Religions: The gods of Woe, especially Drauluin
Imports: Books, magic items, furs, mercenaries
Exports: Gems, precious metals, food
Updated to: 2806
Ascarlon is a hilly, mist-shrouded land nestled within the foothills between the Hammersea and the High Forest. It is a collection of related city-states considered by the rest of Vatheria to be one nation. However, the cities are as often at odds with each other as with their inhuman neighbors. Remote and bordered on all sides by aggressive neighbors, Ascarlon is a land under siege. To the north and west lies the expanding orc league of Maekras, while to the east lies the aggressive hobgoblin empire of Carhallas. The mountains of the south are home to wild and dangerous trolls, giants, ogres and orcs. Yet Ascarlon is not without its defenses. It is ringed about with mighty mountains, wide rivers and the shores of the Hammersea. Its misty hills are dotted with stout fortresses and hidden redoubts. But most of all, Ascarlon has its vampires.
The ruling aristocracy of each Ascar city is made up of the undead and their faithful mortal servants. Once, they were the mortal rulers of the Ascar empire, an early competitor with Conorria. But in their zeal to outdo the rising power to the south, they turned to the worship of evil gods and made a terrible pact with the darkness. They became vampires. Those who refused were forcibly recruited or killed.
The people of Ascarlon love all form of physical conflict, from footraces and hunting to bloodsports and war. They are loudly passionate about the gladiatorial arena, and even small towns have a pit or ring for such contests. Gladiators, war heroes and soldiers are held in the highest esteem, followed closely by those who glorify them, such as bards and great artisans. Thought by many foreigners to be drunken northern louts, the Ascar are exuberant in their love of sensation and life. Nearly all have some experience with weapons.
Ascarlon was founded on the ruins of ancient Numanthaur, and for centuries, petty kings and sorcerers carved small realms out of the vast lands between the Worldspine and Edgemoor mountains and the Hammersea. In CY -904, the lands were united by the hero-priest Lodor and a long and relatively peaceful dynasty ensued. By CY -307, the Ascar had extended their considerable trading power over the mountains and through the High Forest into the rich lands of the south. It was here that they would first come into conflict with the nascent kingdom of Conorria.
By CY 110, the Conorrian senate had decided that Ascarlon was a threat to its continued expansion and determined to destroy the power of the northern realm once and for all. A huge army was assembled, complete with sorcerers and monsters, and the Conorrians marched forth to destroy their enemies. Their armies overwhelmed the Ascar in a seven-year war, and their cities were put to the torch.
But some of the Ascar nobles survived through the use of a terrible secret of the Shadow Realm. They partook of the shadowstuff, hoping to become immortal. They succeeded, but in a manner more terrible than the deaths they sought to avert. They became the undead, hungering forever for the lifeblood that no longer flowed in their veins. With their newfound power, they began to exact a terrible toll on the Conorrian legions, eventually killing the commanding general in Ascarlon. Worse still, they entered the Holy City and slew the Empress Valesia, turning her into a powerful and dangerous vampire whom the emperor eventually was forced to kill by his own hand. Although they had defeated the armies of Ascarlon, the Conorrians could not overcome the agents of darkness, and so they reluctantly retreated south of the Worldspine mountains, never to return.
Cursed to an eternity of unlife, the Ascar nobles nonetheless returned to their ruined homes, and soon began to form communities of mortals who waged war upon each other for supplies, land and slaves. None of the original Ascar nobles are thought to survive. The long millennia slowly warped their minds until madness and a desire for oblivion took hold. But their descendants now rule a decadent, violent and dangerous land in their steads.
In CY 1547, a new vampire lord, Gauros, rose to prominence in the city of Caer Thorne. Stronger than his peers, he was a violent and warlike. He soon began to gather the lords of nearby cities under his Blood Eagle banner. By CY 1558, Gauros ruled a third of Ascarlon. He demanded that the other cities acknowledge him as their master. They refused and the first of many Ascar civil wars broke out. When the dust cleared, Gauros and his followers had been destroyed, but the whole of Ascarlon was weakened.
In CY 1902, the vast horde of hobgoblins known as the Kazimaks arrived in the formerly lightly-populated lands east of Ascarlon. Their great numbers, size and ferocity made them formidable foes. Within a generation, they had shattered the power of Ascarlon east of the Manndaran river, and shut off all trade routes to the east and south. The lords of Ascarlon began work on the line of fortresses that now dominates the Manndaran valley, and looked for alliances with the human barbarians of Rhanalor.
By CY 2389, the Kazimak horde had become the Carhallas Empire and was pushing hard all along the frontier. Another new lord arose in the ruins of Caer Thorne, calling himself Gauros the Arisen. He proved to be an efficient and ruthless war-leader, driving back superior Carhallas forces all along the frontier. Many Ascars believe that this is the original Gauros, who somehow cheated death during the first civil war.
In recent years, Gauros the Arisen, known popularly as Prince Gauros (now nearly 500 years old) has become the most powerful and influential of the lords of Ascarlon. He shows little of the impetuousness of his namesake, and is skillful at playing off his neighbors against one another.
In 2797, the Empire of Frost arrived at the borders of Ascarlon. As yet, the forces of Hoarwinter have not crossed the river into Ascarlon, but most observers feel that the Archons are merely absorbing their conquests in Maekras first. Others hint darkly that Gauros and Hoarwinter have come to an arrangement.
MAJOR POPULATION CENTERS
Caer Thorne (Large City; population 58,230) Caer Thorne is a walled fortress-city situated high in the southeastern foothills, by the banks of the river Rialis. It is dominated by the Nightmare Citadel, grim and foreboding court of Prince Gauros. A large and well-used arena, the Kylanor, stands at the heart of the city. Anything can be found in the city, for a price, even poisons and narcotics. Prince Gauros actively discourages all good religions and persecutes their followers.
Denavine (Large City; population 49, 470) Seat of the Mandrakes, a council of vampire sorcerers who oppose Prince Gauros, Denavine is the second-largest city in Ascarlon. Situated on the shores of the Hammersea, it is Ascarlons only major port. Denavine is best known for its many caves, ancient limestone formations in the high bluffs along the shore which are used for a wide variety of purposes, from shelter to storage to secrecy. The caves are said to link to the Underdark.
Kemallaya Peaks – This remote southern range forms part of the Edgemoor mountains, and is a wild and dangerous place. Tribes of savage orcs make their homes here, as do rhemoraz, beholders and dragons. Rumors of a hidden city somewhere in the high peaks has never been substantiated.
Castle Valad –A looming ruin in the southeastern hills was once the home of the powerful Valad family, heroes of Ascarlon. The castle was built on the even older ruins of a Numanthaur spellhold. This dangerous site is now haunted by its former owners, but the presence of the great underground citadel continues to attract and doom many adventurers.
The Firefields – An area of unstable volcanic activity and connections to the elemental plane of fire, the Firefields are home to an intelligent race of firedrakes and their mephit servants. Rumor has it that the Firefields hides a temple to Malbor.
The Ghost Forest of Eldameth – This eerie forest is found almost anywhere in and around Ascarlon, but only foggy nights near to the full moon. Those who find themselves in the Ghost Forest often report meeting fey folk from other places and times. Sages say that the Forest is a gateway to other realms, and that it is ruled over by a goddess with motives she shares with no one.
The Sinking Land – Along the Amberwash, on the shores of the Hammersea, there is a large swamp known as the Sinking Land. Curious geological activity causes the land to rise and fall from year to year, occasionally covering large areas or revealing ancient structures. These swamps are inhabited by several tribes of lizard-men and are home to many rare and valuable plants.