Climate/Terrain: Temperate forest, hill, plains, mountains, and swamp
Races: Humans 75%, Halflings 14%, Gnomes 5%, Elves 3%, Half-Elves 1%, Dwarves 1%, Other 1%
Languages: Darkonese, Halfling, Gnome, Elven, Dwarven, Falkovnian, Lamordian, Mordentish, Tepestani, Vaasi
Religions: The Eternal Order, Ezra, the Overseer
Government: Feudal hereditary monarchy
Ruler: Azalin Rex
Darkon, one of the largest domains in the Core, is a land of legend steeped in intrigue, terror, and magic. Stretching across the entire northern third of the continent, the domain encompasses an astonishing variety of landscapes. In the west, the Sea of Sorrows laps at Darkon’s shore, while the domain’s eastern edge ends at the frigid shores of the Nocturnal Sea. North of Darkon lies the vast expanse of the Mists, which roil and shift much more chaotically than elsewhere in the Core. Thus the bleak northern frontier, known as the Mistlands, is constantly in flux.
The Mountains of Misery overlook all of southeastern Darkon, crowned by the barren volcanic peaks of Mounts Nirka and Nyid. Rugged and trackless, the mountains are surrounded by broken badlands that sprawl far to the west. The rest of the eastern half of Darkon is dominated by the Vale of Tears, a wide, rolling floodplain dotted with small, shadowy woodlands. Darkon’s eastern shore is cold and bleak, a flat, wind-beaten coastline featuring only slim, sandy beaches.
Western Darkon is a thickly forested floodplain broken by the central Boglands and the western Jagged Coast. The Forest of Shadows enshrouds most of the region, a menacing wood so ancient and dense that no light can reach the forest floor. The Boglands consist of patchy marshes surrounding the dark depths of the Great Salt Swamp. The Jagged Coast is a harsh, rocky shore region riddled with caves and possessing only the sparsest vegetation. The coast is a maze of tiny islands and hidden coves, and the Sea of Sorrows itself is storm ridden along Darkon’s shores.
Darkon is etched with a web of prominent waterways, most flowing into the mighty Vuchar River as it rushes westward. Numerous freshwater and saline lakes dot the landscape as well, most in the Mountains of Misery and the Boglands. Darkon’s villages exhibit dazzling variety in their architecture; each settlement is graced with a unique style that complements its surroundings. The folk of Corvia, for instance, have hollowed out the massive stone buttes of their village to create homes and shops. The metropolis of Il Aluk, once the jewel of Darkon, is now a damned city so inhospitable to life that it has been rechristened Necropolis. The climate in Darkon is temperate tending toward extremes, with harsh winters, hot summers, and brief but pleasant springs and autumns.
The Darkonians have no common physical appearance; nearly every conceivable combination of stature, facial features, and skin, eye, and hair colors can be observed among them. Skin tones tend slightly toward fair to light tan, but this is hardly the norm. Despite this variety, all Darkonians tend to dress in practical garb, with men favoring a tunic and breeches and women a blouse and skirt. Earthen colors are preferred. Among nobles, both genders pride themselves on their elaborate cloaks and long boots and gloves.
The diverse Darkonians nevertheless take pride in their common heritage. Indeed, outsiders who settle in Darkon often find forgotten roots in the region, lending credence to the theory that Darkon was perhaps a historical crossroads for many far-flung lands. The principal shared trait among the Darkonese is an almost fatalistic fear of the undead. Local legends speak of an Hour of the Ascension, when generations of the deceased will rise from the grave and claim Darkon from the living. All Darkonians are raised to believe and fear this apocalyptic scenario.
Perhaps because of the relatively large population of dwarves, elves, gnomes, and halflings in Darkon, prejudice against nonhuman races is not as widespread here as in other domains. Although races still tend to congregate with their own kind, the purely reactionary fear or hatred of nonhumans that dominates so much of The Land of Mists is largely absent in Darkon.
The grim wizard-king Azalin Rex, newly restored to his throne in Castle Avernus, rules Darkon with an iron fist in a velvet glove. For nearly five years, Azalin was missing, vanished in the wake of the Great Upheaval. He has only recently reappeared and is quickly moving to reestablish the firm rule he once enjoyed over his realm. Azalin governs harshly but has set up a strong feudal base for his monarchy. A powerful baron rules each major settlement and the surrounding region, governing as he sees fit. Barons are free to have their own vassals, set local laws, appoint magistrates, and control trade in their lands. Local militias are conscripted in most settlements to keep the peace. Barons and lesser nobles also have their own personal forces, ranging from a contingent of bodyguards to a small private army.
Azalin demands regular tribute from his vassals but little else, preferring to spend his time in arcane pursuits rather than politics. The wizard-king’s presence among his subjects is strongly felt, however, due in no small part to his secret police, the Kargat. Organized according to a pyramidal, secretive hierarchy, the Kargat are greatly feared among the Darkonians. They monitor the activities of nobles and guilds, spy on other domains, and carry out Azalin’s own inscrutable plots. They are immune to baronial law and answer to no one but their immediate superiors and Azalin himself.
Trade and Diplomacy
Resources — wheat, barley, rye, oats, hops, potatoes, carrots, cabbage, grapes, hogs, sheep, cattle, goats, chickens, dairy, herring, cod, flounder, sausage, beer, wine, timber, peat, gold, silver, copper, iron, lead, salt, gems, cloth, ceramics, perfumes, ships, arcane knowledge.
Coinage — crown (pp), skull (gp), bone (sp), chip (cp).
Darkon is arguably the most powerful domain in the entire Core, and with Azalin’s return it will likely remain so for some time. Although other realms may contribute more to the culture of the Core, Darkon is a true political, military, and economic kingdom, exerting its influence to achieve power and wealth. It does brisk trade with virtually all of the realms to the south, though the transformation of II Aluk into Necropolis has stymied traffic on the Vuchar River and its tributaries. Only the realm of Falkovnia has a persistent adversarial relationship with Darkon, though trade continues along the highways that join the realms. Perennial invasion attempts by Falkovnian forces are always repelled, chillingly enough, by hordes of undead that rise to protect Darkon from the mortal invaders.