Exploring Úr’Dan: The Firelands and the Northern Uplands

With all of the narrative shifts, outlining, and pondering I’ve done about The Warden of Everfeld: Legacy and related stories recently, I wanted to revive my world-building series.

And boy was I shocked to find that I haven’t written an Exploring Úr’Dan post in over a year! Here’s a refresher for all of us (myself included) of the fantastical ground we’ve covered previously:

Continuing along the theme of geography in northern Úr’Dan, there’s really only one major region we haven’t covered yet: the Northern Uplands.

The Northern Uplands, a.k.a. the Hinterlands

The Hinterlands are a high-elevation region of semi-arid hills and scrub land. Stuck between the rivers Cloudwash to the east and Everwash to the west, the peninsular Hinterlands do not benefit from the irrigated soil these rivers provide other regions.

One notable town sits at the far southern tip of the Hinterlands at the confluence of the two river deltas: Hinter’s End. The town is little more than a small dock for barges moving into and out of the Barger’s Marsh to the south.

As the interior region of the Uplands, the Hinterlands can be quite dry and are known for hard, rocky soil. For this reason, the land was largely uninhabited for centuries, save for small settlements close to the riverbanks or semi-nomadic goat herders in the hills.

That changed, however, with the Northern Migration. But before we talk about the how the migrants adapted to life in the Hinterlands, I want to talk a bit about where they came from.

The Firelands

A traveler headed north through the Hinterlands would eventually come to the foothills of the Hundred Teeth, since these mountains are the northern border for Úr’Dan.

But within these foothills and sharp ridges is an ancient road: the Altpass. Altpass is the only known passage through the Hundred Teeth, at least without scaling the sheer peaks.

Beyond the Altpass, just on the other side of the mountains, is an entirely foreign land known as the Firelands. Immediately north of the mountains, the Firelands are a high plateau, extremely dry and extremely isolated from the rains that buffet either coast of the Úr’Daní subcontinent.

How far these arid lands stretch is not really known, since no one has crossed them and returned to tell the tale.

What little is known has been taken in folk stories from the Firelanders themselves, the people who entered Úr’Dan in the tens of thousands. According to these peoples’ own oral history, they left their utopian homeland far to the north after a cataclysmic event, the details of which are all but lost. Then, for a generation or more, they trekked southward across the Firelands before coming to the Hundred Teeth.

The exact timing of this is unclear, but it is notable that few of the migrants could speak of their homeland in any detail. It seemed that even the oldest among them had been born into then-nomadic clans as they moved through the Firelands.

The Northern Migration, the Clans, and the Redskaels

As described in a previous post, the Firelanders entered Úr’Dan in the midst of several consecutive dry seasons and poor harvests. With many thousands of migrants pouring through the Altpass each year, the Uplands were wracked by famine.

The Firelanders effectively had nowhere to go. All of the fertile land beyond the Hinterlands was claimed by other peoples: the Feldings, the Rainflow clans, the Western Tribes, the Arrowheaders.

Thus, individual Firelander clans did what they could to survive. Some tried to settle in these lands, to the chagrin of the natives, while others raided their new neighbors for precious food and water. This led to a series of short conflicts known as the Migrant Wars.

Eventually, as tensions eased and the rains returned, some Firelander clans found new lives. Many did end up settling with the native peoples and assimilated. Several villages in southeastern Everfeld, for instance, are known to have been founded by Firelanders, and darker complexions and black curly hair can still be commonly found among their descendants.

Not all Fireland clans were welcomed, nor did they all choose to assimilate with the local peoples. Some remained in the Hinterlands and became war-like, frequently raiding nearby villages, or even each other, to survive. Other clans took to semi-nomadic goat herding. And still others eked out small agricultural communities with the few crops that could grow along the high, clay-like riverbanks of the Hinterlands–olive trees and date palms in particular.

Over time, however, tensions grew once more among the Upland peoples. The more hostile clans continued to fight with their neighbors, erupting into both the First and Second Redskael Wars, occurring about twenty-five years apart. (The Second war only ended five years prior to the events of The Warden of Everfeld: Memento.)

Redskael became a pejorative term for Firelanders, so-called because of the bright, scale-like tattoos painted on the backs and shoulders of some of their warriors. It is thought that these are a vestige of ancient Firelander culture, but each clan has adapted it differently, or not at all.

Firelanders

While the Firelanders of Úr’Dan have a poor reputation and are frequently blamed for the famine and wars that occurred after the migration, it is difficult to lump them into one category. Many now see themselves as natives, fully members of whichever Upland societies their ancestors had assimilated with.

Still, latent tensions do exist among the Upland peoples, like the dry brush of the Hinterlands, waiting for the right spark to ignite.

Steve D

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