The Upper Wastes

Far past the northernmost shores of the massive continent of Suinvar lie vast floes of ice and frigid lifeless waters. If one travels further north past these deadly, icy seas, one eventually comes to a great continent of solid land. None have survived to fully map this continent, so none can say for certain its size. Even potent magical protections wither and shatter in the frozen lands of the wretched Upper Wastes, as every inch of the continent—save for a small temperate strip near its western shores—are covered in a massive and bizarre miasma of frost that leeches magic from everything it touches. Spells cast within the never-ending northern blizzards immediately fizzle and die. Arcane protection is quickly sapped away to nothing, and divine protection, if even attempted, explodes violently, usually ending in the rather gruesome death of all nearby.

Perhaps more inexplicable than the anomalous and terrifying nature of these aptly-named Upper Wastes, is the small band of life in its midst known as No-kiu. The country, and the land around it, comprises a very small portion of the continent (or, at least, what is known of it). The strip is just over forty miles wide, and begins at the continent’s western shores and stretches just over one hundred miles inland. Within this narrow band is a permanent late-summer temperate climate. There is no snow in the band, and no extreme cold or heat. The temperature rarely drops below fifty degrees or rises above ninety degrees, and never in the thousands of years the country has stood, has it ever gone below forty or above one hundred. Here, the people of No-kiu have evolved into a society very different from those of their southern brethren, having been cut off almost entirely from them until only a few generations ago.

No-kiu
Population: 32,395 (93% Human, 4% Tengu, 3% Outsider)
Ruler: Gon-sui Montekai (Elder Shaman, Human Monk 3/Shaman 6/Iron Fist Disciple 4)
Major Cities: Ga-vech (pop. 6,644), Gar-torvom, (pop. 322), Nomen* (pop. 26,555), Vro’xia (pop. 1,330).
Major Imports: None.
Major Exports: Art, textiles.

No-kiu is one of the biggest anomalies in the entirety of Acadecia. From its magic-sapping, inhospitable frozen continent to the inexplicably temperate band where the people of the Wastes make their homes, to the social structure that is no longer seen in other “civilized” societies, No-kiu has begun to lure many an adventurer to her mysterious shores.

No-kiu’s society, in contrast to their southern neighbors, developed very non-traditionally. No-kiu is not ruled, but holds their elders in very high esteem. When one voice is needed to make a choice for the country as a whole, the task falls to the Elder Shaman, the oldest of the land’s shamans. Shamans hold very double-edged social status, similar to that of adventurers in most lands. Most people find adventurers distasteful, dirty, and dangerous, but look forward to the coin they bring in. Similarly, shamans speak to the spirits of No-kiu that protect the country from the ravages of the Shong-vol’grim, literally “hungry cold death.” For this, many fear the power shamans hold, yet rely on them to guide them and keep No-kiu safe from the Shong-vol’grim. For their part, each shaman is chosen at a very young age for their spiritual potential, then secluded in special hidden villages for their training to tap into the spirit world and guard the physical realm from danger. For this reason, shamans rarely take places of social prominence, though such places are often offered (usually as a misguided means of placation or favor-currying).

No-kiu is also home of the tengu, a rare race of raven-like humanoids. Tengu, like their human Nomenkai neighbors, are very spiritual. They practice swordplay with the sort of fervor usually seen in priests and paladins. While there is no social rule stating tengu cannot become shamans, few do. Their divine penchants far more often develop as oracles, leading them to leave the safety of No-kiu and find adventure and answers to their mystery further south.

It should be noted that many modern martial arts styles come from No-kiu, where unarmed combat is quite literally considered just as much an art form as a method of self-defense. While some unarmed combat styles developed independently in the southern continents (such as the Tetori monks of Durance and the Four Winds monks common in the plains between the Volgan States and Dembram Republic), the “standard” in modern martial arts in the rest of Acadecia was developed relatively recently (only two hundred years ago) and borrows heavily from Nomenkai methods. There are a handful of subsets of the Nomenkai styles, but the three core styles, referred to as hinsuitan, or “True Universe Strikes,” are the most prevalent. These are the Iron Fist style, the Dragon style, and the Snapping Turtle style, all of which originate from No-kiu.

Martial arts have shaped the face of No-kiu far more than any other component. Major social groups and guilds, such as the Silksower’s Guild and the Horsemaster’s Guild, are led by martial artists. This dates back to the country’s ancient history, when the first monastic combat styles first arose in answer to the bloodier and far more fatal wars that were fought over the meager liveable land. Realizing there was little land to share, and few people to populate it, the ancient Nomenkai developed the first martial arts styles to settle differences with fists instead of blades, to end fights with incapacitation instead of death. Since then, martial artists have often had a place of honor in society, being granted similar respect to authority figures in other lands such as guardsmen, military officers, and lesser nobles.

Because of the limited population and No-kiu’s history of nonlethal combat, murder is, hands-down, the most heinous crime anyone can commit. Accidental death during a duel results in the killer being exiled to the southern lands of Acadecia. Intentional murder of another person, or orchestrating said murder, results in a far crueler punishment. The guilty is given three days of food and water and proper clothing, and sent into the Wastes. None have ever been known to survive. Indeed, even those who enter the Wastes with all possible precautions and provisions often find themselves lost in the endless blizzards and brutally cold temperatures, doomed to slowly die from the creeping cold as their food and shelter slowly dissipates. A murder exile has a cold-weather outfit (little help against such violent cold) and a few days’ rations. Few Nomenkai can think of an uglier fate.

The Upper Wastes

Realms of Acadecia DM_Apoc