the marks, the reach
he highlands of this region sport mostly coniferous forests that blanket the sides of the mountain range which runs the entire length of the province from north to south. Very little underbrush aside from low-light ferns and moss grows here as the ancient evergreens tower high above the ground and crowd out most light from shining on the forest floors. Occasionally there will be patches of grass and hardy flowers where the sunlight leaks through, but such patches are rare. Game is also rampant in the woods, with all the opportunities and dangers that entails. Towards the coast, the land eases out into gentle hills with forests of their own, though still with rocky outcrops and uneven ground unsuitable for farming. The ocean to the west provides the Marks with the majority of its protein, while trade with Dubhion supplements that with harvested crops.
The four seasons each have a turn in the Sovereign Marks, though the imperious evergreens stand tall in defiance of whichever one reigns at the time. Summer is punctuated by moderately high temperatures and long sunny days, cushioned by cloudy days and even light rain showers toward the beginning and end of the season. Autumn is the time of dropping temperatures and cloudy skies, with regular rain showers and the slow disappearance of game as animals begin to hunker down. Winter brings with it constant showers and rain storms along with frosty temperatures, which lead to many game animals hibernating for the season. Spring brings with it increasing temperatures along with lighter but still frequent rain, and the gardens of the cities begin to blossom into beauty once more.
While famously renowned for its trading, which is where much of its exotic resources come from, the Marks also have abundant gold in their mountains, particularly in the ranges between Ulmark and Eastmark. While the discovery of gold was made some time ago, it wasn't until a few centuries later that the resource was exploited greatly. While the first established mines have begun to run dry, the rest are still flowing and continue to make the wealthy Markish families many fortunes. Also, in the valley in which Eastmark was settled, are some good sources of marble and other rare varieties of stone. These exist only in the Eastmark valley, though, and the area uniquely benefits from these resources, and indeed have become famous for them throughout Tnarem.
Fairlock Bay is often called Ulmark’s Tub by the other Marks, given out of both derision and jealousy. Almost every stretch of coastline along the oceanfront up to Loch Dowllyn has an Ulmark flag flying above it to reinforce this idea. Inland, Ulmark’s borders don’t stretch too much further than the coast itself, only barely managing to hold on to the Lorient pass named for its capital. This reliance on the ocean has become a dominance that explains the extent of Ulmark despite having little land and a capital couched snugly in an inhospitable mountain range. All of this means it’s not wrong to say that Ulmark is defined more by its water than its land.
Against the Fairlock Range and overlooking Fairlock Bay, Lorient
settles comfortably onto the coast. Ocean cliffsides and rocky hills without much farmland to offer force the city to look to the water for its livelihood, which explains the chaotic stretch of wharves that reach for the sea and the monstrous size of its dry docks. Above the harbor, the rest of the city climbs the mountainside and layers itself at the various elevations, which gate on each level that lead into those pockets of agriculture that are possible in such terrain as well as roads leading deeper into Ostia. Standing tall and proud above it all is its citadel and palace, fortified on a small peak from which it safely overlooks the city. The lack of space offered by the geography has led to a cramped feel as the buildings all blend into each other and cluster tightly together.
At present, Beagmark has jurisdiction over most of the between the Fairlock Range and the Orhaupt Mountains. The large river that runs directly down its center provides both fertile land and a means of easy transport, but the narrow valley means there’s only just enough room for the cities and the farms that feed them. Clashes with Ulmark means that the southern border is hard to define, but Beagmark easily claims a good portion of Loch Dowllyn to the north that connects it with other territories. Quarries line the many canyons branching off the main river valley, but so far there’s not much reason to climb very high into those towering ridges.
In the valley shaped by the Orhaupt Mountains and the Fairlock Range, at the intersection formed by the valley’s large river and one of its more notable tributaries, Falmoth
was built. The city is too close to Loch Dowllyn to be considered in the middle of the valley, but it nevertheless dominates all other settlements between the two mountain ranges, using the river as a waterway to easily access the rest of the valley. Most of Falmoth is couched in the foothills of the Orhaupt Mountains, with a sprawling extension built out over the rivers to facilitate the many vessels traveling their lengths. The chaotic construction and the way each part of the city blends in with the ones beside it do give way to a more ordered city layout in its center, where most of the important structures were erected in place of the old city.
Nearly everything inland from where the Ulmark flag flies belongs to Maormark. Though there are parts of the oceanic coast that give access to Maormark, most of its connection with the world happens through the shores of Loch Dowllyn, of which it claims a great deal. Following those shores down the Fairlock Range is a natural border of water and mountain that protects against confrontation, but the same cannot be said for its northern border with Astmark nor the neighboring coastal territory of Ulmark. The forests and plains that lie in these directions create constant conflict, with only the hills by the lake and mountains a refuge.
On the western shore of Loch Dowllyn is the capital Dubliff
of Maormark, which from its position connects most of Ostia and extends its reach across the bows of ships and into the rivers of Dubhion. From the docks sitting on the lakeside, the city itself crawls into the hills and around winding streets and plazas, before eventually reaching the city walls that contain the urban sprawl. Beyond the sprawl is a variety of terrain, with much unevenness due to how close the mountains are, but the farms that help feed Dubliff are arrayed within an easy day’s walking distance. Many roads that work their way through the Ostian countryside at some point or another pass through Dubliff, which sits on a complicated tangle of streets and neighborhoods that enrich the caravans that pass through.
In the north of Ostia is part of a natural basin where Astmark can be found, where streams starting in the mountains wind through the hilly forests before finally joining into a river on the plain. Nothing but ice and snow lies beyond those mountains, although the mountains themselves eventually lead to Lornesse if one were to follow them far enough. These create natural borders for Astmark, along with the ocean, but in the southwest it constantly struggles against Maormark for the right to more land. Fortunately, Astmark’s existence on the edge of the continent keeps it far from the troubles of Tnarem, while still able to interact via ship.
The capital of Astmark is Brast
, a city of canals and bridges that sits in the mouth of a wide navigable river. The countryside that lies further upstream is dotted with farming villages and windmills as far as the eye can see, while toward the opposite horizon is nothing but shining blue ocean. Even in the cold of winter, the rolling waves continue to wash gently against the hulls of the many ships docked at Brast, although the city’s canals do freeze over on days when the chill is especially deep. During such times are when the gondolas are kept away and sleds put to the ice in their stead, continuing to ferry people around the haphazardly shaped districts that clump together on the islets and cling to the banks of the river. It’s not difficult to get lost in the twisting canals, but the beautiful bridges and buildings make it a pleasure for most.