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Since the signing of the Treaty of Ghage, the Freelands have been a lawless place – a buffer zone of emergent order where only vigiliante law is acknowledged between neighbors. Denizens of the Freelands are varied: outcasts from the seven kingdoms, humble farmers whose ancestors were abandoned by their governments in the signing of the Treaty, craftsmen trying to thrive without a government to rule (or protect) them, merchants willing to brave un-patrolled roads for excess profits, black and gray market entrepreneurs seeking amnesty from moralizing theocrats -- and of course, adventurers.
Ruins of what was the Scholar’s greatest city – Nalbendel – serve as a stark reminder of what was, what was lost, and what currently is. No longer a place of peace and pontification, the Freelands is a place where great fortunes are won and lost, heroes made and murdered, and mortals of all races come together to hold back the forces that wish to use Nalbendel’s destruction as inspiration.
After the War of the Avatars, the seven kingdoms decided that having a universal border was ineffective at maintaining peace and order. In the year 1371 NL, the Treaty of Ghage was signed on the shores of the Eldirloch (the lake where Nalbendel was) by all of the rulers of Novitas. This treaty demarcated all of the lands once held by Nalbendel to be free lands, creating a buffer between the nations that was immune to both tariffs and conquest. With the signing of this treaty, the Freelands were born.
The Free Lands serve an important purpose for all countries as a free trade zone, neutral meeting ground, and buffer between countries. Occasionally, one country will decide to try and occupy the Free Lands, and invariably the other countries band together to make common cause against such an occupation.
Above all else, the people of the Freelands value their freedom. It is this one simple tenet that unifies the people to fight against any who would oppress them. From liches to High Fae to even other Kingdoms, the people of the Freelands have preserved their freedom by uniting against their would-be conquerors.
The majority of people who live in the Freelands are human farmers, so while many different cultures permeate and mix into the Freelands from the other Kingdoms, the Freelands are essentially an area of agriculture. Every year, when the crops are ready for harvest, the people of the Freelands celebrate a Harvest Festival in which they share food, play games, and share stories with each other. It is the one day of the year in which people get together to share in a day of peace and prosperity in a land that is so often cruel and unforgiving.
Against this agricultural backdrop is the culture of banditry and thieving. Believing that lawlessness begets opportunities, enterprising bandits, highwaymen, and thieves descend on the Freelands with great frequency. Unprotected merchant caravans travelling the roads of the Freelands are waylaid as the rule rather than the exception. Although groups of bandits and gangs of thieves seldom last for very long due to the nature of the rugged individualists who inhabit the Freelands, would-be bandits simply seem unable to resist the Sirens’ song of a stateless society. Every so often, a leader tries to unite the bandit gangs together to form one large network of thieves and rally against these adventurers, but this organization inevitably falls apart due to infighting or greed.
The most famous (or infamous, depending upon who one talks to) culture of the Freelands is the culture of adventuring. With no government to protect or rule, the romantic allure of adventure draws mercenaries, knights, scholars, Septons, barbarians, and any whose need for adrenaline is not met in a simple life elsewhere. If the Freelands is the country of the adventurer, then Pinedale is the capital, for the center of the world attracts the noble-hearted paladins and the ruthless sell-swords alike. Each cut from a different cloth, the one cause that manages to unify them is protecting their freedom and protecting the place they have called home. It is these adventurers who fight back the monsters and protect the innocents of the Freelands. It is they who run toward trouble while the common farmer runs away. Without them, the Freelands might not be free at all.
Freelands. Sept-worshipers make up the supermajority of practitioners in the Freelands, but all manner of worshipers can be found if one looks hard enough. From evangelizing Septons to Draconus scholars to Darkness cultists, any and all gods are worshiped. While worship of the Dark Three is not conventionally tolerated, it nevertheless happens frequently among the many necromancers and creatures that roam the Freelands – those outcasts who fled their homes to pursue a darker path.
One notable location of worship in the Freelands is the Shrine of Draconus, which can be found just outside of Pinedale. Drakes and other worshipers of the Godbeast often make holy pilgrimages to this Shrine, which is said to be located in the exact center of Novitas. Legend has it that the whole of Novitas could be balanced on the head of a needle if that needle were placed directly below the center of the Shrine. The Shrine radiates a special type of magic that has been known to augment rituals and even grant visions to worthy worshipers. It is a place considered sacred even by those who do not worship Draconus specifically, for none can deny the power that it holds within.
The economy of the Freelands is just as chaotic as everything else there. Coin, gems, magic items, and even seashells are traded amongst the inhabitants of the Freelands as currency. A thriving economy of truly free trade, residents and merchants will also frequently barter or trade services for goods, or come up with all matter of creative ways to exchange value for value. Farmers often trade food with one another, and adventurers have been known to take up magical crafting as a way to invest the wealth they earn.
The economy of “looting” is a large part of the Freelands adventuring economy. This is not to be confused with “thieving,” though the practice is similar in nature. The nasty creatures that roam the Freelands often accumulate treasure as they slay their victims. As none can lay any rightful claim to items taken by force, any coins, magical items, gems, or other treasure found on a would-be aggressor rightfully becomes the property of whoever finds them.
Perhaps the biggest part of the Freeland economy is business done with traveling merchant trains, who, by routing themselves through the Freelands, can avoid awkward border crossings and tariffs between neighboring countries. Smart merchants often hire mercenaries for protection, and are happy to sell their goods at discounted rates in an area free from taxation.
The Freelands, by its very nature, has no centralized military to speak of. The only organization close to an army that exists in the Freelands is the Cairnhold Legion, a horde of undead from the necropolis of Cairnhold, an underground city beneath where Lootsville once stood. Although it may appear that the undead are a haphazard collection of zombies and ghouls, mindless in their purpose yet single-minded in their malevolence, these undead are led by the lich known only as The Al'Carn. Living humans who work for The Al'Carn guard the necropolis during the day and are called Cairnhold Rangers. The only forces strong enough to keep the Cairnhold Legion at bay are the adventurers of the Freelands, who fight off the undead forces almost every night. The other frequent military presence in the Freelands is orcish hordes. Orcs are often seen in large packs, ruled by their shamans. They are a nomadic race of simple creatures that move across Novitas. Orcs have never excelled at craftsmanship or trade skills and survive mostly through theft and plunder. As orc tribes often break apart only months after forming, orc leadership is chaotic and progress is difficult. Orcs are known for their savagery, and raiding parties often commit unspeakable acts upon their victims simply for their own amusement. Oftentimes ogres will fall in with orc hordes and share in the bounty that is to come from slaying innocents. While the adventurers hold back the undead at night, they are most often fighting these orcs during the daytime.
The loose bands of thieves are another common issue in the Freelands, and they might be considered an army if they were ever to unite together for a common cause. Fortunately for many in the Freelands, greed and backstabbing make it so these bandits cannot join together in large groups for very long. A woman known only as the Bandit Queen once managed to join most of the thieves together, but like many before her, she was thwarted by adventurers before her reign took hold of all the Freelands.
The adventurers of the Freelands often band together in small groups to combat the undead, orcs, bandits, and many other threats to their home. These small squads of adventurers, when banded together to protect their freedom, can form a formidable army that has held back Avatars of Darkness, powerful liches, Dellin invasions, High Fae, and even the Kingdoms’ Occupation during the time between the Treaty of Ghage dissolving and the Treaty of Pinedale being signed. If there is any true military force in the Freelands, it would be the brave adventurers that protect it from harm.
The Freelands have no cities, nor any recognized governments. There are, however, a number of small towns, the foremost among them being the Free Town of Pinedale, built near the ruins of Nalbendel. While it plays a central role, the reality is that, like everything else in the Freelands, Pinedale is rather small and disorganized. The lack of central or local government in the Freelands means that there are no courts to establish law, and no armies to keep the peace. Frontier justice and vigilantism are the orders of the day. Even so, some people prefer the chaotic, unstructured life in the Freelands, so towns like Pinedale never lack for new settlers.
Other hamlets are ruled over by democratically elected mayors, and still others are protected by organized crime syndicates that offer protection in exchange for tribute. Others seek the insight of a retired scholarly mage, or bend ear to a native wise woman. Others simply live and let live, and rely on the gods and the adventurers to keep what moves in the night at bay.
Places of Interest
A small town well-known for the fantastic events that supposedly have transpired there. It is home to the Shrine of Draconus, the location where the leylines converge. It also hosts the Lake of Nalbendel.
A small settlement mostly populated by traders from the Great Forest and their families. They have a small adventurer population.
The second largest city in the Freelands. Gardener’s Grove is one of the largest lumbering sites in all of Novitas.
Relationships with other Countries
Empire of Civen
Human Freelanders, if they are not born in the Freelands, often come from Civen. However, many Freelanders do not like the slave policies of Civen and believe that they are both wrong and immoral. Slaves found in the Freelands are often freed, with the slavers either slain or sent away unharmed but without their property.
The Tribelands and the Freelands are quite similar in many ways. Both lands value their freedom and most are willing to die to protect that freedom. However, just like in the Freelands, there are many different factions and tribes within the Tribelands. The recent Dellin Invasion showed that many Dellins view the Freelands as weak and ripe for the taking. They were proven wrong and repelled, but many Freelanders still hold a grudge against them for trying.
Realm of Evenandra
Elves from Evenandra do not often travel to the Freelands. The chaos and general disarray of the Freelands is quite unappealing to their High Elf sensibilities, and most Freelanders are happy to see them stay where they are. During the Evenandran Occupation of Pinedale, many adventurers and other Freelanders grew to distrust and even hate the High Elves that tried to impose so-called order and beauty upon what they saw as an chaotic and ugly place. Though the Evenandrans did eventually leave, the adventurers of Pinedale and the rest of the Freelands never saw the High Elves the same way again.
Kingdom of Gersh
Snow Goblins are rarely seen in the Freelands, mostly because of their intolerance for warmer climates. Freelanders do not appreciate the harsh and rigid way of life of Gershens, nor the fact that they buy and sell slaves like Civenites. Snow Goblins are treated with a weary distrust, and it takes a lot for a Freelander to finally trust and even like a Snow Goblin.
Wood elves from the Great Forest are often seen in the Freelands, as it was once their home when they called it Nalbendel. The wood elf view on slavery and freedom matches that of the Freelanders perfectly, and the Freelanders have a high regard for the Great Forest. The town of Elfmeet in the Freelands is known for its friendly relationship with the wood elves of the Great Forest.
Kingdom of Terra
Not many Terrans find themselves living in the Freelands for very long, finding it difficult to live above the surface and away from their people. Traveling Terran merchants are more often seen than Terran Freelanders. The inhabitants of the Freelands revere Terran craftsmanship and often trade in their wares, but they do not understand how the Terrans are able to live underground and in such harmony with one another. Terrans are always welcome in a Freelands tavern, but many Freelanders are perplexed by their ways.
Theocracy of Vlean
Refugees escaping from Vlean often hide within the Freelands to avoid being sent back to their country. Most Freelanders hate Vlean due to the strict ways they enforce their laws and the way they impose their slanted views of Sept worship upon the people. Freelanders do not begrudge the innocent civilians who escape from Vlean, seeing them only as victims. But government officials and Inquisitors that visit the Freelands from Vlean are not often given a warm welcome.
Other Information (Unsourced)
The Free Lands have no cities. There are, however, a number of small towns, the foremost among them being the Free Town of Pinedale, built near the ruins of Nalbendel. While it claims a majestic title, the reality is that, like everything else in the Free Lands, Pinedale is rather small and disorganized. The lack of central government in the Free Lands means that there are no courts to establish law, and no armies to keep the peace. Frontier justice and vigilantism are the orders of the day.
Even so, some people prefer the chaotic, unstructured life in the Free Lands, so towns like Pinedale never lack for new settlers. In addition, there is always money to be made from traveling merchant trains, who, by routing themselves through the Free lands, often avoid awkward border crossings and tariffs between neighboring countries.