Witch Fire Ascendant
Races of the Iron Kingdoms
The Iron Kingdoms are the lands of humanity, first and foremost. They are by far the most numerous race in the region, and it is their struggles, wars, and history which have shaped this land. The humans of the Iron Kingdoms are a varied and hardy cross selection of cultures, all arising from ancient tribes of warlike peoples who have lived, loved, fought and died in the region since before recorded history. The bulk of their history is filled with endless strife and battle, and the relative calm of the last few centuries is unusual. However, even since the Corvis Treaties there have been many bloody conflicts, border disputes, repulsed barbarian invasions, and diplomacy by assassination. So far as many are concerned, the “peace” of the Corvis Treaties is an illusion, barely maintained as heads of state turn a blind eye to violations of agreements and hire mercenaries to cover their tracks.
Indeed it seems highly likely that humanity in the region will soon revert back to its usual habits of open warfare, as pressures mount from many quarters and threaten to permanently undermine the peace. When this happens, it may not be possible for the dwarves and elves to avoid taking a side. Rhul in particular has become far more friendly and integrated with humanity in the last several centuries, perhaps to their ultimate misfortune. Even Ios which has always stayed sheltered and hidden may find its fate linked to its boisterous and violent neighbors.
The dwarves are the next most populous and influential of the races native to the Iron Kingdoms. Their civilization in Rhul is ancient by the measure of humanity, and the city of Ghord was counted a wonder of the age even four thousand years ago. By their own records, the dwarves were the first civilization of the region, and their clan-based society was well entrenched by the time the elves fled to Ios, while humanity was still wandering the nearby plains in savage hunter-gatherer tribes. Most of the old records have gone to dust or lost their reliability in translation and revision, but it seems likely Rhul was the beacon of western Immoren civilization when the great old elven empire controlled the east.
Despite the age of Rhul, the dwarves who dwell there seem little interested in expansion or exploration. They believe in building, one stone at a time, one building at a time, each castle or tower designed to last the ages. Unlike their warlike human neighbors, the dwarves have never attempted to conquer or subjugate others, but any attempts to invade their own lands have met with swift and merciless reprisals. The old human barbarian tribes and warlords soon learned the folly of meddling with these small yet stalwart people. It is worth noting that even the Orgoth did not invade Rhul when they subjugated the rest of the region, although some human scholars point fingers of blame at the dwarves and claim they enjoyed trade with a single empire of mankind. There was indeed some peaceful commerce between the Orgoth empire and Rhul, but the dwarves also played a crucial role in the successful rebellion, so most have forgiven them this earlier “collaboration.”
The dwarves of Rhul have a very stable and complex social structure based on clans, and are arguably the most democratic society of the Iron Kingdoms. Despite an outward appearance of solidarity, dwarves fight frequently among themselves. However, while bloody, these battles are highly ritualized and controlled by rigid laws. Feuds and dueling are a perfectly legitimate and encouraged method to solve disputes among the dwarves, and even building contracts and construction rights are frequently decided by skirmish.
There are several hundred thousand dwarves currently living outside Rhul, with conclaves in all the Iron Kingdoms. They have become increasingly friendly with humanity in the last several centuries, particularly with the kingdom of Cygnar. Both races share a strong aptitude for mechanika, a similar work ethic, love of profit, and other values. Yet despite other friendships, the dwarves are loyal to their own kin before any others. The security and safety of Rhul is of primary importance even to those conclaves outside their kingdom.
There are actually two types of elves in the Iron Kingdoms, the elves of Ios, and the Nyss, also known as the winter elves. The Nyss are a very small offshoot of the most common elf, numbering approximately 10,000, almost all of whom live isolated deep in the northern mountains of Khador. The vast majority of elves in the Iron Kingdoms dwell in the hidden land of Ios, shunning all contact with outsiders.
Elven history is perhaps the richest of all the races of the Iron Kingdoms, but they are so secretive and paranoid of other races that few know of their background, legends, or beliefs. To humanity in particular they are an enigma, one which has vexed them for millennia. Some few elves do venture out of Ios, and elven diplomats have established cool and aloof contact with the leaders of all the kingdoms of mankind. There are also those who have been exiled from their homeland or driven by their own purposes to a life of exploration and adventure, but elves remain a very rare sight in the human cities.
Unknown to all except dwarven scholars, the elves have not always called Ios their home. Perhaps four millennia ago, the elves came into the region as a ragtag assortment of refugees. They fled some great disaster to the east, and hid in the land of Ios alongside their living gods. The dwarves made peaceful contact with their new neighbors but found them cold and unfriendly even in those days, refusing all offers of aid or support. Since those first days a veil of secrecy has always clouded the civilization of the elves, and only escorted and carefully watched outsiders are allowed within its borders. The dwarves claim they used to have more contact with the elves in days of old, and that things have become particularly difficult in the last few centuries. There are also rumors of a desperation among the elves, and violent radicals who have banded together to strike out against the other people of the region. Elven exiles have been implicated in a number of recent crimes, increasing the wariness that humans have always felt for their secretive neighbors.
The truth is every elf knows a secret pain and agony for they know their last goddess will likely die within their lifetime, and with her the doom of all their people. The elves face imminent extinction, a fact which weighs on the mind of even the most carefree and debauched of their number. Some seek to ignore this ominous truth by fleeing into a life of adventure and pleasure, while others hold onto hope and feel their fate can be avoided by heroic deeds. Others are bitter and angry and look everywhere for enemies to blame, targets upon which to vent their rage.
It should be noted the Nyss tribes of the north do not seem as concerned for their future as the elves of Ios, perhaps because of their own religion and patron. Yet, they are similarly isolated and do not freely mingle with other races.
Gobberkind has prospered in recent centuries, and it is believed these small and clever people may now outnumber the elves (whose numbers have been waning). However, they do not have their own nation or civilization, and are scattered widely across the Iron Kingdoms. Further, they are an exceptionally adaptable species and have changed to accommodate a wide range of terrain. There are few places in the Kingdoms where gobbers have not managed to find a niche for themselves, even among the barren sands of the Bloodstone Marches.
Goblins were not well understood or appreciated for much of the history of the region, and they were killed on sight during the Thousand Cities era and also by the Orgoth invaders. For this reason gobbers were forced to find shelter in remote locations and areas inhospitable to mankind. However, in the years since the rebellion there has been a change of thought as regards this species and they have gained a measure of acceptance previously unknown. Of all the kingdoms, Llael and the Protectorate have been the most reluctant to give up old prejudices, and gobbers there are frequently persecuted as they were in the past.
But in the other kingdoms gobbers have begun to integrate with humanity, establishing well built towns in close proximity to human neighbors, and many enjoying a nomadic lifestyle traveling the roads of the realm, looking for work and selling their wares. Gobbers are quite intelligent, and have a particular knack for alchemy and mechanical work, both of which has made them useful as skilled workers and assistants to those who can put aside their prejudices.
It is now understood there are two distinct species of gobbers, which includes the “common gobber” found in most cities and the “bogrin” or “bogger” which is a larger, tougher, and wilder gobber more inclined to attack people and violently defend their territory. Civilized examples of both species have found acceptance in the Iron Kingdoms, although the bogrin are often considered dangerous until proven otherwise. Their exact numbers are not known, but it is believed there are equally as many common gobbers as bogrin, each making up half of the overall gobber population. The favorite terrain of the bogrin seems to be mountains and dense forests, away from cities and towns. Those few rare gobbers seen in the sands of the Bloodstone Marches are also believed to be bogrin.
Like gobbers and trollkin, ogrun have only recently begun to be understood and accepted by humanity, finding uneasy acceptance in some of the cities and towns across the region. This is because in old times encounters between these two races usually ended in bloody fighting, and humans learned to fear the giant ogrun with their enormous strength and skill at battle. This antagonism was escalated by several factors, in particular the fact that many ogrun live on the Scharde Islands, serving Lord Toruk as his most loyal soldiers. There is also an offshoot race known as the “Black Ogrun” living in the mountains of Cygnar and Khador which is noted for its cruelty, savagery, and propensity to enslave wayward humans.
It was actually the increased contact between dwarves and mankind which helped gain ogrun some acceptance. Nearly half of the ogrun of the Iron Kingdoms live in Rhul, having established peaceful communities alongside their dwarven neighbors. Indeed, the two races have a strong affinity for one another rooted in old favors and agreements. The ogrun of Rhul are a noble race of people, noted for their exceptional skill in metalworking as well as being both great soldiers and laborers. Furthermore, just like their evil kin of the Scharde Islands, the ogrun of Rhul demonstrate an innate loyalty and devotion to their sworn leaders which makes treachery virtually unknown among them.
Ogrun are an uncommon but not unknown sight in the cities of mankind, and a number of ogrun communities have sprung up in the mountains of Khador and Cygnar. Although they still face fear and prejudice due to their size and fearsome appearances, ogrun have begun to find work in the larger human cities.
Although believed to be fewer overall than ogrun, the trollkin are a more common sight in human cities. The majority of trollkin live in eastern Cygnar, although a great number are also found in the ranks of Lord Toruk’s armies in Cryx and the Scharde Islands. There are some found in the other kingdoms, but in substantially fewer numbers. They are rarest by far in the Protectorate of Menoth, which has little tolerance for races other than humanity. Like the gobbers and ogrun, the trollkin have had an uneasy relationship with humanity for most of recorded history, considered unthinking monsters until the last few centuries.
Trolls have long been one of the most pernicious and diverse breeds of monsters to plague the Iron Kingdoms, with a wide assortment of dangerous types. For many centuries the much more intelligent trollkin were lumped in with the rest of trollkind and killed whenever they were seen. Ironically it was the tribes of savage human barbarians which first made peaceful alliances with the trollkin bloodlines. It is believed a group of now extinct barbarians deep in Cygnar’s Wyrmwall mountains were some of the first humans to negotiate trade and truces with gobbers, ogrun and trollkin, teaching these races the Molgur language which would soon become the dominant tongue among them, albeit with different dialects. Trollkin became a common sight fighting alongside barbarian invaders across the Iron Kingdoms, particularly out of the Wyrmwall mountains and the Scharde Islands. This unfortunately did little to endear them to the more civilized warlords.
With the waning and virtual extinction of the human barbarian tribes, the trollkin bloodlines outside of Cryx realized they were facing difficult times ahead. Consequently a number of far sighted trollkin made peaceful contact with the civilized human communities. During the last great barbarian attacks, the trollkin had extricated themselves from their former allies and some actually aided kingdom armies against the threat, therefore proving their willingness to integrate into the kingdoms. Since that time a number of trollkin communities have begun to thrive particularly in eastern Cygnar, and trollkin are a reasonably common sight in cities such as Corvis, Caspia, Fharin, and Mercir. There are also small pockets of trollkin tribes in the Scarsfell Forest of Khador, near Ohk. Trollkin have proven to be quite skilled laborers and have a particular knack for stonemasonry.
Trollkin face the most prejudice along the western seaboard of Ord and Cygnar, where the trollkin of the Scharde Islands are still considered a serious threat. The only port town where trollkin are a common sight is in Five Fingers, which harbors many smugglers and privateers from Cryx. Similarly there is strong anti-trollkin sentiment in most official kingdom navies.