Birdman Mountains
“I hate shadows. Shadows mean there’s either something behind you or something overhead. Neither of those is good.” – Igwald Fearfoot, halfling prospector

Capital: Harhold
Settlements: Harhold (2,500), Old Deeps (2,000), Ruin Spires (500), Screehold (1,500), Vadenhold (800)
Ruler: Flightmaster Vey of Clan Harfael
Government: Tribal
Races: Half-Harpy, Halfling, Harpy, Kestrel, Strix, Urisk
Faiths: Eshsalqua, Ithreia, Myketa, Pazuzu
Resources: Metals (copper, iron, gold, uranium), relics (xax)
Languages: Auran, Halfling, Strix, Sylvan
Border Conditions: Limited (porphyrite border south)

History
In the time before the NewGod Wars, the Birdman Mountains were called Zirakur Ziur; which meant in Protean (the moment the ancient map was labeled) “To Scorn Heaven” or “By Heaven Scorned”. These imposingly tall mountains, of mixed volcanic and tectonic origin became nearly hollow with the carving of the enigmatic xax people. Those strange beings were transplanted here by the imperialistic Empire of the Opal Throne, as a resource-generating scheme. Their vast mansions spread from the mountains’ roots to their myriad peaks. Living alongside the xax in those ancient days were halflings, a minority class of merchants and load-bearers. Though never integrated into the alien conglomerate that existed between xax cysts, they lived comfortably and were treated well by their bizarre neighbors. A true regret exists among the Ziur halflings, centuries later, in the ancient loss of their inhuman masters.

When The Calling happened, the goddess Ithreia saw the Zirakur Ziur mountain range, and desired its precipitous peaks. She claimed it as her own in a dream that was shared by every living creature within the mountains. She cursed the xax as spawn of elemental chaos (which they were) and bid them crawl back to Erkusaa. The xax were defiant. They set their wrongly-angled jaws and dug in their heels against this new bird-goddess. And then the harpies came.

For years, the xax held off the harpies who flocked and fluttered around their cloudy cities. The main turning point was the halflings. They, too, had received Ithreia’s vision and their hearts were more open to these new gods. Led by a burgeoning devotion to the Old Mother Owl, the halflings rose up against their old allies and threw open the doors to the open air, allowing the harpy forces free entrance.

With feather and talon, and assisted by the retreating flocks of the strix race from the south, the fall of the xax cysts was inevitable. In time, even the old Protean name was forgotten. Today, people look up at the jagged points and only whisper the name, “Birdman Mountains.”
Current Events
Today, much of the inner mountain range is empty of earthbound inhabitants. The odd urisk gambols from valley to valley, or wanders down into flat lands of the west. They are keen guides, for the most part, and know the ways of the flying ones and the halflings, both. The harpies and strixes that call the Birdman region home prefer the vertical cities as their homes, as they afford direct access to the open air. Many other subterranean and mountain-loving creatures that have crawled into the many caves here, as well.

It is said that “The harpies won the Birdman Mountains, but it is the strixes who keep them.” The strixes have taken over much of the largest and best vertical cities in the mountains. They organize themselves into clans which have good commerce between them, and most intertribal conflict is resolved with exchanges of tribal members or gifts.

As a foil to the strixes, the harpies live on the fringes of the strix cities. There is peace for the most part between the two races, but harpies make poor neighbors and often raid when they think they can get away with it. Still, the strixes believe the harpies to be long lost kin, and are disinclined to make war on them. The harpies have largely fallen to worship of an avian avatar of Eshsalqua, and the strixes seek to convert them back to worship of Ithreia.

Underneath these all, scurrying like ants, are the halflings. Changed by their life among the feathered peoples and their racial sorrow at betraying their long lost masters, they are a bit different than their ground-dwelling cousins. The halflings of the mountains can scramble up cliff-faces and the handholds of the ancient xax, but mostly live in old stone buildings, disliking the open air and the domain of the hated harpies. They have learned to fight when needed, though, and retreat once the point has been made. Halflings often venture into old mines to scrape out bits of ore, which they trade to the strix for food and tools. The strix in turn trade with groups such as the Nor-Du-Mag giants for slaves, beer, and weapons.

The strix tribes form the core of the civilization of the Birdman Mountains, such as it is. It is they who organize the majority of trade between the mountains and other races, avoiding humans if at all possible. The harpies are too savage to carry out these dealings, and the halfling underclass does not have the racial clout to do so with authority.

Settlements
The major settlements of Birdman Mountains are:

Harhold is the seat of power for the blackwinged strixes. Tribe Harfael makes its home in this vertical city of honeycombed stone. From here the flocks of the strix fly over peaks and valleys, imposing their will as they see fit, as Flightmaster Vey has notions of owning all that he sees. And he can see a lot from Harhold.

Screehold and Vadenhold are twin cities comprised of abandoned xax fortifications built into the side of a mountain. Great gardens have been planted on the crumbling projections that jut outward from these cities. They are home to the strix tribes of Scree and Veden’lo, respectively. These tribes remember well the stories of their ancestors being driven by men from the kinder Calinsur Mountains, and hate men of all kinds.

The Old Deeps are actually the upper portion of the hollow insides of a mountain, but are probably ‘deep’ enough for the halflings that live there. Inside these halls, these close-knit people worship Myketa, the Patient Lady, who helps them work together, hide from harpy raids, and mine ore for trading. Deep halflings are probably the best slingers on all of Porphyra.

The Ruin Spires is a city inhabited entirely by harpies, whose many clans fight for choice homes in these blasted, ancient towers. Neither strix nor Halfling begrudges the harpies their territory, which has become full of their pollution.

Intrigues

  • A party of dwarves has invited the PCs to come on an unexpected journey to establish a colony in the Birdman Mountains. They speak of a halfling that knows a secret entrance to an abandoned xax stronghold, just ripe for repopulation. The success of the mission may depend on his willingness to enter the dark depths.
  • During the NewGod Wars, when the harpies drove the xax from their ancestral home, not quite all the xax were destroyed. A hive in the center of the mountain, Krikoym, was shut tight early in the conflict. Wards and runes sealed the 400-some inhabitants before the other strongholds fell. It is assumed, by those that knew of the doomed beings at all, that they all perished within, but no one has been able to open Krikoym to verify this. What could lie within? A lost race? Aberrant spirits? The xax were known to be excellent miners- perhaps the treasures of a lost era?
  • Alachak Grym is a red dragon that invaded decades ago, and ate so many harpies that he fell into a deep slumber. This pleased the strix and halflings, but now Grym is awake, too fat to leave the caverns, and is intent on causing earthquakes and disturbing the whole region. All the races of the mountains would be grateful, if the wyrm were put down.