Hinterlands of Kesh
“I shot him down because he needed killin’. Oh, right- of course, for the good of the Council, yes, yes, of course…” -Eswut, elan gunslinger

Capital: High Hill of Atiri
Settlements: Bailyton (4,700), Dupressix (3,200), Fortress of the Eye (1,500), High Hill of Atiri (0), Valshol (13,300)
Ruler: Disputed
Government: Tribal, with appointed sheriffs
Races: Elan, Half-Cyclops, Hobgoblin, Human, Polkan
Faiths: Kamus, Lyvalia, Neria, Ul’Ul, Veiloaria
Resources: Agriculture, firearms, metal (iron, lead), slaves
Languages: Common, Giant, Goblin
Border Conditions: Limited (Southern Kesh is surrounded by a Porphyrite border)

History
Kesh is a frontier land of many clans and petty estates, once unified under a High King who was elected and ruled wisely from the High Hill of Atiri. What is not widely known is that a secret society of immortal, psionic elan manipulated the choosing of the High King as well as serving as advisers among the various tribes. With the guidance of the elan, the rule of the High King was usually just and wise, and friction between the tribes and clans was kept to a minimum.

The human tribes were ascendant in the age of the High King, but the NewGod Wars hit them hard. The dusty, tumbleweed-ridden Land brought by Kamus the Slaver was filled with fanatical hobgoblins who quickly took up the deist cause, even though the Keshites did not follow the ways of the cruel elementalists. The High King was killed, along with many lesser chiefs and their elan advisers, allowing the painted hobgoblins, riding on horseback against the cattle-riding ‘cow-boys’ to a final showdown called the Battle of Morrow’s Ford. It was there that the last remaining free tribes, under the leadership of Kaja Steelidun slew the High Warlord Kovish “Steelarm” and broke the back of his army with a single volley of crude rifles. This terrifying display of destruction caused the hobgoblins to descend into a decades-long struggle for tribal dominance which ended in the exhaustion of all.

The half-cyclopes of the western Wagon Lands were also quite powerful, when their Cyclopean forbears built the Fortress of the Eye milennia before The Calling, even. The appearance of Southern Kesh broke the land trade routes for their mutton and wool, and the newfound resistance spirit of the Keshite people broke the cattle-sheep rivalry that had been a constant on the open ranges. With many factions demanding recognition, including the half-cyclopes and semi-pacified hobgoblins, the only progress in hundreds of years is the system of sheriffs that patrol the trails. Their iconic firearms and modified compass-stars of Veiloaria indicates the dormant authority of the High King, and the potentially united wishes of the regional chiefs.

Current Events
The Suns of Kamus Tribe of hobgoblins are the strongest of the powers in Kesh, but they are reluctant to impose their will on the other groups, fearing the same cost as that paid at Morrow’s Ford. Instead, they impose tolls on the roads and conduct raids for loot and slaves, though other tribes are as often as the targets of these raids as their neighbors. The hobgoblins are organized under a matriarchal clan system, while the war chiefs are primarily male. The administration and organization of the clans are controlled by the mothers and grandmothers, as well as the priesthood; while Kamus rules all, Lyvalian politics pulls the strings behind the scenes, and allows for contact with other cultures, such as the network of spies allied to Parl Pordesh. The arm of the Lyvalian priesthood is the Sisterhood of the Black Glass, a covert organization of witches that ensures that no vendetta or feud among the hobgoblins is allowed to threaten their unity in the face outsiders, and tries to shift the target of the hobgoblin raids to people outside Kesh.

The last holding of the long-degraded half-cyclopes is the Fortress of the Eye and its surrounding lands. To their distress, they have been forces to ally with the Steelidun clan to fend off the encroachment of the far-ranging hobgoblins, and with that alliance came an end to the long cannibalistic tradition of the half-cyclopes peoples. While they occasionally consider breaking away to return to return to their ancestral ways, their seerpriests of Neria remind them of the very real threat of slavery at the hands of the hobgoblins; this keeps the ‘cyclops-kin’ unhappy allies of the tasty humans.

The humans of the Hinterlands are loosely organized under the banner of the Steelidun Clan, though they exist in tribal groups ruled over by a variety of governors, whose will is enacted by gun-toting sheriffs. The Clans form a rather anarchic federation that meet twice yearly for the Palaver, which is part negotiation, part country dance and mostly, a drunken revel. What the Steelidun do agree on is that an attack on one member of the Clans is an attack on all, and that the right to bear arms is a universal truth.

Settlements
The major settlements of Kesh are:

The High Hill of Atiri comprises the unfortified buildings that held the High Court, and the Akai Corral, sacred cattle-pens of the ancient cowboy days. Abandoned but maintained by ancient magics, war and people both avoid this place, partly from tradition and partly from the efforts of the elan, who from the nearby Tombstone Tower protect it as a symbol of unity.

Bailyton is a walled town, the closest thing the Steelidun have to a city. On the wide river nicknamed Old Man Baily, it is a major place for trade with those foreign to Kesh, and even the hobgoblins on their painted horses come to trade here. It is also the location of the twice-yearly Palaver.

Dupressix is a new town, a frontier town of wooden buildings and muddy streets over top of a high quality seam of iron ore. Dupressix is the hub of weapon manufacturing in Kesh, especially fiearms. The town is named after the first of the Steelidun to walk the way of the gunslinger, the infamous Cousin Dupress, and while it has been the subject of multiple hobgoblin raids, none of them have been successful, and the Hill of the Boot bears the bones of those who fell.

The Fortress of the Eye is the most fiendish and efficient fortification in all of Kesh, but the half-cyclops are hard pressed just to maintain the core fortifications. The slave pens, now abandoned, are extensive and still figure in many a Steelidun cow-boy ballad.

Valshol is the central meeting point for the hobgoblins, and the center of their slave trade. The city is divided into walled sections by bands, and raids and conflicts between them are endemic and reflect their shifting alliances. The wailing cries of drummers and the pounding of feet for the war-dance are enough to chill hearts unto the north and south borders.

Intrigues

  • Brave young people of the Steelidun often prove themselves by rescuing slaves from the hobgoblins, and they are always happy to have aid on these missions. Freeing slaves is somewhat frowned upon by their elders, so the rebellion is twice as daring and exciting!
  • The hobgoblin matriarchy is always in need of new information on its rivals, both in Upper Kesh and beyond, and pays well in horseflesh, slaves or magic. The Sisterhood of the Black Glass has its witch-women in many villages of the north, concealed as love-potion brewers and hex-women, and they will aid the network of scouts and spies.
  • The gunslinger known only as the Tall Man has let it made known that he is coming for one of the PCs- a challenge and a mark that the unfortunate target will have to deal with sooner rather than later.
  • The semi-centauroid Polkan people have migrated south to parts of Kesh, following tales of their larger cousins, the centaurs, and their own prophet/stado leader Makluhan. Unfortunately they have caused friction with all they encounter. Perhaps Makluhan is the problem, a problem that could be solved…

See Also