Behold, a place unfolding before one that could near-belong within the Corerealms: snowy mountains, rolling plains, deep forests of mystery and ancient growth, stony badlands and foam-lashed coasts.
Here countless freeholds and kingdoms, petty baronies and free cities — and, yes, many proud duchies — wheel and strive, bicker and war and trade and draw up great binding oaths between them, sealed by the acknowledgement and kiss of one or more of the Great Elder Suzerains who speak with commoners and kings alike between their deep and unpierceable slumbers, deep within their puzzle-box domains high in the peaks and far below the soil.
Oh, they farm and joust, craft and ornament and dedicate and trade — trade in such lovely things as silvery moon-lace and a dizzying array of blossoms of all hues and patterns, tastes and scents, prized enough to send wise rulers to war and worse.
But then, but then: there is the sky, as dark as gore; and the sun, like an orb the colour of a dragon’s-blood ruby. And the ivory claws, the moon-shine eyes, of the Suzerains. And, above all, the great rivers and delicate springs and blessed pools alike, that run not crystal clear — though there do be those — but with a sweet-salt live-giving liquid far thicker, and more ruddy, than water or wine.
Those who come to the Duchies are often shocked to their marrow.
Those who leave the Duchies behind find themselves shocked to require more lively sources to quench their thirst.
* cultivation * bonds * sanguinity * courtliness * beauty * genealogy * the great game *