Knife's Edge -- The Capital City
Knife's Edge is one of the oldest and certainly the largest city in Salvar. Its history dates back over a thousand years, to the founding of the Church of the Ethereal Sway, and with a population exceeding 450,000, it is the third largest city in the known world (behind Ettermire and Radasanth). Despite the destruction wrought against Knife's Edge during the civil war, it remains a thriving city, and after only a year, much of its critical infrastructure has been rebuilt and repaired.
Built along the southern banks of the Testhan River, the capital city enjoys a fairly mild climate compared to the rest of the kingdom. Its winters are still harsh, but the rainy springs and warm summers make it the bread basket of the region. Its position along the wide, slow stretch of the Testhan River also makes it the main stopping point for the hundreds of river barges floating east toward Tirel. Several tall towers surround the city, home to the church's Aeromancers. These powerful holy mages use their magic to push back the harsh northern cold and keep the river valley mild and fertile.
At the northern banks of the river lies "Old Knife", an ancient town that predates the capital by well over a thousand years. Nobody knows for sure why a new city was built on the other side, rather than expanding the older town -- the only records exist in religious texts, stating that Saint Denebriel commanded the first Ethereal Sway cathedral to be constructed south of the river. "Old Knife" remains though, home to about a thousand farming serfs and a few inns for travelers hoping to avoid the bustling capital city.
Knife's Edge is a very formidable and intimidating city, surrounded on all sides with a tall and sturdy stone wall. Each side as a large iron gate, including the northern wall's "River Gate" that allows barges and ferries access to the city. Water flows through the River Gate and into a series of canals and sewers networking the entire city. There are a number of notable areas within the city.
Saint Denebriel's Cathedral: Named after the Church's most beloved saint, who allegedly died during the civil war, this cathedral is a huge, towering structure of granite and obsidian, stained glass, and leering gargoyles. As much a fortress as a place of worship, it served as a bastion for Sway forces during the war. It sustained major damages when royalist troops laid siege to it, but much has already been repaired. Its interior awes most visitors with rows of statues, golden candelabras, chandeliers, and vast paintings of saints and the Ethereal gods themselves. Said to be as large below ground as above, Saint Denebriel's Cathedral sports vast dungeons and networks of tunnels that hide many mysteries.
The Castle: Formerly known as Castle Rathaxea, that name has been removed since the former king's death. Simply called "the castle" by most Salvarians, it serves as King Bratus's throne, the High Counsel meeting place, and the last fortified bastion in the city. It rivals Saint Denebriel's Cathedral in size, and its palisade walls and study keep make it even harder to attack.
Rubble Town: Taking up the southern quarter of the city, Rubble Town (as many now call it) still lies in ruins in the civil war's wake. Few structures remain fully intact and no concerted effort has been made to rebuild the section, mostly due to the anarchy and lawlessness rampant there. It is the wretched hive of Knife's Edge, haven to the city's criminals and most desperate.
Archen -- Gateway to the North
Resting at the southern base of the Sulgoran Steppes in central Salvar, Archen is known as the "gateway to the north". With rugged wilderness to its north and gentle grassy hills to its south, the kingdom's third largest city (home to almost two hundred thousand) rests between two different worlds. Viewed as the last bastion of civilization by many in southern Salvar, Archen serves as a vital trading post in the kingdom's heart. Lumber mills process the great pine logs brought from the highlands and tailors ply their trades on hundreds of animal pelts. Caravans carrying ore and other raw materials travel south along the ancient cobbled road affectionately nicknamed the "wolf trail", guarded by Vorgruk-Stokes mercenaries.
Though rather austere compared to Knife's Edge, Archen still exemplifies the traditional look and feel of a Salvic city, with its timber houses and meed halls, grey granite towers, and domed roofs on its churches and central castle. An old stone wall surrounds the city to deter bandit raiders and warlords from the north. Its people are hardy and proud, charitable with their own countrymen and shrewd with everyone else.
During the civil war, Archen was a Sway bastion for much of the conflict. Its access to raw materials, strategic location, and vast grain stores gave the church an upper hand for the war's first two years. It came as a great surprise when the city rose up against the Ethereal Sway, ransacking its churches and executing any priest that did not flee in time. Though the church's forces eventually retook the city, the battle cost them dearly and marked the turning point against them -- one that eventually forced them to accept peace terms with the Salvic nobility.
Tirel -- The Eastern Harbor
Nestled within the Gulf of Scales, Tirel is, despite its young age, the fourth largest city in the kingdom and its busiest port during the spring and summer. As one of the few places in Salvar mostly untouched by the civil war, the eastern port remains a thriving center of commerce, with ships traveling to and from Corone, Raiaera, Scara Brae, and even distant Fallien. It also serves as the staging area for Salvar's small but growing eastern war fleet. It boasts a population of just over two hundred thousand people, many of them foreigners. Coronian merchant families and a fair number of Dark Elves call the city home, as well as a surprising number of High Elf refugees fleeing the undead hoard that so recently ravaged their homeland.
Due to its unique origins and large foreign population, Tirel possesses milder Salvic influences in architecture and culture. Red-brown brick buildings with tiled roofs stand in place of the traditional timber structures and grey granite seen in other cities. A few Thayne temples exist in the foreign districts, seemingly exempt from the Ethereal Sway's purges.
It was originally founded two hundred years ago by Coronian colonists seeking access to region's rich natural resources. This venture did not survive long, however. Within six months, the king's agents discovered this new settlement. The monarchy and church declared the eastern shores part of Salvar by right and demanded that the colonists depart. When they refused, the armies of the kingdom fell upon them in the only known war in history between the Kingdom of Salvar and Corone. The conflict was short and bloody, ending with the Coronian colonists fleeing back to their ships. Salvar took control of the settlement and ruled the eastern shores without contention ever since.
Pestovo -- The Western Port
Pestovo, the main port on the western coast, is the second largest city in Salvar (population of approximately 300,000). Believed to predate the Ethereal Sway by several centuries, it is also perhaps the oldest. Despite its vast sailing distance from most other countries compared to Tirel, Pestovo remains an extremely important port for two reasons. First, it sits very close to Salvar's closest trading partner, Alerar. Ships constantly sail away laden with raw materials and return with holds full of quality steel, tools, and even rare and valuable firearms. Second, warmer currents flow along the western seas. Whereas ice chokes much of the Gulf of Scales during the winter months, Pestovo enjoys clear waters year round. Therefore, many merchants choose to do business in Pestovo, even when sailing all the way around the continent to Corone or Scara Brae.
Most of Pestovo is made up of old timber structures, lacquered and tarred to preserve the wood. Every few decades, the city's shipwrights and carpenters band together to rebuild a section of the city. Therefore, despite the city's age, most of the buildings are fairly new. Only the shops in the city square and the central keep, built from stone above a series of ancient ruins when the city was founded, remain.
Skavia -- The Rugged Wilds
The infamous mountains and tundra for which Salvar is known all over Althanas, Skavia covers the country's northern and central lands. Frozen wastelands, vast pine forests, and rugged mountains compose a landscape ravaged by the harsh winter elements. Skavia is constantly slammed with blizzards, scouring icy winds, and avalanches that could bury an entire city in an unmarked grave. The wasteland is peopled by proud, hardened tribes of barbarians, orcs, and other throwbacks to previous eras of Salvar who fight both Nature and the ferocious beasts that prowl the Skavian wilds. This unforgiving wilderness promises adventure for those with the courage and ability to survive its trials. In Skavia, survival is a gamble and death is the only sure bet.
The Kalev Highlands
Far to the north lies the Kalev Highlands, a half ring of mountains forming the highest point in the kingdom and perhaps the world. The highlands were formed from the broken remains of the impossibly massive Mount Modhgar, which was shattered during the War of the Tap. These highlands see the coldest, harshest weather in all of Salvar, bearing the brunt of terrible northern storms that can bury the land in twenty feet of snow and ice in a night. Yet, protected within the crescent of peaks, an expansive valley thaws in spring and summer, revealing grasslands and forests and lakes and rivers full of fish. The Kalev Highlands are a place of wonder and the stuff of legends, home to most of Salvar's giants and minotaur, and a plethora of other fantastic creatures thought to only exist in folktales.
Two unique groups inhabit the highlands, the orcs of the Black Eye Clan and the small human nation of Andvall. The orcs occupy a series of caves and large wooden forts on the northern edges of the cresent. They are ruled by mighty chiefs who lead their warriors on raids across the northlands of Salvar, bringing slaves and plunder back to their homes each year. The people of Andvall, keeping a dozen fortified holds built around ancient ruins across the crescent's interior, are direct descendants of a band of knights who separated themselves from Salvar's monarchy and church hundreds of years ago. They are considered traitors and deserters by the Salvarian government because do not recognize the kingdom's sovereignty. Though benevolent, fairly peaceful, and accepting of outsiders, the people of Andvall are hardy and strong, adapted to the harsh world they live in. Their strength and determination has earned the grudging respect of the Black Eye orcs, and the two groups have maintained a truce for generations.
Berevar -- The Frozen North
An uncharted, arctic wasteland that lies north of the Frozen Seas, Berevar stretches beyond the reaches of Salvar's power. Though home to many hardy, savage orc clans and a plethora of other terrible creatures, Berevar is considered largely uninhabitable to those who can't stand up to its horrible conditions. Rumors have circulated for years that Berevar is also where the Old Gods of Salvar retreated after the fall of their paradise thousands of years ago, before the rise of the Ethereal Sway. But, whether you're looking to explore the wastes or uncover the mysteries of the past it's best to be wary and well prepared for everything this savage region has to offer.