The original kingdom of Gaer was established by a tribe of orcs, lead by their chieftan Glyndwr (pronounced: Glin-dour) around the year 2100 PN. He was fair, just and firm. He broke the trend of brutal despotism that had plagued the orcish peoples for millenia. He built the first true city (that is, one with walls and permanent structures), Ddnias (p: d'nee-us), as a bastion against the other orc tribes. He told his people that, if they wanted to remain under the protection of him and his warriors, they would follow his new edicts. He then had them settle down and build houses and a wall. They then, because of their permanent location, started farming sheep and aurochs. The city grew by both the internal population boom and the acceptance of other tribes.
Terrain and Weather
The land is very heavily forested all over. The areas around the cities, for at least a mile from the city wall, are clear cut and used for farming. There are well-cut roads leading from one city to another, as well as a single rail line running from the Northwest to the Southeast. The forest is very dangerous, full of territorial treants and dangerous beasts and at least one powerful dragon. The people call the forest Ysbryd (p: Iss-bree). Along the coast, the beaches are rocky and many are steep cliffs that drop to the sea edge. There are several large rivers running through Gaer, and their western border is shaped by a mile-wide river known as Aryffin (p: arr-ih-fee). The Afon (p: a-ven) cuts through the center and on it is where Glyndwr established his city. The Afonbach is its main tributary and flows out of the mountains that form the border between Gaer and Evad.
Summers are mild, but humid. The large forest keeps the ground air cool, but the large amount of greenery (which is fed by a multitude of rivers and streams) keeps the air damp. The coastal regions are often covered by dense sea fog during the days. Winters are cold, with plenty of snow, though not overly harsh. The snows are heavy and wet, though there is little ice or sleet. Summers run from June through late August and winter starts by December and runs through late March.
Each city is relatively similar as far as culture and religion goes. Efficiency is prized and fairness is the norm. The smaller cities have more emphasis on the military (as a larger portion of their population is in service) and the larger cities have a proportionally larger emphasis on the economy and politics. Ddnias has a large keep that sits on a hill in roughly the center of the city. Bleddfa is the northernmost station on the golem train - called the Cerbyd (p: kur-bee). Llawhaden is home to the dirigible manufacturers. Usk and Mwd each have a golem factory, one producing stone golems and the other making iron golems. Genau is the current last stop on the golem train, since the capture of Rhos.
Ddnias, the first city; Pentrefan (p: pen-tree-von), the second city; Bleddfa (p: bled-fah), Glyndyfrdwy (p: glin-dif-dou), Llawhaden (p: low-a-den), Mwd (p: mud) and Usk (p: usk) round out the cities that support more than two milwrol. Supporting more than two legions is the mark of a "major" city in Gaer.
Cerrig (p: care-ig), Groesfordd (p: growss-fird) and Genau (p: ghen-aw) are each significant hubs of trade as each are also a station along the golem train. Gwynnd has the closest thing to a wizards college that there is in Gaer. Rhos (p: rrowss) was the port city now in the hands of Corsairia. Minor cities support only one or two milwrol, though they often have one or more diogelu as well.
Most of the people are simple farmers or laborers. They are simple folk, with plain dress. The orc, human and half-orc populations dress fairly similarly, though the humans sometimes carry over cultural traditions from their original homelands. Honest work is prized among the people, but that doesn't mean they are any less prone to trying to gain the upper hand than any other people. Alchemy is common and used to simplify everyday tasks and many of those that make crafts have some training in the crafting of alchemical items.
They wear mostly undyed fabrics, wools and leathers, though it would not be a rare to see some blues and reds, especially in more formal attire. The majority of the population wears rugged trousers, a wool shirt, leather shoes and belt. In the winter, heavy coats of animal hides are often worn as well. Various types of headgear are not uncommon, though usually just a simple cap to keep their head warm in the winter. The people often wear the garb of their trade, even when not plying their craft. Jewelry is uncommon, but tends towards precious metals and not gemstones. Bracelets and facial piercings in their lips and eyebrows are the most common forms of jewelry.
The most unique aspect of this culture, at least to most outsiders, is that the orc population is rather orderly and more interested in farming than pillaging. They work together well and share equal standing in the culture with both the humans and their mixed kin. Part of this order and equal standing comes from the mandatory military service where all recruits, regardless of race, are treated the same.
They speak Gaersh, which is a combination of Naduumian and Skosian. It has evolved through several forms, now known as Old Gaersh, Middle Gaersh and Modern Gaersh. Modern Gaersh appears nothing like either Naduumian or Skosian, though there are still some similarities when spoken. Arcane Naduumian and Arcane Skosian are spoken amongst the scholarly. Various other racial languages are known as well, though rarely spoken. Elemental languages and the languages of outsiders are known as well, especially Terran, as they often bind the services of earth elementals to power their golems.
The main deities of Gaer are Halgar and Skylae. Ulf is often worshiped by golem crafters (wanting to be on his good side to aid in binding the earth elementals) and Vultan is often followed by alchemists, believing that he is the founder of alchemy. Warriors tend to follow either Akarai (the Rhyfelwr beserkers) or Mishya, though she is considered the goddess of walls and cities. Archgate is a common deity, as is Ianadale, though he is their god of farming and animal husbandry and not the forest. Hylarr is feared, and both she and Shalokar are associated with Ysbryd.
Each temple only has a single priest on duty. This priest isn't a full-time priest either, and is rarely of the oracle or cleric class. Just as often, they are a wizard, sorcerer or alchemist. Most of the mundane tasks of the temple are run by animated objects created by the priest. The temples are relatively small compared to those in Eian, often more properly known as shrines. Religious devotion is not a top priority for the Gaersh, though it is not shunned either.
Each venerated deity has a chosen champion in Gaer. These champions go into Ysbryd to defeat the forest, to convert any remnant orc tribes there and to lead the nation in times of trouble. Each one forgoes their birth name and assumes the title of their patron god. The champion of Halgarr is know as Amser (p: am-sayr) and is always an inquisitor. Skylae's champion is known as Gwirion (p: gweer-yon) and is a paladin. The champions of Ulf is a wizard known as Ddaear (p: day-yar) and that of Vultan is an alchemist called Threiglo'n (p: thray-glo'n). Akarai is championed by a barbarian called Glas (p: glaw), with Mishya represented by the fighter Darian (p: dar-ee-on). Archgate lends his power to a cleric called Adeiladu (p: ah-day-law-doo), and Ianadale his strength to a sorcerer called Coedwig (p: coyd-wig).
Decentralized monarchy, with official power wielded by the king/queen in Ddnias, though de facto rulership is meted out by the thane of each city. The monarchy is loosely hereditary. The next monarch must have a blood tie to the former monarch, but must also have the political connections to claim the throne. Military backing is a very common way of gaining this political backing. A legitimate son or daughter has just as much claim to the throne as a bastard child (assuming proof of lineage) or even a distant cousin. It's the political/military backing that is most important. Thanes must be regular military and have attained the rank of general. They are selected by a council of generals whenever the current thane retires or dies. The system has been a fiefdom since Glyndwr established the second city, Pentrefan. He set up a military commander as its thane and that has been the model ever since.
For a brief time, around 750 PN, Umjaden was able to overpower Ddnias and set up a puppet king there. The remaining thanes were able to remove him and re-establish a Gaersh king to the throne. That puppet kingdom lasted less than a decade. For about 100 years, starting in 304 PN, Gaer was a republic. The thanes and the king were elected by the people, and were not required to come from the military. The thanes and king met in council once a year to determine the policies and actions for the kingdom. This lasted until the 30 Years War with Umjaden, where power was once again consolidated to the military and politics were returned to how they were before.
The current queen, who took the throne within the last decade, is a half-orc called Owdd Rhydderch (p: owd ry-durk). She is the daughter of the former king Rhyd Hywllmab (p: ryd howl-mob) and his human consort Mechwyn Gwrynnmerch (p: mek-win gur-rin-murk). Queen Owdd is fair, but stern. She is loved by her people and feared by her enemies. As with all monarchs of Gaer, Owdd relies on the heddlu (p: hed-loo) to keep her kingdom in order. The heddlu are a special branch of the military, made up of full-time personnel rather than the 1-year conscripts that make up the city guard. These troops handle internal affairs and act as police within each fief. The rhietgor (p: rite-gore) is a panel of three judges that try all cases within a city.
Each citizen (male and female) is required to serve in the military. Upon the age of majority, that is at age 15, all citizens are conscripted. For six months, they serve as home defense, guarding their city and the immediate surrounding from incursions from Ysbryd. For the next six months, they are sent to one of the borders to defend against Gaer's foreign enemies. After one year of service, they are allowed to return home and take up a profession. Most of the conscripts do, though a sizable minority (around twenty percent) remain for at least one more tour of duty. At any given time, between five and eight percent of Gaer's population is in military service.
There is a heavy reliance on defensive warfare in Gaer. The borders and rivers are dotted with easily defensible forts and each city is surrounded by several layers of high walls. Much of the base military are simply warriors, though companies of fighters and barbarians are not uncommon. Each division has at least one company of wizards or alchemists. The heddlu are always well trained fighters.
The standard unit of the Gaersh military is the milwrol (p: mil-ur-ol), which consists of 2500 troops. Each milwrol answers to their general, called a marchog (p: mar-chok). Each division, or phum (p: foom), contains 500 troops and is lead by an arweinydd (p: arr-why-nud), and each hanner (p: ha-ner) has fifty troops lead by a pennaeth (p: peh-nah). The thane of each city commands at least two milwrol.
The standard warrior is equipped with a small, round shield and a battle axe, wears a harden leather skullcap and a set of steel chain. Standard equipment also includes a few throwing axes and a dagger, plus enough gear and rations to survive away from the city unaided for one month. The typical warrior carries close to eighty pounds worth of gear. Specialized units trade the use of the axe and shield with longbows or javelins. The army is also backed up by dirigibles. They are used both as reconnaissance and aerial support. Archers and bombers (alchemists) are often stationed high over battles to rain down arrows and explosives on the enemy.
In smaller cities, the milwrol is replaced with a diogelu, or home guard. They do not leave the city, but are in all other respects very similar to a milwrol. Large cities may support a few diogelu in addition to several milwrol.
Since the capture of Rhos, Gaer has not fielded a navy. At its height, there were just over 100 warships in the Gaersh navy.
Arcane magic is utilitarian. It is used to fight back against Ysbryd, power the constructs and defend the cities. It is also used to support the military's ground operations. Alchemy is equally as common, and is used in most things. Divine magic is rare. Most divine magic comes from adepts, though occasionally clerics or oracles are found among the very devout. Nature magic (druids, rangers, witches) is viewed with much distrust.
Mirrdin (p: mur-din) was the first wizard of Gaer, and set down their rules for magic. Hwynn (p: hwen) was their first alchemist and set up the Laws of Alchemy. Rhys Rhynmab (p: reese rin-mob) is the thane of Gwynnd, and the only wizard to ever attain the rank of general in Gaer.
There are three major studies of magic in Gaer: alchemy, golem-crafting and evocation. There are many professional and amateur alchemists in the cities. The city of Llawhaden uses their alchemists primarily to manufacture and maintain the nation's dirigibles. Usk and Mwd specialize their wizards and sorcerers in golem-crafting. The pride of Mwd is the golem train that runs through the heart of Gaer. The rest of the nation's magicians tend to focus on offensive magic, specifically pyromancy.
Gaer is, at this point, a fairly even mix of humans, orcs and half-orcs. When the nation was founded, it was exclusively orcs. Human refugees and immigrants from Corsairia, Umjaden and other regions of the former empire of Pileus have trickled in over the centuries. Respecting their willingness to work hard for the defense and betterment of Gaer, they were readily accepted. After some time, the two races began to intermarry and produce offspring. Roughly twenty percent of the population are of mixed descent, with the remaining population being only slightly skewed towards the orcs.
With rare exception, the other races of the world are not present in Gaer. The Gaersh are amenable to each other, but they distrust pretty much everyone else. They have a little less distrust of dwarves than of the other races, due to an almost forgotten treaty between Gaer and Evad. They neither trust nor distrust the shivan. The majority of their contact with elves come from Corsairia and Umjaden, so they tend to distrust them. They don't hate any particular race as a whole, but don't trust the ones they haven't met before.
In order to become a true city, it must be able to support two milwrol. Because of this, the average city size in Gaer is around 200,000 citizens, with Ddnias holding over 900,000 citizens. Hundreds of settlements supporting only a home guard milwrol, known as a diogelu (p: dee-oh-ghel-oo), line the rivers that spiderweb Gaer. They range in population from less than a hundred residents to tens of thousands.
Fighters, barbarians and warriors are very common. Any rogues are not usually thieves (though those exist), but more damage specialists and tinkerers. Wizards and alchemists are the primary arcanists, and are usually either human or half-orc. Any orc arcanists are usually sorcerers. Divine classes (cleric, oracle, paladin and inquisitor) are uncommon but not unknown. "Nature" classes (rangers, witches, druids) are shunned, and would only be found in independent tribes living in Ysbryd. Urban rangers, skirmisher rangers and urban druids are rare, but can occasionally be found. Cavaliers are unknown, as there is little room for mounted combat in the cities or in the forests. There are no known monk orders in Gaer. Any bard from Gaer is a savage skald. By far, warrior is the most common class, with the majority of adventurers from Gaer being fighters.