The Five Kingdoms
Legend says Kesengard was once a single, large landmass of rolling hills, majestic mountains and vast grasslands. The natives, mostly dwarves, halflings and gnomes, lived in harmony with their surroundings, peacefully creating a communal civilization where everyone was free to pursue their chosen craft and contribute to society in whatever way they saw fit. The legend goes on to say that they flourished, but kept digging deeper and deeper under their mountains until they released some unknown evil force, some theorizing it was a gate to the underworld itself. The next centuries were nothing but bloodshed and war as the people fought against the invaders from below, their crafts and labors turning to the development of war machines and new technologies. The final blow that sealed off the tunnels the evil force was bubbling up from also shattered the continent into a thousand pieces, which is how we see it today.
The truth is actually much more sinister. While the craftsmen and engineers of Kesengard did indeed open a rift into another world, this world was simply the Under Kingdoms of dark elves, aboleths, beholders and other horrors. The war was being fought entirely underground, and lasted for generations, but the explosion that sealed the rift and shattered the continent was not created by either side. It was in fact a meteor, the size of the continent of Kesengard itself, crashing into the Maw. The force of the impact pushed Ravenna, then nothing more than an island of savages discovering hunting and gathering, further eastward and shattered the land mass of Kesengard.
Kesengard is a collection of small to large islands in a starburst pattern that dominates most of the West Serpent. Some of the islands are close enough to have large bridges build between them, miles across, while others are so remote that only by spending a day on a ferry will get you to their shores. The population is still mostly dwarves, who live beneath the surface of the rocky crags trying to rediscover the enlightenment their society formerly had. Each island has a name, but is usually only known by the residents and those of neighboring islands. Each small island houses a number of people known as a “community”, governed by an elder called a Thane. The thane of each community is pretty much autonomous, paying only some heed to so-called “national” declarations passed down by the king. Three of the islands have names known outside of Kesengard, Hammer, Anvil and Forge. These three each house multiple communities, each with their own Thane, who live in direct service to the King, who has a feasthall on each of the three islands.
The King is not a hereditary title, rather a democratic position put in place by the council of Thanes. While every thane from the three islands gather for each council meeting, few from the outlying islands bother to make the journey, simply apathetic to the goings-on of what they consider to be a government that just doesn’t affect their lives. Kings, once voted in, are there for life, which has turned into a very uneasy political landscape. Many rumors about Kings being assassinated or rendered helpless so they could be removed from office have circulated, though no Thane would ever admit to such underhanded dealings.
Kesengard is relatively new to oceanic travel, the chain of islands leading north to the territories of Tialis allowing their shallow-bottomed ships to travel in relative safety without venturing more than a couple of days into open water at any given time. They are, however, the kingdom with the most experience with gunpowder weapons, having flintlock pistols and muskets as well as cannon in somewhat common supply. Many of the communities dedicated themselves to the perfection of warfare and destructive technologies rather than their former more peaceful crafts, leading to some big developments very early in their history. Kesengard does have a formal military, but they focus more on issues within the kingdom’s borders and its defense rather than outside affairs. This has led to the development of a very large fleet of privateer and mercenaries naval vessels so the kingdom can still have a presence on the waves.