The Five Kingdoms
Tialis is a crescent of land comprised of a thick forest surrounding a volcanic mountain range. Widely thought of as the home of the Elves, no less than three elven nations trace their lineage back to Tialis. While the other two have been dispersed throughout the world (making up what most people outside of Tialis think of as “elves”), the final nation, Tia-Nuratha, still resides here as a ruling caste. The Nuratha elves (or Eladrin) are very insular, keeping mostly to themselves in their home city, a cluster of crystal spires, hot springs and dense mountain foliage nestled between the volcanic peaks of the Sargaja range. The rest of the population of Tialis is made up of members from every race, including a fair number of Geranya elves (or “wood” elves) and Kelansha elves (or “sea” elves) though the latter tend to remain exclusively on the coast.
Tialis has a long, bloody history of war and attempted conquest of all of the neighboring nations over the course of the last thousand years. The eladrin were some of the first in the world to develop oceanic travel, and began setting up settlements, colonies and fortresses all over the islands of the North Serpent (the ocean is divided into five parts, the North, South, East and West Serpents, and the center called The Maw). Until the eladrin encountered Kesengard and the Empire to the south, their expansion was pretty much unhindered. What they did not count on was the huge populations non-elven nations seemed to have, with armies, even though technologically inferior, outnumbering them one-hundred to one, even one-thousand to one in some areas. Having no real allies, the military campaigns of Tialis were pushed back to the edges of their territory, where they could do little more than sit and wait for the races they hastily went to war with to finally push back.
The next few decades saw the eladrin losing island after island as their two neighboring empires pushed forward. Luckily for them, the Empire had begun to collapse from within and less support was being given to expansion to tend to domestic matters. Once the Empire’s navies faded over the horizons, the attacks from Kesengard were more easily defended against. The final battle between the two took place on a small, rocky island called The Shelf. It is here where the two Admirals met with a full diplomatic envoy, and finally hashed out an uneasy peace. The terms drawn up that day are mostly forgotten, but Kesengard has never extended their explorations north of The Shelf, despite the fact that the dozens of small islands between there and Tialis have long been abandoned by their former elven inhabitants.
These days Tialis is a quiet, mercantile nation ruled by the last remnants of the eladrin nobility. They have changed their focus from war and expansion to research and enlightenment, having the most prestigious magical and martial institutions in the known world. They do not have many cities, rather, the entire southern coast of Tialis is dotted with towns and small ports linked together by canal and road alike. The abundance of building materials and arable land never forced the population to cluster, and local government is non-existent, instead relying on the decrees from Tia-Nuratha, enforced by its sizeable militia. Buildings are typically low, wooden structures with sloped roofs to let the frequent rain slide off into the street or canal they are built on. Tialis has no native horses or beasts of burden, so the canal network has been connected, expanded and re-directed to make the entire coastline look like a latticework of individual squares of rand connected by bridges. Gondolas, barges and ferries run from one end of the coast to the other bearing cargo and passengers.
The academies, magical and martial alike, are all spread out within the dense inland forests. Few citizens will direct anyone to one, even if its only a few miles from their home, as the tradition is finding the academy is the first condition of acceptance within its student body. Students pay nothing for their education, but must swear an oath of service to their academy for an agreed-upon period of time, usually five, ten or twenty years wherein they cannot profit from any of the fruits of their labor. The duration of their stay determines the extent of their education, and upon graduation, may do whatever they please with their lives. The vast majority of academy graduates still give a portion of their time each year back to their alma mater to serve as instructors.