Conflict in Cantha
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Cantha is a nation beset by troubles: civil war, nonhuman invasions, criminal corruption, and greater horrors. In its eastern regions, two vassal states—the Luxons and Kurzicks—are locked in a civil war that has lasted for over two hundred years. In its northernmost reaches, lumbering Yeti, swiftly moving Tengu, and relentless Naga defend their territories, preying upon human travelers. Within the heart of the Canthan capital, criminal cartels grow rich by exploiting the poor, while on the fringes of civilization, cults and madmen stalk a landscape corrupted by manifestations of evil.
Despite a benevolent emperor and polite populace, conflict and injustice thrive everywhere. Fortunately, a brave few are struggling to liberate the land. Canthan heroes have countless opportunities for adventure as they fight to bring order and justice to the empire.
Factions at War
Over two hundred years ago, Emperor Angsiyan forged a peace treaty between the Luxons and Kurzicks, ending centuries of conflict. For the first time, Luxons and Kurzicks were at peace. Canthans everywhere celebrated the success of the emperor's negotiations... until Shiro Tagachi assassinated the emperor.
Shiro's assassination was part of a dark ritual that was supposed to grant him extraordinary power. The assassination succeeded, but Shiro was slain before the ritual could be completed. Upon his death, Shiro's soul unleashed the ritual's power, detonating waves of magical energy for miles in every direction. At sea, a violent storm created waves hundreds of feet high, battering Luxon ships into tinder. On land, a deadly wind blasted across plains and through forests, hammering Kuzick caravans along the way. This shockwave nearly killed the land of Cantha, until the storm stopped as suddenly as it began. On that day, the waters of the ocean froze in place and the Echovald Forest fell silent, after tens of thousands of innocents had been slaughtered.
The death of the twenty-sixth emperor changed Cantha forever. The Luxons had made their fortune through maritime trade, but a frozen sea brought their fleets to a standstill. The Kurzicks had survived by hauling goods across the land, until the powerful creatures that once protected the forest turned on those who lived within it. The Luxons and Kurzicks searched for new ways to survive—and they found them. Fixed within the frozen sea, and hidden within the deadly forests, stockpiles of rare amber and jadeite waited for those brave enough to recover them. Desperation led to greed, as Kurzick houses and Luxon clans warred for vast stretches of valuable land.
Both the Luxon and Kurzick cultures had been absorbed by the empire long ago, but the loss of the emperor offered greater opportunities. The Luxons and Kurzicks had been vassals of Cantha, but since their overlord had been slain, both factions saw a chance to seize power. The result was a civil war that would last for over two hundred years. From Amatz Basin to Eredon Terrace, the eastern regions of Cantha became a battleground, and the border between Luxon and Kurzick lands shifted from day to day.
Today, the benevolent Emperor Kisu rules over Cantha. The Luxons and Kurzicks remember the bloodshed of the last two centuries, and they still ceaselessly contest for land and power. The emperor cannot stop their continual conflict—in fact, he knows that as long as the two factions fight, neither one will be strong enough to rise up against him. He also knows that as long as they are eternally ready for war, they will be prepared to defend his land against more sinister threats. Luxons and Kurzicks are both still Canthans, after all, eternally watchful for evil in their midst... including malefic forces as dangerous as the infamous Shiro Tagachi.
Wilderness Races and Rivals
A civilization of humans has tamed the troubled land of Cantha, but the human race is not alone. Other races claim the wilderness as their own, defending their territories against trespassing travelers. Wherever humanity travels, rivals lie in wait.
The Tengu are a proud race of avian humanoids living on the plains and mountains of Cantha. In the distant past, their race lost the power of flight. They have since learned to use the primitive tools and weapons once favored by humans, clutching them tightly in their talons. The Monks and students of Shing Jea have a tenuous truce with the civilized Angchu Tengu, but travelers in the north should be wary of the more nomadic Sensali Tengu, particularly in the mountains north of Shing Jea Monastery. The Angchu and Sensali prefer to keep their distance from one another. Wise travelers learn to tell the difference between the two tribes.
The Yeti have a far more primitive civilization, as they are barely intelligent enough to hold their hunter-gatherer society together. These lumbering giants only dimly understand concepts like honor and courage, but they will fight to death because of them. Although the Yeti possess a rudimentary language, only the most ambitious ones dare communicate with humans. They have abandoned all efforts to communicate with the nomadic Sensali Tengu, since their cryptic sense of “honor” demands that they eradicate all intelligent avians. Yeti have a habit of throwing rocks first and asking questions later—as such, most human travelers are ready for a fight when the Yeti are nearby.
Like the human citizens of Cantha, the serpentine Naga have suffered because of Shiro Tagachi’s treachery. These water-dwelling creatures prefer to live in the oceans, but countless thousands were slaughtered when the Jade Sea froze. Since their habitat was drastically reduced two hundred years ago, they have taken to prowling on land to survive. Now the Naga are relentlessly aggressive in claiming stretches of coastland. They defend their territories against human adventurers out of a desperate instinct to survive at any cost.
Crime and Corruption
Just as the Canthan wilderness is honesty in its brutality, the empire’s largest cities are plagued by dishonest criminals. While the emperor is diplomatic enough to gather heroes around him, the commerce in his empire is at the mercy of a vast and villainous criminal underworld. In the very heart of the Canthan empire, the capital city of Kaineng, two rival gangs prey upon the populace... and each other. The Am Fah control a network of assassins, criminals so bold that they have no qualms about launching ambushes in broad daylight. Representatives of the Jade Brotherhood, by contrast, are at least polite enough to walk up to their rivals face-to-face before demanding extortion money or bribes.
Even in the idyllic countryside, criminal cartels prey upon the populace. The corsairs and cutthroats of the Crimson Skull raid along the Canthan coast, demanding taxes and supplies in exchange for their “protection”... and killing those who refuse. Their strength lies in numbers. A hero who confidently dispatches three or four should be ready for the day when an army of them gather to defend their operations.
Some suspect the unthinkable: that Shiro’s malevolent influence is still at work in Cantha. Fearful witnesses speak of a mysterious plague infecting the innocent—a force of corruption that transforms natural creatures into unnatural abominations. Sages and learned masters of lore describe these tortured creatures as “the Afflicted,” hateful mutations that exploit the powers of the people and creatures they infect. Groups of adventurers are rushing across the land to look for a cure, but by many accounts, the only release from this corrupting plague is death itself.
As this malefic force spreads across the countryside, rarer reports tell of demons manifesting in the land of the living. The origins of these “oni” remain a mystery—some say they enter the human realm from the otherworldly Mists, while others whisper tales concerning stranger, more distant realms. Hateful of all living things, the oni appear in the human realm to slaughter the innocent and the unprepared, acting as avatars of evil.
Wardens and Outcasts
Farther from the guarded walls of Shing Jea, the lands of the Kurzicks have fallen prey to darkness. Before the treachery of Tagachi, devout Wardens protected the Echovald Forest, using their druidic teachings to safeguard the land. Centuries later, the descendents[sic] of their once-noble order have become embittered by failure. They blame the Canthans and all humanity for allowing evil to spread across their domain... without recognizing or comprehending that the same corruption has infected them as well. Driven to madness, they have developed an elaborate cult with their own cryptic methods of reversing the effects of corruption. They violently oppose all others who get in their way.
The frozen waters of the Jade Sea have their own share of dark cults. Tribes of Outcasts wander the now-still seas. These Luxons were once reavers who made their living mining for precious jadeite. Greedy, and in search of far bigger payoffs, they dug too deep beneath the frozen waves and unleashed a monstrous horror. Now, driven to madness by their discovery, they wander the Jade Sea, killing anyone and anything unlucky enough to cross their path.
A Call to Adventure
The Empire of Cantha is in turmoil, but a new generation of heroes is liberating the land. Some have armed themselves for the endless conflict of the Luxons and Kurzicks, eager for battle against other adventurers. Others have trained in Shing Jea Monastery, leaving its walls to travel through the lands of Tengu, Yeti, Naga, and other treacherous races. Whether a hero prefers to contest against other adventurers, face ravening hordes of nonhuman rivals, war with organized criminals, or purify the corrupted countryside, one thing is certain—there’s no shortage of conflict in Cantha.
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