The Deadlands Chronicle
The Grand Duchy of Vaelaudnia encompasses the entirety of the lands north of the Icespire Peaks. However, due to the extreme climate conditions of the arctic region, the vast majority of the country is uninhabitable. Almost all of the country’s population resides in the capitol city which nestled tightly around the only useable pass through the Icespire Peaks mountain range. Those not living in the city are mostly nomadic tribes that subsist off of ice fishing and herding of reindeer. The city itself takes advantage of numerous steam vents and hot springs that result from geothermal activity beneath the mountains. The industrious citizens of Vaelaudnia have harnessed the power of steam for many appliances, most notably the city’s complex heating system.
Tribes first migrated to Vaelaudnia via the Nolanda Pass from the South. Fierce competition for the limited food sources in the harsh tundra caused great conflict between individual tribes, eventually leading to the formation of tribal alliances. The first traces of civilization appeared when an especially large and powerful tribe began trading with more advanced agricultural cultures to the South via the Nolanda Pass. Nolandians were able to provide a steady source of food in exchange for the high-quality iron ore found in the mountains. The capitol city itself grew from numerous small mining communities in and near the pass.
Understandably, control of the pass was often contested by the various settlements, leading frequently to armed conflict. This constant political turmoil severely handicapped the region’s technological and cultural advancement, keeping it in a dark age while cultures to the South prospered. Eventually, knowledge of the newly discovered magical arts developed in the South reached an especially ambitious warlord who employed the darkest rituals in the hope of gaining immortality. His desires were fulfilled, but at a terrible cost. The warlord became the Lord of the Undead, and using his fell magic to sire an army of vampires to unify the region under his banner. To this day, vampires are known in Vaelaudnia as “strigoi”, a word used to describe practitioners of fell magic.
Eventually, the Lord of the Undead was defeated by a crusader named Graf Drausse I, who forced the remaining vampires into hiding and claimed the title of Grand Duke of Vaelaudnia. Drausse also oversaw the formation of a clandestine vampire hunting organization known as the Order of the White Rose, whose duty it is to protect the people of Vaelaudnia from the creatures of the night.
The Grand Duchy of Vaelaudnia has the distinction of being the only region that was never subjugated by the Magic Empire of Kalesh-Tar. The Empire attempted annexation of the region on numerous occasions, but was never able to maintain control long enough to institute a stable government. The Magic Empire eventually agreed to recognize the sovereignty of the Grand Duchy, claiming lack of interest due to the regions remote and inhospitable location. In truth, even the arcane might of the Mage Lords was insufficient to challenge the power of the resident vampire clans, who united against their common enemy in each instance to repel the invasion.
Since the collapse of the Magic Empire following the Profound Disjunction, Vaelaudnia is the oldest country in the known world, having survived over a millennium under the protection of the Drausse family. Vaelaudnians claim that divine providence ensures the successful production of an heir within the Drauss family, and protects the ruling Grand Duke until such an heir is ready to succeed him.