The Avenan Empire
Motto: Fire in our Forges, Fire in our Spirit
Language: Gnomish, Ignan, Avenan Common
Current Head of State: His Majesty Boliard Berfest, King of Ap’Lei
Ethnic Groups: 89% gnomes, 10% warforged, less than 1% halflings
Government: constitutional monarchy
Patron Gods: Garl Glittergold
Year Founded: 962 Before the Scourge
Unlike their brothers in Belix, the Ap’Leian gnomes have lived under a king since the founding of the city. The current king, Boliard Berfest, can trace his own lineage back to the first king of the city – one Wopat the Mighty.
Ultimate political authority rests with the king, but the law itself is administered by a parliament (called by the gnomish word Felthaer), half of which is selected by vote from the property holders of the kingdom, and the other half of which is appointed by the king. The parliament numbers one hundred individuals, and is expected to debate and vote on any new law submitted by its members or the king. Abstentions are not allowed in the voting process, and members must designate an individual to vote for them should they be absent or incapacitated. The king casts the deciding vote in the event of a tie.
The one exception to this is the constitution. Neither the king nor members of his party my submit new amendments to the constitution; these may only be drafted and submitted by the party of the people. Constitutional changes must then pass a supermajority vote in the parliament, followed by a simple majority vote of property owners.
The king has the right to suspend or veto any law except one written into the constitution.
Up until the Imperial siege of Aksum began in 294 BS, the Ap’Leian military was functionally nonexistent. The remoteness of the kingdom, the relative power of its navy, the prowess of its magicians, the famous ferocity of its halfling allies, and the simple undesirability of conquering a kingdom built into the side of an active volcano had kept Ap’Lei safe from organized external threats.
But as the human cities on the west coast of Mercia fell one by one to the Empire, as trade began to dwindle, and then as communication with the mainland was cut off almost entirely with the blockade of Belix Bay, it became apparent that Ap’Lei was safely isolated no longer.
In response, Ap’Leian magicians, engineers and alchemists developed the warforged – a new, sentient race of human-sized constructs. From the beginning, the gnomes of Ap’Lei treated their creations with respect – though they were built to fill a specific role, warforged were given the freedom to choose their own paths in life, and were given full rights as Ap’Leian citizens. The gnomes reasoned that only an army that considered Ap’Lei to be its home would fight to the death in its defense.
It is a testament to the quality of gnomish design and the soundness of their philosophy that the vast majority of warforged chose to spend their lives in military service. Nearly the entire military and militia of Ap’Lei is composed of warforged, from officers on down.
The construction of warforged is one of the most closely-held secrets in the world, known only to a few individuals in Ap’Lei; and even then, most of those individuals know only part of the process. Though it is gnomes who hold the secrets of the construction process and perform the work, the warforged themselves decide when new warforged are to be constructed. At the moment, the warforged seem content to keep their population steady, requesting new individuals only when one is lost or chooses to leave Ap’Lei.
The one major exception is the race of those serving in the Ap’Leian military is spellcasters. Clerics and wizards tend to be gnomes; warforged rarely display an interest in or aptitude for magic of any kind.
Ap’Lei is currently the only city in the kingdom. Before the Scourge, there were gnome colonies on some of the other Oldfur Islands, but those were evacuated and abandoned at the beginning of the Isolation.
The city is built on the flanks of the large, active volcano that bears the same name. Channels cut down the side of the volcano and into the sea prevent lava flows from destroying the inhabited parts of the mountain, and an extensive system of vents and smokestacks relieve pressure from deep inside the mountain to prevent catastrophic explosions.
Most of the surface buildings are constructed of a sturdy, white stone mined from deep within the base of the volcano, creating a stark contrast against the blackened exterior of the seething mountain. The streets are extremely steep, and in places are replaced with wide staircases; as a result, few wheeled vehicles make it much higher than the large merchant district just above the harbor. In any case, pack animals are extremely rare in the city, so most street traffic is on foot.
The buildings on the surface are almost universally workshops, markets, and other businesses. Most homes are made in the extensive tunnel system within the mountain. Unlike the gnomes of Belix, however, the Ap’Leian gnomes spend little time in their homes, preferring instead to spend their leisure time in the slightly cooler, more humid air of the surface. Many gnomes even often sleep on the surface, setting up cots or hammocks in the streets or on the roofs of buildings.
During the Scourge, the gnomes retreated from the surface into an extensive system of tunnels honeycombing the volcano while out of control fire elementals and salamanders dominated the surface of the mountain. Most of the deeper tunnels have been abandoned over the last decade because of the uncomfortable and oppressive heat in which the gnomes lived during their isolation.
Ap’Lei also features a fine, deep water harbor flanked by ever-growing breakwaters formed from cooling magma, but most of its ships come from builders in Belix. Ap’Lei has no natural timber, and what grows on nearby islands makes poor shipbuilding stock.
Garl Glittergold is the primary deity of Ap’Lei. Unlike their brothers in Belix, the gnomes of Ap’Lei tend to celebrate the more serious aspects of their god. There are a number of real temples throughout the city, but as is common most worship is performed at neighborhood or household shrines.
Most warforged also worship Garl Glittergold, but there is growing regard for a god known as The Becoming God. Little is known about the worship of this deity, as the warforged tend to be fairly secretive about it, but it is known that he is a martial god deeply concerned with honor, duty and law.
Almost universally, gnomish is the only language spoken in Ap’Lei. Few citizens speak or understand Avenan Common, though the merchant and upper classes tend to at least have a working knowledge of it.
Society in Ap’Lei is not as freewheeling as in Belix, but it is nonetheless an extremely social town. Few gnomes eat at home, preferring instead to dine at one of the many taverns and public houses throughout the city – some wealthier gnomes don’t even have kitchens in their homes.
Humor in the city is subtle, focusing more on irony than on prankishness. There is also a great culture of education – with an extensive apprenticeship system maintained by a number of trade guilds, as well as several universities.
Ap’Lei is less focused on commerce than Belix, though the flow of coin is still a critical part of society. Creativity and innovation are prized. Nowhere else in the world can one see a city that exists so easily on the very edge of total destruction – until one comes across one of the magma channels running through the city, it is easy to forget that one is walking through a city built on the side of an active volcano.
Invention and energy allow the city to sit easily in its place. Adaptation is a way of life in Ap’Lei. As a result, the Ap’Leian gnomes are easily accepting of outsiders, and are eager explorers – Ap’Leian ships have ventured farther into the Great Deep Ocean than any others.
During the Scourge, the economy of Ap’Lei was fueled mostly by the demands of maintaining a caer carved into the slops of an active volcano. New methods of dealing with heat, toxic fumes, and molten rock without exposing the caer to the outside were constantly invented and implemented. As a result, experts in construction, alchemy and engineering are common in the city.
Since the emergence from the caer, farming has become a critical engine in the kingdom’s economy as well, as has trade with Belix. Shipbuilding is nonexistent in Ap’Lei due to the lack of trees, so the arrival of the first ships from the mainland was a massive boon to the local economy. The influx of luxury goods and food from Belix has led to a recent population boom, and further expansion into the smaller, more fertile islands around Ap’Lei.
As with Belix, Ap’Lei is almost entirely gnome. There are no humans and no dwarves left in the city.
Prior to the Scourge there was a large halfling population within the city. As a result, there are a few Halflings left, but barely enough to call them a community. Without new blood from the Halflings in the southern Oldfur Islands, the last Halflings in the city will die out in a generation.
The largest minority population in the city is the warforged, who are fully integrated into Ap’Leian society, with full property and voting rights.
People, Organizations and Locations
His Majesty Boliard Berfest, King of Ap’Lei
Current head of state of Ap’Lei, King Berfest can trace his royal lineage back nearly a thousand years. He is a fair, if proud, king who protects his small kingdom fiercely.
Cell leader of the Order of Illumination on Ap’Lei, and protector of the last Emperor of the Avenan Empire during the Scourge.
Warm Hearth Inn
The first inn to reopen on the surface of Ap’Lei. It is a cozy establishment preferred by Belixian traders for its excellent cooking and its proximity to the wharves and warehouses.
Order of Illumination
The Order of Illumination maintains a strong presence in Ap’Lei, partially because of the isolation afforded by the island, and partially because its position at the extreme western edge of the known world exposes it to strange influences of interest to the Order.