Petty kingdoms rule what they can reach. Dynasties rise and fall with dizzying speed. Rampant demon worship (especially of Hakhan, Demon Lord of Slaughter) combines with intrigue and competition to keep border wars a feature of the landscape. Against a dark and bloody backdrop, art flourishes. A bold talent can carve an aristocratic life out of the chaos.
Not-Italy. The land is beautiful. Azure oceans, mountains full of character, tended vineyards, and regal architecture dominate the landscape. Behind this façade, brutality is the driving force of the Principalities (whether in warfare, relationships, or politics). However, the Principalities are too fragmented to manage full-scale war, so they are constantly embroiled in petty border squabbles punctuated by insincere treaties. Morality and ethics are sidelined by chill practicality. Honor in defeat is an idea used to manipulate on-lookers or losers. Torn from their roots, the founders of the Iron Principalities serve nothing greater than themselves, except for those who are slaves to demons. They prefer to rule in Hell than serve in Heaven.
During the civil war, the Prince of Hell (as Prince Damian von Schledgermeyer was known) drafted a charter signed by 66 of his supporters. The Southern Charter gave right of rule to the southern lands in Caligari, as well as the lands along the Crook Mountains. The Southern Charter is still held by the King of Nalconia, with names added and subtracted as diplomats wrangle the byzantine process of getting recognized by the King of the Iron Principalities. Each king then manages a kingdom as the king sees fit. The landscape is a kaleidoscope of rulers, with few successful dynasties and lots of ousted schemers.
Southrons are short and slender, with dark hair and big eyes. They have olive skin and flashing white teeth. They can be mistaken for Vistanti, but they are more brutal. None are squeamish about killing, or poisoning, or cheating. They all know how to fight with the long and short blade, rapier and main-gauche. Lazy, they try to get out of work however they can; it is hot where they come from, so they like to nap all day and scheme all night. They dislike proper armor, preferring opulent velvet and embroidery and light weaponry for stabbing similarly unarmored opponents. All of them have demon blood in the family tree. All of them know how to play some instrument.
High fashion. Gourmet wine. Oil paintings, especially portraits and landscapes. Exotic cooking, very spicy, lots of pasta. Orchestral work, manufacture of fine instruments. Pulp fiction of derring do, thievery, and dark monsters. Premium gunpowder, quality guns. Fine steel for blades, slender but exquisite weapons. Mercenaries who are blooded, ruthless veterans. Battle-tested spellcasters. Demon lore. Court necromancers. Orc armies.
Nalconia. This city is on the southern shore of Glasslake. It is called the “Banishment Vineyard” after a story told in Relmeenos, where a fox declares grapes are sour because the fox cannot have them. Once Nalconia was a center of art and culture in Caligari, but it became the capitol of the Iron Principalities when the dust settled from the Banishment War. It is the showcase of the Principalities, where its rulers grimly demonstrate their carefree ease and leisurely living to prove Caligari made a huge mistake over 2,000 years ago. In the meantime, it is a major center for the arts and for intrigue in the World Between, ruled by the Iron King.
Setine. Known as the White Rose, this port city is on the southern coast of the mainland. The city fell to the undead when the Deathfleet attacked, and centuries later an army marched from Midian and retook the city at the behest of the Masks, exiles of Setine (who wear silver masks.) The military was formed of a martial order called the Hammers. They worship the Master Builder as a saint of the Lady of the White Way. Setine is unique in the Principalities, as demon worship and magic are forbidden and the Hammers punish lawbreakers harshly.
Pinoa. This major port on the south of the Crook Mountains is the biggest market and trading center outside Caligari, and it is a major stop on Caligarian trade routes. Here, politics are worked out through trade. The Principalities need not be friends with Midian, Scarabae, Caligari, and Relmeenos to trade with them. With almost no trading restrictions, wealth flows freely in this decadent city. It is the assumed hiring grounds for sailors and pirates. The finest dueling academy in the world, the du Masiline, is here. The Duke is of the Gerrardo family, as have been the dukes for a millennia.
Varav. The Free City is on the edge of Relmeenos, controlling trade to and from the country by land. After the Relmeenos army tried to conquer the world, Duke Boris von Kloffmakk was given the order and resources to build his kingdom at the entrance to Relmeenos. The city developed a strange history; whether it was attacked by one or more Princes, or by Relmeenos, the city shuts its gates and sends for help from the other side. The siege becomes a battle, and Varav is saved. Intermarriage and mingling culture in the walls makes this place alien to both its neighbors.
Porte. This western city is the launching point for offense and defense towards Scarabae. Also, it is a major port for trade with the Lands of the Lady. The Prince who rules maintains a hands-off religious policy, concealing his own allegiance; most of the trade is conducted by Midianite traders and Caligarian consortiums. The city is nearly impossible to take. It has an inner city and an outer city; one dug into rock, the other available for visitors and tourists.
Karmodia. This city sank beneath the waves during the War Below, part of the climax of that war. Some say it is still visible beneath the waves, loaded with shimmering loot and the corpses of the damned. Others say it sank all the way to the World Below, and to swim towards it is to find damnation.
The Root of Demon Worship in the Iron Principalities. Over 2,000 years ago, Caligari had a massive civil war, the Banishment War. Moralists banned demon worship, and the aristocracy steeped in a demonic tradition took exception. After long years of bloody fighting, Caligari was torn in half. Those who worshiped Hakhan, Demon Prince of Slaughter, founded kingdoms of their own in what was once southern Caligari, or further south. They signed the Southern Charter put forth by the Prince of Hell (Caligarian rebel leading the Iron Army.)
Demon Footsoldiers. The powers of the World Below appreciate chaos and warfare on the level of the civil war, and they made many kinds of demons available for the fighting. Even now, most of the killing and dying is done by orc armies commanded by humans with demonic ties.
Jaded. The people of the Iron Principalities are used to seeing demon footsoldiers as part of their defense, necromancers at court advising kings, and tainted aristocrats bragging about orgies with summoned succubae. It is difficult to sway them with arguments about good stopping the triumph of evil. Survival by any means is a greater good, especially considering the atrocities visited upon losers when the winners found the battle harder or costlier than they liked.
Weak Faith. Rulers and people of the Iron Principalities are not as demon-focused as their ancestors were. Raised greedy and selfish, they don’t want to share anything with demons that they don’t have to. Broken deals and lip service to demons is far more common than outsiders realize; the people of the Iron Principalities aren’t much more faithful than worshippers elsewhere in the World Between. Demons seem to be lax in enforcement, probably because the overall environment of the country pleases them.
The Goddess and the Demon Lord. Astariax is the goddess of intrigue, stratagem, and mercantile prosperity. Hakhan is the Demon Prince of slaughter. Astariax is married to Asthaeton, prudish and boring god of civilization, but she’s having a fierce affair with Hakhan as the bad boy. For mortal worshipers, this means that as Astariax’s methods prove effective, she frustrates and taunts those using Hakhan’s methods. However, in the final analysis, they need each other. Cunning eventually requires force, and force benefits greatly from cunning. Astariax is the bridge between using civilization and chaos to support schemers in luxury. This is a snapshot of the soul of the aristocratic culture.
The Victorious Remnant. The civil war with Caligari was eventually provoked by the actions of the Victorious Remnant. This movement believed that while earlier generations made deals with demons, the Remnant would be the humans strong enough to master demons and eventually invade and conquer the World Below. Symbolized by the black eagle on a while circle, these purists weeded all those with demon blood from their organization, then set to work summoning, binding, and exorcising. They lay the foundation for the orc armies of the Principalities, as they worked towards summoning the perfect orc soldier to serve them in conquering the world, consolidating power in the World Between to assault the World Below. The atrocities of this group outdid any force before their time as they delved deep into forbidden magic and lore. Alarmed, the moralists in Caligari united to evict them, and that was the spark needed to ignite the tensions that had simmered for millennia. Even now, madmen scheme and plot in secret on their inherited dream: a united World Between subjugated by the perfect orc army.
Blood Magic. Blood is the base component for most demon spells in the Principalities. Artists can paint with it, creating marvelous enchanted paintings. The Guild of the Red Hand uses their blood and the blood in their targets as weapons to end life. Nobles use blood to bind the enchantments of their weapons and armor to their line. Demonologists use it to raise orcs. The blood is the life and the death here.