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On the eastern fringe of Damir is the vast forestland of Oringard. Named by the dwarven immigrants who fled the kingdom of Paia, it means “Natural Fortress.” Although it lies within Damir’s borders, it is a realm all to itself. It is almost two hundred leagues long and just shy of a hundred leagues deep. It stops up against the Golden Mountains in the north, and trails off into the barren land of Basmah in the southeast. Oringard touches five different lands: Damir, Gronde, Kasmoon, Nubrince, and Basmah. Running through the forest is the curvy Paia River in the south, and the much shorter Mourning River in the north.
Legend has it that the forest is the creation of Hovaia, a dryad queen, who planted the many trees and shrubbery to shield the land from mortal invaders. Despite her best laid plans, the forest was inhabited for several hundred years by the wood elves, a nomadic people who built tree houses and lived off the forest. It is rumored the wood elves knew Hovaia and worked with the dryad queen to keep other mortals out.
Of course this did not work. After the kingdom of Paia (a dwarven kingdom) collapsed during the Chaos War, thousands of dwarves ventured north to discover the vast forestland which they would so aptly name. They began to settle the forest, burrowing into the hillsides, chopping trees down to lay foundations for small communities. The dwarves had a network of villages spread about Oringard but they did not occupy all of it. They left Hovaia and the wood elves to their own realm and interests.
For two hundred years the dwarves controlled much of Oringard, dedicating most of their time to mapping the forestland. The maze-like paths of the forestland can be deadly to any person who isn’t familiar with them or doesn’t have a map. The trees are thick and some areas look similar to the next. Getting lost in Oringard is easy and a common occurrence; trails become overgrown with foliage, creeks dry up, trees fall over and block paths.
There are plenty of creatures in the woods, but a lot of the big predators have been driven out or killed by the orcs. Bears, wolves, and wild cats are still common, but the forest used to feature sasquatch and hippogryphs. It was also home to a nest of gryphons. The gryphons kept to themselves for several hundred years, even after the high elves invaded the forestland and drove out the dwarves and wood elves. It wasn’t until the orcs took over Oringard that the gryphons were forced to leave their nests and go elsewhere.
The high elves infiltrated Oringard around 350 ACW, defeating the dwarves in the 2nd War of Damir and forcing them out of Oringard. The high elves took over much of southern Oringard, built large townships and began to blaze trails all over the forestland. Believing the dwarves would one day return and try to take Oringard back, the high elves set up a series of booby traps along several false trails that led to their town centers. The wood elves either assimilated with their High Elven brethren or left Oringard all together.
Descendants of the fallen elven empire at Jeriko embraced the rule of their leader, Prince Iteph, who was a very distant cousin of the royal bloodline, but the only known survivor who could be linked to the elven monarchy. In their time in Oringard, Iteph had children who went on to establish a royal line. But because of the massive orc invasion that would come a hundred years later, most of the records concerning the descendants of Iteph were lost. When Kalliste gave her prophecy that an elven king would be born amongst them, many figured it would come from Iteph’s lost lineage.
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In 460 ACW, the elves of Oringard were thoroughly dismantled by a large orc incursion from the neighboring land of Nubrince in the east. The invasion came as a sudden surprise. The orcs hit the elves on multiple fronts, destroying their defenses easily. The orcs were battle tested, numerous, and absolutely ruthless in their attacks. The elves, over the course of a couple of years of futile resistance, finally yielded Oringard to them and fled west into the fields of Merrimont. The orcs then became the primary inhabitants of Oringard and have remained such for over three and a half centuries.
For the next one hundred years, the orcs built up Oringard into their domain, spreading to as many areas as possible within the forestland, populating and conquering whatever stood in their way, like the gryphons. They cut down large sections of trees, mined coal, built large training arenas and fortifications. They mapped out Oringard, learning the secrets of the forest, locating good hideouts and lookout points. As their population swelled, so did their confidence. The orcs stayed quiet in Oringard for over a century, until the time of Phumbaas.
To protect herself and her community of immortals, Hovaia cursed a large section of forestland that would later be called the Bleak Woods. Making a petrified forest, the wood there became lethal to touch. White Bark is a common dryad trap, designed to petrify intruders. This prevented the orcs from entering her small section in northern Oringard, which would later be dubbed Hovaia’s Cradle.
Since Phumbaas, the orcs have begun to call their clan the “Nation of Oringard”, establishing it as separate from the rest of Damir. Because of the thick woods and its internal maze-like structures, Oringard is almost impregnable by any army. Even so, elven merchants will occasionally venture into Oringard to seek out rare herbs that the forest is known to grow. Some adventurers continue to search for Hovaia and other hidden treasures. Many do not return from these expeditions, but it doesn’t keep others from trying. The kingdom of Damir sends scouts into Oringard year round, trying to decipher what the orcs are planning and when they might invade next. Because Oringard is so dense and long, the orcs can strike from any point along the tree line. It is standard orc procedure to deceive the enemy as to where they will strike next. To do this, the orcs use the trees as cover while they shuffle legions from north to south, confusing enemy scouts, and leaving Damir’s military command holding their breaths.
Oringard is viewable as far west as Whitehood, and from Merrimont’s Peach Orchards the forestland looks like an endless ocean of trees and forested hills that goes on beyond what the eye can see. It is an ominous looking domain to anyone who comprehends the danger and threat that lies beyond its forested curtain.
Notable creatures that can be found in Oringard (aside from orcs):
2. Black-spade Bears
4. Owl Raptors
5. Saw-tooth Beavers
6. Red-eyed Condors
7. Mud Frogs
8. Shadow Squirrels
The white doves of Merrimont have been part of the city since its inception, a hundred years after the Chaos War. Even the templar Lyndon noted that the doves there were extraordinary, as they communicated to him through telepathic powers. Many see the doves as the city’s eternal guardians, but no one has been able to decipher what exactly they’re protecting. It is thought, by the humans, that the doves are protecting riches beyond imagining. However, the doves rarely communicate to humans, preferring the elves who moved into the Merrimont region in 460 ACW.
Telepathic powers are found in some animals but not exclusively in particular species. In other words, not all doves have telepathy but the doves in Merrimont do. The doves seem to congregate around the city’s main and largest archway, the Dovial Arch. Superstition over the Arch circulate from bird droppings landing on citizens passing under the archway. It has been noted that anyone who is pooped on is doomed to die within a year’s time. Because of these deaths, many in Merrimont are fearful of the doves and believe they may have powers beyond telepathy. In 721 ACW, an elven mason was utterly convinced the doves were evil and needed to be killed. The stone mason managed to shoot down seven doves before he was arrested and later executed for bearing weapons and using deadly force within the city (elves were not allowed to have or use weapons within Merrimont until the Farm and Riot Act of 772 ACW).
During many of the wars, such as the 10th War of Damir where Merrimont was put in siege by the orcs led by the warlord Phumbaas, the doves served as scouts and messengers for the elves. The doves only seem to speak to a select number of elves, including certain elven nobles. Many elves try to tap into the secrets of the doves by feeding them or cooing at them, but typically the doves fly away when such obvious bribery is offered. It is rumored that the doves were friends with Kalliste, the blind seer, and that it was they who gave her the prophecy about the Slayer. Kalliste never mentions the doves at all in any of her works, but the rumors continue to circulate.
In elven lore, doves were the favorite animal of Troix, the Angel of Valor. It has been passed down from legend that Troix had a special relationship with doves, and they would speak to her and no other. In her battles, Troix used the doves to spy on enemy outposts and armies, relaying the size and readiness of the opposing army. When Troix was killed in battle, abandoned by her allies, it is said the doves dispersed and were never heard of again.
Now the only church remaining within Whitehood, the Church of Divine Patronage is the last remnant of the human religion that was at one time dominant in the city. There are still ample churches throughout Damir, but they would be found in Proudhill and Belvadore. The Church of Divine Patronage is massive, and is one of the oldest buildings in the city, dating back to 262 ACW, only a dozen years after Whitehood was established.
For a time, the church served as a dwelling for council members to meet and discuss state of affairs, back when Whitehood was governed by a human council. It is the site where Bandrian married Laurette, where Lord Valimond was coroneted, and where Lady Elayne gave her vows to Chancellor Valan. Although few go to the Church of Divine Patronage, it is an iconic symbol to old Whitehood and nobody has the gall to suggest tearing it down.
There was a time in Damir history that painted the Church of Divine Patronage in terrible light. King Valimond II admonished the church because it criticized the borderline worship of the colossus made in his father’s image. He banished the Archbishop of Belvadore, which angered the priests and priestesses of the church. Afterwards, it is rumored that members of the Church of Divine Patronage got together and plotted revenge against the king. But when the king died, they decided to take it out on his heir, King Viktor I. Viktor was no saint. He was a womanizer and a hedonist. The church despised him and his rule. Some argue that it was the church that was behind the assassinations of King Viktor and Queen Noelle.
Although it’s never been proven that there was any link to the assassinations and the church, evidence does suggest that some of the women that Viktor had affairs and conceived offspring with came to the Church of Divine Patronage for protection. They feared Viktor would kill them or their children. The Church offered succor to them and would use funds to send them into hiding. Whether or not the king’s death was related in any way to these women or their children remains unknown, but the church’s aid to them is not in question.
The Nursing Academy is located in the center of the city of Whitehood. Only women are sent to be trained nurses. Men wishing to be doctors or surgeons are usually sent to Belvadore for intense study. Recently the nursing academy began to accept applicants from women of all walks of life. Due to the increase in orc incursions (three in one century) the demand for nurses has never been higher.
The academy is run by a Matron, who delegates to several head nurses who carry out her orders. The academy is funded by the military, which gets its funding from the royal treasury. Because it is funded by the military, the academy is forced to follow any orders given to it by any high ranking officer. Once enrolled, a nurse is forced into service for no fewer than five years. A nurse can stay on in the academy indefinitely, however, as long as her record remains clean. The academy can admit any patient whose condition merits constant supervision.
A classic yarn shared among the nurses who enlist in the academy is the tale of “Nurse kiss, nurse saw.” Long ago, a beautiful but simple-minded nurse treated a wounded knight at the academy. The knight had been stabbed, hacked, chopped, sliced, bashed, and bloodied but still alive. The nurse, unsure how to treat him, asked the knight what he would like her to do for him. The knight told her that each of his limbs were rendered useless and needed to be amputated. Feeling sad for the knight, the nurse kissed each limb before removal. Enjoying the touch of her lips, the knight requested she kiss his head and face next. Needless to say, the nurse had a lot of explaining to do when the Matron discovered the headless knight some time afterward.
During times of peace, nurses are scattered throughout Damir from Gilstad to Belvadore. Some eventually form their own practice or team up with a local doctor and leave the Nursing Academy. Other nurses are hired by wealthy patrons, such as the royal family or Damir’s nobility, to be in-house nurses. Of course, a nurse must pass all exams and finish her five year requirement in order to leave the academy.