Nearly 1000 years since Alm’s passing, Scardova is now the home to many cities, towns, and villages, as the followers of Alm have spread outward from their first settlement. While most of Scardova remains uncharted because of various dangers, some explorers have found various ruins in the forests, plains, and hills of the land, indicating that Scardova had been a once-settled area of a now-fallen empire. Very little is known about these previous residents.
Wintersholm is the seat of the Church of Alm. Each locality is allowed to choose its own form of government and establish its own laws, provided they are in line with the Church’s teachings. The Church in turn is the only one with jurisdiction throughout the land outside of a settlement’s borders. The church maintains the roads, protects travelers and commerce, delivers mail between settlements, and deals with the many threats across the land. Even with the Church’s protection, Scardova is home to many dangers. Monsters roam the vast spaces between towns, making travel quite treacherous without armed escort. What’s more, to the west are the Troll Warrens, home to many goblin tribes which occasionally make war on the followers of Alm. To the East are mountain ranges home to Giants. To the North are the Barren Lands, home to wandering barbarian tribes of werewolves. The Church is responsible for protecting the people from these many threats with its groups of trained and skilled men and women, referred to as the Guardians (also known as the Brown Cloaks for their dark brown oil cloaks they wear), and who function as the Church’s troubleshooters.
But perhaps the greatest threat comes from within. It is suspected that the nightmare realm which almost tore the world asunder during the rule of the Magi still clings just beyond our world. Alm called this realm The Hollows, as it was a shadow realm devoid of any good. Horrible creatures of pure terror lurk in the Hollows, and can slip through places where the barrier between the worlds is weak. These creatures also call to people with the promise of power and forbidden knowledge, luring them into pacts, or granting people the ability to summon them directly. It is said that those using arcane power can even be possessed by creatures who will use them for their own nefarious purposes. As such, magic is strictly monitored and regulated, and the Church maintains a group solely dedicated to hunting down and eradicating people who use the arcane for their own ends. This group is the much-feared and secretive Inquisition.
The people of Scardova are tough and are used to looking out for one another. Since most of the threats come from outside their towns and villages, cooperation levels, even between different races, is high. Levels of crime and lawlessness are low, the punishment for which is usually death or banishment (although in practice, these two are practically synonymous). Despite a common belief in Alm and the need to band together for mutual protection, the people of Scardova still worry about those who would use arcane power (usually called “arcanists” by the populace) for their own ends. The land’s history includes stories of entire families or significant numbers of villagers being put to the flame for suspicion of illegally using the arcane arts by the Inquisition. While such witch hunts are uncommon, they are a black mark in Scardova’s past and worry still remains.
Any location is allowed their own form of government, and as such, how each city, town, and village is run varies considerably. Some are ruled by a single mayor or governor, some by a council of elders, others by a board of electorates. While the Church technically is not allowed to get involved in politics, it has, over time, increasingly been involved in swaying political decisions of various locations, much to the chagrin of political leaders who see their locations as independent of the Church. Nevertheless, most leaders keep a Church member as a close adviser, as it is considered poor form not to do so. All communities are allowed to have a standing watch or militia for their own defense and law enforcement, but their authority only extends to the settlement’s borders.
Scardova experienced almost 3 decades of relative peace and quiet, and such a period of tranquility lulled the citizenry into a false sense of security. Within the Troll Warrens, the Ork leader Varg Muckskull united several warring tribes of goblins under his tribe’s Yellow Moon banner and waged war on Scardova. The initial attacks caught Alm’s followers off guard, and they lost two villages (Marton and Oxspring) and many lives in the process. It took several weeks to rally the Guardians and town militias in defense of the land. During that time, the goblins attempted to breach the Dwarven hold of Wenlocke and had nearly reached the gates of Wintersholm. Thanks to the quick thinking and daring plans of several Guardian commanders, the goblin host was ultimately defeated and driven away. Varg Muckskull himself was slain by a well-known Guardian named Rand Slivermight, but Rand was severely wounded in the battle and the two other members of his patrol perished.
As a result of the fighting and the threats from the Troll Warrens, a new Keep (Westmere) is being constructed by the Dwarven Rockbiter clan to protect the land from future attacks. There is now much discussion in the Church about forming a standing army for purposes of defending the realm from outside invaders, instead of solely relying on the Guardians and town militia for this purpose.