The Crowning Isles
The Crowning Isles
The Crowning Isles are an archipelago at the northeastern edge of the continent of Gaelen. They are the only lands around the Bay of Barstock that are fit for Human habitation, giving them an important economic role in trade between The Bightsot Empire and peoples further west. The isles are officially a duchy of the Empire, though most of the land is still controlled by the native Halflings. The capital and largest town is Coronet, on Diadem island.
The major islands, from southeast to northwest, are Diadem, Knuth, Stallard, Bjarne, Rossum, Carmack, Gabill and Vint-Cerf. The largest island, Diadem, is over 6000 sq km and has 3 major peaks, the highest of which is almost 3500 m above sea level.
The Crowning Isles are an extension of the northeastern edge of the Gaelen Continental Shelf. Directly South of the islands is the rugged and arid Volpis Plateau, formed by the northern tip of the Cobalt Mountains, where the Dwarves and the Formians fight their endless wars in the dark tunnels. To the Southwest is the warm and shallow Bay of Barstok, and beyond them the Barstok marshes. 800 km to the west the continent swings back around to form the icy Northern Reaches. To the North and East, the Great Northern Ocean sinks abruptly to unfathomable depths and stretches far beyond the furthest human exploration.
As the icy currents well up from the dark depths of the Great Northern Ocean they cool the northeast (windward) sides of the islands, while the southwestern (leeward) shores are warmed by the shallow Bay of Barstok. This means that on any given island, the windward side will be chilly and wet, possibly with snow in the winter, even as the leeward side is warm, tropical and relatively dry. In addition, there is a great deal of climactic variation between the islands, as the northernmost end of the archipelago sticks out further into the ocean, while the big southern isle is surrounded almost entirely by warm waters.
As a volcanic chain, elevation also plays an important role in determining weather patterns. As a general rule, the higher you go the dryer and colder it gets, though there are exceptions. Moreover, on several of the islands the mountain is big enough to cast a major wind shadow leaving a portion of the leeward side almost bone dry.
There are about 25,000 Humans living in the Crowning Isles.
Despite the relatively small population and lack of control over the region, the Crowing Isles are officially a part of The Bightsot Empire. Human settlements in the Isles are concentrated on Diadem, the large southern island, around the towns of Coronet and Eastport on the southern shore, under the rule of Duke Leomund Orval III.
Halflings make up the great bulk of the population of the archipelago, as many as 200,000 people. They are the only sentient race native to the Isles, and are not found anywhere else in the world. Organized into tribal groups of 100-1000 with varying degrees of political and technological sophistication, Halfling settlements can be found on practically any island with a freshwater spring.
The largest concentrations of Halflings are on Diadem, with ~70,000 people, and Rossum, with ~40,000. In response to the threat posed by imperial colonization, many of the tribes of Diadem have banded together in a loose federation under King Kami Kami.
As with humans, stray members of other races can be found throughout the Crowning Isles, studying the natives, practicing strange magics or just hiding from civilization. A group of elves is known to have settled on Rossum and made contact with the local tribes, but to what end it is not known. In addition, any imperial town has a healthy smattering of non-humans seeking their fortune, and Coronet and Eastport are no exceptions.