What this chapter is, and isn’t
Alera Nova is set in the world of Jim Butcher’s series The Codex Alera, approximately 80 years after the series’ final book, First Lord’s Fury. In order to avoid spoilers and encourage you to read that excellent book series, I’m not going to reproduce much of the basic settings material. You would learn much of it by simply reading the books, which I highly recommend you do. Instead, this page is going to be devoted to how the setting of this game differs from that in First Lord’s Fury, specifically how the world has changed since the end of the series. For the rest, I recommend either reading the Codex Alera or browsing Wikipedia for the details.
A New History
The generation of Gaius Tavarus Magnus, that following the devastating Vord War, has been one of both great growth and great loss. Territory has been reconquered, though some remains beyond the new empire’s borders. New enemies have risen, alliances been tested, and the fabric of Alera herself strained to the breaking point. Most recently, on the heels of the biggest loss in a generation, the realm reels to find its identity and marshal the strength to face new challenges that break over the horizon.
Peace on the Brink
The end of the Vord War came suddenly. The Queen died only moments before the last of Alera was crushed underneath a tide of warriors and vordknights, and in so doing transformed her army from an organized fighting force to a pack of wild animals. The remaining forces of allied Canim, Marat and Aleran troops overwhelmed this mob and drove them back, but were left afterward with an empire in shambles. First Lord Gaius Magnus proclaimed amongst his many reforms – new currency, new capital, new academy, an end to slavery, an end to birthright citizenship, etc – that the end of the Vord War would also mark the beginning of a new calendar. This new calendar, the AN – annus novus – started that very year and has been in effect ever since.
For many months thereafter, the army slowly retook territory, rebuilt lost settlements and removed croach, so that Alera’s citizens and freeholders would have something to go home to. The work was long and tiring, and in some parts of Alera Nova it continues even to the present day.
Years of Feast and Famine
After the storm came the calm. Instead of being threatened with eminent death at the claws of the Vord, the gnawing jaws of hunger and poverty reared their ugly heads. The croach, at first a ubiquitous food supply, only lasted so long. After it ran out, holders planted crops on land they’d tended for generations. When they did, they discovered that the land underneath was Vord-scarred, that the very thing they had been consuming had robbed the land of its essential vitality. As a result, Alerans tended to expand into their old territory quickly but did not settle, lest they starve. Families were broken, traditions cast aside, and all across Alera new settlements sprang up and dried up almost as quickly as they could be accounted for.
The Amaranth Vale, which had traditionally been the breadbasket of Alera, thankfully managed to escape much of the Vord colonization and thus heavy scarring. When the High Lord of the new province of Tiber, Antillar Maximus, discovered that the inedible elements of the croach could be treated and tilled into the soil as fertilizer, a new era of growth and expansion began. All parts of Alera started to export their croach to Tiber in exchange for their copious grain supplies, and starvation seemed for a moment like a thing of the past.
Tit for Tat
Just as things started to stabilize, conflicts reignited themselves. In the year 28 AN, the Canim sent a letter to the First Lord informing him that the Canim cities of Narash’a and Shuar’a intended to fight for territorial sovereignty rather than accede to the control of the Aleran Crown. That the letter was attached to the shaft of a balest bolt lodged above the First Lord’s bed was considered, by First Lord Gaius, nothing more than a convenient delivery mechanism. The few remaining Vord and a few new, dark allies also pushed back in the area around the former high city of Kalare. Finally, the forces of Free Alera bucked under the last few restraints imposed on them by the old guard, and formally allied themselves with the Canim of Narash’a.
To forestall these forces, First Lord Tavarus Magnus declared the Canim were equal partners in the Aleran Empire by giving them two provinces on opposite ends of Alera Nova. Far in the north, situated between the two provinces of Antillus and Phrygia, he declared the new province of Shuar’a and allowed the old elements of the selfsame tribe of Canim to settle there. They built their new fortress-city capital of Kollath right against the old Shieldwall, positioned themselves to drive trade with the Icemen, and poised themselves to become a power in Aleran politics. Far in the south, built on the ruins of the old High City of Rhodes, the province of Narash’a was declared to be under the management of the tribe of the same name. By separating them he hoped to isolate them, and for the most part that succeeded, but only proved to be to the Empire’s benefit by also pinning them on all sides by some of the most skilled military commanders in all Alera. Lastly, the Free Alerans were allowed to retake and resettle the lost cities of Parcia and Forcia. They have still not quite succeeded at the latter, but they have built on the bones of the former the prosperous, democratic city of Liberare based upon naval trade and mercantile interests, in direct competition to the smugglers and pirates who took root farther west in the remains of old Kalare.
Once again, as soon as Alera Nova had a moment to breathe, new threats reared up and nearly brought it to its knees. First, an alliance of pirates, malcontents, separatists and rebels formed into an army and threatened the new city of Liberare. Only with the help of the Imperial Legion and the Narashan War Machine was this army driven back, but it was revealed in the battle that there were new threats to fear hiding underneath old Forcia and Kalare. Escaping troops revealed that the invasion was orchestrated by an alliance of exiled Marat who bonded with Vord, one of whom bound with a Vord of unusual intellect and power. This revelation shook the higest echelons of Aleran society deeply, reminding them of the horrors of the Vord War, and renewed their vigor for conquering this lost territory. They dedicated themselves to destroying this last threat, but because the Vord were so deeply entrenched into this area prior to the end of the last war this effort has been slow, not proceeding more than a few miles into the forests surrounding Forcia or the swamps that lay north of Kalare. Only pirates and malcontents, who swear allegiance to no man nor respect law of any kind, make any kind of life within this zone.
A Critical Misstep
The Senate, ostensibly the voice of the masses but really an assembly of rich men from old families, decided that they had had enough of the pirates. They communicated with the naval armadas of Parcia and Elinarch (now a client city within the province of Tiber), and formulated a plan to rid the realm of the menace. A large force was gathered in both cities, and a coordinated attack was launched on the old city of Kalare on two fronts. It was thought that this would prevent the pirates from escaping, and that their utter annihilation would send a message. First Lord Tavarus Magnus opposed this plan, feeling something amiss about it, but was overruled by their zeal.
The ships sailed first from Parcia, and entered the rough waters south of Kalare. Mt. Kalus had been almost continuously erupting for a generation now, and those eruptions and emanations had changed the seas south of that old city from a calm and bountiful plain into a chaotic froth constantly heated in pockets near to boiling. They entered this zone, and their ships started to spontaneously sink. Pockets of gas or undersea monsters or volcanic upwellings might be to blame, but the sailors began to fear once the sea had eaten one-fifth of their fighting force before the battle even began that the land was cursed by something. This fear was only compounded when they spotted the old city of Kalare, ruined from the volcano but still covered tip-to-toe in croach. In addition to this eerie sight, they spotted a number of giant cages on shore, cages that were large enough that they could only be intended for one, specific creature – a leviathan.
Just then, they struck. The attack wasn’t led by pirate ships or even by pirates themselves, but by leviathans under the seeming dominion of Marat riders, and giant vordbulks that rose from the ocean to tear the ships apart. This surprise assault left the attacking fleet in tatters, so that less than a tenth of the attacking ships made it home safely once the retreat was ordered. After that disaster, the second fleet from Elinarch was ambushed by the actual pirate fleet, suffering substantial but less crippling losses as they too retreated back into safer waters.
It would be many years before the Parcian Navy would be built back to its former levels. The worst loss, however, was more personal to First Lord Tavarus Magnus. His son, Gaius Desiderius Tavarus, was killed in the assault when he, leading the Parcian Navy, was thrown into the waters after his ship was struck by three leviathans simultaneously. Two of them died soon afterward, but their overwhelming numbers proved to be too much for even his Imperial Furycraft. He died, leaving only his infant son, Gaius Tiberius Tavarus, to take the throne.
End of a Generation
It is now almost ten years after the disastrous attack on Kalare, and times are tumultuous. The Parcian Navy is almost returned to its former levels, the Canim province of Narash’a is threatening its neighbors, the pirates and malcontents are sending out raiding parties and small expeditions into both Tiberian and Parcian waters, First Lord Tavarus Magnus is growing ever more frail in his old age while his grandson remains too young to rule, and the first wave of taken Leviathans have just recently washed ashore near the Elinarch. The times demand decisive action. The times demand heroes.
The Cities and Provinces of Alera Nova
There are currently ten provinces in Alera Nova. In the north the provinces of Antillus, Phrygia, and Shuar’a anchor the old Shieldwall and manage trade with the Icemen. They are centered on their capital cities of Antillus, Phrygia, and Kollath, respectively. The middle of the country is dominated by the four provinces of Tiberia, Alera Imperia, Riva, and Aquitaine. There are five cities of note within these provinces. In Tiber the capital of Tiberia and the fortress-city of Elinarch hold the tide, even while the old city of Placida sits abandoned. Alera Imperia has at its heart the Imperial capital of Appia, built on the ruins and from rubble harvested from old Alera Imperia and Attica. Riva and Aquitaine are anchored by their namesake capitals, as well, and help to drive trade with the Marat who come over the isthmus with Maratea. In the south, the three provinces of Forcia, Parcis, and Narash’a make up the rest of the Empire. Forcia is still a skeleton province, administratively managed by their governor from his twin homes in Parcia and Appia, while Parcia has taken root in its old city of the same name. Rhodes, being rebranded as Narash’a, is now centered on the renamed city of Varrakh, which has been turned into a churning engine for the restless Canim war machine.
The Province of Alera Imperia is the heart of Alera Nova, the capital of the Empire. As such, it is administered by the First Lord directly, which means at the moment is it administered by the aging and increasingly frail Gaius Tavarus Magnus. The new capital of Appia is an architectural and technological marvel. Built on the ruins of the old Romanic city of the same name, and out of stone originally used to build the ruined cities of old Alera Imperia and Atticus, it is a city of both the past and the future. In addition to the finest Furycrafted defenses and construction, it has some of the finest weapons designed by Canim and Romanic innovators, along with trade goods found in every other province in the Empire. It is the jewel of Alera Nova, but as one would expect the city is a hotbed of intrigue and politics as well. The rest of the province, making up the province of old Alera Imperia and Attica, is moderately productive. It was thoroughly encroached and remains vord-scarred in many parts, but where it was not grains, vegetables and fruit trees flower. Over the rest, much wilderness grows over the bones of the old civilization, and hunters scour these wildlands for meat while tradesmen fell trees and exploit whatever natural resources still remain in the land.
Deep in the bitterly-cold northern provinces, Antillus is one of the places that was touched by the Vord the least. Long a military outpost, the fortified provincial capital of Antillus anchors one end of the old Shieldwall. That former siege defense, meant to anchor the border against invasions by the Icemen, has been converted into a causeway and tradeway now that relations have been opened between the Empire and the Icemen and trade has begun. It forms the northernmost border of the realm, and it also serves as its chief east-west causeway in the northern lands. Patrolling this ground is a joint force of Icemen and Alerans, although the road is fairly safe regardless as few bandits will attempt an ambush in this frozen land. Reinforced of late to truly epic proportions with the addition of Canim technology and Furycrafted defenses of the newest and best design, Antillus is still one of the most magnificant fortress-cities in the Realm. It is the anchorhead for trade both with the Icemen and with the other Shieldwall provinces, and therefore with the eastern part of Alera, so it is also the most richly appointed place in the province. While not vord-scarred like many others, Antillus is still such a cold and barren place that farming is mosty a subsistence trade. The steadholts instead focus on trades like mining, hunting, and the production of weapons for the south.
In the Northwest of Alera Nova, the province of Aquitaine is source for much of the empire’s cloth and many precious metals. The hills of the province have not yielded much in the way of iron or other basic metals, but they have proven a far richer source of gold and silver, and rich pasture land for herds of sheep and other livestock. The wool produced by those sheep, and the jewelry produced by the artisans in Aquitaine, are shipped throughout the empire and envied as the finest in the land. Also an anchor on the important trade route between Phrygia and Riva (and the Marat north and east of there) and the southern cities, Aquitaine has long been one of the wealthier provinces in Alera. The regional governor, High Lord Araris Valerian, has ruled his new territory was a somewhat austere hand, checking many of the excesses of his ministers and ejecting the few who were explicitly dealing in illegal items. There was a feeling that this would harm the city’s economy, but it has in fact only strengthened it as time has drawn on. His wife High Lady Isana, also the Queen-mother, has helped him connect with the struggles of the common people, and as a result the region has also become home to a growing number of Marat.