Rise of Nations
Iobaria, to many across Avistan and Garund, exists only as a name for the northern Windswept Wastes and the uninhabited (or at least uncontrolled) lands between their own nations and the eastern powers of Casmaron. In truth, Iobaria is a vast region, unclaimed by any single power for millennia. The rough expanse has been home to many different factions over the centuries, and even the powerful kingdom of Old Iobaria only conquered two-thirds of this wilderness at its height.
Roughly eight out of ten of Iobaria’s current inhabitants live outside the cities in settlements smaller than most Avistani hamlets (primarily in the forests, around Okor’s Basin, or in isolated caves near Mavradia, Lenusya, or Orost). For the human population, this tendency towards isolation may result from a fear of returning plagues, a spirit of independence and self-reliance, a need for anonymity, or a desire to not swear fealty to unworthy city-bound nobles. Other races, such as centaurs, cyclopes, and more savage humanoid, dwell in nomadic tribes with a wide range of campsites and rarely congregate in numbers larger than the average village. In any case, Iobaria on a map seems far more civilized and organized than it is in reality, and those mapped locations may be the most civilized spots therein.
Geography of Iobaria
Iobaria’s relentlessly cold lands stretch from its northwest corner, between the glacial Icewall and the Lake of Mists and Veils, down to its southeastern corner, bordering the Castrovin Sea. The northern boundaries contain the Ice Steppes, whose rocky conditions fool many into dismissing them as lifeless barrens leading to the glaciers and the Crown of the World. The most populous area for humans has always been Okor’s Basin, the sloping depression between the Lake of Mists and Veils, the Icerime Peaks, and the Syrzemyan Highlands considered by many to be the breadbasket of the north, with its varieties of hardy plant and animal crops. In fact, topographically, Iobaria resembles a crude pyramid, with its peak around Kirya and the lands sloping away from that peak in all directions, save where the Icerime Peaks meet the land.
The Syrzemyan Highlands encompass the majority of central Iobaria and are rife with caverns, hills, and mountains filled with riches and dangers aplenty. This area contains the fewest human settlements of any size, though the chance of meeting lone prospectors, bounty hunters, or trappers of all races is still moderate. Many of Iobaria’s powerful waterways start from these uplands, with two exceptions: the Myrfrus River in the east, and the Okorrus River in the northwest.
To the southeast, the Caemorin surprises many who come to Iobaria expecting naught but icy rocks and glaciers. These fertile lands are in some places even more productive than Okor’s Basin, though the plants and animals are still unfamiliar and unsettling foods to many who roots stretch westward. Both natural resources and dangers hide among the small copses of conifers scattered throughout these scrub grasslands, making travel into the tall seas of grasses worthwhile to those seeking their fortune.
History of Iobaria
Little is known, even among the most learned scholars, about the first major powers to claim the northern steppes of Casmaron. Before the Age of Darkness and the formation of the Pit of Gormuz, cyclopes dominated northern and central Casmaron for an age. The ancient histories of Iblydos, one of the oldest known human nations of Casmaron, called the cyclopes’ empire Koloran, though whether this was the creatures’ name for their own land or simply the appellation of their human enemies remains uncertain.
The first human realm to lay claim to what all now consider Iobaria rose from humble beginnings in 752 AR. Twenty Ulfen survivors stumbled out of the Crown of the World and hunkered down in a small longhouse just as winter closed in. That mere longhouse eventually grew into Okormirr, the first of nine Ulfen cities or settlements of Njalgard, each city a stronghold for one of nine koffars. Njalgard is almost totally forgotten and has since been subsumed by the realm it spawned— Iobaria. The nation was named after Iobar the Potent, the heir to Orlov’s throne who cajoled or tricked each koffar into a trial by combat, besting them all to take control of all Njalgard’s city-states and unite the land. After the Choking Plague fractured the populace and induced local rebellions, the three powers within the remaining cities of Kridorn, Orlov, and Mavradia held onto power for a few centuries, but never restored the full glory of Old Iobaria.
Plagues, for one reason or another, seem to crop up more regularly in Iobaria than in other lands. Since the second millennium of the Age of Enthronement, plagues have struck with limited to widespread effects no less than 55 times. Despite these eruptions of illness and the mystery of their source, most Iobarians stay due to their love of their land or innate sense that surviving its challenges makes them stronger and more worthy to inherit such a noble land. Nearly 500 years after the Choking Death fractured the original nation, three warlords, their followers, and their dragon allies restored the rule of New Iobaria. With the inner highlands now easily reached by dragonriders, the three armies quickly conquered the realm anew by 3309 AR. Treachery among the human rulers led to strife and eventually left only one clan in control of Iobaria after 3870 AR. This second realm of Iobaria lasted another 8 centuries, until its power dwindled due to infighting and the Drakesplague of 4519 AR.
Now, only the covetous factions controlling Kridorn, Mirnbay, and Orlov believe New Iobaria still exists in any meaningful fashion, and their claims to power are only as strong as the mercenary armies they hire. Iobaria in the present has pockets of civilization all tightly tied to trade, money, and what little control or influence some warlords or former nobles can cobble together through gold or might. Overall, the realm has become the wilderness the outside world has long believed it to be.
People of Iobaria
In Iobaria, unlike the lands of the Inner Sea, no single ethnic group or race controls the majority of power. In the eyes of Avistani or Garundi native, “Iobarian” seems to mean “any human from the northeast who is not obviously Keleshite or Casmar.” To natives of this land, the few folk who claim to be “true Iobarians” are those humans and others who yet believe in the leaders that claim the realm still exists. Many simply live here without the benefit of any social denomination or ethnic group beyond their associated family, clan, tribe, or faith. Of the primary sentient races found in Iobaria, the most populous are centaurs, followed by humans, dwarves, and a smattering of other races both civilized and savage. Of the typical monstrous races, ogres, random hill and frost giants, trolls, and all the various goblinoids are the most common.
While most countries or travelers encounter only one tribe or type of centaur, Iobaria’s steppes, hills, and forests are home to members of three recognized groups: the Azorva, the Rashalka, and the Tsolniva. The Azrova are mountain and highland centaurs, stockier and stronger than the norm, and of darker skin and coat hues in general. The Rashalka are familiar centaurs in look and stature and are the most numerous of Iobaria centaurs in the west and all across the south, ranging from Okor’s Basin to the Caemorin. Tsolniva centaurs are the most hirsute of centaurs— the hair on their torsos is nearly as thick and long as the coats covering the rest of their bodies. The centaur tribes lack any central authority or government between clans, though elder clans maintain long-standing claims on widespread territories.
Numerous other bestial races also make their homes across Iobaria, most notably several tribes of werecreatures. Two regional words found nowhere else on Golarion, “kodlak” and “kodlok,” are used by native humans to classify beings who become baser animals or assume animal traits. Lycanthropes are kodlak— humanoids who shapeshift to assume animal forms. Centaurs or boggards or harpies are kodlok— human-like creatures with discrete and stable animal traits. Depending on one’s location and religion, being kodlak or kodlok can be a death sentence or a quick way to power. Only Iobarian humans make these distinctions; kodlak or kodlok races see humanity as just another enemy or rival against who they fight for the resources of the cold lands.