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    Since its founding, Isger has been a vassal state. It was formed with Taldor’s conquest of the area and, centuries later, it was annexed by Cheliax in the EvenTongued Conquest of 4081. Unlike some of Cheliax’s other holdings, Isger did not break free during the Thrune Ascendancy, and it remains in thrall today. However, there are signs that the neglect and exploitation that have long characterized Isger’s relationship with its patron state are beginning to give way to a new era of closer involvement, for better and worse.

    The Conerica River, which bisects Isger from east to west and connects Cheliax’s sea trade to Druma and Lake Encarthan, is the nation’s lifeblood. The river and its support roads are key to Isger’s regional importance, so most of its military is tasked with protecting the trade routes from bandits, monsters, and other dangers. Because travelers and merchants rely heavily on the Conerica and its trade roads, settlements along the river—including the capital city, Elidir—are not the isolated rural settlements their wooden buildings and quaint architecture might suggest. Although their pierced balusters, colorful glass-bead hangings, and brightly painted frieze boards give even the finest homes in Isger a rustic air, these towns are relatively cosmopolitan.

    Isger’s hinterlands, however, have been less fortunate. Historically, Isger has always been something of an afterthought to its masters. Taldor and later Cheliax have held Isger as a vassal state, extracting its natural resources and talent while offering little in return. As a result, Isger has almost no industry, fortifications, or development outside the Conerica River’s narrow band of prosperity. When the Goblinblood Wars of 4697 to 4701 erupted, they devastated a region that had no defense save valiant but badly overmatched local militias.

    The Goblinblood Wars saw hundreds of goblin tribes, led by ferocious and disciplined hobgoblin commanders, boil out of the Chitterwood and flood across Isger, destroying and devouring all in their path. Although the goblin horde was eventually driven back by an unprecedented alliance between the forces of Cheliax, Druma, and Andoran, the toll in lost Isgeri lives and wealth was enormous. Those losses continue to define much of the country. Thousands of Isgeri children were orphaned by the war, and their weak, war-ravaged government could not help them. The Church of Asmodeus stepped in to fill that need, founding a network of orphanages to cultivate its young charges in the Archfiend’s unholy faith. These children begin intensive training at early ages, enabling them to quickly master difficult arts, such as the arcane fighting style practiced by the Sisterhood of the Golden Erinys.

    The success of the orphanages’ graduates has drawn notice in Cheliax. With the old empire weakened and its enemies gathering, some Chelaxians have begun to look toward Isger both for investment opportunities and as a potential first line of defense against Andoran. The increased Chelish presence is welcomed by some and quietly resented by others, but none can deny that, perhaps for the first time, Cheliax seems to have taken a serious interest in bolstering its vassal state. There are even rumors that Isger’s longserving steward, Hedvend VI, may soon be forced to abdicate his seat. Though Hedvend has always been a loyal right hand, House Thrune has expressed impatience with his incompetence and a desire to see Isger’s throne occupied by someone more capable. This rumor has mostly been met with shrugs in Isger, where Hedvend is widely regarded as a Chelish puppet who has neither the interest nor the ability to help his own people. The overgrown remains of massacred towns and unmarked graves, neglected since the Goblinblood Wars, stand as mute testament to that.

    The Isgeri are not, however, the only ones to carry scars from the Goblinblood Wars. The goblins themselves paid a terrible price for their short-lived triumph. Not only were they massacred by the thousands in the final battles, but the victorious armies—and later, vengeful Isgeri survivors—burned great swaths of the Chitterwood to destroy the goblins’ homes. From these hardships, a new strain of goblin leadership has emerged. Several goblin chieftains, brighter and longer-sighted than their predecessors, have formed an alliance between their tribes and made diplomatic overtures to nearby Isgeri settlements. Given that the war’s wounds remain raw, the tribes’ progress is slow, but they have established some mutual defense agreements with nearby towns, and they have begun to change how goblins are perceived in the region. Isger’s rural towns and villages, accustomed to making their own decisions without any help from a disinterested central government, have found some of these goblins to be more reliable allies than their own nominal lords.

    This shift in relations is driven by need. Undead have long bedeviled this land, particularly in remote places such as Finder’s Gulch and the plague-ravaged ruins of Gillamoor, where rotting and ravening zombies stalk through the crumbling houses of the dead. Urgathoan cults proliferate among blood-soaked battlefields and the blackened remains of torched villages, feeding on the fear and pain that still linger in those haunted sites. These malign forces have grown stronger and more numerous since the Goblinblood Wars and, some say, since Tar-Baphon’s rise. Whether or not that rumor is true, it is certain that neither goblins nor humans can afford to ignore the rising tide of undead in Isger’s hinterlands much longer.

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