Hearts of Iron: The Serpent's Skull
Only recently settled by colonists from the Chelaxian Empire, the wild frontier of Varisia (pronounced vah-RHIS-ee-ah) is composed of rural communities, independent city-states, cyclopean ruins, and uncharted wilderness.
Over 10,000 years ago, much of modern-day Varisia was ruled by one of the earliest human civilizations on the Avistani mainland, the Thassilonian Empire. Formed by Azlanti exiles, and ruled by the runelords, wizards of tremendous power who practised sin magic, this nation built enormous stone monuments to its own vanity using giant slave labor. The Thassilonians were also served by the indigenous humans, whom they divided into two castes: the militia and the providers. The militia were trained in martial techniques to serve in the nation’s armies, while the providers worked as farmers, craftspeople, miners, and mystics.
Already weakened by corruption and warfare, Thassilon quickly crumbled during the destruction and chaos brought on by Earthfall. The runelords, having foreseen this apocalypse, hid in numerous protected sanctuaries to escape death, entering a deep sleep in which most still lie.
The elven city of Celwynvian in western Varisia’s Mierani Forest was also abandoned just before the impact of the Starstone. Its inhabitants, along with all the other elves of the Inner Sea region, left Golarion for their realm of Sovyrian.
Age of Darkness
With the runelords powerless and slumbering, the surviving people of Varisia were left to create their own destiny. The human militia caste broke into clans and eventually developed into the Shoanti people, who began settling all over modern-day Varisia. The provider caste transformed into what are known today as Varisians, from whom the land takes its current name, and took on a more nomadic lifestyle.
It was also during this time that the dwarves emerged on the surface at the completion of their Quest for Sky. They established the Sky Citadel of Janderhoff in the western Mindspin Mountains.
Thousands of years passed, and the land and peoples became more stable; the Shoanti battled giants and orcs, while native Varisians roamed across the region and spread out across Avistan. Varisia itself was largely ignored by the empires of the south because it was simply too far away, while the Jarls of the Lands of the Linnorm Kings preferred to raid further south, as Varisia lacked any major coastal settlements.
This came to an end during the period of rapid Chelish expansion, known as the Everwar. Southern exploration of the largely wilderness region began in 4405 AR, when Chelish colonists entered the land through Bloodsworn Vale. This sparked a war between the settlers and Shoanti that last nearly a century before the Shoanti were pushed back onto the Storval Plateau and other less desirable regions.9 With the native inhabitants removed from the most fertile land near the coast, Chelish colonists began to arrive in much greater numbers, under the pretense of bringing “civilization and culture” to Varisia.
Death of Aroden
Another upheaval occurred upon the death of Aroden and the civil war which tore apart Cheliax for decades. After the House Thrune took the throne, a large part of the population left Korvosa and founded Magnimar on the southwest corner of Varisia. These two city states have since been vying for resources, though not openly warring, while the Shoanti grow strong, and ready for war in the north.
Varisia is a vast frontier region in the northwest of Avistan. It stretches from the Steaming Sea in the west to the Mindspin Mountains in the east and from the Kodar Mountains to Conqueror’s Bay in the south. The region possesses a variety of environments within its limits, from the swampy Mushfens of the south to the flame-scorched Cinderlands on the northern Storval Plateau.
Countless gigantic monuments and buildings left over from ancient Thassilon can be found across Varisia. They have survived for over ten millennia due to the skills of their stone giant crafters and the power infused in them by the runelords. The most well-known of these include the Cyphergate of Riddleport, the Irespan of Magnimar, the Grand Mastaba of Korvosa, and the Lady’s Light in the Mushfens.
In the past few hundred years, the magic protecting these structures has finally begun to fail, and have slowly been suffering from the normal effects of erosion. This has also made them more vulnerable to explorers and treasure seekers, who search for the lost treasures of their ancient owners.
Major Caravan Routes
Many of Varisia’s roads have developed from ancient routes traveled by the region’s Varisian wanderers. They crisscross the region and connect most of its major cities.
Varisia has no central government. It is a collection of independent city-states that each holds sway over a small collection of towns and villages, while the wilds on the edges of their territory (including most of the area on top of the Storval Plateau) is claimed by the Shoanti. Varisian politics is dominated by the competing aims of criminal Riddleport, ambitious Magnimar, and traditionalist Korvosa. The neutral Kaer Maga is often discounted altogether, and its inhabitants prefer it that way.