We have suffered through a long, dark night these past seven years. Daily our enemies rode against us. Daily they marched through our streets and burned our homes, all in the name of their empire. But we did not surrender. They could sear our flesh, but never could they kill our souls. Always we fought, and like the trees around us, we took root and refused to be moved. We held fast through every storm. We met our oppressors blade for blade and drove them back. We answered every arrow they fired with a hundred of our own.
The price has been high, it’s true. We lost many along the way. Their bodies lie beneath us, nourishing the forest that has protected us all this time. We mourn their passing even as we celebrate our triumph. For today, we no longer face oppression. Today, we no longer bend beneath a chain. Today, we are free.
- Irgal Nirmath on the day of Nirmathas’s independence, 4655 AR
Nirmathas is a realm whose people value personal freedom more than anything, perhaps even more than life itself. Though its populace grudgingly and sporadically unites to work toward a vital cause— as it did to achieve independence from Molthune— Nirmathas is a single nation in name only. Far from simple obstructionists, the Nirmathi are a frontier people with no taste for anything that remotely resembles authoritarianism. This philosophy manifests in many forms, from towns that require the vote of every citizen for even the most mundane of tasks, to apprentices who shirk more than half their assigned duties, which their masters often view with pride.
The Nirmathi see this attitude not as an exercise in inefficiency, but as a celebration of the freedom they fought so hard to secure more than 60 years ago. From a history of occupation and foreign domination, the Nirmathi have built themselves a land where all citizens are masters of their individual kingdoms. Freedom is the ideal all Nirmathi embrace, and they each value their independence too highly to ever return to another prison, no matter how attractive it might seem.
The dangers of such an exaggerated love of freedom, though, are immense. Never was this more clear than on the night that the new nation achieved independence; no sooner had Irgal Nirmath, the rebels’ leader, delivered his rousing victory speech than an assassin’s blade took his life. Whether this was the bloody work of a Molthuni assassin, as most of the Nirmathi insist, or a rival rebel will likely never be known. But the moment Nirmath fell, the rebels fell into chaos, and to this day sees every person think and act as an independent sovereignty.
Luckily for the Nirmathi, the nation’s natural resources facilitate this freedom-loving lifestyle. The Fangwood provides the Nirmathi with the resources they need for day-to-day survival, and it affords protection against their predatory neighbors. Father west, stretches of plains lead up to the forbidding Mindspin Mountains that divide the country from shadowy Nidal. To the east, the waters of Lake Encarthan stretch across central Avistan.
Though the Nirmathi desire for independence allowed the people to shake free of Molthune’s rule, this same fierce spirit holds the country back from further growth. Each Nirmathi homestead is a castle unto itself, and organizing the nation’s people to work toward any common goal is a nigh-impossible task. Only when no other option remains will a Nirmathi grudgingly take orders from another—and sometimes not even then.
Nirmathas’ government is best described as a lack thereof. Because defense of its hard-won national freedom is by far the most urgent issue facing the nation, its sole overarching authority is its forest marshal, who coordinates the overall armed effort against Molthuni incursions. However, actual governance is left to each individual homestead, hamlet, town, or—on the rare occasion when a confederacy is required to decide regional issues—relevant collective.
How each individual family or settlement is governed is largely left to its citizens to decide. True democracies are common, as are large councils and elected officials, who are typically village elders, exiled Molthuni nobles, wise men and women, or other charismatic individuals the people trust. As a result, there is no codified national law, and even local laws are constantly in flux to suit the populace’s immediate needs. No court system exists; as dealing with criminality is entirely a local matter, statutes and punishments are so varied that it’s impossible to know the penalties for anything from stealing bread to violent crimes in any given place. Despite this chaos, the Nirmathi people take pride in their culture of personal accountability and responsibility. They believe citizens know best how to live their own lives, and that they should be free to do so as long as they’re not infringing on the rights, freedoms, or safety of others.
When it comes to the war effort, the Nirmathi— somewhat reluctantly—agree that a measure of unified leadership is needed. Though the Nirmathi work together to protect their lands from invaders, their militia is a loose organization made up of volunteers. The Nirmathi value their freedom so highly that almost every citizen has served at least some time in a militia, making the nation’s martial resources robust but its leadership thin indeed.
To mitigate this lack of leadership, a congregation gathers in Tamran every 4 years, formed by anyone who carries a letter signed by about a dozen citizens or more stating the person’s leadership over a group of homesteaders, a settlement, or a militia platoon. This disparate group elects a forest marshal to lead the national defense effort. For the past several terms, Nirmathas’s leaders have agreed that Forest Marshal Weslen Gavirk, a brilliant tactician and a fair leader with an eye for the big picture, is the best person for that job.
The forest marshal oversees the deployment of the nation’s militias to the front lines and prepares for Molthuni incursions. As a civil leader, though, the forest marshal is merely a figurehead. The people of Nirmathas don’t pay taxes and won’t respond to proclamations, leaving the forest marshal’s role largely symbolic. Though Forest Marshal Gavirk aspires to more fully unite Nirmathas solely toward the end of a more secure independence, he holds no illusions that his office might wield any significant political power.
Some citizens wish for more a orderly government— not a tyrannical or autocratic rule, but an official who can organize Nirmathas’s resources and people for the common good, though this is an unpopular position typically whispered in corners, if vocalized at all. Movements to evolve Nirmathas’s government quickly die from lack of support. Those who endorse a more orderly government note, correctly, that without taxation and laws, Nirmathas can’t develop an infrastructure, a formal military, or an efficient response to any sort of national disaster. While many citizens agree with these observations in principle, actually organizing a government remains unpalatable to most.
As a result of these attitudes, Nirmathas acts as a collection of hundreds, even thousands, of independent settlements ranging in size from individual homesteads to ragtag militias to small cities. In addition, several independent city-states exist within Nirmathas’s borders, politically unconnected to the nation, but acting as sources of trade or alliances. Glimmerhold and Kraggodan are two examples: dwarven Sky Citadels that remain neutral in the conflict between Nirmathas and Molthune, but are willing to trade with their neighbors.
Fey enclaves still exist within the Fangwood, as well. Many homesteads in the woods have learned how to coexist with the fey, and what might seem like superstitions to outsiders are actually rituals learned through experience. The secretive, druidic town of Crystalhurst, in particular, is nestled in the Fangwood and is deeply connected to the fey. Generally closed to outsiders, Crystalhurst maintains a council of druids who support Nirmathas in its battles.
Although the Nirmathi are content with their individual lives, there are a few regional organizations that fill the need for law enforcement and regional defense. Some of these groups are informal, such as volunteer-staffed town guards or community councils. Others are more structured, as described in the Organizations section below.
Though these small organizations work well for the communities they serve, they lack the order and oversight of official groups. Communities in Nirmathas sometimes take their brands of justice too far, sentencing and punishing people based on incomplete evidence. Mob justice is not unknown, and innocent people have lost their lives because of confused witnesses and circumstantial evidence.
Although Nirmathas has nothing that resembles organized local, state, or national governments, a few organizations perform key leadership roles or serve functions relevant to the national interest.
Chernasardo Rangers: In the southern portion of the Fangwood, the most devoted of Nirmathas’s defenders live within the region known as Chernasardo. These hunters, survivalists, trackers, and trappers see themselves as an independent force, but nonetheless risk their lives to regularly defend the nation’s sovereignty from Molthuni incursions. The region’s rangers, in particular, are consummate woodland fighters. The Molthuni historically underestimate them; there are 10 times as many Chernasardo Rangers as anyone outside the forest thinks, and they’ll stop at nothing to defend Nirmathas from imperialist foes.
Irgal’s Axe: The band of skilled fighters who supported Irgal Nirmath proudly wore the name Irgal’s Axe, and its numbers swelled as the nation moved toward eventual independence. The group disbanded shortly after it achieved its goal, and Irgal’s Axe no longer exists as it once did. In recent years, though, a new band of fighters has united under the name. These rebels orchestrate sustained guerrilla warfare against Molthune, conducting raids and sabotaging supply lines, and then disappearing afterward without a trace. The group clandestinely recruits the most promising guerrilla fighters from homesteads and small settlements, though no one quite knows where the group is even based—let alone who all makes up its roster.
Foxclaws: The Foxclaws are another organization that bands warriors of Nirmathas together. They operate in the far south, disrupting caravans from Molthune and seizing their supplies. These supplies are then sent up the Marideth River to supply Nirmathi forces.
It’s difficult for Nirmathas as a whole to establish relations with other nations. The forest marshal’s lack of authority makes it impossible for him to forge national alliances or authorize trade agreements with foreign countries, simply because there’s no way to ensure the people of Nirmathas will support or honor such deals. The constant warfare with Molthune also takes up so much of Nirmathas’s attention that little energy remains to court alliances with other nations.
Lastwall, to the north, has a political ideology that differs substantially from Nirmathas’s, but the proximity of the two nations brings them together. Towns in northern Nirmathas, including Kassen and Crossfen, have informal agreements to trade with caravans from Lastwall. The northern nation also offers bounties and goodwill to Nirmathi who capture prisoners trying to escape Lastwall. Some Nirmathi work to collect these bounties not because of the gold or their desire to see criminals punished, but because they don’t want bandits and ruffians gathering in the Fangwood. These citizens believe that Nirmathas has enough troubles without fighting against enemies within.
Andoran is one of the few foreign allies on which Nirmathas counts. The nations are well aligned politically, and forest marshal Gavirk is on friendly terms with General Reginald Cormoth of the Eagle Knights. The two have corresponded for years and consider each other friends. There are rumors that Andoran has been quietly shipping weapons, armor, and supplies to Nirmathas through Druma and across Lake Encarthan, an arrangement Molthune strongly suspects but has yet to prove.
The Nirmathi despise the nation of Nidal. The servitor state stands for everything Nirmathas is against, and if the war with Molthune ever ends, Nidal will stand as Nirmathas’s most hated enemy. For the moment, the Mindspin Mountains offer enough protection against Nidal that Nirmathas can ignore the nation, though citizens on Nirmathas’s western edge itch to travel the Gjurn River and liberate Nidalese slaves.
The Nirmathi take pride in their ability to provide for their own needs. Though they are largely compassionate and willing to lend a hand to their neighbors when necessary, few citizens ask for such help. Most Nirmathi believe that the sign of a mature adult and a good citizen is keeping one’s problems private and turning to others only in times of direst need.
Nirmathi have a reputation for being confident to the point of arrogance, but this springs from their objective capability. Most Nirmathi know how to build a house, gather and trap their own food, preserve supplies, make their own clothes, and tend to injuries. They appreciate comfortable homes but aren’t attached to worldly goods. If they must leave their homes, they do so without a backward look. When Molthuni soldiers raid a village, its people simply disappear into the woods, knowing they can survive on their own for as long as necessary.
The Nirmathi people enjoy their self-sufficiency, and their lifestyle is sustainable thanks to the vast natural resources their country provides, coupled with the nation’s low population. A homestead in the Fangwood, for example, might not have any neighbors within 10 miles, leaving the land’s bounty to sustain its inhabitants and no one else. A smaller, more heavily populated country couldn’t afford its citizens such a level of privacy, nor could its resources so abundantly provide for their needs. Though the Nirmathi appreciate their land, they also give more credit to their own skills than their fortunate situation. They look down on residents of large cities who must purchase their clothes and food, without acknowledging that such people live in far different circumstances.
Though the Fangwood covers only a third of the nation’s territory, many Nirmathi consider the forest synonymous with their country. The Fangwood provided shelter and supplies during the rebellion and is still one of the most critical defenses against Molthune. Further, though traditional religions are certainly represented, forest-based faiths as well as a general reverence for woodland nature are both popular here. The Fangwood holds an almost mystical place in Nirmathi lore as a protector, a guardian, and a friend.
The most commonly worshiped deities in Nirmathas are Erastil and Iomedae, both of whom value law and order. Erastil, though, is god of hunting and farming, and many Nirmathi see him as a god of self-sufficiency and living off the land. Nirmathas is home to many archers and rangers who take Old Deadeye as their patron. Iomedae, on the other hand, is the goddess of rulership and valor, aspects that are more commonly worshiped in Lastwall to the north. The people of Nirmathas see her as a goddess of justice and self-rule who assists them in fighting against unjust conquerors. Residents of Lastwall who moved south to Nirmathas, often retired soldiers, have brought their worship of Iomedae with them over the years.
Some of Nirmathas’s most martial-minded citizens— particularly those in hard-pressed border towns—revere Gorum, the god of strength, battle and weapons. These residents look to the god for strength in the virtually unending incursions and invasions they suffer. Other Nirmathi residents revere Milani, although she is less prominently worshiped. These citizens believe that the Everbloom blessed the nation’s uprising and eventual freedom, and that she supports it still in its struggle against oppressive Molthune.
Travelers in Nirmathas find that its people are friendly, but only to a limited degree. Most small communities are willing to speak or trade with visitors, but homesteaders are more likely to order strangers away. All Nirmathi value their right to protect their homes, and if they suspect that a traveler might bring trouble or works for Molthune, they won’t hesitate to use force. Visitors to Nirmathas do best sticking to the main roads and the nation’s larger towns.