The Steadfast comprises nine different countries. Collectively, the rulers are often called the Nine Rival Kings, or just “The Nine”. The only thread uniting these nine disparate realms is their faithful submission to the Amber Papacy.
Generally speaking, the Steadfast is more settled and civilized than the Beyond, but it can be just as dangerous. Communities are isolated. Travel on the roads is risky and nearly unthinkable at night— but at least the roads exist.
The Steadfast includes all the land from the sea to the Black Riage, south of the Tithe River and north of the Sadara. The nine kingdoms of the Steadfast are as follows:
Ruler: Queen Armalu
Population: 1.5 million
Navarene is one of the largest and most prosperous kingdoms in the Steadfast, and its inhabitants are often viewed as arrogant and aloof. The southern lands are known for their fertile farmland. Simple farmers and herders work for wealthy landowners who in turn pay fealty to a small number of aristocratic families, each of whom answers to the queen. Navarene serves as the border between the north lands and the other nations of the Steadfast. Thus, the northern portion of the kingdom, south of the Tithe River, holds many forts and war-castles that help defend this border from the dangers of the Beyond. Now that the Amber Pope has declared war on the mysterious lands to the north of the Cloudcrystal Skyfields, these fortresses are even more important.
Ruler: King Laird
Population: 1 million
Capital: The City of Bridges
Known for its coastal trading ships, the so-called Sea Kingdom of Ghan is a relatively peaceful land. The kingdom’s merchant fleet serves as the backbone of trade routes between all of the Nine Kingdoms. The pastureland of Ghan is known for raising herds of gallen (long-bodied herbivores used for meat and hides) and aneen (hunched, hairless bipedal pack animals 2-3 times the height of a human). The people of Ghant are seafarers and herders, and are not restricted by a strong governance.
Ruler: Council of Spheres
Population: 2.5 million
Draolis is the most populated land in the Steadfast as well as one of the wealthiest. Centuries ago, Draolis was home to a powerful queen who ruled the land with a firm hand. When her line died out, power in Draolis was seized by a council of wealthy plutocrats who didn’t want another hereditary monarchy to take control. The nation remains a military power, with might comparable to that of its chief rival, Navarene. In fact, the Order of Truth is the only thing that keeps these two countries from warring openly.
Ruler: Holiva the First
One of the smaller and least prosperous kingdoms in the Steadfast, Thaemor is often overshadowed by its neighbors. In fact, the other kingdoms consider it something of a joke. That wasn’t always so. Bordered by two rivers and a mountain, Thaemor was once an unnamed but very much desired piece of land, part of a three-way war between Navarene, Draolis, and Malevich. Each power wished to lay claim to the fertile triangle. Thaemor is a region of deeply buried riches, clear waters, and fertile lands that have not yet come to fruition. The current ruler of Thaemor, Holiva the First, is quietly rumored to have gone insane, now existing merely as the puppet of his vizier, the Hand of Melch.
Ruler: King Yorvic (Regent Ellabon)
Population: 1.2 million
Known for bleak landscapes and people tested by hardship, Malevich’s tale is one of war and would-be conquest. Yet after crushing defeats in decades past, its warlords are now quiet. The kingdom’s figurehead is a young boy, but Malevich is actively ruled by the king’s cousin, Ellabon, who acts as regent until the king comes of age. Numerous villages dot the landscape of Malevich. These farm communities are usually small and poor, little more than thatch-roofed huts gathered in defensive circles around a communal pen for the shaggy goats they tend. These villages are threatened at all times by bands of abhumans and clans of bandits. The former roam in small unorganized groups, while the latter, under the command of the Bandit King, Polele, are unified and organized. The nobility own what little wealth the kingdom possesses, while peasants barely get by without starving. A fantastically huge rift known as the Voil Chasm (also referred to by older generations by its ancient name, the “Earthwound”) serves as the country’s southern border. This rent in the earth is 25 miles wide in places, but it narrows as it descends. It has never been fully explored. The chasm divides Malevich and the Pytharon Empire. Even though both lands have dreamed of conquest, the gulf between them has prevented them from coming into direct conflict.
Ruler: King Noren tiKalloban
Population: 1 million
Iscobal is a land tearing itself apart from within. Internal politics keep the nation focused on itself rather than on the dangers of the expansionist kingdoms at its borders. The people of Iscobal are farmers and fishers. The former raise wheat, beans, and cotton, as well as tend orchards of orange billam fruit. The latter use small round boats called skitters to travel up and down the coast and down the mighty Wyr River. Iscobal is also known for its abundant game— hunters provide a great deal of fowl and venison to feed the population.
Ruler: Challadien III
Population: 2 million
Possibly the oldest of the Steadfast kingdoms, the Pytharon Empire once commanded most of the southern region, including Milave, Iscobal, and Ancuan. Although the empire collapsed almost a hundred years ago, it regained its footing and began to prosper under the previous empress, Challadien II. Now the new, relatively young empress, Challadien III, hopes to extend her aunt’s successful reign. Most believe she has her eyes on lands that once were part of the empire, in particular Milave and Iscobal. The Pytharons are well aware that the regions of Matheunis to the south are far more settled than they once were. These free realms, including the powerful city-state of Nihliesh, feel the gaze of the empire upon them. Pytharon nobles already send their troops down there to raid for slaves. Pytharon is known for gently rolling fields of wheat, beans, and corn. Its fertile lands were once a great part of its success and could be again, for its ample so-called “breadbasket” has fueled great armies.
Ruler: The Milave Council
Most people of Milave are farmers who produce a variety of foodstuffs as well as an herb called ghianche, or sometimesjust ganch. It fills many pipes throughout the region, and it’s sometimes rolled into cigars as well. The herb is a mild relaxant, but when treated with certain chemicals, it can also be a powerful hallucinogen. Ganch fields are difficult to maintain and require a large workforce. A few communities have repurposed a variety of numenera machines and devices to help in the labor, so it’s not uncommon to see a massive construct or automaton harvesting fields of ganch leaves.
Ruler: King Asour-Mantir
Population: 1.5 million
A broad, fertile, and peaceful land, Ancuan is blessed on many fronts. Its rolling hills teem with bountiful herds of animals, its fields flow with produce and grains, and its long shorelines offer fish and other valuable commodities. Of course, Ancuan is not without its troubles. Pirates ply the shorelines, preying on coastal trading vessels. Bandit raiders threaten villages. Sathosh and chirog roam the countryside. The people of Ancuan are independent and self-sufficient, relying on their king for little. They make their way as sailors, fishers, arron farmers, yol herders, and salt miners. Similar to how Angulan Knights throughout the Steadfast have tamed xi-drakes to use as flying mounts, the people of Ancuan sometimes ride rasters—large, biomechanical, batlike creatures native to the region.
Few people in the Ninth World realize that the Western Seas extend all the way around the globe, forming the vast, single ocean that surrounds the megacontinent.