Population: Approx. 6 million
Founded: AF 291
Government: Plutocratic Federation
Grand Baron: Konrad Weirshmidt
Symbol: A ring of unbroken chain links
Local currency: Ducat
Religious makeup: 41% Ascensionist, 29% Universalist, 17% Druid, 13% Other/None
Even before the Fall, the region that would eventually become known as Korneth was largely wild and untamed. A mix of towering mountains and endless dark forests lent the region a primal aspect, and it was mostly seen as a nature preserve. When the final battle against Astanathos was fought in the Bloodfall Mountains, which now mark the western border of Korneth, the pall of darkness only seemed to intensify after the demon lord's cataclysmic death.
However, humanity is, if nothing else, resilient and more than capable of living almost anywhere. While some cities in the area were lost either in the chaos of the Fall or from later attacks, those cities that remained continued to act as all but completely isolated beacons of civilization. Over the next century, they would develop independently, forming distinct cultures and micro-nations. In the 2nd century, contact was widely established between them, and in time, trade routes began to form between the six largest cities: Aachstadt, Cesklische, Drombluf, Korneth, Noswitz, and Reinglam. Each city specialized in a different area of trade, and happily exported their goods to the others, allowing each city to prosper. Before long, the city of Korneth proposed a Union between the cities, a pact of self-support, mutual self-defense, and cooperation in outward matters. Word had begun to reach them of other nations elsewhere on Terranis, and they were eager to spread their influence.
Their first actions would be ones of conflict, however, as the Bastion Wars erupted in the early 3rd century. Knowing what economic opportunities awaited them on Daeldren, the Union poured nearly its entire military into the Wars. After their disastrous defeat in the “War of the Shadows”, and the subsequent ending of the overall conflict, the cities of the Union found their interest in military conquest to be severely curtailed. Much of their military was disbanded beyond the necessities of defense, and instead they began to rely purely on economic ventures to spread influence.
With this decision, the Union became the pre-eminent traders on Terranis. Deals were fostered between numerous nations across Terranis, whether directly or indirectly with the Union, but in either case the Union always got a cut. Their prosperity only exploded further in the 4th century, when a massive underground storage facility was discovered beneath Korneth, filled with a near-limitless supply of pre-Fall technology and items. None knew how the technology preserving the goods still functioned after the death of Astanathos destroyed or crippled nearly all other technology on Terranis. But functioned it did, and the thousands upon thousands of stasis crates were filled with all manner of wonderous goods.
After the discovery, the Union underwent a structural shift as the alliances between the cities were rewritten, made stronger, its means of government altered. Each of the cities elected a Baron from its richest trading families to lead them, and from among these Barons they elected a Grand Baron to be their leader. Korneth became the de facto capital of the Barony, and its name was changed to Einheit, or “Unity”. Sales of the pre-Fall technology to other nations alone was enough to catapult Korneth to unrivaled riches, but the lucrative deals they struck in all realms of commerce ensured their coffers were never empty.
Life across Terranis improved dramatically in a matter of decades, both due to the pre-Fall technology and Korneth fostering open trade between nearly every nation. Countless instances can be found throughout history of a Kornethi merchant making a connection that allowed a new invention to come into existence or find widespread usage. Among the pre-Fall technology were daily use items such as biomedical gels, metabolic boosters, and chronometers, and other long-term technologies still in use to this day, such as nano-forges, long-range communication gear, datapads, and more.
When the Second Barbarian Wars erupted in the 5th century, Korneth was one of the nations hardest hit. Large-scale conflict had been unheard of for generations, and so the monsters and barbarian armies pouring into their lands through the Dunkelwald, that massive forest to the south, was a surprise. Cesklische was nearly burned to the ground and even Einheit suffered under a brief siege, until entire armies of mercenaries hired by the Barony were able to repel the attacks. A combined force of military and mercenaries were able to drive the invaders back over the next several years in a grueling and bloody campaign, eventually securing the distant Blut Stelle, the main pass through the Bloodfall Mountains. An audacious plan was proposed by the then-Grand Baron, Helmoff Henslisch: to build a massive wall across the pass, and block any further invasion from the Bloodlands beyond. It would be expensive, but Korneth could afford the expense, and the Grand Baron's fiery oratory convinced the other Barons to back the project, and so construction of the Westbarriere began. Today, it remains one of the most heavily fortified locations on all of Terranis. Though it is in the most remote corner of Korneth, its importance cannot be understated. Even so, assignment to it for members of Korneth's military is frequently seen as both an honor and a punishment. With the help of numerous hired mages from Saernis, additional natural barricades were erected throughout the Bloodfall Mountains, rendering them impassable, though this work also took decades to complete. Even so, it seemed to work, as the Third Barbarian Wars for Korneth mostly involved keeping the Westbarriere secure against a veritable sea of barbarians who failed to breach it.
Certain their future was secure, the Barons turned their attentions back towards economic matters. Perhaps it was overconfidence that left them vulnerable, or perhaps the events at the dawn of the 7th century were inevitable. Only speculation can be made at this point. What is known for sure, however, is that in 601, countless disappearances occurred, with travelers, groups, and even the populations of entire villages vanishing with minimal signs of struggle. It would be decades until the apparent purpose behind these disappearances would be revealed with the emergence of the Montug, the first of the Fallen Races. And thus the dark legends of Korneth's wildlands grew darker still.
Though Ascensionism has never held a majority in Korneth, the country was no less spared the effects of the Helios Schism of the 8th century. Trade deals were suddenly sundered over Barons backing the “wrong” candidate, and poverty became a real threat for many elements of Korneth's society. Whether it was due to a slow recovery from the Schism, or a fear of fading competitiveness, Korneth was slow to join the Terranis Union, but has since become one of its strongest proponents.
The courtly intrigues between the cities over the next two centuries could (and do) fill entire tomes, but in general, Korneth continued to prosper into the modern era. The pre-Fall resources stored underneath Einheit continue to flow, ensuring a steady income for decades, if not centuries, yet to come. It was only the outbreak of the Unity Wars that Korneth's balance of trade was disrupted once again, as they mostly sought only minor territorial gains against Saernis, though they engaged in numerous naval battles against Doramor as well. Fortunately for Korneth, the crippling loses suffered by Doramor at the Battle of Noswitz prevented further hostilities against them.
Since the Unity Wars, Korneth has had to look inward with its military and mercenary might. Attacks within and near the Dunkelwald continue to increase in frequency, and even heavily armored caravans bound for the Westbarriere find themselves attacked and destroyed. Worse still, raider attacks from across the Bloodfall Mountains have been reported, though how the barbarians have circumvented the defenses there has not yet been determined. At the rate of increase, however, it seems inevitable until a full-scale invasion occurs. Although the current Grand Baron, Konrad Weirshmidt of Einheit, has attempted to mobilize a larger military deployment, he faces challenges from multiple other Barons over alleged mishandling of trade deals and accusations of political favoritism, leaving the Barony in a deadlock.
Pre-eminent merchants and traders, the people of Korneth have managed to strike one deal after another until they have become the wealthiest nation in the world. While mercantilism is far from the only pursuit of every citizen, it permeates all strata of Kornethi society. Bargains and deals are, often literally, the lifeblood of the people of the cities, and only a friend ever receives something for free.
That is not to say the Kornethi are a callous and uncaring people, merely a reserved one. Information is as valuable a commodity as any physical goods, and they can be reticent to simply give anything away. This attitude is reflected even in the clothing, as men will wear baggy clothing to hide how thick their limbs are, or women will wear veils and large scarves to obscure their faces and arms. Trust must be earned, but, once it has, a Kornethi citizen will be as open and (potentially) immodest among friends as the most passionate Zhòngwén.
Although the Barony has existed for centuries, the cities that constitute it are still highly independent of each other. Korneth is unique among the Five Powers in that it has no centralized military. Should a call to arms be issued, each city will commit a portion of its own militia, with an overall commander being elected once the force is assembled. Kornethi military forces are frequently augmented by mercenary forces as well, and, despite their less disciplined nature, a Kornethi force will be some of the best-equipped soldiers in the world.
In addition to the pre-Fall technology and materials that still flow forth from Einheit, Korneth supplies considerable amounts of raw materials for other nations. Indeed, the sheer value of timber from the Dunkelwald ensures the countless logging villages continue to stand, even as attacks against them increase. Although numerous campaigns have been launched to purge sections of the Dunkelwald, the monsters always return.
Also of note are the many Druid clans that live beneath the shadowed canopy of the Dunkelwald. Although not formally citizens of the Barony, trade still occurs between the clans and Korneth (as best as it can, anyway, with the clans' nomadic nature). It would likely be a stretch to say the clans and the Barons are truly allied, but there is a wary respect on account of shared travails against the darkness, stretching back generations.
Keutche is the second most spoken language on Terranis, and the fact that Doramor traders were able to make Dorlish the more commonly used language is frequently a sore spot for the merchant classes of Korneth. In negotiations, however, they will be happy to speak whatever language the other party prefers, if it helps secure a deal. While vocations that have a practical focus (such as logging, fishing, mining, trading, etc.) are frequently preferred, and time wasted is frowned upon, the arts still enjoys tremendous levels of patronage around Korneth. Many of the most exquisite works of art ever created can be found in the personal residences of the Barons, or in one of the public galleries of every city.
To perhaps no one's surprise, countless adventurers travel to the Westbarriere every year to enter the Bloodlands beyond, in search of treasure and lost legends. Many never return, but those who do frequently bring wondrous artifacts and fantastical stories with them, only further fueling the fires of those seeking fortunes beyond the wall. The barbarian nations of the Bloodlands certainly have no respect for the rule of law, and view trespassers poorly.