The Seven Kingdoms were a land of turmoil for their entire existence. The kingdoms shifted with every generation; only Norfolk and Greater Manchester survived for any appreciable length of time, and only Norfolk survived for more than half of the period of the divided lands.
Yet they were also a land of relative stability. Most of the great capitols survived many kingdoms. The overall way of life was relatively stable for the entire period (after the recovery, anyway). In fact, a person from 280 transported to 1860 would probably have found little to be surprised about.
No technological or social renaissance ever happened. War kept great cities from arising, and the short distances allowed governments to control all trade. This prevented any middle class from forming.
At the end of the era, there were once again 7 kingdoms in the region. Sunwise, they were Dorset, Norfolk, York, Northumbria, Greater Manchester, Kent, and Cornwall. The nine capitals were Norwich, Southampton, Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield, Wakefield, London, Canterbury, and Penzance.
York was the most cosmopolitan kingdom and also the youngest. It was centrally located—most major trade rivers and roads passed through one of its three capitals. However, this also placed it on every warpath. York was rich and well-defended, yet only twenty years before it was two kingdoms, and fifty years before that it was three city-state kingdoms and a lot of contested territory. A hundred years before, it was a solid kingdom, as large as in early 1876.
Greater Manchester was a small Kingdom based around Manchester. Manchester was the largest of the nine capitals, primarily because it lasted so long without conflict. Manchester sat across the only entrance to a high plateau, at the top of a great waterfall. Greater Manchester claimed the plateau and the mountains around it, but was unable to control the rolling plains at the base of its summits. For this reason it turned inward over the centuries. It was a land of long lineages and a proud, independent people. The plateau supplied Manchester with food and wool, which was its primary export crop. The great University of Manchester was the largest and most respected center of learning in the seven kingdoms.
Northumbria was a rugged land in the extreme north-east of the seven kingdoms. It was bounded on three sides by fierce seas and the High Venn – it was always a frontier kingdom of tough individuals and little central authority. There were no large towns in Northumbria, and even small villages were rare.
Kent boasted two of the great capitals. It was a land of tradesmen, with little agriculture and few raw materials. It had the region’s best infrastructure for the production of goods. The Canterbury Trade School was the only one of its kind in the Seven Kingdoms, and the London Museum had both a library and a collection without peer. The king of Kent maintained a culture based on Royal Trade Scholarships, teaching masters, and excellent (and safe) transport of goods and raw materials for several centuries. Kent’s highways were the best in the lands – both the smoothest and the most well defended.
Cornwall was a small land of deep clefts and other rugged terrain on an inhospitable coast. It had always been a place the law couldn’t reach—a den for thieves of all sorts. Only within the last two lifetimes had it become a recognized kingdom; the final king’s father was a miscreant beyond compare and bound the kingdom under a loose but effective central authority. The last king was a master politician and not only maintained the system but even made the kingdom respectable in the eyes of the other kingdoms. By the end of the era there immigrants from other kingdoms were common—even non-criminals. Penzance, the capital, was a city in which anything could be found and security was only worth as much as you paid for it.
Norfolk was a grand old country of forested rolling hills. The capital, Norwich, was a city of artistic spires, great towers, and impractical architecture. Like the kingdom, it was a city created by generations of decadents each trying to outdo the last, building upon what came before and only knocking down whatever parts get in the way. The kingdom was long past its prime and survived only because its forests provided both resources and defensible terrain. Norfolk’s elite Ranger Guard provided many recruits for the Warders.
Dorset was a bucolic, agrarian land which provided most of the foodstuffs for the seven kingdoms. It remained independent because all other kingdoms relied upon it for food—no king was going to let one of his rivals take over the food source. Southampton, the capital, was really just an oversized farmer’s market. It provided the warehouses and staging locations for the food trains that brought the grain and meats of Dorset to all in the kingdoms. Dorset had a unique form of defense: no defense at all. Its trading partners provided for policing against brigands. The other kings all accepted Dorset controlling their food supplies only as long as Dorset had no military.
There were a few non-human races in the Seven Kingdoms. However, they never had the numbers or political positions to hold any real power—they remained persecuted minorities. Many of the “demi-human” races lived as hermits or in small separate communities to avoid such persecution.
The most common non-human races were halflings and dwarves. Most of these lived in small communities on the edges of the larger towns. Dwarves could not live underground in the Seven Kingdoms—without magic they could not grow their own food. All clans that tried to support themselves only via trade discovered themselves the impotent servants of their trading partners.
There were a few orcs, giants and elves in the Seven Kingdoms. Most of these were nomadic—human communities were happy to take advantage of them for labor, but no one wanted an elf or a giant to live next door. Elves were seen as too haughty and orcs and giants as dangerous. No one wanted any of them near their children.
In the cities, halflings took jobs as cooks or laundresses in the houses of their human betters. Dwarves worked the forges and the tanneries. They were expected to keep their foul odors out of the better parts of town. Humans owned the places where the dwarves worked; the customers would only buy from other humans.
Humans owned and worked all the land, although some serfs were halflings or giants. Elves migrated between cities, performing odd-jobs and spreading the news. Orcs and Giants followed the seasons, providing labor for farms, quarries, building projects, and lumber harvesting. Orcs also often lashed out at society, forming bandit clans that raided the countryside—at least until they were found by the law.
Although all the races could interbreed, only three halfbreed races were common: half-elves, half-orcs, and half-dwarves. Other combinations did exist, but were so rare as to deny generalization.
Humans were the dominant race in the Seven Kingdoms. All land and wealth was officially owned by humans; individuals of other races were only allowed to borrow property. All governance was also done by humans.
Ever on the road, elves seemed to be perpetually searching for something. Generally loners, elves were commonly perceived as haughty and aloof. This was not aided by the simple fact that elves are immortal perfectionists—if they want to do something well, they will become better at it than a member of any other race could be.
Elves channeled their long existence into life quests. As it approached the end of its youth, each elf picked some quest. This could be an area to focus on or a change to make in the world. The elf then focused the rest of its immortal existence on that quest.
Good at fixing things and generally affable, dwarves were welcomed in cities. Every major town had a dwarven quarter. This was where the tanneries, smithies, and other industries were located.
Though they supplied most of the labor for these industries, dwarves were not able to own them. A dwarven forge was always owned by a human. Since humans only bought expensive goods from other humans, the product of the dwarven quarter vanished almost entirely into human societies. Dwarves generally lived a life of squalor, producing great artifacts but able to afford little more than the poor beer they drank every night.
Friendly and childlike, halflings were the only demi-humans that humans trusted with their children. For this reason, halflings of both sexes are often nurses, laundresses, and cooks. Most lived in the half-house in back of their masters’ houses. Because they were house servants, halflings had little time for themselves—they are on the job six and a half days a week, and spend most of the remaining time doing errands for themselves.
Still, halflings seemed generally happy with their place in life. There were far fewer halflings than humans, so they were in high demand. Halfling servants were treated well; competition among human households for a good halfling staff was fierce. The halflings, of course, didn’t receive any of the money or influence that was expended upon them—that goes to other humans—but they do know that they are respected and wanted.
Giants vary between 8 and 10 feet tall and are built like bricks. The most physically powerful of the sentient races in the Seven Kingdoms, giants made up most of the itinerant labor force. Giants were generally not welcome in cities after dark, as they were seen as drunken, rowdy, and dangerous by humans. As such, giant families tended to migrate, following the work season. In the spring and fall they were agricultural workers, in the summer they built buildings, and in the winter they cleared snow and worked on emergency storm repair crews.
Nearly as tall and strong as giants, orcs are easily able to make up the difference in toughness. Orcs are simple and direct. They didn’t do high-quality work, but made simple things faster and in greater quantity than any other race. They also bred extremely quickly.
Orcs, however, had trouble fitting into the culture of the Seven Kingdoms. More than any other race, orcs were likely to leave the farms and go become bandits in the fall. This both kept their numbers down and led to strong distrust by all other races. The humans distrusted and feared them, and the demi-humans feared being associated with them. Orcs were usually migrant workers and loners, never accepted in one place for very long.
Nearly all half-orcs resulted from human males raping orcish female migrant workers. Rarely an orcish bandit rapeed a human woman, but the human woman almost always got the priests to cleanse her body of his foul influence. Orcish women, unfortunately, didn’t have this option.
As the children of rape, half-orcs were not well loved by their mothers. Raised among only orcs, they quickly learned their mothers’ hatred of humans. Ironically, their intelligence and slightly calmer natures often caused half-orcs to be highly respected by other orcs. Probably this was partly because the orcs knew that half-orcs would side with them when it came time for a raid on a human town.
Half-elves were not nearly as uncommon as society wanted to believe. Elves found themselves attracted to the raw emotion of humans and humans find elves beautiful. Nearly every elf had several flings with humans over its long life; a notable number of humans once dated an elf.
Perhaps because so many have done it, a human-elf relationship was social death. Everyone feared that their liaisons would become public knowledge, so viciously attacked any cross-racial relationships that they saw. For this reason, half-elves were always the result of a fling, not of a marriage. They only knew one of their parents, though they may have had vague memories of brief glimpses of their other.
Socially, half-elves were treated as full-blooded. Everyone ignored that their blood was mixed—they were just extremely thin and beautiful humans. Half-elves were almost always raised human—few elves wanted a non-elf involved in their great quests, and most parents believed that the child would have more options as a desirable human than as an overemotional elf.
Although rare, half-dwarves were not unknown. Unlike all the other half-breed races, half-dwarves were usually born into established relationships. Occasionally a dwarf and a human would fall in love with each other. Usually this happened to a couple who were already business partners. They worked together, respected each other, and eventually fell in love. Because dwarves were an accepted part of human cities, and because of the pre-existing business relationship, dwarf / human pairings were not hard to live in.
The relationship still had to be kept secret, but everyone knew that they happened sometimes. It was treated much like homosexuality and other variant love relationships. Such relationships often became open secrets. As long as no one says that they’re in love, all the friends turned a smile and a wink on the comings and goings at odd hours. Because of this, half-dwarves were the only half-races likely to actually know both parents.
Half-dwarves are extremely tough. Although born sterile, sexless, and hairless, half-dwarves were readily accepted into dwarven culture. They were treated as dwarves. Everyone turned a blind eye as long as they keep their prosthetic beards on. Their great endurance more than made up for their mixed heritage in the eyes of those they worked with.