After a brief hiatus, our exploration of the geography of Steven Erikson and Ian Esslemont’s Malazan world continues.
Genabackis is a relatively narrow, long continent extending for thousands of miles from north to south, with a single large peninsula extending eastwards at the southern end of the landmass. The northern end of the continent was once covered by immense glaciers which have since retreated, leaving behind a landscape of frozen rivers and countless lakes. Traditionally Genabackis has been a land of city-states and tribal groupings, with large empires and nations relatively unknown for most of its history.
Genabackis is located east of Seven Cities, across Seeker’s Deep (known in Genabackis as the Meningalle Ocean); north-east of Quon Tali and Korelri, across the Reacher’s Ocean; north of Assail, across the Rivan Sea; and far to the north-west of Lether and the far western coast of Seven Cities, across the Rust and Domain Oceans.
In ancient times, Genabackis saw mighty battles rage between the Jaghut, who had many redoubts on the continent, and the T’lan Imass. One of the most powerful and formidable of the Jaghut Tyrants, Raest, dwelt on this continent and exerted a reign of terror so devastating that other Jaghut allied with T’lan Imass to overthrow him. He was too powerful to be destroyed, so he was imprisoned by sorcery under the Gadrobi Hills of central Genabackis.
Numerous other wars between the Jaghut and Imass followed, until all of the Jaghut of Genabackis had (apparently) been utterly destroyed. The retreat of the glaciers from Genabackis (aside from the naturally-occurring ones at the far northern end of the continent) suggests that the Imass were more successful in their genocide of the Jaghut species on this continent than on Lether or Quon Tali, where many areas of impassable ice remain.
Even before the time of the Imass and Jaghust, Genabackis is believed to have been inhabited by the K’Chain Che’Malle. One of their cities was located in south-western Genabackis at Morn; a nearby Jaghut tower, although still ancient, is considerably younger in age than the ruined city.
Like almost all of the continents of the world, Genabackis was settled by human colonists from the First Empire of what is now Seven Cities. However, the collapse of the Empire seems to have led to the cutting of ties with Genabackis and the collapse of client-kingdoms on that landmass. There appears to have been an interregnum, during which time the humans of Genabackis became divided between tribal groups and villagers, before cities began rising to power again several thousand years ago.
The city of Darujhistan was founded on Genabackis in 837 Before Burn’s Sleep. It is believed that several cities predated Darujhistan, most notably Pale, whose immense foundations and subterranean levels of settlement hint at a history stretching back thousands of years earlier. Darujhistan developed gas power circa 263 Burn’s Sleep, marking the city’s growth in importance as a trading waystop between the densely-populated northern part of the continent and the sparser lands to the south.
In 1150 Burn’s Sleep, the mysterious Pannion Seer arrived at the city of Bastion, central-eastern Genabackis, and spoke the Words of Truth, resulting in the First Embrasure. The population of Bastion swore to follow the Seer, slaughtering a trade caravan from Elingarth in the far south of the continent. Nine months later Anaster, the First Child of the Dead Seed, was born.
The so-called Pannion Domin began to slowly expand, swallowing up surrounding villages and towns. It might be the informal alliance known as the Free Cities of Genabackis may have investigated this threat, if a much greater one had not suddenly burst upon them.
In 1152 Burn’s Sleep, the armies of the Malazan Empire invaded Genabackis. Malazan armies landed on the far north-western and north-eastern coasts, overrunning the areas around the Malyn and Owndos seas in a matter of months. The surprise attack saw the Malazans gain a formidable toehold upon the continent, but the Free Cities were quick to rally. They established mutual lines of support and defence and employed mercenary companies to bolster their own troops. The Malazans found their initial successes quickly bogging down into protracted sieges. The disappearance and apparent death of Emperor Kellanved in 1154 distracted the Malazans for a time.
In 1156, the Malazans signed a surprising formal alliance with the Moranth of western coastal Genabackis. The Moranth were motivated by centuries of feuding and skirmishing with the Free Cities, most notably Pale. The Malazans gained access to the advanced formidable Moranth munitions, chemical explosive weapons of tremendous power, which they were quick to exploit. This alliance led to significant victories, but three years later these reversed when the Free Cities allied with the Crimson Guard, the mercenaries commanded by Warlord Caladan Brood and the Tiste Andii of Moon’s Spawn under Anomander Rake, Son of Darkness. This powerful alliance pushed the Malazans back into Blackdog Forest, where fighting bogged down for the next four years.
In 1160 the Malazans sent reinforcements to Genabackis, beginning a siege of Pale itself in an attempt to split the attentions of the enemy. However, they failed and a protracted siege resulted.
As of 1163, the Siege of Pale continues but there are signs that it may be drawing to a close. The Malazan forces in northern Genabackis appear to have achieved some breakthroughs as well. If Anomander Rake and his allies can be defeated, the Malazans can turn their eye to storied Darujhistan. But there is also the growing threat of the Pannion Domin to the south-east, which has begun expanding and may soon threaten the entire continent.
Genabackis is a large continent, stretching from equatorial regions to the southern edge of the polar region, and is also relatively narrow. The continent as a whole is mostly temperate, with a warm southern coast and a cold northern one, with numerous lakes in the north (the remnants of vast glaciers which have since retreated) and larger plains in the south.
The northern tip of the Genabackan continent is dominated by the Malyn Mountains, a significant chain of towering peaks stretching from the shores of the Meningalle Ocean to Silver Lake. The range splinters around the Laederon Plateau, home of the feared Teblor tribes, who also dwell on the Teblor Tundra to the north.
South of these mountains lie the Malyn and Owndos Seas, large lakes whose shores are dotted with cities and towns like Malyntaeas, Bettrys, Blued and Owndos. These towns and cities, easily linked to the sea by the Treller Cut, have grown rich on trade with Seven Cities across the Meningalle Ocean to the west. However, this region’s accessibility made it ripe for conquest by the Malazan Empire, which has secured the region and installed their continental capital at Genabaris on the west coast.
Northeast Genabackis extends from the Owndos Sea to the shores of the Rust Ocean and south to the inland Lead Sea. This region, dominated by the rivers Gan, Gend and Sogen, is dominated by several major trading cities, including Sogena, One Eye Cat, Hoop, Evinor, Apple and, on its island off the coast, Horan, along with numerous small settlements on the Free City Plain, Stannis Plain and Harbinger Peninsula. This region was also invaded by the Malazans, but they faced stiffer resistance and the Free City Alliance was formed to fight against them. Over the course of almost a decade of warfare, most of the Free Cities have fallen, but a few carry on the fight with the help of Anomander Rake, Caladan Brook and other notable generals.
Western Genabackis has been the site of the heaviest fighting between the Malazans and their enemies. This region is dominated by plains, notably the fertile and verdant Reach in the north and the yellow-grassed Rhivi Plain to the south, the home of the nomadic Rhivi people. At the northern end of this region is the Blackdog Forest, a tangle of vine and roots where the Malazan army was bogged down for years of fierce fighting with the Mott Irregulars and Caladan Brood’s forces.
Most notable in this region is the western coastal area controlled by the Moranth. A reclusive and secretive people, the Moranth ended centuries of seclusion to unexpectedly ally with the Malazan Empire, ostensibly to take their revenge on the people of Pale whom they had skirmished with for generations. The Moranth have proved to be a formidable fighting force and their alchemical bombs, known as Moranth munitions, have proved to be an effective addition to the Malazan arsenal.
The Moranth territories include the Cloud Forest and Moranth Mountains extending as far north as the Mistral Plateau and as far south as Mengal. The city of Oach, on the coast to the west of the Mistral Plateau, has been conquered by the Malazans and was well-placed for trade and communication with the Moranth.
The Barghast and Bhederin
The Barghast are a formidable warrior culture of eastern Genabackis. A non-human species, they are seen as “exotic barbarians” by outsiders. Although a fiercely independent culture, they are also not scared of strangers and are noted for their humour, sense of honour and loyalty to their allies. The Barghast inhabit the Barghast Range of eastern Genabackis and the plains on either side. Their lands are largely barren and empty of resources, which is why they have endured for tens of thousands of years even in the face of “civilised” cities appearing on the coast to the north and south.
Species similar to the Barghast have been found on several continents, suggesting there was once a diaspora by sea. If so, the Barghast seem to have lost their ancient arts of boat-building and sailing.
West of the Barghast territories lies the Bhederin Plateau, home to the enormous creatures as Bhederin, which the Rhivi use for both food and occasionally mounts. The Bhederin are the descendants of a far larger, extinct species known as the Bhed, whose awe-inspiring remains have been found by explorers.
Central Genabackis is more sparsely-populated than the north, with larger areas of wilderness between settlements. Lake Azur, more of an inland sea than a lake, dominates this region.
The Free City of Pale sits just north of the lake and the Tahlyn Mountains, at the southern end of the Rhivi Plain. Pale is one of the most ancient and formidably-defended cities on the continent, noted for its massive curtain walls. The city is rich, with cobbled streets and well-tiled roofs. However, it is also arguably past its peak, with trade becoming more centralised in the north or in Darujhistan to the south. The Krael Quarter has become home to shanties and lean-tos inhabited by poor people and refugees. Pale has been besieged by the Malazan and Moranth armies for the past three years, further reducing its income and prospects.
To the south-east of Pale, beyond the Divide (a wide gap in the Tahlyn Mountains), lies a fertile region along the Rust Ocean which has been densely populated over the centuries. This region is dominated by the port cities of Capustan and Coral, with lesser cities such as Lest, Setta, and Maurik located between them. The River Catlin provides a means of trade and transport from Capustan to the interior, via the inland city of Saltoan. South-west of this region lies the heartland of the Pannion Domin, cities such as Bastion, Sarn and Ket Tor which have been avoided since the rise of the Pannion Seer.
South of Pale and west of Capustan lies Lake Azur, a vast inland waterway. Dotted around its shores and nearby are formidable settlements such as Dhavran, Kurl and Gredfallen, but most notable is storied Darujhistan, the blue jewel of Genabackis.
Darujhistan, the City of Cities, City of Blue Fire or Caravan City, is located on the southern shore of Lake Azur ad is the largest and most influential city on the entire continent. During major festivals and the trading season, the city’s population exceeds 300,000 and may approach half a million; during the winter and off-season, the city’s population likely falls below a quarter of a million. Between 2,000 and 3,000 years old, Darujhistan accumulated from tribesfolk of the Gadrobi Hills and migratory Daru tribes from the far north of the continent. According to legend, the city was “born on a rumour”, with its founding following the arrival of thousands of explorers investigating reports of a magical barrow and treasure hoard in the nearby hills which was never found. However, several other valuable metals were found and quarries established nearby.
The city is divided into several areas, including the Gadrobi, Marsh, Daru, Lakefront and Estate districts. The city extends for over two miles along the lakeshore, rising into the Raven Hills to the south on four elevated tiers. The Foss River runs through the centre of the city, with the larger Maiten River flowing into Lake Azur to the west. Darujhistan also controls several outlying satellite villages, including Maiten, Cuttertown, Ridge, Raven, Urs and Worrytown, a slum region abutting the eastern walls.
Darujhistan is ruled by the Noble Council from Majesty Hall, located near High Gallows Hill at the north-eastern corner of the city. The enigmatic T’orrud Cabal and the secretive Assassin’s Guild also wield significant power. There is no standing army, only the City Watch, but several powerful mages reside in the city.
The city is sometimes called the “City of Blue Fire” for its use of natural gas for heat and light. Gas lamps light the major streets. The Greyfaces, a guild of gas-workers, tend the gas supply and make sure it is deployed in the city safely.
Darujhistan gains a great deal of its riches from its strategic position located almost halfway up the continent and marks a shift from the densely-populated northern part of Genabackis to the more sparsely-populated south.
The Southern Plains
South of Darujhistan are the Cinnamon Wastes and Dwelling Plain, which are now sparsely-populated. The Dwelling Plain was once thickly populated with towns and cities, linked by roads, but the region fell into disrepute when it was conquered by Jaghut Tyrants. When the last Tyrant fell, the region was abandoned and now only grasses and the occasional ruin remain.
Tracks lead far south and west, many hundreds of miles, to Callows, a great seaport of 30,000 people. Callows is well-placed on the sealanes heading south across Reacher’s Ocean to Quon Tali and the heartlands of the Malazan Empire. The city is known for its copper-domed buildings, minarets and winding streets, as well as being home to the Thousand Sects of D’rek.
East of Callows lies the vast Lamatath Plain. Almost spanning the continent coast to coast and extending from north to south for a thousand miles or more, the plain is reasonably fertile with occasional herds of Bhederin and other game easily found. Several tribes can be found living on the plain, including the Gandaru, Kindaru, Sinbarl and Skathani. From the etymology of the names, the Gandaru and Kindaru are likely descendants of the Daru people who migrated south from northern Genabackis to settle around Lake Azur, largely in Darujhistan. These groups probably migrated further south in search of less crowded climes.
Just south-west of the Lamatath Plain lies Morn, a once-great Jaghut city built about even more ancient K’Chain Che’Malle ruins. The area has been abandoned for centuries due to reports of magical chaos and dangerous phenomena in the area. The whole region is known as the Cursed Lands due to these events.
East of the Cursed Lands and south-east of the Plain of Lamatath, the continent of Genabackis terminates in a peninsula extending for several hundred leagues eastwards into the Rust Ocean. There are a whole horde of coastal towns such as Ilem, March, Hurly and Torn in this region, but the best-known city is Elingarth, the largest city on the continent south of Darujhistan.
Elingarth is a large city renowned for its trading opportunities and religious orders. It is the home of the Grey Swords and Blue Shields, mercenary companies noted for their atypical honour and reliability in battle.
Nearby is the smaller city of Trygalle. Dedicated to trade even at extreme lengths, the city is the home of the Trygalle Trade Guild. The Trygalle Trade Guild, also known as “a guild of bloody lunatics”, use warrens to transport goods at high speed and ludicrous risk to distant locales. The Trade Guild’s services are almost ruinously expensive, but their reliability (despite a high personnel turnover) is surprisingly high.
Further west along the coast, in Elingarth’s Forgotten Holding, lies the town of Spendrugle, infamous for its bitter and angry rulers.
Further east lie the towns of Exile, Bounty, Golden and Refuge. Beyond the tip of the continent are the Night Ship Islands. Corpse Isle lies upon the edge of the unknown, the vast expanse of the Rust Ocean lying to the north-east and the Domain Ocean lying to the south-east. These oceans (counted by some cartographers as one vast ocean) extend east for thousands upon thousands of leagues before washing up against the far western coast of Seven Cities and the far north-west of little-known, rumoured Lether. Somewhere in this vast expanse lies the islands of Umryg and Genostel.
Just off the south coast, in the Rivan Sea, lies a series of islands such as Galatan and Seven Ruins Island. Some distance to the south, but too close for many, lies the forbidden and forbidding continent of Assail.
The Isle of the Seguleh lies just off the south-western coast of Genabackis, near Morn. The Seguleh are a highly martial people who live lives based on hierarchal rank, with elevation or descent in rank only achieved by combat. The Seguleh are trained from birth in the ways of battle and combat (individual and massed) and practice daily. The martial skill of the Seguleh, their utter lack of fear and their unrelenting intransigence make them an extremely difficult people to deal with for outsiders, and after far too many unintended deaths most outsiders now avoid the island and all contact altogether. As a result, little is known of the Seguleh aside from their martial skills and that their capital city, located on the northern coast of the island amidst green mountains, is called Cant.
The peoples of Genabackis are numerous and divided into many creeds. Genabackis is unusual in not harbouring large nation-states or kingdoms, instead favouring tribal groupings and individual city-states. The Genabackans thus have a reputation for independence and individuality, and do not take kindly to invaders.
The peoples of Genabackis include the tribal Teblor, Barghast, Rhivi and Gadrobi, the secretive Moranth and Seguleh and the urbanised Daru.
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