Fireborn: Dark Phoenix
The island of Birren’s Land was mapped centuries, perhaps millennia ago; when the landmasses on the other side of the world are visible to the naked eye on a clear day, how could it be otherwise?
Regardless of that, it was the skygazer Birren Adolus, in the Sheikhdoms to the north of what later became the Sacred Empire, who first mapped it in detail, using a crude telescope. He saw a landmass almost entirely covered in snow and ice; he believed that the southernmost tip, which was green with alpine forest, proved that the ice caps of the world were just snow-covered land.
His theories were disproved in large part; expeditions towards the poles, though heavily disputed whether anyone truly reached them, have found little evidence of landmasses below the ice, and a great deal of evidence to suggest the ice mass is floating sea ice (at most, anchored on small islands). However, his name stuck to that one piece of land.
Explorers in the years since found nothing of interest there on brief voyages; the alpine forest was sparser than it had appeared from a distance, and the climate harsher. Colonies might still have been attempted, were it not for the Treaty of Grelda – long-distance voyages entirely by ocean were not commonplace in the days before it, so few indisputable expeditions occurred (and many never returned from such voyages).
It was with surprise that some 45 years ago, a scientific survey vessel examining plant and animal species around the coast spotted a cave high on a mountain inland, with woodsmoke clearly emerging from it. Initially fearing it was a volcano about to erupt, they tested the Elves’ limits by launching a quick expedition to investigate; and were astounded to find a small group of subterranean Dragonborn, with unusually melanistic scale patterns, living in xenophobic isolation there. Such was the small tribe’s isolation they had not even conceived there might be other living creatures in all of Taan!
This little tribe (or ‘clan’, as they quaintly preferred to call themselves) was a mystery of little interest for many years; but the leading theory is that they descended from an early expedition there whose ship was wrecked in one of the frequent storms, and whose slaves managed to survive and multiply. The odd colouration, therefore, is the result of inbreeding – certainly there seemed to be no other tribes, save for ones that the locals claimed had budded off from them to seek their own caves when the population grew too large.
More was discovered about 6 years ago, when curious slavers sponsored an expedition there; they assaulted the little tribe and captured as many as they could.
They suffered nigh-catastrophic losses, and discovered that these northern Dragonborn had a truly vicious streak, with cunning traps of startling mechanical ingenuity laid around tunnels that were often barely big enough for an Uruk to pass. The tribe was mostly killed; but about 15 individuals were captured and taken as slaves – the remainder in the depths of the caverns, the Uruk set powder kegs amidst the Dragonborns’ own oil stashes, and blasted and burned the exits, leaving the remainder to suffocate and die.
The cost of these 15 slaves was some 1.2 million Guilders for the men and equipment of the two-ship expedition; and some seventy Uruk lives. The estimated population of the entire tribe was only in the 40s-50s; the expedition’s backers suffered a deal of humiliation at having lost so many men to tribal Dragonborn, of all things! The few slaves that were taken were sold fast, and made for poor slaves (far too individualistic and strong-willed, despite efforts to break them in the ‘usual’ ways). Their price as curiosity pieces (and research specimens – some biologists were eager to buy test subjects for disection, or worse) fell a long way short of their cost; so no further expeditions have been sent to see if any other tribes are accessible (or raidable).