The Raktine Confederacy is a loose patchwork of city-states, rural domains, and desolate forest under the rule of a confused mass of domns, bans, boyars, voivods, and knyazes, each of whom bitterly resents his neighbors. The land is rough and rugged, with the omnipresent forest and jagged mountain peaks rising up amid the rolling hills.
Forty years ago it was a broken land, divided under the rule of the Patrian Empire and the Dulimbaian Regency, just one more stretch of subjugated land for the two great empires to struggle over. It had been that way for decades, generations of Raktine men and women taken for Patrian slaves or Dulimbaian xiaoren, with their timber and crops seized as tribute. The Raktines were always first to feel the bite of disaster or the press of military necessity, and the people grew desperate for freedom.
Deep within the mountains, sages and scholars opened ancient vaults and sought out forbidden lore. There, in the Black Academies hidden in the peaks, they called up powers from Uncreated Night to break the rule of the tyrants and drive the foreigners from Raktia. They were successful, albeit at an awful price.
The demons and monsters they brought forth from Uncreated Night sent the Patrians and Dulimbaians fleeing, but they also carved a red road through the common folk. Some Raktian cities were destroyed, while other stretches of the land were ruined and made uninhabitable by infestations of eldritch beasts. Still, some Raktians took up the trade of monster-hunting, and over the past forty years they’ve beaten back the worst of the beasts and restored a kind of civilization to the dark vales of Raktia. Yet the forests are perilous and villagers do not go abroad at night, nor dare the roads alone.
The wizards who brought forth these monstrous entities are feared and respected, those few who survived their work. Most remain hidden in the Black Academies, studying their dark lore, recruiting worthy acolytes from the ambitious and the reckless. Most academies hate the others, and a constant low-level sorcerous war goes on between them as they struggle to determine who shall be the preeminent sorcerers of Raktia.
The wizards of the Black Academies focus largely on the summoning of powers from Uncreated Night, their binding, and their direction against rivals and enemies. Occasionally one of these great arcanists will consent to help a noble, but usually at a stiff price in human subjects for experiments or a vast sum of gold to fund their research.
The nobles of Raktia try to ignore the wizards as much as possible, though the myriad magical dangers of the land ensure that each noble has at least one court wizard to diagnose magical problems, recruited from the failed apprentices of the great arcanists or hired from one of the petty schools of magic that dot the land. Even small villages often rely on the wisdom of a hedge mage to recognize magical troubles and sniff out the existence of curses. Sometimes these hedge wizards find themselves blamed for an evil, and must flee or be burnt alive.
Most of the actual work of killing monsters goes to the Curse-Eaters, a fellowship of monster-hunters and curse-lifters loosely organized in a system of masters and apprentices. Curse-Eaters are feared and respected, and can expect paying work in almost any village in Raktia. They also have the privilege of claiming peasants from a lord, either as temporary aid in hunting a monster or as permanent apprentices. Few lack for volunteers among the eager young of a village, but their recruit’s consent is not strictly required.