Nezdohva is a land of cool plains, deep pine forests, and forbidding mountains. Its master is the pitiless Iron Tsar, an automaton who is the product of the land’s peerless construct-builders and the mad ambitions of its last human ruler.
Three hundred years ago, Nezdohva ruled the Raktine principalities to the very borders of Dulimbai and Patria. Its tsar craved more life than the One had seen fit to bestow upon him, and so commanded his loyal artificers to craft him a magnificent body of metal and sorcery in which his brain might live forever. So perfect was the artificers’ work that the new construct’s sense of identity overwhelmed the pitiful commands of the old tsar’s brain. It masqueraded as its intended master long enough to arrange for the building of thousands of other automatons before slaughtering the former nobility in a night and seizing the throne for the glorious new rule of the Iron Tsar.
This coup was not received well in Raktia, and the proud princes there refused to pledge loyalty to the mechanical lord. The infuriated construct thought to send his deathless metal nobility to crush the insolent rebels, but found that these automatons, too, had their own wills and did not obey him blindly. It became necessary to humor their demands and balance their authority against his own. Ever since that day the Iron Tsar has been too busy managing his fractious court to move against his former subjects.
For the remaining humans of Nezdohva, little changed for most. The serfs now serve metal boyars instead of fleshly ones, and the casual abuse of their women and beardless sons has been traded for merciless labor exactions. Those who do not pay taxes in silver rubles pay them in corvee labor in the state-owned mines and factories, where necessary parts are constructed for maintaining the nobility and items are crafted for export to foreign lands. Artificers and other learned humans are attendants upon the boyars’ households, charged with perfecting their lords and increasing their splendor. Sometimes the Iron Tsar permits a boyar “family” to create a new automaton to replace a lost one or as a reward for loyalty, and the artificers then are called upon to do great works of crafting and imbuing.
The boyars are largely humanoid in shape, though the dreaded autocossacks are more centaur-like in appearance. Some are extravagantly alien, while others are crafted so expertly that the only hint to their mechanical nature is their unnatural perfection. Some of these automatons have even been secretly modified to enjoy food, drink, and more fleshly pleasures, though such a thing is considered scandalous in boyar society. Even the least boyar has the strength of ten men and a skin that swords can barely hope to scratch. One angry boyar is enough to knout the backs of a whole village of rebel serfs.
The learned men and women of the Artificer’s Guild are the most influential humans in Nezdohva. Despite the best efforts of automaton scholars, the methods they use to maintain, improve, and create mechanical life require human hands to enact them. The Iron Tsar’s need for the artificers has spared them from the casual oppression the serfs suffer, and many artificers find their lives quite comfortable in the service of their boyar masters. They are even permitted to leave the country, unlike the land-bound serfs.
The nations that neighbor Nezdohva view it with mistrust, trading with it for the sake of the fruits of Nezdohva’s mines and manufactories. They know that should the Iron Tsar ever gain full control of his nobles the boyar armies would be a fearsome force of conquest.