The Kreisens lie on the mainland of the Karelia Region. They are a variety of small to medium realms, called kreisens, each ruled by a kreisarch. There is no accurate count of these individual kreisens, and they can be as small as a single hall and farm hidden in the mountains.
There is no overall ruler, though various kreisarchs have gained control of larger areas at one time or another. Each time this has happened, though, these larger areas fall apart quickly because of poverty, poor communications, internecine warfare, and old hatreds.
There are three basic types of kreisens. The poorest are those closest to the Rueckenberge, a mountain range that bisects Karelia. The richest, largest, and most important are those controlling a good harbor and port, called hafnkreisens. The rest fall somewhere in between. Note, however, even the richest of the hafnkreisens are generally poorer and more wretched than any city in the Empire of Makhaira.
Despite their poverty and political divisions, the people of the Kreisens are culturally related to both the Seven Kingdoms and Svellheim. Their language, like Sevenish and Svellheimish, derives from Nordmannish. They worship Woden and other Nordmannic deities as do Seveners and Svellheimers.
However, while the terrain in both the Seven Kingdoms and Svellheim allowed for political unification, the mountains and rivers of the Kreisens kept the different tribes splintered. Exacerbating this are the warriors here, called kriegers, who care little at the devastation they leave in their wake. Raids and battles between kreisens are the norm, not the exception.
Rarely have the Kreisens ever been able to form any kind of credible military threat against their foreign neighbors, though they generally pay little heed to borders and raid whenever the whim strikes them.
While this might normally mean the Kreisens were vulnerable to outside invasion, neighboring powers would band together to prevent any one of the others from claiming it. Much of the Kreisens were once part of the Empire of Sabinia, also known as the Old Empire, and the emperors of Makhaira have eyed the region for centuries. However, Periaslavl, which borders the Kreisens to the east, also sits on the Empire of Makhaira's northern border and the relations of these two large and powerful nations has been, at best, tenuous.
To the north and west, across Woden's Sea and the Cuananiar Ocean, sit the Seven Kingdoms, Svellheim, and the Western Isles. Each of these realms relies upon trade to the hafnkreisens to some extent or another. While they generally have congenial relations, they worry at the power the others might gain should any manage to claim all or even a major part of the Kreisens.
This has led to a fairly tense standoff over the centuries. The five surrounding powers watch the others sharply, and while they will ignore spies like the vestniki of Periaslavl or ships crews, they protest quickly at any hint of an invasion force from one of the other powers.
The Kreisens grew out of the Karelian provinces of the Empire of Sabinia. As the Old Empire faded, its power receded from the north. As they left, Nordmannish tribes entered, bringing with them their old conflicts and the area became much as they are now. By the 600s, the entire area had become essentially as it is now, hence for over a millennia it has been nothing but a place for raiding and savagery.
Some remnants of the Old Empire remain. There are Old Imperial ruins throughout the Kreisens, especially south of the Rueckenberge. The Antsanvia, which runs from Kalberg in the west to Tarnovo in the east, is the longest road in Karelia. Many of the more powerful families and kreisarchs can trace their lineage back to Imperial forebears, though of course these are often at least semi-mythological.