It has been roughly 250 years since the downfall of Elenion Aranië, the elven Empire of Stars. The exact date is hard to pin down, as the empire fractured into warring factions even as its slaves and vassal states rose up in rebellion.
Of those rebellious groups, a large group of slaves led by the eventually deified human Cuthbert formed an alliance with the ex-vassal city of Four Cranes and led an attack on Lûthfenda, the empire's capital city. Already weakened as it was by internal strife, the city fell, but Four Cranes was all but destroyed and the country for miles around Lûthfenda rendered an uninhabitable wasteland twisted by magic.
Only Rothanor remains of the great elven cities and mage-towers. At the height of the empire it was regarded as something of a backwater, given to contemplation on the mysteries of the arcane and divine rather than weilding true power, but that - along with a small but vocal group of houses within the city that opposed the enslaving of 'lesser' races - saved it when the rest of the empire burned.
Other than Rothanor itself, there are a few notable centres for trade in its greatly diminished territory. The town of Lastbells still boasts impressive and largely intact architecture dating back to the old empire. The village of Clearwine, nestled in the valleys of the World's Edge Mountains, is famous for the icewine that is shipped from Rothanor to discerning palattes everywhere. The Waterroot Crossroads is noted as the last real opportunity to enjoy soft beds for those travelling beside the Riftmire or north along the Silver Rock Road.
After the fall of Lûthfenda, Cuthbert's uprising and the surivors of Four Cranes formed their own state. A new city rose from the ruins of Four Cranes, dubbed Rising Spires by the group now naming itself The Phoenix Accord. The Accord is led by an elected council and dominated by humans, although there remains a strong halfling and dwarf presence in the region. The land it controls was further divided into many small baronies, initially awarded to the great heroes of the rebellion but now almost all in the hands of the council members.
Initially the Accord also counted a large number of gnomish citizens. However, less than a century after the founding of the Accord its northern territories found themselves beset by hobgoblins from across the sea and bloodthirsty orc tribes sweeping from the northern forests. Although eventually triumphant, those territories received little support from an increasingly corrupt and self-serving council in Rising Spires and declared independence, forming the Free Counties.
Other than Rising Spires, the Accord claims the cities of Roses and Saltwrack, along with multitudinous smaller villages and towns in the Crane valley and encircling the thaumic wastes.
Countess Imrix is the de facto leader of the free counties, although this collection of rural gnomish territories mostly seem to exist in a state of polite anarchy. The three largest baronies are led by Family Althon, Imrix herself, and Family Strandin. Baron Althon is the current steward of the westernmost coastal stretch where your adventure began, the Countess controls the plains almost due north of Rising Spires from her city of Hinkberg, while baroness Strandin watches over the forests and canyons along the inland sea known as Mirrorwere to the east.
News is scarce from the hobgoblin empire. Never fully conquered by the Empire of Stars, they were initially aggressively expansionist after the fall of the elves and now control much of the continent to the south and west across the northern sea. Since the War of Two Springs they have not mounted a serious offensive into the Free Counties, and there are now rare but slowly increasing incidents of trade between the Imperium and both Rothanor and the Accord.
The capital city of Wusch-ok still boasts an impressive naval force, and occasionally merchant ships are permitted to dock at the mining and smithing fortress-town of Tosk
The city of Zymig is mysterious. Fungal growths choke the shoreline and send bursts of strangly coloured spores drifing out to sea, with only the faintest hints of structures visible between the trees. The inhabitants trade for metal, gems, and art objects, and in turn provide a baffling array of herbs, mushrooms and alchemical concoctions, but only ever at night. The place has a bad reputation among most captains, it being said that entire ship crews have ventured into the darkness beneath the trees and never emerged.
Quend is, like Rothanor, a remnant of the glory days of the empire... albeit on a much smaller scale. Originally a small center of learning, its few inhabitants saw the end coming and used their esoteric research to pull the entire island from both sight and memory for nearly fifty years. Now, it is a small port town of distinctly varied composition and some notoriety for its strict entrance requirements. Enough of the old magic remains that only select ships are permitted to find the place, but it is said that almost anything can be found there if you're able to match the price.