Istia is a small island nation approximately 1,000 miles northeast of Cavnal, and almost due north of Tulay. It is roughly 45,000 square miles in size, but the glaciers on the northern coast shrink and expand seasonally, making it difficult to measure the island's actual size.
Istia is a volatile island with much of its land mass made up of mountains — mountains connected geologically to the Marag mountain range in Cavnal. Some of these mountains are volcanic, and underground lava flows create pockets and rivers of steam that occasionally break through to the surface. The southern coast of the island is un-forested and relatively flat, but the ground is made up of ancient lava flows with minimal soil overlay, making the land unsuitable for farming. The eastern-most region has some very dense bauxite deposits which are easier to mine than those in Cavnal.
The western coast of Istia is much greener and better forested, with expanses of pine and birch, and a few ancient stands of red oaks. Farther north the climate is too cold for much flora. The inner-montane region at the heart of the island is characterized by wild, broken landscapes, moss and flowering scrub, and many small, intertwining rivers that are little more than streams. The only region in Istia particularly suited for farming is the extreme southwestern part of the island, close to the coast and south of the forested Skota Myk plateau.
Istia has only one major river, the Stratha, which has its source in the mountains and flows southwest to the coast near Bregjarvani. The ancient site of the Istian Godartheng is along the Stratha river at almost the geographical center of the island, a place called Hejmstrathvir. There are no lakes of any great size on the island, but along the western coast there are a number of small ponds, springs, lagoons, and narrow waterways.
Istia is a cold, unforgiving place much of the year, with summer months that barely reach warm temperatures. Its location in the sea makes it subject to violent winds, especially along the southern coast where year-round high winds strip the land of what little fertility it would otherwise have. Precipitation falls mainly on the west coast, but sleet, cold rain, and sometimes snow storms may occur along the southern coast in the winter months.
The central region of the island is subject to extremes in temperature given its altitude. The winter months are bitterly cold, snowy, and dark, but the summer months are more moderate than the coastal regions. Farther to the north the island has a sub-arctic climate, dry and extremely cold. Few people or animals live farther north than the latitude of the Ekkadgrathvir, the westernmost peak of the mountain range.
Istia is one of the most ancient cultures among the northern nations. It is unclear where the first settlers originated from, but some speculate that Istian traders were the first inhabitants of Cavnal and Meritac. Istia may well be the "cradle of civilization," and certainly has the closest ties to the supernatural — its society centers around the presence of the Vekahratha, the Wake-stone or cairn which they believe is the heart of the world, the artery connecting the physical and the spiritual realms.
Despite its small size and population, Istia has throughout its history been involved in, or instigated, many wars. One of the most notable wars for Istian history was the conflict commonly called the Vingursvaka, or Shark War, in 875. This conflict spanned two decades in the ninth century and was waged between Istia, Ceruvay (destroying that nation's resources so soundly that it has never fully recovered), and Tulay. Istia's victory gave it sovereignty over the northern seas and all their wealth, and established them as one of the principle naval powers and the most significant fishing industry in the north.
Following the Vingurskava, Istia settled into a peaceful period that lasted almost two hundred years, but its society suffered significantly in 1090 when the volcanic peak Thiragrathvir erupted. The lava flow destroyed many of the settlements in the south-central region of the nation and the loss of life and resources caused a major economic depression that lasted for a century.