Friday, April 12, 2013

K is for Kryx, the Mad God-Emperor of Kryx

Kryx is a god – a god of lesser stature, to be sure, but still a god. And unlike most gods of his potency, he takes direct, personal action in the mortal world. His ancient history and origins are unknown to all but himself and a few other gods. Kryx is not even his real name; it is a name he adopted long ago, when his real name became too dangerous, and he has kept it since. He is a super-genius, a master tactician, physically mighty, and amazingly skilled. He is seductive, languorous, impetuous, and brutal. He’s also completely insane and perhaps the most megalo-maniacal being in the Olden Realms.

His common form (which he cannot now abandon, due to the Weeping Wound), is that of a muscular male human form, varying in height from 7’ to at least 30’ tall (he is able to alter his height instantly, and is always the tallest being in sight, always). His skin is a dark reddish-brown with purplish-black overtones and whitish-gray highlights; he is dark by northern standards, light of skin by southern standards, and perhaps an ideal combination of all skin colors known to men. His eyes are shining liquid gold in an orb of pure, glowing white; those who see him close up swear that stars shine in his pupils. His hair is the same color as his body, though he usually maintains a clean pate, and seems not to keep any body hair other than eyebrows, save when he wishes to affect a spike beard in the style of the ancient Deshreti.

When he speaks, every person who hears him aloud hears him speaking perfectly in their own native tongue and dialect, unless he chooses otherwise. He can speak telepathically with anyone he can see. Those who hear his spoken voice and feel his voice in their mind are numbed by the combined power and the resonance it sets up in their consciousness. He is innately able to read emotions, but not minds.

When he chooses to wear clothing (he often does not, in his palace or when he stalks his city of Kryxophon), he usually wears a kilt in the Deshreti style, along with such jewelry as he finds worthy of gracing him at the moment. He wields a spear and a khopesh sword, both of unsurpassed quality and invariably magical (if merely of mortal enchantment). All his clothing, jewelry, and accoutrements grow or shrink as he does; when his items are handed to his bearers, they shrink to fit the bearer’s size.

He never wears armor. He has no need for it, as no mortal weapon, even the most potent magical device, cannot so much as bruise his skin, let alone break it. No mortal spell can touch him; in fact, he can pluck mortal spell energies sent his way out of midair and reshape and redirect them as he so chooses. He is a master of more spells than are known to men, and many that men have never even conceived.

What Kryx truly is, his origins, his deeds in the elder days, are unknown. Speculation is all sages have, as even the lore of the elves does not speak of him. It is assumed that he was a Dark Lord of the Elder South, perhaps in Deshret, or Manday, or even in the Far West. Whether he is a Fallen Titan, Elder God, Younger God, Demi-God, Ascended God, or Chaos God is unknown. He wields Chaos, but does not depend on it, and he seems to use it purely as a tool; he is not consumed by it, as were the Dark Lords of the North.

What is known about him is that sometime around 1350, Kryx was freed, or rather, awakened, as he writes in his Kryxonomicon, though anything from that tome must be taken with a large grain of salt. He was awakened from a long imprisonment somewhere in the depths of the Ormakh Mountains. He refers to his “refuge” and “cage” somewhere amidst the roots of the tallest peaks. There a group of men found him; who they were, why they were there, and how they had found him, even Kryx does not know. By their dress and speech, they seemed to have been hierophants, evil high priests, and archmagi, with their potent gathered henchmen. He blithely claims that, as they awakened him, he prepared to thank them for their service and grant them great power and prestige as his first slaves when they, ever so foolishly, sought to command him to their bidding. To command HIM! And so he blasted them all from existence with but a single word.

When he walked out of the Ormakh he found a world completely unlike that which he knew before he had gone to sleep/been trapped. He found the land changed, wholly new races of men (so he writes), strange beasts; nothing he recognized. But one thing he noticed, as he got far enough away from his “cage,” was something so very different, so very importantly different, that he stopped for a long moment to feel it, take it all in, and to savor it.

He did not feel the presence of the Elder Titans!

For as he writes, for those that could feel, the Elder Titans had ever had a presence upon their creation, even from afar, unto the furthest corners of the world. But he did not feel them. The Elder Titans were gone. GONE! His mad laughter and quakes from his capering could be heard all the way in Nótixiphon, the great city on the shores of the Shining Bay. They should have realized it was a terrible omen…

The next day Kryx arrived, and by the end of the day maps were being changed to reflect the new name of the city, Kryxophon, and the new name of the bay, the Bay of Kryx. Paynims, orcs, gnolls, and ogres flocked to his side. The priests of the King of Hell and the Crimson God who did not convert on site were all blasted into atoms, had their still-beating hearts offered to him by his newly-converted priests, or were burned alive on great pyres (sometimes in combinations of two or all three). And from there he began to build his empire.

Fortunately for the peoples of the Olden Lands, Kryx is also very, very lazy. He hates expending his own energies on doing things like conquering cities and enslaving tribes. After all, that’s what followers are for! And so it took him and his followers almost 50 years to subdue and consolidate the former lands of Notixos. By 1450 he ruled all of Eosha, and by 1475 most of Deshret; he left the scraps in the wastes for the Crimson God, so that he could hear him fret, fume, and curse.

From there he and his vast armies, the likes of which had not been seen since the Elder Days, moved across the Purple Plains like a roving metropolis. Paynim tribes swarmed to his banner or fled into the Far West; the cities of the Paynim Coast opened their gates and offered him their fairest maidens and greatest treasures. The world, in short, was now coming to his door, and giving him everything he wanted.

As he crossed the River of Stars upon his royal barque at midnight he knew his time had finally come. The whole world was finally falling into his hands…

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A to Z Trifecta Tuesday: Hoarfrost Coast, Howling Isles, and Hugelheim

Independent villages and small homesteads

Major Settlements: Rijmhavn [Rimeport] (pop. 12,600)
Humans: 450,000
Demi-humans: Doubtful
Humanoids: Counting the humanoids of the Hoarfrost Coast and Snjør, their numbers include at least Goblin-Men (150,000), Hobgoblins (90,000), Goblins (60,000), Bugbears (30,000), Half-Ogres (15,000), and Ogres (5,000)
Monsters: Frost giants are common, especially around their fastness Mount Frudd, the home of the Winter King. Polar bears, white dragons, and frost salamanders are also found around the mountain, though they are much rarer. Dire wolves, grizzly bears, and saber-tooth tigers often hunt out of the Icefang Forest to the north.
Languages: Common; North Gottish, East Gottish, Dredhiac, Ogrish, Giantish.
Resources: Furs, gems (sapphires), iron, ivory, slaves, wood (rare)

The Hoarfrost Coast is a land stuck between the devil and the deep-blue sea – the devil in this case being the Winter King, who dwells in a glacial palace atop Mount Frudd at the heart of the land of Snjør. There he has ruled since time immemorial, and thus the peoples of the Hoarfrost Coast live ever in his shadow. And since the White Worm arrived in Thulask half a century ago, things have only gotten worse, as the two frosty potentates, one born of Chaos, the other Cosmic, are utterly inimical enemies.

The native humans of the land are savage Gotha whose ancestors may never have been south of the River of Ice save to raid, pillage, and plunder. They are a grim and melancholy sort, given to great rage and terrible cruelty, for they and their culture have been forged in a cruel and savage land. Save for the port of Rijmhavn, which was founded centuries ago by southern traders, there are no cities to speak of, and even large towns are few and far between. Most denizens of this fog and cloud-shrouded land dwell in small villages and steadings along fjord and coast, fishing and hunting in order to keep flesh on bones, for the growing season is short and harsh; most go a-viking once the planting is done, leaving the tending of the small plots to younger boys, women, and thralls.

Their neighbors are even harsher and more brutal, for they often dwell cheek-and-jowl with goblin-men, goblinoids, and ogres. With the preponderance of humanoids, travel by land is actually more dangerous than travel by sea, and there are few trails between the settlements. And travel by sea is not at all easy, for it is home to merrow, scrags, and sahuagin, not to mention krakens and storm giants.

Rijmhavn is not a largish city merely because it is the only city in the region, nor only because it is the city farthest north, but because it is a city not of locals but of transplants. Most of the residents are Gotha from the Storm Coast or Elysians from Auriante. This is their trade center in the far north, and the major trade center for the Sea of Storms.

Independent tribes

Major Settlements: Jävlafjärd [Bay of the Damned] (pop. 3,300)
Humans: 150,000
Demi-humans: None
Humanoids: Half-Ogres (40,000), Ogres (10,000)
Monsters: Trolls and troldfolk infest the island thick as fleas on a dungeon hound. White dragons like to hunt on the main isle, though they generally lair on lesser isles in inaccessible areas. Frost giants live in the glacier-covered mountains. Frost wolves hunt the forests of the main isle while polar bears hunt along the northern coast and isles. The Unseelie are all too common, as they like to toy with trolls, ogres, and men. Entries to the Underworld are many, though they are known on the isle as “troll-pits” for a reason. The seas are filled with the usual beasts of the Sea of Storms; the north coast is a significant source of ivory from the large numbers of walrus and giant walrus that live thereupon.
Languages: Common; North Gottish, East Gottish, Ogrish, Trollish, Sídhuinn.
Resources: Copper, furs, gems (diamonds), ivory, silver, slaves

These islands are home to isolated tribes and clans of Gotha, descended from colonists from Thundigoth Isle. Were it not for the taking of slave concubines on raid and through trade, they would be as inbred as they are isolated, Many of the smaller clans are, and have been reduced to a feral, almost Stone Age form of society.

Most Gotha settlement is along the western coast and into the interior along fjords and rivers. Jävlafjärd is the only major settlement of note, the next largest being merely up-jumped villages with delusions of grandeur. Most of the men are gone all summer, away a-viking in the southern isles. The settlements also raid each other for food, slaves, and ivory, which are sold off-island for gold, iron, armor, and weapons.

The islands are regarded as the homeland of the troll and troldfolk races on the surface world; men and ogres alike are merely visitors, and must continually protect their holdings from the depredations of the native trolls. Though the Gotha rightly fear the trolls, they trade with them from time to time to get enchanted weapons and armor, or for other services, such as building stone buildings and walls. The diamonds traded from the island are found only in mines high in the Howling Peaks at the heart of the island. They are said to be the sun-stoned hearts of ancient trolls. Many young Gotha and no few ogres have lost their lives prospecting for diamonds in the mountains.

The citadel and walls of Jävlafjärd were said to have been built by the King of the Trolls centuries ago. King Haukr Skagisson of Jävlafjärd is said to still possess the ring of troll control that his ancestors used to force the trolls to build their citadel. They say that to sooth the ego of the troll king, his ancestors rewarded him with a king’s ransom in loot from the southern isles and the Storm Coast.

His Highness, Günczel Grossensteine, Speaker of the People, Prince of Spiegelzee, Goblin-Punter (Good 7th level Sage Fighter/Illusionist/Thief)

Capital: Grosshügel [Grandhill] (pop. 36,000)
Humans: 20,000
Demi-humans: Gnomes (200,000), Halflings (20,000), Dwarves (10,000)
Humanoids: Few (many raiders)
Monsters: Few (some raiders from the Northern Wilds and the Gorge of Ogroth)
Languages: Common; Gnomish, Halfling, Dwarvish, Guidhel, West Gottish, North Gottish, East Gottish.
Resources: Electrum, gems (cairngorm, jasper, sapphires, topaz), silver

Hugelheim is the homeland of the gnomes. When first the gnomes arose long ago during the Golden Age of Avalondë, they were welcome in both elven and dwarven lands. Later, when the elves and the dwarves fell out during the Wars of Chaos, the gnomes sought to create their own homeland. Long had elves and dwarves shared the lands today known as Hugelheim; as both races retreated from it to find solace in their heartlands, the gnomes moved in and made it their own.

For the Hills of Hugelin are most appealing to elves and dwarves, and thus the gnomes felt right at home. The hills are rolling or craggy, tall of ridge and deep of dale, covered in rolling grasses, green meadows, and deep forests. The lands below are wholesome, with many natural cavern systems and ancient tunnels and halls dug by gnomes and before them, the dwarves. There are, of course, also entries to the Underworld, far too many by gnomish count, but such is the price to pay for the glory of the Glittering Halls of Hugelin.

In the millennia since the founding of their land, the gnomes have welcomed elves and dwarves, halflings and humans. While the elves stayed only for a time and then retreated to the Verdhulann with the arrival of the Elysians, the nearness of the homelands of the dwarves and halflings has meant that many remain family, friends, allies, and countrymen of the gnomes. The humans of the realm are descended primarily from Guidhel with strong Gotha influence; any men who were of Goodly sort were welcome to settle in the gnomish lands. By ancient treaty, the tribes of Mhoriedh are allowed to hunt, fish, and wander the hills, so long as they respect the gnomes and other residents, and the alliance has held strong for many centuries.

The gnomes are renowned throughout the Middle Lands as hard, if fair merchants and traders. Most trade along the Upper and Central Great Heart River in large river boats or barges, often hiring Mhoriedhel or Gottic mercenaries and river men. Some trade by land in small wagons or mule caravans. They are highly competitive with the Élyséenais merchants of the Septarchy, whom they consider upstart con-men and profiteers.

Monday, April 8, 2013

G is for Giantings and Gnomes, Gnolls and Goblins, Gotha and Guidhel

Giantings are the rarest of the demi-human types. They are native to the Twilight Peaks, the Erdna Kizef Tors, and the lesser mountain ranges of Alspadia. Known as Kulchaks (plural, singular Kulchak) in their own tongue, giantings have tan or brown skin, brown or amber eyes, and straight light brown, brown, or black hair. They are very hirsute, with both males and females approaching the description of “furry.” Females do not usually have beards, though such is not unheard of. Other than their size and hair, large jaws and pronounced brow ridge, giantings look very human. Giantings stand 8’ tall on average and weigh 450 pounds. They can live to be 300 years of age.

Giantings loathe being compared to ogres; the two are completely different species, regardless of their similarity in size. Giantings live a rustic, pacifistic life in the forested hills and mountains of the West, and prefer natural surroundings to urban settings. They live in small homesteads, tend to wild gardens, and hunt and gather rather than farm or labor. They rarely use metal items, other than those for which they have traded, as they do not work metals. Giantings generally do not use magic, nor do they revere gods, but many possess psychic powers to a lesser or greater extent; those with greater powers gravitate to leadership of the community. They have no natural enemies, though due to proximity to the Land of Nhorr, they make special exceptions to their usual peaceful ways for orcs.

Kulchaks were sometimes captured for menageries or as slave labor in the days of the Elysian Empire and the subsequent Itlanian Empire, so small settlements of Kulchaks can be found throughout the continent. These are often isolated and hidden using the powers of their psychic leaders. Some of these settlements are made up entirely of crossbreeds.

Giantings are capable of interbreeding with humans, elves, and orcs, the result being a taller, stronger, often psychic and always more hirsute member of that race. Sadly, one in eight gianting crossbreeds are sterile mules, and there is a similar chance of the half-breed and any descendents developing dangerous, homicidal insanity.

Gnomes are native to the Hills of Hugelin in the Middle Lands, east of Mhoriedh and north of Aurlandia. Known as Hugelôr (plural, singular Hugelo) in their own tongue, gnomes have light gray skin, blue, gray, green, or hazel eyes, and curly or wavy sandy blond, brown, or black hair. Males usually wear short beards; some females are capable of growing beards, or at least extensive sideburns. Their ears are elven, though rather than standing tall and firm they flop and droop a bit, and they have large, bulbous noses. Gnomes stand 3’6” on average and weigh 80 pounds. Gnomes can live to be more than 600 years old. Gnomes are not only an independent, stable race; they also result from the cross between a dwarf and an elf. Most gnomes welcome these cousins with open arms.

Hugelôr live in rugged forested hills, preferring to make their homes in natural caverns worked minimally to provide needed luxury and utility without destroying natural beauty. Their largest settlement is no bigger than a human town, and most are mere hamlets. They tend to small gardens and trade their gems, jewelry, and worked wood and metal items for needed grains and other foods. Gnomes prefer to use illusion magic, the better to shield their communities from the depredations of men and humanoids alike.

Hugelôr settlements are rare, save in Hugelheim, their native homeland. Elsewhere they live in the cities and towns of the big folk, safely behind stout walls. The exception to this is the Thornshire, where they can be found in numbers among their halfling cousins, scattered in hamlets and homesteads. Gnomes of Hugelheim are often merchants, traders, and moneychangers throughout the Middle Lands. They work well with other races, and do not have the greedy reputation of the dwarves, nor the lackadaisical reputation of the elves. They are known as fair traders, even if they drive a hard bargain.

Gnomes can interbreed with humans, dwarves, elves, and halflings. The cross between a dwarf and gnome or an elf and gnome is always a gnome; the cross between a gnome and a human or halfling results in a halfling of the Hairfoot variety. Humanoid crossings are dealt with under humanoids.

Gnolls are a race native to the Yasdunn Jungles, the Eoshan Plains, and the Thunder Plains of the South. Known as Hyahahra (plural and singular) in their own tongue, gnolls have dark greenish to yellow skin, the color of gangrenous flesh, covered in thick fur. Fur color ranges from brownish-red to tan-yellow, with white, brown, and tan mixed in throughout. Most packs and tribes are also marked by a mix of stripes (northern tribes) and spots (southern tribes) though due to interbreeding only the most isolated packs possess a single, recognizable pattern of stripes or spots, and those of the Yasdunn are thoroughly mixed.

Hyahahra otherwise resemble man-shaped hyenas with malformed forepaws possessed of a semi-opposable thumb. Gnoll heads greatly favor the form of their hyena cousins, with large sagittal crests (often accentuated with a Mohawk-trimmed hairstyle), long tooth-filled snouts, and heavy jaw structure. They possess the great crushing jaws of their hyena cousins. Eyes are round, black, and glisten; at night they glow red when they reflect torch or moonlight. Ears are large and often quite long and pointed. Gnolls are tall at 7’ feet and usually slim weighing only 240 pounds, though their light frame possesses a surprisingly mighty strength. Gnolls can live to be about 90 years of age.

Hyahahra originated in the South in the early days of Men. Manday legend holds that gnolls are descended from the spawn of evil witches and hyenas, and as that association continues to this day there is little reason to disbelieve the old tales. They remain primarily a race of the south, though large numbers settled in Kryx and have there found employ in the legions of the God-Emperor, and some bands still remain in the North, descended from slaves brought thence during the Elysian and Itlanian Empires.

Gnolls are the most primitive of the sentient races. They possess no true culture, merely instinct and enough cunning to adapt and adopt the cultural implements and trappings of other humanoid cultures. They possess no physical culture of their own; that is, they do not manufacture any form of cultural instrument, implement, or tool. They are even incapable of the manufacture of simple stone tools; they are cunning enough to adapt the use of tools, especially weapons, but do not have the cultural capability to make or even repair such items. They are scavengers thus, not only of food, but also of tools.

Gnolls, being descended in part from humans, can crossbreed back with humans, as well as goblin-men, half-elves, half-ogres, and half-orcs. The result is invariably a gnole, and is superior of intellect and far more mannish in form than the gnoll type. Gnoles, like other half-breed races, breed true. Though typically smaller and weaker than gnolls, due to their greater intelligence these gnoles usually end up ruling gnoll bands, while the larger southern tribes led by clans of gnoles tend to be quite successful and powerful in their region. Gnolls cannot crossbreed with other races, including the goblinoid races.

Goblins are a goblinoid race native to the mountains and hills of the Middle Lands, the Morghluidh Mountains being their greatest conquest. Known as Gashûn (plural, singular Gashah) in their own tongue, goblins have mottled brown, tan, and gray skin. Eyes are pink to red. Hair is dull black and straight, and in some places as thick as fur; goblins are quite hirsute, moreso than dwarves but not nearly as furry as bugbears. Features are man-like, though with a small cranium for their size, a large pronounced jaw, thick brow ridges, and deep-set eyes. Ears are largish, with most goblins readily described as “jug-eared,” and no few are flop-eared. The mouth is wide, protuberant, and filled with sharp teeth. The nose is squashed and flat. Goblins stand 4’ tall and weigh 100 pounds. Goblins can live to 60 years of age.

Gashûn are descended from wild hobgoblins, degenerated remnants of the original goblinoid race bred in the vats of the dark lord Moerdreth long ages ago. Rather than slaying those creations he felt too weak to serve, he simply released them to the wild, unleashing them without thought against the elves and dwarves of the day. Much to their later despair, the elves and dwarves did not hunt the pitiful creatures down, and in the ages since the goblins have grown to become a dangerous pest.

Though they are not completely savage as are the bugbears, neither are they as advanced in society and technology as the hobgoblins. They rarely build their own lairs, preferring to take over ruins of other races, or living in natural caves. They are very fond of taking dwarven mines and enslaving captured dwarves, and are thus the most hated of the goblinoids by that race.

Goblins can crossbreed with all other races save the giantings, gnolls, or ogres. The spawn of a goblin and a human, orc, elf, or bugbear is a hobgoblin; the spawn of a goblin and a dwarf, gnome, halfling, or hobgoblin is a goblin.

The human Gotha people have pale pink to ruddy skin tones; they tend to freckle rather than tan. Eye color is green, blue, indigo, or violet. Hair color ranges from tawny brown and sandy blonde to gold and platinum white and is straight to curly. The Gotha peoples of the Thundigoth Isles are very hirsute. Height is medium to tall, with a medium to muscular build. Skeletal structure is heavy, with pronounced brow ridges, cheeks, and jutting jaw, though not remotely as severe as that among the goblinoids.

The tribes of Thundigoth, the smallholders and townsmen of the Storm Coast, and various noble houses of the Middle Lands and Bagaudia remain true to the classic type. The Thundigoth tribes are renowned for their craggy features, each clan and tribe often typifying a specific form (jutting chin, large nose, beetle brow, etc). Commoners of the Middle Lands are heavily mixed with the old Guidhel/Elysian base, moreso among the Élyséenais of the hills of the Septarchy and less so among the Gottish on the plains of Gyrax. Many upper-class families of the Olden Empire, Itlania, and Alspadia are marked by the pale skin, light hair, and blue or violet eyes of the old Gotha reavers, who first served and then assimilated or were assimilated into the local noble houses.

The Gotha peoples of the Storm Coast are preyed upon by the slavers of the Olden Empire and the Eoshan city-states, and thus Gotha slaves and their descendents can be found quite far from their kindred tribes.

The human Guidhel people have brown skin, favoring the lighter tones ranging from a light pale khaki or bronze to darker chestnut and sienna. Eye color is usually green, hazel, or amber, with gold being rare and of note. Hair is dark brown, ranging near umber and taupe, and usually curly or wavy. Height and build fall within the full range of the human norms.

The Guidhel once ranged from the Storm Coast west to Twilight Mountains, and from the isles of the Serene Sea and the River of Stars in the south to the Utter Aeries in the north. Since those days nearer the dawn of men, the Elysians invaded from the south, the Gotha from the east, the Mhordlakhy from the west, and various tribes and bands of Kartaghans, Deshreti, and even Manday have made their way north.

As such there remain no truly pure groups of Guidhel, though the Witch-Folk of Mhoriedh are perhaps the purest, they or the savage tribes of the Northern Wilds. Even with the many migrations and long centuries of assimilation, the Guidhel type still predominates among the common folk of Aurlandia, Gyrax, and to a lesser extent Gregorius and the Septarchy.

The Guidhel form is common too in Alspadia, especially among the common folk, while a strange if pleasing admixture of Mhordlakhy, Guidhel, and Gotha is found in Bagaudia. There, the wormy pale skin of the Mhordlakhy is tempered by the bronze of the Guidhel and the ruddy pink of the Gotha into a shimmering snow white, with the raven black hair of the Mhordlakhy or the platinum blonde of the Gotha and the amber eyes of the Guidhel. It is no great wonder that the slave-takers of Itlania and Alspadia range across the Mountains of Blood to steal Bagaudian maidens.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

F is, um... sorta like E, and E is for Elysion

I haven't really anything in the Olden Lands that starts with an F... huh. So here's a double-helping of E...

His Royal Majesty, Megakles VII, Great King of the Elysians, Lord of the Viridian Throne; Grand Prince of Elysion; Suzerain of Itlania, High Lord of Alspadia, Eosha, Notixos, and the Northern Reaches; Protector of Deshret; Grand Admiral of the Inner Seas and Outer Ocean; Archon of the Thunder Peaks; etc, etc… (Evil 0-level Normal Man)

Capital: Vasilopolis [City of the King] (pop. 60,000)
Humans: 16,000,000 (includes Auriante, Austellia, Tarraconia, Velanto, and Vóreioskórea)
Demi-humans: Few
Humanoids: Some (goblinoids and ogres in the Starcrag Peaks)
Monsters: Some, mostly in ancient underground ruins, in royal menageries, guarding the towers of wizards, or kept as assassins or muscle. The Storm Giants in the Thunder Peaks are considered holy, as are the sylvan creatures of the Immerwood.
Languages: Itlanic; Elysian, Itlanic, Élyséenais, Thysian, Common, East Gottish, Kartaghan.
Resources: Copper, gems (diamonds, opals), silk, silver, wood (rare)

This history of the Elysians and their coming to this continent, the founding of their many kingdoms, the foundation of the Empire of Elysion and its growth, rot, and final Doom, are all dealt with in detail elsewhere in this work. Following the Dark Age, the heartlands of Elysion collapsed into more than a hundred petty, squabbling cities, towns, and citadels, all menaced by tribes of Gotha and Kartaghans, humanoids and monsters. Here a lord, there a count, one a prince, the other a king. For long centuries no one power arose, and truly potent states were few, far between, and rarely lasted more than a few generations.

The Rekindling in Itlania and the growth of the Kingdom of Itlanis, together with the unifying myths and legends of the Golden Kingdom and the efforts of the clerics of the God of Law, slowly and in fits and spurts, dragged old Elysion back into civilization. But it took the conquests of the new Itlanian Empire to bring together the squabbling lords of Elysion. By the time the Itlanians had reached the Great Heart River, seven (mostly) united principalities stood between the Great Heart and the Sunrise Sea. Their united armies swarmed the streets of Vasilopolis and in unison told the Itlanian Emperor, “no further!” War was averted, the Itlanian Empire reached then its greatest extent, and the seven principalities were left alone.

Following the collapse of the Itlanian Empire, the various Elysian princes first sought to go their own ways. Further internecine wars, the continual break-ups and reconfigurations of the principalities, migrations of barbarians, and corsair attacks convinced Prince Orion of Vóreioskórea that Elysion needed to be unified once again. He thus initiated the 30-year War of the Princes that unified old Elysion under a single banner. When the dust settled, he created a new kingdom, the Great Kingdom of the Elysians, and crowned himself with the regnal name of Megakles while wearing the Royal Green, for he was wise enough to know that any who tried to claim the old Imperial Purple would die a horrible death.

This long rule stabilized the kingdom, as did his creation of the electoral college of princes, used to determine the next king. To firmly center the kingdom on old Vasilopolis, and to purposefully weaken the position of the king in regards to the other princes, he carved out the Royal Domains during his Great Realignment. This gave the king, who must forgo all claims to the throne and lands of his former principality, enough personal power, without combining the might of the sovereign with the personal power of the principality.

And so far, the balance of powers created by Megakles I, “The Great,” has held. It has helped much that the kingdom Orion built was purposefully well-defined by riverine and sea borders, the defenses of which are in the hands of marcher lords appointed directly by the sovereign. Open conflicts between the principalities have been limited, and of these, few have ever come to blows, as tactical considerations, being restricted, allowed the combatants to end their conflicts diplomatically. The arts of the assassin, however, have thrived, especially in the last century.

With no major threats to the peace, and no grand schemes of conquest (such as the Gottic Empires’ ill-fated crusades), the princes of the realm have turned decadent, dissipated, and debauched. A few have sought aggrandizement otherwise, such as the Prince of Auriante and the growth of his trade network among the isles of the Sunrise Sea, or the similar and competing efforts on the part of the princes of Austellia and Tarraconia in the Serene Sea. Most princes simply feast, engage in debauched rites, enjoy decadent pleasantries, or engage in classic tournaments or set-piece battles for amusement. A few plot, especially with the less-than-great “greatness” of Megakles VII on the throne.

As yet the Great Plague and the Saracen and Paynim hordes from the West have made few inroads into the Great Kingdom. Should it and/or they reach its shores, likely through Tarraconia, Austellia, Velanto, or Vóreioskórea, the weak, dissipated, and debauched realm may once again feel the sting of disaster and desolation.

Friday, April 5, 2013

E is for Eosha

His Sublime Majesty, Zenggan Marajiq, Tarkhan of the East, Khan of Mekhnazai, Sultan of All Eosha [disputed] (Evil 15th level Nomad Barbarian)

Capital: None; the major settlements are:
   Aghazari [City of Warriors] (pop. 16,000)
   Dharangide [Deep Port] (pop. 20,000)
   Mekhnazai [City of Slaves] (pop. 26,000)
   Zagigi [City of Magicians] (pop. 12,000)
Humans: 3,600,000
Demi-humans: None
Humanoids: Gnoles (300,000), Gnolls (200,000), Half-Orcs (100,000), Orcs (30,000)
Monsters: Many, especially the nyumbanyama or “thunder lizards,” i.e. dinosaurs, of an evolved sort that are kept as domesticated animals. The larger, wild varieties are rare but not unknown. Pterodactyls are common along the Fire Coast. The plains are home to centaurs. Giant ants, hyenas, lizards, scorpions, snakes, and spiders are common in the wastes, rarer so are basilisks and cockatrices. Hidden valleys in the Black Sands are home of blemmyes, chromandi, macrocephali, muscaliets, myrmecoleons, skiapods, syrictae, ypotrylls, and stranger creatures. The scattered ranges of the Dawn Peaks and Obsidian Mountains are home to cyclopes, griffons, harpies, hill giants, manticores, and wyverns, while those that are actively volcanic are lairs for red dragons, fire giants, and salamanders.
Languages: Kartaghan; Eoshan (many dialects), Kartaghan, Manday, Deshreti, Gnoll, Orcish, Firdawsiyah, Elysian.
Resources: Gold, ivory, nyumbanyama hides, silver, slaves, spices

Eosha is a land of great contrasts. The plains along the shores of the Sea of Fire are a patchwork of villas, plantations, and meadows; inland are dry, tall plains, bone-dry deserts, and terrible, rocky wastes; further south stand tall peaks of basalt and obsidian, many still active volcanoes; and south of these, the green leafy jungles of the Yasdunn. The contrasts also divide the peoples, a mix of Manday and Kartaghan, Elysian and Deshreti; for the cities are ruled by a few of great wealth and power, and peopled by masses of the destitute and desperate.

Though once the heartland of the Second Caliphate, the Temple of Law never had a strong hold on the hearts of the local peoples, and more than a hundred gods and demons are worshiped in the cities and villages of Eosha. The religious divisions of the people are continued in the political sphere, with every city and most major towns and even villages all being independent of one another. The lands between these settlements are home to disparate tribes, clans, and bands of various races and cultures, themselves all independent and at times, xenophobic.

Ruins dot the landscape; those of Deshreti, Elysian, Paynim, and Saracen sort are most common, but there are others that pre-date the rise of Deshret, no few of them most mysterious and non-human of aspect.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

D is for Dungeon God

Also known as the Lord of the Underworld, King of Demons, Father Chaos, Goblin-Maker, Elf Bane, Master of Monsters, the Great Adversary, and a dozen other epithets, the Dungeon God is the risen form of the Fallen Titan Moerdreth. He is the single-most powerful and widely worshiped of the gods of Chaos and Evil, though the King of Devils would dispute it out of sheer obstinacy and spite.

After the Elder Titans slew him they cast his body into the Abyss at the roots of the world, beneath the many Hells. But he did not fall through the Abyss into the Void, instead landing upon some shelf or crevasse near the very bottom. From his twisted, rotting heart sprang an unholy black maggot that burrowed up through the Roots of the World. For long millennia this blind, mewling, undying thing crawled through the Hells and the Underworld and the spaces in between, until it found the Heart of Chaos. There it merged with the heart and formed around itself a cocoon, and for centuries more transformed in the cocoon while bathed in the energies of the Heart of Chaos. Then, after 666 years, the cocoon hatched, and out strode that which is now known as the Dungeon God.

This was long ages before the coming of the Elysians. Of the wars that were fought by the Goblinoids and Orcs at his command, little is known today, save in the lore of Elves and the tales of Dwarves. But the age-long conflict had already simmered down ere the founding of Deshret, and remains at a low boil to this day. Why the Dungeon Lord had not continued to pursue his great crusade against the Elves, Dwarves, and other races of the world is a bit of a mystery, but the major factor seemed to have been the interference, once again, of the Elder Titans. For, from some time in the ancient, Elder Days – it is said, from around the time of the sinking of the lands around the Eternal Mountains and the forming of the Serene Sea – until the Doom of Elysion and the rise of the God of Law, the power of the Dungeon God had been hemmed in, physically and mystically, by the Elder Titans.

With the removal of the Elder Titans from the world, the Dungeon God was free to act once again. Unlike in previous ages, when he had little to do with the races of Men, save in forming minor, petty cults, he founded a great temple. The First Prophet of the Dungeon God appropriately enough was Umbreo, an apostate of the God of Law. The Temple of the Dungeon God, also known as the Anti-Church, was founded along the same lines as the Temple of Law, though of course opposes it in every way.

The anti-clerics of the Dungeon God even conduct their rites in vile mockery of the holy rites of the clerics of the God of Law. The major difference is that the temples of the Anti-Church, unlike those of the Gregorian Church, are independent of each other, and unlike the independent but usually friendly temples of the Elysian Rite, often compete with each other most violently. Each sect is led by its own Evil High Priest, equivalent to an Archbishop or Metropolitan. There is a sect of Dark Hierophants, led by the Father of Darkness, the Ascended Umbreo, who guide the Anti-Church overall in major matters of theology and policy, but each evil high priest is otherwise free to do as he pleases, as is the nature of Chaos.

While sects differ in minor details, anti-clerics of the Anti-Church generally wear rust red robes trimmed in black. The trim is covered in vile sigils done in copper, silver, or gold thread, the more valuable, the greater the rank. Each sect varies wildly on the nature of their headgear; it is an important mark of distinction. One sect might wear skullcaps, another skull masks, still a third horned helms, and so forth, the larger, more decorated, and more ostentatious, naturally the greater the rank. Many sects also revere a Chaos Beast, an ally or servitor of the Dungeon God, in blasphemous mockery of the reverence of the Holy Saints of the God of Law. As such, many Beast Cults are allied with, if not actually fronts for, the Anti-Church.

Anti-clerics possess sorcerous powers in direct opposition to the miracles available to the clerics of the God of Law. They can cause wounds, or cause blindness or deafness, create plagues, slay the living, conjure hellfire and demons, and so forth. Unlike the miracles granted to the clerics of the God of Law, these are not miraculous in nature; they are forms of sorcery that must be learned through normal occult means. Many anti-clerics are also practitioners of eldritch wizardry.

Very little is taboo to the anti-clerics; really, they are allowed to do as they please as long as they do what they are told by their superiors and do not do anything that is moral, ethical, just, or kind (save as when necessary to keep up appearances if living or travelling incognito). Whenever they perform an act of kindness under such circumstances, they must later perform a blasphemous act threefold its equivalent in evil to make it up to their lord.

Sacrifices are preferably in the form of sentient races, ideally beautiful elven maidens, however as such are hard to come by, beautiful human maidens are a close second. The further from this ideal the sacrifices, the more must be provided. Like most such gods, the Dungeon God also enjoys sacrifices of gold, gems, jewelry, and other wealth, again split between his own “personal vaults” and the clergy. Few vaults are more cunningly designed and deviously trapped than the dedicated treasuries of the Anti-Church!

The afterlife promised by the Dungeon God is one either of vast rewards or eternal punishment. For those who obey his wishes and succeed in their endeavors in his name, their reward is eternal life, either as a major undead (wraith, spectre, lich, etc.) or as one of the exalted dead in his Hells, with all the power and majesty that comes with it. For those who fail to meet his expectations, an eternity of torment by those who succeeded. There is no safe middle ground…

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

C is for Crimson God

The Crimson God is a god of the old South, one of the last major surviving, or at least, still active Old Gods of Deshret. The only other deity remaining from that era that has any sort of significant following is the Silver Lady, by legend his sister and/or wife. Some sages have conjectured that Kryx is his, her, or their son.

Also known as the Old Serpent, the Great Scorpion, or the Demon Jackal, the Crimson God is a god of the desert and wastes. He is a wrathful god, harsh and demanding of his followers and priests. Being the only remaining major Deshreti god, his worship is widespread in the Scarlet Wastes and throughout the South. His cult is still found to the north, as well, but is not generally openly practiced, as it was severely repressed in the days of the height of the Temple of Law.

The Old Serpent requires regular sacrifices of wealth, animals, and human lives. In most temples the animals and humans are sacrificed on an altar, their blood spilled by sharp blades of obsidian. In other temples, they are thrown to giant serpents, giant scorpions, or packs of temple jackals. Stylized versions of any of these three creatures are used as his holy symbol. Half of all treasure sacrificed is hidden away in the vaults of the god; the other half is used to support the priests. His priests truly know their god’s wrath on the occasions when his vaults are pilfered by thieves.

The priests of the Crimson God are mighty in the all ways of magic, priestly, sorcery, wizardry and eldritch wizardry. They command powerful spells of fire and wind, death and necromancy, and are masters of summoning demons to do their bidding. They possess no spells of healing, but are talented at the arts of alchemy, and thereby provide their worthy and wealthy followers with healing poultices. Priests wear crimson robes trimmed with hieroglyphs and don gold jewelry in the design of snakes, scorpions, and jackals. They wear headdresses of various sizes and forms that indicate their rank.

Priests must shave off all hair, including eyebrows; many have the holy scriptures of their faith tattooed upon their bodies. They must remain vegetarian, giving unto their god the animal flesh that they would otherwise consume. Both men and women may serve the Crimson God; they have no requirement to remain celibate or chaste, and often are quite depraved in tastes and practices. If they should have children they must sacrifice their first-born child to their god.

Followers of the Crimson God, when they die, find themselves being judged by their god personally. If they have been obedient and fulfilled their allotted place in their mortal life, they are granted more of the same in eternity, in the Crimson God’s Great Hall of the Afterlife. If he feels they have failed him, he casts them into one of many, many different Hells, depending on their sins and failures. The worst of the failures are consumed by the god himself in his serpent aspect, to ever burn in the acids in his gullet.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

B is for Blood Isles, Bugbears, and the Black God

Independent towns, tribes, and cults

Largest Settlement: Blóðhavn [Blood Harbor] (pop. 6,900)
Humans: 200,000
Demi-humans: Few
Humanoids: Some (mostly goblin-men)
Monsters: The highlands are home to frost and fire giants, and fire and frost salamanders. The many openings to the Underworld provide opportunities for the strange and unusual to appear on a regular basis.
Languages: Common; North Gottish, East Gottish.
Resources: Food (gin), gems (bloodstones, obsidian), mercenaries, ships, slaves

When the Gotha first arrived here early in their sea-faring migrations east (not coincidentally, around the time of the arrival of the Elysians) they found a land uninhabited by men, though many ruins could be found half-buried in lava flows and ash. The ruins were of ancient elven sort, as well as an unknown, earlier style marked by ziggurats and obelisks built with marble and bloodstone (both stones not native to the volcanic islands). There were wild sheep, goats, and ponies that roamed the forests and fields; the only native predators were a species of large fox. The immigrants cleared the fertile valleys, planted farms, and settled in for the long haul.

And so for a thousand years the isles, originally known as the Isles of Ice and Fire, were home to a dozen petty tribal kingdoms of typical Gotha sort. Then, during the Doom of Elysion, disaster struck. The earthquakes that ravaged the lands of the Serene Sea caused the geologically active isles to explode into activity. Many tribes and petty kingdoms were obliterated instantly, their ruins covered by lava, ash, or ice. Worse, the ancient, unknown ruined ziggurats, which for centuries had been used as quarries and mines for bloodstone, cracked wide open, releasing a torrent of insane, maddened spirits throughout the island.

While most of the spirits are long since faded or fled, the results of their work remain, for they were the last spiritual remnants of devotees of the Blood God. Though the Gotha were aware of the Blood God, prior to this time they generally placated it; now, after whole clans were possessed by these spirits, the island became dedicated to the abject worship of the Blood God in its aspect as the Berserker. Along with the upheavals and the cracking of the ziggurats, a great number of entries to the Underworld opened up, and the followers of the Berserker spread far and deep into the Underworld, becoming the majority human faction in that strange realm.

Not all the residents of the island are madmen, though many are. Most are merely devout followers of the Berserker, or one of his associated Chaos Beasts. As the various kingdoms of the island more often fight each other than worry about invading elsewhere, most are happy to leave the Blood Islanders to their own madness. It is when all the petty kingdoms are united under one king that trouble stirs…

Bugbears are a goblinoid race native to the forests, plains, and hills of the cold northlands, from the Northern Wilds and the Worgwood in the west to the Icefang Forest and the Hoarfrost Coast in the east. Known as the Hru’chun (plural, singular Hru’chuk) in their own tongue, bugbears have dark black skin hidden under a thick, oily fur. Eyes are pink to red. Fur ranges from white, gray, brown, or black, often with a lighter mask upon the face and one, two, or three lighter stripes upon the back. Some tribes display spots of lighter fur upon their chest and throats.

Their legs are short for their build, and the pads of their wide feet are thick, giving them the ability to move quickly over snow with a shambling gait and, otherwise, to move quite silently when needful. Bugbear faces are vaguely mannish in form, with a broad oval head with a thick brow ridge set over deep-set eyes. They have large and broad furry orc-like ears. The mouth is wide, protuberant, and filled with sharp teeth. The nose is squashed and flat. Bugbears stand about 7’ tall with a broad build and weigh 300 pounds. Bugbears can live to be about 60 years of age.

Hru’chun originated far to the north, upon the frigid plains beyond the Northern Wilds. They are said to descend from the goblins who served the Ice Lord Golgathrim in the elder days. As such they are especial enemies of dark elves and utterly inimical to elves and dwarves. Prior to the Fall of Avalondë they were bottled in the north; since that time and in the ages since, they have become as wide-spread as any of the goblin races, though never living in any great numbers or large tribes save in their native frozen north, where they are unchallenged save by ice dragons, giants, and ogres.

In the south they tend to remain aloof from their cousins, the goblins and hobgoblins, only working with them when driven to do so by some greater power. They are the least talented of the goblins when it comes to smithcraft. Few bugbears know how to work metal, and their weapons tend to be crude and weak. They prefer to steal weapons or, at need, make them of wood, bone, and stone, a skill at which they are excelled only by the cavemen of the Vurmadhraun Mountains.

Bugbears, like all goblinoids, can crossbreed with nearly any race other than giantings, gnolls, or ogres. The spawn of a bugbear and a human, elf, orc, or hobgoblin is a largish, furry hobgoblin. The spawn of a bugbear and a dwarf, gnome, halfling, or goblin is invariably a hirsute goblin.

The cult of the Black God is an ancient cult, originally held by Guidhel druids of modern-day Mhordlakh. There, at the heart of the Blackwood, they found a lonely black mountain; at the base of this mountain they found the ruins of an ancient temple. Deep within the temple, far under the mountain, was a black cyst. Within that cyst they found the Black God, so called because no one could see him in the absolute darkness of his black pit. But those who stood by the edge of his pit, he whispered to, and taught them many dark secrets of the earth.

The Black God is also known as Chernobog; however, no one with a lick of wisdom ever speaks that name save in the appropriate ceremonial rituals. He is also called by various epithets, such as the Father of the People, the Speaker from the Pit, the Shadow Demon, and the Dweller in Darkness. His origins are unknown; the most likely theory among sages is that he is a wayward son of Lady Night. That his priests do not persecute the Mhordlakhy nunneries dedicated to Lady Night gives some credence to this belief, though there is no connection in the canons of either faith.

The priesthood of the Black God was absorbed by the agnostic Mhordlakhy when they invaded and were assimilated by the Guidhel and Kartaghans of the land. As the Black God worked on a quid pro quo basis, they felt that this, of any god, would fit their needs. The priests of the Black God are potent in magic dealing with growing things of the earth, such as plants and animals; in divination magic, scrying, and creating darkness; and in necromancy, abjuration, and alchemy. They do not have any healing spells, though they are proficient enough in alchemy to create healing poultices.

The common village priests of Mhordlakh, Bagaudia, and Nhorr concentrate on the spells of soil, sowing, and reaping, as their druidic forebears did ages ago. Those who attain greater powers remain at the ancient temple at the base of the Black Mountain, where they serve the Black God and earn gold and jewels for their services to the Mhordlakhy Wizard-Princes. Much of this treasure is spent in acquiring beautiful maidens, who they cast into the cyst in sacrifice to their god.

The priests of the Black God wear black robes, those of village priests trimmed in white and silver, those of the seers trimmed in yellow and gold. Hair is worn long, as are beards. Black peaked hoods are worn, the taller the hood, the greater the rank. Priests must remain chaste and celibate, cannot eat the flesh of fish, fowl, or wild game, and may only wield dagger and staff. The Black God does not accept women in his service, though neither does he nor his priest oppose their service in the nunneries of Lady Night.

The goodly afterlife promised is much like follower’s daily lives, though a better in all ways. For those who do not make the cut, eternity is confinement to a dreary, dark Hall of the Dead in the Underworld. And for the disobedient and disrespectful, the Black God promises one of the Burning Hells, to be consumed and voided by demons over and over for all eternity.

Monday, April 1, 2013

A is for Avalandia

His Fey Majesty, Elerossë Míriel, High King of all Elves (Neutral 10th level Noble Fighter/Wizard)

Capital: Avalandorindë [City of the Elves] (pop. 16,000)
Humans: 50,000
Demi-humans: Elves (100,000), Half-Elves (60,000), Halflings (30,000), Gnomes (10,000)
Humanoids: Few (many raiders from the northern and southern Verdhulann)
Monsters: Few (many incursions from the northern and southern Verdhulann)
Languages: Common; Elvish, Guidhel, West Gottish, Halfling, Gnomish.
Resources: Furs, gems (alexandrite, emeralds), silver, spices, wood (rare)

The largest kingdom of the Verdhulann and the largest elven realm in the Olden Lands, the lords of Avalandia claim the whole of the Verdhulann, though for long centuries they have only properly held the heartland, less than a quarter of the whole. The elves, once the dominant race of the Olden Lands, have faded from their ancient glories, and today spend their time in revels and reverie, roused from their fey domain only by threats to their own peace or great threats to the Verdhulann as a whole. Here the great trees of the Verdhulann grow tallest, their trunks thick as castles, their branches spread as wide as a town.

The High Elves, as the elves of Avalandia are known, are old and tired. Fewer are born every year, and more pass on into the Halls of the Dead or move on to the land of Faerie every decade. The first of the mortal races to arise, the elves were once the most powerful and potent race, but today they are deep into their twilight. The land of Avalandia reflects this, for though there is great joy to be found there in meadow, copse, and field, there is also far more sorrow and weariness. One gets a sense of fading in the land and its peoples.

The only vibrancy remaining is in the half-elven population. Their strength is in their human blood, for it burns as strongly with ambition as that of any human, tempered with the long-term planning and ideals of their elven ancestors. If there is a future for Avalandia in the Olden Lands, it is among the half-elven kin of the founders. The patrols that guard the borders are all of half-elves, as is most of the standing militia, while trade is handled by the gnomes and most craftsmen are humans or halflings. Most full-blooded elves spend their days reveling or in reverie.

The elven city of Avalandorindë is the oldest non-ruined city in the Olden Lands, founded more than 30,000 years ago after Moerdreth was chained. It is thus the least elven of all elf settlements, as elven architectural styles have changed drastically over the last 30 millennia, but in their capital they maintain the original styles. Here the elves build in stone, marble and lavender jade, with crystal domes and tall fluted columns. Many of the ancient buildings lay ruined, covered with vines, flowers, and trees, monuments to lost elven glory.