Across Shifting Sands

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by MachinaWriter, Aug 18, 2014.



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  1. This is my first ever original roleplay on Iwaku. I had a pretty decent track-record of successful roleplays on my last site, but a plague overran the fertile crops there and I had to grab what few things I had left and come here, to Iwaku. Which is an extremely apt metaphor for what the nature of this roleplay. This is a spin-off of a roleplay I did a long time ago, that eventually became the basis of my current graphic novel series and spurred a whole trend of similar roleplays afterwards. So you can say it was decently successful. But in the process of writing that, I had so many great ideas on what to do with that setting. There were three cultures within that universe: The Caldaen Empire, the Baltaen, and Uhrat. My original roleplay took place within only the first. The graphic novel spans all three. This one, will take place in the third one, and by far my favourite. It's a land of rich culture, great sand dunes and magnificent cities. With history steeped in love, tradition, blood, and war. It is a fantasy story, set within a unique universe. As for the plot, I would want to discuss with the people joining. First I like to set up the world, then the characters, and then the story. Below I will outline a few pieces of Uhrat:


    There is an ancient story in Uhrat. That there was a beautiful woman, who could not bear children. In her grief and loneliness, she laid down and cried, refusing to move. For years she simply laid there, imagining every child she would ever have had. She imagined their children, and their children's children. She imagined the generations that would have been, but could not be.

    So long did she dream and lay, that her body soon withered away and became sand. So long did she cry, that her tears became the sea. The gods, so moved by her sorrow and grief, took a single strand of her hair and with it gave life to the first of the generations she had dreamed of. The gods told them “Tell us where you would like to live, and we will offer you that paradise.”

    “We will live here, in the desert by the sea,” they said. The gods were confused. Why would anyone choose to live in such a harsh place? Perhaps it is because they do not know what the rest of the world looks like. So they showed them the great mountains to the north, with crystal water and snow capped peaks. They showed them the lush plains to the west, golden and green. They showed them the green forests of the south, with trees as tall as mountains. But still, they chose the desert. “Why?,” the gods asked.

    “To be with our mother,” they replied. Sha'yuma, the gods then called her. Mother of nations. For it is then, the nation of Uhrat was born.


    City: Ashruq'madna [ah-shrook-mahd-nah]
    The capitol of Uhrat, seat of the Sunrise Throne, jewel of Sha'yuma's Eye. There are many titles, but to those that live there, it is simply known as Ashruq. Nestled in the northernmost peninsula of Uhrat, it has the sea to it's east, the desert to the southwest, and mountains bordering the rest. Despite being the 'capitol' of Uhrat, it is in fact only the second largest city. It's position of importance is due to it's secure position, reachable only by sea or the narrow landstrip to its southwest. But more than that, it is the city by which access to the Temple Isles is made. Because of this, it is also known as a holy city.

    There are [ 1,320 shrines ] throughout the city, each to a different god or spirit. Because of the city's perception as a holy place, it is the only location in the country where slaves are not permitted. This has created a booming economy built on laborers and artisans, who are paid better here than in any other place in the country. Every servant in the palace section of the city must be paid, though the sum is often low.

    The city itself has distinct districts. Most of it is known as the artisan quarter, though it takes up nearly half of the city, from the eastern docks to the southern gates. Shops, markets, trade schools, taverns, restaurants, inns, and even brothels. All can be found here. Day and night this part of the city is alive, full of life. Hanging lanterns are strung from roof to roof, keeping it lit even during the most moonless of nights.

    Then there is the residential area. Small homes, large homes, tents. This is all located in the part of the city closest to the mountain walls that the city is built against, even going so far as that there are whole streets and homes carved through tunnels on the mountain's face.

    The northernmost part of the city, nestled atop a great cliff overlooking the sea, is the Palace District, known as [ Sarh'thaheeb ]. Large shrines, manor homes, palaces, and all that makes this city grand. It is known as Sarh'thaheeb, due to the great gilded roofs and gold painted designs found on many of the homes. During the day, this section of the city literally glows when seen from a distance.

    Traditions & Magic In Uhrat: a'ilamer [ah-e-la-meer]
    a'ilamer [ah-e-la-meer] is the term used for the religion of modern Uhrat, though it is not something that is organized, and it is not a title for some religious group. It is not even a word that people feel the need to speak often. It just is. There is no word for it in the Caldaen tongue, as it expresses many things. The simplest one would be "love for those not seen", but that would be only part of the meaning. The Uhrat believe in a form of ancestor worship, where the actions they take in life have everlasting influence on their descendants.

      • [ kayrah ] is the act of dying with honor to your family's name. It means that you have left your family's name either stronger, or in good shape, doing nothing to tarnish it at the point of your death. Someone who is kayrah will have a poem, or song, written by their eldest child, to be recited at their funeral. That song will be passed on to all descendants, either verbally or through a family book. Those wishing guidance, spiritual aid, or to atone for some mistake that causes them guilt, will burn an offering at the family altar and sing the song of the ancestor they wish help from. Sometimes they will simply play them a song, or hum a tune. But, in all fashions, they are asking for help and guidance.

        [ Asha'kahn ] is a term with many connotations in Uhratian culture. It is the boogeyman, it is a ghost, a poltergeist, a demon. They take many forms. An Asha'kahn is what the Uhratians believe you become if you die and are not kayrah. If you bring disgrace to your family, or live without honour, you will become Asha'kahn. All of your ancestors will be forced to pay the price. Every morning they will have to light incense to ward the Asha'kahn away from them and their family. And every night they must sing the Song of Atonement, asking for forgiveness for their ancestor's sins. If this is not done, or you do something bad or dishonorable, it is believed that the Asha'kahn in your family will follow you and play pranks on you, filling your days with curses and bad luck.

        [ Sha'batal ] is the highest honour a person can achieve. It is kayrah, but for your people. For all of Uhrat. Sha'batal either lived their lives seeking to improve the whole of their people, or died as a hero. It is not enough to die in battle, protecting your country. That is a person's duty. That is kayrah. No, for someone to be Sha'batal, they must have done something extroardinary. The Sha'batal are the only people other than the royal family who have their bodies burned on the Temple Isles. All Uhratians may pray for their blessing, in times of dire need. Their songs are the epics of Uhratian culture.

        [ The Temple Isles ] of Uhrat are holy ground. Only the Magi may step foot on this land, for it is the resting place of all Uhratian royalty and the country's greatest heroes. The Magi are the only people in the country who learn to use magic. To the Uhrat, magic is not a science. It is a spiritual thing, a connection to their ancestors and to the spirit world they inhabit. To use it for personal means is to invite armies of Asha'kahn into your life. It must be handled with reverence. The Magi believe that all magic comes from the Temple Isles. That the souls of their ancestors migrate there in death, creating a pool of energy that flows to the rest of the world, giving more life in the place of what they left behind, like thousands of streams, watering the world.
        The Magi have three general classes. There are the cleansers, those who have basic magical abilities. Because of their ability to touch the magic in the world, it is viewed as them being safe to handle the dead royalty or the Sha'batal brought to them. They clean the bodies and prepare them for the pyre.
        Next are the Priests and Priestesses of the Isles. After years of being a cleanser, training for hours every day, they become the protectors of the Isle. It is their job to stand guard and protect from any who might wish the place harm.
        And finally, there are the Ma'gyet [Ma-jEYE- et]. These people are believed to be born with the soul of a Sha'batal. It is believed that the Sha'batal's soul flows through their blood, giving them power. Born in pairs, they are raised on the Isles and trained from birth to lead the Magi.

        [ qa'sesh ] are an integral part of Uhratian culture. They have existed amongst their people since before the Uhratians even lived a'ilamer, during a time when they believed the world to be full of thousands of demons, gods, and spirits. The qa'sesh is a holy ribbon, something passed down through the generations. It is a key part of their funeral rites. When someone dies, the family will make a qa'sesh, like a long shawl. It is decorated with designs and poems, even ornate pictures; all representing the deceased's life. Think of it like an biography, in the form of pictures and poetry. The poems create the border, and the center is filled with images sewn into the fabric. So vital is the qa'sesh to a Uhratian funeral, that if a family cannot afford the fabric needed, the village will help pay for it. Because without it, there is no way for the soul to leave the body. The qa'sesh is wrapped around the person's body, like a mummy. Then the body is carried out to the desert, where a Magi performs the ritual. Using magic, he burns the body, without causing any harm to the qa'sesh. When the person has become ash and sand, the wind carries the loose qa'sesh away. The eldest son, if the person had children, or a close friend or relative, will then walk alone until they find the qa'sesh. After that, it is passed down for all time.

        In times of battle, warriors will adorn themselves with the qa'sesh of respected ancestors, hoping to gain protection. They will wrap their arms with it if they wish for strength, their body if they wish for protection, or wear it as a shawl if they wish for wisdom. Because of this tradition, few Uhrat even wear armor into battle, choosing to trust in their ancestors. In the old days, it was also believed that it protected them from curses, demons, and evil spirits, who liked to plague soldiers on the battlefield.
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