WHISPERS FROM THE MOUNTAIN The Map of Viystea Viystea, a land torn asunder by the meddling of the Corvus in eons long past. The West trudges on as warlike clan spills the blood of warlike clan in the long shadow of the twin nations that still cling to the ideals of the Old Empire, but even they twist and writhe in webs of conspiracy over petty differences. It is now, in the Third Age as the frost creeps back northward that the realms of mortals once again wring their hands in plotting, shields and axes are taken off the wall and life returns to normal. Although, there are machinations afoot that put the most complex webs of lies and betrayal to shame in the realm of Viystea. Zheng Feng, a famous Ling author, archaeologist and adventurer traveled to the Aunthayavon Peninsula in search of new species and new experiences for a new book. Above all, more than the great serpents, the giant insects and the bat-men, he sought the Old Men of the Mountain, of which tales and rumors abound from the highest courts of Ling to the seediest taverns at port. The Old Men of the Mountain are but a recent discovery by all, and not even the Corvus, who know more than most about Viystea and its nature are baffled by their surfacing. The peninsula of Aunthayavon has always been a wild land with jungle so thick few have braved them and fewer have returned from such foolish endeavors. Zheng Feng, experienced and uncommonly lucky adventurer seemingly vanished, the last anyone knew of him was that he wanted to speak to the Old Men of the Mountain. He set out with his goal and the only thing to show for his effort was a torn and wrinkled journal, soaked through with jungle rain in most places save for a few pages. "Tall, deliberate[...]always cloaked in robes of the same black as a cave you can not see down." This excerpt is the only real proof of the Old Men of the Mountain and their appearance, found three weeks after his voyage from Ling, his arrival and his disappearance. Three days after, an Austhalti merchant fleet never returned from its voyage to Ling. The sea was supposed to be calm around Austhalti and the rest of the Western Seas. Rumors from sailors come to port in Austhalti's port towns and trade posts tell of black masses, creeping mists and night skies of unnaturally black pitch. The coasts are more sinister, fishermen bring up death in their nets and the sea smells of wrongness. These foul sights and treacheries beyond comprehension have pinned several nations' scorn and distrust firmly on the Corvus, the crowmen of the Southern mountains, as their meddling into a mysterious plane of existence is what had brought magic into the world so many eons ago and tales from travellers and Corvus alike speak of their fixation of studying the effects and anomalies of this plane they refer to ominously as "The Far Side". Not long after emergence of the creeping darkness around Austhalti, a Corvus scholar came across a mysterious artifact while searching for the cause of phenomina attributed to The Far Side to seal it off at the source. The scholar, Fenron, had attempted to create a Seal about the artifact and find a way to remove it without disturbing the rift it seemed to be causing between Viystea and The Far Side as if it were an obstruction blocking a gate from closing. Before he could find an answer to what it was or how it got there, an Austhalti fleet happened upon the cave and apprehended Fenron and ceased the artifact, despite the Corvus' urgent warnings. Upon the second night of the voyage, the artifact awoke from its dormancy and some otherworldly power consumed the fleet. Of the twenty ships that had set out in search of the source of the darkness, only three returned, including by chance the artifact. It now lays in the hands of the Austhalti, and what they decide to do may very well determine the fate of Viystea. Never before in history has any nation possessed such a dangerous artifact, not since the Corvus first breached the boundries to The Far Side so many years ago. Now suffering the scrutiny and malice of the world at large, the Corvus are trying desperately to locate and contain the artifact and prevent forces that do not understand the powers they are tampering with from causing a cataclysm that could once again change the world... or end it. A travelling Ling scholar, Xi Hao, has caught word that one of the Austhalti generals is proposing that the artifact, now a great state secret, be used as a weapon against their eternal enemies of Andvalt, the other great elvish empire. Knowing the importance of acting quickly, she rushed to the booming port city of Summerhold with a plan. Calling out for adventurers, mercenaries, and any and all seeking fame, glory, and riches, she set out to gather a small, diverse team that would be unbound by law or tradition to reclaim this artifact and preventing it from reaching the apex of its potential; there is no knowing the devastation that would be unleashed upon the world. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the world at large, there are stirrings in the dreaded Aunthayavon Peninsula. The Old Men of the Mountain are set to become more than just ominous whispers of wary travelers and scholars; their machinations are unknown, but almost certainly sinister. It won't be long until Viystea knows a terror unlike anything it had experienced before. Background Whispers From the Mountain is a grimdark-fantasy RP that takes place in an era with similar technological levels for the most part as our own world's 900-1000 AD but is also subject to a few fantasy anachronisms here and there. This RP holds its players to a high writing standard (few typos, grammar errors, the ability to write at least three paragraphs per post, which is only 12-15 sentences, really, but do not hold yourself to just that) and we express the right to deny those that do not meet the standards the GMs have set forth. The GMs would like players to have the ability to create believable, interesting characters or to work with them to achieve that standard. Basic Info As implied by some of the plot written above these standards, this RP shares some themes from Lovecraftian or "Cosmic" horror, and is influenced by the insanity-inducing mythos of H.P. Lovecraft and other writers in the same vein. As per the wishes of the GMs and the atmosphere of EXTREME HOPELESSNESS AND DESPAIR player death is a thing. Don't worry, they won't be arbitrary or random. Do something really heroic or dumb and they die. Whether it be city guard or the otherworldly horrors from beyond the veil-between, your character is mortal. Overall, the GMs of this RP would be happy to work with those willing to join us on a dark, gritty adventure through an original land where players get to have a large role in creating its lore and explore the world. Viystea itself has its own lore, some created by the GMs, but most created by the players themselves as time goes on from anything from backstories in the character sheets to mentions of historical events, legends, etc. Races & Regions of the West The elves of the Austhalti realms are an Empire almost only in name. An amalgamation of duchies and kingdoms with Prince-Electors that cast in their votes to choose a new Emperor when one leaves this plane for the next. Having a culture deeply intertwined with the faith of the Old Empire by holding their ancestors in the highest regard as guiding hands of fate, they hail themselves as defenders of the faith and are home to many Knightly Orders and Church Militant. The Grand Empire of Austhalti aims to reunite the Old Empire and return to the golden age before the Great Schism under the banner of the Old Faith. Founded by the descendants of the Lord Marshal of the Old Empire long years past, they remain one of the most powerful realms in the West, rivaled only by their Southern brethren. Grand Empire of Austhalti (Move your mouse to reveal the content) Grand Empire of Austhalti (open) Grand Empire of Austhalti (close) Species: Austhalti Elves Physical Description: Reaching anywhere from 5 and a quarter to 7 feet depending on how much of the Old Empire blood flows through a given elf’s veins, they are a varied people of varied family histories. Hair colors range are either varying shades of black or grey to blonde and in the cases of Northern Old Empire, even hair so light that it borders on white. Eye colors are much like their southern Andvalt cousins, with anything from reds, greens, golds and in the cases of more pure Northern Old Empire families, lightest grey to darkest black. The purity of Old Empire blood that runs through a person can be told by many factors, including light skin, light hair and light or dark eyes, while those who followed the Marshal’s lead those hundreds of years ago take on a darker hue and are shorter than the Northern Old Empire families. Culture: The Grand Empire of Austhalti is a name as famous as Andvalt. In another era, the two nations were once one before the Great Schism that brought magic into the world and with it, the death of the Emperor’s line. Of the two great founders of each nation the Marshal of the Old Empire was all too concerned with keeping the purity of the Old Faith and the sanctity of the old ways. The canonization of the Marshal as a Patron-Saint of the King’s Order of the Shield and whose soul rests in the right hand of the late High Ancestor Emperor Bavian, who himself sits at the right side of the Highest Ancestor Baleal the Lightbearer. The Austhalti place great importance on piety and chivalry and it is for this reason that every noble learns to read using the scriptures of ancestors past and to write by the same pieces of old parchment, and to learn horsemanship and to use the lance, the spear, the sword, the mace and any number of other weapons. The Grand Empire looks chaotic and disjointed from the outside and, for the most part, it is. The courts of the Austhalti are known to be more dangerous than even the roads at night, with each courtier playing their games of intrigue. Bids of power are common among the nobility and their courtiers, with those pawns who have served their uses cast aside either dead or stripped of any power they had to exact vengeance. The hundred Dukes, Lords, Margraves and self-styled Kings fight amongst themselves, with some having only the most vestigial claims to the Empire throne and calling it enough to fight for. Outright war has not been heard of for centuries, but the nobility are wont to hire assassins and mercenaries to do their bidding. In the Grand Empire, power through webs of conspiracy and intrigue is the only power that matters and the Grand Empire sits like a vase balanced on the head of a pin, ready to break into hundreds of tiny flecks of sovereignties fallen into wars of conquest. Two bodies hold the Grand Empire together and they are the reason no foreign power has come to usurp the Empire. These two forces pushing against each other are the Red Prince Aylmer of Tide’s End, whose realm was won by conquest and the Arch-Priestess Infrey, whose claim to the throne was written in her blood. As with these two, the menagerie of nobility not aligned claim themselves to be the only leader capable of reuniting Austhalti and the Old Empire. The state of persistent conflict in Austhalti has imbued a need for ambition in the upper echelons of Austhalti society and bred a hardy stock of commoners with an iron will needed to survive in a world where the commoners are rocked about like paper boats in rough seas. Customs and Values: From Xian Jin-Sheun’s On Elven Empires: “I had stayed in a private manor in the countryside afforded by my status as a cultural visitor from the mysterious east, a status that gave me many privileges in this land once torn asunder by wars whose only way of being felt now are the way Austhalt splits itself into many principalities and city-states, not unlike the time in Ling before the Ji-Heung Dynasty, the Li Feng after their coup, the Gao Shen after theirs and so on and so forth before Emperor Long and his bloodline. May he rule for a thousand years. The older generation, who have lived twice or three-fold my own fifty years tell of devastating sieges and massive, bloody battles. Now though, the old generation laments on the unwillingness for their enemies to come out and ‘break lances’ with them like in times of old. Side note: to break lances is a slang term for engaging in a fight between two parties, whether they be two dueling nobles or two entire armies. Other terms may be ‘bloody their knuckles’ among others. The newer generation excels in plotting for the most part, with the younger children farther down the line of succession for their House’s holdings being the only ones to learn and practice the martial arts, lead and inspire men and to read the battle to best seize victory on the field. Indeed, young squires and nobles with no hope of inheritance find their worth tutoring the same young nobles and squires of the next generation, riding to serve in the retinue of a lord whose House is friendly with their own, or to simply find adventure in foreign lands as mercenaries, treasure hunters, duelists or other such things. Indeed, even the braver commoners who find themselves without work or livelihood and a handful of years behind them take to martial lives as readily as their Nobleborn highers. They strike out on their own to sign on to one of the many Free Companies made famous during the numerous wars in Austhalt, take up banditry, or simply sign on to the hard life of a sailor to see other lands, where even then if they can prove themselves, can sign on to an adventuring party. It does seem from this that the elves of Austhalt are no stranger to war and battle, where even their creation myth has them worshiping their ancestors who killed their own Gods for slights done upon them long, long, long ago. The most celebrated pastimes of the commoners and nobility are their tournaments, which are only called such out of utmost generosity. The more martial-minded and youngest of the line who neither have any wars to fight instead make their own, quite literally. The lower-rung Houses of a realm- and in some cases from neighboring realms as well- gather on any day agreed upon by the Houses involved and engage in their tournament, for lack of a better term. This tournament pitches ten warriors counting their noble-born leader against however many other teams as there are Houses participating. They then proceed to ‘break lances’ with each other, trying to make warriors and the noble-born leaders yield to their team. These spectacles can last up to three days, where at the end of which, the ransoms for every captured member of a team, the noble-born leader being the highest, is paid to the other Houses. A peculiar people indeed, but still not as warlike as those of Man, who I have heard stories of and have yet to study. By all accounts, they aim to pack as much aggression and martial endeavors into their short lives as an elf deals out sparingly in his hundred-more years. In any case, the Elves of the Austhalti Empire are a hardy bunch who know where their loyalties lie and take their debts seriously. It is for this reason that bandits are oft hired by the younger Lords of the Houses to carry out kidnappings or other such malicious activities, and so long as the money is given, the job is guaranteed to be done. The political turmoil quakes and blazes with fury and yet one would not know it unless equipped with the foreknowledge as I was before visiting. The commoners go about their daily lives largely untouched by the machinations of the highborn, and even if they are, all is done by proxy and in the most clandestine ways as to make sure nothing is transparent. Although, drinking halls and dinner parties are almost always ablaze with talk about the three strongest candidates to reunite Austhalt and then the Old Empire in its entirety. These three being Red Prince Aylmer of Tide’s End, who has already conquered nine of his neighbors along the coast to control their ports and their trade to supply his armies; Arch-Priestess Infrey holds blood relation to the old Lord Marshal of the Old Empire, with her warrior-nuns and the Church Militants rallied behind her cause. All the while, less ambitious nobility in the many City-States and Principalities are happy enough to conquer each other, uncaring to the reunification of the Old Empire, and only to the building of their own great kingdom, a feat only successfully done by King of Usstelag, Aldric the Burned, son of Marclaus the Granite. Such is life in Austhalt, a place I love in the moments between remembering how awful it is. A fine people, as obsessed about their honored ancestors as they are about notions of personal honor, while all at the same time spinning webs of betrayal to further their own ends. A strange land enough to us Ling as Ling is to these pointy-eared peoples.” Religion: Religion plays a large part in the lives of commoners, moreso than it does in the lives of the nobility. The reason for this is that unlike the nobility, the commoners are beholden to the threat of chevauchee, starvation and sickness. Cities, towns and castles in Austhalti commonly have two or three churches which the citizenry attend morning sessions. In addition to this, commoners pray at any time of day for the ancestors to keep sickness away from themselves and loved ones. Notions of piety, charity and goodness are mainly held up by priests but this is not to say the common citizenry does not care about their fellow folk, just that in Austhalti society the family comes first before anyone else. It is also common in church and the villages to pray for the ruler of whatever realm they reside in. The importance of ancestors acting as guiding hands for society stems from Baleal the Lightbearer being the one who created the first light of the world by learning the secrets of ingenuity and whose son's remains burn with ferocity in the sky during daylight. It is for this reason that the sun, light, fire, stars, engineering, architecture and the arts all play an important role in Austhalti religion. From a book written by Ling author Xian Jin-Sheun, On The Religions of the West: “Baleal the Lightbearer is believed to be the first elf, beloved by the Gods and the most beautiful of their creations. When the Gods made Viystea, they proposed a reason for its being. A game, they said, a game of chance for their amusement. Baleal was not privy to this, and so when the Gods sent down their different creations to populate the world, Baleal followed. The Gods permitted this and life went on in Viystea with the lack of light. The night was the only thing to be experienced, a black sky with nothing to bear. The land was cold, cold and dead and there was no life but Baleal and the elves that followed him. Baleal took a wife and they in time had a child. Life went on in Viystea, the lightless world. The Gods only sat back and enjoyed that spectacle they had made of beings of their creation crawling about in the darkness. Baleal, his wife and their child are regarded today as the Trinity of Creation. Baleal the Father and Lightbearer, Meluiel the Mother and Sower and Vithrilal the Son and Maker. Vithrilal had been blessed with a good mind for finding the lines that pleased the eye the most and his paintings, drawings and what he built from stone and wood were marvels still lived in by the rulers of the Principality of Old Austhalt. Baleal was endlessly proud of his son and Meluiel was almost moved to tears by the singing voice of Vithrilal, whose voice could even rival his father’s. Vithrilal one day had turned his attentions away from art and architecture to entertain a curiosity with the world. With flint he made sparks, with sparks he made fire. A flame not strong enough to keep anything warm nor to light anything beyond his own palm but a flame nonetheless. He told no one, but the eyes of a father see all, and his father was proud again. Like fathers, the eyes of Gods were not so easily hid from. Baleal and Meluiel suffered when the Gods above saw it fit to take their child from them only to see how they would react. Meluiel wept for three days, her tears making Austhalti as fertile as it is and why she is known as the Sower, and why farmers pray to her when they sow their crops and harvest them. Baleal was not happy, and while Meluiel wept at the loss of her child, he felt the sting of betrayal at the Gods and a searing anger rose in him the likes of which had never burned in his breast before. Wrath had come over him and where he was beautiful, he was less so now, his once white hair now flowing a darkest black, and his glowing golden eyes now tainted a bloody deep red. He swore not only to avenge his son but to avenge his newfound people’s circumstances. From his own charisma, he rallied the first Elves to shake their fists at the heavens and call forth their anger. From his son, he took what he knew of engineering and built a great pyre where he placed him. Again from his son, he made sparks and cast them upon the pyre, creating not the small, guttering thing the boy had made, but a great blaze fueled by his grief and fury. It burned with such a brightness it lit the whole of Austhalt and its plumes of black smoke choked the Gods and their angels from heaven. The angels had their soot-covered and useless wings cut from them and the Gods had their tongues pulled from their mouths before the Heavens-Born were drowned in the seas. Baleal was hailed as the Lightbearer from then on, for the pyre he built for his son still burns today, placed in the sky for all to see as a last act of a father’s love for his son. Baleal had been changed by his vengeance and he knew that he tainted the once peaceful Elves by showing them what anger and vengeance were. Meluiel could no longer look upon Baleal with the love she felt, for Baleal was changed both physically and in the mind. Where his voice was clear and rang with beauty when he sang, it now grumbled with hurt and anger. His hair and eyes tainted deepest black and bloodiest red and his skin turning cracked and grey. In shame he went away, across the sea, some saying he found the realms of Men, where his newfound capacity of war and death were applauded and only further was he corrupted by the fickle and naïve minds of Man… But that is a story for another time and another chapter…” When the Old Empire fell, the bloodline of the Old Emperors fell with it. The Old Emperor's ruling council held the what they could of the Old Empire together as best they could but the Lord Marshal of the Old Emperor took his vassals and his men to the northern holdings, where a line was drawn between the two and their differences. The Andvalt are ruled today by an absolute monarchy led by the descendants of the late Steward of the Old Emperor's ruling council. Under the Queen's iron rule, the Andvalt have managed to stay powerful through the use of money and intrigue, expanding their influence through a trade network that spans the entirety of Viystea, from Osstholm to Ling. The Southern Empire of Andvalt (Move your mouse to reveal the content) The Southern Empire of Andvalt (open) The Southern Empire of Andvalt (close) Species: Andvalt Elves Physical Description: Like their Austhalthi cousins to the North, the Andvalti elves are of shorter stature, reaching on average 5 and a quarter feet in height with fair olive skin, dark hair, and curiously, often light eyes. While only those of royal descent and a few higher noble families possess rare golden eyes, violets, blues, greens, and oranges encompass the range one can expect from the Andvalti elves. It is culturally expected men to sport well groomed beards, often braided and knotted in intricate ways to indicate social stature and virility. An unkempt beard, or worse, a clean face, are seen as signs of an immature or undisciplined man. The women have similar traditions and practices related to the long locks of hair that adorn their heads, and the overall effect results in one of the most haltingly beautiful elvish races to be found anywhere in Viystea. While lighter hair colours are less common, they do occur with copper being particularly alluring, and because of strict royal breeding requirements, the lighter hair is almost exclusively the domain of the common people, a source of contentious pride in a society where the nobility seem to have everything a common person would never hope to possess. Culture The economic powerhouse empire, The Southern Empire of Andvalt is a marvel of the world, renown for the masterful architecture, sculptures, and paintings, the prevalence of gilded surfaces, the most advanced coin producing society in the world, and ornate but effective weapons and armours of its sizable and disciplined army and navy. Its modern cities are certainly a sight to behold, and while the common people live taxing lives, Andvalt is wealthy enough to afford some measure of social services and a rudimentary, if flawed, system of law protecting their rights, provided they are able to pay taxes. It is easy to become blinded by the sheen and artistry of the many affluent areas of Andvalt’s cities, it is easy for travellers to entirely miss the slums, as the cities are designed in such a way to keep the poor and downtrodden out of sight as heavy guarded gates and high walls bar the only entry and exit from these sprawling sections of the city. Known across Viystea for their stunning live performances in theater, demonstration at arms, lavish ceremonies, and grand athletic contests, it is a nation that seeps a vibrant culture into all aspects of their lives for the remainder of society who are fortunate enough to afford the taxes each city sets independently of one another, but always under a watchful eye of a Judicator appointed by the Queen’s Quill, her chosen representative to oversee the administrative aspects of managing the Empire, whereas the Queen’s Pike is the grand military administrator for all of Andvalt that even its mighty generals report to for blessings and instructions to begin or cease campaigns and preparations. Despite these narrow chains of authority, the governors and generals alike enjoy a great deal of anonymity and flexibility, their deference to the Quill and the Pike are largely ceremonial. There have been only seven times in Andvalti history where either office exercised absolute rule over their subordinates, usually in times of great turmoil, including a mass popular uprising a mere 150 years into the formation of the Andvalti Empire called the Great Doubt where the people who adhered to the tenants of the Old Faith, led by the Paramount of the Ancestor-Spirit, led a bloody, if poorly organized rebellion that left tens of thousands dead in the desert sands. The elves who had participated in the uprisings were treated with the utmost severity; the leaders were ceremonially beheaded, their skulls gilded and used in the construction of the Monument of The One God to symbolically line the steps leading to the summit of the massive limestone and gold construct. The rest were left to kneel in the desert until they renounced their faiths, lest the heat of desert claim them. Those who tried to run were swiftly brought down by trained packs of Sandhounds. Since then, the Great Doubt has been used as a precaution against questioning the Divinity of the Queen or the One God. Andvalt is, by necessity, a military power worthy of fear and respect due to the perpetual state of war with their cousins to the North, the Austhalti, from whom they split during the Awakening (the schism that split Andvalt and Austhalti, as it’s known to the Andvalti). Clad in loose fabrics and scale armour, Andvalti infantry are famous for their individual, as well as formation, skills with the pike and the hooked blades called Culah that make up the typical Andvalti infantry weaponry, save for the front line javelin throwers, the recurve bow wielding archers, and the Great Mace wielding shock infantry with buckler shields, meant to be deployed against shield formations and heavy armour. Calvary, while used to route an enemy and scatter formations and as scouts, is not nearly as important to Andvalti doctrine as positioning prior to a battle and employing “bite and hold” tactics, where ground is taken by disciplined formations and seldom yielded. While hopelessly outmaneuvered in many battlefields, the conserved energy, solid formations, and well-disciplined troops are trained specifically to counter cavalry (thus their reputation with their pikes), and to let the heat of the desert act as an ally, conserving their strength and what precious water they possess against an enemy who might recklessly charge them across the scorching sands, exhausting and dehydrating themselves prematurely. When an enemy formation breaks, Sandhounds are released to chase down and maul the retreating ranks in conjunction with cavalry. A special elite unit, the Queltara or Queensguard are a group of warriors from Osstholm who act as the Queen’s bodyguards and personal representatives on the battlefield, partially due to their individual loyalty and lack of popular support in the event they would seek a coup, as well as their ferocity and talent in the battlefield. The appearance of the Queltara is a good indication that the Queen herself has ensured the battle is of paramount interest to her. Officers know to double their efforts when the Queltara take the field, as they have the authority to dispose of any officer who fails in his sacred duty to the Queen. While this rarely means fatal repercussions, it does spell the end of a promising military career. Arguably more impressive than the infantry is the pride and crown of the Andvalt Empire, the navy. Boasting some 150 ships of various construction, all are built from imported wood from Osstholm with famed Ossthomian ship builders, a tradition ranging back to the earliest trading days between Andvalt and Osstholm and the formation of the Queltara. Designed for ramming and operating in both shallow water and deep seas, the Andvalti fleet is swift, merciless, and capable of fulfilling a variety of functions in an increasingly maritime world to protect Andvalti interests. It is worth noting that the Northern reaches of the Empire are typically military settlements that have a decidedly different culture than the great cities to the desert in the South, as the forests share a border with the barbaric tribes to the North and the eternal enemy of Austhalti. This dense forest and mountain encroached land is often seen as the frontier where the roads may hide many dangers and the military acts with ruthless impunity. All visitors to the Empire would do well to arrive in the controlled ports. Customs and Values A proud race of fair elves, Andvalti live long, rich lives provided they are fortunate enough not to have been born into poverty. Great importance is put on social stature and appearance, and while this fixation on personal stature and grooming may come across as vain and needlessly narcissistic to many other nations, it has led to a vibrant culture with a strong emphasis on beauty, wealth, and personal health, where people are far more likely to be conscious about what they eat, their physical condition and cleanliness, and a government sponsored cadre of physicians and alchemists who specialize in healing salves and herbs. Great aqueducts crafted by the Old Elves have been constantly restored and zealously guarded as water here is the difference between a vibrant oasis in a sea of sand or a barren, bleached set of ruins. Many of Andvalt’s cities were also erected around underground springs, discovered by people long forgotten eons ago. Because of this, Andvalt’s cities are surprisingly lush and vibrant with brilliant colourful flora, shade giving palm trees, and sprawling public gardens with fruit bearing trees and bushes, meticulously tended to by the best gardeners Andvalt could attract from other nations. These staples of their cities are of great pride to the Andvalti people. Andvalti pride themselves on their self-control and refusal to indulge in temptations, and from a young age proper etiquette is taught to children and the numerous schools in each city. To an outsider, Andvalti may come across as needlessly terse and well-spoken, never faltering from a stern, thoughtful visage. This society-wide imposed self-discipline is impressive, but it leads to problems when it comes to trade and negotiations with much more boisterous and erratic cultures, which has led to the necessity for diplomatic training about other cultures and people amongst the merchant class and diplomats who regularly interact with people from outside Andvalt’s borders as to prepare the people for encounters with outsiders who are seen as less cultured than an Andvalti citizen at best, or barbaric at worst. Even around friends and family, it is difficult for an Andvalti to do away with the polite formalities, as excessive expression and displays of passion are frowned upon or seen as shameful. Where the Andvalti express themselves is in their art, which is often seen as the true interpretation of one’s soul. This has created some of the finest jewellers, craftsmen, painters, and sculptures in all of Viystea with goods that are demanded across the globe, including by nations and people they typically have little interaction with for a variety of reasons. While not nearly as hungry for knowledge as other nations, scholars are a respected caste and are often welcomed from afar, and the Andvalti are more than capable of using what knowledge and advancements they possess to maintain and expand their empire and its ever growing needs and demands. Religion Where Austhalti worship the Old Faith of Ancestor-Spirit Worship, the Andvalt worship the One God, He Who Shall Remain Nameless and whose image shall only be rendered unto the walls of places of worship. The Queen of Andvalt takes a religious significance in Andvalti culture, as she is said to be immortal, but when the time comes for the One God to take her has his bride, she shall be taken from the world and all of Andvalt would be showered in a bountiful dowry and blessing by the One God, assuring his faithful would all be Ascended into his gilded keep and favour in the afterlife. What the common person cannot know is that because of the rigid breeding lines of the royal family and its secluded nature, the Queen is in fact generations, from mother to daughter and so on, portrayed as the same person, controlled by selective public appearances, loyal servants who pass down their mantle to the next of kin, and an unhealthy amount of secrets even from family. As there is only the One God to worship, all temples are created in his honour, and it is a crime to portray his likeliness anywhere but in sanctioned holy sites. Like many monotheist religions, adherents to the One God believe that they will ascend to His halls when they pass on, regardless of if He has taken the Queen for his bride yet. It is believed that the One God can only be communed with blessed talisman or places of worship. While faith is important to the Andvalti, it is not nearly as pervasive or overwhelming as the Old Faith retained in Austhalti, as travellers who practice other faiths are welcome in Andvalt to bask in the rich culture and commerce, and places of worship for these travellers are often permitted to be established in designated areas, mainly driven by an attempt to attract the wealthy, scholars, and merchants. Because of this, Andvalt is a nation that is far more tolerant than others on matters of faith. It was largely due to the oppressive Old Faith that caused Andvalt and Austhalti to split all those years ago. The Oynengjar are an amalgamation of smaller tribes led by Bardulf Stag-Horn, Son of Fidulf Red-Tooth. The Oynengjar are hardened by the constant back-and-forth of attack and defense against the warlike Hessvoy tribes to the East. The Oynengjar are a fierce and brazen people, whose warriors will sometimes charge into battle wearing nothing but their warpaint. The forest echoes with the sound of warhorns in times of great upheaval and war and are alight with bonfires where the Starry-Eyed are called to dance in times of celebration and peace. Tribal Confederation of the Oynengjar (Move your mouse to reveal the content) Tribal Confederation of the Oynengjar (open) Tribal Confederation of the Oynengjar (close) An Elk-Kith signals the beginning of a raid Species: Oynengjar Elf Physical Description: The Oynengjar are not unlike their northern brethren in the tundras or the fjords, standing usually at 6.5 to 7 feet tall, although not as heavily built, bodies more suited to their custom style of unconventional warfare, waiting among the trees or tall grass and striking only when the whites of their enemies’ eyes are seen. With manes usually kept long and flowing, their colors are more varied than their blonde northern brethren, with many sporting ginger, brown or black heads. Culture: The tribes of the Oynengjar are of many names but of few differences. They worship far fewer deities compared to their fjordborn brothers to the North, as well as a menagerie of different minor spirits. With a culture so rooted in war for centuries, the Oynengjar are a grim people to some. The Oynengjar, to those few they have allowed past their borders, are a surprisingly festive and spiritual people, devoted to their deities, Servia and Thurusaz – The Crow-Mother and The Elk-Father. It is not uncommon for a farmer to christen a brand new crop by spilling an egg of a raven, as it is believed that Servia’s raven in its youngest form signifies the possibility to grow strong and healthy and it will help the seeds planted to grow and the crops to be long-lived and not fail. Many times, warriors will pray to Thurusaz for strength before battle or a duel and adorn their weapons, shields and hair with the feathers and bones of crows to earn Servia’s favor and the Undar will wear nothing but headdresses of elk antlers and capes of elk fur in battle. Seers, shamans and druids are a treasured people among the Oynengjar, used to see the future and tell fortunes as well as to bless crops, people or weapons. The blind Seers wander the land unabused by anyone, even the Undar, for to take the life of a magic person is to incur their ire for the guaranteed short remainder of the murderer’s life, whose soul will never know paradise and instead suffer in the coldness of Servia’s outer realm, a dark and frozen land of flat ice with no end in sight. As with magic people, bards and storytellers enjoy the same safety on the roads, albeit for different reasons. Bards and storytellers, called wordspinners, are always a welcome person, even able to approach an Unda’s camp to play or tell their stories in return for food and a place to lay their head for as long as they are welcomed. The Oynengjar are fond of music, which they view as a way to speak the language of the Gods and the spirits, songs and the stories of a wordspinner being one of the few ways to ward off evil spirits, as they believe music or a good wordspinner invites Thurusaz himself to sit among the crowd. That in turn gives extra incentive to the performer to perform well for their audience, a good thing for those listening to the performance. Another type of people blessed by the spirits and the Gods are the starry-eyed, Elk-Kith and Crow-Kith- none of which are particularly common and as is the case with the latter two, are usually short-lived. The Starry-Eyed are those born with eyes black as pitch, the only white being the flecks that give them their name. They are not blind but are born with the power to discern this world and with the right trance inducing herbs and fungi are able to see the veins of magic that run through the earth of Viystea like rivers, and see the tree spirits and the wind spirits. The Elk-Kith and Crow-Kith are treated like royalty, rarely being born and most not living past their fifth year. The Elk-Kith are blessed by Thurusaz with quickness and strength, born with the sprouts of antlers on their foreheads that grow as they do, as well as varying degrees of likeness to an elk, some as far as hoof-like feet and the eyes and nose of an elk as well. Many Undar are made up of Elk-Kith devoted to the practice of war. The Crow-Kith are women born with feathers lacing their arms, as well as talon-like nails on their long fingers and pitch-black eyes like that of crows, as well as legs and feet like that of a Corvus. Those who do live to be strong and healthy go on to become anything from champions of their tribe, wandering holy men and women, and in Bardulf Stag-Horn’s case, the King of the Oynengjar. Customs and Values: The Oynengjar are a warlike people, unfazed by the din of battle or the smell of old blood upon the ground. They are also a very festive people, who hold frequent bonfires in which the starry-eyed of the tribe dance with the invisible spirits of the trees and the wind while under the effects of the Seer’s Caps, a mushroom that grows in pastures where cattle graze. They are untrusting of those who come from far off, with the exception of the occasional Corvus visitor. With the appearance of giant man-like crows, they earn the praise and admiration of the Oynengjar, who see the Corvus as messengers of Servia and celebrate their arrival and departure with grand feasts, even if the feast consists of the last of their food stores. It is for this reason that Corvus come with large helpings of food of their own to give back to the village that receives them and the gift is taken with great gratitude. Just like Servia and her messengers and children, the crows, the Oynengjar prize intelligence and wit in their people, as well as patience. Celebrating those who come up with great strategies of war, or new ways to farm or new tools. The ability to play music or to tell stories are also another way that people demonstrate their intelligence and wit, with a game called Fool’s Words is often played among the tribe in their drinking halls or around a campfire. The game involves coming up with more and more elaborate insults until one contestant’s insult becomes too convoluted, where he becomes the one with the Fool’s Tongue. The Oynengjar are also the inventor of a popular form of poetry among the High Courts of Ling and the Grand Empire, as well as the Southern Empire – the Limerick. The limerick of the Oynengjar can be six or seven lines at their shortest, with a few telling whole stories. Entire anthologies of limericks and tales of the Oynengjar are often compiled and can be found in the libraries of collectors. In addition to the more peaceful arts, war is another thing the Oynengjar are very well versed in. In times of war, they try to best each other with well-planned ambushes or circumvent a hillfort’s defenses with the use of spies or saboteurs, a practice that again praises the wits and intelligence of an enemy as well as a triumph over the opposing side using brain as well as brawn. The use of spies was said to be learned from the Oynengjar, who are always the trickiest in war, and tales of folk-heroes toppling armies singlehandedly through the use of carefully laid plans are some of the most popular to the Oynengjar. Wits and intelligence are not the only things that are prized in war, but also sheer brazenness. In some cases, especially brave warriors will charge into battle wearing nothing but their woad, confident that they will win the day through their careful planning, the blessing of Thurusaz and Servia, and by their simple confidence and bravery. These warriors commonly gather in a tribe-like warrior’s band called the Unda. The Unda is made up of masterless young warriors who pledge themselves to Thurusaz by wearing the headdresses of elk’s antlers and capes of elk fur. Another implement of war still kept from the plains tribes of the Oynengjar long since pushed back by the Hessvoy and in constant battle with them is the use of the war-chariot. The Oynengjar will use war-chariots equipped with archers and wheels jutting with blades to rip the legs from under Hessvoy horses and Hessvoy warriors and farmers on foot during retaliation raids along the border villages of the Hessvoy. It is also not unknown to hear of Oynengjar who have taken up horse and bow to outride Hessvoy horsemen. Although not as strong of a horseman culture as the Hessvoy, the Oynengjar make up for it with their ingenuity and tenacity. Chariots and horses are usually adorned with raven wings and elk antlers. In times when the leader of a tribe dies, a council of the tribal elders is held called the Summit of Chiefs. During this summit, the elders discuss and debate on which young man would best lead the tribe with strong but fair hand. The practice has since extended to the choosing of royalty from among the great chiefs of the different tribes of the forests. Fidulf Red-Tooth, a warrior who was gentle in peace but rabid as an animal in war was chosen from among the younger folk by the chiefs during the early days, when Hessvoy incursions were a threat and the horsemen drove them back into the forests. Fidulf was the strongest of the Stone-Blood clan, earning his second name when he ripped the throat from the leader of a Hessvoy raid when his hillfort was sacked. Fidulf went on to unite the outlying tribes that refused to join the Tribal Confederation of the Oynengjar, either through diplomacy, and when that failed, he did what he did best. Fidulf died in battle during the Great Hessvoy Raid of 932. The Summit of Chiefs almost unanimously named his son, Bardulf as his heir and the Seers placed great importance on the boy at his birth. Being one of the very few Elk-Kith to be born and live gave him the second name Stag-Horn. He took the hoof-print of Thurusaz as his banner and has lead the Oynengjar for a hundred years now. Religion: The Oynengjar worship two deities- Servia and Thurusaz. One is the Crow-Mother, whose forms are the Crow of War, who feasts upon the flesh of the dead once the battle is over and takes the souls to be reborn; the Wolf of Strife, who signals disfavor for a person or people who encounter her in this form and are hunted to the end of their days and will not have a day of peace, always looking over their shoulder and their children will always die and crops always fail; and the Raven of Wealth, whose form signals good luck and wealth, health of the family and success of the crops. The other is the Elk-Father, whose forms are the Elk of Sovereignty, being the most regal of all the creatures of the forest and whose antlers are the most beautiful, like the crowns of kings and queens; the Bear of Strength, who is praised for its size and might but also for its choosiness in battle, not too eager to engage in meaningless fights; and the Fox of Wit, which signifies quickness of both body and mind. On each Fae’s Day, the 5th of every third month of the year, the many Seers of the land gather on Servia’s hill to read the sky, which at that time of year, is ablaze with falling stars. It is also on this day when the greatest number of Starry-Eyed are born, the falling stars in the sky landing in their mother’s womb. The Seers who congregated at Servia’s hill will then leave and whatever village they arrive at will receive their blessing and earn a reading of what the future entails for them and the rest of Viystea. This year is the first year where the Seers have come back empty-handed of readings of the future. Whether it is because their efforts yield nothing or their efforts yield something too terrible is something no one but the Seers know. The chiefs of the many tribes and Bardulf Stag-Horn are wary of the days to come. The Hessvoy Grasslands rumble with the pounding of hooves in the day and mirror the night sky with campfires of the Hessvoy Elves at night. Sharing a very similar horseman tradition with their distant Hogatai cousins, these Elves believe in bravery, strong will, and personal honor. Welcoming in peace and frightening in war, the Hessvoy are a colorful people, both in their culture and in that their culture accepts any who prove themselves. The Hessvoy Nation (Move your mouse to reveal the content) The Hessvoy Nation (open) The Hessvoy Nation (close) Species: Hessvoy Elves Physical Description: Tall, lithe, and of mixed ethnicity, the Hessvoy are typically are elves of darker features than their more fair cousins, although members of other elven groups have been known to travel to Hessvoy villages to join them, increasing the racial diversity of the Hessvoy. Often over 6.5 feet in height, the sight of a mounted Hessvoy host storming across the grassy steppes is a sight to behold. Most of the men sport well-trimmed beards and short hairstyles, the women keep a single long braid in an intricate weave running down their backs that is only cut once it reaches the length of her tailbone. Given the Hessvoy’s relationship and culture of horsemanship, almost all Hessvoy are in excellent physical condition. They are identifiable by the long coats that protect the rider from the elements, extending down to the knee. While these coats can be fur-lined leather, all manner of fabrics can be used in their construction. Common to each village is a dyed trim on each coat that acts as a unifying colour of each village, and it the colour flown on a Hessvoy village’s banner when the host rides. The often bright colours also act as an immediate indicator of one’s allies in battle, not only differentiating them from their foes, but to keep rider formations from fragmenting in the chaos of battle. Culture: A civilization of horsemen, the Hessvoy elves share a deep relationship with the beasts that serve as their mounts and companions that is rarely seen anywhere else in Viystea, with the elf folk learning to ride within two summers of learning to walk, sharing a saddle with a family member until they are old and large enough to handle the beast alone. A rider will outlive many horses in their lifetime, and it is expected that they care for each and every one from birth to death as if they were family. The bond between rider and steed is sacred, and it is this bond that allows the Hessvoy to pull off acrobatic feats with fearless confidence while riding, including standing on the saddle, steering the horse with the slightest shift of weight while the rider engages a target with his or her bow, a specialty of the Hessvoy. The traditional weapon of the Hessvoy is the Voyich Saber, a long, gracefully curving blade without hilt that is used as a general riding weapon. A Hessvoy rider is expected to be able to cut with precise drawing cuts at any speed, often across unarmoured segments of an enemy. It is considered a great shame for a Hessvoy to miss his or her target, and straight dismemberment is considering sloppy and the work of an amateur. A battlefield in the Steppes is often littered with oddly intact corpses with only expertly placed crimson gashes telling of the victim’s fate. While Hessvoy typically stick to their own borders, they are infamous raiders who periodically raid deep across the borders to pillage settlements and supplies from neighbours, but never other Hessvoy. It is not to say Hessvoy villages do not occasionally skirmish, but to steal from another Hessvoy is seen as treason of the soul and body of the spirit of the Hessvoy, as all people are considered one under the Steppe skies. Each Hessvoy village is led by an elder, called an Alvoy, who is in charge of the major decisions of the village, including appointing leaders of the war host, the Dispatch Riders, and those who would stay behind to tend to and protect the young. The Alvoy is almost always the eldest male of the village, although female Alvoys are not unheard of and some villages appoint the Alvoy by rotation from family to family every 58 years, when Povarda Comet appears in the night sky. Regardless of how an Alvoy is appointed, he or she carries with them the Hesrew, the Wind Mace, an artifact symbolic of the control over wind magic that all Elders are expected to master, although only the Alvoy may summon it during times of war, mainly as a practical consideration that he or she is orchestrating the war host and wind is used as a method to steer the war host as well as be used as a weapon against the enemy; Indeed, particularly strong winds can shake formations, tear weapons from hand, and blind unprotected eyes from blowing dusts and grass. Another application many hosts are fond of employing are using the winds to guide and push arrow volleys towards enemy ranks, striking with far more force, distance, and precision than any single rider could hope to accomplish. Outside of this, magic is generally frowned upon by the Hessvoy, as they see it as something only the Alvoy are worthy of wielding. Dispatch Riders, or Sukle, are celebrated by Hessvoy as amongst the bravest and resilient of their people. Often the fastest rider in the village with the most endurance is selected for this prestigious position, as they are sent far and wide to relay messages, pay tribute, and act as envoys on behalf of their Alvoy. Sukle are often warmly received by villages, being welcome as an honoured guest. It is believed that the Sukle carry the spirit of their village and the will of his or her Alvoy with them, and as such is seen as the embodiment of the entire village. In times of peace, they will often bear invitation to visit, feast, compete in tournaments, or tributes to the receiving villages’ Alvoy and their family. During times of war, it is the Sukle who passes on the word to neighbouring villages, who will dispatch their own Sukle to spread word. It is not uncommon for several villages to ride to war or raid together as one. Only three times in Hessvoy history has the entire nation been called upon to ride to war; tens of thousands of riders converged at The Giants, a set of five mysterious pillars erected by people long forgotten in the center of the Hessvoy Steppes that act as a meeting ground for the most grave of matters. The sight of the entire Hessvoy nation charging down upon you while chanting for nothing less than the utter destruction of your soul is nothing short of terrifying. Customs and Values: For the Hessvoy, family is the most important thing about life, a sacred unit that should be preserved and cherished. The tight-knit nature of Hessvoy families is so complete that when a Hessvoy host rides to war, the entire family mounts of for battle, men and women. Men and women both share equal standing in society, given they share the same responsibilities and hardship. Life in the steppes is challenging, but rewarding for these hardy people who have a life for life that can warm even the sternest of souls. Song and dance are long-standing Hessvoy traditions, as is oral storytelling tradition. A Hessvoy’s history and faith is passed down from generation to generation from the Alvoy, who tells tales of the Hessvoy, their village, and their heroes to the children. These stories are so ubiquitous with Hessvoy identity that it is difficult to find a Hessvoy who cannot recite the tales as well as the Alvoy. Remarkably, as Ling historians have discovered comparing tomes separated by hundreds of years regarding Hessvoy stories and customs, the stories told today are almost exactly the same as they were told before. Honesty and integrity as seen as essential traits of a good Hessvoy, who care nothing for deceit and see lies and subterfuge as a cowards’ tools for men who have no fire left in their hearts. Hessvoy festivals, usually held at the beginning of each month, are lavish affairs where finery is worn and competitions are held in each village to see who is the best rider, swordsman, and archer. Oftentimes, 2 to 5 villages will join together for each season and it is here that Hessvoy men and women often pair off and meet partners who often marry before the festival is through. This mingling of villages is seen as essential for a village’s strength, diversity, and prestige, and offers an essential expansion of the gene pool. Hessvoy families typically number from 3-5 children, who reach physical maturity around 30 years of age. A Hessvoy is not considered an adult until Piovarda comet appears for the first time in their life, regardless of physical age. Likewise, a Hessvoy’s birthdate is celebrated with the blooming of the first flowers, not the actual date of birth. As spring is the season of birth, it is only appropriate that Hessvoy, who are attuned to the natural world and the land they call home, age with it. Outsiders are welcome, contrary to the often fierce and independent reputation of the Hessvoy, and all manner of elves can be seen in Hessvoy hosts and villages, and in rare cases, men and other races. To them, it is not your racial origin that makes you Hessvoy, it is your acceptance of the Hessvoy spirit that makes you one of them. An outsider is only accepted as a Hessvoy if the Alvoy accepts them, which can be a lengthy process, indeed. The Alvoy needs to see proof of the fire in one’s heart to know what lies I their soul. Religion: Brash, bold, and fearless, a Hessvoy seldom backs down from a feat of bravery, a povale, as conquering one’s fears and apprehension is how the fire in a Hessvoy’s soul is maintained, so the day they die, their soul and body are burnt as one and able to ascend together to the stars to rejoin one’s ancestors, who are believed to be racing across the stars in a Great Host across the endless black sea to the afterlife. The Povarda Comet, as the Hessvoy call it, that comes into the sky once every 58 years is believed to be the Great Host coming around to collect the dead to take them to Tarshor, roughly translated as “The Valley”, an endless paradise where rider can join his or her ancestors and their loyal horses who had perished over the Hessvoy’s long life. It is believed that when a Hessvoy dies, it is their first horse that receives them in the Great Horse, and in death they meet as equals, the service the horse provided in life is rewarded with the gift of speech. It is just as often a Hessvoy conveys with the spirits of their ancestors as well as the fallen Horselords, as the deceased horses are called. The Hessvoy are a people who recognize the intelligence of their steeds, and feel the experiences they had in life are worthy of consideration and respect. The Gardtharoy (Move your mouse to reveal the content) The Gardtharoy (open) The Gardtharoy (close) The Gardtharoy, a tribe of Elves with pale skin, fair hair and steely eyes, a trait which they share with their cousins to the Northeast and West. The Tundra here is not a place for the soft of flesh and weak of will and outsiders are judged accordingly. The Elves that live here cloak themselves in the fur of Spade-Horns, a dangerous and tenacious creature whose fur, when worn, gives testament to the strength of its wearer. In times long past, before the formation of the two Great Empires of the West, the sight of the red sails of the Osstholm would strike fear in the mighty Princes and Dukes of the Austhalti to the Merchant-Prince of the Saffi Coast. Now though, the many Jarldoms of Osstholm finds their riches by selling their warrior to the highest bidder and the Andvalt maintain a tradition of hiring the veteran warriors of Osstholm to guard their Queen, serving in the elite Queltara. Osstholm (Move your mouse to reveal the content) Osstholm (open) Osstholm (close) Species: The Osstish Physical Description: An Osstish elder, scarred and battle-worn At a towering 6 to 7 feet in height, an Osstish cuts an imposing figure. Born with broad shoulders, thick legs and arms and an overall hardier body than most Elves, the Osstish make for great warriors that are still respected by those who remember the sight of red sails on the horizon. They share fair hair and blue eyes with their brethren of the North, the Gardtharoya. They leave their golden hair long and braided and their beards uncut until they die. Culture: Since the Osstholm peninsula does not provide its sons and daughters with rich soil, the Osstish turned to the sea and the nations beyond it. Early in their culture, the Osstish inherited much of what they knew of battle from the neighborin Gardtharoya, who had been fighting amongst themselves for years before the chiefs were rallied by the formation of the Hessvoy Nation to their south. It was sometime thousands of years ago that an errant clan from the Gardtharoya migrated to the Osstholm peninsula. Simple tools were the only thing brought over, so mastery of the axe, spear and shield, as well as the bow were the primary tools of life and death. Over the years, the Osstish developed a seafaring culture that started out as fishing trips but as the voyages reached farther and farther, they saw new lands. Rich lands. Thus did the Osstish turn their spears from the fish in the river, their axes from the trees and their bows from the elk and set their bloody path on the coasts of Austhalti, Andvalt and all the way to the Saffi Coast. As the raids became more commonplace, the Osstish transitioned from a mostly hunter-gatherer culture to a warrior culture that prized strength and cunning above all else in a man or woman’s life. The Osstish are a proud people, obsessed with notions of honor, bravery, courage and ferocity. As such, it is a strictly adhered to belief that cowards will be forced into the depths of Diwaz's realm, a place of isolation and torment. As the tradition of raiding became more common, the need for a defense of their homes when the men were away was needed. Two things came of this, the concept and tradition of upholding the women as fellow warriors in defense of the homeland and the ability of women to hold titles of bravery and status, being buried with swords, shields, axes, armor and riches as the men. The women never accompany the men on raids, as they are too important as matriarchs of the household and bearers of children, but they are trusted to fight as fierce as the wyrms of legend if pressed by those looking to loot and burn an unattended household. It is for this reason that villages that lasted long enough to grow substantially developed themselves into fortified towns, mostly made out of wood while the richer cities where Jarls or particularly wealthy Thegns live will have stone walls. Even if the tradition of raiding and the problem of rogue sea-raiders has dropped out of relevance, these walls are still maintained and are the most advanced shelter one will see in Osstholm. Usually, buildings are made out of wood with thatch roofs. Drinking halls are the only ones that can afford to have wooden roofs, usually being the property of the Jarl or Thegn who rules in the town or city. These halls are where the townspeople will gather for celebrations like Fenn's Day, the holiday commemorating the battle between Fenn, Uther's son and God of Strength and Heroism, saved the Osstish from the evil spirits of long ago, who burned the distant lands and froze the others, and whose dark magicks birthed the monstrosities in the forests and mountains. Beasts such as the Spadehorns, still hunted and worn as prizes by the Gardtharoya. Similarly, the coming-of-age practice of the Osstish is a whaling trip or a wolf hunt, depending on the village or town one is born in. Many spears in the early days of the Osstish were repurposed from fishing or whaling harpoons and the practice of archery was used mainly for hunting and these coming-of-age rituals still remains a tradition and beloved pastime, where Osstish may show their strength and worth by bringing down a great whale or going out into the forest and killing a great Direwolf. Once the beast is killed and taken to shore or back to the village or town, the one whose coming-of-age day it is must cut out the heart, cut off a piece and eat it, infusing himself with the strength and ferocity of the creature. In the case of those who hunt wolves, they will keep the fur of the beast, make a coat and hood of it, tan the leather and use it as their armor and clothing respectively. Direwolf hide makes better armor than cattle hide, as the skin is thicker and becomes hardier through the tanning process. Customs and Values: The elves of Osstholm are a society where men and women are held equal in status, with both sexes able to hold titles, own land and houses and practice the same rights. Women are allowed to reject marriages they do not want and divorce can be carried out between a married couple, should the woman want it. As a people and culture that value strength of character above arbitrary restrictions based on sex, it was natural for women to become equal in their society, both out of customs and necessity. All Osstish, men and women are expected to be able to fish, hunt and defend the homestead, with men holding the only right women do not have, which is to go out on raids. Osstish philosophy is that of strength, independence and cunning, as well as stoicism in the face of grief and hardship. Along with this, hygiene is very important to the Osstish, as a man or woman who does not take the time to groom themselves is prone to disease and is liable to kill the entire village if they are able to be in contact with others. It is because of this that combs, brushes and baths in hot springs are a large part of Osstish culture. Since Osstholm is an unforgiving land, much like the Gardtharoya tundra they left long ago, the Osstish hold a grim outlook on life and living, viewing the weak as nothing but dead weight to be carried by the rest and something that should be cut away at the first chance. Any baby born with any defects or abnormalities is left in the snow, high in the mountains, to be taken by the Gods and reformed in the clay of mortality that all were formed from before coming down to the mortal realm. As such, both Osstish men and women are of grim disposition, hardened like their fathers and mothers before them and so on, down to the first of the Osstish but seldom emotionless. One must laugh sometimes when they live in Osstholm. Learning to hunt and fight is paramount to becoming a man, as much as growing a beard is. In Osstish culture, one is not a man until they grow a beard, and there are sagas in which characters are berated or seen as just short of being men for not being able to grow one. The pursuance of masculinity and strength in the males is a staple of Osstish culture, and where raids do not happen in this day and age, it is not uncommon for the first-born son to be sent off to serve in the armies and hired off to other nations or to seek glory and riches in serving the Andvalt Queen in her Queltara. As well as this, the coming-of-age rituals are still practiced until today. It is from this view of honor and manhood that leads to the honor-duel being a common way of settling disputes between individuals or different clans. There has not been a clan-wide war since older times, but with the reformation of Osstish martial culture in relation to their new role in Western Viystea, the duel has become a common alternative to lessen the bloodshed and make sure that there are as many able-bodied and young men to serve in the armies while still being able to settle disputes and not let them fester. Law and order is important to the Osstish, as in a land as unforgiving as Osstholm any disputes that are allowed to boil over are liable to lead to the downfall of an entire village or town. It is because of this that the laws stating that one may never spill the blood of close kin, that one may not steal from another Osstish and that one may not lay with another who is betrothed to or is another’s. Law and cooperation is paramount to an Osstish family and the extended village or town they reside in. Those who used to raid in the old days, did so in the name of survival and necessity, as well as glory and riches. Those who still raid today are seen as rogues and miscreants and are mostly those who practice in the Cult of Diwaz, the bastard son of Fenn, who took his father's strength but none of his virtue and devoted himself to the subjugation of lesser things. It is also not a strange sight to see Osstish covered in tattoos of their deeds or family history, or simply a mural of a tale of the Gods if they feel like honoring the Gods. The tradition of tattooing personal exploits is leftover from a time where the runes were not yet made and cave-drawings and a sort of hieroglyph was used to tell stories of ancestors or stories dating back from before time. It was only a matter of time before the Osstish began to use themselves as canvases to tell stories of their families, clans or their patron Gods. Although runes are not widely used to write down what was once only known in the oral traditions or on the walls of caves or the skin of elders into sagas, the practice of tattooing has become an honored tradition, and those who give the tattoos are honored individuals who act as both priests and the artists of the skin. These tattoo artists are usually devoted to the Vullwa, the ancestor to the Gods themselves, whose clay fashioned first the Gods and then all elves who walk Viystea. They see their tattoos as honoring Vullwa by adding to his handiwork and making the elven form even more beautiful. Due to the Osstish hailing from a cold and unforgiving place, their forms of entertainment are far simpler than most. No great plays are written or performed, instead, books of ancestral legends called Sagas are written down in runes. When a traveler is accepted into the house of another, they must recount their journey, adding anything to make sure the tale is entertaining in return for a bed, a meal and a tale from the host. The Osstish are a simple people but an honorable one and the stories of the village elder are something to be looked forward to to break up the monotony of living in Osstholm. Much of the legends of the Osstish are passed down through oral tradition while some are jotted down onto pages by those educated enough to read and write. Osstish sagas are considered a very valuable collectible and nobles from many lands will have at least one on a bookshelf. Andvalt notably has had performances in their grand theaters that are adapted from the Osstish sagas, paying testament to the beautiful poetry of a people often considered to be but barbaric warriors. Religion: Osstish religion revolves around the many Gods who reside in a higher realm than the one in which Viystea resides. The cornerstones of Osstish culture reflect their Gods, where order is a great pillar in their society, there is a God of Order, Jyllyn. Where the importance of the father teaching the son and daughter to fight and survive in Osstholm, the God of Fatherhood, Wisdom and War rules over such things, whose name is Uther. Women are held to be important both in the aspects of defending the homestead when the men are away( and keeping this function to this day) and bearing children, the Mother-Goddess of Fertility, Love and Beauty, Gildur, holds sway over these. There are many more Gods and spirits that rule over such things as animals and inhabit the mountains and forests and rivers. The most prominent being Vullwa, the Clay-Wyrm, who made the Gods and Elves from clay and hardened their forms with his breath. Osstish religion is a web of interconnected cults in practice, where each cult is devoted to one of the many Gods. The Cult of Jyllyn’s members are those who have cut off ties to their individual families to pursue a life of maintaining order in Osstholm and Viystea at large, although their presence in places outside of Osstholm are met with mixed views. For the most part, these roving bands of lawkeepers will only enforce the law in the untamed wilderness and will not interfere in the activities of local guardsman unless sought out for assistance. Austhalti’s cities will sometimes hire these bands as mercenaries to keep the roads safe from roving bandits and rogue Hessvoy or Oynengjar. In addition to the different cults devoted to the major Gods of the religion, there are those devoted to following the ways of ancestors so steeped in the mists of legend and history that they have become saints and minor Gods, in some cases. The cult of Saint Friesa is devoted to the practice of the bow in both hunting and war and it is not uncommon to see members of this cult hired out to foreign Kingdoms to fight in their wars as elite archers. The Cult of Diwaz is a collection of rogues and criminals who still raid and pirate along the coasts of the West. They devote themselves to the subjugation of lesser things, and will burn those they see as weak and take those who fight and surrender or who are captured as slaves. The Cult of Diwaz still casts a shadow over Osstish culture as something of the past and furthermore, the bastardization of a proud era of warriors, where raiders won glory and riches. The Cult of Diwaz is preoccupied and obsessed with only greed and glory unto themselves, not their clan, and only live to enslave, burn, rape and pillage. In addition to this, Diwaz is the one who takes the souls of those who have displayed cowardice in the face of death or have opted to pass of old age. In his realm, they are beheaded and have their ears and nose plugged with molten candle wax, their tongues cut out, teeth removed and eyes plucked, to be locked in an eternity of vague awareness where no glory may be found. But not all is war and fighting within the myriad of cults in Osstholm, as the cult of the Mother-Goddess, Gildur, will use the gift of magic to mend wounds and will make potions that effect virility and fertility. The cults devoted to the spirits of the rivers and the forests will hold festivals on days of importance, such as the beginning of Spring or Summer and it is from them that the mind-altering beverage of mead comes, as well as the seer’s caps, a mushroom which when eaten will give the one who has eaten enough of them a view into the world of the spirits and the otherworld. In addition to these, the Cult of Vullwa, the Clay-Wyrm who fashioned the Gods and the elves out of soft clay and then used his breath to harden them into the forms they walk in still to this day and whose scales are etched the stories of all things that have happened and will happen. The members of this cult are those that give tattoos to those that wish to bear their exploits or an ancestor's exploits on their skin, as well as symbols of power to defend against evil spirits or the weapons of mortals in battle. By giving and receiving these tattoos the Osstish pay homage to Vullwa by putting history onto their skin. The multitude of cults are a study unto themselves, and there are countless cults both small and large in membership. Despite the myriad of cults with different patrons, it remains a staple of Osstish culture, society and religious belief that cowards are deplorable and will suffer in the world-after, barred from having their clay reshaped by Vullwa like their brethren. It is indeed an Osstish belief that the soul is ever changing, as those who die honorably will have their clay broken down by Vullwa's breath, reshaped and hardened again into a different form, depending on the nature of their death and disposition in life. Those who were not warriors are often reborn into the same forms of mortal Elves, while warriors trade vessels with the mighty whale and bear. It is because of this belief that those whales and bears killed are treated respectfully and it is a ritual that the bones of the bears are are burned along with offerings of fish and honey so that their souls may re-enter into the cycle of death and rebirth. Great feasts are held in hopes to convince the bear that it had killed itself or died in an accident and hadn't been murdered. Ling of the East and the Corvus Dominion The Grand States of Ling (Move your mouse to reveal the content) The Grand States of Ling (open) The Grand States of Ling (close) Species: Ling Physical Description: Much like their close relatives in other families of great apes, the Ling are simian-folk who stand proudly erect like any man or elf and largely have a similar physiology. A major difference from one Ling to another is the presence and length of a tail, which is either seen as a source of pride or a disgraceful connection to the Lesser Apes, depending on a family or community’s values. Ling are typically shorter in stature than other races, averaging around 5’06” for the males and 4’11” for the females, although it’s not unheard of for some Ling to break the 6’ mark, which all but assures them to be attractive mating prospects and many use their advanced size to become dominating martial artists. Ling coats tend to be various shades of brown, with blonde and albino members being infrequent. The rare few that are born with black coats are destined to be taken in by the Alsaja Order, a secretive clan of infiltrators, spies, and assassins that are sworn to the Daiyo (Lord) of Jewei, one of the 9 States. Ling physiology tends to make their muscles denser and more powerful than other races, and even the most ordinary Ling is a skilled climber and jumper. A Ling who is trained and disciplined in the martial arts as a monk, a member of the noble military class, or one of the members of the large banner armies is truly one of the most physically and mentally formidable individuals in all of Viystea. Ling tend to keep their hair in organized top knots or long braids, regardless of gender, although this is strictly enforced by the army and nobility, the common citizens are free to do as they please. Monks almost universally shave their heads, although some sects maintain long braids. Hair dyes are rampant across the Grand States as a sign of personal expression. Culture: A collection of 9 independent states bonded together in a coalition under a single Emperor or Empress, the Grand States of Ling are a prosperous and famous region known for its mysticism, historians, scholars, and the legendary martial arts that draw people from across Viystea with a desire to train, although the monks seldom take those born outside of their order into their ranks unless they prove themselves. However, people from all walks of life and from each corner of the globe have found a place amongst the monks, having proven their devotion to the way of life. Each of the States maintains its own government, customs, and traditions, although there are some overarching similarities between all States. All are required to raise and maintain grand banner armies, which train and band together frequently in response to hostile neighbours, and some of the states have a noble warrior class that adhere to ancient martial traditions that date back to the dawn of the Ling as a civilization. These noble warriors, the Zhouokra, often operate independently from the banner armies and are known practitioners of magic intensive martial arts, known as Liryu. Using the elements as extensions of their own bodies, Ling magic focuses on long hours of meditation and becoming one with nature to empower oneself with its gifts. Powerful kinetic strikes that can shatter boulders, jumps that can clear trees, fists and weapons shrouded in fire, and using water as means of locomotion and to trip-up enemies are some of the more common, and captivating, of the spells Ling martial artists use. While Ling magic is primarily associated with the martial arts and meditation, almost all manner of magic is accepted and encouraged and the Ling are in particular are known for their skill in divination, alchemy, and the healing arts. Necromancy is frowned upon if not outright prohibited, whereas Far Side studies are theoretical only and actually attempting the practice is expressly forbidden and can be punished by death. Because of this, Ling scholars and mages have been known to make their way to the Corvus Mountains to study the Far Side with the only people who openly and enthusiastically study that realm. Each of the 9 States maintains different economic and industrial focus to maintain their respective economies and to prevent competition and rivalry with resources. For instance, whereas one State may focus primarily on lumber, another may focus on mining and another focuses on fishing. Nothing expressly forbids individual States on using resources in their territories, and indeed, that would be impractical and quite impossible to enforce, but as a collective economic and political alliance, the States consider it both polite and necessary for harmony between the States to respect each members’ primary industries and claims. Since trade is such an integral part of Ling society and economy, most of the harvested or manufactured resources are shared freely between each of the States with an Imperial appointed trade commission being established to ensure that it remains equal and fair. This economic strategy only works if each member State remains committed to the trade agreements and practices, and history has shown it has paid off; in times where one resource grows scarce or improperly managed, there’s abundance elsewhere and the other States can help sustain the struggling State until they are able to find their footing once more. Each State is also offered the option of paying a tribute to access necessary resources in neighbouring States, which helps prevent abuse of resources and that the Ling always have sizable reserves in times of need, in particular during environmental stress or in times of war. Perhaps the most famous Ling landmarks is the Great Library of Thruin, located in the capital of the State with the same name. The Ling have sent scholars across the globe over the centuries to create the largest known depository of knowledge in the world with scrolls and books from all known races and cultures. While fond of collecting and cataloging the works in their original states, the Ling are known to be prolific writers and translators and quite often a Ling scribe will be commissioned to copy literature by hand if they are unable to obtain the original copy. Usually Ling are welcome in most cultures as guests thanks to their strict non-interventionist policies and their reputation for accurate and honest portrayals of the subjects they record and document. Indeed, many biographies of rulers and people of wealth and achievement are composed by Ling scholars commissioned to immortalize the individual. The Grand States are ringed by the Morning Mountains, a range that was once thought to be the first point in the world to be touched by the rising sun each day. Characterized by the heavy mist and fog that shrouds them thanks to the jungle humidity of the region and abundant sources of water, the mountains themselves are home to isolated monasteries and temples where the various monk sects are located, isolated from the cultural hubs of the Grand States. The monks that reside there are held with utmost respect and reverence in Ling culture, despite their general lack of involvement with the Grand States on the whole. Unlike other nations, the noble class, known as the Zhouakra, are the oldest families in the Grand States and they represent an ancient warrior tradition and are said to embody the very spirit of the Ling. Both men and women of these families are raised from birth to be warriors and scholars, indulging in tomes and poetry as much as sword and spear. The Emperor or Empress draws his or her guards exclusively from the Zhouakra, which is considered a great honour amongst the Ling. The Zhouakra field their own warriors separate from the grand banner armies that are made of the ranks of the commoners, and they are the fighting elite of the Grand States’ forces, as their wealth and lifelong training ensure they have the best weapons, armour, and horses at their disposal, and there have been numerous instances of a numerically superior force entering the jungles of the Grand States and never leaving, their ranks destroyed to the man by expertly laid ambushes and the Ling’s primary advantage over enemies; their agility. Attacks can come from both the trees and the ground, and a Ling archer moving from tree to tree with astonishing speed and agility is a sight to behold, and an even harder one to shoot. The Zhouakra are largely at the beck and call of the Daiyo of their particular State, as the Daiyo is seconded only to the Emperor or Empress and represents the oldest and most distinguished family of their State. This leads to all kinds of leaders from good to bad, as any system that follows line of succession tends to do, although any Daiyo would do well to be mindful of the Alsaja Order, Jewei State’s secretive order that all black-furred Ling are destined to serve. The Alsaja Order is very secretive and is widely suspected of being responsible for any untimely death, natural or otherwise, that befalls controversial Ling figures or enemies of the Grand States. While this is likely a gross exaggeration, the Order is unwilling to speak for or against allegations against them. Indeed, the Alsaja have never once made a public statement or appeared in public as an organization. Black-furred Ling in plain clothes are viewed with fear and suspicion, but very few Ling would dare hinder or assail them given their affiliation, and rumours spread like wildfire when one makes an appearance. The Alsaja are known for their skill at stealth and assassination, as well as an ability to deliver and collect sensitive information. While their motivations are unclear, they do seem to largely serve the Grand States in some capacity and it’s not unheard of for a prominent Ling leader to find an unmarked message detailing critical information or secrets with no other possible explanation of how it was obtained or where it originated from. A popular rumour about the Alsaja is that if an individual finds a White Lotus left beside their bed in the morning, it stands as an ominous warning to change their aims or behaviour – or else. This cannot be independently verified, as no one would willingly admit to being given a White Lotus and it being the reason for changing their position unexpectedly, but it does cause a pause for consideration when a leader suddenly completely reverses a decision they had made. Other than these notable warrior castes, the Ling’s military might come from the great Banner Armies, which are usually drawn from conscripts and officers from career soldiers. While lacking the skill at arms, training, code and equipment of the Zhouakra, the Banner Armies are none-the-less a formidable force that are known for having exceptionally capable archers and crossbowmen, including siege bows that are more akin to carried ballistae that take 3 men to operate, and line-breaking vanguard that smash enemy lines with great mauls. The Ling use their simian physiology to great effect, and their primate battle screams are amongst the most terrifying sounds employed by any armed force in Viystea. Customs and Values: The Ling are a very traditional and typically reserved people that hold great respect towards social customs and ancestry. Ling are known for being quiet, respectful, and slow to anger, holding great regard for politeness and respect, especially in the face of belligerence. Since the Ling faith aims for enlightenment to reach ascension to the heavens, the imperative that one must have ironclad discipline and mastery over oneself; cursing simply isn’t something a Ling does in polite company, nor do they raise their voices. A stranger to their customs may mistake a heated argument for a polite disagreement, and may misjudge the severity of a Ling’s words to their own peril. For Ling, it is not how a word is spoken as the content. It is up to the listener to decipher its weight and value. Family is by far the most important social aspect to Ling, and they hold true to the beliefs that the actions and accomplishments of one member of the family reflects on the rest of the family, causing an imperative right from childhood to perform and the knowledge that one’s mistakes could put a black mark on the family’s reputation. However, despite the outward severity of this cultural expectation, Ling families are very stable and supportive, often providing means of achievement for a family member that they could not accomplish on their own, as well as helping shoulder the burden of financial and professional obligations and expenses. Marriages are often arranged and done for status reasons, but it is not unheard of for individuals to marry for love, although this is more common amongst commoners than the strictly regimented Zhouakra. Ling are known to be exceedingly generous hosts and will often make a grand show of wealth and affluence, sometimes outside of their means, to impress and comfort their guests. While this arrangement is usually sustainable in the short-term, long-term visitors can place a real strain on a host home’s resources, and foreigners are often unaware or even oblivious to the difficulty they are saddling on their hosts thanks to the Ling custom of politeness and hospitality; they simply do not complain, no matter how much they want to. There have been a few incidents where hosts snap under the strain and assail their guests, but things rarely ever grow so dire. While it is rare for the Imperial family to leave no heirs, in the event where this occurs signifies the end of a dynasty and the Daiyo of each of the 9 States may place themselves up for the role. In the rare event only one Daiyo steps forwards to assume the role of Emperor or Empress, they will assume the throne with no complications and the Zhouakra of their state may elect to prove their worth to assume role of Daiyo, making appeals to the newly crowned Emperor or Empress as to why their candidacy should be considered. This may result in a challenge of skill, physical or mental, to prove who is worthy to succeed the now vacant Daiyo position. For the Daiyo wishing to take the throne, they must first forfeit their lands and title as Daiyo – a considerable risk, as if any wish to contest the claim for the throne may beat out their competitors. Traditionally, a martial arts tournament to the death is held, as Ling of such lofty position would not bear the weight of the shame of losing everything. In death, honour is preserved as it signifies that a leader was willing to fight for their beliefs and not balk at the weight of their responsibilities. The defeated Daiyo are buried in grand mausoleums in their home States and people often visit their epitaphs to seek luck and resolve. The families of the fallen Daiyo are often left to fend for themselves, although they are still considered Zhouakra, and it is not uncommon for communities to assist these families in re-establishing themselves – provided they are in good standing and are considered honourable. Because of the risk and severity of failure, only the most determined and prepared of Daiyo will dare try to claim their own Dynasty, something that many would consider worth dying for. Religion: The Ling worship 12 gods; Sun Yan, the god of winter, Dai Wu, the goddess of fortitude, Nagin, the goddess of guidance, Jin, the god of war, Huna, the god of strength, Kian, the goddess of fertility, Deyo Rin, the god of progress, Sihn Yan, the goddess of summer, Pyria Lin, the god of life, Raga Dun, the goddess of death, Lieugon, the god of the cosmos, and Shringha, the god of fortune. The 12 gods correspond with the months of the Ling calendar, which the Old Empire calendar was adopted from thanks to the Ling’s legendary accuracy in mapping the stars and the sky. Indeed, the Ling calendar has long been held as the golden standard for time keeping and marking the seasons and phases of the moon. In one particularly notable instance, Andvalti scholar Nyritiri challenged Ling astronomers to prove that their calendar was more accurate than the newer Old Empire system. To prove this, the Ling astronomers told Nyritiri that the second moon would disappear behind the first for a period of five days and thirteen hours on the 3rd of the next month starting two hours before dawn. Nyritiri stayed in their hospitality for the next month to witness this event, and true to their word, the second moon was indeed concealed behind the first for the time they specified. It was an occurrence that only happened once every 43 years and until the Ling proved otherwise, it was assumed the moons’ orbits were erratic and unpredictable. Indeed, the Ling fixation on time in relation to the gods is a large part of their culture. They believe that while one god may be the overseer of any particular month, the others take turns holding dominion over the very individual hours of the day, and the Ling hold true that to have prayers listened to by a particular god, you must pray to them only in the time specified. While the system is complex and utterly bewildering to outsiders, there are consistencies, and the months and hours of worship remain constant. For instance, an army praying to Jin, the god of war, would have to say their prayers at either turn of 9 on the clock for success in battle. A woman wishing to conceive a child would pray to Kian at either time marking 4, and an architect wishing to see his building constructed without setbacks would pray to Deyo Rin at either instance of 3 in a day. A god who has dominion over a particular month can be prayed to at any time during that month, regardless of hour. Ling, for all of their pragmatism and scholarly reputation, hold their religious traditions sacred and believe that improper prayer times or not respecting the order the gods enforce is a serious affront to decency and can be taken as a slight against the gods. Indeed, it is believed that to insult one of the gods could lead to serious misfortune for the individual who angered a particular god. While the Ling believe their gods are generally benevolent and descend from mortals who achieved Ascension in the Age of Legend, they will use their power to discipline the offender in accordance to their domain. One who offends Lieugon, the god of the cosmos, may find their next child born under an unfavourable sign and be stigmatized from the start. Displeasing Shringha, the god of fortune, may bring one down to poverty. Displeasing Sihn Yan could lead to crops failing. It is something the Ling take very seriously, and they suffer great lengths to remain in their gods’ good graces. Interestingly, Ling religion allows its adherence to adopt other faiths as well, as ultimately enlightenment is the goal and faith is but one of the tools to reach it. So long as the proper traditions and order are observed when performing prayers or other functions in relation to the Ling gods, Ling are free to observe religions of other races as they see fit as long as they do not conflict with Ling doctrine. It’s this rather relaxed standard that has led to some Ling, including some notable historical figures, to adopt one or more religions from other cultures with utmost sincerity. The Corvus Dominion (Move your mouse to reveal the content) The Corvus Dominion (open) The Corvus Dominion (close) Species: Corvus, the “Crowmen” Physical Description: A Corvus Doctor Typically standing between 4 to just shy of 6 feet in height, the Corvus are an ancient race of crow-like birdmen and are arguably among the most unique sentient races in Viystea due to their avian lineage and ability of flight. Sprouting a pair of large wings from their shoulders that span about as wide as they are tall, Corvus are talented and confident fliers, a necessity given the isolated and very vertical mountain towns they inhabit in the South. In addition to the wings, Corvus also sport a pair of arms that end with a clawed, three-fingered hand that resembles their often bare feet. Covered in a dense layer of feathers, Corvus are well insulated from the elements and can adapt to just about any climate with relative ease. Their hollow bones make them light enough to fly, but it also leaves them not nearly as robust as other races and a Corvus will avoid physical confrontation as a sensible precaution, and they often employ technology or magic as their primary means of defense. In a pinch, a Corvus will think nothing of using his or her beak and claws as a deterrent, but having evolved from scavengers and carrion eaters has largely tempered their psychology against particular aggression. Most Corvus possess dark eyes, oftentimes black, but some rare individuals possess lighter coloured eyes, with yellows and pale blues rounding out the spectrum. Given the Corvus history and inclination of experimentation and meddling with alchemy, magic, and science, the popular theory that these anomalies are a result of experimentation from forgotten and poorly documented generations (a very large social taboo, as it were. Research is expected to be thoroughly documented and shared willingly.) seems to be the widely accepted answer. Similarly and perhaps slightly more common are individuals with brown, grey, or even white feathers. Still, the overwhelming majority of Corvus are entirely black from head-to-talon and for many outsiders, the only meaningful way to tell one Corvus apart from one another is their manner of dress and grooming. Culture: An eccentric, excitable and oftentimes feared and poorly understood people, the Corvus are reputed to have been the ones to have inadvertently brought magic into the world by tampering with artifacts and anomalies they shouldn’t have, forever changing the world and their society. From A Traveller’s Guide to Corvus History by Ling historian L. Hanzo, "And untold terrors were unleashed upon the lands when the Corvus Scholar Magwei discovered the relic in that musty cave and doth declared the object of his interest to be 'Irresistable’ and ‘Shiny’. In a lapse of judgement of his normally orderly mind, Magwei had unwittingly caused the Great Rift and changed the world forevermore, giving rise to the proliferation of our understanding of the magics and our ability to manipulate them, along with irreversibly damaging the ecology of the world by unleashing all manner of beasts from what Corvus scholars refer to as ‘The Far Side’, an alleged other realm or dimension that exceeds our ability to readily understand it. The Corvus have since been obsessively attempting to reach The Far Side to study its differences and the flora and fauna that dwell within, much to the scrutiny of the rest of Viystea’s inhabitants. Despite the extreme risk and sacrifice of life, limb, and minds torn asunder from what they witness, it is seen as much of a frontier to understand and explore as the Stars. Despite their questionable judgement and recklessness, it cannot be denied that many of the world’s advancements and understanding of the arcane are directly thanks to the Corvus.” Despite a reckless pursuit of knowledge and progress that has brought Viystea close to ruin on more occasions than any of the world’s inhabitants would be strictly comfortable knowing, the Corvus do take great pains to prevent catastrophe from spreading. Indeed, when a member of society declares he or she is going to be attempting something that is underwhelmingly described as “ambitious”, it is common for the entire community’s best to assist in the endeavor, if for no other reason than to contain any potential consequences that emerge. A Corvus needs not look further than the constantly smoking and eerily purple luminescent ruins of Harven’s Peak as a reminder to keep vigilant; six-hundred years ago, a rift was created to The Far Side that was so immediate and vast that what came through had destroyed what had been the Corvus’ third most populous city in a single day and required the combined expertise and might of the entire Corvus people to contain and expel. Despite the horrific consequences of that day and the sobering loss of life, Harven’s Day is still celebrated as a triumph of accomplishment and many fantastic reports and samples were collected from that incident. Indeed, the complete lack of negativity and foreboding surrounding Harven’s Day is seen as careless and foolish by many, and utterly insane my most. It is the Corvus way; the way forward is often paved in blood and sacrifice and if it opened the way to making the world a better place, then it was worth it. Indeed, despite the isolated and seldom visited nature of Corvus’ Dominion, the Crowmen, as they are commonly called, are kind and benevolent as a society, and most practice almost excessive hospitality. They often fail to meet the expectations that they are psychotic mages, and instead they greet visitors with never-failing politeness, providing the guest with a place to rest, food, and companionship as long as they remain. Provisions and trinkets are often offered as gifts for those intending to travel upon leaving. They are intensely interested in the events of the world, and sometimes the guise of hospitality cracks under the pressing weight of curiosity, and guests are subjected to seemingly limitless questions and inquiries. Corvus’ Dominion also boasts some of the most prestigious Universities in Viystea, where all are welcome. While the education students receive is superb and the Professors are undeniably experts of their fields, the Corvus penchant for reckless pursuit of knowledge occasionally results in fatalities, which are studied in detail to ascertain what went wrong. It is because of this cavalier attitude towards death that Corvus medical documents and journals are amongst the most comprehensive anywhere in the world. One man’s tragic fatality is another man’s thesis, as the faculty are quick to remind their students, who major in medicine, engineering, the arcane, The Far Side, and other similarly complex fields. Outside of constantly trying to master and invent new spells, the Corvus philanthropic disposition leads to them constantly creating new and often unproven contraptions, such as the dozens of attempts at flying machines that now lay shattered over the rocky peaks at any given time in a pursuit of trying to gift other races with the ability to fly to great fanfare; while Corvus typically do not gamble with anything less than their own lives, it has become something of a community event to see if one attempt surpasses another. While the doomed pilot smashes into the jagged rocks below, one can be certain dozens of Corvus will be standing with notepads to document exactly what they saw and how they can improve upon it. Countless more inventions are tried and fail at spectacular rates. The few that succeed are almost immediately incorporated into society and improved upon, a notable example being self-illuminating crystal lights that can be seen illuminating Corvus streets and houses at any given time. The Corvus who leave their comfortable (if dangerous) roosts to explore are often heralded as great citizens amongst their people and it is hoped they would thoroughly document every step of their great journey and bring back something new and exciting. They actively seek out places of learning and cities, offering their talents with medicine, magic, and invention to whoever needs it, whether or not it was actually requested. Still, few people would complain about a Corvus’ willingness to waltz into a plague zone to attempt to find a cure and help people. Indeed, their lack of concern for their personal wellbeing to assist others is often appreciated. In several foreign cultures, it is not uncommon to find a Corvus historically represented in a shining light due to their personal sacrifice or efforts. For that reason, communities who often receive Corvus travellers see them as helpful eccentrics instead of a potential harbinger of cataclysm. Customs and Values: While generally benevolent and kind in nature, Corvus are much like their distant biological ancestors in their fixation on collecting shiny trinkets and other such attractive baubles and decorations, often to the point of being fiercely competitive with one another and one’s social standing often is reflected in how blindingly reflective and cluttered with “treasure” his or her abode is. About once a month in most communities, the Corvus gather in town square and present their treasures to barter in hopes of replacing undesirable wares for something more to their tastes. While competitive and superficially more like the busy, pushy bazaars found amongst the Al’Borran than a mutually beneficial community gathering, the trading days are popular community events that many Corvus use to catch up with friends and acquaintances they have omitted to see for some time. Corvus as a whole see war as a terrible waste and can’t seem to grasp why anyone would possibly throw their lives away needlessly over the whims of some uppity lord, religious differences, or resources that are usually rather abundant. Given their isolated homeland and relative inaccessibility of their mountain range, Corvus have seldom ever needed to defend themselves from invaders. Another big deterrent for would-be invaders is the dangerous reputation the Corvus have earned from their dabbling in the arcane arts; indeed, in one particularly notable instance 430 years ago, an escaped group of creatures from The Far Side had descended upon the marching army at the foothills, driving many insane and slaughtering countless others. It was also discovered, to great delight of the Corvus who realized what was happening, that these particular creatures exploded with a particularly violent force if their hides were penetrated. The Corvus would go on to invent alchemy-based bombs shortly afterwards. It also came as something of a surprise to the Crowmen that someone had attempted to invade their Dominion, as most had been entirely unaware they had upset anyone enough to warrant such attention. After a week’s worth of discussion over their utter inability to wage a war, the Corvus immediately dismissed the incident as a fluke and carried on as usual, reasoning it was unlikely army was likely to reach their cities, and no siege could cut off their supplies due to the fact they could fly past siege lines for supplies they couldn’t readily obtain in the mountains. Being carrion eaters, it was logically reasoned they could eat the dead invaders if need be if supplies were running low. Family and friends are very important to the Corvus, and they are a very social people, often sharing one’s wealth and resources with another family who may be short of supplies. Most homes lack locks on the doors, and valuables are often displayed in plain sight as there’s little fear of anyone taking anything, as a Corvus’ roost is seen as a sacred sanctuary, likely an evolved response to their ancestors having built their society around nests. This sense of community extends to most other aspects of their lives, and it is expected for a Corvus to act selfless in his or her city, sharing knowledge and equal share of responsibility. While it is knowledge and progress that drive them as a people, they are pragmatic and understand that less glamourous but essential functions in society are required, and as such duties such as farming and sanitation are delegated to each citizen for one month blocks where they are expected to perform these duties diligently until their terms expire, where they are free from those obligations until the next year. While crime rates are low, they still occur (as with any civilized people) and the Corvus do not typically keep jails. Petty crimes are often dealt with by enforcing a sentence of labour upon the offending party, usually in work that nobody else wants to do (like sanitation), until they’ve paid back their dues to society. Serious crimes are dealt with severely, and offenders are executed via experimentation, with punishments ranging from being forced to cross over to The Far Side to being an early test subject of some new medical treatment. Violating one’s community is seen as almost as bad as an offense as actually committing the crime. Religion: For a society that prides itself on documenting and recording every conceivable discovery with a fantastically high fatality rate of their own violation, the Corvus are startlingly unconcerned with an afterlife. While many believe that death is not final and suspect that death is just another way to transcend to another realm, not unlike The Far Side, there isn’t any way to document or record findings to confirm or deny the existence of an afterlife, or a spiritual deity to worship. It isn’t that most Corvus dismiss the notion; given what they routinely witness and summon into Viystea, they know there is more to life and death than one can observe on the mortal plane, but they simply dismiss theology as they lack the ability to currently observe and verify its existence and often devote their attentions elsewhere. Some Corvus, particularly those who travel to distant kingdoms, freely adopt the religions of these lands and incorporate their own life experiences and values into them. The only time this is frowned upon is if they happen to adopt a faith that expressly forbids activities that the Corvus routinely engage in, such as opening rifts to The Far Side. Such individuals do not receive a warm welcome if they return home. This is a Character Sheet! (Move your mouse to reveal the content) This is a Character Sheet! (open) This is a Character Sheet! (close) Name: Character's name and any alias they may go by Race: What race they are Family Origins: Where was your character born and raised? This may affect their cultural outlook. Appearance: A detailed description of what your character looks like and a picture, if possible. Please, no anime. The more people have to reference, the better if is for role playing purposes. Age: How old your character is. Age brings wisdom, youth brings strength and energy. Keep in mind elves tend to have longer life spans than men and beast races. Keep in mind the poverty and sickness that is present in this universe. A nobleman or a royal will live longer than a commoner, this applies even for Elves. Equipment: Weapons and armour. As you fill this out, ask yourself, if you were your character, would you be able to carry all of this stuff? More stuff= more encumbered. Less stuff= less encumbered, but less resources at your disposal. Also, as a lore note, keep in mind that in our real-world 900-1000 timespan, there was no such thing as Knights in gleaming full-plate. You were more likely to see mail hauberk with a padded cloth coat underneath with a big round shield made of rawhide and wood with an iron boss in the center with a handle within. Perhaps a tear-drop style shield. Miscellanea: Things like lock picks, food, smithing materials, scolls, potions. The weight thing applies as well. Doesn’t necessarily have to be things from the games. Favored Skills: List things like swordsmanship and other things here. Background and a "brief" history: Explain your character's back story, how they came to be who they are, and so on. Please make this fairly detailed as it really fleshes out who your character is supposed to be. This also will help determine if I think your writing quality is satisfactory for a High-Casual requirement. Be sure to include things like upbringing, important people in their lives, how they came into possession of their skills and equipment, where they’ve been and what they’ve experienced, and how historical events in their life time may have affected them, if applicable. Should be several good paragraphs in length, don’t be afraid to go crazy on this. It won’t be what’s expected for your usual posts, but the more information you have here the better you can play your character and the better invested you’ll be in the RP if you spent a good amount of time working on a character sheet instead of crapping one out in half an hour and expecting to care for your character with a two paragraph bio). Fighting Style: Explain how your character approaches combat and their particular skills and talents. This will help the group decide who is best suited to deal with particular situations. Personality: Explain what your character's personality is like, including quirks, faults, and so on. The goal is to make a believable person, not a Mary or Gary Sue. There's a special place in hell for those kinds of characters. Font Colour: If you wish to use a font colour for your character's speech and thought, state the colour here so people know what everyone else intends to use during the game This is a Racial sheet! (Move your mouse to reveal the content) This is a Racial sheet! (open) This is a Racial sheet! (close) Species: Physical Description: Culture: Customs and Values: Religion: Now that we have given you what we think will get you interested, feel free to visit here!