World (Move your mouse to reveal the content) World (open) World (close) The Poisoned Land (Move your mouse to reveal the content) The Poisoned Land (open) The Poisoned Land (close) In the idyllic Elysia, what is now Zmaragdos and most of the ocean surrounding it was actually two separate countries: Agdos and Zmara, watched over by the Western and Southern gods, respectively. Now in the Poisoned Land of Zmaragdos enormous meat-eating flowers burgeon forth from sickly green moss permeated with parasites, and giant poisonous flowers spread their infectious pollen. Though these and the endless array of poisonous snakes that slither slowly across the forest floor, perfectly camouflaged, may be avoided at nighttime, that is when the huge bloodsucking insects reign the night, spreading diseased blood from victim to victim. Still there are those who hang on to the hope that the curses on the soil, plants and animals might be lifted … but the toxic, corrosive anathemas can only be satisfied with the restoration of the D'la, an ancient and mysterious arcane object of a mysterious nature that was destroyed during the Cataclysm and had preserved the western world's fragile ecosystem through magical means … until it was burnt to ashes at the hands of gods who did not wish any force of man or nature more powerful than the divine. Quelt Quelt is the newest Zmaragdosi city and a somewhat shifty and liberal one, an unusual thing in the traditional and conservative Zmaragdosi culture. Bohemian artists, musicians, actors, atheists, courtesans, and people of peculiar and rare spiritual persuasions thrive in the Queltish community. Called by traders and travelers as the "Last Stop", it borders the northern mountains closely, and few venture there who do not intend to stay. As such its population is very diverse and home to many nomads who wander, stay somewhere a couple years, and then set off again, and its government, though imposed by Zmaragdosi regulations, does exist and keep it from becoming the criminal hotspot it might be without such laws, none of the officials are entirely reputable, and Quelt has all kinds of illicit parts of town tucked away where a guard patrol rarely strays. Gambling, prostitution, and the black market are all found here. For obvious reasons, the noble and refined have made a point of staying well away from the cold city of Quelt. Host Host is a major trade city, very old, with a colorful history and a dozen names, populations and allegiances peppering its past. Originally it was known as Hosrel and was constructed along with Yessel as an Aquarial city perhaps 350 years post-Cataclysm. Its history and exact dates are easy to discern because of the giant waste disposal pit in the forest to the west of it, where many layers of different style and quality pottery, abandoned clothing, coins, broken musical instruments, cooking utensils and the like are often explored by curious historians. Together with Yessel, Hosrel monopolized the naval passage through the heart of Zmaragdos and almost to the edge of its western side, an area which has always been rich in trade routes and natural resources. The Aquarial city-states joined in an alliance probably quite early in the cities' history and became an independent nation modest in size and extravagant in affluence and quality of life. This lasted many hundreds of years and made the "Prosperos River", as the passage was called, a site of many important cultures, revolutions and political events. Yet the great nation and the Aquarial's rising monopoly of the west was destroyed when, without warning and completely catching the peaceful Hosrel by surprise, eastern nomads from the desert land that is now Kausteira invaded the Aquarial nation Hosrel-Yessel with peerless ferocity. The savages, seeking more stable climes, massacred the elite citizenry, and Aquarials fled northern Zmaragdos in vast numbers, seeking shelter in the south and building an army. The Easterners, however, were disinterested in further military conquest: they had found their land of plenty. From about 750 to 880 years post-Cataclysm they dominated the large port city, renamed Hoskilla. Without exclusive control of access to internal Zmaragdos, Yessel entered a long period of poverty and unstable government. Even as Hoskilla and Yessel suffered, a new city developed where the Prosperos River ended: Edel in the farthest west of Zmaragdos, causing the Forest Kin to become the major racial representatives of Zmaragdos as they had been in Elyria. Edel quickly became the vast nation of Zmaragdos as it is known today, and spread north, south and east to envelop what had once been the Hosrel-Yessel territory. As soon as they were able, they invaded the struggling Hoskilla and took back the city, renaming it Host. Once more joined with Yessel, both cities grew prosperous again as they became major centers of trade, but, subservient to the Zmaragdosi government, their monopoly serves a larger nation. Still, the Eastern influences in Host are impossible to escape: traces remain in art, music, architecture, customs, fashion, and, most notably, Host's populace. It was the nomadic invaders and the Eastern settlers that followed them who introduced new races to the west, among them the Felleons and the Drakes. Edel Dominated by the Forest Kin, Edel is Zmaragdos's capital city and a major trading point. Erected before the waterfall that the Prosperos River culminates in, Edel is a marvel of engineering, a beautiful city home to Zmaragdos's elite. Aristocrats with ancient noble bloodlines and wealthy merchants, architects, artists, writers and scholars all make their home here, at the heart of what, no more than a century ago, was Sunnepheia's most powerful nation. Yet even as southernmost Zmaragdos slowly begins to recover and eastern Sunnepheia grows more and more hospitable, the thick forest and rainforest covering most of Zmaragdos seems to grow sicker every day. Divine curses slowly leech out of the earth as it purifies itself, but some deep poison is unable to leave the land in the same way. Yessel Largely an Aquarial city, Yessel was founded along with Host around 650 years ago. Together with Host, then called Hosrel, Yessel monopolized the naval passage through the heart of Zmaragdos and almost to the edge of its western side, an area which has always been rich in trade routes and natural resources. The Aquarial city-states joined in an alliance probably quite early in the cities' history and became an independent nation modest in size and extravagant in affluence and quality of life. However, about 250 years ago, Eastern invaders conquered Hosrel, renaming it Hoskilla, and the prosperous trading nation the Aquarials had built up collapsed. Yessel became a shady city of poverty and corruption. When the capital city, Edel, rose in the east, and promised Yessel that they would recapture Hoskilla if the two cities swore allegiance to Zmaragdos, the Yessel government eagerly agreed and once Hoskilla had been taken back from the Eastern foreigners and renamed Host, both major port cities were absorbed into the Zmaragdosi nation. The shelter of Aquarial survivors of Hosrel when the Eastern savages plundered, raped and murdered hundreds of the wealthy, ruling elite, Yessel has always been a strong symbol of terrestrial Aquarial culture. Full of broad canals and public fountains, it is famed for its aquatic beauty. Canoes shaped like white and black birds, called a swan boat in the Common Tongue or gondola, meaning swan in the language of the Aquarial, transport citizens throughout Yessel. The elite Aquarial noble families who live in this expensive city are supported by the elitist system of the Zmaragdosi government founded by western Forest Kin, but few of them are much convinced of the Green Lord Brention's Zoën religion, preferring their own aquatic deities. Ooma Ooma, far to the southeast of Zmaragdos, in the turbid swamps to the north of the Mossy Gulf, is home of the Unguis. Their race has presided there since the dawn of their evolution among the murky marshland they have adapted to. After the Cataclysm, the temperature changed from stiflingly hot and humid to breezy, slightly moist and in winter, even frosty. Vast amounts of plant species, unable to tolerate the new climate, went extinct, even as spells and curses which polluted the land mutated the animals resident here, turning them into unrecognizable monsters: among them massive three-headed pythons nigh three feet long and nigh fifteen times as wide; red-tongued lizards the size of crocodiles, wart-ridden and sharp-toothed; and giant disease-carrying insects. Still, below the surface of the water things remained somewhat tolerable, and certainly not that drastic compared to what had happened to the rest of Elysia; but even as the horrific mutations began to fade as the corrosive magic tainting them gradually lifted from the land naturally, the unguis left their habitat for millennia in large groups, seeking shelter elsewhere in Zmaragdos. Today Ooma is known as the home of the unguis, and with a more stable climate many are content to live there in peace, secluded from the rest of the world. Riven The birthplace of the Green Lord Brention, Riven provides the exotic recluse of the southwestern rainforest which draws in not only curious tourists but also the unguis who prefer a warmer climate than that afflicting their eastern marsh, as well as Edelian aristocrats who seek a peaceful retreat from the busy, politically incendiary Zmaragdosi capital city. With Brention's dramatic rise to power, Riven has become Zmaragdos's religious center, as he has erected most of his churches there, and indeed lives more in his private home in Riven than the elaborate palace erected for him in Edel. Brention teaches of a Nature Spirit called Zoë who is the soul, breath and beating heart of all life. She may not embody our motives but can be found sleeping in the depths of our consciousness, waiting to be awakened. Once the world is seen through Her neutral eyes, an enlightened individual can begin to appreciate the simple, natural beauty of things, and grows aware of how everything is connected. While Zoë has always been a cult goddess of Forest Kin nobility, it wasn't until recently that She became a public fascination. Her monotheistic religion has spread like wildfire and many have high hopes that She is the answer to curing the Zmaragdosi land of its impurity. CHAPTER ONE Forest Council Theme Song (Move your mouse to reveal the content) Theme Song (open) Theme Song (close) [video=youtube;O0YxeTjFn70]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O0YxeTjFn70[/video] Overhead, the thick foliage of a myriad towering trees intertwined, casting the tall spiraling trunks into dreamy green shadow. It was, Brention thought, rather like a cathedral, with an endless dark ceiling held aloft by sloping columns. Every time Brention passed through Edel's impressive entry thoroughfare, he was awed by the immensity of nature. Bounding beside his dark chestnut horse, Felurain moved swiftly, a blur of honey and shimmering gold against the emerald green scenery. What do you suppose the Council will be about? the stag asked his lopos with soft curiosity. It is unusual to be summoned on such short notice. I wish it were another small matter, Brention told him warily. Yet I'm afraid it's serious. They have never called me away from a religious service before. Felurain responded with a thoughtful silence. At last they reached the great thorny gates, which parted at once when the guards caught sight of the silver amulet glinting across Brention's chest: the symbol of the Lord, not that his face was unfamiliar. Felurain loped through and Brention followed on his steed, pushing the stallion and keeping away from crowded main streets. When he charged through a road, the bustle of Edelians going about their daily business cried out his name and parted like a flower at dawn's first light to let him through. Soon he reached the Council building, and already stablehands were helping him dismount and leading the horse away. Felurain stood calmly beside him, reminding Brention that Zoë protected Zmaragdos now, whatever ill news the Council might bear. Brention walked into the Council room and was struck by the paleness and gravity of the diverse faces surrounding him in a perfect circle, with his seat, a head taller than the others', vacant and the mahogany wood polished. Brention tensed and his optimism plummeted. "Is it raiders from the East?" he asked hoarsely. That would be the end of the peace he and his nation had worked for hundreds of years to achieve. Without the barbarians they would be benignly ruling the world now, but no, they had to ignorantly interfere… "Not this time, my Lord," the white-haired Minister of Treasury said darkly. "There's been a flood in Yessel." Around the circular table, worried mutterings toned, and a nightingale keened a note of mourning. The Minister of National Defense cut in, methodical, his voice pragmatic. "Prosperos River flooded its banks four hours ago in the morning hours, very suddenly and without warning. Host is somewhat removed from its banks and closer to the Gulf, so it escaped relatively unscathed. But Yessel's canals swelled and spilled over, ruining hundreds of homes and flooding the city whole." A mottled brown and tan wolf curled a bushy tail around her lopos's arm, her soulful cocoa eyes seeming overlarge for her small head as they regarded her soulmate comfortingly. "While surprised, the overwhelming majority of citizens were Aquarials who were unscathed; many went so far as to rescue the hurt or drowning, and the most valuable items were largely recovered, although many are greatly damaged." With rather undignified volume, the Minister of Records wailed: "And all the writings are gone! The books in the homes and libraries alike, all drowned! It is a great loss for history!" Brention turned with a quiet sort of dread back to the Minister of National Defense. "How much damage to property?" He locked eyes with the Minister of Internal Affairs. "And how many seeking asylum?" Virtually the entirety of Yessel, he learned, was on the way to Edel and would arrive within three days. Meanwhile the floodwater was creeping steadily southwards, though it was expected to recede again by dusk. For now, Yessel was an algae-coated, crab- and barnacle-littered muck, though perhaps the Aquarials might not mind that as much as the rest of its sentient population. Finally he asked, "Is the cause known?" Uncomfortable silence greeted him. "Right," he said. "We're going to need a search party, plenty of supplies and volunteers, and our prayers…" FORMAL ANNOUNCEMENT The noble Council seeks volunteers of distinguished Zmaragdosi citizenship to aid the flooded city of Yessel and join the Green Lord in prayer, to help build for those of able body and to help restore torn magics for those of arcane power. Also wanted are wise men, investigators and naturalists, to discover the source of this scourge. This message has been authorized by the Green Lord Brention and the Forest Council of the great Empire of Zmaragdos.