Thursday, 31 January 2013

Worldbuilding Blogfest - Food, Drink, Holidays & Culture: Part 2

Ah culture ... because of the diverse species, the way they've mingled and separated, culture can be a tricky creature to handle. And can clash, as most species within Thardrandia are capable of breeding with at least one other. The easiest way for me to explain is by going through the species ...


Most of the old equinean customs are closely linked to their elements, affecting even their daily life as the powers gifted to them by the gods require daily meditation to control. A nomadic people, one facet of the whole species, divided into small clans, will mingle through the season. This is usually a time where the unwed men show off their magical and hunting abilities and marriage contracts are agreed upon. These contracts are often in the man's favour as a traditional equinean women has little rights in a Herd.

All four Herds meet but once a year at the aptly named Meeting Hill for prayer and to allow the Herd Leaders to discuss any troubles within the land. Their laws are quiet strict on their people, failing to have absolute obedience to them often results in death. Let's take marriage for instance.

For the equineans, seeking to marry outside of one's elemental birth is illegal. Depending on the Herd, the punishment can range from banishment for all persons involved, to death of one party (usually the woman), to the banishment of the man into Kamorn Ania (generally seen as a death sentence), to death of both. If an equinean dared to seek marriage outside of their species, well the punishment is death for all persons involved. This can include those seeking to cover up this atrocity.

Impregnation out of wedlock was once considered a ghastly thing to do to one's family. The persons involved must either be married immediately or the female is to be killed. This practice has since fallen out of favour as healers learnt to rid a woman of an unwanted child. But this led to other troubles as some men, having learnt their wife was not a virgin at the time of their marriage, returning their wives to the woman's family. He could also do this if there were no children after the first year of marriage. He was then free to move on to another wife, whereas if a woman was forbidden to seek another.

As the influence of the matriarchal societies of the other species grew stronger, much of these old laws were abolished. But a few linger such as the insistence that a pregnant woman is to stay by her husband’s side, and a man has the right to marry more than one woman if he chooses.


Now the katess are completely the opposite. Being a matriarchal society, the only male position that is remotely close to power is when they are a Priest of Antil. Outside of the priesthood, men have so little control of their household that a woman who reaches the age of ten (maturity equivalent to a human twenty-year-old) is legally allowed to completely rule her home, regardless if she lives there with her own widower father.

That's not to say they don't posses their own quirk. Here, marriage is customarily done by a mother buying the contract of a young woman for her own son. This is an old dance, and each contract comes with its own unique set of escape clauses bar one: either party is free to wed as they please, providing one side has garnered royal favour.

If a betrothed couple get as far as marriage, the man is branded with the emblem of the women’s family. This mark is placed in a concealed spot, generally on a buttock or the base of the tail. The ears of both are also pierced. In fact, katesses piece their ears for many milestones, using different metals to mark each one ...

Brass earrings denote adulthood and are gifted by the High Priestess at the beginning of the New Year. Young men and woman, dressed in white gowns will line up before the temple to be ritually pierced upon the steps. It is usually done one at a time but both can be given if it is made known that the receiver will not be returning to Catsckin for the next New Year (along with a small donation).

Copper signifies one has lost his or her virginity. One earring of this metal is customarily exchanged between a wedded couple. Silver is used to symbolize one is a parent with one earring for each child. Gold denotes how many bedmates one has had, typically one earring for each partner. Katesses who have become Roguess have a very high percentage of these, with some women placing little discs/rings on the bigger earrings instead of piercing the ear again.


Raptereons share many similarities with the katesses in their culture. Though not as aggressive in their dominion over their men, the women are nevertheless in charge. This stems more from the natural fact that a raptereon man will live half as long as a raptereon woman; their death coming at a precise forty years. Though this not quite as apparent to outsiders as the women tend to do much of the ordering subtly. It is from them that much of the current laws and punishments were gathered.
Ever a vicious people, these punishments are often very painful. For example, the punishment for a third thieving attempt (the first two being a warning, then a lashing) is public blinding with hot pokers. More distasteful acts, such as the atrocities committed by the Rogues would lead to painful castration and death by whips. They are especially eager to have the latter punishment widely known as they believe Rogues fair worse in Defora after suffering in this manner.


The wolenain society had been in a wobbly favour of men for quite some time, never fully being one or the other. This changed with the ascension of Tiyad into goddess-hood and the influences of the nearby katess.


The strangest of them all is the Prewania-Tofuas. A hive-like mentality, females will choose three males to be her mate for life (his life as the males posses a 'loyalty gland' that'll impresses on a female). This was because the males outnumbered the female three-to-one and, because of this unevenness, it was consider fine to allow half-siblings to mate with each other.

Each of these males will possess one of the qualities that'll make them take up the role of guard, hunter or egg tender. All three can be chosen at once, but it is customary for the female to choose them one at a time and breed in order of selection.

Beyond this family structure, the people are governed by a council of old males who advise the Highness, a single female generally approaching five hundred years. For the prewania-tofuas, her word was law (and is partially what lead to their downfall).


On the milder side are the contanihians, the bir-dra, the sssstamne and the mezans. The first two, being closely related, share many customs in holding both warriors and scholars in high esteem. The last two are passive creatures. For the mezans, they prefer not to deal with those above the surface, but unlike the equineans, do not hold it against a person if they choose to venture beyond in both land or love. Whereas the sssstamne are more inclined to talk than act (likely because half of them are poisonous).


Now the trexens, isolated as they are from the others, have became very attached to their traditions. Especially when it comes to their leaders. Where the other kingdoms allow the leadership to be passed in more-or-less any fashion they choose, a trexen prince must adhere to specific rules, must speak precisely and marry within the correct timeframe. Among the nobility, women were expected to list their reasons before the in-laws, if not a whole court, as to why she would be a suitable wife (often, this meant proof of noble bloodlines).
While the common men and women would be equally treated, a woman was not thought to be capable of understanding the day-to-day tasks necessary to rule their estate alone. This mindset was fast abolished after Empress Miran took the throne following the dead of her father and two younger brothers and ruled alone.


At last, we come to the Rogues. Being a mixed group of species mostly made up of men in their prime, much cultural belief is intertwined and generally comes down to the individual. But there are a few customs they observe as a unit. Being what they are, most of them have to do with sex or the like. The Roguess Initiation is one of these. In short, a woman chooses one of the Rogues to aid her in her quest for Roguess-hood, usually in public with a group of other women seeking to be Roguesses. Do I need to go further into details there?
Sole Partnering is perhaps one of the few customs that is a little more on the personal side. See, once a man is classed as a Rogue, they do not, as a rule, have a family. They are not known to marry and monogamy is an uncommon lifestyle for most Rogues. To counter this, those who wish to remain with one woman request to be marked with a sole partner tattoo. Each pairing is marked with a different symbol, always in the same place: he on the left shoulder blade; her on the hip. This can be done with ink that fades over time, but often, the tattoo is permanent and bright for the remainder of their lives.
Very few Rogues will take this option, but of the handful who practice it are reputedly extremely devoted. Some speculate this is because of the retribution exacted on a sole partner who strays, with the women given the opportunity, as well as the means, to geld him (considered the worst punishment for a Rogue, as it is rumoured to worsen the man's eternal suffering once in Defora).

Worldbuilding Blogfest - Food, Drink, Holidays & Culture: Part 1


Day Four of the Worldbuilding Bloghop. I will be speaking of culture in a separate post. So this will focus will be food, drink and holidays. Some of the stuff I'll be touching on has a brief mention in my post about Thardrandia's flora and fauna in part two of geography & climate. Previous posts:
Geography & Climate: Part 1
Geography & Climate: Part 2
History & Politics
Religion & Magic: Part 1
Religion & Magic: Part 2

Most of the planet's inhabitants are omnivores, though most diets lean more towards carnivorous. The exception to this would be the contanihians who live solely on nuts, fruit and grains. From these grains, staple foods such as bread are made. But the carnivorous lean does not mean that vegetables and fruit are not consumed, merely that meat is generally easier to come by, especially for those living in the desert and the western kingdom of Maxia.

The larger amount of the meat comes from the wikia herds, with the rest coming from the walfres. The former is used in many ways, including a dish known as 'stuffed wikia racks'. The meat is heavily spiced, stuffed with grains and more spices, then cooked, and generally displayed with the animal's bones skewering each pocket of stuffing.

The walfres produce tough flesh which the nomads tend to jerk for travel. The process of cooking these giant creatures requires many hands as a walfre's bones are quite dense making skinning and carving extremely difficult on a fully-grown creature. In the Rogue community, it is more common to just build a fire around the carcass and let the heat do its work.

In the cities, walfre meat is procured for the ever-popular meat wraps, which is literally a chunk of flesh wrapped in pastry and then bundled in a cloth. The meat within is left to stew in its own heat and, when bitten, usually ends up scalding the would-be consumer. They are an especially favoured meal amongst teenagers.

Apart from walfre and the annual fruiting of some bushes, nomads also fish the southern seas. But due to boats drawing suspicion, much of the seafood has to be caught close to the shore with nets. Due the harsh nature of the desert and the lack of naturally-sourced food, some Rogues are driven to consuming the people they've killed. Mezans, who are amphibian, tend to live on a steady diet of fish, with the serpentine males herding shoals into the harbour during the rearing season.

On the Mora Moon, the only animal of any decent size to be had are the cynaurs. These large birds are plucked and roasted, though due to their size, they are often dissected before cooking. As the only meat in the trexen diet, they are used in everything from stews to steaks to elaborate feast day roasts.


Apart from the common standard of water and milk - taken from both the wikia and the walfre - there is also juice and several alcoholic beverages; the latter taking the standard forms of wine, mead and beer.
The most famous wine comes from the vines near Biry where it is reputed to be quite potent. Mead is sourced from the Estridorean Fields where the equineans drink it by the barrel. The best beer used to come from the great wheat fields on Cynati, but as that source has long been cut, it is back to being locally brewed in each village.

One type of juice is made from the gukoh conta berries. The large, deep-red fruit is pressed to produce juice that's so a pale red that couldn't quite be called pink and, while some consider it tart, is quite drinkable. A lesser-known juice - not to mention quite rare and expensive to procure - is from the palin coigin, wish vine. This plant fruits small, golden berries which, whether in fruit or juice form, is imbibed purely by adults as it's rumoured to be a potent aphrodisiac.


Of holidays, there are a few. Some are celebrated by most, if not all species, whilst others are more localised. Although if a festival is observed elsewhere, the method will generally be different to another people's way. I'll touch on a few of the more well-known ones.

There is the New Year's festival, known in Maxia as the first sign of spring. Two weeks later is the Rogue's New Year, a commemoration of the kingdoms' inability to route them from Rogue Rise. Both these festivals are celebrated in what's considered the katess fashion: lots of drinking, eating and dancing about a bonfire (usually naked). Other species have less extreme festivities marking the beginning of a new year and only the Rogues will play the siren's song.

Despite the name, the siren's song is known more as an erotic dance. One that many a Roguess will say she knows. Originally danced to music, it's now usually done so without such accompaniment. The music that goes with this dance is described as being a hypnotic and sensual tune with bursts of deep, fiery notes. Once commonly used amongst raptereons in courtship rituals, it was the cause of many deaths amongst their men. And is believed to have been how one raptereon woman seduced a young trexen emperor (an idea the trexens hotly deny). It is illegal to dance it now. So, naturally, its practice thrives at Rogue Rise where the women teach each other the moves.

A similar festival to New Years is observed on what is considered the first day of autumn. The Leaf Festival is their harvest feast, celebrated in much the same way all over the planet, only the desert does not head this festival.

As autumn comes to an end, people observe Evalka's Eye, the darkest day of the year when Joh's orbit - normally keeping within the shadow of the planet - takes it near the edge and almost into the sunlight. The moon is particularly big at this time, making the journey between moon and planet surface easy for the creatures inhabiting it. In the olden days, people would opt to stay inside. For prewania-tofuas, this was the start of their hibernation and they would not surface again for two months, after the Icsoa Moon, and the coldest day (known as Icsoa’s Heart), had past. A similar day, known as Volkia's Breath, happens in summer.

Carry on for a little touch of Thardrandian culture, especially that of the Rogues ...

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Worldbuilding Blogfest - Religion & Magic: Part 2

And now for the second segment of day three's prompt for the Worldbuilding Bloghop. Click here (or scroll down) to see part one of the Religion and Magic portion.

Religion ...

There is, basically, one religion in Thardrandia, but many, many gods. Fortunately, their hierarchy boils down to a few groups of deities: the Stars (or Ka in their language) and the serpent-like Gols. There are seven Stars, all female, and eight Gols, which are male, except for one.
As well as them, there are the higher powers: the All Mother and the Devil, Latesha. There are also two minor gods, Foran and Tiyad, and two more beings that are said to be the creators of the universe.
The world itself is said to have been made by the All Mother, who also created the powerful Star, Destin-ka, who in turn birthed the first deities of the land. An entrance into Toporean kei lesia is granted not by which deity is worshipped but by merit, whereas Defora is probably the easiest place to enter, dead or alive. The only exception to this rule are the Rogues. Due to the manner in which they are created, they are considered as the worst of the damned. For them, there is no chance at redemption.

So let's start off with the Stars. These deities aren't generally seen - although, if you've seen one, you've seen them all as they're clones of their mother/grandmother - and some are not worshipped in the common sense. Each Star has more or less the same amount of power as the other, with the only really noticeable exception being Destin-ka ... while I'm on the subject: each Star's name is usually suffixed by Ka, which means star. So say ... Giyaka is the Ground Star, giya being Thadra for ground.

Destin-ka ... Goddess of Destiny
Destin-ka, mostly known as Destin, is the embodiment of fate. She is mother of the stars and daughter to the All Mother. She bore a set of triplets and one set of twins who went on to shape the world their grandmother had crafted.
Destin’s influence over the land isn’t much noticed; she doesn’t usually interfere with mortal lives unless one of her daughters gets out of line.


Wateka ... The Sea Goddess
Wateka is the Star attributed as being the creator of all the creatures that swim. It is rumoured she has a temple at the bottom of the Mezani Harbour where the scaled sea tree is rumoured to grow. Only the mezans know if this is true.
She was the first of Destin’s triplets, and the one to suggest joining creation powers to make the amphibians and the creatures that seem to fly underwater.



Giyaka ... The Riddle Star
Like her water-bound sister, Giyaka is the creator of all the creatures that either walk or slither on land. Her temple is said to be deep in the heart of the untamed maxian forest where the bir-dra live.
Giyaka is another of Destin’s triplets, she is known for creating the first sign of life above the water, and later banding together with Wateka to make the creatures now known as amphibians.
Although gentle and loved by her people, she can be difficult to understand as she can only speak in either riddles or rhymes. Because of her bizarre way of talking, it is believed that the mesa-malol is her chosen species.

Flika ... Star of Flight
Flika ... Flika resides over Toporean kei lesia, the Thardrandian equivalent of heaven, and commands the region's population of angels. In the old days, people believed the temple was also the home of the suns.
She is one of Destin’s triplets, known for creating the wonder of flight and banding with Wateka to make creatures those flying underwater creatures.



Magika ... Goddess of Time and Magic
Unlike her older sisters, Magika isn’t the creator of any creatures, but rather their natural life spans. Her temple is said to be in the Jungle of Time, on Japek. Exactly where is unknown as the inhabitants fervently guard the island.
Being Destin's fourth daughter, she holds the power over life span. Magika banded with all of her creature creating sisters, making the life spans reasonable, she also gave certain creatures magic, whether it was to change shape or control an element. She also helped her twin create moonlight.


Evalka ... Goddess of the Shadows, Goddess of the Night, Overlady of Darkness
Evalka will always be remembered as the creator of the feared Coug-our. Her temple is said to be deep in Kamorn Ania, the Death Forest, as well as a castle on the Joh Moon. There are rumours that the forest is also the home of the Coug-our, although no one really knows since adventures were never seen returning from the forest ... at least, not in one piece.
Evalka was twinborn with Magika and holds the power of darkness, revelling in people’s fear of the night and shadows. She is one of the deities capable of creating Shadow Speakers, via stealing a man's soul. These Speakers would interact with her Dark Borns (creatures such as the vampire horses) and before the empire became her generals, attacking the smaller clans with herds of bloodthirsty beasts.


Luvka ... The Healing Goddess (Bet you thought you knew what she'd be. Didn't you? ^_^)
Despite the closeness to the human word ‘love’, Luvka is in fact a healing Star. Her temple resides inside that of the Serpent God Antil for her worship comes more from the Healer's love of life and the passion to help it continue.
It is a common story that Luvka was born from the immortal bond of the healers love for life. She holds the power of renewed life and can heal all but death.



Whoo, and to think you're not even halfway through ...


Onwards to the Serpent Gods, the Gols. Unlike the Stars who were intentionally created, the Gols came about more or less naturally. First there were the four elemental-based serpents that were crafted through the All Mother creating Thardrandia itself, then as the Stars created creatures to populate the world, the other serpents came into being. Each one considers themselves as a brother to one other and a cousin to two others.

Gol Lorric ... God of Lust in all its forms, patron god of the Rogues  and Desert Nomads, brother of Dek, cousin of Meka and Antil.
Lorric is one nasty and greedy god. He is the most powerful and biggest of the Serpents.
Having once only moderate power, his rise to the top of the hierarchy was due to the absorption of his twin goddess' power, the sudden shift of magic killing her and driving Lorric insane.




Gol Dek ... Dragon God, patron god of the raptereons, brother of Lorric, cousin to Meka and Antil.
Like his brother, Dek appeared not long after the elemental serpents. He's also one of the two second largest gods.
A gregarious beasts, he is also known for sharing similarities with the stronger brother in his short temper. Such can be his anger that the old tales say it was passed on to the volatile raptereons who will blindly attack anything when provoked.



Gol Meka ... God of Miracles, patron god of the sssstamne, brother of Antil, cousin of Dek and Lorric.
Meka is another from the second group of Serpent Gods, appearing alongside his cousin, Dek. Like his little brother, Antil, this is one god that is noted for not throwing much of his weight around. Instead, he opts to aid his brethren in creating miraculous moments.



Gol Shilar ... God of Air, patron god of the equinean air herd, brother of Foron, cousin of Wea and Ea.
Shilar is one of the four elemental gods. His very name means air. Being one of the two second smallest at only one hundred and fifty feet long, he is surprisingly powerful for his size.
He was also one of the two gods whom took pity on the young herd-hybrid, Foran, and transformed him into the minor god he is today.




Gol Ea ... Goddess of Earth, patron goddess of the equinean earth herd, sister of Wea, cousin of Foron and Shilar.
Ea is another of the four elemental gods, and being two hundred feet long, she is of middle size. Her power is level with Shilar’s.
Though the term Gol means god, Ea is female. She’s not considered a serpent either as she’s a quadruped. Even with these facts, none of the other gods refer to her as a Star, but since her brother is a Serpent God, most see her as one such being.



Gol Foron ... God of Fire, patron god of the equinean fire herd, brother of Shilar, cousin of Wea and Ea.
As another elemental god, he slightly smaller than his brother and his level of power isn’t as strong. His small, and often clear, wings are a reminder his power also lies in things we have no hope in seeing.
Foron is the other God who took pity on the young herd-hybrid, Foran, and helped transform him into a minor god.



Gol Wea ... God of Water, patron god of the equinean water herd, brother of Ea, cousin of Foron and Shilar.
The last of the four elemental gods, Wea’s power is somewhat small compared to his large domain of the western seas. Ever an emotional god, it is said his sadness brings rain and his fury can whip waves upon Lake Teron.




Gol Antil ... God of Whimsy, patron god of the katess, brother of Meka, cousin of Dek and Lorric.
Antil is the youngest, weakest and smallest of the Serpent Gods.
Sharing his temple, as well as his chosen people, with the Star of Healing, Antil has not suffered from the lack of devotion that such an act would surely cause, though some believe this is due to his whimsical state freeing him from his reliance on worshipers.




Gol Laduka ... Goddess of Love
Because of her unprecedented demise, Laduka is considered by most to be born dead. All that is known is that she was murdered by Lorric, whom she was twin god with when he subsequently absorbed her powers.


Getting closer to the end now. Just the minor gods and Higher Powers left .


Both the minor gods were born mortal ...


Tiyad ... Goddess of Truth, patron goddess of the wolenas
While once a mortal wolena, Tiyad was never ordinary. From a young age she developed a gift which made her capable of foreseeing important events and discerning lies. To this day, she lives among her people and much is known about this goddess, except when she was born. She became a goddess at the All Mother’s behest and has been one for a long time.
Even though she can reveal truth about anything and anyone, she will also keep tight-lipped when she wishes. If she were a more powerful goddess, she might have to battle for a position amongst the other deities, but since her main power lies in truth and is far weaker in the other realms, she is an unthreatening being to other deity.
Her current high priestess is Watena, a woman whom has lived before the beginning of the Zan Empire, making her well over two thousand years old. Despite this, she has been no more ravaged by the years than her goddess as she has been granted a gift of semi-immortality. Some suggest she herself is in fact a goddess, others believe she is Tiyad’s daughter.



Gol Foran ... God of Lighting, patron god of the priests and priestesses of the Light Temple
Not to be confused with the Serpent Foron, Foran was once a fire and air herd equinean hybrid (we'll touch on that in culture). Shunned by his own kind, it is said that he was near death when he pleaded to the two gods of his parents, Foron and Shilar. They took pity on him and granted him godhood. He now has a small temple on the border of the fire and air territory, an area he jealously guards.
The change into a god was quite severe, altering not only his elemental powers but also his physical self. He now appears as a type of winged sssstamne, which is the similar appearance of both Serpent Gods.
Worshippers of Foran are rather dangerous as they can call lighting as well as fire and wind. However they are rarely seen outside of their god’s territory. The territory itself is quite small, being only the thin strip of land running between the lands of the air and fire Herds.

At last we reach the most powerful group of deities. Next to the abundance of the Stars and the Serpent Gods, there are very few with a power higher than that of the strongest Serpent God. Even then, only two actually meddle in Thardrandia’s affairs.

The All Mother
Created by an even stronger god for use as his wife, plans were altered when she proved to have a more sisterly nature towards him. Unconcerned, he allowed her a portion of his realm: the universe. At first, there was nothing but two stars and dust; the fabric of the world woven from the very rock that orbited the suns.
True to the laws of the cosmos - which states a god is unable create something stronger than they - she is the most powerful deity the planet houses. But she is also the most vulnerable. Tied to the earth, she suffers greatly when the balance is upset.

Latesha
When one talks about the devil, one is in err when they put ‘he’ and ‘she’ into the sentences for Latesha can become either.
According to very ancient text, Latesha was once a mighty raptereon warrior-woman. She took it upon herself to destroy the old Devil. But sadly, this act unbalanced the planet, sickened the All Mother and the essence of the old Devil was fused with the woman’s, making their spirits, minds and bodies one.
Latesha’s power rivals that of Destin-ka. As such, she answers to very few people, most of them being those that have very little, or nothing, to do with Thardrandia. Not surprisingly, Latesha is also on very friendly terms with Lorric and Evalka, learning from the latter the power of creating Shadow Speakers.

Triftin
Galaxy Maker, patron god of many people on many planets
There is, upon Cynati, an ancient statue of a black, hooded sssstamne. He is known as Gol Triftin, the God of Trillions. Legend says he created the universe at the time of his birth and, at a later date, the All Mother.
It is also said that he cast his brother, known in the tales only as Chaos, into the white nothingness of the Void that surrounds space, taking Chaos’ power in an attempt to prevent his immediate return. Just before this act, his brother was able to curse him, making it impossible for Triftin to create life – or even repair any tears in the cosmic fabric – while he holds his brother’s destructive power.


Chaos
Devil, patron god of the Void Demons
Twin brother to Triftin, he is the same size and appearance as his sibling, except for the fact his scales are blood red.
Cast into the white nothingness by his brother at an early stage of cosmic life, no one really knows much about the god, only that he wishes to destroy all his brother has built by bringing it back into the Void. It is said that the start of this destruction shall be marked by a rip in the cosmic boundaries and the absence of godly presence.

Worldbuilding Blogfest - Religion & Magic: Part 1


Day three of the Worldbuilding Bloghop hosted by Sharon Bayliss.
Previous posts:
Geography & Climate: Part 1
Geography & Climate: Part 2
History & Politics

Because religion will take some time, and requires a separate post, I'm going to speak about magic first. Because of the wide variety of deities, the magic can be quite varied ... that being said, just about every Thardrandian species has some form of what is considered as natural magic. The two main exceptions of this are the trexens who possess no magical gifts whatsoever, and hybrids who cannot access the deep magic but occasionally are gifted with a different sort.
For the most part, this latent power is a very crude form of shifter magic, enabling a being to shift from animal to humanoid and back again (think of it as were-magic without the fully human part). Because of the commonality, it is rarely considered as anything special, though some species use the enhanced senses of their animalistic sides.
The other magic in the world includes, but is not limited to, healing abilities, the complex illusion tricks of the contanihians, the elemental control of the equineans, and the more elaborate shifter magic of the prewania-tofuas. Much of this magic is attributed to a certain god.

EQUINEAN ELEMENTAL MAGIC


Equineans are the only species able to fully control a particular element. This power comes directly from their chosen god and an equinean can usually fully harness it by the time they have reached maturity.
One can tell an equineans elemental power in three ways: Shifter form, Coat/eye colour, or simply watching the equinea use its power. Like this:
Herd Name (Power)
Coat/Eye Colour
Eaquin (Earth)
Green or brown
Foquin (Fire)
Red or orange
Weaquin (Water)
Blue
Shiquin (Air)
White or yellow

Herd Hybrids - equineans with parents from two different herds - will have control over both the elements of their parents. This ability is rare for equinean law states a person must refrain from breeding outside their elemental herd. Four-Herd Hybrids, all but legendary beings with parentage from all four herds, have control over every element and treated like demigods from the moment they are born. Which is rather at odds with the pure mindset of these people.
Daily meditation is used in order to control the power lest it flare up in response to emotional stimulus. Every equinean teenager must go through the 'coming of age' ritual. This involves being able to reliably control their herd’s element: Holding fire; Raising water; Speed growing a plant; Creating a cloud. The inability to do this is death. For it is considered far too dangerous to let one who commands the elements, but not control, be allowed to live.

HEALER MAGIC
Healer magic comes to many different species, and is generally attributed to the Star, Luvka. The power varies from person to person, with some healers only able to mend scrapes, while others can heal potentially fatal wounds, the latter being very rare and highly sought after. Most healers are in the middle range and are able to heal most if not all wounds. A scant few are able to sense a Shadow Speaker while the person is in Joha Dia.
Because the power allows a healer to delve into a person's body, healers are capable of killing with a touch, though this act is deemed as tainting their gift.
Beyond the magical power, they are also taught the more mundane type of healing that a non-magical healer (a herbalist) would be required to use. While some healers shun this usage in favour of their magic, others will prefer to rely heavily on their skill with potions, bandages and other crude methods. Plainly put, anyone can become a herbalist, only those with the magic are healers.

ILLUSION MAGIC
Illusion magic does not come easily to some; in others it may be all but impossible. The masters of this magic are the contanihians. Other species include wolenas, raptereons and sssstamne.
This power does not vary as much as some, hiding oneself or others, forming simple or complex images, and making light are about the limit of many that can master this magic. If there are more types of this magic, the skill lies with the contanihians and therefore might as well not exist for other species. There talent has its drawbacks, for the contanihians are, like the trexens, unable to shift.

MEZAN MAGIC
Mezans are amphibians and generally disliking leaving the water, but they possess a remarkable ability to meld metals into the required shape. These metals are unnaturally strong and their usage is common in dungeons as bars or chains. However, there is a very well known weakness in their earlier designs, the complex plan of locks stumped most mezans, thus the locks were easy to pick. Once discovered, the weakness was corrected at the quickest possible rate.

SHADOW MAGIC
Shadow Speakers, Joha Malan in the native language, are born with the ability to enter a sub-realm known as Joha Dia, the shadow world. These gifts start to manifest a few years after birth and are mature by the time puberty kicks in. Shadow Speakers are notorious for being able to blend into the background when in the normal world and were well-known for their ability to sneak past defences from Joha Dia and attack.
Shadow Speakers are named so because they were said to ‘speak with the shadows’ which are collectively known as dark borns - creatures that inhabit the Joh Moon, Kamorn Ania and Defora. The most common of these beasts being the feared vampire horse. Regardless of the type, Shadow Speakers share a mental link with their bond mates, adding intellectual cunning to an already dangerous animal. In turn, the dark born makes it their life to protect the Shadow Speaker.
This is a rare magic thanks to the specific nature of their creation. Birthing one was said to be dangerous, with most women dying in the process. They are usually depicted as evil and serving either the Night Star, Evalka, or the Devil, Latesha, in commanding armies of dark borns which would then prey on unsuspecting villages. As such, the Shadow Speakers of old generally ended up facing the chopping block.
Nowadays, with the last known Shadow Speakers dying out centuries ago, they are considered as relics of a savage age, reduced to being the cliché villain in stories.

Linked by the shadow magic are the Speaker Breeders, their name stemming from the obvious fact that they sire Shadow Speakers. For this to actually happen, a man must give his soul to either Evalka or Latesha. After the first-born he will always sire Shadow Speakers, regardless if he reclaims his soul or not. The magic that makes their children also halts a man from harming them. It is assumed that such a man would be one seeking redemption. This also means that, should danger encroach on the Shadow Speaker, the father will be gifted with a single burst of strength to save their child.

A lesser-known shadow magic actually involves a person's shadow. Gifting their shadow to Latesha allows one to possess wings and, thus, the ability of flight. These wings are solid and react as ordinary flesh does except reform instantaneously. They can also vanish and disappear at will. Despite the advantages, this is not common practice for Latesha crafts dark doppelgangers known as Shades from the person's shadow. These creatures are fiercely loyal to the devil and quite deadly.


BLINKING
Blinking is a power that belongs purely devil-spawn and high-level demons. Somewhat akin to the Dark Born method of transporting to Joha Dia, except that those that ‘blink’ do not end up in a parallel plain of existence. It is in fact a means of teleporting to any destination the teleportee wants.


Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Worldbuilding Blogfest - History & Politics


Day two of the Worldbuilding Bloghop hosted by Sharon Bayliss. Again, I am using the world of Thardrandia from The Rogue King for this bloghop. Previous posts:
Geography & Climate: Part 1
Geography & Climate: Part 2


Thardrandia has a long history. At the time of The Rogue King, the main continent, while mostly ruled by one royal family, is split into the three sections I showed in my first post. Before then, each kingdom was each governed by a royal family. Of course, the desert isn't considered a kingdom and it certainly isn't governed by any one person.

Before the kingdoms, it was what is now known as the Zan Empire (in the day, it was simply the Empire). Before the Zan Empire, the land was divided into many smaller realms, the borders defined, and disputed, by the species populating it.

Let's just touch back on the geography first. Thardrandia has two continents and four islands. One continent, Cynati, and her island are on one side of the planet; whereas the main continent, Zan, along with three islands, are on the other side. With me so far?

Now for the history ... we'll start back before the Empire was formed.

The smaller continent of Cynati and the island, Loudan, are populated by one species, the trexens. It was governed under a council of thirteen lords, which were responsible for both their own section of the continent and relations with the others. There were skirmishes, but it all tended to run smoothly.

On the other side of the planet, we have the three island. Two of these islands still more or less govern themselves. Japek, due to being far enough away from the main continent to not be concerned with day to day relations, and Tepol because it's deserted. The third island is the native land of two species - the katess and the wolena - that, after many disagreements, have come to share the island as well as some certain basic fundamentals.

Whereas on the Zan continent, half of the land was one big hunting ground for the other half. This led to a nomadic lifestyle for the hunted equinea. Breaking into small groups, they wander the grasslands after their ... for the sake of brevity ... cattle. Each group is answerable to one of the four Leaders and, once a year, all four Herds meet. They still live like this, even though they are no longer hunted.

The other half, the predatory half belonging to the raptereons and the sssstamne, lived in clans, but it was the raptereons who fought with one another (and anything else that got in their path). Some of these clans, the more peaceful ones, like the mystics I spoke of yesterday, were subsequently wiped out by the larger, more aggressive groups.

Over this time, there would be the occasional group that was spearheaded by the feared Shadow Speakers and their Dark Born armies. New realms would be formed, only to crumble at another force which would, in turn, fall to a third.

Into this chaos entered the trexens. They'd built great seafaring vessels and stepped onto the Zan continent with limited knowledge of the land, but the full intention of conquering it. The tidal currents had them land on the Estridorean Fields where the equineans wandered. Bearing a striking, if taller, resemblance to their predators, the equineans were shocked when the trexens, having never been faced with another talking species before, failed to treat them a food source and more as subjects. They joined forces with the amenable trexens and allowed the continuance of the foreigners using their land as a home away from home.

From this foothold, the trexens spread, hitting Contra, the arboreal homeland of the contanihians. The herbivores there were a more technologically-minded people that, while fierce when provoked, tended to keep to themselves. They'd the ability to design weaponry and transport vastly superior to their neighbours, but not the resources to make anything beyond a few.

The trexens, like the contanihians, were already advanced enough to have steel while the rest of the planet carried bronze or iron. They absorbed these newly-found people into their new kingdom, taking the designs back to Cynati and creating the advancements using a strange amber metal. This accumulation of weaponry and transport enabled the trexens to move vast numbers quickly without peer. Their rule spread all over Zan until everything was, more or less, under the control of their empire.

Centuries passed with the trexens ruling, a single language was formed and people grew accustomed to the thirteen Greater Lords being in command. But the trexens started to squabble amongst themselves. Having the rule stretched between the thirteen men who all wanted the power made any decision drawn out, with conclusions usually in their best interests instead of the people.

It wasn’t until the death of the Greater Lord Haldron that things began to change. He'd one child, a daughter by the name of Aladone. She and her father spent much of the year in Cynati, untouched by the rivalry of the other Greater Lords. But, back then, trexen law clearly stated that only a son could take a Greater Lord’s place and Aladone’s newlywed husband had risen from a lowly palace guard.

Koralan's ascension from guard to Greater Lord brought the internal squabbling to a head. Simply put, the other greedy rulers whose title he shared did not like him. His death, along with that of the sole Greater Lord who sided with Koralan, was plotted numerous times. Each one ended in failure. Eventually, the Greater Lords attempted to do away with him themselves. This was also a mistake, one that cost them their lives. With their deaths, an emperor rose.

This change was meant to be the start a new era. The calendars of old, some very basic, were abandoned in favour of new one. Under the emperor's rule new treaties were formed, respecting each people's culture in favour of, if not harmony, then at least union. It was during this period that the last of the planet's pirates were said to be wiped from the sea.

Then the Demise happened.

It started sometime during the tenth succession, where young Prince Kork took the throne after his parent’s untimely deaths. The prince was still very much a boy and did not fully grasp the responsibility thrust upon him. He made countless blunders, some were quickly smoothed over by the Greater Lords who counselled him, but many were ignored and the trexens soon started to fall out of favour with the other species.

Things got worse after the succession of his only son, Morth. To this very day, historians believe the Empire would still be around if the throne had instead gone to his older sister. Morth was, in short, an idiot. Four centuries after their ancestor had killed to take a throne he didn't want, the Empire crumbled. Morth ignored even the most ancient treaties, completely alienating himself and his species to the point where the trexens had to flee or fall.

They fled back to Cynati where it became apparent that the smaller continent couldn't hold the sudden influx. With the contanihians help, they found that the unmoving Mora Moon was habitable and the larger percent of the population was transported there. In fact, only a very tiny portion of trexens were left on Cynati, leading very simple lives under the reign of a lord and a few earls.

Up on Mora, a quite elderly, and childless, Morth passed away. The throne was taken by his nephew, and all awaited breathlessly as he made his first few decisions. King Kriss proved to be wise beyond his years. He kept his people well hidden, urging the contanihians to encourage the idea that the trexens were extinct. The law forbidding anyone to leave the moon without of king’s permission began here. When King Kriss finally died, he left a slightly less haughty people with laws to help them mend what their arrogance had broken.

With the trexens gone, the Empire fell, dividing itself by way of the desert into two kingdoms: Maxia and Predonia. The trexens had instilled a sense of nobility in the people and had even gifted land and titles to those they deemed worthy. These people managed to stall in keeping the land from deteriorating back into its old clans.

Predonia fell to raptereon rule more by default. The mezans weren't concerned and the sssstamne were vastly outnumbered. The raptereons squabbled amongst themselves as only raptereons can, and after a few rather messy discussions, they had a ruler, Queen Jakio.

It wasn't long after her succession that Predonia City was built, the idea pinched from the trexens and their central imperial city that stood in the middle of the desert before the trexens vanished. With the raptereons being the hotheads they are, things in this kingdom ran surprisingly smoothly. But then, perhaps it is not such a big surprise since raptereons tend not have a very high patience threshold for law-breakers. It is from this kingdom that most of the laws come from, many holding very painful punishments.

Somewhere along the line the prewania-tofuas took over the kingdom by the simple act of marrying into the royal family. This progress was so slow that the Predonians probably didn't notice, or even cared.

Of Maxia, rule went to the contanihians who attempted to hold at least half of the old Empire together; persisting long after the Trexens had fled. Their purpose for this tedious task we can never be sure, but not exactly being suited to the task, they blundered in ways that few thought were even possible.

They were stormed upon by what are now known as the 'Maxian troops'. With the four equinean herds coming from the southwest; the wolenas, katess and bir-dra swept wide until the two armies could finally converge on Contra.

Unaware that they were being attacked until the last minute, the contanihians suffered terrible losses and still haven't really recovered from that one battle. The only thing that stood between the contanihians and complete annihilation were their superior weapons. Even with pushing the armies out of the forest, they were defeated and the kingdom fell out of their grasp.

There were a few petty fights in the victorious army over just who should take control of the prize that was to be their kingdom. It eventually fell to the wolenas, although how it happened has always been a bit murky. Stealing the idea of a separate base from the slightly more advanced Predonia, Maxia City was built. It is in this city where all Maxian species live side-by-side. Although, the contanihians, while grudgingly considered Maxians, are unsurprisingly absent.

It would be about eighteen hundred years after the collapse of the Zan Empire before the two kingdoms would begin fighting each other. The cause was simple and is spoken as one of the greater love stories of its time, on par with the Greater Lord Larthoran and his beloved, La'dia. The prewania-tofuas were in command of Predonia and one female had married into the Maxian royal family.

But the Maxian Queen fell and Predonia was accused of her death. Protesting its innocence, Predonia sought peace, but instead lost its own queen and, when the rest of the prewania-tofuas fell before the King's wrath, it was feared Predonia had lost her prince as well. But Sarch, as he is called, had not died with his kind. He'd fled long before then.

In his self-exile, Sarch eventually came across Maxia's princess and, long story short, they fell in love. This news drove the girl's mad father further into madness. While he attempted to kill his daughter, and only child, he was struck down by Sarch. The prince of Predonia then married the Maxian Princess. That was two hundred or so years ago and the pair still rule to this day.

Although, the kingdoms have, in truth, been one for several years, many still see it as two that happen to live peacefully. Perhaps this would not be so if it weren't for the treacherous land the two kingdoms unwittingly made when they broke the Empire. A different sort of a desert from the one they'd always known, a land that is now ruled by the Rogues.

Few within the kingdoms know the difference between the two desert-living groups: the Rogues and the nomads. Most see them as the same thing and treat them the same way, a thing the nomads have quickly come to hate. Within the boundaries of the golden sand, it is definite that the Rogues prefer not to have the nomads mentioned. It’s somewhat obvious that they are linked in many ways, but at the same time, are quite different.

The nomads have always been a roaming, tent-living people. Their only true building is the long-since-fallen temple to the Serpent God, Lorric. While they are the original people to live in the desert, the area they occupy is quite small; mainly due to Rogues taking over the rest. Most of their territory is near the southern shoreline where they survive on trade, fish and their herds of walfre (think of it as a cross between a camel, a iguanodon and a woolly mammoth. Not exact, but close enough).

While the nomads themselves are not solely to blame for the Rogue presence, they were part of the cause. Although according to them, it was an unintentional act. Fearing their slow slip into obliteration, they sought to boost their numbers by absorbing the shunned males. It was their god that chose to exploit and corrupt the assimilation by demanding the new men performed the ritual of drinking a maiden’s blood and allowing his control over them.

The Rogues themselves were a product of the kingdoms. These men were the outcasts; exiled into the desert to die for their crimes. Under the desert’s tough climate, the strongest endured and slowly began to prey on unwary travellers, at first not to rape and kill like their decedents are known for, but to survive. They took what they needed from the merchants daring the sands, be that food, water or other items. Only sometimes would it be women.

But commerce necessitated a trade route between the two kingdoms. The sea was no longer a plausible route, the lack of strong vessels and a sea cliff taking up much of the shoreline in the east not infested by sea monsters meant the only reliable passage was through the desert. The Rogues, little more than single ambushers, made the journey difficult, but not impossible for the heavily guarded caravans.

The kingdoms, blind to what they were making, pumped more and more vileness into the desert. The sands grew filled with the worst of the lands, until the area itself had to be walled off. As numbers gradually increased, raiding became a group effort, making attacks on caravans possible and lone riders easy prey. Survival of the desert no longer pressing, the Rogues fell to the Serpent God Lorric who encouraged their bloodthirsty side.

Eventually, someone amongst their ranks began a very haphazard attempt at controlling the steadily growing horde. It’s not entirely certain how they managed, but at some point, order was there and the Rogues slowly became a threat too great to ignore. Armies were sent to quell them, but the Rogues fled to Rogue Rise. There, they'd water and, through nightly raids on the enemy camp, food. Many fell to the desert. None of them Rogues. This time is forever known to the Rogues as the Kingdoms' Stupidity.

Unable to route the danger, the kingdom's worked around it. Men were forbidden to enter each land without proof he'd come from the other. Those without proof were automatically considered Rogues, to be punished and slain as such. Women, however, can go to and fro, leading to Rogue using women - known as Roguesses - to procure what they cannot. As many of those within the kingdoms are not entirely convinced women do the bidding of Rogues, it is generally assumed that Roguesses do not exist.

But they do. Roguesses spend much of their time confining the men to Rogue Rise where they subtly commanded them via rules that usually result in a swift end if broken. Not an easy task when half of today's Rogues don't care if what they do is illegal and a quarter of them are high on ahok.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Worldbuilding Blogfest - Geography & Climate: Part 2

Now then, in the previous post that was the start of the Worldbuilding Blogfest I touched on the geography and climate of the land. If you haven't read that, parts of this will come off as gibberish, for in this post, I shall be talking about the world's flora and fauna.

Unlike Cynati, which has had every inch cultivated, much of the Zan continent is untamed. What is not grassland or desert is commonly covered in macra trees. These are the most varied plant life in colour with leaves ranging from white to red to green or brown; while their trunks are grey or the highly-prized black. They thrive particularly well in the warm, moist, mountain climate of Biry. There it is estimated of ninety thousand trees grow to an average height of three hundred feet.
The smallest ever recorded macra tree stood only a hundred feet high and fifty feet in diameter before it died off. The largest macra tree is still growing and is nine hundred and fifty feet high, and nearing three hundred feet in diameter.

The next common tree is the feyt, or arrow, trees. Named so because they have long, almost impossibly light, leaves that grow from the very tip and cover most of the trunk giving a streamline appearance.

But these are the everyday plants of normal forestland. In Kamorn Ania, the only trees you'll find are those that have spawned from the maet tree. This plant sits all alone atop a hill in the middle of the death forest and is known to glow. During such time when it does not glow there is no outward sign of anything that sets off this strange phenomenon, though many do not brave the forest to find out.

From the sinister maet to the peculiar palin. This macra-like tree with its silver leaves and bark has somehow managed to grow in the desert. The Flower Canyon, to be precise. Hollow, it has been known to be the preferred birthing place of the defe-jacol, most of whom do not appear capable of speech unless having been born in the palin tree.

From trees to bushes. We have the gukoh bushes, a solely desert plant with three trunks to give it a larger chance for survival in the dry land of their chosen habitat. Sandy brown to off-white for much of the year, they are generally spotted in the annual fruiting when large, deep red berries known as gukoh conta appear. The juice of this fruit is quite tart but drinkable.

Another much-used plant is the haraki. This small bush produces long, sword-shaped leaves ranging from brown to yellow. These fibrous leaves are stripped in the creation of fishing nets and lines, bird snares, ropes, baskets, bags, and mats. Originally a desert plant, with smaller species thriving in oases and the larger, more useful plants growing in the Flower Canyon, it has since been adapted for cooler climates, reducing the need for large scale importation of wares from the Nomads.

Less liked are the ponin bushes. Swamp dwelling plants found mainly in Predonia and are named so because of the attack used by the flexible tentacle-like leaves. These bushes are predacious plants, living on insects and small creatures. Most of the base is hidden deep below the ground; sometimes so deep that only the leaves stick out.

While I'm on jungle plants, there is the snap flower. It grows only in Predonia. Its ‘petals’ are as strong as jaws. Its hunting technique is simply waiting for creatures to walk into its path before striking. The stem is thick and goes deep under the surface, protecting its ‘belly’ from most animals. Considering that some of them grow large enough to devour a man whole, it is fortunate that they are quite rare.

More common is the vidde flower. This plant is almost weed-like in its ability to grow wherever it likes, although it prefers a warm climate. True to its name, it has beautiful orange ‘fur’ instead of petals. The steam is pyramid shaped and can collect water like a cup once dried out.

From here, we move on to the parea-par, or gentle virgin. It is a small, unassuming plant that flowers twice a year. Tiny white flowers appear in winter and are the only known cure for acute ahok addiction. The slightly bigger, pink flowers that appear in spring give off an alluring scent that can be smelled only a few feet from the plant. Raptereon men liken the smell to that of a woman in heat and the scent of both flowers is often used in perfumes.

Now for one to get addicted to ahok, one must find an ahoka. It is a strange, ball-like flower. It will only grow in the scorching heat of the desert and, when the tan petals are dried, the herb ahok is produced. This herb dulls reasoning, enhances the desire to do violence and gifts the user an air of indestructibility. The side effects can range from eventual blindness to a complete lack of awareness of one's surroundings and death. Naturally, the Rogues are high users.

Less destructive to the body, is the palin coigin, wish vine. Offshoots of the Mother Vine, they originate from Japek. As they grow, they are able to communicate simple needs by either enveloping their intended audience or with gestures of their silver leaves. As the name suggests they are capable of granting wishes, as long as the wish isn’t harmful to any living thing. At certain times of the year, they produce small golden flowers, which in turn produce little silver berries. It is rumoured that, if consumed, these berries, or the juice, can enhance a creature’s libido.

***

From plant life to animals. Like any planet, Thardrandia has its share of insects. There are bees and flies, butterflies and moths, spiders and even shiny-shelled creatures that'll infest your beds if you're not careful. There are also rodents and birds and fish and a spindly creature known as the rom-jacol which lives in the jungles, eats insects and can be mistaken for a small sssstamne.

Of the bigger beasts, the most common would be the wikia. A rather small creature, its size on par with an Earth cow. The wikia's black-coloured skin is covered in a thick, smooth coat of white fur. This coat allows them to withstand the freezing winter temperature of their homes planes in Estridorean where they are tended by the equineans.
Their delicate, somewhat spindly legs are deceptive in the fact they are actually quite strong and fast, but their barrel-shaped bodies (which come from the fact wikias gorge themselves on rich vegetation) tend to weigh them down. Both stallions and mares sport a pair of horns with is used as a primary defence, but as a herd they tend to prefer flight to fight.

The next common, and the largest of the land-based animals (not including the prewania-tofua), are the walfres. These beasts are favoured desert mounts. About as big as an Earth elephant, they roam in herds no bigger than twenty. Their peach-coloured skin is covered in a very fine coat of fur. This fur is shaggy along the throat and forelegs. A good deal of the population is sandy brown with no bright markings. While others range from a muddy shade to dusty white.
The forelegs are used for fast digging. While the fearsome tusks are used to pry up their main diet of roots, as well as fruit, leaves and grass. The tusks are sharper on bulls then cows, and are generally used for fighting for a mate and protecting the herd. Powerful back legs and agile movements make them tough prey animals, but are favoured meals for several species and the sole transport for those crossing the desert.

On the Mora Moon, the land has been dominated by the herbivorous cynaurs. They are a form of large, wingless bird. The adults are covered in big, black feathers while the young, hatch sporting grey down that's so pale that you could almost call it white. Their eyes are swirls of various colours, which isn't hereditary. Having six legs and a low-slung body, these creatures can carry very heavy loads and trexens frequently break them in for riding or pulling carts and carriages. They are also used for racing.
The bucks have a sharp spike on a long, dexterous tail, which is used for piercing the soft shell of unfertilised eggs - if castrated, a buck's entire tail will be removed. Once fertilized, eggs instantly begin to harden and are rock-solid within a day. Does normally lay large clutches, the smallest ever found was about ten, she then leaves these eggs alone for the males, returning within one or two days. Any soft-shelled egg is destroyed, usually by being eaten, and the female goes about tending to the rest.