Fire Lances

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Generations ago, the Hyperzephyrians ruled this world. Until they unleashed the power of the fire lances, their most awesome and deadly magic. Now mankind lives in the corpse of the Hyperzephyrians' world, heirs to their forebears' destructive powers. But there are rumors that the fire lances still exist, and many who would seek to claim them for their own ends.

Contents

History

The Hyperzephyrians

Long before the Fire Lances laid waste to the world, mankind dwelled in a paradise, full of verdant green forests and rivers that flowed clean and clear. The source of this bounty was the Hyperzephyrians, a race like man and yet unlike, altogether wiser, more powerful, more refined. They raised cities that scraped the skies, and gave these as gifts for mankind. They walked upon the oceans' floors and found ancient vaults. They soared through the air on magical beasts. Even, the real dreamers say, walked upon the moon. Their beneficence was boundless until one fateful day.

The stories vary on just why. The Wardens say it was a mistake, a sin for which the Hyperzephyrians must now atone. The Evocati sneer that mankind brought the wrath upon themselves, for squandering the gifts of their betters. But whichever is true, or whether some reason unknown and unknowable, it doesn't matter. The Hyperzephyrians unleashed the awesome might of the Fire Lances, their most deadly magics. After that day, the world was no longer green. What water flowed was a slurry of blood and mud and ash from burning cities and dying peoples. And the Hyperzephyrians vanished, leaving mankind to wallow in a hell of their making. And when those living enviers of the dead raised their heads and shook their fists, demanding to know, "Why?" no answer came.

Geography

Landmarks

The Black River

The largest river in the known world, the Black River's source lies far beyond Sixer territory in the north. It ends in Deltafolk lands, spilling out into the Gulf. The primary avenue for transportation and trade, the Black River carries everything from norther timber and maple mead to marauding armies girded for war. In common parlance, the River is the delimiter of "East" and "West."

Cities and Settlements

Logjam

Not so much a permanent settlement as a yearly gathering, Logjam takes place at a variable point along the Black River each year, marking the spot chosen by the Deltafolk rafters to lash up their timber haul into rafts instead of floating it loose down the waterway. As a yearly event it attracts traders and religious pilgrims from around the area. Those looking for cheap and relatively safe passage down the river often come to Logjam to sign on as crew for one of the rafts.

Peoples

Wanderers

Black Paws

A fiercely expansionist tribe originating from the Atlantic coast. They began as a small city state centered around the ruins of Richmond, and have steadily expanded over the past century, though the past few decades have seen their territories grow by leaps and bounds. Only their constant internal power struggles and dynastic conflicts have limited their expansion. They capture and keep slaves from the cities they conquer, or sell them to other slaving cultures. Their last major conquest was the Wanderers' city approximately twenty years ago. Since then they've been engaged in raiding, civil war, and challenging their main rival in the east, the Sixers. Though, it is well known their goal is to expand west beyond the River.

Bismals

This Bismals are another ethnic/religious group, centered around the western Great Lakes region. They live in lakeside towns, ekeing what they can out of the trickling overlake trade. While extremely commercial, unlike the Deltafolk they keep to their own communities and do not tend to settle outside of them. They rarely allow outsiders admittance inside their towns, doing business on the docks or in bazaars outside the walls. A Bismal woman is an exceedingly rare sight outside of their walled towns. Usually the only travelling women are brides on their way to their new husbands' homes, and they move under the close and heavily armed eyes of their brothers, uncles, and cousins.

Bismals speak Bismali.

Evocati

A religious/ethnic group similar to the Wardens, the Evocati likewise claim Hyperzephyrian descent. However, unlike the Wardens, the Evocati consider themselves the racial superiors of all other peoples, and the conquest and subjugation of all lesser peoples is their heavenly mandate. While extremely militaristic, they prefer to fight their battles through proxies and client tribes, preferring to conquer by forging alliances with local powers and crushing the weaker ones. Their steady growth has been checked in the north by the Black Paws.

While the ideological dispute between the Wardens and Evocati (they can't both be Hyperzephyrians, after all) seems ripe for conflict, the two factions are too distant and the Wardens too isolated for anything to have occured.

Evocati have no unique language of their own speak a dialect of Vulgate as their native language.

Wardens

The Wardens are an insular religious/ethnic group who claim they are the descendants of the Hyperzephyrians. Since this stance makes them blasphemers and heretics at worst and objects of derision at best, they tend to keep to their isolated and well protected enclaves. Those Wardens one might meet on the road are often itinerant holy men and women, who fast and scourge themselves in an attempt to atone for the Hyperzephryians sins against mankind. This of course further colors the popular opinion of the Wardens as crazed fanatics.

Wardens have no unique language of their own and speak a variation of Vulgate as their native tongue.

Delatfolk

Originating at the Black River's mouth, the Deltafolk have migrated north along the waterways and tributaries. They are extremely commercial, and most Deltafolk found outside of their homelands to the south establish trading posts. The Lumber Kings of the far north trade with them, rafting down timber which the Deltafolk use to contruct ships and ports for their fishing expeditions. Deltafolk also often run roadside hostels, where one can spend a (relatively) safe and comfortable night while on the road.

A less well known branch of the Deltas have settled along the Gulf Coast, all the way to the peninsula. They live a much more isolated and sedentary existence than the common, stereotypical Deltafolk.

Deltafolk speak Bayouge.

Sixers

The remnants of the Six Nations, they originated in former upstate New York. They are one of the most organized tribes, headed by a Grand Chief who rules through the lesser chiefs, all bound by a written constitution. Recently they have been settling lands west of the Black River, as their population is booming, but many of these settlements are vulnerable as their attentions are turned towards the Black Paw encroachment on their eastern territories. They also boast one of the most highly educated populations, with nearly 50% literacy.

Sixers speak Koy.

Sky Fangs

Created by: The Boyce

Around the time of the Exile, the Sky Fangs were on the ascent in the Midwest, subjugating many tribes in the agriculturally rich area and looking to expand their hegemony eastwards. However, a series of disasters crushed their imperial dreams, as more savage tribes from the far north came seeking warmer climes and a rapid succession of plagues laid many of their best warriors low. While the Sky Fangs have been able to maintain much of the previous territory, they are hard pressed to do so and further conquest is out of the question.

The Fangs, seeking to recapture the fading glory of only two decades ago, often fall prey to wandering prophets and soothsayers, hence their propensity for converting to whatever religion promises them conquest and victory. They change faiths often and it is not a sure thing who or what they'll be worshiping from one season to another.

Sky Fangs have no language of their own and speak Vulgate as their native tongue.

Murumans

Created by Gygaxphobia

The Murumans have long been feared all around the foothills that carpet the base of the Fartoga Peaks. For years there have been stories of a merciless band that would tolerate no other tribe or settler in their lands, quickly swarming to remove any such presence. They rarely venture onto the plains though there are also stories of farmers who have settled outside but on the borders of their territory, only to also become victims of their attack. Stories say only livestock farmers have been attacked this distance from the foothills but all the same there are few now who would be willing to homestead anywhere near there.

What little information have survived about the Murumans is violent and frightening indeed. With no warning a charge of ragged riders with long beards will sweep down to obliterate those that offend them. They have never deliberately left a survivor it seems, and they show no respect for man, woman or child. Such a raid happens much the same each time.

Every human is butchered, literally. They will also slaughter the swine kept by farmers, though these they leave for the wolves, except on occasion they may burn them instead, because they do not want scavengers so near.

It is reported by those who have watched them that they perform a strange ghostly song as they go about their butchery, and this they do in the manner of some ritual. They hang the human corpses and wash them each around the throat and face before they slice the jugular of each. The blood is collected in large urns until drained dry, then the bodies are lined up. Soon they are taken away and never seen again. At the site of each attack a strange geometric symbol is left, resembling a stylised star and painted in the blood of the dead.

Magic and Religion

Magic

Spiritualism

Spiritualists dot the world. They rarely band together, as the typical spiritualist is unlikely to even meet more than a handful in a lifetime. Some religions revere the ability to commune with spirits. Others see it as a capital crime. Often that is all the distinction which one must make, but in the rare meetings between Spiritualists of rival faiths and creeds, debates over dogma do spring up.

Primarily, such disagreements center around the nature of spirits themselves. Most claim to communicate with long dead humans or ancestors, but a select few declare the spirits they draw their power from are the Hyperzephyrians. These claimants are further divided in whether the "Hyperzephyrians" they contact are living and transplanted to another world, dead, or have ascended to a higher plane of existence.

In communities where they are accepted, Spiritualists tend to carve out a niche as advisors or leaders. Their talents are seen as valuable, helping a tribe in almost any circumstance. In those where they are shunned, they hide their talents and keep to themselves.

Arcanism

Even more insular than the Spiritualists of the world, Arcanists are even less well known than Spiritualists, and are rare even in communities which are accepting of their unnatural abilities. The typical Arcanist is an itinerant treasure hunter, braving ruins and blasted wastelands for scraps of Hyperzephyrian lore and "arcane" devices. They often keep low profiles, to prevent attracting rivals in their quests for esoteric knowledge, but it is not uncommon for those of truly awesome power to become tyrants. Their reigns are almost always short-lived, as nothing unites the neighboring tribes like a magical madman (or woman) bent on conquest.

Religion