The Land of the Sun and Moon
The Land of the Sun and Moon is a rich river valley. Populated by a semi-feudal nation, the Kingdom, which likes to consider itself the only civilized nation in the land, has filled and prospered in their warm and wet land. Bordered on the south by impenetrable jungles and on its other borders by mountains, deserts, and barbarous tribes, the Landlocked kingdom is crisscrossed with rivers, and further divided by shallow canals and the patchwork of rich and fertile farms, separated by strips of forested hunting preserves. A fast rider - and the Kingdom is filled with fast riders - can cross from one end of the plain to the other in a little less than seven days. River barges make the same trip in three weeks.
The landscape is dotted with the great tiered temples of the gods - the pantheon is dominated by the Sun and his twin the Moon. Hundreds of lesser deities inspired by nature fill it out and allow each worshiper to find a moral focus for themselves that fits. Often surrounding each temple are tall and slender towers - the homes and fortresses of the noble classes. Each tower is constructed by a family and enlarged by his descendants. The towers are a symbol of a family's status and power - erected over decades by slaves and gold.
The peasants are mostly simply that - peasants. They lead a simple and laborious life - raising grain and livestock every year. Most of the peasant families had been living the same life for centuries if not millenia. Almost two hundred years prior, a band of nomadic hunters had moved in and taken over the great plain. The roving horsemen spent several years riding in their horde and simply feasting on whatever they could pillage, but soon settled and took fiefs and villages for themselves. Even though they now have permanent homes, they still idealize travel and movement, and spend most of the year living outside their own homes - either traveling and visiting other nobles or hunting in the great forest preserves set aside for the nobility. The king and his family still do nothing but travel. The royal family has no tower, and their only lands is a small patch of forest near the center of the plain. Nearly everyone in the kingdom dresses the same. Simple white tunics, cover their bodies more than adequately in the heavy and humid heat. People either go barefoot or wear sandals with tall laces. Nobles are usually distinguishable by the weapons they carry as well as their horses. Only the royals wear gold, and only priests wear silver. Most metal worn by people is made of bronze or copper. Most armor is also bronze, though a few finely made iron swords are carried as heirlooms, and smiths that can work iron are often nearly revered as gods themselves.
Horsemanship is a skill prized by the ruling class. They likewise value any sort of fighting skill - from archery to swordsman ship to simple unarmed fighting. Many sons and daughters who lack martial talent are simply disowned and sent to the temples, to serve as priests. The priests, while holding little direct temporal power, nevertheless have a great deal of control over the nobility. Divine powers can be pooled through elaborate rituals, and for generations the priests of the Sun and Moon have maintained a careful balance, bringing rains in the proper season and the heat of the summer in its time. Even individual priests can manage feats of magic invaluable to the more ordinary people of the Kingdom. Raising the dead from the grave, banishing spirits, binding wild animals, and even manipulating the elements are all common to these priests - though the costs they exact for performing their miracles are always severe. There are also a few who possess magical powers that do not come from the gods. By studying natural processes, meditating on one's own powers, and unlocking hidden reservoirs of power, a small but significant number have become magicians - wizards and sorcerers who can perform tricks similar to the priests, though often much less subtle. Magicians have very little power in the kingdom - most are extremely weak, and those that begin to gain great power with their magic are often cast out of the kingdom by the priests.
The kingdom operates on a semi-individualistic feudal system. The king is at top with a number of lesser lords who rule over different regions. The individual knights, warriors, and other nobles are generally free to live where they want, wherever they have sworn oaths to. However, it is generally considered inappropriate to not live on the lands of one's liege lord, and so nobles who have sworn to a local lord almost always remain on that lords lands. Knights sworn to the king, or another higher lord without lands are free to live where they will. They are still subject to the regional lord's commands, however, and can only disobey that ruler's commands when they directly contradict an order given by the actual oath lord. If an oath lord has his men do something contrary to the king's wishes (like raid their neighbors lands, kidnap other nobles, or just turn to minor banditry; all of which is common enough), the men sworn to that lord are not held liable for their actions on their lord's orders. The lord is liable for his orders, though.
The Royal Family
The King is a middle aged man named Jared (Sometimes named 'the King,' to distinguish him from his son). He his forty four years old, and has ruled the country since he was twenty five. He married young, having his first child before he took the crown. His oldest child is a twenty five year old boy, also named Jared (sometimes termed 'the Strong,' to distinguish him from his father.). He also has a daughter, 24 years old, named Sarai. She is a priestess of the Sun, and though she has been officially disowned from the family, she travels with king and court through their circuit around the country just as she did as a child. The youngest is twenty one years old. The three's mother died in childbirth when the youngest was born.
The family has no home, and the only lands directly owned and controlled by the king is a chunk of forest near the center of the kingdom, kept stocked as a hunting preserve. The family spends the years circling the kingdom, staying either in opulent tents out in the countryside or within the towers of various noble families. Officially, this circuit is performed as a ritual for the Sun and Moon, but it is also a holdover from the period in which the nobles of the kingdom were nomadic wanderers. It further allows the King and his family to remain connected to the people and the land, which has considerably improved both the ruler's effectiveness at dealing with issues as they arise as well as increasing the loyalty of the people towards the family.
The Sun and Moon
It is perhaps natural that the nomadic and restless ruling class would respect and worship entities that continually travel the sky, and yet have fixed and clear patterns to guide men through their lives. The various temple societies generally revere balance - rain and storm in one season, sun and growth in another. There are, of course, numerous sects devoted to lesser deities and spirits around the Kingdom, but they are all local cults, and rarely have any following apart from a specific temple. Common lesser focuses of worship often include an idol of some sort, or an object of nature turned into an ideal. Many rivers, animals, and even trees are worshiped, and are considered members of a pantheon presided over by the sun and moon.
Priests, by tradition as strong as any law, do not own property or govern the affairs of the kingdom. In practice, though, the kingdom is a theocracy. The priests often adjudicate and judge the conflicts of the people, and their intervention has prevented a number of civil wars since the Kingdom's inception by deciding on behalf of different members of the royal family during times when the succession was unclear. When working together, priests also have incredible magical power, and they often procure favors and demand concessions from those nobles request aid of the priests.
Almost all professionals are members of the priesthood - blacksmiths, accountants, map-makers, merchants, etc. are all made up of various monastic orders. As a general rule, peasants who become priests do so because of innate talents and recognizable ability. Nobles who join are usually extraneous children.
While the priesthood is fairly monolithic, it is in fact made up of numerous orders with their own focuses and specialties. There are three major orders - Priests of the Cycle, Sun, & Moon. Cycle priests make up most of the church leadership, and members of other orders move themselves into that order as they attain rank. These are the priests that stress balance and order. The major rites of that order occur at dawn and sunset, and the ideals proclaimed by these are duty, farming, animal husbandry, and respect for authority. They are usually marked by simple undyed wool robes. Several hairstyles mark rank within the order - with the lowest members wearing shaved heads and the leader totally unshaved; the more hair worn with the robe, the higher the rank. Sun priests wear black robes and a gold sunburst on an amulet. They stress power, strength, action, and tradition. They also claim death and funerals, war, fire, and fighting in general as their portfolio. Moon priests wear white robes, and silver armbands. They teach change, patience, and curiosity. Their portfolio is darkness, hunting, love, birth, and undeath.
Some orders are stronger in a given location than in others. Cyclic priests try to stay uninvolved with daily affairs, and allow the people to look after themselves. They only bother with arcanists if the spellcasters begin causing trouble. Most of the minor casters live in towns ran by the Order of the Cycle. Sun Priests do their best to manage everything possible within their power. They use fear, power, and tradition to maintain that control. Even minor casters are threatened with death when discovered in the Sun realms. Moon priests work to teach those within their realms. They involve themselves as much as sun priests, but use manipulation and other subtle techniques to achieve their goals. Arcanists in Moon lands often find themselves either recruited into the temple or driven to leave by minor harassment.
Other minor orders include the Priests of the Firmament, who devote themselves to divination and fortune telling; Sky Workers, who do most of the artisan and engineering work in the kingdom - despite their small numbers they have a surprising amount of power within the hierarchy; and the Green Divine, who focus on agricultural growth.
Outcasts & Magic
Arcane magic is rare in the Kingdom. Arcanists who show potential for real power (Wizards, Sorcerers, Wu Jen and the like), are usually either killed or driven from the kingdom. Lesser arcanists (Like bards, Hexblades, and other partial casters) can often find a place, and be accepted by the people; their powers are often distrusted however, and in some cases the arcanists needs express temple approval to survive and practice.
Some divine casters are able to operate outside of the established temple hierarchy. Generally oriented towards nature, even though they are not members of the hierarchy, they are recognized as authorized voices of the land. Druids and Favored Souls often fit this category.
The Prince's Story
Campaign Arc for Approaching the Inevitable
- Prince Cinder is played by Basil_Bottletop
- Kiadan is played by Nighteyes5678
- Nephri is played by The Snark
The Great Circuit arrived in the territory of the noble lord Ripmesh, in a perfectly ordinary way. A feast was thrown, people talked and competed with a new set of faces and arms, and news was delivered. The king learned of a plague of serpents infesting the border of Ripmesh's lands along the southern desert, and sent several scouts to learn details. While waiting, a feast was thrown and oaths were taken by the king and Ripmesh, as was customary. One old warrior named Balihor swore oath to the prince - this was traditionally appropriate, but very uncommon as prince Cinder was not the heir and was thoroughly undistinguished. As part of the oath ceremony, Cinder gave the old man a dear heirloom - a turtleshell necklace of his mother's; the prince received a well made bow in return. During the feast and celebration, Cinder also made the acquaintance of an opinionated and seasoned warrior named Jonas. Jonas has since attached himself to the prince and serves as bodyguard, trainer, and major-domo.
Soon, the scouts returned with word that the serpents could not be repulsed through ordinary means, and the king resolved to ride to the holy city, the Divine Mountains, to discover the cause and solution to the plague. He ordered stopgap measures to be put in place, such as protection of livestock and the digging of moats, and ordered Prince Jared to ride the circuit in the king's stead. King Jared, Cinder, Sarai the king's daughter, Corban the king's high priest, and a small party of knights including Jonas rode to the Divine Mountains.
Once there, the king quickly held a council and just as quickly left, taking with him a large contingent of knights and sun-priests to enter the desert and search for whatever had provoked the infestation of serpents. Cinder and Corban were left behind to search the temples for a cause indicated by prophesy - diviners had said there was an imbalance in the temples causing the plague. So far, in his search, Cinder has managed little.
Inadvertently he has had the royal tower expanded into a much larger keep. Jonas has been gathering a small coterie of young and inexperienced warriors to Cinder. The young men swore themselves to the prince in a ceremony different but strangely similar to the oath taking that happens in the circuit. The ceremony took place in an ancient and secret chamber beneath the royal tower.
He also seems to have triggered the High Heirarch's death somehow - after sneaking into the priest's quarters and speaking with the man, Baligon told him that his death was near after meeting with the prince. The old man actually died of a violent poison within hours of speaking to Cinder. Both Jonas and Ordo assumed that Cinder was actually who killed him, and the prince sent Ordo to take word to the king in the desert. The High Heirarch was succeeded by the Exhorter, Rorishek.
The Exhorter's seat could have freely gone to Corban, who abstained from the post. The succession was then contested by several high masters of various temple orders. Kib and two others stood down for various reasons after attempting the seat, leaving Daedra (Cinder's pick), Jessamon, and Korianther (Kiadan's pick) to stand for the seat. Jessamon was elected, but both she and Daedra were killed by the same poison that had killed the High Heirarch before she could take the seat. Korianther took it by default.
A few days later, Kiadan has formally entered Cinder's retinue. This joining was interrupted by guards invading the royal tower. Though Jonas resisted, both Corban and Cinder were arrested and taken away by the temple guards, charged with poisoning the various high priests.
Kiadan was led by Jonas into the same underground altar, promising to give the priest answers. Jonas then incapacitated Kiadan through unknown means. Kiadan was given a vision of sorts, waking in a similar chamber, though much less worn down. During the vision, he interacted with a woman who appeared to be the ancient queen of the people of the valley, as well as her court. Kiadan saw the arrival of Mahonri and his Horde to the valley, and counseled the queen to accept King Mahonri's proposal to join the peoples.
Mahonri then revealed himself to be Jonas (or at least to share a face with the man), and then sent Kiadan back to the present. Putting the prince's men back into order and finding Jonas now missing. The group then went to witness the trial.
Cinder was tried by ordeal, and the prince chose combat with the temple's Champion. The Champion then fell after a single cut from Cinder. Before the trial could move on, the temple was attacked by a collection of unknown assailants, led by a woman wreathed in a fiery aura. The fire elemental assault was fought off by the temple guards with Cinder, Kiadan, and their mens' help. After killing the leader, it was revealed that she was in fact Sarai, the prince's sister.
Ordo, who returned as the battle commenced, revealed that he had encountered the priestess and other priests returning from their mission in the sands. All of them had reportedly been twisted and angered by their experiences, and were coming to exact revenge upon the moon priests and the higher temple orders.
The city of the Divine Mountain was attacked by unknown numbers of these fiery priests and their allies, and Kiadan decided to scout below. He found a young girl named Nephri, and along with Cinder and the rest the party has continued to explore the city as it is being sacked.