Stranger Lands of Aegylas
These are the far-flung Lands of Aegylas, that might nevertheless be home to a Hero.
Invassa, the Desert of Towers
Invassa is home to small tribes of barbarian peoples, living in the crumbling remnants of their once-great Empire. Nobody remembers Invassa; it was destroyed so thoroughly that none of its Stories remain. Not even its name remains – “Invassa” is a nickname granted by the natives. Invassa is a vast an infertile desert of majestic yellow towers, slowly dissolving into sand. So old is Invassa that the sand covers most of the Land; each time a tower crumbles another dune is added. When the last tower falls, Invassa will be nothing but sand as far as the eye can see – but there are yet a few oases and fertile valleys near the younger towers, which yet stand. The tribesmen of Invassa wage war over these intact towers, for the boon of nearby fertile land and the defenses granted by their turrets and walls. Foreign sages sometimes come here in search of ancient lore, but it is fruitless. Whatever curse destroyed Invassa disintegrated its books, its art, even its murals.
Paroxys, the Pain Distillery
Paroxys isn’t exactly a Land – it is part monastery and part merchant venture, but in time it’s attracted enough travelers and fools to grow to the size of a city-state. At the heart of Paroxys sits the Pain Distillery, which gives the city its name. The monks of Paroxys are a strange cult of self-flagellating masochists, who discovered a way to extract the essence of pain and distill it into liquid form. This liquid agony is a potent drug, capable of bringing the imbiber to extreme ecstasy, and highly sought after by many rich hedonists. Unfortunately, the most precious liquid agony comes from those not yet desensitized to pain. The agony which the monks draw from one another is impotent and watery in comparison. As a result, they make their business to sell pain and buy children and innocent youths for their distillery, preferably wealthy and spoiled ones.
Roshanton, the Mirror Lake
Roshanton is a city upon a shining silver lake, its surface smooth and reflective as a mirror. It floats atop the water, and few of its denizens ever leave its boundaries, living off the fish and floating gardens that the lake supports them with. The denizens have good reason for this. Roshanton is mirrored in the magical lake, and if one swims beneath the surface, one soon breaks it in Roshanton’s mirror image, holding a copy of all of its citizens. These copies are not identical – visually they are indistinguishable, but they may have different personalities and lead vastly different lives. Roshanton citizens sometimes meet with their mirror image, and some even form friendships or romantic relationships. Anyone who sleeps in Roshanton awakes with a mirror image of their own.
Roshanton is a trap, however, and few dare leave it. As soon as anyone with a mirror copy leaves the surface of the lake, one of them dies. Not even the most skilled soothsayer can predict whether the original or the copy will survive – not that it matters. After long enough in Roshanton, you’d be hard pressed to remember which is which.
Mishas, the Land of Divines
Mishas is a sprawling country centered on its capitol of Apotheosis. Why the Gods let it remain is a mystery. The nobility in Mishas claim to be living gods, forming a council of Divines. Each “god” has their own purview, their own prayers and hymns, and their own unique appearance carefully designed through the use of masks, make-up, and costumes. Their servants are properly referred to as “priests”, doting on the deity’s every need. Divines are expected to be in character at all times they appear in public – going so far as to pay exorbitant fees to alchemists for mind-altering drugs or cosmetic improvements. The war-gods are belligerent and angry. The fertility goddesses only go out when pregnant. The gods of misery eschew luxury (but still keep the retinue of priests). The divinity is all an elaborate act; but the Divines firmly believe that behaving as god-like as possible in life will eventually lead to true ascension, whether in life or in death. Perhaps a few have even succeeded. Anyone with enough money or influence can obtain a certificate of divinity in Mishas; and the Land attracts plenty of luck-seekers as a result.
Sorrakis, the Land of Giants
Sorrakis is a simple, agrarian society built around cattle-farming, turnip-growing and mining pithy amounts of copper and tin from its many hills. In many ways it is primitive and simple, and very peaceful. Sorrakis has rarely been invaded, and deals with even the Monsters of Aegylas. The reason for this is a peculiar blessing. One in ten children born in Sorrakis grows to unusual size and strength upon reaching puberty. Most stand only a few heads taller than an average human, with strength matching the strongest athletes of other Lands. About one in a hundred reaches twice as tall as a regular man, with proportionately even greater strength. One in a thousand reaches true giant size. Clothing, feeding and caring for these enormous warriors takes a huge toll on resources, but they also provide a great boon in terms of defense. Sorrakis natives tend to be very family-oriented, and on the occasions it sees violence it is usually bloody family feuds, often over bastard giants and whose responsibility – or asset – they truly are.
Lazuli, the Blue Coast
Lazuli is a warm colorful archipelago, running along a coast of shimmering blue sand. Its inhabitants live in clans and tribes with various chiefs and petty rulers, and possess little technology. Metal is virtually unknown in the Blue Coast, and must be imported along dangerous and winding Roads or across storm-swept waters. Like their homeland, the people of Lazuli are strangely colored – their skin and hair shifts in tones of green, violet, azure or aquamarine. Color is incredibly important to the people of Lazuli, used to distinguish friend from foe and edible plants from poison. Outsiders, though, cannot fully grasp the color-sensitivity of the Lazulites. A Lazulite can perceive shifts in a person’s soul by the way it affects their skin, hair, and eyes. He can see colors that don’t exist, or have no name outside Lazuli. He can discern magical items at a glance and spot haunted or cursed things by flecks upon their surface. Lazulites have often been kidnapped by ambitious sorcerers for these talents, which has made them very wary of outsiders. Commonly, they simply kill anyone whose skin isn’t a shade of blue.
Heskera, the Black Wall
Heskera is a vast, enormous wall made of some pitch-black material. It encircles a long-lost Land that sought to fortify itself against enemies, and built an impenetrable defense – strengthened by ancient magic. Whatever is inside Heskera is lost to those who live on and inside the Wall. They are descendants of the border guards, positioned outside to protect their Land from intrusion. Over time, they have slowly abandoned this position, as the enemies Heskera was built against are long gone. Unfortunately, the secret to unlocking the doors was also lost, preventing them from ever returning to their ancestral home. Climbing the wall is all but impossible, and a permanent storm rages over the Land, striking any fliers with lightning. The lords of Heskera make the massive guard-towers their strongholds, and wage war on another and the surrounding countryside. They have grown wealthy raiding, secure that their holds are impenetrable. Heskerans are hated and feared by their neighbors – further dooming them to the task of staying on the Wall, recalling to each other the tales of noble Knights and Queens that reside beyond the four black gates. Occasionally, some Lord or other tries to pierce the Wall, only to inevitably fail – sometimes fatally.
Kherim, the Tattooed Horde
The Kherim are a nomadic warrior people, who have conquered many Lands and put them under their command. Proficient horsemen and deadly with their war-axes and shields, the Kherim rarely wear armor or other protection into battle, however. The reason for this is the tradition of the Kherim to record their personal histories on their skin. Snaking tattoos cover a veteran Kherim warrior from head to foot. Only the warrior caste is permitted these tattoos, though heroic or skilled commoners may sometimes be permitted a single tattoo commemorating some exceptional deed. A Kherimite rarely, if ever, covers his tattoos. The reason for this is more than just vanity – ancient magic courses through the ink and the symbols, infusing the warrior with power. The mightiest Kherim warriors stride into battle wearing little but loincloths, their tattoos protecting them from heat, cold, and even the enemy’s weapons.
Skyhammer, the Floating Prison
Skyhammer is a majestic flying mountain, torn out of the earth by some ancient, unknown force and pinned to the sky, where it forever floats aimlessly among the clouds. Skyhammer is beautiful, but among dwarves, it is considered a fate worse than death.
When the dwarves discovered Skyhammer, they built magical bridges and stairs to reach it, convinced it was a place of great destiny and boundless riches. What they found was beyond disappointment. Skyhammer is “barren stone” in the dwarven tongue. No metal, no gems, just solid granite rock. The dwarves found the place so hateful that they made it into a prison, exiling their most reviled criminals to it. Unable to work, to mine and create beautiful things, the prisoners of Skyhammer slowly go insane, staring into the endless clouds. A few manage to barely cling to sanity, crafting crude tools out of stone and the withered trees that grow on Skyhammer’s surface. They subsist on a diet of birds, moss, and roots. The mountain slowly floats through Aegylas, occasionally seeing an influx of new criminals whenever it passes by a dwarf-controlled peak.
Some dwarves whisper that the mountain is losing its buoyancy, and that the residents know about it. Nobody can tell where or when the mountain will land, but the prisoners are sharpening their stone tools and weapons in preparation for that fateful day. Woe to the land that becomes their new home.
The Serpent Empire
The Serpent Empire is a vast Land, far-flung across oceans and deserts, though a few ancient Roads still lead there. It is inhabited by reptiles that walk and talk like men, scaly creatures in ornamental armour and strange garb of spider-linen and flower-silk. The reptiles tame the enormous apes and multi-limbed monkeys of the Land as their beasts of burden, and view soft-skinned humans and their ilk similarly – as particularly prized primates. No self-respecting Serpent would keep a human for manual labour, however. Instead, the wealthiest among them desire human “pets” for company, feeding, decorating and doting on them as status symbols. Strange diseases and poisonous creatures roam through the Serpent Empire, making the Land very dangerous to the children of men. The human pets are thus trapped in a gilded cage, offered every luxury they could ever imagine, but forbidden from leaving the serpent-palaces for their own safety.
Or at least, so the serpent-men claim.
Several cities and fiefdoms dot the Serpent Empire, each with their own different culture. There is Ssothai, with its hanging gardens of giant blossoms each the size of a man, from which the serpent-men harvest nectar for their drink. There’s Arraziz, a vast trade metropolis on the edge of a desert, where serpents barter for curious gemstones and exotic creatures, and there is also Izzilthin, a city of splendid luxury where humans are afforded more freedom due to strict quarantine laws.
Stretching impossibly tall, the Shattered Spire was once a magnificent tower of crystal glass. Some ancient disaster broke it, and today it is a jagged crown of razor-sharp edges, surrounded by pieces of broken glass that has somehow been absorbed by the land – jutting out of trees, sticking from the ground, minute grains of glass even nested in the flowers at the treetops. Once, the Shattered Spire was home to the Clear Elves, a race of crystalline beings that constituted a fourth race of Elves. The Clear Elves were supposedly master craftsmen, devoted to beauty and design.
Today, the Clear Elves no longer exist. When the Shattered Spire broke, they broke as well. Their crystalline features fogged, and their skin begun to crack. Today only a handful of their descendants remain – dubbed the Broken Elves. With skin like porcelain or stained glass, the Broken Elves come in all manner of colours, most of them muted and dull. They invariably have some form of disability; many are blind, others are missing limbs or bear horrific scars. Most are infertile. Some Broken Elves have accepted their condition, but many are sadistic and cruel, envying perfection and wholeness where they find it and seeking to disfigure, maim or deface other beings – especially the other Elves. They take delight in disfiguring and humiliating the beautiful White Elves, in stripping the Black Elves of their secrets, and in crippling the Red Elves and robbing them of their strength.
The Broken Elves have lost their knack for creation, but gained one for destruction instead. The few Broken Elves who don’t engage in destruction for its own sake make masterful siege engineers, torturers, safe-crackers and warriors. Broken Elves instinctively see the weak points in all things – living or dead – and their mere touch can cause man-made objects to tear or shatter.