An Overview of the Shards
Suspended between the Solar Hearth and the dread Beneath, the shattered body of the dead god, Õemag, slowly drifts. Herein are the kingdoms of the thinking races.
As the heart of Õemag beats, so does the light of day grow and fade. As the Beneath sucks upon the life of the shards, and Õemag’s endless bounty is renewed, so do the shards feel the seasons come and go in their eternal cycle.
Only the Rising of the Beneath seeks to upset the tenuous balance between all life and the end of all that is.
Despite the ever-present threat of the Beneath, and the endlessly malign godlings that have fallen into its dark service, the thinking races spread and prosper throughout the shards.
The doorstep of Paradise is the desert nation of Ozaan. Closest to the sun of all nations, it is hot and arid. In its deserts are holy mystics, wandering nomads, and pilgrims on the way to the capitol city of Ozaan. In Ozaan can be found the Grand Tabernacle of the Pentatra, where the five temples meet to set policy for the Pentatra throughout the shards. Religious fervor is high amongst the Ozaani, and clerics are given great respect. Rituals and prayers occur throughout the hours of the day and night on Ozaan.
Ozaan is believed to be the safest nation amongst all the shards, partly because of its closeness to the god’s home. Another factor is the Matriarch.
The Matriarch is a kageshin who fulfills some unknown agenda by living amongst mortals and using her powers to aid the Ozaani.
Though her powers of prophecy are great, the Matriarch suffers from an ever-bleeding wound. Her body weakens, and many fear that her protection of Ozaan is slipping along with her reason.
Merchants and rich-folk often find themselves drawn to the city of Ozaan. The obvious safety and distance from the Beneath are the goal of many a wishful trader.
The Matriarch forbids that any should approach the Holy City without showing proper piety. Only those who come to the city on foot are welcomed; the temple guards turn all others away. Skyships never go to Ozaan, and all pilgrims must travel along the grounds, moving from oasis to oasis. The fearsome sand drakken sometimes emerge from the desert ruins to prey upon the unwary, or those who trespass in their hidden refuges.
Also high in the shards are the beautiful vistas of the Ælven Empire of Xauphinelle. High and Ancient Emperor Tallisindar dreams of the empire’s glory days, and patiently waits for the younger races to falter. The Empire has few resources lefty, however, and must either forge new alliances, or take up the sword and find a new future through conquest as they have in the past.
The Empire is a place of wonders and memories best unremembered. For every crystal tower and singing flower there is an abandoned city or a hidden graveyard left from the bloody days of the civil war. It seems the most hideous magics and atrocities were reserved by the ælven for each other.
The ælven keep to their great, scattered cities, sometimes venturing out to hunt in the forests or sail the glittering lakes and rivers. Human families work the land, centuries after their ancestors were conquered. The paved highways of the Empire connect the far corners of the Empire. Beneath all of this former progress, the Ælven Empire lives in a state of nervous, manic fear. The laughter of the Ælven Courts is only half mirth.
The Circle Sea is the largest known body of water in the shards. Here the sirens set out from port to trade with people from the farthest reaches of the shards. Islands dot the Circle Sea, as do storms and mists. It is the center-most shard on its particular strata, and often a waypoint for travelers. Smaller circular bodies of water can be found on separate shards nearby. Most notable to visitors here are the Nine Free Cities of the Circle Sea, the home to various enterprising trade families who strive to preserve a unique identity from their rival cities. The Nine Cities are Phanosh, Tantavos, Ohjavia, Mezzona, Choldai, Han’Haarstan, Döss, Giulmari, and Vesh.There was once a tenth city, home to the noble Vezanti, but that city is lost to devils.
A great gulf of sky separates the Upper Shards from the Lower. Midway between the two regions can be found an area of many small shards that drift, often erratically, through the sky. This region is commonly called Õemag’s Teeth. Here in the teeth can be found the Confederacy of the Shoal Kingdoms, a loose association of small shards with their own varied governments and rag-tag militias.
The leader of one Shoal might style himself a mayor, another a sheriff, and yet another a king. These petty lords are allied, and expect one another to come to the aid of the Shoals should one of them be threatened. Luckily, thus far the Shoals have not had to test this agreement.
Fortunes can be made in the Shoals, if one is wise and lucky. More often as not, the pervasive criminal element of the Shoals can get the better of a visitor. Those so unfortunate often find themselves beholden to the various Thieves Guilds, and never able to scrape up enough gold to afford passage on a skyship.
Those ælven who were exiled from the Empire found new homes close to Õemag’s Teeth, and met with the refugees from Fioré after the Beneath’s Second Rising. The nation they founded has blossomed into the peaceful kingdom of Velsephay. Ruled by a figurehead Queen, Velsephay is a tolerant realm. Here manx, drakken, dwarves, and merren can be found mixing together, though the majority of the population is ælven, human, and their offspring - the half-ælven .
Though many of Velsephay’s shards are plains, farmland, and rolling wooded hills, most people think of the tree-cities when they think of Velsephay. Many of the great trees dwarf the shards they grow out of, and entire plazas and neighborhoods can be found cupped in their boughs. Bridges and stairs connect the various branches to one another, while streets and thoroughfares wind across branches, linking plazas and estates high above the ground..
Though a poor country with little in the way of resources, Velsephay has created for itself and its people a new, fragile beauty out of the ashes of the a strife-torn past. Trade and woodcraft keep Velsephay alive, despite the fact that many of its shards are scattered above, below, and through Õemag’s Teeth.
Beneath the Shoals lies Fioré, a proud human kingdom that is dangerously close to the Beneath. Fioré is rich in metals and is made up of a great number of large shards. An overking, Grahm Max Sparstag, rules over his smaller kingships with a mixture of diplomacy and military genius. These talents have been hallmark of the Sparstag line ever since the first overking united feuding clans and hammered them into kingdoms united by his rule.
The Pentatric presence in Fioré’s provinces is strong, and nearly every court of one Sparstag’s kings has an advisor from one of the Temples. The people of Fioré are devout, and this perhaps gives the Pentatra more of a foothold in his kingdom that the Overking would like. Still, the Pentatra’s magics, the Gold Temple’s faith, and a proud heritage of Fioran knighthood are necessary to keep the Beneath at bay. Monsters continually gain a foothold in the cold mountains and hills that dominate the shards of Fioré.
Close to Fioré, the lands of Tleyzu can be found. Whereas Fioré is cold and harsh, the labyrinthine mountain valleys of Tleyzu hide unnaturally steamy jungles and stark deserts in equal amount. The Tleyans who make their home here are a bloodthirsty people, said to worship strange gods. They are given to slavery, and some say even more abhorrent practices. Though most Fiorans know the primitive berserker warriors of Tleyzu, there are rumors of a caste of witch-priestesses who are held in reverence and awe by the savage warrior class. Little is truly known of the Tleyans. Rumors abound of cyclopean temple-cities that exist deep within the jungles, and around which Tleyan religious life centers.
Beneath Tleyzu and Fioré, cloaked by an endless twilight, are the Underlands. Doomed to be destroyed when the Beneath rises again, the Underlands hover just above the infinitely hungry abyss of the Beneath. This is the last refuge of the worst scum the thinking races have to offer. Outcasts, exiles, the insane, and those too evil to find true happiness elsewhere in the shards find themselves in these anarchic shards. No law rules but strength, and life is often exceptionally short and brutal. The near-dark towns are dens of scum and villainy. Only the Gold Temple dares to preach to the doomed, and even they often find themselves the targets of malice and hatred.
Here nothing is forbidden. Worship of Hastur, Madragat, and even the Beneath is said to go on in the worst areas of the Underlands. Proximity to the Beneath leaves many twisted in body and soul. Humanoids and even fouler beings freely mingle with humans and the other races of the Upper Shards.
Fortunately, the Underlands are full of disorganized fiends and vagabonds. They rarely bother Fioré or other nearby shards.