Before the rebellion, those who managed to flee their leash hid in the wilderness and wastelands southwest of Dalzoran, where little of interest to the Hyrnan could be found. Still, their masters came, founding what they called “Hunting Lodges”, recreational residences from where they’d venture forth to torment the fugitives further. With time, these outposts grew into mining towns, manufactures and fortresses. Likewise though, the people of Surtur grew, forging ties with natives and learning to live of the land, travel unseen and strike from the shadows.
Long have they fought tyranny alone, aiding slaves in their escape, hiding dissidents and sabotaging their former masters. When the revolution began, they came forth and great were their numbers, and strike down many an oppressor they did. After countless battles, they joined with the armies from the east in the siege of a few remaining hunting lodges – the last outposts of Hyrnan rule. As a final act of revenge and spite, the Archmages of the enemy joined forces, and unleashed energies that swept across the entire land. Never having had much life to begin with, much of Surtur was left barren and burnt.
Tenacious and stubborn as they were, the residents did not give up, and have brought forth a new nation in the wastes. Nurturing life wherever they could, their everyday life consists of survival, and a great vision of Surtur alive and green. They are not going to give up a land they fought for so hard.
Much of the society is tribal and nomadic, except for those who dwell in secluded cities around a spring or oasis. Regardless whether sessile or driven by the winds, the people are proud to a fault, determined, and utterly loyal. Extremely polite and thoughtful, they might seem almost surreal to a foreigner, their eyes focused on a distant future, while the spirit is hearing a song of times long gone.
Their values reflect this well: propriety, strength in the face of adversity and quality of character are what makes an adult. What is also highly valued is the strength of the ‘Inner Fire’ – the power of life and creation burning in every sentient, yet in some brighter than in others.
Their code of behavior demands that reputation, property, dignity and privacy are respected. In everyday dealings, you will not enter the dwelling of another, you won’t even see his face. Within the clan and family, the opposite is true: the members are very close and affectionate towards each other, and share most belongings.
The clan as a whole does care for the children, with the stars designating which part of the education is due: the best warrior will be titled the Red Star, and will teach the skill at arms when the Star of War stands high in the skies, while the most sagely tribesman will teach lore and wisdom when his stars, the Unshrouded Eyes, are dominant. Other important stars are The Blessings, a group of blue stars – they show that learning of nature is due. All children are supposed to pass a test of maturity when they hit puberty, being considered adult if they pass. Boys may choose a mentor, who may either accept, or decline; being refused by all adults of the tribe is a great shame, and the unlucky individual will most often wander off. Girls will be married off to other tribes (marrying the tribe as a whole and then picking a mate within – they may alternate freely), where they may choose a teacher.
Surtur is a loosely connected state, the borders are not determined and most citizens are not aware of the existence of a majority of the tribes. Back from the times of war, the state has preserved an organization similar to that of underground groups due to security, so each tribe will be able to contact its neighbors (not exactly knowing where they dwell, but having agreed places where they leave messages, or communicating through smoke and mirror signals).
A conclave of elders determines laws that affect all tribes, and each tribe is allowed to send one representative. When a law the elder dislikes is passed, he may declare his tribe ‘unbound’, from whence on his tribe is not obliged to obey the law, but also does not gain any benefits from any of the laws either.
Surtur does not have a currency – barter is the only trade method here.
The worship of the tribes focuses upon a single force – the all-pervading breath of Life, the En-Ath, which grants the spark of life to all beings and keeps them alive through its love. It is hardly surprising that in Surtur, all life is respected, no matter how humble it may be. No Surturei will kill without a good reason, whether man or beast.
From their temples, called Wells, progressing outward, they try to heal their land, by restoring broken strands of magic and furthering life. They claim that by the villainy of the Hyrnan, life itself was frightened, and hesitates to return to Surtur. Their worship is meant to welcome life back, and make it stay. To this end, they will cultivate oases and gather so-called Salubrious Hearts, rare stones, which they deem to be holy and have a strong affinity to life.
Each temple houses a very special tree in its center – a Pillar of Life, which has come into being by a priest giving up his life and merging with a young tree. Every adult will receive a small glass sphere with sap from such a tree, and, warmed by his life force a miniature garden will spring into being inside. When he dies, the sphere will burst open and the plants flourish in his resting place. It is seen as a good omen if they grow strong and beautiful, while his soul is considered dead if they wither.
*Hin Erchon: once a proud city of the Erech, a race of flesh and crystal, now it lies in ruin, haunted and abandoned, palaces home to naught but sand and wind. Once, the Erech swore to stand by the people of Surtur, but soon they betrayed the trust for material gain, and power offered by the Hyrnan. Thinking themselves safe, little did they expect the swift retribution to come: at night, hundreds of cloaked figures snuck into their city, and slew all inhabitants in their sleep. Not one escaped to mourn the dead.
A lesson is to be learned here: when in Surtur, no good deed will go without a reward, and no slight will be left unavenged.
*The Wailing Mountain: a burial place of a race long forgotten, the entirety of this mountain and several others is carved into tombs and huge windpipes that play dirges all day and night, filling the desert with haunting voices.
*Steel Gardens: one of the Hyrnan felled in the wars wore a body of molten metal, and this tainted iron spread like a cancer through the lands surrounding the place of his death. The land is barren, with razor blades of metal protruding from the ground, and the air itself causes a myriad of tiny cuts that fester and bleed to no end. All the beasts in this unhallowed land are partially made of metal, steel tendrils perforating their agonized flesh, and plants are mostly wines of greenish ore that slither around and strangle anything they can catch.
In the midst of these badlands, a ruined fort stands, inhabited by Zastur changed into steel skeletons by their lord’s death. They are outcasts even amongst their own kind, bitter and lifeless.
*Aranthie: is the holiest place in all of Surtur, and certainly an uncommon sight there – a sparkling blue lake dotted with water lilies, and on its shore the first pillar of life, sprung into being by the self-sacrifice of the greatest leader in the history of Surtur – Dun-Mari.
Hundreds of pilgrims voyage here every year, hoping to be blessed by the vibrant emanations of this place. Children conceived here are considered to be blessed, and the water is said to grant a long and healthy life, though even just sitting here for a day cures mind and body from many an ailment.
*The Canyon of Caged Winds: a forked winding crevice splitting the Witherspine Mountains in two, it is a route much traveled. Due to its peculiar layout, the winds within are always at gale force, twisting and changing direction seemingly at random.
Due to the large quantities of sand the winds carry the orienteering will be difficult at best, and a trek through the Canyon of Caged Winds will be an adventure in itself every time.
*The Chime-Song Deep: Much of the water in Surtur lies underground, likewise in the Chime-Song deep, yet here, the roof of the caverns caved in, revealing the treasured water reserves beneath. Thousands of streams and rivers trickle and flow, through a vast network of caves and tunnels, abundant with peculiar fish and strange creatures. The constant bubbling, tinkling and splashing of water fills the caves with a constant echo.
The center of the deep, the roofless part, is called the Chime-Song Heart. Here, the sun warms the waters and fills the vale with a tender mist, which conceals the lush vegetation and the dwellings of the clans that reside here.
*The Flower Peaks: very rich in metals and mineral salts, these mountains are set ablaze with a firework of colors by the rays of the rising sun every day. Pillars of ore and crystal shoot forth from the ground, lifeless flowers, though possessing a strange beauty.
Numerous lizard and insect species inhabit these mountains, each more colorful than the previous. Their hides and shells are highly valued as decoration.
Storms frequently crash against the steep slopes, unleashing lightning and furious winds. Ironwood trees catch the energy and store it, sparkling with stored electricity, and use it to power their innate spells, whether to communicate, procreate or ward off enemies.
Due to the rare minerals found there, wizards and artisans venture to the Flower Peaks in great numbers, yet their dangers claim the lives of many – one of the dangers being the slightly toxic water that can prove lethal if drunk from a spring with higher metal concentration.