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Sanctorum - A World Beyond its Fate


Sanctorum is a world of a different fate than what the Allfather had intended for it.
Beyond the creatures intended to inhabit it, three mature races in exile have found a haven here - Dwarves, Elves and Dragons.
Their arrival upset the fragile balance, leading to a world in turmoil. Sanctorum is a haven, but far from safe.

The setting is intended to accommodate many 'classic' fantasy races, though some are re-imagined.
It is system-independent.

Watch out. Contains spoilers.

The Age of Divine Discord
The Allfather left Sanctorum in the custody of the Bound Gods - divinities that were dependant on their flocks for sustenance, and populated them with the Fatihful Races.
Back then, the Gods were one kindred, with natures as diverse as the days in the year - a panopticum of divinity, each with a part of the world to care for, each with his mortal flock.
Their tastes and approaches were as different as their shells, with some preferring to mimic the Allfather's great deeds through creation, some preferring to maintain what he created, and some making room for new growth by tearing down the old.

The Divine Schizm was one of philosophy - the mellower deities of creation and those of order allying against those they deemed unstable, careless, insane or plain destructive. Today, we would call them Demons, yet they are of the same divine seed.
The gods locked away their brethren in the lower realms of Ergamoth and Acheron, to starve, separated from creation forever.
This is one of the Great Secrets. The gods do not want anyone to known that demons are made from the same cloth.

Alas, the outcasts were just forced to adapt, feeding on energies from outside creation, and biding their time.

The Faithful Races are all the sapient dwellers of Sanctorum, with the exception of the Elves, Dwarves and Dragons.
*All Faithful have souls. These enter the body at conception, and leave with the mortal shell's death.
*Souls pass across the Wheel in the Halls of Rukh, where they rest and are reborn, refreshed.
*All Fathful Races are mortal. Their souls burn too bright for their frail shells, slowly wearing them away until the shell fails.
*The bright fire of the mortals' souls gives of manna, for the gods to feed upon. The mortal subcosciously decides where it ends up; often with the deity he worships.

The Bound Gods come in many guises, but have the following traits in common:
*They require manna to perform miracles, and to live.
*An unfed god weakens, until he becomes a creature of the physical world, and mortal.
*The lowest form of sustenance is blood taken by force; the weakest deities have forgotten their divine nature, and feed on the living. These deities are called the Baali, and even mortals do not know of their divine potential. A Baali who cannot secure regular blood supply will fall into a coma. Baali do not have souls - their souls have become physical. Thus, a god slain in the form of flesh is gone.
This is one of the Great Secrets. The Gods do not want anyone to know that the Baali could ascend to godhood themselves.

The Demons are split in two main camps: Ergamoth and Acheron.
*The Ergamothi are filled with wrath at their exile, and wish nothing more than to lay ruin to the world that was stolen from them.
*To manifest, the Ergamothi must find or create a focus in the physical world, often an artifact or gem. They are then able to project a form forged of magic. The death of this form harms them little - they are stunned, and then they simply will manifest a new one after resting. The destruction of the focus returns them to Ergamoth. The simultaneous death of their body, and destruction of the focus traumatizes them significantly, banishing them to Ergamoth in a weakened state for decades at least.
*The Ergamothi can be summoned, but wish nothing more than to wreak havoc.

*The Acheronians wish to reclaim creation from the usurpers.
*They will either possess a body that is near death close to a rift between the worlds, or are called into a body by a summoner, absorbing the soul in both cases. They can then adapt this body to their needs.
*Acheronians are far more concerned about blending in, learning of the world - all the better to depose the gods.
*Unlike their Ergamothian kin, the body of the Acheronians is truly alive, and they may even breed with mortals.
*Akin to gods, Acheronians care about affection or worship from mortals. Any strong emotion feeds their hunger.

The Age of Exiles
Fleeing from their own ruined world, the Elves and Dwarves arrived in Sanctorum in disarray. The Elves soon thrived, but the air was slightly poisonous to the dwarves. This had two effects: Dwarves of later generations were weaker, less regal and noble than their ancestors from the old world; they also had to enter into the Three Ignoble Pacts, which finally allowed them to thrive though.

The exodus was also the time of the Great Elf Treason. Both races were originally extremely long-lived, but still mortal. As the Elves controlled the gate used for their escape, they used it to steal life-force from the Dwarven race as a whole, finally achieving agelessness.
The knowledge of the Great Treason was lost from many tribes of the dwarven race in the wars between the weakened Dwarf folk, and the then-superior Elfkin, and the wars against the gods.
This is one of the Great Secrets. Secret agencies amongst the Elves aggressively stamp out any information of their treason.

Proud and unbending, the newcomers met with the Gods, yet refused to acknowledge anyone as their superior. Tensions ran high after the first encounter; the Elves soon found that mortals were the key to deicide, and slew countless Gods to carve out the elven kingdoms - Tallarn, Telvanir and Vascaron.
The world was in upheaval as the Elves tore open the gates of the Abyss, according to the adage that the enemy of your enemy is a friend. The deluded mistake was obvious without delay, as the demons wrought great vengeance and destruction upon both sides, obliterating Telvanir, carving a bloody path across Vascaron, and cursing Tallarn to this day.

A desperate alliance of Elves and Gods finally re-sealed the Abyss, though the seal would never again be as firm as when it was wrought the first time - the wiser demons had spent their time during the escape by pucturing the barrier between the worlds with holes and secret paths.

The Elven Schizm occured at the eve of the War of Ruin, when those that would continue deicide and force their claim upon the world split from their brethren who made peace with the Gods.
Thus, the Dark Elves were born, striving towards the downfall of Gods and all Faithful Races to this day.

All Elves are unaging, appearing to be the human equivalent of 25 years old at most.
*All Elves are capable of sorcery.
*All gods of the Elves are in fact exceedingly powerful Elves. Through profound understanding of reality and by acquiring vast power, an Elf can shed the physical body and ascend. Only a few are able of this profound level of understanding. Elven deities take their power directly from the world.
*Elven souls are created at the moment of conception. They can persist after death if their link to the world was close enough, transforming into spirits of nature for example.
*Dark Elves appear similar to their more moderate kin.
*Elves can breed with many mortal races. The newly-sparked Elven soul will consume the mortal soul drawn into the child.
*Elves do not generate manna for deities.

Dwarves are long-lived, but age and become frail still.
*Dwarven souls are created at the moment of conception. Dwarves cannot breed with any other race.
*Dwarves do not generate manna for deities.
*Dwarves worship their great heroes, artisans and ancestors. As long as a Dwarf is remembered by his kin, as long as his creations are used and revered, his spirit is able to aid the Dwarves.

The Lyran Empire, Joint Electorate of Lyra
The self-titled "Bastion of Mankind", "Torch of Civilization", "Bulwark of Progress"

The heart of civilization, at least according to its inhabitants, Lyra lies on the fertile banks of the river Warraine and around the Worldsplit Straits, and has conquered numerous surrounding lands. Today, over 65 million people claim its citizenship, and numerous prosperous cities oversee the lands.
The climate of Lyra is temperate, cool in the northern reaches. All of Lyra is excessively rainy, with heavy snowfall in winter.
Most of the country is accessible via paved roads, winding between intensively cultivated lands.

the heart of the Empire, the Pearl of the Warraine is a city housing two million people. As to preserve the fertile black soil of the surrounding lands, the city has been built upwards, higher and higher towards the clouds. The structures at the bottom have long crumbled under the weight of those above. Sunlight and fresh air are in short supply at the lower levels, and the wealthy flock towards the surface, while the masses dwell in the shadow. A crown of this artificial mountain, the royal palace stands proudly at the top, from where the emperor and his wizards oversee the doings in his land, while older palaces lie buried beneath.

*The Heartland:
flat and moist, this is the breadbasket of the realm. The fertile soil and ample rainfall allow two harvests per year, which is necessary to feed the teeming population of the many populous cities dotting the landscape, where the wealthy merchant and citizen class is beginning an intellectual and cultural renaissance.

*The Highlands:
while Lyra lays claim to wide lands, in some areas the control is less tight. One of those are the highlands, where, though they are in the center of the empire, the king rules but the valleys, while independent dwarven cities, small ancient kingdoms, savage orcish tribes and mysterious beings rule the heights.

*The Academies:
Lyra has institutionalized the learning of magic, amongst many other arts. Three academies teach the gifted of the realm, serving the crown, but also fiercely competing and following their own agendas. Proud Annuli Dersa resides on a table mountain in the north, ever rainy and shrouded in mist; Ark-Hellen calls a gargantuan tower its home, secluded in a lush crater; and finally Twycross, a mighty fortress in the midst of a wasteland blasted by magical warfare, pervaded by arcane energies and the stench of the Abyss alike.

*The North:
long winters, seemingly never-ending nights and assaults by the untamed northerners, independent demi-human nations and fierce blizzards take their toll. This is really a place that forges a man into a stronger whole, or breaks him to pieces. Conquered only recently, many northern provinces retain their peculiar culture and nationalist feelings. The magistrates and legions stationed here most frequently consider it a punishment.

*The Colonies:
across the sea, Lyra has either conquered or befriended numerous seashores, and heavy war galleys as well as lumbering merchant vessels, a welcome target for pirates, cross the blue emptiness of the ocean, bringing luxuries, slaves and trophies to sate the hunger of the empire.
The heart of civilization, at least according to its inhabitants, Lyra lies on the fertile banks of the river Warraine, and has conquered numerous surrounding lands. Today, over 65 million people claim its citizenship, and numerous prosperous cities oversee the lands.
Fyndhalor: a Llyndhyran city that was recently conquered by Lyra, the walled port is a constant source of unrest. Unwaveringly loyal to their king, the Llyndhyran 'barbarians' occupy the wits of the governor, lady Ithiria Lilienfeldt, all day, every day. Vexed by taxation by a foreign monarch, the natives rebel incessantly.
Passive resistance, sabotage and outright violence erupt inside the city's walls, while the patrols outside, amongst the hills and farmsteads, fear to travel in units less than fifty strong, lest the highlanders tear them to shreds.
The lady had the natives' priests put to the sword, she had their chieftains dragged off as hostages, but nothing seems to break the will of the blonde giants.
Slowly, she is losing imperial favor as the city's much-wanted iron mines fail to consistently provide the desired ore, while throngs of Llyndhyrans and Dynahyrans gather on the border. Verily, the Lyran army may be the first thing to unite the implacable foes against the threat it presents.
Ungol Mirath, the Broken Mountain: once a dwarven enclave within the borders of Lyra, sovereign yet allied, Ungol-Mirath was taken over when the Lyran king fell too deep in debt to the Dwarven moneylenders to repay. Imperial mages split the mountain open; the legions broke any resistance. Today, the wealth of the hold flows to Lyra, while the Dwarves are in chains, one and all, toiling to repay the 'war crimes'. Lyran criminals too populate the pock-marked landscape, with most sentences handed out by Duke Coburg-Gotha being a term in the mines.
Anelien, the Blissful Bay: as a byproduct of a far larger campaign, the Lyran army annexed Anelien, an elven enclave on te southern Samean coast. The populace, enslaved and outnumbered by the newly-arriving Lyrans, is reduced to high-class servants and entertainment, displaying unearthly swordplay, singing ballads of unmeasurable beauty for unappreciative ears, being degraded by the lust of conquerors and dragged off to serve in Lyra as slaves. To Lyrans, Anelien is a symbol for their love of Elven culture, and generally a high-class place to visit.
Sil Cithandir: a protectorate of Lyra on the border of Arcadizar, the Elven city sided with the known evil in exchange for safety from the zealous theocracy. The prince of Sil Cithandir, Aentherion, is spending most of his time in Khoratas, embroiled in the high game of intrigue and diplomacy, to ensure a viable future for his people.
Gillian's Girdle: a string of islands along the Samean coast houses a bustling port city - both a gate to the riches of Samea, and busy point of commerce. The city itself is swarming with adventurers, scoundrels and pirates, mercenaries, enterpreneurs and merchants, and resonates with languages from all over the world. Lady Lintharis, a Tallarn Elven exile, runs the city for the Emperor with cunning guile and brutal efficiency. Ever desiring of power and status, Lintharis climbs the social ladder ruthlessly - by coin and guile preferrably (such as the marriage to the decadent duchess of Loewenfels), or by dagger and venom (such as the sudden vacancy of the governor's post).


The climate of Lyra is temperate, cool in the northern reaches. All of Lyra is excessively rainy, with heavy snowfall in winter.

Most of the country is accessible via paved roads, winding between intensively cultivated lands.

The land is a melting pot of cultures, and such is both their language and the appearance of the people. Lyra is a place of contrast – between the rich and the poor, between the good and the vile and between the different groups inhabiting it. Lyrans place great emphasis on personal freedom and independence, at least as much as they place trust in the gold coin, the most beloved object of many a Lyran.

*Family: here it takes whatever form the members agree to live in – extended families are not uncommon, but singles with a child or two can also be encountered. Lyra is a place of endless diversity, and as such all forms of family are found here.
*Marriage and divorce: One can marry whom he wishes to in Lyra, and even interracial or same-sex couples are not unheard of. It is legally not possible to be married to more than one person at once unless certain conditions are met – either one of the partners is declared a concubine/lover, in which case he/she does not share the benefits of being married, such as inheritance if the partner dies, but the children sprung from such an union are all legal in all respects; if one of the partners is declared infertile, he is not counted against the limit, but all children will be attributed to the partner who was declared as fertile; a woman can also be married to a nobleman as a substitute mother, surrendering her children to the true lady, but acquiring temporary status one level lower than the true lady’s that is hers as long as she is married to the lord. Recently, nobles have been taking elven concubines, to gift their successors with an extended lifespan; being a half-elf is also considered fashionable.
Divorce is easy in Lyra, at least nominally. Any priest of the deity under whose patronage the bond was sealed can declare the couple divorced after a brief ceremony. The financial side of the parting is much more complicated and exhausting – it can take months or even years to arrange all financial matters, and this fact alone has prevented many a marriage from being cancelled.
*Adultery: unless the other partner takes offense in the matter, this is not considered a crime. On the other hand, if he does this poses a serious matter, for, depending on the partners’ relationship, the oaths that bind them and the person the deed was committed with, the punishment can turn out serious indeed, most of all if both of the offenders were of much lower social class than the betrayed partner.

*Women as adventurers: are possible and common in Lyra. If a girl has the stuff for a life on the road, nobody will take offense.

*Government: the government of Lyra is a combination of feudalism and oligarchy. As it is both possible to buy a title using money (quite common) or earn it through great deeds (actually rare), the ranks of nobility welcome many new members on a day-to-day basis. On the other hand, it is possible for a nobleman who has lost his fortune to descend in rank if he cannot back up his claim to nobility with hard cash. Some noble houses are excluded from this rule, mainly those who received their titles as a reward for services to the crown. These houses call themselves the “true nobles” and often bear their coat of arms with great pride despite being firmly held in the grip of poverty.
*Structure: the leaders are selected from the descendants of the deceased or retired leader by a group of four priests and nine other nobles appointed by the former lord. In the case of the descendant to the throne there are sixteen nobles - the heads of the elector houses, while the priests are the heads of their respective churches, additionally the heads of the three wizardly academies, and the Praetor of the most prominent knightly order (who also carries the tie-breaking vote).
If the former lord just abdicated, and himself wishes to vote, he is given two votes.

*Class Structure: at the bottom of the society stand the outlaws – bandits and outcasts. Next come the slaves and serfs, above them the free farmers and craftsmen. Mages are held in high regard, and any official graduate of any of the Lyran academies can gain a noble title simply by asking, being promoted to the status of knight, although he has to maintain it through regular service to the crown, a reason for many mages not to adopt such a title. This sort of title can only be passed on to a descendant who possesses the power of Magery, otherwise it is considered cancelled. Truly powerful mages can rise to the rank of baron or even duke if their service is of sufficient quality. Above the rank of duke is the rank of the elector, and the king sits at the top of the social pyramid.
*Etiquette and its enforcement: The nobility is fascinated by the Elves and their manners, and thus tries to duplicate them – with little success. The code is an elaborate collection of debased Elven rites and social conventions, spiced with native customs, as well as an odd piece or two of unknown origin. While the nobility follows this form of etiquette, the common folk are simply given as much respect as they command. A breach of etiquette in the upper circles will simply earn the culprit a bad reputation amongst his peers, and his company will not be welcome the next time, while a lack of respect can mean your death when dealing with the wrong sort of the common folk.
*Slavery: is common within Lyra – about fifteen percent of the society are slaves. There are many ways one can become a slave – as a result of being captured by the armies of Lyra in wartime, due to unpaid debts or simply being born as the child of a slave. One can also voluntarily sell himself into slavery for a fixed amount of time. Slaves receive as many rights as their owner grants them. While their owner can deal with them pretty much as he desires, others will usually not harm another’s slave – this constitutes damage of private property. A slave can gain freedom if his debts are paid, his contract expires or his owner grants him this privilege.

*Religion: the Lyran mythology believes the world resting upon four pillars, and their gods also number four – Ayatwah, Aataquah, Alivaanah and Avathimanah. Theirs is the power over the elements, and theirs are the character traits and concepts associated with each element: while Fire holds sway over love, chaos and rage, Earth is bound by honor and law, for trust and duty are its second nature. The Air symbolizes freedom, wit and commerce, but also mystery brought on the wings of the wind. Water is the life’s essence, and brings renewal and peace.
While the four powers rarely get involved into the matters, their presence can be felt in times of great turmoil – otherwise their favor or disfavor takes forms too subtle to be easily noticed.
The Lyran faith is tolerant, and thus other religions can coexist in the same area, provided of course they are tolerant themselves.
*Liturgical form: Lyran worship is at least as much a public matter as a private one. The most important ceremonies take place in the street, and the temples are constructed in a way reflecting this – roofs held up high by pillars form the entirety of a temple’s public area. Every four weeks, a ceremony is held at the temples, each of the four weekends belonging to another deity.
While at home, the faithful can also make use of a private shrine, consisting most often of a niche covered by a curtain, where a statuette of the deity is kept.
*Funerary custom: well aware of the dangers of necromancy and grave robbery, the dead are cremated in Lyra, and are not given any grave goods. All that is done in their memory is the construction of a pillar with a statue of the deceased. Nonetheless, there are ancient graveyards, dusty crypts and catacombs laden with bodies and grave goods of all sorts, reminder of a time when the customs of Lyra were quite different – the opulence of the goods discovered within wealthy graves points towards the greatest fear of a member of a society that places utmost importance in worldly belongings: the fear of losing it all when finally death claims you.
*Magic: Lyra is a normal mana area, and thus only mages may cast spells. Mages are highly respected in Lyra, but the concurrence within their ranks is merciless and often violent.

*Art-Graphic and Sculpture: he who can afford it will have his home decorated in some way just to show it – the wealthier the owner, the more elaborate will the artwork decorating the outside as well as the inside of his dwelling will be. Due to the lucrativity of the trade, many talented (and many more untalented) youths will choose the path of the artist. As well as that, many nobles will pursue artistic endeavors in their spare time. As with all other trades, a good artist can make a fortune in Lyra, but many more others fail.
*Music and dance: Lyran music most often makes the use of string instruments and wooden wind instruments. Most often the music is swift and merry, for the people desire it so. Song is most often used as secular entertainment, though at the height of summer, all churches make use of choirs counting hundreds of singers in their greatest ceremony. Dancing is a popular entertainment both amongst commoners and the nobility.
*Sports and games: very popular are horse and chariot races, as well as gladiatorial fights; also, given the nature of the inhabitants of Lyra, just about any game of chance or wit can gain popularity. A favorite are diverse board games, as well as card games of all sorts. Most Lyran inns seem to have at least half of their space dedicated to gambling, and the people gladly use the opportunity.
*Architecture: out of necessity, Lyran architects construct buildings mostly out of stone, for quality wood is not all too common in Lyra, and most of the time it is saved up for internal isolation and furniture. The structures are tall to be able to house many people on a small area, as well as to catch as much sun as possible. Due to the humid climate are all structures equipped with gutters leading to the vast sewer systems – Lyra is the only realm in which the cities are given this luxury on a regular basis – all the water has to go somewhere. As the stone buildings tend to be cold both in the harsh Lyran winter as well as the rainy summer, the architects were forced to become the masters of isolation. The aforementioned facts have other side effects – due to a lack of firewood are oil and coal in great demand, as well as furs for sleeping facilities.
*Cooking: while Lyra has its own rather heavy cuisine, many specialties from other lands can be encountered. The people share a certain fondness for eating out, so that a wide plethora of establishments of various quality, yet generally acceptable prices can be found.
*Clothing: the poor dress in cheap and readily available wool, while the rich wear the most exotic fabrics they can lay their hands on, complemented by furs and jewelry – wealth is a measure for status in Lyra, and jewels are a way of showing off. While in their well-heated homes, many noble ladies can be encountered wearing but a few skimpy patches of fabric along with extensive amounts of jewelry, for the same visual effect as if fully dressed. Those of knightly status wear elaborate coats of arms meant to instantly identify the wearer amongst his peers.
*Food: Lyra is literally covered with vast expanses of wheat, soy and rice fields, as well as grazing grounds for countless different forms of cattle. What the poor man eats reflects this fact – Lyran cooks constantly strive to invent still new kinds of porridge, bread and cakes. Besides these, dairy products are regularly on the menu, as well as the occasional bit of meat or a fish or two. The commoner’s drink is beer or rice wine. The nobles are not so restricted in their choices, and can afford to have their food imported – first of all real wine, as no-one has ever succeeded in cultivating wine in Lyra, for the climate is far too cold.
*Packs and containers: Lyrans use heavy wagons as well as sleds for transportation on land, or simply pack the goods on the backs of beasts of burden. Solid goods are transported in baskets or sacks. For the transportation of fluids, ceramics, glass containers or wineskins are used. As wood is expensive in the central lands, many of the wagons are built of bone, an amazing sight for a foreigner indeed.
*Boats: Lyra does not have many ships. The merchant fleets consist of heavy, broad and stable, yet slow and cumbersome vessels able to bring vast amounts of bulky goods safely to their destination. Most of the vessels are not truly ocean-going, and constrained to the fairly easy travel on the Channel. The war fleet’s numbers are few, but these ships are rightly feared – the steel-plated war galleys are amongst the fastest and fearsome of vessels, as they house three hundred row men each, as well as carrying numerous soldiers armed with heavy crossbows and weapons for close combat. Many heavy siege engines capable of causing utter mayhem on the coast or the decks of enemy ships are mounted on these giants of war.
*Airships: though only in early stages of development, hot air balloons and zeppelin are already in use in Lyra. Though their safety and reliability, as well as cargo capacity, leave much to be desired, they are gaining in popularity rapidly.

*Missile weapons: both the crossbow and bow are in wide use in Lyra. The come in a variety of shapes and materials – bone, wood and metal are all likely to be encountered. Bows come in all sizes, from the short bow to the composite bow, and so do crossbows: small hand crossbows and titanic ballistae are all very popular. In times of war, every Lyran footman and knight will carry a missile weapon.
*Long swords and short swords are the preferred weapon of the Lyran soldier. Lyran-made steel is not of the highest quality, but the weapons come cheap, and they are quite good at doing their job.
*Other weapons: knights make also use of flails, heavy maces and lances, while the pike and halberd are pretty much popular amongst some foot troops.
*Weaponless combat: your average Lyran will resort to style-less brawling if encountered without a weapon, but this almost never happens – any Lyran, whether beggar or noble, will have hidden daggers, knives, shurikens and stilettos all over him. Thus the fists usually only fly in friendly brawls, for as soon as the fight gets serious, various edged and/or pointed items are drawn.
*Armor: the common Lyran soldier will wear a pot helm and a breastplate – the best compromise between weight, cost and protection. On the other hand, the knight will be encased in solid steel, and his steed will be much like him – clad in armor from head to heels.
*Shields: many Lyran footmen carry medium or large shields, and are highly trained in their use, being able to defend both himself and his peers with his shield.
*Military tactics: Lyra relies on its disciplined legions of countless footmen – after all, what Lyra has in abundance are people – people willing to fight for a copper or simply the joy of it (not that these would not demand pay). A substantial amount of Lyran men have already served in the legions. The footmen are backed up by small contingents of knights and numerous siege engines the men are able to assemble or disassemble in a matter of minutes.

*Economy and Trade:

Siyel Samaiensirië, The Misty Coast, Witchwood
This land occupies the vast forest expanses and verdant rolling hills in the shadow of the Ironfang mountain range and the banks of the river Xalune that descends from their heights into the fertile lowlands. The people of Samea are reclusive and highly social at the same time, valuing their privacy and independence greatly. Compared to the average citizen elsewhere, they are enlightened, following philosophies very distant from the concerns of ordinary people, thus earning a reputation as strange fellows.

*Xalune Delta: as the Xalune falls, swift and lively, from the heights of Zharr Naggrund, she is joined by a multitude of other rivers in a flat basin, winding hence and forth before she finally joins the sea. A multitude of hot springs bubble up through her waters, shrouding the delta in a warm haze heavy with the forest's musk. Will-o-Wisp and river faeries call this trackless land their home, along with shape-shifting river drakes, dryads, sapient plants and a variety of were-beasts - swan-folk, dolphin shifters, were-serpents...
Hidden between the river's meanders and tributaries lie strange lakes that do not have a bottom, but two surfaces instead, leading to tiny but truly strange domains.

*The Pool of Rebirth: hollowed out by mountain rivers in the soft limestone of the Tanmi highland, a system of half-submerged caverns and buried streams hides a secret. Whoever enters one of the pools at its heart, dies as soon as his heart sinks beneath the surface. But, if his heart is *right*, he will find himself re-made and reborn, most often in a strange form - often colourful -  in one of the pools fed by the subterranean rivers.
How the pool judges whom to revive and whom just to kill is anybody's guess, as is the form the revived will take.
Few know of its location, fewer still fathom that it is the domain of a dream fae, and by entering and navigating her dreamscapes, the outcome of a bath in the pool can be influenced.

*The Highlands:
Wind-carved stones, bent and perforated peaks and impossibly tall many-trunked trees emerge from an undulating sea of leaves.
Domain of the stalwart Ironwood treefolk, the dragons Glaurung, Gonthiril, Mentharinë and their spawn, the Highlands see encroachment by the dwarves of Zharr Naggrund. Stone, wood, mineral wealth lure them here, and lead to incessant strife. In defiance of the Conclave, the highlanders are searching for outside help to teach the dwarves a lesson they will not forget.

An independent city on the borders between Lyra, Zharr-Naggrund and Samea, though affiliated with the latter.

Human: 60%
Elven: 9%
Half-Elven: 11%
Small Folk (halflings, gnomes etc.): 6%
Fae: 2%
Fae-Kin and Fae-Blooded: 5%
Treefolk: 1%
Intelligent / Magical Beasts: 3%
Demon-kin: 0.5%
Baali: 0.05%
Others: ~2.5%

*Family: Sameans band into extended family and clan structures, creating an intricate network of family relations.
*Marriage and Divorce: in Samea, the marriage takes the form of a multigenerational bond, where new members who desire to join marry the group as a whole, thus creating a marriage that can last centuries without interruption. It is a great honor for a foreigner to be accepted as an honorary member of such a group.
Divorce is easy – one has just to declare his bonds to a family group severed, and is free of all the bonds. The main consequence is a reputation of faithlessness. His children are retained within the family. Alternatively, a group can declare a member as divorced, yet this is reserved as a punishment for the gravest of offenses.
Adultery is not punished in Samean society – one who wishes to have sexual relations outside of his marriage may do so, yet most people restrict their sexual activities to members of their marriage group - Sameans are well-aware of sexually transmitted diseases, and many marry as virgins.
*Women as adventurers: are possible and common within Samean society.

*Government: Samea is ruled democratically – every family may send a member, most often the wisest and most experienced, to attend at the conclave held every year where the most important matters are discussed. Alternatively, smaller local conclaves can be held to discuss matters of immediate significance. In matters of law and justice, anyone can be elected a judge or jury from the people present, or alternatively all may serve as jury. Likewise, anyone may propose a new law at the annual conclave, which then will be discussed.
*Social rank: Samean society does not know ranks as such – everyone receives the respect he deserves. The only distinction present is between child, adult and elder. To become an adult, one must have reached the puberty and succeed in the rites of passage, a series of trials and tests of prowess, judgment and wit. As few foreigners have passed these rites, they are usually considered children under Samean jurisdiction, and while they will not show this directly, it can be greatly inconvenient at crucial times. This results in mild punishment for foreign offenders unless their crime has been too grave, in which case they are made to succeed in the rites of passage, and judged later.
To be welcomed in the circle of elders, one must have passed beyond the reproductive age, after which the would-be-elder may express his desire, upon which his enlightenment is judged and he finally admitted into the group.
*Etiquette and enforcement: Sameans show a deep respect towards the feelings and wishes of others. Harming someone or his feelings will not cause retribution, but in the future, the friends of the harmed one will not welcome the offender, and the friends of these friends, and their friends, will react the same. Thus, ruthless and rude individuals will soon find their reputation spreads fast in Samea.
*Slavery: this concept is totally unknown within Samean borders, and any slave to cross the border is automatically considered free.

*Cosmology and pantheon: Sameans belief is animistic – everything is considered divine, and thus all daily workings and all crafts involve a strong ritualistic element as well as meditation. They believe in the Tivuin, the primeval life force that pervades all and brings vitality to the land. This belief is reflected in their respect to man, beast and plant alike.
The church of Tivuin is highly tolerant – to the point where the followers of other religions start offending their faith through recklessness towards their sacred object, e.g. just about everything. Missionaries outside of Samea are not given to take offense at every violation of their belief though, as they know others are not enlightened and must be taught first – thus Samean priests are seen as selfless wise benefactors by foreigners.
*Liturgical form: the ceremonies taking place at every full moon, every new moon, midsummer eve and other obscure times as the feast of creation or the mournful eve, consist of music, dance and contests of prowess and art. These feasts take place in hallowed groves and stone circles. In addition to these rites, every follower of Tivuin will seclude himself in contemplation regularly.

*Magic: with most of Samea being a high mana area, anyone can cast spells there. Most inhabitants learn a spell or two, while those who possess Magery learn many more – Magical Aptitude seems very common – approximately one of three Sameans is a mage, albeit mostly only of minor power. Some sources attribute this fact to the strong Elven heritage of Samean people, while others claim it to be a natural response to the high mana surroundings.
*Shamanism: many Samean elders fulfill the role of a shaman, providing spiritual guidance to youngsters and serving as healers and repository of knowledge. They also observe the proper performance of rituals such as the rite of passage. Many secret healing techniques are known to the shamans, and their lore of wondrous elixirs is unsurpassed.
*Funerary custom: the dead are interred in Samea, and many flowers are planted around the site of their final rest, as well as a single tree – it is believed that the soul of the deceased passes to that tree to continue its life in this way. Alternatively, a newborn child can be placed on the grave so that the soul of the deceased may live on within him as a mentor and guide.
The dead are interred extended, with their arms crossed over their chests. No grave goods are buried with them.
It is a grave offense demanding capital punishment to spill blood upon hallowed ground, but harming the soul tree is even worse still.

*Graphic and sculpture: Sameans sculpt accompanying deep inner contemplation, so all of their sculptures are truly unique, and manufactured using techniques unknown elsewhere. It is claimed that some legendary heroes have succeeded of weaving song or light into a tangible state. Metal, glass and gems are widely used, but natural materials are not any less popular. Whatever seems as the best medium to the artist will he shape. Samean art tends to be delicate in nature, seeming simple at first but revealing other more complex layers as the observer continues examining it.
Except for the aforementioned personal art, Sameans use art in a religious way, mostly to decorate their worship sites.
*Music and dance: When not working or contemplating, the people of Samea spend their time socializing and dancing. Their musical instruments of choice are the flute, clarinet, horn, bagpipes and a teeming variety of percussion instruments. The dances tend to be swift, and getting even swifter as they progress, but sad ballads are also sung.
*Sports and games: Sameans eschew practicing the hunt as a sport, but it can be found in children’s games in an abstract version. Contests in dancing, acrobatics and gymnastics are very popular, as well as different sports on horseback. Archery competitions are also common and well liked. Other than these Sameans prefer puzzle board games similar to “go” or “domino”. Games are intended strictly as a leisure activity – gambling is unknown in Samea.
*Tattoo, scarification and piercing: has both a religious and social background. Everyone receives his own unique tattoo upon being accepted amongst the adults, and his history of deeds continues to be recorded on his body. A common practice is to interweave warding amulets and talismans with the tattoos. Family affiliation is recorded, as are marriages and any messages or notes the person wishes. By the end of their lives, some Sameans have used up all of the available space on their bodies. In contrast to tattooing, piercing is used for decoration only, but extensively as well.

*Housing: Sameans construct their homes out of living wood – either through careful manipulation while the tree is growing, or through magic later – the use of Plant spells is widespread in Samea. Very often, the home is shaped around a natural spring; sometimes one of the hot springs common in Samea is incorporated. Generally, the tree is not inconvenienced by the people living inside, as the inhabitants take great care not to harm their tree as well as cleaning it of parasites and aiding it with magic. In the high mana field of Samea, trees sometimes develop a consciousness, and it is a very welcome event if such a tree agrees to house a family. Inside, the homes are made more comfortable through the use of furs, woven tapestries and pillows filled with tree wool. A home consists of a large room where the family rests, as well as several small chambers meant for meditation or artistic pursuits, or to be used as storage chambers. The inhabitants sleep either on the floor or in niches about a foot above the ground.
Rarely, but still, Sameans construct structures inside solid rock or built of stone, mostly meant as either places of worship or refuge during times of peril. These will be dominated by tall and delicate pillars and an abundance of gardens and watercourses.
*Clothing: most of the time Sameans wear utilitarian clothing made of leather and fur, or almost nothing at all except a loincloth, their mild climate along with the abundance of hot springs allowing this. The prudishness so common amongst other cultures is unknown in Samea, and there is nothing offensive in going naked, dressed in nothing but tattoos. Nonetheless, almost every Samean has garments made of exotic and colorful materials tucked away somewhere, and should they decide to wear them, they will appear as a flock of paradise birds.
*Cooking and Food: Sameans prefer to cook outside, as not to threaten their trees with fire. Their sustenance is a diet consisting of wild animals, nuts, berries and the fruits of countless wondrous tress that do not exist elsewhere – their existence is allowed by the high mana field and the magic of their caretakers. Some communities keep small herds of small resilient breeds of cattle, mostly those dwelling in higher regions, while swine are sometimes kept in the lower regions. The rivers are abundant with fish, so that these sometimes appear on the menu.
*Packs or containers: goods are stored in ceramic containers or baskets, while fluids are stored in glass, pottery or hollowed-out produce, similar to pumpkins.
*Land transport: horses and other less common riding animals are in wide use, as well as some fabulous beasts – drakes, griffons and giant felines, to name but a few. Rumor has it that there is no beast a Samean cannot tame – greatly exaggerated yet based upon truth, for animal handling has a long tradition there. Goods are carried almost exclusively on the backs of people or animals, because roads are few and far between in Samea.
*Boats: the inhabitants of the coast build light vessels with large triangular sails intended for fishing and trade, not for warfare, yet it seems that the people of Samea have succeeded in taming some beasts of the sea as well.
*Missile weapons: almost everyone in Samea is skilled with the bow, as training in its use starts at a very early age. Samean fletchery is of prime quality, and so are the archers. The master fletchers use many secret techniques unknown to fletchers elsewhere, creating many rightly feared sorts of arrows and bows of great strength and accuracy.
Besides the bow, javelins are commonly used, yet the degree of craftsmanship used in their making is somewhat lower than that of the bows.
*Melee weapons: most widespread is the Lakkia, a single-bladed lightly curved longsword. The delicate blade in the colors of the midnight sky is a show of accomplished craftsmanship, sometimes besting even that of the Dwarves. Samean blades are much sought after, yet not readily available.
In addition to his sword, a Samean warrior will carry a knife and, should he be mounted, a spear as well.
*Weaponless combat: many Sameans practice a sort of abstract unarmed combat as a form of meditation, and training in weaponless combat as part of their education, helping them understand themselves and others better. Thus, even a seemingly harmless and peaceful Samean can be dangerous if seriously provoked.
*Shields: small wooden or leather shields are sometimes used.
*Armor: most often, Sameans go unarmored or clad in leather, yet in times of great danger will they put on a breast plate or chain shirt, elaborately worked and light yet strong. They never use barding on their horses.
*Samean armies depend on their mobility, and will utilize it to their greatest possible advantage, striking against the flanks and rear of an enemy force, attacking exposed or isolated groups and refusing a direct confrontation until the enemy is tired, hungry and whittled down to manageable numbers. Should they be forced to face the enemy before this happens, they will assault a single spot in his army with all their might, supported by an incessant rain of arrows, trying to grind the enemy to dust in one place and then proceeding to another. Not to be underestimated is also the magical barrage that any Samean military unit can unleash.
Their forces consist mainly of archers and light cavalry, yet fabulous beasts, tree-men and elementals can be brought to bear against an enemy.


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