« Last post by EchoMirage on August 20, 2015, 06:54:08 PM »
This country is a place of contrast – contrast between the majestic mountains and vast plains, between dry badlands and carefully irrigated terrace plantations where not a square foot of fertile ground remains unused, between the poor commoners living simple and short lives filled with hard work and the nobility that has created a world miraculous yet horrifying at the same time to reside in.
Stretching from the western border of Lyra to the cold waters of the western sea and from the northern glaciers to the borders of Arcadizar in the far south, So’Lun is a vast land, stunningly beautiful yet sending shivers down your spine.
Commoners (humans): 90%
Nobles (demon-blooded humans): 5%
Aberrations and sapient constructs: 1%
*Family: commoners live in multigenerational families with the grandparents teaching the children, the parent working hard to make a living and the children learning and doing easier jobs. Amongst nobles, it is a wholly different matter: children are raised by the noble house, but since an early age, the upbringing is do-or-die; the struggle for position and power in the house is rivaled only by the competition between the houses.
*Marriage and Divorce: commoners marry for life, and marriages are strictly monogamous. The nobles on the other hand do not marry at all – any relationships lasting only as long as both partners agree. Most of these partnerships are of purely sexual nature and no emotional attachments are formed. Usually, the women initiate a relationship after having found a suitable father for their children. Their choice does not depend as much on status as it does on the perceived virility and fitness of the father-to-be, the degree of his magical talent and the supernatural gifts he displays. On the other hand, most men deny the requests of weak women, not wasting their heritage on those they feel being below their dignity.
*Women as adventurers: are fully feasible in this culture.
*The realm is ruled by the Emperor or Empress, supported by their “loyal” followers. If the ruler is strong, the orders he gives will be carried out with the greatest haste possible, and his word will be considered law. Should the ruler’s power base fade though, he will be ignored and treated with disrespect, and sooner or later someone self-confident or foolish enough will end the Emperor’s life with a dagger or spell, taking his place. No ruler of So’Lun dies of old age.
If the new Emperor can back up his claim with his reputation, armed host and powerful supporters, he can enjoy his post for the time being, though any sign of weakness may present the opportunity for another to take the throne.
*Social rank: at the bottom of the society are the commoners, poor, helpless and oppressed. Slaves can also be so helpless, though they will generally live better than a commoner simply because a noble will treat something he paid for better than a commoner he got for free.
The nobles rule with an iron fist, an ever-changing group of ambitious and cunning people connected with an intricate network of connections, temporary alliances, fake treaties and false non-aggression pacts. Social standing depends only upon personal power and that of one’s allies. Strife, rivalry and backstabbing are on daily order, the nobles battling it out on the backs of their subjects. This results in a grotesque never-ending intrigue where anyone oblivious to the ever-shifting game of alliances, blackmail, bribery and flattery is caught between millstones and run over by the course of events.
*Etiquette and enforcement: if you happen to be a commoner you would do better being utterly polite to any noble you encounter, or else you will be squished like the lowly worm you are.
Amongst the nobles, politeness and cordiality is advised as well. An insulted noble of greater power might have the offender executed, but insulting lower nobles is also to be refrained from, for one never knows whose support he might need in the future. Therefore the nobles show their respect towards others of their kind with gifts of all sorts – artwork, slaves or offers of alliance, while a high-ranking noble might ensure the loyalty of a lowly yet promising noble through offering them a short-term relationship.
*Slavery: is very common in So’Lun – every noble will keep a few slaves for personal entertainment, to do the household chores and tend his weapons and armor. Many other slaves do not belong to any noble in particular but are rather a sort of public property – scribes, the attendants at the public baths or firefighters being amongst those. About 10% of the populace are slaves, yet considering the lack of rights the average peasant has to suffer as well as the many restrictions and orders he must obey, one could say that actually 95% of the society are slaves. In the end, the slaves are those who are better off. There are only two ways for a slave (or commoner, for that matter) to regain his freedom: one is to escape the country and find a place to live elsewhere, the other is being promoted to the rank of noble, though there are pretty few reasons one of the ruling class would do this, exceptional magical talent and supernatural abilities being one of those.
*Religion: Cosmology and pantheon: The cosmos is divided into many different planes of reality, the world as we know it occupying but one of those, the others being home to various other sapient beings. Of those, those referred to using the term “demons” form the core of the So’Lun worship, as they believe these entities must be appeased with rites, prayers and sacrifices else they will tear our plane into shreds.
Various mighty demonic entities are being worshiped, with the most powerful receiving their own temples, while the weaker ones having to share with others. These places are greatly feared by the commoners, as they are those who must bear the toll the faith exacts, and rarely see any benefit except the ominous phrase “Your offering has pleased the lords, and you have been spared - this time”.
On the other hand, the nobles seldom have to suffer the disadvantages of their worship, and sometimes even receive rewards if their patron is content with their performance. These take the form of supernatural allies, knowledge or exceptional abilities integrated into their very being. Sometimes the patron even decides to spend a certain amount time with his follower and aid him in person, as well as enjoying his company. Many a noble indeed dreams of a demonic lover to grant his offspring a perfect heritage to start with.
The So’Lun faith has an extremely aggressive and hostile approach towards other religions – other faiths are considered deluded and unproductive, or even outright heretical, their deities being seen as enemies of order and the world itself. Any other religions are outlawed on So’Lun ground, while the church sends missionaries to other lands to sabotage other churches and acquire followers.
*Liturgical form: sacrifices to the powers are very common, the offerings being cattle or commoners – only in times of direst need will a noble sacrifice his own offspring, yet tricking others into sacrificing an adversary is considered an act of great cunning and not a crime, unless of course the plan fails, in which case brutal repercussions follow.
The sacrificial rites are performed in many different ways according to each power’s demands. Sometimes the offerings are tossed into fiery pits, hung up and left to bleed to death or immersed in pools of caustic slime to be dissolved alive. If the power is present, sometimes many different offerings to be chosen from are brought. If humans are to be offered, they will be forced to dance before their death, or to plead to be the one to have the privilege of being sacrificed.
The lord bringing the offering will use the future victims blood to write litanies to praise the power he serves, and will slay the victim himself.
Regular rites take place at the time of the new moon. Groups of nobles will gather and light large fires beneath the open sky. Each group will torture and humiliate a commoner in various ways while blindfolded commoner musicians accompany the whole spectacle with solemn music. Ritual markings are painted on the ground, the participants and the victim, and if the whole rite is performed well enough, one of the powers will appear to the group that has shown the most ingenuity and inventiveness and tell them words of wisdom, secret information about their enemies or grant a minor boon.
*Magic: With So’Lun being a normal mana zone, only mages can cast spells there, a fact much welcome by the nobility, for virtually all nobles are born mages, those not having magical aptitude dropping to the bottom of the noble society with little chance of passing their genes on to further generations. Amongst the common folk, mage births are rare, and with many able commoner mages being raised to nobility upon the discovery of their talent, this fact is barely surprising. This aids the oppression of the common folk greatly – not only are the nobles trained to become armed killing machines possessing demonic powers and otherworldly allies, but there are no mages amongst the common folk to oppose them.
*Funerary custom: Commoners are buried in humble graves in fetal position dressed in traveling clothes, with a walking stick to their right and a small ceramic dish to their left.
Much unlike their subjects, nobles are preserved after their death in a rectangular container filled with a clear fluid that prevents the body from decaying. The bodies are kept naked within their containers in huge subterranean galleries that are open to any noble who wishes to enter. Each container is accompanied by a brass plaque that speaks of the successes and failures its resident has experienced during his lifetime.
*Art – Graphic and Sculpture: many nobles create art as a form of relaxation from the stress the average noble’s day has in abundance. Commonly found are abstract asymmetrical motifs three-dimensionally interwoven within a half-transparent crystal. Other nobles prefer metal as a medium, creating sculptures of plate and wire or creating more and more kinds of unusual weapons that are finely decorated and beautiful in their deadliness. Some of the most skilled mages prefer plants, animals or people as a medium to be shaped at their will. Amongst those of lesser magical power, creating intricate jewelry with some subtle twists (let your imagination run wild) is a welcome pastime.
Commoners create pottery durable and delicate at the same time as well as providing stone carvings and statues to decorate the homes and temples of the nobility.
An interesting peculiarity is that So’Lun art never depicts intelligent beings or parts of them, but uses abstract symbols for the same effect.
*Music and dance: wind instruments of all sorts are in wide use, regardless of whether made of wood or brass. Music accompanies the nobles for the whole day, performed by talented commoners or slaves. Music also plays an important part in many rituals.
As for song, it is mostly used on religious occasions to entertain nobles, with ballads being most common. Commoners sing a wide variety of work songs to be able to endure the daily labor better. Dance has a strong erotic context in So’Lun, and is a favorite courting ritual.
*Sports and games: hunting, whether wild beasts, commoners or outlaws, is a welcome pastime for many a noble in So’Lun. Amongst nobles who are less paranoid of each other’s motives certain board games that depend on the deception and misdirection of the opponent as well as careful planning are commonly played. Sometimes great arena fights are held, a noble audience numbering thousands attending them. Troves of peasants and beasts fall and their blood turns the sand of the arena into crimson mud, while their masters use the occasion for placing bets, forming new pacts or backstabbing if the circumstances are convenient.
*Tattoo, Scarification and Piercing: several powers demand that their servants are tattooed all over their bodies – some nobles are known to have even the inside of their mouths or nose cavities covered with intricate artwork. Others simply see tattooing as a convenient way to carry amulets of warding on their person all the time with little danger of losing one of the trinkets
*Housing and Architecture: the peasants dwell in tiny thatched adobes along with their livestock. Often some families band together and build several adobes right next to each other as to increase the living space by more than the surface of the dwellings, thus preserving more warmth in winter.
Nobles have taken the phrase “the sky is the limit” to heart, and this is reflected in their residences – tall pagodas and towers surrounding those are very popular, as are extensive fortifications around one’s home. City-dwelling nobles, not able to erect fortifications due to the confined space rely on a carefully planned network of bridges, doors and passages that make assaulting their lofty homes difficult.
The structures are constructed of solid stone, each block perfectly fitted into its neighbor. This fact is even more astounding considering the shapes the blocks and the structures they are constructed of take – the rectangular form encountered elsewhere is eschewed, and triangles, pentagons, hexagons and irregular shapes are used.
The roofs are made of shingles.
*Clothing: peasants dress in wool and linen in summer, donning heavy woolen cloaks when the chill winds start to blow from the north.
The dress of nobles is wholly different indeed. Bred of living tissue using secret techniques, it is perfectly fitted for its wearer, living of his waste products. These dresses come in a variety of shapes and colors, some of them adjusting to every whim of their wearer. Despite of their surprising resilience, the garments are cozy and comfortable, fitting like a second skin. The exact age a dress can reach is unknown, yet given its self-repairing capabilities it could be infinite – unfortunately, many suits are ruined by an unsightly demise of their owner.
*Cooking and food: various crops are planted in So’Lun, wheat, rice and maize amongst them, yet they are mainly intended to feed the masses of commoners. More than four fifths of the livestock kept are intended for the nobles, who require a protein-rich diet that also provides sufficient energy – thus meat is always the main course, while all other foods are intended as side dishes.
So’Lun is also the home of alcoholic, hallucinogenic or stimulating beverages too numerous to count.
*Packs and containers: Glass and clay containers are used to store both fluids and solid goods. To prevent breakage, the fragile containers are placed in wooden crates.
*Fire-making and fuel: magic is the tool of a noble when he feels the need to ignite something – commoners use flints to spark a flame. Purified oil is used for heating, as are wood and coal.
*Land transport and types of mounts: every road in So’Lun bears the marks of the heavy wheels of the oxen-pulled wagons that transport most of the goods in this land. Nobles ride elegant steeds, large quadruped omnivores called ‘garest’, bipedal carnivores by the name of ‘bannadu’ or more exotic mounts they have been gifted with by their masters. With So’Lun being spanned by a network of well-paved roads chariots are a favorite way of travel for some nobles.
*Both the So’Lun war navy and the fishermen travel the sea in ships composed of two connected hulls to provide increased stability. Both of them are propelled by oars, with a large rectangular sail being used to provide additional speed if the wind is favorable.
*Weapons – Missile Weapons: bows and crossbows of all sizes enjoy the same popularity as they do in Lyra. Peasants are forbidden from owning those though, and will use javelins, slings or nets when hunting small game.
Nobles will also have many small throwing weapons concealed on them, darts, knives or shuriken to name but a few. Most often poison will have been applied to the ammunition or blades of any missile weapon that is not used for hunting to bring down the enemy quicker and be able to down him even with an imperfect shot.
*Weapons – Melee: Heavy-bladed broadswords and bastard swords are common amongst the nobility, though their weight requires exceptional strength to wield them properly. While a great majority of the rulers of this land are not inconvenienced by this fact, some prefer to use lighter blades, either to gain an advantage in speed or to entertain themselves. Morning stars and maces are also sometimes seen.
Commoners will carry spears and pole-arms to battle, complemented by short swords for close combat. These weapons are inaccessible to commoners until they are drafted for war service, so that the skill of most of them is poor at best, therefore many of them settle for the staff or some implement of fieldwork they are allowed to bear even at home.
*Weaponless combat: with most weapons prohibited from being owned by commoners, it is barely surprising that those who intend to break the iron grip of nobility try to go without weapons. Three schools are known to exist in the underground of So’Lun, all teaching techniques that emphasize fast striking power. These schools are not accomplished or sophisticated in any sense of these words, as most of those who have achieved some progress live very short lives in the struggle against their masters.
The nobles on the other hand practice weaponless combat more resembling a dance or aerobic until the time has come to strike – this art of weaponless combat has passed the point of perfection and reached the realms of imagination and legend beyond. This, combined with the exceptional strength and agility of its students and the fact that concealable wrist blades are common accessories to most sorts of noble dresses, makes a true noble of So’Lun a fearsome opponent on any field, anytime.
*Shields: shields are made from a variety of materials, ranging from the leather and wood used by the peasants to metal, bone and several exotic materials the shields of the nobility are made of.
*Armor: armor for the nobles is made using the same techniques that allow their clothes to be created, thus producing armor that requires little maintenance, is not vulnerable to rust and many dangerous spells and combines lightness and flexibility with exceptional toughness. If fed well, a suit of armor can keep its wearer warm even in the most adverse conditions, and some suits are rumored to be able to inject various alchemical elixirs into their user.
The peasants will be clad in rags or leather at best, metal or more precious materials being too valuable to be wasted on mere commoners.
*Tactics: the armies of So’Lun will consist of a hard core of nobles mounted on various steeds, several siege engines of unusual yet ingenious design, some supernatural allies such as demons or extraplanar beasts and vast amounts of totally expendable commoners. In battle, the peasants will be used to bog down the enemy while the hosts of nobles will descend upon the opposition in a fury of destruction, tearing up the enemy piece by piece.