Tomorrow, tomorrow…

Got back a few hours ago.  Tired as fuck.  No post tonight.  Tomorrow, the Asilin.  It’ll be great, I had a lot of time to think on my canoe trip and there is much fanciness planned.

It’s only a day away.

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It’s not you, it’s me.

That seems to be the kind of line I should use when I shut the blog down forever, not just take a short break, but I just really wanna use it. I’m gonna be canoing in the canadian wilderness for two weeks, so no posting will happen until september. At which point I will get RIGHT back on the Alara thing, talking about the Wastes, shwhatever. See you there.

Alaran Subraces: The Humans of Tugél Vas

Tugél Vas. In the old tongue, the name means “City of Bones”. An apt nomenclature indeed, for it is descriptive of the overall attitude of all those residing in Tugél Vas and the surrounding environs. Simply put, Tugél Vas is a city of necromancers and death. Undeath pervades every aspect of the City of Bones, and it would surely have ceased to exist long since if this were not so.

Tugél Vas is the center of human society in the Wastes, the barren desert of the undead to the northwest of the civilized lands. It is also, essentially, the entirety of humanity in the Wastes. Beyond the walls roam the Asilin, the Zantith, and the Crows. Thus, any human that chooses to walk past the boundaries of the city will either get captured and put into slave pens, mutilated out of spite, or just eaten. This has led to Tugél Vas being a massive fortification that everyone stays in because it is entirely unsafe to leave. Tugél Vas is a huge city, dwarfing even the metropolis of Wyrmspire to the south. Its walls are a hundred feet high, and watchtowers dot the landscape.

These precautions are, sadly, entirely necessary. Tugél Vas is a city constantly under siege. The humans are hated uniformly by every other resident of the Wastes. Thus, they are surrounded on four sides by enemy armies. The armies of Citadel Zarathas, Citadel Niathnu, and Citadel Gishnath surround the City of Bones, as well as a small contingent of Zantith. These four armies have forged a temporary treaty pertaining entirely to the environs of Tugél Vas, and they do not attack each other while attacking the humans. The City of Bones is a five-sided city, and until recently the humans could escape through the fifth side. Recently, however, the Crows have begun ambushing humans on that side. You just can’t win.

Tugél Vas is ruled by a cabal of necromancers. These enigmatic figures control every aspect of the city, from commerce to war to… well, basically everything. The Cabal consists always of five necromancers. These necromancers have no real names, but instead go by the titles the Seeker, the Slayer, the Keeper, the Teacher, and the Master. These five all have specific duties pertaining to their titles. It is unknown whether they are the same men they have been for centuries (with the death magic practiced in the City of Bones, it is not unlikely) or if it is an inherited position, one that changes hands.

Death is part of every aspect of culture in Tugél Vas. When a person dies, their corpse is placed into one of twenty public vaults, a vault which is sealed on the eve of the new year. Twenty years hence, the vault is opened, and the corpses within, now skeletonized, are sold to the general public. The aforementioned public then puts the skeletons to whatever uses it sees fit. Skeletons are often reanimated as servants or bodyguards or used as building materials. It is considered unlucky to build anything whatsoever – a cart, a street, a building, even a sword – without using at least some skeletal material. Among the noble families, it is considered proper to conserve the skeletons of one’s own ancestors and use them in conjunction with cheaper skeletons purchased from the city. This requires a personal family vault, as well as an expensive license that allows families to keep their dead when they cease to breathe. Otherwise, all dead are considered property of the Cabal.

A public vault closes on sunset of new year’s eve, and a new one is opened only at dawn. If someone dies during new year’s night, and they do not have a family vault, they become Gishtith – Cursed Ones. The Cursed Ones, it is said, are doomed to wander the streets of Tugél Vas endlessly, for they were not permitted entry into the sacred vaults. By day, Gishtith look human, but the moonlight reveals them as pale creatures with stretched, leathery skin, who are hungry for flesh.

This system has worked well for centuries, but there are detractors. Often, the year’s bounty of skeletons is not enough to keep up with the demands of the city. When this occurs, a black market often forms. Using various methods ranging from bribery to secret tunnels, some of the more unscrupulous members of the City of Bones steal past the surrounding armies and go out into the Wastes. There, they gather whatever bones they can find (in the Wastes, there are many) and return to Tugél Vas with this bounty. This is, of course, forbidden by both tradition and formal law, but many of the city’s worksmen love the opportunity for fresh bones. However, it’s hard to disguise some of the bones found out of city boundaries as human bones. This has led to the occasional grotesque parody of humanity – a human-shaped skeleton formed from non-human bones.

Tugél Vas is truly an extraordinary city. It is absolutely massive, and manages to sustain itself based on massive caverns of fungus and livestock below it. The constant siege it is under has prevented it from expanding horizontally as much as would be optimal, and thus has been constructed towers only rivaled by those of Wyrmspire. Tugél Vas is one of the most marvelous (if disturbing) cities in all Alara.

Citizens of Tugél Vas most commonly worship Elleida or Plaggan. There are several major temples devoted to both of these deities. Worship or Rudolphus is less common, but also present. The Humans of Tugél Vas are of average height, and usually posess darker shades of skin, hair, and eyes than their counterparts to the south and east.

Important Humans of Tugél Vas:

The Master leads the Cabal of Necromancers ruling over Tugél Vas. He is the absolute ruler of the City of Bones, and all within it report to him. Below him exist the Seeker, technological ruler of Tugél Vas, the Slayer, general of the city’s armies, the Keeper, master of traditions within the city, and the Teacher, he who spreads the art of necromancy among the city’s young. The Master has control over all these things. He is rarely seen in public, and when he is out he wears a feature-obscuring black robe.

The Master is the ultimate necromancer. He is incredibly powerful, and it is estimated that a fifth of the animated skeletons in the City of Bones report directly to him. He is also the master of the only legal non-human skeletons in the entire city, a small troop of cyclopean behemoths who are reported to be a race entirely extinct, their only remnant the warriors of Tugél Vas. The Master only enters into actual battle when there is no other option. The last time he did so, nearly a century ago, he turned an entire brigade of Asilin warriors to his side merely by force of his will. Truly, a more powerful man does not exist in all the Wastes.

Certainly, the Master is an enigmatic figure. There are many rumors about exactly what he may be. The most popular and most likely one is that he’s a lich. There are at least a small subset of the population that believe the Master is an inherited title, and this Master is a different one than the figure in the stories. Several among the population believe him to be an elf, unlikely, considering the fact that there are absolutely no elves in Tugél Vas. The most religious believe him to be a holy avatar of Elleida, Queen of the Undead. All are possible.

Shinaa Ul-Abbat is the leader of the Blackbone Brothers, the most notorious ring of smugglers and black marketeers in the entirety of Tugél Vas. The Blackbone Brothers escape Tugél Vas in the dead of night through a series of long-existing tunnels dug under the tall walls of the City of Bones. There, they set out and scrounge up what bones they can, returning to Tugél Vas before daybreak to avoid notice of the Asilin or the Zantith. The Blackbone Brothers are particularly succesful because of an agreement worked out with the otherwise completely uncivilized Crows – namely, the Crows give them all the bones of their finished victims, and the Blackbone Brothers give the Crows all manner of goods manufactured in Tugél Vas. Occasionally, these goods are humans. The Blackbone Brothers aren’t particularly nice.

Shinaa is a fearsome-looking person. He is of average height, but above-average musculature. He wears his long black hair in a ponytail down his back. His face is angular, and a scar slices vertically through his right eye. When in combat, he most often goes shirtless and wears loose-fitting cloth pants, wielding his scimitar with deadly force. Shinaa has faced his share of enemies, and was, indeed, enlisted in Tugél Vas’ army before he turned to a life of crime. As such, he is an incredibly deadly fighter. At the end of his ponytail, he weaves a small dagger, which he is prone to whipping around in the middle of combat for an incredibly deadly surprise.

Shinaa controls the Blackbone Brothers with an iron fist. The organization consists of some two hundred members, most of which are just grunts. The administration, however, consists of Shinaa, his younger brothers Algah and Durzen, and an enigmatic figure by the name of Ulen Ab-Shabbith. These four are the core of the smuggling ring. Many tradesmen in the city go entirely to them for their wares, not even bothering with the city, which often overprices its skeletons. At least one of the noble families also buys entirely from the Brothers.

Alara: The Wastes

Today (well, tonight), you get something special. Because you’ve been such a good nonexistant fanbase.

I am now going to go over the first non-Civilized Lands area that we’ve yet touched! Yay! This area, while not central to the conflicts involving those races we’ve already talked about, is home to many entirely unique problems of its own. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: The Wastes!

I even have a map! It’s just as shitty as my maps always are. But it uses a pretty font. You’ve got to like a pretty font, right? Anyway, you’ll have to deal with it until I a) manifest artistic skills and b) acquire a scanner.

There you go! A map of the Wastes. Notice the Ebenian Plains to the northeast, the Omarra Desert to the northwest, and the forest of Requiem to the southwest. I have plans for ALL those places. Well, except Requiem. I just pulled that out of my ass because it looked cool on the map. Anyway, the Wastes. Now I launch into an explanation. Three, two, one…

The Wastes are a barren, blackened and inhospitable land. The vile forces of the undead control most of the land, and the Alliance have only a small foothold there, in the form of the frontier stronghold Fortress Dwargenheim. The various cultures of the Wastes are totally and completely fixated on the phenomenon of undeath. The one active human society in the land is ruled by necromancers and uses the bones of its ancestors as a building material, and the undead societies are far too numerous to count. Denizens of the Wastes speak a variant of Common known as Waste Common. Although both languages are descended from Old Common, they are different in some major ways.

Denizens of the Wastes commonly worship a deity that, while technically part of the pantheon of Archus and Anator, is less heard of in the more civilized areas to the south. This deity is Elleida, daughter of Omora Agabai and Plaggan, and the Queen of the Undead. She is the most commonly worshiped god of the Wastes.

The Races of the Wastes:

A predominant power of the Wastes is the humans of Tugél Vas. The necromancers of Tugél Vas slowly withdrew from the politics of the Civilized Lands upon the formation of the Empire. They never got around to re-entering it, and now content themselves with dealing with all of their enemies, most of which are their fault.

Tugél Vas has an incredibly screwed up culture. The art of Necromancy is completely and totally embedded in it. Upon the death of one of its citizens, the body is stored in a vault. After twenty years, the bones are removed and sold to various other citizens, who use them for anything from personal bodyguards to material for building. Even the streets are made partially with skeletons, it’s not uncommon to see a bit of bone sticking up out them. This is also, of course, a perfect defense mechanism: in the event of an invasion, the necromancer-kings merely animate the streets. Bam, instant militia.

The main enemies of the humans are basically their own fault: a race of sentient skeletons who refer to themselves as the Asilin. This incredibly successful race has murky origins. Although basically everyone believes that they’re somehow the fault of the humans of Tugél Vas, no one knows how, as the Asilin don’t keep written history. The success of the Asilin is down to one thing: human farming. The skeletons keep populations of humans in the dungeons of their floating citadels. When the humans turn twenty, they kill them, flay the flesh from their bones in a dark ritual, and reanimate them. This means that they basically just keep growing.

The only reason the Asilin have not yet completely taken over the Wastes and moved on to other lands is due to the fact that they are incredibly politically unstable. You’d wonder what a race of sentient skeletons would have to disagree about, but apparently they find things. There are currently three major factions of Asilin in the Wastes, centered around Citadels Zarathas, Niathnu, and Gishnath. Zarathas is the original, while Gishnath split from its metaphorical father over a matter of the morality of treating humans like cattle. This means Citadel Gishnath is more receptive to other races than the others, and it occasionally acts as a neutral trading post for the Sand Dwarves of the Omarra Desert and the dwarves from Fortress Dwargenheim to the south. We’re not even sure what Niathnu did to split from Zarathas, it’s kind of vague.

Between the two extremes of the humans and the Asilin lie the Zantith, which in their language means “fleshed ones”. The Zantith are a race of ghouls and ghasts that, while undead, still maintain much of their fleshiness. None know how the Zantith were created, but most think it’s the fault of Tugél Vas. Again. The Zantith currently engage in guerrilla warfare against whatever enemy they choose to spite, as they are not powerful enough to confront them without trickery. There’s probably a huge Zantith city somewhere, but it’s unclear where because it’s probably underground, as are most Zantith cities. They do this because the Asilin have this strange thing where they don’t like going underground.

The final and, arguably, least influential race of the Wastes is a subrace of the Rhokari that refer to themselves as the Crows. The Crows are vicious cannibals who stand roughly a foot taller than most other Rhokari, and have black feathers. The Crows live in the mountains surrounding the Wastes, where they can get sufficient height to take advantage of their ability to glide. They are complete savages, and mostly spend their time eating each other.

Over the next few days, I will go over these races in more detail. It’ll be great. See you there.

Alaran Subraces: Ugoi

In the far north, across Crown Lake and at the foot of the foreboding mountains, live a series of tribes untouched by the sophistication characteristic of the rest of the Civilized Lands: The Ugoi.

The Ugoi are a race of humans that live in the untouched forests of the north. They stand roughly half a foot taller than other humans. They are muscular, but not in an obtrusive way: the Ugoi are thinner and more lean than other humans. Ugoi hair is most commonly black, but they often highlight it with purple or green dies made from berries. Ugoi eyes are always black, and their skin tends toward darker shades.

Due to the imposing expanse of Crown Lake between the Ugoi forests and the rest of the Civilized Lands, the Ugoi have remained practically untouched by culture. The civilization they are closest to is the Moon Dwarves in the northern mountains, and those bastards sure aren’t gonna bring culture to them.

The Ugoi are not one united nation, but seven distinct clans that each roam their forests alone, occasionally trading or warring with the other clans. The Ugoi consist of the Clan of the Fang, the Claw, the Eye, the Tree, the Lake, the Web, and the Earth. All of these clans have their own particular oddities and cultural shticks. Most of them are peaceful on some level with the other ones, as long as they don’t get in each others’ ways. The exceptions to this are the Fang and the Claw, who are constantly at war, and the Web. Everyone hates the Web.

Traditional Ugoi garb consists of a loincloth. Just a loincloth. Most warriors of the Ugoi also wear a necklace of teeth and fangs around their neck. These teeth come from the beast of some sort that the Ugoi must slay as a rite of manhood. All Ugoi have tattoos covering most of their bodies. These tattoos differ from clan to clan, but most can be summed up as follows: “I’m from blah blah blah clan, don’t fuck with me or I’ll eat your face.” All written in eldritch runes and symbols, of course.

Ugoi warriors employ a weapon known as a Shinoa. The Shinoa consists of a long wooden pole, topped with a falchion-like blade. Ugoi warriors are incredibly skilled with their Shinoa, and battles fought with them often look more like dances than battles, with one warrior sweeping his weapon around, the other dodging, and so on and so on in a very artistic style of fighting. The most elite warriors use a double-Shinoa, with a blade of both ends. These are very hard to use (novices who try to use them often end up gutting themselves) but the rewards are potent when one learns how to use one. I mean, if you just dodged one end of a pointy stick, who the hell is gonna expect the other end to come around and be pointed too?

The forests of the Ugoi are full of monstrous creatures. On the banks of Crown Lake stalk cat-like creatures with poisonous barbs on their whiplike tails. In the foothills to the north, basilisks paralyze and eat their pray alive. And all through the forest creep the Nairos, several species of monstrous spiders that make it their business to kill and eat anything in their path. The smallest of the Nairos, known as the Athal, are used as mounts by the Ugoi. There aren’t any horses in their forests, and anyway, the Athal can climb trees. Obvious choice, really.

All of this makes for an incredibly frightening picture. A tattooed clansman riding out of a forest on a giant spider wielding what appears to be a sword on a stick has caused quite a lot of men to shit themselves forcefully. The shrieking battle-cry of the Ugoi doesn’t exactly help the situation. When it gets down to it, it’s probably a good thing that Crown Lake separates the Ugoi from the rest of civilization.

The Ugoi worship a snake-god whom they know as Noiran Shinoth, Devourer of All. The priests of Noiran are on the top of the social ladder, below only the chieftains of the various clans. They tend to wear robes died a sickly green, as opposed to the normal Ugoi loincloth. Priests of Noiran Shinoth shave their heads completely bald, and cut ritual symbols into their hairless domes. Any Ugoi raiding party is likely to be led in part by a priest, calling out prayers and curses. Priests of Noiran are forbidden from carrying weapons, but this isn’t much of a problem. Between the normal Ugoi willing to sacrifice themselves for the priests and the spells of the priests themselves, they’re pretty damn safe.

Priests of the Ugoi do not wear the traditional necklace of teeth that most Ugoi do. Instead, they wear a necklace with one giant fang strung upon it. This is because the rite of priesthood for Noiran Shinoth consists of seeking out a basilisk and coaxing it out of a fang. This is hard, because basilisks are really among the most ornery creatures ever, ever. Also, you can’t make eye contact or you die. Needless to say, the Ugoi priests are a firm minority.

Ugoi disdain and distrust magic (other than priestly magic, of course). The exception to this is the Clan of the Eye, who regularly practice sorcery, and are in fact led by a sorcerer. This has led to a slight rift between the other clans and the Clan of the Eye. But they still all band together when the Clan of the Web is around. Everyone hates those bastards.

Important Ugoi:

Inaris of the Fang is the chieftain of the Clan of the Fang. The Fang clan is the most physically powerful of all the clans, and as such its leader is an incredibly powerful warrior. Inaris stands seven feet tall, massive even by the standards of the Ugoi. He is well-muscled. His hair is the normal black, interspersed with occasional strands of green of purple. Inaris is one of the elite warriors blessed with the ability to use a double-Shinoa.

Inaris rides a massive Athal whom he has named Venom. Before battles, he often removes Venom’s venom from his mandibles and coats it on the blades of his double-Shinoa. This makes him even more lethal than he already was, and many of his enemies have been known to die screaming in pain, writhing and frothing at the mouth. Inaris’s necklace consists of the teeth of a togonai, a massive, black-skinned, cyclopean beast known to consume entire villages. They are also known to have fangs of such incredible poison that they will persist in their lethality for years after their removal from the togonai. Inaris uses these fangs as weapons if he loses his double-Shinoa in battle. Years of wearing the incredibly venomous teeth on his bare chest have given him an odd series of teeth-shaped scars.

Inaris is incredibly power-hungry. He continues an ongoing war with the neighboring Clan of the Claw, saying that it is a matter of honor and all that crap, but really just wanting their land. Inaris will not hesitate to kill someone who he thinks will stand in his way later, even if they are someone formerly close to him. He is completely ruthless and absolutely dangerous.

Oithan of the Eye is the chieftain of the Clan of the Eye. The Clan of the Eye are the only clan that accepts the use of magic. This is convenient, as most of the clansmen of the Eye have sorcerous blood of some sort. The ability to perform magic is common to all of the Eye. Their warriors are thus feared in battle, as a sword on a stick plus a fireball equals ouchiness. Oithan is an incredibly powerful sorcerer who rules over his clan with an iron fist. He uses only a normal Shinoa, but also uses magic, so it’s not too much of a hindrance.

Oithan is one of the few Ugoi who do not ride Athal. Oithan instead flies through his forest home with the help of his magic. He often uses this advantage in battle, sneaking up behind his enemies’ Athal riders and toasting their spidery mounts with a quick spell. Oithan does not wear the conventional Ugoi loincloth, but a robe died red. His necklace consists of the teeth of a basilisk. He never says exactly how he managed to kill a basilisk, but most people think it’s got something to do with his one missing eye and the incredibly large scar on his face. After killing the basilisk, he also skinned it, and its hide currently serves as his tent. This is useful, as basilisk hide is incredibly tough and impervious to basically everything.

Although the Clan of the Eye are the least numerous of the Ugoi clans, they are also arguably most powerful, although the leaders of both the Clan of the Fang and the Clan of the Claw would contest that. Oithan has an unparalleled knowledge of the goings-on of the Ugoi forest, as he uses his magic to see everything that goes on in it. And knowing is half the battle.

Lithoa of the Web is the chieftain of the Clan of the Web. He is, all in all, the most detested individual in the entirety of the Ugoi forest, for Lithoa is considered a traitor to his own kind. Of course, he is. Lithoa has transformed the Clan of the Web into a band of slavers. Their main customers are, of course, the Moon Dwarves. Selling his own people to the Moon Dwarves has made everyone hate Lithoa, as well as the rest of the Clan of the Web. This doesn’t matter too much, as he’s got the Moon Dwarves on his side, and they’re more powerful than the rest of the clans combined.

Lithoa is absolutely bloodthirsty. For his ritual of manhood, whereas most boys would hunt some kind of creature, Lithoa instead snuck into an encampment of the Clan of the Claw and slew their leader, taking his teeth as his manhood necklace. After ascending to manhood, he then proceeded to become clan chieftain in three years, and make the traitorous pact with the Moon Dwarves. Of course, the alliance with the Moon Dwarves has made the Clan of the Web the most sophisticated and cultured of all of the clans. Lithoa emphasizes this by having his clansmen use weapons traded from the Moon Dwarves in battle, as opposed to the traditional Shinoa. He himself uses a spear in one hand and a spiked chain in the other. Of course, his men still ride Athal. To do otherwise would be suicide in the battlefields of the forest.

The Clan of the Web roams the forest of the Ugoi, taking captives from all the other clans and selling them. Often, Lithoa participates in these raids, if only to rub it in his opponents’ faces. Lithoa most fears Oithan and the Clan of the Eye, as magic cannot be protected against by traded Moon Dwarven weapons and armor.

Alaran Subraces: Moon Dwarves

The Moon Dwarves are a mysterious remnant of an ancient empire. They dwell in the squalor of their once-great cities, plotting the downfall of those who ruined them.

Moon Dwarves stand roughly four and a half feet tall. They have paler skin than other Dwarves, a product of their nocturnal lifestyles. Their hair is usually darker shades of brown, as are their eyes. Moon Dwarves often mark their faces with various blue ritual tattoos.

For thousands upon thousands of years, the empire of the Moon Dwarves existed in a state of stasis in the mountains to the north of the Civilized Lands, neither growing nor shrinking, but remaining at a constant amount of power. Where they came from is unknown. The scholars of Irongate claim that the Moon Dwarves are an ancient offshoot of their race, but the Moon Dwarves claim the opposite – that the dwarves of Irongate are descended from the Moon Dwarves. Both theories are possible. It’s even possible that both the dwarves of Irongate and the Moon Dwarves are descended from some third dwarven civilization – the origin of all dwarves. Who knows.

The ancient empire of the Moon Dwarves was defined by their worship of the moon. The Moon Dwarves held the belief that the moon was the source of all life and all power, and worshiped it devoutly. For the millennia of its existence, the empire of the Moon Dwarves was never ruled over by a king or an emperor, but instead by the head of the Temple of the Moon.

The society of the Moon Dwarves was heavily stratified. On the top was the Temple of the Moon, the all-powerful ruler of the Moon Dwarven empire. On the next level, there were the four noble families: Argon, Duzak, Zarin, and Jarna. These families were the most powerful of the empire, and controlled most of the non-religious functions of it. On the third, least-powerful level, there were the non-noble, or slave families. These sixteen families had no rights to speak of. They were used, at best, as slaves by the other families, and at worst, as sacrifices by the Temple of the Moon.

As unfair as this arrangement seems to be, the Empire of the Moon existed for thousands of years with this arrangement in place. The members of the slave families were told that they had a place within the grand plan of the Moon, and many were willing or even happy to give their lives for the Temple of the Moon.

This came to an end four hundred years ago. The Empire of humans, centered around the twin cities of Dunél Vas and Argan Vas, embarked on a grand crusade to rid the world of evil. Unfortunately for the Moon Dwarves, the human definition of “evil” included a society that treated most of its population as slaves and sacrifices. The armies of the humans attacked the Moon Dwarves, assisted by their dwarven and elven allies.

The Empire of the Moon fell. Despite the fact that their grand mountain cities could only be seen from outside while under the light of the moon, they were found and targeted. Slowly, they were destroyed. The Temple of the Moon was decimated, the noble families hunted down and slaughtered, and the slave families freed.

And then the humans left. They went back to their planes, their forests, leaving the mountains of the north in the state of turmoil that they had caused. And slowly, the Empire of the Moon began to recuperate…

Today, the Moon Dwarves are a pale shadow of what they were in the past. They’re doing better than they were four hundred years ago, but they’re still kind of in a rut. After the armies of the Empire left, the remaining noble families took shelter in the husks of their once-great cities. The slave families attempted to get by in the harsh mountains. This was a mistake. The mountains of the north are full of danger, ranging from dragons to yetis to things that don’t have names, as naming things requires surviving encounters with them. More than half of the slave families were driven extinct.

Thus, three hundred and sixty-four years ago, the remaining slave dwarves stumbled into Kalin Alzhar, the grandest of the Moon Dwarf cities. Only six of the sixteen slave families remained. Of course, the noble families weren’t doing too much better. The families Zarin and Jarna had been driven extinct by a combination of the Empire’s crusades and the harsh reality of life without their slave underlings. Families Argon and Duzak were nearly gone, as well.

The arrival of the slave families changed things. There were more people to breed with, for one, which had been a major challenge. The noble families tried to reestablish the hierarchy, but failed. They did succeed in reestablishing the Temple of the Moon, but were forced to raid nearby human settlements for sacrifices.

Nowadays, all Moon Dwarves are somehow related to either the Argon or Duzak families. This has destroyed the former caste system, something that irks some of the Moon Dwarves to no end. Many Moon Dwarves have begun searching for pure-blooded survivors of the former slave families to dominate, while others have begun taking human slaves.

Moon Dwarves traditionally wear black leather at all times. At more formal occasions, they wear black robes, while battle often calls for black plate armor. The Moon Dwarves are enthusiastic about black. All Moon Dwarves have a series of blue tattoos on their faces, tattoos which diagram their exact position in whichever family they belong to.

The ruling body of the Moon Dwarves is the Temple of the Moon. This temple is entirely devoted to the moon. Priests of the Temple of the Moon wear black robes with blue lining. Traditionally, they are the only Moon Dwarves allowed to wear any color other than black. The Temple of the Moon conducts ritual sacrifice every full moon. These sacrifices occur in every Moon Dwarven society, from sacrifice of animals at a small outpost to a full-on orgy of blood and gore in Kalin Alzhar, the capital city of the Moon Dwarves. Religion is a huge part of the Moon Dwarf life, all Moon Dwarves are religious and all of them participate in some form of regular moon ritual, whether this is a sacrifice or merely a muttered prayer to the moon.

Moon Dwarves are traditionally nocturnal. They abhor the sun, and avoid being caught under its rays. All Moon Dwarves scurry inside at the first sign of dawn. To protect themselves from prying eyes, the cities of the Moon Dwarves are all visible only under moonlight, and cannot be entered by day.

Imporant Moon Dwarves:

Raknar iDuzaki is the current High Priest of the Moon. He is a great believer in Moon Dwarf superiority. As the absolute ruler of the Empire of the Moon, he has the most power of any Moon Dwarf alive. He uses this power to send regular expeditions into the mountains surrounding Kalin Alzhar, searching for remnants of the former slave families to dominate. He also sends capture parties down into the forests at the foot of the northern mountains, capturing human slaves from the various tribes of snake-worshipers in that area.

Raknar is of regular height for a Moon Dwarf. His hair and beard are both pure white, caused, according to him, by the great amount of magical power he regularly channels. His most frightening features are his eyes: empty sockets stare at whoever he talks to. Despite his lack of actual eyeballs, he seems capable of seeing all that goes on around him, perhaps even more so than those gifted with sight. In the dark, a slight blue glow emanates from the place where his eyes used to be. Raknar’s face is covered in the traditional Moon Dwarf tattoos, indicating his place as the leader of both Duzak family and Moon Dwarves in general.

Raknar constantly carries around two things. The first is his sacrificial dagger. As High Priest of the Moon, he is constantly called upon to make sacrifices, so he carries around his dagger constantly, just to be safe. The handle of this dagger is made of bone, which, combined with the obsidian blade, makes for a very scary sight. The second object he always carries around is a human skull. He claims, and none dare refute him, that this is the skull of the knight who slew the High Priest of the Moon during the crusade that felled the original Moon Dwarf empire. It is not known if this is true, and if it is, where and how he acquired the skull.

Hidduk i’Argoni is a member of the Twelve. He is more commonly known as Hidduk Hellforge. This is an assumed name taken to deter others from knowing his connection to the Moon Dwarves.

As a child, Hidduk was always quite certain of Moon Dwarf superiority. It irked him to no end that his family, formerly the most powerful of the noble families, was now reduced to a level on par with the former slave families, who had been absorbed in his family over the generations. Hidduk was quite certain of his own rightful place in his family, of course, he knew from his family tree that he was the great-great-grandson of the family head at the time the empire fell. But all these slave families had no place in his! Thus, when Hidduk came of age, he was determined to set out and take revenge upon those who had caused the upheaval of Moon Dwarf society: the Empire of humans.

When he arrived in the Civilized Lands, however, he found to his surprise that the human Empire had not existed for some two hundred years! He was determined to take revenge on someone, however, and thus joined the Twelve, figuring that the Alliance were the closest thing to the Empire of old. And since then, he has fought endlessly against the Alliance. He holds a special hatred for dwarves, whom he regards as traitors for not supporting the Moon Dwarves in the ancient battles held between them and the Empire.

Editor’s Note: There probably won’t be a post tomorrow, I’m traveling all day.

Alara: Culture of the Civilized Lands

This post is going to be a bit of a hodgepodge. I’m basically going to be talking about the culture of the Civilized Lands, and culture is such an undefinable thing that I’ll be going over a lot of stuff. I’ll go over three things in this post: History, Currency, and Entertainment. That should give a good amount of background that will allow you to figure out exactly what’s going on in the Civilized Lands.

A Brief History of the Civilized Lands
The Civilized Lands, on the whole, are still reeling from the destruction of an empire that enforced the peace for more than three hundred years.

For all of written human history, human civilization on Alara had been limited to a collection of city-states in the area known as the Civilized Lands. These city-states were entirely uncountable, with shifting alliances occurring every week and wars constantly being waged. The most powerful of these city-states were three cities known as Dunél Vas, Argan Vas, and Tugél Vas. In Old Common, these three names roughly translated into City of Kings, City of Swords, and City of Bones.

All of these city-states wanted power more than anything else. It was obvious that they could gain nothing while constantly battling each other. Roughly five hundred years ago, the city-states of Dunél Vas and Argan Vas forged an alliance. Together, they overtook all of the smaller city-states near them. They allied with the elven nations and the dwarven kingdom of Irongate. Tugél Vas faded into the background, knowing that they would be defeated if they drew attention to themselves. The Empire was born.

Peace happened. The only conflict that even occasionally disrupted the peace was excursions into the forests of Selvern, home of the evil Satyrs, but even that did not disturb the peace too much. The Satyrs gradually hid, using their powerful illusion magic to disguise their tree-cities. Gradually, expeditions into the woods of Selvern ceased. All was well, and peace was held for three centuries, only being interrupted by the occasional crusade waged against some far-off foe. These did not, however, interrupt the day-to-day living of the Empire.

Roughly two hundred years ago, everything fell apart. Assassins, striking in one bloody night, slew the benevolent king of Argan Vas and many of the politicians who supported him. A power-hungry group of warlords took control of the City of Swords. Many of the cities on the farthest reaches of the power of Dunél Vas took the chance and rebelled, forming countless scattered city-states, many around the rivers of the Civilized Lands. In a fortnight, the power of the Empire was reduced to less than half that of its former self.

The emperor, a man named Darius, was furious. He waged war against the new leaders of Argan Vas, a war that was not exactly helped by the fact that they had enlisted the help of the Satyrs – indeed, it was through the plots of the Satyrs that the old king had fallen in the first place. Through this long war, he gradually went insane from rage. When he was about to declare war on his elven and dwarven allies due to “them not helping enough”, his eldest son, Benedict, slew him and took his crown.

Benedict knew that the label of “emperor” was a recipe for disaster, and thus christened himself King Benedict I. He renamed the city of Dunél Vas in the new tongue (the Common language had evolved since the founding of the Empire), calling it Wyrmspire and taking it for his capital. Thus, the Alliance was born. At roughly the same time, the Twelve also emerged.

Since then, the Alliance have been engaged in basically constant warfare with the Twelve. A rough pattern has emerged, with twenty years of war being followed by twenty years of peace. Currently, the Civilized Lands are in the middle of one of these periods of peace. Roughly fifty years ago, the city of Below was founded (although at first, no one new it was going to be a city. It was merely a small experimentational outpost originally).

Currency
The highest unit of currency in the Civilized Lands is known as the Imperial Draketalon. The draketalon is a leftover from the days of the Empire. Way back when the Empire was first formed, the talons of actual dragons were often used as currency. This had several downsides, ranging from the fact that dragon talons were a severely limited resource to the fact that several powerful dragons took umbrage to this and went on years-long rampages. Eventually, the draketalons were replaced with gold coins, but the name was retained.

After the fall of the Empire, all the current nations kept the Draketalon for their currency as a matter of convenience. They are still referred to formally as “Imperial Draketalons”, as that is their origin. The appearance of an Imperial Draketalon often differs vastly depending on its nation of origin and how long ago it was minted. The most common form of draketalon is a round gold coin, about the size of a half-dollar coin, with a dragon on one side and the head of the leader of the nation where it was produced in profile on the other side. Draketalons are worth the same no matter what nation the come from. Alliance draketalons are accepted in the lands of the Twelve, and vise-versa.

A lower denomination of currency is the wyrmling. These coins don’t have any complicated backstory behind them, but were named wyrmlings in keeping with the dragon theme of the draketalon. Wyrmlings are produced by all of the civilizations that produce draketalons. As such, wyrmlings often differ greatly in appearance. The most common variety is a small iron coin, about the size of a quarter, with a square hole through the middle. On one side, there is a picture of a young dragon, and on the other some kind of design, often vines twining around the edges of the coin.

The lowest denomination of currency is a small, unmarked coin, iron and about the size of a dime. These are the very lowest coin in all the lands, and are often used to purchase small and useless things. They have no official name (they were only created in a depression that occurred several decades ago, and no one ever got around to naming them), but are often colloquially referred to as shards. Ten shards are worth one wyrmling, and ten wyrmlings are worth a draketalon.

Bartering is common among farmers and those that live in rural areas. In towns and cities, however, the use of coinage is basically required.

This system of coins is used only by the humans, elves, dwarves, and Underfoot. The Amen-Kathar, the Rhokari, the Satyrs, and the Njorlghar have no currency. The Minotaur use their own currency, but the Council is pressuring the emperor to accept the draketalon instead.

Entertainment
The ways in which a civilization entertains itself can go a long way towards defining its culture. Powerful and influential nations often play strategy games that require great amounts of thought, luxurious civilizations have bloody gladiator battles, and poor tribes play games such as “Throw The Rock” “Throw The Stick” and “Throw The Rock and then Throw The Stick Shortly Thereafter”.

The Civilized Lands have a combination of many of these characteristics. The minotaur regularly enjoy the sand and blood of the gladiator battles in their local arena. While many inhabitants of the mainlands look upon this with disdain, many also enjoy the same general thing. While technically illegal, underground fighting pits have sprung up all over the Civilized Lands. The most famous of these is the Arena of Blood, which is quite literally undergound, being formed out of a small part of the tunnels beneath Wyrmspire. Nightly battles amuse many patrons, and bets are constantly being placed upon the outcome of the fights.

More civilized folk play many other sort of games. The most common games are Karran, any game using a standard deck of cards, and games involving dice. Dice in the Civilized Lands are most often six-sided, just like those of the real world. A common variant is six-sided dice that have each side painted a different color, instead of bearing a different number. All manner of gambling games have emerged from these dice.

Karran is a common game. It is very much like chess, except for the exclusion of the King and Queen pieces, and the inclusion of the Throne piece and the Dragon piece. The Throne piece is basically a duplicate of the King, except for its ability to perform a maneuver known as Crowning, which allows it to upgrade a nearby pawn to a lord (the equivalent of a knight) in exchange for several moves. The Dragon piece moves as a Queen, but may move over other pieces. The most brilliant minds play a variant known as Dra’Karran, an incredibly complicated game played on three boards with over twenty unique pieces.

Many games are played with a deck of cards. The standard deck of cards of the Civilized Lands differs greatly from a card deck of the real world. Alaran card decks are based on units of eight (oft considered a lucky number). An Alaran card deck consists of eight suits with eight cards in each suit. Many games are played with this card deck. The eight suits are Kings, Knights, Lords, Drakes, Men, Elves, Dwarves, and Winds. Each suit has eight cards, an ace and a two card through an eight card. The suits are represented with appropriate symbols: small crowns represent the King suit, small swords the Knight suit, etcetera. Decks vary greatly from one another in terms of artisticness, cheap decks merely have symbols and labels, while more expensive decks have beautiful pictures for every card. The fact that there are only eight cards in each suit has entered into common vocabulary, something very valuable could be referred to as a “nine of Kings” (Kings are traditionally the trump suit), while something elusive could be referred to as a “nine of Winds” (Winds are often wild cards).

Next post, I’ll probably be doing something involving a dwarven subrace. Look forward to it, peons.

Editor’s Note

From now on, I’m not going to be going along any one path with Alara, but filling in various interesting bits here and there. In the past few days, I’ve introduced the Phoenix Guard and the Grey Dawn, two of the most powerful Alaran organizations. In future, I might do more organizations, but am also equally likely to diagram subraces, characters, places, maybe even a bestiary. I’m also considering doing a post on the general culture of the Civilized Lands.  Hell, I may even start diagramming other places, such as the Wastes.  All shall happen soon.

Alaran Organizations: The Grey Dawn

The Grey Dawn is an organization dedicated to the furthering of society in the Civilized Lands, through any means available. As they are willing to do whatever possible to advance society, they often operate on the wrong side of the law, and joining the Dawn has been formally forbidden by the Council. Despite this, many of the prominent members of the Dawn are, in fact, also Council members, as the goals of the two organizations are similar.

Members of the Grey Dawn believe that the Civilized Lands are currently approaching a cultural revolution; a “dawn” of sorts. The current time is the “grey” period before the dawn, when things get lighter but the sun hasn’t actually risen yet. This has lent the society their name. The Dawn are dedicated to bringing about this supposed cultural revolution.

A major part of this goal is the city of Below, which is dedicated in whole to the advancement of Alaran technology. This city’s experiments, while not funded in whole by the Dawn, receive quite a lot of funding from them. Most of the scientists and inventors working in the city are entirely unaware of this connection to the Dawn; only a few of the very most important figures know of it. Certainly, the Chief Engineer is blissfully unaware; he does not need to know.

The Council, ironically enough, has become the Dawn’s most vehement opponent. Although both organizations have essentially the same goals (the betterment of the Alliance) their methods are radically different, and the Council’s definition of “betterment” often differs from that of the Dawn’s as well. Many Council members seek a return to more traditional values, something the Dawn most certainly opposes, as tradition does not have anything to do with their stated goals at all. Those that do not seek tradition are, for the most part, members of the Dawn.

The symbol of the Dawn is a red-gold sword on a gray background. When on official Dawn business, all members wear a tabard with this symbol. When not on official Dawn business, they usually avoid wearing the tabards, as it’s really basically the equivalent of shouting “Hey! Look at me! I’m a terrorist!” at the top of your lungs.

Since the Dawn are an underground organization, they have very little in the way of unity, beyond that of their philosophy. Members of all religions are welcome, though the worshipers of Anator and Black Hundriss are usually treated a little coldly. Formally, the Dawn advocates the worship of Archus, Helena, Rudolphus, Omora Agabai, and Zaran. Members of the Dawn differ greatly in fighting style depending entirely on what the individual members decide upon; methods of fighting include everything from whacking things with clubs to things involving complicated magic. There are no racial restrictions to joining the Dawn, and as such members of every race are represented. There’s even one Amen-Kathar, although we’re not sure what it’s doing there and even it seems a bit confused about its station in life.

It is not entirely challenging to join the Dawn. If you know a member, you can have that member recommend you for membership, and your tabard will come in the mail. Of course, knowing a member (and knowing that he or she is a member) is a rare enough thing in the first place. Membership in the Dawn is a relatively casual thing; members are encouraged to go about their lives in the usual way, and will be contacted if they can provide service to the Dawn. A blacksmith may be asked to provide weapons for one of the Dawn’s adventuring teams, while a politician may be asked to subtly advocate the Dawn in one of his speeches.

The Dawn is a multi-faceted organization. Their stated goal of advancing society is, certainly, a broad one. They spend quite a lot of money funding technological advancement in the city of Below. Other goals of the organization include the elimination of those that would oppose them, the advancement of magical ability, the research of better ways to cure diseases and ailments, and a greater understanding of how the world works. Thus, at any given time, they could have various teams out campaigning for more funds, rare magical tomes, the assassination of traditionalist politicians, discovery of cures, and researching the way the world runs. This gives some idea of the scope of the Grey Dawn. It is a massive organization that spans the entirety of the Civilized Lands.

The headquarters of the Dawn are a series of tunnels underneath Wyrmspire. These tunnels are several dozen feet deeper than the other tunnels below Wyrmspire, so the Dawn is free from interruptions from thieves, ratmen, or brilliantly stupid city guards. Most members of the Dawn do not know the location, or even the existence, of this headquarters, only the high-ranking members know of its existence and how to reach it. Here, the most brilliant minds of the Dawn plot the various machinations of the organization at large. Here also exists the governing body of the Dawn, known as the High Dawn, a council of intelligent schemers. The only way to reach this headquarters is through a secret door concealed deep within the sewers.

The most loyal members of the Dawn are inducted into a knightly order known as the Dawnbringers. This order is the elite unit of the Dawn; members usually fake their own deaths, then disappear, emerging only to do the dirty work of the Dawn. The barracks of the Dawnbringers exists in the deepest level of the Dawn’s headquarters in Wyrmspire. All members of the Dawnbringers wield greatswords, and wear special sapphire rings that signify their place within the hierarchy of the Dawn. The Dawnbringers are most often sent out when the Dawn requires a great military force behind it, such as when it interferes in battles between other nations.

The Dawn was founded approximately three hundred years ago by a man whose true name has been lost in time; the man usually referred to himself as “Goldenblood”. Goldenblood founded the organization as a tool to better society. None of the current Dawn members see the irony of an organization that believes they are on the verge of a Dawn still existing, and doing the same things, after three hundred years. It is said that Goldenblood wielded a powerful magical greatsword by the name of Itharnarok (Dwarven for “that which brings the dawn”), but unfortunately, Itharnarok has been lost over the centuries. One of the greatest goals of the Dawn is recovering it. After Goldenblood disappeared (his body was never recovered) the leadership of the Dawn was handed down, until it came to be possessed by a human woman by the name of Elana Montél.

Important Members of the Grey Dawn:

Elana Montél is the current leader of the Grey Dawn. She is the head of the High Dawn, the ruling council of the Dawn, and the highest-ranking knight of the Dawnbringers. She does not take any crap whatsoever. Elana is entirely ruthless, willing to trade anything for the goal of societal advancement. Anyone that stands in the way of the dawn is often ordered executed, or at least placed in the Dawn’s secret prisons. These more dangerous aspects of her personality are balanced by the other members of the High Dawn, who often recommend less extreme courses of action.

Elana is certainly an odd representative of her race. She is taller than average for a human woman, and has more in the way of muscle than most human women as well. Her dark brown hair is cut very short, and her eyes are an odd shade of gray. She has very severe features, and wears a constant scowl. Her age is hard to determine, she could be anywhere between thirty and fifty. She wears the traditional tabard of the Grey Dawn, and usually wears chainmail under that, even when only going about her regular business. When actually engaging in combat, she wears full plate, and wields a massive battleaxe with runes in Old Dwarven inscribed on the blade. If she knows what the runes say, she certainly isn’t telling anyone. Her sapphire ring, marking her as one of the Dawnbringers, is enchanted, and allows her to resist the magic of her opponents without much effort. While most of the Dawnbringers ride traditional horses into battle, Elana rides a massive, black-feathered Gryphon whom she has named Arahandris.

Elana’s past is mysterious. No one knows where she came from, and no one has ever traced her heritage or family ties. The only thing she possesses that would hint at a life beyond the Dawn is a small locket that she wears at all times. No one knows what this locket contains, and those that ask are usually sentenced to death.

King Benedict IV is a prominent member of the High Dawn. He is very influential, and his position on the Council, combined with his being the king of Wyrmspire, mean that he is without doubt one of the most useful members of the Dawn. Benedict knows full well that it is illegal for him to belong to the Dawn, but he is not unduly concerned. Benedict sees the Dawn as beneficial for Wyrmspire and the Alliance in general, and the mere fact that it is illegal and thus forced to be underground is, to him, proof that the system needs reestablishment.

Benedict is far more mellow than Elana. His position as king of Wyrmspire has given him great insight into the machinations of both the political world and the world of the human mind. He thus finds that it is an incredibly bad strategy to slaughter everyone in his way. Death is still a perfectly good tool, of course, but a bit more order could be employed while using it. Benedict is currently engaging in a power struggle with Elana for the leadership of the Grey Dawn. This is mostly a struggle of diplomacy, open violence is not tolerated within the ranks of the Dawn, as unity is needed. King Benedict has converted most of the High Dawn to his cause, but a complete takeover is currently an impossibility, as the Dawnbringers are intensely loyal to Elana.

Benedict’s involvement with the Dawn springs from several of the adventures he undertook in his younger days. While adventuring with his companion, Allarus Thistlebrow, he stumbled upon a temple hidden in the middle of the woods. Entering this temple, he came upon a battle going on between a group of Grey Dawn adventurers and a wild pack of ravening howlers. It was obvious that the adventurers were losing, so Benedict and Allarus pitched in. After the battle, they joined teams with the Grey Dawn to continue exploring the temple. Benedict and Allarus were in it for the loot and the glory, while the Dawn members were searching for ancient tomes exploring the mysteries of magic, so their goals did not conflict. After clearing out the temple, and a particularly fierce battle with a Fire Dragon, Benedict and Allarus were offered the chance to join the Dawn. Benedict accepted, and rose quickly in the ranks of the Dawn, as being the son of the current king gave him quite a large sphere of influence, making him very valuable to the Dawn. After his father died and he was crowned, he was appointed to the High Dawn, and began opposing Elana.

Adviser Samaris is the royal adviser to Queen Ellesmera of Elenaiar. He is regarded as one of the most important and influential members of the Dawn, and is a member of the High Dawn, even if he rarely shows up to meetings. He is most often in the royal court at Elenaiar, advising his Queen. Queen Ellesmera does not belong to the Dawn, even if her goals would seem to be consistent with it. She is far too idealistic at the current time, and would not accept some of the harsher methods used by the Dawn. It is thought that she will grow more cynical with age, and at that time, Samaris will approach her and offer her membership.

Samaris has long, blond hair, now colored with streaks of gray, and green eyes. He is one of the most patient of the High Dawn, as he is an elf, and thus lives for a very long time. Samaris has been a member of the Dawn for as long as anyone can remember. It is possible that he has been part of the High Dawn since the time of Goldenblood himself. No one’s sure exactly how old he is. He has also served as an adviser to the rulers of Elenaiar for many centuries. This gives him much influence, and makes him a very valuable member of the Dawn. He has a particularly large amount of influence with Queen Ellesmera, who regards him as a bit of a father figure, as her own father died quite a long time ago, being all human and stuff.

Samaris is a very powerful spellcaster, and while not a member of the Dawnbringers, is often called upon to wield his abilities in the battle they undergo. He can’t do this too publicly, of course, as he cannot be revealed as a member of the Grey Dawn while still retaining his position as adviser to Ellesmera. As such, he goes into battle wearing a gray cloak that completely obscures his features. This has led to him being called the “Gray Wizard” by most of those who have heard of his deeds but do not know of his true identity.

Alaran Organizations: The Phoenix Guard

This post is the beginning of my new series of articles, diagramming the organizations that exist in Alara. In this post, I shall talk about the Phoenix Guard.

The Phoenix Guard is made up entirely of elves. The purpose of the Phoenix Guard is to resist the Amen-Kathar in every way possible. The Phoenix Guard is headed by Queen Ambrellis Dawnsong, the former queen of Asernaiar. When Asernaiar was overtaken by the squidmen, she went into hiding, taking most of the elven army with her. This army forms the basis of the Phoenix Guard.

Elves of the Phoenix Guard wear tabards consisting of golden coats of arms on a red background. The Coat of Arms of the Phoenix Guard consists of a Phoenix rising from the ashes, with two longswords in the foreground. Most members of the Phoenix Guard wear chainmail of steel. The more important members often have armor crafted of Mithril.

Members of the Phoenix Guard are trained in both wizardry and more conventional methods of fighting. They fight with delicately crafted elven longswords, and utilize medium-sized shields as well. Their shields often have the coat of arms of the Phoenix Guard emblazoned on them. It is not uncommon to see an officer of the Phoenix Guard wearing a long red cloak to signify his status. Members of the Phoenix Guard are adept in magic, usually learning methods of fire magic, in keeping with the Phoenix symbolism.

The Phoenix is symbolic of the elven nation, which will rise from the ashes and overcome the Amen-Kathar. Elves are good at symbolism. They’ve taken the Phoenix symbol a bit far, using fire magic, wearing all flame-like colors, and even riding phoenixes. The elves of Asernaiar have long raised phoenixes, which are native to the elven forests, but in the fight against the Amen-Kathar they have taken on a new role. Phoenixes can grow to massive sizes when given the chance, and with the help of some time magic, the Phoenix Guard has introduced a new order of flying knights mounted upon Phoenixes. These are the Riders of the Flame, the most elite unit of the Phoenix Guard. They wear long, plumed helmets to distinguish them from the common soldiers, and fight with long lances from aboard their phoenix mounts.

The Phoenix Guard do not have any concrete headquarter; they stay constantly on the move to avoid the grasping hands of Larad and the Amen-Kathar. They have many hideouts spread all over New Aldar. They use the fields on the outskirts of New Aldar for training most of the time. They only go further in when they have a mission to perform.

The Phoenix Guard are well aware of the danger posed by the Amen-Kathar’s most dangerous weapons: the Anari. These small, wormlike creatures can take possession of an elf or other humanoid and dominate them utterly, turning them into slaves. As such, the Phoenix Guard have become incredibly paranoid. Outsiders are treated with suspicion, and are likely to be killed outright. Elves that have not already been taken into the Phoenix Guard are usually held in isolation for several months, until it can be proven that they are not spies of any sort, and then join on the lowest level of the Guard.

Most of the manpower of the Guard is used to combat the Amen-Kathar. Small groups of elves lurk along roads, ambushing caravans. The Riders of the Flame often stage raids into larger settlements, setting fire to them and stealing what would be useful to them. The Amen-Kathar are curiously unable to deal with fire (it is thought that this is because their native swamps had no fires), and as such, fire is one of the most dangerous weapons against them.

A small amount of the Guard are used to protect the refugees from Asernaiar. While most of the ousted elves joined the Phoenix Guard, many elves are too young or too old to be of use. These reside in mobile refugee camps, watched over by several members of the Guard. The elves that cannot fight here do useful things such as gather food and make weapons and armor.

Queen Ambrellis is revered by all members of the Guard. Among many elves of the Guard, who seek to imitate her, it has become customary to die their hair red. This is supported by the Queen, as it adds to the Phoenix imagery. Most elves of the Guard also keep young phoenixes as pets. If they can raise their phoenix to adulthood, as well as achieve a certain rank in the Guard, they are eligible to join the Riders of the Flame. All elves of the Guard aspire to be Riders.

As mentioned before, the training that the members of the Phoenix Guard undergo is twofold. All train in both the art of the sword and the art of the flame. This has led to a great degree of variety within the Guard; all members are unique. Some ignore magic entirely and focus on honing their swordsmanship, while others disdain the sword and become as powerful as they can using magic. Neither extreme is common, most are some combination thereof.

The Guard has become disgusted at the rest of the Alliance for leaving it to die instead of coming and helping. Many prominent members, Queen Ambrellis included, have stated that after the Amen-Kathar is defeated, they will then turn their swords toward the Alliance. The Civilized Lands will be better off under elven leadership. For this reason, the Alliance see them as just as dangerous as the Amen-Kathar. A small force has been sent to New Aldar that call themselves the Hand of the Alliance; their task is to play the various forces off of each other so as to buy time for the Alliance. Due to them, the conflict has most certainly escalated.

One of the main goals of the Guard is to recover the contents of the Library of Asernaiar. This library holds many tomes, ancient and recent, and with the help of the information stored within its halls, they would most certainly be able to defeat the Amen-Kathar. Unfortunately, the library is the second-most heavily guarded building in Asernaiar, after the palace itself. Recently, the Guard have begun to send in undercover strike forces to recover small amounts of books at a time. They have been aided in this, strangely enough, by the Njorlghar under Asernaiar, who certainly aren’t enjoying the rule of the Amen-Kathar. That the elves plan to exterminate the Njorlghar as soon as they retake Asernaiar appears to be immaterial.

Important Members of the Phoenix Guard:

Queen Ambrellis Dawnsong is the leader of the Phoenix Guard. She is a racist and xenophobe of the worst kind. She believes heavily in Elven superiority, and her beliefs have only been strengthened by being kicked out of her country. She regards her sister, Ellesmera, as a fool, and an impure fool at that (Ellesmera is a half-elf). Ambrellis has green eyes and red hair, which is odd for an elf.

Ambrellis is very intelligent. The phoenix symbolism was her idea, as well as the phoenix riding and pretty much all the stuff involving phoenixes. She is the head of the Riders of the Flame, and the fiercest warrior of them all. She rides a massive phoenix, whose name Silvertail, named for the odd patterns of silver feathers in her tail, rare for a phoenix. Ambrellis uses a lance of pure mithril which has had many enchantments placed upon it. On the ground, she fights with twin longswords. She wears mithril mail that has been colored gold, and wears a long, flowing gold cloak, the only member of the Phoenix Guard to do so. Her helmet is mithril as well, with a plume of red phoenix feathers to distinguish her as a Rider of the Flame.

Ambrellis, as well as being one of the most powerful warriors of the guard, is also one of their best researchers. On the night of the attack on Asernaiar, she managed to smuggle a book on phoenixes out of the library, it is from this book that she has drawn all her information on phoenixes. Apparently, they keep growing essentially forever, although magic will not speed their growth past a certain point. Ambrellis is very enthusiastic about this, as she sees a giant phoenix as basically the ultimate weapon.

General Nalathan Treebark is the second-in-command of the Phoenix Guard. He is the general of the ground forces (he gets sick when he spends too much time in the air). Nalathan is massive for an elf, standing several inches over six feet tall, and being incredibly strong. He has long black hair, which he refuses to die red as so many of his men are doing, and blue eyes. Two long scars run down his cheeks. Nalathan has a habit of threading phoenix feathers into his hair, something many of his men have imitated. He has considered doing this with the bones of his enemies as well, but the bone of the Amen-Kathar are kind of cartilaginous and incredibly slimy. He doesn’t want that crap touching his hair.

Nalathan is a true brute. In battle, he fights with a gigantic halberd. He is capable of holding off entire armies for several minutes, simply by going berserk with his halberd. His favorite method of killing is decapitation, which is, according to him, incredibly fun to do from ten feet away. He is one of the only members of the Phoenix Guard who has been known to take on a Narathi solo and live. He has, in fact, a collection of the heads of his enemies that he carries around with him. Chief among this collection is a gigantic Narathi head that he refers to as “Big Joey McTentacleface”. The head seems to have belonged to a Narathi a full eighteen feet tall.

There is much gossip about the relationship between Nalathan and Ambrellis. Many have said (or at least implied) that they are lovers, but none know if this is true or not. What is known is that Nalathan keeps incredibly close to Ambrellis whenever he is near her, and has saved her life on multiple occasions. Nalathan has pledged that he will slay Larad and add his head to his collection. We’re not entirely sure how this is going to work out for him.

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