Archive for the ‘Setting’ Category

Image credit to RoboSeek.com.

Ryarna is one of the more famous worlds in the Gurhai universe. It is one of the five most magic-rich worlds in the universe, as well as one of the five top technological worlds. The native race are the rarra, who govern the world through the Bardic Collective, a loose guild of bards who keep the peace between rarra, alien visitors, and disembodied spirits that are drawn to Ryarna’s dense magical atmosphere. Ryarna is heavily settled and civilized; because rarra are carnivorous and only protect their important food sources, the world is ecologically simplistic, much of the terrain dry and dusty due to industry and animetal traffic. Ryarna is a hotspot both for magic-workers who wish to train and mechanical tinkerers who wish to study rarran technology; there are many docks and plenty of trade and visitation from other races.

Rarra are bipedal, thin-furred predators who are slightly taller on average than humans. They have almost rabbit-like faces with a single, slender horn on their brows, long and expressive ears, and an upswept mohawk of fur along their skulls. Rarra have short-fingered, paw-like hands and large, clawed, talon-like feet; their legs are powerful, capable of impressive leaps and kicks. Gifted with magic and an inclination to tinker, rarra have melded magical power and steampunk mechanics into a highly-functional, highly-bizarre assortment of machines, robots, vehicles, and tools. Most rarran bits and bobs only work on Ryarna or another high-magic planet, but the mechanical designs are often adapted by other races (notably buthines) for use on normal- or low-magic worlds. All rarra are trained to use some form of magic, and most are educated in a hands-on mechanical trade or a design-oriented engineering field.

Animetals are known throughout the civilized universe as bizarre miracles. They are mechanical animals, comprised of a spirit (usually the ghost of a creature that wasn’t ready to die) and an articulated robotic shell (designed and made by rarran engineers and inventors). The spirit and shell are fused via rarran bardic magic, so that the spirit powers the shell and ‘dies’ when the shell dies. Though they are clearly robots and possess no feathers, fur, scales, or hide (or anything simulating those), animetals behave and live as animals, though some have unusually high intelligence, occasionally approaching sapience. Animetals can be varying sizes, colors/patterns, and animal types. They’re designed to never need actual maintenance, using the fused spirits to keep the shell in working order; heavy damage requires rarran mechanics to repair, however. (There are theories that, given enough time, a spirit can repair even considerable damage to its shell. However, that is a feral attribute and not one easily observed by rarra.) While some animetals have been made on a smaller-than-life scale – a large hunting cat weighing only ten pounds, for example – most animetals are 1:1 or set to a larger scale. Typical animetal shells are made on a 2:1 scale, while custom/display-only/rider shells are often made on a 3:1, 4:1, or 5:1 scale. Large, intelligent animetals are paired with a trained rarran pilot for use as soldiers (S-class animetals, typically with an internal cockpit set in the head or chest) or transportation (T-class animetals, often with an external cockpit and a tow-hitch for a bus or blimp). Animetals have largely replaced “fleshies” in Ryarna’s ecosystem, barring key species to keep the flora healthy and the rarra fed.

Oh, Ykinde. One of my prized worlds, a land of organic magic and dieselpunk technology, the setting of Into Fang Wood. I have done more work on this world than I have on most others, Lavana and Cadora being the exceptions that spring to mind. (Cadora may be introduced in a later blog post, but as I have no current projects set there, it may be some ways down the road.)

Bear with me, as there’s a lot to tell about Ykinde and this post may wind up a little long.

The People

It’s impossible to describe Ykinde without briefly introducing you to its four major intelligent races: Avans, humans, Lupos, and Panthera. Each link will take you to a complete page on their physical capabilities, their castes/classes, and their cultures, but I’ve provided a brief summary below.

Avans are tall, slender, wingless bird-people with round faces and curving beaks. Renowned for their knowledge of and skill with magic, Avans are sophisticated, civilized people whose bright plumage and love of flowing, ornate clothing easily sets them apart from all other Ykindeans. Living under the idea of Beauty in grand and beautiful cities, most Avans are mages or artful warriors, though many are medical scholars, and some few profess to be naturalists. They are mortal enemies of the Lupos, engaged in the Elderwar for centuries running, and relentless in their quest to see the wolf-people vanquished; they are allies with the humans and most Avans are neutral towards the Panthera, although many will fight them alongside Lupos if necessary.

Humans are remarkably average, tail-less, flat-faced people with bare skin and unimpressive bodies. Well-known for their ingenuity and inventiveness, humans tinker with mechanical devices and sort themselves into family-run businesses. Neutral in the Elderwar, they act as merchants and traders to both Lupos and Avans, supplying both races with whatever goods and raw materials are in high demand. One human family enslaved the Panthera Walker tribe as bodyguards and servants, but after the Walkers’ escape from slavery, most humans will kill or seek to capture Panthera on sight. Humans preserve and enforce their neutrality with both Lupos and Avans, straddling the most profitable line of action at all times. Though they are businesspeople first and foremost, dedicated to their family’s trade, humans also study other paths: they are soldiers, medics, witches, or engineers.

Lupos are powerful, furred, tauroid wolf-people with four legs and two arms. A strong and spiritual people, the Lupos live in harmony with the natural world around them, worshiping Father Sun, Mother Moon, Brother Sky, and Sister Earth. Lupos band together in clans, led by a single chieftain and a few betas; many are shamans and braves, while others are healers and rangers. Their tools and weaponry are simple, sturdy, and plain; they have little use for showy luxuries or impractical belongings. They are mortal enemies of the Avans, engaged in the Elderwar for centuries running, and they are tireless in their efforts to defend their land and their people; they are allies with the humans, and most clans are also allied with or neutral towards the Panthera. The Tehar Lupos were the ones to succor the Panthera Walkers when they escaped from human slavery in Royalwood.

Panthera are lithe, agile, feral cat-people with wide faces and rounded ears. Traditionally primitive and nomadic, the Panthera wander Ykinde in tribes, moving as part of the predator-prey cycle as hunters. One particular tribe, the Panthera Walkers, was captured and enslaved by humans; after many years, they escaped and found sanctuary with the Tehar Lupos, rebuilding their tribe and becoming the first stationary band of Panthera Ykinde had ever seen. (The Hunters are the only other non-nomadic Panthera tribe; they are an off-shoot of the Walkers.) Nomadic Panthera have few possessions or tools, but the Walkers and Hunters trade with Lupos and have a similar quality of life. Many are bloodwalkers and spiritwalkers, while others are lifewalkers and beastwalkers. They are enemies of the humans, their former slavers, and allies with the Lupos; they are neutral towards many Avans, but will fight those who attack their wolfish allies.

The Place

Most of Ykinde is fairly temperate, experiencing seasonal changes. The farther north you go, the less lush the land becomes, devolving into sparse deciduous forests, mountains with evergreens, and finally flattened tundras. There is quite a large portion of land that consists mostly of rolling mountains, savannas, and scattered greenery. The coasts are extensive and tend to be quite tropical, except for the northernmost stretches; nearly all of the coastline is well-forested, oftentimes a jungle, and pocked with inlets and small bays that make perfect seaports for the human traders. Both Lupos and Avans prefer to settle in rich lands with many trees; the Lupos keep their lands well-forested to encourage grazing animals, whereas the Avans will clear out patches to build their cities and to farm.

Humans have controlled Ykinde’s economy since the beginning of the Elderwar. They established a basic currency using gems and coins made of precious metals, made prices relative to the buyer’s race, and also established a quality check for items to be bartered, rather than purchased. They trade only with Lupos and Avans, killing or attempting to capture Panthera on sight. Panthera barter goods with Lupos, who barter goods or use currency to trade with humans, who use currency (or very rarely barter) to trade with Avans. Each race has its forte in amassing raw goods and crafting some things: Panthera are skilled leatherworkers, Lupos construct sturdy homes and also are good weaponcrafters, humans invent and create technological gadgets, and Avans are skilled weaponsmiths. All of the races are at least decent at making weaponry and armor, as well as living quarters and other basic tools to survive.

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After introducing The Demon-God of Jubagh, I realized I should probably explain to you just how this crazy universe works. If you want the full, glorious detail, you can look at the mechanics page on the wiki, but I’ll try to give you a good overview here.

Gurhai is a finite universe. Like a geode, it has open space enclosed by an oval shell made of densely-packed organic and mineral detritus. There is a flat layer of sun systems that stretches length-wise in the very center of the shell. There are precisely one hundred worlds in the universe, separated into thirty-five sun systems; similarly, there are exactly one hundred sentient species in the universe, though not evenly distributed as one-per-world. All but two worlds in the universe are round and flat; Airdh (the First World) and Gurhai (the Last World) are the only spherical worlds, and they are at the far ends of the universe, a full year’s travel apart. The suns are mobile and small, weaving or springing between planets in their systems, and there are no actual moons. In the top and bottom halves of the void, which are striated by the layer of worlds, there are creatures unlike any found on the worlds, living on the edges of atmosphere and gravity wells.

Gravitic ore is the glue that holds the universe together; it is a polarized mineral found at the center of a planet’s crust. The polar side has a very strong attraction – gravity – and the non-polar side has a very weak attraction, but does not repel. Gravitic ore is dark and reflective, resembling a cross between hematite and coal anthracite. In addition to producing gravity, gravitic ore also produces the magical energy inherent in each world, similarly polarized; while the strength of gravity varies little between worlds, the magic density fluctuates greatly between planets, going from magic-dry to magic-rich. The polarity of the gravitic ore determines which face of a flat world will become the life-supporting side; the non-polar side will only be strong enough to keep very heavy objects in place, such as rocks and ore. The non-polar face of the world also contains dry ice, which creates the thick, drifting fog that obscures the undersides of the worlds. Gravitic ore can be carefully mined to be placed sparingly in the lowest decks of intersun ships, giving them gravity and a source of magic while they venture into the void between suns. Gravitic ore also constitutes the majority of the materials that comprise the shell of the universe, making it nigh-deadly to approach the rocky barrier; the intense gravity will pull any ships in and smash them against the rocks.

The worlds, as previously mentioned, are mostly flat, round worlds. They support life, have gravity, and produce magical energy only on one face; the other face is rocky, barren, and clouded with mist from dry ice. Worlds vary greatly in magical density, but less so in size; the smallest world is half the diameter of the largest world, and all other worlds range between them. There is a rim of high mountains encircling the entire planet, which keeps creatures, water, and other resources from falling off the edge of the world. Atmosphere is generated by the plant life on each world; it has no defined boundary, but simply gets thinner and weaker as travelers move away from the world, becoming unbreathable eventually. The skies look different on each world; in many cases, one can see the other worlds of the system, if the world faces them; other worlds appear approximately as large as Earth’s moon in the sky.

Travel between the worlds is common. A dozen races design and build their own intersun ships, but the most common by far are Loi ships, halasshian ships, human ships, and buthinian ships. Human and halasshian ships have always had gravity and a source of magical energy, due to being constructed with a very thin layer of gravitic ore in the bottom deck, which also holds the soil, water, and plant life necessary to maintain a breathable atmosphere in the void. Buthinian ships do not have gravity or magic once they leave the planet; Loi ships were the same at first, but many Loi ships are now constructed with gravitic ore in a manner similar to halasshian and human ships. Because gravitic ore is responsible for generating magic, and because magic density varies so drastically between worlds, intersun ships constructed on magic-rich worlds are more prized by most than ships constructed on magic-dry worlds. Intersun ships are shaped and built much like water-going ships, complete with a keel, multiple deck layers, an outer/upper deck, and many sails. All ships have an entire deck or more devoted to flora; once the ship leaves the planet’s atmosphere, all windows and doors are sealed, the upper deck is no longer walked, and the air produced by the plants on-ship keep the passengers alive until they reach the next planet. The universe is not an unbearably large place; fast ships can make the trip from the First World to the Last World in a year, with most sun systems having neighboring suns within a month or two of travel. It generally takes no more than a day to go between worlds in the same system.

Intersun ships do not land on-world once they have launched, since the world’s gravity would smash the vessel into the planet; the people build docks well above the world’s surface, where the pull of gravity is weaker, where the large ships can load and unload their passengers and cargo. Smaller boats without gravitic ore can make the trip between planet surface and intersun dock to transfer people and items. The hovering intersun docks are maintained via magical or mechanical means, depending on the world in question and the technology/magic level of the people who maintain the docks; the on-world boats that travel between dock and world are powered in the same fashion. Intersun ships themselves use a combination of magic, machinery, and void winds to move; the former two are what enable the ships to navigate within atmosphere or when close to worlds, but when between sun systems, the void winds propel the ships. Void winds are present everywhere near the layer of worlds in the universe, but they are not breathable by any world-dwelling creature; void winds are usually strong, can crop up into gale-force storms, and can occasionally die out and leave a ship idling in the darkness for a while.

Until I do a post on Gurhai energies, have some complimentary nachos and references on qki and magic, the Light and its workers, human magic classes, and general magic classes.

The Tri-System itself is the solar system in which Lavana resides; it consists of three planets (hence the name), two moons, and an aging yellow star much like Earth’s own sun. The Tri-System is very unusual in the fact that the planets do not orbit the sun separately, and the moons do not orbit any one planet. As lore goes, a highly advanced race of beings, simply called the Creators, are responsible for making not only all life on the worlds, but also the solar system itself. So, it’s their ‘fault’ that the planets wound up too close to each other to resist one another’s gravitational pulls: all three planets, with the two moons in the middle of the mess, orbit each other in one massive battle of gravity, even as they swing elliptically around the sun. So, even at night, even when the moons aren’t visible, one planet or another is usually seen hanging heavily in the darkened sky.

The star is called Ghrayu, the name given by Nila ages ago and adopted by nearly all other races; it appears orange and huge in the skies. The larger of the two moons is Veron, a silvery-blue orb that hangs very close to Lavana’s surface; the smaller of the two is Xerachin, which appears copper-colored and, being farther from Lavana than Veron, is often partially eclipsed by the larger moon. The largest of the planets is Lavana, which we’ll discuss more in a moment; the other two are Terole – the smallest planet – and Shakala. Terole is the planet that stays closest to Ghrayu; it appears rust-colored or tawny and is a barren desert on the surface, only capable of supporting unprotected life in a strip along the Tropic of Nankampi. Shakala is the planet farthest from Ghrayu; it appears pearly-white and is a snowy wasteland, though a small handful of creatures do live in the midst of blizzards and glaciers.

Lavana is a beautiful world whose surface appeal belies a vicious and deadly ecology. With pale violet skies and rosy clouds that darken to greyed red-purples when heavy with rainstorms and deep violets when filled with snow, Lavana seems like a child’s fantasy world. While most of the trees have grey, grey-brown, or brown trunks like those of Earth, leaves are most commonly shades of blue, although purple and green are also very common. Lavana’s two main types of grass are also interesting in hue: short blades of pale blue grass shaped like stiff strings of beads (appropriately called beadgrass) often intermingle with long, wheat-like strands of golden grasses. Seen from Lavana, the sun is fiery gold, Veron silver, and Xerachin ruddy golden; the stars are all the colors of the rainbow. Water is tinted slightly teal-violet, and oceans especially display this rich, vibrant color.

Lavana has two main continents: Handak and Penyns. Penyns is the largest continent: two massive, irregular blocks of land (one in the northern hemisphere and one in the southern) connected by a thick landbridge on the far left (west), a sea invading from the right. Penyns’ northernmost and southernmost points are frosted and covered in snowy tundra, while the rest of the continent has climate appropriate to its distance from the equator, which crosses the lower half of the landbridge. On the opposite side of the world is Handak, second-largest continent and rather ambiguously shaped. While not as east-to-west wide as Penyns, Handak has the same range north-to-south and thus much the same variety of climates, though its terrain is far less mountainous and thickly forested. The few Lavanian deserts are all on Handak, scattered to the north or south of the equator.

Lavana’s only minor continent is southwest of Penyns and southeast of Handak; Honshane (“Refuge” or “Sanctuary”) was discovered in the third millenium during the Dark Wars. Honshane is perhaps the most interesting of the three, for its surface area is likely equal to that of Penyns due to so many huge cave systems networked under rolling mountains, although its amoeba-like shape is only the size of the northern half of Penyns. There are also strange floating islands that drift with the cross-currents of air over Honshane; these can be reached by a Minmon standing on its hind legs, so low they fly, yet none of them ever seem to brush against a mountaintop. Honshane holds untold mysteries and very, very few native inhabitants – but here are a few new species never before seen on the rest of Lavana, as well as the fifth Korat breed, browns.

While Lavana has relatively few continents, it is fairly riddled with islands and island chains. Most chains are near or on the equator, and one of the most famous ones – the Stepping Stones – provides a bridge from Handak’s eastern shore to Penyns’ western, with the largest water-gap between islands only twenty-three miles across. Some of the Stones are a foot or two underwater, but they still provide a way across for Lavanians who have never made boats.

Lavana’s bodies of water don’t attract as much attention as they should, likely because most saltwater is filled with vicious sea monsters that are bigger than many islands. The ocean that stretches from Handak’s eastern shore to Penyns’ western one (which contains the Stepping Stones as well as part of Honshane) is called Vyolit, “Beauty” to those living on its shores. The ocean separating Penyns’ eastern shore from Handak’s western one, a place largely devoid of large islands or even island chains, is called Tiuna, “Fierce” to any who have ever glimpsed the saltwater behemoths underneath its calm surface. The arctic seas (which freeze into glaciers at the poles) are simply called North Sea and South Sea, although they’re large enough to be considered oceans, and the last body of saltwater worth mentioning is the long, narrow sea sandwiched between the two halves of Penyns — Morning Sea, as the sun touches its waters first. While Lavana has no major rivers (comparable to the Mississippi or the Amazon), it does have one delta-marsh-swamp area north of the land bridge on the northern half of Penyns called the Falls. The Falls encompass several thousand acres of land and fill these areas with thick, warm mist that never completely clears and often becomes so dense that one cannot see their nose in front of their face. The Falls are also the birthplace (technically Creation-place) of many of the older but odder species, and rumor holds it to be a strange, mysterious, dangerous area that few voluntarily enter.

Lavana is one of my primary settings for writing and a world I’ve been discovering/developing for over a decade. Storytellers, why don’t you tell me about some of your worlds or settings that are near and dear to you?