Welcome to . . . The Twilight -- oh, wait! Wrong world! ;D
Welcome to the Forbidden Zone, on the Eastern Shore of the Ardariyn Sea.
The Forbidden Zone is bordered on three sides by large bodies of water: The Ardariyn Sea to the West, the Dead Sea to the North, and the Wilgilan Sea to the East. South is a desert land that no one knows too much about.
The Lutchans have explored the majority of the land in between the glacier-frozen north and the Dead Sea and report: The rivers flowing into the northern part of the Dead Sea carry much silt and form deltas, sandbars, and lagoons along the generally low and sandy northern coast. The southern coast is steep and rocky. The Dead Sea has two layers of water of different densities. The heavily saline bottom layer has little movement and contains hydrogen sulfide; it has no marine life. The top layer, much less saline and richer in fish, flows in a counterclockwise direction around the sea. There is little tidal action. (hence its name)
The land between the glacier and the Dead Sea is perpetually frozen. The tundra is uninhabited. The frigid cold and dry climate is incapable of supporting human life. The Dead Sea is also left strictly alone due to its treacherous coasts and unpredictable weather patterns.
The landmass itself is forbidding in appearance because of the white-capped mountains and constant cloud-cover. The mountains form a complete ring around the almost-rectangular tract of land, covered in snow in all seasons and generally fearsome. Clouds hide the tips of the mountains from view. Sudden storms lash the mountainsides with thunder and lightning, the clouds turning from a balmy, peaceful, white, to a dark, angry, gray, in the blink of an eye.
The coastline, adjacent to any of the three seas, is treacherously rocky, with submerged rocks, illusory depths, unpredictable currents, and sudden storms. The Northern Servaians are notoriously inquisitive. They find the Forbidden Zone a delectable puzzle and irresitable challeng. They lose ships every year on the coast. The ships sail towards the Forbidden Zone, disappear into the enshrouding mists, and never reappear again.
The Forbidden Zone is an ancient place, there long before even the Servaians begn to write down their history. There is a vague legend told amongst the faithful, that there was once a mortal who tried to set himself up amongst the gods, to challenge the Goddess herself over rulership of Heaven. She smote him down, but could not kill him, deciding to imprison him within the encircling mountains. The storms are their constant battles. It is said that if the Evil One should break free, disaster and chaos would destroy the world. And of course, the prayers of the faithful give the Goddess strength and would keep that from happening. But, for the most part, Servaians don't give the Forbidden Zone much thought.
Lutchans live in perpetual fear of the Forbidden Zone. The unwary are often caught in one of the many storms and dashed to their deaths upon the coasts. The currents between the eastern coast of Lutchan and the Forbidden Zone change patterns nearly daily, making the trip up to the capitol city perilous, even without the storms. It is said that when mist covers the shores of the Forbidden Zone, the dead can walk the earth once more. Certainly, eerie sounds have often been heard, echoing out from the mist along the sea. The King of Lutchan appreciates the rumors and the dangers as one of his city's best defenses, but he is not the only one to lay awake at night, for fear of his life when the howls and screams of the dead can be heard.
And now, the Rest of the Story . . . .
To the inhabitants of the Forbidden Zone, the rest of the world is only a vague memory. They believe they are the only ones left after an earth-shattering cataclsym which threw up the mountains around them and swallowed the rest of the world. They believe, however, that one day the gods will send them a messenger, a prophet, to lead them back into the paradise they'd been torn away from so many centuries before. But as the centuries have passed, the people have begun to lose hope.
The mountains do border the land of Faery. The storms, however they appear from "outside" seldom penetrate into the "inside." The inhabitants enjoy a land in complete peace with one another, the intelligent and semi-intelligent, species cooperating (or at the least not working against) every other species. The center of the thick mountains is the wondrous Valley of Eternal Spring, within which is a lake known as the Heart of Faery. Only the purest of creatures may enter within the valley.
Living within the mountains is a short, and short-lived, race of people who call themselves Fyhanni ("fie-on-he"), or "The People." They are the only humanoid species within Faery. They have no name for their country; it is simply the world, all that exists. Their lives only span about 30 years, with 35 seeming ancient, and 25 average. Males reach adulthood at 10 or 11, females around 7 or 8. They remember having a much longer life-span, but they only know that their lives were changed dramatically by the cataclysm. Physically, they are very strong and agile, able to scamper up bare cliffs by the power of their arms alone, or give spectacular leaps from peak to peak.
They assemble in tribes, which contain between five and ten family groups. Children are few, so each new birth is extremely important to the survival of the tribe. Tribes are led by the tribal leader, the best warrior within the unit. The next step down in tribal hierarchy is the shaman (a holy man who intercedes with the gods), followed by the medicine man/whoman, and the rest of the hunters. Sometimes, the shaman and the medicine man/woman is the same person. Since everyone but the very old, the very young, and the ill, hunt, everyone has status within the tribe.
Contrary to the rest of the inhabitants of Faery, the Fyhanni worship a set of gods, not too unlike the rest of the world. They believe that each person is selected by a particular god who watches over them and guides them throughout their lives. Most people do not have significant, life-altering experiences, but when they happen, it is believed that their particular god will send them a sign to show them the way. Their chief deity is Wasatore (not "wuz" but "was-ah-tor-aye"), God of Thunder and Lightning, Bringer of Storms, the Thunder God. Only shamans are chosen by this god. The life of a shaman is very difficult, filled with many challenges. When Lightning is spotted, or the People hear thunder, they all fall upon their knees, facing the Thunder God, bowing their heads in supplication. Only a shaman is allowed to look at the face of God, so that he/she might hear and understand better the words of God and thus spread his message to the tribe.
Ordinary people are chosen by one of the four other gods: Voraena ("Vo-rain-uh"), Goddess of the Air; Hobiyu ("Ho-bee-you"), God of the Earth; Utu ("ooh-two"), Goddess of Fire; and Qiren ("Core-in"), God of the Rain.
Every child, in order to become an adult, must go out on a vision quest, so that their god might reveal him/herself to the young Fyhanni and give them their spirit guide, usually some form of animal or plant-life which will always have a special meaning to that person and allow the God/Goddess to give the person a sign, should that become necessary. Generally, the vision the semi-adult sees is their god in the shape of their spririt guide. They might be given a special task or entrusted with a secret or perhaps just wished a happy and fulfilling life. Shamans are slightly different. There is usually only ever one in a tribe. The birth of a Shaman is a particularly joyous event, bringing the tribe especial good luck and blessings. It is believed that shamans are children of the gods, sent to guide their people along the spiritual path of their lives. Shamans are entrusted special powers and must go on an extended vision quest and trial to prove themselves worthy.
Life high up in the mountains has endowed the Fyhanni an almost supernatural surefootedness and agility and an uncanny ability to stay one step ahead of natural disasters. Their sharply pointed ears are also quick to catch anything out of the ordinary, adding to their "sixth sense" of danger. Magic is as real to all the peoples of Faery as eating, drinking, or sleeping, and comes as naturally as breathing. This ethereal quality gives the Fyhanni a youthfulness and enthusiasm lacking to other creatures of Faery. Fyhanni resemble children, up to the last few days of life, when age and its frailities finally catch up. They have physical grace but also delight in natural beauty: the wonders of the phenomenal land in which they live.
Most magic occurs without the person even being consciously aware of doing anything. For instance, someone chosen by Utu can keep fires burning even in the midst of a downpour, or someone chosen by Qiren can always find water, even if there is a drought. They have a special affinity to the Ki'ehun ("key-un"), the birdmen who share the hieghts, often allying with them to solve particularly tough situations such as a cave-in or landslide or other disaster.
The Ki'ehun are the only race of Faery to acknowledge the "gifts" of the Fyhanni as magic. The Ki'ehun find the Fyhanni endlessly fascinating. The Ki'ehun are an ancient race that is slowly dying. Fewer children are born than die every year. They are a sad people, who long ago forsaw their own extinction, for they are Seers: they peer into the future, where no one else in Faery dares to go.
The Fyhanni cluster in the western mountains, while the Ki'ehun are widely scattered. The Ki'ehun are alone in claiming the eastern ranges. The mountains to the east are impenetrable, except to the Ki'ehun. The peoples of Faery have their own reasons for doing so, but the Fyhanni believe they are expressly forbidden to even venture close to the east. Rarely do they pass beyond the Heart of Faery.
Other inhabitants of Faery include: gnomes (think garden gnomes), pixies, unicorns (no pegusus), nymphs, satyrs, mermaids (in the Heart), leprechauns (no elves, as we know them), centaurs, and more which I'll add later as I think of them. If you think of a race which ought to belong in Faery, drop me a note!