Tales From the Fallen Empire
People of the Fallen Empires
The people of Tir Domhain (simply known as the Domha) share many similarities with the jungle-born natives of Najambi. Once amongst the enslaved humans brought from Ateva during the First Age, the Domha were left in the west to work as laborers to tend the farms, slaughter livestock, and see to the needs of the nightmarish Sidhe.
Tir Domhain is a wondrous land filled with beautiful forests, rolling hills, high mountains, crystal clear lakes, and an abundance of fertile soil. During the rebellion of the First Age against the forces of the Atevan emperor, the tribes raised arms against the occupation and, with the assistance of the Aesir and the Sidhe, helped drive the forces of the First Men from the west. At the end of the First Age, the Domha returned to their homes and communities to rebuild while other nations began to build new kingdoms from the ashes of the old empire.
The true descendants of the Atevan First Men, the Barbarians of Karthis stand strong with the resolve of their ancestors. At the end of the First Age, when the great armies of Ithmyrr were pushed back behind its borders, many Atevans remained in the formally occupied lands. Seeing through the Dragon’s deception and control of their people, many soldiers stayed behind, denouncing their people, their heritage, and most of all the Dragons.
These deserters were decreed exiled by the Emperor. Soon, the families of the exiled who remained behind were forced from Ithmyrr and sent to live outside the borders in shame. Many took to the mountains in the northwest to re-establish life away from the Empire. These exiled Atevans found safety alongside the human settlers and runaway slaves who also traveled to the mountains of Karthis to regain freedom after the war. Over the years, the Atevans mingled and intermarried with the humans to finally create a new society and culture. The men and women of Karthis still carry the large stature and builds of their Atevan ancestors with dark hair, dark eyes, and swarthy skin. Those who have interbred with the Aesir tend to be fairer of hair and skin, but the dark Atevan eyes are always prominent.
The Haan is the name given to the barbarian horsemen of the Khazakhaan. These men and women chose to live as nomads away from the citizens of the Zhou Dynasty. Labeled political radicals and thieves, the Haan people were exiled to the plains where they have lived life as hunters and foragers. The Haan are a people short in stature like the Zhou, but tend to be more developed and muscular from years of harder living conditions. The average Haan tribesman wears his long dark hair tied in braids. Men tend to favor facial hair (for those who can grow it), and both sexes like to incorporate beads, bone, and colored twine into their coifs. The Haan have dark eyes (although eyes of jade have been seen from generation to generation and is looked upon as good fortune to the child’s family), and earthy-toned skin. The Haan dress in rugged clothing made from the skins of the animals they hunt. While the Haan attempt to be self-sufficient, they tend to trade occasionally with the people of Karthis for superior weapons or the people of Kesh for staples and other goods.
The inscrutable Zhou of the Jade Empire, once mystical advisors to the throne of Ithmyrr, sit quietly at the world’s edge, shrouded in mystery and enveloped by enigma. The Zhou not only share their heritage and ancestry with the Atevan First Men, but are one in the same. In their home realm of Ateva, political and social boundaries separate those who not born into the royal houses. The Zhou served as advisors, councilors, and court magicians to the noble Atevans.
After the Dragons transplanted the Atevan armies to Leviathan during the First Age, the people of Zhou were brought to fight alongside the First Men. When the Great War had finished and the Empire of Ithmyrr dominated almost all lands, the Zhou were forced back into their roles of servitude. It was during the rebellion of men against the Ithmyrran Empire that the Zhou chose self-exile and left to form their own nation.
Under the leadership of a royal scribe, Long Wei (later to become the first Jade Emperor) led the people of Zhou to the lands south of Ithmyrr. Here, he expected a battle to keep the freedom he had won, but the battle never came. The Ithmyrran Empire closed their trade routes, closed off relations with the world, and constructed walls to border themselves. It was then that Long Wei declared Zhou a nation and eventually an empire. The Zhou share the same physical traits as the First Men; they are taller than most humans, but unlike the Ithmyrrans they are thinner in build and narrower of frame. Their skin is fair compared to the ruddy to dark skin of the people of Ithmyrr and most have midnight black hair and light brown eyes.
The Aesir take pride in not being descendants of the Atevans. They do not claim human ancestry at all. They have looks and common traits of men, but share none of their graces. Legends tell us about the realm known as Ásgarður, a brutal and barren world once inhabited by ice giants and monstrous beasts. It is from this world that the Aesir have come and, through magic, transplanted on the home world of the First Men centuries before the coming of the Dragons. The Aesir are large in stature, standing six and a half to seven feet tall; they have long blond to platinum hair that they wear braided, and the men favor large and festively decorated beards and mustaches. Their skin tones range from a milky white to an almost pale blue color. They are strong and fearless warriors, intimidating and dauntless.
The people of Vuul are not so much a race, but a mish-mash of cultures taken from all corners of Leviathan. In the Second Age, Vuul was to be the great enlightened state of the Empire. The Sorcerer Queen sent messengers throughout the nations of the great continent with the offer of freedom and amnesty, a new life granted to those who traveled across miles of dangerous desert to Dol Minor’s borders. Within a decade, the land of Vuul had become a melting pot of people occupying its major cities and villages. Before the destruction that was set upon its people, the citizens of Dol Minor shared in the spoils of the Empire’s good fortune and wealth. While Queen Nythura looked at its inhabitants as no more than simpletons and peasants, she used a good amount of her resources on education and furthering the arts and sciences. While she gave this wealth freely to satisfy her own vanity, her contributions to the people made Vuul the center of civilization. Unfortunately, the strength of Dol Minor did not last, and the land along with its people was reduced to ash in the blink of an eye. The holocaust set upon Nythura and her great empire left Vuul nothing more than a sorcery-charred landscape with few survivors to tell the tale. The land has become a shadow of its former greatness at the beginning of the Third Age. The great structures, massive city-states, and temples dedicated to the Dragons decay and crumble in the hot and dry wastelands. To this day, finding an individual in Vuul who is not of mixed blood or heritage is a challenge. The Vuul are varied in their appearances, languages, and customs. If a common trait could be pointed out, a dark swarthy skin tone is due to the brutal heat, unforgiving sun, and oppressive conditions. In the Current Age, the people of Vuul are a fragmented people, scattered by the warlords, despots, and the newly proclaimed Sorcerer Kings populating the two city-states to the north. Most have little say in the quality of their lives as many are forced into servitude to the Sorcerer Kings or warlords. The truly unlucky have succumbed to slavery, Dragon cults, or even worse.
It can be said that Kesh is the second most powerful nation on the face of Urd with its origin closely tied to the former empire of Ithmyrr and the powerful Atevan race. During the First Age in the midst of the Atevan conquest, warlords (and brothers) Nekheny, Asari, and Setesh took to constructing strongholds in the deserts to the south to fortify the land from possible attacks from the southern jungles. Over time, these strongholds (Neter-Aaru, Akert, and Khertet) began to grow into cities, and by the time the Atevans were finally defeated by the armies of the Dragons, Kesh was already a nation unto itself. In the months to come, the brothers were gifted the lands and proclaimed Sorcerer Kings and, in turn, declared themselves gods. Kesh took advantage of its location along the River of Sails and close proximity to the island of Mahajanna (a theocracy controlled by the Dragon Anu) and nation of Zhou by creating major trade ports and forming several merchant guilds to control commerce and trade on a global level. This became a bit of a struggle as Queen Nythura pushed against its borders with armies from Dol Minor, but the Sorcerer Kings of Kesh held their own. With the eventual fall of the Sorcerer Kings at the end of the Second Age, Kesh fell into the hands of the merchant guilds who turned control of the nation over to several trade princes. These princes are said to still take orders from the Sorcerer Kings from beyond the grave, but this rumor holds little truth… or does it?
Najambi has always been considered the savage lands. Even in the First Age when the Atevans settled upon Leviathan’s great corpse, the southern jungles have been a place of danger and the unknown. In the years since, many have traveled to the great jungles looking for the secret behind the world’s creation or have been banished into its dark core. In the First Age, it was the abominable creatures brought from the surrounding realms by the Dragons who were left here to be forgotten. In the Second Age, when the powerful Man-Apes fled the city-state of Uruk, it was this jungle that shortly became their home. Beyond the curtain of wild foliage is a world that has been left untouched by the generations of Atevans, mankind, and other creatures who have had a stake in the world. Primitive man has thrived in the jungles living amongst the great lizards, giant carnivorous beasts, and the other things that man has forgotten. Outside the tribal villages of man are the temples of the Draki, hyper-intelligent lizards who seek to find a passage back from the realm they were torn from by the Dragons, powerful sorcerers who fled the destruction at the end of the Second Age, and the warlike Ooruk who plot against their creators from hidden jungle cities. As humans are a curious race, many have traveled north from the jungles to seek out a new life amongst the “civilized” only to find that those who dwell in the great stone cities are no better than the savage tribes they war with back home. The men and women of Najambi are of average height and weight and, like their cousins in Kesh, have dark hair, eyes, and coal black skin. With the heat of the jungle being oppressive and unbearably humid at times, the Najambi natives find clothing more than a loincloth or simple animal skin uncomfortable.
The folk of the walking market of Shesh were originally (like the Zhou and so many others) slaves of the Atevans in the ancient days of Urd. Descended from the folk who would become the Kesh and the Zhou, they adapted to a nomadic lifestyle in the plateaus and deserts of the far north of Zhou where they worked as herdsmen, horsemen, soothsayers, peddlers, tinkers, and tin miners. They wandered from settlement to settlement in the north, selling their wares and eking out a meager living while avoiding bandits, barbarians, and the hairy Yzgyri-descended giants who settled in the Helviti range and even worse horrors. But that was not to last. The Sheshani came into their own when they found the Lost City of the Horse Goddess at the foot of the Urdhirn and claimed her legacy as their inheritance. The witchborn women of the Sheshani came to power as the new hereditary rulers of their people, claiming that they shared blood with the people of the Horse Goddess and were simply inheriting that which was their birthright. Control over the golems of the Lost City, terrible weapons left over from the First Age, made it hard to argue with this rationale or their meteoric rise as a force to be reckoned with.
The realm of Fel is far and removed from that of Urd. It is a lush and vibrant plane of existence that is home to swamps, jungles, and the lizard-like Draki. It is on Fel that the Dragons enslaved the lizard-folk of Ashael (a moon that circled Fel) and brought them to Urd to fight in the Dragons’ war for dominance. It was the first of the Draki brought to Urd who chronicled the Great War between Leviathan’s children. The Draki were given the task of compiling the vast knowledge of Leviathan and keeping it safely locked away. This repository has been referred to as the Chamber of Whispers, and it is said that only the Draki can call upon its forbidden secrets.
The bestial Ooruk populate most of the southern lands of the untamed jungles of Najambi. The tales of their hatred of man and callous betrayal of the now-fallen City-State of Uruk are legendary. These man-apes are seen as hideous monsters; many mothers use the stories of the Ooruk to keep their children in line, and many a hunter has traveled to the jungles of Najambi to attempt to slay one of the great beasts… only to never be heard from again. There is truth to the Ooruk abandoning their posts while protecting the greatest city in the old empire — they left the city-state in exodus as its people were being devoured by the demonic forces that invaded at the end of the Second Age. Why did such powerful warriors flee when called upon to serve the purpose in which they were created? While unique, the Ooruk can take their place as one of the true native children of Urd.
The realm of Hod is a dark forested world ruled over by powerful entities known as the Sidhe. These monstrous abominations are neither man nor plant, but something more ancient, sinister, and older than the Dragons. The Lords of Hod are perceived as massive sentient trees and it is easier to think of them as such than try to wrap one’s mind around the true horror that stands before them. The Sidhe are tied to the world of Hod in the way a tree’s roots are tied to the earth. Hod supports and nourishes the world and the Sidhe do the same, a symbiotic relationship where both benefit from being entwined. From Hod these terrible Lords draw upon the First God who created the world centuries before and the Sidhe wield magic far more proficiently than any sorcerer. The Sidhe use their power in ways that the great Leviathan himself could never dream.
Ateva was the realm of the First God, jewel of the cosmos, and birthplace of sorcery. The Atevan history is filled with brutal warfare, the creation of horrific war machines, and the worship of barbaric entities sadistic and cruel. The inhabitants of Ateva ruled through fear and manipulation; humankind were no more than animals born to slavery and bred to serve the Atevan lords. Ancient lore tells us that that the entity Ateva, an early god before the beginning of time, created the world in order to hide from the powerful Leviathan. It is from Ateva that the people of the realm draw their arcane power. Ateva and its people live in a symbiotic circle, feeding Ateva the life energy it needs to continue giving life, and in return imbuing its children with great power. The Leviathan who had threatened the First God Ateva from the time of creation wanted more than just the entity’s life-force, Leviathan wanted the complete rule of the realm and its people. Foreseeing Leviathan’s treachery in a vision, one of the imperial sorcerers turned the tides and tricked Leviathan to relinquishing his power. In his weakened state, Leviathan was banished to the void to lick his wounds. However, by focusing such magic at the Great Dragon, the sorcerer also weakened the Emperor and his Templars, and with the Atevan lords now weakened, the humans turned against their masters and fought against the Empire.
Cunning, scheming, and twisted are only a few words to describe the stunted monsters who find home in the long-dead Dragon’s underbelly. The Trul have their origins working the mechanisms deep in the realm of Hul, where they repaired and tended to the god-machine that gave life to the youngest of the realms. In the First Age the Dragon Kht’Thu the Malign used the Trul to gather resources from the dead Dragon’s body and keep stockpile for the war that was to come. The Trul, able to manipulate organic matter, could shape the elements into whatever was needed. When the Dragons were made aware of their ability, the Trul were commissioned to create wondrous bio-mechanical devices, great machines to be used as weapons of mass destruction. After the Atevans finally conquered and occupied the entirety of the realm, the Trul’s weapons were turned against the Atevan armies by the Dragons to defeat the arrogant Empire of Ithmyrr. The misuse of the Trul’s creations caused them to retreat back into Leviathan’s belly and remove themselves from the surface for good; they would no longer use their talents for the surface people’s bloodlust.