It is a dark world, a mirror of our own trapped in never ending warfare. The human race has managed to hold its ground in a small, secure land against the forces of chaos and darkness that threaten to conquer, shatter, and devour every remnant of civilization. Two other races stand with them; the Elves and Dwarves, though relations between the three Races of Law – and amongst themselves – are limited and often strained. The elven subraces, especially, do not get along well with each other, and one, the U_mathi, is openly at war with the other three.
The Races of Law are not without their weapons and defenses. Their lands are strategic and well defended by natural boundaries. With determination and will they have built their lands into strongholds as well as great centers of culture. The three paths of Philosophy, Discipline, and Theurgy serve the nations well and they have developed mighty spells to wield in battle and great engines of war, and their service to their gods is rewarded with protection, guidance and ultimately peace in death.
Philosophy on Tarthus is highly varied; the two main branches are Magick and Science. Philosophy is very powerful, and there may be no limit to what the mightiest casters can achieve, but it is also unpredictable and can backlash, having dire consequences.
There are many schools and styles of magick, from the Elementalism of the Varians to the Enochian angel magick of Pax Dei; from the Kinteticism of the Ofaethim to the Necromancy of the U_mathi. Magick of any kind binds inherent occult powers of the cosmos to the caster’s will. By using powerful symbols, runes, and glyphs; incantations and words of power; gestures which unlock the energy around them; and substances with magick properties the wizard is able to channel tides of magick through themselves and change the world around them.
Discipline is the practice and development of inner power. It is not as difficult or dangerous as Philosohpy but neither is it as powerful. Nevertheless the reliability of the path as well as the lack of requirements make it dangerous to underestimate. While a wizard silenced and with hands bound is nearly powerless, they only way to stop a Disciple is the render them unconscious. It is practiced various martial traditions, such as the Templars of Pax Dei and the Budokai of the Ofaethim.
Science in this world is essentially Alchemy and Engineering. Alchemy is the process of creating substances and potions from other substances. Engineering manifests as steampunk and clockwork, machines of war and building; mainly it is practiced by the Dwarves and the humans of the Varian Republic. Medicine is also growing but limited mostly to first aid and minor surgery.
The gods of Tarthus are very real, and grant their acolytes blessings and powers that they may better serve their masters. Some are distant, like the Cantos Luminas of the Domine. Others, like the Totems of the Ululo can be very involved, appearing in dreams and visions or even in waking life. All gods make demands, including sacrifice, vows, pilgrimage, evangelism and other ways to either serve the cause or simply show loyalty and obedience.
The Seven Nations: Varia, Pax Dei, Choson, Domine, Ululo, Ofaethim, Duegar
Humanity is mostly divided into four peoples, three of whom are considered “civilized” and members of the Seven Nations; and depending on how you look at it, protected or imprisoned by the natural boundaries of their lands. They have defended their lands successfully for centuries, and sometimes warred with each other when the threat of the outside world receded and men began to forget that only together can they stand. All attempts to expand have been failures; the Orog own the lands beyond Apophis and Typhon as well as the seas beyond the Devil_s Teeth.
The empire of Pax Dei was for centuries the most powerful human nation. They are devoutly religious people of the Ecclesia Sol Invictus, the Church of the Unconquered Sun, a hierarchical and deeply secretive order. They take a view of themselves as the leaders of mankind, and their protectors, even at times their judges. Their society is very regimented; the Emperor; Imperator Ourannous, is head of the church, state, and army. The government and church are one entity, and every soldier is required to take spiritual vows; the highest ranking soldiers are the Templars, holy warriors granted power by the Saviour. Priests use their spiritual gifts to find and banish evil, battle the powers of darkness, and unify and defend their flock. The Witchfinders of Manus Dei are the eyes and ears of mother Church wherever they are needed. And the Enochian Sorcerers use ancient texts to command the angelic servants of the Creator, learn His secrets, and sway the minds of men.
The culture resembles both Classical Rome and the Holy Roman Empire; a vast Theocracy which believes it is the center of human culture and destiny. Their architecture is filled with ornate statues and giant columns, and incredibly elaborate, many-spired cathedrals. In the cities, at least; the small towns and villages of Pax Dei are heavily taxed and very poor, which means they are difficult to defend from Vilgoth raids, and breeds discontent and strife among the subjects.
Liberty, Unity, Equality : this is the battle cry of the Varians. Nearly a hundred years ago they fought for their independence from Pax Dei and the Ecclesia Sol Invictus, and relations between the two peoples are still very strained. Much blood was shed during the war; many Varian villages were burned wholesale, and nobles and church leaders of Pax Dei, and their families, were put to death by Varians. The leaders of Pax Dei do acknowledge the Varian Independence – they had no choice – but treat it as superficial, calling it “The Rebellion”, since truly all lands belong to the Creator and his Church. The subjects of Pax Dei often see the Varians as lazy or immoral, leaving Mother Church because they desire a decadent lifestyle.
But this is far from the truth. The Varian Rebirth was started by a group of philosophers, artists, and scientists who saw the bureaucracy of Mother Church as stifling mankind’s potential for a more just society. Predominantly they are still believers in Sol Invictus, but do not acknowledge the Ecclesian Church, or Imperator Ourannous’, authority. Citizens of the Republic are all free to live and worship as they please; though in truth anything besides Sol Invictus is highly frowned upon. The old animistic religion does survive in some poorer areas of the land, and some intellectuals follow obscure religions, even those of other races. They are also by far the most scientifically advanced human culture, and owe much of this to their trade with the Dwarves. It’s possible that without Dwarven technology they never would have gained their independence.
Culturally they are similar to Enlightenment Europe and revolutionary America. They are much poorer than Pax Dei but have a strong work ethic and are dedicated to civil rights and justice. They have no king or nobility; the Preceptor, right now Calron, but whose term is almost up, makes executive decisions and is freely elected every ten years. The Oligarchy consists of important members of each community; intellectuals, religious leaders, old war heroes, and wealthy merchants; they handle day-to-day administration of the country.
The Choson Empire
To the south of the Iapetus Sea and bordered by the lands of the Ofaethim and the Cliffs of Gold lies the Choson Empire. A highly ritualized and patriarchal society, they are above all concerned with social and spiritual harmony. What this amounts to often seems to other peoples as a harsh and rigid society in which anyone who doesn’t fall into place is ostracized, exiled, or executed. While Varia does not always live up to her promises, and Pax Dei is a land of ruler and subject , Choson is carried on the backs of slaves. There are an estimated 10 slaves and two peasants for each citizen, and even they are hardly free. The capital city alone has over 100, 000 slaves.
The Son of Heaven Zhao Fei is said to be immortal, having first unified their people in a war against the Ofaethim millenia ago, though no one outside of his Court ever sees him. Their conflicts with Pax Dei have been limited due to the threat of Orog overrunning the Devil_s Teeth; without both kingdoms to guard the pass it would quickly fall.
Culturally similar to the classic empires of Asia. Their power mostly follows two schools; the Dragon School practices a fighting discipline similar to the Budokai of the Ofaethim. The Phoenix School is made up of Astrologers and [[Scholars] who use study of nature to learn powerful secrets. Sages are the holy men of Choson, and the religion, [[T’iendao]] is centered around worship of ancestors and the Son of Heaven, nature spirits and the Celestial Court. Like Pax Dei they seem to have little interest in science beyond engineering weapons of war, though nobles often use ornate clockwork inventions to entertain guests, and the astrologers have observatories.
Ruling the wild lands to the northeast of Pax Dei are the Vilgoth, a diverse nation of barbarian tribes who raid Pax Dei villages but also protect the coast from Orog warships. They are the only humans capable of sailing the open ocean ruled by the Orog; they are also the best horsemen in the known world. Many battles would have been lost without Vilgoth cavalry, but relations with ‘civilized’ peoples are strained during times of peace. In truth the Vilgoth are highly varied, and some tribes are indeed bloodthirsty raiders, and others merely free-spirited hunters and farmers. They war among themselves as well, which may be the only reason Pax Dei hasn’t burned many times over. They are polytheistic nature worshipers.
Far to the north of Pax Dei at the Cliffs of Glass live the Dominé, aloof and monotheistic. They have had great influence on the people of Pax Dei, and their religion, the Cantos Luminas, is the basis of Sol Invictus. Their temple-fortresses are carved from the Cliffs themselves, high above the plains and nearly impregnable.
Like all elves they are possessed of an unearthly beauty. Their skin is white, not pale but snow-white. Their hair and eyes are either white, gray, or black, and they tend to dress in the same colors, with occasional gold or silver jewelry. They consider the Ofaethim and Ululo to be immature and uncivilized, mankind at best a beloved pet and at worst a pest. Their relation with the Dwarves is one of stony, frigid non-communication. Millenia ago the two races warred and the Dwarves won easily, shaming the Domine before the other races. The tension is not lessoned by the fact that the Dwarves are trade partners with Varia – a thumb in the eye to Pax Dei, the Domine’s only human ally.
Their Empyerans practice weather and mind magick, and are gifted with space-bending abilities; most Domine can hover or fly, and transport objects through space. Their faith is similar to Sol Invictus but not based on salvation, merely piety, purity, and heirarchy.
Ululo (yoo-loo-loh), or Wild Elves
To the southeast of Typhon and Apophis lies the great Umbrian Forest, oldest and largest in the known world. Deep within live the Ululo, as wild as their homeland. The Ululo are nature worshipers, nomadic and proud. They follow many Totems; some on a personal level, while other Totems are served by the whole race, or a given tribe or tradition. They vary in appearance, beginning with the normal elven look but many take on characteristics of their Totem as they age or gain in power – either temporarily as an effect (for instance growing claws for combat) or permanently (cat eyes, or feathers in the hair).
Most Ululo stay away from excessive personal wealth, believing it hinders movement and spiritual growth. They are terrible in battle, calling on the powers of nature and their allies within; animals, nature spirits, and ancient magical beasts. They have little interest in science for the most part, although those that interact more with human nations learn to respect it. They love life, and live for celebration, family, and simple pleasures. Each tribe is led by the High Shaman, the oldest and most powerful among them, as well as a council of elders. Each member of the tribe, while very free on a day to day basis, is expected to fulfill their role and place according to the spirits and elders; shirking one’s duties can bring great shame onto one’s family.
Their relation with humans varies; where the humans clear forest and change the land they often come into conflict. For the most part they are on friendly terms, however; Ululo lands border those of the Orog and they know the lesser evil. They get along well with Ofaethim but cannot stand the Domine, whose rigid society and cold ways disgust them. They are on neutral ground with the Dwarves, and rarely meet.
Ofaethim (oh-fay-uh-theme), or Phoenix Elves
To the south of the Choson empire live the half-mad Ofaethim. Having long ago learned the art of channeling the elements through their body, it is said the fire has touched their souls. A typical Ofaethim has multicolored hair of some mad style; spikes, mohawk, dreadlocks, etc, eyes of different color, mismatched clothing, piercings, tattoos, and an all-too-excited grin. Their power is almost solely devoted to Budo, learning to channel energy through martial arts. Their priests, called Summoners worship bizarre elemental gods. They are curious and frenetic,but not foolish. Many foes have underestimated their energy for naiveté or barbarism and have had entire armies reduced to ash. They build huge stone cities full of towers and pyramids, and there are always arenas for trial combat.
U_mathi (ooh-moth-ee), or Dust Elves
Not much is known of the Dust Elves. Long ago separated from their brothers and sisters, they became addicted to death magick and have long been enemies to all races. Over a thousand years ago the other three Athar banded together to finally wipe them from the surface of Tarthus. They succeeded to a point, obliterating their kingdom and leaving only the dead city of Everscar as a testament of what had happened. But while they are rare, the U’mathi survive underground, in caves beneath the mountains and beyond.
The Duegar (dway-gar), or Dwarves
The Dwarves are a dying race. Created according to legend to resist corruption in all its forms, they have been unable to adapt to a changing world. Their war with the Orog has gone on for millenia, and has been one of attrition. Unfortunately the Orog breed much faster, and despite the valiance of the Dwarves their once proud nation has been reduced to a single city-state, Tyrheim, their ancient capital. Their society is divided into four clans, each serving a different purpose in building, crafting, and waging war. Their gods are the Regnir, five warrior gods who they say created them; their power involves working, shaping, and creating materials and tools and weapons; mighty Runesmiths can create weapons from thin air or turn the enemies’ into rust.
Hammerclash are the ironworkers and primary soldiers of the Duegar.
Stoneheart are the stoneworkers, priests and builders of the clans.
Glittervein mine and work precious metals and gems; they are the merchants and politicians.
Starforge are scientists and inventors, creating weapons of war and studying the heavens.
The world however belongs to the Orog, or seems to at least. Orog is the collective name for the orcs and goblins, trolls and ogres that rule the vast plains south of Apophis and Typhon, the lands beyond the Athar on all sides except north of the Domine, and the entire ocean. They are brutal and bloodthirsty, attacking cities and villages seemingly only for the joy of it, never making demands, never taking prisoners, never surrendering. Their dark, oily green skin and bloodshot yellow eyes are the stuff of nightmare to human children. Mankind has never been able to expand beyond their borders; Imperators of Pax Dei have tried in the past, and committed vast armies, but the Orog numbers seem endless. And while they are savage they are not stupid and wield their own Power and engines of war. What’s more it seems that however well the land is guarded raiding parties (at least) and even the occasional army manage to slip through mankind’s defenses and burn and pillage before eventually being stopped.