Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Signs and Marks

"The giant went towards the village and began to drag his feet. We climbed the cliff of Morning Gorge to see, and found he was encircling the entire settlement in signs, herds and all."
— Kell Nor Haseban, villager 
 Marks protect against evil or unwanted supernatural matters. The most common examples are protective circles against dead spirits and marks against placespirits, but they can also influence mana flow and aspectation.
There are two alphabets. The First Signs were discovered in the first age, soon after the Rise of Light, and are lavish, graphical patterns. The second are the Wild Marks, whose discovery is lost in history; they are shapes of primeval strength. Both alphabets work like natural laws, not cultural endeavours, and were not invented, but discovered. Thus, while First Signs have been in use for millenia and are widely understood, every now and then new Wild Marks can still be found.

"When we were small, we once changed the fifth sign of our least favourite aunt's bedroom protection on one of her dreaded visits... she had to be kept in bonds for three weeks after she gravely injured our grandfather, until a collector came to free her from possession. So I had the signs in my own house laid in steel."
— Marligan, farmer
Unfortunately, signs cannot be made permanent. While placeholders help redrawing signs correctly, they are powerless without proper ritual. Placeholders aid against malevolent or accidental changes, and important signs are laid in steel and stone. There are other limitations to signs; they must be made on stable ground and cannot be drawn on carpets or even ships; they aid but don't offer full protection unless in the most extensive versions.
Aside from professional markmakers, speakers, collectors, and voices make heavy use of signs.

Artist's notes
This article was equally difficult to write as the one about speakers, there are so many details to signs and markmaking. Inventing the alphabets graphically took much preparation and for a long time I wasn't sure if they would be put down at all, but I realized that I wanted to describe them better and use them in paintings sooner or later. They might not be final like this, but for now I'm rather happy with their designs. 

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Family and relations

  • Family is everyone related through blood, and their spouses (grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, siblings, nephews and nieces, children, grandchildren; but not cousins, or the own spouse's siblings). For longlived species, family trees can become insanely large; states with such populations feature laws that put a sensible stop to responsibility for family members.
  • Clan is the family plus all additional blood relations, and members of the household; relations by marriage, adopted children, and permanent guests.
  • A tribe is all clans related by blood or law, the families and clans of all own clan members and their households.
  • The people is all tribes that feel connected by culture, or are considered related by outsiders.

The importance of the communities differs. Settled nomads emphasize family and people, while travelling nomads consider the clan most important. In unsure times and regions every alliance is defended with teeth and claws, in safe times bonds are given up easier.
"I really don't see how I'm obliged to help the thrice-damned Redwater Walkers when we're only related by a distant cousin's adopted daughter's second husband. If we go on like that, I'd be related to half of Lozir, for crying out loud."
— Davoi, clan elder


It's unusual to leave orphans on the streets. Most often they will be adopted by parents of their own species, but that's not a law. Garren will also call their beja parents mother and father and not fuss.
Dwarves are relatively quickly in new homes, even if they need a lot of food, as the timespan they can stay alone at young age is less than half a year, and the damage is harder to heal. Raganaj are harder to house; their needs are great, their growth requires new clothes often, and they always bring a pet, even if only in teenage years. Elves are almost never taken up when the adoptive parents' relationship isn't perfectly fine, there's always the hint it might be a bastard, and their many peculiarities make elves hard to live with (elves are more prone to suffer from prejudice anyway than others).
Speaker children are never alone for long; their group will take them in, if no-one else will.
"Sewing new clothes for Samakadi always was like tentmaking, with her being my height at age six, and I haven't been able to carry her after her third birthday. But she is 'our' daughter, and I could not imagine my life without her."
— Ogrinae Kanraha, dwarf

Artists' notes
There are many fine details to living together that are fun to consider when creating a multi-species world. As there are very few cultures with few or only one species, I had to think about how people marry, how they handle children, if there are more halfbloods than truebloods, what society thinks of halfbreeds, and so on. The main thing though is, all parents love their children regardless of how they came by them, and raganaj parents will love their garren children just as much as their own blood, and this simple notion fixes most problems. Adding that racial prejudice is considered a mental illness, halfbloods may not be many (you'll probably marry so you can have children) but aren't outcasts either. Halfbloods will be detailed in their own article.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014


"If any of my orla pups turns out to be half as good a tracker as Senbror's Gray, I'll make him the father of all my following breeds. Although, their colouring could be more distinct."
— Krinor, orla breeder

Orlas are large warmblooded reptiles, about a meter and forty long including the tail. Their skin is blue with brown stripes; the netorla breed has a netlike pattern, the waterorla breed is greyish blue with a pale belly. All orlas have a small collar and a spiky crest on the head and shoulders. Orlas are fantastic companions for hunting, they're flexible enough to fit into most burrows, they can swim, run, and climb, and so it doesn't matter that they're too quickly fatigued to run down prey. They're friendly and happy to learn, and their favourite treat are the heads of dried amfas. Orlas are quite popular pets, and much friendlier and easier to keep, breed, and train than gubras.
The most known orlas - aside from their queen Asgaan - are the two companions of the wizard Senbror, creator of the famous collar, Gray and Catcher, who are the stuff of legend, and it's the ultimate goal of any breeder to get just one orla like either of those two.

Artists' notes
I imagine orlas to be the frolicking happy kind of companion animal, like the mount of Obi-Wan in Star Wars Episode III, similar to border collies. I've always liked reptiles and have seen them to be quite amiable sometimes, being happy to be scratched and taken care of, and wanted orlas to be just like that. 

Wednesday, 3 December 2014


"Linguists will thank Nuralk forever to have composed poems that can be easily translated into any dialect or language. Beauty and rhyme make it so much easier to remember grammatical rules."
— Etrienne, historian
Languages differ by country. Most people speak dialects of their neighbours, so while travelling, communication is manageable, becoming more difficult with distance. Metropoles like Gamahan are linguistic beacons, with neighbouring cultures speaking their dialect; an educated person knowing a few large cities' dialects can make their way easily.
"One might feel less tricked by the dustship traders if they'd bother to speak comprehensibly. I reckon they could if they wanted, but foreign dialects make the trade more interesting and buyers more willing to let things slide."
— Quoyoh Virn, merchant
The ancient language Sorit is versatile and at times elusive; it's the language of scholars and the elementarians. It is the base of today's languages, and remains visible in names (for example, one translation of Gamahan means "circled land"). The suffix "-han" in country names means "land" and is preceded by the largest tribe's name.
The rhu'khach spoke A'ruhs; the rich calligraphies can be seen on their remaining monuments. Kidin, the slow language of the mountains, trees, and the ocean, is mainly interesting to speakers. Many bards and poets also speak older languages.

Artists' notes
I was long undecided about languages in Genius Loci. They're a knack of mine, but many languages make things confusing and adventures tedious. The lingua franca approach of many fantasy worlds was too simple, too, differing only by race. One language (more or less) that is splintered into many dialects, that can at times be barely comprehensible, seems a good compromise to me. I also spent some time writing down pronounciation.
The picture belongs to Issue #4 of Worldscapes magazine.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

The Fifth Power and Places of Power

The Fifth Power is the energy used to cast spells. A speaker uses her body as a conduit for outside energy, lets it flow through her, forms it with her will, and releases the spell. The Fifth Power will slowly flow back in; this process can be hastened by drawing the right signs onto tongue or throat, or by swallowing substances like clams or potions. Some artifacts can also provide the Fifth Power. Speakers say the flowback feels like a numb limb waking, but in the entire body.
The Fifth Power fluctuates in strength - with the exception that there are no natural powerless zones - but more importantly, it is strongly aspected. Aspects can favour or punish any kind of spell; spells cast on windy days, spellcasters wearing blue, spells that last longer than a day, spells that are cast by raganaj, healing spells, memory spells, or anything else.
"Like this, it can only go wrong. I need three totems, a pound of Fifth clams, a collector's handbook, and someone to dampen the aspects in the forest. Maybe, just maybe, it can still be stopped."
— Vanagram, mage
Places and lines of power are a changeable network of more saturated zones that allow casting without the danger of cataclysmic failure, and are sought out by artifact makers and researchers. Casting along lines of power allows for much greater distances - in case of wizards, sometimes across the continent. Places of power are nearly always marked by standing stones, guarded by either mage or wizard and often safeguarding dangerous artifacts.
"When the new markmaker started, she confused the placeholders and the entire inner building was aspected to favour emotional spells, which kicked all twelve gold fairies right out of the libraries. They threw a tantrum, of course - we were all bandaged for a week."
— Trenorwyl, engineer
Artists' notes
My fiancé invented the name of the Fifth Power - half as a joke - which suited me just fine, as Kitas is governed by the mystical numbers four and five; and between the four elemental energies, plus the spirit as the fifth element, having the will-managed magical power called a fourth or fifth something was great. It remains to be difficult to manage this crucial and complex part of my world - how does each tradition profit from the Fifth Power's strength? 

Tuesday, 18 November 2014


Awlies are a kind of livestock that's popular worldwide. They are large herbivores that never really stop growing but usually are slaughtered by reaching the human knee. Awlies have grey forelegs, chest, and head, a red spot on the forehead and red ear insides. They are easily satisfied and lay about ten small round eggs a day, their soft fur is made into clothing, and the meat is good for eating, although it quickly takes on a sweetly taste. The skin is made into leather or parchment.
Young children love the quiet awlies who happily let them play among them and don't mind them cuddling in the soft fur. Unlike with many other pets, bug fairies don't mind awlies going to the block too much.
"After my second marriage, we became vegetarians, which was good for the children because the awlies would live, and better for the awlies themselves because they grew to my shoulder. Then one night, they broke out of the pen and vanished into the forest. My son swears he still sees them wander by our well."
— Nevenur, farmer
Artists' notes
There is an entire Genius Loci bestiary by now. Animals are so important to fantasy settings - with so much wilderness, there must be wildlife, too, even if awlies better qualify as cattle. I wanted to have as few Earth animals as possible. I'm not entirely decided if there will be any creatures we know at all - for now, there are bears and dogs, but maybe I'll change that.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

The fairy's remark

A short flavour text I wrote, in English (top) and German (below).


"It is also unknown if it produces the pigment itself, or if it gets it from the host. We have no idea what makes this plant tick", she sighed.
"Fantastic", smiled Sagronn. Mirsruun raised her eyebrows inquiringly.
"I thought mages tried to learn everything about the world? Is it not frustrating to encounter so many unexplored things?"
"Not in the slightest. You see, we are convinced that one day we will know everything. And until then, it's simply a lot of fun to learn it all."
Mirsruun smiled, too. In the next hallway, she pointed at a door with a stained-glass window.
"And here the workshop."
The "workshop" was a lavishly furnished greenhouse with a glass roof, filled with well-stocked shelves; at night, hanging mushroom pots would provide light. Pots, tubs, bowls, and basins housed aromatic plants, insects and tiny nature spirits fluttered through wafts of mists. Each piece of furniture was wonderfully adorned with enamel and inlays. Sagronn often had to remind himself that it was perfectly normal for yellowforesters to live as elsewhere kings resided, and put his bag down on the generously decorated desk, while he tried not to gawk too stupidly - he saw six hundred and fourteen different kinds of plants. Then he spotted the pots with the new flower.
He instantly noticed the differences to the plants Mirsruun had suggested comparisons with. The venation was more regular, the pistils were shaped completely different, the petals two thirds heavier, and the stems at least two millimeters thicker.
Mirsruun waited for a moment besides the door of her messy workshop. The mage stared first around the room, then at the pots, apparently forgot about the world, pulled out notepaper and began schematizing it. With somnambulic sureness he drew up a stool with his foot and blindly reached for a scooper. She smiled again and left the room - she doubted he would have heard her, had she explained mealtimes to him.

Sagronn was just describing the average length of the anthers when he ran out of paper. Holding two tiny scoopers, he rummaged around in his bag and found nothing.
"Second drawer from the bottom", a high-pitched voice startled him out of his phrasing. He looked up and found himself eye to eye with a lurking gold fairy. He froze a moment, then slowly put the scoopers back into their accustomed holders. The goldfairy watched and nodded, satisfied.
"Sagronn", Sagronn introduced himself a little more relaxed, "Lair. I am here to inspect the new species." He pointed to the pots, next to which the goldfairy had settled itself cross-legged. He had little experience with goldfairies. This one had painted its legs with a raganaj pattern of fourteen stripes and wore the same clothes as the other employees, except the back was cut low for the wings. It was sixty-three centimeters tall, had a wingspan of sixty-seven centimeters, eleven large feathers on the head - which meant male - and weighed, without clothing, four thousand three hundred and twelve grams.
"Driinan of the Racalla", the fairy said and impatiently waved away a bumblebee. "Second from the bottom. Is it a gaskan?"
Sagronn blinked. In the drawer was a glass box with fifty-six sheets of dry paper, from which he picked up nine.
"No. I think it is either a wild form of the salbreela or a new species. I will have to distill them to say for certain."
"Not this one", Driinan nodded towards the largest, which meanwhile had attracted an almost hand-sized spirit, that was putting on a wobbly race with two bumblebees in the pot's coaster.
"One of the smaller", Sagronn agreed. "Is there an apothecary where I can distill?"
"There is the scentmaster's workshop", Driinan explained while he reached for a sheet of paper. Sagronn had put it aside after a speeding bug had landed in the wet ink.
"It has all the tools. A scentless room as well. There are even clothing hooks - just like here, by the way." He pointed at the hooks, then Sagronn's jacket on the stool. While Sagronn put it up, Driinan's long hands folded the paper into a slim, knife-like shape. Sagronn interestedly observed his precision and strength - four folds were no problem to the fairy's thin arms, and he was only four degrees off the perfect angle. When the foldwork was done, Driinan looked up sharply and pointed towards the door.
"Right, second left, blue door. How are you related to Ralgonkin?"
Sagronn blinked again. Ralgonkin Lair was a famous mage of his tribe and had went missing in the Broken Jaw Rocks here in Racallahan. He called up his family tree before his inner eye.
"My great aunt's husband is his cousin. Do you know him?"
"I know his guide. An untidy fellow. I am not astonished that they never reemerged, and the rocks are circled for good reason."
Then he stood up smoothly, jumped off the desk's ledge and returned to the greenhouse's mists from whence he had come. His takeoff had not moved a single paper on the table. Sagronn could not ask his question: It took nine days to hike around the Broken Jaw Rocks. Protective circles of that size could be counted on both hands. Was it broken, or was it still intact?


"Es ist ebenso unbekannt, ob sie diesen Farbstoff selbst herstellen oder ihn von der Wirtspflanze aufnehmen. Wir haben keine Ahnung wie diese Pflanze tickt", seufzte sie.
"Fantastisch", lächelte Sagronn. Mirsruun zog fragend die Augenbrauen hoch.
"Ich dachte Magier versuchten alles über die Welt zu lernen? Muß es nicht frustrierend sein auf so vieles zu stoßen was ihr nicht kennt?"
"Nicht im Geringsten. Schau - wir sind überzeugt, dass wir eines Tages alles wissen werden. Und bis dahin ist es einfach ein großer Spaß all diese Dinge zu lernen."
Auch Mirsruun lächelte. Im nächsten Gang wies sie auf eine Tür mit farbigem Glasfenster.
"Und hier die Werkstatt."
Die "Werkstatt" war ein reich eingerichtetes Treibhaus mit gläsernem Dach, voller wohlgefüllter Regale; nachts dienten Pilzampeln zur Beleuchtung. Kübel, Becken, Kästen und Töpfe beherbergten die duftenden Pflanzen, durch die Nebelschwaden gaukelten Insekten und winzige Naturgeister. Jedes Möbel war wunderbar mit Lack und Intarsien geschmückt. Sagronn mußte sich oft daran erinnern, dass es für Gelbwälder völlig normal war zu wohnen wie anderswo Könige residierten, und legte seine Arbeitstasche auf dem großzügig mit Einlegarbeiten verzierten Schreibtisch ab, während er sich bemühte die Pracht nicht allzu glotzäugig zu bestaunen - er sah sechshundertvierzehn unterschiedliche Pflanzenarten. Dann entdeckte er die Töpfe mit der neuen Blume.
Ihm fielen sofort die Unterschiede zwischen den Arten auf mit denen Mirsruun ihm Vergleiche vorgeschlagen hatte. Die Äderung war gleichmäßiger, die Stempel völlig anders geformt, die Blütenblätter um zwei Drittel schwerer, die Stengel wenigstens zwei Millimeter dicker.
Mirsruun wartete einen Moment neben der Tür ihres unaufgeräumten Treibhauses. Der Magier starrte erst den Raum, dann die Töpfe an, zog sofort weltvergessen Notizpapier hervor und begann sie zu schematisieren. Mit schlafwandlerischer Sicherheit zog er mit dem Fuß einen Hocker heran und griff blind nach einem Schäufelchen. Sie lächelte wieder und verließ den Raum - sie bezweifelte dass er sie gehört hätte wenn sie ihm die Essenszeiten erklärt hätte.

Sagronn beschrieb gerade die durchschnittliche Länge der Staubbeutel als ihm das Papier ausging. Er wühlte mit zwei winzigen Schäufelchen in der Hand in der Tasche nach und fand nichts.
"Zweite Schublade von unten", schreckte ihn eine hohe Stimme aus seinen Formulierungen. Er blickte auf und fand sich Auge in Auge mit einer lauernden Goldfee. Sagronn erstarrte einen Moment und steckte dann langsam die Schäufelchen in ihre angestammten Behälter am Tischrand. Die Goldfee sah es und nickte zufrieden.
"Sagronn", stellte sich Sagronn etwas entspannter vor, "Lair. Ich bin hier um die neue Art zu untersuchen." Er deutete auf die Töpfe, neben denen die Goldfee sich im Schneidersitz niedergelassen hatte. Er hatte wenig Erfahrung mit Goldfeen. Diese hatte sich die Beine mit einem vierzehnstreifigen Raganajmuster bemalt und trug die gleiche Kleidung wie die anderen Angestellten, aber im Rücken weit um die Flügel ausgeschnitten. Sie war dreiundsechzig Zentimeter groß, hatte eine Flügelspannweite von siebenundsechzig Zentimetern, elf große Federn am Kopf - das bedeutete männlich - und wog ohne Kleidung viertausenddreihundertzwölf Gramm.
"Driinan von den Racalla", antwortete der Feener und wedelte ungeduldig eine Hummel weg. "Zweite von unten. Ist es eine Gaskane?"
Sagronn blinzelte. In der Schublade lagen in einem Glaskasten sechsundfünfzig Blatt trockenes Papier, von denen er neun herausgriff.
"Nein. Ich denke dass es sich entweder um eine eine Wildform der Salbrile handelt oder um eine neue Art. Ich muß sie destillieren um es sicher sagen zu können."
"Nicht diese", nickte Driinan zur größten, die mittlerweile einen fast handlangen Geist angelockt hatte, der sich ein taumeliges Wettrennen mit zwei Hummeln lieferte; als Rennstrecke diente der Topfuntersetzer.
"Eine der kleineren," stimmte Sagronn zu. "Gibt es eine Apotheke zum Destillieren?"
"Es gibt die Werkstatt des Duftmeisters", erklärte Driinan während er ein Blatt Papier heran angelte. Sagronn hatte es beiseite gelegt nachdem ein Käfer schwungvoll in der feuchten Tusche gelandet war. "Dort gibt es alle Werkzeuge. Auch einen duftlosen Raum. Und sogar Kleiderhaken - wie hier übrigens auch." Er zeigte erst darauf und dann auf Sagronns Jacke auf dem Hocker. Während Sagronn sie aufhängte, falteten Driinans lange Hände das Papier in eine schmale Form ähnlich einem Messer. Sagronn beobachtete interessiert die Genauigkeit und Kraft - vier Faltungen waren kein Problem für die dünnen Arme des Feener und er lag nur vier Grad neben dem perfekten Winkel. Als das Faltwerk fertig war, blickte Driinan scharf auf und zeigte zur Tür.
"Rechts, zweiter Gang links, blaue Tür. Wie bist du mit Ralgonkin verwandt?"
Wieder blinzelte Sagronn. Ralgonkin Lair war ein berühmter Magier seines Stamms und hier in Racallahan in den Gebrochener-Kiefer-Felsen verschollen gegangen. Er rief sich seinen Stammbaum vor's innere Auge.
"Der Gatte meiner Großtante ist sein Vetter. Kennst du ihn?"
"Ich kenne seinen Führer. Ein unordentlicher Kerl. Ich wundere mich nicht dass die beiden nie wieder aufgetaucht sind, und die Felsen liegen aus gutem Grund in einem Kreis."
Dann erhob er sich geschmeidig, sprang von der Tischkante hoch und flog zurück in die undurchdringlichen Nebelschwaden des Treibhauses, aus denen er gekommen war. Der Abflug hatte kein einziges Papier auf dem Tisch verrückt. Sagronn konnte seine Frage nicht mehr aussprechen: Die Gebrochener-Kiefer-Felsen waren neun Tage lang zu umrunden. Schutzkreise solcher Größe waren an den Händen abzuzählen. War er gebrochen oder noch wirksam?

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Gold fairies

Gold fairies are creatures around 60 centimeters high with softly feathered wings and long arms. Their colour ranges from pale gold to deep glittering orange. Gold fairies are a little smarter than bug fairies, averaging a ten-year-old; their behaviour is a strange mixture of serenity and ferocity, and narrow-minded folk often dislike them.
"I am here to keep order. You must follow this shelf plan. Everything depends on order. Your foolish assistant learned this is no joke to me, no? So follow."
— Adnad, gold fairy
They keep to themselves, and live in either open nature or crowded cities, seeking out merchants' storages, libraries, printing-offices, and laboratories, making their living as aides by keeping shelves and storages in order. Otherwise, gold fairies are left alone and flock in small groups. They can be seen carrying packages about, or building things (to unknown ends; they're neither art nor mechanics). They prefer flying over walking, and regard their legs as decorative, occasionally useful appendages, rather than regular body parts.
Like bug fairies, gold fairies have their own way of Speechcraft and are equally unteachable. Mages have lost sanity and digits trying to study it.
"Always an occasion when goldfairies come to the shop. Last time they left with all my silver wire, half a litre of coloured ink, and a Kmalian teapot. Then went into the bakery and bought all the yellow pastries. I've stopped wondering what they do with the stuff."
— Ompiro, shopkeeper
Artists' notes
Gold fairies were a little neglected at first, but now I find those weirdoes very nice - fairies with jobs. These are the kind you find observing you when you turn around. Stealing a nail from your outside windowsill, or inscribing your shoes' soles. Carefully collecting artifact shards for unknown purposes. In a word: creepy. But pretty ;)

Sunday, 26 October 2014


"No-one rules Nalmalaar."
— Usronid, ruler of Nalmalaar
For the most part, Kitas is tribesland. Even large cities harbour tribes, sometimes by other names, like house or clan. Few titles are hereditary, most have to be earned, and powerful peoples chase off irresponsible rulers. Absolutism is very rare and looked down upon by the neighbours; tyranny, while existent, will be attacked by those living nearby and feeling threatened. Honour compels rulers to do their best, and folklore gilds the memory of a good ruler; nobody wishes to be remembered as the Master of Famine, or the Queen of Pain.
"It was quite the coup when the Crowned put down her rights and duties, having been elected time and again for two decades. She claimed a country as powerful as Brighthold must not fall into idle content with its leadership, and resumed her position as cavalry general."
— Alnissai Whiterider, flagswoman
Mostly, a monarch or chieftain will be elected by a council; this will sometimes consist of nobles and accomplished celebrities like sages and warriors; other times of the entire tribe or city's population. City states sport democracies giving a vote to anyone of age, sanity, and citizenship. While children of previous rulers often have good chances to assume power, they are not natural choices. In the many nomadic tribes, any accomplished "hero" can attempt to get the tribe's support for rulership, although they don't often make young people chieftain.

Artist's notes
I describe Genius Loci as a "riddlesome fairy-tale". The fairy-tale part is that nobles are noble indeed - not the despots of dark fantasy, irresponsible and only driven by their own desires. Communities are small and one's deeds don't go unnoticed - valor is rewarded, crimes are punished. Every ruler feels the weight of the crown, and some are even treated supernaturally to be the good rulers the people needs.
Btw, "Brighthold" is called "Lichtfeste" in German, a difficult translation (literally: Light-Stronghold. Bah.).

Friday, 17 October 2014


Standing an average of two meters, hunes are the tallest people after raganaj. They are pale, almost white, and sport two thumbs - one on either side of their delicate but strong hands. Hunes are mute. They can make sounds but not form words, although they understand perfectly well, and sophisticated sign languages help them to communicate.
Hunes travel by branch, swinging along with great strength, and in the thick forests of Gdera achieve a good speed, and because of this they mostly live in Gdera. Hunes love eating, but for some reason, however much they eat, they never grow fat.
"Bedanga is called the silent lands for its majority of hunes, and indeed it's very quiet - certainly not because of their political insignificance... They have a surprisingly lovely singing voice, though."
— Nened Tramnak, Nalsiir trader
Hunes are a gentle and understanding people. They like company but can well be alone; because of their muteness, they are often granted a few childlike exceptions from social expectations - a role that not all hunes fancy, and there are notable warriors, scientists, and speakers among them. The royal family of the Gderan state Bedanga are hunes. Their muteness lessens somewhat in the Years of Sorrow, but no hune has ever spoken outside the Area.
"The third bowarcher might have been a hune. Or an albino, the records aren't clear. But then, aren't hunes albinos?"
— Anannta, mage
Artists' notes
The name is a phonetic comparison to the German word Hüne, which means a very tall person, but giant is too tall, so here we are. Speak: hoons. Hunes were among the major races once but when I made them mute I moved them more to the sidelines, where they now hang out with other known but mysterious folk, like the mul'ahman.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

The Lower Green forest

Mostly called the Lower forest, this is the most "average" forest of Gdera. However, when called "the forest with no tricks" by outlanders, the natives laugh. The Lower forest is infamous with its inhabitants for its cunning beasts, fast overgrowth, and devious predators. No other forest is as skilled in illusionary art; abandoned settlements are quickly covered up, and so, many secrets lie beneath the thick blanket of moss. The Lower forest isn't picky about climate and is the first to reclaim devastated lands, and holds the soil the best. Minerals colour the wood of many tree species, which sell well and sometimes name the country, like Whitewood.
"When Gal was founded, they found ruins in the building sites. When digging deeper, there were layers of them; eventually an elder mapmaker discovered there had been five villages on the same spot before. Why they were abandoned, nobody knows. Or if."
— Nirr Molgenkan, villager
The natives take pride in being generalists - they may not be as specialised as other forests' inhabitants, but they know something of everything. The many changes throughout the year encourage adaptability and cunning; the natives are admired teachers and engineers, and feared generals and politicians.
"That a nureewing should be smarter than a person is only funny until one distracts you, while a gang of perwons steals your foodpack and you find them sharing the loot in the trees."
— Hrenno, traveller
Artists' notes
Wow, an actually nice forest - how did I ever come up with this one. Animals here are much closer to what we know. No plants eat you, there's nowhere to fall to your death. Like the European or Native American forest of the legend age, anything can happen in here and no-one will be the wiser; you go around a hill and vanish. There might even be an affinity towards the Area...
With this, all types of forest on Gdera have been described.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Travelling by Area

Because the Area doesn't follow the same laws of nature as the Here, it can be used for several purposes, fast travel being the most common. Most paths are shorter in the Area - if one knows how to walk them.
And travelling such a weird place is tricky: all who leave the Area are left with an urge. The compulsion is never the same, rarely dangerous, but often inconvenient, and irresistible.

"After we had reached the gathering, we had barely explained ourselves when we collectively broke away and drew several perfect circles on the mountainside. It became weirder still when the resident stone giant came by, nodded, and hurried off."
— Ashgarnor, emmissary
The Area can be travelled in corporeal or mental state, or by "half-travel". Each has its ups and downs; only corporeal travel allows to transport items and be almost immune to the whispered urges, but doesn't allow changing the environment. Mental travel grants great control over the environment, and protects against injury, but there's a danger of mistaking the dreamlike world of the Area for reality. Half-travel means one can be touched, but influence and carry very little.
Some places have a counterpart in the Area and serve as landmarks; most do not appear in the Area, while yet others are indigenous.
"I bought red floatdust for an insane price after leaving the Area. I thought I was ruined; the next day, one of Glazier's aides happily bought the whole stash. Shortly thereafter, glass armour was introduced, of which I was sent several pieces. I wonder..."
— Atchilemarek of the Roaring Tam, Brighthold merchant
Artists' notes
The Area is not just there for decoration, it has its uses, ranging from strange to creepy. It's quite something if a place has a mirror image in the Area - many things are represented, but not exactly as they're in the Here. Since teleportation is so damn difficult, many who had to be somewhere yesterday use these routes.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Multiracial society

"Of course I don't mind my neighbour being a naj. With her standing a full meter taller than me, we chat on the stairs."
— Zile, dwarf
"... here we have the berry cakes, and the beverages. Make sure the elves don't get any of the blue jugs. If anyone asks, the berries make most likely a stripey leg pattern for the garren, and dwarven hair bluish magenta, but tell them it depends on which vegetables they had."
— Garahinar, banquet overseer
Artists' notes
Very soon after coming up with my world I decided that I wanted to break the racial barriers established by many fantasy settings, and instead aim for a more "sci fi" way of races living together. And so, there are not "elven lands" or "dwarven mountains" (although it might be called such after its population majority), but in general, all races can be found everywhere. Racism in Genius Loci is considered a mental illness, the ultimate failure of rationality, and is very rare - with a few notable exceptions (I do need bad guys). Also, gender doesn't matter. The differences between the species are so great, that those between sexes of the same species go unnoticed.
Cultural heritage is defined by culture more than race, and an elf and a gar from the same land will get along much easier than two elves from different lands. Of course, you'll probably marry so you can have children, but with the new rise of shapeshifting spells, more mixed-species couples have formed; adoption has always crossed racial barriers anyway.
Society does employ the natural strengths of races, putting the strong raganaj in warrior services, and the dextrous dwarves in crafts and surgery. This is still only a preference and not a rule.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

The seraph cities

Before the Splinter War, the seraphs lived within the community, a flying people known for their crafts, and to best knowledge, shared their floatstone cities.
However, in the War, Nirill fell, and when Minaaré was invaded shortly after, the attackers were turned back within the day. The day after that, all grounddwellers forgot how to reach the cities, what was in them, and even what a seraph looks like. Since then, the seraph cities can still be seen, but not a single person has entered. The extent of the Forgetting is so massive that it's certain they cast a spell - and frighteningly, still keep it up, some two millenia later.
"Nuralk says he met one; he claims they walk like silk in the wind, but can remember little else. One can't help but wonder who else may have met seraphs and forgotten, when even their pictures on Agorisai's palaces were erased."
— Dasnellaar, writer
Theories speculate the Forgetting wasn't intentional, that seraphs have meanwhile died out, or were successfully invaded by the shapeshifter armies after all. It has been in much debate how to handle the situation. All attempts to reach the cities have failed. The Bargassian and Lebridgian engineers can't come up with a solution, and no flyer however good can make the trip. The only sign they might still be there are floatdust miners in Rhagastone, who occassionally are found bound and gagged when they became too clever at the marked borders.

Artists' notes
I used to have them as regular folks around, but then picked them from the list of peoples shrouded in mystery and only to be found later in the plotline. Never fear, honoured audience, all will be revealed in time (I never said when that is, though ;)). Let's just say, seraphs must be one hell of a bunch of speakers, keeping such a spell up for this long.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Elementarians: Plasmats

Plasmats are the elementarians of fire and the south. They are made of hot air, made visible by structures of molten dirt - the enormous heat tranforms any material into precious stones, and plasmat gems are said to have great supernatural properties. Their shape is a bulky legless torso with a flat head and strong arms, the size changes fluidly between several and several dozen meters. It's the plasmats' choice what they burn. They have a good feeling for earth's heat and often travel to new volcanoes to greet them.

"Overcoming weaknesses is a principle of the south, and my plasmat teacher really made it a point. When he sent me into the world, I felt like I had been thoroughly reconstructed."
— Crowned Aslahenaed of Brighthold
Plasmats are seen as harbingers of change and are counted among the good omens. They are also muses and can light the spark of inspiration in both leaders and artists, who seek them out to be taught. Plasmat mentors are relentless, but very successful, and all their apprentices have done great deeds. It's said the rhu'khach had been under their blessing.
"I heard a plasmat is on his way to the Gorngon plateau. I guess soon it won't be so flat anymore."
— Ferha, messenger
Artists' notes
I am rather fond of the name plasmat. I was looking for nice, innovative names for elementarians, and classic dryads and stone giants were nicely completed by fleeters and plasmats, I think. Teaching great heroes is a bit inspired by the centaur that taught Hercules - mythical creature teaching mortal.

Sunday, 17 August 2014


Alchemist and apothecary are interchangeable terms and refer to someone making chemistry goods for a living. The science demands a lot of precision and tables, which all satisfies the likings of mages, who are the majority of apothecaries; unlike other sciences, where speakers are only a fraction of all practitioners.
Apothecaries create medicaments, soaps, dyes and inks, acids, and perfumes, and their knowledge is useful for an array of other professions, like mining, botany, tannery, or medicine.
"I am looking for a new medicine against greyskin disease. It proves to be very tricky; so far I have found several antidotes, a complex fertilizer, and ingredients that make black earth grow a quarter faster, but nothing I aimed for."
— Sdarin Farree, apothecary
Many apothecaries are surrounded by a nimbus of danger and crime. Indeed, some of the substances they use are either dangerous themselves or can only be procured under doubtful circumstances. In any case, all apothecaries love the imports of Gdera's colourful forests and Lozirian minerals, and can make good money with their rare and dangerous profession.
"At first we thought the homebody apothecary would be dead by afternoon. But she was quick with analyzing and antidotes and had saved three of us by evening. We are grateful she accepted to join the tribe, and have suffered much fewer losses since then; although she still complains we hadn't any decent biscuits."
— Rawwa Fue Kun, red forest nomad
Artists' notes
Alchemy is one of my favourite fantasy subjects. I must have spent dozens of hours in every part of The Elder Scrolls making potions. I think it's neat to cook up strange elixirs from weird ingredients, and it's fun to come up with alchemical uses for things. I don't think I will make alchemy a big point in Genius Loci, but it's nice to have a job like this for added interest.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Voices and the Great Spirit

Voices are on either side of death - very young, very old, or terminally ill, with one exception: elves can be voices for life. Voices are blessed as they truly understand the world. Knowing that no-one else does, they gladly give advice but rarely bother explaining themselves. They don't trade or sell their services. Instead they live off the communities' generosity, but many cities feature halls of the voices, which are kept in order by the ruler. Voices are always right; following their advice will always solve the problem, but it's often hard - still, refusing them is said to be a recipe for rotten luck.
Voices are marked by a sign on their throat.
"Akani in the desert is said to be a voice. You're not the first pilgrims to seek her, but most people I point her way come back crying and refuse to speak. Her advice does seem to work, though."
— Peqati, innkeeper, to his guests
The Great Spirit is the cosmic will that shapes the world. It is a force of nature rather than a person, does not perform miracles and has no priests. It never acts directly, only sets the rules. The Great Spirit is the world. Understanding it means understanding the world. The question is, how does one start when the thread's end is the ball of yarn?
"No, you don't notice how you loose your ear for the Great Spirit. When I turned eight, I began to misunderstand my fellows, took easier tasks on my own accord, and left the hall with ten without sadness. I barely remember now, but I know the voices are right, and that comforts me."
— Cirinall from the White Stones, scribe
Artist's notes
Many fantasy settings have detailed religions, which I generally like, but it seemed I had only two choices: one religion for all (boring), or teeny-tiny cults everywhere (too much work). So I turned to animism, with spirits providing supernatural plot-hooks, and kept the thing/being that created the world out of the equation. Hopefully, this way I will avoid "How could (insert name of deity) let that happen". In a way, the speakers in their desire to understand the world are indeed theosophic truth-seekers (which I suddenly realise is definitely a nod to the wizards of LotR).

Friday, 1 August 2014

What's not in the setting

Genius Loci is a subjective setting where I let my imagination run free. I do not want it to be "mainstream"; it is not planned to be liked by as big an audience as possible; therefore, I take a lot of freedom with many ideas, and like to change things away from the usual, the expected, and have added or changed common fantasy elements.
What does that mean? For you to better understand Genius Loci, here's what I deliberately decided.

  • No race-specific cultures - practically all cultures are mixtures of several races, who all live together instead of separating themselves; e.g., no "elven lands".
  • No dominant humans - some settings have too many humans for my taste. In Genius Loci, they are only one of many species.
  • No overpowered elves - although I thought of Norse elves when I invented them, they are another race in the setting. Elves are no more intelligent, magical, or beautiful than others.
  • No silly dwarves - too often fantasy settings reduce them to drunken miners. Dwarves on Kitas are as dignified as anyone else.

It was fairly important to me that non-human species aren't too exotic and as detailed as humans would be anywhere, not reduced to their racial traits.

  • No prophecy - the art of fortune-telling (and horoscopes, birth-signs and so on) is unknown to kitaians. I hate the idea of foresight and have thrown it completely out.
  • No inborn magical aptitude - speakers can focus energies from birth; but it can be learned, and there are no all-magical races.
  • No black magic - or, more specifically, neither necromancy nor demons. Also, no lurking evil force that seeks to corrupt the good (no Mordor, no Dark Side).
  • No dragons - really, there are none.

As with so many descriptions, I am tempted to be thorough and explain why a land would be called elvish anyway, why mages have no staffs, and why all intelligent races are called humans. But that will have to wait until it comes up individually, there's simply not enough room.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

The Great Green forest

Commonly abbreviated the Great forest, it grows in tropical climates. Everything's bigger: trees grow hundreds of meters high, animals are the size of ships, birds carry wagonloads of passengers, cities fit on a single treebranch. While not generally hostile, the forest is ignorant towards its inhabitants, and some predators even hunt people. The tallest trees are kilometers apart and a cosmos in themselves. Many legends are shrouded in the misty depths of the Great forest; some of the biggest trees even have counterparts in the Area.
"The outlanders squeaked at the sight of the burrmos, and called us wild when they saw how we got rid of them. I wonder what they would call the darkdwellers down below, who we call wild."
— Erj Ilisess, Great forest hunter
Life resembles that on islands. Anything the Great forest's inhabitants need is on their own tree, and one tree can house several tribes or settlements, and many animal herds; navigating unfamiliar heights is difficult. Travel is all but impossible on the ground  - if it can be found in the first place - and is instead done on high roads, built on stalks, or with climbing mounts. The peoples are hardy, used to unchangeable surroundings, and look down on soft outsiders; due to animal dangers, even city dwellers can handle weapons. Clothes are thin but strong and decorated with prestigious jewelry.
"From the topmost branches, you can see the dryad tree standing out red-leafed against the green forest. Many tried, but no-one ever found it. Or maybe they have and the dryad spoke to them - but that can't be, they returned safely, after all."
— To-pile-mok, gderan merchant
Artists' notes
I've done more illustrations showing the Great forest than the others - this is the secondmost widespread forest next to the Lower Green. I look forward to inventing gigantic animals; riding insects, snakes the size of trains and so forth (even if there seems to be some kind of contest going on in fantasy media who dares use the biggest trees). And some of the most civilized parts of Gdera are here, like Clom Vah or Gderet.

Monday, 30 June 2014


Maybe three in a generation have the dark mark above their heart, only two were ever unlucky enough to be born with it. It is a bad omen, its bearers often venture on difficult quests to be rid of it. Some say it can be acquired by coming too close to a placespirit, or refusing to become a voice, or travelling the Area.
Darkhearts hold speechcraft power rivaled only by elementarians and the Four. The minds of the dark mark's bearers quickly shatter. They become paranoid, vain, and cruel, all the while impressing an almost inescapable lure on their swiftly growing mass of followers, which they badly mistreat. Almost all darkhearts had to be brought down violently and usually called a placespirit into existence while dying, which laid further waste to the land.
"We loved our adventurous life. When Astinoi, who had always been gloomy and sensitive, discovered the dark mark on himself, that life shattered like glass. We searched feverishly for help, but when it covered his heart fully, he flung himself down the cliffs into the lake."
— Tirakanfar, traveller
That darkhearts are both dangerous and rare make them a scarcely researched subject; on the bright side, darkhearts can't be made on purpose, unlike spirit possession. The cause for their coming and probable cures are largely unknown, and they can't be anticipated or avoided. Until the mark covers the entire heart, there's hope; it doesn't grow by any known rules. Voices will help, by sending darkhearts-to-be on dangerous quests, which often claim their lives; but if successful, they die unblemished.
"Artifacts are hard enough to understand; if made by darkhearts, I wish there was a bottomless pit we could throw them into. Kanmarra's collar alone destroyed half the standing stones in Suyemor in only a day."
— Hinukaya aht Kanamm, whisperer
Artists' notes
Darkhearts put a firmly black spot on Genius Loci's bright and hopeful map. But I like the poor fellows somehow; and there aren't as many as the article may make it sound, mind you: only three per generation, in the entire world. Except that they will be known throughout it if they fully bloom.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Spirit of place - genius loci

"The city of Hammerfall only exists because of a spleen by the mountain spirits in the first place. More and more signs have arisen that it may, and soon, become the host of a placespirit - an event that, in regard of the city's size, must be averted at all costs."
— Counselor Tshiako Sagamiu
Where a mood becomes defining for a place, be it a festival place, city, or battlefield, a genius loci may come into existence. It is an entity of almost limitless power that borders on conscious intelligence - on which side of it is unknown. They rarely appear physically, but fill the horizon when they do, and almost never speak. If they do, they command.
The placespirit will possess anyone in its domain. The victims may dance until they drop dead, start erecting uninhabitable palaces, or dig a shaft. As unreasonable as all placespirits' commands seem, time and again the results have been part of turning points in history.
"It is the Violet Order's belief that the placespirits must be thoroughly researched, seeing as the survivors carry an uncanny wisdom out of their service to them."
— Headless Nakani, to Queen Jamora
An unchallenged genius loci can stay indefinitely, and must be driven out. This difficult task can only be performed by highly skilled speakers or collectors; there are very, very few who ever drove out a placespirit alone, among them the famous voice Asa and the collector Numkrichtahn.
The saved victims will, in any case, not be the same and may act irrationally on a whim years into the future, but to allow them the appearance of normality, they are often brought elsewhere to pick up their lives.

Artists' notes
The name-giving spirit of place (Latin: genius loci, German: Ortsgeist) is an important part of the setting, of course. It's more or less my remedy for not having dragons or orcs handy to devastate a land - instead the population will be mentally enslaved by a terrible willpower... uh-oh.
Since they are so hard to research, many strange folk have obsessed over them, and suffered horrible fates - different every time, there just seems to be no rule to placespirits.

Monday, 19 May 2014


Dustships are called so because the main element of the airships' workings is the famous floating dust. Rocks lift a hull like a naval vessel, sideway sails provide thrust, the dust is the main adjustment tool. Aside from those general workings, little is known; dustsailors are a secretive lot and guard their ship's secrets with their lives. Regiment aboard is liberal, but closed to outsiders; dustsailors not even have darlings on land. It's a great honour to be accepted into the crew of a dustship. While many sailors are skilled fighters, the ships follow a code on nonviolence and are all unarmed.
"We are proud to have played part in the construction of some of today's greatest structures. I could do without all the spying engineers we have to pluck from the dustworks before they've figured everything out, though."
— Appandanurast, captain of the Upwards
Dustships transport all kinds of things; easily spoiled goods or passengers, or they offer messenger services. The "grounders" regard them with a mixture of joy and wariness - exotic goods for moderate prices, but the feeling of still being conned somehow.
Widely known dustships include the strong Upwards, and the great Gral-én'tach.
"The trip would take us fifteen days, unless we travel by dustship. I'll rather pay to be behind lock and key in luxurious quarters than make my way through the Red Desert this time of year. The view's nicer, too."
— Gutria, traveler
Artists' notes
I like flying ships as much as the next fantasy artist, and I am very fond of this particular idea. It's fun to figure out the engineering, how the crew handles the ship, what the captain is like and so on. It also provides nice storytelling devices for fast transportation, secrecy, and power. I play in a roleplaying group with half-magical wooden spaceships that are just awesome, and which made me bold in my choices of airships.
I have invented several ships so far which I am eager to employ, their captains and specialties, and plot ideas to use them for. 

Monday, 7 April 2014

The calendar

The kitaian calendar relies on multiples of four and five. A week has five days. Four weeks make a month (20 days). Twenty months form a year (400 days). One hundred years are a century; four hundred years a Great Circle, in which the Four come and go. Portions have own names, like a Lesser Quarter (5 months), or a Great Quarter (25 years).
"Sawrana has a theory that Great Quarters also have meaning, and is currently looking for an elven apprentice to live long enough to prove it, in case you're looking for a job."
— Malimai Gjadruun, to his friend
Furthermore, five subsequent years (a Great Fifth) are assigned to the five principles: fire, water, earth and air, life, and spirit.

  • In the year of the east, fundaments are made or destroyed; willpower is high, plots go slow, mines produce better material. People are loyal and confident; it's the Year of Crafts.
  • The year of the south sees the outbreak of conflicts and new beginnings. People fall in love, start living their dreams; it's not a good year to finish something. This is the Year of the Brave.
  • In the year of the north, peace is made; reforms and improvements come easy now. The Year of All is a good year to marry.
  • During the year of the west, everything seems possible. Visions are declared, children born; harvests are good and illnesses light. People are in high spirits in the Year of Moving.
  • The spirit year sees many supernatural events; speakers and spirits gain more power, but everyone's mind seems at its best. Master works are created, discoveries made, and art and philosophy are at their best. In the Star Year, mental influence is easy.

Artists' notes
I knew that simply keeping our Earth calendar would never do but didn't care about it until recently, and was surprised how nicely it all fitted together with multiples of four and five. There are no holidays yet - they will be largely regional and it makes more sense to invent them when it comes up. Although year's end and beginning are very likely spots, and there are some related to the moons.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

The burrmo princes

Burrmos, huge predators of the Great Forest, are known man-eaters. Less known is the fact that not all their prey dies - sometimes, people who were believed to be long lost reappear, now servants of the beasts, devoted to their protection. Darous and Darem were stolen decades ago; legend has it that the burrmo king and his wife could not have children of their own, and the twins were his gift to her to dry her tears. They have made some gruesome appearances as the "princes of the burrmo", as they are now called. Elven twins are only one person in two bodies, and the edge this gives them over trespassers in their territory frightens off most who might try - the traveller meeting just one of them should be wary.
"Do not enter our lands, traveller. The path will snap at your feet."
— Darous, the burrmo prince
The brothers live on the motto "an eye for an eye", and are less than friendly with the wild tribes of humans in the lower branches of the Great Forest.
On occassion, however, Darous and Darem appear not as frightening guards of their pack's territory, but lonely wanderers caught between two worlds, longing for company. But their coldness always gets the better of them; they have never made any friends among the peoples of the Great Forest. It is a mystery how they were introduced into their pack, and whether or not they must be regarded as cursed.
"And we will be the teeth. Turn back."
— Darem, the burrmo prince
Artists' notes
I love elven twins. So scary. I also love the idea of animal princes, either of animal or human origin, since they add so much folklore mysticism to the world of Genius Loci. I usually invent things in groups, so there are several more animal kings to tell of.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Racial subtypes

"The dancers were hennaj who almost floated, and amo, who were coloured in such a way that, when they stood together, they could form different Wild Signs. And the main character was played by an almost black suu who overtowered them all, it was quite a sight."
— Zambosa, opera guest

Artists' notes
I decided late in development to create subtypes for races other than humans. At first I thought it would be too much, but then I found it too human-centristic to make small differences into subtypes for them, but not others. So, there are now more appearances for the major races. Don't forget that there are many changes in the colours of the colourful peoples dwarves, naj, and garren, while humans always have dark hair and brown eyes in various shades, and beja are always black haired with blue or black eyes. In a way, it was almost more fun to develop the subtypes later than alongside the races, because I had all the hard work done of creating them and fitting them into the world. Naturally, since neither shankeh nor elves have any different subtypes, they do not appear here.
I also worked out halfbloods. I think it will be arbitrary to some extent which of their parents' features they inherit, and there really are only three kinds of halfbloods since only dwarves, humans, and beja mix - elves' children are all elves themselves and don't cause me any work, and raganaj, shankeh, and garren don't interbreed.

Monday, 10 February 2014

The Singing Ryaq

The vast ocean at Gdera's west coast is regarded as the continent of water, the fourth "landmass". The myriad of islands are home to most peculiar tribes and cultures, and the less reachable shores harbour many secrets. Among the largest islands are Gat-Gat, the main island of the Gat archipelago; cold, northern Tuulmenhan; and Asfilass, off Gdera's coast.
The flying raganaj have an advantage here, and many seafolk live with the tribes. Beja, who much enjoy water, are happy here as well. There are, however, no more fleeters here than elsewhere; it seems that they prefer sweetwater.
"To the fifth grade, my line of masters has tried to map the Ryaq, and I have followed. We never managed it, and my apprentice chose a less hopeless task - mapping ley lines."
— Naniwat, mapper

Because some of the tiny islands are so remote - some barely more than a rock that happens to support a little vegetation and some tents - cultures are more separate in the Ryaq than elsewhere. Some peoples openly welcome strangers who bring news and wares, others attack without warning. Few maps exist of the Ryaq. Notable places include the Summerstar Islands that rose after a meteor hit, the Fleeterstep Islands towards the Gat archipelago, and the Burning Islands and Firehome off Sawa's coast, where allegedly many plasmats live.
"Sanskanar's eternal storm makes it damn near impossible to sail there. If you make it, though, and out again, you'll live like a prince."
— Fanana Balshirom, captain

Artists' notes
I only made the map to the Ryaq recently. There are more islands than I first expected, some very remote, but there's not quite so much space as in the Pacific. Still, islands are always hard to get to, so there will be space for stories about lost treasure, hidden kingdoms and whatnot. And pirates, too. Harr!

Thursday, 23 January 2014

The Red forest

The Red forest is considered the most dangerous of all of Gdera's woods. The Red is poisonous; its plants, animals, even the soil can be lethal. The traveller can be killed by eating, sniffing, or touching the fleshy plants, by being pricked or cut, sleeping under or leaning against them, being eaten or overgrown, and countless other ways. Many animals are venomous as well. Since the dosage makes the poison, the Red forest offers a plethora of medicinal substances that are used all over the world. Among the most known plants are the widely planted meereh tree ("Miere", bright red, tasty fruits on a poisonous tree), and the infamous woundberry.
"Grandmother died of a ral leaf's prick, father from fassalia pollen, my husband of hegitio bark, my eldest child from kabi thorns. For all my knowledge, the poisons are as devious and elusive as master assassins."
— Gewron, apothecary
Its few inhabitants are nomadic, and the Red forest is avoided by travellers when they can. Clothing is more protective than pretty and mostly leather. The natives are always wary and overly careful, often grumpy because of their hard lives, but appreciative of the Red's lethal beauty. Because of high children's mortality rates, mothers are often sent outside the forest.
"We never know whether to encourage or forbid research in the Red forest. Cures for the foulest diseases have been found, but the question always is, will the forest kill the mage before she pries some secret from its poisonous grip?"
— Bouve, mage
Artists' notes
The most alien forest even before the White, the Red offers storytelling opportunities somewhere between hot wire games and tribes with poison arrows. Fantasy classically features lots of strange forests, and this one is hell become wood, with much inspiration from the Sierra Madre. I imagine Red forest scenes as brightly lit, but claustrophobic, like post-apocalyptic movies.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Elementarians: Dryads

Dryads are the elementarians of the west, the element of life. Several meters tall, with overly long arms, numerous fingers, and roots for legs below the knee; dryads are perceived as female. Their skin is bark, they have twigs for hair, their mouthless face shows bright eyes and a grim expression. A dryad fiercely defends her hometree, but can live without it. Unlike other elementarians, dryads hardly ever speak and are considered the most powerful of them.
"It is not by accident that we call a devastating event or a tool of destruction "a dryad's word". The last time a dryad spoke, all of Gdera heard it. We should be thankful that the ominous treeladies rarely utter anything."
— Mbagu Greeneyes, western wizard
While dryads are not evil, they are the least predictable elementarians and busily pursue their unfathomable plans. They appear in destroyed forests to restore them, or even destroy artificial structures themselves. A traveling dryad is reason to abandon settlements. A resident dryad, however, guarantees rich harvest, intact woods, and good health.
"The sitting dryads in Clom Vah's great voice hall have legs. Since they usually don't, one cannot tell if he statues really are dryads - many mages tried to find out. Without success."
— Rachneei Injira, gderan citizen
Artists' notes
Dryads are wonderful mythological creatures. I wanted to keep them close to the easily angered Greek originals. However, there's only one dryad per wood, not per tree. They're the reason words are so powerful in Genius Loci - I had drawn a mouthless dryad and wondered if they could speak at all, and what that would be like.