Monday, May 18, 2009

Illyria Overview: Old World

Probably because I was trained as an American historian, my setting features a conflict between the cultures of Old and New Worlds.

The New World is
Illyria [ihl-LEER-ee-ah]. For now, the Old World is Draconis [drah-KOHN-is] (not the name everyone gives it). While the lands of the Old World run primarily along an east-west axis, Illyria runs more north-south (just like Eurasia and the Americas, respectively). Draconis is also a bigger continent than Illyria.

From Illyria's perspective, the main civilization of Draconis is the
Dragon Empire (whose symbol is the Ouroboros). The Empire is divided into the Three Realms (also called the Dragon or Serpent Kingdoms), separate nations united by a shared cultural heritage (each civilization was founded by Dragons who taught the principles of culture and technology to lesser beings) as well as by the political allegiance and popular worship that they offer the Trinity of Elder Dragons. These ancient beings--Tiamahta [TEE-ah-mah-tah], Fahfenihro [fah-feh-NEE-roh], and Gormunduro [gor-moon-DOO-roh]--are among the most powerful entities in the Known World.

Each Realm has its own King or Queen who owes loyalty to the Trinity. The three monarchs sit together as the
Triumvirate to pass major decisions that affect the Empire as a whole. The three Realms are:
  • Samar [sah-MAR], the Kingdom of Salt (Whose King sits on the White Throne, made from the bones of a sea dragon), which controls a wide swath of Draconian coastline as well as fertile river valleys. Its people are noted seafarers and founded the first of the Empire's colonies on the Lucian [loo-SEE-ahn] Islands. Gormunduro is the patron Elder Dragon of Samar.
  • Cortado [cor-TAH-doh], the Kingdom of Gold (The Amber Throne, made from a solid piece of amber), which controls the mountains that border the Celestial Hierarchy as well as the mountain forests and an extensive plains region. Its people are called Cortadorans or Ironlegs. The Cortadorans built the flying Dragon ships to navigate their rocky and dry domain, and it was the Dragon ships that first crossed the Ocean of Tears to colonize Illyria. Fahfenihro is the patron Elder Dragon of Cortado.
  • Tilan [tee-LAHN], the Kingdom of Jade (Whose Queen sits on the Emerald Throne, made from jade with embedded emeralds and sapphires), which borders the lands of the Awakened Cities known as the Seven Siblings. Tilan has temperate rainforests and (to come). Tiamata is the patron Elder Dragon of Tilan.
Power within the society Dragon Empire is likewise divided between three major factions:
  • The Noble Houses: None of the Dragon Kingdoms are absolute monarchies, and the various Noble families, in particular the Major Houses (those who have an affiliated adult Dragon), wield considerable influence within each. The current King of Samar belongs to House Rocassa, the king of Cortado to House Vargo, and the Queen of Tilan to House Queztal. The Noble Houses are the only legitimate source of the Dragon-Blooded Elemanteros [el-eh-mahn-TEHR-os] who have the power to control the elements. Many Noble Houses also initiate members into secretive Mystery Cults based on the teachings of lesser or legendary Dragons.
  • The Imperial Church: The High Church teaches a doctrine based on personal karma, the reincarnation of souls, and the status of the Elder Dragons as gods that walk the Earth in the form of the sacred Trinity. The Imperial Church is divided into three major Orders, each based upon a fundamental aspect of the material world: The Order of the Eternal Sky, the Order of the Endless Sea, and the Order of the Unbreakable Stone. The priests of the High Church are also the only ones taught the secrets of ritual ceremonial magic, which can twist Fate (by altering probabilities) and sway emotions.
  • The Guilds: The Guilds are the primary engine of innovation within the Dragon Empire, though they too are bound by strong traditions and a desire to protect their status. The Crafting Guilds use Alchemy to create supernatural artifacts, materials, and potions. The Merchant Guilds use the art of Scrying to locate new lands, anticipate profitable ventures, and navigate treacherous routes. Those who reach master status in one of the magisteriums (or fields) of Alchemy or Scrying are titled Magisters. The Guilds, particularly the Merchant Guilds, have the greatest degree of contact with foreign nations. Wealthy Guild members also founded the various confraternities, influential combinations of philosophical societies and private clubs.
Some 125 years ago, the Nobles and Guildsmen of Samar used their seafaring and diplomatic skills to negotiate with the various tribes of sea serpents to gain passage across the Crimson Sea to the Lucian Islands, where they founded what became the first Viceroyalty of the Empire. Further expansion westward across the Ocean of Tears was halted when the Samarans encountered the Dreaming Hierarchs of the North and had to bear the brunt of conflicts against the pale-skinned folk and their otherworldly gods.

Just over 100 years ago, the Cortadorans crushed the last significant remnants of the Night Walkers, a loosely knit confederation of necromancers and undead who occupied the Rakasha Mountains on Cortado's eastern border. Around 75 years ago the Cortadorans sought to improve their fortunes and flew westward across the
Ocean of Tears in their great dragon ships (built by the Alchemy of the Craft Guild Magisters, empowered by Noble Elemanteros, and piloted by Merchant Guild Magisters), founding the first Dragon Realm colonies along the eastern seaboard of Illyria.

Cortado's colonizing efforts were fueled by greed, religion, and old hatreds. The Guilds found both new resources to exploit and new freedoms to purchase for themselves in the form of charters to operate in the New World. The Imperial Church found entire new peoples to convert. And the Noble Houses found to their horror that Night Walker refugees had beaten them to Illyria, forming their own settlements. The result was a brutal crusade led by Noble warriors, aided by mercenary bands, and accompanied by waves of indentured servants.

Illyria became the second Viceroyalty of the Empire. Illyria swears fealty to the Triumvirate, but the Noble Houses and Guilds of Cortado dominated the colonizing process and the King of Cortado takes the lion's share of the wealth generated by the colony.

The inland area in the Northeast of Illyria, known as Arbolia [ahr-BOH-lee-ah] or the Valley of Trees, was finally conquered 50 years ago, when settlement by Imperial citizens and their slaves and servants began in earnest.

Now Cortado and Samar vie for influence in Illyria, while Tilan busies itself dealing with the Awakened Cities, a league of living metropolitan gods created by humans through the use of geomancy and sacred architecture.


Aaron DaMommio said...

Ok, I get the Fafnir and Tiamat references, what does Gormunderos refer to?

Doug said...

Hah! Gormundero is loosely based on Jormungandr ( the giant sea serpent from Norse legend.

Though I suppose that would make him Gormungahndero. That seemed a little long to me.