Shattered Empire
Once a great nation flew its banner over the lands of the Shattered Empire. Once one of the five tribes made its home in this southern land, before it was harried by the woes of the world's unmaking and the failure of Divh and dynasties. Once these people built great roads to connect the world, and strode it proudly, spreading their tongue and their wisdom to the corners of civilization as if upon the wind. Now the Shattered Empire is a land of disunity, where opportunists have laid their claim. Where history desperately clings to the corners of memory. And where a palace that once rung with divine footfall, now moulders in ruin. A cracked and dry husk at the heart of a paved web that once long ago enwrapped the world. Home to a once proud people, beginning to forget their very origins.

Physical Geography


The Shattered Empire stretches from the Bair of Suirene along the Irian Straits to the Caperkil Mountains. In the north-east the region is bordered by the Hoarfrost Mountains and the Hoardowns, and in the north the half-continent-spanning Sirolas Mountains] rise out of the hilly terrain at the heart of the region. The Ruhndag Forest dominates the massive valley created by the Sirolas and Caperkil ranges, and in the so-called Great Lakes region of Dag-Molag the land is wild, densely forested and boggy up to the shores of three massive lakes - Lake Ayama, Lake Hlummu and Lake Mar-Uldan, each of which is pure, deep and cold, being fed directly from the mountains. The smaller range known as Irik's Teeth and the meandering River Manllu, which leads north well into the territories claimed by Haedrasia, are the prominent features of the more fertile and flat western Iria. The waving grasslands and gentle hills are idyllic and peaceful, though they have seen their share of blood spilled in the past, and the pastoral settlements the dot the land are lovely in their own simple way.

The temperate grasslands, or Sulimissu Marches, of inner Iria are the reason the children of Irik settled here. The basin formed by the Sirolas mountains and Irik's Teeth creates a natural fertile valley, where water is trapped, making the soils rich. Squally showers blow in off the sea, but seldom form into storms or stay long, and the land is vital. Unlike the Imperatry Plains, which, while rich, feel exposed and are hammered by high winds, the lands to the south are calmer and warmer. While the sundering tore apart the southern parts of the region, the new coast here appeared along rivers and lakes as the land tore asunder rather than being reclaimed by the sea, and so when Ahlonia broke away from Iria and the seas flowed in the process was less violent and catastrophic than it was anywhere else on the southern coast, and the land recovered more quickly - as did its denizens. Still, the low-lying water here has been disrupted, and marshy wetlands are common, as are dried coastal bogs, now expanses of bare cracked mud. The crusts of these dry regions can be thin and brittle, so travellers, and even the wildlife avoid them.

The coast shows signs of raising up out of the water, and the stretch of the coast is made up of long, sandy beaches, that become deep so slowly that in many places a traveller could walk miles out to sea at low tide. The cliffs rise, like buckled metal, up at the edges to tower over the coastline, but quickly sink down again further back from the coast. In the east, around the Bair, the land becomes lower, and less signs of violence reflect in the landscape, but in the west the beaches sink and the cliffs rise higher, becoming the towering, dark coastline of the Knives of Rallah. Tiny islands that were once headlands, rocky stacks, and cavernous arches are common in the silty sand. Linked to the mainland by sandbars at low tide, they are again isolated as the sea rises. While little civilization aside from the occasional lighthouse inhabits these tiny stone arks, they frequently have vegetation or fauna not known to the mainland, or else displaced by many leagues.

The rivers and lakes are important elements of the shattered empire, because they allow for barges to move large volumes of goods inexpensively, but still allow for more reliable ports than the shallow coast. The river Manllu literally translates to 'living road' in the old Irian. As a result the banks of the rivers and lakes are some of the most populous and civilized parts of Iria, and until they disappear under the dark boughs of the Ruhndag in the north they teem with floating traffic and riverside settlements. Many rivers have been artificially widened, or else narrow into deep man made locks. Others have been dammed or subverted, so that the waterways of the shattered empire are almost as much a landscape of men as it is one of the natural world. The massive mountain-fed lakes provide food, water, transport, drainage and leisure to the folk here, and their waters are often bracingly cold during the spring melt, in contrast to the humidity of the air. They also attract large wading birds, drooping willow trees, and all manner of life happy to share the land with its civilized inhabitants.

Throughout Dagmora, Sukkadia, Ulvrith and southern Dagvrith the so-called middle country is defined by the hills and mountains around of Irik's Teeth. Here a mountain range is said to have sunk into the sea, and the land does ride gradually until it suddenly drops into the sea. Light forests, young compared to those of the north, cluster in shallow stream-cut valleys, and marshy wetlands. Here occasional rifts lead to underground waterways, and the terrain is littered with broken rock. Volcanic activity around the teeth is rare, but not unknown, and gentle tremors have kept civilization sparse and basic. The region is blanketed with coarse, hardy, brown grass, and the bare earth is a dun colour, showing through the clumps of vegetation. In the far north the Ullar-Mol, a stretch of lightly forested foothills forms the south-western border between Dagvrith and Dag-Molag, where civilization quickly gives way to uncharted wilderness.

In the north, where the Hoarfrost and Sirolas mountains meet, the region is though of as the Dag-Molag region, and really extends from the Llumoran Pass and the northern banks of lake Ayama through all of the Ruhndag forest. Possibly a cousin of the Starwood to the east, or of the Eldrich Forest over the straits to the south, the forest is deep, dark, and ancient, formed from twisted trees that wrap around one another in an intricate dance to be the first to touch the morning sun. Under the canopy the forest floor is plunged into perpetual dusk, except at night when the darkness is almost palpable. But because of the darkness of the forest floor, the ground between the great twisted trunks is pleasantly clear of dense undergrowth, and only dark-leafed creepers cover the forest floor. To the north the Sirolas mountains are beginning their slow descent into foothills, and so they are not so rocky, steep or majestic as they are further east, but they still remain white-capped in all but the hottest seasons, and their slopes still remain impenetrable to all but the most daring and crusty mountaineers. It is the great lakes that truly make this land extraordinary. Ayama is a broad, perfect mirror, who reflects the moods of the skies, glimmering with stars on a spring eve, or brimming with ringing ripples in the summer rains, but those who have visited their banks say that Hlummu and Mar-Uldan in the wild north are so beautiful as to stop a man's heart. Cool, azure pits in the day, at night they capture the moons as they pass, hueing the water midnight blue, precious gold, or horrific red as they wax and wane. The forests grow right to their sandy shores, and pure white egrets wade, hunting for bright sterling fish. But it is also in these lovely lakeside glades that the ghost-men haunt the forests, and few brave their wrath even to glimpse such fabled beauty.

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Spirit of the Land

The spirits of Iria are too-often sad and broken things, hiding slug-pale faces beneath scab-bleached fingers in intolerable memory of the punishments of the capricious Divh that bound them. Keenly they felt the Sundering, and the sea-spirits here are fat, smug creatures, who would sooner swallow great gobs of the world than harry a single vessel. The creatures of the coast cringe, seldom fighting for life, letting their efforts ebb at the slightest challenge, leaving bare and bleached trunks looking out at a hungry sea. Further inland they are better able to hide. Not sleeping, just watching silently from the deepest darkest glades, or the most cavernous gorges. Sometimes they will let the land slough away, a sudden inevitable result of movements they have kept hidden over aeons. And still further the mountains are a kinder sort than those to the east - accepting of change, remembering their glories fondly rather than bitterly, and whispering to the lazy sky-spirits (drifting fat with rains) in familiar tones, of the days when they lay closer together. But the woods are crueller, hungry to punish the mortal. To see him wail in fear the way they did when he wrought the Divh's wroth upon them. And yet the spirits of the great lakes have somehow found forgiveness in their noble hearts, and offer nothing but peace and tranquillity, even repose to any who enter into their dimense.

Political Geography


Since the collapse of the Irian Empire the land has become divided, though it is not nearly so scattered and disparate as the kingdoms in the ruined Kelorn Empire, but many of the old boundaries of imperial provinces, and their names, have stuck despite their new rulers being outside the old Nasiri lines. Only along the southern coast do the old Irian guard still have a hold on their ancestral lands, and even then their citizenry are heavily outlanders. There are only a handful of classical Irian nations left, clustered between the River Gna-Tora and the Caperkils; Malk, Sudben and Llumora are all closely allied, and their Nasirs depend on one another for security and mutual trade, however Mmu-Molag has little contact with its neighbours, travellers seldom enter or leave this hill country, and the its people remain in small, self-sufficient communities. The Irian nations also keep close ties to the various irinos of the other nations of Iria, throughout Dol-Sardis, Suldan, Orenthril and Ulvrith, where new ways of rule have had to be embraced, and Goblyns dwell, and even the tribeless have drifted home. If ever the Irians feel threatened in their foreign-populated homes they turn to the Narirs of the east, who have long histories of interfering in the politics of other domains.

In the west the tribeless are more numerous in the country, and the Irians isolated to the cities and other major settlements. Dagmora, Assardan, Ulynlul, Mora-Amar and Kashmora are all essentially tribeless nations, similar to those to the west over the Haedrasian lands, settled after the collapse of the magocracy by tribeless who had the means to flee the Haedrasian backlash. They found the Irian lands, already vastly populated by their kinsmen, easy prey, and overthrew the Irian Nasirs here. However over the years the Irians have slowly returned, in their small communities, to the lands of their ancestors. Enlal-Makal in the far north is the only nation so far to be reclaimed by an Irian Nasir, but there is fear in the rest of the western lands that an Irian uprising, and the irinos in the cities along the River Man-Llu are feeling pinched by foreign watchmen and spies trying to penetrate their quarters and watch for signs of rebellion.

In the heart of the Shattered Empire are two vast territories to which no one lays claim. Dagvrith in the west is a vast grassland, extending from the mountains of Irik's Teeth and the Middle Country into the wetlands and plains of the Sulimissu Marches. Dagvrith is the home to Irik's old palace Irikhan-Mora, now a free city ruled over by a council of Irian elders, and welcoming thousands of pilgrims a year up the Ulyrr River. However the lands around the city are inhabited by bosk Goblyn horsemen, who live in tribes, each tribe keeping massive herds and making their home in imposing fortresses, and raiding one another as well as occasionally causing their neighbours problems. They are not openly hostile, often trading their stock with their landsman neighbours, but they are not a unified nation, and where one tribe might have a mercantile mindset, another might find it easier to take what they need than to barter for it. Meanwhile in the deep, dark woods to the west and in the rugged middle country foothills the Urgrol bands rule. These wild barbaric war parties know only battle or the hunt, living in roaming warbands led by the strongest of their number, they fight not to take what they need or to claim territory, but because bestial ferocity is their very nature. Thankfully they have learned that they are no match for large disciplined armies, and tend to avoid civilized areas. Still, the Goblyn tribes of Dagvrith have reported that they have grown bold enough to attack their fortresses, and the folk of Ulvrith and Orenthril don't stray into the wilds without armed escorts if they can avoid it.

Much as the Urgrol are feared however, they pale in comparison to the Ghost-Men of the far north. In fact it might be the Urgrol who keep the Ghost-Men in the north, as they love to hunt and kill the Ghost-Men, although they are horribly outmatched by the lithe Ghost-Man warriors. On islands at the heart of the two northern lakes the Ghost-Men keep court. No outsider has ever made it to one o0f those islands and lived, and even though the mysterious, beautiful creatures leave little evidence of their presence, few question it. Whether they live in that place in commune, or under some terrible Ghost-monarch none can tell, but few venture into the northern forests, for they kill all intruders without mercy or compassion.

Setting Trait (2): Land of Roads The Irians were never meant to have an empire. Irik is a fickle lord, to say the least, and the studious Irians were gifted with uncanny fortune, and a mind for the complexities of trade and wealth. They are also a private people, often persecuted, and for all of these reasons they tend not to stay in one place for very long. Because of this Irian authority is transient, as those in power move about, in search of acceptance and advantage, and never managed to really establish itself.

Social Geography


The Irians have most likely never represented a majority of their homeland's population, and they now rule less than half of the territories of the old empire, and yet their culture and language has been one of the most dominant and widespread in all of Allornus, even eclipsing the conquests of the Haedrasians in its spread, and so it is no surprise that it continues to form the core of the Shattered Empire. The Irians themselves might be considered to be semi nomadic by nature, or at the very least not suited to staying in one place for too long, and this might indicate why there are at least as many Irians in the Southlands and southern Haedrasia as there are in the territories once attributed to the Irian Empire. They are travellers, lovers of ways, and builders of roads. To the Irian mind, in many ways, everything they see in the world is an avenue to the places beyond it. But at the same time they are the most isolationist and xenophobic peoples to be found anywhere in the world, and they jealously horde goods, knowledge and even their own culture as if sharing knowledge of their ways in some manner deprives them of their society. To another Irian, relative or total stranger, there could be no more generous or warm welcome than one of his countrymen, and a stranger is treated as a brother, but outsiders are not welcome in an Irian community, and they are removed by force if they don't quickly realize that they do not belong.

Of course, in an Irian kingdom it is difficult for the rulers to be truly isolated, but they tend to form a ruling elite into which no non-Iirian has any chance to penetrate. In an Irian land the Irian nobility rule by ensuring that they control the wealth, taxing their citizens heavily for the right to extract any of the land's natural resources, all of which are the exclusive prerogative of the nobility who rule the land. Irian tradesmen and artisans refuse to take non-Irian apprentices, and Irian nobility refuse to trade with non-Irian artisans, effectively relegating those unfortunate enough to be born in the foreign districts (called foreign despite having occupied the land for generations) to the lower classes. But in the non-Irian lands of the west Irians manage to wield a great deal of power too. Their families in Irian kingdoms, and the money their families accumulated in more glorious times, and the sheer generosity and sense of community amongst the iri means that they are essential to any ruler in the region for the flow of trade and wealth in their former empire. Here, in the irinos, old Irian titles stand, and while an outsider would never know it the nobility that used to rule subsists, and is respected and influential.

Meanwhile the Goblyns and Urgrol represent completely separate major communities. Goblyns here are bosk, but they are descended from the same bosk stock as the Kai in the west, and their while their horsemanship might not be the equal of the Goblyn gypsies of taurvann, they come close. Living in large fortresses around which they maintain vast ranges and raise their herds, they also travel to and from landsman settlements in their gaily painted caravans to trade, and are usually happy to offer the meat and hide of untamable mustangs as well as the mounts themselves for trade. Society is tribal, and tribes often clash, but wars are never protracted, and usually a single engagement between a few elite warriors is enough to settle a matter. Khabs rule the fortress in a given region, and anyone who shelters around a fortress in the winter months is kneeling to that Khab's banner, and must make tribute to him. As a result the toughest Goblyn bands are their own men, priding themselves on needing no ruler. Unfortunately this often leads landsman rulers to look on them as bandits, not better than the Urgrol.

The Urgrol live in small roaming warbands, led by the largest and strongest of their number, and live to make war. Hunting for food and furs in the wilds of the Shattered Empire, they gladly make war on whatever they come across, be it Goblyn, man or even other Urgrol. While Urgrol move about as the game does, Urgrol mundu are hermatic, tied to holy places where the Urgrol stop to make worship and leave trophies to earn the favour of the spirits of that place. These runestones are hidden throughout the wilds of the shattered empire and western Ralstaa, and woe to any war herd that crosses a mundu, for they have the power to place potent curses on those who cross them. Urgrol leaders don't want other warbands to have the blessing of the mundu in his range, so often they will mark their territory with trophies and runes, and fight bitterly to keep the region in their control, but a mundu will almost never align himself to a leader. Once every century or so a 'chosen one' rises up, and the mundu see portents that lead them to align themselves to a leader. When a warlord marches with a mundu then other warbands will join him, and briefly the race of the Urgrol will unite to thunder unchecked across the lands of the old Irian empire, until they descend again into in-fighting.

The Irinos

An irino is the part of a larger settlement, usually a major city, inhabited exclusively by Irians. They are widespread in all of the major settlements, landsmen and otherwise, along the southern coast of Allornus. Irians are notorious for hoarding wealth, only trading amongst themselves and generally making outsiders feel unwelcome in districts that they occupy. While no lands have actual laws banning non-Irians from irinos, and very few are walled, these districts have shops that will often only serve and buy from Irians, and generally only Irian is spoken, and temples to Irik are the heart of the community.

Irinos normally only support populations of a few hundred strong, but are nearly entirely self-contained, with all the tradesmen and services that an Irian would need on a day to day business. Generally they are able to live in the style of the upper classes of their host city, not building structures in their own style, but rather bringing in local builders and using the wealth that Irians are wont to horde to build themselves fine homes.

Irians in irinos are close-knit communities, and most people know everyone else in the community, and outsiders are not only met with a language barrier, but with suspicion and even disdain. As a result, while criminals often target irinos they are generally easily identified and carefully watched. The local authorities however are often just as resentful of the isolationist irinos as the local populace, and many irinos have had to find other ways to police their streets and protect themselves from outsiders.

Major Races and Cultures


The Shattered Empire is inhabited by sizeable communities of tribeless, Urgrol, Irians, Goblyns, Ghost-Men, Haedrasians, and Bird-Men, making it a diverse region. Except for the Irians, who remain relatively pure blooded, the landsmen here are largely mixed, with most exhibiting a caramel tint to the skin and a warmer tone to the hair and eyes, with many also possessing hair of a cold blue-black, showing Irian heritage. The folk tend to be of unremarkable build, and tend toward being tall, but full blooded Irians with their nut-brown skin, lean frames and slightly ungainly manner, and giant lean Haedrasians are both common, the later around the western border especially. Urgrol are of myr stock, favouring the goat they once herded, though their hunger for meat and aggression marks them apart. All ropey muscle, but lacking speed, agility, and good sense they are mostly raiders and primitive nomads. The Goblyns here are of bosk descent, meaning that they are less fine of feature than their vashri kin, and less cultured. These horse nomads favour bright colours, and their skin has greyer tones to it than Goblyns elsewhere. They also occasionally produce a Goblyn with flaming red hair. The Bird-Men of the hoarfells are much like the rest of their kind, being haw or falcon-like, and tending towards both warm and cool shades of red-brown with the occasional whites. They tend to be even leaner than those found further east, perhaps because they struggle more here, or perhaps because of the beginning of some western subrace. The Ghost-Men are as mysterious as they are elsewhere. Towering, mythic for their grace and beauty, and so elusive they might as well be mere fable, the evidence of their presence, in the form of bodies, hung from trees as warning, is all that those who brave their range and live ever see.

Tattoos

The Irians have long been known for their habit of tattooing their limbs and even faces with intricate, curved and geometric designs in vivid indigo, as a mark of status. Priests often cover their arms, legs, torsos, and faces with such markings. Some shave their heads and pattern their bare scalps. However generally community leaders will settle for the forearms, biceps, and parts of the face. Men tend to have markings on their cheeks, rising from the jawline to the cheek bones, while women generally have their markings on the chin, up to the mouth. These patterns tend to have little meaning in and of themselves, but they are passed on down a family, so to see one's family design on a non-relative is a grave insult, often repaid by death, or flaying that skin from the perpetrator. Many families trace their lineages, and relationships with other families, through their tattoos.

Generally starting at the wrist or biceps, or sometimes ankles, Irians get their first tattoo at the age of thirteen. And they are expanded every year thereafter, until they have their family's full compliment of markings. Families who feel worthy of more markings, or if another party feels their standing deserves fewer, must go before the elders of their ancestral irino, and they will deliberate on whether or not to permit this.

While a family shares the same patterns and markings, no two individuals have them in the same places on their bodies. They are designed artfully, to compliment the contours of the individual's body, and thus like a finger print, no two Irians have the same tattoos, and a child's will represent the combination of father and mother, with sons favouring their mother's markings, and daughters favouring their father's. The one constant is that the shapes are always simple, curved, geometric, and drawn in the indigo dye made from flowers that grow only in Dagvrith around Irikhan-Mora.

The Irian Tongue


Perhaps it is because the Irians are wont to move around, and trade with others, and bring goods and wealth into other communities, or perhaps it is because of the relative simplicity of their language, or perhaps it is because the written word came first to the sons and daughters of Irik, but whatever the reasons the Irian language has become a major influence on all of the landsmen of Allornus. The various Kelorn dialects, Low Haedrasian, Ahlonian Trade Tongue and a handful of other languages have as much foundation in Irian than in any other tongue.

Setting Trait (3): Mothertongue The Iri migration, with their wealth and learning, came to influence dozens of cultures in the formative, ancient days. And so many see Iri as an ancient and powerful tongue, and many documents of importance, from religious scripture, to ancient history, borrows from, or directly uses Iri, and many outsiders have a few words, or a motto, passed to them in this tongue.

What’s In a Name?

The Irians have always placed great emphasis on the spiritual power behind the name of a person, place or thing and the power it carries. To know the true name of something grants great power over that thing, similarly to know a person’s name grants an individual a certain power over that person. The Irians believe each living thing has two names, its body’s name and its soul’s name, and each name confers power over that part of a person. The body’s name is that which the Irians go by, that given to them by their parents when their body is created, and only a friend is permitted to know this name, because it grants power over an individual’s physical state. The soul’s name is known only to the individual, and is generally delivered to him or her in a dream by whatever spirit they venerate, be it Irik or any other Divh. This name is completely secret, because it grants power over an individual’s soul. Often religious ceremonies require the giving of the spiritual or true name to the spirit to which the individual allies himself, but generally this will never be disclosed. A man who gives his true name to another is seen to be willingly selling himself into slavery.

Setting Trait (1): Guard Well Your Name My Son Thoughout the cities of the Shattered Empire, where the Irian way is slowly eroding, the importance of names is slowly fading into the past, as an impractical superstition, but in the irinos it reigns absolutely. For a traveller to even ask a person his name is considered a grave insult, perhaps even an attempt at assault! And many hapless foreigners have found themselves ejected or worse for such offences.

Irian Etiquette

When the Irians greet one another or are introduced for the first time the formal greeting is a simple but meticulous one. Often merely last names are given, or else a trade and a last name, such as "The Merchant Ullynl" will be used until one individual feels comfortable with the other. Men grasp one another's wrists or forearms in a kind of handshake with both hands, women clasp both hands and when a man meets a woman he also clasps her hands. There is then a bow, the greeter bows first and the individual of lower social status must bow lower. It is then considered good form to invoke the blessing of the divinity in which the individuals place their faith upon the person you have met.

There are a few exceptions, most prominently when one meets a priest it is custom to kneel and kiss their palms. Priests greeting one another go through the same process, but do not kneel, however wealthy patrons within irinos are only greeted in this manner by lesser ranking priests, not secular commoners or lesser (but still initiated) patrons. Magicians and suspected magicians, as well as mistrusted outsiders, are mistrusted generally and so it is considered a bad idea to come into direct physical contact with them on first meeting, thus most Irians will mime through the motions of the greeting they would give a priest without actually making contact. The Tribeless have largely done away with these rites of welcome and greeting, requiring the lower ranking individual to kneel before the higher, and the higher to bow in response.

Timeline


All dates are given in the count shared by the Irians and Ralstaans, it is measured from the year in which Irik and Rallah left their people, and ascended into the skies, notated as D for Departure.

c. -1020 D The Iri depart the Isle of Men.
c. -1014 D The Iri arrive on the southern coast, and negotiate with the myr there for land.
c. -1010 D The Iri formally settle the Shattered Empire region, and that to the west, the Irian Empire is founded.
c. -991 D Work begins on the original Great Northern Highway.
-930 D The sundering generates monster waves, much of Iria disappears into the sea, including the first highway.

0 D Irik Departs
11 D The Irian Emperor Vannemat is assassinated, the empire collapses, various Nasir carve off their own states.

1114 D Present Day.

The Shattered Shards of the Irian Empire
Ulvrith, Dagmora, Assardan, Ulynlul, Mora-Amar, Kashmora, Enlal-Makal, Dagvrith, Dag-Molag, Orenthril, Sukkadia, Dol-Sardis, Suldan, Llumora, Mmu-Molag, Sudben, Malk
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