No one knows who - or what - created the world. While the Old Faith seems the most likely suspects, the God and Goddess have never made such a claim, nor do they permit their followers to. As such, no one knows how the world began but many hold it can be ended, perhaps via magic.
Some elven legends claim the world has always been, but are more vague about whether it would always be as well. Being so long-lived, the elves tend not to bother with their own mythology and just live in the world as it is. Dwarves hold the world was forged by a deity they call only the Forgemaker, who made the world out of the sun and peopled it with life. Currently dwarf mythology claims that all races were created at the same time, and are all equal in the Forgemakerís eyes. (If it has eyes. Some dwarves contend that the world is so obviously ill-made, with suffering and magic in it, that the Forgemaker was either blind or was blinded by the joy of making his - or her - creations. Others hold the Forgemaker has a son or daughter who did the real forging and was the one blinding while the Forgemaker went on to new worlds.) Human myths tend to be more sporadic and see the world as a dark, cold place. Not surprisingly, they tend to have more afterlife mythology, places where the good go to await rebirth that differ from those that bad people end up going to.
All races hold that the dead are reborn to life. Whether there is a system of judgement that determines what your reborn as remains a hotly debated topic but all people believe in reincarnation. Some humans, who tend to be reincarnated the most, believe that the goal of the cycle of death and rebirth is to learn enough to free yourself from it, perhaps by magic or faith or sheer accumulated wisdom. The longer-lived races see this as just a form of human rationalisation rather than fact. It is possible, generally using faith or magic, to prevent people from being reborn. Some lesser deities even eat souls, an act most people find horrible and terrifying. As well, some oaths can even bind people into their next lives, or call their spirits back into the world to aid someone. If a persons spirit is called and they have been reborn, the meeting of both disturbs reality, such that a very big explosion occurs. At least, that is what legends say. No one has ever obviously seen it happen and survived.
The dwarves cremate their dead, which seems odd for a race dwelling underground until one realises that they mingle the ashes of the departed with the fires in their forges. As a result, dead dwarves live on in the very creations of the dwarves. Dwarves believe this is part of what gives their weapons strength and invoking dead ancestors or naming weapons after them is a common practise.
Elves that do die - rare as it is - are taken to Changers and their bodies prepared and cremated in an ancient ceremony perhaps as old as the elven race itself. Elves believe that an elf properly cremated will be reborn as an elf while one who isnít wonít be. As a result, many elves lost some very good friends during the war with the humans, where some of the more evil minded human generals would make sure to destroy fallen elven bodies as an insult.
Humans tend to bury their dead, believing that everything comes from the earth and returns to it at a later date. However, cremation is possible as well, especially in Winter where people can use the warmth. Itís also common for burial after wars but in times of peace burial in the earth with some marker - often stone - over the spot to let people know who died there is most common. Humans never bury the dead in caskets since that just keeps them away from the earth.
Goblins and other races tend to consume their own dead since itís simply rather practical. No special diseases are contracted from this ritual but use of herbs is generally essential - especially if the body is that of a goblin. Otherwise eating oneís own coat might be more appealing.
There are 3 established orders of deities in the Four Lands. The Old Faith of the God and Goddess, the Pantheon of gods and the druidic worship of the world itself. These are all outlined below, along with the Elemental Spirits that lie somewhere between the gods and mortals.
The Old Faith
|The Three Faced God||Eyes: White||Access to all spheres|
|The Three Faced Goddess||Eyes: Black||Access to all spheres|
The God and Goddess are an old faith forgotten by many save in legend and myth. They have given no laws on men save that Dragons Are Not To Be Hunted (The God) and Be Hospitable (The Goddess). Violaters of these two laws tend to have ... problems in their lives as a result, regardless of what they believe. All know their names but very few tend to call upon them for aid.
|Min||Male||Chief God||Good, Order, Strength||Blue|
|Amrita||Female||Wife of Erlik||Healing, Luck, Protection||Yellow|
|Goga||Female||The Lonely One||Chaos, Death, Travel||Violet|
|Rhiannon||Female||Sister of Epona||Knowledge, Law, Trickery, War||Orange|
|Epona||Female||Sister of Rhiannon||Animal, Strength, Travel||Red|
|Erlik||Male||Husband of Amrita||Destruction, Evil, Strength||Indigo|
|Varuna||Female||Wife of Min||Air, Earth, Fire, Water, Sun||Green|
This is the worlds established pantheon of deities. No one is sure what they are, other than gods. They can take any shape they wish at will but, like all deities, are believed to be unable to change the colour of their eyes. Their avatars - mortals given some of their power in the world - also have eyes like theirs, in most cases. Worship of them before the world was broken into the three lands was sporadic, at best. However, the creation of the four lands led to a desperate need for people to believe in Gods, and they increased in power as a result. The seven are listed in their order of power.
The world view of the druids - that the world is a god and (to some) that everything is a (or the) god - is gaining some strength, but mostly among druids and their friends. The idea of the world being a god makes sense to many, but the idea of everything as a god or that everyone would be part of the world, is less widely accepted. Some people believe that it is the mother of the gods.
Elemental Spirits are beings somewhere between mortals and gods, deathless entities that can become gods through belief, worship and raw power. Very little is known of them save that to bargain with one is dangerous and to ally with one perilous for the cost can be anything from oneís very soul to honour itself.
Earth spirits are the most common elemental spirit and in many ways the most powerful, for the earth is everywhere and the home of almost all species. Earth spirits can grant awesome power but always demand service in return for anything they give. They tend to think in very long terms and seldom show the true measure of their powers to others. Many consider them the most devious of Spirits, and the most feared.
Fire spirits can be common but due to their nature seldom met as most people do not journey to volcanoes or into deserts looking for one. Their power lies in mirages and light and they can take or give life at a whim. The danger of bargaining with one is they tend to forget bargains. Angered or insulted, they will respond by obliterating whoever insulted them. This makes long term alliances with mortals almost impossible to achieve.
Water spirits are seldom seen out of the water and always ask a price to pass their lands. Failure to pay it means they may demand another. Another refusal and they will likely destroy whoever is annoying them. Water spirits seldom change and few accept or ask for worship for the Sea is bigger than any bargain they make to protect mortal vessels. The creation of the Four Lands decreased the amount of them exponentially.
There are no air spirits.
Storm spirits, spirits that have all elements and cause - or perhaps simple are - storms are individually the most powerful elementals. They are the ones most likely to be elevated to minor deity (godling) status and are very arrogant and puissant forces. They do not bargain: they demand servitude and obedience. Few ever defy one and fewer still survive the experience.
Elemental Spirits as a whole are limited to working only in their domains. If they bargain with mortals (for a soul or souls) they can gain power to work outside it, but only to limited extents. Hiding from, say, a fire spirit in water for a long time (because you bargained for good dice rolls and the spirit got angry when you complained about the result) is possible, but eventually it will destroy you as these entities sometimes work together or make deals or use energy gained from souls to do things they normally could not.
Mortals allying with them are often despised or feared. The very act of allying with one is considered proof someone has no honour, or that theyíd give up their honour for a good meal or a quick deal on something. What is known is that a full alliance is rare and as most clerics tend to kill people who have made them, seldom achieves great power.
The Four Lands have a rather strange geography. Made by the elves at the end of the Thousand Year War against the humans that, legends say, the elves knew they were going to lose, the creation of the Four Lands was a massive changing spell the likes of which has not been attempted before or since. According to some tales, the elves were made aware that what they did was wrong, but not forbidden since the Old Faith forbids very few things. Others claim the Pantheon manipulated the elves so they would make the Four Lands. Regardless of the reasons, each land of the 4 lands is one season: Spring, Summer, Autumn or Winter.
The lands remain as their season all the time, with occasional changes to cooler or warmer but nothing extreme. Strangely enough, food can be planted as well in all the seasons and does grow, albeit at different rates. For example, planting food begins growing faster in Spring. In Summer it grows longer and in Autumn you get better harvests. In Winter you just hope for the best. As well, the lands are affected by wars. Summer has become Fire with burning hills and droughts, Winter has become ice and Autumn once Fall. Only Spring has never become Flood.
Lastly, no one knows how large the lands are. Aside from using The Road that runs between them all, travel from land to land is precarious at the best of times. Go too far out into a season and stories say you end up in another world entirely. No one knows if this rumour has truth to it, but it is a fact that the further one goes from The Road and civilisation, the stranger the world gets ..roads move, villages seem to be further away than you expected and the like. No one knows why this is so, however.
|The Four Lands|
This map was made by a geographically ignorant and spatially challenged author. All distances are whimsical and subject to change without notice.
The Road - Found in all the Four Lands, the road is a road of interlaying white and black cobbles that goes through all four lands. By unspoken consent, travel via the road to and of the four lands is rarely ever blocked by any race. The road also has an underground parallel of white and black rock according to the dwarves. No hostile magics can be worked on the road and it is considered a neutral zone, one whose neutrality is seldom broken.
To The Heartwood - The heartwood is a forest of trees in the centre of the four lands, said to be the centre of the world itself. Few travellers enter the wood and fewer emerge the same, if they do at all. Only the Djinn assassins school dwells there and few would call them sane, or normal. Little else is even rumoured about the wood and none who travel to it reach it without being invited.
Delta - The lush farmland of the Spring rivers coming together provided the impetus for this unwalled city. It has grown over the past two hundred years into a large and thriving metropolis. Expeditions to explore accross the lake have been planned but none of the 20 sent so far have returned.
Druid Wood - A large forest that seems to be the centre of the druid faith. Few non druids are allowed to enter and only the foolhardy try and hurt animals or trees within its bounds.
Garyen - The city of Garyen is the oldest standing city in Spring and was the capital until roughly 300 years ago, when the The Silver City was first planned and built by the Silver Queen, perhaps so it would be closer to the Druid Wood. While the fortunes of Garyen have soured since then, it is still a large and prosperous city that welcomes all travellers.
Garyen River - A rather calm and placid river, the Garyen is popular for travellers and merchants alike.
Heart River - The heart river is a wild, raging river filled with rapids. Some claim it leads to the Heart Wood, but since it goes underground before it reaches The Road, no one has been able to follow it to the end. Travellers trying to follow it on the other side of The Road tend to find it too hard to navigate.
Lake Noran - The largest lake in the Four Lands, Lake Noran's size has never been discovered and attempts to chart it have so far failed. There are rumours of races living under the waves but none have been reliably reported.
The Silver City - The largest city in Spring, The Silver City is the home of the Silver Queen who has ruled the land for over 300 years of peace, an unparalled achievement for a human. The source of her longevity is the subject of many rumours but no one knows. Perhaps it comes from the silver mask she always wears. The city has a strong silver motif, with buildings and statues decorated with it. It is considered the pinacle of human architecture.
The Winding River - The northern river of Silver, the winding river is generally calm and easy to traverse but requires portaging at some parts of it, including around the silver city.
Anitoch - The village of Anitoch is one of the northern towns nominally part of the Palaver of the North. It is not quite frontier land but still survives largely on goods shipped from the Palaver itself.
Burning Hills - The remains of the Summer Empire can be found here, buildings of stone and wood largely crumbled into ruin over time. Very few explore them as they're said to be haunted by the dead who were never given proper funerary rites.
North Wood - The edges of civilisation in Summer, this is a large forest of massive Redwoods, so large that it is said some orcs live in the upper branches and never come down to the earth or even see it in their lifetimes.
Palaver of the Hills - The first Palaver, this city was built about 30 years after the Summer Empire fell. Like all the Palavers, it is walled and made of stone and a large learning and cultural centre for Summer. The Almert highborn family built this city as they were the nominal winners of the fall of the Summer Empire and declining fortunes of the First Family.
Palaver of the North - The newest Palaver, this cit was first built 150 years ago in an effort to expand civilisation in Summer. Made as a joint effort by the other two, it was given freendom a century ago and is ruled by the Mantage family, whose courage in taming the northern wilderness is inspiring to many.
Palaver of the Plains - The second Palaver, this city wad founded 70 years ago during a dynastic dispute. Rather than risk war, one of the twins went north and founded this city on the plains. Most food in Summer tends to flow through this city at one time or another. The Belize line rules this city, which means the other two Palavers watch it carefully.
The Steppes - The Steppes are the area where the plains and hills meet and the people there are generally nomadic.
Summer Hills - The northern hills in Summer, these hills are very pastoral and tend to provide good grazing for animals.
The Wilds - The uncivilised lands of Summer. As with Spring, they are the point where things become strange and geography refuses to accept definition. Few people live in this area.
Dunloriel - The capital of the elven nation before Fall 400 years ago, this city was laid to waste and the more militant elves went south while the others went north. Few non elves have ever seen the city and few elves choose to.
Lingos - The southern city, this is mostly a trade area with travellers passing on The Road ans is considered neutral ground by the elves, as well as the centre of Changer training.
North Wood - The northern woods. No one is sure how far they (or the southern ones) extend since the elves don't have any interest in taming their lands geography.
The Sacred Grove - A grove said to be sacred to the God and Goddess. Many elves preform rites for the dead here and it's location is an elven secret.
South Wood - The southern woods are traversed by more militant elves who believe that no humans should travel in Autumn at all. Fortunately they are not organised and seldom pose a danger to large groups.
Travellers Glade(s) - Simple areas set up for travellers to camp in. Few elves will attack travellers in them.
Fire Pass - One of the few reliable passes into the Mountains and Shargosa. No one knows how it acquired it's name.
Grey Hills - Just some dreary hills. Honest.
The Mountains - The moutains of Winter, so tall that they are said to be the backbone of the first dragon and called the pillars of the world in human and dwarven mythologies. They are harsh and unforgiving and no one knowns what lies south of them, if anything does. The infamous Donner Expedition to find out what lied to the south ended with them "becoming as goblins" according to stories. Few have attempted to go south since.
Shargosa - The only remaining city of note in Winter, Shargosa is a bleak and gloomy place and one of the only human city not ruled by any Highborn Family. Little is known of it save that it is a haven for criminals and those who do not wish to be found.
Way Station - Stations set up for the few travelers through winter, they tend to be vital to surviving the trek.
The White Fields - A field of bones left over from a war in Winter, the white fields are said to be a "thin" place in the world and no one travels their if they have no choice in the matter.
The history of the four lands begins long before they became the four lands, in a time when the races lived on the continent together and humans were unknown. In this age that has been forgotten to even elven history, the elves made war on the other races, driving them into the underworld of the dwarves with their magic. The dwarves adapted. The other races did also, but became cruel and evil as hatred for the elves burned them. Dark deals were struck with the Powers that dwelled deep in the earth and new gods born over the millennia as the ďmonstersĒ began preparations for a new war.
How close they were to succeeding when the humans arrived is unknown. Fleeing a great evil from a far off land, the humans arrived on boats wrought of iron and rune magic. To the elves, they were a short lived pest. To the forgotten races beneath the ground, they brought magic and a chance against the elves. However, the humans remained peaceful - if wary - neighbours with the elves until the elves tried to limit where the humans could go in their lands,.perhaps trying to prevent an alliance with other races.
Even in those tense times, disaster may have been averted save for a diplomatic faux pas involving a pretty elf and a human highborn led to an all out war when the elven woman decided she would bear his child and went to live with the humans. The resulting war was rather devastating, mostly because the human iron was unknown to the elven world, and turned out to hurt elves a lot. After 1,000 years of war, the elves came to the shocking realisation that they might lose since they had still not recovered from the long ago war with the other races in numbers. Using the fact that this was their continent, performed a changing that sundered the land into four lands, one for each season.
The gods, needless to say, were not pleased. The God and Goddess let the elves know that they were not being forbidden their action - they forbid few things - but that they would pay for it regardless. The four lands of Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter formed with the ancient heartwood at the centre of them all. Only autumn accepted the elves, for their race had lost much of their wisdom and power during the long war with the humans. This was no longer their word: iron could be found in the ground and humans began to build cities and nations in Summer and Spring while the dwarves refused to rule winter and remained in their underground cities.
The human nobility - the highborn from the land they'd come from - soon discovered that the land was linked to whomever ruled it. Wars in Summer turned it to Fire and blistered people and caused massive droughts in fields. Autumn became Fall during the elven civil war and Winter became Ice during a long cold spell once. Only Spring has never fallen and the silver queen has ruled for over 300 years in peace and prosperity, allowing the other lands to recover as they may.
600 years have passed since the Four Lands were made and the fragile peace of the humans and elves and dwarves is cracking, the dwarves furious that the making of the Four Lands robbed them of their cities, the elves weakened by the war and retreated into Autumn and anarchy and the humans trying desperately to maintain peace among themselves. And beneath it all, the forgotten races, the monsters of legend and story, begin to stir ... even as forbidden magics are practised and memories of the old war stir. and above it all, gods and godlings watch over the lands, perhaps indifferently or perhaps they, too, have plans for the mortals who live their lives in the Four Lands, plans that can not be denied.
Living according to honour is a basic precept for all the races, but especially so for humans since itís the only thing that prevents the Highborn nobles from ruthlessly using all other humans as puppets. Honour also largely replaces alignment As honour tends to be a very complex topic, common thoughts on it are included here. At itís most basic level, honour is about trusting someone and taking them at their word. In the Four Lands, this is considered the height of honour and to question someoneís word or integrity is the most insulting thing that can be done.
In the Four Lands, the basis of honour is a conscious assumption of ones obligations, in effect accepting responsibility for what you do and living with the consequences of your own actions. Of course, honour varies from person to person and many people hold to the letter rather than the spirit on honour in most situations. To most people, honour tends to resemble a set of general principles by which one person or a group of persons live by, and the rest of society finds rather silly. The generally accepted tenants of honour include some (or all) of the following:
These ideas apply to friendship as well. In the Four Lands, someone would say "I am not honoured that you are my friend, I am honoured by the trust you are placing in me by being my friend, and I shall do everything in my power to live up to that trust." As such, the concept of honour is closely interrelated with the concept of loyalty and friendship, and how we can use it to discriminate with wisdom in deciding where we will place our loyalty.
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