A nation run on advanced magical technology, the Imperium exists as a seeming utopia of higher living. There are rumors outside the Imperium, however, that suggest it is run by maniacal sorcerors bent on world domination who subjugate their citizens. The Imperium is broken up into seven districts, each with its own distinct culture.
This fortified military outpost acts as the ingress point for all Imperium expeditions. Would-be adventurers board the ship across the ocean in the Imperium, taking the 24-hour journey and landing at Port Rockledge, purchasing equipment from the quartermaster there. Adventurers are then taken by horse-drawn cart to the next town, called Forestwall.
Colloquially called "Adventurer's Town", this hamlet boasts the only tavern in the area, the Log's Bump. Established by the first Expedition of Adventurers 15 years ago, the town has developed it's own guard force, elected a mayor, and even attracted a temple to the gods. Recent events have resulted in a Knight-Commander to be elected as a public official, along with the Temple Elders. A local cult's attacks on the little town have been increasing in frequency the last few months, causing a building panic in the people that have settled here. The town is surrounded by the Dark Forest that extends to the east and south.
The Dark Forest
Home to a nomadic tribe of radical elves, they fanatically protect the forest from harm or intruders. Many logging and clearing parties have been slaughtered by the elves as they worked in the forest. Search parties and then hunting parties were formed and sent, but these groups never return, either.
East of the Dark Forest, rests this interesting town of mostly non-humans, settling from the nation of Solaricedes. The town is only two buildings, though both buildings are large and take up the area of a normal town. One building is referred to as "the guild hall", and houses all manner of things, from taverns to brothels to vendor shops to libraries to banks. The other building is a war college, but also houses the temple and constabulary. The college is, of course, sanctioned by the Solaricedes monarchy, thus the curriculum also reveres Semil, the god of the Sun and Fire.
South of Laventhrop, this town is positioned comfortably outside the mouth of a river delta.
West of the Nevra desert, an old community of escaped slaves metes out a just living. Instead of putting criminals to death, they are either fined, or banished into the desert.
East of the North Mountains, this town is a blip on a map. Mostly built as a resupply point for journeys north, it has become a hub of sorts.
These mountains are impassable, as the sheer cliffs and winds make the journey beyond treacherous. Few know what lies to the north of the mountains.
This lake covers several dozens of square miles, with a river feeding in and a river feeding out. Bridges have been built across the rivers at the entry and exit points of the lake.
This continent of mostly Beastkin live under a divine monarchy, chosen in a sun ritual on the solstice. Their archipelago collaboates peacefully within their borders.
Legendary Dragon Continent
Only scholars of obscure lore have uncovered this marvel. Few others know of it's existence, it's legendary!
Sigil, the City in the Ring
This city is magically contained on the inside of a rotating ring on the Astral Plane. Not much is known about this place, as it takes a large amount of magical power to travel there.
A Normal Day in the Imperium
Jithran's pleasant dream was coming to a close. The pretty girl who'd been leading him through stone corridors draped with silk curtains all night finally stopped. She turned back and looked seductively at him over her shoulder, on which her lace robe barely clung. She'd done this many times over the course of the night, but this time felt climactic. She smiled, and turned slowly around, her fingers dancing to the opening of her robe. Jithran was engulfed in indescribable ecstasy, as she slowly let the fabric fall, and, for the briefest of moments, he glimpsed her bare body before his purview was awash with a white flash, and he was sitting up in his plain bed, drab furniture and dull decor the only things to be seen.
He sighed. the same great dream every night. It was, arguably, the best way to wake up, he thought. Jithran hummed himself a tune as he went about his getting dressed and ready for the day. The tune, of course, was the National Anthem of the Imperium, an upbeat and catchy tune, one that would be playing to mark the start of the day in short order.
Sure enough, as Jithran stepped out of his door, in sync with probably a hundred other citizens who shared this building with him, and at least ten thousand other citizens around the district, and at least a million other citizens across the nation, from seemingly everywhere in stereo, the Anthem began to play:
"All glory be to the Eternal Imperium,
for without their rule, we'd be lost in delirium!
We'll all do our part to make our nation great,
leave decisions to the magelords who conrtol our fate..."
As Jithran sang along, he looked around and smiled at some of his neighbors. There was Fritz, he owned a merchant stand in the Bazaar; there too was Voss, he worked as a mundane smith, making arms for the District Enforcers. They all were singing along, complacently giving nods and waves to various other citizens. In the courtyard, the nation's flag blew in the breeze, prominently displaying a black fist clenching lightning bolts, emanating a red aura against a field of blue. They continued to sing:
"For the sake of the Greater Good we offer willingly
certain freedoms for the sake of blissful liberty
and now we go to work and in exchange for freedom
we toil for a better life in the Imperium!"
As everyone stops singing and the music stops, a feeling of euphoric elation washes over those gathered, and Jithran's mind is flooded with happy memories, of he and his coworkers from the shipyards drinking at Grisel's Brand pub, laughing and having a good time; how he felt the first time he used a District Porter (it was fun); the first time he made love; that memory was a little painful, as the elation left, and he was reminded that his first love left him, said he wasn't "ambitious enough" and "would never amount to anything" and "she couldn't be held back". Most others seemingly went on, unaffected, about their day, others shoved the forced smiles back on their face. "That's not supposed to happen," thought Jithran. "I'll have to take that to the Doctors." He shuddered at the thought. But "unhappy thoughts don't belong in happy people", or so it says on the sign on the Doctor's Tower in Northern District.
The line to the Port-a-Porter moved at a brisk pace as usual, so it wasn't long before Jithran stood inside the little box with a panel of glowing buttons in front of him. This was a local Porter, connecting to hubs across the Western District. Solemnly, he found and pressed the one labeled "District Travel" and pressed it. A whoosh and a flash later and he was standing on a pad in a populated square. A gigantic screen hovering above the pavilion displays directions to milling citizens, showing the way to various destination Districts. A quick glance around at the Enforcers reminded him to put on a smile. Good thing, too; an Enforcer was moving his way. Jithran quickly sped through his affirmations: "I'm a happy, well-adjusted citizen of the Imperium, I'm always ready to offer whatever I can to ensure the greater good..." he thought.
Halfway through his third repetition, he heard a gruff voice call out, "Hold up there, citizen!"
Panic took over his brain. There is nothing to fear from the Enforcers unless you break the Law, he knew, but mages wield powerful magic and common citizens were barely above insects. He stopped, and looked up to face his inquisitor. As he did, relief washed over him in a torrent that almost knocked Jithran to the ground. Two Enforcers were accosting a man not five feet from where Jithran stood. "Thank the gods," he thought to himself.
"But I didn't do anything!" whined a nasally voice as Jithran shuffled away with haste. Once you've earned the earned the ire of an Enforcer, it was a trip to the Lawful Tower, one from which you don't always return.
Here at a District Porter Hub, Jithran had access to other Hubs across the Imperium. In another briskly moving line, he could see at the front another Porter, not a little cubicle like the local Porters that are in most reputable establishments, but a more open pad with a bigger panel of buttons and a token style. The panel was filled with color coded buttons, coded so for the different Districts: red for the Capitol District, white for the Mountain District, black for the Swamp District, green for the Forest District, Blue for the Northern District, Orange for the Western District, and Brown for the Lower District. People walked up to the style, deposited a token, pressed a button and a flash later there was an empty platform, it's previous occupant whisked away to whatever destination chosen. The Doctor's Tower is located in the Northern District. Jithran reached in his pocket and produced a Porter token. Citizens were issued a certain number of these per month depending on their occupation and expected need for them. Just holding it made his fingers tingle; Jithran was sure that there was some magic in the coins. When it was his turn, he deposited the token in the style, found the blue button marked "Doctor Tower", and pressed it.
A whoosh and a flash later and he was more than nine thousand miles to the north, standing in another populated outdoor pavilion milling with more people. Everywhere you go in the Imperium there's people doing their part for the Imperium, he thought. The pavilion, instead of being decorated in the orange and red pageantry of the Western Warmages, was a sea of blue and black banners championing the Northern Netherknights. It was nothing compared to the gallantry displayed in the Capitol District, but then again, the Capitol Captains have won the District Games every year since it's inception fifty years ago. Not without District Pride, Jithran cheers for the Warmages as if he were on the team... "As if," he thought, almost begrudgingly. "Oh, drat," he thought. "That's another one I'll have to take to the Doctors." Good citizens of the Imperium mind their thoughts, as thoughts contrary to the Imperium are contrary to unity, and are thus unhealthy. Unhealthy thoughts should be brought to the Doctors willingly for unpunished, painless extraction.
The Northern Netherknights could be seen running practice drills in their stadium, flashes of blue and black streaking across the fields in a dazzling display. Watching them was almost calming, their methodical movements and coordinated maneuvers almost told a story, their robes flowing and trailing painted a picture that enthralled him and served to draw him in closer; suddenly he was pulled back from the edge. Jithran hadn't even realized he was moving forward. He'd gotten distracted by the Netherknights, he'd almost forgotten why he'd come, but then--
"Good morning, citizen, enjoying our fine Netherknights, are you?"
Jithran was whirled around to face his accuser, and gulped hard. It was a Northern District Enforcer. Jithran began to stammer, "Uh, yes, sir, it is a fine show, I don't know what's going on really, because I'm not--"
"...not a mage, I know, that much is obvious," the Enforcer waved his hand dismissively, making no attempt to hide his disdain for either Jithran or his station. His words cut through Jithran's like shearing sheep's wool. "Did you come to the Northern District to enjoy our team's drills? I'm sure you have elsewhere to be?"
Jithran stared into the Enforcer's eyes. You could tell a mage in the Imperium by the shifting gradients and hues behind the eyes; the effect of channeled Mana. Jithran was momentarily lost in the shifting eyes of the Enforcer before he realized he'd been asked a question. Then he began to sweat when he nearly forgot what he'd been asked. "What, I, uh, no, see, oh yeah, I'm going to the Doctors, uh--" He paled. Northern District Enforcers specialized in thought crime.
Growing up in a small town in a small kingdom, Redjin Oldkendwight had only one skill to claim as his own; the heavenly voice gifted him by the gods. He was always quick with a soothing lyric and was loved by all as he reached adolescence. Travelling bards would sing popular songs of the day, and Red was hooked. His father wanted him to stay and help farm with the rest of them, but the love of music already had a firm grip on the boy. On the day of his 17th birthday, he left his small town. Being poor didn’t stop his mother from scraping together enough to gift him a guitar, his one cherished possession, and began his journey with only the clothes on his back and his mother’s gift.
Having no money, he wandered from town to town and city to city, collecting what he could from performing under the name Eltonias Jonas, but usually only enough to keep him just fed and dry. He developed a somewhat debaucherous sweet tooth, as he was carnally insatiable with fans, man and woman alike. He traveled the country this way for years, staying only long enough for his local fame to peak before he moved on to the next town. Finally, his journey brought him to Longdome, the capital city of the kingdom. This city was the biggest he’d ever seen, and he immediately began to sing, before even entering the gates. It is said that the people fell in love with him as soon as they heard his voice, for he entered the city singing, and soon had a procession of commoners following him through the streets. A royal parade was making its procession through the streets at this time, and the commotion from Eltonias’a singing is heard by the royal guard, who charge over to see the scene. The guard attempts to break up the “mob”, while the king arrives and shouts over the din. “Who is this man, who is bold enough to hold a parade on my queen’s birthday?!” He glares around at the gathered crowd, all on their knees, bowing.
Redjin stands. “I am Eltonias Jonas, my liege, a humble performer from a humble town in your kingdom,” he bows. “For my life, I knew not your lovely queen’s birthday was today, but I know that you are King Raywill the kind, lord of the realm, please, allow me to perform for your graces for the day, I am at your service,” he continues.
The king is taken aback, as the Queen appears on his arm. “Yes, I do love a good song, let him sing for us my king,” lulls the Queen. She smiles and looks at the assembled kneeling crowd. “Let’s hear it for the king’s bard!” Her declaration is met with raucous applause.
Eltonias joins with the king’s parade, singing and playing his prized instrument for all to hear, gaining a following never before seen in the kingdom. Returning to the palace, he is invited to dine with the royal court, and performs after. The king and queen are so enamored with his performances, they set him up with an apartment in the royal palace, and the Queen names him Ser Eltonias Jonas, a Knight of Enelgard, in a divine ceremony under the light of Semil and with the blessing of Gaia, the whole service presided over by priests of the gods of light and nature.
The sweetest gig of his life, he has exorbitant salary with room and board, and performs for the royal court. He is the most popular man in town, and moon lights at local taverns when he isn’t performing and mingling at the lavish royal parties the king holds. Court musician pays well, but always the pragmatist, he donates much to other singers and performers when he can. One such singer was Steven the Wonder, who approached him after a show one night. Blind, but unhindered by it, Eltonias took an interest in him, and together the duo began playing many parties and auditoriums. Eventually the duo began playing regularly for the court at the palace. Now the most popular man in the kingdom, he spread his love with his music, and his joy was contagious. This ecstasy lasted for several years, and Ser Eltonias was the royal Music Knight even after the death of King Raywill, when his son King Berni took over the throne.
At this time, the kingdom of Ziegenhal was waging a war of conquest on the entire region, and Enelgard was next on their warpath. Tragedy struck when the city was attacked, and Steven was struck with an arrow with a strange poison, leaving him gravely ill. Eltonias prayed for all his worth to Gaia, even as the war waged around him. She sent a dryad herald who brought him a proposition.
“The gods have taken notice of the accolades you have received from the use of our gift. A knight of the king’s court, even, how impressive. The gods are hosting an exclusive gala in the eastern mountains. Play the greatest concert of all time for the pantheon, and the power to save your human friend will be granted to you.” The dryad handed him a scroll sealed with divine runes, and when he blinked, she had disappeared.
At that moment he began writing a ballad for his dearest friend, the times of their conquest and general debauchery becoming the inspiration for his song. It told the tale of two friends who seek to spread joy and goodness to all. The poison held Steven comatose, so Eltonias bid his friend farewell, and set out on his journey to the gods’ party. The scroll allowed him passage to the gala, angels themselves guarding the event. When the time came for him to perform, he was nervous, the first time in years that he had felt this way. The show began, however, and he had all of the gods clapping, singing, and laughing with great joy. He began to play his latest ballad, written for his friend and their time together, and everyone in the room was brought to tears. At the end of his concert, with all of the deities present, Gaia proclaimed he be named Eltonias Jonas, god of music and joy. Drana was the only one in attendance to reject the proposition. With the vote passed Eltonias was granted godhood. Eager to return and heal his musical brother, he left the mountains only to discover he was too late. Decades had passed, and the Kingdom of Enelgard was no more. Drana the death goddess had already come to claim what was rightfully hers.
Eltonias pleaded to Drana to let him say goodbye to his brother. Drana laughed a cruel, heartless laugh. “My joy is that you will suffer without your brother for whom you journeyed all this way.” Still, she allowed the spirit of Steven to speak with the new god. “Five minutes,” she lilted, as she walked away.
“Eltonias, never forget where you came from, never let those who bring joy and happiness with their music be ever without protection and guidance,” smiled Steven. In death, his eyes were open, and he knew his friend could see him now. “Help those who have chosen to bring joy, wherever they may be. Do not worry about me brother as I know you will help others as I have helped you,” Steven said, as his form began to fade.
“I will, my brother,” vowed Eltonias, tears in his eyes. “No musician shall ever feel alone or suffer as I did.”
Steven smiled at that, as he faded away, back to Drana's Netherworld. Eltonias is worshipped by performers who value joy for life.
A crying baby is left on a doorstep, wind howling to drown out the infant's wails. The hollow echoes of the knocker on the heavy oak door have since faded, no ear within range of hearing it.
The howling winds have died down by the morning, when the door is opened by a man in simple clothing. Looking down, puzzled, the man looks around. This is the only monastery, nay, the only building for miles and miles, he thinks. The baby's eyes are red and puffy, sleep finally having taken him sometime in the night. We're a monastery, not an orphanage, he adds, collecting the baby's basket and taking it inside.
The baby grew up as any unwanted child does, for it was not out of kindness the master of the monastery let him stay. Rykiri, the boy was named, and he was worked to the bone his entire life. He was not allowed to learn the martial arts of the monks there, only to cook and clean and maintain the grounds. One day, a boy joined the monastery to learn the arts, and he quickly rose to be called a prodigy of the martial arts. He was called Ryshin, and before long he was the top student. At this time, Rykiri was old enough to be used as a punching bag with whom the students practiced.
Rykiri was cleaning in the dojo during one of the masters' presentations, and was grabbed to be used as a sparring partner, much to the jeering of the other students. Rykiri fought back, breaking Ryshin's nose. This caused an uproar, but Ryshin only laughed. He extended a challenge to Rykiri, a formal martial arts duel to be had to determine the resolution of the incident. Rykiri agreed.
The fight went on for much longer than anyone expected, Rykiri realizing that all the years of abuse and watching the other students have paid off in some small way to allow him to hold his own against the younger top student. Rykiri, wanting to end the battle quickly, and due to his general inexperience of utilizing the martial arts, ended up killing Ryshin. Obviously upset, the elders banished Rykiri.
Homeless, penniless, and now hungry, Rykiri wandered the mountains, surviving, until he reached a town, advertising the Frontier Expeditions. The perfect ticket, it seemed.
...more to come soon!
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