This will likely be the last post of the series, so before I begin I wanted to wrap up some lose ends and respond to the constructive criticism I have gotten so far. Firstly, here is a size comparison chart for all the sentient species of the Raven Island:
I hope this helps to put things in context. And yes, Imperials are are about as tall as Elves and they tend to tower over Armadans, Nords and even Orcs. Celestials are about the same size as Nords but they have hollow bones which makes them much lighter and slimmer. Also, their impressibe wingspan makes them look bigger than they actually are. Ogres are absolutely huge in this setting.
In the comments section of Part 4, Treylot mentioned that the Celestials came out to be rather one dimensional. This is absolutely true. I guess I was focused on making them the antagonists of the setting, forgetting to throw in at least a little bit of nuance and variety… Which is kinda terrible, because adding nuance and variety to standard fantasy tropes was basically the whole point of this project. So I decided to create a short addendum to their entry here.
The King of Kings and his Spire Lords are often viewed as overbearing despots, and ruthless tyrants. There is however a reason for the iron fist rule. Within the King’s Spire, the King himself is often referred to as the Keeper of Secrets. At the center of his palace there is a library, cared for by a caste of Librarians. The Librarians have their wings removed at birth, and their eyes replaced with enchanted glass orbs which give them approximation of sight, but make it impossible for them to read the books they protect and maintain. Chosen few are spared their eyesight and are designated as scribes, though they are sworn to secrecy and have their tongues removed so that they cannot relay the secrets they transcribe to other librarians.
Inside the library there is a Forbidden Chamber with seven obsidian doors. The king wears a necklace with ten golden keys. Seven of these open the doors leading to the chamber. Within it, there are two chairs and a simple table. Upon it there are two books, both fashioned with golden locks and opened with remaining two keys from the necklace. The larger book is known as The Forbidden Tome and it’s contents are only know to the current reigning monarch. The smaller book is The Book of Secrets and it contains knowledge that every Spire Lord must know before taking his Throne in the Gardens.
When a new Spire Lord is appointed, the king takes him into the Forbidden Chamber and gives him the smaller book to read. The king waits patiently, and answers any questions the Spire Lord may have regarding the text. Not much is known about the exact contents of the book, but many Spire Lords have gone mad after reading it. It is said to contain terrible truths about the nature of the Celestials and their purpose on the island. Many Spire Lords who have been Knockers, break ties with the secret society and become loyalists after the initiation.
There are many stories told about the secrets within the book, but the most common version holds that it warns Celestials about primordial evil sunken deep beneath the island. The two islands are supposed to be tips of the toes of a sunken god who is older than time itself, and who will one day awaken to devour the sun and the sky. The Celestials build their spires all over the world in a pattern that will one day be used in a magical ritual that will crack the world in half and make the sunken god fall into the abyss below. Celesitals are heavenly beings sent to destroy the world, so that the sun and the stars (from where they came, but where they can never return) can be spared. King of Kings and his Spire Lords know that the world will be destroyed one way or the other, but they wish to at least save the heavens. The general population is spared this knowledge out of mercy.
Whether or not this is the exact content of the book is unknown, but it is the version corroborated both by the Followers and the Seekers.
Most Celestials live either in the Spires themselves, or around them under the rule of Spire Lords. Some however choose an alternate lifestyle. In the Northen part of the Kingdom there is an ancient tree city Ma-Kaw which used to be the largest settlement of the Ravenkin on the island before the arrival of the colonial forces. Today it is home to a small sect known as The Followers of the Council of Four.
Long after the ethnic purges that destroyed the Ravenkin civilization, descendants of the Celestial colonists rediscovered Ma-Kaw and became enamored with the long forgotten culture. They have recognized the bird people of the island as their kin, and come to regret what their ancestors did to them. They have re-built and re-settled the city modifying it to fit their own needs, but kept most of the architectural style the same. They have kept the ancient name, but also dubbed it The Free City or the Forest Kingdom.
The followers appropriated many customs and traditions from the ancient Ravenkin culture considering that way of life to be more in touch with nature, and the spirit of the island. They wear traditional Ravenkin jewelry and paint the markings of the original sixteen tribes on their skin as ornaments. They consider themselves an autonomous province within the Kingdom and they refuse to swear allegiance to any of the local Spire Lords. They are technically still subjects of the “Mad King” as they call every subsequent monarch, but they recognize only the rule of the Council of Four.
Each of the councilors (known as the Four Sages) wears one of the sacred masks which was created by the head shamans of the four largest Ravenkin tribes and given to the Celestials as a sign of friendship upon their arrival. Each of these masks has been imbued with ancient magic.
The first of the masks is always a little bit moldy and it gives the wearer powers of decay and destruction. The second mask sprouts flowers and grants powers of growth and rejuvenation. The third mask is covered with moss and gives the wearer power of control over ordinary (as in non-Blackwood trees) and ability to communicate with Dryads. The fourth mask is covered with small mushrooms and gives the wearer power over visions and mind control abilities.
Additionally, when all four masks are used together, the third eye on each opens up, allowing the wearers to gaze back into the past, or forward into the future. The prophecies of the Council are not always accurate, but they come true more often than not. The council functions as an Oracle for the Celestial people and even the Spire Lords have been known to seek its advice.
The Council does not give it’s prophecies for free. The price for asking the council a question about the future or the past is a favor that must be fulfilled. The favor can be any request, and one must agree to it before receiving the prophecy, but the Council may choose to defer specifying their prince until a later time. Failing to fulfill one’s end of the bargain typically nullifies the prophecy and bars one from asking the Council any questions in the future.
The population of Ma-Kaw is small, and has abolished the caste system in lieu of a tribal society roughly based on appropriated and modified customs of the ancient Ravenkin society. Each of the four sages functions as a leader of one of the four ancient tribes that created the masks: The Moulder Tribe, The Springfeather Tribe, The Mossbane Tribe and The Madcap Tribe. Most of the residents of the city belong to one of these four major tribes and swear allegiance directly to one of the sages. The rest of the population belongs to one of the remaining twelve ancient tribes which democratically pick their own leaders by popular vote. Only eight of these minor tribes have more than a hundred members at any given time. Smaller tribes arise and vanish within a few generations and many tribal markings have been unused for decades.
Even though the traditional caste system is not in effect the society is still very much segregated. When the Ma-Kaw was colonized and the tribal structure was established the Unclean were funneled into three minor tribes: Thistletorn, Blueleaf and Halfpine. Subsequently, rules were established that prohibit intermarriage to prevent them from proliferating to other tribes. While this setup does give them more say over their destiny, they are still disenfranchised group among the free people of Ma-Kaw.
The Forest City is governed by the Council of Four but major decisions require all tribes to vote. The leader of each tribe (regardless of its size) has a single vote, but traditionally the Sages of the council have four votes each so that they can overrule the tribal majority if they wish to do so. This gives sixteen votes to the council, nine to the minor tribes and three to the Unclean tribes creating a rather lopsided pseudo democracy ruled by a tribal oligarchy.
The mainstream Celestials consider Followers to be savages because they live on the verge of poverty, do not respect the caste system and do not keep slaves. The Ravenkin hate them with a passion for stealing, appropriating and perverting their ancient culture, and squatting in the finest of their ancient cities. To add insult to the injury, no Ravenkin are permitted to enter the Free City. The Followers consider them to be fallen people who dishonored themselves and turned away from the ancient ways, and thus unfit to live in the lands of the ancients. They consider themselves to be more fitting heirs of the old culture and magic.
Most Followers live within the Free City, but they have recently started establishing small satellite communities in other parts of the Kingdom. It is not uncommon for tribals to temporarily enter the service of Spire Lords for the purpose of “networking” with the Spire Dwellers and developing trade relationships for their people. Their numbers are slowly growing, and some say the Council has accumulated so many favors it technically has more power than the King himself. They are also said to know all the secrets from the Forbidden Library having gazed both into the past and the future.
The King of Kings seems to tolerate the existence and proliferation of the tribal culture. Some say he values the utility of the Council as a reliable Oracle that can be used to peer into the future. Others say that King’s Spire owes the Council enough favors to ensure their continual existence for centuries to come.
There exist Celestials reject the regimented and orderly life of the Spires, or the tribal, tree dwelling ways of the Followers. They are known as The Seekers of Truth. Their society was founded by a nihilistic, traitorous Spire Lord Harkon who went mad after his initiation, became a renegade and told the secret of the Sunken God to anyone who would listen. He was hunted down and executed for treason, but not before his message has spread throughout the Kingdom. Many written of his message as ravings of a lunatic, but many believed in it despite it being suppressed by the Spire Lords. The Knockers were instrumental in spreading this heresy throughout all the spires hoping it would help them to incite a revolt.
The revolution never came, but Harkon’s gospel gained a cult following. Many Watchers and Unclean satisfied with their lot in life have left the spires and established their own communal settlements by burrowing deep into the ground to be closer to the slumbering god, as proscribed by the mad Spire Lord.
On the surface, Seekers are a nihilistic death cult. They seek to awaken the Sunken God so that he can destroy the heavens. They count themselves blessed as they will be devoured first, and they will not have to witness the end of the universe. They practice live sacrifice using animals, and sometimes sentient volunteers hoping it will please the slumbering deity and gain them their favor. The cult looks pretty bad from the outside, which is why it was disavowed by the Knockers (who no longer disseminate Harkon’s writings). The King of Kings denies existence of the cult and Spire Lords are ordered to ignore the Seekers if possible to avoid giving them any attention. Despite the official denials and information suppression the existence of the cult is probably the worst kept secret of the Celestial Kingdom. The denizens of the King’s Spire often whisper that Harkon’s treason has been foretold in the Forbidden Book and that the Seeker cult has it’s role to play in the Grand Plan. Others say that it is a symptom of the infinite mercy of the Celestial kings to allow their people to choose sides in the grand conflict: they can live a regimented life of blissful and willing ignorance within the spires, or seek truth in the underworld.
Despite being a death cult, Seekers offer something to their members that cannot find anywhere else in the kingdom: a semblance of democracy and equality. Their communities have been established by, and are usually composed mostly of lower caste Celestials who resent and refuse to continue the oppression inherent in the caste system. Each commune is self-governing society with it’s own rules, customs and traditions allowing the members to self-determine and choose their own way of life. The Seeker societies typically have better conditions and opportunities for lower caste women than any other Celestial societies. They also care for the flightless, disabled and infirm and consider them valued and productive members of the society. Many communes have chosen Unclean women, or flightless former slaves as their Head Priests and Priestesses.
Most Seeker communes are open and welcoming to everyone wishing to learn the secret of the island and join them in the worship of the Sunken God. Knockers often use them as a refuge when their cover has been blown and they have to flee from the Spires. Seekers also frequently provide shelter to escaped slaves (though they are wary of non-Celestials in their midst). Many of their underground dwellings have schools, libraries, hospitals and even mental health facilities. As death cultists go they are pretty nice people, at least compared to Spire Dwellers or Followers.
Between the Spires, the Tree Cities and the Caves of the seekers thread the Celestial Blood Mages. No one really knows where they came from. Some say they have arrived to the island from elsewhere along with all the other Celestials. Others say they have developed their brand of magic on the island. Regardless of their origin, they are both feared and admired by all Celestials.
Blood Mages have found a secret to longevity and regeneration. Their favorite party trick is ripping off their own wings and regrowing them on the spot. They are virtually immune to pain, and can recover from just about any damage. They can live for centuries without aging. They are virtually immune to fire and fire based magic and have devised extremely potent hypnotic gaze technique which can render a victim helpless and unable to move. They are said to be able to kill with a single word by causing the victims blood to boil. Their arcane blood rituals can bring about plagues, cause storms and the most ancient Blood Mages have been able to temporarily blot out the sun at times.
They are extremely powerful, but their magic is fueled by blood of sentient beings (preferably Celestials) and they require it in vast quantities. Younger Blood Mages typically drink it instead of taking regular food. Those who have lived for a few centuries must bathe in it to sustain their youth and power. Because of this peculiar need, most Spire Lords would loathe to have one live in their Spire. Both Seekers and Followers are very wary of them. Thus Blood Mages tend to be loners, traveling from place to place and never staying too long at one location.
To support their super-charged biology Blood Mages enter a comatose state known as torpor every night. It is a form of deep sleep from which they cannot be roused, which lasts roughly eight to twelve hours. During that time the blood magic courses throughout their body rejuvenating it. Failing to enter the torpor state tends to have adverse effects, as the enchanted blood in their veins starts to boil and cause internal hemorrhages. As a result Blood Makes are rarely seen after dusk.
Blood magic is not illegal, and it’s practitioners are typically considered to be very entertaining guests and powerful allies. Their experience and wisdom gathered over many centuries of life is valued by Spire Lords, Seeker High Priests and tribe leaders. They often get invited to Garden parties, tribal celebrations at Ma-Kaw or religious ceremonies at Seeker communes. But they can overstay their welcome pretty quickly.
It is not known how many of them exists. According to official tallies maintained by the King’s Spire there are less than a hundred of them remains. According to Seeker legends however, somewhere out there exists a city full of Blood Mages and slaves used to feed their insatiable appetite for blood.
Blood Mages can easily pass for regular Celestials. They are typically upper caste, though there exist Watcher and Unclean practitioners as well. Some live in the Spires or among Seekers practice the blood magic in secret feeding from willing subjects when possible. However because their thirst grows over time, it is often difficult for them to find enough supply of fresh blood over long periods of time. In desperation, some Blood Mages turn to kidnapping or murder to secure their blood supply. While the practicing of Blood Magic is not illegal, it is frowned upon because it can lead to some heinous crimes. Spire Lords do not tolerate unsanctioned murder on their territory, and Seekers consider blood that is not shed on an altar to be wasted so they typically banish Blood Mages from their societies if they are revealed. The Council of Four however does tolerate a few Blood Mages in their city as long as they owe them favors.
Most sentient races on Raven Islands cremate their dead. The two exceptions include the Centaurs who rarely ever die (and when they do, their corpses grow into Blackwood trees) and Gnomes whose alien biology makes their bodies decompose differently than for other races. Everyone else however is vulnerable to a parasite known as the Corpsevine.
This plant life form seems to be native to the islands, and spread through microscopic spores carried by the wind. It is virtually impossible to spend a spring anywhere in the vicinity of the islands without inhaling the spores. They become lodged in your lungs, and they typically remain dormant until you die.
If a body is left to rot, the Corpsevine sprouts, and grows rapidly from within the lungs, bursts from the chest cavity and envelops the entire body to create what is known as the Corpsevine Walker:
Corpsevine Walkers are plant based zombies. Their single instinct is to seek out sentient beings who might carry more Corpsevine spores and kill them creating more walkers. Each walker continuously produces and spreads a slimy substance known as Corpsevine Mold as it hunts. The mold attaches itself to all available surfaces, grows and produces spores thus closing the Corpsevine life cycle.
The inhabitants of the islands have been trying to eradicate this menace for centuries, but even as mall patch of mold can produce enough spores to infect the local populations for miles in every direction under the right wind conditions. Similarly a single walker wandering through the woods can produce enough mold patches to restart the epidemic.
There is no known cure, and there seem to be no adverse effect of carrying the Corpsevine spores while alive so the locals simply grew accustomed to an occasional Walker outbreak. This happens especially often after big battles, or natural disasters that kill more people the locals are able to burn on funeral pyres before the vine starts to grow.
The Corpsevine Walkers are slow, ponderous and unintelligent. The leaves sprouting from the vines that envelop the necrotic flesh act as photo receptors giving the creatures a 360 degree field of vision. Their floral leaf eyes however are not very good at recognizing detail. The walkers are attracted to movement – especially the upright bipedal gait of sentient creatures. It is possible to avoid them by staying completely still, or by scurrying on all fours like a wild animal (though the later is more risky than the former).
They are completely deaf, but the vine tendrils have decent sense of touch and/or taste and the older walkers can often track their pray by taste, probing the ground and surroundings with their vines.
The only sure way to kill Corpsevine Walkers is to set them on fire. That said, they don’t burn easily – the vines are damp, and have usually get singed rather than catch flame. The vines always grow from within the body, so even if the body is badly burned, the vines can typically re-grow to a walking mass within days. The creatures usually need to be doused with blamable chemicals or magic to ensure they burn to a crisp and won’t rise again. Hacking Walkers apart is usually not recommended because severed vine tendrils can crawl on their own for days after they are severed from the main corpus. When disconnected from the Walker they have a tendency to wrap around limbs of the attacker, and shred exposed flesh with their thorns causing deep gauges that bleed profusely and typically get badly infected.
Most of the time Walker outbreaks can be easily controlled by corralling the creatures into enclosed pens and setting them on fire. Every once in a while, however, a Corpsevine Ogre shows up and ruins everyone’s day.
Sea Nymphs, also known as sirens are aquatic sentients who live out in the deep seas surrounding the Raven islands. Some say they are descendants of Armadans who loved the sea so much they decided to live in it. Other, possibly more accurate theory states that Armadans might be distant descendants of Sea Nymphs who choose to walk on the land. In either case the two races have shared history.
Most Armadan legends include Sirens as allies, guides or sometimes antagonists. The surviving records written by the forefathers who founded the Capitol mention Sea Nymphs swimming alongside their ships and singing songs during the long journey from the (now forgotten) Armadan homeland. Armadan nobles have Siren in their crests, and adorn the prows of their ships with their likeness. When the Armadans stopped sailing the wide seas and built the Capitol the friendship between the two races seem to have ended. Old sailors like to say that the Sirens resented the founding fathers for forsaking the ocean for dry land. There might however be more sinister reason for this rift.
Sirens do not usually go near the Raven Island or the South Island. Sometimes their bodies wash ashore after big storms, but live specimens are almost never seen along the major trade routes, or within the Armadan Archipelago. But as soon as a ship sails far out enough into the sea to lose sight of the islands, they appear in swarms demanding to be paid a toll for passage over their domain.
Their upper bodies are remarkably human if you discount webbed hands with short barbed claws and needle point teeth arranged win many rows within their mouths. They have black-in-black eyes just like Armadans, though their skin is typically very pale and covered with a layer of slime. Their voices are inhuman and nearly impossible to describe and their vocal range extends far beyond what can be registered by human ears. They can perfectly mimic most sounds they hear, including languages of humans and other races. They often repeat words, sentences or make their own nonsensical sayings without understanding the context. Despite being able to mimic it, most sirens do not understand languages and dialects spoken on the islands. Number of them do learn one or more sentient languages, and they are usually the ones who negotiate with ship captains.
Their lower bodies are a whirling mass or fleshy, barbed tentacles which they can use both for swimming and for crawling. If a ship fails to pay their passage toll in gold, precious gems or other valuables Sirens deem acceptable they’ve been known to swarm up onto decks and slaughter the crews with their bone scimitars, claws and tentacles. They usually wear no clothes, but they’ve been observed to enjoy jewelry. Some carry leather pouches where they stow their equipment.
Little is known about their society, but it seems to be mostly matriarchal. Men are rarely seen participating in the piratical enterprise and toll taking. By studying shored bodies of Sirens, scholars determined that much like some species of sea-horses, it is Sea Nymph males who carry children to term within. Unlike sea horses, the Siren males also seem to take care of the children and are responsible for their education.
It is said that they have sprawling underwater cities in the coral reefs surrounding the islands, though no air-breathing outsiders have ever seen them. The chief city in the region is located somewhere in the North West and when the Nymphs choose to transliterate it to Armadan tongue as a number four hundred and four. Some theorize that Sirens number their cities in a series instead of naming them, though more popular theory is that the city was initially a military post. This theory is supported by the fact that the leader of said city bears a title of Supreme Guardian and Gatekeeper which seem to be used interchangeably.
The citizens of City 404 and it’s many satellites arranged in a wide ring around the archipelago seem to be a society that has splintered off from a larger empire. The city itself might have been built here to guard something, but over the centuries it was forgotten. The soldiers settled down, had children who became natives and so on. Today the Sirens still keep some of the ancient names and titles though they no longer seem to have a clear mission. Unless of course that mission is taxing the trade routes in and out of Raven islands and inspecting cargo of outgoing ships looking for… Well, no one knows what they look for, but when a ship sets out into the wide oceans Sirens always insist to have their Shaman check for “contraband” though no one really knows what it could be, and what would happen if they found any.
It is unknown how many of them live in the city and the satellite towns but most estimates suggest the Sirens might outnumber all sentient inhabitants of Raven Islands. They could easily take over and tax all the internal trade routes between the big islands and the archipelago if they wanted to but they never do. They keep to the reefs, and posts many miles from the shores. It is as if something was stopping them. Regardless of risks and rewards, they almost never cross into the Shallow Seas of the Archipelago. It is as if there was something there, in the depths that frightened them. Or perhaps that’s what they were sent to guard here in the first place.
Dryads are said to be the original inhabitant of Raven Island. Long before Ravenkin and Centaurs have built their first settlements, the Tree Spirits walked the land. While sentient and self aware, they are more of a force of nature than a civilization. Under ideal conditions Dryads stay dormant and incorporeal, their essence attached to ancient trees at the heart of forests. They represent the will of the woods and act as a defense mechanism when the island’s flora is threatened. When angered they envelop themselves in hard, hulking bodies made out of tree bark, stumps and branches. Those manifestations are typically referred to as Ents or Treemen.
Outside Raven Island those manifestations are extremely rare. South Islanders and inhabitants of smaller islands can live their entire lives without even realizing Dryads exist. But they are common sight in Empire, Orzimar and Land of Hob. There, Ents can be seen walking many miles with purpose and determination. They are frequently spotted outside of the wooded areas, and some even cut through civilized settlements, though they rarely interact with other races. They appear to be disinterested in the affairs of mortals, and have more important business to attend.
Frequently they are seen congregating in groups of five or ten in open fields. Their language is silent, and incomprehensible to other races but they seem to have discussions or debates of some sort. They are organizing, marshaling their forces and taking up strategic positions as if they were gearing up for war. With whom, however, remains a mystery. Ents don’t seem to be very interested in fighting the sentient races of the island or even retaking their lands. They are rarely violent, unless provoked. Even when they resort to violence, they seem to loathe to take lives of sentient beings.
Ogres like to test their strength by picking fights with common Orzimarian Dryad variant known as the Oak Brute. These creatures are medium sized (as compared to their brethren) but typically stand taller than Ogres and their bodies are made out of thick, heavy oak wood. They are slow moving, and lethargic most of the time, but incredibly strong. The thick branches they use for limbs can easily crush Ogre skull in one swift blow, but they tend to patiently and almost tenderly swat away young Ogres until they get tired.
Scholars and nature mages have been trying to figure out what is making the Dryads stir, and muster for war. So far there has been little success, because their minds and their language are incomprehensible to mortals. Ents do not seem to seem to understand vocalized languages, and they are unaware when sentient try to communicate with them. Their thoughts are slow, and flow in strange ways: they think and talk in symbols and references that rarely make sense. This makes even magical communication difficult.
So far, available literature suggests that Ents are concerned with some sort of a magical “plague”, epidemic or outbreak. The island is sick, because of something alien and incomprehensibly evil has took root there. Some scholars argue that the Dryads are concerned with Corpsevine, but they never seem to react to Walkers. In fact, many Ents are infected with Corpsevine mold and think nothing of it. Others claim they are concerned with Unicorn visitors, though Horned Sages have been seen peacefully studying Oak Brutes. Some literature suggests that Ents have been awoken when Gnomes arrived from another plane of existence, though evidence seems to point to the contrary. The Dryads of South Island are mostly dormant, whereas on Raven Island they walk.
A controversial theory that is quickly gaining popularity is that Ents do not like Blackwood trees. There are no forest spirits within the Black Forest as the trees there seem to form a much stranger, gestalt like consciousness that is very different from that of Dryad minds. Ents are frequently seen patrolling around Blackwood Tree copses but never go near them. They also seem to react aggressively to very old Centaur Elders who venture outside of the Black Forest. They typically do not attack them, but they will follow them around and make sudden, aggressive motions attempting to intimidate and threaten. Few elders traveling alone have even been attacked, and savagely beaten by irritated Oak Brutes.
What is wrong with Blackwood Trees that they upset the forest spirits of the island? No one knows. The healing trees have been on the island for centuries, and proved to be nothing but helpful and beneficial to the locals. Perhaps the unrest among the Dryads is simply the islands’ natural defense mechanism towards new forms of life and it will die down eventually. Or maybe one day Ents will decide to march on Black Forest and start uprooting the magical trees. That remains to be seen.
Unicorns, also known as the Grays or Horned Ones are a bit of a legend on Raven Islands. Everyone knows someone who has seen them, though officially they are considered a folk tale. There is very little evidence that they exist, save for few artifacts of questionable origin, and unreliable first hand accounts. These tales are usually dismissed by serious scholars, though few note that the descriptions of Unicorns and their fabulous airships seem to be remarkably consistent across different cultures.
Those who have seen their ships, describe them as incredibly complex dirigibles powered by clockwork mechanisms and steam. They are supposedly above and beyond anything that was ever made by the Elves and the Windups, and capable of sailing through the skies all the way up to the third moon (the green one) which is supposedly their homeland.
Each ship allegedly carries a Horned Sage and a regiment of Gray Warriors who protect him… Or her. Virtually nothing is know about the way they reproduce. Whether or not they are sexually dimorphic at all is unknown. Most of the witnesses who claim to have encountered them seemed to be unable to guess their genders.
They are most commonly described as large, almost Ogre sized bipedal creatures with elongated faces and a huge horn protruding from where their nose should be. They all seem to speak with deep, resonant, alien voices and both sages and warriors have similarly thick gray skin and, bulky, muscular build.
Sages seem to be rather powerful mages, but their primary vocation seems to be that of a scholar. They are frequently seen observing the nature of the Raven Island through looking glasses, taking samples, making measurements and writing down observations on tablets made from unknown materials. They seem to be especially fascinated with Blackwood Trees (but then again, everyone is) and Gnomes. In fact, many Gnomes claim that every year a number of living and Immortals goes missing due to Horned One abductions. Gnoblars have similar stories about having their individual members snatched by hulking horned beasts traveling in air ships. None of the supposed abductees has ever returned to corroborate on these stories.
One of the artifacts most commonly linked to the Unicorns are so called Plate Arrays – a circular formations composed of golden or metallic plates. Horned Sages allegedly use them in their magical rituals, and studies. They have been found in many different regions of the island, however there is nothing remarkable both in the formations and in the plates themselves. The artifacts are perfectly ordinary, non-magical and made from materials that can be found in the islands. They are typically hand polished and bear no symbols or markings that could help to identify their origin. Anyone with enough gold, bronze or iron and enough time can easily reproduce these arrangements, thus most scholars consider them to be hoaxes perpetuated by locals.
The Gray Warriors are described as wearing ornate heavy armor and using halberds or maces. They are supposed to be slightly shorter than ogres when staining upright but about as bulky. The seem to be aggressive, though not terribly violent. Their main concern seems to be the safety of the sage and they will not allow anyone to disturb his research. They tolerate observers as long as they keep their distance. If one starts approaching the Sage the warriors will usually move to intercept and attempt intimidation (growling, shaking weapons, shoving) before resorting to deadly force. When they do get into a fight, they seem to be deadly efficient.
While Ogres typically rely on brute strength, Gray Warriors seem to prefer trained accuracy. They are meticulous, very disciplined and very focused when fighting. The put safety of the Sage and of their comrades above honor or glory. When facing overwhelming odds they usually retreat to the airship and fly away.
When killed, their bodies are said to decompose and dissolve leaving no discernible skeleton. This makes them immune to Corpsevine but also leaves little to no physical evidence of their existence. There exist several dubious and often discredited accounts that describe studies made on Gray Warriors who have been captured alive. Supposedly all of them died in captivity within days. Reason of death was usually starvation as they were either unable to or unwilling to eat any food they were given.
So far no one has been able to communicate with them. Those among Seekers of Truth who acknowledge their existence think they came to the islands for the same reason as the ancestors of Celestials did: to study and possibly worship the Sunken God.
I hate the idea of a “Common” language spoken by everyone in a given fantasy setting. It is convenient, but at the same time kinda silly, so I figured it would be nice to do a quick overview of all the different languages spoken on the island:
Imperial – spoken within the Third Empire. The language has evolved from Old Imperial which is now only known by select few history scholars who study ancient texts (much like Old English today). The dialect spoken at the Imperial Palace is known as High Imperial and is considered to be distinguished and formal. There also exist the Norsk Dialect spoken in the northern provinces which uses a lot of Nord loan words and has different inflections, and Coastal Dialect which has Armadan influences.
Imperial uses two written alphabets. The traditional script is used for official calligraphy, and documents. It is very ornate and is traditionally written in vertical columns from right to left. The simplified script is used by scribes to take long-hand notes and it reduces the traditional glyphs to simplistic strokes, offering form over function.
Nordic – spoken mostly in the North End and parts of Empire. It uses a rather distinctive and ornate, right to left script. The writing style is often described as “winding dragon tails”.
Orisian – is the official language of Orizmar. It uses a left to right script derived from ancient stone carving alphabet, and uses very simplistic runic glyphs. It is the official language of the temple. Fire-bloods speak heavily inflected dialect sometimes called the Ors’a Dialect after the way they pronounce the word Orisian.
Tork – also known as the Old Tongue is spoken by Gray Orcs and Ogres. It is linked to the old polytheistic Orc religion. It does not have a script, but because it actually used a subset of Orisian phonemes it can be written using the Orisian runic alphabet.
Klaptrap – is the official language of the Land of Hob. It is considered to be one of the easiest languages to learn as it has very simple grammar rules and only 16 phonemes, each represented by a simple alphabetic glyphs most of which can be written using two or three simple strokes. It is commonly spoken in Gnoblar Territories and in Southern Empire. Lower class Imperial youth often use it as a slang, or learn it as form of empowerment. Most Ravenkin are fluent in Klaptrap, though their first language often depends on the region. Klaptrap has also been adopted as primary language by many tribes of Savage Dwarfs, though few still cling to their ancient Ufdak (which seems to be a heavily simplified and mutated Zhuf-Darma-Rak argot).
Treesong – the native Centaur language. It is typically not taught to outsiders. Most Centaurs are also fluent in Klaptrap, and they use Klaptrap alphabet to write in Treesong.
Armadan – the Armadan proper is spoken in Capitol and only in Capitol. It uses an ornate, complex horizontal left to right script. The inhabitants of archipelago use a bastardized argot known as Trade. This dialect started as a sailor slang, but later became a conscious effort to streamline the arcane Armadan tongue and make it easier to teach to foreign trade partners. The grammar rules were simplified down to bare minimum, and the original script was replaced with simpler and more commonly recognized Klaptrap alphabet. It prioritizes function over form, and while it is easy to learn it is not sophisticated. Unlike Klaptrap which can be used to write poems or epic heroic sagas, Trade almost purely functional.
Goldleaf – spoken by deep elves. It can be written down using the elaborate cursive, left to right traditional script elves reffer to as Throughtflow or using the Zhuf-Darma-Rak type script based on Ancient Dwarf language. The second method uses abridged version of the alphabet, without many guttural phonemes and sharp sounds absent from Goldleaf.
Klang – spoken by Windups and virtually impossible to learn by outsiders because it employs sounds made by their metallic mouths clanging together. It allows maximum data transmission rate between individuals without actually exchanging memory tapes. Most Windups are also fluent in Klaptrap or Goldleaf.
Celestial – spoken almost exclusively by Celestials and rarely taught to outsiders. The Spire dialect is the dominant one spoken both in the mainstream society and among the Seekers who simply added few slang terms. The inhabitants of Ma-Kaw have a distinct accent but their dialect has not diverged much from the official language. Celestials are notable for having a number of secret languages, such as the Knocker Code and the Guldur Tongue, the secret code of Blood Mages.
Many lower caste Celestials are required to learn Klaptrap or Trade in order to communicate with the slaves or rely orders to conquered people.
- Gnomish – spoken by the Gnomes of South Island and understood by their Golems. It is almost the exact opposite of Klaptrap – a complex, nuanced language that is dense and difficult to learn. Whereas Klaptrap can be picked up in a manner of days or weeks, Gnomish tends to take years to perfect. Many gnomes are fluent in Armadan propper and Trade. When they forged alliance with Celestials they were allowed to learn their language. While not many Gnomes still speak it, the South Island is the best place to learn that tongue and the have a largest collection of Celestial texts outside of the Spires.
A common Lingua Franca does not exist though the general rule of thumb is that all sailors should know Trade. Even though Orzimar and Empire and the dominant powers on the island, their languages tend to be to complex to learn. When humans and Orcs interact with other races, Klaptrap tends to be the language spoken most often.
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