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Ysgard - World Lore

Discussion in 'Winds of Ysgard' started by Nimue, Feb 5, 2015.

  1. Nimue

    Nimue Auror

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    Ysgard lies on the Northern continent of Aerde. To the west are distant, warm lands known as the Helcarae, from which came the ancestors of the Dunmen, and sometimes travelers, and to the east are lands that are even farther from familiar shores. The men of Ysgard call them the Lands Beyond, and among them is the homeland of the Auroë. Off the western shore of Aerde is the Sea of Vassar, after the Ysgardian king who first crossed it, and the eastern sea is the Elfwyne. To the south is the Glass Ocean, beyond which is nothing.

    This lore is written from the perspective and the knowledge of the men of Ysgard, and so is narrow in scope, and may be incorrect on the details of the wider world. Names are in the common tongue of Aerde, while names in italics are in Old Ysgardur, which only wizards and scholars speak, and is closely related to the elven tongue of Yvaldri.

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    Men - Fyrdar
    The most numerous, diverse, and adaptable of the races. Magical talent is rare among men, and must be trained with years of study. They live to be 60-80 years old, although witches and wizards can live as long as 200 years.

    Elves - Alfar
    Slender and slightly taller than men, with pointed ears and angled features. Almost all elves possess the capability to use magic, though some are far more powerful than the rest. There are fewer differences between male and female elves, as male elves cannot grow beards. Resistant to disease, they need to eat and rest less often, but are more susceptible to poison and toxins, and strongly affected by magic, both harming and healing. They have children rarely. Elves live to be 250-300 years old, and those strongest in magic can live as long as 450 years.

    Dwarves - Dvergar
    The least numerous of the races. Very short, stocky, and muscular, with long hair and beards. Resistant to magic, poison, and physical injury. There are greater differences between male and female dwarves than with the other races--dwarf women are shorter, curvier, and much less hirsute. Magical talent is extremely rare among the dwarves and may never get trained in those who have it. Dwarves live to be 100-140 years old, although those very few among them that can use magic may live to be 200.

    Halfbreeds
    Elves and dwarves cannot have children together. Half-elves, half-men take most after their human blood, save for a tapered point to their ears, and an increased likelihood for magical talent. Roughly a third of half-elves can cast magic. They do not inherit the full swiftness of their elven parents, and tend to be more susceptible to sickness and spells. They generally live to be 120, or as much as 280 if they are strong in magic. Half-dwarves, half-men, often called halflings, take most after their dwarven blood, and are almost as short as dwarfs, but less stocky and without their hairiness. They are hardy and somewhat resistant to magic, but are disparaged by dwarves for their perceived weakness. They live to be around 90, or as much as 160 if they cast magic.
     
  2. Nimue

    Nimue Auror

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    Ysgard is a wide, mountainous country that stretches across most of Northern Aerde, stopping short of the eastern plains. It encompasses the jagged coast of the Sea of Vassar in the west, the Dragonbone Mountains, and into the tundra and wilderness of the north, before the borders of Yvalheim. Within Ysgard's bounds are forests of tall pines, storm-swept moorlands, and more temperate valleys carved by rivers, chief among them the River Valemorn.

    Villages cluster about the rivers and the arable land, but isolated settlements can be found even into the forbidding hinterlands, as can crumbling ruins of watchtowers and fortresses from the scarred history of the land. Mysteries lie in long-forgotten keeps, in catacombs, and the caverns that riddle the great mountains. Time and winter bury everything in Ysgard.

    Folk - The most common people of Ysgard. They are tall, broad men, tending towards long faces and chiseled features. Their coloring is fair: their hair ranges from blond to middling brown, with some reddish hues, and their skin from pale to weather-beaten tan. They have grey, blue, or brown eyes, most commonly. The great majority of the Folk are still under the rule of the Yvalhyn. As slaves, they work the farms, raise sheep and cattle, and cut timber. Most live in villages, with thatched cottages and longhouses. Their culture is one of legends and ballads, told by firelight.

    Dun - The Dunmen live throughout Ysgard, but are most numerous in the valleys of the Dragonbone Mountains and on the western coast, as their origins were in ancient colonies of the Empire of the Helcarae, which fell centuries ago. They tend to be leaner than the Folk, more broad of face and fine of feature. Their skin is darker, ranging from very dark brown to fawn tan, their hair most often black or brunet and thick, and their eyes in shades of brown, or sometimes hazel or green. Under the rule of the Yvalhyn, the Dun worked cutting timber, fishing, and also in the mountains mining for coal, copper, and iron, under dangerous conditions. However, after the rebellion, over half of the Dunmen are now free in the West Kingdom. They can now remember their old customs, of bright cloth and festivals, and stories of the ancient Empire of their forefathers.

    Redbeards - These dwarves live in the western mountains, and of all the peoples of the north had been most independent of Yvalhyn rule. They fought with the rebellion and are now part of the West Kingdom, but govern themselves. They live deep in the caves and valleys of the Dragonbone Mountains, in cities of stone. None can match their smithing and metalwork. As their name suggests, they often have great red or brunet beards, and craggy features.

    Clan Hoarfrost - Dwarves of the north, once part of a great clan, but now few in number. They are almost all under the rule of the Yvalhyn, forced into work in mines and quarries. They tend to be less ruddy in coloring, with blond beards and light-colored eyes. It is a little more likely that a Hoarfrost dwarf be capable of magic than other dwarves.


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    Called in full the Western Kingdom of Ysgard, this realm was born of the rebellion and is ruled by Hala Svora, the warrior queen. It stretches from the shore of the Sea of Vassar through almost a third of the width of Ysgard, stopping short of the snowy tundra of Yvalheim. The border is at a standoff, but the hope of the people is to reclaim all of Ysgard from the elves. But now, while an uneasy peace holds, they must rebuild what was lost in the wars of rebellion. Castles that were once ruled by elven overlords must be given to elected men. There is much work to be done, and over it looms the shadow of another war, the stain of sorcery and bloodshed.


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    The realm of the northern elves is a harsh, cold place, of mountains and glaciers and rolling tundra. The scarce resources of this land drive the Yvalhyn to conquer other countries--and what they lack in riches, they hold in powerful magic. Now, fed by slave labor and trade, Yvalheim extends across Ysgard and into the south. The elves have built cities of stone, ice, and magic, with spires that challenge the mountains' beauty, and have carved the peaks into their castles. They are ruled by an ancient king, Aesvir Veilskar, and the lords of the seven high Houses.

    Yvalhyn - The Yvalhyn elves are few in number, but great in magic. They are tall and thin, regal in bearing, with narrow, sharp features. Their pointed ears are longer than other elves'. Their skin is so pale as to be white, although in the wastes of the far north, the Yvalhyn have skin that is a warm grey. Some think that Yvalhyn blood is blue, but it is red--only darker in color. Their hair is commonly white, silver, or pale blond, though for some it may be a darker grey. Their eyes are bright colors--blue, green, and grey, but also silver, gold, and violet. Some may have very dark grey or blue eyes. By nature, they are highly resistant to cold and can go longer without food or rest than other elves. Their society is a proud and hierarchical one, focused on military and magical prowess. They believe that elvenkind is superior, and intended by the gods to rule the other peoples. They maintain purity of blood, and kill half-elves when they are born.

    Clan Volgrim - One clan of dwarves is allied with the Yvalhyn. They are a warlike people who have pledged their service as mercenaries to escape the dominion of Yvalheim. They are fierce, brutal fighters and skilled metalsmiths. They have similar blood to Clan Hoarfrost, though their hair and beards are darker and their build stockier.
     
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  3. Nimue

    Nimue Auror

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    The territory claimed by the Auroë elves lies along the eastern coast, and extends west and north into the Thaw: land exposed by retreating glaciers that were once part of Yvalheim. The country is tundra and rolling grasslands, divided by the wide, flat River Khirune. Their king, Morhian, rules from the capital city of Tol Auroan beside the sea. The settlements of the Auroë are made of intricately carved stone and elegantly painted wood, proud towers and storied temples.

    Auroë Elves - These elves come from across the eastern sea, and have brought their own ancient language and culture. They are leaner than other elves and broader of feature, with high cheekbones and angled eyes. Their skin ranges from pale to deep, golden tan, and their hair is dark, most often black or mahogany brown. Their eyes are also dark, black or very deep grey or green, though less common are jewel-tones like amber, sapphire, or emerald. They are the strongest and most agile of the elves and are highly skilled in warfare, most of all horsemanship and archery. Their religion dictates a strong code of morality and honor, and they attribute their magic directly to the gods' favor.


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    The most temperate and fertile country in Aerde, the Ettarlands are a rolling, green heartland of farming and herding. They are governed by wealthy, idiosyncratic barons; attempts to unite the baronies come once in a generation, and are rarely successful for long. There is too much independence and self-sufficiency built into the history of the Ettarlands. Villages dot most of the landscape

    Ettarlanders - The vast majority of the population of the Ettarlands is human. They are shorter, broader men, softer of feature and quick of hand. Their hair, often wavy or curly, ranges from auburn to dark brown, and their skin from freckled fair in the north to swarthy tan by the coasts. Their eye color runs the gamut of ordinary hues. They are skilled at farming and crafting, and indeed, almost anything they put their mind to.


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    At the southern border of Ysgard lies a vast forest, untouched by men. The trees are tall and ancient, and beneath them run dark streams and mossy glades where strange flowers bloom. In the depths of the wood are the cities of the Iridheen elves, wrought from the living wood into grand halls roofed with golden leaves. Their bowers lie in the crown of the trees, their temples by the deepest moonlit pools. This realm is ruled by lords and ladies of the Threefold Council.

    Iridheen Elves - The wood elves were once as common as men in the forests and wildernesses of Aerde, but their numbers have dwindled. They guard the secrets of their magic closely. Slender and graceful, with aquiline features, they are fair-skinned and have gold, red, or dark-brown hair. Their eyes are most often deep green, hazel, or amber. They work in harmony with the wood, and know all her secrets. Iridheen druids are reknowned for their wisdom, and craftsmen for the beauty of their art.


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    This small land lies between the Forest of Iridhe and the Glass Ocean. It is full of hills and moors, and the coast is craggy and storm-swept. It is a proud but isolated kingdom, ruled by King Barranoch. Human druids can be found there, working their art among the ruins and stone circles of a bygone elven age.

    Caernishmen - These folk were once Ettarlanders, and resemble them in build and feature, but they have an unusual abundance of red hair as well as brown and gold, fair and freckled skin, and light eyes, most often green or grey. They are known for their fierce tempers and courage in battle, and though they are a small kingdom their lore is rich. Of all men, it is more likely for a Caernishman to be capable of wizardy or druidry.
     
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  4. Nimue

    Nimue Auror

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    In Aerde, magic is a divine energy that permeates the earth, gathering in places and peoples blessed by the gods. It is said that once only the elves could work magic, and said by some that the spread of wizardry signals the loss of the gods' favor from the elven peoples. Regardless, most scholars agree that magical ability in men comes from elven blood, though it may be very distant. Magical heritage is unpredictable at best, and can appear in bloodlines where it has lain dormant for generations.

    The branches of magic reflect more a divergence in craft than nature. Each draw upon the same soul-bound energy and can achieve much the same ends, but the growth of these ancient arts has rendered them very different from each other in practice. The general term for a magic-wielder is mage, and the practice of magic in general is magecraft.

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    Wizards and witches deal in runes and spellfire, learned from study and honed by years and years of training. A clever wizard can do a great deal, and an old, clever wizard can do almost anything. Wizardry is first and foremost a human art, and because of that it relies upon precise and elaborate spells to compensate for a lack of raw power. Wizards often use enchanted instruments like staves or swords, and repositories of power such as gems.

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    Defined by the channeling of great amounts of power, sorcery is wielded through intense mental control and focus. It is not a forgiving art, and can easily destroy a weak mind. The source of this power may vary: from the heart of dragon, to the living god-avatars of the Auroë elves, to the power of dead souls harnessed by the Yvalhyn. If the caster can unleash great spells through the power of their minds alone, without runes or chanting, it is sorcery.

    It is possible for humans to be sorcerers or sorceresses, and a dragonrider's power falls into this domain, but in the North sorcery is associated almost entirely with the Yvalhyn's soul-binding necromancy. Because of that, many Ysgardians choose to call dragonriders and the Auroë mages or druids, rather than sorcerers--or they may believe the magic they wield to be evil and unnatural because of its great power alone.

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    The druids, elven and human, practice the most subtle of the magical arts, but it is far from weak. Druidic spells are the deepest and most long-lasting. Wizards might call down a storm, but a century of druids could change the weather of a land forever. Druids rely upon trances to work their magic upon the world around them, weaving intricate patterns invisible to the mundane eye. Rituals are also important to them, and druids cast magic together far more often than wizards or sorcerers do. They can share magic with other living things, or embue it into the world, so that their magic works from within. The bonds created by dragons or other magical creatures are akin to druidry, for it is the magic closest to that of nature.
     
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  5. Nimue

    Nimue Auror

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    The people of Aerde believe in the prescence of the gods, if not their benevolence. It is believed that the gods favor different peoples, that they vie amongst themselves for power as kings do. No god is all-powerful, but they can still shake the mortal world. They show themselves through visions, through acts of nature, and through gifts of magic. Cults of adherence to single gods are common, but because of the splintered nature of the pantheon, there is no dominant temple--save among the Yvalhyn, who worship Vyrhel above all others, and acknowledge no gods but their own. It is believed that the dead pass to the realm of the god they were most devoted to in life.

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    Vyrhel
    A powerful goddess of winter and death. To the Yvalhyn, she is the arbiter of fate--to men, she is a grimmer symbol of death, and dangerous magic. She is portrayed with skin as white as ice and hair as white as snow, wearing a hood or a blindfold so her eyes cannot be seen. Her body is covered in a cloak or shroud, often with one hand left bare. "Vyrhel's touch" means certain death, or an inconquerable fate.

    Mael
    A god of law and honor. He is revered by both Yvalhyn and men, but his nature changes between these cultures, with the belief of what is right and just. Kings and lords will often worship his cult. Among men he is portrayed as an older, bearded male, sometimes helmed and armored, and sometimes in a royal surcoat. His symbol is a sheathed sword.

    Shirael
    A goddess of magic and the heavens, worshipped primarily by Yvalhyn sorcerers and scholars. To men she is a colder, more distant figure, who is said to never touch the earth or intervene in the lives of men. She wears a night-black raiment and is portrayed with either ornately braided hair or a bald head, and her skin is often decorated with symbols and constellations in dark or silver patterns.

    Rhunon
    A goddess of storms and the seas. Primarily worshipped by humans, and most of all by sailors. She is said to be capricious and vengeful towards those who wrong another, bringing down gales and blizzards upon them. She is portrayed as a woman with wild hair, sometimes naked, sometimes scaled, sometimes clothed in wind and snow.

    Adannus
    A god of protection and blessing. Revered by those who are oppressed, he was first known among the Dun, and may have been a Helcaran god originally. He is portrayed as a black-skinned youth in a knight's tunic, carrying a golden shield and a bronze spear or stave. His symbol is a pair of arms, interlocked in an embrace, and is often used as a sign of resistance or solidarity among those enslaved by the Yvalhyn.

    Hathvar
    A god of the sun, summer, and the forge. He is the primary god of the dwarves, but is worshipped by men, who also name him Hath. He may be depicted as light or dark-skinned, large or short, but in all depictions has curving horns like a ram or a dragon. Hathvar is considered jovial and benevolent, but powerful in his favor.

    Gerta
    A goddess of treasure and luck. Worshipped by men and dwarves, she represents not wealth for lords or great men, but fortune for the unfortunate. Often called Smiling Gerta, she is portrayed as a large, generously-curved woman with golden hair. She can be found on many pendants or household totems, sometimes reduced to a crude likeness of the female form.

    Ouron
    A god of time and the mountains. Not often worshipped, but nonetheless revered by men and dwarves. Portrayed as an ancient dwarf with strangely elven features, seated upon a throne of carved stone. He is depicted often in tombs, for it is said that he takes in the souls of those who are passed over by the other gods.
     
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  6. Nimue

    Nimue Auror

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    Aodhionnir
    A god of life and the forest. His symbol is a stag, and he is often portrayed with great antlers even in elven form. In Caern and the Wood of Iridhe, unlike in the North, the same gods are worshipped by men and elves, and they are depicted as elves by all peoples. Aodhionnir generally has long, chestnut hair and wears a robe of living green, leaves and moss and blossoms. He is said to send healing dreams to those in need, and walks the forest in springtime, which is why it is taboo to kill a mature stag before the summer solstice. If there is any place where a god could still walk the earth, it would be the Wood of Iridhe.

    Ciardha
    A goddess of the hunt. She is wild and relentless, worshipped by those seeking revenge or glory. Often depicted with waves of bright red hair among the Caernish, she wields a mighty bow and rides a night-black horse. It is said that when a pack of wolves calls all together, they are running in Ciardha's hunt.

    Reveth
    A god of graves and ruins. He looks after the forgotten dead, and remembers all of history. He is portrayed as a solemn elf in ancient armor, leaning upon his sword or spear. Often he is shown to be wounded, though the story of this wound and how it was dealt is lost. If a wanderer comes across the shade of Reveth in the wilderness, it is said that they will hear the voices of their ancestors.

    Ilenniel
    A goddess of the moon. Pale, dark-haired, and silent, she speaks to mystics and druids in midnight trances. She is said to impart foresight, and the wisdom of cold, clear light beyond the clouds of mortal thought. Her eyes are white as pearls, both blind and all-seeing.


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    Tarn
    A god of farming and prosperity. The gods of the Ettarlands are so myriad and fragmented that almost every village has their own local god--often with qualities borrowed from many others. Nevertheless, the shrines of three gods in particular can be found throughout the land, and the first of them is Tarn. He is one of the few gods in Aerde that receives sacrifices, generally in decanted wine or a burned sheaf of grain but also in young bulls and boars, and it is said that whatever is given to him he returns tenfold. He is depicted as a brawny, handsome man, well-tanned and dark-haired, sometimes wearing a rich, embroidered robe, and sometimes bare to the waist in the trews of a common harvester.

    Elanne
    A goddess of the hearth and home. She represents not only partnered love but filial and parental duty. Herbcraft, brewing, and other such fickle arts fall within her domain. Often depicted with a long gown, a crown of braids, and a knowing smile. Her symbol is a key.

    Basto
    A trickster god. Silver-tongued patron of the young and cunning, not only thieves but traders, bards, and artists. He is said to protect children in their mischief and foil authority, and is often invoked to deflect blame in offenses against the high and mighty. Basto is invariably depicted as slim, roguish, and well-dressed.

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    Usala
    Little is known about the gods of the Auroë in the North, but that there is a cycle of them, and in any given century one of them has influence. This god chooses a living avatar from among the elves, who inherits great power that they channel to those who pray to the god. All Auroë gods are said to be paragons, wells of wisdom and strength, that need no other gods to support them. The current god of Auroë is Usala, the warrior-woman, who rides the horses of the thunderstorm and scours evil from the earth.
     
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  7. Nimue

    Nimue Auror

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    Dragons are huge, reptilian creatures, thought until recently to be extinct and faded into myth. They hold a great force of natural magic, which they can pass on through a mental bond with another being. Though coldblooded, they keep in their bellies a burning heat drawn from the fires beneath the earth, the distant source of all their magic.

    They have narrow, fierce heads with ridged horns, long necks and powerful bodies, and vast, leathery wings. It depends upon the build of the dragon in question, but on average they can reach the size of ten large horses, or four times the height of a man at the shoulder. They are covered in iron-hard scales, though around their joints and undercarriage the scales are smaller and softer, more like pebbled hide. A dragon's color is generally uniform, though often with a variation in shades between hide, scales, horns, and wings, and some dragons may have subtle mottling or camouflaging patterns. The colors of a dragon's scales are usually in shades of grey including white and black, brown or natural green, or metallic tones such as gold, silver, or copper. However, dragons from a bloodline that has bonded to many dragonriders may also have jewel-like colors, like topaz, emerald, sapphire, or garnet-red. A dragon's eyes can be any hue, and are often metallic or iridescent.

    Dragons are born from large, stony eggs that resemble rough obsidian. These eggs can remain alive and dormant for centuries, sustained by their connection to the earth. The dragonling within the egg is highly sensitive to magic in the world around it, and can sense a person or creature to which it can form a bond, triggering the hatching process. Because a hatchling dragon is very small and vulnerable, no larger than a cat, it does not choose to hatch lightly.

    The draconic bond was first between mother dragon and hatchling, so that the young dragons could communicate from birth and magical power could be concentrated in the leader of a dragonflight, usually a matriarch. However, at some point in ancient history, the first dragonling bonded to a human rider instead. The raw power of a dragon could then be turned to wizardry, and a new breed of mage and dragon was born.

    Humans, elves, and dwarves can all become dragonriders; it is theorized that a dragon could bond to another sentient magical creature, but dragons see other beasts (and many people) as beneath them. Dragon and dragonrider can speak to each other through their minds, though both must be willing to open the link. With age and practice, dragons can speak into the minds of other people besides their rider; wild dragons, if they do not think this power important, may not be able to speak outside their kind. Upon the death of dragon or rider, the remainder of the bond will be mentally and magically affected--however, it is possible, though unlikely, that a dragon can make another bond after their first rider has died, or that the rider of a dead dragon can be bonded to another.

    Between hatching and their first year, a dragon grows to almost half of its full size. During this period they require a great deal of prey, as well as energy drawn from the earth. Because of this, a young dragon will have no external magical powers, nor will they be able to breathe fire. They are testy and ravenous, and though they can hunt for themselves, a dragonling without the aid of a mother or rider will be undernourished and slow to develop. After the first year, they will grow much more slowly and feed less often--less than would be expected for a beast their size, but a dragon's primary source of nourishment is the stream of their magic. A dragon will generally grow to their full size in fifty years, though they are mature and able to mate at five years. A dragon may live for as long as eight hundred years, far longer than their rider.

    After the first year of life, a dragon will begin to develop the ability to breathe fire, and some can master other magical powers, such as storm-calling, icy breath, and heating rock and stone. Their magic is powerful and unsophisticated, because they have always been masters of their world, and need no arcane advantage. Yet it was the subtler, darker power of Yvalhyn sorcerery that brought an end to their reign in the North.
     
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