Background Part One

A Small World

The World, as you know it, is an irregularly-shaped chunk of earth with a mostly flat topside that measures 51 miles from North to South, and 35 miles from East to West. The surface is largely mountainous, with most of the fertile, inhabitable valleys being located closer to the center of the landmass, and more rocky and jagged terrain around the edges. The World’s shape suggests that it was ripped from some larger body, perhaps even an enormous spherical planet, just as the old stories tell.

This small fragment of earth hangs suspended in what appears to be an endless void of swirling, shifting energies which is known to the inhabitants of the World as the Wyrd. All attempts to leave the immediate atmosphere of the World itself, and to explore into the Wyrd, have proven to be very quickly fatal. The nature of the Wyrd is a mystery even to the most sagacious elders of your people, but it is well-known that the very substance of it is violently inhospitable to living beings. It thus acts as an impassable barrier which circumscribes the entirety of the known, explorable world to your people.

It has always been this way, for as long as anyone can remember, for as long as anyone’s great-grandfather’s great-grandfather could remember. The stories which tell of another world, and the Great Sundering which ripped it apart and divided the World from the Wyrd, are very old, mostly forgotten, and of highly questionable accuracy whenever they are still told. To the inhabitants of the World, tales of distant lands and the histories of ancient civilizations are simply dusty old myths, irrelevant to real life, a passing fancy to amuse children. So, too, are the stories, songs, and fragmented teachings of the mythological beings called “gods”. A rare few, mostly the elderly or mentally deficient, still speak ancient names in reverent tones, still cling to some old scraps of text which purport to explain the will of divine Creators, or cherish strange symbols of antiquity as though they held some mystical power. But this is widely considered foolishness, and much serious talk of “gods” is rarely tolerated by right-thinking folk.

There are several modest settlements of people in the World, but arable land is very limited, so populations are necessarily kept quite small. Each village manages its own affairs, generally deferring to some locally-chosen elder or council of respected persons. There is some trade between settlements, and travel between them is not uncommon, though the terrain makes for a challenging trek to and from any of the more outlying locations. A large river, the Millwine, bisects the World’s entire length from North to South, and the long, narrow river valley which it waters is home to most of the villages of the World. The Millwine’s tributaries branch out into the surrounding hills, and each has its settlements as well. Others, generally smaller in size and comprised of hardier or more stubborn folk, are scattered throughout the mountains here and there, and tend to have less contact with the rest of the World.

Despite the small size of the World, the impossibility of roaming beyond its borders, the ominously looming presence of the Wyrd overhead, and the limited resources and land available, life in the World is, generally speaking, good. Its people come from many different races of humanity, and though some interbreeding occurs, there are at least a few families of each major race who keep their bloodlines pure. Despite this diversity, the various human races get along well as a rule, and most individuals simply think of everyone as “humans”, rather than segregating themselves along racial lines. Racial tension or real bigotry is virtually unheard of, and there are no nations or religions to demand loyalty and pit men against one another. It is a simple, agrarian culture, one without great cities, intellectual achievement, magical prowess, spiritual glories, or artistic refinement, but largely characterized by decent, hard-working folks ruled by common sense and making a good living for themselves by wisely husbanding the resources that they have to share.

It is also a fairly safe world. There are occasional minor conflicts between people, but they are almost always resolved without bloodshed. At worst, a few bruises and a broken nose or two might be the aftermath of hostilities. Warfare is nonexistent, yet another bizarre artifact of the ancient tales. Criminality is not completely absent, but anything as severe as murder is exceedingly rare – perhaps once in a decade. There are wild animals about, but their populations are kept low by hunters, and they rarely have any cause to attack a person. The old stories tell of monsters of every variety, but no such creature has ever been seen in the World, at least not for many, many generations. According to the legends, anyway, after the World was sundered into its present state, the heroes of that lost age hunted every foul and wicked beast left in the World to extinction. Many people consider that simply a convenient excuse for why no evidence of any of these alleged monsters is to be found.

The people of the World practice many trades, but they are all practical and earthy. You’ll find no soldiers here, no warriors or nobles, no priests or architects, and no librarians either. Books exist, mostly very old ones, but the average person cannot read them, nor would care to. Each village will invariably have one or two wizened elders who collect knowledge, studying those crumbling tomes, telling tall tales, and dispensing advice, but even they are fairly ignorant of much of what they read, finding most of history and ancient lore to be an incomprehensible mystery. There are no true sages, no masters of arts mystical, no miracle-workers or weather-changers. The existence of magic, in theory, is accepted, as an occasional small talent for it pops up here and there among the populace. But even the most accomplished “magician” or “mentalist” in the World has only a handful of tiny, inconsequential tricks, amusing and sometimes a bit useful, but nothing like the fabled spellcasters of the mythic age.

This is the World you know. Here you were born and raised, in a simple life, a safe life. Here, where an exciting adventure might be falling into the river rapids, or accidently arousing the ire of a mother bear. A tiny world, surrounded by an incomprehensible sea of death, but devoid of monsters or even the worst ugliness of human nature. A world where ancient stories are still told, and ancient songs are still sung, but all have lost their meaning, and are merely laughed at or ignored. A world where nothing changes, where there are no dreams of greater and more wondrous things. A world bereft of magic, gods, and strife. This is your home—this is the World.

At least, this is how it was . . . until ten years ago.

That is when she came, an impossible visitor from beyond the Wyrd.

That is when everything changed.

Part Two – The Coming of the Lady

Background Part One

Black Seas of Infinity Firesnakearies