The Ashen Cliffs

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LoZompatore
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The Ashen Cliffs

Post by LoZompatore » Sun Jan 23, 2011 10:57 pm

Here is the description of another coastal region between Refuge Point and the Fiori Hills, to add further details to the settings. Hope you like it!

Here is the reference map:

Image
A full resolution map can be downloaded here.

Description:

The people of the Ashen Cliffs (the so-called Ashenites) are of Taltinian descent, tracing their origins back to a group of colonists who settled the Sulasian peninsula some 3500 years ago. The region was then occupied by scattered bronze-age farmers and herders of the Werkie culture who were quickly assimilated into mainstream Taltinian society.
Taltinian colonists built coastal towns (notably the cities of Aul Teol and Nallima) and traded with Qal Tallon and the settlements on the island of Kelidra. Although trade was flourishing the Werkie Cliffs were not very fertile, and population never extended to large numbers. Searching for new sources of food Taltinian explorers opened a new trade route southward which brought to the colonies the edible plants of Palikka (a mix between a potato and maize) from the Mespis Plains below the tropic. Unluckily, the plants were contaminated with the eggs of the Nerlest (soon called the Mind Scourge, see below), a very insidious magical nematode-like parasite which immediately adapted to the microclimate of the peninsula and soon proved impossible to eradicate.
Most of the Taltinians infected by the Nerlests became very physically prostrated but soon discovered that their magical capabilities were enhanced. Non Taltinians (about 25% of the local population at the time) mostly managed to keep their body healthy but instead they had both their fertility and their mental capabilities impaired and strongly diminished by the parasite. Infected mixed-breed people were apparently normal both in body and mind, but became sterile and unable to reproduce.

In a short time the contagion was apparent and the settlements of Sulasia began dwindling; all the other Taltinian colonies and trading partners of the area put the whole region in a decades-long quarantine (it was later discovered that the Nerlests were able to reproduce only in a very specific warm-wet environment, rarely found outside the Sulasian peninsula, so nearby settlements were never at great risk). Suddenly deprived of most imported food and left to fend for themselves, the weakened Taltinians of Sulasia died in great numbers, until they managed to stabilize their society by establishing a slave-driven culture.
At first the "enhanced" Taltinians used their mental powers to control the "dull" mixed-breed people, inducing them to act as their workforce. Within a couple of generations it was apparent that the mixed breed were not able to reproduce in numbers large enough to sustain the rest of the population, so the people of Sulasia set massive land and sea raids aimed to get new people to be infected with the parasites. The neighboring countries started calling them "the Ashenites" (meaning "the mind raiders" in ancient Taltinian tongue), a nickname which the Sulasian themselves adopted, and raids in the southern Aberrate Sea became a dreaded reality. The city of Aul Teol was abandoned due to population shrinking, while Nallima became the titular capitol of the new slavers' country and was renamed Rorm (meaning "Change" in the ancient Taltinian tongue).

For centuries, Ashenite society was divided in three castes:

- The "Enhanced" - the infected Taltinian people - accounting for 40% of the total population, mostly unable to perform any but the slightest physical work but capable of innate magical skills and of limited mental powers. Fertility rate is nominally the same as the standard human stock, although in truth every "enhanced" couple is able to breed just 1 or 2 children.
- The "Mules" - the infected half-breed between Taltinians and other human stocks - who make a 5% of the total population (renewed every generation due to their sterility) with normal intelligence but deprived of fertility any without any extra magical power. They are necessary to run every job where both intelligence and endurance is needed. They mostly act as workforce supervisors, craftsmen, medics, military officers, ship captains, traders and the like.
- The "Dulls" - the remaining 55% of the population, made of infected non Taltinian people whose minds are reduced to childlike status (if not worst) and are used as workforce by the other two castes. Their fertility rate is lower than the "enhanced" people (and their mortality rate are far higher), so their numbers need to be constantly replenished by new slavers' expeditions.

While these proportions among the three classes were pretty constant throughout the centuries (the "Enhanced" class have always arranged things in order to keep constant rates) the total number of Ashenites slowly faded generation after generation. The military power and influence over neighboring territories dwindled as well.

About 995 years ago Kelidran military managed to destroy most of the Ashenite raiders' fleet conquered the city of Rorm and its surroundings. Kelidran settlers displaced the Ashenites who previously lived in the conquered lands killing any opposing party and starting a major sanitation effort aimed to secure the conquered territories from the parasite, which proved partially successful at least in Rorm. An attempt to invade even the central region of the peninsula was crushed about 978 years ago in the battle of Shalo's Pass, where Ashenite forces were able to route a massive Kelidran army.
Following this route Kelidran offensive never started again out of concern about the inability to control the infection outside the already conquered area and a stalemate with the Ashenites was reached.
Ashenites' forces grouped in the southern, well-defended village of Lahut, which was turned into a heavily fortified castle and became the new capitol of the "true" people of Ashen. The slavers never attempted to re-conquer their former capitol, preferring to raid the borderlands of the new Kelidran colony of Rorm for fresh slaves. The reduced territory proved also an advantage to the Ashenites, as it was easier to control for the dwindling numbers of Enhanced leaders.

The city of Rorm was populated with colonists from Kelidra (mostly non Taltinian or of mixed stock at best) and a strong castle was built at Shalo's Pass to discourage Ashenites' raids. Infections from the parasite were kept low by a large number of clerics and medics sent from Kelidra to the colony. A large medical school was built in the city to study the disease and to restore lost mental capabilities to the infected; while all the attempts to reverse the effects of the contagion failed, the efforts took by the scholars actually succeeded in preventing further spreading of the disease.

About 235 years ago a party of adventurers from Refuge Point landed a mercenary army on the eastern coast of the Ashen Cliffs, and managed to conquer a small, easily defendable peninsula. here they planted new palikkas' farms and built the free city state of Palikka's Port, from which they started a small but brisk trade opposed to Kelidran monopoly over Palikka's food. As declaring war to Palikka's Port would likely start a long conflict with Refuge Point itself, Kelidran leaders never tried to conquer the settlement, even if "piracy acts" abounds in the waters around the city state.

After the loss of most of their fleet during the conquest of Rorm the Ashenites increased land raiding, especially in the southern wilderness, so to replenish the number of their slaves. In a couple of centuries the southern people grouped into fortified settlements and established stronger patrols along their borders. The number of captured slaves was insufficient to sustain Ashenite culture. About 760 years ago a group of Enhanced found an efficient and cheap magical method to build semi-intelligent golems. This process (which was closely guarded so far) gave the Ashenites enough workers to maintain their civilization even with the little number of slaves they still managed to capture. The process worked so well that actually a small number of golems exceeded the needs of the country and was stored for the future. After more then seven centuries there are about 25000 "spare" golems stored in Lahut's dungeons, whose best use is the source of most conflict inside the Council of the Enhanced .

At present a faction of the most powerful Enhanced (calling themselves "the Retakers") plans to use the golem as an army to retake the city of Rorm with a surprise attack aimed to take the naval facilities built there by the Kelidran people. It the attack is successful they would also infect with the Nerlests most of the local population so to build a garrison for the city and officers for the navy. On the long term the Retakers plan to attack mainland Kelidra.

Another more peaceful faction of Enhanced, the "Artificialists" would use a new set of spells they are developing to transfer the minds and the spirits of the whole Enhanced caste to the golems, to solve once for all the physical weakness of the ruling class of the Ashenites. If they manage to develop the necessary magic Ashenites' society would be formed by a single class of immortals, no more bound to the infection and the human deficiencies, who would rule over a society of the semi-intelligent golems who would still act as workers and soldiers. Unluckily the spells are not still ready, and the number of spare golems falls way short of the demand.

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Chimpman
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Re: The Ashen Cliffs

Post by Chimpman » Mon Jan 24, 2011 4:38 am

LoZompatore wrote:After the loss of most of their fleet during the conquest of Rorm the Ashenites increased land raiding, especially in the southern wilderness, so to replenish the number of their slaves. In a couple of centuries the southern people grouped into fortified settlements and established stronger patrols along their borders. The number of captured slaves was insufficient to sustain Ashenite culture. About 760 years ago a group of Enhanced found an efficient and cheap magical method to build semi-intelligent golems. This process (which was closely guarded so far) gave the Ashenites enough workers to maintain their civilization even with the little number of slaves they still managed to capture. The process worked so well that actually a small number of golems exceeded the needs of the country and was stored for the future. After more then seven centuries there are about 25000 "spare" golems stored in Lahut's dungeons, whose best use is the source of most conflict inside the Council of the Enhanced .
Hmmm... I'd say there's an opportunity here to introduce another race/culture into the mix using the golems. What if the Ashenites didn't actually create the golems themselves, but instead found them. This could tie into some of your thoughts on technology in the Edge. Say a more advanced race (or at least advanced in a different way) brought the golems to the Edge when they arrived, or created them here shortly afterward. Unfortunately for that race they could not sustain their technology long enough to make use of the constructs.

Now that race might still be out there (but could have regressed technologically by quite a bit), or they could have been destroyed or driven away some time after their arrival. It's possible that the golems have been sitting there, waiting for someone to use them for a very long time. Then the Ashenites come in and discover that the golems can be "modified" so that they are powered by magic and they basically stumble upon an army, ready made and waiting to be used. The Ashenites might not have the ability to build more of them, or at least they might not be able to build the same kind of quality golems, so their supply would be limited.

Another idea would be to have the golem's creator not be human (or even remotely human shaped). This could add an additional alien bend to those Ashenites who are transferred inside their new bodies. Perhaps the golems are insectoid. Or maybe they are reptillian. Looking at the map, could it be that the ancestors of Boddy's lizardmen were also the creators of the golems?
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LoZompatore
Hill Giant
Posts: 558
Joined: Fri May 23, 2008 8:40 am
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Location: Fano, Italy

Re: The Ashen Cliffs

Post by LoZompatore » Mon Jan 24, 2011 8:36 pm

Hmmm... I'd say there's an opportunity here to introduce another race/culture into the mix using the golems. What if the Ashenites didn't actually create the golems themselves, but instead found them. This could tie into some of your thoughts on technology in the Edge. Say a more advanced race (or at least advanced in a different way) brought the golems to the Edge when they arrived, or created them here shortly afterward. Unfortunately for that race they could not sustain their technology long enough to make use of the constructs.
Great idea! What if the Ashenites discovered a large set of chambers underneath the settlement of Lahut containing thousands of inactive golems brought there by an older civilization (the Werkiens could be the barbarized descendants of them, or maybe the golems' creator are really a very ancient, non-human race). The golems were out of order (maybe they were robot-like technolgic creations disabled by the electromagnetic pulses in Thalassa) but the Ashenites found magical ways to reanimate them. Most of them were used as workforce, but the most sophisticated specimens were kept in storage for further use.

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