This vast expanse of beautiful landscape is full of lush green fields and settlements that complement the surrounding environment.
The capital city of Kagdurath is robust with merchant ships and trades and has an economy that will seemingly never die. Gnomes, Dwarves, Humans, Trolls, Vermi, Lizar, Ogres, and Dark Elves all make up an intricate web of dealings and trades as well as a political system that rivals any of its size. If there is ever need for war, or the war machine of sentients, then this is where you would go to seek aid.
The most prominent aspect of Dryzoln is its unseen Vermi tunnel systems that allow for the most secure trading and transports found in all of Estrom’Ir.
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All the Elven races have their areas of interest. The Máni (Moon Elves) have the stars, and spend many nights studying astrology. For the Taysha'a (Wood Elves), communing with nature is what gives them purpose. For the Aesir their interest lies in the dark- the places other races fear to travel. Deeper underground than any other race the Aesir have a large amount of knowledge of geology, but it is not the soil or stone that holds their interest, but the shadows themselves- the darkness that exists when nothing else does.
The fact they live so far beneath ground and some families have not seen sunlight in generations is part of the reason other races have a hard time accepting them. Not inherently dangerous as a race, they are more mysterious. Mystery coupled with the Aesir fascination with shadows and darkness have led some primitive races to an irrational fear of these elves. Most children at one time or another have an irrational fear of the dark, imagining creatures lurking unseen. The enlightened mind knows better. There is magic in darkness, there is safety in shadow, there is a privacy and security in an empty space.
The fact that Aesir move in darkness has been known to cause that fear to resurface. Some lash out when faced with that fear, and this has led to discrimination against the Aesir in many places outside their homeland. However, because there have been periods of expansionism and genocide in their past, many do not see these fears as unfounded.
Aesir tend to average between 150 and 185 centimeters tall, with the males tending to be closer to 185 centimeters and the females closer to 150 centimeters. Their skin tones are varying shades of medium grey to almost charcoal, which makes it easier for them to blend into the shadows they study. Despite a lack of sunlight, their skin pigment is drawn from the shadows themselves. Closely resembling the Taysha'a in appearance, the Aesir have larger eyes that help with their night vision and also allow them to see into the infrared to a certain extent. Their eyes also have a tendency to glow red in darkness. Because of this, Aesir scouts often wear shaded glasses in the dark tunnels to hide the glow. While the primary purpose of these shaded glasses is to hide the eyes, they serve the dual purpose of protecting the eyes in the event the Aesir are forced to venture outdoors during daylight hours. The ears of the Aesir, much larger than those of other races, also allowing them to sense their surroundings even in complete darkness and, in a sense, 'see' through echolocation.
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The Aesir have always been fascinated by the world of shadows and darkness. Their priestesses teach that they were created by Naeil, and that this is why they have always had an affinity for the mountains. Yet their priestesses teach that the gift of Naeil was not the mountains themselves, but the shadows that lie within. This belief has historically made them susceptible to any who claim to represent that shadow and can show signs that they can control it.
Weapons and Military
The Aesir do not have any particularly special weapons, however their mages have developed ways to enchant weapons and add to their cutting power and strength. Many great swords that have been born by mighty Aesir throughout the millennia were made of simple meteoric iron, albeit enhanced by spells to be the equal of materials that are naturally much stronger. In recent centuries, they have adapted some of these abilities to firearms, making rifles that have two or three times the range and striking power of an unmodified rifle.
There are rumors of an ancient lost city built millennia ago by the Aesir to be the capital of their race. An underground city so large it could house the entire race with ease. The story goes that the thousands who built the magnificent city were all lost in one single instant to an earthquake or ruptured volcanic vent, depending upon whom one asks. The Aesir most commonly encountered call the underground realm of Kagdurath home. Because they often spread underground, unseen by those on the surface, their territorial claims are often unknown to the outside world until a settlement is built above an Aesir complex. When this has occurred, the hapless settlers often knew nothing until they were being overwhelmed by Aesir shock troops pouring up out of a just-opened shaft to the surface.
The Aesir were once ruled by leaders who taught them that their goal should be to impose global order across the whole surface of Estrom'Ir, and that all other races were to be treated no better than insects or other vermin if they impeded this goal. While some of their enemies spread propaganda that they saw themselves as a master race, intent only on genocide, the reality is that their true goal was the establishment of order above all else. Those who submitted to this order were actually treated quite well, although they were not above genocide of those who stood between them and their goals.
In the early second age there was a major disaster that resulted in a great deal of sunlight being blocked for several years. This disaster was caused by a mysterious race that then disappeared from the historical record. The Aesir took advantage of this period of darkness to establish a major empire in the west. Later, they launched a major war in which they attempted to conquer the entire planet. This resulted in most of the other races of Estrom'Ir banding together to fight the Aesir. They were eventually defeated, and their defeat is often used as the dividing point between the second and third ages. For several decades after their defeat, they were occupied by Dvergar and Ængeáta troops. During this occupation, their culture of superiority changed, and as the older generation passed on, the younger Aesir began to look back at their forebears with shame. The occupation has long since ended, and though the Aesir are still fascinated with darkness and shadow they have not returned to the concepts of the master race and the legacy of genocide, having put that part of their history behind them while vowing never to forget it.
After the occupation, which lasted for two centuries at the beginning of the third age, the military might of the Aesir experienced a renaissance that has yet to wane. While they are no longer bent on conquest, they are as aggressive as they have ever been. They simply channel that aggression differently. Their military goals are to maintain the strongest, most professional army, with the best discipline and training. Their strategic goals go beyond simple defense, however, as they see the example their military shows as an example to others. By encouraging other militaries to emulate their discipline and order, and by offering training programs to other military forces, they seek to instill by example the very same global order they failed to install by force of arms.
The Aesir were, and continue to be, highly regimented as a society. While they are no longer as militaristic as they once were, they still individually strive for order in their daily lives. Their living spaces tend to be small, neat, and compartmentalized. Aesir are also amused by the Dvergar shyness when it comes to nudity. While they are by no means exhibitionists, they see no reason for modesty when it conflicts with being pragmatic. If an Aesir feels the need to bathe and a Dvergar or Ængeáta guest is present with them, they do not see it as strange or unordinary to remove their clothing and shower while continuing their conversation, and would think the Dvergar or Ængeáta strange for being uncomfortable with their nudity. In fact, living quarters and even hotel rooms in Aesir cities often have transparent interior walls, which Dvergar and Ængeáta guests often find quite annoying. Like the Máni, the Aesir have traditionally had public baths that are quite popular, though unlike the Máni, who in modern times have opted for smaller more private baths, the massive bathing complexes are still quite popular among the Aesir.
Families among the Aesir tend to be small, with no more than two children at a time. Outsiders were once puzzled by this, as this seemed to belie the fact that the Aesir seemed to reproduce at a much more rapid rate than many other civilizations. The reality is that the Aesir mature twice as quickly as most other races, reaching adulthood by the age of twelve. Also, Aesir mothers remain fertile for longer periods of time. The average Aesir mother, while usually raising no more than two children at a time, will often raise eight or ten in the course of her lifetime.
The Aesir prefer to eat meat, but also enjoy various types of mushrooms that grow well in the darkness of their underground environment. They do not enjoy bright lights, and prefer to venture outdoors only under cover of darkness.
The Aesir prefer dark clothing, usually of a form-fitting variety that allows easy, yet silent, movement. When underground, they don't usually wear headgear, yet they will wear dark hoods if going outdoors during daylight hours. In their own homes, they tend to wear little, with both males and females generally opting for nothing more than a simple pair of shorts.
The Gēnom, better known as Gnomes to most, are among the most urban-centered of all the races of Estrom'Ir, though their cities would be considered only large towns by the standards of some, with the largest holding no more than 5,000 inhabitants. While most Gēnom will grow gardens, and there are a significant minority that find a calling in agriculture, the Gēnom have come to rely on trade more often than not to feed themselves. Most are involved in trade, small manufactures, and innovative inventions. While most Gēnom inventors have focused on creating small labor-saving devices that can be operated by a single individual, some have become involved in larger projects over time.
Small of stature, the Gēnom have been involved in a large number of scientific advances. They tend to have curious minds, questioning everything. Whether alchemical, magical, or mechanical, the Gēnom live for experimentation. Sometimes this experimentation leads to advances for the betterment of all races, but the Gēnom mostly don't care. Certain experiments have led to mass destruction, but for a Gēnom that is just part of the scientific process. Their single-minded focus on whatever project occupies their attention at the moment has led them to come across as absent minded, unobservant, or just plain oblivious to anything outside of the scope of their focus. This has led them to be easy pickings for Kob'Al (Goblins), which has led to the hate that now flows between the Gēnom and the Kob'Al. A Gēnom generally has no qualms about dealing with any of the races, so long as such dealing helps experimentation come to fruition. To a Gēnom, the project he or she is working on is considered almost sacred. Once complete, the Gēnom decides whether it should go to the Vault of Knowledge or be commonly used. Some Kob'Al have taken that choice away, adding pieces to their library that the Gēnom would prefer stayed in their Vault. The firearm is one such invention. The designs were stolen by Kob'Al, and were soon available worldwide, all before the creating Gēnom realized that his schematics never reached the Vault. Over time the frustration of the Gēnom turned to aggravation, and finally to discrimination. Kob'Al are now no longer welcome within Gēnom settlements, and for a time those who were living within Gēnom lands even found themselves interned in camps by a reactionary Gēnom government. Those days are in the past, but there is still a great deal of animosity based on this history.
The Gēnom average in height between 90 and 105 centimeters. Vision problems are common, particularly among scientists, since their absent-minded nature has often led them to forget to ensure they have an adequate light source for their work when natural light was not available. This has left many Gēnom to have a permanent squint. Some correct this with spectacles that rest upon their large noses.
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Traditional Gēnom religion saw invention as a mandate from Trajor, god of the skies, whom their priests taught was the creator of the Gēnom people. Due to their questioning nature, many Gēnom became agnostic or even atheistic over the centuries, but the religion persists. Despite the fact that there are few Gēnom who see the gods as real, they have one of the largest state churches of any race on Estrom'Ir. Leaders of their church, however, have come to liken Trajor not to a real creator, but to the creative spirit residing within each individual. Therefore, their religion has come to be more about a civic celebration of genius and science than about any true belief in singular deities.
Weapons and Military
The Gēnom have often been on the cutting edge of military technology, although this has been due more to their inventive nature than to any martial spirit. On the other hand, they have often had standing armies, which at times have more than held their own against larger and less technologically advanced foes. Their periods of military strength, however, have always been punctuated by periods of military isolationism, during which time their military forces have often been drastically reduced, sometimes to the point of complete ineffectiveness.
The Kob'Al once took advantage of one of these periods to steal inventions from the Gēnom. Had they been of a mindset to use these inventions for their own conquests, it might have gone worse for the Gēnom. As it was, this resulted in the rise of a reactionary government that interned Kob'Al within their borders and even sent an expeditionary force to Dark Dusk Harbor, where they occupied the Kob'Al homelands for a time. This was not to last, however, and a new government withdrew, downsized the military, and returned to previous isolationist policies.
One major difference between the militaries of the Gēnom and those of other races is the importance placed on scientists by the military. While other races often see scientists only as assets to be used, the Gēnom often place their scientists in positions of real authority, with the head scientists of various labs having equal or greater ranking with their generals. In fact, during their war of conquest of the Kob'Al their lead military officer was not a general, but was referred to by the title of 'Lead Technician.'
The Gēnom society has for much of its history been insular, at least in terms of getting involved in wars and military alliances. On the other hand, the opposite is true when it comes to trade, and they have always been adept at forming alliances for the purpose of trade, while managing to keep from being dragged into military conflicts.
Since their war with the Kob'Al and their withdrawal from Dark Dusk Harbor, they have held to an official position of neutrality in the wars of others. In modern times, their official neutrality has been tested, but over time their traditional homelands on the western edge of the Isolated Highlands has been turned into an impregnable redoubt. All adult Gēnom are required to train for two weeks each year, and all can be called up to military service if the need arises. For this reason, few are concerned about Gēnom aggression, but few would dare to attempt an invasion of their homelands, as the task of such an invasion would give even the strongest empire pause.
When not training, for the remainder of the year the Gēnom remain focused on trade, manufacturing, and, of course, invention. While most have remained in their homelands, some of their soldiers have hired their services as guards in other locales, and their engineers have been hired for urban planning in some of the largest cities of Estrom'Ir. These jobs have come with offers to establish Gēnom enclaves and hidden laboratories in these cities for Gēnom scientists to conduct some of their more sensitive experiments. The Gēnom labs, vaults, and studies beneath the Aesir city of Kagdurath, for instance, supply the city with many items that cannot be found anywhere else. From mechanical elevators and clockwork guardians, to heating vents and indoor plumbing (for certain residents), the city itself thrives upon the ingenuity of these Gēnom scientists.
The Gēnom people are focused on efficiency in their society to an extent that would make an Aesir nod in approval, however this is tempered by their tunnel vision, which is why they often are seen as absent-minded. An Aes Sídhe comedian once quipped that he could lead a group of naked dancers past the average Gēnom scientist without them being noticed at all. While this might be an exaggeration, it is only a slight one. The reality, though, is that even if the Gēnom in question noticed, they probably wouldn't care. While public nudity is rare among the Gēnom, this has more to do with the private nature of the Gēnom, and less to do with any social stigmas or taboos against it. In fact, the Gēnom are as amused by the prudish nature of the Dvergar as are the Aesir or Aes Sídhe, and are not easily shocked by the cultural practices of others, even if those practices are not the norm in their own culture. Bathing is usually done in public bath-houses, which are designed to have private chambers for each bather.
Gēnom clothing is purely functional, usually consisting of simple loose trousers, boots, shirts with drawstring closures at the top front, jackets, and occasionally cloaks. Most prefer muted earth-tone colors. Sleep wear is rare, with most preferring to sleep in the nude. When traveling, however, or visiting somewhere other than their own home, male Gēnom will usually wear a pair of shorts, while female Gēnom will wear a loose fitting shirt that hangs to the knees.
Overview of Western Humans
The Humans of the Western regions of Estrom'Ir are the most varied of all the human groups. Made up of dozens of tribes, they range from very pale to very dark tones of skin and hair. Their customs are also widely varied, depending on where they live. Most tribes are small and localized, but there are two that rank among the powers of the West.
The Ksuma are a dark-skinned human people, and are quite likely the tallest humans on Estrom'Ir. The Ksuma Emirate has long ruled much of the forested area in the northern parts of the Isolated Highlands. They are the one human group that has resided in the same place since the First Age without moving to a different area or venturing far from their ancestral homelands. They are also easily the most traditional of all the human groups, and the one most resistant to change.
One human group originated on another landmass far to the southwest. The Ahhiyawa, a tribe of red-haired and freckled humans, once had a maritime empire that spanned much of that landmass, as well as an island chain off the coast. Their fleets were the most powerful in the world for a time, and their merchants were found all over Estrom'Ir. In the early second age, however, much of their war-fleet and many of their coastal cities were destroyed by a massive tidal wave. Initially attempting to move inland, many were killed and maimed by fierce tribes of Ùruisg (Brownies), who often cut off their legs at the knees, saying they needed to be "cut down to size." Returning to their ruined coastal cities they threw together a makeshift flotilla and made their way across the sea to a new home in the west, where they have lived ever since. The southwestern landmass remained, the island chain sunk beneath the waves and disappeared, though some seafarers report that the islands reappear for a few years every few decades.
The humans were created by Trajor (Trah-jor), the God of the Skies. While Trajor holds a special place among many of their race, humans in general have embraced the worship of all the gods, with only the most traditional holding a special place for Trajor. Forms of worship are as varied as the people themselves. Also, like the Dwarves, the largest segment of humans have abandoned traditional forms of worship. Some continue a form of worship that views the gods as figurative, and religion as simply rules for being good people, or they have abandoned worship of the gods altogether. This abandonment is more common among those of the North, with only a tiny fraction still following the old ways, with a smaller percentage among the Ængeáta than among the Altaia. The traditional religious views are somewhat more common among the Ahhiyawa, though still a minority at about twenty percent, and among the Ksuma almost half the population still follows the old ways.
Weapons and Military
Humans are the most adaptable of all the races in almost every way, and their weapons and military customs are no exception. The sword has almost always been the preferred weapon among most humans in the history of Estrom'Ir, though in modern times this has been replaced by various firearms. There are almost as many different specialty weapons among the humans of Estrom'Ir as there are among all the other races of Estrom'Ir put together.
One weapon that is unique to the Ahhiyawa is the oomra (plural: oomras), a device that was used for extending the range of throwing spears before they adopted the use of firearms, particularly the rifle.
The traditional Ængeáta weapon of choice was the steel long-sword, but they now prefer rifles, or in some cases shotguns.
The Altaia developed a recurve bow made of whale bone that was one of their defining features for much of the history of Estrom'Ir, though in modern times they have adopted long-barreled twin revolvers as their weapons of choice.
The Ksuma excelled at the use of the spear, used in conjunction with the shield. A Ksuma warrior was likely to have a medium spear used for close-quarters combat, as well as numerous short spears used as missiles for throwing, weakening the enemy ranks before closing the distance. While many Ksuma now use firearms and explosives more often than not, they will still often use their throwing spears during ambushes due to their comparative silence.
There are as many human cultures as there are groups of humans. Due to their dispersal over more of the surface of Estrom'Ir than any other race, there is no single unifying element of human culture. In general, the humans of the north tend to be more conservative in terms of speech and dress than the humans of other areas, possibly due to the influence of the Dwarves, to whom they have close ties, although in modern times cursing has become more acceptable and normalized within these societies. Unlike some of the Elven races, both groups of northern humans tend to be less prone to shedding layers of clothing, even in hot environments. There are exceptions to this, with some northern human groups that have migrated having adopted the customs of other races to which they live in close proximity. The Ahhiyawa don't share the northern attitudes in this regard, though they are not quite as open about public nudity as, say, the Aesir (Dark Elves). Seeing the function of clothing in purely pragmatic terms, Ahhiyawa males see nothing wrong with removing items of clothing that serve no immediate purpose, even to the extent of complete nudity, and even when there are females present. While Ahhiyawa females are the same way, they will usually wear at least a skirt or pair of pants when males are present. Ksuma attitudes are perhaps closer to the Ahhiyawa than to the northern human groups in that they see nothing wrong with shedding unnecessary layers, but only to a point. The Ksuma, unlike the Ahhiyawa, have taboos against public nudity, though their traditions have nothing to do with discomfort with nudity and more with their strict rules about following traditions. Their standard garments cover less than those of the Ahhiyawa, but they are less prone to remove these garments due to strict penalties for doing so.
Ængeáta tend to wear simple wool trousers, with wool tunics and fur coats. The garments for men and women are quite similar, with only slight variations in the cut of the garments. When traveling in warmer climates, they will occasionally bring similar garments with them, albeit ones that are made of linen, rather than wool.
The Altaia tend to wear more fur, though when indoors they will remove the outer fur garment and wear simple trousers and short robes with a sash for a belt. These are made of the finest silk. The Altaia imported silkworms from the south long ago, and maintain extensive greenhouses where they grow mulberry trees and cultivate the silkworms from which they make this finery. Altaian silk is the finest in all of Estrom'Ir.
Ahhiyawa clothing has changed much since the days of their maritime empire. In those days, Ahhiyawa males wore bright and elaborately decorated loincloths. In the sunny equatorial climate in which they lived they wore nothing else, with even the loincloths being cast aside for heavy labor or exercise. The women wore wide skirts, and blouses that opened wide in the front to the navel and exposed the breasts. After the Doom of Knossonia, when their original homeland was destroyed by a tidal wave, and with this shortage a reduction in the means to make elaborate clothing. They therefore adapted to making clothing that was simpler. Women opted for a garment called a stolgat, which consists of a piece of cloth four feet wide by eighteen feet in length that is wound around the body in folds, with the end thrown over the shoulder. In earlier times these were usually draped to leave one breast bare, though in modern times this way of wearing the stolgat is less prominent. The men adopted a garment known as the ephklamudos. This garment is simply a piece of cloth about eight to ten feet long by four feet wide. This is folded in half, and a slit is cut in the very center. They throw the garment over themselves, sticking their head through the center hole. A sash is sometimes tied around the waist, though most do not bother, especially among the lower classes. Like the loincloths they once wore, this can be easily tossed aside. Another garment that was worn for a time by male Ahhiyawa soldiers was a simple skirt that covered from the waist to the mid-thigh, with a similar skirt being worn by female soldiers. These skirts were worn with a breastplate, greaves, sandals, vambraces, and a helmet. Before modern times, soldiers of the Ahhiyawa of both sexes generally went shirtless under their armored breastplates unless operating in colder environments. In modern times both male and female soldiers have abandoned the skirts for a pair of shorts, with the females wearing a halter top. They have also abandoned the armor, wearing instead a simple pair of boots, with a bandolier worn across the chest diagonally for some of their equipment such as ammunition
Among the Ksuma, women wear a simple wrap. This is a long piece of cloth wide enough to go from the armpits almost to the ankles. They wrap this cloth around themselves several times and simply tuck it in. If the woman is weaning a child, it is acceptable for her to fold the garment in half along its length before wrapping it, so that she is only covered from the waist to the knees, leaving the upper torso and breasts bare. This alternative form of dress is also considered acceptable when doing any form of manual labor outside, such as while washing clothes in the river. Ksuma men wear a small apron that covers from the waist to a point only about halfway to the knees. The apron is only about four to five inches wide, which is barely large enough to cover the penis and also leaves the buttocks completely bare. While some might think the Ksuma to be quite open about nudity as a result of their choice of garments, the reverse is true, unless nudity is part of a punishment. While prepubescent boys can sometimes run amok quite naked, especially among the lower classes, the Ksuma have a curious custom whereby any man who appears in public without his apron is publicly castrated. His apron is then taken away, and he is no longer allowed to wear any clothing whatsoever. If found wearing a garment after being castrated, he is exiled, and if he returns after being exiled he is then stoned to death. Most simply choose exile to begin with after being castrated, not being able to bear the public shame of no longer being a complete man.
The Ašarm (pronounced Ah-sharm), or Lizar as they are often called by other races, are a reptilian race created by Corthul, the god of the wild. They primarily live in the west, though their cities lie in a coastal area that is separated from the rest of the lush western regions by a large desert. Though their main city does not lie within the desert, but in a lush delta area, they have numerous trading outposts throughout the desert, and are adept at desert survival and warfare. Politically, they are divided between various city-states, each of which claims the shifting allegiance of various desert tribes, which are nomadic. The shifting movement of these nomadic tribes can shift the balance of power between the various city-states, so the leaders of the cities often try to cater to the will of the nomads, sometimes so much so that they anger the citizens of their own cities and risk revolution at home.
The Ašarm, as stated previously, are a reptilian race. They do not have hair, but have crests or horns instead. Some would assume them to be dry and scaly, however that is inaccurate. The scales of an Ašarm are smooth and seamless. Their teeth, however, are just as sharp as they appear, and if one shows its teeth it is likely wise to move along to avoid any further provocation. The Ašarm may be slow to anger, but that anger, when kindled, burns as hot as a dwarven smithy. They are much more active during the night hours, as previously stated, and have better night vision than humans exhibit. The Ašarm, much like their lesser kin, are cold blooded by nature and enjoy warmth, however they are also commonly afflicted with claustrophobia. Many overcome this fear out of necessity, some never overcome it and yet face it repeatedly for the adrenaline rush the fear provides.
Ašarm males tend to be about 165 to 175 centimeters on average, though some may be as short as 150 centimeters, and they can be as tall as 185 centimeters. The average female stands about 155 centimeters, though they can be as short as 140 centimeters, and some can be as tall as 175 centimeters, though any Ašarm female taller than 165 centimeters is rare. Ašarm males have two hemipenes, which are inverted inside the body, and are only everted via erectile tissue during reproductive activities. Since these organs are internal, they are all but invisible at any time other than while mating occurs.
Female Ašarm differ from every other known reptilian females in that they feed their young with what appear to the outside eye to be the equivalent of human mammary glands, however these glands serve another function. Instead of producing milk they process a kind of venom for the young that, when ingested, boosts their immune system and makes them impervious to most diseases that afflict other races. Any Ašarm raised without being fed this venom will doubtless survive, but will be as susceptible to disease as those of any other race.
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In the first age, Corthul created the Ašarm to be ideal for the wilds of the desert areas of Estrom'Ir. The Ašarm priests are all part of a specific priestly line going back to the first priests which, according to Ašarm tradition, were appointed by Corthul. These priests are all male. Worship of Corthul involves the blood sacrifice of various animals, which have been kept apart and sanctified by the priests. Unlike sacrifices in some cultures throughout the history of Estrom'Ir, the Ašarm do not see these sacrifices as appeasement to the god, but simply as a way of honoring him.
Weapons and Military
The traditional weapon of the Ašarm is called the Nim'ch, and is a single-edged curved sword that is used as a weapon by Ašarm cavalry, who ride either horses or a humped creature the Ašarm refer to as an óġom, a creature that is adept at carrying loads across the desert and surviving on very little water. In more recent years, the Ašarm have developed firearms, the most popular being a lever-action rifle that works well as a cavalry weapon, given their proclivity towards cavalry as their main military force. Eschewing large fortifications, they prefer to fight in the open and hate the thought of having their movement restricted. If caught behind fortifications, they are more likely to attempt a breakthrough to open ground, their famed patience not translating to a willingness to fight a defensive war of siege.
Ašarm males originally wore long robes and sandals. They also wore a headdress known as a chafi wrapped around the head, one fold of which could be worn across the face in a sandstorm to keep sand from getting in the mouth or nostrils. In more recent times, they have opted for shorter robes, with a type of pants designed for their anatomy, including a hole for for their tail among other things. They have also traded in their sandals for boots. When sunning themselves, as they are wont to do during the brightest part of the day, Ašarm males will remove their clothing. Complete nudity in the Ašarm society is a male privilege, however, that is not extended to the females in this male-dominated society. Ašarm society views clothing for males as something to be pragmatically used for protection against the elements, nothing more. If sunning or swimming during the day, Ašarm males think nothing of casting their clothing aside, and Ašarm males and females both are confused that others would see this as impropriety.
The Ašarm culture also was, and in many places still is, male-dominated and polygamous. A male Ašarm might have several wives, and they are usually expected to stay in the home, hidden away from outsiders. When they do venture out, they are expected to be covered from head to toe in robes that conceal their features. On the other hand, unmarried daughters are not only allowed but encouraged to wear skimpy jewel-covered outfits consisting of almost sheer skirts with slits going high up the thigh, and a halter top that leaves their midriffs bare, often dancing seductively for dinner guests in the hopes of attracting one as a husband. This outlook on women still holds strong in some areas, though it is not always enforced in others, and some Ašarm cities have abandoned this outlook altogether, treating women more equally. While some might find the Ašarm expectation for women to remain covered as strange, considering their outlook on the purpose of clothing, one must understand that this expectation is not due to a sense of modesty, as other cultures would understand it. It is due to the simple fact that Ašarm females are treated as property, and the covering is to keep other Ašarm males from desiring them. If the only males present are members of the familial clan or tribe then the rules of covering do not apply.
Preferring to spend their days basking in the sun, other races that are of the diurnal variety often assume the Ašarm are an indolent race, however this is not true, they are simply nocturnal, doing most of their activity at night. With the exception of the few small cities that serve as centers of power, most Ašarm live nomadic lives out in the open. Their dwellings are simple pavilions on wheels, surrounded by temporary canvas walls that serve more as barriers for privacy than as defensive measures.
In the deserts, allegiance to a city-state is often secondary to clan allegiance, and a slight can often lead to a feud between two or more clans. Secondary to all feuds between various Ašarm clans, however, is a racial feud against the Avians (Atbir) that goes back into the early second era. The Ašarm have never sacrificed sentient life, according to their priests, though in ancient times it is alleged by the Atbir that they once sacrificed Atbir young on their altars. If this is true, it is likely the Ašarm were unaware that their sacrifices were sentient, and Ašarm priests are quick to point out that their sacrifices are held apart and sanctified from specific groups of animals, though even their own writings indicate that creatures found on the battlefield can be sanctified quickly on the battlefront, so it is quite possible that a group of priests may have stumbled across some Atbir young, sanctified and sacrificed them without knowing they were sentient beings. The Ašarm maintain that the origin of their feud with the Atbir goes back to an Atbir assassination of several Ašarm priests in the center of one of the largest Ašarm cities. The Atbir admit to the assassination, but maintain that this was in response to the sacrifice of their young, and insist that only the priests responsible for the sacrifices were executed. Whatever the truth of these early alleged sacrifices of Atbir young or assassinations, there has been bad blood between the Ašarm and the Atbir ever since. This led to a war between the Ašarm and Atbir in the middle of the second age, which resulted in the expulsion of the Atbir from the lands of the west. This is one of the reasons that the Atbir ceased their migratory ways, settled in the north, and are rarely seen in the west. Make no mistake, however, the Atbir have not forgotten.
The Agro, often referred to by others as 'Ogres', are a large race known for their intimidating presence, their impressive physical abilities, and also for their strong work ethic. Ogre stonemasons are believed by many to be the best in all of Estrom'Ir. They have contributed to impressive feats of engineering in cities throughout the realm, especially in Dryzoln, where the above-ground portions of the Aesir city of Kagdurath were built almost entirely by these strong builders. Ogre stonemasons pride themselves on building creations of stone that can stand against time itself.
The Agro tend to have wide, yet muscular, figures and average between 235 centimeters to 250 centimeters in height. Their skin tends to be tanned to a dark green tone from generations working outside. They have large tusks jutting upward from among their lower teeth, pointed ears, and four horns protruding from their foreheads. These horns only appear at puberty, and continue to grow throughout the life of the Agro. Elders will therefore usually have the longest horns.
Berserker, Cleric, Defender, Doom Knight, Paladin, Shaman, Strategist, Warrior, Witch Doctor, Zealot
While they find little use for intellectual pursuits, some Ogre do display a strong spirituality. Traditional Ogre religion focused on the worship of Ninory, goddess of beauty, whom they believed to have created the Ogre and imbued them with a sense of inner beauty. The Ogre believed that to find that beauty, and allow it to shine through them, they needed to do the best job they could at whatever lot had been dealt them by the hand of fate. Built into this religious view was the idea that each Ogre, when born, belonged to a distinct echelon within the Ogre society. The highest echelon was that of the priestly stonemasons. The only sure way to rise to a higher echelon would be to follow the "path of Ninory," and display inner beauty through superior performance in the duties of one's echelon. By doing so, one might be reborn to a higher echelon in their next incarnation. By the same token, those who did their tasks poorly might be reborn into a lower echelon. Those who defied the path were known as the 'Defiers' and were considered to be pariahs by other Ogre.
While usually only those born into any given echelon could hope to be a part of it, there was one exception. Those who performed so well at their task that they earned the recognition of all were sometimes granted a dispensation known as 'exaltation' by the priests, and were promoted into the lowest tier of the next echelon. While this did not give them equality with other members of that echelon, it ensured their children would be born into that echelon.
Over time, the religious aspect of their social structure was forgotten and many came to accept it as simply the way things were, without regard for any religious meaning. The echelon system has long since been outlawed, yet it still exists below the surface of Ogre society. While all Ogre are now technically equal under the law, few Ogre are willing, even now, to challenge the social order of things.
War, Weapons and Military
Due to their large size, an Ogre with bloodlust is a sight that strikes fear into the hearts of many victims. The Ogre have used many weapons throughout their history, but the favored weapon of the highest echelon, which also formed their officer corps, has traditionally also been the favored tool- the hammer of the stonemason. A master Ogre stonemason can wield their hammer with equal precision to shape stone, or to split a skull. The lower echelons were primarily armed with heavy staffs and cudgels.
Eventually the Ogre adopted the use of firearms, yet their officers, still universally from the stonemason echelon, still carry their heavy hammers as a badge of office, even when their primary weapon is a rifle or a pistol.
Second only to the stonemasons in the echelon system, are the smiths who make the weapons and armor of the warriors. The Ogre have a tendency to favor heavy armor, and their smiths have become adept at creating heavy plate armor that is extremely strong and enhanced to an extent that it provides protection even against bullets, yet is still light enough to allow an unprecedented amount of mobility for those accustomed to wearing it.
Past Subjugation and Present Discrimination
In ancient times, the Ogre were very savage, and there were tales told that they would steal the young of other races and eat them live. While these tales might have been merely propaganda against the Ogre, there is some evidence that there might be truth behind the tales, although most serious scholars believe that even if there is truth it is exaggerated. What is true is that they offended many of their neighbors, among them the Aesir.
While it is unclear when it first occurred, due to a lack of written record at the time by the Ogre and only scant references in Aesir sources, at some time in the latter part of the first age the Ogre were subjugated by the Aesir. For millennia they served the Aesir as thralls due to enchantments placed on them by the Aesir. During the Aesir war of conquest at the end of the second age, Ogre shock troops served on the front lines of the war.
After the defeat of the Aesir, the Ogre were freed from their control, and many began to hate the Aesir when they realized how they had been used by them. Others, however, were grateful to the Aesir for bringing them out of the barbarism of their past. Some began to look at their traditional religion and its echelons with suspicion, wondering whether this religion was truly theirs, or whether it had been crafted by the Aesir as a means of control. Most, however, were too ingrained in their traditions to seek drastic change.
While they were now free from the Aesir, many Ogre became targets of the wrath of other races who had been terrorized by them when they were under Aesir control. They saw the Ogre as terrors who were not to be trusted, and few Ogre travelers were offered sanctuary in many cities. When they were allowed in, they were often segregated into ghettos, and were not allowed free travel into other parts of the cities.
Over time, the memories of their past atrocities began to fade, and the ghettos began to disappear, but there was still discrimination on a limited scale. Though the endorphins in their sweat glands make them very hard workers, some races turn up their nose at the smell, and even when they say nothing their distant attitude toward the Ogre is sometimes seen as a knife in the soul.
The Ogre may not be hated, but they are seldom welcome. When building for many cities, they are forced to live in work camps outside of the city walls. Large gatherings of Ogre have a tendency to frighten some smaller races with their boisterousness, or to offend the senses of some more sensitive races.
Ironically, the one race that has treated the Ogre best in modern times is the very race that once enslaved them- the Aesir. Only in the Aesir cities have they truly risen to the level of equals.
Even after achieving freedom, many outsiders either assumed them to be a slave race or felt that they were naturally built for servitude. The truth, however, is simply that the Ogre enjoy physical exertion, although they prefer the exertion as free beings, as do all sentient creatures. Ogre sweat glands release a large amount of endorphins, and it is due to this physiological trait that most Ogres will seek out physically demanding jobs.
Even when not working productively, the Ogre will often make games out of lifting heavy objects, and will place bets on which of two contestants will be able to lift a larger weight. These tests of strength are common among Ogre, and wrestling or lifting competitions can happen spontaneously when several Ogre are together, usually in good spirit. Unfortunately, due to their bulk and strength, even good spirited competitions can quickly become accidentally destructive.
Stonemasonry is particularly favored due to the desire of the Ogre to create. This desire is seen by some as ironic, due to the destructive tendencies of the Ogre, but those who truly understand them know that it is this duality that defines the Ogre- that to create, sometimes one must first tear down what was before.
Clothing and Armor
Some Ogre, particularly those in the Aesir cities, have adopted the cultural mores of the Aesir. Most, however, are not as open to nudity. Even those workers who live in the Aesir capital of Kagdurath will rarely wear anything less than a loincloth when working. Most males prefer to wear long trousers and boots when working, and will also put on a shirt once their heavy labor is complete. Females are even less prone to stages of undress than the males. Although they are not critical of the Aesir as are the Dvergar, and they get along better with the Aesir, their own preferences in dress and behavior are closer to those of the Dvergar.
The Jötnar, often referred to as 'Trolls,' are a large race. Tall and lithe, the Jötnar are a deceptively quick race. Standing over 215 centimeters at full height, their lumbering gait causes the unwary to underestimate their speed and wit, but to do so would be a deadly mistake.
Their skulking gait may make them appear shorter than they are, but no one would call the Jötnar small. The smallest are generally taller than 215 centimeters, and they can easily be as tall as 245 centimeters. Males are generally no shorter than 225 centimeters, while females who are taller than 235 centimeters are rare. They have skin tones in various shades of blue, have tusks of an ebony tone, and tend to be lanky and walk in a hunched posture.
Assassin, Berserker, Doom Knight, Jester, Monk, Necromancer, Shaman, Strategist, Summoner, Techromancer, Tempest, Witch Doctor
Traditionally, the Jötnar have worshipped Aljornasum, whom they believe to have been their creator. This worship has always been informal and personal, however, and the Jötnar have never seen a need for priests or priestesses, seeing worship as a purely personal matter. For most, this worship has been limited to the wearing of religious amulets and invocations for the blessings of Aljornasum when about to embark on various endeavors. To many, this is purely a cultural form, though there are more true believers among this race than among other races such as the Dvergar and certain groups of humans.
War, Weapons and Military
The Jötnar prefer weapons of steel, and are formidable in battle, but they have never waged a war of offense, and seldom venture outside their homelands. Some have offered their services as mercenaries for other races, but these are the exception rather than the norm, and they are often shunned by their own people for it. All adult Jötnar are automatically part of the tribal militia, however, and must devote two days out of the month for weapons drills. Other than during these times, they have little use for military or war, except on the few occasions when they have been invaded. Those who have made the mistake of invading have had whole armies simply vanish, since the Jötnar are not in the habit of taking prisoners, or of leaving any trace of the bodies, weapons, armor, or any equipment or artifacts of the invaders.
While scattered groups of Jötnar live in the region of Blind Man’s Reach, the biggest concentrations of this race can be found in settlements along the shores of the High Rise Basin. A tribal society, for thousands of years the Jötnar relied heavily on fishing in this giant lake, formed from a glacial crater. The society runs on fishing, and most Jötnar eat fish almost exclusively, although they do use wild herbs as garnishment. Unlike the fishing practices of other races, the Jötnar use no nets or fishing lines to catch fish, but their own hands. Moving out to the deep waters of the lake, they will dive from their boats, catch a fish in their hands and, leaping out of their water, will drop the fish into bins as they pass over their boats before plunging into the water on the other side and repeating the process. A master fisher can completely fill his bin in minutes. Young Jötnar males begin fishing as youngsters in the small streams and rivers that flow into the High Rise Basin. They will only move to the deeper waters of the lake when they pass their rite of passage, which involves catching a large fish known as a hákarl, most of which live in the oceans. There is a fresh-water variety, however, that lives in the deep waters of the High Rise Basin, and the venture to capture one of these is the first time the young Jötnar ever ventures into these waters.
Outsiders often see the Jötnar society as male-dominated and, while this is not really true, there is a strict division of labor along gender lines, with the fishing done exclusively by males, while the females control the home. Many outsiders see this and draw their own conclusions, but what they are often not fully aware of is that the Jötnar ruling councils are made up exclusively of women. Indeed, those who know Jötnar society best understand that it is actually a matriarchy. The Jötnar are a nocturnal race, and prefer to avoid direct sunlight. The area in which they live is ideal for this, since even during daylight there is usually cloud cover, and/or mist of some sort coming off the lake.
Clothing and Armor
Both Jötnar females and males wear a simple garment, known as an azor, which consists of a rectangular piece of cloth wrapped around the body and fastened with a pin. Female Jötnar wear a wider version of this that covers them from the armpits to the knees, while males wear a thinner version that covers them only from the waist to the lower thigh, ending about ten to fifteen centimeters above the knee. When fishing, males remove this garment and work naked. Those Jötnar that have moved from their homelands and settled in other places have often adopted clothing styles of other cultures, and seldom keep to the traditional clothing.
While in their everyday lives, the Jötnar seldom wear armor, but all spend at least two days a month drilling with weapons and armor as part of their militia training. A select few of the Jötnar, mostly females, are trained as master smiths and make fine heavy armor of plate steel, which is preferred over light armor.
The Virt’Ka, often referred to as 'Vermi,' are a rodent-like race that reside all over Estrom’Ir, although the highest concentrations are in the west, near the Aesir (Dark Elves), Gēnom (Gnomes), Jötnar (Trolls), and Agro (Ogres). While there are numerous Virt’Ka settlements, they tend to be nomadic, and therefore even the oldest of their settlements at any given time is seldom more than a few decades old. The elements of their civilization that tend to last are not their cities, but their transportation networks, with underground roads existing whose age can be measured in terms of millennia.
While they could be categorized as sinewy, like the Kob’Al, Virt’Ka do not appear as frail or skinny as the latter, although if all their fur was shaved off they might. While this is definitely true, Virt’Ka have greater muscle density than Kob’Al of similar size, and the strength of the average Virt’Ka is comparable to that of the average human, though they are much smaller in mass. Virt’Ka fur can range in color from a light gray to a dark brown and even jet black. They vary between 105 to 125 centimeters in height, with the males tending not to be any shorter than 115 centimeters, and few females being any taller than 120 centimeters in height.
Assassin, Bard, Blood Mage, Duelist, Gunslinger, Jester, Necromancer, Ranger, Shaman, Sniper, Strategist, Techromancer, Thief
The Virt’Ka have traditionally worshipped Ninory, Goddess of Beauty, as the chief deity in their pantheon. However, they were not limited in their worship of this goddess, but worshipped the other six original deities as well, albeit ranking them lower in their hierarchy of deities. Also, while they only have seven traditional deities, they often have dozens, if not hundreds, of variations and names for each deity, which results in outsiders seeing a confusing pantheon of thousands of deities. Each family often has their own family shrine, with an idol to whichever one of these thousands of variants they have taken as their patron god or goddess.
War, Weapons and Military
The Virt’Ka have rarely ever fielded a traditional army, instead relying on clan warriors and assassins to accomplish goals that would traditionally be ascribed to the military. They prefer to use an assortment of knives and short swords for melee fighting, but if they can kill from a distance this is preferable. Because of this, they have some of the best archers. In addition to standard bows, they have also developed powerful crossbows, including small ones that can be easily hidden beneath a cloak while being powerful enough to kill instantly at close to medium ranges. One weapon that is unique to the Virt’Ka is the Chur’gal, a disc-shaped weapon that can be used as a melee weapon, but is usually thrown. This weapon is so deadly that it can sever a limb easily…or decapitate an unwary target.
Discrimination against the Virt’Ka
Because of the transient nature of the Virt’Ka, they have often become convenient scapegoats for native populations wherever they have traveled, often being blamed for thefts, and even murders. While initially these were baseless accusations, over time many Virt’Ka have been forced to resort to theft due to this discrimination, and the accusations have become self-fulfilling. Some Virt’Ka have become deadly assassins, but most see killing as a last resort, and prefer stealth to outright conflict. If they can get in and out without killing anyone they prefer this, and the ultimate score is one in which the targeted person or group never know they are being robbed and only discover the theft a long time after it happened. Virt’Ka thieves are therefore often clever counterfeiters and will usually leave counterfeit objects in place of whatever they are taking. Not all Virt’Ka have resorted to theft, and resent the assumption that all Virt’Ka are thieves. Enough of the Virt’Ka are thieves, however, that to assume a Virt’Ka is not a thief until proven otherwise is often a dangerous assumption. Most of the discrimination against the Virt’Ka exists only among the lower classes, and many of the movers and shakers among the major civilizations have come to the realization that the Virt’Ka can be trusted to do whatever job is entrusted to them…so long as they are paid in a timely manner.
Culture and Clothing
Like the Gēnom, the Virt’Ka are not easily shocked by the cultural practices of others, but, unlike the Gēnom, they do have social stigmas and taboos against complete nudity, and they see the Aesir and Aes Sídhe cultures as degenerate. On the other hand, they are not as prudish as the Dvergar. For male Virt’Ka, being shirtless in public is normal when wrestling or for certain physical activities and sports, and young women among the Virt’Ka long ago adopted a custom similar to that of young Ašarm females in that they often wear sheer skirts and brassieres that are decorated with metal coins when dancing to attract a mate.
Clothing and Armor
Most Virt’Ka prefer loose and baggy clothing that is brightly colored. This is not universally true, as thieves and assassins will often wear more muted colors when on a mission. Enough honest Virt’Ka also prefer muted colors, however, that it would be incorrect to assume that a Virt’Ka wearing dark colors is up to no good. Most prefer light armor made of leather or hide, and will often wear it hidden under their clothing, or even sewn into the lining of their garments.