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    Posted: 05 Apr 2015 at 18:31
Below is all mixed, monstrous, and nonstandard race factions
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Arakvar

Excerpt from ‘The Monstrous Races of Illyria’, by the retired human warrior-mage, Kheldon Runestaff 

No one truly understands the Arakvar. They are an alien species, their strange ways and mindset indecipherable to the civilized races of Illyria. 

These large intelligent spiders live in the forested hills and mountains of north-western Norweld. Wise travellers entering Norweld from that direction take all precautions to avoid that particular area, and with very good reason: those who come across the Arakvar in their forested home rarely make it out alive. 

In fact, I know of only two. 

The Lannigold man-at-arms was extremely difficult to track down. After several weeks of trying to track him down, I was told that he might have perished during a battle with marauding Northmen. That left only one other survivor to talk to: Dagarr Goldseam, of Clan Reashag. 

In comparison, Dagarr was not at all difficult to track down. His reason for braving the Arakvar territory was for the greater economic good of his clan: Clan Reashag formed a special expedition group, with its mission being to scout out the Northwestern Norweld in order to locate any possible ore or mineral veins in those ancient mountains. All 30 members of the group were exceptional warriors and scouts, veterans of many a battle with the chaotic and blood-thirsty monsters of the North. Dagarr Goldseam was the only survivor from the expedition party. 

His close friends tell me that he used to be a cheerful and rather boisterous dwarf, but the horrors in those hills have changed him, for he seldom talks now, and is given to fits of depression. 

Dagarr was very reluctant to talk at first, but I finally managed to convince him to share his tale with me, based on the argument that any information we learn about the Arakvar can help the whole of Illyria should these intelligent spiders ever decide to launch an attack on us. 

And so the only survivor told his tale: of how the expedition party was suddenly surrounded by a clan of these large spiders. Each one, on all eight legs, was about twelve feet in height, slightly more than twice the height of an average man. They surrounded the expedition party from each side, leaving no room for escape. 

The spiders communicated with each other in the clicks and clacks of the strange arachnid language. However, the spiders “communicated” with the expedition party in ancient Dwarven. 

These words did not come from their alien mouths, but seemed to be spoken aloud inside each Dwarf’s minds. As soon as Dagarr mentioned this, I deduced that these spiders must have been communicating telepathically with the Dwarves. Another note on just how intelligent and powerful these creatures are. 

The Dwarves had difficulty conversing with the Spiders, for few of them could speak ancient Dwarven fluently. Dagarr recalled that the Spiders peppered them with a flurry of questions, some of which didn’t make sense: 
Who are you? What have you brought us? Where are the citadels? What do we do now? 

The leader of the expedition party blurted out a few answers, but it seemed like none of them were the answers the spiders were looking for. Without any warning or sound, they attacked the cornered Dwarves. 

To their credit, the Dwarves put up a fight, but they were surrounded on every side, and the spiders far outnumbered them. Dagarr tells me that one of these deadly creatures was just about to sink its fangs into him, when all of a sudden there was a loud thud and roar as another monster crashed into the clearing. 

From Dagarr’s description of the creature’s large size, feral humanoid features, vicious attacks and huge avian wings similar to that of an eagle’s, I can only deduce that it must have been a Daedalon. 

As soon as the Daedalon made its presence known, it began tearing into the ranks of the spiders. All the Arakvar in the clearing immediately turned their focus on it; Dagarr by now was all but forgotten by the spiders. With the wicked screams of the Daedalon in the background, Dagarr ran as fast as his legs and beating heart could carry him. 

He never once looked back.

Xcrix [Arakvar]

Xcrix is easier to spot from a distance than it is to identify up close. From a distance, it is a scarred mountain, its uneven peaks carrying great gashes, as if sliced by 
some immense magic in a previous age. But as one draws closer, its location is hard to identify. Caves and chasms riddle the rocks; some form part of the vast network of 
caves that is Xcrix, while others are dead ends. Visitors say that they knew that they had arrived, only for one reason; in the dead ends and shallow caves around and about, 
they were ignored... but in the caves of Xcrix, something was always watching them.

Kzrik [Arakvar]

Kzrik is not a city. It is a mountain which has been broken, torn, hollowed out, perhaps by some ancient magics. Entering from the forest beyond, the visitor walks into a 
series of broad chasms, overhung by great cliffs, with caves visible far above. Huge creatures look down from the higher crevasses. If the visitor is welcome, he is left 
alone, and may wander about and then leave at his leisure. If he is not welcome, the monsters drop silently down; they will dine well, and the visitor will not return.


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Bayne's Irregulars

Isiriana Elissede, of the Elven trade house of the Silver Arcs, Lantellyn. 

Bayne's Barracks is no squalid muddle of tents, no den of grubby mercenaries. 

It is instead well-ordered and disciplined, home to merchants and quartermasters as well as to thugs and strongarms. This follows from the nature of Bayne's troops, who are not killers and butchers, but professional soldiers. 

So, as they have made a settled base, a legion of followers has come to service their needs - from blacksmiths and tanners, to washerwomen and harlots, from horse breeders and food-sellers, to scribes and sorcerers. 

As a merchant, admittedly delicate in my sensibilities, I expected rough men who knew the value of little and had no appetite for commerce. Instead I found disciplined ranks with well-ordered markets, and traders who knew exactly what they want and exactly what they should pay. 

To find profit here is tiresome, however, and I say that as one who thrives on the rhetoric of the sale, the gossip of the market. This follows from the military sensibility, which has made of killing a profession, and so applies to the merchant arts a ruthlessness which quite removes the joy from commerce. 

For Bayne, it matters not who you are, or what you know, or where you have been, or where your heart leads, but only whether you can show skill at arms and follow discipline. All races and cultures are welcomed by Bayne, but none are truly valued, and so it is with the art of the trader, that any may trade here, but none will find pleasure in their visit. 

In Lanarrin, one may spend an evening discussing the nuances of a fine claret with its vendor, musing over his wares as one mixes discussion of the vintage with observations upon music and philosophy. 

In Madh Kala Uruk, one barters loudly with Orc weaponsmiths who veer in one moment between their proclivity for threats of violence, to clumsy efforts in the next moment to mimic the haggling of the human traders to whose arts they aspire. 

In Nachik, one muses carefully over each horse that a breeder parades, considering carefully and respectfully every inch of the creature, the examination displaying the buyer's suitability to own an Apaxu thoroughbred as much as allowing the buyer to assess the horse. 

In each of these there is a kind of dance, a commercial debate, with an inherent artistry which delights the refined and educated trader. Yet here, The Barracks merchants come to terms as if they were officers barking orders, and goods are seen as commodities, not as items to be appreciated. Goods are defined, offers made, haggling conducted briskly, and the deal is done, without subtlety, nor artistry, nor delight or curiosity, nor discovery. 

Moreover, just as the military sensibility is applied to trade, so throughout The Barracks such sensibility pervades the attitudes of everyone, and the city contains the most officious bureaucrats, the most blunt beggars, the least sensual harlots, and not a single artist of any note.

The Barracks [Bayne's Irregulars]

The Barracks is exactly as it sounds. Bayne's mercenaries have no time for pretence and flowery names. The stronghold is a military base, so they named it The Barracks. It is 
quite straight forward. And inside the walls, Bayne insists on everything being just as straight forward. Travellers report that, for example, here fraud and deception are 
punished more harshly than assault or murder. Bayne can tolerate honest violence much more readily than duplicity.


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Circle Of Five

Extract from an Intelligence Report prepared for Empress Cymbeline of Azuria

The five Arch Magi are a relative unknown to us. 

We know, as fact, simply the following: 

The five are masters of each of their elements, and come from all the races of Illyria.
  • Shamaster Maldak of the Orcs is the wielder of flame
  • Geomancer Herrolf of the Dwarves has dominion over the ground
  • Enchantress Elissa of the Elves can bend the skies to do her bidding
  • Archmage Stendas, a Human believed to hail from the Windseekers, commands even the vast oceans
  • Faer Smyss of the Fey has dominion over time
Each member of the circle is surely a foe to be reckoned with individually, but it is when they combine their powers that little can stand in their way. The most apt illustration of their destructive potential is clearly visible in the very existence of the cursed Great Marsh of Fyrgis in Wolgast - created as a direct result of their assistance to King Lentas of Illyria during the purging of the Barbarian threat. 

But beyond this meagre summary, they keep themselves to themselves and do not appear to interfere or mingle with the world. 

We cannot guess their goals or their motives - and it would be prudent to take steps to rectify this situation.

Aqua [Circle Of Five]

Home to Archmage Stendas of the Circle of Five, Aqua is an impregnable tower, guarded by high walls and enormous magics. It is said that to watch the sun set behind Aqua, as 
the sunlight plays across the stones and glints on the roof tiles, is to witness one of the most beautiful sights in Elgea.

Ignis [Circle Of Five]

Ignis is the stronghold of Shamaster Maldak, one of the five great mages of the Circle of Five. A great tower overlooking the plains of Perrigor, it burns brightly like a 
beacon at night, calling in adepts, traders, and wanderers from the surrounding lands, who throng in the courtyards at its base each day, for trade, study, and intrigue.

Terra [Circle Of Five]

The granite tower ruled by Geomancer Herrolf of the Circle of Five is surrounded by a large town, inhabited by visitors, servants, apprentices, adepts, and soldiers. New 
arrivals swiftly spot some of the oddities of the place. It is a boon, for example, that the vegetable gardens tended by the residents bring forth fresh crops every few days, 
rather than every few months. Less welcome is the weather, which seems to change according to the moods of the tower's owner, and includes hails of stones, sandstorms, and 
fog which can, quite literally, be cut with a knife.

Aeris [Circle Of Five]

Aeris is home to Enchantress Elissa, one of the five great mages of the Circle of Five. Legends tell that her tower has ceilings but no floors, that servants fly through the 
corridors, and that the Enchantress herself sits upon a throne made of clouds. Those who have visited say that such tales are fanciful, but not without some truth.

Tempus [Circle Of Five]

Strong and unchanging, the pale tower, ruled by Faer Smyss of the Circle of Five, rises as a single immovable spire above the surrounding forest. About its base, however, the 
village which serves as home to the tower's servants, guards, and visitors, is in a constant state of change, with perpetual rebuilding and demolition. Travellers report that 
it resembles a giant building site, rather than a town.


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Daedalons

Excerpt from 'The Monstrous Races of Illyria', by the retired human warrior-mage, Kheldon Runestaff 

Few can accurately describe what these creatures look like, because to see a Daedalon is to become its prey. My encounters with them have both been bloody, and a less adept mage or warrior would have survived neither. 

Some confuse the Daedalons with the Harpies who live in the southern Farra Isles. Though a Daedalon and Harpy can both fly, and both will treat you as prey, they are distinctly different species, and not related at all. 

The Harpies are half-human and half-bird. The Daedalons however, are monstrous humanoids that superficially look like large humans, equipped with avian wings. A Daedalon stands at about twelve feet in height, although the females are a little bit shorter. The eyes of a Daedalon are blood-red and appear to glow in the dark at night. The face is like that of a human’s, but far more feral, and its mouth is filled with wickedly sharp teeth that can snap an arm in two with ease. 

Their upper torso and arms are disproportionately large compared to those of a human’s, and on their broad powerful backs are feathered avian wings, usually in various shades of brown or grey, but sometimes in black as well. The wingspan of these creatures can span up to 30 feet and some feature distinctive marking as well, like spots and speckles, much like those found in various wild birds. 

Fighting a Daedalon is a very risky proposition. Its large size allows for a greater reach, and all who have seen the Daedalons in combat note that these creatures possess monstrous strength. A Daedalon can easily uproot a tree or hurl huge boulders with the use of both hands; a clean punch from one of these creatures can easily kill a man. 

The best option when facing a Daedalon is to run away, and to do so very quickly. If that option is not available, you will probably be dead soon anyway. If you can, try to utilize long-range attacks, because Daedalons lack long-range attacks of their own, and have to close the distance to make full use of their tremendous strength. The longer you can keep it away from you, the better your chances of surviving the encounter. I have faced two of these creatures, and I was only able to survive because of my magic; the spells I used in both encounters were long-range offensive spells which managed to kill the Daedalon before it could close the distance. 

The good thing is that the Daedalons don’t appear to want to expand their territory. They remain in their citadel, which is commonly known as The Loft, and only come out in order to forage for food. The numerous mountain goats in peaks nearby keep them well-stocked in terms of food supply, but they have also been known to eat any of Illyria’s intelligent humanoid races. Disappearances of expeditions or traveling parties close to the The Loft are usually attributed to the Daedalons hunting for food. 

Still, I suppose we must be grateful that they have not decided to attack Illyria en masse. Despite their limited numbers, the various Illyrian armies would be hard-pressed to withstand a concerted attack from these winged monstrosities. Their intelligence appears to be at a bestial level, and it is probably this fact that has prevented them from planning and launching such an attack, something for which we should all be grateful for. 

It should also be noted that the Daedalons appear to be the natural enemies of both the bestial Wolpus and the arachnid species, the Arakvar. Based on the evidence I have gathered, both of these races appear to be more intelligent than the Daedalons. This could prove useful in the future, should the Daedalons ever strike out from their citadel into the rest of Illyria.

The Loft [Daedalons]


No road or path approaches The Loft. The only way to enter this mountain-top stronghold is to fly. For most races, this means to be carried in the claws of a murderous winged 
Daedalon. This is not an attractive prospect. Why would these creatures trouble to haul a human, Elf, Orc, or Dwarf up their home, unless to feed the unfortunate guest to 
their young?


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Dragonkin

By Sanir Di'qualinin, High Archivar of the High Kings court, Secretary of the Royal histories society, Magistrate of Pelimont. 

Although I am loathe to speculate, in this chapter I have no choice. 

The only knowledge we have of Dragons is from the Sillar, with whom we have no diplomatic standing or trade relationship. 

In the time of the Illyrians (the first race the Gods created and from whom the Elves are decended), we may have known more... but we simply do not have that knowledge available today - not since the Great Library of Mor'Ashan burned down. 

We have unconfirmed stories from the Blood Reavers that beings with "Dragonlike features" sometimes fight side-by-side with the Sillar, but we also have stories to contradict this; and they might as well just be a rare type of Serpentkin. 

The simple fact is that we don't know. 

And however much we want to gain the knowledge and power of the Dragons of old, all expeditions to their lands have either been turned back by the Sillar, sacrificed by the Blood Reavers to their bloodgod, or simply vanished. 

In Short: Stay Away!


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Drangu Mundas

By Sanir Di'qualinin, High Archivar of the High Kings court, Secretary of the Royal histories society, Magistrate of Pelimont. 

Every mother tells her children tales about these 'beings' eating men and women whole... 

.. about them being able to throw grown horses and treetrunks as if they were playthings. 

If only they were exaggerating. 

Until recently the Ogres of Illyriad were wandering beasts, roaming in managble packs - but after the Fourth Rebellion, instead of scattering as they had normally done without a war to unite them, they went on a terrifying trek through the Northern Lands, killing as they went. This expedition is now known as The March of Horror. 

After nearly 5 years they stopped and settled the first recorded town of Ogres, known as Drangu Votar: roughly translated as "Ogre Home". 

Some have said it's the best thing that has ever happened to Illyria, that Ogres roaming the entire countryside of Illyria is now a thing of the past. 

I however disagree. In earlier times when the drums of war have joined together the Greenskins, the Ogres have always been slow to respond - due to them being scattered and thus their wareffort delayed. 

A focus of their power would make for swifter alliances and the Greenskins could move before the civilized areas of Illyria could be ready. 

Furthermore, since they are close to the Sons of Wulpor they have developed a relationship that threatens the northmen who we rely on to keep such monstrous beings away from the rest of Illyria. 

It is the duty of all loyal subjects of our Great Monarch, King Sigurd, to keep an eye on these beasts, lest someday soon they threaten us all.




Drangu Kala [Drangu Mundas]

Ogres do not carefully craft blocks of stone, nor arrange them with ingenuity to form clever fortifications. But by sheer brute force, a gang of Ogres can raise a boulder the 
size of a hut, and with the encouragement of whip-wielding workmasters, they can pile these, one upon another, until they have a fortification of immense proportions. The 
walls of this stronghold, the Ogres' outpost in what they regard as the balmy southlands, have no clever counter-siege works, nor well-crafted crenelations. But they stand 
one hundred paces thick, and taller than the trees, so that none might hope to overcome them.

Va Drangu [Drangu Mundas]

Vast piles of boulders, towering above an icy plain, the walls of Va Drangu protect the military heart of the Ogre tribes. It is home to their most brutish warriors, and the 
site of their bloody shrines. Set in a land where the cold kills as surely as an Ogre's club, this is one of the most forbidding and inhospitable cities in Elgea.


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Eaglesbrood

Excerpt from Peasant Mythology - Now and Then - A lecture by Jules De Pellimont given to the Royal Academy of History 

"Silent specks of nightmare black, 
Heralding woe upon skies so cold, 
Feather Feather where's my child; 
Has he gone to Ursors breast?"


The above is a traditional nursery rhyme from the Northern-most regions bordering Ursor. 

Believed to be one of the earliest references to, and possibly hinting towards, the origin of the more modern phrase of "Finding a black feather" - which in its modern meaning refers to assassination. 

However, it is to be surmised from this and other literary sources I have examined that the original meaning stems from roaming peasants having their flocks attacked by packs of Eaglesbrood, known to be native of the Ursor mountain ranges. 

Giant black eagles, resembling ravens in colour, they most certainly have the strength and wing-span to carry off a small sheep (or household pets). Such an assault would naturally leave little evidence behind, save perhaps a large black feather or two. 

As is with many things natural, the mythology of the Eaglesbrood seems to have been exploited in the fairy tales of the more primitive people to scare children into obidience with nursery rhymes and the age old adage of "Be a good boy or the Eaglesbrood will come and swap you for a feather". 

It is highly unlikely however, that these creatures would actively hunt the higher races, like most mere beasts containing themselves to making easy prey of our flocks. 

Claims that the Ursor mountain ranges remain unexplored to this day due to their territorial nature are, in my humble opinion, to be scoffed at. The unforgiving nature of the mountains and treacherous weather conditions are explanation enough ten times over for this problem.


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Empirium

Abridged Principles of The Empirium by Empricist Elemas 

Let the following be set as true: 

I. That which we can observe, let that be known 
II. That which we cannot observe, let that be theory 
III. That which is supposed to be, let that be hypothesis 
IV. That which cannot be thought to be, let that be passed over in silence 

There is no room for irrational belief in The Empirium. 

We know that Magick exists, we see it operate with force upon things. We can try to measure it, size it, categorise it and otherwise subject it to rational observation. 

Belief in the divine, however, is irrational. It cannot be proven, it cannot be tested, it cannot be relied upon. 

We entirely accept there are people who describe themselves as "Priests" who can perform acts of magic. But this is simply Magick, not some "divine" intervention or force that is channelled from beyond the realm of the observable. 

And yes, we know that we do not fully understand Magick as of yet - but this is simply that we have not studied it enough. It is not that it is inscrutable, it is that we are not observing it with the correct scrute. 

Ultimately, like a frog on a dissection table, Magick will give up its secrets to us, and then we can rest safe in the knowledge that everything that can be known has finally been uncovered.

Scite [Empirium]

The design of all strongholds of the Empirium is based on the plan of a house, but inside its gates Scite is less like a home, and more like a giant workroom. Here are the 
homes of engineers, crowded in amongst the workshops of craftsmen; waggoners dragging resources in from the mountains, and merchants jostling in the mountains. It is a 
practical place, which values invention and the application of ideas – not simply the ideas themselves.

Potentia [Empirium]

Entering Potentia, the visitor enters the greatest stronghold of the Empirium, an entire city laid out on the plan of an enormous villa, where the highest and the greatest of 
the Empirium live and work. Here is the Senate, and the thinkers who advise them; here is their treasury and library; here are halls of records, workshops of great craftsmen, 
leading schools and even hospitals. This is the capital of the Empirium and one day, they say, all cities will be like this.

Cittacolumbae [Empirium]

As with all strongholds of the Empirium, before the gates stand huge pillars, a hundred paces high, above which is a great roof. The theory, perhaps, is to impress the 
visitor with the engineering and mathematical abilities of the builders. For the Empirium, such displays are not mere vanity, for this city is the front line of their 
intellectual battles, where scholars and researchers argue against the superstitions of the Circle of Five and the traditionalism of the Order of Allembine. Here they hope 
that through reasoned debate, they will be able to influence the policies of the Council of Illyria and the future of Elgea.

Busillis [Empirium]

It is the design of all strongholds of the Empirium that before one reaches the city gates, one must walk between huge pillars, a hundred paces high, above which is a great 
roof, so that entering the city is like walking through the porch of some vast house. The theory, perhaps, is to impress the visitor with the engineering and mathematical 
abilities of the Empirium. But their faith is not in learning alone, and their armies are also impressive, as the visitor to Busillis might discover – for this stronghold is 
the easternmost of the Empirium's Hubs, and the closest to the lands of the Pax Orcana, whom the Empirium views as savages, and against whom their military is ready to stand.


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Foshnu Ob Wulpor

Extract from the Diary of Sanir Di'Qualinin, High Archivar of the High Kings court, Secretary of the Royal Histories society, Magistrate of Pelimont. 

Why the Orc gods would choose to endow beasts like these with speech and intelligence, if you can call it that, is beyond most people. Even for these deities it seems like a blunder. 

When you have fearsome beasts like these to ride into battle why give them intelligence so they can rebel and question? 

It is like giving intelligence to carrots. This was felt during the Fourth Rebellion of the Orcs, also known as the Great March, The Green Flood and The Return of the Dark Orcs. 

Why the majority of the Wulpus elected to leave the warcamps of Warleader Garomsh, and what effect it had on the war effort is wildly debated and speculated upon. 

I, myself, cannot subscribe to the idea that King Sigurd should have actually negotiated with these beasts to draw them from the war effort or that the war would have been lost if they hadn't left. It is far more likely that some petty grievance or other simply drove these barely intelligent beasts from their masters and into what can only be a squalid existence amidst the northern mountains where Ogres and Barbarians roam and plunder. 

Be aware that these Children of Wulpus cannot be trusted or even relied upon and should you ever meet one that does not eat you, then do not speak to it - for it will only encourage it in a habit for which it is ill suited.

Scara Gajup [Foshnu Ob Wulpor]

The ancient fortress of Scara Gajup provides the Wulpor with secure dens if ever they are threatened by the Barbarians or Ogres to the south or east. Slightly less remote 
than the Wulpor stronghold of Scara Ulurl, it also attracts, from time to time, curious travellers, diplomats, and merchants. But those returning report that there is little 
to see here; a pack of beasts pacing through deserted halls offers few delights to a traveller.

Scara Ulurl [Foshnu Ob Wulpor]

The builders of the dark fortress of Scara Ulurl were swept away nearly six hundred years ago, by the last great Orc Uprising of the Second Age. The survival of the 
stronghold seems a miracle, perhaps a testament to their incredible skill, for the Wulpor lack the skills to maintain a great stone fortress such as this. Since the dawn of 
this Age, the creatures have simply built a huge set of dens in the now-filthy halls, so they can wander out to hunt in the icy lands beyond.


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Fyrgis

Excerpt from 'A treatise on Wild Magic and its Role in the Primitive Cultures of our Land' by Professor Arkieideles of the Empirium University. 

The people living on the borders between Wolgast, Kal Tirikan and Norweld are known as the Fyrgis. 

A shamanistic tribe drawn to the inherent magical nature of the land, they practice a form of sorcery known as Wild Magic. The apparant nature of their sorcery is a deviation from the crude and primitive magic of the barbarian tribes who used to flourish from the northern most reaches of Kal Tirikan down to the southernmost borders of what is today known as The Middle Kingdom. 

Comprising of Humans, Orcs and Elves their society is a reclusive one, the nature of the lands they reside in providing an effective barrier towards the outside world. From what little I have been permitted to gleam of their culture, it is clear to me that they do not worship any one god nor ruler, rather relying on a form of water worship, drawing their powers from the tainted liquids of their marshland home. 

The Fyrgis believe the marshes to be sacred, in my own base understanding of their sacred tongue (Fyrgisvangrir, a mixture of the crude tongue of the barbarian tribes and the older tongue of the northmen spoken in the Middle Kingdom during the reign of the first King with influences from old Elvish and Orcish) I was able to pick up several references alluding to a living earth. 

Having studied ancient maps of this region I note that all sources dating from before The Great Corruption, or The Great Cleansing as it is known in the Norweld and Middle Kingdom, the lands of the Fyrgis are described as sparsely wooded grassland.

This combined with the magic nature of the marshes and experiments conducted with small amounts of raw magic under controlled circumstances by our own great university, has lead me to believe quite firmly, that the nature of the geography as well as it's current magic properties are a direct result of atrocities committed by the first arch-magi of the Circle of Five. 

Ignoring for a moment the childish myths of the Fyrgis themselves, my observations indicate that the tainted marshes are in fact spreading. Like a great, patient plague the marshes crawl across the earth poisoning every leaf of grass and every tree they encounter. 

No doubt the unpredictable nature of wild magic does little to alleviate this situation, as it name suggests this is magic in its most dangerous form, raw, unpredictable and uncontrollable. Indeed, during the ceremony which I was privy to during my stay with the Fyrgis, I observed no less than two of their shamans having their spells disastrously missfire. 

The first summoning forth a great ball of fire, making short work of his hair, eye brows and beard while attempting to light his pipe, the second turning himself into a small chicken while apparently attempting to conjure forth an egg. 

It is my belief that further study of the Fyrgis would be most beneficial in furthering our understanding of the behaviour of raw magic in it's natural element and I look forward to sending an expedition of graduate students upon my return to the University. 

Styne [Fyrgis]

Styne is a squat, ugly city, just to the west of the swamp of Fyrgis. The swamp folk have built this stronghold to give themselves a tradepost outside their treacherous 
marsh, but they have done so in the style familiar to them – simple, squat buildings, devoid of sophistication or style.

Lostwithiel [Fyrgis]

Once a great city, with tall, straight walls and elegant towers, Lostwithiel has largely sunk into the great swamp of Fyrgis. Tumbled walls have been replaced by great 
stockades made of tree trunks, and in the place of elegant towers, are broad, low buildings that sit firmly upon the muddy ground. Visitors are not generally impressed by the 
architecture or culture of the city, although they are frequently struck by its swampy stench.


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Giantkind

Isiriana Elissede, of the Elven trade house of the Silver Arcs, Lantellyn. 

As a young child, I travelled with a trade caravan along an old Imperial Road, a relic of the Second Age, now barely discernible as a trackway, out to the north from Dunbar, and there I saw the stonefields. 

In the stonefields, huge boulders are scattered, some as tall as an adult human, hundreds of them, as if some huge hand had scattered them, or as if they had grown from the earth like gravel-grey fruit. Neither description is accurate, but the former is closer. They were scattered there by giant hands, or specifically by Giants' hands. 

As a child I asked why the Giantkind had hurled these boulders, and was told a pretty story. The rocks, a cheerful minstrel told me, with a glint in his eye, were like balls, cast in a game, played by Giants for high stakes. Flocks of sheep or prized weapons were gambled in a sport where each huge contestant sought to hurl his boulders as close as possible to a certain mark, and the closest stone would win the prizes. The minstrel's story continued with a sly human hero, who took on the Giants at their own game. Lacking the strength to lift, let alone pitch, such a huge stone, the plucky young hero had to rely on his wiles and trick the dim-witted giants. The tale involved one of those common tropes, of the hero proclaiming that he could win the game blindfolded, and so his adversaries were tricked to say that they, too, would be blindfolded, and so they could not see that he did not cast his stones as they did. The details of such tales are changeable, but the type remains constant, and I do not recall exactly how the story unfolded, but I do recall how it made me feel. 

There, as a child, confronted by evidence of the enormous, brute strength of the Giants, the story made me feel safe, and superior. Wit could defeat strength. We small races were protected by our own super intellects, and the vastly powerful Giants were reduced to figures of fun, to be cheerfully tricked and laughed at. 

As an adult, I set aside such stories, for as a trader I am all too aware of why these scatterings of rocks, as in the stonefields north of Dunbar, are so often by old trade routes. The boulders are indeed hurled by Giants, as the stories say, who aim at small targets, but not in sport. For the Giants hurl them at any small mortal who might come close to their hunting lands. We, traders and travellers, are their targets. 

The reason is obvious to any farmer, if obscure to townsfolk, for any who gain their food from the land are sensitive to the threat of scavengers and predators. The farmer's boy casts slingshots at pigeons who would steal seed-corn from the soil. The farmer will take aim at any fox who might so much as glance at his chickens' coops. The farmer's wife will tolerate no mouse or rat near her larder. 

To the Giants, for whom a wild boar is a mere snack, and for whom the grazing grounds of wild goats or deer are as jealously guarded as any farmer's hen-house, we are vermin. We threaten to disrupt or perhaps steal their food supplies. And so they drive us away. But whereas the farmboy uses a small stone as a slingshot, the Giants' slingshots seem to us to be intimidatingly huge. No doubt a rabbit or pigeon would see a human or an elf weapon, slingshot or arrow as equally intimidating, monstrous even. 

Now I wonder; in all our stories the Giants are dim witted, slow, stupid – their behaviour towards us is brutish and cruel. No doubt the pigeon or rabbit would see the farmer's family as, in the same way, brutish and monstrous, and I wonder if perhaps the Giants may not be as brutal and base as we believe. Yet still, we are mere pests in their eyes, and they will no more show us the workings of their minds than we would indulge in conversation with our own farmyard vermin.


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Harpies

Excerpt from 'The Monstrous Races of Illyria', by the retired human warrior-mage, Kheldon Runestaff 

No seasoned sailor would choose to sail anywhere within Farra Isle’s azure blue waters, for this island is the home of the Harpies. 

The Harpies are a highly intelligent and savage species native to the Farra Isle, which lies to the south west of Tallimar. Each Harpy stands almost as tall as an average man and appear to be a cross between human and bird; they have a human face and upper torso, but feathered wings take the place of arms and hands, while their lower torso and taloned feet are exactly like those of a wild bird’s. 

Most harpies have a mix of brown, grey and black plumage, but a rare few with white plumage have been spotted. Some astute seamen have made the observation that those with white feathers might hold a higher position within the Harpies’ society because they have been seen giving orders to the other Harpies while hunting for food. 

And what is food to these monstrous creatures? 

Count humans among one of their favourite meals. While the Harpies usually make a meal of fish and other seafood, even birds, human flesh appear to be a delicacy among them. Many a seaman has seen his comrade torn to bits by their wicked talons, with the Harpies screaming out in inhuman glee as the delightfully consume the flesh of their unfortunate prey. 

But if the southern seafolk know better than to sail anywhere near Farra Isle, how do the Harpies manage to hunt down their favourite meal? 

The answer is this: through magic. 

The Harpies employ a crude but effective form of Illusion magic. The illusions that they can craft with their use of this magic works on all of the five senses, and the average sailor would be hard-pressed to realize that he had been caught within an illusion. The few survivors of a Harpy attack have described the illusions as being incredibly realistic, with an almost seamless progression from reality to illusion. 

However, when questioned further, it seemed some individuals actually knew they were being caught in an illusion, because in their own words, the images and sounds around them seemed surreal, almost as if they were caught in a dream-line trance of some sort. 

No one knows how the Harpies came to be. Such abominations rarely come about naturally. The southern seafolk believe that the Harpies used to be a human tribe that somehow displeased the ocean gods and was cursed with their current forms. Others believe that the Harpies are the result of some magical experiment gone wrong. I do not discount the latter; there have been some magic users who wish to go one up on the gods and create entirely new species. Most of them are completely mad and there is a very real possibility that the Harpies were created by such an insane individual. 

In recent years, the Harpies have gotten more aggressive, going so far as to attack settlements and seafolk on the shore, rather than keeping to the seas. None one can explain this phenomenon, as no great changes have been made in terms of the seafolk’s fishing patterns. The Sea Kings of Tallimar have become increasingly concerned over these attacks, and may one day need to mount an expedition to Farra Isle, to wipe out the Harpies once and for all.


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Illyria Trade Council

Letter from Journeyman Timpras to his Uncle 

Dear Uncle, 

I cannot begin to thank you enough for your introduction and secondment of my person to the Illyria Trade Council. 

What my teachers have forgotten about the intricacies of trade is more than most peoples of the world ever knew! 

Trademaster Raffine says I have an innate understanding of the way volume affects market price, and Routefinder Oliver has asked me to accompany him on a restock mission down to the trade hub at Bepima in Southern Azura! And to think I've never been out of the Middle Kingdom before. 

So it's all very exciting, and all going very well. There's one small problem though - Trader Simalin (who teaches us the Ethics of Trade) has said that I lack what he calls the 'cutthroat instinct'. He says I don't have enough fire or desire to get the best deal at the best price, and that I don't know when to commit and when to pull back. 

So. I was wondering if I could ask you to send me whatever you can spare - perhaps a part of your retirement fund? - so that I can go "all-in" (as they say) with both our monies on this trip down to Bepima and thereby maximise our profits. 

Simalin says he'll take care of our investment, and will return full profits to us both (after removing fees, taxes, travel and lodging expenses, and any other unexpected outgoings, of course). He says it's a sure thing! 

With thanks, 

Your loving nephew


Bellingsy [Illyria Trade Council]

Bellingsy styles itself the gateway to the Middle Kingdom, a heavily fortified city sitting at a junction of great waterways which flow down from Meilla and Norweld, and on 

into the Middle Kingdom. It is, the Illyria Trade Council would have one believe, the must-visit destination for anyone bringing trade goods down from the north west.

Mons Equi [Illyria Trade Council]

In ancient times, a sacred horse roamed the hills here, keeping safe from harm all who lived within sight of its peak. But a proud warlord swore that none but he could keep 

the people safe, and so he settled on the hill, had the horse killed and stuffed, and displayed its remains in the courtyard of a magnificent castle which he ordered be built 
upon the ridge.
The morning after the castle was completed, guests arrived at the gates to find it completely deserted. The warlord, his people, and the remains of the horse had all 
vanished. Only recently has the site been settled again – now by more peaceful folk, merchants of the Illyria Trade Council, who have recognised the exceptional defensive 
location and founded a trade centre here.

Hope [Illyria Trade Council]

The trade post of Hope is aptly named. To think that a merchant might survive, let alone thrive, in this region, requires considerable optimism. To the north and west are the 
lawless lands of the Outlaws, and Undying Flame; to the south and east are the vicious Sundog Gith. But as the traders here remark, the riskier the investment, the greater 
the profit.

Maplehurst [Illyria Trade Council]

The quiet city of Maplehurst is positioned as a centre for trade between the civilised lands around the Middle Kingdom and the bloody lands of the north. To the south are the 
Golden Fields and the Duchy of Keppen; to the north the monstrous Arakvar and an array of warlike human Factions. In the city itself, the Illyria Trade Council hopes to do 
brisk business.

Persiflage [Illyria Trade Council]

On a high promontory overlooking the river, Persiflage was founded by the Lannigolds hundreds of years ago, to spread their influence through the north. But the family never 

really took to the cold climate, nor to the rough neighbours, and they soon lost interest in the place. The city's pragmatic traders, however, would not abandon this 

promising trade post, and so turned to the Illyria Trade Council to maintain the city when the Lannigolds left.


Qal Mar [Illyria Trade Council]

For hundreds of years the Council of Qal Mar preserved the independence of their trade post. They hired mercenaries to fight off raiding Sslipentin, they raised walls strong enough to hold off the expansionist Sultans of Kazim, they thwarted countless coups by would-be despots. They could resist everyone and everything, except the lure of gold. The council of Qal Mar willingly joined the Illyria Trade Council as partners, selling their independence for the promise of future profits.

Shelton [Illyria Trade Council]

Three hundred years ago, Shelton was an unremarkable village. But the patronage of the Illyria Trade Council has seen it grow into an enviable city. Set amid fertile fields, with excellent access to the waterways of Elgea, and surrounded by a diverse range of neighbouring Factions, its location makes it a wonderful site for a trade centre – or so the Council has concluded.

Bepima [Illyria Trade Council]

The buildings of Bepima are constructed in the Middle Kingdom style most familiar to the merchants of the Illyria Trade Council. The ships in its great harbour are of southern designs, from Tallimar and Farra Isle. In its streets are found sombre Dark Elves, haughty Lyrians, boisterous Kadu, quiet Windseekers, and more. The Trade Council has built an entirely cosmopolitan metropolis on this jungle coast.


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Kildarran

Belatorix Roshan, Chief Druid of the people of Kildarran, as recorded by Kaylor Brunerl. 

You ask about our Kings. Everyone asks about our Kings. You know why? You ask because you think you know what a King is. But you don't. 

In any other land, the people have a ruler, who is the man who wants all the power, who will wield that power to keep them as slaves. And in those lands, the people let their rulers have that power. 

Year after year the ruler gets more and more power and grows more and more distant from his people, from his land. 

Soon, he has grown as mighty as a fox is to a rabbit or a cat to a mouse, and as distant from the land as the sun is to the soil. 

And so people come from other lands - as you come - and say to us "Oh, how can you murder your own King?" You're incredulous. You see it as an affront to the natural order of things, that someone should kill the person who holds them in thrall. 

The rabbit will not kill the fox who devours him, nor the mouse kill the cat that toys with him, nor the soil reach up to touch the sun. 

But it is not natural that the ruler should have so much power that they grow apart from their people, and apart from their land. The natural order of things is that that the ruler should be the one who is the most part of the people, the greatest part of the land.

The true King is the people, their interests are his, their will is his, their hopes are his. And the true King is the land. He grows in strength, rules in splendour, he declines and then, as the year dies, he dies. He is the land and each year the land dies, to be reborn in the spring - what else can he do? 

People say that we, the Druids, poison the King, but we do no such thing. We simply assist in his death as friends. Any King who is truly one with the land will die, quite naturally, when the land dies. 

Consider dreams. When your ruler dreams, he dreams of his palaces, his armies, his ambitions. When your priests dream, they dream of their temples, their scriptures, their followers. When you dream, in the same way your dreams are echoes of your own life, as it is or as you fear it might be or as it might be. 

Here in Kildarran, our King never dreams his own dreams. Instead, he shares the dreams of his people, drawn from across the land. 

And we, the Druids, we know this, because we too walk in this dream, and we meet him there, just as we meet the Fey, the ancestors, the spirits of the animals... 

But dreams, ah, perhaps I should not have started down this path... For dreams in Kildarran are not dreams as they are in other lands. Some say that we all dream one great dream, woven for us by our ancient allies, the Fey. Some say that we ourselves dream the dream that brings life to our Fey friends... 

And as I see you sit there, still unable to understand our King, I know there's no point trying to explain dreams to you - that's much more complicated. You will not begin to understand our dreams! 

But then again... the evening grows late, and in this land we all rise with the dawn, so you had better get some sleep. 

And when you sleep, be mindful of your dreams, and keep watch for who you might meet...

Eartholme [Kildarran]

Rumours tell that the Kildarran warriors fight naked, that their priests wield battle magics, that each year they ritually murder their own king. Visitors do not contradict these stories, but also seem loath to criticise their erstwhile hosts. While all manner of savagery is attributed to these people, it seems that those who meet them become beguiled by their charms.

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Melders

Extract from the Diary of Abremides the Explorer, returned to the Empirium by the Windseekers, apparently found at an abandoned campsite in the far South West of Illyriad 

Day 137: We gave our farewells to the kind Windseekers, and whilst we were sad to leave the comfort of Hanlif, we were also keen to get on with the expedition. 

Our Windseeker friends have warned us against this journey with increasing agitation as they describe many possible dangers - but seeing how we are implacably set on our path to go they have let us depart, even though their farewells seemed disturbingly hollow. 

Our supplies, now fully replenished, should see us through many moons of exploring this unknown area, and we sailed WSW from Hanlif. 

Day 142: The camp we have pitched on the beautiful shores of Southern Kumala is sufficient to withstand any of the occasional gales that blow in off the sea. 

My good colleague Cartishaw has begun cataloguing the flora, especially the truly wondrous vines - of all colours of the rainbow - that hang their tendrils down from the treeline at the beach's edge. 

Attached please find some pressed flowers, herbs and a couple of illustrations of the astonishing visions of nature that we see before us. 

It is an amazing and most beautiful place. 

Day 143: Cartishaw came back to camp, complaining of a bitter red rash that has broken out on his lower arm, apparently a result of an entanglement with some of the vines. 

He is running a high temperature, but luckily we are fully supplied with not only my medical kit, but also various potions and poultices that should rally him for tomorrow!

Day 144: Cartishaw's tortured screaming kept us awake all night. 

The rash had turned - quicker than one could possibly countenance - into a terrible, almost translucent boil that pulsed and shifted under his skin, and moved with almost perceptible speed up his arm. 

Friar Matthew feared the use of magic - but none of his abjuration prayers seemed to have any effect. 

Eventually, at around Hour 4 past Midnight, we brought all the camp's oil lamps into the tent, gave Cartishaw a small plank of wood to bite down on, and made to amputate his diseased limb. 

The second the knife punctured his skin the boil deflated with a fine hissing, spilling a mist of grey-white spores into the confines of the tent where we were clustered. Luckily, we were all suitably attired for such a dangerous surgery as amputation, and had masks of the finest silk and linen cloths to cover our mouths and noses. 

The limb itself came off remarkably easily, like a rotten bough on a diseased swamp tree. We burnt it on the camp fire, and have cauterised poor Cartishaw's stump. 

Day 144 Addendum: Cartishaw is dead - over a period of 6 hours he leaked fluids and malodorous bile from every part. Finally his skin sloughed itself off like a serpent - and his body... I cannot describe it better... simply melted onto the bedsheets - a bubbling, gaseous, horrid sight. 

The smallest blessing for us was that his screams stopped many hours ago after he spat a discoloured mass of flesh (his tongue and much of his larynx, we assume) onto the floor. 

However, I can neither think nor write clearly, for my brain is on fire and my vision is fading rapidly. I fear the spores have entered my flesh through my eyes. 

Looking at the other members of the expedition - who are themselves complaining ever louder about aches, pains, swellings and contusions - I fear the worst for all our souls. 

This may be my last entry.


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Outlaws

From the journal of Saxil of Tundale, recounting the Council of Illyria's negotiations with the Orcish tribes, in the year 1018. 

We travelled to Cask in disguise, as the Outlaws are no friends to the Council of Illyria, and pretended to be merchants from Wolgast. Our intention was to gain information on the Sundog Gith, as the Outlaws are the only grouping in Illyria to remain friendly with these vindictive little greenskins, but we swiftly became embroiled in other schemes. 

Our assumed identities immediately attracted attention, and a mixed group of cutthroats approached us in a tavern, insisting that we drink with them. Their scarred leader and several of his henchmen were human, but the leader's bodyguards were a pair of hulking Orcs, and an Elf in their company - who I took to be some sort of sorcerer - kept a Kobold slave on a lead as if it were a dog. 

He asked us about Wolgast. He asked if we wanted to make a profit. Maintaining our cover, I exclaimed that profit was our sole concern, and he seemed to like this. So, he outlined a plan. 

We should identify targets in Wolgast, he said, traders and travellers who might be persuaded to undertake a journey to the Dwarven stronghold of Crowcaer. His Dwarf associates in the city would note the targets' arrival, and alert him to their departure. He would then ambush and kidnap these unfortunates, taking their goods and their persons. 

That seemed obvious enough as a plan, but he explained that the secret was to know how to proceed next. He would have to know from me who to approach with ransom demands in Wolgast, and who might be able to provide services in exchange for the release of the victims. The services, it transpired, were largely the fencing of stolen goods from other targets, and I inferred that after these transactions, these fences would themselves become targets for blackmail. In addition, he said, he would need safehouses in Wolgast where his men might hide, where goods could be hidden, and so forth. Ideally, he said, a corrupt nobleman or two could be brought in on the plot, for a small share. 

I asked how many people he had. He said about 100, mostly Humans, with some Dwarves and Orcs and others. I asked how many targets he expected to take in this way, and he said maybe two or three groups of traders, with the potential to extract cash out of them, through ransoms, fencing, blackmail, and so-on, for about three years to come. 

The more he explained, the more complex his operation was revealed to be. I feigned interest in order to learn more, and became increasingly impressed, and also increasingly dismayed. I had taken him for a crude cutthroat, but the effective operation of a bandit ring, I realized, was as sophisticated as the operation of any merchant's long-term trade strategy. He was not a crude cutthroat. He was a very clever cutthroat. 

Our negotiations ended, and discussions took a dramatic turn the next day when another outlaw leader, a one-handed Orc, broke into our lodgings with a dozen men at his back, and demanded to know why we were conspiring to deny him his rights. He claimed that he alone had the right, agreed by some outlaw council that I had not heard of, to exploit Wolgast. I realized that he was talking about having a monopoly - as though in a civilized land, a merchant might be given a monopoly to sell salt or silk in a given area. His monopoly was on attacking, kidnapping and blackmailing merchants from Wolgast. 

The following day the whole matter was brought before a kind of court, which took place in a great hall. Clusters of bandits gathered to watch the spectacle, as the two disputing parties, the scarred Human and the one-handed Orc, argued their case in front of a group of uninvolved outlaw leaders. This was a spectacle for the assembled crowd, who listened to the arguments and threats, while also playing dice and muttering amongst themselves. The arguments were not couched in legal terms, but were more about who was friends with who, or who owned who a debt, or who had how many men to call on in a fight, but otherwise it was clear that this was a kind of court of law. Or rather, it was a court of lawlessness, where the greatest villains decreed which crimes might be perpetrated by their lesser brethren. 

In the end, the Orc's monopoly to prey on the merchants of Wolgast was upheld, our scarred Human friend was told to keep to his own allotted territory, and we, as troublemakers, were told to conclude our trade within a day and get out of the city.

Cask [Outlaws]

Once this was just another bandit camp, a sprawl of tents around a disreputable tavern. But the Outlaws saw that the site's defensive potential was unparalleled, and so they began to fortify, and grow, and fortify some more. Safe behind their walls, no other Faction was able to dislodge them, and so they became lodged in the flank of Elgea, like a thorn. Now Cask is a vast, cramped hive of infamy and villainy, where countless crimes are plotted daily.
Once this was just another bandit camp. Now it is the supreme bandit camp.

Sluice Haven [Outlaws]

First a rebel Dwarf stronghold in the Second Age, then the castle of a western reaver-baron at the dawn of this Age, this place has always had a dubious reputation. Now it forms the newest outpost of the Outlaws. Since it enjoys excellent river access and a largely unmolested location in the lawless lands of Fremorn, it is rumoured to be a logistical and transport centre for the villains.


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Parlan

Excerpt from 'Journey Across Illyria', by the half-elf minstrel, Rakkos Meillo 

The Parlanese are a fun-loving people who just want to enjoy everything that life has to offer – anything that doesn’t help them to achieve that is considered a waste of time. Better to read the signs and worry about the storm that’s coming than to worry about why the storm is coming in the first place. 

I have been to Parlantis many times now; it’s one of those places where I just feel really at home. 

There is just something so this island port-city that keeps me coming back. Sure, there is the pristine white sand, the beautiful crystal-clear turquoise water for as far as the eye can see…but what really brings me back to Parlantis is the way of life here, how everyone enjoys what they’re doing, whether it being going off to sea on one of the Parlanese’s many fishing fleets to harvest the bounty of the oceans and seas, or something as simple as cooking a great meal for the night’s song and dance festival. 

Here, nobody cares where you come from, or who you are: they’ll greet you with smiles and music and ply you with drinks and food. The Parlanese are a mixed lot, their ancestors having come from all over Illyria. You’ll find many different hues and shades of skin, eyes and hair in Parlantis, even the light skin and red-hair of the northern humans. I have also personally met an Orc who has been living here in Parlantis for over twenty years, and the Parlanese treat him as one of their own. 

You do not want to cross the Parlanese though. Do not mistake their desire to sing and dance as a sign of weakness: the Parlanese have no wish to wage war on anyone, but if you come into their community, and you dare to break their circle, dare to break their peace, they will stand up and fight back with a passion that you might have thought possible only from over-religious zealots. 

To the Parlanese, their way of life is their religion and the ties among each member of the community are very strong. Any attack against one Parlanese is an attack against the whole community. The Parlanese have no love of war, nor do they understand thoughts like conquest or expansion. But they are not the pacifist pushovers that the Dyadans are either. 

One interesting thing that I would like to note about the Parlanese is the fact that many of them bear certain physical features that set them apart from both the Sea Kings of Tallimar and the Windseekers. Some of them have very light markings on their bodies, the shape and colour like those of brightly colored ocean fish. A few Parlanese have a slightly green or bluish tinge to their skin. Still, others have pupils that are slightly larger than normal… 

Perhaps there is some truth behind the Parlanese folk tale; it was said that back during the early days of the Grand Duchy of Parlan, one of the Grand Dukes fell in love and eventually married a mermaid princess. This would explain why, centuries later, the Parlanese have taken on some of the features of the Demersae. It also serves as a good explanation as to why the Parlanese are the only faction that these strange ocean race trade and deal with.

Parlantis [Parlan]

Parlantis is famed for three things. First, for the quality of its minstrels. Second, for the dramatic storms which break over the shoreline, the greatest waves washing up to encircle the city walls. And third, it is noted as the only city in Elgea where the ruler's palace is smaller than some of the taverns. Most returning travellers report having thoroughly enjoyed their stay here.


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Seelie Court

Legend of Murkach, telling of his campaigns against the Fey in the year 883. 

As his army marched through the forests of Norweld, the Orc general, Murkach, mused about what form The Barrier might take. No army had crossed it before. No general had ever stormed it. He imagined a great wall of black stone, towering above the ancient oak trees. He wondered if, since it was a Fey barrier, if it might be made of sculpted silver or living vines, or something equally impractical. He did not expect it to be a wicker gate, set in a dry stone wall. 

Already frustrated by his scouts' inability to find entry to the Sylvans' realms, Murkach decided to handle the reconnaissance personally. So, he called his two lead scouts, Grumak and Mute-Dothak, and the three of them discarded their armour and dressed themselves as merchants to approach The Barrier. 

“What's the secret? We can walk in?” Murkach scowled at Grumak as they stood in front of the gate. “But there's nothing. Just more forest.” 

Grumak shrugged. “We ask permission. Nicely. That's their rule.” 

“Ask permission! Who do we ask?” Murkach growled. 

“Me, me, me!” replied a small white squirrel. “That would be me, me, me, me!” 

“Right.” Murkach looked down. “Errr.... Can we come in?” 

“Oooh! Could a squirrel stop the mighty Orc? ‘Course I can't! Can you come in? ‘Course you can! Welcome, welcome!” 

“Right.” Murkach lifted the latch of the gate, and the three Orcs stepped through and immediately vanished. 

For two days the three remained beyond The Barrier. The dour Grumak and the mute Dothak never hinted at what they saw. But Murkach later, when drunk, muttered about a castle of glass, about a market where a trader offered to buy his dreams, and about passing out after drinking Dandelion Nectar Wine. In one drunken night, Murkach also later said that they were thrown out of The Barrier, though he did not say by whom: apparently the three Orcs had joined the audience of a play entitled, ‘The Siege of The Barrier’, which was a story about three Orcs who disguised themselves as merchants to sneak into the Barrier to plan an assault; the play ended after the first act and the actors explained that the second half had not yet been written; Murkach, indignant to know what would happen next, had started a fight, and then had somehow been forced to leave. 

Back with his army, Murkach roused the force for battle, and led them through the woods to The Barrier. He pushed wide the gate, and stepped through, into the wood beyond. He walked back and forth but the wicker gate seemed now to separate only two tracts of woodland. Then he looked down and saw the squirrel. 

“Right. Squirrel. We come in?!” 

“Oooh! Err! No!” 

Grumak coughed. “Nicely,” he growled, quietly. 

Murkach struggled with the word: “P-p-please! Please, we come in?” 

“Err! No!” 

Murkach grabbed the squirrel and held it up to his face. “I asked nice! I said Please!” 

The squirrel glanced at the Orc army, a thousand bristling spears and curved swords, a thousand wide eyed Orcs panting for blood. “That's not nice. You can't come in.” 

Murkach roared, and pulled off the squirrel's head with his hands, casting the bloody parts aside. 

“Oooh!” the squirrel's severed head glanced around for his body, confused. “That's really not nice! Now you definitely don't get in!” 

And Murkach's army never did get in. He had the wicker gate torn from its hinges and then carried it around with him as a trophy. But it made no difference to the Seelie Fey, and to this day, any polite merchants and travellers can gain entry to The Barrier if they're nice to the squirrel.


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Sillar

By Sanir Di'qualinin, High Archivar of the High Kings court, Secretary of the Royal histories society, Magistrate of Pelimont. 

What we know of the Sillar is derived from what little we have found out via the Blood Reavers, so as you can imagine (considering the disposition of the Blood Reavers) it is not a lot. 

What we do know is that they are very territorial and have never been involved in wars far away from their home. 

It is said that they have from time to time traded with but also warred with the Ordo Draconis in the northeastern part of Illyriad, but it is to this day unconfirmed, as neither the Silar nor the Ordo Draconis take kindly to visitors, even the scholarly kind.

The council of Illyriad has mounted several diplomatic missions to their area, but none successfull and few have returned with full numbers, always telling the same stories of ambushes and even cannibalism. 

This is the reason that our blessed King Sigurd has had a two way embargo in place for more than 200 years.


Sillarus [Sillar]

Rumour has it that the Sillar regard this stronghold as some kind of cultural or religious centre. But as their people have no music or public performance of any kind, no statuary or public art, no apparent shrines or temples, it is hard to understand what this might mean. The city has a large number of tattoo artists, however, and when the Sillar gather to chat at the latrine pits, they often spend much time comparing their faint tattoos; beyond this though, visitors can see no sign of any art or culture.

Sildarim [Sillar]

To most races, Sildarim is an alien city. There are no taverns, and no private homes. The Sillar sleep not in beds, but on shelves which line the roads, and they expect their guests to do likewise. Speech is always in the third person, food never eaten communally, and the latrines are the social centre of the city. Travellers advise that visitors will find nothing familiar here, but rather, should assume that whatever rules of townlife they are used to, here, every rule will be different in some way.


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Sirens

Siren Song (anon) from the Anthology of Poetry at Zhuhai 

Come, come to the depths with me. 
Kisses sublime and embraces fond 
Embark upon an everlasting bond. 

Come, come to the depths with me. 
Together, though deep, we shall breathe, 
Breathe in love's sweet ecstasy. 

Come hither lover - and you will see 
How life is ne'er so sweet and free. 

Bring love, lust, life's burning ember 
Just come, my love, come hither. 
And join me here, in the depths of forever.


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Sylvans

Legend of Murkach, telling of his campaigns against the Fey in the year 883. 

In the year 883, the Orc general, Murkach, set out to enslave the Fey race. It began with a small wood near to his home village, where pixies and nymphs were said to dwell. And it ended very badly. 

Murkach knew the little Sylvan Fey were fragile and frail, the sort of beings whose spindly forms he could crush in one of his mighty fists. With his warriors at his back, such pitiful little creatures would be easy prey, and it angered him that no warlord had troubled to secure their submission. 

So he sent his two best scouts, Grumak-the-Fox and Mute-Dothak, to investigate the Sylvans. These two set off, and vanished into the woods. When they emerged, a year and a day later, Grumak spoke not only of trees which bore fruit all year round, of fat pigs and slow deer ripe for hunting, and of feeble Fey, but also of secret paths that would take the Orcs to invisible, hidden lands - the realms of the Seelie and Unseelie Courts, where even greater prizes could be won. 

Murkach summoned his fifty strongest warriors, and they armed themselves for battle. They marched through the fields of wildflowers about the woods, and into the sun-dappled groves, expecting combat. But there was no battle. At the heart of the woods the Sylvans stood assembled, and as the Orcs approached, they bowed as one. None looked like any other. Some had wings like butterflies, some skin like bark, some stones for eyes, some moss for hair, some silver skin, some golden beards, some cloaks of leaves, some the ears or snouts of animals, but all bowed and prostrated themselves before the Orcs. 

“We cannot fight you,” the Sylvan leader whined, “and so we must surrender. We are your slaves, great conqueror!” 

The Orcs cheered. Murkach grinned. 

“Then bring a feast! Bring gifts! Honour your new owners!” 

That night the Sylvans gave the finest banquet that any Orc has ever tasted. It began with cuts of succulent meat, then horns full of wine brewed from every berry even grown (and many that had never grown), and then moved on to salads of flowers, and desserts of sugar and cream and nuts and fruit. 

Murkach did not eat, but moved between the clearings where his warriors dined. He smiled when he saw them sink their teeth into great plates of meat. He frowned when he saw them pick flower petals from salad bowls. And when they licked sugar and cream from their fingers he grew dismayed. 

By the dessert, his warriors were starting to giggle. He saw one hug a Pixie. Another tickled the tummy of a small furry Sylvan. A third warrior pranced around the clearing on his hands and knees, giving rides to Nymphs who sat astride his back. He demanded an explanation. 

“We play with our friends!” his warriors said. “We want make them happy!” 

“No! No, no, no, no!” Murkach roared, as he understood what had happened. “Poison! Poison food! The poison makes you children. Worse, makes you like Elves! Worse! Fey poison makes warriors weaker than Elves! Stupid, silly!” And he dragged the warriors from their tables and ordered them “We will have revenge! We will burn down the trees!” 

“Oh! No!” his mighty warriors began to weep. “The poor trees! We love the trees!” 

No warrior would light a fire there, and Murkach dragged them all, one at a time, out of the groves, tied them together with a long rope, and dragged them all in a long line back to the village. For three weeks he beat them soundly, and fed them the reddest meat, until at last they ceased their simpering and regained their Orcish temperaments. 

Then he called Grumak, the scout, and said, “The Fey have made us fools. We will have revenge! You spoke of greater lands. Can you find them?” Grumak said that he could find the lands of the high Fey, the Seelie and Unseelie, and so Murkach roared that he would raise a thousand warriors and would conquer the very heartlands of the Fey, to show the world that an Orc would not be humiliated. 

To take fifty warriors against the Sylvans, the low Fey, had been foolish. He was too angry to realize that to take twenty times that number against the high Fey was twenty times more foolish.

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Tantarkim

Excerpt from "The nature of the beast" by Viscount Hegar III, Naturalist, Philosopher and Military theoretician 

Little is known about the Centaurs residing on the borders of Kal Tirikan and Fremorn. While several expeditions have been mounted into their lands only a minimum of information has been gleamed, the majority of what we know patched together from various accounts left to us by earlier explorers, the majority of which are less than reliable. 

Believed to be one of the ancient, original races of this land the Centaurs culture is believed to be the most sophisticated of the bestial races. While some scholars believe the proper classification of the Centaur is among the magical races no evidence has yet to be found to support this view. Some might argue that references to Centaur healing magic found in old elvish poetry could be used in support of such a theory, I must scoff at this prepostrous claim. The Elves of Illyria have not and never will be a reliable source for information, their histories and accounts are the work of poetic licence rather than any method of science or objective research. 

The bestial theory however is supported by accounts of numerous battles between the men of the Middle Kingdom in the days of expansion. 

The sources tell us, that making use of their great natural speed Centaurs would employ two primary tactics. 

They would form up in great lines three rows deep within archery range of their enemies, bombard the enemy with their arrows and wait until they had advanced, when the enemy would near range to engage they would break and flee in panic. 

Urged on by the scent of victory, the armies of Duke Viljamir the IV would break into a frenzy and pursue the broken and fleeing enemy. 

Upon this, the Centaurs would turn and fire their arrows while fleeing, causing great devastation upon the disorderly enemy. 

As the enemy began to break they would split their line in two, rushing at archery range on both flanks and encircling them, two great ovals of Centaurs would gallop a circular curve in opposite directions of each other bombarding their enemy with arrows. 

There are two points here I feel support the bestial theory. The first, the complete lack of any use of magic, despite having a sophisticated culture not a single spell was seen used by the Centaurs at the battle. 

The second, more salient point is that the Centaurs did not even attempt to take prisoners, every single soldier who had fallen into the Centaurs trap was cut down by a storm of arrows and no mercy was shown, scouts left behind by the remainder of the army reported that after the Centaurs had dealt with the infantry of Duke Viljamir IV, the wounded were trampled when the Centaurs rushed the field in orderly ranks after the battle had been won. 

We are therefor left with an impression of a highly intelligent, diciplined and organized race yet with a nature very bit as wicked and cruel as that of a mere Arakvar.


Tantark [Tantarkim]

From the point of view of a visitor, Tantark is an inconveniently-built city. First, the gateways are not open roads, but are obstructed by a solid wall too tall for a Dwarf to even see over. Second, the doors of buildings have handles three paces above the ground, out of reach of many travellers. Third, the Centaurs who live here are accustomed to moving at a canter when they travel in the city, and the unwary pedestrian can easily be knocked down by a passing local. Beyond these oddities, travellers often speak well of this small, sparsely populated city, and report no real problems - just inconveniences, which can usually be surmounted with the help of a ladder.


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Unseelie Court

Legend of Murkach, telling of his campaigns against the Fey in the year 883. 

The Orc general, Murkach, had twice been humiliated by the Fey, both by the Seelie Court and by the Sylvans, but he had not yet lost a single warrior. A thousand snarling Orcs stood at his back, and he was not about to retreat. Here, for the first time he could see a door to a Fey city. 

The door of Blackbriar stood thirty feet tall, a slab of granite set into the hillside. There were no hinges, no handles or locks, but the locals said that beyond the slab lay a city built of ash and elm, where decadent Fey lords and ladies whiled away their endless days trading riddles and playing games, using the souls of mad mortals as gambling counters. 

All day the Orcs had tried to prise the door open, to push it and pull it, but in vain. 

“They are children!” Murkach roared at the door. “They play games. They waste time. They lock their gate, but they have no armies, no weapons!” 

“They have magic,” the leader of the scouts, Grumak the Fox, growled in a whisper. “No walls keep them out. They walk in our dark dreams. They know our fears.” 

“We are Orc!” Murkach roared, “We have no fear! So tell me, when it opens?” 

Grumak looked at the ground, and shifted uneasily. 

“Tell me! What said the traders?” 

Grumak shrugged. “The first moonlight, after dark. First moonlight opens the door.” 

“How?” 

Grumak shrugged again, and muttered in his low growl, “Fey magic. Dangerous.” 

“You are scared!” Murkach glowered. 

“Not scared. Careful. Clever.” 

“Coward! No coward will lead my scouts! You there,” Murkach called across the second in command of the scouts, Mute-Dothak, “you can't speak, but can you lead?” 

Dothak smiled, and nodded. 

“And what would you do? Would you attack?” 

Dothak's smile became a grin, and he nodded again. 

“Then you lead my scouts now. And we attack tonight!” 

And they attacked that very night. As the moon rose and its light touched the granite slab, the stone swung back and a dark passageway stood open, undefended. A thousand Orcs roared and rushed forward, armour clanking, heavy boots thundering into the passage, war-cries echoing down the tunnel. 

In the end, only two Orcs stood outside the portal, quiet and alone at the foot of the hill, Grumak the Fox, and Mute-Dothak. And Dothak turned to his companion, shaking his head, and opened his tongueless mouth, saying in a voice like the wind across a frozen lake, 

“You were right, Lord of the Dawn Light. The Orcs really are so foolish. We have won, without a single battle fought.” 

But Grumak shook his head. 

“Don't flatter me, Lady of Ice,” he said, with a voice like the rustling of leaves on a spring morning. “You have tricked me, and you have won. I have handed the Unseelie Court a thousand souls, and my own Court has nothing to show for it.” 

“It was a good game,” Dothak smiled, “and that you are angry makes it all the sweeter! I shall write a song of how I made the Dawn Light bitter and cold!” And Dothak laughed. And he laughed until snow fell from his eyes like tears, and fell from his hair and his fingers and from his clothes. And he laughed until nothing remained but a pool of snow and the echo of his laughter. 

Grumak shook his head, and he sighed as the east wind blew, and in a flurry of flower petals, he let the breeze carry him back to his Seelie home, away from Blackbriar. 

And of Murkach and his great Orc army, nothing more was ever heard.

Blackbriar [Unseelie Court]

Two rows of standing stones lead to the gateway of Blackbriar, a great stone slab set into the hillside. There are no hinges or handles, no bell rope to pull for attention, no guards on view to summon for assistance. It is said that at the touch of a welcome friend, the huge stone door will swing open of its own accord, but that those who come with hostile intentions could not open the gate with even a thousand battering rams.


Edited by demdigs - 16 Apr 2015 at 19:40
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