One Land. Five Elements. Nine Races. Four Thousand Nine Hundred and Ninety-Nine Years.
The planet of Redfall is the centre of its universe. It turns on its axis once every twenty-five hours. It has one satellite, aptly named the Moon or the Water Star, which orbits around the sphere of the world once a day, and moves to adjust itself once a month (every twenty-five days). Its sun (the Fire Star) is of an intensity and brightness suggesting a G-type star, but is in fact much, much closer–only a few million miles–and orbits at a relatively high degree of inclination. There are three other satellites as well; the Metal Star orbits the Fire Star, again at quite a high degree of inclination so that it may be seen during other times of the day, while the Wood Star and Earth Star orbit further out. Beyond the five Moving Stars are the Fixed Stars, pinpricks of light on the dome of Heaven–which do actually change position, but very, very slowly, and through a mechanism as of yet unknown to local inhabitants. The year is 255 days long, with days of twenty local hours (forty Earth hours) apiece–divided into ten months of twenty-five days, the extra five days (the Ending Days) are considered sacred by the vast majority of cultures on Redfall.
Stories in the world of Redfall are centred around the Subcontinent of Halmer, a large peninsula 3.5 million square kilometres in area (about half the size of Australia) located in the Northern Hemisphere. Ranging from humid subtropical through desert to jungle climates, with the Skyfrost Mountain to the north, Halmer is a microcosm unto itself–appropriate, given the nature of the world.
Thanks to the manner in which the world went through its cycles, Redfall’s animals follow Lamarckian rather than Darwinian evolution. If an adaptation may be made in a creature’s lifetime–usually through some form of Chaos magic–it will be passed on to its descendants. A certain degree of Order magic is required in the genes to maintain stability over generations and not change too much given the ancestral environment. This battle between change and stability occurs alongside the usual “survival of the fittest” regime found in the animal kingdom, and has led to some rather strange occurrences.
All animals are derived from one of five forms based on the elements, each with five subforms based on their place in the food chain.
- Animals are divided thus: wood-derived animals (like elves) have scales, earth-derived animals (like dwarves and halflings) only have bare skin (although they may also bear scutes, like crocodiles), water-derived animals (like goliaths) have shells, fire-derived animals (like kobolds and dragons) have feathers, and metal-derived animals (like humans) have hair or fur. Invertebrate animals are divided up accordingly as well, having lost their bones at some stage or another (thanks to the Lamarckian accelerated development).
- The initial animals from each category had five subforms: small omnivore (usually but not always to become the invertebrate form), medium-sized herbivore (consuming the next element in the cycle; in this era, it’s always wood), medium-sized omnivore (thus far comprising all the sapients), medium-sized carnivore, and large herbivore.
Sometimes creatures from different groupings may exist together. On the savanna to the south, for example, one may find tiny pterosaur-like animals living deep down in the grass and chasing after insects, wildebeest travelling in herds, kobolds (the sapient avatars of fire) following those wildebeest, predatory lizards hunting in packs, and tortoises the size of mammoths.
- Elves are the embodiment of wood, and as such are covered in very fine green-grey scales. They tend to dwell in forests
- The Temperate Elves came into the world at the confluence of rivers just south of the Skyfrost, and migrated to the area that would become Minath-Halmer over a period of a few thousand years. Today they make up one of the more important civilizations by their very survival–because each elf that dies risks becoming a demonic wood-beast. They have lighter and finer scales than their counterparts, approaching a colour that humans could appreciate.
- The Tropical Elves came into the world in the deep jungles to the south of the peninsula, and live surrounded by ruins some millennia old. It would not be unreasonable to think that those ruins are their own, but there is not much evidence–save that they know they must preserve them for some reason, and so the jungle never encroaches upon them to damage the structures.
- The Kilaki-Chóchton awoke near the lakes they call home, and spread across most of the north of the continent before being overrun by others. The Kingdom of Kilak is the best ancient civilization of note, Cuillotla the most prominent contemporary one. They tend to be black-haired and olive- to dark-skinned.
- The Akheti-Halmerians awoke on the Skyfrost itself, and meandered south, overcoming the Kingdom of Kilak and establishing their own hold over the western river basin and the High Desert. Today they are the most populous group of humans on the subcontinent. Their hair ranges from pale blond to light brown, their skin from cream-coloured on the plains to coppery in the desert to a dusty brown in the mountains.
- The Dragons are the ancestral manifestations of fire, in an unaltered form (having never been completely slain by the humans before they took forms of flesh and thus never becoming flesh themselves). They tend to live high in the mountains, where there are occasionally volcanic eruptions. Dragons in this world most closely resemble enormous serpents with molten feathers and iron beaks, and in the intervening centuries since flesh began have grown to monstrous size and strength.
- The Kobolds are the dragons’ next life along, and for all that they seem rather uncomfortable with bodies of flesh. They awake (when they do, for kobolds are the least populous humanoid) on the savanna to the south of the peninsula, where wildfires are common in the hot summer. Kobold plumage is an important clan marker–to be plucked, the most terrible punishment one can wreak.
- Goliaths are the incarnations of the frost giants who ruled the world until ten thousand years ago, and are relatively peaceful creatures for all that. With no settled civilization, they roam across the continent seeking nourishment, although most stay near the Skyfrost (on account of rather liking the cold). Goliaths, like tortoises, have shells on their backs, large enough to function as a shelter for a family of four at their oldest. They are an ancient people, perhaps not advanced but certainly wise, and all of them feel the pull of the sea.
- Earthfolk are the living incarnations of, well, the element of earth, and tend to stay near hills or mountains. They are all one race, but they consider themselves two on account of geographic distribution and biological features.
- The Dwarves are the taller race of Earthfolk, but for all that they are the stranger group. Their skin is hairless and leathery, but they have sticky fingers for climbing and long ears for echolocation, and their eyes are slightly oversized. Dwarf bodies are covered with a thick lichen, which can be scraped off and eaten in a pinch; until that point, it is custom to cultivate it, leading outsiders to believe that dwarves possess green-brown beards and hair regardless of sex. Dwarves live in colonies presided over by a Queen, the only female allowed to breed–she releases a pheromone that stops others in the colony from even seeking out mates. Although stereotypically the dwarves live in the mountains, the most populous dwarven settlement is Thügar-Halm, built into the walls of the Fissure and into the massive column that is Road Island.
- The Halflings, also called sirens or selkies, live in the hills near rivers and across Smallfolk Bay, and are as playful and curious as otters. With eyes equally oversized but more pleasant to look upon than those of dwarves (more akin to golden retrievers’ eyes), halflings fish and swim in “lodges” during the summer and keep to their (often quite intricate) burrows during the winter; small children and old folks hibernate. Technically halflings do develop a downy fur covering similar to that of seals, but are born completely bald–and they most certainly evolved from the same ancestor as modern dwarves.
Halmer is home to four major civilizations:
- Minath-Halmer is the home of the forest elves, who have built a treetop civilization in the juniper and bamboo woods (the climate is not dissimilar to Florida or Southern China), and are known for their great creativity when it comes to new species of animal.
- Téath-Halmer is the human side of the north, with seven great rivers flowing through the lowlands. Currently the various domains of Téath-Halm are organized under a single monarch (also called the Guardian of the Realm), whose family bloodline is sacrosanct and for whom primogeniture is gender-neutral, and several Dukes, who have more or less independence (and international control) depending on the King or Queen in question. (The consort is always just that, Royal Consort; should their spouse die before them, they become the Dowager Consort.)
- Thügar-Halmer, also known as the Third Kingdom, was built into the walls of the Fissure, a great canyon as old and wide as the Grand one, by the dwarves. Dwarves here are primarily matriarchal, and Thügar-Halm has been ruled by elected Queens for centuries now.
- The Cuillótoh Confederacy /kʷɪ.’ʎo.tu/ (not on the map), founded in the High Desert, is built around the only really habitable land in the whole biome: two large lakes, Altoyoh and Mentoyoh. It is around and within these lakes that the great city-states of Cuillótoh are built, and from these lakes that the Confederacy extends its reach into the desert around it, building roads and subjugating the numerous Akhet peoples (more closely related to the humans of Téath-Halm). It is no longer customary to practice human sacrifice; instead, one “sends out colonies” to the desert.
- The Kingdom of Kalik, situated in the lower reaches of the Great River (and believe me, it deserves the name), is a desert and coastal empire. Descendants of those Akhet who chose to remain around the fertile rivers, Kalik has a mastery over the sand and sea that few others possess. Their Pharaoh is divinely selected from among the most senior priests, a pact with the gods to maintain their power in exchange for pragmatism.
And several minor ones:
- The Akhet Tribes of the High Desert have been a scourge upon the Cuillótoh Confederacy for millennia. The most primitive of these barely have fire and the ibex, and are governed by tribal elders (najau). The most developed have rock fortifications with intricate carvings deep within the desert near underground aquifers, and have a caste system somewhat resembling an insect hive, controlled by leaders with innumerably long titles and much in the way of divine right.
- The Kobold Clans of the savanna are pastoral, herding wildebeest and trying to stay out of the way of the velociraptors. They have a series of loosely-woven confederacies, which communicate with one another through the use of long-range drums. Clans are determined by feather colouration and patterning; a couple is supposed to stay together for as long as it takes to rear one brood, in an area called the Nesting Grounds (bargajukka), then return to the safety of their respective clans while their young are slowly integrated into the group where they match best.
- Smallfolk Bay is the site of the largest number of cave-based and river-based halfling encampments in Halmer. Governance is collective; lodges have their own caves or stretches of river, which owe allegiance to city-states (ayolt, ayelt, ayult) floating up and down in fleets of small ships or remaining in lakes and estuaries as floating villages, which in turn pay tribute to sacred spaces (lawr, lawrem, lawri) controlled by priesthoods. There is no single governing body in the region; there has never been a need up to this point.
Religions and Belief Systems
- The Faith of H’Varr: practiced in many parts of Halmer, this is the worship of H’Varr, the First Human and the instigator of the Age of Flesh. His main temple is in the foothills of the Skyfrost, at the confluence of five rivers.
- The Faith of Six Worlds: practiced by the people of Cuillótla, this is the belief that each of the five Moving Stars is its own world, led by a king or queen and abounding with lesser spirits who seek to influence life on earth. This may be true.
- The Flow: this seems to be the main faith practiced by the goliaths, but little is known about its concepts or cosmology. The goliaths’ only concession to materiality is the construction of great stone circles, or the placement of menhirs and dolmens in strategic locations. As the goliaths are a water-people, these actions are somewhat odd, but presumably there’s a reason behind it all.
- The Faith of Echoes: practiced by the Akhet, this is the belief that ancestral spirits, reincarnated in various bodies, have the power to influence for the better the lives of their descendants (and may even reincarnate among them to help with this), if only they can be drawn out and made prominent by the usage of shamans. This may be true.
- The Faith of Stars: practiced mainly by the kobolds, this is the belief that the stars are the last leftover repositories of pure yin-yang energy, through which it is possible to read a record of the entire history, past and present, of the universe–and that when the universe is eventually destroyed by the conflict between Chaos and Order the sky will be white and the stars black and the souls of all Fivefold Creatures will be free to roam across the cosmos and play as gods with the firmament itself. This may be true.
- The Faith of The Flame: practiced mainly by a small group of Halmerians who live quite close to the dragon caves, followers hold the belief that the dragons are deities in their own right, to be worshipped and appeased with sacrifices of metal and flesh, in exchange for prosperity and power. This is very definitely not true, but it makes the dragons happy.
- The Fusing of the Bones: practiced by the dwarves of the Fissure, this is a set of law-codes and customs laid down by the first flesh-based dwarves for their descendants to follow, in the hope of keeping dwarvish society together. This has worked for about three thousand years now.
Foot, feathered horse, elephant, ibex, Elemental Reformation
TO BE CONTINUED…
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