The Elder and Younger Grandfathers
A Brief Description of the Worlds
Taqqiq and Aihimavik are locked in an orbit around one another, and again in orbit around a star (Angajuk, an F-Class star with 1 1/2 times the mass of Sol) which is in a binary lock with another star (Unasuk, a G-Class star with 95% of the mass of Sol), meaning that for part of the year both planets will see a sun in the night sky. This doesn’t matter too much to the inhabitants of both worlds, however, as the absolute most important thing in the sky besides the sun is the opposite planet, visible at a safe enough distance that it is possible to travel between worlds with minimal magical effort. The two careen across the solar system like a blue-green bolas, with a year lasting 606.333 Twin days (909.5 Earth days).
Aihimavik, the Older Grandfather, is the original world, where life in this solar system originated. At the moment one large supercontinent, called Qara or Kara, straddles the planet, allowing the six subspecies of homo narrans (the speaking kinds) to spread across the world with relative ease. It also has a very heavy axial tilt–90º–making seasons less a matter of brief changes and more climate-altering monstrosities. For half the year everywhere except the equator, the sun produces a massive hypercane over the pole turning in the opposite direction to the planet itself, and as the day (37 hours long) goes the inhabitants pass through at least three different climate variations. For example: at about 60º of latitude, one can expect a time of warmth and wet, similar to subtropical climates; a cool, dry period not unlike living in the Gobi Desert; and two periods of incredible rainfall to complete the cycle (it’s during these period when people tend to get their sleep). The opposite pole is, during this time, frozen over completely, and sees no sunlight except what Unasuk provides, while the land around it varies from taiga climate to tundra climate. Quite ironically, it is the lands around the equator that have the most balanced time of it all. Living in near-perpetual twilight with large glaciers in the mountains and cool forests and plains in the lowlands, here is where civilization began.
(As a note: there are, of course, periods where the whole planet gains day-and-night cycles as per normal, the Times of the Equinox. This is, well, something of a breather for the inhabitants, who get to see the sun rise and set relatively equally. The equinox holds a special religious significance in every single faith on Aihimavik, a time when things are just right for life–and proof that compromise must be the way forward, at least on the Home World.)
Taqqiq, the Younger Grandfather, is technically a moon of Aihimavik–and yet, at 52% of its radius, is more properly considered a planet in its own right, locked in an orbit with Aihimavik that has a barycentre (the central point in the orbit) outside either planet. Taqqiq has the opposite situation compared to Aihimavik: an axial tilt of 2º, and a face that only ever sees Aihimavik (due to a synchronous orbit). It takes 37 hours to orbit around the mutual barycentre, leading to an equal day-length at the equator; head further north or south, of course, and there’s no sunlight at all, but to compensate the auroras are beyond incredible. Like Aihimavik, Taqqiq comprises a single main supercontinent, Shamalii or Shamalee, which is mostly desert land. And the main settlements all start around the equator, where the moonshines from Aihimavik can most easily reach.
On Homo Narrans & Her Daughters
The climatic extremes of Aihimavik led to the two hemispheres becoming largely isolated from one another, and yet much the same: both required some means of either hibernation or migration to counteract the alternating sweltering and freezing temperatures of the planet. Intelligent life in this era began with homo narrans senex, roughly akin to homo erectus on Earth–but homo narrans senex had a much harder job to fulfill, traversing the lands of confusion north and south of the Great Mountains. Splitting into two main groups (the “Short” and “Tall” species) separated by hemisphere,
- The orcs are the unquestioned masters of living in the northern hemisphere, having adapted to maintain themselves in great cold or heat without issue. White hairs cover their bodies during the Winter, and most of it is shed to reveal pitch-black skin during the Summer, save for lines on the head and down the back. The average orc is built like a gorilla with long legs, with deep-set eyes and a squashed face. For most of their history they were content with a pastoral lifestyle, leading their livestock across the plains and trading in elvish and human slaves–but this changed with the introduction of golems, which catapulted them through several levels of social development almost overnight.
- The elves stayed one level below, in the forests that lined the twilight zone, putting up with less heat and less cold thanks to the stable environment of the trees. Elves are built rather like gibbons without opposable toes, never completely leaving the trees behind. Long did they rely on their ancestors (themselves long-lived, and in possession of much power because of it) to grant them various blessings, until the Time of Exodus forced them to adapt to a new environment. To this day, elves are happiest in the forest.
- There is some evidence that the dwarves were the earliest to split from that great tribe of homo narrans senex, leaving to find their footing in the mountains. Built something like goats or spider monkeys, dwarves are short and stocky but very sure-footed–and very strong. The dwarves were the second-most advanced race by the time of the colonization technologically, having developed ways to circumvent the mountains’ cold climate and warm themselves in the interior.
- The humans were the stay-at-homes, the ones most inclined to live in the deserts and mountains and savanna of the equator. Theirs is the middle spot in the cline; one is more likely to find human-derived hybrids than any other mixture. They look much as humans do on Earth, only they tend to be browner than most–more like people from the Mediterranean or the Middle East or Mesoamerica.
- The halflings, too, went to the mountains with the dwarves, but they left them again for the foothills to the west, where they carved for themselves barrows and turf houses from sod and wood and stone. Halflings are the smallest race of all, no taller than three feet at any point in their lives, and their culture the simplest. Still, they are also considered the most beautiful of the Short Peoples, and there are a great many halfling-gnome and halfling-dwarf mixtures (and a few halfling-human).
- The gnomes are the most divergent of all; leaving the mountains and the hills and the lowlands behind, they took to boats and went forth to sea. A gnome can hold their breath for up to seven minutes at a time, and can swim great distances despite their relatively short stature (a mere four feet for most of them). The Gnomish thalassocracies dominated the history of the Southern Hemisphere for centuries.
Nations of Aihimavik
There have been any number of city-states, countries, and empires on Aihimavik, but the current ones (the most important, anyway) are described below:
- The Republic of Al Mamiyya is gnomish in origin, but follows the caste system of the Hexagon of Power, dividing up the six subspecies into their own social pyramids through which an individual may advance. Moving to another’s Pyramid is permitted, but one must renounce all things associated with one’s own kind–including one’s clan, a deep blow to anyone.
- Bham Daral and Gog Daral are dwarfish oligarchies, the former matriarchal and the latter patriarchal, and they’ve been at each other’s throats for centuries. Both are also the producers of some of the best moonships to have ever flown.
- Chibolkhog is another mountain nation, one where dwarves and orcs seek peaceful enlightenment on the high peaks and beat the stuffing out of anyone who tries to interrupt their way to said enlightenment using ancient martial arts techniques.
- Chiura is a jungle nation, mainly comprising humans and halflings. The large amount of resources available make up for the comparative lack of mountainous regions.
- Elf and halfling have learnt to live side-by side in Epra, in the old hills covered with deep forests. The northernmost (permanent) nation on Aihimavik.
- The island of Juahiri is the oldest civilized Gnomish settlement in the world, six thousand years old and with a continuous civilization all through that time. Juahiri boasted four Empires of a Million Ships over the course of its long history, and today its colonies both on the mainland of Kara and on Taqqiq are among the most technologically-advanced places in the world.
- Khadorei is populated by dwarves and ruled by elves, and has a history of producing exquisite jewellery.
- The might of the orc is married to the splendour of the elf in Kindan, where a form of indirect democracy (the lower elected ranks choose their superiors) is combined with a surprisingly complex moiety system (which both elf and orc partake in).
- Mbagwa doesn’t have much, a surprisingly low-tech colony of Juahiri from three hundred years ago, but it is the only place in the world where island-turtles come to breed. And by thunder that’s an experience in and of itself.
- Odron is an old enemy of the Daral nations, a gnomish nation with a large subpopulation of orcs (drawn in as mercenaries, given land, and eventually absorbed into the culture).
- Vokh Robug is a meritocratic state ruled by Orcs and following the Hexagon of Power; all six subspecies have come here over the years, and despite the polar climate (with two very different meanings here) the nation is perhaps the most powerful on the planet. It is also responsible for the founding of the first colony on Taqqiq, the Sapphire City, along with the Daral nations.
Ideograms & Objects of Power
There used to be a great many languages in the world; there used to be warfare, and famine, and the depredations of the strong upon the weak. All of this changed with the discovery of the Ideograms.
The Six Races had of course created their own forms of written communication, from the string-libraries of the dwarves to the curved Sandscript of the humans to the obsidian-carved runes of the elves and orcs to the complicated pictographic scripts of the gnomes, but all paled before the Ideograms. With 243 known glyphs in 58,806 combinations, writing one symbol deliberately (with the intent that something should happen) was enough to create a temporary occurrence of that which it described. If one were to write the characters for unity and speech together, for example, it would allow people possessing those glyphs to understand one another perfectly. More complicated structures–prayers, for example–could be used to create homunculi, servants bound only by their code.
Imprinting the glyphs onto anything at all–down to the molecular level–causes a reaction. One cannot transmute the elements, but one can compel objects to live, to take shape, to change themselves, to find more of themselves.
Nobody really understands where the glyphs came from, or how they came to take over all magic on the planet not directly derived from the dearly departed. It is but another of the great mysteries, like the presence of life from Aihimavik on Taqqiq before the first colonists set foot upon the planet.
TO BE CONTINUED…
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