Saturday, November 8, 2008

Regions: The Eastern Islands

Summary: Unlike many other regions, the Eastern Islands do not have a single cohesive language, culture, or pantheon. The cultures of islands and islanders tend to be unique due to their isolation, and while many inhabitants of the Eastern Islands use boats and travel from island to island, just as many don't.

What can be said about the Eastern Islands is that they are the remnants of a land mass destroyed by a magical cataclysm, perpetrated by the first major human empire. The natives tend to be exotic and insular, the flora and fauna unique and wondrous, and the many ruins of the islands filled with magical treasures beyond imagining.

Regional Religion: Most inhabitants of the Eastern Islands are primitive and tribal, so it is no surprise that many native religions are animist in nature. Unlike other Aarnian religious followers, many island tribes do not even worship beings analogous to the gods of the mainland. Instead, the beings worshiped as gods include spirit animals, undead spirits and local fey. It has been theorized that the fey worshiped as gods have not yet become true gods because their worshipers are too few, or perhaps the scope of the fey abilities too small. Still, some mainland gods have been introduced to the islanders through missionaries, explorers and colonists. Igan gods are worshiped in the west, the gods of Camaria in the southwest, and the gods of Zhanpai in the north.

Naming styles: The natives of the Eastern Islands tend to have names that sound as if they were from islands in the Pacific and Indian oceans, including aboriginal Australia. This also includes a handful of languages centered more in and around mainland Asia, such as Japanese, Vietnamese and Korean.

As an important cultural note, the name that mainland humans have given to the humans from the Eastern Islands, “Kaipu,” is seen by many natives as a racial epithet. The root of the word “Kaipu” is related to the concept of “easterner” in some of the more common languages of the islands, and the islanders who understand the word find it insulting to be grouped under an all-inclusive label. They do not consider themselves the same race as the mainlanders from Zhanpai (also called Kaipu), nor do they even consider themselves the same race as those who live on their neighboring islands.

Major Islands and Cultures:

Omuri: This island nation is a matriarchal society that has a somewhat flexible caste system. One's caste is decided by many factors, including parentage, sex, and order of birth, but the most important factor deciding caste is the free will of the individual. There are approximately 20 castes in the society, and a child will normally be able to choose from two or three of these castes when he or she comes of age. Children in Honruka belong to no caste, and have no name. They are referred to by their family names, with diminutives, honorifics and context helping to tell siblings apart. It is not until their coming of age ceremonies that children will choose their name, similar to how they choose their caste. The island is famous for its warriors, quality metal smithing and its governing council of wise women.

Ganswada: One of the southernmost and largest of the Eastern Islands, Ganswada is cohabited by humans and centaurs who share a complex legal code. Because the cohabitation is homogeneous, neither side could form its own nation. Instead, members of each race have their own set of laws and social codes they must follow when dealing with members of their own race, and a separate set of of laws when working in mixed-race groups. Strangers to the island often find themselves bewildered when a human can pick a fight with a centaur with no legal consequence, and a centaur guard will arrest its own kind for picking a fight with a human, but not for picking a fight with its own kind.

Although Ganswada is quite far from the mainland, it is equidistant between the coastal kingdoms of Zhanpai, Camaria and Eastern Zenninfal, which has helped it become a politically neutral trading hub between all of the eastern nations and kingdoms. It is arguably the most politically and culturally important of the Eastern Islands, and international agreements are often brokered there.

Xenda: The neighbors of this small island watch it carefully, out of both caution and fear. 90% of the soil of Xenda is fertile and farm-grade. Farmed crops grow large and trees grow fast, which provides its inhabitants with a nearly inexhaustible supply of natural resources. The animals of the island are tough, hardy and ferocious in order to put up with the natural defenses of the quickly-growing plants. This competitiveness also applies to the humans who live on the island, who have begun to build fleets of primitive warships. Several islands have already been claimed through warfare and slavery, and the Xenda people are on the path to creating a vast empire.

The Historical Territory: This massive area has been claimed by Igakari, and is constantly patrolled by its powerful warships. Staying true to their supposedly diplomatic ways, the Igans do not concern themselves with the natives or natural resources of the area, and are simply interested in the Aledoran ruins. The official Igan doctrine is that the ruins are “Of great historical and cultural importance to the human race as a whole, and only the Great Nation of Igakari can be trusted to reveal the secrets of the ruins with an unbiased and apolitical eye.” In theory, Igan scholars were supposed to have an unobtrusive presence in the area. In practice, corrupt ship captains, shortsighted scholars and obsessively myopic archaeologists have all succeeded in making the lives of the natives miserable. Of course, the surrounding “civilized” kingdoms in the area do not trust Igakari at all, but currently have insufficient political or military capital to do anything about the claim but fume.

History: The history of the Eastern Islands of Aarn is a hopelessly tangled web of inter-island trading, constant wars, and commercialization attempts by mainlanders. It is much easier to find two historians who disagree about the Eastern Islands than who agree, though the islands themselves are extremely populars sources of research. There are scholars and sociologists who see the Eastern Islands as a model for the birth of civilization, and study the vast tangle of island politics closely. There are also archaeologists and wizards who explore the islands hoping to uncover the hidden secrets of the Aledorn people, despite (or perhaps because of) the mortal dangers associated with such research.

Magical Styles: The mages of the Easern Islands are overwhelmingly divine, with thousands of different casting methods. Some of the more exotic methods of casting include whistling, burning one's one flesh, acts of sexual depravity, eating sacred fruits, putting on masks and wearing animal skins, and making silly facial expressions.

There are very few wizards due to the lack of education, though there are a handful of tribes who practice wizardy in small amounts, in the same way an under-educated tribe of third-world natives might practice chemistry or electrical engineering.

Major Conflicts: If you throw a stone in the Eastern Islands, you'll hit a war or some kind of ethnic cleansing. Most of these wars are perpetrated by d'zonts or by humans. Centaurs are not comfortable on boats and ships, and their culture predisposes them to mostly keep to themselves. Ironically, the centaurs are the fiercest warriors of the islands; they have to be in order to survive without conquest.

Other troublemakers in the region include pirates, colonialists, missionaries, ornery dragons, mischievous spirit animals, opportunistic Ghorma who see the islands as a source of easily-stripped wealth, and ancient Aledoran horrors who still guard their temples and ruins ferociously.

Points of Interest

Pellisar: This island is a haven for pirates whose heritage consists of mainlanders of all colors and creeds. The pirates prey on the merchant ships who travel to and from the coastal mainland kingdoms. Most Aarn kingdoms consider Pellisar to be its own nation, though the pirates who live there see it less as a nation and more as a place of neutral ground for all pirate kind. Many wars have been declared against the island, but its easily defended coasts, natural resources and the sheer number of pirates calling it home have all worked against those who would like to see the Pirates' extinction. Pellisar is also the home of one of Aarn's largest slave trade operations, second only to the slave trade of the Valdrex themselves.

Hasperia: More a part of eastern Zenninfal culturally, Hasperia is an Igan colony close to the coastline. It is from this colony that Igakari conducts all of its business with the islands, including the managing of The Historical Territory.

Insett: This island is comically dangerous, and it is hailed as the most difficult place to survive in the world. It has practically no animal population, nor are there any permanent godtouched residents. Everything on the island is sharp, barbed, poisonous, or otherwise hazardous to the health of any and all seeking to explore it. It has been rumored that the island was originally the sight of an Aledoran biomancy lab, and its vegetative test subjects have overun the island over the thousands of years since the area became an island. An entire tourism industry has sprung up around the island, where foolhardy and suicidal adventurers attempt to “conquer” or “claim” the island for the sake of glory and prestige. In truth, everyone simply laughs at these adventurers for how stupid they are.

Assassins the world over see Insett as a mecca, and many travel to the island clandestinely to collect raw materials for their poisons.

Climate: The area covered by the Eastern Islands is massive, and covers a wide gamut between tropical, subtropical and occasionally temperate climes. Rain is plentiful, and only Ganswada has anything even approaching an arid climate. Unlike the mainland, much of the area is dominated by alternating seasons of hot, rainy, and cool weather. Beneath the waves, much of the continental plate has been shattered into cracks. In many places, pools of magma covering hundreds of square miles constantly bubble out of the ocean floor, making much of the area warmer and more stormy than it otherwise would be.

Native Godtouched: Ardlins (sea), Centaurs, Dragons (air, water, metal), D'zonts, Humans (Kaipu), Ghorma, Salamanders, Spirit Animals, Phoenixes.

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