Owing to the frequency of northern winds, this windy plain in the north of Sirania has a colder climate than the rest of the Empire. The more southern part of the plain is still scattered with little villages and fields, but most of its expanse consists of dwarfed trees and shrubs, occasional groves of slim birches and, above all, an endless sea of dry, warm grass unique only to this place. Its rustling is the voice of the wind – the lord and ruler of this great plain. Here and there, a little rock, painted with lichen, an old leaning menhir or still a little swamp marked with tufts of thick-leafed sedge protrudes from the grass.
In the north, the plain borders the restless North Ocean. Its cold waters, relentlessly ruffled by the wind, beat against the rocky shore where a handful of fishing villages, surviving there from the times immemorial, scratch out a living. The roofs of their tiny stone houses, with large fishing nets hung outside the door, are covered with grass.
The Horamen Waterfalls are the greatest waterfalls in the whole of Grand. From the terrible heights of one mile, abundant waters of Ma Sarit rush to the ground. The rumble of Horamen is what most resembles the voice of the Creator, and the rainbow that in the day perpetually adorns the clouds of steam rising from the water is like the rarest of crowns. According to the stories of the folk who live under the Waterfalls, the water comes down from a higher, older world; the shamans of their tribe can advance against the rushing currents (and therefore time), in order to behold the real spring of Ma Sarit, which lies beyond Grand.
The mixed forests of Tavangiri are speckled with rising hilltops and little rocks. Around these, bubbling streams course down to pools and lakelets. Tavangiri’s climate is colder and damp – an occasional swamp or a misty valley are no exception here. Willow and alder alternate with spruce and fir, brown leaves fall to the ground dissolving into mud and earth, oak-trunks are covered in moss, and mushrooms sprout up in abundant clusters. The mountains are inhabited by people who sunder trees, fell spruces, collect brushwood for fire, breed cattle and hunt in the woods. The smoke from their chimneys weds with the mists of the forest, uniting in a single white scarf.
Few travellers ever wander onto the plateau of Parha Vidaris. Cut off from the bustle and commotion of civilization, it lies surrounded by majestic mountain ridges. This grassy tableland, speckled with occasional groves, is considered a sacred place – especially by the Archaics, who live in its vicinity. Small, sharp rocks, jutting from the face of the plateau towards the sky, or the surrounding mountains are home to many a great bird nation with whom the Archaics are able to communicate. Kings among these feathered creatures are the great Griffins, who soar above the plain, guarding its peace with their sharp eyes. The Archaic, living their lives of the Golden Age, dance under the stars, unclothed, with blossoms in their hair.
The mysterious and quiet Birch Mountains hide a thorn of a fate woven long ago. The mountains are not home to robbers, they harbour neither a notoriously perilous place, nor yet a cursed peak, but few men dare venture there, and those who dwell on their slopes are considered very resilient or in pact with unknown forces. The Birch Mountains live on in proverbs and sayings; “to meet in the Birch Mountains” means to die or to experience an encounter impossible to forget or even understand.
Nonetheless, the Birch Mountains are a place of great beauty, with white Siranian rocks jutting out of the grass like miniature likenesses of the great mountains rising further to the east. The climate is moderately warm and it’s seldom cloudy, although mists are not uncommon here. The most prevalent tree is the birch, and at times it seems the warm dry, wind blows directly from the birch groves. Days in the mountains are picturesquely quaint and the nights are warm and quiet, but everyone fears the twilight when strange shape rise from the dark and the rustling grass comes alive with the scuttling of unknown feet.
Vargas Island is a one big market place and a transit point for transported goods. Its feverish, endless bustle is a meeting point for a wide range of cultures bringing in their riches only to return home with whatever their hearts desire. Vargas is rich and splendid but has its dark corners, too. The centres of big harbours sport sumptuous towering palaces of the rich, right next to banks and roofed ornate bazaars that overflow with golden bowls (basins) and lanterns, precious porcelain, intarsia-decorated furniture, silk, spices, drugs, slaves and splendid weapons and armour inlaid with gold and mithril.
This forested mountain range is one of the oldest Siranian dwelling places. The original tribes gathered around the First Emperor settled in this very place, and it was here where the first camps and villages of the forefathers of the current inhabitants sprang into existence. Thus, Maniniri remembers many a generation, and their groves are laden with memories. However, many things have changed since the days of old. The Siranians have grown into a great nation and scattered all across the realm. Yet, it was here where the old honourable houses, counting their genealogies back to the legendary companions and friends of the First Emperor, lived on.
The Maniri mountain range with its not-too-steep slopes is currently an idyllic landscape full of orchards, vineyards and parks among which the ancient stone family manors, villas and chateaux of the nobility tower or crouch. To own a house at the Maniri is a question of prestige, and therefore, even the wealthiest of merchants strive to purchase a local piece of unused land to build a residence on in the classic style.
Ma Sarit simply means “the Great River“. It begins far north in the mountain range of Kaal-Charmat and has two springs, the Rivers Erel and Gistun that are its roots. They flow around the great plains, and the old City of Uldar lies at their confluence. From there, Ma Sarit runs through the Elven woods taking in more water. At last, it rushes from the high Horamen Waterfall down to Siranian plateau. From there it carries on, wide and calm – a comfortably navigable stream used for transportation. From Horamen till Sirgon, it also constitutes the natural border of the Siranian Empire. Arkagas joined the Empire only later.
Ma-Sarit (its name on the map stems from the Gandharian Maghazarith; the Siranians simply call it by the Elfish word Duenn, “River”, or Sarit/Neal) plays an important role in stories and legends – its waters are thought to be especially magical and sacred, and many stories have their beginnings and ends tightly connected with the River Duenn. There is also a classic image of a hero transported by the ferryman into the unknown of the other shore.
The cold waters of the North Sea brim with obstacles. Here, it is the wind that sets the course of life and decides about the death of the seamen. The northernmost part of the sea is scattered with icebergs and inhabited by strange tribes of unknown origin, bear-hunters clad in the skins of the animals they chase. The eastern shore belongs to Gandhara, whose people dislike the lot of the seamen and only fish by the coastline. The western shore is covered by an expanse of continuous Elven wood from whose depths the boats of the Elves set forth, and with speed comparable to that of a bird in flight glide over the rippled surface of Maranudran.
The most numerous fleet cruising the waters of the North Sea anchors south, in the harbours of Adamas. The Adamatian merchants and fishermen sail out daily, often travelling to the furthest reaches of the sea. In the far north, they exchange seal skins and lubber of strange fish for pottery and iron tools, from the Elves they buy luxurious goods and ship it to the Siranian ports.
From the tumultuous midst of the sea rises a dark-blue granite rock and on it, an old fortress topped with a lighthouse – a peaceful eye of the storm. The fortress is lorded over by a black knight, a free prince and an adventurer of old. The rock and the castle hide many a secret. The knight’s fleet sports black sails and his fierce-faced men ale clad in black-and-blue armour. The fortress is a gaol, intended for those condemned for life, and a grim hospital for men afflicted with incurable insanity. It is a long-standing tradition that a criminal, guilty of a capital offence and not to be executed at once, is delivered to the prince. The Kingdom and the Realm reward his services of a gaoler with numerous gifts, and supply his fortress with food.
The Elven Woods. He who has seen them has left with an indestructible memory in his soul. The rustle of their leaves is like a whisper of a quiet tide and their scent the most covert perfume of genuineness. The shade cast by the tree-tops offers calmness and peace, bringing awakening from the state of chasing after illusions into that of joy of stillness and being. A mere presence in these woods is healing and reinvigorates the soul.
Such, however, is only the edge of this woodland, and only for those who come without evil in them. At night, the woods become a wellhead of visions, an apparition of power, a live fairy-tale – the one that without fault foretells bad end for the sorcerer. But their depths hide a secret greater than any mortal can conceive. There, in their ancient world where the sun shines differently, grow trees as big as mountains, and songs form the shapes of things. In these woods, wandering becomes a journey for paths have not yet wrestled their way in. And yet there are towering silver palaces whose filigreed roofs touch the skies.
The wood that runs up to and almost touches the foot of Sairis is a mysterious place. In the closest vicinity to Sairis, it is rather a grove of old trees, riddled with paths and heather-glades. These clearings are speckled with an occasional hermitage or ancient stone towers serving the mages of Sairis who wish to flee the hustle of the big cities and work in seclusion. Here and there, a traveller comes upon a clearing with a stone floor covered with magic trajectories now half-overgrown with grass; sometimes he finds a spring welling out of a fountain crafted into a white ivy-covered sculpture. The guardians of these places are always present though invisible to the eye of a common traveller.
Further from Sairis, the wood turns wild and unrestrained. Fiercely it devours the undulating hilltops, and only a well-seasoned ranger or a dryad can find a way beyond the maintained sunken lanes that connect the remote villages snuggled away in the deep valleys of the wood. Ancient powers reign there and the wood is protected by dryads, although they lie hidden and seldom will face the woodcutters directly.
In the foothills of the Birch Mountains, the wood takes on a mystical air, shrouding the mountain range. The mist seeps in, every now and then one can spot an inconspicuous birch, and there are Elves and dryads walking freely among the trees. The depths of the wood hide mysterious ruins from the ancient times, abandoned portals into realms unknown, hidden abodes of the Elven princes and dryadic clearings overgrown with wayward roots. Only a bold-hearted hunter familiar with wizardry and protected by sacred amulets can dare venture into this domain of older ages.
Adamas is a country in the north of the Siranian Empire, protected from the south by high mountains, and from the east and west by two rivers whose beds snake on flanked by marshes. To the north, Adamas is hemmed by the sea whose shores are home to the largest city of this small country – Visan Aira. In fact, it is a big port harbouring the country’s navy. The Adamantian fleet lords over the northern ocean, Maranudran.
The fleet ensures safety for sea-merchants and holds an ongoing dominance over the waters of Maranudran.
As a country, Adamas is fertile to the north and mountainous to the east – its climate is already cold and bleak but its woods are amongst the most beautiful in the Empire, its white rocks towering all the way to the sky.
To the south of Visant Aira stretch fertile plains and hilltops that slowly turn into mountain slopes. Directly south, some eighty miles from the shore, towers the highest peak of the Adamantian Mountains, Mount Adamas. One of its deep saddlebacks nestles the white City of Adamas – a miniature of the magical Sairis – while another saddle supports the steep-walled Kirasa, a fortress watching over one of the few passes in these mountains.
At the very tip of the sharp-peaked Adamas is the Citadel, the abode of Maghavan Adamas, the true protector, god and lord of the country.
In the City of Adamas under the Mount Adamas at the spring of the Adamas River lies the famed School of Rulers. Once in a time, twenty-one gifted children are selected to study here over the course of twenty-one years in preparation for ruling. During this time, a narrower selection is made every seven years until only the best three pupils remain.
These three – educated in history, warfare, combat, magic, art, sciences, religions, geography and many other things for more than twenty years – are meant to rule. Nonetheless, only one becomes an actual ruler.
The other two, who were not chosen, either become teachers of the school or take up diplomatic duties beyond the country’s borders. Both of them, however, remain available as substitutes in case a misfortune befell the chosen Ruler before the end of his official tenure.
The Ruler has Ministers elected by him, his teachers and other experts. The Ministers are the executors of his will in the fields of their expertise.
All of the above functions independently of Adamas, who is the true ruler of the country and can at any time stand in for any of the Ministers and veto any decision. In any place he wishes, he can intervene into the executive as well as religious matters. His deeds are considered sacred and indisputable.
The Adamantians are the inhabitants of the country of Adamas ruled by Adamas from his seat at Mount Adamas. This somewhat self-centred (as is obvious from the nomenclature) Maghavanian renegade usurped a piece of land in the north of Sirania after defeating the local priest-king sworn to dark magic. It was relatively easy for Adamas to win the favour of the people as almost any ruler seemed a kind-hearted saviour compared to the sorcerer who had lorded over them before. The priest-king habitually required human sacrifice and literary sucked the blood of his subjects in the form of a monstrous vampire. He also forced the people into invoking hellish beasts, demons and Zilaths.
Adamas defeated the sorcerer in a grandiose magic duel that – owing to the dramatic light effects and the fact it took place in the sky directly above the capital – was witnessed by a large number of the population. Adamas, emerging victorious from this formidable fight, wowed to protect the people against similar-natured dark sorcerers and promised to grant them freedom to practice their old traditions if they agreed to accept him as their ruler. In this role, he then created a state apparatus able to function without his intervening, and after several decades of repairing the decimated land and its tortured inhabitants retired into his Adamantian tower at the top of the highest mountain. There he dwells till this day, usually no longer interfering with the affairs of state. Nonetheless, he greatly enjoys attending public holidays where he is generally courted by all and can boast his majestic appearance, his position of power as well as his elegant manners.
The Adamantians ranks among the nations united rather by place of residence than by hereditary traits. They do belong to the race of Niviim but are in fact of mixed blood. Depending on the dominant addition to the Nivian heritage, there are three main subgroups to the Adamantian nation – the Forest folk, the Bog folk and the Field folk.
THE FOREST FOLK
The blood and features of the Forest folk are a mixture of those possessed by the ancient Siranians, the Wood Elves and the High Elves. The Forest people are the wise protectors of the South Adamantian woods as well as experienced mountain dwellers. On the northern slopes of the mountains grow splendid forests filled with many sacred groves, sanctuaries, springs and places of ancient cults whose origins are now beyond memory. The Forest folk tend to them and maintain their tradition.
The Forest folk, perhaps owing to their ancientness, perhaps because they are somewhat more similar to the neighbouring Siranians than other Adamantians, also go through the process of Division, though on another level. Where the Siranians experience the drama of Division into the White and the Dark, Forest Adamantians face the challenge of Division into Men and Women. Naturally, such division is to an extent experienced by all the races with two reproductive genders but in the case of Forest Adamantians this is conceptualized as the principal mystery and sacred quest of their culture. The solution to the Division is found in two traditions.
Virgin: A tradition whose followers, be they men or women, strive to achieve in themselves the unification of the two genders – to simultaneously become a man and a woman, thus surpassing the division. A complex training and education, celibacy and much more are all part of this tradition. However, the person who becomes a Youth or a Maid achieves inner harmony, loses their yearning for the other sex and lives on in peaceful joy. Only few manage to reach such state and are much respected. Once they achieve their goal, they are no longer bound by celibate and theoretically can have children, though not many of them choose to.
Man and Woman: This tradition lies closer to ordinary life. People attempt to find unity in a harmonious couple. They try to fulfil their roles and perfectly connect with their gender counterpart, thus finding harmony and surpassing the separation/division. Their culture has a wide range of rules and methods on how to practice this interconnection, and the everyday life of a couple thus becomes one long, constantly perfected dance or ritual. Unlike with Youths and Maidens, in this tradition, producing offspring is expected and is a part of the dance.
THE BOG FOLK
The Bog folk live in shacks on poles and they are the only ones able to navigate in eternal mists and marshes surrounding the country of Adamas in the east and west. They emerged through the mixing of the ancient Niviim with the aboriginal population of the bogs.
The Bog people have a special, more intimate relationship with Adamas the Ruler: a long time ago, Adams offered to present each inhabitant of the country with an adamantium ring to be used as a proof of citizenship and also as a protective magical tool. The protection, however, would come at the cost of surveillance as all adamantium in the world is connected to Adamas through magnetic resonance. The free-thinking Forest and Field folks refused the offer with thanks but the Bog people decided to accept the proposition. The marshes swarm with dangers and they were tired by the constant loss of life occurring despite their caution and knowledge of the treacherous places. They could use magic protection. Some jeerers say that perhaps, Adamas eventually came to slightly regret this bargain as the every-day protection of the Bog folk is costing him a lot of strength, but there is little scheming and politics in the swamps to be usefully eavesdropped on.
The Bog Folk are said to control the magic of mists, water and illusions, and they can remain unseen if they wish. They are known for their strength and agility. Many times, the land of Adamas has found itself under attack. The attacks led through the bogs have never succeeded. The legends and rumours also claim the men of the Bog folk are repulsive and unsightly but the women are very beautiful. Their skin is pale and their hair is black and they are knowledgeable of bog-herbs.
THE FIELD FOLK
The folk of the fields resemble the white Siranians but their features betray an influence of the Elves, Gandharians and Dorns. Many of these influences come from the sea, the Field folk living in the closest vicinity of it.
There is a certain rhythm of life among the Field folk – after spending several years at school (Adamas introduced public schooling in this part of the country), most of the young (both men and women) are drawn to the sea where they spend the days of their youth in work and adventure. Once they reach adulthood, seafaring having provided them with some means, the sailors yearn for the shore – some quiet corner on dry land, a little field or perhaps an orchard. They return just in time to inherit a house from their tired parents, who leave for the mountains where they can meditate in preparation for the old age and death.
Thus there is a traditional four-age division (excluding the early childhood spent with the family in the country):
Naturally, not nearly everyone lives according to this ideal pattern. Especially the departure to a hermitage is often postponed and many end up living with their families, cared for by their children, for the rest of their lives. Leaving for a hermitage is nonetheless deemed a worthy deed and the family considers it a great honour and a duty to ensure livelihood for the hermit. Some hermits are self-sufficient while others would not survive without the supplies provided by their families
The experience at sea is considered crucial and no youth or maiden would miss out on it. School children constantly tell each other largely embellished stories about all the great adventures one can experience at the sea and the horrible dangers waiting there. Those who do not venture at sea are often considered cowards – they have listened to tales of monsters and taken fright. The reality of seafaring is naturally quite different to fables and legends; the work on board of a ship is hard and dull, alternating with long days of boredom. Nevertheless, the sailors tend to come back with a bagful of great stories they very gladly add to the already existing student folklore.
The crews of the Adamantian ships are mixed, as in this sense the Adamantians are respecters of equality. However, if a girl gets pregnant, she must marry the father of her child; at the earliest stop in Adamas, both she and the boy must leave the ship and their seafaring adventures are over. Those who come to love seafaring are therefore careful and practically become celibate, while for those who soon find themselves fed up with the sea and find love onboard it is an ideal way of weaselling themselves out of the misery without being accused of cowardice.
Adamas is the son of Adimaghavan Indar. Indar is considered the mightiest being in all of Grand. He comes from an excellent line of divine and semi-divine beings; he was chosen by fate, received a brilliant education and became, in direct succession, a Maghavan, a Paramaghavan and a thousand years later, the Adimaghavan. As the head of the Maghavan Order, he rules the Gandharian Empire as well as all non-Gandharian Maghavans. He is the wielder of the divine Thunderwedge, a weapon that can hurl adamantium bolts of lightning. Such is Adamas’ father.
His mother is Apiris, the stellar goddess and the foremother to all the Dryads. All wild forests, inaccessible mountains, untameable beasts and, most importantly, the unchanging, unreachable stars, are dedicated to her. Her love for Indar is genuine, ideal, fateful and limitless. It is said that since she fell in love with him, the stars have shown more brightly and some of them can even be reached if the Goddess is in high enough spirits to allow it. Such is Adamas’ mother.
When Indar became the Adimaghavan, he was informed by the Maghavans supervising the rules of heredity and the family lines of Gods that his line was spent. He was told he was the last of a famous line, the unrepeatable peak beyond which there was only a fall into weakness and darkness. But the Adimaghavan didn’t heed their words and decided to act in accordance with other things. He took Apiris as his wife and they produced three sons: the eldest Adamas (the Untameable One), the elder Amaras (the Immortal One) and the youngest Savitar (the Shining One). These are but substitutes for their real names that remain hidden.
The children, however, did not by far achieve the nobleness and beauty of their parents – just as the Maghavans had foretold. Adamas rebelled against his father, falling in love with himself and his enterprises, Amaras completely succumbed to evil and became one of the Archons, and Savitar, the youngest and the weakest, was lost many ages ago.
Adamas, a seemingly blue-clad (Aiurnantian) Maghavan, with the body of a giant, a wrestler, a genie, is the lord of all adamantium – the indestructible metal that forms the bodies of gods. Maghavans had their swords and armour wrought from it. Like every Maghavan, Adamas has a diamond set in his brow and is clad in armour and cloak. When dealing with people, he is a bit over two swords tall, harmoniously built with a beautiful, mighty face like that of an Azharian, and his cheeks and the crown of his head are clean-shaven. Every shape of his body is like one wrought from a diamond or metal – hard and round like in a machine, concealing energy.
Upon becoming a Maghavan, he refused obedience to his father and left west – to Sirania. There he defeated a dark-mage in combat and took his land – which he called Adamas. He formally agreed to become a part of the Empire but his loyalty remains questionable.
Největší siranijská pevnost. Výcvikový tábor pro ohromné množství vojska. Ležení pro aktivní armádu. Velitelé vojska jsou zde, pokud nemusí jednat v Sirgonu. Siranie vždy věděla, že největší nebezpečí pro ni leží na Západě a proto právě zde, na osamělém skalisku nad Ma Saritem, byly před dávnými věky vystavěny základy mocné citadely. Byly vyhloubeny žaláře, tunely a sklepení, zdviženy několikanásobné hradby, navršeny bašty a zdviženy vysoké věže.
Nyní se mocné tělo pevnosti nevinně leskne v paprscích slunce a nezdá se, že by se k něčemu mělo. Ale každý, kdo o jejích útrobách něco ví, si dokáže jednoduše představit, kterak se ve chvíli ohrožení z otevřených bran valí nespočetné zástupy statečných siranijských legionářů.
Pravidelná siranijská armáda se skládá z legií. Jedna legie má přibližně deset tisíc mužů. Starší veteránské legie ale mohou mít daleko méně, anžto není jejich počet doplňován. Vojenští velitelé totiž dávno vědí, že jedna z nejcennějších věcí v bitvě je zkušený voják. A míchání zkušených s nezkušenými se nikdy moc neosvědčilo.
V současné době má Siranie deset aktivních legií (jmenují se svými čísly) v táborech po celé říši. Z toho čtyři legie jsou v Hraniční pevnosti.
Na západ od Hraniční pevnosti se rozkládá Svobodná země – velmi řídce zalidněná lesnatá krajina, kterou ochraňuje velmi prestižní rytířský řád – služebníci bohyně Pallady (boha Pallada), tzv. palladinové. Pro svou mírumilovnou povahu a pro společnou řádumilovnost jsou se Siranií v míru.
The peaceful and tranquil foothills of the mountain that – like a stoical guardian – towers at the margins of Parha Vidaris are sought out by beings withdrawn from the world. Whether a person has lost a family or a house, recognized the emptiness of their everyday toil or simply started to crave opportunity for undisturbed concentration and reflection, they repair for the foothills of Mount Svamunis. It is riddled with eye-like openings into multiple caverns that serve as hermitages, and a little cloister a few miles to the east offers a welcome respite to hermits plagued by illness, pilgrims about to enter into seclusion or those who have recently left it. However, these individuals never enter the plain of Parha Vidaris, despite the sounds of song and dance of its inhabitants, echoing from afar.
The beech woods of the East Sirania have their particular magic. The prevalent silver beech, though slightly interspersed with oak, birch or pine, sports light-green leaves in the spring, taking on the most radiant tones of gold with the arrival of autumn – a colouring it keeps for many following weeks. These woods have no lord or master, yet they teem with Dryads, Elves and Men, all living in peace. One possible reason for this tranquil co-existence is the number of the inhabitants, which is lower than in other places, or the fact the wood itself is still the master here and doesn’t need protectors hailing from the ranks of two-legged beings. The Sakhi Vanas are said to be the safe haven of the Empire – a place without thieves or bandits, wolf packs or dark spots.
The Great Ocean is the largest continuous body of water in Grand. It is impossible to say anything brief yet unvague about it as it hosts a near-infinite number of nations, climatic zones, mysteries and tales. It reaches far to the south, to the sands of the equator deserts and the fabuluóusĺy wealthy realms of the southern despots – and even further, to the unexplored shores and windy islets scattered with magic towers of forgotten sorcerers. The northern part of Kira Samudran, visible on the map, is mainly the dominion of the Siranian Empire, owing to the proximity of the large and rich Port of Sirgon that connects the land with the sea and also arranges transport on the Great River. Moreover, it is also the capital of Sirania and the seat of the government.
The waters among the picturesque bends and sun-warmed reefs of South Siranian peninsulas are ceaselessly ploughed by boats of fishermen, merchants or excursionists; the varying styles of sails and colours speak of their nationality or affiliation – there are Siranian, Elfin, Falascian and Mantrinian ships or those hailing from the Southern Kingdoms. The great transhipment point in the area is the Isle of Vargas.
An Taras is the name of the highest mountain range in the borderlands of the Siranian Empire and, except for Gandhara, also the whole of Grand. The terrifying steepness and height of the mountains, together with their white colour, provided both by the ice and the colour of the stone, create a profound impression of something unreachable and sacred. Little is known of the local dwellers, if there are any – only that the rocks are inhabited by the Spirits of the Stone, and in the winds high above the face of the earth frolic the servants of Anilas the Andal .
The tradition claims the highest mountain of the Siranian Empire is ten thousand swords tall but few know its real height – perhaps the learned demonologist in Sairis, or the servant of Arawat the Andal. Svargas has a large base and its roots run as deep as the foundations of the world. It towers up in a splendid three-sided peak, reaching the very end of heaven, and according to the folk-tales supports the heavenly cope. The most solemn and earnest oaths are sworn by Svargas, and in the decrees of the Empire, it is named alongside other gods as one of them. In the Siranian geography, Svargas is always pictured as the centre and the navel of the world, where the earth touches the sky.
This quaint rocky peninsula could easily belong to a different era. Beneath the white rocks that look like miniatures of the more northern mountain ranges, leisurely strolls are taken by the Archaics clad in white togas, feasting their eyes on the beauty of their land, enjoying the peacefulness of their lives. They tend to the world-renowned vineyards, which have given rise to the ”the Akisian blue”, the famous wine with a light, many-faceted floral scent. The little stone houses they inhabit are modest in nature, since the Archaics do not crave quantities and enjoy simplicity. However, just like their wilder peers, they spend much of their time playing games, singing and merrymaking. In a collective artwork admired by the neighbouring nations, they are gradually processing the white rocks of their peninsula, shaping them into unbelievably varied sculptures.
Altaras is the largest and the most densely populated of the southern peninsulas. Its history is long and profoundly moving, its traces visible at almost every step. The majority population are the Falascans, a nation once inhabiting the south of Sirania, building there a great thalassocracy – long before the arrival of the Siranians. With the flourishing of the Siranian Empire, the glory of the Falascans have dimmed. The Falascans gradually retreated until their original realm shrunk into the current narrow strip of land. It was here, however, where the core of their power once lied, and so the land is still walked upon by the descendants of a dying nation, strolling among the great ancient temples and palaces of their ancestors. But their small numbers can no longer fill the seats of the theatres, nor those of the senates. Thus everything yawns with half-emptiness and reproachful memory.
Often throughout the history have the Falascans tried to regain their lost glory but in doing so they have frequently sided with the traitors to Sirania and so the victorious Empresses have repeatedly punished them for their apostasy. Their last attempt lied in supporting and partaking in the politics of Mantrin during the time of its hegemony; however, after the defeat of the Steel Fleet, they once again suffered sanctions commonly imposed against traitors. Since the time of the Matrinian Commonwealth, the south of the peninsula has been inhabited by colonists from Vaktar and Mantrin.
Falascans used to be great seafarers and explorers and while they haven’t lost their talent, they haven’t dared to practice it in greater scope for a long time. Nevertheless, their sea ports are crowded with hundreds of fishing boats and ships.
The so-called Mountain of Sleep is a strange place where the waking world permeates the realm of dreams. It is said that while the foot of the mountain is still embedded in our world, its top is already drowning in deep slumber. Any person who succumbs to sleep in its vicinity experiences lucid or prophetic dreams and is frequently threatened by the perilous forces of the Realm of Sleep or their own untameable inner demons. The top of Mount Svapnagir also harbours the Temple of Dreams where the forever dreaming somnambulists worship and serve a deity of sleep.
The greatest Siranian fortress. A training camp with an immense capacity for the armed forces. An encampment for the active military. Unless they have to attend negotiations in Sirgon, the army leaders are stationed here. Sirania has always known the greatest danger lies to the West; this is why many ages ago, upon a lonely rock above Ma Sarit, the foundations of a mighty citadel were laid. Gaols, tunnels and dungeons were hollowed along with multiple walls topped with bastions, high towers were erected.
The mighty body of the fortress glimmers innocently in the sun, not giving the impression of much activity, either ongoing or imminent. Nonetheless, anyone who knows something about its entrails can readily imagine how in times of danger, the open gates are spilling out innumerous ranks of lion-hearted Siranian legionaries.
PThe regular Siranian army is comprised of legions. One legion is composed of roughly ten thousand soldiers; however, the more senior veteran legions often have considerably fewer men as their numbers are not replenished. The military leaders have long been aware that one of the most valuable things in battle is an experienced soldier – and mixing the experienced with the unexperienced has never proven very successful.
Currently, Sirania has ten active legions (all officially numbered) in encampments scattered all across the Empire. Four of these legions are stationed at the Border Fortress.
To the west from the Fortress lies the Free country – a very sparsely inhabited wooded landscape protected by a prestigious chivalric order – the servants of the goddess Pallas (god Pallas), the so-called Palladins. Owing to their peaceable nature and the mutually shared love of order, they live in harmony with Sirania.
Gandhara is an ancient realm that by its expanse largely surpasses Sirania and all the Mandian Kingdoms (or the Kingdoms of the Western Continent). Little is known about it due to its isolationist policy – the Gandharians don’t like strangers to enter their country and guard their secrets carefully.
The country is filled with red and white rocks; it is wilder and less romantic than the Siranian landscape. The steep mountain slopes are covered with mixed forests with leaves that don’t change colour in autumn but are yellow-red since the beginning of spring, enchanting the passing pilgrims.
In the middle of the country, many hundreds of miles from the border with Sirania, tower the ridges of Nazranzikhara, a mountain range, whose peaks are said to touch the very stars. Bellow the highest summit a cloister lies ensconced, and lower still, the City of Gandharnagara, the capital of the realm. Just as the braided mountain ranges run away from this mighty peak towards the many reaches of the country, so the power of the Highest Ruler, the Adimaghavan, streams forth from here.
The Gandharian society is divided by three criteria: nobility, colour and wealth.
Nobility is acquired either by being born into a noble family or gained by one’s deeds that can bring respect to a person. Nobility points to the moral steadiness and virtues of the individual. The greater a person’s nobility, the more weight is given to their word, and the greater their right of decision in all things noble.
Wealth, same as nobility, can be both inherited and gained; nevertheless, in the Gandharian collectivist and egalitarian society, a rich man is always looked upon with suspicion.
Colour pertains to one of the five basic Gandharian castes: Killers, Keepers, Kindlers, Knowers, and Maghavans (”the Exalted Ones”). Each of the five colours has its own code of honour and morals. The Killers, for example, are allowed to kill (people or animals) but only under specific circumstances. Hence, only the Killers can carry out duties of a soldier, or a butcher, hunter, executioner. The Keepers see their goals in creating material values and maintaining the social order, so they are e.g. builders, farmers, messengers and administrators. The Kindlers communicate with the divine powers and the Knowers investigate the world around them through their reason and intuition. Typical Knowers are librarians, scholars, researchers, physicians and alchemists.
The Gandharian society reveres the old age and the wisdom of longevity, personal bravery and the ability of non-participation. Peacefully standing aside is one of the greatest Gandharian virtues. In Sirania and further to the West, Gandhara is respected for its antiquity and power but its form of government is disagreed with since the authoritarian supremacy of the nobles together with the Maghavans is considered cruel despotism. A father has the right to decide about the life and death of the members of his family. The roles of men and women are dictated by strict tradition, same as the roles within the family structure, traditional castes and guilds, not to mention the function of priests and individuals specialized in carrying out rituals.
As a race, the Gandharians are not as endowed as other neighbouring nations. Their stature is rather small, their constitution weak. They do not possess any special talents, except one – as individuals as well as a nation they have a brilliant, unfailing memory. All the countries of Grand repeat the same past mistakes, collapsing in accordance with the same societal laws that crush them under as they are unaware of their existence. Not the Gandharians. They founded the Office for Memory many ages ago, and it is one of the pillars of their culture.
Maghavani. Nesnadno je říci, co jsou.
Legendy praví, že v pradávných dobách to byli bojovníci s Temnotou, polobozi vyučeni ve všech způsobech boje a vědění, jejichž úkolem bylo pronásledovat projevy Chaosu a Temnoty až na nejzazší okraj světa. Pak se ale něco stalo. Maghavani se vzbouřili a odřekli svůj původní úkol. Cosi v jejich bojovnických srdcích jim radilo, že smysl světa není v úplné porážce jedné ze zůčastněných stran. Cosi jim říkalo, že jestliže porazí Temnotu, nastane plochý prázdný mír bez vývoje.
Jejich řád se tak vzdal Světla i Temnoty a vysloužil si nenávist bohů. Nikdy ale nezanikl. Maghavani totiž objevili sílu, která nepramení ani ze Světla ani z Temnoty a skrze tuto sílu se stali neporazitelnými.
Podle dávného učení se v každém člověku skrývá maghavan, stejně jako v kukle se skrývá motýl. Člověk v sobě nese velké nadání, ale za života jej využije jen mizivé množství. Drastické zkoušky po mnohaletém studiu nechají zrodit maghavana z člověka.
“Většina praktikujících mágů rozpoutává síly z poloh neviditelna, kterým často do důsledků nerozumí. Během let jejich práce se okolo nich hromadí stále větší zátěž nevyvážených skutků nebo astrálních larev, které se živí zbytkovou energií a dalších tajemných bytostí, které čekají na mágovu chybu, kterou jednoho dne udělá.
Jsou totiž čarodějníci, kteří používají nabytých sil k získání nadlidských schopností a prodloužení věku až do ztracena, ale kteří se nevyrovnají s důsledky těchto činů. Dochází u nich k růstu moci, zatímco jejich duchovno zůstává zakrnělé. Takoví nikdy nepochopí o co v magii vlastně běží a právě oni jsou prvními oběťmi Hladových bytostí. Ačkoliv sami o sobě slabí, v rukou svých podmanitelů z Krajin Šedi se z nich stávají nebezpeční protivníci. Oni jsou služebníky Temnot.
Pak jsou naopak takoví, u nichž je podstatná duchovní cesta a moc považují jen za náhodného průvodce na této cestě. Je jich nemnoho a dlouho se na tomto světě nezdržují, neboť brzy dosahují osvícení a odcházejí do Světla.
Třetí skupině je vlastní vyrovnanost rozvoje moci a mystického poznání. Jsou podobni Azharům, protože nespadají ani do Temnot, ani neodcházejí do Světla, ale zůstávají na světě a jeho osud je jim drahý. Takoví mágové prý jednoho dne zaznamenají sílu, kterou vytvářejí následky jejich čarovných činů a uvědomí si přítomnost karmického nákladu i nebezpečí ovládnutí živly. Pro ně pak je otevřena cesta ke Zkoušce.
Jen málokdo z mocných dojde tak daleko, aby učinil tolik velkého, že ucítí náklad následků svých činů. Jen málokterý pak nepropadne této útočící mase. Takový pak možná zaslechne tichou zvěst o možnosti osvobození z tíhy činů skrze těžkou Zkoušku. Pokud pochopí toto sdělení, najde Maghavany a je přijat mezi kandidáty, může uspět.
O Zkoušce se vypráví mnohé. Podstata zůstává skryta. Slyšel jsem, že při samotném rituálu se mág nějak postaví svým vlastním činům a pozná skrze ně něco přesažného. Jako kdyby stál proti sobě, proti veškeré moci jím vykonané minulosti poznává skrze své činy sebe sama v zrcadle a dochází vyrovnání. Zkouška bývá také nazývána Smrt člověka, neboť takové setkání nemůže smrtelník přežít. Mág umře.
Tehdy se zrodí Maghavan. Člověk je prý jako kukla, Maghavan je teprv realizací všech možností obsažených v neprobuzeném člověku. Maghavan, který se narodí při Zkoušce je novým tvorem, božským dítětem. Jen místo pláče se prý směje. A nerodí ho matka, ale rodí se sám. Místo porodní báby asistuje Mistr. Je to zrození opačné fyzickému, ačkoliv ho provází též bolest.
Maghavan, který zažil při konfrontaci s nákladem vlastních činů návratnost a zákonnost celého světa je prý tak vrostlý do principů světa, že je vnímá podobně jako my světlo nebo zvuk.
Nikdo neví, odkud skutečně pramení tato moc, ledaže odnikud. Samotní Maghavani o ni neradi mluví, neboť prý pokud by ji pojmenovali, unikla by zas do nepojmenovatelného a oni by upadli do omylu lpění na slovech. Jsou rádi, že je nepolapitelná a sami kráčí v jejích stopách. Říká se, že Maghavani jsou slepé místo na mapách bohů.”
Maghvani sami sebe dělí do tří tradic. Jejich maghavanství zůstává ve všech stejné, liší se jen jejich vnitřní tendence a nasměrovanost. Vnějškově se rozlišují především různou barvou rouch a jiným výběrem insignií.
Gandharnant – maghavani této školy chodí oděni v hávu v tzv. gandharské rudé. Je to zvláštní odstín mezi červenou a hnědou, který jakoby zevnitř zářil. Pod rouchem mají zbroj z rudé oceli. Za pasem nosí Meč. Kromě toho, že je to archetyp všech mečů, tak je to též délková míra, která platí ve všech zemích na východ od Ma Saritu a ve většině na západ. Tito maghavani se soustřeďují především na boj (na všech rovinách) a jejich duše je ostrá. Tradičně se gandharnantem může stát pouze čistokrevný gandhařan a pouze muž.
Aiurnant – tito maghavani chodí v rouchu barvy sairisské modři. Tato nepopsatelná barva je výrazně odstínově teplá, ač je modrá. Pod rouchem nosí zbroj z bílé oceli a za pasem mají meč o něco delší a lehčí, než klasický gandharnantský. Soustřeďují se na poznání a vědění (na všech rovinách) a jejich duše je širá a čirá jako křišťál. Tradičně se aiurnantem může stát pouze elf, siranijec či azharian, výjmečně i žena z jednoho z těchto tří rodů.
Kirlenant – jejich znakem je roucho v nilgirské zeleni, což je barva, jež v sobě skrývá sílu jara, klid léta i cit podzimu. Pod rouchem nosí zbroj z pravostříbra a za pasem krátký meč (někdy dva). Nosívají luk. Přijali hodně z lesní moudrosti a jejich zájmem jsou city a vnímání. V magii životní síla a harmonie. Jejich duše je jemná. Tradičně se kirlenantem může stát dryáda, elfka, azharianka, ale i obyčejná žena nebo muž. Kirlenantem se nemůže stát gandhařan.
HIERARCHIE a KULTURA:
Tradiční odění a výzbroj maghavana je velmi důležitá věc. Od maghavanského meče jsou odvozovány všechny ostatní meče, od maghavanské zbroje jsou odvozovány všechny ostatní zbroje, od maghavanského pláště jsou odvozovány všechny oststní pláště a tak dále. Každý uzel, každé poutko, každý ornament na maghavanově rouchu má svůj smysl a tradiční hodnotu. Maghavanské roucho a výstroj vznikly před tisíciletími a procházely velice dlouhým vývojem až k naprosté dokonalosti.
Maghavanský oděv je střižený tak, aby plnil mnoho účelů, od bojových, kdy je potřeba, aby mátl protivníka a nebránil v pohybu, přes magické, kde je potřeba aby podporoval tělsné proudění energií až k estetickým a tradičním. Jeho meč je vyvážený, nezlomitelný, schopný krájet skálu jak máslo. Jeho zbroj – tradičně stylizovaná do podoby peří dravého ptáka – je dokonale pohyblivá a přitom svého nositele úplně chrání.
Součástí maghavanské zbroje je i maska, již si při boji nasazují, též magická hůl z příslušného kovu a další desítky drobných detailů od spon a prstenů přes tetování po těle.
Hlavním znakem, podle kterého lze poznat maghavana je ale malý démant, který je usazen vprostřed čela nad kořenem nosu.
The City of Temples. A city with exceptionally diverse architecture. In ancient times, the ruling Emperor of Sirania decided to gather shrines and sanctuaries of all the world’s religion to one place. Henceforward, every discovered or newly emerged religion is called upon by the Siranian emissaries and presented with a request to build a model shrine right here in the city. Thus, the style and architecture of Sir are very heterogenous as, faithful to the Emperor’s wishes, every nation or religion apply their own, largely original architectural style.
Many religions bear a grudge against one another and so despite reserving the sanguinary side of their quarrels for the outside of the sacred city, they adamantly refuse to enter certain quarters and temples. Thus, organizing the annual religious dialogue is often excruciatingly hard work.
Though it might not be obvious at first glance, there is a thriving underworld as well as plotting and scheming in the city, and the monastic police are constantly on duty.
On the other hand, suppliers and merchant are beaming with happiness: nowhere else in the Empire do people buy so many golden goblets, sandalwood, black goats, white bulls, expensive robes, daggers and poisons.
The sacred city lives mainly on tourism since for many religions Sir is a holy place where, at different times, crowds of pilgrims gather in abundance. Almost every day is a holiday for one of the religions in question, and frequently more than one of the cults celebrate their holy festivities on the same day.
If a pilgrim, with his eyes open, trods the white paths of the undulating landscape of the northwest Sirania, he can spot many wonders. These are not visible, miraculously wonderful sights of terrible mountain ranges, raging seas or great cities but barely sightable marvels of the ancient Living World. In many ways, the land around Asvittara maintains the nature of the ancient times, perhaps because it lies, unmoving, on the intersection of many tangential ”realms”.
The heart of a common traveller will rejoice at the quiet safety of the quaint paths that wind through the country like tiny brooks of white stone. They are not very wide and there is grass spurting out from between the individual cobbles of warm limestone. These are ancient roads, build by the old Birikans, who lived there side by side with the Elves before the arrival of the Siranians. The roads are hemmed by blooming pastures and orchards while in between, a forest, predominantly oaken in nature but adorned with numerous birches, spreads its wide arms.
And yet anyone who keeps their eyes open sees beyond this sun-filled surface of the landscape. They see the woods are riddled with thousands of paths, the pastures still hold ancient stone circles and the old cults have not been forgotten. They see cracks and fissures and chasms hidden in the depths of the woods, the crumbled little bridges that once spanned over them. An observant pilgrim will smell a peculiar odour of this place, which in many ways is the last stronghold of the Empire.
The country of Asvittara is the furthest northwestern outpost of Sirania and it is here where the sun lays its last beam in the noonday glare of the Realm of the Middle before entering the semi-darkness of the north or the west. It is also the last stronghold of the Elven woods in the north, and the ancient magic of leaf and root is still alive here both in the water and the earth. The king of Asvittara is the last of the Half-elven line and the only one in Grand to rule both of the peoples equally. The birch woods of the Free country reaches in from the southwest and end here as well, bringing with them their will and their scent.
Asvittara is among the few cities that have never been conquered by the enemy. This is mainly due to the natural location of this settlement: Asvittara is situated on rocky islands above numerous chasms and abysses. In ancient times, the face of the earth was disturbed here by many planar fractures that literally separated entire smaller areas from the surrounding mass. The cataclysm plunged some of those areas into the depths while others got merely divided by less significant breaks, remaining on the level with the rest of the surrounding landscape, or above it.
In fact, Asvittara is a stony heap consisting of these islands interconnected with bridges big and small. Some of the islands lie below the level of the surrounding land, others are higher. The main island with its substantial expanse – it is, in fact, larger than the capital of Sirgon – is on the same level with the neighbouring landscape, and the most elevated of the islands, which harbours the Royal Citadel, is directly to the north from it. The broken and crumbled remains of bridges above some of the chasms are the silent reminders of there having been other islands, which met their doom in the depths of the earth. Yet it is said the powerful can walk over a broken bridge right into the heart of a vanished island.
The architecture of the city is the embodiment of beauty and elegance. When a person passes through the city, at times they don’t seem to see its buildings at all – so profound is the connection between nature and craftsmanship. The houses reminiscent of rocks, oak-woods or dreamy paintings are artfully build from stone and misty metal. The halls, squares and temples breathe elegance through their tree-like stone pillars and decorations resembling silver-green leaves. In the windows, whose stained glass seen from afar gives the impression of a bowed oaken branch, light curtains float and flutter, reminding the observer of smoke or vapour. Owing to the great expanse of the city, there are numerous groves and peaceful corners, even whole patches of woodland.
There are also busier, more densely populated places: wide sun-lit streets with stone houses similar to the Siranian buildings, squares and market-places buzzing with voices, songs of wandering bards and mumblings of merchants.
The city is far from unprotected but its defences are unmanifested, and so the impatient or unobservant won’t perceive it.
As far as the physical strength is concerned, there are dexterously camouflaged turrets and defence stations scattered alongside the entire border of the inhabited islands, mainly at the bridges or in those places where the opposite sides of the chasms are close to one another. Then there is the inner city, surrounded by an elegant yet highly functional wall, and finally the Royal Citadel, a shining white Elven fortress towering above the city with such imposing power even a seasoned veteran can entertain no doubt about its invincibility. Moreover, those more familiar with the city’s inhabitants will know that each and every one of them – every man, woman and child, every white-haired elder – practice archery with great fervour and devotion.
On the other hand – and this, it must be said, is of far greater importance to the citizens of Asvittara – as far as the invisible forces are concerned, the city is already protected by its very nature. For it is said that Asvittara, to a certain degree at least, shares features with the so-called Hidden places – Elvish abodes accessible only at a particular time, from a particular spot and merely to some people. Moreover, such places are found only in certain areas, everywhere and yet nowhere at once. Asvittara is surrounded by a labyrinthine complex of abysses that have never been fully mapped, and the old paths, preserved from the Birikan times, can be treacherous and tangled, especially at night. Thus it often happens that an enemy of Asvittara, though he be travelling for many days, seemingly catching glimpses of the Royal Citadel among the trees far on the horizon every now and then, he never gets a step closer, despite all his trouble. The city is also said to be under the auspices of the King himself, and he summons or refuses visitors as he wishes. Those more familiar with the secrets and mysteries of witchcraft and wizardry can feel the King’s willpower as they approach the city. However, in the time of peace, its gates stand wide open, the bridges and roads teems with merchant carriages and no one notices a thing.
Asvittara is inhabited by Men and Elves. Both nations live together in peace, complementing and influencing one another, so the local Elves are more similar to the humans and the humans to the Elves than is perhaps common in other places. And yet there exist a certain tension between the two nations – it is not evil but quiet and tragic in nature, fed by mutual shyness and love. Such tension and division within unity have been observed in Siranians themselves but also in the Wood Adamantians and other nations.
The Elves in the city come from the ranks of the Grey Elves. They are more human in many ways – they are driven by a greater urge to change and to create, their mirth is more earthbound, their curiosity humanly passionate. The University of Sciences in Asvittara is the most renowned institution dedicated to the study of languages, systems of writing, histories, nations and cultures as well as the arts and the psyche. The study is very long and very profound and the students, above all else, leave the university wiser.
The humans of Asvittara appear more elvish – the influence of their Elven companions as well as the occasional mingling of bloods have softened their features and manners, deepened their emotions and prolonged their lives. They have learned the Elven way of life together with their “diet”, which is in such a deep resonance with the nature that it’s practically an elixir of youth. The humans of Asvittara dress in the Elven fashion; they speak pure Elvish and live the Elven way. Therefore, an accidental traveller is not able to distinguish the Man from the Elf and vice versa.
The only difference between the two peoples is that while the Men die, the Elves are immortal. Their mutual coexistence only strengthens this tragedy. Those humans who attain “elfhood” and are thus indistinguishable from their Elven friends and brethren one day realize they have been touched by old age and while their eternally young Elven companions keep feasting, travelling and studying, they only hobble around slowly approaching death. On the other hand, the Elves, who, owing to the company of Men, have been infected by the human part of the soul, their hastiness and ways of living can hardly bear the everlasting duration of this semi-human life. To live forever is natural for the Elven soul, but the Elves of Asvittara have often souls that are partly human and yet must carry the burden of eternity, for which they are not ready.
The king of the city, a figure from the ancient times, is called the Southernmost of the Elven Kings and the Easternmost of the Rulers of Men as his family lines reach back in both directions, and before uniting Asvittara with the Siranian Empire, in the times when the city was a separate kingdom, he was, as history has it, more tied with the north and the west than with the east, where the city of Sairis has always stood, eternal and everlasting.
A long time ago, before the birth of the Empire, the Siranians were a unified nation. However, a tragic incident occurred and the nation split in two – the Dark and the White Siranians. Although it may seem impossible, these two half-nations get along very well and there is almost no rivalry between them, owing to their complementary temperaments and abilities: they do not pose as competition but instead need each another.
The White Siranians are very handsome, somewhat resembling the elves but still very human. Both the men and the women have alabaster complexion and very light hair. As people, they are neat and serious, with a (sometimes exaggerated) sense of order and orderliness. They despise pretence and manipulation (yet quite paradoxically, many of them are skilful merchants though this is more due to their love for numbers and accounts) and treasure honesty and a good name above all. Their cities, but also parks, temples, roads, and even woods, are neat and symmetrical with military precision but certainly not dull – besides their love of order, the White Siranians are endowed with a sense for beauty and harmony. They are fond of white, crystal-clear and sky-blue colours. Their architecture focuses on height and lightness; they like airy spaces, pillars and pointed arches. They admire scenes observable within nature and in the sky, striving to give their dwellings the same simplicity, elegance and firmness. Their wide roads paved with limestone shine far and wide in the landscape and complement the beauty of the Siranian nature.
As for combat, the White Siranians have a great mind for strategy and logic; they are also marksmen of considerable renown. In short, they excel at anything requiring concentration, accuracy, anticipation or coordination. On the other hand, they make very poor fighters in close combat; not because they would easily succumb to fear but because they do poorly in chaotic situations where in order to survive, one has to rely on bare instincts. The greatest horror any White Siranian can face is a situation requiring improvisation. They have no magic skills whatsoever and are uncapable of performing even the simplest of spells. Many of them practice astrology and other disciplines where thorough education and mathematical abilities are sufficient but active magic is completely out of their reach. Naturally, there is an exception to every rule and so every generation will produce a handful of individuals with a talent for magic. These persons, on the contrary, become uniquely powerful magicians as they combine in themselves the unrestrained elemental power of magic with their single-mindedness and education. The most powerful of these few is called the White Vizier and serves as the advisor to the Empress in Sirgon.
The Black Siranians live mainly in the south but are otherwise scattered all over the realm; they love the sea and enjoy a very intimate relationship with magic – which is not acquired through long years of training or the gradual awakening of powers but is – in its raw form – innate to them since birth. The subsequent schooling focuses and refines it, teaching them to control it better, but there are no major changes in the amount of power they are able to summon. As suggested by their name, they are dark in appearance; or better put, their complexion is grey-black while their other features are identical to those of their White brethren. They relish in bodily exertion and cold-water swimming, men and women both. It can be said the men are strangely attractive – this is perhaps why there are so many tales of romantic outburst between a White female and a Black male. However, these relationships seldom last and never end in a happy family with many grandchildren: just as a White Siranian can never cast even the simplest of spells, the unison of a White and a Black Siranian will never produce a child.
The Black Siranians are adventurers at heart; they are playful and sociable and easily succumb to emotions such as anger or grief, yet even the fiercest of their furies can be chased away by a kind word and is gone as fast as a passing cloud. The Black Siranians are very relaxed as far as rules, ethics and ”good manners” are concerned. One of their greatest traits is their sense of humour and the natural, direct and unaffected relationships where polyamory tends to be common practice while jealousy is practically unknown. Rather than families, they found ”households” where a larger group of people both related and unrelated live together as a community. Next to the bodily exertion, they are very close to everything physical and sensual – fine arts, dance, theatre, combat or handicrafts.
The majority of the Black Siranians are endowed with magical abilities on a certain rudimentary level – for instance, they will use telekinesis to fetch themselves a rake which is out of reach, or instinctively protect themselves against a falling flower-pot with a power shield. Only about five to ten per cent of them dispose of sufficiently strong powers and at the same time adequate single-mindedness to be able to cultivate these abilities into the true mastery of magic. These individuals serve as magicians all over the cities, towns and villages of Sirania, paid by the state and at the disposal of people; or they take a specialized position in the capital or at the universities of magic in Sairis. The highest-ranking magician among them is called the Black Vizier, who is a being of immense powers. In each generation, there is only one mage of such abilities, two at the most. Their talent is obvious from the earliest years – already as small children they cause earthquakes when they have a fit of anger, and when they sulk, there is an eclipse of the sun. Their upbringing needs to be secured by several talented sorcerers schooled not only in magic but also in child psychology.
The Archaics inhabit a plateau in the very core of the Siranian massive as well as the adjoining areas. They are a mysterious nation and guard their secrets jealously. Still, they do not shy away from visitors, whom they treat with respect. The following report was written by a traveller and explorer of the Empire, the professor at the University of Sirgon, Carduin Striand. He stayed with the Archaics for several years, studying their culture, which eventually left such an impression on him, he never returned to the civilization and instead remained in Archinara (the land of the Archaic) until his death, living according to their customs.
“…Their figures are tall and well build; on average, they are a head taller than regular men (this is why they are called ‘giants’). They are remarkably cold-hardy as they move around completely unclothed. In general, they spend a lot of time exercising, seeing to every muscle and nerve of their bodies until they control them perfectly. Both men and women are incredibly strong, resilient and agile. Whatever the women lack in physical strength, they more than compensate for with their speed, litheness and flexibility. Sometimes they go hunting but this is merely an exercise in speed and orientation since they do not eat meat. The animal, which they catch uniquely with their bare hands while moving on foot, is then released. They sleep in groups under the skies, the only hearts being their own bodies long accustomed to this way of living.
They live exclusively on fruit; sometimes they will eat herbs or leaves of some of the trees. Killing of an animal is considered equivalent to killing of a human being, just as the death of a tree equals a man’s demise. For it is the trees the Archaics treasure the most, cultivating them with tender care. The trees give them fruit and shelter; supposedly, the Archaics even converse with them. They also breed herds of peculiar mountain cattle, unknown to us in the lowlands, whose milk they drink but otherwise, their relationship with animals is rather symbiotic and there is little domestication. Similar tendencies are observable in their relationship with bees, whose language they speak. In exchange for some of their honey, the Archaics negotiate with hollow trees on their behalf, securing the hard-working insect favourable housing conditions.
They do not own houses, clothes, or tools, except those they occasionally put together and later discard. Besides cultivating trees and their own skills, they spend a lot of time studying. As they do not possess books, scrolls or anything we would call “culture”, they learn about nature, the human heart and soul and the forces of this and the nether world. There is a group of sages among them, who know the sacred teachings and other beneficial knowledge by heart, taking great care to preserve the tradition and to spread it among talented pupils, where it can grow. The climax of this mystical teaching is enlightenment, experienced by the adepts. An enlightened person is always recognized by his or her peers, and such an individual enjoys great respect.
The Archaics do not shy away from manifestations of feelings and emotions; they do not stifle them inside. Well-known is their heartbreaking weeping over cut-down trees or their infectious laughter that spreads easily among them. In their free time, apart from cultivating their bodies and minds, they often practice choral singing, which is more important to them than to other people. It brings the community closer together, releases thoughts and leads to spiritual unity. Their singing is the most sensitive and the innermost kind of vocalization known to us. They radically avoid using musical instruments, happily settling for sounds they can emit with mouths and fingers.
They enjoy close interpersonal relationships; private life, loneliness or abandonment being foreign to them. They live united into large families and lineages. They care deeply about their family relations as they place great importance in the inheritability of human characteristics and talents. Their sages determine which two individuals may beget a child and, by contrast, in which cases it is forbidden, thus cultivating certain qualities in people throughout centuries. Their life is very sociable as they have nothing to occupy themselves with except themselves, having all the time at their disposal. Storytelling is largely practised and well-liked; equal enjoyment is derived from new tales and stories. The Archaics know many mind games we wouldn’t even dream of, many riddles and conundrums based on language as well as spatial and logic imagination.
Their love life is very rich and colourful. It is customary to maintain a certain romantic relationship even between women, if they are close, or men, but the love act itself is reserved exclusively for the members of opposite genders. Any violent tendencies, simulations of torture or other love-life diversions often practised by bored aristocrats in the cities are considered a manifestation of degeneration or decadence, which in general goes against the Archaic culture and ethics. For in their own worldview, they are the forbearers of all mankind, and all the nations are descended from them through degeneration or decay, which is the loss of the completeness of humanness. In their moments of weakness, the Archaics dismiss others as “carrion eaters”, “blind people”, or “weaklings” and generally feel very proud of themselves, not seeing their haughty attitude as pride but as a perfectly objective assessment of the situation.
Though they consider themselves superior to other people, lives of other nations do not lose value in their eyes. Just as with the lives of animals and trees, the Archaics see others as worthy of care and protection; only they look at them as they might at somewhat backward relatives, lacking in both the physical and mental development, who never quite understood the meaning of real culture but instead keep losing time building fences and gathering useless things.
Similar to the Gandharians and Siranians, the Archaics do not bury their dead but instead cremate them. The burning pyre set on a barge is then sent over the water. If a child is born with a disability, it is put to sleep with a special herb and never wakes again. Those people who grow up and mature but still show signs of bodily or mental deviation not discernible in childhood are not killed but integrated into the society. The only restriction they face is the prohibition of intercourse (between a man and a woman) with the purpose of begetting children.
Their courts are formed by the elders, the wise sages of the individual families. There are no laws, only the memory of tradition. The usual punishment for a simple offence is a public confession in front of the entire community: the case is talked over in a friendly manner, the wise offer their words, the causes and effects are discussed. If the offence is great indeed, the court decides on some sort of punishment, which is generally clearly related to the nature of the case. A more severe form of punishment is being exiled for a week, a month, or a year, so the individual will know loneliness and have time to ponder everything he or she has done.
If someone doesn’t like the system of government or disagrees with the established customs and traditions, they can simply leave. Nevertheless, no one sensible will do that since the Archaic society is universally considered ideal while other nations are seen as its degenerated descendants.
However, if a person stays away for more than a year, they can no longer return. Many people come back in less than six months.
At the same time, exile – or departing – from the community is the greatest punishment accorded by their law. An exiled person does not have the “right of one year” and can no longer return. The leave-taking is gone about in a friendly but mournful manner since to the Archaics departing beyond the borders of their land equals death.
There is no place for foreigners in their society. Pilgrims and travellers are welcomed with kindness but no one is allowed to settle here permanently nor fully accepted since any affiliation is based on family ties.
Without the borders of the country of the Ancient Archaics live smaller nations closely related to them. They follow most of the traditions of the Ancient ones but there are exceptions: the Digambos are not completely naked but wear a loin-cloth, the Svetambos from the Akis peninsula even wear flowing togas, the Melambos have books and scrolls, the Atnir use metal weapons, the Nigantar have property (though it is scarce), the Svargantians under Mount Svargas live in houses and so on. These tribes speak the language of the Old ones (Sthaviri ) among themselves and have no difficulty learning it since their own mother-tongues are closely related to it.“
We think the conclusion of Striand’s treatise is sufficiently illustrative and as such does not require commentary. We can only add that in the outside world, the civilized part of the Siranian Empire, the Archaics are called the Giants, the Primitives, the Savages, or the Barbarians.
Alpás in common Siranian, Alpas in standard language, Albhai in Gandharian, otherwise known as the Elves. (You can read more about the Elves here and about Elvish languages here.) An ancient race said to be born with the world itself. Unlike the majority of other races, the Elves are endowed with immense longevity; they are also calmer and gentler in nature than other nations. They live in bond with the natural forces, and unlike others rarely change their customs or character throughout the course of their lives. Similarly to the animals of the forest, they live in harmony with their surroundings, possessing an intrinsic wisdom of equilibrium and non-intervening. This wisdom is generally unavailable to other races, where it is replaced with instrumental rationality. The Elves, on the other hand, do not much care for human reason and cunningness; they cultivate their own approach to life where inspiration and intuition wed hundreds of years of experience.
Their long life and gathered knowledge are two-faced: on the one hand, they do not need to fumble in the dark, to speculate or experiment as often as their human counterparts – they simply know. On the other hand, however, they are at times far too clear about things; they cannot be mollified by words and tend to meet any sudden changes with profound dislike and rigidity.
As for the appearance, there are very few features that could be considered universally Elvish – only some of the Elven nations are discernible by their pointed ears (a trait especially pronounced in the Wood and the Wild Elves); not all of them are completely beardless (the Grey Elves often have beards, though softer, more hair-like). In general, the Elves are more finely and more thinly build than humans and their almond-shaped eyes are mildly slanted, but there are some exceptions too – the Dark Elves, for instance, are often remarkable fighters, while the eyes of the Grey Elves tend to be more even, like those of humans. Ultimately, however, it is always easy to recognize an Elf; not due to their physical build but because of the impression they have on others. The Elves have the charm and elegance similar to that of a doe or a wolf; aware of their longevity, they are unhurried and unrushed. Their eyes have a peculiar glint; they laugh and weep differently. The Elves are far from being perfect – there are fools among them, drunks and madmen and criminals, though even they go about their business with the Elvish style – with a lot of poetry (whatever its quality) and elegance (however bent and twisted it may be).
There are many Elven nations and these can be divided into numerous groups with varying habitats, customs, character traits and appearance so that in fact, the Elves – at least visually – almost form independent “races”. In the end, however, they share the collective essence of Elfhood.
The Un-born are the forefathers of the Elves and they rose together with this world. They are gods, originated from themselves. These beings, whose numbers do not exceed nine, rank among Powers like those of the Andals and Archonts. Some attained a complete union with a certain part of nature, becoming the subject of ”Elven religion”. A few among them turned their gaze towards the Abyss and became dark deities, worshipped mainly in the Far West and Far North but also in the hidden temples scattered all over Grand.
The cult of the Un-born is different in character than the cults of gods revered by other races. While the gods of Pantheon, for instance, are dependent on their worshippers and their potency equals their popularity, the Un-born do not derive their power from worshipping. They are here whether someone worships them or not. Therefore, the Elves do not hold expensive ceremonies in their name; they do not spread their faith among others but instead, at certain moments of a day or a year, simply remember the presence and greatness of the Un-born through symbolic acts of paying tribute. Their connection with the Un-born is special in the sense they are related to them – the Un-born are the forefathers of all the Elves and as such stand at the beginning of all the Elvish family-trees. At the same time, they are still present and till this day shed light to the earth and give it life. A special chapter is dedicated to the topic of their characters and names. As for their form, it is thought the Un-born (apart from one exception) are too great and too immense to even assume the appearance of a two-legged being. They are fully identical with what they are, whether one talks about the Sun, the Moon, or the Mist. More perceptive individuals can recognize the will of the Un-born as a sort of a ”voice” that speaks to them.
The descendants of the Un-born originated through the awakening of latency in the space between the Un-born. They are more numerous than their begetters, and their power and character are the diminished analogues to those of the Un-born. Once they were even more plentiful but the wars of old brought about the thinning out of this eldest generation, of which many decided to not return to their bodily form. They are powerful lords among the Elves, rulers and noble princes, who remember the ancient ages; they are the heroes of the old sagas and legends. Unlike the Un-born, however, they already know partial mortality – they cannot waste away with old age but they can die a violent death. If they lose their body, they can decide to either remain in latency or be born again.
The First-born are marginal beings in the sense they put on the Elvish appearance like they would a cloak or a robe meant for the life in Grand, but their essence is still relatively wild and elemental. Their ”true form” is usually some kind of ä shining, flaming or ghost-like entity many times surpassing the human proportions and yet not as gigantic as the Sun or the Moon. Their powerful essence – after all, they are the sons of the Sun, the Mist, the Darkness, the Stardust and so on – turns them into beings of great nobleness and tenacity, little resembling anything mortal in both the good and the bad sense. Their will is like a flame or a waterfall; it is hard to withstand. Their words fill one with enthusiasm, their voice rules and dominates, their faces are beautiful and terrible. Only beings of a sound and firm mind can keep a cool head in the presence of the First-born, without becoming mere puppets in their hands. Fortunately, most of the First-born with the tendency of abusing their powers left the world at the time of the ancient wars, and those walking the face of Grand today have grown wiser with age and tamed the flame of their will through long years of experience.
The High Elves are a nation unknown to ordinary mortals, universally superior to the other Elven nations, whom they surpass in everyting. They are more beautiful than the Wood Elves, more dangerous than the Wild Elves, more skilful than the Grey Elves, and more mysterious than the Sea Elves. Their hair is raven black and their eyes are as bright as the stars. Their magical palaces and shining cities are not found in the lands of men but instead hover in the air in Alpasthanara, the land of legends – a place only a well-instructed being can enter, or an exceptionally gifted traveller who finds trails and footpaths, hidden in the depths of the woods, leading into the Elven worlds.
The High Elves are known to the world rather by the traces they left in it. In the Ages of the Elves, they build their cities in Grand, whose ruins, though rare and overgrown, can still be found in some deep woods. From time to time, a foolish traveller enters here seeking hidden treasures but more often than not finds a quick death from the hands of invisible powers or dangerous artefacts. The High Elves have always been great builders and creators, walking the hair-thin boundary between technology and magic (they themselves called their teaching ”Art” and refused to categorize it in any way). Till this day, a High Elven artefact sometimes emerges out of nowhere, and both mages and technicians of this world are usually helpless as to its workings.
The Wood Elves are the most numerous of the Elven nations. They inhabit the deep woods of Grand, where the presence of raw nature is at its strongest. They favour the beauty of the autumn forest as well as the springtime blossoming of the meadows.They live freely, scattered across the woods, and gather in tree cities deep in the heart of the forest. They like to dress in green and gold and have understanding of natural magic. Usually, they have golden hair and brown eyes. They are great friends of the Dryads.
The hearts of the Wood Elves are good and kind, their relationship with Men torn and full of tragedy. These Elves are friendly by nature and know from experience there are good souls among humans – thus they come to believe over and over again the relationship between the “field” and the “forest” can be amicable. But the generations of Men disappear one after the other and the Men forget. And so it often happens that what the old generation once agreed on, coining deep bonds and friendships, the young generation does not remember or honour anymore but instead, with insatiable hunger, rushes to cut down trees. Then the Wood Elves, weeping, draw their bowstrings and go to war against the sons and daughters of those they only yesterday (as they see it) considered their friends.
The tragic nature of the relationship between Men and Elves extends to personal stories as well. The Wood Elves, both male and female, are creatures of great beauty to the human eye, full of elegance and magic. On the other hand, the human youths and maidens, filled with zest and wildness, are very attractive to the curious Elves living at the edge of the woods. Hence there is no scarcity of romances coined at the forest margins. However, these romantic stories almost always end in tragedy. Both the Elvish and the human communities naturally forbid such unions, so the lovers must act in secrecy, and their permanent coexistence is impossible on either of the two sides. Even in those rare cases where the society allows for a similar union, their life together does not last long as their otherness, attractive at first, becomes bothersome, almost alienating, in a day-to-day existence. And if the couple overcomes even this difficulty, they must eventually face the tragedy of ageing and death – the forever young Elf is seen supporting the feeble old man or woman, who in the end dies in their unaging lover’s arms.
THE WILD ELVES
The Wild Elves inhabit the places of oblivion – the rocky plateaus and wild, dark parts of the forest. They live in caverns, worshipping spirits and their ancestors. They have mastered the forbidden arts but choose not to use them in the presence of the other Elven nations, knowing full well they would only reap malice and scorn. They are grey or brown-grey of hair and their eyes are dark. They live solitarily in small or tribal groups.
They can talk to spirits of different places, so sometimes, travelling across lands they know well, they seem to be engaged in a series of mumbled conversations with the genia loci. Thus, from their point of view, their lives are far from solitary as they are in a constant discussion with friends, invisible to people, but also with animals and plants.
Compared to other Elves as well as Men, the Wild Elves are not repelled by things considered dark or fallen. In their hearts, there is no duality in terms of dividing things into good or bad; they see only things in harmony with fate, or against it. To them, anger, madness or a blood sacrifice have the same value and beauty as a tender caress, a birth or an evening filled with stories.
The Wild Elves are also known for one peculiar feature intrinsic to their physicality. When they have lived in any given place for an extended period of time, their bodies spontaneously adapt to it. It is most obvious in the colour of their complexion. In those living in the jungle it tends to be green, those inhabiting rocks seem grey while the cavern-dwellers are black. But the changes go deeper than the colour of the skin. Depending on their environment, they have a sharper vision or a better sense of hearing. In northern lands in winter, similarly to the Dryads, they grow warming hair, and the Wild Elves dwelling in the caverns can see in the dark.
Of all the Elven nations, the Grey Elves are most likely to be encountered by mortals. In the fashion of Men, they inhabit stone or wooden cities, though imbued with Elvish gracefulness and elegance. In a way, their houses are still touched by the forest – a living tree may tower in the centre of one’s hall, or there’s a garden alcove deftly crafted from living twigs and branches. The Grey Elves live off of trade; they mediate communication between the Elves who loathe humans and human civilization. The Grey Elves do not despise people or fear them; often they enjoy human endeavours like the afore-mentioned trade, crafts or science, which they indulge in above all. The towns of the Grey Elves are often situated around a famous school or university. The Grey Elves have both light and dark hair, usually in the shades of brown; sometimes, they even have darker skin, especially if living in the south. This is because they have mingled with humans for generations.
This mixing between peoples has resulted in the Grey Elves lacking in some of the more exotic features typically associated with the Elven race, i.e. mildly slanted eyes and pointed ears. Thus from afar, it is usually easy to mistake them for humans, at least at first sight, though once coming closer, seeing the softness of some of their features and the elegance of their movements, a person will still know them for an Elf. Some Grey Elves will also grow facial hair and so honourable professors can go around proudly boasting their beautiful grey beard. The mixing with humans goes hand in hand with another matter: ageing and lifespan. The Grey Elves live to a considerably lower age than other Elven nations, roughly twice (in case of the Half-Elves) to ten times the length of a human life, depending on the amount of human blood running in their veins.
The question of the “purity of blood” periodically returns as a topic in some of the Grey Elven communities. While in the Elven quarters in Sirgon and the “cosmopolitan” diaspora all across Sirania no one gives the matter much thought, in Asvittara, there is a strictly structured caste-based system where the amount of “contamination” by human blood determines what station a person can reach in their life and which profession they can practice. In some cities, for instance Gindon, the situation is somewhat halfway in between, which causes a constant subliminal tension in the society.
The Sea Elves are a relatively unknown nation inhabiting both the ice-cold seas in the north and the beautifully colourful seas of the south. They can talk to fish and dolphins; they are friends with the Naiads and Tritons and understand the tongue of the sea currents. They can turn into dolphins or medusas but also whirlpools and treacherous torrents. Few have ever spoken with them and so their language remains secret. The tone of their skin ensures they are difficult to spot in water: their backs are blue-green while the fronts of their bodies are grey. Their hair is green or blue, sometimes even white like the foam on the waves. Most of the time they go completely unclothed but on the occasion of feasts or celebrations, they adorn themselves in pearls, seashells and corals.
The Elves of the southern seas are one of the few nations maintaining a friendly contact with the Antipodes, the legendary inhabitants of the far South who were long ago invited North by the High Elves and whose arrival was one of the causes of the racial battles raging at the end of the Elven Age. Just as little is known about the quiet war the Sea Elves have waged for ages against the Falascan sea realm. The Falascans, similar to the Vezanians, have succumbed to the cult of the Zilaths and the un-known beings of the Deep; it is said that nowadays they build underwater cities were they invoke and worship their tentacled idols and fish-like deities.
In appearance, the Dark Elves are very similar to humans. Unlike in other Elven nations, their faces and figures are energetic, unrestrained, and sturdy. Their hair is brown, red or black; their eyes are usually dark, not blue or green (as is common with the Wood and Grey Elves). Their expression tends to be somewhat stubborn, restless, interested, mischievous, angered. The colour of their skin varies from light to dark red-brown. They are irritable, ambitious and merciless by nature. Sometimes they are called the “Cruel Elves”. They are a warrior nation, not very keen on the usual Elven gentleness, nor eager to harken to the voices of nature. More often, they swear by practical things. In their world, the stronger one always wins, and personal duels are their favourite pastime. Although they are similarly long-lived as the pure-blooded Wood Elves, they seldom live to enjoy high age due to their frequently dying in battle – the longer they live, the higher the stakes the warrior’s luck eventually won’t take their side.
Both males and females are fierce and warlike; even their every-day clothes are a variation to the lightened leather-armour and they always carry a weapon at their belts. Tattoos and war paints are very common among them: tattoos serve as a sort of a personal chronicle of brave or warrior deeds while facial warpaint is meant to help distinguish between the rival tribes during an armed conflict.
Perhaps the greatest independent state of the Dark Elves is the Argolin archipelago in the far west, where the Elves have achieved great mastery in boat-building and mostly turned their war-like tendencies outward, towards voyages of exploration and coastal piracy, so the interior of the island is theoretically peaceful. The second great state of the Dark Elves is the Princely Union of Tenidath (which can be found on the map of Vezan).
Each of the above-mentioned great Elven nations can naturally be divided into may more tribes and houses, whose differences are sometimes as great as those dividing the nations themselves. Our purpose here is to merely describe the main groups in such a way the reader will not be flooded with too many details.
The Dryads are an ancient nation that, as legends have it, derives its origins from heavenly fairies, the Apsarasas. Thus it is often thought they are related to the Gandharians and Archaics as these two groups claim their origins in the Gandharvas, heavenly beings equal in ranking to the Apsarasas. However, these relations are merely linguistic and the Dryads are considerably more akin to the Yggs.
The Dryads are a world unto themselves. They divide into numerous groups whose differences would easily account for many distinct nations. Some show their faces to the world while others remain unknown. At times, one can think a Dryad group important only to discover it is a fallen tribe of no great consequence.
DRYADS OF THE PRIMEVAL FOREST
The slim dark-skinned Dryads with dark-eyes and black hair live hidden in the depths of the primaeval forests of the south. Often, they set forth in fishing boats to the river or the sea; travelling by water is by far the easiest means of transport for them. Most of the time, they are scantily clad and decorate their bodies with paint.
They divide into tribes; a tribe consisting of several dozens of related Dryads sleeping together in a large ancient tree. Each Dryad has a place in the tree where she merges with the trunk, passing the night or the rainy season.
These Dryads tend to be skilled in Serpent Magic (see below) and will often favour the material path over the immaterial one. There are shamans among them, well-versed in the magic of plants and animals.
They are ruled by the High Priestess from within a great stone temple, the centre of the ancient City. The City – thus named by the Dryads, for whom it is the only source of whatever idea most of them have of any settlement of a similar kind – is now in ruins, slowly overtaken by the forest. Ivy crawls over the temple walls but the sanctuary itself, unlike most of the other buildings here, has not gone into disrepair as the High Priestess can ask the forest to spare her home. There are reliefs still visible on the walls, frescos decorating the ceilings and mosaics adorning the floors, depicting the Great Mother in her various forms, floral ornaments, shapes of birds, fish, animals, spirits, and demons.
Once, the Dryads were part of a mighty empire; their numbers were great, the old forest spanned far and wide. The City teemed with life. The Dryads settled in its stone houses and temples left there by another civilization vanished no one knows where or why, using the buildings for housing beautiful items and for congregations full of discussion and singing. Similarly to the Elves, they dedicated their time to art as securing livelihood was easy: they got by with fishing and gathering. Then the humans came, cutting down the trees and nibbling at the edges of the endless forest. The Elves had left with only a handful of them remaining behind, the twilight had fallen. But the High Priestess, through her might and her will, still tries to stop, or at least slow down, the decline; she watches over the old traditions, leaving no space for new ideas. The world of the primaeval Dryads has come to a standstill. It floats in a changeless time, gradually declining – like stagnant water that slowly becomes cloudy.
The name ”Wood Dryads” is slightly pleonastic as the word ”Dryad” already means “of the wood”. In fact, the Wood Dryads best embody the fundamental essence of ”Dryadhood”; they are the creatures one thinks of as ”Dryads” when no further specification is given. They live in a close relationship with the trees, which they protect. Similarly to the Elves, they defend the untamed nature that has not known the axe or the plough of a man, but unlike their Elvish counterparts, who after a lost battle can simply withdraw, they are tied to their forest and once it has been destroyed they die with it.
The Wood Dryads are said to live as long as the tree they were born of. Some people believe they lie with the trees, becoming pregnant by their resin – a newborn Dryad will have not only blood but also tree sap coursing through her veins. This is perhaps why the skin of these Dryads is either brown like the bark of an oak, silverish like a beech, or birch-white. Their eyes are brown or green, and so is their hair. Owing to their exceptionally strong bond with the forest, they have mastered the spells of the Druids and many others.
Through the sympathetic system of their bodies, the Wood Dryads are connected to the energetic currents in the wild nature, thus ranking among the most sough-after experts in ”forest healing”. They see the forest as one interconnected organism, clearly perceiving its rhythms and bonds. They are also able to recognize its dark or weak spots, a potential source of imbalance or disease. Forests in care of these Dryads will have many clear traits: they are more varied and harmonious than their ordinary counterparts and, quite literally, blossom. Their clearings are filled with colourful blooms for most of the year, and they teem with insects, birds and animals. Their dark spots are carefully enclosed by menhirs and a wall of protective hollies, while the power of those places where goodness reigns is spread across the entire forest.
Nonetheless, the greatest challenge for the Wood Dryads is not the darkness within but rather the expanding outside danger of non-forest nations for whom the forest is nothing but a source of wood and unused soil. Of all the Dryad nations, the Wood Dryads are the ones least open to compromise and relatively ”hot-headed” in case of conflict with an enemy from without. The life of every tree is as dear to them as a life of one’s own child, while the lives of men have only minimal value in their eyes; this notion is yet enhanced by them knowing people only as insensitive outlanders and tree-murderers. As a result, the Wood Dryas often lead aggressive counter-attacks in retribution of the damage done by the humans, which in the past often ended in wars, burnt villages or forests. Other Dryad nations, together with the Elves, try to reign the Wood Dryads in, and similarly, wise rulers will hold back their overzealous woodcutters to avoid these still imminent conflicts.
The Mountain Dryads, otherwise known as the Oreads, are fair-looking maidens with firm bodies, renown for the strength of their limbs and their endurance in running. They span distances in the mountains with swiftness nearing that of a bird in flight. They are not as slender as the Dryads in the Lowlands – this is due to their bodily strength and also because scrawniness would not get them far in the mountain frost. Still, many of them will grow a thin layer of rabbit-like fur in the wintertime to protect themselves against cold. Thus, an uninformed traveller can easily mistake such Dryad for an animal, especially if he only catches a glimpse of something furry moving tentatively in an unclear terrain. Many colourful stories spring from these occasional contacts – tales about wild women called Yettias, or about werewolves.
A well-known legend tells a story of a man saved from death in the forest by a female bear. Out of her love for the man, the she-bear transforms herself into a woman, and the two live together until the man violates a taboo of some kind, whereupon the woman takes on her original appearance, remaining a bear forever. This romantic story is most likely based on a confused memory of the yearly rhythm when Dryads grow their fur-coat for the winter only to shed it again in spring. The human imagination has merged this seasonal activity with a heartbreaking love story.
Even in summertime, the Oreads can boast thick dark or red hair, flying in the air behind them as they run. The hair is worn loose or woven in braids, and, if the Dryad remains still, often falls all the way to her ankles. Most of the Mountain Dryads also have a long furry tail similar to that of a fox, reaching to the ground. Unlike the fox’s tail, though, the Dryadic tail is very nimble and prehensile, assisting its owner in moving through the trees, the mountains, or in fight.
Their personality is more sociable and less mysterious than that of the Wood Dryads. Usually, they learn magic from their own Witches, or befriended Elves. Most of the time, they stay away from civilization as they have aversion to wearing clothes.
The Dryad Warriors, sometimes inaccurately called the “Amazons”, are well-built (of equal height as the average man) and lithe. They like to sing and are no strangers to hard work. An old legend says many ages ago they were a group of male hunters and warriors, who worshipped the Great Forest Goddess with such fervour they longed to get rid of their manhood to be closer to her. The Goddess took pity on them and as they bathed in a magic spring, turned them into women.
Another thing they inherited from men is their somewhat purposeful practical reason, their clamorous gregariousness – the joy derived from boisterous challenges, the love of wrestling and spending time outside, whatever the weather. However, they are unable to bear a child, for not even the noble Goddess could grant them the gift of women.
The Warrior Dryads usually wear a pair of leather pants, binding up their small breasts with a leather band. At their belt, besides their sword, they also carry a cord with fragments of clothes or weapons of the felled enemies. The more prolific among them carry a set of stripes hung around the neck as a warrior necklace. Before the fight, they don on protective guards, greaves, leather jerkins and helmets common in light infantry. Of all the Dryad tribes, the Warriors are closest in mentality to the humans and so they will often take on the role of negotiators. They interpret between the voice of the Forest Arcanum (represented mainly by the Witches and the Wood Dryads), and that of the City and the Field. The interpreter’s role is a practical one; apart from the art of war and diplomacy, the Warrior Dryads also study human and Elven languages (often completely unknown to other Dryad nations) to ensure successful interpretation.
The Warriors often leave the forest and travel to human settlements. This causes two problems: one, in the world without, the Dryads are often taken for spies of the forest (which may or may not be true) and are consequently persecuted, and two, they sometimes forget their homeland altogether, entering the fast, entertaining life in human company. This suits them well in many ways: there is no need to listen to the wise voices of the forest elders or to submit to their will, and their courage and daring toughness often bring them success, money and a good life.
The Dryad Witches look like thirteen-year-old girls on the verge of adolescence, though they never mature. They are born of pure magic but their foetus must grow in a female womb, hence their need for Dryad Mothers.
They possess a very strong talent for magic, which they can fully develop. Due to their unchanging appearance, it is hard to assess the power of a Dryad Witch, and many woodcutters have lost their lives in a foolish attempt to attack a seemingly powerless girl, who calmly came to tell them not to touch the trees.
The Witches are always scarce as their birth is a precious occurrence. The stars have to be in the right alignment for a Witch to be born, and her arrival to the world is often heralded by potent symbols and omens, ranging from signs in the sky to earthquakes and oddly-acting animals. The Witches usually start talking soon after birth, and from the little it is known about their kind it would seem each carries a collective of old souls within her, conferring together, giving advice through the Witch’s mouth. Others say the Witch’s soul is born pure and binds with the ancient powers in its surrounding – these powers then speak through the Dryad.
One thing is certain: the power of the Dryad Witches is indeed great and grows with time. Many are centuries old and there is no known case of a Dryad Witch withered by age. Old Witches are recognizable by their shining silvery hair and the eyes emanating aeons of time. The most ancient of them are feared by the Dryads themselves, as they often speak and act as cruelly and mercilessly as the wild nature or the cosmic laws themselves. Their will doesn’t know negotiation or appeal. In the long run, however, their often brutal decisions are always to the benefit of the forest.
There were times when the only thing that protected the Dryads from being slaughtered to the very last one of them was the protective power of the Witches. The Dryads remembers this, and take great care to ensure this precious race never disappears.
The Dryad Mothers are an important race that similarly to some animals or insect colonies ensures the continuation of barren Dryadic groups like the Dryad Warriors or Dryad Witches. The Mothers have the look of wide-hipped fertile women. Owing to the hips larger than those found in humans, giving birth is far less dangerous and painful for them. In fact, it is the moment of great ecstasy but also a sacred rapture – the time when they connect with the source of life hidden within them and in the powerful places of the forest where the births take place. After giving birth, the Dryad Mothers see to the earliest education of the young Dryads until these are old enough to be initiated into specific traditions of their group, be it the Warriors, the Witches, the Mountain Dryads or the Wood Dryads. The Mothers are the guardians of a great number of stories and teachings passed on to their young offspring, thus helping to coin the legendary togetherness and identity of the Dryads.
There is some dispute as to the impregnation of the Dryad Mothers. The speculations are many. Some claim the Mothers connect with the trees like the Wood Dryads, being made pregnant by the nectar from the buds and sprouts. Others believe the seed comes from the Dryad Warriors, who despite their female appearance are still male in nature. Some think the Dryads abduct suitable men, whom they use as breeding bulls. Others still consider the Dryad Witches to be the key to the mystery, using their magic and spells to bless the Dryad Mothers with the gift of parthenogenesis.
Similarly to the Druids, the Dryads like to connect and merge with the trees and not only spiritually. When travelling through the woods, one will often come across a Dryad covered head to toe with ivy, looking impressive indeed – as if clad in a scally armour wrought from green metal. But the Dryads will seldom become entirely overgrown: they only let the ivy to enter their hair, to weave itself around their forearms, their backs, thighs and calves. They take root for the night, getting water and nutrients through the ivy’s rootlets, and connect to the consciousness of the forest. A rooted Dryad is unrecognizable from an ivy-covered rock. Sometimes, she will use the prehensile tendrils of her plant as a weapon, or a climbing tool. Some tendrils carry tiny poison pouches at their tips while others can be harnessed to put their victims to sleep.
The birth of a serpent comes about in the following way: a Dryad becomes pregnant but after some time does not give birth to a child but to a serpent. The length of the ”pregnancy”, and therefore the maturation of the serpent, influences the scope of the reptile’s characteristics. The circumstances of its begetting and growth are questionable. Some claim a clone develops inside of the Dryad (somehow separating from her backbone), sharing her nature, growing side by side with her; others believe a special Witch, a Mother, or even the Dryad herself, somehow influences the normally begotten foetus, so that the child mutates into a serpent.
After giving birth, the Dryad is tightly connected to the serpent through an unseverable telepathic bond, the serpent itself only possessing rudiments of individuality. (Others claim something else: that the serpent, in fact, is a demon tamed by the Dryad, whom she has yoked by giving birth to it. It is said the serpent tries to escape such connection and kill its mistress. The Witch supposedly keeps it alive with her own blood, which the demon in her drinks on a regular basis. Others elaborate on this, claiming the serpent feasts on the blood periodically every month – this, however, seems to be a rather obvious folk interpretation of the female cycle, and therefore, let’s return to more reliable information.) The serpent moves freely through the Witch’s body and is in perfect coordination with her as if it was her fifth limb. In the time of peace or if thus instructed, it returns back inside of the Dryad like a baby kangaroo to her mother’s pouch. The more sober explanations claim the Dryad carries a sort of a placenta inside her, which provides the serpent with nutrients and regeneration.
The first and foremost of the serpent’s changeable qualities is its permeability, or density, and the related shape-shifting. It is the creature’s strongest but also most demanding attribute as mastering it is anything but easy. A newborn serpent will have the same shape practically all the time: a reptile crawling through the Witch’s body. But over the years, depending on the length of the pregnancy, it gradually acquires greater changeability – at first, the changes are limited to the shape while the volume remains constant (a rod-like shape; circularity comes last), later appears the ability to densify (thickening) up to the hardness of the metal, or contratrily to dissipate around the Witch into a protective haze. At last, the originally material serpent becomes almost a magic aura, surrounding the Witch like an active magic power of her own; this sets her on par with the regular mages of the same experience level.
The other attribute the serpent tends to use mainly towards the beginning of its life is its chameleon-like shifting of colours. At first, it is manifested only through its adapting to the background, mainly the Dryad’s body, and later by its natural ability to turn itself invisible – both transparent and translucent.
The serpent’s most important part is its head; whichever change the creature undergoes, the head is always manifested in some way, be it the attacking part through which the Dryad casts her spells or something else, but most importantly, it has the ability to re-grow any lost part regardless of its size by feeding on the Dryad’s placenta. On the other hand, the chopped or torn-off parts soon lose the aura shared by the serpent and its mistress, eventually dying and decomposing.
Vaktar and Mantrin form an archipelago with a complex history, their roots reaching into the distant past. The islands, though vastly different in both population and appearance, have always weathered the storms of eras together; hence it is appropriate to give an account of their destinies side by side.
Little is known of their ancient past, except for legends claiming the Grey Tower of Vaktar stood there long before the arrival of the First Men, the island itself being a peak of a mountain, whose roots reach through the ocean to the bottom of the world. It is also said that in the ancient times, Mantrin, by contrast rootless, circulated around Vaktar; having the shape of a great ship, it sailed around its brother island like the Earth around the Sun. Another legend has it the two islands are ancient living beings bound together by love, and that Tinwil, a small green islet floating between them, is their child. For it is true Tinwil keeps growing from one year to the next.
One day, the time of legends ended and humans came sailing to the islands’ shores. They were the Azharians and it was the Age of the Fires. Noble men and women of this nation had settled on the coast of the islands, inhabiting the slopes of their mountains. They devoted themselves to living, fishing and orcharding, but the centre of their culture had always been knowledge and magic.
Yet, similarly to their relatives, the Gandharians and the Archaics, they chose to walk different paths in their quest for knowledge, growing apart from other nations. It was the Gandharians who had best preserved the mystery of the ancient Azharant: they had Maghavans, and a culture that never succumbed to any other. The sages of the Archaics kept the knowledge but only for the use of their own people. In case of the citizens of Vaktar and Mantrin, it was the Mages who became the bearers of the Azharian heritage and from there, its name had spread all over the land.
However, the Mages of Mantrin delved into the secrets of matter and discovered much knowledge that was useful in the building of houses, forts and ships. They crafted new weapons, dominating their sea-neighbours. And so there was a time when the Steel Fleet of Mantrin lorded over the entire south of Grand: the vast seas extending thousands of miles to the southeast and southwest of Sirania.
In their pride, drunk with power, the sea-lords burdened the subjugated nations with high taxes, and great riches kept flowing to the two small islands. Cities of stone, cement and steel were built, towers of glass erected and there were roads paved with artificial opal. After a time, however, Gandhara, Sirania and the Southern Kingdom lost their patience and eventually, Mantrin was defeated in a ten-year maritime war. And yet, not even during the conflict did the others discover the fundamental secret of the Mantrinian technology, and so Kira Samudran, the Great Ocean, remained a dangerous place long after the war due to the wandering scatters of the Mantrinian fleet; these ships had turned into pirates and transformed their secret naval bases into rovers’ dens. It is said they had a secret contract with Mantrin, giving up a part of their “profit” to finance the renewal of the destroyed archipelago.
Nowadays, after a hundred years of the Gandharian protectorate, the archipelago is once again free. The mages carry on with their explorations, studying the essence of matter, re-discovering the teaching lost in the years of war. Cities flourish in peace, ships sail the Ocean. However, one will no longer spot the famous Steel Ships as Gandhara and Sirania have demanded their construction be stopped.
The centre of the more northern of the islands is hilly land, partly overgrown with tall grass and scarce Antaratian birch, partly sporting white-grey rocks, jutting with seeming randomness towards the sky in odd shapes as if swayed by the wind.
In the heart of these highlands looms the Grey Tower; it has stood there since the ancient times and was not built by human hands. Its surroundings are considered sacred and no one dwells there for long. However, beyond a certain invisible boundary, squat grey turrets suddenly spring from the ground as if they were mushrooms bred by the spores of the central Tower, creations of the ancient Mages from the time of the Azharian Arrival.
For Vaktar is a far quieter and more pensive place than Mantrin, whose life, resounding with the work of multiple manufactories and laboratories, brims with secular pleasures. Since the beginning, Vaktar has been the heart of the Order of the Mantrian Mages and home to the greatest library and study facility built for their use. In the time of its greatest expansion when the island magic was flourishing, the prestige of the local university town of Zangena even surpassed the fame of Sairis.
From time to time, it is said, a mage will feel strangely drawn to the Grey Tower and so he wanders through the highlands, inching ever closer, until one day he finds himself standing at the stone door in the Tower’s base, and they open. Few of those who enter ever return to the people on this side of the world.
The bigger of the islands is also more densely populated. Its numerous port-towns teem with bustling life and constant growth. The central mountain ridge isn’t overly high but its slopes are very steep; however, most of the island rises only minimally above the warm surface of the Southern sea. The windy highlands of Vaktar are still relatively cold but Mantrin’s climate is already very warm and humid.
Before the expansion of civilization, the island was covered with dense woods with abundant flora but nowadays, most of its usable surface is flooded with cities, villages and fields both great and small. Owing to the inventions of the Mages, the fields are very intensively cultivated and the crops they yield are sufficient to sustain more people than in other countries.
Mantrin’s culture is indeed strange, mainly due to the aforementioned inventions, which have had the most altering effect on the face of the land. The high tenement buildings in the cities, the functional architecture, the manufactories and smoking laboratories – these are the first impressions a foreign gets of the city. Next he is struck with awe upon seeing the straight, safe and exceptionally beautiful roads made of artificial opal and the glass buildings of the wealthy, dancing with all colours in the light of the setting sun.
Identically to the teachings of the Mages, the Mantrinian culture is outward-oriented: dozens of great harbours are either the starting point or the final destination for thousands of ships sailing the length and breadth of the world oceans, trading, warring, discovering or serving as mobile dwellings. The city is constantly flooded by news of both practical and informing kind.
A hundred years ago, the island suffered a terrible defeat. Now it has finally recovered and once again regained full control over its bearings. Its glass towers have are once more been erected, the country is riddled with opal roads, the chimneys of the manufactories are billowing smoking again. Who can tell where this country is going and whether the fate of Grand does not in some way lie in its hands…
The ancient Mantrinian word “mage” used to designate a “man who has become powerful through knowledge”. Before the time of the great expanse and flourishing of the island culture and the conquest of the Southern Ocean by the Steel Fleet, the word was practically unknown. Only learned individuals knew it is a term for a wizard from the archipelago. Then the Mages became the main instigators of the technological dominance of Mantrin over its neighbours as well as the principal bearers of its culture. Their star burned bright indeed: with great agility, they kept absorbing the knowledge of every neighbouring nation, enriching it with their own magic philosophy to such an extent it became attractive to many sorcerers and even a great number of gifted beings previously uninterested in “academic” magic of the time, which they considered too mystical and insufficiently exact. The Zangen School in Vaktar was filling with students; the Mages were suddenly everywhere, able to take on tasks previously carried out by their wizardly predecessors and to comply with many other obligations brought about by the archipelagic culture.
The reaction was not long in coming. For many decades, the Mages schooled and educated in Zangena had lead the way in all wizardly subjects; their popularity kept growing so that Vaktar became known as the “Island of Wizards”, and the word “mage” became an equivalent for an expert on the hidden things and laws of the world. Eventually, however, there was retaliation. The great masters of Sairis and the Maghavans in Gandhara had assimilated the new knowledge brought by the Mages, implementing it into their own teachings. Then, once ready, they attacked the archipelagic realm and defeated it. The Mages, who by that time were by far no longer of uniquely Mantrinian origin, publically declared their neutrality, thus managing to protect their schools and, in fact, the majority of the Vaktar Island, against the cataclysm of war. However, their prominent position in the world of wizardry was never restored. The only remaining testimony of their lost glory is the word “mage”, which since the times of their great power, have been preserved as a general term for a magician.
In what, therefore, lies the uniqueness of the archipelagic Mages? Rather than looking inward, they turn towards the external, exploring nature and its laws, perhaps even those bordering on “miracles”. In exceptional cases, rather than focusing on the functionality of things, they focus on the mental or spiritual part of beings, the elements forming the reality, though their approach is different to that of the Sairis masters. They are not afraid to use complex machines and to analyse the properties of matter under extreme conditions.
As for their appearance, their conservativeness is somewhat in contrast with their daring research. The Mantrinian Mages adhere strictly to the old tradition of clothing, more or less practising the very same style as centuries ago when they first arrived at the island’s shores as the descendants of the Maghavans. Hence the compulsory parts of their apparel include armour, a sword, a face mask, a helmet, a cloak, and a staff: all parts of the traditional Maghavan equipment. Nevertheless, over the centuries passed, the style has undergone certain changes. Oftentimes, the armour, as well as the sword, is drastically lightened, so much so it almost becomes useless. Even those individuals whose gear is still fully functional have long abandoned the scale-like armour of their ancestors, instead preferring a modern, technologically more advanced version of it. The technologically-oriented Mages often find pleasure in constant enhancing of their equipment: before you know it, their swords are charged with electricity; their staffs deliver thunder strikes (with a great deal of sulphuric smell, of course) and so on and so forth. It is almost an unwritten rule that the more “miraculous” the sword, the less adept its bearer. Naturally, the deadliest mages are the inconspicuous old men in faded armour.
Sirgon is the capital of the realm. It is a city of grand boulevards, generous construction plans, well-kept orchards and groves; a city of great palaces, many-pillared temples and shiningly white stone. Its wide tidy streets are paved with perfectly straight mosaics and planted with alleys of trees while its squares boast an array of pillars, monuments to the victory of the Imperial Army, set among fountains and artificial waterfalls.
The squares are abundantly visited by flocks of birds: places closest to the harbour are constantly besieged by sea-gulls, further from the water there are pigeons and sparrows. Apart from birds, the squares equally teem with people. The citizens of the city do not come here for food or entertainment but for politics; they gather around decorated tribunes, surrounded by high colonnades, representing the centres of power.
Here, people can choose their representatives, complain about their actions or remove them from the office. Rough rhetoric fights between candidates are daily bread for the citizens, who amid the zealous voting momentarily forget their hardships.
Sirgon is the seat of the Central Government, Supreme Court, Military Headquarters and many other fundamental pillars of power of the Siranian Empire. The splendid palaces and manors audaciously compete with the towering shrines and temples of the gods.
In all its massiveness, the City’s architecture is simple and elegant. Its basic feature is the slender pillar: there are endless rows of them lining the tribunes or supporting the roofs of temples, palaces and aqueducts. Their bases are crafted as intricate roots, the capitals as treetops, so anyone strolling past gets is struck by an impression of walking through a shiningly white forest.
From the ornate centre of the city, wide boulevards run like fellies on a wheel, lined with spectacular tenement houses. All buildings are made of white marble, their roofs are bluish metal.
The city consists of four quarters:
The Governmental Quarter – with temples, palaces and houses of the aristocracy
The Citizen Quarter – with tenement houses
The Harbour Quarter – a part of town riddled with a labyrinth of canals navigated by boats; despite the general Siranian cleanliness, the harbour is a rather dirty place, and a very perilous one. Sairis is the greatest port of the Southern Ocean and as such bears witness to a great number of commercial transactions, many of which are not at all honourable…
The Abandoned Quarter – an area of houses without the city; these houses are almost as spectacular as those in the Citizen Quarter but they are abandoned and have generally gone into disrepair. They are the silent witnesses of the more populous times of the Empire. The government sees to it the buildings don’t collapse but opposes the propositions to move in the non-Siranian population…
CÍSAŘ: Božský císař je duchovní entitou, která už dávno odložila lidské tělo a oděla se do krystalů. Císař proto obývá veškeré krystaly na území říše, ony jsou jeho tělem. Skrze ně je přítomen a skrze ně vnímá. Čím více je onen krystal čistý, pevný a neměnný, tím více je císařova essence přítomna. Proto jsou veškeré drahé kameny (s výjimkou jantaru, perel a jiných nekrystalických) posvátné, nejsou předmětem obchodu, ale náboženské úcty. Říká se, že když má někdo doma dostatečně čistý krystal, je pod ochranou samotného císaře. Kdo zas vyslovuje své přání s rukou na kameni, tomu bude dozajista splněno.
Císař obývá pouze klenoty na území své říše. Zvenku přinesený kámen mu musí být teprve zasvěcen, aby jej mohl prostoupit a naopak odnášený kámen musí být opatrně zbaven božské přítomnosti.
Kdo odnese kámen z říše bez patřičných obřadů, škodí siranijskému bohu-císaři a bude krutě ztrestán.
Drahé kameny nesmí být krájeny, drceny, ani nešetrně upravovány.
Skrze svou podobu může císař k lidem promlouvat. Obyčejný člověk většinou vnímá jen pocity, ale hlas svého vládce neslyší. Ten je schopna vnímat Císařovna a zvláštní skupina Naslouchajících.
CÍSAŘOVNA: Nejvyšší lidský vládce říše. Speciálně vybraná žena se schopností slyšet Císařovu vůli a sdílet s ním vládu. Císařovna slyší Císařovu vůli a je schopna se s ním radit.
Obvykle se rozhoduje sama, nebo s pomocí svých ministrů, ale ve věcech skutečně důležitých je vždy poslušna svého vládce (to zajišťují Naslouchající). Během vlády se mezi Císařovnou a Císařem vytváří zvláštní pouto, které by mohlo být nazváno duchovní láskou. Císařovna žije prakticky v celibátu a je svými lidmi ctěna jako svatá bytost. Z kontaktu s božským vládcem sama během let moudří a stává se osvícenou. Dožívá se obvyklého lidského věku a když zemře, odchází ke svému bohu-vládci-manželu na nebesa mezi krystaly hvězd. V sirgonské Zlaté pyramidě jsou sochy všech předchozích Císařoven a je jim vzdávána úcta jako předkům a bohyním.
NASLOUCHAJÍCÍ: Zvláštní privilegovaná skupina požívajících mnohých výhod (nedotknutelní, mimo zákony, mimo peníze). Jsou cvičeni a vychováváni od malička a vybráni ze zvláště senzibilních dětí. Tito mohou slyšet Císařovu vůli stejně dobře jako Císařovna. Narozdíl od ní je jim však zapovězeno ji vyslovit. Slouží pouze jako svědkové, že Císařovna vládcovu vůli vykládá správně a že ji tlumočí bez zkrácení či překroucení. Jejich jediným úkolem je tedy být přítomen na sněmech a naslouchat řečnícím lidem i slovům Císaře a
vyslovit čarovné “awtas-nai afait”, což znamená v archaické siranijštině “toto On neříká”, ve chvíli, kdy se rozhodnutí odchyluje od vůle nebes.
Lidé mají Naslouchající ve veliké úctě, neboť jednají se samotným bohem a stále slyší jeho mnohohlasou řeč. I oni, stejně jako Císařovna, jsou tou stálou blízkostí bohu nenávratně poznamenáni. Mnozí se stávají moudřejšími, někteří ale lhostejní, někteří se stávají básníky a jiní zas setrvávají v hlubokém zadumání a meditaci a nechtějí se již míchat do světské politiky.
MINISTŘI: Tvoří Velkou radu Siranie. Jsou v ní zástupci městských států, společenských stavů a rádci Císařovny. Po vzoru sairisských magických škol Nantu je jich dvacet jedna.
2. Vládce/zástupce Sairis (Valmos)
3. Vládce/zástupce Adamantu (Adamas)
4. Vládce/zástupce Arkagantu
5. Vládce/zástupce Asvittary
6. Starosta Siru
7. Starosta Sirgonu
8. Nejvyšší Velekněz
9. Bílý Vezír, Velmistr (hlava bílých mágů)
10. Černý Vezír, Arcimág (hlava černých čarodějů)
11. Maghavan Coris (2.p. /bez/ Corinty)
12. Ministr vojenství
13. Ministr obchodu a financí
14. Ministr zahraničí
15. Ministr spravedlnosti
16. Ministr kultury a stavitelství
17. Ministr vzdělání a morálky
18. Ministr informací (tajní)
19. Nejvyšší soudce
20. Zástupce cechů