The most diverse of all the races, humans come in many forms and cultures. They have also proven themselves the most industrious race, and this has afforded them the ability to survive where others might perish. Humans were the first race to develop the magical arts and the greatest mages of the world are usually human. Some of the most influential civilizations in the world today are governed by this gregarious race. Humans live to an average of 80 years.
The most abundant type of human, the term “Aeryn” is a catch-all term used to identify any human who does not appear to resemble any of the other four sub-races. The largest and most powerful kingdoms in the Sanctuary are peopled by Aeryns. They have a penchant for developing large, civilized societies and can be found in just about any corner of the world.
Characters of the Aeryn sub-race look like just about anyone you could picture walking on the street. They have no restrictions of costuming or make-up.
Hailing from the distant deserts of the south, the Azerhym have a knack for survival that never ceases to amaze their fellows. By practicing an intricate system of rites and customs – most built around the concept of ‘water as life’ – the Azerhym thrive where others fail. More than any other race, the Azerhym have come to accept the loss of their former lands. It is their belief that their new home in the deserts of Artanna is the nothing less than the first paradise of the gods, and that the great “Watcher in the Stars” personally led them to it. Of all the human races, the Azerhym are the most tolerant of the Djinn – whose kingdom of Ashendar includes their small desert home. Innately superstitious, Azerhym often follow priestly pursuits which many are Monks, but they are just as likely to be of any profession.
Many Azerhym are Nomadic and trade goods with one another and other merchants who would travel to the border of the Majrabad. Before their leader,the Grand Kaliph of Sand and Star, became the Mahavatra of Poverty he was a ruthless Kaliphate that lead a mighty group of raiders. Most of the Azerhym have given up this path, but groups of Raiders still traverse the desert.
There are Azerhym villages and more permanent adobe homes near any Oasis in the desert. These Oasis are considered sacred for the life-giving water that it offers, and the fonts that are present in each one. There is usually a water druid that watches over the Oasis, and they are considered sacred even to even the most cut-throat raider. The waters are usually blessed and have the same properties as the sacred Druid Groves.
The Azerhym Druids of Leviathan usually pass their teachings down through their family and when the next Watcher is baptized they adorn their mouths and lower chin with blue tattoos.
The Haven of Al-Shedom
The Haven of Al-Shedom lies deep in the deserts of the Majrabad, over the remains of what is rumored to be a now empty Vault of Merilon. Once upon a time, Jashir ibn Rashiid, the self-proclaimed Grand Kaliph of Star and Sand ruled from Al-Shedom, terrorizing the Refuge communities of the Azerhym for long years. A legacy of pillaging and treasure hunting came crashing down when Rashiid was visited by Aravaine who awakened the desert pirate as the Mahavatra of Poverty. In short order the Vaults of Al-Shedom were emptied and their contents returned to the refuge communities from which they had been plundered.
The Haven itself is one of the most highly revered in the faith for many of the Azerhym believe that Cho-Ren is the Speaker of Stars the God-Sage who influenced many chapters in their history. His return now in the midst of the Age of Strife has united the kaliphate as never before and many Azerhym have answered the call of the god. While still difficult to reach, the Haven of Al-Shedom is the most readily accessed of all the Havens. The power of Cho-Ren in this place is unquestioned and the Haven has quickly grown into the principle holding of the faith. In this distant oasis, monks train tirelessly under the thousand stars of Cho-Ren.
These people dress in flowing clothing of drab colors. They will always cover their heads with wraps or scarves to protect their skin from the burning sun and sand. These head coverings can be adorned with various beads and pendants.
Azerhym can have black kohl around their eyes to protect from the glare of the sun. Some women also adorn themselves with henna, and simple facial tattoos.
Considered barbarians by some, the Erlish originally hail from the Northern continent of Erridor. Strong and hardy, the Erlish have long been a warlike people, and their ships remain the fastest and most lethal in the world. Their warriors are beyond compare. The Erlish tend to shun large cities and prefer to live in smaller communal villages. Despite their reputation as barbarians, the Erlish are actually very cunning and intelligent. Aggressive and quick to latch onto a single solution, they have a reputation for stubbornness, pride, and fierce (if slow) loyalties.
It is generally believed that the Erlish are the oldest race of Men. All other humans – be they Balladeer, Imperial, Azerhym or Aeryn, are descended from this ancient people. While they are often dismissed as little more than lack witted barbarians, they are a fiercely clever and adaptive people, steeped in the values of tradition and honor. Perhaps more than any other, the Erlish people have suffered greatly in the days since the Scourge. For they have lost their homeland not once – but twice…
The race originated on the northern continent of Erridor, which during the Age of Might was known as Erlund or Erland. The Sylvans who shared the continent referred to its human inhabitants as Erls until the more formal term “Erlish” was conceived by the Aeryns almost a thousand years later. Sylvan records tell us that the Erlish were the first humans ever approached by elves and the history of these two races is tightly interwoven. Erlish oral tradition speaks very highly of immortal “high” elves who guard the world at the behest of the Dragon. Countless myths involve the Sylvans, where they feature as guardians and sages who often favor mighty Erlish warriors with shining weapons forged in the otherworld. This ancient respect carries on even today, and these two races share an unexpected and deeply rooted appreciation for one another. Over the course of their long history, the Erlish have faced down many foes and survived all the stronger. Nowhere is this more evident than during the plight of the Feral Wars, a conflict that struck the Erlish much harder than perhaps any other race. It was from the Erlish that ten of the first twelve Warden Jarls were recruited by Kernos, the Hunter. Each brought with them one totem spirit – a servitor to the great animal lords. When the threat of the Changers abated, the twelve Jarls founded the nation of Erlheim, the greatest Erlish kingdom to ever have existed. Long ago lost to the Scourge, Erlheim was comprised of twelve cities, one for each Jarl. While none could match any modern city for size and grandeur – each was a strong and thriving center for Erlish culture. The citizens of the different cities and their ruling districts were collectively referred to as clans, and each clan named itself after the servitor totem that its Jarl patronized during the Feral Wars.
The twelve original Erlish Clans were:
- Clan of the Red Hawk
- Clan of the Thunder Owl
- Clan of the Raven
- Clan of the Mountain Eagle
- Clan of the Night Adder
- Clan of the Scorpion
- Clan of the Wasp
- Clan of the Wolf Spider
- Clan of the Kodiak
- Clan of the Jackal
- Clan of the Badger
- Clan of the Shadow Fox
Sadly, only half of these clans survive today. The Clans of the Shadow Fox, Jackal, Scorpion, Wasp, Thunder Owl, and Red Hawk have all been lost. While some were destroyed during the fall of Erlheim, the clans of the Shadow Fox, Jackal, and Scorpion were victims of the Changers. The Changer races overwhelmed the entire populations of all three clans, forcing them to become Changers themselves. Recently these three clans have re-emerged. They played a pivotal role in the recent Erlegedd, the War of Erls.
The Surviving Clans
The clan of Harraman, Mountain Eagle has long been considered the official ruling clan of the Erlish. Although equal station is given to all the Jarls in the council, it is often the Jarl of Mountain Eagle who is looked to in order to settle disputes or resolve stalemates. Mountain Eagle holds two votes on the council one for the Jarl and one for Harraman. The clan has long watched over Harraman Tor.
After the War of the Erls many of the original bloodline of the Badger Clan was lost. Many Erlish children were orphaned during this bloody war, and they have been adopted into the clan to bolster their numbers. They have been considered the most adaptable and welcoming.
Of the six surviving clans, all but one has migrated into the plains of Tirin Usil in Artanna. The Clan of the Kodiak remains secluded a two years journey north, on the thin swath of Erridor that remains protected by the Obelisk of Nature. Their clan defending the only strip of land that has never fallen to the demons and hoarde that continue its onslaught day and night. Many have taken of the path of the Berserker taught by the God of Rage. They are the hardiest and strongest of the clans.
The Ravens have taken up residence where the Erlish Plains border Iargail to the West. Their clan made a second home in the nation of Prophecy and man Raven’s Watch. The Jarl has always been a strong woman. They have a long Martial tradition that has yielded some of the best archers among the Erlish. Many are also Eddar and continue to be some of the most brave and devout of their faith.
They are the most open to Shddar worship and the Arcane practices, which both paths are unwelcomed in the other clans. Though many Erlish keep their interaction with this clan to minimum at best it is said they are the keepers of the most ancient traditions and knowledge of the Erlish.
In the plains, the center of Erlish power is the beleaguered city of Harraman Tor. Founded by the renowned Jarl Harraman of Erlheim, the Tor was lost during the War of Erls, claimed by an unceasing storm of magic that lurks in its many quarters. The imperial magic was brought down and destroyed with the help of Iargalian citizens who were also capable of reconstructing the portal stones just outside the gates of the Tor.
The Erlish who have made the Plains their home regard the Tor as the last stronghold of their culture. Before the Tor was reclaimed the five clans would meet to hold tournaments and settle disputes in the Plains. Now they work tirelessly to restore the great city.
The chieftain of a clan is known as a Jarl and the five Jarls meet at least once a year at the Tor during what is known as the Great Moot. Only once in a long while does the Jarl of Kodiak make the two year journey from the far north to appear at the Tor, but still a seat is left open for him. One can never be sure if this will be the year that Kodiak rejoins its southern kinsmen.
It is rumored that a new clan has been created among the Erlish. But its exact nature is not yet clearly understood….
It is difficult to adequately describe all the aspects of a people as ancient as the Erlish. Each clan is a variation on a theme and it would take a lengthy tome indeed to describe the subtle cultural norms of each distinct clan. However, there are a few things that most Erlish have in common. It was from the elves that the Elrish learned the religion of the Eddar, and the pantheon of Light has played been an integral role in their culture ever since. Erlish are steeped in the myths and traditions of the Eddar, and most of the terminology associated with the gods is derived from their native language. The major Eddar deities are honored by the Erlish and the worship of each is used to define ones role in Erlish society. Athos is revered as the Sky-King. Those who follow his path are honored as Thanes and they serve to protect the clan from its enemies. Evora is the Shield Maiden and her almost exclusively female Emissaries are known as the Valkryre, renowned for their ability to serve the clan through healing prayer. Even though she is no longer a part of the Eddar, the Dragon nonetheless retains a very well respected place in Erlish society. The Erlish revere the Dragon, and Kernos the Hunter, for allowing their people to learn the totem magic of the animal lords.
So strong is the Erlish attachment to the Eddar, that the very idea of an Erlish Disciple is sometimes seen as a contradiction in terms. Historically, only a few clans have ever fully embraced the Sh’ddar and these have won the enmity of the race as a whole – often featuring as the major antagonist in many of the great Erlish sagas. Only Morander seems to have won himself a place of grudging respect among the Erlish, who believe that the War God cursed their race long ago with the disease of frenzy and blood rage. The reason behind the Curse has been forgotten, but the Erlish say that it was laid in payment of some great debt of honor that the Erlish must forever pay to the War God. The other Sh’ddar gods are generally reviled. Xyric defies intrinsic nature of the Erlish as protectors of the wilderness and life. Syrilith is known as the Night Maiden and her quest to devour the sun and envelop all the world in darkness is a constant theme in Erlish tales. However, since the retreat to Artanna and the rise of the Covenant, the number of Erlish Disciples – while still small – is growing
But greater in number than priests or wardens are the Erlish Armsmen. Highly prized as mercenaries, Erlish Armsmen are renowned for their battle prowess. A history of living off the land in extreme conditions has helped produce a race that is hardy and strong, making them natural warriors. All over Artanna, Arenas great and small benefit from the notoriety gained through the prowess of its Erlish members. The idea of Erlish as “barbarians” is one that is slowly being rewritten as contact with these people increases. However, certain cultural norms seem to bolster the false opinion that the Erlish are incapable of becoming “civilized.” They have had no great cities for a many long years. Their smiths work primarily with bronze or iron, steel coming only from trade with other races. A long warden tradition has produced excellent trappers and furriers and Erlish leatherwork is some of the best in the world.
The elaborate systems of government used by most other races are unknown to them. Laws are simple and direct. There are only three types of punishment in Erlish society: Exile, Death, and Seizure. The written word is an uncommon gift kept by the Shamans and Wardens. Magic is viewed with superstition and doubt. Commerce is conducted largely through barter. They have no system of coin (though those who travel outside of Erlish lands soon learn to overcome this deficiency). Wealth is dictated by land, family, and – the greatest prize of the plains – horses. Over-cleanliness is indicative of easy living, a disgraceful and dishonorable state. Despite these cultural norms, the true civility of the Erlish shines through to any who spend the time to get to know these fascinating people. Erlish have a deep respect for personal property. Thieves are the lowest form of life, and those convicted of thievery are often subject to the harshest punishment of them all: Exile.
Erlish do not claim friends easily, but those few who they choose to befriend are regarded as family. There are no acquaintances among the Erlish. Every person on Aeryn is considered to be family, stranger or enemy. Hard work and perseverance are lauded – laziness and easy living are scoffed. A warm fire, abundant food and drink, a brave tale and friends to hear them told are the greatest treasures in the entire world.
“I am told that we are conquerors, but I say that we are physicians.
Physicians who must forever fight the disease of ignorance and barbarism.
I say that we are diplomats who must forever argue the virtues of reason and order.
I say that we are leaders who must forever guide those who have gone astray…”
-Marcus Aleris, Vraeus of Imperia
The nation of Imperia is long gone, but its people have come to inhabit many corners of Artanna. Despite their actual wealth, all Imperials possess the fine tastes of the most highborn aristocrat. Viewed by many as downright arrogant, Imperials nonetheless prove time and again the true mettle of their bright lineage. Imperials tend to shy away from melee professions – and only a handful take on clerical endeavors. Imperials truly shine when wielding the powers of magic, and many of the greatest wizards have Imperial blood in their veins.
Imperials will dress in fine clothing, scholarly and formal. Men as well as women will wear robes at all times.
Among humans, there are few who exhibit the patience, subtlety, and refinement of Imperials. They are the pinnacle of noblesse oblige, everyone a member of an unofficial monarchy that has endured for generations.
Imperials are descended from a stock of humans that migrated into the Isles of Kerridas at some point during the Age of Might. Why they went to Kerridas is unclear, but many believe that it was in pursuit of arcane power that could only be found on the Isles. The natural stability and temperate climate of the Isles provided an ideal location to pursue the time honored art of nation building. From their capital of Imperia, these humans founded an Empire that was previously unknown in Artanna that at its height was rivaled only by the Virilian Empire in the East.
Expansion of the Empire and the righteous spread of Imperial civilization has always been a driving force for Imperials. Having laid a solid claim over the Isles of Kerridas, Imperia moved out over the Talmoran Channel into the vast lands of Artanna. These were lands long held by Gargoyles and Drow. Human presence on the continent was small, and most of the southern coast was inhabited only by small rag-tag communities of Aeryns, Erlish, and the occasional Khunari. Skirting the Maj in their long ships, the Imperials established an outpost on what is today known as the Isle of Tharsis. From here, they staged their war on the southern half of Artanna, beginning in Ashendar and sweeping easily west into modern day Valan-Tir. Under the leadership of Vraeus Marcus Aleris, Imperia enjoyed success and prosperity. The Empire grew through diplomacy more than it did through war, and many smaller nations willingly joined with the Empire in order to benefit from its riches.
But the true secret of Imperia’s success was its mastery over the arts of Ritualism. A virtual arsenal of magically imbued weapons and talismans supplied Imperial armies with power unseen since the days of the Magistraad. These artifacts are still found scattered throughout Artanna – remnants of the ages of conquest.
At its height, the Empire was so vast that a second capital was built. Par Xanthys was a twin to Imperia in every way and from the Second City, the Empire reached out even further. With the south firmly under control, Imperia began to push northward, where they met their greatest resistance against the Drow. The days of conflict between these two peoples is legendary in Artanna. Aided by ritualist magics unseen in the world, the Sphinx of Imperia made devastating advances against Cirith Valledor, eventually hemming the Drow within the forests of Weir Wood.
While many expeditions were made into the far north, Imperia never made any significant advances against Brel Durin. They did, however, build the Enders Wall, which defined the northern border of Imperial territory. It is believed that – if given the chance – Imperia would surely have struck out against Brel Durin from the Enders Wall. However, the world beyond Artanna was in motion.
The Scourge had begun.
Content to bide its time, Imperia did little against the approaching hoarde, and in fact, used the Scourge to its own advantage. When the Sylvans of Cirith Toril sent word to the Drow that the White Elm was besieged, the Underelves went at once to the aid of their brethren. A flotilla of Drow ships departed Artanna bound for the beleaguered Sylvans. Imperia used this time of weakness to strike Cirith Valledor itself. In a crippling attack, Imperia decimated the outlying villages of Cirith Valledor, though they never marched into the city itself. Whenword of the attack reached the Drow armies, the flotilla was turned around. Striking shore at the southern edge of Artanna, the Drow sacked Par Xanthys, sending it to flames. For almost a full season, the Drow burned and tortured Par Xanthys, leaving nothing but rubble and ruin. Rumors speculate that portions of Par Xanthys survived the massacre – ripped into the astral by Imperial Ritualists to protect them from the Drow. While mostly unconfirmed, a few seemingly valid reports claim to have actually seen the ghostly spires of Par Xanthys standing on misty shores…
The fall of Par Xanthys combined with the steady advance of the Scourge and sent ripples through the Empire. The city of Imperia called a sweeping retreat, ordering all loyal servants of the Empire to return to the capital in Kerridas. In less than a decade, all Imperial interests had retreated to the Isle which then closed itself to the rest of the world. Fortunately for Imperia, the Isle was protected by the Sanctuary of the Gods, and the Scourge never came to grapple the Sphinx.
All contact with Imperia was lost. Those Imperial families who remained in Artanna were never welcomed to return to the Isle. But these exiled Imperials found a new role as they lent their knowledge of Artanna to the thousands of refugees who answered the Final Retreat. It is widely held that without the assistance of Imperials, civilization as it is known in Artanna would never have developed as fast as it did. Within a century, the mighty states of Valan-Tir and Ashendar had been forged by the refugees of a war torn world – a feat that would not have been possible without the assistance of the native Imperials.
Refined and cultured, Imperials fiercely defend the virtues of what is to them the single greatest invention of mortals: civilization. The more developed the civilization, the closer it is to fulfilling the true destiny of all mortals. Those who defy the trappings of the civilized world are denying their own birthright, and are doomed to stagnation or extinction. In their pursuit of civilization, Imperials have crafted one of the most vibrant cultures on Aeryn. Imperial art and literature is unsurpassed in the modern world. Their architectural prowess is equally impressive, and just about every human city uses principles set down by Imperial builders long ago. Imperials are also renowned for their governing systems. The idea of a democratically elected Senate was their invention, a cue that has since won favor amongst many human settlements throughout Artanna. The modern division of guilds also knew its origins in Imperia. Ironically, even the concept of an Arena as a focal point for a town militia was first proposed by Imperia. Imperials also seem to share a love for the dramatic, and the theaters of Imperia are said to be always well attended
Imperials are ruled by an Emperor known as a Vraeus. The role of Vraeus is monarchial, that is Vraeii are born to a ruling family and are not elected. At the time of its closing, the Imperial ruler was the boy Vraeus Jainen Aleris. It is not known who the current Vraeus is – or if there is even one at all.
The Light of the West, Valan-Tir was built upon the ruins of the old Imperial lands of Travaine. Off the southern tip of Valan-Tir – easily seen from the capital city of Liege – stands the great Obelisk of Truth. The Obelisk stands in the very center of the channel between Artanna and the southern hinterland.
Because of its proximity to the southern hinterland, Valan-Tir was the first area settled by those fleeing the demon hoarde. As such it is also perhaps the most watchful of the Enemy. The two guardian towers of Bahadarath are the tallest mortal made structures in Artanna. They stand perpetually manned and maintain an unwavering vigil over the channel and the hinterland beyond.
Liege is the capital of Valan-Tir. Its ruling monarchy is as old as the kingdom itself. The former ruler of Valan Tir – King Strephon Antonedes II ruled with wisdom and strength for almost eighty years before his death in the year 507. Sovereignty passed to his second son Strephon Antonedes III who took up his fathers seat in Liege.
Brother of the King, Edric Antonedes d’Britaine is the Lord Champion of the Crusaders. Like all of three of the Emissary faiths, the Knights have a strong presence in Valan-Tir. The holy city of Archum Valoris is their primary stronghold in the Sanctuary. The knighthood has made strong inroads with local arenas and together crusaders and armsmen patrol borders and maintain the most defensible system of walls and towers of any kingdom in the Sanctuary. Some of the most important shrines to the Goddess Evora are in Valan-Tir including the Shrine of Hope, believed to be the deathplace of Dianwen, Evora’s mortal avatar. While the power of the Eddar in Valan-Tir is unquestioned, there has in recent years been a small – but very real – increase in the followers of the Sh’ddar. This has much to do with the Covenant Accords which were penned and enacted by the Old King. The Accords were drafted in honor of the Covenant of the Gods and allowed the first Citadels of the Sh’ddar to be built in Valan-Tir. Disciples are strictly monitored and their numbers remain small. However, the wisdom of the Accords is still a subject that is hotly debated. Recently a Separatist movement has appeared in Valan-Tir. Separatists openly condemn the Covenant Accords and have made many secret inroads throughout the Kingdom of Light. Their plans to create a kingdom free of the Sh’ddar culminated in a recent attempt to seize the fledgling nation of Iargail. While this effort was eventually routed, the influence of the Separatist movement remains a strong – if submerged – undercurrent to Valan-Tiran politics.
Many races are drawn to the stability and generous spirit of Valan-Tir. Humans of all sub-races are its primary inhabitants, followed closely by Sylvans and Khunari. Valan-Tir is broken up into the provinces of Britaine, Locharron, Kalthea, Tourval, and Devon.
The Balladeer are the wandering refugees of Aeryn. They are also the newest race of humans in the world. The Balladeer began when the demons swept over three quarters of the world – forcing those who survived to band together in wandering troupes for protection. Over time, these bands grew larger, eventually joining together under the banner of Angelo Balladeer, the infamous “Dirty Angelo.” The Balladeer follow a unique set of traditions and rules and often feel their loyalty to this “code” should exceed all others. Because they come from so many different heritages, no two Balladeer are exactly alike – though a penchant for loud colors, good music, and rich spirits, seems to be a common thread.
Balladeer will wear bright clothing and bells.