Once, Ember was the fifth of the Patterns, home to a civilization inside Amber's sun ruled by Queen Shayla. Then Skippy (aka the Ravager Beast) the Logrus Squid, ate it in his never ending quest to eat all Fire Patterns in the year 495 EY. Now, in the year 1292 AY, Queen Corrine redrew the Fire Pattern using the Demi-Jewel of Fire, and restored the land, now reshaped to combine elements of her past and Ember's past. Five hundred and thirty years have passed in the last few weeks of Amber time, and the Kingdom of Ember is reborn...
Arriving in Ember:
Fire creatures can enter Ember by a wide variety of routes, but anyone else must enter through the Fire Highway which leads from Yig to Ember, or else burn up and perish. Those who enter by this route become protected from Ember's flames and can survive within City and Castle.
Mt. Vesuvius and "The Spine of Ember"
The central mountain range of Ember, splitting the country in two and making direct passage from north to south impossible unless you go through the city. Mt. Vesuvius is the tallest of the mountains in the range, but they do not decrease overmuch as they proceed westward.
Two mountain ranges join with the Vesuvius range (the "Spine of Ember") in the west, at the border of Ember proper -- the nothernmost is the Agmen Borega, the southmost is the Malterian. The trade city/guard post of Nanza is the westmost of Ember cities, overlooking the Nanza Pass which allows travel to the Great Western Desert and the city of Dah Rien, which in turn allows travel to the Kingdom of Flaim via Pyricorn Thread. The Nanza Pass also allows travel to the southern city of Al-Beth, which is the starting point of the Pyricorn Thread that leads to Metallicana.
Castle Ember is a heavily stylized version of Castle Amber, with a more moroccan/arabic/french flair to it than Castle Amber's own Medieval Europe construction. However, the general layout of the place is the same, and it is not that easy to get lost in if you're a native of Amber -- most of the time. Almost all rooms and hallways in the castle (including those places you wouldn't expect, like cells), are kept lit 24 hours a 'day'.
Notable features of Castle Ember include:
The Guest and Ambassadorial suites, as well as the top two floors of the castle (the Royal Suites), have magical automated shutters. They emulate a regular day/night cycle in Amber for those guests and visitors who are not adapted to Ember's 24-hour light.
There is no Rose Duelling Arena in Castle Ember. After Corrine's last two experiences with the Arena in Amber, before the reconstruction of Ember, her subconcious decided that it'd had QUITE enough of that business, thank you.
The City of Ember/ Ember Port
There is less of a historical division between the two halves of the City At The Heart Of The Sun as there are in Amber proper, due to many efforts over the centuries to revise the city layout to make it more amenable to their Queen's vision and grand design. They haven't been fully -successful-, but it's a good start, and there are many public gathering areas, with fountains and native plantlife. The overall feel of the city is what would happen if Amber City proper was crossed with Floristica of El Hazard, Turn of the Century France, and Morroco.
Notable landmarks include:
The Desert of Darah is a vast desert, vaster than any man can fathom, dotted with Oasis-Cities that allow for settlement, trade, and transporation to outlying Lava Circle kingdoms and Shadow. A wide river of plasma cuts through it, proceeding from west to east, fed by numerous fountains in the Agmen Borega and the vast expanse of the bubbling Darah Caldera. It is heavily irrigated along its banks to provide nourishment for the fire plants and animals that grow there, and therefore is as close to an "Agricultural Heartland" as one is going to get in Ember.
The Desert's northernmost boundary is the As-Fashak mountain range. The Pyricorn threads pick up before most travelers reach them. The southermost boundary is The Spine of Ember, and the pass that leads to Ember City and Castle Ember. The westernmost boundary is the Agmen Borega mountain range, and the city of West Bridge, so named because of the giant chasm it traverses with an expertly engineered bridge. From West Bridge, one can reach Lunar by Pyricorn thread.
The oasis cities of the Desert of Darah are scattered across its expanse, and largely accessed by Darah City, situated about halfway along the Darah River proper. Other cities of note are Kar Lisele, which is the starting point for the Pyricorn thread to Agrabah, and Zarrest, starting point for the route to Khem.
The northeast city of Shal-Mar is the headquarters for the Aquamarine Fleet. The Pyricorn thread to Tartarus starts past the Shal-Mar islands.
Directly south of Ember City and the Spine of Ember is the great Fire-Forest of Ember, The Corona. It is watched over by Morgenstern and Pirotas and their rangers, as the Fire Highway cuts directly through it, heading for Ember City proper.
The Ara'Tsym Badlands
Largely unlivable, this spread of arrayos, canyons, fumaroles, hot lava springs, and badlands marks the southernmost border of Ember. The Fire Highway cuts through it to the southwest, paralleling the Malterian mountains. There are a few small settlements within the Badlands.
One such settlement is the City of Mists, so named due to the perpetual steam-fog that surrounds it due to the multiple hot springs that circle the city, purported to have miraculous healing properties. Due to this, and the fact that a Pyricorn Thread leads to the Lava Circle Shadow of Pueblo, The City Of Mists has expanded considerably.
Of special note is the city of Rence, north of the Badlands, along the coast of the plasma/lava sea that defines the southeast border of Ember. Situated in the city is Rence Spaceport, providing full maintenance and launch facilities for a variety of magical spacegoing craft. A launch from Rence is visible even from Ember City, and Rence launches a lot of ships, and frequently, the merchant and military vessels heading for the space-born Pyricorn threads.
South of Rence, still along the coast, is the headquarters of the Sapphire Fleet, Mistar. The Pyricorn thread to Sheol starts within its "waters".
The Pyricorn is Ember's Heraldric Beast, much akin to Amber's Unicorn, Rebma's Narwhal, and Tir-na Nog'th's Alicorn. In fact, the Pyricorn is a phoenixlike flaming alicorn. Worship/veneration of the Unicorn and the Pyricorn is split relativly equally between the populace of Ember, and many venerate both simultaneously. Besides, the Unicorn can appear wherever it wishes, when it wishes, and how it wishes, so why pick nits?
Also, like in Amber, Rebma, and Tir-na Nog'th, there are special routes known as the Pyricorn Threads, leading through Shadows of space and fire. They allow rapid transit between Shadows for those who can find them.
THE ORGANIZATION AND DEPOSITION OF THE ARMED FORCES OF EMBER
Forged in the fires of Ember, the armed forces pride themselves on their efficency and dedication to the crown. This doesn't mean there's not the occasional inter-service rivalry, but that's to be expected in any modern military organization. There are regular yearly competitions that allow them to blow off steam.
The Armed Forces themselves are divided into twelve master divisions, divided between the branches:
|Aquamarine||Bluegreen||Navy||The Plasma Fleet||150 ships of the line, each|
|Sapphire||Blue||Navy||The Lava Fleet||150 ships of the line, each|
|Diamond||Clear/Multicolor||Army||The City Militia/Trained Bands|
|Ruby||Red||Army||Royal Bodyguards + Castle Guard|
|Garnet||Red-purple||Army||Special (Engineers, Catapults, Ballistae, Mages, etc)|
|Obsidian||Black||Special Operations||Special Operations/Trump-Artifact Equipment|
|Onyx||Black||Space Forces||"Ryoko's Rangers"|
Technology levels for the majority of the armies are on par with Amber/Rebma/Golden Circle; armored cavalry for the ground forces, both melee with swords and ranged with bows and crossbows. A good number of mages are also found within the military. The "Naval" fleets are optimized for handling the unique operation conditions of Plasma and Lava, though research is ongoing to make them more amenable to water. The "Shadowslicer" spaceships of the Ember Space Forces are magic-powered, and therefore limited to magic-capable shadows.
A small portion of the military uses trump powered devices to allow them to emulate higher technology levels and to cope with changing conditions. (Tech/Magic crossbreeds are NOT usually used, due to the difficulties of reliably integrating both across Shadow. They'd have difficulties in Trump-barred shadows, but they're not likely to go there.) An example of this would be the trump-powered fast attack hovercraft.
Ember's Nobility and Officials:
Queen of Ember: Corrine I, Princess of Amber, Warden of Arden
Sister. Mother. Artist. Warrior. Princess. Queen.
Which of these terms best describes Corrine today?
None of them, and all of them at once.
Corrine has grown into her role as Queen of Ember, much as she did for Warden of Arden long ago -- wondering what the heck she DID to deserve it in the first place. Despite these doubts, she's become quite capable in her new duties, interacting with her staff and people to mobilize them and prepare them for the future conflict with Chaos and Embra. And even more surprisingly, she's LIKED for this -- she's given the people a new grand purpose, a focus for their efforts. She's not afraid to get her hands dirty in assisting them in doing so, either -- a good portion of the reorganization and trump-equipment outfitting is directly due to her efforts.
Corrine is also the "mother" to Gabrielle, the construct she built out of the Fire DemiJewel. Gabrielle is as much a part of her Family now as Juri and Hiko, and would be equally defended should she come to harm. Corrine's loyalties remain true to Amber, Juri, and Tylor, but Ember has been added to this as well. Fortunately, there is not as much conflict with this as to be expected yet, since Amber and Ember's spheres of influence do not intersect as drastically as Amber and Rebma's. She is the one who will be pushing for an Amber/Ember alliance, once the time is right when she returns to Amber proper.
Corrine's royal regalia looks much like Queen Anthy's or Queen Yuriko's, save color-themed in Red, Gold, and silver. She also disposes of the 'cuffs' for wearing her two primary tokens. In battle, she either wears her light hunting leathers (for casual things), or a set of Silver Scale Armor, with a gold maple leaf over the left breast, and a Ruby Pyricorn over her right.
Gabrielle, Daughter of the Queen
Corrine's Trump of Gabrielle:A strawberry blonde, wavy-haired girl stands in the middle of a room, her hands gesturing outwards towards the viewer, her amber eyes alight with an impish, joyful smile, matched by that on her lips. Around her rises an inverted cone of trumps, half with the Green BG/White Unicorn, the other half golden BG/Red Flaming Alicorn. She stands within a circle of flame, unharmed, spinning around her feet, lighting up a ruby floor tracery that looks suspiciously like the Pattern. The rest of the card is dark.
Gabrielle's sigil is a ring of fire.
Gabrielle, daughter of Corrine and the Red Knight, has the personality of a precocious, genius ten year old. She is a strawberry-blonde, wavy-haired, amber-eyed girl who will clearly be a looker when she grows up.
Gabrielle regards the world with a wide-eyed interest, and is always open to new experiences and techniques to learn from. She is known to have remarkably extensive Pattern and Trump abilities, on a par with her mother, despite her youth. She is known to have a crush on Prince Ota.
Catherine of Pariseau, Regent of Ember
For 500 years, Regent Catherine has ruled Ember with a steady and capable hand. In Corrine's mind, Catherine is more of a queen than she could EVER be -- she's just the newcoming wet-behind-the-ears pup -- if she could abdicate and hand the reins to her, she'd do so. But Catherine is happy to work behind the scenes now, assisting her Queen and taking care of the day-to-day businesses, smoothing over various internal and external frictions, thereby allowing Corrine to focus on the big picture of the Kingdom, Reality, Shadow, and Chaos.
Catherine bears a striking resemblence to Catherine Pariseau, who was Corrine's aide/assistant headmaster in the Paris shadow that she was stuck in during her exile. Catherine Pariseau, in turn, bears a striking resemblence to Catherine of Amber, Corrine's long-dead sister who was killed when she was only 15. Whether this all came about due to a subconcious desire by Corrine to give her dead sister another chance at life is anybody's guess -- and the source of her sorcerous abilities are an equal mystery, since Catherine Pariseau wasn't one, and Corrine does not remember if Catherine of Amber ever had the potential for the talent (as opposed to Haruka of Harad, who -was- a sorceress and warrior).
Catherine does not usually wade into combat -- when she does, she usually adds greaves and gauntlets to her normal wear, using them for defense while she uses her sorcery and her Royal Token to stop an opponent.
Catherine dubiously believes what Corrine says what came before... after all, she -remembers- ruling in the Queen's absence for 500 years. But Corrine's earnestness over her belief (as well as the backdated notes and sketches of Ember after the Devestation during her explorations), has raised some doubt in her mind as what the 'true' history is...
Morgenstern de Alkirk, Warden of the Corona
If one wishes to arrive in Ember without being burned to a crisp, there are four main methods -- Direct Trump, Pattern Teleportation, the Pyricorn Threads, and the Fire Highway. The Fire Highway leads to the Corona, Ember's equivelent to Arden and Nedra.
And, like Arden and Nedra, the Corona has a Warden.
His name is Morgenstern.
Morgenstern De Alkirk is a giant of a man, at least six feet seven inches tall, 300 pounds, ALL of it muscle. He has a thick, bushy black beard and moustache, craggy eyebrows that usually hide his eyes, and an equally thick head of hair. The heavy black plate and mail armor he wears, trimmed with gold and a wide cape flying behind, only adds to his imposing, ominous figure. His favored weapons are a pair of large battleaxes that he weilds with deadly efficency, one in each hand, and are capable of flight, shooting outwards to strike at opponents at a distance before returning to his hands.
Morgenstern's manner is gruff, blunt, and to the point, and a near-eternal scowl graces his lips most days.
That is, most days.
The truth is, Morgenstern is NOT the ominous figure of death that most people assume him to be. When he is amused, he becomes a jovial, almost cheery figure of a man, willing to regale children with stories while they sit on his knee. Of course, his stories usually tell of the battle where he split a demon's head in two, but for some reason kids groove on that. He also has a collection of plush kitty toys in the Corona Lodge.
Corrine and Morgenstern get along well, due to this -- they have been known to wrestle on occasion, and that is always prime entertainment. Morgenstern also has a daughter, Jessica, who lives in the city proper, training as a priestess and healing mage at the Temple of the Pyricorn.
And ah yes. No description of Morgenstern is complete without mentioning -his- horse, "Julian" -- though in Julian's case, "Elemental Force Of Nature" would be more appropriate.
Julian is a horse made out of living fire, at least six hands higher than any thorougbred warhorse. His hooves are solid onyx, his eyes are glowing fire opals, his teeth and bones admantite, his mane and tail aflame. NOBODY but Morgenstern rides him -- no-one else is capable of that feat. A manticore once managed to make its way down the Fire Highway into the Corona -- a single backwards kick ripped the beast's body apart. Whether Julian is truly intelligent or not is immaterial; he certainly ACTS like it, and are you going to argue with a horse like that?
Pirotas, Assistant Warden of the Corona
Morgenstern's lieutenant, Pirotas, is his primary liason with the Dark Elves (anime-style) who live in the Corona and serve as his forest rangers. She is an accomplished sorceress, and an expert swordswoman besides, favoring a slim cross-hilt rapier. She rides the dark horse "Ashram", and with Morgenstern commands the hellhounds of the Corona.
Haruka Arisugawa, Marshall of Ember
Tall. Stately. Statuesque. Attractive. All these terms describe Haruka Arisugawa, the Marshall of Ember's armies.
An absolute terror in battle, and a keen military mind, also apply.
Haruka Arisugawa is the result of the melding of Corrine's memories of her mother (Haruka of Harad), and her sisters Juri and Haruka Minor. Of course, Haruka Arisugawa remembers none of this, herself being a totally seperate individual. But sometimes the personality parallels are hard to ignore...
Corrine, over time, has come to accept that Haruka is not her mother. However, she has formed something of a bond, having a similar attitude about politics and the application of the arts of war. She is content to let Haruka manage and command the armies like she always has, and will listen very attentively when Haruka says that one of Corrine's plans is a Dumb Idea, Tactically or Strategically. In turn, Haruka obeys her Queen when Corrine lays down the law on what Needs to be done for the good of the Kingdom and Reality. It's a relatively ideal relationship, born out of mutual respect between a Commander and her Queen.
Haruka Arisugawa has Haruka of Harad's approximate build and hairstyle, but Juri's hair color and eye color. She wears light scaled armor with solid greaves, chestplate, and gauntlets, and favors a curved scimitar and shield in combat. Her armor is gold, with a ruby pyricorn at the center of her chest.
Haruka's horse, "Michiru", is a white charger with sea-green mane and tail.
Lord Lonz,Lord High Chamberlain
Every kingdom has a man who is in charge of the day-to-day administrivia of the local kingdom and castle. Every kingdom also has a man who tries not to get too flustered at the shenanigans which occur in said kingdom and castle.
In Ember, Lord Lonz is that man.
Tall, thin, with tanned skin, long robes, and a small funny hat, Lonz manages the diplomatic and legal affairs of Ember, often working with Regent Catherine in terms of coordination. He has black hair, which is styled into a moustache, long goatee that's tied with a ribbon, and bushy eyebrows. He manages the affairs of the kingdom with a steady hand, an near infinite amount of patience, and an encyclopediac knowledge of royal protocol. Something that Corrine has taken every opportunity to tap, along with Catherine.
Doctor Schtalubaugh, Royal Librarian
Doctor Schtalubaugh heads and manages the Royal Library of Ember, a vast circular room with shelves spreading out from the central atrium, seemingly without limit. Here is collected the lore and history of Ember, with side rooms for special collections and researchers, and the court recorders who record everything. And we mean EVERYTHING.
Corrine still doesn't know how the place managed to HAVE so much information, given it technically did not exist 10 years ago, but some of the Prophsies of the Pyricorn and Unicorn here are unsettlingly accurate...
Dr. Schtalubaugh is based on a memory of a similar doctor who served in Amber during Corrine's early days, who met his unfortunate end when one of Castle Amber's library shelves started a domino cascade effect. He is short, with grey hair, a wide moustache and a tied beard down to his waist.
Doctor Schtalubaugh also serves as the Dean of the Royal Academy, which accepts applicants from throughout Ember.
Arshes Nei, Wyvernmaster
Arshes Nei leads the Air Force of Ember -- the Citrine and Topaz Wings of dragon-riders. She is a half-human/half-dark elf crossbreed, who was sheltered and raised by King Darshu of Metallicana in her early days. When his kingdom joined the Lava Circle, Arshes came to Ember, became a naturalized citizen, rose in the armies, and eventually became Wyvernmaster.
Arshes and Pirotas have something of a rivalry in the sorcerous arts and how little they can get away with wearing clothing, but it's a friendly rivalry. Really. We think.
Arshes is a skilled sorceress and swordswoman, knowing many of the same spells King Darshu knows (though tending to favor the lightning school). Her weapon is a wide broadsword, and she tends to wear shoulder armor, greaves, and gauntlets in combat or while flying.
Lady Funaho, Inspector General of Information
Tall, stately, with black hair tied down in two hair tails in front and one in back (that splits near the end), Lady Funaho is the Inspector General of Information, in charge of the dissemination of information on Ember thoughout the City and Kingdom of Ember and the Lava Circle Shadows. This includes diplomacy, education, and various other duties. She is in charge of the non-obvious defenses for the Queen when she travels abroad. She is also allied with Dr. Schtalubaugh, and has access to the schools and research academies, scouting new talent and developments that can aid Ember.
Funaho holds herself in a regal and composed manner, and is quite traditional and formal. However, her tongue can be quite sarcastic when needs be. She wears elaborate formal robes, and somehow knows the proper diplomatic response for any occasion, much like Lord Lonz. Indeed, Lady Funaho tends to default as Corrine's prime ambassador to the Lava Circle shadows and beyond -- when she does, she carries one of the Royal Tokens of Ember. This allows her to boost her spellcasting, and provides a handy staff for defense and offense.
Corrine and Funaho have a decent relationship -- without Funaho, her life would be MUCH harder, and she knows it. Funaho, in turn, has taken a somewhat maternal view of Corrine, helping her but not forcing her to any particular course of action. Together, they share a quiet understanding of the bigger picture of the cosmos.
Lady Funaho is also something of a scholar, due to her access to information. She is one of the few who believes Corrine's claims about the prehistory of Ember and the Devestation.
Lady Funaho is the mother of Admirals Ayeka and Sasami.
Lord Johann Pariseau, Castellan
A short, portly man, with curled moustache and beard and a perpetual florid skin tone, Johann Pariseau manages the day to day affairs of Castle Ember proper. He is also Catherine's father, and has served as Castellan as long as she has been Regent of Ember. There is NOBODY who knows the castle better than him. With Corrine I's arrival, she has seen no need to change what works.
Johann is a reflection of the Johann Pariseau Corrine met in Paris during her exile. Johann was quite the artist, and taught Corrine all she knew about painting and sculpture, and who later encouraged Corrine to start her own art school, trainign his young daughter in the same way. As such, Castellan Johann is also an artist -- many of the paintings in the castle and official buildings are by his hand.
Johann is proud of how Corrine has grown into her new duties as Queen.
Lord Katsuhito, Steward of Amber City
Lord Katsuhito is the unflappable steward of Ember City, the great(?)-grandfather of Lord Tenchi. He is responsible for the management of the city, as well as its layout and architectual nuances. Indeed, there is a large Japanese-style garden near his offices, that are ideal for meditation and relaxation by the citizens of the city. He writes poetry and arranges for the tending of the gardens, and is an accomplished storyteller.
Howver, there is another side to Katsuhito -- he is an excellent swordsman and teacher. He used to command the Trained Bands of the city, until that duty was handed off to Lord Tenchi, and has trained many of the higher-up officers in Ember's armies. He has a near prescient sense of balance and poise; it is nigh impossible for one to sneak up on him if he does not want it. Witty and cocky, he still moves only the minimal amount needed to defend or attack, never losing his focus or rushing his actions. He uses a combination of swordplay, acrobatics, and strength to defeat his opponent -- his minor sorcerous skills, capable of summoning a potent shield and sword of light, don't hurt either.
Katsuhito is tall, thin, and wears rectangular glasses. His hair is dark grey, tied back in a long ponytail, and he also has a thin moustache. He wears simple clothes even to the most elaborate affairs. Oddly, nobody appears to mind. He tends to use a bokken or katana in combat most of the time.
Lady Sasami, Admiral of the Aquamarine Fleet
Lady Ayeka, Admiral of the Sapphire Fleet
How two sisters whose primary sorcerous abilities were wood-based managed to make it and prosper in a Fire-based shadow is anybody's guess. Corrine certainly doesn't know. Clearly, it's one of those command decisions she can't quite remember. Or perhaps Catherine made it. Either way, surprisingly, they've worked out better than expected.
Lady Ayeka and Lady Sasami command the twinned fleets of Ember, sailing the 'seas' and managing their defenses. They guard the merchant fleets of Ember, as well as organize the sailors and mages who serve as the fleet's main artillery when in non-technological shadows. There have been recent developments in the "technological" curve that have upgraded the navy's potential (such as the trump-powered hovercraft used in the Obsidian Fleet), but the majority of the regular fleets are still outfitted with the Ember Ironside.
There is some concern on how well the Ember Navy will fare in the coming combat in Amber -- after all, Fire and Water do not generally mix well...
Lady Ayeka is the more restrained and composed of the two sisters, and the one who expects more strict attention and proper behavior from her officers. She is also a skilled diplomat, and uses these skills to negotiate trade agreements with Lava Circle shadows. Lady Ayeka also has a rivalry with Lady Ryoko, over just about anything, but mostly the affections of Lord Tenchi.
Lady Sasami is the more laid back of the two sisters, at least when compared to Ayeka. She too has a knack of getting what Ember wants, and often can be found comparing cooking notes with fellow captains and traders.
Ayeka tends to wear formal robes for nearly any occasion, while Sasami can often be found in the more normal Ember naval wear. Ayeka's purple hair is coiffed and tied back in two long ponytails. Sasami's is banged, and tied back further down in a split ponytail.
Lady Ryoko, "The Demon of Kurashiki", Space Admiral of the Onyx Fleet
Lady Ryoko claims to have been a space pirate before she came to Ember. Whether or not this is true, she is a fierce warror and master of the Onyx Fleet, commanding Ember's space forces from her battleship, "Ryo-oh-ki".
Loud and boisterous, with a shock of green spiky hair, Ryoko tends to wear form-fitting clothing, almost going out of her way to shock others, especially the 'ground pounders' in the rest of the military -- *especially* Lady Ayeka, with whom she shares affections for Lord Tenchi.
However, what very few know (mostly Catherine, Corrine, and Funaho), is that Ryoko's behavior is a bluff. She deeply cares for those under her command, and her associates -- and yes, even Ayeka. She just uses the hostile, abrasive behavior as a shield to hide her feelings behind. Ryoko is slowly being pulled out of her shell by Corrine, however.
Ryoko is a lethal combatant, as willing to head out into the fray herself with her sorcerous and conjuration abilities as she is to use her battleship companion to bludgeon and blast the enemy into pieces.
Mia Asua, Chairwoman of the Magic Guild and Court Magist
Mia Asua is of moderate height, a slim, quiet woman with blue eyes and long black hair that is tied back and curls around the vicinity of her shoulders. She normally wears a simple, straightforward long-sleeved lavender gown with attached hood, and practical shoes. With her soft voice, quiet demeanor, and studious manner, she could easily be taken for another shy first year student in the Ember Magician's Guild.
Any person making this evaluation would be mostly correct -- for Mia Asua is the CHAIRWOMAN of the Magic Guild, and the Court Mage of Ember besides. She keeps her positions through quiet, dedicated competance, keeping track of magical developments and researching new spells, and smoothing over the various frictions between teachers under her command. She firmly believes that magic is there for protection and for the service of the people, not for egomaniacal power tripping.
(Mia tends to cringe whenever King Darshu visits Ember, for one. She is on much better terms with Catherine and Funaho, both sorceresses as well who share her beliefs.)
Mia has access to a potent suite of spells, including Flame Bomb, Flame Circle, and the devestating Flameria which rains down flaming swords upon any group of enemies. She is also the only mage who can reliably cast ICE magics in Ember with any form of potency, which makes her even more lethal, since most enemies in Ember would not expect and would not be able to cope with the change in temperatures. This can often prove fatal for lesser creatures. Her most common ice spells are Ice Lance, Ice Wall, and Blizzard.
Mia also commands the magical defenses of the city and the castle itself-- from the top of the Silver Spire of Castle Ember, she can observe the entire countryside in all directions magically, cast a protective dome shield around the castle, city, harbor and portions of the Corona, and when assisted by other mages, trigger a tremendous pyrokinetic attack, capable of levelling approaching fleets or armies at far distances. Unforunately, it can only do that once a day, and the effort leaves Mia extremely drained.
Mia Asua has a strong friendship with Jessica de Alkirk, one of the priestesses in the Temple of the Unicorn, and they frequently get together to discuss the state of the kingdom and their respective boyfriends.
Priscilla S. Asagiri, Court Bard
Priscilla is the Court Bard of Castle Ember, a skilled performer and vocalist, if a little outre' in some of her preferred performance costumes and songs. However, she puts on a damn good show with her band, and has managed to train them and herself in various other instruments other than electric guitar and synth keyboard since their arrival in Ember. She's quite a hit at the royal dances, capable of switching from a stately waltz to "Say Yes!" in a heartbeat, should the occasion call for it. She also has managed to get the court's orchestra to play "Louie Louie" at least twice during formal diplomatic affairs. Queen Corrine was reportedly bemused.
She -has- managed to persuade some magician friends to make the magical equivelent of electrial instruments for herself and her band, however. Just for old time's sake.
When not pursuing her bardic duties, Priscilla gets into trouble racing her horse "Leon" against other people's through the city, getting involved in bar brawls, and stopping the occasional petty crime. She also can be found sometimes brooding and lounging around one window box or another in the castle proper, looking out over Ember and plucking out the latest tune with her acoustic guitar.
Priscilla has affections for Dr. Tofu (he helped heal her up after one particularly nasty brawl with some ambassadors -- she won, but was in traction for several weeks), but hides it behind a veneer of sarcastic verbal abuse, much like Ryoko.
Eowyn Arisugawa, Commander of the Palace Guard
Eowyn Arisugawa is a slim, tall woman. She is also the spitting image of Eowyn of Amber, the eldest deceased sister of Corrine I.
Eowyn commands the Palace Guard, and assists Lady Misaki in her bodyguard duties of the royal person. She is the sister of Haruka Arisugawa, younger than her in fact, but content with her position. She is a very brave fighter, but not exactly the best of administrators. However, she is intelligent enough to be competant at the job of Palace Guard Commander, and she performs her duties admirably.
Eowyn favors a bladed rapier and main gauche, not bothering with heavy armor in her duties. She generally doesn't need them, being nimble and fleet enough to avoid most blows.
An aside -- Out of all of Corrine's sisters, Eowyn was the one that she knew the least about. Corrine was only eight years old when Eowyn died under the frozen ice of Lake Harad. She knew her as a big sister who could beat people up easily, but didn't really know her as a fully realized individual. Everybody seems smarter than you at that age, and this is reflected in Eowyn Arisugawa. Corrine's memories and perceptions, since they were the major contributing factors to the Reconstruction, ended up giving give Eowyn Arisugawa more intelligence than Eowyn of Amber had -- still not enough to make her a super-brain, but at least somewhat -competant- at her job of Palace Guard Commander.
Lady Misaki, Royal Bodyguard
Lady Misaki is a tall ebullant woman, favoring robes and pants, her blue hair tied back in a long thick ponytail. She also commands the Royal Bodyguard, and accompanies Corrine when she heads out to shadow on official business, making security arrangements. Despite her bubbly personality, she is quite strong, easily capable of arm-wrestling Corrine or Morgenstern multiple times. She tends to favor an ironwood staff in battle.
She was the one who taught her neice Sasami how to cook, and she likes to exchange recepies with Sasami and the Royal Chef, Kino Makoto.
Corrine manages to return to Amber without having Misaki tagging along that often, so that she can perform her original duties as Warden (which are a VACATION compared to running Ember these days). Really. Somehow. However, Corrine has gotten used to Misaki's presence, and given the events of the past few months, Amber time, she is no longer as willing to be without her "strong right arm".
Lord Tenchi, Commander of the City Militia
Lord Tenchi commands the City Milita and the Trained Bands. He is an unassuming man, but is also a skilled warrior -- his training under his Grandfather is obvious. He also has combat-spell capability, and some things that are not fully explained... either way, when necessary, he can kick serious butt in the name of the defense of the city. In his spare time, he studies and practices architecture, like his father.
Both the Ladies Ayeka and Ryoko are competitors for Tenchi's affections. Tenchi often has to calm both of them down, as he's not ready for a commitment.
Of course, he's been saying that for almost 200+ years now....
Doctor Tofu,Royal Doctor and Alchemist
Doctor Tofu is a bespectaled, longhaired oriental man, well versed in the techniques of accupuncture, Tai Chi, poultices and potions, and various other medical arts. He is quite friendly and open, willing to treat anybody who reaches his infirmary -- and quite skilled, with a 95% success rate of curing any disease or injury.
Tofu's 5% nonsuccess rate is due to his infatuation with the Court Bard, Priscilla. At those times, his glasses fog up, his stammer develops, and it becomes positively DANGEROUS to be near him, as he invariably messes up the treatment. Long-time natives of Ember Castle know to stay away from him at that time. Sadly, convincing Dr. Tofu that he -has- this particular affliction has met with little success -- just MENTIONING the Court Bard can trigger it. Corrine is pondering possible solutions. A suitable crisis situation, however, can override the good doctor's shyness, as professionalism finally overrides affairs of the heart.
Kino Makoto, Commander of the Iron Chefs/Royal Cook
Kino Makoto, a tall, well built brown-haired woman with green eyes, heads the kitchens of Castle Ember. She provides for the three meals of the day, feeding the entire staff, guests, and royals, as well as preparing specialty meals for individuals. She has an encyclopedic knowledge of cooking techniques and recipes, and isn't afraid to use them.
However, feeding even a quarter of the population of Castle Ember once a day would be a challenge. This is why the Royal Cook has her assitants : The Iron Chefs. Together with Iron Chef French, Iron Chef Italian, Iron Chef Japanese, Iron Chef Chinese, (as well as several assistant Iron-Chefs-In-Training), Kino Makoto is capable of keeping the entire castle well-fed. Occasionally, she and the other Iron Chefs will hold a demonstration/competition of their cooking skills for the guests in the dining hall. And quite frankly, nobody loses.
Kino Makoto, incidentally, knows sorcery, enough to shoot bolts of lightning and cause wood to grow. She doesn't explain -where- she learned these skills, however.
Godai, Royal Tutor
Godai is the Royal Tutor for the Court of Ember and their children. A somewhat befuddled young man at times who tends to attract student crushes, he is still quite knowlegeable, and is on good terms with the Royal Librarian. He is married to Kyoko, the head chambermaid.
Godai is currently teaching Gabrielle, as she is the first "official" Royal Child, and he still has not yet fully adapted to her precociousness. Gabrielle just thinks he's funny.
Kyoko, Head Chambermaid
Quiet, kind, and competant, Kyoko commands the chaimbermaids and janitors of Ember Castle. She is married to Godai, and has had several children by him (thereby keeping the Royal Nurse and Tutor in their jobs). However, she has a slight intolerence for excessive partying and carousing, and has been known to dunk-tank drunks who disturb the peace. Even if they've got a Royal position.
Sakura, Royal Nurse
Sakura is the Royal Nurse of Castle Ember. However, since there has yet to be any "Official" Physical Royal Heirs, she has had to make do with caring for the children of the castle's staff. In her off hours, she serves as an assistant for Doctor Tofu.
Sakura is of a medium height, with an appreciable figure and long black hair that heads past her waist. She also appreciates the Royal Cook's meals, capable of putting away more food than even Corrine can eat, and yet not gaining an inch.
Sakura has had some interaction with Gabrielle as she developed. However, her several attempts to 'exorcise' the construct's holographic manifestation has not been viewed with much amusement by the Queen. Gabrielle just thinks it's funny. Corrine has been the major factor in Gabrielle's early upringing due to this. Better luck next time...
Shayla-Sheila, High Priestess of the Pyricorn
A moderately built redhead, a little shorter than Corrine I, Shayla-Shiela manages the Temple of the Pyricorn in Ember, and heads the High Cult of the Pyricorn for the kingdom.
To call Shayla-Shiela a spitfire is something of an understatement. She knows many fire magics, and is not afraid of using them if she doesn't get her rightful respect. During services, even. She learned these magics from Darshu of Metallicana, and shares affections for him with Arshes Nei.
Shayla-Shiela's resemblence to Queen Shayla, the former Queen of Ember, is striking -- at least to Corrine. She wears short skirts and a flared vest, high-topped boots, all in shades of orange and red. Her hair is wild, tied back into a long ponytail by a headband.
Jessica de Alkirk, Assistant Priestess of the Pyricorn
Assisting Shayla-Sheila is Jessica de Alkirk, the daughter of Morgenstern. Her skin is tanned, her blonde hair pulled back flat against her head, and her elven ears tend to stick out in a crowd. She wears a white gown most times, with a sleeved and hooded great-cloak over it. She has a sweet and proper demeanor, a stark contrast against the High Priestess.
Don't be fooled.
Jessica de Alkirk is as just a spitfire as the High Priestess, if not moreso, and very assertive. She just holds the sweet-and-innocent act up so as to not dissapoint her father (who dotes on her), and to appease Shayla-Shiela (who doesn't like competition ). With her friends, away from the Temple, she's outgoing and and canny, willing to heal people or kick butt as the situation demands.
Jessica is well-versed in the arts of healing magic (sometimes even having to use said magic in the middle of a service if Shayla-Shiela is feeling ticked). She knows few combat magics, instead perferring to use a heavy spiked blessed mace.
Jessica's boyfriend, Kyle, was a brigand before his apprehension by Morgenstern outside the Corona. However, instead of killing him (as was his right as Warden), he saw something in the boy that was useable, and sponsored him (and his band of men) for the guardianship of the Nanza Pass, one of the passageways between mountains that barrier Ember and the Corona from the wide and endless deserts of the west. Now, they protect travellers from there to the Pyricorn Threads that cross the deserts for other shadows.
Jessica, on occasion, has sneaked out to the Pass for the occasional rendevous with Kyle. Theirs is an on-again-off-again-on-again relationship, though there is the occasional hint of depth to it.
Robin, Royal Fool
There's nobody who can put on a "rilly geud shew" like Robin, the shapeshifting Court Jester of Ember. A native of Agrabah, he moved to Ember as a gesture of royal cooperation between the two kingdoms, and quite frankly he's never had it happier. Through the connections to Shadow that Ember has, Robin has been able to expand his repitoire and refine his comic wit, delivering patter and straight lines at a mile a minute, often combining his performance with radical shapeshifting, illusion, and conjuring tricks.
Robin is blueskinned, an oddity in the Lava Circle shadows and Ember, which he brushes off as being "Distinctive". To accentuate this, he generally wears only red and blue harem pants, little curly-toed shoes, curling the tip of his beard and tying back his minimal hair into a pigtail. Of course, since he's a shapeshifter, this can hardly apply all the time, but somehow he manages it.
Robin also organizes the many various entertainments for the castle and the city, often working alongside Priscilla and Funaho to get the maximum impact. You haven't lived until you've seen one of his one-man gala shows.
LAVA CIRCLE SHADOWS
Travel time : 16 days across the northern deserts by caravan
along the Pyricorn Thread, after departing Kar Lisele
Ruler: Sultan Aladdin and Queen Jasmine
Style: Arabian Animation (Disney)
/"Welcome to Agrabah. City of mystery... of enchantment... and the finest merchandise this side of the river Jordan, on sale today! Come on down!"/
The city and country of Agrabah is a hereditary kingdom, as old as the sands of the Seven Deserts of Ash Mahn. It is situated at the juncture of two small mountain ranges, where a small oasis lake collects the occasional rainfall and preserves the water throughout the year. It holds claim to the central desert and towns of Ash Mahn and maintains vigorous relations with the six surrounding kingdoms, making it a powerful trade nexus across its home shadow. If it exists, it can be bought and sold in Agrabah.
Magic is known to exist in Agrabah's home Shadow, and there are some potent sorcerors lurking around. However, the schooling of said magicians tends to be on the master/apprentice level or small covens instead of organized schooling, so said mages are rare, coveted, and not always trusted. There are also powerful magical artifacts and beings lurking hidden in caves and old fortresses, waiting for the brave or foolhardy to uncover them and put them to use.
Human beings are capable of settling anywhere. From the coldest polar tundra, to the hottest arabian desert, humans perservere, set down roots, build families, create cities. Such it was with Agrabah.
Nobody really recalls when Agrabah itself became known as an independant kingdom, but it is certain that it was named after its founder, Sultan Mus Ker Agrabah, a powerful warrior prince and a canny trader. From the beginning, Agrabah negotiated trade agreements with the other kingdoms of the Seven Deserts. Although the smaller kingdoms came and went, Agrabah remained a constant as a center for commerce and trade.
Ember's first contact with Agrabah came early on in the Pariseau Regency, when a trade caravan from Kar Lisele travelled the Pyricorn Thread to the Seven Deserts of Ash Mahn. It did not take long for full diplomatic arrangements to be made between the two kingdoms, and Agrabah became one of the first foundations of what would become known as the Lava Circle.
Trade continued to be brisk between Ember and Agrabah for many centuries, due to their unique trade relationship. Agrabah served as a ready source of trade goods from the many countries in its home shadow, items Ember could not obtain for itself so easily. Ember, in turn, with its access to the Pyricorn Threads, could provide to Agrabah exotic items from throughout Shadow that could not be obtained anywhere else.
Of course, not everything was fresh dates and sweet jasmine for Agrabah. Situated as it was at the joining of its two mountain ranges, with ready access to water and a Pyricorn Thread, the kingdom was much coveted by its neighbors. Not obviously, of course, but the occasional plot by rival Sultans or magicians wise in the rumored ways of Shadow Sorceries would crop up. After all, he who held Agrabah could hold the Seven Deserts. He who held Agrabah could also gain control of the Pyricorn Thread. And from there... who could say?
One such example of a takeover attempt occured during the reign of Sultan Al-Enken (435-483 CY). The sultan's grand vizier, Jafar of Karatouche, plotted to seize the throne before Al-Enken's daughter, Jasmine, could marry and therefore continue the line of succession. Jafar had hidden his powerful sorcery skills from the Sultan (who was much more interested in things of a mechanical nature), instead pretenting to be a more minor wizard and a loyal advisor/confidant to the aging Sultan. However, thanks to a good hearty dose of "Happily Ever After" from various quarters, Jafar failed in his goals, and has since vanished from sight.
The current Sultan is Alladin, a native of Agrabah who married into the royal family when he and Princess Jasmine fell deeply in love with one another. This love has remained true, and the two are equal partners in running the kingdom of Agrabah. Alladin became Sultan in 483 CY, when Al-Enken abdicated the throne due to his pronounced age. The old Sultan did live long enough to see the birth of several of his grandchildren before his death in 487 CY. The Sultan Al-Enken School of Mechanical Engineering was founded in his honor, and has become a renowned center of research and development within the Lava Circle.
Agrabah continues to be a good, solid, dependable trade partner with Ember. Trade is brisk, and the upswing in mechanical engineering skills among the populace is of much interest to the Ember military. In the coming conflict with Chaos/Embra, Sultan Alladin has pledged several divisions of infantry for Ember's defense, as well as a 'blank cheque' for the production of mechanical war material.
Ember's Royal Fool, Robin, is a native of Agrabah and a good friend of the Royal Family. Every so often he returns to his old stomping grounds to visit with Alladin, Jasmine, and the rest.
Travel time : Three weeks via Pyricorn Thread Space Travel
Time Differential: 1 day here is one day in Ember
Ruler: Emperor Paul-Maud'Dib Atreides I (Imperium), Planetary Governor Stilgar (Arakkis)
Style: Frank H. Walker's "Dune" series -- specifically, the first book.
Arakkis. Dune. Desert Planet. Flashpoint of history for its home Shadow of Atreides, this barren world would never be thought of as a vacation spot. A desert world, where travel was confined to the night so as to avoid the searing heat of the day, it was long thought of as a backwater world, whose only value was the life-extending geriatric Spice, Melange, that was found there and nowhere else.
The northern latitudes of Arakkis (above the 60 deg line) are marked by a series of escarpments and mountains, providing the main settlements for human life on the planet, carved into the safety of Sietches and communities in the rock. The central latitudes are dominated by the great deserts which give Arakkis its more common name of Dune, uncrossable by foot and most machines. The southern latitudes of the planet (below 40 deg south) do not have as many outcroppings for human settlement, but a long-term terraforming project has started there, established by the free tribes of Arrakis, the Fremen. The planet has two moons and one sun.
Atreides has a high technological level, including repulsors, lasguns, space travel, personal and facility shields; however, 'thinking machines' have long since passed into the realm of cultural taboo. Instead, human Mentats are used, people who have been trained since birth to become efficent calculators on par with the greatest predictive computers to be found in Shadow. Also, while nuclear weapons are not unknown, they are specifically banned from use on human targets and settlements.
But no mention of Dune can be complete without giving proper respect to Shai-hulud, the "Old Man of the Desert", the Sandworm of Arakkis. Capable of growing over 400 meters in length, the creatures are the source of the sands and spice of Arakkis, and indeed are part of the reason why there is still a viable atmosphere on the planet despite the lack of major plantlife and oceans.
/"God created Arakkis to train the faithful."/ -- Fremen saying
To understand the history of Atreides, one must first learn and understand the role and source of the Spice in its home Shadow. The life-extending geriatric Spice shaped the lives of everyone it touched; fiefdoms and corporations could be made and broken by who had the greater share of the spoils mined from the sands of Arakkis. The Spice, when ingested in sufficent amounts, could induce a prescient awareness in its users, an ability to 'see things from afar' as some put it. The Spacing Guild used the Spice in order to pilot the massive starships of the Imperium, therefore establishing a stranglehold on travel, transport, and banking. The Imperium and the Landstraad (the royal houses) bartered materials and trade goods from their varying fiefdom worlds in exchange for Melange, via the CHOAM Corporation of which every major and minor house was a member in some form. The Spice was also used by the Bene Gesserit "Reverend Mothers", who were capable of transforming "illuminating poisions" within their body to gain a higher state of awareness without being killed. These three arms of the Great Convention lasted together for milennia, preying on one another in an endless cycle of political maneuvering.
Ember first became aware of the existance of Arakkis in the year 331 CY, as its space fleet began to fully explore the Pyricorn threads that led out into space and Shadow. Observations were made from afar, but the political situation was judged to be too byzantine for even longtime natives of Ember to comprehend. The planet Arakkis was viewed as a possible place for settlement, however (at least to Ember sensibilities), and secret clandestine negotiations with the native Fremen were arranged, away from Harkonnen eyes. While true settlement would not be allowed, the use of Arakkis as a layover would be permitted in exchange for teaching some of their "weirding ways" of battle, as well as help in destroying any Spacing Guild sattelites that attempted to observe the secret Fremen plan of terraforming Arrakis (started by the former Imperial Planetoligist, Periot Kynes) despite their Spice bribes.
The maneuvers on all sides of the Great Convention came to a head in the year 10,191 (local calendar). House Harkonnen, a longtime adversary of another more favored member of the Landstraad, House Atreides, plotted with the current Emperor of the time (Shaddam IV) to engineer the downfall of Duke Leto Atreides and his family. By 'giving' them the fiefdom of Arakkis (which the Harkonnens had held for generations), they would use a traitor from within to destroy the Atredies on the unfamilar world, and then reclaim the planet for themselves with its precious Spice. Although the plot succeeded in killing the old Duke and a majority of his retainers, a handful survived, while his wife-concubine and his fifteen year old son escaped into the desert and joined the Fremen who lived there. For the next five years, Paul "Maud'Dib" Atreides grew as both a political, military, and religious leader of men, waging war with the Fremen against the returned Harkonnen presence. The Fremen also gained covert support from Ember at this time, supplying information and training when possible. Finally, in 10,196, Paul-Maud'Dib solidified his control over Arakkis, as was his Ducal right, eliminating the Harkonnens and deposing Shaddam IV who had been a party to the affair.
After the end of the Arakkis revolt, Paul-Maud'Dib appointed Stilgar, a renowned Sietch leader and good friend, to the post of Planetary Governor of Arakkis. Stilgar then told the new Emperor of the assistance the Fremen had gained from Ember in the past battles. Although understandibly wary of Ember's presence (since they could not be pressured by threatening the destruction of the Spice, like the Spacing Guild Navigators (who were dependant on it)), Paul recognized that having a source of travel and support that was -not- dependant on the Spice and unknown to the rest of the universe as a whole would be advantageous.
The relationship between Ember and Atreides is cordial, though both are 'large' enough, politically, that neither can truly be said to be dominant of the other in a political sense. If one half vanished, the other side would not be affected. However, they do manage to get along relatively well, since Ember works -with- the Fremen, and not against them. For the most part, Ember limits trade with one world: Dune.
The Spice, Melange, is specifically BANNED from exportation from Atreides, by mutual agreement between Ember and Atreides. Ember has no need for the Spice for navigation or shadow-shifting travel, and its addictive properties are well-documented. Some smuggling does occur (in an attempt to export the narcotic to other Shadows), but Ember tends to crack down on them hard.
Instead, Ember gains extra experience in desert survival training from Arakkis alongside the Fremen, as well as survival gear and minor military support from the Fedayakin at Paul-Maud'Dib's command. The unique manifacturing processes used by the other members of the Imperium (such as the production of fanmetals, shigawire, and the like) have garnered some interest and the potential for implementation in Ember. Several Mentats from elsewhere in Atreides have accompanied diplomats to Ember in the past; but the recent use of mechanical calculation engines (and the construction of Gabrielle) goes against one of the major tenets of the Orange Catholic Bible ("Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind"), which may lead to friction in the future.
In turn, Arakkis and Atreides gets training in the 'Weirding Way' of battle from Ember, synthesizing external Shadow combat techniques with those of the Fremen and the training that Paul-Maud'Dib and his mother brought to their culture. Ember has also become a major supporter of the long-term Arakkis terraforming project, providing knowledge, manpower, and plant and animal donations to help the effort. Dune will never become a truly green world -- there must always be a place for the Sandworms that produce the Spice, and deserts to challenge a man to help strengthen him, but that has always been a part of the centuries-long plan. It is Corrine's hope that she will live long enough to see the dreams of Pardot Kynes and the Fremen come to fruition.
Travel time : 22 days across the western deserts by caravan along
the Pyricorn Thread, after leaving the Nanza Pass and the oasis town of
Dah Rien, and a layover in Haven
Time Differential: 1 day here equals one day in Ember
Ruler: King Kashue Arnargue, "The Mercenary King"
Style: Anime/D&D (Record of Lodoss Wars)
Flaim is a desert kingdom, situated between three other countries (Valis, Alania, Raiden) on the island continent of Lodoss in their home shadow. Although there are oasis-cities and border towns scattered across the Storm and Fire Desert, connected by caravan, the major focus of the kingdom is the wide Yellow River. It is wide enough to be traversed by 20 merchant sailing vessels abreast, all the way up to Lake Rennoahna. Near the ocean shore and the river delta is the capitol city of Blayd. The city itself spreads on both sides of the river, banks crammed with docks and ports. In the center of the river on a island, reachable by collapsable bridges, is the fortress of the King of Flaim, Kashue Arnargue.
Although on the low end of the scale when it comes to the magical arts, Flaim and its allies are well-versed in the arts of war, weaponsmithing, and sailing. Mercantile Trade is also highly prized, due to the heavy irrigation and agriculture along the Yellow River, as well as river traffic and ready access to the seas of Lodoss.
Magic is known and practiced in Flaim's home shadow, and the island of Lodoss has produced many potent mages, but it is not as widespread as it could be given events in the past. Several thousand years of constant warfare between the sides of Light and Dark tends to do that to a culture.
The High Dark Elves who formed the nucleus of the Ember Forest Rangers emigrated to Ember from Lodoss via the Pyricorn Thread "The Road Of Thirst", that terminated near the edge of the Storm and Fire Desert, in what would become modern-day Flaim.
Flaim has had a long and tumultuous history, due to its access to the Yellow River and its many trade routes across the deserts to other parts of Lodoss. The political borders between the many small desert nations were as shifting as the dunes themselves, as oasis towns regularly changed hands, and choice pieces of real estate along the Yellow River were contested.
Fourty years ago, Kashue Arnargue assembled an army and navy and united the warring nations of the northern deserts and plains of Lodoss, bringing them together into one kingdom. With sword and deed, he forged the kingdom of Flaim, situating its capitol in Blayd. This was a canny move, as it allowed him direct access to the vast trade networks that spread from the Yellow River to the rest of Lodoss, as well as Lake Rennoahna. Part of that trade network connected to Ember via one of the original smaller desert kingdom's trade connections, and a diplomatic group was sent to the Kingdom in the Sun to open new relations.
Kashue is a self-proclaimed "Mercenary King", though for a "Mercenary" he is an extremely honorable and charasmatic man. A skilled warrior, Kashue has fought in many campaigns across Lodoss, honing his military and leadership skills, as well as gathering many loyal followers to his retinue. Kashue is dedicated to preserving the peace in Flaim, and is willing to throw his support wholeheartedly behind a worthy cause, such as preserving the whole of reality and defending it against the encroaching darkness of chaos and insanity that Annadil and Embra represent.
Flaim has entered a period of stability and increased trade, which is always a good thing, in the wake of Corrine I's return to the crown. Ember recognizes that the kingdom of Flaim is a valuable gateway to more 'normal' shadows with regular water port facilities, and therefore the city of Blayd (and the city of Haven, an oasis town in the middle of the Storm and Fire Desert near where the Pyricorn Thread passes) has grown further with the upswing of import/export commerce from Ember's caravans and Flaim's fleets. Flaim, of course, gets a signifigant portion of the profits of this venture, but Corrine does not appear to mind.
King Kashue, while still possessed of an indominable will and spirit, is starting to get along in years, and is pondering seeking a bride so as to produce a royal heir. He has been too polite to suggest that Corrine be that bride -- several of his chamberlains have hinted at a political marriage to the Artist-Queen, which he has flatly turned down. In the case of the lack of an heir, the succession will go to his second of command of the royal fleet, Wolnut, in the event of Kashue's death. But that day is a long time coming.
Several armored cavalry regiments from Flaim have been pledged to Ember, should defense of the city be needed when the Day of Darkness comes. It is quite possible that King Kashue himself and his fleets might come via a water route to Amber, if he can find somebody to open the way through Shadow for him...
Travel time : 12 days across the northwest mountains past the
Darah Caldera and West Bridge, along the Pyricorn Thread which defines
the "Passage of Althena."
Ruler: The Combined City Council of Lunar
Style: Japanese Playstation Fantasy RPG
If one takes the western mountain route from the Desert of Darah, proceeding along the spine of the Agmen Borega mountains, the weather slowly becomes more tolerable to human forms of life. A sun begins to rise and fall in the sky, and the stars can be seen at night. The scent of greenery begins to permiate the air, and the sound of insects tickles your senses. And on days and nights when the sky is clear, one is able to see the Blue Star -- Earth -- floating in the sky.
Once the Blue Star can be seen, you know you have reached Lunar, the land of the Silver Star.
Lunar is a collection of countries, towns, and petty states that pretty much stay out of each other's way, grouped together on a central collection of large islands and small continents filled with varying terrains and landscapes. A wide ocean surrounds the islands, which is heavily travelled by many merchant ships. What makes Lunar unique is that its current population lives on the surface of Earth's moon, the "Silver Star", somehow sustained by potent magics. This hypothesis is borne out by the presence of the Frontier -- the place where the life-giving magical energies peter out, leaving only the dust and craters of the original lunar surface. However, even then, there is enough atmosphere to support life, in the form of the fabled "Vile Tribe".
Long, long ago, it is told, some great cataclysim befell the peoples of the Blue Star. Nobody knows what it was, but the end result was some form of ice-age on the planet itself (long-Range scrying by Lunar and Ember mages have confirmed the current state of the planet). By means unknowable, the Goddess Althena brought the survivors from the Blue Star to the Silver Star, using her powers to create a land of liquid water and green growing things, to be settled as they saw fit.
The people spread across the islands and continents of Lunar, as people always do, and the tales of the Goddess spread as well, telling of how she brought the people to Lunar and would always watch over them. It was a time of peace and plenty, disrupted only by the by the occasional inevitable conflict between countries with differing opinions. Veneration of the Goddess was encouraged but not strictly enforced -- she was believed in, and that was enough for anyone.
It seemed to be a perfect life. However, not everything was perfect in Lunar: an ancient evil, known only as the Dark God Zophar (rumored by some to be the reason why humanity left the Blue Star in the first place), attempted to destroy all that which Althena had wrought. To fight this evil and protect the Goddess, the Four Heroes assembled to defeat Zophar. In the centuries since then, there have always been four "heroes" per generation -- two mages, two warriors -- sworn to protect and defend the lands of Lunar in the name of the Goddess. Previous generations of the Four Heroes have included the axe-wielding warrior Mel "Hell Mel" De Alkirk (governor of the Port Town of Meribia), and Lemia Asua, former head of the Mage's Guild in Vane.
Contact with Ember came in a period of peace between crisises, when trader/explorers proceeded along the Pyricorn Thread and ended up in Lunar. Trade and commerce, mostly of an intellectual and exotic magical goods nature, began to flourish. It was during one particular diplomatic exchange that Catherine of Pariseau became caught up in a power struggle engineered by Ghaleon, one of the former Four Heroes who had turned 'bad' in his belief that people needed to be controlled, not left to their own devices, in order to survive in Lunar. In helping to protect the world of Lunar from Ghaleon's madness and desire to resurrect the Goddess, Catherine gained the accolades and support of the people of Lunar. It was not that difficult from there to persuade them to join the Lava Circle.
One way in which Lunar is noteable is that it contains its own flawed reflection of the Pattern, buried deep within the caverns of Vane. Beneath the central temple to the Goddess Althena, only accessable to an applicant who walks through the Cave of Trials, is a Broken Pattern known as "Althena's Tear" or "Althena's Grief". By walking this broken pattern (said to represent the difficult path a protector must take in order to serve Althena), an initiate gains power over shadow and the ability to cast more potent spells. In doing so, they are also said to have taken on a part of Althena's Ageis over the world of Lunar as well, taking her burden, her worries and fears as their own. (In other words, it's the Pattern's Price, but it was not until contact with Ember that it was known for what it was.)
Mia Asua, the Court Mage of Ember, is known to have walked Althena's Tear before she assumed her new duties.
It is rumored that it would be theoretically possible to proceed from Lunar to Amber's Moon in some way by Shadowwalking, but neither the higher initiates of the Mage's Guild of Vane, nor Queen Corrine or Gabrielle, have made the attempt. It likely has something to do with the fact that one would have to travel through shadows where the moon would still be in vaccum...
Lunar has never been a fully active member of the Lava Circle, due to its relative isolation in shadow and small population. However, its high ratio of mages in relation to the overall population makes it a valuable source of magical knowledge and artifacts. There is an exchange program of both mages and materials between Ember and Lunar, coordinated by Mia Asua in Ember proper, and by Archmage Nash the First in Lunar.
Worship in Lunar has become more holistic in the modern era, focussing more on Good Deeds, a Strong Heart, and a belief in being self- sufficent and settling your own affairs rather than throwing prayers into the firment to an unreachable Goddess. However, there are rumors that the Goddess even now walks among the population of Lunar in human guise, bestowing her blessings and quiet support to those who are truely capable of listening to the music in their heart.
Lunar will not be participating directly in the conflict between Amber/Ember and Chaos/Embra, but a detachment of mages and warriors have been sent to Ember to help with defense. Also, many magical weaponsmiths have been hard at work helping with Corrine's improvements of the "technological" levels of the Ember military.
Travel time : 10 days across the southwest Malterian mountains
along the Pyricorn Thread past Al Beth.
Ruler: Darshu, the Exploder Wizard, the Sorceror-King
Style: Bastard!! (Japanese Anime Fantasy OAV Series)
Travel along the Malterian mountains is hardly an easy task. The mountains are steep, the curves treacherous. But, if you take one particular route, leading from the Ember city of Al Beth, you can encounter one route that isn't too difficult to traverse, wide enough for small carts and caravans. If you travel along that route for a little over a week, you reach the mountain kingdom of Metallicana.
Metallicana is a small kingdom nestled in a high mountain valley. There is just enough arable land to allow for agriculture for the population and some minor trade goods, but the remainder of its wares are gained through trade with other outlying settlements and kingdoms. Remnants of modern buildings stand in hapazard arrangement across the landscape, telling of some massive devestation that had occured in the long distant past. The majority of recent construction is either stone or wattle and daub, much as in Amber.
Where Metallicana thrives however, is the fact that it is a storehouse of mystical knowledge gathered through the ages after the burning of the world, as well as containing the last remaining copies of scientific books from its native Shadow. With these sources of knowledge in hand, Metallicana is a source of powerful mages and learned priests, tasked with protecting the remnants of humanity from the errors of the past.
Metallicana is known to have a Broken Fire Pattern, through which Darshu and Arshes Nei gained their great powers. The attendant Pattern's Price has manifested in them as a tendency to lean towards more outre' costumes and behaviour, and potent destructive magics.
Centuries ago, the world that Metallicana was a part of experienced a devastating cataclysm; a World War, using engines of mass destruction, sowing chaos and discord in their wake. The engines used did not distinguish between friend or foe, much to the horror of the powers that be, and they rampaged across the globe before finally destroying themselves. The world culture was knocked back to a preindustrial state, small petty kingdoms and mountain strongholds protecting the remnants of humanity. Over time, knowledge of science was lost -- but in its place, magic flourished, and small schools and seminaries developed to spread the new knowledge.
Of course, with new power came those who would seek to wield that power for selfish ends. This was a period of darkness, where sorceror-kings, warlords, and wizards wandered the land, attempting to grab power for themselves. The most potent mages of all walked the Broken Fire Pattern "Pahn Terra", hidden somewhere in the mountains of Metallicana, which granted them great powers over Shadow and added leathal potency to their magics. The greatest, and possibly the most ruthless of these mages was the legendary "Exploder Wizard", Dark Schneider (also known as Darshu), a nigh-immortal destructive and letcherous wizard.
Ember made contact with Metallicana in 230 CY, while the smaller kingdom was engaged in an border dispute with a neighbor. Ember supplied diplomatic support, and helped Metallicana settle the disagreement with a minimal amount of bloodshed. The relationship between Metallicana and Ember became cordial, but fully formal diplomatic connections to the Kingdom of the Sun were not to come until 50 years later, after the Antharax Crisis was finished.
From 250 to 255 CY, Dark Schnieder and his allies attempted to take over the world. While this may seem a laughable goal to some, to Darshu it was a realizable goal, given his mastery of the arts of the Broken Pattern. His armies swept across the continent, with an eye towards finally siezing Metallicana for his own. With that kingdom under his bootheel, he would then have complete control over the Pahn Terra Broken Pattern, and have access to the Pyricorn Thread to Ember.
However, this was not to be. Assisted by mages and military support from Ember, Metallicana held back Darshu's armies, while the kingdom's mages and high priests defeated the Exploder Wizard in a spectacular magical duel. As the coup' de grace, they even managed to seal the wizard's spirit and soul within the body of an infant boy, theoretically locking away Dark Schnieder forever. With Darshu vanished, his armies were demoralized and they scattered. Metallicana enjoyed a period of relative peace, and trade continued to flourish between itself and Ember.
Fifteen years later, in 270 CY, the winds of war again began to stir. The Shitennou, composed of the generals that had originally served under Dark Schnieder, once again ressurected his goal to conquer the world. Consisting of Gara, Kall-Su, and Arshes Nei under Abigail's direction, they laid waste to Judaspriest, , and Whitesnake kingdoms, on the way to doing the same to Metallicana. But the intentions of the four generals were at odds with one another. Ninja Master Gara wanted to reclaim the glory days of his service under Dark Schneider, feeling betrayed by his dissapearance. Thunder Empress Arshes Nei wanted to create an "Ideal Kingdom" where children and orphans would no longer suffer, and to do that, she would have to wipe away the old order. The High King of Ice, Kall-Su, did it under the mistaken belief that Darshu was his enemy. And Dark Priest Abigail sought to destroy the four seals that locked away the Destruction God Antharax, the sole remaining doomsday weapon from before the destruction of the world.
In the Shitennou's assault on Metallicana, the desperate priests arranged for the release of Dark Schnieder from his child's body, Luche (who had grown up in the interim, with his own mind and personality). Although originally bent on revenge on those who had sealed him away, Dark Schnieder soon realized that greater matters were at stake. Covering his growing concern and care with ever-increasing levels of bluster and destructive magic, Darshu waged war against Abigail and the Shitennou, bringing his former allies back into the fold, save for Abigail who was too far gone in his mad dreams to reawaken Antharax.
In the wake of the Antharax crisis, the newly formed Metallicana Coalition sent a full diplomatic envoyship to Ember, petitioning for Lava Circle membership. The surprise was that the leader of the Metallicana coalition was none other than the Exploder Wizard, Dark Schneider! After some deliberation, Metallicana became a member of the Lava Circle. Arshes Nei emigrated to Ember, and became a naturalized citizen, and eventually was appointed the post of Wyvernmaster.
In the wake of the Antharax Crisis, Darshu rules the Metallicana Coalition with a steady hand, along with his allies Gara the master ninja, and Kall-Su the icemage. Darshu's massive, muscular, and a letcher besides, but he is still a capable wizard, warrior, and king.
Darshu has taken as many opportunities as possible to "show the colors" to Ember, visiting the flaming city whenever he can. It's rumored that he's managed to seduce most of the court's ladies, and there might be some truth to that... he DID try to seduce Queen Corrine, soon after her return.
The hole that was punched through the Castle Ember walls near the location of the Queen's quarters shows what happened with THAT attempt. WHY Corrine keeps him on in the Lava Circle is anybody's guess, but a grudging respect has developed between the two of them. She recognizes that for all his blustery behaviour, Darshu -does- fight for what he believes is right (if albeit in excessive, flamboyant ways). In turn, Darshu knows that Corrine I is not somebody to cross, and not at all a pushover.
(The hole was later turned into a window seat as a subtle reminder of that encounter.)
Despite his boisterous and loudmouthed ways, Darshu does have a softer side -- his lecherous ways are a front (we think), and he cares for Arshes Nei, the Wyvernmaster of Ember, as a daughter and a lover, and has an off-again-on-again romance with Shayla-Sheila, the High Preistess of the Pyricorn of Ember. Those are the REAL reasons he vists the fire realm so often.
It is unknown on whether Darshu himself will participate in the coming battles; he might just appear for the sheer excitement and showoff factor. At least several of his armored regiments have been pledged to Ember's defense and support for when the Ember main armies head to Amber.
Travel time : Four weeks by the Pyricorn Threads in space
Ruler: Prince Pyrus
Style: Arabian/Space Opera (War Planets)
Phyrrus holds a significant source of energy that is often raided and harnessed by all worlds of the Planet Cluster in their home shadow. Cities resembling gigantic cauldrons cap the openings of the numerous volcanoes found on the surface. The people of Phyrrus harness and control the planet's vast energy resources through dam-like structures attached to volcanic flows. A thin crust that gives way to spontaneous lava eruptions covers the entire surface of the planet. To cope with the blazing and scalding world, its inhabitants are capable of liquefying in ultra-extreme temperatures.
Conversely, the natives have difficulty in water and ice shadows -- they can tolerate most worlds with breathable oxygen, as it maintains their catalytic processes, but said 'flame' can die out in near vaccum or be extinguished with water.
Phyrrus is a "recent" addition to the Lava Circle, one of the last shadows Catherine negotiated to join the Alliance before Corrine I came to power. This treaty was negotiated with King Luciferase, Pyrus's father, who was in support of the Alliance. He was soon killed afterwards in an out-world struggle that didn't involve Ember.
In Luciferase's place, his son was raised by the aging Vizier, who takes a dimmer view of the association with Ember. The 'new' Queen is unproven and untested in his eyes, the Shadow far and distant. Better to stay with their own kind and own affairs. However, Corrine is doing her best to improve relations with Phyrrus -- this is aided by the fact that she views Pyrus in much a similar position she is : the untested person in a position of power. Phyrrus is also a major gateway for technological access to Shadows and space, and a source for technological and trump exchanges.
Pyrus is the glorious young ruler of Phyrrus. Although struggling with being prematurely thrust into his role as ruler, Pyrus is still the quintessential teenager, often thinking he knows everything without ever fully grasping the situation. Sometimes hotheaded, his enthusiasm for action often supersedes well thought out strategy.
Loyal confidant and surrogate father to Pyrus, the Vizier has faith in the young Prince, and guards his safety with a vengeance. He is constantly reminding the young Prince that his first responsibility is to the people of Phyrrys and that should never be forgotten, even in the face of the Alliance. The Vizier is openly hostile of the Alliance and constantly tries to persuade Pyrus that they are not to be trusted. At times irritable and testy, the Vizier is extremely dedicated to tradition and the old laws, something that the boy, much to his aggravation, would rather update.
Pyrus and Corrine have gone hunting in the Corona more than once, and a friendly bond has formed. Loathe as the Vizier is to admit it, Corrine has become something of a surrogate mother to the young prince. They also share some of the same likes for action and kicking butt. Pyrus also has a friendship with Gabrielle, who has painted trumps for him. And the recent events in Phyrrus's home shadow has taught both an importaint truth -- "We Must All Hang Together, Or We Will All Hang Seperately." If Pyrus has any say about it, he'll be in the forefront of the glorious defense of Amber when the Day of Darkness comes.
A major portion of the Trump Integration Intiative is focussed here, developing new ways to harness Trump and Shadow-walking abilities to traverse Shadow and Space without losing capability.
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