Sunday, 29 November 2015

Wild Seas Under Heaven, the Setting

An enormous island, centremost of all the lands under Heaven, which was shaped by the Dragon-Emperors in a time long since forgotten from clay dragged up from the seabed. Tianxia is a rugged land of extremes, with high mountains and plateaus giving way to sweeping valleys and rolling grasslands. Rivers abound, with their original courses often said to have been cut into the land by the tail of the dragon-god Yu the Great.
The time of the Dragon-Emperors is long gone, with the Great Emperor of Jade having ruled over Tianxia for ten thousand years.  The serpent-aspected humanoids that once inhabited the continent have all gone extinct, interbred, or retreated to the wilderness; Tianxia is now a land ruled and tamed by human beings.
To the north of Tianxia lies Duitan, home to the turtle-aspected humanoids known as Biē. Duitan is an archipelago of tiny rocky islands separated by such narrow stretches of water that swimming is a common mode of transport. Reefs and shoals abound, and a number have been landscaped into suitable sites for occupation in preference to the bare and barren islands. The islands of Duitan are cold and stormy, and grow increasingly arctic in the northern reaches until large islands of largely-unsupported ice will form around a reef or tiny islands.
Duitan is the traditional heartland of the worship of They-Who-Awakened, a noble of unknown species and gender who dedicated their life to the understanding the causes and nature of suffering and found their answer and a solution while meditating for forty-nine years in an underwater grove of sacred kelp. The other patron god of the region is dark and fearsome Xuan Wu, who is master of the storm and sea and a tutelary-deity for warriors.
To the west of Tianxia lies Rao, home to the cat-aspected humanoids known as Rén. Rao is a large island with a number of mountain ranges running down its eastern side and clusters of islands continuing those lines into the sea. A fearsome reef called Tiger’s-Claw served as a natural barrier against occupation from Tianxia until they were able to launch fleets from colonies off the mainland and bypass it. Veldt-like grasslands and deciduous forests cover much of Rao and the surrounding islands, save for the north-western chain of bamboo-covered and wind-swept atolls often called Zōukow after the pirate fleet that anchors there.
Rao is a land haunted by spirits, with spectral ghost-tigers whose eyes burn with emerald fire continuing to fight a guerrilla war against Tianxian occupation. The region’s patron god is Bai Hu, the brash albino god who rules over metal and mining and is the tutelary-deity of lovers, horsemasters, and craftsmen.
To the south of Tianxia lies Luhai, home to the bird-aspected humanoids known as Guàn. Luhai is an archipelago of crescent-like islands where steep slopes and cliffs plummet down from the central ridge of each island to meet the sea below. Tropical and humid in climate, the islands are covered in lush and verdant vegetation that forms a tangled jungle wherever there is enough flat ground to support more than one plant. Monsoons and torrential rains are common here, grounding for days the numerous birds that soar on the thermals that rise off the sea.
The patron god of Luhai is Zhu Que, the bright and far-seeing goddess who is keeper of the three-legged sunbird and ruler of the rain and spring warmth that allow crops to grow. She is a tutelary deity of artists and nobles, and is often linked to Kwan Yin, the Awakened-One whose worship and teachings of boundless compassion have spread most outside her origin in Luhai.
To the east of Tianxia lies Shúhon, home to the ape-aspected humanoids known as Mín. Shúhon is a chain of large mountainous islands covered in dense coniferous forests. Sinkholes and hidden inlets are common, and are used for refuge by the raiders and pirates respectively who still hold out and rebel against Tianxian occupation.
The patron god of Shúhon is Qing Long, the capricious and wily god of scholarship and high-stakes palace diplomacy who is the only Serpent-King to rule the elements above the waves. Shúhon is also the birthplace of the Monkey King, a notoriously disrespectful trickster-god whose martial feats are legendary.

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