Backstory: Little girl plays with fires

She was playing with a little fire. They twinkled around her head, like flies, those living flames. She danced with them, giggling and hopping to a melody she had conjured in her mind. Her evening music lesson had left her restless with inspiration, and she was dancing this away. Her beige dress had little flower patterns sown in it. It was night and the door to the balcony was closed. She expected no visitors, other than those who were invited. Her teacher had gone home, her parents were asleep, there was to be no-one, yet there one was, in the corner, sitting in the chair where maids read her bedtime stories.

“Who are you?” the little girl asked from the cloaked man whose hood obscured his face.

“I ask that from myself more often than I care to admit”, the man replied, his voice weary and sad.

“You’re here to kill me”, the girl said suddenly with a softly restrained tone.

“What makes you say that?” the man asked, the hint of sadness even deeper now.

There was a tense silence between them. The girl stood still, staring at him with an unblinking gaze. The man waited some time before resuming to speak:

“You’re not wrong, nor are you right. It’s something else I’ve decided to do, after careful deliberation. But in some sense, yes, it is a form of death.”

“What you want?” the girl asked, the tiny hovering fires around her head flickering.

“Now, that… is a difficult question. There’s what I wish, and what I can realistically have. It’s a complicated world”, the cloaked man said, he didn’t sound as sad anymore.

“Tell me how I die”, the girl commanded.

“You’re too precious to perish at this age. You’ve committed no crime that warrants a sentence. Unlike the people I regularly deal with. But that is the difficulty, issue is your ability to sing into existence things that shouldn’t be.”

The girl listened, looked at her sides and rushed to huff at the hovering flames, extinguishing them with a mere puff.

“They’re gone. Now go away”, she said firmly.

“If only it was so simple. Once… something is out of the bottle, it can hardly be put back in. In order to protect your city, and not just your city, but all cities, what your blood enables you to do… it’s a flame that would engulf them all, if left to roam. But worry not, I have come to another decision.”

The cloaked man stood. Only now did the little girl notice the curved blade towering behind of him, strapped in his back. It had somehow been absorbed entirely in the wall a moment before, hence she never noticed, it’s like it had no weight. As he stood, his back all straight, it’s as if his shadow reached every corner of the girl’s bedroom.

“You will join us. And you will be like me. A protector.”

The Monasteries of Sharam

Under strict rulesets, men and boys attuned to the gods may study the Language of Creation. The limitations are extreme. Only some words allowed for study, for anything more would be blasphemous, a path to corruption. The monks of Sharam are taught to overcome their earthly desires, so they would use the Language only for healing.

But the monasteries are also safekeeping knowledge. The power that was explored in centuries past is held in books and scrolls at the monasteries inside of sections barred from but the most advanced devotees of the twin gods. It is this proximity to sin that inspires the monks to perfect their meditation, their prayer, their studies.

The church of the twin gods has strong affiliations with the royal family. This marriage of institutions legitimizes the rule of the family, as the church preaches allegiance to the state. In return, the church gains the privileged status of an official state religion. No other religions are allowed in Sharam. No other institution than the church may study the Language of Creation.

The monasteries used to collaborate with the Historical Society, but this relationship has grown strained. A growing number of prominent historians are disregarding the limitations set by the state. As curious academics seek deeper knowledge that could undermine religious dogma, the royals plot an intervention.

Backstory: War of Mountains and the Sandstorm

Civilizations advance each at their own pace. The ones without rivals do not advance. They remain on tribal, primitive level, regardless of the passage of time. But when neighboring a powerful nation, there is rivalry that forces development. The weaker nation is easily conquered and turned into a colony for the stronger nation, the slaves gaining some resources and learning from the conqueror. As time passes, and nutrition and conditions in the colony improve from having a social order imposed by the conqueror, the subdued colony will eventually produce thinkers. It only takes a few exceptional minds, who will observe the stage of development their nation is at, who begin to question why they should be slaves. Such is the relationship between the desert and the mountain.

The mountain men have been slaves of one master and another master. Despite a capacity for the immense building of muscle, they never could contest their magic-wielding lords. And as these nations so tragically always find the means to cause their own self-destruction, the revisors have never enjoyed true freedom, always forced to switch masters as nations have perished.

Then everything changed. A man was born named Mondan. He led the revisors on a quest to freedom in the harsh wilderness, where no mage dared venture. The ferocious beasts of the forest were a better deterrent to pursuit than any wall or army. Against them, the supreme upper body strength of the slave laborers was optimal. And in the heart of the forest, they found the mountains.

The mountain city provides an endless supply of a mystical ore to the war-loving revisors. Possessing no ability or affinity to explore the language of creation, the empire stands on its own by employing armors and weaponry resistant to magic. The heaviness of these armors disables all other races from wielding them. The bone-crushing weight is counteracted with rigorous physical training. This requirement, to match up against expansionist rival nations asymmetrically, has led the mountain people to the formulation of a military culture obsessed with martial prowess.

Power over history is power over the future. The revisors have no respect for the past, as their history is so rife with humiliation and abuse. Their story, if not altered beyond recognition, could shed light to the events of the world.

Backstory: Betrayal of the Alchemists

It was when the alchemists’ guild allied themselves with the royal family of Sharam, that war became mere sport to the aristocracy. The alchemists, once reviled for their sorcery, gained a privileged role in the kingdom. The creation of gold no longer banned by law, Sharam gained an endless supply of the scarce precious metal to pursue political aims. Expansion of borders became as easy as swiping a pen on paper.

Alchemists became not just part of the aristocracy. Their schemes eventually eliminated other prominent families, leaving none to contest their direct access to the royalty. The guild became generals, court advisors, ministers.

Gold empowered the royal family like no magic ever could. With the best financed army of the three kingdoms, there was no need to cower no more to the Revisor empire and their iron. The entire desert, and the lush forests that bordered it, were liberated in one mighty war. That is how the desert city became the third kingdom.

With power over gold, the royals were able to buy the allegiance of the astronomers, who abetted the falsifying of the star maps. How the night sky had looked in aeons past was buried.

Instead of letting the populations know what was coming, the royals kept many things secret, leveraging their knowledge in crafting plans that ensured their dominance for generations. But not all books could be burned or rewritten.

A World of Two Gods: Beliefs of The Sharamites

The world is the handiwork of two Gods, a man and a woman. The man made the mountains, the oceans, the sky. The woman created life. Together they made a paradise manifest.

The language of creation was given to the most gifted of their children. Only they could interpret the words of the Gods and make miracles with them. While others could speak and sing the words, only few could alter reality with them. To shape rock, to heal life.

But blasphemous are the intents of men with ambition. Another practice developed from study of the language, the art of necromancy. The ability to manipulate the animate and the inanimate simultaneously enabled the raising of the dead to do one’s bidding. Limitations on what can be studied are thus many, for so perverse are the possibilities.

A great temple was raised in the honor of the Gods into the city of Sharam, built around the long river that runs across the entire desert. This lifeline enabled the warring tribes of the desert to grow into a civilization. Carved by the sword of a stranger, so the stories tell. A man who came from nowhere, wielding inhuman power over speech and the sword, cut the sand sea in half.

The people of this city, most of them, believe in the twin two gods. They believe that their city, made under the brightest star in the sky, is the birthplace of all creation. As the world does not rotate or require a sun to have light, the star has thus never moved and never will.

Magic – how spellcasting works in this world

In usual fantasy stories, magic is always restricted by something. There are drawbacks, item requirements, it depletes mana, whatever. But the magic in this world is stupidly powerful, restricted by almost nothing. If you know the spells and can speak the words, you can cast them repeatedly. The restriction on magic is the social order that is maintained with heavy censorship. The ruling class of every nation is busy keeping rogue mages from running rampant. And rigidly dogmatic religions add numerous rules to magic usage, with harsh punishments for anyone crossing the line. Nations are in perpetual struggle to retain the social order.

The royal desert city, Sharam

The royal city of Sharam was built across the only river that runs through the desert. The desert is an anomaly, it’s the only one that exists. As there are no differences in temperatures regardless how north or south you are, there should be no deserts. It’s a miracle to the locals, who tell the story of a traveler. He came to the desert when all it hosted were tiny warring tribes, and cut it in half. With the swing of his weapon, he parted the sea of sand and water gushed into the desert from the sea. Then, the traveler began a war, united the tribes under one banner and massacred the ones who failed to yield. And so, the civilization of Sharam was born, from blood and from water.

Creation of the great river, story of the traveler

The great desert was a dead zone for aeons. The only known desert in the world, its origin is a mystery. As the climate is no hotter in any part of the world, the world having no sun and acting as its own light source, neither wind nor heat could have erased the vegetation of the great desert. There may be a dark mystery below the vast sea of sand…

The desert was home to many warring tribes, until the traveler came. With one swing of his sword, he cut the rock below the desert, his cut reaching the far seas in the west and the east. And somehow that united the tribes and this civilization was born and stuff, I’ll have to think more on this later.

Female reapers and further backstory for the order

Incidents and powers of rogue wizards have been increasing in recent years. The order of the reapers has been losing agents, as their opponents have become overwhelming to deal with at times. They’ve recruited female magic users to bolster their dwindling numbers. But while these killer ladies were obedient to the old code of conduct for a time, a cultural shift has been taking place. The order’s cynical methodology for dealing with problems, namely, killing all the rogue wizards and maintaining absolute secrecy of their order’s existence even at the cost of killing all witnesses. Basically, these guys kill everybody, and the female reapers go along with this for a while, until the sheer stupidity of it starts to piss them off.

And thus, perhaps a more diplomatic order will begin to emerge. Softer methods, less killing everybody. But the resistance within the order is fierce…