I'm creating a new pre-thread, because this concept has changed considerably. This is a pre-thread because I must receive applications and profiles before I construct the finer nuances of our starting world. A big thank you to North King for discussing much of this with me (and helping me with geology, among other things). Beneath the Jade Moon It has been over two thousand years since the great mountain in northern Euleshun spewed fire, ash, and death, clawing the sky with smokey fingers and scattering the stench of bitter brimstone. Gazing to their firmament, the Aulesiri people had long seen the pale-green jade moon, and swore by its thousands of faces that it held the power of fertility. Yet as ashen rain swept the skies, and the great moon became masked by gray ghosts, that symbol began to fade and vanish, along with the lifestyles the Aulesiri had relied on for what seemed like time eternal. Thus describes the Aulesiri Ruin, which was followed by a series of migrations southward, to Jyotnun, the "eternal garden". It is said that Luseysi "the Pale" knew of Jyotnun by the light of the moon, and led the Aulesiri there with the guidance of several great figures, ranging from herbalists to chieftains, who have since been added to the dusty annals of history. And so the Aulesiri were led out of Euleshun the Old Land, through a cold and harsh landscape, and across a narrow isthmus. The firmament of Jyotnun contained the same crisp, pale-green moon the Aulesiri had never forgotten. And Jyotnun itself was blanketed in fertile, untamed land, ripe for settlement. Here is an extremely rough map of the migrations. A remarkable man, for a remarkable time During the migrations, Luseysi performed a plethora of miracles. He caused the pale-green moon to light pathways to fertile lands. Through this feat, he was able to select chiefs to explore and settle those regions. His command of the pale-green light allowed the Aulesiri to find food and raw materials. It is also said that Luseysi could speak to the gods, and proclaimed himself a god born into the world, a claim that was verified by his unique appearance (milky white skin and green eyes), and his otherworldly powers. In speaking to the gods, Luseysi could tame roaring rivers so that his people could cross them; he could cause ice to thaw and vicious creatures to flee; he could make torrential downpours become as calm as plum rains. Numerous other tales of his miraculous powers exist, recorded in ancient texts or told through detailed oral histories. Perhaps the most notable miracle he performed is long life; it is said that he lived through several generations, and hardly appeared to age. The Painted Children Before the migrations, the Aulesiri were bound to dozens of chieftains, many of whom were locked in constant squabbles and violent feuds. While Luseysi united his people and led them to a safer world, old loyalties die hard, and many chieftains began to establish their own domains. Additionally, the Aulesiri people discovered the diminutive Raayakin or "Painted Children", indigenous peoples to the wilderness of Jyotnun. The Raayakin were spread across the land, and had developed into varying regional subgroups. In north Jyotnun, where the Aulesiri first arrived, the Raayakin were largely a nomadic peoples, hunting whale and living in the tundra, presumably pushed to such conditions by their more aggressive southern relatives. Another offshoot dwelled in the vast wooded mountains of central Jyotnun, where they lived a primitive lifestyle, seemingly out of sight and beyond the senses of men. They worshipped mountains, rocks, and great forests, and practiced strange rituals that seemed to mask their presence. The numerous Aulesiri had come to Jyotnun armed with bronze and horses, and countless lifetimes of harsh battle experience from previous infighting. Priests might tell another story: that Aulesiri priests and Luseysi himself used their eternal powers to conjure storms and cloudy hands that reached low from the pale-green moon. Whatever the case may be, the Raayakin found themselves eventually subjugated, their union with nature shattered, their shamans humiliated or missing. It was control of the land that the Aulesiri sought: agriculture, husbandry, and a realm fit for large populations and an expanding empire of jade. This drive did not completely negate the presence of the Raayakin, however, and some clans on the "frontier" of the original Aulesiri settlements found themselves accepting Raayakin populations and even breeding with them. Some even brought Raayakin customs into their families, and their spirits into a personal, customized pantheon. Other clans ridiculed this behavior, but for many, it was necessary: the mountainous forests of central Jyotnun to this day are filled with mysteries and untamed heights -- knowledge of such terrain is wise and of great use. The death of the lunar son As the migrations took place, Luseysi and his entourage flocked to a more temperate climate in southern Jyotnun, and one that was close to a fish-filled sea and a fertile river valley. There, Luseysi passed away, but not after striking the earth with the Aulesiri standard, and (as myth states) pulling from the river's edge a great fragment of pale-white, green-hued jadeite. As he died, he pointed towards the Milky Neck, to the peninsula that reaches for the eastern land. His burial place now marks the Jade Shrine, a structure of fantastical beauty and spiritual reverence. Based around this marvel is the Pale City, central bastion of Aulesiri civilization, and throne of the Pale Emperor, whose milky skin and green eyes display direct relation to Luseysi and Delylani, the former being the goddess of the pale-green moon. Supposedly impregnated by Luseysi, she vanished after giving birth to a son, the second emperor, and blessing the Pale City and the new domain of the Aulesiri. An absolute spiritual authority From throughout the Aulesiri-settled Jyotnun, mourners flocked to the Pale City to pay their respects to the Jade Shrine. A renovated Aulesiri belief set, combining spirituality with political fervor, evolved from the remarkable events throughout the migration, and from the deaths of this magnificent individual. With this new series of beliefs came a new priesthood, remnants of the spiritual guardians of Luseysi mixed with a healthy smattering of priests from the old faith, who have since maintained a strict code of conduct and have sought impartial members to ascend to their order. The religion is polytheistic, though perhaps centered around Luseysi, and thus his ancestors (the emperor), as they are considered the only known personifications of deities that exist, ever have existed, or ever will exist. Yet the Aulesiri pantheon is extensive, featuring hundreds of spirits, house-specific guides, lesser deities, and figures the equivalent of boddhisatva (essentially, either mythical figures or historical figures turned into gods after their death, due to miraculous feats or supposed supernatural dealings). As such, while all of the Empire does revere the Pale Emperor to be the ultimate spiritual authority, he is but lord of a wide array of lesser spirits. Think about the Emperor of Japan and his relationship to Shintoism; the Emperor is not considered "king" of gods, just as the descendants of Luseysi are not considered "king" of the pantheon; rather, they are significant as they are the only personifications (descendants) of a god, thus perhaps believed to be a remarkable human instrument of the pantheon itself. Even some spirits revered by the Raayakin were implemented into this pantheon, though they are extremely localized. Fantastic, magnificent structures in the name of the Pale During the initial settlement of Jyotnun, many lords used the Raayakin to construct massive castles, palaces, and other marvelous structures, many of which still stand today, unparalleled by current structures due to the eventual disintegration of Raayakin society (and thus the disappearance of cheap labor). Of course, many attach supernatural feats of construction to these buildings, but practical scholars will simply cite the endless toiling of Raayakin slaves. Slavery was not abolished because of any overarching socio-political effort, but instead evolved to no longer exist as the indigenous Raayakin faded: as stated, the Raayakin eventually became integrated into fringe groups of Aulesiri society ("frontier folk"), and died out completely due to interbreeding, warfare, and encroachment. This was gradual, as many lords had created work programs or "slave communities", but even these eventually became ingrained in those societies, or expelled altogether due to warfare or a lack of proper resources to feed and care for them (the latter being more common than the former). Surotsi, land of spices As soon as the Aulesiri explored what is now the Milky Neck, they discovered Surotsi, or "land of spices", another large landmass to the east (this discovery took place shortly before the death of Luseysi, though more involved exploration and colonization took centuries to fully develop). In the northern and western parts of Surotsi, Aulesiri expansion was natural, and only slightly impeded by lesser native groups found there. However, this expansion was soon interrupted by nomadic war parties, whose homeland was among the Ketirral Rise, the mountains and steppes of southern and eastern Surotsi. The war parties grew in number, and attacks grew in frequency, forcing the Emperor to raise armies and build stone fortresses and walls throughout his Surotsian holdings. For many years, the two peoples danced, neither gaining traction, though the Surotsian natives (called the Esurks) were not seeking land, but rather plunder; to that effect, they largely succeeded in periodic raiding. It took decades for the Aulesiri to advance upon the Esurkish homeland, though such victories were largely meaningless; to this day central, eastern, and southern Surotsi are wild and untamed regions. However, many Esurks have become ingrained in some Aulesiri societies and households in Surotsi, due to long-term interbreeding, localized subjugation, or tenuous political treaties. There are, then, Esurks (the minority) who have effectively become subjugated, and other Esurks (the majority) who remain either independent and nomadic (and problematic for the Aulesiri of that region) or independent and sedentary (also sometimes a problem, but those tribes will have become city-states or "houses" in their own right, due to advanced dealings with the Aulesiri and the Pale, as well as a utilization of trade with the Beyond). Esurkish culture is centered around the warrior and features an array of deities who are said to assist in warfare and raiding; indeed, the Esurkish warrior is a formidable foe, and with the introduction of horses and Aulesiri metals to their arsenal, their fighting styles and tactics have evolved into something fearsome. More on the Esurks It is important to mention that the Esurks and the Aulesiri are not enemies, per se. The Esurks are divided into numerous tribes, and their loyalties differ, even though their culture (and certainly their language) is somewhat consistent from tribe to tribe. As stated, some tribes have actually become "civilized" in the Aulesiri sense and have become ingrained in that society, or have taken Aulesiri advancements and merged them with other imports from the Beyond (creating some interesting regional amalgamations between Aulesiri and Esurkish beliefs and customs). Other tribes are quite hostile. It is also important to mention that the line between Aulesiri and Esurkish territory is not clear-cut and defined; there are certainly areas of Surotsi that are considered "wild" and "untamed" and "unpredictable", but there may be a few "frontier" settlements amidst these regions. The Esurks have a ceremonial relationship to their natural surroundings, and a fierce drive to tame and control the wild warrior spirit, doing so with a command over the "supernatural". They do not share many of the major, core values of the Aulesiri: namely, obedience to a central religious authority, belief in an other-worldly pantheon of deities, a social sense of chivalry, and an undying need to create massive, seemingly permanent structures, vast swaths of tilled earth, and crowded stone and wood settlements. Some tribes, however, have begun to adapt some of those values to their societies, as well as bring in some of the "civilized" aspects of the Beyond, to create viable opposition to some of the Aulesiri lords of Surotsi. The realm today Where do we find ourselves today, in this world? Well, as the empire cemented its presence in both Jyotnun and Surotsi, the emperor's political power became considerably weakened by an emerging warrior class. We find ourselves starting this game soon after such realities have come to light. Despite the weakening of the emperor's supreme political power, he is still revered as a spiritual authority, and this cannot be changed. Instead of thinking about how to replace the emperor with a member of your own house, you should instead think about how to achieve infighting in the emperor's family or how to become a warlord who basically turns the emperor into a puppet; his family is considered absolutely divine, and Aulesir will not accept anything less. That divine blood has obviously been thinned over the years, but it is no less potent. There can also be conflicts over who will marry the emperor, or between brothers, and so on. And while the emperor does have less political and military power, that does not mean he has none. The emperor's seat has realized, however, that it cannot rule the realm by itself through spiritual authority alone. Thus, we begin in a time of great uncertainty, a boiling point for various regional tensions and the inability of the Pale City to hold together a sprawling realm. There has been house-to-house fighting before, but this is different: powerful regional lords are exerting their powers and flouting their wealth, and there is a new sense of independence from region-to-region, given political freedoms obtained via consequence of the emperor's weakened hold and a respected, powerful warrior class. Instead of hating the emperor, wanting to replace him, or disrespecting his authority, these lords rather proclaim to be executors of the emperor's will, and that is like to be where much of the fighting will evolve from (and if the emperor says, "I don't want this lord to be my executor", then that lord will perhaps argue that the emperor's brother is truer, or he will simply focus on regional aspirations). Apart from those crises, we also find ourselves in a time of great uncertainty with the untamed regions of the east, in Surotsi. The Esurks are formidable, though they are splintered and not as advanced. There is room for interesting situations there, especially as the Esurks are the ones who trade exotic goods with the Beyond (remember, some Esurks are no longer wild, and have become quite "civilized", and serve as middle-men between the Aulesiri and those cities of the Beyond). These "civilized" Esurks are not considered second-class citizens in many cases, but it depends on the house (and what is created by the players). I was thinking that, over centuries, some of the Esurkish warrior code has in fact taken place of many Aulesiri ideals, due to the wild nature of the region and the distance from the Pale City or the older Aulesiri settlements in Jyotnun (and the blunders of the Solemn Age). As such, perhaps fueled by the failures of the Solemn Age and from the War of the Pale Brothers, there is emerging a relatively recent cult combining aspects of the Order, the Lunar Faith, and Esurkish ceremonial customs (along with their strict and somewhat brutal warrior code). And the Beyond is... The Beyond is essentially the continent to the east of the Aulesiri realm (east of Surotsi). It is separate from Euleshun, in the north, and contains a variety of (for lack of a better word) Asiatic cultures. These range from extremely civilized and advanced to barbaric, though the realms there are arranged into city-states, as opposed to larger political bodies. This is mainly due to geographic barriers, such as vast swaths of desert or impenetrable mountain ranges. It is for this reason that there is no singular polity in the Beyond that can threaten the Aulesiri realm, or even conquer the Esurks with a fleet of ships. Nonetheless, the Beyond itself would be too difficult for the Aulesiri to conquer, so it will not really show up on our map in detail, and knowledge of the Beyond is limited in the first place (told mostly through merchants, whose stories are considered impure or too fantastical to be true, and told also from the perspective of the Esurks, who actively deal in exotic goods from the Beyond). Notes on the class system And, it might be a good idea to talk about the class system in our realm. There are four classes, in order of respect: warrior (knights), farmers/peasants, artisans, and merchants. This might seem counter-intuitive, but allow me to explain: the warrior class is supreme as it defends the people and serves the lord it fights for; the farmers provide food for the people, and thus are traditionally an honored class. However, even though in name farmers are a respected class, they are heavily taxed by their lords; many lords do not even allow their farmer subjects to eat the food they grow, and instead force the farmers to submit to the tax burden and receive their share with everyone else. This obviously causes a lot of problems, which could be another source of potential conflict in our story. Artisans are extremely useful, though still considered less important than those who produce food (farmers). Even respected smiths and shipbuilders are relegated to this tier, though again, only in name. The merchant class being at the bottom of the barrel might seem the most out-of-place, but in this realm's society, they are considered parasites and schemers. That being said, they are still able to amass incredible fortunes, and we are beginning this story at a time when their influence is becoming greater (because of recent sentiments of regional independence, merchants are respected in their abilities to shuttle goods from region-to-region). Some merchants are still considered vile; mostly, those who deal in goods from the Beyond). This history's nuances From the initial settlement of Jyotnun, to the expansion into Surotsi and the current situation, there were many internal conflicts, wars, schemes, and crises. However, these will not be explained in full, and instead, your house profile should contain relevant information that can then, once all profiles have been submitted, be compiled to create a more nuanced backstory. I do not find it necessary to describe every single war over the course of thousands of years. Rather, keep in mind our land has been shaped by those years, and so certain tidbits of info (for example, the fact that Harrenhal's stone was melted by dragonfire) can be elaborated upon either in stories or in profiles. Once all profiles are submitted, and final profiles are created (by me), we will get a better idea of where loyalties lie and who is playing what. Current house loyalties and conflicts should not be "ancient" in design, but comparatively recent; though justification for power can be as ancient as you feel necessary. More on religion To elaborate more on religion: each god within the Aulesiri pantheon is not relatable to single categories of worship, and things are not so clear-cut or pre-defined. There may be several gods whose backstories encompass an aspect of, say, war, and their relationship to certain categories of society are consequential and even ever-evolving (so, more accurately, the warrior/knight class of society might develop an interest in a certain spirit due to that spirit's backstory which involved several battles won in ancient times). The point of all of this is, that there is a wide collection of deities and otherworldly spirits, and so players should feel some degree of freedom in establishing localized mythologies, as long as they all pay supreme worship to the revered emperor, a son of the gods. Keeping such fluidity in mind, I may still provide some basics, for story-telling purposes, and trends can certainly develop from region to region, or even throughout the realm. Worship of the gods is done via shrines. Shrines vary depending on what they represent. With a shrine, you must have something enshrined, a physical aspect of that spirit; therefore, shrines with physical remains are typically devoted to historical figures who became spirits after their death (just as the remains of Luseysi are enshrined at the Jade Shrine). Such shrines are often simple compared to shrines dedicated to otherworldly deities (with the exception of Luseysi's shrine, which is rather grandiose). More grandiose shrines are devoted to otherworldly, more powerful deities, ones that have not existed in human form in our world, but whose influence can be felt in other ways. Instead of enshrined remains, those shrines will have sculptures or reliefs of the god they represent, and those figures will be guarding a closed door with a hidden chamber. Within that hidden chamber is a vessel that is imbued with the spirit of the god (typically, an ancient object associated with the god, or something blessed by a notable priest). Shrines are crafted with materials available in the specific region, and very rarely rely on imported materials (but of course, that all depends). Despite that comment, one imported material extremely common in all religious structures is jadeite; usually, just a little bit of it. Worship in a shrine is done via censer, though specific ways of worship vary from region to region (and sometimes even house to house). It is also typical for each house to have a shrine all to themselves, dedicated to the deceased members of the family (and located on castle grounds). The night sky The moon is perhaps the most important feature of the world for a variety of reasons. The view of the moon became masked by ash during the Aulesiri Ruin, and thus prompted the great migration, as the Aulesiri sought a healthier firmament to guide their civilization. The world's moon is "green", but do not imagine a satellite covered in grass or something so neon and bright. Patches of the moon do show as green as grass sometimes, but much of it becomes pale through the filter of the world's atmosphere, and the moon's own atmosphere and weather systems (which are typically extremely cloudy). As such, the moon is usually a white-jade color with a tint of green. And while the Aulesiri referred to it as green in their histories, they more commonly used the term "pale" or "jade". Jade became the dominant term, especially as substantial quantities of jadeite have been found throughout Jyotnunni river valleys. The moon is obviously an important religious symbol, and the emperor's sigil is a pale-green crescent moon. Here is a brief (and intentionally vague) timeline: 0 A.R.: The Aulesiri Ruin (though, A.R. stands for "After the Ruin"). The beginning of the migrations. ~300 A.R.: The (supposed) death of Luseysi and the founding of the Pale City. Additionally, the construction of regional cities, forts, and castles begins, utilizing Raayakin slave labor. ~700 A.R.: First colonies established in Surotsi; subsequent subjugation of weaker Esurkish relatives. ~800 A.R.: All of Jyotnun explored and mapped; much of it settled in some way or another. The first real conflicts with formidable Esurkish warriors begin, but see no end. ~800 - 1,300 A.R.: The Solemn Age; this was, essentially, five centuries of mourning for Luseysi, as prescribed by the Order of the Moon. Thousands upon thousands of shrines (some extremely fantastical) were constructed (many, in the first 200 years or so, using Raayakin slave labor -- later, sometimes even using domestic slave labor, much to the ire of the populace), and priority was put on maintaining such structures (even over the well-being of citizens). It was during this time that structures dedicated to deities or lesser spirits began to contain at least one portrayal of Luseysi, or some bits of jade in their design. The Solemn Age was begun by a steady, centuries-long meteor shower and strange fluctuations in the atmosphere; it began with hysteria, but gradually those anomalies dissipated and died out, along with any undying loyalty to the Order of the Moon and their strict policies. Some of the meteors became meteorites, and they carried a remarkably strong alloy, which was subsequently used to create extremely rare weapons (this metal is called syrlens). ~1,300 A.R.: The Order of the Moon is usurped by an emerging, popularized warrior class (due to growing population and peasants upset with the Order's policies). Money and resources begin to pour into the construction of new regional castles and fortresses (or, more commonly, improvements on the old), increasing tensions between regional lords and the political arm of the emperor. This was the first case of infighting in the emperor's house, as new warlords declared support for his brother. Many of the fantastical shrines of the Solemn Age were ransacked and looted to pay for the coming civil war. ~1,300 - 1,350 A.R.: The War of the Pale Brothers, which lasts for about five decades. The emperor and his brother wage a massive civil war, ending in the defeat of the emperor and the installment of his brother as new lord of the realm and supreme religious authority. The new emperor confirms the Order of the Moon's errors, and subsequently much of the old clergy is slaughtered and replaced. The emperor's blood is considered divine, and thus, popular respect is instilled in the new emperor. The new Order of the Moon declares the old religious structures sacred, and humble, limited renovation of those structures begins (in some cases, however, they are demolished because they are no longer recognizable). As mentioned, corrupt priests and monks of the Order are killed and replaced (this process is ongoing). ~1,370 A.R.: The death of the emperor at ninety years old, and the ascension of his only son. Also, the start of our story. The False Stone There do exist lords who remained loyal to the False Stone, a name given to the emperor who was usurped and who was believed to have been of "tainted mind". What separates them from those who were faithful to the now true emperor is that they received much of their wealth from the previous Order of the Moon; so typically, those lords and their holdings are extremely religious and have very grim urban conditions. At this time, those lords have given up supporting the False Stone (all lords have), though they might have some secret loyalties to him still, believing that the centuries-long meteor shower represented something greater than people currently realize (thus, they are also superstitious and may believe in the supernatural). This is the issue that caused so many problems: one side believed that magnificent religious structures and a solemn faith would lead the Aulesiri to glory and enlightenment, while the other side believed such prophecy to be false and counter-productive. The Order of the Moon The Order of the Moon is separated by the Old Order and the New, the New being the most common. Members of the Old are still persecuted if it is somehow discovered they once advocated the policies of the False Stone. The Old might be found as prophets proclaiming the end of days, or they might be more discreet in their dealings, or have altogether changed their identity entirely. All of the Old's funding has been stripped, as they are now hunted by the emperor instead of supported by him, so they likely do not have the wealth, power, or respect to return as formidable players in this story (and while religious members of the Old were persecuted, lords advocating the Old simply changed sides or were killed and defeated).