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Fantasy The Crooked Lands (Lore)



Dusty Wanderer
If there's anything here that I've neglected to cover or needs further clearing up, feel free to ask in the OOC thread or pm me directly and I'll add it into the Q&A section at the bottom (or not if you prefer).

Table of Contents:

1. Setting
2. Shards
3. The Crooked Lands
4. Factions
5. Possession

1. Setting

The main setting of the roleplay takes place in a vast rocky wasteland known as 'The Crooked Lands', full of jagged cliffs, crags and spires that jut out from the land like spears. Or fangs. Every now and then, a great rumbling takes place and more spires shoot up from the earth or simply fall apart, raining boulders seemingly at random. As if that's not enough, the soul of any living creature that dies in these lands become trapped and may possess other beings that become too tired, injured or unsound of mind to resist possession and mutation. All of this is due to the effects of the meteor that lies somewhere in the heart of the wasteland.

Those who manage to reach it are said to be blessed with divine power and a few such individuals exist as proof of the rumour, bearing Shards of the meteor and taking it with them out into the world. However, like the sporadically appearing and disappearing spires of the wastes after each 'rumbling', these Shards may also simply crumble into dust without warning, drawing former 'Shardbearers' or new seekers to the Crooked Lands, again and again. Until it kills them. The meteor grants blessings to whoever can find it, but the search itself is a curse and the land is warped by it.

Even so, the powers the meteor grants is more than worth the risk in the eyes of many and its presence has already shaken up the entire world. Adventurers from near and far trip over themselves in the effort to find it, and entire nations have warred and competed to lay claim to the wastes. Two in particular stand out from the rest as the strongest claimants over the region: the Kovosian Empire to the east and the Vetic people of the west. On the entire continent of Virn, the Kovosian Empire possesses the largest territory and are militarily the most powerful, but the Vetic tribes are closest to the Crooked Lands and what they may lack in numbers or wealth, they make up for in Shardbearers. For many of them, venturing into the crags of the wastes has become a rite of passage and their warriors are known to be fiercest on all of Virn.

Regardless of whether one is Kovosian, Vetic or some distant outlander, all who gather in search of the fallen star and its blessings are simply known as 'Seekers', and all of them must suffer the same ordeals as any other. Rumblings, rockfalls, bandits, mutants, starvation, dehydration, madness, possession, all of it at once or one at a time, again and again and again. So the question is, how much are you willing to endure for power beyond this world?

2. Shards
The strength of a thousand men or even conquer death itself... and so much more. Any Seeker who manages to reach the fallen meteor are granted a Shard and with it comes power reflecting the desires of its bearer. If that desire was to become invincible in battle, one may gain an immunity to any physical harm with blades shattering upon their skin and arrows bouncing off harmlessly as though striking plate armour. If one desired the ability to control other people, their Shard would grant them that power and they would only need to speak a word to command anyone to do anything. The possibilities are seemingly endless, but each Shard only grants a single ability and each Shardbearer is limited in this way. One may gain the strength of a thousand men, but can still die as any other. Likewise, one may be immune to blades, but not burning, drowning or poisoning. And one could be immune to death itself, but not binds and captivity.

Furthermore, simply possessing a Shard marks its bearer as a target and they need not be alive for the shard to function. Say for example, if a Shardbearer is set upon by bandits and does not survive the encounter, the Shard would still carry the power from its initial owner which would then be passed onto whoever possesses it next. If one were to hold several Shards in their hand, only the power of the first one they touch would be active and the rest would remain inert unless given to (or taken by) someone else. This is known as the 'law of firsts' and if a rather enterprising collector were dissatisfied with their current Shard, they would only need to exchange it for another. The Shard needs to be in physical contact with its bearer for it to work, so many tend to wear them as a necklace, ring or some other type of accessory for the sake of convenience. It's also possible to carry multiple Shards in a bag or pocket and simply switch them out as the situation demands, but as per the law of firsts, only one can be active at any given time. There is however a further dilemma.

At anytime at any place, a Shard may suddenly expire and crumble away into useless dust without any warning whatsoever. This tends to happen after each rumbling that occurs in the Crooked Lands, which are themselves random and unpredictable, thus necessitating a return to the wastes for a Shardbearer who has lost their Shard. This has given rise to a kind of 'Shard economy' that keeps adventurers coming back for more Shards, for fortune if not for fame and power. This also means numerous factions vying for control over the region, the two most powerful being the Kovosian Empire to the east and the Vetic tribes to the west (more on them later).

As for what a Shard actually looks like, well, it looks like a rock. A dark, somewhat shiny looking rock, but a rock all the same. The only way to tell a Shard apart is by holding it in your hand and testing its power. Unless you got it yourself from the Crooked Lands, it'll be hard to know what a Shard does except by word of mouth or direct observation.

Although one may possess multiple Shards, only a single Shard can be received directly from the fallen star. This is known as the 'primary Shard' and so long as it exists, one cannot receive another Shard from the fallen star until it has expired. This means that if one has lost their primary Shard to theft or simply misplaced it, then their only recourse for obtaining another Shard is to either take it from someone else or wait for their primary Shard to expire, which is impossible to know when it might happen unless its status can somehow be monitored. Every Shard in existence is or has been someone's primary Shard and although the owner need not be alive for a Shard to function, the Shard must expire for it to be possible to obtain another from the fallen star.

3. The Crooked Lands
The wind howls, the air is thick with dust and the water here is so acidic that it may as well be poison. There is no grass, no trees and the sun remains hidden more often than not behind the forest of rocky spires rising all around. By themselves, these things make the Crooked Lands entirely inhospitable to life, but there is more to be wary of than treacherous terrain and lack of freshwater. Every so often - perhaps once or twice a week, or a dozen times on any given day - the entire land shakes and a new spire erupts from the earth, either somewhere far off in the distance or directly beneath your feet. It might crash into another already standing nearby, causing both to explode into a shower of house-sized boulders, or it might simply fall over on its own, a pillar of stone too crooked even for the Crooked Lands. New chasms are formed, old passes and pathways erased, and if the gods are kind, you will not be there when the rocks fall.

The 'rumbles' as they are called are entirely random and unpredictable, and may cause even the most experienced pathfinder to lose their bearings amidst this ever-shifting landscape of jagged horizons. It becomes all too easy to run up against a wall and turn back the way you came only to meet with another dead end. All too easy to become trapped among the stones, forever lost and never finding the way back home. Even the souls of the dead cannot escape this fate, as something about the land keeps them bound to the place of their death, and so they haunt the wastes seeking a way out by any means necessary. There is only one avenue of escape however and that is through possessing the bodies of the living. Fortunately for the living, there are ways to deal with this (more on that later).

More challenging than ghosts are the creatures they become if they successfully possess a living body. There are generally two categories of possessed beings. One is the monstrous result of possession by the ghost of an animal, known as a 'werebeast' or 'ghoul'. The body remains humanoid, but takes on bestial features such as horns, claws, fangs or wings. The face may extend into the shape of a snout, or a large pointed beak, and hairs may grow into fur or feathers. If the ghost possessing the body was that of a wolf or bear then it would become a fearsome creature indeed. The second type of possessed being is known as a 'doppelganger', those possessed by the soul of another human. At first the difference is only in behaviour, thought and memory, but slowly over time, the body's features change to match that of the deceased until eventually, there is no visible trace left of the body's previous owner. The doppelganger has in effect gained a second chance at life, but at the cost of another.

Now just like anywhere else in the world, if there is a place where many people flock to then there is also banditry and the Crooked Lands are no exception. As ever, bandits are dangerous people who will think nothing of using violence to take anything you have, including your life. The only difference is when the power of Shards come into play and if your assailant is also a Shardbearer, then you must figure out a way to counter their power and figure it out fast because that's the only way you'll come out on top.

Having survived rumblings, rockfalls, the predations of ghosts, ghouls and bandits, and if supplies have not yet been depleted; if the Seeker is skilled, strong and lucky enough to weather everything the wasteland has to throw at them, then they will eventually find their way to heart of the Crooked Lands where lies the fallen star. Wish granter, emissary of the heavens, magic rock, whatever you want to call it, you have found your goal and it is arguably here where you face the deadliest foe. Betrayal... in two parts. The first is a betrayal of your own words. When approaching the fallen star, you will hear a single question spoken as though in the voice of a god: "What is your desire?" It is the same for everyone and if you choose your words carelessly, then the Shard you will be granted may as well become a monkey's paw, because what you wish for may come true and not in the way that you hoped. There is only one rule when it comes to this, be specific. Leave no room for approximation and you will not become a victim of your own newfound power.

The second betrayal is simply that of human treachery. Once you have been granted your Shard, it is all too easy for any companion you have traveled, fought alongside and shared a campfire with to stab you in the back and take your Shard for themselves. Bandits may disguise themselves as benevolent guides, experienced Seekers who lead the way only to betray you when you have what they want, or perhaps it is a Kovosian or Vetic agent acting in the interests of their nation. Whatever the case, unless you travel alone (a suicidal proposition even for the hardiest Seeker), you must always be wary of those around you especially when on the verge of obtaining a Shard, because even for all the dangers of the Crooked Lands, none of them compares to a traitorous heart.

Even after all that, there is the return trip to consider and the only way to gain another Shard if you already have one of your own is to take it from someone else, or wait for your current one to expire. It might even become necessary to take another Seeker's supplies if you don't have enough of your own to make it all the way back. This however would mark you as a bandit and you would forever be known as such should anyone find out.

4. Factions
There are various groups from all over the continent of Virn and beyond operating within the Crooked Lands, but the four most well known consists of the following...

Loners: By far the largest faction are those who are, ironically enough, unaffiliated with any faction and are therefore beholden to no one but themselves. Venturing to the Crooked Lands on their own terms and at their own cost, these independent Seekers follow no leader or authoritative power and although they often ally themselves with others to increase their chances of survival, such an arrangement is usually only temporary and lasts no longer than the time it takes to find the fallen star and obtain a Shard. Those who already have a Shard of their own tend to hire themselves out as guides or bodyguards, their Shard power and experience giving them the edge in terms of survival. More often than not however, Seekers tend to be either entirely new to the Crooked Lands or former Shardbearers looking to replace an expired Shard. Though there are no set laws within the wastes, it technically being a lawless region, there is a certain set of unwritten rules that if violated will mark the perpetrator as a bandit, not to be trusted and free to be harmed or killed if possible without fear of punishment from fellow Seekers. There are but 3 simple rules among the wastes: #1. No fighting or killing within any of the safe zones. #2. No stealing and #3. No backstabbing. Depending on the circumstances, killing and theft are allowed a certain degree of flex if they can be justified somehow, but the third rule is absolutely sacred as trust is a more valuable commodity than any Shard and anyone known as a betrayer will only deserve whatever they get coming for them.

Bandits: Thieves, murderers, extortionists and scoundrels, these are the lowest of the low who will do anything to get what they want and as far as factions go, they are the fewest. It's a small mercy that they are more likely to fight each other than becoming organized enough to become any kind of true power within the Crooked Lands, but they are nonetheless a dangerous bunch who should be avoided at all times. Known bandits will have their names spread throughout the safe zones along the edges of the wastes, but it's the unknown ones who pose the greatest danger for they are wolves in sheep's clothing, posing as friends until the time comes to shed their skins and reveal their fangs, killing or intimidating any and all witnesses so that none might know of their crime. It is for this reason that once a person is named as a bandit, they are free to be harmed or killed on sight. The trick is giving them their just desserts at all, especially if they happen to be Shardbearers because there is no dirty trick they won't use to get their own way.

Kovosian Empire: Imperialistic, disciplined and proud, the Kovosian Empire boasts the most powerful military force on all of Virn and many tales abound of their conquests throughout the continent. Their knights in particular often stand at the centre of such tales and many a youth dreams of becoming knights themselves one day so that their own names might ring out in the songs and stories. Honour and glory in battle are held as the highest ideals within Kovosian society and while women are expected to perform domestic duties only, every male citizen is expected to serve at least a decade in the military if they wish to own any land and property. For commoners it is the surest method of achieving prosperity, especially if one is deemed worthy enough of a knighthood and thus an entryway into the world of nobility. Ever since the appearance of the fallen star and the emergence of Shards however, Kovosian knights have practically been hurling themselves into the Crooked Lands with visions of embarking on glorious quests to obtain power for their houses, some even being there at the behest of the Emperor himself. On general principle, Kovosian knights will fight any Vetic warrior they come across among the spires of the wastes and vice versa, but will respect the truce rules in the safe zones along the edges of the region. Loners and even bandits know well enough to stay out of the way, lest they invite more trouble than they already inflict on each other.

Vetic Tribes: Occupying the western reaches of Virn, the Vetic people (known derogatorily as 'Vetes') are a conglomeration of various tribes bound together by a common language, polytheistic religion and, as of recently, a shared hatred of the Kovosian Empire. Geographically, the Vetic tribesmen are closest to the Crooked Lands by virtue of the fact that it lies within their territories, but the Empire pushes towards it constantly and each battle brings it just a bit closer than before. However, ever since the appearance of the fallen star, the Vetic people have made it a rite of passage for initiates to venture into the wastes and either slay a ghoul in single combat, thus proving their worth as a warrior, or obtain a Shard of their own, upon which they would immediately be recognized as a champion of their respective tribe. This practice has resulted in a disproportionate number of Shardbearers on the side of the Vetic in comparison to the Empire, allowing the tribes to prove an even match in battle despite often being outnumbered. Unlike the strongly patriarchal culture of Kovosian society, Vetic women have an equal amount of freedom as men and are not an uncommon sight on the battlefield, although they do not need to become warriors in order to own land and property. On general principle, Vetic warriors will fight any Kovosian knight they come across among the spires of the wastes and vice versa, but will respect the truce rules in the safe zones along the edges of the region. Loners and even bandits know well enough to stay out of the way, lest they invite more trouble than they already inflict on each other.

More to be written...
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Dusty Wanderer

Q: Is it possible for the shards to resurrect the dead? Also, if someone had a shard that gave them the power to curse/cast a spell, is that spell sustained even if that person is no longer in possession of the shard? And what happens to any spells if the shard vanishes out of existence?

A: Yes, it is possible to resurrect the dead and no, the spell would not be sustained if the Shard is separated from its bearer as it would no longer be active. If the Shard expires, any effects it has will also expire so anyone resurrected by a Shard is essentially living on borrowed time.

Q: What kind of questions is this section for?
A: Anything related to the rp, that's where it'll go. If it's in the form of a pm, I'll ask for permission first. Think I'll add this too. related to the rp, this is where it'll go. If it's in the form of a pm, I'll ask for permission first.

Q: Just a quick clarification, what constitutes a sustained spell? Eg. Turned a rock into a wooden stool vs enchanting a cow to float in the air.
Would that rock turn back, just as that cow would fall?

A: Assuming the Shard has been separated from its owner or switched out for another then yes, the rock would turn back and the cow would drop out of the air. Basically, any effects of a Shard is sustained for as long as it is in close physical contact with its bearer and for that matter, all Shardbearers share the same weakness. Lose the Shard, lose the power. Like the one ring from LotR, Bilbo and Frodo only turned invisible after putting the ring on their finger and then became visible again after taking it off. Shards work the same way except they can simply be held in one's hand or worn anywhere else, as long as it's somewhere on the body.

Q: So if someone made food for a village using a shard, for a year (eat it, metabolize it, and then poo/pee it out, etc), and then somehow lost the shard, would the bodies rapidly waste away, or would they revert to the moments before they had their first shard-produced meal a year ago?

A: Neither as the effect of the Shard was to make food, so as far as that goes, its job ends there. As to how that food is made exactly, that's where you'd have to go into details. Assuming however that the food has been converted from something else, then it'd be unfortunate if the Shard was lost at the time someone was eating, but if that food was eaten like a day or so before then, then there'd be no harm done as the nutrients would be real since the food was real up until the loss of the Shard, and by then it would've been... out. Going back to your previous question, if a rock was turned into a chair then chopped up into firewood and then the Shard was lost, misplaced or put away, then the broken bits of chair would turn into broken bits of rock. So basically, whatever damage something receives in its changed state would translate over when it reverts to its original form.

Q: If someone is cured of a fatal disease by use of a shard, lives out their life, and then dies of old age-- if that shard-user loses the shard, how is the body of the dead affected? (Do they revert to being alive and diseased or does their corpse appear to have the disease when it didn't a moment ago, etc) And how does cremation factor in?

A: The body remains unaffected as the cure was the effect, the person living to old age was the consequence and dying was simply inevitable. If their body was cremated before the loss of the Shard, then it'd be the same as if it was cremated after. It'd still be a pile of ashes. The only difference is dying earlier to the disease or dying later to some other natural cause.

Q: If a shard was used to kill someone but then was lost somehow, does this mean any deaths by the use of a shard are reversed?

A: It depends. If that's the ability the Shard grants, just make someone living into not-living without any cause except for that being the effect of the Shard, then yes, it's possible for that to be reversed by simply taking the Shard away from its owner. However, as mentioned before, any damage done to the dead person before then will carry over so even if the Shard was taken away from its owner and the effect was ended, the dead person could still die soon afterwards or simply remain dead if they were in that state for too long (lack of oxygen leading to brain death). Otherwise, if the Shard worked in any other way, then no, deaths by Shard powers would not be reversed upon loss of the Shard.
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