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[Information below taken from the LoK Help file V. 1.21b]
Many bands of barbarians wander on the wide plains and deserts of the central continent, moving constantly in response to the demands of their environment. Some of them are hunters, some are gatherers, and a few are herdsmen; all periodically pack up their villages and move, searching for new grazing or hunting grounds. The tribes are similar physically, big-boned and strong, with thick black hair and dark brown or blue eyes. They are not overly tall, and their wide shoulders and thick necks make them appear even shorter than they are. All of the tribes produce Fighters. Their love of the battle axe or mace is one of the few things the tribes have in common. Barbarians share a great disdain for distance weapons, which they consider suitable only for cowards and civilized fops. Once a barbarian obtains a satisfactory weapon, it is seldom replaced, since barbarians believe that each kill bonds the weapon to the warrior, making it an extension of himself. Barbarians firmly believe that if a weapon is treated honorably and fed enough red blood in battle, the bonding becomes so strong that the weapon will magically return to his side if lost or stolen. In general, the tribes are ruled by a paramount chief, chosen from the chiefs of the clan. To be considered a chief, a member of the clan must be a great Fighter or Thaumaturge. Although the tribes honor the gods of Thaumaturgy, they do not actually use the word Thaumaturge. Warrior-priests are said to "speak to the wind," and are therefore known as "Speakers." It is considered acceptable to gain wealth through means other than fighting, but no tribe member, no matter how rich, would be considered a chief unless also a proven Fighter or Speaker. The warrior is the only export from the barbarian tribes. Five of the tribes have gotten large and powerful enough to be recognized by outsiders. These are:
Shriker Clan - This clan has many great Speakers. Their life is organized around elaborate ceremonies that their Speakers to the Wind perform at various times during the lunar month. They believe that if the entire cycle of moon ceremonies is ever performed flawlessly, without the slightest wrong inflection of voice or smallest deviation of ritual dance, then the Shrikers will be given dominion over the entire world.
Wind Knot Clan - This group consists mostly of Fighters. Usually, they import their Speakers from other clans, and then pay very little attention to them. The only reason they bother with Speakers at all is that they do not wish to be without something the Shrikers have, however useless they deem it. The average member of the Wind Knot Clan has faith in nothing but his weapon.
Grass Snake Clan - This tribe has many Speakers who tend toward mysticism, and even more members who are accomplished thieves. It is one of the few tribes with a woman for a Paramount Chief. She is said to be very powerful, even for a Speaker, and is said to be able to summon a recently departed soul back into its body.
Mountain Cloud Clan - This is the only barbarian clan to have any Wizards. Needless to say, conducting Wizardly experiments is very difficult in a nomadic environment, but the clan is so proud of having something no other clan has, that they will help out whenever they can. They are beginning to be rewarded for this devotion, since their Wizards are reaching levels of power where they can be useful, rather than expensive luxuries.
Dark Moon Clan - This clan is famous, or rather infamous, for Sorcerers. They perform dire ceremonies during the dark of the moon, seeking to summon things best left unroused. Rumor names them murderers and cannibals, but in reality they are much worse. While these are the most well-known of the tribes, there are many more, some consisting of only a few families, and others with hundreds of warriors and their kin - and each with its own beliefs and ceremonies.
Draznia is a fertile, flat island made wealthy by the exporting of grains and a potent, fiery drink distilled from those grains. The climate is moderate, with just enough change during the year to enable Draznians to claim four seasons. The predominant color of the island is green: the cool green of growing things; the pale green of newly budded leaves; and the deep black-green of the evergreen forests. This verdant motif is echoed in the clothing of the people, for only rarely will a Draznian be seen without at least one article of his apparel being some shade of green. There is much magic on this island; some say it even sparkles in the early morning sunlight, although the more practically minded see merely dewdrops. Still, there is no doubt that Draznia has produced many, perhaps even most, of the great Wizards of history, and is likely to produce more. There are three great schools for Wizards on the island, each with its own philosophy. The details of dispute between the schools are aired frequently at conferences designed to spread the knowledge that the master Wizards have uncovered, but these differences are so rooted in Wizardly theory that they are generally unintelligible to any save the master Wizards themselves. A typical Draznian is of average height and build, with yellow to yellow-white hair, and light gray or light blue eyes. Wizards are common among travelers from Draznia, as are Fighters. There are a few Thaumaturges and some Thieves, but rarely a Sorcerer. The Draznians' favorite weapon is the greatsword, but the broadsword is not rare, and bow weapons also are popular for use against wild animals. Draznia is ruled by a Council composed of the masters of the various Guilds, and most of their political considerations are decided on the basis of what is best for trade. Draznia has very few natural resources other than her fertile fields; therefore, most of what her citizens require, other than what can be grown, must be purchased by the profits of their grain exports. At the moment, there is a power struggle going on between the members and supporters of the Guild of Farmers, and the Guild of Merchants and its adherents. The merchants take the position that without their trading ships, the farmers would be unable to sell their products; the farmers submit that without their crops, the merchants would have nothing to sell. The struggle has been going on for several years and is likely to continue for several more, since both sides refuse to accept as equal the truth of the other's position. Because the power struggle is evident mainly through public rhetoric and verbal attacks in Council, it has little effect on the day-to-day affairs of Draznians.All three schools of Wizardry have ignored the political debate, if they are even conscious of it.
Hovath is a theocracy. The High Priest of Hovath is the supreme theological and governmental authority in the country, and he rules strictly. Harsh penalties are imposed for anything the High Priest deems harmful to his people; perjury, murder, the Black Arts, and Wizardry all are punishable by death. Thaumaturges are supreme in Hovath, provided they observe the proper rites; otherwise, they are deemed heretics, to be burned at the stake along with Wizards and Sorcerers. The people of Hovath are a tall, dark people with heavy black hair, usually worn short, and dark, shiny eyes. They are strong, but only average when it comes to quickness. The bow is a favored weapon, as is the spear, but for close work they prefer a knife or short sword. Thaumaturges are numerous among the populations, outnumbered only by Fighters, and there are many Thieves -- even though theft is a capital crime. The few Wizards and Sorcerers in Hovath are still alive only because they are well hidden; death is the automatic sentence if one is captured. The climate of Hovath is hot, but the people are well adapted to it and spend the middle of the day napping rather than fighting the heat. Hovath is rich in natural resources, but her riches are not apparent, since most of the luxuries generally associated with wealth have been declared sinful by the High Priest. Many valuable minerals are exported from Hovath, but the wealthy have very little to do with their money except to count it and pay taxes. The High Priest uses those taxes to build hospitals, roads, schools and temples. Of course, the hospitals also are used for such operations as removing a wine-drinker's nose, and the schools teach only what the High Priest believes - with the result that a number of lessons blatantly contradict what students can readily observe outside the classroom. Disagreeing with a priest-teacher is also a crime. The most devoted of the priests are neither clean nor well groomed, a fact attributed to their concentration on higher things at the expense of worldly concerns. In Hovath is it claimed that you can smell a truly holy teacher from 1,000 feet away - more, if you are downwind. There are two major reasons why Hovathians venture to Kesmai. The first is to win honor for the High Priest by proving that his adherents are stronger and braver than anyone else, because they follow the pure way the High Priest has set for them. The second reason is to get away from the High Priest. There is much dissatisfaction in Hovath, but it is totally disorganized. Most citizens are afraid to speak their minds, even to their closest kin, for fear of the many spies the High Priest has among the population. The High Priest encourages this fear, believing that fear is a good method for keeping his people on the path that is best for them -- which is, of course, his path. The High Priest also has a cadre of powerful assassins who aid him in his plans, assassins who are just as fanatical as he. Their method is to attack from behind, using a curious weapon consisting of a thin wire with a wooden grip on each end. Once this wire is looped about a victim's neck, death is certain. But even with this powerful tool of oppression, the dissatisfaction is still silently building, and may some day ignite into a bloody civil war.
Illyria is a long chain of islands located far north. The Illyrians, a hardy seafaring folk, gain their livelihood from the rich fishing off the shores of their islands, and from the mighty Illyrian merchant fleet. Illyrian vessels are common the world over, except in Mnar, where Illyrians are most unpopular. The Illyrian Navy is also omnipresent, serving to protect the interests of the merchant fleet, and to guard and govern the colonies from which Illyria obtains many of her trade goods. The people of Illyria are generally tall and of fair complexion. The nobility of Illyria claim descent from the Elves of old, and make sure no one ever forgets it. They often have the long noses and somewhat pointed ears that Elves were reputed to have. Highborn Illyrians often go to great lengths to emphasize whatever nasal elongation or pointiness of ear they are born with, resulting in some ridicule whenever they travel abroad. Illyrians, as a rule, are competent Fighters. They specialize in bow weapons, which they use in ship-to-ship fighting, and in the use of the longsword. The rapier and its complement, the parrying dagger, are fashionable in Illyria, since they involve greater finesse than a simple sword and shield; demonstrating one's skill with these weapons is considered a means of showing the results of one's fine lineage. Wizardry also is common, since Illyrians tend to be practical people and are quite distant from the hotbeds of Thaumaturgy centered in Mu and Hovath. In fact, The Imperial Institute of Wizardry, located in Illyrium, the capital city, is considered by many as the finest in the world. Many aspiring young Wizards travel there to complete their education. Illyrians attribute many of their attitudes to their Elfish ancestors. Strongest among these is an abiding hatred of the Black Art. Sorcery is outlawed anywhere the Illyrian Navy can amass enough strength to make its force felt. Even Thieves labor under considerable disadvantages in the Illyrian islands. Anyone in Illyria who is not strictly sworn to Light is highly suspect and closely watched. Even the famed Knights of Lemuria consider the Illyrians a bit too good to be proper traveling companions. Of course, Illyrians who take service abroad tend to develop a more liberal point of view.
The commonwealth of Lemuria is noted for its calm good sense and practical attitude. Lemurians are basically a good people, but in a low-key way, preferring to set example by actions rather than by preaching. They are governed by an elected Council of Equals, whose basic philosophy of governing is to do as little as possible. The essential good character of their people makes this a viable political philosophy. The people of Lemuria are a gregarious race, who need the companionship of friends and relatives. This need is one of the chief reasons that the governing rules may be sparse, for public disapproval is a potent deterrent. Wizards, Fighters and Thaumaturges are common in Lemuria, but Thieves are rare, and Sorcerers unheard of. The broadsword is the most common weapon in Lemuria, although pikes are favored for ceremonial occasions. The Knights of Lemuria -- Fighters in charge of protecting the members of the Council and upholding the honor of the Land -- are famed for their pike work, although the sword is their prime weapon. The Knights present a grand show during the changing of their guard in front of the parliament. Small, brightly colored pennants float from the heads of their pikes as they march with great precision to the sounds of the small drums and shrill trumpets of their band. The Knights, though proficient at show, are also proficient at fighting, and it has been more than 100 years since a Council member has been assassinated. Their continued vigilance is necessary since, during recent years, the followers of the High Priest of Hovath have periodically made unsuccessful assassination attempts on Council members. These attempts were prompted by the Council's refusal to return certain refugees to the High Priest for beheading; as a result, the High Priest declared the Council to be unholy. Lemuria's Council of Equals is singularly unimpressed with the High Priest, owing to the fact that three of the refugees he had ordered executed were small children whose sole "crime" had been to bear their father's name. The Council of Equals, of course, does not employ assassins in the pursuit of its goals; but if a chance arose to disrupt the plans of the High Priest, they would be delighted to make the most of it. Lemuria was settled by adventurers from several different places; hence, no particular racial characteristics predominate. This history has made them somewhat more welcoming to strangers than most countries. One thing Lemurians seem to have in common is a love of bright colors, and for a Lemurian, everyday apparel simply must include at least three shades of bright colors. On ceremonial occasions, Lemurians will want every article of clothing to be a different color; even their shoes or boots will not match. Lemurians also prefer bright gem stones, such as rubies, diamonds and emeralds, and would not wear onyx or pearls, considering them to be too plain. One of the chief attractions of the dungeons of Kesmai for young Lemurians is the possibility of finding impressive gemstones lying about (still resting where they were dropped during the dragon's rampage so long ago.) It has been more than 83 years since a warrior (whether man or woman) has been elected to the Council of Equals without first having quested to Kesmai. Those of Lemuria with political leanings usually start by trying to kill something noteworthy in Kesmai. A quest to Kesmai is seen as demonstrating both a proper sense of public duty and a certain amount of intelligence, since stupid adventurers rarely return from Kesmai. The fact that the adventurers also frequently return with a handful of jewels is simply considered proof that those who fulfill their civic duty reap just rewards. Lemuria's chief export is a potent wine of a deep purple color, made from the berries of a ground-hugging thorned vine. The wine of Lemuria is valued everywhere, and there are a number of Wizards who declare that two glasses of it beforehand will vastly improve a spell. Of course, there are other Wizards who declare that two glasses of Lemurian wine is more than enough to make one think that one's spells have improved. As might be expected, The High Priest of Hovath has declared Lemurian wine to be sinful, and has ordained that anyone caught drinking it shall have his nose cut off. Despite this harsh ruling, there is still substantial profit in smuggling Lemuria's wine into Hovath, which is proof either of the excellence of the wine or of the lure of the forbidden - or both. Although generally law-abiding, the average Lemurian's opinion of the High Priest is such that smuggling wine into Hovath is a favorite adventure, second only to venturing into the dungeons of Kesmai.
Leng is a dry, mountainous region ruled by the Autocrat of the Outer Ring, whose name is never spoken. It is said that one can summon this great Sorcerer by invoking his name, just as one may summon a demon; but unlike any demon, he cannot be controlled. In addition to ruling over Leng, the Autocrat is the supreme power in The Guild of Sorcerers, a pale copy of the Brotherhood of Yasnac. The Guild is strong within Leng, but its activities are greatly hidden for fear of the same powers that engineered the banishment of the Brotherhood of Yasnac. The Autocrat has plans to change this, for he has read in ancient texts of beings of darkness such as would make the most powerful demon seem a child by comparison. The Autocrat has dreams of contacting them to offer his Guild as acolytes. Rumors of this plan have circulated about Leng, and the population in general hopes it will succeed and bring power and wealth to their country. Moral concerns are not very important in Leng. News of what the Autocrat would do has not left Leng, for the rugged land does not welcome strangers. The very few outlanders who did get wind of the scheme will never leave - they are buried too deeply. The people of Leng are smaller than average, but very quick. They tend to be pale, owing to an aversion to the sun. Much of daily life in Leng is carried out during the early evening and night. The members of the Outer and Lesser Rings, the ruling class of the island, are never seen during daylight hours. The general population tends to have black hair and dark eyes that are flat and non-reflective. It is said that these eyes are the legacy of a strange race that came to Leng in older days and interbred with the natives. But if the truth of this story is known, it is known only to the Autocrat and his Outer Ring, and they do not speak of it. As the supreme ruler of Leng, the Autocrat is empowered with the right to order execution for no better reason than whim. Serving the Autocrat directly is the Outer Ring, composed of the Masters of the Guild of Sorcerers, who act as the Autocrat's chief administrators. The Autocrat's will is enforced by the Lesser Ring, composed of elite Fighters who have sworn to die in the service of the Autocrat. It is whispered that drugs and spells have made the Lesser Ring believe that vast rewards in the afterlife belong to those who die carrying out the Autocrat's orders. Sorcerers, Fighters and Thieves are numerous in Leng, and Wizards not terribly uncommon, but Thaumaturges are unknown. The few Thaumaturges who visit Leng from other lands tend to have fatal accidents. The short sword and the bow are favored weapons in Leng. Fighters from Leng more than make up for their lack of size by their speed and training - and their lust for blood. When Leng's inhabitants journey to the dungeons, it is most likely for the twin purposes of seeking lore of the Brotherhood, while also finding things to kill. The Autocrat allows no killing in Leng, except that which he personally orders; he views any other type of death as the loss of a useful servant. There have been a few emigrants from Leng who left because of disgust with the practices of the Rings, but they are always silent, knowing that the Autocrat has dispatched assassins to deal with those who lightly talk about his business. The outer world is generally unaware of the doings of the Autocrat and his Ring, for their delving into the dark lore is quietly done in the underground caverns common throughout Leng. Unlike the Lord Emperor of the Brotherhood, the Autocrat prefers to move about his purposes with guile rather than bombast. To the outer world, Leng is simply a backward place with a provincial attitude toward strangers. The chief exports are furs from animals that live in the high forests, and a delicate fabric woven from the webs of giant spiders that inhabit those same forests.
Mu is the home of the Grand Order of Thaumaturges, who, as the Chronicles tell us, drove out the Brotherhood of Yasnac. The Grand Order still basks in the glory of having uprooted and destroyed the Great Evil, even though, in truth, they should share credit with the dragon. Those high in the political structure of the Grand Order are, indeed, aware that mere accident saved them from having an angry dragon take up residence on their doorstep; but this is considered to be a state secret. The official version is that the Order itself moved to some purpose in arranging matters as they fell out. The citizens of Mu believe this implicitly, and outsiders find it politically unwise to disagree. Mu is a monarchy. The ruling family has held the throne for six generations, and the government, consequently, is quite stable. Since the Grand Order of Thaumaturges is the principal advising council to the crown, the government also is very conservative. Although the Grand Order does have much prestige, it may only advise -- and so when change does come, it comes slowly. Citizens of Mu tend to be stocky and heavy-set, and even the women are more muscular than average. Muians generally have brown eyes and exceptionally thick brown hair, which the women take great pride in growing long. It is not unusual for women to have hair that reaches to the waist, and Mu's great beauties have hair that, if unbound, would brush the floor as they walked. Although the men rarely have hair much below their shoulders, they do generally boast luxurious beards, which they braid before battle to keep out of the way. The battle axe is a favorite weapon of Mu, and a muscular Muian Fighter with shield and axe is considered deadly by all other races and creatures -- except dragons, who consider nothing on two legs to be dangerous. Thaumaturges are common among wayfarers from Mu, as are Fighters. Thieves are not unheard of, but Wizards are rare, and any Sorcerer from Mu has likely left his native land for health reasons. Sorcerers always are given fair trials before they are executed. Desnoria, Queen of Mu and Grand Protector of its citizenry, has developed a feeling of unease regarding Kesmai. Because of a vivid dream she had after the last Grand Ball celebrating her birthday, she fears that the Brotherhood of Yasnac is rebuilding. The Marshal of the Grand Order has tried to reassure her that the dream was most likely caused by an injudicious mixture of cake and wine, but Desnoria remains unconvinced -- partly because she likes the notion of having received a prophetic dream. As a consequence of the royal dream, quests to Kesmai on the part of adventurous Muians are looked upon with favor, and anyone returning from Kesmai is sure to be summoned to a royal audience. Sadly, though, there are far fewer returns from Kesmai than there are departures.
Mnar is a land of roving herders. Since the people spend much of their time moving behind their herds, shifting from one grazing land to another, there is little central government. Instead, they are organized into clans, based mostly on bloodlines. When a matter affecting all of the clans must be decided, a meeting of chiefs and shamans is convened, and discussions are held. Arguments and debates, pro and con, ebb and flow until a consensus is reached -- a procedure that frequently takes days. To a Mnarian, it is only reasonable that any important decision should be a long time in the making. However, this attitude often has frustrated other races trying to deal with Mnar. Not long ago, with the best intentions, Illyria tried to introduce a more centralized concept of governing, with the result that their fleets are no longer welcome at Mnar. The clans resent any outside attempt to influence them. Mnar exports dried meat and fine leathers, and they import very little other than grain and wine from Lemuria. Their people are tall and strong, with light skin and straight blond hair. Their eyes are almost always green. Light gray eyes are thought to denote a person with more than average magic, and black-eyed people are said to have the "evil eye." Mnarians are happiest fighting with axe and shield, but they are noted warriors and can make do with just about any weapon. Most Mnarians are Fighters, but all the other professions are also represented: Wizards, Thaumaturges, Thieves, and Sorcerers. Thieves can gain much honor in Mnar, provided they do not steal from their own clan, and Sorcerers are tolerated as long as they practice their black arts only on strangers, and not on clansmen. This is one of the main reasons that Sorcerers from Mnar attempt to travel to Kesmai, where strangers are plentiful. The rich grassland of Mnar offers the perfect environment for the Mnarian herd animals, and the tribes have very little to do other than see that the herds do not overgraze, and protect them from the various wild animals of the plains. This placid life frequently drives Fighters of the clans to Kesmai in search of excitement.