Welcome everyone to another instance of FANTASY BOOKING! This time, I wanted to actually share with you a thing that was made by myself and my players in one of the two Dungeons and Dragons games that I run. Yes, I am a Dungeon Master. It is absolutely one of my prides and joys to do. I love creating stories, watching characters, and the thrill of the game. I've been doing it for a very long time, probably twenty years, and I've loved every second.
My first campaign is a Ravenloft campaign, which is my favorite ADnD setting, and will always be. But I wanted to do something different. I have a system for world creation so that my players and I can make a unique world to us as a group. I've also had an idea in my head since college for an abandoned concept that was based on African lore, geography, and themes. So, with my players help, we created the world of Dunesko. And of course, why shouldn't I share it with you?!
I'm going to present it to you as I did my players, with an in-character written editorial of the history of the world. I hope you all enjoy this small departure from normal IHAO business.
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Before life came to Dunesko, there was only the Sand. Endless and all-encompassing, it stretched in all directions, without sun or moon, day or night. Beneath the sand, there grew a Seed. Within that Seed were the twelve Numen, Spirit-Gods that shaped the world then and now. When the Seed cracked open, the twelve Numen came forth, one by one.
The Untamed came first, a beautiful Heron that brought with it the sky, the birds, the trees, and the beasts of the land.
The Weaver came second, a grand spider spinning a web of fate over the lands, the animals, and the races to come.
The Spark came third, a beetle pushing the sun across the sky, bringing fire to the races and sparking imagination within them.
The Night came fourth, a starry vulture, spreading its wings to cover the sky and bring the races their first dreams.
The Labor came fifth, a mossy Ox that helped the races toil the earth and work the land, bringing forth more of their kind.
The Maw came sixth, an enormous hippo, that opened its jaws and the rivers poured from it, allowing men to trade their work.
The Pride came seventh, a powerful lion to gather the tribes and teach them to hunt, providing for their kind.
The Slaughter came eighth, a greedy hyena that hunted just to kill and destroy, causing the first wars.
The Power came ninth, a bronze rhinoceros whose strength and skill supplied the races with the means to fight their wars and protect their tribes.
The Thunder came tenth, a herd of gazelle, whose hooves warned of the coming dangers, and herding the races into greater societies.
The Swarm came eleventh, as locusts and gnats and frogs and snakes, bringing plague, famine, terrible storms, and powerful dragons that destroy the land.
The Herd came last, a skeletal elephant, trumpeting its sad sound as the dead joined him on his trek to his resting place.
A Brief History of Dunesko, Land of the Dunes
Written by Jacobi Bladeback (in Lehonti and Sauriel)
What a beautiful and astounding world we live in, fellow beings! Large and small alike, we must give deference to the largest in this world, she being the Numens who shaped our land and with their guidance created our glorious history. In my studies, I have learned many an interesting detail about our strange and varied history. And even more so, I have learned that many know small bits and pieces, but there has yet to be a dedicated collection of our history, from all aspects, across all empires. So, I now present to you, a Brief History of Dunesko, Land of the Dunes.
Chapter 1: Pre-History
As best as can be determined, before the first records of the Auriel scribes, there was an expansive empire on the southeastern side of the Vuori’jono Mountains. The Elves called the great empire Xendrixia, like the desert itself. Ancient glyphs indicate that it was created by a great Pharaoh (it means God-King in ancient elvish, furthermore known as Xendrixian), an elven man stillborn, yet still alive, named Xendrix. He swiftly became a legend, declared himself Pharaoh and established a long-lasting heraldry called “The Majesty.”
As Xendrixia grew it power, it also grew corrupt, as each passing Pharaoh in Xendrix’s line took more and more control over all the races that are not of Xendrixia. The Pharaohs and the Xendrixian elves all forsook the Numen, rejecting their control over their lives and focused on arcane sources of power. The first necromantic rituals were created. The first order of the Mirage was formed, though none follow the conceits of an order to a lost Numen any longer. Kobolds, Sauriels, Humans, all were made slaves to build the lost monuments, shrines, and temples to the Majesty of Xendrixia.
It was hundreds, maybe thousands of years before almost abruptly, the Xendrixian Empire fell.
Legend says that the Last Pharaoh was a powerful necromancer who shaped the Numen to his will and called for from the bones of the dragons a dangerous and powerful slave, a Death Dragon. It is unwritten how the Xendrixian Empire fell, but there were no Pharaohs after the last, and Xendrixia’s capital fell. The races dispersed to the far corners of Dunesko, and the elves had been left to wander the Dunes.
Chapter 2: The Birth of the Races
To the Northwest, along the banks of the Auriel Sea, where the Auriel River and Auriel Jungle converge at the Auriel Delta, the humble Sauriel race founded their first city. It is the oldest living city, with great limestone walls and buildings, beautiful paved roads, and all of it has lasted for hundreds of years. I am a bit biased, I must say, for my home, but it is undeniable that a Sauriel city’s bones will almost assuredly never die.
It did not take long for the Sauriel race to expand, traveling up the Auriel River towards the sun. There they found Vuroi’Vesi, the enormous kobold named mountain of water pouring into the Ja’Arvesi. There, a contingency of finheads created the city of Aqueus on the southern bank of the lake. Lizard-men dug steps into the mountain and the Observatory was built above the waterfall, bring Aqueus its now world-wide acclaim. At the same time, a traveling party explored the Auriel Sea to the south. On the southern bank of the sea was established the city of Arboreus, right next to the now known as Cirdon Forest, though it was formerly the Southern Auriel Forest.
On the other side of Xendrixia, a permanent oasis, somehow able to not be swept by the magicks of the elves or the Kauhea’Tuuli, became a refuge for the humans, known at that time as the single nation of Ash. They gathered together in their first governance, called Asher. Kobolds had moved to the far southeast to the Vuori’Suuri, or Great Mountain.
My own race at that time started to put together their law, the building blocks of the social structure that guided us for so long. At the same time, the humans across the world rejected law, seeing fit to live in controlled chaos instead. And the kobolds tell a tale of their great hero Kai’lliso, who was supposedly the size of a hornhead and was the first kobold to strike the earth with a pick and begin to mine the mountain. I quite enjoy their legends, as a failing of us Sauriel’s is our strict sense and pride of history as opposed to the dreams of the other races.
Chapter 3: The Rise of the Sauriel Empire
Enterprising endeavors became the Sauriel’s goal. There was an entire world to explore to the east and the south. The enterprising guild, the Brick-Brotherhood, began to cut their way through the Southern Auriel Forest and laying a road along with them. Two generations of our kind worked their lives tirelessly cutting through the dense forest until they reached Cirdon Lake further south. How the Cirdon got its name is a mystery to us, as the records have been lost to time. They continued their travel along the Cirdon’s river. It was at this time Kauhea’Tuuli arose again, smashing against the mountains and making travel dangerous for all Sauriels. Trapped on their river boats, the Brick-Brotherhood hunkered down, braving the rapids, until they reached a safe valley, hidden between two large mountains. It was there the city of Ardon was established. News of this history was recorded and flown back to Auriel City as fast as possible. It was this news that first started the Sauriel’s libraries and histories.
Asher was not much a place to live as it was a place to survive, and soon a family and clan of humans known together as the Volkrad would have enough of the humans of Ash, reject their heritage and leave Asher, traveling north. In the north they found the amazing Ja’atikko glacier, as well as savannah lands cold and flat. At the foot of the Ja’atikko they established the new home for the Volkrad, Isaachar. Another offshoot of the humans, ones more focused on worship of the Numen called the Malakar, left Asher as well not long after, heading south with the help of the elves, finding the expansive swamplands to the south and establishing their new capital for their race, Amalekiah.
It was at this time that the gnolls first migrated from the far southern deserts. Lead by the gnoll-mother Nissa and her three daughters, they crossed the Black Desert and the Cirdon River, finding a new home in Xendrixia. Their matriarchal society, based on the biggest and strongest women, lead the gnolls to split into three major packs: Cakar, Rahang, and Berlari. All three sisters believed in focusing on gnoll survival through the hunt, but each sister had her own opinion. The Cakar preferred to fight for their food. The Rahang preferred to make anything their food. And the Berlari learned to keep their distance and pick their fights, running as they need.
Also, the Kobolds mined Vuori’Suuri and established an underground city, named Ma’ati.
Chapter 4: The Grand Meeting and Its Fallout
Much was changing in the world as races were coming in contact with each other for trade and the borders of their claimed lands starting to come in contact. Oxnard, a wise hornhead, established an assembly of Sauriels in the Auriel Delta. The Assembly was created among the Sauriels to further establish our governing body and our caste system, finally naming the Auriel Delta as the capital of the Sauriel Empire. The Sauriel Empire covered over half the known world, so an information trading guild of Flyers called the Post worked to put large posts across the rivers, savannahs and even points of the desert to pass messages more quickly and efficiently. Using the Post, the Sauriels called for the Grand Meeting where all races came to Ardon, the city of safety. The human nations (Asher Oasis, Malekiah, and Volkrad), the gnoll clans, the Xendrixian elves, the Kobolds, and the Sauriels all together signed The Treaty of Peace and Trade, which established rules for trade between races and cities, as well as a non-aggressive pact so that no race would interfere or attack any other race.
The Sauriels established two new cities after this meeting in hopes of expanding their empire. First was the city of Aphar at the base of Vuori’Suuri. It would be dishonest of me to say it was not for a purely beneficial gain from those small hard-working Kobolds. Size has always played a part of our own discriminatory lives, though it was much worse during those decades. To establish trade with the third human civilization, the coastal city of Anchorage was made, though the storms were too rough to explore its oceans for more than basic resources.
Many things changed after the Grand Meeting. The humans, in a matter of pride, changed the name of their cities, as Amalekiah became Malekiah and the Ashers established a new name and an official town in the oasis now known as Gaddeanton. The newly christened Gaddeantons turned to trade to establish a true economy, though they also applied heavy taxes and tolls along the few path ways that existed into the city, specifically with Anchorage.
Not too long after the founding of Aphar, a terrible accident happened in Ma’ati, destroying the majority of the Kobold’s only city. It was after that terrible accident that most kobolds decided to leave their native home behind and instead spread out around the world of Dunesko. A single family clan, the Syva’asuk, angered at this cowardly action from their perspective, instead entered the few remaining mines and caves of Ma’ati. They have not had contact with the surface since.
It was a generation of peace and trade, as all the nations grew stronger and felt safe. As we know now from our vantage point, this was merely the cause before the Slaughter’s terrible storm.
Chapter 5: The Sauriel Wars begin
A single fisherman, a human from Malekiah, was up to his hips in the swamp water, catching the crustaceans and other vermin of the bog. His life is not particularly important. His children’s lives probably not as well. All of their names have been lost to history. But his account of a single day has been immortalized. I do not know if any reading this have heard his account before, but I will include it in its entirety below:
“The crabs were snapping light that day. I was wading through the sugar cane bog over east when I saw it. I heard it first. A rumbling, like a hungry dog’s belly, tore through the mists and steam coming off the ponds. I put my hand on my claw hammer’s handle, worried about what may be coming. I saw a rustling in the willows, and then it burst forth. A great red hyena, as large as an elephant, larger, with blood drool coming from its mouth and claws, not entirely there, almost as if it was made of the wind itself. I saw the Slaughter stand before me and felt its breath on me, and I was certain I was a dead man. As I struggled to force the words of worship from my mouth in the hopes the Slaughter would spare me, I watched him root into the swamp, digging with his massive claws until he disappeared.”
Why is this account important? Because this not common event is what preceded the Slaughter’s personal race of warriors to be born into the world, the Orcs. Born from the ground, weapon in hand and ready to kill, this was the first sign of the terrible wars to come. The Orcs seemed pleased to kill any they could find, though they tended to focus on the elves, gnolls, and humans. That is probably the only saving grace of the Sauriel race.
Within the old caste system, the Lizard-men were once a member of our race. They were considered the lowest of the low, meat-eaters good for nothing but labor and expendable bodies. It was the way life has always been. They were unintelligent, smelled of rotted meat, and brought nothing to trade or society. Or so it was perceived at the time. But that perception also made them ignored, this allowed the Lizard-Men to plan a terrible revolt. They all attacked at once, killing those who policed them and any that got in their way. Ardon took the worst of it. The Sauriel Wars had begun.
Ardon was destroyed as the Sauriels knew it in the matter of a two week siege. The Lizard-Men burnt anything that wasn’t stone, killed any that stood in their way, and forced everyone in that city to die or leave. The Sauriels looked to their allies for help, but the Treaty of Peace and Trade made it so that no other race could interfere in this civil war. Gnolls broke the treaty almost immediately, joining in both sides of the conflict. The other races had their own issues. The Orcs had begun to raid villages of the three human civilizations, Gaddea, Volkrad, and Lehanti (the empire of the southern humans in Malekiah), murdering, raping, and pillaging. The Kobolds argued amongst themselves as a group, the Ma’ante believed they should return to their homeland. And the elves took to fighting the Orcs as they found them, removing all vestments of civilization and staying purely nomadic.
In the Auriel Delta, a commando unit was created for the specific purpose of eradicating the rebelling Lizard-Men. Some Sauriels called it genocide, mostly those living Aphar or in Aqueous, but the Assembly deemed it necessary, calling members of all the castes to join the cause. At the same time, those who for were of sound mind and body and were not training to join the Sauriel High Legion instead worked to build an immense wall 5 miles out in a circle on all sides of the Auriel Delta, to insure its protection. This focus building and rebuilding, now that trade to the south was cut off, also lead to a long trade road being created across the desert from Aqueus to Gaddeanton and from Anchorage to Aphar. In hindsight, this was a tactical failing that lead to the Sauriel Empire’s fall.
Chapter 6: The Fall of the Sauriel Empire
The Lizard-Men, leaving behind the ruins of Ardon, moved to the more inhospitable regions of Dunesko, making a military Stronghold among the peat bogs and oil rivers to the southwest. There, they began to make plans on their next conquest against their former betters.
Elsewhere, the human empires, all staying out of the Sauriel War, made their own political improvements, expanding each empire. The Volkrad were able to establish their first true kingdom beneath the rule of King Carolus, a great warrior knight and slayer of Orcs, protectors of farms in the north. He and his elite guard, the Caroleans, protected the humans and kobolds of the northern tundras from many raiding parties of Orcs. In Gaddea, a shadow government took form. Built upon back-alley deals between different guild heads and corrupt police, Gaddeanton became a well-oiled machine, greased by money and information. In Lehonti, a new religion focusing on worship of all 12 Numen, but only each in their time, arose, called Huruda. The emphasis was to worship one Numen for a full moon cycle, then to immediately begin devout worship of the next in a particular series.
The first great setback of the Sauriel War was the loss of Ardon. The second was when Gaddea sent their militia to Anchorage and successfully slaughtered their way to control, truly creating a new empire. The shadow government even changed the name of Anchorage, now known as the human land of L’Trel. The war had now become a two-fronted one, and the Assembly decided it was best to retreat from Gaddea and prepare for the Lizard-Men’s next attack. But they were not prepared.
The third great loss for the Sauriel’s was that of Arboreus. Armed with arrows dipped in the oil sea and fireball loaded catapults, the Lizard-Men had made their way to the north and laid absolute waste to the lumber town. It was burned completely to the ground, and every tree within a day’s travel was burned down as well for good measure. The Lizard-Men oiled the earth to stain it black and keep anything else from growing.
Other interesting events transpired in this era. A great hero among both the Sauriels and the gnolls, a Bladeback named Arins, tried to convince a pack of male gnolls to join the fight in the war. The gnolls had their own battles to fight, so Arins traveled with them, eventually becoming accepted into their pack and being honored with a new name, Kapusa. Arins of the Gnolls lead his pack through the desert to find the ruins of Xendrixia, now mostly buried in the desert that shares the same name, hoping to one day help the gnolls establish a true home city that he believed they deserved.
At dawn not long after the utter destruction of Arboreus, a single Lizard-Man herald under the white flag of peace approached the newly built gate to the Auriel Delta. He had with him a treaty, penned by the Lizard-Men, that was made to end the conflict. The Lizard-Men wished for their equality and had proven they were willing to fight fang and claw to be treated as equals. He nailed the contract to the great wooden door, the last remnants of the Arboreus lumber mills, before turning and retreating. He was shot dead not twenty paces from where he nailed the contract to the door.
The Assembly decided to end this civil war at once with a show of strength. The full Sauriel High Legion was sent south deep into the Blightlands. There, a one month battle killed nine out of every ten men that were in the Legion, and almost as many Lizard-Men. But despite the dreadful loss of life, the Sauriel High Legion had slaughtered the Lizard-Men’s leaders and forced the remaining barbarians to retreat. A pyrrhic victory, but victory nonetheless. Many Hornheads and Bladebacks died that day, stunting their castes for generations, even to this day. The Sauriel War was ended, and the price paid was a terrible one.
Chapter 7: The Three-Fold Empires; or the Age Just Past
The Sauriel War was over, though conflicts still remained. Lizard-Men still prowl the Blightlands and other places. Orcs continue to raid farms and villages, looking to take any foothold they can into the human empires. Things continued on their natural course.
Aqueous, one of the few Sauriel cities to escape the conflict completely carved a treacherous but reliable pass through the mountains into the Xendrixian desert, creating a road to the gnoll encampment at the past Pharaoh’s ruins. Aman, an astrologer from Aqueous, who was sick of the war and all the death it brought to the Herd, took an oath of pacifism and poverty. His philosophies began to convert others to his school of thought, leading them down a path to enlightenment, through complete peace.
The landscape of the world began to change in the aftermath of the war. From the literal ashes of Arboreus, a new city was formed by the survivors of the war, as well as nearby Orc raids. The humans, gnolls, kobolds, and Sauriels all together named the city Ascendant, in hopes it would lift their spirits. A human general from the Lehonti Empire in Malekiah brought with him his mean and rebuilt the city of Ardon for his home empire, renaming the city Honshar. Honshar established a War College for both mage and warrior, which has since graduated many of the most prolific members of any military. As a stopping point halfway down the Cirdon River, a citadel name Wysos was created by all races for the kingdom of Lehonti.
King Coralus the Second of the Volkrad Empire traveled by wooly elephant to the city of Aqueous to much pomp and circumstance. He brought with him a proposal, mutually beneficial for both cities. Aqueous no longer had support from the Auriel Delta, but was too important a city to lose in another terrible war. King Coralus proposed that the city become part of his Volkrad Empire. The local assembly took a full moon-cycle to deliberate, but in the end agreed. It was not long for the new empire to share its knowledge with one another, making leaps and bounds in the science of engineering.
Amon in his last years founded a philosophy college in Aqueous in protest to the Honshar War College in Honshar. He died, worried that he had not done enough to leave Dunesko better than when he arrived. At the same time, an order of his followers calling themselves the Order of the Pure Wind lead a pilgrimage of like-minded peace-seekers to the east. They created for themselves a commune at the top of Vuori’Tuuli which they called the Home of the Wind.
The Sauriel Civil War had longer reaching political effects as well. In Aphar, now its own entity separated from its mother city, found a political uprising. Flyers began to rebel against the caste system there, protesting and calling for change, all in the name of equality, higher class jobs, and better payments.
Not long after the Sauriel War ended did the Xendrixian elves show their utter distaste for anything important. They sent their messages to mages, wizards, warlocks, sorcerers, and any other with any arcane power to a competition, the Numen’s Duel. It has happened every year since, during the Summer Solstice. I have attended many myself, and while the elves have very little opinion of wars and governments, they make up for it in spectacle and social proclivity.
Now, almost fifty years have passed. The Three Empires continue to expand as more and more of the population spreads out from the water into the foothills and savannahs. Ascendant has become the home for many of the gravely injured and ill, and the best medicine men and doctors live there now. As a home to many veterans of many conflicts, war games and reenactments are the major source of pride for those there.
Dunesko is a dangerous place. If it is not the orcs, it is the dragons. If it isn’t the government, it is bandits and thieves. But we all make due and try to live our lives. And this, is my full accounting of the abbreviated history of Dunesko.
An interesting note …
I am not a man who understands the weather or the stars. But I do dabble in astronomy, and I have spoken with many philosophers and astrologers about the event that happened. Kauhea’Tuuli came this year from much further south, destroying the city of L’Trel. Gaddea has sent its men to the south to Aphar for support and trade to rebuild the city. I fear they wish to expand once again. Kauhea’Tuuli was devastating this year, and I felt my walls shudder and quake for the first time ever here in Honshar as I finished penning my final draft of this collected histories. I fear something terrible is on the horizon. The 50th Numen’s Duel takes place this year. There have been far too few accounts of Lizard-Men to the west. There are reports that Orcs are forming cities. And one of my colleagues has gone mad with his search for the unfindable. As I look to the stars and moon for guidance, I see nothing good. In fact, I wish to share with you all a dream I had. Take it as a portent of terrible things to come. Or the dreams of an aging scholar.
I saw a skull, carved of stone. Stone that was alive, and heaved and breathed like a sleeping horse made of marble. The skull was just a piece of a larger stone. In its mouth, a symbol, ancient and profound. I looked up its meaning … it meant in Xendrixia: the Infinite. The stone glowed and around it, from the shadows, were new creatures born. Creatures that had never existed, and should never be. I reached out to touch the skull, but just as I felt the spark of some other-magic, just before my fingertips touch the warm, pulsating stone, I awoke.
I write this, hand written and rushed. I do not know why I write this, or how many will read it. But I have at least written it.
~ Jacobi Bladeback