The Turtle Moves
Icons & Such
Jemmett: 2 conflicted dice
The Archmage’s home city of Horizon is actually his library. You wouldn’t normally notice unless you go looking for the underground vaults, but some of its towers hold nothing but books the Archmage wants easy access to and Horizon’s civic buildings are lined with wall-to-wall shelves. Some say every book in the world has a copy in the Archmage’s halls. Order is maintained by a group of mysterious half-mechanical creatures created (summoned?) by the Archmage, which resemble geometric shapes with humanoid limbs – if you ask one of them to lend you a book, all of them will remember your face.
Of particular note is the Archmage’s collection of magical tomes. Anything that could present a danger to the kingdom ends up gathering dust in the Archmage’s halls, and he even has forgotten books from previous Ages – ones that must be powerful indeed to survive this long. Sometimes he consults them. Few know the extent of his collection except perhaps a few of the other Icons, and they’re not telling.
The problem is, sometimes books vanish. There’s a thriving arcane black market, and every once in a while someone will smuggle a book out of Horizon and manage to sell it. If the Archmage’s agents don’t find it first, it usually ends up in the hands of the Diabolist.
Siegfried: 1 conflicted die
The Crusader is the armored fist raised in opposition to the Diabolist. His hatred of demons is vast, all-consuming, and as dangerous as that which he fights.
Siegfried: 1 negative die
Jemmett: 1 conflicted die
The Diabolist claims that she isn’t evil like the demons – she just controls them for personal power, and has selfish motives, and looks a little like a demon, and wears their hats. Even it’s true that the influence of the hells hasn’t corrupted her, though, the Age she seemingly wants to create – one dominated by the power she wields, where demons under her power roam the land – is not one most mortal minds could handle. Basically she’s a little less evil and a little more mysterious, but she’s still scary and still not nice.
To maintain her control over the arcane forces she meddles in, the Diabolist practices meditation and other techniques to build her mind into a fortress. She was founding monasteries before it was cool, and her very first has developed into a sort of academy for wizards that dabble in the dark arts. The Archmage claims he founded it and she stole it, though, which is totally why he allows it to continue existing.
In a lot of ways, she is a dark reflection of the Archmage. She has even stepped up to defend the Empire in the past, if only to keep it intact until she can rule it. She has her own collection of books – awful ones, mostly – some of which are said to not even be from this world, but pulled in when she creates her hellholes. She is very interested in the Archmage’s collection, and has somehow stolen several prized books from it – the oldest being the Liber Ivonis, a tome penned by a powerful archmage from before the 1st Age – perhaps even the Wizard King himself. She is particularly interested in ones that deal in demons and worse.
The Dwarf King
The Dwarf King is lord of Forge, the dwarves’ new homeland beneath the mountains. The current Dwarf King is old, nearing the end of his life. He has two children who seek to take the crown after his death; his son, a stubborn but competent isolationist and his daughter, a clever lady with exceedingly “modern” views. There may soon be a civil war among dwarves, if the Dwarf King continues in his refusal to choose a successor.
The Elf Queen
Kele the Bird: 1 negative die
The Elf Queen rules the Court of Stars, the one place where wood elves, dark elves, and high elves come together as peers and allies instead of as rivals or enemies. She is as capricious as she is beautiful, and her magic is the equal of any in creation, Diabolist and Archmage included.
Rogax: 1 conflicted die
“The current Emperor is capable but essentially unproven.”
The memory of the celebrations and rituals surrounding the crowning of the current Emperor is still fresh on the minds of the citizens of Axis. It’s not been a year since then and the new Emperor is still struggling to get all the power that is theoretically his under control – the byzantine organisation of the Empire’s officials, armies and agents is opaque not only to outsiders. It doesn’t help that he wasn’t fully prepared when he had to take over; a few more years and the transition would have gone a lot smoother than it did.
At least the Emperor is keenly aware of all his duties, all the fronts he has to fight on and all the problems he has to take care of. He tries his best, but until he can mobilize all available forces to heed his call, the Empire is in a state of weakness. The Emperor is well aware of that, of course, and is desperately working on alleviating the situation, but all the problems that need immediate attention constantly delay this process. Not to mention that the other icons and other power players have become aware of this…
The Great Gold Wyrm
Siegfried: 1 positive die
Duhana: 1 conflicted die
The High Druid
Kele the Bird: 2 positive dice
The Lich King
Roe Soledad: 2 conflicted dice
The former Wizard King is now the Lord of Death and Undeath. Notions of Good or Evil are alien to his nature; all anyone can agree upon is that the Lich King is a being of stark and uncompromising vision, who refuses to yield to death at any costs. The Lich King bends all his efforts to the study of immortality; his allies, few as they are, claim he seeks this for the world’s benefit. Others whisper that his fear of oblivion is so great that he would sacrifice the entire world if it would extend his existence a few moments more.
The Orc Lord
Rogax: 2 negative dice
Roe Soledad: 1 negative die
The Prince of Shadows
Duhana: 2 positive dice
“My thought on the setting: Dragons aren’t born. They become.
All dragons were born mortal. Once upon a time, the Great Gold Wyrm was a man, or an elf, or who knows what. Maybe he was a lion. But whatever he was, he became the pinnacle of justice.
Once upon a time, the Blue was a sorceress without peer.
Once upon a time, the Black was a monk who achieved perfect enlightenment.
Once upon a time, the Red was an invincible warrior.
Skill and perfection can become many things. Perfected skill and nature are the seeds of the dragon. Becoming a dragon is an act of will and power, with the peak of growth determined by the perfected nature of the dragon. The Blue, the Red, the Black and especially the Great Gold Wyrm were truly themselves, immensely skilled, strong-willed and without any betrayal of their own natures. They went through rituals, each unique to them, and became more than mortal.
Anyone, it is written, can try to become a dragon. Few succeed. Even the Dragonborn, who bear in their lineage the blood of those who became dragons, do not have a leg up. For each dragon must find or devise rituals unique to themselves, which exemplify their nature and their skill. And of those who become dragons, not all can hope to achieve the heights that the Icons have.
Some dragons never make it. They are left trapped in bodies between mortal and dragon – thirty-foot lizards, winged dragonborn or other halfway dragons, some driven mad by the experience and others left with great but incomplete power.
Some dragons cannot achieve greatness beyond themselves. They become servants of other beings, or weak dragons – these are the lesser dragons, who do not measure up to the Three or the Wyrm. Most such dragons are still so old and powerful that they cannot even remember their mortal lives.
One key to all this: you don’t have to be a sorcerer or wizard. The Red certainly wasn’t, and neither was the Black. He was a barbarian warrior, and she a monk. The Gold was probably a paladin. It requires will and ritual – but it doesn’t take magic.
And it’s far from the only route to power. After all, if it was the only path, why would the Archmage or the Lich King avoid it?
(The Dragonborn are still usually just those whose bloodline is strong with dragon’s blood. Some are people trying to become dragons; most aren’t, and most will never be dragons. Most were just born as dragonborn. Power gets into your blood, and it marks your descendants.)"
— Mors Rattus
Of course, the monastic orders are no less violent than everyone else. The schools of The High Druid talk a good game about being one with the world, but this doesn’t mean they don’t hate, hate, hate those tools at the monestary that follows The Three. Nor do they like The Dwarf King’s, the Archmage’s, or the Crusader’s, or the Great Gold Wyrm’s. They’re all insufferable.
But they’re also the only people on the planet involved in understanding the nature of philosophy and existence.
As a result, the various monasteries have signed treaties of cooperation—at any time, a monk may challenge another monk to combat. The challenged party may accept the fight, or simply yield. The loser of this contest must serve the victor, “In the pursuit of universal knowledge,” a term everyone uses and no one agrees on. Sometimes it means both parties engaging in spirited intellectual debate. Sometimes it means the loser doing scut research. Sometimes it means the loser spending the next three months going through training in the Black Dragon Ascension Fist Style while the victor screams at him to learn the true nature of being.
These days it’s rare for a member of a monastic order, be it sage, monk, or scholar, to actually kill another student… but with the endless duels, borderline slavery, academic bickering, and occasional conquests of entire monasteries in bloody tournaments, it’s hard to say if things are any more peaceful now. Certainly any monk above the age of twenty five is going to have a list of insults and grievances that he’ll just be itching to avenge, and everyone claims to have a friend of a brother of a friend who is doing fifty years hard labor under the harsh tutelage of some jerk scholar of the Conqueror.
Kele the Bird has largely been free of this ignominity—he was always a talented combatant, and he’s won more duals than he lost. Few of his losses were especially onerous (a long discussion of the nature of identity here, a few days sweeping a courtyard there) and his only serious defeat was at the hands of a vampire monk of the Three named Valin Zukov, who demanded he spend the next two years studying in the Clutch off Tomes, a library located at the top of an inhospitable mountain.
Two days later, before the monks had even reached the library, Valin declared that Kele the Bird was a, “scatterbrained idiot,” unworthy of education, and released the young elf from his service. It still hurts Kele’s feelings to think of the incident.
(In our setting, there’s a monastic Renascence going on, with substantial numbers of monks existing for the first time since the Grandmaster of Blossoms icon was slain in the tenth age. In addition to monasteries headed by the GGW, the Priestess, the High Druid, the Conqueror, and the Black of the Three, there are also monasteries headed up by members of literally every faction. Although open war between them is rare, the monks are constantly feuding in endless kung-fu matches and academic debates. Some people suspect that the time is ripe for a new Grandmaster of Blossoms to appear and unite all those who seek the truth, where the Archmage just seeks knowledge. Certainly the monasteries are quickly becoming centers of learning that rival the schools of the Archmage.
Monasteries of the Archmage are especially insufferable.
While some schools study nature or science, and others simply steal knowledge, all the monasteries are united by two things: A view of being a center of learning in some form, and a fascination with martial arts.)
On the Fey
Elves are the worst. Unlike most of the humanoid races, they’re profoundly alien—they live for centuries, have a profound connection to magic that isn’t so much powerful as emotive, and they’ve mastered constructing entire crystal cities that have such a tenuous connection to reality that wild animals can’t even perceive them. They engage in little trade with other races, and take offense at strange, seemingly random insults. And when an elf is insulted, they don’t bother telling you—you find out when the elf punishes you, by stealing your possessions or breaking a leg or leading an army to burn your town to the ground.
The Elf Queen is even worse. No one ever knows what the hell she’s up to. She’s invented insults not even members of her own court understand, and used them to justify sinking cities, ensorceling armies, and even locking an icon, The Green, away in her endless sylvan lands.
Most people don’t have personal experiences with elves, and just know of them as an exotic, beautiful people with remarkable art. These people are lucky, because they’ve never had the color stolen from their eyes for the crime of passing a stag to its right instead of its left.
Elf Queen monasteries are mercifully rare; but a Unicorn or Treant who’s learned Kung Fu is a relentless opponent, and those who lose to one almost always pay a terrible price.
There are two types of undead: Thinking, ‘rational’ (Of a limited sort in the case of the lower vampires and ghouls, up to full intelligence in the case of most mummies, wights, higher phantoms and liches), and the unthinking, unfeeling hordes (your average zombie, wraith, or skeleton). The thinking dead are those whose souls have not been accepted into whatever afterlife they are meant for, either through some sort of intervention (A charm placed on a wight’s barrow to allow him to keep watch over his village, a lich binding their soul into a phylactery), while the unthinking dead are the earthly remains of those who have gone on to their eternal reward, whatever that may be. In place of the natural spark provided by the soul, these husks are powered by magic, be it arcane, divine, profane, or (in some rumored cases) druidic.