Today it’s Chelm, one of the lands with a really poor reputation in the rest of the world – known for it’s treachery, poisons, creation of undead, enslavement of souls, and many other practices that no right-minded individual would put up with – unless, of course, they happened to be from Chelm.
Chelm (Blood or Shadow/Darkness Birthright) actually consists of two entangled lands – one dominated by blood magic and the other by darkness magic. Oddly, unlike the reasonably well-defined boundaries of most magical realms, the borders of blood and night ebb and flow on a daily basis, leaving hidden pools of magic and wells of energy scattered across the forest landscape. Combined with the natural dangerous, plant and animal hazards, and horrific parasites of the savannas and tropical rain forests which cover the country, these scattered areas of magic form a lethal maze where even the natives move with caution.
The people of Chelm are divided into numerous tribes, each of which occupies anywhere from one to a dozen or so small villages. Villages belonging to a particular tribe usually cooperate, but travelers from other tribes are regarded with suspicion and caution. Outsiders are generally regarded as potential prey. Emigrants from Chelm are usually either relatively weak – and wanting to get out while they can – or are seeking to further their own ambitions. The latter are responsible for much of the poor reputation of the people of Chelm throughout the rest of the world.
Natives of Chelm may be attuned to either the magics of Blood or Darkness. They may buy Well-Off in their own exotic form of Wealth for 3 CP, Affluent for 6 CP, and Wealthy for 12 CP. In either case the effects are normally cumulative, although – as always – modifiers of the same type do not stack.
Currency: The “finances” of Chelm are based on the ownership of Rekorathi – curiously carved stelae set up in the most dangerous areas of the country. Their value is determined by the number of people who died – and who’s life essences were absorbed by the stone – in erecting them and by the number of people who have been sacrificed there since. When an owner dies outside of Chelm, or without having designated a proper heir, their share of ownership returns to the stone, and can be claimed by anyone who travels to the stone, deciphers it’s carvings, and enacts the ritual they describe.
Such “wealth” has its usual effects – albeit provided by the enslaved spirits of the dead* rather than by focusing natural magic. It is difficult to add “treasure” to your store however: the journey to make additional sacrifices is never easy.
Chelm exports rare woods, toxins, spices, beastmasters and tamed beasts, and the precious metals and gems which it places relatively little value on. In return it mostly imports slaves (many of whom are sacrificed to further empower Rekorathi), tools, cloth, and wine. Slaves with an Order birthright are especially valued since they’re such good assistants.
*The dead need fetishes – the equivalent of normal Charms and Talismans – to focus their power through and need bodies of some sort (deceased human, reasonably-sized animal, or constructed) to manifest through as servants. If “slain”, they’re banished back to the Rekorathi for a lunar month. While they’re easier to “replace” than normal servants, and can be called up on a moments notice, they’re vulnerable to turning, dismissal, and warding magic. Few of them seem to mind very much: the “afterlife” of the Rekorathi usually consists of a cluster of comfortable villages with bountiful supplies of food and beer, where the inhabitants can relax, study, and amuse themselves. While they may be called on occasionally for direct assistance, they’re usually only called on for the trickle of Mana and Power which empowers their “owners” fetishes / charms and talismans – a service which is barely even noticeable.
Religion: The people of Chelm believe that it is only by the power of the shadowy God of Secrets, Embodiment of the Sheltering Night, Lord of the Infinite Darkness (under a variety of names), that reality remains shielded from the direct notice of The Dragon – who would otherwise surely consume, and once more make an undifferentiated, unnamed, part of itself, all the worlds. In his honor are secrets kept, goals accomplished through stealth, and hidden rituals enacted. His wife, the Goddess of Blood, is the Namer, and Mother of All Things. From her all things are born, and to her all things return in the end to be born again. To emulate and honor her her worshipers shed blood and suffer pain as she sheds blood and suffers pain to give life to the universe. To ease her suffering they seek to extend the time between rebirths – binding spirits into Rekorathi (or journeying to one to join the spirits already within as they approach the end of their lives), experimenting with life-extending elixirs, and creating or becoming sentient undead.
Legal Notes: While each tribe has it’s own – savagely self-centered – traditions, outsiders are most hindered by the fact that most of them (in honor of the Lord of Night) are never spoken of save in secret rituals. Few of the tribes are overtly hostile – if only because they’re occupied by their internal intrigues – but all of them harbor secret resentments and grudges against the other tribes and are extremely suspicious of strangers. Many youngsters are secretly magically dominated by their elders or contemporaries.
Local creatures invariably come in two variants: those born with Shadow powers and those born with Blood powers. In general, those with shadow powers are stealthy, difficult to detect, possess the ability to see in the dark, and – quite often – are capable of generating illusions to confuse predators or distract prey. Some of the most powerful, such as the Shadow Tigers, are capable of creating quasi-real duplicates of themselves of shadow-stuff. Similarly, Blood Tigers are capable of tracking down any target – or relatives thereof – who’s blood they’ve tasted (leading to occasional attempts to domesticate them as hunting aides), can poison or weaken their prey, and heal themselves by drawing blood from their targets. Much of the plant life is affected as well. Many of the more common plants in the jungle produce powerful drugs, whether of darkness-related varieties, such as narcotics and hallucinogens, or blood-related types, such as toxins and metabolic modifiers.