Introduction to Atheria: The Isles of the Sunset

   For today, it’s time to cover the last major inhabited realm of the Atheria setting – the Isles of the Sunset (Light Birthright). After this, it’s on to the areas with only scattered hamlets or occasional wanderers. As usual, details on the local race/birthright package can be found on the Races of Atheria page and the characters for the setting use the abilities from Eclipse: The Codex Persona, a classless d20 system (also available in a shareware version HERE).

   The Isles of the Sunset are scattered across the sea near the borders of the Light Domain. It is unwise to attempt to penetrate further into the domain: what few divinations have yielded comprehensible results tend to indicate that, in the core of the Light Domain, the already-tenuous structure of Atheria’s matter breaks down; water, air, flesh and matter become radiance – and spirit and mind become something pure, terrible, and other than human. Those who penetrate into the domain too deeply do not return.

   Physically, the Isles of the Sunset are of modest size, relatively low-lying, semi-tropical in climate, and surrounded by rather pretty (and quite dangerous) crystal-coral reefs. Those nearest the continent are generally uninhabited save by stranded mariners, occasional hermits, and prospectors and miners from Parack searching for the unique products of the isles – Sun- and Moon-Stone, Starwood, Seeing Crystals, Soothstones, Darkbane Oil, Veritas, Crystal-Coral, and so on. They are constantly battered by the storms that drift in from the Storm Domain (although that does, at least, provide fresh water) and are regularly inundated by salt-water surges, and thus are nigh-impossible to farm. Most of the people with Light Birthrights on the mainland are, in fact, simply the offspring of prospecting couples in temporary residence on the nearer isles. Reaching – or departing from – the few permanently inhabited isles on the far side of the domain usually requires threading a gauntlet: navigating from island to island through a constant mist of light without running aground on the numerous crystal-coral reefs, slipping too far into the Light Domain, or accidently sailing into the unknown, but apparently highly dangerous, domains surrounding the realms of light.

   For the most part, there are no local predators on the isles themselves other than starfish and filter-feeders: most sizable animals can easily sense hostile intent, making finding food overly difficult for carnivores larger than spiders. For similar reasons most human herding and fishing systems are problematic: any close contact with an animal you intend to harm is extremely unpleasant – entirely too many of the local species have empathic talents. Humans being humans, some still occasionally supplement a largely-vegetarian diet with meat acquired via ranged weapons and traps – or imported from elsewhere – but this is uncommon. Most structures are built of crystal-coral blocks and light wood, other building materials are scarce. Still, despite its origin in necessity, the sparkling beauty of the structures and the luminous serenity of the setting combine to make the villages of the Isles some of the loveliest places on Atheria.

   Unfortunately, the people are among the most alien. With a lifespan of many centuries, a small population and smaller communities, heightened mental abilities, an inherent ability to detect deceptions, and the inherent ability to tap positive energy – which almost every Child of Light will develop a variety of ways to use – they are almost impossible to relate to. Money? What need for that? There is little to buy, many of the elders can simply create what little is needed, and those who owe a debt can deceive neither others nor themselves about it. Politics? Leadership? Crimes other than those of impulse? Showing off? White Lies? Flattery? Without the ability to deceive, falsely impress, or even delude themselves, such things are meaningless. Slain in an accident? The local healer can probably help you. Religion? They acknowledge both The Namer and The Dragon, but tend to seek solitary paths to transcendence within themselves. After all, it is obvious to them that most believers do not actually know. Even the wild animals are tame to those who mean them no harm. They do not treat their (rare) children as adults until they are more than a hundred years old – and entering adolescence. In old age (2000+) they simply become more and more ethereal, until – at the last – they simply dissolve into the light. In peace they are welcoming enough, yet almost impossible to live among.

   Raids upon them have not gone well: the Children of Light do not casually turn to war, but many have centuries of experience and talents that can be adapted to defense – and the sheer logistic barriers to launching such an assault are already a crippling disadvantage.

   In general, the Isles of the Sunset are left strictly to themselves. Occasional emissaries from the Isles and the Powers of Light have appeared on the mainland in times of crisis – especially during the recent extra-dimensional invasions and during the Dragon Koan and Dragon’s Eye episodes of history – but this is even rarer than visits to the Isles. In legend (at least in legend outside of Parack), the Children of Light are commonly portrayed as ethereal elder beings from a mystical realm of immortals. It doesn’t help that most of the inhabitants of the isles are unable to conceive of how people can delude themselves so in the first place.

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