Now that we’ve covered the major domains, it’s time to talk about some of the ones that only support small colonies or are completely uninhabited – and why. First up, we’ll cover the Absolute Command, Binding, Enchantment, and Ice Domains. 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).
Areas that only support small colonies usually do so because humans can only survive in a few, unusually friendly, locations within the domain – whether that’s because they’re mostly under water or because of hostile environments, flora, or fauna. A few other domains are here because – while they apparently do have enough land to support a reasonable number of people – they’re currently unexplored, usually because they’re almost impossible to reach. Such Domains include:
Absolute Command Domain: This domain apparently incorporates a fair chunk of land along the southern coast, but there are no reports as to what abilities the Birthright grants, if there are any inhabitants, or what the region is like – probably because the domains surrounding it are virtually impassable. Judging by the few known spellcasters who use similar magics, the local Birthright is probably powerful, versatile, and exhausting to use.
Binding Domain: This domain, sometimes known in HuSung as the “Hundred Realms”, seems welcoming enough – until you try to live there. It is the nature of the Binding Domain to fiercely resist change. It’s mountains are nearly as tall, rough, and jagged as they were when they were created. Mighty masses of snow build up until their weight surpasses even the binding power of the land and they roar down in horrific avalanches. Plants cling to vertical cliffs, the soil is nigh-impossible to dig or plow – and spirits remain bound to bodies, possessions, and places. Many small groups – mostly rebels from HuSung and losing tribes from the Ankorath – have taken refuge in the near-impassable terrain of the Twisted Peak. Here their customs, oaths, and persons are preserved, lingering across the ages. Those who do not flee the things they encounter there, or who pass into the depths of the domain, do not return.
There are a few children with the Binding Birthright, the products or victims of misdirection and experiment. They are… strange. Time passes slowly for them, and often for those about them. Fires burn low and cool when they are near, matter becomes more stable and enduring, they bind other energies and forces to themselves, and they invariably become undead or haunts when their long, slow, lives draw to an end at last.
Enchantment Domain: According to the scholars of HuSung, the Enchantment Domain – and the scattered isles within it – are a link, or perhaps an area of overlap, between the otherworldly realms of the Fey and the material realms of Atheria. Those who can navigate the mists, illusions, and mysteries of the fringes of the otherworlds may arrive at the towers of Narrishin and seek out the masters who dwell there. Unfortunately, the reports of the few who have succeeded in such a quest and returned are inconsistent as to details – although wild forests, verdant parks, and soaring crystal towers are a common theme.
Those born with the Enchantment Birthright apparently lead a dual existence – changelings both within the realms of the fey and within the mortal lands, waking to both alternately, and drawing on the powers of both. Unfortunately, this tends to lead to them being involved with the troubles of both.
Ice Domain: The Ice Domain has a certain wild beauty about it. It’s glacier-covered peaks, gouged-out fjords, drifting snow, crumpled sea-ice, rocky outcroppings, and occasional icy bogs displays a severe and minimalistic grandeur – but offers little or nothing to actually eat. A few ice-aspected plants grow directly on the ice-fields, but most of them are virtually nutrient free – although their perpetually-cold “wood” does have its uses, even if it won’t burn. Similarly, a few of the animals are little more than masses of animated ice – but such things are rare.
What conventional life there is tends to center on the rare patches of genuine soil swept clear of ice and snow by the wind – and in and around the sea. All the usual creatures – fish, seals, whales, and the occasional shore-dwelling carnivores – can be found by there. There too can be found the few human settlements – scattered igloos, longhouses, and ice-caverns – which exist in the realms of ice. Sadly, while the Ice Birthright makes its bearers comfortable around the freezing point of water, it similarly lowers the point at which they become vulnerable to heat – leaving them essentially trapped within their barren realm, able to emerge only in the depths of winter. Their scattered settlements subsist on the the products of the sea, small amounts of laboriously-produced and gathered plant products, the odd bit of trade (icewood, ivory, frost essence, liquid light, stargems, pearls, furs, bone, metals, and carvings, mostly for food, cloth, and other basic supplies) – and winter raiding on the coasts of the Frozen Sea, the Bay of Rani, the Boreal Sea, and Nial, where the ice-reinforced coracles and depredations of the Frost Giants are well known. Fortunately, there simply aren’t very many people with Ice Birthrights, so such raiding is an irregular nuisance rather than a serious menace.
Socially the Frost Giants are, at best, tribal – their scattered settlements linked by a loose network of marriages and personal relationships. Social status among them is relatively simple: those who are regularly successful at bringing in supplies – whether by hunting, fishing, harvesting, trading, or raiding – are respected, as are those who are skilled in useful magics. Those who live as employees or dependents of others – miners, crafters, children, the infirm, and the (rare) elderly – are the first to starve when food is scarce, and are seen as little more than property. A valiant death, whether in battle, in the hunt, or in simple struggle against the elements, is both honorable and glorious. Allowing your family to care for you in age or infirmity is shameful; better to walk into the wastes and redeem your honor.
Their margin of survival is too narrow to allow for much more – which is also why the periodic attempts to either eliminate or “civilize” them have invariably failed: if the year is bad enough, there will be no food and nothing to trade – which leaves the Frost Giants with a choice of raid, beg, or die. Since begging means forfeiting your honor, admitting that you are no more than a slave – and is, in their experience, unlikely to work in any case – that pretty much leaves raiding.
And so they do.