Gazetteer for Zarathan
NOTE: Some elements of the Gazetteer may be spoilers for Phoenix Rising.
Zarathan (more properly Zahr-a-Thana, World of Magic) is a planet of generally Earth size and composition. It is presumed to be the source of all magic in all universes. The main continent (and the only continent commonly known) stretches approximately four thousand, eight hundred miles north to south and, at its widest, is about the same east to west (it averages between two and three thousand east-west over most of its extent, however). It can be generally divided into three regions: Southern Zarathan, which is most of the continent south of the Khalal mountain range, Northern Zarathan which is everything north of the Khalals plus the very large island/miniature continent of Artania, and Elyvias, a subcontinent peninsula shaped something like a gigantic Cape Cod and separated from Southern Zarathan by the Barricade Mountains.
The history, geography, and peoples of Zarathan are all affected greatly by the apparently cyclical "Chaoswars" which bring periodic conflict to the world and are associated with massive mystical/deific disturbances which, among other effects, distort or erase memories and even records of prior events – up to and including those of the gods. Thus, while the generally known history of Zarathan stretches back over half a million years, clear records are rarely available for anything older than the most recent Chaoswar.
There are several countries on this continent, but it should be made clear that "country" on Zarathan is not quite the same as "country" in the modern civilized world of Earth. Most of the area claimed as a country's territory is actually relatively wild and untamed and dangerous; only cleared areas around cities and major roads tend to be safe for travel. The overall population of the countries is therefore much lower than might be expected, given that the average standard of living is closer to that of 20th century Earth in many ways than it is to the medieval era that one might first assume, seeing no factories and noticing that the sword is still a common weapon. Following is a list of the important countries in Phoenix Rising:
State of the Dragon God:
Called variously the State of the Dragon God, The Dragon-King's Domain, The State of Elbon Nomicon, and other appellations, the actual name for this country is a very long string of Ancient Sauran words that boiled down means something like "The Country founded in the days of the Dragon-God's First Creation, That Endures Eternally". It is the largest country on the planet, stretching from the western edge of Southern Zarathan all the way to the Barricade Mountains in the east, and from the southern coast all the way to the Ice Peaks in the north. In a governmental sense, the State of the Dragon God might best be described as a theocratic libertarian state.
The capital of the State of the Dragon God is called in Ancient Sauran Fanalam' T' ameris' a' u' Zahr-a-Thana T'ikon, but commonly (and to the Saurans and Dragons, painfully) called simply "Zarathanton". It is the most ancient city, and the largest, on the continent, with some buildings over five hundred thousand years old and a population of roughly 200,000 inside and immediately outside its walls. Other important cities within the State of the Dragon God borders include T'Tera (also called the Dragon God's City), Artani (a city of trade with the Artan of the Forest Sea), Dragonkill, Bridgeway, Odinsforge (also the name of the mountain range in which it is set), Salandar, Thologondoreave (an independent city of the Children of Odin), Shipton (known to the Saurans as Olthamian' a' ameris)and Hell's Edge.
The Empire of the Mountain:
Nearly as large as the Dragon God's country, the Empire of the Mountain actually straddles the Khalals, claiming much of the territory north of the Ice Peaks to the Khalals and some territory to the north and east above them. Ruled in unbroken power for hundreds of thousands of years by the God-Emperor Idinus, most powerful wizard ever to live, the Empire has always had an uneasy relationship with its neighbors. While Idinus is not, strictly speaking, evil, he has motives and goals that are unclear to others and this has led on occasion to war on a titanic scale. The capital of the Empire of the Mountain is Scimitar's Path, at the base of Mount Scimitar – tallest peak of the Khalal range at sixty thousand feet. There are several other cities, the most important of which are Kheldragaard to the west and Tor Port in the east. It is an ironclad theocracy ruled directly by the Archmage himself from atop Mount Scimitar – where he remains virtually always.
Dalthunia used to be an ally state to the Dragon God, a modest-sized country which broke away from the Empire due to a very bad set of mis-steps by some of the Empire's local rulers, eventually triggering a local revolution. For some reason the Archmage – after a short demonstration of his power which showed that if he wished, he could take Dalthunia back at any time – allowed Dalthunia to remain independent. At the time of the story, however, Dalthunia has been a conquered state – whether by internal revolution or some subtle external invasion is unclear – for a couple of centuries, and very little is known about it other than that they do not welcome visitors. They clearly have powerful magic and probably deific patrons, because scrying and ordinary espionage have not been effective. The capital of Dalthunia is Kymael, named after the instigator of the revolution.
A small country between the northeastern portion of Hell's Rim, the Khalals, and the Broken Hills, Evanwyl is an almost forgotten country at the time of Phoenix Rising; its great claim to fame used to be its connection to the civilization that lay on the other side of Heavenbridge Way, the winding but only useful pass through the Khalals. But that was before something happened during the last Chaoswar, something that turned the other side to the monstrous Moonshade Hollow and the Heavenbridge Way into Rivendream Pass. Now Evanwyl's only function is keeping the things that exit from Rivendream Pass from entering the larger world. Governmentally, Evanwyl is a monarchy (ruled by the Watchland) with the monarch's power moderated by his subordinates and advisors the Eyes and Arms, and by the powerful influence of the faith of Myrionar, the Balanced Sword, especially as embodied in the Justiciars of Myrionar and the high priest called the Arbiter. The city of Evanwyl is the capital; its population is between four and five thousand people in total.
Situated on the far northeast corner of the continent, Skysand is a country which is mostly desert with considerable volcanic features and with some interior and coastal oases (around which are built its few cities). A theocratic monarchy, Skysand is ruled by the Silverun family under a complex set of rules administered and watched over by the temples of Terian, the Mortal God; the capital is also named Skysand and is situated in a natural harbor with a periodically active but generally harmless volcano on the southern side. Cut off from the rest of the land by the high and volcanic Flamewall Mountains, Skysand trades by sea with other countries around the continent, its most prominent exports being magical gemstones which are found in great quantity and diverse assortments in the desert and mountains.
A huge island or small continent a thousand miles long and a few hundred wide, Artania is the claimed homeland of the youngest of the major species on Zarathan, the Artan (sometimes called Elves). Few other than the Artan are allowed beyond the capital city, Nya-Sharee-Hilya (which means "Surviving the Storm of Ages"); this city is run on rather militaristic lines but it's uncertain as to whether this reflects the overall government, or the fact that the city is often the focal point of invasion attempts.
White Blade State:
Located in a circle of mountains in the far northwest of the main continent, the White Blade State is a rotating monarchy, with rulership cycling regularly between the ruling families of the five main cities. How the individual cities determine their ruling families varies, making governmental changeovers… interesting at times. Naturally this also means the capital city changes with regularity. The "White Blade" is a symbolic, but extremely powerful, sword which is held by the current ruler; it is said to be the gift of the patron god of the White Blade, Chromaias, and each of the five cities are devoted to and named after one of the five gods of that faith (Chromaias, Stymira [Thanamion], Amanora, Taralandira [Mulios], and Kharianda.
A small country walled off from the rest of the continent by the mountain range called Wisdom's Fortress, Aegeia is a theocratic state which is ruled much of the time by a council of twelve nobles, but at other times by the literal incarnate Goddess of Wisdom, Athena, in the capital city of Aegis.
The Children of Odin claim this as their homeland, and politically the entire mountain range is treated as a sort of neutral ground with the Children of Odin having priority in disputes. The area immediately surrounding the general location of Thologondoreave ("Cavern of a Thousand Hammers")is acknowledged to be sovereign territory of the Children of Odin; as the exact location of Thologondoreave is a well-kept secret from most people,with powerful enchantments and even deific protection, in practice this makes most of the Odinsforge Range their country, an island in the middle of the State of the Dragon King.
Possibly the smallest country in the world, Pondsparkle consists of one small city and the surrounding area near a small lake a few miles in extent. Pondsparkle is the permanent home for a large number (several thousand) of the Intelligent Toads and the site of the first and still primary temple to their god, Blackwart the Great.
Not, strictly speaking, a country, but a subcontinent, Elyvias used to be a larger portion of the continent, with additional area extending up nearly to Tor Port, but according to legend a battle between Elbon Nomicon and the Archmage Idinus caused a cataclysmic restructuring of the whole area, sinking a large chunk of the continent and creating the distorted conditions within. Elyvias has several countries and significant cities within its borders (Firestream Falls, Shuronogromal, Thunder Port, Thelhi-Man-Su, Zeikor, Artilus) but is severely cut off from the rest of the world both by the physical barriers of the Barricade Mountains, Blackdust Plateau, and Cataclysm Ridge, and by the mystical disruption called the Maelwyrd which surrounds the entire peninsula to a range of up to forty miles, with only a mile or two of clear-sailing space inside the Maelwyrd, near land. Magic also tends to work differently in Elyvias and the civilizations there have developed differently in the last several thousand years.
The Forest Sea:
Stretching from the Great Road and the Odinsforge Range in the east to the Barricade Range in the east, the Forest Sea presses against the Ice Peaks and surges around them in the east, up into the Empire of the Mountain. Stretching for three thousand miles, the Forest Sea is broken only by tiny enclaves within it and by the narrow clear-cuts around the cities and Great Roads. Somewhere within is hidden the Suntree, which the Artan on the main continent use as temple and center, but most of it is utterly unexplored, filled with danger and possibility.
"Hell" and Hell's Rim:
Created, it is said, from a cataclysmic mystical confrontation between the powerful Demons and the Great Dragons in the days before human beings walked the planet, the region called "Hell" is a place of twisted, distorted magics, impossible conflicting terrain, and monsters found nowhere else. No coherent picture has emerged of the place within, and few even attempt to go there; passing Hell's Rim, a steep barrier of high peaks, would be too much effort for most anyway. The only pass through those peaks is sealed off by the fortress city, Hell's Edge, which exists almost solely as a barrier between "Hell" and the rest of the world.
Like "Hell" and Elyvias, the Ice Peaks are a reminder of one of the conflicts of history, though long enough ago that the precise nature of the event isn't known. The Peaks are magical, solidified ice for the most part, meaning that they are beautiful, transparent or translucent, and very, very hard to pass, given they have nothing growing on them. They form one of the natural borders between the State of the Dragon God and the Empire of the Mountain.
People of Zarathan
Many different species share this continent – many relatively peacefully, others… somewhat less so. Following is a summary of the most significant peoples of this world.
Human beings on Zarathan are basically the same as they are on Earth. Generalists, humans are something of the chameleons of the civilizations, showing up in any profession, any part of the world, in large numbers. They are probably the most common of the intelligent species.
Called the Sylanningathalinde, or "Golden-eyed", by the Saurans, the Toads claim to be the oldest of the intelligent species, even pre-dating the Dragons and Demons. They are in general a fun-loving but insular people, and mostly stay near to the pond they are born and raised in. Toads are given one name in their larval (tadpole) stage and, when adults, choose a significant second name. They vary tremendously in size, from dwarfed individuals a few inches long up to some four feet from nose to rump and weighing two hundred pounds.
Averaging eight feet in height with massive bodies, armored tails,heavy, clawed feet and arms, and a head sporting a very large fanged mouth, Saurans resemble nothing so much as a miniature Godzilla. They claim to be direct descendants of the Great Dragons, and the Ancient Saurans – somewhat larger and clearly superior in many ways – are supposedly ranked as equals with the Dragons. There are very few Ancient Saurans left. Generally even-tempered, and a good thing, since when angered they are terribly dangerous.
Very humanlike, Artan tend to the delicate in appearance, with hair and eyes of exotic colors; they are extremely controlled in emotional displays as a rule. They often live in wilder areas – forests and mountains – but not, despite some assumptions, because they like to live "close to nature"; they prefer to be hard to find and have a sort of racial paranoia that they are still being hunted by some nameless adversaries who supposedly chased them from beyond the stars to Zarathan. The Rohila are technically the same species, but are otherwise separated from them in culture, behavior, and associations, aside from being also isolationist.
Children of Odin/Odinsyrnen:
Short, broad, tough as stone, these appear to be – and in many ways are – the classic dwarves. However, they are not a species of hard-drinking and fighting warriors, despite appearances and the fact that their patron pantheon includes Odin and Thor. According to their legends they were literally created by Odin, who forged them in Asgard from the heart of a world, using Thor's hammer to do the striking. While their greatest city is indeed underground, the Children of Odin are equally at home above ground and are nearly as flexible in choice of profession and environments as human beings.
Generally human in appearance but with a set of huge but compactable wings, the Saelar are almost certainly the result of some mage's experimentation a few Chaoswars ago. The records are, however, lost, and they breed as true as any, so they are now an uncommon but widely-spread species, most heavily concentrated in the region of the Broken Hills.
Often called "snake-demons", "snake-men", and other more derogatory terms, the mazakh were originally the creation of the demons they worship (the Mazolishta) who literally constructed them from a number of other species. In appearance they are actually somewhat less snakelike and more like small raptorian dinosaurs. Generally raised in a hostile culture that trains them for warfare and lack of empathy, the mazakh are still not inherently evil and some leave the service of the Mazolishta and join the greater societies above; these are called khallit.
Gods of Zarathan:
The gods and their choices affect nearly everything on the planet. There are, literally, hundreds if not thousands of deities worshipped on the planet; for purposes of Phoenix Rising, only a few are of great significance, however.
God of Justice and Vengeance, Myrionar is at the heart of the action here. In the grander scheme of things Myrionar is a fading god whose influence is vastly reduced from what it was, but that may be changing. Represented as a set of scales balanced on the point of a sword.
The Nemesis of Evil, the Light in the Darkness, Terian is also called Infinity as he is referred to in prophecy as "The Length of Space". A deity of unswerving good, Terian is also ranked as one of the most powerful of deities on anyone's scale. Represented by a human figure mostly in black with a cape or cloak clasped with a golden sidewise-eight figure and head blurred/concealed by a blaze of light.
Chromaias and the Four:
Generally portrayed as good, the Chromaian faith is extremely… flexible, especially as it manifests all aspects of magic and power. Symbolized by a four-pointed jack-like object with crystals of four different colors at the points and a clear diamond at the center.
Goddess of the world(s), Eönae's focus is on nature, with control over the natural elements (earth, air, fire, water, and spirit) the common manifestation of her power. She is commonly allied with Shargamor, a demon of water turned to the light, who is mostly focused on storms, streams, rain, and so on. Symbolized either by a woman (young, medium, old) with green and brown hair, or by her signature creatures, the Eönwyl.
Elbon Nomicon and the Sixteen:
One of the most ancient pantheons, the head of this group of gods is Elbon Nomicon, Teranahm a u Gilnas (Great Dragon of the Diamond), supposedly father to all Dragons and a being of almost incalculable power. The Dragons tend to slow, long duty-cycles on Zarathan, either sleeping for ages or travelling to other planes of existence, with only a few physically present on Zarathan at any given time; it is, however, rumored that Elbon Nomicon's own home is at the center of the Krellin mountains at the extreme southwest tip of the continent. The symbol of each dragon is its chosen gemstone; Elbon's personal symbol is a stylized lighting bolt with rays extending out from it.
The Black Star, King of All Hells, Kerlamion is one of the most powerful of the gods as well as one of the original Demons. He symbolizes destruction and conquest and thus attracts only the worst sort of worshippers; he is however often quite active and those who please him may often get material aid. His symbol is, predictably, either a black starburst or a humanoid outline of pure black.
Great Demons who are the patron gods of the mazakh and other creatures of darker natures, there are several Mazolishta whose names are rarely spoken; the only one appearing directly in Phoenix Rising is Voorith, whose focus is life, forests, and such – in a corruptive and destructive sense.
Blackwart the Great:
God of Toads (and anything else he happens to like), Blackwart manifests as a gigantic black toad, hence the name. While not powerful on the scale of many of the gods, he is much more savvy than many give him credit for (just like his people). He is symbolized by a stylized set of pop-eyes and a smile, or by a black toad figurine.
Phoenix Rising Characters
- Kyri Victoria Vantage: middle child of the Vantage family; about 18-19, very tall and frighteningly strong girl; described as “beautiful but not pretty”.
- Tobimar Silverun: Seventh of Seven, the seventh child and thus most junior prince of the country of Skysand. Dark-skinned with startling blue eyes and long raven-black hair.
- Poplock Duckweed: Smallest member of his people, with a tendency to get involved in things much bigger than he; Anything more would be a spoiler!
Important Secondary Characters:
- Jeridan Relion: The “Watchland” of Evanwyl; basically the king/ruler of the small country. The Vantages are “Eyes” of Evanwyl, nobility who report directly to the Watchland. About 30 years old.
- Victoria Vantage: 60-ish grand dame who used to be a formidable adventurer in her youth – and you’d be unwise to test her capabilities today, too.
- Toron: Human contraction of the name of the Marshal of Hosts (basically Minister of Defense) for one of the largest countries on the planet – and a former adventuring companion of Victoria Vantage. As he’s an Ancient Sauran, no one knows just how old he is.
- Xavier Uriel Ross: A young man from Earth, one of five such whose purpose is not entirely clear but clearly of grave import. Xavier shares something in appearance with Kyri’s family, especially in his haunting gray eyes, and also something in appearance and skill with Tobimar. He travels for a time with Tobimar and Poplock.
The Justiciars of Myrionar
- Silver Eagle: Previously a warrior whose real name was unknown; title and armor taken up by Rion Vantage, Kyri’s older brother; weapon is a longsword
- Shrike: Short but massively powerful human warrior, uses a huge double-bladed axe: talks in a heavy accent, cheerful and hearty most of the time
- Condor: Very tall young man, close friend of Shrike, uses a hand-and-a-half “bastard” blade: Youngest of the Justiciars (other than Rion) and treated that way
- Mist Owl: Slender Artan warrior, uses a slender longsword: oldest by far and the quiet “wise man” of the group.
- Thornfalcon: Tall, somewhat gangly, acts the clown and troubador; uses a rapier to great effect.
- Skyharrier: Valkyrnen (winged humanoid) who uses a mystical bow (which can also be used in combat as a curved staff). Often sounds poetic when he speaks.
- Bolthawk: Odinsyrnen (Child of Odin): Short, tough, and uses a mace, as one might expect. Surprisingly close friends with Skyharrier.
- Myrionar: God of Justice and Vengeance, Myrionar is at the time of writing a minor god whose influence appears to be waning and is mostly concentrated in the country of Evanwyl, Kyri’s native country. A high priest of Myrionar is called an Arbiter, while a lower priest or acolyte is called a Seeker.
- Chromaias and the Four: A small pantheon but of great power, ranked as one of the most powerful of all the gods. The Four are his wives: Stymira Thanamion (Mistress of Music), Kharianda (Queen of Power), Taralandira Mulios (Lady of Light), and Amanora (Guardian of Command); it is assumed by many that this means that Chromaias himself is the essence of all magic, but there are many different cults and interpretations of the faith, and a strong component of warfare and combat in the faith is taken by many to indicate that Chromaias is also a warrior god.
- Terian: A contration of T’Tera Mian, Great Lord of the Stars, Terian is possibly the most powerful of all gods of good. A high priest of Terian is called a Nomdas.
- Elbon Nomicon and the Sixteen: The great Dragon Gods. Dragons are generally considered forces for good on Zarathan, although there have been exceptions.
- Blackwart the Great: Often considered one of the least of the gods, Blackwart is the god of intelligent Toads and similar creatures.
- Kerlamion: King of All Hells, the greatest of all the demons and a god himself, ranking as an equal with the greatest of the gods. A figure of blacker-than-black with blue-white blazing eyes.
- Viedraverion: Unnamed through most of the book, this is the name finally revealed for the mysterious “patron” of the main villain, who is also unnamed until the end of the novel.
- Voorith: A monstrous cross between human, snake, and gigantic insectoid, Voorith is one of the Mazolishta, Demonlords of the snakelike humanoids called Mazakh. Voorith’s domain appears to be conquest and destruction, though it is not stated outright.
- Balgoltha: A major demon of the oceans.