Life in Caerlorn
In this section, we examine the world of Caerlorn from the point of view of its people. The societies of the fair continent, despite the influence and dominance of humans descended from the great nations of Aldebar and Arlyn, are a melting pot of cultures and ideas. Caerlorn’s nations meld human, elf, dwarf, shialen, and a host of other races and creaturs together to form something stronger than the sum of the individual parts. The continent’s mixed heritage, although it has led to conflict and war, also gives the people of Caerlorn an advantage over the other civilizations because of their diversity.
The people of Caerlorn mark the passage of time according to the standards developed by the Arlani and Brunathi faiths and is based on ancient draconic measurements from thousands of years ago. Days are 24 hours long, divided into day and night; they are marked with watches of approximately three hours each, often referred to as morning, noontide, hindnoon, and eventide from dawn to dusk, and gloom, witching hour, curse-fall, and dawnbreak from dusk to dawn. Seven days make up a week, as many of the major faiths of Caerlorn tell of a six day creation period ended with a day of rest. Five of these weeks make up a month, which is the amount of time for both moons to change their phases from full to full; each month travels through one of the main twelve constellations as they circle the Great Hydra and one of its mighty fourteen heads. There are a total of twelve months a year as the revolution of Caerlorn brings it around the sun.
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Caerlorn is riddled with unique vegetation that serves the manufacturing, trade, and even magical fields of its inhabitants that stand next to the more common oaks, ashes, maples, chestnuts, spruces, and pines found on other worlds. These exceptional plants have a great many uses, and many a ranger or druid has saved his companions by recognizing an innocuous plant with amazing properties.
Bronzed Oak: This exceptionally hard wood, native to Al’teria, is a special form of broad-leaf tree. It is noted for its bronze-colored trunk and copper-colored leaves, which turn more green during the autumn months. Unlike most woods, bronzed oak can be used instead of metal to fashion heavy armor and weapons—it is somewhat shapeable during manufacturing, and it keeps a sharp edge. Although dense and weighty compared to other woods, it is still lighter than steel.
Rimepine: Recognizable by its cerulean, gleaming needles, rimepines bend in the wind or under the pressure of ice and snow rather than breaking, often forming snow tunnels that shelter winter or subarctic travelers. Rimepines grow close together in thick stands, growing around 40 feet tall but with slender trunks. Rimepine wood is highly durable and resilient, with an icy-blue interior that seems to glow in cold temperatures. The sap and crushed leaves yield a vivid blue dye which is highly favored in the Marches of Starfall. When burned, it produces a beautiful, leaping blue flame (prized in inns and taverns as “mood-lighting” for tale-tellers and minstrels).
Elf-Rowan: This rowan has long enjoyed its reputation to protect against magic, however there is also evidence that supports the fact that it has the capacity to channel magic as well when formed into rune staves, or sticks upon which runes are inscribed. Among the more rural human and sylvan communities, there are instances recorded where elf-rowan wood is used for metal divining, as hazel twigs are used for water. Elf-rowan has played a central role in druidic ceremonies for centuries, and among rural populations, sprigs are often placed over the main door of the house and also worn on the person to ward off false enchantment. Examine a red elf-rowan berry and you will discover that unlike other fruits that bear just a round hollow or dimple opposite their stalks, it carries a tiny, five-pointed star, or pentagram – the ancient magical symbol for protection.
Breathing Willow: Another of the unusual woods of Al’teria, breathing willow is a green-colored hardwood with a highly magical nature. When breathing willows are felled, they do not die, though they stop all growth. Breathing willows can be worked like normal hardwood, while it remains completely alive. In most respects, breathing willow is just like normal wood, though it reacts to most spells as though it was a living plant. Dryads occasionally make their homes in breathing willows instead of oak trees. Such a dryad looks no more kindly upon the felling of her tree than other dryads do, but the felling of her breathing willow does not kill her—nor does it end her dependence on the tree. As a result, dryads can be found within breathing willow objects, including buildings, furniture, and ships.
Mistwood: Rare even in the abundant forests of Al’teria, mistwood possesses a magical buoyancy. Ships made from mistwood skim effortlessly over the surface of the water. Mistwood is a necessary component of the airships and elemental galleons manufactured by the Twelve Sigilbound Houses of Theldrún. The speed of a boat or ship made from mistwood is double that of an equivalent boat made from ordinary wood, and the cost is four times normal.
Bluethorn: This is a hardy, vine-like shrub that can grow nearly anywhere. It’s blue berries are often harvested to be either eaten or fermented into a bluethorn wine. The bluethorn gets its name from large, imposing black thorns. The thorns can grow at least as large as a man’s hand which can be used as crude needles or darts. Bluethorn berries are a deep indigo in color, edible (tart in flavor), and often harvested even when frozen or withered for use in winemaking.
Shadow Aspen: This is a type of tree that grows throughout Caerlorn. They can grow to be nearly one-hundred feet tall, growing at a rate of two feet a year. Their leaves grow in an irregular pattern at the very top of the tree, having dark green tops and a coppery hue on the underside. Shadow aspen wood is fibrous, making it undesirable for building but good for ropemaking. The fibrous wood is good for cookfires as it burns slowly without giving off much smoke; in this manner, their tops are prone to fire.
Ilseth Cypress: These are rare trees found in the High Wood of the Kingdom of Ilseth. The wood is not naturally flammable, making it excellent for construction purposes. It is also often used for making musical instruments. The most remarkable feature of the Ilseth cypress is its leaves, as they are brown year round. Ilseth cypress can grow to be huge in its later years. They are a very rare variety and are usually protected by laws, rangers and druids.
Ebon Mangrove: Also called the blackwood, this is an odd tree that is usually found in the Cathru Jungle or other southern areas. Its pure black wood is coveted for building because it is durable but not a hard wood. Ebon mangroves grow oddly in the sense that one plant is composed of several trees that stem from a central root. Their leaves are usually white or another light color.
Duskelm: These trees grow all over Caerlorn. They grow in densely packed groves which end up looking a bit eerie. They have smooth black bark and the trunks grow to an average of 60 feet. Atop these trunks lie small branches. The wood is as tough as iron and some fashion weapons out of the wood in place of metal. Duskelm doesn’t make good armor, though a passable breastplate can be made out of it.
Carmiln: There exist certain groups of trees that have always been revered. Superstitions surround them, that their branches, for example, should never be lopped or pruned. The carmiln is such a tree, almost always found in groups, or groves, and usually situated near a spring. Carmiln is a hard-wooded tree, with oblong leaves bearing deeply incised edges, and bunches of finely scented white flowers in spring. Because of its density and durability it is considered to be a fine wood for a variety of uses. However, the myths of bad luck following indiscriminate cutting of it often accounts for a variation on the cost of the milled lumber. Those limbs harvested within the stricture of the druidic laws governing what time of day, month and season it is done are usually more difficult to find as well as preferred for use, especially in the creation of magical items.
Kakore: The kakore tree resembles the birch, in that it commonly has multiple boles instead of one. Its leaves are a silvery green shade with scalloped edges, and feature a tint of scarlet on the leaves’ undersides which has earned it the nickname of “bloodleaf” trees. It is commonly found in marshy areas, and does not tolerate arid climates. Its wood is dense, with little give, and is of a beautiful deep reddish-brown hue. Thus, it is not usually a good choice for uses that require a supple snap such as the production of bows. Its widespread populations, as well as the beauty of its finish, promote the kakore’s popularity for use in medium-grade items.
Hoarbeam: Named both for the silver-grayish hue of the wood and for the arctic region in which it grows, this strong variety of fir is a handsome tree with pointed crown of aromatic foliage. Its needles are evergreen, spreading almost at right angles in two rows on slender, hairy twigs. The hoarbeam’s cones are long and cylindrical, tinted a dark purple, and they sit upright on topmost branches. Prized for a variety of uses, the hoarbeam’s wood is light-colored and has a faint, irregular grain. It is resilient but still possesses enough elasticity to make it a fine choice for use in making bows. The hoarbeam is commonly found in northern forests, and it is said that the further north the specimens are harvested, the stronger will be its qualities.
Witchwood: Witchwood is a highly magical wood taken from a large twisted shrub which is said to grow only in graveyards. Only small weapons are likely to be made from it, and its most common use is in wands and staves.
Fireleaf: From the Barony of Sarth comes the fireleaf tree, whose bright orange and red leaves in autumn give the impression of the tree being inflamed from a distance. During the spring and summer, the fireleaf is robed in dark green elliptical leaves with a slight ruby hue on their undersides, each of which ends in a short tooth. The tree’s bark is gray-green and furrowed into long ridges.
Glowbark: Glowbark trees are named for the propensity of the trees to have tiny, phosphorescent organisms living in the bark of the trees, giving them a luminescence seen only during the darkest night of the moons’ phase. It is also believed that the strong magic residing in the glowbark’s wood adds to this shine, as well as benefiting the organisms. The glowbark is a medium-sized tree with generous, straight boughs, making it a fine choice for the production of items of all types. Glowbarks grow well in secluded forests within the western reaches of the the Forest of Grimmbar.
Wyrwood: Obtaining the precious wood of the great wyrwood is a dangerous proposition. According to stories told by the men and elves of the mysterious Forest of Grimmbar, these rare, solitary trees are said to entangle and hang woodsmen and hunters with grisly results. Thought to be a cousin of the willow, the wyrwood is a large tree with 1 or more straight and usually leaning trunks, upright branches, and narrow or irregular crown. Its leaves are narrow and lance-shaped, often slightly curved to one side, and they grow densely upon the tree’s boughs. While these trees have been known to grow within the forest, they are most commonly found not too far distant from streams. They are known to have an exceptionally deep taproot, which probably accounts for their ability to live a distance from a water source, having tapped instead into underground springs.
Lor: The lor, or commonly called the silver lor, is a tall, slender tree that grows to great heights. Often called lovers’ trees, it was the custom of the Al’terian elves to plant lor trees as a pair, and there are records of some of these famous pairs living well past 600 years. First found in abundance within the extensive forests surrounding the early Al’terian settlements, the lor has declined in succeeding centuries, and is now quite rare. Efforts to initiate plantings of lor trees in other parts of Caerlorn have met with little success, resulting in workable lor wood being extremely rare and expensive when it is found. The lor, with its graceful lofty boughs has long symbolized wisdom, or having long sight with a clear vision of what is beyond and yet to come.
Though there all forms of barter, “I owe you” declarations, and trade-in-kind done throughout Caerlorn, especially on the frontier, hard currency in the form of precious metals are the requisite form of portable wealth in most lands and in business transactions that are conducted over great distances. Though blood notes, barter, and similar “letters of trade” are common enough, coins and trade bars are the most common currency of trade.
Most countries base their coinage on the silver standard, and that is the basis of wealth for the grand majority of the world. Most nations simply refer to the type of coin by its metal and agree to its worth dependent on the worth of the silver piece (sp). The lowest worth of coin is the copper piece (cp), ten of which equals the worth of the silver piece; some nations use a bronze or brass piece (bp) instead of the copper piece, but the worth is considered to be the same. The next most valuable piece after the silver is the electrum piece (ep), which is worth ten silver pieces. After that is the famous gold piece (gp), which is worth five electrum pieces; unlike most worlds, gold has a greater value on Caerlorn, and as such, the gold piece value of most items is actually an electrum piece value in Caerlorn. Finally, the most valuable common coin is the platinum piece (pp), which is worth two gold pieces. For most communities, the silver represents the majority of the middle class, while the copper represents all but the most impoverished rungs of the lower class and the electrum and gold represents all but the loftiest heights of the upper class.
Other coins of stranger precious metals are known, but far less common than these seven. Two types of coins are worth less than the silver piece: the nickel piece (np), which is worth two copper pieces; and a coin of a nickel-silver alloy (nsp) worth five copper pieces. Three very rare coin types are worth more than even the platinum piece: the mithral piece (mp), worth three platinum pieces; the adamantine piece (ap), worth five platinum pieces; and the highly rare arcanium piece (arp), worth ten platinum pieces.
Though most lands merely accept whatever type of coin comes their way or determines value dependent on the weight of the metal being used (1 pound of metal=50 coins of the metal’s type), certain nations mint specific coins whose names and appearances are known the world over. The most common are the coins of Arlyn, Aldebar, and Theldrún, whose coins serve as the central value of the majority of trade throughout Caerlorn. In Arlyn, the copper piece is known as the shard, the silver piece as the scales, the electrum piece as the noble, the gold piece as the crown, and the platinum piece as the dragon. In Aldebar, the copper is known as the bit, the silver as the gate, the gold as the tower, and the platinum as the spire; Aldebar also has two unique coins: one is a special gold coin with a pierced ivory center designed to be strung on strings called the trade star and worth two platinum; the other is the sigilmark, which it shares with Theldrún – a platinum ring with an electrum design in the center made to appear as one of the sigils of the Twelve Sigilbound Houses worth twelve gold pieces. In Theldrún, a copper is a nib, a silver is a toal, an electrum is a lord, a gold is a prince, and a platinum is a tricrown.
Other human nations mint and name their own coins. In Tal-Sherit, bronze sheaves are the lowest form of currency, followed by silver horns, electrum sickles, and gold scepters, whereas the Republic of Melitta has the brass sestertius, the silver denarius, and the gold aureus. To the northeast are the coins of the mighty Kingdom of Artil, whose coins are of the most interesting shapes, with its brass coin shaped as a dragon’s scale, the silver as a dragon’s talon, the gold as a dragon’s fang, and the platinum as a dragon’s wing. The mages of Dál’arn, despite their relations with Arlyn, prefer to mint their own coins: there, the copper piece is called a reagent, the silver piece is called a wand, the electrum piece is called a staff, and the gold piece is called a rod; Dál’arn is also the only nation known to deal with transactions large enough on a regular basis to merit an arcanium piece, which they call a maiden. In the mighty Kingdom of Ilseth, their square brass coin is a raven, the pentagonal silver coin is a falcon, the triangular electrum coin is a wolf, and the hexagonal gold coin is a lion. The infamous traders of the Dhukar Desert are known for their strange coins which are designed like beads to be easily carried, and the copper khoum, silver dirham, gold tari, and platinum sassan are well known throughout Caerlorn.
The human nations are not the only ones to mint coins; the elves of Al’teria make copper leaves, silver stars, electrum moons, gold suns, platinum novas, and the famous mithril coin known as the phoenix. The Wandering Isle has no copper or platinum coin, instead having a silver coin called a daughter, an electrum coin called a mother, and a gold coin called a grandmother. The dwarves of Thârkyrn and Thârkhon take a simple approach: each coin is considered to be worth a number of stones, with one stone equal to one silver and with one half-stone coin made of nickel-silver. The fiends of Norgalth and Lavanga also make coins of their own, though these coins are sometimes believed to be cursed or evil. Nogalth has the copper coin of lust, nickel coin of gluttony, silver coin of greed, electrum coin of sloth, gold coin of wrath, platinum coin of envy, and the adamantine coin of pride, whereas Lavang coins are named after different snakes, with the asp coin made of copper, the adder coin made of silver, the viper coin made of electrum, the mamba coin made of gold, and the cobra coin made of platinum.
Sometimes, the large number of coins required for greater transactions and trades make the use of coins difficult, or at least impractical. As opposed to the variation found in copper, silver, and gold coins, trade bars are much more similar, likely only bearing a state seal or of an interesting form to differentiate themselves from one another. Commonly found in 1-, 2-, 5-, and 10-pound weights, very few trade bars are not silver or gold, though other metals not mentioned above are sometimes used, such as Neraxi black iron bars weighing 2 pounds and worth 100 silver in most lands.
Most Caerlorn nations are advanced enough that formal schooling is considered a right and a necessary part of every child’s training, mostly developed by the renaissance view of the Golden Age and the Age of Expansion (see Travel & Technology, below). Rural manors maintain schools for the sons and daughters of the peasants and laborers. Private tutors provide an education for the children of royal and economic nobility. In towns and cities, schools cater to all who wish to attend. In no case is education mandatory; however, most people understand the advantages offered to them by an education. Higher education and study is available at a number of colleges and universities, as well as among the religious institutions. For those who don’t want to become scholars, apprenticeships and on-the-job training replace higher education. The exception to this system involves magi and wizards, who must attend one of the magical colleges for at least some of their training.
Over the years, travel across Caerlorn has grown as relations between the various nations have improved. After the Shattering and during the Age of Shadows, travel was scarce and almost entirely confined to travel by land by beast of burden or foot or by boats along rivers and short stretches of shoreline. The exception were the longships of Elfrithr which allowed for widespread travel for the Elfrithri traders. It was through the influence of this technology and the knowledge retained by the elves of Al’teria and the dwarves of Thârkyrn that Arlyn began a new development during the Golden Age that advanced the knowledge and skill of all people of Caerlorn that led to the Age of Expansion. New ships with the ability to travel great distances across the open seas brought exotic curiosities and materials to the nations of Caerlorn and merchants began to grow wealthy and powerful as their influences expanded beyond their homelands to a complex web of trade routes stretching far across the continent and beyond. Roads were given greater care and maintenance by their respective nations as more people began to travel between communities and even nations, and tolls and taxes on travel were instituted for the first time. Magical advancements in the form of skyships were first seen during this age of exploration, granting large groups the ability to fly for the first time in centuries for a high price. The sciences, the arts, and magecraft were supported by some of these wealthy patrons, and by the end of the Age of Expansion a new revolution of science and magic was prepared to develop in majestic universities and institutions of learning all over the continent.
With the beginning of the Godswar through the invasions of Ragkthar and its allies, this technology has grown by leaps and bounds. Arlani and Brunathi engineers worked together early in the war for the development of steam technology, and railways still connect the nations of central and western Caerlorn for the purpose of swift deployment of troops. These “steel-engines” that were developed on the concept of pressurized steam to move the engine at great speed guided on set, directional iron rails was a great advancement in warfare, allowing the allies of Arlyn and Aldebar to successfully defend themselves against the incursions of Ragkthar and its allies. These railways were never manufactured in eastern Caerlorn to protect against the incursions of Ragkthar, Norgalth, and Lavanga, though Idice pirates or “rail-rats” still terrorize the “steel-engines” to this day. Arlyn regretted their sharing of technology years later as Aldebar, Theldrún, and the Kingdom of Ilseth began their own conquests of the lands about them, severing their alliances with all but each other and continuing the Godswar. The knowledge of steam technology has greatly enhanced the war with new and unique weapons, such as armored steam vehicles and steam-powered weaponry. Airships powered solely by steam technology and scientific knowledge began to appear in Aldebar and Theldrún, granting further travel capability and new maneuverability in warfare. The gear and the boiler have joined with the mundane wheel and horse and the wondrous powers of magic to advance the progress and abilities of the races of Caerlorn; a new age is dawning, an age of magic and science the like of which Caerlorn has not yet seen.