Oh, Ykinde. One of my prized worlds, a land of organic magic and dieselpunk technology, the setting of Into Fang Wood. I have done more work on this world than I have on most others, Lavana and Cadora being the exceptions that spring to mind. (Cadora may be introduced in a later blog post, but as I have no current projects set there, it may be some ways down the road.)
Bear with me, as there’s a lot to tell about Ykinde and this post may wind up a little long.
It’s impossible to describe Ykinde without briefly introducing you to its four major intelligent races: Avans, humans, Lupos, and Panthera. Each link will take you to a complete page on their physical capabilities, their castes/classes, and their cultures, but I’ve provided a brief summary below.
Avans are tall, slender, wingless bird-people with round faces and curving beaks. Renowned for their knowledge of and skill with magic, Avans are sophisticated, civilized people whose bright plumage and love of flowing, ornate clothing easily sets them apart from all other Ykindeans. Living under the idea of Beauty in grand and beautiful cities, most Avans are mages or artful warriors, though many are medical scholars, and some few profess to be naturalists. They are mortal enemies of the Lupos, engaged in the Elderwar for centuries running, and relentless in their quest to see the wolf-people vanquished; they are allies with the humans and most Avans are neutral towards the Panthera, although many will fight them alongside Lupos if necessary.
Humans are remarkably average, tail-less, flat-faced people with bare skin and unimpressive bodies. Well-known for their ingenuity and inventiveness, humans tinker with mechanical devices and sort themselves into family-run businesses. Neutral in the Elderwar, they act as merchants and traders to both Lupos and Avans, supplying both races with whatever goods and raw materials are in high demand. One human family enslaved the Panthera Walker tribe as bodyguards and servants, but after the Walkers’ escape from slavery, most humans will kill or seek to capture Panthera on sight. Humans preserve and enforce their neutrality with both Lupos and Avans, straddling the most profitable line of action at all times. Though they are businesspeople first and foremost, dedicated to their family’s trade, humans also study other paths: they are soldiers, medics, witches, or engineers.
Lupos are powerful, furred, tauroid wolf-people with four legs and two arms. A strong and spiritual people, the Lupos live in harmony with the natural world around them, worshiping Father Sun, Mother Moon, Brother Sky, and Sister Earth. Lupos band together in clans, led by a single chieftain and a few betas; many are shamans and braves, while others are healers and rangers. Their tools and weaponry are simple, sturdy, and plain; they have little use for showy luxuries or impractical belongings. They are mortal enemies of the Avans, engaged in the Elderwar for centuries running, and they are tireless in their efforts to defend their land and their people; they are allies with the humans, and most clans are also allied with or neutral towards the Panthera. The Tehar Lupos were the ones to succor the Panthera Walkers when they escaped from human slavery in Royalwood.
Panthera are lithe, agile, feral cat-people with wide faces and rounded ears. Traditionally primitive and nomadic, the Panthera wander Ykinde in tribes, moving as part of the predator-prey cycle as hunters. One particular tribe, the Panthera Walkers, was captured and enslaved by humans; after many years, they escaped and found sanctuary with the Tehar Lupos, rebuilding their tribe and becoming the first stationary band of Panthera Ykinde had ever seen. (The Hunters are the only other non-nomadic Panthera tribe; they are an off-shoot of the Walkers.) Nomadic Panthera have few possessions or tools, but the Walkers and Hunters trade with Lupos and have a similar quality of life. Many are bloodwalkers and spiritwalkers, while others are lifewalkers and beastwalkers. They are enemies of the humans, their former slavers, and allies with the Lupos; they are neutral towards many Avans, but will fight those who attack their wolfish allies.
Most of Ykinde is fairly temperate, experiencing seasonal changes. The farther north you go, the less lush the land becomes, devolving into sparse deciduous forests, mountains with evergreens, and finally flattened tundras. There is quite a large portion of land that consists mostly of rolling mountains, savannas, and scattered greenery. The coasts are extensive and tend to be quite tropical, except for the northernmost stretches; nearly all of the coastline is well-forested, oftentimes a jungle, and pocked with inlets and small bays that make perfect seaports for the human traders. Both Lupos and Avans prefer to settle in rich lands with many trees; the Lupos keep their lands well-forested to encourage grazing animals, whereas the Avans will clear out patches to build their cities and to farm.
Humans have controlled Ykinde’s economy since the beginning of the Elderwar. They established a basic currency using gems and coins made of precious metals, made prices relative to the buyer’s race, and also established a quality check for items to be bartered, rather than purchased. They trade only with Lupos and Avans, killing or attempting to capture Panthera on sight. Panthera barter goods with Lupos, who barter goods or use currency to trade with humans, who use currency (or very rarely barter) to trade with Avans. Each race has its forte in amassing raw goods and crafting some things: Panthera are skilled leatherworkers, Lupos construct sturdy homes and also are good weaponcrafters, humans invent and create technological gadgets, and Avans are skilled weaponsmiths. All of the races are at least decent at making weaponry and armor, as well as living quarters and other basic tools to survive.
The Beginning of the Elderwar
During an eclipse, the chieftain of the strongest Lupos clan took a party of his most powerful braves and slaughtered a nearby group of Avans, seemingly unprovoked. Azrah Darkhowl allowed three wounded Avans to flee, then desecrated their dead. When a group of Avans demanded to know why the Lupos had done this, their emissary’s head was sent back to them as an answer. The Avans could not stand for such outrageous savagery, and the other Lupos clans would not let their greatest fight alone.
The Enslavement and Freedom of the Walker Tribe
Witch Eyvi, who had founded the human trading post of Royalwood, captured a seemingly peaceful tribe of nomadic Panthera – the Walker tribe – to enforce the neutrality of her town against the frequent nearby battles between Avan and Lupos forces. With magic and with force, the humans enslaved the Panthera as guardians and servants, stripping them of their language and culture. Eventually, a small handful of Walkers escaped and were succored by Tehar Lupos; the new comrades freed more Walkers from Royalwood over the span of a few years. Eventually, the Panthera pleaded with Kieran Whitestar to be given a territory of their own, so that they might rebuild their numbers and shattered culture, and received the Six Lakes region after proving themselves to the Lupos chieftain. The Panthera Walkers named their new home Kurajos: “Den.”
Modern Times: The State of the World
One of the clans whose territory is closest to the southern Avan cities has begun an open movement for peace; the Tehar clan, led by Tehar Suncaller, a shaman, is seeking a way to end the Elderwar. The Tehars have many close connections with other clans, notably the Sillinter clan, led by Sillinter Heartlost, whose clansmen branched off from the Kieran clan a few generations previously. The Tehars are also close with the current leader of the Panthera Walkers, Plainstalker, and rumors have it that she and her kin have been involved in these peace efforts. One of the smaller, most distant Avan cities, Irit-Ykinde, has been discreetly making movements towards establishing a peace, as well. Some humans seem to be facilitating the meeting between a Tehar Lupos and an Irit Avan, but no solid plans have been made as of yet.
Magic and Technology
Though each race has its magic-users, the Avan mages are truly the caste that studies magic and its rules and effects most intensely. Though soul-energy is the domain of the god(s) and cannot be tapped by mortals, all other types of energy – most of which are elemental – are accessible for magic fuel. Everything that exists, both living and inanimate, has a pool of magical energy behind it that can be drawn out or supplemented to change it. Most spells involve the movement of magical energy from its natural home to another place, but some spells will exchange energies equally and altering the basic components of the affected objects or creatures.
Ykindean technology is the realm of the humans, used on occasion by Avans but untouched by both Lupos and Panthera. Although Avans had perfected the art of smithing long before humans had the chance, humans have since stolen the scene with their various enchanted gadgets and radically different forms of locomotion. Although individual human towns or trading ports are not very technological, coastal cities and other human-only lands play host to their research and experimentation. Most prominently in the past half a century, humans have been perfecting their firearms and other explosive devices, as well as investigating the immense potential of an enchanted steam engine. So far, they have developed small engine-powered watercrafts, short trains used for transporting ore and other raw materials, and steamwheelers, which are quickly replacing horses as the preferred method of locomotion for individuals.