War of the Book
The kingdom of Dalriada lies on two land masses separated by a wide expanse of ocean dotted with coastal islands. It has been ruled by the tribe of Loarn for generations. The kingdom was found in the southern, which is called Erin. Then the Loarn sent men to Alba, the northern land, and conquered parts of it as well, forming the two-landed kingdom of Dalriada. Dalriada is a cool, green, watery place, with frequent rain, dense forest, and wide fields of grass. Its hills are rolling and its shores rather rocky. It seems as if a fine, bright, rainbow-hued mist hangs always over the land, even on a sunny day, giving everything a sparkle. The sounds of birds, waves, and winds in the trees are similarly mixed in with purely musical notes, imperceptible to the insensitive, as if someone was quietly playing a mysterious ethereal song with the land.
On Erin, to the south, are the tribes of the Ui Niall, the Laigin, the Osraige, and others. These tribes are much like the Loarn, and because Erin is an island, they have little contact with other peoples. On Alba, to the north, are the tribes of the Caledons, the Blue Men: Savage barbarians who live in cold mountains. To the south on Alba, the land goes on a very long ways, and becomes more fair. There, the Dalriads’ neighbors are the Prythain. The Prythain have had contact with still greater empires very far to the south. That was long ago, however. Today, the Prythain are not that much different from the Loarn, even though their land is dotted with ruins of the great power, the Roarum, that once ruled there.
The Tribes of Erin are patched together under the rule of High King Diarmaid, son of Fergus Cerrbél. Diarmaid has less authority than the King of each tribe has in his own kingdom. Dalriada is ruled by King Gabran, son of Domangart. No one knows the kings of the Caledons. The closest kingdom of Prythain is Ystrad Clud, ruled now by Tutagual, son of Clinoch.
Most people in these lands are farmers and herders. There are few roads and no cities. The seats of the kings are wooden hilltop fortifications surrounded by earthworks. There is some stone construction on the land, rings and cairns and such, but no one knows where they came from and the stones are so large that no one today can even move them. Some say the Gods placed them there. People live mostly in huts, though lords and kings, in their hilltop forts, build long wooden lodges with high thatched roofs, tables, and beds for many warriors and attendants. Around the King’s Hall are found craft buildings for smiths, tanners, cooks, potters, and the like. The crafters make most of their goods for the King, who then gives them to his warriors and attendants in thanks for their loyalty. Every harvest and every conquest is followed by a great banquet where the King gives gifts to his people. Other than receiving goods from the King, a person can trade for crafters’ goods. There is no money, and so most people understand that it is important to have a good, firm sense of what a thing is worth.
The main conflict in these lands comes from the disagreements of the religious leaders. The most ancient gods of these lands are the gods of evil: Rovagug is the exemplary of chaotic evil, pursuing his own desires from moment to moment, ignoring all consequences. Asmoedeus exemplifies lawful evil, constructing systems of domination, hatred, and conquest opposed to any form of flourishing. Rovagug and Asmodeus and Urgathoa have since ages past been viewed as the eternal enemies of the druids’ gods, the gods of nature: Gozreh, and to some extent, Abadar and Erastil. A sincere change has arrived, however, in the appearance some generations ago of the Monks of the Order of Good. These people came from the south and founded monasteries on the coasts of Erin, proclaiming a new religion. The new religion was based on gods that no one had heard of before, such as Iomedae, goddess of Justice, Desna, goddess of the Moon, Sarenrae, Goddess of Healing, and Shelyn, goddess of love. For most peasants, the conflict is seen as a war of nature versus perfection and goodness, unwinnable by either side. The peasants desire above all an effective magic, a magic that makes crops grow and mares give birth. Such magic has been, for time beyond memory, in the hands of the Druids of Gozreh. Yet the Monks of the new order also can have great influence over the crops and herds.
The three religions arrange themselves in very different ways. Followers of the gods of evil remain in hiding and contribute to vile cults whose purpose is to destroy all that is good and honest, in an eternal bid for power. The Druids maintain open worship of Gozreh and aligned gods in the forests, calling on the courts of the great kings of Erin and Alban to attend the major feasts. Worship of Gozreh is very much the “official”, old religion, marked by formal ceremony and human sacrifice. In opposition, the followers of Cayden Cailean, Sarenrae, Desna and the other good gods are isolated from everyone else. They have chosen to build monasteries that sit apart from ordinary society. The Monks come out from these settlements from time to time, healing the sick, blessing the lands and animals, and urging people to convert to the Gods of Good. The Monks were at first a minor part of life in the lands of Erin. But now, with dozens of monasteries dotting the countryside from north to south, it is fair to say that Erin is in the grips of a major religious upheaval. Every new King, when called to his throne, is asked where his allegiance lies, with the old gods or the new.
Around every monastery is territory of converted folk, who have abandoned Gozreh in favor of the new, good gods. The current high King of Erin, Diarmaid, has come into direct conflict with the Monks, threatening, for example, to offer no respect or protection at all to people who seek refuge and sanctuary in their chapels. In response, the Monks have threatened to curse the seat of Erin’s high king. If the king cannot comport with the will of the Good, they say, he will be cast down.
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