The Guide To Onyx
The Ages of the World
The Age Before Time
The Age of Gold
The Age of Silver
The Settling of the Opal Sea
About three centuries ago in the lands to the west, there was a young peasant by the name of Zoros. While hunting in the nearby woods, he chanced upon a zooki bird that had been mauled by a young yeki cub. Now, since the terrestrial zooki bird is a close cousin to the Celestial Zooki bird, Zoros knew it was his moral obligation to nurse it back to health. So he took it home with him and bathed it in good wine and gave it soft woolen blankets to sleep on. The zooki bird presently recovered and demonstrated its good health by laying an egg. The egg, as eggs are wont to do, hatched; and three zooki chicks emerged from the egg shell fragments.
Well, at that time the prevailing dogmas of Hexurgy stated that the Celestial Zooki bird had given birth to six Eternals, who then created the nineteen worlds; and that terrestrial zooki birds, in a sort of cosmic alliteration, always laid eggs that hatched six chicks at a time. When Zoros announced that his zooki egg had only hatched three chicks, it deeply shook the foundations of Hexurgical beliefs.
Zoros was immediately arrested for nine kinds of heresy and three kinds of sedition. It was argued by the Hexurgists that there must have originally been six zooki chicks and that they had, in fact, either been carried off by their mother, or had been killed by Zoros himself for his own evil purposes. (Then, as now, even the mere harassment of zooki birds was justly punishable by death.) And in any event, that his heresies were causing public unrest.
Zoros, however, asserted that the heresy lay, not with him or his “chicanery,” but with the Hexurgistic tenets themselves. If the Celestial Zooki bird had indeed given birth to six Eternals (Zoros argued), then terrestrial zooki birds would lay eggs that hatched six zooki chicks. The egg in his custody had only hatched three chicks. Hence, contrary to the Hexurgistic beliefs, the Celestial Zooki must have only given birth to three Eternals.
But his arguments for religious reform only served to infuriate the Hexurgist priests. Zoros was summarily convicted of all the charges and was imprisoned. And although he was tortured cruelly to induce him to recant his “heresies,” he remained steadfast in his beliefs.
During the months of his imprisonment, some friends of Zoros broke into the temple to see exactly what the sacred Zooki tablets had to say on the matter (they had to break in because it was, of course, illegal for unsanctified eyes to gaze upon the tablets). They discovered that the sacred Zooki tablets were somewhat vague concerning the exact number of Eternals; and that it was possible that there might have been only three of them. When Zoros’ friends had made the contents of the tablets publicly known, the small cult who had followed Zoros’ radical beliefs gained hundreds of new members overnight.
Soon there was rioting throughout the city. The priests decided to have Zoros burned to death in the public square to stop the new cult of the Triurgists, as the followers of Zoros were called. But during the execution procession to the Square of Dissonance, the priests and guards were mobbed. Zoros was rescued from death a scant half–hour before his scheduled execution.
Zoros made his way to the outlying wilderlands and hid there for several months. During this time his formalized his new Triurgic doctrines a bit by deciding on which three of the six Eternals were the true ones. After a particularly apocryphal vision, it was obvious that only Kialla, Ysanne, and Myirié could have been responsible for the creation of the ninete en words; and that the false Eternals Teryth, Tulkas, and Alamar were merely specious fabrications designed to mislead a gullible populace. The people he preached to could see the obvious truth in his words and without hesitation joined the Triurgic faith.
The Hexurgist priests, however, in a desperate effort to retain religious control, were busy killing as many heretics and suspected heretics as they could find.
One night Zoros had a divinely inspired dream. In his dream he saw a beautiful woman dressed in coral–hued silks and riding a chariot pulled by seven dolphins. “If you and your people come to me and worship only me,” the goddess said (for it was a goddess), “I will give you a safe place to live and will protect you from all other gods.” The goddess was Rasemba, the Queen of the Opal Sea.
Zoros agreed to the goddess’ offer and gathered his faithful followers. On foot, and carrying only the clothes on their backs, Zoros and his people raced eastward. The Hexurgist priests and the army were soon close behind. But the pursuers were continually hampered in their hunt by suddenly–swelling streams and deep mud pits. But still, they were mounted and, slowly, they did catch up.
They caught up to the fleeing Triurgists in the Valley of the Frozen Flame. But before the army could cut down the unarmed people, the mountain gates opened and hordes of steam demons flew out. Zoros and his followers were spared from the sharp claws and unhealthy, hot breath of the demons by the divine might of Rasemba. The Hexurgist priests and their army, however, were not so lucky. All of them were justly devoured by the ravening horde of demons. In honor of the timely miracle, the name of the valley was then changed to the Vale of Steaming Demons.
The faithful Triurgists, no longer hotly pursued, finished their long journey to the Opal Sea and built the realm of Anbylos where they could worship their saviouress in peace. The country they had left behind sent no more troops after them for fear that they, too, would be destroyed by the steam demons. And Zoros, who had done so much for his people and had brought new worshipers to Rasemba, was exalted to the status of divine consort. And Rasemba and Zoros had many children and lived happily together for many years.
The Climate of the Opal Sea Region
The Opal Sea area is a tropical region. It consists primarily of large, wide plains and scattered jungles. The temperature is quite hot, averaging between 90° and 100°, during both the day and night. The extreme heat can be somewhat lessened by the presence of small coastal breezes. In fact, Qwm Adao and the far western coasts of Zerbix and Elyl can get quite temperate at times. The inner plains of Zerbix and Anbylos, however, being far removed from the cool sea breezes, are often uncomfortably hot.
The humidity tends to be quite high, too, in keeping with the tropical climate. And although it is very high, it does not actually rain much in the area except for occasional storms during the rainy season. The lands from the Red Fever Swamp, through Anbylos, and through Zerbix to around the city of Paranaxidar are also kept well–watered by Zul’s Breath. Around dawn every day, steam rises from minute pores all throughout this area, leaving a warm dew upon every surface. This is said to be Zul’s morning kiss to the land he loves, and his breath his so warm from drinking many vessels of beer the night before.
The exceptions to the general climate are the Burning Mountains, which are very hot and very dry, and the Icy Peaks, which are always cold and icy.
The Creatures of the Opal Sea
The Opal Sea region is home to a wide variety of animals. The Burning Plains near Anbylos and the Lion Plains of Zerbix hold many ordinary creatures of the veldt: lions, rhinoceri, jackals,antelope, eagles, orinths, and wild oxen. In the jungles lurk apes, jaculi, jaguars, panthers, tigers, and fire toads. And the hills and mountains are the dwelling places of snakebats, scorpions, and mountain lobster.
The Opal Sea itself contains a great many aquatic creatures. Some are harmless to man, such as the tarpon, crab, lobster, and merman, and some are quite dangerous, such as the giant squid. The many rivers and swamps are home to crocodiles, hippopotami, giant leeches, iron shrikes, and amber wasps.
The Opal Sea also has its share of creatures that are highly inimical to man: the ravening scorpion men of the Burning Mountains, the degenerate lizard men of the Red Fever Swamp, the weird and spiteful iopoiyi, the mysterious Little Men of the Snow, and the unstoppable yeki.
As for intelligent denizens, Qwmoi, humans, and beastmen all make their homes here as well.
The Plants of the Opal Sea
The Opal Sea holds a number of very ordinary plants: the plains are covered with brush, grasses, and scrubby tika. In the swamps and along the banks of the rivers grow the ubiquitous reeds. And the sea itself provides huge beds of kelp.
On the other hand, there are a number of plants which grow nowhere else in the world: the flame trees of Zerbix, for instance, are prized by fire sorcerers everywhere. Rare and potent herbs grow in the dark recesses of the steamy jungles, such as kiph, Zul’s balm, odes. Aibit is brewed from the fermented nectar of fire lilies, and pmira is distilled from the essence of the icy lupin. Plants with magical properties also abound: the iuioi, the notus, and lotus flowers in a rainbow of colors.
The Wealth of the Land
The lands of the Opal Sea are not, for the most part, rich in resources. Most of the trees of the area are unsuitable for use in construction. There is only one mine in the entire region which produces any metals at all. The only stone to be found is from quarries in the distant Icy Peaks. In fact, the only regular and common exports of the land are barley, beer, and leather.
However, there are many small sources of extreme wealth to be found. The mines at Paranaxidar produce the most exquisite emeralds of Onyx; and the Tagis mine in the Icy Peaks is the largest sapphire mine in the world. Plant hunters make their fortunes stalking the elusive herbs and flowers of the jungles and swamps. The alcoholic beverages aibit and pmira also command a high price in foreign markets. And the pearls produced in the Opal Sea are second to none.
Government In The Opal Sea
The three largest and most influential countries in the Opal Sea area are Anbylos, Elyl, and Zerbix. The minor nations consist of the islands of Qwm Adao, the Qwmoi cities, and the tribes of the beastmen. The human lands are all governed in the same fashion.
The ruler of the each country is the Dur. He is responsible for the general well–being of the nation. He decides matters of policy between the cities of the realm and towards the cities of the other countries. Except for the Dur of Qwm Adao, all the rulers have divine blood in their veins and are members of the larger Noble Houses.
If the Dur is responsible for the physical and financial health of the nation, the Pharos is responsible for its spiritual health. The Pharos is always the high priest of the most powerful temple in the land, and is the second–most powerful man in the nation The Pharoses of Anbylos, Elyl and Zerbix are the high priests of Rasemba, Bel, and Ptatonkel, respectively. Since the only temples in Qwm Adao belong to Rasemba, the Pharos of Anbylos is also considered the Pharos of Qwm Adao.
Presiding over each city is a Das. Each Das is appointed by, or at least approved of, by the Dur. The Das is responsible for seeing to the city’s defenses, collecting taxes, and meting out justice. The Dases often belong to a Noble House, but are not required to do so. The Dur of the country is always the Das of that country’s capitol.
Acting as a representative of the citizens of the city is the uldan. An uldan is elected every three years by the people of the city, and he cannot hold the office during consecutive terms. The job of the uldan is to take the complaints of the citizens to the Das so that they may be acted upon. And although the uldan has no official authority to enforce his demands to the Das, the full forces of the most wealthy and influential members of the city often stand behind him, making his wishes something to be heeded.
The Rulers of the Anbylos
The Rulers of Elyl
The Rulers of Zerbix
The Rulers of Aigig
The Rulers of Qwm Adao
Social Classes In The Opal Sea
In every civilized society, there are always social hierarchies. Human societies in the Opal Sea region are no exception to this rule.
At the bottom of the social ladder are the slaves. They cannot go anywhere without the express permission of their owners, they cannot be given weapons, and their testimony is inadmissible as legal evidence. In short, there is very little reason for wanting to be a slave. The easiest ways to become a slave are to go into debt, to be a prisoner of war, or to be captured by pirates or Zerbician slavers. The only way for a slave to become a free citizen is for his master to free him. Sadly enough, few slaves are ever freed, there being little financial reason to do so. In the realm of Anbylos, however, no slave other than a prisoner of war may be kept slave for longer than five years.
The next step up is the free citizen. A free citizen has the right to bear arms (outside the city walls, of course) and to enter any city in the realm free of duty or tax. Almost everyone is a free citizen. There is no great honor attached to being a free citizen, but there is no stigma either.
Human nature being what it is, some free citizens are driven to perform deeds beyond the call of duty. As a reward for such behavior, a free citizen may be granted the status of Ebyr. As an Ebyr, one is exempt from certain taxes and is granted certain immunities and legal privileges. A free citizen is always required to obey the commands of an Ebyr and to address him by his proper title. The testimony of an Ebyr is equal in value to that of three free citizens. The station of Ebyr legally only applies to the Ebyr himself: it is not passed on to the Ebyr’s wife nor his children. However, in practice, an Ebyr’s family is most often treated as though everyone in the family had also attained that exalted status.
An Ebyr also has certain obligations to fulfill as well. He is always expected to uphold the law and is in fact a fully–qualified legal officer. In times of need an Ebyr’s liege may require services of him without pay. Of course, to keep the Ebyr happy, he is generally well–rewarded for his activities.
If an Ebyr fails to fulfill his obligations, the Ebyr’s station can be removed and he can be demoted to the class of free citizen.
An Ebyr who has honorably distinguished himself may be promoted to the state of Ebul. An Ebul is exempt from even more taxes and is allowed to carry weapons within the city walls. The office is not hereditary, but the wife and children of an Ebul are automatically granted full Ebyr status. An Ebul can legally require services, without recompense, from any Ebyr. An Ebul in court is worth three Ebyr. As with the Ebyr, the Ebul who abuses his privileges will have them revoked.
Once in a great while, an Ebul will arise who gives continuous, dedicated service: someone who has been proven time and again valorous, honorable, and reliable; or a family line will spring up whose Ebul have served the realm faithfully for years. For these rare individuals, the only reward that is commensurate with the service rendered is to promote them to the state of Emyr. An Emyr is the head of his own Noble House. It is given a name and symbol. All of the members of the Emyr’s family and all of his descendants yet to come are given the status of Ebyr. When the Emyr dies, his chosen successor will inherit the title. An Emyr is allowed to raise his own militia, own a Family House in each city, and call upon the services of any Ebul or Ebyr. To maintain the position of his Noble House, the Family must produce five Ebul at the annual Ceremony of Fealty. To have fewer than this is to show that the qualities that made the Noble House great have since dissipated. In the three realms of the Opal Sea there have been only seventeen Noble Houses. Of those seventeen, two have failed due to dissipation and one was disbanded for high treason.
Women in the Opal Sea realms are not normally citizens. They are typically accorded the same social standing as their husbands. They do not normally own property or pay taxes, and cannot be conscripted. If a woman wishes to be a free citizen, however, she may purchase citizenship. This gives her all the rights and responsibilities thereunto appertaining.
Noble Houses of the Opal Sea
The Opal Sea area, like most of Onyx, uses the ool and ozol for the large portion of its financial dealings. The ool and ozol, along with their more valuable cousins the pazool and palozol, are gems about an inch in diameter. Ools are red, ozols are green, pazools blue, and palozols deep purple. For an ool, one could purchase a beer at a tavern, or have one’s laundry done, and six could buy a good meal. The ozol is the daily wage of a guard or an enlisted man, and it is also the price for an hour of bliss with the temple prostitutes. A few ozols can buy a dozen arrows or a copper armband.
The pazool and palozol are rarely used in daily trade. These gems tend only to be used for large business deals and the affairs of government.
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