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Serpentine sea globe 002
Serpentine Sea, Boggs Eumorphic projection

The world of the Serpentine Sea is so named because of the great but narrow sea that wraps around it like a snake. It is a somewhat primitive world with limited localized trade networks, no deep-sea craft capable of crossing the sea, and ironworking discovered only within the last 1,000 years, but it does contain a number of socially sophisticated cultures.

In this world all the terrestrial land types appear - freezing arctic regions, arid deserts, steamy jungles, towering mountains, and many more. Overall the global climate is similar to that of Earth's.

Whereas Earth is 30% land masses and 70% water, the world of the Serpentine Sea is 70% land. The diameter of the planet is also somewhat smaller than that of Earth.

The Norian Plain[]

Norian Plain thumbnail

The Norians are an enterprising people inhabiting a grassy steppe of the Western hemisphere, slightly South of the equator. The Norians were among the first groups to begin working iron. That technological advancement and the location of the region between several other civilizations - notably the Kaipholos of the Great Valley of Elin to the East and the Tongchampa mountain people to the West - has made the region a relatively wealthy trading crossroads and the Norian city-states a haven for the exchange of cultures and goods.

Linen and cotton cloth are one of the major export goods from the cities of the Norians.

Great Valley of Elin[]

Great Valley of Elin thumbnail

In a broad and equatorial peninsula of the Western hemisphere lies the Great Valley of Elin. The enormous valley, running North to South, is like a great bowl with the Ailephon river at its bottom. Inhabiting the valley and the surrounding mountains are the city-states and villages of the Kaipholos people. Humble shepherds and goatherds inhabit the villages but the cities exhibit the fine stonework and architectural knowledge of the culture.

Gamareh Tribes[]

Gamareh Tribes thumbnail

A region of mountains and lakes to the South of the valley of Elin is the domain of the Gamareh Tribes. The Gamareh do not know of architecture, agriculture, ironworking, or the other arts of civilization. They live in rude lodges of woven branches and boughs and spend their time hunting, gathering, and fishing. Norian and Kaipholos traders who cross the mountains obtain furs from the Gamareh in exchange for iron blades, trinkets, and occasionally spices from the far West.

Namellaktatuk Coast[]

Namellaktatuk thumbnail

In the Northern reaches of the world, lining the cold coast below the Lutamak Mountains, is the realm of the Namellaktatuk. Although they are a people sophisticated in many crafts and manufactures they do not know of metalsmithing and hence are not capable of extensive architecture.

Namellaktatuk shaman

Namellaktatuk shaman.

The Namellaktatuk are skilled makers of small coastal seacraft. Their kayaks, lightweight craft that are practically works of art in bone, sinew, hide, and wood, allow them to stealthily navigate the small rivers and lakes of their land and even the frigid waters of the ocean, hunting the fish, seals, sea cows, and many other animals that serve as prey. During the brief, twilit summers they embark on the ocean in larger wooden craft and hunt small whales.

The Namellaktatuk Coast lies directly across the sea from the Great Valley of Elin but as in the rest of the world neither culture possesses ships capable of crossing the Serpentine Sea and hence there is no contact or traffic between the Namellaktatuk and the Kaipholos. The Jungles of Tetch lie to the south but there is no traffic or contact with that area.

Desert of Sryatsh[]

Desert of Sryatsh thumbnail

In the scrublands, desert, and drifting copper sands of this land live the pastoral Sryatsh. The kingdoms and tribes of the Sryatsh are notable in that although patriarchal, unlike many other cultures in the world they have little notion of primogeniture or succession of leaders. Thus a king is often followed by a king who is not his son and tribal leadership will shift more freely amongst the men best able to lead than it might in other lands.

Srytash herdsmen

Sryatsh herdsmen

The scarcity of forage in this area drives many tribes to be nomadic, moving their herds about as each region is depleted of grass and foliage by their grazing cattle. Consequently the diet of these nomads tends toward meat, milk and cheese supplemented often by the fruit and flesh of the many cactus species which the cattle do not eat. This lends a distinctive flavor to the cuisine eaten even in the sedentary villages of the agriculturalists.

Knowledge of ironworking has only recently entered this region and so the smelting of copper and production of bronze still form a large part of the metalworking activity here. Finely crafted copper, brass, and bronze vessels also form a substantial percentage of the trade goods which are sent further East from the Sryatsh along with cattle and hides.

!Ghabmto Desert[]

!Ghabmto Desert thumbnail

North and West of the Sryatsh lies another desert of a far harsher and more desiccated nature, the land of the !Ghabmto people and their various cousins. (The "!" exclamation point represents a clicking sound made with the tongue which is a part of the languages of this region.) The dusty hills, gullies, and planes are so dry that the inhabitants cannot afford the water necessary to raise livestock of any sort and must maintain extreme attention upon the activity of garnering all the moisture the land has to give up. It is said than an !Ghabmto could squeeze water from a rock if necessary.

Jungles of Tetch[]

Jungles of Tetch thumbnail

The searing aridity of the !Ghabmto Desert gives way on its Western edge to grasslands which rapidly develop into the dense vine-choked woods and marshes that make up the Jungles of Tetch. The verdant and vigorous life of this area is in diametric contrast to the brutality and scarcity of life in the adjacent desert.

The Jungles are interspersed with a great many lakes, rivers, and smaller streams and waterways. In many places it's difficult to tell where the land ends and the water begins, with vast bayou-like regions developing where the two mingle.


Tongchampa thumbnail

The vast mountain Empire of Tongchampa is both a spiritual haven and a place of frequent bloody warfare. It is the sole nation in the world of the Serpentine Sea to possess a large-scale centralized government. Two centuries ago the small kingdom of the Feltchao, aided by several of their client peoples, rose up to dominate the entire region of the Tongchampa Mountains that now makes up the Empire. Through sometimes brutal conquest, clever manipulation of their subjects, and deft statesmanship and military craft they have managed to maintain their imperial holdings.

At the same time the lamang priests of the Khomban religion that is endemic to the region are paragons of tranquility and discipline. In their high mountain monasteries and temples they teach that inner stillness is necessary to hear the voices of the gods. This millenial tradition provides a stark contrast to the violence of recent centuries and as a stabilizing force and an element of escapism for the population the Khomban and its priests and monks are given greater leeway than many other sectors of society in the Empire. Where the prayer flags fly and the sonorous chanting of monks can be heard the people can find some rest and peace in their harsh and controlled world.

Despite the hardships of imperial rule the solemn men and women of the mountains have benefited in a number of ways from the establishment of the Empire. A network of roads, trails, and rope bridges spreads throughout the peaks and the imperial runners and couriers travel between communities with some frequency, increasing the amount of communication and interchange of information amongst the towns and villages. This allows the communities to come to each others' aid in times of crisis such as avalanches, the severe storms that ring through the mountains, and bandit raids.

A system of granaries created by the Empire also helps to stave off the effects of occasional famines that come in years when crops are bad and game for the hunters is scarce. The Empire has repaired and extended the extensive terraced farms and irrigation systems that existed before their rise to power, recognizing that access to food is the lifeblood of the land.

A stable and maintained system of roads has lead to another development: rapidly increasing trade traffic moves back and forth carrying goods and wealth between the centers of the civilization. Local produce such as dried meat, hides, eggs, grain, honey, and other foodstuffs makes up the bulk of the cargo but there is also mined silver and iron (firmly controlled by imperial authorities), white insect wax from the Southern areas, soapstone and greenstone carvings, and goods from beyond the borders: brass and copper goods from the Sryatsh, felt from K'analatcha, dried fish from the foothill Nuan communities down on the Sea, and cloth, lapis lazuli, and spices from the East.


K'analatcha thumbnail

The K'analatcha herdsmen of the foothill region to the north and west of Tongchampa tend their flocks of sheep and their mountain goats and bother no one. They have little desire to fall under the iron imperial fist, although it's currently unlikely that the Empire would move out of the mountain terrain that it specializes in.

The K'analatcha make felt by pounding the wool of their ewes and rams and trade this with the mountain people for various goods including iron implements, iron being scarce in the region. There is also a kind of red dye made from a burrowing insect that is used both to dye the felt and for export as it is much loved by the denizens of Tongchampa.