Drifting Sands, Drifting Souls
Throughout time, many nations have risen up and become prominent across the surface of Thirajin. From the earliest days of the seafaring humans that plied the islands between the continents and settled in the harsh northern lands, to the Elves that spread far and wide through the deserts and tropical regions, life has always been focused on building new civilizations and forming new societies.
As the Holy Empire of Aritika rose to control the world’s stage, the smaller nations began to dwindle, or became absorbed by the Empire. In the modern day, as of 1858 Age of Humanity (AH), there are ten nations that stand to be recognized with countless smaller tribes and clanholds that are spread throughout the world.
- The Holy Empire of Aritika – The largest empire in the world, spanning an entire continent with colonies spread to other islands and continents beyond it; by far the most powerful country — and some would say the most vile.
- The Kingdom of Valinos – Known for its dedication to honor and chivalry, the Kingdom of Valinos is often seen as a direct adversarial force to the Holy Empire.
- The Rhikari Confederacy – The Confederacy is built upon the backs of mercenaries and traders. Rhikari is the proposed location of where human civilization as it is known today began.
- The Elven Colonylands of Elil’Galith – Originally a colony, Elil’Galith stands as the only large-scale Elven nation, often secretive and distrusting of others.
- The Redoubts of the Dwarfholds – The last remnants of the ancient race of dwarves is centered among six mountainhomes on the continent of Visari, at each corner of the Empire. They consider themselves the only “true dwarves.”
- The Caliphate of Ki-Taliq – Mysterious and wealthy, the Ki-Taliq Caliphate manages minor alliances with all nations, and is known for its strange and exotic trade goods.
- The Tribal Lands of the Stormraven Clans – Egalitarian and savage, the Stormravens are a tribal collective of clans that range in nomadic communities throughout the southeastern peninsula of the continent of Visari, locked in a millennia-long guerrilla war against Aritika.
- The Republic of Mistvale – In the far northwest corner of the world, Mistvale’s republic is the newest nation, having revolted against Aritikan rule less than a century ago. Economically and militarily weak, they rely on alliances with stronger, more established nations to ensure their sovereignty.
- The Elven Tribal Council of Velyria – Sharing the continent of Solaris with Elil’Galith, the wild elf tribes of Velyria maintain tense, however amiable, relations with their more civilized kinfolk.
- The Elven Treaty Freehold – The Elven reservation, formed when the government of Aritika and the former government of the Elves that lived on Visari before the humans arrived made a treaty to end violence against one another.
- The Shining Lands of Alaekor – An ancient and bizarre land, much of Alaekor is given over toward contemplation of the gods and the perfection of the body.
- The Human Colonies of the Untamed Wilds – Not a nation unto itself, both Aritika and Valinos have formed colonies on the strange and forgotten continent of Kivarin, attempting to expand their spheres of influence while the colonists deal with the disturbing residents.
Language is always an important part of any culture. As most major races have languages that have survived throughout the Ages, humans have been keen at creating new dialects based on their nations. There is a common language that is known by anyone raised within a community that was not completely isolationist, but many children are taught multiple national languages to ensure that they can find their way regardless of their location.
The most dominant language (and the foundation of Tradespeak, the common trade language used throughout the world) is Aritikan. The Aritikan language is spoken by over half a billion sentient beings as a native tongue, and by well over a billion people as a second language. It is the most pervasive language in the world. Aritikan has a lilting sound, with soft vowels and consonants. It’s the preferred language of poets and bards. The accent of a native Aritikan speaker is immediately recognizable when speaking other languages, as all Aritikan words emphasize the first syllable of any word or word-fragment, and all vowels are pronounced in their flat tone (such as the “a” in “father”). It is also easy to pick out a non-native speaker of Aritikan, as they will typically not pronounce the words correctly. For instance, someone from Valinos may pronounce the name of the nation as “Air-ah-TEE-kah,” whereas an Aritikan will pronounce it “AH-rah-tee-kah.”
Second to Aritikan is the Valinosian language. While the population of Valinos is much more provincial and smaller than other human-founded societies, they are probably the most far-flung traders in the world. As such, many people speak Valinosian as a matter of course. While all Valinosians can speak Tradespeak, the fact that it derives from Aritikan is a sensitive subject, what with how much enmity the two countries hold towards one another. Valinosian speakers typically emphasize the middle syllable in polysyllabic words; otherwise, Valinosian words are pronounced with emphasis towards the last syllable. A very flowing language, many creatures of water will speak Valinosian as a matter of course. The very nature of the language shows the flowing consonants and vowels in its name, pronounced “Vah-lah-NO-gee-ahn.”
Rhikarish is a guttural language of sharp vowels and hard consonants. It is primarily spoken only by inhabitants of the Rhikari Confederacy and their neighbors, but many well-to-do folk of other nations will learn Rhikarish to deal with Rhikari mercenary companies. It is a heavy contrast from the proto-language of Taliqi, the Confederacy’s nearest neighbor to the south. It is also surmised by linguists that the language of the Stormraven Tribes is derived from Rhikarish. The reason for this is unknown, but many anthropologists and archealogists assume that the Stormravens originated in Rhikari and migrated to Visari sometime in the far past. To the Rhikari, it is considered the only “pure” human language, as it doesn’t have an analog to other racial languages. Even Dwarfish isn’t as guttural and harsh as Rhikarish. It is renowned for having more curse words than any other language in common use. Rhikarish is spoken loudly and often the speakers sound angry.
The language of Ki-Taliq, Taliqi, is also known as the First Tongue. Most names for planets, stars, and continents are Taliqi in origin. All Taliqi words end with a vowel, similar to Elven, though dissimilar in that the Elves still have words that end in soft consonants. Most sorcerers, wizards, clerics, oracles, alchemists, and others who make magical use their profession will understand Taliqi, if not outright speak it. The only exception to this are the priests of Se’hari, the official religion of Aritika. Taliqi is a very metaphor-laced language, and the Ki-Taliqi are often considered to be deceitful and untrustworthy on account of the language. It is also one of the most difficult languages to master. As Taliqi is a language built on metaphor and simile, many things can mean different things depending upon the enunciation of the speaker and the use of a specific word. Comparing the weather to the sea means something entirely different than comparing it to breath, and can even be taken as an insult or as undeserved praise. Native speakers rarely have this issue. The language is pronounced “Tah-LEE-key.”
Arasea is the language of the Shining Lands of Alaekor. Just like the nation from which it originates, it is a very veiled language and few people outside of the country speak it. Arasea is a multi-faceted language that describes many states of mind and being, with most words and terms relating specifically to the speaker, or the speaker and the listener as a joined body. When speaking to someone directly without inclusion, an Arasea speaker would say the person’s direct given name. This is usually an indication of disagreement, whereas speaking by using the terms “we,” or “us,” is generally considered a term of agreement with the other party’s point or logic. For instance, someone might say, “Analek should attend the academy in the capital,” directly to the subject, suggestion deep disapproval that Analek is NOT attending the academy. If it were spoken another way, such as: “We should attend the academy in the capital,” then it would infer that it is a good idea to do so, not speaking against the other party’s current decision. As such, Arasea can be confusing to outsiders. It is pronounced “Ayer-ah-SEE-ah.”
The language of the Republic of Mistvale is primarily Tradespeak, and Mistvale is often not given the kind of credence it deserves for not having a national language of its own. As the country is fairly new, having won its independence as a nation from Imperial colonization a little over a century ago, the Republic of Mistvale has yet to really join the world’s stage. As it is a very small island nation in comparison to the other nations, and is considered part of the continent of Kulari (which makes up the other large island upon which Alaekor resides), it is doubtful that anything useful will come out of Mistvale for several centuries. They have invented new words, however, to express their interest in all things technological. Most of these are rehashed Dwarfish words translated into Tradespeak, but they have been added to the lexicon of the language.
Far older than many of the human national languages, the racial languages of Thirajin came about from the various sentient beings that roam and settle on or within its surface. Most of these languages are not particularly difficult for humans to learn, but some nations put a social stigma on speaking a non-human language (such as the Holy Empire of Aritika). Nations that do not treat humans preferentially do not have this issue, but it is still difficult fo find an instructor unless one lives near a community of that particular race.
Elven is by far the most common non-human language spoken in Thirajin. Even some Aritikans speak it, especially the people who live on the border of the Aritikan Elven Reservation. As Elves make up the majority of the non-humans living in Thirajin today, their language can be heard throughout the world and even within the Umbral Passages below the surface. Elven is not dissimilar to Taliqi in that many of their words end with a vowel. Elves also use a great deal of metaphor when speaking in their native tongue. Because of this, linguists suggest that the First Tongue actually came from Elven, and was simply reappropriated into human speech. Elven, however, is not as strict with its metaphorical usage, and one cannot indirectly insult someone by mixing metaphors and similes, unlike the Ki-Taliqi. This is most likely because of the Ki-Taliqi code of honor that requires insults to be met immediately, and to be seen almost anywhere — whereas Elves tend to be more open with one another.
If Elven is the most well-known language of the non-human racial tongues, then Dwarfish is the least known. There are only six Dwarven communities that still exist in the world, all residing in secrecy in the continent of Visari, built into mountains and hidden from sight. Dwarves that live on the surface typically speak human languages, and sometimes will slip in the occasional Dwarfish word to describe something they do not want surrounding humans to understand. Dwarfish is a deep, guttural language that comes from the back of the throat and has a great deal of hard consonants. Vowels can be soft or sharp, and the language itself is fairly simple. It is one of the easiest languages for a human to learn, save for Halfling, which is the easiest. Linguists theorize that Dwarfish is the proto-language of Rhikarish, but the pronunciation and speech patterns in Dwarfish are very different. It is a slow language, light with metaphor and often spoken in what sounds like a sort of gravely, grave kindness.
Aklo is another fairly common language, but is rarely heard outside of the underground realm known as the Umbral Passages. It is the language of the so-called Deep Denizens — people who make their living within the Umbral Passages and caverns that exist far below even what Dwarves have dug. While not all citizens of the Umbral Passages are evil, the language of Aklo has colored the perception of many, on account of it being used by Aberrations and Shadow Plane creatures. It is the native tongue of all Aboleths, Fetchlings, Shade Humans, Shoggoths and so on, but also the native tongue of the Svartalfar and Underlings — the Halflings that have moved into the Umbral Passages away from human civilization. Dwarves that hail from the Redoubts will commonly speak Aklo, as they often have dealings with these creatures. Some wizards and sorcerers will also speak it, as almost a forbidden language. Many books on Necromancy, Illusion, and Conjuration are written in Aklo.
The most human of all non-human languages, Halfling is well-understood by many. Despite the relatively small population of Halflings in the world, the language thrives as a form of servant-talk throughout the Holy Empire of Aritika. Kinder masters will learn Halfling to speak to their servants in their own tongue, but will often expect (or rather, demand) that Halflings learn their master’s native language as well. One of the reasons it is so simple is because of how elegantly it mimics human speech. Halflings have no real differences in biology from human beings, save that they’re smaller and slighter. As such, their vocal range is almost exactly the same, making Halfling a very flexible language. Halflings speaking in their native tongue use the inflection of the dominant language of their region. These are not considered to be dialects among Halflings, rather they’re considered to be accents. Halfling is always the same, regardless of the region; the way the speaker uses it is often vastly different. Many Halflings from other nations find Ki-Taliqi Halflings to be unnaturally sensitive and take great pains to use no metaphor at all in speaking to them.
Orcish is an odd language in that it is very similar to Elven. The fact that Orcs are so different from Elves, yet speak a language that is very similar to them gives rise to the notion that they are somehow “corrupted Elves.” The history behind this goes back many millennia, but it is often contested by Elven scholars. Orcs have no real state, nor do they make any sort of sedentary society. The Orcish tongue differs from Elven in the number of words they have for travel and movement. An Orc will be able to speak in many different ways about how their society is moving. This particular trait was picked up by the Stormraven Tribes, being a nomadic people as well. As Orcs will tend to concentrate in large groups only in areas that are far from human civilization — both out of fear of human xenophobia and on account of attempting to find natural resources that are untapped — it is rare to find a human who knows Orcish. Typically, Orcs that live in human cities will give up their native language, or only teach it to their children.