Behind a veil of mist lies a hidden world, concealed amongst the mountain ranges of Misteria. Vibrant trees rise from the steep cliffs, birds soaring through the canyons, silver fish weaving through the rivers far below. The sun streams through the clouds, illuminating the rooftops of buildings shrouded by mist.
Carved into the rock and hanging from thick vines, the villages of Misteria are home to a people as steadfast and mysterious as the mountain ranges they call home. From birth, they learn to traverse the steep landscape, relying on their own strength and agility to travel from one building to another. Hanging gardens are suspended between the cliffs, a burst of green against the backdrop of stone and rock. Even the largest villages are home to close-knit communities, founded long ago by the Great Houses of Misteria.
Yet the veil of mist hides a wealth of secrets, far beyond those of the villages tucked into the mountainside. Grandmasters roam the land, equal parts mystery and legend, gifting their time and wisdom to those determined enough to seek them out. Secret organisations work behind the scenes, ensuring the safety of their people, while long-forgotten clans hide from those that would see them extinguished.
The world beyond the mountains holds little interest to the people of Misteria, who prefer to lead simple lives in the company of their fellow villagers. Removed from the struggles and petty conflicts of the outside world, they find satisfaction in introspection and self-discipline, training rigorously to strengthen their bodies and sharpen their minds.
Despite the difficulties of living in such a place, Misterians would argue that the beauty and tranquillity of their home more than makes up for any inconvenience. Their hard work and dedication are rewarded with the experience of living in one of the most beautiful environments in all of Rathe.
Among the Mists
The steep landscape of Misteria is equal parts treacherous and tranquil. The sun streams through the clouds, illuminating the mists in shades of white and gold, revealing the patches of greenery clinging to the steep rock face. Anyone not born within Misteria would struggle to survive in such an inhospitable environment, where one wrong step can send you plummeting down to the sharp rocks far below.
The villages of Misteria are built in some of the most inaccessible areas in Rathe, and those who live here must rely on their strength and agility to travel amongst the mountains. Racing along suspended ropes, scaling cliffs, and jumping across platforms are all second nature for the people of Misteria, who have built their lives around the unique environment.
A persistent layer of mist blankets villages across Misteria, broken only by beams of sunlight streaming through the clouds. At the break of dawn, the village stirs, as Misterians rise to begin their daily tasks. Farmers begin to tend to the hanging gardens, caring for plots of rice and vegetables. Others journey down to the waters below, laying out their nets to catch fish for the morning markets. Inns open their doors to the morning air, teahouses begin to make their food for the day, and students make their way to the dojo for training.
The people of Misteria value hard work and dedication, traits necessary to survive in the unforgiving landscape that they call home.
Rite of Passing
According to legend, the Rite of Passing is held on the one day of the year when the veil between worlds is thinnest, and the world of spirits is closest to the world of the living. The Rite honours the dead by welcoming the spirits home and inviting them to take part in the celebrations.
When night falls, all Misterians don an ornate ceremonial mask that hides their face from view and makes the living indistinguishable from the dead. Lanterns are lit and raised into the sky, floating among the stars, illuminating the dancers below. The celebrations last through the night, and do not end until dawn, when the spirits return to the realm of the dead.
The ancestral home of the House of Sanjing, Mistcloak Gully is a sprawling collection of steep cliffs surrounding a natural lake. The waterfalls within the gully produce a thick blanket of mist, which obscures many of the buildings that lie deep within. Far below, a fast-moving stream travels through the gully, the sound of rushing water echoing up the stone walls.
Between the Cliffs
Villages and towns lie hidden amongst the mountains, close-knit communities following ancient traditions. The treacherous landscape hides these villages from outsiders, a thick blanket of mist concealing the buildings from view. Individual houses hang between the cliffs, suspended from massive networks of rope that can support the weight of entire villages. Larger communal buildings are carved into the mountainside - taverns, inns, teahouses, dojos, spaces for markets and shops, as well as places to eat, and spaces for sparring.
Every village was borne of one of the great Houses of Misteria, ancient households that can trace their lineage through the centuries. Members of the old families live in larger clusters of buildings, constructed on the highest levels of the village.
Homes and inns
The size, scale and style of a house depends entirely on the family who resides within, and their standing within the village. Members of the main House commonly have their homes grouped together, with a small courtyard to connect the buildings. Inns, however, are much larger than the average home, connecting separate rooms with a larger common area offering somewhere to eat and socialise.
Dojos and training grounds
Training grounds are built near the heart of a village, as the building is used by the entire community for combat practice, and to maintain their strength and agility. A dojo, however, is a place for formal training, and built in a more isolated area in order to provide a quiet, tranquil training environment.
A place for people to gather after a day’s work to chat, socialise, and enjoy a cup of tea. Teahouses can be found built into the rock face, suspended from a cliff overhang, or, in villages near lakes, built atop the water.
These are integral to the communication between villages, serving as an early warning system for attacks and other dangers.
The Hidden Villages
The steep mountains and jagged cliffs of Misteria make traditional construction methods impossible, so the people of Misteria have learned to build their homes in tandem with the treacherous landscape. Buildings are suspended from vines and ropes, constructed atop bamboo poles, or carved into the mountainside itself.
While villages, towns and cities elsewhere are constructed horizontally, many villages within Misteria are constructed vertically, traversing the space between the highest peaks, and the ravines below. Some buildings are even constructed on top of the water itself, only partially anchored at the sides in order to rise and fall with the water level.
The Seven Arts
The Seven Arts encompass every occupation and role within Misteria. Education for every Misterian begins with a foundation in all seven, slowly reducing the number of subjects as the child chooses their path. The Seven Arts have been a part of Misterian culture for generations, curated from centuries of traditions and customs. Through the Seven Arts, ancient skills and practices have been preserved, so that they can be passed on for generations to come.
There is a particular focus on the Major Arts, which include the fundamental lessons for a child of Misteria. Language, agility, and basic combat are all incredibly important for anyone living within Misteria, and so the Major Arts are an area of focus during education.
The first art, the Art of the Signs, is comprised of the study of language and culture. Those who study this Art help to record history, compose poetry and songs, and guide the many ceremonies across Misteria.
This Art is the study of basic combat. While some students of the Hand may go on to study the Art of the Sparrow or the Art of the Serpent, many choose to continue studying the Art of the Hand, which contains a wide variety of martial arts and combat techniques.
The Art of the Hand is perhaps one of the most versatile, providing a foundation not only in combat, but in teaching young Misterians the importance of strength and balance; both fundamental skills for living amongst the mountain ranges. It does not focus exclusively on hand-to-hand combat, but rather involves a series of techniques and fundamentals that cover the basics of most martial styles. The Art of the Hand teaches combat techniques which can be used for both offensive and defensive purposes. The Hand includes both armed and unarmed combat styles, though training typically begins with the two fundamental unarmed martial styles; the Tao Strikes, and the Feito Technique.
The Tao Strikes are a basic striking and parry system, which focuses on quickly getting close to an opponent and locking in melee-range physical combat, while also protecting the ninja’s vital organs. Meanwhile, the Feito Techniques utilise footwork, which emphasises maintaining balance through a central line of power, allowing the student to anchor themselves and apply force from any position.
Those students who choose to train for armed combat may study multiple weapons or specialize solely with one. Alongside the various types of swords, weapons may also include metal fans, called gunsen; long staves known as bo; long-handled weapons such as the naginata; a longbow, the yumi; or three-pronged weapons known as sai.
The Art of the Sparrow is the art of agility and balance. While all Misterians have basic training in the Art of the Sparrow, masters of this art are a sight to behold, weaving their way across a battlefield with ease.
Those who train in the Art of the Sparrow practice more swift, graceful martial styles, using their speed and agility to their advantage. Rather than blocking or disarming their opponent, they slip past their opponent’s defenses, using their own momentum against them. A master of the Art of the Sparrow can deflect attacks and turn them back on their opponent as if they were diverting the flow of a stream.
The Minor Arts, while included in the basic education of every young child in Misteria, are not the main focus of daily lessons. Despite this, the minor arts still play a vital role within Misteria.
The Art of the Serpent encompasses stealth and assassination techniques. Those who study the Art of the Serpent are all but invisible, taking down their opponents with deadly precision. The best students of the Serpent can hide in plain sight, using their surroundings to their advantage, able to navigate their way through a crowd without ever being seen.
The second minor art, the Art of the Earth, covers herbalism, farming and tending to nature. Those who study this Art help not only with growing food for those across Misteria, but provide aid to villages through herbalism and healing. Life within Misteria would be almost impossible without their unique agriculture, carefully cultivated by students of the Earth. Hanging gardens provide a space to grow rice, vegetables, herbs, and other essential plants, all necessary in order for a village to survive.
The third art, the Art of the Stone, is comprised of masonry and building. Students of the Stone work to construct and maintain buildings, and are responsible for Misteria’s unique way of building around the landscape. The Stone also encompasses all forms of forging, smithing, stonework and metalwork; from forming tableware, cutlery and cookware, to forging and engraving weapons. Finally, the Art of the Stone encompasses some forms of woodwork, such as creating larger pieces of furniture, and maintaining the various ropes and bridges connecting the villages of Misteria.
The fourth art, the Art of the Willow, is the study of tailoring and weaving professions. Students of the Willow are experts in creating the loose, billowing fabrics that Misterians are known for, and also help to create many other aspects of dress, such as the elaborate masks worn for some ceremonies and festivals.
Every major household in Misteria has their own secret art, combat-related or otherwise. While some households have secret arts in skills such as weaving fabric or forging weapons, most households have a secret art for use in battle. From the 'Eternal Crane' to the 'Dance of the Falling Petals,' each secret art is associated with a different house, and each art is only taught to members of the household. Teaching a secret art to an outsider is considered by many to be the worst possible kind of betrayal.
However, the households of Misteria are not the only ones to possess secret arts. Many Grandmasters are credited with creating their own secret art, something that they might occasionally teach to a student or apprentice. Occasionally, a Grandmaster may pass away without teaching their secret art to anyone, ensuring that their art dies alongside them.
The Legend of Mistress Ikaru
Long ago, a mysterious woman landed on the shores of Misteria. She came from an unknown land, travelling from village to village. This mysterious young woman rarely spoke, occasionally giving voice to a question, or engaging with someone in quiet discussion. One day, she came across a wizened old man sitting on a log, carefully setting out his wares on a worn blanket. On the ground before him lay five items: a chunk of rock, a dark crystal, a pale branch, a vibrant flower, and a tiny pouch.
Looking over the items, the woman found herself drawn to the pouch. Old and faded, its drawstrings were tied in a simple knot, concealing the contents within. Curious, she asked if he knew what lay within, and if she might open it. Silently, the old man shook his head. After a moment’s deliberation, the woman removed a ring from her finger, a deceptively plain silver band.
“Would this be a fair trade?” The old man merely smiled in response, offering a small nod.
Thanking him, she passed him the ring, taking the pouch in exchange. The woman continued on her travels, moving from village to village. For months, she travelled across Misteria, seemingly searching for something, yet never finding what it was that she was looking for. Finally, she came across a steep mountain range, carefully picking her way down the rocky slope. Standing atop a small hill, she looked down upon a rolling valley, and pulled out the pouch that she had traded for, so long ago.
From the pouch, the woman removed a single pale seed. She planted it with her own two hands, watering and caring for the tiny seedling that sprouted. The seedling slowly grew into a beautiful cherry blossom tree, bright and cheerful in its place high above, looking down on the village that began to take shape below. Mistress Ikaru, once a mysterious stranger, took a name in honour of the tree that now watched over her home. The House of Blossoms flourished under her careful guidance, growing from a tiny village into a house worthy of its founder. Long after the Mistress took her last breath, the Ikaru Clan would continue to grow, thriving under the branches of the cherry blossom tree.
The Grandmaster's Guild
The Grandmaster’s Guild is not an organisation, but a collection of individuals with mastery over their respective arts. The exact requirements and selection process are shrouded in mystery, but the Guild's legacy is well-known across Misteria, as they work to promote the Seven Arts and improve villages across the region.
An elusive organisation of spies and assassins, known only by the symbol that they leave behind. Members of Aui’s Scales are rarely seen, lurking within the mists as they watch over the people of Misteria, protecting their home from potential threats.
Xi, the Blind Ferryman
Those who journey to the Skylark Peaks often become lost within the mists, which grow denser as you ascend the mountain. Eventually, these lost souls arrive before a broad river, facing a broad cliff on the opposite side. Out of the mist, a small, wizened old man shall appear, his moon-white eyes almost glowing as he paddles his straw boat downstream. Those who accept his offer of help mysteriously awaken on the banks of a gentle stream, at the very top of the mountain, with little memory of how they arrived.
The Oracle, Valdis
A woman travels amongst the Milesian Ranges, in the space between Misteria and the land beyond. Occasionally, one may seek her out, searching for answers and the chance to gaze into their own future. Those who succeed return changed, wide-eyed, wishing that they had heeded her warning - for few who see their futures are pleased with what they find.
At the break of dawn, as sunlight begins to stream through the thick blanket of mist, Grandmaster Zhao appears in a village to begin his day’s work. Villages across Misteria claim to have been visited by this man, tall and willowy behind his pale robes, healing the ill and repairing buildings. Every village he visits soon experiences a change of fortune, as their crops flourish and people thrive. Legend speaks of the Grandmaster’s secret art, mirroring the shifting waters, fluid and graceful.
The Keepers of the Seven Arts
A guild of instructors and academics with close affiliations to the Grandmaster’s Guild. Due to their strong presence and noble cause of promoting learning and progress, the Keepers are much loved and revered by Misterians. Almost all Misterian instructors are trained and stationed by the Keepers of the Seven Arts.
Occasionally, a Keeper may take on an apprentice, a young student who lives with the Keeper and studies their way of life. With time, the apprentice will be trained to take over the Keeper’s position as a teacher and preserve their unique techniques and skills.