Long ago, when the world of Rathe was untouched by human hands, a great and mighty beast gave life to the land now known as Volcor. Beneath its claws, the ground turned to stone; its gaze gave life to rivers of flame, and with its breath, the very air became dry with the heat of a blazing fire. It carved out a home for itself between the rolling fields and wine-dark sea, decorating the land in its likeness.
For a time, all was still and calm. The beast watched over its territory, basking in the dry heat and sculpting mountain ranges out of solid stone. Yet, one by one, new creatures began to appear on the outskirts of its territory. Strange, soft-skinned little creatures clutching makeshift weapons; so small, so weak, in comparison to the great and mighty beast. It allowed them to creep onto the edges of the land, watching from afar.
With time, the beast grew weary. For millennia, it had wandered Rathe, and spent many eons making its home. The great and mighty beast left the tiny creatures to watch over the land, gifting them its fireblood in return. And then, at last, it found a space in which to nest, curling up and falling into a deep slumber. It is said that the beast sleeps on, encased in rock; its breath fueling the fires of Volcor.
The Royal Court
The palace of the royal court sits on the banks of Mt Volcor, high above the conflict that plagues the rest of the region. Carved deep into the bedrock, the palace is home to the Emperor and the Royal Family, housing all those who live to serve them. From the court wizards to lord generals, grand strategists to consorts, the Emperor is served and protected by some of the most powerful individuals in Volcor.
The Royal Bloodline
Many of those who reside in the palace are members of the royal bloodline, distant descendants of the first Emperor of Volcor. It is rumoured that dragon blood lies deep within their veins, giving some among them the gift of aether, and the power of the fires of Volcor.
The Emperor himself possesses the gift of aether, the most powerful wizard in all Volcor. As a direct descendant of the royal bloodline, he inherited the throne from his father, already well-versed in the politics of the court. Shrewd, resourceful and cunning, he has learned the skills necessary to stay one step ahead of his enemies, and retain his grasp on the throne.
Within the court is a constant struggle for power, but while the battlefields of lower Volcor are alight with the fires of war, the battles of the court are fought in hushed whispers. Factions and houses compete for the favour of the Emperor, seeking power and influence. Some houses fade into the background, entire branches of the royal bloodline lost to a streak of bad luck or a careless mistake. Falling behind means losing influence within the court, left to rot in the shadows, a powerless pawn for others to manipulate. Some die as unofficial outsiders, ostracised by the rest of the court, while others are disgraced, sent to establish their own villages and towns beyond the safety of the palace.
The Volcai are accustomed to Mt. Volcor’s periodic lava flows, building their defenses in preparation for what they call the Phoenix Cycle. Sporadic and unpredictable, some places have been untouched by the lava flows for over a decade, while others suffer with every pass of the cycle. Every territory in Volcor is susceptible to becoming a victim of the lava flows, a tidal wave of magma that flows down through the rivers, creating a flood that can isolate a territory for months at a time. In some cases, it may remain unscathed. In others, an entire city can be wiped out, forcing its people to start anew amongst the ashes of their homes.
Fire in Their Veins
Every wizard in Volcor is a descendant of the first emperor, drawing power from their ancestral bloodline. They fulfill a variety of roles, both inside and outside of the royal court; from military positions to entertainment, political aides and ambassadorial work, bringing wayward generals into line and maintaining the hierarchy of power in Volcor. Due to their inherent power, they are closely watched, as the Emperor works to maintain his sway over the court.
Unlike the scholars of Solana, who draw upon knowledge for their arcane power, for the wizards of Volcor, the ability to cast fire is innate. Their arcane gifts usually manifest in childhood, and training begins the moment that their aether affinity is revealed.
Practice makes perfect. Young wizards are taught the extent of their skills, casting spell after spell to learn their strengths and weaknesses in the realm of aether. The imperial tutors ensure that the most powerful students are singled out and given extra training, working to hone their latent abilities. Once they reach adulthood, young wizards take part in a trial, designed to determine their abilities, with the outcome deciding their place within the royal court.
In the royal court, there is safety in numbers, and having a more powerful ally on your side can mean the difference between life and death. Some, such as the Alshoni, are factions founded by a particular branch of the Royal Bloodline, a clan brought together by blood ties. Others are founded on their shared specialisations in the arcane, or to establish their loyalty to the Emperor.
Any wizard who wants to survive within the royal court must join a faction. The tides of politics are violent and unpredictable, and it takes little for the court to turn on one of its own. A faction ensures safety in numbers, influence and power within the court, and the ability to fight back against the machinations of others. Any wizard who remains unaffiliated will quickly find themselves at the mercy of the court, with no one to save them from their own demise.
The people of Volcor are constantly at war. Generals head into battle against one another, fighting in a constant push and pull of power and supremacy. Territory disputes, political moves, loyalties and ties to the Royal Family; no matter the reason, generals are unrelenting in their quest for power, and so the battlefields are always bathed in blood.
The soldiers of Volcor’s armies are overseen by lieutenants and regional strategists, working to enact the will of their General, while more covert operatives such as spies and assassins work to take down the enemy from the inside.
However, none are more powerful than the forces of the royal court. While their grand strategists and lord generals are among the most powerful in all Volcor, they pale in comparison to the arcane might of the court wizards, who are only ever one order away from unleashing a firestorm on enemies of the Emperor.
A Life of Servitude
Not everyone can be born into a position of safety and power. Those born outside of the royal bloodline, and who do not have the connections necessary for a military position, are resigned to the very bottom of Volcor’s hierarchy. At best, one might become a servant of the royal court, sweeping and cleaning and cooking for those of a higher station. At worst, they are condemned to slavery, little more than chattel for their generals to use as they please. While some resign themselves to a life of slavery, others prefer to risk starvation and death, rather than serve their callous tyrants.
Some refuse to accept the life assigned to them, preferring the freedom of choice over their own safety. The nomads of Volcor form rag-tag clans, hiding amongst the rock formations furthest from Mount Volcor. They have adapted to the tough conditions, combining thin, hardened armour with loose linens to stave off the heat. They often scavenge forgotten battlefields, looking for any salvageable weapons and armour while avoiding the watchful gaze of the generals.
The creatures of Volcor are strange and majestic creatures, having long since adapted to their hostile and volatile environment. Many of the creatures found in this desolate region are believed to be distantly related to the dragons of old, great scaly beasts who populate the legends of Volcor.
A large bird of prey that flies at a high altitude, only descending to roost or to attack vulnerable prey. When in flight, the tips of their feathers catch alight, creating flames that streak behind them as they soar through the sky. They’re reliable messengers, and are often used by the royal court and the many generals of Volcor, due to the vuurlin’s keen intelligence and powerful wings.
Despite their vague resemblance, longma are larger than the mounts used by Solana, ink-black in colour and covered in a dense coat of fur that helps to protect them from embers. Longma store heat within their bodies as a source of energy, smoke escaping their nostrils with every exhale. These hardy creatures are excellent for long-distance travel, able to withstand the heat of Volcor’s landscape.
These are small creatures, similar in appearance to fish, that inhabit the lava streams and rivers of Volcor. Despite the immense heat, these creatures thrive in the extreme conditions, lurking beneath the glowing surface of the magma. While their scales are almost black, their 'fins' catch alight when they break the surface of the lava, leaping from stream to stream.
These tiny wisps are artificially created by the wizards of Volcor; puffs of smoke brought to life by a breath of aether. Once formed, they subsist entirely on embers, flitting to and fro amongst the fiery landscape.
A large serpent with barbed scales, which can be found lurking within larger bodies of magma, storing energy and lying in wait. These creatures move with Volcor's lava flows, moving through the magma to feast on those caught in the flow's path. While they can occasionally be found on land, they move much more slowly, and are thus vulnerable to attack.