Protecting the Shield
Guide to the Sundered Skies
- Ale Wars are some of the most savagely fought and longest-running of the silent wars. The orcish Grag brewing family is the current winner, having seen off most competition. Brewing and selling alcohol is so profitable that they go to great lengths to ruin any rival businesses.
- The Arena on Shadowhaven is a huge temple coliseum dedicated to the Battlelord. Gladiatorial matches are staged here, both to settle personal disputes and to entertain the masses. These matches are rarely to the death—often the winner is the one to draw first blood. Many matches in the arena are staged purely as an act of worship to the Battlelord, with the cheering audience unaware they are witnessing a religious celebration. The Arena is the only place where islands may legally field small armies against one another, and do so to decide grievances or settle trade disputes.
- Aria was once one of the richest and most civilized of all isles. The legendary battle between Lightbringer and Festival totally devastated the island, and Aria was left a wasteland haunted by ghosts and deranged spirits. The only living inhabitants are Heralds of the Light—voiders who worship Festival as an avatar of their own destroyed god. The insane Lord of Music hates these cultists and attempts to hunt them during his periods of lucidity. Most scavengers who visit the island do not leave.
- Lightbringer has cursed Aria. Nothing on the isle, not even a sleeping canvas, casts a shadow. Venturing onto the isle for extended lengths of time is almost certainly going to end in glowmadness. The fabled Songvaults, the repositories of all knowledge, are said to exist below the surface of Aria, but nobody has ever reported discovering an entrance to them.
- The Athenaeum guild of mages has its main university on Shadowhaven and is dedicated to expanding and disseminating knowledge of the arcane. Those sorcerers who have passed through the doors of the Athanaeum proudly call themselves wizards, and generally exhibit more control over their arcane skills than most sorcerers. The university headmaster is Endrin, a immensely powerful wizard who was an accomplished scavenger before he settled into the life of arcane academia.
- Bone Queen is the fearsome liche high priestess of the Bright Cabal. She prowls the Shattered City in a Death Barge constructed on, and within, the corpse of a mammoth dragon.
- The Boughbreakers are a secretive group of anarchic elves working covertly in Heartland to free wildlings from their bondage. The Willow Queen hates them with a passion and turns any captured members over to her “pet” blight walkers for a particularly horrible death. Despite the dangers, boughbreakers are passionate about their calling and manage, at great personal risk, to smuggle a steady stream of escaped wildlings off the island.
- Bridgeways is a community spread over many small islands. Each of these islands is connected to at least one other by black stone bridges, which the Artifi cer is believed to have created. Bridgeways is a site of holy significance for steampriests. Despite this, it is the Lady of the Winds who claims Bridgeways, as constant, savage winds sweep the highest of the isles. Believed to be the breath of the goddess herself, the winds have carved five fi gures from the bedrock, each one representing one of her five forms.
- This Isle of Chimes— named for the bells and chimes hung from its underside—is the only
permanent temple to the Lady of the Winds.
- The Bright Cabal are a loose affiliation of necromancers who prowl the void and worship The Rotting One. Cabal skyships are called death barges, and are decorated with bone and other grisly trophies. All death barges are crewed by zombies and captained by Cabal necromancers. The most powerful of the Cabal have crossed over into undeath becoming wraiths, vampires and liches.
- The Call is an arena hacked out of the ice at Firsthome. A massive cobweb-covered iron throne dominates the stands. Centuries ago, the Battlelord would manifest himself at The Call, watching the combatants who interested him, but he hasn’t appeared in decades.
- Canopy is a large island covered in a great shadowy, ice-coated forest high in the Ice Isles. Its chief resource is wood and it is extensively logged by the inhabitants of the settlement at Timber.
- The Choirhall at Shadowhaven is the largest temple to Festival in the Skies. It is also the temple of the Shadowhaven Quartet, four songpriests who have declared themselves the high priests of the Choir. Their attempts to impose any authority upon the worshippers of the Lord of Festival, who are rebellious and free spirited in nature, have met with limited success. Most songpriests and Bards consider them a folly, and openly scoff at their declarations.
- The Couriers’ Guild is widely used if a message must get through. Guild messengers are clever, resourceful, and skilled masters of disguise. They tend to memorize even the most complicated messages and are renowned for their dedication to fulfilling a task assigned to them. The Couriers’ Guild headquarters can be found in the Trade Halls on Shadowhaven.
- Deepsky Citadel is the dwarven homeisle, hollowed out of the lowest inhabited island. The aged dwarven king, Dale Bloodaxe — a famous hero who covered himself in glory before accepting the mantle of monarch — resides here, effectively making it the dwarven capital. The only Navigator Hall with earth from Deepsky is found at Mount Ore.
- Dragon’s Sons is a cabal of human sorcerer’s who are obsessed with discovering the dragon’s secrets.
- Dragon’s Spine is the name given to the long, narrow island the drakin call home. Drakin communities are etched into the bedrock of the island itself, with the majority found below ground. Areas above ground are decorated with carvings and statues dedicated to the drakin’s dragon rulers. The other races of the Skies are allowed access to only one city on Dragon’s Spine: Foreign Quarter.
- The Draining Sea is the highest, largest landmass in the Sundered Skies—a huge, unmapped ice field. Unknown forces within the sea constantly cause the ice packs to shift throwing huge slabs of ice over the edge of the island. The falling chunks of glacier melt, falling as snow or rain on the lower islands. The closer the island is to the Draining Sea, the higher the chance of precipitation.
- The Factory is found deep in the bowels of Deepsky Citadel, and is the only part of the citadel non-dwarves are allowed to visit unsupervised. It is the holiest of Artificer temples and houses the huge sentient machine which is the Artificer’s manifestation in the Skies.
- Ferals are twisted creatures created at the Fleshforge on Heartland. Larger than a human, these bestial creatures are savage and stupid. The elves often use them as assault troops. Ferals come in many forms, each bred for a specific purpose by their elven handlers, including bear, wolf, bloodhound, hawk, and bull.
- Firsthome is the largest permanent settlementon the Draining Sea and home of The Call — an arena where it is said the Battlelord sometimes appears to watch combatants. A large iron throne, covered in icy cobwebs, awaits his return, but no warriors of worth have attracted his attention for decades.
- The Flaming Skies is the name given to the fiery depths of the Skies below Deepsky Citadel. No ship entering the Flaming Skies has ever returned.
- The Fleshforge nestles between the roots of the mightiest tree on Heartland: known as the Leaflord. The Fleshforge is the most holy of Wild temples and the birthplace of all ferals and wildlings, though no wildling is known to have any recollection of their creation there. Only the most powerful Leafwardens know its secrets.
- Foreign Quarter is the only city on Dragon’s Spine accessible to non-drakin, the Quarter is a lively cosmopolitan place, where anything produced in the Sundered Skies can be bought and sold.
- Freedom Isle was originally a sparsely inhabited island called Jorvan. Just over 100 years ago, it was decided the newly emerging race known as the glowborn needed a homeisle, a place where they could develop their own sense of identity and community.
After much debate, it was decided by the Trade Council that the sparsely populated Jorvan was the best candidate. The hand-over of the isle to the glowborn was mostly without incident as the original inhabitants of Jorvan were well compensated and offered free transportation to any island of their choosing. Since that time, however, the elves of Heartland have taken a special interest in Freedom Isle, and it is essentially under their rule.
- Gateway is the major inhabited settlement in the Shattered City. Cosmopolitan and crowded, and sprawling across several small islands, Gateway acts as a staging post for those scavengers brave or foolish enough to venture into the ruins of the Shattered City.
- Goblins are a slave race. Though they are humanoid, divination deemed them soulless and unable to suffer. Many races abandoned goblin slavery after the emergence of the glowborn.
- Heartland is the largest known inhabited island. Carpeted in thick forest, it is the home of the elves and they worship it as a god—the Wild. The reclusive Willow Queen rules from the Willow Court beneath the boughs of the Leaflord. Heartland is a very dangerous place to visit uninvited, as elvish troops and ferals — guardians created at the Fleshforge from large predators—patrol its shores and forests, always alert for intruders.
- The Heralds of the Light, popularly known as voiders, are cultists who worship the Lightbringer. Their ships are virtual wrecks, with concentrated voidglow shining from fissures in their hulls. They are crewed by crazed cultists and glowmad victims of previous attacks. Their high priest, a mysterious figure called Lightlord, is rarely seen. If this insane cult can be said to have a base, then it is on Aria, where they worship the mad god Festival, who was driven insane by Lightbringer. Here the cult follows Festival during his insane destructive dances, only to have to scatter and flee whenever the god temporarily regains his sanity, as Festival hates the Heralds with all his being.
- The Ice Isles are ice-coated islands found in the upper reaches of the Skies. These isles are home to clans of orcs who have abandoned their naturally nomadic life, and instead harvest and export ice to those islands thirstier than their own.
- The Iron Citadel is a fabled iron tower somewhere in the skies. Within are said to be
- The Isle of Chimes is the highest island in the Bridgeways chain and the holiest temple to the Lady of the Winds. The isle is home to five effigies of the Goddess carved by the winds, and is named for the thousands of wind chimes hung from its underside.
- Kinslayer is a dwarven pirate who prowls the Lower Reaches, preying only on dwarven ships in his ship Stonesplitter, a metal-clad galleon. Kinslayer’s crew is among the most sadistic and cruel ever to have sailed the Skies. Kinslayer always attempts to board a ship and slaughter its crew personally rather than destroying his prey using cannons. Kinslayer himself is believed to have had his soul transferred to a steam golem, making him immortal. It is said the howling, undead heads of his dwarven victims hang from Stonesplitter’s hull.
- Landfall is a greatly feared phenomenon in the skies, sometimes islands just fall into
the void. Usually, the isle suffers tremors, and minor collapses before hand, giving the inhabitants time to evacuate, but not always. The Leaflord is an enormous tree at the heart of the Willow Court, dwarfing all other trees on Heartland. Leafwardens worship it as a living manifestation of the Wild.
- The Lower Reaches of the Sundered Skies are hot and oppressive, as if the weight of the void presses down upon them. The dwarven isles are found here, with Deepsky Citadel the most famous.
- The Meeting Place is a large floating city formed from skyships tethered together. Nomadic orcs meet here periodically to trade goods, swap gossip and restock their ships. The Meeting Place is a wild and dangerous place, and it is well known that many of the ships making up the city were originally seized by orcish pirates. Most orcs now, though, have abandoned such barbarous practices and prefer not to be reminded of them.
- Mount Ore is a huge mountain in the Lower Reaches. The mountain is many tens of thousands of feet high and riddled with seams of metallic ores mined by dwarven clans. Mine entrances dot the surface, only hinting at the labyrinthine communities and passageways within. The only community with a Navigator Hall is Ironport. Non-dwarves often mistakenly name the island Mount “Awe.” Seeing it for the first time, most are certainly stunned at its size.
- Navigator halls are found in every port and contain earth from all islands, except Deepsky. A nominal fee (10 cogs) allows an hour’s access to the hall. A ship’s captain must handle earth from his destination island before attuning his ship’s waysphere.
- The Nexus in Shadowhaven is a market where traders from all over the Skies meet.
- Oakthorn are elves, infamous for their bonded weapons and thorn firing armor. Although technically a mercenary band, they only work for the elven Willow Queen.
- Plenty, called the breadbasket of the Skies, is bound on three sides by the massive Runoff Falls. It is blessed with perpetual rainfall, producing bountiful harvests. The church of the Lifemother reveres Plenty as their sacred isle.
- The Razor Passage was, scholars theorize, once a mighty mountain, shattered during the Sundering. What remains is a dangerous, mist shrouded passage, haunted by fog sharks and pirates. The passage is the only route for most captains who wish to reach Plenty.
- The Requiem is a heretical cult of songpriest assassins who believe they are the masters of all songs and have it within their power to decide when they end. These assassins cannot be contacted and employed in the normal fashion—they select their own targets, seemingly at random. Their victims are just as likely to be a commoner, as an important noble or Council member.
- Roseport is the only part of Heartland non-elves are allowed access to. It is a relatively
small city, but provides everything anyone wishing to trade with the elves requires.
- The Runoff Falls are waterfalls, many miles deep, which fall from the Draining Sea. These have enough force to fall for hundreds of miles before the air currents break them up, and the falls smash all but the sturdiest ship. Only the specially reinforced grain barges that collect harvests are able to survive undamaged. Other ships approaching Plenty must brave the Razor Passage.
- Shadowhaven is the largest city and the bureaucratic center of the Sundered Skies. The city is home to both the Trade Halls, where the Trade Council meets, and the Arena, the holiest temple of the Battlelord. Shadowhaven covers an entire small island. The buildings of Shadowhaven lean toward one another, shrouding most of its streets in shadow, shielding its residents from the maddening effects of voidglow.
- The Shattered City must have been a huge metropolis before the Sundering. Thousands of islets, each home to a ruin, now orbit one another erratically. Scavengers are drawn to the Shattered City, hoping to uncover the many treasures said to lie undiscovered within.
- Shepherds are elven bounty hunters who track and execute wildlings fugitives.
- Skylers are part bird, part fish that “fly” throughout the void. The can be as small as a goldfish or a large as a blue whale. Weapons are made from their bones, candles are made from their fat and nourishment from their meat.
- The Songvaults are believed to exist below Aria. It is said the personal muses of songpriests store every song and poem ever composed within the vaults.
- The Sons of Spire is a paranoid guild of astronomers—survivors of the cataclysm that
destroyed the isle of Spire. The Sons scour the Skies looking for dangerous rogue islands.
- Star Crater Isle is so named for a huge, star-shaped crater where once the city of Spire
stood. The city was destroyed fi ve hundred years ago by an uninhabited rogue island. The crater has revealed extensive workings below ground, but to this date no scavengers have returned with any great treasures.
- Timber is a community of loggers who harvest the trees of Canopy. Timber is one of the most emotionally free communities in the Skies—the loggers spend a great deal of time within the shadowy ice forests of Canopy and so are unafraid of going glowmad. Timber is a rowdy place where fist fights are common, but murders rare.
- The Trade Council is the most powerful organization in the Sundered Skies, tasked with regulating trade between islands and enforcing a sky-wide peace. Every island sends a councilor to the Trade Council, who represents them in trade disputes and other emergencies threatening the peace of the Skies. In theory, no councilor is supposed to have more power or influence than any other, but in practice the richer islands’ councilors tend to wield more power than those from poorer isles. The Trade Council also maintains the only official standing army and navy in the Skies, its ranks conscripted from member islands. The Council meets in the Trade Halls on Shadowhaven.
- Underisles are small islets, constantly in the shadow of larger isles. They are often used as graveyards and as farms where the islanders grow edible fungi.
- The Vigilant is a secretive cult bent on vengeance. Its members refuse to forget or forgive the orcs’ barbaric past. Membership is mostly elves and dwarves, though it is rumored a dragon controls the cult.
- Waking and Sleeping Cycles are the Skies’ answer to the problem of the void’s permanent glow. With constant daylight, the measurement of time is problematic. Every island keeps the 25-hour Trade Council-mandated wake/sleep cycle, but each island keeps its clocks independently. Since travel between islands takes weeks, there’s little or no reason for one island to care about the exact time on another. Although sleep cycles tend to be the same for all people of an island—commerce and other activities are simply easier to conduct if everyone is on a similar schedule—some islands, such as Canopy, have no concept of a regular waking and sleeping cycle, and the residents sleep whenever they feel like it.
- Wayspheres are navigation crystal globes, filled with magically charged water, with a flint-tipped arrow suspended at their center. A captain must handle rock or dirt from the island he wishes to travel to, no more than thirteen hours before attuning the sphere. Then all he need do is concentrate on the island, and the arrow points the way.