Monday, June 29, 2020

People of this realm

These races are all fantastical humans, and would consider many of the classic fantasy races equally human. None of them are inherently better or worse at any given thing, though cultures may reinforce certain skills or passions and shun others. If in doubt, anyone can simply be a Cikrem nomad of whatever skin color they prefer, or simply add their preferred races as needed.

Each or all of them can interbreed, with children potentially inheriting the traits of more than one parent, however mixed race characters may face unique challenges. Unusual or unique traits may also manifest in members of any race, such as pointed ears, tusked canines, or webbed digits.


Terse, hardy people who spare few words and have ruled Tajira for too long. They wish not to show their triple tongues, which change color based on their mood.

They wear clothing dull in color and trimmed of embellishment, and similarly prefer unseasoned foods, especially raw fruits and vegetation. Perhaps this stems from their homeland, a forest so dense and overgrown that the sun almost never reaches the ground.

The Mistress by Sam Carr
(lightly edited)


Natives to the land now held by Tajira, most would gladly see the empire fall. Illusion magic is their native art, and they can be recognized by the hole that naturally runs through each torso and limb.

They keep some records with a system of knots and dyed strings, sometimes incorporating these along the hem of a cloak or tunic, in a way that communicates surreptitiously with their people.


Mournful people displaced from their homeland by the yingao empire. They bear twin sideways mouths and thumbs in the place of their littlefingers.

Their fashions tend toward many overlapping layers fastened with unique buttons, ranging in length from short sleeved tunics to long, enveloping robes. Outsiders often have difficulty with the strange bolshu buttons.


Wayward chromatic tribes who carry distinctive Dream Bread and wear tight clothing. Stories say a child born of two tribes will lead them to a new homeland, though they care little where they originated.

Their colorful bread is well known for causing wild visions that some find spiritual guidance in, and a few simply enjoy. Most cikrem keep a large, loose hood or sash.

ZONA 2019 by Q Tori


Allies to Tajira who hail from the mountains. Thought of as sneaky for their overly flexible limbs, each with an extra joint. They hunt great beasts in the mountains, prizing the meat and leather, and they have complex customs around leather clothing.

A single, continuous piece of leather formed into an outfit is called ‘full leather,’ with an outfit consisting of multiple sources called ‘cut leather,’ and ‘scrap leather’ as the lowest form, where the outfit is supplemented by other material.


A larger empire lurking near the borders of Tajira, wishing for the first signs of weakness. Ashen skinned with needled teeth and faces some would call fish-like, they wield flame spewing weapons.

The frigid forests they come from are harsh and strange, and they have a strange preference for frozen meals. Exposing the arms is a sign of strength, and some may recognize the ortish cut of a flared, fur-lined vest.


Soft-spoken folk from a land of valleys and caverns. Oft assumed stubborn due to their horned heads, and usually hired as guards or mercenaries. Because of this, it’s easy to find helmets that account for and even protect the horns.

Individuals tend to be either very tall or very short, with average height strangely rare. They prefer simple clothing, but usually bear intricate carvings on their horns.

Original Character - Sheep Girl by Lorena Carricondo


Seen by some as savages, for their lack of clothing and hair-covered bodies. They actually possess a rich culture of hair stylings. 

Warriors will often braid their hair into tight, close-fitting rows, with shorn patterns to show their role as a life-taker. Meanwhile hunters of beasts are more likely to cut their hair shorter, and it is common for leaders or public figures to grow their hair long and straighten it.


Well-trusted traders from the Kajhar desert. They are considered beautiful for their crystalline hair and nails.

They tend to wear layers of light, airy fabric with subtle patterns, but those in Tajira tend to find the climate too cold and will adopt local fashions quickly. Veshkin cooks are known for crafting many fine sweets and candies.

Phosphophyllite by Zhengyang Hu


Often friendly people with black blood and bones that tinge their skin blue. By holding their breath they can turn their skin black, but this leaves them lightheaded.

They have come from far off forests of giant mushrooms, and tend to value stiff, geometrically cut clothes made of fungal paper. Officials will also wear pieces of giant insect carapace, but most in Tajira cannot afford such a luxury. Their predilection for strong drink and other fermented foods has led to a reputation as drunken poisoners.


Seafarers with neither hair nor nails- anywhere on their body. Only some women wear wigs in Tajira, but most wear fine makeup. Rumors claim they season their food with sand, but it is actually crushed coral.

It is customary to get a tattoo each time a new crew is joined, so a shimex covered in ink has either survived many failed voyages, or moved around for another reason.


Quiet, gentle folk from cursed plains, who created the elemental magics of sorcery. Each individual has a single, large eye, some of which can be found in the darkest of markets.

Sometimes thought of as strangely violent, for their integration of armor-like plates of metal in clothing, which is generally made of surprisingly fine, sturdy silks.

Cyanne by Sarah Burks


Graceful people of fine ceramic and artful silks, they have metallic skin and four, narrow eyes. Very rarely one will be born with golden skin.

The wealthy trade in quicksilver, requiring extremely specific containers and the finest of porters. Strange, tall mounts carry them aloft, keeping the long draping robes that are in fashion from dragging on the ground.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Shalilas, city of the genie

The trader Veklen knows the route, but will guard this secret. They need help though, taking brightglass through the desert. Kajhar is a dusty land, but not a dead one. Great scorpions and lizards lie under the sand. Afield is the cactus desert, a beautiful but deadly place.

Near the tail of the Great Dune lies the city of genie, Shalilas. The human trader keeps it a secret, but the genie care little if they are found. The gates are living, possessed by sometimes lackadaisical genie. In times of need however, those gate genie respond instantly and resolutely.

The most need for traders lie in the small human population. They all know each other, and most are Wishmakers, paid to request simple wishes. Wishmaking is not lucrative; they each have other reasons for being here, and make a living in other crafts.

Desert City by Sam Denmark

At the outskirts of the city lie mounds of shattered clay and slag metal, the cast-off remnants of genie who moved up in the city or died trying. Living in the refuse are the lowest of genie, poor souls wearing broken scraps as their body. Even those unfortunate denizens know they can rely on Mother Neres, long-standing guardian with an unusually sturdy body of charred oak. She speaks rarely, and spends her time protecting the slums rather than leading the city.

Most genie in the city will inhabit bodies like human-sized dolls of clay or ceramic, or metals such as steel or iron, or even zinc when possible. Very rare bodies will be made from even lighter materials, like glass or rare metals. Heavier bodies are also uncommon, but more as a matter of practicality than expense. It is more common to see a genie in a body that cannot move, such as a pot, lamp, or other artisanal item, with an attendant or companion to carry them.

Fashion covers an eclectic and varied range, as one might expect from the wide variety of possible bodies. The most important traits for genie clothes are convenience and versatility, as the vessel can always be changed for more long-term appearances. In that vein, there's also something of a trend for genies to alter their vessels, bolting on additional parts or carving away small portions. The right shops can offer strange and unique piercings or other strange changes to the bodies of mortal visitors.

From anywhere in the city, and some ways beyond, one can see its metaphorical center. It is the Green Palace, a gleaming tower of glass holding the city’s greatest elders. Perhaps the most powerful, though not the oldest, is Prinim Veshisk, a massive genie in fine glass. He enjoys his unwieldy, fragile vessel, and forcing slaves to maneuver him. The newest councilor is Toril Syaran, who suspects Prinim may have destroyed a rival on the council, and wishes to expand trade with the mortal world.

The city also relies on the Incense Mines, an ancient buried forest from which all manner of aromas have been gleaned. These scents and the colored flame they produce give the genie incredible sensations, be they euphoric, inflaming, or subduing. At the markets, one can buy such things as stonesmoke cones, fire-dripping sticks, and spiritwalk powder. A hopeless addict to the stonesmoke, Dalifer has spent much time wandering the desert looking for anything to pawn, and if given incense will tell visitors of some of the stranger things out there.

Main Image
Incense Knight by Hwa Min Jung

Most genie outside the city have been lost for ages, found buried in ancient ruins with little memory of where they originated. Only a few have left the city or been kidnapped, and most end up finding their way to Shalilas eventually. There are only two ways for a genie to truly die, without arcane intervention. Either by the decay of the vessel, to a point of complete incoherence, or by failing to transfer to a new vessel when they may leave their present place. The worst wrongdoers are imprisoned by building a pit like a well, lined with stone and filled with sand to bury the criminal.

Perhaps the largest gathering of genie outside the city are at the sandstone fortress of the Smoke-fist Warriors, an order of veshkin mercenaries who ritualistically burn one of their arms to let a genie inhabit it, granting increased strength and an uncanny ability to fight with two weapons at once. The genie Ryula lives secretly within their order, inhabiting a burnt corpse of unknown origin.

Walking the streets of Shalilas

  1. A young genie approaches carrying shards of pottery, looking frightened. He says his master’s vessel has been shattered, and he needs you to buy him a new one quickly.

  2. A commotion from the gates as a genie rushes into the city, asking for aid in rescuing their fellow’s vessel, a vase which has been captured by bandits in the desert.

  3. Prinim’s procession (or another vainglorious councilor) fills the street, forcing commoners and visitors aside at risk of violence.

  4. A player’s finest weapon catches the eye of a Talmar Fineshadow, a genie adventurer who just returned from the Labyrinth of Glass with plenty of gold and a new obsidian vessel. Talmar wants to buy the weapon, and seemingly won’t take no for an answer.

  5. The group is approached by a genie carrying an empty vessel, handing them a few coins and telling them to make a wish.

  6. A human notices the group and rushes over, offering to sell them snacks. Fruit on a stick, peeled and covered in spicy powder, they are more expensive since human food is uncommon here.


  1. Stonesmoke cone: a strangely vivid grey incense that produces deep black smoke, and a rich, salty scent. The namesake smoke is rigid, flowing upward regardless of wind or touch, and feels like shifting stone.

  2. Dripfire stick: particularly long sticks of incense that produce a dim orange flame that does not rise or flicker, rather dribbling down from the end. The scent is sweet and spicy, sharp but fading quickly. The flames are not mere liquid, as indeed they weigh nothing

  3. Astral powder: incense dust that creates a strange, misty smoke, wafting and waving in unfelt winds. The scent is slightly minty and makes one feel energized but calm. The sensation is like being outside of one’s body, and it is said that an excessive amount can draw out the soul.

  4. Harmony coil: usually sold in a spiral shape along with instructions on how to light it. The smell is woody with a floral note, and can vary slightly depending on the type, usually enhancing introspection and self-discovery. It is unique for being ignited by sounds, of particular tone and patterns based on the shape of the incense, despite always being the same material. The common spiral is lit with a low whistle.

  5. Midnight pellets: small beads of blue incense that smell tangy and a bit sour when lit, giving mild feelings of energy and preventing all sleep as long as it burns. On a moonless night, the pellets will burn like tiny stars.

  6. Iris oil: debatable as incense, this fluid always seems to be watching, and when burning releases colorful smoke that leaves afterimages and increases sensitivity of body, mind, and spirit. Some say it simply makes people more suggestible.

Insense Burner
Gold pot by Sandesh Tuladhar

Dalifer’s trade

  1. A giant made of flame, unnaturally tall and gaunt, striding the desert a short distance to the south. It’s been seen twice, each time at midweek, heading the same direction and leaving a trail of glass footprints.
  2. In the cactus jungle, full of prickling trees and scorpion monkeys, a spiralling pit of carved stone that leads to unknown depths.
  3. A gigantic carapaced serpent, coiled and gleaming in the sun. Dalifer ran before realizing that it hadn’t been moving.
  4. Black sand amid the desert, laid out in a perfectly symmetrical pattern with no one around to have done it. The wind hasn’t picked up since it was spotted, so it may still be there.
  5. Bandits lost in reverie at night, singing and dancing around a fire. They were burning stolen incense, but there were simply too many.
  6. Flipped upside down, a huge statue of a head. Very detailed face and square structure that wouldn't roll on its own. No other parts in view.

Directly connected to the previous post, and also part of the GLOG community city challenge! Other participants include:

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Captured in brass, hidden among sand

Travelers from far off lands, wealthy Veshkin traders sometimes carry vessels that contain only a wise and ancient spirit. These spirits are called Genie, born untold aeons ago and living in forms crafted by flame. Many of them hold long-forgotten secrets and can share this information, and they must grant one wish to a mortal before they may leave whatever body they inhabit. Of course, they can only grant a wish within their power, and if they have found a comfortable vessel they have little need to grant wishes.

Magic Crystal Lamp by Yulia Matveeva

No human knows how new Genie are born, or even if they are. The gollo scholar Myerish claims definitively that there are precisely 888 Genie and that is all that have ever or ever will exist. Others claim that they were created by ancient masters as a precursor to golems, and still others claim that they were an ancient precursor to liches, perhaps even that a lich could become one given the right expertise. A chilling theory, to say the least.

Desire - Ceramics Sculpture by Olja Sofronijevic

The possessed armor Naril has famously guarded Leyler manor for generations. They consider him part of the family, and have even drafted a writ of nobility for him should tragedy befall their house. Travellers in Kajhar sometimes tell of meeting the Smelted Knight, known as Ayan Varim, and sometimes being saved from bandits by the clay warrior. Most veshkin could tell you about Maladesh Shattermouth, the eater, often spoken of in folk tales and nighttime stories to frighten unruly children. Any Genie would caution against such tales, as they know that Maladesh yet remains free.

Guardian Puppet by Raymond Chen