In Secrets in the Sands, there are three races: humans, ithuri and taevem. However, there are four human nations to choose from. For those of you wanting to play an elf-like character, the ithuri are your best bet. If you want to play a dwarven character, why not be a human suffering from dwarfism? Surely, he/she would prove to be a unique character. I mean, look at Tyrion Lannister. He is absolutely amazing.
Just a note - don't let the generalisations limit you. You can be an atheist Qondaran who tries to assimilate him or herself into Ashareen life if you want. Don't restrict yourself!
Since the Second Sundering, the Ashareen have risen to become the most powerful human entity in the world. An ample amount of wealth, a formidable army and navy as well as the myriad of riches available to them in Ashara has made the princedom the envy of many.
However, the Ashareen are not undeserving of their ascension to power. They have seen over five centuries of war and oppression under the tyranny of the Sword Kings. Though it has only been 50 years since the Battle of the Equinox, Ashara remembers the Sword Kings well, and does its best never to forget.
Ashareen looks differ depending on where they are from. Ezrastani Ashareen – Ezrashe, Jaina's Landing, Jadewater Port, Silvara and Erossi – are olive-skinned with hair of brown, russet or red. Their eyes are usually pale shades of green and blue. Byzarian Ashareen, from Angarak’s Fall to Vultorro, are brown in skin with dark hair and brown or molten eyes. Due to the harshness of the Sumari Wastes, Byzarian Ashareen are typically very thin and sinewy. The Ashareen of Marekhan and Khannis have ebony skin tones with dark eyes and hair. Hairstyles in Marekhan and Khannis are described as ‘savagely elegant’. The Ashareen maintain a very vibrant culture, so everything they wear is a coil of colour.
History: Ashara is a land of many nations united after the War of the Sword Kings. The Sword Kings ruled for nearly six centuries over four different kingdoms (the modern-day principalities). The Sword Kings were a brutal sort, hoarding treasures, starving their people, encouraging slave markets, killing at will, raping and pillaging and warmongering with the other kings. The War of the Sword Kings began when Jaina Gholein usurped her father and became the Queen of Ezrastan. Jaina was fair and just, and with the help of the Scorpion Cult, was able to feed her people and wage a war that would last 200 years. The Gholeins saw seven different members become monarch during the war. Silvara was destroyed three times, Jerichus outlasted a siege that went for two years, and the Bay of Blades was said to turn red when Ezra Gholein pushed Angarak Patel from a cliff and killed him.
When the War of the Sword Kings ended, Ezra united the four kingdoms and made it so that each kingdom was a princedom, and that the people would elect a new leader every decade. She oversaw the construction of the Sun Road and encouraged faraway places to trade with Ashara. Ashara soon became the richest place on Ceth. It is often said that a river of gold flows from Khannis to Ezrashe, and that poverty in Ashara is a house, clothes, food and provisions for your children.
Men of the Shadow
The Men of the Shadow are a young nation of humans with varying backgrounds. They hail from the shattered lands of the Firstmen’s Domain, where once they were citizens of the Lion Empire, twisted by the Second Sundering.
For the Men of the Shadow, their earliest memories are of charred crags and grotesque beasts. Food and water is scarce in San’leon and much of the kingdom is still uninhabitable. Those of the Shadow trust only themselves, and will kill if it means surviving. Their difficult existence has given them a sort of ‘frontier’ mindset.
Exposure to the energies unleashed by the Sundering has altered their appearance. Rather than normal flesh tones, Men of the Shadow are grey in skin with eyes of purple or dark blue. Though mutated somewhat, they still resemble humans in their build and structure. Another consequence of the Sundering is their emotional and mental states. Mental illness is commonplace for the Men of the Shadow, most notably psychosis and paranoia.
History: The Lion Empire ultimately destroyed itself. Political instability led to the War of the Houses, which led to the Second Sundering. The sundering created a massive storm of unstable arcane power that washed over the Firstmen’s Domain, searing away vast forests, twisting its creatures and breeding all kinds of natural mockeries. Those who survived called themselves ‘the Remnant’ and took refuge in the ruins of their cities, praying, hoping for a miracle.
Oreil the Lionblooded, the only noble to survive, rallied the scattered remains of the empire and established the Kingdom of San’leon. When he died, Sirius Shadowfang became king, and with him they became the Men of the Shadow.
Once, dragons were kings of earth and sky, casting great shadows over the lands as they hunted. However, each dragon was hunted down and slain, all except for Ghand. In his final flight, he unleashed his rage upon the Grasslands of Amor, turning lush fields into gardens of rock and bone and reducing cities of granite to crystal ash. Thousands of years have passed and still the Plains of Ghand are dead and burning. Those who have mastered this place are known as the Ghandish Men.
Ghand is dry and arid, a sea of fissured earth and dead rivers. Hot winds batter mountains and erode them into grotesque shapes while the sun beats down heavily. The Ghandish Men should never be able to survive here, and yet they do.
The Ghandish Men are an enigma to other nations and are only seen when they are north of the plains. In spring, they flock south to the Dragon’s Tears and frolic in the winter snows as they melt and give birth to rivers and lakes. As such, they are nomadic, and isolationist. They view foreigners suspiciously and will go out of their way to avoid anyone who is not part of their community. This attitude has convinced other races that the Ghandish Men are savage and primitive in their practices, but the Ghandish will tell you differently. They are bilingual, having three different languages excluding the Common Tongue, and though they are not sophisticated in their weaponry or construction, they are still smart enough to survive one of the harshest climates in the world. Ghandish Men are all part of one clan and fighting between them is rare. They value family and community above themselves.
The Ghandish Men are muscular and big-boned, with broad shoulders and wide hips attributes of both sexes. Their skin ranges from brown to black to dark yellows and reds, with eyes of similar colours. In Ghand, the young and unmarried are naked while the old, widows and married men and women are clothed. The bones of dead animals are a common sight, as well as okra paintings and animal pelts. Outside of Ghand, they are permitted to wear whatever, so long as they enter Ghand the same way they left.
History: There is very little history for the Ghandish Men. They once fought a war against the Free City of Ulaj, and have had dealings with the zyissian snakemen in the west. Ulaj is seen as an unholy place to go and the Ghandish Men call it ‘shar’halek’ or ‘blood place’.
The Ghandish Men have a very queer shaman called an aaleka. Aaleka means ‘earth-mover’ and it is believed that when the dragon’s blood flowed into a lake below the Dragon’s Tears, men drank of it, and were gifted with the ability to move the earth and mimic their senses with the earth (so, being able to hear things from a distance by touching the earth).
The Qondaran Grasses are part of the Principality of Marekhan. Marekhan is ruled by the Ashareen, but populated by the Qondaran Clans, who are so strict and rigid in their belief of the Qondarish Law that Merchant Prince Aesyris has had to make it the official system of law in Marekhan.
The Qondaran are comprised of hundreds of small clans, each with a different interpretation of religious law. Most are humble and happy, wilfully trading with the Ashareen and joining festivities in Jerichus. These Qondaran are worshippers of the Elephant God and deal only in qos. They build small temples in the savannah where they hoard ivory as an apology for the acts of Zemar. However, there are other clans who are savage and think of Qondarish Law differently. These clans are acolytes of the Hunter God Zemar. They ride fierce stallions and burn the Elephant God’s temples and obey no Ashareen laws. To them, they are Free Men.
Qondaran are typical hunters. They fashion themselves in animal skins and pelts and prefer the use of axes, scythes and spears. They are dark-skinned (in between olive and brown) with typically brown eyes and black hair. Men typically grow their facial hair and twist it and braid it in a fashion so that it resembles an elephant’s tusks. Most Qondaran are claustrophobic and favour the open savannah compared to the confines of cities or caverns.
History: The Qondaran are stained by an age-old conflict between the followers of the Elephant God and the followers of the Hunter God. The Qondaran Grasses are a battlefield between the two, and the Sword King Lazaro is known to have taken pleasure pitting both sides against each other in blood sports. The Qondaran did little to oppose Lazaro and his sons, as they could not be herded and restrained into cities. They rode the Grasses and spat in the face of any soldiers before they cut off their heads and mounted them on spears outside of Lazarne.
During the War of the Sword Kings, the Qondaran did very little until the Sword King Angarak began slaughtering elephants. Tales of great vaults of ivory in Lazarne angered the Qondaran and in great number they sacked the city and took many women and ivory from it. It was at this time that Angarak fell to his death.
In Dalrenhil, any creature that is not an ithuri is a lesser being. The ithuri are an ancient race, the predecessors of man, and the epitome of pride, arrogance and vanity. Ithuri are perfect, in their eyes, despite thousands of years of shame as the race that killed the Mother.
The ithuri believe that through discipline and self-control, they can be morally perfect. Their vanity and pride often clouds their judgment, and all are to behold the majesty of the ithuri. The cornerstone of ithuri life is magic. Everything they do is revolves around the arcane, from anti-aging enchantments to a massive weather dome around their desert capital. Through magic and an intense code of honour and ethics, the ithuri strive to achieve an unrealistic idea of perfection. As such, the ithuri rarely get along with each other, but detest all lesser beings and the gods.
The ithuri stand over six feet with athletic builds and sharp features. They are physically weak, a side-effect of their excessive magic use and addiction, and as such rely on markings called vitali to keep them healthy. Their ears are slightly pointed, and their complexions are golden and fair. Vitali are filled with pure magic and are activated through the will of the ithuri. Vitali can enhance strength, speed, intelligence, cunning and even magic. When they are used, they radiate brightly. In Dalrenhil, vitali are a form of currency.
Standing at over six feet, the ithuri generally have athletic builds with very sharp features. Their ears are slightly pointed like blades, but what really make an ithuri stand out are their light complexions and the various etchings in their skin which maintain enchantments. These markings, called vitali, are filled with pure magic. As ithuri do not eat, the magic maintained by their vitali keep them sustained and strong. Each marking helps to enhance various spells, powers and physical abilities. Common vitali markings aid in speed and strength, others in magic and discipline and glow with bright light whenever in use. Through vitali, all ithuri are considered mages.
History: In the Dawning Age, the ithuri were all part of an empire and ruled most of the continent. However, following the War of the Dawning Age, the ithuri were abandoned by the Pantheon and marched against their new children – humanity. When humanity defeated the ithuri, their empire began to splinter. Amor was devastated by Ghand, Talystine was invaded by humans, and the maddened ithuri emperor unleashed the First Sundering on the world. The devastation was so immense that much of the ithuri territories became desert and the Dothrevir Wilds were seared and reduced to a few vales and glades. The Mother of Gods and Mortals sacrificed herself to contain the magic that erupted from the First Sundering, which shamed the ithuri greatly. What ithuri remained rallied in the ruins of Dalrenhil and Kaydeir. Since then, the ithuri have isolated themselves from the world except for trade, but there are some who do still revel in the company of the other races.
The taevem (singular ‘taeve’) are a race of impish humanoids who reside in the bowels of the Erudic Wall. The taeve are a race of endless pursuits and boundless curiosity, who mourn for the powers they once had and seek out new avenues of wielding magic.
Taevem are small creatures, standing at three feet (some a little over, some a little under). They have large hairless heads with two big eyes, with pupils of red, gold or lilac. Their noses are a mere lump with two little nostrils, so their sense of smell isn’t all that great. They have the dentition of wolves and dome-shaped mouths with exposed fangs.
Their ears are akin to a bat, perky and small, and their skin varies from light grey to grey-blue and pale-brown. They have five fingers but four large toes and generally wear peculiar robes with cuboid shoulders and voluminous sleeves.
These creatures are diminutive but intelligent and thirsty for knowledge. However, their larynxes develop differently, so they struggle with the Common Tongue and other similar languages. Their tongues are more adapted to clicking and clocking, which is what the Taevic language consists of. Taevem are often very paranoid and claustrophobic, born with an innate fear of being trapped beneath the earth.
History: The taeve are not native to Mordyn, the continent of the Land that Prospers. They are from another continent unknown to Mordyn’s peoples, and miss it dearly. Theirs was an exodus of tragedy and bloodshed, where they saw themselves become the victims of genocide and slavery.
Long ago, the taevem were all gifted with magic. However, their magic was different to the magic in Mordyn. It usurped the arcane, and built its foundations upon the forces of time and reality. The taevem used their power to ‘unbirth’ kings and queens of rivals so that they could dominate, and formed a vast empire built on slaves and magic. Yet, the taeve dabbled in things they could not understand, and paid the price for it – power, and their beloved magic. When their enemies rose against them, their cities were destroyed, and they were killed or enslaved. Only a few thousand managed to escape, and many more perished along the way, but they finally came to the mountains of the Erudic Wall and settled here. Only a decade before, the first taevem envoy arrived in Ulaj to introduce itself to the world, and with it, the secrets of the taevem.