The Influence of Geography on the Races of Talismyr
Before describing the races of Talismyr, it is important to know a few things about the world itself, since the geography of Talismyr has influenced the nature of the races and cultures of the world.
The landmass of Talismyr is a single band that encircles the planet with no entirely impassible natural borders separating regions. While some areas are somewhat difficult to reach due to the surrounding geography, most inhabited areas can be reached by foot alone. It is entirely possible for a person to walk around the entire world and return to their starting point. The land is divided mainly by altitude of the interior. Traveling east to west is relatively easy, while traveling from the southern coast to the northern coast is more difficult depending on where such crossing is made.
The unique form of the land divides two great oceans, known simply the North Sea and the South Sea. There is no known connection between the two seas and many of the North Sea animal and plant species are not found in the South Sea. However, there are enough common species at sea and enough diversity upon land to suggest that in the distant past, the seas were joined and the land separated in at least one region.
The division of the seas by the land results in weather patterns that are fairly mild across most of the world, with extreme cold only in the high mountains and extreme heat only in a fairly small, low-lying region near the equator. Rainfall is also fairly uniform across the land and is sufficient to support many large forests and grasslands.
Habitable land is abundant and there are large regions with gentle terrain, plentiful resources, and moderate weather patterns that support very large populations. Over time, people have evolved to meet the challenges of the regions they inhabit.
High, cold mountains with rugged terrain require a creature to have a low center of mass, great lung capacity, more fur or hair, eyes able to see as well in the darkness of sheltering caves as across the white glare of a glacier, and very sturdy feet.
Dense forests demand agility, enhanced hearing due to limited line of sight, lightness of foot to avoid roots and fallen logs, an extra measure of height to see over underbrush, and a slim and graceful build to enable climbing on and around trees.
Regions dominated by many small, grassy hills are best met by an overall lightness of build, strong and nimble feet, keen eyes to see within hill shadows, sharp ears to hear over hills and a generally small stature to keep energy requirements low to allow traversing hills more easily.
Rolling plains and flat grasslands, light forests, lowlands and shore regions in mild climates require a full and balanced range of physical and mental abilities.
In case you have not yet guessed by now, the dominant races are Dwarf (the sturdy mountain folk), Elf (the nimble forest dwellers), Halfling (the hill folk), and Human (the diverse and well balanced lowlanders). There are also Half-Elves, who enjoy some, but not all of the benefits of their human and elven parents.
All of these races evolved from related ancestors who hailed from the shores of the South Sea and are collectively referred to as humanoid. They have long since migrated to every compatible region across the world and continue to expand in population, particularly the highly adaptable humans.
Other races, distinctly different in biology and attitude, hail originally from the shores of the North Sea and are referred to as goblinoid. They have also evolved to meet the challenges of geography, though somewhat differently. The conflicts for dominance and survival between the humanoids and goblinoids are ancient and seemingly endless and have caused the rise and fall of countless empires.
The progress of all life is a journey along an expanding crystalline spiral, revolving around a single point of origin for eternity. The origin is obscured by memory of previous cycles. With each passing moment the origin becomes less distinct. For all practical purposes, it matters not where or when or how life originated – only that we understand every living thing is related, however distantly, to every other living thing.
Some suspect that life began here, while others speculate that life was brought here by beings from other worlds, either spiritual or mundane. Sages devote their lives to the search for the point of origin, for branches and intersections and parallel paths. These perceptive few enrich life, not in reaching their goal, but by the fruits of their search. Bits of knowledge and wisdom gained along the way advance life along the spiral, moving the searchers ever further from their objective. They, most of all, are aware of the seeming futility and absolute necessity of their work.
Perhaps, our progeny will someday gain such great wisdom that they may perceive the entire spiral and identify that first seed from which all else sprang. Even then, they will wonder at the origin of the seed and will be perplexed forever thereafter.
With such short lives, most of us are consumed by the present, the near at hand and the recently done. To the sages we leave the chores of reckoning, recording, and passing along all that has been and to guess at what is yet to come in the grand spiral of life. It is those gifted few who provide us with wisdom from ages past and hope for the future.
The purpose of life is to preserve and proliferate, with care and respect. It is also purposeful to be mortal, that we perish to make room for new life, passing on what we have learned, that our children’s lives may be even greater than our own.
In the journey of life, there is an order to things, and to stray too far from the path is to risk damaging the cycle itself. There is also some element of disorder to life, as the path is forever changing – expanding outward constantly into the future, of which each moment we can only glimpse briefly before it is upon us. Therefore, a natural balance is maintained between the order of the path and the chaos of change.
If only the past serves as a guide, hope cannot be perceived and the future will be an unwelcome surprise. If only the future is pursued, no wisdom is retained and the past is wasted. If only the present is of concern, there can be neither wisdom nor hope. For true progress to be made, one must understand the past, maintain the order of the present, and keep a watchful eye upon the road ahead.
Absent free will, living things are bound to the spiral of life. Given free will, some will choose not to heed the requirement of balance, remaining concerned primarily with order, chaos, or neutrality. As all life must, by definition, follow the path, those elements that do not heed balance in one aspect will be offset by elements of opposing aspect
At times, the weight of one aspect or another will make itself felt significantly – even to the point of nearly disrupting the cycle of life altogether. It is in such periods that agents of change are born or created with the purpose of restoring the path to its normally balanced state. As such events are typically dramatic and affect many lives, the events are usually preserved in heroic legend in hopes that future generations will be able to prevent or at least survive such disturbances. These struggles along the path of life make the journey interesting. In the retelling of these epics, one takes greatest advantage of the present to impart the wisdom of the past as lessons for future reference.
How you choose to live is entirely up to you. If you chose a path of strict order, you will be troubled by chaos. If you choose utter chaos, you will be oppressed by order. If you choose ambivalent neutrality, you will live as benefits you for the present moment. If you chose balance, you will do what needs to be done, no matter how popular of reviled, to preserve the path of life.
The path of life extends from the distant chaos of creation to the ultimate achievement of perfect enlightenment. Only by staying true to the path can we hope to succeed.
The wise among us have shown that certain acts and tendencies distract us from the journey and can threaten the very existence of life if left unchecked. Throughout history, it has been demonstrated that progress is only made where discipline is maintained. In the march of the stars through the night sky, the rise and fall of the sun, the ebb and flow of the tides, there is a steady, predictable pace by which we measure all things. The world itself, though seemingly random at times, behaves according to its own rules, and thereby shows us the value of order and the penalties for failing to heed natural law.
Though many sages differ on the exact nature of enlightenment, or the precise origin of the path of life, few deny that the proven course must be held true by time-honored laws that provide the best opportunity for a full and productive life. That which tempts us from this path must be denied. That which would disrupt our progress must be prevented from doing so. Any obstacle placed along the path must be overcome or be removed. Those who walk the path must be defended. Those among us who are capable will light the way for those who cannot yet see, will shun those who refuse to see, and will defeat those who would blind our companions.
Those who value life and seek enlightenment will find that order provides the most direct and honorable path. Walking the path in this manner pays tribute to those who came before us, and eases the burden of those who follow. In this way, we hold true the wisdom passed down through the ages, we remain vigilant in the present, and we provide a clear and hopeful path toward the future.
Your choice should be clear. Order leads to enlightenment. All else leads to despair.
Life does not follow a distinct line, or a fancy curve, or any other predictable path. That much can be observed in the world around us every day. Conflict abounds, from the eternal building of mountains and erosion of the shoreline to the never-ending conflicts between the many creatures of the world. Even the stars fall from the sky, not caring if they destroy a farmer’s hut or a noble’s palace or merely scorch an empty field.
Life exists to be lived as best one can manage. Imposing unwelcome order is just as self-serving as causing disruption. Order does what it’s told. Chaos does what it wants. Those who seek some sort of contrived balance between the two are simply fooling themselves.
The path of life is like a game trail through the woods. It leads from a relatively safe food source to a relatively safe watering hole to a relatively safe place to sleep. If the safety of any of these places is threatened, a new trail is made to adapt to find a better spot. Adaptability to changing conditions has been proven to be the greatest asset of any creature. Being able to move easily with the prevailing wind demonstrates flexibility and true strength.
Wisdom is gained not through the success of those who came before you, but through your own experience. The feats of some distant forefather, while they may be helpful in providing status or lack thereof, usually do not bear directly on one’s own fate. To believe remote heritage is significant is to bind oneself to the expectations, good or bad, of such heritage. One who places great stock in heritage automatically inhibits their potential progress in life.
The best lesson anyone can hope to provide for future generations is to teach our children to be adaptable. We do not know what will come tomorrow or a hundred years from now, so it would limit our children if we were to burden them either with rules that might soon be counterproductive or to leave them with a complete lack of respect for others – especially those in power for the moment. They must be able to recognize opportunity and be free to blaze new trails.
That which does not adapt will eventually fail. That which adapts survives, proliferates, and prospers. The one true path of life is that which you carve out for yourself, or find available and take to your advantage.
Your choice is simple: Live someone else’s life, perish by someone else’s whim, go insane trying to make sense of it all, or live by whatever means you find the most productive at any given point.
Life is best lived with great passion. Not pondered endlessly or squandered on pointless research into an irrelevant past. Anything that smothers the fire of life with oppressive rule should be cast aside. Life comes and goes – often without warning – and nobody really cares whether a life was lived in noble grandeur or pious poverty. The greatest heroes are forgotten soon enough. What matters most is that you enjoy life to the fullest extent possible, even if it means destroying those who would steal the fire from you.
Take what you need. Let no one keep you from that which you desire. Who is so wise that he can tell you what you should not do? Life tells you, your belly and your heart tell you what you must do to triumph over all.
Life is celebrated best when it is lived vigorously. It is better to live on a battlefield for one day that to live in a prison for one year. Death comes to all, no matter how they waste their lives defending the weak. There is no reward for mercy. There is no glory in the tedium of compliance. There is no valor in sacrifice, only admission of defeat. Remorse, guilt, and compassion, are the traits of those who wish to remain weak and suffer the rule of the self-righteous.
If you still insist that great heroes are remembered for their good deeds, think hard. You remember leaders who waged war, some against their own kin. You remember warriors who fought insurmountable odds and died in glorious battle. You remember rogues who challenged convention and law to follow their own paths. You remember those who fight in contests for glory and trophies and the means to afford the good things in life. You do not remember more than two non-fictional knights who lived more than a century ago. You teach your children to be strong, not weak – to be brave, not cowardly – to succeed, not fail – to be free, not slaves.When we meet on the field of glory, will your shout of victory be heard or will you be silenced beneath my boot? The choice is yours.
There is an order to the universe, a path that leads from obscurity to power. All creatures are born weak and seek strength throughout their existence. Those that remain weak perish beneath the feet of the powerful. The strongest, those with the greatest force of will, intellect, and cunning, can even transcend the bondage of mortality, extending the force of their life beyond the limitations of the flesh. Mortal life is merely the nursery from which only those worthy few may ascend into an eternal life at one with the very forces that shape the universe.
Only those who follow the path of power can hope to rise above the primitive, trivial concerns of less enlightened creatures. One must eschew the distractions of clamorous events, undisciplined thought, and ambivalence. Do not be touched by feelings that tighten the bonds of mortality. Do not give pause to those who would interfere with your progress. Use any means necessary to gain strength and eliminate weakness. Fear nothing, as fear is the leash of mortality restraining you from reaching your potential.
Heed the lesson of history: the powerful rule, the weak serve. Be always aware of the present, for many will attempt to force you from the path. Keep your mind keen upon the goal of limitless power. Pass on to your children the arts and teachings of the path, that they may aid you in your progress and surpass you should you fail. Bring those who will aid you into confidence, but do not hesitate to destroy anyone who betrays you. Reward those who serve you well with strong leadership. Suffer not the incompetent.If you wish to know greatness beyond the weakness of the flesh, you have only one choice. Tread not lightly on the path of power, but go boldly with strength, confidence, and irresistible force of will.
A successful society is built upon a firm foundation of rules that ensures the continuance of the society and the prosperity of its citizens. Pain and suffering are to be expected in life, but society should do as much as possible to ease such maladies to keep the populace safe and productive.
Life is a process of growth and development; however, unmanaged growth can lead to such disorder that has on numerous occasions been the downfall of great civilizations.
Cautious governance and vigilant defense of a society are required for its survival. There is such a thing as too much freedom when the abuse of liberty by a few can threaten the security of many. The rights and privileges of each citizen must be balanced, so that all have an equal chance to be successful and happy in life. Unlawful conduct is not to be tolerated, as such invariably leads to hardship and degradation of the community.
For our society to thrive in this dangerous world, we must maintain a level of discipline that cannot be assailed or undermined. Those who wish to succeed with us will abide the rule of law, be productive in their work, and teach their children to be responsible, to contribute, and to understand the value of sacrifice in defense of our way of life.
If you seek to base your life upon a firm foundation and make an honorable contribution to your community, then your path is clearly laid before you.
Life is a gift that should be celebrated with each breath. That which steals the joy from life, either by oppression or destruction, should be avoided – or eliminated, if possible. All intelligent creatures are born with the freedom to choose their destiny – and to take away freedom is the as terrible as taking away life itself.
There is no good in murder, no glory in vengeance, no nobility in tyranny. Everyone, no matter under what rule they live, truly wishes to be free to follow their own conscience, to explore the world unburdened by the unwelcome expectations of others. When this desire for freedom is frustrated, all sorts of awful behavior by the suppressed individual or group can result. If a conflict results in freedom, the newly freed people will seek peaceful ways at the earliest opportunity.
It is in the very nature of intelligence to search, to explore, to grow – and anything counter to this nature is harmful, as such reduces, by definition, the knowledge and wisdom gained by all. To restrict the freedom of a single intelligent being weakens us all.
With such freedom comes some measure of responsibility toward its maintenance. There must be among us those prepared to defend freedom at all cost. In doing so, it seems against these very tenets to take a life; however, if the life taken is that of an oppressor, and such loss results in freedom for the oppressed, then on the balance freedom is gained and the act required may be forgiven as necessary. However, to destroy someone or something that is merely perceived as evil or oppressive, when it in fact causes no harm to anyone, is utterly wrong – as the continued existence of such a creature can encourage freedom by way of negative example. Even so, should the creature overstep this premise and actually cause harm or oppression, its destruction shall be warranted.
In our world, there are many forces that conspire to enslave, by violence or bureaucracy – it matters little which method is used, as both are anathema to freedom. Those brave souls who oppose these forces to gain freedom and obtain peace are to be honored as true heroes, for they most often suffer without these great things by virtue of their service.
You may choose to fall in step behind those who would dominate your life, or you can step away from the tracks of others and find your own way. Which shall it be for you?
The most profitable path in life does not lie neatly within the bounds of an orderly society or completely within the wilds of constant change. Profit is most easily gained by taking advantage of the law of the land, the laws of nature, and any calamities that befall such. Success in life is measured by material wealth. One who acquires and maintains great wealth will enjoy significant power among his peers and notoriety with the historians.
The means by which wealth and power are gained and held are limited only in that they are successful and do not work against the primary goals. To give away wealth to the poor or power to the weak is to lower your status and become poorer and weaker in the very eyes of those you would aid. Such acts of seeming nobility and honor are actually acts of conceit and condescension. Awe is not inspired by humility, either in business or conduct of state. Pity is soon forgotten. Overwhelming success is remembered for ages.
A wise person will only purchase what he can sell at a higher price, will only fight for the side that is certain to prevail, will only promote a policy that will work to his advantage and will do whatever is necessary to ensure the outcome of any endeavor is in his favor. Anything less is to concede failure.
Fair competition is a contradiction of terms. No one competes without the desire to win, and winning often requires one to be as unfair as possible to assure victory. Let down your guard, grant any quarter and you may as well guarantee victory to your opponent. The historians write poorly of the loser, no matter the moral value of their cause. The only legacy of defeat is ridicule. The legacy of victory is immorality.
As such, it is only fitting that we teach our children the skills required to succeed, that we pass on to them every advantage we have gained in our life, that they may build upon the foundation of our success and in our name know even greater wealth and power. Teach them to abide and champion those rules that yield profit, to comprehend what manner of discord affords opportunity, and to fortify their will against thoughts of weakness.
Would you squander your heritage, and disrespect your forbearers by throwing away that which they worked so hard to build? Or, would you pay them homage by building upon the bedrock their toil has made ready for you?
Life is a gift, indeed. It is a gift that should not be hidden, wasted, misused, or taken lightly – whether it is yours or that of another. In fact, life is ours only for a short while – it is on loan from our parents, a debt repaid to our children.
The old man looked carefully at the long line of small stones to the right of the path. Each stone was about the size of a man’s fist, fairly flat and round, dark gray in color with simple markings etched into their faces. The symbols on each stone identified the one who left it there to mark the beginning of their journey, only to be touched again by the owner upon returning at the end of their circumambulation - their walk around the world.
He knew his stone well. He remembered marking it with a slightly jagged line to match the scar he bore on the left side of his face that ran from cheekbone to jaw, now joined by many other scars, both physical and otherwise. The memory of placing the stone beside the path and the hope of seeing it again is all that kept his feet moving some days, kept him crawling on hands and knees for a time, and running in fear more times than he would dare to mention.
The circumambulation was no slight feat. Filled with peril, few survived. Many of the stones here had been placed long before the man started his journey at the age of sixteen years. Now, thirty years later, he was within arm’s reach of his goal. Just where he had left the stone so long ago, it lay there waiting for him, his mark upon the stone now weathered and darker, much like the scar on his face.
He knelt slowly and said a silent prayer of thanks before he picked up the stone and felt what so many had described before in disbelief – the strength and hope he had left in the stone at the start of his journey flowed back into him, filling him with a sense of joy and pride in his accomplishment.
This man could now stand with honor before any king, any priest, any mage, and they would be bound by centuries of tradition to treat him as a noble, if not a peer. He stood and placed the stone in a finely crafted leather belt-pouch made especially for carrying the stone. A stitch-lined hole in the face of the pouch allowed his marking upon the stone to be displayed, so that all would know the man carried his own stone. That he had completed the circumambulation and had earned the simple, yet most profoundly honorable title: Walker.