Lands: Also called the Greyteeth, the cloud-capped Greytooth Mountains hold their vigils in the eastern reaches of Midworld. The Tulken believe them to be the shorn fangs of Wyrm, the World Serpent from whom Midworld was made. Among the Greyteeth, Ekthalon is the greatest; the upper half of her form pierces the clouded skies and her lower half outspans the breadth of three lesser mountains. The misty Kingdom of Ixia is built upon this queen of mountains- along snow-clad slopes, atop jagged reaches and within the fiery depths of her core.
Wards of magical forbiddance guard entry into Ixia but the first and foremost sentinel of the misty Kingdom is the strength of Ekthalon itself. Beneath the clouds, she puts forth an ominous demeanor – her slopes are treacherous- sharp enough to draw blood and slippery to foot and claw. Many of the paths that wind around and upon her form lead to sudden deadfalls and deadends, their labyrinthine nature exacerbated by the thin shroud of mist that gives the Greyteeth their name.
Those who know the true path to Ixia and the password-spells that breach its magical wards will find the Gate of Patience, a runed mystic gate that blocks passage to a tunnel that digs into the mountain and terminates in a mile-high winding stair: at the end of this crucible is lonely island afloat upon a cloudy sea: the true seat of the Misty Kingdom.
Despite the antiquity of Ixia, large tracts of Ekthalon remain uncivilized and unpeopled. It is only near the top of the mountain that the rare visitor will find the main body of the misty Kingdom’s populace in residence. Architecture and craftsmanship in Ixia is beautifully ornate and painstakingly elaborate – reflective of the patience and meditation that the folk of Ekthalon are known for. Along slope and within cavern do the Ixians make their home. Nightkin and Gnomes tend toward shadowy residence in the latter while Troll and Shaedling prefer sky and mist of the former, a reminder of their ancient, ethereal homelands within Aetherworld.
The Nightkin say that the darkness and the heat bring them great comfort. Thus do they carve their Darkling Halls beneath the surface of the mountain, letting the warmth of their motherland’s heart suffuse their homes. Dimly lit by hearth, brazier, torch and occasionally by molten rock, the Darkling Halls are a vision of shadowed beauty – flickering illumination, engraved surfaces and carven stone create an air of meditative, smoky darkness that is a constant reminder of the Nightkin’s tormented history and an ever-present warning of corruption’s reward. Their population has never been in great number so the Darkling Halls seem even more lonesome. The Halls themselves connect individual Nightkin residences to one communal location, their individual hearths bound together by shadow and flame. Some Halls are market-places and ante-halls while others are temples and mead-rooms but the Darkling Halls are the heart of the Nightkin in Ixia.
Gnomes make their homes closer to the surface, creating the Warrens that honey-comb the flesh of Ekthalon. A Gnome Warren is a straight-forward affair, a lair occupied by one Gnome family and comprised of small dens adorned with semi-precious stones, treasured trinkets and abstract mosaics. Each den is either a communal one that is shared by the family (such as a study room or a feasting room), or a private one that is kept by one family member (exception: married couple counts as one member in this case). Because of their intensely insular nature, Gnomekind tend to hold residence away from one another. This is especially true of the Deeplings, who burrow furthest into the mountain and farthest away from the other Races. The Gemlings, in contrast, live closer to one another to more easily exchange information and supplies. Warplings tunnel shallower than the other Gnomes, living closer to Shaedling and Nightkin and sharing in the dark secrets that both Races hold.
Upon the surface, the Shaedlings and some Gorgons warp and craft the flesh of Ekthalon to their will, creating grey towers and stone spires that call to their Elven heritage. Their homes are often built atop crag and crown – with a winged Shaedling or Gorgon being an uncommon sight among tower and spire. Shaedling architecture gives tribute to their celestial origins, typically featuring sweeping balconies and balustrades as well as wide windows and open roofs. Each tower is home to entire household of Elves (with any attached Gorgons) and the spires mark communal or civic locations where all families and lineages are welcome (such as a celestial temple or a meeting hall). In the case of clustered structures, bridges of stone and Elven rope connect to the mountain or to the arcing, towering buildings that seek vainly to recapture the Overworld that the Elven Race once called home.
Being the most numerous of the Ixian Races, Trolls can be found along the slopes and ledges of Ekthalon. Their homes are squat, staired structures that dig shallowly into the mountain or symmetrical circular buildings that fearlessly brace the sky; however, both feature fluted roofs and are open to mist and light. Following the well-traveled wisdom of their legendary namesake, the Tulken Trolls build with function and longevity in mind. The storied Thinker of old had journeyed across Midworld for learning and for lore – and he brought back much of both regarding the artistry of construction (taking liberally from Elf, from Man and from Dwarf). However, the Tulken also build with their beloved ancestors in their thoughts: the befanged visages of Troll thinkers, heroes and other legendary figures ward the lineage of Tulken from roofs, pedestals and balconies. Ekthalon is also host to many such visages carved directly into the flesh of the mountain. Unlike the Elves, the Trolls allow the greenery of the mountain to enfold their buildings as ornamentation – Tulken Witch-Shamans patiently guide the foliage and the ivy to grow in ways that do not injure structural integrity.
The Crown of the Teacher
Upon the topmost reaches of Ekthalon is a conical ziggurat that houses the governing bodies of Ixia: the Crown of the Teacher. Wrapping around the exterior of the stone structure is a stair that leads directly to its top-styled with the likeness of the World Serpent’s coils and the scaly but serene countenance of Wyrm itself (more Troll than Wyrm) stares down upon those who step upon the end of its tail. The architecture is mainly Tulken though four Elven short-spires border the edges of the Circle, the main headquarters of the “Shadow beneath the Crown” or “Order of the Crown” – the guardians and messengers of the Circle of Teachers and the military arm of the Horned-King.
Law: The Circle of Teachers and the Horned-King are the primary arbiters of law in Ixia but King Malleus has the primacy in the order of governance. Several centuries ago, the government of Ixia became centralized beneath the reign of the Horned-King Malleus. Years beneath the easily factioned Circle of Teachers catalyzed a powerful need for the current regime and the storied enlightenment of Malleus made easy his placement upon Ixia’s throne, a place left unoccupied since the exile of the Grellken the Tulken King.
Strength does not rule in Ixia, only knowledge and wisdom and respect. The Horned-king and each Teacher have their own followers, their own ability to display military might although they are largely unused despite their maintenance. Centuries of tradition and a reputation of wisdom and justice have cemented their sovereignty, tempered by an unwillingness to use force to enforce their authority unless absolutely necessary.
Unlike many other Kingdoms on Midworld, the different tiers of Ixian society are not determined by one’s birth or even by one’s background (with the exception of the Shaedling’s Choir Matriarchs). Ixia generally regards her children equally and an Ixian’s ascension is usually due to their competence and experience rather than their heredity. Each of the Teachers became thusly through their own deeds and words – likewise, the Horned-King occupies his throne by the grace of the Ixian people than by the divine mandate or military enforcement that other Kings utilize.
In principle, the laws of the land stem from the Crown of the Teacher and root into the settlements scattered among the slopes, peaks and depths of Ekthalon. However, acts of edict and pronouncement are rare in the extreme – the Crown trusts each settlement in its self-governance, administering aid in the form of supplies, protection or guidance only when deemed necessary. Vast tracts of the lands remain unpopulated by the last war and the throes of its passing (disease, property damage, animal/spirit/undead attacks) allow a community to expand its borders without coming into conflict with potential competitors. This peaceful co-existence is reinforced by the slowness of Ixian reproduction, the varied nature of each Race’s favored environments, the cooperative nature of most settlements to the plight of neighbors and the cultural emphasis on moral and spiritual development that the Thinker had placed on his people.
It is this last factor that especially fuels the peacefulness for which Ixians are known. The Tulken have their ancestral shrines and effigies, the Gnomes, their dream-songs, the Nightkin have their meditations and the Elves have their Celestial Church; all of these promote thought, discipline and discourse over violence. While some Races may tend toward isolation, the value given to knowledge, communication and wisdom is so universal to Ixians that each scattered settlement a few members every year to the Crown – to learn at the feet of the Teachers, to speak of their concerns and to bring back what wisdom they can to hearth and neighbor. Thus is the reign and the reverence of the Crown continually reinforced without threat of military power to back it up.
The Tranquility of Tulken
The edict of primacy, the law among laws, among the Ixians is the Tranquility of Tulken: No Ixian may ever physically or, spiritually harm another with malign intent on pain of Exile. The last Tulken King extended the Tranquility to the remnants of the demonic army that invaded Ixia and suffered its violation to show his Kingdom that even the King was not exempt from it. While this law’s application can be debated and can be twisted, it is the truest spirit of the Ixian Kingdom – that harm may be given to none so that all may prosper.
Those who are exiled from Ixia or unlawfully flee its borders are at grave risk of succumbing to the dangers of Ekthalon. Furthermore, passing through the warding magics of the Ixian borders as an exile or an outlaw also means activating the Ward of Silence: all memory of the true Path to Ixia turns into mist and fades away – this means that they cannot find their way back home without guidance, further lending a mystique to the Misty Kingdom.
Despite the Tranquility of Tulken, Ixians are far from a silent people. Even a society wrought of thought, of discipline and of discourse will have conflict in its ranks – the main vent of contention is debate: in dialogue, in missive and in forum. The King and the Circle do nothing to discourage verbal conflict believing in the sharpening of minds through debate and philosophy, although careful vigilance is maintained to ensure that such disagreement remains in the realms of word and mind.
There are those that make a crucial mistake while observing Ixian society- that they are a people that firmly believe that all mortals are equal. It is a slight error that leads to a greater misunderstanding of the misty Kingdom. The Ixians’, especially the great thinkers atop Ekthalon, true belief holds that all mortals are not equal but that all life is worthy of respect. Some mortals are the children of Wyrm while others are shaped by the Gods, but everyone is a traveler on their own spiritual journey.
Family: Each Race has their own way of raising a family but Ixian families tend toward monogamous relationships when the marital is concerned. The spiritualism of the Ixian Kingdom encourages powerful, private spiritual bonds that resonate best with very tightly-knit bonds. Even the Tulken and the Nightkin who used to have polygynous marriages, that is, marriages with multiple wives, became maritally monogamous. Likewise, such unions tend toward less children as greater focus began to be placed on spiritual and mental development and discipline. Thus, the slopes of the largest mountain in Midworld remain only sparsely populated despite the antiquity of Ixian civilization.
Not all the members of a Race follow these familial patterns. The intermingling of cultures and the freedom given by the Tranquility of Tulken has given the Kingdom a plethora of structures to follow – nevertheless, majority of a given Race will tend toward the traditional familial groups of their kind, a behavior reinforced by social norms and racial pride.
Ancestor-centered devotion akin to the ancient tribal traditions of the pre-Ixian Greytooth Trolls characterizes the families of the Tulken Trolls. Celebrated ancestors known for their heroism and for their virtue were ritualistically cannibalized post mortem by their tribe so that their wisdom, their might and their spirit will stay with the tribe and strengthen it. Lost ancestors are especially mourned because the tribe would have to do without their guidance and their spirits. While Tulken the Thinker did not have a successor by blood, the lineage of his nine disciples, his spiritual successors who absorbed his teachings and ate of his stilled flesh, formed the cornerstones of the Ixian Kingdom.
Modern Tulken favor large familial households that number in excess of 30 members on average, up to three generations deep. A “proper” Tulken knows and takes pride in his or her lineage, based on one of the original nine Teachers he or she calls “ancestor”. When a Tulken has the ancestry of multiple Teachers, he chooses one to revere and to typify.
The governance of a Troll household is handled by a small group of elders, each the head of a family. A “ancient” is elected by the elders among their own numbers as the primary mediator and adjudicator – this is largely determined by wisdom, influence and reputation in that order. An “ancient” serves the household until death or until remove from his or her position.
Twilight Elf Families
Of the Races of Ixia, the Shaedlings are the least assimilated into the Ixian Kingdom – much of their lore, their culture and their faith remains the same as it was a millennium ago. Similar to the Tulken, the Elves of Ixia favor intertwined families that form a household or a Choir, an institution similar to a house. There are only a few Choirs in Ixia and they are small despite their conglomeration of multiple families – the centuries have not been kind to Elves of Ixia and the Elves are slow to reproduce.
More akin to Noble Houses than Tribes, the Shaedling family and the Elven Choir is matrilineal (tracing bloodline by mother rather than father) and subservient to a Matriarch. Hereditary lineage divides the family into a hierarchy of main branches vs. vassal branches dependent on the purity of their descendence from the legendary Twilight Empress Shaedis whose Empire spawned this darksome Subrace of Elves. An infrequent practice among the Ixian Shaedlings (though very rarely seen in Shaedlings of other Kingdoms) is polyandry, the practice of a woman having multiple husbands. The first husband holds the second highest place of honor and of power although the favor of a Choir’s Matriarch can make even the least of husbands greater than the first (a practice rarely utilized because of its destabilizing effects on the Choir’s rankings).
The Matriarch of the main branch of a Choir is the law of her family and of the vassal families beneath her. Similarly, the Matriarch is the spiritual leader of the household, second only to the Twilarch of the Celestial Church in Ixia. Heirs are chosen from a Matriarch’s blood; the eldest daughter is the usual heir designate though not the only acceptable choice. The scions of the heir designate are considered to be part of the main branch of a Choir while the other daughters, their spouses and their scions become vassal families.
The vassal families of a Choir are bound to follow the word of the Choir Matriarch, even over that of the family Matriarch. They also give deference to the members of the main branch, although the respect is a nominal one instead of a deep reverence. Despite this, they are not as lowly as their name would suggest in the grand schemata of the Shaedling family. The Choir Matriarch is expected to confer with her vassal Matriarchs in matters that affect the whole Choir. The Matriarch also treats the entire Choir as her kin, vassal or main branch despite the societal gap between the two kinds of families. A member of a vassal family might never rule their own Choir but they are nurtured, protected, beloved and respected as blood demands.
Nightkin are a strange subject in Ixia, being half-breeds that walk in the worlds of mortal and demon both. There is still a negative air that surrounds Ixian Nightkin; although some of it are just scars from the last war, portions of the negativity hail from their exceptionally charged demeanor. Many Nightkin are very passionate and violent at their basest, moreso than the Tulken. Years of discipline and education are necessary for them to learn to quell this tendency. The pall of misfortune rumored to follow each one everywhere brings many Nightkin a status that tends to be somewhat lowly despite the allegedly egalitarian society of Ixia. While this doesn’t mean that the Nightkin are persecuted or that Nightkin cannot rise high in Ixian society (Malleus is a sign of the corollary), majority of Ixian half-demons tend to rank low rather than high upon the Ixian totem pole, albeit is it much higher than the pariah, kill-on-sight or outcast status that they would usually bear outside of Ekthalon.
It is a known but an uncommon practice for a Tulken family to absorb a Minotaur of quality and honor into their household. Earstwhile, the Elves of Ixia largely keep their lineage apart from their Nightkin counterparts except for the rare union between an Elf and a Gorgon of great merit. Cambions are the most cosmopolitan of the Nightkin and are also the most prolific and numerous of their Race – which is not saying much considering their low rate of conception. It is believed that a higher rate of reproduction can be achieved when the partner of a Cambion is a human. In contrast, Minotaurs are the least numerous but these folk have gained reputations of honor, wisdom, strength and resilience as well as positions of counsel and direction- this is due in part to their longevity and the inspiration given by the Horned-King. On the other hand, the Ixian Gorgon is the most insular of their Race, preferring meditative isolation and soothing solitude over company – possibly because of their fiery temper and sharp tongue for which they are known and feared.
Ixian Nightkin who live in the Darkling Halls have small nuclear families and tightly knit communities that mingle socially without regard to breed or station. Amid the smoky, shadowed depths of their homes, this Race has found an inner peace that few of their kind has ever found anywhere else. As an outcast people to the rest of Midworld, the Nightkin have picked up tidbits of other Races’ household traditions and notions: the Gnomish private insularity, the Tulken egalitarian structure and the Shaedling filial loyalty. It is said that only a half-Demon’s mother could love her child – in the Darkling Halls, all children are nearly as beloved by the community as a whole.
Ixian Gnomes live in nuclear families that are interrelated with one another but are largely isolationist in demeanor, reflecting the gnomish tendency toward independence and privacy. Lairing in their warrens, a Gnomish family typically consists of the parental figures (who share duties and authority) and 2-4 children. Despite the individualistic streak prevalent in Gnomekind, these blue-skinned folks develop deep relationships with their children and with their spouse. These bonds are so deep that a Gnomish family seems almost psychically linked – so aware are they of each other’s thoughts, emotions and opinions that their very actions are words enough to carry whole conversations.
This is especially true of Deeplings, who favor silence and subtlety in their dealings. Families among the Whisper Gnomes are nigh-eerily quiet affairs whose silences can stretch for whole days. Astral Gnomes are less quiet although their sounds of their rare discourse rarely escape the immediate proximity. Gemling warrens are filled with whispered humming, melodical and haunting. Loudest are the Warp Gnomes, whose passions and emotions are sharper than the other breeds; their homes are filled with noises such as sudden laughter, sobbing or growling that seem provoked by some invisible nuance of Warpling conversation.