I'll divide these into individual pages as the lore starts to stack up. For now it can all stay here.
Aphelion's Sapient Animals
What's a ves?
Ves are funny little humanoid elf guys, and the main inhabitants of the Rhodinean continent. Some 14,000 years ago, the ves decided to stop being tree-dwelling animals and start experimenting with technology. Around this time, the Old Gods decided to teach them the Deitic language, so that they'd know how to worship right. The gods taught them a bit of introductory magic, like how to control fire, and most importantly, birth control. Then the ves were told to fucking behave themselves and the gods went back to doing mysterious things. This marked the beginning of the Vesian Era (VE), which is the third point in Aphelion's history that an animal became sapient. What happened to the other two species? They're not on Aphelion anymore. Try not to think about it too hard!
Over time, they migrated out of the jungles of Kenor, until ves covered all of Rhodinea. From there, they began to rapidly change as these new lands influenced the people within them. With time, the original ves had vanished completely, leaving behind the six daughter races of ves.
Get a load of these little freaks:
There's other defining characteristics, but that's everything in a nutshell. I'll be back some time to properly explore these concepts, don't you worry. I have a whole notebook full of this crap.
What have they done for you lately?
The universe and all the cosmos were built by the will of All Creation, a god whose death synthesized all life in the universe. The Creator's corpse allowed the Old Gods to birth themselves. From the flesh came Kjelchaikhan, who built the world of Aphelion with his will. From the blood came Tsenmaer, who gave Aphelion its oceans, seas, rivers, lakes, rain and ice. From the bones came Archaeos, who breathed an atmosphere onto the planet. And from the wretched offal came the first miniscule, squirming mortals that seeded the project Aphelion. The eyes of the dead god became Sun and Moon, destined to quietly watch all that had been created. The soul of Creation is woven into the very fabric of the cosmos, and it is most powerful on Aphelion, seeding this fledgling world and everything on it with innate arcana.
Kjelchaikhan (pronounced kyell-shy-con) is the oldest and arguably most powerful of the Old Gods. He took most of the corpse of Creation with him and made a body of horns and hooves and stone and magma. His ribcage is split open from where he birthed the God of Linear Time, his beloved son Kalakay, the most powerful of all lesser gods. This event happened shortly after Kjelchaikahn's birth, after the birth of his siblings, and after the Council of Repeating and Concurrent Events. Everything after that proceeds in an orderly past-to-future fashion. Meanwhile, Kjelchaikan shifted his focus to calling himself the masculine. He called from the void a burning, rocky place and molded it to his whims. He loved this smoldering world and shrank himself down to reside within the great mountains he had sculpted. Here, he rested.
The sea god, Tsenmaer (prononunced Sen-mer) was born from the blood of Creation, and she filled the newly born Aphelion with water in all its forms. So proud of her creation, she covered the most of the surface with it. She called herself the feminine, opposite of her brother. Her body was built long and serpentine with a dark and flowing mane. Her waters carved deep into the cooling rock, and Tsenmaer settled herself into the deepest and darkest of these sea trenches. There, she dreamed of ocean currents, rain, fog, and the freezing cold.
Sky god Archaeos was left with little of Creation to be born from, and so rose from the bones. They breathed a sky onto the planet, to coat Aphelion in a precious but tenuous layer of gases. They saw the decisions of their siblings and became both the masculine and the feminine, thus becoming the two-and-one. Both halves of Archaeos exist in perfect sync with each other, thus becoming a single deity. Archaeos, having worked the least, did not feel the need to sleep. Instead, they took flight to observe the world that had been created. Archaeos's gaze is long, and they have seen many billions of years. The strife of the creatures their eyes fall upon slip by like passing thoughts.
As sapient mortal animals began to walk Aphelion's surface, the Old Ones agreed to give them the gift of the divine language, so they might properly worship their elder kin. These mortal animals began to believe beyond the influence of the Old Ones and the Time God. This belief birthed a myriad of lesser deities who began to inflict their own influence upon Aphelion. When the first of the sapient animals disappeared, the next prayed their own pantheon of lesser gods into existance, and even reincarnated gods who died from lack of belief. The Old Gods, naturally, had mixed feelings on this shifting pantheon. However in their age, they rarely acted with any sort of immediacy. One lesser god in particular, Bartamus, God of War, has seen more than one reincarnation. He was slain at the hands of Kjelchaikhan early in the era of mortal awakening. However, the next sapient species, the reska people, simply willed Bartamus back into existance as Kjelchaikhan slept. Bartamus was slain a second time at the hands of Tsenmaer, when she pulled him down into the Terminal Depths, crushed him, and drank his essence. Once again, the ves would believe Bartamus back into existance, and the Old Ones are getting pretty fucking fed up with this nonsense by now.There's other gods. Lots of them. Keep an eye on this space.
There are holes in the monomyth. Every vesian culture knows the birth of the three Old Gods, but there are blistering theological arguments about some sort of "fourth god." The theory proposes a fourth Elder God who rose from the corpse of Creation, and who scorned the project Aphelion. This entity believed it could surpass Aphelion, and thus created a new realm. This was a catastrophically flawed place. Not even the eyes of Creation looked upon the fourth god's efforts. A realm behind the sun, as it were. Yet this thing felt so prideful of what it had made that the deity swore to strike down Aphelion. It would squeeze the spirit out of Aphelion and draw the eyes of Creation toward the shadow realms. So confident in this idea, the fourth god bragged to its greaters. The Three held council and came to the unanimous conclusion that the fourth god could not persist. It came down to the cruel hand of old Kjelchaikhan to strike the fourth god down. And when he did, he tore the thing out of history. All past, present, and future of the fourth god was torn asunder. In the wake of the execution, the only creatures with memory of this dead entity were the executioner himself, and his beloved son, the Time God Kalakay, who held onto the strings of that extinguished timeline.
This is the story that Kjelchaikhan himself swears by. He speaks these words to his priests as utter gospel. The Land God, however, is known for the art of the lie. He seems to do it for his own amusement. Most of the mortal ves understand this story as an allegory on how the Shadowside realms may have come into existance. Though the Land God swears this to not be the case, he seems to possess a bizarre sense of humor, so his sincerity is not always what it seems. The only other witness to the event, Time God Kalakay, has refused to comment on the subject. When asked, he will simply reply that his father loves to tell stories.
Please go pull up the world map in another tab before you read the following paragraphs.
The Grenvellan home island is the heart of Rhodinean trade and maintains great relationships with Ypsen, Amasa, and Uir. Kenor and Grenvel have a strong trading relationship, though diplomatically, things have been dicey ever since the Commonwealth took mainland Amasa in 14,375 VE, over a century ago. Grenvel and Valbaara's relationship has been hostile ever since the rise of the Third Empire. Grenvel enacted a full trade embargo on Valbaara after the violent annexation of Tirkau in 14,468 VE, and they were forced to sign an armistice after the Empire annexed Itas in a mere six days in 14,479 VE. In the ensuing 24 years, Grenvel has been sowing deeply-rooted spy networks in Valbaara as they prepare for war to reignite.
Ypsen, with their population on the downturn, begin to mobilize en-masse to stave off an unexpected Valbaaran invasion in mid-14,502 VE. They sacrifice land for time and trap the Empire in highly defensible terrain surrounding Bitter Wells, Devil's Tower, and the nearly impassible central wastes. Highly industrialized Grenvel begins feeding equipment and volunteers into Ypsen, including the exiled heir to the Itasean throne, Prince Johann. Grenvel and Amasa begin conducting military and naval drills with each other. The Kenoran Commonwealth realizes how miserably outclassed its own navy is and begins overcompensating ship building production. Not all of these vessels are up to scratch. Unfortunately, a recent purge of military and administrative officials has the entire Commonwealth on shaky footing, so a few crappy boats don't immediately ring any alarm bells. Meanwhile, the Valbaaran propagana machine is running at full clip to drum up recruitment for the war with Kenor that no one can talk Magnus IV out of. Rhodinea is a tinderbox, and that dumb bastard is enrolling in Fireballs 101.
Meanwhile, the Uirean king nervously begs Grenvel's navy for protection guarantees, because most of the country is uninterested in engaging with the concept of "government." All they can offer in return is meager arms shipments from the lightly industrialized south. The Grenvellan Royal Counsel decides this is a good enough excuse to petition parliament for a larger naval budget.Are any of the gods keeping an eye on this?
The Great War
What is the great war? In a nutshell, it's fantasy world war 1. If GRRM can do it with the war of the roses, I can do it with WW1.
A better answer: The Third Valbaaran Empire is young and its Emperor, Magnus IV, is even younger. He's got a lot to prove if he's ever going to step out of his father's long shadow. Magnus III kept himself busy annexing Tirkau, Itas, and most importantly, a large portion of the Golden Plains, before keeling over dead and leaving the entire empire to his cringe idiot son. Now our boy Magnus IV has his eyes on the prize- the rest of the Golden Plains. It is worth noting that by the time the war begins, Imperial forces have already been bogged down in the deserts of southern Ypsen for months, in what can only be described as a vanity campaign.
The war starts in the year 14,503 VE when Valbaaran forces march south into northwest Kenor. But little does the Empire realize, the rest of the continent has been very busy catching up with Valbaara's military tech over the past decade. Kenoran fortifications stop the Empire in its tracks, and both sides start digging in. Then everything else starts falling apart in very dramatic fashion. The Kingdom of Itas decides to stop being annexed and opens another front in the north, so Grenvel declares war on Valbaara in the interest of getting their territory back. That gives annexed Amasa some funny ideas, so the home islands declare war on the Kenoran Commonwealth. Ypsen, Grenvel, and Amasa form a coalition called the Triumvirate of Nations, which leads to Ypsen and Grenvel declaring war on Kenor, and Amasa declares war on Valbaara. So much for being home by the solstice!Meanwhile, Uir nervously watches all of this from a distance and offers meager aid to Grenvel. The other half of the Uirean population continues to herd caribou, unbothered.
Gender in Aphelion
The sapient mortals of Aphelion take their cues from the Elder Gods as best as they can. The Three who created Aphelion are asexual organisms who crafted the concept of gender for themselves. These were arbitrary decisions, and they will be the first to admit to this. The mortal creatures may or may not display sexual dimorphism, but the sapient animals have based their understanding of gender on divine decisions. The most important lesson taken is that the masculine and the feminine are not mutually exclusive ideas. The mortal ves learned to change themselves at the beginning of their awakening. Across their many cultures, the ves learned different paths of crossing male and female. Every culture has their idea of what makes "man" and/or "woman."
In practical terms, ves are able to modify their bodies in non-permanent ways to reflect the current needs of their gender and cultural role. It's an investment of a few months and a series of well-reseached rituals if you want to swap out a penis for a vagina, and if you're ever unsatisfied, it's only a few months more to swap back to what you had before. This can include, but not necessarily require, a change in body hair growth, voice pitch, breast growth, fat distribution, gametes produced, and plenty more. While most vesian societies fall fairly neatly into the male/female divide, the idea of someone who is both and/or neither of those things is baked into their creation myth. Meeting a man with a vagina or a woman with a penis is not the sort of thing that would turn anyone's head in vesian society. Riding on the heels of this idea, there are no societies that demonize same-gender relationships. Even in the sort of culture that emphasizes growth at all costs, two men getting married doesn't necessarily mean they won't make a bunch of children with each other.
All of that to say, the concept of transgenderism exists in Aphelion, though not necessarily as it does in our world. Although the ves would not use these terms, it is fairly common practice for a cis man to grow a vagina and ovaries for the sake of having children with his husband. Some people will change their genitals exclusively for the purpose of making sex easier/more fun, and not necessarily worry about how fertile they are or are not. And others will make a full and seamless swap from one sex to another, in a closer approximation of what we would understand as "transgender." These are considered non-remarkable changes in vesian culture.
Aphelion's Sapient Animals
In the history of the planet Aphelion, mortal animals have had sapient awakenings no less than five times. Sapience marks the period when an animal began to speak directly with the gods, and as such were divinely charged with the responsibility of their existance. The sapient animals are held to far higher standards than the typical animal. While the simpler creatures live in a state of blissful ignorance, the sentient animals are held responsible for their roles in the ecosystem.
Ves: The most common of the sapient animals are the ves, who dominate Rhodinea. They have spoken with the gods for over 14,000 years, and they are especially aware of their roles as animals. They're the third species to have an awakening, so they have plenty of mistakes to learn from. They were also gifted methods of effective popluation control by the Elder Gods, so the vesian popluation has never had to contend with the issues of unwanted children or unchecked population growth. Though terribly flawed, the ves do their best to live up to divine expectations.
?????: A species so foul in their behavior that they have had their name taken. They were the first sapient animal to walk Aphelion, and they are all gone now. They left behind incredible monuments that have since been reclaimed by time. Cities buried under the dunes, statues worn down beyond recognition. This species has a long and storied history on Aphelion that is no longer spoken. Scholars have given them many names- the first, the unknown people, the early sapients, and so forth. Not a single divine sees fit to speak of their ultimate fate.
Reska: A satyr-like species who came after the early sapients. They were taught many lessons incurred by their predecessors, but even that was not enough. The reska were a truly animalistic species, despite their language and culture and understanding. They fell into destructive behaviors early, and this took root in their societies. The reska fell into hedonism and unchecked population growth, and they began to threaten Aphelion's ecological stability. When confronted by the deeply offended architects of their world, the reska decided they did not fear the wrath of the Elder Gods. And for their hubris, they were banished from Aphelion entirely. They were forced to take refuge in the Shadowside realms, where they continue their cancerous growth. The reska began to take on two distinct forms in their new transient home realm, and they continue to engage in their destructive behaviors to this day. With no one left to stop them, they have ventured into very dark territories.
Olegarths: The olegarth is the fourth species to speak with the Elder Gods, and they have changed little since the first year. Though they are capable of intelligent thought and complex language, they choose to live the animal lives that their ancestors did. If not for their their worship practices and ability to speak the divine language, it would be easy to mistake olegarths for non-sapient animals. They have a low understanding of the arcana, and they only use magic to improve their day to day existance. They are well-favored by the Elder Gods for their naturalistic role in the ecosystem.
Terons: The newest sapient animal to awaken on Aphelion. This is a race of winged humanoids who live a largely arboreal existance. They are extremely social and live in large migratory flocks. They fly from one portion of their tropical continent to another, depending on the movement of prey and predator. They have extremely primative stone-based technology, and they are still firmly anchored to the native foodweb. The terons met with the ves exactly once before the Old Tsenmaer took action to keep the two species separated. To this day, the terons have an oral tradition of the great white-sailed creature that once visited their homeland.