Janhapurh is a world of oceans with four notable continents. Two of them are arctic and mostly uninhabitable aside from a few shorelines colonies. The other two support life and the continent of Baradvipa is significantly larger than the other. At the southern edge of that continent, an extensive archipelago of islands, known as the Tala Islands, can be found. Plains are located along the western and north-central areas with heavy forestation dominating the south-western coast and mid-eastern portions. Mountains crown the continent and top the western coast. Most of the east is lowlands, glades, and deltas.
Xembhala, the remaining continent is heavily forested and largely unexplored. There are a number of myths about lost civilizations, but no extensive expeditions have been undertaken to delve into its mysteries.
The views about mana on this world are very very distinctive, with the belief that a being possesses inherent mana within themselves, and the vortices contained within influence their spiritual growth and ultimate destiny. It is thought that magic can be blocked by emotional instability, the flow of the mana within being impeded by a clouded mind. Many also believe that a being can become more powerful if they are capable of joining their mana with that of the universe, the energy that flows through the land all around them. Harnessing that flow offers not only greater strength, but a possibility to alter one’s existing fate.
The Lotus is the most prolific symbol of these beliefs. While the common lotus is widespread, the potency of the greater Lotus’s power is legendary, and wars have been fought over the beauty and power of such flowers. The Lotus is so influential that it is central to nearly every culture in one way or another.
The Cultures of Janhapuhr
There are three major human empires, which collectively vastly outnumber the other races, but divided as they are, their populations do not overwhelm that of the other societies.
- The Jamaharon, the pleasure seekers: A sect of pleasure seekers who live high in the mountains. Ultimately, they seek to become disentangled from their worldly concerns, and reach enlightenment through knowledge.
- The Gandhawar, the traditionalists: A faction dedicated to the preservation of the old ways. Located in the north and central portions of the continent, they clash strongly with their neighbors which they feel have become heretics to the old gods and their place in the world.
- The Nuvedan, the modernists: The faction located in the eastern and south-eastern portions of the continent which favor progress, often at the expense of those who share the world with them. They are the primary traders in slaves, but despite that, they have made immense strides in understanding the world and freeing themselves of that which was once considered taboo.
Juggernaut – The juggernaut are immense temples, the center of higher pursuits and government wherever they can be found. The most shocking thing, though, is that these tremendous buildings are in fact, great living constructs dedicated to the peace of the realm, the last resort a city could call upon in times of great duress. Their architecture is extremely varied, no two juggernauts looking exactly alike, but nothing in the mortal realm is said to be capable of withstanding a juggernaut.
The Matsya believe that there was once more land upon which their ancestors walked with great cities that stretched far into the sky. Within these cities, the gods dwelled and taught man their secrets. However, according to their teachings, all things flow in a great cycle, and the gods departed from the world. A great flood came to wash the world anew and to preserve their civilization, they were given knowledge by the divine to transform themselves into the beings they are now. The Matsya dive the Samudra oceans to try and find the ancient secrets lost to the ages and the deep. The Matsya culture is one driven by a hierarchy of achievement, the greater a discovery, the higher a merfolk’s position in society will be.
One of the earliest secrets they discovered was the secret of flight, allowing them to interact with the dry world once again. Ruins are discovered perhaps once a lifetime, but it takes several more to discern even a fraction of their secrets.
Loxodon live in herds that are protected by their yoddha, a sect of high warriors dedicated solely to the good of the herd. Their religious beliefs and government both revolve around elder worship, working very similar to a tribal theocracy. The elders chosen to lead the tribes retire from their callings early, and undergo many years of learning so that they may best lead the tribe. Many of the highest members, including the yoddha, elders, and clerics have the mantras of their sect carved into their tusks. It is not a pleasant experience, but it demonstrates their commitment to the way of their people.
Nomad is the most prevalent class.
See Also: Sri Hara
The Druidic Rhox of the forets have long been victims. What remains of their culture has been split, forced into the deepest recesses of the Vanta forests and jungles to the west. Those settlements that have not been well hidden have been enslaved by the Nuvedan in order to perform heavy labor, shipping yards and merchant vessels commonly keeping a few of the enslaved rhox on hand. Their slave masters have their horns cut, a symbol that they have lost their freedom as much as a pragmatic solution to the Rhox’s natural weapons.
The last of the free Rhox were driven to the forests and some have made their way to the haven of Xembhala. Some of the enslaved Rhox have formed an underground rebellion led by a charismatic leader. Legends hold that he was once a slave himself, but he managed to escape and throw off the yoke of oppression. His teachings inspire those still in chains, but his teachings promote violence, a fact that many Rhox are uncomfortable with. Many that do show resistance choose to forego the violence in favor passive resistance.
A relatively small culture of gorillas that live in the misty jungle foothills of the western mountains, they are a secluded tribe who prefer to keep their own company and practice their traditions undisturbed. They are deeply spiritual society that follow the wisdom of their shamans, but fierce when roused, and there have often been times when they have gone to war over what could be considered very inconsequential matters.
The Garuda are the Aven descendants of the legendary phoenix, Simurgh. Simurgh was said to be the largest and oldest phoenix to have ever existed, using an entire mountain as its cradle and nest. During its final death, the explosion it generated cast its ashes to the eight winds which snatched them away and spread them across the world. Instead of the great bird rising and being reborn, each ash gave birth to an aven. And so the Garuda were born. They choose to live high up in the mountains, where the eddies and wind currents are strong, but without natural resources they are forced to fly down and raid lower settlements, making them considered a scourge amongst certain populations, a reputation that they carry no matter where they go.
Amongst their own settlements are monasteries dedicated to spiritual enlightenment. This monastic sect is called the 88 paths of flame. These monks combine spiritual teaching with martial arts and pyromancy, believing that if they master all 88 paths, they will reincarnate as a phoenix upon their funeral pyre. The yoga of the 88 paths become increasingly mental and spiritual as one approaches the highest practices, focusing almost solely on the spiritualism of pyromancy. Despite the seeming exclusivity of the avens to practice the 88 paths, they welcome all in their temples.
The only known natural predator of the Garuda are the griffins which inhabit the mountains as well.
The minotaurs of Janhapurh are an urban species renowned for their love of art and poetry. They are often found clustered around the Juggernauts in major cities, where they serve various roles in the temple, such as tending to the flower gardens and leading pilgrims in meditation. Though they are revered by most, they have been slowly pushed from the eastern lands by the Nuvedan and even the Gandhawar seem less inclined to welcome them to their temples these days.
The minotaurs have built a borrowed culture around the act of creation, and are known for their unique form of poetry, which tends to favor long, looping, liturgical contemplation of the natural world and is intended to be recited aloud, often as mantras. Minotaurs tend to dress in simple but brightly-colored robes and carry rosaries crafted from the horns of their ancestors. Their most notable choice of accessory is the way they adorn their horns, usually with garlands of flowers or caps of gold. They revere flowers, not only for their aesthetic beauty, but from the belief that the fragrances of certain aromatic blooms have a calming effect on the mind. It is only natural that many of the finest incense and oils come from minotaur monasteries.
The Viashino of this world live at the mouth of a major river and deltas, a sunken civilization hidden in shadows in the waters of the swamps. Originally descended from the dragons, they have embraced the ideals of how their ancient ancestors changed and worship the demons as the true masters of their own destiny, casting off the yoke of karma and rising to more powerful heights. The Viashino are assassins by trade, defined by their ambition and secrecy. Though utterly ruthless, they believe that the lives they take, offered to the demons, keep the Asura mollified and prevent the demons from trespassing into their world to collect their due, so it is in fact a service that they do for the world. Though they revere the demons, they are shrewd enough to understand the havoc they could be capable of and have no desire to see the Asura unleashed upon the world.
Their homes in the southern swamps are called the Dragon’s Teeth, though that is a title bestowed upon it by others. Whatever the original name might have been, it is lost to the ages.
The angels of Balance, work as agents of karma, supporting the good and punishing the wicked, strictly by the weight of a being’s karma. They lack the wings angels of other worlds possess, a second set of arms sprouting from their backs instead. A halo of light glows around their entire bodies, but particularly around their heads. Long lengths of ethereally white cloth surround their bodies, constantly flowing elegantly as if underwater. Aside from these they dress simply; white wraps around their hips and simple armored tops. They often carry rosaries that indicate their status in the divine hierarchy, with the highest of their numbers carrying rosaries so large that they wrap about their torsos. They are often associated with flowers, and their names are often derived from the names of flowers.
On Janhapuhr, demons, known as Asura, are formed when a being's karma becomes overwrought with sin. Each sin is aligned to a different color, which influences the incarnation of the demon. When a soul becomes utterly corrupt, and the weight of its karma is beyond what the wheel of life can bear, that being becomes a demon and their very form changes. This process takes a great deal of time, and no two demons look exactly alike, as they retain much of their former race. An asura is completely driven by sin, slaved to its whims and desires.
- Abhimasura: The asura of Pride are recognizable by their skin, becoming stone resembling marble or porcelain and the growth of multiple faces upon their heads. Around their body float disembodied limbs, circling around them and responding to their commands. Sadly, it is not unusual for angels to fall from grace and become Abhimasura, often for losing sight of their divine mission and instead, growing arrogant enough to put themselves first.
- Lalachura: The asura of Greed live only partly in this world, residing in part in the spiritual realms. They have massive ethereal claws at the end of their long arms that can rend a being’s mind and spirit. Their faces and shoulders are covered by their long hair, with only their glowing demonic eyes visible through the veil of hair. They collect resources, both material wealth and more importantly knowledge, which float as small balls of light orbiting around them.
- Krodhura: Demons of Wrath are bellicose beings with black skin and great vicious tusks. They grow extra arms topped with large thick claws and horns crown their heads. The horns and claws fade to stained red, as if dipped in blood. Bones jut haphazardly from their body, which they break from their flesh and use as blades. Whirling motes of spiraling fire rise from their skin and hair. Their hair grows wild, becoming long and flowing as if underwater, constantly flaming with the embers that rise from their bodies. Most of the Dragons, if not all, have transformed into Krodhura, though how this came to pass remains a mystery.
- Petupasura: The Green Asura are enormous and corpulent beings of unwavering gluttony. They have multiple arms and a wide, stretched mouth with rows of tiny fangs and forked tongues. They bring pestilence and disease that weep from sores, which grow larger as they become more and more sedentary, never moving, relying more and more upon their impish handservants. These Asura crave food all the time and will eat absolutely anything they have at hand. They prefer fresh meat and have a special weakness for new meat harvested from exotic beings. They wear thick make up, kohling their eyes and coloring their lips to fake the appearance of refinement. The Petupasura make their lairs in places of former beauty, corrupting it with their presence and lounging indolently.
Despite the influential role they have in the origin of the Garuda, very little is known about the Phoenixes.
Other beings of note
Aspara are Nymphs that dwell in the mists and seas, beautiful women who appear when the mists hang above the waters. They recline on rocks and entice sailors with their displays or songs. They tend to come in groups and affect tempting manners to get people close enough to them.
Despite the similarities to sirens, the Apsara save people who crash and hold them prisoner. They are unable to leave because the Apsara crave attention and they'll lavish the prisoners with gifts and pleasures. The mists that form on the seas act as a gateway to the Apsara's palaces, far far up in the clouds. Naturally, this means that sailors 'ware the mists that blow in. Eventually they will let the men and women they take go home, but not before they exchange that freedom for something new from the outside world. Usually a new dance or new song that they've never seen before, but they have a darker impulse of plunder too. They hunger for art and have been known to crash boats to harvest the goods on the ship, or even the ship itself if it's nice enough.
Apsara occasionally turn up where you wouldn't expect them. The imperial courts take huge pleasure in having an Apsara appear and they are drawn to festivals. The mists are the only thing which dictates where an Apsara goes. They can turn up on land, but are most often associated with the sea.
The true history of the Rakshasa, a race of vampiric creatures, is lost in the annals of history, but the Matsya believe that they were a race of catfolk known as the Narasimha that existed before the great flood that washed the world clean. If this mythical race truly existed, when the rains started, some of their kind turned from the gods, incensed that they were passing judgment upon the world. Most accepted the gods decision, but those that grew angry turned to the demons for their salvation. Hidden away in the demon’s realm, they weathered the flood outside and when the waters receded, the survivors emerged, unaware that they had been transformed by their time in the demon's lair. They were driven mad when they learned of the horrible thing they had become. They are so bestial now, that it is difficult to believe that they were ever more than horrible monsters.
The Rakshasa love the taste of flesh, craving it almost incessantly, and that drives them to consume as much as they can, but there is none they savor more than the flesh of man and his equals. The Rakshasa are hairless and their skin is charcoal black, their limbs and claws disproportionately long, making them a disturbing sight. It is unknown if any Rakshasa has ever become a demon, but given the evil of the Rakshasa, it would seem they were ideal candidates. The fact that none have ever known of such a transformation has led some to speculate that the Rakshasa simply have no souls.
The naga are the mortal enemies of the Garuda, what few Naga are known in Baradvipa. The solitary guardians and keepers of natural secrets and lost treasure, the naga take their duty very seriously. The only culture to have successfully negotiated with the Naga are the Matsya, but despite that, the austere Naga have little affection for the merfolk.
It is rumored that, despite their rarity on Baradvipa, there are entire societies of Naga on the continent of Xembhala, but no evidence of these tales exist.
In the frozen peaks of the mountains, these terrible predators lurk. They are elusive, and if you are hunting it, sooner or later, it will begin to hunt you. Standing twice the size of a man, with long, thick limbs, the yeti are capable of terrible violence and they are utterly bereft of any empathy. They have horrible twisted claws and sharp fangs which have ended countless lives.