Places of Voraniss: Arashimura

Hidden upon a cliff overlooking the southern forest, the ruined keep of Arashimura blends in with the stone of nearby mountains. As far as recent memory can recall it is one of those structures that has just always been there. Its appearance gives testament to that fact, for the land has reached out to start reclaiming it, and has done quite the number on the place. The roof has mostly crumbled away, and the walls are green with vines and roots both inside and out. If you get close enough the pungent odor of damp earth will envelop you. A heavy blanket of silence rests over this place as it lies forgotten in its eternal vigil, waiting for some adventurous soul to come and unlock its many secrets of once upon a time.

In an attempt to discover the origins of this place I quickly came upon a problem. None of the locals knew anything. The keep was too old. Too mysterious. It hadn’t affected their families, or their history as far as they knew, and so they had left it to its own devices with nothing more than mild curiosity. I asked all the werewolf packs, who directed me to the scant few Elves that remain within our borders. Then the Elves directed me to the Trees. They were the oldest and wisest of beings, the Elves reassured me. If anyone had been around to see the construction of the keep it would be them.

I set off from there to find the Ent Grove. It shifts around every so often so you can’t always count on it to be in the same place twice. It surprised me that I hadn’t considered talking to them before until I remembered that they were notorious for slow speech and straying off topic. If I was going to get the information I needed out of them, it was probably going to take a while. No matter, I told myself. There was knowledge to be had and my mind was hungry for their truth.

Through Voraniss I hiked until I found them setting down their roots close to the river fork that lives halfway between the shrines of Bear and Wolf. I could hear them before I saw them as they gently swayed in the breeze, sighing with happiness as they reached up towards the sun with ancient creaking joints. The Ents always make me smile. They are huge creatures, capable of great destruction if they chose to march into battle, but they are also very gentle. They appreciate the simple joys of life and from them I believe all of humanity could learn how to better love the world they are a part of.

I approached the Ents and greeted them; customarily listing out all the types of trees that were gathered in the area: Oak, Birch, Maple, Ash, Beech, Elm, and so on and so forth. It is important to the Ents that each Tree receive its own recognition in greeting. Once I made the mistake of not distinguishing between Sugar Maple and Red Maple and they were very offended. Hard lesson learned. I was fortunate this time and didn’t make the same mistake, so the Ents were forthcoming with information. I would need to go and speak with Autumn-Elm.

For those of you reading this tale that don’t know who Autumn-Elm is, he’s the oldest tree in all of Voraniss. He’s so old that most of his leaves are gone, leaving him in a perpetual autumnal state; thus the name. He is venerated by all races and peoples of our land, and considered to be blessed by Gaia herself with longevity and wisdom. It is said that when he was in his prime one leaf given freely from his branches could heal even the direst of ailments. Since then he has been a collector of history and legends, sharing what he knows with those that come to speak with him…provided you have earned his trust. I knew I couldn’t go see Autumn-Elm empty-handed. We weren’t that well acquainted yet, and I didn’t want to start our relationship off on the wrong foot. Up to the Shrine of Salmon I ventured, collecting a vial of sacred water from a nearby stream. It would be the perfect thirst quencher for a blessed tree.

I’m sure you don’t care about the tedious portions of my adventures, the ones in which I wandered around the Voraniss wilderness and hopped from place to place as I followed my trail of inquiry. I shall spare you from further derailment, and tell you now what I learned from Autumn-Elm; along with my reassurances that he was very grateful for my gift. According to him, the story begins not in Voraniss itself, but in the lands of Teng Hua with a woman named Tatsukawa Yamabukime.

According to Autumn-Elm, Yamabukime was a Priestess from across the seas who was guided to Voraniss by a great Serpent spirit, or some kind of wingless dragon. She wasn’t your typical pacifist Priest, or froofy ceremonial type. Yamabukime was a Warrior Priestess who spoke with the authority of thunder and struck with the speed of lightning. When she came, all she carried with her were the clothes on her back and a beautiful katana bound in deep blue and adorned with aquamarine stones that reminded her of the sea.

The spirit led her great distances and up the cliffs until she arrived in the area where the present day keep stands. From up there she could see far across the beautiful and foreign landscape, knowing deep within her heart that she would never return home to Teng Hua. Before the sun set she could make out the approach of heavy storm clouds and knew that she had to make herself some shelter if she was going to survive in this place.

That night the winds raged and the rain fell in violent torrents from the sky. The storm did not disappoint the Priestess, and was as dangerous as she had predicted. Suddenly, without warning, lightning split the night sky in a powerful flash of blinding light; and the rocky cliffs shook with heaven’s fury. But the lightning began to move with purpose and took form as the great Serpent that she knew from her travels. He curled himself into a circle as he neared the ground, still sparking and flashing as though his body was made of the lightning itself. His powerful heat charred the earth where he spiraled and soon he was gone.Lightning Strikes

The next day, Yamabukime rose from slumber so that she might get a better understanding of what had transpired the night before. It had been hard to see exactly what happened in the dark, so it fell upon the light to provide answers. Much to her surprise, a perfect circle had been burned into the rocky ground where the lightning serpent had touched it. This was the sign she had been waiting for, a sign of her purpose in this place. All around her she could feel the power of the natural world swelling with pride, and the song of the elements in harmonious rhapsody.

Brick by brick Yamabukime began to build around the circle. We know now that the structure wasn’t a keep at all, but rather a temple or monastery intended to act as a point of empowerment for the elemental spirits. She made slow progress until Autumn-Elm took up some of the heavy lifting, and some playful Pixies started to help by enchanting the stone to be lighter. Each time she put a stone into place, Yamabukime would say a heartfelt prayer to the sky. A normal person probably would have grown weary of such endless manual labor, but Yamabukime never tired. She worked for years until her task was finished, and the stone monastery was complete; centered on the circle of lightning that had marked the earth. The place was aptly named Arashimura, which in her tongue used the words “Arashi” or storm, and “Mura” meaning circle.

Autumn-Elm believed that Yamabukime had intended for this place to be enjoyed and beloved by the peoples who worshipped the elements as she did, but when he went back one day to visit her…she had disappeared. He can’t be sure where she went, but he believes that she finally grew her own wings and was carried off by the breeze to where she was needed next. All that was left behind was her beloved katana, which he sealed up within the temple walls for a worthy soul to discover when the time was right.

Arashimura has changed since then. Now it is mostly inhabited by us werewolves of Hygar’s line looking for a place to escape the sun and find a shady corner. I myself have my own room within the keep where I keep a few modest shelves of books and scrolls that I’ve collected over the years. I call it my own personal library. It is hard to imagine that once upon a time this place was built by the determination of one woman and her wild friends, a woman that vanished without a trace. I wonder what happened to her, or where her blade might be hidden, but those are mysteries that must be solved another day. For now, I have a newfound respect for this place and will teach the others about what I’ve learned. The story of Yamabukime will not be forgotten again.

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Lore of Voraniss: The Asena Pack by Gundulf (Adrian Cronin)

The Asena Pack, though not the oldest pack in Voraniss, was one of hardest for Hygar to convince to join his newfound nation. These wolves had taken to the darkest aspects of their nature. They would raid the villages both within the wilderness of Voraniss as well as outlying neighbors.

Many of their Pack were the remnants of what was once known as Darkspire. Without a diplomatic purpose most armies break, giving into desertion and infighting; but the bonds of the pack are not so easily cast aside. And so when the strongest of the wolves arose, a bitten lycan General by the name of Brutus, the pack was given purpose once more.

As Brutus grew bolder, even building ships in order to raid the coast of faraway nations, a different wolf was organizing the other packs.

This wolf was, of course, Hygar Athame; the future Arch Druid of what would come to be known as Voraniss. Hygar knew that Brutus was getting out of control, but did not yet have the numbers to challenge him directly. And so Brutus attacked the many strongholds of neighboring nations; never returning to the same place twice, swelling his ranks with the bravest of warriors from each nation and preparing for the conquest of the Darkspire wilderness. 

It was not until Brutus began to turn his warriors back towards the peaceful villages within Voraniss that Hygar knew he was out of time. For Hygar’s counterpart, Mouse, had witnessed the destruction of one of the villages. Hygar knew if he did not act quickly, that numbers be dammed, she would be bringing the purging light of Vandor to the Asena tribe.

So he mustered what he could of his ever growing Druidic pack and called upon as many allies as he was able before meeting Brutus on the battlefield.

On the eve of the battle, the full moon rose. And something did not feel right in Hygar’s gut. There was a stillness in the air, and it wasn’t long before he heard the howling of Brutus’ first wave. Mouse was already at the vanguard with a sizeable force of Vandorian Templars who had answered her call, and they were cutting a bloody swatch through the front line of the Asena pack. Hygar decided to tap into his growing mastery of nature and discern a path to Brutus himself. Oddly enough, Brutus was attempting the same thing towards Hygar, hoping to slay Hygar and swell his ranks with limited loss of future minions.

Hygar transformed fully and charged off towards Brutus, spotting him long before Brutus had been able to focus his senses. When Hygar landed in a crash before the General and his bodyguards, much of the battle came to a pause upon hearing the magically infused roar that Hygar blasted in Brutus’ direction.

Hygar was by far the largest wolf any of the lycans had ever seen. While the Asena pack looked forward in awe, Brutus’ rage doubled and his body cracked and distorted into the form of a hideous, drooling wolf with shambles of cracked armor adorning his menacing body.

The two clashed ferociously, smashing and splintering nearby trees. The battle lasted many hours with most of the wolves of either side looking on in amazement.

Alas, Hygar was outmatched in terms of sheer martial prowess. Brutus had been a veteran of countless wars across the years. But Hygar carried the blessings of many of the totem spirits this day and, unbeknownst to him, the favor of both Gaia and Luna. The longer the fight lasted, the stronger he became, and the faster he seemed to be regenerating. Finally Brutus, covered in blood and patched fur, including a nasty wound across his eye which looked to be permanent, fell to his knees and told Hygar to finish it.

For a moment, drunk off of battle, Hygar considered ending Brutus and taking control of this massive pack. With an army this size Hygar could shake the realms to its very core. But this was the corruption of Darkspire. A corruption which had distorted many of these beautiful creatures into the monsters that now stood here before him.

Hygar walked toward Brutus slowly, shifting effortlessly without slowing pace, and placed Brutus’ head in his hands. As Hygar’s hands laid upon him, Brutus’ many wounds began to heal. Even his mangled eye. Taking a cue from their master, the many Druids began to heal and resurrect the fallen warriors of either side.

Brutus could not comprehend such mercy. A mixture of shame and humility washed over him and seemingly without notice, he felt his head bend into a bow.

Hygar allowed Brutus command over the Asena pack, but peace would be brokered between all the packs within Voraniss. Their differences celebrated with their wolves free to choose which pack to follow. All Alphas would report to Hygar and they would unite in times of conflict and strife.

Many of the Asena pack broke off and joined with packs better fitting their values and customs. The need to follow strength now a choice instead of a necessity.

Creative Showcase Double Feature

The Dream by Lyra Corvo

Alligator

She cleared her mind of all but that longing, that deep need of her beautiful hidden world she shared with none. As she walked out into the water, her bare feet sinking comfortably into the soft silt of the bottom, she could think of nothing else. Lazy dragonflies welcomed her as she waded deeper, then finally dove beneath the still surface.

The water was muddy green-brown with spears of light giving her glimpses of turtles and tadpoles before her eyes adjusted to the filtered glow. Effortlessly, she glided far below the murky surface through a wonderland of tangled mangrove roots. Reaching out to touch their algae slick surface, she marveled at the beauty of it all. Everything was connected and she was a part of it.

Forests of gently waving lily pads dance far above her, and the wind whispering through the swamp grass knew her true name. Home. She was home. Here in the murky depths, looking up at the pale checkered belly of an alligator, she found solace. Quick as an eel, she wove in and out of massive root systems, and all the awkwardness of society melted away.

Poem of Wind by Artair

Wind Clipart

 

Mischievous child of earth and fire
constantly fleeing from the freeze
stirring dust and agitating trees
throwing around water causing ire

fueling storms that soak and mire
adding more energy with every breeze
you whip up frenzy and cause unease
constantly moving with unknown desire

though your energy cannot be restrained
you bring about much needed change
spreading words and warning    longer

with whispers and scents of life contained
you carry seeds to places strange
because of you the world is stronger

 

Don’t Kid Around With Kidding: By Amara Shael

As we enter the time of the Ram, also known as the month of March, Gaia begins to wake up from her long slumber and life starts to return to the Realms as a whole. For some, this means more feasts, questing, and adventuring now that the snows have started to melt and trails across the land become easier to travel. For others it is birthing season, which makes for a busy time around a farm as the newest animals are being born. It’s a lot of work getting ready and then caring for newborns after all. So, in the spirit of spring, I have decided to write this to help those that are raising goats for the first time and going through process of “kidding.” Hopefully it will make it easier for others, or just to let them learn a little more about the process.

One of the most important things you can do is have an idea of when the nanny (female goat) will be giving birth. You will want to be there to help with the process, and to be fully prepared in case of difficulty.  Thankfully there are several signs one can look out for to see that the time is coming closer for your nanny to give birth. One of the best hints is the state of the nanny udders, as within 24 hours of the birth her udder will fill with milk for the coming kids. This gives you enough time to get things in order and watch for behavior changes like separating herself from the herd and nesting; both signs that she will soon be entering labor. This is an also an excellent time to change into some clothing that you don’t care about getting bloody, because from here on out things will get messy. Ultimately it may be a little bit of a waiting game. Every goat is different.

The waiting will be at its end when a bubble or thick slime begins to come out of the uterus. This is a sign that the kid is being pushed out. At this point look for a hoof coming out, and the direction the sole is pointed. If the sole is up the kid will be coming rear first. If the hoof is pointed down, it means that their head is coming out first. You can softly grab the hoof and pull while the nanny pushes to help. When the other hoof is out you can alternate pulling on the legs with her pushes until you can see the neck.

At this point we come to the hardest part for the nanny, getting the kid’s head out. At the same time as the nanny pushes, pull harder with both legs until the head is free. The nanny may choose to rest a bit after this, but thankfully the rest of the kid should come out easily at this point with a few more pushes. Once the kid is out check to make sure the nose and mouth are clear of the fluid. Then hold the kid up by the rear leg’s ankles so that any extra fluids in the mouth and lungs drain out. Make sure you have a good hold as they will be slippery!

After that, put the kid down next to the mother so that she can help you clean the baby and bond with them as she gets ready for round two. You can use this time to clean up some of the mess from her giving birth. This process will be repeated until all the kids are born, though thankfully after the first kid the nanny should be more stretched out so it should be easier for her. The kids should be moved to a cleaner part of the stall once you’re able. The nanny will also move to a new area when she’s ready.

The final thing that needs to be taken care of is to make sure that the kids get their first meal. Get a feed bag and feed the new mother. She just did a lot of work and should get a reward for it. While doing this, make sure that her teats are not plugged. If no milk is coming out, squeeze them until the plug comes out. Then guide the kids to her teats for their first meal while encouraging them to stand.

All that’s left now is to finish cleaning. Make sure all the afterbirth is taken care of, as well as the nanny’s hind quarters. You’ll also want to make sure the kids are completely dry. With your work done, you can now leave your goats to bond with each other and maybe even take a short nap.

Legends of Voraniss: The Story of Osag

If you ask around the Realms, people will tell you all kinds of things about spirits. Some adventurers believe that spirits are simply the restless dead, while others will tell you that spirits are their own type of being from another plane of existence. Going farther out there, some people will think you’re talking about booze and they’ll get all excited. In Voraniss we have a special relationship with the spirits; for there are many that have chosen to take residence within our borders. Some of these spirits take the shape of animals, and we have built various shrines to them all throughout our territory. One of my favorite spirits is Osag, the Guardian Bear, and it is he who I wish to tell you about.

Osag’s legend is one beloved by our locals. It begins long, long ago when humanity first arrived within the lands presently known as Voraniss. Never before had they seen such ancient trees, and they felt as dwarves beneath a giant’s heel. Fish and game were bountiful, and so the humans were able to wander free from place to place as they followed after that which they hunted.

Osag was one of these early humans; a proud warrior who led his tribe forward by the point of his spear. Osag’s life hadn’t always been so blessed, however. He had grown up without parents, as many adventurers do. His mother had fallen early on to a particularly harsh winter famine, and his father had died a warrior’s death charging into combat against an enemy tribe. The others helped him as best they could, but he was expected to pitch in often; to prove beyond a doubt that he was more than a burden. The labor made him strong, and by the time he was a young man he was larger than most of the adults. Osag’s size made him a natural leader on the hunt, and the strength and wisdom that came with his experiences made him a fierce opponent.

I tell you this so that you might understand what was going through Osag’s mind when he first entered the forest and saw a wounded bear cub struggling to survive on its own. With no parents in sight the weakened creature mewled and cried out in distress. It was a perfect target for the hunters; easy prey for them to enjoy without risking their health or energy. But Osag couldn’t let them take the creature, for something in him related to its predicament. He remembered how alone he had felt without his parents to guide him, and his heart softened. Instead of dinner, the creature became his companion.

As Osag aged, so did the bear. It grew larger and more powerful, towering far above the men of the tribe when it stood on its hind legs. Many of the others in Osag’s tribe were wary of the creature, for they did not trust the instincts of a once wild animal; especially not one as huge as the bear. Osag didn’t mind though, and he continued to treat the bear as a brother. They hunted together, slept next to one another, and even shared their food.

One fateful winter Osag’s tribe was having trouble finding game. They had traveled south towards the thicker forests of the land, but heavy snowfall had left them stranded and hungry while the deer outran them. The people began to get restless, and supplies were running low. As desperation grew one man suggested that Osag let them kill and eat the bear so that they might save themselves. Osag refused, and a fight broke out as tempers flared.

Punches were exchanged as the two men brawled to resolve their differences, and Osag threw his adversary to the ground where he got a mouthful of snow. Furious that he could not beat the mighty Osag with his fists, the man got back to his feet and reached for his spear. Raising his arm behind his head, he threw it forward before Osag could arm himself. Only, he didn’t aim for Osag…he aimed for Osag’s beloved bear. Osag cried out in warning, springing to life as he ran for his companion. There wasn’t enough time to get his own weapon, or to hit the soaring spear out of the way. Sorrow swelled up deep within his heart as the realization dawned upon him.

Osag did the only thing he could think of and threw himself into the spear’s path. The weapon pierced his lungs and pinned him to the ground. Everyone was in shock, but none more so than Osag’s bear who no one now dared touch. It stood up on its hind legs to roar, chasing off the scared and confused tribesmen before returning to Osag’s side to lay down and press a nose into his cheek. Osag knew there was no way he was going to live, and so he used the last of his strength to turn his head and smile at his friend.

When his remaining life finally drained from him, Osag’s strength failed and his forehead rested upon the bear’s nose as his body slumped. For days the bear lay beside Osag, not even bothering to get up and eat. Without his friend, his savior, his heart was broken. The spirits of the forest, those that whisper between the trees, were moved by the brotherhood of bear and man, and they took pity upon Osag who had sacrificed himself to save a creature of the wild. Using their great magic, they pulled the essence of the hero back to the woodland and gave him new form. Osag was to become a bear, a guardian spirit of the creature he had given his life to defend. Joy would return to the earth, and that year Spring came early.

 To this day, you can find Osag keeping watch over all of Voraniss by his den near the forest where he fell. He’s more bear than man now that the memories of his former life have faded over time, but they say he’s still always watching out for orphans and lost souls. If you watch long enough, they sometimes even say you can see him playing with the other bears like he’s always been one of them.

Character Spirituality & Religion

In my last article about roleplaying tips and tricks I briefly touched upon the subject of the divine. In a fantasy realm where we’ve literally seen the wrath of the Gods in action, spirituality and religion should play a large role in our culture. A character who isn’t living under a rock should have some opinion about these goings on, and as a result, will have a way to better connect to the immersive world around them. But where does one start with all this rigmarole? How does one decide what one’s character thinks and feels about such a deeply personal subject? Luckily for you, we’re going to break down that process and give you some key points to think about that should help you with your decision making.

1.)    The Realms is in a unique situation where you can be any creature and have any backstory that you want. However, this doesn’t mean you should necessarily write in your own deities. As such a long running LARP, Realms has a vast history and lore that has been going on for many, many years. Learn what the setting already has, ask around and see what your options are before you generate new content. You’ll be adding to the continuity of the world and setting yourself up for interactive relationships with other players.

2.)    Consider your character’s history and where they grew up. Was there a cathedral or temple in their home town? If so, what Gods/spirits were they exposed to in their early life? Did this affect them in any meaningful way? Some people resent being told how to worship, other people cling to what they know and are familiar with. Find out what kind of character you have and think about their history in a deeper way. In Voraniss, we have Mogar who struggles to have any kind of relationship with the Gods. In his backstory he spent much time trying to survive in a world hostile to Orcs. No matter how much help he needed, he never saw the Gods come to his aid and so Mogar feels betrayed by the divine. He acknowledges their existence, but doesn’t actively worship any of them yet because of his painful history.

3.)    If you don’t have a backstory that is super fleshed out, think about your character’s general personality. What is important to them? What are their goals? Sometimes the answers to these simple questions are enough to guide a character towards a particular God’s domain. When my own character, Mouse, first started adventuring and making friends she knew she wanted to protect the people that had become important to her. She also knew that she wanted revenge upon the demons that had made her time in the Abyss unbearable. As it turned out, there was a deity that already existed who had both Protection and Vengeance as domains and Vandor became a perfect fit.

4.)    Let’s say that you do all your research and still can’t find a God/divine being that fits with what your ideas are. What do you do? If you’re going to create your own, think about how to make it different from anything else the game has to offer. How does this being like to be worshipped? Is there any organization to your Church? Ranks? Are the members of this religion easily identifiable? Does the God have a symbol? Is this God or religion going to bring something unique and special to the game? Will it be contributing to immersion or are you just trying to be silly? It is important to remember that when you make a deity, they sort of become community property. You aren’t making them just for you, but also the world. A magic marshall may not interpret your ideas the same way that you do. Don’t get angry or upset, just go with the flow.

5.)    People may disagree with me on this one, which is fine, but I like to encourage people not to bring real world deities into a fantasy setting. You don’t know what people’s OOC religious backgrounds are, so an easy way to avoid offending anybody is by not touching that subject matter at all. On top of that, I’d like to encourage people to get more creative than relying on something that already exists. It can’t hurt you to push yourself a little further, right?

Hopefully this gives you some stuff to think about as you continue your LARPing adventures. Even though I’m writing this from the perspective of a Realms LARPer, I think some of the points are fairly universal. You can take them with you and brainstorm no matter where you’re making your characters. Have any questions, need help with some research? Hit me up. I’m always available to help with this kind of RP project! 

(Featured image photo credit goes out to Samantha B. Flanagan!)

When magical creatures and their allies unite in defense of their freedom and the forest they love, there is no telling what kinds of shenanigans might ensue.