The Ebony Island or simply Ebony is a large landmass off the north coast of the Ashed. It is not clear if the name comes from the sand, which is dark in coloration from the island's volcanic origins, or if it refers to the dark skin of the people there. It has been a point of tactical contention for a very long time.
- The island of Ebony contains five major mortal nations.
"The land here is beautiful, dangerous, and as potent as any place on Soi. It feels as if the jungle itself is a beating heart pumping rivers full of life from its core to the outer edges. Truly this land is alive. Beware, for all things living will defend themselves." -Traveler's guide journal
The Ebony Island was formed by volcanoes which have been mostly inactive for several thousand years. Because of this, it is rich in iron, pumice, obsidian. Due to the regular volcanic and tectonic activity in the area, the island is a source for basalt, obsidian, and volcanic rock. The land is riddled with rivers and that carve paths through the island that are often filled with aquatic life.
- The island is known for its volcanoes.
- They have a unique biome on this island referred to as "steam forests".
Due to the perpetual warmth of the region, the island of Ebony is covered in dense jungles and massive amounts of biodiversity in both cultivated and wild regions.
The fauna of Ebony, much like its flora, is noted for being incredibly diverse and numerous. The fauna tends to be very adapted to the hot, humid conditions of the island. The abundance of life on the island has caused the development of various megafauna, some of which are utilized by the natives of the island.
Fin rippers- Small carnivorous fish that travel in swarms. They are capable of devouring entire live cattle in a matter of minutes.
Goldmanes- Massive terrestrial feline species.
"They are a strong, proud people, with roots reaching deep through time into the very flesh of the world. They neither want nor need anything from outsiders and do not take kindly to presumptions of superiority. How fitting that they be beset on all sides by exactly that." -Unclaimed historian
The native inhabitants of Ebony are mostly isolated, and live in a very sunny region, right on the equator. Because of this, they developed very dark skin pigmentation. This dark skin is only common to this region, and is considered rare and beautiful by some cultures. Some of the most isolationist cultures among the Ebony consider darker skin to be a symbol of status, and tend to look down on the relatively light skin of outsiders.
The culture of the Ebony peoples is highly organized and disciplined. They value traditional methods and interactions that have been passed down since the dawn of their civilization. They value respect for elders and the accumulated wisdom of their culture.
The emphasize harmony and growth with nature, often seeing themselves as living in tandem with the natural world. They encourage the growth of the land around them rather than rigid farming. The people of Ebony have built grand cities and structures, often weaving them into the wild lands so that the ecosystem is mostly undisturbed no matter how grand their population becomes.
Their leadership is composed of royal bloodlines that stretch back to the original founding of the Five Pillars. Families often pass down skills and jobs within the village from generation to generation.
- The Ebony peoples trace their bloodlines through the mother.
The written language is composed of an intricate system of woven fibers and knots. Their records are kept in these knots and fabrics. It has become a fashion to wear fabrics that are woven in such a way that each piece of clothing tells stories.
Their written histories are kept in large looms of woven fabrics.
"I've traveled to their lands. It is difficult to see where the wild ends and their civilization begins, however only a fool would deny that it exists. It is almost as if nature itself answers their call." -Merchant
The people of Ebony build primarily out of stone, brick, and lumber. The richer denizens of the isle build their homes out of the black marble and basalt native to the island. The structures of the island tend to be built up instead of out in order to build their living spaces in the cooler windy sections above the tree line.
The structures tend to be multi-tiered towers.
Their structures, homes, and cities are woven into the natural world, often spreading out as to not disrupt the ecosystem around it. Walls and fortifications exist as mobile structures to only be used in case of attack or built out of rivers which are then filled with life.
Ebony cuisine is heavy in legumes, fruit, and wild game due to the naturally high animal populations of the untended lands. While their cities do have farmers, they tend to gather and protect the lands around them. They do not farm animals for meat; they instead rely on hunters due to the dense animal populations of their land.
- Due to foreign interventionism, they are often considered a hostile people suspicious of outsiders.
- They are threatened by Tallet incursions, NorthGuard reavers, Woag raiders, and the occasional Goran ark.
The Seven Pillars of Ebony
The people of Ebony have weathered foreign invasion since the first Age of Expansion, primarily from the Tallet and Woag forces, then by NorthGuard. In response, the scattered tribes of Ebony formed five large unified nations to keep their sovereignty. These nations are typically headed by a monarch who descended from the original largest tribes which unified the island. These kingdoms work together against non-native islanders.
- Their civilization has reached moderately advanced levels of technology compared to most other mortal nations.
- They are the largest exporter of obsidian on Soi.
- During the First Age, there were seven Pillars, two were lost to the Tallet and Goran expansion before they were repelled.
- The five remaining Pillars draw their names from the native tongue and their predominate environment.
The Pillar of Fire resides in the mountainous region of the land around the active volcanoes on the island. The Seuneu people have more so than the other tribes made strong use of chemical weapons, brewing the most potent and varied varieties, not only of flame based weaponry, but acid as well, given their proximity to constantly renewing sources of minerals. Their most infamous weapons are the Ivory Fire and Yellow Glue, the first exploding in brilliant white shards which can set enemy clothing on fire as well as burn to the bone with the shards needing to be dug out of the flesh before they cease burning, and the latter being an acidic weapon, its thick, sticky nature allowing it to slowly eat to the bone, a process only accelerated by those unknowing enough to try to use water to clean the goop away.
The Pillar of Hills resides the the general high-land regions of the island. Their land is generally temperate and given to sheer cliffs and crags, making most large-group movement very difficult. The Pasuri are infamous for their baboon warriors. These warriors wear painted masks and utilize claw-like weapons, running into battle alongside trained tribes of actual baboons. While rarely taken seriously by outsiders who see them, those who have survived attacks by the Baboon Warriors know the true meaning of terror as each of the creatures are strong enough to rip open armor and, unlike other animals, will pull away helms of downed warriors to claw at their eyes and face. The claw-like weapons are coated with a thick tar-like poison known to cause severe agony and require amputation to halt. It is believed the Pasiru harvest this poison from the saliva of the large, poisonous lizards which inhabit their lands.
The Pillar of the Jungle resides in the heavy tropical forests of the Island. These tribes specialize in the application of venomous snake traps and the use of blow guns as opposed to slings. Favoring the canopies of their home lands, it's not uncommon for the Serpent Warriors of this land to camouflage themselves along the trails of their land and strike with their poisoned darts from above in the dusk and dawn hours when seeing them against the trees is most difficult. These warriors often wear thin scale armors hewed from their ironwood trees and fashioned after the slightly overlapping scales of serpents.
The Pillar of the Plains resides in the steppe and savanna lands of the island. The Lion Warriors make use of prides of trained and armored lionesses to assist their ambushes. Perhaps more terrifying is the practice of capturing wild rhinos by running them out winded. The rhino is then armed with long, sharp blades along its sides and kept restrained until just before a battle, at which point the animals is jabbed and tormented to an enraged state then released to charge directly into enemy lines, few enemies possessing the ability take down such a beast before it is upon them.
The Pillar of the Coast wraps around all the other pillars, their lands never stretching more than a dozen leagues into the interior. The least fanciful and perhaps most practical of all the Pillars, the Basiru are the seamen and more standard warriors of the Island. Making heavy use of their obsidian-edged wooden swords and shields in combat and plying their fast trimaran craft, this Pillar is the island's first line of defense against outsiders. As such, it is not uncommon for other warriors to travel to their lands to study the art of battle under their tutelage and learn about the foreign invaders of the land.
The Pillar of the Sea refers to the people who once inhabited the large island to the west of the Ebony Island. Now a Goran colony, the remainder of the descendants of this Pillar have joined the Pillar of Ebony or have been absorbed into other pillars. None of the Sagaru remain on their lost island and it is considered the shattered sixth pillar, standing as a warning against a return to the fragmented tribal structure that had predated the island's invaders.
"Blood of the land of my mother, blood of the land of my mother's mother, blood of my veins, blood of my daughters, blood of my daughter's daughters, blood of the island stain the very ground black. I swear by the blood of all my line to purge the blood of all men until the purist of the blood of Ebony rules free and all. No grain of sand, no son of man to be given to the foreign devils. The pale blight will be culled, the impure purged, until all is once again as it was at the dawn of time and the unity of land and balance of life is restored. This I vow, this I live, this I am, until the day I rejoin the blood of Soiya in the dirt of Ebony." -Pillar of Ebony Battle-Dirge Oath
The Pillar of Ebony refers to the seventh Pillar. This Pillar weaves itself throughout the lands of all the other pillars, representing the descendants of the tribes displaced by the Tallet. They retain their own identify and each are baptized at birth in in a bath of crude oil as a symbolic oath to spend their life fighting to regain their lands. The most martial and brutal of all the Pillars, these tribes make it their devoted work to terrorize foreigners. It is not unknown for the extreme tribes of the Pillar of Ebony to target light-skinned natives as well, attempting to purge all foreign blood from the island. The Pillar of Ebony leads a war of terror against NorthGuard and the Tallet alike, open displays of cannibalism not uncommon in sight of the fortifications of their enemies. Their favored method involves crucifying their victims before beating them with a clawed cat-of-nine until disemboweled, at which point the heart is cut away while it still beats and is consumed by an officer, the remainder left as an ominous vow to be recovered and buried by the outsiders. Attempts by other Pillars to reign in the Ebony are generally ignored, the tribes too consumed by their blood-war against the invaders, and it is unlikely that the hostilities will stop until the Tallet surrender their lands back to them.
The by-word for the Pillars of Ebony is that everything in the land serves a purpose, and they attempt to utilize their natural environment to the fullest when engaging in resistance against their enemies. This respect for nature has lead to highly-developed chemical studies being favored on the island, as they discover new ways to turn the very earth against their enemies. It isn't uncommon for flammable liquids, acids, or noxious substances to be used in weaponized form against hostiles. Compounding with this, war-trained animals are at times used. The practice is referred to teaching foreigners to "become one", the implication being that foreigners should rise to live as the People of the Pillars do and join them in their native lifestyle, rather than trying to conquer and displace the natives. There is only one constant when it comes to the Pillars warfare: they are adaptive and resourceful.
The Pillars of Ebony represent a modest naval power on Soi. Their ships are not designed to travel far, and they do not need to. The small, fast vessels are widely recognized as the fastest in the world but are far from ocean-worthy. The People of Ebony favor long vessels with multiple triangular sails and trimaran design. Their typical approach is to use their speedy vessels to stay out of reach of other ships until nightfall when they can safely close in and use their hurled fire weapons to destroy enemy vessels. They represent the only significant naval power which when threatened seek to sink enemy ships without capturing them.
"My expedition inland to acquire the shipment of ironwood ran into an a brief delay. NorthGuard soldiers had shut off access to the eastern ports. I expected to be stuck here for half a year while I found a way around the rogue ash-born. Instead, the king of this land, a very serious looking man indeed, sent out a small army of his own. I was a bit doubtful at first looking at their wooden armor and curious glass edged weapons. A few weeks later they returned with a sack full of small, grey heads and the king told me the port was opened again. I asked them how they accomplished this task and they simply said, 'The turtle is easy to kill if you do not attack its shell.'" -Merchant Journeyman
While the exact nature of each pillar's military is prone to variance from generation to generation as one style of fighting comes into favor and others rise, there are a number of consistencies. Firstly, the Pillars generally refuse to meet large units for ranked battle, favoring instead to keep their forces operating in small groups no larger than fifty. These small units generally favor ambush and harassment tactics and are notorious for night-time attacks. In addition, the preferred weapons of these people generally favor slings over other ranged weaponry, variants of the simple weapon used to hurl tiny douses of their fire mixture at single targets while larger versions attached to staffs have been developed to hurl the deadly fluid at Tallet war machines.
Ebony warriors wear ornately-carved wooden armor that tends to be very light and breathable, perfect for the hot, humid climate. Their weapons tend to be made out of native heavy ironwood and obsidian shards. Enemies in heavier armor tend to falter under the heat.
- The Pillar forces use slings with explosive, corrosive, and poisonous ammunition to great effect.
- Pillar forces emphasize use of terrain and quick shifting of small battle groups to pick apart larger forces.
Within the Ebony military stands a traditional warrior class that shies from the more organized fighting styles used by their fellow soldiers and goes back to their ancient ways before the rise of the Pillars.
The bestial warriors are part soldier, part animal trainer. They utilize a hand-to-hand fighting style that mimics the swiping and grappling motions of hunting cats, strapping claws to their hands and often filing their teeth to points to give themselves deadlier natural weapons.
These warriors train war beasts such as hunting cats, ape species, and, in some cases, elephants which they use as zoological weapons they direct against enemy forces. They tend to attack enemies on the move using hit-and-run tactics.
- The beast walkers often attack alongside their trained war animals.
- These soldiers often live very close to their animals in almost a family unit.
The Pillars of Ebony have a long history of learning to live alongside the deadliest and untamed animals of their home. Over time, their animal handling skills have become the envy even of the Mamutok as these people train everything from venomous snakes to their hairless mammoths. Of particular note to invaders is their use of big cats and snakes in their warfare. It isn't uncommon for a raid from the Ebony armies to consist of one to five men with large sacks full of venomous snakes and herbs to drive up their aggression, sneaking into enemy encampments and simply turning the creatures loose to wreak havoc. Likewise, small groups of warriors may release armored lions trained to attack on command into the ranks of their enemies during ambush to create deadly chaos before they themselves strike.
The Ebony Island has been a place of tactical contention between several factions since they first made contact with the Tallet.
"We did not want to believe at first that the things the Merchants brought to us came from the grey monsters, but it seems that they've simply exported their worst to us. They should come and take their people back to the mainland that we might enjoy their goods in peace." - Pillar Elder
The Ashed city-states have very little interest in the island aside from acquiring obsidian and ironwood from the main island. Ashed guilds acquire these rare materials at great cost through the Family Hearth . The people of Ebony often respond with hostility to Ashed as most of their interaction has been with the city of NorthGuard.
"The grey scourge is always there, waiting to become a problem. The only safe way to deal with them is to draw back into the jungles and nip their heels. Fortunately the Tallet are eager to offer us the goods they demand in order to keep them even from coming into our lands." -Pillar Commodore
At first, when the city of NorthGuard was settled, they had friendly, open trade with the people of Ebony. As they became more corrupt, however, they grew hostile, and now only a few cultures actually trade with them. Those cultures normally trade the only commodity they're willing to surrender to NorthGuard who is viewed as an enemy of all men, Tallet prisoners of war. This trade tends to keep NorthGuard placated in regards to enslaving the natives, and serves as a dark warning against Tallet aggression.
"Ebony, Ivory... Just another group of savages to be brought to heel." -Tallet General, post-invasion
The Tallet first landed on the Ebony Island in the mid Classical Era, noting that it was rich in volcanic minerals. They initially invaded from the eastern tip of the landmass, and quickly conquered a large chunk of land before the native populations could unite against them. Their progression was slowed as marches turned into skirmishes, and was further halted by military aid from the Circle, but was not truly halted until the newly formed Technocracy intervened in the early Golden Age. It has become practice for Tallet prisoners taken by the Pillars to be traded to NorthGuard as slaves, a practice which both intimidates the expansionist Tallet and placates the Ashed.
"These people come to us, men in dresses or women with beards, I am unsure which. They speak of so-called higher things. They've had their heads in the clouds so long they have lost their unity with the land under their feet. They do not understand the ways of civilized people, nor do they understand we do not wish their savagery." -High Priestess of Soiya
The Technocracy considers preventing the Tallet from taking the western end of the Ebony Island to be a situation of tactical importance, due to both the resources there and the potential for expanded naval supremacy in the region. They have sent aid, trained military leaders, built fortifications, and even had the Unfriendlies and Pirate Corps harass the Tallet at every attempt at new incursions. They have also passively opposed NorthGuard since it began its slaving operations. These actions, combined with the efforts of the natives, have made the entire island a quagmire for invading forces.
"The Nobles of Stone come to us on occasion, offering to build things of the bones of the Great Mother herself. We've no use for such wounds into our land. It is odd though, the only other thing they seem to desire in the Land of Pillars is the courtship of women and death." -Pillar Prince
Given the Ebony Island's penchant for indirect combat techniques and the need to travel by ship, there is little interaction between the Kingdom and the Pillars. The economic interaction seems to be limited to the occasional monumental statue, with the Kingdom desiring the ivory, pelts, black marble, and ironwood of the Island. Visitors to the Pillars from the Broken Kingdom tend to be wealthy Riders and Knights who seek adventure in the form of conquering the majestically dark beauties of the land and trying to hunt the most dangerous animals on the island with melee weaponry. It is thought that the Truest King secured the black marble for his crown and the executioner's block from the island, but the islanders hold no records to confirm it.