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Saturday, March 8, 2014

Denizens of Finiens: Humans

Of the many races of Finiens, Humans may not be the most widespread - that honor, quite certainly, belongs to the hardy Kobolds - but they are among the most varied and, by far, the most divisive. Rare is it for Humanity's neighbors to see their presence as a simple fact of life; they are, more often than not, either loathed or loved, abhorred or adored, and rare is it for there to be anything in-between, save perhaps apathy. Where they go, their mark is left, impossible to miss and inevitably ever-present for eternity, a rippling effect through time that forever marks the location and the society with their presence.

Humans are among the oldest races on Finiens, created alongside the Halflings (who share many of their traits) and the Dwarves in the deep jungles and dark mountains of Paziou. In this ancient and long-forgotten land, the earliest civilizations of Humans rose, creating ancient sprawling jungle empires, towering mountain kingdoms, magic-fueled tyrannies, and coastal conquests spread across much of the Dark Continent. This was the Age of Ancient Magic, the heyday of Humanity, and for those few who know of this lost history in any detail, it is clearly the greatest height of centralized, singular power the Human race as a whole has ever held.

It was not to last. No records remain of the reason, but something - perhaps a war, perhaps some natural or magical cataclysm, perhaps some dread creature awoken or summoned - brought an end to the mighty old culture. Thus began the age of The Scattering, where Humans and their neighbors fled for the shores of Paziou and, thanks to Dwarven ingenuity, took their first steps off their tropical home and departed for distant shores beneath Dwarven sails.

The first and nearest traveled directly south across the Gulf of Paziou, where they found themselves in similar coastal climes to their old homeland, but soon discovered that away from the nurturing sea lay desert in every direction. Through labor, toil, magic, and war, they forged a new empire in this blasted land and drove the giants that once called it home before them, and founded the Eternal Empire of Anhur. Though successful, their efforts were to stain Humanity's reputation in this new continent of Wachara for ages to come - it was soon decreed that Humans had forged Anhur of their own might, and that no other race deserved to share in their glory; Dwarves and Halflings who later attempted to congregate in this new civilization were driven out, enslaved, or killed.

A small fraction of their society, disgusted by the actions of their fellows, divided off and traveled south, into the wilderness the giants called Vhuatou, "the dark and void". Chief among these wanderers were the nomadic clans of the Olori, a vagrant people who for many centuries wandered through the Vhuatoun plains, swamps, hills, and woods, never settling and always on the move. Even when the other Humans among them, as well as Halflings who had dared Anhur's sands to reach welcoming realms beyond, began to stake their claims in the wilds, the Olori continued on, ever westward, seeking something afar. They found it at last in Wachara's heart, where they seized the land that was to be their own; it was here their leaders, the Vanguard, divided the land among their clans and claimed a home for their people: The Vanguard Joint-Confederacy of Olorunium.

Meanwhile, others of Humanity sought different shores. Dwarven sailors departing from Paziou's eastern coasts also deposited their Human passengers on fertile shores bordering fierce and relentless desert when they reached Stormwind. They were greeted by cultures shattered by cataclysm: shortly before the Humans' own Scattering, a dreadful event had taken place in this land, reshaping the earth and sundering civilizations. Dwarves found their ships' cabins emptied of Humans and just as quickly refilled by Kobolds, fleeing some horror to the east and seeking any other land that would take them and give them mountains to burrow, mines to dig, and ores to smelt. The desert itself had seen and devoured two empires before them, which itself might have been just the encouragement Humanity needed to try its own luck. They were faced not only with the ferocity of nature's wrath but with the desert's current denizens, the disparate tribes of the Painted Elves, whose own desert empire had collapsed in whatever destruction had laid waste to the rest of the continent, leaving them scattered and subdued cultures, no match for the unified humans under the banner of the priest-king Denvus. By the time of his passing the desert was unquestionably Human territory, with the Elves occupying only distant corners and forgotten wastes; the most prosperous and most sheltered oasis at the desert's heart became Humanity's new home, the Sapphire City of Adaiele, prime city of the Sun and Earth-blessed Domain of Denvushain, posthumously named for its conqueror. In the years after, the initial hostilities with their neighbors, the scattered Painted Elves and the nomadic Leoni, would be quickly recompensed with offers of cooperation, security, and alliance, and Denvushain would quickly cease to be truly a Human kingdom as the other races began to join its numbers.

Others traveled further east, crossing the Titans Mountains to reach the fertile lands beyond. The coastal plains were unclaimed and uninhabited by intelligent life, with the Kobolds that remained after the exodus rarely traveling down from their mountain warrens and the Elves of the Sentara Wood likewise rare sights outside their borders. Human villages began to spring up along the coast and further-inland waterways and lakes, then scattered across the plains and back north and west toward the mountains. In a rare show of interracial cooperation and respect compared to their Denvushai and Anhuri counterparts, these Humans sought the alliance of the mountain Kobolds when, centuries later, they chose to have a queen tor reign over them and desired to build a capital that could look over the entirety of their lands. The Free Kingdom of Olympia was founded with the birth of the city that shared its name, its construction managed by a combination of Elven lumber and resources, Kobold ingenuity, and Human labor.

Last of all, a third branch of Humans departed from Paziou to the west, sailing toward the shattered isles of the Senkaku Archipelago. These distant lands were home to the regal Naga, whose partial resemblance to the strange visitors from the sea persuaded them to welcome them with cautious acceptance rather than rebuff their approaches; the fact that the Humans in turn were gracious guests, seeking not to seize or conquer Naga lands in turn, likewise aided with their acceptance and eventual cooperation. Though Humanity's numbers in Senkaku have never been vast compared to the Naga or the other native races to the land, the Nezumi (or Ratfolk) and the Tengu, they have nevertheless become a commonplace sight on nearly all of the isles.

And such it has been in all the ages since. Where Humans do not reign, they are typically present in at least noticeable numbers. Rare are the exceptions indeed: no known Human colonies or establishments exist on the distant isle continent of Teremvor, original home to the lizardfolk and goblinoid, nor do they make their homes in the lupine plains of Seredína or the draconic wilderness of The Northlands. But in all other realms, all parts of the world, Humans have visited, left their mark, and more often than not seized a place for their own and stubbornly refused to yield what they see as their own. For better or for worse, only time will tell.

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