What is now a fully-fledged culture began as a group of refuges who fled the Republic centuries ago. Their leader, Livia, saw the leaders becoming too worldly, lustful and magic-obsessed and it troubled her greatly.
Their exodus was triggered by the ‘divine visions‘ of Livia – a gifted young seer turned prophetess. She revealed to the people of Remus that humans had strayed too far from the teachings of the gods; that the only way to achieve grace in the next world was by living virtuously in this mortal life. She also claimed that one of her visions came directly from the Mother; telling her of a promised land beyond the seas in the East: where the very lifeblood of the world would provide in abundance, to true believers.
Ridiculed by many, the impassioned Livia and her collaborators eventually stirred a great throng of devotees to follow her in a great journey to those new shores. There were many trials and hardships along the way.
Once landed, Livia and her followers set about establishing their Utopia: a Mother-centric society of the Faithful, administered by elected, elders; free (as possible) from the corrupt abuses of class, greed, lust and sorcery.
In the years after the founding of the nation, the Liviate denomination and its zealous adherents went on to colonise and “cleanse” the other islands in the archipelago of savage natives and fell lizards, pressing ever forward with the vision of a moral and obedient society.
Eventually, the region was united under one Faith, with no heretics, elves or spellcasters to stop rational progress.
After the upheaval of the Great Cataclysm, the chosen Elders, known and feared as “The Widowed Assembly”, watch over The Red Isles from The Mother’s Keep at Deliverance; keeping stern eyes upon an ever-advancing population; for with new technologies, come new rivalries and threats.
In recent times more information has come to light about Livia’s journey and the her thoughts and beliefs on magic, elves and spell casters, and as such the Widowed Assembly has taken the radical step to change some aspects which they believe are wrong within their society. They understand that predjuice must be taught out, and are understanding of time it will take to change the course of the islands.
The Liviate Way
The great sigil of The Red Isles is their distinctive monoglyph, or “Sign of Faith”, designed by the visionary Livia herself. It is a simple design, made up of different symbols that represent the three principle gods, and the sea that all Islanders came from. It is found stamped on exports, in evangelical material and sometimes branded or tattooed on to the skin. Outside of the archipelago, the Sign of Faith is known and respected/feared throughout the remaining human nations as a mark of the Islanders’ proud denomination.
The seal is full of symbolism and every Islander is schooled in the meaning of each part of the sigil:
The Large “M” represents the Mother, the core-belief of the islands.
The Small “m” symbolises mages, a subtle reminder that all are required in a balance society.
The stylised ‘A’ represents the oppression of the Qadaq Republic, lest all forget their reprehensible ways.
The Flame is representative of the fires of wrath which should be unleashed upon our enemies should they try to stop our peaceful existance.
The 3 Lines are the bounty of the great seas (upon which we live and through which we found Deliverance). It is also explained as meaning the three levels of personal identity on The Red Isles: Island; Community; Home.
The monoglyph as a whole is intended to resemble an island/cliffs rising out of the sea; a literal representation
The tenets of Faith in the Liviate way are in many respects similar to those practised by the orthodox priesthood, but with a few additional, or strongly emphasised beliefs. Some of these are:
- ‘Kings and queens bleed the same as farmers and whores’ – All sons and daughters of Livia are equal. Class is not a rational concept: rank is earned and no man, woman or child should over-benefit from the fortune of Birth. As such, there shall be no “knights” or titles without first earning them through hard work. Wealth must be shared among one’s living group.
- The words and teachings of the Prophetess Livia are inviolate and pure.
As per the teachings of the Magister, Elves are inherently untrustworthy. The Red Isles must be kept elf-free, with the aim of an elf-free world someday.
- Elves are like other races, some are untrustworthy. A great society is one that accepts all races, that live in harmony, not just one.
Magery and the schemes of sorcerers are inherently wrong. Magic that taps the soul may not be cast as spells, nor shall any woman or man be allowed to willingly allow magical taint to enter their body.
- The schemes of sorerors and mages can be untrustworthy. Guidance should be sought to better understand the true ways of wielding power.
- Trust in the Mother – for she is bounteous and ever merciful. This world is her gift: it must be farmed, fished and mined at every opportunity for the greatest industrial gain. This way, there shall be prosperity that all Faithful might share in.
- The first worldly allegiance is to one’s community, for the good of all the gods.
- That which is not demon-touched is capable of service and purpose in the great works of the Faith. Thus, all races can serve a greater purpose.
- A single word of true faith is more valuable than the wealthiest temple. This means that books, scriptural decoration and prayers will always be more important than statues, pageantry and gold.
- That which continually defies the goodness of this world must burn in the fires of the next.
- Any member of the Faithful can be forgiven – but not always without punishment and disciplining first.
Islanders belief in the power of prayer over other forms of worship. Incense, costume and theatrics may have their part to play in worship, but the impassioned exhortations to the gods come first, along with glorious song that rejoices in thanks for the goodness of faith
The Combined Assemblies of the Red Isles
On the formation of the Red Isles it was known that the Widowed would not be able to perform all that was needed to keep the society safe.
To aid the Widowed Assembly, three other bodies were created which form the core of the society. Within recent times, these additional assemblies have all been brought under the Widowed, and now report directly to them.
Entrance to all of the Assembly’s is strictly by invitation only.
All members of the Widowed, Ecclesiastic, Shadow, and Merciful wear masks that shroud their facial features, when they are in public. This is to stop those that would harm their society from targeting their leaders.
They are the elected representatives of each village, or district of a larger settlement. As such, they wield enormous social and legal power, acting as the de-facto rulers of the Red Isles from the Mother’s Keep in Deliverance.
The rules for eligibility are simple: they may be male or female, but must have been widowed; seen two-score seasons and be of sound mind and piety. Each one lives and works in the Mother’s Keep for nine years, unless they pass first. With no remaining spouse to tie them to a higher calling, few of the Widowed ever complain of their station.
No-one ever hears of a Widowed that goes against the Assembly. Ever!
The recent departure of faith from Theocracy guidlelines, to their own, has changed the Priest Assembly beyond recognition. This new assembly is designed to guide the Widowed in matters of faith, and in keeping with the Mother-centric worship which has become the core belief of the isles.
Once the creatures that lived in the Shadows of their own society. They are the ones that venture forth from the Isles into other parts of the world protecting the Red Isles and its dependacies from those that would cause them harm.
They are the spies, the explorers, and the assassins employed by the Widowed Assembly.
Law enforcement comes from a very special branch of the Red Islands known as the Merciful; who have recently been appointed their own assembly with which to conduct all the matters of law for the islands.
They are charged with apprehending and reforming particularly disobedient or wayward souls. Thieves, smugglers, adulterers and the indolent can all find themselves under the stern attention of one of these rigid disciplinarians, for in The Red Isles, laziness is literally a crime.
Whilst being under the care of the Merciful used to involve working long hours in mills or fields, the war has provided a new use for the unruly. Condemned prisoners from The Red Isles can now expect to be “encouraged” by the Merciful to join penal units and fight in the conflict against the Great Enemy. To serve, each recusant is either given a special mission, or set a target number of “enemies of The Faith” to dispatch. Only once this quota has been met might the recusant be granted a pardon by the Widowed Assembly (dependent on the severity of their crimes, of course).
The Merciful have two of the largest ships in the Red Isles, taken from the original designs; built to check every ship that comes into the harbours of islands. Their massive design helps solidify their terrifing presence.
“It’s easier to fry an egg on the back of a wave-snake than to make a ‘Widowed crack a smile…” – Lyrical evidence given to the Elder-tribunal on Jan Schulp, illegal bard of Hound’s Reach.”
Culture of the Red Isles
Whilst the ports and cities of The Red Isles are bustling, advanced settlements, most Islanders live in small towns and villages. Each place has their own festivals, brews and customs, but the majority are centred around the local temple(s) and gathering hall where the local council of Elders meet and hear disputes. Different towns and villages may have their own style of dress, but this is usually conservative, neat and not too revealing, so as to allow the goodly folk to go about their lives and worship without too much distraction or risk of over-friendliness.
With moral matters, the ecclesiastic are usually upheld as role models of decency, guiding their congregations to better living.
The hot climate and monsoon season in The Red Isles is conducive to the farming of livestock. Large, well-groomed dogs guard these herds from the black jackal, or the predations of sea lizards on the coasts. Some say that these hounds were originally bred from wolves, due to their large, pointed appearance – but no one can deny their loyalty or effectiveness.
The large island of Sylvana is best known for mining operations; the Iron Hills are home to whole towns of prospectors and engineers, who fuel the efforts and development of the University halls of New Denestra. Other places where mining is prolific include Skrael Island, the gold seams of Lizard Island, and the hazardous Scatter, where few dare sail.
It may be smelly, wet and lack the image of the dignified farmer or technical miner, but there are good opportunities for fishermen in The Red Isles. Visitors to the Isles can find a bounteous haul from the deeps, including tuna, crab, seal and mussels. Some would question them for their over-adherence to the lesser marine cults of Sina & Cosinon, minor deities of The Divine Assembly. Nevertheless, the prow-shrines do little to upset the balance of life on land – so the Mother’s Keep leave them to their strange, harmless decorations.
For everything that is not the preserve of the temples, there is rationality. This logical approach to daily life eschews superstition and emotion in the face of sensible, thought-out reason to overcome challenges. A common maxim in the workshops of New Denestra is “no problem cannot be overcome by rational study”. Such a philosophy has served the folk of The Red Isles well. Where other nations have accepted the old methods as tradition, the Islanders have developed new mechanics and equipment to further their godly cause. Visitors to The Red Isles will usually marvel at how clean the streets are, and how well-organised their agricultural and industrial practices are – all thanks to the utilitarian, rational way of life that is upheld as an example to all.
There are many traditions, customs and festivals that mark the life-cycle of an Islander. Here are a few of them…
As with most human peoples, the Islanders see each new arrival into the world with joy and celebration. Assuming that the baby reaches two years of age, then it receives a first name and its mother’s family name, in a song-filled ceremony called “the Giving”. Givings are often accompanied by dances and images depicting the Father gifting the new soul to the Mother.
Greeting The Sea
At 16, an Islander comes of age in the eyes of the Law. They are required by their local temple to journey to the nearest coast and “greet the sea”, by swimming or bathing in it – whatever the weather. This symbolises the gratitude of all Islanders to the gods for being delivered unto their homeland; for the ocean ward bounty that was shown to the Prophetess in their flight from decadence and depravity. Once the young woman or man has sworn to uphold the worship of the gods then they are welcomed by a priest or priestess as a true son or daughter of Livia.
The Weaving (Marriage)
When two Islanders wish to settle-in with each other, the Law states that they must marry within nine moons. This allows both parties to save for the great ceremony and to (hopefully) give enough time to convince the family Elders concerned that it is a good idea. In a service that lasts for several hours, the new husband & wife, wife & wife, or husband & husband are finally deemed wed when a lock of hair has been cut from their heads and woven together in a knot, before being commended unto a fire in the name of the Father – this symbolises the union of the two souls unto death.
In larger or coastal settlements it is not unheard of for an Islander to marry a foreigner, but only on the insistence that it be a proper, Liviate weaving ceremony.
In the eyes of the folk of The Red Isles, dying is the final and most mysterious blessing of the gods. The soul is returned to the Father to judge its eternal fate; the body is given back to the Mother, with mortal remains. This is usually done at sea, or in family plots further inland, to let the earth reclaim its rightful reward. There is much praying, countless dirge-toasting to the different memories of the passed, and a burnt offering of food in thanks to the gods for sending another life to carry out the great works of the faithful upon The Red Isles.
The primary deity of the Isles, the Mother, is the goddess of the natural world, who looks after our fortunes and protects us from worldly harm. It is she who makes the crops grow, the animals prosper and the shoals multiply. For a people who see themselves as sensible and rational folk, this is important in supporting the manifest destiny of the pious.
Worship of the Mother also holds a special place in the hearts of all folk on The Red Isles, as Livia herself was dedicated to the Mother, and the first followers, gathered outside a High Temple dedicated to her glory. Fortuitous or miraculous occurrences are often ascribed to her judgement – which the temple-goers look to The Priesthood to interpret.
A favourite Islander dedication to the Mother is: “Trust in what is and that which must be.”
The worship of other deities was once excepted and prevelant on the islands. The Widowed have recently changed the teachingsso that only the Mother is featured in them. All other gods are respected, but the worship of them has been forbidden, and services must not take place.
Differences of belief
It used to be that the Theocracy and the Red Isles muddled along just about accepting each others ideas of religion. In the winter of 15/16 this all changed.
The Widowed Assembly responded to what they believed was an act of war taken by the Theocracy of Numina, and ordered the killing of their Hierophant of the Mother, and thier contingents of Temple Guard.
This ended all peaceful macinations between the two nations. The Widowed believe that the worship of the Mother is not what or how the Theocracy lead the rest of the world to believe, and as such have seperated themselves completely from them.
With the exception of their proselytising and strictly commercial activities, the communities of Red Isles are culturally quite isolationist. For generations, the wealth of their homeland has provided a stable existence, with little need to look back to the mainland they came from. The arrival of the Orcs and the Liches in the wake of the Cataclysm has changed this outlook somewhat, with many of the more radical Liviates calling for a holy campaign against all enemies of the Faith.
Nevertheless, the archipelago is well-defended, both on land and at sea. After all, in a civilised, logical society, war and conflict must be prepared for, but never sought. As such, most Islanders are taught how to use the bow, crossbow or a variety of melee weapons from a young age, in case they are ever called upon by their Elders to defend what is right and rational. Some folk have more of an aptitude for such military concerns, and often end up joining their local gunners, or the navy.
Those born with an affinity to one of the great magicks are said to bear “The Curse”. There is no love for the wizarding arts in The Red Isles; it is forbidden to use magic in the form of cast spells. Whereas in previous generations, such unfortunates either repressed their ability or were removed from society, the invention of the mana-bullet firearm has made such “cursed folk” valuable to the Widowed Assembly. Consequently, The Red Isles have been able to revolutionise their approach in warfare, and it is rare that other lands would dare threaten them. Although there is no unified standing army, larger settlements and regions field their own regiments, who are easily distinguished by their uniform. From the distinctive, wide-brimmed hats and tall boots of the Deliverance Company, to the long, blue coats of the Guardians of Silver Sigil, each has their own style. There are often intense rivalries and shooting contests between the soldiers, which has led to sustained, disciplinary campaign against them by the Merciful. As the war rages on the mainland, squads of these elite, ranged troops are in high demand by Deliverance-approved expedition leaders, who will compensate local Elders handsomely for the services of a gunner or sniper.
The Islander Navy enjoy a well-earned reputation as mavericks and glory-chasers, with little regard for their own safety. When dealing with particularly wayward youths, The Merciful often make a “strong suggestion” to join the Navy, although conscription is not a formal recruiting method. The chance to see new places and do battle with enemies of Deliverance are usually enough to keep the crews full, following a new plague or attack by a terror of the deep. Those who prove particularly adept on anti-piracy patrols are trained to use some of the more exotic creations of New Denestra, such as the whaling ballista, or the sea-burner pump.
A fusion between the ancient Rationalism and the Persian dualism of The Theocracy; 17th Century Puritan colonists and levellers; Low-steampunk craft workshops; The Hanseatic League; Penal Battalions; Musketeers; Line-infantry.
Inventors and academics of New Denestra: Goggles, prototypes and notebooks. For herbalists and prospectors, a catalogue of samples.
The Merciful & Gunners: Breastplates/Long Gorgets with sashes and collars.
Films such as Cromwell or Witchfinder-General.