World of the False Dawn
Unknown to its people, the world of Dárdünah is an immense shattered sphere, broken asunder by unimaginably powerful cosmic forces billions of years before any intelligent being walked upon its surface. Its fragile atmosphere is held together by mysterious energies, and the cuplike rims of thousand-mile wide chasms hold glittering oceans upon its many enormous remnant fragments.
On one of these vast world fragments rest the known regions of Dárdünah, home to the animorphs who call themselves “jánah” (the people), brought to the world in ancient times. In the north can be found steamy tropical jungles and alien rainforests. In the south, the more temperate it becomes, with vast deserts of white and even red sand in the southwest. Verdant prairies and steppes lay in the central south, with savannas and dense, gigantic forests in the extreme southeast. The jánah believe that their world is essentially flat, which, considering the vast, apparently bottomless, cloud-filled fissures that surround them,...it may as well be.
The jánah are not truly native to this world, and this is written as part of their rich cultural heritage and epic tradition. Ancient holy writings speak of their most divine gods, the Great Mother and Father, fleeing from beyond the Edge of Heaven in an attempt to escape the ravages of a terrible evil known as the Devourer. In their flight, the divine couple came upon Dárdünah and placed upon it their blessed children, the Devah, who would eventually give birth to all the peoples of the various nations before becoming the deities worshiped by the many races of the known world.
The races of the jánah are, of course, anthropomorphic animals. The wide variety of animals is explained in their holy texts by legends of the Great Mother disguising her children with many forms to hide them from the Great Devourer and his demons. Physically they are fairly much human, but they retain their prominent animal features such as trunks, horns, tails, winged arms, etc. Picture, in essence, an animal-headed human adorned with whatever talons, fur, scales, or feathers the animal would have.
The sizes and shapes of the jánah vary wildly; everything from twelve-foot tall elephants to three-foot tall mice. Each animal type, called jenu (meaning “race”), has their own particular set of special abilities associated with that unique animal. There are three major classifications of jenu; the Sarpah (being reptiles and amphibians of all kinds), the Paksin (representing all feathered creatures), and the Vajrah (which are the wide variety of mammals). Many of the countries of the world seem to favor one jenu-type over another, while others host an amazing mixture of races.
The jánah are very religious, and all aspects of their lives are touched by religious ritual in some form or another. There are adulthood rituals, marriage and birthing rituals, a host of war rituals, purifications, oaths to households and lineages, prayers sung at morning and evening; the list goes on and on. It should be noted that behind all these is the ever-present faith in their gods, the Devah. And though they may never actually be seen descending on a silver cloud to bless or punish their worshipers, their existence would never be doubted, not even by a mad outcast.
Customs, Clothing, and Culture
Dárdünah is a world of formal greetings, bowing aplenty, and honorifics galore. Religion is a very strong part of this, and honors and prayers to the Devah make up quite a bit of the day. Temples and shrines are fairly common both in cities and the country, as are public displays of religious rituals. Priests are always treated with great respect and few would even dare raise their voices to them, let alone their hands. Dárdünah is steeped in ritual and tradition, and one must know the proper forms to observe for any given situation.
For entertainment, jánah enjoy performances of all kinds. Poets, singers, dancers, musicians, and acrobats can all find an easy living in most cities. Public displays of martial skill are common, with competitions held in many parts of the world similar to Olympic-style games. Gambling is an all too common distraction, and jánah enjoy their fair share of good drink, parlor games, public bathhouses, and skilled masseurs. Despite their excesses, brawling tends not to be as common, since most disputes are settled in a public fighting forum called the Spiral Arena.
Fashion tends toward vibrant colors and flowing garments. Even peasants wear bright colors, often in gaudy combinations. Loose fitting, Persian-style pants are quite common, as are robes and elaborate coats and gowns. The sexes do not tend to separate what one wears over another, and most clothes tend to be unisex. Sandals and soft boots are common, often decorated with tassels and crystal bells. Accessories such as bracelets, rings, earrings, necklaces, ankle bracelets (all made of ambers, iridescent chitin, and crystal), with wide flowing scarves and veils are often seen.
The jánah of Dárdünah have, over the course of nearly ten thousand years since their arrival, made some amazing cultural leaps. The advances of science, medicine, and architecture have seen mighty palaces and sprawling cities begin to dot the land, though the belief in magic and the intrigues of court politics still play a prominent role. The colorful cultures, traditions, and physical differences of its various peoples offer the possibilities of many excitingly mysterious and exotic interactions throughout its numerous countries and unique settings.
Separating the various regions of the known world are tall and jagged mountains of crystal. Near their barren and slender peaks one can see the light of the two suns shining through their huge, ruggedly faceted crystalline depths to illuminate their beauty. Within the mountains can sometimes be found bluish-white glass volcanoes of incredible heat and power, formed from the intense frictional pressures of enormous moving crystals deep within Dárdünah’s heart.
Among the high peaks, and beneath the soil of Dárdünah itself can be found many strange crystals with unique and sometimes powerful attributes. There are crystals that vibrate and sing, and some cut to form durable blades, stones that glow with light and heat, gems that aid in the casting of ritual magics, and even crystals that are lighter than air, used to make ships sail aloft into the amber skies. The crystals of Dárdünah are considered sacred and mystical to the jánah, and are referred to often in their myths, legends, and even daily sentiments such as, “May your crystal never shatter”.
The Living Environment
The native flora and fauna of the world is primordial and alien, and the lands and waters beyond the “civilized” regions of the jánah are anything but tame. The wilderness of Dárdünah teems with life of all kinds; the suthra (native beasts) of the world come in many shapes and sizes, resembling giant insects of an alien nature. There are monstrous suthra who dwell in the deepest jungles, oceans, mountains, and skies, suthra that are ridden as mounts on land and in the air, suthra trained like pets, and suthra that are raised for their meat, their shell, and their hides.
The varieties of flora in the world are strange and wonderful, some of them even filling the niches an animal would often fill, such as giant carnivorous plants. Much of the plant life exists at a much larger scale than we would find on our world, reminiscent of the prehistoric jungles of our most ancient times; huge ferns, strange glowing fungi, and even plants that can move of their own volition. Many varieties of trees can grow to gargantuan size, capable of supporting vast structures and ornate dwellings within them.
The Skies of Dárdünah
One of the most amazing spectacles of all is the vibrant sky of Dárdünah. Beyond the horizons and above the pearly clouds, the amber-colored skies are anything but plain. Beautiful auroras and nebulous mists in hues of various color swirl slowly in the upper atmosphere like distant veils, giving rise to the various tales of the realms of Dream and the Edge of Heaven where the immortal Devah dance. Sometimes, seen brightly displayed, is a spiral shape beyond the clouds where, according to legend, the chariot of the Great Mother and Father first entered the skies of Dárdünah.
Rarely are the amber heavens ever devoid of the accents of swirling colors and paint-like strokes, even at night when vapors of green, deep purple, scarlet, and blue seem to play. But as beautiful as the skies may seem, great and spectacular storms can often rise from nowhere. Winds bearing razor-sharp shards of crystal have been known to sweep down from tall mountains to bring terrible destruction, or blow from across vast and wild forests carrying mighty swarms of hungry insects.
A Rich History to Discover
As has been mentioned, the history of the jánah covers nearly ten thousand years since their first arrival, and spans from ancient pre-history, when the jánah were but nomadic bands of hunter-gatherers, through glorious and dark mythic periods when the Devah walked the earth veiled in flesh, to the tragic upheaval of an age known as the Twilight Wars, and finally to the more recent times of grand discoveries and innovations. Throughout all of this the jánah have left behind extensive evidence of this great journey through time, and of their achievements, sometimes glorious and sometimes grim.
All in all, however, Dárdünah is a place of rare beauty and amazing variety, with many untouched regions and ancient secrets. There are ruins of lost civilizations to explore, and exotic cultures in which to interact. Horrors, wonders, and mysteries abound, and the powers of magic and faith intertwine to touch the world in many subtle and enduring ways. May you find this world a joy to behold, and a marvelous challenge to experience.