What is this whole “Stormtalons” thingy that I keep seeing?
“Stormtalons” is both the setting name, and the omnipresent factor in the world, no matter where you are, or what you’re doing. The Stormtalons are mists – swirling, murky mists that cover most of the realm. People live in relatively stable pockets of those mists. Some of those pockets are huge, stretching thousands of miles. The “known world” of Asmer is one of those pockets. Some pockets are no more than a few feet.
But they’re just mists, right? The worst they can do is make you feel a little clammy.
No, not just mists. No one, not the gods, not the Dragons can control them, much less explain them. They are their own thing, playing by incomprehensible rules. People have spent thousands of years attempting to figure out the mechanics of how they work.
What they discovered is no one can learn the mechanics of how they work.
The mists are always on the move, mutagenic, and magic-dampening. In those aforementioned pockets there are entire civilizations that haven’t had contact with anyone “outside” in millennia, a plethora of grotesqueries, and sporadic magicks.
The elves, who dwell in the Stormtalons, are able to have relatively regular trade (regular being a few massive trade caravans a year when the “readings” are right) due to their innate affinity with the Stormtalons. Mist-Walkers can make excellent coin by leading ships over the Aeradaunt and caravans over land, but they make one mistake and all are lost. Needless to say, there aren’t many Mist-Walkers in Asmer. In distant Jayasudhera, there are special Navigators who can use ancient runestones set into the ocean floor to safely guide ships through to the “known lands” of Asmer, but they are a rare and jealously guarded secret.
There’s a reason for the old Talonurr saying, “Only the desperate or insane dare forge the mists.”
All this leads the Stormtalons to be a major factor in the politics, economy, and even everyday life for Asmerians. Whenever a new vast area on the borders of the mists opens up, there’s a massive rush of explorers, adventurers, and claim-stakers all trying to grab what they can from it in case the mists close back over it. There are methods of pushing back and keeping back the mists from land, but they are expensive, and not just in terms of coin.
The theocracy of Rheligor, led by the Priests of the Six, have devoted endless resources to their mysterious “Blood Temples,” the only things known by humanity to keep the mists at bay and, some say, even push them back to clear space for new colonization. Most of Asmer believes the Blood Temples to be myth, but they are very real. And the priests guard those secrets, and zealously go after anyone or anything they think can help perfect them. Moreso than even the Heirophar, the priests are on the watch for elves, and those they think might know the ways of the Stormtalons, to spirit them away for unknown experimentation and questioning.
Certain artifacts, destroyed in spectacular and dangerous fashion, can also create pockets free of the mists. No one has quite figured out why this works, or even what type of artifact might be useable. Some work, some don’t. And if someone attempting this method has an artifact that doesn’t work, they won’t know until the artifact is destroyed, the danger from the ritual dealt with, and the mists closing in around them.
The elves have the knowledge to hold the mists back from their pockets of civilization, but the knowledge is slowly fading over the course of generations, as what was once common knowledge is lost to the course of time. And it’s not a single elf that has this capability. Only by combining the spiritual energy of an entire society, woven together through complex ritual and solidified into ward stones that must be constantly maintained, can their homes stay free. Keepers of this knowledge tend to form special orders, near religious in nature, but those orders are dwindling. Even worse, the length of time with stability has led many elven societies to hubris, thinking that they have managed a permanent solution with their current situations. They are likely to be taught the error of their ways, at shattering cost.
But all this knowledge is only for keeping the mists at bay, or pushing them back. The Stormtalons cannot be controlled or directed. Not by elves, priests, nor Navigators. There is Stormtalons magic, mighty Spells of Legend that lead most studying it to death, madness, or collection by the Heirophar. The single most unreliable branch of magic, Stormtalons magic is eschewed by most sane possessors of the Gift of Magic. And if learning the spells don’t kill you, or worse, the Cost presents its own danger. And that magic, Spells of Legend or no, does not lead one to control them, only to use them – the way a tyrant may use starved carnivores to deal punishment.
The touch of the mists may not always change someone, but it happens often enough that it is considered a common thing. Those changes are rarely subtle. Bodies are warped and twisted until they no longer remotely resemble what they once were, and dire powers may also occur. But the biggest threat is not to body or ability, but to the mind. Few indeed are the Mist-Twisted capable of retaining their sense of self, or their sanity.
Constantly on the move, the mists may lay quiescent for hundreds of years, staying clear of certain areas or filling them. Without warning, that can change nearly overnight. Once peaceful farmland may find the Stormtalons bearing down upon them with no warning, waking up to find them outside their very doors. Alternately, areas submerged by the mists for generations may clear, and stay clear, for generations more. If there is a natural rhythm to their ebb and flow, no one has been able to discover it. Lands so covered by the mists for so long are rich and fertile, and often contain vast deposits of minerals and ore. That makes them desperately sought after for expansion and exploitation. Even the risk of inundation isn’t enough to keep many from eagerly staking claim in a recently cleared swath.
As one can see, the Stormtalons have shaped the world of Asmer more than the rise and fall of empires, times of feast and famine, or the discovery and invention of new and wondrous devices. More constant than even the gods, more present than the Sleeping Dragons, the Stormtalons are the true power behind everything in the setting. Seemingly sempiternal, the mists dictate the fates, either directly or indirectly, of every living thing in Asmer.