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The Floating Archipelago of Euwlingaard

A Realm Above the Clouds

"As I endeavor to maintain objectivity within these writings, one must acknowledge the challenge of remaining detached when the subject is one’s own homeland. Even I, whilst merely collating facts upon this parchment, find my spirit stirred by thoughts of Euwlingaard—the land of my birth, my rearing, and my life’s toil. Affection wells within me for our collective ethos, our insatiable quest for knowledge, our appreciation for beauty. Yet, there is also a pang of sorrow for that which has been wrested from us: our history and our rightful place amongst the celestial spheres. Moreover, there abides a hope, fervently cherished, that my kin may one day return to the Sea of Night. Perhaps this shall not occur within my own lifespan, yet it is my aspiration that my endeavors today might pave the way for their voyage.   Shall we ever unravel the reasons our forebears braved that perilous exodus across the Sea of Night to reach this haven? One can but hope."
— From: "The Scribe’s Atlas to the Floating Archipelago" by Gweihlodi the Scribe
  One of the most unique realms of the Vespero continent is the Floating Archipelago of Euwlingaard. Comprising a series of interconnected floating islands, Euwlingaard's nomadic journey across the skies renders its location transient, with sightings reported from the frostbitten surfaces of the Frost Sea in the north, to the balmy airs above Bittermarsh and Anatara in the south. Inhabiting these drifting isles are the quillow, a species of owl-like beings adorned with ink-black talons and claws, expansive wings, and elongated tails finished with decorative tassels.   According to the records of the quillow, their origins trace back to even before the Age of Silence. It is said that the quillow ventured to Netherdyn from realms beyond the Nightsea, navigating the celestial currents aboard a singular, magnificent island. This island, powered by a mechanism of unparalleled sophistication, was capable of voyaging through the starlit waters; a marvel of technology and magic.   Tragedy, however, would befall this ancient civilization in the form of a cataclysmic event that rent the singular island asunder, fragmenting it into the archipelago that drifts above Vespero today. The calamity wrought devastation upon the Great Library of Euwlingaard, a repository of the quillow's vast knowledge and history. In the wake of this disaster, much of their recorded legacy was lost, including the secrets of the island's propulsion and the intricacies of its operation.   Amidst the ruins of their shattered past, the quillow harbor a steadfast belief that the key to their future lies in the restoration of their lost knowledge. They hold onto the hope that, should they succeed in piecing together the fragments of their history and repair the damages inflicted upon their home, they might once again navigate the celestial waters, reclaiming their place among the stars.  
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In the Service of the Machine

  The societal fabric of Euwlingaard is built around the core that lies deep within its main island—a colossal, ancient engine known simply as "the Machine." This remarkable construct not only sustains the islands aloft in its current, damaged state, but is also central to the quillow's social organization. They claim that the Machine is a physical extension of their god, the Inkveil of the Pantheon of the New Gods, and thus possesses a divine consciousness.   This perception imbues the Machine with a sacred significance, elevating it beyond a mere mechanical construct to a conduit between the quillow and the mysteries of the universe. Access to the Machine, and by extension the heart of the main island, is strictly regulated, safeguarded by a cadre of protectors who devote their lives to its preservation. This inner sanctum, where the Machine resides, is known only to a select few deemed worthy or chosen to commune with it.   In reverence to the Machine and the sacred quest for its restoration, Euwlingaardian society is divided into six distinct strata, each dedicated to fulfilling this celestial mandate.
The Yarquen
  The governance of Euwlingaard rests in the talons of the Yarquen, a select council chosen by the Machine to lead and guide the archipelago and its inhabitants. This assembly embodies the will of the Machine, acting as intermediaries between its divine directives and the daily lives of the quillow. The composition of the Yarquen mirrors the multifaceted nature of quillow society, with each member championing a critical aspect of their civilization's pursuits and values—exploration, scholarship, magic, and stewardship of the Nightsea, to name a few. This structure ensures a holistic approach to governance by the council.   The Yarquen's paramount duty is to steer the community towards the recovery and preservation of their fragmented history, prioritizing the search for the lost knowledge that could one day mend their broken world. This mission permeates every decision made and directive issued from the council, underscoring the sacred charge bestowed upon them by the Machine.
The Strix and Otus
  Directly under the guidance of the Yarquen are the Strix, also known as "Knowledge Seekers". They directly serve Euwlingaard's mission to reclaim the fragmented knowledge of their ancestors. These individuals, embodying the roles of both scholars and adventurers, are dedicated to venturing beyond the safety of their floating sanctuaries to the surface world below. Their expeditions are driven by the aspiration to piece together the history and technologies lost to the cataclysm that shattered their world. These quests are not merely for the acquisition of physical artifacts but for the reclamation of wisdom, the understanding of ancient magics, and the secrets of celestial navigation that could one day propel Euwlingaard across the Nightsea once more.   In tandem with the Strix, the Otus, or "Lorekeepers", represent the scholarly foundation upon which the future of Euwlingaard is built. Tasked with the stewardship of knowledge, these custodians reside within the halls of the Great Library, a repository of the archipelago's collective wisdom and the mysteries of the universe. It is here, among endless rows of ancient scrolls and tomes, that the Lorekeepers devote their lives to the preservation of history. They meticulously transcribe the findings brought back by the Knowledge Seekers, analyze ancient texts for forgotten truths, and compile new insights that edge their society closer to restoration.

 
The Talons
  Recognizing the potential for external threats and the imperative to shield their endeavors of restoration and exploration, the quillows have established the Euwlingaard Defense Wings. This elite cadre of warriors excels in the art of aerial combat and reconnaissance. They serve as the archipelago's protective mantle, patrolling the skies with keen eyes and swift wings, ensuring the sanctity and security of their floating islands and the invaluable knowledge they bear. Members of the Euwlingaard Defense Wings are simply refered to as "Talons".   Among the ranks of the Talons, the High Talons are the pinnacle of Euwlingaard's guardianship. The High Talons are the bulwark against the dark unknowns that lurk within the Nightsea above and the myriad dangers that ascend from the surface world below. They often escort scholarly adventurers beyond the safety of Euwlingaard, providing protection against the unforeseen perils that await in the vast expanse of Netherdyn. Their presence ensures that the quest for ancient lore and the pursuit of restoration can continue unabated.
The Taenopi
  The clerics of the Inkveil's Order, the Taenopi, serve not only the Yarquen, but also the broader populace of the floating islands, steering their constituents toward enlightenment and a deeper communion with the celestial forces that govern their existence. High-ranking members of this order, alongside the Yarquen themselves, are granted the rare privilege of venturing into the heart of the main island, where they engage in direct dialogue with the Machine, interpreting its will and ensuring its decrees are fulfilled.   Being part of the Inkveil's Order is not merely a vocation but a civil duty that many quillows embrace. It represents an opportunity to forge a closer bond with the Inkveil and to explore the depths of their celestial heritage. This spiritual journey is meant to be a path walked in tandem with their daily responsibilities. Because of this, most lower ranking Taeniopi also contribute to various sectors of Euwlingaardian life - many serve as Knowledge Seekers, as Lorekeepers, or as members of the Havenfolk, ensuring the wellbeing of their society.

 
The Havenfolk
  The Havenfolk embody the foundational layer of Euwlingaard's society, ensuring the continuity and vitality of daily life amidst the floating islands. Tasked with the care of the archipelago's floating gardens, the nurturing of its nocturnal creatures, and the preservation of the delicate balance that sustains life in this unique environment, their roles are crucial yet often understated. These common quillows, through their diligent stewardship of the environment and its resources, enable the high-minded pursuits of their society to flourish, grounding the community's celestial aspirations in the practicalities of everyday life. In addition to their direct contributions to the archipelago's sustenance and ecological harmony, the Havenfolk are integral to the functioning of Euwlingaard's Scholarly Guilds and Craftguilds, like the Navigators of the Nightsea or the Outbound Foundation.
The Outbound
  The Outbound are a distinctive group within Euwlingaard's society, operating as an informal network of quillows who choose to live on the surface world, either temporarily or permanently. Supported by the Outbound Foundation, they maintain vital links back to Euwlingaard, acting as ambassadors, scouts, and crucially, as supporters for the Strix. They often provide homes, food, and shelter for these seekers, facilitating their quests for lost knowledge.   In areas where Euwlingaard has formed alliances, such as with the Witchrealm of Morvathia or the Sunblessed Realm of Anatara, Outbound quillows have established small, thriving communities. Thus, the Outbound play an essential role in Euwlingaard's efforts to reclaim lost lore, acting as the primary connection between the floating islands and the broader world below.

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Symbol of the Inkveil

Life Above the Clouds

  The quillows of Euwlingaard have long embraced a philosophy of restraint and moderation, a cultural trait born from necessity. The floating islands, with their limited space and resources, historically produced just enough from their gardens to sustain the population. Despite the advent of trade and alliances with the surface world, which has alleviated many of the pressures of scarcity, the quillows continue to value the principle of consuming only what is needed.   In Euwlingaardian society, overindulgence is not merely a personal choice but is viewed through the lens of community impact, being socially discouraged as it signifies a disregard for the collective well-being and a lack of gratitude for the bounty the archipelago and its allies provide. However, this emphasis on moderation does not equate to a denial of pleasure or enjoyment. The quillows find delight in the richness of their culture, the beauty of their surroundings, and the depth of their communal bonds. Celebrations, artistic expressions, and culinary experiences are enjoyed fully but always with an underlying mindfulness to ones limits and needs.
Cuisine of A Self-sustaining System
  The archipelago's food system is adapted to the constraints and opportunities of their floating environment, showcasing innovative agricultural practices such as vertical and aeroponic gardens. These methods allow for the cultivation of a broad spectrum of plants, from nutrient-rich leafy greens and herbs to a variety of root vegetables, all grown with minimal soil and water usage.   Aquaculture also plays a significant role in their food supply, with fresh water sourced from the surface world to sustain fish and other aquatic organisms. This system not only diversifies their diet but also enhances their self-sufficiency, reducing reliance on external food resources.   To further minimize waste and ensure food preservation, the quillows have mastered the art of fermentation, drying, and smoking. These techniques not only extend the shelf life of their produce but also enrich their cuisine with a diverse range of flavors and textures. Pickled vegetables and fermented beverages are staple elements of their diet.   A cornerstone of both the Euwlingaardian lifestyle and diet is the yaprid, a versatile creature integral to their society since their journey from beyond the Nightsea. The yaprid, with its distinctive striped coat, single horn, and protective keratin shell on its back and face, serves multiple roles within the archipelago. Beyond being a source of meat, yaprids are valued as beasts of burden, providers of wool, and producers of milk. Only the oldest animals are culled and every part of the creature is utilized.   Yaprid milk, in particular, is transformed into a soft, creamy cheese with a delicate white rind and richly buttery flavor. Outside the archipelago it is often called "Euwlingaardian Brie".
Light and Practical Fashion
  The foundation of Euwlingaardian fashion is the wool of the yaprid, known for its softness and durability. The fabric is not only lightweight and breathable but also perfectly suited for the dynamics of aerial living.   Clothing among the quillow is crafted with a keen eye on functionality and comfort, yet without sacrificing aesthetic appeal. The designs feature flowing lines and silhouettes that naturally complement the aerodynamic needs of a species accustomed to life in the skies. Since quillows are adorned with their own coats of fur and feathers, their garments are less about protection from the elements and more an expression of cultural heritage and their role in society. This approach to clothing also transcends traditional gender norms, with little to no distinction made between male and female attire.   The aesthetic choices in Euwlingaardian fashion draw heavily from the cosmos, with garments often decorated with patterns reminiscent of the stars, celestial phenomena, and symbols representative of the Inkveil. While the scarcity of metals on the floating islands makes jewelry a rare commodity, the quillow have found creative ways to adorn themselves for ceremonial occasions. Necklaces and other ornaments crafted from yaprid bone and the limited wood resources of the archipelago serve as meaningful decorations.

 
Shared Work and Education
  In Euwlingaard, the distinction between "work time" and "free time" is virtually nonexistent, stemming from the inherent needs and limitations of their floating island life. Here, community labor is a continuous cycle, reflecting the understanding that the well-being of each individual is intrinsically linked to the collective success. This communal ethos negates the need for a traditional economy based on currency; instead, skill and knowledge are the primary currencies of value.   The archipelago operates on a system of mutual support, where resources are pooled and shared, making the concept of monetary wealth foreign except in dealings with the outside world, such as through trade or the explorations of Knowledge Seekers and the Outbound.   From an early age, young quillows are immersed in a broad curriculum that spans natural sciences, arcana, history, astrology, and the arts, preparing them for a life where their roles within society can be as varied instead of rigid. This education system ensures that as they mature, individuals are equipped to contribute where they are most needed, while also following their passions and interests.   The fluidity of professional identity in Euwlingaard means that one might find a gardener who also practices inkbinding, or a tailor who studies the stars as part of the Astrology Guild. Clerics of the Inkveil embody this multiplicity by engaging in the daily tasks of the Havenfolk, alongside their spiritual duties, reinforcing the idea that no role is too humble or too lofty.   The Knowledge Seekers and Lorekeepers, however, are noted exceptions to this rule. Given the paramount importance of their mission to reclaim lost knowledge and lore, they are dedicated solely to their respective tasks, undistracted by other societal roles.
Art of Hope, of Longing, and the Stars
  Despite - or maybe because of - the communal approach to labor and economics, Euwlingaard highly values artistic and cultural expression. The archipelago hosts various competitions, games, and performances that showcase the inhabitants' talents and passions, like aerial acrobatics or wingball.   Inkbinding, a unique form of magic native to Euwlingaard, exemplifies the fusion of artistry and mysticism. This practice involves manipulating special ink to create intricate figures and forms in the air, enhancing storytelling theatre and dance choreography. Stories and dances often explore themes of longing and the ancestral journey through the Nightsea, connecting present and past.   The "Remembrance of the Journey" or the "Journey Festival" is perhaps the most breathtaking manifestation of Euwlingaardian artistry. During this event, inkbinders, astronomers, and dancers collaborate to craft large-scale celestial art in the skies above the archipelago. This spectacle tells the epic saga of the quillow's odyssey through the Nightsea, celebrating their heroic tales and their roots to the cosmos.   Furthermore, painting and calligraphy hold significant cultural value, with many books of Euwlingaard being works of art in their own right. The Constellation Codex is considered one of the most beautiful expressions of the quillow's connection to the Sea of Night, a collaborative masterpiece that maps the stars as seen from the archipelago, filled with star charts, mythical tales, and astronomical observations.


 

The Art of Inkbinding

  Mystical Ink is a unique byproduct of the Machine that sustains the Floating Archipelago of Euwlingaard. This black substance not only serves as the medium for recording the vast knowledge within the Great Library but also possesses properties that allow for a distinct form of spellcasting, known as inkbinding.   Inkbinding involves a meticulous process where a spell is encoded within the ink on a page - effectively memorizing magic in art or writing. This method of magic requires extensive practice and a profound understanding of the ink's properties, allowing inkbinders to draw upon the dried ink when needed, transforming it back into the liquid form and unleashing the energies initially bound within.   Distinct from traditional spellcasting, which relies on the spontaneous combination of words and gestures, inkbinding pre-captures the essence of spells on parchment, allowing for their precise deployment at a moment's notice.   Advanced inkbinding goes beyond mere preparation, enabling inkbinders to capture, adapt, and even alter spells in real-time. Skilled practitioners can replicate magical effects they witness, creating on-the-spot spell formulations. The most adept inkbinders possess the ability to intercept and modify spells cast by others, rewriting their outcomes and properties to suit their needs. This capacity to dynamically alter live magic has cemented the reputation of inkbinders across Netherdyn as formidable adversaries, especially among galdoric wizards and morvathian witches who fear the unpredictability of having their spells turned against them.   Mystical Ink also has become a prized export from Euwlingaard, sought after by magic users for its unparalleled potency in spellbook and scroll creation, among other applications. While various magical societies have attempted to replicate the ink's unique properties, none have succeeded in matching the original's effectiveness. The scarcity of Mystical Ink, coupled with its powerful capabilities, continues to intrigue and attract scholars, spellcasters, and adventurers, bringing Euwlingaard in connection with the broader magical communities of Netherdyn.

 

The Structure of the Archipelago

  Euwlingaard is organized into a central formation of five distinct regions: four peripheral clusters of smaller islands, each circling around the main island which sits at the heart of the archipelago. The larger islands, known as Strigidus, act as the primary hubs for the quillow population. In each cluster, one or two Strigidus islands support the bulk of the inhabitants.   The architectural style of these Strigidus islands is notably vertical, with buildings stacked atop one another to accommodate the dense population. This layered urban design is interconnected by a network of walkways, essential for transporting goods and heavier items. While most daily commuting and access are facilitated by flight, given the quillows' natural abilities, these walkways are critical for the logistical needs of the community, ensuring that even the most cumbersome objects can be moved efficiently across the vertical cityscape.   Each cluster of islands is named in honor of a legendary hero from quillow folklore, figures who are revered for having guided Euwlingaard through the Sea of Night during the archipelago’s mythical past. These heroes, Aegoli, Pulsatri, Lophostri, Surnia, and Jubula, are celebrated not only in name but through statues, murals, and other forms of commemorative art that adorn the islands.  
Aegoli Cluster
  The Aegoli Cluster, dedicated to the revered Aegoli the Navigator, is distinguished by its composition of small, fragmented islands—some so minute that they host only a few residences. Despite these spatial constraints, the cluster is anchored by a larger island at its center, home to the Strigidus known as "Papori," which acts as the heart of this mini-archipelago.   Papori and its surrounding islets serve as the principal navigational and astronomical hub of Euwlingaard. The islands are dotted with observatories and archives filled with ancient and modern celestial charts. These facilities are crucial for continuing the legacy of Aegoli, providing the quillows with the means to chart the skies and navigate the complex celestial currents above Netherdyn.   Furthermore, the Aegoli Cluster is renowned for hosting the School of Inkbinding. Students and masters alike delve into the nuances of this craft, exploring both its traditional forms and innovative applications, ensuring the art continues to evolve and adapt.   One of the cluster's most intriguing features is the Anifae Outpost, situated on a once-stray island that drifted away following the cataclysm and only rejoined the cluster centuries later. During its time adrift, the island became a refuge for anifae—a race of insectoid creatures with iridescent wings—who fled a genocidal threat in their own realm. The decision by the Yarquen at the time to preserve the anifae's sanctuary rather than reclaim the island for exclusive quillow use marked a significant moment of Euwlingaard history. This choice led to the anifae becoming a small but significant part of the broader quillow community.
Pulsatri Cluster
  Named after a renowned inventor and artisan, the Pulsatri Cluster serves as the industrial heart of the archipelago, home of engineers, smiths, and artisans dedicated to the maintenance and enhancement of the islands. Here, the air resonates with the clang of hammers and the hiss of steam, as the inhabitants work tirelessly in forges, workshops, and innovation hubs. The Pulsatri Cluster is the backbone of the Craftguilds, housing the majority of them and providing a space where new technologies are born and refined to improve life across the floating archipelago. The cluster comprises several islands of similar size, creating a decentralized network where no single island dominates in terms of importance or function.   One of the most enigmatic and talked-about features within the Pulsatri Cluster is the "Breathing Spire" located on Avopi Strigidus. This tall, smooth pillar stands as a relic of ancient Euwlingaard, its original purpose shrouded in mystery. The spire is particularly noted for the peculiar acoustic phenomenon that occurs on certain nights each year. During these times, a deep, resonant sound, reminiscent of a giant breathing, emanates from the structure, giving it its name. This phenomenon has sparked much speculation among the quillows; many believe that the sounds are signals being transmitted from beyond the Nightsea, possibly communications from other quillow civilizations scattered across the cosmos. Despite numerous studies and theories, the true nature and purpose of the Breathing Spire remain unverified.
Lophostri Island
  Lophostri, the main island of Euwlingaard, stands as the intellectual and academic hub of the archipelago. Named in honor of the first quillow chosen as a Yarquen by the Machine, Lophostri embodies the rich scholarly tradition of the quillows, centralizing the archipelago’s vast repositories of knowledge. The island hosts the Great Library, an immense structure filled with ancient and contemporary texts, as well as numerous research centers and academies dedicated to a variety of disciplines. As the largest island, Lophostri is uniquely classified entirely as a single city—making it the most populous and vibrant of the Strigidus. The island’s heart contains the Halls of the Machine, a critically important and sacred location that is heavily fortified and strictly guarded.   Among the notable landmarks of Lophostri is the Grove of Rest. This serene green space offers a stark contrast to the bustling cityscape around it and serves as a memorial to those lost in the cataclysm that shattered Euwlingaard. The grove is a place of quiet reflection and remembrance, where the community can honor the past even as they look to the future.   Adjacent to the Great Library is the Book Market, an area where knowledge is actively exchanged. Here, books and scholarly resources are not simply sold but bartered, with an emphasis on the sharing of knowledge. The market is often the first place where copies of significant works from the Great Library are made available to the public, facilitating the dissemination of information and learning throughout the archipelago. This market is not just a commercial space but a lively cultural hub, where scholars, students, and curious minds meet to exchange ideas and insights, fostering a dynamic academic community that is accessible to all residents of Lophostri.  
Surnia Cluster
  The Surnia Cluster, named after the heroic Surnia who valiantly defended Euwlingaard during its perilous voyage across the Night Sea, is comprised of several larger islands, each densely populated.   Central to the Surnia Cluster's importance are the training grounds for the Euwlingaard Defense Wings. These facilities are spread across the cluster's islands, equipped with extensive resources to train the elite aerial warriors who protect the archipelago. The rigorous training programs and simulations conducted here ensure that the Talons are well-prepared to handle any threats that might arise, continuing the legacy of Surnia herself.   In addition to its military significance, the Surnia Cluster is also the home of the Outbound Foundation, which plays a crucial role in managing Euwlingaard's interactions with the surface world. The foundation operates primarily out of Heavori, known as the "port where sky and earth meet." This Strigidus is uniquely designed to accommodate visitors from below, equipped with taverns, shops, and amenities that cater to travelers.   Heavori is distinctive not only in its function but also in its economy, being the only place in Euwlingaard where traditional currency is regularly used. This economic anomaly is a result of its role as the gateway for outsiders, necessitating a system that aligns with the economic practices of the surface world. The Outbound Foundation holds significant authority over Heavori, overseeing its operations and ensuring that interactions with visitors are managed smoothly and beneficially.   Prominently located in the center of Heavori is the Monument of the Gyren Siblings, commemorating the founders of the Outbound program.  
Jubula Cluster
  The Jubula Cluster is named in honor of Jubula the Healer, a revered figure who played a critical role in the aftermath of the cataclysm that fragmented Euwlingaard. It is the agricultural heart of Euwlingaard, featuring the largest expanse of floating gardens and vertical farms found throughout the archipelago. These meticulously managed agricultural zones produce a significant portion of the food that sustains the floating islands' population. Additionally, the cluster is dotted with medicinal gardens that grow a variety of herbs and plants used by healers and alchemists in their remedies and potions, making it a center for both physical and botanical healing.   The Jubula Cluster also boasts the largest number of natural islands that remain largely untouched by quillow technology or architecture. These islands are conserved primarily for their ecological value, harboring diverse flora and fauna that are crucial for maintaining the biodiversity of Euwlingaard. They serve as living laboratories and gene banks, ensuring that the natural resources of the archipelago are sustained for future generations.   Risgli, the largest Strigidus within the cluster, is renowned for its Hatching Halls. These halls are attended by a dedicated group of midwives, healers, and educators who ensure that the eggs and newly hatched quillows receive the best care possible. From the moment of hatching, these young quillows are raised and educated within a supportive and communal environment. Moreover, the expansive meadows on the larger islands of the Jubula Cluster serve as safe zones for flight training, where young quillows learn to master their innate aerial abilities.

Comments

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Apr 24, 2024 11:06 by Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull

What a fascinating culture. I loved the descriptions of the different island clusters, and I think the Jubula cluster might be my favourite. I love the idea of there being some islands left untouched.   Inkbinding sounds so amazing too.

Apr 24, 2024 19:23

Thank you! Thinking about the different island clusters was also my favourite part about writing this. In general, I usually think of shared cultures in my setting, so it was interesting to coneptualize an isolated culture for a change.

At the end of everything, hold onto anything.