Azrael's Guided Tour
A Journey Through Rhye
Greetings to those below. I am Death, though as always, I will ask you please call me Azrael. Welcome to Orosta and also the tour we will embark on today. I will say now this entry will be a long one, but that is only because I want to be sure you are completely familiar with the world as you travel so what happened with my brother has a much lesser chance of happening again. So then, for your own protection—and for your interest and entertainment, too—I present to you:
The Island of Rhye
You should understand, those below, that when I say welcome to Orosta, the island of Rhye is typically what I mean. It is a small place all things considered, but for the amount of trouble it has caused, it might as well be everything that defines the world. You’d have to ask the dragons for the specifics about that, though, but I’ll warn you now they are not as patient with questions as I. You wouldn’t want to provoke them, or should I say Provoke in the legal sense? If you Provoke a dragon as Draconum Law understands it, then they are legally allowed to eat you. And no, there is no clear definition as to what counts as Provocation. Convenient for them, isn’t it? Less so for you, which I have come to discover through the millennia is rather the point.
The Dragonhorn MountainsBut I am perhaps casting things a bit unfairly. The dragons do have their reasons for why they do what they do, and many of those reasons are even good. Dare I say necessary? It’s a complex topic, though, I’ll grant you. They do lie, too, which unfortunately has resulted in Rhye’s most famous landmark—the Dragonhorn Mountains, an unclimbable, gargantuan mountain chain that encircles the entire island, creating a rather effective natural prison. Oh, but perhaps “prison” is the wrong word. Perhaps.
The River of RhyeThe island’s other notable feature is the River of Rhye, the main river that feeds both the lowlands and most of the island’s commerce. Its current flows from west to east through the kingdom of Rhyastil, while the winds blow from east to west, allowing merchants the ability to first ride the current to the east, then simply open their sails to return west. Every year it floods, creating rich floodplains in the central valleys that can be cultivated year round, leaving more time for life and culture rather than mere survival. From there, the river branches off in countless directions to create verdant tropical lands that, I admit, are quite beautiful, especially when the moon hits them just right.
The Three KingdomsThis of course brings me to the kingdoms themselves. There are three in this little place, believe it or not, but that becomes much less surprising when you learn the other two kingdoms, Rhyseel and Rhyxie, are inhabited strictly by the fairies in the north and the pixies in the south. Solas and Dorcha are their respective capitals. The little ones don’t take up much room, you see, which is why the kingdom of Rhyastil dominates most of the island’s territory. Here, then, is where our tour will focus today.
Rhyastil's Capital, Atheliona
First stop on our tour is Atheliona, the kingdom of Rhyastil’s capital city. It is the seat of civilization, a glistening white diamond buried in luscious green jungles. Its streets are quite literally paved in gold, the result of a historic gift from the first gold dragon to have ever lived. Midas the Destroyer of Wealth breathed on the bricks that formed the Throne’s Road, transforming it into the wonder it is today. Ahem. I can see some of your eyes glistening with dreams of treasure, those below, but I regret to inform you that gold is quite worthless in the world of Orosta, at least in the monetary sense. This is because gold is not the least bit rare thanks to the gold dragons. Do you see now why Midas’s epithet became the Destroyer of Wealth? That said, gold is still greatly admired for its beauty, which is why Atheliona’s streets, as well as Atheliona itself—what with its white limestone veneers and opulent marble trappings—are hailed as one of the oldest and greatest Marvels of Orosta.
The White CitadelTraveling up the Throne’s Road through the Dragon Pits, the Wisdom District, the Journey District, Grand Dragon Plaza, Sicarius Ward, and the Nomarchs’ Quarter, you will eventually reach the Dragon’s Court. There you will find that glittering white palace built so long ago called the White Citadel. It has been the home of Rhyastil’s rulers since the day the kingdom was born. What you might understand as a king is called a pharotu. Pharota is its female equivalent. Both forms of the word mean “victor” or “victory” in Sithuli, a term coined by the Sithuwaye, Desmon Anastil, after his successful rebellion and founding of the kingdom. The name “Rhyastil” is quite simply the names “Rhye” and “Anastil” joined together, which is only one of the reasons the Anastilian royal family is practically synonymous with the kingdom itself. The other reason is that, against all odds, they have successfully maintained power for the last five thousand years. There have been various pharotu and pharota throughout history, some better than others, but the kingdom’s current pharota is Vānima the Veldriss. She is accompanied by her royal vizier and consort, Cell the Veldriss’s Voice, who has increasingly become the public face of the kingdom . . . especially after Cayl Sulissurn was killed.
But with Cayl in mind, this takes us out of Atheliona into the kingdom’s six provinces. First is the province begun by Cayl, the founder of First Chosen House Sulissurn, the only nomarch family to have survived throughout the entirety of the Veldriss’s reign. Cayl named his castle, which in turn named the province, Wolfsbane.
Wolfsbane ProvinceNear Atheliona, toward the southwest bleeding into the south, is where you will find Wolfsbane Province. In present times, it is governed by Lord Nomarch Helios Sulissurn, my greatest fan. I don’t know exactly what it says about him that he is my greatest fan, I being Death and all, but it’s nice to be appreciated, I suppose. So few people do, you see. He is also known as the king of assassins, but despite this, his lands are some of the safest places in the kingdom. The three main towns the province boasts are all clean, well-guarded, and prosperous. There is, of course, Vandiver, the fun one, and Helios’s personal favorite. Then there is Isring, the one named for the blue dragon, Isringhound the Quiet, who dwells near its edges. Lastly, there is Majak, meaning “mother” in Zishlyn. It’s the one with the Mother Statue sitting at its center, except the plaque is worn away, and no one remembers now what it said. I don’t really remember, either, if I’m being honest, but I do remember her. Cayl did his best to honor his mother . . . before everything he believed in was shattered. Ah, but perhaps it is best to leave such things in the grave. It was a sad day when I came to collect her. Sadder still when I collected her son. But the Veldriss has created a lot of sad days for me as of late. But as I said before, the province is named after Castle Wolfsbane, the home of Helios and his cunning wife, Eris. Their son, Jezryn—sometimes called Jezryn the Butcher—is rumored to live there, as well, but he hasn’t been home for the last two years. He’s been on a hunt, you see—a hunt far in the east where a Black Unicorn has begun to stir. The Veldriss wishes to silence her stirrings . . . if you catch my meaning. In any case, I’d highly recommend Wolfsbane Province as a place to live if you are looking to settle down. Helios, despite what his reputation would have you believe, is at least fair. He takes care of what he considers his, and all of Wolfsbane is most definitely that. It’s just a matter of if you’d be comfortable with Helios considering you . . . “his”.
Nightshade ProvinceOur next stop is Rhyastil’s second province called Nightshade, named after Castle Nightshade. It is smaller than Wolfsbane by a great deal, located in the center of the kingdom, but it is still the second wealthiest thanks to the strategic placement of its two largest towns, Thane and Oleva, that both take advantage of the rich floodplains provided by the River of Rhye. Thane is a farming town, responsible for much of the kingdom’s crops and food supply. Oleva, in turn, is a fishing town, and since access to the ocean is completely blocked by the Dragonhorn Mountains, fish and other freshwater life are considered rare and delicious delicacies that bring quite a profit in the capital’s Grand Dragon markets. Fishing regulations are carefully monitored to maintain this wealth so as not to exhaust the supply, making it a seasonal affair that is met with great excitement every year. All this is, of course, maintained by the province’s current nomarch family, Second Chosen House Jaxinar. Minister Ajayzil Jaxinar and his observant wife, Minister Ssain Jaxinar, enjoy no small amount of power since they are not only chosen nomarchs, but are also two of the six Ministers of Sicarius, the assassin school in Atheliona that, might I say, completely dominates all aspects of the kingdom’s government. Because of this, I would not be wrong in saying that, at least on paper, both Ajayzil and Ssain are more powerful than even Helios. But as the saying goes:
As for living here, I will say it is nice enough. If you wish to be a farmer, there is no better place than Thane. The same goes if you have aspirations of a fishing career in Oleva. The territory itself is well-maintained just like Wolfsbane. It is lovely to look at, well-protected, and Ajayzil is a good caretaker all things considered. He is famously friends with Helios, as well, so there is the added benefit of having his neighborly favor. I suppose I would recommend living here, too, but I will warn you a bit about the culture. Ajayzil and Ssain both are extremely devout followers of the Religion of Velherr. They firmly believe Vānima the Veldriss is a goddess, and so they ensure her mandate that a mirror be kept on every street corner and in every room of every home is strictly followed. Mirrors allow the Veldriss to spy, you see, which grants her that all-knowing, all-encompassing presence a goddess would command. So, if you are a religious practitioner to any degree and claim the Veldriss as your goddess and adoptive mother, then Nightshade Province would definitely be a place you’d enjoy living. If you don’t believe in the goddess, though, it may in fact be the worst place you could go.“No one crosses House Sulissurn.”—All of Rhye
Hellebore ProvinceThe third province on our tour is Hellebore. Located in the southeast and bleeding into the south, it shares a border line with both Wolfsbane and Nightshade. But unlike our last two stops, here is a place I would caution you to visit, let alone live. It’s two primary towns couldn’t be more different, but both are equally unpleasant. Clearbrooke might as well be a ruin for the destruction it has seen, most notably the attack led by the red dragon Elghinyrrok the Judge that turned the town to ash. It has since been rebuilt over the last twenty-one years, but it is still a struggling waste. Those who live there are determined to survive, but the feeling of being trapped is always there. The other town, Hellreigel, has a much stronger presence, and it is the main source of commerce for the province and what keeps House Kezydur functioning. But since it’s main export is kohl and other mining materials, most of the buildings are black. Not because they were painted, but because thick layers of soot have been packed into the stone. It kicks up from the street with every footstep, and the constant whining of machinery and creaky mining carts spoil the air. If you enjoy industry, perhaps you’d enjoy life here. Just beware the health of your lungs. But before this becomes too gloomy and dour, I will say there is at least one positive spark to Hellreigel. Hellreigel the Wild is a black dragon, the town’s namesake in fact, who has lived in the nearby mountains for decades now. He is, might I say, a delight. Handsome, charming, and filled with that roguish flair even I find hard to resist. If you visit him and are pleasant enough, he is sure to show you a fun time. As for Hellebore as a whole, though, I will let my words of caution stand. The province is often referred to as the Land of Tigers. This is literal in the sense there are indeed tigers that roam the jungles near its mountainous edges, but it’s figurative meaning is what most people typically intend. Governed by Third Chosen House Kezydur, this nomarch family emulates the tiger it claims as its House sigil right down to their appearance. Tiger-orange hair, white teeth, gold eyes, and heavy black kohl painted around the eyes to represent stripes. Minister Telemzet Kezydur, the third Minister of Sicarius, began the tradition after she took control of the House from her weak and abused husband. Telemzet began life as a commoner with the family name Besettoz. She is only a Kezydur by marriage rather than blood, a detail that would normally matter a great deal, except Telemzet has squashed any opposition to the point most people have forgotten poor Ezton even exists. Telemzet has continued her infamy with her vicious pack of daughters, the Five Sisters being the most notorious. Strangely, the sons of House Kezydur have not received the same level of fame, all of them dying at various stages here or there, but all before the age of ten. There are rumors as to why this is, each one increasingly distasteful. I am Death, and as such, all I will say on the subject is that you would do well to believe these rumors. All of them.
Blood Lily ProvinceNamed after Castle Blood Lily, the fourth province of Rhyastil could be considered a better place to live compared to Hellebore, but to determine that depends on your answer to the following question: Would you prefer to know your death was imminent and so embrace the tiger charging directly at you, or would you prefer being surprised, living in ignorant bliss until the jaguar sprang from above? If you’d prefer the former, then live in the Hellebore Province. Embrace the tiger and all that comes with her. But if you’d prefer the latter, then the Blood Lily Province would be the perfect place to live until the last second of your life when it wouldn’t be. The two primary towns are Kalkati and Gahagan, and I dare say you could lead a decently happy life in both of them. That is, so long as you avoided the mirrors. Just like in Nightshade, they are everywhere. Frankly there are mirrors in all the provinces, but the ones in Nightshade and Blood Lily always seem to receive that extra bit of polish . . . if you catch my meaning again. Fourth Chosen House Luzell governs this province. Minister Cylliaj Luzell and her husband, Minister Rusain Luzell, are the fourth and fifth Ministers of Sicarius. Lady Minister Luzell is also hailed as the Veldriss’s Ear and serves as her highest-ranking vyash priest in the Temple of Velherr. She alone hears the goddess’s commands faithfully whispered by Cell the Veldriss’s Voice. So then do these commands travel down to the Veldriss’s Hands and Eyes who go out to preach and observe the goddess’s loyal children. And that was your unhealthy dose of propaganda for the day. How did I do? On another note, though, there are two groups of people who would do well to avoid this province. They are Zurrinaih elves and humans. If you are a Zurrinaih elf couple looking to start a family (congratulations) . . . don’t live here. There is a worrisome number of Zurrinaih children who go missing from time to time, especially in the town of Gahagan. Not to mention the eerie rumors of a ghostly woman in white who can sometimes be seen in the fog. Some children are never seen again. Others, well . . . there has been the occasional mother who has thought certain children from House Luzell looked . . . familiar . . . but of course it has always proven to be wishful thinking. They just miss their own lost babies, of course. And how fortunate is it that Lady Minister Luzell has so many children to feed to that assassin school, Sicarius. Children are power, after all, so says the goddess. As for the humans, certain middling nomarch families that govern here, most notably Middle House Deegh, enjoy hunting humans for sport. No delusions of grandeur now. These would be assassins hunting you, Zurrinaih elves who run so fast, not even an arrow shot from a bow could match their speed. You will get caught. And then you will meet me in a context much different from this one. That is unless you can manage to make it across the border into the sixth province, which is much, much kinder to humans. It is kinder to everyone, quite frankly. But before we go there, we must make a quick stop at the fifth province. We wouldn’t want to go out of order, of course, but rest assured this will be a quick stop. You’ll understand why this is ideal with my very next sentence.
Doll's Eye ProvinceThe Doll’s Eye Province is governed by Fifth Chosen House Roiz, a nomarch family who enjoys making taxidermy dolls out of their assassination victims. See? Told you you’d want this stop to be quick. Minister Lyris Roiz, the sixth and final Minister of Sicarius, reportedly began the House’s infamous hobby. No one knows why, but I will say it has something to do with her husband, Lord Nomarch Grott Roiz. Grott hasn’t been seen in over twenty years, though. As for Lyris, she still commands House Roiz as she always has, but she has become increasingly distant, seemingly lost in her own little fog now that, as she puts it:
And before you ask, no, I am unfortunately not joking about any of this. Castle Doll’s Eye, the province’s namesake, boasts quite the collection of “dolls” in its dungeons. At least that’s the going rumor. Sithuwaye elves, humans, the odd jeenta or three, and even some of their own deceased family members are all said to be down there. I can’t speak for all the rumors, of course, but I can at least confirm one. After I collected Senzid Roiz, I know his body ended up down there. His youngest sister, Seneen, chose topaz gemstones for his eyes.“The moths are eating his bed.”—Lyris Roiz
by J. L. Gryphon via ArtbreederBut before you flee in terror (and truly no one would blame you), on the topic of Seneen, at least let me say there may be more to her than you might assume . . . dolls and all. She means well. She can even be sweet sometimes. When she wants to be. But just between us, I’ll tell you my brother doesn’t like her. Considering your recent adventure in The Morsus Swamp, I’ll let you decide what you think of that little tidbit later. But I can see the Doll’s Eye Province is a hard sell in terms of real estate. While it is an excellent place to hide if you don’t want to be found thanks to its low number of mirrors and its sea of untamed rainforests, I would still not advise living here (and not just because the Morsus Swamp is so close), so let’s move on to the Belladonna quickly like I promised.
Belladonna ProvinceAnd so we come to the last stop on our tour. It was a long journey as I said it would be, but this is the perfect place to pause and rest your feet. The Belladonna Province is located once again in the west but opposite Wolfsbane toward the north. Standing as the primary source of gemstones in the kingdom, if you wish to hire a dragon for any particular service, here is the place to go if you ever hope to afford it. Currently it is governed by Sixth Chosen House Loperian, but more specifically Onnissah Loperian. She is a Loperian by marriage rather than blood, and as such began as the House’s second authority. However, she inherited full authority of the House after her husband’s death. Not that she wanted it, though. Baalath’s death wounded her deeply, and she has never been able to bring herself to remarry despite what political advantages it would bring her. Perhaps this is the reason Helios shows her favor, though I doubt it. Similar to House Jaxinar, House Loperian enjoys an allegiance with House Sulissurn, though why Helios has chosen to ally himself with the weakest of the Chosen Houses has remained a mystery to even the nosiest of gossips. Not to mention House Loperian’s tenuous reputation. Remember I said this province is kinder to most everyone? This is because Onnissah is something of a novelty. By that I mean, she is considered strange by most. Her son, Baläg, is considered equally so. Perhaps it is because she lives so close to the cruel treatment of humans in the Blood Lily Province, or perhaps she simply is sympathetic to the suffering of others after the death of her dearly-loved husband. Either way, she has a tendency to rescue humans and house them at her castle, however secretly, allowing them to recover from whatever poor treatment they may have received. Oh, and I’d advise keeping that fact quiet. No one knows she does this, and that is definitely for the best. As for living here, I would definitely recommend it, but Onnissah’s position is fragile, and I would hate to have you move here only to discover she has been killed, and the province has been given to new, poorer management. For reference, Castle Belladonna used to be named Castle Snakeroot, and so, too, was the province. Onnissah renamed both to Belladonna, something more pleasant-sounding in her opinion. I remain neutral in this, but I will say that while the renaming is nice, it sort of misses the point as to why it was called Snakeroot in the first place. You see, this is an island ruled by assassins and the goddess they worship. Being “nice” is not exactly a top priority. See what I mean? At least it keeps up the theme of being a poison. There is that.
A Tour's End
And with that, we have reached the end of our tour. I thank you, those below, for sticking with me in this journey. Now I think you will be quite prepared should my brother appear again and attempt to lure you somewhere else. There is much more I could say about Rhye and its people, but at this point, I think the best thing would be to engage with them yourselves. Don’t let me do all the talking. I think if I personally were to live anywhere on Rhye—not that I do of course—I would choose Wolfsbane. After all, it is within the Leräna crypt where I write most of these entries. It’s a lovely little spot, I must say. But I am curious, though. What about you? If you were traveling to Rhye and wishing to settle down, where would you choose to live?
To learn more, hop on over to the books page OR hop on over to the teaser and get a sneak peek of Chapter 1! For more articles like this one, have a peek at my Worldbuilding Journal and explore Orosta.
- The Birthplace of Life
- The Isle of the Anastils
- The Isle of the Morsus
- The Isle of Death
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