Who you are is often as much about who knows you. It’s possible, in Cobrin’Seil, for you to grow up on an archipelago of connected island city-states, with diverse food and music cultures, in a state that respects art for its own good, and ensures the widespread development of parks and proper protection of the seas, which creates great public artworks, and which even has the largest bridge in the King’s Highway running through it, and for you to live your whole life thinking that people must surely know your homeland as the place of elemental magic, physical duels that test the body against the body, and a theatre culture with explicitly fictional gods. What you wouldn’t necessarily expect is for your first dealings with outsiders to end with ‘Oh, the cow people.’
Such is the lot of the people of the sprawling island nations of Kyranou (pronounced kai-ran-ow).
Coastal semi-urbanised independent nation, the ocean’s bridge, the welcomers of the dawn, the straits of white, the bonders
Kyranou is a nation sconstructed along an archipelago made up of as many as a thousand islands (depending on who’s doing the considering as what counts as an island), of which over a hundred and fifty are considered inhabited and settled (depending on who’s doing the counting of what’s considered a settlement). The islands range in size from around eight thousand kilometers area at the largest, though most are only about two thirds that size or smaller. There’s definitely a unifying culture across Kyranou, though every island’s particular people are prone to seeing themselves as lone exceptions, and generalise all the ways they are different to the rest of the populace as being, you know, them.
Each island tends to support only one large settlement, which usually shares the name of the island, and most of these are pastoral townships which sustain themselves through agriculture. Because space is at a premium most of these villages sustain themselves through the management of smaller herd animals like goats and sheep. Very commonly, villages have an honoured grouping of druids, who are somehow set apart from the settlement in a special location the village sustains (towers jutting out of the sea are not uncommon), to help sustain agriculture during hard times, and to consult for best ways to manage the land.
While there are a number of settlements that Kyranou people consider ‘cities’ based on the size of the island and population, including several that are sustained entirely based on trade with other, more directly productive cities, there is one location in Kyranou that is regarded by outsiders to be a city, which is Dorox.
Common: Abilen, Goblins, Half-Elves, Half-Orcs, Halflings, Humans
Uncommon: Dio Baragh, Eladrin, Orcs
Rare: Tjosen, Gnoll Seafarers, Tieflings
Kyranou is a culture that spends a lot of time talking about itself as a culture. When people talk about Kyranou from outside, they often talk about things that are very much true. Kyranou has a strong culture of formalist art and science, where a common analytical model involves perceiving the world as breaking apart cleanly into one of four elemental expressions (air, water, fire, earth, which are ordered that way as a cycle). They are renowned for constructing extremely large artworks, usually statues, but also architecture and landscaping. They are typically seafarers, revel in food as presentation, and are even renowned for favouring colours and dyes that are bright and high contrast.
They’re also known for a theatrical culture, which used to at one point be the primary form of public education and historical recordkeeping of the Kyranou people. Before written text, it’s said, they mostly engaged with stories of the past and the now as fiction, and their fiction even wanted to try and account for the actions and presence of gods. However, since any given god could be offended if represented in art, the Kyranou tradition of the Fool’s Pantheon followed — meaning that they have a stock, standardised set of deity characters to reference in all Kyranou art, who are very pointedly, not any of the actual gods, but rather representations of things gods might be.
This set of standardised characters even have their own references across the culture, which means that you might encounter a cleric or paladin of those entirely fictional gods, who would not expect to have powers, but still offer advice and counsel as per those gods’ fictional depictions would account. This could even include offering fictional magic, roleplaying or pretending to cure a disease to comfort the sick or children.
Art, Beauty, And Good
While individual expressions of art and beauty are varied, in Kyranou, there is definitely a dominant paradigm of art and its ramifications. That is the dominant paradigm described here: Any given maker, craftsperson or artist in Kyranou doesn’t have to comply to it at all. But it does inform the way the people raised and living in the archipelago see art in general, and therefore, how ‘Kyranou art’ is assumed to be.
It goes both ways, too. Kyranou art asserts that goodness and beauty are linked; therefore, anything that is undeniably good is asserted as being beautiful, and anything beautiful, the argument extends, should be able to see an inherent goodness.
This can present problems for studies that struggle to make their work beautiful. Surgeons often provide highly stylised diagrams of their studies, in order to ensure their discipline can perpetuate. Engineers who learn in Kyranou often discard functional techniques because of their lack of compliance with aesthetic standards. This can extend to the representative art – where historical figures’ artworks and statues are changed to reflect the culture’s view of those cultures.
Basically, it’s not uncommon for Kyranou artists to change artwork to make historical figures now recognised as bad people tend to look like assholes.
This reputation is, of course, just one aspect of an otherwise complicated nation. The fact that Kyranou spends as much of its time talking about itself as a culture and its fixation on beauty and good can mean that the culture has a lot of social problems that have been left to fester because nobody can work out how to make beautiful art out of them. Even attempts to fix problems must be regarded with this lens, and the structured, formalist view of how to make and solve things has created roadblocks in progress.
The Kyranou perspective on art and formal structure can create some really weird interactions, too, because the more powerful and prominent an individual is, the more likely they are to see it as important that they operate to these ideals. When the Kyranou first encountered the Eresh Protectorate, for example, the at-the-time king of Kyranou regarded them with distrust because the Eresh Protectorates were represented by three knightly orders, which is considered an incomplete number of order. When the Chardunists were revealed, the Kyranou changed their public opinion of the Eresh Protectorates.
This is regarded by the Eresh as pretty silly, but their coins still clink.
Most people from outside Kyranou have heard these basic ideas expressed about what to expect of people from Kyranou.
- “They build huge impractical statues for some reason.”
- “They care about being pretty.”
- “They’ll want to wrestle you to prove they’re right.”
- “They draw bulls on everything.”
People who live in Kyranou have every reason to think living in Kyranou is great. For most islands, there’s a fairly even availability of food and shelter, and there’s almost always make-work programs for large art projects. There are industries where individual people can get jobs that let them function on an industrial scale. There are poor people, but often that means they are reduced to subsistence farming or fishing, since there are laws against long-term ownership of land. There are also rich people, but most of the rich people in Kyranou live in Dorox, and that means that their impact tends towards being remote.
None of this is to say that Kyranou is idyllic. It’s a pleasant place with a thriving working working class. It’s also a place where the ugly and deviant, in terms of not complying with Kyranou views on what beautiful things are, are required to do things like move through backroads or do their work at night. It’s not totalitarian, but it is prety strongly socially biased. This social bias often means that individuals who are in some way ‘outside’ of these types can often feel pushed into an elemental bond (see later) in order to escape their social situation.
Kyranou Character Concepts
Here are some common ideas for the kinds of characters that you could make from Kyranou
- A privateer who takes commissions from what they recover
- A powerful, theatric wrestler penning an epic
- A hometown hero, blessed by a local god
- A druid enforcer, send to oppose some distant polluter
- An industrial elemental bonder turned to a life of adventure
At some point in the history of Kyranou, elemental bonding was developed as a technique for giving people a specific affinity for types of elemental magic. People would find that through doing an elemental ritual and some practice, an ability to tap an elemental spirit with their soul, giving them access to magical rituals and abilities that relate to their elemental. It’s thanks to these people that Kyranou has forges powered not by mines and coal, but by the individual smiths channelling fire in their touch. Large, complex buildings are cooled by air-bonded, and shipyards always benefit from collaborating water-bonded emphasising the tide.
Thing is, the earth-bonded are the ones people really think of when they think of Kyranou. The ones who help sink the stone posts down into the oceans, the ones who helped shape the truly colossal statues of the archipelago, the ones who maintain and repair the vast bridge. When people think of Kyranou, the things they visualise are things earth-bonded Kyranou made.
There are hybrids of each elemental bond too, resulting in hybrid elemental affinities like a gift for poisons, steams, magma, and other specialised elemental influences. The result is a sort of organic industrial aesthetic, where instead of vast coal-fed furnaces for mass-production, a workline represents twenty people who charge a furnace all day, in shifts.
The Genasi Of Kyranou
In Kyranou, people who bond themselves to an elemental — to further their mystic crafts and give themselves greater access to elemental shaping rituals — are represented with the mechanics of different types of Genasi. When you take on the bond (through an appropriately difficult, elaborate ritual transpiring over many days), the bonding changes you to more properly reflect your new course in life.
This can be for some people pretty unremarkable – many humans who take on an elemental bond just change colour a bit, or find their eyes or hair recoloured. But for some cultures, like halflings or tieflings, the changes can be distinct. A lot of the physical shape of the culture is the same, but they’re now changed into the needs of the Genasi. So imagine a tiefling who takes on an earth aspect still having their horns, tail, and scales, but instead of looking like a demon, they look like they’re made out of shale or slate.
For characters like halflings, though, they go from being small to medium. This could be by a sudden and abrupt shift in weight, but it can also represent growing larger. Think about how that influences your character’s relationship to their life and their past. Especially since a halfling could grow to twice their size and still wind up looking like, to most people, a short person and deal with being considered ‘small.’
Faith is common in Kyranou. The greater gods popular in the country are:
- Palescai, because of his focus on travellers
- Acydea, because of the reliance of smaller communities on druids and nature
- The Triune, because of its expression of the universe as fundamentally mathematical
- Schwartzstrom, because it’s a culture that loves making art of muscled up hunks
There are smaller gods across the country, with almost every island having a small god or two. It’s also pretty common to hear stories of another, nearby island, with a cult of the deep ocean, which may or may not relate to Hadalan or other deep-kin. Also, there are some who believe that there are Paladins and Clerics of the Fool’s Pantheon, including a fun theory that all the Fool’s Pantheon are puppets being managed by one singular god.
Kyranou is a country that loves travellers. The work of sending the King’s Highyway – a land path – through to Dorox, the largest city of the country was only undertaken because Dorox could recognise the value of it. It means that Dorox is not just the capital of Kyranou, but it’s also the hub for trade and travel to the other islands — and it’s an enormous, circular bay.
Kyranou is one of the few countries in Cobrin’Seil with a vibrant tourism trade. Pleasurecraft take people on cheap tours, powered by small family crews that don’t need to make too much money to make their job worthwhile. Every island professes its specialised food, its own art, and they compete fiercely for attention – even from other islands.
Most travellers in Kyranou will notice the freedom offered by the ocean and a boat, versus the isolation of being on an island. When you’re on an island, you can probably walk across it in a day – it’s easy enough to get lost and go unseen, but you can only go so far. By comparison, if you have a boat, you can disappear from an island and only a few islands over, nobody will even care who or where you came from.
Kyranou considers itself the heart of food and art culture, which means that they obviously consider themselves in direct opposition to Amenti. Amenti does not care about this at all, because when introduced to Kyranou food and cooking techniques, the Amenti people just adopted what worked and what they could do, without any of the artistic expression Kyranou chefs would demand.
The furthest eastern stretches of Kyranou brush into the dark waters of the Szudetken, and it’s not uncommon for Dorox politicians to assert the potential threat of Szudetken invasion. This has not happened, but you know, that’s never stopped politicians.
Also, the presence of the King’s Highway connecting to Dorox has led to an extensive question about whether or not Kyranou’s capital – and therefore all of Kyranou – are part of the Eresh Protectorates. Many of the islands around Dorox believe that this is the case (and therefore, they don’t need to care about what Dorox has to say). The Eresh Protectorate are firmly of the opinion that Dorox is not an Eresh city, they just connected themselves to the Highway and the coastal Eresh city of Bellithe. And of course, Dorox believes that it isn’t part of the Eresh Protectorate, but shares an Important Special Relationship with Bellithe (and therefore, the Eresh Protectorate).
Also, Dal Raeda and Kyranou have a longstanding complaint about their depiction of history and divinity, which mostly comes up when Dal Raeden nobles come to Kyranou to have a holiday and get drunk on good wine.
Kyranou does a lot of trade, but almost all of it flows through Dorox. Kyranou farmers and fishers transport goods (often preserved in ice by Air-Water element bonded sailors!) to Dorox, who then sell it on to the King’s Highway. This obviously makes Dorox fantastically rich compared to the rest of the country.
Makes And Sells: Oil (mined from the ocean floor) and oil (reduced from olives and canola), wine, figs, and other equatorial crops. Small crops of coffee and chocolate. Art in terms of theatre and theatre education. Art objects. Industrial manufacuture of tools and brickwork. If you have seen a fancy estate in the northern parts of Eresh, chances are those tiles were made by the ten thousand in Kyranou by Earth and Fire-bonded.
Wants And Buys: Kyranou imports enormous quantities of rice, which is part of a common fund of food distributed to all islands for free, as part of a national project to make the community stronger. Protecting the small numbers of forests and forested islands in Kyranou means that Kyranou also imports enormous amounts of wood.
Just some quick locations that most people in Kyranou would know by name:
Dorox is the capital of Kyranou and also the reason why the country is known as the place of ‘cow people.’ Originally Dorox was three islands in a semi-circle, but they built into each other and developed a thriving bay that is now mostly built on supported and floating buildings. The king of Dorox at one point almost a millenium ago, to celebrate the power of his country’s Earthbonders, had a statue of a bull built to stand over the bay itself, facing out to the mouth of the semicircular bay.
The bull of Dorox is a kilometer long, with one foot on each of the three islands, and supported in the middle by an enormous tower that reaches to the bottom of the bay, hidden by permanent invisibility magics.
The King’s Bridge
The King’s Highway of the Eresh Protectorate connects at the mainland, at a city that was almost part of Kyranou, but instead became part of the Protectorate. Then, after some negotiation that was comedically brief, the Kyranou earthbonders – fresh after the success of the erection of the bull of Dorox – built an enormous, marble-supported highway that stretched from the coastline nearest to that Eresh city, all the way to the back of Dorox.
Since the Bull of Dorox is facing the ocean and the rest of Kyranou, it does mean that to approach Dorox on the King’s Bridge means you wind up walking for a kilometer with a gigantic pale stone cow’s butt pointing at you. As if to apologise for this, there are towering statues reaching out of the sea by the bridge, maintained by earthbonders, and refreshed from time to time by the dominant aesthetic of the Kyranou royalty.
Bellithe is a coastal city that joined the Eresh Protectorates before the building of the Bull of Dorox, and the consolidation of Kyranou. Then suddenly they woke up one morning to find that an island nation had rolled a bridge out to their front step. Bellithe is a pretty nice place, and thanks to its locational importance, it has a disproportionately large set of Chapterhouses for the four orders.
They make honey and grow peaches and have nice beaches, so turns out, lots of Eresh nobility like having a place they can visit near Bellithe.
The Shell Estate
Then there’s the wonky part of the Kyranou geography, which is, one of the islands doesn’t stay still. There’s a single small island, which some believe is on the back of a truly preposterously large turtle, swimming around between the islands from time to time. This island is incredibly important because, how could it not wind up being considered that, and is notable now for its two most important permanent institutions: The Wandering College of arts and theatrics, and the Shell Estate – a free roaming court system that people seek out as an ideal neutral territory to negotiate contracts.
People found a wandering island on the back of a giant turtle and the Kyranou formalist mindset seeing that thought: Man we could be so legally neutral here. And also get high and have a bunch of arts students.