We’ve been working hard on our latest project: Sertorius. This is our fantasy setting that takes the core mechanics of the Network System and pushes them to the limit with a robust selection of magic, monsters and gods. In Sertorius players assume the role of powerful spell-casters who can channel divine energy taken from a slain god. It is a complete world, with an entire continent of races and empires. Today I want to give you a glimpse of one of my favorite places: The Mandaru Empire.
The Mandaru are elven steppe nomads. They are one of a
group of pastoral tribes in the region, and a large number of settled elves
also live on the periphery of their grazing land. The nomadic tribes are
organized around warrior bands. That doesn't mean most Mandaru are warriors, in fact few are, but fighting men and women are the elites and have greater authority than other members of the tribes. Usually they are not much of a threat to
neighboring settlements, perhaps making the occasional raid. But sometimes they
unite around a single leader, and in the last fifty or so years, the elves of
Mandaru pledged their loyalty to Veja Kashan. Veja expanded Mandaru influence
far beyond the steppes, forging critical alliances and taking key cities. The
result was the Mandaru Empire, which stretches far across the eastern lands of
Gamandria (the world on which Sertorius is set). The woman in the image is Vetanna
Khusat, the emperor’s daughter and a queen of her own region. I want to explore
the image a bit to introduce readers to our elves.
First it is important to know this is a single highborn elf
from one place on the map. There are lots of elves throughout the world and
they are all quite different. However they have a few things in common. In a
moment I will address those common characteristics, but first I want to talk about
Vetanna and the Mandaru. Like her father she has her own band of warriors that
form her power-base, these are called a Benkrob. The leader of a warrior band
is usually a chieftain (called a Khan) and each chieftain is pledged to one of
four Kings or Queens (called Khusats). Vetanna is the Queen (or Khusat) of
western Mandaru. All the kings and queens pledge their allegiance to the
emperor (or Kashan).
Like all elves, Vetanna is immortal. Customs vary from place
to place, but the Mandaru believe warriors who die in battle are born into the
realm of their goddess Ranua (a kind of nature deity), whereas farmers and
craftsmen are simply reborn as humans, dwarves or halflings. They also believe
that the bond with their fellow warriors and their leader carries over to the
As you can see in the image, Vetanna is clasping a skull
goblet in her left hand. When Mandaru leaders defeat a worthy opponent, they
use the skull as a drinking vessel. Here she is holding court in her tent with
her fellow warriors, following a recent conquest. The throne is made from wood shaped like tree
branches. If you look at her face you can see a scar, which is quite common for
elves. They are beings of beauty, but this is often marred by battle scars and
lost limbs. They live a long time and can aquire many of these over time.
The gold leaf tattoo on her forehead is common among the
Mandaru and indicates her status. Her's is a three layer leaf, signifying she is
a Khusat (Khans have two, normal warriors have one). The dots represent
important military victories. Though it is concealed by her clothing, Vetanna
is wearing lamellar armor. The blue flowers at her throne's base are blue water flowers, which are sacred to Ranua. In addition to it's sacred status, it's common in a warrior tent because it can be used to ward off infection (not to mention vampires).
We have tried to make the elves a bit different but familiar.
Elves are tall, athletic, and immortal.All elves were created by the nature goddess Ranua as a gift to the ogres (who
once rules a powerful civilization). They were sent there as slaves and functioned
as administrators and scribes for centuries before being liberated shortly
before the ogre kingdoms fell. Their immortality made them especially skilled
record keepers. Migrating south, they settled many lands and one of these was
Most elven cultures are
war-like, despite their immortality. Almost without exception they believe in
rebirth, and for them death in battle is the only way to ensure prosperity in
the next life. The Mandaru are unafraid of an early death in war, but other
elven cultures fear this more than anything, reserving soldiery for elves who
reach a certain age. They are still martial, but only those who have heard the ‘call
of Ranua’ are expected to do the fighting. For them, the loss of an elven life
before then is the greatest tragedy.
This image was made by Samantha Fanti and is one of many to come to help us preview the setting. I should point out, if it does appear in our final book, in the printed version it will be black and white (since we don't print interior color images).