>The Great Isle of the Tattooed

>In days past a witch-priest of the God of Unnatural Death was captured and sentenced to death. The warlock demanded that his bones be buried with respect, lest he curse the royal line. The queen of the place refused, and on the contrary caused his bones to be disposed of in three places, and all records of the places destroyed, so that no one could ever perform proper burial.

The curse followed soon after. The queen died of confusion after becoming addicted to cold turkey.

Her daughter now sat on the steel throne, but after some years went entirely insane, and stopped living in a fantasy world.

The second queen having no children, a noble of the place was acclaimed king. He had no wish for the throne, but once on it he became frightened of plots against him. Almost all implements were forbidden, for fear of assassination. And so the peasants dig in the earth with their bare hands. They curse his name, the king is said to go disguised among his people at night and kill any who recognise him, and the snickering of Hollow Mockeries has been heard in the land.

>The Wine-Faced Sea

>Teleleli and the surrounding islands stand in the Wine-Faced Sea. Why the sea is so named is disputed. Some say that it is because it may be calm, even sleeping, and then suddenly violent, without cause, like one far gone in drink. Others claim that the Great Race, perverse in all things, drank light blue wine – or that the fluid originally referred to was something else entirely. Yet others point to the way that those most harmed by the sea can be most devoted to it, even against their will.

>Moka

>Trade between countries, guilds, and the most powerful individuals, is often governed by the rule of Moka. Under this rule one side will give a gift of great value. This will create an obligation for the recipient to give a greater gift, or a favour of comparable worth. This second gift will create an obligation for a still-greater gift, and so on. The skill of Moka is to give a gift of such value that the recipient will prefer to owe a favour, rather than being able to give a counter-gift, or ending the cycle by refusing the gift and thus creating a state of hostility or even war.

Adventurers may be hired to fetch an appropriate object to give as a gift, or to deliver it. This second task may be as dangerous as the first, since if the gift-bearer meets with an ‘accident’ before delivering the gift it has no value. Yet if a gift is delivered in public sight anyone who values their position must acknowledge it and protect the person of the gift-giver.

>Land

>Land is never traded, for any currency. There is nothing illegal about it, just as someone in our world may freely trade their grandmother’s grave with her not a year buried – yet one is unlikely to find either buyer or seller, or think well of them should they be found.

Land may certainly be given in return for service. The devious reader may wonder whether this distinction is simply a pretty form of words. Fie on your suspicions! Giving land is a weighty gesture of support, that almost amounts to adoption. One who gives land will be judged by the actions of the recipient, and the two will be assumed to be close allies. In any case, the vast majority of people have no land. In some areas all land is held by the nobility. In others it is held in common.

It should be noted that ‘land’ is considered by everyone to mean agricultural land only. The land on which a house sits is freely traded like any other commodity. The merchant nobility of the city, aping the nobility of the sword as ever, may feign reluctance to trade their ‘land’, but this is mere show.

>Farmers

>Neighbouring farming communities often come into conflict over grazing rights, or personal grievances. This is especially true where one community raises cattle, and the other sheep. The outlook of cow- and sheep-based farmers is totally different.

It is well-known that shepherds are kind and gentle. Indeed would-be shepherds whose nature is too stormy are often made to take angora management courses.

By contrast, most bullies are cowherds at heart.

Herding cattle is much more aggravating, since the animals are harder to care for. Often the hills are alive with the sound of moo sick. Thus cowherds are often sadists, displaying ‘cowdenfreude’; taking joy in the misfortunes of udders.