The world of Darbas

Backstory: History, peoples, places & beliefs

Without spoilers or big reveals, these  brief explainers are a great orientation to the world of The Darbas Cycle at any point in the series.

The Dandelion Children

Multiple historic “continuities” came and went before the rise of the current civilization. But no catastrophe could match the Great Bombardment, the slowly unfolding final act in a tragic conflict between a spacefaring, psi-wielding civilization and the Artificial Intelligence it spawned. Only one group was ruled ineligible for the shelter and spaceship lotteries: The genetically engineered Calpathians, masters of psi energies orendae and dhrae. Their final hope: Millions of robot-tended frozen embryos launched into space aboard countless little unmanned probes called “Dandelion Pods.” After silent millennia in space, only one successfully established a new colony on the home planet, raising a new generation of golden-eyed Calpathians on upland plains of Central Gnia. Their Clydish and Gwynyrian descendants still celebrate a deep cultural reverence for the ancestors they remember as The Dandelion Children.

A world of rising tensions

The seafaring Gheraldic Empire dominated most of the navigable Western World for centuries, profiting from colonization, tribute and trade. But a new power — the hybrid empire of Korvish-Sopka — recently burst beyond the steppes of Central Gnia to challenge Gheraldic hegemony.

Though nominally independent, the small continent of Darbas exists within the Gheraldic sphere. It’s a fractious place, shared by three loosely confederated ethnicities. and typically ignored as a provincial backwater.

But in the insular Darbas highlands, Lady Rowene, the ruling Lady of Gwynyr, knows what the world does not: Her golden-eyed Calpathian priestesses have spent centuries hiding and conserving the world’s most valuable resources. Her peaceful but mistrusted Old Path nation holds a secret strategic advantage, and Rowene has no intention of frittering it away.

Bal'a'Blos: The Library

After the rise and fall of so many advanced civilizations, the landscape of Darbas and Gnia is littered with enigmatic ruins of everything from forgotten cities to underground shelters from the era of the Great Bombardment. Only one ruin still contains the descendants of its original occupants, and that’s the legendary underground library of Bal’a’Blos, located in the Mullaqat Wastes just east of the Gwynyrian mountains. 

The librarians themselves are an unnervingly strange people called the Qatfablos, and their intentions are as inscrutable as they are slow to emerge. Gwynyr has been sending ambassadors to Bal’a’Blos for centuries, and despite endless promises to release new technological and scientific secrets, the Qatfablos never quite seem to meet the pace and fullness of their promises. 

The Gwynyrians lack the power to make the entrance to Bal’a’Blos truly invisible, but have successfully obscured it by projecting a field that simply makes it easy for people to overlook, no matter how hard they search for it. 

Women of the Goddess Daughter

Rowene: As the ruling Lady of Gwynyr and heir to the matriarchal Sacred Line, Lady Rowene inherited a moribund highland nation and promptly revived it. Naturally charismatic, deeply intuitive and fiercely decisive, Rowene’s  greatest asset is her Calpathian gift for weilding the abundant dhrae psi-energy provided to her daily by dozens of temple-trained Old Path priestesses. She fears the global conflict between the world’s two dueling empires will soon engulf her stand-alone highland nation, and has vowed to protect Gwynyr. No matter the cost.

Dehbink Pekinya: Nominally a respected professor of Law and Linguistics, “Bink” was born with a limiting body and a gifted mind. An idiosyncratic Krake Mistress with the ability to speak to crows, she is an early and powerful member of  Lady Rowene’s inner circle, known to insiders as The Flock.

Jalte Viqar: Childhood friend of Rowene and Chief Justice of Gwynyr. Unlike most members of the elite Order of Amarynth, Jalte has always been an austere “woman of the mind,” appreciated for her abilities but viewed with pity by her intuitive peers. Rowene signified Jalte’s value within The Flock by standing as Goddess Mother at the blessing of Jalte’s only child: Daughter Chene Viqar.

Rona: Rowene’s eldest and the presumed Lady Ascendant, she was also Chene Viqar’s closest childhood friend. But since the two teenage girls’ horrific abduction — with Chene presumed murdered — traumatized Rona has failed to live up to her mother’s demanding expectations.


The magic of Gwynyr

Naturally occurring dhrae energy flows everywhere, yet its abundance in and around the Gwynyrian highlands of Darbas is unparallelled. That’s why the indigenous Darbi people — protectors of the continent’s great secrets — recruited the Old Path Clydes from their home in Central Gnia. Those original priestesses swore to hide the secrets of Darbas from the outside world, and for thousands of years, Gwynyr has kept that promise with the simplest of spells.

With so much dhrae so easily accessible, the women of the Old Path created a culture and economy founded on its use. From remote viewing to psychic communication and the energetic support of everything from crops to construction projects, Gwynyr runs on Calpathian Gifts and dhrae. But their lowland Clydish cousins rejected the Old Path religion for the priests of Sula centuries ago, and when those Sulist Clydes betrayed their neighbors to ally with the Gheraldic Empire, Gwynyr closed its borders to the outside world.

They are the last followers of the Old Path, and both hated and feared by those who covet their magical abilities.

8 Orders of the Goddess

Gwynyr operates as a generally benevolent yet occasionally dysfunctional theocracy, with political power and government revenues arising and largely apportioned through eight sanctioned religious orders, plus smaller and more diverse organizations called Houses. Orders range from deeply spiritual Orwyne to fretfully officious Domadig. But one stands alone: The glamorous Order of Amarynth, home to every ruling Lady of Gwynyr for the past seven centuries. 

Haughty, stylish and domineering, Amarynth produces and consumes more than its share of wealth and privilege, while thumbing its nose as the rest of society. It’s where Chene Viqar was born and raised, and the place where Chene must return after seven unexplained years traveling the lowlands with a nomadic Mullaqat caravan.

The Fionnans: Psi spies

With no embassies in foreign capitals, strictly limited trade and closely watched borders, Gwynyr is by all appearances the ultimate Hermit Kingdom. But who needs ambassadors and diplomats when you have your own cadre of highly trained psychic spies? Gwynyr has long looked out for its own interests by deploying agents from its legendary and secretive House of Fionna to cities around both Darbas and the world. Their gifts help them find secrets. Their gifts let them communicate those secrets home to Gwynyr instantly — from anywhere in the world.

It’s a great asset … if you can trust them.

The Valand: 100 warrior monks

In a nation ruled by women, the holy men of the Order of Valand stand alone. Theirs is an Old Path discipline for elite warriors, sworn to the service of the Lady of Gwynyr, armed solely with their sacred siobeth swords. Its membership is limited to One Hundred, each chosen from the ranks of the Va, Gwynyr’s traditional military organization. And with their consciousnesses trained to co-exist simultaneously in both the Waking World and the psychic Towaithe Realm, their feats are truly legendary.

The Mullaqat: Those who wander

Though most of the indigenous Darbi people assimilated into DuQaddic and Clydish communities, one branch of their heritage remains culturally distinct and viable: The nomadic Mullaqat people. As a society founded on the principle of non-attachment, the Mullaqat reject property ownership, marriage and other bonds, while living deeply spiritual lives in a tradition that disavows religion. 

These are the descendants of the people who invited the Old Path Clydes to Darbas to protect the continent’s great secrets. And no secret is more important than the underground library known as Bal’a’Blos. With the Old Path priestesses hiding it from the larger world, only the Mullaqat know how and where to find its entrance.

The DuQaddic

The DuQaddic settled on the northern shore of Darbas after decades of searching for a place to practice their unique and insular religion. It’s a traditionally Korvish brand of spirituality, and throughout their history, tradition, ritual and belief have been the focus of their cultural identity. 

Then a shipwrecked sailor named Sula washed up on a DuQaddic beach. The same Sula who would give his name to Sulism, the Western World’s great religion. The young visionary spent a decade studying with the DuQaddic holy men, and by the time he departed for Gnia, even their beloved religious leader, the Tanu Mutan, was a convert.

But the Sulism practiced by the DuQaddic Church of Sula bears little resemblance to the world religion that arose decades later. With the Gheraldic Empire acting as the agent of the One Church in Darbas, the DuQaddic eventually faced an ultimatum: End their heresy, or be exterminated. In typical Gheraldic fashion, the matter ended in a deal: The One Church agreed to delay a decree of Holy War in exchange for a prohibitive annual tithe. 

For centuries that tithe — the DuQaddic call it “The Great Obligation” — has made the DuQaddic people the poorest people on Darbas, second-class citizens in a land they once shared only with the welcoming Darbi. They are a proud, superstitious and resentful people — and as The Darbas Cycle begins — they’re on the verge of changing the course of world history. 

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