About the Comic
The known world has been at war for all of living memory. As the largest nations struggle for dominance, everyone who hasn't chosen a side is being crushed in the middle. Meanwhile, plagues, beasts, storms, and volcanoes seem eager to claim victory for themselves in the wake of each battle.
The story begins with Teleti and her tribe, one of many small groups with no stake in the battles. They must choose how long to keep their way of life, at the risk of of their lives themselves. Teleti doesn't realize how much she stands to lose until she and her ad hoc companions begin to see the scope of the damage to their world, and even find hints of conspiracy between sides, not for victory, but, inexplicably, purely for destruction.
Set in a "gunpowder punk" era, with themes of culture clash and humanistic moral ambiguity.
Also includes: humor, lots of birds, and science.
Cultures of Shifting Land
A nomadic tribal group of giant bird pastoralists, the Kautsumn (bird people) are adamantly neutral in the fighting, without being isolationist. Their migratory lifestyle brings them into contact with many different peoples, with whom they typically maintain amicable trading relationships.
Their colossal kautsu birds (50 - 60 foot wingspan) serve as close companions, a source of eggs, occasionally meat, and terrestrial chariot / pack animals. Kautsus do fly, but cannot achieve lift-off from the ground and are almost never "ridden" in the air.
Each migration cycle lasts four years, at the end of which the youngest birds are able to fly. The cycle concludes at the Ending Cliff, where the kautsus leave their human companions and fly off over the ocean, while related tribes of Kautsumn gather and plan the next cycle. The birds return three months later, lay eggs which the Kautsumn help care for, and the cycle begins anew.
While their nomadism somewhat limits their technology level, this is not correlated with a lack of understanding or knowledge. In fact, over the centuries they have become a kind of cultural magpie, adopting technologies, linguistic elements, and religious bits and bobs and sewing them together until the pieces are almost unrecognizable and they become and integral part of Kautsumney (of the bird people) culture. For instance, they believe in the gods belonging to many different cultures simultaneously, but have their own ideas about how to worship them.
They view the world as fluid, constantly changing, and best described in metaphor. Human love, desire, and suffering are the only constant things. And freedom (symbolized by the kautsu birds) is the only thing to covet.
Their reliance on hunting and gathering to diversify their egg-based diet makes most Kautsumn skillful hunters and trackers, especially the jungles they spend the majority of their 4 year migratory cycle and their travel means that most Kautsumn are fluent in many different languages.
Young Kautsumn are expected to leave the tribes into which they were born in order to find a spouse and / or a specialist skill (e.g... healer, witch, musician), and, most importantly, see the world. Males and females are essentially equal and gender is regarded as flexible.
Most tribes have an identifiable leader or "Boss," but this position is only semi-official. The Boss does not have ultimate authority over anyone and can only influence the tribe's actions through some form of persuasion rather than by any form of command.
Sky View is a very old nation state that commands an extremely defensible position on a foothill plateau. The nation is non-allied and controls an extremely desirable resource: access to an inland shipping channel that connects temperate and tropical zones. The residents of Sky View have profited by charging taxes on freight passing through the shipping channel.
For centuries, Sky View (also called the Garden City) was regarded as almost impossible to take from the outside, due to its defensive walls, access to water inside of these walls, and fertile soil that allowed residents to grow a large portion of their food on the roofs of their partially subterranean houses.
However, made dilatory by their position of wealth and stability, the city has gradually grown to rely more and more heavily on grain and other food products purchased from their trading partners.
They have a very small standing army, only large enough to defend the already architecturally well defended city and port.
Immigrants have settled in Sky View for many centuries, and residents have diverse cultural backgrounds. The dominant language is Dregish, which belonged to an empire that no longer exists.
The city is ruled by an elected council of eight men, of whom one is "magnate" and has additional powers and responsibilities. The magnate is selected by his peers on the council.
Only men are allowed to serve on the council or to vote in elections. Women have a great deal of influence over their homes and families, but have extremely limited public roles--so much so that, upon marriage, they abandon the name of their birth and are referred to by a feminized version of their husband's name.
Like the Dregish that came before them, the residents of Sky View worship the sun as the creator and guardian of all life.
The Redlanders hail from a large archipelago of stormy, semi-tropical islands. Their need to sail the seas as a means of subsistence grew, over the centuries, to the production of nautical innovations. These innovations led to the ability to attack neighboring nations and cultures, and the Redlanders became increasingly warlike. In fact, their name is not derived from any color of their native soil, but rather the color of their neighbors' soil after they land.
They earned and adopted this name during a period when it seemed that they might dominate thousands and thousands of square miles--from icy tundra to lush jungle--and any islands nameable. During this bloody period they were known for indenturing ten percent of the population of any city they took, extracting and mummifying the hearts of their most impressive enemies, and always keeping their word. However, as they carved they way inland, they became over stretched and lost the advantage of their ships; they ultimately had to retract in order to hold a region that is a fraction of the land they once held.
Following this loss, their culture underwent a religious, political, and cultural transformation. They became atheistic and "softened" some of their ways. They elected a non-military head of state who now holds power in tandem with the military. What did not change was their unyielding, black-and-white outlook on the world. Even throughout their bloodiest period, the Redlanders abhorred any form of dishonesty or trickery. They believe in fixed destiny and fatalism and are meticulously organized in war.
Their black-and-white outlook extends to gender roles, their ideal for women being entirely soft, nurturing, graceful, poetic, and clean, while men are supposed to be strong, stern, unstoppable, practical, and rugged.
The Redlanders have recently acquired significant advancements in gunpowder technology and are exploiting this advantage to once again expand their territory.
Probably possessing of the largest army in the known world, the Khitish are the Redlanders' most troublesome enemy. It was the Khitish that once drove the Redlanders back to their eastern islands. It is the Khitish, now, that worry Redlander commanders and sabotage their munitions.
There are two known factors that influence Khitish dominance over the eastern inland region. Most obvious is the size of their population. Second is their mineral wealth (including both workable metals and precious stones). However, many of their enemies don't believe these factors are enough to explain Khitish success over the past few decades. They defeat their enemies by being in the opposite place they are expected to be, by arriving in twice the size deemed possible, and by every possible type of deception and guile.
They are regarded as deceitful and capricious by their enemies, but call themselves innovative and savvy. There is one guiding principle that the Khitish adhere to, and that is simply to "improve." ...But the Khitish themselves do not necessarily all agree on what "improvement" means. The current queen (following many royals before her) believes improvement means expanding the size of the kingdom, but not all the Khitish agree. There is a strict military conscription policy that many of the Khitish find objectionable.
This desire to constantly innovate and improve has led them to dominate the region both technologically and in terms of music and fashion--even while the known world resents their influence.
It has only been in the past few decades that Khitish women have claimed a certain amount of equality with their male counterparts. The queen is largely credited for these changes, but really this started with the previous king, who first conscripted women along with men into the military.
Other Significant Cultures
The Fo Fo
Another large military power, but loosely holding together and plagued by internal rivalries and coups, in the south.
Possibly a reclusive forest-people with powerful magic. Possibly don't exist.
It is known that there is a large nation of pale people who live far in the north, but they are never encountered, not involved, and may not exist.