Game Fu 5: A Sample Island

Posted on May 28, 2009


As an example of what an island will look like in this universe, I present a sample based on Chinese myth and ancient history.

The Mountain of Fruit and Flowers

The Mountain of Fruit and Flowers is a great peak covered in flourishing forests which gives its name to its island. It rises several miles as one passes inward, until its very top gazes outward over the clouds and an ocean of leaves and blossoms. On a clear day the sharp-eyed can see almost to the Winter from the crimson and gold palace that sits atop the Mountain.

Rivers burst forth from the Mountain and tumble down in great waterfalls, dropping into the lands below on their way toward the border. These waterways meander, rushing over rocky rapids or flowing sluggishly past fields and hills in a great variety of moods.

People: The inhabitants of the Mountain are a slender, black-haired and dark-eyed people who dress in colorful flowing embroidered silks. Their speech has a musical quality and is laced with poetic descriptions and allusions. The people of the Mountain are fond of song and literature, and they keep vast libraries of scrolls (both cloth and linked strips of wood). They are ruled by a Sage-King, who relies on his court officials to help maintain order.

Spring: The Mountain’s Spring encompasses the summit and upper slopes. Here the trees and flowers bloom riotously, filling the air with tantalizing scents and colors blowing in the breezes. The very top of the mountain is a plateau fully occupied by the Sage-King’s palace, a grand structure of many wings, squares and courts. Paths flow down around the mountain to the Sun and Stars Library, a vast repository of knowledge, and the Temple of Radiant Health, the greatest house of healing in all of the island.

Fruit grows and ripens on the trees and vines in easy reach, just waiting to be plucked. That which is not gathered and eaten falls to the ground and quickly passes back into the soil. Ever-replenishing blossoms fill the wind with fragrant petals, often accompanied by the music of a flute or zither and the calls of the many magical birds and beasts moving among the forests. These creatures are wise, crafty and often mischievous, with the intelligence and cunning of humans.

Summer: Further down, the Mountain broadens and the slope gentles. Beginning with cut terraces on the lower face of the Mountain itself and passing into broad fields and swimming rice paddies, the land gives way from exploding vibrant life to more ordered human settlement. The paths of the Mountain become stone and packed-earth roads which cut the countryside into sections. Bamboo grows tall on the Mountain’s feet, giving way to broad leafy trees further out. The animals lose the intelligence of those on the Mountain itself, but remain healthy and strong.

Settlements usually gather around communal farming, with towns sprouting up on crucial crossroads for trade among the people. Wayside inns line the long circular roads that pass around the Mountain, offering shelter, food and hot tea to travellers for a fair price.

As the Summer radiates outward, hardier grains appear in the fields and cleared lands are home to farms raising livestock and horses. These give way to school campuses and the homes and workshops of craftsmen, placed to take advantage of the flow of raw materials and trade coming in from the Autumn and outward for delivery to other islands.

Autumn: The Mountain’s Autumn is home to the training academies and barracks of the island’s fighting force. Mines dig deep under the hills and stone quarries which provide for the defensive walls change the face of the land. Carefully-maintained gardens provide a slow supply of gourd-like vegetables which can survive the frosts.

Here the leaves grow gold, orange, red and brown, and the fragrance of the Spring’s flowers and Summer’s fields is replaced by that of fall and evergreen. Game is scarcer than in Summer, but often quite strong; however, toward the outer boundaries, wolves and cats become malicious and devious, and even the deer are belligerent and willing to kill simply for being disturbed.

A great stone wall describes much of the circumference of the island, covering as much of the land as it can. This wall is in places thirty feet high, and can be twenty feet thick. It is dotted by square watchtowers and topped by a flat paved surface to allow troops to move along it in ease and safety. The presence of the wall and the watchtowers has formed a stabilized ring that the denizens of the Mountain count as the island’s border, even though the Autumn and Winter mingle for a distance beyond it.

In four places along the wall’s ring are trade ports, sheltered against the wall itself. Gestalts and the most intrepid of normal people depart from and arrive at the Mountain here. Each port bustles with merchants, representatives of the Sage-King’s bureaucracy, Gestalts, troops and more, despite the chill weather, the rain and the snow.