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Setting

The first thing you notice is the heat. It’s not overpowering, nor is it even any hotter than a summer day. But it is relentless, especially combined with the humidity. Oppressive. Your clothes start sticking to you before the island even comes into sight over the horizon, and it never, ever, lets up. In the mountains, and in the early mornings and evenings facing the sea, the weather is cooler, and the wind provides some relief through sweat-evaporation. Outside the Mantis Islands, however, and the Wall on a bad day, few if any samurai will ever have encountered anything of the sort.

The next thing you notice is the verdancy of the land. Plant life flourishes on every patch of ground not trodden down, laid over with stone or wood, or sunk under water, and even from several patches of ground that are. The plants themselves are stunningly green all year round, and broad-leafed: in such a climate as this, there is no need for plants to close themselves up against drought or frost. Released from the binds of winter and summer, flowers bloom at different times of year for each plant, and in a natural environment, there will almost always be at least one plant within sight flowering. Grasses, ferns, bushes, trees, vines; plants of every kind irrepressibly claim the land as their own.

From plant to plant and flower to flower flit all manner of insects. Most of these are familiar to you: flies, mosquitos, gnats, and, unfortunately, leeches in the water, but also vibrantly-coloured dragonflies and butterflies, moths at night, iridescent-shelled beetles, and praying mantises to feast on all the others. The hum and buzz of fractal wings is so constant that you stop noticing it within hours, except when it changes or ceases.

Bird life, predictably, flourishes in the richness of plants and insects, and from the smaller animals as well, in the case of eagles and other birds of prey. Birds of all shapes, sizes, and colours, can be found. Some of them are almost entirely grounded, though all can fly if pressed, while others dart from branch to branch, snapping up whatever insects occupy the intervening space, and yet others soar overhead, swooping down on anything small enough to be snatched and unlucky enough to make themselves visible. Unlike the drab grey-browns of most Rokugani birds, livened only by the occasional splash of colour on a chest or head, the birds here are as carefree and unrestricted in their colour as the plants and flowers, particularly, though by no means only, those that eat the fruits and nuts of the rainforest trees. Much of the time, this makes their presence exceedingly obvious, though sometimes the palette of colours to be found in the jungle makes the brightly-coloured birds indistinguishable from the fruits and flowers of the trees, except when they move.

Water lingers. The shape of the plants and nature of the soil encourage water to stay liquid on the ground, rather than sinking through it, and the saturation of the air prevents any more water from rising into it. Accordingly, still bodies of water – from puddles that could be anything from a hair’s width to a body’s height deep and lakes with no apparent source, to wetlands and swamps that spread further than a day’s walk in all directions – are everywhere. And yet, even these swamps are full of life: mangrove trees rise throughout, and grasses and reeds poke above the water-level, while the clouds of insects impress themselves upon the consciousness of even those who had become jaded by them. Birds, mammals, snakes, and other animals, take advantage of the insects, the plants, and each other.

The terrain itself is sharp. Mountains rise abruptly from flat plains, and land drops just as abruptly into cliffs and rockfaces that most Rokugani would expect to find only along seashores. In many places, the plant life is only a thin veneer, albeit a very impressive one, over rock that is bare, black, and jagged. It is not overly unusual to find rivers that flow languidly, forming a basket-weave of courses or a lake in one place, and drop into a great waterfall, with no warning but the crash of water at the bottom, just over the lip of the lake.

For the more philosophical among you, there are contrasts in abundance. The constancy of the heat and buzzing insects against the unpredictability of the landforms themselves. Life, everywhere thriving, and everywhere devouring itself. Fertility and abundance versus the gift of unimaginable destructive power.

For the less philosophically-inclined among you: this is not Rokugan. It is what you make of it.

setting/setting.txt · Last modified: 2016/07/26 02:58 by GM Dorm