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By Jeremy Golembiewski, Mike McArtor
Contributors: Ann K. McArtor, Sean McNeil, Dora Wang
Jeremy Golembiewski, Mike McArtor, Sean McNeil
Rachelle Abellar, Tammy Vince Cruz
Royal Archivist Publishing Inc.
Creative Director: Mike McArtor
Managing Editor: Sean McNeil
Technical Lead: Rommel Degracia
Story Lead: Ann K. McArtor
Art Director: Dora Wang
Shonos Vital Statistics
Est. Population: 1.2 million
This document is part of an ongoing series of resources that explores the Gloriana Rediscovery Expedition and the storytelling possibilities thereof.The series consists of the following documents:
If you find yourself inspired by this or any other story primer we release to tell a story (in any medium!), we’d love to hear about it in the forums!
Located in the Tempic Ocean in the southern hemisphere of the now-sparsely populated world of Cetera Mundus, Shonos is a land of peace and knowledge. It is also currently the only remaining bastion of human civilization on the planet. Uniquely positioned far from the other continents of the world, Shonos is a lonely nation living in fear of an unknown apocalypse that might wash ashore with them none the wiser.
Shonos sits within the geothermically active remains of a super volcano that last erupted (as far as Shonoese vulcanologist can discern) more than 5,000 years ago. Hundreds of tiny isles and the vast Tempic Ocean surround Shonos set it apart from other continents and nations and, apparently, protect it from whatever apocalypse destroyed all the other nations of the world. Shonos now, more than ever, remains constantly alert and prepared for war.
Although it has never conducted a formal census, the government council estimates that roughly 1.2 million people live on the island-continent.
Cyclops: On Shonos, where fewer humans originally appeared, the Cyclopes fared better than other continents of the world, and although competition for resources devastated them the Shonos Cyclopes learned quickly to live in peace with their new seminomadic neighbors on the outer slopes of the mountain rim. Despite human prejudices, Cyclopes are neither racially stupid nor primitive. Indeed, many work alongside their smaller, weaker neighbors as engineers and craftsmen. From design to manufacture, Cyclopes seem to enjoy involving themselves in all levels of the creation of things.
Dwarf: Forming the largest minority in the country, dwarves live mainly in the southern wastes at the foot of the mountains near the Crystal Forest (although dwarves are found in every major settlement across the continent). Their proximity to the Crystal Forest grants the dwarves a steady supply of minerals and mana-rich mining-waste sludge. They frequently interact with the Ra caravan, whose semipermanent home camp stands within the area generally recognized as being “dwarven lands,” and adopted dwarves inflate the ranks of the caravan considerably. Interspecies marriages are relatively common between the dwarves and the Ra humans, but these couplings never result in offspring.
Gef: Peace-loving gef, third most populous species on the continent, live throughout the land, tending to the fields and orchards spread across the flat interior. The gef of Shonos were long ago pacified and led to the productive pursuits of agriculture. Inherent gef capriciousness still occasionally appears, but Shonoese gef pranks are rarely malicious and usually not too dangerous. Usually. Caravans rarely adopt gef but every caravan keeps gef close by to tend the crops.
Human: Seminomadic humans, divided into six caravan-clans, account for almost two-thirds of Shonos’s total population. Every human born to at least one Shonoese parent belongs to one of the caravans. Shonoese humans are relatively accepting and tolerant for humans, welcoming other species and cultures into their land. Many non-Shonoese immigrants from lost human civilizations spurned Shonos’s open hospitatlity and now live in enclaves set among the islands surrounding the continent. Even with the deaths of their nations and the threat of human extinction, the old hatreds of the refugees persist, and battles between island-bound groups continue to this day.
Kdarr: Small hunting parties of kdarr sprint across the flat interior of the continent, living as their ancestors did, hunting Vulcan deer or Shonoese black moose. More kdarr live sedentary lives within the country’s larger settlements, though, with little connection to their hunting ancestry. Kdarr talents at pottery and weaving make them quite popular within the cities, and many of the settled kdarr rank among the wealthiest Shonoese. Among the caravans, kdarr live as students or professionals, particularly among the Po, Ra, and Te caravans. The rare kdarr in other caravans act instead as teachers.
Itok: Although Shonos welcomes many beings of all shapes, sizes, and mannerisms, the Shonoese do treat one species with much less openness and understanding. The itoks are tolerated in Shonos but rarely find themselves welcome. These shapechangers live as second-class citizens and frequently face prejudice and discrimination on the streets, despite official laws forbidding such ill treatment. Some itoks find their way into academia, where they gain a greater level of acceptance among all Shonoese.
The island-continent of Shonos is formed from the massive caldera of a dormant supervolcano. Although it has not erupted in at least 5,000 years, no vulcanologist on Shonos believes the volcano has gone truly extinct.
High, jagged mountains ring the continent, forming a natural barrier against invasion. Flat grasslands dominate the bottom of the caldera, broken up in places by fields of mud pots, geysers, superheated hot springs, and other geothermal activity. Major forests edge the north of the island, with several deserts along the south rim. One of these deserts contains the Crystal Forest, which, as the name implies, is a petrified forest composed of distinctly large crystals.
In the middle of the island, the grasslands give way to Lake Sevar, the only freshwater lake on the continent. Many streams and small rivers rush headlong down from the mountains to feed Lake Sevar. The largest of these forms the Garnied Falls in the northeast, tumbling more than 600 meters straight off the top of the rim down to the floor. The drop is so great that much of the fall becomes a mist by the bottom, tattering a large collecting pool there with countless droplets before reforming into a proper river.
Draining Lake Sevar is the meandering River Janus, the riverine entrance into Shonos along which the country’s capital stands. Modifications done to the River Janus between Nook and the river mouth allow large ships to travel most of the way up to Lake Sevar.
The only major roads lead from Nook to sprawling Medanton, and from thence to each of the caravan home encampments. Thanks to the seminomadic nature of most of Shonos’s native human population, the continent-nation contains only three settlements of notable size.
The Isle: A century ago, the then-makeshift navy of Shonos scored a powerful victory over massed pirate forces. The pirates left behind a rudimentary base on an unnamed isle outside of Shonos, which over time became known simply as the Isle. The Shonoese navy took over the Isle and made it into a waypoint for ships waiting to enter Shonos proprer or to replenish supplies or trade cargo. Ships and their cargos are searched here, and the shipyards of the Isle contain several dry docks the repair and construction of ships.
Medanton: This formerly quaint little town near the center of the continent acts as a way station on the way from any of the caravans to Nook. Medanton grew quickly after magic all but disappeared in the world, as the caravans brought together their knowledge in a centralized location and set about developing the industries of the nation. Today, Medanton is the industrial center of Shonos and, thus, all of Cetera Mundus.
Nook: Situated at the end of a long canal, Nook guards access to the interior of the island. It is the gateway to Shonos proper and also acts as the island-nation’s seat of governance. Here live and toil many hundreds of crafters and tradesmen not connected to the heavy industries of Medanton.
The High Council consists of three elders who rule over all of Shonos: one representing the ship captains (currently Captain Rolf), one for the towns (currently Mayor Singra of Nook), and one from the caravans (currently Boss Murphy of Ki). Numerous agencies within an ever-growing bureaucracy support the council, although leaders of individual towns, ships, and caravans deal with the day-to-day operations of their particular jurisdictions. Only decisions that affect Shonos as a whole are brought before the council.
Other councils of lesser importance within the bureaucracy also exist to aid in the governance of the city. The two largest of these secondary councils are the Council of Isles and the Science Council. The Council of Isles exists to govern the large number of refugees living among the islands surrounding the Shonos mainland. Old conflicts constantly arise, despite Shonos’s best attempts at separating enemies. This secondary council always attempts to solve these disputes with diplomacy and compromise, but it still must, with decreasing frequency, occasionally call for military intervention. The Science Council possesses the power to bring the resources of all the caravans into a singular goal to promote some massive undertaking that requires resources from across the nation. Every rediscovery attempt, for example, was made possible only with the blessing and coordination of the Science Council.
Constables, aided by arbiters and judges from the Ki caravan, enforce the laws of Shonos and keep the peace. The constables remain separate from the military police of the Shonos Navy, even in times of war. With the constables patrolling the land and the MPs watching the air and sea, only the occasional jurisdictional conflict occurs between the two groups.
Public health is handled mostly by the caravans of Po and Ra. Ra planned out and built the infrastructure and now maintains it. Po provides most the doctors, medicines, and medical research.
When humans first settled Shonos, they had a system of caravans that slowly circled the interior of the island, largely for defensive purposes. This allowed the Shonoese to avoid most predators—especially other humans. As the years went by, though, the population grew and the size of the caravans became unwieldy. The constant movement of so many people was a detriment to the land and became a stressor to the people as well.
Now, each caravan keeps a home settlement in a different section of the island, and each settlement has evolved over time into a place of study and research. Every caravan settlement contains at least one equivalent of a university, each with its own specialty. They still maintain actual caravans, albeit much smaller than in the past.
In order from largest to smallest, the caravans are as follows:
Ra: This caravan, based in the southern range of mountains, is composed of hardy folk accustomed to hard living. Their territory encompasses the wasteland that includes the mysterious Crystal Forest. The dwarves work very closely with this caravan, and the largest dwarven enclave delves deep into the mountains of Ra’s territory. The caravan’s main focus of research is the physical sciences: astronomy, chemistry, mathematics, physics, and engineering. Ra is known for its extraordinary advances in tinkerwork innovations. In the past 20 years, demand for crystals from the forest and increased interest in the caravan’s tinkerworks has allowed Ra to attain a level of wealth nearly as great as caravan Ki.
Po: Set in the western range, Po is the caravan of earth and life sciences. Po scientists study the natural wonders of the world and extract what benefits they can, although Po alchemists stop short of extracting majin from living beings (or so they claim). The doctors of Po develop many of the leading advances in medicine, but they are not too proud to learn from others. Gef get along best with this caravan, thanks to both groups’ ties with the land.
Te: This caravan’s home lies in the eastern range, which it chose for the area’s natural beauty and quiet places. Its people observe the world around them and focus their intellectual efforts on the arts, along with theology and philosophy. They believe that through abstract thought they can attain a new perspective on problems old and new. The librarians and archivists of Te gather all the different views from Shonos and around the world so they can consider all sides and perspectives in all things.
Ki: In the northeast corner of Shonos, near Nook, stands the home of the caravan of Ki (not to be confused with the resource type of the same name, with which the caravan has no connection). The Ki excel at civics, law, and business and gather systems of both from around the world (and beyond!). Between the lifting of the veil (see History) and the disappearance of other nations, the Ki used this knowledge to better help Shonos in its dealings with outsiders. Most meetings of importance have a member of Ki present to settle disputes and close legal loopholes for either side. Thanks to its business acumen, Ki is the wealthiest of the caravans. House Delinoix, the noble family connected to TDA, is an honorary member of caravan Ki.
Lu: This caravan’s home lies in the northwest corner of the island. Caravan Lu’s specialty is the study of history, and its members take pains to remind others of its creed: “We must take the lessons history teaches us or be lost in the future.” While one of the smallest caravans, Lu is also one of the most dedicated. Its people frequently leave Shonos to explore civilizations on other worlds in an attempt to discern what lessons can be learned there. It is Lu that constantly agitates for rediscovery expeditions to Olriso, despite every failure that has thus-far occurred. A poorly kept secret is that the caravan has put itself into hock in order to partially fund and outfit the Gloriana’s rediscovery expedition; if this latest attempt fails, caravan Lu chapter in history will close forever.
Ge: The hidden home of this caravan is located in the southwestern range. Ge produces more shadows (see Military) than any other caravan, despite it being the smallest caravan. The Ge learn behavioral sciences and tactics, and often become military leaders. They learn to read people and situations and always strive to identify an escape route. While the other caravans appreciate Ge’s resourcefulness and military ability, rumors of its darker ambitions have recently caused it to lose some favor with most caravans. Since the fall of other human civilizations and the migration of their refugees to shonos, Ge has learned to infiltrate and acclimate to the dark underbelly of society, making sure that no matter where they are they can acquire what they need when they need it.
Priests in Shonos do not wear any special vestments, although their often-large holy symbols set them apart as men and women of the cloth. All deities are welcome in Shonos, although aggressive evangelism is not tolerated. Despite the encroachment of foreign religions, the native Shonoese beliefs remain strong. The Shonoese do not worship deities as other cultures might think of them, choosing instead to venerate the Eight Guardians, said to be ascended humans who overcame death and became immortal, with the Master of Thought the most revered of all.
No temples dedicated to the Master of Thought exist, as the houses of worship dedicated to him are actually libraries or other places of learning. Many in Shonos embrace the Master of Thought’s sense of wonder, curiosity, and light-hearted whimsy, and they hold him to be patron guardian of the island-nation itself.
Shonos is a land of emerging technologies. The people of Shonos are driven by the need to understand the world and to adapt to it. Each caravan specializes in a few different sciences, and each caravan lays out its own goals and plans for research and development. Major research projects always include guidance from the Science Council.
On the surface, Shonos seems like the jewel of peace. In reality, while that was once absolutely true, since the lifting of the veil the relatively rapid changes all across Cetera Mundus forced Shonos to enlarge its military forces. Although it does have a standing army, Shonos relies heavily upon its navy (including its fleet of airships). Defense of the nation remains the military’s primary directive, and as a part of that all three branches constantly patrol the continent, ever watchful for some unknown entity, substance, or… thing… that might portend the end of the Shonoese. It’s an almost impossible task, but technological innovations continue to improve the military’s efficiency in this task.
Army: Shonos possesses–and needs–no large standing army. Everyone on the island is trained in some sort of combat art during a six-month compulsory military service upon reaching the age of 16. In case of an actual invasion, the entire island can mobilize into a fine army of guerrilla fighters who can melt into the land.
Navy: Shortly after the veil was lifted from Shonos, it formed a navy composed mostly of privateers. The privateers captured pirate ships and repurposed them, although the occasional legitimate commercial ship was also taken. The current navy continues the practice, although upgrading the outdated ships of the pirates became unprofitable for the nation, particularly once Shonos switched fully to steam power. Ships thus captured then go into an auction to private interests and the money acquired is then used to support the Shonos navy.
Any ship flying the Shonos flag, including otherwise peaceful commercial ships, is one prepared for battle at a moment’s notice. In the old days, when Shonos held off countless pirate threats with its makeshift fleet, each captain was master of his ship and anything that happened on it. Now, captains remain masters of their own ships, but increasingly restrictive laws limit the legal actions they can take with impunity.
When magic all but died and the other nations of the world disappeared, the Science Council launched a massive modernization program, taking knowledge gained from spies sent to Earth to incorporate steam engines and iron plating in their ship designs. In the years since, the navy became completely steam-powered, so that only commercial ships still use sails. The fleet is now comprised of smaller, faster attack ships; medium ships that can serve many functions; and a few larger ships that act as mobile floating fortresses and supply bases. The two largest ocean ships are currently the Sea Bloom and the North Star, although both are dwarfed by the truly massive airship, the Gloriana.
The ships of Shonos, military and private, all follow the same hierarchy of power. At the top of the hierarchy, of course, is the captain, who has the first and last say on all matters on his ship. Next is the first mate, who acts as the captain’s right hand, carries out all orders, and ensures that the captain’s will is always served. Directly below the first mate is the blades officer (often called “the captain’s left hand”), in charge of defending the ship in deck-to-deck engagements as well as the maintenance and use of the ship’s mounted guns.
Shadows: Somewhere between spies and military special forces, the mysterious group known as the shadows quietly police the island nation. Little is known about the shadows, except that they are purported to be a part of the army (or at least answer to the army in general). Rumors say they receive the best training and possess supernatural abilities. Some rumors say their supernatural abilities are gifts from the Master of Thought, while others claim the powers are inborn. Regardless, all who reportedly meet a shadow agree on one thing: they are dangerous people well equipped to deal with dangerous situations.
When humans first settled Cetera Mundus, one group ended up on Shonos and disappeared from the histories of the empires and kingdoms of the other continents a few hundred years later. The people of Shonos started as seven caravans nomadically traveling the island. They came together once a year in the center of the island, near modern-day Medanton, for a meeting of the leaders of each caravan. These meetings were the starting point of the council, which eventually moved to Nook. As the population grew, those with skills useful to all the caravans migrated to Nook or Medanton. Over time, the current homes of the caravans were founded in the mountain sides around Shonos and, being islanders, the Shonoese took to the sea, building increasingly advanced ships and driving forward innovations in nautical navigation.
An irregular trickle of immigrants arrived on Shonos by accident, often as a result of shipwrecks among the hundreds of islands surrounding the continent, but for roughly a millennium no one voyaged successfully from Shonos to one of the other continents. Suddenly, though, as if a veil were lifted (a metaphor that became the event’s name), Shonos was revealed to the greater world at large. The religious among the Shonoese attribute the concealing and subsequent revelation of Shonos to their patron deity, the Master of Thought. Those who trust more to science than faith point out that navigational technology and skills enjoyed a monumental shift forward shortly before Shonos was discovered by the rest of the world.
For the short period of time that it was known to the rest of the world, before the rest of the world collapsed, Shonos gained a well-deserved reputation as a land of scholarship and knowledge, drawing intellectuals from all other nations and accelerating the pace of technological innovation within the island nation. Its carefully managed neutrality, distance from world powers, and natural protections allowed Shonos to escape invasion from other nations, although it constantly warred against pirate raiders who hid among the islands surrounding Shonos proper. Since the apocalypse that cleared out the rest of humanity the pace of invention in Shonos has slowed considerably.
A little more than a century ago, Shonos’s pirate problem came to a head when pirates from the surrounding islands banded together to launch a coordinated invasion. For three years, the people of Shonos fought desperately to defend their home from the invading pirate nation until, finally, the Shonos Navy won a major victory by taking the Isle and several major pirate strongholds in one multi-pronged strike. This well-coordinated strike, utilizing not only ships of the navy but also soldiers of the army and agents of the shadows, struck a fatal blow to pirate strength around Shonos. To this day, the pirates have never recovered and continue to just barely scrape livings off the smaller, slower ships of immigrant groups of the surrounding islands.
Storytelling in Shonos
A lot can happen in the seemingly idyllic caldera that is Shonos: pirate attacks, grudge-wars among island-hopping immigrant groups, “dungeon-crawling” in natural caves uncovered by dwarven digs, and political intrigue within any one of the councils or the ponderous bureaucracy that supports them are just the obvious examples. The Shonoese live in constant fear that whatever doomed the other hundreds of millions of humans and other races on all the other continents might someday come to Shonos. The greater parts of this fear is that they will not recognize it when it arrives or, worst of all, that it is already here. Thus, the headline-making story out of Shonos right now is the one that left it behind: the Gloriana rediscovery expedition (to be featured in a future Friday Finale).
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