Zäa – The world
Zäa is the world in which Counterbalance takes place in. It is said to be a world spun into existance by fourteen gods, often refered to as the Fiyar’ta (azyri for “Fourteen”).
Its inhabitants are a variety of non-human races (often refered to as “Rontar“), though humans can also be found in some corners of it’s vast expanse, albeit they are a rare sight.
In Zäa, ressources like metal is rare. What little metal can be found is more commonly used for household utensils and architectural support than weapons and armor. If you found Counterbalance expecting a typical Sword & Sorcery Fantasy Story, you might find yourself out of luck. Magic, however… Magic exists here in abundance.
The Skundr is a mountain in the south-west of Zäa, seperating the the two major cities Aureolyn to its west corner and Kærûn to its east. It is the largest mountain in Zäa and it is said that crossing it on foot, albeit possible, is a venture that will take the better part of 35 to 40 days.
It is inhabited by a variety of different Rontar with good cold resistance, such as the long-furred Faraksha, the Kselka and the Skur, though there are records of Miru and some Almirêus settling in the region as well.
The majority of settlements and villages reside at the foot of the mountain. Villages further up the mountain are scarce and far apart, though at the last count, there have been more than 20 villages scattered across the area the mountains covers. The largest trading town, Fyn’garïe, is located roughly 10 to 15 days up the mountain’s east side.
The very peak and the area surrounding the peak of mount Skundr is covered in snow almost all year round and inhabited primarily by the feral Skur, who have been confined to this area back in the Kos’vaïr war. Their confinement is mostly ensured by the small settlements surrounding the Skur territory, who receive support for their vigilance by the Lord himself.
The Skundr’s name was first recorded between the 50th and 60th generation. The derivation of it’s name is uncertain, though it is theorized to derive from the old Azyri words “skadïr” and “aur”, meaning “Frozen Horn”. However, some inhabitants of the Skundr accredit the name to be in reference to Skadi from an ancient local legend.
Map by Daniel Hasenbos
The Ætherweb and the Runes
The Ætherweb is an invisible force that flows through all things like a thread. It contains energies of many different forms, most prominently the forces of the elements – Earth, Water, Wind and Fire. When threads of these elements condense, touch or form knots, they are perceived as Runes. Runes in turn form the basis for all things that exist in the world of Zäa. From a small dew drop to a gust of wind to a tree, where these Runes condense, they take physical forms that can be perceived, touched and interacted with in the physical world.
The weaving of magic through manipulating the Ætherweb and Runes are the base forms of magic in Zäa, though not all uses of magic require an understanding or even an awareness of it. In fact, very few people are able to perceive the weave and the runes, thus a majority of the use of magic is often discussed theoretically. There is a whole branch of study at the University of Kærûn purely dedicated to the Theory of the use of Magic.
The usage of the weave is a very delicate matter and requires careful balancing. Overuse of a single element, like pulling a weave only in one direction, can cause the Ætherweb to tear, forming so called Tangleweaves.
The Weave is inhabited by creatures called Spirits, sometimes also referred to as Vær, who devour an excess of Runes and their effects to maintain the balance on the weave even without the interaction of mortals. When the weave tears and Tangleweaves form, spirits often use the opportunity to manifest in the real world, where they become gluttonous.
It is said that the Azyri script that is still in use today was created in the generations just after the Kos’vaïr war (4th-6th Generation), using the shape of Runes as their base. They picked around 20 Runes of each element to represent a letter or sound in an effort to reunite the tribes through a connected writing system.