Monday, 16 February 2009

[Yoon-suin] Extract from Introduction

Here's an extract from the introduction to Yoon-suin, the campaign setting/mollusc-people sourcebook I'm putting together:

Yoon-suin and the Mountains of the Moon

From the mighty peaks of the Mountains of the Moon, stretching south to the ocean and west to the jungles of the Hundred Kingdoms, is the region the men of Xinjian call ‘Yoon-suin’: The Purple Lands, named after the spice Yoon which is its most famous produce. It is also sometimes called the Home of Gods, because it is said that its mountains are as big as a God’s shoulders, its rivers as wide as a God’s tongue, and its jungles as thick as one’s hair. But for most of its inhabitants, it is known simply as the Great Country.

Yoon-suin has long been cut off from the outside world. It is bound to the North by mountains in places ten thousand metres high; to the South by ocean; and to the East and West by near-impenetrable forest. Though it has long had trade with the men of Xinjian, it has otherwise developed in almost complete isolation. Its politics, languages and religions are its own, as are many of its peoples. But its wealth and the fame of its wonders also draws travellers, and the especially brave, talented or foolish occasionally reach it from other lands.

One such traveller was the philosopher and poet Laxmi Ghuptra Dahl, who, beginning in the twentieth year of the reign of the oligarch Suyong-bui, journeyed from Silaish Vo through Lamarakh all the way south to the Yellow City - and then later from Druk Yul to Syr Darya, where he met his death. He recorded detailed accounts of his journeys in a diary, which was brought back to Silaish Vo by slave traders long after his soul had passed into nothingness. In one of its final entries, he wrote:

I have travelled long in this world and lived in it for nigh fifty years, but I have never seen such beauty and horror as exists in the lands between Silaish Vo and the Yellow City. The Mountains of the Moon are as cold and as dry as hell, but when I first saw the sunlight dance on their snowy ramients I felt as if it was what heaven must look like. The jungles are thick with deathly moisture which lays against your skin like the hot breath of a wolf, but they are so green and lush that they can feed all of the world’s life a thousand times over. The God River is so wide and fast that to set foot in it is to be swept to oblivion and never again stand on solid earth, but to watch the fish leap in its waters at sunset gives one the same pleasure as watching ones own son at play in the village square. And though dread monsters throng its waters, the Great Blue Reef has such glory in its myriad colours that to look away from it for even a second is a great heartbreak. Beautiful or horrible; I know not which word best describes Yoon-suin. I am glad of it and afraid of it, and that is all I can write.

It is fitting that he wrote these words from a tower room in one of the minarets of Syr Darya (though there is some controversy amongst scholars with regard to dates). He had been poisoned somewhere in the Hundred Kingdoms, perhaps by an insect, and his last days were spent in considerable torment while gazing out over one of Yoon-suin’s most beautiful cities.


  1. You ever read "Invisible Cities" by Calvino? It's dying to be turned into a sourcebook.

  2. Absolutely. Ursula Le Guin also wrote something similar called "Changing Planes" - the conceit being that when you change planes at an airport, you sometimes shift the plane of reality you are in. It's a book of 'short stories' but like Invisible Cities it ends up being more like a travelogue of strange societies.