The People of the Light

The desire to separate from other cultures, races and religions created a conservative mind set among Devera'’s Lithian people. Two groups diverged after the Great Cataclysm. A small and deeply traditional society, who call themselves The Pure Ones, migrated to distant and secluded mountain valleys far to the northeast. These people strictly forbade intermarriage with humans, shunned technology, adhered to an orthodox religious perspective and focused on living in harmony with the natural world. Behaving this way, they believed, preserved their unity with God. However, because of their isolation, cultural influence from this group can only be found on the fringes of its territory.

The second group remained in the Lithian ancestral homeland and did not pursue these distinctions to the same extent. Their civilization prospered in a deep, well watered valley surrounded by towering mountains, where a wide variety of food plants grew wild in a warm and humid climate. They named their homeland "Shira Kalinath lo Alilithianua," a place name shortened to "Illithia" by the surrounding nations for the sake of brevity. In this delightful place they prospered, building a huge city, an extensive system of narrow roads that interconnected smaller settlements and country villas, many beautiful temples and a network of sacred schools; all without the control of centralized, governing authority.

Shirak, on a stormy day.
Image source

Agriculture and fishing sustained these people initially, but their sophisticated understanding of astronomy bore fruit in an uncannily accurate calendar that optimized the timing for planting and harvesting. This, coupled with a deep knowledge of their natural environment led to progresses in resource management that routinely resulted in abundant harvests. Natural longevity, advances in medicine, nutrition and a lifestyle bolstered by faith stretched life expectancy two or three times beyond the typical range for humans. Because of social constraints that include very long courtship customs and bewilderingly complex reproductive biology among Lithian women, the low fertility restrained population growth. Thus, their numbers remained relatively stable. Lithians can have large families, but their children tend to be spaced several years apart.

This is Brenna's family, shortly after her wedding. Lithian families are typically much larger than this.

Over time the Western Lithians developed a very clever and ecologically-friendly technology powered by light that enabled them to blend attributes of metals with properties of crystals. They discovered a way to separate gases from the atmosphere and polymerize water for various purposes. Using precision lenses and mirrors, Lithians concentrated light from the Daystar, creating high temperature forges that allowed them to produce specialized equipment of a quality no other civilization could boast. Lithian edged weapons and armor remained so effective, their tiny armies restricted access to their deep valley for thousands of years.

They did not, however, isolate themselves completely. Intermarriage with humans became so common, very few Western Lithians can boast of a pure family line. The physical characteristics that contrasted them with humans began to fade, until the typical Western Lithian could only be distinguished from an ordinary man or woman by smaller stature, coupled with the slightly downward slanting and nocturnal luminescence of the eyes; a trait expressed in Lithian genes stemming from the time before the cataclysm, when the Great Eye bathed the heavens in brilliant, ultraviolet light.

The Guardian Mountains separate Illithia from the Saradon Plateau.
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With the mingling of cultures came a tolerance for, and a blending of, outside religious influence. Among conservative Lithians, this issue is perceived as the reason for their nation’s demise. The Lithian priesthood, once the bastion of monotheism, gradually adapted their view of God to include a rather diverse expression of divinity, manifest in the forces of nature. Given that their ancient holy books attributed the very existence of the universe to God’s creative power, they did not have to bend their views very far to incorporate the more pantheistic practices of their neighbors.
Initially, the Lithian religion demanded a lifestyle of stewardship for creation, personal humility and social justice. Over time, the steps toward pantheism emphasized the stewardship aspect until God "existed" in every living thing, and in some extreme adherents, in non-living things too! Very few Lithians retained loyalty to their traditional views.

The beautiful Mari Halinneah is a vast, inland sea.

Their treasured cultural distinctions, coupled with the slight physical differences that contrasted them from humans became a source of contention with surrounding nations. The Lithians guarded their technology carefully, restricting trade and zealously refusing to share their manufacturing secrets with their human neighbors. This did not endear them to surrounding nations, who already chafed under what they considered Lithian racism.  Additionally, their lack of formal governance meant that they never developed relationships with their neighbors. Most Lithians considered human governments backward, corrupt and ill-intended; a suspicion mirrored by the very people upon whom this attitude was projected. A long series of minor wars, initially intended to establish a "buffer zone" between Illithia and her neighbors, prevent human settlement and preserve Lithian territorial integrity, diverted resources to warfare that could have been better invested elsewhere. The technical innovation that had once been a source of pride for the nation, ceased, while the Lithian people struggled to preserve self determination from the restless human civilizations nearby.

Eventually, corporate interests within the Empire of the Azgaril sent the Northern Liberation Army to expropriate resources in the Valley of Shirak. The sheer size of deployed forces equipped with massive firepower overwhelmed all resistance. Obsessed with obliterating the hated Lithians, the Azgaril commander ordered his army to destroy every vestige of that once great civilization. Scattered groups remain in isolated locations, but the power of Lithian people has been broken.