[native species:: Demonkind
[native language:: Demonic
[monarch(s):: The Demon Lords: Lord Grey, Lord Slain, Lord Vortigern and Lord Zirkath.
Unlike other Realms, Kurai's Markers are frozen without Guardians - they are indestructible and hidden far beneath the earth's surface, needing no protection. This, however, cancels out traditional portal making and allows the Lords to control these portals within their respective Kingdoms, unless one finds one of the Hellgates scattered throughout the Realm. Around these Gates, portal-making is a free act, though they will not work anywhere away from them (barring Lords, gods and Ethers).
Kurai is a place of many wars, including both the First and Second Demon Wars in the land of Felnova. The first was started by Kirai, former Lord of War; the second was the first Demon King in centuries, who sought not only the control of his Realm, but all Realms from his place in the Silver Throne. The King has the power to command the Demon Lords and their hellwolves; as a result, many are opposed to a King. There has only been one to briefly take the Throne in recent history - the fell Chamenos Bloodreign of War blood, the darker half of the late Solan Fallenskye.
Dominated by the great City of the Serpent Skull, Zugaikotsu, Shinigami is divided betwen War and Death. However, despite what one might expect of a land divided between the two cursed kingdoms, Zugaikotsu's influence keep the land in a relatively stable, if still incrediblay dangerous, condition. Demons and hellwolves, among other equally deadly creatures, roam the countryside, constanly on the prowl.
APPEARANCE: The city is located at the base of the tallest mountain in Shinigami, in the valley where the mountain range stretches the widest. Those who are unused to being enclosed in by the large mountains find the city suffocating, though its inhabitants much prefer the seclusion that the city's locasion provides. Like the mountains around it, Kage No Bōei is quite large, with the structures at the center of the town being the largest and most grandiose. The outer edges of the town have smaller houses nestled against the mountain, and scattered caves along the base serve as homes and shops for many.
CULTURE: Kage No Bōei is home to the Silus Clan, the members of which created many inventions that allowed Death to become the powerhouse it is now. The city is a massive trade center, and is nearly standalone from the rest of the kingdom thanks to the extensive exchange of commercial goods and prey within its walls. On the outskirts of town, darker dealings occur as well, such as the hiring of assassins and mercenaries. The city is mostly focused on survival and military training, and is host to a large part of the army that trains daily and works constantly to come up with ways to increase the death toll. Due to its militaristic ways, harsh punishments are carried out for disobeying laws, and it is not uncommon to see public executions. Many give the city a wide berth due to such a reputation. The ruler of the city, who is also the Silus Clan leader, answers to no one but himself and the reigning Death Lord.
APPEARANCE: Kaiyo is a port town just off the coast of Shinigami, with a large dock for ships to come and go from all the different lands of Kurai. This medium-sized town is focused mainly on agriculture and farming, and is one of the more well-known towns in the Death Kingdom. When there is peace, Kaiyo becomes the centerpiece of trade, both within its own kingdom and with other kingdoms.
CULTURE: Kaiyo is thought to have been started by a band of pirates that settled on the land. A few scars of battles with sea monsters remain on broken buildings by the oceanside, kept by the people as a reminder of the past. Now a peaceful city, Kaiyo celebrates the time of harvest each year with a big feast for its people. During this time of celebration, blooshed and violence is strictly prohibited, and all outsiders are welcome to join in the festivities. The feasts last an entire day and night, and the people celebrate the harvest for the year and pray for the next year to be prosperous.
APPEARANCE: Ketsueki-mun is a massive city that is divided into two sections, one in the forest and the other in the plains of Shinigama. It is a enclosed and fortified by a wall and various wards against both unwanted entry and exit. A castle stands strong in the center of the city, decorated with regal splendor, much like most of the other houses in the city. Ketsueki-mun is second in riches and looks only to the royal Death castle itself, and just as unwelcoming to visitors.
CULTURE: The main source of income and prosperity of this city stems from the trade of both slaves and livestock. The latter ranges from humanoid to beastlike, and are traded for currency or goods at the large markets. Many go to the infamous bloodwine breweries, while others are sent to be slaughtered, often by those that cannot catch prey themselves. Ketsueki-mun is one of the few places that has profited off of the curse that requires all Death demons to kill to survive, and the entire market system is based around the need for bloodshed. Thanks to its bloody ways, the town has very few visitors.
APPEARANCE: On a small island not far from the mainland of Shinigami lies a temple with an open platform in the desert. Around the platform are columns that have withstood the strains of time, standing as strong as they were when Kurai was first formed. This monument was created as a reminder of what the kingdom stands for, and is colored black, with white accents and runes carved into the structure. For most of the year, the temple seems to be abandoned, but comes alive on the first day of each season. On these days, the temple doors open to reveal the statue of the great mother goddess, Leithas, looking out over her children; this is where the demons come to celebrate each passing season. The dark hue of the temple allows the white statue of the goddess to almost glow in contrast as celebration lanterns are lit around her face, and she seems as if she is about to walk out of the temple and among her subjects.
CULTURE: The temple is run by n'vaen demons that have shaved all the hair from their heads and bodies, and wear runes that have been tattooed onto their skin. Their only mission is to serve Leithas and present her with offerings, which include the heart and liver from their prey. The demons' worship of her is nonstop; they will take shifts to make sure that her shrine is never left unattended. During the festivals held at the change of each season, the Temple of Blood is opened. At these times, high ranking officials from all kingdoms can be found here to join in the worship. The festival is held to honor the goddess, to give thanks for the life of the prey taken, and to tell legends to the younger generations of demons in order to keep the culture alive. Such legends are often accompanied by intricate displays of magic, which seem to make the stories come alive.
APPEARANCE: On the western side of the mountain range in Shinigami there rests an infamous, legendary city built in the remains of an utterly massive skull. The Kingdoms of Death and War both lay claim to Zugaikotsu, the City of the Serpent Skull; it is the only place where Kingdoms intermingle without bloodshed aside from the Order-led Tower of mages in northern Pestilence territory. The skull itself is gargantuan, said to be more ancient than the Realm itself, and each side of the snake's jaws is several miles long. To the west side of the skull, War demons dwell most heavily; to the east, Death, and down the center, each lives equally.
Above, the fangs and teeth hang as the great bones slant back overhead, forming the terrifying visage of the giant skull. The great eye sockets hold towers formed of bones and populated by both Kingdoms, with a great arena at the center of what had once housed its brain. This Colosseum, as it is called, is built of thousands of skulls and rib bones, towering tall and enclosing the combatants deep within. Where the back of the skull and the few remnant vertebrae exist, a great tower is built into the giant bones, walls formed of the smaller skulls of countless other creatures. Outside of the skull, walls made of bones rise, as the fanged arches of the jaw towers above all. Carved Demonic runes line the bottom teeth, telling tales of demon bravery and heroism from both Death and War.
CULTURE: Honor and pride wreathe the city like an unseen fog; to the west, the War demons who dwell there live with the code of the samurai, while the Death demons of the eastern side are taught the ancient ways of the demonic assassin. Blood is a valuable commodity, as are human cattle, accommodating both curses equally. The best stock of human cattle is kept in stable-prisons near the Colosseum, raised for food and taught very little, with few sold off as slaves to Zugaikotsu's citizenry. Children are trained from a young age a code of honor, and to respect their sister Kingdom's people and its ways. Those of War are taught the way of the sword, and how to handle themselves against a variety of different foes. Death children are taught exceptional ways of killing, through whatever means necessary. Pairbonding between the Kingdoms is outlawed, and those who disobey are put to immediate death, due to the consequences of half-Kingdom insanity. Every month there is a mock battle, a contest between the two Kingdoms over which side are the better warriors. These battles are respectful and ritualistic, rarely resulting in death. The Colosseum houses hundreds to witness these feats of strength and skill, pitting the best samurai against the assassin-warriors of their sister Kingdom. War demons and Death demons live alongside one another in peace, bonding with their neighbors over their mutual curses. War demons helping Death demons find prey are not unusual sights, and Death demons giving War demons the blood from their kills is an everyday occurrence. A regular tradition in the city involves taking the skulls and other bones from the slain victims of the curses, and adding them to the outskirts or replacing lost and damaged skulls with the new.
The city is led by a single demon who is chosen by the populace for ten year periods; called the Skull King for the crown of ancient bones, topped with a dragon's skull, this leader is chosen from one Kingdom for a decade, and the other for the next. Any longer than ten years, and it seems these leaders slowly grow insane - that some ancient power attempts to take over their minds, that the Great Skull siphons reiatsu from the planet itself, and this power often attempts to manifest (unsuccessfully) in the city's leader. Most Skull Kings die very young and very shortly after their ten years is up, and a great many cannot even reach the decade mark. When a Skull King dies before their rule has ended, a steward from the same Kingdom takes their place, and leads as they would have. The Bone Crown then rests until the day a new leader is selected, glimmering darkly atop a pedestal protected by horrific enchantments to keep thieves and intruders at bay.