The Fifth World


Our ancestors survived the end of the old world, but everyone has a higher calling than mere survival. Every family has its own ideas about what that means, but usually it involves keeping the world alive or healing its wounds.

Families claim territories, but reducing this to a simple claim of ownership would miss much of the point. They see the territory as part of their family. The trees grow out of the dust of their ancestors to feed the animals, their kin. While they live, they move upon the land, and the land provides for them. When they die, they go into the soil and become the land. The land flows through them, and so, they belong to it. Their claim has less to do with ownership than custodianship. They possess special powers, knowledge, and responsibilities given to them by the land, to fulfill their task: to keep the land alive.

Most of the wounds inflicted by our ancestors have healed. The elders say that at one time they poisoned the air, the waters, and the earth, but we know of that only from old stories now, because the land has cleaned them all. Still, some legacies remain even now. Ancestor sickness afflicts those who drink bitter waters, despite the endless vigil of the Vulture Priests. Pools of madness exist which have unpredictable, terrible effects on people of all kinds. We warn against the evil spirits which still linger in some haunted or poisoned places, or places driven mad by what they experienced long ago.

Many families dedicate themselves to the long work of cleaning these legacies. They work with mushrooms and plants to find new ways to soak up the poison. They venture into mad, haunted places to exorcise evil spirits. They wander the land as itinerant healers on a pilgrimage to do what good they can for the world as a tradition of penance for the sins of their ancestors. They cultivate rare plants to provide medicine for unusual diseases and welcome wanderers from near and far who come seeking healing.

Every family in the Fifth World has its own notion of a special mission it bears. Often, this means protecting their territory. “The globe” doesn’t hold much meaning for them. Few storytellers in the Fifth World have any qualms about claiming that their family lives in the center of the world, or that the edges of their territory mark the edges of the world. Everything they know resides inside that territory. Their life sits rooted in that place.