The following is by Gristel Virage, a description in brief of Ersay written for the Adventurer's Gazette.
An island several thousand kilometers west of Idonius in the middle of the Scarabic Ocean. Size estimated at 200,000 square miles. The center of the island is mountainous with peaks up to 25,000 feet. The mountains are surrounded by flatlands. The climate is temperate on the flatlands, tending to be rainy and cold on the western side of the island. The east is largely covered by deciduous forests, although some large areas have been turned to grasslands by grazing livestock, for this side of the island is well populated by giants. In the west there are peat bogs, heaths, and natural grasslands. There are far fewer giants here, and these do not plow fields, although they build stone houses and keep animals. The mountains are glacial and cold all year round. This is believed to be because of interference with the weather by the giants who live in the mountains. Coniferous forests extend up to 14,000 feet. There are volcanic regions in the south of the mountains where the heat of volcanic activity creates islands of warmth and fertility.
Ersay is populated by giants. The giants are descended from mankind. They are the product of the conflicts of the gods before the splitting of Ea. They have been civilized for a couple of thousand years. There are four main races of giant on Ersay. They cannot interbreed. They are the Thin Giants, the Frost Giants, the Fire Giants, and the Running Giants.
The Thin Giants are the most numerous. They live on the eastern flatlands of the island, which they divide into two nations: Eldar and Soothback. Eldar occupies the north east corner of the island, and Soothback the south east. Eldar and Soothback are on poor terms with each other, but the more peaceful and civilized of the two, Eldar, is the most powerful in arms, so conflicts do not arise. The Thin Giants grow to 12 feet tall, the women being on average one foot taller than the men. They tend to be thin as giants go, the average female adult weighing only 1000 pounds. If they allow themselves to grow fat, they cannot walk without damaging their spines. In Soothback, it is common for the richest members of society to allow themselves to grow fat. They are then carried everywhere by their servants. In this way, despite the abundance of food on the flatlands, obesity is a sign wealth. This behavior is considered despicable by the Eldans. The Thin Giants, like most giants, have a great deal of difficulty breeding. They have no difficulty getting pregnant, but the chances of miscarriage, still birth, and the death of the mother during the birth are all high. To endure the hardship of bringing forth a child, women who want to have children dedicate themselves to strengthening their bodies. For this reason, the women are as a rule stronger and fitter than the males. In Eldar, women are the leading members of society. In Soothback, there is a history of conflict between the sexes. The conflict continues despite the greater strength of the women because there are always twice as many men born to the Soothbackans than women. In the year 321 RA, it was reported that the Soothbackans were ruled by a Queen (who, incidentally, was proud to weigh 3200 pounds), and the society was decidedly matriarchal. Wizardry and sorcery are foreign to the Thin Giants. They are in awe of their few druids and shamans. In Eldar, these are elusive, hiding in the woods and wandering the grasslands seeing only the shepherds. In Soothback, they are insipid, guarding their secrets and making money off their powers. Needless to say, these are not druids, but clerics of other gods. The thin giants trade meat, smoked fish, iron, copper and zinc with the fire and frost giants in exchange for precious metals and gems mined in the mountains. In the Eldan tongue, which is a smooth and slow speech, these mountains are called the Yellow Mountains, after the color of the gold they receive from it.
The running giants live on the western side of the island. Running is the test of manhood in their tribal culture. Unlike the thin giants, the running giant women are not as large as the men, and the society is patriarchal. The running giants live in tribes of between one and ten thousand members. The people of each tribe are spread thinly over their land, and it is the pride of these warlike people to have a large area about their territory into which giants from other tribes dare not wander. They live in large, crude stone houses of one story only. These are roofed with thatch. The running giants do not tend crops, but they keep and enormous skinny species of goat which seems to flourish with little tending in the area. The giants drink the milk of these creatures, and also make some interesting cheeses out of it. It is taboo to eat their meat, however. For meat, the giants hunt creatures related to moose, dear, and wolves. The wolves are small, and are considered delicacies. The meat most prized by the running giants is that of a cunning species of nocturnal horse they call the 'sivvij'. The running giants have a great respect for the sivvij. The creatures have barbed tails coated with a poison which is deadly to the running giants, although it is reputed to be less deadly to other mammals. The sivvij hide during the day, and cannot be hunted by the giants. During the night, however, the sivvij come out to graze. This is when the running giants go and hunt them. The running giants are armed with bows and spears. They can run as fast as our Ursian horses. But they need light to see, while the sivvij seem to be quit at home in the dark, and they are equipped with their poisoned tails. When they are not hunting sivvij (which is a passion with the running giants), they enjoy having inter-tribal wars. These are very vicious and bloody, but the giants are extremely hardy, and they recover quickly. The average male running giant is 12 feet tall weighing 1400 pounds. The women are smaller and softer. They are pandered by the males, who do all of the hard work in the tribes. The women get to choose their husbands. They can marry any man they want, and it is his duty to give her a child.
Fire giants seem to live in the volcanic regions of the mountains, while the frost giants live in the cold, high parts of the mountains. Fire giants are of one species, but there are many varieties of frost giants. Some of these are reputed to be up to 30 feet tall. All are violent and quick-tempered. They are supposed to have power over the elements, and so they control the weather in the mountains, making it colder or more violently volcanic than it might otherwise be. However, they do mine precious metals and stones with which they buy delicate meats, smoked fish and other metals from the thin giants. They seem to prize iron above all metals.
Giants are not afraid of people. A twelve foot giant will usually think itself to be at least ten times stronger than a 6 foot man. So they are not the least bit afraid. It takes some doing to convince a giant that it should fear a human, especially the more thick-headed and violent types of giant: even if a running giant warrior sees one of his comrades killed by a human, he is unlikely to believe it could happen to him. Instead of fearing humans, giants will regard them as curiosities. Running giants will try to eat them. Thin giants will try to make them do tricks. Mountain giants will want to step on them and take their trinkets.
Giants are miss-happen creatures created by the Princes of Hell in the second century to act as amusing servants to the gods. They have great difficulty giving birth. Miscarriage is frequent unless the mother is very healthy. Almost every birth is complicated, and a giantess who is not strong is unlikely to survive the experience. Given these difficulties, one would think that most women giants would choose not to have babies, and so spare themselves the trouble, but it seems that giant women are unable to stop themselves getting pregnant with the same certainty as humans. Instead, they abstain from sex, or, if they are wealthy, they invest in contraceptive medicines imported from Ranifellfah. These medicines are effective but expensive.
Ersay was a romping ground for the gods for a thousand years. The Olympian council passed an exception to the Clarus-wide temple plot laws in 200 AE that allowed the gods to come to Ersay and mix with the giants that lived there. The exception allowed that giants, and giants alone, would live on the island. The second part of the exception still stands, but the first part, allowing gods to go the Ersay as if it were some sort of amusement park, and vacation among giants, was reversed in the thirteenth century. Sorcassa, who owned the island's temple plots during the time for which it was a profitable vacation spot for the gods, had been fighting to uphold the exception for hundreds of years.
After the gods left, the giants, who had never been anything but servants, had a tough time of it on their own. They slipped back into barbarism and forgot their letters, their laws, and the truth about gods. But it is still part of the oldest Ersayan legends that at one time the gods lived there and everything was wonderful. Then, the legends say, something terrible happened, but they disagree upon exactly what the terrible thing was. Sorcassin was the god who ruled Ersay. He had a tower built on the north-eastern shore of the island. The tower still stands, and is as strong and tall as ever. It is one hundred yards in diameter at the base and one thousand yards high. Its walls are smooth, enchanted granite, joined, shaped and preserved by a regenerating coating of spirit matter. There are many huge stained windows, and many perfectly transparent ones. On the roof, one thousand yards up, the wind is always strong, but the view is good. The inside is magnificently carved.
When the gods left Ersay, Sorcassin sold most of his temple plots to other gods, but he kept the one with the Sorcassin tower, and left the tower locked. It stood for three millenia unopened. Giants worshipped it. They boggled at it. They tried at times to chip the stone, or hammer in pitons so they could climb up. But when they dented the stone, it would smooth over again in a matter of hours.
Then there arose a king of the thin giants called Boranganalah the Eloper, and he was both wise and good-looking. Meanwhile, Sorcassin had lost his tower to a deity called Eriadennha in a bet, and Eriadennha allowed Boranganalah to open the it. Eriadennaha had already accumulated most of Ersay's temple plots. Boranganalah made the castle his own and made Eriadennha the national godess. The tower has since then been occupied by many dynasties of giant kings. It has been burnt on the inside and besieged from the outside, but it has always withstood the strain. Now the tower belongs to another god who takes little interest in it. In it lives Queen Yellowdowning the Third of Eldar. The interior is much augmented for the comfort of giants by wooden stairs and walls. The ceilings on each level of the tower are thirty feet high. There are a hundred levels in all. The civil searvants who live at the top rarely come to earth. Instead they take their air on the roof garden or many of the other cleverly devised half open-aired areas in the tower. The queen herself lives in the lower levels. This is so she can walk out in the city amongst her people, which she does almost every day.
The tower is now called the Antessa Tower. It is by far the most magnificent legacy of the gods on the island. There are a couple of other buildings, but they are hidden away. The next most impressive things are the Spines of Sorcassin. These are needles of steel ten feet across at the base and one hundred feet high. There are ten of them on the island. Upon them are carved, in the greek script of the gods, the laws of the land as layed down by Sorcassin in the first millenium.
Most of the creatures of Ersay are similar to those on the mainland thousands of miles away, but there are a few extra ones which are of interest to the traveller. The 'roc' is a giant bird that preys upon big game. It will even eat giant children if it is hungry. But it prefers moose. There are about twenty of these birds in the moutains. The adults have a wingspan of eighty feet. They have big beaks and big claws. By flying low, they can even sneak up on you in mountains or forests. They can fly hundreds of miles for food. They cannot breed without the help of giants living in the mountains, who do so because they regard the rocs as holy.
To humans, giants are large and slow. In a giant town, everything is happening slowly. The giants talk slowly and walk with a slow pace. They also enjoy sleeping a lot. In Eldar, one in every three days is a holiday. Everyone takes it easy and has a good snooze. The running giants are less like this, for their life is harder. They do not take days off. At the other extreme, the rich fat people of Soothback make a habit of spending most of their time sleeping. Sleeping is good for giants. It makes them healthier. They firmly believe this to be the case. It is one of the rewards of getting rich to be able to spend more time sleeping. However, one in three days is about optimum. More than that is slobbery. A healthy thin giant will live for seventy years. The average running giant lives for fifty years. It takes giants twenty years to reach adulthood.
Mountain giants use magic to prolong their lives. They make changes in their metabolisms so that their bones and hearts are stronger. They can live for hundreds of years if they are careful, but the magic affects their minds, making them fast tempered and usually very unhappy.
Eldar, the nation, is slow, wholesome and friendly. It is a rich country, but wealth is not considered valuable for any other reason than that it buys you health: enough sleep and the finest herbal medicines. It rains a lot in Eldar, but the rain is clean and sweet smelling, and when the sun shines, everything is bright and fresh. The people are friendly and generous. Adventurer traders will do some good business here with the crown (Queen Yellowdowning) whose responsibility is the well-being of her people. However, they will make a lot more money if they can sell to the Soothbackans.
Soothback is slower than Eldar for the rich, but quicker for the poor. The poor don't get enough sleep because they are enslaved by the debts of their forefathers to the rich. They don't live much longer than fifty years. The towns are smelly, the people are smelly. A giant with body odour is a very unpleasant thing for a human to endure. The rich enjoy baths in heavily perfumed water, so they too smell horribly, but sickly sweet. Soothback is largely ruled by women. Their new queen is Deflowingarightah, who is ashamed to weigh a mere 2600 pounds while her mother before here was much fatter. Just as they mistreat their pets and livestock, the Soothbackans are likely to mistreat the adventurers. The queen would have no qualms about putting them all in cages for the circus and taking all of their cargo.
There is another nation of thin giants off the north coast of the island. It is the island of Ranifellfah. It is a serene and peaceful place. There are many druid giants there. Half the time it is foggy or rainy, and the other half it is bright and sunny. The druids control the weather. With this balance of gentle rain and bright sunshine they are able to keep very healthy forests, and the people are healthy too. They live to be ninety years old. The leading druid of the island lives in the forest around the base of the Sorcassin Needle which juts from the center of the island. The island is about fifty miles in diameter. Its capital city is called Groanigytansoasha. It has a mayor and a council. The ruler of the island is the head druid. The druids of Ranifellfah go naked much in the same style as do the druids of Hithlum. They live for hundreds of years. The people are in awe of them for their longevity. Apart from Groanigytansoasha, there are no towns on the island, only villages of fewer than two hundred giants. The capital town is a trading port. The Eldans and Soothbackans pay large sums of money for the herbal medicinals that are to be found on Ranifellfah. The money coming into the island is used to buy iron from Eldar, as well as other luxuries.
Running giants live a much faster paced life than do the thin giants. As their name implies, they are good runners. The men can reach speeds of 40 miles per hour. The women are coddled by the males, and do not waste energy running around. Thin giant men have legs which take up two thirds of their body height. The women have torsos of the same length, but legs in human proportion, so they are several feet shorter than the men. Life as a running giant is rough and exciting. They hunt relentlessly after the sivvij and all manner of lesser beasts, they war against neighboring tribes, and they beat their friends up as well. But although they are barbaric and violent, they are honorable, and they respect prowess in athletics and in battle. Violence is to them a game so exciting as to make life worth living, but they are not violent out of cruelty. They are good to their women - although the women are without doubt the second class citizens of the tribe.
Adventurers would at first be attacked as interesting prey, but if they showed themselves to be dangerous but peaceful, would be accepted as honored guests. In the position of honored guests, they would be under the chief's protection, and so need fear nothing from the giants of the tribe.
Fire giants and frost giants are spectacular in their life-styles. They are very rich in gold and gems and mithril from their mountains. The fire giants are fond of huge fiery palaces, while the frost giants delve their homes in glaciers and icy caves. They fight amongst themselves often. Not in the same way as the running giants, but because the mountain giants are a bunch of mad buggers who have it in for everyone except their own kids. Because they cannot get along with one other, they tend to live alone or in small families (man, woman, kids).