this is what I ended up writing for work, thanks for the ideas guys :)

by grammorhumar

Timalova is a small village nestled high in the northern mountain chain. The village is at very high altitude, so visitors who are not accustomed to the thin air usually need some time to adjust. It is also very cold up in the mountains, though there is rarely snow on the ground because Timalova sits just above the cloud line.

The village is built into the mountainside. Houses, pathways, and open areas for markets and meetings are carved into the living rock, and tunnels are dug through the mountain to get from area to area. The village is bordered by steep cliffs which plummet below the cloud line to the valley below. In the protected, fertile valley (still at high altitude), the villagers grow crops in pastures they have carved out in the shape of stair steps. They do not live in the valley because a heavy layer of cold, moist cloud is always gathered there, and they can only spend short periods of time tending the crops or they get dangerously cold and wet and die from hypothermia. It’s much dryer in Timolova, and it gets more sunlight, though since it is so far north the sun’s rays are slanted and weak.

The people of Timalova are hardy, wind-bitten, and monosyllabic. They wear thick animal pelts and furry hats and boots to protect themselves from the cold. They are wary of outsiders since they see so few of them. They are very self-sufficient and produce everything they need, since it’s nearly impossible to transport large amounts of goods into the mountains. During the Verdant Age, an enormous monastery run by the Sisters and the Brothers of the Sun sat on the highest peak above Timalova, but ever since the gel shift it has been run by Cyprian, who splintered from the Order of the Sun and began an extremist sect called the Children of Magna. The people of Timalova are traditionally not very religious, but recently, more and more of them have been “converted” by the Children of Magna. Anyone who visits can tell there’s something fishy going on.

NPC 1: Yenebia is a witch who lives removed from the rest of the village. She has lived in Timalova all her life. When she was a young child, her parents disappeared under mysterious circumstances; she wandered off one day into the fog of the valley, and her parents went in after her to save her. Days passed, and the village gave the three up for dead. But then Yenebia came back out of the mist, somehow unharmed by the cold and the moisture. Her parents were never seen again, and the villagers blamed their death on Yenebia. They thought she was possessed by something evil and had brought it back with her out of the fog. Yenebia could not defend herself because she was mute from the moment she returned. She never spoke again. The villagers drove her out to an isolated cave halfway between Timalova and the monastery. Everyone who takes this road must pass by Yenebia’s cave. She is raving mad and frightened of outsiders, so sometimes she will hurl spells or physical objects at you if you try to bother her. She will only interact with you if you bring her certain herbs that can be collected on the mountainside and in the valley, for her to use in broths and potions. As much as the villagers hate her, they rely on her for her healing skills and pay her for various spells, though it is questionable if any of them work. The Children of Magna believe she is evil and periodically try to oust her from her cave, but Yenebia is stubborn and tenacious.

NPC 2: Taro is a thrill-seeking explorer, originally a city-dweller from Deltana who has been hiking the northern mountains for several years now. He came to Timalova some time ago, interested in the local culture and the challenging rock climbing the area has to offer. He is one of very few residents of the village who are not originally from Timalova. The locals did not trust him at first, naturally, but over time he has become a staple that they tolerate. Taro has a doggedly sunny disposition, and will try anything once. He is extremely athletic, with calloused hands and a sunburned face. He is always wearing a utility backpack with emergency supplies in case he gets stranded somewhere. He has adopted the local customs enthusiastically, wearing their clothing and living as they do, though his appearance is obviously eccentric (he wears sporty sunglasses and his backpack is neon colored, for example). He can be found exploring the areas around town, climbing rocks, or hanging out in the village tavern. He drinks the harsh, rustic, stout beer that normally only the Timalovans can stand, and he talks constantly, which greatly annoys the Timalovans, since their culture is stoic and plain-spoken. If you talk to him, he will give you lots of information, most of which is useless. Sometimes he will tell you how to navigate a difficult area.

NPC 3: Kana is a nine-year-old girl who herds mountain goats on the outskirts of town. Her family has been goat herders for countless generations, and the milk, pelts, and meat of the goats is an important part of Timalova’s economy. Her family is simple and humble, but somehow Kana was born a child prodigy. She is a mathematical genius, and knows how to speak seven languages. She has read every book available to her in Timalova, and memorized all of them. She has helped the leaders of the village make their agriculture and animal husbandry more efficient and profitable, earning her great respect among the elders. The village people believe she is the reincarnation of the town’s founder, who was similarly a genius, and died hundreds of years ago. Before he died, he prophesied that he would return to them someday in the body of a girl, and that girl is supposedly Kana. The elders have been grooming her since a very young age to become the leader of their people, teaching her lessons and giving her tests. She accepts her destiny as the eventual leader of her people, but for now she enjoys spending time with the goats, periodically driving them down to the valley to feed on the vegetation there. The zealots in the monastery consider her their enemy, as she poses a threat to their power in the town. Kana distrusts the Children of Magna, and is skeptical of Cyprian’s religious claim to the village.