In the remote southern seas there is a cluster of islands. The weather is fair, the land is fertile and the ocean is rich with fish. Each island is inhabited by a different race of people. Although physically they look alike, you can tell them apart by their styles of dress, their distinctive dialects and even their most casual gestures. A cursory tour of the archipelago reveals that each island has its own unique form of architecture. If there is any similarity between them, it is that each race builds in a manner that is stubbornly at odds with the immediate environment. On rocky hillsides there are wooden huts and in wooded valleys, towns of brick. Arid uplands are irrigated and planted with leafy gardens, whereas, on fertile plains, the parks are paved with stone. On windswept outposts people live in tents but in the most sheltered regions they have stout, resilient cottages.
Despite their differences, the islanders coexist peacefully. There is rivalry over certain fishing waters and sporting prowess but it rarely amounts to more than a few heated exchanges. Distances between the islands are not great and the sea is calm but people prefer to stick with their own kind and mixed marriages are rare. For the most part, the only contact between the different races is for trading purposes.
At the centre of the archipelago, perhaps in the most favoured spot of all, lies an island that has been deserted for many generations. There is no obvious reason for its abandonment; it has good soil, plenty of freshwater, two natural ports and a climate no more or less suitable to the raising of crops than its neighbour‘s. But no birds circle overhead and no lights come on in the evenings.