23 November 2014
I've decided to put some of my maps on Zazzle as prints, largely as the ones I've printed out for myself are already uploaded there so I though I might as well make them availaible to anyone whose interested.
Globe of Elyden - Globe of Elyden
Globe of Elyden - Globe of Elyden
19 November 2014
Digital necromancy at it’s best (or worst, depending on how you see it)! I’ve been busy at work finishing off the below map. It’s a personal piece I’ve been working on on-and-off for some time now in my free time, detailing Elyden in a Molliweide projection (currently the go-to-map for National Geographic world maps), from the point of view of the Parthisan Empire.
It’s very similar to the Stereographic map I keep on resurrecting but that never seems to get anywhere despite my occasional tinkering with it (adding labels as I slowly flesh out the world), though it’s much smaller (I’d say about a quarter of the total area of the stereographic map – by the demiurges, I struggled with manipulating this map, let alone the stereographic map!) and contains much fewer extraneous details. And its those details – treatises, short essays, physical data etc. – that are really time-consuming. Well, those and the labels! My drive for perfection with such things means that I cant just add a random label or just write gibberish for the text boxes – whatever I write needs to fit in with established timelines and regional histories.
As a case in point: take the text boxes I this recent map. There are three in all (not counting small key information scattered around the map detailing the individual images): one detailing the state of the world, another detailing recent Parthisan history and another listing all the Emperors elect since its formation as a Republic. I had to come up with all that information specifically for the map as Parthis is one of the regions for which I have written very little, and that threw a spanner in the workd for a while, though I think It adds a bit of reality to the map. Same with the National crest (made on the fly, though I’m still not 100% sold on it). The physical data beneath the National crest I had already calculated for the larger stereographic map so replicated there.
The map itself is not completely finished yet – I still have to add a few labels (many of the eastern and southern regions are not entirely fleshed out, so many nations are still sans capital cities, as you say, so I’ll need to concoct them specifically for the map – something I’m never too keen on doing as the languages for those regions haven’t been developed (or even thought of) yet and I don’t like naming areas that don’t have at least a basic language set in place (determining certain suffixes and prefixes, for instance). I also need to add a map key (kind of write myself in a corner with that as I have no idea where to add it – I might just have to remove some of the smaller text boxes to add the key) and some details (not sure what yet).
That brings me to something else – I’m never really happy with a map. I set out to make something that’s pseudo-realistic though always feel as if there’s something else I can add – a nicer neatline, more period-defining details and so on, though always stumble on such details. Grrr!
|The Globe of Elyden|
Any criticism or suggestions are welcome!
14 October 2014
Been a while since I've posted anything here, as it's been a case of writing up my notes in a more presentable. Anyhow, what follows is a primer for the world of Elyden that I wrote for a tentative sourcebook (as well as my own perusal). It's quite a big chunk of text, though it details the world's flavour quite well.
Also, you may notice that the first few paragraphs refer to roleplaying games, GMs etc. As mentioned above this was written for a possible roleplaying game based in the world of Elyden (largely necessitated by the requirement for me to give something to players of my evil campaign something to read as a primer for the world. As a primer I think it works, though it might be a bit long)
Also, you may notice that the first few paragraphs refer to roleplaying games, GMs etc. As mentioned above this was written for a possible roleplaying game based in the world of Elyden (largely necessitated by the requirement for me to give something to players of my evil campaign something to read as a primer for the world. As a primer I think it works, though it might be a bit long)
Much of what is presented below is beyond the ken of the general populace (indeed it is unlikely that the entirety of the following pages is known to a single individual in Elyden, and were an individual to learn such things it is all too likely he would despair from the discovery, for such is the nature of such things in Elyden), this ancient history has paved the way for that which followed. Much as we are shaped by the actions of our ancestors, so too has this unremembered history moulded the extant empires and personalities of the world, whether they know it or not.
Though it is advised that the GM familiarise himself with the below beginning play, it is assumed that most player characters will know next to little or none of the below. Exceptions amongst player characters are not uncommon, especially in the case of scholars or mythologists who have dedicated their lives to unearthing the secrets of the Demiurges.
The details that are the most widespread amongst the common populace throughout the world are also included at the end of this section, in what is known as Lore.
the Demiurges & the Creation of Elyden
Once there were Two-and-Twenty worker gods, themselves created to shape the Material Realm into something befitting the arrival of the immortal races – the sole rightful inheritors of the Material Realm. From the Matter that congealed where the Shadow below met the Helix above, the Demiurges crafted the world of Elyden, her beauteous coastlines, fertile oceans and fecund forests. Though the Two-and-Twenty were all master artificers and shapers of worlds, each had his or her own strength or character – 22 different reflections of the same whole.
the Great Shaping
And so the Demiurges used their emotions and thoughts in shaping the Material, creating (amongst others, it is believed) the Orb of Elyden. Their creator saw what the Demiurges made and was pleased, yet its dream of Life was not yet complete. Indeed, it had only begun. There could not be life until the Material was perfected to carry such a burden. But so wondrous was the Demiurge’s work that their creator sowed seven times Two-and-Twenty seeds within the skin of the newly created Elyden. These seeds would one day hatch into the immortal races – the true inheritors of Elyden.
Two-and-Twenty pods were sown, each bearing seven seeds. Each pod was a facsimile of both the creator and a single Demiurge, in whose honour each pod was created. Thus the seeds would be the Demiurges’ children; the grandchildren of the creator: the Immortals.
Yet the Demiurges did not agree on what perfection was – each had his or her vision of beauty and each had his or her own passion, not all of which sat harmlessly besides those of their siblings. And so, united in their task, yet disparate in their methods, the Demiurges continued to toil, fashioning Elyden with thoughts and dreams. And somehow, perfection was achieved.
Their task complete, the Demiurges saw what they had shaped and were pleased. And they spoke as one, ‘It is done. Perfection is come to the Material. Now we wait for the Great Shaper to bring life to our love.’
And so they ceased their work, but empowered by the beauty of what they had wrought upon Elyden, the Demiurges saw not the heart to abandon their artifice. As is the manner with all works of art, the Demiurges looked upon the Material and saw imperfections. Like an artist who tinkers with a finished masterpiece for too long, the Demiurges could not let go.
Each toiled to shape Elyden into a place of personal perfection and together they spoilt what they had already achieved. This created a discord within the Material that would forevermore mar the face of Elyden. This new Elyden became a discordant place, a dichotomous land where beauty might bring pain, where life may come from death, where despair may lead to love.
So it was that Elyden was created, world of Light and Darkness and in that light and darkness, spurred on by the discord, the Seeds of Dawn hatched before their time, bringing Fourth premature creatures into a world unready for them.
Elyden was then not as she is now – the mountains, oceans and skies of today are merely the desiccated fossils of what the Demiurges originally wrought. In her nascent imperfect form Elyden was a place of chaos that the immortals’ embryonic senses could not hope to comprehend. It would take aeons for her beauty to distil into a form appreciable to the senses of those poor beings forced into life prematurely.
by Hubris Born
The immortals, though sown by greater hands, were given life through the hubris of the Demiurges, who were themselves not entirely divine. But like a babe ejected prematurely from its mother’s womb, unable to comprehend the world it was brought into, the immortals could not understand the world around them, nor could they understand themselves. Despairing, their minds aflame with sensations that should never be felt, the immortals became hollow shells next to the perfect forms they should have been.
And thus the immortals were created, through the unthinking actions of the Demiurges. They were immortal in nought but name, indeed they were mortal.
The Demiurges were punished for their hubris and were sent down to Elyden to continue shaping the Material Realm into something more habitable to the poor mortals, who became their wards. Consigned to the Material Realm they found their greatest powers of shaping dwindled, though their dreams and emotions yet held the power to shape the world. Unwillingly they became the leaders of the mortal tribes and slowly led their charges along the path that suited each the best. Some Demiurges learnt to adapt to this new life better than others. Still some revelled in the glow of true life and the joys of experiencing things as mortals. Most, however, were greatly pained by what had come to pass. A few were consumed by despair. Yet all mourned their sundering from their creator.
Many amongst them came to be worshipped as living gods, and it was there, in the false glow of their followers, that they felt their strength return. Slowly the Demiurges abandoned the memory of their creator. In their punishment they had been martyred, with the mortals mistakenly looking upon them as their true creators.
The Demiurges were still driven by their creator’s command to shape the Material, and they continued in their work while leading their tribes. Though their powers of craft were greatly diminished with their fall, they were still Demiurges and it was no wonder the mortals looked upon them as gods, for their abilities were still great. Their tribes grew to reflect the Demiurge’s individual emotions and grew disparate from one another as their beliefs grew more dissimilar.
And so, the Demiurges grew separately and differently from one another, each coming to embody his own feelings, his own tribe mirroring his attitude and demeanour. The secrets of the Atramenta and Firmament were carefully disseminated amongst the mortals. This restored some of their strength, but they were still weak simulacra of their former selves. Now that they lived in Elyden, the Demiurges learnt quickly that their power waxed and waned with that of their followers and the years following the Demiurges’ banishment were characterised by an incessant growth.
The Demiurges shaped their tribal lands to better suit the needs of their charges and promoted growth and aggression. Centuries of trade and expansion, of religious wars and conversion, of conflict and alliances followed and the Demiurges themselves waxed and waned alongside their children.
the Great Sundering
Millennia passed and the Demiurges ignored their creator, and the mortal races remained ignorant as to fact the beings they worshipped as gods were the reason for their tragic creation and imperfections. The creator slowly waned and eventually disappeared altogether.
The Demiurges felt this withdrawal like a man sundered from his loved one. From that moment on, the divine spark that had created them was extinguished forever. They remained Demiurges, and yet they were not.
Immediately, they felt shamed by what they had done, weak and foolish at the selfishness of their inaction. Some of the Demiurges became wholly insular, falling prey to dark thoughts their own actions begot; while others strove to rekindle the rotted link with their father. This created a great schism between the siblings, who had otherwise lived together without great quarrel. Some realised that in order to survive, the tribes needed to unite, while others, bitter at their fate, forgot the world and their duties and began plotting against the rest of Elyden and creating cruel incantations and hexes to secure yet more strength. Others fell into the deepest of despondency at their abandonment.
This propagated a long waning of the Demiurges. Generations of mortals came and went, dynasties rose and fell, empires flourished, struggled and died. In these epochs the mortals grew distant from their despairing parents who only continued to grow weak. Though in many regions they continued to be worshipped as deities, most cults were weak corruptions of the original faiths and the fervour with which they were once revered had lessened.
Over the years individual Demiurges or short-lived alliances amongst the siblings might have gained superiority but it was never to last, and ever victory was followed by millennia of waning.
a Divinity in Decline
Time passed and as the Demiurges continued to live in the shadow of their divinity, they came to realise that they were truly mortal.
With discovery of their mortality, most Demiurges lost interest in their charges and abandoned them before death done the same. Of course, the Demiurges still drew strength from what worshippers remained, misguided as they were.
The Demiurges and mortals may have abandoned each other, but the Legacy of the Two-and-Twenty was not gone. In their mortal forms the Demiurges had unions with their worshippers, creating powerful scions whose blood teemed with the power of the Demiurges. This blood thinned with each passing generation, but the signs remained – not in physical disparity, but the power of Shaping. Though the Demiurges had been stripped of their powers to shape, their progeny was not in such a way cursed.
In the absence of the Demiurges these scions became leaders and spiritual figures, holding together what they could of their tribes. But in time the tribes fragmented. The memory of their divine leaders was great and as their adulation of them simmered down into little more than memory, the tribes no longer remained Two-and-Twenty.
The golden age of mortals came to an end with the abandonment of the Demiurges. Nations merged, others separated and the memory of the Two-and-Twenty tribes of mortals left myth and fable, remaining only in the minds of the wisest of sages and those Demiurges still alive who cared to remember such things.
Like the tribes, memory of the Demiurges passed from memory into myth, and myth into obscurity. And as the number and size of tribes continued to warp, the Demiurges were truly forgotten. The scions of their bloodline became no more than petty kings and lords. Knowledge of the Firmament and the Atramenta corrupted over time, and people came to revere the spirits of the fallen. Others maintained half-true memories of the Demiurges and came to worship them as a pantheon of distant deities, similar in little but effect, with different names and guises in different nations. Others forsook all notion of a higher power and worshipped little more than life itself. Still others, voracious to discover the hidden truths that lay buried in soil and time, became servants to lore and uncovered scattered details of the Demiurges and the tribes of old.
During their ascendancy the Demiurges shaped not only the natural landscape of Elyden, but they also constructed great edifices and monuments to their own glory. Even now, so many millennia after their erection, many of these cyclopean monuments survive. Overgrown and weathered, yet still glorious and echoing the true strength and majesty the Demiurges once evoked.
Those who come across such wondrous structures cannot help but marvel at the raw scale of their construction. Towers miles high constructed of a singular block of glass-like substance none can identify. Temples carved into the sides of entire mountain-ranges. Archaic machines, mostly now fossilised or calcified beyond repair.
Perhaps most renowned of these feats of the Demiurge’s will made manifest is the Prison Carceri, a vast network of caverns and dungeons that is believed to span the entire world. The vast mountain of the Varrachon is said to have been created from the waste debris of Carceri’s construction. The region is baneful, with the air above the few openings into the world above fetid. Those few who have visited its depths have returned with their minds twisted, babbling about never-ending rooms, the glow of Elyden’s heart illuminating every chamber, nonsensical architecture and grotesque characters.
a Life in Dreams
Though the names of the Demiurges remain in the roots and etymologies of hundreds of false gods and geographical features, few are those who can name them and their exploits. Most are now dead and forgotten and the few who millennia of mistaken transcriptions have not fully corrupted survive only as languid shells, and they are only capable of shaping the world through their dreams, willing or otherwise. The places close to the tombs of these ancient fossilised Demiurges are unholy places, mutable as a dream and inimically dangerous to mortals – the fabled Dreamscapes.
And it is through dreams that the greatest of the Demiurges’ powers are made manifest. Their dreams disseminate what remains of their powers of shaping and it is through dreams that they communicate with mortals. To be touched by a Demiurge’s dreams is no honour, and few who are so-chosen remain fully sane. Worst are those whose dreams become so embroiled in those of the Demiurges that their bodies become inert and they survive only in the nightmarish visions of the Demiurges’ own dreamscapes. Some think that the physical dreamscapes surrounding the Demiurges tombs can act as gateways into the dreams of mortals around Elyden, though few forays through those somnabular gates end well.
Though the age of the Demiurges has long since passed, echoes of their reign remain and some can still be heard whispering their names and exploits. Resurrected cults of long-forsaken Demiurges may yet return in the catacombs beneath cities, where devotees whisper prayers to unknown entities they cannot hope to understand. The descendants of the Demiurges may yet be seen across the length and breadth of Elyden in the form of Scions though few may know the true horrors of their genealogy.
To those whose roots lie around the Inner Sea there is always the Undying Machine – that ever-present facet of the Demiurge Rachanael, whose reminds the wise that it is only circumstance that keeps a god dead or alive in Elyden.
the Tragedy of the Mortal Races
The truth behind the mortal races lies in a distant time that none now can recall. No written records date back to such times and the only recourse we have is to the uncertainties that the supranatural arts may glean from the otherworld and other clues that science can never verify. Different regions have their own creation myths that people follow without thought, though even disparate cultures divided by a thousand years and miles often share similar stories. It is through these similar stories that we may find a source closest to the truth, though be warned for the truth is so rarely a comforting tale.
What follows is a recounting rarely seen in so unadorned a format. Count your blessings and never regret that you amongst so few other luminaries and polymaths are privy to such secrets.
The Demiurges, upon shaping the Material Realm into something of perfection and beauty, were each gifted a pod containing seven seeds. From each seed would, in due course, emerge the immortals – four female and three male to each pod. The immortal were designed to inherit the perfect world. But their time had not yet arrived. It would take millennia for the seeds to germinate into perfection as the world around them settled into its final perfect form.
Yet in their vanity the Demiurges destroyed all they had worked for. They had achieved perfection yet grew restless in the wake of their great work. They continued to shape the world, doing only that which they had been created to. They added beasts and features that twisted the beauty of what was into something imperfect.
And thus was the perfect world of Elyden warped into something imperfect. The immortal pods hatched before their time amid the cacophony of the new imperfect world. Born in mockery of what should have been: the immortal tribes became instead the mortal tribes. Embryonic, unwanted things granted sentience in a raw realm that was unready for and unwanting of them, they had little choice but to endure.
The creator knew that what had happened had happened and could not be reversed. But the Mortals were innocent in their birth and the creator knew that any suffering they sustained was through no fault of their own. To make the cacophony of the Mortal Realm more bearable each mortal was given the smallest mote of divinity. Tiny it might have been but it was enough to serve as a cocoon against the raw world to which they were now inevitably bound. That tiny mote became lens through which they could interact with their world without the trauma under which they had been born. This mote became known as the spirit and it was the creator’s only gift to the mortals.
With a spirit and senses capable of observing and experiencing the world around them, the mortals were strengthened, but they could not escape the death and disorder that their birth had subjected them to – forevermore the mortals would be plagued by the shadow of death and cursed by the weight of disorder.
Each pod became the root of a tribe of mortals; their minds and bodies shaped in the manner of the Demiurge in whose image they were ultimately fashioned. Under the aegis of their unwanted sires the Demiurges, the mortals grew. Slowly they inherited their sire’s traits, coming to follow and resemble them in matters of body and mind.
the Unwanted Scions
And so, the Mortals came to be in a world that was not ready for them, to parents that did not want or care for them. They were the untimely spawn of deplorable compulsion.
As a result, it can be considered that all mortal races were ultimately born of the Demiurges’ vanity, and that it was that same vanity that denied them the immortality and perfection that was theirs by right.
It is difficult to explain the true impact of this, for the mortals have, for unnumbered generations, lived in ignorance of this fact, accepting everything that is around them as natural. The truth could not be farther removed from that assumption: everything that is negative in Elyden – pain, death, corruption, disfigurement, loss, famine, toil – exists ultimately due to the actions of the Demiurges. Were it not for the Demiurges’ hubris, the Two-and-Twenty mortals would have been born as they should have – fully-formed and immortal, inheritors of the perfect realm.
Those who learn this truth and truly understand its significance may find themselves distraught or bitter, in the very least. Some have gone insane trying to digest the facts and one cannot blame such sensitive individuals. There exist those in scholarly circles who, having learnt this grim prehistory of the mortal races, sees no fault in the Demiurges’ actions, but rather a tragic purpose. Demiurges were born with a specific task in mind – to create and shape, and that is what they did.
These apologists are in the minority in a community of illuminated individuals that is already miniscule. The fact that such knowledge is printed in this volume may lessen the divide between ignorance and fact and it is something that is done with no-small intent.
a Lessening of Bloodlines
As ancient epochs came and went and the Demiurges machinations done little to restore their divinity, the mortals slowly spread across the world of Elyden. Some abandoned their homes, while others remained close with their Demiurge parents, learning from them. Others turned to the natural scions of the Demiurges – spawn of their misbegotten union with mortals and other Demiurges – following them instead.
The Demiurges themselves cared little for the mortals but what sustenance they could offer them, for it was the adulation of loving mortals that gave Demiurges the strength needed to endure. Many Demiurges had already created sentient life before the tragic birth of the mortal races and it was in these races that were truly created in the image of their parents that many demiurges devoted their attentions, despite the value of the mortals. Some Demiurges grew greedy and subjugated unwilling populaces, with others abandoning their original children entirely if the opportunity arose for more worshippers elsewhere. Yet what few learnt in this time was that similarly to how the Demiurges drew strength from their worshippers, the mortals also drew something from their divine parents – their identity. Without the compass of their divine parent to guide them many tribes found themselves diluted by the world, their idiosyncrasies buried beneath the void of abandonment. That and increasing contract with other tribes led to the slow death of the mortal races.
Where once each tribe was disparate, of physiognomy and psychology unique to itself, their slow spread to secular lives and false religions, as well as their spread and mingling across the world saw their heritage diluted. That, coupled with the actions of Demiurges that were at times genocidal in their effect, and many of the original races are now lost to history or despair, their only remnant corrupted bloodlines and half-human descendants. In some far-flung regions pockets of such tribes may remain, but they are invariably wretched things born in a world without guidance or reassurance.
first Amongst Equals
Of all the mortal races, humans are by far the most numerous. It is not their intelligence or an aptitude for survival that has propagated the vermin-like spread of their race across Elyden, but merely a coincidence that none of the other mortal races enjoyed. Humans were alone amongst the Two-and-Twenty mortal races to breed true with the other races. This alone has ensured the survival of humans above any other race. And that explains why half-breed races are so common – mulls and halfbloods, to name but two.
Other races to remain are the independent creations of the Demiurges – those sentient beasts crafted by the Demiurges before the coming of the mortals, but they are primal beings, without spirits or the pathos that plagues all of the Two-and-Twenty mortal races.
of Soulstones and Otherborn
Mortal spirits (the more of consciousness granted to the mortal races in wake of the premature births so long ago) migrate to the Otherworld upon expiry of their bodies, where they gestate in that timeless realm before perhaps being reborn as Otherworlders.
That was not always the case, however. For countless millennia there was no transmigration of the spirit to the Otherworld. Upon death the spirit would remain attached to the body like parasite, slowly growing, as a mote of dust grows within an oyster. As the body slowly dried and fossilised, this soul pearl would continue to grow, often becoming the only thing to remain of a dead mortal. These soulstones as they are sometimes known contain that minute divine mote that every trueborn mortal possessed in life, and they are valued by shapers and others alike for their properties.
Though it was once rare for a mortal to leave behind a soulstone once spirits started to migrate to the Otherworld upon mortal death. A few instances have been noted, though overall it was an incredibly rare and sad event. That has changed recently as the instances of mortal corpses giving rise to soulstones has begun to increase over the past century. Though the numbers remain small, there is no doubt that they are on the increase. Scholars still struggle to understand why.
No discussion about soulstones can be complete without mention of the otherworlders, for though their numbers may be few, their influence upon the fate of mortal life is great indeed. The otherworlders are the spirits of deceased mortals reincarnated in corporeal form upon the Material Realm. Legend claims their role is akin to that of the psychopomp, guiding the spirits of the living, though we cannot be sure, for they are utterly alien in nature – both physically and psychologically – and rarely do they communicate in simple terms.
Strangely, one of the most common ways they communicate with mortals is through sex, as the amount of halfblooded descendants that exist. Each otherworlder passes on particular traits to its offspring, and some believe that their purpose is to spread those traits amongst the mortal races, through which they can then influence fate.
Their offspring, commonly known as halfbloods, are far more numerous than their otherworldly sires, for their traits can be passed down for many generations before being diluted. Though not as alien as their otherworlder parents, halfbloods remain enigmatic creatures plagued by their dichotomous ancestry. They know they play a role in some greater purpose, though what that role is they can never know.
the Materia Omna
The Materia Omna is the centre of the universe. It exists within the smallest object imaginable and surrounds the totality of creation. It is the primordial element from which all else was created – the Firmament, the Atramenta, the Material Realm and everything that exists within them. It is the ‘clay’ that the Demiurges shaped into Material Realm, and it is from this ‘clay’ that most life was crafted. This is likely how the Materia Omna permeates everything – it was the original blueprint from which all else was created.
It is seen by many as a mystical element because of this, something likely to be found at the centre of philosophical movements. It cannot be seen or felt and it is very difficult to gain empirical evidence of its being, which is a cause of consternation for more pragmatic scientists.
It is likely that mortals know a lot less about the Materia Omna today than we did under the leadership of the Demiurges. Many secrets were lost following the Demiurges’ fall and subsequent descent into languor.
The Materia Omna was probably rediscovered early days of the Fifth Age of life, over five millennia past. Yet despite in intervening centuries and untold hours of devoted study few are those who claim to understand its secrets.
Sometimes described as the Æther by ancient scholars, the Materia Omna was, at various points throughout history, thought to be the source of and secret to life in Elyden, a fabled panacea, as well as being the dwelling place of false gods. Ancient alchemists believed that should the Materia Omna be observed in solid form, its manipulation could produce any substance conceivable – for within it was the power of creation. And given that the dichotomous elements of the Firmament and the Atramenta both lie within its roots, that is not difficult to believe, though none have so far manage to distil the essence of the Materia Omna in physical form.
the Shadow and the Helix.
Though little is known about their united primordial form, much more is known of the Firmament and the Atramenta themselves. The paired elements through which the Material Realm was constructed have been known to mortals for millennia and even in the wake of the Demiurges’ decline we have held on to the basics of these two elements.
The Firmament and Atramenta emerged from the roiling chaos that was the Materia Omna. How this happened is unknown though common origin myths state that a now-forgotten creator deity awoke, and the movements of its awakening caused the Materia Omna to churn, causing its constituent parts to separate like oil and water. The truth will likely never be known.
Whatever the reason for the Materia Omna’s eventual separation, where the two elements (the Firmament and the Atramenta) touched they created a film that would later be shaped by the Demiurges into the Material Realm – a region where Elyden is located.
Though the Materia Omna is a largely unseen force, the Firmament and the Atramenta (or the Helix and the Shadow, as they are more commonly known in the twin Empires) are very much on our doorstep and are relatively easily manipulated by those who know how.
Even to those without the knowledge of shaping, the Firmament and the Atramenta are known and their influence can be felt everywhere – lodestones, duststone, Atramental corruption, petrifying deserts, electricity, the list goes on.
the Shaping of Creation
Most cultures understand the principles of the Materia Omna and though some may distrust its twin elements (citing detrimental experiences), others have accepted the Firmament and the Atramenta as elements to be used (and abused), like any other.
Both pose their dangers, however. The Atramenta is highly mutable and prolonged exposure can lead to debilitating effects upon body and mind, and as well as inorganic matter. The Firmament promotes stagnancy that can lead to petrification. Both can be highly inimical to life (as evidenced by the growing numbers of Atramental or Firmamental wastelands that exist throughout Elyden) yet disciplined empirical study of their properties has led to many advancements that would have been otherwise impossible. This is all possible thanks to those who have studied the Firmament and the Atramenta, as well as those who are capable of shaping those disparate elements – Onésimus and Set, respectively, or more commonly known simply as shapers.
Shapers are allowed to do what they do through the inherent malleability of the elements of creation. It is thought that the Demiurge’s shaping of the Materia Omna, as well as the Firmament and the Atramenta, left the elements far more malleable to manipulation than they otherwise might have been. Some believe that by shaping the Materia Omna the Demiurges imparted part of their creative essence in the elements, making them malleable to mortals.
There are four types of Shapers. The most common by far are those who tap into either the Firmament or the Atramenta, manipulating their constituent parts to achieve various results. The third, type is the rare shaper who has equal control over the Atramenta and the Firmament. The fourth far rarer type of shaper, is one who interferes directly with the Materia Omna. The results are often similar but the potential for variety is near-infinite.
When shaping the Firmament or the Atramenta a shaper is limited by what the respective element touches, or its sphere of influence. It is near-impossible to directly create light through the Atramenta, for instance. Those rare individuals who can shape the Materia Omna have no such limitations, as their patron element permeates everything in this world and others.
Even amongst fellow shapers, there exists differing spheres of influence. An individual shapers’ abilities will typically only affect a small part of the Atramenta or Firmament (depending on his element of proficiency). This is known as his sphere of influence, of which there are a many. This is why not all Atramentists can accomplish the same things. Some may be adept at weaving flesh, where others might be experts of ferromancy. Still others might be able to dabble in various spheres, while never being able to achieve the heights of those who specialise. No two shapers will ever display the same exact affinities, though there are institutions that attempt to standardise their use, labelling certain acts of shaping as falling within particular spheres. These categorisations are largely arbitrary though the institutions that utilise them swear by them. A case in point is the various Atramental Minasteria of the High Empire.
the Wonder of Technarcana
Through our understanding of the Atramenta and the Firmament modern man has been able to accomplish great feats of artifice and engineering that have not been seen since the days of the Demiurges. We have developed cures and vaccines for diseases that would have slain millions. We have developed treatments to make metals stronger, lighter or more resistant to corrosion. We have refined the Atramenta raw state (known as umbriska) into fuels and other substances through which we can power engines and machines. We can bend the magnetic properties of the Firmament to our will, creating batteries that store energy.
It is solely through our knowledge and manipulation of the Materia Omna that the scientific discipline of technarcana has become possible. Finally we can step out of the shadow of our ancient ancestors and claim the future for our own. Where once shamen and arcanists ruled tribes of men, now we place our trust in technologists and technarcanists who maintain the great engines that sustain the great metropolises of our time – Almagest, Teigris, Hetepheropolis and Makhara, to name a few – are possible. Siphon engines that draw otherwise baleful properties of the Atramenta keep these populated lands safe; dross manufactories produce the edible slurry that keeps dense populations of millions alive; and it is in technarcance ateliers that beast engineered to serve us are created. Not least of all are the servant castes, such as the haemonculi or steel legionnaires that owe their very existence to the technarcane arts.
the Primal Disciplines
Though we praise the technarcanists whose efforts allow our modern technarcane engines to work, their link to the Materia Omna has dwindled to a prosaic fragment of what it once was. There is no mysticism or spirituality inherent in the works of a machinist or mechanic. These are no true shapers of the material of creation.
Though diminished in urbane lands, there remain those who look upon the Materia Omna with wonder and marvel. These are the modern shamen and arcanists – urban occultists and dabblers in the primal arts. In less advanced cultures (or on the fringes of our own lands, where technarcana remains rare or too expensive to reliably maintain) we can still find those who fill out the roles of more traditional sorcerers and warlocks. These individuals eschew the trappings of their modern counterparts – the technarcana and machines – take a more direct approach to the act of shaping.
Such individuals are dangerous for they wrestle with great powers without any degree of training. It is not uncommon for such an untrained individual to consume himself through overexertion, killing themselves and those around them in blasts of raw Atramental or Firmamental energies.
The Realm Beyond. The Æther. The Otherworld. It has may names, though few truly understand it. It is the realm outside of time and space, where the dead and unborn dwell. Like the Material Realm, the Otherworld is a part of the Materia Omna, though it is its own entity.
Some shapers can transport themselves to the Otherworld or call upon its denizens (otherworlders not yet reborn to the Material Realm) to aid them in their studies, though such travel is dangerous and taxing on the senses. As a timeless realm many have sojourned in the Otherworld for seemingly months to fond mere days or hours to have passed in the Material Realm. Even worse, an otherwise short sojourn may result in decades or centuries having passed in the Material Realm, leading to the shaper returning to a world that cannot recall his presence.
It is through the otherworld that other forms of mystical travel – dream walking and planar projections, for instance – are rendered possible, though the otherworld is a fickle element and it is unwise to venture into such mutable realms unprepared.
Ancient Empires and buried Glories
Elyden is an ancient place. Modern thinking has the sphere of Elyden as being around 1 billion (1,000,000,000) years old, with the Demiurge’ acts of shaping and the birth and spread of the mortal races following that.
It is an almost immeasurable time that few outside the intelligentsia of the most learned scholarly circles may even hope to comprehend. It is time enough for the original creations of the Demiurges to naturally change and branch into forms unthought of by their creators. It is time enough for Elyden’s coastlines and continents to slowly change. It is time enough or the memory of vast empires and their descendants to be forgotten to all but the most esoteric of otherworlders and arcane researchers.
Memory of the mortal tribes is fragmented at best and few are those who can name the Two-and-Twenty races on more than one hand. Even their descendants and their descendants are unknown to most. Little wonder then that so much of our prehistory lies buried, turned to dust by the passage of time.
Cities are often built on the site of past cities, so long as the geography hasn’t changed to the point of the location being uninhabited. As a result, many cities are built atop the ruins of previous incarnations, sometimes dating back tens of thousands of years, though few may know this. Under the Demiurge’s aegis many metropolises and other edifices were built to last eternities and some millennia-old ruins may yet be explored in the Elyden’s wildernesses.
The Demiurges and their Scions, consigned to oblivion for so long are only remembered through the Archpotentate Malichar and his actions in resurrecting the languid Rachanael to life. Ironically, it was his obsession with ensuring the other Demiurges remain buried that has even brought their memory to light in the lands around the Inner Sea. Though even so, dead gods do not remain so for ever.
A World in Waning
We know through the meticulous records of cartographers throughout the Fifth Age that Elyden’s oceans are retreating. Great harbours constructed along the coastlines of 5 millennia past are now located miles inland, surrounded by salt flats and the memory of more abundant times.
Seas that were once fertile have been overfished by starving nations to barrenness, where elsewhere lakes and rivers have been corrupted by the presence of the Atramenta and manufactories, their colours changed from crystal-clear waters to garish chemical-tainted hues.
It is the belief of many that the Demiurges absence has had an adverse effect on the natural world. Without their aegis the laws of nature have slowly begun to unravel, leaving the world in the beginning of a chaos that many fear can only grow worse. Increasingly women give birth to misshapen shapes, and in the wild beasts often become tainted into unnatural shapes with even strange abilities.
Detractors of this theory need only look to the dreamscapes that surround the Demiurges’ tombs for proof of their ability to warp reality. Were they awake and strong they could target their thoughts to those lands that need maintaining, but alas such is not the case.
Unless the status quo that has reigned for millennia is broken and the Demiurges are raised from their polluted slumber, it is unlikely that Elyden will recover. Though most are blind to this decay, those who have studied the past know that a great Dark Age beckons unless the Demiurges can be stirred.
And what if they are? It is impossible to see what a newly arisen Demiurge might be capable of. Would it even care for the fate of the world? It is disturbing then to know that many demiurge cults have arisen with the sole intent of waking the slumbering gods and their scions.
Blind Ritual and Reflex Sacraments
Elyden is an old world, with present cities built on the ruin of their forebears. Those ruins hark to city-states that inherited traditions and cultures form nations that came millennia before, who in turn developed customs in the wake of the original mortal tribe’s passing.
This blind dissemination of past rituals is something that proliferates the extant world, with people observing sacraments – be they religious, cultural, political or industrial – without truly understanding why. The bureaucracy of the Korachani empire dates back four millennia, and there exist halls of records where censuses and records that have no bearing on the present age are kept, just because that is the way it has always been. The Tethysian funerary tradition of burying the dead with a blue gem has existed since before the birth of their nation, though few are those who remember its origins or indeed its purpose. Yet people still do it.
Such rituals proliferate in this waning world, perhaps providing comfort or a sense of purpose to those who live in these twilight days.
As the natural world itself begins to unravel, so to do the ancient empires that have governed civilised life for millennia. The Korachani empire, a monolithic entity that has surrounded the Inner Sea for over four millennia has fractured and struggled to find resources to maintain its sprawling cities and institutions.
To the south, in the great desert-continent of Sammaea, there exist countless city-states, each descended from great empires that failed in their pursuit of longevity. These states are ruled by grotesque and often unique characters whose tyranny urges their people to struggle and scavenge amid the rotten remnants of past empires
Though elsewhere nations may yet endure that reflect the paragon of civilisation, one only need sift through the deception of appearance for the corruption that lies beneath…
Despair and Decay
It is to this world of growing despair and decay that we invite you to travel. Whether you seek the decrepit streets and alleys of millennia-old cities that collapse under the weight of their own infrastructure, or the wasteland city-states that cling to survival amid the collapse of the natural world, there is much to be seen.
Elyden is a world made for opportunists. The Fifth Age, likely drawing now to a close, was born of the survivors of the wane of the Fourth Age. It was through their intrepid actions that empires were allowed to rise and fall and the same will only be possible through the actions of their descendants.
21 August 2014
My greatest literary role-model started his 124th rotation around the sun yesterday. In other words, he would have turned 124 yesterday had he not died to stomach cancer (a likely result of his abysmal impoverished diet).
I am proud to say I have been fascinated by Lovecraft's writing and the Cthulhu mythos for some 20-years, so well before it became a cultural fad with cthulhu plushies and bobble-heads appeared (not to say I don't like those things, though they do sort of go against the whole idea of the mythos stands for!). His verbose writings and plethora of purple prose and archaic words (cyclopean! eldritch! gibbous!) had a big effect on my own writings and though I can safely say I have moved away from the purple prose that once proliferated my own writing, I still have a soft sport for the almost poetic prose (I'm also thinking alliteration, though I'm not sure that's the case).
Though I do not think there is very much in common between his worlds and mine (apart from maybe an underlying theme of despair), I personally owe a lot to him. The development of the Demiurges in particular owe a lot to the old ones and elder gods. Initially the Demiurges were a lot more uncaring of the mortal races. Though that remains in some regards (in some more than others), it is no longer universally true for they draw their strength from mortal worship so, like it or not, they are inextricably shackled to their children in way the elder gods / old ones are not.
I also adopted a minor theme with dreams - with the languid Demiurge's dreams shaping the landscape as their actions once did in life. Also, dreams and nightmares are commonly interpreted to be the whispers of the Demiurges transcending their thought. No dreamlands, per se, though it's certainly something i think may have been influenced by Lovecraft.
|Coolest Elder God, by far! beats Cthulhu, tentacles down.|
Of course, those who have been following my ramblings might remember the name of one of the Demiurges - Nyarloth. A homage, of sorts to Lovecraft. Though Nyarlathotep and Nyarloth share very little in common with one another. Nyarloth is a technologist amongst Demiurges and he was obsessed with beating death. Where his siblings tried to cheat death through esoteric means, he realised that his body was the issue - he tried to transfer his thought into soul-engines (basically metropolis-sized hard drives). Nyarlathotep is much more of a wanker than that!
So here's to celebrating H. P. Lovecraft and his timeless works!
15 August 2014
I've been working on the taxonomy of life in Elyden, spending more time coming up with hierarchies than I have actually writing things down. I spent most of yesterday working on the below diagram, showing the creation and subsequent evolution of life in Elyden. It's a mix of creationism and standard evolution, and is a happy balance that we on Earth find difficult to achieve (of course the in-world verity of this classification is unknown, but it's what people believe at the point in which the encyclopaedia was penned).
Here's an excerpt from the introduction to the section titled 'Classification and Taxonomy of Life':
Here's an excerpt from the introduction to the section titled 'Classification and Taxonomy of Life':
Life in Elyden is the result of over a billion (1,000,000,000) years change; some conscious and contrived (such as the creation of the Demiurges, or their own creation of most life), and some left to chance and the slow march of time (the slow evolution of moirtal life when left to its own devices). Elyden has ever been the malleable clay atop a great potter’s wheel, and the Demiurges of old were her first craftsmen, lovingly moulding her into shapes that pleased them. Amongst those shapes were the first primordial creatures from which all present life later appeared. Some beings remain in the form first given to them by the Demiurges, walking in skins that are differ little to those of their ancestors millennia past. Others were more mutable and have slowly evolved into the countless differing forms that walk and grow across her skin, glide over her head, and swim through her blood. The Atramenta and Firmament have both played their role in this great act of Shaping, bringing a diversity that aloine could not have been possible.
The diversity of life has always fascinated the mortal tribes. who since their first days observing the world have looked upon the myriad creatures and plants and wondered how they appeared or what forces were responsible for their present shapes. Similarities between creatures gave away the first clues and the rest was a slow process of best-guessing with whatever resources were available at the time. The true breakthrough came in 2993 RM, where the Nártheli polymath and noted genious Suziv first proposed his system of nomenclature. Though it was initially met with criticism, it slowly gained popularity and as scientific advances proved his theories and allowed its system of classification to be fine-tuned, the system was standardised in 3254 RM.
Before trying to classify life one must first ask and understand the fundamental question – what is life? Is it the ability to grow and respond to stimuli, or the ability to reproduce? Is it self-awareness, or an existence that is bounded within the Material Realm? Biologists are concerned with these questions and through the work of Suziv and his descendants we now classify life in five distinct categories, known as the Suzivian Taxonomy – Reghon Arratus (the Created), Reghon Haghorin (Fauna), Reghon Applosae (Flora), Reghon Spungae (Fungi) and Reghon Sulnathin (the Otherborn). There is a degree of overlap and conflict between the Suzivian Taxonomy and passages from the Mythologia Elyden, though it is now understood that the latter is a largely apocryphal text, likely corrupted through millennia of trascriptions and re-interpretations.
|A Taxonomical Hierarchy of Life|
10 August 2014
I’ve been busy formatting the Encyclopaedia Elyden, dividing it up into 4 volumes and editing each to conform to a tone/layout I’ve been working on. I’ve also been spending quite a bit of time figuring out fonts/typefaces I want to use and have been struggling with page breaks for numbering the pages differently (the preface and introduction pages of each volume will be in roman numerals, with the content pages in normal Arabic numerals). It took me a while to get figured out, but I’m, glad I managed as it makes the pages look better.
I’ve also tracked down a simple java programme to turn the pages into signatures for printing and later hand binding (I’ll be doing that myself, also). For the uninitiated, a hardback book is made up a several smaller booklets, each of which consists of a stack of anything from 4 – 16 pages folded once into a small booklet or signature. Of course when printing such pages on a conventional printer you need to make sure that pages align correctly page 2 is not followed by page 3 when making signatures (the below image might make this clearer)
It’s next to impossible to copy/paste pages to follow that strange numbering order without losing formatting (like column justification) in the process. Luckily I was able to find a programme that takes a complete pdf document and sorts it out into signatures in a new pdf that’s ready for duplex (2-sided printing). Each sheet will be A4: that’s A5 book size after folding the signatures, which corresponds with the feel I’m aiming for. I might change my mind at a later date, though even if I do I doubt I’ll use anything larger than A4, and probably a customer size that’s a bit shorter than full A4 and perhaps a bit narrower.
Of course I won’t be doing any of this quite yet as none of the 4 volumes are anywhere near close to completion. The closest is the 1st volume, which is the encyclopaedia itself – lots of short entries I 2-column format, similar to classical encyclopedias we all know. Here’s a taster of the first 2 arabic-numbered pages.
The tome currently clocks in at over 400 individual pages though once complete it’s likely to at least increase by half (many entries are little more than place-holders for now) and I’m constantly adding to it. If it becomes too unwieldy for my DIY bookbinding I’ll just divide it into 2 volumes (A-M, N-Z or thereabouts)
The volumes themselves will be divided thusly:
Volume I: glossary of core terms
Volume II: articles detailing geography, taxonomy, regional histories and information etc.
Volume III: Mythologia Elyden, detailing the main nations' 'bible, other religions, myths, Demiurge histories, genealogies of their descendants etc.
Volume IV: Atlas Elyden including various political and cultural maps
and volume IV is what's giving me trouble. My prototype maps so far have been made at A4 size, assuming that each leaf is to be A4, implying that each signature is A3. I'd like volume IV to be the same size as the other books so as to have them look nicer as a set, though that would mean having to make the maps smaller. I'm thinking of making each map a 2-page spread, effectively keeping each map as an A4 page, though in landscape format with the page crease down the middle, rather than a full portrait-format page. Hopefully that will get me the detail I wish to include. At worst I'll just need to add other pages with more detailed, larger-scaled 'inset' maps - which is no bad thing!
22 July 2014
The Stereographic world map of Elyden is probably the single largest undertaking since the flash of lunacy that caused me to start this whole damned venture! It measures 60” x 84” (a whopping 16,200 x 25,347 px) and it’s so big I’ve had to split it into 2 PSD files (one for the background elements, and another for the stereographic map itself) each around 3GB large.
Work is slow, partially due to its size and the time it takes to perform certain functions, like adding layer styles and filters, as well my sporadic work-schedule, which alternates between work on the map and other facets of my world-building. Also, every label on the map needs to be referenced in my encyclopaedia, so that I don’t lose track of things (I have a notoriously bad memory, and especially given my irregular updates, I need all the help I can get with organising and remembering things) – nothing goes on any map I make without first at least entering a little note in the encyclopaedia (like: Khadon: city in northern Korachan).
The map itself is designed to be an in-world creation, prior to the fall of Korachan, in the latter days of the 5th Age, and could conceivably hang up on the wall of a Patrician’s parlour or merchant-lord’s office. It’s divided into 4 main parts:
- the map itself, which is in a stereographic projection over 2 hemispheres (including polar insets).
- astronomical maps, detailing the northern and southern hemispheres, and skies and constellations contained therein.
- Satellite maps – 2 maps, each detailing the facing hemisphere of one of Elyden’s 2 moons.
- Text. There is to be quite a hefty wall of text, detailing all manner of things from the world’s history, regional maps, Demiurges, religions, physical information etc. Some of it may be quite boring (see this post for the physical characteristics), though it all adds to the effect of the style of map I’m looking for.
I’m looking for something similar to the below map for the finished product, though with possibly less physics/mathematics and more natural history (so less diagrams and more text), largely due to the fact that I’m quite anal with symmetry and can’t face adding those disparate diagrams! Also I'll try make the text a bit more legible!
I’m still unsure of some things – particularly all the empty spaces around the globes. They’ll likely be filled in with text about various subjects though it’s the layout that’s bothering me mostly – as the text will be flanked by circular borders in most cases I’m unsure whether to go for square text block like the bottom of the map, or rounder text blocks like those used in the middle of the map, where I Describe the Firmament and Atramenta. I’ll probably find a compromise between the two, though its always difficult incorporating circular designs within a square frame.
Not related to Elyden though still to do with a fictional world and mapping:
A commission I recently finished for a friend of mine, detailing George R.R Martin’s world of Westeros. I have to say this was good fun to make, and I’m quite happy with the colours and the border though the bevel/emboss on the corners is a bit heavy-handed.
20 July 2014
I'm very excited to post this update as it brings together two things that have been very important to me – the world of Elyden, which readers will know is the subject of my somewhat sporadic world-building attempts, and D&D (and roleplaying & wargaming in general) which I have been doing since my ahem... younger days.
This marks the first time that I will be setting a game in my world which is quite interesting for many reasons, not least of which is the fact that the world was not made with gaming in mind (though I have certainly entertained the thought) and so many things that are common to roleplaying games like classes, races etc. which are made with balance in mind were the last thing I was thinking of so it presented some challenges, particularly with balancing out some of the stranger races.
Though as always what might seem like a hindrance at first ends up being a godsend and I actually ended up adding and refining quite a few things in the world as a result of this.
We haven’t started playing and as is the norm for my motley group of gamers, its to be a small game of evil characters J My games are pretty open world (especially evil-themed ones, where characters tend to have a lot of evil agendas that would otherwise interfere with the traditional roaming party), and I tend to develop an entire region, sprinkling it with interesting background, sites and NPCs that the characters can explore at will. This usually means a lot of stuff doesn’t get used, though it helps the players feel in control – I hate railroading in games (forcing the players to do a particular thing even if they don’t want to, only for the sake of moving the adventure along).
I’m quite fond of DMing but as you might expect from someone whose hobby is crating worlds, I tend to over-prepare most of my games coming up with hooks, regions, NPC’s histories and maps and gods-know what else that probably won’t ever get used. Though the waste of one campaign is the history of another. In fact, those of you who have read the blog before might remember that Elyden was made out of recycled material from previous campaign settings I had devised for D&D and I would not be surprised to see unused things from the campaign being used elsewhere in the world.
The game is to be set in a relatively new region of the world called the Surrach, which means their actions can help shape its flavour.
For anyone interested I’ve included the regional map below, as well as a link to the campaign bible that I’ve sent out to my players. So they can create their characters. Though I’m sure I left out a lot of details. We’re to use D*D 3.5 rules (still my fave so-far, though I am looking forward to trying out 5th edition)
Campaign Bible - please let me know what you think!
13 July 2014
The children of the Demiurge Shibboleth and the only known aquatic (or semi-aquatic) race amongst the Two-and-Twenty mortal tribes, the merill’s story is a tragic one, of a fall from grace entiry without their control.
History: like most mortal races, the merills origins date back to the Age of Myth and the Forth Great Act of Shaping. Two-and-Twenty pods were created – one for each of the Demiurges, in honour of their work crafting the Material Realm. Shibboleth the Torrent was patron to the merills and, like all mortal races, they shared many traits with the creator, not least of which was their appearance and mannerisms.
Each pod contained seven seeds from which were born, before their time, seven mortals shaped in the image of their patron. Where in other races the original seven mortals were made up of four females and three males, merills are asexual and it is believed that the seven individuals were identical to one another.
Merills pass on their memories and knowledge to their offspring in a process known as genetic memory. As a result, the seven original merills gave rise to seven distinct lines, each passing on its traits and memories to its descendants, though of these traits little is now known.
The benefits of genetic memory allowed merill culture to advance at a level far surpassing that of any other mortal race. They developed a potent civilisation with a strong trade network, armies and culture when other mortal races were living in tribes of hunter-gatherers, though due to their aquatic nature contact with other mortals was sporadioc at best. They prospered under the aegis of Shibboleth, who was proud of its children. Tentative contact was made with coastal settlements and goods were traded between merills and other races, further strengthening their civilisation.
Their rise continued throughout the early Ages of Mortal life and they became legendary amongst the other as-yet developing mortals. An individual merill carried within him the collective memories of his entire line, giving him an intelligence and expertise far superior to that of most other tribes.
At times a merill might get a flash of insight – an echo harking back to a past life. These echoes often manifested as sudden visions of dreams that felt all-too vivid. These echoes marked the beginning of the end for the merill civilisation. Once this phenomenon started it slowly increased, with every new generation suffering longer and more frequent episodes of increasing vividity. Some guessed at what was happening and saw the only way to stall the inevitable downfall of the race was by leaving the water, which had since their birth been seen as a divine link with Shibboleth.
These individuals would leave the merill civilisation and engineered for themselves amphibious traits, allowing them to distance themselves from their patron. Some grew closer with humans, leading to the race now known as selkies.
They were succesfull in that newly-born merills no longer inherited the memories of their forebears, though over the centuries their distance from the water rendered them infertile and the line faltered.
But their fortunes were not to last. The same genetic trait that saw them rise slowly took its toll on their minds. The weight of memories and knowledge of an entire race would become too much for a single mind to bear and the merills eventually lost their sanity. Every passing generation only deepened their descent into madness and the merill civilisation collapsed.
Their fall was quick – taking no more than a few generations to erase everything the merills had accomplished. In place of prodigious (if troubled) individuals arose incoherent fools, their thoughts awash with ceaseless reverberations of thousand-year old stimuli that were more vivid than their own.
Their patron Shibboleth despaired. It done all in its ken to save them, but it was for nought. It’s children had dwindled, descending to little more than animals plagued by nightmarish visions.
Shibbolerh wept, and its tears filled Elyden in a great torrent that flooded the lands of mortal races. This time became known as the Lament of Shibboleth and was ended at great cost to the other mortals when the Demiurges joined up and defeated Shibboleth, weakening it, sending it into decline. The remnants of the merills were scattered across Elydens’ oceans by the rise in sea levels, though their descent into madness only grew with the death of their patron.
Physiology: merills bear many of the traits commonly attributed to the mortal races, though in many respects are unique. They are humanoid in form, standing roughly 6’ – 8’6” long and commonly weighing around 120 lb. They are perhaps the most colourful of mortal races with individuals found displaying colours from the full spectrum, though each of the seven breeds tends to gravitate to red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo or violet, and their various shades.
From the waist upwards they follow the standard mortal template – an abdomen and torso containing digestive, respiratory and circulatory organs, a head and four limbs – one pair ending hands and prehensile fingers used for manipulating tools, and another (analogous to those of ichthons) used for aquatic locomotion. Merills possess another pair of fins, these dorsal, which are brightly coloured and aid in stabilisation and orientation.
The similarities to other mortal races ends from the waist down, where in place of legs can be found a long powerful suckerless tentacle that makes up almost two-thirds of a merill’s length. The appendage is leathery in textire and ends in two long fan-like fins – one dorsal and one ventral – that serve as the primary source of locomotion.
Their heads have characteristic deep sloping foreheads, prognathous mouth, and two large bulbous white eyes. Maxilliary and mandibular barbels, which grow throughout a merill’s life, frame their mouths. Their heads are crowned by long thing hair-like tentacles, similar to some seen in large jellyfish. When submerged the hairs protrude from their heads like a fine mane of hair, though when grounded they hang limply like wet hair.
Merills are thought to have some of the most developed sensory organs amongst mortal races, on par if not superior to those of shie. Their hair contains rudimentary taste-organs, used to detect chemicals and impurities in the water. Though most spectacular are their barbels, which are not only highly acute tactile taste-organs but are also potent mechanoreceptors (serving the same purpose of ears underwater) and firmamentoreceptors (organs designed to detect the Firmament), though the original purpose of the latter is unknown. Ironically their large eyes are not as well-developped as their other senses and are so large largely due to the lack of light in their ancestral deep-sea habitats. They posess common ears primarily used above water, though sounds are muffled and disorienting.
Depite their fantastical physical properties what is perhaps most fascinating about merills is their reproductive cycle, which revolves around the river Shibboleth.
Unlike most mortals, merills are asexual or more precively gynogenic – where a sperm is necessary to trigger embryonic development though makes no genetic contribution to the process.
Merills are born infertile though a metamorphosis of sorts takes place between their 15th – 20th year (their full lifespan is unknown though thought to be somewhat longer than that of humans). It is unknown what triggers this or what the effects are though it is commonly held that a merill just knows when this point is reached. Like fish returning to the place of their spawning, a merill that has undergone this metamorphosis leaves its present location and swims mindlessly for the source of the river Shibboleth, in lake Siballa, northern Rhinocoloura.
Records from ancient merill society show that this practive originated as a cultural ritual, likely similar to the coming-of-age quests common to many societies. The merill genetic memory has likely corrupted this into an inherent action, its significance and purpose now lost to the mindless merills of the extant world.
The river Shibboleth is well-over 5,000 miles long and merills would undertake the journey as individuals, going upstream to the river’s main source. The voyage was dangerous and exhausting and most would perish bhefore reaching their destination. After spending hours in the waters of lake Siballa their bodies would undergo an unseen change, completing their sexual cycle: the merills completing the quest were fully adults, able to reproduce. There they would mate, the male’s sperm fertilising the female’s eggs, which were left there to gestate.
Scholars think this is due to certain chemicals in the water or some other physical effect that causes a metabolic change in individual merills who spend long enough in the waters.
Sadly the proliferation of human life and pollution of the region has seen the lake shrink in recent centuries and few, if any, merills are believed to make the journey any more. The last sizeable pilgriomage to reach the lake was recorded by Rhinocolouran monks in 3377 RM, where around two-hunded individuals swarmed intothe lake. Ancient myths recorded numbers in their tens of thousands.
Psychology: the mind of a merill is an unfathomable thing and is most easily compared with that of an Otherworlder rather than any other mortal race. This is due to a genetic trait where the offspring of an individual merill inherits the experiences and memories of all its direct ancestors, going back to one of the original seven merills in the First Age of Mortal Life. With every passing generation more memories and experiences, increasingly dissonant and distant, are inherited.
This trait is known as genetic memory and was responsible for both the meteoric rise and subsequent rapid fall of ancient merill civilisations. Early on in their culture the benefits of genetic memory gave merills a distinct advantage over their fellow mortals. Where a human might spend years learning how to craft weapons or tools, all descendants of a merill who already learnt such skills would be born with such knowledge ingrained ion their genetic memory giving them more time to develop other skills or further sharpen those they already know. In the development of merills as a race, this trait was invaluable, granting them a drastic boost to their development that other races did not possess.
While other races were subsiting through a hunter-gatherer culture, merills had already settled into a pastoral lifestyle that further promoted a specialisation of profession amongst individuals. This in turn led to further advancements that allowed the first major merill civilisation to emerge unopposed when other mortals lived in little more than lose tribes.
Whatever the cause was for the turn in the merill’s fortunes can only be guessed at now, but scholars postulate that at some point the merills reached a natural threshold in their evolution, beyond which their minds could not cope with the weight of memories and information bestowed upon them at birth. Their mental degradation is thought to have begun slowly – generations born with fragile minds, prone to headaches and vivid waking dreams thought to be echoes of past lives (though some attribute the latter to the Lament of Shibboleth upon realising what was about to befall its children). Eventually these affects would exacerbate to the point of invalidity – the dream-flashes of past lives would increase, pushing aside the waking mind until they overtook it completely, leaving the merill as little more than a babbling wreck. And so a great civilisation was reduced within a few generations to nothing. Most surviving members are mad to a degree that few others can comprehend, and every generation grows slowly more maddened, or hollow, as some have come to call them. Indeed, in many respects they are the closest of the mortal races to the Otherworlders.
What merills survive today are seemingly vacant beings, the mental excesses inherent in their downfall muted by untold generations forced to live with the debilitating mania of their forebears. Any merill alive today can feel the fear, anger and love of tens of thousands of ancestors at once; there is no self only the echoes of a unnumbered individual thoughts and memories. This manifests itself in clouded and nonsensical behaviour as an individual reacts to memories and sensory stimuli from centuries past that bear no relevance to the present. What other races interpret as a hollow nature is but a mask hiding the sheer volume of emotion and passion constantly flowing through a merill’s thoughts; something manifested in the near-constant flickering of their eyes and twitching of fingers and limbs.
They exhibit a near complete disconnect from the outside world and as a result they show little empathy towards other races, or comprehension of any kind. This was once thought to be out of the bitterness and jealousy they they were ass umed to feel towards other mortal races that were not cursed by their burden, though this is now thought to be a side-effect of their minds trying to cope with the vast amounts of information, most of it nonsensical, thrust upon them.
Culture & society: extant merills are little more than automatons cursed by nightmarish visions and flashes of sensory stimuli from the past, which renders them effectively blind to the world around them. Because of this they possess little in the form of culture or society, gathering together in groups of ten-to-tweenty individuals in what is to all intents and purposes identical to a school of fish.
This was not always the case as myths from around Elyden can attest to the power and spread of their early civilisation, which was amongst the largest in the ancient world. This was late in the Second Age of Mortal Life, which by current estimates is upwards of 200,000 years past. Due to their aquatic environment and the vast span of time separating their civilisation from the present few physical merill remains have been found, so we know very little of their ancient culture. Though as Elyden’s seas retreat, the soapstone ruins of merill metropolises have begun to appear in the middle of once-submerged seas, built on volcanic atolls.
Communication between merills and other races was difficult, and they were known to have spoken in a form of stream of consciousness, with no discernable punctuation. This was rendered all the more difficult for other races to understand as merill speech was peppered with words and phrases from past lives and stimuli.
Lethean merills, whose contact with its amnesiac waters, operate on a more cognitive level to their peers and maintain small cities and towns along the coastal shelf of the sea’s southern waters. Contact with terrestrial races is uncommon though trade is not unheard of – with the merills trading items such as nacre and ambergris in return for items of terrestiralm anufacture, such as worked metals.
Philosophy & religion: One can only image what philosophies and schools of thought the ancient merill race may have developed, though whatever heights they once reached have long since been toppled, replaced by the waking nightmare that is the torrent of their genetic curse. As most merills do not function as mortals, it is unlikely that they live by any particular tenets or beliefs, other than what echos of past lives they are subjected to.
Very little is known of merill religion, particularly of their link with the Demiurge Shibboleth, if such a link remains. Shibboleth was one of the first Demiurges to diminish into langour and its influence has only waned since then, with the only records being corrupted references to the Lament of Shibbooleth and other Demiurges’ retribution at the same event.
Due to their natures it is unlikely that merills are organised enough to even adhere to any form of organised religion as practiced by other mortals. Though conversely, by dint of their generic memory, their closeness to the primordial days of their race might make them the most likely candidates at remembering their patron as it existed in its original potent state (their ability to convey such memories is another matter entirely).
Lethean merills, who operate on a more cognitive level to their peers duo to contact with the amnesiac waters of Lethea, are known to worship a dark being equitable with a god. It is a being of the abyssal oceans, dark and massive and uncompromising. Ironically sholars identify it with the Demiurge Synchthonith.
Art: next to nothing is known about the cultural pursuits of merill – both ancient and extant. We have seen examples of their architecture from ruins exposed by the retreat of Elyden’s seas. Generally composed of soapstone, with bass detailing, such structures are almost always situated on the edge of coastal shelves, overlooking the deep waters beyond.
Range: According to old myths, the merills formed a close bond with their patron Demiurge, Shibboleth, and though they spread to dominate most of Elyden’s ancient oceans, they were inextricably linked with the waters of the Shibboleth. In the ancient world the shibboleth was far larger than today with a course speculated to have extended for over 10,000 miles – well over twice its current range. It was there that all merills were spawned and there that individuals would retirn to reach sexual maturity.
Today, the influence of industry and the general waning of the natural world has left the Shibboleth polluted and all but bereft of merills, most of which now exist in the seas and oceans of Elyden.
They are commonly found in the waters of Lethea, where its amnesiac qualities alleviate the symptoms of their genetic memory. Other regions where merills are sighted include the isles of St. Uallar and the strait of Andas.
The lowering of Elyden’ seas has disrupted their habitat and coastal raids in the aforementioned regions are common, as the merills as the merills attempt to adjust to their diminishing resrouces. Similarly, the ruins of merill settlements can sometimes be found in recently-exposed coastal shelves, overlooking what had once been deep sea.
It's funny how things work out. Until recently the merills were one of the races for which I had created nothing. When asked about them I'd draw a blank and wave a dismissive hand, saying 'they're the merfolk of my world'. And to a point that statement was true, though I always knew i wanted something else, something that made them mine. I tend not to struggle too hard to find a niche or flavour for my races and wait for something to naturally present itself.
This happened a week-or-so ago when I met up with some old friends and spend a night on the beach drinking and talking about all sorts of stuff. One subject we touched upon was infinite knowledge. To cut a long story short we were trying to wonder what it might be like the moment humanity passes the knowledge threshold - at the moment we are just a push of a button away from any bit of knowledge we need, thanks to the internet. were are probably a matter of decades away from being constantly plugged in: imagine downloading all of the information available on the internet into your brain. The sum of human knowledge at your fingertips...
Overwhelming! We imagined the first person to be subjected to this would suffer what we lovingly termed a 'brain hernia', something I think encapsulates the probably feeling perfectly.
And so was the gimmick for the merills born. Everything else came as a natural progression of that and i must say I'm pleasantly surprised by the outcome. I think as a race the merills are pretty unique and tragic - two things I'd like to make sure my world is full of.
To those interest in a more visual representation, I think this painting by one of my favourite artists Brom is pretty close to what I have in mind for the merills. No copyright infringement is intended by this, just a quick example of what I had in mind.
|rootwater Hunter (c) Wizards of the Coast (artist: Brom)|