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« on: May 26, 2009, 05:48:51 PM »

 

Introduction
The World is dead. Nonsensical wars, odd pandemics, badly timed uprisings, lots of somewhat unnessecary scientific experimentation; they all played their part in the murder. But now a rebirth is in order.
The Renaissance has begun, and civilization is flourishing once again. Or at least as much as it ever did. Thus the old and tired World, from the snow and moss covered rocks of the frigid Boreal Mountains to the muddy swamplands and black rice fields of the South, once again echoes with the cries and screams emerging from the remaining cities of the world: those mad monuments to life and corruption the humans are so proud of.
But storms are brewing, both of the natural and the metaphorical kind, and while the stormclouds gather overhead, humans gather in secret to discuss war and betrayal like they have always done.
After all, no birth is easy.

The Revolution is Coming!
But it is not simply a rebirth. It is a remaking. The World Exhibition at the Sprawls displays the newest wonders for the world to see! The printing press, the clockwork tree, the perpetual engine and the voltaic vessel; all of these will help remake the world, if not into a better world than at least into a greater one.
And while the academics have their scientific revolutions, politicians and kings find they have their own battle to fight. There are cries for reform in the streets and radicals are scheming to make old things come to an end while the merchant princes have their own plans for earning money and power. New powers are challenging the old, and grudges are being rekindled while daggers are sharpened.

Nature's Wrath
The World is a harsh and terrible place in many ways. Of course it does possess a certain primal and majestic beauty. That awe-inspiring sense of being in the vicinity of something so vast and so ancient.
But that shouldn't make you any less careful.
But if you for some reason aren't afraid of the weather, which ranges from the relative mildness of a cloudy sky and light rainfall to the absolute horror of being in the a middle of full-fledged Leviathanic lightning storm while on a tiny fishing vessel, or the many dangerous contagions, from the parasitic influence of the Lungtree to the nefarious dominion of the Madness, you should at least fear the creatures that hide in that pesky ubiquitous fog. Remember, not all of Life's creations are as pretty (or small) as man, and only a fraction of them are as mild-mannered.
Really, it's a wonder we aren't dead already.

People of the North

Humans - the broken survivors
The human paradox lies in the fact that while they value individuality above pretty much everything else, they continue  to be herd animals; only ever truly comfortable when living together. Going against common sense, this complex relationship between interdependence and personal ambition proved to be an extremely potent combination, with the humans always seeking to push their civilization to new heights. And this is what separates the humans from other sentient beings.
All other sentient beings that inhabit Northern Kherennem have through the ages always been secondary in size and importance to the humans. Even through the worst disasters the many millions of humans continue to mingle, work, prosper, and, most importantly, survive. Although they have a history for believing in the supernatural and the divine, humans are in truth extremely rational creatures, always in search of the truth and purpose behind it all. It is not known whether this search for truth is caused by an inborn curiosity, or is simply another aspect of their racial ambition as they attempt to uncover the ultimate answers before anyone else.

Humans make up the majority of the world's sentient population and as such it is their frame of reference all civilizations and races are compared to. The humans of Kherennem are physically similar to the humans of our world and, like in our world, are far too culturally diverse to be described as a single group.

Gargoyles (under revision)
(see page 3)

Never a numerous race, Gargoyles lived on the fringes of the world,  always staying in the shadow of the humans and their cities. But they have long been tired of staying in the shadows and are therefore remaking themselves as their peers; the humans.

Physical description:
To describe the Gargoyle, you first need to understand the difference between a pure and a bred Gargoyle. Most Gargoyles have sought fervently to change their forms into that of the human for the last couple of generations, and most are therefore bred to be or become humans. Pure Gargoyles are therefore a rare sight, living secluded lives in swamps and mountains.
The Pure Gargoyle is taller than an average man, although not vastly so. Their limbs are sinious and strong, and their skin is black with white markings. Their heads are bestial, with elongated jaws. They have no cheeks which leaves a clear sight of their numerous sharp and saliva-glistening fangs. They have eight eyes; black and lustrous. The males have two horns while the females have none. Both have dark gray plumage down the back of their neck to the pair of great feathered wings on their back. They carry themselves with a certain somewhat reptilian and somewhat humanoid gait. Their skin takes on a bark-like texture in places, giving them a layer of protection.
Bred Gargoyles are deformed creatures who through generations have suffered experimental procedures in the search for a human likeness. Their non-human features have been twisted in an attempt to make them go away. Their skin shifts nauseously between the oily black and bark-like of the Gargoyle and the pink skin of a human. Their faces are distorted with visible gums lined with misplaced-looking human teeth, and occasional hanging skin; the byproduct of fake cheeks. They have between 5 and 9 eyes scattered about their head in a random pattern, shifting eerily between the black orbs of their own kin and the bright irises of their idols. Their wings have long since grown vestigial; most are only born with a bit of protruding bone near each shoulder blade or a single featherless wing-limb. The horns and plumage have likewise been mostly removed leaving coarse and stringy "hair" in its place.      
Most bred Gargoyles receive surgery to remove the worst of the derformations; all but two of their eyes are sewn shut, wigs are constructed, and the face is repaired with grafted skin; either from the Gargoyle or from some other source. Most color their skin file down the bark-like protrusions every day. The lucky ones can actually pass for human.  

Mindset:
Gargoyles are controlled by two things: their inferiority complex and their need to be in control. Although physically and mentally powerful, Gargoyles are too few to sustain cities or civilizations of their own and have slowly grown envious of humans after having watched their growth and development. This has slowly led them to believe that humans are a step above them; the evolutionary step they need to take if they wish to survive. Gargoyles are therefore continously wracked by a desire for self-improvement, be it through training or self-mutilation. They are trying to become human and integrate themselves into their society while preserving their family ties and their lineage. So they changed themselves, and after their children turned sterile, only their strange birth-vats could continue the race until they were entirely human.  
Gargoyles have little subconscious, and are completely in control of most processes; be they mental or physical. This has many effects, amongst others the famous ability to stand absolutely still like a statue, not moving a muscle. This is the reason that the ugly little statues in Khiere are named Gargoyles. They can pump their bodies full of adrenaline with a thought, turn off any of their senses, block pain, or slow their heart until it barely moves. The only thing they can't control are their human mutations. They had little in the way of emotions before, but can now experience feelings like love and sorrow, and they have no control over these feelings. They might even have less control than their human "brethren", since the feelings are utterly alien to the strange mind they work in.    

Culture
Gargoyles are more intelligent than their looks would suggest, and their eyries are littered with papyrus-scrolls and metallic tools. Those who still live in the free often reside in ancient re-decorated ruins. They are warrior-hunters by nature, and their stories tell of great fighters who fought off other eyries and protected the young. Females and males are equals in their society. Human contact has never been frequent, but it goes back a long time. Some historians even suggest that the wingeds angels seen in many myths and stories might have been anthropomorph Gargoyles who helped ancient human civilizations.    


Moshrayah - the blind artists
The enigmatic moshrayahs were rarely seen in the Old World, secluded as they were in their underground enclaves, with the only signs of their existence being the mesmering and alien musical compositions that occasionally surfaced into human culture.
In the New World, though, some moshrayah have ventured forth into the world and have even settled down in human cities.

Physical description:
Moshrayah are still met with, if not distrust, some apprehension as their appearance is truly alien, even to the much tested minds of the humans. Their most eerie feature is their complete lack of eyes, even though their slightly elongated skull is basically similar to that of man. Instead of eyes, there is just taut-stretched hairless light-brown mottled skin, much like the skin that covers the rest of their bony and gaunt frame. The elongated head is extended forward, instead of upward, by a scrawny and bony neck and the only features, except for the bare taut skin where the eyes should have been, is a slightly gaping lipless mouth filled with jagged white and yellowish fangs and a long tapered tongue, two slit-like nostrils and a series of almost invisible ducts on the side of their head. Their skulls are devoid of hair like the rest of their body.
Their physical build and posture is also subtly offputting in some way. They are very tall, most of them standing at least 2 meters tall, even though they always walk slightly hunched over in a peculiar way. Their limbs are longer than human proportions would dictate, their legs reversely jointed and three-toed, and their nailless fingers are slim and possess an extra joint each.

Gender & Reproduction
They are born from eggs, often part of a brood, that are disgorged by fertile females and then fertilised by males who can extrude a sort of mucus from their mouth that they use to cover the eggs in, which may or may not lead to the fertilisation of said egg and the birth of a child. The children are all technically female when born, but around a quarter of the population acquire the large red markings that mark them as males as well as the ability to produce the fertilising mucus. The location of the spots is unique to each individual, and although the eyeless moshrayah can't see the red spots they give off a distinct scent that marks the individual as male. Males are generally slightly more fit, but it isn't known whether it's because they are males or if they are males because they are strong. After 16-17 years, a rare few of the females will at random transform into ramakesh, disgorgers, who are the fertile egg-producing women who also take care of the upbringing of the children. It is considered an honor to become ramakesh, although as always there are those who don't accept their destiny. The average lifespan of a moshrayah is around 80 years, with males and ramakesh having slightly lesser lifespans compared to the infertile females.

Senses:
The moshrayah see the world in a completely different way, although see is hardly the right word to use. They depend on a series of senses quite unlike sight; even unlike many of the senses we know as humans. They possess keen hearing and smell, a couple of levels above what humans are capable of. A set of ear-ducts are specially designed to pick up on the ultrasonic screams their second throat continously emits which provides them with an effective, if slightly indistinct, echolocation that allows them to navigate around most large obstructions. An organ in the front of their skull, speculated to contain some kind of bio-metallic composition, gives them the ability to perceive magnetic north and, more importantly, electrical fields: an ability that allows them to sense organic life in all it's aspects. Finally they have a sense which can only be compared to the supernatural sense of the Empaths: moshrayah can feel, read, and interpret the Effluvium and the psychic emanations it consists of. Their sense of the Effluvium is suspected to be a good deal greater than what even the best human empath can achieve.

Society:
Moshrayah live in underground enclaves. These are rarely of any considerable size, with a population of 1000 individuals at most, although there are rumors of them having a major city somewhere deep underground. Each enclave has one or more ramakesh and at least one male. Although there is no family structure as such, since most moshrayah are brothers or sisters, moshrayah choose to gather in small families nonetheless, often living with those who share their views and principles. Moshrayah can join, break up with, or rejoin Families as they wish with no social stigma. Intimate relationships do happen on occasion, but as there is no physical aspect of the relationship, intimate relationships are purely spiritual and is a personal choice with no real effect on the community. Each Enclave is governed by a group of Elders who take care of any community decisions. Enclaves exist in a network connected by natural caverns and tunnels and all enclaves are aware of each other and typically communicate frequently by way of runners. Moshrayah are hunter-gatherers, living off the many underground predators and rodents as well as the occasional root-fruits and mushrooms they can find. They are keen to try new tastes and enjoy spices and other exotic additions to their meals. They mostly eat meat though (although they refuse to eat the flesh of sentient beings). They don't technically require that much food though, and can go starving for weeks without pain or detriment.

Life:
Moshrayah usually go through 3 distinct phases: child, adult, and elder. Moshrayah are considered children until age 16 and develop their faculties in much the same way as human children. They are taken care of by the enclave's ramakesh along with a few males who help her. When they reach age 6, the elders start teaching them and at age 12 they can join a Family. Adulthood focuses on two things: Duty and Seeking. Duty is the practical role of the moshrayah in the enclave. He can choose the role himself or the elders can choose for him. Each Duty has a certain quota or requirement that the moshrayah must fulfill, but how and when is up to themself. Seeking is the artistic pursuit undertaken by almost everyone in an enclave, and it is not uncommon for the few who refuse to be forced to do some kind of artistic work in their spare time. Through their entire adulthood Seeking continues and the individual develops his skills. At age 60 his work as an artist is considered done, and they often hold some kind of party where they review his life-time works. After that, almost all of his time is taken up by the duties he has as an Elder of the Enclave: making decisions for the community and teaching the children.

Mindset:
Aesthetics is the most highly valued virtue and ideal in moshrayah culture. It is a universal aspect of their culture and deeply ingrained in their racial consciousness; so much in fact that it is omnipresent in even distant enclaves. The main difference between enclaves is therefore not whether they value beauty or not, but what they consider to be beautiful. Some focus on making eerily beautiful music, some on making sculptures whose shapes seem to twist the mind, a few even seek beauty in smells and scents by crafting incense and perfumes. And in addition to this, there are of course many other less obvious artistic pursuits such as cooking, sewing, writing, philosophising, and even mathematics. The most esoteric of their arts, though, is their mind-art, where objects and sculptures are infused with emotion by the artist so that they transcend the physical realm in some degree. Normal humans looking at such works don't sense the true beauty that the moshrayah and empaths can perceive, but always feel slightly overwhelmed by the works even if they can't quite put their finger on the reason for this emotional surge. As might be suspected from the above, Moshrayah are extremely emotional creatures; driven by impulse and intuition rather than pure logic. They are by no means simple creatures though: they are clever and cunning, but just don't have that innate logical approach to everything the humans possess. They focus on what is rather than why it is. They do possess a slight racial laziness in that they would rather spend their time pursuing art than doing the chores of everyday life, and in general greatly value pleasure over hardship, and it is this thirst for luxury that has led to most of their technological progress. As impulsive creatures, the typical kindness and hospitality of the moshrayah can quickly turn to anger if insulted or slighted, and although they do not approve of violence as such, anger is known to occasionally overwhelm their self-restraint and throw them into a violent fit. They are generally peaceful though, and try to avoid harming others, but have no qualms about it if it's the only way. They are not as such bothered by a conscience, but instead believe in principles of conduct. A few turn to violence and combat for beauty, but most conservative moshrayah frown up this. The underground realms are dangerous though, and most moshrayah know how to defend themselves.

Cities and technology
Enclaves are beautiful even though they are almost colorless to the human eye. Every single building carved into the cavern wall, or built from bricks and rocks on the carvern floor, seems to have a certain pleasing quality to the eye. The air is full of pleasant incense smoke, and only rarely is the enclave devoid of their beautiful music. Although they have no requirement for light they do require heat and have warming braziers both in the streets and inside the houses. Although the alternative methods of reproduction mean clothing isn't needed to observe common decency they are often worn to complement the heat of the braziers, often in the form of thick robes of earthern colors to the human eye. Exquisite perfumes and mind-art jewellery is also sometimes worn by those who can acquire them. Most trade is done on an item-to-item basis, often using the Elders as intermediaries when trading between enclaves, with the resources of the enclave being distributed between the Families on basis of need. Occasionally, special complementary silver disks are given away by the elders for example if there is one family that gets less food than the others. The silver disk serves as a universally accepted trading good in the moshrayah communities. It is something of an honor to possess many silver disks, but most spend them on art or perfume nonetheless. Moshrayah are great metalworkers and renowned smiths, but are incapable of making very intricate machinery like gearwork and locks because of their indistinct echolocation. Their recent increase in contact with human civilization has led them to acquire more or less the same level of technology.
« Last Edit: August 01, 2009, 03:50:02 AM by Cataclysmic Crow » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: May 26, 2009, 05:49:15 PM »

Northern Kherennem



(Thanks to Lath for the great map)

Motassu
In the desert lies the City of Delights, an utopia that rises out of the dismal sands on a pillar of rock. Here there is water and food, as well as everything you could ever need. But is it too good to be true?

Lay of the Land
Matassu lies in the middle of the Makaean Desert and is the only major oasis if you seek to cross the desert. The city is located on a large rocky plateau, and is thus protected from the sand, and the plateau serves as the size of large basin and a lush oasis of palm trees. Of course, some of the trees had to be cut down to make room for the city, but much of it still survives as lush and well-tended gardens and parks. To optimize the use of space, some of the city has been built out onto the basin or into the cliff faces of the rock that lies under the plateau.

Trade and Sustenance
The "government" itself acquires most of their money from the toll that every one who comes to the city must pay. Residents on the other hand often work in the service industry, providing various services to travellers and other residents. The upper middle class often work as merchants, organizing caravans out of the desert. There is also a decent population of artists and other creative minds. The oasis as well as the desert animals provide a small fraction of the food, while trade for food brings in the rest.  

Government
The short story is that there is no government. To be a bit more specific, the city is ruled by the merchant elite and its law is composed of 3 rules: 1) You must not kill a living and thinking creature. 2) You may not control that which belongs to another, and 3) you must keep your word. The last rule is extremely important as it is the basis of all agreements; uttering the phrase "I swear by the 3rd that'¦", followed by a statement is a binding agreement. Lawwriters are professionals who specialize in writing loophole-proof promises and are often hired for more important deals. If anyone breaks the laws they are shunned although they can sometimes remove the shunning if they pay some fine to the wronged person. but if they are real unlucky they are "removed". No one is quite sure what happens, but lawbreakers (or undesirable elements such as narcotic wrec ks) sometimes just disappear. It is said that this is the work of the Spectators, the anonymous and near-mythical enforcers of the Laws who lurk unseen in the crowds. Anyone could be a Spectator, and this uncertainty often keeps people from crime. The Spectators are suspected to be either brainwashed criminals or indoctrinated kidnappings, and are part of an institution started by the Precursors themselves. They have no lives and know no people. They are but shadows of real persons and live to watch. That is, if they actually exist. Another important controlling factor is gossiping. Everything gets out at some point, and if it doesn't reach a Spectator directly, it will quite likely eventually reach a Gossiplord who can sell the gossip on to any individual. Maintenance and toll is controlled by the children of the Precursors, the lords of the city. They also make sure that everybody knows the three laws upon entering, in case they didn't notice .    

Culture
Motassic culture is anarchistic, hedonistic and creative. There are next to no laws, and the motassi are accustomed to indulging their every desire. Brothels, taverns, casinos, and theatres are spread across the city, and people use all of them frequently and openly. Motassi are in no way modest, and can strike some people as being a little too direct and rude. Generally, though, they are a pleasant people and don't mind sharing their experiences and interests with others. Of course, they lack a bit in the field of ethics and might trick people if they find they have something to gain from it. Motassic culture is also a melting pot for ideas and fads, and every day faiths and ideologies rise while others die, and artists make a fortune in a week and are forgotten in the next. The motassi are fickle and unpredictable.    
The Architecture of Motassu is varied and odd. It is a combination of old styles and new eccentric ideas, and there seems to be few similarities between the styles of neighbouring buildings. The only similarity is that most of it is flamboyant in some way or another. Fountains, plazas, small parks, and provocative statues are also common.

Religions and holidays
Precursor Eschatology, the belief that the world is about to end, was the religion the city was built on, and many still hold to its principles of enjoying life while it lasts. That said, most jump from religion to religion as they blossom and wither in the city. A few practice more steady beliefs, although there haven't been built any permanent religious temples in the city yet. New Year is the most important festival, as people celebrate that the world still exists. Eclipses likewise have much religious importance, as they are symbols of change and revolution. Other than that, Matassi are quick to come up with festivals at a whim.    

History
As the world slowly fell apart and suffered disaster after disaster, a group of people decided that the world was about to end and that they might as well make the best of the time they had left. This group was known as the Precursors of Finality. Stocking up on booze, drugs,and whatever else they could scavenge, they set out in search of a place where they could wait for the end of the world in peace. Somehow they stumbled their way into the Makaean Desert, and after wandering for 40 days they arrived at a giant oasis on the top of a small rock plateau. Here they had everything they needed, and so they settled down, celebrating and waiting. Soon they found that caravans passed through, and although they first settled for trading, they soon decided to make them pay a toll for the use of their oasis. The place was far too sheltered for any nation to attempt to reclaim it; that the Precursors had managed it with such a large group was practically a miracle. As their wealth grew they started building a town, and soon some of the travelling merchants even settled down with them. As contact between nations across the desert became more frequent, more caravans came through and more toll was collected, and the city grew exponentially and was left pretty much alone.  

Whisperlands
In the farthest north, just before the glaciers of the polar north, lies a slice of cold and unforgiving land of tundra and pine. A dangerous place where the weather is just as terrifying as the monsters, few choose to go there of their own accord. Yet humanity spread to even these undesirable reaches, and contrary to what one would think civilization eventually flourished. The land is now dotted by the 7 walled and silent cities of the Whispermen, connected by sturdy causeways raised above the barbarity of the land that only a few dare to tread.

Lay of the land
The 7 cities are the most important features of the otherwise deserted land; Amrha, Morog, Eqoq, Rararan, Urtanoq, Shugwol and Olam are all decent sized cities made solidly out of granite. Some of the cities are built over Hurtan ruins, and the general architecture seeks to imitate the sturdy and near-perfect style of the hurtans. They are all circular in design, and are approached by one or two causeways leading directly in an almost unbroken line to the next city. Although all cities are walled off by stone walls, they are not necessarily especially big. Amrha is the most southern city and is the only city that is completely open to outsiders. As such, it is also a major trading hub and harbor

Trade and Sustenance
Back in the old days when the Whispermen were but tribal nomads, they could live off herding and hunting/gathering. A few still herd caribous through the tundra, until it is time to take them back to the city so they can be slaugthered. Most food, though, comes from the mighty bulkwhales. These whales are large enough to feed entire households for weeks, and with the cold and some salt the meat can stay preserved for a long time. The whispermen cities that are fartherst to the north have little food by themselves, so the cities share their food so there is always enough for everyone. Bulkwhales also yield another valuable thing beyond food; elder ambergris. Only produced in the bulkwhales, this ambergris has many valuable properties. Like common ambergris it is often used in perfumes, but it can also be refined into a very valuable golden honey-like liquid known as Ambrosia which is sometimes called "the Perfect Spice". Ambergris/ambrosia is also a common panacea.
 
Culture
The Whispermen are deeply religious, and one can hardly blame them; the amount of punishment they take from the environment undoubtedly requires an explanation that logic and science will have trouble giving. Their faith claims that the evil of the world is the work of kaches: divine predators which feed on human misery and despair and devour souls and fly around on the cold gales that blow in from the pole and the sea. They are to all extents evil, immortal and merciless, and as such survival for the whispermen is all about not attracting their attention. This is seen in all aspects of their life and culture; colors are muted and dark, temperance and modesty are the greatest virtues, and the streets and markets are silent except for the eponymous whisper. Daily rituals are made to protect the Whisperman every part of the day. the round and warded temples are gathering places both for religious, social, and administrative events.
Architecture focuses on the circle, a shape thought to have apotropaic qualities and many of the major buildings, as well as the cities themselves, are round. Of course, common buildings are not likely to be round as it is a difficult design, but they often feature arches or circular decorations. The numbers three and six are also often seen featured in some way on buildings. Although images are thought to be too flashy for safety, writing is featured prominently. Sometimes it is used for decoration, while street names and directions are also often carved into walls and streets. Geometric patterns are also often used for decoration.  
       
History
The Whispermen supposedly began their existence as groups of nomads wandering the southern reaches of their continent, although it is of course difficult to know for sure exactly how they lived as little written material survives. The tribes of the primeval whispermen were violent and warred constantly, fighting for the limited resources of their land. Eventually mining and metallurgy were discovered and applied to war, and the violence escalated. Then came the arrival of the near-mythical Qurakh, the first Witch-king and prophet of the Hexfaith, who told them of the Kaches and the horrors these beings made them commit and united them in battle against this common enemy. The few tribes who didn't unite under his banner were destroyed as they were said to be in league with the dreaded demons. The nomads slowly started to settle down in peace, at first living in improvised tent cities while later constructing stone buildings. Civilization began to flourish under the rule of Qurakh. The environment was still unrelentingly cruel, but with people working together in union it became bearable. As it was quickly discovered that small settlements were vulnerable, the settlements slowly organised themselves into three major settlements: Morog, Amrha, and Rararan. Further advances were made: Universal laws were created to protect humans from each other, and temples were created to protect humans against evil. The civilization expanded, founding new cities, and eventually came into contact with the polar Hurtans. The first engagements were of a violent nature, and the Hurtan Conflict continued with a series of small skirmishes over the next years until diplomatic relations were established with the strange creatures. As the population grew, new sources of food and resources became necessary to sustain the population and the Whispermen set out in their boats in search of fish and food and found the lands of Kherennem in an event known as the Crossing. Here they were quick to seek peace, and although there was some tension they succeeded with a minimum of conflict. This influx of trade and knowledge resulted in a new golden age, which in turn resulted in the creation of 6 new cities. At some point though, the mountain cities of Akh and Hokmoq stopped communications, and it was discovered that the cities had been destroyed by some force. The Whispermen sent their army to war in the dreadful mountains, together with the Hurtans who had also lost people and settlements there, but few survived, and those who did were left mentally scarred by whatever happened up there in the cold heights. The Witch-king ordered the retreat, and declared the mountains cursed. Visitors and historians came to know this conflict as the Never-spoken War as all Whispermen and Hurtans refuse to talk about it. In the later years, they helped greatly in the Corsair Wars, using their sturdy converted whaling ships but otherwise observe rather isolationist policies.  
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« Reply #2 on: May 26, 2009, 05:49:40 PM »

Religions

 The Cult of Hallowed Flesh
The Cult of Hallowed Flesh believes that all flesh are divine works of transcendent art made by the Creator; the divine artist-god that made the world, the creatures that inhabit it, and, lastly, the humans. Flesh is naturally beautiful in all incarnations to them, but sentient creatures are especially beautiful because they possess the Creative Spark. This spark is created by the divine and is itself divine as it grants the greatest of the Creator's works the power to emulate their gods and use the power of creation.  

Principles

The Cult takes a deistic stance as to the actions of their god; he created everything, but his art was perfect and would continue its beautiful existence by itself without him interfering.
The cultist is asked to consider the beauty around him as well as to create something himself. What he creates is up to himself and they greatly enforce independence and the use of the singular power of creativity they claim they have been granted. Respect for the work of others is mandatory; be they animals or humans. Because even though animals do not possess the Spark their spawn are still considered to be their creation. As such, it is forbidden to eat the flesh of animals and all practitioners of the religion are vegetarians (as plants are not considered to be "alive"). Combat to the death is also considered a taboo, although martial arts are strangely respected as they are, in a way, considered to be "art" when not actively used in combat.

Foundation and structure
The Cult is relatively new, and although it was inspired by some pagan religions it didn't in fact develop from one. The foundation of the religion is a series of letters sent by an unnamed religious artist describing a divine vision sent to him outlining the main tenets and ideas of the religion. The letters are all adressed to someone called Harikem. Who this person was or what he represented is still unknown, and the same goes for the identity of the author.  These letters, of which there are 11, are collectively known as the Letters of Vision, and the author is referred to as the Visionary.
Clergy are organized around small monasteries where the monks live simple lives in the pursuit of aesthetic rather than spiritual perfection. The monks have few actual duties in the religious community; they prepare the bodies of the dead for the burial ritual and often serve as orphanages for lost children. In the rest of the time they sing beautiful praises to the Creator, nature, and humanity and help copy books or create new pieces of art. They live lives of personal poverty, indulging in few luxuries so they can best pursue their chosen path without unnecessary distraction. Celibacy is not a requirement though, and sex is almost considered an artform by itself and the monks perform something akin to tantric sex (the monks are pretty famed for their skill). The cult has even made a sort of religious guide to it, a work which has been banned by many nations.  

Practice

Although the religion has grown somewhat prominent in the world, it's still uncommon to be born into it. Rather, people happen about it in books and by participating in artistic social circles. As such, most people are middle or high class and well-educated and have entered the cult as a choice rather than through indoctrination. As the religion is deistic, prayers are not common practice, although monasteries do sing hymns. Mostly, practice of the religion just involves accepting the mythology and gazing upon the beauty of the world. Some people also use more rigorous and spiritual Aesthetic Meditations where they dwell on the beauty of a specific item. Practitioners are known as flesh hallowers, or just hallowers.  

Rituals

Birth: as a religious cult focused on creation, birth is an event of huge importance. The child is usually hidden away by the parents for the first few days, and a party is then thrown for the child where the family and the friends of the parents come to see the child who is customarily dressed up in make-up and a small colorful robe. It's customary to praise the parents of the beauty of the child at these events.
Coming of age: There are no coming of age rituals in the Cult as such, as they do not believe in stages of life as such; all of life is equal. Sometimes, though, if a child follows an artistic path in life, a small party is thrown after the creation of his first personal piece of art. If it is a physical piece of art, like a picture or a sculpture, it's often on display at the party.
Death and burial: Death is seen as the deterioration of art and is therefore feared. They do not believe in an afterlife. The Spark of Creation is reborn in a new body, and the body reverts to the components from which it was created. The identity of the person is irretrievably lost. The components of a human body are considered intrinsically human, and as such are sought to be reverted to the human state. This concept involves a highly ritualized cannibalising of dead family members where the body is salted and brought to the nearest monastery where it is prepared by the monks and then eaten by the family. The dead body is divided into three types of components; the hallowed components which are eaten (e.g. organs and muscle), the identity-holding pieces which are burnt (e.g. heart, brain, fingers and eyes) and the practical, non-aesthetic, pieces (e.g. stomach and bone) which are removed without further ado.

Adherents

Most who follow this religion are artists. Some were artists before they entered the cult, and some became it later. But there are many exceptions; all who see beauty in their work or in the world around them can feel drawn to the religion. The enigmatic Moshrayah of the underground, whose entire culture focuses on the dedication to arts, often follow this religion, although only those living on the surface have free enough access to edible plants survive, as ordinary moshrayah diets consist of mostly meat (the underground isn't exactly rich on nutritious plant-life). Members of the Order of the Rose are also often members.

Sects
Even though it's a somewhat small religion, sects are prominent in a religion with so loose a dogma.
Hallowers of the Canvas Incarnate: These believe that life is not art in itself but rather a medium which you can mold into real art. They use tattoos and piercings, as well as other acts of self-modification and -mutilation, to modify themselves into human artwork.  
Hallowers of the New Dawn: This small sect doesn't focus on material creations but rather on the making and birth of children. The New Dawn followers are avid users of the previously mentioned blacklisted manual and typically sire a lot of children. Some more fanatic members of the sect attempt to pick their partners so as to create what they consider "optimal" children, practising their own personal variant of eugenics.

Thaumaturgies

Resonance technology
Reality is only apparent through interactions. We can only see when our eyes interact with light, we can only hear when our ears interact with air, we can only feel when our skin interacts with matter. So everything that exists to us is a result of interaction. So isn't it only natural to assume that what we interact with is also, in itself, the result of an interaction?  
These are some of the thoughts behind resonance science, also sometimes known as reality manipulation and "resonancing". It's the science of intrinsic fields, invisible fields that describe an objects physical abilities. Reality is thus the interaction between at least two intrinsic fields: various object fields and the world field. Whenever they interact a physical event takes place. So whenever you see an object fall, or the light reflect off a mirror it's due to two intrinsic fields interacting and determining a suitable effect in accordance with their individual qualities.

Describing the fields
Intrinsic fields are described with three values: Strata, Dimension and Cadence. These are roughly synonymous with the 3 dimensions of another plane of existence overlapping our own.
Strata is the least specific of the three values and simply describes the overall type of matter that the intrinsic field belongs to. Here the value 1 describes a vacuum, and every prime number from thereon describes a specific type of matter such as metal, rock, flesh and so on. Non-primes describes combinations of these; objects of mixed matter often have cumulative fields.
Dimension describes a specific trait of the intrinsic field: the gravity, heat capacity, electromagnetic ability, viscosity, reflectivity, and so on. Each of these traits have a specific value on the Ockham Scale which can vary from strata to strata.    
The last value, Cadence, describes the relative strength of the individual dimension. So each dimension has a cadence value, that describes its power. For normal reality, this value is set to an arbitrary value of zero. This leads to the concept of zero-level physics as another name for standard physics, which is the opposite of non-zero physics; physics where reality has been modified. Cadence can take both positive and negative values depending on whether the field has been weakened or strengthened.
A common allegory for how cadence works is that the two cadences are each pulling one of two ropes that are tied together. If they both pull equally hard the knot stays in a location that we will call "normal". If the object field has a higher cadence and pulls harder the knot will be displaced, resulting in a modified reality and vice versa for a lower cadence.    

Manipulating Reality
The secret to manipulating the laws of nature wasn't discovered until the Algathion Codex  gave the first perplexing clues to the existence of Resonance science and intrinsic fields. The secret lies in so-called transplanar vibrational radiation, where vibrations can expand from our plane into the intrinsic plane; the intrinsic fields seem to have some similarity to waves and vibrational resonance fields can thus change them through constructive and destructive interference. Of course, most materials only yield very little transplanar vibrational radiation so to put this theory into effect special materials are needed.  
When a device produces a sufficient amount of transplanar vibrational radiation it generates what is known as a resonance field. This field possesses a specific polarity, and whenever it interacts with an intrinsic field possessing the same strata and dimension as the resonance is keyed to, it either increases or decreases the cadence (depending on the polarity).  

Echo rod
The classical resonance device, the echo rod looks like the bastard child of a tuning fork and a black mace. It is about the length of a mace, has a handle at the end, and a tube made of reinforced fulgurite (that is, petrified lightning, which has some peculiar and useful qualities). The tube is hollowed out, and filled with a mess of strings made out of various metals. On the side of the rod are fastened two claw-like metal protrusions somewhat similar to the ends of a long sharpened tuning fork. At the core of the metal network lies a small greenish glassy bead made of esherium, a material that is known to vibrate almost only on the intrinsic level, often giving off the appearance of standing still if struck even though it is vibrating. The Echo rod is designed to amplify these extraplanar vibrations and generate a resonance field between the two prongs. You can often hear the amplification of its nonplanar vibrations as well, as a high-pitched hum, leading some people so say that it sings. To control the rod, small knobs and slides are often attached to the side of the rod, allowing the user to change strata and dimension and perhaps even flux (a measure for how quickly the cadence rises or falls). Other rods are more simple though, and might be fixed for one or more specific purposes. Multi-purpose after rods do after all have a higher chance of being calibrated wrongly for any specific task.

The skillful application of resonance fields
Changing the rules are more difficult than just waving a charged rod around though. Changing a field requires a skilled touch. A major danger is non-congruence. The resonance field can only change part of the intrinsic field, spreading out in ripples, and if a part of an entire field starts to differ too much from the rest of the field it will approach what is called the Unreality Limit and simply disintegrate (one of the reasons resonance fields are rarely used on men for constructive purposes). To make the ripples spread more evenly, several kata are taught which can direct the ripples in a more orderly and evenly balanced way.

Limitations and rules
Other than the Unreality Limit, there are a few other rules. The Law of Simulacrum states that only copies can ever be made, in the sense that while you could make lead behave exactly like gold it would never become gold; it is only gold in the light of your modified ruleset. The Law of Extremes dictate that no cadences are unlimited in scope. The Divine Principle states that life cannot be created (even though people keep searching for the strata/dimension of life itself).  

Effects
Gravity: By manipulating gravity you can make an object lighter or heavier.
Heat Capacity: By manipulating heat capacity you can make things heat up or cool down.
Boiling/freezing point: Essentially allows you to change what phase a material is in.
Viscosity: Can make air seem like syrup or water like air or anything in between or near that.
Electromagnetic: You can change crystal structure, causing things to become brittle or soft instead of hard and malleable (or vice versa) or you could make materials magnetic or electrically conductive.
Reflectivity: You can make things change color, turn them into mirrors or make them transparent.

Duration and molding
Changes made to intrinsic fields only last so long, and will revert to something close to their natural state over time. A small, unnoticable, difference is often there though, and if you repeat the process extensively, maybe a few hundred times or more, you can slowly lift the cadence step by step until it reaches a new permanent value. Materials that have been treated in this way are extremely expensive and are known as cantillated materials.  

Changing the world
Nearly all resonance technology focuses on changing the intrinsic fields of objects. The World Field is simply too massive to directly affect. This isn't entirely true though, as the application of enough energy can tear large holes in the fabric of reality. This is most often accomplished by dropping logic bombs which promptly strip the surrounding area of a few specific traits (such as gravity).

The Order
Only one group knows how to use the echo rods. The Orchestra educates skillful young men in the art of resonancing and physics, teaching them to understand strata and dimensions and master the katas of the rod. When fully educated they become Resonists, reality-bending engineers and scholars. Only a limited number of echo rods have ever been constructed or found, and thus the Order remains extremely small with only a few hundred members. They are extremely wealthy, but do not possess any inherent power other than what they can buy.
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« Reply #3 on: May 26, 2009, 05:49:53 PM »

(reserved3)
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« Reply #4 on: May 26, 2009, 06:11:33 PM »

You certainly paint a scary picture of a sad world...

I definitely like your vision of Magic, very different from the standard lot we typically see. You mentioned Choirs are few but powerful... How powerful are they? Do they rule any of the micro-states?
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« Reply #5 on: May 26, 2009, 06:28:31 PM »

What is the Effluvium?
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« Reply #6 on: May 26, 2009, 06:36:57 PM »

A metaphysical concept. It is the medium through which thoughts move. Like a liquid where thoughts are ripples. It's just the theory behind mind reading like people used to believe that light moved through aether.
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« Reply #7 on: May 26, 2009, 06:51:04 PM »

"Quicksilvermen walk the streets"

...Looking forward to see how they turn out!
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« Reply #8 on: May 26, 2009, 07:24:20 PM »

Crow

Near this renegade city lies the Harvest Confederacy, a collection of still-bountiful farms who sell their foodstuffs to most of the world. The veritable breadbasket of the world, the place would be easy and profitable prey for bandits if it wasn't for the Lynchmen; bounty hunters and wandering swordsmen who judge and punish in service of the Confederacy.


Who appoints the Lynchmen? Does the government of the  Harvest Confederacy not wish to enforce its own laws, or does it lack the means to do so? Who lynches the Lynchmen?
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« Reply #9 on: May 26, 2009, 07:36:31 PM »

Like what I see so far, Crow. But is this a reboot of your earlier Broken Verge work? Do you plan to update your wiki-setting?

Quote

The City of Delights has few laws and rises like a utopian paradise out of the searing desert dunes.

Not sure I'd call a place without law utopian.
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« Reply #10 on: May 26, 2009, 07:48:47 PM »

Phoenix


Like what I see so far, Crow. But is this a reboot of your earlier Broken Verge work? Do you plan to update your wiki-setting?

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The City of Delights has few laws and rises like a utopian paradise out of the searing desert dunes.

Oh, you definitely haven't read the thread about Motassu i put up then laugh
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« Reply #11 on: May 27, 2009, 10:30:19 AM »

Some questions to you all:
1) Anything amiss?
2) Anything that seems a bit bland or cliche? (beneath my self-set standards tongue)
3) Anything particularly interesting? Something you want me to expand upon sooner rather than later?
4) Any ideas or comments? Do you like it or dislike it?
5) Do i need more cities? (or less perhaps)
6) Some good ways to ruin the Empire of the Hidden Throne?

P.S. should it be "on" or "of" in the headings?
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« Reply #12 on: May 27, 2009, 11:46:06 AM »

I think I need to see more to really comment.

You have ideas there, but not much concrete.

I think this setting would benefit from a "storyteller's" layout, similar to that of Nifflas, the librarian setting.
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« Reply #13 on: May 27, 2009, 11:53:05 AM »

Well, yeah, i have more, this was just meant to help people get an idea of the setting. I'll find some of the already written stuff and post it here as well. I have stuff on Motassu, the Moshrayah and resonance (the science of the Choirs).
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« Reply #14 on: May 27, 2009, 02:11:28 PM »

It'd be nice to see this consolidated into one big thread, yeah. Or even better, both a thread and an update to the wiki. I remember reading that back in September, when I was making CBGeopardy, and thinking it was interesting.

What you don't want is a jumbled mixed of half-updated stuff there, so that people have no idea what's still accurate.
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