Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Arrasoom, World of the Dying Light, Part 1

In that world, all was dying. Trees were long absent from the wild places, nor did grass grow in fields. A whole world, grown mostly fallow, under a dying sun that no longer bathed the world in the light of life, but rather in the pall of death. This desiccated husk of a world still had life to it, though, as a dying tree supports those who would hungrily feed on its meat, until there is nothing left. Soon, on Arrasoom, there would be nothing left, and nothing left in the world for these predators to consume but each other.
- Segh Varharkas, Scribe Adjutant to the 13th Heavenly Fleet

Arrasoom is the tomb of its own past. In days of yore, she was the pinnacle of culture, refinement, science and technology throughout the Axial Worlds. Great societies rose and fell, as is the cycle on all worlds, but one particular discovery doomed Arrasoom to become the largely lifeless rock she is today. Long had the Arrasoomian scientists and sorcerers experimented with light, and through light created and powered many of her greatest wonders. When they reached the limit of their ability to capture and channel their sun's light directly, a now-nameless scientist-sorcerer devised a method of leaching off the solar energies stored in plants, fueling his magics and devices to a degree previously unmatched, and creating the path to power known today as defiling. The Ancestress (the title by which this scientist-sorcerer is known in modern times) soon had disciples flock to her banner, for she looked to solve the problems facing Arrasoom, those last few problems that civilizations confront before their fall: mortality, disharmony and war. The Ancestress devised a solution to these final three injustices of life, but it would require immense power and so, she turned back to the sun. If she could take power directly from the sun, rather than waiting for it to reach Arrasoom, or wrenching it from world's plants or even returning to the heathen days of yore and claiming it from the blood of sacrifices, she might have enough power to work her final miracle.

And so, she worked.

The Ancestress's ritual, she knew, would forever answer the problem of death, and in conquering death, she would conquer disharmony and in conquering disharmony, she would render war irrelevant. Convinced of the overwhelming utility of her endeavor, the Ancestress and her disciples toiled to change their world. A series of smaller rites culminated in one grand ritual, where the Ancestress stood astride the greatest ziggurat atop the strongest ley lines and reached out to the sun to feed. And feed she did. She took the power that she needed for her ritual but, having tasted the raw, limitless power available to her, could not stop. She drank and drank from its font, at first thinking it unending, but what started as a torrent soon became a drizzle; knowing that, should she take any more, the sun would die, the Ancestress stopped (though some sources say that she was stopped by some of her disciples; it is made clear by her later actions that her near-destruction of the moon was not a revelatory experience), leaving Arrasoom's sun sickly and wan, it's pale green light barely able to support life. Plants had trouble growing, and thus the rate that the Defilers (as the Ancestress's disciples became known) consumed the light trapped in plants soon outstripped the rate at which plants grew. Arrasoom's forests became fields, her fields became deserts.

What, then, of the Ancestress's magics? For what had she sacrificed Arrasoom's sun and life itself? Through her magics, she birthed forth a thing, a promise and an answer, that for which she is known as the Ancestress. The culmination of her sorceries was to birth forth from her own body a new form of life, the shalhalas worm. Had the Ancestress's plans come to fruition as she had hoped, perhaps the shalhalas worms would have fulfilled their intended roles; instead, born unto the World of the Dying Light, the shalhalas only exacerbated the Arrasoomians' problems. The shalhalas worms produce a natural anagathic, a drug which halts (and in some cases reverses) the aging process but at a dear price: they consume vast quantities of water, far more than they actually need for survival. Soon, the planet's once-abundant water supply dwindled to the point where it became rare and again unto the modern day,

Within a generation, the Arrasoomians turned to warring against each other for what few resources were left to them. Water, shalhalas, metals, technological remnants of past, all of these made fine casi belli. The first disciples of the Ancestress went out to the city states, flush with power of the Dying Light imparted to them by the being they thought of more and more as their "mother," and brought these places under their collective thumbs. Each of these disciples ruled his own fiefdom as a god king, accountable to none but the Ancestress. Soon, even that august sorceress faded into myth, and became a figure of an afterlife denied most Arrasoomians, and the subject of mass pilgrimages of those who seek an end to their lives. Eventually, the disciples of the Ancestress, now calling themselves God Kings proper, fall into disharmony with each other, and the wars that they had gone forth to stop resumed again.

Today, Arrasoom is a perilous place. Wild tribes haunt the spaces between the city state kingdoms of the God Kings. Within the cities, the worship of the Gods Kings pervades every aspect of life, from the "gift of water" ration that the God Kings provide to their subjects to the preparations for war against the other city states, and a caste of templars ensures their Gods' wills be done. Common folk and luminaries alike have little effort to spare for hope or morality - life under the Dying Light affords few luxuries and forgives fewer slights, so who can waste time on such frivolities?

A world waning year after year, little is left of Arrasoom. Despite her imminent demise, Arrasoom remains one of the most important Axial Worlds; shalhalas anagathics form the core of the interplanetary trade and worlds such as Saerhilidh (see Divine Right in a few days) gladly trade oceans of water for the precious drugs.