Sunday, December 21, 2014

Arrasoom, World of the Dying Light, Part 3

"Metal? You wish a metal sword? Bah! Perhaps if you get lucky the winds will fail for a skyship and it will fall on top you; cut one from its corpse then. Ha! Look in my eyes, outlander, and know the truth: you will never have metal that you have not prized from the dead hand of a Struggler who earned it. Come, take my sword. See what it is to face an Arrasoomian warrior who earned his metal. No? I thought not."
- Arrasoomian warlord Varagha Vakh to the Saerlidhian explorer-merchant Miccolo Paschalo, stranded on the World of the Dying Sun


In ages past, before the coming of the Dying Sun, when the world of Arrasoom had yet to go fallow, metals were common. Wresting them from the earth's tight grasp was a common challenge and recycling of metal wastes was an equally worthwhile endeavor. When the world was laid waste by the darkening of the sun and thirsts of the shalhalas, metal became harder and harder to mine and more and more metals that would be recycled sank beneath the dunes. Today, much metal still exists, and is one of the three primary precious commodities of the world (alongside water and soma), but little trade in it exists. The lack of trade is less because of supply, and vastly more because of the Arrasoomian philosophy of the Struggle (or "Jihad"): metal is to be earned, a reward for one's personal struggle, rather than crassly traded away.

Thus, one may buy many weapons in the markets of Arrasoom, but one may never buy a metal sword. Armor of all types are widely available, but never will one find suits of metal plate. Obsidian, chitin, bone, flint, ceramic, plastics; one may find materials made of these in every market in each of the City-States, but should one desire goods made of metal, they must Struggle to take them, to earn them through force of arms, personality or sorcery.


In the age before the Ancestress invented the science we today call "defiling magic," Arrasoom was chief among the Axial Worlds in its application of the sorcery known as "Science." Great machines of all sort of description were wrought by the Arrasoomians. Flying machines plied the worlds' air spaces, communication machines sent words, pictures and even thoughts from one side of the world to another and thinking machines were employed to keep track of the vast stores of accumulated knowledge and assist the Arrasoomians throughout their lives. All of that changed the day the Dying Sun rose.

Many of the old machines still exist, but few have the skill necessary to build more. Most of Arrasoom's Scientific knowledge has been lost or is jealously guarded by the few who hold it. Some City States encourage the study of Science, providing patronage for would-be Scientists like that for artists or religions; other City States are not so enlightened, and instead reserve the application of Science to military applications and the caste of Templar who exact the God Kings' wills. Everywhere, though, the most common technological devices to be found are skyships (maintained by every City State and more than a few independents) and weapons (like the ubiquitous revolver kept by all blooded warriors of the World of the Dying Sun).


The sorcerous arts dawned on Arrasoom shortly before the Dying Sun did and are at least partially responsible for the state of the world today. Before the Ancestress created the practice of defiling, superstitious magical practices had given way to an organized, scientific study of the mind and parapsychological phenomena that begat multiple traditions of psychic practice. Somewhere along the line, the old magical/religious practice of offering sacrifices was revived as psionicists realized they could fuel their powers with the biological and psychic energies of other beings. The Ancestress attempted to divert the disconcerting development of wholesale sacrifice and the ascent of a dark age of "blood magic" by finding new ways to power psychic powers through channeling the power of sunlight, including that trapped within plants. It is one of the universe's great ironies that these new "luxomantic" powers earned Her bright and idealistic pupils, eager to save the world from what they saw as "soulless" Science and a burgeoning inhumane trend of ever-escalating, depraved sacrificial magic.

Beneath the light of the Dying Sun, the Ancestress's "luxomancy," now called defiling by all but its practitioners, is still in use. Officially off-limits to all but the God Kings themselves and their servants, pockets of hard-hearted luxomantic sorcerers spring up with surprising regularity in every City State and among every people, but they are frequently persecuted and hunted due to the damage their arts do to agricultural efforts and any attempts to stabilize the world's ecology, futile as they may be. A similar disdain is held for any other spellcasters, particularly those of the defilers' competing tradition of "blood sorcery" or "vivamancy." These heretics tap into the latent energies inside living beings to work their magics, though many have infested the soma and shalhalas trade, using the drug to turn themselves into a strange breed of narcomancer.

Perhaps most surprising is the continued existence of the old psionic traditions from the days before the Dying Sun. Soma imparts not merely an unnaturally long life (ostensibly eternal when conditions permit), but it further enhances mental faculties, thus combining heightened psychic acuity with a drastically increased amount of time to hone them. Every City State hosts at least a few psionic traditions, and it is common for the people of the City States to retire to these monasteries for years at a time and most Arrasoomians can cite some allegiance to one or more traditions.