Continuing our #My30DayWorld challenge, Æsc and I talk about magic, adventurers, and the cosmology of the Legacy of Ash.
The Legacy of Ash began as a roleplaying setting for us, slowly evolving into fantasy fiction as the characters and cultures we created began to take on lives of their own. We hope you’ll follow us over the next few weeks as we reveal a little more about our world and the characters who bring it to life. We’ve already discussed the first 5 questions, check it out here.
This post will cover days 6 to 9. We’re doing them all separately over on our Legacy of Ash Facebook page, so head over and give us a like.
3/25: How prevalent is magic? Where does it come from?
“Some say radiants are the eyes of the gods themselves, gazing down upon us as we scurry hither and yon. That only in their holy presence are we safe from the terrors that dwell beyond their light.
But what of the devout who dwell far from the Everlight? Though they speak all of the proper prayers, make obeisance and observe faithfully all of the holy tides, they are helpless when the hells open at their heels. The righteous fall under the claws of the Unhallowed, screaming for succour, and the gods stand mute.
The light of sanctuary is also the cold light of truth. The gods are blind, or we are mere pieces on a khasrang board. Prey for demons or the pawns of gods. Body or soul, we are all of us devoured in one way or another. I spit in the eye of the god who would shelter me.”
– the final testimony of the heretic Sosilus Laur, on the eve of his execution.
Magic has several sources in the Legacy of Ash, and takes numerous forms. Among the best known sources are radiants.
High above the lands, an unforeseen result of the Sundering, the radiants formed. Orbs or gates of an impossible nature, each radiant is like a sun in miniature. Where the light of a radiant falls, the land is safe from Ans’relan incursions. Only mortal creatures may pass beneath their glow. For this reason, cities and settlements often coalesce beneath the orbs.
Radiants are physical manifestations of magic, slowly draining away as mortal mages siphon their energy. When that energy is released back into the world in the form of a spell, it drifts until it finds and recharges another radiant.
Many civilizations have striven to reach a radiant, to study and record, to utilize and tap into them. None have yet been successful. When a radiant dies it leaves behind a blackened orb, obsidian-like in appearance and properties. This material has very strong magic-deadening powers. Where a dead radiant hangs in the sky, magic in the surrounding area is rendered useless. Such an area is anathema to most mages.
Radiants are also known as mage stars, orbs, or aesch’risser by various nations and races.
3/26: How common are adventurers and heroes in your world?
It’s a classic image: a fresh-faced adventurer setting forth, backpack bursting with 50’ ropes, iron spikes, bullseye lanterns, flasks of alchemist’s fire and a week’s worth of dry rations.
But are such figures common in the Legacy of Ash setting?
Yes and no.
The Legacy began as a D&D setting, so the standard depiction of a low-level fantasy RPG adventurer wasn’t uncommon. In our fiction however, heroes typically take different forms. The barbaric Ruka den’Aul, for example, who defeated the undead hordes of Asherach, could be described in D&D terms as paladins. They might not be immediately recognized as such, however, by someone looking for the “high medieval European knight” trope. Likewise, monks, assassins, rogues and mages all have a place here. But we’ve sought to impart a unique flavour to many of the familiar categories of characters.
You won’t find figures in our fiction who have chosen adventuring as a specific career. But characters in the Legacy plunge into the midst of world events, large and small – or just as often are drawn into such events against their will.
“Illandros had been running for hours. The unnatural stillness of the jungle was broken only by the pounding rhythm of his feet, the gusts of his breath. Vines snaked about his ankles. He ran on soles long since blistered and rubbed raw by ill-fitting boots. Thorns caught at his tattered shirt, raking bloody lines across skin tanned dark as old oak.
He had dropped his sword an hour ago, left his last dagger buried in the throat of one of his pursuers. He carried only the disk now, for upon that his slender hopes depended. All else had been discarded or broken. Even his companions were lost.
Sivourne, his steadfast brother-in-all-but-blood, going down screaming beneath the claws of a hunting jaguar. Tsemma, with laughter like fire, and kisses as deep and sweet as old wine. The whickering sound of a peregrine blade stopping her voice in mid-word. Ylos Trave? Well, gods alone knew what had happened to Trave. Only that he was not here; that he had not run fast enough, far enough. Nor had any of the others, apparently.
Wounded and scattered in the flight, those who had survived were recaptured now, likely. Or worse. For without knowing the exact path out of the fell, there was no escape for them.
Illandros paused once more to consult the disk, holding it up to the sky and hoping to the Cold Hells that he read it properly. The old varukhiri who taught him to read it had spoken no Low Rukaran, and his own grasp of Varu was faltering at best. But time in the fell had little meaning, and Illandros had gradually absorbed the concepts the renegade priest sought to impart.
Scarred hands trembling, Illandros lowered the disk and peered over it, trying to line up the notched edge with the landmarks as he had been shown. The scattered pinholes across the face of the bronze disk were almost perfectly aligned with the stars above him. He fought down a surge of hope.
A birdcall back down the trail to his left. An answering whistle nearby, thirty paces into the jungle to his right. Even without the disc, the vashta hunters had tracked him. They were trapped here with him now, and would not rest until his body was cold. Or changed, like Kedan. Twisted by varukhiri sorcery.
Illandros drew a ragged breath and began to run once more.”
~ from “Sons of Midnight” (WIP) by Æsc Adams
In the Legacy, heroes are simply those who don’t quit, regardless of the odds.
3/27: What’s Your World’s Biggest Secret?
This one is tough. A really tough one. Celduras doesn’t really have one solitary secret. We’ve set this up, designed it, explored it as a world with a dozen different cultures and races and locations. Instead, I’ve chosen to give you a little story, just a snippet, between a tavern drunk and a priestess who worships decay.
“Can I tell you a secret?”
Penra scratched at his aching jaw, a tooth near the back throbbing despite the whiskey he had been drinking. Somhae sat across from him. Her face was shallow and sunken, a necklace of dried skulls and shrunken heads hung around her neck. Her robes were stained, the cloth once a warm yellow now a sickly, sullied brown. He sniffed the air, smelling rotting onions and aged moss coming from somewhere. Pushing his tongue around his swollen gums, the drunkard looked down to see a fresh tankard of ale before him.
“A secret?” he grunted, reaching for the drink. “Even if I say no, you’re gonna tell me aren’t you?”
“It is a truth that every priest or priestess of Sinest understands, every worshipper of decay knows. Everything withers, Pen, and everything dies.”
“I’ve heard this before, priestess,” Penra said after a mouthful of ale. Wincing, he tried not to rub his jaw. “I know your beliefs. Damn, everyone in this pub knows your beliefs.”
They sat at a small table in a cramped, smoke filled tavern. Penra spent most nights here. Sitting at the same table, eyes on the bar, he waited for the man who killed his brother to return.
“He’s not coming,” Somhae said, her yellowed eyes fixed on Penra. “It’s been months, Pen. He’s already dead.”
“No he ain’t,” Penra said. “Can’t be. Not till I see his body. Damn coward…”
“He’s dead,” Somhae repeated. “Rotting in a nameless grave.
Just like your brother. Just like you.”
“Calm down,” the priestess said. “I only mean that you’re wasting away here. You’re angry, I know, but it will pass. It will fade. everything does.”
“You don’t know,” Penra growled, hoisting the tankard again. “Nikal is dead ‘cause of that bastard, and he’s not getting away with it so easily. He’ll come back here, he has too.”
“And what if he does? Will killing him satisfy you? Will revenge quiet your rage?”
“You don’t know what this is like.”
“Decay claims all things, Pen. Your brother Nikal, his cowardly killer. You, me, this tavern. This damned city. That’s the secret truth of the world, a secret everyone knows but constantly ignores. The struggles, the deaths, the births, the stale ale, and the heartache. One day, no matter what any of us do, this world will be sand and rust. We know it, each and every one of us, a void staring us in the eye every day, but not many can admit it. It is a secret we all keep.”
“Madmen and priests,” Penra said, poking at his tooth again. “If we all believed you, priestess, everyone would just give up and die. A fishermen can’t wake up and head out to sea, thinking that nothing matters.”
“I didn’t say life doesn’t matter,” Somhae said with a smile. “Everything we do has purpose, and therein lies the real truth of decay. We live to further the rot and ruin. We exist, we build and fight and fish, for a great purpose. We consume everything. Wood and stone. Those fish. We’ll drink the oceans dry, all in the name of decay. Stop playing with your tooth.”
“Things would rot quite fine without us getting in the way,” Penra said. “Your precious goddess don’t need us to help her along.”
“True,” Somhae said. “But we’re here all the same.”
“Damn, priestess, I don’t know how you stay sane. The whole lot of you, preaching this crap.”
“Decay is not a sad thing. Nor is not an evil thing. It just is. But there is purpose behind it. Decay brings new life, struggle brings strength. Seeds grow in rotting leaves, worms feed on the fallen, it is a cycle that turns, but it is not a cycle without end. Everything we know, everything that has ever been or ever was, will cease to be. This tavern, this city, this world, it is all pulsing in time to the cycle to decay, to the end of time itself.”
“And that’s the secret? The truth to our lives?”
Somhae nodded, the skulls around her neck clattering slightly.
“But what is there? What is there, at the end? Does your precious goddess tell you that?”
“All things wither,” Somhae nodded. “And all things fade. Time itself will end, and whatever still exists there in the final moments will know oblivion. But it that moment, in that final point of time, a new cycle begins. In that moment, the decay of all existence collected and forced into one solitary point, something new begins.”
“Huh,” Penra said, finishing his ale. “And what’s that? What begins, at the end of everything?”
Somhae’s eyes grew cold. In the thin darkness, it seemed that the skulls around her neck were grinning.
“Something nature cannot condone, “she said. “Something no one can accept, not truly. Something that does not move in accordance with time. Something to drive us all mad. Tell me, Pen, what do you know of dragons?”
3/28: What is the cosmology of your world? Other planes?
Three hells of cold, with souls and snow,
Three fiery hells, where hot winds blow,
One hell of night, free of all pains,
Shadow and Dust where Yordas reigns.
~ Asourai children’s rhyme
The Legacy of Ash setting is big. Like, really big. It consists of hundreds of lands and territories scattered across three continents (so far), each populated by groups of people (human and non-human) whose respective histories go back thousands of years. So there is no unified cosmology, no ONE worldview – they are numberless, just as on Earth.
Today we feature glimpses into the cosmology of the Asourai pantheon, the worshippers of whom are descended from both the Saightari and the Sidhran peoples.
The Creation of the World
According to the Saightari creation myth, Celduras was formed from the body of Shayasat, the World-Wyrm. Prior to the arrival of the Vanjatt (titans) and their deific offspring, Shayasat was the primordial ocean dragon. Endless and all-encompassing, she ruled the universe,.
Saightari tales tell of how the earth god, Revannys the Hewer, wrestled with the World-Wyrm for seven days before finally defeating her. Revannys cut Shayasat’s body to pieces, casting them down for mankind to live upon.
In the Sidhran version of the Creation Myth, it was the stormgod Ossys who battled Shayasat to the death, but not before she had drowned his children. Ossys went mad with grief, and is said to endlessly roam the sea searching for his children’s bodies.
The Peopling of the World
Following the great war between the Vanjatt and the gods came the Age of Strife.
In that time, Ulshas, a giant iron mare fashioned by the Vanjatt, was the bane of the gods. Eyes of flaming coals struck terror into the hearts of its foes. Its mane and tail were of spark-filled smoke, stinging the gods’ eyes and obscuring their vision. Ulshas’ scorching iron hide burned the hand of Rava when that goddess attempted to capture it. Ulshas struck down fences, allowing the gods’ herds to escape, trampled crops, and even slew Enabrya, the Amber Queen.
No known weapons could harm the Vanjatt’s creation; no spells could charm it or drive it off.
Saukyrras implored the smith goddess Seorenna to forge a weapon mighty enough to destroy the Iron Mare.
The smith laboured mightily, binding fearsome spells into her steel to fashion the legendary sword Voleqarr, the Tiger’s Claw. For her efforts, she demanded in return the hand of Phaedra, daughter of Saukyrras.
The god refused.
Ulshas destroyed the Fane of Dreams.
Saukyrras came to the smith once more, beseeching her aid. But when Seorenna named her price, Saukyrras again spurned her.
Ulshas trampled one of the hives from which Imphaeon gathered the nectar upon which the gods fed.
A third time Saukyrras returned to the smith goddess, reluctantly agreeing to her terms. But Saukyrras decided to cheat, clothing one of Phaedra’s handmaids in his daughter’s raiment.
Discovering the treachery, Seorenna handed over the sword, but not before laying a curse upon it. Voleqarr would fulfill its purpose, but it would bring joy and misery to its wielder in equal measure.
Phaedra, dismayed by the destruction wrought by the Vanjatt mare, agreed to marry the smith despite her father’s treachery.
With the Tiger’s Claw in hand, Saukyrras gave chase to the Iron Mare. In the midst of the battle, Ulshas kicked Saukyrras, leaving burning hoofprints upon his cuirass. They have been the symbol of Saukyrras ever since.
The embattled pair came to a distant place – an unfinished part of Creation. A place of roiling, unformed chaos.
With the terrible blade, Voleqarr, Saukyrras struck down the Iron Mare. Its body shattered, iron shards raining down into the chaos-stuff. Its frothing blood formed broad salt seas; its legs formed the four pillars of the world, which are the four sacred mountains, and hair from its mane and tail formed endless forests.
From within the Mare’s broken body emerged humanity, pouring forth to people the world. Imprisoned since the beginning of time within the Mare by the Vanjatt, it is written that they could only be freed by an act of sacrifice – Phaedra’s agreement to wed the smith goddess.
From ancient times, horses (or effigies and other livestock, for poor families) have traditionally been gifted at betrothals, to mark the death of Ulshas and the betrothal of Phaedra to Seorenna.
It has also been customary to perform an annual horse sacrifice commemorating humanity’s emergence from the Iron Mare, and their subsequent settlement across Calus Rukan.
The Challenge will Continue…
Over the coming weeks, we will be posting more about Celduras and the continents that compose Calus Rukan. There is a lot more to reveal. Politics and travel. Monsters, violence, soldiers, and war. This has been day 6 to 9, but stay tuned for our third post for the next set of questions.