Saturday, July 9, 2022

OSR: Glory to the God-Emperor!

This post is a new setting, but it is based on the idea off of a few sources, notably the comic Birthright, Mistborn, Arnold K's posts on this subject and another post on Lich Kings which I cannot find nor remember the source.  I'll be organizing it under the Lich King of Averia post, but everything from this point on is new.  

artist unknown

It is the year 1031 AA (After Ascension).  For the last thousand years, Lore Corvalis has owned the world. 

His full title is Lore Corvalis, First of His Name, Emperor of the Sun, Sliver of Eternity, God-among-Us, Last of the Divines, Protector of the Race of Man and Sword of the Oppressed.  He is God-Emperor and Lord Sovereign.  He rules the land of Averia with an iron fist, crowned in glory, safeguarding his people and ensuring the Sun rises every morning.  At least, if you believe the propaganda. 

The Emperor:

Everyone agrees that Lore rose to power a hair over 1000 years ago, but no one knows much beyond that.  The official story, as circulated by the Church of the Solar Emperor, is that the apocalypse occurred.  The God-Killer, the Thousand Eyes, broke free of it's prison beneath the waves and attacked the Heavens.  The Gods tried to fight, and some died.  So, they fled, abandoning the world to the predations of the Thousand Eyes.  But one God remained.  Though lowly among the pantheons, he was still a God. 

Gathering his courage, this God left Heaven and confronted the Thousand Eyes.  But unlike the others, he was not fattened and decadent, heavy with sacrifices.  He was austere and disciplined, with a heroic soul.  This equipped him far better than the others, meaning that when he clashed with the Thousand Eyes, he was able to overcome it.  He slayed the beast, blinding it with his sword and then drowning it in the blood of murdered Gods.  When he emerged from the pool of blood, he found that the powers of the dead Gods had changed him, making him the Greatest of them now. 

He then descended to Earth, but upon seeing the sorry state of the Earth, he wept.  The Earth had been devastated by the Thousand Eyes and it's monstrous servants, leaving it a wasteland.  So the God vowed that he would remain there and help the people rebuild their lands, not returning to Heaven until the people were ready to live on without him. 

1000 years later, he still rules.  Lore is still with us.

The Church:

The Church of the Solar Emperor teaches that Lore Corvalis is God.  He is the one who slayed the Thousand Eyes and saved the world.  He is the only God worth worshiping.  The others, rebuked dismissively as the Cowardly Divines, are to be scorned and rejected, as they abandoned us, so should we emulate them. 

It teaches that the social order is Divine and Holy, not to be criticized or rebuked.  It teaches the Three Great Virtues of Obedience, Duty and Destiny.

The Church's priests range from lavishly corrupt philanderers who abuse their positions to enrich themselves and aescetic fanatics trained in the arts of combat and assassination, ready to do God's will at a moment's notice.

The Church is divided up into 7 Orders, each one which is composed of Priests of a different type:

The First Order: Is made of mystics and aescetics who spend all their time cloistered in isolated monasteries or convents or in the wilderness.  They seek enlightenment.  Additionally, they are concerned with trying to predict the future.  This Order is also a convenient dumping ground for priests who are a little too pious for the Church's leadership.  

The Second Order: These are the Priests in the Temples and Shrines, the ones who forgive sins on behalf of Lore, hear your confessions, give sermons, marry people and take bribes.  They are the most corrupt and most politically powerful branch of the Church.  From the Vicar at your local chapel to the Pontifex crowned in gold, they are all of the Second Order.   

The Third Order: These priests train and study medicine.  They offer free healing to the faithful and to heathens who can pay.  They are widely beloved.  They control Greenwine, a magical elixir that speeds recovery and healing time.  Greenwine is an Imperial export and it's manufacture is a closely guarded secret.     

The Fourth Order: Priests who specialize in making art.  They primarily make Art to glorify Lore and his servants, but they will take commissions, especially from the upper classes.

The Fifth Order: Priests who hunt for rogue Magi, heathens, heretics and traitors.  Their high-ranking members have wide powers to arrest, confine and punish.  They also function as the internal policing force of the Church, which is dedicated to combatting corruption and impiety, both which are rampant among the Clergy.  Feared and despised by almost everyone, with the exception of the Nobility, though even they step lightly around the Brothers of the Fifth Order.

The Sixth Order: Priests who train in the arts of combat and war.  These fanatic warrior-priests command armies and defend their God's lands on the battlefield, as well as claiming new domains for them.    

The Seventh Order: Priests who train in the art of infiltration and assassination.  A secret order, with monasteries disguised as those belonging to other Orders.  Members of the 7th Order also intermingle and insert themselves into other organizations, including other Orders of the Church.  They are known as the Teeth of the Emperor and widely whispered about in stories.  Their primary duty is the destruction of the Emperor's enemies, within and without.  

If the 5th Order is meant to find external enemies and denounce and try them publicly, the 7th Order is meant to find more subtle enemies who find within the structures of the Empire and cannot be punished through minor means, or to do so would be too difficult.  When a corrupt priest or a Saptrap is found decapitated in his office with the Emperor's sigil burned into the wall, then it is the 7th that is usually responsible.  People live in fear of them, even if they don't know exactly who is doing the killing.

artist unknown

The Caste System:

In Lore's Empire, you are born into a specific caste that you can never leave, barring rare circumstances.  The Church helps to enforce the caste system's rightness in the minds of the people, but it is self-enforcing in many ways. 

The Castes are as follows, from Highest to Lowest

Those that have their souls consumed by the Pelusha do not die, as outsiders believe.  Instead they become Drah, humans without (all of) their soul(s).  Drah are still conscious, but are noticeably less intelligent, creative and ambitious.  They have lost something irreplaceable and are diminished for it.  If they gain a soul, they can be restored, even if it isn't their soul.  This is because the Pelusha do not consume the entire soul, merely the Spirit- the highest soul, the link to the divine and the higher realms.  Drah also cannot use magic or command mental powers such as psionics, losing such abilities.  They can still use magic items.  Having your soul eaten is a common precaution used against Magi who are arrested with a serious enough crime.  

The Unmai [UHnn-mai]: The Nobility, the Unmai are the Dukes, Counts and Marquises of the Realm.  They have been granted extended lives by Lore and powerful regenerative abilities.  They can recover from everything but dismemberment or decapitation and as long as they are fed, they can live on indefinitely.  They can eat and drink, like any other human, but don't need too.  Instead, they feed off the blood of those with magical talent and life energy from any type of living creature.  The first prevents them from aging with regular consumption, while the latter fuels their regenerative abilities.  They can harvest life energy involuntarily, but they prefer willing victims.  Additionally, their favorite method of draining life energy is through sex.     

Besoa [Beh-so-ah]: The Lower Nobility, or Under-Lords, the Beosa are middle-managers and valued members of the Church and Bureaucracy, they who have been granted the right to gain more life.  Lore can grant them more life through their blessing, preventing them from aging.  The Besoa look exactly like normal people, but they have magical tattoos that show the rest of their lifespan, usually on their hands or chests.  The number ticks down at a normal rate, but when it reaches 0, the Besoa dies, no matter how healthy they are. 

Besoa also can give this life to others of their kind, though few are willing.  Many of the Priests are Besoa, especially the Pontifexes and Canonnesses.  These nobles of the Church are given large amounts of life and then allowed to dole it out to their subordinates as they choose.  Some also choose to sell the extra life they have- which is technically illegal, but is widely practiced.  Occasionally, the Fifth Order will arrest a Priest who is too showy or reckless, but Lore and most of the Church's leadership only really care about the semblance of dignity.  They don't feel the need to stomp out such practices or simply believe it to be too big a task to be undertaken.   

The other primary group that makes up the Besoa are the martial class, the Vishayu.  Vishayu are a dedicated class of fighters, each one granted the rank of Besoa when they reach a certain age.  They wear special armor and train for years to be able to use it.  They are the knights and heavy calvary of this world.  They fight and compete for the honor of receiving more life.  The most famous among them are decades older than they look with incredible amounts of fighting experience. 

Lofai [lo-Fai]: The common people of the Kingdom, they are ordinary and receive no magical enhancements. 

The Lofai are further split into two unofficial castes, though all Lofai are treated the same in theory.  There are the Lofai who work the fields and streets, those who work long hours in hard, unpleasant or dangerous jobs.  These are the lowliest of people, treated like chattel even if not technically enslaved.  Slavery is illegal, unless it is a criminal who has been tried and found guilty in a Clerical or Civil court.  The Lofai count themselves lucky that they are not among those wretches. 

Then there are those Lofai who have certain skills that the Nobility need.  These Lofai usually live in cities and enjoy more comfortable lives.  They are usually craftsmen and constitute the service class of the Empire, the tailors, woodworkers, goldsmiths, etc.  There is a strong rivalry between these Lofai and those who work in the fields.

It is generally impossible to move up to another Caste, unless you are elevated by someone with the authority to do so.  Very few citizens have that right, as it is a privilege given down by Lore.  The Elders of the Church, some higher Lords and Lore himself are the only ones who can do it.

The Empire:

Is divided up into Dominances: The Southern, Eastern, Northern, Western and Central Dominances. 

The Southern Dominance is the center for the Church of the Solar Emperor.  It hosts the holy City and secondary Capital of Tuskanor.  The Favored Son, or Grand Pontifex, lives there.  The City is a constant blizzard of pious celebration, sacrifice and disgusting levels of indulgence. 

The climate here is extremely hot, wet and rainy.  There are two seasons, hot and dry and wet and rainy.  The area is known to experience days and days of torrential rain during the rainy season.  People grow rice, beans and pumpkins.  The people here wear bamboo hats to keep the sun off them.  Both sexes wear boots.  Men wear wide trousers that can be tucked into their boots and colorful shirts with wide sleeves.  Women wear dresses that show quite a bit of leg with low-cut tops that show off abundant cleavage.  There are few nobles here, but almost all of them have strong connections to the Church.  The Pontifexes and the Canonnesses are the aristocracy here.

The Western Dominance borders the edges of the Unchartable Woods.  This land is a harsh one, with blistering winters and burning summers.  It is an old land as well, full of the ruins of lost civilization choking on ivy and guarded by towering trees.  The Old Magic is powerful here, the songs of the Fair Folk still echoing in the twilight groves.  People here have many peculiar superstitions.  They live in small, cloistered villages, keep packs of dogs and do not appreciate strangers, particularly those who might be shapeshifters in disguise.

Many of the isolated cities in the West are hotbeds of insurgency and heresy, with a history of rabble-rousing and trouble making.  The Fifth Order is always active around here, though no matter how many heretics they burn, they still find more. 

The Northern Dominance borders the Cold Wastes to the North and the Granite Sea to the West.  It's people are hardy and disciplined, having spent many centuries warring with the Geodes and competing for the mineral resources in that peculiar "sea".  They have little love for the Empire, but it helps them kill Geodes and for that, they will put up with Lore.  Despite that, the loyalists here are fanatical in their devotion to the Emperir.  Many monasteries that train warrior-priests for the Empire have property up here where they train young warriors to be zealous in their devotion to Lore.

The Eastern Dominance is the frontier, bordering the wildlands, inhabited primarily by the Beastfolk.  In truth, most of it is uncharted and untamed.  Lore's servants have been trying to settle it and drive out the natives, but it is slow progress.  This is the edge of the Empire and as far as Imperial citizens are concerned, the edge of the civilized world.  If someone wants to get rid of an Imperial servant but doesn't want to kill him, they send him here to lanquish in obscurity for decades or longer. 

The Central Dominance
is the most urbanized, as well as being the bread basket of the Empire.  It has the most people and hosts the Capital City of Alagadda, where Lore himself rules.

Humanity First:

The Empire is majority human, but non-humans are perfectly welcome, at least from a legal level.  But in practice, the policies of the Empire tend to favor humans, with a few exceptions.  Lore is the God of Humanity, according to the Church, and has chosen to dwell among them.  This often leads to a great deal of cultural prejudice against non-human races, which is not helped by the history of the Empire warring with many of the non-human kingdoms and Empires. 

Other Races:

The Dalfai are a race of artificial constructs with hearts of glass, iron or wood and bodies of similar materials.  They do not need food or water and have always been the rivals of humanity because of their distinct and alien nature.  The humans were often oppressed by the Dalfai, so when Lore rose to prominence, new wars against the Dalfai were begun.  The Dalfai were expelled from their lands and banished to places humans didn't dare to follow, such as the tops of nearly airless mountains, the Cold Wastes or the interiors of blistering deserts.  There it is said that they are waiting, rebuilding themselves and readying for a war of extermination, one that will crush the Empire and grind humanity down into nothing more than a colony of barely intelligent slaves. 

The Geodes are a race of subterranean folk who are blind, with smooth, pale faces and "hair" made of twitching antennae.  The Geodes use these abilities to navigate perfectly through the endless darkness of their caves and underground settlements.  Geodes do venture above ground, but they are not as effective above ground where their echolocation makes them less accurate.  Geodes and humans have always distrusted each other, but now they hate and despise each other, as humans have evicted them from lands that they used to own and thus forced them to retreat to their fortresses and strongholds in the Granite Sea.  The humans attempted to take some of these at first, but this ended in total disaster.  As such, now they resort to raiding each other, occasional skirmishes and guerilla warfare. 

The Hoba, or Little Folk, have always lived among men.  These days, they are valued slaves and servants of the Nobles.  They sell for their weight and gold.  Not all of their race is enslaved, many live in small, hidden villages throughout the Empire, where they receive special privileges from the local rulers in exchange for handing over a few of their people to be slaves and other exclusive goods they make.

Beastmen are a race created by a tribe of humans who were mutated into half-beast hybrids.  Beastmen can breed with anything as they are super-fertile.  Their intelligence varies from barely above bestial to far smarter than most humans, though such geniuses are rare among their kind.  Most are only average in terms of intellect.  They plague the frontiers and wage war on the forces of the Empire.  They are a wild and savage people who value honor and freedom and consider the Empire to be a totalitarian mess of cowards and bankers, who they despise.  They respect only strength, but are not as bad as they first appear. 

The Mermaids and the Gillmen are Aquatic races who are both opposed to Lore's expansion into the water.  The Mermaids because they claim the oceans and protest the invasion on Geopolitical grounds and the Gillmen because they were created to be weapons in Lore's war.  Thanks to the help of the Mermaids, the Gillmen were able to throw off Lore's control and now live in areas of the sea permitted to them by the Mermaids and not claimed by humans, or they war with humans for locations both want.  Despite the fact that they are both ostensibly on the same side, the Gillmen and Mermaids often do not get along, as they are rivals for the same territory.  Furthermore, even though they are seriously altered, the Mermaids still consider the Gillmen human, even though they have very little in common from them.

The In'arl are an artificial race created by Lore through the use of human infants and powerful black magic.  In'arl are psychopathic born soldiers with a lust for violence and glory.  They feel no guilt over hurting others and consider laws and regulations guidelines.  They are ageless and continue growing until they are killed.  The only foods they can eat are hearts harvested from those who die violently or food they have stolen.  Having learned his lesson from the Gillmen, Lore made the In'arl sterile, so they could not reproduce themselves.  Instead, Lore secretly manufactures more In'arl when he needs them, creating more in war and less during peace-time.   It is secret  that the In'arl were created by Lore, though it is known that they consider him their God, calling him "Father".  With this, plus a little information that is not as well concealed as the Church would like, and the origin of the In'arl can be figured out.

by Ian Joyner

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