Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Gods of the Illyria Setting

Had a bit of an epiphany the other day on how to organize and refer to the various godlike beings of Illyria.

In the Eucumene, people worship spirit beings descended from dead intelligent beings (mostly hominids, with possibly a few dragon-spirits thrown in for fear factor). These beings are called The Gods Beyond. They are organized into Hosts, ideological factions with sometimes conflicting philosophies. The general rule of the Eucumene is that these factions should coexist, with certain behaviors banned by all factions. Regular Synods are held to re-evaluate the list of proscribed behaviors and to invoke Inquisitions on those who step too far out of line. Heretics are punished by having their bodies slain and their souls bound into the forms of crippled Mules. To everyone outside the Eucumene, the Gods Beyond are daemons. Inside the Eucumene, they are angels. The souls of the dead are collected by the Gods Beyond, where they serve as spiritual fuel or as recruits for the Hosts. The goal of the devout is to become an angel after death. Some of the Hosts believe in a power higher than themselves, but there is no evidence that it exists.

In the Awakened Cities, people worship gods that they have created by building massive symbolic cities who come to life via sacred architecture, geomancy, and human sacrifice. Think of them as spiritual supercomputers. Each City is founded according to certain precepts that guide the formation of its personality and thought processes. Huge Necropolises house the faithful dead, whose souls feed the City-Gods and form part of the gestalt that is its personality. Each City-God has various incarnations within its own realm. Their power is tied to their physical form, and they can't co-exist too close to one another because they draw on the same ley lines within the Earth and cause interference with each other. The people of the cities are called the Awakeners. Those endowed with part of the City-God's awareness and power are known generally as Avatars.

In the Dominions, civilization was founded by Elder Dragons. The "good" Dragons are called The Gods Above. Younger Dragons are divided into those who are being watched and tested to earn the right to reproduce and those who have undergone neutering to be removed from the testing process. The "evil" Dragons are cthonic beings who dwell deep in the waters or beneath the earth, known as the Serpents. Collectively, the High Church of the Dominions espouses belief in the divine Trinity of surviving Elder Dragons. Each of the three Dominions--Samar, Cortado, and Tilan--favors a different member of the Trinity. There are also a lot of Mystery Cults devoted to the worship and teachings of "lesser" Dragons, including those Elder Dragons who were defeated by the Trinity long ago. In the Dominions, ghosts and spirits are things to be bound into service or destroyed out of mercy.

In Illyria, the Old Religion worships a kind of cthonic fungi, known as The Gods Below, that consumes the bodies and part of the souls of the dead, sometimes resurrecting their flesh in the form of ghouls imbued with fragments of their souls. The priests of the Old Religion are essentially a variation on vampires. It's like Aztec practices crossed with Druidism; a kind of crazed pro-ecology philosophy that believes in maintaining equilibrium and culling the herd of humanity to ensure that it does not upset the balance.

The Faeries are basically hominids with the innate power to communicate with and control certain spirits and strange organic technologies (the Low Faerie) left behind by a dead race. Their magic disrupts order. Though the High Faerie begin life as the most human of the godlike beings, the use of their powers and their alien environment inevitably drives them mad. They live by oaths and arcane rules in part because they need to have some sort of structure to interact with each other and to stay sane.

So, in the current storyline, readers will encounter the Awakened Cities, the Dominions, Illyria, and get various significant references to the Faeries and a few asides about the Eucumene. The main focus will be on the Dominions and Illyria.

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