Many groups have left their mark on the memory of the world. A few are listed below.
Content Warning: Mentions of war, death, death cults, and general morbidity.
An undying storm has isolated Basedt from the outside world for over 100 years. Inside the city’s walls, time is normal, and life is good. But outside, there is no life, no death—only a hateful ash tundra, a predatory woods, and the hellish space between.
Disaffectionately called the “Wall Watch” by those they are sworn to protect, members of the Stormwall are both saints and pariahs. They are tasked with maintaining a holy wall that shields the city of Basedt from an eternal storm, and the nightmarish world that it created outside.
They are also the only individuals permitted to leave the city.
Some are called to serve the Stormwall out of a morbid attraction to the abyss, seeking freedom and answers from the long ash tundra. Others are dispossessed and desperate for the food and board provided by the Watch. Others yet have little else to live for. All are considered untouchables by the rest of the city.
For it’s said that two funerals are held for a Watchman: The first on the day of their conscription, and the second on the day they go missing. Basedt is ill-equipped to understand the Watch, or the intense grief shared by its members, but camaraderie within the ranks is strong—and it’s this sense of kinship that is, perhaps, the only thing standing between Basedt and the brink…
- Makame Asanttu
- Mersaine CeDicci
- The Free Companies
- The Manazthati
(… And unknown)
The Free Companies of the Ash Tundra are, by all rights, a Thing That Should Not Be. The ash tundra itself is a non-place, a hellish wasteland where men perish but do not truly die. The dead are cursed to rise as hungry ghosts, to pick and scratch at their vacuous bodies and feast on the flesh of the living.
So it’s said, anyway.
The Free Companies are comprised exclusively of these ghosts— called Sauntiaq—and are the only community of scale to roam the ash tundra. Their purpose is singular: to provide for one another in a world that refuses to. To this end, the Companies carry out the impossible task of finding food in a world that supports no forage or game.
For all Sauntiaq are faced with a dire ultimatum: Eat, or return to the deathless inertia from which they were born… Frozen in the twain between life and death, forever.
- The Manazthati
- The Stormwall
To understand the Manazthati, you must first understand the deep wound that drives them to do the things they do.
100 years ago, the city of Basedt was plunged into an endless storm. The world as they knew it was razed, the land gutted like a fish and set on fire. It burned for eight days; time stopped on the ninth. What remained was a wasteland choked by ash and snow, isolated from the outside world by a Storm that Would Not Die.
Though the survivors of this cataclysm could not be called lucky, one small mercy remained: The holy walls of Basedt, which sheltered a remnant of the old world. They flocked to the city and eked out a new life for themselves, in the face of this strange, cold world.
But the people outside of Basedt’s walls have had no such luxury. The ash tundra is spiteful and supports no game, no food. Hunger is a constant companion, and death provides no relief from it. Those who “die” in the ash tundra are, in fact, trapped inside of their frozen bodies, forced to straddle the twain between life and death forever.
The Manazthati are born from this— The blood on the ice, the starving Sauntiaq, and the countless Watchmen who disappear without a trace. They consider this world to be so cruel that the only ethical thing they can do is finish what the storm started, those many years ago.
Doom-driven cultists of the very god that brought the sky crashing down, few things stand between the Manazthati and manufacturing the end of the world.
(Killing tooth to willing neck)
- The Snake
(Over and over and over again)
- Ashahel Anu
- The Free Companies
- The Stormwall
The high Asthaom desert is no stranger to adversity. No one has escaped the touch of its Thousand-Year Drought, an environmental cataclysm manufactured in prehistory through the abuse of its rivers and waterways. No one has escaped culpability for the drought, either. As its people recover from a bloody war for water, so too does the desert heal.
The scholars and diplomats of high Asthaom, the Lexarcs are a worldly bunch who have their fingers in many pots. (Too many, according to some.)
They operate out of the city of lights, Lin Dai, where they maintain the most extensive public library in the world. By all rights, the modern Lexarc is the face of true scientific curiosity: They honor the spirit of their namesake, Saint Lex, who held a fierce desire to understand others— and the world around her— above all else.
But an unspoken sense of urgency and shame shadows the organization’s pursuit of knowledge. Lexarcs are often called “Asthaom’s apology to itself.” In many ways, they are.
100 years prior, a very different order of Lexarcs marched on Asthaom. They were firebrands and archers, swordsmen and slingers who rallied under the hateful dogma of the false god Motu. Asthaom’s only war culminated with the entire Lexarc order defecting from Motu’s steel grip, leaving behind hundreds of ex-soldiers too wounded in mind and body to reconcile with the incalculable violence they had committed.
It was this wound that birthed the modern Lexarc. There was a need for a body of science that made sense of how Asthaom got here, and how to prevent this from happening in the future. These ex-soldiers co-opted the order’s name and radically changed its purpose, to prevent any remnants of the old guard from spreading Motu’s sickness.
Today, Lin Dai leads the global theater in research on anti-war policy. The world has not seen a major conflict since.
It’s hard to know where to begin with the Sentinels. They are largely ex-criminals, ranging from petty thieves to cold-blooded killers. They were once a de-facto militia, laying down their lives to protect their home during Asthaom’s only war. They now preside over a vast subterranean city as social servants, peacemakers, and civil engineers. With each statement they seem to contradict themselves, but those they serve don’t see them as contradictions.
Perhaps because they aren’t. The Sentinels are the result of what is considered to be the world’s most successful and compassionate criminal justice system. The average Sentinel is themself an ex-con, who takes on Asthaom’s most grave offenders and mentors them through a holistic program of social service, mutual aid, and cultural renewal. In the process, nobody is left behind. Belonging within the ranks is so strong that few are willing to leave once they have been deemed fit to; many Sentinels go on to serve for the rest of their life.
The efficacy of this system is a global curiosity which other nations have attempted to model, with mixed results. Even its veterans shrug, when asked about the secret of their success. There’s some things you simply can’t explain to somebody who isn’t a Sentinel.
Somewhere between a public works project and a monastery, the Temple is the physical and spiritual backbone of the city Merike. Its parishioners follow in the footsteps of the god Koda, who sacrificed herself to protect her people from a wrathful sea.
The Temple’s constituents come from all walks of life, and no two adherents share the same faith. Likewise, gods come and go through its canon much as people do, and it’s mothered several of high Asthaom’s splinter faiths.
Its parishioners do hold one thing in common, though. Whether they view it as a holy burden or a civic duty, each has a responsibility to the Stormbreak Quarter— the great wall held up by Koda herself, in the face of the tumultuous ocean black. Although the god has retreated from public life, the Temple remains the manager of the city’s great Wall “on purely logistic grounds.”
With good reason. Should it fall, the city would be wiped off the face of the earth. It’s no exaggeration to say that Koda and her faithful cradle the lives of uncountable thousands in their hands.
- The Lexarcs
It’s said that the island of Mercasor was plucked from the mainland and thrown into the ocean black, where it hid for thousands of years… And that’s not even the weirdest thing that’s happened to it. Strangeness bleeds out of Mercasor like blood from a wound.
The Justiciars are social servants of the city-state Normunt. They answer to Iondreal, the city’s Chief Justice and beloved Grey Eminence.
Somewhere between lawyers, interpretive rangers, and social workers, a Justiciar’s day-to-day work is mostly public service. They maintain city infrastructure, serve as community liaisons, file paperwork, mediate petty disputes, do coffee runs, give directions to tourists, and so on. Their work has become so mundane over the years that it’s customary to tease them for their obeisance, when they come running to fix a problem—any problem—just to have something interesting to do. “It’s been 36,525 days since our last accident…” Or so the joke goes.
Most consider this to be a sign that they’re doing their job right, though. There are more days when Normunt’s courthouse stands empty than when it holds a hearing. Civil disputes are rare, and violent crime is almost unheard of. In a city that considers such conflict to be a failing at every level of society, the Justiciars are a last resort: Shouldering the courts as their most grave responsibility…
(The Aberrant God)
- Deadeye Brun Nakamura
- Erin CeDicci
- The Church
100 years ago, the world was plunged a thousand times into a thousand separate calamities. Each was removed from the other by geography and circumstance, but married by time—occurring simultaneously across the globe. Together, these events formed a wound so great that they spontaneously birthed magic into the world.
The Church was born in the aftermath, to shaky-handed mages that held holy everything touched by this event. This went on to become their North star, their founding tenant: All beings share a fragment of something greater than themselves, and magic is incontrovertible proof of this.
In truth, this guiding principle was an act of rebellion against the man-made gods that dominated the world before magic. But although it was founded by rebels and radicals, the Church made a fatal oversight. No parishioner could have foreseen the false prophet climbing through their ranks, co-opting their ideals for much darker purposes…
- Redmond Faraday
- Jesse Cauldwell
- The Justiciars