Pimander : Lore
1. The History of Three Cities
Three Cities lies on the west coast of a vast land. As the name suggests, it is comprised of the combined metropolitan areas of three constituent cities that have grown into one another over the years.
The northern urban core is Serenity, a sleepy seaport popular with families and retirees. The southern urban core is Reason’s Edge, a lawless city of smuggling and criminality. Sitting between the two lies the commercial city of Blacktree, home to bankers, politicians and mafia. Anyone who has money has interests in Blacktree, even if they happen live in a quiet mansion in Serenity or a penthouse in Reason’s Edge.
The chief power in Blacktree and therefore Three Cities is a being called Avarice. In this land, the values people strongly believe in are manifested and made flesh by the combined energy of their minds. The more virtuous sorts are dubbed Virtues, while the more sinister are the Vices. There was a time in Three Cities when it was common to see many vices and virtues personified in avatar form, and the people, seeing these personifications in the flesh, formed cults around them.
There have been ages in the past in which one cult or other achieved a semblance of supremacy, but none as great as today. Society in Three Cities became increasingly materialistic and apathetic to the point where, one day, Avarice decided to sweep the other cults away in a surprisingly bloodless coup. Though many of the avatars survived, the diminishing of their cults go hand in hand with a diminishing of their personal power. Without many believers, the avatars are greatly weakened.
It is in this age that Virgil finds himself. Though most people in Three Cities could be described as human, a significant minority have evolved into humans known as awoken. Awoken manifest psychic, magical or spiritual power as supernatural abilities of many forms, but most significant is their ability to boost the power of avatars they choose to follow.
Virgil is an awoken who did not choose to follow Avarice, but neither did he choose any other avatar either. Many of the awoken are in this non-aligned position and rather than belonging to any particular cult, they formed an alliance for their own interests known as the Windwalkers. The Windwalkers broadly stand for a society of balance and freedom, something that Avarice has rather crushed.
2. The Citadel of Wayland
Far to the east of Three Cities, well outside its greater metropolitan area is the city-state of The Citadel. Originally a monastery built on a mountaintop, dwellings were built on the lower slopes, which over time were subsumed into a burgeoning fortress-city that has maintained its independence for millennia.
This city is ruled over by Wayland, the current steward. Some say he is one of the ancient sorcerers, others claim he is an avatar, but all can agree he has been there for generations. Indeed it has been in the region of three centuries since Wayland’s stewardship began. The city-state has flourished in this time, and its uglier past has been mostly forgotten.
Before the coming of Wayland, The Citadel had been governed by wielders of wild sorcery. These ancient sorcerers created many creatures and artefacts of wondrous power and hailed themselves as brave pioneers for all of humanity.
Indeed they were! The upper reaches of the citadel are littered with what the man on the street would immediately dismiss, as ephemeral garbage pertaining to some unfathomable purpose. There are baubles and contraptions and well… junk but, all oddly free of dust or decay. There is even the odd statue that appears to breathe once in a while. Surely just a trick of the light?
A more knowledgeable sort would see these artefacts for what they are. A warp field generator in functional order, recently used soul filters and energy capture crystals that are used to operate enchanted mechanisms are all easily recognisable and what is more, indicate that there is at least one sorcerer still inhabiting the upper reaches of the citadel.
3. The Sorceress, Pandora
Nearly two millennia ago, Pandora revealed a soul phylactery that would provide her damnation.
It was in the heights of The Citadel, in the chambers known as the Sanctuary of Sorcerers. The walls were cut from smooth black marble, cool and gentle to the touch. The air softly moved from unseen breezes and light danced upon every surface. It was the dead of night and the halls were otherwise still.
Pandora was neither young nor old by this time. She had accomplished much, had many an adventure and yet felt as if her dreams were unfulfillable. Impossible is often revealed to be very possible however, if one can find the right inspiration or moment. Pandora felt as if this moment was now and the inspiration lay within a sarcophagus known then as Heart of the Citadel.
This sarcophagus belonged to the founder of The Citadel. Even at this time, the sarcophagus was already ancient and the occupant had turned to dust. At least that was the theory of the occupant, as nobody Pandora knew had had the courage to open it. Every sorcerer had been intimidated by the ravening power flowing from the sarcophagus into the very stone of the citadel itself, which breathed life into the very fabric of the fortress.
No harm could come to the citadel because of the Heart. Every so often some sorcerer of the past or other would blow something up, and yet the masonry would fly back together and be as good as new. It was supposed that opening the Heart may imperil the structural integrity of The Citadel itself, for all have heard of sorcerer’s towers collapsing the moment their magical power is removed. One might hope that a sorcerer would build an architecturally sound tower for a change, but this has never been their forté.
There were sorcerers from before Pandora’s time who had been reckless enough to attempt opening the Heart, but the heavy stone lid had not moved and the sarcophagus is otherwise impervious to entry. It would be fate or nay, destiny, to open the Heart and perhaps this is what thrilled Pandora the most. Being chosen. It was quite the surprise then that the lid of the Heart yielded easily on its sturdy metal hinges, revealing… a blackness that tugged the mind into its bottomless maw and Pandora’s soul was ripped from her body.
It was a curious thing then, to not be dead. Indeed, Pandora’s mind felt… well, bigger. More encompassing. She could feel the The Citadel as if it were a part of her, the city-fortress as an extension of her being. Her human body lay beside the sarcophagus, now an empty vessel. Closer scrutiny revealed an ethereal silver cord that attached it to an object inside the sarcophagus… a small box inscribed in runic with a single word: “hope”.
With a little effort, Pandora moved her mind back to her body and brought it to wakefulness. Snapping herself up, she fixed her gaze upon the tiny phylactery. She dared not touch it, knowing it has ensnared a portion of her being within and that it also contained other, apparently dormant souls. She dared not wake them. Not today. Perhaps some other time.
Pandora closed the sarcophagus. She was reeling with her changed nature as she staggered away, being different now and unsure on whether to call this fate salvation or damnation. The only word that seemed to fit was “anchored”. She could feel it that upon the death of her body her mind would find itself back here in the Sanctuary of Sorcerers. In time, a new body could be manifested with magic and rebirth would come soon after.
This was an exciting prospect. She would be able to take risks without fear of death, although the actual dying part would still be better avoided. What mission would she undertake? What project would be worthy of an immortal? Happily Pandora had plenty of time to decide.
4. Avarice of Blacktree
At the end of the conflict between the Vices and Virtues of Three Cities, the Cult of Avarice became the chief power.
Avarice himself was a smart being. Walking through the financial district of Blacktree, he looked like any other trader; neat haircut, expensive suit, tasteful accessories and just the hint of a pleasant cologne. He had a natural charisma and disarming air about him, the sort of person who’s annoyingly impossible to hate.
This charisma and talent for making himself and his friends disgustingly rich at everyone else’s expense had made Avarice popular, within his circle, and fantastically influential in politics. The masses were held in thrall by consumerism, quite uncaring about everything beyond their narrow comfort zones. Most people had the attitude that “the world was big, they were small, I have my stuff, and my stuff makes me happy.”
That was pretty much the state of Three Cities. Everyday life was pleasant enough, but with each passing day the populace was financially drained a little bit more and slid a little further into discontent. This is what happens when a Vice pulls the strings, and this did not go unnoticed by other powers.
The first power to intervene was naturally Pandemonium, one of the cosmic avatars that embody natural forces. Every citizen who curses their misfortune, rejoices at their good luck or otherwise has the suspicion that the hand of fate is upon them unwittingly feeds their mental energies to this guy. Pandemonium might joke that he feels especially refreshed on lottery night, because that’s exactly what happens.
Pandemonium’s first instinct is always to make trouble. He’s certainly not evil, as he’s as likely to perform a miracle as he is to do something unpleasant. The trouble is always that after every miracle, it’s only a matter of time before the something unpleasant happens. Nevertheless, the poorer and more desperate some of the Three Cities citizenry became the less they had to lose and the more attractive Pandemonium became to follow.
The followers of Pandemonium live for the moment. Many can’t see a future and trust themselves to fate, hoping beyond hope to see another day. A hardcore of awoken, on the other hand have devoted themselves to only living in the moment and to absorbing the very nature of Pandemonium himself. Pandemonium’s awoken followers are unlike their human counterparts in that their physical forms absorb his energy, even as their own devotion feeds back to him in a circle.
Members of the awoken cult are called the Fallen Angels. The human followers of Pandemonium however are just people with nothing to lose, or if they do it’s nothing they care about, or it’s just a calculated risk. It was these people that Pandora took pity upon on one of her visits to the city.
Pandora may be a sorceress of great power, but in Three Cities she appears unremarkable and is certainly not famous. Hardly anyone goes to the Citadel, and even if they did they are unlikely to have heard of her. The followers of Avarice and the followers of Pandemonium were leading Three Cities into ruin and misery and Pandora was unable to do anything about this alone.
She found that she was not the only agent of change however, and certainly not the only awoken. Other awoken, perhaps not great sorcerers like herself, but other awoken and ordinary humans had formed into independent political movements of their own. In these Pandora would find allies.
5. A Storm in Blacktree
The fracturing society of Three Cities came to see many weak political groups rise and fall. One such faction to spill out of the turbulence was a group of awoken calling themselves the Windwalkers. Years of activity and recruitment by the Windwalkers lead to the evolution of a core group of exceptionally talented awoken, who became the Stormstriders.
Pandora’s activities within Three Cities brought her into alignment with the Windwalkers, even as she refused to join them formally. As they work together to undermine the grip of Avarice, Pandora becomes the friend of Walter, a veteran Windwalker and important member of the organisation. He gives Pandora an attaché called Fey Clementine who will later serve Pandora in the Citadel as her right hand and lieutenant.
Frustrating years pass the Windwalkers by as they make little impact on local culture and politics. Avarice is as imperious as ever. The Stormstriders hold a council of action and decide on a radically dangerous new approach: they organise an assault on Avarice directly and roll the dice.
The assault on the bastion of Avarice is dramatic. Avarice lives within a glittering tower at the heart of Blacktree’s financial district, and the Stormstriders descend from the clouds to strike the penthouse level directly. Thunderbolts shatter the walls and awoken swoop into the building, darting through the corridors, seeking to make quick work of their target. Any human would quail at their terrible power.
Avarice cracks a smile when he hears the first explosions. Unsurprised, he lingers in bed. He will rise when he is good and ready, and his companion is only just stirring from her sleep. Outside his bedroom are powerful awoken bodyguards who draw even greater power from their proximity to avatars. They would be strong enough if it were just him, but Avarice shares his living quarters with lesser avatars in his service. Envy and Pride are two. In the case of Lust, she also shares his bed.
Neither the Stormstriders nor Pandora had any idea just how much power avatars possess in their nexus of power. The psychic energies of an entire city enraptured by Avarice flow to him and his allies, and he meets their thundercrash with a supernova. As the forces meet, the Stormstriders’ attack is obliterated. Pandora dies. A few of the Stormstriders warp out before they are annihilated and go into hiding, far, far away.
The assault has gone terribly wrong. Although the Stormstriders are shattered, few of the ordinary Windwalkers are involved. Fey heads to the Citadel to attend to Pandora’s resurrection and recovery. Walter stays to rebuild the resistance and in time recruits an awoken street movement lead by Virgil, a tough, caring sort but without the answers to big questions.
Virgil takes Walter on as a mentor and uncle figure up until Walter’s later retirement to the Citadel. His stories about the long struggle keep Virgil amused and focussed, though the problems of Three Cities appear as unsolvable as ever. Instead of attempting the big problems, Virgil keeps things simple and goes up against local mafia in the service of Avarice. However, even this relatively minor trespass against Avarice would not go unpunished.
6. How to Fail at Sorcery in Style
The annihilation of the Stormstriders was a painful memory for Pandora. Never before had she witnessed so much talent wiped out in a single day. Her own life had ended also, but thanks to the soul phylactery in the Citadel her death had been a minor inconvenience. Fey had arrived from Three Cities to help with the necessary rituals that sped up her resurrection immeasurably.
What powers avatars had! With the energy of Three Cities behind him Avarice had been invincible. The only sensible solution would be to somehow inspire his thralls to leave him and embrace another idea, something that appealed to them more than immediate material comforts. That would have been impossible in better times, but these days discontent was in the air.
Pandora decided on the concept of Justice. People were always complaining about the lack of it, so clearly it was a possible avatar. If society was out of balance, surely Justice would be the one to rectify it. The choice seemed rational enough, but at the time there was no avatar of Justice walking around. It would have to be created by siphoning mental energy from the populace, carefully filtering it through arcane apparatus before condensing it into physical form.
The high reaches of the Citadel were full of such apparatus. The main issue with performing this task in the Citadel was that the populace here was not at all the same as the one in Three Cities. Here people lacked the same concerns and burdens, and so the mental energies they could donate would be different. Nevertheless, Pandora got to work with the soul stones and began the arduous task of condensing an avatar from raw psychic energy.
The being Pandora brought forth called herself Mercy. She was born with language and great knowledge, for she had been drawn from the many minds of the Citadel’s citizenry. In many ways she was still young however, and did not really know herself. It would take time before Mercy truly knew what she represented, or the powers that she would wield.
Mercy was not the only resident avatar however, for there was another who would prove something of a tutor. This was Pimander, the cosmic avatar of Creation itself. Physicists would surely love to interrogate Pimander for the secrets he possesses, for he knows every natural law. Pimander is a relation of Pandemonium however, which means that he does as he pleases. That is more often to tease mortals about things they don’t know yet, and to keep them guessing well into their graves.
Pandora is somewhat fortunate in being long lived, and Pimander has found her refreshing. In ancient Pimander’s experience, you would blink and a mortal had expired of old age. Not so Pandora. So it was that Pimander enjoyed her company and aided her on her projects. Pandora’s assistant Fey is somewhat besotted with him and together they look after Mercy in her early new life.
It becomes clear after some time that Mercy is not the avatar of Justice that Pandora had hoped to bring forth. Pandora prepares a new ritual to expand Mercy’s scope. New energies are channelled and the ritual is begun… which is where this tale ends and the game of Pimander begins.
© 2014-2019 Tilveran.