Hello everyone; I am KaeZero. I have been working on this world for a long time, even though I haven't played an actual ttrpg with it. It was meant more for a novel (that I'll likely never write), so when I saw the ads on Reddit I figured I could share my world with everyone here at LiveTale. I hope you have as much fun reading about my world as I did writing it.
The story takes place in a world filled with an invisible force known as Aether. This energy can be manipulated by inhabitants of the world in many ways. It can be infused into objects such as medicine to strengthen its effects, forged into weapons to increase durability, or even absorbed by humans to lengthen their lifespan by those truly knowledgeable in Aether manipulation. This wild energy has also warped some inhabitants into beings who can harness the power directly instead of relying on tools like Numerology.
Alexander Lovelace was the first to discover the power of Aether. He found that crystals could store large amounts of Aether if infused properly, leading to the creation of Clear Stone. It had been known that living matter held Aether, and even fire produced an amount of it, but they all leaked it away. Alexander, though, discovered that crystals did not naturally leak Aether. Lovelace found that the more complex the crystal structure, the greater the amount of Aether that could be infused. When quartz crystals were infused with Aether, they became tougher than iron, but they would turn to dust after the Aether was completely depleted due to the stress of its release.
The invention of Clear Stone caused a technological revolution in the world. Engines powered by Clear Stone made travel faster and more efficient, with trains and boats outfitted with "Clear Engines" reducing travel time from months to mere days. This technological advancement led to kingdoms and countries competing for superiority.
It is worth noting that the crystals infused with Aether could only be recharged by those who possessed the natural ability to wield Aether. This meant that only individuals born with the talent to manipulate Aether could replenish the infused crystals. This limitation further cemented the importance of natural-born Aether manipulators in society, as they were crucial in keeping the engines and other Aether-powered technologies running.
Archimedes, Sorora's greatest numerologist and alchemist, had a vision of infusing crystals with Aether to make them accessible to common folk without the need for natural-born Aether manipulators. He created a formula to force Clear Stone to absorb Aether, but the resulting infusion made the crystal unstable. A slight movement caused the Aether to erupt, shattering the crystal and radiating out in a wave. Archimedes felt fatigued after being exposed to the wave of released Aether, but his peers dismissed his concerns since Aether had never been shown to be harmful.
The alchemists at Volun, however, were less skeptical. They began small-scale tests on the volcanic Island of Sinbris, creating a large clear stone that absorbed Aether in a one-mile radius. The researchers even had their own Aether ripped from them and absorbed by the crystal, but this was of no concern since the body's Aether naturally refilled. The researchers wished to see what a larger Aether wave would be capable of and did not cancel the process. However, unlike in Archimedes' small-scale tests, the crystal violently exploded, sending out a magnificent wave of Aether that stripped the Aether from objects it passed through, aged researchers, and rendered the environment barren.
The Sanaka, living on an adjacent island, felt shaky and lethargic for days after the wave crashed over them. Archimedes was horrified by the destruction caused by his formula and quickly had the Sanaka tribe move from the island to the mainland. He left his laboratory behind in Sorora and warned his colleagues against trusting Volun, whose research may be funded by them but without scientific progress in mind.
The news of the experiment's damage brought cheers from Volun's court, who wanted to cement their place in history with this new weapon. Sorora and Volun would begin collaboration on a larger version of Clear Stone. Sorora grew a quartz crystal of sufficient size for this Aether bomb. Do would be the beginning of a catastrophe.
Sorora and Volun's actions did not go unnoticed by the barons of Uravvi, who watched all developing kingdoms from their flying city. Their vast information network allowed them to learn of the experiments conducted on the Island of Sinbris and the creation of a much larger version of Clear Stone. Archimedes' formula did not come as a surprise to them, as they had already discovered it themselves. However, they had hoped that the formula would not be discovered by other nations for a few more years while they worked on a countermeasure.
The progress made by Sorora and Volun was alarming to the barons, who voted on how to proceed. Some wanted to continue observing and rush countermeasure studies, while others proposed welcoming the two cities into the Uvvari and beginning negotiations. However, the majority voted to remove the two cities as a possible threat to the rest of Niahtera.
The Uvvari sent messengers to both Sorora and Volun and while Sorora welcomed them with great fanfare, Volun had darker plans. They laced the food given to the messengers, placing them in a deep sleep, and then sent a message to their spies in Sorora to make it look like the Sororans had killed the Uvvari. However, the Uvvari messengers were able to communicate with their colleagues back in the flying city using projection, exposing the Volun's treachery.
After a week-long discussion, a decision was made to either remove both cities or cripple Volun. However, the practical chief baron, Lorraine Yew, invoked the right of Ultima Verba and put the two options up for a vote. The vote was split 40 to 60, but Lorraine knew that a two-choice decision required at least 80% of the vote. Therefore, she announced that the Uvvari would proceed with the second choice, which was to cripple Volun. She also nominated Stephan Lovelace as her successor, leading to several months-long debates among the barons.
Ultima Verba is a right that was not used too often, as it abruptly ended a chief baron's time in charge. However, there was no arguing with it, and Uvvari moved quickly to enact the chief baron's decision.
Over the days that followed the meeting, the Uravvi made moves to cripple Volun's stability without bringing them to ruin. Information was collected, Volun court members were bribed, and in only a few weeks, Voluns court was in turmoil. Rumors and gossip did most of the work, everyone suspected backstabbing from the others. After all, Volun was a court of schemers. A few of the members of the higher court and the king himself had seen through the Uvvari’s actions, but any mention of foul play only led to further paranoia. This was only exacerbated by the idea that the Uvvari had already removed Sorora. No messages were being replied to, and the messengers Volun sent on foot never returned. Other trade routes and even their ports had become barren. The Volun king and his advisers had not expected this quick and powerful response from the Uvvari; how could a single city have so much power after all?
The upper court made a last desperate attempt to save their kingdom. They would release one of their captured Uvvari messengers to send a message. The message was as follows: “We wish to make amends. We have meditated on our actions and understand what we have done is unforgivable. Forgive our odious action, and we shall forever be Uvvari’s humble servants.” The messenger was not even out the door by the time the Uvvari received the message. Lorraine decided she would attend herself along with two members of the messenger’s sector as guards.
The meeting, of course, was a trap. The higher court had managed to get enough of the lower court to work together and pool their resources. They had a few smaller versions of the Aether bomb. They would use these bombs as a threat against the Uvvari as well as present the massive quartz obelisk. The obelisk would serve as a powerful symbol and a point of negotiation.
When the day came for their meeting, the populace of Volun’s capital saw a massive shining bird descend closer to the ground. As the Uvvari hovered above, a faint hum could be heard all across the Volun capital. The sight of the shining city had made the king’s taste sour. This was the radiant city. A city of legend, and he was trying to scare the builders of such a wonder with a hundred-meter rock. The king had already made up his mind, though. Today would go favorably for them. The obelisk would work; he was sure of it.
The king and his court watched as a much smaller ship descended like the one the messengers arrived in. Lorraine and her guards stepped out of the ship, their clothing that of scholars but accented with gold thread and jeweled bracelets on their wrists.
According to the messenger's recount, the meeting went as follows:
As Lorraine entered the palace, she commanded the attention of the room, surprising the male-dominated Volun court. They murmured amongst themselves, wondering who she was and why they hadn't sent more messengers like her peculiarly dressed entourage. However, they held onto hope that their planning would be enough to secure a favorable outcome.
"I would have hoped that a nation that scraped at our heels would have better manners than this," Lorraine began, her voice commanding the attention of the court.
The court was taken aback by her boldness and her attack on their financial state. The irony of their thoughts about her lack of manners was lost on them at the time.
The king rose to his feet and gave a short bow. "I am the king..." he started to say.
Lorraine interrupted him, "I am certain you are a king of many great qualities possessing a name to signify just that. But the fact remains, your nation violated our trust. We sent messengers as an olive branch and you bound them, one of whom remains in your custody even now. You also sent for those in Sorora to be murdered. I have no pity for such actions nor patience. If you do not impress upon me today that you will mend your ways and act in a way that the Uvvari find desirable, we will ensure your name will be wiped from the deepest recesses of history." She looked at the rest of the court, and her warning was clear.
The room fell silent. No one had ever dared to speak to the king in that manner before. The court was sure that the king would order Lorraine's execution then and there. However, the king remained composed.
"With all due respect, we have done a terrible thing. We were blinded by fear, you see. The Uvvari are... how should I put it, a people of myth. Many stories surround you, and we panicked," the king said, bowing once more. "That is why I released one of your messengers. I wish to have a proper discussion with your people. As for the other messenger, he will be released to you now." He gestured, and guards brought the prisoner forward, stopping a few feet in front of Lorraine.
Lorraine looked at the injured messenger, who was still gagged and had her arms bound behind her. "She's in a state of disrepair, don't you think?" she remarked.
"I will pay what you believe is fair for our mistreatment," the king replied. "I accept we did not handle the situation correctly. However, you must agree that your own response caused equal, if not greater, pain."
Lorraine considered his offer. "Our involvement with you has led to the loss of time that could have gone into research. The messengers, as well, are incredibly valuable to us. They are trained from a young age and are a significant investment. I concede that the monetary damage to your kingdom does exceed the monetary damage done to us. So, if you agree to be under Uvvari's supervision, we will recompense you twenty-three platinum coins."
The king's smile wavered, and he began to lose his patience. He was certain that Lorraine was important, and the two who stood next to her had not spoken once. Their light blue clothes marked them as messengers, much like the prisoner he had just released. He decided to move the discussion to a private venue, where he could capture them and use them as another bargaining chip against the Uvvari.
"Your generosity is truly great. Please, I welcome you to my humble estate. We can talk more at length in the comfort of my garden," the king said.
"I only came here to make our feelings clear. We shall be on our way now."
With a curt nod to the king and his court, Lorraine picked up the gagged messenger before making her way out.
“B..but of course,” the king tripped on his words as he watched Lorraine grab hold of his prisoner and walk back to the entrance of the courtroom. He couldn’t let her leave, they still had the Aether bomb, but something of that size was useless against a flying city. He had to act now. He raised three fingers in the air. A signal to the hidden assassins, yet another contingency he had set up. The king was nothing if not careful.
A click was heard, and then a bang. The court all rushed to their feet. They needed to get out and let the assassins do their work. If they had stayed, though, they would have seen a silver sphere spinning in the air in front of Lorraine. One of her escorts had a strained face, and a crystal on one of his bracelets shattered.
The Uvvari would not get a chance to catch their breaths. From behind, a pillar rushed out a member of the Puppet's hand. The assassin threw a silver rod above the Uvvari, drawing the attention of the messenger. The assassin took that moment to grab a vile from his coat, throwing it at Lorraine’s feet. At the same time, the messengers attempted to push the silver rod back, but the moment the controlled Aether struck, the tube script came to light. A blinding light and an explosive sound emanate from the silver tube, blinding the messengers and deafening all in the room. The assassin then began to withdraw, running over to the closest door.
Lorraine, at this point, was not scared, not worried, not even angry, just mildly annoyed. Clearly, the Volun king had cheaped out. The person who had attacked them had the crest of an initiate, and this was likely his mission to be fully accepted into the Puppet’s Hand. The silver rod was smart; blinding and deafening was a great idea, but it should have been done while the assassin was still behind the pillar. The vile he threw on the floor was clearly meant to release poison gas. Lorraine being a horticulture expert, was no stranger to poison. The injured messenger was still gaged so Lorraine squeezed her nose shut for a moment. Then she took out a seed from her pocket and placed it on the floor next to the broken vile. She placed her hand above it and moved Aether from her bracelets into the seed, causing explosive growth as the plant flooded with Aether. A peace lily that Lorraine had engineered to purify poison. Finally, she released the poor messenger’s nose.
Looking around, there was no sight of the assassin, and the court members had all evacuated; no doubt they knew about the poison gas. Lorraine then attended to her two guards. The light had been intense, and even though she had not been looking at it, spots still floated in her eyes. These two would suffer from some blindness if they recovered their vision. She led all three of the now-wounded messengers back to their ship. It had truly been a miserable day, Lorraine thought.
Once on the ship, Lorraine took control of the helm and moved to depart. A loud hum would then be heard across the city, not the one coming from Uvvari, but a much deeper, smoother hum. Lorraine turned to the source of the sound to find the obelisk of quartz had begun to glow. Someone had activated the Aether bomb. At this, Lorraine was truly terrified. A crystal of that size shattering would send a wave of wild Aether crashing against all of Talem. Being the practical woman Lorraine was, she came to a decision almost immediately.
She went over to the messenger whom Lorraine hadn’t bothered ungagging and gave her instructions as she unbound her. “Once I am off the ship, take it back to Uvvari; tell them the chief baron has ordered for the immediate ascension of the city” She stopped to remove one of her bracelets and placed it in the messenger’s hands. “Use this to show the validity of my order. And in the case I manage to stop that monstrosity, I would appreciate prompt pickup.” The messenger nodded and ran for the helm. Lorraine quickly made her way off the ship and watched it for a moment as it departed before she turned and ran towards the obelisk.
The Uvvari had known about the ability to overcharge clear stones for some time and had been developing ways to stop weapons such as the obelisk from causing major damage. Lorraine, too had applied her study of plants to this endeavor. If her plants could absorb Aether to grow quickly, perhaps she could create a plant that could nullify these bombs. She had designed what she believed was a potential candidate for such a task but had never field-tested on such a large scale.
Lorraine was stopped, though, by a figure standing before the crystal. The same initiate from before, dagger in hand and a silver tube in the other. Failure was not an option for the initiate, it seemed. Once again, he threw the silver tube into the air, but Lorraine had been ready this time. She closed her eyes and put her hands to her ears, her bracelets script glowing and filling the seeds in her ears with Aether causing moss to grow. The explosion rod was activated as it hit the floor, having not been jostled by Aether. The bright flash threatened to burn through Lorraine’s eyelids, but the light faded, and she opened her eyes. The initiate had dangerously closed the distance. Lorraine quickly pulled seeds from her pocket and threw them on the ground. The seeds erupted, creating a wall of evergreen saplings. The expanding trees struck the assassin’s dagger out of his hand as he defended himself.
Lorraine wasn’t a fighter, not really anyways; all Uvvari received was self-defense training, but fighting the Puppet’s Hand, even an initiate, was beyond her. She needed to end this quickly, or he would eventually overpower her.
The assassin, for his part, didn’t get discouraged; he pulled out a knife and threw it between the trees. Lorraine was not able to avoid it hitting her in her midriff. Lorraine cursed and backed away, pulling another seed from her pocket.
The assassin picked up his dagger and walked around the saplings. “It’s over,” he said. “The knife is poisoned.” Lorraine could only smile at the absurd situation, she had never thought she might die away from the city.
The assassin stalked closer to Lorraine. When he was only a few feet away, Lorraine acted; she threw the seed towards the ground between them and then ducked. The seed glowed with an excess of Aether and burst open. A giant Venus fly trap stood between the assassin and Lorraine for a moment. This time the assassin reacted by jumping back. It had been a mistake. The carnivorous plant reacted to his movement and struck, engulfing half of the poor assassin’s body. Screams could be heard inside the plant as its acids started digestion.
Lorraine didn’t have much time to contemplate the morality of her actions, but death by Venus trap was certainly not something she would like to experience. She headed quickly over to the quartz obelisk. There was Ryso Senben written on its base and completion runes hastily carved at the end. Lorraine noted that if she survived this, she would need to inform the Uvvari the Puppet’s Hand was starting to employ numerologists.
She had no tools to write reverse runes, but the crystal was already close to bursting. Even Nevero Senben couldn’t counteract the activation runes in time. She took a palm-sized seed from inside her coat’s pocket. She buried it underneath the ground and placed a bracelet above it. She then returned to her sapling wall and placed more saplings around her. She manipulated the trees to bend around her and fed them more Aether, completely encasing herself in an evergreen shell. She finally took some time to tend to the knife wound. She had resistance to many poisons due to her studies into plants like nightshade. Without knowing the poison the knife was covered in, Lorraine could only hope the Uvvari could retrieve her before her body died. All she could do was sit there patiently and wait for the crystal to erupt. She took out a final seed from her pocket and held it between her hands, black cherry frost, her favorite flower.
Lorraine’s body would be recovered by the Uvvari after the explosion, her hands still clasped over the seed. Lorraine would be buried in “Alexander’s Hall” where Uvvari, who had made great contributions to science, were laid to rest. The seed she had held onto would be placed in a garden named “Yew’s Nursery” in her honor.
The Uvvari would go on to help Sorora and the other inhabitants who managed to survive the Aether bomb. The barons would also go on to amend Ultima Verba. Although Lorraine was touted as a hero, it was also noted that a different course of action could have led to less disastrous results. No longer would a chief baron be able to make a final choice when it came to such a grave choice as erasing a city.
As for the land affected by the Aether bomb, it would slowly erode further. So much Aether had been ripped from the soil that it could no longer maintain its shape, and frequent dust storms would frequent the area. The land would become Talem’s desert.
Aether is a natural force that flows everywhere in the universe. Aether’s origin is hypothesized to come from an unknown source dubbed the “All Source” by the Uvvari. The “All Source” seems to be connected to all living things. Animals, people, and plants all seep Aether from their souls. Aether has been observed in other objects as well, though. The black sand on Sinbris contained Aether, and the ocean itself seems influenced by Aether. Large storms like typhoons have been observed to move concentrated amounts of Aether; whether the Aether causes the storm or simply is influenced by the storm is still a topic of great discussion amongst scholars.
Aether in the air around us is considered wild, Aether without shape or purpose. When the wild Aether is given a shape, it can be used to perform different tasks; start fires, create lightning, and increase the potency of medicine. The soul is a source of Aether that has also been shown to have a specific signature. A human’s Aether has a different shape/form than that of animals. Some Alchemists believe that building an artificial soul is even possible if they could only figure out how to shape wild Aether into its human signature.
There are currently four ways that sentient beings have been observed to be able to control Aether.
Numerology: by using either a true script or a false script (runes of power), one can manipulate the Aether according to the equation (runes layout).
Sanaka Aether control: people who have crystals running through their veins giving off a red glow (where their name fire blood comes from). The Sanaka tells a story of a warrior who stood alone against invaders; his bravery moved the spirit of the volcano from its slumber and granted him strength by imbuing his body with Aether. The Sanaka use the natural Aether crystals in their bodies by strengthening themselves, allowing them great feats of strength. However, the crystals in their body do not allow Sanaka outer Aether manipulation.
Natural Born/Sun Touched: The sun touched (as called by the Sanaka and the Aether beasts) are people who have been gifted by the All Source to manipulate Aether. People are born with different affinities. Depending on the affinity Sun Touched are born with, their ability to control Aether and how they can control it differs. With training, Sun Touched can learn other affinities, but it can take upwards of a decade for a Sun Touched to master an affinity their soul was not meant to control.
Aether Beast Aether control: Aether beasts are similar to the Sun Touched in that they have outward Aether manipulation, although it differs between the beasts. Aether hounds are great at using Aether in its raw state without needing to put it through a medium (imbuing items) first. Aether mice like to imbue items with Aether to play tricks on larger creatures, like causing seed pods to pop or even creating illusions. Aether mounds have not been shown to have any control over Aether; their only interaction documented is their feeding off of it.
Principles of Numerology
Numerology was created by the late Alexander Lovelace.
- Truth Script/Nevero Senben
The language/symbols used when manipulating Aether by non-natural-born manipulators.
Depending on the formula used the script has three basic actions. Projection, Activation, and Imbuing.
- False Script/Ryso Senben
- Similar to True Script, False Script is a more basic (shorthand) version of Truth Speak that the Uvvari introduced to the populace.
- A similar equation written in the false script will allow someone to use the three actions of numerology. The text having slight differences disallows for proper Aether flow and makes these effects much weaker.
- The Uvvari made this lesser form of Truth Script to give those without Aether manipulation some ability to fend themselves from Sun Touched as well as survive without the need of natural borns. The knowledge of Truth Script is not something the Uvvari thinks the general populace is ready for.
Ryso Senben also failed to include certain runes/equations that allow for certain Aether manipulation, such as the runes for Aether’s gravitational signature.
Types of Aether Control
- Sentient creatures, as well as plants, all have a soul. Each soul has a unique Aether reading; the Aether signal can be used to identify an individual (similar to fingerprints). By remembering the script that represents the unique signature, a Numerologist can send messages by directing Aether to travel to the unique signature. The Aether message is not so many words as they are vibrations that can be interpreted to have meaning (like Morse code).
- The basic application of projection is sending Aether waves to a target; if the equation is changed, however, this could be used as a weapon sending a lethal Aether wave at a target. For this reason, even among the Uvvari, the only ones allowed to learn projection are those in the messenger sector.
- Aether imbued in crystals can be activated using these formulas. Activation script can be used in different ways depending on the method the crystal was imbued with Aether. Activating unaltered Aether in crystals allows you to do simple things like making the crystal release the Aether over time (can be used as a light).
- Aether that has been imbued (see below) in a specific way/signature can be released in different ways.
- Everything in the world contains Aether in some way, whether absorbing it over time or naturally seeping it for living things. Using imbuing numerologists can shape wild Aether into having the same signature as Aether that plants have or that flames release. Activating altered Aether has interesting consequences because of this. Activating the Aether in a clear stone that has had Aether altered to have a flame's signature will burst out and turn into fire. By alternating the equation, the fire can be concentrated.
- The effects of Nevero Senben on altered Aether are drastically different from Ryso Senben, as an example. The Uvvari possess large cannons with clear stones containing Aether altered to have light’s signature. When activated, the ray of light released is hot enough to melt steel. A similar equation in Ryso Senben would have nowhere near the same explosive power.
- Without this principle, Activation would not be possible. Imbuing equations allow someone to force wild Aether to enter a vessel, in most cases quartz. Depending on the Imbuing formula used, numerologists can force Aether into a specific signature as it enters the vessel. An example of this is imbuing quartz with Aether in its light signature and setting the activation runes to release slowly, allowing for lamps. A more extreme example would be the Uvvaris flying ships. They force Aether into its gravitational signature, allowing them control over the gravity surrounding the ship; combining it with Aether's wind signature, the Uvvari have mastered the sky.
- Truth Script/Nevero Senben
The Sun Touched
The Sun Touched are a rare breed of individuals born with the innate ability to manipulate external Aether. However, their control over Aether differs at birth, with some being exceptional at imbuing but unable to project Aether. Nevertheless, the Sun Touched have a remarkable ability to manipulate Aether as if blessed by the "All Source" itself. Their name is also derived from their distinctive golden eyes, which set them apart from others.
Unlike the Uvvari's Nevero Senben, the Sun Touched can take imbuing to an unprecedented level. In fact, the Archbishop of Sorora, a Sun Touched himself, has managed to prolong his life by slowly infusing his body with wild Aether.
The Sun Touched have a checkered history within the world, with some using their powers for the greater good and others exploiting them to control or harm others. Alexander Lovelace recognized the stark contrast between Sun Touched and regular people, as some of history's most formidable warriors were defeated by powerful Sun Touched. However, with the introduction of Ryso Senben, the playing field was leveled, allowing knights to stand their ground and even fight against rogue Sun Touched, using Aether tools.
Despite their rare abilities, it is not the norm for Sun Touched to take on armies. Many have a natural affinity for one of the three basic aspects of Aether (Projection, Activation, Imbuing), which can be honed through training to expand their control into the other two fields.
Like the Sanaka, there are other creatures in the world of Niahtera that have a natural Aether flowing through them. This evolutionary advantage makes these animals almost appear as spirits with their opalescent white fur. Some of the elder Aether beasts even show the ability to manipulate Aether and speak through thought to other animals and humans (although they refrain from speaking with humans).
Aether beasts tend to be larger than other species similar to them, this is especially true for the Aether mounds. Aether beasts seem to display similar, if not greater, intelligence than humans. Even Aether beasts who cannot communicate through thought can learn and understand human language. Unlike other animals, aether beasts only have one or two babies at birth. Their long lives and intelligence make them similar to humans in this regard.
Aether beasts also appear to have a peculiar variation. Some Aether beasts will be born with two tails. Aether beasts with two tails only grow to be about half the size and live shorter lifespans. In return for these variations, these Aether beasts possess more fluid control over Aether. Other Aether beasts also see these two-tailed variations as bad omens due to how rare they are.
A well-kept secret of Aether beasts is the ability to link their souls with others. Aether beasts and people are capable of linking their souls together over several years. This link gives the linked individual Sun Touched abilities. The power is shared among the Aether beast and their paired person, meaning that both cannot influence Aether at the same time. Paired individuals who have been linked for a long time can also share their senses among themselves, seeing through the other’s eyes and listening through the other's ears. Human treatment of Aether beasts has led this to be a rare phenomenon, and an Aether beast must truly trust a person to bond with them.
Aether hounds can be identified by their four ears, two prominent ones at the top, with a smaller pair nestled just beneath and slightly toward the rear.
These ethereal creatures exhibit a hierarchical pack structure, with an authoritative alpha duo guiding the young, vulnerable, and elderly members. When the hounds accompanied the pack leader, Silbernes, on their extraordinary journey to the Ivory Isles, they functioned as a unified, formidable pack under Silbernes' leadership. However, upon arrival at the resplendent islands, the hounds reverted to their original, smaller factions, not being accustomed to such a large pack.
Now an extinct marvel, once standing as an awe-inspiring six feet tall on average. Despite boasting an impressive ten-foot wingspan, their flight was not solely reliant on their physical attributes. As with other Aether beasts, these magnificent birds could manipulate Aether, demonstrating particular prowess with wind and a secondary affinity for electricity. The Aether Phoenix was often seen soaring gracefully through the skies, especially before and during thunderstorms.
In the early days of human civilization, these beasts were observed flying in groups and revered as divine messengers. Enchanted by the opalescent feathers they shed, people constructed sacred shrines in their honor, laying out offerings of food and other gifts. In a symbiotic display of gratitude, the Aether Phoenix would bless their devoted followers with life-giving rain during dry seasons and healing for the sick.
Measuring a mere eight inches in length, Aether mice are the smallest members of the Aether beast family. These enchanting rodents possess incredibly soft fur and prehensile tails, which are twice their body length. The fur on their tails can be twisted and flattened, enabling them to grip objects with ease. They can also manipulate their body fur to clump together and, when reinforced with Aether, create sharp spikes as a defense mechanism.
Aether mice form large social groups, with communities of up to eighty individuals residing in a single den. These creatures prefer nesting in trees but will resort to constructing underground burrows in the absence of a suitable forest.
Often overlooked or actively avoided by humans, Aether mice are notorious for their playful trickery towards both people and other animals that venture into their territory. They delight in bending sound to create phantom noises and, when working together with fellow Aether mice, can manipulate light to engulf their targets in complete darkness. These mischievous antics have inspired legends of spectral hauntings within forests where these elusive creatures reside.
Aether Mounds, a species of Aether beast resembling tortoises, are easily mistaken for hills when they are sleeping. They can remain stationary for decades and subsist on the Aether emanating from the flora covering their shells. The inhabitants of Niahtera have yet to encounter a deceased Aether Mound, suggesting either a long life or a remarkable resemblance to the surrounding hills that renders them virtually invisible.
These gentle giants are the only Aether beasts not pursued by human hunters, as their thick shells and mastery of Aether render such actions monetarily unviable. Aether Mound mothers typically produce only one or two offspring at a time, incubating their eggs beneath their own massive forms. Upon hatching, the hatchlings remain hidden until they reach the size of small boulders, moving closer to the surface to absorb Aether and embark on their lifelong journeys.
Given their incredible lifespans, Aether Mounds have witnessed countless historical events, prompting scholars to dedicate their lives to befriending these ancient behemoths to unravel the mysteries of the world's past.
In the northern forests of the Talem mountain range, Skysong, a compassionate Aether hound, stumbled upon an abandoned infant girl. Normally, she might have left the child to her fate, but the sight of her own two-tailed hound pup stirred a sense of empathy within her. Perceiving a possible connection of fate between the cursed children, Skysong took the human baby under her wing, raising her as her own. She bestowed upon her adopted daughter the name Willow Skysong, honoring the human naming tradition. "Willow" was chosen for the trees surrounding their den, while "Skysong" was a tribute to herself as the baby's new caretaker.
Willow grew into a spirited young woman with a penchant for exploration. Alongside her Aether hound sister Fern, the two ventured throughout the mountains, their souls intertwined and sharing Fern's Aether control. Born naturally inclined to projection, Fern and Willow reveled in creating mischief during their youth.
Content with her life among the mountains, Willow still hoped to one day explore the world beyond with her sister by her side. Patiently, she awaits the perfect opportunity to embark on the adventure of a lifetime.
Born into the prestigious Lovelace family, Nikoli faced towering expectations from the beginning. His innate fascination with mechanics eventually led him to join the mechanic's sector of the Uvvari. There, he crafted automata powered by Aether, but his aspirations reached beyond his miniature creations. Nikoli wanted to engineer a "living" automaton, which required delving into forbidden knowledge from his family's library—studying Aether and the soul in secrecy.
Despite his family's attempts to instill into him the dangers of Aether, Nikoli's thirst for innovation and a penchant for rule-breaking prevailed. His covert research was eventually discovered by his aunt Ada, who, along with the rest of the family, decided to send Nikoli to the ground before anyone else found out. They feared his actions, if exposed, could tarnish the Lovelace family's impeccable reputation among the Uvvari, but most of all, Ada feared for the safety of her nephew.
Now, Nikoli traverses the expanse of Talem aboard his crab-like Sandstrider, a massive automaton that serves as both his home and workshop. Though distanced from his family, he continues receiving occasional stipends, a testament to Lovelace's history of strong familial bonds.
Henry Dee was born into a cold and unloving family, enduring a harsh childhood until the age of ten when he decided to run away. He survived on the streets of Sorora, relying on his wits and thievery to stay alive. At fifteen, a misguided trust led to betrayal and imprisonment. According to Sorora's laws, he faced exile into the wastelands. However, an apprentice-less doctor saw potential in the young boy and intervened.
Under the tutelage of the stern but well-intentioned doctor, Henry learned about medicine, alchemy, and human anatomy. By seventeen, he had mastered everything the elderly doctor could teach him. His life seemed to be taking a turn for the better until two members of the Puppet's Hand arrived at the clinic, seeking payment for a contract the doctor owed them. Unable to pay, the doctor handed over Henry as an indentured servant to avoid the ruthless organization's wrath.
Feeling betrayed once more, Henry vowed never to trust again. This hardened resolve served him well in his work for the Puppet's Hand. Under their guidance, he honed his skills, and before long, he became a master in the lethal art of assassination.
Hailing from a family that traces its roots back to war refugees from the northern continent of Kima, Selene Victoria's family had little to their name. They joined the Khan as laborers, making their living as fishermen. Unwilling to follow her family's path, Selene chose a different course and enlisted in the Iron Brigade.
The Iron Brigade, a mercenary force established by the Clover Tea House, was tasked with protecting the organization's assets in transit. Selene trained with the Brigade for several years, honing her dragoon skills. She learned to expertly wield a long gun, an Aether-powered rifle fitted with a bayonet. During this time, she crossed paths with Anne Malley, whose ambition to distribute Cuain's wealth throughout Talem resonated with Selene. Choosing to break from her family's tradition, Selene accompanied Anne on her mission.
Upon completing her training, Selene's family presented her with a priceless gift—a set of shifting armor they had carried from Kima. Composed of plates inscribed with Ryso Senben, the armor adapted to the wearer's movements, providing both support and protection.
As the heiress to the Malley trading company, Anne received a prestigious education, mastering finances, cartography, and the intricacies of the items traded by the Clover Tea House. Accompanying her family on trading caravans, Anne gained invaluable first-hand experience and developed a deep appreciation for Talem's diverse culture. Throughout her travels, she encountered less fortunate individuals, particularly those living in poverty on the outskirts of Sorora. This fueled her ambition to become a successful merchant and use her wealth to help those in need.
Anne's encounters with bandits taught her that not all people harbor good intentions, and relying solely on the Iron Brigade for protection left her feeling uneasy. Resolved to play an active role in her own defense, Anne joined the Iron Brigade, learning to wield a rapier and honing her marksmanship.
Now, Anne manages the Malley company alongside her ailing father, who remains in Cuain. Her two friends, Selene and Sua, whom she met during her time with the Brigade, accompany her on her travels.
Cairn of Finbris
In his youth Cairn was a fighter. He had worked alongside a rogue group of Sanaka as bandits. He had been known as "The Wall" during that time, deflecting blades and maces with his strength. The bandit group had succeeded; using their abilities, humans had difficulty fighting them off. The group would find themselves on the wrong side of the blade when they unknowingly tried to steal from a member of the Puppet's Hand. His group was mercilessly killed, and Cairn survived through sheer luck.
Cairn would be found by a family living outside Monsalta and taken care of until he recovered. Cairn could not believe his luck. He would go on to establish a Sanaka tribe at Monsalta to give back to those who helped him.
Holding the current position of chief in Monsalta, Cairn is a happy and calm individual, a great departure from his younger self. He watches over the day-to-day life of his tribe and organizes them to help with the construction of clay homes for those living outside of the dome. He will also set up feasts and festivities for those outside the dome. The Sanaka aren't allowed inside the dome, but that never hurts Cairn's mood; he is happy with his second chance at life.
Theodore Midus, the current Chief Baron, is known for his eccentricities. Among his many quirks is a passion for a unique form of taxidermy. As an expert in the alchemy sector, Theodore mastered the art of transmuting one element into another—a skill he discovered could also be applied to animals. In his youth, he ventured to the ground to catalog various species, transforming some into golden specimens for his collection.
Despite his unconventional interests, Theodore is a dedicated and dutiful Chief Baron, taking great pride in his work. Yet, he occasionally indulges in a bit of chaos for his own amusement. Having lived through no major crises, he yearns for excitement like that experienced by past chiefs, such as Lorraine. In fact, it was Theodore who first learned of Nikoli's fascination with living automata, and he encouraged him to explore the Lovelace family library, confident that any ensuing scandal would be contained.
Though he may appear antagonistic, Theodore is ultimately an individual seeking thrills. If faced with a threat endangering many lives, he would not hesitate to embrace his responsibilities and do everything in his power to stop it.
Supporting Characters and Entities
The Puppet's Hand
The origins of the Puppet's Hand, a notorious group of assassins for hire, remain shrouded in mystery. Countless tales circulate about them, making it nearly impossible to separate truth from fiction. Some even believe that their enigmatic leader is not human but rather an emotionless monster, given the sinister nature of the organization.
To enlist the services of the Puppet's Hand, one must simply inscribe their symbol and the target's name on a parchment. Discovering this symbol, however, requires delving into the darkest corners of society.
The Puppet's Hand recruits individuals who can be easily manipulated, such as orphans, outcasts, and those indebted to them. They do not, however, accept those who harbor a mere desire for murder. While assassination is their trade, they kill for money, not pleasure. Their brutal methods may be notorious, but they are equally skilled at making people vanish without a trace.
Members of the Puppet's Hand undergo rigorous training in blade mastery, knife throwing, poison crafting, and various execution techniques. The trials are so demanding that some initiates have perished during the process. To become a full member, trainees must complete a client's assignment successfully. Failure to do so once may result in severe punishment—humans, after all, make mistakes. However, a second failure guarantees a fate far worse than death.
An adept in the Aether blade, she an initiate of the notorious Puppet's Hand. While her preferred assassination method is direct, this approach backfired during her first attempt at becoming a full member. Given a second chance, Sua was tasked with killing a reclusive merchant in Sorora.
Approaching her new assignment with caution, Sua discovered the merchant's connections to the Malley family. She learned that Anne, and the Malley heiress, had joined the Iron Brigade. Sua then falsified documents to infiltrate the Brigade and befriended Anne and Selene. Though her plan would take time, Sua was determined not to fail, as her assignment had no strict deadline.
Sua did not choose the life of an assassin; rather, it was thrust upon her. Like Henry, she was handed over to the Puppet's Hand when her orphanage could no longer support its many children. Out of the six orphans given to the guild, only Sua and a boy named Loyd managed to reach the final assignment. After learning of Loyd's gruesome fate following his second failure, Sua resolved to avoid the same outcome, no matter the cost.
Growing up in a small fishing settlement in southern Talem, Gustav led a simple life—fishing, doing chores, and playing with the other children in town. His life took an unexpected turn when he stumbled upon a seemingly new boulder on the beach that turned out to be a moving, injured Aether Mound. Though unaware of the creature's true nature, Gustav spent hours caring for the giant tortoise, tending to its wound, feeding it, and sharing stories. Eventually, the Mound grew comfortable around Gustav and began speaking to him, revealing its name as Gir Erste.
When the poachers responsible for injuring Gir Erste arrived in Gustav's town, the villagers informed them about the tortoise to avoid conflict. However, Gustav was determined to protect his friend. Armed with his axe, he confronted the poachers alone. Though inexperienced in combat, Gustav managed to hold them off until he was overpowered and knocked unconscious.
Upon awakening, Gustav found Gir Erste standing protectively over him, with the poachers nowhere in sight. Three large dents in the sand only indicated what had transpired. Gustav was grateful that his friend was safe and didn't dwell on the details.
Gustav and Gir Erste embarked on a journey across Talem as they matured into adults. Along the way, they will cross paths with the main cast, offering assistance in times of need.
Uvarri: The Radiant Bird
Uvarri, the brainchild of inventor Alexander Lovelace, was built using his family fortune to safeguard the use of his invention, the Clear Stone. Despite his passing before its completion, Alexander's trusted circle of confidants, his wife, twin daughter, and son, faithfully followed his blueprint to bring the city to life.
Uvarri's design draws inspiration from the extinct Aether bird, which captivated Alexander's imagination as a child. Large sails harness the wind on either side of the city, working in tandem with large Clear Stones situated beneath and around its edges. These stones, imbued with gravity Aether, control the city's lift.
In the act of compassion, Alexander's wife later insisted on the addition of a rainwater collection system, recalling the drought-stricken towns she had witnessed in her youth. A mechanism was built that channeled clouds through a vacuum at the front of the city and extracted water using water Aether-infused crystals; it was then distributed the water to barren settlements below via an intricate network of pipes.
Uvarri's layout reflects Alexander's vision for academic excellence, with distinct quarters dedicated to various Aether-related fields of study, including its effects on plants, its integration with alchemy, and its applications in projection, activation, and imbuing. As new disciplines emerge, the city adapts its structure to accommodate the expanding knowledge base. Each sector is governed by a Baron, initially appointed by the field's founder and subsequently elected according to Alexander's guidelines.
One of the later additions to the city's scholarly pursuits was the exploration of Aether's potential for information sharing. This field quickly evolved into a dedicated messenger service, facilitating communication between Uvarri and the nations below. These messengers, skilled in projection, also serve as protectors for Uvarri's scholars during their ground-level research trips.
-Uvarri's Foundational Principles-
Uvarri's city structure is based on a sector system, each governed by a Baron. Collectively, the Barons maintain order, enact legislation, allocate space for new fields of study, and preside over elections. A Chief Baron, chosen from among them, mediates the Barons' discussions but holds no greater voting power. The Chief Baron's unique authority lies in the exercise of Ultima Verba.
Barons are elected every three years and must not be apprenticed to a researcher. Candidates must secure a majority vote from their sector's inhabitants. The Chief Baron, elected every six years, cannot serve consecutive terms, and those invoking Ultima Verba forfeit the chance for future reappointment. Uvarri's researchers vote on Chief Baron candidates, who must gain a majority vote and endorsements from one-third of the current Barons.
While Uvarri champions the pursuit of knowledge, its citizens must focus on a single field of study. Members may explore a new discipline only in its introductory form (Ryso Senben). Expulsion from Uvarri awaits those studying multiple advanced fields (Nevero Senben) or teaching prohibited subjects. However, unanimous citywide support may reverse the banishment.
Citywide decisions demand a democratic process, with each citizen granted a vote and Barons' votes counting double. The majority's choice prevails, though far-reaching decisions necessitate an overwhelming majority. In cases with only two options, an 80% majority is required.
Aether control principles guide Uvarri's research, with the Projection sector exclusively handling its potentially harmful applications. If a military use arises, only select Projection sector members, chosen by the Barons, may access this knowledge.
Uvarri, a city dedicated to improving the quality of life through Aether research, serves as a balancing force among nations. If a nation's knowledge threatens global safety, its removal may be justified, pending adherence to Uvarri's regulations and an overwhelming majority approval.
As a non-militaristic entity, Uvarri prioritizes defense and knowledge preservation over aggression. In the event of an attack, retreating is the preferred strategy, but deadly force is permitted if escape proves impossible.
The pursuit of knowledge and the advancement of human understanding are Uvarri's primary objectives.
Recognizing the potential for decision-making deadlock, Alexander established the Chief Baron's right to exercise Ultima Verba, or "the final word." This power allows the Chief Baron to make a conclusive decision, provided it doesn't break established core rules. Chief Barons utilizing Ultima Verba are immediately relieved of duty upon their decision's execution and are ineligible for re-election. This safeguard stems from Alexander's observations of absolute power's corrupting influence on other kingdoms.
Sorora: The Spiritual Kingdom
Once a prosperous empire, Sorora was a neighbor to the powerful nation of Volun. Today, they share a border with a large desert. Sorora was once the top exporter of quartz, but the damage caused by the Aether bomb led to difficult times. Without Volun's help, their economy suffered, and their quartz production declined.
To fix the situation, the Archbishop decided to reduce Sorora's borders, leaving some towns and settlements on their own. This tough decision allowed the kingdom to recover and regain stability. Eventually, quartz production increased again, but it never reached its previous levels.
Nowadays, Sorora is outpaced by Monsalta and Cuain in trade but has become an important pilgrimage site. People from all over Niahtera travel to Sorora to ask the Archbishop for help with healing, prophecy, and spiritual growth. The Archbishop is seen as one of the few kind-hearted Sun Touched, and his presence helps Sorora stay relevant.
Monsalta: The Domed City
Monsalta is the agricultural heart of the Talem continent. Built atop the remains of Volun, the city's founders were initially unaware of the abundant quartz deposits in the area. Monsalta began as a refugee town for those fleeing wars in the northern continent, Kima, and eventually transformed into a massive domed city. Talented quartz craftsmen, who had escaped the war, worked with early city leaders to create a structure that would shield them from the harsh environment. They constructed a small dome using clear stone and interlocking iron beams, which comfortably housed a few hundred people. The dome also provided protection from the desert, allowing for successful crop growth, and cleverly channeled rainwater into reservoirs.
Over the years, as the city expanded, a larger second dome was built, with designated areas for plants, housing, and a research quarter for alchemists. This research quarter later evolved into the "Alchemists Guild," responsible for creating a curriculum for future alchemists.
Monsalta's citizens are hard-working and divided into three essential sectors, each designed to emphasize the importance of individuals, regardless of their strengths or weaknesses. While each sector is crucial for the city's survival, some individuals within the Elit and Belor see themselves as superior to the Lar. After all, without them, there would be no vegetation in the barren land upon which Monsalta stands.
As the city continued to grow, clay huts were built outside the dome to accommodate those who could not fit within the city, typically the Lar and Sanaka.
The Elit consists of individuals who tend the crops and plants, track the weather, and decide on the seasonal planting schedule. These people are skilled at infusing Aether into objects and revitalizing crops during droughts or disease outbreaks. However, directly infusing Aether into plants is generally avoided due to plants being poor Aether containers, and only experienced Elit can infuse plants without harming them. The preferred method is infusing Aether into the water, allowing plants to absorb it slowly, although this is challenging during droughts.
The Belor is composed of alchemists who create Aether-infused potions, focusing on improved plant growth and pest control. They also produce medicine and serve as doctors when needed. Only those who have graduated from their apprenticeship at the Alchemist Guild can join the Belor. They are knowledgeable about combining various chemicals and understanding their effects on the human body.
The Lar comprises the common folk, further divided into professions such as cobblers, smiths, builders, bakers, and carpenters.
The Ivory Isles: The Archipelago
In the years following the experiments, the Finbris Archipelago was renamed the Ivory Isles by explorers from the western continent who "discovered" the islands. A few remaining Sanaka inhabitants shared the archipelago's history with the explorers, but after so many years had passed, these stories seemed like legends even to the native Sanaka.
The explorers returned to their kingdom, telling tales of barren, bleached-white lands so inhospitable that only the resilient Sanaka could survive there. As these stories spread to other continents, they were embellished and altered with each retelling. Eventually, the cursed lands of the Ivory Isles became infamous worldwide, portrayed as a place devoid of life and even Aether.
Later, Aether hounds came to inhabit these islands, bringing humans. Together, they slowly restored the once-barren islands. Today, the Ivory Isles serves as a sanctuary for the descendants of the Sanaka, humans who fled their war-ravaged lands, and the Aether hounds seeking peace.
Cuain: The River Port City
Cuain is home to three prominent trading families: the Malleys, the Barbaros, and the Khans. Together, they form the "Clover Tea House" alliance. The city was initially settled by the Khan family, who were fishermen using the river for transportation between the town and the ocean. A few miles upriver from the Khans, the Barbaro family lived in a small settlement, working as loggers and trading timber with Sorora.
The Malley family, originally from the western continent, were traders who found themselves stranded on the Ivory Isles after a storm disrupted their journey. With the help of the local Sanaka, they managed to salvage some cargo and reach the mainland, where they traded with the Khans for lodging in their settlement. The Malleys established a farm and continued trading with the Sanaka, who had saved them. Eventually, they formed a contract with Aether hounds for Bezoar stones, used in cure-alls, allowing them to compete with the other two families.
Recognizing the potential for mutual benefit, the three families joined forces to expand their settlement into a thriving city on the river's shore. Through the Clover Tea House alliance, the combined wealth of the Malleys, Barbaros, and Khans led to the creation of a small yet prosperous city.
Potential first story arc