Friday, September 25, 2009

Pellatarrum: The Dayspire & Creation Myth

Yikes. Would you believe I started writing this beast on Sunday?

As much as I'd like to have everyone believe I've thought of everything beforehand, creating anything is very much a matter of "Oh crap, how did I miss that, now I have to fix it," usually with much pacing and flailing about and sometimes smashing crockery. This week has seen me sit down to write something, only to discover as I'm arm-deep in creativity that not only did I miss something critical, but fixing it demands I radically re-think whatever I had originally planned.

As you probably know by now, I do not easily discard beloved ideas, but sometimes they gotta go. Fortunately, I had some very competent help, and while the replacement ideas may not be as elegant as what I originally planned, I think they make up for it with sheer nastiness.

So, onward with the post, and I hope it makes up for my recent silence.

In my Cosmology Overview post, longtime reader Mxyzplk asked a series of questions regarding light, shadow, etc, and it took me forever to realize what he was actually asking, which is this:

"Palette, it seems to me that given your description of this world, and especially in the cross-section of figure 4, that the disk of Pellatarrum evenly bisects the energy planes which produce day and night. This means that the "sun", if you will, is at the same height regardless of the time of day, and as such there are going to be really crazy sunrise-like shadows all the dang time. How do you address this?"

And I say, I blame my deficient art skills, because figure 4 is for representational purposes only and is not to scale and I should have said so in the first place. Sorry!

Properly addressing this confusion requires a multi-part explanation. I apologize ahead of time for the massive infodump this has become.

Part 1: The Dayspire
Assuming a perfectly smooth, circular track, and a horse that could sustain a 30 mph gallop, a rider at the base of the Dayspire that started riding in the direction of rotation at noon could just keep pace with the sun. This equals a diameter of 720 miles which, to put that in perspective, is two-thirds the size of Olympus Mons, the biggest mountain in the entire solar system.

Yes, that's the entire state of Hawaii in red.

Now, while the
Dayspire is smaller than Olympus Mons, it has one thing over on its larger Martian cousin: instead of being a cone, the Dayspire is a cylinder of usually consistent thickness (slightly larger at the base due to sloping, etc.) So when I say it blots out the sun (or the Energy Planes, same thing in this case) it really does eclipse it.

Now what's interesting about this is that sunrises -- we'll call them sunrises for simplicity -- are really strange because they're sideways. As you face the Dayspire, the sun will peek out from the right hand side, transit behind you, and then set to your left. The entire time the sun is in the sky, it is approximately at what we on Earth would consider to be 10:00 am.

So, sadly, you never get any high noons. On the other hand, everyone knows what time it is just by orienting themselves toward the Dayspire (easy to do on level ground, as this is a flat world and the Spire has infinite height) and looking at the angle of shadows on the ground.

But how is this even possible? We have to go back to the beginning.

Part 2: The Engines of Creation
The reason there are no gods on Pellatarrum is because they are all dead, having perished untold eons ago in a glorious Götterdämmerung that destroyed not only the mortal realm (Material Plane), but also the abodes of the gods themselves (the various Outer Planes).

Yes, you read that correctly. The entire Great Wheel destroyed, along with all the gods, demons, devils, angels, blessed and damned souls, and everything in between, because when all of their inhabitants were destroyed, there was nothing left to keep the planes in existence. This is the ultimate scorched earth, mutually assured destruction scenario.

Now, if you're a reasonably competent god, you know what's going to happen, and that it's unavoidable, because prophecies have been talking about this sort of thing for millennia. So you throw a hail mary by making sure at least some of your worshippers survive by relocating them in places you hope won't be destroyed and instructing them to keep believing in you no matter what. You play the long odds that you won't be forgotten and will get prayed back into existence.

As it turns out, the enclaves which survived were located on the various Elemental Planes, probably because they were considered to be a cosmic ghetto by the various deities. Does Vulcan reside on the plane of fire? Does Pele? No, they live in the Outer Planes. Elementals don't have souls, the gods reasoned, and therefore they were below godly notice.

Or, to put it another way: in case of Nuclear War, Antarctica simply isn't going to get hit.

So these races made their homes on the Elemental Planes, and while some died, others managed to adapt and thrive. Time passed; races interbred and evolved. Eventually, they became the dominant cultures there.

But a funny thing happened, or rather didn't happen: the gods never returned. This was partly due to loss of worshippers, who either resented their god for abandoning them or lost hope after years of unanswered prayers, and partly because it just takes a huge amount of time and prayers to not only re-grow a god, but also create his divine plane from nothingness.

However, systems have a way of balancing themselves. Even without their gods, the Priests could still channel Positive and Negative Energy, and from there it was a short step to worshipping the Energy Planes themselves. Souls must come from somewhere; why not the cosmic fount of creation? Positive Energy forms the souls, which then progress across the Elemental Planes where they are incarnated into the faithful, and when they die the souls either return to their source of creation for another go-round or they are judged tainted and are consumed by Negative Energy. It's clean, it's elegant, and it even answers certain questions like "Without gods, who answers my prayers?" Answer: the souls which exist as pure energy. Not turly a god, more like a hivemind consciousness, a basic operating system of worship. Input prayer, output spell.

More time passed. The dominant cultures on each plane become planar aristocracy, and are what we now call Genies (the Djinn, Efreet, Marid, and Dao races). In turn, they created subservient races: Dragons (air), Dwarves (earth), Elves (water) and Orcs (fire).

Yet more time passed, and the slave cultures of each plane realized that their fortunes would never change without direct action. Yet their masters were too powerful to overthrow, and there is no other place for them to go where they can be free. Unless the old legends are true...

Eventually, the sages of the four races come to the conclusion that since the old Material Plane was a combination of all 4 elements, it should be possible to create a new one using resources siphoned off from each of the Elemental Planes.

It was a dangerous undertaking of epic proportions, one which cost hundreds of years and countless lives, but in the end, powerful magic and ancient artifacts were used at the heart of each plane, and thus the Engines of Creation began to make a new Material Plane.

TL;DR break inserted here. Continued next post.


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