Monday, August 31, 2020

The Mortai, a redo.


By Christopher Robin Negelein     Artists: HeyouRelax

Some context, first.

I’m gearing to dig deep into expanding the Solar Sails setting soon and that means fine tuning various aspects of the universe. As a start, I did a little play test to judge the reaction of gamers who weren’t invested in my patreon. Even crazier, I did it as a Cypher system demo.  Good news, it was a success as both setting teaser AND a Cypher demo. *Fist pump!*

One of the new beloved changes maybe come to the formerly undead heritage, the mortai, who now have transformed into something a bit odder and cooler but they essentially keep the same origin story.

(And just in case some readers need more back story, Solar Sails is a fantasy world where a mysterious cataclysm, the Sundering, broke the world into islands floating in a starry void. Oases of life, these bastions are protected by cocoons of hurricane winds and mysterious forces that allow void craft to only enter and exit at one point. The setting focuses on the Flow, a web of trade route among bastions that sustain a civilization of sorts.)


On that ancient day when the Sundering changed everything, there is one fact among the survivors. They were all lucky … for a time. 

From the most humble to the most mighty, ending up on a bastion was a roll of the cosmic dice but the mortai were the ones who smiled - and spit on the dice. Metaphorically of course since they no longer have any lips -- or spit. 

For even after landing one of the bastions, those chunks of the former world called Eyrie, there were no guarantees. Many -- a very, very many -- of them failed. Some took mere days to lose their air or gravity while others took months. 

From what the mortai have discovered of themselves, those months were not wasted. Someone, through either magic, alchemy or even perhaps a supernatural bargain, began a ritual to create new vessels for their souls. An anchoring effigy that could withstand existing a lack of air, heat and food to cheat the hand fate dealt them.

Each effigy is built with all the flexibility of living limbs and with a mask that is assumed to resemble the original living face of the mortai. The craftsmanship dedicated to the wooden, jointed body makes each one a masterpiece. Arcane energies were woven into arms and legs for movement and charms inlaid to give voices to carved, immobile lips. 

There was another price, however.

Each of them have lost their living memories, not able to recall their original names or even their identities, or even the details of their transformation. Thus, no new mortai are “made” in the current day.

In those early days, different mortai communities faced their new lives in different ways after the transformation and the amnesia. Some tired to carry on in what they assumed to be their old lives, making guesses and trying to get lost in the routine of it all. Most such bastions came apart within half a century, falling into insanity or worse.  Others decided to go into a long sleep, gambling the future would bring something better. 

Some of those mortai came to with literal rude awakenings when confused and terrified void ship scavengers found themselves surrounded by life-sized wooden figures standing up to face them. But after the dust settled, many mortai ended up joining up as valuable crew members who didn’t need air, or to be fed. Those mortai could also now explore the new universe that had bloomed around them as they slept. 

As they take in the wonders around them, many mortai believe they have beaten the odds and been gifted a second chance -- and they are going to make the most of it. 

Appearance. The mortai are souls locked into an effigy of wood and ceramic, many of them look uncannily like life-sized dolls or marionettes with no strings. 

Having traveled through port cities and other cultures, most mortai dress fashionably though not always in the local fashion. Barring that, many prefer styles that hide their thin wood frames. Others find additional charms or glamours to make their masks more expressive or stained wood appear to be skin. They never completely hide their true nature, unless the mortai is a spy or a charlatan. 

Adventurers. While there much few mortai than other heritages, a higher percentage of the are adventures given their lifestyle of either being travelers or crew. Compared to being a dead bastion, one that constantly teases the back of their minds of a previous life that ended in tragedy, many more go seek what’s just on the edge of their vision as they stare out beyond the Void.

Without a need for air or food, many void vessels welcome them onboard. A mortai can often quickly earn respect and trust, eventually becoming first mates or even legendary captains. Some follow more scholarly pursuits when they run across something that fascinates them while others use their extensive travels to become scouts, guides and consultants to those who allegedly want some shared wisdom on their travels.


Go, Ganza! Go. 

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