Part III – Advanced Cultures of Calydorn
The Mortan Empire
The most technologically advanced civilization on Ghorn is the Mortan Empire. This is in part due to their total rejection of humanity’s gods – the Asrae, thereby requiring them to seek other types of power. Necromancy, ancestor worship and other magic go a long way towards filling that gap, but technology is also a key ingredient of Mortan culture. That said, the focus of Mortan technology is primarily for war and destruction and embodies the dark side of technology.
Civilian applications do arise as spin-offs of military technological development, but the empire is careful to keep its scientific advantages secret, and so the Technostratum maintains a close watch and control over which technology is available to citizens, lest it fall into the hands of enemies through trade. The following is a description of the Technostratum, which appears as part of the Mortan faction chapter in the Godslayer background book.
Logic, science, and self-determination are some of the foundations upon which the empire is built. The Lichelord emperors had already acquired considerable technological knowledge before the formation of the empire, indeed it was their estranged brethren, the 20 repentant Godeaters, who created the scientific wonder of the Gnostic Cabal. Technology was at first merely a shiny bauble to draw the gullible masses away from worship of the Asrae, but in time its potential was realized in other ways. Science provided the mathematics which built aqueducts and bridges, and the formula for concrete which built basilicas and arenas, as well as the lore of mechanics that built war machines.
When the armies of the early empire collided with implacable foes, one of the Lichelords’ responses was technological advancement. Dozens of diverse disciplines thrived, employing thousands of artisans, but soon the Lichelords grew concerned that this knowledge might fall into the wrong hands, and so they rounded up the masters and lay upon them bonds of secrecy, forming them into a brotherhood. Thus was the Technostratum born.
Conclavus Segreta – The various guilds, colleges, laboratories and factories of the Technostratum are staffed by an army of laborers and artisans who are managed by a corps of administrators, but safeguarding the technological secrets under lock and key is the Conclavus Segreta. All senior positions of the Technostratum are held by members of the Conclavus whose access to knowledge is regulated according to their rank. The brotherhood is made up of the finest scientific minds in the empire – inventors, scholars and masters of the various disciplines – and is headquartered in the city of Barbonum.
Universitas – This social institution of learning maintains academies in each major city in addition to the vast campus located in Barbonum, which covers a quarter of the city. The Universitas teaches all but the inner-secrets of the various technical disciplines.
Fabricati Guild – Whether it be weapons and armor or the everyday tools used by the four bureaus of the empire, the Fabricati Guild runs the forges, factories and workshops that manufacture items on an industrial scale for the servants of the empire; everything from sappers’ shovels to scribes’ quills. The "machine city" of Hetatium is the heart of this industry, where ghastly contaminated factories produce hellish chemicals, mixed according to formulas devised by the Alchemists, including inks, dyes, paints, rubber, oils, waxes, sealants and leather-tanning chemicals. Toxic spills, explosions and poison clouds are a common occurrence in the factories. Hetatium also hosts the insufferably overheated forges, where armor and tools are cast with little regard for safety, making molten spillages and fires common hazards. Suffering under the inhumane conditions of the Fabricati factories are the working-poor and hereditary slaves; only the empires mines could possibly be more dangerous or arduous to work in.
Craftsmen’s Guild – Key to the success of the Technostratum are the craftsmen of Morvannum who produce finely worked parts for the more complex and precise devices of the Empire. This Guild also crafts the glass, ceramics, clockworks, optics and precision tools so vital to every facet of the sinister sciences.
Alchemists Guild – New chemical weapons are concocted by the most depraved and talented minds within grotesque laboratories crammed with yards of convoluted glass apparatus holding bubbling chemicals, seeping condensates and circulating gases. Promising formulas are tested on convicted criminals and the horrendous results carefully observed and catalogued. The Alchemists Guild also manufactures the highly secret and deadly concoctions not divulged to the Fabricati Guild such as poisons for spoiling enemy wells prior to invasion and quick-acting, fatal toxins for the eradication of enemy leaders. Workers assemble poison gas bombs, naptha canisters for fire-lances, spitfire bombs of sulfur and black-powder, barrels of flammable tar, smoke bombs of zinc chloride and aluminum and many more sinister creations used by the Ingenium Militorum.
Ingenium Militorum – This branch is made up of the Technostratum’s soldiers who support the legions with technological weapons, as well as the sappers and technicians who build the siege engines.
Mechanicus Guild – In Venitum the finest mechanical war-machines on Ghorn are assembled, used in every Mortan campaign and fortifying every Mortan town. These deadly devices include bolt-throwers to bring down monstrous foes and catapults to engulf enemies in burning tar or acid. New siege equipment and fortification methods are developed in Venitum, where Mortan Sappers and Architecti Engineers learn their trade.
Ethership Guild – It was the Technostratum which back-engineered the system of Ethership flight by establishing the correct frequencies and configuration of Etheryte crystals to produce lift. The Technostratum operates a fleet of almost 50 airborne war galleys which can be equipped for devastating aerial bombardments or for landing legion troops inside defended fortifications.
Perhaps most terrifying of all the Technostratum’s inventions is the Talos – towering metal giants designed to smash city walls and trample temples beneath their steel feet. Recently a new branch of the Technostratum known as the Biomedicus Guild was established, and charged with developing truth serums for interrogation and combat-elixirs to enhance the battlefield performance of troops.
Mortan Civilian Technology
As a result of the empire’s deep experimentation into alchemy ordinary citizens have access to useful, mundane items such as soaps, detergents, waxes, sealants, lubricating oils, lamp-oil, tars, various salts, medicinal substances, distilled alcohol and perfumes, etc.
Although relatively poor, Mortan citizens enjoy the benefit of mechanical devices not available in most other cultures such as: gas-lamps, pulleys, pumps, gears, wooden looms, spinning wheels for making yarn, springs for suspensions of chariots and carts, industrial ovens for baking bricks, and even simple printing presses.
Water-wheels and windmills power flour mills and factories, while freight elevators, cranes and water-pumps are often powered by human slaves or oxen. Mortan engineering has also enabled the creation of some relatively advanced items including fine paper, ink-pens, sextants, telescopes, theodolites, clocks and compasses
Steel was traditionally a secret of the ancient Earth-Gods and known only to Earth-Worshipper blacksmiths, however, the ancient Gnostic Cabal cracked the secret of Crude Steel, and the Mortan Empire was able to re-engineer the formula. The Mortan Empire's advancement was the ability to generate higher temperatures using the elemental material called Pyrite (condensed, purified elemental fire). Because of this they are able to die-cast steel on an industrial scale rather than crafting them in a traditional forge.
The resulting quality is a much inferior grade of items then True Steel, and cannot compare to so-called Nordgaard Steel (which includes several special ingredients and which is manipulated on a molecular level by Earth-Magic). Nevertheless, the Technostratum guard the secret of its formula closely. Nevertheless, Mortans have access to cast-iron items for horseshoes, swords, knives, agricultural implements, construction tools, wire, and chains. Household items, surgical instruments and stirrups etc. continue to be made of copper, tin and bronze. Steel is not allowed into the hands of the general civilian population.
The lives of poorer citizens are made easier by running water, public fountains, sewers, irrigation channels and flood dykes, while the rich enjoy luxurious bath-houses and libraries crammed with literature, geographic gazetteers, meticulous maps and scientific texts.
The entire empire is a machine which could not function at all were it not for the advanced transportation network. While most cultures have rutted dirt roads or use dried-up rivers in summer, the Mortan Empire has a vast network of canals which are in constant use for both commercial trade and military logistics. Excellent roads and bridges provide access to more remote regions, while well-engineered walls provide secure defense against attack. Many fortifications even incorporate a measure of earthquake protection with multiple solid and flexible layers.
The Mortan Empire is today the most advanced nation on Calydorn, but their accomplishment are eclipsed by the ancient culture called the Gnostic Cabal
The Gnostic Cabal
The Gnostic Cabal represents the zenith of Technology on Ghorn. Legends say they were a mystical culture which developed technology as a means to enable the common man to free himself from daily toil, so they might dedicate themselves towards their enlightenment paths. To the citizens of the Gnostic Cabal, there was no conflict between mysticism and technology, rather they blended and complemented each other. The Technology of the Cabal was certainly less sinister than that of the Mortan Empire and provided citizens with even more benefits than the empire does.
Their academies mapped the realms of philosophy, mathematics, architecture, masonry, astronomy, astrology, hypnosis, alchemy, numerology and untold other arts and sciences. Their geometric towers reached into the sky, telescopes stared deep into the cosmos while their foundries crafted crystal mind-muskets and sound cannons. As the Gnostic Cabal they were known, and the armies of their Confederated Republics marched beneath the banner of the Chalice of Knowledge.
The greatest technology mastered by the Gnostic Cabal, and one which was iconic to their culture was the power of crystals. Crystals occur naturally on Calydorn and early Cabal masters learned how to grow them, creating vast crystal farms. Their surviving texts claim that crystals consist of elemental atoms, arranged in an ordered pattern. With crystals the Gnostic Cabal was able to magnify and amplify the properties of the purified primary elements, Etheryte, Fryganite, Pyrite, Terryte as well as the powers of Styganite and the 12 Keraunoi. Crystals also enabled information to be stored upon them and acted as exotic energy batteries. Their crystal cannons magnified the power of elemental Pyrite, blasting their enemies; their crystal libraries formed the largest repository of knowledge ever compiled, while other crystals aided them in their esoteric meditations.
Matrices of crystals were employed to amplify elemental Glacinyte (pure distilled matter of elemental Ice), enabling their ships to pass effortlessly across the waves. Cabal explorers mapped the coasts of all of Calydorn, drawing portolans still used by sailors today, while Subaqua Crystalships traversed the ocean floors.
The Gnostic Cabal also harnessed lightning, learning how to catch it with huge fields of lightning rods and how to store it in a kind of battery. They then manipulated the lightning for use as weapons or as a power-source.
The Gnostic Cabal succeeded in stealing the formula of crude steel from Earth-Worshippers but their skill in working it was rather limited and the quality of the material was never much of an improvement on bronze. Because of this, Bronze remained the most common metal of their culture.
The empire of the Gnostic Cabal which encompassed Pharalan, Zephyr, western Ghorn and the Dawnfire Lands was wiped out thousands of years ago and their items mostly perished with them, although legends say some remain hidden in crystal stasis chambers.
Most Cabal cities on Calydorn were built with traditional polygonal architecture and contained several of the techno-mystic devices common on Zephyr. The Grotto was one of their greatest experiments – it was a fully advanced Cabal city containing all of the wonders of that civilization. For a start, it was built underground in three artificially excavated spherical caves, each 5 km in diameter. These were illuminated by small suns created by mixing star-dust with Pyrite. Above the ground floated dozens of lightning catchers which shot the lightning down onto a vast metal grid to power canons and other devices. Within the grotto, scores of mechanical devices pumped up hot water from underground. A network of metal girders crisscrossed the caverns, allowing transport from galleries on one side to the other in gondolas.
Within a lower chamber was built a grid containing tens of thousands of crystals. This was known as the crystal abacus and apparently used for making calculations. The walls of other chambers were patterned with purified elements and Keraunoi crystals which could generate almost infinite combinations of Keraunoi and elements – bathing the mystic masters in kaleidoscopic changing powers, during their mystic meditations.
Shortly after it was completed, the world suffered the solar death, the Malentian invasion and the Dark Age, and much of the city’s wonders were destroyed. Many Cabal settlers returned to Zephyr, and the city was overrun by Elder Races.
The Cabal’s Etherships used crystal matrices to amplify Etheryte, allowing them to soar through the cosmic sky to other worlds and moons of the cosmos.
Perhaps their greatest accomplishment was a series of crystal satellites which they placed across the skies and even as far as their colonies upon the other worlds and moons of the cosmos. These crystal orbs were able to transmit communications in the forms of light.
Some of the wildest legends describe immense projects undertaken by Cabal colonies located among the moons and worldlets which grew massive pyramids of crystal floating within the cosmic sky. Their purpose remains a mystery.
The Curtain Falls on the Gnostic Cabal
The Mortans say that the Gods of mankind were jealous of the accomplishments of the Gnostic Cabal and conspired towards its destruction. However it was the Malentians who conquered most of the Cabal empire’s lands and ruled them for 700 years. Eventually the Nine Woes visited upon Mankind by the Asrae wiped out the remains of the Cabal civilization along with the other empires of the Halcyon Age, and all that remains today are legends and anomalous objects buried beneath the sands of time.
Towards the end of the bitter and vengeful war between the Malentians and the Asrae gods, the Asrae cursed all Aetherions with infertility as a means to wipe them out. After decades of warfare in which both sides became progressively more desperate and evil, the morale and will to fight of the Malentian civilian population had reached its nadir, and this heinous act of the Asrae collapsed the Malentian culture into civil unrest.
The uprising against the Empress Malenta was ruthlessly crushed, but fully one-fifth of the population of Malentis fled into exile, renouncing their homeland forever, and Malenta was found nailed upside-down to a wall of her own chambers. The fleeing exiles settled amid the former Malentian colonies on Ghorn and Tonatopa, styling themselves as lords of Mortal vassal states. They founded the Realm of Ellyssar on Eastern Ghorn and Northern Tonatopa where the remnants of the Gnostic Cabal settlers lived.
The exiles renounced their vindictive and decadent ways, looking backwards to the Golden Age when their people lived in harmony with Mortals. So it was that the nation reverted to the ancient Dreamspinner philosophy and united with the descendents of the Cabal settlers of the Medarthan Peninsula of western Ghorn, in emulation of the philanthropic brotherhood. After several centuries of both cultures rediscovering their own ancient heritage, the two races began to fuse the Dreamspinner and Gnostic cultures together, bringing about a renaissance and establishing a rich culture which became renowned for its astounding art and architecture.
Elyssar is the smallest and youngest of all Aetherion cultures, but possesses a dynamism the others lack. It possesses the most advanced construction techniques on Calydorn, building immense and exquisitely delicate cities which look like hundreds of fairy cathedrals piled on top of each other. This magical building method is accomplished by creating a dream-structure in the desired location and gradually materializing it into reality through Dreamspinning magic.
Because Elyssar shares a border with the militant Mortan Empire, they have been drawn into a technological race to recover lost Cabal technology, and have re-engineered skyship construction and even supplied several to the Halodynes and other enemies of the Mortans in an effort to contain the burgeoning beast. Their knowledge of Cabal crystal technology is primitive and they have no way to grow new crystals, relying instead on excavating ancient caches on the coastal lands around the Azure Ocean.
Elyssar’s technology includes a combination of Dreamspinner techniques with devices of the Gnostic Cabal. Speis of Elyssar also work vigorously to steal secrets from the Mortan Empire.
The original Dreamspinner philosophy was aimed at re-awakening Dhannya from her cosmic dream by performance of great deeds within the dream-continuum. The Dreamspinners of Eyssar have settled today for more realistic and tangible uses of Dreamspinning. Like the Tinkers of the Wyldfolk, they are able to give people intensely vivid dreams and nightmares for pleasure or punishment, and on a higher level they are able to enact things in the Dreamtime Plane which then gradually materialize into reality. The Crystals of the Gnostic Cabal have enabled the Dreamspinners of Elyssar to concentrate this power, allowing them to materialize dreams with greater rapidity. Simple substances are the easiest to materialize, followed by solid objects composed of a single material. More complex items have been created by the most advanced Dreamspinners, but in the Material Plane, only object which have already existed there can take on reality. In this way Elyssar was able to create crystals for amplifying Etheryte for the building of their skyships even though they have lost the know-how to grow the crystals naturally.
Militarily, Elyssar demonstrated its power on the Mortan city of Velium, the capital of the province of Hesperium. This was in response to repeated incursions by the Mortans into Senanmar. At first the locals barely noticed the sudden appearance of three tiny hills triangulated upon the city. These hills were created by upraise earth as the Dreamspinners gradually materialized three crystal prism devices into reality. Once created, these crystals were used to focus the creation of the next phase. Over the following five days, citizens began to notice an odd gaseous smell as flammable oil was materialized into existence within the ground, walls and roofs of the city. On the sixth day, the city of Velium burst into flames, perhaps caused by the simple dropping of a chisel onto a granite flagstone. The city burned for three days, and only 50 of its 200,000 inhabitants escaped.
Elyssar is currently at the beginning of a renaissance as the two recovered technologies begin to be used in conjunction and to be combined with other technology.