Loremageddon 2019, Day Seventeen: The Artificer, Undead Society, Canno’s Isolation

Hello everyone! I had a pleasant but decidedly long night last night, so we’re coming in on the later end of the day today. First, the machine-building entity known as The Artificer, then a glimpse into social life–or afterlife, as the case may be–among the undead, and then a peculiar phenomenon: the sheer extent to which Canno, in certain eras, seemed to be shielded from outside supernatural influences. So, without further ado:

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Snippet #1: The Artificer (World: Creation’s Fringe)

The Artificer bears no other names, nor offers any thoughts upon the name it’s been given. The Artificer leaves whatever alien emotions drive it unspoken, and heeds no greetings from gods, demons, and mortals. The Artificer exists to build, and to send forth whatever it builds into Creation’s Fringe. Messages and tribute and threats alike make no impression, nor stir it in any new direction. It cannot be said whether the Artificer derives satisfaction from its current course, only that if dissatisfied, it isn’t dissatisfied enough to stop.

Appearing on the Fringe at some point prior to the rise of the Krunweil Iron Electorate, the Artificer seems to be a mechanical entity itself–no adventuring party has ever glimpsed more than a fraction of it: an airborne sprawl of multi-metal joints and free-floating circuitry which sweeps overhead in a foggy realm, or a looming silhouette of hard angles and blinking lights against the darkness of a ruined industrial sector in a fraying demiplane. The Artificer rarely stays in one place for long.

The creature or spirit or machine, whatever it may be, uses its powers to produce more machines. Some, via unknown methods, come to have souls and sapience; most are simple constructs with various mechanical functions. The Artificer’s creations never directly harm sapient beings, but their activities can cause extraordinary damage even so. A small army of mages and druids at one point had to be gathered when a “force” of the Artificer’s machines moved in on a forest along Yamakuri’s border.

The machines inadvertently set fire to it while attempting to build an enormous, squat rectangle of a building. There were no fatalities, but it took over a month to gather the last of them up and ship them to another plane where they wouldn’t be able to cause trouble.

A few core features distinguish most of the Artificer’s constructs. Their designs follow alien logic, often using sub-optimal but versatile approaches to everything from movement to power generation. Around half include organic components built in with the wires, which initially led the Fringe’s people to believe that the Artificer kidnapped and mutilated living beings. This has since been disproven, though there’s no denying that seeing sinews and bone worked into the gaps between steel and metalloids is discomfiting.

Otherwise, like the artificer itself, the constructs use long segments of plating in highly-complex shapes to cover their most vulnerable internal components. The segmentations between these plates may be just millimeters wide, or leave whole sections of the construct uncovered, revealing the bulbs and bulges of its alien understructure.

The Artificer has thus come to be viewed as a curiosity more than anything else.

Snippet #2: Undead Society (Worlds: Canno, Creation’s Fringe)

Whatever other rules there might be, all undead groups have one simple agreement: don’t anger the necromancers. Aside from the overwhelming power advantage conferred by the fact that magic requires living flesh to channel it, and thus only the necromancers themselves wield it, necromancers serve at a stroke as the midwives, healers, and foster parents of any undead community.

Whatever outside biases might be foisted upon them, most necromancers are honest people who just enjoy raising the dead–it’s a complex arcane science in its own right, and this draws many to study it simply for the sake of the challenge. While god complexes aren’t uncommon, these are generally benign and can even provide many of a community’s in-jokes if the necromancer heading it isn’t too prickly.

Necromancers often feel disenfranchised or disconnected from their own origins, so a community of kindred spirits brought back to the mortal realm by their own hand holds great appeal.  It’s the resident necromancer’s perceptiveness, then, that determines how well a given undead hierarchy functions. Theirs is the final say, but they must see the need to have that say and use it well.

Otherwise, the undead fall into two broad categories: the lesser dead, who exist solely through a necromancer’s arts and are dependent upon them for continued existence, and the greater dead, who benefit from a necromancer’s aid but are self-sufficient in most regards. The first category includes “shamblers”–or zombies, as the Fringe’s inhabitants know them to be–and scraplings at its lowest end; scraplings are amalgams of reanimated flesh and bone reassembled from many different bodies.

The best necromancers don’t try to make a scrapling look like an ordinary creature; all the mismatched muscles and bones make this impossible. Instead, they craft it into a unique shape which makes the best use of its components. Scraplings may look horrifying, but they’re benign, should be gentle in temperament, and often serve as a sort of eldritch pet. Ghouls, sapient undead optimized for speed and physical strength, make up the top rank of the lesser dead. They often work as servants or assistants to a necromancer, and form the working class of a larger community.

The greater dead include a much broader range. Vampires classify as greater dead when they’re actually dead–the Cannoan vampiric lineage, for example. Despite being vampires in most other regards, the Kosmerniy of Creation’s Fringe are still living Novgori, and therefore would not be accepted into an undead community at all. Otherwise, the greater dead include any manner of ghost or specter which decides to linger in the community–being able to do so of its own volition means the spirit must be powerful by default–varied organic undead with arcane powers to keep them running on their own, and the mysterious creatures known as Braisenges.

Of the latter, it’s known only that even necromancers must bow to them.

Snippet #3: Canno’s Isolation (World: Canno, naturally)

Upon making contact with Creation’s Fringe for the first time, Canno’s peoples were flabbergasted to discover that it received regular visits from spirits, otherworldly entities, and visiting demigods. By comparison Canno is a relatively inert world, and all this begged the question: why? Why, for such a long period of time, did Canno go without visits such as these?

Canno’s lockstep deities and their Celestial Pact seemed like a good answer at first, but when queried, the gods professed that they never made efforts to lock the Fringe off from foreign spirits. There had never been a need. Indeed, it was only after linking to Creation’s Fringe that this need came to be. It seemed that some outside force must have prevented the whole secondary universe of planar beings and lost souls from spilling through onto Canno–at least, up until quite recently.

Yet if such a force existed, no traces of it can now be found. Even the Overgod, Van, has said he cannot find any clues. These discoveries have led to the formation of research teams for the sole purpose of determining what other powers might have been active on Canno, or tried to become active, in ages past. It’s a beguiling subject, but one for which a true answer seems unlikely. The Twin Spirals overflow with cosmic Voyagers and curious spirits. Nowhere else has ever been shielded from intruders, benign or otherwise, as Canno was.

Some Cannoans cannot help but wonder whether their world would look any better than the Fringe if it had been otherwise.

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There we go, Day Seventeen filed away! As always, please let me know your thoughts in the comments, leave a like, and share this post wherever thou wilt. Otherwise, I continue to hold the line on Twitter. It’s a line made largely of random blurts and art retweets, but what can I say? Well, many things, but I’d rather save them for these Loremageddon posts!

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