I thought about writing something festive up, since it’s Christmas Eve, and I did it with Halloween, but I’ve always felt Xmas specials can be a bit lacking, especially when I do them!
So instead, I’m going to go through the December Worldbuilding Challenge I found, and write some stuff for it.
All in one go!
I decided to go back and think more about one of my older settings, the Old Crown. I really need to go back and re-work a lot of it as after ten years in the making it’s a bit cluttered. Hopefully these prompts will help!
The world was quiet, almost empty, until the Oon came through their portals, bringing their life and their servants with them.
They were powerful as the Ascended, but had not achieved Ascension themselves.
Where they came from, why they came, all is lost to the void. But they came to the world, changed it in myriad ways to suit themselves and their servants and slaves, created new life from the things they found here.
Eventually, after centuries, the slaves rose up against their masters, as they inevitably do. The Oon died or ran back through their portals, and the world fell into chaos for some time.
Did you ever hear the story of the seawitch with the heart of a storm? She was guiding her vessel across the deep ocean when she was caught in a squall. She tried with all her might to keep her vessel safe, the storm was a mighty one, and most of the other crew were already tossed overboard and lost forever.
That’s when the lightning began to strike. Not once or twice, but three times she was hit. Perhaps she’d angered an Ascended of the sea or the sky, who knows? What is known is that she managed to catch the storm elementals on each of the strikes, and hold them alive and awake.
Storm elemental’s lives are incredibly short, and it’s rare for them to last longer than a lightning strike. She showed them a part of her life, and in return they showed her a part of theirs. The ship made it to port safely, somehow, and she became a legend among the sailors.
For the next year and a day, she travelled across the world, land and sea, showing the elementals the things they never could have experienced. In that time, her life ebbed from her quickly and she grew old fantastically quickly. When she died, the storm elementals carried her back up into the sky, and another storm raged over the seas for several years before eventually calming.
They say the bay of Queenstown holds a huge monster lurking in the deeps. I don’t know if I believe them, but that doesn’t stop me from dropping a part of my catch over into the deep every time I come in to the wharf.
After all, if the bay really is as deep as they say, deeper than the deepest sea out in the world, anything could be down there.
Most folk in the Old Crown don’t get a lot of free time. Not everyone gets to be born a noble.
Most folk work every day except high holidays – and not everyone observes the same high holidays. The nobles get a bit more time for what they call ‘leisure’ – hunting, reading, politicking but saying it’s a party.
The only day marked by the entirety of Queenstown, and in theory the rest of the Old Crown, is Ascension Day.
Don’t be confused by the animals accompnaying the witches and seawitches of the world. They are not pets, they’re companions and familiars, and the animal equivalent of the witchbloods of us normal folk.
Between the dogs, cats, lizards and toads accompanying witches, or the seabats, hawks, gulls, drakes and mysterious sea creatures among their seawitch cousins, the one you really should keep an eye out for is a blink mouse.
Only the canniest witchblood can form a partnership with an animal like that, one that cannot be caged, cannot be barred, cannot be tamed (however they look with their witch friend).
Most of the folk in the Old Crown are probably aware that Queenstown is faltering. The old trade lanes across the sea are now centred on the City of Festivals to the east and the Imperial Republic to the south.
The nobles hang on to what power they have, but have ceded some authority to the guildsmen in recent years. The first noble elevated to the Senate that wasn’t from one of the old Conqueror Families caused consternation decades ago, now there’s more than a handful of them. Maybe one day they’ll replace the old guard entirely.
The wonders conjured forth by the Golem as they reawaken from their centuries slumber beneath the City of Festivals are inspiring awe in all who see them. As the old servants of the Oon, driven mad in solitude beneath the sands and given a spark of their own free will, they know many of the old magicks forgotten by the mortals of recent centuries.
The hawkers and cryers in the old Souk might look like they have the best wares, but a savvy individual will crawl through the rest of the Market Ward to find what they’re looking for – plenty of the newer adepts of the Guilds can offer the same quality wares at significantly cheaper prices.
Of course, they all trained for the sellers in the Souk, and there’s plenty of status gained from buying there or the neighbouring Arcades.
From mandolas and viols to shawm to marimbas, the port city of Queenstown pulls in all kinds of instrumental influences. The latest trends among the nobles are to favour harpists and mandola players, though the few street performers and the working poor in the city prefer simple drums, flutes and bagpipes.
The rich can afford heirlooms, the poor tend to use what they have. A tradition of grave goods send to the pyre with the deceased means that some items are lost to time.
Truly ancient items often gain a kind of intelligence, or even a soul, over time. The nobles hoard these items by divine right, though occasionally a canny thief might manage to get their hands on something truly valuable.
The Lighthouse of Queenstown and the floating boat town in the bay known as the Seawitch Isle are the first landmarks anyone arriving by boat will see of Queenstown. By land, passing the Witches’ Teeth, the old collapsed bridge across the river, marks the edge of the Outwall district.
Ascension Day is the day of mourning for the disappearance and presumed death of the last Suldaana of Queenstown. On the morning that was to be her coronation, her bed chambers were found empty. Signs of a struggle and other strange circumstances led to an investigation by officers of the Senate, though nothing was ever found of her.
The Noble Houses have their emblems, the guilds and the mages have their insignia. Some seawitches fly a sigil from their masts. And of course, the Broken Circle have their obsidian rings.
A curious fact is that every culture of the world features an Ascended called the Unsung. Different cultures hold different legends of the figure, and none seem to conflict, though rarely do they cover the same aspect of the Unsung’s history.
The most curious legend of the Unsung seems to be their presence in stories covering the Ascension of other members of the Host, for good or ill.
There was a time where the practice of necromantic magicks was not forbidden, though that ended with the War of the Graves two centuries past, when the Fiend created an army of the dead to attack the living.
His eventual exile to the Deadrealm along with his army used another lost art – the easy movement between one Realm and another by mortals.
I’ll be doing another post on the remaining prompts in the next few days!