Teaser #3 - Arcanis & The Arena
Today we have the final teaser of the three-part material preview! And today, we have a quick look at a few of the cities from Ether Rpg: Setting™.
Amid the utopian, yet apocalyptic fields of Ether's wilderness lies a few places that've evaded the horrors of the Ether's wars. Today, we're going to take a quick look at two of those places... that did not.
Like my previous posts, this image is taken from prototype material, so it may not be 1080p or anything. But hopefully it's enough for you guys to all get a sense of some of the places within the worlds of Ether.
Originally founded by the first & second generation of sorcerers of the Royal City, Arcanis quickly became associated with anything having to do with magic. As time went on, it instead became associated with sorcery's arrogance & unquenchable lust for power. As the focal point of the War of the Magi, Ether & much of the known Omniverse turned its collective attention to the city. Despite making themselves the enemy of almost everyone, it took the rise of the machina to finally crush Arcanis & the Seventh Circle once & for all. When the dust settled, the enchanted city was left broken & shattered, barely enough remaining to even be called a ruin. Only within the last decade did anyone visibly return to the city's husk & they did so with purpose.
Arcanis was built upon a large island at the center of a lake several hundred leagues north of the Great Etherian Wall. Not only was the lake carved from sorcery, but the land itself & even the city were molded into shape by the will of the sorcerers of the Seventh Circle. The island is little more than a large plateau & series of intertwining cliffs, obviously designed in such a fashion as to force an invading army to attack the city at its face. Its remains overlook the rolling hills of the King's Fields, perfectly positioned for endless visibility in all directions.
Before the war, the city's four great spires rose higher into the sky than any other structure built upon Ether's soil. Countless sanctums, immense box & cage-like structures, once spiraled around the spires adrift amid the raw power of the Seventh Circle. Only the most powerful sorcerers & those of the council made free use of these impossible structures. Everyone else was only admitted entrance but rarely. The spires themselves, great silver jagged things which threatened to split the clouds, were rumored to have hundreds of floors each. In the city's heyday, each of these floors was dedicated to a specific facet of sorcery & the students who came to Arcanis could spend their entire lives mastering a single spell upon a single floor.
The four lesser spires served as the homes for the apprentices & the students of the council. Alchemical labs, classrooms & practice chambers made up most of the upper floors of the lesser spires. Those residing within these structures shared space with many others as they constantly were pitted against one another & the tests of Arcanis' masters. The lesser spires had less than a hundred floors & each was significantly smaller than those of the great spires.
The walls which surrounded Arcanis' spires & courtyards were constructed of ghost steel, a material which should not have existed at the time. The wall was inlayed with so many unique applications of sorcery that its surface was nothing but inscriptions over inscriptions. It would seem the Seventh Circle meant to create a barrier even sturdier than that of the Great Etherian Wall. While their wall might not have quite hit the mark in terms of resiliency, it bit its attackers back with the endless fangs of bound spells. Too bad everything is not affected by sorcery equally…
The ruins of Arcanis are, however, an entirely different place. Only bits of its enchanted wall remain. Most of it was completely destroyed & reduced to little more than a foundation by the close of the war. Nothing remains of the city's grand spires, their fallen stone dissipated from this world when the sorcery maintaining them faded away. The rubble of the lesser spires, on the other hand, still lies scattered across the whole of the island & the lake. Detonations of conflicting magical energies reduced what might have remained of the city after the war to chunks of stone & piles of ash.
In the ruins of what was, only a few groups seek to influence the memory of the city. The Order of Arcanis spends its days rebuilding a single lesser spire, binding oaths upon sorcerers & studying where the Seventh Circle went wrong. Deep within the lost chambers of Arcanis' undercity, the voidbound discovered a home away from home. And the Ninth Knife lies in wait, watching at all times.
The Order of Arcanis has restored a dozen or so of the lower floors of a single lesser spire since they have taken root in the city. They have no plans to fully complete the spire, or any other spire for that matter. They believe it is important to surround themselves in the mistakes of the past in order to remind everyone they are not the Seventh Circle. Though their reconstruction has given them plenty of room to house a great many, their numbers remain small… purposefully small.
The hidden halls beneath Arcanis were long lost in the War of the Magi, but only to those unbound to sorcery. The voidbound found their way as the residual scent of the Grand Magus' impossible sorcery caught their senses. They refer to this place as the Umbra & its air still carries the palpable taste of sorcery's unimaginable potential. They have restored the tunnels almost completely since infesting it decades ago, yet still they find more to consume or discard. The portals going to & from the Umbra are a closely guarded secret by the voidbound & woe be to anyone else finding their way there. Unbeknownst to the Order, the voidbound have endless passages behind the walls of the rebuilt spire. Now the voidbound watch from behind every wall & from within every shadow, yet they are not the true force to fear from within Arcanis.
The Ninth Knife allows the voidbound to have their fun & often plays the part of the puppeteer, leading the voidbound to her prey. While she might never actually be present in Arcanis, her presence is always felt. Any sorcerer who truly steps out of line rarely lives long enough for either the voidbound or the Order of Arcanis to find them.
The ruins of Arcanis have but two prominent figures, besides the Ninth Knife: the leader of the Order of Arcanis & Boss, the voidbound currently leading the people of the Umbra.
The tombs in the northern hills of the King's Fields’ have rested beneath immense slabs of stone for as long as anyone can remember. These endless fields of unbroken stone lay silently, covered in runic markings so ancient that no one of this world has any idea of their meaning. Great rings of fractured stone & fallen walls of an equally ancient structure still rest above these catacombs. For centuries, these ruins were left untouched & not a soul even knew of their existence. One day, a group of retired warriors began to grow tired of the peace & quiet of city life. They longed for somewhere to hone their skills, uninterrupted by the grind of daily life. After many years & lives lost, the tired soldiers discovered these ruins… almost as if they had been drawn there. With nothing to distract them, the warriors kicked off their boots & dug in. Since then, the ruins haven't changed a bit & the people who live among them painstakingly try to maintain them exactly as they are. The dead interred below demand respect & those living above do their best to honor their memory. Endless dances of blades & brawling echo across the stone of this place, long ago earning its name: the Arena.
The slabs of stone covering the entire region span hundreds of hands from end to end, nearly a quarter league in total. Each individual slab weighs a good thousand or more stone & is easily thrice the size of the average person. How they were ever put into place at all, no one knows. The warriors of the Arena wash blood from the stone & clear away any brush, leaving it completely clear of anything other than the rock itself. Beyond the Arena's primary grounds, the warriors keep small farms, gardens & ranches along a small tributary from the Sapphire River. With no cliffs or other natural fortifications, the Arena's flanks rest completely exposed to attack from all sides, though few armies in Ether feel confident they have the ability to best the soldiers of the Arena without resorting to bombardment of some kind.
The tombs of the Arena were opened but once. After the close of the War of the Magi, many people feared the remains of both the dead & the undead. Rumors of bodily ash causing zombification only made matters worse. Not knowing what to do, city borders began filling up with piles of corpses. At first, only a few bodies were interred in the tombs beneath the Arena's slabs. But word travels quickly. Soon enough, an endless stream of bodies flooded the catacombs, many of which were transported there by sorcerers & keepers. Hundreds of thousands of bodies filled the tombs, pushing them to their limit. The people of the Arena do not speak of the dead they stand above every day, but they do say the seals will never be broken again, so long as the warriors of the Area still stand. More than a few people believe the dead will rise once more should the doors to the catacombs ever be opened again, good enough reason to keep them closed…
Above the tombs, the ruins of a long dead world sit quietly in the wind, a lost world said to be unknown to even the most ancient of Etherians. Perhaps these are the remains of the final days of the First City? Or perhaps something from the oldest of ancient cities, lost to time? To date, not a single sage has ever uncovered the secrets of the stone of the Arena, although many still try. The great slabs are surrounded by partially broken down walls & gates. These remaining walls have internal floors & wide passages running along them, many quite spacious. Almost everyone training in the Arena stays within these hallways. The slabs also have many broken pillars, towers & various remnants of foundations scattered across them, perfect for tactical & terrain training. In many ways, the Arena looks much like a heavily broken down version of the Coliseum.
The Arena has no secret chambers or hidden passages that anyone has ever discovered. Like the slabs, many of its surviving walls contain lines of writing & hieroglyphs that have defied translation. Other than the mysteries of these markings, the Arena is an open book.
Anyone who travels to the Arena by foot is free to join its ranks, while those who arrive in some other fashion, not so much. While a majority of its people are mortal, the Arena's populace has always been relatively mixed. Rumor has it that a few of its people are actually some of Ether's beast breeds, such as the orc or minotaur. Given that nothing is sacred when it comes to tests of skill within the Arena, its people have wide arrays of talents & foci. Of course, swordplay has always been the primary practice of the city, but many of its soldiers possess great skill in sorcery and/or machinery. As a result of the city's endless dedication to the art of war, its people are considered the most skilled hand-to-hand combatants in the worlds.
Training in the Arena requires an enormous amount of skill, dedication & willpower. Many inexperienced travelers unfortunate enough to find their way to the Arena don't quite understand exactly how in danger they really are & not just from the beasts of the wild. Like the soldiers of Black Gate, those of the broken tombs use no practice weaponry or armor, but most have enough sense to recognize a superior foe & choose to kneel rather than risk dismemberment. Anyone unwilling to observe the rules of honor understood by the Arena's people often find themselves in a match with one of the city's champions. It's rumored that anyone fool enough to find themselves in this situation against their will has never left the training grounds alive.
In terms of champions, the current grand champion of the Arena is an enigmatic & literal goliath of a woman whom the people have dubbed the Iron Maiden.