Arvon’s Shadow: Averos

   Averos is not a planet; it’s a dimension of islands of land adrift in nearly limitless space.  Each island is surrounded by a sphere of force, which provides its own climate and conditions. The smaller the island the stronger the sphere, and the more extreme its enviorment can be.  While the larger isles usually have temperate or northern climates and earthlike conditions, many of the small ones contain exotic enviorments. The islands are often linked by “bridges” of force, some temporary and some periodic.  These bridges compress distance by a factor related to their length, and so never require more then a few hours to cross. The whole dimension is subject to a day-and-night cycle, although the spheres moderate the quality of the light. At night, the stars can be seen to completely surround the realm, although its sun, if any, is never apparent.  As the stars tend to be periodic, they may be nothing but distant realms of the same type, with their own day and night cycles. 
   The islands come in a limited range of sizes due to a step function in the structure of the spheres that hold them. As the size of the sphere is also indicates the level of its energies, it also serves as a measure of how difficult the bubble is to penetrate, how often it generates force bridges, and how odd the enviorment inside can be.  They spheres come in four size ranges, each of which is described below.  Smaller spheres can occur inside larger ones, especially since the smaller ones are far more common. In this case there are often permanent or periodic bridges between the small sphere and the larger sphere containing it, regardless of the usual bridge frequencies given below. Any averos mage-lord can also create bridges, although this is tiring, requires great amounts of power, and takes a good deal of practice. Such bridges rarely last for long.

  •    Size “I” spheres are from 3 to 30 feet in diameter.  While they can hold almost any enviorment, they rarely hold anything very complicated. Such spheres typically contain spheres of rock, small sections of an ordinary enviorment, water, or really bizarre enviorments, such as chlorine atmospheres or plasmas.  Any lifeforms are usually mouse-sized or smaller. As these are too small to maintain a stable ecology by themselves, the sphere itself must somehow maintain the enviorment.  A size I sphere never generates bridges, and can be readily moved by anyone with the proper spell. Their dense structure is also the most impenetrable of all the spheres, only some method of molding shadow stuff will allow passage through their surface.

  •    Size “II” spheres are 300 to 3200 feet in diameter.  They usually contain relatively earthlike enviorments, although the range is still enormous. The settings are usually still fairly simple, such as a forest and a pool or a small stream in a valley.  While they may contain large lifeforms, they rarely support large predators.  They rarely generate bridges, and can only be penetrated via pattern, trump, or major magic (the effects of Logrus powers remain unknown). 

  •    Size III spheres are 6 to 64 miles in diameter, and normally contain an “earthlike” enviorment of tropical or temperate nature.  Such enviorments may be far more complex then that of a size II sphere, including seas, islands, volcanoes, modest rivers, deserts, and a wide variety of other features, qualities, and wildlife.  A size III sphere occasionally generates bridges and often supports periodic bridges.  They can be penetrated via almost any power or by simple physical force, although it does require too much of it to be really practical.  Unlike spheres of sizes I and II, spheres of sizes III and IV are usually less then half-way “filled” with solids and/or liquids, containing a greater porportion of air then the smaller spheres.

  •    Size IV spheres are 420 to 7200 miles across.  They normally contain earthlike enviorments of temperate or northerly character, and never contain unearthly envior- ments. Such enviorments can be of planetary complexity and scale, but tend towards a high percentage of woods and plains.  Size IV spheres almost always have one or more bridges active and always support periodic bridges.  They can be penetrated with a moderate physical effort or a trivial exercise of almost any power.  Spheres of this size usually have “ley lines”, a sort of internal version of the space-distortion effect of the bridges.

   The space between the spheres is filled with normal air, although the temperture varies considerably.  The space between spheres has its own gravity, although it bears no relationship to the spheres movement or their internal gravitation. When enough material collects at the “center” of the realm it spawns a new sphere of an appropriate size. Most of the spheres provide a simple internal gravity field at about 1G, making one half of the sphere “down”.  The bridges seem act to govern the movement and interactions of the spheres. A few flying species travel between the size IV spheres at will, as do the (very rare) windships. Such creatures and devices usually employ a form of space distortion like that of the bridges but are far less effecient, requiring days or weeks for the trip.  While a few magical gates from the old days are still working, only the magelords can open them. Since Arvon is the only available magelord, they are of limited utility to the natives. 

   Most of Averos does not support high-, or even mid-level, technology, but a few of the lesser spheres do.  While it is almost impossible to make things like guns and flashlights operate, it is realtively easy to make really high-tech items work throughout most of Averos.  As usual, a few of the smaller spheres are exceptions.  While no one really knows “why”, the technology levels seem to be a part of the “enviorment” that each sphere maintains. 

 

   The realm of Averos supports an enormous variety of species, even discounting those limited to the smaller spheres or to special enviorments. Of those remaining, at least eleven were intelligent, although several are now extinct. The survivors include at least three that were created by the magelords of averos, who are themselves now extinct, the Lerona, Averin, and Yeti.

  •    The Lerona were derived from river “otter” stock as companions, craftsmen, and entertainers. Modifications included boosted intelligence, opposable thumbs, and a hip structure that supports both four-legged and erect postures.  They usually stand about four feet high and weigh about 60 pounds, with widely variable fur colors and patterns (although a raccoon-like “mask” is fairly common).  They’ve done poorly since the passing of the mage-lords and are currently restricted to a few small settlements scattered along the waterways of the major spheres. They look back on the reign of the mage-lords as a golden age and the mage-lords as patrons or demi- gods. Many of the lerona have chosen to serve Arvon in exchange for his protection of their race, as artists, gardeners, cooks, librarians, musicians, craftsmen, and so on, fields for which the averin have little talent.  They can be taught minor magics, but rarely know any.

  •    The shapeshifting Averin were derived from “normal” wolves and their “basic” form is still that of a wolf.  They were created as the servants, property, and tools of the mage-lords of Averos, they know and accept this with an instinct bred into them across millenia.  When the last of their masters perished they were desolate.  When Arvon assumed the position of mage-lord they were estatic and immediatly took him as the master of their race. If he was entirely secure he would probably find their unquestioning total submission a bit nauseating, but as it is, he’s come to accept it as normal.

  •    The deadly Yeti were derived from ursine stock by a perverse mage-lord as a sort of sentient, and therefore challenging, “big game”.  He was overly successful, as if great speed, strength, and toughness were not enough, the yeti can use weak illusion magic. They are utterly hostile to almost everyone, in fact they can’t usually tolerate each other long enough to reproduce- which at least keeps them scarce. Due to their murderous habits and raiding of everyone else, they are still hunted by the other races, whom they hunt in turn. Physically, a yeti resembles an upright polar bear, although this is rarely apparent before death shatters their illusions.  Formal yeti hunters commonly used a lance, this became less popular when it became known that an impaled yeti would often claw its way up a lance to reach the user.

  •    Other sentient races include the Swamp and Mountain Trolls, the Windserpents, the Korov, the Sentauri, the Pixies, and the Merkari. Of these, the Pixies are, for all practical purposes, insignificant, the Merkari are deep-sea dwellers, and the Sentauri are a fallen race.

  •    Both Troll subspecies are strong, tough, and have a fairly sophisticated culture. They usually stand about 7 feet tall, weigh about 500 Lbs, and are covered with short, bristly, fur. Their build resembles a gorillas, and they have massive fangs. To complete this charming ensamble, they are nasty, warlike, fearsomly ugly, and generally unpleasant. While more then a match for most other races on an individual basis, they breed slowly, and so have been gradually driven into the wastelands.  By now they actively prefer their isolated fastnesses, and only come out for the occasional raid. In general, no one misses them much. Trolls usually prefer massive matal armor and heavy weapons. While you can negotiate with trolls, they usually want more then is reasonable for any concession. They take a lot of damage to stop.

  •    Windserpents are a species of “dragon”, serpentine, scaled, multicolored, and enormous. Younger windserpents are about the size of a car while adults are about the size of a truck.  The are one of the few species which can fly between the spheres independently, often using a smaller sphere within a larger one as a lair. Adults tend to be arrogant, antisocial, and predatory.  Young windserpents make good companions if raised with other beings, but become increasingly solitary with age – if left alone. Windserpents have limited innate powers of elemental magic as well as the ability to trail others through shadow.  They are often arrogant, territorial, and extremely dangerous, although their personalities do vary. They can live for hundreds of years, but tend to die in quarrels over territory or mating.  As might be expected with such a lifespan, they breed very slowly.

  •    The Korov are an insectile life form with slow, but very through, hive minds.  Individual Korov are around four inches long and come in various types. The Vizier are quasi-intelligent on their own, in a mass they act as a sort of organic computer with vast memory and logic abilities. Individual nests can hold millions of Korov and be thousands of years old. While non-technological and restricted in the enviorments they can tolerate, a nest can “tailor” proteins and complex biochemicals as easily as humans can write speeches and is a brilliant biochemist/biologist/chemist. Nests are fairly easy to bargain with, as there are always many things they can use.  A character with a psyche of chaos or better can mentally “link” the vizier mass, vastly increasing the efficiency of the nest mind, such characters can often induce the nest to do small favors for them in return.  Amber level psyches can directly influence the nest, and ranked psyches can often dominate it. Such a course is generally unwise as nests will quickly evolve specific countermeasures. Korov require constant humidity, high temperatures, lots of available metals, and organics for food. In practice this means a rain forest on top of a rich deposit of metals, a rare arrangement. Finding or making a new site can induce a nest to work for you.

  •    Pixies are minature nuisances, ranging from four to six inches tall. The females are winged, but males are far more rugged.  Otherwise they resemble tiny humans, although many tribes have rather exotic features. They usually form minature cities in groves of trees and/or shallow caves. Pixies have inherent magical abilities, albeit trivial ones. Groups can weild modest illusion, confusion, and nature magics, but such organization is rare, while sentient, pixies are none too clever. They tend to be disorganized, foolish, and childish, at best. Pixies cannot survive in low magic areas, their brains are too small to maintain sentience without it. Pixies tend to be justifiably cautious of larger beings, most of whom view them as pests.  Pixies commonly herd tiny animals, ride tiny horses (or sometimes bicycles), and adopt the local culture.  No-one knows where they find their creatures and props.  (Helpful pixies are called brownies, really nasty ones are called imps).

  •    The Merkari are basically an unknown, while several of the old mage-lords investigated them, their records are somewhat contradictory on the subject.  There is a strong possibility that there are several, rather then one, underwater races, they would obviously have a far more difficult time colonizing another sphere then the air-breathers do. 

  •    The Sentauri resemble the classic centaurs of myth, albeit somewhat smaller. They never got along with the averin and, with the passing of the mage-lords, fought a century-long war of archery against them. They lost, and now serve as food animals in the few spheres where they survive. Those bred by the Lerona are better off, serving as draft animals and beasts of burden.  Due to millenia of selective breeding there have been no real rebellions in centuries. 

Racial Attribute Templates:

   Lerona:  Psyche Chaos, Strength Human, Endurance Human, Warfare Chaos.

   Yeti: Psyche Chaos, Strength Amber, Endurance Amber, Warfare Chaos.

   Troll: Psyche Human, Strength Ranked, Endurance Chaos, Warfare Human.

   Windserpent: Psyche Chaos, Strength Ranked, Endurance Amber, Warfaare Chaos. 

   Sentauri: Psyche Human, Strength Chaos, Endurance Chaos, Warfare Human.

   Pixies have great reflexes but are otherwise hopeless.

   Korov really don’t fit the system, but are formidable.

   Merkari descriptions are not available at this time.

   Lerona; Double speed swimming, may learn minor magics.

   Yeti; Double speed and damage, resistance to normal weapons, psychic neutral, limited illusion magic.

   Troll; Extremely tough, extra-hard damage.

   Windserpent; Double speed and damage, resistant to firearms, psychic resistance, shadow path, limited elemental magic.  (Elder specimens may do “deadly” damage and/or have improved characteristics).

   Sentauri; Combat reflexes with bow, extra hard hooves.

The Averin:
   Psyche    :  Chaos, Amber for defensive purposes
   Strength  :  Chaos, A few individuals have amber rank.
   Endurance :  Amber, A few individuals have ranked End.
   Warfare   :  Chaos, Amber in “unarmed” combat

   The Averin can shapeshift to a quasihuman form that resembles the classic “werewolf”. While they can speak in this form, they normally rely on the psychic “link” which gives them full communications as wolves.  Their psychic abilities suffice to create a mental link with those in the immediate area or reach through shadow to contact each other or their master. Their talents also include psychic defences roughly equal to the “Psychic Neutral” talent. Dense tissues and heightened metabolism give them the; Engine Speed, Double Damage, and Resistance To Normal Weapons abilities. Those who have passed through the “ordeal of the hunt” gain the power to mold shadow stuff enough to disguise themselves and their equipment as natives of the local shadow (“Mold Shadow Creatures”, self only), the power of “shadow seek”, and a full set of “Named and Numbered” alternate forms.

   The “Gods” of Averos are not truly sentient beings, they are complex arrays of forces, traits, and aspects which can be tapped by anyone with the power to attune themselves to their nexus or who has the proper spell.  Each of the twelve forces has three aspects; (creator, destroyer, and preserver) while each aspect has a full set of associated traits.  Tapping any one aspect also implies taking upon its traits, to a degree determined by the users psyche.  The users psyche also determines how long the link can be maintained, how much power is available, and the degree of control – although simple practice does count for a lot. Few minds can withstand tapping all the differing aspects of the twelve, those with (human/chaos/amber/ranked) psyches can draw on up to (3 related/7 related/11 any/11 + rank) of them. The 12 basic forces are reflected in Arvons rings, but the aspects each have their own, and possibly many, names.
   It was the ability to draw on the power of the gods which distinguished the mage-lords, the other races of averos either can only do so in a very limited fashion or lack the talent entirely. Even the most talented of the Lerona never learn to call on more then one aspect of a force, and that relatively weakly.

   The realm of Averos holds at least fourteen size IV spheres, about a thousand size III spheres, and count- less smaller spheres. The especially interesting areas include the “zoo”, the tower of sorcery, the valley of the hunt, and the assorted palaces and ruins left from the reign of the mage-lords. 

  •    The Zoo is a massive collection of smaller spheres, mostly of sizes II and III. They contain an assortment of exotic species, some sentient.  Of the thousands of species represented, many appear to be “imported” from other shadows. The reason is unknown, it may have been a hobby for some mage-lord.  A few of the spheres have been “reinforced”, apparently a precaution against the escape of some of the nastier species.  A visit to the zoo can be terrifying, enchanting, breathtaking, or an utter bore, it all depends on what you look at.

  •    The Tower of Sorcery contains the gathered lore and might of the mage-lords.  At their peak it served as a sort of university, but during their decline it served as a meeting hall, neutral zone, and finally as a sort of museum. It’s contents haven’t been fully cataloged, but definitely include : a vast “library” of spells, a collection of enchanted devices, several million books on various subjects, labs, a small (but extremely well equipped) high-tech lab in a size I sphere of its own, and a conjuration library.  The tower seems to have an unusually strong “reality” and can withstand a pattern or logrus assault. Its material may have been imported from amber itself at some time in the distant past.  A massive pillar of blue-green stone, the tower seems to to be carved out of a single block of jade.

  •    The Valley of the Hunt is hidden in the center of a major mountian range, surrounded by towering peaks and sheer drops.  One narrow pass offers access, if not an easy one.  Inside is a primordial forest of convoluted trails, hills, and streams.  This terrain is a partial version of the pattern, a sprawling pathway some fifty miles long. Anyone who follows the trail finds himself alone under a night sky, quarry of the wild hunt.  The being has until “dawn” to evade, outrun, or defeat the hunt and complete the trip. Failing to escape the hunt leads to someone turning up your body somewhere in the mountians later, usually without its skin, but with an expression of pain and horror on its face.  Failing to complete the trip means joining the hunt forever. Like the pattern, the hunt is capable of destroying even an amberite.  It is best to outrun or evade it, facing it is incredibly dangerous.  Those who survive the Ordeal of the Hunt gain limited powers over shadow, including the powers of; Shadow Seek, Named and Numbered Alternate Forms, and Mold Shadow Stuff. Those with the potential for Pattern Imprint and/or Logrus Mastery get a better set; Shadow Seek, Limited Shape Shift, and Mold Shadow Reality for a net cost of 10 points. This has the side benefit of reducing the cost of either pattern imprint or logrus mastery by 5 points if they are taken later, although this only applies to the first one taken.  As Arvon is the master of Averos, he can select the forms gained in the ordeal.  As only the averin normally try it, he usually gives them the forms of a; Hawk, Horse, Wolf, “Werewolf”, Human, Dolphin, Invisibility, Ferret or Serpent, Lerona, and three of their own choice. Those who complete the ordeal of the hunt find themselves in the forest outside the valley, wherever they wanted to be within a range of about two hundred miles.

  •    The palaces and ruins are mostly picturesque rather then important, but occasionally prove to contain some vital bit of imformation or something.  This is likely to be trouble, since anything really important is very likely to be sealed away, defended, or be a problem in some other way. If you just want a nice place to be, a luxurious garden, or (for the ones in smaller spheres) a secure prison for “normal” creatures, there are lots and lots of suitable structures.

   Much of the history of Averos is still unknown, but what there is, revolves around the mage-lords. A near- human race, they were only a minor race among the many races of averos, until the shaman Orion discovered how to draw on the power of the “Gods”. They conquered the larger spheres within a century, and dominated virtually all of averos within two.  By then magic dominated the species, those few born without the potential to weild it were generally transported to other realms, or died of other causes.  The mage-lords ruled for millenia as undisputed masters of averos.  Gradually however, they began to decline. There were many causes: Arrogance, decadence, individual quarrels, a decline in the birth rate -(why put up with an equal when you can have your choice of compliant companions?  Sadly, the mage-lords lacked the amberite ability to bypass genetic incompatibility), and losses while adventuring in odd realms. 
   The mage-lords decline was reflected in their toys, creations, and peoples.  The early, martial, era which had led to the creation of the averin had given way to an age of peace, and the creation of fanciful companions such as the lerona or the enchanted “windships”, which they usually crewed (A few still remain, they are used by the lerona to link their scattered villages between the spheres). In the end, the mage-lords quietly faded away, although a few used the lack of social restraint to do decadent things – like creating the yeti for the purpose of “sport”.  Judging by the memories preserved among the lerona the primary cause of their extinction was the decline in the birth rate, – but other factors surely contributed. The averin have no ill-memories of any of the mage-lords, but are hardly impartial. They, after all, would gladly volunteer to die horribly if a mage-lord asked them to.

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