The Guide To Onyx
The Sun, the Moons, & the Stars
A very long time ago — before there was, in fact, time — Kialla created the sun, the moons, and the stars. These celestial objects are primarily composed of the three energies: lumen, levin, and calor. Lumen is that which gives light. Levin is that which imparts motion. Calor is the energy of warmth.
The sun, Auris, is a golden sphere composed entirely of lumen and calor. Although it can be screened from sight by an ozol held at arm’s length, it is bright enough to light up all of Onyx and hot enough to dispel even the chill of the Void. According to legend, at the beginning of every day the great hero Azzameth carries Auris through the skies in a magic lamp as he searches the world for Ellusya, his lost love. But when his tremendous strength has run out and he can search no further, he returns home to rest in his lonely castle under the roots of the world.
The smallest moon is named after Azzameth’s favorite hound, Telligor. It is so named because wherever Azzameth the Sunbearer wanders through the skies, faithful Telligor is always at his side. The moon Telligor, like all moons, is an incorporeal congellation of lumen and levin. The orb looks to be about the size of a woman’s fingernail, and it is rosy–hued with irregular light brown patches — said to match the markings of the faithful hound to an uncanny degree of accuracy. Millennia ago, the first Adept Hsken altered the moon’s celestial path through the heavens so that it would forever shade the Aurean Empire from Auris’ bounty. In the dark times that have passed since the Empire’s fall, the Shadowed Lands have become an unpleasant country of liches, necromancers, gyraphonts, and all manner of fell and unwholesome creatures.
The second moon of Onyx is about the size of a man’s thumbnail and shines a pale blue. Years ago, a Princess named Tryste lived in the undersea kingdom of Listaelye. However, she fell in love with an air–breathing man against the wishes of her father, the King Aeyerlee. The King was so angry with her that he killed the man and banished her forever from the briny deeps. After many extraordinary adventures, she arrived at the untenanted second moon and made it her home. The moon Tryste now shines the pale blue in wistful longing for the Princess’ lost home. Unlike Telligor, which rises and sets every day with the sun, and Metronymé, which has a monthly cycle, Tryste is a somewhat inconstant moon. Its heavenly circuit can take from as little as fifteen days to as many as thirty–one. When Tryste passes over water she slows her stately stroll to linger over her forbidden homeland. In spite of Princess Tryste’s unhappy past, her moon is believed to be favorably aspected towards lovers.
The largest moon, Metronymé, appears in the sky to be the size of a woman’s fist. Metronymé is named for the sorceress who, at the beginning of time, constructed a tower with an enchanted garden upon the moon’s intangible, lambent surface. At the beginning of every month Metronymé is a colorless orb. However as each month grows older, flowers begin to bloom in Metronymé’s mystic garden until the entire moon takes on the blossoms’ pastel hues. Then the blooms slowly fade, to make way for the next month’s crop. Riyuke of Talshira at one time visited Metronymé’s garden and was said to have stolen some seeds for the beautiful arreygnelles for display in her own marvellous garden. The arreygnelles are responsible for Metronymé’s rich amber hue during the month of Kaphra, and are reputed to perform miracles in the hands of the pure. But alas, Riyuke’s arreygnelles were lost with her fabulous garden in the fall of the Talshiran Empire.
The stars, glistening as jewels upon the black velvet of the Void, were ages ago set aside to be used for signs and omens. Many of the stars dance with their companions in a constellation; others dance alone, to tunes they alone can hear. Astrologers and magi spend decades learning enough to decipher how stars affect the lives of mortals and gods alike.
Timekeeping and Calendars
With the notable exception of the moon Tryste, celestial objects tend to move in reasonably regular cycles. This simplifies time keeping a great deal. A month begins when Metronymé is completely colorless. For nineteen days, she gradually acquires a characteristic hue until she reaches her zenith. The next nineteen days see her color similarly fade away until she is, once more, achromatic. The year is exactly nine months long; that is, precisely 342 days. Each year is partitioned into three seasons of three months duration each. About every 2000 years occurs the Grand Conjunction, wherein Auris and the three moons are in perfect alignment. For those who plan on participating in the next Grand Conjunction, you need only wait for about 200 more years.
The World of Onyx
The worlds of Onyx, its oceans, the skies, and everything contained therein are the creation of Ysanne. They are composed, ultimately, of the elements of earth, water, and air. The world of Onyx consists primarily of a large, roughly bird–shaped island continent, called Ysa. This continent floats upon an unbounded sea. Far to the northeast lies the Boiling Sea. In the northwest is the Sea of Storms. No one has ever returned from the distant seas to the south, but the barbarians who live in the frozen wastes there say that eerie lights can be seen to dance in the skies, far from land.
Ysa itself consists of many diverse regions. From the frigid wastelands of the far south to the burning desolation of its central deserts, from the dessicated Sea of Dust to the steamy jungles of the Opal Sea, from the inky darkness of the Shadowed Lands to the blinding glare of the Crystal Plains, from the Pinnacles of the Dree to the depths of Zwa’s Chasm, the world of Onyx has a climate for each and every creature.
There are a number of sentient creatures in Onyx. The three major races are humans, draconians, and torgs. They are considered major races both because of their number and because of their ability to successfully breed with other creatures. Some of the minor races include the Qwmoi and the Masters of Iron.
Humans are the most gifted race, and blessed by the gods above all others. They excel in warfare and magic. They are able to breed with all manner of creatures, from lions, to snakes, to birds; and they come in a range of colors and sizes. Humans are the most abundant of all intelligent beings.
The draconians are a race of lizard–like people. They hatch their young from eggs and are hermaphrodites. Draconians are also able to reincarnate: if ,after they die, they are judged worthy, the soul is replaced into a new, young, more powerful body. In their seventh and final stage of development they become dragons, virtually invulnerable and immortal. Since dragons tend to be as arrogant as they are powerful, they are often as hostile to their fellow draconians as they are toward non–draconians. Only draconians of the fifth stage and above practice magic.
Torgs are an underground people of thick, leathery skin and ugly countenance. They are not often seen above ground, so little is known about them. They do come in a variety of forms.
Neither a major race nor a minor race, the Dree are a cross between human and draconian. They look like humans with leathery skin and very pale irises. They are reputed to eat their young. Dree are also said to be powerful sorcerers. Fortunately, they are quite rare.
The Qwmoi are land octopi. They are roughly human–sized, have knobby brownish or bluish skin, and stand on four of their eight tentacles. The other four tentacles they use as hands, and are able to do several different tasks at once with them. The Qwmoi are quite intelligent, but not politically ambitious. For this reason they get along with other races fairly well. There are both terrestrial and aquatic varieties.
The Thakren are a race of insectoid creatures. They were believed to have been exterminated by the Draconian Adept known as Thak–Bane millennia ago, but apparently a few survived. They are so exceedingly rare nowadays that not much else is known about them.
The majority of other intelligent creatures inhabiting the world tend to be offshoots of the major races: beastmen, dragonish serpentines, and the like. These beings for the most part possess the powers and predilections of their more advanced parents, but in addition often retain much of the brutish nature of their baser heritage.
And finally, intelligent life comes in other, more bizarre forms. These strange life forms include the following: the Masters of Iron, who barter worked iron for human infants; the Thoughtful Stone Heads, who inhabit the Crystal Plains; and the Tree Men of Ooönia, who thrive on the light of Auris as do plants.
Death and the Afterlife
Death is the normal lot for all mortals. It occurs most often when the mortal body ceases to function, but can also happen for other reasons. Each day, in the early hours before dawn, the servants of Myirié go forth to collect the souls of those who have died. The souls are taken to her halls where they wait dreaming until the end of time. When all things have passed, the souls of the dead will be judged to see if they are worth keeping. Each soul will be measured against the weight of a zooki feather. If the soul is weighed down by evil, so that it is heavier than the feather, it will be destroyed forever. If the soul is pure and noble, it will be lighter than the feather, and will be kept.
Not all souls are collected immediately. It sometimes happens that the gods wish to reward those who faithfully served them in life. Upon the death of his loyal servant, the god makes special arrangements for the soul to be taken to his residence. Once the soul is there, it may partake in the rewards the god has set aside for it. It may also happen that those who are evil may receive stern punishment for the evil ways they followed while they were still alive. These after–death rewards and punishments do eventually come to an end, and the soul is finally sent to the halls of Myirié for its final judgement.
Returning From the Dead
Through the magics of mortals and the decrees of the gods, it can sometimes be that one who has died may be brought back to life. If such feats can be attempted before the soul of the deceased has been collected by the servants of Myirié, the task is not beyond the reach of the powerful. If, however, the soul has been sent to Myirié’s halls, it can only be returned through great effort. For by the laws of the Eternals, a soul cannot leave that place, save that another has taken its place. And not all the wiles of man, nor all the powers of the gods can compromise this law. Even the great Mage–Prince Mavraczarpnik, who was alive and yet visited the halls of Myirié, was not permitted ever to leave them again. And if the rules could not be broken for him who was by Myirié beloved, how much less could they be broken for another?
Sadly, even the territory of death itself has not been left untouched by those who would pervert the natural order. There are an evil few, who through dint of sorcerous might or sheer force of will, can evade the harvesters of Myirié. These are the undead, who can live without functioning bodies, and who exist for no other purpose than to destroy that which is just, and to strike fear into the souls of the pure. The dead–alive are servants of the demons, who work their evil designs upon the world of Onyx. It is the bounden duty of all creatures to destroy all such vile servants of evil.
There exist also another sort of the undead. This class consists of those creatures which are not now and never were the servants of demons. These are creatures whose souls have gotten lost, who have been swept unknowingly along the soul currents into the shoals of undeath. In some ways they are more difficult to release than the other type, for the glory of the gods holds no terror for them; but they can also sometimes be released by acts of justice or the fulfillment of vows. These often benevolent undead are more to be pitied than despised, for their souls do not intend evil, but only seek final peace. For this reason, it is often considered better to ease their pain that they might seek the shadowy halls of Myirié, than to destroy them and consign their souls to oblivion forever.
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