Monday, 20 January 2020

A "Puritanical Instrument"

The Lictor

The Lictor, a flail of stained brass carrying twin morningstars said to be the petrified eyes of a sleeping god, carries a mixed reputation in Blackwater.

For Somon, especially for the great masses for whom holding a pike in formation is the closest they will come to adventure, and for whom getting a month ahead in their rent is the closest they will come to freedom, the Lictor represents a force of near-revolutionary possibility.

For this is the Flail of Judgement, carrying the eyes of the Sleeping God who's nature was Justice, and whomsoever wields the Lictor carries also the right, and the duty, to Judge both high and low. From the Frogsnatchers to Fyrdmen to walkers of the Waste and Sustainers of Reality, no-one is beyond the Lictors power. For a mass of Humanity often crushed by debt, ritual and fear, the idea of those with power being punished and held to account should they prove false, is deeply inspiring.

Perhaps regrettably, functional governments are rarely entirely "fair" or even "just". For those in power, who regard themselves as having the duty and the burden to make the best possible decisions in difficult circumstances and with limited resources, a bunch of angry Somon proles hopped up on justice juice, and lead by some lunatic swinging a magic flail, are not well set-up to percieve and enact a complex version of Justice.

For the minority races of Blackwater, especially the Aeth, the Lictor is seen often as a tool of Somon dominance,  a "Prejudicial, Puritanical Instrument", or them may simply give the flail its somewhat degrading Aeth-name; "The Somons Balls".

In many cases the Lictor has been carried at the head of some Judgement Crusade or Penitent Parade. Supported by great masses of the poorer Somon, and empowered by their belief. For those rural and urban poor, victims of injustice, taxation and repression, the Lictor is a source of rare, impartial judgement.

For urban elites, Aethm and some other minority groups, the sight of a great mass of poor Somon, empowered by an overwhelming belief in what they consider to be "justice", is not reassuring.

Through exactly who's eyes, and with who's mind and temperament, will this 'justice' be perceived?
Who's interests will it serve?

The Aspect Of The Flail

The staff and crossbars of heavy, dark, gleaming brass worked in the style of the early diaspora, mark the haft of the Lictor as being clearly a creation of early Blackwater, after the chaos of the Great Flight, but long before the treaty of Birch Falls.

Though this makes the Lictor thousands of years old at least, compared to other Curia it is young. Not something fallen from Old Esh or drawn into Uud from some collapsing Parallel, but a creation of this world, this time and this age, shaped by its people and dedicated to its cause.

The morningstars though are a different matter.

Most Somon believe these spiked, black balls to be the petrified eyes of a dead or sleeping God. Formerly the God of Justice in Old Esh.

Esh had an myriad of Gods, of different qualities, hierarchies and dispensations, and probably several hundred of these were either dedicated to Justice or at least had the concept under their purview, so it’s not clear exactly which God the crowd is thinking of when they speak of the Lictors eyes.

But this is the kind of tiresomely accurate but essentially incomprehending detail atheists tend to fixate on. Whether it makes "rational" sense or not, and no matter how it is accounted, for the masses, the Eyes of the Lictor are the Eyes of Justice, either prised from the Gods bleeding sockets during the fall of Esh, or spontaneously bursting out in spikes like some defensive sea creature, in horror at the sights they were forced to witness, and rolling from the Gods sockets themselves.

Clearly the Morningstars are not of the same substance at the flail. In theory they could be removed from it, (though no-one on record has done this). They are currently soot-black, but their edges and the gleaming tips of their spikes suggest that beneath this may lie some stranger and more lucid substance.

(The Aeth covertly refer to the stars of the Lictor as petrified whale testicles ensorcelled by some ancient Thaumaturge.)

Practically, the flail is heavy to the point of being near-unwieldy. In combat its morningstars swing in an unpredictable, looping orbit, curving on their carrying chains like bound snakes and crashing violently into the most strongly-armoured opponents.

The Powers Of The Lictor

Common Powers

Like many Curia, the Lictor seems to have a range of expression which differs both according to the individual who wields it, the cause in which it is used and the Age in which it swings.

And, again like many Curia, the ability and understanding to express and use those powers can grow with time and experience, deepening with use.

In battle the pointed stars of the flail swing with irreducible force, batting aside guarding weapons, crashing through shields and crunching through armour as if it were paper.

The stars themselves are reputed to execute vengeful destruction on other items of magical power. They are considered so destructive to other artefacts that those wise in knowledge of such things will often refuse to take the field against the Lictor.

One blow from those black stars can shatter magical blades and annihilate long-deepened enchantments, especially those Thaumaturgies of illusion and the alteration of minds. Illusions, charms, unreal vistas and shadow creatures, all waver and fracture before those black, spiked eyes.

Should the day go ill for those opposing it, there is little chance of magical escape from the Lictors swing. Like a judge in court, it enforces the coherency of reality around it. Attempts to teleport, to slide into alter-realms, to change shape, to fly or become invisible, all become more and more difficult the closer comes the flail.

And the strength of this effect deepens the longer and the stronger is the bond between the Lictor and its wielder.

Though these powers are considerable on their own, they matter little when compared to the one, key power which the Flail bestows;

The Power Of Judgement

When the bearer of the Lictor closes their eyes, they see twin realities, one etched in black, the other engraved in silver.

One orb, or "eye" of the Lictor, sees the Truth. Not the believed truth, or the arguable truth, but the simple cold, hard fact of what-is.

That which is not True will not be seen by the Lictors black eye.

But Justice is not only about seeing what is true, but about deciding what is right. It is action, perception and understanding combined.

The second orb, and according to Somon myth, the second eye of the Dreaming God, sees Justice. An image of what should be, in a Just world, engraved in silver. For some this is a tenuous silver thread, for others a shifting maze, a path or an altered image of the world. For others the image itself is clear, but so hard to reach, always just a handful of actions and a fingertip away.

Each wielder of the Lictor sees a subtly different reality when they close their eyes.

For average individuals, the world perceived through the eyes of a sleeping god is so hypnagogic, surreal and strange that they can barely comprehend it. Even some remarkable individuals have only been able to functionally see through one or the other Eye of the Lictor at a time, closing first one eye, then another, and attempting to understand what they perceive sequentially.

TRUTH is vast, and Justice is both deep and wide. A mortal mind can only 'see' those fragments or elements of it which its nature allows it to perceive.

The flail responds to its wielder, with the nature of its judgement shifting in its intensity and action according to the empathy, intelligence, willpower and perception of the person who wields it

The wiser and calmer and deeper the wielder, then the wiser and calmer the nature of justice perceived and desposed.

If the wielder of the Lictor is wilful and intelligent, but ruthless and cold, then the image of Truth and Justice which they see will be that of a cold, ruthless and calculating God.

In a way, justice is itself a kind of power, one that must be understood and comprehended in order to be controlled.


The History Of The Lictor

A surprising amount of knowledge of its origins survives.

The creators of the Lictor are said to be 'The Judges of the Fall'.

It is written that after the Fall of Esh and the great flight and escape to Uud, a group of intelligent Theists dedicated themselves to investigating the reasons for the Fall. Their original purpose was that, only once those weaknesses to Yggsrathaal were identified and understood, only once Humanity fully understood why it had failed, only then could they truly begin to fight back. They were the first to recover the Eyes and to create the Lictor.

Over the centuries though, the Judges of the Fall decayed (or evolved) into a cult of repentance and penance. Instead of simply seeking for the weaknesses in Humanity in order to record and correct them, they slowly fell into a fetish of despair and purposeless, narcissistic repentance.

This change was neither unnoticed or accepted by the entirety of the group. Over time, as the more despairing and ritualistic elements of the Judges played a part in the rising tensions that lead to the Great Theistic War, the movement splintered.

One faction dove headfirst into self-flagellation, hyper-religiosity and mass ritual, while the other increasingly began attempting to retrain and prevent what they considered the mad excesses of the Theists; crusades, pogroms, mystery cults and unrestricted warfare.

Strangely, over time this second faction of Theists ended up having more in common with the ruthlessly atheistic mechanists and the 'greater humanity' survival-based near-humanitarians (and allegedly, the 'Wise Undead'). Ultimately, during the disaster of the Great Theistic War, the Judges, with these other groups ended up forming a the nucleus of the Tolerance, a group dedicated absolutely to the survival of Humanity and the reasoned suppression of any vast societal forces which might threaten that survival - whatever the cost might be.

Allegedly the Tolerance still carries in its hierarchies, rituals and processes, the ghost of the substance of the old Judges of the Fall.

After the treaty of Birch Falls, the creation of the Tolerance, and the birth of 'modern' Blackwater, the Eyes of the Lictor have come forth on many notable occasions;


The Lictors 'Crusades'

The Purge of the Invisible Kings

When the Cult of the Grand Illusionist attempted to re-create the seeming of Esh in Fallen Uud; spreading a great veil of magic over much of the land in which life seemed simply 'better', more free, fulfilling luxurious and kind than it truly was, and in which many of the sights and sounds of Old Esh (or at least as much as could be recalled in this ruined age) were re-created, it was the Lictor, at the head of a great procession of commoners, which penetrated the illusion and restored cold, unfeeling reality, breaking the power of the Invisible Kings, just in time to avoid a mass invasion from the Waste.

The Breaking of the Crystal Crown

When the insidious invasion of a dark, curled reality into Blackwater lead to a plague of hallucinations, madness and the entrapment of people in loops of Fey imaginings, adults acting like children and animals speaking in riddle and rhyme, castles of Black Glass rising up from the shadows of burning forests, filled with mirror-people who served the Eld King, it was the Lictor which smashed the Eld Kings Crystal Crown.

(Aeth histories of this incident are quite different and the situation only deepened the Aeth belief that the "Somon Balls" are essentially racist.)

The Emperors Second Death

When the Imperial Line of the Grey City of Nelvana seemed to come close to dying out, then returned in great power, with the megastructure of that city vibrating to unearthly frequencies, shifting reality instead of preserving it, creating streets like dreams and towers like pillars of sleep, realms of soft silence and warped, quiet carnivals of faceless fear, it was the Wielder of the Lictor who penetrated the Forbidden City at the Megastructures heart and discovered the Emperors were, not ageless or renewed, but un-dead, and totally mad.

The Judgement of Mad Queen Orgula

When Orgulas precognitive fear of her own future judgement drove her to try to transform her entire Queendom into one great argument for her own innocence, using magic, torture, transformation, propaganda and direct law to create a land of 'perfect purity', it was the Lictor which lead the brutal, and attritional war against her. (As any war against a Precognitive must be - pursued relentlessly until every alternative and escape is exhausted.)

The Entropy Cults of Yga

When Yga's noted tolerance came close to being its undoing and the City became infested with covert Cults of Entropy. ("Not only evil, but extremely dull" - Vosis Fail). Even that bastion of liberal humanism called for the Lictor to be Wielded, believing that only its cold, ruthless, but exact judgement, could fairly separate the guilty from the deceived.


Ultimately, the vast majority of those beings capable of using the Lictor to some meaningful end, without being corrupted by it, and without going utterly mad from its black and silver visions of truth and justice, invariably leave the Flail to be, after a time.

For these individuals, their gradually increasing comprehension of Justice and its meaning, as seen through the eyes of a Dreaming God, leads them to a too-great understanding of their own limitations. They come to believe or that they are not wise enough to wield the Lictor for too long. And perhaps that no-one is.