A world without Junah


A winter-themed Dark Sun world for GG season 3. Yum!

It was before your lifetime that the heroes failed and Junah was lost, and with her, the world that was. They who lived then had little idea what changes would come. Some changes were abrupt. Without Her divine presence, the sun became a mere ball of fire. Where once sunlight carried a divine radiance in each beam, now there is no more power in it than in a simple fire. Where once the undead feared to walk in daylight, now they wander almost with impunity. Once, the world was filled with life – Junah gave life to green and growing things, and they in turn gave life to all else. Now, little lives or grows – the miracle is that anything at all does. Perhaps a god is not so swiftly killed, and echos of her power have a little while yet before they fall silent forever.

Regardless, the other great change was slower coming. Strange to think that that reality that shapes our every waking moment was once almost unknown. To think that those who lived had no idea what they dealt with. They thought it a bauble, an alchemical curiosity. Few of us today fully know the truth of the matter, but it is a simple thing to explain.

Blue ice is a tool of the primordials, who waged war against the immortals. It’s hard to belive: but blue ice is not completely inert and immutable. It can be melted into water – real, drinkable water. But it takes divine power to do it.

Once, blue ice was unheard of. At the time Junah was slain, it was limited to the northernmost and coldest parts of the world, where sunlight is not known for months at a time. Everywhere else, her blessed power made such a thing as blue ice impossible. But now, without the divine power of the gods, blue ice once formed is permanent and immutable. Oh – it can be shaped, it can be split, it can be ground into tools: but it cannot be melted. It is water forever frozen solid by the malign powers in the primordial chaos.

And so each day more of the worlds water is transformed, forever bound into blue ice. Each breath, each bead of sweat not carefully caught and recycled will be caught by the world’s wind and taken north. When that wisp of water touches the ice, it too will be frozen, and lost for all time. In time, all the world will be dry dust or blue ice, and nothing will live or grow. The doom of all that lives is inevitable.

For now, we have a few places free of the ice. Once these places where we made our homes were called “deserts”, and no-one could live here. Now: it just about the only place a person can live. The heat, and the remaining echoes of Junah’s blessed radiance in the sunlight, keep the ice at bay. Even so, the ice is spreading through the porous seams of rock that carry water to our wells. That it has not spread further by now is a mystery. Perhaps the powers of earth, and the fires beneath the earth, oppose it. Perhaps we survive only by grace of politics amongst the primordials.

A thousand miles north of here the temperature dips below sweltering hot, and the great wall – the glaciers – begin. Where there are not glaciers, the very ground is a solid amalgam of dirt and ice. In a few spots things live and grow, but even there if you dig down far enough you will find blue ice, creeping up a little closer to the surface each year. When it begins to reach the surface, it is though the earth itself had frostbite – each patch of dead icy dirt spreading wider month by month, until everything is frozen dead.

Further north, living things cannot go. They say that there are great steadings of the undead there – the necrotic power keeping their unliving fluids flowing. If they plot and plan, I do not know. We only hope that their plots and plans involve only one another, or that they are preoccupied with battles against the elementals (which are everywhere), that they are content to wait for us all to die of thirst.

Aside from the faint echoes of the divine in sunlight, there remains one place only (so far as we know) where divine power might yet be found. Life: ordinary, simple life is a manifestation of divine power. There are elementals and aberrations, there are the undead, yes. But only in plain, common living things that grow and feed and reproduce each after their kind – in these there is the spark of the divine. Like a flame carried from torch to torch, even the humblest creeping thing and flower of the field carries a spark of that power that first gave breath to every living thing (yes: trees breathe), and passes it on it to its progeny. Some say that the seed dies and is reborn, but it is not true. The tree is alive, its seeds are alive, and they living grow and bear living seeds in turn. It could not be otherwise. Even in a world where we each inhale countless motes of blue ice in each breath, this spark, this tiny portion of divine fire is enough to ward us. It is this divine fire that melts into water the blue ice we breathe in every day.

Mind you – falling into blue ice dust is invariably fatal. The winds of the world in some places form gyres that gather fine ice dust into seas of silt. Anyone unprotected below the surface of such a body quickly inhales enough ice dust to overwhelm their body’s power to melt it. The corpses in these dust bowls are perfectly preserved – frozen solid into bone, sinew, and blue ice. You don’t want to see one. By all accounts the expressions on their faces are … deeply disturbing.

This divine spark is why we can transport water using the leeches. Water placed in an unliving container – unless that container be impossibly clean (only magic can accomplish such a thing) – will inevitably come in contact with some unseeably small shard of ice and freeze into a useless lump. But you can take a water leech with you, or attach a few to your camel, and the life in them will keep the water fluid. I believe some of the elves use a certain kind of moss for the same purpose. Some tribes reportedly use a variety of ant. And there is the cactus plant, of course.

An aside: before Junah was lost people would have been repelled by the idea of eating anything live. Even nonsentient things like insects. Some were dainty enough that they would not wish to eat anything still warm from the slaughter. They would slaughter their food and store it for hours, or days, before cooking it. Anyone who tried such a thing now would find themselves biting into ice and uncookable flesh, of course, wasting the meat. But it was not so when Junah lived. Mind you – they were happy to eat plants live. It goes to show.

This divine spark is what has kept the little unfrozen soil in the world from freezing long before now. Soil is rich in life, richer than we ever supposed. And this is is the power that the blighters call upon, to melt blue ice into water. It works. With this stolen power they melt the ice into water and water their crops and their herds. They sustain themselves and their people. But they do so at a terrible cost. The life in animals is red, obviously, as in plants it is green. The blighters pull this life out of everything that lives, bleaching it white. Soon the blue ice invades, creating a perfectly preserved landscape of trees and grass, each blade hard and sharp and dangerous as a razor. They keep themselves and their vassals alive for a little while, perhaps, but the in the end they freeze the world much quicker.

We face a bleak future. No! We face no future at all. It is twilight for all that lives. When we are gone, when the last memory of the divine fades and falls silent, then the primordials will own all. They will war with one another, perhaps, and build cities and empires, but we will all be long gone.

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3 Responses to A world without Junah

  1. Mattzilla says:

    This is so perfect. I’m really impressed by this setting.

    So, you want Junah to die the Last Death? 😥

    • Paul Murray says:

      No – there is always hope. “The gods do not die quickly” 🙂 .

      I realized this morning that “blue ice” is “ice nine”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice-nine .

      Eggs are a popular food, of course. The water leeches are, in fact, a variety of disgusting leech. Skin leathery and tough rather than moist. (no frogs left, of course).

      As water freezes into blue ice, it sort of ejects the salt, so the seas have become great salt plains with blue ice underneath. Because the ice is so far below, the ice doesn’t cool them and around the tropics the salt seas are full-on hot.

      The blighters are far more morally ambiguous than in Dark Sun. They are not trying to evolve into dragons – they are trying to keep themselves and their people alive. They know that they are merely acellerating the onset of the ice. Some of them are building – in effect – time capsules. Archiving the mortal’s greatest art and magic in the hope that they will not be lost forever.

      As it is the divine spark of lie that melts the traces of blue ice in the blood of living things and keeps them alive, dying of old age means freezing by degrees – the joints, the organs. Kidney stones. By a similar mechanism, you can die of despair, or depression. Some sad stories to be told, there. Romeo & Juliet: when he finally returned, she was frozen into blue ice, and soon he joined her.

      Being full-on evil will also suppress that divine spark. The escape is necrotic energy. Lichdom has a lot of bonuses in this world.

      • Jamie says:

        This has amazing potential. I really like the setting Paul! You should run some stuff in it.

        I’m fairly sure that Druf and Ben are running next season? (Matt could confirm).. but maybe this a setting best used with a smaller group? Perhaps using Pathfinder?

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