Alaran Races: Asilin

It was my twelfth day out from Dwargenheim when I first encountered the Asilin.

The mules set up a powerful braying, and Araullia went to calm them.  Sturgis and Thassin were fishing for a pack they had managed, somehow, to drop down a ravine.  The rest of the party was a ways back, hacking their way through a thick collection of bushes (how such life managed to grow in this wasteland, I do not know).  I myself had climbed the next peak, attempting to scout out our future path.

As I looked over the ridge, I beheld a macabre sight.  A wide-bowed, sail-less ship made of blackened wood was floating across the landscape in front of me.  On its side was emblazoned in blue paint a large, pupil-less eye with three lines coming out from beneath it, as well as several runes which I knew not the meaning of.  On deck scurried what appeared to be human skeletons, reanimated and set to work.  The ship scurried across the land on several sets of pole-like oars, making it look like some monstrous wooden spider, though by what means it was held aloft, I do not know, for the oars obviously could only propel it, not support it.  My heart clenched in horror as I saw that the oars were manned by manacled and enslaved humans.  One of the skeletons strode among the rows of slaves, whipping them seemingly at random.  It opened its mouth and emitted a high-pitched keening.  After a moment, I realized that it was laughing, a horrible imitation of mortal mirth.

The ship floated on, past me and on over the horizon.  I stood there, horrified, while the rest of the party of caught up.  I told them of my encounter, but only a scant few believed me.

-Excerpt from the memoirs of Thulin Thunderboot, famous dwarven explorer

This post is about the Asilin.  By the way, as you’ve probably noticed, I have a new way to start off posts: with an excerpt from the memoirs of Thulin Thunderboot.  I figure it adds depth to Alara.  It’s fancy.

The Asilin.  Few outside the Wastes know of them, and those that do would be shocked and terrified at the very idea of them.  Within the Wastes, they are a feared and respected source of power, and are indeed the most numerous population of the Wastes.  The Asilin are fierce, sentient reanimated human skeletons.

Asilin society is concentrated along the three major population centers (and major factions) of Zarathas, Niathnu, and Gishnath.  These three cities are floating citadels of massive size.  The ability to make something float consistently is a magic designed by the Asilin necromagi.  The citadels are kept afloat through gigantic, enchanted crystals, often purple in color.  One of these crystals is placed in the exact center of the citadel, and is referred to as the Keystone.  Others are placed in the area surrounding the citadel to support the Keystone.  These other crystals are usually either hidden or kept well-defended, for if they were destroyed the Keystone would fail and the citadel would come crashing down.  Often there are many extra crystals as a failsafe.  Though the main population centers are Zarathas, Niathnu, and Gishnath, many smaller citadels dot the landscape, all aligned to one of those three.

The floating technology is also used in the ships of the Asilin.  A small Keystone is used, and no other stones are necessary to support it.  This severely limits both the size of the ship and the height it can float off the ground, however.  Most ships of the Asilin can float, at most, twenty or thirty feet above ground level.  The magic of the necromagi does not provide a method of locomotion, however, and so the ships are propelled by slaves chained to oar-like poles.  The skeletons aboard the ship take care of all the other duties, which often amount to attacking other ships and defending theirs.  Asilin ships are very dangerous, as they’re mostly sent out on slave-taking missions, so if you see one, it can probably see you, too.

Asilin culture is death.  Every aspect of it revolves around death.  In the basement dungeons of the great citadels languish human slaves, occasionally taken out for some sort of manual labor but mostly left to rot until their twentieth birthday, at which point they are sacrificed in a blood ritual, the flesh flayed from their bones, and are reanimated as a full member of Asilin society.  As most slaves know nothing but slavery since birth, being animated as an Asilin is the highest honor, and any thought of revolt is completely unheard of.  Newly captured slaves are often attacked mentally by the necromagi, so as to weaken them into a state of submission.  This makes them stupider when they are reanimated, but their descendants are perfectly intelligent.  These rather dumb Asilin are referred to as “first-generation” Asilin, and are often treated as scum and forced to do manual labor with the slaves.  Occasionally, a captured slave will show absolute willingness to be reanimated as an Asilin.  These are treated as full members of Asilin society, and are not submitted to mental attack.

The origins of the Asilin are murky.  Everybody agrees that they are somehow the fault of the humans of Tugél Vas, but no one knows exactly how this came about.  Asilin legend tells of Zarathas, a non-sentient slave of the humans who manifested sentience, broke free, and heralded an entire race.  This is entirely unlikely.  The more likely version, and that told by the humans, is that some mad scientist attempted to create a sentient skeleton servant, succeeded, and things got out of hand.  The Asilin regard this as heresy.  All Asilin stick to the legend of Zarathas, although by what means he manifested sentience is contested.  Some think it was entirely random, some think it was an act of whatever god they choose to worship that day, and still other believe that it was due to some magical accident that occurred.  The true answer is unknown.  Asilin are often ranked in society by the number of resurrections they are away from Zarathas: those claiming to be resurrected directly by Zarathas are first-degree Zarathites, those resurrected by first-degree Zarathites are regarded to be second-degree Zarathites, and so on.  Past about five it stops mattering.  Most of Asilin society ignores this, but among nobles one’s degree is very important.  It is agreed upon, even by the humans, that some historical figure named Zarathas must have existed, because all this to-do about him couldn’t have just popped up out of nowhere.

The Asilin most commonly worship Elleida, Queen of the Undead, and White Aretha, for they believe greatly in death exactly when they plan it and when they want it.  Jurgan is often worshiped by soldiers, and the necromagi have a healthy respect for both Omora Agabai and Rudolphus.  Captains of the Asilin’s floating ships occasionally hold an odd reverence for Zaran.  Worship of Plaggan is entirely unheard of, as the Asilin never pass on.  If their skeletal bodies are destroyed, their spirits do dissipate, and they probably go to the exact same place mortals do, but for some reason the Asilin never think about that.

There are three major citadels, and factions, of Asilin.  The largest of these is Citadel Zarathas, named for the first Asilin.  Zarathas is the largest and most powerful of the Asilin factions.  When most people say “Asilin”, they are referring to those of Zarathas, and it is from Zarathas that the standard of Asilin culture springs.  Zarathas is power-hungry and dominitive, and if not for rival citadels they would have in all likelihood taken over all of the wastes by now.  Zarathas slave-takers roam all around the southern and central areas of the wastes.  The areas between Zarathas, Niathnu, and Gishnath are in constant warfare, and when a ship of Zarathas sees a rival one a battle always follows.  The symbol of Zarathas is a large, pupil-less eye with three lines extending below it in a splayed fashion, making it look rather as though it’s on a tripod.

Citadel Niathnu was the first group of Asilin to split from Zarathas.  Their main difference from Zarathas is one of religion: the Asilin of Niathnu follow the Elder Gods, the three sons that were precursors to Archus and his brood.  That two of these are dead and the other one is stuck holding up the continents seems immaterial to them.  The necromagi of Niathnu are currently researching ways to resurrect the two dead Elder Gods (good luck with that), and also a way to free the live one.  They have determined that the live Elder is split into seven avatars, one holding up each of the seven continents (it’s unknown how they reached this conclusion or if it’s even correct, as nobody else is sure how many continents there are).  The way to reunite this god is to find the avatars, take the large diamonds from the heads of each of them, and bring them all together.  This would require reaching the avatars.  Thus, a massive mining operation is currently occurring beneath Niathnu, as well as attempting to discover a way to reach the other continents.  They’re not having much luck.  The Asilin of Niathnu are also practiced in a technique they refer to as bonegrafting, where they take the bones of something dead and combine them with their own bones.  This has led to some interesting creations.  The symbol of Niathnu is a diamond with two dragon wings.

The last of the great Asilin citadels is Gishnath.  They have split off from Zarathas only recently, and for idealogical reasons.  The Asilin of Gishnath do not believe in repressing humans as their slaves, something the Asilin of Zarathas and Niathnu do every day.  Human society is fully blended in with Asilin society in Gishnath, and it is not uncommon, when wandering the streets of Gishnath, to see a group of humans and skeletons traveling together and acting entirely comfortable with one another.  Human young are raised by the entire city, and on their twentieth birthday are given the option to be converted into Asilin.  Those that opt out are given the chance again every five years afterwards.  Some never take it, and die as humans.  And that’s okay.  Gishnath society is entirely blended between humans and Asilin.  This relaxed stance has led toward a peaceful relationship to both the humans and dwarves who come north from the Civilized Lands, and with the Sand Dwarves of the Omarra Desert to the north.  Gishnath and all of its mini-citadels act as a trading post for both these races.  The symbol of Gishnath is a spear striking through a chain.

The last and smallest faction of the Asilin are a small group known as the Hundrites.  These rebel Asilin are devoted followers of Black Hundriss, and go around killing at random and resurrecting more followers every day.  This cult started recently and is growing at an alarming rate, something rather disturbing to about everybody else in the Wastes.  The Hundrites are unbiased in their selection of victims, and many Dwarves and Crows exist among their number.  The Hundrites ride giant, skeletal birds that live about the Wastes.

Important Asilin:

Lord Aegan the Mighty is the leader of Citadel Zarathas.  This is a position he has held for centuries, and although stories are murky, it is said that he defeated Zarathas himself to attain the position.  According to Aegan, Zarathas went mad in his later years, the oddity of nature that gifted him with sentience finally slacking off and leaving him a crazed shell of his former, noble self.  Eventually, Aegan, who was one of the first of those resurrected by Zarathas, defeated the mad Zarathas and claimed the title of Lord for himself.  Aegan is, obviously, a first-degree Zarathite, one of those resurrected by Zarathas himself.

Aegan is a fearsome fighter, and those who face him in battle rarely live to tell the tale.  He fights with a massive Halberd, and, as his strength has been magically enhanced by his cohort of necromagi, he fights with it quite well.  In battle he can often be seen wading into the middle of an enemy contingent and swinging his weapon around and around for minutes until everything near him is dead.  Aegan most often wears black leather armor that allows for movement while providing some protection, and a black cloak with the symbol of Zarathas in blue emblazoned upon it.  Aegan is fond of going out on crusades against whatever enemy he wants, and often does so on his own personal ship, the Dracthan.  He has his own personal contingent of slaves that he prefers to man his pole-oars, and brings along a hand-picked group of soldiers.  Aegan, while he pays the mandatory tribute to Elleida and White Aretha, is at heart a devotee of Jurgan.  He has been known to skin his enemies after a battle and ride home with a cape of hides flying along behind his ship.

Lord Garath the Cruel is the Lord of Citadel Niathnu, as well as its founder.  He is a first-degree Zarathite, and was one of Zarathas’ most fanatic followers.  He practiced his worship of the Elder Gods in private, and his beliefs were known and tolerated by Zarathas.  After Aegan took power, Garath took his group of followers and split off from Citadel Zarathas, though it pained him to do so.  Garath is completely in opposition of Aegan, who is a heartfelt follower of what Garath terms the “young pantheon”.  Garath believes that it was through the wisdom of the Elder Gods that Zarathas was gifted with sentience, and it was through the interference of the jealous younglings that Zarathas’ madness struck.  Thus, Garath has devoted all his power and that of his people to restoring the Elder Gods to power.

Garath is, while a fearsome warrior, first and foremost a necromagi.  In battle he wields a massive sword, set afire by his magic.  He has been known to gesture at Zarathas contingents and have them fall entirely to pieces (literally) simply by the movements of his hand.  Garath is one scary motherfucker.  He is an avid bonegrafter, and is currently in possession of a pair of curling ram’s horns on his forehead and the skeletal wings of a young dragon erupting from his back, which somehow give him the power of flight despite not having skin on them anymore.  Magic.  Garath has also bonegrafted several fangs into his mouth, making him even fiercer than he was previously.

Garath most commonly wears a suit of full plate armor, colored absolutely, color-sucking black.  The exception to this all-blackness is the necklace he wears around his neck, which consists entirely of fragments of bone collected from slain Zarathas Asilin.  There are so many of these that at this point each bone fragment is little larger than a speck of sand, and the whole necklace just looks like one continuous stream of white.

Lord Ihirin the Just is the Lord and founder of Citadel Gishnath.  He is a believer in the forces of good and law, and it was through his interference that all of Gishnath came about, along with all its weird human inclusiveness.  Ihirin is the only one of the three citadel lords that is not a first-degree Zarathite, but a second.  Indeed, there aren’t any first-degree Zarathites in all of Gishnath, as first-degree Zarathites have far too much of a hatred for humanity to condone Gishnath’s philosophy.  Ihirin split off from Zarathas several centuries after the rise of Aegan and the split of Niathnu.  The story goes that Ihirin was captaining a slave-taking ship of Zarathas, when they were attacked by a group of Niathnu slave-takers.  The battle raged, and toward the end, a human slave jumped in front of Ihirin to save him from a mace blow that would have shattered his bones and destroyed him completely.  This sacrifice compelled Ihirin to seek a greater human equality in Zarathas.  Aegan would have none of it, of course, so Ihirin split off.  And Gishnath happened.

Ihirin does not go into battle very often, but when he does he uses a rapier.  Which seems stupid, considering most of the time he’s fighting skeletons, but he somehow makes it work.  He knows all the points at which the bones are connected and held together by necromantic magic, and he pokes those points forcefully to make his enemies fall apart.  This is rather surprising to his enemies quite a lot of the time.  Ihirin wears stately black robes with a blue and purple pattern swirled throughout.

Lord Aldric the Blackened is the leader of the Hundrites.  It is unknown what degree of Zarathite he is, indeed, most of his past is completely murky.  All that is known about him is that his bones are completely black (a contrast to the bleached white of all other Asilin) and he’s completely batshit insane.  No one knows why his bone are black.  To emphasize this oddity, he rides into battle naked, fighting with two massive maces.  He kills like a madman, and is feared by everyone, even his own followers.  Don’t cross Aldric, or he’ll kill you, mash you to a pulp, and use your remains to nourish his garden.  Yes, he has a garden.  A garden of blood.

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3 Comments

  1. pieboy said,

    September 2, 2007 at 2:12 am

    Yes, but do they sing on top of spirally hills?

  2. tuskedchimp said,

    September 2, 2007 at 10:20 am

    …you win the award for weirdest random probably in-joke comment ever.

  3. pieboy said,

    September 2, 2007 at 6:20 pm

    The Nightmare Before Christmas, man.


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