This is a fantasy setting inspired by Egypt. It features the coexistence of living and undead in the thin strips of fertile lands amid the great desert of Ameth.
- 1 Countries of Men
- 2 Other Dwellers
- 3 People of interest
- 4 Weapons & Armors
Countries of Men
The humans are the main inhabitants of Ameth. They have build their cities on the shores of the two big rivers crossing the desert. All the hard work in the fields is delegated to the mindless undead slaves allowing for a high life standard and lot of free time for the citizens. This led to a very liberal set of mind among the population. Men and women have the same rights, both can go around with exposed chests etc. The human countries are ruled by pharaohs. Currently there are 4 countries with a pharaoh each. Yet all of them share the same religion, the faith of the 7 gods.
The Faith of the 7 Gods
The Faith is the thing holding the whole Ameth together. Despite the name is it relies very little on faith. When you can see the undead walking among you every day you don't really "question" the teachings of the Faith. This is a centralized organization, with mortal priests at the bottom, undead liches in the middle, and a powerful undead leader at the top. The leader of the Faith is changed every 10 years and he wears the golden mask representing the god of the decade he is ruling. No common citizen knows how the next leader is chosen, some tell that those are actually the original 7 gods that created Ameth.
The Faith controls the whole population quite simply: if you pray hard enough, follow temple rules and give lot of gold in donations, after the death you can return as an immortal, able to enjoy the life again for all eternity. A lot of mysticism surrounds the Return, the soul being judged by the gods and only the worthy are allowed back, while the unworthy returns corrupted or don't return at all. In reality the eventual Return and its form is decided by the Faith undead bureaucrats. The main factor for the decision is if you would want to hang with this guy for the rest of eternity, a secondary factor is the loyalty to the faith and number of donations.
The leader and the powerful liches in the ranks of the Faith need human life force to sustain themselves and to use it in magical rituals. While the easiest way to collect it is to consume living human flesh a more subtle method is practiced in Ameth. Living citizens must go to Faith works for a year each 5 years. It is usually building a new pyramid. The formal excuse is that this work is too complicated to be given to undead workers. On the work magical devices steal life force and put it in batteries (you don’t want to know how those batteries are made). Workers get tired incredibly fast but most of the time doesn't mind as it elevates their chances of being resurrected after death and the pay is very good. Stealing life force with moderation rarely kills people.
The priests are very lax in their rules. They can close an eye even on things like a war between different pharaohs. It is fine if you slaughter the whole family of the rival ruler. But if you massacre his whole city the Faith leader gets angry. “Fuck! You killed a lot of my cattle!” This usually ends in a massive army of undead soldiers sent to kill the offending pharaoh. This led to rulers using small highly trained and specialized forces instead of large armies. Ancient Egyptian Spec.Ops!
And yes, the liches inside Faith ranks have access to a large undead armies ready to do their bidding. Usually killing rebellions and foreign invaders. But an inside fighting happens every century or so.
The Faith promises undeath as a reward for a good life. There exist only one mechanism of resurrection and all Faith priests. 7 gods and freelancer necromancers use it.
Souls doesn't exist. A person wanting to be resurrected are given a magical golden object, usually a an ankh, by the Faith. This object must always be with you. When the object feels you dying it makes a destructive copy of your mind. Later the body is prepared for the Return. A ritual is performed and the mind is recopied into the undead brain. And so another undead is created. All mind transfers are destructive, you can CTRL-X CTRL-V but not CTRL-C CTRL-V. It is very hard to build an ankh to make a good brain copy. Low grade ankhs copy only the deeply rooted brain patterns. Walking, doing menial works eating etc. Resulting in a mindless zombie at the end process. Mummifying the body for the Return is not strictly necessary but a normal undead corpse will start to rot and turn unusable in a short time.
The quality of the ankh determines what type of undead is created:
- Mindless undead. Lowest grade ankh. Only the deeply rooted brain patterns are recorded. Moving, using tools. Usually end up being field workers
- Slightly less mindless undead. Medium grade ankh. They retain muscle memory and some instincts they had in life. Usually used as soldiers.
- Intelligent undead. High grade ankh. They retain the same personality they had in life. What most people aspires to be.
- Liches. this ritual must be performed while the subject is alive. Retains the personality and adds magic powers.
When creating ankhs for the mindless undead necromancers take care in making sure the brain patterns responsible for the obedience get recorded. When creating an undead slave or soldier they can be coded to take orders only from a wearer of a specifically keyed small amulet. Those control jewels are often sold and traded. For this reason generals of undead armies are seen wearing tons of golden jewelry in the middle of battle.
Each mind recording and transfer slightly corrupts the mind and have a chance render it totally unusable. For this reason while it possible to change bodies many times no one is willing to do it on themselves.
As you have guessed a mind recorded in an ankh is can not be necessarily transfered to the body it originated from. You can't put a high grade mind into a different body because the patterns of the dead brain are very similar to the original patterns and they create interference making the resulting undead utterly insane. But you can do it with lower grade minds. Obtain some fresh corpses, a terabyte of minds and create your own undead slaves.
Another way to prevent this problem is to transfer the mind into a non-human head. Since the brain need a lot less work to do (No more breathing, regulating hormones levels and other body functions) the mind can be transfered into a smaller head, usually an animal. One of uses of this possibility is to sew an animal head to a human body and transfer the mind into the animal head. Most of the time the result is yet again an insane abomination but some combinations result in a stable creatures. Another stable combination is putting the original head on top of an animal body. Crazier necromancer combine several bodies via grafting to create enormous abominations. In all this experiments you need to implant a high grade mind because a low grade knows only the how to move a human body and will be unable to learn the use of the new body.
The Faith condemns and outlaws similar experiments, for they result in great loss of human resources and are quite horrifying from the public perspective. But often the Faith turns a blind eye on them as the 7 gods enjoy seeing new creations and sometimes this experiments wield stable and usable results.
The most famous of such stable combinations officially permitted by the Faith are the Anubians. They are made with the head of a golden wolf attached to the big, 2 meters tall, pitch black body of a nubian savage. Each Anubian is a work of art and i unique, minor improvements varies from one specimen to another: paws in place of the feet, the integration of the wolf nervous system, magicla runes to increase speed and strength, hippopotamus leather in place of skin etc. The minds of great warriors is placed in Anubians and it is a great honor to become one.
Since the Faith condemns experimental necromancy , the practitioners must buy secretly various components. Under these condition a thriving black market arose. You can find anything n it. From fresh corpses to exotic animals both alive and dead, to golden plates with hundreds of minds uploaded on them.
The life after the death
After Returning the sentient dead must not visit his family for 1001 nights. This rule exists for the human psychology is fragile and people cope better with such a dramatic change of events if they are given time to forget.
The Returned live in cities of the dead. Protected by high walls and forbidden to living. This is mainly because the number of necromancers is much higher among the dead. And people begging to have a relative resurrected are quite annoying.
After 1001 nights the undead are free to live among the living. They have some limitations of course. For example they can not work in the same place form more then 10 years or stay in the same city for more then 50. This is to avoid crucial infrastructure getting too dependent on a specific undead and not let undead accumulate too much power.
A special police composed entirely of living citizens exist to regulate the undead. Often in their job they end up killing someone and destroying someone who could have lived for eternity is a social stigma. The undead police wear masks to hide their identities.
The dead have one great weakness. They no longer regenerate nor heal wounds. If you break your leg you have the rest of eternity to live with a broken leg.
The only way to help this is the dead water. A dense liquid that reflects any light shone on it. When put on dead tissues it triggers a regeneration. This is the only way for undead to heal their wounds. Also thanks to it bodies grafting required to make Anubians are possible.
The secret of the dead water production is known only to the high priests and thanks to the monopoly of this resource the Faith is able to control the undead population. In alchemist circles dead water is also known by the name mercury.
For the creation of an undead you need a dead body and a stored mind. The mind is basically a software that runs the body. The main difference is that sorcerers are unable to create a new software. They can only transfer an existing one and slightly modify it. Like cut away higher brain powers expect obedience and make the undead obey only the one who wears a suitably keyed amulet.
The leaders of the Faith that change every 7 years are actually the original 7 gods. Ancient arch-liches they build this civilization from scratch eons ago as a continuous supply of life energy and materials for themselves.
The Faith doesn't rule Ameth with an iron fist. This is a deliberate decision as an utopia would lead to stagnation and the 7 gods enjoy seeing new creations made by human hands. New arts, architecture or form of war. For this reason the Ameth is usually split in several states.
The pyramids are giant magical circles powered by the collected life force. Some are used by the 7 gods to communicate with Elder entities beyond the stars, some to protect cities form giant worms roaming the deserts, some to change landscapes. Often powerful rituals require more then life force. In one night the populace of a whole village or city can be abducted to be sacrificed in a ritual. And so another dead city is born and no one knows what happened.
The reason that the 7 gods haven't killed each other for power over the nation is because they consider ruling Ameth a side-job. Like a bunch of roommates starting a farm and each day it is turn of one or another to tend to the chickens.
The Surrounding Lands
To the north of Ameth is a vast ocean across which all sorts of strange people might arrive. Some of the Siam claim to come from a land across the sea.
To the east is many months of desert, but one will find oases and small walled cities on the coast with mining outposts further inland. No settlements are long-lasting because they lack the rivers to bring fertility to their fields, though great wealth can be amassed by trading with them while such cities and outposts last. This desert is where scorpion-taur families live and hunt caravans.
Beyond the eastern desert is the mountainous region of Leng where barbarians worship the moon and the sea and mate with birds. Some of the Siam claim to originate from these mountains. Nothing is known of the lands further east, though several disturbing sculptures and indecipherable scrolls can be traced to the region.
The Yaddith kingdoms to the south can be difficult to reach when the rivers run rapidly. In many ways they mix Ameth's culture with the nomadic herdsmen and shamanistic spiritualism further south from them. No Siam has ever seriously claimed to be from the south, though they do trade there occasionally.
To the west there is a smaller desert, taking only five to six weeks to traverse via caravan. Once across, one would come to the first of eleven mighty walled cities which are constantly at war with one another. They are populated by humans, but rumor has it they are ruled by beings descended from the sun itself whose skin burns at a touch.
Sand elves called Siams. Merchants with Persian aesthetics. They travel on caravans between the cities and the outside realms. Siams have pointy elf ears covered in fur with a brush at the end, glowing blue eyes, sharp fangs and a tail. Lot of legends are told about them, like that they gain magical power with the phases of the blue moon, they can speak with cats, suck your life energy from the distance and influence your mind. For this reason Siams wear turbans that completely cover the head and a veil or bone sunglasses to cover the eyes. They successfully introduced this fashion among merchants and nomad tribes making it incredibly difficult to recognize a real Siam.
All those legends about Siams are real. Have I mentioned the life force batteries? Well making them require doing to a Siam something worse then killing. For this reason Siams tend to be wary of the Faith.
Siams have a special bond with cats which led to nomads and merchants caravans often being accompanied by a feline swarm. Don't hurt cats near your house. The cats know and one day you can find a Siam with a knife at your doorstep ready to avenge the kittens you have killed.
They are basically Yuan-Ti. Big serpent tail, scaled humanoid torso and a serpent head. They live underground, in the tunnels and lakes. Under the whole desert of Ameth lie an underground lake. Interbreeding with humans happens quite often. Not last because the keep humans as slaves. Male offspring result in having 4 limbs, a tail and a scaly hide, basically lizardmen, while females end up being lamias/nagas (giant tail with human torso and head). Lamias often posses incredible beauty , typical of half breeds. Sometimes a stranger being is born, a Medusa or worse. Those often have strong magical powers. All half breeds are sterile (like is common in nature). The half breeds are shunned by both parent races. Lizardmen usually end up working as mercenaries, while lamias as sorcerers or whores.
Given the slim chances of Returning as a sentient undead, lot of people tried experimenting other ways of immortality. And some found a way. By consuming the blood of other human beings one could stay young and live forever. This process created sever weaknesses for the new dybbukim. The potable water turned into a deadly poison for them and they are repelled any green plant. Many other weaknesses exist. For example if you scatter grain in front of your house the Dybbuk need to pick it all up before going for you.
Other details must be added to turn them into ancient vampire Jews.
- Giant death worms living in the sand. The only way to travel is to have a powerful mage to drive them away or a Siam that can make sure the caravan avoids one. Furthermore those Worms create electric discharges. This helps them hunt when they are small. When they are big and get angry you have a burrowing thunderstorm ravaging the desert. Water can be a deadly poison to them. They are also known as Shai-Hulud.
- Bigger than a Shai-Hulud, bigger than a mountain, these creature slowly swim in the sand. And by slowly I mean they move by several meters a year. Entire civilizations flourished on their back never realizing what it was. Sometimes you can have one of those emerging from the sand with a city from 6000 years ago on its back.
- Majestic creatures of legends. Very few exist, fewer than Shai-Hulud, and their size vaires greatly probably due to age. They like to play with their food, and the few people that survived an encounter with one tell stories of sadistic beasts asking riddles. Siams worship them as gods. They are basically Dragons.
- Ice Rok
- Giant bird made out of Ice that roams the skies of Ameth. It is said she freezes everything around her and her nest in the middle of a desert is made of Ice. The water continuously condenses due to the cold and flows forming a ring of fresh water around the nest. The said nest ends up surrounded by a paradise, the Ice Rok grants live to the desert creatures, but if you near it too much you die.
- When an Ice Rok flies her shadow is so cold it condenses water. The bird will leave a trail of water puddles in her wake.
- Giant Snake that lives in the lake under the desert. It's bigger then a Olgoi-khorkhoi and have centipede-like legs. Snek venerate it as a God. One of the most powerful beings on Ameth.
- Other creatures found at Ameth:
People of interest
Weapons & Armors
The weapon of choice for Amethian infantry.
A less popular choice for the one handed weapon.
A two-handed polearm. Have a very long reach and is a hyrbid of a spear and an axe. Requires great strength to use and is mainly seen in hands of Anubians. They were called servants of the death god because they used this polearm as a shovel to bury the freshly killed corpses.
The inventor of this weapon was sentenced to be devoured alive by crocodiles. Often given to new recruits for the lulz.
Main distance weapon.
A heavy leather whip made from an adult hippopotamus (or rhinoceros) hide. It ends up being both flexible and durable. Used mostly by the police to inflict non lethal injuries and for honorable duels that would not result in death.
A whip made out of vertebrae. Can be used as a normal whip but in its pommel a skull of a small animal with an uploaded human mind is located. The whip is sentient and can move on its own, changing trajectory in midair and striking the opponent through his guard. At the end of the whip a sharp blade is placed. It takes time to learn to wield it properlye and fight in sync with the intelligence inside the whip.
Hard to make and very rare.
The feathers from the Ice Rok can be fashioned into a sword. Sharp as glass yet flexible like metal. It is said that the cuts inflicted by it don't bleed. The blood is frozen as the blade passes through the tissues. Once could say it makes the Ice feather a worse weapon, but imagine a wave passing through your body freezing your internal organs one after another.
Provides a stable mobile platform for multiple archers to fire.
Truly a majestic weapon.
A sentient armor made out of bones. For the upper body a gorilla skeleton is used while for the lower one the ostrich legs are used. The bones are cut to accommodate a human inside. A skull of a small animal with the driving intelligence is placed inside the armor. The armor is made of bones with lot space of in between making it a bad protection against stabbing. But in the hot climate of Ameth having a closed armor would lead to strokes and death much faster then any enemy spear. The main advantage of the bone armor is not the protection but the augmented strength it gives its master. It follows and amplifies his movements.
The bone-armor does not include the helmet as it is not a moving part.
Hard to make and very rare.
A fantasy setting needs a fantasy metal. In Ameth exist a metal that is 10 times more valuable then gold. And it's name is steel!
Otherwise something made out of extremely hard shells from sapphire scarabs.
Khopesh for rich murderhobos.
Very useful in case one wants to avoid dying.
Notes AKA stuff to do
- Include toxic drugs for the dead.
- Dead paint themselves.
- Gold turns to copper when ressurect.
- Rhipsalis baccifera