A Brief History of Ember

Ember is a world of man-made wonders–great creations of engineering and architecture, technology and marvels, made possible by the Luthien Stone. This massive crystal shard is thought by scholars to have fallen from outside the world onto the Plain of Ammeghed, where it shattered.

The explosion that resulted devastated the area within hundreds of miles of the impact, and the resulting cloud of dust and ash that was flung up into the atmosphere heralded a long night in Ember. For hundreds of years, ice and darkness ruled the world, but the world healed itself as it always does, and eventually, the remnants of the surviving civilized races began to repopulate.

The crystal of the Luthien Stone scattered across Ammeghed in all directions, but the largest remaining remnant rested in the enormous crater that was created by the impact of the stone. This titanic crystalline shard reached forty thousand feet into the sky. The crater surrounding it filled with water as the climate of the world warmed, and eventually earth and ash covered the greater part of it. Today, the stone appears to be a natural, though extremely large, mountain.

Fourteen hundred years Before Foundation (bFnd), and a thousand or more since the thawing of Ember, an explorer named Luthir Gault and his companions built three longboats on the short of the great lake dominating the interior of the Plain of Ammeghed, and attempted to sail and row across it. It was they who discovered the great crystalline mountain at its center.

Luthir’s longboat was the only vessel to survive the journey across the lake’s often-stormy waters, but he carried with him a wizard of some renown, Ediss of Molsen, who recognized the great power that dwelt within the mountain of crystal. Ediss never again left the mountain, though he was blessed with a long life. He instead devoted his fortune and his studies from that day forth to discovering and harnessing the properties of the stone.

If Ember were always a fair world, the Stone would more properly be named after Ediss. Instead it was named for its discoverer, as often is the case. But the wizard would not fade into obscurity, as the result of his studies, the Edissian Principles, became the basis for all that followed.

It was Ediss who, after determining the means of tapping into the power of the Stone, first stumbled upon the properties of transmission. The powers of arcane magic could not touch the Stone directly, although permanent objects created by magic could interact with it. Ediss was forced to use scientific methods to proceed, a discipline that his decades of study in the arcane prepared him well for.

The crystal was extremely hard, but could be worked after ‘softening’ through a process of rapid heating  and cooling. He determined through exhaustive experimentation that a fragment of the crystal would “borrow” power from the great Stone up to a distance of a little over a mile, but once it was transported further than that, the shard’s power would become exhausted by use over time.

Ediss then discovered that by alloying copper with crystalline dust, he could create cables that would carry power to the shard, even when it was beyond the “radiation limit”.  This was good, but insufficient for his purposes, as he wished to establish satellite crystals far from the mountain, and the Sea of Storms, as the great round lake was known, was far too large to run cables all the way across.

This was a vexing problem, because this potentially unlimited source of power was of little utility if it could not be distributed beyond the confines of the isolated mountain itself. He began experimenting with the concept of transmission, believing that the radiant energy of the stone could be focused and thereby induced to carry further than a single mile before it faded.

After much tinkering, Ediss and his now-formidable staff of students found that a perfectly-shaped prism would separate the radiant energy into visible, coherent beams of multi-colored light, much like it would diffuse sunlight into its spectrum. A series of seven crystal prisms of large size were created and mounted on a circular frame. Each prism could be adjusted just so, aligning one beam of each color of the Stone’s spectrum along the same linear path. This worked to carry a full-spectrum beam beyond the mile limit, but only by a few extra miles before the component beams diffused to the point where they were no longer close enough together to maintain coherence.

One late night, after many hours of exhausting trial and error, Ediss and his helpers carefully wheeled the large, copper contraption with its attached prisms away from the area of exposed crystal that they used in their experiments. Before stowing, the prisms would each be turned to the “neutral” position, which ensured that any captured radiation would be diffused in quickly divergent paths, avoiding any unintended exposure to coherent beams, which could quickly heat whatever they struck to a dangerous level.

This night, Ediss decided that they should stow the rigging pointed in the opposite direction. The Burgher of the town that had grown around the site had complained to him that very afternoon that the townsfolk were bothered by the colored lights that stabbed every-which-way from the laboratory, some of them intersecting the town itself. Ediss knew that these divergent beams were harmless, but many of the townsfolk were superstitious and would go to any length to avoid interacting with a beam. It was a nuisance, but one easily addressed.

When the contraption was turned directly opposite the crystal exposure, an odd and spectacular event occurred. White beams of coherent light snapped out into the night, one from each prism. The angle of the prisms caused two of the beams to converge, and where they met, the beams twisted around one another, slowly curving up into the sky in a spiral until the beams finally diffused.

Excited, Ediss began carefully aligning the prisms to project their beams toward the top of the nearest alignment tower. These towers were used by crews on the lake to locate the coherent beams in the daytime when they were much harder to see.  When the first two beams intersected, they “twined” and arced away, just as the original two did. As each beam was added, however, the arc became less pronounced and formed more of a spiral than an arc. Finally, when the last beam converged with the others, the spiral vanished, and seven leg-thick beams of white energy twined together and projected outward in a perfectly straight line, as far as the eye could see. The top of the alignment tower exploded instantly, and the rest of the tower burned down within minutes. Thus was born the “Edissian Rope”.

Within months, a shard of many thousands of pounds was moved to the large town on the lakeshore opposite the laboratory. Ediss focused the rope high and wide of his best calculation of where the town was located. A team of helpers was dispatched to take precise measurements of where the  rope actually went in relation to the town.  While the team was gone, Ediss had a form built around the copper contraption, and charged the two local masons to set aside their other work to begin mixing great batches mortar and aggregate to stabilize the prisms once they were aligned.

When the team returned, Ediss learned that the rope was a little over three miles to the east of the target site and very high. He adjusted the rope twenty clicks to the west and ten clicks down. Two teams set out this time to shorten the time it would take to get word of the alignment. It took seven more adjustments before a team returned to inform Ediss that the rope was intersecting the splinter, which had been mounted on a specially constructed stone pyramid-shaped structure in the town. The Burgher of Molsen was said to be overjoyed and more than a little relieved that they hadn’t burned a hole through his town.

The next decades saw an explosion in satellite crystals. One of the first things that Ediss and his disciples had figured out was how to make a crystal “light up”. In the beginning, the least one could expect to enjoy by living in a town with a shard was to have lights in your home, and plenty of them. Small shards were easily come by in those days, and could easily be transformed into “switchable” lights with a bit of crystal-infused copper wise and a crystal switch toggle.

Ediss and those who followed were not satisfied with lights, of course. They perfected a number of technologies that used the power of the Luthien stone to perform tasks that had been undreamed of in the past. Motors were created that powered tools and implements for a wide variety of purposes. Self-powered carts made trips from one town to the next fast and economical. Horseless tillers and plows enabled farmers to increase their productivity greatly. Goodwives were soon cooking food and sweeping up their floors using machines halved the time it took, or better.

But all of this paled in comparison to the fences and domes. Metal pylons were constructed that carried many hair-thin ropes of power between them, making it impossible for the unwanted to enter a town unless they were permitted. Fenced towns became impenetrable fortresses, and feared nothing of beasts or creatures of the night, save for those who could fly, and the domes soon took care of that.

Domes were expensive to create and maintain, however, requiring a great deal of metal and many skilled engineers to perfect. Only the largest and richest cities could afford them. Others found more economical ways to defend themselves. By bFnd. 500, few citizens of a town with a shard lacked a power lance, able to project a beam of coherent light into the sky, or wherever it was pointed. Flying creatures such as dragons and wyverns soon learned to avoid settlements for their own safety.

Once the development of weapons began, it was a short time before the civilized races began to use them for war. The great cities began to fight one another for resources, and thus began a dark and dangerous time in the history of Ember. Many tens of thousands died before the populace finally rose up and overthrew their warlords. It was then that democratic government was born in the ashes of ruined civilizations, and the great cities elected their high councilors. A unified government rose up as the Council of Nine, and after centuries of strife and destruction, the land knew peace again.

The laws of the Council, initially harsh and unforgiving, softened over the centuries. Today, the most severe punishment one can face is “banishment from the light”, which is to be branded and sent out from the city or town, never to return and never to be admitted into any settlement. Only the most vile murderers or unrepentant believers face such a sanction, others being fined or detained in secure facilities for re-education.

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