Wednesday, 25 September 2013

A breed unto themselves

Ever since the War of Enlightenment the world has been changing. Sometimes the changes have been sudden and sometimes they've been subtle. Sometimes, as is the case with the emergence of the umbrians, the changes have been gradual and disturbing. It first started on the Redlands borders, where some newborns displayed non-human features such as horns and strange eyes. Giving birth to an umbrian often proved fatal to the mother as the horns or other inhuman features tore into her flesh. At this point is was believed that the children were in fact changelings, i.e. that the real child had been stolen by spirits and replaced by one of their own. Research into the topic soon revealed that this was not the case. They were in fact both human and spirit. Nevertheless, many such children have been, and still are, killed at birth or put out in to woods to die.

It is believed that the human soul and the spirit merge while the foetus is still in the womb, likely as the soul is drawn towards its future vessel and while it is still unattached. Some scholars believe that it is actually a matter of two ephemeral entities inhabiting the same corpus, but there is no proof for this theory. On the contrary, tests appear to support the claim that the two form different aspects of the same whole, both equally dependent on the physical body. This discovery has led the Enlightened Council to classify Umbrian as a new and distinct genus related to mankind, and in YE 1033 they were afforded the same charter rights as all other mythicals.

Though still suffering from a certain stigma, umbrians have become rather commonplace, especially in the counties surrounding the Redlands and in Wezell. Due to their innate access to Numina, they often find gainful employment as manufacturers of wards or as Shade- or Nether-wardens. The perhaps most well known umbrian to date is Johannes Drowan, the Nether-warden of Raederhafen. There are also quite a few who gravitate towards more adventurous occupations or even towards outright banditry.

In recent years another species of umbrian has been discovered in Pendrell. During the war the elves released Fornost, a great primordial forest spirit, upon the kingdom. Over the course of a single night it swallowed four duchies and all who lived there. It was long believed that all those souls were lost, but now a tribe of arboreal umbrians have been encountered in the Elfswood by the Argonauts. There has been little study done on these beings, but the ruling theory is that those who did not die during the forest's onslaught had their souls infused by it. The strongest arguments in support of this theory are that the arboreal umbrians appear to share some form of common conciousness and that one them seems to be old enough to have been an adult when the forest came.

Yet another species is found in Geistwald. These feral umbrians have been around for so long that they feature in local legends and fairy tales, and is not a result of the war. What separates these from the hominid umbrians is that they are the result of spirits merging with animals. This has sparked a separate debate about whether or not this means that animals have a soul.

During the war the Abyss swallowed vast reaches of the Umbra and myriads of spirits were consumed, went mad, or became corrupted. These latter spirits form Night Fauns if they merge with a foetal soul. These creatures are among the most wicked and destructive of all the creatures on Argos, and the Enlightened Council has issued a standing fatwa on all Night Fauns.

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