Genesis: The Seven Pillars

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So I felt like posting something unrelated to Pentalithia or Tarosir, for a change. This is a complete world that plays a fairly important part in some of my conceptions of the meta-setting which I like to refer to as Penstrokes. The deity-like entities described in this post are the same sort of being as Cosmeon, the primordial creator deity of Tarosir.

The world known as the Seven Pillars is the work of a man named Jovah Lam. The origins and current location of this man are unknown; it’s not even known if he still lives, though the evidence suggests that he abandoned his world by choice rather than death. It’s fairly obviously influenced by Judaic and related mythologies - significant chapters of its history include the tempting of Abraham, Joseph’s time as the ruler of Egypt, the exodus of Moses and the Jews from Egypt, and the lives of Jesus and Mohammed. However, the world is more interesting for the incidental things it produced outside the main plot.

Creation Myth

The creation myth of the Seven Pillars is similar to Genesis, from the Bible. It says that Jovah built the world atop seven pillars, completing one pillar each day. Thus the world was completed in seven days, and at the end of the seventh day, Jovah took the world from the pillars and bent it into a sphere, and set the sun to orbit it. This myth is present in this form in the world’s analogue of the Bible, and other cultures also have similar myths.

Jovah’s name was known to the early Jews, but the correct pronunciation was eventually forgotten due to the Hebrew writing system omitting vowels. The name was also known to the Romans, who called him Jove-pater, “Father Jove” (note that the final E is not silent); this was later mangled to Jupiter. And in Japan, the kitsunes called him Joba-sama (written with the kanji 序盤).

Properties

Contrary to the myth, the world is in most ways indistinguishable from standard, real-life Earth; in particular, the earth orbits the sun rather than the other way around.

However, unlike real-life Earth, there’s a tiny amount of ambient background magic which, with the right chant or ritual, can be channelled to produce magical effects. The miracles of Moses, Jesus, and others are phrased in terms of this ritualistic magic. Other people besides Jovah’s favoured prophets have learned magic, though; the knowledge has been passed from master to apprentice through the ages, and kept secret from the general population.

In addition to this, there are two outside influences on the world’s magic - the inexplicable innate powers of the Tuatha dé Danaan, and the strange fiery magic of the kitsunes.

The D’ni

It’s interesting that this civilization arose in the Seven Pillars, given that it played no role in the primary storylines. The D’ni were a people from southern Spain who discovered an extensive network of caves beneath northern Africa. They migrated there and built a great civilization, similar in some respects to legends of Atlantis. At their height, they were widely known for their art and culture, particularly in modern-day Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Morocco, and Algeria. However, eventually the leaders of the D’ni empire grew corrupt and began taking surface dwellers as slaves; when the people of modern-day Morocco rose up in protest, they grew afraid and sealed the tunnels leading to their cave.

In the now-sealed cave system, the nobles and rulers slowly went mad. Their scientists performed grisly experiments on captured creatures of interest, in particular the anomalous creatures of Japan (see below). Eventually they engineered a plague which wiped most of them out.

In its better days, the D’ni were particularly known for literature, and they discovered a curious Art of Writing based on use of the world’s natural ambient magic. By using the right formula for ink and carefully binding their books by hand, they could write a “linking book” which contained a portal to another world. Towards the end of the D’ni empire, two people took this a step further, drawing on otherworldly power (specifically the trans-multiversal force of Imagination) to actually create a world with their writing. One of these was a madman named Gehn, who fled the destruction of the D’ni civilization to the world he created, which would become known as Riven. His son, Atrus, and his wife also fled, chasing after him. This story is told elsewhere (in the games Myst and Riven[^1]).

[^1] Note: I’m aware there are also Myst novels, but the contents of those don’t apply to the Seven Pillars; only the events of the games are relevant.

The other was a woman named Danu, who led a large number of refugees from the collapsing D’ni civilization to the island of Ériu (now Ireland), where they came in conflict with the native Fomoire people (which in this story are ordinary, if dark-skinned, humans). These would become the the Tuatha dé Danaan. Eventually most of them either died or ascended to the level of Jovah himself, the latter of which dispersed to other worlds of their own making. Danu was the first to do this.

The Tuatha dé Danaan

These refugees from D’ni played the role of deities in much of Ireland’s history. The main figures were Danu, the mother goddess; her son Eochaid Ollathair, the Dagda; and his two daughters, Brigid and Máire, the latter of whom was more commonly known as the Mor Rígan (or phantom queen). Máire is also unusual in that she manifested her meta-powers through art rather than literature, and she was able to bring her drawings to life; this explains some of the mythical beasts of Irish and British folklore, though many others are still just myth.

In addition to the meta-powers of writing, each of the Tuatha dé Danaan manifested unusual innate powers. For example, Máire gained control of fire, Brigid gained control of water, and Eochaid gained the power to change the size of objects.

The kitsunes

The origin of the kitsunes is an interesting thing. Jovah himself started to design a concept for the first kitsune, but eventually abandoned the concept and ultimately created a world without kitsune. However, this discarded character managed to gain sentience anyway, build herself a name (Zip) and identity, and enter Jovah’s world with her own power, where she became the progenitor of a whole race of kitsunes (via human fathers). This was long before the rise of the D’ni civilization.

The kitsunes of the Seven Pillars are quite unlike Zip in terms of abilities, despite being her descendants. They can shapeshift between fox and human form, and they can mix and match the two as well, though they can’t transform away their fox tails. They gain more tails as they age, up to a maximum of nine, and the number of tails determines how much foxfyre they possess. For each tail, a kitsune can control up to seven discrete balls of foxfyre up to the size of a small melon (such as a cantaloupe), or any lesser number of projections with a maximum total volume equal to this.

They can form their foxfyre into any shape they want and control its colour, creating illusions; they can even produce scents and sounds with this ability. The foxfyre can also burn like normal fire, but they can make it instead feel just pleasantly warm, in which case it also feels somehow fluffy. The foxfyre is an extension of their will - they have a fixed amount, which never decreases and only increases when they grow a new tail. In this way it’s very much unlike a magic system based on mana.

The foxfyre is known amongst their kind for being able to burn anything, even things that normally don’t burn. In particular, it can interact with illusory objects and burn away the magic sustaining the illusion, almost as if the illusory object were real. A nine-tailed kitsune may even be able to burn things that are immune to fire, such as dragons, or things that simply don’t burn, such as water.

The foxfyre can also change things in small ways, which can add up over time. This effect has led to the evolution of some other supernatural entities.

The dragons and nekomata

The dragons are lizards influenced by kitsune foxfyre. They’re proportionally much longer than a normal lizard, almost serpentine. They have no wings, though they do breathe fire. They can fly despite the lack of wings, though, by manipulating air currents. This ability to manipulate air currents can also produce other effects, such as bringing rain.

The nekomata are housecats influenced by the kitsune foxfyre. Built somewhat like a cheetah, they are lean and graceful, with dark mottled fur and two tails. They can be quite friendly, though wild ones have been known to attack people.

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