In the desert, I saw a creature, naked, bestial, who, squatting upon the ground, held his heart in his hands, and ate of it.
I said, “Is it good, friend?”
“It is bitter–bitter,” he answered; “But I like it because it is bitter, and because it is my heart.”
— Stephen Crane
Previously, we covered the birth of the Westfallen setting. In this post we’ll cover the Ether, one of the things that changed with the events of the Downfall.
Discovery of the Ether
Generations passed and all knowledge of the technologies of the past had been lost, but as great minds do, some had compensated for that loss. They worked together to discover the secrets of the changes in the last hundreds of years, and they made a startling discovery - the atmosphere had been charged with a new form of energy. They called it “Ether”.
Ether, they found, was what shut down all the precursory electronics present before the Downfall. While it was present, these objects, save a few extremely rare exotic artifacts, would no longer function. It was also found that the Westfallen both create and breathe this substance and was the very cause of their resilience and other odd features.
Further research into the Ether showed that it was composed of two lesser forms: Aether, the positive aspect of the Ether, could alter light, mend wounds, create a flame, and manipulate the wind, amongst other things. Nether, the negative aspect of the Ether, could create darkness, cause wounds, create cold and manipulate the earth. Aether and Nether were rampant through the atmosphere, and further study showed that the Ether that was present was created by the Westfallen. They would “inhale” both the Aether and Nether, and the resulting by-product was the Ether.
With this knowledge, several of these scientists began to further study the Ether and its component forms, but two major branches broke off from the stemming research. Most major scientists were interested in making precursory technology function again or to make technology once again possible. The other branch had a more abstract and esoteric mindset revolving around the Ether and sought to understand it more clearly and possibly destroy it or even manipulate it.
Soon, these two groups developed stress between them, and hatred emerged. There were fights and skirmishes between the two groups, and just as the two were about to extinguish the new hope they had given the survivors, a man stepped up and demanded them to stop.
This man would become the first new Emperor of the Infinite Solar Empire.
The men and women who had taken the more philosophical and theoretical route of studying the Ether soon found that it permeated all life that remained on Khey, including themselves. This would serve as the initial breakthrough for their further studies, and is the basis of modern Hexcrafting.
By manipulating the existing Aether and Nether energies present in one’s body, they could agitate the energy outside of their bodies, thus manipulating the real world with thoughts and gestures used to aid the mind’s concentration. The effects were first small, such as lighting fires or creating small clouds of darkness, but eventually, they could perform feats that not even the known psions and their mind tricks could do.
But, with such power, as you could imagine, came contempt, hatred, and fear. Finding themselves labeled “Hexcrafters” from the children’s stories of old witches and curses, the people with their secrets were suppressed by the newly reestablished Empire, finding themselves treated as second-class citizens, rounded into ghettos where the very art they worked to create was used to suppress their powers.
The more powerful Hexcrafters found they could combine the Aether and Nether in their bodies similar to the Westfallen, becoming more powerful than previously imagined. These Hexcrafters would eventually break free and escape the Empire and move westward into the Cursed Lands to escape judgment and further prosecution.
However, the secret of Hexcrafting was out and continued to be researched. It was soon found that the most powerful of the Hexcrafters could even directly control a Westfallen creature by hijacking its senses. These stories, of course, did nothing to change the reputation of Hexcrafters in the eyes of the Empire, who continued their crimes against them.
Hexcrafters today are still treated as second-class citizens and are required by law, under penalty of death, to register with the government and report all actions of note to the city’s law offices.
It was the act of combining Aether and Nether into pure Ether that would bring technology back to Khey. This, combined with breaking down Ether into its lesser forms, provided abundant energy that was more or less clean. The combined process of Ether Fission is known as “Etherealization”.
The first Etherealization engines were massive, primitive, clunky, and inefficient. As time went on, however, they shrank and become useful to everyday life. Motors powered farming devices, increasing the food supply. They could create vehicles, including Ether-trains. It was even found that they could use it in weaponry.
As further study would go into Ethertech, it became clear that maybe there could be hope of returning to the former glory once present on Khey. Aircraft, automobiles, trains, weapons, devices, computers, and everything else were born from new processes revolving around ether electronics and subsequent disciplines.
With the advent of Ethertech, of course, came the modernization of cities. Sun’s Throne, the capital of the newly reestablished Empire, was the first to be transformed — sewers, communication systems, transportation, defenses, factories, farms - it was a technological utopia compared to the other vestiges of survivors out in the Cursed Lands. With further increase in technology, the gap between classes of citizens became to increase as well. Millions flocked to the capital with the hope they could live an easier life.
Technology slowly progressed outward from Sun’s Throne, but as the Emperors always keep a close grasp on new advances and developed technologies, they are always used to further increase the capital before other cities.
To this day, Sun’s Throne remains leagues ahead of even the second most advanced city in the Empire.
“What a sad era when it is easier to smash an atom than a prejudice.”
— Albert Einstein