|| Asymmetry | Role-Playing | Spelljammer | Emmett Half-Man ||
Cadin, viewed from space, is an unassuming world: human dominated, three major landmasses (two huge and inter-linked, the third small and unknown across the vast ocean). On the ground, Cadin houses a constant battle for dominance between the Crichton Empire and the Hegemony of Rehan States. Since the last major war between the two fought for a decade with troops, naval forces and terrible magics (Chain-Cast Cloudkill spells killed thousands and rendered whole swaths of territory uninhabitable for years) both sides have sworn off direct conflict. This doesnít stop wars in satellite states, espionage, assassination and developing even more powerful invocations should the other side start something. In this troubled peace the Empire never knows when the Hegemony will strike, and searches for ways to rescue territory lost to Hegemonic dominance.
Six years ago the raids started, not that anyone knew them as such at first. People, alone or in small groups, would vanish. Escapees would tell tales of ĎGrey Mení: tall, slim figures with worms for mouths who read their mind and stole their memories. People would be found bruised and amnesiac a dozen miles from their farms, obviously having been in a fight for their lives. When returned, their family would be gone without a trace. Bards told harrowing tales of Hegemonic secret weapons or things attacking from the sky. Imperial spies reported the Hegemony was experiencing similar problems, and their people blamed the Empire. War was looming, with neither side knowing why.
The Empire formed the Imperial Air Corps as a means of defending their skies from this new threat. Eccentrics in distant parts of the Empire had taken to training and riding flying mounts, something that the Empire usually viewed as an impressive but foolish way to die. These people were aggressively drafted and promoted as the new heroes of the Empire: daring men on the cutting edge of the conflict against the Hegemony. Surveillance balloons, used by both sides in the war, were constructed en masse as transports and archery platforms. Wizards colleges poured their research into flying carpet technology to get wizardly artillery off the ground and into the air where it could combat the threat.
Of course, the Hegemony followed suit: public leaders on both sides decried the new arms race that the other side had started and denied the existence of the mysterious raids that initiated this. In the shadowy corridors of power, agents from both sides held secret meetings to exchange information, risking censure or death from their superiors who refused to see any enemy other than the one they were used to fighting.
In the middle of this conflict against both the traditional enemy and the great unknown was the Imperial Air Corps: mysterious weather wizards on their carpets, stalwart engineers and archers in their dirigibles, and best of all, the daring Sky-knights, trained to be the best of the best, flying their griffins, giant eagles and pegasi, jousting a mile above the skin of the world. They were loved by the common folk, honored by the nobility and respected by their counterparts on the other side. If occasionally they ran into things flying ships that fled rather than engage, or orders from unknown men at command to patrol certain areas and look for certain things (slime filled pools, newly excavated caves, and so on) well, strange things happened in the air.
Of course, the longer you were in the air, the more obvious it was that something was going on. Emmett was one of the second wave of Sky-Knights. He knew enough to listen to the older guys, and to not confide outside their circle about what was up there. While their casualties were high, they were hurting the Grey Menís raiders. When they downed raider ships, and Imperial agents quickly took them away for study by top men. They found Grey Men breeding pools and spearheaded flying carpet attacks against them. They attacked raider ships and lured them through cloudbanks into ambushes by archer-filled dirigibles. Sure, their average life span on active duty was 8 months, but that was the other guys, right? Emmett knew it wouldn't happen to him.
Then it did.
The fighting the real fighting against the raiders, not the skirmishes against the Hegemony had gotten worse. Emmett and his allies had hurt the raiders often enough that things were escalating, with more magi and more artillery. That Emmett managed to bank at the last second and avoid most of the fireball was testament to his skill. That he was able to keep control of his dying griffin and reach the mountain pool a thousand yards below spoke volumes about his training. That he lived through the impact and was found alive proved his luck.
Emmett woke up in the care of the Order of the Toothed Wheel, a sect of the off-world god Gond. There he learned that the agents who claimed flying ship remains had left the planet, contacting Spelljamming society in a quest for allies against the Grey Man, or Illithid. The Order was the first to pledge their assistance to the cause: they had agents in the Empire, converting members of the government and providing advanced technology to combat the raiders. Emmett should have died after that fall, they told him, but through the grace of Gond they were able to bring him back from the final edge.
Most of him.
The fireball had destroyed most of his left side. The priests had been able to salvage his face and ear, but the rest of the skin on that half was burned beyond repair. He had lost his left eye, hand and lower leg. Still, Gond had provided: the priests had built him a skin of leather, a hand of steel and a foot of wood and hemp. They might not be as agile as the old, but they were more durable, and would serve. The Priests replaces his eye as best they could, and their treatments somehow infused his body with a new, almost inhuman strength. Gond had, they surmised, replaced some of his muscles with boiled leather and steel during his transformation.
Emmett spent months in training with the Order, learning the 24 tenets as he learned to use his new body. He learned the prayers to Gond, and the flowing meditation of craft. He built new tools for his hand. He re-mastered the leatherworking skills learned at his fatherís knee in building himself a larger skin as his body regained lost mass. He took the god Gond into his heart, becoming another tool for the God of tools. He waited until he was well enough to fly again, to use this new strength against his people's enemy.
Outside the order the battles continued. The Imperial Air Corp was holding its own, but the conflict would continue for as long as the Grey Men decided to stay overhead: with no real space presence, Cadin was still too vulnerable and too tempting a target to let go. All of that ended suddenly when the Elvish space navy swept through the sphere and broke the raiders power. Cadinís emissaries had apparently convinced someone among the Elves to help them. They didnít ask for much the Elvish trading consortium that had forced the navyís involvement just wanted rights to the unknown continent on Cadinís far side, and the Crichton Emperor and Praetor of the Hegemony gratefully signed it over, swearing not to spy on the elves or fly over their airspace.
Emmett rejoined society in what was politically a whole new world: the raiders were gone, the war with the Hegemony had been forestalled again, the church of Gond was quietly spreading its religion and technology, trading ships from the Elvish consortium provided a trickle of off world commerce to the shadow cabinet and the cultural elite. But no one on the street knew a thing. The Emperor feared the chaos if the truth were made known, and was keeping it secret, promising to reveal it slowly, once the new concepts and goods had worked they way through society. A decade. No more than two. Surely not three....
That mattered little to Emmett. What mattered more was getting in the air again. When he learned that he had been removed from the active flying roster thanks to his injuries, he resigned his commission and signed on to a trading ship as a marine. There was nothing keeping him here not when out there he could see new places, serve his god openly and fly. It was ship flying, but it was close. It would serve. The Elvish ship was polite but distant, his time on board short. From there it was a pair of cruises with human traders and some experience with space combat. After that, he signed on for a cruise with a tinker gnome ship ("after all, we're all followers of Gond, right?"), and from there ended up on Brall.
He appreciates Elves, who have always treated his people fairly if distantly (he hasn't spent enough time around them for their sense of inherent superiority grate on, well, his sense of inherent superiority). He has a reserve around Gnomes; to him, they are genuinely friendly and helpful to the point where you want to punch them in the nose.
Emmett is a pale-skinned wiry human of middle height, easily distinguishable by his prosthesis he is missing his left leg below the knee and his left arm after the elbow. The former is replaced by a twine-wrapped wooden leg, the latter with a steel reinforced arm terminating with a hook. He wears an eye-patch over his left eye, and has mild burn scars on the left half of his face, covered by the long, lanky hair on that side. Rumor has it that more than Emmett's hand and foot are artificial, but he does not seem a man with whom it is wise to pry.
Despite his losses, Emmett is a very physical man he possesses an air of competency that comes across as an affable self assurance at the best of times and arrogance at others. He throws himself into activity, making up for his losses with his surprising strength and vitality. He is rumored about the Rock to be a morose drunk who gets violent if harassed, and after a few impressive brawls he is seldom harassed. When sober, Emmett is outgoing and energetic, turning on the charm for ladies, making friends with men and offering stories of riding griffins -- something he refers to as 'really flying' rather than 'just spelljamming'.
He's been on the Rock for a couple months, and after drinking off his last cruise he is scouting around for work as a marine. He has recommendations from his last two cruises, and a reputation as a stable man when he's kept away from strong liquor.
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© 2001 Rebecca J. Stevenson