|Intro to RoÆ|
You can view the Timeline here!
Although this brief introduction barely scratches the surface, we hope it will provide a sense of the world as it exists after the Rise of Æster. For a more detailed chronology of events following the Rise, you can peruse the Timeline, which provides year-by-year descriptions of events transpiring until the current year, PÆ 80, and other forces acting to bring about the current world.
The Rise began over 80 years ago, in 1862, when sudden and catastrophic changes began to alter the Earth. The skies grew dark, rapidly filling with a substance that came to be called 'Æster'. Sea levels rose to unprecedented heights and a shift in the magnetic poles caused compasses to spin uselessly, bringing shipping to a virtual standstill.
Over the next twenty years, the world map had to be redrawn as the floods engulfed coastlines and even entire countries. The mass-migration of populations and governments changed the political face of the globe. Of all these changes, the Æster itself altered the history of our world most dramatically. Its oppressive layer of darkness blanketed the world like a shroud. Its inexorable, decades-long march from the poles toward the equator carried with it a plethora of dangers.
Millions died during these years. Some estimate that as many as two-thirds of all humanity succumbed to the rising tides, famine, disease, darkness, and the terrible wars that waged for scarce remaining arable lands that still received the sun and could produce food.
After the Æster stabilized and halted its relentless progression, humanity slowly recovered from the succession of disastrous catastrophes. From near-obliteration they began to forage into the darkness to reclaim what had been lost. A cultural spark kindled into a groundswell called the City of Light Movement, to create safe havens of industry and commerce deep in areas still in darkness.
This is the world of Rise of Æster, a world where Mankind is in ascendancy after near-eradication. Steam, iron, and technology, uncompromising acts of will and bravery, and the power of human ingenuity have brought us back from the brink to a world of unparalleled possibility.
The world has been almost completely defined by the Æster itself. The substance has been Mankind's greatest threat, but is now his most powerful resource. Its many baffling, almost contradictory physical properties have been harnessed to the great benefit of humanity.
The term ‘Æster’ refers to both the substance itself and the atmospheric cloud layer formed of it. Pronounced “EH-stur”, the term was coined by Lord Kelvin in 1863.
What is æster? What is it made of? These questions have confounded countless men of science for decades. Despite its manifestation in the thick clouds that form bands encircling the Earth, it defies chemical analysis. The famous Professor Samuel Wayneright hypothesized æster to be “localized concentration of charge, suspended within the luminiferous æther…which takes the form of a dilute gas, but exhibits the aggregate behavior of an electrified quasi-stable condensation…with powerfully reactive electrical, magnetic and chemical properties.”
The vast quantity of research into the basic nature of æster has mostly provided an extensive catalogue of its myriad physical properties: a natural history of its reactions to all manner of materials. Æster is flammable, even in low concentrations, corrosive to stone and metals and can cause rapid failure of materials and structures when such are immersed, such as at high altitudes, amongst the æster clouds. Up in the troposphere, within the greater mass of the Æster, enormous electrical potentials flow in a perpetual storm of lightning.
Æster’s only apparently identifiable constant lies in its ability to alter whatever it contacts. Plants, animals, materials of every kind; even the environment itself has been irrevocably altered by its presence, even in dilute quantities. All groups of elements are more or less equally subject to interaction with æster. The periodic disposition of a material seems to have no bearing on the extremity of reaction with æster. This fact demonstrates that the reactivity of æster does not result from chemical interactions; the reactivity arises from a more fundamental spontaneous interaction between the corpuscles of æster and any materials it contacts. In shorter words, æster is an initiator of transmogrification, not chemical reaction.
THE ÆSTER BANDS
The thick Æster choking out the sun was classified into three bands of darkness; the utter tenebrosity of the Nyx extends from over both poles to approximately 40 degrees north and south latitude. No sunlight reaches the Earth's surface within the Nyx. The Æster thins slightly over the Argentum, which stretches between 40 degrees to roughly the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn at 23.5 degrees north and south latitude. Within the Argentum, some sunlight filters through the Æster, but this region generally exists in perpetual twilight. The Aureus remains the only region on Earth where Sol still shines on the surface and extends between both tropics across the equator. This band experiences no Æster cover at all to speak of. Crops are produced in the Aureus that cannot be grown in the greenhouses of the cities of light. No heavier-than-air æsterships or platforms can operate within the Aureus.
Perhaps the most astounding of all æster’s myriad properties is called the Draw. At altitudes above 10,000 feet, the density of æster exerts an extremely powerful attractive field, which conveys a considerable pull on objects that come within its influence. It is the Draw that has enabled the construction and flight of giant æsterships, which soar within the Æster.
Metal is most affected by the phenomenon, but at extremely high altitudes any material will be drawn, including flesh. The Draw is both benefit and curse. Although it suspends both aesterships and platforms aloft, a clear benefit, the Draw continues to increase in strength at consecutively higher altitudes. At an altitude dependent upon the power of a ship's engines, the Draw will eventually overcome a vessel's ability to overcome it and that ship will be uncontrollably drawn up into the Æster; such an unfortunate vessel will eventually be destroyed by violent storms and electrical activity in the uppermost reaches of the Æster.
When humans are subjected to various concentrations of æster, one of several reactions may occur; æster’s reactivity burns most victims horribly or they are rendered to dust entirely in a matter of minutes. An extremely unfortunate few become inflicted with “Æster Madness”, a degradation of the mind that reduces the victim to a raging animal. Such afflicted turn on friends, loved ones or even their own children, in fits of horrific violence.
The mechanism of the affliction's cause is poorly understood but its effect is generally always the same; violent psychosis arises within a matter of minutes of exposure. The Æster Mad become savagely violent and will attack nearly anything or anyone around them, including each other. Both feared and pitied, the Æster Mad are vicious and brutal through no conscious choice of their own. Inhalation of the “Vapors,” æster dense enough to form a cloudy, vaporous gas, causes those afflicted to turn on strangers, friends, and even family members.
Many æsterships maintain a policy to simply and immediately put down any Æster Mad; they are too dangerous to even attempt to manage. Only certain specific rescue units of the military take on the risks and expense to subdue and recover those gone Æster Mad.
Those who can be restrained and rescued have a difficult and tenuous road to recovery. The most common treatment is months under heavy sedation in a sanitarium, to closely observe if the afflicted will come out of the madness through time and their own ability. If the patient does not recover, they are considered profoundly Æster Mad, and eventually moved to what is colloquially known as a “Howling House.” Here, they are kept under permanent sedation and restraint, only occasionally brought to consciousness to look for signs of recovery. Since these unfortunates can only be tube fed or fed intravenously, the prognosis for many is grim. They generally wither and die over time.
The only other option is known as “The Procedure"; an interorbital leucotomy, in which the frontal lobe is severed through the use of a long, sharp probe inserted through the back of the eye socket. This process renders the patient passive and is the only known way to permanently halt the violent behavior of the profoundly Æster Mad. Thus the Procedure is used only as a last resort.
While unusual, disintegration occurs with sufficient regularity to terrify anyone working in or transiting the Æster. The corrosive effects of the Æster act so violently on some individuals that they are literally rendered to dust in minutes. Æster most often burns, not unlike a chemical burn, but utter disintegration literally destroys tissue so rapidly that nothing can be done to stop it. Disintegration can happen at the first exposure to Æster or after many years of minor exposures. Æster Disintegration and Æster Madness are the two effects of exposure that everyone who works with or within the Æster fears most.
LIFE AND SOCIETY IN THE POST-RISE WORLD
CITIES OF LIGHT
Deep within the unending darkness of the Nyx and Argentum, Cities of Light have been constructed that function as both enormous habitats and industrial/manufacturing centers. Immense farms and greenhouses, lit by banks of thousands of Tesla lamp growing lights surround the cities of light to provide staple crops that keep each city's residents alive.
Every city of light also features an aeroplex, a towering spire with multiple docks for airships that operate below the Æster floor. The aeroplex is also an anchor point for massive cables running up to the platforms within the Æster. These large floating platforms suspended by the Draw were built to service the æsterships that roam altitudes above 10,000 feet. The æster platforms are supplied by heavy-capacity cable elevators called skyhooks, connected to the aeroplex below. These cables also allow cable-crawling elevators to transit vertically, carrying cargo, passengers, and even carrying whole æsterships in and out of the Æster.
The cables themselves act as a power conduit, channeling the flow of current from the highly charged Æster, powering the millions of Tesla lamps in the city of light below.
THE BRITISH EMPIRE & BRITISH AMERICA
The British Empire stands as one of the final remaining colossi of empires, spanning the entire globe with its land holdings. The capital now lies in New London (formerly Darwin), in the sun-warmed Aurean lands of Australia.
In the United States, the first five years of the Rise saw the destruction of both the Union and the Confederacy. Caught in the teeth of the Civil War when the Rise began in 1862, neither government was in any way prepared to deal with the tragedies wrought by rising waters, encroaching darkness and the subsequent famines and disease that plagued the tide of refugees fleeing the northern latitudes.
Only two exceptions resisted rejoining the British Empire. The first is the Former Confederacy, which occupies lands east of the Great Mississippi Bay and south of the Tennessee and South Carolina border. The former Confederate States chose to go their own way and organized into a loosely affiliated chain of city-states. Law and order only exists to the distance of a canon shot from the walls of each remaining Confederate city-state. The second is the Republic of California, the last remnant of the former Union, which now extends as far north as Fort Colville in the North and as far south as Mazatlan in western Mexico.