Bite-sized Backstory 42: The Theodicy War (Destiny)
After the Awoken have their great council, they set out to truly explore and understand their new world. Some travel the land making maps and discoveries as the go. Others build ships and chart the oceans and coastlines. And others turn their eyes to that sky that it so full of starts it is milk white in some places. Meanwhile, Alis Li works to help the Awoken rediscover things like proper agriculture and the advanced technologies found aboard the Shipspire.
It’s an interesting situation the Awoken are in. Very advanced Golden Age technology exists within the Shipspire, but it seems pretty clear there isn’t a manual laying around telling them how to reproduce those technologies, so in large part they are starting at the beginning and rediscovering things year after year, decade after decade. Some Awoken, notably the 891, seem to have inklings and memories of how things work, so the Awoken aren’t totally in the dark in terms of technology and invention like human civilization originally was. They probably advance far faster than humanity did the first time, but it must still take decades or centuries.
Eventually though, the Awoken start to build cities. Some Awoken, like Alis Li want to continue to advance their technologies and knowledge. But there are other Awoken who enjoy their lives of adventure and freedom in the forests and on the seas. They don’t want to work in cities. They probably care less about achieving new things and advancing the state of the art. These Awoken slowly form into tribes that live outside the cities. We’re not looking at civilization vs savages by any means, but there is at least some split between the interests and priorities of the Awoken as a whole. Interestingly, Mara and her brother and mother live among the tribes. Mara, specifically lives alone on some distant mountain top. She has her reasons, and we’ll get to them, but for the moment, no one really knows why she wishes to be so far removed from the rest of the Awoken.
Another part of the division between these two groups of Awoken are two different ideas relating to how the Awoken were created:
In the tribes of the forests and the sea, there was the belief that the Awoken had been made out of a friction between contesting forces and that one day this conflict would need to be resolved. These were the Eccaleists who preached that Awoken owed a debt to the cosmos.
In the cities, however, they lived by the Seventh Verdict under their Queen, and they said the Awoken had been created by cosmic gift and carried neither responsibility nor eschaton. These were the Sanguine, who preached that the Awoken were as stable as an atom of carbon.
Recall, that the Seventh Verdict was:
that the Awoken were created out of covenant with Light and Darkness, but the covenant was complete, and no further debt would ever be called, except the duty of the Second Verdict to remain on the Distributary.
So, we have a group that believes the Awoken owe a debt and a second group who believe that they do not. If that was the only disagreement, things would have likely been fine. There was no immediate proof for either side, after all.
But then an Awoken woman with a radical idea comes to power and popularity within the tribes. This woman, who called herself “the Diasyrm” was one of the 891 Awoken who still remembered some of her Golden Age past. A Diasyrm is a figure of speech expressing disparagement or ridicule. This Diasyrm begins preaching that since Queen Alis Li was the first to awaken, it is therefore Alis Li who took it upon herself to shape the formless power that the Awoken existed as after the clash of Light and Darkness. And, that in shaping the Awoken into a human-like form, even one that is effectively immortal when not counting things like injuries or accidents, she forced them down a path that included things like pain, hardship, suffering, and evil.
The 891 who remember something of the past are an important and well regarded group among the Awoken. And while this new idea is highly controversial, it is coming from one of the 891 so it has more power and prestige than it would have otherwise had. The accusation is not just that the Awoken sometimes have to deal with things like pain or injury in their day to day lives, it’s that they have to worry about such concepts at all. There is possibly another layer here where the Diasyrm isn’t just saying that Alis Li did this to the Awoken, but that she choose to do it, or that she did it on purpose without giving anyone else a choice.
The outlying tribes get roused up by this. They want to know why Alis Li betrayed them. Why she took it upon herself to prevent them from being gods. At the same time, the peoples of the city are deeply offended at the idea that their Queen, who has lead them impeccably for hundreds of years, would have done something so vile as purposely create a world that included things like pain, suffering and death.
This strong disagreement between the two sides eventually leads to a large scale civil war! This war is termed the Theodicy War, as theodicy is, basically, the attempt to find some explanation or defense as to why there is evil in the world if the world was created by an all powerful god who is good. That is sorta what this war is, the Awoken in the cities defending their ruler against the accusations of those in the forests and seas.
(Theodicy is a complex and interesting subject… and not one I’m going to dip into… if you want to know more you should probably start with the Wikipedia Article.)
For something like fifty years, the Eccaleists who oppose Alis Li, and the Sanguine who support her are locked in battle. Given that the Awoken are still rediscovering much of the technology they lost, it seems likely that this is more of a ground war fought with fairly primitive weapons. There are still some high tech weapons left on the Shipspire, but probably not a lot. In fact, we are told that the war was fought “by spear and bow, by knife and scalpel, by old machine and new invention.” And that Alis Li reserved high tech weapons for a select few Paladins who answered to her.
There’s another part here. Outside of this war or accidental injury, the Awoken are immortal. Killing each other is seen as a terrible thing. Each death means a life that would have gone on forever is cut off. There’s even a little poem about it:
To end a world with a shot or pin eternity on a blade; to see your sisters lost to rot and their undone works decayed.
But not even understanding the tragedy of killing a fellow immortal does much to stop the killing. What it does do is affect those who do the killing and those who lose friends or loved ones to the war. There’s a great line that says: “An immortal's grief and murder-guilt, left untended, will never fade.” So, this war isn’t just reducing the number of Awoken, it is doing great harm to those that are left behind. In part, the war continues because the war started. Grudges and feuds and the need for revenge become significant factors in the war's continuation.
At fifty years and counting, this Theodicy War shows no sign of ending. Alis Li is not some cruel ruler who demands that her side kill the other. If anything, this is a war that is breaking her heart, but is one where her influence is not nearly enough to get either side to stop. But… Alis knows someone who probably does have that kind of influence and power. And so, she sends one of her few VTOL aircraft to pluck Mara Sov from the mountain she lives on. The conversation that ensues, and the promises that are made, and the actions and ideas that end the Theodicy War are all very interesting…
…or they will be. Next time. :)