Friday, February 4, 2011

The Heliotrope Cliffs

You step out of the carriage, smelling deeply the fresh mountain air. A tiny hamlet surround you -- a trading post to your left, a handful of ramshackle buildings to your right. You look up the winding path that leads to the mine entrance. Hearing a loud chanting behind you, you turn to see a mass of unionist protesters, waving signs and shouting in a variety of tongues... Welcome to The Heliotrope Cliffs. The center for mining for the City, and the Sons of Light's ancestral home, back when they were in full charge of the City.

Okay, so here's the history as it stands: Once upon a time, a group of humans lived by the Heliotrope Cliffs, and some of them migrated to the crux of rivers where the City of Lives now stands -- according to legend, guided by the hand of sun-god The Light. These City-builders and rulers of the government came to be known as the Sons of Light, led by the Monarch of Light. The original settlement at the Heliotrope Cliffs declined, as most of the Sons of Light migrated to the City over the next few centuries.

Then the Elder Trio came. From some Far Realm, these godlike beings removed the Monarch of Light from power [in a war? helping an internal coup? through unimaginably powerful magic? dunno yet], and the last remnants of the Heliotrope Cliffs population ended up in the City [how?], leaving it entirely abandoned.

Now, companies from the City mines iron, gold, the titular heliotrope, and other valuable minerals from the Cliffs, and archaeologists unearth the fascinating remnants of the ancient Son of Light culture.

Archetype: The Heliotrope Cliffs' main archetypal role is as a "collapsed civilization." The most classic examples of this archetype look like this: A grand old culture made the most amazing artifacts in the world/galaxy/universe, then vanished entirely -- Stargate's Ancients, Mass Effect's Protheans, Forgotten Realms' sarrukh, not to mention Atlantis. The Heliotrope Cliffs, however, is closer to the "collapse into barbarism" seen in Foundation, Red Dwarf, and the historical Roman Empire -- the people who once ruled are still around, in the form of the modern Sons of Light, but they are nowhere near as powerful as the old civilization.

Real-Life Inspiration: The inspiration here is every archaeological dig ever. The roads left behind by ancient Romans, the ruins of the Minoan civilization, the pyramids of south America... There are amazing things left behind by these people, art and culture and technologies forgotten until brought back up by the archeologists' careful hands. The old Sons of Light had Lightshaping techniques unknown to modern Crafters, as well as taking Blightshifting to a level now unknown [see the posts on the Blightbound and the Addix], so searching through their ruins always holds the promise of finding the City of Lives version of the Antikythera Mechanism.

Theme: The Heliotrope Cliffs are divided into two distinct areas (conceptually, if not physically): the mines, and the ruins. The mines represent oppression and hard times -- the workers are little more than slaves, and nobody has yet built a mine that's fully safe and easy to work in. On the other hand, the ruins represent lost knowledge, and the hope that it might one day be recovered.

Twist: Pretty easy one here, at least for me: The Sons of Light weren't nearly as amazing as everyone says they were. Personally, I am sick of the "good old days" mentality that goes with the "ancient civilization" trope, and believe that the present is the best we, as humanity, have ever had it. So the Sons of Light weren't so great -- their culture was oppressive and racist, sexist, and most other -ists you can thing of. And they may have created a few marvels that the modern City societies would find amazing, but for the most part, they would be considered amazing "for the time" -- like the Antikythera Mechanism or a third-grader's "A" paper, it's remarkable they made these things with the primitive knowledge they had at the time, but not in today's terms.

Now we leave the Heliotrope Cliffs for our final trip on our Realm of Lives journey, the trio of small farming communities that are the only towns of note outside the City: Bavingdon, Mestloath, and Perstoke. See you next time!