The part below is an excerpt from the History of Malekith. See that for events leading up to this.
Among the many cataclysms that followed the creation of Nyxheim, was the return of the inventor of necromancy, a dark elven noble known as Nagash. One of the most important rules of the Necromancer Church was to never raise other necromancers, but like so many other things during the Apocalypse, this taboo was broken. At first, a great mind like Nagash was welcomed to support Malekith though the unstable times. With the support of both the royal court and the noble houses, he was appointed as the head of the Church, a position he already held almost 2000 years ago. But soon, he began to show discontent with the way the Church has become corrupt and dependent on the national bureaucracy.
Nagash has begun to take steps to re-separate the Church from the state, but his attempts were met with stiff resistance from the government. Following a long string of conflicts and incidents, the imperial crown decided to remove Nagash from his position. However, by that time, he had gained a large support base in the empire, and proclaimed the Church to be a sovereign entity, separate from Malekith. The Malkian Civil War broke out. The war was quite brief, as the Church had control over the undead armies that comprised over 90% of Malekith's armed forces. Together with his supporters, Nagash marched into the imperial palace and forced the crown to sign the Schism Treaty, in which Malekith granted the Church sovereignty and ceded Obsidian to it.
The excerpt ends here.
The towering skyscrapers of Lightfall define it as the center of the Ecclesiastic civilisation. In turn, the center of Lightfall is defined by Spire Golgotha - a massive tower that serves as home to the Church and seat of the Necrarch himself. The surrounding buildings contain the economy and administration of the entire empire, along with the enigmatic personae that run them. Directly west of the Square of Light lies the headquarters of Xerxes Incorporated, the notorious company that compromises human claims on the continent's resources.
HagalazAlthough the smallest district in Obsidian in terms of area, Hagalaz arguably sees the most traffic, because it's the consumer's paradise. Shops, bars, nightclubs, film theaters and even some restaurants if you look hard enough, this glamorous (by Obsidian standards) area has enough entertainment to interest even a corpse. The four streets it occupies are never queit, the places it houses are never vacant, and the experiences it offers are never unvisited.
Eihwaz encompasses the northeastern and southeastern part of Obsidian. It is the main residential area of the city, reminding of human cities in layout, but having a completely different atmosphere. Because of the thick smog that always hangs over Obsidian, street lights are on even in the middle of the day. Brightly illuminated houses blend with convenience stores, small private science laboratories and necromantic chapels. The streets are mostly clean and safe, in some places adorned with lavish mansions owned by wights and other important people. Obsidian's eastern nuclear power plant can be found in the northern half of the district.
Ingwaz encompasses the northwestern and southwestern part of Obsidian. It's notably dirtier and darker than the rest of the city, consisting of the original town that grew around the obsidian mine which later named the city itself. Shabby old-fashioned buildings and poor area maintenance make this residential district less than lucrative, but because local housing is very cheap, many economically pressed ghouls can find a reasonable home here. The district has several notable places: first is the Ghost Point railway station in the south, which marks the northmost stop of the Ghost Express. To the north lies Fort Eolth, containing Obsidian's military garrison and training facility. South of the fort is the city's western nuclear power plant.
Obsidian is built by human city model, with the governmental and commercial skyscrapers in the middle, power works on the sides and the residential and recreational areas revolving around the centre. As the city's skysrapers were based on their blueprints, human architecture is also evident, but with a grim dark elven touch of jagged edges and sharp angles. There are no organic components whatsoever - no parks, no ponds or rivers, not a single tree or bush in the entire city. The ever-present nuclear smog that hangs overhead and the bright street illumination only add to the ambiguity, which is creepy for some, cozy for others, or sometimes both at once, but the post-apocalyptic atmosphere is felt by everyone. The skyscrapers and power plants tower like giants, disappearing into the tainted sky above and displaying Obsidian's sinister beauty for all to see.
The temperate region which the city is situated in doesn't reflect its actual climate. Due to a large part of sunlight being blocked by the clouds of dirty gases overhead, it is rather cold, the air never rising above 10°C even in the middle of summer. The winters are even colder, -20°C being the norm in January. Most of the undead aren't much bothered by it, and there's warm clothing available for those that are. The winters here also experience regular snowfall, sometimes enough to cave in flimsy roofs and disrupt the traffic. Due to the distance to the ocean, the other seasons are relatively dry, with the occasional heavy rain in autumn.
TransportThe main form of movement in Obsidian is the Volche DCC - Duplex Canthus Curriculum, or Dual Wheel Chariot in Avarin. It's a motorbike-esque vehicle manufactured in Doomforge by Volche, specifically for the long and straight roads of Obsidian. It has fast acceleration and high speed when driving in a straight line. It is also comfortable to sit on and its nuclear batteries only needs to be refueled about once in a year. However, due to its overly bulky design and poor suspension, it's not suited for rough terrain and is of little use outside of the city, unless driving on a good road. Aside from DCC, Volche also makes two- and four-seat cars for civilian use, but they are expensive and therefore not very popular. Taxi services can be ordered by phone in case your DCC broke down and is in repair. There is a subway network in construction underneath the city, but it's not yet usable. Their running speed usually allows vampires to get around without a vehicle. There are two airports directly southeast of Obsidian; one civilian and one military, either of which can be reached after a 5-minute DCC drive. The civilian airport is owned by Xerxes Inc. and hosts regular steamplane flights to Malekith and Sable.
In the southern part of Ingwaz lies Ghost Point, the northern station of the Ghost Express that travels between Obsidian and Doomforge. Its fame has reached even foreign metropoli. The train itself is actually a powerful wight bound to a metal frame, which carries the eerie locomotive across the wasteland with speed not normally achievable by modern vehicles. The train hovers slightly above the tracks and moves through the willpower of the wight, who can shift half-way into the Dreaming and allow the express to defy the laws of physics as it flies forward. The train, which is technically a creature, is known to be a kind soul who simply enjoys helping others. But it is also said that it devours whoever tries to sneak inside without a ticket...
Nuclear power is one of Obsidian's major unique features. The skyline is graced by seven huge reactors which provide more energy than the city can spend. Nuclear batteries can be found in everything from vehicles to portable radios. This technology has paved the way for the Ecclesiastic industrial boom, while solving Obsidian's energy crisis, a crisis that still poses a problem in living cities. At the same time, it has resulted in an ecological disaster - with no real measures taken to contain radiation and nuclear waste, the area surrounding the city has become a scourged wasteland, with radiation levels being far beyond lethal. However, this same contamination seems to have a positive effect on ghouls, stopping them from decaying. Scientists theorize that this could be because the radioactive alloy changes the chemical composition of the air it comes in contact with, but the facts behind this phenomenon yet remain a mystery.
Nuclear explosions take place when a nuclear reaction accelerates to a high degree over a short time. The currently known radioactive substances seem to have a "maximum acceleration" treshold, because no matter how much the Church has been trying to make nuclear bombs with them, the stuff just refuses to blow up. Lots of heat, lots of glow, lots of fizz, but no explosions. Bad for bomb making, but on the other hand, it means that the power plants and batteries do not carry a risk of detonating and erasing the whole of Obsidian from existence. Because today's science is not advanced enough to zoom in on atomic level, the necromancers working on the bomb are having a hard time to determine the reasons behind this strange behavior, and more importantly, how to solve it. But in due time...
Since undead don't age, Obsidian has no elementary school system, or any other general educational systems for that matter. Most initiated undead are already adults that received some form of basic schooling in their old society. If the initiated is a child, they are offered by the state for "adoption" to anyone willing, and receive home schooling from their adoptive parents. This system has its roots in dark elven master-disciple education principle.
However, all newly initiated have mandatory attendance to their local Chapel of Light during their first year. There, a necromancer imparts on them the words of Nagash. They also receive an exemplar of the Lesser Key, though most ghouls don't bother to read it from cover to cover. These measures ensure that all undead understand why they have been made so, and what their grand purpose is. They are also taught Hexxarin, the Ecclesiastic language. Other languages are banned as they are spoken by the living. This is done to minimize any communication with the latter.
After that, the city has a varied number of state-owned profession-specific schools that allow the individual to educate themselves on whatever line of work they want, with a promise to get a job afterwards. Many vacancies can be found in Doomforge factories, ranging from engineer to assembler to mage assistant. As a worker there, you'd have no problem going there by the Ghost Express every day. Unemployment is forbidden by law in Obsidian, and there's no lack of available jobs within the departments that exist, so anyone has the potential to do what they like to do. Education is free until you receive a diploma, which allows you to apply for the job you were schooled for. If you already hold a diploma, you need to pay a fee if you wish to be schooled for a different job. This was made to make people choose carefully. Undead may have plenty of time on their hands, but the Church makes a point to be productive and move towards the sacred goals and not dawdle needlessly.
There is one hospital near the middle of the city. It consist of a biomechanics research laboratory and several surgery halls where ghouls can come and patch up any flesh wounds or bone fractures they might have sustained. Those who have the money can also buy an implant, such as an artificial eye or a mechanical arm. In an annex to the building is a small alchemy shop, supplied by an apothecary from Doomforge Cathedral, where you can buy weak regeneration potions and some ingredients. This is pretty much the extent of health care in Obsidian, for what that is worth to the undead who dwell there.
Population by Archetype:
- Ghouls - 71%
- Vampires - 23%
- Spectres ~ 6%
- Wights ~ 0,1%
Population by Race
- Humans - 45%
- Elves - 21%
- Efferii - 17%
- Angels - 3%
- Other - 14%
Aside from the dark elven vampires that founded the city, a large chunk of the population consists of human and elves that were resurrected by the Church after the fall of the old world. Notable are also the efferii; a number of smaller efferus tribes that resided in the now deforested parts of Harrowoods fell victims to the subsequent Ecclesiastic expansion and radioactive contamination. However, they have not "gone to waste", so to speak, and now they are able to enjoy their continued existence in Obsidian. The rest of Obsidian's citizenry, or "faithful" as any citizens of the Ecclesiarchy are called, are various other victims of the apocalypse of the Old World, including some red dragons and some races which even scholars find difficult to recognize. In fact, some people don't even remember what race they are. There is a tiny number of non-undead residents, including some Clockwork, but they are too few to reflect on the statistics.
In the Ecclesiarchy, as long as you're at least vaguely humanoid, race has very little social impact. Your initial status is determined by your archetype. Ghouls are the lowest social class, but are much better off than the working classes in other cities because poverty, starvation and diseases don't impact them in the same way - in addtion, they have more free nighttime they can spend on having fun. Vampires are considered of a higher class, and are usually wealthier due to the fact that all vampires are somehow interconnected by clan relations. Unlike ghouls who start their unlife on their own, a vampire fledgling always has a parent (the one who turned him or her) to fall back on. Wights are enigmatic and highly respected, turning heads on whatever rare occasion they choose to go out in town. They occupy the high positions in the Church and are seen as paragons of the faith; others are expected to bow in their presence. Spectres are peculiar as they exist outside of the social norms - they completely lack any need for mortal necessities such as a home and income, and pass their time as they please.
Obsidian is governed by the Necromancer Church, or simply the Church. It's important to distinguish the term Ecclesiarchy, which refers to the whole undead empire as a state, and the Church, which refers to the government. Members of the Church are collectively called necromancers - but they do not spend all day raising zombies. Some necromancers can't even perform any actual necromancy; the title has become a counterpart of "government official" in living states. The main difference is that besides doing their paperwork, necromancers are also expected to be religious and study magic. Whether someone is really pious or just pretending is very easy to determine in the Church, judging by the level of theoretical and practical magical power one has.
Despite having a very solid constitution, the Ecclesiarchy is still a totalitarian state and is completely undemocratic. There is no parliament and ideological plurality is banned, so normal people have no way of influencing politics. Some government positions are elected, but the voting is designed such that officials on one level simply choose one amongst themselves to move to a higher level.
Below the Church
The Mandatory Law is the Ecclesiastic constitution, jokingly called the "bill of inhuman rights". It was written immediately after the Schism in order to completely libarate the undead from Malkian absolutism. Parts of it were made with the Caelinite constitution as model, granting citizens certain fundamental rights and protecting them from arbitrary decisions by the state authorities. The only exceptions are so-called divine entities, which are defined in the constitution as "Nagash and saints". So, there are only two divine entities: Nagash and St. Elais. Despite an authoritarian power distribution, the system is rather kind and provides quite a lot of safety for the individual.
"Divine entities are above the law. All other entities are under the law and equal before it, and their authority shall be exercised under the law."
The Mandatory Law also prescribes church attendance duty. Everyone, regardless of stature, is required to attend a chatedral twice a week, where necromancers hold lectures about Church philosophy and magical theory. Different lectures are on different levels of difficulty, so people can choose which one they want to attend, but they must attend something. Piety is considered very important in the undead society, and being indifferent to religion will result from all sorts of negative consequences, ranging from salary cuts to excommunication.
A constitutional system of appeals has been built from scratch, since Malekith didn't have such a thing. The bureaucracy has been extensively modernised and divided into three levels.
Presbyterian Authority (local institutions, the Gendarmerie and the Court of Necromancers): appeals against their decisions can be filed to the Court of Bishops.
Church Authority (regional and national institutions, the Court of Bishops): appeals against their decisions can be filed to the Court of Cardinals.
Higher Church Authority (the government, Court of Cardinals): highest instances.
Mandatory Authority: statements and decisions made by divine entities are mandates. They are absolute and override any other decisions. The constitution itself is a mandate (hence "Mandatory Law").
The constitution also lists a number of archetype privileges. For example, wights and vampires of master clans are designated as aristocracy, and are given preference when climbing the societal hierarchy.
Law & CrimeEcclesiastic law follows a modern, human legal model. Presumption of innocence and the right to defend yourself in court is a big step forward compared to the old Malkian inquisitional trials where the fate of the accused largely depended on whether the judge was in a good mood that day. The system of punishments had to be reiworked, because prison sentences are pointless against ageless beings. Convicts usually receive fines or salary cuts for lighter crimes and are sent to labor camps for heavier ones. There is no physical punishment or death penatly. In case of particularly outrageous transgression, the criminal can be excommunicated from the Church, if he or she is a member of it. An excommunicated individual is removed from the Church and many never re-enter, forcing them to stay as an Initiate forever. The excommunication itself is a major public ceremony and is considered to be the ultimate punishment anyone can get.
In Obsidian, law is enforced by the Gendarmerie, a police-like entity. The city is divided into a number of prefectures, each of which has one gendarme station and one Prefect to govern it. The Prefect has a number of gendarmes under his or her command, depending on the size of the prefecture. A High Prefect governs all the prefectures in a district, such as Eihwaz, and the Grand Prefect is the commander of the entire Gendarmerie. Gendarmes are armed with swords, bardiches and stun grenades; very rarely they are allowed to carry firearms with silver bullets.
The Ecclesiarchy is on poor terms with most nations. The exceptions include Malekith and states in Ravenheim, with which relations are neutral. There is a diplomatic state of war with Caelin and Howldon, but no actual military campaigns are ongoing. Obsidian is considered the capital of the Ecclesiarchy, but not its only city - in the mountains to the south lies Doomforge, which is essentially a titanic factory carved into the insides of a volcano. Many people from Obsidian go there to work every day.
The Ecclesiarchy does not have a standing army, but instead relies on "banner armies", a form of regional conscription. The country is divided into three regions, each with one Banner that drafts people into its army. The Banners themselves are actually creatures (wights) that act as military commanders. There's the Violet banner in Obsidian, the Yellow banner in Destiny Forge, and the Green banner in Harrowoods. Although physically the Banners are merely pieces of cloth, they possess considerable psychic abilities that they use to command their troops and gather information. Each soldier carries an enchanted shoulder patch that connects him or her to the Banner's mind network. The banner can then read their thoughts and senses, and issue orders through psionic signals. Since the undead don't age, the conscription system is cyclic. It demands that "four of four dozen years" be given to the military. This means that 44 years after being raised, a person must serve 4 years in the army, then a pause for 44 years, then service again. Thus every ghoul, regardless of age, gender and race, spends slightly less than 10% of his or her time in the army, leading to a high military culture among the people. In case of a campaign, most of the population can be mobilised for total war on a very short notice.
The mandatory service pertains only ghouls. Vampires can choose to enlist in a separate, proffessional "bannerless" army. This army is drastically different in terms of just about everything: the command chain, squad composition and equipment are adapted to suit the special strategy and tactics of vampiric warfare.
Wights and spectres are exempt from service and only enter the military on special conditions.
The strength of the Ecclesiastic military lies not in their tanks or skyships, but in the very nature of its undead troops, which are fundamentally superior to any living foe on the battlefield, for a number of obvious and less obvious reasons. The army composition reflects this by being infantry-centric, with other forces mainly there to support the it. The infantry is usually either motorised (each squad has a truck) or mechanised (each squad has an armored halftrack). The latter is more modern and is steadily replacing the former, because halftracks offer better protection against enemy fire and can be mounted with heavy weapons. The Green banner army has a foot infantry corps made up of wildcats and other efferii, who can move much better around the thick forest without clumsy vehicles.
Besides infantry, the banner armies field armored batallions made up of tanks, self-propelled assault guns, along various types of artillery and support vehicles. There are also a basic air force that can provide close air support and intercept other aircraft, but is unfit for long-range missions. The bannerless vampire army contains infantry only, again due to the special type of warfare it uses.
All commercial regulations are done within Lightfall, but there are no actual industrial facilities in the city. After its discovery of nuclear power, the Church let establish Doomforge, which is where all of the Ecclesiastic production takes place. There is plenty of inorganic raw materials in the mountains, so the market if flooded with industrial goods. However, Obsidian has no trade agreements whatsoever, which causes big problems with economical stability. It creates a situation where the wares that can be locally produced are available in overabundance, while those that can't suffer from a deficiency, which leads to imbalance in prices. Rare items like clay and textiles are absurdly expensive, while metalware can be obtained almost for free. The Church's attempts to cultivate flax and cotton around the city have failed due to the irradiated ground being largely infertile. Unless some import source can be found, this issue can only be expected to grow.
Xerxes Inc, the city's largest privately owned corporate entity, has resource gathering as its primary agenda. Its latest aims have been to establishing mines in distant parts of the mountains and sawmills near the least irradiated edges of Harrowood. But these are only parts of its actual activity; the company is planning to erect outposts in Kyrheim and even sending expeditions to the unexplored parts of Ravenheim. Many human-owned private companies are interested in the Church's unique assets, but the unyielding enmity between the nations, both on political and personal levels, have rendered trade impossible. How the situation will develop from now is anyone's guess.
Arts, Music & Nightlife
After the initial burst of industrial growth subsided, the people of Obsidian wanted to relax their minds and divert their attention from work. As initiates began to trickle in from the living metropoli, they brought various elements of human culture with them, including music, painting, drama, cinematography and even food. Hagalaz, which was formerly only a street with necessity shops for tools and clothes, began to expand and fill up with clubs, theaters and studios; the eerie quiet of the city was starting to dissipate as the sounds of Obsidian's first musical bands filled the streets. Out of all foreign cultural practices, it is music that has spread the most and achieved the most variety. With the development of technology, the invention of large loudspeakers and electronic tools has given rise to rock and techno music respectively. Art galleries and film theaters are also present, and interest in them seems to be on the rise, but music is still by far the most popular form of culture. Due to their sleepless nature, ghouls and vampires alike fill the clubs every night, dancing and playing to their unbeating hearts' content. Obsidian's nightlife cannot be said to be the best in the world, but it is certainly the most active.
Sports are generally not well received by the undead because their endless endurance take away a part of the excitement in most games. However, vehicle-related sports are quite popular. Since it is easy to get a hold of many different metals and alloys in Obsidian, many people enjoy customizing their cars, bikes and planes for various kinds of races and off-road contests that are held outside of the city. Other than this and the imported human cultural features mentioned above, entertainment is only a budding branch in this city, which has its focus and purpose elsewhere at the moment.
There is only one newspaper in Obsidian, called "The Lightstream", and it is owned by the Church. It's a free, daily issue that covers many things; everything from news to chronicles to debate articles, along with a fair portion of anti-living propaganda. Radios are cheap and present in every home, with channels for both news and music. There's even a The Lightstream-recitation channel where a narrator reads the newspaper aloud for those who didn't manage to get a hold of the printed version that day. There are loudspeakers in the streets for important announcements. Cinemas exist, but because no foreign films are allowed and the Obsidiar own film industry is at infant stage, they're not well-used.