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Julien Delacroix ([personal profile] espigeon) wrote in [personal profile] ringleaders 2017-06-28 04:03 pm (UTC)

I've been reading His Dark Materials so... time to suggest a dæmon world to visit! The series has an infamous anti-organized-religion slant which is absent from the setting I will describe. Nah, this is all about souls made physical.


Can you imagine my astonishment at learning that part of my own nature was female, and bird-formed, and beautiful?

After leaving the previous location, and a few days before coming to Greysol, the Ringmaster puts a massive spell on the souls of every member of the carnival. Greysol is in a world where the souls of every human or sufficiently humanlike person takes the physical form of an animal. Plenty of carnies wouldn’t qualify, but really, what’s the point of going to a dæmon world if not to show them what their inner selves looks like?

[this goes into a toplevel comment:]

Dæmons always take animal shapes, though humans, dæmons, and normal animals are instantly able to tell upon looking that a dæmon is not an animal. They are intelligent and capable of speech and may seem like they're independent of their people, but when you get down to it a human and a dæmon are one being, with one mind, sharing thoughts and sensations. Body and soul cannot move more than maybe twenty feet apart without feeling great pain and anguish and eventually dying, with some rare exceptions. Touching someone else’s soul is the greatest intimacy; horrific and violating if done without consent, uplifting and splendid with it.

While they appear to be flesh and blood and have mass and the ability to manipulate objects, they are in fact formed of particles of this universe’s magic, called Dust. They have heartbeats that are in perfect time with their human bodies, but there’s no metabolic activity. No need to eat. A cobra has no venom, a slug will leave no slime trail, a fish is only comfortable when wet but won’t come to harm dry. Injure a dæmon and golden motes appear, though only psychological hurts last. Kill a soul and the body dies instantly.

With rare exceptions, a character and their soul will have different genders. A dæmon always reflects its human's inner life. The back-and-forth of internal conflict,the internal monologue, seems like a dialogue, and people with dæmons may process their way through uncertainty and indecision faster and more thoroughly than those without. If emotion doesn't show on a face or stance it may show on the soul, though there are plenty of stoic dæmons.

A young person's dæmon instantly changes into different creatures in response to mood or need, but during their teens they "settle" into a permanent form and never change again. That form is based on their personality, especially on inner aspects of themselves. Plenty of big, tough people who you’d expect to be lions are rodents instead, and don’t forget that herbivores are not necessarily passive and cowardly, nor are predators inherently courageous. One of the most stalwart, moral fighters in HDM has a hare dæmon.

A form may have to do with animal symbolism or with the animal’s behavior and ecology. Someone with an emperor scorpion dæmon might be calculating and treacherous as scorpion symbolism suggests, or nurturing, social, and shy as the real animals are. Choose what seems good! Don’t be shy about asking for suggestions. For premade behavior-and-ecology based form analyses, feel free to check this forum.

Remember also, it’s fine if you don’t feel like handling all this. Maybe the spell didn’t take properly and your character’s dæmon stops speaking after a few days and their internal monologue returns to normal. Maybe they never manifested one at all.
[/toplevel comment]
The spell causes dæmons to form for most characters. As they are souls made physical they will have some element of characters’ soul color. At minimum their eyes are that color. For about a day their forms are as changeable as children’s souls. Adults will settle by the time the carnival arrives.

Of course the spell doesn’t work completely evenly. Some souls are more heavily insulated and do not become external. Players can opt out of dæmons this way and have one of three options for their characters: a glamour butterfly in their souls’ colors follows them while in Greysol, they become witches encouraged to wear bird pendants, or they become talking polar bears.

(If you don't want to type out d & a e l i g ; m o n all the time, daemon is perfectly acceptable.)


The Carnival's come to a manicured park in Greysol, a large coastal city that seems to roughly equate to late 20th century Western culture and mores, with a vaguely Victorian steampunk-influenced aesthetic and somewhat uneven technology. Horse-drawn vehicles and just plain horses are common, but horseless automobiles and strangely 21st century-looking bicycles don’t cause too much of a stir. There are paved streets, skyscrapers, and electricity even if they call it "anbaric lighting". Hot air balloons and dirigibles can be seen in the sky. There are many moving picture theaters, black-and-white and with somewhat questionable sound, but small portable radios are common.

Every human and witch has a dæmon. The city is built to accommodate this. Doorways tend to be wide, stairs wide and shallow, there are huge freight elevators in most buildings, and sidewalks are quite broad, making it easier not to accidentally touch someone else’s soul. Slick floors are rare and virtually always have hoof-friendly rugs and the like. Life for someone with a giraffe soul is hard in the big city, but an effort has been made. If you visit a cemetery you will see that cremation is the most preferred method of handling the dead, because this lets the body dissolve just as the soul did.

Pets and many childrens’ toys are downplayed compared to on many other worlds. Every human has a permanent companion from infancy, exactly suited to their temperament, that loves them and will do most of the things any pet would and more. Some animals are still companions to whatever degree, but most domestic animals are utilitarian. On a similar note, humans in this world experience a lesser degree of loneliness than on worlds without dæmons, and seem to learn faster since they can discuss things with themselves.

Magic is a known quality but because it takes years to learn any spells of substance, humans on the street tend to assume it’s trivial, that all but the elderly can only call on it for doing tricks. Witch magic is better regarded and much more mysterious, though the only difference is that witches have the time and inclination to learn far more.

That other realities exist, similar in some ways and radically different in others, is well known. In the past there used to be great expeditions and adventures and some very strange visitors. Unfortunately this meant there were soul-eating invincible creatures in this world too. Only witches and some quite old humans remember that time themselves. These days, in order to avoid the creation of soul-eaters there is very limited congress with other worlds. It’s on the level of children going to island facilities, going through windows there, and bringing things back. (Possibly an NPC contract is behind this?)

SETTLING PARTY: Elaine Aracari, sixteen-year-old daughter of two actors and a moving pictures sensation herself, just settled as a blue peacock. Settling is a major coming of age milestone and celebrated as such in different ways all over the world. She and her family are throwing a massive party and inviting the public to join in! In parks, anyway, but hey, randos can still enjoy free catering, live music and showings of moving pictures, and displays of mostly trivial magic. There are also form readers from across the country, happy to inspect your dæmon’s form and tell you what it means. Is there anything to these analyses? Eh, maybe, but they’re generally flattering.

KERNER ISLAND: From the harbor you can see a wooded island. Although there are no rocks to speak of around it there’s a tall lighthouse, and nearly all boat traffic avoids it carefully. On a clear day an adult with binoculars or a particularly sharp-eyed soul can see vague shapes moving on the shore, and… children?

When asked about it the first and last thing any adult will say to another adult is don’t go there. They’ll hold their dæmons close and tell you that on that island are things that eat souls. They may also admit with mixed pride and shame that it’s been a source of wealth and innovation for the city. There’s a facility there that can apparently open portals into other worlds, and the children who can reach it can cross through and bring things back. These children are mostly recruited by research and development teams on the lookout for items they can use, but there are also kids out to have adventures or who’ve run away. Usually small boats take them close enough to swim or ride there on dolphin-shaped dæmons.

Most people are violently opposed to visiting the island. If you’re a bear, a witch, haven’t settled yet and look capable, or are just tough-minded and have a small soul, you may be asked for help. The children ‘staffing’ things do some work but there isn’t a central authority in charge of these things anymore. Lighthouse and facility equipment needs checking and maintenance. Maybe a child has been hurt and needs to be retrieved.


HUMANS: Only unusual in that they have dæmons, and expect you to as well. They become uneasy seeing human-shaped people without their souls, even if it's as simple as "he’s in my pocket or the other room". The concept of a human type without a dæmon is as horrifying and repulsive to local people as seeing someone walking around with no head or an opened-up chest - some people would adjust to the idea faster than others, but you would have screams, fainting, outbursts, fear and pity. These humans can learn magic through long study. Most carnies will be glamored to look human.
WITCHES: Extremely similar to and interbreeding with humans, witches in this world are all tall, youngish-looking androgynous-to-femme people whose dæmons always settle as birds. They live unusually long, use much of that time studying and learning magic, and have learned to stay as far away from their dæmons as they wish. Witches working with and around many humans usually wear gold necklaces bearing images of their dæmons when their souls are elsewhere, which helps put humans at ease. Witches prefer to keep to their own affairs and are baffled by capitalism and material needs, but there are a few pausing in the city. Some carnies will be glamored or changed to look like witches.
BEARS: Slightly anthropomorphized polar bears which speak and have thumbs. They're very rare in such 'civilized' surroundings as the city, much preferring solitude, but everyone knows about them and there is a market for bear-made items. Bears are masters of shaping metal and have no dæmons, but regard certain things they make, usually armor, as their souls. In their right minds, untroubled by human doubts and aspirations, bears can read human intentions and cannot be tricked. Some carnies may be changed into bears. They won’t have bear minds, but may have a better aptitude for sensing lies while in bear form.
...DUST?: In this reality "Dust" is a conscious elementary particle generated by consciousness, gathering around people and things people have created. Dæmons are made of it. Very few can see it or detect it, but it's everywhere. More is generated when people make art, tell stories, or come to understand each other better. Dust is part of nearly every magic people use in this world and a source of knowledge and wisdom. It's also conscious itself, in a strange way, and may form into entities called angels, but almost no one in the world knows about that.

So it's not a usual sort of patron, but there'll be a hella lot of it around for the Carnival. No carnies will be Dust or angels.

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