“The families had always been an ubiquitous part of the empire. Their presence and influence pervaded everything. None questioned it. Which was exactly how they wanted it.
It was a cunningly and carefully crafted illusion. Everyhing was precariously balanced on the knife’s edge of disaster.”
Bloodlines is a setting I’ve been tinkering with for a while. It’s a low fantasy world that incorporates a bunch of different influences and themes that I enjoy. Chief among them is a combination of intrigue and cosmic horror. Those are not the only elements of Bloodlines, just the most prevalent ones.
For now, I’ll post some general and brief information about the setting here. It’s unstructed and very unpolished for now, but I’ll clean it up as I go along. Hopefully.
The core story element (thus far) is the presence of the families. These bloodlines are the ruling class of the focal society in the setting. Like many other ruling classes, they rule by skillful use of tradition and manipulation.
However, they are not simply noble families. They are significantly different form the general populace. The differences are sufficient to classify them as an entirely different species. This is something that ordinary people of the realm are vaguely aware of and have been for a very long time. Long enough for it to be seen as completely normal. The families themselves have fostered this awareness and, through planted rumours and other manipulations, implanted the added notion that they are a superior breed of human and that is the reason they are the nobility and thus have the right to rule.
The information about the source of the bloodlines’ aberrant nature is minimal, at least outside the highest echelons of the families. The truth is that they were once servants of the gods now being kept at bay by the priesthood. The aberrant traits of the bloodlines are a result of their prolonged contact with the entities. Their ancestors betrayed the old gods and helped banish them with the help of the first priests.
There are a dozen bloodline families with one particular family in the forefront that has ruled the empire for quite some time now. In fact, they have been in power for so long that it’s now referred to the ”imperial family” or ”imperial bloodline”. There is discontent among the other families over this.
Each family is ruled by a Patriarch or Matriarch. The title is not inherited, but rather passed on in a form of inter-familial election. A member of the family no more than three steps removed form the former ruler campaigns within the family to garner enough support to be elected by majority support. All recognized family members are allowed to vote. The ruler of the imperial bloodline holds the title of Imperial Matriarch or Imperial Patriarch.
Each bloodline is different and displays slightly different characteristics/symptoms commonly called ”deviations”. These deviations can present themselves as beneficial or detrimental. Some that were initially seen as detrimental are now, centuries later, seen as a sign of good fortune, thanks to the subtle manipulations of the family who exhibit it. There’s also a small but noticeable physical difference in some of the families.
Notably, one of the bloodlines to have been hit significantly harder with the so-called detrimental deviations. This is, on the surface, the least prestigious bloodline. They are rarely seen by the common folk and rule over the most distant part of the empire. The other families view and treat this family with distrust and disdain. However, some whisper that this family is also feared by the other families for reasons that are not clear to anyone outside of the innermost circles of each family. This bloodline, who goes by the name Zhokovich, have in fact turned back to worshipping the banished gods. Which is why they have become more heavily touched by them. Because while the gods are effectively kept out of their dimension, they can still affect things on this side in a limited fashion, provided that they have help from ”our” side of the barrier.
The empire is bordered on the east side by a vast desert wasteland and beyond that, a great mountain chain. This chain is so vast and its weather so violently inhospitable that exploration beyond this chain is minimal. The chain extends along the coasts to such a degree that even exploration via ship has been far from extensive. The dangerous storms and low temperatures contribute to this.
Beyond those mountains lie a deep forest that is thought by the empire to be unpopulated. This is incorrect. It is populated by a species of proto-humans or perhaps an old sibling species that has long since died out in the areas now ruled by the empire. They have developed all on their own and while not as technologically advanced as their cousins across the mountains, they are well on their way.
The empire has a comparatively small standing army, but in the event of war, every citizen – male or female – can be called up for military duty. This is an especially efficient system considering that all citizens are required to go through one year of military training and service when they turn 18 years of age.
Each bloodline has a number of positions granted to people of common blood. Such as the Archiater, the high family physician. These scholars are responsible for the health of the family members, but also serves as scholars of the body, herbalists and chemists.
Considering the relatively small number of nobles, the family guards are also mainly comprised of common folk. Those are led by a captain of the guard. It’s not unheard of for the captain of the guard to be a low-ranking member of the family, but that title is generally considered too low status for a proper family member to occupy.
There is a quiet conflict between the priesthood and the bloodlines. The conflict is rooted in the secret relationship the families have (or rather, had) with the old gods that the priests are continually keeping banished from the world. Because the families used to serve the gods, the priests don’t trust them and the bloodlines distrust the priests because they know about their shameful history serving the evil old gods.
The dominant religion (if you can call it that) in the empire has no name and they worship no gods. There is simply an organization that people call The Priesthood and their purpose is to keep the gods away from the world. There is little participation and religious practices that the populace take part in. Essentially, they only make a monthly donation to The Priesthood.
According to The Priesthood there are entities just outside ”our” reality that want to break in and take possession of everything. The sole purpose of the priests is to make sure this never happens. How they do this is shrouded in mystery and it is strictly forbidden to ask or otherwise try to find out.
There’s also a second religious system that used to be more prevalent, which has fallen somewhat into obscurity. The central idea was that of a collective spirit of humanity taken form. It began in the earliest days of human existence as a nomadic spirit of survival. It was a thing of wilderness and small family groups. It was called Ursu and dominated for many thousand years. In the past 3000-4000 years however, it had a rival (or successor, depending on who you asked) that had begun to subsume the older deity. It came into existence as humans began to settle into larger communities, work the land and generally grow apart from their wilder selves. This was a god of progress and technology and was named Coge.
The twelve families are almost as different nationalities or races unto themselves. They’re all quite different from each other and it is believed that the only thing keeping them from even greater (there’s always some level of strife and struggle amongst the families, but not to a disruptive degree) internal conflict is the dominion they have over the rest of the populace. That separates them from the ordinary person even more than it separates them from each other.
The different families are as follows:
The imperial family has been in power for a long time.
The heavily aberrant bloodline feared and ostracised by the other families for their continued devotion to the banished gods.
Random setting/world ideas
An organization/order/religious group who kill people on demand. They do it because they are a form of sin eaters. Their goal is to take all the hate and ill-will of the world into themselves so that it won’t taint anyone else. The core of their beliefs is that the urge to inflict pain and suffering on others is like a travelling contagion and if you take on the responsibilities of the actions resulted from those urges, you spare others of having them in the future. Their ultimate goal is to take on all those harmful instincts of the world, thus making the world a place free of suffering. Essentially, they are a group of benevolent martyrs who do horrible things so that others won’t have to; both now and in the future.
Fortune finders. People who can bend luck at will. Otherwise deadly arrows miss them entirely, they fall from tall buildings and get up without a scratch and things like that. But nothing come without a price. The dark side of the coin is that all the fortune they find has to be balanced out. So after they bend luck to their favour, the bad luck that they steered away from themselves has to be paid back. Most fortune finders have to take the hit themselves, but some rare ones can actually direct the bad luck at others.