Nov. 7th, 2016

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The Soul
The essence of all life is the soul. Every living thing has one, and they are virtually impossible to destroy - even after death, the soul persists. To your typical human, souls and all related to them are invisible, but a rare few have the ability to see past the physical world and percieve the true nature of reality.

In life, your soul resides within your body - the two are tied together by a spiritual bond called the Chain of Fate. If your Chain of Fate is severed, that means that your soul is no longer connected to your body. In other words, you have died. The unattached soul of the dead is what some would call a ghost; more properly, the term for such a spirit is a Plus.

When a Plus is formed, they must be carried on to the afterlife as soon as possible. This is the chief occupation of the Einherjar, powerful warrior-spirits who reside in Valhalla but return to Earth to tend to the dead. When an Einherjar encounters a Plus, they perform a simple ritual called Soul Burial, which allows them to move on to a peaceful rest in the afterlife.

If a Plus lingers too long, problems begin to form. Sometimes a Plus is too attached to a place or a person, causing their Chain of Fate to get anchored to the object of their lingering regrets, becoming a Bounded Spirit. If they simply aren't picked up by any Einherjar, their severed Chain of Fate will begin to eat itself, growing shorter and shorter. If either condition is allowed to go on for too long, the benevolent Plus will become distorted as its heart is destroyed, growing in twisted malice and instinct and also in power. Thus, a Hollow is born.

A Hollow is, effectively, a monster. Huge beasts recognizeable by their skull-like masked faces, they can't be seen by ordinary humans. Their primary food is the soul, and they commonly devour the Pluses that Einherjar fail to bring to Valhalla. Sometimes, they'll even feed on the souls of living humans. Whatever motivations and morals a Hollow had in life, or even as a Plus, are gone, replaced only with regret, despair, hatred, and an insatiable hunger.

Your typical hollow is a semi-mindless brute, like a wild animal, but this is not always the case. The more a hollow eats, the more powerful it becomes, as many souls are absorbed into a single Hollow soul. Stronger hollows also have more intelligence, eventually being capable of becoming cruel masterminds preying upon humanity from the shadows. The longer a Hollow is left unchecked, the more dangerous it becomes. The greatest of Hollows, massive creatures composed of hundreds of Hollow souls mashed together as they devour one another, are given the name Menos.

The one weakness shared by all Hollows is the mask. Within each Hollow is what was once a human soul - the white mask covering its face is formed from their lost heart. If the mask can be broken, the original consciousness of the person within the Hollow can sometimes be at least briefly restored. If the mask is completely destroyed, the Hollow is destroyed as well.

When not hunting, Hollows hide from Einherjar by retreating to Hueco Mundo, world of Hollows. This strange and evil world is overflowing with powerful, cruel Hollows; any humans who set foot there for even a minute would surely die.

Those who die with courage and valor have a different sort of afterlife waiting for them. The Valkyries find and select these people to become the Einherjar, guardians of Valhalla. Einherjar have powers far beyond regular souls, and use them for the good of the world.

While an Einherjar's chief duty is the Soul Burial, they have a second crucial task - fighting Hollows. The spiritual weapons wielded by Einherjar are the best weapons in a fight against Hollows, which are virtually impervious to mortal weapons. However, the killing blow of an Einherjar does not destroy a Hollow. Instead, it purifies it, absolving the soul within of all the sins it committed as a Hollow. With this, the Plus it once was can move on to the next world in peace.

Einherjar gather in the great halls of Valhalla, where immensely powerful rulers command them in endless battles. The details of what goes on in Valhalla are not known to those of this realm.

When a soul becomes an Einherjar, they will find their chief weapon already in hand. The Verndari is a weapon, unique in shape and nature to each Einherjar, born from the depths of your soul. Every Einherjar carries a Verndari, and a Verndari is the most effective weapon for cutting down Hollows. Despite being a part of its wielder, every Verndari is a living, thinking entity with its own heart - if only the Einherjar is able to hear its words.

Verndari can take many shapes, but the most common are an axe, a sword, or a spear. More esoteric weapons are rare sights, but do exist as well. Sometimes a Verndari will take the form of two paired objects - a weapon and a shield, or more rarely two weapons, one for each hand. However simple these forms may be, they are only the sealed forms of the Verndari - their true form is often much stranger.

Every Verndari has a unique name. In order to wield its true power, you must learn that name. By speaking a command word and your Verndari's name (Howl, Zabimaru! Ripple, Geimur Skera! etc), you can unleash its true form, transforming the weapon into something stranger, more unique, and far more powerful. These true forms can be any manner imaginable of bizarre weapon, and may even have supernatural powers beyond simple brute force, such as commanding the elements of attacking with raw spiritual power. While sealed, the Verndari gradually amasses power, and that power is all released at once when its true form is unsealed, so most Verndari are kept sealed most of the time, and only released when needed. The exception to this is a rare class of Verndari called Constant Release Verndari, which only have one form, and cannot be sealed. (Mechanical note - if not known from level 1, the best time to learn your Verndari's name and true form is when you get your first Ultimate at level 5.)

As your soul grows, so does your Verndari become more powerful. It cannot be discarded or replaced, as it is a part of you. If it is broken, it will recover in time. Generally, a larger Verndari is indicative of greater raw power, but this stops being true after a certain level of mastery.

There are two kinds of magic used by Einherjar - Galdrastafur and Runo. Few learn both, some learn neither.

Galdrastafur is the art of inscribing spiritual power into drawn runes. If the rune is drawn correctly, and given sufficient power, it will evoke a spell to shape reality. Galdrastafur spells are seldom destructive, instead offering protection or binding your enemies. Because drawing these runes takes time, many tricks are used to produce Galdrastafur quickly, such as drawing out the runes in advance, then only infusing them with power when needed. (Mechanical note: Most Galdrastafure techniques should have at least one level of Ammunition Limit.)

Runo is a different class of spells, invoked via vocal incantation instead of by written rune. These spells are more closely tied to the soul, and are more raw and wild than Galdrastafur. Runo spells tend towards pure power, raining down destruction and commanding elemental wrath to strike down anything in your path. However, the vocal component make them challenging to use quickly in the midst of battle. (Mechanical note: Most Runo techniques should have at least one level of Initiative Limit.)

Hollows may have their own strange magic, but it is not well understood.

Spiritual Power
All of the great powers wielded by creatures beyond humans wield the power of the soul itself as energy. This is broadly referred to as Spiritial Power, and is usually drawn from your own soul's strength. The greater the soul, the greater the Spiritual Power.

This energy can be used in countless ways, and dictates all combat between Einherjar or Hollows. When you cut with a sword, your Verndari is simply focusing your spirit to a killing edge, and using it to pierce the spiritual energy radiated unconsciously by your enemy's body. When you use magic, you are using runes or command words to channel your spiritual power into a more structured form to shape reality. When a Hollow unleashes a deadly energy attack, it's unleashing the power radiating from its twisted soul.

Spiritual power can be sensed by those with senses trained for it. With skill and practice, this can be used to sense a specific person's soul from a distance, or sense how powerful an opponent's soul is. A common technique for tracking via spirit energy is Spirit Ribbons - each soul in the area is visualized as a white ribbon rising from the ground around you, and by identifying the ribbon corresponding to your target, you can sense where they are. An Einherjar's spirit ribbon instead appears as red.

When being faced by truly overwhelming souls, no special skills are required to sense them. Great souls, when their power is unleashed, exert a spiritual pressure on the world around them so great that any spiritually sensitive soul can feel it. In extreme cases, this pressure may be enough to force a weaker soul to their knees, or even crush them against the ground.

In Valhalla, the land of the dead, spiritual power is of even greater import than it is on Earth. The very land itself is comprised of spiritual particles instead of physical molecules. Your powers would be greater there - but so would those of your opponents.

Further Strange Things
There are more ways of dealing with Hollows than by an Einherjar's blade. There may be someone right here in Arendal practicing an ancient art that most Einherjar would consider a heresy that brings defeated Hollows far too close to the user's own soul.

The 'true form' revealed by an Einherjar speaking their Verndari's name may not be its true form at all. Perhaps the Verndari can, under extreme circumstances, continue to evolve into something even greater.

Of course, an Einherjar is an Einherjar, and a Hollow is a Hollow. There couldn't possibly be any way that the two existences could bleed into one another... right?

Considering how many Hollows are there, and how many even stranger powers have awakened there, maybe Arendal isn't just unlucky. Maybe there's something fundamental and strange about the area that draws the uncanny towards it...


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