Setting: The Icons
EDIT: I’ve updated the biographies of some of the icons with the way I currently view them. They were pretty simple when I first wrote them, but have been further refined as I explored their role in the galaxy, and what each one represents. It’s mostly minor stuff, but hopefully they should be a bit more interesting than before.
I’ve finished working on an assignment for a bit so here’s an extra-large update on who’s who in Arcanauts to make up for it.
High fantasy is almost inherently about distinct kingdoms of unique races who rarely intermingle except when adventuring. In Arcanauts, they don’t really have a choice. There are still kings and emperors, but if I had to give you a list of the most powerful forces in the galaxy, it would also involve organizations and guilds. So who is running the place? Well by and large existing empires on the various homeworlds still exist, but they lack the strength and scale of a true galactic organisation, often forming alliances to attain a more solid foothold. This is not without exception, however.
Even so, the ones that hold the real power are the Icons. The 13 most powerful mortals in the galaxy.
[Each occupies a transition between the icon roles in 13th Age - though which they started out as, and how they've changed is for you to discover.]
Grayson Faraday is the name of an eccentric Eladrin inventor and arch-psion. In his three centuries alive he has contributed more than any other individual towards the technological progress of the galactic races, so it’s no surprise he’s gained some popularity. The Faraday Corps are an intergalactic association of psionics (and a few exceptional others) dedicated to the technological advancement of technology and the acceleration of civilization. They use their vast mental powers to solve scientific and engineering problems , and while all follow Grayson’s teachings, very few have ever interacted with him for any real length of time. The Corps has expended to include cosmic artificers and merchants who use a vast financial empire to manufacture complex techno-arcane devices. They generally get along well with most people, but being blacklisted by the corps is about the fastest way to find yourself cut off from the rest of the universe with no hope of reconciliation. Grayson recently went missing, his seat on the Emerald council empty an even his apprentices unable to contact him.
The planet known as Feywilde is a dangerous place due to the inscrutable and capricious intelligence pervading its life forms and warping their flesh even as it jealously ensnares their souls. Oona is what the entity calls itself – a truly ancient genius loci whose primal tendrils have shaped an entire planet’s ecosystem for millennia or possibly longer. While unable to leave the planet, Oona’s words are hyponotic to fey creatures, and her dryads represent her on the Emerald Council. Oona is not without a softer side however and rewards her servants well, engendering a following even outside the creatures she claims dominion over.
Lord Ceylon Tuatha is the current co-owner of planetary colonization supergiant, Whetstone-Tuatha. The heir to the company’s founder, Sylvan Tuatha, Ceylon is an unimaginably wealthy philanthropist, using his fortune for the benefit of colonists everywhere. On the outskirts of civilization, he is the only power with any real sway, as enforced by his druidic order which has grown exponentially since its relatively humble beginnings. Ceylon however remains a controversial figure, and can often be seen leveraging his favour for political power, though his supporters deny it with fanatical devotion. He, like many of the other names you’ll see here sits on the Emerald council – the seat of draconic power, which is open to a few exceptional individuals the dragons consider to be assets to their cause.
Shahrukh, the Nebula Queen is the draconic matriarch at the head of the Emerald Council, and was Yarluth’s second in command and rumoured lover while she lived. Powerful and ambitious beyond her nature as a green dragon, Shahrukh is often seen as the true power behind not only Wyrmweb, but the cult of Yarluth. While her enforcers patrol the twisted streets of Wyrmweb, her devotees revere her husband as the incarnation of Tiamat – god of conquest, though many whisper that he may have been something else entirely. Her position offers her more power than perhaps any dragon ever had, though her decisions are never in opposition to her council. Rarely seen outside of religious ceremony, little is know about her except that she is responsible for the way Wyrmweb exists today, for better or for worse.
The enlightenment and the ensuing space race resulted in the home planet of civilization being abandoned in droves, more and more as races discovered their ancient homeworlds. The dwarves, however were content to remain, claiming that the rock and stone that their ancestral halls lay within was home enough. To that end, they renamed Nasca “The Motherrock”, and declared that if they had a true home, it was long since lost to them. Furious debate from humans who considered the planet theirs was quelled when Thornstar Earthroot forged a strategic alliance with the dragons, earning them representation on the Council. Since then, galactic civilization has always considered The Motherrock to be property of the dwarf lords, who are currently represented by his son, Briganan, whose ruthless leadership and peerless ambition decimated the drow armies.
Everything about the Huntsman is shrouded in mystery and contradiction. Some say he was there from the beginning – a spymaster, or an assassin or even a noble responsible for leading the charge from the Underdark, attempting to wrest control of Nasca from the Dwarves, before being beaten back by Briganan. Despite their moderate success in being able to claim the vast majority of the now-abandoned surface, their leadership felt that it was insufficient – that their true victory had escaped them into space. Shortly after, the vast majority took to the stars, cutting a bloody swathe through all who tried to stop them, before vanishing into deep space. Though their physical presence was erased, there was one who stayed behind. The Huntsman’s title lived on as a boogeyman – some claiming he embodied the seething, xenophobic rage of the drow and could not bear to see the surface-dwellers in peace. Others, suggest he was disillusioned or even exiled from the drow Matriarchy, unwilling to lie hidden amongst the infinite shadows, always watching, waiting to strike out at galactic civilization the way he fought on the Motherrock. Whatever the case, whether he be killer or thief or exile, his influence is undeniable. Thieves, con men and covert operatives have been recorded as claiming to do his will, while priceless treasures have vanished and best laid plans have been unravelled, each pointing back to a mysterious drow, the true lord of the galactic underworld.
Myddea Luminastra is the current head of the galactic order of Astronomy – the academic body whose research is what enables space flight to be feasible. While she was once slated to be the high priestess of Correllon, her inability to wield divine magic saw her expelled from her order. A chance encounter with the Psiontist saw her realise a staggering wellspring of arcane power, suggesting maybe the god of magic favoured her after all. Now an arch-mage in her own right, the deva considers herself and her students to be the shepards of the age of cosmic enlightenment, studying the stars and unraveling the mysteries of the universe. Additionally noted for her interest in politics, Myddea was among the first non-dragons to sit on the Emerald council, where she acts as a voice of reason, and scientific advisor. Though she lacks any real political influence over the people of Wyrmweb, or even interest in it, the results of her order, and her spells are said to hold the fabric of the galaxy together.
The man known only as the Blood Emperor is a masked tyrant whose ambition and cruelty are said to match the dragons themselves. While most planets keep tyrants in check through valiant adventurers, there were no such people around when he rose to power. The Emperor is the ruler of an entire solar system now, and is feared among the free people of the galaxy. However, he sits on the Emerald Council, and is favored by the dragons for reasons undisclosed. All that is known of him is the reason behind his title – at some point, the empire he was once a part of was destroyed. Not through military conquest, but plague and famine – entire worlds tore themselves apart until the emperor was the only one left, and the prime suspect – standing amid the seas of corpses strewn between dead worlds. He is said to have called upon an unfathomable evil, corrupting the very sun that once gave the system life, that it might now give undeath. Soon, his domain had been rebuilt anew, stitched together from the blood and bones of his fallen brethren, now resurrected as his eternal thralls.
Quartorzi Attice is the chief artificer of the shardminds – a mute , yet eminently respected woman, Quartorzi is responsible for the treaty allowing the dragons domain over Wyrmweb. It is evident she had some further involvement in its creation, but she has never been seen in public, let alone interviewed. She holds the only shardmind seat on the Emerald Council, her peers having refused to sit with her as it was founded. All that is known is that the shardminds of the station revere her, and her leadership is directly responsible for the uneasy peace kept on the station. Her agenda and reason for building Wyrmweb were never revealed, but she has a knack for knowing things she shouldn’t, and seeing things she couldn’t possibly have seen.
The Enlightened One is the high cleric of Ioun – the god of knowledge – and is rumored to be the only one who truly understands what is happening to the gods. He holds a consulting position on the Council, though he has never set foot on Wyrmweb, and spends his days in the massive Warforged archive he designed – a mind-bogglingly complex library rumoured to be capable of storing the imprinted consciousness of a suitable vessel – in this case, the entire warforged race. His life’s work has been dedicated to the preservation and collection of the knowledge of the dead, however contemporary scholars insist he cannot possibly have achieved his goal. Regardless his unique relationship with the warforged and deep understanding of the universe cannot be denied, and he holds a position of unspoken authority over all the churches as a liason to the gods. This general position and his reclusive nature have resulted in severe controversy amongst the followers of Ioun, who feel sidelined in favour of his personal projects.
Humankind has always been certain of its place as essentially the dominant species in civilization, but the advent of space travel has found that status threatened. Regardless, the kingdoms of men endure, with under King Darvill and his wife, Queen Amelia. The two monarchs live on a terraformed moon orbiting the Motherrock, neither in exile, nor fully home, at the seat of human power in the galaxy. Though they lack a seat on the Emerald council, the other races tend to look to humans for guidance, as the once most numerous and prosperous species adapts to a galaxy in which neither of those things are really true. Through this setback, human ingenuity and the adaption of technology has allowed them to keep pace with the more fortunate races, and their stalwart determination to regain their lost power has spurred humanity on with an energy few other races can match.
The Wild man is an anarchist – deemed an unpredictable madman, a warlord and a demon worshipper by his enemies, and a revolutionary by his followers. Despite his name, the wild man tends to be clever and well spoken, with only his mismatched eyes giving a hint to his true nature – he tactically dismantles order wherever he finds it, eroding the power structures of civilization in the name of equality and anarchy. His methods often involve driving authorities to madness, and taking extraordinary personal risks to achieve his goals. He opposes the Emerald council vehemently, a stance that has earned him a surprising amount of favor among those who distrust the dragons and their “thralls”.
There’s another player in this game. Someone with more influence than anyone knows. Someone born of the machinations of the Emerald council, and seeks their undoing, but holds no allegiance to any of the other icons. Someone who is the subject of rumours and tall tales alike – if there are any who know more than that person’s goal, they’re not talking about it.