Sovran

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Available for use with permission

The Sovran were an ancient race that occupied the City around the year 10,000 BCE.  Little is known of them today.  After ruling a multi-world empire for a thousand years, they abruptly vanished from history, leaving behind only sprawling ruins and cryptic clues about their society and ultimate fate.

Appearance

No Sovran remains have ever been found, but from examples of their art we think we know what they looked like.  Sovran were centaur-like reptile men.  They had six limbs; two arms, two legs, and a middle set that could be used for either purpose, though they are usually depicted standing on four limbs.  Sovran were heavily-built, though this may be a bias in the artwork towards heroic idealization.  They had long lizard-like tails and were covered in fine scales, sometimes with armour-like plates over their shoulders and haunches.  Sovran had elongated, dragon-like muzzles and often two or more fins, scaley horns, or similar features on their heads.

Sovran may have had two to four eyes, their artwork tends to assign more eyes to Sovran of higher stature.  Priests and heroes never have less than four, and may sometimes have a fifth eye set in the center of their head.  Soldiers and commoner Sovran are usually depicted with only two.  When slaves are featured in Sovran art, they typically have no eyes or other distinguishing facial features at all.  How much of this is anatomically accurate and how much is purely representational in the artwork is unknown.

History

Little is known about Sovran history, we have only a few artifacts left behind to glean any information from.  What few examples of Sovran writing remain are entirely indecipherable, and we do not know what they kept in the way of records.  Fortunately, they did create a great deal of art, depicting events and important individuals in narrative frescoes.  Regardless, most of what we know about Sovran history is guesswork.

The Sovran came to the City sometime around the year 11,000 BCE.  Under the leadership of a powerful priesthood, they explored and conquered many other worlds, enslaving the populations and expanding a vast empire.  They had a deep understanding of the mechanics of portals, and possibly of the City itself, and raised grand buildings and temples on the City and a hundred other worlds.

Then, suddenly, around 10,000 BCE, the Sovran abruptly vanished.  Nothing in their known art or records suggests a cause for this.  There appears to have been no knowledge among the Sovran of any approaching disaster or calamity.  They simply disappear from the history of the Multiverse, not even leaving bodies behind.  It is as if the Sovran people themselves simply dissolved into thin air.

Sovran artifacts can be found on a dozen known worlds and throughout the City Interior, but it was not until the thirteenth century that anyone in the City studied the Sovran formally, when the tyrant Sulkhar the Unspeakable began researching the ancient race, laying the groundwork for the researchers who would come after him.

Society

What is known about Sovran society is not encouraging.  They were a highly advanced race, with incredible magic and technologies at their disposal, but they were also a savage, bloodthirsty people.  The ruling priest caste worshipped dark and cruel gods, and performed regular sacrifices of their own people to placate these demonic deities.  The Sovran Empire was ruled by fear and violence, and any race that came under Sovran control was subjected to mass enslavement and extermination.  For all their intelligence and advancement, they were not an enlightened people.

Sovran society was divided into a rigid caste system.  The elite ruling caste was a tyrannical class of sorcerer-priests, who wielded vast powers and ruled the Sovran people unchallenged.  Their role was to commune with the dark gods, and work their will upon the Sovran people.  The priests were directly supported by a larger soldier caste, violent enforcers loyal to the priest caste who carried out the orders of the dark gods without question.  Beneath the soldiers was an underclass of merchants, craftsmen, and engineers.  This commoner caste apparently had few rights and little freedom, but were vital to the functioning of Sovran society.

Lower still than commoners were slaves.  The Sovran kept a vast number of slaves, possibly numbering more than all the other castes put together, who did all the physical labour of the Empire.  Slave came from a hundred different races conquered by the Empire, though most were Sovran themselves, and were afforded no apparent rights.  Sovran slaves were sacrificed in the thousands at elaborate ceremonies dedicated to the Sovran gods, and much Sovran artwork proudly depicts these atrocities.

Ruins and Artifacts

Sovran ruins can be found throughout the City Interior, and occasionally rise to the surface with reconfigurations.  They are also found on some other worlds, where the Sovran once held a vast empire.

Sovran ruins tend to be large edifices of dark stone, brutal and intimidating in appearance, with hard angles and occasionally stone spikes or horns.  Most Sovran ruins seem to be temples, and nearly every inch of their walls are covered in elaborate bas-relief sculpture and indecipherable Sovran runes, depicting important people and scenes from Sovran history, prophecy, or daily life.  These scenes are more often than not violent, often depicting warfare or some sacrifice to the Sovran's dark gods.  When slaves or members of other races are depicted at all, they are usually in much lower detail, lacking any sort of identifiable facial features.

Sovran ruins are often filled with secret passages and chambers, elaborate door mechanisms, and traps.  Some of these still function, despite their extreme age, and explorers in Sovran ruins should be aware of pressure plates and a variety of triggers that might cause a crushing ceiling to collapse or release spring-loaded spikes from the floor.

It is rare to find Sovran ruins completely intact.  Usually the bas reliefs are broken or crumbling, painted walls long faded, and mosaics cracked and decayed.  Even without traps, Sovran ruins are dangerous places of crumbling walls and uncertain footing.  Even stored safely in the City Interior, twelve thousand years is a very long time, and Sovran ruins very much show their age.

Sovran artifacts are more common than Sovran ruins, but still rare enough that each is a precious find.  Most of these artifacts are simple stone dishes, tools, or broken pieces of pottery.  Cloth and other organic components have usually rotted away over the millenia, leaving only stone or metal components.  Very rarely, legitimate Sovran treasures are found, elaborate jewelery or strange mechanical devices with no obvious purpose.  Some of these artifacts are highly charged with magic and other strange power.  City legend and folklore is filled with such things, and the Crown is said to have a secret collection of Sovran artifacts whose power is too great and dangerous to be made public.

Permissions

The Sovran are a part of the setting's background, and all players are free to use them as such.  If you need a source for a powerful magic item or ancient legend, a mysterious and dangerous ruin to explore, or just something ancient and unknowable to reference, feel free to use the Sovran.
However, the Sovran are a mystery to be explored, not immediately solved.  Please respect that and make sure they remain so.  No character should be "solving" the Sovran overnight.  Any player who does want to do something major with the Sovran should contact Bob the Outcast to discuss.