Entry 3 – The Council
So, Scholars are relatively hopeless when it comes to understanding the Ori and their history. They focus on the genetics of the species, trying to find ways to exploit their most infamous power, the Spark, but they have very little interest in their cultural history or the actual people that made up Ori civilisation. Luckily, present-day Null society (by which I refer to non-Apex Null, obviously) attempts to – well, if not fill that gap in understanding with fact, then offer mythologies and spiritual reverence of their ancestors instead.
At one point in my travels, I found myself in a small town just to the north of the ruined city of Kallos, a remote place nestled at the higher end of the Skirt Valleys and surrounded by a cluster of mountains. I had been walking for a few days at that point, trying to get down from the summit of Mount Atlan (the largest of that cluster) and begin an investigation of Kallos and the surrounding areas. I came upon the town on one of those nights, which was fortunate for a few different reasons – not least of which that I was running out of wine. They called the town ‘Base’ in conversation, but I don’t really think they had a formal name for it beyond that. They spoke a heavily colloquial version of regular Common Null, not quite a fully separate dialect and usable enough once I got my head around their mannerisms. Interestingly though, they generally seemed to live with a very simple vocabulary that referred to things by their practical uses, preferring context and demonstration over verbose language. It was fascinating – and will be covered in another entry. The more interesting aspect, and the actual reason for writing this, was how that pragmatic view of the world applied to the Ori mythologies they seemed to have internalised.
Base seemed to have sprung up as nothing more than a camp for a group of travellers; I spoke to their unofficial leader on my first night, whilst drinking in their ‘tavern’. (read: cabin that had a fireplace and some kegs of mead you could tap for a few credits per mug) She told me about those first Null, nomadic people just living day-to-day in the aftermath of the Ori’s collapse. They’re a complete enigma, but entirely representative of the wider Null population at present; purely by counting the generations of families back from that day, they must have settled around 400 years ago, right back in the earliest years of modern history. (there’s a reason our calendar only goes back 376 years) And yet, even from the earliest of those (at the time) eight or so generations, there seems to have been no memories passed down of what the Ori empire was like. Something was going on in those years prior to the calendar starting, something that confounded the memories of the survivors of the Fall. Nothing is left for them to tell, except vague reverence for ‘The Council’, who I can to this day only identify as a group of incredibly powerful Ori leaders. This Council crops up often, not just in Base but across the Highlands, Earkran and even the other less-populated continents. Wherever you find Null, I have come to understand that the Council represent some vestigial memory of the structure of Ori society that they cling to for – well, I’m not sure. Comfort? Some semblance of ordered civilisation? Blind hope of a higher understanding? Any, or all, of the above.
In speaking to the leader of Base – Nalia – I came to understand the basic tenets of this spiritual belief system. I’m hesitant to call it a religion, since there doesn’t seem to be quite the same level of deifying at work; think of it more like ancestral worship and reverence, sharing a common bloodline and looking to a common future. Almost shamanistic, connected not to the Fundaments but to each other and those that came before. They recognise the Council as a group of seven, each representing an aspect of what they believe to be Ori culture: Industry, Community, Military, Science, Arts, Magick and Leadership. These seven pillars hold up their ethos for living, guiding the Null today in how they are prioritised; Magick, Military and Leadership reign supreme, with Industry and Science being key workers below them. Arts and Community have their place and should not go unrecognised but will be the first sacrificed when necessary for the survival of the species. Pleasant, I know, but it has led to an impressive number of Null bouncing back from the brink of extinction. Base is a relatively small community, but places like Bastion on Earkran, cities that were rebuilt and re-instated as capitals for the continent they resided on, have become strongholds against the harshness of the world.
The townsfolk of Base were polite enough, although there were a few instances of misunderstood intent that got me in some hot water. Null don’t take too kindly to being challenged; it’s generally far worse to call someone “tough guy”, for example, than the teasing, sarcastic remark you and I might recognise it as. I even said it with a smile – although in hindsight that may have made it worse. It’s one memory that stands out to me even now; bumping into a pretty scrawny teenager in the courtyard that knocked the box of food I was carrying out of my hands. I wasn’t fussed, I chuckled with my eyebrows raised and told him, “Oh, I see you love strangers, huh tough guy?” Bad idea. Everyone who was within earshot started murmuring and the kid squared up to me with a face that, ironically, didn’t quite convince me. He was clearly ready to fight, although he didn’t seem keen to do so. Thankfully, the Innkeeper, Claus, appeared from within his tavern and put the situation to rest; he’s a good man, or at least he was when I last saw him, and with a few comments on my being an “outsider with no understanding of our ways”, I was safely back inside.
The town is built in the Highlands, which of course means the place has to withstand some extremely harsh weather conditions in the winter months. The fortifications they had built around the outskirts were rudimentary by the standards of the more well-constructed Ori architecture I’ve explored, but they served their purpose when manned by the impressively well-trained Guard. If I compare their fighting style and training (or what I could gather about it in my few days’ stay) to other militia I’ve encountered since, it seems as if they had got their hands on some old Kallos training manuals and replicated the techniques to the best of their ability. Not entirely unheard of, especially from a city like Kallos that is still, to this day, armed to the teeth with leftovers from the military stockpile there. The Null that choose not to subscribe to one of the major factions often find themselves resorting to those scraps and leftovers to try and cobble together an existence.
I’m digressing now. The Null are deeply imprinted by the Ori psychology and way of life, but without the real memories and understandings of what happened, their culture manifests those psychologies in interesting ways. More research is certainly deserved and needed.