Technology and Despair
A remarkable facet in the history of the Lands of Hope, one that its people are only slowly discovering, is that their ancient enemies- the legions of Despair who ruled the lands centuries ago and were long since removed- clearly controlled a superior technology to that of their revered heroes.
The continent, originally home to several indigenous peoples, was successively invaded, first by the Lieges of Despair who ruled for a millennium, and then by the Hopelords, who struggled to eject their foes and succeeded in a crucial battle marking the start of the calendar, around 2,000 years previously. So until the current era, the people had enjoyed unbroken peace and quiet, stable, customary ways. Near the end of 1995, it became the Age of Adventure, which most of the Lands’ inhabitants regard as a cursed day! Only a few stubborn, heretical outcasts insist on exploring the far corners and deep delves made by ancient enemies, as if trying to get into trouble. And they’re starting to find some.
These adventurers are learning several things about the days of Despair that almost no one else knows.
Most obviously, Despair built in metal, to a much greater degree than the children of Hope. Sometimes large doors and even walls were constructed entirely of metal or with strong iron and steel underpinnings. Their metalwork was also sometimes quite complex- using small parts that interlocked and required some form of pressure or other power to function. These “Makine” (mah-KEE-nay) are often huge war-engines, much larger and more destructive than the primarily-wooden trebuchets and catapults their enemies used.
The very sight of a Makine used as a stage prop in Judgement’s Tale, though broken and long disused, causes gasps of fear in the audience. During the play’s intermission, Solemn Judgement who is new to the Lands discusses the three characteristics of Makine with his tutors, the sage Cedrith and Healer Guildmistress Natasha.
“Metallic workings and destructive, I see. And the third?”
Judgement’s friends both hesitated in distaste. At last Natasha said, “The third sign of a Makine… is that it is always working” dropping her voice to a kind of hiss. Then she sat back, shook her head and shivered.
Judgement either missed the point or was playing his sarcasm. “You mean, it is never broken?”
“No, friend,” said Cedrith, “though they were legendarily sturdy and difficult to destroy. What Natasha meant is that once they are, em, begun in operation, they can continue their actions indefinitely.”
He paused a moment to let that thought sink in. Judgement’s face changed with comprehension, “It would continue to- to destroy- without further guidance?”
“Just so, my friend. Whether designed to batter walls, or throw flame, or crush rock, it would never need reference to human intervention, never need to be guided, or corrected. It would slay the maker’s foe and friend indifferently, unless the magic of its operation were invoked. It would destroy until the end of time.”
Hope-ful beings recoil from the automatic function of such destructive weapons, as well as the thought of the mass-labor required to produce them (slavery was practiced widely among the nations of Despair in the elder days). There is also the wasteful impact on the environment to consider, as mentioned in recent accounts by the Elven explorer Krator Hohl, having spent years digging up ancient ruins of both the Despairing invaders and the rustic cultures they subdued.
Curiously, though Despair built heavily and hard, it does not appear they were particularly interested in permanence: the Hopelords knew more about preservation of items, through means both magical and mundane, than their enemies ever wielded. Despairing excavations universally show signs of wear, rot, rust and decay despite the sometimes ostentatious outlay, seen in such things as large metal doors, elaborate mechanisms to restrict passage or lock away quite small spaces, and more. In some cases there are reports of large heavy items completely replaced on a regular basis, and of barely-damaged replicas that appear to have been discarded. Iit is difficult to generalize with accuracy, but if the signs noted in these few cases were to be the common rule, then the rate at which Despair plundered and wasted the natural resources must have been staggering indeed.
A Balanced Conflict
This attitude of casual, damaging waste, combined with Despair’s overbearing arrogance in the elder days, may have held the keys to their defeat by the less numerous, magically-powerful but clearly less technologically advanced armies of Hope. Still, it’s clear that the enemies of those past ages wielded tremendous power, knowing magic as well as what we would call science. The remnants of Despair, still sometimes rooted out to light by those meddling adventurers, have access to a vast arsenal accompanied by utter disregard for the consequences of their use.