2. Ellur: Otherlings and Humans

Worldbuilding, continued 🙂 Last time we talked geography, this time we talk population.

Here on Earth we keep debating how many intelligent species there are on the planet. Are we the only ones? Or can crows, dolphins, elephants, apes be called intelligent, too?

On Ellur, the situation is a bit more straightforward: humans are very definitely not alone. Apart from the Leralath, who are so alien that their intelligence sometimes comes under question, there are the otherlings.

Otherlings is a human term that broadly refers to all the non-human intelligent species, which are many. Some of them are, or seem to be, only semi-intelligent. The wyrms, for example, only have a rudimentary language and are approximately chimp-level intelligent. But there are other beings that are on a human level, or perhaps even above.

A wyrm and a human.

The one characteristic that separates all otherlings from humans is their ability to interact with the thaumic field. Humans can access magic only with difficulty. To most otherlings, even those of low intelligence, magic seems to come as naturally as breathing. For example, wyrms, when they land and fold their wings, warp timespace around them so that their wings shrink in size. Many others, such as sprites and fairies, easily access the fifth dimension, which grants them an apparent ability to vanish and teleport (usually to short distances). Several species have such ridiculously long lifespans that they are effectively immortal (though thankfully those aren’t too numerous).

The wyrm folded the wings. The result is admittedly less dramatic, but navigating the ground is much easier that way.

The reason why humans have such difficulty with magic is that they didn’t evolve to deal with it. Humans, though few of them currently realize it, aren’t Ellur natives. They migrated from Earth, in two waves.

The first wave came about 9 000 years ago. A major thaumic event pushed Earth and Ellur very close to each other in timespace, and Iledri, a small band of hunter-gatherers, strayed in. That same event also caused mutations both in the Iledri and in some (though not all) species of otherlings, and resulted in the ridiculously long lifespans mentioned above. The Illedri also gained direct access to the thaumic field, and are now considered otherlings. Unchanged humans sometimes refer to them as the Fair Folk, or elves. (They can interbreed with humans, but then so can most otherlings, since the majority of them control their physical form).

The second wave of human migration came around a thousand years after the arrival of the Iledri. Earth and Ellur “collided” again, and this time stayed in contact much longer. Multiple human tribes, as well as a whole lot of Earth animals, wandered in, unaware of stepping into a different universe. Unlike the Illedri, they didn’t undergo any noticeable mutation. They did gain access to the thaumic field, but that access is limited.

Human ability to perform magic, in general, comes only after years of hard study. However, the children of practicing human magicians have direct access to the thaumic field, just like otherlings. Unlike otherlings, who are born insensitive to the field and gain both access and control as they mature, mageborn humans have the access as soon as they are born. Without any control or comprehension. Which means that they rarely survive past infancy, and neither do their parents or neighbours. Which is why for a magician to have a child is one of the biggest taboos out there. (And which, incidentally, is also why magical contraception was one of the things humans figured out very early on.)

Earth and Ellur eventually drifted apart, and history went its way. Some of it resembled the history of Earth, some changed. Customs, traditions, tools, social structures, art, adapted to the new environment. Magic was discovered and put to use. Philosophy flourished, though religion disappeared – the Leralath, who resembled the early human gods in so many ways, did not take kindly to being called upon or spoken for. Still, in most respects, the humans of Ellur remain human.

Previous post – 1. Ellur: the Divergence
Next up – 3. Ellur: the Sundering


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