Hagiocracy of Lodos
A conversation with a Lodosi can be a singularly disorienting experience. A seemingly-straightforward question like “where are you from?” might be answered with a long story told from the point of view of a ventriloquist’s doll, scribbled notation for a series of eshek moves, and a single swatch of blue silk. It’s a wonder they get anything done.
– From Modui: Continent of Contradictions
The first Lodosi colonists set foot on Modui less than a century ago, making the Hagiocracy a relative newcomer in the battle for continental hegemony. However, even in that short period, Lodosi ingenuity and industriousness have spread the Hagiocracy’s influence far and wide.
The initial Lodosi colonies were established on the Western Scratch, a barren strip of land between the Sapphire Veil Sea and the Finback Mountains. Due to the low quality of the soil and the difficulty of traversing the mountains, the area was populated only by a handful of scattered eloko tribes, such as the Komayanga and the Surehoof. These tribes were all but devastated in a series of short conflicts with the Lodosi intruders, and their remnants were forced to retreat into the mountains.
The following decades saw Lodosi control of the western coast expanding in both directions. After winning the brief War of the Splintered Harpoon with the Five Claw Clans (who were backed by Hacik, which was looking to check Lodos’ spread) they took the peninsula at the southern tip of the Western Scratch, renaming it the Infanta’s Snuffbox. In an even more daring move, they carved out the Infanta’s Bauble, a colony in a previously unexplored area of Modui’s Heart, dangerously close to the White Soft.
While Lodosi farmers continue to develop the small areas of arable land available along the Western Scratch, and more and more jungle is cleared for plantations within the Bauble, the colonies are nowhere near self-sufficient. Rather, their continued solvency is dependent on a combination of staples brought from the home islands and trade with native Moduin powers. While this has strengthened ties with their primary trading partners, the Duumvirate of Ato-Ile and the Loom, it leaves them vulnerable to piracy from the Five Claws and embargo from the all-powerful Haciki navy.
Every element of Lodosi society and culture is influenced by the state religion, Khartophanism. Adherents of Khartophanism are referred to as “Khartophanoi.” The polity and its faith are so inextricably intertwined that the terms Khartophanoi and Lodosi are often used interchangeably to refer to its citizenry. While there are communities of Khartophanoi outside of Lodos and her holdings (mainly in Ato-Ile and the Loom) these populations are small. Khartophanoi living outside of Lodos are sometimes regarded with distrust by their neighbors, who suspect them of harboring secret loyalties to the Hagiocracy.
While there are many Khartophanic deities, the central figure of the religion’s pantheon is Khartophan Endless-Strategies, a multifaceted trickster god whose stories usually involve riddles, puzzles, games and play. Khartophan is able to change their appearance at will, but their usual form is that of a masked child. The elaborate ritual garb of the Khartophanoi invoke the god’s penchant for disguise, as well as their love of color and carnival. Khartophanoi mix every imaginable kind of vestment – including robes, cloaks, stoles, scarves, omororians and omphorians – into dizzyingly complicated ensembles. Colors are usually loud and vibrant, while patterns tend towards repeating shapes like checkerboards and harlequin diamonds. While no two Khartophanoi will dress the same, they all share one accessory: a featureless white mask, never removed in public.
Khartophanism posits that our world is a game played between a pantheon of gods such as Khartophan, who are in turn pieces on an even greater board moved by beings unfathomable to us. For this reason, Khartophanic worship takes the form of meditative play, involving riddles, puzzles and, most importantly, games. While any games are allowed, the most common are eshek, a game similar to chess, and jaadoo-sabba, a card game. One of the central paradoxes or mysteries of Khartophanism is that in the course of playing a game, the participants create and destroy a reality that is no less “real” than our own. The “life” of a piece on an eshek board is just as meaningful as the life of the player who moves it.
Khartophanism elevates imagination and ingenuity above all other traits. Children are celebrated for their endless creativity and unorthodox perspectives, and the ruler of Lodos is a child selected from the noble houses who rules from age eight to twelve. Of course, enemies of Lodos claim the Infanta is nothing but a puppet or figurehead, controlled by her family or whichever scheming faction of the Varicolored Court has captured her favor for the moment.
Nothing can prepare you for the experience of fighting a regiment of Lodosi cicadas. Sure, they look ridiculous in those colorful robes, like they’ve shown up expecting a carnival instead of a battle. But then those unholy weapons start clicking, and the next moment you’re fighting under a hailstorm of bolts.”
— Ben Zastinek, Lieutenant of the Sons of Sevgost
While detractors may scoff at certain elements of Khartophanism as unserious buffoonery, it is undeniable that its emphasis on imagination, wonder and experimentation has made the inventors and craftsmen of Lodos second-to-none. The “springineers” of the Hagiocracy specialize in clockwork devices powered by the kinetic energy stored in tightly-wound springs. These wonders range from exquisitely-detailed wind-up orchestras that perform full symphonies on tiny instruments to huge “war-toy” automatons capable of smashing reinforced stockades to kindling. Of all the Hagiocracy’s creations, however, most would agree that the springbolt is the most ingeniously diabolical.
A springbolt is a clockwork crossbow capable of firing a flurry of bolts with the pull of a trigger. The weapon is loaded from below with a clip of bolts (usually eight). A pre-wound “spring cartridge” is slotted into the side of the weapon. When the trigger is pulled, the spring cartridge powers the weapon’s mechanism, which pulls back the string, slots a bolt into the groove, and releases it. Most springbolts can be set to single shot or automatic fire: single shot requires the operator to pull the trigger twice, first to slot the bolt and then to fire it, while automatic fire allows him to simply hold down the trigger, emptying the clip as fast as the mechanism can operate.
While the ability to riddle a target with bolts with just the pull of a trigger obviously makes for a singularly deadly weapon, springbolts do have a number of drawbacks. They are heavy, and their complicated internal mechanism is prone to jams and misfires. Their range and accuracy is worse than that of a good short bow in the hands of a competent archer. Finally, a spring cartridge stores only enough kinetic energy to empty two clips of bolts before it needs to be rewound (to get around this, most operators carry several pre-wound cartridges in case they need to reload during a battle).
Despite these downsides, units of Lodosi springbolters (nicknamed “cicadas” for the deafening clicking sound made by their weapons) can have a devastating effect on the battlefield. Cicadas are trained to fire in staggered battle groups: while one group reloads, the other fires, forcing their enemies to fight under a ceaseless barrage of deadly bolts.
While the Hagiocracy made early attempts to keep the inner workings of the springbolt secret, both Hacik and Ato-Ile have developed their own version of the technology. However, these knockoffs are prone to malfunction, and Lodosi springbolts are considered the gold standard in reliability.