On the Nature of the Soulless
It is a commonly held, but false, belief by the common being that the soulless are incapable, or at least less capable, of feeling emotion and are less capable than their fellows. I write this paper to educate just how wrong this notion is. It is my hope that, through enlightened study, we can grow as a people and embrace our children, even if they are different.
All expecting parents, in these times, are given a pendant to wear for the duration of the mother's pregnancy. Set in the center of this brooch is half of a stone, designed to fit snugly with the other half that the partner wears. If the father should perish or be lost, the mother can wear both halves without complication.
This stone is very sensitive to spiritual emanations, and will absorb the feelings and imprint the soul of the one wearing it. If the child is born soulless, the stones are combined and hung around the child's neck with a special necklace called the 'Pendant of Souls'. An infant can be identified as soulless easily. They do not cry and are born with closed eyes. Gently open their eyes. If they are completely black, give them the necklace.
Once properly adorned, a soulless child will open its eyes and typically gain a color similar to one of its parents. The child, besides its jewel, will laugh, cry, and react as any other. Though its soul has been borrowed, its mind and body will develop. An adult soulless who's pendant is removed will not suddenly stop functioning.
It is reportedly uncomfortable for a soulless to be without a soul gem. Most will not willingly separate from their soul pendant, and who would blame them? However, the soul gem is exchangeable. The Free Swords guild specializes in the unearthing, fabrication, and repair of soul gems. A soulless with a new soul gem may behave slightly differently, but remains, by and large, the same individual.
Should a soulless be without soul gem, they will be bereft of much of their hard earned skill. More importantly, they are susceptible to the influence of the shadow. Our enemies are quite eager to claim the body of a soulless, and will do so readily if there is not a soul in place. This does not happen immediately. Typically, a soulless remains proof against shadow for a full day from the last time a soul gem was worn. After that, they run the risk of possession. If you, or someone you know, has lost their soul gem, send them to the Free Swords or the Creators' Church. Neither will deny a being a soul gem to prevent such a terrible fate.
The key advantage, and this is a powerful one indeed, to having a soul gem is access to the knowledge within. A soul gem imprinted by a master of a profession will allow a soulless to eventually become master of that profession as well, so long as it is worn. The knowledge comes swiftly and easily, allowing mastery in weeks what might have taken its original owner a lifetime to complete.
This mastery is as quickly removed as it is given. Should the soul gem be taken, or swapped for another, the soulless will lose access to their abilities. Notably, if a soulless has skill with a particular profession and removes that soul gem and later picks it up again, their skill will return rapidly, leaving them where they left off. Soulless are, as a result, very versatile. A single soulless could be a source of uncountable professional skills, provided with sufficient soul gems and motivation.
Allow me to give some information about the soul gem. Soul gems are fairly resilient. I have personally witnessed a Heavy Folk strike one with a smithing hammer and leave barely a scratch. Reportedly, they are destructible with continued effort, but it is very difficult to accidentally bring one to harm.
Soul gems cannot be worn in combination. The body and mind can only handle one soul at a time. Some have fashioned soul pendants with space for two, but this invariably leads to madness. It is thought that this is the reason that souled people cannot take advantage of soul gems. They already have a soul, and it is not so easily removed to experience another. It is strongly advised that souled folk do not wear soul pendants, though casual handling has shown to have no ill effect. In the event that a person should come into more souls than they should, a headache is often the first symptom. Removal of the excess spiritual load will cure this, which is to say, take off the soul pendant. (Edit: Advancement has been made on this front in the form of the Dual Soul Pendant, filtering the power of a secondary soul through a primary one.)
If, for reasons this writer could not fathom, a being insisted on wearing it regardless of the danger and discomfort, a slow descent to madness should be expected over the next month. It is worth noting that soulless with two soul gems only gain benefit of one of the gems. I cannot emphasize enough how poor an idea this is.
Soulless can, and do, lead full and happy lives. They will know joy, pain, love and triumph. They serve in our army, they cook our food, work our land, teach our children, and live alongside of us. Soulless can have souled children. The number to study is yet small, but they suggest the chances are same, or near same.
Soulless can come from any clan. I have witnessed them in all sizes. Those whose ancestors included mice, bears, seals, flowers, and otters. Reportedly, they are wide spread, with one child in six being born with this condition. Of interest, identical twins and triplets are always souled or soulless together.
It is a disservice to our creators to treat them any less than any other being you can encounter. Let us judge them on merit of their action, and hold them responsible for their character and achievement, not on the basis of a chance of birth.
Social Standing of the Soulless
As the newest caste of our society, I face unique challenges. I write this in the hopes that other soulless will benefit from my experience. My name is Johanne Thim, of the Graceful Folk clan. My lineage descends from the red fox. I have worked many professions in my life, and I will now share how I have fared.
Born to two, kind and wonderful, and souled, parents, I was given a soul gem with their combined imprints moments after birth. They have told me, once I was old enough to understand, that their neighbors were concerned that I would somehow cause soullessness in their own children. This is, of course, impossible. It does explain why my childhood friends consisted of three other soulless of our village, and only one souled. I would eventually life bond with that souled friend, but that is another tale.
Schooling is different for a soulless. We learn rapidly, but only with the help of a soul gem filled with the knowledge we want to learn, and only for as long as we continue wearing that gem. Learning without a soul gem feels irritatingly slow in comparison. Souled children, who will never know the delight of it, think we are spoiled and stupid. Spoiled, there may be truth in that, but not dull witted. In any event, the Creator's Church has created an ensorclement that allows them to fill an 'empty' soul gem gradually with basic information. The gem of my parents was filled with math and writing, geography, history, and religion. As I learned with the others, they gave us more to learn about. By the time we were mature of body, we had outstripped any child's book the village could offer.
It is normal that a child undergo a period of apprenticeship in their chosen profession. Of us three, only one of us was certain what he wanted to be. Robert was certain of his conviction to join the army and combat the shadows. He left us on the day of his maturing, and died bravely in service of Sweetwater. I will speak of his journey later. For us two that remained, we took up jobs as they were available, trying to sample the world. Employers were not always comfortable with us. Our bright soul gems and pendants made us look wealthier than we were. Our advanced education made us sound too 'refined'. They treated us as elite snobs even as we cleaned up stalls and swept floors.
Though you, educated reader, likely know. Maturation is also when a child must decide on a clan and prove themselves worthy of joining it. In this, all children are equal. The tests are decided at the start of each year, and a child passes, or does not, without consideration of their social, economic, or souled status. I am a proud member of the Graceful Folk, as I mentioned before. My remaining friend, Tim, was of the Heavy Folk. A natural choice for one descended from the badgers.
After two years of unsatisfying apprenticeships, Tim and I decided that our small village simply could not provide what we needed. Samantha, our childhood friend from earlier, insisted on accompanying us. She threw aside her apprenticeship with the village weaver and took to the road with us. We arrived in Firmament a few weeks later.
The city was a bedazzling jewel of opportunity for us. There were many more soulless there as well. We did not stand out as sorely, as even the souled wore jewelry in the city. It was a place of relative prosperity compared to our humble village. After some asking around, we were directed to the Free Swords.
The Free Swords is a guild designed for the unique needs, talents, and services of the soulless. Despite the name, the Free Swords offer all manner of services. Scribes, magicians, even housekeepers can be found for hire there. They don't get as much fame as those who do battle. Adventurers that explore heavily shadow tainted areas, battling them and recovering soul gems and fragments of Raquestia. The fragments are worth more than sentimental value for our shattered moon. Fashioned with skilled hands, they can be carved into 'chakra stones'. Like soul gems, they imbue the soulless with knowledge, but are much more specific. Each stone gives a particular ability, rarely two. On the other hand, they work quite well with a soul gem, and you can use several of them, one for every chakra of the being body: Head, arms, torso, back, and legs.
The Creator's Church is also a place of respite for the soulless. The creator's message was clear to their creation. We are built differently so we may rise, as a people, to face any challenge. There is no bad form for life to take, just another challenge waiting for them. We were welcomed within its halls, and religion was a comfort from the thorns and challenges of the day.
I have found that the higher one elevates themselves from the common worker, the more understanding, and desirous, soulless tend to be. Guilds will court unemployed soulless, and the Good King has soulless for his personal guard. The army actively encourages soulless beings for their effectiveness against the shadow. This is not to say that life is easy, or fair. Those most eager to hire the soulless are also most willing to barter and second change in negotiation. There is no easy and simple life to be had for us. If you are a soulless reading this and dream to live humbly, you will face many challenges.
Let us speak of Robert. Though I summarized his life so briefly before, his was a long and decorated career. He rose through the ranks, becoming an officer who's direct battle prowess was matched with a keen eye for a rapidly changing battlefield. Those who served under him were grateful for his excellent track record, though intimidated by his nature. He was treated like a god, who could turn great wrath on them at the moment of misstep. Despite this, he loved his subordinates dearly, and did not sacrifice them lightly to the gears of war. His death was a combination of factors. His superiors, impressed with his ability, had bought into the idea of his invincibility. He and his men were sent to reclaim the lost city of Mossy Stone. The shadow were present in terrifying numbers. Many of his men fled at first sight of them, but he led onwards. The scholar, who I believe is now in employ of the Good King, remained at their side and chronicled the battle.
The battle began well. Under Robert's guidance, his men managed a defensible position and drew the shadows to dash themselves on a unified front. There seemed no end of them, however, and as day turned to night, they were tired and worn. The shadows were still coming, and the situation seemed most dire. Robert told his men, and the scholar, that the battle was over. They would flee at his mark, and he would open the way for them. Unsure how he would perform this, they prepared regardless, thankful for the faint possibility that they may see the next dawn.
Robert exchanged soul gems, and his body glew. With all the brilliance of the noon sun, he strode free of his men and began to cut the shadows down. They fled before the painful light as if it burned them, and each slice felled another. With a sweep of a hand, a dazzling display of light launched into the air. His men fled, and Robert was never seen again. He was posthumously awarded the medal of Creator's Spirit and his name was added to the wall of highest honors that resides in the center of Firmament.