Chronicles of Calelira: Entry Four
Spirits and Corruptions
(March 13, 2019)
Consciousness in Calelira works on two separate levels. Low level consciousness, akin to the way animals work in the real world, is controlled on a purely biological level, instincts and nervous system functionality mainly. Pretty simple, you know how nature works.
Higher level consciousness, and what separates a sapient from a beast, is a little more interesting. Sapience is achieved through two halves of a spirit, the ideal and the alterego, dwelling inside a creature with a strong enough crystallum supply in their bloodstream to keep the spirit close to the body. Death occurs when the crystallum is sufficiently depleted or degraded to the point where the spirit cannot remain attached and in control of the sapient.
Each half of the spirit represents a different side of the sapient; the ideal is the person's sense of morality, memories, and logic, while the alterego is the person's vices, desires, ego, and sense of daring. In essence, a good half and an evil half. Both of these halves balance each other out, something I'll get into in a moment.
What's interesting about these two halves is that they can actually be temporarily split and one separated from the sapient. Commonly, this is used to summon out the alterego temporarily into battle as a helper. This alterego manifests as a ghostly double of the sapient and uses their grounding and ability to affect the physical plane to inflict damage on its targets, without regard for morality. (There's no real reason to summon the ideal, but it is technically possible.)
I said immediate because not having both halves of the spirit present inside the sapient will eventually cause damage. When one half of the spirit is summoned, it's no longer in direct contact with the other half, and its absence is felt and the things it kept stable inside the sapient begin to fall apart.
The loss of the alterego generally causes self-esteem to shrivel up, warps the sapient's self-image, and causes them to grow sluggish and timid. The loss of the ideal causes impulsivity, anger, and a lack of regard for the sapient or those around it. Losing one means the sapient loses desire to carry on; losing the other means the sapient becomes reckless and lawless.
(A lost alterego is far more common than a lost ideal, so for the rest of the article, I'll simply refer to losing either one as a lost alterego.)
Making matters worse is that a summoned alterego can't simply be recalled unless the sapient is in proximity to it. If the alterego runs off and is lost, it's lost forever. That alterego will actually begin to weaken and corrupt without the other half keeping it in check; this is where spirit corruptions manifest from.
To explain: a loose spirit (one that somehow doesn't pass to the Aether when the sapient dies) with both halves intact will resemble the original sapient it spawned from. In other words, both halves intact makes a ghost. This ghost is self-sustaining and can inhabit another body if it finds a suitable one, even one that doesn't remotely match the body it came from.
If the halves are separated, however, they'll each begin to corrupt and form into corrupted spirits, which are some of the nastiest creatures you'll find in Calelira. What each half forms into depends on the sapient.
Aetheropoli (sometimes called treespirits) are probably my favorite of the corrupted spirits so far, forming out of Featherbeast alteregos (turns out, they are sapient, they just don't let on, I guess). Aetheropoli feast on fear. They mostly get this from trapping victims in nightmares based on their most savage fears, such as being boiled alive, strangled, or eaten by insects. Aetheropoli nightmares are highly traumatic; it's not uncommon to see grown adventurers vomit, sweat bullets, or even break down sobbing as they come to from an Aetheropoli attack.
While there's no way to fight off a corrupted spirit, a good-sized cluster of crystallum is enough to keep one well away from you. In the case of Aetheropoli, who are most commonly found in the dark corners of the Landes in Elinar's Martiveil region, travelers keep crystallum pendants close to their chest, and thankfully, the Aetheropoli stay away, wary of getting caught in the pendant.
The earliest example of an alterego I can find in Calelira 1.0 was a quest called SpectreQuest, which happened in about October 2016 or so. Given the lack of explanation, I had to have come up with the idea before then, but where it would've originally shown up, I'm not sure. In it, Suzanne (Brianna's player character, a sandcat) uses her alterego to distract a murderous shrew ghost and her Blast Pit-esque monster vines:
> Run over. Summon my Alterego as a distraction. You send out Alterego Suzanne, and the vines go after her instead. Of course, because Alterego are incorporeal and because they like to mock, this only infuriates them further. [...] You try again. The fireball's bigger this time, and you manage to throw it, but all it does is anger the vine further. It tries to squash you again, crushing part of the rock pile with a defeaning CRASH. By this point, you're getting frustrated and emotional, which is what happens when you forget to recall your Alterego.
Alteregos haven't really gone through much revision since they were introduced, they were always meant as the evil part of you that you can't live without. (I apparently couldn't decide if I wanted to capitalize their name or not. I've since decided against it.)
Aetheropoli and the concept of corrupted spirits also originated around this time, and were later reused in a quest that did successfully complete, where the protagonists and later the antagonists succumb to their effects.
Your humble narrator,