The Opal Empire
An Icon is a powerful mortal who is becoming a deity. So many people know who the person is and believe in their power that the power is becoming real.
This is how all deities were created, before the Rivening. Belief grew to the point that these deities either sprang into existence, or belief in the power of actual mortals grew until the mortals ascended.
To become an Icon, one needs a great deal of normal power. Otherwise, mortals won’t direct their spiritual power (thi) toward the Icon-candidate. Power isn’t enough. The candidate needs to be famous, so legendary deeds are important. It’s not even important that the deeds are real, though, and some Icons have gotten where they are through propaganda campaigns and rewriting history books.
It takes a long time to become an Icon. It takes longer to ascend to the level of a Deity. Typically, the process takes multiple centuries. The Icon need not be alive to ascend, actually. If enough Icon accumulates enough belief, he or she can ascend posthumously.
Icons of the Opal Empire
The Celestial Empress
This elven queen is arguably the most powerful icon in the Opal Empire, because she is the Opal Empire. She aims to expand the Empire to the east and conquer the territory of the Swamp Witch while keeping her lands (especially her Summer Kingdom) peaceful and prosperous. She guards her throne from her scheming sisters, the Three Queens, whom she loves with all her heart but treats with caution. The Empress is hundreds of years old.
The Three Queens
The Empress has three sisters, all of whom have their own kingdoms, each named after a season: Autumn, Winter, and Spring. Their mother, on her deathbed, handed the Empire to the Summer Queen, who is now the Empress. The remaining sisters suspect the Summer Queen obtained her throne through immoral means, and they plot against her quietly. They also occasionally plot against one another, which is the main reason they’ve never overthrown the Empire. The Spring Queen was born a boy, but through the course of many resurrections and magical mind transfers, has decided she prefers to be a woman.
A half-elf man, less than fifty years old, has risen quickly as the most powerful wizard in the world. There are rumors that he made deals with devils to gain his knowledge. He maintains his own tower on an island in the south, and has additional towers (smaller copies of the original tower, in a similar architectural style) in every major city in the Empire. He can teleport freely between any of these structures. The Arcanist seeks knowledge and power, and seems fairly self-serving. It’s clear though that his loyalties lie with the Empire, and it is in his interest to help fight the Empire’s enemies. He and the Swamp Witch share a rivalry that borders on deep respect.
The Imperial General
She is a fearless elven warrior of supreme ability, an unsurpassed leader, and a treacherous strategian. Her loyalty to the Empire is unquestioned. She commands the Imperial Army, a force numbering 100,000 people. She fights in the most important battles and lays a long trail of bodies behind her. She wishes to bring all people under Imperial Code, a set of laws she championed. The Imperial General grouses at the compromises the Empress struck with the dwarven holds and human city-states; given some time, she could bring them under the yoke of the Empire.
The Lord of Eyes
He is an old elven man, now physically blind, but he uses magical gems to “see” all over the Empire. His little crystal spies fly around cities, sending back sights and sounds to their master. The Lord of Eyes holds a position on the Imperial Court, but he had his spy network before then, and for this reason many have doubted the completeness of his allegiance to the Empress. His main aim seems to be to know about things before anyone else does, and he uses his information to keep the Empire safe. His idea of the Empire’s safety does not always align with that of the Empress, but she hasn’t caught him in a lie yet. The Umber Lord is his mortal enemy, and many of the Umber Lord’s followers have perished in long sessions of torture and interrogation.
Slavery is deeply embedded in elven culture and the Whip has built a legend of himself as a cruel and heartless petty dictator of other people’s lives. His cruelty is tempered by the Empress, who apparently dislikes the practice of slavery but has still not abolished it. Truly, her Empire is built on the backs of forced labor, and she probably fears a collapse of society. The Whip’s aim is to crush slave rebellion and maximize labor. He is hated by almost everyone, including most slave owners. However, most see him as a necessary evil in a world with commonplace slavery. Who else will keep the slaves from rising up against their masters?
The Stone Hand
A dwarven monk of great spiritual power serves as a symbol to all dwarfkind of a good way of living. He is a respected philosophic leader and dwarves cling to his every word. He is not interested in leadership or personal power. Instead he serves as an independent adviser to any who will listen. He offers advice to other leaders, too, such as the Empress and her Queen sisters, but they rarely appreciate it. He feels the Empire should make a treaty with the Swamp Witch in the name of peace, but he dislikes and distrusts the Umber Lord and his devils.
The seven city-states of humans that have so far remained independent from elven rule banded together to form a League for self-preservation and mutual aid. The cities are far-flung across the continent, but they rely on teleportation gates to travel from one high-walled place to another. The Castellan’s League has been in a long war with the Empire, and their city-states were falling one at a time until the humans created a supreme magical spell of destruction, which they demonstrated on an elven city. Of course, the Empire quickly developed their own variation on that spell, and everyone is afraid to start that war, which will surely be the last this world ever sees. Over time, the Castellans just fortified their positions and fought a cold war of espionage. Elves are particularly good at that kind of slow war, unfortunately, so the League has begun to suspect one of their own members is a double agent for the Empress.
Council of Coin
A body of wealthy merchants have allied for the common purpose of increasing their wealth. They lobby and pressure the Empress and other leaders to grant them charters and monopolies and to control prices and resources. They most hate the Imperial General, who has repeatedly tried to disband them. They have strong alliances with the Whip and (at least they believe) the Lord of Eyes. Their membership crosses alliances, so there are councilors from the four kingdoms of the Empire, the city-states and dwarven holds, and even the Swamp Witch’s Deathmoor.
Where the Council of Coin represents the legal merchant interests of the Empire, the Triangle controls organized crime over the continent. The exact composition of the syndicate is not well known, and it is not clear if there is a single leader over all crime groups or if the Triangle is a hegemony of like-minded mob organizations. Clearly, however, the smaller and newer criminal organizations live or die at word of the powerful within the Triangle. The group has a very complicated relationship with the Council of Coin. Very likely, some of the Councilors are also leaders within the Triangle, and it’s impossible to tell if the Councilors who most vocally oppose crime are just putting on appearances. The Triangle works with the Lord of Eyes, the Whip, the Swamp Witch, and the Castellan’s League when it suits their purposes. The Empress, the Three Queens, and the Imperial General work hard to root out the identities of Triangle members and leaders.
One angel was trapped on earth when the gates to heaven closed. He has struggled for thousands of years with a single mission: reopening the gates and reuniting with the deities of Good. He intervenes in political fights only when they serve his long term goals. He believes that war tempers a people, makes them stronger and smarter, and thus he sows dissent in careful ways to build a strong Empire capable of producing the powerful magic spells he’ll need to overcome the protections on the gate. The Fallen is a staunch ally of the Empire, but not always the Empress; he’ll support a change in leadership as soon as the current Empress stops investing in magical research. He’s a supporter of the Arcanist, naturally, but also the Swamp Witch (who has much sorcerous knowledge). He hates the Umber Lord but uses the devil’s army as a pawn in the long chess game he’s playing with the earth. After all, testing nations requires a good enemy. He hates the Whip and slavery in general.
The Ghost Knight
She is an incorporeal spirit now, though once she was an elven woman. She flits from host to host, possessing willing vessels who believe in her cause: freeing the world’s trapped spirits from enchantment. Of course, the Arcanist opposes this quest with all his power. The Ghost Knight’s enmity toward the Arcanist pales next to her seething hatred of the Swamp Witch, who has enslaved tens of thousands of spirits inside undead minions.
The Swamp Witch
Probably the greatest threat to the Empire, the Swamp Witch is an ancient human witch of enormous power, kept at bay by the combined might of the Empress, the Three Queens, the Arcanist, and the Imperial General. Of course, many other icons oppose the Swamp Witch and refuse to deal with her and will aid the Empire when needed. The Swamp Witch rules the eastern coast of the continent through fear and power. Her magic combines curses and necromancy and she has a cohort of stranded devils who lead her armies. The Swamp Witch is known to make deals with the Umber Lord.
The Umber Lord
When the planar gates closed forever, many devils were trapped on the earth. People tracked down most of them and destroyed them. Some hid deep underground when the tide of battle turned against them. One, the Umber Lord, grew to great power in his hellish lair, enslaving ghosts of the long dead and creating a new army of devilkind. These were devils meant to subvert, not to fight, and this new breed looks like normal people. They prowl around the cities of the Empire, preying on the weak and making infernal deals for new souls. He has sworn vengeance against the Empire for the death of his brother, slain by the grandmother of the Empress and her sisters thousands of years ago. He will not rest until everything they love has crumbled to dust and all of their heirs are dead. He has made deals with the Swamp Witch, but he remains wary of her.
Four powerful elemental lords ruled the earth millennia before gods and goddesses meddled with people. They lost their war with the divine and ended up forced into underground hibernation. When the gates to heaven closed, the magical power that trapped the elemental lords waned and they were once again free. They are slowly returning to power. There is one lord for each of the four elemental forms: fire, earth, air, and water. Not many people even know about the Four yet, except strange sorcerers and the strange elemental humanoids that the lords are creating in the bowels of the earth. Their biggest enemy right now is the Umber Lord, who sees them as a contender for territory underground. The Arcanist is aware of the Four, too, and he’s begun parlay with them and remains unbiased about their disposition.