Under Feet of Clay
Fate in Calopius
“A destiny is a great and terrible thing, child.”
Concepts of Fate abound in Calopius, where some believe they are destined for mighty things, while others contemplate if there is any free will at all. However, there are a few key factors that shape how Calopene people construe fate and their lot in life.
First and foremost, many Calopenes speak of The Fates, always in the plural, and always like a title. This, however, hides the fact that they are not seen as deities, primordials, or titans. Rather, it is the name given to the mysterious wellspring of destiny. In unique relationship to them stands Grandfather Time, who watches over the threads of fate as they intertwine into the world, pruning and tending it as best he can. Because of this connection to fate, when a god must be supplanted to shape or alter a destiny, remedy a curse, or turn away impending doom, Grandfather Time is entreated. For most, the Father of the Gods is the manager of their destiny, though they know it is more complicated than that.
Secondly, there are mighty heroes within Calopius, and common wisdom holds that those who can join the ranks of the gods are the ones who defied The Fates in some way. Whether celebrated liberators and feared villains, the heroes of the Anthrotheon are often lauded as the proof that destiny is surmountable. Those who pay attention, however, will look to the story of Thebarchos or Pius or Basilus to see heroes who ultimately were crushed by their lot in the cosmos. Many teachings of the Sages center on the futility of individual mortal endeavor, claiming that it is through unity in the polis, not individual heroism, that mortals can rise above their station. For Pittacus, this was the phalanx, for Thales it was the University, and for Chilon, it was the preservation of the lessons of the dead. For all seven, it was uniting the mortal spirit that offered relief from a constant onslaught of terror and despair.
When it comes to how a mortal can understand their destiny, there are several routes one can take, which are detailed below. Note that these philosophies are not mutually exclusive, and many people embrace aspects of some (even most) of them. New schools and subschools are always emerging, but these are the most common and ancient modes of thought in the realm.
Quiet Piety: Often encouraged by Clerics, this is perhaps the most common understanding of The Fates in Calopius. By performing one’s duty to the gods, their wrath may be subverted and disaster forestalled. The broad strokes of destiny have long been set, but day to day fortunes can be earned through devotion and blood.
Heroic Defiance: For many heroes, the notion of conformity is the destruction of the individual, and an impossible thought. There is no freedom and no virtue in accepting the suicide of the soul. Instead, by constantly daring the impossible and testing the fire of the spirit against the world, one gains power and skill. When a flame burns bright enough, the spirit swells and breaks free of the shackles of the Fates. This path is embraced by adventurers above all others, but spurned as dangerous by the social order.
United Ascension: Common among many Clerics and city leaders, the notion of United Ascension was the premise of the founding of the seven cities, and laid down the teachings of the Seven Sages. No mortal is capable of escaping suffering on their own, a fact understood by all given the practice of exposing infants. However, mortalkind has long come together into greater and greater units to rise to stations previously unimaginable. When the first mortals groaned in their servitude, they found mates and formed families, creating new life from the mingling of humors. Families came together to form clans, and with the guidance of the sages, cities. One has a fundamental choice: whether to participate in the ascension of the whole, or the selfish ascension of just one. Most who believe in United Ascension believe the souls of mortals to be reborn in new forms, and only when all souls are united in grand endeavor can the material be escaped.
Tragedianism: Seeing the world as constant suffering, Tragedians understand that destiny is a bond that cannot be escaped. For some, this is a blessing for long life and fortuitous wealth. Given sufficient time, however, all comes to ruin. Tragedians know that every high point in life is just a precipice for a fall to a new low, and the longer one waits until that fall, the greater it will be. Kings and peasants alike suffer disease, famine, and storm. Even the gods suffer misfortune, and ultimately The Fates play their games with little to no care for mortal lives. Many see dramatic overlap between Tragedianism and Hedonism. Within the Tragedians are a subgroup known as the Stoics. The Stoics embrace a combination of Tragedianism and Heroic Defiance, believing that by tempering the self through exposure to the harsh realities, one can improve the quality of their soul and character. While they will never be free, a soul in harmony with the will of The Fates can accomplish more good than a sobbing slave.
Comedikos: While it draws from the same basic principles as Tragedianism regarding the inescapable nature of destiny, Comedians believe that this is cause for celebration. Fate may bring a mortal down, but it also lifts them back up in time. If everything is fleeting, as the Tragedians claim, then so too is suffering itself. Many idealistic Comedians even understand the material world to be fleeting, and idealize a future world of endless food which will require no work to cultivate, overflowing with wine, olives, honey, and pomegranates. This sect of Comedikos thought is known as Utopian Dreaming, and radical members believe that positive thoughts, manifested physically as laughter and a reddening of cheeks, send out a positive energy that will life up the souls around it. They take very seriously the notion of laughing into existence a better world.
Hedonism: At its face, Hedonism has very much in common with the Tragedians, as both believe in an inescapable fate that shackles all. However, the Hedonist maintains that the mortal is a slave to destiny, and slaves are not held morally accountable, it is their masters who are. As a result, Hedonists see no reason to temper their behavior, and indulge in drunkenness, sexual deviance, violence, and all manner of taboo. Hedonists are loathed by proper nobles and lawmakers, and often have meetings to indulge their one expression of freedom in an uncaring cosmos under moonlight in dim forests. Rumors persist that some even partake in cannibalism, but such accounts are refuted by the Hedonists.
The Spinning Wheel: All history turns in cycles, as the threads of The Fates are woven into a tapestry, pulled apart, run through the wheel once more, and woven anew in a new pattern. Pieces may shift into new combinations, but the raw elements are the same. Though not a common philosophy in Calopius, the notion of the Spinning Wheel carries some weight among mystics, particularly Druids. Deep adherents even claim that heroes of old may walk in new bodies later in time, or that this is not the first iteration of the world. For most Calopenes, this notion is ridiculous, but the concept of reincarnation is growing in Calopius.