The Scintillating Flame – Qashmallim [Promethean: The Created]

News, Promethean: The Created

Promo shot from Sapphire and Steel, created by Peter J. Hammond

Promo shot from Sapphire and Steel, created by Peter J. Hammond

They have been with us since the beginning, adjusting and guiding Humanity’s destiny. Often quiet and subtle, sometimes terrifying and awe-inspiring, the strangers promote change; distillation and entropy. They have been frequently mistaken for angels, and religious alchemists named them qashmallim, the Dominions. Of all the World of Darkness’ inhabitants, Prometheans know them best, as qashmallim apply guidance and punishment to guide them along the Pilgrimage to humanity. Rather than servants of a Christian god, however, the qashmallim are formed from a substance close to Prometheans’ hearts; Pyros.

Pyros permeates the entire physical world in small quantities, wherever humans (and other beings) plan, act on impulse, build, tear down, create, and destroy. Demiurges steal the Divine Fire to create Prometheans. Alchemists bottle it in their experiments. Pandorans feast upon it. The Created burn it into Azoth like messy reactors. Far from simple magical fuel, though, Pyros reacts. It forms its own agenda — its own Principle — and coalesces into its own agents and advocates.

The qashmallim are the agents of Pyros in the World of Darkness, formed from the Divine Fire itself in response to unique needs. Every qashmal is “born” from the Fire with a singular purpose — a Mission that it must carry out to the best of its ability within a strict time limit. Succeed or fail, when the Mission is over the qashmal is reabsorbed by the Divine Fire, and its Mission is never repeated. Prometheans sometimes describe qashmallim as sleeping dormant in the Fire until needed, but whether this is true or if they’re wholly created for their Missions is a matter for debate, as even the extremely rare cases of what seems to be the same qashmal appearing more than once could simply be coincidence in form. Equally mysterious are the reasons Missions are “selected,” or if they’re even deliberately chosen at all. Qashmallim have no memory of existence before the start of their current Mission, and if asked who or what sent them can only say “The Principle.”

Some Prometheans believe the Principle is God, or a manifestation of destiny. Others think it doesn’t really exist as a separate entity, that qashmallim are natural byproducts of Pyros and experience, in their own strange way, their Missions as immutable orders woven into their being. One sect of alchemists describes qashmallim as being to Firestorms as a chain reaction is to nuclear decay; any sentience they seem to exhibit is entirely in the eye of the beholder. The qashmallim don’t seem to care what anyone thinks about their origin — it is the Principle, and needs no further explanation.

OK, so, to “break character” for a minute, here, one of the big questions that folks want to ask about the qashmallim is how they fit in to the larger World of Darkness – specifically, what relationship, if any, they have to the God-Machine. I’ll give you two answers, here: The official answer, and the answer in my personal “headcanon” when I run World of Darkness games.

The Official Answer (Which is Less Exciting Than You Might Think): The World of Darkness contains at least two kinds of entity called “angels.” The first are living symbols of power and truth summoned into the world by human mages. The second are the biomechanical, ephemeral servants of the God-Machine. Qashmallim are not Supernal Entities (they’re born of this world’s Pyros, not the Supernal Realms of platonic forms) and they aren’t the servant-slaves of the God-Machine. Some demons, “Unchained” former angels, theorize that the God-Machine’s servants were created from qashmallim their master somehow captured, but the God-Machine’s commands are not the Principle, and its angels burn Essence, not Pyros. As such, if there is a relationship between the God-Machine and the Principle, it’s not one that the characters in the World of Darkness (who are, for all their power, limited in scope) able to understand. Put another way, you’re free to decide that relationship.

In The World of Darkness According to Matt: The Principle was first. The Principle is many things – the spark of humanity, the desire for human connection, the lightning that created life from the primordial soup. Throughout the first few billion years of Earth, it was evolving along with all of life, looking for…something. It was undergoing its own Pilgrimage.

Once humanity arose, it found its purpose. It was able to shape servants – the qashmallim – from its endless reserve of Divine Fire, and send them into the world. Unfortunately, its own commitment to self-determination meant that it can’t really control qashmallim; they always have a bit of autonomy (which is why they fail sometimes).

Somewhere along the way, someone created the first Promethean. Might have been Hank, actually, or it might have been some collection of rocks arranged into a human form that some caveman, lonely after the destruction of his tribe, created. Who knows. But at that point, the Principle’s real purpose was cemented – guide the Pilgrimage of the Created. That is its chosen expression of its purpose.

And then there’s the God-Machine. The God-Machine is from the future, but the thing about time travel is that it’s irrelevant when it happens, as long as it does. The God-Machine has its own agenda, but its agenda is a lot more complicated than the Principle’s. In order to interact with the world, though, the God-Machine copied a lot of the Principle’s “software.” That’s why its angels always have enough free will to Fall.

And now, here’s a qashmal for ya:

The Red Waters (Greater Lilithim)

She was a Savant, but now she’s not sure what Refinement she’s on, if any. She’s been living alone in the forest for months, nearly a year now, moving around to keep the wastes at bay. Every few weeks she follows the river down into the logging town, to acquire supplies and practice dealing with people. She’s accepted the idea that she’ll never be human, but by her effort no one suffers Disquiet at her presence, and she isn’t hurting anyone. She could stay like this forever, never moving on, never stepping back.

She feels it arrive — the sick twist of Flux all around her, threatening a Firestorm. Thinking it’s a Pandoran, she hunts through the forest, and finds it standing in the shallows of the river. It’s covered head-to-toe in what looks like red robes, but when she gets closer she realizes it’s skin, turned inside-out. When she approaches, wary, it tells her that her exile is at an end. She must leave the forest, and return to her Pilgrimage. She refuses, and it melts, dissolving into the water.

That night, she feels a Wasteland forming, far too soon after moving camp. Refusing to give in, she moves around more. After two weeks, she sees the figure in the water again.

Leave, it says. No, she replies.

The next time she’s in town, the people shy away from her, afraid. Fear turns to aggression, and she realizes that Disquiet is too strong, too fast. She flees, back to her forest.

The Lilithim sent to force her to step backward from the dead-end she’s in has given her two warnings now, but the time for it to complete its Mission is running out. The next time it merges with the river’s water, it will spread disease to everything the course touches — the town, the forest along its banks, the creatures within it. If she will not give up the half life she’s made, the qashmal will tear it down around her.

  31 comments for “The Scintillating Flame – Qashmallim [Promethean: The Created]

  1. Peter
    December 24, 2014 at 9:55 am

    HAPPY FESTIVUS!!!

  2. Leliel
    December 24, 2014 at 10:19 am

    You know, this is the first Lilithim that’s been directly involved with the Pilgrimage. And the first one used as a warning rather than a weapon.

    Nice.

    • Leliel
      December 24, 2014 at 10:23 am

      Another thing; if she knows any healing Refinements, the fact a Plague Crow was the one summoned/built/born/awakened for giving our stagnant Promethean the boot is an act of genius. After all, healing a plague you helped start sounds an awful lot like a Milestone focusing on guilt and human reactions to it.

      • SunlessNick
        December 24, 2014 at 6:20 pm

        Nice thought.

    • Dave Brookshaw
      December 24, 2014 at 2:09 pm

      Lilithim are the servant/embodiments of entropy – they destroy things, where Elpidos build them up. An Elpidos sent to kick a Promethean out of stagnation might give them a vision of a new Refinement, or lure them out. The Red Waters is just here to destroy its target’s half-life.

  3. ArcadianAwakened
    December 24, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    This sounds absolutely lovely. I’ve always had a thing for the bigger cosmology-level stuff in world of darkness and this scratches that itch wonderfully (and works well with a lot of things I’ve done with Pyros in crossover games to boot, which is a nice bonus).

    Loving these posts, looking forward to the next one.

  4. Lou Silvers
    December 24, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    Merry Christmas all!! Super excited for Promethean 2.0 after reading this. Off topic Matt, did you order take out pf Chang’s from summit mall a week or so ago? Might be an odd question but I got real excited when I saw I was cooking for a Michelle McFarland. And if I’m cooking for you guys I want autographs on my dtd prestige book 😀

    • December 26, 2014 at 8:55 am

      Nope, wasn’t us. I can’t remember when the last time was I *saw* a PF Chang, actually.

      • Lou Silvers
        December 27, 2014 at 1:13 am

        Well if your ever shopping in Fairlawn on the weekend stop in! I’d love making ya dinner sometime. Tell your server your a friend of Adrian’s in the back. I’ll have um take care of ya.

  5. Petri Wessman
    December 24, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    Sapphire & Steel! Yeah, I can see the quashmal angle, but mostly: damn that show was scary when I first saw it on TV, way way way back in the day. Season two, especially, is fantastically creepy and a showcase of what you can do with a minimal special effects budget.

    • December 24, 2014 at 4:41 pm

      I too would like to heartily endorse using Sapphire and Steel for this article. 🙂

    • B
      December 24, 2014 at 6:28 pm

      A great show (though not for impatient viewers like my mother) that should have continued. I couldn’t agree more that it’s “a showcase of what you can do with a minimal special effects budget”.

    • B
      December 27, 2014 at 11:35 am

      I just had a look at Pandora’s Book and remembered “Ruby and Mr. Gold”, a team of sample Elpidos Qashmallim based on Sapphire and Steel.

  6. atamajakki
    December 24, 2014 at 4:19 pm

    Always did love the G-M as a shoddy copy of the Principle; it’s nice to see someone else share that theory.

  7. Felipe
    December 24, 2014 at 4:29 pm

    The quashmallim feel much more organic now nice!

  8. December 24, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    awesome.

    wait are the Qashmal the Daleks and the Angels the Cybermen? imagining that scene from the 10th doctor where they argue with each other. “It is the Purpose”, “It is the Principal”.

    seriously though really enjoy the cosmology bits too.

    • SunlessNick
      December 24, 2014 at 6:39 pm

      Probably the other way round. The Cybermen are offering a better way to live, one they consider so self-evidently better that refusing it is ipso facto evidence that you’re not qualified to make the choice – which squares with the forced-if-necessary evolution the Qashmal inflict.

  9. December 24, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    will the book be giving us options for what the principal is? like I think pandora’s book did, presumably refined in a post DtD and GMC world?

  10. SunlessNick
    December 24, 2014 at 6:25 pm

    The Official Answer (Which is Less Exciting Than You Might Think)

  11. SunlessNick
    December 24, 2014 at 6:37 pm

    The Official Answer (Which is Less Exciting Than You Might Think)

    That’s pretty much exactly what I expected. (Except for “Maybe a third kind of angel, which is a Lower Depth entity analogous to the demons of the Inferno, which best fills the gap in itself by inculcating virtue among mortals.” 🙂 )

    But regardless I like the feel of these Qashmalim.

    • Metamurpho
      December 24, 2014 at 8:41 pm

      Come to think of it, there’s been no mention of if the ever-mysterious third choir will be returning, yet..

    • atamajakki
      December 25, 2014 at 1:20 am

      Inferno already hinted at Empyrean Angels as ephemeral entities tied to Virtues, while the qashmallim have never been bound by something as simple as human morality.

      • SunlessNick
        December 25, 2014 at 6:45 pm

        Um, I wasn’t conflating Qashmalim with Empyreal angels, I was suggesting the preceding two kinds of angel bit could have had three.

  12. December 25, 2014 at 12:01 am

    a recent idea of mine, may not fit 100% with existing history, but thought I’d share.

    The Mages of Atlantis created the God Machine as a world maintenance system before the ascension. When all of man, all of Atlantis ascended, the servants, the God Machine and it’s Angels, didn’t know what to do . The Angel Prometheus fell and took the Divine Fire and used it to resurrect recently passed humans, but these created humans weren’t right. Adam and Eve become human, and Prometheus believes he’s a God. Eventually through time and experimentation Prometheus was mutated by the Divine Fire and becomes the Principal driving Life back to the way it was in the Eden before the Fall. A god needs servants and he creates the Qashmallim. All of this to bring back the masters of “Atlantis”, the Mages. The God Machine simply follows its programming and attempts to maintain Atlantis, over time due lack of it’s own maintenance it becomes increasingly erratic.

  13. SunlessNick
    December 25, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    I’m drawn to the notion of the God Machine as an incomplete universe (a Lower Depth, essentially), that because of its wide knowledge and reach has learned of the Pyros, Principle, Prometheans, and Pilgrimmage, and is attempting something similar to the latter to make itself into a “real cosmos.” Most of its operations are to this end.

    While its angels use Essence, it itself uses Pyros it’s managed to take into itself over the millennia. But inefficiently, with the friction available to demons as aether (if you could make equations for this sort of thing, there’d be a relationship between aether and dPyros/dt).

    But it’s subject to Disquiet (which is why Infrastructure always seems a little off), Wasteland (one reason why the world is crap), and Torment (which is what enables angels to fall, and why humanity is often both a catalyst and a pattern on which demons form their personalities).

  14. tau neutrino
    December 26, 2014 at 5:22 am

    Will the qashmallim have fixed stats, or just be able to do whatever is necessary for their mission?

    • December 26, 2014 at 8:56 am

      There’s a system for giving them stats, but the book does suggest that if they don’t need traits, don’t bother with them.

  15. NateD
    December 27, 2014 at 10:07 pm

    I’m so pleased that Qashmallim made it – that was so damn good! The Red Waters will definitely be appearing in something I run, without doubt!

  16. Andrew Thomas
    December 29, 2014 at 12:29 am

    Always thought that the God Machine was an embodiment of both the Mechanistic Universe and the Unmoved Mover, and its behavior was a manifestation of the conflict between those concepts.

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