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The Empire has documented instances of 'anomalies:' random, fortunately rare, events of destruction that they are not otherwise able to explain by any scientific means. They appear to be independent of weather, geological disruption, or measurable phenomena of any kind, but leave a trail of destroyed material demonstrating no logical pattern. Myths of these anomalies exist in many of the cultures, describing a range of monsters, spirits and angry ghosts to explain the events. In all cases, the creatures are invisible, which matches eye-witness accounts of the damage in which the destruction occurs with no visible cause.
The events appear to happen more frequently at higher elevations and near time crystal mines. Living matter is killed, and most materials are rendered to ash, warped or aged incredibly. Scientists theorize pockets of very toxic gases, roaming energy fields and many other, varied guesses.
These events are becoming more common, and more recently, led to the complete abandonment of a decade-long city building project nicknamed the "City of Lights." Witnesses saw tall towers topple for no reason, trees shrivel and walls collapse as holes appeared in them. More chillingly, several survivors of the incident went violently mad, screaming, tearing at their face and eyes, mutilating themselves and anyone within reach. A single surviving victim of this insanity was restrained to prevent him from damaging himself, but died several days later of dehydration. This has strengthened the idea of toxic and hallucinogenic gas pockets as a cause for such events. Efforts to collect or record this gas have failed.
The Northerners have many more pieces to this particular puzzle, and a singular advantage in combating them: they can see the Others, observe their movement, and know how to stop them.
Others vary in size between the size of a child's balloon and the size of a hot air balloon. Clouds do not block the radiation that Others put off: Northerners can see them right through mist, fog or clouds. They are composed of a bright 'core,' with protruding tendrils of energy like slow-moving sparks. What the tendrils touch turns to ash, and if that wound is not fatal, the insanity that follows inevitably is. The Northerners mercy-kill anyone who is wounded, before they can harm their loved ones or mutilate themselves.
Contrary to Southern belief, Others are very common; currents like rivers circle the sky and are full of Others. In both the north and south, they would be like clouds - a sky completely without them would be rare and deserve comment. A sky filled with them would also be rare, and likewise deserve comment. Mostly, the density would be in-between, with a ribbon or three of very slowly moving streams of them high in the sky, like tiny specks, in arcing patterns, similar to auroras across the sky. The currents are closer to the ground, the closer to the poles of the planet that you get.
Two flow ribbons coming close together will re-distribute - the ribbon with a lower concentration will attract the edge Others from the ribbon with the higher concentration. They do this frequently. Like auroras, some ribbons will lose their strength and peter out, and the drifting Others from that ribbon will latch onto any new ribbon that comes close enough soon after - stray Others are rarely stray all alone for long. If the new ribbon is already largely 'full,' they are only loosely attached, and more likely to skip to another that comes into range. Sometimes a ribbon will gain strength and attract more Others than another, showing up as larger and brighter.
These currents move and 'dance,' in response to what the Northerners call "Other-weather." Very rare individuals can hear these currents and predict their movements. This ability is closely linked to Northern Dwarfism.
There would usually be hours of warning that a particular ribbon appeared to be getting bigger or brighter, or leaned a bit in an unexpected direction - the currents of Others might stray higher than usual in times of Other-weather, or lower, or bow to the north or south along their general east-west flow. The hardest part wouldn't be seeing them, or noticing them, but deciding when they were a problem, and when to give an all-clear, because they are by nature rather erratic, and even when it seems like they are floating clear, a stray one might 'flare' with its tendrils, or spin off, or the ribbon might change direction. They move faster during times of increased Other-weather, but it would still be like watching the fast tide come in, not like trying to escape a flashflood in a canyon. Of course, plenty of people still get surprised by the tide...
The destructive aftermath of the Others has been witnessed by everyone in the North. Currently, there is about one ground-hit a tenday in all of the North, or 30 per year. Once every year or two, an Other will reach ground level in the actual valley of Itadesh. Everyone will have seen some signs of these hits - a dead area springing from a healthy area of forest, or a withered scar on the tundra. But not everyone will have witnessed a strike. Rangers are far more likely, and it would be similar to sighting a direct lightning strike - twice or three times a lifetime would be remarkable, and someone up in the mountains frequently will increase their odds of spotting one! It is more frequent in the high elevations, and less likely to happen at the coast or near the summer camps.
Others are not overly alarming to the Northerners; they see and deal with them frequently enough to be alert about them, and although they know firsthand how destructive they can be, they're like stormclouds and lightning: things that might turn out to be a problem, but usually don't, and they have enough warning to get their best shots out there with slings and metal. They have a periodic nightwatch, to check the skies several times during the night. There is almost always enough time and line of sight to remain out of the way, and Others have never hit a village, yet.
The Northerners also know how to stop them, though they don't understand why it works: a shot of metal, directed towards the center of the Other, will disrupt it, and dissolve it into nothing. This is one reason that metal is so valuable to them and why nearly every Northerner can use a sling.
They have noticed a general increase in poor Other-weather in the last half a century or so, and the frequency of ground strikes has just about doubled in the last 50 years. What's more, the Others seem to be growing in size! There's a reason for that...
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