“We make no demands of Faith, no promises requiring divine intervention. We are the Aristoc. We offer you life eternal, if you show yourself worthy. We will protect you, we will provide for you, and we will give birth to a bright new future that you can be a part of, forever. In exchange we demand your loyalty, your ability and your dedication.
Human history is filled with examples of a singular invention or ability shaping the development of cultures and civilisations. Domesticating the horse; the creation of gunpowder; glass; the microchip... Sometimes a single invention is enough to define the culture that possesses it. The Aristoc is one such culture.
Perhaps one of the bleakest truths about the Great Burn is not just how much we have lost, but that we do not know how much we have lost. What wonders and mysteries have been reduced to ash? What remains out there, somewhere in the wilderness, waiting for us to rediscover?
Those who founded the culture now known as the Aristoc, made such a find. It was a piece of knowledge from before the Great Burn of such power and influence that it has shaped every aspect of their lives.
Simply put, the Aristoc discovered immortality.
How the Pre-Burn humans achieved such a feat is unknown, as is why it seemed not to be in widespread use. Certainly, there seems to have been no survivors of the Burn with this gift. Nevertheless, its recovery after the Burn has created a culture in the Aristoc unlike any other.
Aristoc society is severely divided between powerful minorities who have all the control, and a servant class majority who are bonded to one of the upper class. What maintains this inequality? Eternal life, or the promise of it.
The title Aristoc properly refers to the controlling minority, the upper class, who have received the treatment that makes the aging process stop or reverse. The rest of the culture are Serfs, working in servitude for an Aristoc master. Should a Serf manage to impress their master with their loyalty, dedication, and ability, there is the possibility that they will themselves be elevated to the position of Aristoc.
As such it is rare to encounter an Aristoc without at least a personal servant, though more likely a retinue, all doing their best to impress their ‘Master’ and be elevated to the rank of the immortals themselves.
The ancient science that grants the Aristoc immortality does not make them any harder to kill by conventional means. That they have the potential for hundreds of years of life has resulted in a somewhat cautious and conservative outlook.
Negotiation and diplomacy has become a specialty and the Aristoc will usually distance themselves from violence, preferring well trained Serfs to fulfil that function. A Servant class, personal security and a great deal of time on their hands, has led to a government system full of intrigue, one-upmanship, and patronage.
One’s standing in the political sphere is everything to an Aristoc, and there are many ways to advance – from throwing the best parties to brokering trade, from whom you sleep with to finding new resources out in the wilderness.
The Aristoc colture is lead (or some would say overseen) by a council of the eldest of the Aristoc. Each member of the council has an honorific title. These are:
The Aristoc walk a fine balance between short-term personal advancement and the long-term goals of the culture. All but the most powerful amongst the Aristoc will have a Patron, someone even more influential than themselves, probably the individual who sponsored their raising to Aristoc from the Serfs to begin with, however many years ago. Impressing their Patron will always be at the forefront of any Aristoc’s mind, and of course, quite how one impresses can vary tremendously. Long-term, the Aristoc wish for peaceful development. They have made clear they intend to return to the heights of Pre-Burn civilisation, but slowly and cautiously. Humankind came so close to extinction before and the Aristoc have no wish to risk the same again. Besides, they have all the time in the world.
The Serfs, regardless of duties or specialisations, all share a single goal; to join the ranks of the Aristoc. How this is done is a great secret, but its reality is undeniable. Precisely what qualities an Aristoc will look for in a Serf they will sponsor can depend on many factors, but at the very least it includes personal loyalty to such an extent that they are willing to share eternity with them. The process that grants eternal life will also reverse the aging process – usually stabilising around the 30’s physically, so it is not uncommon for a lifetime’s service to be required from the Serf. Of course it is the rarity of the uplifting to Aristoc that gives it its value; most will die a normal death... But there is always the hope.