This is the final post in a series about the Erudite race across three games. You can find part one here, which covers Erudites during the time of EQOA 500 years before Everquest. Part two here covers Erudites dring the time of the original Everquest. This final post covers them during the time of Everquest II, set 500 years after the original game.
Erudites began as a regal race of dark skinned but fairly normal looking humans based out of the city of Highborn, on the shores of Antonica south of Quenyos. During the time of EQOA they colonized the Isle of Odus to the west. Always a race of mages and magic using warriors, by the time of Everquest their long association with magic had begun to alter them on a physical level. Members of both genders showed greatly expanded craniums and foreheads, indicating a vast expansion of the brain areas responsible for language and reason. By the time of Everquest II this process has gone much further. They no longer have expanded craniums, but in other ways Erudites of this era have begun to look positively alien. Now completely hairless, their skin tones tend towards towards shades of gray or bone white, their eyes no longer appear wholly human, and under certain lighting their skin now glistens with a faint metallic sheen. Tattoos have also become extremely commonplace. However they mark themselves with magical glyphs rather than ink, and the designs can only be clearly seen under bright light.
|The city of Paineel, near where you first arrive.|
|The character I played through Sentinels of Fate with, a Necromancer now in the mid 90s. I did finally figure out what familiars are about, that space octopus boosts all of my stats by 12% and will grow stronger as I level it. |
|This village of Kerrans lies on a small island isolated from the larger landmass that contains Paineel.|
Because of their moral ambivalence, the other two humanoid races that share the remains of Odus with with the Erudites avoid all direct contact with Paineel. The cat like Kerrans confine themselves to an island which they only leave occasionally to gather supplies. They also keep a small force of spies near Paineel to make certain that no threats issue forth from it. Another race of humanoid pandas have a small community in the village of Hua Mein. It lies in a valley which is hidden from the rest of Odus by powerful magic. The Erudites of Paineel seem to believe they succeeded in a war of extermination against the race of Hua Mein several hundred years ago, and the modern villagers are careful to maintain this fiction. In order to enter the valley you need to perform a series of tasks proving that you are willing to lie to the inhabitants of Paineel and help the Hua Mein avoid discovery.
In the Erudites of EQ II we see a race completely transformed by the reckless pursuit of knowledge. Both physically and philosophically, they are now quite alien from the other human races. Their resilience is admirable in a way. After each cataclysm they rebuild and continue to gather ever greater knowledge as they always have. However, this quest for knowledge is so single minded and so heedless of the damage that it causes that Erudites as a race are only a step removed from truly selfish and sadistic races such as the Trolls and Dark Elves. Though not truly evil, no-one could mistake them for a force of good.
Perhaps more than any other race, Erudites have often proven themselves a dire threat to all of Norrath. When they colonized Odus in the time of EQOA, they pushed aside the native races that inhabited the area without a thought, treating them no better than wild beasts. Some time after, a magical war between two factions of Erudites nearly destroyed the world. Finally, in between the events of EQ and EQII they again caused a major cataclysm, this time involving experiments with the teleportation spires. Odus was ripped from the world into another dimension, and whether this played any role in the wider cataclysm that so drastically transformed the rest of Norrath is unclear. However, even if the Erudites knew for a fact that they had caused this devastating event, seemingly very few would regret it. Knowledge is the only master they truly revere. This is a race that would have been delighted to discover the atom bomb, or something even worse.
Series Wrap Up
Erudites are an interesting fantasy race in a game where every other playable race in launch EQ was "borrowed" from first edition AD&D.** Even Barbarians were a class in AD&D Unearthed Arcana. It's mainly in the Erudites where we get a truly original fantasy race. They have few analogues in other games or fantasy fiction in general that I am aware of. Their accelerated physical evolution due to connections with magic is especially unusual, and I find the fact that it is an Easter egg you can only experience by playing three completely separate MMOs delightful.
I can only think of a handful of game series like Star Wars and Elder Scrolls where it's possible to time travel by moving back and forth between different games, and in most of them the changes from one time period to the next are mainly cosmetic. Not so Everquest. In only 1000 years we see a world radically transformed by a series of magical cataclysms. The world map of EQOA is completely unrecognizable by the time of EQ II, much like a map of planet earth during the Triassic era bears almost no landmarks recognizable to modern eyes. The races and classes you can play also change a good bit from one game to the next. Deeply associated with magic, and themselves responsible for many world shaking events, no race has been transformed during the history of Norrath as much as the Erudites. Though they have friendly relations with many "good" races such as the humans and elves, for those races that live near them such as the Kerrans Erudites have also embodied the worst aspects of humanity. The Erudite legacy is one of towering achievements in the magical arts, particularly the construction of the spires linking Norrath, Luclin and planes beyond. But it is also a legacy of colonialism and perhaps even attempted genocide in the case of the Hua Mein.
The singular focus of Erudites on the pursuit of knowledge above all else also is both admirable and tragic. It's an admirable fictional counter example to our world, where where members of different political parties have stopped even agreeing on fundamental reality. But Erudite history also reflects how badly things can go when the pursuit of knowledge and the power than comes with it is not balanced by any sense of morality. Even the banning of "evil" necromantic arts from the city of Erudin during the time of EQ comes across as hypocritical. Time and time again it was the practitioners of other forms of magic that truly threatened the world. In the end it was the city of Paineel that was the last major refuge of the race and all the knowledge they collected.
*I don't mean to convey that Sentinels of Fate is some sort of grimdark expansion. These deaths are very much played for darkly humorous laughs in the questlines that involve them.
**Undoubtedly this is because DikuMUD also drew so heavily on AD&D. AD&D in turn borrowed heavily from Tolkien of course, but the precise collection of races and classes in launch EQ is very much 1st Edition AD&D. For example, Dark Elves first appeared in the AD&D Fiend Folio. Races and classes added in expansions, starting with Kunark, were much more likely to be original to the setting. For example Iskar and Beastmasters don't closely resemble anything in AD&D I can think of.