What it's like to grow up in Amnar.

What it's like to grow up in Amnar.
Photo by NEOM / Unsplash
This is a long-read for the Lore 2024 Challenge. If you enjoy, you can sign up below for more.

Welcome to a different world.

Aside from a few basics, growing up in one of the Amnari Exclusion Zones is very different to anywhere else. For a start, here you are in a world entirely transformed and to some degree corrupted by magic. 

Magic comes in two forms: kata is atomic, working at the level of the atom, the molecule, and the cell (if you're a biological organism). Ana is quantum, the much more powerful and fundamental magic that in turn to some degree governs how kata works. Both forms of magic are everywhere—even outside the Exclusion Zones—but it's inside them that they are most unstable, and have the most dynamic effects.

This includes on your own body. Expect to find yourself with unusual growths, mutations, disabilities, as a result. Now, you are human, although the kata that comes tearing through the Exclusion Zones every time the Gap in reality splits open again may well have made some changes to your DNA, made you deaf or blind or given you extrusions on your back or limbs.

This does come with advantages. Being born even on the edge of an Exclusion Zone means being born with some kind of ability to work with kata. If you're an exceptionally rare kind of human, you might even have the ability to work with ana. Because the ability to work with ana is very rare, we'll assume you can work with kata.

You have parents, or you did have. You were conceived like any regular human, born in the same way. Your parents may or may not be still alive, depending on how they've been affected by living in the Exclusion Zone, and what their role is or was in managing the Gaps in reality that keep re-opening and causing so much damage in the world.

(We call this world Amaresh, by the way.)

Whether your parents are alive or not, you also have a Gada (plural: Gadasim). "Gada" is the Amnari term meaning "guardian". Every Amnari child has a guardian, who takes legal responsibility for them. Gadasim are like grandparents, who live with the whole family, and whose focus is to help guide you in this weird and complicated world. Gadasim are especially great if your parents are no longer alive, but everyone has one.

You live in a large group, not just a single family unit. Shared housing, somewhere the effects of kata and ana can be somewhat dampened. If your parents work close to the Gap, they may have to come and go, but they will spend the first few years just with you and everybody else in the group. You'll have other children around you, and private space. Your life is lived indoors and outdoors.

You start to work with kata as instinctively as you might pick up a pen even before you can write. Your Gada is on the lookout to see how this shows up—are you able to heal minor bruises and scrapes, or can you work with plants, animals, or non-biological materials?

Most of Amnari early education is all about identifying how kata has affected kids and getting them used to it. Forget rural versus urban environments, as Amnari Exclusion Zones are packed with plant and animal life distorted by the nearby Gap and often overgrown, wild places to be. Amnari usually "construct" homes out of natural rock and earth. They have a preference for rounded things.

Until you're ten, education looks a lot like play, most of the time. It's outside, and it only gradually steers you toward what you might do in the future. Around ten or eleven, you'll find some way kata expresses itself in you that appeals more than anything else, and that's when you'll move, with your Gada, to one of the Academies to train in using that ability.

(Of course, you're also learning to read and write, the history and culture of Amnari society, languages, maths, and sciences—which in a world like this is pretty wild.)

Training at one of the Academies starts at eleven and goes on until you're twenty-one. At eleven, you attend the Harvest of the Souls in a grand ceremony before you begin, and then graduate at the Harvest of the Souls at twenty-one. By then, you'll have all the basics in place to join one of the careers intended to either directly or indirectly support protecting the world from the Gaps.

Life at the Academies

From early life, most Amnari kids are educated in groups of five, called a "Cell". You'll be spending most of your time with them and their Gadasim. Cells represent the Five Nations who originally came together to protect refugees from the Gap War.

All of this I'd better explain in the next post, huh? Thinking about it, I should've started with "Amnar: What it is and how it got started!" shouldn't I.

All of this I'd better explain in the next post, huh? Thinking about it, I should've started with "Amnar: What it is and how it got started!" shouldn't I.

Amnari have to learn how to use the kata they have access to as a way to manipulate the world around them in different ways, without harming either themselves or the environment. Not taking care in this way can do profound damage, immediate and/or long-term, to both.

The Bala–Dura

Students finish their first major cycle of training at sixteen, their second at eighteen, and then finally graduate at twenty-one—at the end of the Harvest of the Souls. In the last two years, all students take what's called the Bala–Dura. It's a coming-of-age process, in two parts.

The Dura lasts longer and requires two years of preparation and studying to learn about kata, ana, the Gaps, and how the High Ashad Isha guided the Five Nations to found the Alliance. In a sense, they relitigate the foundation of their own culture, in order to understand it better.

The Bala is a physical survival challenge, which also requires extensive training. The Cell works together to survive in the wild for a month. Obviously, a lot of this depends on individual ability—kata creates a lot of unusual disabilities, so Cells either work together to support disabled members. There are situations where young people don't have to do the full Bala–Dura, but there are ways Cells, or support staff, help people take part.

Completing the Bala–Dura is essential for graduation. Finally, during these years, students work on projects to start them off in a placement after graduation. Most effort is put into either directly working on the line to defend the Gap (and the creatures that come through it), mitigating the effects of the Gap, general healthcare, and providing basics like food, water, and shelter. All of this is done using the skills provided by kata.

What if you can work with ana?

If you belong to that quite rare group who can work with ana, then you're most likely to become a Sifra (singular; the plural is Sifradan). Sifradan help manage kata loose throughout the Exclusion Zones, fight to close Gaps when they tear open, and support Isha in attempting to maintain the stability of reality.

That obviously requires a lot of training. This looks almost identical to that given to everyone else, although trainee Sifradan have to work with at least one other Sifra. Sifradan were once trained entirely separately, but this was found to create divisions between two groups who do have to work together all the time.

Next time, I'll do some basic background on the story of how reality was nearly torn apart by war, which then led to the Alliance being founded.