Archive | November, 2011

Child of Prophecy–Snippet

28 Nov

Prologue

How to start?

How should I, your humble narrator, start? At the beginning?

Let’s see, then. Once upon a time, a dark sorcerer of great and terrible power entered the service of a king in a faraway land. This sorcerer’s powers were so vast that the king rapidly conquered all of his neighbours and found himself poised for further expansion. He didn’t live to enjoy it. His sorcerer, as sorcerers tend to do, killed him and took the throne for himself. A mighty army, composed of the foulest beasts from darkest lands, took two continents for him – and the third would soon fall.

But there was a problem. The sorcerer had ordered that all with magical powers who refused to swear loyalty to him were to be executed. One of his victims, an old and wise seer, made a prophecy for him. He would be overthrown by a girl born on a certain day at a certain time in a certain place. And as she died, the sorcerer sent out his armies. All girls born on that specific day were to be killed. His army did as it was commanded and great was the grief among lords and peasants alike as their baby daughters were torn from their arms and killed. The sorcerer felt himself secure.

Yet he didn’t know the truth. He had indulged himself with countless women, one of whom knew a few simple magic spells of her own. Carrying his own child within her womb, she begged the aid of powerful elementals and gave birth – on the fated day – to her daughter. Knowing that it would not be long before the sorcerer came in search of her, she gave the child to a childless couple to raise and passed outside the bounds of mortal knowledge.

Her daughter – the sorcerer’s daughter – grew to womanhood on the farm, until the day that a band of raiders thought to amuse themselves with the helpless farmers. Great and terrible magic awoke within her and the raiders died; she herself was forced to flee into the wilder lands, knowing that those who had killed her foster parents were intent on terminating her life. Slowly, unsure of what she was or what she had to do, she gathered an army around her and fought back against the empire. And then the sorcerer sent forth his magic and her army was smashed effortlessly.

She herself, her identity unknown, was taken as a prisoner back to the heart of the empire and forced to work as a scullery maid. There, she suffered many humiliations before she finally broke free and confronted her father. He attempted to strike her down, unaware of the true nature of their link; angered, the magic he had summoned turned on him. His daughter bent the magic to her will and killed him. The prophecy had been fulfilled.

That isn’t my story.

My story is about what happened next.

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Magic’s Great Families?

21 Nov

Here’s a fun little idea.

Back in the time of Good Queen Bess (That’s Queen Elizabeth I) there was contact between mankind and the faerie, a race of powerfully magical creatures from Avalon. A number of human women were impregnated by the faerie and gave birth to the first human magicians. All of humanity’s magic-users are descended from those families. They exist in a twilight world that ordinary humans rarely get to enter.

So I had two story ideas.

The first would revolve around a young couple from families that are historically at war, a kind of Romeo and Juliet story. The second would focus on a murder – which could mean war between the families – that has to be solved before they start fighting each other.

Thoughts?

Chris

Timeline For ‘End of Empire’

19 Nov

Some people may remember the series I wrote a few years ago entitled ‘When the Empire Falls.’ (When The Empire Falls, Shades of Grey and The Three-Edged Sword.) I’m looking at rebooting that universe – comments?

[Note: dates are given in Imperial Standard Cycles, roughly 1.5 Earth years.]

0EE (Empire Established): The Imperials, a historically reclusive race, return to the galactic scene when a war fought between the Phyllis and the Sassnorah spreads into their territory.

10EE: The Imperials end the war by conquering both of the combatants and restructuring their societies.

10-100EE: The Imperial Empire, using labour from the occupied worlds, starts to spread out. Each conquest is absorbed into the Empire, with locals granted autonomy and colonisation rights. The Imperial Navy is founded as the main tool of expansion.

101EE: Imperial survey ships enter the isolated Kerr System – and vanish. The Imperials send a squadron, and then a fleet, to investigate, only to lose both units to ‘causes unknown.’ Eventually, they declare a quarantine around the Forbidden Sector, banning all travel to and from the Kerr System.

106EE: The Imperials discover the Tarn, a race of spacefaring humanoids who worship the Kerr. For reasons unknown, the Imperials effectively destroy the race. The whole affair is covered up.

107-1000EE: The Empire continues to spread out from Centre. Each sector is assigned a sector fleet to protect it and to allow swift reactions to any trouble. Larger fleets are stationed at nodal systems, while the frontier guard continues to survey and expand the Empire’s territory. Seventy new races are discovered and absorbed into the Empire.

1001EE: An Imperial starship stumbles across Earth.

1005EE: The Imperials launch their invasion of Earth. Human orbital satellites, ground bases and wet-navy ships are wiped out within the first hour of invasion, followed by ground forces landing outside the capitals of major human powers. Fighting is heavy in places, but the Imperial Navy picks off any human target from orbit, crippling any hope of organised resistance. Eventually, the majority of human governments surrender. Imperial post-combat teams rapidly arrive to begin the task of organising Earth’s absorption into the Empire.

1006-1011EE: Multiple human resistance groups attempt to fight back against the Imperials. The fight is grossly uneven from the start; the Imperials have too many tools to use against insurgents and terrorists. Eventually, the Imperials destroy Chicago, Paris, Berlin, Birmingham, Mecca, Tehran, Delhi and Tokyo to crush most resistance groups. Human population numbers fall sharply in the wake of chaos caused in the post-invasion environment.

1012EE: First humans enter Imperial service as ground troops. They are not based on Earth to ensure that they don’t have their loyalties tested by ongoing insurgency.

1013-1123EE: The Imperials slowly bring most of humanity under their control. Creation of the human provisional government, formed from collaborators and given teeth by Imperial troops. A handful of nearby worlds are settled by humans; other humans join the Imperial Merchant Navy or take advantage of Imperial loans to set up their own businesses in space. Titan is claimed by the Imperial Navy as a base for a sector fleet. Mars terraforming project begins, only to be abandoned when other extra-solar worlds are opened for settlement.

1124-2345EE: Humans slowly slide into a prominent role within the Imperial Empire. Humans serve in the Imperial Navy while others serve in the ground forces, both as enforcers and settlers on unclaimed worlds. Earth’s Home Guard is founded. Human provisional government becomes autonomous, with humans electing representatives to local parliaments and to Centre, the core of the Empire. This growing prominence alarms some other races, leading to a series of nasty incidents. The Imperials are quick to stamp on them, although they often funnel human expansion and settlement out into the Rim. More worryingly, a number of humans have become pirates, living on the edge of the Empire.

2346EE: Sector 666 is surveyed by the Imperial Navy and deemed to be empty of intelligent life, although there are a number of Earth-like worlds. The Imperials open the sector for settlement and invite settlers to move to the new planets. A series of human-funded planetary development corporations are founded and start settling a number of worlds.

2390EE: Unnoticed by most observers, the Empire starts entering a dangerous recession. Funding for further development projects starts to dry up, while the Imperial Navy cannot afford to maintain the number of hulls it needs to protect the Empire. Colony projects along the rim are sometimes abandoned, the settlers left to fend for themselves. The Imperials, realising the danger, work hard to conceal it from their subjects. Their success was based upon inviting others to share in the Empire’s profits – and those profits are drying up.

2391-2422EE: The growing lack of security along the rim allows pirates and rebel gangs to start hacking away at the lightly-settled worlds. Rumours of a new spacefaring race only add to the Empire’s problems. Investment dries up completely as stories of attacks and entire planetary populations being slaughtered or taken into slavery start spreading through the Earth Sector and further into the Empire. Taxes start rising sharply, to the point where many shipping corporations are in serious trouble.

2423EE: Under orders from Centre, the Imperial Navy dispatches a fleet into Sector 666 to locate and destroy the pirates. Instead, the fleet is ambushed by the unknown aliens and almost completely destroyed. In the wake of rumours spreading out of control, the Imperials decide to start pulling in their horns…leaving Earth and the human race standing alone against the oncoming threat…

Infection–Concept

18 Nov

Infection Notes and Concept

I’ve basically had this idea going through my head. Imagine a life-form that exists as a virus. When there is a sufficient quantity of virus in a single location, it develops sentience. Because it is breaking up and recombining constantly, it is something of a hive mind; individual fragments separate, operate independently, and then link back into the whole. There isn’t a whole race of intelligent minds as there is a single vast distributed entity that blurs out a lot at the edges. This is obviously an intelligent that has little in common with humanity. For one thing, the alien considers parts of itself to be utterly expendable.

It’s debatable if the alien is intelligent in any manner we humans would understand. Like humanity, its prime goal is survival, but survival means something very different to it than it would to a human.

The most dangerous aspect of the alien is that it can take over bodies of other intelligent races (there is no reason why it couldn’t take over a dog or another animal). When it infects a new host, the virus cells start multiplying rapidly, feeding on the biomass to encourage cell division while it spreads through the entire body. Once it reaches critical mass, it takes control directly – absorbing the host’s memories and knowledge in the process. To a very large extent, it can mimic the host’s personality as to make it very difficult for an outside observer to determine if someone has been infected. A blood test will reveal the alien virus, but by then it may be far too late.

In its natural form, the alien lives within fresh water. It is not capable of surviving or thriving within salt water. Boiling water will make it safe to drink – but anyone who fails to boil infected water will rapidly start the transformation into a new host. A secondary vector is through sexual contact (not unlike AIDS). The virus requires a certain quantity to begin cellular division and so cannot be passed through the atmosphere, or through light bodily contact. (A kiss would not pass the virus).

In a healthy human body, the virus rarely causes symptoms that could warn the newly-infected person that they have been infected. Like most parasites, it tries to avoid causing harm to the body (at least harm that would kill the host, which would also kill the alien biomass within the host). (It is debatable if the alien recognise humans as fellow intelligent beings, or would care if they did.) A human who was suffering from HIV or AIDS might find themselves dying when infected, although the virus would continue to live on in their festering bodies until it died. Humans who do not live in developed areas and do not eat daily food may also die. This is unintentional on the part of the alien, but it simply doesn’t care if it loses a piece of itself.

As the alien biomass builds up within the host’s body, it can push the body beyond its normal limits. In effect, bodies that have been heavily infected can continue to function even if they are badly damaged. A host who has been shot in the head can continue, zombie-like, until the body is completely destroyed (or at least rendered incapable of moving).

To some extent, the alien is capable of evolving to exist within a new ecosystem and survive medical attempts to remove the virus from the host. However, there are limits to how far this process can go without accidentally creating a subgroup of the virus that cannot interact with the main body of viral particles.

Human medical science can detect the aliens through blood tests. Curing a host, however, may prove impossible without a quantum leap forward.

The aliens do not have starships, at least not as humans imagine them. What they do have is hundreds of thousands of icy asteroids which they have shot into space. This process can take thousands of years before the alien spreads to another world – if it finds another world – but the aliens are effectively immortal. They could spend millions of years drifting from world to world, taking over the native populations and then using them to catapult themselves to the next target. A small asteroid entering Earth’s atmosphere might well go unnoticed, until the infection began…

GodKin–Snippet

18 Nov

Chapter One

On the day of her betrothal, Princess Abigail stood naked in front of the mirror, staring at herself.

She was taller than her mother, almost as tall as her father. Long blonde hair framed her heart-shaped face and fell down her back. Her skin was perfect, the result of healthy living and a small amount of rejuvenation spells. At fifteen years old, she knew that she could be promised to anyone at any time. It was only surprising that it had taken so long. But even the Imperator – or one of the Barons – would decline a child bride.

The thought was a sobering one. No one, apart from her maid, had seen her naked since she was a child. She’d grown up as an only child, with no one to be her friend and confidante. And she had very definitely not compromised herself with any man. The sole heir of the Dynasty of Gold, the family that ruled the northern state of Irina, had to be above suspicion. She had been chaperoned since she had learned to walk.

But I was lucky, she told herself, firmly. I could have been born in the Empire.

The Barons – the noblemen who controlled the great estates, who defied her father regularly – would not accept a female ruler. They tested her father enough for him to be sure of that. A Queen would be the pawn of the strongest Barons, little more than a figurehead as the Barons divided the Kingdom between them. Whoever Abigail married would become King; everyone knew that. And it meant that her marriage had to be to someone strong enough to keep the Barons in line. And the only person who could do that was the Imperator.

Abigail stared into the mirror, meeting her reflection’s blue eyes. They were wide – and frightened. Marriage had always been her destiny. It had been tradition ever since the Days of Fire that a female aristocrat, even a Princess, would marry someone who would link two powerful families together, or secure a Kingdom. Her mother had admitted, in one of her rare moments of candour, that she’d been terrified before her marriage to Abigail’s father, but then her dowry hadn’t included a whole Kingdom. The person who married Abigail would win Irina. And he would inherit the problem of the over-powerful Barons. It hardly mattered that the marriage treaty allowed for Abigail to rule Irina as regent once her father died. The Imperator could rewrite the treaty at will.

It was her duty, she knew. She had been born to great wealth and a position that was the envy of every other woman in the world. It came with a price; her marriage, the most important event in her life, would be to a man picked by her father, a man who would take her dowry and Abigail herself. Her mother had refused to be drawn on the issue of martial duties, but Abigail had her sources. She knew what was expected of a woman in the marriage bed and the prospect terrified her. Even the most considerate of men couldn’t be expected to respect her wishes. She would just have to endure for the sake of the Kingdom.

None of the Barons were strong enough to challenge her father, at least on their own. As a group, their private armies and great wealth was enough to rip the Kingdom apart, shattering Irina into a mass of competing states. They knew just how finely balanced the Kingdom was between order and chaos – and they knew that they would have one chance to put crowns on their own heads. Her father’s last-ditch gamble – betrothing Abigail to the most powerful man in the world – had caught them by surprise. Irina would become part of the Empire, even though it would retain its independent character. And with the Seven Sisters to the north, the city-states that had broken free of Irina years ago, the Imperator needed Irina. It was the only way he could reach the Seven Sisters and unite the continent under his rule.

Abigail ran her hands down her body, staring at herself. She was slim, although tall, and her trainers hadn’t stinted just because she had been born a woman. It would have surprised anyone to know just how capable she was with sword and knife, or a handful of other tools that many people would be surprised to discover could be used as weapons. And yet…she couldn’t fight her destiny. How could she resist the Imperator when she knew that her homeland might suffer for her transgressions? She wanted to run, she wanted to flee, but there was no escape. Her duty held her in its grip.

“You shouldn’t be standing there, child,” a voice clucked from behind her. “You’ll catch your death of cold.”

Abigail didn’t turn. Martha, her maid, was a law unto herself. She had been a mother herself before entering Abigail’s service; in many ways, she had been Abigail’s real mother, caring for her from before she’d learned to walk on her own two feet. As one of the Children of the Book, everyone knew that she was trustworthy – and harmless. The common people hated and feared the Children. A single misstep and the pogroms would begin again.

“I’ve run your bath,” Martha continued, when Abigail said nothing. “It’s time to make you look pretty.”

She put one gentle hand on Abigail’s arm and pulled her towards the rear of the suite. The Princess followed her, feeling almost as if she were in a daze. It could take hours to dress for formal court appearances – her father, thankfully, excused her from attending most of them openly – but how long would it take to prepare for her betrothal? Martha poked and prodded her gently, and then helped her into the bath. It was hot and smelled sweet, a perfume she hadn’t smelt before. She guessed it had come from the trading ports near the Seven Sisters, ports that traded with countries and continents on the far side of the world and shipped to Irina at great expense. Considering its possible origin kept her mind off other matters, so much so that she was surprised when Martha had finished washing her hair and helped her back out of the bath. At least she was allowed to dry herself. She wasn’t exactly a little girl any longer. Soon, she would become a woman.

Her skin felt cold as Martha dressed her, piece by piece. Everything she wore was white and would remain so until her wedding day. The undergarments alone had cost thousands of crowns, produced from silk shipped down from the Seven Sisters; the dress had cost upwards of a million crowns. It was a chilling reminder that there were more ways to gain wealth than through owning land and grinding the peasants into the dirt, a reminder that the Seven Sisters were free – and in freeing themselves, they had doomed her family. One way or another, the Kingdom would never be independent again. The Imperator’s heirs – heirs born of Abigail’s body – would rule the world. She looked at herself in the mirror and shivered, hardly recognising her face. She looked almost like a china doll, surrounded by a glowing halo of blonde hair.

Martha turned her around one final time and nodded in satisfaction. “You’ll do,” she said. “I think the Imperator will take one look at you and fall in love.”

Abigail scowled. She didn’t want to go, she didn’t want to marry…but she knew that there was no choice. Her Kingdom would fall without the marriage as the Barons scrabbled for scraps like cats fighting over raw fish. And if what it took to save her people from civil war was a Princess giving herself to a figure many regarded as touched by Malice Himself, it was a sacrifice that she would have to make.

“But you’ll need this,” Martha added. She reached into the pocket of her robe and produced a single glittering crystal, dangling from the end of a golden chain. Abigail took it – and felt a tingle as the magic buried within her reacted to the magic infused into the crystal. A moment’s study revealed that the crystal was actually a tiny jar, with a clear liquid hidden inside the solid exterior. “You may discover that marriage isn’t so bad – I did, when I married my Rupert. A good man is a hard thing to hold.”

She giggled at her own joke – Abigail pretended not to understand – and then grew serious. “But you may discover that it is a nightmare,” she said. “Men don’t understand us very well, particularly powerful men who are used to getting their way. If you can bear it no longer, drink the liquid and go to Null in peace.”

Abigail stared at the crystal. A simple illusion spell concealed its true nature from all, but its wearer – and the witch who had created the spell. Abigail had never had much formal training in magic, but she did know that the spell was subtle, subtle enough to pass unnoticed by even a Master Sorcerer. All it really did was conceal its presence and the true nature of the simple crystal pendant.

“Thank you,” she said. It was suddenly very hard to speak. Martha would be coming with her, of course – she’d been Abigail’s maid for so long that Abigail couldn’t bear the thought of life without her comforting and steady presence – but they would never be alone again, not while they dwelled in the Golden City. No one, even one of the Barons, would dare to spy on Abigail’s personal chambers. The Golden City operated by different rules. “I…”

“Don’t speak of it,” Martha said, flatly. Abigail understood. It was not to be mentioned, ever. “It’s nearly time for the formal presentation.”

***

The Grand Ballroom was massive, easily large enough to hold nearly a thousand people. It was teeming with grand lords and ladies, each wearing their finery as if they were intent on outshining their rivals at court. The great Barons could be seen within the multitude, keeping a careful distance from each other as they consulted with the armies of sycophants surrounding them. Their ladies moved from person to person, cutting each other dead whenever they happened to encounter a social equal. Abigail had once heard her father remark that if his nobles spent as much time developing their military skills as their social skills the Kingdom would rule the world. But he couldn’t risk a policy of expansion. It would create new threats to his throne.

Abigail stood in the chamber above the ballroom and peered down through the stained-glass ceiling that gave the impression that the guests were under a starry sky. A competent sorcerer back in her grandfather’s day had imbued the glass with a spell that allowed observers to look down without being observed, something that had always amused her as a child, back when she’d been ordered to study the court and learn its ways. As the Princess, she had been the target of more plots and schemes than she cared to count, from ruffians intent on taking her to be their bride to Barons who wanted to push their children into her orbit. There were days when one didn’t dare cough in High Society without fearing that someone would take it as a sign to start something violent.

One figure stood at the end of the room, waiting patiently for his time to step forwards and greet the King. He was wearing black armour that concealed his true face and features from the crowd, a gesture that Abigail suspected was intended to be an unsubtle reminder of his master’s power. The black-clad Knights served as the Imperator’s messengers, bound to him by powerful oaths and subtle spells that rendered them incapable of being anything, but loyal. He wore a sword at his belt – another unsubtle reminder – and a handful of guards were keeping an eye on him from a safe distance. But then, no one really expected the Imperator’s Voice to start a fight. He was in the Castle for a different reason.

Abigail shivered. He had come to take her to her husband.

Martha tugged at her sleeve as the trumpets sounded and her father made his way into the Grand Ballroom, with her mother on his right arm. King Rudolph VIII was a tall broad-shouldered man, who walked with a slight limp. He wore his finest robes and the Royal Crown, which glittered under the magical lights that hung from the ceiling. Queen Katrina looked pale and wan. Her sickness had prevented her from having a second child and everyone knew it. The real mystery was why the King hadn’t put her aside and married again, or simply taken up with a succession of royal mistresses. Abigail knew the answer, almost despite herself. They loved each other.

She could still hear the herald announcing her father as she entered the antechamber. It was designed to allow someone to peer through a hidden keyhole and look into the ballroom, but it would damage her dress if she pressed against the wall. Reluctantly, she waited until she heard the warning knock and then pulled herself upright, into a regal pose. Her father had drilled her in it until she was perfect, warning her that a single mistake would be taken as a sign of weakness and the vultures would start circling. The doors opened wide and Abigail walked through, into the ballroom. She kept her face expressionless, but allowed herself an inner smile at the reactions. The crowd knew that no one would be allowed to outshine the Princess, not on this day of all days.

Abigail reached her father’s throne and went down on one knee. It was difficult in the dress, but she’d practiced time and time again until she could do it without hesitation. Behind her, the court followed her gesture, bowing in respect to their monarch. Abigail kept her eyes on the ground as her father stood up, accepting the respect as if he actually believed that it was real, and then returned to his throne. The silent signal sent the court back to their feet, while Abigail stood up beside her father and turned to face the gathered notables. Her heart almost missed a beat as she looked into the visor of the Imperator’s Voice. She couldn’t escape the feeling that inhuman eyes were looking back at her.

“On this day,” her father said, “my daughter comes of age.”

A low murmur ran through the crowd. Technically, Abigail had come of age when she’d started her womanly cycles, but she wouldn’t formally become a woman until she was married and no longer living with her father. They all knew that her marriage meant a shift in the balance of power; after all, surely the Imperator wouldn’t hesitate to help out his father-in-law. Barons who had defied the King, certain that he couldn’t punish them for their lack of respect, would wonder about the Imperator’s massive armies. They had quashed all resistance with brutal efficiency as they marched north, towards Irina – and the Seven Sisters. And in their wake came the priests of Vasilios, the Holy Tyrant, the Lord of Order. Those who resisted their teachings died.

“Today she will be betrothed to the Imperator himself, the Emperor of the Aquilian Ecclesia,” her father continued. “She will live in the Golden City until I slip away into the arms of Null, whereupon she will return as the Imperator’s regent in this Kingdom. Her patrimony will remain hers under the terms of the wedding contract. I ask you all to pray for the success of the marriage.”

Abigail kept her face impassive, but she was laughing inside. No one would pray with any great feeling, except perhaps for her parents and the Imperator’s Voice. The Barons would fear her – and her husband – greatly. It almost made the risks and terrors of marriage seem worthwhile. If she had to be a bargaining counter in her father’s endless games of power, at least it would bring a reward for her service.

At the King’s command, the Imperator’s Voice stepped forward. Up close, there was still no way of peering into his eyes, yet she could feel him studying her. The urge to take a step backwards was almost overpowering, but somehow she held her ground. He spoke to her father in a voice that was little above a whisper, yet could be heard by everyone in the massive chamber. Abigail had been promised an escort to the Golden City. The Imperator had sent a small army, spearheaded by seven sorcerers. It was another unsubtle reminder of his power. An army that size could smash any one of the Barons.

“I pledge her safety with my life,” the Imperator’s Voice said. “It is time for us to depart.”

Abigail was surprised – she’d expected more time, somehow – but her father offered no objections. She was almost in a daze as she was escorted out of the ballroom and into the courtyard. A massive carriage was waiting for her, curtained off to prevent anyone from looking inside. She turned to look back at her father and saw tears in her eyes. Perhaps, if she’d had a brother, her father would have been happy using her as a pawn. But instead, it was clear that he feared for the future. He might be sending Abigail to her death, or worse. She thought of the pendant and shivered. At least she would have a way to walk into Null’s arms – and even that entity, the most feared of all the Gods, would be a relief if her husband was the monster rumour painted him to be.

The Imperator’s Voice wasted no time. She hugged her father, was kissed by her mother, and then she was helped into the carriage. Seconds later, it was out of the castle and on the long road to the south. Two weeks of travelling, she’d been told, and then she would meet her husband. And then…

It was hard to hold back the tears, but she managed it – somehow. She knew her duty. She would do her duty. And may the Gods, she vowed silently, have mercy on anyone who got in her way.

Timeline of ‘GodKin’

17 Nov

0ADF: The Days of Fire. A mass outbreak of insanity on Earth eventually leads to a catastrophic series of disasters that cripple world civilisation. For various reasons, historical records from before this time are vague – it effectively serves as the beginning of recorded history.

10-1100ADF: Apotheosis. The Gods arrive on Earth. Their mere presence distorts reality as humans understand it. Humans (and other forms of life) that go too close to the Gods are often driven mad, or transfigured simply by being too close to them. Birth of the Horrors on Earth. Most of the Horrors die out fairly quickly, but the most dangerous ones survive and breed.

Eventually, large parts of the remaining human population start worshipping the Gods. Pre-DOF religions almost die out. Science and technology largely forgotten.

1100ADF: The Sundering. Some of the Gods leave Earth for higher realms. Others fission into creatures more comprehendible to humanity; the New Gods. New human civilisations are formed around worship of the New Gods.

1157ADF: The Revolt. The New Gods (aided by a set of legendary human heroes) revolt against the oppressive rule of the Old Gods. The Old Gods are defeated; some leave the human plane entirely, others are bound and trapped within sealed chambers on Earth. With victory in their grasp, some of the New Gods start interbreeding with humanity, creating a strain of humans with divine heritage (Godkin).

1167-1256ADF: The Mythic Age. The New Gods walk the Earth openly, performing great arts of wonder for their human worshippers, aiding and punishing the human race as they choose. Foundation of the Great College, eventually leading to the codification of Theological (faith-based) magic and Inherent (personnel) magic. The New Gods rule vast human territories. Objects of Power – containing fragments of godly essence – are created, seemingly at random.

1257-2301ADF:The Fading. For reasons unknown, the New Gods start withdrawing to their realm and having less to do with humanity. A handful of the Gods continue to interfere, but ‘Acts of God’ are far less common. Many Objects of Power slip into history and vanish. The Grand Circle asserts governing power over human magicians. As wars break out in the wake of the Gods departing the Earth, the Grand Circle starts attempting to moderate the violence, eventually creating the Empire of Reason to unite Earth.

2302ADF: The Great Cataclysm. In an attempt to seize the power of one of the New Gods, a team of Grand Circle magicians accidentally awaken – for microseconds – one of the Old Gods. The outburst of magical fury destroys the Great College and the core of the Empire of reason, creating the Chaos Fields; a region infested with wild and uncontrollable magic – and Horrors.

2302-2703ADF: The Archaic Age. The Empire of Reason falls apart in the wake of the Great Cataclysm. Much of the world returns to barbarity, ruled by tyrant kings intent on establishing their rule. The Grand Circle having been destroyed, a number of smaller magical groups are established scattered over the world. Magical learning effectively fragments, forcing magicians to rediscover old arts all over again.

2704-2759ADF: Empire Rising. The New God Vasilios, the Holy Tyrant, the Lord of Order, sends a series of visions to a young swineherd in one of the small kingdoms, eventually using him as a tool to re-establish a single orderly empire. Foundation of the Aquilian Ecclesia (Empire of Aquilium), which becomes a great power with alarming speed.

2760ADF: King Randolph I establishes the Dynasty of Gold, ruling the northern state of Irina. Foundation of Heartbeat, a city located in the Craggy Pass. Irina’s merchants rapidly develop the Islands into a thriving civilisation. A number of magicians establish a coven in Heartbeat.

2812-22ADF: The Great Rebellion. Inspired by a madman with visions of Pax (The Lord of Chaos and Disorder), the northern city-states – led by Heartbeat – rebel against Irina and successfully establish their independence. In the wake of military defeat, the Barons of Silver and Bronze force King Randolph III to accept that the Great Lords of Irina have the military power (when combined) to topple his throne. The Monarch isn’t exactly a figurehead, but without the consent of the Great Nobles, he cannot rule effectively.

2824ADF: The Republic. Heartbeat becomes governed by a semi-republican system. The Great Houses effectively share the position of elected Prince among themselves, but they cannot govern without the tacit permission of the wealthier middle classes. The northern cities unite as the Seven Sisters, establishment of the Trading Empire. Gunpowder enters general use, despite widespread opposition.

2945-56ADF: The Imperial Schism. Civil war breaks out in the Empire of Aquilium over precisely how the Empire should order itself. War won by the extremely orthodox side, establishing a theocratic state. Great Mandates published; the Imperator becomes the master of a strictly hierarchical system. Worship of Pax banned throughout the Empire. The Children of God find themselves turned into slaves by the Imperator. Science and learning suffers badly in the Empire, resulting in a ‘brain flight’ to the Seven Sisters and other neighbouring kingdoms.

2957-3145ADF: Expansion. The Empire starts to expand, exporting its theocratic systems alongside its holy warriors. Conquest of most nearby border states, with the exception of Glass Island, which is protected by a combination of treacherous waters and rumours of a deadly Object of Power. Development of military technology expands rapidly, early steam engines produced for the Empire. First primitive hot air balloons and airships developed.

3146ADF: Now. Seeking a match for his daughter who will not shatter the Kingdom, the King of Irina betroths his daughter to the Imperator. The Barons don’t like this and plot to kill her, knowing that it will shatter the Kingdom. In Heartbeat, the Prince of the city desperately attempts to prepare for the coming war against the Empire. And a sneak thief and an untested magician might be all that stands between the world and a final plunge into chaos…

The Gods of ‘Godkin’

17 Nov

[Partly developed by Alexis Harding]

The Gods

The exact origin of the Gods (Old and New) is lost somewhere in the time of legends. What can be said with reasonable certainty is that the Gods are mostly embodiments of concepts, which shapes them as they shape humanity. By now, most of the Gods have retreated to a higher plane, only interfering with humanity through dreams, visions and occasional intervention. Worship of Gods exists throughout the world, with several places dedicated to more than one God. According to legend, to speak the true name of a God is to draw his or her attention. Citizens will rarely swear by a particular God’s name unless desperately trying to convince their audience of their sincerity.

It is impossible to provide a precise list of Gods, but the following are the most important as of the present time.

Vasilios, also known as the Holy Tyrant and the Lord of Order, is the embodiment of reason, hierarchy and naked dominance. Everything must be in order, from the highest to the lowest, with rebellion and disobedience being sins against Him. When depicted by humans, he takes the form of a gigantic figure, glowing from within with a golden light, bearing a sword and a rod of iron, clad in flowing golden armour. His servants, the Leaders of Men, ape his form – they are winged, powerful giants of men in baroque gold armour, bearing swords that burn with gold fire. The Leaders of Men have the capability to control men’s minds with their words, projecting an aura of awe and terror that forces all nearby to submit in a mixture of awe and fear and adoration. Vasilios is generally regarded as the foremost among the Gods, although various sects oppose his position. He especially hates Pax, the god of rebellion.

According to legend, he once had an encounter with the Goddess Entyzla that ended badly for Vasilios. This explains the strictly patriarchal nature of religions founded around Vasilios, with women expected to know their place and stick to it. However, Vasilios fears The Crone and will generally avoid her gaze.

Pax, also known as the Discordance or the Huddled Mass, is the exact opposite of Vasilios. He is the embodiment of chaos and rebellion against order – any order. As one may expect, he is the patron of rebels and rebellions, of guerrillas and malcontents, of everybody who dislikes the well-established order. He takes gleeful joy at subverting and destroying the hierarchies that Vasilios creates, joy at tearing apart societies in revolutions, happiness in the executions of leaders. His divine servants are the Voices of Discord, immaterial spirits that drive men to upset and destroy established order, leading revolutions and civil wars. Taken to the extreme, Pax is just as dangerous as Vasilios, but he is also far less socially acceptable. Pax is never depicted by humans. No one wants to attract his attention.

Promache is fundamentally a planner. Vasilios’ divine consort in a thousand mythologies, she is a goddess of artifice – whether that artifice is physical, as in the creation of a weapon, or insubstantial, as in a stratagem or conspiracy. Her servants are the insubstantial Kyklopes, great forgers, manipulators of magic, and supreme planners. They inspire the creation of things great and terrible, and are known to make their presence known before major events begin. Her voice is feared, for she rarely if ever speaks, except to make great pronouncements or to set something grand into motion.

Belisarion is war. He is all of its facets, from the law of the jungle in which all struggle against all to the murder, from the great battles that decide the fate of nations to the petty skirmishes of gangs in the depths of great cities. He likes to take the form of a rider on a red horse, clad in bronze armour and bearing a great sword. He is life struggling against itself, from the microbial level up; he is the savage engine of war that daily claims thousands of lives. Warriors pray to him for success in battle, murder-cults venerate him as a god of killing, and he is worshipped in a thousand other ways every single day.

Null is one of the most feared of the gods. He is despair, he is terror, he is the ultimate realisation that all life leads inevitably to death. He is entropy, and he is the chill of the void. He is commonly depicted as a pale-skinned figure covered in a black shroud and bearing a great scythe of flowing darkness, for that is what his Advocates are. But in a manner unlike most of the other gods, Null particularly chooses to manifest himself in dreams and visions as a formless, empty darkness contained within black robes, his eyes glaring a sickly green. His divine servants are the Advocates, great figures that seem to impossibly float above the ground, pale skin clad in black robes, hooded like the Grim Reaper in so many legends, bearing scythes capable of cutting soul from body without causing physical harm, and with the power to unleash an entopic wind that reduces all flesh to dust.

Null is angered by the thought that a dead soul might be capable of returning to life, and thus hates the undead, those who reanimate corpses and all those charlatans that claim to be capable of true resurrection. He also loathes the idea of something not dying at its appointed (by himself) time, and thus sometimes will, in a rare show of mercy, allow a soul that dies too early to return to its body. However, this has a flip side – he loathes those who extend their lives unnaturally, such as the Stygioi that rule the Corpse-Kingdom of Erebus. However, he knows that eventually even they will pass, and thus, while he is greatly feared by them, rarely moves against them.

Entyzla is lust, the ultimate culmination of the animal instinct that seeks pleasure and avoids pain. But she is also a thousand other things as well. Drugs, music, anything that induces pleasure is in her domain. She most often appears in dreams and visions as a form tailored to the viewer’s desires – otherwise, what would be the fun? Her servants are similar, and have no names, either in the collective or singular sense – they are pleasure and lust and addiction incarnate.

The Crone is the embodiment of womanhood. According to legend, she is born every morning as a maiden, becomes a mother in the afternoon and grows into a wise old crone at night, before beginning the great cycle again. The Crone is the mistress of feminine magic, from the evil eye to out and out witchcraft, and she often acts to assist women who have been brutalised by men. Cults dedicated to The Crone are often banned, although they are feared as well. The Crone is rarely depicted by humans, but when she is she appears as a wise old woman, but with sharp dark eyes and a manipulative smile. She takes delight in manipulating sinners to their doom and her plots and schemes are greatly feared, even by her peers among the Gods. Her true name is never spoken aloud.

Malice is the one God who can justly be called evil, insofar as the term has any meaning to the Gods. Unlike Pax, Malice’s prime goal is to increase suffering among the human race and he will do whatever he can to ensure that suffering grows ever worse. He is the God of murderers, rapists, sinners and corrupted armies. His greatest joy is slowly warping cults venerating the other Gods into nightmarish horrors.