Mystic Albion: A Brief Overview

10 Oct

Just some background, perhaps for ‘The Stranded’. What do you think?

Mystic Albion A Brief Overview

The early history of Mystic Albion is shrouded in mystery.  The generally accepted version is that the Old Gods, realising the magic on Earth was slowly draining away (and the lack of it would eventually kill them), opened portals to Mystic Albion and moved there in a single giant exodus.  Mystic Albion became, in effect, the source of the legends of godly realms, from Valhalla and Asgard to Heaven itself.  It is not clear if this is actually true.  The gods – and entities so powerful and different from humans that they might as well be gods, when they’re not being eldritch nightmares – have not spoken to the human settlers in centuries.  It is generally believed they have gone beyond the borders of human understanding (although their places of power in Mystic Albion are still given a wide berth, just in case).

What is known is that, with the magic drain steadily increasing, a young witch called Anne Boleyn made a deal with an entity from Mystic Albion.  (Some say it was the Faerie Queen, others that it was someone or something far darker).  The terms of the deal were relatively simple.  Anne would bear a child who would eventually rule England, in exchange for which portals between the two worlds would be opened (as long as possible) and the magic users of Britannia would emigrate to Mystic Albion, where they would be safe from increasing persecution.  Anne perhaps should have been a little more careful with the precise wording of the deal, as her child was a girl and this led rapidly to the destruction of her reputation and her execution.  (This is often held up as a cautionary tale for young wizards, who are often enthralled with the idea of making deals with such creatures.)  Despite Anne’s death, Elizabeth Tudor came to rule England and the portals opened, in places that came to be known as Gatehouses.  The Tudor authorities quietly ignored the whole affair, at least as long as Elizabeth was on the throne.  Besides, magic was a thing – even if it was less powerful than it had been – and they saw it as better to get rid of it rather than risk pushing the magicians to do something desperate.  Upon Elizabeth’s death, and James I’s assumption of the throne, the Gatehouses started to close.  The last of them, in Yorkshire, closed when James started openly hunting witches. 

(Quite what happened to the magic users who remained behind was never established.)

Mystic Albion is, at least on the surface, divided into seven princedoms, which are (in honour of Elizabeth) ruled by princesses, but their power is actually quite limited.  They are judges, when cases come to trial, and very little else.  Most communities (cities, farming villages) tend to have a great deal of autonomy, as many of them have enough magic to make life difficult for would-be tyrants; others are so close to the borderlines between human and ‘other’ lands that trying to overshadow or occupy the communities might well prove dangerous.  The princesses do control the Knights, who serve as the ultimate law-enforcement arm in the event of a dark magic outbreak, but normally most law and order issues are handled by the local communities. 

The ‘other’ lands are, legally, untouchable regardless of their current status.  People who enter sometimes don’t come out again, or find themselves returning to a time years after their own, or wind up changed by the inhabitants. 

There are other human communities, established by other exiles from Earth.  Contact between them and Mystic Albion is limited, although trade routes are slowly being established.  It isn’t easy.  Most forms of transport are incapable of long ocean crossings, ensuring that contact relies on boats (sailing ships) or flying sorcerers.  Attempts to set up portals between Mystic Albion and Mystic North America (dominated by various tribes, descended from Native Americans) have been unsuccessful.  To all intents and purposes, Mystic Albion is alone in the world.

Socially, most people are regarded as effectively equal.  Magic levels the playing field between males and females, aristocrats and commoners; a person who finds one community unwelcoming, for whatever reason, is free to leave and find somewhere else.  This is easy; flying carpets, broomsticks and even portals and floating carriages are available for all, in exchange for a nominal fee or service. 

Magic is a part of life, to the point it has effectively prevented the development of actual technology.  The average person knows at least a few basic spells; the hyper-powerful wizards are capable of building castles in the clouds, flying around the entire world in hours and many other tricks.  There is a considerable amount of rivalry amongst the stronger magical bloodlines, but – as sorcery requires a certain degree of maturity – the benefits of cooperation tend to convince most sorcerers to at least try to work together.  Some bloodlines arrange marriages for their children, in hopes of breeding stronger and stronger magicians, but the results have been mixed.  No one knows why.

There are, at base, two types of magicians; heads and hearts.  The hearts (performers) tend to be more powerful, at least at first, but they tend to run into problems because they rarely learn the basics and find themselves unable to progress past the point they can no longer compensate for the flaws in their spellwork with magic.  The heads (technicians) tend to be slower to develop, but they master the basics and generally speed past the hearts once the hearts reach their natural stopping point.  (Put simply, a heart can build a castle out of cloud-stuff, but they cannot modify the castle; a head might take longer to bend the cloud-stuff to his will, but can turn it into whatever he wants).  It is generally agreed that a heart can beat a head if they catch him by surprise, but given time to prepare a head can catch a heart very effectively.

The centre of magical research lies in Gatehouse.  Originally, it was the York Gatehouse (and its location corresponds to York on Earth), but now it is just the Gatehouse.  The Gatehouse Portal itself is long gone.  Instead, students with high magical aptitude are tutored in the basics of magic while they work to discover their specific talents and inclinations.  The school takes students of all ages and social classes (insofar as they exist) and it isn’t uncommon to have children sharing classes with adults old enough to be their grandparents.  All forms of magic are studied at Gatehouse, but several types – particularly dark or demonic magics – are studied in theory only.  A student with an inclination towards them would be quietly told to leave, before they could corrupt others. 

Gatehouse is ruled by the Merlin (it’s a title, not a gender-specific name) who is selected by the princesses.  The Merlin is normally a powerful sorcerer, but not amongst the most powerful (as they tend to lose interest in the world or, worse, start playing power games with it).  Below him, there are a multitude of teachers. 

14 Responses to “Mystic Albion: A Brief Overview”

  1. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard October 10, 2021 at 4:02 pm #

    Interesting. 😀

  2. david October 10, 2021 at 4:24 pm #

    Interesting world view and back story. A setting for a conflict with the old Gods, new tech increases contact with other Mystic regions? New portal opens from Earth. Or somewhere else? Lot’s of possibilities

  3. Clark October 10, 2021 at 4:56 pm #

    Some “open loops” you could explore (or at least answer for yourself if not the reader):
    –What (or who?) is causing/caused the magic drain? Why?
    —was it simply scientific progress replacing mystical/superstitious beliefs creating change at the quantum level of reality? etc etc
    –Who was it that actually made the deal with Anne B? Do they have a history of meddling in human affairs under other names/identities? (evil/trickster Gods of other religions all being the same “entity”)
    –Is the “entity” above still active? In both worlds?

    Lots of potential here, but those are the questions that came to me reading your background.

    • Reader October 13, 2021 at 10:04 am #

      I’ve been reading Mageborn recently, so the idea of magic-as-a-quantum-level-phenomena does not seem new to me (in Manning’s “Mageborn” series Aythar – the thing all mages use for spells – is a Planck-scale quantum foam with highly distributed conscience). Still, if the author wants to go full Brandon Sanderson, there are worse avenues to take.

  4. Fred Mora October 10, 2021 at 7:04 pm #

    So is this the world from which the Stranded protagonist come from? Very interesting setup. Nice world building as always.

  5. benbailey12373 October 10, 2021 at 9:46 pm #

    Ok I’m gripped! I hope you’ll be writing is SOON! Lol x

  6. Carol October 11, 2021 at 4:01 am #

    Good world building. I would like to see stories in this world.

  7. Yoyo October 12, 2021 at 8:36 pm #

    This whole idea of people being dumped in another world has been done countless times. I would prefer something more original.

    • Reader October 13, 2021 at 10:00 am #

      Yes, but this is the inverted trope – it’s not someone from *our* world being dumped out there, it’s someone from *out there* being stranded in our world. That’s been done too, but *much* less frequently. Even less common is the case where characters can [eventually?] move between worlds semi-freely, which creates possibilities for a lot of very interesting plots.

      • Yoyo October 13, 2021 at 10:58 am #

        Characters moving between regular and magical world semi-freely has been done a lot too, I’m afraid. Some prime examples are:
        Harry Potter
        His Dark Materials
        Artemis Fowl
        Hell Boy
        Percy Jackson

        There are many more examples, but these are the ones that came to mind when I read this background for “The Stranded”.

        Now, moving between worlds isn’t a bad thing or unoriginal, if it’s only a side note in whatever is going on. But in this specific case, it feels like the entire premise.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard October 13, 2021 at 3:58 pm #

        It has been said that there are NO original story lines.

        What matters is how the writer uses the story line.

      • Yoyo October 14, 2021 at 7:16 pm #

        It’s easy to think everything has already been invented, until someone invents something new. Now, I ain’t asking for something 100% original and completely different from everything else. But I think the least an author can do is come up with a premise that isn’t the same old story that countless others have been reusing for god knows how long.

      • Reader October 15, 2021 at 7:20 am #

        Yoyo, I have read none of the books you just listed. Whether it’s a good thing or not, I don’t know.

  8. George Phillies October 16, 2021 at 4:50 am #

    I anticipate that Albion will disappear very quickly from the scene. Readers wanting an original displaced in time tale

    Mom, mom, the back 40–it’s been replaced by the Emerald City and the Wizard of Oz.

    Don’t be silly, son…oh, mercy me.

    Sounds of military helicopters and jet planes in the background.

    Flying over the ground is a strangely dressed man. “Hello. I see I have been transported back in time. Well, you will now all be subject to my rule.”

    “I don’t think so. There’s one of you and 7 billion of us.”

    “But I have these, and they are even better than the originals.” Snaps fingers. Giant swan=shaped machines appear.

    Son, what are those?

    Mom, Martian War Machines, from George Pal’s movie.

    Man: Oh, you have watched his documentary on the First Invasion?

    Mom: That was a science fiction film, not a documentary.

    Man Of course it was a…Oh, wait, this must be after the Empire of Time went back to the formation of the solar system and exchanged Venus and Mars, so now Mars is a nearly airless rock, and the atmosphere of Venus is hot enough to melt lead. Yes that film is now fiction.

    Son: So it seems.

    Well, these are as good as the film version machines. And I have a duplicator. Do you think if I deploy two of these for each person on the planet, it will be enough?

    Mom: All hail our new Emperor.

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