Understanding Magic

Part Two: Types and Names of Magic-Users

To sum up what was covered in part one, magic is something very real, very meaningful, and it is used in different ways. To most people there is magic and those who use it, hence the name. When people started calling magic, well, magic, there was a strong reluctance among the users to take up a name humans would know. Wizards and sorcery was too steeped in fantasy literature to be taken seriously. Witches had its own burden. Many localities had their own names, but over time everyone simply said magic-user – a simple, functional title. Yet there are types of magic-users and they have their own names, so we’ll go through that now.

First of all, there are three general types. These are casters, manipulators and attuned. Casters hurl and project magic, wielding it as they will. Manipulators are more about control, with focus and intent, as they move and alter things. The attuned are those who are highly, well, attuned to magic. For them, magic is like a sixth sense, and they can feel it, and with it, and also see and hear with it sometimes. Attuned do less, sense more, but obviously there are crossovers among these kinds, with attuned being the most rare.

The more specialised groups are sometimes dictated by nature, sometimes by the user’s choices and training. For instance, enchanters are manipulators who specialise in empowering objects and weapons. People, too, if skilled enough. Then there are battle-casters, who are obviously casters, but focused in casting magic that will attack or defend in combat. Usually these are trained to be so, but sometimes a person could be such a natural warrior that their magic acts on this, as if lashing out with fist or blade. Illusionists are manipulators who cast as well, who conjure images and trick senses. Deemi and wraiths have natural abilities in this area. Wielders are casters with some level of manipulation, who can channel their power through their weapon or use a magical weapon with great command and control. Of course, if someone is deemed a master, then there is something of all three about them. The strongest can manipulate and cast, all while feeling the magic forces around them, such as devil-beasts, aegis and sphinx, if aegis and devil-beasts cast a lot more in their aggression.

There are more labels but to move on to more specific groupings, we have to understand these titles are often less used, and sometimes only known in a certain area. For instance, shamen is a term used mainly in Asia, but known in other places. It refers to those who are attuned, who tend to be more mystical, more subtle, and very attuned to each other. Some may call these seers, especially if their power helps them perceive more than most. A term that is known more world-wide but is an older name that not so many use is witch. This would be an attuned, but would also be someone with heightened mental abilities, such as visions, telekinesis, etc. Male or female, this very rare type scared most others, even other magic-users, so they often suffered the same fate as those accused of being witches in the past. Another type that is widely feared are those most powerful manipulators who are also attuned, and can control minds, if not outright steal them. Some will call them controllers, others pupper-masters, or use old names referring to voodoo and hoodoo. Fortunately, this type is extremely rare, not least as the mental strength and focus needed is extraordinary.

Some build, some destroy. Some conjure, some deceive. Whether they have names or belong to groups isn’t the issue. They use magic. They have power others fear or want. If they are strong, they can use that fear. If not, they will hide and evade, and in both these cases their magic could be tied into their behaviour. Many will use their power. They have become rulers, even gods, and yet also some will be there to help their community as best they can.

Magic may never be truly understand. It is a gift to some, a curse to others. It responds in different ways to different people. Perhaps it is not meant to be understood. But there will always be those seeking to know its secrets. More will delve too deeply. Many more will continue to wield it as best they can. Those of strong will and trained minds will burn brightly among the rest. What this will lead to is unknown, but there is one fact still to be mentioned – that magic, like any good weapon, will not be set aside by anyone who can grasp it.

Understanding Magic

Part One: What is it and How Can it be Used?

Magic is the name given to the power that came with the Shadow World and now resides in what has become of our world. It is a power that responds to will and is controlled by the mind, so in most respects it works as how many of believe magic to work. Therefore magic is probably exactly what it is. However it is still a mysterious force that most don’t truly understand, and many would claim it uses people as much as they use it. Some believe it is a living thing, a sentient power that wants to be used. This kind of thinking typically belongs in secret cults, though. Some who are steeped in science would propose that it is really a form of telekinesis that manifests itself in apparitions of energy. But for most, it is magic, and that’s all anyone needs to know. Yet the very fact magic is a force of nature that does manifest in various ways and is used to differing results by all kinds of creatures, does leave questions, doubts and fears that might never be resolved.

There are few solid facts about magic, so we’ll cover them and be done. First and foremost is that magic originates in the Shadow World. While no one alive knows just how Dylan Winter summoned the Shadow World to our own, it is known magic was involved, but not the way it is used in the present day. It is widely suspected he performed a kind of arcane ritual which unleashed magic, and so the world with it, into our dimension. But what is certain is that, for all the tales of wizards and witches before this event, magic was not in our plane of existence. After the Shadow World came, then humans began to feel power within them, and soon they were able to wield it. Magic became a genuine presence among nature itself. Weird things would occur and still do. The weather became far more unpredictable. Life was never the same.

Another fact is that magic is highly risky. Many succumbed to it in the early times, either destroyed by it, driven mad or a few simply vanished. Magic is no one’s pet. It is wild and thriving and needs great presence of mind and strength of spirit to command it. People can use it a lot easier in smaller and simple acts, but to truly use magic, one must grasp fire and endure the burning.

Magic is in the land, and in some places more than others. Great Britain is a magical hotspot, where more people are born with the power in them and where those who can use it find it more freely available, in greater quantities. Japan is supposedly a magical hot spot as well, yet no one has been there for a very long time. Magical hotspots drew monsters of power to them so all four had great difficulties early on. Madagascar is now the home of the gleaners, corrupted and deadly. The Caribbean was the other place, the last of the for corners upon which Dylan Winter turned the worlds, and it was decimated by nuclear attacks early on. Now a smattering of tiny islands pepper that region, and where Mexico once was, and many weird and wonderful things occur there.

According to those who sense magic, it is stronger in some places than others. Obviously the hotspots are steeped in magic, but elsewhere it varies. The region of North America shows little sign of it, overrun as it was by cities and industry and scientific warfare. South America, Africa and much of Asia show more signs of magic, but never in abundance. For the most part, it will spring up in specific locations, revealing itself with more natural born magic-users residing there, along with possible unnatural vibes or unusual phenomenon. Many such places are hard to find as they drew dragons or other monsters early on, which drove everyone else away, or the locals do their best to protect themselves and their secret. Magic is sought after. Even those who cannot summon it themselves want the power as it is occasionally found in objects that any can use, if with the usual risks. Magic can be embedded in an object so a user can wield that like a weapon, and many powerful devices are strewn about the world after the Raging and subsequent wars. Sometimes magic can be so strong it is seeping out and any who come by could find themselves imbued.

While it shouldn’t be deemed a fact, something many know is that magic and the Shadow World remain entwined. Essentially, the strongest power lies there, and the more you delve into one, the more you delve into the other. It is a common tale among the most devoted magic-users that some sunk too far and never returned. It is a warning, one that not everyone heeds.

Magic is often something that people wield with natural ability. Magic works like stamina or physical strength, and so it will drain and replenish. But it also involves the mind and there are many in the world who spend a lot of their time studying magic and training their minds. Students of magic will often better those who scream and hurl energy. Focus, intellect, awareness, understanding – these are key factors in the use of magic.

The formula for magic is a simple one. To use magic, you need power, and then you need the will to command it, along with the mental focus to make it do the thing you want. Power, will, mind. Those who have a considerable amount of one often need the others less so, but you always need all three. You can improve them all as well, if you know how. Magic is claimed to be able to do anything anyone wants, if you have enough power, will and know what exactly it is you want it to do. The power side of it often dictates the end result, and the will is there not just to command the magic, but to prevent it from commanding you instead. The mental focus is often the trickiest part. It also typically takes the most time, so many will train themselves to do something specific, which they find easier to focus on. Much like muscle memory, they will work to their own nature and attributes, and perfect a style of magic use that means they can act fast, think later.

When it comes to power, any user must understand one simple and unbreakable rule. Power is given, it varies, but what you get is what you get. You can better your skills and improve your command of it, you can refine techniques and use less in an act, but you cannot raise power itself. Your power is your well to draw on and, while it may be deeper than you first thought, that is all you have. Power cannot be enlarged. Enhanced, yes, but not made more. Think of it as an adult physical body. You can make it more muscular, stretch out the tendons and lose or gain weight, but that’s what you have. You can’t add another head or gain three feet (while some could possibly do this via science, I’m talking in natural terms).

For this reason, many magic-users will seek magical items, or even make their own if they can. The idea is that by pouring power into an item, then it is there to draw on at another time. It is taxing to do and difficult to achieve, and the result will depend on skill, practice and effort, but if a magic-user could create, say, three items that contain power, then those could all be called upon to add to their full strength. Better yet is to find an item or weapon imbued with the power of someone much stronger. Many items will drain and become useless again, but the best either last long or cannot be worn out. It all depends on the power put in and the craftsmanship of the maker. Magical weapons and items can change an individual’s standing in the world. It could also put it at serious risk. There are some cursed items out there, and some that offer more power than almost any can handle.

Most monster types cannot summon magic. Machines cannot either. Most mutants don’t even think to try. Magic is a vital weapon in the human arsenal. When the Shadow World first came and devil-beasts and aegis battled, and sphinx sought influence, and deemi and wraiths and scions and pixies caused mayhem, and dragons did as they pleased, magic seemed like the human race’s doom come to find them. People were in terror of it and that led to many choices later made, and that fear resides in numerous communities still. But magic soon proved useful to them, and also dangerous. Human magic-users fought the monsters, and anyone else they needed to in order to claim a realm for their own. Magic was cast and humans were saved, and other times it turned on the inept user to devastating effect. Magic helped saved humanity, after threatening it, and it remains a danger and a salvation to all. It is craved and feared. It is used and misused. Magic is something that no one can take for granted, and yet here it is, embedded in our world, affecting nature and people and all manner of life.

How Has the Human Race Made it This Far?

A question many beings have pondered throughout the centuries since the Shadow World’s arrival concerns the continued existence of the human race. To be blunt, how the hell are humans not only still around, but in high numbers? The common claim is that the humans outnumber any other type of being, although there is no way of carrying out a worldwide census to confirm or deny this. But even so, there is no question humans are plentiful. In certain places they are the dominant group.

Not only this, but a further question many who have come to learn about the events that unfolded two and a half centuries ago, who know the origins of the races and factions, have had to wonder why those in power did what they did. After all, if it wasn’t for the leaders, rulers, generals, scientists, etc of the time, then many of those who now walk the earth would not be able to do so.

Essentially, the great question many have asked is why did those who could make choices back then make the ones they did, thus causing so much strife and danger for their own kind, and how have the humans managed to survive all the enemies that then sought them?

The short answer is a simple one. Basically so much chaos came from the Shadow World’s merging with our world, and the reactions to it, that it saved humanity from destruction. There was no single united force out to annihilate them. Monsters wanted terror and mayhem more than destruction, and not all of them sought that. Mutants and machines are often said to be the real downfalls of human civilisation, but even they weren’t unified into a focused army. Basically, everyone was fighting each other, including among the humans, so none were able to exterminate any of the major forces.

For those who ask these questions, this is the best answer they usually get. Most of the past is lost. Yet what if a reply could be made from back then? Because if they could, those who ran the world at the time – the leaders, the generals, the scientists – would defend themselves. They would say they didn’t act stupidly. The common perception is that those who took the reins of science and let it run wild had no idea what they were doing. But the counter point from then would be: yes, we made new races, but we ensured that they had defects and we planned ways to defeat them.

For one, super-soldiers were made to live short, brutal lives. Some were even made dependent on a substance and would wilt, even die off without it. Most never knew they needed it. Others were kept under tight control, watched over severely and drilled into being loyal. Also, they would be sent into the worst fighting while humans stayed safe. The death toll that could have ruined the human race beyond repair was limited as so many mutant lives were lost instead.

Super computers were made with protocols and always had a means to be turned off by a human. Usually manually. Humans made droids and other machines with similar safety measures. For all the warring and paranoia between the human groups, they feared what machines could become more and had strict laws on what could be made. Humans would try to make their droids better than their enemies, of course, but never crossed the unforgivable lines – never make an indestructible robot; no emotional programming; machines can learn but only to a degree and within certain fields of knowledge. Humans also tested droids to find out their weaknesses and develop ways to defeat them. Equipment was crafted to be specifically anti-droid. EMP bombs were stored safely and ready for use. Viruses were set to be unleashed at the first sign of insurgence.

How did it go wrong? The masters were killed off. The tight control kept on mutants and machines helped combat the supernatural invasion, but when those in command fell, the control itself weakened. Enough to make their servants get a glimpse into what was really going on and what they could become instead of cannon fodder and manual labour. All it took were a few renegades and rogues to create something they shouldn’t – far superior droids such as the cyber-samurai and less flawed mutants like the ultras – and things rapidly began to disintegrate.

But even so, the bulk of creations still contained weaknesses. Super-soldier armies rampaged and brought down cities and bases, yet most of these did so as they themselves were dying off. Machines rebelled but could be shut down at a transmitted command, although that left them still able to be reanimated. As things got worse, humans attacked each other via their control systems. One group might hack into a network and remove the protocols of a super computer so it would turn on its creators. Some humans were activists who freed mutants and machines to let them live, and many suffered for it. Even so, humans who knew their rebelling servants well could exploit weaknesses and did so as best they could, and survived as best they could. Scrambling devices prevented droids from targeting advancing human soldiers. Mutants ran out of ammunition sooner and lacked the knowledge or means to make more. Fresh machines and mutants were even made to fight the insurgents, which often created short term solutions for a longer problem.

While some did make more advanced mutants and machines as the laws and the means of enforcing them fell away, the bulk of the mutant and machine races had been made to serve. As the world plunged into the Raging, for all those seeking to end or enslave the human race, humanity remained the most numerous, best equipped and, at some places, the best organised and led. It took time after the shackles had come off for new leaders to emerge to rally and reorganise the new races. Of course, that meant they had to compete for overall rule. Which has been happening ever since.

Many in the world today will look back on those who ruled the world before the Shadow World’s appearance and the aftermath with contempt, if not outright hatred. They made the mistakes. They created the monsters of science that overthrew the world order. They acted in hubris and haste. In return, they would argue they kept humanity alive. They made the hard choices and did everything they could to keep the new beings in check. A counter point could be that the moment mutants and machines were created, there was no going back, that they would always have found a way to break free. Perhaps this is true. It would also be pointed out that if the humans had united then they could have prevailed, but many fought each other, seeing the growing mayhem as the perfect cover for settling old scores. With magic, humans became powerful as well. So it could be argued by the rulers and leaders of the time that nothing could have saved the world then, that the Shadow World’s introduction was the beginning of the end, as Dylan Winter had intended. But there is no escaping that their actions at the time led to much suffering – then and since and now – and while they may not have acted as recklessly or so arrogantly as many claim they did, they certainly set out on the path that has led everyone to where things are now, and there were definitely some among them who sought power over all else.

Humanity is to blame for much, but those humans who walk the world now will say they are the descendants of those who struggled and survived. Their world was invaded, their civilisations lost, they want revenge, and they think they can get it. Some bases contain humans with equipment to nullify machines as a threat or weapons powerful enough to slay super-soldiers. In other places, where humans lack these means, they evade and hide and outlast their foes. Monsters are often seen as superior to humans – stronger or faster or possessing some strange ability. Machines are creations to endure, learn and adapt, and many no longer have programmed defects or passwords to override them, or at least no one alive knows them to exploit them. Mutants are often stronger, more resilient, some born to fight, others for unique reasons. But it should never be forgotten who made who, and who ruled this world for so long, and who numbers the most. Humans are fighting for their home. Humans are a lot more tenacious than they get credit for. Some are brilliant, capable of feats of magic or science, and some are just born abnormally superior. They have survived what this world could throw at them for tens of thousands of years. Two centuries of monsters, mutants and machines is a blip on their timeline for them. Although, a very big and dangerous blip.

 

Here’s a link to one of the shorts about this world and those surviving within it:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/649736

Mutants: A New Type of Humanity

Mutants are mutated humans. It is as simple as that, or at least it should be. They have become their own people. They bear a lasting resentment towards humanity because it was them who designed and moulded the mutants in order to serve them. Not only were the mutants a slave race at the start, but they were born with limitations such as much shorter life spans, and the many cloning methods meant there is often a lack of detail in their physical features, even now. Those born from science were given advantages and yet made less than human, and it was only through acts of violence that they took their independence from their creators. Although, it has to be pointed out, many mutants were not made, at least not via test tubes and growth pods. Others were transformed from humans into disfigured people due to radiation and pollution. These are mutants too, and they resent what the humans of the past did that brought their kind about. It can be suggested they lack the sheer hatred the created types have, or maybe they are less aggressive because they weren’t forged for combat. Either way, all of those humans who were changed, altered and warped are now classified as mutants. But they are far from one simple race.

A quick but important point that needs to be made is the main difference between those mutants created by science and those simply altered by environmental damage. Basically, there is a level of disdain among those made to be better than humans for those who are deemed lesser than them. Mutants who tower over others, are stronger, tougher, healthier, will accept that those humanoids with twisted limbs and misshapen torsos are mutants too, but never that they are equals. Mutts is the name often given to the natural mutants. Sometimes a term used in a casual dismissive tone, sometimes a vile insult. It is a word those mutants resent and rightfully so. Whatever the advantages the superior mutants have, the mutts are the larger number, and they need to be united if they ever wish to take full vengeance upon humanity.

There are a number of types of mutants. The most common, as mentioned, are mutts. Then there are the super-soldiers, the generic-looking improved fighters for a war that won’t end. The aquatics are mutants too, if they deem themselves their own race and keep to the sea.

Then there are lesser but important types. Morphoids are fairly rare, a brilliant creation that can change shape into the likeness of others they encounter. The Bestials are animalstic beings, made in the experimental processes of bringing about a superior and deadly hybrid. That hyrbid are Hounds, which look far more human but clearly still canine in nature. Serpentines are a similar breed, with flexible forms, but found in more than one place.

Goons are a form of mutant made to be slaves and nothing else, and are not far from that still, with squat, sturdy bodies and obedient natures. Thals are much larger than other mutants, bearing four arms, and of much lower intelligence yet with savage intent. Finally there are the Ultras, superior to super-soldiers, their location a guarded secret.

To go into this in a little more detail, we have to break the super-soldiers into groups too. Most are simply tall, grim looking and solidly framed beings who have a fierce and ready to fight nature, who don’t think on too many levels, who heal fast and hit hard. But among this breed there were developed variations to try and make better super-soldiers, except they never replaced the standard model.

One thing they wanted was to make some capable of thinking more intelligently, especially in terms of tactics. These are deemed commander types. Then some they made as slimmed down versions, with quicker reflexes and agility. These are commando types. There have been attempts to cross-breed these two in the past, for obvious reasons. Then some have been made to be broader and more solid, as well as stronger. These are grapplers. Then we have berserkers, who are usually physically the same as standard types but made highly aggressive, if not outright ferocious. This final type is the most rare, as often it backfired on all concerned.

Another quick point that has to be made here is that for all the careful planning and scientific methods of bringing these mutants into being, natural procreation among themselves, and among others too, has meant there are plenty of exceptions to the rules. Especially in terms of behaviour.

To return to the other and more different types of mutants, I can quickly say that the aquatics have their own entry on the blog. That’s how different in nature and community they are.

Speaking of this, I’m sure these types will get their own entries in due time as well. For now, we can cover some basics to help generate a fuller picture of the world according to mutants.

As I hinted before, Hounds are only in one place, a vast, thick forest area in Western Europe. Here they live in a valley, ruled by Bestials. This is not a happy relationship and the latter live in fear of the more ferocious, more deadly creatures turning on them. Hounds, as said previously, are the end product – strong and fast, agile and with acute senses, as well as incredible claws that can cut metal. The Bestials broke free of the labs that had made them, but they are mostly misshapen monstrosities, and even dwell in the dark most of the time. They were failed experiments and missteps along the way to the Hounds. They fear humans, they manipulate the Hounds to keep the forest their domain, but their grip is slipping.

When it comes to the Thals, they are focused in the Crimea area. They are basically Neanderthal beings, usually armed with crude blunt weapons, fighting each other more than anyone outside their territory. That has changed recently. They have become more organised, better armed, yet remain violent and aggressive. Groups nearby are keeping an eye out for a potentially devastating advance.

Mutants can be found in many places, often in their own groupings for safety. Some are in Africa, others in the Baltic region, and many are in parts of the former USA, warring with humans from base to base. But there are large concentrations of them. Not far from the Bestials and the Hounds, in the area of Normandy, is a large community of mutants. This is a very varied and integrated society, with many being warriors or hunters or adventurers, and they often go around Europe, selling their skills. In Eastern Europe are many mutts, living underground for the most part, oppressed by the humans and their helicopters from the Carpathian Mountains. Again, not far from them, is the mutant army that lays siege to Eden. Stretching from their base at Constantinople to Eden itself, the soldiers run things, while many villages and towns of mutts contribute as best they can. A long way off is Trade Island, and outside it is a mutant nation, led by a mutt president in name and commanded by the military in truth.

That brings us to the Ultras again. It is presumed they are in one place, but none can say for sure. For many mutants, the Ultras aren’t even known by this name. They are the servants of Gilgamesh, their god. They believe he will arise and claim the world; his servants are active but waiting for him. While this isn’t the exact truth, the Ultras are looking and waiting. It must be mentioned, however, that the reason the Ultras went into hiding is because other mutants feared them and betrayed them to human attackers. Ultras aren’t just improved fighters or weird alterations. They are stronger and faster, true, but they were made to think, to improve, to progress, and to live long. They are humanity’s replacement. As such, perhaps they want the other mutants on their side, but perhaps they won’t be needed. Maybe they view themselves as separately as some mutants do from others. For all its differences, mutants are still humans at heart, carrying the same prejudices and suspicions. It is a major reason why they remain as scattered and struggling as everyone else.

 

This short features mutants both lesser and much improved:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/543796

Shameless Plug Post

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/649736

To quote the blurb:

Death, dismemberment and degradation awaits a village when a gleaner’s nest is discovered nearby. Fearful of becoming prey, the villagers decide something must be done. When Monolith, a giant of a man, arrives, they desperately turn to him for deliverance with renewed hope and courage; hope that the gleaners can be defeated and courage to prevail against indomitable adversity.

Reproduction and Interbreeding

There are so many types of being upon the planet, the means by which they breed have not only altered, but become more varied. For the most part, creatures reproduce the same way humans have always done so. Yet some have their own way. Beings will do whatever works in order to survive. This will often limit interbreeding, and that has other problems as well, but it still happens.

An important topic to initially deal with is who can interbreed with who. Humans can breed with each other, obviously, but also mutants, who are simply altered humans. This has led to many interesting mixes, as has breeding between types of mutants – some of them are improved beings created scientifically, others are naturally misshapen due to various pollution. Machines cannot interbreed with anything else. Cyborgs can make more of their own as living beings. The cybernetic aspects to a new creation will be added over time. As for monsters, not only is it the case that humans and mutants cannot breed with them, but the types of the supernatural race don’t mix either.

To elaborate on this point, harbingers cannot breed with brutes, nor devil-beasts with gleaners, etc. There are many practical reasons, in terms of varying sizes and differing ways of reproduction. However, some could, and there are certain theories about why it doesn’t work. Many will claim monsters cannot breed with humans or mutants because they were originally from another plane of existence. They will add that monsters may be deemed a collective by humans, yet they are very different creatures, so there is no reason why they should be expected to be able to interbreed.

But there is a tale among many that the humans made a wish early on. They saw these new creatures and feared not only what they were doing, but what they could do to transform the human race. They feared being replaced by hybrids. They also feared hybrids of the monsters themselves – new and improved versions of harbingers, vandals and writhers, for example. So someone or someones used a magi and made a wish that monsters couldn’t breed with others. Only their own. Another thing to add to this is that dragons seemed not to be able to reproduce at all. Being creatures much more attuned with magic and the Shadow World, they found they couldn’t bring new life into this world. That is, apart from the infamous Havoc, half human, half dragon warrior of legend. Perhaps this is a major part of why the dragons returned to the Shadow World.

It has to also be noted that monsters have different ways of reproducing. For instance, gleaners and denizens lay eggs. The difference between them is a gleaner queen will lay many, whereas a denizen will lay one egg and raise it alone, imprinting all the knowledge and skills available. Writhers also lay eggs, which is normal in a way, seeing as they are basically snake-people. Dragons did lay eggs, as least legends say so, but none hatched, as previously mentioned.

Deemi have their own unique way of reproducing. They may look like voluptuous women, but in truth they are hermaphrodites. To make another life, they need the souls/life energy of living beings. They gather them, feed on them, and this creates a new life within them. Every deemi is born by a mother and raised to become another magical predator, set to continue their race. Wraiths, however, remain a mystery. They can become physical beings and tales are told of how they gather, become solid and mate to make new wraiths, but only they know how they reproduce. Wraiths have human shapes but remain hooded and cloaked figures, even when solid, so to think they have human physical attributes is an assumption.

Apart from these mentioned, the monsters tend to reproduce sexually, with males and females coming together, and then females giving birth to the offspring. They have differing ways of rearing these children, but that is for another time. The only thing left to be said regarding monsters is that magi remain the most elusive and mysterious type. They can take many forms so sexual reproduction could be possible, but no one knows if magi need to create new life, let alone if they have. Magi might be immortal and sterile.

Turning to machines for a moment, they can reproduce too. On the one hand they recycle often. Droids that are damaged or even destroyed can be broken down and used to make new ones. On the other hand, more can be manufactured with gathered resources and simple programming. Robotic armies will always swell over time and are much harder to wear down than living beings. Anything highly complex is unlikely to reproduce, however. Creations like that tend to see themselves as the ultimate goal, so making another would either be pointless or perhaps a threat.

All types of life seeks to survive and that means reproducing and doing so in greater numbers than any rivals. Typically, the more ferocious the lifestyle, the more in number they need to be. Gleaners, for instance, aim to produce generation after generation, filling each nest until a new one needs to be created. At the same time, aquatics live with more security in the sea, and with this and much more space, they have grown to considerable number as well.

This is all true of mutants on land as well. Super-soldiers were originally designed and born in labs to fight and prevail. Some still are, but most are born from their parents in more natural ways. Natural procreation has helped to overcome many of the original constraints and flaws placed in their genetic make-up. Not always, but for the most part. It can be that a super-soldier is born from parents who have normal life spans to only live 20 or 30 years. By and large super-soldiers remain instinctive fighters, yet some can be different. Once formed by careful planning, mutants are now subject to the more chaotic laws of nature.

An ugly side of reproduction needs to be brought up, which especially applies when it comes to lesser mutants. It has been known for mutants to have taken humans to forcibly breed with in order to try and remove the deformities and difficulties their kind struggle with. They sought to ease the burden on their descendants, and mostly felt fully justified, seeing as the humans made them this way. At least, this was their view. Mutants made to be superior are clearly less likely to want to breed with anyone or anything lesser than them, yet it does happen. In these instances, it can be attributed to simple lust or rare love. Those born from a super-soldier and human coupling could end up much like one parent or a mix of both. The same is obviously true of breeding with other types. Those who choose this path of reproduction are taking a risk with their future, so it does not happen too often. But it does, even now.

An aspect of all of this is control. In more open, free domains, individuals follow their passions and needs to make more of their own. As simple and true as ever. But when a group is in an enclosed space or living on few resources, or perhaps they have more to fear, then reproduction is under the direction of the collective. In underground bases, people will need to ask permission to have a child and prove themselves capable. In the stricter cyborg sects, reproduction is more like a production line of future members to improve their strength. Among some, people have a duty to make more of their kind, possibly even under duress. Arrangements can be made, compatible partners can be placed together, all to better the community. A good example is the aegis. This race of monsters has fought long and hard to prevent humanity and themselves from being destroyed by enemies. By now, they are not many. To some, this means they must find each other and have children, and then raise those children correctly. Their line cannot end. The world needs them.

In a harsh world, reproduction is just as vital a part of life as ever, if not more so. Life exists in far more varying forms, with different cultures and methods. In many places, you keep to your own. In a few, variety is sought out. Experiments go on, just as the Brainers once created the ultras. Uniqueness exists. As always, there are laws to be obeyed and guidelines to be followed, to give us all an understanding of how life endures. But there are exceptions to the rules and, now and again, those rules get broken.

What am I?

Another blog post to give information, background and general knowledge on the post-apocalyptic world featured in Sojourners in Shadow:

So a number of the defining aspects to being a person either no longer apply or are much harder to categorise in this post-apoc world, filled with creatures and creations. Things such as nationality, race, ethnicity and more have become muddled, forgotten about, changed, and yet to some still remain very important. There are no labels that work worldwide, although it could very strongly be claimed those don’t fit now. But this world is far more fractured, with some parts of it having no idea what even exists beyond the horizon. Genealogy is something many cannot trace back beyond a few generations. Racial and cultural history has no meaning for them, sometimes by choice, mostly by ignorance. The present is all that matters. Whatever group that is your group is everything you need to care about and all you need to care about. You don’t get to fuss about differences when your survival is dependent on people helping each other out.

Displacement has occurred in many places around the world, with people fleeing homes centuries ago and now residing in lands once thought far away. In Australia, you have Brits, Americans and Japanese co-existing in their respective colonies, alongside their hosts. Still, because of this, these all define themselves by their nationality, and the three white races have their issues with the single non-white race, and vice versa. In central Asia, many ethnicities have merged as the humans sought to survive, now forming a plethora of settlements across the plains. To these people, the idea of referring to anyone as ‘Asian’ is absurd, as they are all from there, yet four main racial groups do exist and generalised terms such as Arabian and Caucasian are now the norm. Some will define themselves more specifically, such as the famous Tsunami, who is purely Japanese, but most won’t bother – they have more important issues to deal with and they also know few others will care.

Fracturing has had a huge impact too. Nations dissolved, empires rose and then were thrown down. Russia split and soon many people deemed themselves to be Siberian. The U.S.A. slowly stretched and strayed, until the Pacific States and the Atlantic States were rivals, trading with different parts of the world. The United Kingdom ceased to exist and the Oligarchs ascended to command in Central Europe. When the Shadow World came and made so much worse, it also changed the Middle East, which became a battleground as humans who followed Islam, Judaism and Christianity united to defend it against those powerful monsters that sought to ravage these sacred lands and break their faith.

Religion itself has less hold of people’s identities while remaining a vital part of their lives. There are no central authorities to dictate how people should worship. No international figures to inspire or instruct. People keep their own faith and small communities tend to worship together, if at all. The main difference is among mutants. While many worship the gods of the humans, a significant number worship the mutant god, Gilgamesh. They await their saviour, believing he will one day hand the world over to them. Seeing as he is a incredibly powerful mutant currently contained in a dormant state, this may well happen.

Mutants have impacted on the racial identities too. Many designed mutants were created not to look the same as their creators or the community they were made to defend. People wanted different looking super soldiers – partly to prevent too much unity, partly because diversity was often seen as necessary. But also, some authorities wanted a force that felt detached from those around them, so that it could be turned on them if need be. Therefore a number of created mutants were soon walking the earth, part of a certain race and yet having no real lasting ties to that race or its past which defines it.

So in many ways defining someone racially or ethnically is really only done to help describe someone. Usually physically, but perhaps wishing to give some kind of insight into who and what they are as well, and how they may behave or see certain things. Racism still exists, of course, but it has much less meaning and more often is contained in ignorant comments. If one racial group dominates, then there tends to be some casual contempt or distrust for those who look different, but it rarely goes beyond that unless they feel threatened as well. In the Octagon State, where eight underground bases have survived and most of their inhabitants are white, there is a sense of being better than those not white, yet such is their dominance and such is their vicious war with super-soldiers, that there is rarely persecution. In the Northern Federation, where cities have prevailed amidst the magically-charged jungles of Africa, everyone is black, and yet some may have a slightly lighter tone to their skin, suggesting an ancestor or two from another race. This is never a cause for outright contempt, yet it may raise some notice and perhaps some jokes, as Ensign Ali finds from his low ranking crewmates, Chisel and Wrench.

Nationality is perhaps the weakest label to remain. People will often refer to themselves as coming from a place, but that is all the name means to them. Being British means you live in the British Isles or in New Britannia, in Australasia, and while the latter has more sense of identity and history, the inhabitants of the once United Kingdom are more defined by what village they live in or what master or guardian they answer to. Even with the colony in Australasia, many Britons move around, especially spreading further into the central and wilder area, as do the Americans and Australians, so nationalism makes way for new and more independent identities.

The ways of the world before the collapse, before the Shadow World, have little meaning to those who live in it. Most of them have no knowledge of what went before them. Nations and races can have a degree of importance for many, but it rarely keeps people from uniting to survive when they have to. Monsters work together and so do the various types of mutants. The numerous threats to humanity means it cannot afford the luxury of bigotry. Hate people for any reason you want, but save your utmost hatred for those trying to kill you.

So how do people define themselves? Cyborgs do so by sect. Monsters by tribe or clan or pack, etc. Even then, there are always those exceptions to the rule. For most humans, if they have to declare a racial identity, it is usually whatever they mostly are. If three grandparents are from Argentina and one is from Yemen, then typically you forgo specific locations and degrees of heritage and simply say you are Hispanic. Even then, many around the world would have no idea what that meant, let alone the differences that can create between people. Perhaps you wouldn’t either. The truth is many people around the world can’t say for sure if they are 100% anything, even if they look it. They may use national, racial, ethnic and cultural labels, but rarely is anything an undisputed fact in this world.

The essential truth is most people around the world will see another person’s differences, may even be suspicious of them, but typically they will wonder if this is someone that can harm them or if they will be the victor, and what could be gained by killing this individual. If nothing, then perhaps an alliance is in order. It’s true that keeping to your own is the safer bet, yet someone’s own has become redefined by the standards of the time and even then, sometimes you will have to take a risk.