Rulers and Terrors of the Past

It goes without question that many beings have wanted to conquer. Not the world, at least not usually. Most beings who strive for greatness have been realistic enough to know that taking over the entire planet is ridiculous. Anyone who attempts it will bring every other powerful individual or group upon them. But carving out their own corner has been the aim of a number of great and terrible people. Some still do. The Demon King has his piece of territory outside of Trade Island. Gemini rule their domain in the Himalayas. The Author continues to reside in his fortress in the Ural Mountains. But many of those who ruled most fiercely are gone, brought down for another generation of rulers to climb up. Here are some of them, their names, titles and achievements, and what became of them, if it is known:

The Emperor of the Golden Throne ruled part of middle and southern Asia, with his headquarters set somewhere in what was once India. Who and what he was has been lost to time. His name still echoes in the region, however. He ruled wisely as well as sternly. According to legend, he had an aegis and a devil-beast as his right and left hand, enforcing his commands. How he managed that is unknown and highly in doubt by some. What is certain is that he had an elite force called the Excubitors, a small army of highly trained and superbly equipped individuals. This is known because they exist now as a mercenary outfit, better known as the Sentinels. They fight for pay by necessity, but they remember their glorious past and many fear they will rejoin the Emperor if he returns. After all, it isn’t certain that he is dead. What happened to him isn’t fully known, however it is clear his power was broken and his realm disintegrated without him. Most likely he is dead, either slain back then or fallen since, but his title has meaning to many, even now.

Lord Ogre was a huge human who strode the island of Great Britain for a time, head of a horde of fierce fighters. He waged war as much as he could, conquering through sheer strength, and terrorised many. He wasn’t a simplistic thug either. While not known as a master strategist, he roamed for some time and learned much. He was ended in a fight with a devil-beast, a contest of physical might that he lost. He hasn’t gone, though. He exists as the weapon, Giant Breaker. Having had his spine and skull ripped out, the devil-beast that defeated him forged this into a mace, with his conciousness trapped inside it. He can talk to the one that wields him, and only that one, and so a long time has passed to frustrate the cruel warlord. He talks, he advises, he sneers and urges for bloodshed. Even after all this time, he hasn’t changed.

The Lord of Fire and Pain was a powerful and sadistic devil-beast that visited a number of places around the world and inflicted terrible cruelties upon any he could. Not known for ruling a territory or commanding forces, the Lord of Fire and Pain was notable mostly for defeating strong opponents and killing them in as painful ways as he could. If dealing with lesser foes, he would simply feed them into fire, but as long as screams were sounding, he was satisfied. An important note here has to be that it was he that beat Lord Ogre and turned him into a weapon. It was a typical moment in his life of vicious rampaging. He did rule sometimes, he led forces as well, but mostly he did as he pleased, took on who he wanted to and broke them into bloody pieces. For this reason, the Sect of Shadow and Steel was hired to kill him, which they duly did.

Morrigan is remembered for a few reasons. She wasn’t just a very strong aegis who fought with great skill and determination, but she managed to bring peace and unity to Great Britain for the first time since it fell apart as a human nation. It was also the only time. She brought together excellent fighters and led them across the island until every foe was dealt with. After that, she ruled, with an elite guard of aegis warriors flying with her. Her skill wasn’t just at fighting. Part of her rise to power was due to a sceptre that she forged herself and spent years concentrating her own power into. In battle, it enabled her to unleash strong magic, and supposedly she took from defeated opponents over time to make it even stronger. Regardless of that, it was a major weapon and many wish they knew of its whereabouts in the present time. As for Morrigan herself, her rule ended in an ambush. She brought peace and unity to the island for a time, but she was also ruthless in her governance and made many enemies. She was betrayed, ambushed, killed with many of her guards, and violent mayhem returned to Great Britain.

Iron Claw was a devil-beast reputed as a strong and fierce warrior, first and foremost. He sought challenges and conquest. He also sought to use a fire sword, the weapon used by aegis only. For this, he cut off his hand and forged a magical one of iron. It didn’t work. His rage at this is said to have claimed many lives and possibly caused a volcano to erupt. While he is famous for a failure, he is also known for leading a fighting force that focused on strength and suppression, making his rule unopposable. This force remains, now a mercenary outfit of smaller number but with the same ruthless intent, operating from the Falkland Islands, which was once his seat of power. He, though, is long dead, not just defeated by the infamous Havoc, but beaten to death by his own iron claw.

Valentius was a creative and cruel human who was both a warrior of renown and a magic-user to be feared. Tall and strong, said to be very handsome, with cold eyes and a soft voice, he was a force to be reckoned with in Great Britain. According to legend, he gathered a band of warrior magic-users and they roamed across the island in search of power and glory. It is also claimed they left the island a few times. Valentius was not just a commander, but a creator. His power was rare among humans and he liked to use it to reshape. He sought to create new monsters, superior of course, and also devoted to him. He studied and experimented, and some claim he made certain abominations. However, his warband betrayed him. They sealed him in his chamber with magic and left, free to follow their own course. That chamber remains sealed to this day.

The Magician is an unknown. Simply put, he or she was a human scientist that created many technological wonders. The ease with which this individual made such things left many feeling it was more like magic than science, hence the nickname. Who this person was, why they were so talented, why they made what they did, when they were born – these are all questions without answer. It has been deemed likely the Magician lived before the Shadow World arrived, but nothing has been proven. What is almost ridiculous is that people don’t even know what this person is responsible for creating. Maybe the doom-rollers, maybe the Hell-Raisers, maybe the cyber-samurai, maybe something unique, maybe all droids and robotic races come from this genius. It is simply the name that has been passed on in whispers by those who seek to wield science. The Magician was the greatest, no one else comes close. The person and the products are lost in time, yet the name, the reputation remains for some, and most likely the products do still exist. Perhaps the Magician’s handiwork has yet to be truly revealed.

The Coven were about during the Raging, if their origins likely started with the arrival of magic in the world. They were new magic-users, strong too, so they banded together to delve into this fresh power. They sought to understand it fully but also to uncover the mysteries and wonders many believed were waiting for them. They practised magic now forbidden, such as possession and necromancy. Without question, they were a cult, creating a sense of secrecy and mystery about themselves, basing their reputation upon power and death. The Coven’s drive for greater power and deeper knowledge led them to consume themselves and the name now exists as a warning to all magic-users: certain truths must be left untouched.

Alpha and Omega were two human magic-users from long ago, known only by name and reputation. They ranked among the first magic-users and were a formidable duo during the Raging. It is said that not only were they very powerful in magic, but they were deeply religious and believed their purpose was to end everything. It is also suspected that they were disciples of Dylan Winter. That would explain much. However little is known for sure, barring that they were two incredibly strong and aggressive magic-users who sought the ruin of all the world. For this, many opposed them, and while most failed, enough stood to end their crusade.

The Beasts is a name that resides in rhymes and warnings among humans, a name rarely talked about but impossible to forget. They were a number of humans who were extraordinary during the Raging and no one knows why. Each of them was something special, either in physical prowess or magical might or both, and they terrorised and/or ruled parts of the world. Eventually, they were all defeated, but they were a major reason why humans weren’t overwhelmed by their enemies, and at the same time a stark example of the bizarre horror the Shadow World’s merging with our own could create. They were forces of nature, a shock surge as they all came to prominence in different parts of the world. Their like has never been seen since.

What has Become of the Human Race?

This post about humanity within the world of Sojourners in Shadow was posted ages ago but I removed it so it could be posted elsewhere. Now it can return:

Humans were on the planet before the monsters, the mutants and the machines. They are the reason the others exist. Humans called forth the Shadow World. Some claim this other plane of existence was only ever a reflection of our own and what lurked in our minds, that the beings that came from it were those we inspired. Others felt that it was this alternate world that put those ideas in us. Either way, they came to us, by our actions, and so they live in our world now. As for the mutants and the machines, humans made them, taught them, and it was humans they reflected by breaking free and seeking power for themselves.

This wasn’t the beginning of humanity’s downfall, however. That had already begun. As the world moved on from what we know today, governments became more controlling the more people pushed for freedom. Fear and hatred of each other fed the flames on all sides. Societies spiralled and nature grew sicker. The more people needed help, the more it was denied them. Revolution movements arose. Cults seeking an end to the current decay became powerful. Strong leaders developed into tyrants. Many would claim monsters walked the earth long before the supernatural beings from the Shadow World stepped on it.

When the monsters did come forth, rules on morality were already stretched so it took little for them to be broken by those in power. Soldiers were cloned to replenish ranks, then more were altered and improved, and those cloned as well. Weapons of horrifying destruction were not only made but used. This was also taken as a time for rivalries to be settled. The world being invaded was never going to be enough for old hatreds to be put aside. Actions taken in the name of the earth’s defence were soon used for power, land and influence. Super-computers developed to organise a nation’s protection were wielded to undermine that of another nation’s. Mutated soldiers killed each other in futile battles as borders advanced, then receded. Humans themselves suffered. Many fled their homelands or took refuge wherever they could, others rebelled against those in power, which in turn led to new warring factions or outright banditry.

The world did not fall in one fell swoop. It was a series of disasters followed by another series, and it continued to become worse. As any kind of authority was removed, monsters had even more freedom to rampage, as did the new creations of mutants and machines. What followed has been referred to as the Raging. Monsters of terrible magical might fought each other across the skies. Mutant armies swept over lands and levelled all they could in vengeance. Machines betrayed their creators, competed with one another via various networks until these, too, were a broken battleground. Powers of all kinds met each other head on and often destroyed each other in the process. Many rulers arose swiftly but were either killed or overthrown just as quickly.

But the humans endured. In truth, they did more than their fair share of damage as well, yet for many it was a time of patience and desperation. Underground bases intended for a short refuge became homes for generations. Jungles, caves and wilderness were soon environments that every child knew well. Humans adapted, they grew tougher, they often became more harsh as well, and they lived. However they could, whatever it took, they did so.

Eden is perhaps the most famous of places, although many think it a myth. Here humans have lived securely under a force-field, besieged by a mutant horde, defended by their superior technology and their faith. In Africa, a continent regrown by magic, humans have survived in their beloved jungle where they can hunt those who once hunted them. Cities have even been planted. In Australia, British, American and Japanese refugees now inhabit their own nations alongside the native population. In Europe, as in North America, bases are still homes but many now dare to venture forth. A militarised people control the Carpathian Mountains. A vast swathe of land across Central Asia is teeming with tribes and warbands of humans.

Some humans wield technology. Others wield magic. Some rely on will or cunning. There remain great leaders to guide people through the threats that persist. There are also tyrants. Humans can still be counted as monsters but also heroes, champions and carers. The claim is that there are more humans in the world than all the monsters, mutants and machines put together. Of course, there is no way to know this, but a race of billions cannot easily be exterminated.

Not that this was the intention of all their enemies. Many types of monster enjoyed hunting humans, it seemed in their nature, but some preferred to rule over humans or even simply toy with them. Machines were more cold and so cruel, often seeing the human race as the greatest threat to all others. But their coldness ensured they were not devoted to humanity’s destruction. Mutants were the fanatics there, and yet even they cared more about living than revenge. The simple truth was everyone wanted to live and pursue their own ideals rather than devote themselves to genocide.

Humans also have their protectors. Monster is a generic term, everyone knows it really. Many of the types of being from the Shadow World are as different to each other as they are to humans or mutants. Some are allies to humanity. They chose a side during the Raging and have kept with it ever since. But those times of epic warfare are long past. Trade is a more appealing prospect to some rather than killing. In parts of the world, mutants and humans barter as they build their communities. Even machines, in their logic, understand that working with an enemy can be worthwhile, until the time is right to act for your own good.

The world has changed drastically. The Shadow World came and merged – not fully, a dark part of that other dimension remains somewhere else. But it has brought magic to our planet, and more. The world is cooler, slightly darker. The heat of certain sections of the earth is now something of legend. Deserts are open terrain to be wandered in or built on. Some land has been obliterated or reshaped. Much knowledge has been lost while ways of life have been preserved. Pirates roam the Mediterranean. Samurai walk across New Japan in Australia. Soldiers defend the Northern Federation. Scientists plan within bases. Warriors stand ready around the globe.

The human race inflicted much on itself, but it has taken it all and remains. It populates the planet and has no intention of giving it up. Some of it is very strong, some resilient in defence only. But it has the numbers and it has the determination. This is their world. This is home. Others claim they had their time. Many humans would say their time will come again. Certain ones intend on bringing that about. We shall see how they fare.

The Magi

More from the world of Sojourners in Shadow:

For many, monsters remain mysterious as well as deadly. Certain facts are known, while rumours and stories spread, regardless of truth. The more any interacts with a breed of monster, the more it is come to be understood, as with any race. But typically some secrets will be kept by a race. None wants to be vulnerable. Trust is very difficult to earn.

In no race of monsters is this as evident as the magi. While many monsters are steeped in fame and fear, even if the details are unknown, other types of being have a grasp on who and what they are. Devil-beasts, aegis and sphinx live a long time and are very powerful. This is clear. How long and how strong is much harder to determine. But magi? No one understands their nature. It is believed they live longer than most. Probably. Most think they reproduce and have made new magi, and yet no one knows when or how this occurred. Magi have perfected the way they seem to fully disguise what they truly are.

What is known about them is little, and even then some wonder. Magi can’t do magic. That’s a common fact, although some will claim they only pretend not to. After all, they grant wishes, and they can change shape. These are other known facts. What not all widely known is that magi have a particular form in every type of being they change into. Of course, the next question is do magi have their own unique form? A magi form. If so, no one knows what it is. They appear to be completely natural in any physique they take on, whether using the heat-vision of a writher, the superb hearing of a harbinger, the venom of a gleaner. But these are physical attributes. If a magi takes on the form of a deemi or wraith, they cannot then do magic, nor can they heal like a totem. Frustrating, but there it is. Magi shapeshift to pretend, hide and deceive, not to truly become those things, so the speculation remains about one true form of theirs, and yet, again, nothing – not one single rumour – exists.

Because the magi are excellent masters of disguise, none can be sure if any particular magi has always been that individual. For example, if you meet Dave the magi then perhaps this is that Dave of legend you have heard about, or perhaps not. Perhaps this is Dave but perhaps he was Fred and Bob in the past. Maybe he was even a Susan, except magi tend to stick or are stuck in one gender. Those who have more of an idea about magi than most – and they are few – know magi do tend to reuse names, so they can be tracked down, and there are certain qualities to these names. For instance, plant names abound. Even so, only magi know who is who for sure.

This is the problem I have in writing this post. Usually I write about a race or group or feature from the world’s perspective, then hint at more details from those in the know. This can’t be done here. The world’s view on magi is pretty much that they can’t do magic, they can change shape and they grant wishes. That’s it. They do have a reputation for being tricky and cunning, and in some places they are seen as liars and even bringers of bad luck. Others see them as wise counsellors. But little else can be said in the main besides general observations. As for those in the know, those who are close to magi and understand them, well, they don’t really exist. Yes, some know magi better than most, and they have some insights into them, but they don’t know the magi really. But the magi know them.

Here we get to the main issue of contention. Magi have been around since the Shadow World, and they certainly have got around. They have been advisers to rulers. They have been spies for enemy forces. They have helped to build kingdoms, even empires, and then assisted in ruining them. They have worked for devil-beasts and aegis and sphinx and humans and more, and they have brought them each down using different means. They have walked among communities, discussed with intellectuals, bargained with plotters and betrayed allies. They know about them all. Perhaps more than anyone realises.

One example of history should help. Once there was a great war occurring in Great Britain, the island of strong magic. There were three sides. One side was commanded by a brutal and strong devil-beast who had come from the Shadow World. Another was overseen by a family of devil-beasts, second and third generations. The third side was led by aegis, a group of friends, family and comrades. This war went on for some time and was peppered by skirmishes, battles, ambushes and murders. In this campaign, each side had a network of agents, and each was controlled by a clever and crafty individual. In other words, every side had a magi as the head of their intelligence.

What happened in this war? Let’s just say a lot that affects matters even now. But let me allow this one fact – a fact known to few by now – that the magi were highly influential in the outcome. Afterward, there were many powerful beings looking for the magi. Some still are. Having worked with others means those three are known to some people, but by names they no longer use, likely in forms they don’t stay in, and they will know those people too. Much better. They spied, they gathered information, they eliminated, and they communicated with each other in ways few would understand. They would be feared as much as they are hated, respected as much as they are sought for secrets.

Most will claim it is the nature of magi to be devious, duplicitous, conniving, enigmatic, charismatic, insightful, etc. But the magi themselves would argue that their nature has been defined to them by the world and those in it. They are hunted for their knowledge, skills and, of course, their ability to grant wishes. They have no magical power to defend themselves and their only physical attributes are those they possess when taking on another shape. They don’t seek power or rule, or at least they haven’t appeared to for the most part – it could be some great leader was a magi while pretending to be something else. But pretence at power is a high risk, even for them.

Now, those who have crossed paths with magi will argue how helpless they are. True, they lack their own power, but so do many. They can wield weapons and their knowledge of everyone else means they know how best to use which weapons against which races. They can infiltrate and assassinate like no other. Obviously shape changing isn’t easy and takes time, and yet there are always those more skilled than others. Basically, don’t ever underestimate magi.

Still, magi learned a harsh lesson long ago and it is a huge part of why they live the way they do. This is their secret past, something that occurred early on and is one of those important events lost in murky history. But the magi remember. Because it is their closely held secret I won’t divulge it here, just to say that the magi trusted humans and paid the price. I think we can all understand that.

Following on from that, I should mention population. This is another unknown. Magi are rare, but no one knows how few. So I’ll simply say they are very few, shockingly so, and a big part of that is due to what happened long ago. As I said, it was a harsh lesson, which led to a choice the magi made. A costly one. Now there is no going back. Keep hiding, keep learning, stay alert, and excel at subterfuge. Excel and survive at all costs.

In case you’re wondering how wishes work, understand that they strain the magi giving it and there are risks on both wisher and giver. But the results are incredible. No cheats, just chances. They can create out of nothing, destroy utterly, make dreams come true, and who knows what else. The limits seem to be placed solely on the will of the one who wants and the life, strength and ability of the magi granting the wish. But no magi can wish for themselves, not even grant another magi’s wish.

So you see, magi possess one of the greatest powers available, yet no power for themselves. What else can they do but be as evasive as possible, or as dangerously deceptive. It is the only way to survive. The only way to achieve anything.

Bragging Writes

Get it? Of course you do.

Anyway, thing is I’ve been putting up these bits of info about the world of Sojourners in Shadow, and occasionally I’ve added links to the stories published so far. These are just the tip of the iceberg, but they’re out there and relevant.

So, here are the links to all the shorts so far, mostly to say, look, this is what I’m nattering on about, but also to make it pretty clear this is an actual thing and this is where it can be checked out. So yeah, it’s a bit of a brag, self promotion stuff, but it has a point.

So here they are, in order of publication:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/543369

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

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/598771

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/586323

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

The first is Harbinger of my Doom, which features a harbinger, a human and a quest for the fabled Eden.

Second is Our Saviour, which concerns mutants – those of the lowest and highest kind.

Third is the Accursed, set in Trade Island, where a lot of different types of beings live and work and compete. Many more stories are going to be set there.

Fourth is Savage, and it features monsters, magic, a big jagged sword and the powerful desire to survive.

Fifth is Monolith, in which the nastiest of monsters – gleaners – are the focus of a mission by desperate humans, and one who stands strongest of all.

So hopefully, by reading my info pieces and the stories – either first info and then stories or the other way around – readers will get a much surer and fuller sense of not only the beings involved, but the world that surrounds them. Also of what may be coming.

If not, I can only apologize and say that there is much more to come. Cheers!

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