Magical Mutations

Typically, when it comes to discussing mutants, we mean beings who have been transformed and/or disfigured by science, either by design or accident. So there are those who were created in labs – sometimes for the better, others ruined by failed experiments – and those brought about by accidents or attacks featuring radiation, biological warfare or various pollutants. Of course, many of those accidents were suspected of being deliberate when they occurred. For instance, Eastern Europe became flooded with radiation briefly, and some suspected this was an attack by an outside force, but others claimed those in charge were analysing the effects before carrying out their own experimentation. After all, the radiation ‘cleared’ up quickly. Back then, the technology to counter those kinds of accidents was available for some, as was magic and magi wishes. This means that, while the mutant race continues today, the events that created many have little or no presence.

Speaking of magic, just as it seeped into the world and made it something new, so it had its effect on the inhabitants. Many types of beings have been altered due to the presence of magic, and also by nature itself, now that has been introduced to the Shadow World. There are instances of magic and science interacting too, such as in the Caribbean when a nuclear strike landed. That area has never been the same since and we’ll talk more of it later. Mostly, though, magic did its own thing and usually that took time. People have been changed by it. For the majority they are never classified as mutants, but in truth, they aren’t much different.

A strong example of this is Africa. The people there have spent a long time living in a continent now overgrown by jungle. The idea of this place being a land of desert is ridiculous to them. Magic was used, Africa was reborn and the Dark Land became a haven for humans. They lived amidst the shadowy jungles, beneath the entwined branches and vines, and they changed to have larger irises and be able to see better in the dark. They hunt the monsters there, because, for all that the creatures of the Shadow World came from such a named place, they don’t see in the dark any better than most things. Now, the people of Africa are seen as human and count themselves as such, yet there is no doubt they aren’t the same as everyone else. But then again, many aren’t.

Another region is the Philippines. Here, long ago, a powerful magical bombardment came from Japan, a land strong in magic. This was before the Japanese people left their homeland and were fighting for it against many powerful enemies. It has never been thought of as a deliberate attack, more likely a deflection of some kind. Some even praise it as a gift. That’s because people born and living there who aren’t magic-users will often have some kind of special ability. It varies from something small, such as a click of the fingers creating magical sparks, to being attuned to the weather. Again, none of these individuals are counted as mutants and there is no fear of them among their people. It is part of who they are. Often, those abilities come in handy defending their home.

Returning to the Caribbean, the nuclear attack of over two centuries ago left that group of islands broken and changed. In fact, most of Central America is gone. Again, there are claims and counter claims of responsibility here. Most say humans fired to stop a mutant horde from coming north, although far more mutants were made in the northern hemisphere than otherwise. Some wonder if the attack was directed at the magically charged islands. Many humans say the computers fired. Either way, a devastating assault was launched. It hit Mexico but also the Caribbean, and the result of nuclear power meeting magic set off a wild and bizarre reaction that, legends say, completely overwhelmed the rest of the nuclear explosions. Now, between the northern and southern continents of the Americas, is a wide spread of tiny islands – some not much more than large rocks in the ocean. Despite everything, people live there, and have done since then. Yes, many were killed, but it seems some survived the devastation and others moved there over time, either by choice or forced to as they fled other threats. The people there aren’t quite the same as everyone else. For one, they have to be very tough to live there, so even the more ordinary islander is a toughened, determined survivor. But many have something special about them too. Not as flamboyant or obvious as the Lilliputians. Well, not always, because the magic-user Razmatazz is about as flamboyant as they come. No, usually it is more inward. A higher level of perception perhaps. A stronger will. Some good examples would be Persephone, who gets a strong sense of what people are about to do, especially in a fight; Tryst, who has incredible luck, sometimes to the detriment of those around her; FUG, who is a very ugly (the U in the name stands for Ugly) yet physically strong and resilient fighter.

A mention has to go to Great Britain, the last magical hotspot to be fully lived on. Here more weird things happen and people can be born with some strangeness that is less surprising than it would be to us. Bruin is a man who cannot be cut or stabbed, and even he doesn’t truly know why. Dalliance is a bright champion and I mean that literally. Also, this doesn’t just pertain to humans. The Beast is a giant brute and the Serpent is a, well, giant writher. Also there is Gobbler, who was once a big fat man who succumbed to a brain-maggot, which then slithered into his mouth to rest in safety. He woke later, only he and the creature had merged, and now he wanders around, seemingly simple-minded, yet with a tongue that can lash out and latch on so he can feed. He has even swallowed people up whole, hence the name.

In many respects, these are all mutants, but never are they named such. The divide between human and mutant is much more blurred than the rest, with the exception of cyborgs, and for the most part it depends on how a group or person identifies. There is a group in Africa where the men are born as super-soldiers and the women are more human like, if more athletic than usual, and so while they could all be considered mutants, they have often seen themselves as humans. There is also a group of super-soldiers in the Baltic region who don’t know what they truly are, so see themselves as just big, strong humans, born to prevail in the harsh climate. After all, Monolith roams there and he is human, also called such, despite being bigger than any of them.

When it comes to magical mutations, those involved are seen as monsters or freaks more than mutants. Another example here would be witches. These are magic-users with some level of psychic power, so they stand out even among those empowered by magic. There have also been those who use magic to transform people. Once a being called Valentius enjoyed reshaping others, sometimes to punish, often to try and create a better army. None of his successes lived past his downfall. Enacting this desire isn’t just an issue of power but skill and imagination, so while others continue to try this now and then, few get anywhere.

The truth is there just aren’t enough magically mutated people around to bring about a sense of identification or a concept of uniting with the ‘normal’ mutants. The only case where this is close to being so is in Asia. Before the Shadow World came, China and India were strong rivals, both well equipped technologically. Many mutants were mass produced by the Chinese, but the latter refused to create new life due to religious beliefs. At least not while the centralised government was in charge. But in both nations magic was found among the poorer people, so while machines were built and battles were fought, authority collapsed and the Raging began, many communities sought to keep themselves safe via what power they had. They created havens – a term used for when people embed spells around their settlement or if they dwell on a place strong in magic which they can utilise. Then, when things got even worse, when biological and chemical weapons were brought into play, these havens helped many survive. The key word here is survive. Magic did what it could to keep those it was meant to alive, yet it could not prevent the physical effects completely. People were changed and I’ll go into that more another time, but these and the other mutants now interact, feeling more akin than with the fearful humans around them.

One last group to mention are the Dragon Singers – to some a fable, to others a part of history. Dragons did much while they were around, they destroyed cities and nested in the ashes, but they could also bless and protect people. It is said all dragons loved to hear singing, and those who could sing so well as to send one to sleep were especially honoured. They would be quite liked by everyone else too! Many of these were blessed by dragons, and some of the descendants of them still bear the legacy. Dragon Singers are supposedly immune to fire and even a lot of magic, they can sing spells and dance like no one else. Some herald them as majestic beings to be adored, others propose that they have scaled skin and slitted pupils, and are the spies for the dragons for when they return.

Magical mutation is a very real thing, and while few will ever be seen as mutants, it is just another reminder that few things are ever so neat and tidy so as to bracket everyone in restricted groups. People will view with suspicion what is different, will praise what helps them, fear what threatens. Communities form and band together, using names to make them united and strong, but many will stand out and look to make their own name. Magic has taken its toll and given a great deal of blessing to the world, the very nature of reality has become less predictable, less controllable, and more open to the strange and unusual. Science has broken barriers and opened new doors as well, and so together, mutation, evolution and development of all kinds is there to be sought out.

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The Forced Evolution of Gleaners

In a previous post (https://uppitymonkey.wordpress.com/2016/04/11/unpleasant-and-unpopular-monsters/) , I gave a brief history of the gleaners. I actually said more than I planned, but I wasn’t sure if this was going to be the only mention of their origin. Here, I will tell more and flesh out not just their beginning, but make it clear just how bizarre and unique the gleaners are.

So when it comes to monsters, there are a few types that don’t get a lot of attention but are just as dangerous. Brain-maggots, for instance, are small, leech-like and will latch onto the back of the head or neck, where they can drain the intelligence from a person. At least, that’s how most people term it. In scientific terms, they drain the fluid surrounding the brain – the cerebrospinal fluid, which is also found in the spine, hence latching onto the neck as well – and if not removed, they’ll suck up every drop of fluid or juice available. Not only that, but they release a toxin to paralyse. Basically, if the brain-maggot isn’t removed, the victim ends up dead. If it is, they are usually left unconscious with possible long term affects.

Originally, as I have mentioned before, gleaners were small scuttlers, on the same level of brain-maggots. They even worked the same. Gleaners could sting with their tails, bring much larger beings down, then drain them. It is claimed they had sharp mandibles to lock into flesh, even bone, as they stung until victorious. As for their danger rating, they were a step up from brain-maggots and other small monsters. The venom was very potent, deadly often, and they would drain every type of fluid in the body. Stories tell of downed individuals being swarmed over by small gleaners and left withered husks. That’s an important detail. Gleaners drain, they don’t eat. The very tails that inject venom can also extract fluids, although never at the same time.

Many suspect gleaners were a level up in every way. Because of what happened, a higher intelligence would make sense. A higher and much more vicious intelligence.

This brings us to Madagascar. There are four magical hotspots around the world, including this place. Each overflowed with magic, which meant the inhabitants produced far more magic-users, also more powerful ones, and drew those who craved magical strength, such as aegis and devil-beasts, and dragons. There were immense, fantastical battles across Madagascar early on, just as there were at the other hotspots. As far as anyone knows, there was nothing there to draw the gleaners. It was an island and had people living there, mostly humans. Other such places existed.

The gleaners came in vast swarms. They must have come close together or the inhabitants would have either fought them off or left in time. Perhaps they didn’t have that chance. But the legend is that the gleaners were quickly all over the island. Everything else died. No matter the individual or collective strength, none could endure the numerous injections of gleaner venom. Then the gleaners fed. Then they made nests and laid eggs. Again, as said in the previous post, a new type of gleaner was born – far larger, more monstrous, much more deadly.

So the question remains, did the gleaners plan this? Was this an intentional act? Did they co-ordinate their efforts? Were nests all over the world summoned? If so, who by? Could it happen again? Could another race bring about such a drastic and empowering change?

Even now, gleaners are more savage than intelligent. They may well have had some animalistic cunning before, and certainly do today, but while gleaners are capable of coherent thoughts now, they aren’t known for complicated or far-reaching machinations. They can plan, some of them may well be quite smart, yet gleaners follow their instincts. They hunt, they catch, they feed, they breed. If they attack a secure position they will rush in with their numbers and strength first and only work on alternate ways in after being beaten back. If they are.

So could something like gleaners have known that emigrating en masse to Madagascar would result in a new and improved form? Highly doubtful. Not impossible, yet none believe the gleaners could have foreseen anything like this. But maybe there was something at a lower level. Something primal, some instinct, something in the nature of the world that called the gleaners. Or, of course, maybe it was just one of those many bizarre incidents that has come about since the Shadow World’s arrival. After all, no one knows for sure if all the gleaners showed up, and there were some already on the island. The new ones replaced the old, but who can tell how long that took. Perhaps only some were changed and they eradicated the rest around the world. Gleaners certainly are capable of such ruthless behaviour. So maybe the stories make it sound more planned than it was.

It has to be mentioned that it wasn’t just the gleaners that came out of the carnage changed. The island itself soon became a twisted and dangerous place, with poisonous plants and barren landscapes. It could be argued that this was because of the abominable gleaners, a fitting home to match their decaying and deadly ways. It could also be argued that the island reacted to them and wanted them gone, so made itself as inhospitable as it could be. True, it remains the home of the gleaners, with vast networks of tunnels joining the many nests, but most now live around the world. That could just be due to the ways of their kind – they fight, kill and compete for food and power, so nests continually have to expand or split apart to create new ones – but even gleaners must find the new form of Madagascar a difficult place to live. It should also be noted that the small islands near it remain flooded with magic, as does it, yet are not changed, so if you want to tap into that power, it can be done, if you can evade the neighbours.

While there are many questions surrounding the creation of the new gleaners, it isn’t utterly shocking something like this happened or could happen. After all, mutants abound. They were created by science, of course, and with deliberate intent, yet magic has affected people as well. Changes have been made to individuals and groups. It is hard to discern what level of radiation and pollution turned humans into mutants, and what part magic played in it, and those who distrust the power from the Shadow World will add it into the blame. But mutants exist, therefore mutation among monsters isn’t unthinkable. Also, there are the scions. Devil-beasts created a generation that they used their magic to transform while in the womb to create a new type of their own, planned to infiltrate and enamour humans in order to bring them down. Now, again, like most mutants, this was done deliberately and with a lot of effort. But the similarities are there.

Really, the origin of the gleaners – as they are today – is still a unique moment in history. There are things like it, but nothing matches it completely. People can change and be changed, so the question remains as to whether this was done deliberately by the gleaners. Even so, miss migration, wholesale slaughter, eggs being laid amongst and within corpses, new and much more terrifying forms emerging, all on a land steeped in magic – either this was one hell of a convergence of rare moments or something, somewhere, brought about one of the worst races in existence.

Because of the presence of so many gleaners and the current state of Madagascar, few go there. So what is happening there is mainly conjecture with some thoughtful guesswork and a sprinkling of knowledge. There are rumours of a High Queen that rules over all. Fears abound that the gleaners are trying to create a new form or that they are massing for a world-wide conquest. Close by, the people of the south of Africa watch for raids but secretly wonder why another invasion hasn’t taken place. The aquatics stand guard, or perhaps that should be swim it. When gleaners leave to make new nests, they follow them to ensure they leave the sea as well. There are those who want to raid Madagascar in search of power, secrets and just knowledge of the gleaners. Until someone does so successfully, the many questions and fears the rest of the world has about this race and this place will remain.

Partnerships

My last post dealt with rivalries. As mentioned, these are pretty easy to come by. The way the world works now means most people – humans, monsters, mutants, machines – are trying to kill each other. You usually need a reason not to attack first. However, there are some partnerships. As strange as it may seem, certain groups have learned that they are better off helping each other out. In certain cases, they have come to depend on one another. Clearly, these cases are rare, but here are some of the main ones:

A major partnership is that of super-soldiers with other mutants, especially the lesser mutants derisively referred to as mutts. This combination has become so well known many won’t question it, they are all mutants anyway, and yet it is a partnership of necessity as much as anything else. Super-soldiers are powerfully built individuals and most would think they don’t need others on their side. In fact, most super-soldiers would boast that they never have and never will need help, that they of all types are the strongest and most capable of conquering all. They will even declare that they, and they alone, are carrying the mutant side of the war against humanity. But they need the other mutants. While super-soldiers aren’t few in number, they are vastly outnumbered by humans, and the lesser mutants are not only much more, but they aren’t restricted by reproduction limitations. Many mutts have survived by breeding a lot and toughing things out. Of course, the super-soldiers stay in charge and often use their inferior comrades as cannon fodder.

I have to stress, this happens mainly in the more militarised groupings, such as the mutant army based in Constantinople and laying siege to Eden, and the mutant nation around Trade Island, where the military is the real power. Mutts endure the rule of their superiors because they grant them protection. It isn’t a pretty partnership, yet it is one, all the same. However in other places the relationship is more pleasant, where mutual support is the aim. Such a place is Normandy, where many mutants have gathered to make and develop their home, and where there isn’t any segregation between the types of mutants. While in other places, super-soldiers breeding with inferiors is disdained, here interbreeding is the norm. For this reason, there are much fewer weaker and badly disfigured people, and a hell of a lot less resentment.

It makes sense for mutants to work together, and humans do too, but not always. Many pockets of humanity will fight as savagely as necessary for resources, even against each other. Yet they have other allies as well. Ones that have been on their side since the beginning. Funnily enough, humans who encounter them are more likely to trust them and offer or accept help than their own kind. Aegis, totems and denizens are three types of monsters who have chosen to aid humanity rather than assault it, as most of their brethren did. Aegis became their guardians. Denizens are their allies. Totems are as well, healers and helpers, pacifists for all their physical strength. It has to be said, though, that when aegis are involved, it tends to be a very one sided partnership. While they defend humans, they are not their equals. They tend to be strong minded, often overbearing, so humans spend most of their time listening and nodding. Much preferred to being stomped on by devil-beasts, however.

A special mention has to go to sphinx here. While it is stretching it to refer to this as a partnership, sphinx have forged a strong reputation for being powerful individuals who can be worked with. True, they have been known to manipulate and betray, but all the best players of the world game do that. There is something to be respected there. But sphinx can be relied on, they would rather co-operate than create trouble. They rely on their wisdom and cunning, first and foremost. Physical and magical strength comes in when needed.

A number of monsters are considered more neutral than most, so have been known to work with others more often. Again, this isn’t really a partnership, but creatures such as sphinx, and also wraiths and magi, ally themselves more readily with those equally dependable. In this regard, magi are known for a partnership with pixies. Both sets of beings depend on secrecy, deception and skill to keep themselves from harm. Both races have been hunted, oppressed and mistreated. Both magi and pixies understand magic well, despite the former being unable to use it. Together, they often help each other, sharing the risks to lessen the overall threat. Also, pixies are excellent spies and messengers, and espionage and information gathering are specialities of magi. They are a natural partnership, but also one needed in this brutal world.

There is another type of partnership among monsters, but this is more variable. It tends to feature the scavenger types – vermin, hobgoblins and ghouls. They can team up with another race and follow it along, picking up whatever pieces they like. Usually this goes with a stronger group, such as brutes, vandals, etc. Not always is this a mutual act either. Many monsters won’t want these creatures near them. They can have their benefits though. Vermin are inventors, if crude. Hobgoblins are among the best thieves around. Ghouls tidy up bloody messes. Every ecosystem needs its bottom feeders.

Returning to the human race, we can talk of some specific partnerships. In the last post, talking about rivalries, I said that in Australasia we have the four groups of Britannia, New Japan, America and Australia, and there is a level of competition going on, especially among the Japanese themselves. At the same time, there is a partnership going on, one that has enabled them all to benefit and flourish. The four nationalities work together, with difficulties, and there has never been a major conflict between any of them. Australians remain in charge of their home and the ‘guests’ understand that, while living in their own ways. Another human partnership to be mentioned is that of the Octagon State. Eight bases in the Texas region have managed to gain enough control of their territory to join forces, helped by the fact their culture and rules are all pretty similar. They live by the Bible, look to the glory of Ancient Rome for inspiration, and hate mutants, who they have warred with for generations. Only together will they prevail.

When it comes to partnerships, essentially all you need is an understanding which works because it benefits everyone involved. Because of this, I can talk about pirates, mercenaries and criminals. Basically, they have their own rules and ways to make sure they aren’t killing each other off. In Trade Island, mercenaries take work and kill whoever they are told to, but otherwise don’t hinder each other. In fact, many of them loiter in the Rough House, where they can talk about work with one another. This isn’t too different from how mercenaries around the world behave. In Europe, groups of them will be hired by market towns one day to fight each other one day, then unite to force more pay from their employers the next. As for pirates, across the Mediterranean there are several small islands which are considered pirate havens. Here, ships will dock and crews will enjoy themselves by whatever means are available, and no robbing or killing is to be done. Well, that’s not strictly true, it will happen, they are pirates after all. But by and large, no one is meant to. Pirate havens cannot operate unless the frequent guests behave themselves. Merchants and innkeepers will only reside there if they can make money. In truth, there is less chance of being accosted in the dark while on a pirate haven than in most of the market towns or numerous villages along the Mediterranean coast. Criminals reside on the outskirts of society. In order to survive, they have to co-operate and sometimes even aid each other. No one else will.

As much as the world has created an environment that makes rivalry as commonplace as breathing, this has meant that partnerships are vitally important. The problem comes in that most people can’t trust another group for long, wondering what will break the trust, who will act first, who will get to act last. Partnerships will come and go, they always have done, but these ones have lingered the most or stand strongest at the current time. They are rare gems. Still, they are also very dangerous in the wrong hands.

Rivalries

The world is a maelstrom of factions, organisations and powers, vying for dominance. Everyone wants similar things – to survive, to prosper, to be safe – while many want more – to prevail, to control, to conquer, to eliminate. For this reason, most types of beings are competing against each other, whether for resources, ideas, territory, people or more. Yet, there are many who have a specific rivalry that goes far beyond necessity. There are those on the world who have their arch-rival, their nemesis, or just someone or something they really hate.

So let’s go through the major rivalries:

A great place to start is with the cyborg sects. While they are all competing with each other to recruit people and grow in strength, each hoping to become the unrivalled power among their kind, some have personal enmity to fuel their fight. For instance, the Order of the Hybrid Complex and the Order of Mechanised Tyranny are arguably the two leading sects, with the Order of Symbiotic Harmony a close third, and they have been warring since the beginning. Prime, the leader of the Hybrid Complex, and the Grand Master, likewise leader of the Mechanised Tyranny, both lived before the Shadow World came, so their sects are not just the top two, but the oldest. Both leaders know of each other as well, and their views do not mesh. Jamshid, the leader of the Order of Exclusive Excellence, was also alive back then. His sect is small and elitist, so not a powerful rival, yet all three individuals have crossed swords and battled ideologically over the centuries. Basically, the three men want each other gone.

When it comes to the Order of Symbiotic Harmony, they are led by the Author, as he calls himself. Here is a strong rivalry with the Hybrid Complex and Prime, because the Author was a member of that sect. He betrayed his leader and made his own group, so ending them would be more than satisfying for Prime and his followers.

Returning to the Order of Mechanised Tyranny, they are a very aggressive and belligerent sect, so they have made many enemies. They have ended many sects, so any survivors want revenge, and they are claimed to have ended the fabled First Sect, also known as the Lost Sect. Some suggest not all of that sect was destroyed and they are hiding, hence the second name, and if so, they have their sights set firmly on the Grand Master and his soldiers. Also, the Order of Organic Triumph has suffered much from them, being a more peaceful sect where cyborgs have less machinery attached and so look more human. This is the polar opposite of the Mechanised Tyranny’s way of living. Another foe the Grand Master has made is Nebulous. This entity runs the Mekazone and had his arse firmly handed to him long ago by the Mechanised Tyranny when he first tried to break out from his own territory. This is why he has stayed put and built his strength up, apart from some raids via portals, and he is planning his revenge, if he ever has the guts to try it.

Oh, and another foe for the Grand Master is Eden. At least, in this case the enmity is all on his side, as Eden has no idea he or his sect exists. But he knows of Eden, the hi-tech sanctuary of humans, and so sends the occasional force on crusade to destroy it. So far, all have been lost, but that doesn’t matter to him. He knows the threat Eden poses. As do the mutants. A mutant army has formed and consolidated its command of land, stretching from Eastern Europe to beyond where Eden sits, and its main purpose is to destroy the stronghold. They have surrounded it and attack often, to great cost, and still Eden stands, resolute and brilliant. If the humans from there came out to lead the humans around the world, mutants – and all others – could soon find themselves a hunted race. So they continue to attack, hating it intensely. Many who fight against it hate it for the toll it takes on them as much as what it threatens to do.

Mutants hate humans, this is well known. Because of their origins, they want revenge, even though that was all centuries ago. Humans hate mutants, this is equally well known. The bitter rivalry is at the forefront of all hatreds and blood-feuds. Of course, this isn’t as clear cut as many think. In some places humans and mutants have more pressing issues than past injustice. But as a general rule, these two races have shed a lot of each other’s blood, and both sides know it.

Another of the most famous feuds is devil-beasts and aegis. These two races of monsters warred over humanity, but their very natures seem to indicate peace was never an option between them. They fight and kill each other on sight. There is never a question of will they be a threat to each other. The default setting of both sides is that of enemy. Perhaps some can be shown to be otherwise, strange things do happen in this world. Yet if all others in the world made peace, aegis and devil-beasts will most likely still be clawing at each other until one side is no more.

Then again, there is another race of monsters devil-beasts hate, and it could be argued over which they hate more. The rivalry with the aegis is old and natural, but their hatred of scions is far more personal. That is because scions betrayed them. Scions were originally devil-beasts, so to speak. Born from devil-beasts, they were subjected to intensive magic by their own kind while in the womb, until they were birthed in a different form. Scions have red skin and golden hair and eyes, representing their heritage in a way, yet they have human forms and look pleasing to the eye. Scions were created by devil-beasts for one purpose: to infiltrate the human race, dazzle, charm and bewitch as necessary, and then ruin them. It was a cruel plan, aimed to break humanity as well as hurt it, and some would laugh mirthlessly at how this act turned on them. The scions were taught to deceive and harm, and they kept to their nature. Many did as instructed, but many more did not, and as a race the scions were soon hated and hunted by their parent kind, having caused as much damage to them as anyone else. The details of that are for another post, but scions remain their own kind, plotting and manipulating, and the devil-beasts want them all slaughtered.

A quick mention here is deserved for the denizens. These monsters don’t exactly have a rivalry, but they are a main target for other monster races. Aegis and totems took to humanity’s side in the early struggles, but this was understandable as they acted according to their nature – guardians and protectors. Denizens made a choice. They were even feared and disliked by humans early on. They chose to help humans, seeing it as more logical, so other monsters see them as the greater traitors.

A rivalry most won’t know or care for is that between aquatics and sharks. Aquatics are the mutants who live in the sea and have it to themselves for the most part. Meanwhile, sharks are more intelligent having been worked on in the past by humans. No one is sure why or when this was done, but it means sharks aren’t just the usual eating machines. They can discern. Typically, they are fine with humans and others now, knowing what to eat and what not, but aquatics are a threat. Sharks are intelligent enough to see what a dominant species will do to its environment. They are to aquatics what wolves have often been portrayed as – hunting animals to be feared.

A genuine concern for the aquatics are gleaners. These abominable monsters don’t breathe, so they are known to live underwater as well as in dank caverns. If any race could move into the sea and take it from the aquatics, it is the race of gleaners. Intrusions by land dwellers are met with vigorous defence, sometimes attacks, by the aquatics, but when gleaners are the invaders, the response is as hostile in intent as it is vicious in action. Oh, and the Order of Mechanised Tyranny earns another mention here. Of all the land based groups, they have the strongest presence at sea, with numerous island bases and several fleets of ships. I wouldn’t really classify the aquatics and them as rivals, but it is certainly a likely outcome in the future.

Finally, a rivalry that has been going on for some time but is something of a secret is that of the one among assassin organisations. There are a few groups that operate around the world and their services are costly. This means they are well connected, often working for some of the most powerful and influential people around, which brings a level of security few know, and a life of privilege to be jealously guarded. Not only do these groups kill for pay, they spend a lot of time performing other services, such as spying, carrying messages, gathering information, etc. In this world, with so much chaos and mystery going on, knowledge is indeed power, and they know it.

The Sect of Shadow and Steel is the strongest group of assassins, who are famous, or perhaps infamous, for their abilities. Most people know them as figures of legend, not by their actual name, and some even worship the killers. The Sect has mastered the dark arts, travelling the world swiftly via shadows, slaying with ease, spying and learning while none even knows they are present. They sit at the top, and so do what they can to ensure other rivals fail. It has been known for Sect members to show up and strike down assassins. They can hunt down spies and eliminate messengers. All so they are the ones turned to in order for the task to be achieved.

There are various other groups competing with them and I’ll leave that for another post. But one of the stronger groups is Myriad. This organisation seeks out skilled fighters and equips them with magical weaponry and gear, and increases these gifts as they prove themselves. They are a loose collection of individuals rather than a united group, like the Sect, but those who run Myriad – whoever they are – have a vested interest in ending the Sect’s dominance, if not outright ending the Sect altogether. Nothing has worked so far, obviously, but if a member of Myriad sees a member of the Sect – easily recognised by their all black clothing and all white eyes – then weapons are drawn. There is no better way of proving yourself to Myriad than to kill a Sect assassin. Although, there are few ways better to get yourself killed, too.

Obviously rivalry is everywhere and this post could go on for a very long time. There are the business families in Trade Island who compete for financial power, as well as the gangs there. In Australasia, the debate amongst the Japanese as to whether magic or science is the way to live, is a passionate but secret rivalry. Also, the peninsulars of Europe – Iberian, Italian and Aegean – host market towns that even go so far as to hire mercenaries against each other, while pirates and pirate hunters fight across the Mediterranean. Rivalry is easy to start and very difficult to end. Anywhere two beings are struggling to survive, there is competition. But the ones I’ve covered are some of the biggest and also baddest going. Famous, old, ferocious, bloody, potentially never ending. The Grand Master wants the heads of his old foes and many more want his. Aegis and devil-beasts still rend the skies as they fight. Humans and mutants fear each other gaining the power to take over. It is all ongoing and feels like it is getting worse over time. Where it will end, if it will, is what we will find out over the course of my stories.