The Great Betrayal

Had a day off from posting yesterday seeing as it was Mother’s Day here in the UK. Mums are always more important than fictional posts, no matter how much fun they can be.

So last week I wrote about friendly groups, mostly so I could write about totems. So this week I’m going to talk about something negative, but again, that will be an excuse to write about a particular group. Scions.

To oppose last week’s post on being friendly, we can talk about being antagonising. Yet we can talk about being friendly too, which leads to betrayal. Scions are the masters of this. That is their purpose.

Scions are a race none who know them will trust, possibly even tolerate. Devil-beasts hate them with a passion, and aegis are quite severe when dealing with them. They are enemies, vicious deceivers, liars and manipulators. The problem comes when people don’t know who they are dealing with. Scions are charmers. Friendly to a skilled degree. That, again, is their purpose.

When the Shadow World arrived and brought with it monsters, there was chaos and mayhem. This is well known, passed on by oral histories with a little recorded evidence. But it wasn’t as if the monsters had things easy. They were a surprise, for sure, a terror even in most cases. They did things unthinkable, such as turning transparent, leaping over distances and smashing down walls. Not to mention magic. But as the humans adapted, which is what humans do, they started to get a grip on things. The human race was still suffering in many places, people were rioting and turning to new ways of thinking, but a number of governments were strong regimes that brought in stronger measures to keep control. Where authorities were weaker, some were overthrown and others merged forces and resources to strive to survive. The humans were reacting to the invasion and, while many of these events lead to the fall of what they knew as civilisation, not every step along the way was a wrong one.

Two things need a mention here. One is that the aegis, among the most powerful of monsters, stood by the humans and so over time earned their trust and support. The other is that the devil-beasts were hell-bent on ruining the human race, and perhaps even more so, their allies, the aegis.

This was back in the early days. So the devil-beasts were mostly first-generation arrivals, with some having giving birth to a second generation. This meant they knew by now they could reproduce in this new plane of existence, and they wanted to break apart the humans. Many devil-beasts were quite happy with using raw strength and power to attack, commanding armies and casting magic. But a good number wanted to destroy the humans from within, wanted to make them turn on each other, and also the ageis. There are a few reasons for this. Possibly it seemed a smart strategy considering some human forces were regrouping. It is also likely they wanted to hedge their bets, increase their chances of success by using all means of attack. Let others hit the humans directly, we’ll hit them from behind, all sides, even within. It is also very likely that going this course appealed to the wicked, vindictive natures of their kind. Smashing your opponent down was fun, obviously, but deceiving him/her while doing so was even better.

So the plan was made. Devil-beasts would give birth to more of their kind, except this time they would use their magic and refine the new beings while in the womb. Few know what was done back then, and those that know say nothing, because they don’t want this to happen again. It is claimed humans were sacrificed in rituals to help grant new and appropriate forms. That is easily believed. It is probable that long periods of time was spent by devil-beasts, focusing their power and making the changes over months. Whatever was done, it worked.

The scions emerged as human-sized and human-shaped beings. They still had red skin, but they also had golden hair and blue eyes, appealing to certain biases. Human they looked, and handsome too, but they were certainly the children of devil-beasts and were being schooled in the art of deception and sabotage from an early age. Their skills were different too. Not as large and powerful as their parents or siblings, these beings also had less power to call upon. Skill, swiftness, suppleness and subtlety were their natural abilities. These were honed over time. The scions learned to use their power to trick or allure people, much like deemi or pixies could. They also learned to kill by stealth or surprise, akin to the wraiths and harbingers. They were even taught as much as possible about humans. Scions had an education like no other race of monsters have ever had. They were the perfect weapon and were told this over and over.

Likely, this is where things went wrong.

When the adult scions were sent out into the world, they soon entered human groups, and soon after became eminent among them. It didn’t occur to the humans that these creatures were kin of devil-beasts. Yes, they were red, but they were so easy on the ears and eyes, so clever and helpful, so full of praise and sound advice. By now, the humans had allies in aegis, totems and denizens, so why not make a new friend? Especially when they were adept fighters and magic-users as well.

The devil-beasts waited for the moment to strike. While this was a pact made across the race, they were not so united in specific aims. They never are. So while some parents had their new children enter a society in Asia, others gathered in preparation to strike in the USA. In fact, it is claimed by some that there was even rivalry. Who could succeed first? Which scions would prove their parents the best? Which nation would fall to a scion deceit the soonest?

The scions, however, were more ready to work together. They talked to each other as well as to their new friends and their old family. Then the moment came. It was time for the devil-beasts to act. Attacks were made, and failed miserably.

This is remembered as the Great Betrayal among the devil-beasts and why they will kill any scion they can. If devil-beasts weren’t lured into a trap, the location of groups was given out. Attacks were made. Many by humans, but a good number by aegis and others. Of course, when I say humans, at this time the human race was still being served by mutant soldiers and machines, so these did most of the work. Either way, the betrayal worked, and the scions were celebrated as the best friends anyone ever had.

They pushed for more. They whispered in the ears of humans about how dangerous aegis were. What lofty aims they had. What strict laws they wanted to enforce. They tried to push a wedge between the humans and the aegis, and almost succeeded. Certainly, the relationship between the two has never been as good as it once was. Humans like to claim scions made them create super-soldiers and super-computers, that they led them to their destruction. Scions and others laugh at this. Even many humans don’t buy it. There is too much evidence that the human race wanted more power, more slaves, servants and soldiers, and at best scions helped them along in their ambitions.

The scions did many wrong things, yet they were as cruel and arrogant as their parents. Some pushed to be worshipped. Others attempted kingdoms of their own. Also, while the devil-beasts had been hurt by the betrayal, it did not come anywhere near to ending them. Vengeance was sought. The aegis acted too. Scions went from lauded infiltrators to hunted outsiders over a matter of decades. As word was spread, humans turned on them wherever they could. Their own kind didn’t want them back, their new friends were now angry enemies. Scions had to use every trick they knew and count on all their skills and wits to survive.

Fortunately for them, they rank among the most skilled and sly beings of all time. Scions did survive. Not many, but enough, and they have lived on since. Most of their kind were male, seeing as the majority of the societies and regimes they were seeking to enter were patriarchal or at least leaning that way. But enough were female. Females are still rare among them, and yet the scions continue, few in number, but always the cunning, charming, intelligent and focused individuals.

They were made with a purpose and while they betrayed that plan, even the scions cannot escape their nature. They act according to the designs that birthed and raised them. It seems instinct to them to deceive, to make friends and then betray them. They know humans so well, even after the centuries of change. They avoid devil-beasts at all costs, and aegis too. Magi make them think twice as those enigmatic beings can match wits with them. Some fear an alliance between those kinds. But scions are hated and feared around the world, except when people have stopped telling stories about them. Sometimes, they find a group of people – maybe human, maybe not – who don’t know what red skin plus blond hair and blue eyes means. They don’t sense the threat. All they hear is the charm, the confidence, the clever counsel.

Never trust scions. As untrustworthy as a scion. As treacherous as a scion. Like a backstabbing scion. These are all terms that aren’t uncommon to hear. Scions are notorious and rightly so. Not that there aren’t a number of groups or races that have bad reputations – everyone knows hobgoblins will ruin anything and gleaners are vicious bastards. But scions have a special place of hatred for being the most duplicitous and deceitful beings on the planet.

To them, however, that is praise indeed.

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Why so Friendly?

Returning, as I’ve been meaning to do, to the world of Sojourners in Shadow, and not feeling so well, I felt like a brief mention could be made of the nice guys. At least, those from a certain point of view. I have a number of more complicated and in-depth posts to make, but right now I don’t think I could manage one. This will do.

But this isn’t a meaningless post. In a world so brutal, so divided, it remains not just a scarce occurrence to find someone who can be on your side, but also a very perplexing moment. Why are you on my side? Why would you want to help me? What do you want in return? These aren’t just common questions, these are good survival instincts kicking in. After all, many stragglers have been invited in by a friendly community, only to find they are deemi in disguise or a cyborg sect, eager to convert them.

I have discussed before about alliances and races who work closely together, or just feel a strong bond. This isn’t the same thing. I’m talking here about those who are nice to others. No gain sought. No reward wanted. Just those who are there to be helpful.

As you can imagine, it’s a short list.

Basically, it’s totems. That’s it. As far as races go, they are the only ones who naturally seem drawn to being helpful. Yes, they are well known for being allies to humanity, just like aegis and denizens are. But those two are also known for being ruthless with their enemies. With totems, they prefer to avoid conflict. They can fight. Some do. It is rare but these gigantic, powerful creatures can hit harder than most things. But they are a benign, mute race of healers and helpers. Often they are found in the ranks of an army as a medical unit, forced to march for their captors and aid fallen warriors. Other times they join a war willingly, ready to help those who they feel need it. Humans, mostly, often on the verge of annihilation. But other instances have been known. They prefer peace, they want to help. Monsters they are, true, yet whatever dream they have come from, it is a pleasant one. Aegis are like guardians to humans, denizens like comrades, but totems are friends. To more than humans, if others seek it.

Why they are this way is unknown. Totems are typically about eight foot tall and covered by an obsidian-like skin that is impervious to most attacks. That is, apart from their front. Here, they are soft, and if another being is held here, then the totems’ natural healing ability will work its wonders. They can even fold up about someone, enclosing them in warmth and comfort, and this act can heal almost any injury. It has even been known to cure diseases and re-energise people. Of course, totems can also roll up and become invulnerable. So, for all these physical attributes, totems appear naturally crafted to be pacifists. They are very tough to kill, able to heal and cure others, and strong enough to survive many environments. Oh, they also float. It’s weird but they can.

Totems are the world’s best at enduring and aiding, so being friendly to all seems like a natural step. It should be noted, however, that they are often called pacifists, yet they aren’t truly. Yes, they seek to avoid a fight, but they will resist anyone who tries to hurt them, their people or make any of them do something they don’t want to. When others seek to enslave them, the best trick is to capture their young and hold them while the adults go out with your army and heal the fighters. Totems are more amiable, more quick to concede, that is well known. They would rather submit than stand proudly in defiance. But those that know their kind are quite clear that they aren’t weak. The more you demand of them, the more you will have to push, and even they have their limits. Totems are pretty much unique in that you could call them good natured, but those who think them spineless or saints have often paid for such assumptions.

Having talked totems, I should make mention of a few other friendly groups. In their cases, they are more going against their nature or the ways of their group than with. For this reason, many won’t trust them, despite their history.

A few groups are cyborg sects. One is the Order of Organic Triumph. This sect believes in individuality and also of placing the human over the machine. For this reason, they are more flesh and blood than mechanical, which leaves them weaker in combat. They are also much less regimented. Because of these facts, this sect has suffered from attacks by more militant forces, so most of their number are hiding among other races. Usually humans. Now they tend to be a very open-minded and tolerant people, partly due to their philosophy, perhaps mostly due to their need to survive among other groups. They will seek to persuade humans to join, not ‘recruit’ them. As a non-militant force who have often been refugees, the Order of Organic Triumph have more often helped than hindered people.

Another group also has a refugee past. The Order of the Mothers Mechanical began when a few collections of survivors from defeated sects met up. They were mostly young with women – their teachers and carers – in command. They united and pressed on, away from the conflicts that were more common back then. They found others like them, then settled at a defensible site and made it their home. They remain there, strong enough to feel safe, a new sect, and they are also known for being open to refugees. They remember their past well. Many cyborg sects have been smashed over the centuries and small groups or even lone individuals roaming the world aren’t that uncommon. A place like this is a needed sanctuary. Yet it should be made clear, they are mostly keen in welcoming cyborgs, if they will tolerate other kinds too, and they let most stay a time and then move them on. They consider themselves a temporary refuge, unless someone meets their standards.

Another sect is the Order of Jubilant Transformation. As the name suggests, these cyborgs are all about celebrating the new and better form of existence they inhabit. This makes them very friendly and open, and they love to tell non-cyborgs how much better things are for them now. They are so tolerant, in fact, they have no qualms if anyone wishes to leave their sect. The sad truth is many have done so over time. Their way feels good, especially to the newly converted, but they have little power and so are one strong attack away from extinction. Also, some just can’t stomach how jubilant they are all the time.

It should be made clear here that, while these sects are seen in a much better light than most, they are still suspicious to some. There are claims that the Order of Organic Triumph convert in secret and infiltrate human, mutant and cyborg groups. There are rumours that the Mothers Mechanical have their own agenda. There are strong remarks that the Order of Jubilant Transformation are just a bunch of nutters.

Only the totems stand beyond reproach. Monsters who hate them, deem them traitors and human-helpers, see them as genuine in their tolerant and caring nature. Their size can be intimidating, they stand higher than devil-beasts and aegis, but their benevolent character soon overcomes any such fear. Aegis are powerful in aspect and scare those they help. Totems are strong but caring, helpful and loyal. Many will claim that if they weren’t so useful to have around, they would have been wiped out by now. Maybe so, and maybe the same could be said about how non-threatening they are. No one fears totems. But somehow, they never seem to fear anyone either. If more races were like them, there’d be a lot less to fear for all concerned.

REC 3: Genesis – Better Than You Think

I should be writing more Sojourners in Shadow, yet last night I watched Rec 3: Genesis, and I felt impelled to champion this film a bit. So I am.

The first film is one of the few first-person horrors I think works quite well. Ambitious and pushy reporter and her cameraman, stuck in an apartment block where terrible things start to happen. Really great film. The Spanish do really good horror and this is one of the best I’ve seen. The American remake, Quarantine, is okay.

Then came the sequel. I watched it, was okay as well. Did a few different perspectives, built on the story a bit. Had a few good shocks. But honestly, if you had seen Rec, then Rec 2, there’s a good chance you’d never bother with a third film. Which is why I want to say this:

Watch it. No, really, watch it. It’s fun.

Wait, fun? The first two are very serious films. Dark, terrifying, macabre.

So here’s the thing with the third film. It starts off at a wedding. This is the tough part you have to get through. I can see why it goes on, so you get to know people, why they matter – to you as the audience and to each other – but it goes on for sometime. You have a teenager (cousin to the groom I think, I can’t rightly remember) filming things, along with a professional. So it’s first-person and showing you this wedding, where you know things are about to go very bad. Once you see the uncle with a bandaged hand, you really know.

So yeah, wedding stuff, character stuff, and then biting and screaming. Things go nuts. A few run into the kitchen and lock themselves in. The main character, the groom, turns to the camera and asks why the man is still filming. The world must know!, he replies. Groom loses his shit, grabs the camera and smashes it. Then the Rec 3 title comes up. After about 20 minutes. Yeah, 20.

But when the film starts up, it’s third-person, and that’s how it remains (barring a crawl through the dark via nightvision). Basically, this third film highlights the absurdity of someone filming while people are dying and struggling to survive, smashes the camera and goes to third. It throws aside the perspective of the first films. Not only that, but you start to realise the tone is very different. When I first saw this moment (trust me, it works a lot better than I describe) I laughed out loud. I had only watched the film to check it out, with nothing better to do; having seen the sequel and not liked it, I wasn’t too bothered. I let it run through the build up, then that moment happened. I knew something was different from then on.

So Rec 3 quickly reveals itself to be a comedy horror, much more akin to the Evil Dead and Shaun of the Dead than the previous Rec films. A man in the kitchen is uncovered to be someone checking the music played at the wedding for copyright, and is thus dubbed Royalties. Hey, Royalties, come help. But the groom is the focus. He wants to be with his new wife, and when he is panicking, she speaks over an intercom, and this gives him all the drive he needs. Time to escape and find his love!

That is the film. She is newly pregnant, she tells him this over the intercom, and both find new strength to re-unite. There’s a great moment where the bride is in a room and the zombiefied beings are clawing their way in and she is scared as hell, but she clutches her stomach and gets to action, finding a way out.

There’s a lot to love in this film and that is one of them: the main couple get scared, a lot, freaked out even, but they keep on. These aren’t badasses, they are normal people. This is a nightmare. The bride is standing in the rain at one point and her eyes are wide as hell as she is waiting, struggling to cope. But she finds a way.

If you ever wanted to watch a bride charge around with a chainsaw, then watch this film. If you ever wanted to see people be sensible, gear up in armour and go out into the undead, then watch this film. Drunken making out is mistaken for someone being devoured. There are meaningful characters and comedic ones to come and go. There are serious deaths and funny ones. There is tragedy and humour. You get the idea.

You get to meet SpongeJohn. No, not SpongeBob, not at all. Just to be clear. No lawsuits here. SpongeJohn.

I really enjoyed watching this film for a third time last night. I only meant to see a bit, but it really got to me, once again, how fun it is, while keeping the horror. It doesn’t really add much to the lore, just enough to remind you that these are possessed people, not zombies, and that religion/faith plays a part.

I should warn anyone who does watch this film that the ending isn’t funny. I mean maybe in a dark and tragic way. I don’t want to spoil, but this is a horror movie after all.

I admired how, in making a third of this franchise, they just went a different route. Reminds me of Gremlins 2. Let’s just get wacky and turns things up to 11.

I will add that this is the third film that comes to mind when I think of Spanish horror comedies that I’ve greatly enjoyed. I’m not sure if the titles stay the same but the other two films were Attack of the Werewolves along with Witching and Bitching. Both very funny. A SpongeBob gets gunned down early on in the latter, if that’s something you’ve ever wanted to see. Both I found to be very witty in dialogue and amusing in action, and pretty good on the horror too.

Rec is a very intense and scary film. I like it a lot. Seen it a number of times now and will likely watch it again in the future. Rec 3 is no match for it in terms of horror, but it’s very different, and certainly a better watch than Rec 2. For me, at least. So I’d ask anyone who didn’t like that film to not judge the third by it. Give Rec 3 a chance. Just remember, there’s a fair bit of wedding stuff to sit through, then you’re in.

Let’s hear it for the Bride and Groom!

Samurai Jack!

I honestly cannot underplay how excited I am for this.

Samurai Jack is one of my all time favourite shows. As far as animated shows go, it is easily in a top ten, along with Batman: the Animated Series and Ulysses 31. But even among any type of show, it would be a contender for top ten. It has so much I love. At first I liked it a lot because it had an interesting premise and excellent action. But over time the world developed, the style improved even more and some of the episodes were just unique within its own world. You could watch one episode where it was comical, another where it was dark and serious. One could be styled as a western, another as a film noir.

I can’t list my favourite episodes. Watching Jack fight endless and unusual warriors under the command of Demongo was just an action packed thrill. Witnessing him take on the specifically designed robot fighters, who are clearly inspired by Japanese samurai films such as Lone Wolf with the Masters of Death characters, was intense. Then there’s the robot gunfighter who wants his dog back. The triple feature where the Scotsman saves a brain-washed Jack. The amazing scene of time passing as the bounty hunters took him on. The fight with the shinobi. So on and so on.

I think the one episode I’m not a fan of is the one with the weird monkey creatures who use their technology to enslave these bigger beasts, but that’s mostly as I saw that episode a lot and the monkey creatures have such annoying voices.

Samurai Jack went from episodes of Jack taking on eccentric killers and hunters where action was nearly the all, to presenting things from the view of other characters. Jack is a introspective and monosyllabic person so often his story is told by visuals. I love that, and yet it can be difficult having this type of main character all the time, so the changes were welcome breaks. Oh, reminds me of another favourite episode where the mouthy samurai keeps challenging Jack to a fight, only to witness how out of his league the true samurai is.

This show was a massive influence on me, but I think that’s because it was influenced by so many things that I already loved. Action films. Martial arts movies. Samurai films. Scifi and fantasy, and even horror. Spy thrillers. Gangster flicks. Westerns. A thief who is clearly styled on Lupin from the anime movies. Mechs, from the same source of inspiration. As I said, Lone Wolf and Cub has an influence, twice! The Defiant Ones comes into it when we first meet the Scotsman. Psirens and demons and fairies and more, oh my!

For me, it was like so many of the things I love coming together. Jack was a samurai but he had been around the world and learned many skills, and he continued to do so, such as learning to jump good. The show didn’t just improve in the look and art, which are amazing, but the depth of both world and character continued to bring us with it. The world Jack was now in felt so varied and vibrant that it could go on for ever.

Jack was on a journey with a goal and we went with him on that, and yet all the stops along the way never felt like padding or obstacles just for the sake of more plot, but ways to develop Jack as a person and to unfold the world for us. Jack meeting the Spartans and aiding them in their battle showed us this brilliant people and exciting action, and also showed us how Jack was ready to defend others and admired bravery by any.

The show made it clear Jack was a hero. Not infallible, but definitely a hero. Aku was a great villain too, as were many of his minions. Other characters would be fun, either as straight up comedy or just over the top individuals that you would remember long after the show was gone.

I loved this show so much. Strong characters. Great action. But the art and visuals were stunning in the later episodes. Watching a robot seem to sweat as it hunted Jack (he had cut a pipe and steam was cooling on its face) was such a superb touch.

Now the show is coming back. Absolutely cannot wait. Looks darker, looks more violent. Can’t say that doesn’t make me want to see it more. Not even sure if I can watch it in the UK, but I’ll damn well try.

Oh a final note, here’s some of Jack’s best bits: