How to Dress a Monster

When it comes to clothing, the usual rules apply. People wear what they need to or what their culture approves of. In the Baltic region, fur is vital. In warmer climes, even with the sun lessened in this era of magic, loose clothing suits best. For the most part, humans, and mutants too, will trust in a few proven items, such as boots, leggings, jackets, etc. A good pair of boots is almost as valued as a decent weapon. In the underground bases, many can get by in jumpsuits and soft footwear, not questioning why all wear the same outfit, after so long within their home. In so many cases, people wear what they can make, what they need, and when allowed to indulge themselves, what fashion or luxury permits.

Machines, for obvious reasons, do not bother with clothes. Cyborgs do, yes, but that’s when mostly or at least half human. They wear various items, often to seem or feel somewhat human still, but also for decency and comfort. They wear armour when going into battle.

So humans and mutants wear clothes, machines don’t. That leaves monsters.

When the monsters came to our world, they ran about naked. Why wouldn’t they? They were newly formed, freed from the Shadow World, forged by our unconscious fears or possibly a reflection of our myths and fables. No one truly knows. But they were creatures, supernatural beings, not civilised or even influenced by it. The wind, the sun, the rain – these were all new to them. So monsters appeared and reacted, and then started to accept this world and settle in.

For that reason, monsters vary when it comes to clothing. Those who live more wild and free lives tend to forgo it. Those who have spent more time with humans or learned from their ways, they tend to dress to impress, as well as for necessary reasons. Many go for somewhere inbetween. Harbingers want things that won’t weigh them down. Magi can look human and often take that form to fit in, so wear whatever the locals do, and their clothes are bound to them so change when they do. Helps to be so magical, I suppose. Many monsters couldn’t fit most types of clothing and so don’t bother even making their own, yet they might try on something. Perhaps a trinket to look special or some armour to be stronger. It is claimed a gleaner king once wore a crown and a large coverall of chain-mail, making him as formidable a fighter as there ever was among his kind. The crown, however, might well have looked comical, not that any would have dared to laugh.

A few examples should be made to highlight the variety.

Deemi don’t wear clothes, they’re infamous for it, but then their sexual appeal is a large part of their predatory nature. But also the forms people see are not their true forms, and thus to them, they are always clothed. Then again, some in the Demon King’s court like to wear jewellery, to look even more special.

Vandals are tough as hell, with leathery skin, so the need for clothes isn’t much. Brutes are hairy, mainly down their back and across their shoulders, so they take the cold better. Certainly better than most monsters. Even so, vandals like to wear clothing sometimes, and even extra protection. Nothing like feeling invulnerable to really make you want to start a fight. Also, brutes preference for colder areas means they do often need to wear something across their bodies. The hair doesn’t cover enough to survive harsh winds and snowstorms, although it will help.

A side note is that it has often been thought that a major reason why monsters started wearing clothes was simply part of their hunting process. Monsters, especially harbingers, would take from those they killed, focusing on weapons at first to learn how to use them, but then things like clothes would go too. It would be seen as displaying your kills, in a way. Also mimicking the human race. Basically, monsters, for all their otherworldy nature, could not resist picking up human habits.

Wraiths need a mention. They always appear as hooded and cloaked beings, and also wear generic-looking human garments underneath, such as a top and leggings, then soft shoes, possibly slippers. None of this is real clothing, however. Wraiths can control their forms, going invisible, transparent and solid. Their clothing is merely a manifestation of their innate power, so that their features – if they have any – are hidden. Wraiths are male and female, but otherwise tend to be very vague about physique. This is intentional. They are beings of shadow and stealth, so they form an appearance to keep to that way of life. The young are taught to imitate the old and so all wraiths look alike. At least to the common eye.

My final mention goes to the grand three monsters races – devil-beasts, aegis and sphinx. Now the last one, as beings who have lion bodies with human faces, don’t often wear much clothing. As mentioned, getting something to fit isn’t easy. Also, with fur, mane and wings, they are fairly well covered. Still, most do like to look their best, and they have a strong reputation for being a race with close ties to others, choosing to talk and learn more than attack and rule. So seeing a sphinx in a robe or cloak isn’t uncommon either.

As for the devil-beasts and aegis, they share a common preference. They don’t tend to wear much, but they have both taken to wearing kilts. They might wear more, usually to show off or intimidate, and many wear items that have power, to use in battle. But the kilts can have a special function. Devil-beast kilts tend to be made of the skin of others. They tend to favour the leathery hide of vandals, possibly with brute hair, or maybe writher skin. The most terrible individuals will wear kilts of leather, torn from the wings of defeated devil-beasts. The aegis do the same, but they have another source. Aegis have scales on their bodies, which shed naturally when healing, like scabs. These can be brought together and made into a kilt. The scales of an aegis are hardened skin and are excellent protection, and those lost to healing are even harder. Wearing such a kilt is a high honour among the aegis, not least as usually it is made from fallen comrades, even family, who handed over their scales in tribute. Devil-beasts would wear these too, except they hate the aegis too much to let their kind touch them. The same goes for aegis and the idea of making tough kilts from their enemies’ leathery wings.

So that’s a quick note about monsters and what they like to wear. They won’t be starting any fashions or trends, although there are a number who follow such things. While most monsters are fierce still, some are practically dandies by comparison. Clothing is there to enhance your image, as well as keep you comfortable, possibly help protect you, and to hide your shame. Some don’t care for any of that; to them, baring all shows strength and courage. Maybe so. Whether it is dressing to impress or putting it all out there, monsters, just like all people, tend to follow the old adage:

When you got it, flaunt it!

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.

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.

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:

New Japan and the Secret Divide

Last week I laid out the origins of Australasia. As always, it was a more general outline, not going into too much detail – partly for length, partly as there is plenty I wish to unfold through the course of story telling. I’m hoping these blog posts help to explain things without each story being too slowed down or cramped up with exposition, yet I still want the stories themselves to do the main telling. When I get back to putting them out there again. Sigh.

With that said, here’s another post where I explain things. Namely, having given Australasia’s overview, now I’ll get into the Japanese people, their diaspora and the colony of New Japan.

So a good place to start would be an explanation of the magical hotspots. When the Shadow World came to ours and magic became part of reality, four places were soon known as hotspots because they were seeping magic like nowhere else. The people there, the land, the weather, all were affected. Magic was and remains a lot easier in these places and it comes in much greater supply. Again, no one knows why these are this way, why these four places, why nowhere else. Some speculate that they were the cornerstones of turning the Shadow World into ours; that Dylan Winter’s act was based in these places. Again, no one knows. But the places were Japan, Great Britain, Madagascar and the Caribbean Islands. All islands, all with magical histories if you believe their folklore, and all were soon utterly transformed. Magic attracts powerful monsters, it creates humans with tremendous abilities, and that led to unthinkable warfare. With outside factors coming into play as well, these four places all became difficult regions to live in. In the present day, only Great Britain remains a hospitable place.

To focus on Japan, the thriving magic produced brilliant spellcasters and spectacular events, and in response science was given free reign. It is said that here machines were made that matched the best from anywhere else. Nothing is said of mutants, only that impressive computers and droids were crafted into being to resist the onslaught by magical monsters. It is rumoured that the doom-rollers were made in Japan. The cyber-samurai must have come from there. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. Whatever fight occurred in Japan centuries ago, it was too much for the people. They left. The Japanese don’t say what exactly drove them out. Maybe it was more than one thing; maybe, as some claim, they did something that caused their exile and don’t wish for it to be known. Either way, the Japanese fought hard for their home and then chose to leave.

Mostly they went to the mainland of Asia, settling in new communities as the people there were afflicted by cyborgs, super-soldiers and monsters, among other things. A large number kept on moving southward to the islands. Of them, a good number had a chance to go to Australasia. They knew of the British and American contingents that had been allowed onto this island, and while they were living in better conditions than when in Japan, the prospects of Australasia appealed. They asked to come over and join, offering trained fighters who could use both magic and science, and more resources than many could hope to expect. The Japanese may well have fled their home, yet they had done so not in panic but in resolute order, bringing with them what they would need to survive, leaving behind what was too risky for them to rely on.

So the Japanese had to earn their way onto the island. They were placed along the north coast, told that it was their duty to be the first line of defence for the rest of the population. There were military outposts already and more being built – the newly forming nation was more than aware of what threats could come that way – but once the Japanese were in place, the onus lay on them. Their magic was to be a barrier. Their technology was to be the guardian of the new homeland. They would be allowed to keep their language, their customs, to have a territory marked out and live their lives as they wished – as long as this didn’t interfere with the customs and lives of the other groups – in exchange for being part of the community, contributing, aiding and defending the whole. New Japan was formed with gratitude and purpose.

Because of how things began for the Japanese, their outlook is pretty different from the British, Australians and Americans. The other three are different nationalities, true, and aren’t without culture clashes, yet these are minor. They are far more alike than not. New Japan doesn’t share that sense of unity. They look different, speak their own language as well as fluent English, and even their settlements have differences – many features of traditional Japanese culture are evident, alongside more sleek, sophisticated buildings. Tokyo Two was entirely of their own making and it shows. That brings me to another point. Many Japanese wear traditional garb, but many also wear suits. Some could walk in the cities of the whites, others would stand out drastically.

The main difference is that the Japanese continue to teach and use magic, while also producing and developing scientific equipment. The Americans have chosen to have nothing to do with either, while the British have magical talent but try to keep quiet about it, mostly to appease their American cousins. The Australians don’t really have much magic to speak of, and while they aren’t against science, they have come to rely on what the Japanese produce. Essentially, the Japanese have made themselves far too important for the others to move against, so while prejudice, even racism, exist, there are no serious clashes between the nations. It would take the white nations uniting and throwing everything they had at New Japan in order to win.

The Japanese see themselves as part of Australasia and yet somewhat apart. They are their own people more so than the others, and are secure in their usefulness while aware of the white wariness of them. I guess a good way to describe the Japanese outlook is that they are an insular people with their eyes and ears very much open to what’s going on around them.

For this reason, they can continue on in a private war that has been going on since not long after the Japanese arrived. A secret war between those devoted to magic and those to science.

The tradition is that once a Japanese person reaches thirteen they must make a choice: magic or science. From that point on, they must wear a headband with an insignia denoting one side. This is now their cause. It doesn’t mean that all those who revere magic can use it, although it is claimed everyone has power inside them. Nor does it mean those who follow science can or will make new machines. It is more a philosophical point of view. You see one as the saviour, the other as the reason for Japan’s, and humanity’s, fall. You believe the pursuit of excelling in one will enable the human race to reclaim its world. You wish it to happen, even if you cannot help this to be.

But there are some who can. Japan, as I mentioned, has a secret war that isn’t a war. There is no conflict. Perhaps if they were still on an island populated by their own there would be. But in Australasia, a divide cannot be known. The whites would play on it. Yes, they see the headbands, the two devotions are known outside of New Japan, although it must be stressed most white people rarely encounter a Japanese person. But they are aware of nothing more and it doesn’t help to ask. It isn’t for the whites to inquire and those who wish to do business with the Japanese soon learn this.

So left alone, the Japanese have among them two groups who act on behalf of all who share their faith. The Corporate are a group of influential people who view science as the way to go and have people working for them to further that end. The Civic are the same only they push for magic. Typically, the Corporate have commandos and agents working for them, using hi-tech equipment, while the Civic rely on magic-users as well as ninjas and samurai. It is remarked that those who follow science tend to be business oriented, those who follow magic more in touch with the past.

Again, they don’t fight. Well, okay, they scuffle. Let’s put it that way. Bloodshed is avoided as much as possible. It just wouldn’t do. Neither side wants an actual war. But sometimes, as they try to gain an advantage over each other, their operatives will have to cross paths. It could be one side is in pursuit of something it wants, so the other side wants to prevent that. Theft would be preferred, or perhaps a showdown that led to one side having to back out due to being outmatched. But sometimes a clash will occur. These are kept very secret.

Most Japanese believe there will never be a winner. To them, it doesn’t matter who follows which belief, so both sides marry, interact, mingle, etc. They think there is too much in the world to overcome for New Japan to have the luxury of descending into civil war. Even many of those who act on behalf of their side see it as a game of one-up-man-ship. Oh look, we’re in the lead, ha ha!

Yet the most committed, those in the Corporate and the Civic, as well as their uppermost and most loyal followers, are seeking such an advantage that a war won’t be necessary. They want to find something, or some things, that mean the other side has to hold its hands up and say, you know what, you’re right, this is the way to go. They want to win the war so it never has to be fought. Then, united, the Japanese can push on to greater things.

They employ whites, now and then, to roam Australasia. They do their own research and development. They read texts from centuries ago and discuss new ideas. Yet so far, nothing has come close to giving either side that edge both crave. It could be that the only way for this to happen is for them to push out into the world once more. They know there are many more Japanese out there. They also know magic and science were strong in other places once and they speculate as to whether these have declined or improved since. The only way to know is to find out for themselves. This could still be some time off, it may have to be a secret act as the whites aren’t as keen on going out, yet it feels inevitable.

New Japan is the home of these Japanese. Australasia is as well. Perhaps they aren’t always fully welcome when they travel to the other three nations, but neither are they met with hostility. The Japanese are typically viewed with respect, suspicion, curiosity and politeness. They return those, especially the latter. It helps to keep the other peoples at a distance. Gain the trust of the Japanese, and another world can be opened to you. Gain their friendship and who knows what may come of it.

But whatever you do, do not pry into their personal divide. It is their faith and not to be trifled with, and some take it very seriously indeed.

Australasia: Origin to Present

So when the world you know is going mad and monsters have become real, and worse still, the things your science have created are no longer your protectors but your hated enemies, where do you run to? Where is there to hide? Where lies safety?

To most people in the developed nations around the world, there were no easy answers. People who were part of establishments or elite ranks had secret bunkers they could hide in. Others who had the means could flee. Some could stand strong, use strength of arms or technology, or something else, to fend off the threats. For many, however, it was a case of get by. Try and survive. Adapt if you can. Suffer, if you can’t.

For those who could escape, it then became a case of where to go. Fleeing a short distance could be the only option, but if you really wanted to be safe, you wanted to get as far away as you could. The other side of the world would be a good bet. True, nowhere was safe, but of course, when you’re just normal people in your own little corner of the planet, you hope beyond hope that there will be safety somewhere. You want to go as far as you can because you tell yourself this will work.

So for those in Great Britain, a place where magic became readily available and in strong quantities, which then drew monsters to it, there were a few options. Some could just flee to Europe and see how that went. Others would use the magic power they now had to defend their home. Others fled. To some that meant places like Europe, Africa, even the United States, while people from there were fleeing in the other direction. Like I said, for many it was about getting away rather than worrying about where you ended up.

Some had time and resources to think and plan. Britain had strong links with Australia and this large island with a low population had plenty of potential as a refuge. Monsters were there, yes, but no machines or mutants. People who wanted to leave the magical island saw this far off destination as the perfect retreat. It did mean organising for a long trip, but it was considered worth the wait. It should also be noted that the vast majority of these people who gathered and prepared were white. Other ethnic groups had other targets, usually closer ones.

A significant number of people left Great Britain, travelled across the sea and arrived at Australia’s shores. The details of this journey aren’t well known, mostly recanted by the descendants in glorified, simple tales, as often becomes the way. None of that matters here. What concerns us is that British people arrived and the Australian government took them in. It was seen as a humanitarian act, yet it was a practical response as well. Australia needed numbers to defend itself. While they weren’t suffering as badly as most places in the world, they had endured losses. Fortunately for them, more people were soon to arrive.

Once the British had settled in, Americans showed up. They had seen this trip. A number of British ships had stopped at ports of the United States coastlines, so word had gotten out. White people heading for a land where they could be safe and secure. It appealed to many. Hell, even some non-white people wanted to go. The Americans were more organised. Military personnel were involved. Perhaps this was so as to make sure no wasn’t the answer given when they arrived. Perhaps not. Either way, when the Americans came to Australia, they had more weapons, more resources, and they could even offer to mine the sea so as to close the place off.

Before that could be achieved, the Japanese appeared. Now in their case, they were fleeing both magic and science, and had been pushing southward through Asia for some time. It isn’t entirely clear whether they knew about the British journey or not, but it is very likely some form of communication occurred. The Japanese had been driven from their home, they went to various places to make new ones, and a lot of them came to Australia to ask to join this new forming nation. There was some hesitation this time, and let’s not pretend race didn’t play a part, but there was also a fear of the magic and science the Japanese still wielded. This was especially troubling to the previous immigrants. The British had fled magic and many were fearful of it, although some were magic-users and it had defended them on the way here. The Americans were fearful of science for the same reasons and many had travelled here looking to find a new life without it, and the reports of magic devastating the world had put them against that as well. Let’s be honest, there was definitely a vibe of this mass migration that was reminiscent of the Puritan movement centuries before. People had left a home they were persecuted in to find a new land they could not only call home, but make it a home of their liking. Science and magic were best left outside of Australia, according to many voices.

Yet for all that, there was still the practical reasoning of survival, and this was still Australia back then. The government had the only say and they chose to let the Japanese in, as long as their magic and technology were put to the benefit of all. They had come to the northern shores so that was they would be stay, becoming a line of defence, should it be needed. As this was taking place, the British and Americans pushed for their own regions. Many of their people just took Australian citizenship and settled in, but most wanted to remain who they were, and to have a say in the future running of this transformed island.

The new nation was called Australasia, as in the name for the continent that has been used in the past. This was a compromise so that the natives felt it was pretty much their land, yet acknowledged things were different now. The British were given the west coast, the Americans the southern, with the city of Perth now a shared capital for them both. Australia kept the most important parts, remaining in most of the cities, and so while there was a good amount of shuffling around, it wasn’t too much. Considering how far most of this new population had travelled to be here, it was an easy task. During that time, they were able to set up defences – mining the sea, placing land-to-air weaponry, and culling the monster population so no threats remained to the cities. The inner region became the wild lands of Australasia, where people went to get away from authority, society, religion, etc. Monsters lurked out here, but they were badly outnumbered.

While the Japanese were allowed to continue their magic and science, it was strictly under the conditions of this happening in New Japan, and only there. As time went on, the other groups became more and more intolerant of those forces that had brought down civilisation. The British continued to practice magic; in a way they had little choice as the power lingered in their bloodlines so strongly, as with the Japanese. Yet it was best to keep it out of sight as much as possible. Rules varied from town to town. In some, magic was a sin and pretty much a crime. In others, it had a use if used only when needed. Americans rarely tolerated it. Australians were more open, but needed to keep a united front for political reasons, so magic was not exactly wrong, but nor was it right, across the land. This hypocrisy extended to science. Most new settlements became low tech within the following century, and yet power plants were built by the Japanese for certain cities, as part of their commitment to the island. Science was frowned upon in most of Australasia, and yet all major cities used electricity, and the Japanese continued to develop things that the other nations showed interest in. Condemn science and magic openly, make use of them quietly; this was the new way.

With the creation of each nation, a new government was formed and the British, the Japanese and the Americans were able to govern themselves, at least to a degree. Even now, it is understood that the Australians call the shots in the end. Their population remains the largest, they run the most cities, and, basically, they were there first. Each nation can have some laws for themselves and of course keep their culture, for the most part, yet there remains a need for unity. It is about keeping a balance. Each group wants a semblance of independence while knowing that if any force came to their island, they would all need the others to defend it. It works well for politicians and agitators to claim they will ensure the voices of their people will be heard, but compromise and understanding are how things get done.

A useful way to get an insight into the relationships between the groups is to look at their intelligence agencies. Each people have their own spies and counter spying networks. There isn’t a great spy war going on, far from it, but each group wants to keep an eye on their neighbours while not giving too much away. In fact, the spying has reached an almost communal level. Basically, if no one knows anything about you, you must be up to no good, so each nation is aware of the others spying on it, and lets it happen. In return, the others do the same. Spies may even meet, have a chat, exchange information. This isn’t an open conflict where agents shoot it out in the streets. This is quiet, careful, and mostly open. Mostly. Everyone wants that one up. Each group has its own ways. For instance, the British tend to be about information gathering and then using this to barter with or blackmail. They lean toward not causing trouble, not making any ripples, just deftly listening in and then calmly using it. Smile, nod, be polite, and get what you want, is their way.

Religion remains important and is mostly the Christian church, as would be expected. For the most part they work a fine line of condemnation of magic and its use, and some even participate in persecuting the users. Obviously this doesn’t reach into New Japan. When it comes to policing, each nation have their own police, but there are Rangers who roam, especially into the less settled central region of the island. A Ranger could be from any group, but because of the nature of the quartet’s relationship, rarely will one be Japanese. The white races intermingle a lot more, sharing culture and history, as well as language, while the Japanese focus on themselves, refining their magic and science, and dealing with their own problems. More on that in another post.

For the most part, Australasia is a pretty good place to be. For a human. They have been cut off from the world and its problems for a long time, the monsters there are a threat but only if you go wandering into the central wilderness. There are bandits out there too, and criminals of other types around the cities, towns and villages. But crime isn’t a huge concern, nor is there any potential for war. Soldiers reside in outposts along the coast, with a headquarters in Tasmania, and the military is for Australasia, not each nation. Even though those soldiers could well side with their own people if conflict occurred, they pledge their loyalty to the island as a whole.

The people who live here may have left the incredible threats that once drove them from their homes far behind, but they haven’t forgotten them. There are difficulties in being four nationalities living together, of course, yet nothing approaching a desire to break this settled unity up. Their ancestors went through a lot so that the people living now can have a safe haven to reside in. Even if this isn’t said openly, that past migration still has an affect on the mindset of the Australasian people to this day. Their view of the world is fundamentally different from anyone else’s. Their home may not be perfect, but it is a good place, unlike those they fled from, and they wish to keep it that way. All of them. Any nationalism, racism and other divisive issues take second place to this.

Oh, a few minor details to add before I finish. Australasia has a lot of railways running to help connect the growing settlements, and this is an acceptable level of technology even for the religious zealots. Also, there is only one portal in the entire country, deep into the centre of its territory. Currently it is guarded by creatures that don’t want anyone new coming through, but the humans have long ago lost awareness of it. They consider themselves sealed off. Another point is that, as previously mentioned, the three white races speak English, while the Japanese speak English fluently as well as their own language. Gives them an advantage. A final note is to say that while New Japan has the city of Tokyo Two – made by the Japanese from scratch – as their capital, and Britannia and America shares Perth as their joint capital, the Australian, and so Australasian capital, remains Canberra.

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 was 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.