The Raging

For those living in the present day of Sojourners in Shadow, there are, in general terms, three stages of history. First, what was going on before the Shadow World arrived, which I have covered in previous posts. Obviously to us history goes on for some time, however, for those striving to survive in the bleak world I am writing about, most of our history is forgotten. The subjects I have covered in my previous posts are and will remain mysteries to most of the living people of now, let alone what went on before.

The third stage is the last century and a half (roughly speaking) where more recent events and actions have occurred to create the world now being experienced. Again, most have no idea what has, and is, going on in other parts of the world; only their corner matters. Yet some are more aware and a few have a grasp of worldwide matters, so they know how things have been, and are going. This third stage is fairly sporadic, with major events occurring here and there, now and then. Many have heard tales and rumours of great leaders, terrible tyrants, brutal battles and shocking disasters, but putting it all together to compile a coherent history is beyond anyone’s interests. So, in general terms, people have a rough idea of what has gone on for the last one hundred and fifty years, and there is a logical path to trace through it all to where things are now.

Not so the second stage. This was the Raging. This remains the most infamous part of history, the least understood, and the most important. This is where everything changed. This is how the world went from broken civilisations and humans desperately fighting to keep their home to a globe with no coherence, no ruling power, riddled with factions and forces of all kinds. The Raging is where matters went from terrifying to overwhelming. It is, as many say, where everything went mad.

The Raging is a vague term, covering soon after the Shadow World merged with ours to about a century later. Some may even mean from the moment when the Shadow World appeared. It depends on how knowledgable one is. To those with more accurate insight, the Raging didn’t begin for some time after, and lasted about eighty years. Still, when it comes to this period, facts rarely matter.

As far as anyone knows, there was no start to the Raging, no lone event to spark it off. Basically, after Dylan Winter summoned the Shadow World, there was a brief period of humans organising, sharing information, developing counter-actions together. None of it lasted. In fact, talking and sharing globally only helped the spread of mutants, cyborgs and droids, and even as many humans aided each other, they were plotting against one another too. With all the turmoil – political, social, religious – that had been going on, there was never a chance of humanity truly uniting to save itself. As mentioned in the posts about the period preceding this, the human race was already breaking apart before the monsters got involved.

So the feeling is that, once magic became real and our nature was affected, everything was sliding toward collapse, no matter how much strength and unity was presented on the surface. Every sinew of the world was being stretched, until it all snapped.

To give an example, I said before how Great Britain split up and that it had an elected monarchy. After magic entered our reality, it was very strong there. Monsters flocked to the island, so humans fought them, yet many attacked each other as well. It is claimed that the Houses of Parliament were destroyed when a member of the royal family lost their temper and unleashed their newly discovered magical strength. The royals themselves then faced a threat called the Pendragons. This ‘family’ of magic-users were led by King Arthur, returned to save the country. They eliminated the ruling royals and established themselves over London, and then over the surrounding region, although ‘Arthur’ never managed to save the island (or rule it). Incidentally, the Pendragons met their end when they boasted that they had an affinity with dragons, so much so that the one living in the Thames was practically their pet. It proved them wrong.

This is a typical example of life during the Raging. Powerful people taking over, then being defeated. Victory was typically fleeting. Glory had a strong flavour yet always drew dangerous attention. Enemies became allies and then enemies again. Changes led to more changes, and then more, and then chaos.

They say once you let the genie out of the bottle you can’t put it back in again. In this scenario, the genie was armed and dangerous.

As said, there is no starting point to the Raging, hence why some see it as beginning with the Shadow World’s arrival. The first third of this era was dominated by monsters clashing and magical battles occurring. It was as this went on that humans reorganised and developed beings of science, and as those then turned on them, the Raging grew to a new level of madness. Devil-beasts and their minions found themselves competing with armies of super-soldiers in order to exterminate human groups. Droids confronted vandals. Machines began killing anything they could.

That’s what defines the Raging. It was the worst time, exceeding anything since or before. With monsters rampaging, with super-soldiers being churned out, then later rebelling, with aquatics becoming a new worldwide form of life, things went from bad to worse to mayhem. All restraint was lost. All rules were there to be broken.

It was during the Raging that nuclear weapons were used, if there are various accusations about who used them. Biological weapons too. Various war-machines that defied moral laws were unleashed, such as the Hell-Raisers. Computer viruses attacked systems and all global communication was lost. Cities were burned, blasted or brought down. Not a single form of leadership or authority that had existed remained by the end of the Raging. No nation, no empire, no kingdom endured. People were scattered. So much was lost.

I should take a moment from the dramatic prose to clarify something. What’s said above isn’t strictly true, but is deemed so by the vast majority of the world. That’s because they don’t know about Australia, or Australasia as it is now called. Yes the country has changed, flooded as it was with refugees, but Australia still exists, as does its government. The island was closed off to the rest of the world in the early part of the Raging, remaining so ever since. That was the only way to survive.

It isn’t just the beginning of the Raging that has no discernible markings, there is no clear end event either, and everything inbetween is pretty hazy as well. Events are known, yet usually in only a vague timetable. The Raging is not so much about a length of time as about the manner a time was lived. During it, conflict and catastrophe were common; before and after, less so. It is also more remembered for changing the world than the details of how this took place. Therefore it has this fantastical aspect to it. Everything seemed bigger and badder. Magic-users were beacons of power and machines marched over the corpses of millions. The sky was full of fights between aegis and devil-beasts. Nations came and went depending on a magi’s wish or a dragon’s wrath.

Many legends were created during this time. The most famous would be Havoc, the half human, half dragon warrior who revelled in the fighting and ended many powerful individuals. The gang he went on to lead contained others who earned their own fame at the time as well, such as humanoid war-machine, Annihilation, and the incredible psychic, Minx.

I have talked about individuals such as Alpha and Omega in older posts, and also the Beasts.

Others vanished into mystery during the raging. Cyborgs still speak of the First Sect, also known as the Lost Sect, who were the original group to call themselves an order and to define their way of life. Something all others went on to copy. They are perceived, maybe rightly or wrongly, as an honourable and martial organisation; possibly descendants of the Saints of Bushido. Their fate is unknown, yet many claim they were sworn enemies of the Order of Mechanised Tyranny, and lost to their ruthlessness.

Then there is Gilgamesh, the ultimate mutant, made by a group of scientists seeking the perfect humanoid. First they made the ultras, a level above super-soldiers, and then they created Gilgamesh, yet never had the chance to wake him. Betrayed by other mutants who feared their superiority, the ultras lost Gilgamesh as they fled. Now they seek him, yet his name has passed around the world and become legendary, to the point that many mutants worship him as their god.

Returning to the cyborgs, not only did they become a new race during the Raging, but new figures emerged as well. Prime, Jamshid and the Grand Master were all leaders before it began, but in different ways – figurehead of a doomsday cult, wealthy and influential entrepreneur, and finally a general of an army. But all three had to adapt to the new world and did so as they witnessed the cyborg ascension, then influenced it. They were there when cyborgs truly became their own race and they led it in different directions. The formation of sects came later, but once the Raging had passed, these three led arguably the most important sects. They had also learned harsh lessons and were far more patient in their aims to become the only cyborg force.

Japan was evacuated due to wild magic and none have successfully returned to it since. Central America was obliterated. Madagascar was overrun by gleaners, who were reborn in their current hideous forms. The Battle of the Devils took place, where numerous devil-beasts, all bearing some form of name inspired by the evil one, fought to see who could keep their title. Much of the Holy Lands were conquered or ruined while the Tower of Babel rose to stand firm.

The Beasts ruled in this time as well, and deservedly so. These were humans, yet special in some way, containing strength or power that put them on a level with the most dangerous of beings in the world. Some ran rampant and terrorised, others took charge and reigned as tyrants. Today, none know who these people were or how they became so powerful. Names are recited in rhymes, but beyond that, little is certain. The Beasts fought, destroyed and ruled during the Raging, and then they were all gone, defeated, sometimes by each other. They did not begin the Raging, nor did their fall end it, and yet it is fitting that they ceased to be as this tumultuous time period came to a close.

I could tell more about the Raging, and yet that would spoil what is to come, and feels unfair in some strange way. The Raging is famous to the characters I am writing about, they know many tales from then, maybe more than from any other time, yet those tales are hardly factual reports. History is mostly oral now. To reveal the Raging in this blog pulls back a curtain that is important to the characters of today. Their perception of the world and its history, as limited or even mistaken as it can be, is what defines them.

The Raging lasts in the memory because it is an example of how bad things once were, and how bad they could be again. Powerful people and groups think twice before attacking, fearing they may cause more mayhem than intended. Some wonder if this current time is a lull in the storm. How long before major armies march, before mighty warriors and ambitious leaders clash? Could the dragons return? Will the ultras find Gilgamesh and attack all humans, or will Eden break out and lead the human race to total rule of the globe once again?

We’ll have to wait and see.

There Be Dragons

A brief post on dragons in Sojourners in Shadow. Also on a few still talked about in legend.

Dragons came with the Shadow World. Arguably, they best represented it. While most monsters were strange, terrifying, unnatural, they were also mortal and flawed. Some could do magic, yes, but soon humans found that they could too.

Dragons were magic. They came in many shapes and sizes, they flew over continents with ease and made their nests wherever they chose. No one could contend with them. They tried, of course. Humans used science while hateful devil-beasts gathered and struck in numbers. It was all laughable. For one, magic did nothing to the dragons. It was like spitting at a rain storm. As previously stated, dragons were magic. It was their life, their blood and spirit, and they not only wielded it with ease but could do all manner of tremendous acts. Spells are needed by most magic-users, to focus the mind and summon the will along with what power someone possesses. Dragons breathed magic.

I should also take this moment to point out that dragons breathed fire too. Also, this was utterly incapable of harming them. It was their natural element, many would say. In fact, most would say dragons were just like fire – capable of giving, of life enhancing ability, and also highly destructive and tempestuous. Never piss of a dragon was an obvious general rule in the world while they reigned over it. Yet many suffered and never knew why.

Dragons left a century or so ago. They returned to the Shadow World, or at least that is the main claim. No one can say for sure. After all, the dragons didn’t explain themselves. The only person who may have an idea is Havoc, son of a dragon. Yet he is neither giving of information about his mother or her race, nor is he someone you can just stroll up to and bother with nosey questions. Much like a dragon, Havoc is known for letting an enemy live one moment and annihilating a settlement for disappointing him the next. Yet there is strong evidence that the dragons left of their own accord and went home. As previously stated (again), dragons were magic. They were huge flying beasts who spoke, could bless or curse others, and wipe out cities overnight to make a nest. They didn’t match anything this world contained, even after the Shadow World’s arrival. Not only that, but before they left, it had become noticeable that most dragons spent a lot of their time sleeping. In the early days they had soared through the skies, ravaged the land or etched their superiority upon humanity. Over time, they slowed down, then barely moved. Then they left.

A few quick details about the dragon race:

While they had their own names, they never shared them with non-dragons. They took the names of places they resided in or were associated with.

They tried to reproduce but never did. Havoc, of course, is something separate from that. There were never any new dragons. They seemed immortal and sterile. Another reason to leave.

While all were masters of fire, some also mastered other elements of nature.

They often chose islands and volcanoes to live on or in. They were also drawn to magical hot spots, for obvious reasons.

Dragons are very well remembered, also for obvious reasons. Because it has been a long time since they were around, the fear they easily conjured has lessened, as has any hatred. Even at the time, many lesser beings came to understand that the dragons never saw themselves or anything they did as either good or evil. They acted as they saw fit. They looked down on all other life. Impress them and you gained greatly. Annoy them and you were a memory within moments. While they caused many disasters, especially when they first arrived, rarely was it malevolent. People just got in their way. But they also did things to intimidate and conjure submission. Clearly some dragons enjoyed their role in the world’s hierarchy. But by now, people of all kinds speak of the awe inspiring beings, they tell tales of what they did and people enjoy listening, despite the horrors of those who had lived through those stories. People are glad the dragons are gone, many hope they never come back, but some do wonder if they could just see one again some day.

As for those remembered as individuals, here are a few famous ones:

Cornwall – Red. Male. Lived at the end of Cornwall, moved about to various posts along the coastline. Liked to watch the sea. Huge wing span. Would fly off to who knows where but always came back. At first had no time for humans, later taught them a bit, enjoyed the company of some. When he left our world, was sad to go.

Damascus – Green. Female. Devastated the city and curled up in the ashes. A long dragon. Later came to be a sleeper dragon and did not take kindly to the advances of the mutants. Warded them off. After that, they stayed away and she slept on until the dragons left.

Panama – unknown gender. Gold. Many think the reason the destruction of Central America didn’t reach Panama City is due to the dragon. Possibly even why things went weird. A nuclear attack versus a dragon’s magic, so close to a magical hotspot = a weird region to this day.

Gibraltar – Blue. Female. Had a mischievous nature, extorted ships coming in and out of the Mediterranean. Mostly playful, would scare those on ships rather than just attack and sink, but if any fought back she would destroy vessels and devour the survivors.

Hawaii – Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea – Two dragons who took up residence in volcanoes of Hawaii. One Black. One Silver. Genders assumed to be one male, one female. Romanticised story. Claim each dragon moved in, fought for dominance, then fell in love and became a couple. Their fighting terrified the people, but their relationship proved to be a blessing. There are other stories of them fighting a huge sea creature and controlling the weather.

That will do. I said the post would be brief. I should really learn to implement that word more honestly.

Yet this is just to give a flavour of what these beings were like, and how, despite their long absence, how their presence still lingers. People remember them changing their world. Literally.

Fighting Pits

Many things exist or happen in the world which are far more real to some than others, but the fame – or infamy – is well known. In certain places, people live in fear of being raided by enemies, of being captured and enslaved. In some places, wars rage, and violence has become so normal that it can be entertaining. It will often be the case that what is normal for one group of people is a bizarre happening to another, and what is the obvious thing to do is unthinkable depending on who you are and where you live. In amongst all these things are fighting pits. To some, these are very real. But elsewhere, they have heard tales of them, either from the past or the present day, and usually stories of them are passed around to scare or warn. Sometimes, though, to entice.

Fighting pits are pretty much as described. Basically, people are made to fight – sometimes they chose to but rarely – and they do so before others, so they fight below the audience. It is such a basic, common-sense feature that is always happens. You could go to a small dip in the land where two desperate communities watch their selected fighters compete to see who wins this annual contest, or a much more luxurious stand where captured combatants bleed out in full view. The fighting happens in pits of all kinds. But the term also comes from the fact that many places are underground hideouts with cells reaching down into the depths of the land. People can see out lives of darkness and violence, kept against their will, brought up to fight for entertainment, then returned to their cells. Or worse. But whatever the setup, many fighting pits are prisons as much as anything, and being dragged into one is a sheer dread for millions of beings.

Fighting pits are known around the world by many, maybe even most people, but they are not everywhere. For one, they have a tendency to occur where warfare and violence is so prevalent it can be turned into entertainment. In most instances, fighting pits are there to thrill and amuse. However there are a few other purposes too. Sometimes they are used to hone the skills of beings and to weed out the weakest warriors. These will often be found in areas of constant battle. Another use is to eradicate your enemies. Yes, you could just wipe out an enemy force, but sometimes you want to do it in a more prolonged, humiliating way, or perhaps you want to do it in secret. Again, in an area of long term war, a pit might exist where the influx of prisoners go, and never make it out of. Sometimes they will be used to scare people into submission as much as entertain the audience. In the history of this world, many of the more famous pits existed at the behest of a powerful ruler, who would sit and watch the show with underlings and soldiers, keeping them delighted but also putting the fear of ending up in there into their heads. It might even have produced tougher, more ferocious fighters from the prisoners, if they could be made to obey.

The other place pits can be found are remote locations, in order to not be found. These ones tend to be the more select pits, run by powerful and knowledgable people, often assisted by someone with strong influence who has a use for the pit. Most pits are average to less in condition, coming into being by necessity or opportunity, yet some are well kept, strictly managed, with an established hierarchy. Often, they have been there for decades, even a century or two. If you end up in one of these, escape is near impossible, and yet there will be more chance of fighting your way to glory.

I think the best way to fully explain these places is to give a variety of examples. For instance, the mutant army that dominates from Eastern Europe to the human sanctuary of Eden are, unsurprisingly, intensely anti-human. So while they maintain the act of being a militarised force with rules and regulations, there do exist a few pits they throw human prisoners into. The mutant army has no real use for human captives. If they were able to get their hands on an inhabitant of Eden, then the knowledge that person has would be vital. But other humans in the area are weaker in tech and certainly in organisation than the mutants, so they are essentially pests to be got rid of. They might cast a monster or someone in there, but mostly to watch them tear into the humans. These pits are typically crude structures dug into the harsh land, with no individual cells, just a bottom where all end up. Food is thrown in to be fought over. The aim is for all within to end up dead one way or the other. Humans will be brought up, often in batches, and have damaged weapons thrown at them. Sometimes they won’t fight, so the mutants know to use rewards or threats to get a reaction, and if not, everyone gets gunned down by the guards. They never offer escape. No one leaves. The mutants watch to be entertained, yet also to feed their hatred and that of any others who may be doubting. Humans are shown to be the weaker, vicious creatures they truly are.

These places might be called death pits rather than fighting pits, but even hateful mutants don’t want it to seem that obvious. A fighting pit offers a fighting chance and that often makes the inevitable destruction of the prisoners all the more satisfying. This is true of all the places and all those who run them, of course. Humans who hate mutants equally have similar pits, although they have to be more careful when keeping super-soldiers under guard, but these also provide much more entertainment. In fact, the stories of the end of civilisation – in the aftermath of the Shadow World’s arrival here – feature many super-soldier filled pits, created by those who made the mutants. When mutants were rebelling or deemed a threat, many rulers and ruling factions decided to kill off their creations the more entertaining way. Sometimes, this was a big mistake.

Across the southern coastal areas of Europe, a number of market towns have become established and trade among them and the many smaller settlements is now flourishing. When competition spills over into conflict, usually mercenaries are hired, yet specialised fights have also been known to be arranged. They cost less in terms of time, blood and money. But there are a few fighting pits along the coast as well, often containing captured pirates, criminals, mercenaries or people who can’t pay their debts. While life in these is harsh, it isn’t nearly as dreadful as those previously mentioned. Freedom can be earned. Those who win often can become celebrities of a kind. They are a source of business and income as well as entertainment and punishment.

However, nearby in Spain, there are several pits close together, run by a sphinx and his three wives. This individual has contacts around the Mediterranean and can bring in better fighters as the need calls, but he also has friends and followers in other places. The more richer merchants and town elites will travel there to watch the superior fights, and to meet the more important guests from abroad. These pits are run as fighting pits first and foremost. Anyone new gets a cell down the bottom but the more you win, the higher you rise, and the living conditions become better at each level. The level of fighting is much higher and competing here is more likely to get you noticed. For this reason, individuals voluntary join. They have to be treated like the rest, this is part of the deal going in, but if they truly believe in their skills, they know they can leave here with high paying work on offer. Sometimes, people are sent here to become better fighters. It is even suspected that a couple of the pits are nothing more than training arenas to create soldiers for paying customers. It would explain a lot.

A fighting pit that surprises many is one found on a small island near Madagascar. As stated in a recent post, the gleaners are all over Madagascar, but this is also a place of powerful magic. So this pit is one for magic-users, because even weak ones can summon serious power to wield, making for a much better show. As expected, magic is used to keep the prisoners there and to keep gleaners and other intruders out, yet some kind of arrangement has to be going on. Who has made it with the gleaners of Madagascar is unknown at the moment. But those who end up there are chosen with care and the combat is broadcast to select individuals using the abundant magic present, so there are some strong gains to be had, despite the risks.

At this point I should talk about the two most notorious fighting pits from history. The first was called Hell. An obvious but apt name. It was owned by a devil-beast who was a powerful and tyrannical ruler in Great Britain long ago, best known – by those who remember such things – for being involved in a three-way war. He was opposed by two sides: one a family of devil-beasts, another a faction of aegis. He ruled over much of the land and commanded thousands of warriors; he was also a cruel being with no use for prisoners and a love of displaying his power. For this reason, a deep and harsh pit was made and many ended up there – mostly prisoners, yet a good number of his own followers too. Due to the nature of the war and his own power, all kinds of beings lived, fought and died there. At one point, he had an aegis from one side and a devil-beast of the other fight on the basis that the winner would leave. According to the legend, he kept his word. When his end came, so too did Hell. Supposedly, it collapsed during ferocious fighting, and after everyone had scattered, few wanted to find it again.

The other fighting pit is the Hungry Bastard. This was a nickname rather than an official title, yet it is this that remains spoken in stories – no doubt a creation of dark humour. This is said to have existed at the bottom of a sea, perhaps the Atlantic Ocean, but no one knows for sure. Back during the Raging, somewhere in the first century after the Shadow World merged with ours, a number of powers allied and sent their prisoners to this place. The story goes that people poured in dozens a day, that the conquests of the allies ensured a steady stream of captives, and yet the Hungry Bastard was never close to being filled. It was a grim, brutal place, there to slaughter the incoming victims, if it also produced many savage, broken warriors who went on to serve their captors. It consumed for decades as a world of billions became one of millions, this being just one of the causes, until those who fed it were all defeated. The pit itself was never found, so none truly know what became of it. Perhaps it still sits, waiting for more food.

There are many ways to die in this world. Also to suffer. Also to make others suffer. This is not a pleasant place and most understand it, even embrace it. Fighting pits are a practical outlet in many ways, yet often represent more darker and crafty appetites. They have their uses, and so while now and then something goes wrong somewhere, when prisoners break out or an outside attack occurs, they never go out of fashion. As mentioned at the beginning, most of the world hears of them only, and the horrors within. To many, fighting pits sound grimly entertaining. But to others, they are everything – a life of blood and brutality and captivity.

I should also mention another feature about the pits. As much as those who run them enjoy their power and often stamp their authority on their prisoners, they all have a deep dread. Anyone who runs or works at a fighting pit has a lingering, whispered fear. For most, this fear never materialises, but the tales of when it does spread around. Havoc, the infamous warrior, has a habit of breaking into fighting pits. He leads his gang of mad-dogs around the world at breakneck pace (usually he does but he is currently sitting things out) and expects every member to do their part. He has recruited many from the pits. It is every pit owner’s nightmare that Havoc will show up and slaughter everyone in charge, for that is his practice. Afterwards, he makes everyone fight and chooses some to join him, others he may just let go. Of course, this means those confined within a pit wouldn’t be too keen to see Havoc and his gang appear either, but for many, such an end would be far better than the life they live. Especially if they can see their captors and tormentors dead first.

Fighting pits are told in tales, some true, some complete fiction, many a mix of both. In a world as cruel and callous as this one can be, none doubt such a thing could be happening. Too many have tasted what people – of all kinds – can do to others. Slavery exists. Murder is matter-of-fact to some. War is celebrated by certain groups. While there are more peaceful and secure realms, while there are many people who live better lives than most, even they know what individuals and communities can be pushed to. Essentially, everyone knows that if you end up in a fighting pit, hope you’re the one at the higher level, looking down at the unfortunates who kill or die, who are just striving to live another day. Of course, also know that if any of those unfortunates could get their hands on you, they’d likely bite your throat out. If the roles were reversed, so would you.