How The Hell Did We End Up Here?

The world of Sojourners in Shadow is a chaotic one to say the least. It has order in places, and many seek to impose their order on all, but so far none has come close. Factions, armies, sects, secret organisations, cults, nations, gangs, crews and elite squads are everywhere. Some formed by necessity, some by the charismatic will of a leader, and also some exist due to deep running ideologies. People are following the paths begun by their ancestors, laid out in blood and sweat. The way things are now is because of what went on before. The choices individuals and groups made over the centuries are scars of the face of the world. Plenty of people alive now have little knowledge of the past, and yet so many of them are living the way they are because of it.

What the world was like when the Shadow World came. What those in power did when it did. How the masses reacted when magic and monsters appeared among them. How they responded to the actions of their leaders. How nations interacted. How people were swayed one way, then another. How technology developed. How civilisation fell apart so that new ideas and new groups could take over. How those ideas and groups took shape. How and why some ideas and groups vanished and others remain to this day.

All of this is highly important when it comes to understanding the world of the present in Sojourners in Shadow. The people, the vast majority of them, cannot hope to know all this. As readers, I think it will help to get to know the basics.

The core divide in how a terrible event provokes reactions is that of how two sides respond. The two sides are those in power and those without power. Understanding this is key in going forward.

When the Shadow World was brought to ours by Dylan Winter, there were two main responses:

Governments = Holy shit, there’s monsters and weird magic everywhere! We have to do something!

People = Holy shit, there’s monsters and weird magic everywhere! Someone has to do something!

This was followed by:

Governments = We need strong measures. We need to be shown to be in charge and in control.

People = We need help now. We need for those in power to listen to us and if not, then to follow someone who will.

Obviously, this created a tug of war situation. The more people demanded change, the more governments felt the need to suppress that feeling. The more governments made moves to control their people, the more people sought something new. The more both sides pushed for the things they wanted, the more each side responded with stronger demands.

To be clear, this was happening before the Shadow World integrated with our own. With advances in technology and the world developing as it was, many nations were experiencing authorities who spied on their every move while at the same time the public continually found ways to express themselves. Foreign influences were sited as threats to national security. Uneven wealth distribution incited more and more anger. Trade deals between regimes were applauded by those who benefited and denounced by those who did not.

Figures emerged to exploit the growing tension, becoming political leaders or social champions. Revolutionary movements became more commonplace, even in democracies. Tyranny became a widely used accusation. Law and order were hailed, even when they took away rights. Free speech was the motto of numerous organisations, typically used to suit only their own agenda.

To so many, the struggle was a simple one, that between good and evil, right and wrong. Those people on the other side were all bad, hurting everyone else, and they deserved everything they got. We on this side are all good, living correctly, and we will win.

Yet in truth this was the ancient struggle the human race had always experienced, that of order versus chaos, control versus freedom, community versus individuality. Both sides believed they represented the majority and were doing what was best for them. Populist movements had the backing of most, it had to be said, and yet many were led by charismatic charlatans or ambitious megalomaniacs. The elitists countered with every facet of their authority, using media, law, even terror if they had to, clinging to power with all their might. They preached that they were the guardians of decency and equality, that they ran things so that everyone benefited, and breaking the system – whichever system that was being used – would only lead to anarchy and collapse. They convinced many to support them, bribed and coerced others to do so as well, and so across the globe the clash of elitism and populism became the foremost struggle.

Eventually this went beyond mere loose collective thinking. Organisations and groups formed, with clear identities and goals. Here are a few from each side:

Populist movements:

The Saints of Bushido

The Glorious Hedonists

The Movement for Renewal

The Peasants’ Revolt vs the People’s Rebellion vs the Socialist Renaissance

The Humanist League vs the Salvation of All Souls

 

Elitist movements/forces:

The Varangians

The People’s Judiciary

The Gendarmes

The Terracotta Army

A quick explanation about some of these groups. The Saints were people who believed in living a martial yet peaceful existence, based in the USA. By contrast, the Movement for Renewal was essentially a cult, calling upon the doom of humanity so that it could be reborn. The three revolutionary groups were left wing uprisings that ended up clashing with each other across Europe, Asia and Africa. As for the Humanists versus the All Souls, this was a conflict begun in verbal exchanges that led to violence. A meeting was held where humanists and atheists confronted religious leaders about the hysteria of their followers following the Shadow World’s arrival, and especially the persecutions it resulted in. Yet the religious entourage was attacked and killed. Naturally the non-believers were blamed and this unleashed a wave of fanatical fury around the world. It was dubbed the Harvest of the Heretics. After that, humanists had little choice but to become militant themselves.

As for the elitist groups, some were truly mass movements as well, often with a fascist viewpoint or existing to counter another ideology. Others were funded and commanded by establishments, sometimes encouraged to fight the populists, more typically paid to do so. The Terracotta Army was a genuine mobilisation of people, when government loyalists in China took to the streets, going so far as to claim they were the first emperor’s guards reborn. On the other end of the spectrum, the Varangians and the Gendarmes were paid enforcers. The latter were quite famous in their day, serving the Oligarchs of Central Europe. They were named after police and yet their sole purpose was to do the tasks the ordinary officers wouldn’t do. It was they who made the Fascista the most marketable gun in the world for a time. The M-33 Carbine was made in the USA yet it was once the Oligarchs equipped their enforcers with it and it performed so well that it was sought after by all oppressive regimes. Light, easy to use and aim, with a solid stock that did a fine job as a club, this weapon became the symbol for oppression everywhere. It earned the name the Fascista and that’s what people call it even now, despite the history behind it being forgotten by most.

I will go into more detail about how the world was doing and how it changed once the Shadow World was summoned another time. This is a general overview. Enough, I hope, to make the point clear. Seismic events were occurring. People were crying out for justice, while those who sat in judgement feared being overthrown. Some preached about the end of the world and many listened. Some demanded that advancements in technology became available to all and only a few agreed. Protests led to riots and those led to organised resistance. Countries were at each others’ throats and stabbing each other in the back, all in the name of progress. Some nations were led by tyrants, others by those who wished they were, and others yet by committees or congresses, which tried to appease all the angry voices. None succeeded.

The world was going mad and no one knew how to mend the ills. Perhaps it was too late. It could be claimed that the time to save humanity had long past, so there was only the struggle to see who would stand victorious among the ashes. Perhaps. No one will ever know. Dylan Winter, like so many, saw the world as needing a tumultuous change. Unlike them, he found the way to bring it about. When he did, when the sky darkened and magic began to take effect, when monsters came into being among humans, the world was a powder keg waiting to go off. He wasn’t the one to light the match. He lit his own bomb and dropped it. Every friction, every conflict, every fear and doubt and glare of hatred was swept up in this new maelstrom. People who wanted change found new power to make it happen. Those who attempted to restrain change were forced to adapt themselves or being destroyed. There was no going back. Normal was a thing of the past, and yet the desires and needs of people never went away. They found new form. People who believed the world had been about to end or called for a return to more primitive ways became aquatics. Others like them who though in terms of advancement were drawn to becoming cyborgs. Martial thinking found life in new armies, whether cyborg, mutant or human. Order collapsed, and yet pockets of it remained and was therefore easier to maintain. Change was happening, but rarely did it occur the way those who had sought it so passionately had wanted it to.

What is occurring in the world as I am developing it is far removed from the events I speak of here. I have no intention of writing stories about back then. But it is important to know, and to think through, the past of any world in order to understand what you are handling in the present. The world I possess is developing even as I write it, and yet the foundations for it were set in its past. People – whether human, monster, mutant or machine – are still fighting for survival, progress, ambition, their future. Most of what once had been is ruined or lost, but some parts linger, either in the persons of the Grand Master, Jamshid or Prime, who lived back then, or in automated death-machines programmed when brutal answers were needed. Secrets wait to be found. History might yet be told. What lies in the future for the people of the present could well be explained in their past.

Money Makes the World Go Round

Well not quite. It should be made clear from that start that, in this post-apocalyptic world riddled with magic and mayhem that we experience in Sojourners in Shadow, there is no global currency. There is nothing that everyone uses. People barter, that happens everywhere. If you want to trade then you need to be able to give up something yourself. But the world contains patches of civilisation, and in those money has taken some form. So here I’ll explain them: each place, each type, and give some kind of context and history about them.

The first place to start has to be Trade Island. As the name suggests, trade is the main aim, and while you can barter and swap goods, a form of money had to come about. Now if you’re a high up and wealthy member of a business family, then a credit note is all you need. These are worth whatever is written on them, because everyone knows you have that money, so if words say you’re giving that to someone else, you are. It also helps that the families all keep their main wealth in the same bank, the Vault, so dealing with each other is literally no more than moving numbers about. Others can use credit notes too, but you had better be someone of worth, otherwise you could end up eating that note. Or worse.

As for a more menial form of money, something that looks pretty but is not really valuable, then people use gems. These are small crystals, not like anything of this world as we know it today, and that’s because gleaners make them. Literally. Gems are gleaner shit. They often leave their, well, leavings about their caves and tunnels to give off a small glimmer of reflected light. Gleaners see better in the dark than most monsters but they don’t fully see in it. Whatever their cause and use, the people of Trade Island handle these daily, buying goods. Some know where they came from. Most don’t. Most don’t want to know nor care to. In Trade Island, handling gems is the least of the dirty tasks you’ll have to do to get by.

In many places money has developed where humans are maintaining communities, especially small forms of civilisation. In essence, if things are in order and people are trying to trade and grow, then a currency is created.

In Central Asia, across the steppes, where many tribes and gatherings have merged, the people have developed coins. At first, they were made of precious metals, but over time they used cheaper things and were pledges, as in I don’t have this money to buy, but if you give this to someone else in my tribe, they will give you something. Tribes and groups had coins that had the names of their leaders on, as a sign or promise that they were supporting this pledge. You would use a coin to buy something and any problems later on could be taken to the leader himself and he might pay up, or at least see recompense made. This gave the leaders more prestige, and also more power. This led to a counter move by certain richer people, who began to make their own coins and give them out, and people used them as they knew these had the wealth to back up the offer. These people were also looking for a currency that could be used beyond each tribe, as more and more were moving closer together to avoid enemies, and more were trading together. This is what led to the rise of the kulaks, the merchant class that now has power without being leaders or elders. By now, most coins are cheap metal with kulak family names on, and are handed about and taken as worth, and so, while people still barter, the wealthy have a form of power over others.

The Deliverer is a ship, stranded in the Pacific Ocean. To be honest, it is three ships, but they have been fixed together so long the humans living there see it as one. They are a practical people, surviving by working together, so for them, you mainly get what your role earns. Everyone is meant to contribute. Yet some tokens were made long ago, small bits of scrap metal cut and stamped by machinery. There’s nothing fancy about them, they have numbers for value on, and marks from the machines down below to prove they’re authentic. You have any and you can hand them over to buy yourself something special once in a while, to get a bit more than your role in the ship earns you. Some frown on them, wondering why they’re still around when they haven’t been made in a long time. In a way, it is an expression of individuality within the community. Most likely that’s why their production was ceased.

The Northern Federation, because it has had to grow, regrow and develop, has dabbled in money a few times before now. At one point wooden tokens were currency, once you had etched your name and debt on. Some still use these, mostly in the villages. In the cities they have gone back to coins and notes. Oddly enough, there is a direct parallel with the market towns of Europe across the sea. While the Northern Federation are together, the cities themselves tend to compete. Each produces money with their name on. They are all acceptable across the region, but it has become a matter of pride for each city. Carthage was the first to make coins with its name on. It pushed them to the other cities with a passion, seeking its place as first city, which it gained. After a while, the other cities fought back with their own coins, but this had to be negotiated. Basically, the coins, and later the paper notes, had to be the same value across the Federation, and all were to be accepted. Money could be used to promote pride in your home city, but it couldn’t actually become an act of independence. Also, while it was never made official, the Carthaginian coinage was favoured. By now, notes and coins are commonplace, the first called dollars, the latter, which are bronze metal, are pennies.

The Mediterranean market towns are developing money. At first people made coins to try and pay for things, but as market towns grew and became known settlements, they were able to make their own coins. People in those places were commanded to accept them as money, and so others began to do so, knowing they can be used there. Barter still goes on, but more towns are producing coins and as their trade and influence spreads, so does the coins. Funnily, pirates have been a big boost in this. By robbing the merchants of the Mediterranean, they’re the ones first responsible for taking coins to other places, and exchanging them with other coins.

The Coalition of the South has money that harks back to the era before the Shadow World. Back then, the region was an important trading nation and it did well, the perfectly placed go-between for other countries. In that time, the rand and cents were currency, and the people today remember such things, and more. They use paper notes, called rand but sometimes dollars too, and cents are the coins, which look gold, hearkening back to the glorious trade era. The cities of the Coalition are more inland and secluded, unlike those of the Northern Federation, so their money has yet to be taken abroad. Perhaps soon.

A final mention goes to Australasia, where they have notes and coins as well. When the nation was formed, including the Aussies, the Brits, the Americans and the Japanese, they had to agree to a currency to share, to include them all and maintain equality. The easiest thing to do was to stick with Aussie dollars and cents. They’re not the same as today, obviously, but called the same and used for the same purposes. Only in the wilder central areas would anyone think of bartering instead of just delving into their wallet. Oh, it should also be mentioned that some Americans and Brits use old slang for coins, such as dimes and shillings.

Those are the major realms and communities where money has emerged once again. New, and yet fulfilling an old purpose. The more humans spread and interact, the more they need stable forms of currency to work with. So far there is nothing that works around the world. It is too fractured a place. It can be pointed out that bullets, fuel or food are forms of currency, far more sought after than most coins on a global scale. But as time passes and more groups become organised, these forms of money can begin to overlap. Already Mediterranean settlements work with money from the Northern Federation, and vice versa. As the two sides get to know each other, it is possible the merchants will push for a common currency. Others might well oppose it.

Many places around the world have no need for money. Cyborg sects are fighting a constant war for the betterment of the human race, so getting paid or buying goods isn’t even considered, not even among the less united groups. When a power rules, there rarely develops a need for money so at Constantinople the military takes as it likes, although some settlements of mutants are beginning to trade secretly with other places. Eden is a place of science, faith and unity, so wealth is abhorrent, and in the religiously inspired Octagon State in Texas, the love of money is still seen as the root of all evil.

Perhaps those people are right, perhaps not. With money, people find themselves able to buy, to improve their lives, to provide for others. Yet there is no doubt that often, the creation of coins has been done as some seek to exercise power over others. By making a form of currency, not only can that be used to praise your greatness – bearing your name, perhaps even your image – it means you get to set the standards. Whether it be Carthage or the kulaks, the market towns or the business families, those with the wealth and the will seek to rule others via the power of the coin. The pen is claimed mightier than the sword, although others can argue the gun beats both. Yet to these people, the coin beats them all. As currencies develop and spread, we will see who is right.

Infamous Pirate Captains of the Mediterranean

So to return to the world of Sojourners in Shadow, and to the Mediterranean specifically, I thought I’d post a little on some of the more notable pirate captains. Essentially, I’m doing this because at least two of them will be major characters with their own stories to be told, while others will be important to them, and to other characters later on. What happens in the Mediterranean, and to the pirates, and to those other places connected to both – such as the Northern Federation, the market towns of the European peninsulars, to the mutant forces and settlements, to aquatic communities and ranging trade – will only develop and matter more as time goes on.

I’ll keep these bios very brief as I’m not sure how much, or what, I want to reveal just yet.

The first I’ll mention is Tryst. She’s originally from the Caribbean, a survivor of the tiny islands left there, and has unnatural luck. This ability has enabled her to cross an ocean, start a life among pirates and even gain her own ship – the Slim Chance. She has several crew members loyal to her, almost all of them women. As a woman herself and knowing the nature of most pirate crews, and also because she isn’t much of a fighter, Tryst tries to keep her top personnel female so they have her back rather than challenge her. Running a pirate crew is well known to be difficult, with physical intimidation a major factor in keeping your underlings in check. Tryst has luck, charm and wits on her side, so she tends to draw in adventurous seamen. Still, while her luck is famed for helping her, it is also infamous for costing others. When things go wrong around Tryst, they tend to really hurt someone else, and she knows it. She has to take care who she hires, who she trusts, who she count on. If she wants to raise her standing among the pirate captains, she’ll have to take some risks soon.

A captain who loathes risk is Rodrigo. A seemingly simple human from Spain, this individual is known for his cunning and adaptability. His ship – the Grim Fandango – is a wooden vessel with sails and so forth, like all the rest, and yet it has several features that are far more advanced and useful than someone would suspect. Rodrigo has used his ship’s abilities to outmanoeuvre stronger enemies, just as he has used his ruthlessness and sharp mind to outwit opponents. Unlike Tryst, Rodrigo is a pirate to make a living, and he has worked hard to establish connections in the trade networks. Also not a fighter, he has three cloned super-soldiers who are loyal to him, along with other beings who stand out, even among pirates. Rodrigo isn’t considered one of the more powerful or famed captains, and yet, those who know him, know to take him and his determined crew very seriously.

These two are the major characters I mentioned. I have written a short story about each of them so far, not that either has seen the light of day. Yet. I aim to use both to reveal the world of piracy, from different angles, before moving out into wider territory.

To continue on to other captains that will gain mentions or encounters, I should start with Asafa. He is also known as the Black Lion and is one of the strongest captains around. He is also notable because he is from the Northern Federation, as is his entire crew. He began life in a prison on Africa’s coast, until he led a riot, which evolved into a break out as he and others captured a supply ship. From that point on, he has roamed the Mediterranean, unable to go home, forced to find a way for him and his men to survive. He does return to Africa now and then, but only to attack a coastal prison and gain new recruits. This isn’t such a bad thing for the Northern Federation because it means fewer prisoners to deal with and Asafa’s attacks are mostly aimed at Europe. Some would even accuse both parties of co-operation. Either way, Asafa has a much better ship now and a large crew, and he leads them formidably from the front.

A lesser rival and yet an equally aggressive one is Andre. In many respects, this shaven-headed human is just a thug from Europe. Born into the pirate life, growing up on one of the havens, he is well known for being a tough fighter and cruel enemy. Not someone you want to be on the wrong side of. He also isn’t much for restraining his crew. If you want to ride the sea, raid settlements and have your fill of plunder, rape and violence, Andre is the captain for you.

Torsten is the one who is strict on his crew. He was born into a life as well, but as a mercenary – recruited as a boy and remaining one as an adult. He sees himself as soldier really, and expects discipline and organisation from those who follow him. For some time he was a mercenary captain, but he was later hired to take his fighters to sea. He became a privateer – market towns would compete, even fight, and so would hire people like him to attack each other. To other pirates, Torsten was doing their job but with a permission slip. To him, he was being a soldier for hire. Now with greying hair, he has long moved past the pretence. While he does get hired for work occasionally, Torsten is a pirate captain in name as well as action, raiding as he wishes, yet maintaining his own code of conduct always.

Non-human captains are rare, even now, and Thrasher stands out for this reason and more. She is a super-soldier from the mutant forces in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. She has even fought at Eden. She left that horror some time ago and has forced her way to the higher ranks of pirate captains through sheer force of will, and also force of physique. Her name isn’t the one she once went by but has been earned because she uses a whip of four chains to beat her crew. She also prides herself on being one of the few female captains around, and she doesn’t like competition.

A final mention has to go to Djinn. While many pirate captains are nasty pieces of work, while many have fearsome reputations, even the more violent ones have their limits and try to live the pirate way. Djinn is someone that scares other captains. He is someone pirate crews will flee from. His ship is much bigger than any other, his crew a mix of psychopaths and tormented slaves. Worse still, he is a powerful magic-user with an array of magical rings and gems at his disposal. Few can stand up to him, and none would want to end up in his clutches.

I should add that Djinn has a history behind him that adds weight to the terror he can cause. A history that has left scars across the Mediterranean. I touched on it before, and it gets a stronger mention in Tryst’s story, and it will get more as time goes on, yet I don’t want to say anything here. But once, the Mediterranean was facing a horrifying enemy, and only just managed to win out. Djinn was part of that terror and the only remnant left. He wasn’t the main threat. He followed another. But now he is his own man, free to pursue his own twisted desires. Djinn is a threat all of his own, and yet his presence is a reminder to many of what once haunted them.

So that’s an overview of several notable figures. If everything goes according to plan, all of them will matter over time. Everyone will get an important moment. A lot has to happen in the Mediterranean. Just as so many other parts of the world have been earmarked for turbulent times and climatic changes. In that time, I hope to tell how many lives are lived, until they are ended.