Seriously, How The Hell Did We End Up Here?

Part Two

(continued from previous post)

Many cyborgs and mutants also came from the east. For some time there was a United Nations for Asia, with many countries having felt the original UN was too western-centric. Things went well and trade flourished. China and India especially benefited, becoming the top powers of the world, spreading their business and influence far. This led to Russia denouncing both, fearing invasion and building bases. The USA disliked this rise to power, yet needed the trade.

However war might well have been inevitable. China and India had minor clashes, then a full blown war. It went on for some time, and much of Asia became involved to some degree. It was heavily suspected that Japan was a secret ally of India, while claiming neutrality. Pakistan went from neutral, if gloating at India’s suffering, to becoming a full ally of India. This was due to several events, not least Chinese soldiers attacking Pakistani people by accident. Or so it was claimed. Also, spies told that China had ideas on the entire region and its leaders were highly anti-Islamic.

Both China and India had strong levels of technology, much of which was geared towards destruction for some time. Neither looked to nuclear weapons or anything like that, though. Both knew such an act would bring in other nations, and could harm their own soldiers if things went wrong. The war was brutal, yet controlled for the most part, and both governments wanted it that way. It enabled a lot of control over their people, for one thing.

When the Shadow World merged with ours, both sides saw new threats, and while peace was never actually declared, the fighting pretty much ended. Monsters had to be fought. Mutants and machines were quickly designed. Yes, they were made with an idea of being used to finish this war, but only once the new bizarre invasion was dealt with. That never happened, of course. Also, that control both governments enjoyed was soon crumbling, with more and more clamouring for peace, among other issues they had with the authorities. In response, the Terracotta Army had become a real power in China, a movement among the people who stood ready to defend their leaders. Many of these loyal and militant citizens volunteered for programmes that enabled new creations to be born. Willing subjects make progress so much easier.

Two other countries that had benefited from trade, especially with China and India, were Brazil and South Africa. Brazil was blooming as an economic power anyway, but once it and the other two sought to trade, South Africa became the middle man, taking in goods and selling on. It received an influx of investment and immigration. Once the war between China and India began, the trade lessened, yet it never ended, and South Africa continued to build on its position as a trading nation. It was one of the few places in the world where factions weren’t prying society apart, although many would claim greed and superficial living had replaced passion and personality.

Further north, Christianity and Islam were at war, although there were geographical and cultural reasons for violence as well. Yet, when South Africa’s wealth began to spread, as did its influence, this provoked socialist spirits. In many nations where riches and power still stood strong, poverty and oppression were equally pervasive. This led to various movements across Africa, Europe and Asia, most of which united to form three major organisations – the Peasants’ Revolt, the People’s Rebellion, the Socialist Renaissance. All three of these were present in Africa, seeking to hang the rich and ready to gun down those who defended them, just as in the other parts of the world. South Africa kept these enemies out, but they were very aware of the threat.

It has been suggested, but none will ever know, that wealthy governments managed to infiltrate and manipulate the three organisations, which is why they went to war with each other. Either way, what was sporadic violence became full on chaos once magic became real and monsters terrorised both rich and poor alike. Yes, humans united to fight the supernatural foes, and yet so many saw this as a chance to strike at those they had hated for so long.

As for Brazil, it was wealthy at the top, poor at the bottom, just more so. With global order breaking down, the UN ending and world power shifting, Brazil sought to become the dominant force in South America. Obviously, this was not welcomed by the other countries, and yet nothing really went wrong until one president came to power by siding with a renewal cult. These movements were fanatical about change happening, they believed the world was heading for a cataclysmic event, and that life would be better for it. This president made the mistake of utilising this fervour, believing that since no event would happen, where was the harm?

Once in power, the fanatics saw it as their time to make change happen. Acts of terrorism and sabotage were soon everywhere. It spread to Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico and beyond. This sort of thing was occurring in other parts of the world, true, but not with equal enthusiasm. Elsewhere, these cults were persecuted heavily, but in Brazil they had been endorsed, then supported. Politicians allowed them to act long after they should have stopped them, seeking power first, deeply regretting it later. By then, militarised police forces were out in the streets, using the now infamous Fascista carbine. It wasn’t enough. It was also too late. Cultists who could do magic not only tipped the scales, they went beyond it, not realising their new power; many dying, if willingly, as they embraced this changed world, or even sought to force it further.

Finally, in the Middle East, it could be said that the centuries of its history continued to influence its present. Even as the USA weakened, it remained a staunch ally of Israel, as did other nations. Various political alliances were made, then altered, such as Russia and Turkey’s pact, and also the US of E’s deal with Iran, then later Iran’s trade deal with Egypt and South Africa. Alternative energy sources were growing so dependency on oil was weakening, if not ended, therefore other places meddled less. Europe, for instance, wanted a more stable Middle East to ease immigration concerns, while others sought opportunities to invest. But trouble remained. Some regimes were vulnerable now that world power had altered. There were outbreaks of rebellion against the rich, the previously mentioned organisations growing stronger here by the year, and a number of wealthy families left the region (Jamshid ended up making his life and name in the USA because of this).

Over time, renewal cults, also doomsday cults, grew, as they did in many parts of the world, although often with a more religious aspect to them. There came to be a renewed interest in lost arts and old thinking, in mysticism and faith, and yet also many were looking to the future. Russia and Turkey’s alliance broke and they nearly went to war, yet besides that most nations in the region saw a chance to progress. Weapons sold to the east, other resources to the west and south. Who knows what might have been? Yet once Dylan Winter acted and monsters invaded, the region became a warzone. The holy lands of so many were under attack, and at least it can be said it brought them together amidst the chaos and terror.

As I said in the month old post with the almost same title, the world was fracturing before it was ripped asunder by the Shadow World (not sure I’ve said that enough in this post!). People were agitated, scared, thinking ahead but often regressing too. This can be said of many times in the world’s history; it is usually a place of war, intrigue and suspicion. But this time none of that could be resolved. Where nations competed, where people were divided, where governments were losing control or trying too hard to keep it – all of this was made far worse once, well, you know what occurred. Power to the people was no longer a cry but a reality. Change was no longer sought but here, in brutal truth, as super-soldiers and super-computers served the humans, temporarily. These are just some of the instances and events going on before everything went mad. It was this backdrop that made the Raging possible, and then how the world got to be the way it is now.

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Seriously, How The Hell Did We End Up Here?

Part One

(due to the length of this post, I’ve broken it into two and will put the other half up next week)

About a month ago, I posted about the way the world was pre-the Shadow World, in generalised terms. I wrote about the vying forces that stood for control and freedom, for elitism versus populism. All of this affected the people and world as the Shadow World merged with it and nature itself changed, so that groups and ideas lived on in new forms. Cyborg sects and the aquatics, to name but two, have identities forged from people and events that occurred before their current existence was made possible.

So much later than planned, I can now go into some specifics. Yes, there were struggling factions and opposing ideologies conflicting across the world, but now I’ll mention some of who or what those were. Later on, I’ll talk about the Raging, the era that came soon after, where so much mayhem and destruction occurred, that truly separated what was left of our world from what it now is in the present day of Sojourners in Shadow.

Seeing as I mentioned the Oligarchs in the aforementioned post, I’ll start with them. By their time, the United States of Europe had been in existence for a while. However, Great Britain had broken off and then, within Europe itself, various leaders rose to power. Some led small central nations, others rose to prominence in regions within larger countries. These then joined forces to preserve their power and the cause for which so many followed them. The US of E now had a hole in its centre, and this was not appreciated. The Oligarchs faced opposition all around them, and also within their own territories, which is why they became stricter on control and created the Gendarmes.

As for Great Britain, it broke away, yet that did not go so well (I came up with all this a few years back, so Brexit had nothing to do with this). By this time it was an elected monarchy that ruled, yet political and social friction led to various parts of the kingdom separating. Eventually, only England and Northern Ireland was left, and yet they refused to give up the name. Scotland, Eire, Wales and Cornwall (also separate) formed the Gaelic Union. These two sides competed economically and politically, yet never with genuine action. At least, that was until the Shadow World came and the islands were flooded with magic. The people found they could act on their own, and so they did. Governments could only watch as the enmity they had fostered and exploited tore their civilisations apart.

Great Britain, the lesser version, had entered into an alliance with Russia, to compete with the United States of Europe. Russia faced threats from all around. Nations were becoming more aggressive, more extremist, more intolerant. Bases were constructed across Russia, to ward off invasion from China, from Europe, and even from the USA. However, it was Russia who then took the offensive, claiming Alaska was theirs. The resources there were needed more than ever before. So Russian forces massed in the east, then invaded.

Alaska became a warzone, with three sides fighting. On the one hand there were Russian soldiers, and then there were American soldiers trying to expel them. Yet there were also the Alaskan people, who wanted both sides gone. The American government wanted the resources there as much as the Russian one did, and was equally ruthless about it. As both sides fought and mined and took without concern, the natives chose to fight back. They were all still fighting when the Shadow World hit.

But Russia suffered further change. With the government based in the west and enforcing its will more and more, and then with the east militarised, there was a pull of will, with leaders in the east able to argue against those in the west. This led to the Siberian Secession. Russia, much like its ally Great Britain, was now a lesser version of itself as Siberia stood alone. This led to instant conflict. The Russians built an immense stronghold in the Ural Mountains to prevent attack, and to base an invasion from. Some even claim they were designing, possibly creating, super-soldiers before the Shadow World forced the hand of humanity.

As for the soldiers in Alaska, they found themselves deserted. Siberia was more intent on facing down Russia. With the invasion of Alaska not going nearly as well as needed, those sent out were cut out, left to make their own way home or die trying. Instead, they remained. The descendants of the three competing sides reside in Alaska now, all considered native at this point, and resisting cyborgs and mutants, who desire the resources still there.

I mentioned the government of the USA just now, but that isn’t what you typically think of either. The USA had a Second Civil War. Also known as the Bloodless Revolution. Due to inept governance, states chose to secede, while many people were protesting and resisting rule already. The Saints of Bushido were a growing movement. So the president called out the army. Soldiers refused to shoot their own people, or each other as the divisions grew. Soon the entire military was firm in its neutral stance. This held the nation together. Leaders met, resolutions were found. The USA remained, however its was from then on much less centralised. States became much more powerful, even having their own military forces, and people soon identified themselves by state first, country second.

The Alaskan pillaging was ordered by the government, with the support of the other states which needed the resources, and yet it led to more distrust of central authority. Who might be next?

The division grew and grew. By the time the Shadow World was summoned by Dylan Winter, there were the Atlantic States and the Pacific States. They were all still part of the USA, yet now stood as groups, stronger together, and each side looked in a different direction for gains and threats. By this time, it was the Pacific States who were invested in Alaska, while the Atlantic States were doing deals with the US of E and Northern African countries.

I could tell more of the USA, yet I’ll end there. But this growing division is why things went so wrong, so quickly, once monsters and magic appeared. California and Texas were quick to become independent. Various leaders stood up and took charge. Science was let loose to fight back. Many cyborgs and mutants have their origins here.

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.

Partnerships

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rivalries

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

So let’s go through the major rivalries:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Portals

When the Shadow World came to our world, a lot of things changed. Magic became a power people could harness and wield. Monsters appeared. The sky was dimmed slightly so that less heat came through. Weather was more variable and certainly less predictable. Strange occurrences became something to just accept rather than disbelieve.

But a major change were the portals. Rips in the air, shimmering, showing another place within the opening that anyone could get to if they simply stepped through. At first portals scared people, they thought the world was being torn apart. Then they were tested. People went through to other parts of the world. Then they altered. Over time, humans and monsters came to understand what these were. They were openings through reality to another place, and this target would change over time, and magic could control them.

Portals are a risk to use, it has to be said. There is always risk when it comes to magic. There are stories of people being lost in transit and portals closing behind them, but it is widely suspected these are just stories. The real risk is that you step through to find yourself in a place where the inhabitants don’t like you. Or to somewhere so different to your own that you won’t survive there. The destination can be seen so that shouldn’t be such a problem, but to someone in a jungle, a snowstorm might seem a wondrous thing, until the cold hits.

Portals are all over the world and, to those who know about such things, no portal has ever closed, nor can they be closed. They exist beyond the control of people, of all kinds. They are tears caused by the Shadow World. They will change, but never end, and while the destinations vary, it will be the same series of places that will reset and continue. Essentially, if you know a portal, it can lead you to a number of destinations, but only those. Fortunately, there will be other portals to find to lead you around the world. If you want to risk that.

There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason as to why portals are where they are. No one knows how many there are in existence either. There seems to be more in magical areas, such as Great Britain, but they are also in desolate locations. Australasia has only one, in the centre, which has greatly helped to seclude the island – that and the fact it has been taken over by a group of devil-beasts. Why it has only one is unknown. But there is nothing that can be done about it.

As for finding portals, they give off a radiation so devices both magical and technological can be fashioned to detect them. This radiation is harmless to life, just there, as the portal pulses in the landscape. The stronger it is, the longer the portal is linked to the current location, so many have learned to use it before the radiation starts to ebb. Otherwise, you’ll be cut off from returning home. They can blink, as many term it. Portals will show a place, then change, then change again, and the time period for each link will be different. Rarely, a portal will show a place for a moment and then change – a blink. So that is another risk for anyone hoping to use one, especially if you lack in any means of detecting the flow of power.

Portals are used often, though. People with hi-tech equipment will place beacons in areas and are then able to detect them via portals, so they can know where a presented destination is in the world. Those who have mastered magic can feel more sure, using their power to hold a link or try to sense through the portal. This could alert someone with similar abilities at the other end, of course. But portals are instant transportation, so for all the dangers and concerns, using one can enable messengers to reach destinations far quicker and even armies can attack suddenly. Portals aren’t big, usually enough for a few humans to go through at a time, or a single totem, yet forces can be moved through gradually if both ends are secure. Again, risks and benefits.

One important note has to be about portal keys. They were made long ago, when jumping around the world happened more. They are nothing more than items made with magic and tuned to portals. Often they can look innocuous, sometimes they need operating. Either way, when someone has one, they can use it to shift through the destinations, choose one and hold it. There aren’t many, but enough are scattered around the world for them still to be known. More can be made, most likely are now and then, but they take a lot of time. Patience and focus are vital. Most suspect the magi made the original keys, that they each have one and hop and sneak around the globe this way. That is likely true on all counts. Now others can too.

It should also be noted that portals tend to sit on the land, a vertical rip that can be looked or stepped into from either side. They don’t appear half embedded or hidden within a mountain. They also sit on the surface of the oceans, yet can also be found on the seabed. While their creation seems to have been a haphazard event, a reaction to two worlds merging, they at least are there to be used, not hang out of reach. Useful, if weird.

Some people guard portals, claim them, try to keep them to themselves, for obvious gain. Yet most portals sit there for any to use. On the one hand, sitting guard on one means many others will attack to try and use it. It also means the occasional surprise attack from the other side. They are not easy things to keep hold of. Also, they don’t provide a great deal of benefit. They help to control an area, but only if you have the power to control that area as well, or at least if it is shut off. In Australasia, it has taken a group of devil-beasts in the middle of a wilderness to take command of the portal there, and the fact the island is surrounded by mines and has strong defences to keep even flying monsters out, means they are maintaining a level of control. In essence, they are preventing a stronger individual or group from coming in and making their lives unpleasant. But for most, you are better off leaving portals alone. They cannot be destroyed. There is another end to them. There are others around, other means of transport if really needed. Portals make travel easier, but it is not that difficult without them, especially for the more powerful groups.

One last note on portals. Most of the destinations they offer will be far away, but all seem to have a few nearby locations as well. They can be used to get to far off and strange places, yet also for a short hop to somewhere nearby. If you know your way around, you can travel a circuit of a region with ease by using various portals in sequence. For this reason, long ago (at least according to some stories) powerful magic-users tried linking portals and to set them that way for good. Nothing lasted for long, so again, no one tries that any more.

Portals are now a common feature of the world. Taken for granted by many, still feared by some; they sit there, gleaming, pulsing, offering chances to those seeking them, enabling those who would traverse the world to do just that. In a way they make the world smaller, but there is too much going on everywhere – too many warring factions, too many imposing individuals – that even these magical wonders haven’t tipped the balance. So far.

Rulers and Terrors of the Past

It goes without question that many beings have wanted to conquer. Not the world, at least not usually. Most beings who strive for greatness have been realistic enough to know that taking over the entire planet is ridiculous. Anyone who attempts it will bring every other powerful individual or group upon them. But carving out their own corner has been the aim of a number of great and terrible people. Some still do. The Demon King has his piece of territory outside of Trade Island. Gemini rule their domain in the Himalayas. The Author continues to reside in his fortress in the Ural Mountains. But many of those who ruled most fiercely are gone, brought down for another generation of rulers to climb up. Here are some of them, their names, titles and achievements, and what became of them, if it is known:

The Emperor of the Golden Throne ruled part of middle and southern Asia, with his headquarters set somewhere in what was once India. Who and what he was has been lost to time. His name still echoes in the region, however. He ruled wisely as well as sternly. According to legend, he had an aegis and a devil-beast as his right and left hand, enforcing his commands. How he managed that is unknown and highly in doubt by some. What is certain is that he had an elite force called the Excubitors, a small army of highly trained and superbly equipped individuals. This is known because they exist now as a mercenary outfit, better known as the Sentinels. They fight for pay by necessity, but they remember their glorious past and many fear they will rejoin the Emperor if he returns. After all, it isn’t certain that he is dead. What happened to him isn’t fully known, however it is clear his power was broken and his realm disintegrated without him. Most likely he is dead, either slain back then or fallen since, but his title has meaning to many, even now.

Lord Ogre was a huge human who strode the island of Great Britain for a time, head of a horde of fierce fighters. He waged war as much as he could, conquering through sheer strength, and terrorised many. He wasn’t a simplistic thug either. While not known as a master strategist, he roamed for some time and learned much. He was ended in a fight with a devil-beast, a contest of physical might that he lost. He hasn’t gone, though. He exists as the weapon, Giant Breaker. Having had his spine and skull ripped out, the devil-beast that defeated him forged this into a mace, with his conciousness trapped inside it. He can talk to the one that wields him, and only that one, and so a long time has passed to frustrate the cruel warlord. He talks, he advises, he sneers and urges for bloodshed. Even after all this time, he hasn’t changed.

The Lord of Fire and Pain was a powerful and sadistic devil-beast that visited a number of places around the world and inflicted terrible cruelties upon any he could. Not known for ruling a territory or commanding forces, the Lord of Fire and Pain was notable mostly for defeating strong opponents and killing them in as painful ways as he could. If dealing with lesser foes, he would simply feed them into fire, but as long as screams were sounding, he was satisfied. An important note here has to be that it was he that beat Lord Ogre and turned him into a weapon. It was a typical moment in his life of vicious rampaging. He did rule sometimes, he led forces as well, but mostly he did as he pleased, took on who he wanted to and broke them into bloody pieces. For this reason, the Sect of Shadow and Steel was hired to kill him, which they duly did.

Morrigan is remembered for a few reasons. She wasn’t just a very strong aegis who fought with great skill and determination, but she managed to bring peace and unity to Great Britain for the first time since it fell apart as a human nation. It was also the only time. She brought together excellent fighters and led them across the island until every foe was dealt with. After that, she ruled, with an elite guard of aegis warriors flying with her. Her skill wasn’t just at fighting. Part of her rise to power was due to a sceptre that she forged herself and spent years concentrating her own power into. In battle, it enabled her to unleash strong magic, and supposedly she took from defeated opponents over time to make it even stronger. Regardless of that, it was a major weapon and many wish they knew of its whereabouts in the present time. As for Morrigan herself, her rule ended in an ambush. She brought peace and unity to the island for a time, but she was also ruthless in her governance and made many enemies. She was betrayed, ambushed, killed with many of her guards, and violent mayhem returned to Great Britain.

Iron Claw was a devil-beast reputed as a strong and fierce warrior, first and foremost. He sought challenges and conquest. He also sought to use a fire sword, the weapon used by aegis only. For this, he cut off his hand and forged a magical one of iron. It didn’t work. His rage at this is said to have claimed many lives and possibly caused a volcano to erupt. While he is famous for a failure, he is also known for leading a fighting force that focused on strength and suppression, making his rule unopposable. This force remains, now a mercenary outfit of smaller number but with the same ruthless intent, operating from the Falkland Islands, which was once his seat of power. He, though, is long dead, not just defeated by the infamous Havoc, but beaten to death by his own iron claw.

Valentius was a creative and cruel human who was both a warrior of renown and a magic-user to be feared. Tall and strong, said to be very handsome, with cold eyes and a soft voice, he was a force to be reckoned with in Great Britain. According to legend, he gathered a band of warrior magic-users and they roamed across the island in search of power and glory. It is also claimed they left the island a few times. Valentius was not just a commander, but a creator. His power was rare among humans and he liked to use it to reshape. He sought to create new monsters, superior of course, and also devoted to him. He studied and experimented, and some claim he made certain abominations. However, his warband betrayed him. They sealed him in his chamber with magic and left, free to follow their own course. That chamber remains sealed to this day.

The Magician is an unknown. Simply put, he or she was a human scientist that created many technological wonders. The ease with which this individual made such things left many feeling it was more like magic than science, hence the nickname. Who this person was, why they were so talented, why they made what they did, when they were born – these are all questions without answer. It has been deemed likely the Magician lived before the Shadow World arrived, but nothing has been proven. What is almost ridiculous is that people don’t even know what this person is responsible for creating. Maybe the doom-rollers, maybe the Hell-Raisers, maybe the cyber-samurai, maybe something unique, maybe all droids and robotic races come from this genius. It is simply the name that has been passed on in whispers by those who seek to wield science. The Magician was the greatest, no one else comes close. The person and the products are lost in time, yet the name, the reputation remains for some, and most likely the products do still exist. Perhaps the Magician’s handiwork has yet to be truly revealed.

The Coven were about during the Raging, if their origins likely started with the arrival of magic in the world. They were new magic-users, strong too, so they banded together to delve into this fresh power. They sought to understand it fully but also to uncover the mysteries and wonders many believed were waiting for them. They practised magic now forbidden, such as possession and necromancy. Without question, they were a cult, creating a sense of secrecy and mystery about themselves, basing their reputation upon power and death. The Coven’s drive for greater power and deeper knowledge led them to consume themselves and the name now exists as a warning to all magic-users: certain truths must be left untouched.

Alpha and Omega were two human magic-users from long ago, known only by name and reputation. They ranked among the first magic-users and were a formidable duo during the Raging. It is said that not only were they very powerful in magic, but they were deeply religious and believed their purpose was to end everything. It is also suspected that they were disciples of Dylan Winter. That would explain much. However little is known for sure, barring that they were two incredibly strong and aggressive magic-users who sought the ruin of all the world. For this, many opposed them, and while most failed, enough stood to end their crusade.

The Beasts is a name that resides in rhymes and warnings among humans, a name rarely talked about but impossible to forget. They were a number of humans who were extraordinary during the Raging and no one knows why. Each of them was something special, either in physical prowess or magical might or both, and they terrorised and/or ruled parts of the world. Eventually, they were all defeated, but they were a major reason why humans weren’t overwhelmed by their enemies, and at the same time a stark example of the bizarre horror the Shadow World’s merging with our own could create. They were forces of nature, a shock surge as they all came to prominence in different parts of the world. Their like has never been seen since.