Saturday, April 20, 2013

'R' is for 'The Red Brigade.'

'R' is for 'The Red Brigade.'

The Red Brigade is the dominant sect of a disorganized religion worshiping five absent gods: The Bold, The Wise, The Provider, The Deceiver, and The Fifth. These gods are explicitly abstracts, not thought to inhabit a distant plane like other religions, and are seldom anthropomorphized. Rather, someone who wears the red jacket or wristband of the Red Brigade strives to embody one of the five, and their good works in that form are considered both prayer and divinity.

Exact practices vary wildly based on your geography, and there is no central body governing The Red Brigade. The most common form of The Bold is the soldier or warrior, such as those insurgents fighting against The Empire of Gold and Jade’s incursion into The Frontier. The Wise are most commonly scholars or strategists, while The Deceivers are most infamously spies who infiltrate other societies. Most cherished are The Providers, such as parents, educators and farmers. The Fifth god is seldom mentioned by name, and is the only one for whom, after you converted to its ways, you cannot convert back.

It is also dogma that Red Brigadiers change from one phase to another as is needed by their people. Most Red Brigadiers are yetis, centaurs or humans, though it is spreading among triclopic peoples. Secularists pin the recent trend in triclopic Brigadiers on it being such a time of strife for them, what with their presently losing a war to foreign secularists and all.

Friday, April 19, 2013

‘Q’ is for ‘Question,’ OR, The First Apocalypse

‘Q’ is for ‘Question,’ and the most common question asked is, “What was the first apocalypse to hit this world? What started it?”

There’s a myth about that. Nowadays it’s impossible to imagine the world without apocalypses. The gremlins thought it was their turn, built automatons to do all the heavy lifting for their empire, and the autos turned on them. An electrical storm reduced the autos to blank statues. The dead rise. The bourgeoisies rise. It’s as natural as seasonal cycles. Yet if you consult the oral legends of the oldest races, the centaurs and the nine-legs, and the remaining records of the gremlins, you find common references to a First Apocalypse.

All land that we now is actually the decomposed shell of the World Turtle, which once swam either among the stars or in what today we call the World-Ocean. A big son-of-a-something, and healthy, such that all the world’s plants grew from its shell. Since it was green, most of the flora were forests. Thick jungles that consumed lumbering beasts, toughening the sauropods and cyclopes, so that all life was hardy, ruled under the Four Gods.

And there were gods, captains of this Great Ship World Turtle. One would wander down to its slippery head and whisper, “I feel like inventing ‘East’ today. Find a new direction and name it that.” And it would comply, because turtles are prone to peer pressure.

So one day the Goddess of the Sky climbed down the World Turtle’s neck and whispered, “You notice that yellow thing up there that makes days possible? Swim over to that. I want to know what it tastes like.”

Then she climbed up to the highest point on the World Turtle’s shell for the best view of the sun. But while she mounted, the God of the Depths climbed down the World Turtle’s neck. He whispered, “That nasty thing’s hot. How about we dive? See what’s under these infinite waters?”

Then he scampered off to the apex of the shell, expecting to get the best view of his desires. Yet as he ascended, the Goddess of Mystery rode the rivers between the plates of the World Turtle’s shell down to its ear. She cupped its beak and whispered, “Why did we ever start going forward? We never saw all of what was at the beginning of creation. Can’t you go backwards for just a few eons so we can appreciate what’s back there?”

To the World Turtle’s credit, it began to dip under the waves while it about-faced, conceding to two demands at once. Upturning so dumped a thousand sauropods into the surf and enraged the God of Boldness, who had been teaching them beach sports. He tumbled down the World Turtle’s slope, jabbing a javelin into its scalp to hold on. “What do you think you’re doing?” he chastised. “We’re making headway. We might see where creation ends if you just kept the bearing. We need to find what else is out there.”

The Goddess of Mystery hadn’t yet departed, and so contested his virtue. Their argument whirled into a tempest, the ferocity of which was only split when the Goddess of Sky and God of the Depths coming roaring down at each other. The desires of the four were irreconcilable, and none were willing to go second. They argued for so long that some of the lesser critters had to develop free will just to go on living, and they would have kept going forever if the World Turtle hadn’t stopped. Its continental body drifted, listless, unable to obey so many commands.

The Four Gods quit its head, unable to argue the World Turtle into submission with three dissenters. After it became obvious none could coerce each other, they split separate ways. That’s why none of them had alibis.

Tragedy struck at dusk. Jungles suddenly wilted to nothingness. The continental shell cracked and powdered into soil. Countless species died from the sudden shock of the modern world being born. Mortals rushed to the great head and found it dangling under the waves. Someone had drowned the World Turtle.

There were only four capable of such feats, though no one saw which God did the deed. Sky accused Depth, Depth accused Mystery, Mystery suspected Boldness, and Boldness pointed fingers at them all. They dragged each other to Celestial Court and have spent all known history simultaneously arguing four homicide cases. It is very difficult to out-argue someone who is nigh-omniscient and exists outside time; more difficult still to reconcile four such people who are all intentionally playing obtuse for argument’s sake.

And while we wait the eternity for the verdict, everyone has ignored the very possible fifth cause: the World Turtle may have drowned itself in the strife of indecision, or to rid itself of the godly masters. It can’t be asked, though, and that first dusk was a confounding one for the cyclopes and sauropods. There was all beloved life, drifting on a dead turtle, with no supervision from the Gods, and mildly curious how their fellow surviving life-forms tasted. It’s small wonder things went wrong after that.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

‘P’ is for ‘People.’

The menu.
P’ is for ‘People.’ The singular is ‘Person.’ Succubae think you’re not one.

Succubae are one of those creatures most people didn’t think existed for many ages. They claim to have existed since the dinosaurs died out the first time, and bear a strong dislike for their egg-based fetishes. They’re a difficult creature to reconcile with our materialistic notion of life, since they’re not from this plane of existence, and largely take physical bodies to play with their food.

To themselves, they are people. They have souls, minds, wills, personalities. Things that evolved don’t. Things that evolved, including triclopes and humans, are chemical soup in attractive packaging. You’re shaped like a person in the way that a chicken nugget might be shaped like an egg. They hate eggs.

What exactly disqualifies all intelligent life from being people is hazy. You might imagine that an entity that had to eat other sentient entities to survive might insist those entities weren’t people in order to assuage guilt. Succubae claim to never experience guilt. Guilt is a chemical thing.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

‘O’ is for ‘Optimism.’

‘O’ is for ‘Optimism.’ If the apocalypses have revealed one thing about sentient life, it’s that the optimists are the only ones worth paying attention to. Pessimists and optimists die alike, but the former die having accomplished less, and having been far less entertaining to watch.

This perspective formally began under the Gremlin Empire, who used spores to observe the behaviors of lesser beings. Triclopes, nine-legs, centaurs and the like were reality television, and gremlins would drop supplies on tribes that behaved in entertaining fashion.

Since then, it’s been the optimists who made things work. They renovated the destroyed remains of old cities into new shelters. They scavenged the last technology, pushed progress, and in the Frontier, have even gotten old species to cooperate. You’d never have expected humans to forgive the imps for enslaving them, yet now they are routinely traveling partners. Those who think the struggle is worthless perish. Those who embrace it might change the world for the brief time they live in it.

Nowhere is optimism more embraced than The Empire of Gold and Jade. Despite its tyrannical reputation, it has done more for the study of external magic and formal physics than any culture in hundreds of years. They possess the only cities where the sun never sets, and command the weather to serve their crops, and their military squads, like the Storm Guard. That they frequently use their optimism for their gain at the expense of others reveals a little something about optimism: menace is just fear of someone else’s optimism.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

'N' is for 'Names.'

‘N’ is for ‘Names.’ Theresa Bazelli asked if I’d talk a little about the naming conventions of my world. Here’s hoping she approves!

"She reminds me of your uncle..."
The world has seen several dominant cultures, and thus its share of naming conventions. Modern humans have hyphenated names, like Teffes-Ro. The first part is the personal name; ‘Teffes’ is no different than ‘Danielle’ or ‘Mohammed.’ The name usually consists of one or two syllables, including a consonant from the name of a male in the family and a vowel from a female in the family the parents wish to commemorate. Most parents decide to commemorate themselves.

The second part is an external name, often connoting family or a tribe; ‘Ro’ is similar to ‘Smith’ or ‘Goldstein.’ Most of the oldest and most vaunted family names are monosyllabic and privileged, including ‘Ro’; converting your name to one for the status can get you killed by someone protective of their familial or tribal brand.

This two-named form has existed regionally for at least two apocalypses, but was rendered the standard by The Empire of Gold and Jade who sought to count and categorize all citizens. This allows them to allot food subsidies, golems and military police, as well as organizing taxation. They pride themselves on knowledge.

The “Ky” Movement is an opposition, seeking people to give up their family or tribal names and use only “Ky.” To some it’s rebellion against the empire; to others, it’s a means of escaping their past. Converting yourself to a Ky is a lot like declaring bankruptcy; you forfeit all possessions and rights to others. There are so many people with the name that many law organizations will give up pursuing someone with the name. Few people live under the name for long, finding its stigma of worthlessness too dangerous. Others like Mahut-Ky, the villain of The Last House in the Sky, don’t care about or even enjoy the stigma. Stereotypes can be used as weapons.

Names are much less standardized in The Frontier. Many species have taken the old gremlin behavior of naming their families after things; one of the protectors of God’s Lap changed their family name to “Walls,” to become synonymous with the station they commanded.

The most famous gremlin convention was combining words, such as “Hillneath,” “Vineguard,” and “Skylane.” This invariably described a precious site, and then the people and slaves belonging to the site. Only imps and triclopes still bear names from this convention, having deeper affects from the gremlin empire’s slavery and breeding campaigns. They’re hard to shake, culturally.

Monday, April 15, 2013

'M' is for Automaton 'Mammoths'

‘M’ is for ‘Mammoths.’ 

You never think you're going to
have to fight one of these. Be ready.
Automaton Mammoths are the largest automatons still known to roam the planet after The Apocalypse of The Shock. The Shock was a continental electricity storm that wiped out most mechanical beings, much to the relief of biological beings. They’d been a real pain, never tiring in their adventure to shovel all life into their furnaces. The surviving biological species still haven’t figured out why the autos keep doing that. Surely there are more efficient fuel sources.

Auto Mammoths range in size with most deluxe-class sauropods, and are typified by their size, their treads, and that most of their appendages are construction tools, suggesting these were once what the gremlins used to build their empire. Today they can dig several cranes into the shell of an ankylosaurus and drag it into their combustion chambers.

Auto Mammoths reside mostly in the Uncanny Valley (see ‘U’), presumably because only this region sports acceptable prey. Here also reside most of the world’s deluxe-class sauropods and theropods, like the brachiosaurus and tyrannosaurus, as well as cyclopes, manticores and gryphons. Because of their curious penchant for seeking biological matter to combust, Mammoths require the largest prey to continue operating. Auto Drones often move in small packs alongside Mammoths, picking off smaller prey or bits of deceased larger prey in a mechanical symbiosis. It’d be beautiful if it hadn’t killed so many awestruck scientists.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Sunday is for Empire of Gold and Jade

Since E-day was for a story and not a proper entry, I'm dedicating this day of rest to The Empire of Gold and Jade. Consider it giving tyranny equal time.

The Empire of Gold and Jade is more of a corporation than anything these days, but keeps the name and aesthetics for impressions. It is the first successful human empire in recorded history. It was founded 280 years ago after the Apocalypse of Demons, when the Golden Emperor and Jade Empress merged their tribes to fight off the fiery invasion. From the smoking remains of the east, the mighty newlyweds carried culture. It was hard to stop them from taking over after that, what with all the demons having devastated the populations of more powerful or established species.

The Empire of Gold and Jade has an immaculate history. It is deeply progressive, seeking rational explanation for most phenomena in the world, and it is that approach for which its citizens believe they have successfully staved off any apocalypses. They regulate most enterprise and banned religion, though critics question if the Empire, its rulers and founders have not taken on divine status. It presently rules the eastern half of the world’s known continent, up to the Uncanny Valley, which blocks passage to the west. They are working on that.

They have noteworthy achievements in architecture, including the invention of “whitestone,” a self-cleaning building block that makes for very tidy houses. They also invented golems, which have revolutionized industry with free labor that never needs to consume anything like some automatons we might mention. They even have a very humane prison where they keep any captured monsters. The tales those imprisoned monsters have to tell about how humane the prison really is makes up the plot of The House That Nobody Built.

They are the perfect ruling class for this world, according to government documentation. Government invented and controls the printing press. According to government documentation, they are sure they will never be hit an apocalypse. One hasn’t come in 280 years.
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