Introducing Naolin

From the pen of Drear

Naolin Dark is pretty much my favorite person ever. Maybe that’s not the most objective thing for me to say, since he’s just one of many people who I’ve researched and whose lives I’ve connected. But I do have a reason to be biased—he’s my brother.

Though Naolin and I lost seven years when we were growing up, when we reconnected, you’d never guess we’d been apart. The most fun I’ve ever had has been when I’m spending time with my brother. When we were younger, training in the domes was definitely better when he was with me. I never enjoyed caving as much as he did, but I’d go with him anytime he asked.

He’s smart, generous, fun to hang out with, and he cares a lot more than he lets on. On the other side, though, he is also one of the rudest people I know. Some of it may be a front, but plenty of it is sincere. Perhaps he does have sufficient cause to mistrust most people he meets. However, he takes it a step further and completely dislikes most people he meets.

Power Users, in particular, tend to garner his contempt. Naolin trained as a Swordsman for his local militia, as did I. He wasn’t the only person trained in physical combat—whether Swordsman, Bowman, or Shadow—who disdained those who had little ability with a weapon, and preferred to fight with the intangible Power.

I don’t meant to make excuses for his behavior. If I’m being honest, I’ve found that the more time I spend with him, the more I tend to act like him too. Maybe it’s contagious. Or genetic. I love my brother, no matter his issues. We’ll always be close, through whatever life throws at us or how long we may not see each other.

War Games

From the pen of Drear

Madness runs were a way of life, and not just in Pithea. The militias were kept busy just trying to keep up with the outbreaks. However, militia and territory leaders were always aware that if our country ever ended up at odds with another nation again, those same militias would be called upon to fight.

During their training, militia members were taught to fight fellow humans the same as maddened animals, but it wasn’t as easy to practice that in the field. One of the domes in our union did provide illusionary human opponents, but they were never quite as smart as real people would be.

The War Games started as an advanced battle simulator, pitting real humans against real humans. But once the system had been designed, those involved decided that they could do a lot more with it—namely, an actual game.

The idea of the War Games was that, on a pre-determined playing field, teams of players would match off against each other. The fighting would be simulated, similar to the way it was in the domes. However, in the domes, the enemy was created using Power, while the weapons or Power blasts used to fight them were real. In the War Games, the enemy would be real, but the weapons or Power blasts would be illusions.

The playing field would be inside a controlled environment similar to training domes, in which real weapons were not allowed, and Power worked differently. Each person would be given a Power-created version of the weapon he or she already owned. Also, while inside the controlled environment, Power blasts would have different effects. They would be visually accurate, but wouldn’t cause the same pain, damage, or destruction that the abilities normally would.

Though the ability or weapon used in the War Games didn’t injure an opponent the way it normally should, it did still affect them. It would cause a tingly sensation, followed by numbness. How large of an area was affected, or how badly, was determined by the initial attack. It was meant to simulate the inability to use a body part due to injury. Likewise, though Clerics were not necessary in the Games, they still did play a part. A Cleric’s heal could reverse the numbness on an “injured” part of the body.

If a person’s injury, or accumulation of injuries, were deemed enough to kill them by War Games officials who monitored the battle, they would be removed from the game for the rest of the playing time.

The War Games were announced shortly after the buildings in Black Grange were reclaimed. Pithean officials decided the clearing would be a perfect playing field for multiple reasons. It was a wide, open area that wasn’t very close to any town. Also, the buildings were empty, but no other plans had been made for them, so they became part of the games too.

A massive cleaning and repairing project was undertaken not long after the animals had been eradicated, so the buildings could be ready. Each one was divided into different sectors, as the buildings were extensive. The upper floors were off-limits during the games, because that was where the living areas were.

During this time, there was a lot of speculation over what the buildings had actually been used for in the past. Each structure had hundreds of individual living quarters in it. Those living quarters consisted of at least one bedroom and bathroom, some with small kitchens, maybe a second bedroom, or even a sitting room. On the lower floors, each building had an expansive kitchen, a few bathrooms, other large or small rooms with indiscernible purposes, and an unusual man-made trench.

There had been some technology in them in the past, but most of it was broken and useless, thanks to the hundreds of years of rampaging, maddened animals. Any remnants of the old technology were taken out and disposed of quickly.

When the War Games were ready to be launched, detailed instructions and rules were given to each member, both on how to play, and on how to form teams. At first, participation in the games was limited to militia members, but that rule changed only a few months after the sport went live. The War Games creators underestimated how popular the games would be, and how many people would want to participate. Teams were usually named after the leader and could have no fewer than twenty, and no more than fifty, members. During the game, only thirty members per team were allowed on the playing field at a time.

The team that was in control of the sector at the end of the twenty-four hour game time earned the privilege of staying in that building until the next game, which would be two weeks later.

Introducing Missy

From the pen of Drear

I have known Missy Seeger for many years–long enough to know her full name that she hates so much. Though we were already close friends when I started doing my research, it was a very different experience digging into her life more thoroughly.

When Missy was young, she was very unsure of herself. While many others her age started on the path to what they wanted their future to hold, Missy had a difficult time deciding. More than once she was sure she had found her path, only to realize that her passion lay elsewhere.

In those days, Pithea had a lot to offer a curious young person with an adventurous spirit. Truth be told, Missy isn’t terribly curious or adventurous. She is, however, one of the most amiable people I know. Even when we first met, she treated me like family. She never thought twice about including me in her life as if we’d known each other for years.

She values her family and friends highly and does not like it when they are threatened. While she can be level-headed in an emergency, if the well-being of someone she cares about is jeopardized, she’s prone to losing her composure.

Missy never wanted to be important or well-known, and definitely didn’t want to be a leader. However, each of these things was thrust upon her over time. She didn’t go along without a fight, but she was always reminded that with help and support from her friends, she could do anything.

The Madness

From the pen of Drear

There is an affliction that has plagued the animals in our world for a thousand years. It is known only as the Madness. It was a common occurrence back in the days of the events I’m sharing with you, though it’s rarer now. At the time, we didn’t know what caused it. We only knew that it was a battle every time we sent militia units out on Madness runs.

The Madness affected wide populations of wildlife, not just in Pithea, but all over the earth. The symptoms of Madness in animals included faster aging and higher rates of reproduction. Thus, the competition for food, territory, and even mates became fiercer, so animals often abandoned their normal habitats and behaviors.

The Madness spread quickly, and even crossing between different species did not slow it down. In an individual animal, the Madness would run its course and then be gone. However, by the time that happened, it would have infected so many other animals, that it would have spread out and away from the original animal like a wide ripple in a vast sea. It knew no boundaries, and if not stopped, would presumably continue until the whole world was affected. Therefore, the more quickly it could be dealt with, the better. And the only thing that could be done was to eradicate the entire population of afflicted wildlife.

The first signs of an outbreak were normally docile animals acting aggressively, or animals venturing outside of the territory they normally inhabited. Once someone noticed any behavior that may indicate an outbreak, they were to report it to the nearest town immediately.

Pitheans dealt with Madness outbreaks by forming a unit from the militia of whatever town was closest, and sending them on what was called a Madness run. The militia unit would identify the extent of the outbreak, and then proceed to kill every animal infected. It does sound like a gruesome business, but it was the only way we knew to deal with it. And it was a way of life for us—as natural as a blacksmith waking up every morning and firing up his forge. The Madness had been around for hundreds of years, and Madness runs happened on a regular basis. Because we were enjoying a time of peace in our region of the world, these runs comprised the main business of the militias in Pithea.

In order to ensure that the ecosystem would not be thrown off more than it already had been, we would always replenish the population of animals after we were sure the Madness was gone. Throughout our region of the world, there were various Madness Reserves, in which every animal that was native to that region was bred in expansive, but contained, habitats. After the outbreak was over, several of each animal that was indigenous to the respective location would be brought in from the proper reserves.

When the Madness first appeared, no cause could be determined. Now we know exactly what causes it, and in many parts of the world, it has been completely eradicated.

History of Pithea: Confluxes

From the pen of Drear

Pithea was reunited after almost 100 years of separation. Today, Pithea is still broken into five territories, each one governed by one of the original five cities. The boundaries are very close to what they had been since the war. Taellyn was selected as the capital city, where a national government also exists, designed mostly to keep the country working together.

Those five territories have their own governments, which have been standardized. The militia is no longer the governing body. Each territory has a militia leader and a political leader. They are meant to keep each other in check. There are also militias in some of the smaller towns in each territory—towns like Aleutia, smaller than the principle city, but large enough to need its own small military force.

Though the individual towns do have control over their own militias, in the event of a war, the national government is to appoint one person who will lead all of the militias, so that the whole country can come together to defend itself.

Each militia member is required to undergo at least one type of specialty training. That training is learned at a conflux. There are five such facilities in Pithea, so named because people from all over the nation train at each building. The confluxes are open to anyone who wants to learn the skills they teach. However, as their main purpose is to train people for the militia, everyone receives the same training as militia members.

Each conflux reflects the most common fighting style of its home territory’s original militia during the Separation. Before the invasion, archers for the national army were trained in Drayune, so, once left on their own, that was all they knew. Thus the Bowman Conflux is in Drayune. Similarly, hand-to-hand, sword-wielding fighters were taught in Bhorpal, to the north. When they became their own city-state, their military mostly trained as swordsmen, leading to Bhorpal being the home of the Swordsman Conflux.

To the west, Jaffna and Torreo had their own distinct styles. Torreo was a city of scoundrels, situated in the desert of Pithea. It had always been the bane of Pithea, giving rise to criminals and troublemakers. In the open desert, the only cover was darkness. The members of the territory’s military became known for their mysterious ability to disappear, even in the daylight. The fighters that became known as Shadows relied on furtiveness and a quick kill.

Jaffna had housed the Power Council and Training Center for a hundred years. The Council taught children to use their Power when they turned thirteen, which was the law of the land. Anyone who desired more access to and control of the Power that was inside them, as well as the ability to use that Power for both offense and defense, learned such things at the Training Center. Therefore, Jaffna’s military during the Separation was heavily made up of Power users. Now, the User Conflux is in Jaffna and, while it is separate from the Power Council, it is a direct offshoot of the Training Center.

The only conflux that does not trace its roots back to the Separation is the Bonder Conflux. The mixed fighting style of the Bonder was introduced to Pithea more recently. That facility is in Bhorpal Territory, in a northeastern town called Ulta.

The only territory with no conflux is Taellyn. Before the invasion of Pithea, the central city was the home of the Church of Pithea, the national denomination. The Divine Academy, which was connected to the church, trained Clerics to use their Power with a focus on healing themselves and other people, and saving lives. At the time, the Academy offered a rigid program, available only to the devout and those truly seeking to help others. The Clerics are not a part of the militias, but the Academy provides Clerics for Madness runs whenever needed. If a healer is requested for any other purpose, it requires more explanation, more paperwork, and often more time to be granted the use of one.


History of Pithea: The Separation

From the pen of Drear

Pithea was resettled only a few hundred years after the Tech War. The country was founded as a monarchy and enjoyed mostly peaceful relations and trade with its neighbors on the mainland. The capital was a port town called Alberdim. It was through that port that most of the commerce in and out of the nation traveled. The royal family also lived and worked in Alberdim.

Over three hundred years ago, Pithea was invaded by marauders from a distant country. They landed at Alberdim and two other coastal points, and worked their way inland. They destroyed the capital city and murdered Queen Aleutia II and the rest of the royal family. The enemy drove further inland before the national army finally stopped them, and forced what was left of them back out to sea.

The country was left in tatters, with no government and no capital city. The larger cities that were still intact throughout the island each claimed dominance over the others, but none could fully dictate its authority. In the end, rather than fight amongst themselves, each one claimed the land around it under its own sovereignty, and they left each other alone. Thus began the era in Pithea that we now simply call “The Separation.”

After a while, the five different cities, with their territories, came to act like five different city-states. Each set up its own government, and since their divided nation was born from war, their governments were ruled by their militaries.

Very little trading or communication happened between any of the territories during the Separation, with the exception of Taellyn. The church continuously attempted to reach out to its neighboring territories and bring them back together. Emissaries from the church were sent to each of the other major cities, and were on friendly terms with all except the Torreo Territory. However, they could make no progress toward reuniting the country.

It took an outside force to do that. Approximately ninety years after the invasion and split of the nation, a small contingent from the far-away country of Ophaela arrived in Pithea. The people from Ophaela offered their services to the country, mostly involving transportation and communication. Since there wasn’t a system in place for either of those, it was perfect, except for one thing: they would only set up their stations in Pithea if the entire country was in agreement.

The Ophaelan group offered their idea to the leaders of Taellyn first, because it was the largest city in the country at the time. It was also the most centrally located. Taellyn officials asked for time to approach the other territories about the proposal, which the Ophaelan group granted. Taellyn sent messengers to the other four territories—Jaffna, Bhorpal, Torreo, and Drayune—to ask them to send representatives to Taellyn. The leaders of each of the five territories agreed that the benefits of the Ophaelans’ services were important enough to pursue. At this time, the country also took its first steps toward becoming whole again.

The Power

From the pen of Drear

Many years after the Tech War, a new Power was discovered. In the dead of winter, a man desperately wanted to provide heat for his family. He watched the coals of the last logs he could afford burn out in the fireplace. As he thought about how cold his children would be that night, the wall next to him burst into flames.

Elsewhere, a woman discovered her husband’s infidelity. She went to confront him, angry and distraught. He hugged her in an attempt to apologize, but she pushed him away. When her hands made contact with him, a jolt of electricity ran through him.

Governments around the world attempted to make sense of these events. They studied the people in whom the new Power had manifested, alongside a control group of others who seemed to have none of these abilities. When those in the second group began to show signs of the new Power too, they realized it was far bigger than anyone had thought. In fact, reports from other nations eventually revealed that it was showing up all over the world.

In an attempt to control the situation, multiple nations together placed bans on using the new Power. They wanted to understand it better, and perhaps learn how to control it. All they knew so far was that the Power was easily triggered by strong emotions. Before anyone could learn much, though, a tragedy occurred in my home country of Pithea.

The legend is that two brothers from the western town of Ilsorae fell in love with the same woman. Due to their intense argument over whom she belonged with, the Power manifested in both of them. They tried to use it against each other, but couldn’t control it. A small-scale explosion destroyed the entire town.

No one who could have witnessed the explosion survived to give an account, and the story has certainly changed in the thousand years since the event. However, whichever version of the legend is told, some details remain the same—the Power was involved, and everyone in the town died.

Their mistake caused a worldwide panic. Leaders across the globe used the opportunity to take full control of the situation. In our region, this resulted in some of the policies we have today. Through external, artificial means, the Power is blocked in newborn infants. It is released at the age of thirteen, when each child is taught how to use and control it. In Pithea, and the union of countries it belongs to, there are many guidelines and restrictions placed on its use, and the punishment for unlawful use of Power is severe.

The Power is now a part of everyday life. Alongside physical combat, it is used to protect and defend, and in some cases, to offend. It has been harnessed for external uses, such as lighting and transportation. It is such a part of everyone and everything that no one questions it, no one fears it, and everyone depends on it.

The Tech War

From the pen of Drear

Thousands of years ago, Earth was much more technologically advanced than it is now. There were machines for everything—transportation, medicine, food production, and entertainment. The people of that time were even using machines to launch out into space and explore.

But then there was a war. All of the most powerful nations were caught up in it, and it was cataclysmic. The end of the war was punctuated by multiple catastrophic explosions, resulting in an unthinkable number of casualties. The fallout from the explosions took even more lives, and in the end, only one-third of the world’s population remained.

Those who survived were so distraught by the global devastation and loss of life, and the damage to their own spirits, that they took drastic measures to see that it would never happen again. The few nations still intact banded together to create a global ordinance that banished what they felt was the reason for the current situation: technology. Much of it had been destroyed by the war already, so the remaining population agreed that they would not attempt to return the world to its previous state.

There was some resistance, but the punishment for disobeying the ordinance was severe. More than one town was razed and its inhabitants relocated for attempting to restore their technology. After that, everyone either fell in line or hid their disobedience well.