No review today. Well, not entirely true. I’ve got a review of Mote In God’s Eye written, but not typed and it’s late so that will have to be tomorrow’s. Today we go down to the very bottom of the content bucket. Another piece of writing from my writing folder that is just kinda a random piece of an idea I had once. This one is from a D&D type world I wrote a decent amount of stuff in a while back. Probably haven’t mentioned it on the blog in years. I called it Exiled Future and it’s another post-apocalyptic high fantasy world. It’s a type of setting I enjoy quite a bit. A lot in fact. I’ve got three different series of stories (only one story in one of them finished) set in different versions of post-apocalyptic high fantasy. I just think the endgame extrapolation of magic heavy worlds is interesting. Disasters in the real world are dangerous enough and make for good stories, but what happens when the disasters can affect the laws of physics, control minds, or summon demons?
Anyway, the idea of Exiled Future is pretty close to the old Dying Earth from Jack Vance. Just not so far along. Basically there is a huge network of caverns and tunnels deep below the surface of our typical fantasy planet. Often they are used to send prisoners and dangerous creatures or experiments. On the surface kingdoms rise and fall. Each one sending it’s refuse down to the underworld. Then some huge disaster overtakes the kingdom and the only survivors are the ones that managed to escape to the relative safety of the underworld. The cycle happens over and over again. The underworld getting populated with criminals, dangerous magic, and the survivors of apocalyptic events. The laws of magic are twisted and unpredictable. Results from insane wizards warping the landscape. Angels from fallen holy orders hiding from their enemies. Demons bound by long dead civilizations roaming the tunnels, unable to escape to the surface or to their home plane. Basically the place is fucked up. Some parts of it less than others, but even the more or less safe cities are hives of bizarre cultures and peoples. Like the elaborate mandarin-like ritual cultures of the cities in the grand cavern who use demon summoning and augment their spellcasters with strange half-metal/half-crystal artificial body part replacements. Another idea in this particular setting is the idea that magic, any kind of magic, corrupts and changes the mortals that use it. Magic and the mortal races are more or less incompatible. The more you use magic, and the more powerful that magic is, the more it will change your body to be a better channel.
I really should try to finish up some of those stories. Each of my three post-apocalyptic high fantasy worlds approaches the concept from a different angle and is actually a different genre of story despite the similarity of their subject matter. Exiled Future is in the ‘crazy and over the top action and adventure’. Plus a lot of the ideas I had while working on the Exiled Future stories have stuck in my brain and pretty much form the foundation for my own fantasy genre thoughts and musings, as well as my D&D perspective. Here’s a bit of a story that I got out, but ran out of steam. It is mostly unedited, but I still think it is mostly coherent.
Any old port in a storm
The cavern was completely unexplored and in this part of the caves that was very, very dangerous. Even without the obviously artificial pillars with faded runes and pictographs carved into the stone. Sammie didn’t have much of a choice as the immense magical surge was building up in the air so strong that even non magic users like her could feel it pulsing through them. Whatever the cavern had been in ages past would provide some protection from the surge. The pillars were ward stones and earlier when she had passed near them she could feel the normal magical energy in the air dulling. This was going to be a whopper of a surge. One so strong that the tunnels she was patrolling to get here probably wouldn’t lead the same places when it was over. The surge twisting space and perhaps time so that it could be the week before she left or several years after.
“Never should had volunteered for long range patrol.” Sammie could be heard to mutter as she ran for the cavern entrance as etherial colors swirled in the air and through the stone walls of the tunnel. Jumping between the ward pillars just as the world dissolved into chaos outside.
The entrance of the cavern was lit by the swirling kaleidoscope of magical energies flaring and flashing outside in the tunnels. She knew better than to look at the visual aspects of a surge. Any enchantment magic swirling around out there would grab and lure her out into the maelstrom in a second. She found herself walking deeper into the cavern, into darkness, to see if there was anyplace to rest for however long the surge would last. Given the sheer randomness of surges that could be a few minutes or a few days.
It had been ages since anyone had been in this ruined temple. For temple it was as she got deeper and there were fewer signs of erosion to blur the original designs and sculptures. Past the rough entrance things got more regular and straight. The large cavern having been shaped by what looked to be crude stone working tools into a high rectangular hall. Pillars every ten feet carved with bas reliefs of what had to be important stories in whatever religion built the place. Leering gargoyles and distorted creatures dancing in perverse and sometimes erotic dances with humanoid figures that were only barely human. Some of the creatures vaguely recognized from some of the stories of the surface she had heard in bars and taverns.
Some had to be sheer fancy. A four-legged sack of meat with no fangs, claws, and with a soft skin seemed to be some ideal meat animal promised to devoted followers. Sammie knew that even on the surface there was no place that a completely defenseless animal would survive. The decorations were merely idle curiosities as she walked through the temple. The benches and pews crumbled to dust as the protective prayers keeping entropy away failed and wood rotted and disintegrated over the decades, centuries, and millennia.
When she got to the huge obsidian altar a formless dread had formed inside her mind. Which told her that either a) there was some magic still left in the altar that was trying to affect her, or b) something she couldn’t put her finger on was triggering wild alarm bells in her unconscious. The second one was gaining more evidence as she found that the dull stone was now in full color. All the lewd perverse carvings on the pillars painted in obscene greens, lush crimsons, and vivid blues. Glass mosaics on the walls high above shining with magical light as if the temple was a surface building under that blazing sun.
The glowing nimbus of purple eldritch light on top of the altar meant that there was some magic left in the temple. Some long forgotten people’s last prayers to their gods lingering in the obsidian long after they had all passed into dust. Sammie was loathe to approach any closer and found that her feet kept moving anyway. The last gasp of power in the altar demanding tribute and worship once more. Energized by the outside flare and wanting more power now that it was awake.
“You will not leave until you have performed worship to me.” A booming voice echoed throughout the entire temple. “It has been too long since my followers have visited me here in my prison.”
“Hate to disagree, but I am not one of your followers. Just needed to get out of the surge outside and your wards are still working.” Sammie found her voice still worked fine even as her feet moved her closer to the raw obsidian altar no matter how much she fought or dragged.
“Nonsense.” The voice boomed once more. “I keep the weather outside perfect so that nobody is forced to my temple by outside conditions. All who walk into my hall do so willingly and ready to give themselves in the greater service of their new god.”
“Fuck. I was hoping you were a demon of some kind, but they never go insane.” Sammie muttered quietly. Not quietly enough.
“Of course not. I am a god. Demons are mere insects to one of the gods of light.” The voice was louder this time without having any change of pitch or emotion. Almost like a golem’s voice.
“Angel, gotcha.” Sammie was flippant even as the fear inside her spiraled out of control. She was sure it was a magically triggered emotion at this point. Previous encounters of body controlling magic triggered anger in the ranchhand instead of fear. “Look, I can give you some tribute and carry your name to others that might actually be interested, but you aren’t getting any prayers from me no matter what.”
“I see in your mind that my previous followers are long gone. The time that has passed is enough for the wind and rain to scour my name from the entrance columns. You will be my first prophet to gather my new congregation and make me whole once more.”
“Don’t think so.” Sammie was straining against her own muscles. Standing right in front of the waist high altar and looking at the swirling oil like colors under the slick black surface. Seeing her own reflected face twisted by those swirling into various parodies of divine bliss, hellish agony, and mindless devotion. All of them looking as alien as a stranger’s.
“You have no choice. I apologize for being so unforgiving, but the needs of the divine come before whatever trivial matters your small mortal life was dedicated to.” The voice still showed no emotion even if it should be pitched into sadness or triumph.
Sammie’s body was leaning forward and her hands were reaching out to place themselves in slight depressions on the altar. Sweat sliding down her face as she managed to stop the movement of her body with her gloved hands inches away from the slick rainbow touched surface. Fingers spread and trembling as the power of the altar caressed and tugged at them to touch it and be remade.
The struggle would end with her defeat if it continued. Her will was straining too hard to keep up the resistance for much longer and the pull of the altar showed no signs of weakening. The angel trapped in this temple by whatever long ago sin it performed against the once living gods insane and hungry for the power only worshipers would grant it.
“I reject you and everything you stand for.” Sammie’s voice was loud and clear as she spoke in fluent demon tongue. “You have no hold over me. My soul has been claimed by far stronger and more profane powers than you.”
The power trying to yank down her hands recoiled from the language and denial in that demonic tongue. Her hands managing to jerk a few inches further away from the surface of the altar. The currents of the angelic power luring her to accept the force of the altar was boiling and churning in a puzzling fashion. It couldn’t have been because she was fighting it. Mortal will had power, but not enough power to cause that level of uncertainty and pulsing doubt in a angel’s presence.
Sammie knew then that she only had to hold out long enough. The angel’s power was feeding on the massive surge outside and the moment it was over the angel would be bound and helpless in his prison again. So she struggled and chanted what was basically nursery rhymes in the demon tongue to bolster the resistance of her willpower.
All of the sudden the altar went dark and she fell backwards onto the ground as the counter force against her pulling was no longer there. The angel once more bound and silent and the temple colorless and dark. The surge outside had passed and it was time to go see what the damage was.
“Stupid fucking caves.” Sammie muttered as she took off her gloves and rubbed the prickling skin of her hands. “Just one safe cave to spend a night in. I left the Abyss to avoid situations like this.”
Outside the tunnels looked more or less the same. The ward stones of the columns marking the entrance of the cave the temple was in looked even more worn and featureless. A few more decades of surges and neglect and nobody would be able to tell anything was here at all. Until they got inside and were trapped like she was. She took a chisel out and, a good distance from the columns so that the angel’s power could not affect it during the next surge, she carved a warning into the ground about the temple. Simple glyph noting a insane angel.
After that the long journey home began. Sammie shouldered her pack and decided the best way was to turn around and hope that the tunnels still led the way she had come in and she wouldn’t have to travel through completely unknown territory just to get somewhere familiar. It took a few hours to realize that she wasn’t finding any landmarks no matter which tunnels she went down. Not uncommon after a surge that twisted space around. The tunnels not leading to where they used to go. This time was different.
Instead of finding herself randomly wandering unknown caves, Sammie found herself ending up outside the cave she had left time and time again. Each tunnel looping around through different caves before ending up right where the insane angel was bound. Her frustration growing with every failed attempt to escape. No longer trying to get back to familiar territory. Instead she would take anywhere unknown to get away from the forgotten temple that she nearly suffered self-death in by forced conversion.
“It couldn’t have altered the tunnels itself.” Sammie stopped in front of that cavern entrance for the twelfth time in as many hours. “It could barely perceive the condition of the marker stones just outside the temple. No way it had enough influence to warp all the tunnels for miles in every direction. On top of it having been bound and unaware for long enough that the current fucked-up condition of the world. On the other hand, whatever is doing it has to be connected to that insane asshole because there is no other way the nexus would be this temple. Think, what could it be?”
Sammie let out a scream and kicked the rock wall nearby with a full force swing. Wincing at the jarring shock jangling up her leg when the bottom of her boot was stopped by the unfeeling stone. Not even making a scrape in the ancient gray surface. The jolt making her leg ache was perfect for grounding the building frustration to focus on the problem at hand rationally.
“Not that being rational is always the best way to think like insane supernatural presences.” She muttered to herself while sitting on the ground. “Need to figure this out before another surge comes. Won’t be able to resist much longer if the asshole wakes up and grabs me again for conversion. What is keeping me here?”