The Snake and the Mirror

Journal Entry of Dr. P. Westcroft, Practicing Metaphysicist

April 9th, 2030

The autumn of 2024 was to mark the turning point in the new history of our world. It was to be the year when human settlement and permanent habitation reached a level approximately comparable to that of the zeroth year as judged by the Gregorian calendar (Approximately 50 million human souls across the planet.) Obviously, this number does not account for spirits, the demographics of which have proven “challenging”. That is to say that the population of spirits across the globe tends to range between seven million and eighteen trillion depending on who you ask.

The year 2022 was a year of catastrophe and destruction; 2023 was to be the year humanity began picking up the pieces, and 2024 was the year that humans, in their courage (and some would say arrogance) began pushing back. I, unfortunately, was not in Rome during the autumn of 2024 as I was in Greece at the time. However, I kept abreast of what news I could, and have used my position here to fill in the gaps of histories according to those who witnessed them.

I am not a historian (I must remind whatever hapless reader that one can observe from the interviews, hypotheses, and sketched diagrams in my journals that I am a metaphysicist first and foremost), and I have offered my findings as contributions to Volume 1 of the Nuova Storia Romana that was recently published. As such, I wish to look instead at the various forces that contributed to the new shaping of mankind, the campaign against chaos of the late year 2024, and the inevitable fallout.

I have spoken before on the subject of Champions, those mortals chosen by the gods as their personal warriors and messengers on Earth, and much can be said about them as well as the gods themselves. Rome, of course, focused its knowledge on its local deities, those of Rome, Greece, and Egypt. However, with the arrival of the Shrine Master Megame Kamigawa, to Rome in mid-2024, as well as the critical Battle of the Black Sun, the truth that had been suspected was confirmed: The gods and spirits had returned across the Earth, not limited by faith or by modern belief.

At the time, it is now estimated there were approximately 75 champions scattered over the world. As the system grew more widespread and popular so too did that number rise. People gathered around the chosen champions of the gods, and they acted as protectors of nascent settlements and cities. Rome was the unique case, as it had the protection of the esteemed wolf pack: Capitolina Lupa, the Wolf of Gubbio (Giovanni), Kebechet, and Angel. Across the Mediterranean and beyond, however, we see a clear pattern emerge of small settlement->Divine protector->Large settlement->Organized military defense->Self-sustainability. This pattern can be seen in Carthage, Athens, Sparta, Berlin, Paris, Babylon (Formerly Al Hillah), Prague, and I have heard reports of similar cases in Kyoto, New Aztlan (Formerly Mexico City), Oslo, and many others.

Of course, there are always variations and exceptions. Southern England and Wales lacked the divine champions that would characterize both mainland Europe as well as Scotland and Ireland; however they had the exceptional case of an established human defensive settlement in the form of Camelot. Similarly Syracuse was briefly ruled by a despotic (but unifying) magocracy that was replaced by a parliamentary monarchy under noted magical anomaly Tagus Vittorio. This magocracy took the place that a champion would normally occupy, though a champion was present in rural Sicily (Salvatore Messana). Thule continues to thrive as a Northern port settlement, but it is protected both by its peculiar geography and a supernatural protection other than divine.

By 2024, however, it was becoming apparent that protection alone was not enough, and proactive effort would be needed in order to ensure the future of humanity. However, by autumn many settlements and cities were still only on their first legs, hardly able to support themselves, let alone able to contribute to a larger unified effort, simple communication was difficult enough, let alone things like trade or military reinforcement when the forests and seas teamed with monsters.

To understand more about the relationship between champions, cities, and the great effort to push back against the Primordials, I’ve managed to organize a brief discussion between three such prominent individuals: Ambassador Jana Tule of Thule, Champion of Hermes Stefanos Melis, and Sovereign-Protector of the Province of Barcelona Wilhelmina Koenig. Below is a transcript:

 

Me: First of all, I would like to thank you all for coming on such short notice. I know you all have very busy schedules and a great many duties, I hope I won’t need to keep you too long.

Wilhelmina: It was not an issue, and your letter intrigued me, Doctor.

Jana: No problem at all, Doctor.

Stefanos: I managed to sneak some time in while I’m in Rome, surprised you came to me first though, there are a lot of champions here.

M: Very true, however I am interested in perspectives from outside Rome and you three were excellent examples. You spend most of your time in Carthage, yes?

S: I do, though I was born in Thessaly and that’s where I was made Champion.

M: How old were you when you were made a Champion, if I may ask?

S: Oh I was only thirteen at the time, definitely one of the youngest.

M: Well, to get onto the subject at hand, all of you lived in areas that were threatened by the attacks of the Primordials when you were younger. How did you survive, and how would you compare those methods in terms of benefit and effectiveness?

W: That’s something of a broad question, Doctor. I’m sure we can all speak for our own experiences, but it is a little difficult to compare.

M: I understand, then let us begin with the first part. If you could go first, Lady Koenig?

W: Very well. For the first five years or so the city and later Disctrict of Barcelona was under exclusively human protection.

M: From what I hear you were the bulk of that ‘human protection’.

W: While I don’t wish to downplay the contributions of Barcelona’s many defenders, I was called to meet specific large-scale threats personally, yes.

J: Lady Koenig’s reputation as a dragonslayer has reached as far as Thule.

M: And Rome as well. How did you gain these skills, Lady Koenig? Were you trained?

W: Yes and no. Much of my martial training came from my mentor, who unfortunately passed away during the first dragon attack on Barcelona. However, there are certain…instincts I suppose you could say that are specific to dragonslayers. It is inborn and, from what I’ve been told, strictly supernatural as opposed to hereditary.

M: I imagine Lady Tule has some knowledge in that regard?

J: It is accurate.

M: But still, it is these skills alone that you claim are responsible to safeguarding Barcelona, as opposed to patronage?

W: Yes, Barcelona remains one of the last few Christian cities in Iberia due to that. The lack of patronage of interference from foreign deities has given us that religious independence, and I personally believe my skills are a gift from God.

M: So it is patronage of a sort?

W: I suppose you could call it that.

M: Well with that said, let us move to Stefanos.

S: Thank you, Doctor. I’m not sure how much advice I could give. I’m not like some of your champions here in Rome in that I’m not a great fighter. I mean I’m not bad, but I’m really more of a messenger.

M: As befitting your patron.

S: Right, though that was invaluable to Thessaly’s survival. There was a vicious monster pack that almost had the place surrounded, led by one of Typhon’s nastier children.

M: Oh! Forgive me what breed?

S: A boar, huge one too, like the Calydonian Boar from stories. Thessaly didn’t have the resources or manpower to catch them all, but Sparta did.

M: So you were tasked to send that message?

S: Yes, it’s quite a story, I’ll have to tell you sometime.

M: I would enjoy that, but I’d like to hear more about your actions as champion and how that influenced Thessaly.

S: Oh, champions are like celebrities in Greece. There’s a big temple to Hermes in Thessaly now, statue and everything, and of course they love Rosaria back in Sparta.

M: So you would say that the divine status of champions led to the celebration of their patron gods?

S: Well of course, you see it here in Rome too. The gods with champions always get the most visitors and offerings, I think that’s half of why there are so many now; gods want to cash in and flooded the market.

M: Along with the threat of the Primordials.

S: Well yes, of course, that was the driving force behind the first big wave.

M: Lady Koenig, there has certainly been a visible decline in adherence to the Abrahamic faiths, though there are of course still strong Christian, Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim cities, such as in your case of Barcelona. Would you attribute this to a lack of ‘visibility’ so to speak?

W: Hmmm…in a sense, yes. God does not come down in churches and let his will be known directly, but that has been the case since the days of Moses. As the saying goes ‘God works in mysterious ways’ and while he does not name his champions, I believe there are those, like myself or like your wolf, Giovanni, through whom he works his will. It is easy to throw caution to the wind and side with the spirit that says it can aid you, but we have had success in Barcelona matching that of cities such as Athens or Babylon without them.

M: There has been no small amount of religious strife in a number of pan-theic cities, including Rome, do you support the notion held by some that the cults supporting non-Abrahamic gods are apostates to be punished.

W: I think that is a question a great many places are working through right now and have been for some time. Though given the lack of prominent records and the umm…you mentioned it in your last paper.

M: Cavallo-White Effect.

W: Yes that, it makes it difficult, if not impossible, to determine everyone who is or was an apostate. That said, Barcelona is a city for religious freedom. We do not turn away others for their beliefs, but we ask them not to tread upon the strong Catholic background of the district.

M: We have something similar regarding the Vatican. Now I apologize, Lady Tule, we have gone onto a religious tangent and you have been very polite in waiting, could you tell us something about Thule’s background and protection?

J: Of course, first of all it is important to note that we are not from Iceland or Greenland, but rather a distinct landmass named Thule, or Ultima Thule.

W: Right, and this distinction is due to its unique geography?

J: Yes, Thule is virtually unplottable, and until recently was unreachable along with similar places like Shamballa or Atlantis.

W: Or Lemuria or Mu.

J: Ah no, I’m afraid those lost continents are entirely fictional.

W: How odd…but regardless, this odd geography is what kept you safe? Was there any religious influence?

J: The people of Thule have a strong shamanic history with the local spirits as well as notable Norse influence, but we did not have any active temples to the Norse gods.

W: Hence why Calroch has such strong devotion in Thule.

J: One of several reasons, yes. Our geography protected us from most attacks, but Lord Calroch fended off those powerful monsters that did manage to push through. Thule would have been an ideal staging ground for Nidhoggr’s invasion of Europe, but thanks to Calroch they pushed it more south.

W: Which of course was beneficial to the joint-offensive.

J: Very much so.

W: Well, I think I have new information and some splendid new perspectives now. I would like to thank you all for coming.

J: No trouble at all.

S: Happy to help.

W: Of course.

M: I shan’t take up any more of your time then, thank you all.

-Interview End-

 

Previous Chapter                                                                                                               Next Chapter

The Cities Eternal©2017, Evan Murdoch, Ben Sousa

Where All Roads Lead

Journal Entry of Dr. P. Westcroft, Practicing Metaphysicist

Journal of Dr. P. Westcroft, Practicing Metaphysicist
March 19h, 2030My continuing study of the changes overcoming the Italian Peninsula and the greater Earth environment as a whole will, unfortunately, come across as something of a history lesson at times. Though I did not immigrate to Rome until a little over a year ago in 2029, I have done all within my power to gather together an objective sequence of events that helped shape the current state of Rome and, in many ways, the entire world.

The year after the Sicilian Expedition of 2023 was one of rapid change. Rome had expanded from a guarded sanctuary of several hundred into a city of over eight thousand at the center of a network of smaller towns and villages that sprang up either from concerted reclamation efforts or additional sanctuaries that were discovered.

That last part is always of interest to me. Rome thought itself unique for its survivorship in the ruins of a dying city, but it was simply one of many (though certainly one of the largest known examples. There are, to my knowledge, only four or five cities of equal size in all Eurasia at this date.). Most sanctuaries consisted of little more than several families hiding behind a palisade, saved by luck or raw tenacity from the wrath of hungry monsters and the claws of the animated dead. These smaller sanctuaries would prove the basis for what would change Rome from a city into a state. Though by early 2024, the process was still only just beginning.

Still, the population was booming. More survivors than many thought had survived were creeping out of the woodwork and joining the larger communities. All of this was made possible thanks to the shielding system developed by the wolf named “Angel” that protected Italy from overt monstrous incursion. Not only could cities be reclaimed, but soon farmland as well to support the growing population. The old city was demolished or left to fall, the rubble repurposed to build again from the ground up. Exceptions remained, of course. Much of the Vatican and Capitoline Hill remained untouched, and the older parts of the city were still plenty serviceable. People who thought themselves evicted by monsters forever were soon returning to their homes.

In the city of Rome itself, the crowd grew into a bustling as the city expanded past the old walls around the Capitoline Hill. It became a trading hub for much of Italy, its roads protected by the armed legions, the successors of the Roman Rangers. It was this legion, Legio I Capitolina, which began to reclaim much of the peninsula, and often their wolf banners were the saving grace of many starving communities. Though I have never serve in any of the Roman legions, I have met a number of legionnaires, including several interviews with General Hanne, who has served with them since they were still called the Rangers.

More than the military power of Rome began to solidify after the establishment of the shield. Rome’s new government, which soon served as representative government of all of Italy, finally began to coalesce. The Senate soon consisted of 100 formal senators with a smaller (20 or so) list of active senators who were always present. The wolf, Capitolina, continued her run asdictator until the first official election of a consul in the summer of 2024, a particularly fierce race between mage Lord Albion Nassar and popular candidate Senator Patricia Bellos.

Beneath the government, the common person of Rome saw an increasing standard of living, approaching that of perhaps the early twentieth century, though with some modern conveniences retained. The radio was still the most popular form of entertainment, spurred on by the talented Thalia’s music and variety shows. Many singers were quick to audition, but the hostess’ talent for finding the finest in Rome was nothing short of supernatural.

Hmmm…

Speaking of which, the completion of the Grand Temple in April of 2024 proved central to the solidifying of the power of pagan religions in Rome. It was masterfully designed, and created a home for all of the approved religions and cults within the city (Save for Catholicism, which retained the Vatican). While others maintained an altar there but kept their centers of faith elsewhere in the city. Unfortunately, while most cults maintained distance and a modicum of respect, there was an occasional flaring up of distrust or hostility. However, the Pontifex and the Archbishop saw to most of these difficulties, save for one.

The unapproved cult known as the Shroud of the Butterfly was only growing in strength during that time period. Though hunted through the city and with their activities kept subtle, evidence pointed to their involvement in almost every inter-religious incident that occurred that year. As their cult was unapproved and their activities unlawful, the government of Rome sent a few volunteers in pursuit while keeping the city guard vigilant. The leader of these, Aurelio Furlan, had already proven himself against the cult before.

Aurelio was one of several so-called “Champions”, individulals empowered by various deities to carry out their will. At that time Aurelio Furlan, Champion of Diana, was one of the most prominent in Rome along with Salvatore Messana from Sicily, Champion of Minerva. These two, however, were two be only the first of many in Rome, representing more than just the Roman pantheon. I have interviewed several of these champions, and their dispositions and powers are as varied as their representative deities.

These individuals along with several others, such as renowned magic knight Hildegard Jazheil, served as “Special Forces” of a sort. The legions could handle most monstrous threats and certainly the rare pocket of human resistance. When a threat required a truly remarkable person, that is when champions were deployed, though the relationship between champions and the Roman state could be…complex at times.

Aurelio Furlan was the first to really prove himself. Though what had once been a veritable occupation of the city by monsters had been massivel reduced, there was still the occasional cacodaemon or ambling beast that manifested within the shield and was drawn to the city center. It was Aurelio’s task, along with several other key individuals, to hunt down these wayward creatures and eliminate them as threats before they could bring real harm to Rome.

It truly was a new day compared to the past year in Rome, though the summer of 2024 would find itself as another turning point in the city’s history as it consolidated its dominance within Rome and began to make contact with other rising states beyond its shores.

Previous Chapter                                                                                                                      Next Chapter

The Cities Eternal©2016, Evan Murdoch, Ben Sousa

The Wolves of Rome

4th Journal Entry of Dr. P. Westcroft, Practicing Metaphysicist

Journal of Dr. P. Westcroft
March 19th, 2030

My next area of interest regarding the study of magic and its effects on the mundane required both a magical and historical expert. Thanks to my previous connections, I managed to get in touch with the esteemed historian and registered magus, Ettore Cavallo, and he was kind enough to offer me an interview, of which I have recorded a rough transcript below. The topic of our discussion was the idea of “Archetypes” and how they can affect monsters, spirits, and even living people. It was an idea on which little has been scientifically recorded, but one in which I also have a great interest and I was eager to learn more.

Ettore: Thank you for the invitation, Doctor Westcroft. I was quite interested in your request. I’ve heard quite a bit about your research.

Me: Oh? Quite surprising, I tend not to advertise.

E: Abi shared it with me. It was quite interesting, I’m surprised you haven’t published more.

M: I have what might be called “eccentricities”, but that’s a touch beyond the point. I am glad Professor White let you know, and she told me you were quite knowledgeable about these so-called “Archetypes”. Am I correct in my thinking?

E: Yes, I’d say I am the…third most knowledgeable person on that subject in the city, and probably the easiest to talk to. Miss Sable can be rather reticent.

M: So I’ve heard, and I’m glad you agreed. Now, in as layman of terms as you can, what is an Archetype in the context of the spiritual world?

E: An Archetype is shorthand for when a spirit, any kind of spirit, starts adhering to certain traits common with others of similar disposition. This can occur with monsters, natural spirits, human spirits, and it has even been observed in living people.

M: Can you give me some examples?

E: Certainly. An easy example would be the Cacodemons that plagued the city a few years ago. By their nature they could take any shape, but when they grew more powerful they tended to take on aspects of ancient monsters: manticores and chimeras and whatnot. They were adapting to specific monstrous archetypes.

M: Why not something new?

E: Because older monster archetypes have more power. We’ve been telling legends about them for centuries, if not longer. They are naturally more prone to taking on forms resilient in human memory. Dragons are much the same way.

M: Dragons, really?

E: I’m not an expert, and I don’t mean the more powerful things we call ‘dragons’ like Primordials, but more earthly dragons tend to fall within their narrative archetypes. Western European dragons tend to hoard gold, have six limbs, breathe fire, etcetera.

M: I see…so would this be a side-effect of your so-called “Cavallo-White Effect”?

E: Potentially. The Cavallo-White Effect recursively alters history, but this has been observed before in spirits and monsters. It’s only after the Days of Revelation that it started occurring in people, as far as we know.

M: Could you tell me more about spirit archetypes?

E: Ah yes, of course. Mages summon all manner of spirits to do work for us, and sometimes we need spirits of specific qualities, like a warrior to fight for us. These spirits, in order to better last in the world, tend to take the shape of people who fit that archetype.

M: But they’re not actually that person?

E: No, merely a shadow of it, their memories altered by modern perception. I once summoned a spirit to act as a boat pilot on a mission to Crete and it decided to take the form of Aeneas…that was quite time.

M: I see…thank you. Now I would like to get to the last part of the subject.

E: Which is?

M: Archetypes as observed in living humans.

E: Ah, of course. That is also the trickiest one to explain, and it’s difficult to observe objectively. There’s no measure or gene for it. It just seems to strike certain people and they start to fill specific roles.

M: What do you mean when you say “Roles”?

E: The best way to explain it is like character archetypes in stories.

M: Some examples? If you’d be so kind.

E: Sure. The ones I’ve identified…archmages. There are plenty of powerful mages but some just go far and beyond what used to be considered the very limits of possibility.

M: Care to name names?

E: I’d really rather not in this case…

M: As you like.

E: After that…I’m not positive but I’m convinced there are a few walking saints, and not only Christian ones. I’ve heard reports of Eastern Buddhist living saints as well, though I’m still not sure if that’s an archetype. Then there’s the Dragonslayers…

M: “Dragonslayers”?

E: Yes, those ones actually aren’t too difficult to spot. Some people seem to be born with a real instinctual talent for killing dragons.

M: Go on.

E: I’ve spoken to a few, and from what I gather they have instincts no one else possesses naturally, a sort of sixth sense for the best ways to kill a dragon and the reflexes to do it.

M: Can only dragonslayers kill dragons?

E: Oh no, anyone with enough training, skill, or even simple luck could do it, but Dragonslayers are born with an advantage. It’s not a skill they train but something natural and utterly unique to them. They were also one of the first archetypes to be identified.

M: Really? How?

E: Well people with a preternatural habit towards dragon slaying tend to stand out, you know? It’s not exactly something a normal person has a knack for. It’s how we found out about Archetypes, because we saw similar examples in history.

M: Such as?

E: Saint George, Sigurd, Saint Martha, John Lambton. All of them are quite possibly ancient dragonslayers.

M: Is it genetic? Inheritable? Could a dragon-slaying trait be bred?

E: None of the archetypes that I know of are hereditary. They seem to happen at random…or perhaps more aptly, they tend to happen where and when they’re needed.

M: What do you mean?

E: Well, if a town is menaced by a dragon long enough, dragonslayers tend to crop up in the area to repel them. If there’s a group of mages in close proximity, an archmage tends to rise in their ranks to lead them. If there’s a place particularly prolific with some kind of sin or blasphemy, a saint will eventually roll into town…all of this is generally speaking, of course. It’s a phenomenon almost impossible to predict.

M: Fascinating…truly. Could you hazard a number for the living archetypes in Rome?

E: Very few, though I don’t like making hard guesses since it’s such a vague and abstract concept. Many people might fall into lighter, less obvious and more subtle archetypes we don’t even know and live their lives like that, pushing the narrative of the world steadily on.

M: So you think these archetypes fill a role of some kind?

E: Almost certainly. With the world the way it is, it’s all but necessary. We can’t survive in a world with dragons without Dragonslayers. It’s an age of miracles, so of course saints walk among us. However, you have to consider we can’t simply write them off as a phenomenon. These are people. People born with advantages and in specific circumstances, but people with their own skill, decisions, and emotions. A Dragonslayer is still brave for facing a dragon head on in battle, after all.

M: Would you say any archetype is more important than the others?

E: [At this point Ettore considers the question at length before responding.] There is one…though it’s really hard to say if it’s an archetype. I believe it is, but examples are very few and far between, maybe a half dozen on the entire planet.

M: And what would that be?

E: If I had to come up with a word…because it’s not like these archetypes come with labels…I would probably say “Hero”.

M: That’s very vague.

E: Now you see the dilemma. How do you define something like that?

M: That was going to be my next question for you.

E: Well, roughly as I can tell, if it even exists at all, the Hero Archetype exists in people who have a…knack for performing amazing deeds. I mean…there are plenty of everyday heroes, your soldiers and firemen and teachers and whatnot…but the people who kill the monster, retrieve the relic, win the girl and bring peace to the nation…those are what might fit under the “Hero” archetype.

M: So while a Dragonslayer might be your Saint Georges or your Sigurds…

E: A hero is your Hercules, your Jasons, your Cu Chulains, and on and on…the person tasked with doing the impossible.

M: That sounds like it could be quite a burden…though if they’re all but destined to win…

E: On the contrary. Like I said Archetypes have a knack for things but nothing is guaranteed. If what I’ve heard is true, the lairs of monsters are littered with the bones of heroes. Hero Archetypes aren’t just born, they need to survive.

M: That’s a rather grim thought.

E: Agreed, but the upside is that those heroes who do survive do amazing things.

M: Are you entirely sure the Hero Archetype is real? It could just be those lucky, bold, and brave enough to do things that seem impossible.

E: Well it’s a tricky thing. It’s why I wasn’t entirely sure to bring it up in the first place. It’s definitely less obvious than, say, a Dragonslayer. In all honesty I could be misguided, but I believe I’m at least half right.

M: Oh?

E: if the last seven years have shown us anything, it’s that the Archetype might not exist, but heroes definitely do.

M: A sentiment we can both agree on then. Thank you, Mister Cavallo, it has been quite enlightening.

E: Thank you, Doctor Westcroft.

M: My pleasure, do give Abigail my regards.

 

Previous Chapter                                                                                                                      Next Chapter

The Cities Eternal©2016, Evan Murdoch, Ben Sousa
(( JP Link: https://www.jukepop.com/home/read/9042?chapter=41&sl=63 ))

The Wolves of Rome

3rd Journal Entry of Dr. P. Westcroft, Practicing Metaphysicist

Journal of Dr. P. Westcroft
March 15th, 2030

Continuing my research into matters of magic and its understanding has caused me to seek the advice of another expert in the field. The current area of my interest is in the propagation and sustainment of magical bloodlines. Much has been said on the matter of bloodlines and I wished to make more of it clear for those who might be curious. The subject of magic and its origins is very much the stuff of mystery to the modern layman despite its impact on their daily life. Part of this, I have reason to believe, is deliberate obfuscation on the part of magical society, but it is also simply a lack of practical knowledge. With its unmasked presence now a fact of life, even the non-magically capable should know basic facts of magical nature and understanding.

My previous expert, Abigail White, has politely declined to continue as she believes her knowledge on the subject may be insufficient for my needs, due to being a first-generation mage like many others in the city. As a result, she has recommended to me another established mage, Mister Renard Aestling, a Senior Professor of Alchemy at the Mage’s Academy and lifetime practicing mage.

[After greetings, Professor Aestling is seated across from me. He is joined by his bodyguard and attendant who I have reason to suspect is a Homunculus]

Me: Thank you again for agreeing to speak with me, Professor Aestling.

Renard: No trouble at all, I’ve heard about your work from Abi and I’m quite intrigued, so when you asked me to come down I thought ‘why not?’.

M: [Gestures to Homunculus] And this is your…assistant?

R: Elisa, yes. She thought she might be able to offer some words of her own, so she offered to come by. She’s not usually my bodyguard anymore, but old habits die hard I suppose.

M: I see, thank you for joining us, Elisa.

Elisa: My pleasure, Doctor.

M: Westcroft is fine.

R: So you want to know about bloodlines, yes?

M: That’s correct. What light can you shed on the matter? Assume I know almost nothing.

R: Well it’s pretty simple in summation. The older the magical bloodline, the stronger it becomes.

M: And why is that?

R: Heh, you can always figure out who are the smart ones by who asks that question, most just blindly accept it. As for why… well for one magical talent can be inherited directly. A mage is almost infinitely more likely to have magically-capable children than a non-mage.

M: So it’s partially genetic?

R: You’d think that but genes have nothing to do with it. There’s no “Magic gene” that marks a mage as different from a non-mage. The ability to perform magic is a function of the soul, and to a limited extent, it is present in every last human being.

M: I cannot say I’ve ever performed magic.

R: Oh you probably have, but that’s because people tend to think of magic as shooting fireballs or making rabbits disappear.

M: You’re saying it’s something else?

R: You ever met someone you always saw as being really lucky? Always draws good cards, always seems to find money on the ground, dice always come up sevens? I’m sure you do, everyone does.

M: Yes, I can think of a few.

R: Now you know why. It’s not luck.

M: Fascinating.

R: Of course that’s just humans. Most animals aren’t magic unless they become spirits, and Elisa here is a homunculus and has zero magical potential. Though she can still kill a man in five seconds if need be.

E: With all due respect, sir, I can do it in three.

R: My mistake.

M: We’re getting off point, Professor Aestling.

R: Right, right, now magic is inherited as I said. However, because it’s not genetic it has a certain…Lamarckian effect.

[Inserted note: Noted early Biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck proposed that acquired traits could be inherited (i.e. the offspring of an athlete would be naturally athletic). Though instrumental in laying foundations of Pre-Darwinian evolutionary theory, this subset of Lamarckian theory was proven to be biologically false]

M: Do go on.

R: Well, simply stated, much of the research and advancement done in a single Mage’s lifetime can be inherited by their offspring. Not so much the knowledge, but a new technique or spell invented before the child’s conception will come quite naturally to the offspring in a matter of weeks, whereas it took years of study to discover. This is why most Mages prefer to make their discoveries relatively early in their career, then focus their efforts on either theory or perfecting their craft after having children.

M: So children of mages are born with an inherent advantage over their predecessors?

R: Precisely. And as the generations go on, the potential power expands almost exponentially.

M: So all mages are now the most powerful their line has ever been.

R: That’s where it gets a bit tricky. See, technique and capability is inherited, raw power is not.

M: Could you expand on that?

R: Well, every mage has their limit. Some spells take more out of you than others. And sometimes all the technique and finesse in the world isn’t enough if you don’t have the fuel to back it up.

M: Is this ‘raw power’ random?

R: For the most part yes. However it tends to follow trends in how magic the rest of the world is. Fifteen years ago the average mage was paltry. By the look of things, mages are more powerful now than they have been in centuries, the most powerful since the last time the world was like this.

M: Which was when, precisely?

R: Classical antiquity.

M: This certainly is quite a leap then.

R: Virtually unprecedented.

M: Now, I’ve heard certain bloodlines are more significant, divine bloodlines in particular. Can you elaborate?

R: Ah yes, well, that’s only natural. A divine bloodline means that mage has a god or powerful spirit somewhere in their family tree.

M: I can imagine that would be quite the boost in power then.

R: You’d be surprised really. Once the generations start piling on, that divine blood gets pretty thin. It doesn’t always give a direct advantage to Western Thaumaturgy, but it tends to bestow unique abilities even to the non-magically capable. Generally with divine blood, you want to take it on a case-by-case basis.

M: I see. Now Professor Aestling, how old is your line?

R: Not terribly old. Four centuries. Which means, to the more pretentious, we’re still a ‘young’ line.

M: That hardly sounds young at all.

R: Well to them, you’re nobody unless you hit seven.

M: I struggle to imagine what they think of all the first generation magic-users today…

R: Well, thankfully, most of them are dead. The  mage with the oldest bloodline in the city is Catarina. Her family, the Addobrandinis, are over nine hundred years old.

M: I see. So would you say those with a long family bloodline have an inherent advantage over the younger generations?

R: Absolutely, and it’s not just inheriting techniques. If you’re from a long line, you have centuries of research notes and tutelage to back up what you can do. Any new first-generation mage needs to start almost from scratch. It’s why we started the academy, but a professor can only do so much when not even the student is fully aware of their potential.

M: Could you give me an example?

R: I have a perfect one right here. Elisa is the apotheosis of homunculus design that has been meticulously advanced over the course of three centuries. She’s what you would call a very advanced model. Most of our first-generation alchemists can’t even create homunculi that are capable of thought let alone something as advanced as Elisa.

M: Ah, so Elisa, would you say you have your own family line in a way?

E: It could be seen that way, yes. I am the result of over eight hundred completed designs, if you include the designs that were scrapped in various stages, that number reaches several thousand, each one improving on the flaws on the previous generation.

M: You’ve both spoken of advancement. Is there an ultimate goal for Magecraft?

R: Western Thaumaturgy is a science. The goal is complete understanding. Though obviously that’s a bit ambitious for one line, so we specialize. If I had to pick a prominent one then I’d say the Aestling line is interested in creating an immortal Homunculus. That might prove useful for expanding human lifetime in the long run.

M: How long is your lifespan, Elisa? If you don’t mind me asking.

E: Well I’m seventeen now, and while I expect I’ll die by violence before then I hope to live to two hundred. 

M: That’s quite impressive!

R: It’s still a long way from eternity.

M: Still this has been quite enlightening for me, and I hope it will be for others as well. Thank you.

R: My pleasure.

 

Previous Chapter                                                                                                                      Next Chapter

The Cities Eternal©2016, Evan Murdoch, Ben Sousa
(( JP Link: https://www.jukepop.com/home/read/9042?chapter=33&sl=199 ))

The Wolves of Rome

2nd Journal Entry of Dr. P. Westcroft, Practicing Metaphysicist

Journal of Dr. P. Westcroft

March 5th, 2030

Today has been most exhilarating! Several days ago I requested an interview with a practicing member of the Roman Mage’s Guild so as to better educate my forthcoming description of common magical systems. Not only was my request accepted, but I was scheduled an interview with Professor Abigail White! Our interview was today, and so engaging I decided to record the transcript in lieu of my own butchered interpretations.

[Exchanges of greeting and conversational pleasantries. Quite enjoyable for me but less useful for public knowledge]

Me: Professor White, it is an absolute pleasure to have you here. I am already well acquainted with your work on the cross-temporal meta-contamination that bears your name.

White: Yes, the Cavallo-White Effect. I’m surprised you’ve studied it thoroughly; it doesn’t get much traction outside of theory papers.

M: Metaphysical theory is something of my specialty, Professor White, but I’m afraid that must wait for another time.

W: You requested a sort of introduction to magic? That’s what I was told.

M: Indeed. I am writing notes for posterity and I unfortunately lack a solid grounding in magical theory, as I do not possess the gift.

W: Well I would be happy to give what I can.

M: Excellent. Could you provide me with an…overview, as broad as you can please, to ground us somewhere.

W: Hmmmm…well worth keeping in mind is I’m only an experienced practitioner in Western Thaumaturgy. I have researched Greek Pyromancy, Runic Spellcraft, Chinese Necromancy, and Persian Summoning Magic to a limited extent as well though.

M: Western Thaumaturgy is the most common form of magic in Rome, yes?

W: Yes. At least eighty percent of Guild members are practitioners.

M: Then let us start there.

W: Excellent. Well, to get down to basics, Western Thaumaturgy uses inborn power to evoke external phenomenon. This inner power manifests as aether, or mana, a sort of metaphysical substance that permeates a mage’s body.

M: I’ve been told all humans have some capacity of mana.

W: Indeed they do! Especially after the Days of Revelation. However, the number of those with the potential necessary to perform thaumaturgy is quite low.

M: Can you quote numbers?

W: I can! Census records tell us that before the Days of Revelation magic-capable humans accounted for approximately .001% of the European population.

M: And today?

W: Today it is nearly 1% and rising each year. It is quite exciting! I used these numbers in the earlier papers on the Cavallo-White Effect.

M: And it is the duty of the Mage’s Guild to educate the growing number of magic-capable citizens.

W: One of the Guild’s functions, yes.

M: Very good, very good. Now, I wanted to move to the actual training of magic. How is a spell performed in Western Thaumaturgy?

W: Ah, of course let’s get back on track. Well, the fundamental method is to induce a brief trance-like state upon the mind, silencing the conscious ever so briefly to tap into the unconscious where mana can be manipulated. Most mages due this by using a string of words.

M: Incantations.

W: Just so. The phrase itself is meaningless so long as it puts you in the proper state of mind, though most use words related to the spells function to make it simpler.

M: And these incantations can change?

W: Yes. With practice and repetition entering the trance becomes easier. Experienced mages, combat-capable mages in particular, can enter trances that last a tenth of a second and require only one word of incantation, or no word at all.

M: Very interesting. Now, many still believe that there were, in fact, no mages before the Days of Revelation.

W: Untrue. Though quite few in number, mages have maintained a presence in human society throughout history.

M: Why the secrecy?

W: The relationship between magical and non-magical society can be…quite strained. We’ve seen plenty enough evidence of that in Sicily over the past few years, not to mention the Guild’s history here.

M: Very good points, though why lift the veil in that case?

W: Mages were ahead of the curve during the Spirit Year. We saw what was happening for what it was and began preparing. I can say that, at least in Western Europe, the move towards exposure was a controversial one on many fronts. But all you need is a minority going public to drag the rest along with them.

M: Did you support the movement?

W: Absolutely. The entire world was at risk, particularly when the first monsters started appearing. Guns didn’t work on them, a great deal of technology had stopped working and infrastructure collapsed within months. Magic could replace most of this, it would have been inhuman to keep our talents from aiding our fellow man, regardless of the consequences.

M: Was Lord Albion a supporter?

W: No comment.

M: Of course, of course. Now, does western thaumaturgy tie into divine magic at all? How does that work.

W: Not in the least, many non-mages are divinely inspired. For that, I suggest speaking to Kebechet or visiting the Shrine Complex. I’m afraid my understanding is a bit limited there.

M: Of course. Well I’m afraid our time is about up, though I would love to do this again regarding other magic systems.

W: Of course, though you might be better informed tracking down a real practitioner.

M: Of course, of course. Give your husband my regards.

[Interview ends]

 

Previous Chapter                                                                                                                      Next Chapter

((JP Link: https://www.jukepop.com/home/read/9042?chapter=3&sl=641 ))
The Cities Eternal©2016, Evan Murdoch, Ben Sousa

The Wolves of Rome

1st Journal Entry of Dr. P. Westcroft, Practicing Metaphysicist

Journal of Dr. P. Westcroft
February 28th, 2030

It has been brought to my attention that a breakdown of events leading to our “New Age” may be useful for posterity. Given the state of human memory, and the state of the world today, I am willing to believe this is true. I will attempt to explain the facts as best as I can recall them. It is my hope that others may learn from what has happened.

A starting point is difficult to describe. The year was 2022, but the exact day and month are difficult to pin down. It is known as the Spirit Year as the number of occult, paranormal, and supernatural phenomenon multiplied far beyond the then-explainable norm. Reports of specters and spirits, inexplicable disappearances of stars in the sky, and a rising neopagan movement have blurred the line between coincidence and evidence. 

All of these took a turn for the worse, however, when the harvests in the most fertile nations began to fail, shortly followed by a virulent epidemic which ran a terrible course across the globe. The world was being pushed to its limits, but it was surviving. That was the status quo until October 23rd 2023.

One week before Samhain (All Hallows’ Eve, Halloween, the day has many names), the lights went out. Electrical appliances simultaneously ceased to function worldwide, an effect that would last nearly a month. Predictably, rioting and looting ensued. In the chaos, many noticed but few recorded the terrible nightmares all mankind was sharing, indescribable dreams of hellish noise and apocalyptic visions. Scientists, myself included, were without explanation. Three days later, when the riots and looting were well underway and the militaries of the world had been mobilized, the next terrible sign came. The stars vanished from the sky for four days, and the moon turned a shade of red only describable as the precise color of human blood.

There was a tenseness in the air, as the world waited for what was to come next. Most of us believed, rightly so, that the world was ending. We only wished to know how.

On October 31st, the doors between worlds flew open and the Primordials were unleashed.
Forty-eight hours of darkness followed. The world’s governments, spent on maintaining order and unable to communicate, were overwhelmed by hordes of nightmares. Looters and rioters found themselves ambushed in darkened streets by monsters from myth and legend.

This time frame, from the first reported Nightmare to the fall of the old world, is known today as the Days of Revelation.

Cities emptied themselves as people fled for the countryside, but there they found a changed world. The earth had reclaimed the fallow fields. Primeval forests were spreading in their ancient grounds, and they were filled with monsters and spirits irritated by these new trespassers, if not outright hostile.

It was, in many ways, the end of the world, and the full consequences of what had happened are not fully understood. Most believed it was the end of mankind, and that possibility had, for a time, been very real. We would survive, however. Humans are notoriously hard to eradicate. We would need to adapt to the new world we now openly shared with spirits, monsters, and gods, but for this, we would need help.

 

Previous Chapter                                                                                                                      Next Chapter

(( JP Link: https://www.jukepop.com/home/read/9042?chapter=1&sl=149 ))