Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Universe of Mine (Get an apple pie ready)

School's out for winter (not Winter), Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy New Year, blah blah blah.

That universe I keep making oblique references to in other posts? Let's put it down here.

The World, Physical--very very dry as a general rule. Plants live on freakishly little water but are also very good as kindling and tinder. Most of the land may be classified as "desert", even the rocky hilly bits. There are some areas with large swaths of trees in the eastern part, but most of those are occupied by the Elven Empire. Cities and towns and such will always be found close to a water supply, be it a small oasis in the middle of the desert or a large lake in the eastern areas; the Elven "capital city" is formed near (and somewhat on, via artificial pontoon extensions) the largest freshwater supply known--a massive eastern lake oasis that acts like the local "ocean".

The World, Political, Also Races--the major power is the aforementioned Elven Empire, a fundamentalistic theocracy sort of thing (with elements of the Ottoman and Aztec empires--the ACTUAL empires, please, not their hollywood bastardizations) with a figurehead head priest with minimal political clout. His head is mostly in the clouds--he spends a lot of time in drugged trances and spends most of the rest feverishly scribbling down "prophecies" (really illegibles that his advisors put meaning on to their own benefit). Laws and such are mostly created by lesser nobles over their own dominions, and vary from area to area, sometimes quite vastly. Humans exist in the empire too, and are generally looked down upon; less so if they're converted to the elven religion.

Magic exists with these elves, but only in about 50% of the elven population (the rest are looked down upon), and even here it's essentially thermodynamic in nature; i.e. practicioners act as living heat engines with varying efficacies. Warfare is medieval-to-Napoleonic in nature; fortresses both natural and artificial are considered key grounds, and battle is ruled by the marching speed of an elf and the maximum range of a man-launched fireball--the heat dissipates with time and an elf attempting to make large ones will kill himself from the waste heat. Crystals are processed into magic-energy capacitors (called "mage-towers" by my army), and are used as fiery artillery. Armor is light and is generally more interested in dispersing heat than in stopping, say, an arrow or sword swipe (used by elves with no magic or human conscripts). Some magic users prefer to act as living air conditioners (i.e. make stuff cold), but the political clout is with those who act as living space heaters (i.e. make stuff hot).

While the Elven Empire claims all of the land, it doesn't have much influence in the western flat deserts. Here bands of orcs with horse-like creatures (culture heavily based on Mongolian nomads) operate nomadically, moving from oasis to oasis. They like to raid commerce caravans headed to and from mining operations in the desert (run by the elves). Fast moving attacks + hand held weapons with fair energy (whips, flails, etc...) + bows with stupid high pulls + skin which naturally disperses heat (they are desert dwellers, after all) = EXTREME PAIN for elves reliant on combat magic. Some of the orcs are sick of a nomadic lifestyle, and have created a colony around one of the largest oases. They're considered racial traitors by the nomadic orcs, and occasionally come to skirmishes.

If you don't have magic (or are human), there is a way of moving up in elven eyes--join the Magic Blade Society. Applicants for the all-male academy in the Elven capital come from all over the empire for the chance to join this organization that's part finishing school, part Janissary corps, part bodyguard service, and part harem slave market (seriously, some of the less scrupulous nobles use them as sex toys). The first thing all applicants get is an infusion of thermodynamic magical ability, overseen by high priests (not the drugged one) and a matter of much ritual. It's not full-power--the result is mostly using your new power to create convection currents and wind flows, not fireballs--and there's the off chance (5%) that the infusion will reduce your organs to sausage filling. Another 5% don't make it through the training, including how to defend your charge against superior numbers and how to cook various delicacies. It's easy to spot graduates of the Magic Blade Academy in a crowd--look for someone with a sky-blue shoulder cape held by a pin engraved with their symbol (a broadsword d'or, tip down, with a bird's wing azure behind), clean shaven chin, slender appearance (they don't feed you much in the academy), facial and chest markings (also sky-blue; their design one of the few bits of individuality allowed during training) and a shiny falchion on their sides.

There's also a group that the elves refuse to acknowledge. Catty elves, so called because their pointed ears go up from their heads rather than to the sides (and have light fur) and have tails, are in fact genetically close enough to "normal" elves (as demonstrated by a scientist working with the incoming modern army) to suggest that they're the same species, perhaps simply recessive traits coming out, but the elves in charge of the Empire refuse to believe this; their religion holds the catty elves to be abberations of nature. Despite this, laws dealing with the catty elves vary from province to province--some nobles allow catty elves full citizenship rights like normal elves (to inflate their own population figures, taxes, and prestige) though their offers are usually not taken up, some lead regular crusade raids in an attempt to wipe them out in their lands. As a general rule, they live together, apart from normal elves, in mostly unsettled areas, especially those tracts of trees I referenced earlier. They can't use magic, but they are preternaturally light on their heels in both horizontal and vertical motion.

The "plot" of the universe is set in motion by the inbound modern army, through a portal that connects Okinawa, Japan (specifically Kadena AFB) to juuust outside the orc colony. This "modern" army is technically modern/near future; remote-control drones are heavily featured, some vehicles and aircraft have laser weaponry, etc. They include elements of the USAF (including Security Forces, Combat Commandos, and Pararescue), USMC (including Force Recon), British Royal Military (including SAS and SBS), and Japanese Self Defense Force. The advance elements make first contact during an orc-on-orc skirmish, and the orc raiders break off to engage them.... No magic (obviously), but for a world that's about to get a taste of modern warfare, it might as well be!

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