The End Of The Second Age
As the forces of Autocthonia rampaged across the face of Creation on their divine crusade, their Primordial patron was awoken. Stirred to consciousness by the actions of people unknown and artifacts of colossal power, it took mere moments for Autocthon to decide on the actions He would take. Taking humanoid form, the ancient deity rose to Heaven, turning aside resistance. Consumating an affair of love or hate lost to aeons before recorded time, Autocthon became one with His sole remaining kin, Gaia.
Creation shook and heaved. The patropoli of Autocthonia breached the barrier between the two realities, bursting up through the compliant stone and soil of Creation as towering citadels of metal and glass. The pattern spiders followed the decree of their creator, weaving the Loom itself into a pattern intertwined with laws and rules alien to its constituents. The immaterial world began to fade, sanctums and ethereal space unwound to bind together the two worlds in the dawning Reality. Denied access to the rich essence of Creation, the Underworld began to slide toward Oblivion, pulling the shadowlands with it.
The lands of Creation were thrown into turmoil, its inhabitants fervently trying to defend themselves and their shattered cities against an Autocthonian onslaught on all sides. Thousands were killed, millions captured. Those that survived clung to life amidst the ruins of their society, or slunk through newfound vents and access tunnels to take refuge in the dark and tangled mechanical catacombs that now wound through the earth - the Reaches of Autocthonia, left in the wake of the cities' triumphant rise.
In Heaven, an emergency council of the Celestial Bureaucracy was called. Denied unity by the Great Curse when they most needed it, the Sidereals pulled heaven's resources in a myriad of different directions - some sought to assassinate Autocthon's fetich souls; others tried to prepare Heaven's defences and move it physically to Creation; still others attempted to override the pattern spiders and halt the descent of Heaven to nothingness. A few, disenchanted with their peers, forsook Heaven entirely and accepted exile on war-ravaged Creation. Throughout, the Incarna stayed at their places, playing on heedlessly. The manifold efforts, blighted by infighting over resources and theories, each failed. The botched assassination was met with a counteroffensive, Autocthonian forces pushing into Heaven. Irritated by efforts to override their programming, the pattern spiders struck down their tormentors and their kin with pattern bite. Weakened, they were helpless as followers of the Machine God stormed toward the Jade Pleasure Dome.
In the Underworld, matter and mind alike began to dwindle for want of Essence. The buildings of Stygia fell, their ancient foundations collapsing into the Labyrinth. The capital of the dead soon become the apex of a vortex drawing all of undeath into the icy embrace of Oblivion. Now denied Lethe, many ghosts went insane with fear and despair. The strongest, most powerful and most desperate amongst them (Deathlords and their followers included) sought urgent refuge in the cold Malfean flesh of the Labyrinth. Ravaged on all sides and increasingly from within by nephwracks and spectres, the living dead looked to pass from existence altogether.
As the Void reached out and drew the Underworld into itself, the heavens shattered. Their essence torn apart, the gods and Incarna alike rained down upon Creation in meteors of starmetal and burning essence. Rains of celestial fire, ice and a thousand phenomena beyond imagining accompanied them. The Unconquered Sun Himself fell as a swarm of blazing comets, and Luna's glittering fragments were scattered across the length and breadth of the broken land. The destinies of Autocthon and Gaia fully integrated, the old Creation ended and Reality dawned. Looking upon the turmoil from beyond the boundaries of law, the Fair Folk nodded as one and rode out beneath the ever-shifting banner of the Baalorian Crusade. It was the end of an Age.
The Beginning Of The Third Age
The Fair Folk tore across Reality, a wave of dream and horror. They parted across the heavy defences of the Autocthonian cities, but washed over the shattered ruins of the old Age to submerge them in the depths of madness and nightmare. As the Autocthonian cities fortified themselves farther to weather the onslaught, those Creation-born who had not been driven underground found themselves the playthings of the Raksha. Communication and trade between the nations became sparse from Fair Folk sabotage and their insidious touch, lines of unity that would not be restored until the brunt of the Baalorian Crusade's wrath had long since been bourne.
What forces of undeath had not perished to the many dooms found in the Labyrinth discovered new passageways leading upward, through dark tunnels to a mechanical maze in semblance of the Labyrinth's own design - in the combination of Autocthon and Gaia, the Blight Zones of the Reaches had found anchor in the Labyrinth itself. Twisted by their exposure to the whispers of the Malfeans, the vanguards of nephracks and spectres surged through from beneath. Weakened to near inexistence by the imposition of Reality, they found themselves strengthened anew when embraced by the Wyld. They flocked to the Fair Folk lands beneath the mantle of their lords, warring on the living, the dreamborn and each other, forming a chaotic territory of tormentors and the tormented, all hostile to one another and to all who would trespass - a perilous and ever-shifting land that soon became known as the Wastes.
Throughout, the Autocthonian cities grew ever larger, anchored on the rich demesnes of Creation and swollen with citizens conscripted from the old Creation. At the pinnacle of each burnt a blazing beacon, a captured fragment of the Unconquered Sun seized by the Sodalites and harnessed for light and warmth. Their factories burnt hot and long, fuelled by resources stripped from the surrounding Wastes and labour forced from Creation's former inhabitants. It was not long before scholars of the Sova nation (whose cities erupted across and upon the Imperial Mountain itself) discovered the secret of Terrestrial Exaltation from the study of the Dynasty's remnants; shortly after, a program of selective breeding and indoctrination was introduced to offer the Autocthonians eventual access to an endless army of loyal and capable Exalted warriors. The new inhabitants of the cities were slowly brought under the mantle of Autocthonian rule, and through the push of remorseless efficiency the vast majority of patropoli and matropoli survived through the generation-long Baalorian Crusade.
After a generation filled with unceasing conflict, an opportunity emerged. Their most potent glamours spent and more exciting opportunities at hand in their conquered territory, the Fair Folk's forces dwindled, retreating to feast upon the strife and torment so abundant in the Wastes, involving themselves in their raucous and bloody politics and throwing them into further disarray in the process. Liberated from much of the need for defence, Autocthonian forces sought instead to repair supply lines and re-establish contact with other cities. After years of war against spectral and Wyld forces, the followers of the Machine God were united once again.
But things had changed. In their isolation, the eccentricities and differences of each city had polarised. Religious interpretation, attitudes to Creation-born, technological development and means of subsistence varied enormously. Some had even allied themselves with or been corrupted by the Fair Folk, Deathlords or Creation-loyal colonies. It looked as though war would reign once again; most likely it would have, were the nations on an equal footing. They were not: the Sova nation, unified by their paranoid fundamentalism and protected by their location, unveiled an almost untarnished vangaurd of military forces supported by a growing cadre of fanatical Terrestrial warriors overseen by experienced Alchemicals. They had developed potent thaumuturgical wards against the forces of corruption; to those that would submit and satisfy their inspections and regulation, they offered their mechanical and arcane support. Eager for the promised security and increases in productivity, many cities agreed to their terms. From their number, the Solune was formed, and long transport and communication lines established between each. The infighting and tension with cities did not disappear, but sank into subtle plays of control and vengeance beneath the unifying mantle of the Solune.
One oddity remained; despite the demise of their creators, the Celestial Exalts persisted. Unaltered by Lytek and guided by only their own natures, the Exalt-shards of Solars, Lunars and Sidereals alike drifted amongst the populace of the Solune, free cities and Reaches alike, selecting hosts for whom they bore an affinity for. Without Lytek's sculpting hand, each bore a cavalcade of memories and accumulated personalities; to their hosts, they brought not just empowerment but enlightenment on the beauty of Ages past, memories of glories lost to the distant Usurpation and more recent Autocthonian invasion. Disillusioned to Solune dogma, dreaming of the beauty of Creation lost, many flee to the Reaches to seek refuge amidst the myriad factions there. Given freedom in a world of mechanical detachment and primal horror, it is their privelige and burden both to construct a bold new future for themselves.
The idea occurred to me and wouldn't let go until I put it to paper. Many hours later the result, a brief summary of the history but not present of the setting, is above. The question is whether it bears merit - is there demand for a dark steampunk setting for Exalted? Does this fit the bill? Should I write up the rest of my thoughts? Do I ask too many questions? All comments, suggestions and such are more welcome than ever...DeathBySurfeit
- I'm definitely interested in this setting. I especially like the touch about the exalted shards carrying the memories of the past. Most people overlook that they have to to scrubbed clean in between incarnations. And out of curiosity, Do you have any plans for the Jadeborn? - apeman
- I'm most certainly interested in this. I'd love to play a Solar in this setting. Write more. Like... now. And, like... if you want, we can help. Communal projects are cool. ~ Seiraryu
- I say you can't have too many steampunk settings. :) Go for it! The only thing I would note is that without pruning, Celestial Exalts are more likely to be slightly insane than more enlightened. - FrivYeti
- I was saying to DBS here that an Alchemical game in this age would be more cyberpunk than steampunk, kinda like Exalted: Stand Alone Complex ^_^ - Trithne, who probably deserves to be shot now.
It's settled, then. The very moment I finish polishing of DBSInfernalExalted, I'll begin work on the Third Age setting with full gusto. With regards the comments made:
- The Jadeborn would have persisted, and were likely major contributors to the Sova nation's improved standing in the wake of the Baalorian Crusade. I would infer that they now inhabit the Reaches beneath Sova cities, having re-engineered them into mighty underground fortresses.
- Celestial Exalts would indeed be troubled by remnants of their former selves; I'm considering rewriting the Limit rules and placing a stronger emphasis on flashbacks to reinforce this.
- I'm happy to do the core work myself, but even more eager to incorporate others' ideas and suggestions into the setting. Any thoughts you might have are welcome brainfodder, and if anyone wants to write up specific characters, locations or novel Charms they get both thummbs up from me.
Keep one eye open for developments as they come...DeathBySurfeit
- Would the Great Geas have been lifted? If so the Jadeborn would be more than just contributors to the Sova. As the Auto book implies you'd have 10 million super-brilliant essence wielders who spent the last few thousand years becoming very, very militant. I don't see why Auto wouldn't restore the Mountain Folkk. They were, after all, his most beloved creations.
- For Celestials you might consider a new trait similar to the flaw Throwback. He would actually have two natures. One for him and one for his shard. This would mainly have effects on roleplaying I think but it my cause dice penalties in some circimstances. With two different natures influencing his actions and causing indecision. And like the Throwback flaw if his essence went above his willpower that nature would be dominant. Would make personal relationship tough. - apeman