Tuesday, 8 April 2014

The False Moon War: Chapter 1

to Title and Contents
to Prologue

Chapter 1.  The Great Plan

Deep in the past, something about this cold and unformed world caught the eye of the Old Ones.  Some unique feature of this planet ideally suited it to playing a role in their Great Plan.  Perhaps a concentration of rare and exotic minerals, perhaps its location in the multiverse, perhaps something else.

To further their enigmatic purpose, the Old Ones terraformed and engineered the nascent earth and the life forms upon her.  They created the races which now dominate the earth.  First among them were the Slann Mage Priests, followed by the other breeds of sentient lizardmen.  After these they formed the elves, dwarves and men.  The last of their creations were the ogres and halflings.  Other creatures, such as dragons and greenskins were present from the beginning, or found their own way to the earth.

Having populated the globe more or less to their satisfaction, the Old Ones constructed their most powerful work.

The Geomantic Web is a world spanning machine used to collect and redirect energy of all kinds.  Invisible tendrils blanketed the planet in a criss-cross pattern which resembling a great net.  The spans arched down to touch the earth at the sites of the mighty temple cities and other precise locations around the globe.

Why the cosmic visitors would create such a marvel, and why they needed access to such vast reserves of power remain mysteries to this day.

At the time of the Great Catastrophe, also known as the Coming of Chaos, the dimensional gates used by the Old Ones to travel the multiverse collapsed onto the earth's surface.  This caused a massive extrusion of the stuff of Chaos which condensed into a form of matter called warp material or warpstone.  Part of the mass span into the sky to form the Chaos Moon, Morrslieb.

As the inter-dimensional conflict at the gates enlarged, the Winds of Magic were whipped into a shrieking gale.  The spiritual entities of the Realm of Chaos became able to manifest in material form in our universe, nourished by the flood of magic.

With the onslaught of Chaos the Old Ones vanished from this dimension, taking the secrets of the Great Plan with them.

For more than a millennium, the forces of Lustria battled hopelessly against the billions of fiends who poured from the polar rifts.  One by one, nodes of the Geomantic Web were lost, until the lizardmen defended only those on the continent of Lustria.

With the Old Ones gone, and much knowledge and power perishing with the first generation of Slann Mage Priests, hope seemed lost.

However, even without the guidance of the Old Ones, the remaining Slann were able to employ the formidable power of the tattered web to battle the taint of Chaos.

Others also strived to stem the flow of daemons.  During the protracted battle for the Isle of the Dead of the High Eleven archipelago of Ulthuan, the greatest of the elvish wizards, Caledor Dragontamer sacrificed himself to enact the Great Ritual.  The vortex of the ritual whirled like an ethereal tornado and sucked up a great proportion of the winds of magic which howled from the collapsed polar gates.  The magical maelstrom funnelled the raging energies and dissipated them harmlessly into space.

Without sufficient quantities of raw magic to sustain their number, the billions of daemonic entities surrendered their nightmarish material forms and melted back into the Realm of Chaos.

The Great Cataclysm was over, or, at least postponed.

The lizardmen counted their losses and shored up their shaky defences.

The Mage Priests of Lustria scrutinized the wobbling vortex of the Great Ritual and saw that it was vulnerable to destabilization.  Without the elves knowledge, the Slann directed the Geomantic Web to exclusively capture magical energy and spiral it into the vortex.  The lion's share of the eight winds were collected in this way, and invisible strands of the Geomantic Web wrap around the whirling maelstrom to keep it from spinning itself apart.

The Old Ones had never seen fit to divulge the specifics of the Great Plan to the Slann.     The Mage Priests understood that the plan extended beyond this universe, they knew that this world had a crucial role to play, but the ultimate purpose of their life, the universe and everything remained obscure.

The Old Ones did leave a great many plaques of stone and precious metal, some of which ambiguously set out what must be accomplished to fulfil their cosmic purpose.  The meaning of many of the plaques is open to interpretation, and great convocations of telepathically linked Slann wrestle about finer points of nuance for decades at a time.  Many plaques may prove to be of limited significance, but which?

Thus the Slann have cleaved to the plaques of the Old Ones, prizing the knowledge locked within the glyphs above all else.  Much of their understanding of their masters' purpose has been distilled from centuries of contemplation of the surviving tablets.

Some plaques of prophecy are unequivocal in their warnings of dire future events, even if they fail to reveal the precise time that these events will unfold.

The prophetic Tlaxtlozoctlan plaque (moon~corruption plaque) recovered from the ruins of Huanabic brooked no debate about its meaning. 

The Chaos Moon, Morrslieb, which had been thrown into the sky by the convulsions of the Great Catastrophe, would fall to earth as its orbit decayed.  This event would be preceded by a critical weakening of the Great Ritual which had long spared the world from another massive incursion of the foul things of Chaos.

The astromancers of the temple city of Tlaxtlan had long since confirmed that the prophesied events were inevitable.  They could not, however, specify when this might occur due to the unpredictable nature of the great orb of warpstone.

Neither could the combined might of the Slann Mage Priests pre-empt or prevent the moon's fall.  It remained too distant for even their continent shaking power to reach.  They would need to content themselves with waiting and scheming.  Fortunately, the custodians of the Great Plan excel at both.

In the year 2418 (in the reckoning of the Lustria), Morrslieb waxed closer and closer to the earth, bringing with it tides of chaos and madness which peaked with each full moon. 

No Slann was surprised.  All were prepared.

As the cosmic portent loomed in the sky, Lord Tecciztec of Tlaxtlan, shivered on his floating throne.   Among the greatest of the living Slann, he had been meditating, as if carved from obsidian, for a generation of men.  Now he shook as if chilled to the bone.  His Temple Guardians, who had not themselves stirred for decades, shuffled uneasily and clutched their massive weapons tighter.

The guardians were not sensitive to the ebb and flow of the winds of magic, but even with their earthly sight they could perceive a shimmer surrounding their master which made him difficult to clearly discern.  It was as if he were not truly present in the material realm.

Inconceivable forces were being called into play.

The Lord's shivers slowly subsided. In the realm of pure logic and energy, Tecciztec drew the winds of magic about himself like a shawl against a chill draught.  One by one he closed off his senses until he, and every other Slann plunged into a deathlike trance.  Nothing of the physical world would be permitted distract them from the battle to come. 

Their minds were linked together in the greatest congress since the Great Catastrophe eight thousand years earlier.

Their defence of this world would have three elements.  Extra Geomantic power would be directed to supported the Great Ritual, which would otherwise falter under the tidal influence of Morrslieb.

Meanwhile, the united Slann would defend the psychic bulwarks at the polar gates for as long as they could.

The third element required one of their number to use the time their rearguard action provided to directly assail the Chaos Moon itself.

At a prearranged signal, the convocation of Slann pulled the strands of the Geomantic Web to themselves.  As they did so, the crackling energies which were barely contained within its threads streamed faster and faster.  The Slann reeled the web's strands tighter still until its arches and spans barely cleared the mountain tops.  Each Mage Priest himself became a node in the greatest device created by the Old Ones.

The Geomantic Web did what it was made to do: draw power.  As usual, the raging winds of magic blustering from the polar gates were gathered, but even natural earth power, the celestial power of the sun and stars and other sources of energy were being tapped in this most desperate of emergencies.  The sun in the sky dimmed and the air over Lustria became unnaturally chill as the very light of the sun and heat of the earth were drafted to join the cause of resisting chaos.

Around the globe, Vampire Lords shuddered in their crypts, Greenskin Shamen paused in their rituals and elvish wizards in their towers marveled as the winds of magic lulled and the lights in the sky faded.  All who could perceive the ebb and flow of magic knew in that instant that Lustria's sorcerous defenses were intact.  And very potent indeed.

But what of her Physical Defenses?

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