Daughter of Battles

Katarina surveyed the army that gathered beyond the fields around Illaryon from atop its Shining Walls, her mind racing. Many of the other Captains sneered at her habit of patrolling the high walls, saying that a Captain shouldn’t have to do the “dirty work” themselves, that they could count on the reports of their lieutenants and subordinates. It was not that Katarina didn’t trust her men; on the contrary, they were the best the decadent city had to offer, as she made sure that only the elite served in her unit, and because she provided additional training for them herself. No, she liked patrolling the high walls because she liked seeing things for herself, instead of having to rely on what others had seen; no matter how good they were, there were always details that they could miss, and that she would not. Staring at the gathering army, Katarina bit her lower lip in frustration. The numbers that were gathering there were such as the city had never seen before, and there were rumours of a terrible general behind it as well, and yet neither she nor any of the other Captains had received orders – either the High Lord was extremely confident of the city’s defences, or there was more afoot than the Captains were allowed to know, which bothered Katarina. She disliked not knowing, and besides, what you didn’t know could kill you before you had the chance to do anything about it.

Giving a hasty look around her, Katarina took a deep breath, calming her mind and relaxing her body. She opened herself to her Inner Source, embracing the flow of Karma that suddenly filled her, basking in the power that it brought her. She did not Weave, however; instead, she shifted that flow of pure energy into her eyes, activating the ability that had made her attain so much honour and prestige at such a young age. When she opened her eyes again, they were a bright purple instead of their usual green, and their shape was different too, appearing as a seven-pointed star instead of the normal human circular iris. The world seemed to shift in Katarina’s vision, as she suddenly saw shapes and colours in the field below, purple and red bruises indicating where men would die, flowing rivers indicating where they would move, to attack or flee depending on which colour the flow was painted with. It was a madman’s portrait, and enough to sicken any stomach, but Katarina’s eyes filtered the layers upon layers of possibilities and outcomes, and she absorbed enough battle information as if ten veteran generals had been whispering in her ear, an hour’s long analysis entering her brain in a split second.

“What do your Eyes see, Daughter of Battles?” The voice at her shoulder startled Katarina, making her lose the Inner Source and jarring her vision back to normal, the sudden change making her as sick as when she had activated her Karmic Eyes. She whirled on the spot, turning towards the speaker, saluting with fist to chest, “Apologies, my Lord General-Commander, I had not heard you come, sir.” General Derek Lento, commander of Illaryon’s army, was widely considered as one of the best strategists alive, and a force to be reckoned with in the battlefield as well. He had lived more than a hundred years already, with most of that spent on battles and wars, and yet he never dismissed the counsel of his officers – perhaps the very reason why he had been considered one of the greatest strategists of the world for most of his life. The bony man sighed, shaking his head, “At ease, Captain. You have not answered my question yet. What do your Eyes see?” Again, the capital E was clear in his voice. Katarina hesitated, looking back towards the gathered army. “Blood and death, my Lord General-Commander. If – no, when they attack, there will be many losses, on both sides. However… however, as long as the Wall holds, we will  emerge victorious.” She did not tell him about the ominous shadow she had seen coming from the centre of the enemy’s camp; she did not know what it meant, for she had never seen it’s like before, and yet it made her shiver and feel genuinely afraid, something that had seldom happened in her entire career as a soldier. The older man simply nodded, accepting her analysis of the situation, but his eyes were grim. Almost as if he, too, could see a great shadow falling over the city. “Your analyses never disappoint, Kat. I feel the same, myself.” The General said, dropping the formalities as he turned towards the field, considering the army below. They stood there for a few moments, shoulder to shoulder, watching and wondering.

“You know I have always liked you, Kat.” The General said, finally, breaking the silence. “Unfortunately, others do not feel the same way, especially considering your… abilities. If the worst happens to the city, or if anything happens to me, I advise you to flee from Illaryon. I have prepared a boat for you, and a crew of a handful of trusted retainers, that will hopefully get you out of the city. No, do not argue, Kat.” Katarina bit back the reply she was going to give, knowing that when the General set his shoulders that way, he would not be moved by any arguments. She sighed, dropping her head. The General had been like a father to her, the only person to have cared for her after her parents died while she was still a child. For all intents and purposes, he was practically her foster father, having raised and provided for her, and always being there to protect her. That was why she had joined the military, to make him proud; unfortunately, she later discovered that he had wanted a different life for her. No wonder he would try to save her if things went wrong during the battle, and there was nothing she could do to stop it, no matter how much she wanted to actually stay by his side. After all, if things went wrong, he would be one of the first targets, being the commander of Illaryon’s armies. “I…. understand.” She forced herself to say, though her fists clenched at her sides. She hated feeling powerless, and that’s exactly how she felt during this talk of fleeing the city.

“Good, good.” He patted her shoulder, smiling at her, “This is for the best, Kat. Don’t be like that. Much better if you live to fight another day, if you will, than if you die here with the rest of us old geezers. You have to much potential to waste your life like this, for this decadent city.” He chuckled, “Or for an old man like me.” Suddenly serious, he turned to look at the invading army once more, “I don’t know why, but I do feel that something bad will come out of this battle, Kat. Be prepared for the worst, no matter what you Saw. Come, now. Let’s go downstairs and get something to eat.”

“Yes, Lord General-Commander.” Katarina said with a nod. As she followed the General downstairs, she couldn’t help thinking about the invading army, and the shadow that she had seen coming from the enemy camp. What could it mean? And the General’s intuition was seldom wrong, which spelled bad news for Illaryon. Looking out to the sky, Katarina wondered what the future would bring, for her foster father and for herself.


As Above, so Below

High Lord Patrak, the Shining King, Defender of the Gate, Protector of the Walls and High Seat of House Olaryn paced around his audience room, unaware of the heat as sweat drenched his face and his finely cut coat. The audience chamber was empty now, but it was not the source of his distress. Rumours that an army was coming to Illaryon showed themselves all too true, and it was not any army that was camped on his doorstep, but the very Armies of Dusk themselves, as if springing forth from a nightmare, led by the terrible Black Knight. Patrak had faith in the strength of the Shining Walls – after all, they had never  fallen, for hundreds of years -, but the Black Knight’s presence unnerved him. The man was trouble, sowing death and destruction wherever he went, and there was no one who could quite match the Black Knight’s  talent for Earth Weaving. If there was anyone who could use it to breach the Walls, it was the Black Knight. The door to the audience chamber slammed open, and Crown Prince Larak entered in a fury.

“Father! Why do you stand idle while an army sets shop at our very gates? We have to act, now, and protect our city! We must attack them at once!” The Crown Prince was always impetuous, but he sometimes did not see what was right in front of him. “Do not be foolish, my son. The army that gathers at our gates is one that this city has never seen before. Do you really think our meagre forces could match such numbers, and such strength? I ‘stand idle’ now because I know the truth, that if I did anything, I would only be sending my men to their deaths, and precious resources to waste.” The prince bristled with barely restrained fury, though, refusing to believe the truth of what his father said, “But there must be something  we can do! If they lay siege on the city, we will soon starve… have you not seen the number of their ships?”

“Relax, my son. I do not think they will manage a blockade on our city; our sea-ward countermeasures are better than that. No, that is not the danger… the danger is the Black Knight. That man is an uncontrollable and unpredictable beast… and the only reason we have to truly fear this army.” High Lord Patrak looked through the windows of his audience chamber, towards the immense wall at the border of the city, looked as if his vision could pierce the sturdy masonry into the fields beyond, into the waiting army led by the man whose coming might mean catastrophe, no matter what his generals said about the impervious defences of the city. “You were too young to remember, my boy, but that man sows trouble wherever he goes.” He said absent-mindedly, remembering half-forgotten events of almost forty years past, when he was still about his son’s age.

“Dorian Belzess… his name is still uttered in awe by the people of Laridsan, and as a curse by the Council of Thirteen. You have learned about what happened in Laridsan more than thirty years past, haven’t you?” He asked as he turned towards his son, who tossed his head angrily, his features still speaking of barely withheld fury, “Of course, Father. A rebellion rose against the Council of Thirteen and their oppressive rule, destroyed the Council’s stronghold in the city and used a powerful Karma Machine to split the island in two, thus separating Laridsan from the grasp of the Council.” He furrowed his brow, then, “I assume, by what you are saying, that this Dorian led this rebellion, though we never learned any names.”

Patrak laughed, startling his son and seemingly making him forget his anger. “Rebellion, my son? Either the Council’s influence is greater than we all think, or these scholars and historians really like to twist the facts to fit their own schemes and machinations… No, that was not the way of it. I was there at the time, though I hadn’t been crowed yet. Instead, I was sent as an ambassador, and  what honour it was for the Council, to receive the Crown Prince of Illaryon, one of the major powers of the world, in their island. I witnessed the whole thing, actually.” He moved away from the window, motioning for his son to take a place at the small table set beside the dais where his throne rested. “Belzess wasn’t called the Black Knight yet, at the time, but he soon would. Apparently, he claimed that there was a powerful Earth artefact buried somewhere in the lands around Laridsan, and was seeking the Council’s blessing in his pursuit of it.” He stopped as he picked up a handful of grapes from the table, toying with them in his mouth as he thought back to these distant events and poured himself a bit of punch.

“Perhaps they were in the wrong, but the Council refused to allow Belzess to search their lands, claiming that any artefacts or treasures buried in the Council’s jurisdiction was by rights their own property.” He took a swallow of punch, shaking his head. The Council’s decision might have been a bit overboard, but it did not merit the Black Knight’s reaction, either. “The man was in a fury. He shouted that the solution was to remove Laridsan from the Council’s jurisdiction, then, and stormed off from the Council Hall. Next thing we know, we received reports of a man single-handedly destroying the Council’s fortress in Laridsen, and proceeding to expel, by force, every Council soldier or representative from the city.” He drained the punch off the goblet. “Belzess then used his Weaving to rip the island in half, unaided, and separate it from the rest of the Council’s lands, thus doing exactly as he had promised and tearing Laridsen off of the Council’s grasp.”

“In the end, it was all for naught, as it turned out that there was no lost artefact hidden in the lands of Laridsen.” He finished, smiling at the expression on his son’s face; Larak’s eyes were bulging and his mouth was hanging open, or near enough. “See, son? A man who has such power at his disposal, and worse, the impetus to use that power without thought for the consequences, is a very dangerous man. Especially when his power is so closely related to the very thing that has our armies so sure of their protection.” He rose then, and sighed. What would come next had been one of his hardest decisions to that day.

“I’ve issued a special command to a select few of our city. I would have done the same for all, if I could, but unfortunately that is not possible. You will join a select few of the city’s younger generation, the sons and daughters of nobles, scholars and masters of their trade, and leave the city in a special convoy.” Larak opened his mouth to argue, but Patrak forestalled him, “Do not argue, son. It is your duty as the Crown Prince to lead where I cannot, and my place is here, with the city, should it stand or fall. You, on the other hand, will have a far more important duty to perform.”

He reached into his coat and took out a very special Device, the Symbol of Illaryon, a miniature shield carved in the colours of the city and with the symbol of House Olaryn at its middle, and handed it to his son, who gaped at the Device, knowing its symbolical and practical importance. “Larak of House Olaryn, I thereby give you the authority of the High Lord of Illaryon for as long as you hold this Symbol.” He very lightly touched the Symbol with a fine Weave of Spirit, Fire and Earth, the Elements of Illaryon, and smiled as he felt the shift through the Symbol, as if a part of him had left through his hand, into the Symbol, and into his son’s hand.

“I give to you the duty of summoning the High Council, Larak of House Olaryn, and explaining the situation to them. Warn them of the coming of the Armies of Dusk, that they are not merely rumours incited by madmen. I urge you to call for a Vote of Leadership, and to guide the Council into preparing for war. Make them see, my son. Make them see that, without unity and preparation, the whole world will burn in the Black Knight’s footsteps. Go, now. I have prepared a ship for you and the rest of the refugees. Go, and do not fail.”

After an embrace and hasty words, High Lord Patrak watched from a high window as his son scurried in the plaza below, walking with determination towards the ship that would, if the Gods permitted it, lead him to safety. Now that he was alone, Patrak allowed the tears to roll through his face, for he had the feeling, deep in his bones, that he would not live to see his son again. As soon as Larak boarded the ship, though, the High Lord turned from the window and walked beyond his throne, to his dressing room. The impeding doom hang like a headsman’s axe above his head, but he still had a few duties to perform before the end. There was always the possibility of things going better than expected, and even if they didn’t, he had preparations to make, preparations that would hopefully spare as many as possible of his subjects from suffering.

Karma Constructs and Weapons

The magic in Dragonia is so advanced that it can emulate technology in many aspects, providing technological wonders such as elevators and printing presses, shifting Dragonia from a medieval society to something more akin to a “steampunk” society (though there is no steam!), in the sense that there is a lot of industrial technology going on, even though the setting is primarily medieval in nature and feel. Karma Cores and more elaborate Karma Devices allow the creation of many machines (logically called Karma Machines, or simply Machines) that would be otherwise impossible in a medieval context, and therefore Dragonia is a society in which medieval values and way of thinking coexist with a more advanced technology and culture.

One major application of this technology is the creation of Golems, Karmic constructs, generally humanoid, that have a modicum of awareness and intelligence. Golems are used as brute workforce (ie. ploughing fields, or building roads), to access places usually hazardous to normal humans (entering a volcano to collect volcanic rocks for a scholar, or entering an oxygen-deprived mine as a scout, or delving into the sea) and, sometimes, as servants to the wealthy and powerful. They can be made from many different materials, in different sizes and shapes, each according to the usage the Golem will face; most are humanoid, but there are some that aren’t. While Golems have a little intelligence and self-awareness, and even the ability to communicate with others, they are not, and neither do they see themselves as, individual creatures with freewill. However, they are still built with internal constraints that limits their actions for safety measures, and each Golem has a specific keyword that automatically deactivates it once uttered.

A specific type of Golem that is far more dangerous than the usual workforce type is the Legionnaire – a larger, stronger, more durable and well-armed version of a normal Golem, usually performing duties as constables, guards, and soldiers. Legionnaires were the reason behind the research on Golems in the first place, and they have neatly replaced almost all military personnel in the League of Empires, with the exception of officers and generals, reducing the cost in lives of war and conflicts. They are also far more powerful and destructive than the average soldier, giving the nations of the League an edge against their financially inferior enemies who do not have the resources to build their own Legions. However, no matter how strong the Legionnaire, a powerful War-Weaver or even a well-trained soldier is superior in war potential, due to their ability to adapt and work together, leading to many nations still keeping elite forces in reserve, in addition to – or, sometimes, instead of – automated Legions.

Another war-funded technology is that of the Karma Weapons, Devices that use one or more Karma Cores in conjunction or not with a standard weapon to maximize its war potential. Examples include swords that are powered by a Fire Core that makes their blade catch on fire, or bows strengthened by Wood Cores to provide more power for less strength wasted on their pull, or even more extraordinary weapons such as a sword that is comprised only of the hilt – which is in truth a complex Device – that, once activated, generates a sword-blade entirely of condensed Karma. However, all of these weapons are usually far too expensive to mass-produce for their benefit, and are relegated to either ceremonial status or as weapons to the rich and powerful. This is not the case with Fuciles, however.

The Fucile is a ranged weapon that draws energy from one or more Karma Cores or the wielder to shoot out bolts of compressed Karma; its basic version, which draws energy from the user, is quite simple, and easily mass-produced, thus ensuring that all soldiers can have access to a powerful ranged weapon at almost no expense – and less training required than what is necessary to skilfully use a bow, for example. More complex or powerful versions of Fuciles exist, that draw on their internal Cores for energy, or on external “ammunition packs” made of disposable, low-cost Karma Cores, or that have special and powerful effects, but those are not freely distributed to the common soldiers, and are instead only found as property of the rich and powerful. It goes without saying that Legionnaires are outfitted with two or more Fuciles, thus ensuring their efficiency on the battlefield.


The First of Many

Professor Stanwick hummed a tune as he entered his own personal laboratory in the Institute of Karmic Research and Engineering of Vedria,  one of the most renowned research facilities in the entire world. So intent on reading the latest report from his experiments, he did not notice the lights; there shouldn’t be anyone in his personal laboratories, for he had been gone almost six months, overseeing a joint project with a few colleagues from Orlina at the behest of the High Lord, but he was too distracted to notice anything amiss, itchy as he was to catch up on his own personal projects. A metallic clang made him look up, and finally notice the lights on, and the lone man busy on the workbenches across the laboratory. “Viktor, is that you? I was not aware you had continued your projects in my absence. How did you get into my laboratory?”

“A simple trick with the lock, Professor. I apologise, but it was necessary for my research.” His voice was a coarse, metallic echo of what the Professor remembered, but that could be a consequence of long hours cooped inside the laboratory; Stanwick himself had already gone for days inside the lab, so focused on one project or another that he was. Of course, that had been when he was younger, and still had the energy to pass so long without food or sleep. Suppressing a fond smile for his apprentice’s antics, Stanwick forced his voice to be harsh. “And what research is that, Viktor? You were always brilliant, of course, but do not think that being the High Lord’s grandson will allow you special rights. Everyone must pave their own way in this Institute, and we allow no corners to be cut.”

“Oh, I intend to pave my way alright, Professor…. just not in this Institute.” Viktor said as he turned, and the Professor noticed for the first time the strange glimmer off of his body, previously obscured by his apprentice’s bulky cape, and gaped at the metallic mask that met him, instead of his apprentice’s face. “What… what have you done, Viktor?”

“Synthesis, Professor. The final frontier between Man and Machine, overcome at long last.”

“But… but… it shouldn’t be possible!”

“Ah, but it is, Professor, as I have always claimed, even though you and the other Professors were too blind to see.” There was no way to see it on his metallic face, but Viktor’s voice held the note of a triumphant smile as he reached out with his hand, extending it towards the Professor, “Now, I will open your eyes. Relinquish the flesh, Professor, and join me.”

“You go too far, Viktor! Don’t you see yourself in a mirror? You have become a monster!”

“A monster?” Viktor said, closing his outstretched hand into a metal fist, “No, fool, not a monster! I have become the herald of a new age, an age of steel and perfection! Embrace progress! Join my glorious evolution!”

“You are a madman! You must be stopped!” he began to step back, away from Viktor, eyes intent on him even while his hands groped the wall for the emergency button near his workbench that would set all of the alarms on the building singing and call the Legionnaires, “Don’t you see that this has changed you? You weren’t like this, Viktor!” His eyes widened as two additional arms emerged from Viktor’s back, lazily opening their palms towards him. They began to glow with an orange glimmer, and he knew then that his apprentice was no more, replaced by this steel monstrosity, and that he would not survive the night.

“No, you are the madman who does not see the future, you and all the rest of this Institute’s decadent Professors. You will not stop me. I am the first of many.”

His scream was muffled by the heavy walls of the laboratory.

Beyond the Walls

Mikhel furrowed his brow as he inspected the circuitry of the broken-down Device that Old Nily had brought him. He was only an apprentice Karma Engineer, and many conservationists criticised his “sloppy” methods, but he was also widely regarded as the best among the younger generation of Engineers of Illaryon. Not even he could make heads or tails of the mess Old Nily had brought, however; for starters, the thing was at least some eighty years old, and it didn’t seem to have seen a repairer’s hand in almost as much. Scratching his excuse of a beard, Mikhel contemplated his options; disassembling the whole thing and going from there had its merits, but the risk of permanently breaking it was high, and Old Nily was known to be stingy with his stuff – and his coin. On the other hand, there wasn’t much he could do if he didn’t know what the main problem was, either, and he didn’t want to waste so much time on trial and error while fixing the old machine; the “less sloppy” methods the conservationist Engineers preferred, using standardized tests for discovering the most well-known problems. Usually he would have loved the challenge of meddling with such old equipment, and proving the superiority of his methods was always fun, but today was his date with Lynn, and he absolutely must not be late for that. Things were not looking good for him, but Mikhel knew he couldn’t simply pass on this job, either; there was more than just the coin of it for him, as each succesful job increased his renown and increased his chances of being formerly recognized as a professional Karma Engineer.

Sighing, the young man took the small Core he used in his daily work, a beautiful little thing enhanced by himself which allowed him to Weave threads much thinner than he could without them, and also amplified the response of other Karmic circuitry; a very useful and handy tool to have with you while working. Carefully Mikhel probed the damaged Device with a wispy flow of Air, channelled through his Core and into each small nook and crane he could find in succession. This was one of the cruder methods of analysis, but also one of the safest; there was little chance of a bit of air damaging the inner workings of any of the Devices he knew. It was inevitable that, no later than a mere fifteen minutes into his checks, Mikhel had already lost himself to his work, applying increasingly complex Weaves containing tiny threads of other elements Woven together with Air, exploring not only the physical boundaries of the damaged Device but also its Karmic nature. Despite its condition of disrepair and its age, the Device was amazingly well-conserved, which made it easier for Mikhel to find his way around the old circuitry’s maze of effects and connections, thus resulting in him determining that the Device was actually malfunctioning because of a very simple short-circuit in one of its main components. It was a stroke of luck, truly, to have found the single piece that had broken down the entire Device so fast, but luck was a big part of Mikhel’s work, and he had come to accept it as natural.

Replacing the component took no longer than five minutes, and Mikhel was happy to see that the entire repair had taken him a little less than a full hour. He wouldn’t have all the time he had wanted to prepare himself, but at least he would be able to take a bath and change into a nice set of clothes before going to meet Lynn. Not that she was one to put too much stock into clothes, but anything he could do to impress her was welcome; this was one of the areas where he absolutely must not trust to luck, and where he absolutely had no experience with. He didn’t even know how he had mustered the courage to ask her out, or what she had on her mind when she said yes. Mikhel was not one to discuss with his luck, however, and it was with a grin on his face that he dropped the fixed Device in the small box behind the small shop’s counter, already addressed to Old Nily. Kidd would care of delivering it later that night; he took care of repairs, and Kidd dealt with deliveries, while their foster father ran the shop proper and dealt with finances. All thoughts of the shop or the Device fled Mikhel’s head as he climbed the stairs at the back of the shop, leading to their home, with a grin plastered on his face. He couldn’t contain his excitement.

A quick bath was followed by a lengthy perusal of his clothes, none fancy or expensive. Hard to impress Lynn with what he had, but Mikhel had to work with what he was given. Choosing the less battered of his black trousers, he passed on his usual hardy leather coat in favour of a more gentlemanly grey linen shirt, the best he had, in addition to the sky-blue scarf he had gotten as a birthday present and never really gotten used to wearing – that was why it was still brand new, unlike the rest of his second-hand clothes. Whistling to his own image in the mirror, Mikhel felt confident for the first time since Lynn had accepted his invitation, and a smile bloomed in his lips. Picking out the flowers he had bought for her, he checked the final minor details, making sure everything was just so, and departed to the Mozarra Square, where they had agreed on meeting.

It began while he was still in the streets. The earth began to shook, the sky turned red and green in turns and all around him people screamed, people ran, people died. Mikhel had heard the news about yet another foolish army camping at their doorstep, doomed to fail in conquering the unconquerable city, and yet scenes from his worst nightmares unfolded in front of his eyes, buildings crumbling and the earth being torn asunder by the strength of the invaders. Tossing his carefully-picked flowers aside, Mikhel sprinted the remaining distance towards the Mozarra Square, arriving in time to see a wide-eyed Lynn frantically trying to understand what was happening around her, frantically trying to find safety in the middle of the chaos and destruction. A sigh of relief escaped his lips as he saw that she was still alive; he would get her to somewhere safe, and they would get through this attack somehow. She turned in his direction, and her eyes filled with hope as she began to run towards him.

A shaft of Fire and Lightning descended from the heavens, a spear of death and destruction, tearing through Lynn’s stomach and exploding at her feet, throwing her into the air. Mikhel screamed, rushing to her side as she muttered his name and blood flowed from her mouth and the wound at her stomach.

“Citizens of Illaryon, hear me out. I am Dorian Belzess, Commander of the Armies of Dusk. Your Shinning Walls lay like rubble at my feet, and your soldiers dead at my hands. Your city has fallen. Avoid further grief and destruction by submitting yourselves to my rule and forfeiting all previous allegiances; none that do so will be harmed.”

Hot tears streamed through Mikhel’s face as he held on with all of his strength to the dying moments of Lynn, as she tried to say something that would not come up due to all of the blood and the pain, as she smiled sadly and whispered gently “I love you,” and as her hand finally fell away and her eyes glazed over in the eternal rest of the dead. He screamed then, a scream that tore through his throat and his entire being, cursing the heavens, cursing the earth, cursing the man who had killed his love, “Burn you, Dorian Belzess! Burn you and your Armies to the ground!”

The Lopar People

One of the several minor cultures/societies that live on the outskirts of the spheres of influence of the League of Empires, the Lopar are a collection of tribes that live in a chain of islands – the Lopar Isles – close to each other, and they are a generally reclusive and aloof people, distancing themselves from the struggles of the greater powers. There are individual Lopar who travel away from their homelands, but those are few and far between; for the majority of the rest of the world, they remain mysterious and misunderstood figures. Even though the Lopar tribesmen are humans just like the rest of the world, their different culture and particular genetic and Karmic inheritance lead to strange tales and distrust; a Lopar is taller than most other humans, male or female, having an average height of above 1.80 meter, and due to their wilder (sometimes viewed as backwards) style of living, generally have tougher builds as well. Their hair is generally raven-black or dark blue, and eye shadings tend towards the darker spectrum as well, and males and females alike have a higher density of bodily hair than usual, which together with their costume of dressing in natural leathers, scales and furs, disregarding any clothing that cannot be found in a natural animal, like silks or linen, has led to many tales of savages and wildmen by wide-eyed explorers and sailors who didn’t have previous knowledge about the people they had found.

Each island in the Lopar Isles is home to a small number of loosely-related small tribes, varying from a few dozen to a couple hundred people; usually there are about a dozen or so tribes in each island. Each tribe is completely independent and self-sufficient, but the tribes from the same island consider each other like distant relatives, and as such there is always trade and mutual help on hard times. Trade with Lopar tribes from other islands is harder to come by, but not uncommon, while any interaction at all with outsiders is a rare sight; it is not that the Lopar are aggressive or refuse outsiders, exactly, but that they have an imposing figure and a general dislike for those who do not follow their ways, which creates difficulties for interactions with the outside world.

Each tribe is led by a Chief, responsible for the day-to-day affairs of the tribe, solving disputes, and making decisions that involve all the tribe, and a Shaman, responsible for the spiritual guidance of the tribe and the communication with the tribe’s Patron Scion. It is also a custom for the Chief and Shaman to be married, which symbolizes the tribe’s mundane and spiritual guidance being in concert. When matters that affect the whole island must be discussed, all the Chiefs and Shamans convene together in the Summit, where decisions must be reached by consensus. Each Summit also elects a Great Chief and a High Shaman, who convene (together with their spouses, if the chosen ones are not from the same tribe) with the other Great Chiefs and High Shamans in the Great Summit for matters that involve the entire Lopar People. In the event that a crisis is so great that a leader must be chosen out, they vote to elect a Chief of Chiefs and a Grand Shaman from among the Great Chiefs and High Shamans, who shall then lead the Lopar throughout the crisis.

The Karma inheritance of the Lopar People, and one of the reasons outsiders fear them, is their unmatched ability with manipulating natural Karma and internal Weaving, being able to enhance their own bodies beyond limits in feats that would be thought impossible by other people. Each Lopar tribe has a contract with a Karma Scion that takes the form of an animal aspect of nature, and each individual Lopar from that tribe can draw upon their Patron’s Karma to fuel exploits such as increasing their endurance or sharpening their sight, following the natures of their animal Patron. An individual Lopar who is blessed with a personal contract with an animal Scion can go as far as changing his body into the form of his partner’s animal, or into a beastly humanoid form somewhere in-between his natural human form and his partner’s animal form, which is extremely powerful. Few are blessed with such a personal connection with a Karma Scion, however, and every individual who is so acknowledged by a Scion rises to prominence among the tribes.


The Lord of Stone, Part 4

The battle raged hot all around Dorian, who stood amidst the dust of the fallen Walls catching his breath. His Weaving had drawn far too much energy from him, and it was a challenge to stay on his feet and not let his sword fall; if any of the enemy’s captains faced him as he was, he would surely fall. So he hung back, looking at the slaughter from a distance, and a slaughter it was; the Shining Walls had never been breached before, and as such Illaryon’s defenders had grown lax in their training and recruiting. Dorian’s army met less than one third their own number, and that of half-trained soldiers and inexperienced officers.

Breathing with difficulty, Dorian forced himself to act; a small contigent of the enemy’s soldiers had noticed him, and were closing in, hoping to strike at a hapless officer. The debris from the Walls’ destruction provided plenty of material for Dorian to work with, however, even exhausted as he was; forcing his will upon the world around him, Dorian Wove the flows of Earth on the fallen stones, and lay in waiting. The soldiers came on, unaware of his trap. As they reached striking distance, Dorian closed his fist, releasing the flows; spears of rock and stone rose from the muddy ground, impaling the majority of the small platoon and scattering those that had been lucky enough to survive.

Grimacing as his head began to throb with the effort of continued Weaving, Dorian surveyed the fallen city once more. Few citizens were on the streets – only those fool enough to think they could mount some kind of resistance would risk themselves in the middle of an invasion -, but that was for the best. Illaryon was not to be burned, and its citizens not to be killed; he was on a campaign of conquest, not destruction, no matter what everyone else thought. He had given firm orders that no citizen was to be attacked unless they resisted the invasion, and that there was to be no destruction of buildings and monuments that did not have a military purpose. The penalty for disobeying either order was death.

Sighing, he motioned for one of the War-Weavers standing nearby, “You, Weaver. The defence grid of Illaryon has already fallen, if I do not miss my mark. Enhance my voice so that it can be heard from all corners of the city.” He did not wait for the Weaver’s nod before turning back to the city, flexing his sword-arm. There would be much to do here before sailing out, but he wanted to avoid any unnecessary deaths. He felt the Weaves of Air surrounding him as a sudden tightness in his skin, but he shrugged it off.

“Citizens of Illaryon, hear me out. I am Dorian Belzess, Commander of the Armies of Dusk. Your Shinning Walls lay like rubble at my feet, and your soldiers dead at my hands. Your city has fallen. Avoid further grief and destruction by submitting yourselves to my rule and forfeiting all previous allegiances; none that do so will be harmed.”

Turning around, he walked towards his tent. The last few stragglers would be dealt with by his soldiers and his officers, as would any of the inevitable uprisings, but there was much to be done in the city yet, and much planning to be worked out if the Armies were to get back in schedule. Dorian’s head throbbed and his body felt like lead, yet he paid them no mind, as there were greater matters to be worried about; he would lead his Master’s Armies of Dusk in their hungry conquests, but there was no glory, no honour in it. He only wished to fulfill his part of the bargain, and finally be able to die in peace.

On Karma Cores

One of the major subfields of Weaving and Karmic engineering is the study of Karma Cores, devices that, by themselves, generate, modify or apply Karma in one or more given ways. They are the true wonder behind the entire Karma-based technology, because they allow automatization of tasks and help lessen the strain on any Weaver operators that the device requires. There are three main types of Karma Cores: Engine Cores, Effect Cores and Utility Cores. No matter their type, all Cores are highly valuable, because the process of creating them has only recently been rediscovered, and is still an arduous process that only few Weavers can pull off.

Engine Cores: The most prized of the Core types, Engine Cores actually generate a specific kind of Karma, under specific circunstances, generally set by the Weaver operating or installing the Core. Simple Engine Cores only generate one specific type of Karma, in a constant flow, while more complex types can be controlled to generate different flows of different Karma types, separately or together.

Utility Cores: Another very important – and useful – type of Core, Utility Cores change the shape or quantity of Karma flowing through them, and as such are very useful tools; the ones which change the shape of the flow can be used to help even the weakest Weaver create complex effects with his Weaves, for example, and the ones which increase the flow can be used by an expert Weave to increase the power of a complex Weave. They can also be used in concert with the flows from Engine Cores, thus increasing the range of devices that can be made from Cores.

Effect Cores: Last but not least, Effect Cores produce a particular effect whenever Karma is flowing through them; the simpler versions only produce a single effect for a single type of flow, but more complex Cores can create multiple effects depending on what is flowing through them, or create multiple effects at the same time, or even produce a set of effects no matter what is flowing inside them, as long as there is Karma flowing (these are the hardest types of Effect Core to produce, despite what one would think).


An Introduction to the Politics of Dragonia

The political environment of Dragonia is heavily influenced by the fact that, not much more than a few thousand years ago, the entire world was a single entity under the rule and guidance of the mighty Dragons; whatever remains now is simply what humans could do to adapt and survive. There are many city-states and small nations spread across the islands of Dragonia, and by themselves no single island has enough power to extend their domination to the adjacent areas, let alone to elsewhere. As such, most nations band together in leagues and alliances, finding strength in numbers.

The League of Empires is one such alliance, and in truth the oldest and most powerful. Having emerged soon after the Fall of the Dragons, the League was the attempt of the small empires that appeared at the time to strengthen and enforce their rule, though they have since broken down in smaller nations still, and can barely be called Empires now. Each member of the League – usually a full island – is ruled by a High Lord or High Lady, and the League as a whole is led by the Grand Lord (or Grand Lady), who is first among equals and has the final say in decisions, if there is indecision – all important aspects of the League are decided by vote.

The Free Lands, also called the Harfall Alliance, named such for Herid Harfall, is the League of Empire’s major competitor and enemy. The Alliance is made up of islands and nations on the western border of the League, and their is a history of rebellion and fighting. In the early days of the rule of the League, a man named Herid Harfall stood up against the opression of the League, and carved with fire and blood a land where he and his could be free; this land has grown and held its own against the League up to the current day. Although they call themselves an alliance, the Free Lands are a collection of holds and city-states loosely related to each other, and whose only true connection is their mutual hate towards the League – a hatred that might not be entirely with reason, as there is more to Herid Harfall’s story than is widely known.

The Dragonic Uprising consists of a few islands on the eastern border of the League of Empires, and is composed by those nation who believe that the way of life taught by the Dragons should be continued, and as such the Ordo Draconis is predominant in the region. Not much is known about them, as they have closed their orders to all outside envoys, and attack any ships that come too close to their lands.

Other than these three major powers, there are also independent city-states and small nations that manage to hold their own against outside influences, if only because all of the major powers are too busy watching each other to worry about these minor powers.


On Karma Pools and Karma Locii

I briefly mentioned Karma Pools and Karma Locii on my previous post about geography, and now it’s time to expand on them a bit more – something I should have done in the post about Karma and Weaving. Both are very important aspects in the natural working of the world, and in the exploitation that Weavers can do of the natural energies that course through the land, and as such are the subject of much study.

Karma Locus is a place where one or more Karma Veins manifest with exceptional strength, and they usually have a very strong Karma Scion associated with them. They are true places of power, and an expert Weaver can channel this power to fuel his own Weavings. These places of power are highly sought after by the rulers of an island, as control over them ensures their continued rule, and increases the military strength of their nation; Locii in wild islands are greatly sought by freelance adventurers and mercenaries, for the creation of strongholds and to fuel their own purposes.

Karma Pool is a rare metaphysical occurence that sometimes appears inside Karma Locii; it is a concentration of one or more Karma Veins, creating a metaphorical pool of Karma that can be tapped upon by expert Weavers. This creates an even stronger source of power than a common Locus, especially if the strength and quality of the Karma Vein is high. Locii with Karma Pools are even more sought out than their normal counterparts, and Locii with more than one Pool are frequently the cause of wars.

Just as Karma Veins have a bodily equivalent in the form of Karma Circuits, Karma Pools also have one, called Karma Centres, which are specific points in the body of a living being that have a higher concentration of Karma, and fuel the energies of the entire body. They are tightly connected to the bloodstream and the health of the living being, who will die or at least be severely injured if their Karma Centres are damaged. On humans, the three major Karma Centres are present between the eyes, in the middle of the chest, and on the genitals, but there are thousands more spread across the entire body.