After the Fourth Void War and the Second Zviecoff Negotiation, Saint, the monarchs of the kingdoms, and the atriarchs of the dynasties began the process of legislating the universal policies – those that all members of the alliance would be forced to abide by. A popular issue was what to do with mancers. Since the First Void War, mancers continually wound up on the wrongside of history. The majority of members in both councils wanted outright prohibition, however, they knew this would incriminate their own Emperor – Saint was a shadowmancer.
Saint could’ve ignored the issue. The people loved Saint. Even the leaders were reluctant to discuss mancy in the meetings out of respect for their Emperor. But the respect was mutual and Saint did not allow them to silence themselves for his benefit. In a public appearance, Saint removed his crow eye and addressed the issue. He began by stating that mancy was no more evil than any other form of magic – even necro and shadowmancy – but he argued that mancy was unique in that it infringed upon the liberty of the users. All magicians require some form of energy to cast their spells, but only mancers require that energy to live.
Rather than prohibition, Saint called his solution a policy of Mancy Nonproliferation. Saint did not expect mancers to risk the curing process – the enchanted enertomb that’d replaced his crow eye was not efficient or practical for the regular, working class individual – but he did expect a steady decline in the rate of conversions. This required the Trinity Nations to keep a head count. Saint created a neutral institution in the Dragon Islands that could double as a refugee safe haven for mancers (the Dragon Islands had only been loosely governed before this, they’d been a favorite hideout of pirates and a pain in the ass for nations bordering the Dragon Gulf). The neutrality pleased the councils who did not want to have to share their power with a monarch or atriarch from some sort of a mancer state. The mancers, on the other hand, were still cautious. Most mancers understood that mancy was a cursed form of magical art that should not be proliferated but were anxious about letting non-mancers dictate how mancy should be reduced. By controlling the “nonproliferation” themselves in their own sovereign state, they wouldn’t have to worry about outsiders lack of empathy. But there was a problem. Pyromancers would’ve been fine, but necromacners and shadowmancers would not be able to survive on the bone and shadow of their population alone.
The second element of Saint’s solution addressed this but made the citizens of the Trinity Nations uneasy. Having mapped out a conservative schedule the conversion rate was expected to drop each year, Saint promised to supply enough fire, bone, and shadow to provide. If the Order of Mancers was unable to meet Saint’s demands, they could renegotiate, but Saint made it known it was not likely he would budge. Both Councils considered the schedule very generous and it took Saint a month of speeches to convince the constituents of both Councils not to riot if the deal went through. In the end, most of the kingdoms and dynasties ruled that their citizens did not have to donate the bone and shadow of their deceased to the Order, only the energy of those that explicitly noted their approval in their will would be donated. Mancers were worried the system of voluntary donation wouldn’t accumulate enough to meet Saint’s promises. Saint was worried too. Even after the treaty was signed, he spent many days campaigning for donations. They held off officially signing the Mancy Nonproliferation Treaty until the first round of donations had been accounted for – just to be sure the system would work – and all Saint’s hardwork had paid off, they just barely met the necessary numbers. Thus on January 1st 1504, the treaty went into effect and the Dragon Islands became a sovereign – albeit dependent – state ruled by the Order of Mancers.
– – –
“With how much people hate mancers now, I’m surprised that worked.”
“You’re not alone.” Lo admitted, “There are a lot of theories out there.”
“Like Saint sent undercover mancers to steal energy from graveyards or that prisoners were harvested for their energy or that Saint set up huge cattle farms in the wastelands of Darkloe where they killed thousands and thousands of animals for energy.”
“How many animals would it take to equal a human’s shadow or bone?” Joe asked.
“Wouldn’t take much to equal a human’s,” Lo snickered, “but a gmoat on the other hand…”
“You asked about humans-”
“You know what I meant,” nonetheless, he clarified, “any being.”
“It depends,” Lo shrugged, “there are a lot of factors. I may be worth more than you but worth less than a dragon.”
“It isn’t by species?”
“What do you mean, species?”
“Like…I don’t know, species. You don’t know what species means?”
“I know what species means! Do you know what species means?”
Frustrated, Joe thought for a moment, then said, “Isn’t one of the things that makes a species whether or not they can procreate?”
That now familiar smirk returned, “You don’t think gmoats and humans can make babies?”
“I don’t know?” Joe had legitimately not thought about it before, “Can we?”
Joe’s face fell into his hands as he turned as red as a chicken dragon.
“Don’t worry, as a cultural icon, I’m used to strangers asking me for sex.”
Joe muttered through his palms, “Cause that’s totally what I meant…”
“So you don’t want to have sex?”
Having recovered from his blush, Joe glared back at his cellmate, “How about after the story?”
“Deal.” She cleared her throat, “For a couple hundred years, aside from a couple of controversies, the Mancy Nonpreliferation Treaty seemed to be working pretty well…”
– – –
There are three Dragon Islands. The necromancers ruled Kein, shadowmancers ruled Rein, and the Pyromancers ruled Bein. As was common in Solaris, they were ruled by democratically elected constitutional monarchs – they called these Tsars. The most populous branch’s Tsar held another title, Sheik. Originally, the Sheik had no special powers but merely acted as an ambassador to the Trinity Nations. For most of the Order’s history, this worked fine but as the politics within the Order developed the system occasionally hiccupped.
In the 1900s, after a series of fractures that had split what had been a couple of political factions into a multitude of conflicting parties, the Tsars of the Dragon Islands found themselves ruling with less popular support than ever before. As mainstream parties refused to compromise with one another, more radical parties that had previously been insignificant minorities now found a political landscape in which they could compete. One of these extremist groups called themselves the Disciples of the Darkness.
The group had existed for centuries, it was originally formed by a couple dozen followers of the Queen of Darkness after the collapse of her empire. They believed that the Queen would return when Solaris was ready – when Solaris was ruled by necromancers and shadowmancers. In the 1970s, the party was led by two major leaders, Truth over Kein and Borig Baba the Tiger over Rein (he was not an actual tiger, he was infamous for turning into a tiger and devouring his enemies).
– – –
“Everyone was cool with a Tsar that eats people?”
“He wasn’t Tsar yet.”
“So the Tsar just let him eat people?!”
Lo rolled her eyes and groaned, “Didn’t I explain to you how the Tsar’s were losing control?”
Joe frowned, “Maybe?”
“Well they were and it was especially bad on Rein.”
– – –
As both Borig and Truth found their leaders unwilling to punish them for some of their earlier offenses (murder for Borig and leaving the islands for Truth) they took their shenanigans a step further. They began to stack the deck in their favor. They’d sell dark marrow to shady regimes and smugglers in return for new converts. By the end of the 1970s, both Rein and Kein were led by Tsars loyal to the Disciples (Smra over Rein, Rotama Metrom over Kein) though they claimed to be unaffiliated with any party. In 1982, the Disciples felt secure enough to rule openly and Borig the Tiger won the election, replacing Smra.
This became harder and harder as years went on. More numbers led to vast shortages of not only shadow and bone but natural essentials like food and clean water. Outside of the Tsar’s city, warlords sanctioned by the Disciples maintained a system of anarchy in which the most vile of individuals rose to the top, one of which was Shalis Skullsummon. Once she had gained the respect of the party leaders, she began to plot how to replace them.
One of the shady regimes the Disciples paired up with was that of Yaimon Ren, a military leader and a shadowmancer, who staged a successful coup in the Mirkweed Kingdom of the Aquarian Ocean in 1979. Five years later, there was another coup and Yaimon was exiled. He took asylum in Rein. From Rein, he continued to funnel converts into the Dragon Islands, teaming up with a military leader, Lacitar Te-Naryt, that opposed the regime he’d been replaced with.
– – –
“Lacitar!” Joe exclaimed, “You mean the evil king of Aquaria?”
“He wasn’t king yet-”
“I know that, he was chief of police – no, second to the chief of police…something like the…jee…chee…” Joe shrugged, “some vice general or another…”
Laying her palms out towards Joe, Lo stared squint-eyed and half slack-jawed.
“You know the life story of the fishfolk’s king but next to nothing about the Order…”
Joe folded his arms against his chest, “I just left the Aquarian Ocean.”
“True,” Lo conceded, “so you know about him and Yaimon?”
“Yea! Lacitar rounded up dissenters, converted them to mancy, then exiled them as part of Yaimon’s band of terrorizing mancers.” As Lo nodded, Joe continued, “Then Yaimon started terrorizing Lacitar’s folks and-”
“That was the end of their partnership, but not the end of Lacitar’s dealings with the Order…”
– – –
Shalis Skullsummon was the main go-between for the Aquarians and Kein. Both Yaimon and Lacitar had grown to like her. When Yaimon and Lacitar began to beef, Lacitar went to Borig the Tiger, Yaimon’s superior, and demanded that he do something about Yaimon or he, Lacitar, would stop sending them fresh recruits. Borig could careless. By this point, the islands were crawling with fishfolk converts, so much so that even Borig was becoming a little anxious about the chaos in his and Rotama’s island kingdoms. Plus, he knew Lacitar couldn’t stop his purges. Borig was right. But though Lacitar needed the Disciples, he didn’t need the shadowmancers, there was always the necromancers and his favorite up-and-coming homicidal maniac Shalis “the Witch” Skullsummon.
Two years after Yaimon was exiled, his lifeless body was found on the streets of Aquaria. In this same year, 1986, the number of necromancers exceeded that of the shadowmancers. Borig was aware of this, also of Shalis’ undercutting, but his biggest threats came from within Rein (or so he thought). The anarchy in the towns and villages around the Tsar’s city was beginning to make members of the Disciples’ political elite wary of his rule. His response was to crack down. He consumed the shadows and flesh of any who was caught dissenting. This flushed many of the leading shadowmancers out of Rein, such as the ex-Tsar Smra and the future-Tsar Adora Shadowstorm.
Those fleeing Borig were welcomed by Shalis as she led a movement opposing her own Tsar. However, she didn’t place the blame on Rotama, instead she placed the blame on the Nonproliferation Treaty. Rather than to fight her for dissent, like Borig would’ve, Rotama agreed with her. He stepped down and was gladly accepted into Shalis’ cabinet as she ran for Tsar and was elected in 1987.
Almost as soon as the year began, Shalis declared war on the Borig. This wasn’t a war on shadowmancy, some of the most revered shadowmancers were on her side, but this was a war to oust Borig. When Shalis and her army invaded Rein, they found more support for Shalis than Borig. That said, the majority of shadowmancers were loyal to neither and continued to fight for their warlord against both sides. Despite all this, the war lasted two years.
The world watched in horror. The Order of Mancers’ Dragon Islands, which for hundreds of years had been considered a major success, were now the site of some of the most atrocious acts against people on the planet. With Saint’s guidance, the Trinity Nations contracted private investigators to assess the situation. Almost immediately they reported that both the shadowmancers and necromancers had been fudging their numbers, but what the world focused on was the reports of torture, cannibalism, and genocide. Though this fascinated the Trinity Nations’ two councils, their citizens were not endangered. Why should they send troops to save the lives of shadow slingers and bone benders – especially when they brought the instability upon themselves? Saint was the only one with a say in the matter that was determined to end the conflict, yet God’s Island had no army (this was before the Samurai). His initial proposal was to form a team and bring peace to Rein and Kein himself, but the Diamond and Crystal Council voted him down. When the Emperor picked up the throne, he put down the blade. Thus, Saint sought an alternative: more contractors.
Despite Shalis’ obvious infringements, she was only the new Tsar. Though she spewed anti-Nonproliferation/Trinity Nations propaganda, Saint hoped that by lending her aid she might soften and help him to bring back the Order of old that had seemed to work so well. His mercenaries, which included the Kou Warriors, went in on the side of Shalis and by 1989 Borig the Tiger and a flock of loyalists had fled the Dragon Islands.
In the wake, Shalis agreed to return to the policy of a yearly reduction in conversion rates. Now that she held a vast majority, why wouldn’t she? The new Sheik had even gotten Saint to promise to provide for the extra bone and shadows needed to compensate for the swollen numbers (which he accomplished by paying governments to donate more – a controversial move).
The blame shifted to pirates, which was by no means misguided. Nearly every smuggler had been involved in the proliferation of mancy to benefit the Disciples. In 1990, Saint declared war on piracy. The Pirate Wars did vastly reduce the amount of smugglers, however the strongest gangs were able to stick around and did so by becoming more militant. But, through the Pirate Wars, Saint got himself a bit of military: the Imperial Navy.
Meanwhile, Shalis and Adora (the new Tsar of Shadowmancy) behaved themselves. Saint had entrusted Pyre Ein, the pyromancers’ Tsar, with surveillance. Pyromancers occupied the Tsar cities on both Rein and Kein. Shalis didn’t need to shake things up in the Dragon Islands, she could operate elsewhere through Lacitar in the Aquarian Ocean and Truth on land. Truth had been an active and high ranking member among the Disciples for most of Shalis’ rise, but by the mid-1980s she spent most of her time off the island investing in personal projects. One such project was to place herself behind the throne of Batloe, where the king was soon to die and revolution was on the lips of the people. Shalis was especially interested.
In 1993 the king died and revolution followed and – as I’m sure you know…
– – –
“You don’t know?!”
All Joe could do was sheepishly grin.
“The Samurai, Joe!”
“The Samurai,” Joe whapped his temple with the base of his palm, “I knew that…”
“Mhm,” Lo rolled her eyes and went ahead and explained, “the Samurai foiled Truth’s plans, but not Shalis’. Truth fled to Iceload where another revolution had just occurred. There she managed to corrupt the mind of the new king, Talloome, and create a refuge for the Disciples in Icelore…”
– – –
Shalis wasn’t quite ready for the relocation. She was determined to somehow take over the pyromancers too, so that all mancy would work together towards one end, the Disciples’ end: preparing Solaris for the return of the Queen. This was more ambitious than the Disciples before her, the pyromancers had always been the odd woman out.
Ever since Saint first returned from Delia during the Fourth Void War, legend spread that Chane – the first pyromancer – and his crew of exiled fire elves had found their way into Delia. True or not, it was true that the population of the Delian kingdom of Drave was renown for having a large population of pyromancers. Not only that but it was the Kingdom of Drave that had supported Creaton against Saint during the Fourth Void War. Truth had been dabbling in interworld travel. The Soul Staff she’d created could be used to power a dormant portal like the one in Mount Ahsik – the one Saint had traveled through nearly five hundred years ago. However, this portal was under close watch by trusted companions of Saint. Instead, Truth experimented with a portal hidden behind the isolationist walls of a poria state: Vinnum Tow. Using an ancient portal in Vinnum Tow, Truth came in contact with a group of Dravish refugees in another state that was not their homeland, eager to come to Solaris, or to go anywhere, where they might live in peace. Over half of them were pyromancers.
Vinnum Tow had no intention of housing refugees, in fact, they made it clear to Truth that they’d stick every last fire elf on a ship and send them sailing. However, they were still fond of the idea of bringing the aliens to Solaris. After all, the fire elves were slave holders themselves and the leaders of Vinnum Tow were interested to see how the altruistic Saint would respond to stranded Delian slave holders. Truth and Shalis figured whatever happened, Saint would have to send the pyromancers amongst the Delians to the Dragon Islands where they might not make a majority but they may be able to put together votes to replace Pyre Ein with a more Disciple-sympathetic Tsar.
Saint stayed true to his principles. He demanded that the alien fire elves release their slaves or return from whence they came (they requested Saint open the portal in Darkloe for them to escape through instead but Saint obviously refused – as far as he knew, the aliens on the other end of that portal would still want to see him dead). Then Saint demanded that the mancers among them be admitted to the Order to live on the Dragon Islands. Those that remained took refuge in Dogloe where King Catch Eninac generously offered them a large chunk of a national reserve.
Catch’s act of kindness did have an agenda. Dogloe had and has the largest population of gmoats beneath Solaris and the Delians’ slaves had all been gmoats. Their system was reinforced by a narrative of gmoatish inferiority. He hoped that by living in Dogloe and meeting Solarin gmoats the fire elves might learn to adopt a more Trinity Nations like perspective on racial differences. As for the liberated slaves, they weren’t sticking around to find out.
Few settled in Dogloe. Before being enslaved, the gmoats of Delia came from an icy continent. They’d been enslaved by the Dravish when forced to flee the melting shores of their homeland. Thus, most of the Delian gmoats went to Iceload.
– – –
“How’d that work out?”
“Not so well,” Lo stated, “King Talloome wasn’t a big fan of accepting droves of propertyless freed slaves but he found a way to use it to his liking. If you were a Delian Gmoat that wanted to come to Iceload, all you had to do was enlist.”
“Join the military?”
Joe scoffed, “Did they even speak the language?”
“Nope,” Lo laughed, “but, fortunately, we caught on fast.”
“So your folks were in the military?”
“No. That’s just it, most of us enlisted then disappeared.”
“Yea!” Lo grinned, “People would sign up, stick around for a few days, then run away.”
“And then what?”
“Just live on the streets, work where you could find work.”
“Didn’t Talloome get pissed?”
“Oh yeah…” the grin died, Lo sighed, “after that, you could be arrested in Iceload for having horns, hooves, and a tail.”
“Yikes…” Joe paused for a moment, offering Lo a moment of silent reflection before getting the conversation back on task, “So, what happened with the Dravish pyromancers?”
– – –
Shalis Skullsummon was correct. The influx of pyromancers booted Pyre Ein out of office, which initially enraged the old residents but the replacement, Sunasha Flamecall, quickly stole the hearts of the people of Bein. She agreed to work with Pyre and vehemently condemned the Disciples. To Shalis’ amazement, the new pyromancers knew nothing of Creaton Live. They knew the Delian Prophecy, but not of the Queen of Darkness. And to make matters worse, Sunasha didn’t just take an anti-Disciple stance, she took an anti-necromancy and anti-shadowmancy stance and argued that pyromancers deserved to rule the Order.
Thus, the Disciples invaded Bein. Within a month, spies sent to the island reported back to Saint that not a pyromancer was left alive or dead. It was as if each and every last pyromancer had wandered into some hidden portal and disappeared off the face of the planet though no mystical portal was ever discovered on the islands. In response to this action, both the Diamond and Crystal Council clamored for a stern response and Saint concurred. The Pirate Wars ended and the War on Mancy began.
The Mystakle Samurai sneaked into Bein and captured Shalis Skullsummon. Saint hoped to use her as leverage to get the Disciples to come clean about the fate of the pyromancers, but they would not. Instead, the Disciples left the Dragon Islands in the night, finding a new home under Talloome Icelore’s wing for the king had already been hypnotized by the corrupting magic of Truth. Though Shalis eventually escaped and the Trinity Nations discovered where the rest of the Order was hiding, they still have not found the pyromancers and with the return of Creaton Live to Solaris, they’ve ceased to look.
– – –
“They’re here, then.”
“The pyromancers.” Joe elaborated, “Hermes and Shalis said Sunasha was my cell mate, so the pyromancers are here.”
Lo snorted, “No they’re not.”
“That’s only one.”
“How do you know there aren’t more?” Joe snapped, “You’re a prisoner same as me!”
“I know because…” Lo’s tongue stumbled, “well…I suppose I don’t know.”
“Exactly.” Joe folded his arms.
“If they are here,” Lo stated, “then they’re dead.”
Joe gulped, “Then I hope you were right.”