Lead + Sheer Willpower + Determination*Magic = Gold?
Step 2: Design a game.
Step 3: ????
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Azothite – A Gift From the Stars
It’s cheesy, I know.
A hundred years or so prior to the start of the Age of Mercenaries plot line, the first of many events that would come to be called “STARFALL” illuminated the night sky of eastern Europe–a yearly meteor shower that grew with intensity with each pass. Though the initial amounts of rock and space dust to survive the atmosphere was quite low, it didn’t take long for entrepreneurial spirits to start researching the strange metal’s properties–including one of the few people that still preferred the term alchemist, instead of doctor, scientist, or physician. Firat Bey, while out foraging for supplies, had the bright idea to include bits of a meteorite in his latest attempt at creating the elixir of life. Instead, he had several days of exceedingly-accurate visions of the present and future, as well as the occasional bout of spontaneous levitation.
Needlessly to say, he disappeared from the public eye as soon as his local government said the words, “magic,” and “witchcraft.”
Within a decade, the meteorite metal–which came to be called ‘azothite’ after the traditional alchemical word for ‘transformation’–revolutionized all aspects of human life. The STARFALL events were anticipated with equal parts excitement and dread. The wave of destruction brought about by the falling meteors each year rocked civilizations to their core, only for the survivors to rebuild evermore quickly with the help of the newest alchemical agents.
Increased strength, prowess, and intelligence was just the start of human advancement. Soon, the traditional ‘elixir’ was replaced by machinery–pumps worn on the back to regulate the alchemical compounds in your system without overtaxing it. By the first World’s Fair of Alchemy, zinc-azothite powered bicycles and children studying how to focus energy through silver amulets to purify water.
Of course, the STARFALL events grew worse every year. The alien that would come to be called the Father-Knight of the Neo-European Empire revealed himself to the world, promising a solution. But, that’s a story for another day.
The Cinderfane Paths™
In mechanical terms, superhuman abilities, vaguely-magical powers, and equipment that defy the laws of physics are tied to various traditional aspects of alchemical-metals–based on some abstracted concepts, anyway. I’ll be discussing each metal individually in different weekly posts–and their connections to specific characters and mercenary companies. To begin:
Magnesium – A metal that ignites in small quantities and is notoriously difficult to extinguish. The fire-based abilities were obvious, of course, but, as with every other metal, we wanted to make sure we were focusing on the ideals ascribed to it, as well as the easy-stereotypes. We settled on magnesium’s connection with human passion–an unquenchable flame when focused, but sputtering and useless when overburdened. The mercenary company, “The Cinderfane Paths,” is based on this concept.
The Cinderfane, both an expansive cult in southern Asia and an officially-endorsed mercenary company representing the so-called ‘Sun Empire,’ only takes missions for the board if the desired outcome suits them. You’re more likely to see the various primary members off on their own, traveling through alien landscapes and cultures seeking diversions of their own making, rather than actively seeking new opportunities for Terra.
The cult, consisting of exiles of the Qhurothi Hegemony–one of the major alien powers that influenced the creation of the companies after the Great War–seeks to ingratiate themselves with the human population. They seed themselves as far and wide as they can, managing in a few short years to establish a strong presence in Asia and northern Africa.
The Sun Empire itself is hardly involved–it’s far too busy resolving internal political problems to try and corral its wayward soldiers. As with Magnesium, the individual elements burn brighter in small groups rather than as part of a larger entity. They are slowly getting their act together–fear of renewed hostilities with Neo-Europe keeps them from falling apart entirely.
In much the same way, each character of the Cinderfane focuses themselves along a single ideal, a concept that drives them. Last week, we introduced Marcus Berger, a newer member of the cult and expatriate of the Neo-European Empire. Vengeance drove him out of the Empire, and it will be Vengeance that keeps his inner-fire burning in the cold of space as part of the company. His custom ACS focuses on just that–keeping him in the fight. Instead of studying control of flames or personal focusing, Marcus relies on primarily magnesium-based compounds to pick himself back up–not unlike the mythical phoenix. His firearms remain unchanged from his days in the empire–platinum and copper-infused ammunition for maximum bang–but he has taken to using an heirloom sword that channels magnesium powers with ease.
We’ll delve more into Marcus’s sword, and other strange heirloom weapons like Elizabeth’s bow another time. To end today’s post, enjoy a short story introducing the second member of the Cinderfane, and our first alien character.
The Gray Master
Written By: Eevi
“I’m waiting–that’s hardly ‘nothing,’ pink one,” she responded casually to Ai, tolerating the other small children attempting to climb up onto her shoulders–their most popular game to play with the seemingly titanic woman.
She had taken to resting against some of the sturdier dawn redwoods in this particular copse in order to accommodate their antics. Unless she helped, they wouldn’t be able to reach the branches, putting themselves in danger of falling. Instead, the children focused their dreams of ascension on Vigil. The Qhurothi’s long arms were just as good as trees to their imaginations and wonder.
Shortly before mid-morning, Ma Li’s echoing voice reached even Vigil’s weak ears, sending the children scampering away–some to work, some to play, and some to hide from participating in either. One by one, mothers or elder siblings entered the copse and humbly inquired of huīsè de lǎoshī as to their wayward family’s whereabouts, as had become the custom of the village.
She nodded, greeting each one with the same deference regardless of age or rank. A quick word, a gesture, a passing observation or irreverent joke, and the seeker would be off to collect the young from their idle dealings.
Thus the morning went, as it had for the last few years: the iterant monk sat cross-legged in her copse–a familiar, yet altogether alien presence in the village–and the people would find reasons to visit.
Then, as the sun breached the canopy, she’d rise to her feet, thank the young Shen for watching her garden, exchange playful banter with the moonstruck young man, and follow Ma Li the long way out of the woods and into the rice field for their customary meal, taking but one step for every six of the elderly mother’s dignified strides.
She’d grown to enjoy the hunched-matron’s company–her presence pushed away the anxiety of separation the young Qhurothi sometimes felt clawing at her during the dead of night. Though she was significantly the senior of the two, Vigil looked forward to Ma Li’s constant mothering and fretting about the alien’s health and happiness. Their fond exchanges over steamed rice had become a familiar and welcomed routine.
This morning, however, she waited. The sun burned brighter; noon was quickly approaching, and still she waited. With a worried look cast across the small garden of flowers she so painstakingly watched day after day, she stood, crossing the length of the copse with enough speed to bend the grass blades in her wake.
She heard the screams as she entered the forest–smelled the smoke as she neared the fields.
The monk passed through the burning brush without slowing, parting the flames and waves of heat before her with angry flicks of her hands. The veins on her neck and face pulsed a boiling-white as the alchemical energies within subdued the fires surrounding home after home–leaving naught behind but ash and the stench of freshly-charred flesh.
Her pace faltered, slowing to a sputtering halt as Ma Li’s hut came into view. The weeping monk knew then that she had waited too long.
A child’s cry drew her attention in time to see the cause: two men, uniforms emblazoned with the silvered-fist of the Father-Knight, bearing down on another who shielded Ai with his already-battered body.
Flames consumed the first soldier as Vigil once more brought her azothite-infused blood to bear. The second fled in fear as the towering woman, silhouetted against the sun like a giant shadow, approached holding in one hand a burning crossbeam looking for all the world as a flaming sword. Ai clung to her leg tightly, sobbing as she watched him sprint away towards a distant hilltop where a battalion gathered.
After another quick look around and finding nothing, Vigil carried Ai and the blond man back to her copse and laid them down next to her garden. The little girl would be alright–smoke inhalation and small burns comprised the bulk of her injuries. The man, however–a deserter by the looks of his uniform–needed immediate medical attention; and, the nearest physician was miles away, through the oncoming soldiers.
A small sigh, a lornful stare, and a resolute grunt later, she scooped away the flowers and dirt by the fistful, eventually revealing the hilt of a strangely glowing blade.
Vigil could wait no longer.