I really hope someone gets it.
*EDIT* This post has been updated with the correct version of the intended story for today. My apologies.
Concept Art: Vigil, Specialist of the Cinderfane Paths
It’s everyone’s favorite 7’6″, grey-skinned, flame-wielding monk from outer space!
We’ve settled on this as the general color-scheme for Cinderfane characters and designs going forward as well. Once again, Cameron has done an amazing job.
I had a bit of a moment during this session.
It was the first time we had all four starter factions on tables simultaneously. The room was loud–complete with a screaming furbaby in baby jail for being uncooperative–and I was running around answering timing questions, making notes of discrepancies or blatant typos (sue me), and was trying specifically to pay attention to the Cloak of Olaos game, as it was the first time it had been played under the current version of the rules, when suddenly, I realized I hadn’t said anything in a while. The games were going, the flow was natural, people were laughing, decrying bad dice, and really enjoying themselves.
If I’ve ever been struck before by “holy heck, this is actually happening,” it pales in comparison to this moment. This is the one I will remember.
The Neo European Empire and the Armistice
The first article of the Armistice dictated that leadership of the N.E.E. would remain solely in the many capable hands of Remulanus Domitius, Commander of the First Legion, Breaker of Stars, savior of all Terrans, and Father-Knight to the Empire. In the second article, the right of ownership over the azothite mining operations on the shards of the meteor that the Iron Wall had been built to crack apart–thus saving Terra from imminent destruction–was divided amongst the powers represented at the table, with the largest portion and control of the shipping lanes remaining with the N.E.E.
This was non-negotiable.
The third article detailed the Cease Fire terms and the division of occupied territories.
Such was the order of business throughout the negotiations, and such was the intent of the Father-Knight’s machinations.
The average N.E.E. citizen has mixed feelings on the cessation of hostilities. The Father-Knight’s armies and weapons had cut swathes through the barbarian lands that denied his right to rule. Certainly, they had met increased resistance towards the end–what with the increased extraterrestrial interference and the far-off Aussies allegedly launching a space fleet. Admittedly as well, the lack of constant thunder from the Iron Wall is a nice change. And while having their brothers and sisters home for the first time in years was a welcome event, what they just can’t understand is this: why did the Father-Knight even bother negotiating? After all, they were winning.
Of course, this perception is horribly skewed. The N.E.E. suffered the devastating effects of global (and borderline interplanetary) warfare just as much as the rest of Terra–well, perhaps less-so than western Europe. Their troops were starving, ammunition was low, and the supply of azothite was being constantly destabilized by Aussie Raider strikes–how did they get their hands on spaceflight technology?
It would be fair to say that the N.E.E. had achieved much and still holds the largest territory of the great powers, but the Father-Knight knew he could not retain it if the war continued–not without azothite to empower his war machines and his elite ACS troops. The world at large was quickly becoming reliant on alchemical technology for everyday life and the Neo’s were no different. If he could not control the flow of azothite, the Father-Knight knew his days were numbered.
So, surprising the world–the entire arm of the galaxy, even–the Father-Knight agreed to the Otakke Delegation’s requests for peace talks. It’s difficult to say if he achieved all that he desired in those long meetings; but, he certainly obtained that which matters most: control of the alchemy-enabling azothite.
Life as a Neo Citizen
In short: it’s pretty great, if you don’t mind dealing with the whims of a military dictatorship.
The Empire is run as a largely socialistic society–everyone contributes, everyone benefits. The upper echelons of the military benefit a bit more, but that’s an acceptable trade off for a relatively peaceful existence, right?
Healthcare? Check. Best in the world.
Hunger? Not a problem.
Heating and cooling? Easy!
Basic income? Well, who needs that when the Father-Knight Provides?
Creative outlets? You mean “working with the Empire’s various offices to continually improve efficiency and happiness!” It’s an easy wording mistake to make.
Contrary to their designs of conquest, the N.E.E. treats its citizens kindly, fairly, and with an easy hand, as long as you understand your role in society: to serve the whims of the Father-Knight.
That isn’t to say that art and beauty and personal pursuits are entirely non-existent. In fact, the Empire hosts some of the most decadent, swanky shindigs this side of the Dardinne moon. Imagine gigantic ballrooms positively covered in sculpture, paintings, and tapestries of the finest quality–oh, and the best of the best in terms of food, of course. And on weeks that the local government isn’t hosting dignitaries or officials of any sort, the local populace throws their own party–occasionally with additional premium foodstuffs or entertainment items donated from the military as a sign of solidarity and good faith.
Seriously though, a government sanctioned party every week, never having to worry about food or clothing or paying for education or healthcare; it’s a hard sell to beat. The Father-Knight knows that the best way to control a population is to keep them happy, lazy, and content.
Plus, you know, he tried the whole “might is right” thing once and, well, now he leads a country comprised mostly of pink-skinned primitives rather than commanding a vast armada of warships and their accompanying legions of professional pirates–I mean soldiers.
We’ve touched briefly on the N.E.E. today, and next week, we’ll be taking a closer look at the azothite mining operations, the Aussie Raiders, and the Father-Knight’s intentions with the Mercenary Initiative.
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Enjoy today’s character bio, introducing a Captain of the Argent Palisades–you know, the Father-Knight’s personal representation in the Initiative. I find his perspective to be quite refreshing amidst all this positivity.
Written by: Amanda Vernon
My family believed a simple life should be enough: find your craft, serve the empire, and faithfully remember those who came before you. That is our shared purpose. We remember. We remember our ancestors taking arms and refusing to bend a knee to the Saxons, the black dragon twisting on a flag in the wind even at their downfall.
The Saxons remember too.
When the Father-Knight came, my father swore this would be the forerunner of our victory. The Father-Knight was powerful, with advanced knowledge and science. To him there seemed to be no divide between my people—the Sorbs—and the Saxons. We were Germany and nothing less.
By his decree, the snuffing out of my people’s heritage stopped. Even the Saxons were not bold enough to openly defy the empire’s leader, not with his expanding military that stretched across countries they had never even walked. Some idealistic groups hailed him as a god, but the truth was simple: he was strength, and that was far more important. Strength could change a nation. What had gods ever done?
I enrolled in the Royal Saxon Polytechnic and Alchemical Institute. Founded in Dresden, it specialized in military selection, even rumored to be where the Father- Knight searched for the next great commander of his armies. I never saw him. Instead, I studied and failed under teachers focused on nothing but my name. Too archaic, one said. Another was honest and revealed all their ugliness to tell me that perhaps I would find more success if I reevaluated how I presented myself.
The first step towards victory can sometimes feel like surrender.
A week later, I wore a Saxon name like a mask. My rankings in the institute rose sharply. Instructors rotated out every quarter to expose us to new strategies and military experience, and soon, no one remembered I was ever anyone but Luka Schwarz.
Two more years passed before recruiters came to review the candidates in line for ascendance into the empire’s military. The Great War had strained resources, and they needed to fortify our ranks. Everyone I faced was too eager, desperate and greedy for praise. They needed the money that would come with appointment. They needed the status. They did it all for themselves, but I fought for my people.
I ascended, and with the finalization of my citizenship in the empire, my false name became immortalized in all official records.
It was mostly a thankless life. Bards wrote songs and never saw the carnage. Soldiers clung to religion or love. Some relished in the blood. I worked only to earn the Father- Knight’s favor.
In 1910, my opportunity came. The Father-Knight called for volunteers to enter into the frontlines wearing newly developed Alchemical Combat Suits. The fearless would be rewarded.
Our victory came, violent and decisive, against a small city at the border of France, where our allies had been threatened by Spain’s military. The world had never seen the brutal efficiency of anything like our combat suits. It was a slaughter more than a battle, and it should have been the start of the Father-Knight’s plans for global unification.
Then the ceasefire came. We’d been driven to a stalemate as our enemies acquired their own combat suits, and when the Otakke made the call for a treaty, I was forced back into a familiar place, one with no options except the one that burned like bile in my throat.
The Father-Knight agreed to the treaty and the foundation of the mercenary companies that would be the Earth’s representatives beyond our world. Ours would be the Argent Palisades.
His summons came hours after the news broke, sent by a runner who’d been given instructions to return with me. Hope reignited as he greeted me and presented me with my new station as a leader within the Argent Palisades.
This was my chance to fight for my people, but as I opened my mouth to speak, he led me to a room where there stood a customized alchemical combat suit. Emblazoned on its chest was the black dragon of my people’s history.
The Father-Knight knew its name: Zirnitra, the magically empowered. Forged from platinum and the alien metal azothite, the suit had been built to withstand heavy attack and deal out reciprocal blows, even calibrating close-ranged attacks of brute force to be preternaturally swift.
Here was my people’s weapon and their shield.
I took a knee as he said my true name.