The Father-Knight

Insert complaining-rant about something here. I don’t know; them kids and their video games.

Liery is pouting currently. He’s mad that I’m adopting another cat instead of him. Sad, but unavoidable, really.

AAAARRRTTTTT

Concept art provided by Benjamin Sawyer. The Aidlean race is part of the STARFALL™ universe.

Remulanus Domitius, Savior of Terra

Also known as, “that jerk that tried to burn the world to the ground.”

In 1839, the first “Alchemical World’s Fair” was held. This convening of the worlds foremost alchemists and experts on all-things azothite was to serve two purposes.

First: expanding the world’s general understanding of this new thing called ‘alchemy.’ Much like the World’s Fair held in St. Louis, MO in 1904 in our history, the Alchemical Fair was a place for discovery, learning, and wonder.

Second: to shove as many brilliant minds as could be fit under a single big top in order to discuss the increasing devastation of the semi-annual “Starfall” events. There had been three up to this point, each one increasing in ferocity and widespread mayhem. Sure, the showers of space rock and fire were providing the world with a supply of this new, amazing metal called ‘azothite,’ but, astronomers were predicting an increasing level of destruction with every pass. After the hell that was the last week of June this year, no one was sure the planet could survive that.

They were correct, of course. The next eight Starfall cycles would cause mass, untold damage to the planet, killing millions, irrevocably changing the surface of Terra. Thanks to the Father-Knight, however, there would only be eight more.

To say that the human alchemists were flabbergasted by the armored, 8ft tall, gargantuan alien striding into their tent, offering a way out of the coming fires would be the understatement of the century. Remulanus Domitius, former Lord Chancellor of the Aidlean Grand Fleets, and former Grand Admiral of the largest of said-Grand Fleets, spoke of the asteroid currently lurking far outside the Sol system, but coming quickly. He told the humans cowering before him that it would destroy their planet without his help. Asking for nothing, demanding nothing, Remulanus handed schematics for the Iron Wall over to one of the alchemists, seemingly at random.

And then, he left the tent never to be seen again.

Haha, no.

He and that alchemist, Dieter Schneider, left together to return to Schneider’s workshop south of Freiburg. Schneider didn’t know it, and really, had no way of knowing it, but he had been the perfect choice to ignite the Father-Knight’s plan. In what seemed like boundless luck, Schneider’s students found a massive chunk of raw azothite–enough to build a few of the planetary cannons detailed in the Iron Wall. Of course, he never intended for them to be turned against his own kind, but, alas. Within a few months, they were building in secret–it was a weapon, after all.

By the next Starfall cycle, conveniently aimed at eastern Europe, a handful of the cannons had been built and strategically placed. As the sky began to burn with falling rock and metal, they opened fire, shattering anything that threatened to come too close to a populated area. Large chunks still made landfall, but the damage was significantly lighter than the previous cycle.

By the time the sky cleared, Remulanus and Schneider had been installed as the city of Freiburg’s chief alchemists and advisers in building the remaining emplacements that would make up the rest of the Iron Wall. By the next cycle, the pair frequently sat in conference with leaders of the Prussian Empire, the German Confederation, and the French government. Building the Wall across most of continental Europe was slow–azothite was, by comparison, a scarcity, and even after securing governmental control of its flow for the purposes of this project, they often had to halt work for weeks or months at a time, awaiting the next cycle to bring more raw materials.

The rest of the world watched in awe of the European strength, the raw power that slapped away the falling rocks in each cycle with a seemingly casual hand while the rest of them burned. As more cycles passed, Remulanus secured his place in the public eye as a hero and a savior.

His masterstroke was simple: artificially create a problem in the Iron Wall as the asteroid neared the planet. The combined might of the Wall was enough to deflect the asteroid, certainly, but that’s not what he wanted. At the height of panic, as the cannon fire dwindled, hardly able to keep up with the advanced debris, he made his move. Remulanus still had friends, you see. With some slight modifications to existing command consoles, he could get a message out. If they were near, perhaps they could lend a hand. The issue was, he couldn’t fix every cannon by himself quickly enough to matter. So, why not ask for additional hands? Human alchemy had advanced significantly in the last two decades, but they were still lifetimes away from understanding the aidlean designs without his oversight–a fact he had spent countless hours ensuring.

The remaining members of his exiled legions landed, quickly moving to take over operations of the cannons. With a show of sudden ingenuity, they re-oriented the guns along a fault in the asteroid, cracking it wider, deeper. When all hope seemed lost, Remulans commandeered the legions ship, ramming it into the fault and detonating the engines, splitting it in two, and effectively diverting the coming calamity.

Stories quickly circulated of the brave sacrifice their alien friend had made. His legions, now without a ship, offered to stay and assist with the clean-up in exchange for land they could call their own. The Confederation, and really, the world, mourned the passing of their savior.

When he landed a few days later, beaten and bloodied from damage done to his escape pod, they rejoiced. What happened next was practically inevitable.

Wrapping Up

But we’ll talk about that another time!

Today, we have something special for you: a brief excerpt from an upcoming novella set in the STARFALL universe. The story will follow an important character in the STARFALL: Age of Mercenaries™ early storyline events, as well as give a more in-depth look at the functional mechanics of modern alchemy and space travel.

As always, hit us up on Facebook with comments or questions. We’d love to hear from you all!

Enjoy!

Training Mission

An excerpt written by: Eevi

The gravity fluctuated again, sending her floating gently away from the wall. From around the corner, muffled voices barked in annoyance—it sounded like annoyance anyway; she didn’t speak any Aidlean, and she certainly didn’t understand a butchered borderspace dialect. 

Damn pirates.

As the seconds ticked by, Rebecca floated further and further from the wall, drifting lazily towards the center of the dark storage room. Beams of light from beyond a series of shelf racking that was bolted to the ceiling and floor narrowly missed her during an erratic scan of the space. Still, she held her breath, counting on the floating debris to obscure enough of her from so far away. 

They were armed—she knew that with absolute certainty. Piotr had been exploring out and around in the direction from where they entered the room just after a muffled crunching sound and an echoing, telltale-schhhlink of a blade through the air raised all the hair on the back of her neck. He was dead—another easy assumption. The real question, the burning uncertainty that threatened her life was another matter: were they responsible for what had happened to the Sarge? 

She could identify three individuals poking about the far side of the room, maneuvering with relative ease—magnetic boots, most likely. Oh, what wouldn’t she do to have her own right about now? A loose crate bounced lightly off of her thigh-plating, changing her momentum. She cursed her luck as she slowly spun, no longer able to track the threats in the room.  Choking back a sigh, Rebecca accepted the loss of information and used this set-back as a chance to check her equipment. Alchemical technology glows rather obviously; at least now she could shield the light with her body. 

Ammunition: most of a pack—5 shots. One additional pack. 12 shots in total. Practically nothing. 

With thinly controlled derision, she noted the irony that her medic’s pack was fully intact—and unused. Fat lot of good it had done her up till now. 

Sergeant Holland? Brutally crushed inside his own ACS while the rest of us made camp.

Lieutenant Malak and Mr. Cruise, the attaché? Missing, but I’m pretty sure we found the Lieutenant’s arm. 

Emilia? Piotr? 

Small consolation, her ACS—if you could call the stripped-down models given to trainees “alchemical combat suits” while keeping a straight face—was, at least, fully charged. She wasn’t in danger of going cold—or worse, running out of oxygen if she had to go topside. That’s something. 

She needed a plan. In a few more seconds, she’d be facing the far side once more—and the pirates. What could she do to get out of this room and warn her platoon? 

While floating in empty space? That’s bloody well fucked, innit?

A crash from nearby told her that at least one of them had crossed the span of the room and was far too close for comfort. Deciding it was worth the risk, she gently craned her neck to look in the direction of the noise. 

A Terran? What’s this bloke doing with a bunch’a—

Her mind blanked, eyes locked on the insignia painted across the man’s back. 

The Black Talons. Fear washed out all rational thought. The plates of her ACS clinked lightly as she shivered in panic. Thudding footsteps signifying a gigantic form approached as she spun in the air, drifting slowly upwards. Her mind, entirely unaware of how long—or how high—she had drifted, stuck on a single thought.
We’re all dead.

Azothite Mining and You

Geology and magic! It’s definitely not an explosive combination.

Liery likes to eat the Azothite while it’s still smoking from the blast.

Concept Art

Asteroid Mining – It’s Dangerous Work

So dangerous, in fact, that the N.E.E. uses only political prisoners, death-row inmates, and fools with no other options–I mean; well-compensated volunteers–to work the primary shafts dotting the largest chunk of the shattered asteroid. Its not for the faint of heart.

For the most part, it’s like any other mining operation. Blasting equipment may be used to open a vein. Drills and heavy machinery are employed to make the labor easier. Some jerk in a suit and a hard hat yells orders while sitting in an air-conditioned bunker half a mile down the way.

The major difference? Modified ACSs. You, the miner, are the ‘heavy machinery,’ operating in near-zero gravity, clinging to broken pieces of an asteroid hurtling around a star, constantly casting a wary eye towards the local field generator keeping you, and everyone you work with every single day, from being immediately vaporized by the solar winds. Azothite-based materials may apparently be able to survive those cosmic forces; but, you, inside your little suit, would fry like an egg.

N.E.E. miners are expected to maintain their suits in their downtime. Any necessary materials can be requisitioned against their remaining deployment time. It’s not an altogether fair system, but it is entirely possible to complete your deployment and return home. For some, this means enough wealth to pursue whatever they wish. For others, freedom is its own reward.

In either case, enough miners make it through their deployment that the desire for any sort of hostile takeover is apparently non-existent. Sure, an ACS is still an ACS–especially operated by those the state already deemed dangerous. A mining drill makes a hole just as well as a rifle. And, as is usually the case, the workers vastly outnumber the overseers and their armed guards. But, the way out is already clear; why risk losing the light at the end of the tunnel that you already have?

For other major powers–the North American Alliance, the Hegemony, the Aussie Defense Fleet–mining is a slower, grueling process than the brutal efficiency of the N.E.E. operation. Disparate borderline-pirate groups occasionally splinter-off from these groups to establish their own, illegal, shafts to capitalize on azothite trade, causing them no end of troubles. Imagine going through the effort of blasting a crew of 30 into space, drifting over several weeks to your space station hub, only to have about 20 of them cut-and-run with their suits, stealing a ship in the process, and taking over some unknown portion of a rock who knows were?

I’m sure that’s frustrating. The Aidlean fleets love these splinter groups, however. Why deal with the Hegemony for trade when they can just circumvent the whole system and still let the Terrans manage the mining themselves? They laid claim to the asteroid, it’s only fair the Admirals respect that claim, right?

While the Aussies ostensibly run their own mining operations, their primary focus is elsewhere. Officially, the ships operating raids, interference strikes, and just generally being a pain in the ass for N.E.E. foremen, are operated without the consent of the joint Australian governing bodies.

They sure do keep their equipment well-maintained and well-armed for being rogue pirates, though.

A joint defense initiative is in the works, as well, but the other Terran powers just keep running into roadblocks preventing them from committing resources to the N.E.E. shipping lanes. Luckily, it really does seem like only N.E.E. ships are affected by the Aussie Raiders. How fortuitous for everyone else stuck using the same lanes.

The N.A.A. supplies much of the rest of the world with its supply of pure azothite. The Hegemony has secured trading rights with the minor powers across the continent of Asia, but not in its entirety. No one officially knows where southern Africa or South America obtain their limited supplies–the world is watching the strangeness in the Kalahari with a careful eye for this very reason. It’s probably lucky for everyone that azothite-based alloys require remarkably little azothite to make.

Wrapping-up

Ending a bit early today! We’ll discuss the Father-Knight in more detail next week.

Enjoy this week’s short fiction. It’s our first taste of combat. Next week, I’ll be posting an excerpt from an upcoming short novel based in the STARFALL universe!

His Will be Done

Written by: Amanda Vernon

Here is true strength, tempered by mercy: a hand stayed, a blade clean of blood, a victory won by voice not violence. 

But only if it be our father’s will. 

Glass shattered first. The soundless, snowy night plunged into a chaotic mess of limbs as the huddled mass leapt apart, numerous and frantic as birds scattering from cannon fire. 

Light flashed at the edge of Tengri’s vision. A katar drove to the right, aimed for the cross-section of his suit; his body rocked with the motion, instinctive, the metal glancing off without a dent but ricochetting a resounding note that activated the alloy. First strike. Final strike. A glacial force submerged all thought; Tengri fought the creeping, inevitable pull before ice stole into his veins, and his regretful mind emptied of all but the rush of adrenaline, the inhale of frigid air, and the last exhale as he thrust forward and skewered the combatant—a faceless figure, insignificant, irrelevant as they dropped and became a stumbling block at his feet. 

The yell of his emir, Luka, drowned beneath a fury of blades. Above them all, a figure hung between rafters and defied all natural law. Dual blades arced around her, dancing upon air while blood became the picture’s frame. She spun, fell, and rolled back to her feet, launched forward with a single push. 

If it be our father’s will. 

The platinum-azothite alloy forged into his combat suit forced Tengri’s hand—ice will not be ignored; a soft click gave way to thunder as fire burst forth like water from a broken dam. 

No bodies remained to stumble over. Tendrils of smoke curled from the cannon’s end, and then silence fell once more while snow drifted down, a gentle blanket laid over the waiting corpses. 

Surrounded by the remnant of life, the graceful killer smiled. “Pater vult,” Sofia said, an echo of Tengri’s mind—a beating, unrelenting rhythm. 

“It was not his will,” said their emir, drawing beside Tengri as the latter knelt by the victims who remained, closing eyes before the snow took them, his lips moving in silent prayer. “He ordered the head of this ring of subversives be brought to Plötzensee Prison for public trial.” 

Sofia picked her way through the small house now lying in shambles—ash and snow indecipherable from the other.

Tengri glanced to his emir, his captain, and in Luka’s eyes was challenge…but their father had forged the woman before them, built her in strength and truth. She was his weapon. In him, her worth was found. 

“I hear they use an axe, Lehrer.” The short sword in her hand arced in a gently sweeping motion, somehow obscene in its beautiful mimicry of a beheading. 

“I am not your teacher, Sofia. I am your captain.” 

“Captain.” 

“The Father-Knight will want an answer.” 

She considered him a long moment and then glanced to the bodies. “The result is the same, is it not? And if the Father-Knight ordered the head of this ring be brought…” The weight of her combat suit only whispered across the ground. Returned to one of the felled bodies, the katzbalger again hoisted in an easy grip, Sofia set the blade against charred skin. Her hand lifted and then hung. 

The thaw of his beating heart had begun. With no ice to temper him, Tengri rose to full height. Wide eyes turned, bright and curious, as his hand caught around her wrist. “We do not desecrate the dead in such a way,” Tengri murmured. ”The blood of our enemies is still the blood of human beings.” 

“Louis XVI.” Her face lit. “Tell me more of history and revolution, and what mercy does before a neck meets the guillotine. What does the Frenchman know now besides what comes after death?” 

With a click of his tongue, Tengri released her. 

Luka sheathed his own weapon and turned from the devastation. “The Father-Knight bids us return for our final ascendance. We are finished here.” 

“The Father-Knight wants this head,” Sofia challenged. “I will provide it, and he will be pleased.” Short blades crossed before her and pierced into the ground on opposite sides of her prize. “Proof, Lehrer, that what he orders, we will always accomplish.” 

Tengri shut his eyes and turned away. 

Our father—sent from the skies to better our world, to save us, to give us purpose: serve his holy mission here on Earth, and now become his envoys to the galaxy above. 

A reaching hand crumbled to dust beneath Tengri’s boot. He turned his eyes skyward. 

There is a time for mercy. 

But perhaps it only comes once all bend their knee. 

Pater vult.

Neo Problems Require Neo Solutions

I really hope someone gets it.

*EDIT* This post has been updated with the correct version of the intended story for today. My apologies.

Little Liery seems especially lazy today. Should I fire him?

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.

Playtest Report

All four starter factions being tested at the same time!

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.

Moving on!

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.

Wrapping Up

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.

Give us a holler on our Facebook page! I love hearing from you all.

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.

Identity

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.

Company Logos, Playtesting Photos, and a Short Story!

I tried my best to come up with a witty title. Instead, I wrote this one.

*EDIT* This post has been updated to include the correction version of the short story.

Does Little Liery look like he’s getting bigger to you?

Black and White Logos!

We’ve got the first looks at the Company Logos for the starter Companies for you today!

The official banner for each Company is shown on the left. On the right, the emblem emblazoned on equipment, ACSs, dropships, etc.

Cinderfane Paths. Art courtesy of Tim Toolen. STARFALL™ 2019.

A lotus and flame motif–simple, direct, and too the point. The Cinderfane know what they are about.

We specifically liked the almost lantern-like design of the flame and center petal. It makes me think of a bright, fleeting flash of a bright explosion–much like Magnesium, the Cinderfane’s primary alchemical design element–while still conveying a softness of spirit.

Argent Palisades. Art courtesy of Tim Toolen. STARFALL™ 2019.

A Legionnaire helmet with a Knights Templar-esque cross pattern made of eyes? Neat.

The Argent Palisades report directly to the Father-Knight himself and they really don’t care if anyone knows it. In theory, they represent the peoples of the N.E.E. but, come on. We all know better than that.

Blood of Croatoa. Art courtesy of Tim Toolen. STARFALL™ 2019.

Also, teeth!

The North American Alliance comprises of all peoples: native powers, European settlers, Aidlean mercenaries, and descendants of travelers past. The Blood stands as a promise to all, encircling all. We’ll be discussing the tumultuous history that brought them together in a few weeks.

Cloak of Olaos. Art courtesy of Tim Toolen. STARFALL™ 2019.

We haven’t discussed the multifaceted Company hailing from New Carthage much, as of yet. They are our most diverse company in terms of species and design–fitting for their roots in the alchemical ideologies represented in Bismuth.

They look a bit spooky here, don’t they? Don’t you worry; Fnippith wouldn’t hurt a fly! Unless it was bugging her.
*Badum-tss*

Badly Zoomed Playtest Photos!

Have some totally out of context photos from the last playtest session. We’re getting closer and closer to a closed beta version 1. Exciting times, indeed.

We had a little space invader. We’ve been trying terrain-light games to see how much it affected play.
Do you like my comically-oversized play sheets?
Poor Elizabeth (not pictured). That’s a huge stack of Burning tokens. She was, somehow, still fine. I blame space wizards–and also the other player’s really bad dice rolls.

Wrapping Up

That’s pretty much it for today! We’ll have more info about the Palisades, the Father-Knight, and the N.E.E. next week.

We’re still accepting writing samples for anyone interested in writing for the STARFALL™ universe. Send your information to metalnekogames@gmail.com

Check out our facebook page for more updates throughout the week!

Enjoy today’s short story introducing our favorite little psychopath.

Masterpiece

Written by: Amanda Vernon

“Anna Amalia von Braunschweig Wolfenbüttel,” Sofia said, the intentional rigidness to her tone refusing the violin solo’s cadence in favor of a discordant melody, iron against iron. “Her work is not so old. Haven’t you heard it?” Sofia stilled the bow at the entr’acte’s end. “Only a hundred years ago…” 

The instructor seated across from her sighed, a heavy-built man of no humor. It was as if the Father-Knight attempted to find only the personification of dullness to instruct her. 

A burn of outrage snaked under Sofia’s skin. She indulged it for now, finding a thrill of pleasure in the forbidden. “Don’t you like history, lehrer?” After years of study, she knew his name, but it hardly felt worth the effort. Instead, she called all her instructors only that: teacher. 

In a half breath, Sofia stood with the violin’s bow at lehrer’s throat. Her hair fluttered only just as the movement barely disrupted the air around her. Alchemical advancement, courtesy of the Father-Knight. “If I’m to learn of our great empire, shouldn’t you be thrilled to see that I take interest? I’m an ideal student.” 

The heat in her mind begged to drag the strings across his fragile skin. A funny, tempting feeling. She imagined the blood pour, but the image flickered as she breathed, activating her enhancements once more. 

He inclined his head toward the threat. “Sit down, Sofia. There will be no lessons.” 

A dull spark of interest could not break through her rigid focus on the instrument in her hands. “But what will you bore me with today?” Always it was lessons, day after day, with teachers who told her listen, answer, learn—a tired rhythm. 

“I, and your other instructors, have informed the Father-Knight of your impressive progress.” 

The bow fell into a wooden stand, and in moments, she rested herself across the chair, ignoring all manners taught through her years coddled in the palace of the Father- Knight. One leg hooked over the arm of the chair, foot giving a slight wave. The corner of her mouth curved up. “What progress?” 

Lehrer gave another long-suffering sigh. “I will bow to your ego only once. You have grown vastly skilled with dual-handed combat of both your katzbalger.” 

“Modified katzbalger,” she corrected. The traditional sword would be useless in her hands, with dulled points vastly ineffective against a combat suit. She had requested changes of the Father-Knight’s metalsmith and alchemists. The platinum-based alloy hammered to their tip could pierce almost anything. 

“Modified,” he agreed. “The machine guns on your ACS have also seen proficient use. And with your unexpectedly quick recovery from…well, the last stage of implementation by the alchemical specialists—” 

“Pater vult.” 

The customary phrase of obedience rattled lehrer. They were, perhaps, somewhat foreign words from Sofia’s lips. 

“Yes, of course,” lehrer hurried to say. “His will has come to pass. You are ready for placement. The platinum pathways in your mind are truly extraordinary. Of course.” The nervous repetition gave away his dread of what would become of the Neo- European armies at her introduction. If the Father-Knight willed it, Sofia assumed she would be only one of many. Her time in his palace had limited what she knew of others like her. And those not. “He expressed only minor concern for your progress with language.” 

“I speak perfectly well,” Sofia countered. 

“German.” 

“The language of where we both find ourselves.” Stoic gaze shifted to the cloaked windows, she found her fingers stretching out to the violin. The instrument rested easily on her shoulder. No bow in hand, she slid her fingers along the strings and plucked a shivering, haunted tune. “Don’t you find it odd, lehrer, that other languages would be asked of me? When does the Father-Knight bid me speak?” 

“Diplomacy serves us all well.” 

Her song continued, and Sofia laughed, an echo of the instrument. “Shall I rename my suit? My weapons?” Silence answered her, and Sofia met his gaze. “Where will he send me?” 

“First with a regiment of soldiers in the heart of the fatherland and then to the Argent Palisades.” Lehrer inhaled, but it did not quell the awe and fear so shamefully written on his face. “It is quite a thing to see this come to pass after almost twenty years.” 

“Soon then.” 

He rose to his full height, towering above her, though she did not react. “Tomorrow. See that you are ready.” 

Only the violin answered him.

Mission Acquired

Oh hush; I doubt it’s actually going to be impossible…

A brief overview of mission acquisition in the space lanes of STARFALL™ followed by a short story introducing the first character of our second starter squad.

Little Liery is tired of my bad jokes. But, the joke’s on him–he can’t escape me!

But First, This!

WIP provided by Cameron Nissen. Fun fact, the average height for a female Qhurothi is over 7-and-a-half feet tall and Vigil is just a scosche taller. Vigil and the Qhurothi are part of STARFALL™ 2019.

Isn’t it just–*sniff*–just so beautiful?

Here’s our first public look at the Qhurothi species–specifically examples of female facial design and aesthetic. I know the caption says “Vigil,” but only one of the designs here is the Gray Teacher herself.

Feel free to guess 😀

Vigil wears a variant of the Qhurothi-specific ACS “the Flame Within”–“Zeky’tetska” in the Qhurothi common language as it would be written after romanization. I am unreasonably excited to show off their written language later.

Mercenary Politics

From a Squad’s perspective, acquiring a mission is simple: check in with the local Chief and see what’s available. Your Company bosses might contact you and ask you to take sometime specific occasionally; but, typically, you just take whatever looks both interesting and survivable. The vast majority of open missions in an area do not involve entrenched combat, after all.
Unless another Company involves themselves with an opposing force–or just has a bone to pick with you.
Alright, so maybe you should avoid Illua Prime for a while, yeah? Try a border planet.

The Chiefs receive frequent updates from the Board regarding what’s available and what the payout should be. They are supposed to be impartial, of course, in relaying mission availability and details. A Squaddie learns not to trust them after their first outing.

Why?

The Chiefs are, to a person, owned by the Promoters–think of them as modern day lobbyists. They offer incentives to manipulate the outcome of events in their benefactor’s favor however they can–and most of the Chiefs are more than happy to leech from their efforts. The Promoters pay to have multiple squads be sent in for the same reward, they’ll pay to have them sent against each other, and, above all, they’ll pay to ensure that only their benefactor profits. Individual Squads typically do what they can to get in bed with a specific Promoter as best they can–better to have a devil on your shoulder than to try to face all the rest on your own, right?

Further complicating matters for a Captain are the Company bosses–and the nations and powers behind them. Sometimes you’ll be on your way to the third moon of Kethik Approxi and a bigshot from your Company intercepts your dropship to send you a few miles north of the village in danger of flooding–he really wants a specific specimen from the local fauna, you see; and hey! If you’re quick, you might still be in time to help those villagers.

What’s a Squad to do? Say no?
That’s a real quick way to have the Angels on your back.

Personally, I’d rather deal with the devils.

Game Mechanics Corner

Oh, oh oh, is this the first time I’ve talked directly about game mechanics? Neat.

STARFALL™ is a mission-based skirmish game. At the beginning of the game, the players will make a few choices apart from just their force:

-Mission
-Deployment Order
-Promoter

Yeah, see? You knew they would come up somehow.

The Mission terms dictate the primary ways to earn VPs (Victory Points) throughout the game, the number of rounds, environmental factors, and so on. We’ll have a static list of Common missions available at all times, as well as Season-specific missions and Storyline Event-specific missions.
Tease.

Deployment Order will affect the rules of some missions–for example, “the First Active Player is the ‘Attacker’ for this mission.” Pretty straightforward.

And then, not always in secret, each player chooses a Promoter. Missions and Season Kits will list specific Promoters available; and, your Company is always an option. Promoters provide a once-per-game bonus of some kind in exchange for committing to a specific secondary objective. Some Promoters are universal across all missions, others less so. However, there’s always a trade-off. Perhaps if you fail to hold Point A through the end of the second round, the Promoter cuts off your Squad’s radio communication–yeah, they can do that. But, if you manage to hold it, you score additional VPs and gain a bonus going into the third round.
Totally worth it, I promise.

During Organized Play Events, the Promoter’s chosen are recorded and reported–as well as success or fail. Your choices will have an impact larger than just the one game you play.

Wrapping Up

Next week, we’ll have new art pieces to show you–including the four starting Company’s logos and emblems!

MetalNeko is looking for more writers! If you are interested, please send a writing sample to metalnekogames@gmail.com as well as a tailored résumé. We’ll get back to you ASAP.

Give us a shout-out on our Facebook page as well! We’re inching closer to the first closed playtest cycle and we would love to hear from you all.

Enjoy today’s story featuring a Lieutenant of the Argent Palisades. We’ll see you next week.

The Gentle Giant

Written by: Amanda Vernon

He came to us of the endless sky, a deity of all-seeing eyes and a tongue that spoke our salvation. The ships they built in his name spared the Earth when the stars again fell.

He came to us, our Father.

With him came the alchemical lifeblood that infused the small port city of Antalya. Great ships, enforced with precious alloys, withstood all attacks and traversed great distances in half time.

It was in these years of miracles that I was born, named Tengri after the sky god, a tribute to our Father. Wanting to dedicate my life to his service, my family name was removed at the request of my parents. I was to be purified of all but a singular focus.

While Antalya came to be one of the largest port cities, I was a boy of only nine years when the Great War began. I could serve no one. Instead, I dedicated myself to studying the expanding fields of alchemy, military history, and medicine. If the war was to continue, I would forge myself into a worthwhile tribute. One without vice.

But in the Neo-European Empire, citizenship is given to the deserving. All children must be apprenticed, and in Antalya, my place was the ships. It seemed a tedious life, loading the exported goods and the vast amounts of metal being imported into Antalya for the crafting of new vessels. This time refined me and burned away the last of my pride.

Eventually, my emir granted me station on one of the alchemically forged vessels. I became a citizen, then, finally earning my place in the great empire of our Father. In my travels, merchants, tradesmen, and military officers would embark with us, and I would learn: religion, philosophy, strategy. My education continued on the seas as the physical labor upon the ships hardened me.

The war did not end so quickly as many predicted, though. To hear stories of the death unsettled me. Life should be valued. Great philosophers had written so. But when our Father called, I came, finding a place among a first responder unit, prolonging lives until they could be transferred to the hands of doctors.

My new emir made short work of this station, having observed me in desperate moments of defense. Combat, he said, would be how I could serve our Father. This was my purpose, and in my suit meant for healing, they wove a platinum-based alloy to steel my mind and pull it from the horrors I saw and enacted. In combat, I hold to a single thought and focus. My first responder combat suit became a last vestige of the healer I had planned to be. Along its back, they strapped a cannon to bring down fire on the enemies of our Father.

I was…effective.

But pride could not touch me when what I had done caused a war in my soul. I refused promotion once, and then twice, but when I was requested to take position in our Father’s mercenary company, the Argent Palisades, refusal was no option.

I am our Father’s hammer, and I will serve him as he builds his empire.

The Beginnings of the Mercenary Initiative

Guys, guys, GUYS…
What if, instead of annihilating each other with alchemical weapons of mass mayhem–I know, I know, bear with me…
What if, we sent representatives into SPACE?
And THEN use alchemical weapons of mass mayhem to continue trying to annihilate each other, yes.

Little Liery is done with your genocidal nonsense.
YOU ARE HEREBY SENTENCED TO SPACE.
Prepare the cannon.

A Bit of History

Alright, so the Great War is in full-swing with no signs of slowing as each participant continues to develop newer and better ways to use alchemical powers, machinery, and empowered-soldiers to wipe their enemies out. Then, the advent of the first, successful ACS systems pushed any chances of ceasing hostilities right over the edge of the Seine. Once you add additional extraterrestrial interference into the mix, and you get a global war over interplanetary resources like no other.

Of course, the actual scale of combat lessened, in terms of numbers; but, the ACS-equipped soldiers proved to bring the strength of many to the fight, irrevocably scarring the European countryside all the same. Once the Qhurothi Hegemony was able to capture an N.E.E. Explorer unit to dissect and reverse engineer, their own soldiers entered the fray with brand new retrofits–soon to be followed by Aidlean mercenaries working for North America, bounty hunters from all over the sector seeking the head of Remulanus, and a legion commanded by Admiral Pictus who all disappeared after a failed attempt to destroy the planetary cannons along the Iron Wall. With the Eastern front bolstered by the Hegemony, the Western slowly falling to the N.A.A. and their Aidlean allies, and the Southern front mired in unusual weather, the Father-Knight grew a bit desperate…

Alchemical Combat Suits

So, what made the ACS systems so special? Why did they impact the battlefield more than any other weapon or alchemical breakthrough?
Prior to the ACS and other accompanying alchemical technologies, Terran alchemy ‘happened,’ so to speak, in a simple, predictable interaction between two base elements with azothite used as a catalyst. The limits of alchemy were defined by how best one could use the known-result to accomplish something purely physical in nature, though still certainly fantastical.
There were rumors, of course, of experiments regarding a base, pre-catalyzed mixture being ingested by living beings–hypothetically granting magical powers and the like all controlled by the mind, to be clear–but, while certainly not outside the realm of possibility, it was considered obviously foolish to drink a bowl of liquid jade mixed with stardust just to see what would happen (answer: you die, but dang, does your corpse looks drop-dead-gorgeous).
Replace a bone with alchemically-strengthened iron? Check.
Charge a rifle’s barrel with copper/zinc oils to create an induction effect upon firing? Also check.
Purifying water by dipping silver-alloy covered amulets? Apparently so!
Wearing gold-infused jewelry to impart feelings of trust and positivity? Eww; but, yes.
Imbibing a gold-azothite potion to make yourself magically charming?
Nope. Nadda. Nothing doing. At least, nothing worth dying for.
At least one report was made of someone temporarily breathing fire at a circus for a full five minutes straight before succumbing to dehydration, magnesium poisoning, and falling debris. And sure, the Qhurothi had long been adapted to trace amounts of alchemical compounds existing in their systems for minor-to-major temporary benefits; but, even they marveled at the human ingenuity giving birth to the first truly ‘powered’ being–followed by a collective gasp of fear as it walked through enemy encampments like a sword through water.

Armistice and the Treaty of Carthage

Skipping ahead a bit, once the Otakke delegation arrived in Northern Africa, the sheer mass of alien powers in the Sol system made continuing the war efforts pointless for the Father-Knight–there was also the sudden appearance of the Australian navy engaging his forces (in orbit, somehow) that finally forced him to silence the Iron Wall for the first time in a half a decade. The leaders of each of the Terran world-powers, as well as representatives of three extraterrestrial powers, negotiated for three weeks in the ruins of ancient Carthage to formally declare an armistice.
It was the Otakke who suggested the Initiative.
Disregarding their primary use up till now as weapons of war, the ACS systems were the most advanced alchemical technology in the sector, and everyone wanted a piece of them. With Terra rising as the center of azothite trade due to the destroyed asteroid and firmly on track to become its own interstellar power–split between the N.E.E. and the Australian Navy–would it not make sense for the Terrans to begin relations with other cultures, species, planets?
ACS-equipped delegates could survive harsh and varied climates, provide aid, power, tools where ever it was needed–even fight, if it proved necessary–argued the little green men from wherever “Home” was. This way, the Terran powers would remain in control of their major advantage, but could integrate themselves into sector politics from a friendlier position.
Of course, once the topic of non-human delegates arose, some cups and chairs were smashed.
Like I said, they argued about it for three weeks. We’ll get into the specifics of the agreement next week!

The Brokerage Board

The Brokerage Board, based out of a new space station orbiting the moon, organizes the missions and goals of each Mercenary Company. Requests for a delegation, contract negotiations, first drafts of trade or aid agreements, and all major contact from outside the Sol system with the Terran people filters through the 201 representatives living on the station–each democratically elected to the role from their respective regions, and not all of whom are human. The Board has no authority to dictate Terran law, except where the Mercenary Companies and the azothite mining operations are involved. The N.E.E. maintains a large claim to the asteroid chunks now orbiting the sun, and the Board regulates the remainder.

Each Company has a handful of PROMOTERS that receive missions and instructions from the Board. These Promoters handle the fine-details of contracts, mission planning, and resource management for their Company’s squads.

Groups of SQUADS are organized under a single CHIEF for a given region of space. The Chiefs are responsible, ostensibly, for directing requests to the appropriate Promoter, as well as keeping tabs on Company activity to ensure no foul play. Most of the time, the Chiefs are entirely superfluous to the day-to-day actions of the Board and the Companies. In reality, the Chiefs each control a special Squad–nicknamed “Angels”–that they can deploy in secret to either clean up after a particularly messy mission, or to eliminate a squad that has proven to be too wild.
Not that it ever happens, of course.
The ANGELs are a bit of a problematic entity within the structure of the Board. Their existence was agreed-upon by all members, but some of the early representatives don’t seem to recall ever considering the motion on the floor. In either case, they are feared and loathed by the Company’s Squads for good reason–the fact that they could be anyone doesn’t help.

A Squad can vary in membership, with one exception: the Captain. Each of the Mercenary Company’s dropships has an assigned Captain that also functions as the ‘Leader’ on missions. A Specialist and a Second/Lieutenant are assigned based on the mission parameters–sometimes on a semi-permanent basis. Additional Squaddies may be requested by the mission Captain; however, they are pulled from the local Chief’s barracks, and not the Company’s. “Unranked” Squaddies belong to the Board, and not a specific company. A Company may decide to hire them permanently, however.

A SPECIALIST acts as a Squads techie and/or alchemy expert. The given mission will usually require something specific from them in particular.

The Second, or LIEUTENANT, is a bit of a misnomer. As all interplanetary functions necessitate threat assessment, the Lieutenant’s job is simultaneously cultural/diplomatic, while also being the one to determine hostility. A good Lieutenant can be entertaining local children and still identify the hostile intent of their parents/local problem factors.

The CAPTAIN, of course, leads the Squad, making all necessary command-level decisions and negotiations. They are objectively speaking, in the most danger from piracy, attempted kidnappings for parts, and general backstabbery. As they represent both the Terran peoples and their individual Company, Captains are continuously asked to further the ends of both–and they rarely mesh.

Wrapping Up

A new story next week!
As always, hit us up with questions, comments, thoughts, and memes on our facebook page.
https://www.facebook.com/MetalNekoGames
Until then, don’t anger the Angels.

The Hegemony Today

Taoist, bureaucratic space elves–there’s an anachronism for you.

Little Liery had a hard week of diplomatic efforts. Keep it a secret, but he may have successfully negotiated a trade deal between the Hegemon of Karzoran and the Kitten King for a lifetime’s supply of kibbles. It is widly expected that the kibble supply will run out by this Sunday’s morning feast.

Submitted Memes Corner

Today, we’re looking at some of the broad-strokes opinions common throughout the Hegemony about the other relevant powers in the STARFALL universe.
But first!
Some of our readers have submitted memes based on previous posts. I’ll be sharing a few of them once in a while!

Work In-Progress

Work In-Progress concept art for the Qhurothi species, courtesy of Benjamin Sawyer. Style and final art subject to change.

Precise Manipulation

The Hegemony maintains strict borders with its closest galactic neighbors in the name of harmony. The Aidlean Legions, in particular, require–from the Qhurothi’s perspective–a careful, guiding hand to keep them at bay.
While popular opinion holds the Aidlean’s adherence to law and honor in fairly high regard, the Qhurothi military frequently engages in border raids with individual Aidlean Admirals, often leaving the Speakers in charge of the raids shaken and battered by the Aidlean’s abject brutality in combat. As such, the Hegemony picks its targets carefully–some are reactionary attacks to breaches of various treaties or borders; some peremptory strikes to draw a particular fleet away from sensitive or vulnerable areas. In either case, the raids rather successfully serve to carefully manipulate the Aidlean Legions into actions deemed acceptable–some loses are unavoidable, but keeping the Legions away from the Black Line specifically, as well as other important installations, has long been deemed a worthy trade.
In combat, the Hegemony prefers hit-and-run tactics against the Legions. The Aidlean’s favored tactic of literally smashing their forerunner ships through a blockade has made frontal assaults or staunch defense all but impossible as the Hegemony’s military resources dwindle. Instead, the maneuverable short-range fighter craft deployed by carrier fleets focus on disrupting the Aidlean cruiser’s engines, sending them careening off course. If that fails, Hegemony carriers are equipped with a single cannon, powered by 12 alchemists who don’t always survive the firing process; but, the weapon is usually enough to stop an oncoming cruiser.
Usually.
There isn’t much to say about the two powers’ diplomatic relations–it doesn’t exist. The Legions agreed to denounce Remulanus, the Father-Knight of the Terran Neo-European Empire, as a threat to the peace of the sector; but, that’s about the extent of successful contact the Hegemony has had in the last decade.

Amused Befuddlement

The Otakke are the subject of much interest and amusement throughout the Hegemony. It seems no one can agree on anything relating to the little, green species that seems to thrive on experience alone. Are they a threat to the Hegemony, or, just a child-like species that needs guidance? They’ve obviously achieved interstellar travel and advanced alchemical techniques–are they geniuses ahead of their time, or do they just act so unrefined as a ploy to put the larger races off their guard?
The lack of formal government further complicates attempts at interaction. Unlike the Terrans or the Aidleans, there doesn’t seem to be a recognized institution that represents the Otakke–at least, not one that has made itself known. The most they’ll say when pressured about law and order is thus: “We send our wayward children back home.”
It’s a bit ominous, actually.
Whatever their motives, the Otakke species is adept at integration, adapting to local customs quickly and seamlessly. They seem to revel in new and interesting experiences with almost the same fervor as the Aidleans jump into battle. Despite their distinctive skin and stature, the sector’s littlest species has integrated itself into every facet of Qhurothi society through force of excitement and hype alone.
Of course, the Hegemony is mindful that “integration” does not become “invasion.”

The N.E.E. — Scourge of the Sector

Not that anyone would be so crass as to say so in front of the Father-Knight’s delegation.
The Qhurothi Hegemony interfered in Terra’s Great War for one reason alone: to prevent the mad warlord from controlling the largest source of Azothite ever located. His cannons may have broken the planet-sized rock into manageable, mine-able chunks, but even one of the smaller pieces would power the Hegemony for decades. Just imagine what the former despot of the Legions would do with unrestricted access.
Diplomatic relations are, in a word, tense. The Qhurothi plays nice, permitting the N.E.E. to run rampant in blatant disregard to treaty after treaty, all in order to secure their own mining operations. Oh sure, they’ll stamp their foot when the line has been crossed too openly; but there are those that sit on the Hegemon Council that all-but openly admit they’ve already lost their chance to control them.

May the Light Bless the ADF

Conversely, relations with the Terran ADF have improved dramatically throughout the course of developing the Mercenary Initiative.
The Australian Defense Fleet commands the space lanes of the Sol System, effectively limiting the N.E.E.’s stranglehold to planet-side only. They may have been too late to prevent them from establishing mining operations and from fortifying their shipping lanes; but, the ADF and the Hegemony work together to keep the N.E.E. from monopolizing the alchemy-inducing element.
In fact, it’s well-known that the planetary cannons installed along the Iron Wall that dissipated the Azothite comet are the only reason the ADF hasn’t launched an invasion from space. Will the channelers devise a way to circumvent those devastating weapons before the N.E.E. poses enough of a direct threat to the Australian continent–who can say? But, the Hegemon Council has bet their interests in the system on them. The Americans and the unification advocates in Carthage can seek a peaceful resolution with the warlord; the Hegemony will supply the ADF with whatever resources they can to see him wiped from the planet.

The Paths of Qhurot

Internal to the Hegemony, pseudo-religious organizations inspired by an ancient text have gained significant traction. The Paths preach new ways of living, alternatives to the strict order of the Hegemony. And, of course, none of them agree on what these “new ways” should be.
The Hegemon Council public dismisses the various Paths as minor nuisances, while ordering fiercely loyal Speaker to eliminate the leadership of any Path fellowship with significant sway.
Currently, their assassin’s eyes are focused on three groups: The Cinderfane, the Blue Delta Walkers, and the Skinchangers. Of them, the latter has proved outright hostile the government, provoking violence and rebellion throughout the Hegemony. The Blue Delta Walkers are, at worst, a group of fanatical fighter pilots, hellbent on defending their system from Legion aggression. The Cinderfane worry the Council the most–it seems everywhere they look, its members have infiltrated the upper echelons of government, quietly amassing power and resources; and, possibly more worrying, they seem to have had a hand in Terran society reaching back decades before the Great War.
What could they possibly be planning?

Wrapping Up

In short, the Qhurothi think fairly poorly of everyone except the Australians–they’re useful, you see. For a society built on unity, working together for the common good, and the balance in all things, they seem to actively contradict themselves in policy and action. As the plague continues to ravage their culture, how will they keep the Legions and the N.E.E. at a safe distance?
Next week, we’ll be talking about the goals and structure of the Mercenary Initiative. There will also be a new story from the perspective of our first Otakke character.

As always, hit us up on Facebook! I’d love to hear feedback, thoughts, comments, hypes, and memes from you all.

Until then, may you all walk with the light of Qhurot.

The Qhurothi Hegemony

Because who doesn’t love tall, long-lived aliens with a massive superiority complex telling you what to do and dictating your terms with other extraterrestrial cultures?

The cat’s name is officially “Little Liery.”
Not actually; but, he does need a name…

Gray Area

The Qhurothi species/culture/society/government presents a unified-front of peace, solidarity, and a holier-than-thou attitude of “lesser cultures” that are still so prone to that awful infighting they abolished from their planets oh-so long ago.

It doesn’t take a genius to understand instinctively that this is complete drek.

In terms of planets, literal-space, and political clout, the Hegemony controls the largest functional territory and population of the three alien powers to have interfered in humanity’s Great War–which was, of course, instigated by an alien warlord as well; which, ah well, semantics. As a military, they act as intergalactic peacekeepers where their economic or political interests could be at stake. Otherwise, they take the stance of being “above such pointless squabbles.”

In truth, they just can’t afford to risk troops–and to an only-slightly lesser degree, weapons or ships. The facade of strength protects what the Hegemon Council considers to be its most important secret: the Qhurothi people are dying en masse of a plague that has devastated much of their outlying colonies. The threat of the sickness reaching Qhurot Prime has deterred aid to the afflicted. Quarantines around agricultural settlements or production facilities limits the Hegemony’s supply of food, equipment, and soldiers. It’s a bleak time for loyalists and dissidents alike.

Of course, the blight, however destructive, hardly absolves them of their culture’s outwardly dismissive behavior towards the other major powers in the “local” group. They play the superior race as an attempt to protect themselves in their society’s weakened state while leveraging this image to obtain resources, scientists, and relief aid in secret for their dying people. The Hegemon of Qhurot Prime, T’let Selarzik (say that ten times fast), speaks daily across all communication channels for those barricaded behind the Black Line to remain faithful in their leaders–that a cure is coming; aid is coming–all-the-while restricting relief-ships, ordering entire continents torched from space, and maintaining the secrecy from the Aidlean Fleets that routinely test the borders.

Political Structure

The Hegemony is broken down into a laddered-system of tiers–or “ranks.”

Each planet in the Hegemony elects a single HEGEMON to represent them on the council. These elections occur once every ten years by the specific planet’s count–or, upon removal from office, as is often the case.

Each Hegemon has a body of HIERARCHs representing the various districts, continents, or political powers of their particular planet. The Hierarchs are responsible for arbitrating the day-to-day proceedings of government–similarly to a country’s president or prime minister.

Each Hierarch nominates any number of SPEAKERs to facilitate duties, roles, or offices as necessary.

The Speakers are permitted to deputize as many ADJUNCTs as necessary. This rank tends to handle the minutia of specific projects, group organization, resource management, and so on.

Adjuncts may delegate to COORDINATORs. This is the highest rank for which most Civilians could hope without a title, friends in high places, or extreme distinction.

Coordinators hire TASKERs–nicknamed “drivers” for, well, how Taskers are stereotyped as conducting themselves by other species.

Taskers outrank the TRADESMEN.

And Tradesmen are just slightly better-off than an unranked CIVILIAN. The Civilian population performs the worst, most unwanted, unskilled tasks, while still benefiting from the bounty of the planet.

The military offices of the Hegemony function the same; and, some Family titles hold enough sway to equate even a Tradesmen or a Civilian with the same authority as a Speaker or a Hierarch. CRIMINAL elements are stripped of any other rank or title and branded simply thus until such time as they have either been redeemed or exonerated.

Technically speaking, any tier may organize in order to request the removal of their direct-report. With the exception of the Hierarchs keeping a Hegemon in-check, it rarely comes to any meaningful result in the majority of high-profile cases–at least, without the backing of a major Family.

Wrapping-up

Next week, we’ll look at the Hegemony’s opinions and interactions with the other major powers in the local star group and the Paths–various pseudo-religious and/or dissident groups brewing within the government.

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Smoke

Written by: Eevi

“The Palisades launched weeks ago,” came the Defector’s voice through the slightly-abused communicator, cutting through the encryption distortion with her gruff, harsh accent. “The Father-Knight ordered their primary squad to establish connections with the Legions as quickly as possible. Early reports suggest sightings of the Dauntless docked with Admiral Drucillas’s command ship up to a month old. Those clever dogs.”

“Has the Oversight Committee not investigated these claims?” another voice asked, her lilting tone lazing across the reeds as slowly as Elierian’s log-turned-raft floated in the subdued currents.

The Hierarch of Kelonna, a melodious Qhurothi named Ytetlanith, after the longest river on Qhurot Prime–as the ancestral homeworld had come to be called–fit the stereotypes of her constituents almost too-perfectly.

Often thought of as languorous and torpid at best, the people of the Kelonnan plains took something akin to pleasure in over-pronouncing every syllable, ambling aimlessly around the topic at hand, and drawing out even the shortest of thoughts or sentences in order to force their polite brethren to slow down and wait.

While Ytetlanith’s participation in the Hegemon’s council proceedings often brought the ire of his fellows, soon-to-be-retired Speaker Elierian found her pacing to be quite relaxing–particularly today, the last day-off he may ever take. Of all the Hierarch’s he had served under, she, at least, knew the value in taking the time to enjoy life.

The ashen-colored veteran shifted, adjusting his tenuous position on the log–it really wasn’t much of a raft. His long, scarred hands skimmed across the top of the water as he lay on his back, letting the fish investigate his strangely colored skin and luxuriating in the sun as he listened to the ongoing communique–analyzing, committing it to memory; as was his role. 

“Of course they bloody have–no disrespect meant, ma’am,” the Defector responded. “The bulk of the cadets make enough of an appearance and sing excuses for their absent leadership, and what the ruddy hell are the inquirers left to do? The big one–Tengri–he’s been spotted enough times to make the claims seem implausible; but, we all know that platinum-plated bastard, Remulanus, broke the Europa Agreement. The N.E.E. has to have transports capable of making that trip on a moment’s notice.”

“We do not appreciate hearsay, Defector. Have you any hard evidence to support your suppositions? The Hegemony cannot enforce what it cannot prove. We must have hard, factual proof of misconduct before we will even consider your claims in council.” Hierarch Ytetlanith’s reprimand took almost a full minute to convey, giving Elierian plenty of time to ground his makeshift boat on the bank of the Yellow River and pat himself dry. 

The Defector’s attempts at polite interruptions only served to delay the Hierarch’s intransigent declaration, much to the Speaker’s amusement. 

“Ma’am, miss, y’er ladyship–oh, come off it; I think you’re missing the point. The N.E.E. is breaking the armistice at every turn, encroaching on every border, delaying and preventing any nation not directly aligned with them–or the Aussies, bless them–from accessing the Belt foundries, and assaulting non-N.E.E. workers with so-called ‘accidents’ and ‘mechanical failures’ and ‘obvious equipment negligence fines.’ It’s completely ridiculous. And you lot! You won’t do a damned thing about it. Isn’t that what you’re here for?”

Elierian sauntered up the riverbank towards dry land, his one good eye searching for the telltale column of smoke that would indicate his comrades. The communique buzzed with wordless static, broken occasionally by the Defector clearing her throat into the live feed. 

Eventually, the Speaker picked a direction and cut his way inland. 

“Defector, we appreciate the unfortunate situation of the free peoples of Terra. Please try to understand that maintaining a bad peace is preferable to further open warfare,” the Hierarch said dejectedly, speaking now in a more natural canter–stress has a moderating effect on even the most intractable personalities. “We cannot endanger our interests with your people by–”

    “‘Your interests’? What about our interests? What about protecting humankind from further tampering, eh? What about all your blustering and the promises you made? What about those interests? Eh? Can you tell me that?”

“Please do not misunderstand–”

“You claimed to care about the well-being of Terra–of its people. You don’t, you–”

“Defector, if you would–”

“How about if you would! Do you, or do you not, give two shits about us?”

“Of course we do. The situation is–”

“Don’t say complicated, you gray-skinned bag of–”

“Compli–excuse me. That is hardly called for,” the Hierarch exclaimed, her voice raised for the first time in Elierian’s long memory. 

He cut the connection. There was little point in listening to the conversation now, and he had no intention of letting mindless bickering ruin his afternoon. The Hierarch would try to make excuses and to pacify the inflamed Defector. The human–a passionate young woman with absolutely no tolerance whatsoever–would throw insult after insult, rather than making any attempts at salient arguments. 

The reality of the situation was simple: the Hegemony knew it could not control the Father-Knight forever; so, it would pick its battles to best benefit itself.

A few minutes later, Elierian’s communicator beeped to indicate an incoming message. Once he finally took the time to check it, the text read: “How far does he Wander, I wonder? – V.” 

It occurred to the Speaker that he had spotted the signaling fire far off to his left–on the other side of the river–some time ago. Alas, his meandering had already made him a few days late; they would have to tolerate another day or two’s delay. 

After all, his retirement looked to be more exciting than he had anticipated, and the days ahead full of steel and flame. 

The Wanderer was not yet ready to bring home the war, but even he could smell the smoldering embers as the northern winds stoked the coals.

So When You Say Alchemy… Part Two

This space intentionally left blank.
Or was it?

Pater Vult.

A Bit of History

Long before the start of the Great War, alchemical processes had wormed their way into every facet of human life, extraterrestrial life had become a Known Thing–even if not yet altogether common outside specific areas of the world–and the development of Terran culture reflected this. Styles and mundane trends developed slowly as the major focus of interest was on the next alchemical breakthrough. What seemingly supernatural wonder would grace the world next?
The plot of STARFALL: Age of Mercenaries begins in the 1930s. The Armistice has stood for over a decade, the Initiative signed by all major world powers continues its push to send alchemically-empowered representatives out amongst the stars, and the people of the world–now decidedly not just humanity–await for news of each mission, each conflict or negotiation.
Throughout this, some traditional mindsets have resurfaced as of late, reviving fashion trends that still lingered from the Victorian and Edwardian periods–a return to normalcy, if you will, in a post-war society. Previously, all the great designers of the world focused on how best to incorporate alchemical mechanics into the lives of soldiers and civilians alike, causing most clothing and decoration to err on the side of practicality.
Now, a desire for flare and expression has returned, meshing fashion and function into daily life–and into the design of Alchemical Combat Suits. These days, a hodgepodge of antiquated and alien styles make up the streets–fun fact, there’s nothing more surprising than an Aidlean soldier lumbering out of his/her home in a bustle skirt and a flak jacket.
Nothing.

Alchemical Classifications

Alchemical technology in the modern era is separated into two general types: Mechanical and Biological. There is some overlap, of course; but, the separation of the two has become academically necessary for training new alchemists without too much overload–and even so, most stick to mastering a singular metal for their entire careers.
Mechanical Alchemy uses Azothite-based alloys in conjunction with traditional machinery to accomplish superhuman feats, improve energy flow, and forms the interface/skeleton for an ACS, most weaponry, and other such combat equipment. Typically, Mechanical Alchemy adheres to the “Lead-to-Gold” cycle of alchemical alloys.
Mercury – Lead – Tin – Copper – Silver – Iron – Gold.
These “hard” metals provide the structure for physical devices, imparting their own brands of pseudo-magical weirdness as well. It is widely accepted that Mechanical Alchemy is, by far, the more complicated of the two fields of study. Finding the right mix of Gold circuitry and Mercury lens to make a simple light source can mean the difference between a convenient lantern and a solar flare-esque flash of light–or accidentally smacking anyone looking with visions of improbable futures in which they’ve been named King of the World for winning tomorrow’s chess match.
Poor Gerald.
Biological Alchemy relies primarily on the traditional “soft” metals mixed with varying amounts of Azothite to create salves, infusions, potions, and surgical enhancements, to name a few.
Antimony – Arsenic – Bismuth – Magnesium – Phosphorus – Platinum – Potassium – Sulfur – Zinc
The advancements of modern medicine and human modification rely more and more on these alloys for non-intrusive enhancements, as opposed to the “change out his bones for iron pistons” mindset from the late 19th century; though, that does still happen on occasion–some Aidleans find grafted metal plates quite appealing to the eye, for example.
Additionally, the soft alchemical alloys have inspired new cultures, beliefs, ideals. As each metal has a particular effect on the self, willingly pumping it through your veins tends to accompany a desire for self-perfection–or at least self-imposed change.
In last week’s post, we discussed the associations with Magnesium: flames, passion, measured isolation of the self.
For the everyday user, this means access to magnesium pills to increase focus and energy, equipment powered by magnesium-pumps for the occasional burst of directed-power, emergency response crews laced with magnesium blood to push them through the toughest situations–and douse the occasional fire with their minds.
Biological Achemy has its drawbacks, however. Overdosing on magnesium, besides being possibly explosive, can lead to mental tunnel-visioning, self-centered decision-making, and an overwhelming desire to pursue obsessions no matter the cost or consequences.

We’ll discuss the other metals going forward as their associated Companies are introduced.

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Next week, prepare to take a walk with the Leader of the Cinderfane Paths through the outermost fringes of the Qhurothi Hegemony and its interests in Terra.

So When You Say Alchemy…

Lead + Sheer Willpower + Determination*Magic = Gold?
Step 2: Design a game.
Step 3: ????
Profit!

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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.