Din-Bidor's Sandbox
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Of Gods and Fools

“In retrospect, Norman, letting you convince me to try yeti cuisine was a terrible idea.”

Lord Nhov, den of the Imperial Academy of Higher Arcana, put his hands on his belly as another growl exited the depths of his bowels. He groaned in pain, his hopes for a smooth afternoon all but gone.

Last time I eat Terran food, he thought as he contemplated how beautiful his life had been without explosive diarrhea.

“I am sorry, my Lord,” said Norman, giving him a concerned look, his hands firmly grasping his holopad. “I never thought yak stew would have such a… noxious effect on your physiology. I’ll have someone mark it as toxic for your species.”

Nhov moaned. If he ever held the desire to visit Shangri-La, that desire had just exited his digestive system in a cloud of flatulence.

He looked around. The large vestibule in which he and the halfling assistant sat in had an ambience of holiness, which was the exact opposite of what went on in Nhov’s intestines. Who could blame it, though? Nhov and Norman were waiting outside the office of Lady Kyr’a, High Priestess of the Temple of Knowledge, the headquarters of the Empire’s omnist religion. Before the entire incident with the yak stew, Lord Nhov had looked forward to their meeting with enthusiasm. Lady Kyr’a rarely conceded audiences to anyone but the Emperor and the Archmage, which meant he could not squander his opportunity. Too bad his intestines now felt like a collapsing star.

Just when dean Nhov was about to ask Norman to accompany him to the toilets for the twentieth time that day, a door opened next to them. A Temple acolyte emerged and firmly planted herself before Nhov.

“High Priestess Kyr’a will see you now, dean Nhov.”

Without another word, she went back where she had come, not waiting for the dean’s reply.

Lord Nhov made the herculean effort of standing without croaking, and followed the acolyte, with Norman by his side.

High Priestess Kyr’a sat behind an ornate desk, a small pile of books and scrolls placed before her. Her robes were simple gray, the color of those who served the gods of the Empire, a sharp contrast with Nhov’s elaborate clothes. She looked quite plain for someone in her position of power, except for her eyes, which pried from behind a beautiful bronze mask: her gaze was so harsh that it would make a gorgon blush.

“Dean Nhov,” said the High Priestess, her voice as hard as her gaze. “You requested an audience with me, and it has been granted. I suggest you go straight to the point. Time is best used in the service of the gods and the Empire. Please be brief.”

“Yes, sure, my… eh… My Lady,” stuttered Nhov, trying to keep his composure. “As you must have read in my letter, the Academy of Higher Arcana’s Ruling Council will hold its conclave next week. We’re voting on which deities to invite for this year’s Divine Feast and… well… I’d like to have your support on my vote.”

Silence.

Then the High Priestess spoke.

“My support, you say?”

The High Priestess shifted in her throne. Nhov could almost swear an eyebrow had been raised behind her cold mask. Shit, he thought, and his innards answered him.

“Y-yes, my Lady,” he said. “You see…”

“What does your vote entail?” the Priestess continued.

“I… well… I guess there’s no easy way to put it, but I’m voting against inviting any Earth deities this year.”

The bomb had been dropped. All that remained was to see if it would strike him down as well.

The High Priestess did not speak. She stood from her throne and walked towards the window behind her. Through the glass, the Temple’s arches and shrines gracefully received the slight rain that coated the city.

“Lord Nhov,” said the High Priestess, still turned from him. “Why would you expect me to agree to such a thing? Are the gods of Earth not worthy of worship or invitation?”

“I… I would never imply that, my Lady. It’s just that…”

He felt as if he was about to burst. He threw Norman a desperate look, a mute cry for help, but the halfling had his eyes glued to the holopad. Typical, he thought.

“Speak, Lord Nhov. We have not got all day.”


Tales from Midgard

Imagine.

Imagine an ocean of stars, stretching as far as the mind can fathom.

Imagine.

Imagine worlds of ice and fire, of sand and ash, of earth and water, forever churning in the depths of space.

Imagine.

Imagine empires and civilizations spanning billions upon billions of worlds, locked in cycles of war and peace.

Imagine.

Imagine capricious gods and ambitious sorcerers, cruel monsters and valiant heroes, wise scientists and hardened criminals, all dancing the dance of chaos and order.

Now stop.

Imagine no more, for this is no feverish conjuration of the mind. This is no illusion brought about by madness. This is no outlandish dream built by Oneiroi.1 This is a place as real as you and me.

This is Midgard, the world at the heart of Yggdrasil, the core of the Tree of Life.

This is a realm of peril and adventure.

This is a plane of science and technology.

This is a Universe of magic and miracles.

This is a world of wonder.

Welcome, fellow Wanderer.

Tread the Ways lightly, and always move forward.

- Ulak the Drifter


The Universe

The Galactic Triumvirate.

The Galactic Triumvirate is the alliance of the three mightiest powers in the known Universe: The Immortal Empire, the Emerald Hegemony and the Solar Dominion. Formed in the aftermath of the Krolovar Invasion, it rose from the ashes of the defunct League of Ten Kingdoms, which collapsed due to the war’s devastating effects. Through military might and technological superiority, the Triumvirate imposed itself upon the remnants of the League, eventually placing most of the Twelve Galaxies under its thrall, restoring order to Midgard.

To this day, the Triumvirate remains the epitome of magic, scientific and military prowess in the known Universe. Their power is unparalleled, their influence absolute. No one defies their rule, for all remember what befell the Krolovar when they dared attack them.

Overview

History

Culture

Politics

Locations of Interest


Other Powers

Overview

History

Culture

Politics

Locations of Interest


The Tales

The Great Book of Records

Tales from the Immortal Empire

The Galactic Underworld

Other Tales


On New Gomorrah

Ever since the Krolovar Invasion, which resulted in the dissolution of the League of Ten Kingdoms, the Galactic Triumvirate has maintained peace and stability throughout the known Universe. The Immortal Empire, the Emerald Hegemony and the Solar Dominion have become the undisputed rulers of the Seven Galaxies. Through their territories, they have sought to preserve order by any means necessary, from gallant diplomacy to brutal repression. Historians in Midgard have reached the consensus that the rise of the Triumvirate has indeed ushered an age of peace and prosperity in the Seven Galaxies: a Pax Galactica.2

There are, however, places where the Triumvirate’s grasp cannot reach, those places where words like “law and order” are seldom spoken. These are dark corners of the Universe, worlds of vice and violence, hubs of chaos and lawlessness. They are the blot in Midgard’s face, a filthy stain in the otherwise immaculate tapestry of the Triumvirate’s making. They are the galactic underworld, the criminal element that plagues even the most utopian world in the Triumvirate.

Now, the galactic underworld has existed for as long as there has been any sort of organized government in the Universe. If there is law and order, crime and chaos will rise to meet them. Criminal enclaves have always been common throughout the Triumvirate but were often limited in scope and size. They were mostly confined to red-light districts and other clearly designated areas of operation. In the Empire, they still control many legal and regulated industries, such as prostitution, gambling and drug and liquor trade, always under the watchful eye of authority.

However, ever since the formation of the Triumvirate, the galactic underworld has grown exponentially in population and influence. The opening of an unprecedented amount of hyperspace lanes and trade routes have allowed criminal organizations to expand their reach throughout the Universe and multiply, a virus infecting everything it touches. The most recent data points towards nearly three thousand crime syndicates, cartels and societies spread throughout the known Universe,3 many of them in constant conflict with each other.

Triumvirate efforts to cull these organizations have been met with failure. Some of these criminal factions are so large and powerful that trying to eliminate them would result in open war. In fact, rather than spilling blood, the Triumvirate has long adopted a policy of toleration with the cartels operating in its territory. The Imperial government, for example, has signed pacts with the Black Nebula, an alliance of the strongest syndicates and crime families in the Empire. In exchange for the authorities leaving their greater-scope interests unmolested, the Black Nebula keeps regular crime in check with ruthless efficiency, while also providing the Empire with bounty hunters, spies, hitmen and mercenaries. Thanks to this accord, the Black Nebula have expanded deep into the rest of the galactic underworld and have positioned themselves as the fifth most powerful player in the Universe, behind the members of the Triumvirate and the Coalition of Merchant Kingdoms.4

The zenith of lawlessness, however, is not a planet in Triumvirate-controlled territory. Though many worlds in the Triumvirate are virtually governed in their entirety by crime syndicates, none can compete with the planet known as New Gomorrah, whose purple skies watch over a planet-spanning city, an ever-churning machine that grinds and tears and makes whole again.

The following is a brief summary of New Gomorrah, a recollection of its history and demographics, an attempt to understand its position in the Galactic Community.


New Gomorrah: An Introduction

There are few planets in the Universe as infamous as New Gomorrah, world-city of eternal dusk. Most citizens of the Galactic Triumvirate regard it as the largest haven for chaos and anarchy in Midgard, a blot in the face of civilization. It is only sought after by two kinds of beings. On one side, those who have nowhere else to go: fugitives, exiles, political enemies and other undesirables. On the other side, those who would exploit the planet’s lawlessness for their own purposes: Pirates, hitmen, smugglers, gangsters, hackers, religious fanatics and terrorists all mingle with each other in the neon streets of New Gomorrah, world-city of eternal dusk.

Thus, it is not unreasonable that New Gomorrah is seen as home to the worst lowlifes of the known Universe. Known mostly for its perpetually purple skies, its highly corrosive rain and its rampant technology, this planet is the largest hub of criminal activity in the known Universe, far surpassing the criminal underworld of any star system under Triumvirate jurisdiction. Often nicknamed “The Great Sprawl,” the planet is dominated in its entirety by an immense, polluted urban landscape inhabited by nearly thirty billion beings from across the Universe. This figure overshadows even Idhai and Numera, the capitals of the Immortal Empire and the Emerald Hegemony, respectively.

With such a large population, it is not unexpected that New Gomorrah’s crime rate is the highest of any registered planet. Be it murder, rape, thievery, organ and drug trafficking, weapons smuggling, hacking or biohacking, New Gomorrah hosts it all, and almost seems to relish in it. The deeper one descends into the Sprawl’s foundations, into that neon underworld made of metal and concrete, the more disturbing amusements one will find. Crime syndicates like the Zahn Society and the Black Nebula turn any conceivable illegal activity into a lucrative business, while mega-corporations dictate the only semblance of law and order amidst the chaos.


Because it was founded by humans and this species is still the most numerous on the planet, understanding the history of New Gomorrah’s history means reminiscing back to the integration of the planet Earth into the Immortal Empire, the Imperial year 2109 (Sol year 3042). The centuries prior to the Earth’s and Mars’ induction into the Empire was marked by a series of phenomena that radically altered the planet’s social, political, cultural and religious aspects.


Morbid Diversions

The ground shook as the colossal mass of flesh and metal came crashing down, further fragmenting the already cracked concrete floor. The cracks and dents filled with the blood of the fallen fighter, drinking up every drop of the thick blue liquid, made to shine under the arena’s bright neon lights. The Death Pit, the Tournament of Blood and Oil, was about to claim a new victim.

The beast writhed in agony, its six legs squirming and trying to push back, trying to get up and keep on fighting, keep on tearing and clawing and killing. Its powerful form, twenty tons of muscle and cybernetics, tried to lift itself, and failed. It was almost as if it were glued to the ground, vulnerable and frail. Its three mouths, filled to the brim with serrated teeth, let out a pained roar as its organs further ruptured from the effort. Five consecutive wins, five consecutive kills. It had come in as a hotshot, ripe with potential, quickly rising to be a prospective favorite for the season. Engineered to be a natural predator, its arsenal had been further enhanced by mechanical implants and circuitry. The perfect fighting beast. Now, it was about to become prey.

Its rival stood over the creature’s mangled form, a towering figure of primal rage and hunger. It moved in an arrogant, nearly elegant fashion, more like a trained martial artist than a brutish beast of war. It was almost a mockery of a man, standing on its firm hind legs and clenching its clawed forelegs, still dripping with its enemy’s blood. The neon lights reflected off its shiny polymer skin, off its plated, armored spine. Beneath it, powerful muscles, enhanced with the latest batch of nanorobotic implants, tensed with the anticipation of the kill. Its tail, nearly a third of its body’s length, curved and poised itself to strike, a cruel, twin-bladed implement emerging from its tip.

Tension was thick. The felled creature still posed a threat, still mighty enough to crush bones and rip metal from flesh. Good thing it had shattered its shoulder cannons as it fell. The other monster, its silver skin stained with fresh blood, would need to strike fast. Once it had completely disabled its opponent, then it would have its fun, slowly killing its prey, feasting on its still-living body.

Seconds felt as an eternity while the creatures watched each other, anticipating the inevitable. The cries of the fallen beast were deafening. And suddenly, with a sharp whistling that heralded the hit, the silver monster struck. The sharp blades at the end of its tail slashed its rival’s chest, ripping and tearing. It slashed and slashed, painting the arena’s floor and walls blue. It did not stop until its victim’s cries were silenced, until colorful intestines flowed out of the ruined abdomen, until it was heel-deep in gore.

And then, it began to feed. No glorious victory, no higher purpose. Merely animalistic, instinctive hunger. Its victim wailed in agony as the victor fed, but its screams faded and died without the other creature paying it any heed. It was too busy feeding to even care if its prey was still alive. Its teeth sank deep into the mutilated flesh. It tore out chunks as large as a small hovercraft, voraciously gulping them down. A feast worthy of a champion. Its thin, angular skull almost disappeared as it feasted on the cadaver, like a worm burrowing on wet soil. So focused it was on its prize, that it nearly did not notice when the other started moving again.

It was as quick as lighting. In an instant, two appendages as thick as columns emerged from the fallen monster’s bloodied torso. They wrapped themselves around the victor’s slender form, brutally strangling and pulling it towards the repugnant mass of dying flesh. One of the fallen creature’s mouths opened and let out a harrowing cry, an agonized sound that filled the air with horror. It gaped wide open, awaiting its victim. The victorious creature, now trapped between its enemy’s barbed and muscled tentacles, tried to resist. It slashed and bit and writhed. Its skin secreted an acidic substance powerful enough to melt iron in a few seconds. Its hands grew metal talons so sharp that they could tear through a spaceship’s hull. All in vain.

The fallen creature pulled its enemy towards it and pressed. Its central mouth clamped on its prey’s head, trapping it and piercing its flesh. It tasted blood, and felt its tongue and gums melt and dissolve from its rival’s acid secretions. It pressed on, crushing the supposed victor between its tentacles and its mangled body. It kept going, ignoring the pain, until bones cracked, organs ruptured, and metal splintered. With a disgusting, wet pop, the silver creature burst like a ripe grape, its innards thrown in all directions, soaking the arena and its rival with gore and golden blood, the ichor of a fallen demigod.

The true victor, the dying, disemboweled beast, let out a final cry, and fell silent, rigor mortis finally overtaking what remained of its body. It laid there heavily, still clasping its enemy’s remains, and moved no more. For a moment, all was silent.

Then the storm came down.

The sound of a million voices, mad with extasy, pierced the air, cheering and booing and laughing at the carnage that had taken place before them. It was as if the barbarity of ages long past, a time when man and beast were indistinguishable, had returned in all its gruesome glory. The multitude was as a cruel, mad god that thirsted blood and oil and sparks. It made bets, exchanged secrets, swore and cursed and counted the night´s profits.

For outsiders, the Death Pit was an oddity in a Universe where most gladiatorial combat was prohibited, a morbid diversion for the ever-decaying society of the world known as New Gomorrah. But for the inhabitants of the Great Sprawl, it was the highest form of entertainment. Here, under the purple skies of New Gomorrah, deathmatches appealed to everyone from the richest of oligarchs to the lowest filth of the Great Sprawl. Everyone enjoyed watching blood spilling, guts tearing and the occasional twist of fate. “Everyone” included the man quietly observing the bloodbath from his seat high above the arena, a saucer-shaped craft with the circumference of a Ferris wheel, floating nearly hidden by the noxious clouds that rained acid over the entire city-world.

His name was Khalid Nam, and his night was not going as planned. He could almost see a million credits going down the shitter as the cleaning robots scrapped his champion’s remains off the arena’s floor. That’s what he got for not betting on the underdog. He lit another cigarette. He exhaled and let the smoke trail off, dissipating almost as quickly as his hopes of making back his lost money. The worst part was he had no one else to blame. That way, he might at least have had the satisfaction of firing someone.

He turned his head around. Empty seats met his gaze. He grunted. It seemed he was the only attendant watching the show. Better that way, he thought. Maybe like this no one would ask him how his bets had turned out. The last thing he needed right now were the snide remarks of some rich asshole or snobbish “kaiju connoisseur.” He extinguished his cigar, only half-smoked, and got up from his seat. Time to count his losses. Time to check his chances at another shot tonight.

As he walked towards the crowd gathered near the center of the room, his mind wandered off towards a happier, more comfortable place. He imagined himself back at his penthouse, with no other company than a good bottle of wyvern whisky, away from the blood-soaked arena, and from his peers. He glanced around, trying to identify some known face amongst the indistinct sea of expensive suits and revealing dresses. There was Kynae Nu, CEO of Sarnath Bioengineering, getting his face stuffed with exotic meats. Justine Gillian, retired assassin and former supermodel, courted a woman forty years younger than herself. And Nym Zonder, the mastermind behind Zonder Cybernetics, used his cybernetic nose to voraciously inhale a pile of narcotics laid before him, his eyes emerald green after years of usage.

These were the people who Khalid was forced to interact with in order to preserve his social standing. These slobs. These tasteless, grotesque men and women. Obscenely rich, obnoxiously snobbish. They would gather around, cawing like carrion birds, flapping their mouths in order to bring attention to themselves, seeking nothing but expensive pleasures made cheap by their tastelessness. They thought themselves sophisticated and cultured, but most of them could barely call themselves educated. Their abilities as businesspersons were undoubted, but they lacked any other salvageable trait. Insensitive to art, ignorant of their own uncultured nature, misguidedly proud of their lifestyles. An oligarchic class made up of adult-sized children. Capricious. Whimsical. Philistine.

It extended even to their sense of decoration. To say the room Khalid was lounging in was ugly would be an understatement. Red velvet and tasteless gold ornaments decorated every wall, giving the room the appearance of a bad attempt at an aristocratic setting. Large marble statues depicting famous people from across the stars paid homage to the guests’ bloated egos. Tables with the length an Olympic pool displayed the most varied and exotic foods in the Universe, piles so large that food waste was inevitable. Chairs and cushions of every shape and size, made from the finest materials, hosted a multitude of drunken or otherwise intoxicated guests, their every need and whim dutifully attended by scantly clad men and women. With such diversions, in single moment the entire room could erupt into an impromptu orgy.

To Khalid, who had always been a minimalist, these excesses were borderline obscene. Compared to what his fellow guests were getting up to, the violence of the Death Pit seemed nearly artistic. He would have complained more if not for the one perk he was getting. Hovering platforms and podiums were reserved for the superrich for various reasons. For one, they kept their immaculate little clothes and cybernetics away from the filthy mob that filled the Pit’s grades. For another, they were far safer than the actual Pit. Accidents involving felled beasts crushing multitudes into pulp or going rogue and eating someone were not uncommon. The better the seats at the arena, the more the risk of getting flattened or covered in some noxious secretion. That was a problem the hover-plats circumvented by transmitting the fights in the highest definition possible through screens, windows and holograms spread throughout them. It was practically the same as watching them in person, only less odorous.

Finally, the reason Khalid had yet to cease his rides on these lavish platforms: the immense central window displayed not only a close, high-resolution view of the combats below, but beast statistics, popularity numbers, right ownerships, money invested and betted. This was data vital to someone like Khalid, privileged information displayed only for those who could truly invest in the beast combat business. Here, investors and sponsors could choose what monster to support, what newcomer team was worth their time and money. Betting trends flashed before the spectators, market value of the creatures was estimated, and lucrative offers were made for the sponsoring and merchandising of every triumphant beast. This was Khalid’s world, the world he had thrived in, the world he now owned.

Khalid would not speak of it unless asked, but he was both a founder and a member of Goliath Group’s board of directors, the biggest name in the world of blood sports. Their notoriety came from the brutal efficiency their creatures displayed in New Gomorrah’s arenas. No other biotech firm could replicate the lethality Goliath’s beasts demonstrated. No other company had managed to so seamlessly integrate biological and mechanical components into a giant combat monster. Goliath had gone from being a small team with a mediocre monster to completely dominating the blood sport market. Every company in New Gomorrah wanted their brand emblazoned in the Goliath’s breeding tanks. Every sponsor and investor wanted a bite out of the juicy steak that was Goliath. Khalid could not be more pleased with his and his team’s efforts.

In New Gomorrah, at the cover of the planet’s eternal dusk, life and death were only as valuable as the audience deemed them. Tickets to events displaying a Goliath beast sold out almost instantaneously. The revenue Goliath got from advertisement alone was enough to buy a solar system. The beasts were treated like celebrities, like popular athletes. They received media attention, had merchandise mass-produced in their likeness. Once used to wage war and decimate entire populations, the bio-engineered creatures were now the stars in the galactic underworld’s most popular form of entertainment.

The business was not risk-free, however. One single war beast took billions of credits to engineer, and millions more to promote. A creature dying on the Death Pit meant a nearly complete loss of time and money, even though the genetic material was still useful, and the body parts could be sold as souvenirs, raw materials and even food. The real profits came from bets, sponsorships and advertisements, and no one ever bet on dead meat. Every victory filled Goliath’s vaults and represented opportunity for further moneymaking. Every defeat meant a loss of trust from sponsors and investors. Like any other sportsmen, the beasts played to win. Only here playing meant tearing an opponent apart in front of a cheering, bloodthirsty audience.


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