The Nexxus, the source of songs of magic, the redemption of the human race, the armpit of the multiverse.
These and many other names are attributed to the place we call “The Nexxus”.
Nexxus is not a world as we know it. It’s not a ball of rock hurling through space, leashed to the gravitational pull of a star, but rather it seems to be more of a plane of existence. Time and space are not bound by the same rules that we know and are familiar with, and its unstable terrain is varied beyond imagination, drifting where the currents of this place take it.
Nexxus in short is a world of uncertainty, promise, and unknown potential.
All the residents of the Nexxus have a different idea of what the Nexxus is, and how it operates. However, despite this is some commonality, this is what we will focus on here.
The lands of Nexxus are not stable. They shift, stretch and drift, which would make building a society nearly impossible if it weren’t for a few stable places. There are points of relative stability that change and move at a pace slow enough for people to build on them. These places are where civilization has built its towns, cities, or other dwellings. These points of stability still drift, but large swaths of land move with them as they do.
Time is strange in the Nexxus; while it does always march forward, it does so at different rates in different places. Oddly, many of the larger stable places march forward through time at a similar pace. Where one most notably finds the differences in time is when one travels into the wildelands. A journey between two points of stability can take vastly different amounts of time on any given trip.
The History of a place is really what makes it. For, you see, the echoes and scars of past deeds are often laid deep into the ground. For the Nexxus this is even more so, for deeds done in the past have had dramatic effects on this place.
But history is also changeable, mutable. Each race views events in a different way, records history in a unique light. Not all histories agree, but there are many common threads.
The Timeline of The Nexxus
The Nexxus Exists
Dwarfs and Felinae are created
Nexxus is unstable in land mass and in time, but time always flows forward, just at different rates. Stable points are pretty close to the same relative time to each other
Humans and Fae open gates to The Nexxus
Within 10-50 years they run into each other
Within 10-50 years war breaks out
War continues 200-1500 years
Desperate war continues 500-1000 years
Truce is called ~200 years ago
Truce is called and civilization begins to rebuild
The Fey claim to have created us, to have molded the beasts of field and forest to stand on two legs and could carry weapons into their war for the Nexus. They claim only their precious, all-powerful magic could have honed our battle instincts to perfection, that without them there would be no Beastmen at all.
These are lies. The fey always lie. But no fey sorcerey can hide the truth from the Beastmen. They could never create us, so they merely controlled us, calling to us from across the Void, drawing our people from the twilight of the Dreaming.
All Beastmen Dream. The Dream is nothing like the petty fantasies that flicker through the slumber of so-called civilized races. When a Beastman sleeps, he lives in a primeval world of good hunting and great battles. Trackless lands wait there for us to explore, and long-dead ancestors stride from the mists of memory to fight beside us. Beasts whose savagery would beggar the imagination of weaker men abound. In the Dream we face them without fear, and in life we carry this fearlessness with us. To die in life is to awake in the Dream forevermore.
The Dream is what unites our people, and its living memories allowed us to throw off the chains of our oppression. Every Beastman, even an orphaned pup, will learn from his ancestors and grow up knowing exactly who and what he is.
Who they are
Beastmen are, in truth, as the fey have named us- an amalgam of animal and human. Most have fur from the waist down, others are covered in it from head to toe. There is a wide range in appearance among our kind, some looking nearly human and others appearing as nothing less than bipedal bulls or rams. All our kind have horns, however, and the larger the horns the more appealing the Beastman’s appearance to others of our kind. To look too human is to look weak, at least at first glance. Despite this we respect strength in truth far more than strength in seeming, and even a hairless short-horn can lead a mighty warband if he has the will for it.
When we come of age, young Beastmen of both genders organize themselves into nomadic warbands and go looking for trouble. The strongest and most boisterous Beastman will lead, with underlings always on the lookout for a chance to challenge for command. For a warband, battle is an end unto itself. Even after a battle has ended a warband may turn on their so-called allies if it seems that there is more loot and glory to be had. Terran and Fey rumor would have it that a warband can even be bought off in the middle of battle with savvy negotiation and cold hard cash.
Beastman females are found quite often in warbands, particularly when they have no children of their own or have chosen to have them fostered by another group of Beastmen. They are perhaps best known for their role in the founding of Nursery bands, the backbone of Beastman culture and child-rearing. These bands are neutral ground for warbands, and are fiercely protected by any and all Beastmen. Sometimes dedicated warriors will attend a nursery band for a time, either out of feelings of kinship or simply to garner the affection of the females who make that band their permanent home.
Warbands support the Beastmen culture, as Beastmen do not manufacture their own goods, and all they own comes from other races. Beastmen will build up material wealth during raids in order to attract mates. Beastmen rarely mate for life, but often see having children as a part of adult life.
When a pair does make a serious lifetime commitment they leave deep teeth marks in the each others’ throats as a mark of loyalty and ownership. This mark gives a Beastman the right to kill anyone found sleeping with their lover, if they can. Most often the pair will move to a Nursery Band, instead of the raiding Warbands, but many Beastmen Dream of a Queen and King who command a mighty army the size of a hundred warbands that swept all before them many years and worlds ago.
Beastmen are matrilineal, following their bloodlines back through the females of their family line. However, early deaths often prevent a Beastman from knowing little more than the story of his birth. They are often named descriptive or silly names as infants, and these names will stick with them until they have reached adulthood. Upon the eve of their first blooding they will be given an adult name as befits their deeds or temperament. Many will undertake acts of insane bravado for the sake of a well-earned name. The rare Beastman who dies of old age will survive for around a century, but unless they join a Nursery band they nearly never live so long.
Loyalty to the Nursery Bands is so deep that Warbands from miles around will drop everything to help defend one under attack. On the whole, all Beastmen exhibit an aggressively protective nature for our children. The foulest tempered, most murderous bull Warband leader would never hesitate to put his life on the line to protect the weakest of newborn Beastmen.
Beastmen have a simple faith with only a few commonly-worshipped gods. There are occasional Shaman that claim to have a particular god’s ear, but as with all things Beastman their words are empty without deeds to back them. The most respected Shaman are those with the clearest dreams, and in their slumbering hours they uncover powerful truths at the feet of ancestors who remember ages before the Fae summoned Beastmen to Nexus.
The most widely-known god of Beastmen is the great red-furred, bull-headed Bloody Horn who leads his children to battle. He is described a muscle-bound war god covered with white crisscrossed scars, tattoos, piercings, and great brass horns, wielding a pair of notched bloody falchions. It was Bloody Horn who put fire in Beastmen’s hearts and who makes them strong enough to fight for what they need. He is appeased by the heads and hearts of worthy foes, and in his less infuriated aspects is also called upon as a god of hunting and leadership. Bright Tooth is a beautiful goat headed goddess of life and healing. Her fur is as white as the clouds, and soft asdown. She is often called upon to help with childbirth, and matters such as domestic concerns and the raising of children. She is said to have founded the tradition of the Nursery Band, and in some stories is depicted as Bloody Horn’s mate. She wields a sharp-edged shield and spike-headed mace in defense of cubs, and it is from Bright Tooth that Beastmen learned to love the offspring of their race regardless of ties of blood or kinship.
The final and least bestial god of the Beastmen is Slanky. He is a trickster with small horns and a Human-like face, carrying a horn bow on his back and a bone-handled dagger at his hip. His stories make the Beastmen smile, teaching his people to use cunning when strength cannot succeed. One of the most popular tales amongst Beastmen on the Nexus tells of Slanky stealing the words to the Songs from a Fae mage who whispered in his sleep. He delivered these magics to the Beastman shaman, and proved that the sorcery that defined the Fae was nothing but another weapon to be looted by quick-thinking Beastmen.
Beastmen love tattoos and decorative scarring. They will often burn off sections of fur to expose sections of inked skin, or dye sections of their fur white to highlight particularly impressive scars. Some scars are carved in the form of runes to designate different band association, lineage, or favored offspring. Body modification is highly prized as well, with lovers or comrades in arms often taking matching piercings or horn caps. If they can find enemies strong enough to trade with, rather than simply fighting and looting them, Beastmen will sometimes trade for jewelry set with precious stones, spikes, and precious metals.
As the Gate War marched on, Fey Pain mages used mind controlling rituals to keep their Beastman armies in check. These magics were mercurial and fickle, however, and over time Beastmen would drift away in ones and twos. In time they would find one another by rumor and Dream, and warbands formed deep in the heart of the Nexus. They could have lived in seclusion, preying upon their former masters, but the nursery bands were located deep in fey territory. No Beastman would leave children in the hands of slavers, and so they plotted and planned in secret.
A chance encounter between Grim’s Blood the shaman and an unhinged Terran cyborg would change the course of their respective races’ histories forever. For reasons the shaman could not explain, Turner the Man physically entered the dreaming. It was clear that this was a Beastman clothed in Terran flesh, and that cyborgs were worthy companions in the quest for the Nursery bands’ freedom.
Grim’s Blood led his Warband, the Black Claw, in a daring plan. Through machinations that would have made Slanky grin in delight he managed to replace a regiment of Beastmen still under fey command with his own Black Claws on the eve of a battle between Fey and Terran for control of one of the remaining gates. Turner had followed suit, replacing cyborg troops with his own loyal followers, and when the two locked eyes across the battlefield, they unleashed hell. Neither Fey nor Terran commanders could comprehend the chaos that swept through their lines. The combined forces of cyborg and beastman ripped through their foes to reach the captive nursery bands. Those Beastmen still under the sway of mental control broke free as their masters ordered them into battle against their own mates and young. Many Fey mages were slaughtered by soldiers whose loyalty they had come to accept as a matter of course, and they were never again able to assume the level of control they had once held over the Beastman race.
The war raged on, and the Beastmen and cyborgs went their separate ways. The Beastmen, led by their Dreams, split off into the countless warbands and Nursery bands that now roam the Nexus. Grim’s Blood took those cyborgs who wished to remain with their allies under his wing, and in time he and Turner left the Nexus behind to Dream forevermore.
Beastmen still live as the Dream guides them. Unparalleled in their ferocity, warrior mettle, and courage, they take what they need and live as they wish.
Many city-states have laws against Beastmen gathering in too large of numbers, and they are not always welcome in peaceful settlements. The saying goes that one Beastman means a party, two Beastmen means a brawl, and three Beastmen means you’d better know a good healer. Even so, some nobles pay Beastmen bodyguards handsomely for the sheer intimidation factor they provide, and if you can manage them properly a Beastman mercenary contract can be a great boon in the small wars that constantly erupt across the Nexus.
Beastmen like Dwarves, or at least they like Dwarven craftsmanship, as they tend to have some of the best loot. Dwarves charge entirely too much for their wares, say the Beastmen, and this makes for ample justification in their minds to raid and take rather than barter and pay.
Fey are similarly valuable to have around as their magical goods are always useful. Beastmen never forget that Fey are universal liars, however, and more than a few tents are adorned with colorful fairy wings.
Humans and tinkers are difficult to come to a consensus on, as their gear is often useless to Beastmen and every community wants something different from a Beastman. Someitmes they want soldiers, other times they want laborers, and much of the time they just want the Beastmen to go away. Cyborgs are always respected, however, as the Beastmen will never forget their role in helping them secure their freedom.
Felinae hold no particular place in the Beastman consciousness, except as rivals for territory. They make for sporting opponents, but they have little to take as bounty. For the most part the two races leave each other to their own devices, raiding where they can or avoiding each other when wisdom rules the day.
From the Mountains’ Metal Bones
The Nexus was a young world, freshly formed and covered in lush green growing things. Seeking companionship, she listened to the whispering of her sister worlds. They spoke of moving, thinking, creating creatures that walked on two legs. From her stone and metal flesh she crafted Steelbeard, first of the Dwarves, and he in turn crafted his six children. All dwarves that live upon the Nexus are descendants of this first divine clan.
Steelbeard and his family set about ordering their surroundings to suit their nature, discovering the Nexus and their place in her evolving ecosystem as they went. To ensure that no one of his children was overwhelmed by responsibility, each was given a responsibility for themselves and the children they would one day craft on their own.
Griswold One-eye, first of the smiths, was entrusted to lead the Clan of the Forge. Rungol Bloody-axe was the first dwarf of the Clan of the Blade, putting to fell and mighty use the axes and armor that were her brother’s most cherished crafts. Janice Strongheart was truest and most honorable amongst an already stoic people, and so the Clan of the Coin was given into her keeping so that all things mercantile would be under the most steadfast supervision. Out of love for his architectural marvels and the citadels lovingly carved from the Nexus’ mountains, Rayak Irongut became the founder of the Clan of Stone. Steelbeard’s eldest son, Nareg Stormhammer, was the first King among Dwarves, and the originator of the Clan of Rule. These Clans still define the duties of dwarves born into them to this day, although the line of blood is not necessarily as important to a dwarf’s calling than their actual proclivities. Dwarves are taciturn, but they are ultimately pragmatic, and forcing a born smith to build bridges for a living would be the very definition of foolishness.
In addition to his other children, Steelbeard crafted a daughter who surpassed all others in wisdom: Isabella, who was based on Steelbeard’s first dim understanding of the mother Nexus herself. As the Dwarves came into conflict with other beasts and creatures of their world, it was given to her to keep the Book of Grudges. As Mistress of the Book, she kept peace among her brothers and their clans. She lent no craft or tool to the crafting of mortal dwarves, instead providing her unquestionable advice and so gifting mortal dwarves with reason and compassion, daughters of her siblings’ clans have ever taken up the call as Handmaidens of the Book so that the Grudges may never be lost.
Who They Are, and the Book of Grudges
Unlike the dwarves of Terran myth, on Nexus dwarves are not necessarily shorter or stouter than other races. They are, however, unquestionably hardier on average and more taciturn in their ways. The Nexus made her children to endure her harsh seasons and dwarven generations tend to be so long that change is slow in coming. The most obvious and universal aspect of dwarven physiology for the unitiated to recognize is their thick hair, particularly the beards of male dwarves. Dwarves love to braid this thick hair, and it is almost unheard of to see a dwarf with fewer than three braids in his or her mane.
To understand the Book of Grudges is to understand the heart and soul of dwarfishness. All their dealings and handiwork are accompanied by meticulous record-keeping: a dwarf will never forget help given, nor a slight taken. Each dwarf carries his or her own version of the Book, with all their own personal Grudges and Debts recorded alongside those that their race have carried for years immemorial. In this way all dwarves are connected to one another, forming the foundation of their identity as a people.
At the turning of the new year, copies of every book are collected by the Mistress of the Book and her Handmaidens. In a process that would make Terran tax collectors weep to see its efficiency, they record every infraction against Clan, Kingdom, and Dwarf in the original Book carried by Isabella herself. All decisions made by the Kings and Thanes will be influenced by these words, and any dwarf may request information on an individual or organization’s standing within the Book for their own records and dealings.
The Mistress is sometimes called the Bride to the Book, and they are nearly always close advisors the the King or Queen of dwarves. When a dwarf woman takes the position of handmaiden, she relinquishes all ties to family and Clan. It is a highly prestigious position offered to dwarven women with strong grasps of justice and fairness, for these are the arbitrators of all dwarven society. The Mistress of the Book is chosen from amongst the ranks of the Handmaidens by a congress of her peers at the time of a standing Mistress’s death. Isabella was not a parent like her brothers and sisters, but Handmaidens can and do take husbands and bear children of their own.
In addition to their loyalty to all dwarf-kind, a dwarf will almost always be a small part of a greater kingdom. Each kingdom is ruled by a King of Queen elected from the Clan of Rule who takes on the surname of their kingdom in place of their family’s. Most often, the passage of sovereign to heir has been a peaceful one- to raise axe against the king is to rise against the Clan of Rule as a whole. It is not uncommon for rulers to be succeeded by their blood kin, given that these sons and daughters have been raised their whole lives to fulfill such a role, but if a more suitable candidate is available then lineage is often set aside in the name of wisdom.
The first of the Kingdoms was that of Ulric Ironbeard, who led his people underground in the early days of the first Gates. The many savage creatures that began to colonize Nexus were too much for dwarves to face in the open, and so they created fortresses in mountains and canyons alike that no beast could breach.
Many ages later the Steelbright family split off and founded their own kingdom following a long-simmering trade dispute with the Ironbeard royal family. They are still renowned for their craftsmanship, and many apprentices of the Clan of the Forge are trained in their halls of they are particularly skilled with metals.
The newest kingdom, that of Ragnok Stonehelm and his Stone Clan companions, is still incredibly old by human reckoning. They dug deeper than any other dwarves in search of great granite caverns to make beautiful with their unsurpassed architecture.
Dwarven upbringing is very highly structured and lasts for considerably longer than most other races. Every family has its heroes from the various Clans, and from the time they can speak dwarven children are taught of their lineage leading back to Steelbeard himself. Their first thirty years of life are spent laying the groundwork for their later education, which consists of another 30 years of apprenticeship amongst all six Clans. Though this means that a dwarf does not enter society as an adult until their sixtieth year (and some take even longer to decide which of the clans to join) the oldest dwarves are over five-hundred and so see this as a natural way to decide how to spend the many centuries of adulthood.
Clan, Kingdom, and Family each have their own specific braid in the beard or hair of a dwarf. Married partners will often wear an additional braid for their spouse, and a dwarf with other loyalties, perhaps to a guild, club, or esteemed regiment, will wear even more braids to signify this. These braids are not created lightly, and once one is woven it is maintained and defended until death.
The Other Races
Many millenia in the past, even before the founding of the Steelbright and Stonehelm kingdoms, the first Elves came to nexus. They brought their amazing magic with them, and were fascinated by the dwarves’ artistry in turn. Thus began a slow unfolding of trade between the two races, dwarves providing raw craftsmanship and elves investing their magic in select goods in exchange. As elves sought to draw dwarves back to their home realm and thus remove their need for Nexus-crafted goods, King Ironbeard decreed that dwarven kingdoms would be closed to outsiders. Trade continued, once every thousand years, but the tradition of isolation that began with the king’s act has remained in place ever since.
It was a Fairy, rather than an elf, who first taught dwarves to call upon the Songs. In exchange for a relatively minor set of weapons, the fairy Oakbarrel taught Janna Strongblade to be the first dwarven mage. Dwarves have become practioners of ritual, Life, War, and Protection magics, but deride Pain and Death as shameful.
Long after the fey had made their presence known, Balthazar Steelbright became the first dwarf to encounter Humans as they attempted to unwittingly jump his claim. These elf-like creatures were just as fascinated by dwarven goods as the elves had been, and brought their own form of magic to the Nexus, one independent of the songs.
Their technology was leaps and bounds ahead of the dwarves’ slow, steady scientific advances, but the humans who carried highly-sought items such as stoves, watches, and binoculars were almost never the ones who knew how to craft them. What they did have were technical manuals that have been highly treasured by dwarven scholars for generations, and it is thought that in time the high tech of humans will serve dwarves just as the elves’ magic does.
The Gate War, and Dwarves Today
No matter who started the War, dwarves were determined to keep out of it. Both Fey and Terran swarmed onto Nexus in unimaginable numbers, and dwarven merchants soon found themselves sold out of every weapon save their personal arms. As armies swept across the Nexus, the keeps were closed completely. The dwarves never saw the worst atrocities of the humans’ radiation bombs or the elves’ death rites, and for that they have ever been thankful. Even after the Gates collapsed, the dwarves kept to themselves for two whole centuries to see what was left of their world.
Trade was reopened with the now-stranded Terran and Fey enclaves, and humans who had once disdained dwarven swords and axes were now more than happy to have whatever protection they could afford. Beastmen are poor customers, as they tend to pay with violence rather than gold or credits. Felinae are almost as bad, and some Revenants have been in the Book of Grudges for centuries and are killed on sight rather than traded with.
Most dwarves still live in the keeps, guarding their knowledge and the secrets of their craft from a hostile world that fell apart in their absence. Much wisdom lost to the other races still exists in the libraries of dwarves, but for now they are content to study and wait, assured that as the Nexus has always cared for them in the past she will continue to do so in the future. The world has changed, but dwarves have not. They are of the very flesh of the Nexus and are dug into her very roots. From now until the end of days they will live and die by tradition and loyalty to Kingdom, Kind, and Kin.
In an era beyond the reckoning of mortal minds, when matter and energy danced across the countless cosmoses in the intricate waltz that would one day lead to life across the multiverse, the forces of creation gave birth to their most beautiful children: the Elves. Immortal, transcending the barriers of time, these first among the fey were likewise the fairest. The Song of reality itself was as much a part of them as blood and bone, and for countless aeons they learned the limits of their capabilities, only to surpass them in unforeseeable moments of joyous creation.
As elvenkind could never die save through mischance, they reckoned time in ways now irrecoverable in these fallen years. What is known and understood by their descendants is that they came to rest upon the world of Arcadia, which some legends say was the place of their timeless birth and others contend was a world they created for their own satisfaction. Whatever the truth may be, Arcadia was the heart of their culture and the world from which the civilization known to the worlds at large as the Fey Court sprang like an ever-growing tree.
Magic is and has always been the birthright of elves, and for millennia they listened to the subtle workings of the Song until their mastery of its ineffable workings seemed complete. They founded the understanding of the Paths that mages follow to this day, identifying which notes to pluck within the universe’s underpinnings in order to manifest whatever they desired in the world around them.
Well-regarded were the stolid orders of Protection mages, who preserved their kin from misfortune and careless destruction. The fire-y tempers of War mages were respected across all of Arcadia, their destructive powers used to settle matters of honor amongst the members of the Court. Pain mages worked in the shadows, beguiling and tormenting their kin to keep order amongst a people given to unknowable whims and tempestuous emotions. Most loved of all four paths were the Life mages, who could heal the gravest wounds and still the most furious of tempers with but a touch.
Arcadia was the heart of the elves’ magical empire, but it was not the only world. Using complex rituals they glimpsed across the Void into other realms, some as magical as their own and others bereft of the wonders that elven sorcery had crafted. The Song ran through them all, however, and so whatever world the Fey Court saw they could claim as their own.
The only creatures that surpassed the elves in power and majesty were the primordial dragons, graceful reptilian creatures whose power over the Song was absolute. The Paths of the elves were as the most meager prestidigitation in the dragons’ shadow. Over countless aeons dragons were the elven court’s most valued advisors, seeking to raise their fey charges up beyond their limited perception of magic and of reality. Not all dragons were benevolent, however, and many saw no reason to assist such lesser beings lest they become a threat to draconic supremacy. Whether helpful or deceitful, dragons were rarely seen even by elven royalty. They kept to their own affairs, and unless an elf had a particularly vexing conundrum to deal with the wyrms were left alone.
Kith and Kin
Some time following the establishment of the Paths, the elves found that they possessed unexpected neighbors even in the heart of their realm. A strange race of winged beings began to appear in no small numbers, causing mischief and displaying an undeniable link to the Song. Though not equal in magical aptitude, intellect, or lifespan to their betters, these Fairies proved an invaluable distraction to the Court. Here was a source of chaos in the endless, perfect lives of elves that was nonetheless under elven control. Fairies’ short lives, half a thousand revolutions around Arcadia’s sun at most, gave elves a perspective of time they had never possessed before.
This new knowledge, like the fairies themselves, was both a blessing and a curse. As fairies lived longer than any other non-elf creature on Arcadia, yet still died of the same bizarre wasting that affected all other lesser creatures, they were a useful yardstick for the world itself. Turning magically-enhanced senses outward into the universe, the elves found a fact that would change their history irrevocably: the Song, thought to be as immortal and eternal as the Elves themselves, possessed an Ending. Though this End would not come for many billions of years, there were elves who could remember the first days of reality itself. They could not accept that some day all of their work would come to an end, and thus began the great work of the Court: a cure for the death of reality itself.
Now that time was of the essence, elves looked to their own numbers and found them wanting. Though they had spread to many worlds, elven magic proved a match for any beast or Voidling incursion and so there were hardly more than a few million fey in all the universes combined. Elven numbers would be slow to grow, even if their whole race put far more effort into procreation than they had ever bothered to in the past. A great age of research began.
The most useful information was borne from investigation into the true origin of fairies. If one race of magical creatures could be spun from the song, why not two? Or three? Or a thousand? The Court’s most powerful ritualists cast their minds back to the first days of fairy-kind, delving into the Song itself in search of answers. As near as they could tell, the fairies had first manifested near elves thanks to two major factors. The first was the elves’ own powerful magic and the Song’s power in their immediate vicinity. The second was a bizarre fluctuation in the Song’s melody that has never been satisfactorily explained. Though the researchers could not understand the source of this disruption, they were able to identify it and, to a lesser extent, recreate it.
All across Arcadia and every magically-suffused world the Court had reached, the notes of the Song were plucked on a scale never equalled before or since. Beasts and creatures fantastic and monstrous sprang into being, each one born of the Song itself. Like the fairies that came before them they could feel the Song instinctively and manipulate magic with very little practice.
Unfortunately, the ritualists never had as much control over their creations’ forms and desires as they had hoped. What was worse, the fey they created had such a dim connection to the Song that their lives could not be sustained for even as long as fairies’. In but a single century they would age and die. Even more disastrous, these creatures’ short generations allowed them a pace of life that led to the creation of independent cultures within each set of beings before elves even had a chance to put them to work.
Though slow-moving, the sheer power of the Fey Court proved irresistible to these fey commoners. Elven magics a thousand years in the making brought every race, from redcap to puck to brownie, under the single banner of the Court’s rulership. Once this conquest was complete, the council chair declared itself Imperator of the Fey Empire, and the true work of all fey finally began.
Elf, fairy, and fey commoners scoured the universes for information, always seeking out new phenomena against which to test their knowledge of magic and the Song. Many more worlds were colonized, and these became the true homes of many races of commoners, their short lives leading them to forget their origins and, on occasion, their place in the structure of elven society. In time, the first true progress was made for tens of thousands of years: the Nexus was found.
The Heart of Worlds
When the first fey lords and their vassals set foot on the Nexus, they were shocked at the sheer power of the magic that suffused their new world. No other world in their history had been so full of Life. There was no question that this world held possibility, and many fey of every description found their way to the Nexus through one gate or another. The discovery of Dwarves, industrious folk who claimed the Nexus as their home world, was cause for serious alarm. Though sentient voidlings and demons had been found before, these dwarves seemed something entirely different. They had millennia of history and showed all the signs of having inhabited the Nexus as long as they had existed.
Some dismissed this as the childish rambling of a limited race, remembering the commoners who believed themselves to be native to one world or another. Others disdained dwarven society for its apparent lack of magic- though they were craftsmen beyond compare, the Song was all but unknown to these supposed natives. Most damning in the eyes of elven society was that dwarves eventually grew old and died- elves and dragons were immortal, so would not every other self-made race be so as well? The eventual consensus was that it was more interesting to leave the dwarves be and trade for their goods than to harass them, though curious fairies made every effort to infiltrate the heart of dwarven society and really get to the bottom of things (their own distractability and the massive irritation they seemed to evoke in dwarves preventing any of these efforts to come to fruition).
As their slow research of the new dimension and its magic proceeded apace, fey found themselves under attack by the beasts of many worlds, suddenly deposited on the face of the planet by gates much like their own. The dwarves confirmed that this had happened across the surface for the entire stretch of their history, and was the clue that cracked the puzzle of what made this dimension so special. No other world was host to these constant incursions, and the number of worlds that the sheer variety of visitants seemed to come from beggared even the vast imaginations of the elves.
In truth this Nexus was not simply a particularly powerful world, it was the most important world in all of creation. The Song was so powerful here because somehow the Nexus was where the song originated, the source of all life and magic throughout the multiverse. As the central fulcrum of all possible worlds, its dimensional borders must be permeable to let the notes of the Song disperse to other worlds.
As amazing as this news was, and as far-reaching as its consequences would become, reaction amongst the higher echelons of fey society was slow. Fairies and commoners were quick to start their own settlements while elves came to grip with the metaphysical ramifications of the situation. Slowly but surely, their presence grew across the Nexus. It wasn’t until the appearance of another race, even less magical than dwarves but far more titillating, that the elves began to turn their reverence for the Nexus into possessive pride.
Humans have stories of the fey visiting their world millennia prior to their discovery of Gates, as well as their first encounter with elves and their servants on the Nexus itself. The elves remember little of these exchanges, instead becoming steadily aware of humanity over the course of several centuries. The creatures lived extremely short lives, and though commoners had a similar lifespan elven culture always proceeded at its own pace. In what seemed like no time at all there were human colonies scattered everywhere.
Elves found these new creatures remarkable, but had difficulty understanding what drove them to keep expanding and exploring with such passion. They had no unifying cause like their own Empire, and without magic were forced to rely on crude projectile launchers and the base stitching together of mangled flesh. The efficacy of their guns and medicine seemed apparent, but woefully similar to the simple tools of beasts and dwarves. Even so, the humans spoke of having dominion over many worlds within their home realm, a concept that seemed laughable to the fey when the race had barely managed to reach one other dimension, let alone the scores they themselves had seen.
Humans seemed a nuisance on occasion and often complained of fairy trickery, but for the most part they and the elves left each other to their own devices. The Nexus is vast, and though its geographical instability can often cause confusion there was little need to compete over territory or even over trade agreements. The dwarves had wares enough to sell to both Terran and Arcadian, and the felinae tribes that were beneath elven notice were more than welcome to offer their services to the Terrans. Peace lasted for many centuries, but eventually humanity’s greed brought this paradise to an end.
The Gate War
In a night of base treachery, lives as old as time itself were snuffed out forever. Thousands of elves and hundreds of thousands more fairies and commoners were viciously attacked by Terran soldiers. Their weapons were more terrible than the fey had ever given them credit for, and their lack of magic was more than made up for by their coordination and strategy. The fey had never fought a war as Terrans understand it, their combat limited to courtly duels and the occasional raid. For thousands of creatures to willingly put their lives at risk at the behest of others’ orders was a concept completely alien to elves, if not to their servants.
Human after human came through the gates, and their numbers and their weapons seemed endless. They pushed those fey they could find back through the gates, leaving only a handful of secluded enclaves of resistance. Years passed, and though this seemed like victory to short-lived humans it was merely a brief gasp of breath for elves- their counterattack was merciless, and they turned their vast intellects towards strategy and tactics to a greater degree than they ever had before. Some fey even took up the arms of their fallen enemies, turning Terra’s guns upon her children.
The tide shifted against elves when the humans turned their science in upon themselves- they savagely tore the flesh of their own people, filling them with steel and circuitry to create a race of golem-warriors they called cyborgs. Elven mages responded with a new people of their own devising- the Beastmen. Searching through the song, they heard notes deep within the melodies of Life and War, singing of a glorious blood-soaked dream. Drawing forth these bestial notes, the Beastmen were born to reap a bloody harvest amongst Arcadia’s enemies. Pain mages and ritualists kept the beasts in line, noting that though the Song had given them vitality and a brutish protectiveness toward their young, Beastmen had little wisdom and would not serve their creators without being strictly disciplined.
Even with these new soldiers to halt the advance of cyborg soldiers, the war was slowly slipping away from the fey. Elven magics were great and terrible, but could only do so much in the face of Terran death machines. Another advantage would be needed to put paid to the primitives from Earth, especially now that the humans had somehow rendered their guns useless to all but themselves.
Death Comes for All
A desperate scheme was hatched among the elven high command. A new weapon would be sought out, and like all other things it would come from the Song. They needed a weapon that could match the most terrible of human atrocities. The reculsive dragons were sought out- the great wyrms had never taken to the field in defence of fey holdings, but the elves hoped that they would use their magical skill to craft a weapon, even if that weapon would be wielded by elven hands rather than by the dragons themselves.
The vast majority of dragons refused outright, arguing that if the elves had engaged a foe that could not be defeated by their own power then this presented an opportunity to gain wisdom rather than mere territory. But a few, those who even their fellow dragons considered dangerous and strange, whispered of a power that the elves had known for millennia but never before had the will to grasp. This power would give them a new Path, one of such destruction that it could match the most terrifying Terran advances blow for blow, but there would be a terrible cost. Elvenkind accepted this cost, vowing to pay any price to save the Nexus from human depredation.
A few brave souls sought to turn a horrible truth into the weapon that would save them. Pushing through the melodies of the Song to their final conclusion, they took the power of The End into themselves. In an instant, all elves throughout the worlds felt their immortality shatter- now that Death existed in the present of the song as well as the future, elves were doomed to die within their numbered years rather than go with the universe when it passed away.
The court was horrified, yet these Dark Elves moved much more quickly than their race was known to. They left Arcadia behind forever, putting their gifts to work against humanity in some of the most terrifying displays yet known in the war. The Terran advance was halted, and with neither side willing or even able to back down, it seemed as though there was nothing either side could do that would end the war.
In the end, a universal upheaval ended the war where magical and technological might could not. Both human and elven gates failed in a single blinding flash that drove every being on the Nexus to their knees. Within mere centuries humanity had all but given up, and in time elves grew weary of the bloodshed as well. Arcadia was lost to them, as were most of their people and the homes they had tended since the galaxies were young. Elves retreated to their enclaves to brood, and fairies and commoners drifted away to start their own lives in the Nexus.
Elves often set themselves up as the feudal rulers of small realms, in most cases still paying lip-service to their fealty to the Emperor, the ruler of a home some of them have never known. In those realms under elven control fairies continue to survive at the edges and commoners perform the day-to-day labor of running a city-state. Some elves even serve their once-vassals, acting as stewards and magi to generations of fairy and commoner leaders.
Humans are not permitted in fey enclaves, nor are the treacherous beastmen for having sided with the cyborgs against both Terra and Arcadia in the late stages of the war. Felinae remain unimportant to most elves, though they will treat with them if the cats are properly respectful. Dwarves are still valuable trading partners, though their absence from the war won them few friends amongst elves fighting for their lives.
Elven realms that work with outsiders have one law in common above all others- dark fey of any description are outlaws, and proof of their deaths can bring a handsome reward. The dark fey have realms of their own, however, where they practice whatever magic they choose and are far more accepting of outsiders than their ‘light fey’ kin. Dark fey are some of the few on the Nexus who work openly with revenants and mutants- in their eyes, the accident of a creature’s birth should never inform one’s opinion of them. Actions are all that matter amongst dark elves, and they have predominantly abandoned the social structures other elves still cling to in favor of stark pragmatism.
Eternal Children of the Song
Ask any three fairies where their people come from and you’re likely to get five answers, a pudding recipe, and a newfound obsession with your own shoelaces for your trouble. The elves have been trying to figure out their bizarre winged cousins for millennia and are no closer to a clear-cut definition of the fairy mindset than they were when they began. What scholars have been able to piece together from cross-referencing dozens of disparate accounts as well as the nigh-mythical histories of the elves themselves paints a strange picture, but one more or less comprehensible to mortal races.
In ages past, before the discovery of Nexus by the Arcadian court, the elves lived lives of serenity and contemplation, alone save for the beasts of the land and the distant dragons in the sky. They lacked purpose and drive. Thanks to their masterful manipulation of the Song’s magic they had little cause to struggle for simple survival. Elven loneliness echoed through their connection to the Song, and seemingly overnight the fairies emerged from across the realms of Arcadia.
At first, the elves were shocked. Who were these strange, flighty creatures who upset their aeons-long peace? Were they voidling invaders? The result of some experiment gone awry? In time, the nature of fairies and the reason for their seeming madness became a benign mystery that occupied many elven scholars. Their antics and feuds provided amusement for the court at large, and in the slow turning of ages the elven courts began to mirror their lesser relatives in terms of intrigue and political maneuvering. It was from the fairies that the elves learned how to be mortal, at least a little bit, and it was based upon this first interaction with mad, short-lived, clearly inferior creatures that they approached their subsequent relations with the races of Nexus.
Who They Are
Though their existence ultimately provided the fairies’ elven masters with purpose, the purpose of fairies themselves is a hotly contested topic. Ultimately, each fairy lives their life for one thing above all others. While this is true for many creatures of the Nexus, who pledge their loyalty to a god or a cause, for fairies it becomes a fundamental part of their existence. In many cases a fairy not only obsesses, but finds it impossible to conceive that others do not share their obsession.
This focus finds many outlets, and on occasion several fairies in an area or a community will share the same or similar mindsets. Some become obsessed with a particular kind of business, while others will choose something fairly (and disarmingly) innocuous such as baked goods or familial obligation. Most common is obsession with the magical path to which the fairy was born. Life fairies are insistent in their helpfulness, while Pain fairies take great joy in spreading the blessings of their path far and wide.
In rare circumstances a city-state or nation of seemingly sane fairies will rise to prominence. They lack the capriciousness of their brethren and devote themselves wholeheartedly to the safety and advancement of their homeland. This should not be mistaken for true sanity, however: these fairy nations are almost invariably heavily aspected toward an element or Path, and this will define that country and its rulers’ interactions with all outsiders. To them, even a seemingly ridiculous conflict is deathly serious. Surrounding nations and groups can be drawn into their politics and internecine conflicts, swallowing huge tracts of the Nexus in war and madness.
Expansion and Seeking- The Nexus
For many generations, the fairies had in turns assisted and inhibited elven efforts to explore and colonize new realms beyond their mystical gates. They had always been on the hunt for something, but exactly what was something the elves kept close to their chests. Fairies would be set loose on unsuspecting worlds and instructed to bring back information of whatever sort seemed interesting to them. Infinitely patient scribes would record and codify the ramblings that would return from fairy expeditions, then in time a new world would open up and the cycle would begin anew.
Eventually new creatures, even shorter-lived than the fairies themselves, became a part of the expeditions. The pace of exploration increased steadily, and fairies made friends amongst the boggarts, redcaps, ogres, and other feykith that assisted them and the elven lords. Some types of kith were more amenable to fairy interaction than others, and as the colonization continued fairies found themselves banned from more than a few worlds that the feykith considered their own.
In time, the elves found what they had been looking for without even realizing it. Opening a portal to a world more in tune with the Song than any they had found before, elves stepped onto the Nexus with their fairy servants in tow. Many fairies felt that they were coming home. In touch with the Song from birth, they flocked to the Nexus to explore its many wonders and its powerful magic. They quickly found that the Dwarves and Felinae were even less patient with them than the feykith had been; though some friendships were struck with specific felinae tribes, fairies were barred forever from entering dwarven settlements in any number greater than could be watched attentively at all times.
The elves struck up negotiations and trade agreements with the dwarves, and settled in for a long and exhaustive study of their new world. They began the order of Seekers to keep their fairies occupied and information flowing back to Arcadia. Over the next several hundred years this order proved an invaluable resource, and those fairies born to it made the Seekers their life’s obsession.
Fairies were as fascinating to the first human settlers as the elves themselves, but their antics and tendency toward unthinking mayhem kept the two races from coming to any kind of true understanding of one another. What interaction they had, however, was invaluable to both Terra and Arcadia when exploration inevitably gave way to conquest.
The Gate War
Many fairies scarcely noticed when the wars began. One day, they were to explore and avoid human settlements. The next, they were to explore and burn human settlements to the ground. The two options were more or less the same to most fairies, who had little concern for human welfare, and those few who were too dedicated to life and healing were easily placed on the back lines where they could tend to elven and feykith wounded.
Fairies were found amongst all the great works of the Arcadian war effort. They were on the front lines, hurling their favorite magics at Terran soldiers and matching wits with relentless cyborgs. They helped call forth the beastmen, and their Pain rituals were instrumental in keeping these new pets in line. And a rare few, driven to despair by the endless death and destruction all around them, aided in the creation of the Death Path and its subsequent use as a weapon of horrible destruction. Though this last act sent shockwaves through elven society, fairies were largely unaffected. It was just another thing in the world for them to enjoy or ignore, at their own choosing.
When the Gates finally crashed, it once again took many fairies some time to notice. Many had already forgotten Arcadia, and those that still held a strong loyalty to the elves kept on fighting alongside them. However, without a strong guiding factor coming from back home the Seekers slowly drifted apart, their wanderlust driving them to abandon the war effort steadily until only the elves and those fey they could force into service were still keeping up the fight.
Most communities are hesitant to allow fairies entry, although much of the time fairies manage to weasel their way in with or without permission. They find it much easier to make a place for themselves in fey communities than amongst any other race, but even then the elves have considerably less patience than they did when their immortality was intact. In those city-states and kingdoms where they are accepted or tolerated fairies can serve as good friends and useful members of the community, but unless their obsession is conducive to civil service it is better left to others to manage fairies rather than the other way around.
Left to their own devices fairies are often seen in small wandering bands, spreading confusion in their wake and generally getting into trouble. Through a combination of bravado, insane courage, and magical might they survive amongst the many dangers of the Nexus wilderness. These bands rarely put down roots for long, but on rare occasions a larger settlement will coalesce around a strong ruler or a fairy with a powerful enough compulsion that it draws others into their orbit. No matter how many fairies one might encounter, however, it is best to approach them cautiously and deal with them briefly, lest their madness be your downfall.
Called ‘fey commoners’ by many other races on the Nexus, amongst themselves the many fey creatures that occupy the worlds of Arcadia have long referred to their collective races as feykith. Though their forms are many and their loyalties vary widely, they know themselves to be of one brood and one Song.
In ancient days many different creatures occupied the fey realms and believed themselves free. Some were sole masters of their worlds, where others lived in alliance or contention with other kith of differing gifts and features. Several worlds were home to ceaseless warfare between ogres, trolls and redcaps, while others were idyllic realms host to both ordinary beasts and upright feykith with the hands of fey but the faces of animals.
A handful of realms were subjected to the rule of distant, long-lived creatures that referred to themselves variously as ‘elves’ or ‘fey lords,’ while other worlds had never heard of such creatures. There was hardly any world, however, that had never heard of the winged devils called ‘fairy,’ and legends of these obnoxious troublemakers entertained and terrified many generations of feykith children.
Nothing lasts forever, though, and the many centuries of independence were ground to dust beneath the onslaught of elven conquerors. Claiming eternal sovereignty over the many types of feykith, the elves and their fairy toadies relentlessly took command of every world and outpost they desired. While small or relatively unimportant realms kept out from under the Fey Imperator’s rule, millions upon millions of fey ‘commoners’ were forced to become the labor force for the elven elite. For these unwilling servants to thaumaturgical overlords the Nexus has become a new home, though it has been won at great cost.
Who (or What) They Are
A staggering variety of feykith wander the Nexus and, possibly, the many worlds conquered by Arcadia in ages past. Some, like the ogres and trolls, are known for great brute strength. Others, like kitsune and pucks, are powerful magicians. There exist still stranger gifts amongst the feykith, however, and stories abound of creatures able to change their shape at will or craft marvels beyond the power of Terrans or Dwarves.
The one constant amongst the many races of the fey is their connection to the Song. Each is born with at least some aptitude in magic, though how this manifests varies from race to race or even creature to creature. The vicious redcaps, for instance, may throw Death from their fingertips; a nixie, meanwhile, may channel the healing power of life as easily as they breathe. Also common, though hardly universal, is the shorter lifespan of feykith compared to elves or even fairies. While a rare few with particularly magical bloodlines can survive for many centuries, most kith have a similar lifespan to the pitiable four-score years afforded to humans.
Long ago the races of feykith kept largely to themselves and developed independent cultures from the other varieties amongst fey-kind. Many still maintain these old lifestyles from previous worlds, and it is not uncommon to witness a group of ogres competing over who can lift the biggest rock over their head or to stumble upon pucks in the midst of a sadistic negotiation over spoils.
Over the course of elven exploration of the Nexus, though, many feykith of different kinds worked together and began to break down the divides that had once existed between them. Where elven rule was once the yoke that forced them together, true bonds have replaced servitude amongst many feykith. Now it is not unheard of to meet an erudite giant or a benevolent redcap, though a wise traveler would do well to take caution with any strange fey met on the road.
The Gate War
Being more numerous and expendable than elven warriors, feykith made up the footsoldiers of the war between Terra and Arcadia. Though generations of war hardened many, the adoption of Terran squad tactics provided an unexpected boon to fey harmony. Bringing together the many and varied gifts of their differing heritage into a single unit exposed the legions of fey commoners to the full heritage of their race. Units of deserters were among the first to carve out stable territories in the wasteland of the deep Nexus. Those with warrior gifts could stave off rogue beastmen and monsters, while those more civilly-gifted could maintain their settlements with ease.
Among those feykith who remained loyal to their elven masters, the casualties of war were more grim than any depredations suffered under even the worst magical onslaughts perpetrated during the elven wars of unification. Terran weaponry and cyborgs’ pure might repeatedly ripped feykith warriors to shreds. Scores of warriors would be sacrificed to save the life of a single elven commander.
Feykith felt a strange kind of deja vu when beastmen were created, and many families are proud to point out that few kith were involved in that race’s creation or subsequent enslavement. Stag-kin and ogres could not help but see a certain kinship with these creatures and it is whispered that sympathizers from these races were instrumental in arranging the Betrayal.
The creation of the Death path, on the other hand, is something that feykith can hardly claim innocence from. Redcap sorcerers and powerful night hags were as much a part of the research efforts as any elf or fairy, and bringing Death to the elves after millennia of servitude is seen by many kith as their races’ greatest lasting contribution to life on the Nexus.
When the gates closed, millions of feykith found themselves cut off from worlds that had been home to generations of their ancestors. For every fey devastated by this news, however, one could be found who took their isolation in stride. Hundreds of years had passed since the war began and many communities had cut ties with Arcadia centuries before the gates fell.
The desperation of the war slowly ebbed as the old realms were forgotten. Still longer lived than any of their servants, elven rulers tried with less and less success to galvanize their followers into a counterattack against the Terran menace. Desertion increased steadily with every passing year, and in time even those kith who remained loyal to their lords and ladies refused to continue the war.
Feykith Today and Tomorrow
The many kinds of kith have as much variety in their ways of life as they do in physical form. Some have regressed to the lifestyles they once held on their home worlds in ages past, living in harmony with nature or as vicious raiders against more civilized folk. Others have struck out on their own, joining in the communities of other inhabitants of the Nexus and living life as it comes. A handful of the more savage feykith are able to run with the beastmen and even those without horns can be greatly respected for their power.
Far more numerous, however, are those kith who live amongst other Arcadians. Elves no longer rule as a matter of course, though if they possess sound judgment and true empathy for their community they may still be placed in positions of leadership over those who were once their servants. Fairies are permitted in these communities so long as they are useful. Even so, the fairy reputation for trickery is well-deserved and it is a rare fey community that allows a fairy to hold any real responsibility.
Feykith are not accepted by humans, who still tell stories of the strange creatures they battled in the war, but this is of little importance to them. They have each other, and few have need of Terran technology when the Song provides all they could ask for.
Dwarves are not particularly helpful to feykith either, though they will trade so long as fey have the funds or services to pay with. Some kith get along with them better than others, however, so it is not uncommon to see them hire dwarven builders for their cities or hire dwarven warriors to defend communities and caravans.
Felinae and feykith have a cooler relationship than might be expected given the number of kith races that have animal characteristics. It is to their lasting shame that the common fey allowed humanity to establish a friendship with the cat-like natives while the fey themselves were distracted by elven desires.
Death magic is one of the great dividers amongst feykith. Many agree with the elves that it is an abomination to be stamped out, while others see the Death path as yet another tool to be used for their survival.
Ultimately the feykith are a race that defies true classification, as the race as a whole is comprised of dozens if not hundreds of different kinds of creatures. While one could make generalizations about pixies, selkies, or boggarts, there are exceptions to every rule among the kith. It is best to be respectful to any strange fey you meet, and wait until their true nature is apparent before passing judgment. This is a rule that the fey themselves try to live by, and a lesson that can serve any traveler on the Nexus well.
In the time before Terrans or Fey came to the Nexus, many spirits made the young world their home. Some were of Nexus herself, of Earth and Sky, and the forests that covered much of her lands. Others were far stranger and brought their own servants with them. The Nexus opened many Gates into the Void, and through these gates came many strange beasts. She heard the whispers of her sister worlds, and though she had created the dwarves to walk upon her their stone and iron souls had proved too stodgy to suit her lighter moods.
Another race was needed to make her world complete, and she looked to the creatures of land, sea, and air to find one that would be suitable. She saw that cats were held in high regard across many worlds as beasts that could provide a respite from loneliness, but still care for themselves. The Nexus could not speak to her children, so they would need to be strong. From Fire she crafted the Felinae’s spirits, for they would be a boisterous and independent people. From Water she gave them deep thought, so they would come to comprehend the beauty she would make for them. And from Wind she gave them sharp eyes and sharp claws, so that they could defend themselves when the need arose.
One element was missing, however: cats are mysterious and strange creatures, and the Nexus had little mystery to grant her children. For her final gift, she reached out into the Void between worlds and gave felinae a little touch of the strangeness that lurks beyond. In this way she made her children mercurial and impossible to pin down, so that they would always be learning and changing and they would never grow weary of their mortal existence.
Felinae have little use for calendars and dates, and so their history since the misty days of myth is lost to time. The felinae themselves see no great loss in this, as the past is much like the present and the future will not be all that different either. They live for today more than any other race on the Nexus, and so seek contentment in that which they can grasp rather than needlessly striving for things that are long gone.
Who They Are
Felinae are bipedal, human-like cats. Fur length, pattern, and thickness vary from tribe to tribe, as does whether or not a tribe’s members have tails. All felinae have claws, but not all have the strength in their fingers to use them effectively as weapons. Their impression of the origins of their race varies amongst the tribes as well, with some crediting the spirits themselves with their creation and others telling strange tales of the moon and of dreams.
Clothing is optional in most felinae communities, save for that which protects them from the elements, although when meeting other races many enjoy dressing up. Jewelry is appropriate for all occasions, and shiny piercings are very popular in many tribes. Most felinae eschew tattooing, but there are always exceptions, and there are even some felinae who use dye and makeup to change the pattern of their fur. Most felinae have little use for material goods that aren’t particularly shiny, the Nexus having made them capable of surviving across much of her surface. They have been known to trade hides and meat with neighbors and for many centuries have highly prized dwarven weapons.
Their tribes are small, usually based around a few close family groups. Individual tribes are smaller parts of greater nations of similarly-patterned felinae. Territories are fluid, and families will often break off into their own small tribes or join with others as their moods direct them. Parents will usually raise their children together, but unwedded births are neither uncommon nor looked down upon. As the felinae like to say, it takes a tribe to raise a litter. Shaman and Shoulderwomen are found in many tribes, and felinae will travel many miles to hear the wisdom of a well-regarded spellcaster.
Though there are innumerable tribes, a few are larger and more well-known than others.
Airavata, Born of the Ocean, are a powerful tribe characterized by brown fur with tiger-like black stripes. They are a fiercely territorial tribe that make use of Beatman allies to defend their lands, even from other felinae. Young braves from the tribe are a somewhat common sight all across the Nexus as they take to a journeying mercenary lifestyle to gain skill and glory before taking their place within the tribe.
Danya, The Skillful, are even more nomadic than is usual amongst Felinae, and pride themselves on the sheer amount of Nexus face they have witnessed. They are brown furred with leopard spots. They are seen far more by other races than any tribe of felinae thanks to their extensive trading networks. Danya also tend to adopt more ‘civilized’ ways, and members of this tribe have been known to take up residence in the city-states they trade with.
Meru, Of the Mountain, inhabit the mountaintops of Nexus. They are white furred with black spots, and tend to be more shy around other races, ready to attack or retreat as the situation dictates. They are renowned archers and huntsmen, and their skill at tracking impossible quarry makes them much in demand from other races. Of all felinae Meru had the least interaction with humans; some among them hold this distinction with pride, believing themselves to be the closest felinae to Nexus original creation.
Kratu, The Will of the Mind, are a reclusive Tribe of white furred with black striped Felinae. They are known for their unshakable honor: if a Kratu swears an oath they will keep it or die in the attempt. They are renowned for their prowess in battle, but unlike the Airavata they do not hire out their services as mercenaries. They believe absolutely in their Dharma (Law), and will not take up a cause unless it speaks to their hearts.
Though dwarves were native to the Nexus, and elves had visited for many centuries, neither race had ever cared much one way or the other about the felinae tribes. The felinae had learned some simple magic from the elves and the dwarves would trade with them from time to time, but it was not until the humans of Terra arrived from their fantastic technological gates that felinae found another race to call their friends.
Humans had a genuine interest in their new cat-like neighbors, and sought to learn everything they could about them as they devoured knowledge of the Nexus wholesale. The felinae shared knowledge of their own and it was not long before the two races became surprisingly close. Terran goods were widely esteemed in felinae circles as they could truly make life simpler for them, and Terrans were happy to trade their mass-produced goods for goods they lacked the skill to gather themselves.
The greatest gift of felinae to Terran may have been the understanding of magic. Long considered solely the realm of the mysterious fey, Humans learned in time that so long as they listened for the Songs, they could learn the spells that had so shocked them when they first arrived on the Nexus. Some scholars regret this exchange, but to the felinae it only made sense for them to help their new friends like one would teach a young kitten the ways of the world.
The Gate War
At first the felinae were happy to assist their human allies against the attacks of elves and fairies. They were hired in great numbers as scouts, and the more war-like tribes took up the high tech armaments of Terra with the help of special gloves and implants. Felinae support waned shortly thereafter, however, as fey lashed out with devastating death magics to wipe out whole tribes in retaliation for choosing the wrong side. Felinae are not known to hold grudges as a people, but the survivors of some tribes still hunt and hate all fae to this day, teaching their children to slay elves even as they suckle their first meals.
The Nexus wept to see her children cut down with such malice; the dwarves were safe in their stone citadels, but the felinae had no walls to hide behind. In a single fell swoop the Gates were shattered, leaving only the occasional natural gate to open seemingly at random. The humans and fey were stranded, and the long painful centuries that ended their wars began. Felinae tribes retreated into the wilderness, only the staunchest allies of Terra standing alongside the humans as the war dragged to its anticlimax.
The Felinae Today
The felinae live as they always have, in nomadic tribes that traverse the face of their mother world. Their territories are more crowded than they were in the early days, particularly with the coming of Beastmen. Though not all Warbands are outright hostile to felinae, it is safer to avoid them than to risk direct confrontation. Felinae know full well the consequences of attacking a nursery band, and so will up stakes and move if they hear that one is in the area.
Dwarven craftsmanship is still highly regarded, but dwarves themselves are not so popular. Felinae respect independence, but they cannot help but feel somewhat resentful that where they made friends and were punished, the dwarves were able to hide away and come through the devastating wars unscathed.
Strangely enough the felinae hold fey in high regard. Since the wars have ended and the death practitioners that took so heavy a toll on felinae tribes have been hunted down and persecuted, today’s felinae see more to gain from allying with fey than to lose.
Humans and felinae still have good relationships overall, but established city-states generally don’t like to have felinae stay within their borders for too long. On the other hand, felinae have accepted many humans into their tribes over the millenia and it is not uncommon to see families of human and felinae intermixed and wandering in the ancient way throughout the wilderness.
No Turning Back
No one chooses to be a mutant. The fey have their noble ancestry and the humans their tradition of invention and exploration, but for mutants the only heritage they have is written across their faces. They are ugly, and they are hated, but from these qualities they have found strength.
When Terran and Arcadian colonists wanted to travel the Void, eventually finding their way to the Nexus and the paradise it represented, they opened vast Gates. The two races’ Gates operated on different principals from one another, and even today smaller portals open in the fabric of the Nexus seemingly at random, but for centuries the Gates allowed safe travel between the worlds. When humans and fey warred against one another their conflict had an unexpected side effect: the gates collapsed, and they did not go quietly.
The first mutants were formed in the aftermath of the Crash. The seemingly instantaneous dissolution of so many massive holes in the Nexus’ planar fabric caused a backlash of radioactive energy. Those nearest the sites of impact were vaporized. Those somewhat further away were somewhat more lucky, or less, depending on one’s point of view. Bodies warped and twisted under an onslaught of energies their frames were never intended to withstand.
Fey, human, beastman, felinae; no matter what they had been before, they were all alike in monstrosity. Extra arms, twisted legs, organs where none were needed, and biological processes independent from or even in opposition to their hosts. Many could not withstand the changes to their bodies and died on the spot. Others managed to survive, at least for a time. Those who tried to return to their communities were driven away in fear, and others were killed by friends who no longer recognized them.
A Culture of Nobodies
In the centuries following the Crash, mutants began to band together. Many were attracted to the ruins of their former colonies, their altered bodies the only ones that could withstand the background radiation. Others wandered the land, taking what they needed by force or by careful trade. The least mutated would eventually come to lead the most peaceful of these wandering tribes thanks to their ability to interact somewhat normally with outsiders.
Amongst the more aggressive tribes, more numerous and more dangerous mutations denoted the most powerful warchiefs. Thanks to their bizarre anatomy and toxic blood, their bodies were as much weapons as any blade or gun. Unfortunately for these war-like tribes, the most heavily-altered mutants are also often the most completely insane. They run rabid over everything in their path, and eventually lose track of every semblance of their former selves. It is these savage mutant bands that other races most often come into contact with, and they have made it much harder for more peaceful mutants to coexist with the genetically stable races.
Those few mutants who seek companionship outside of their own kind must do so carefully, either hiding their deformities from others or approaching only the most accepting of communities. Even if they can find a home amongst the un-mutated, many city-states have bounties on the hides of mutants, and mandatory gene-scans are not uncommon for catching the ‘unclean’ amongst their citizenry.
What They Are
A mutant is a former member of any race differentiated by one or more significant deviations from their standard physiology. These mutations can come in nearly any form, and it is a sad fact that many who are mutated by radiation or who are born as such do not survive more than a few minutes following their birth. The lack of necessary biological processes or the presence of unnecessary vestigial organs can be equally fatal, and many mutant communities have involved mourning rites for stillborn children and those whose alterations eventually cause their own deaths. These rites are important for the more civilized mutants as a reminder of what they are, and as armor against the callousness that defines their savage kin.
The most common viable mutations include tentacles, additional limbs, bone spurs, and various horns and spines. If there is anything that can be called constant amongst these many possibilities it is that for mutants, their very bodies are weapons. The many protrusions they are host to are as effective as any blade, and the bizarre properties of their blood make it a potent poison. While other races are known for their incredible intelligence, extraordinary speed, or enormous strength, mutants can be any or none of these. The underpinnings of their bodies are as varied as their outer appearance.
Most mutants, thanks to their natural weaponry and the lack of formal education in their hidden communities, are warriors first and foremost. While an elven fencing school or human militia barracks may teach its charges different maneuvers and forms, mutant martial instruction is almost entirely mental. The greatest teachers are able to help their students find the power that lies untapped within their own unique body. A master of this fighting school is a terror on the battlefield, their various limbs and protrusions a whirlwind of perfectly coordinated destruction.
In those communities founded in the ruins of the ancient Gates, guns or magic may be more common depending on the world to which the original portal belonged. Those mutants who follow these paths greatly prize Gloves of Human Touch and Talismans of Harmony, for no matter what race their ancestors may have been, their newfound heritage makes the trappings of the great civilizations impossible for them to use without assistance.
All the Paths of Magic are followed by mutants who can tap into them. Amongst more peaceful communities Life is prized for its ability to keep the community safe and to temporarily calm those who are overcome with madness. The more savage bands are sometimes seen to harbor Pain mages who spread the horror of their tortured existence amongst their unwitting foes.
Neo-Patamia, a Home Away from Home
While many mutant communities are hidden away in the ruins of fallen Gate sites, Neo-Patamia is located in what is left of an age-old Terran research station. Most of the technology there is as broken and rusted as it is anywhere else in the Nexus, but thanks to layers of redundant safeguards there is a surprising amount of usable tech available to the intrepid explorer. Thanks in part to this wealth and in equal part to the large population of relatively stable mutants who have settled there over the centuries, Neo-Patamia is what may be the first true mutant city-state to ever grace the world.
The original facility was constructed as a series of concentric rings. The Outer Ring, once the site of impressive fortifications and defensive weaponry, is the most ruined, open as it was to attack by enemy combatants and the inevitable forces of nature. As it is the least habitable of the rings, this is where those mutants no longer capable of rational thought reside. They are generally the most physically mutated as well, their bodies barely holding together, the radiation that gave them life somehow managing to keep their grotesque forms intact. Many of these mutants wander off accidentally, eventually joining up with other nomadic bands or leaving a trail of destruction behind them until eventually being dispatched by the forces of civilization. [oog: or, if they reach Oasis, an anarchic gang of half-mad murder hobos :P ]
Further into the city is the Middle Ring, a series of more-or-less contiguous structures that made up the bulk of the accommodations for military and scientific personnel and their families when the facility was still operational. A handful of the food and water purification systems still function, and the majority of mutants live and work in this section. They are able to harvest various fungi and molds from the structure’s catacombs, and those that are not edible can be used in manufacturing and crafts. Despite the inhabitants’ disturbing appearance, the Middle Ring is very nearly a normal town. Its citizens work, live, and love in the same way that communities all across the Nexus do, taking to their work and trying to survive amongst the ruins of those who came before.
While usually less mutated than those that dwell within the Outer Ring, Middle Ring mutants are still host to obvious and sometimes debilitating divergences in form from their original race. Those who dwell within the Center Ring, however, are called the Pure, and they are very nearly indistinguishable from members of another race save for one or two imperfections. These are the rulers of Neo-patamia, meeting as a council to determine the day-to-day governance of their wards in the Middle Ring and when to cull the unfortunates of the Outer Ring. There is no single leader amongst this group, but mutants who have walked the outside world beyond the rings are often the most influential in the council hall.
Amongst the most prized mutations amongst the Pure is what they refer to as the Supernal Eye. The Neo-patamian ruins include many ancient texts, and those dedicated to metaphysics and religion denote great mental power to those possessing a third eye. While this would traditionally and ideally be located in the forehead, the Pure are not so tyrannical as to exclude those whose additional eyes are found elsewhere on the body.
It is the Pure who make expeditions to other races and communities, and attempt to open trade with the stable races of Nexus. Thus far they have met with little success, but they remain optimistic. Their stewardship of mutant-kind has begun with Neo-patamia, and they hope to bring other bands into the fold and cease the aggression of their more boisterous kin. If races so savage as beastmen and as mischievous as fairies can gain acceptance, then the world assuredly has a place for mutant-kind as well.
The Acolytes of Despair
“Let all the Nexus be as ugly as we are!” With these words Lazarus Smite has raised an army, and with every contract these mercenaries undertake they seek to make the Nexus a little less beautiful. The antithesis of Neo-patamian ideals, they prize their most wretched mutations above all else. Mutants with advanced dementia and physical alterations that render their original form impossible to determine are prized as the most perfect of their kind, and are carefully shepherded into battle alongside their more lucid brethren.
Smite and his followers will take any job, but are particularly fond of wanton destruction and terror attacks. When a city-state wants to demoralize its enemies, the Acolytes of Despair are an excellent and cost-effective option. Though Smite is a powerful personality, he is not the most canny negotiator, and his reputation has soured after turning on clients in the heat of the moment. For him, all that matters is destruction, and if he can bring ruin to something he will find any excuse to keep his troops on the field and his monstrosities causing havoc.
The Present and Future for Mutant-kind
For now, most mutants are isolated in small, secretive communities or prowling the wastelands in savage tribes. Neo-patamia is a light in the darkness for this heterogeneous race, but without the support of other communities it is only a matter of time before that light gutters out in the face of a hostile world. No race truly trusts mutants yet, thanks in large part to marauding bands, half-mad outcasts, and fanatics like Lazarus Smite. But in time, if the Pures and others like them can show what their people have to offer, then maybe the ever-changing Nexus will have a place for these adopted children to call their own.
Even before the Gate War, the discovery of the Nexus and its promise of salvation, humanity had toyed with the possibilities of cybernetics and genetic manipulation. Transhumanists had long predicted that the original two-legged, two-armed form would give way to one more suitable to interplanetary exploration, but as centuries and millenia rolled by the people of Terra found themselves with too many other pressing issues to leave their old bodies behind.
That being said, minor alterations became more and more common, particularly in the field of medicine. Knowledge of the genome progressed by leaps and bounds, and at the time of the Gates a fully-equipped facility Earth-side could replace any lost limb or organ with a cloned copy, a robotic prosthetic, or even a specialized replacement entirely divorced from the original human form. While uncommon, career soldiers would even sometimes replace limbs with weapons or inhuman propulsion systems. These advancements were less common on the Nexus where facilities were limited, but as with all things, the War brought vast changes to the use of cyborg enhancements.
The greatest change was in how cybernetics could be applied to humans who had lost no limbs and had no need for repairs. Rather than replacing parts of the body, the existing framework could be enhanced: signals sent directly through the nervous and hormonal systems would force the body to adapt in ways of the programmer’s choosing. These implants ‘slept’ beneath the surface of the skin, causing no alteration to the owner’s appearance save for a simple barcode applied during surgery for easy identification, and so the technology was named Morpheus for an ancient Terran god of dreams.
The First Generations
Years after the wars had begun, Terra found itself in need of an advantage. The fey had yet to roll over and die, and despite their initial gains the human armies were having trouble making any permanent impact on their mercurial foes. A radical plan was hatched amongst high command to create a new breed of soldiers, soldiers who would put paid to the fey once and for all. The technology existed to increase strength, speed, even intellect, but to create the soldiers that Terra needed, the cost would be high.
The first generation of Cyborgs were volunteers from the New Earth Reconnaissance Force. After being subjected to a battery of rigorous tests for loyalty, strength of character, and physical endurance, they were implanted with a series of interconnected pieces of sub-dermal Morpheus technology that enhanced their muscle growth, immune system, neurological efficiency, reaction speed, and even the very thickness of their skin in order to make them pinnacles of human capability. They performed well, but their bodies never adapted as fully to the technology as high command would have liked.
A solution arose shortly after the first generation’s first forays into the wilds of Nexus. Through genetic alteration, a new breed of human could be vat-grown with the necessary chromosomes to allow for full integration with Morpheus technology. These new Cyborgs would comprise every successive generation, and would be able to safely play host to a shocking amount of enhancements with no perceivable side effects.
For decades that slowly turned into centuries the cyborgs were Terra’s most powerful warriors, able to shrug off blows that would cut a beastman in half and concoct plans that bewildered elves as old as time itself with their complexity. For all their might, however, they remained little more than slaves to the humans who had created them. Amongst their many Morpheus implants was a hidden device that prevented them from ever attacking a human or disobeying a direct order from high command. In this way they were kept shackled to armies that despised them, forced to undergo suicide missions and impossible attacks at the behest of those who had been given the luxury of a live birth.
In time cyborgs and beastmen were forced to fight one another, and the parallels between the species were not lost on the older cyborgs. They remembered their own creation and enslavement, and even as they killed beastmen in droves they saw a kindred spirit being snuffed out.
And this may have been how things continued in perpetuity, however, if not for Turner. A cyborg of the fifth generation, Turner suffered grievous wounds in a battle between cyborg and beastman regiments. Left for dead by his human keepers, Turner survived against all odds. Swimming in the depths of his pain and delirium, he glimpsed a land unlike any he had ever seen. In a way this Dream reminded him of the Nexus, a vast wilderness bereft of human or fey. But in time, he saw creatures he knew in his heart to be brothers and sisters. They were beastmen, and in this Dream he was one of them.
Turner awoke in a beastman hut, deep within a camp of the Black Claw. A renegade chieftain name Grim’s Blood had cared for him as he slept, sparing his life as he could see the mark of the beastman gods upon Turner’s brow. Grim’s Blood called the cyborg ‘brother,’ and knew him to be a beastman reborn in the flesh of a Terran slave- a sign from the gods that the two races’ struggles were one and the same.
While recuperating amongst the beastmen, Turner made another powerful discovery: the wound that had left him insensate upon the battlefield had disabled one device amongst the many that suffused his body: the one that compelled his loyalty to Terra. With this knowledge in hand, he bid Grim’s Blood farewell and returned to his people with a plan, and new purpose.
Within months the vast majority of cyborgs had seen their loyalty chips quietly disabled, and the knowledge of how to do so was quickly spreading throughout their ranks across the Nexus thanks to a handful of human sympathizers. At the battle of Pine Hills, Turner and Grim’s locked eyes across a battlefield not as enemies, but as comrades-in-arms. The cyborg and beastman forces under their respective command rebelled against their masters en masse, retreating into the wilderness to harass both sides for many long years, until the Crash and beyond.
The destruction of the Gates had little impact on the cyborgs psychologically; they had never been permitted to enter Earth space, living and dying for a home that was forever denied them. But over time the loss of purpose amongst the human ranks was felt by cyborgs as well. As humanity withdrew into smaller city-states, they fey continued their attacks without pause. In time many cyborgs found themselves defending the humans they had once despised from rampaging fey attacks, and their covert operations were one of the few things that stood between un-altered humans and complete annihilation at the hands of their old enemies.
Without a war to fight, the beastmen wavered in their loyalty to one-time allies amongst the cyborgs. Though they would never attack an established cyborg settlement, giving them the same reverence as their own Nursery bands, smaller communities or roaming groups of cyborgs were fair game. The Black Claws had long ago faded into legend, and Turner himself had been lost to his people for many years.
Some decades after the Crash, Turner had gathered his chosen Lieutenants to him. He charged them with the creation of the first cyborg strongholds, seven in all, and walked off into the deepest wilds of the Nexus alone. Some believe he sought the connection between his own Morpheus and the Beastman Dream, others that he was seeking out cyborgs that had been lost to time and the strange terrain of the Nexus. Still others whispered that he had simply lost the urge to fight, his foes on the run and his followers wise enough to go on without him, and that he had left to seek an honorable death.
The seven cyborg strongholds still remain, each led by a commander who holds the rank of Lieutenant in honor of those who founded the settlements at Turner’s order. Life in these settlements is not easy, as they remain organized along military lines and every cyborg is expected to give their lives maintaining their independence. Over the centuries this has only gotten more difficult as Morpheus tech has degraded, gone missing, and become more rare in general. Tinkers are often to blame for this rarity, as they cannibalize cybernetics to craft their strange half-baked inventions.
Outside of their own communities life is very hard for rogue cyborgs. Most city-states remember the cyborgs’ betrayal as though it happened only yesterday, and cyborgs and the tech that makes them strong are each worth large bounties. They find no acceptance among fey either, and so cyborgs that are uncomfortable among their own kind often find a place among like-minded felinae or small isolated communities of Terrans who do not keep the old grudges. In rare cases a particularly strong-willed cyborg can take control of a beastman Warband, but these must tread carefully: no cyborg since Turner has been able to enter the Dream, and without this font of racial knowledge it can be very difficult to understand the inner workings of the Beastman mind.
Those cyborgs who hide their nature or make a big enough reputation to overcome the stigma of their birth can be very successful, as the genetic makeup of their bodies allows for safer integration of tech than any other type of Terran. A cyborg who survives for long enough can be stronger than a beastman, tougher than a dwarf, faster than a felinae, and smarter than an elf. All it takes is time, wisdom, and the stubborn refusal to die that have defined cyborgs since their ancestors were first decanted.
Their Past, Earth’s Future
Humanity has always been a species in conflict with itself. From the earliest surviving records of their history, humans have been divided into tribes, clans, nations, and states that have warred amongst one another unceasingly. Despite this constant warfare, they managed to completely overpopulate their home planet in a matter of millennia.
Over many centuries the humans of Terra sought to expand beyond their birthplace, looking for new homes or at least additional resources on other planets within the universe in which they were born. Ships beyond counting were launched into the great darkness of outer space, each one tasked with finding suitable resources for colonization. Few were successful. Even when planets capable of supporting human life were discovered, the extensive terraforming required to make them sustainable was prohibitively expensive in terms of time and cost. Alongside these practical disappointments was another, more existential tragedy: for all its efforts, humanity found itself utterly alone in the cosmos.
Humanity soldiered on regardless, but as the planets of their home system were depleted of minerals and water, they began to despair. Apocalyptic cults and crackpot theorists proliferated thanks to the extensive media networks available; though few humans lacked basic creature comforts, they knew that they must either halt their irrepressible expansion or find some other method by which to find new worlds. The former would require them to sacrifice the personal freedom that humanity had prided for generations, and the latter seemed a physical impossibility.
Where traditional physics had utterly failed, a team of rogue scientists managed to succeed; rather than searching the primeval dark for new worlds to conquer, they sought out a method by which alternate universes hospitable to life might be contacted and, with any luck, colonized. Their labors bore fruit in the Nexus project, and – without realizing it – humanity was to change the fate of the multiverse forever.
The New Earth Reconnaissance Force
When the first stable gate was opened, the world that awaited a combined team of soldiers and researchers was beyond their wildest dreams. Flora and fauna abounded in profusion unmatched on Earth or her colonies for thousands of years. The resources of this new dimension seemed limitless, and it was not long before more personnel began to flood across the new gates that were built in the wake of the original’s success.
It did not take long for humanity’s vanguard to encounter spontaneous, shorter-lived gates. Some opened and closed harmlessly, while others deposited bewildered and enraged beasts in the path of the early colonists. Terran scientists theorized that the unusually high amount of interdimensional activity would have to be unique to this new plane, and so dubbed their discovered world The Nexxus, as it seemed to be the heart of all possible realities.
Eventually they discovered this world’s first indigenous race: the dwarves. Hardy folk whose craftsmanship was apparent in every ware they created, they seemed eager to trade but close-lipped about anything else. They found humans’ wares crude due to their mass production, but proved unable to duplicate the technological marvels of mother Terra. Within a few years human colonists were able to strike up rudimentary trade agreements with the various dwarven kingdoms, but no Terran was ever allowed beyond the borders into the dwarves’ fantastic underground kingdoms themselves.
It was during one of these early trade meetings that humanity first encountered what would become their greatest enemy: the Fey of Arcadia. At this time they had no inkling of the war that would rip their societies apart, and the two races fascinated one another utterly. Humans had never encountered the effortless magics of the elves and fairies, and the technological weapons and electronic goods of humanity’s scientists were completely unknown to fey ambassadors.
Though they found one another worthy of study, Terra and Arcadia had little in common. Rudimentary trade was established, but humans believed themselves incapable of learning the magic of faerie just as the fae saw no need to use machines for what the Song could accomplish for them.
Believing themselves to understand the dwarves and elves as well as those long-lived races would allow them to in the mere decades of human life, Terran colonists branched ever outward from the sites of their initial gates. As they plunged deeper and deeper into the Nexxus wilderness they eventually found another race which claimed to be native to their new home: the felinae. Bipedal creatures very similar to old Earth’s cats, they and humans proved fast friends. Human colonists were more than happy to trade their mass-produced creature comforts for felinae hunters’ meats and furs, and felinae guides were more capable than any other race of understanding the ever-changing Nexxus landscape.
What is a Man?
The humans who relocated to Nexxus came from many backgrounds and were as varied in their goals as any group of people from earlier centuries on Earth. It is important to note, however, that these humans were inspired by centuries of failed colonization and millennia of solitude in a mundane, banal universe. They were constantly surprised by the world that they had found on the other side of the gates, and were overjoyed at finding that other sapient races inhabited creation. Though their enthusiasm was somewhat tempered by the gruff welcome of dwarves and the unthinking condescension of immortal elves, they gobbled up the lore of their new home and were unironically charmed by the acceptance of primitive felinae tribes. In time some even came to understand magic, learning from well-meaning felinae how to tap into the universal Song.
News and discoveries from the Nexxus rapidly became the most popular subjects of Earth-side media, and the demand for new information was nearly as high as the desire to move to this new world in person. Terrans from all walks of life and from many different planets crowded the offices of the Gate Lottery, hoping their family’s number would be chosen for the next wave of settlement. Their home universe had become a symbol of futility, but the Nexxus seemed an endless font of life and opportunity. Thousands of soldiers, scientists, and civilians flooded through the Gates in what felt like an all-embracing homecoming.
The Gate War- A Crucible of Worlds
Great celebrations were planned for the achievement of the Million-Mark: the Nexxus would be home to a million colonists, signaling the dimension’s full opening to wide-scale settlement. Mega-corps and nation-states alike awaited their opportunity to seize new land and resources, and humans throughout the known universe awaited their chance to grasp a piece of the Nexxus for themselves. What was intended as an interplanetary festival, however, turned overnight into a frenzy of despair and outrage.
Without warning, half a million of the Nexxus settlers were dead, and another quarter-million were terribly injured in wide-scale attacks. The survivors laid the blame at the feet of the fey, particularly the elves. Within forty-eight hours every major organization within communication’s reach of Earth had put forth a call to arms, and humans poured into the Nexxus to seek revenge.
No race on the Nexxus had taken the Terrans’ claims of their numbers seriously, and their weapons took a terrible toll upon of the elves and their servant races. Fey communities were eradicated from afar, impossibly powerful guns and munitions cleaving through magical defenses as if they weren’t even there. The fey proved poor generals, and their troops lacked the discipline that generations of war had instilled into humans and their commanders. Within days the fey were driven back through their gates, and humanity believed their blood-debt to have been satisfied.
The fey are patient beyond human comprehension, however, and after the early gains of the New Earth Reconnaissance Force’s multinational coalition the fey burst forth from their gates with a ferocity their opponents could never have anticipated. Wielding terrible new magics, the fey carved through Terran regiments in short order, more than making up for their lost territory.
Terran scientists scrambled to come up with an edge. Guns and magic seemed evenly matched: human engineering could manufacture weapons of enormous destruction, but the elves and their ritualists could match these advances stroke for stroke by calling upon the very fabric of reality itself. Long-forgotten sciences of bio-manipulation and cybernetic enhancement were tapped. One simple but fundamentally important discovery was the ability to gene-lock the more advanced pieces of tech to respond only to human operators. The fey rapidly found their ammunition stores running dry, and were no longer able to turn the weapons pouring through Earth’s gates against their makers.
Humans never truly threw anything away, and so within a few short years their technological expertise allowed the first generation of Morpheus Cyborgs to be unleashed upon the unsuspecting fey. Stronger, faster, tougher, and smarter than any other creature the fey had ever seen, the cyborgs forced their magical foes back to the gates in short order. Once again, however, the fey had a trick up their sleeve. Seeing the pure might of cyborgs, they used their magics to call forth a force of total savagery. Manipulating mere beasts through their magical ability, they called forth all the power of nature to craft a race of beastmen to counter the cyborgs.
Neither fey nor human was prepared for the Betrayal. Amongst Terrans, cyborgs were second class citizens at best and meat shields at worst. They were often thrown into unwinnable conflicts to save the lives of ‘real humans,’ and were never allowed back through the gates to see the world they were fighting for. At the battle of Pine Hills, cyborgs and beastmen turned on their makers and became the third faction in a war that already seemed destined to go on forever.
In a single blinding instant, the war was over. Though fighting would continue for centuries, both Terra and Arcadia were cut off from the Nexxus. Every gate failed at once in a flash of white light that forced every being on the surface of the Nexxus to its knees. Human scientists blamed a catastrophic failure of fey magic, but proved unable to reopen any gate no matter what theories they applied. Many of these researchers dispersed into the wilderness, sparking the creation of roving bands of Tinkers that roam the Nexxus to this day.
Unable to retreat and still locked into the stalemate that had defined the war for centuries, a billion surviving humans continued the fight their ancestors had begun. If only they could drive back the fey, they could take stock of what had happened and reunite with their home world.
Years passed and no new gates opened, and in truth no progress was made in the war on either side. Terran soldiers drifted away from the frontlines, unwilling to carry on fighting for a world that many of them had never seen. The fey were not so quick to forget, however, and became the bogeymen of many Terran settlements. Even the most peaceful village might be cruelly exterminated by fey murderers, and so humanity banded together in an echo of the earliest years of their civilizations.
Even after humans abandoned the war, they were beset by raiders from the fey and their former beastman servants, not to mention demons from the void and beasts that had stalked the Nexxus for time immemorial. Clinging to what technology they could, human communities joined forces to create bastions of civilization in the wilderness, shining points of light in the darkness that surrounded them. These city-states are where most humans live to this day, secure behind their walls and ever wary for attack.
Humans have not forgotten the many atrocities committed by the fey during the Gate War, and the haughtiness of elven diplomats has done little to temper this animosity. Many city-states still have a bounty on the heads of fey and beastmen, and these races are almost never welcome inside their walls. Cyborgs are likewise feared and hated by the majority of humans, though the Morpheus tech they bear is often far more valuable than any bounty.
The friendship of felinae is remembered by many human families, and in some cases there has even been intermarriage between particularly close communities of the two races. This is the exception rather than the rule, however, and while felinae are welcome to trade in human realms they are not generally allowed to be citizens. Isolation has been a valuable survival strategy for humans, and they are loath to break this rule even for their one-time friends.
Dwarves are excellent trading partners, now that they have reentered the surface world, and can often be persuaded to exchange their well-made wares for technical manuals that no human is capable of understanding anymore. They are not seen as friends, however, and human-dwarven trade agreements tend to be very precisely defined as a matter of course. Though they were hardly friends before the war, humanity remembers that as their first colonists were viciously persecuted by elven magic, the dwarves stood back and did nothing.
Revenants and mutants are of a kind in the eyes of most humans: monsters to be put down. Death magic remains disturbing to this very day, and mutation brings back nascent memories of planet-shattering warfare many millennia in Terra’s past.
All this being said, there remains within humanity that spark that first excited them when they arrived on Nexxus. Though many are content to hide in their city-states’ walls and shut out the amazing world around them, thousands of humans travel out into the wilds every year in search of new and exciting things, or to find the lost technology that is their birthright. Humans remain a hardy people, and those who shake off the prejudices of their upbringing are amongst the staunchest friends that any member of any race on the Nexxus could ask for.
Terra and Beyond
Before the secrets of Gate technology were unlocked, humanity sought out new worlds to call their own. The combed the galaxy in great interplanetary ships, crewed by hundreds or even thousands of well-equipped colonists. Though terraforming and galactic exploration never reached the high hopes of these journeys’ sponsors back on the home world, they did teach scientists and psychologists invaluable lessons about the universe and how humans saw themselves within it.
At the vanguard of these expeditions were a special breed of human, true explorers fueled by a combination of inquenchable curiosity and endless wanderlust. Terran natives who had the opportunity to visit off-world colonies on worlds like Mars, Venus, and the moons of Jupiter would come home with stories of pilgrims who found a strange joy in their difficult lives. Though at some level all of humanity understood that their time was running out and that the scant resources of their universe would soon spell doom for their way of life, there remained certain adventurous souls that could not help but find joy in whatever ways they could.
When the Gates were opened, just as many of the early exploration units were sponsored by major mega-corporations as were commissioned by governmental bodies. These conglomerations wanted the best minds that they could afford, and so they sent hiring managers all across human space to find scientists who would hold up in an unknown field rather than only in the laboratory. With their way back to Earth and through the Gates paid in full, and promises of huge paychecks to feed their worldly desires, these intrepid adventurers were more than happy to forge the path that the rest of humanity would follow.
It became rapidly apparent that while the traditional scientists of Earth were of more use in the development and maintenance of established technology, it was the off-world ‘tinkerers’ who were better suited to the jury-rigging and improvisation that long-term excursions into the Nexus wilderness inevitably entailed. They were also most often the ones who could best deal with Nexus-side Gate malfunctions. Their knowledge of equipment being more instinctive than intellectual, they could rapidly adapt and reroute systems to keep up with the unpredictable spatial alterations that caused havoc with so many static facilities on the Nexus’ surface.
Tinkers Go to War
Over the centuries of development and pathfinding that preceded the Gate War, ‘Tinker’ became a by-word for Terrans that concerned themselves more with technology than anything else. Though other humans were very often scientists and technicians, a tinker would rely on creativity and personal experience passed down by their fellow explorers rather than book learning. If a mission called for a tech specialist, a Terran unit would look for a corp-sponsored Tinker rather than a New Earth Reconnaissance Force science officer nine times out of ten. This caused some friction at first, but in the end it was the Tinker predilection toward seeing the Nexus first-hand that saved them where nearly all of Earth’s proper scientists were wiped out.
When the war started, Tinkers served alongside other Terrans with all the pride of their less eccentric fellows. Slapping weapons back together mid-fight, breaching fortifications with bizarre improvised munitions, and disrupting enemy positions with completely inexplicable inventions were just the start of their contributions to the war effort. Possibly their most important responsibility was the maintenance of the Gate systems. No matter how badly a fey attack might damage a given Gate superstructure, a Tinker could always be counted on to find some piece of tech or another to slap into place to keep the whole thing humming.
Despite their affinity for technology, Tinkers on the whole cannot claim to have been any more kind to the cyborgs than other Terrans. Morpheus tech was highly sophisticated and an excellent source for rare materials, but fascination with their technological underpinnings was no substitute for actual respect.
On the other hand, many Tinkers found themselves getting along famously with felinae- Tinkers claim credit for the devices that allowed felinae to use high-tech weaponry even after gene-locking became common. In some felinae tribes the Tinkers found kindred spirits, beings invested in their world but able to not take it all too seriously. Felinae mages and Tinker engineers made some of the only significant advances in techno-magical cross-disciplinary study. Sadly, most of this research was lost in the aftermath of the Crash, and without the pressure of war to focus further study it has been difficult to find those with the interest and expertise to make the effort again.
The Crash and the Diaspora
When the Crash came it was as much a surprise to the Tinkers as it was to anyone else. Gates that were in perfect working order failed just as surely as those that had been on the fritz for years. Since fey gates had failed as well, every Tinker on the Nexus breathed a sigh of relief- there was no way that Terra as a whole could hold them to blame. That being said, the devastation that surrounded most Gate sites was catastrophic, and the survivors fled together into the wastes.
Tinkers took their knowledge of the Gates with them when they fled, and many Terrans still blame them for their scientists’ failure to open the way back to Earth. Many city-states hold Tinkers as little better than fey or cyborgs, and while bounties on Tinkers are uncommon they are also generally kept from settling too close to a major settlement for too long.
So far as the Tinkers themselves are concerned, however, they are simply making the best of the situation as it has fallen to them. The Nexus sustains them in comfort, and they retain enough of the old tech to keep them relatively safe in a dangerous world. They travel the world in small caravans, searching out lost scraps of technology from the long-lost ages of Earth’s past. What they can repair they use, and what they can’t repair they keep as decoration for their tents and clothing. Burnt out circuit boards and frayed lengths of wire often adorn the hats and coats of Tinker merchants seen in Terran city-states.
That being said, Tinkers have a reputation in those same city-states as remorseless technology thieves. Very few of the traditional sciences have survived to the present day, and Tinkers often believe themselves to be the only safe keepers of artifacts from humanity’s past. Cyborgs are often victims of this theft as well, and particularly ruthless Tinkers hearken back to ghoulish wartime rumors and ‘liberate’ Morpheus tech from cyborgs whether they want to part with it or not.
Another well-earned reputation that Tinkers have to deal with is their boundless love for earthly pleasures. Whenever the raw materials can be brought together, vast Soma stills fuel the revelry of Tinker bands and lead them into even more trouble than they can manage while sober. Over the centuries Tinkers have formed many legends of how easy life was Earth-side, and some bands travel to piece Gate technology back together in the hopes that they can return to what was essentially an endless party.
Remembering their corporate roots, Tinker bands are led by a See’eo and his or her team of Vice’s. Each Vice oversees one particular part of the band’s livelihood, so there will often be a Vice of Defense who is a capable warrior, a Vice of R&D in charge of identifying and experimenting on tech the band discovers, and a Vice of R&R who maintains the Soma stills and keeps an eye out for interesting substances with which to entertain their fellows. Band structure is fairly fluid, and it is not unheard of for smaller bands to join together, called a Merjah, or break into smaller bands, inexplicably referred to by some Tinkers as ‘when the stock splits.’
Tinkers make life interesting for many on the Nexus. Whether their experiments cause unexpected headaches for nearby city-states or their technology makes its way into the hands of successful beastman raiders, the fact of the matter is that Tinkers are some of the only humans left who test the limits of their knowledge and push their race’s heritage forward. They are simultaneously the keepers of ancient secrets and the purveyors of new theories, and there is more than one person on the Nexus who owes their life to a grease-stained Tinker and their oversized gun.
The pantheon of greater powers present through Nexus is as diverse as the beings that inhabit it. You will find mention and worship of beings of all levels of power, from a wizened old story teller, to powers that could crush an entire city in the palm of their hand.
All of these extraordinary beings have purview’s, or areas of influence where they both draw their power from and are most able to have an affect on the Nexus.
The powers beyond what mortals can reach are generically called “Divinities” and are broken down into three general groups.
Scions – Beings that mostly act as a bridge between the mortal peoples and the rest of the divinities. Most seem to be connected or tied to another greater power.
Lesser Divinity – A host of powerful entities are considered the Lesser Divinity. You will find Demon warlords, mercurial story tellers, crotchety healers, and guides to the afterlife among there rank.
Greater Divinity – Beings so powerful that it seems little is able to shake them. There are five well known Greater Divinities that are said to be guardians of Nexus, keeping other powerful creatures from pressing their way into Nexus.
Scion of Lost Souls.
God of Conflict, War, Negotiation, Diplomacy, and Strife. Most closely associated with the magic path of War.
God of Honor, Defense, Secrets, and Order. Most closely associated with the magic path of Protection.
God of Endings, Revenge, and Dis-order. Most closely associated with the magic path of Death.
God of Mystery, Knowledge, and Fertility. Most closely associated with the magic path of Life.
The Flayed Lady
God of Transformation, Desire, Suffering, and Personal Truth. Most closely associated with the magic path of Pain.