Realms Not Meant For Men:
The world in the logical end result of a mythos I have been developing for a long time now and has finally reached this stage. This is all a first draft of course. Credit and thanks go to B.Munro/Quantumbranching's “A Study In Emerald: the world, 1881” and Vongrief's “Theocracy: Empire of Abominations” which provided the impetus I needed to finally get all of this down on paper.
Warning immense walls of text.
The sun is both dimmed and blinding as it moves across a sky that can be covered, clear or constantly shifting in an unending kaleidoscope of colours. In several places sky appears to waver constantly with a thick haze that never clears and often shifts in appearance or colour. Grotesque patterns commonly appear and many believe that the messages of the Gods are written in them.
It has been nearly two centuries since the rise of the New Gods and the end of the Dominion of Men. All manner of abominations and monstrosities have emerged from the hidden places of the world to dance in the warped light of day and preyed upon the living. This time of feasting was swiftly put to a halt as those New Gods who had risen to supremacy brought their fists down on the disobedient creatures and shackled them to their wills. The battle for the Seven had been ongoing for years and had now escalated to encompass the mortal world as the nations of man were overthrown and enslaved by the fledgling deities.
Of course the transitional phase was difficult and humanity fought back with all the vigour that desperation could provide. Governments that had nuclear arsenals soon wasted no more time in launching them as the nature and purposes of the New Gods became apparent. Immense damage was wrought upon the planet and the initial environmental effects were disastrous to say the least. Hundreds of millions died either from the slaughter, nuclear blasts, fallout, starvation and the sheer horror of what was happening to them. Several New Gods were also felled but this simply left more room for the more powerful to move into. Soon enough the last of humanity was beaten down and the New Gods set about to partitioning their fiefdoms in an almost civilized manner (only one more died in the ensuing brawl and her domain was partitioned yet again).
Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on whom you ask, the New Gods had little to no difficulty adapting modern technology if they so wished to and soon enough the slave populations were put to work rebuilding whatever industry had been devastated in the arrival. Cities were rebuilt and often expanded, new temples were constructed and humans were forced into these settlements, sometimes even if they were irradiated from their former resistance and forced to work, worship and breed. Every New god made their realm into what they desired and shaped the inhabitants within them.
The most powerful of the New Gods of course chose the land that hosted the most powerful nation on the planet. North America was subjugated by the Highlord with extreme brutality and efficiency. The Highlord almost seemed to delight in breaking the Land of the Free to his will and turning the people into slaves that lacked identity or direction unless the Highlord gave it to them. The domain of the Highlord is a land of vast gleaming adamantine cities, polished silver and built in elaborate patterns that boggle the mind. Great towers and obelisks of shining metal and glass rise impossibly high into the air and touch the clouds whilst beneath massive road networks shuffle the orderly traffic both organic and vehicular through the cities on their unending duties. These cities are designed, built, inhabited, abandoned and demolished according to the whims of the Highlord. All are built to his design for perfection and he never accepts or even entertains opposition to his decisions. The people of North America are a broken race. Blank faced and almost mechanical in their actions, they perform their duties in solemn silence, ever waiting for new commands. As they wait for new orders they repeat their previous instructions and work to make sure that the will of the Highlord is carried out. Every aspect of their lives is micromanaged and they can be sure that someone somewhere is watching them. The criminal acts that a citizen can be charged for are near infinite for disrupting the Highlord's plan is an act worthy of death. Those who are guilty are dragged away by blank masked attendants to the massive temple complexes to be fed to the unending fires that burn at their centre. The means of surveillance are varied and range from mundane technological means such as cameras and radio bugs to a menagerie of spawn that monitor the populace in ever more frightening and fantastical ways.
Dissidence of any kind is a the gravest of crimes and rebels are hunted mercilessly by the masked soldiers and faceless spawn of the Highlord. Priests dedicated to his will house a portion of his essence within themselves and use it to gain the ability to discern he thoughts of the populace. This is claimed to be the means by which the people are protected from the vile machinations of the other New Gods but it does also provide a handy means of policing their thoughts as well. The Highlord's spawn are vaguely humanoid creatures of liquid rock and metal that constantly shift and change according to the will of their progenitor, they are asexual, faceless and devoted to the Highlord. The Highlord also often combines his spawn with the weapons and vehicles produced in his realm and turn them into living constructs that shift and change their purpose according to the rigours of battle and the strategy that they have been given. Some of his slaves and spawn do possess some initiative and free thought but they too are limited by his desires and only show some personality whilst still remaining incapable of contradicting his commands lest they be destroyed as a demonstration. They are often given command of a portion of his empire as viceroys or commanders of his armies so that they may attend to certain matters that would distract him from his plans for perfection (or he may consider them too far below him at the time). However they are few in number and only have rudimentary individuality for the Highlord rarely tolerates deviance of any form and prefers instead to handle all matters in his own manner. A few other areas were able to hold off his conquest at first and now also exist as vassals. However like his vassals these vassals have now been engulfed by his will and possess no initiative of their own. His empire does possess a gargantuan bureaucracy that is devoted to managing even the smallest of affairs but they too are simply slaves carrying out the instructions of the brash yet noble voice that instructs them in their endless tasks.
In a gargantuan city at the centre of his domain sits the Highlord, in a vast manor house built like a strange cross between a mansion, castle keep and luxury high rise building. Though he still retains a human form, the Highlord now prefers a new appearance to make his power evident. The Highlord is a vast shifting mass, composed of rich metals and precious that flow and shift like liquid stones, the Highlord is a living testament to wealth and affluence. His bulk fills nearly every room in the building and his mere presence is crushingly apparent to all who approach his home. At the end of a great corridor that begins at the immense gateway to his home and continues for several miles is the Highlord's throne. Here a portion of his being sits and attends to the matters of state. His 'head' is surrounded by scribes that record every single proclamation that is made. They work endlessly, often wasting away before hunger, thirst or fatigue claim them and they are dragged off to be replaced by another. The throne is also surrounded by enormous silver statues, bearing massive blades, they remain motionless yet have a living presence that whilst minute in comparison to their liege lord, is great enough to unnerve and cow any who approach them.
However the Highlord does grace his subjects with his presence. Often travelling in his human forms and performing speeches and visits to the masses. Like all ego-maniacal despots, the Highlord does possess numerous habits and eccentricities that he often makes apparent whilst he travels. His appearance often changes over time in the most bizarre fashions, all still displaying his wealth and power in some way but this matters little to his subjects who will notice his actions but will never comment or deride, a truly captive audience.
The entity known to most as the Earth Child of course gravitated to the largest and richest forest on the planet and jealously guarded it from any attempt to encroach on it by the others. She found the realm she had chosen for herself still verdant but the forces of man were tearing it apart with every passing day. Using here power she tore down cities, ripped apart roads and railways and slaughtered millions to enrich the soil that she would grow her garden in. Her domain is now a vast and wild forest, even where no tree could grow before, trees dominate the landscape, growing in impossible shapes and sizes and moving in a breeze of their own even when the wind does not blow. These plants are tended by the dryads, her spawn who resemble humans from a distance. On closer inspection they appear as some twisted being formed from a human woman, a wasp and a jungle cat, composed entirely from various forms of vegetation. The other inhabitants of the realm remain hidden from sight, squatting in the leafy bowers and stifling canopy of the trees or crawling through the thick undergrowth that choke the forest floor. No cities exist in this realm for they are a threat to the forest. Instead the half-human half-plant inhabitants exist as part of the forest itself, sinking into the vegetation itself when they are not needed. However the Earth Child still requires human sacrifices to sustain herself and will trade with a the few other New Gods she can tolerate. They give her surplus humans in return for whatever precious minerals and other resources her minions can tear out of the impossibly rich and loamy soil.
The Earth Child has no capital or throne and instead travels through her domain, constantly tending her vast garden. She appears as a vaguely human figure, floating above the ground, with a somewhat feminine body composed of bark, vines, leaves and an unidentifiable green substance. Behind her trails a long mat of grass, leaves, twigs and flowers that floats above the ground, attached to her arms, shoulders and head it covers her like a cloak and floats in the same breeze as the trees. The Earth Child has no interests beyond her garden and seeks to spread it to all corners of the globe. The conflicts of her fellow New Gods is no concern of hers and she only goes to war when they present a threat to her domain. However, like her peers, she has interests and designs of her own. Many times she has summoned great armies of living plants, twisted and thorny dryads and her mutated 'human' servants to expand the forest. She and her her minions possess an especial hatred for the Lady of Iron and her cold mechanical realm.
Much of Northern Europe is now in the hands of the Grey King, also known as the Young Wolf, who rules over his fiefs with an iron fist. His realm is a land of vast sprawling cities, Gothic temple complexes and vast military complexes that evoke the castles of Medieval Europe. The towers of these structures reach high into the air and are adorned with pennants, propaganda pieces and,of course, the bodies of criminals and rebels. The people of Northern Europe live in abject poverty, slaving away in dirty black factories to produce weapons for the Grey King's ever expanding armies. Enormous high rises house the millions of slaves and pen them in when their daily duties end. Heavily armoured soldiers enforce the laws of the Grey King alongside loping shadowy wolves, the size of horses. The secret police are a vast variety of entities both mortal or otherwise. A well organized combination of both technological and mystical methods are employed to make sure that the population remains both productive and co-operative. Outside the cities and the agricultural complexes that feed them are the endless forests that the Grey King favours. These are the hunting grounds of impossibly large predators, many of whom are monstrous chimeras of men and various beasts that parody the more natural inhabitants of the forests. Rebels and runaways who seek safety in the almost impenetrable boughs of the forests will find no safety for the predators obey the will of the Grey King and they will inevitably be killed by the massive wolves and bears, the ghouls or the forest hags that lurk in the shadows of the immense trees.
The Grey King often maintains his human guise when he inhabits the cities of his subjects. He comes before them as a young boy with ghostly white skin and darkened silver hair, his eyes are completely pale blue and the sides of his mouth are permanently stained a dark reddish brown. His palace is built in the now expanded city of Berlin, a massive citadel of granite, limestone and iron. Here he watches over the immense bureaucracy that manages the affairs of his empire and organizes preparations for the war effort. However outside of the cities he adopts the form of a massive wolf with silver fur that flow across his body and a mane that waves like a burning flame. When he moves he leaves behind ghostly images that pull at the minds of those who observe him and the very essence of winter seems to follow him as frost forms where he steps and cold winds blow with his every breath. The Grey King's focus is on building his realm and his power until it is sufficient to properly challenge his rivals. All productivity is devoted to building the necessary equipment and infrastructure. Factories manned by chained and broken slaves churn out tanks, guns, planes and ammunition. Every coastal city that can support a dry dock cobbles together submarines and massive floating fortresses that bristle with guns and landing platforms for aircraft and the beasts that he commands. Foul creatures are armed in the same manner as his human soldiers. Weapons formed of impossible strong metals are given to soldiers who are put through gruelling training regimen and all of this is observed by spectre like enforcers that prepare the people of Europe for the Grey King's grand plan. Only after all this is complete will the Great Hunt begin and never end.
The Mediterranean became the home of the Master of Secrets who laboured to establish a mighty empire capable of standing up to his rivals and brethren and then immediately began his games of intrigue and anarchy. His realm is by far the most divided with vassals both human and monstrous being given authority over a particular fief within his domain and then pitted against one another in a deadly game of cloak and dagger. The Master of Secret' realms are maintained almost miraculously for he enjoys the anarchy of his game and delights in turning every single facet of his government against one another. Murder, sabotage and theft are common occurrences in his realm and someone’s deepest and darkest secret may suddenly be brought to light by their neighbour. No-one can be trusted and the Master of Secrets works to keep it that way for he is the one who seeks all knowledge and then distributes it amongst his subjects and rivals at his own discretion for his own amusement. By his hand memories and truths that were buried long ago are uncovered and may be delivered into the hands of another to be used as they will. However there is a balance to be maintained. Civil war has not yet become an issue though feuds do often turn violent and involve large groups of people (often families or the closest equivalent). The Master of Secrets can not yet afford absolute chaos for he must present a front to his fellow New Gods if he does not wish to be invaded immediately. Most cities in his realm are unchanged save for the mound like temples where sacrifices are performed to feed him. However industry does continue even as employer and employee distrust one another. Weapons of war are churned out and attached to the massive insect like creatures that are his spawn. Swarms of insects crawl through his cities, burrowing into homes in search of knowledge for the Master of Secrets to exploit, scurrying into every crevice and even into the mouths and other orifices of sleeping mortals. In the Mediterranean sea, battle ships bristling with guns and strange pod like structures fire his kin at the enemy where they can be embedded and burrow through enemy hulls. When war does take place, massive swarms on bugs scurry or fly alongside his armies and fall upon the enemy to tear them apart.
The Master of Secrets makes his home in the former city of Rome. The whole city has been converted into his palace which appears like a blend between an Egyptian pyramid and a termite mound. Within the vast structure, great halls and corridors twist and turn, alcoves are carved into the walls for people to hide within, the best to intrigue and spy with, and corridors that go on for miles lead to immense vaulted halls that stretch on for miles in every direction. At the heart of this foul hive is the Master of Secrets' throne room. The Master of Secrets rarely assumes his human form anymore and instead appears to others as an insectoid creature, twice the height of a grown man with a solid black mask covering the lower half of its face, numerous eyes that see in every direction and two vast bug like wings, black and tattered, they lie over his chitinous frame and cover him like a cloak. Though his mandibles and mouth are covered, every being in his empire can hear his chattering voice, whispering favours, promises and secrets directly into their minds. The Master of Secrets never lies for he has no need to. He simply dispenses knowledge as he sees fit and watches with glee as his servants turn upon one another.
South of his realm lies Egypt, the land of his nemesis. When the New Gods returned the Chronicler of Ages was not concerned with expansion or war. He simply took a land of his preference and set once more to his endless work. Egypt provides sacrifices and the population are told to breed and spread through his domain to maintain it. Administration is handled by both human bureaucrats and the spindly spider people that attend the Chronicler of Ages. Every building is adorned with carvings of eyes that look upon every facet of their lives. Every room has carvings within and through them the Chronicler of Ages can observe them and their duties. Much like the Highlord, their lives are managed and scheduled and any deviation is a crime punishable by cruel death through sacrifice. Everything must be neat and orderly and above all it must be recorded and presented to the temples for the Chronicler of Ages to receive, absolutely everything. Education is important and every soul within the Chronicler of Ages' realm is subjected to a punishing curriculum, the better to serve his needs. Though the recordings of his servants are imperfect they provide a base from which he can correct their mistakes. His temples are equally part administrative building, part sacrificial complex and part library where knowledge is presented as tribute before it is sent to the capital. The army does not fight to expand but legions of soldiers armed with impossible weapons taken from a multitude of different realities fight the enemies of the Chronicler of Ages, their strategies flawlessly devised by the spider people who whisper their new orders directly into the minds of every solider and expect them to be executed without mistake. However whilst the Chronicler of Ages can perceive all realities at once even he struggles to distinguish one realm from another. The weapons he uncovers for his followers and nigh unstoppable but are often poorly constructed, their designs cobbled together from many different realities at once, and can rapidly become a danger to their wielder as well as their opponents.
Alexandria once again graces the Nile Delta with its magnificent presence. Far larger than its previous iterations, the city is the Chronicler of Ages' capital and the site of his Great Library. The city differs little in appearance from the many other cities of Egypt but it is the Great Library that makes the capital so special. For within the Great Library lies every piece of knowledge in existence. The Chronicler of Ages can perceive all realities, every alternate reality, every choice that was taken, may be taken and could have been taken. All of Creation is his to observe and it drove him insane long ago. The Chronicler of Ages takes no human form anymore and instead stands as a tall and slender creature with a thin gaunt figure and a round head, featureless save for a pair of purely black eyes that can pierce a man’s very essence. He is covered by a great black cloak with numerous limbs and proboscis that write down all that he knows. Every single piece of information, right down to the smallest detail of the most infinitesimal atom, from across all realities must be recorded, categorised and catalogued before they are placed on the appropriate shelf in the Great Library. His task is truly endless and yet he feels compelled to complete it for he no longer perceives anything in a linear fashion. His recordings are his only stable basis of reality and he must have them in order to see. The Library itself is far larger than Egypt itself and goes on for eternity, made up of impossible large corridors and passages. All the walls from their base to the impossibly high ceiling, are lined with shelves. Shelves containing books, samples and artefacts from every part of Creation and that stretch onwards into the ever present gloom that shrouds the Library. On the shelves also lie the Chronicler of Ages' attendants. Once human scribes and administrators, they have been mummified and preserved in jars of opaque glass. When they are needed they rouse themselves from their slumber, leave the jars and attend to whatever matter their master requires. To be employed in such a manner is seen as a great honour by the Chronicler of Ages and some, often disturbed individuals, even volunteer for the process.
The Lady of Iron claimed the lands of Africa and its mineral wealth for her own designs and immediately set about constructing the realm she desired. Africa is a land of industry. Enormous sprawling cities cover as much landscape as possible with high rises, factories, roads and parade grounds. Enormous industrial complexes process resources, manufacture goods and recycle as much as possible. Nothing must be wasted for every resource must be used for the cities expansion. Civilians lives are dominated by their work. Whilst they can expect, without a doubt, three meals a day and some domestic time, the majority of their lives are spent working whether it be in the factories, the fields, the construction sites or the army. The temples where they worship the Lady of Iron are massive complexes of steel towers and chimneys that belch smoke in praise of their master. Here great pits of burning oil and massive machines of rotating blades and grinders consume those who are chosen as sacrifices to feed the Lady of Iron for there is no more noble a death than that of the machine. Every single mechanical or metallic product created in the realm of the Lady of Iron is alive with her will and possesses a portion of her purpose. Careless citizens who do not respect the maintenance of such devices will find that the tools they use will suddenly turn on them violently. Outside the cities are the massive agricultural complexes, pesticides and genetically enhanced crops ensure that the bountiful crops of the land still feel the sweet kiss of technology. Equally enormous industrial complexes scour the land for raw materials to use, trees are farmed and the earth is strip mined in the search for more resources to expand and maintain the urban sprawl. The streets of these cities are patrolled by bulky clanking automatons that prowl the streets under the command of the Lady of Iron in search of criminals and dissidents. These metallic beasts are equipped with enormous weapons and show no hesitance in using them on any who they believe threaten the safety of the state.
The Lady of Iron does not confine herself to one location but instead travels through the power relays of her realm bathing in the purity of electricity and imparting her will through the digital screens across the land. If the Lady of Iron wishes to appear before her subjects, she often does as a figure composed of metal. However unlike the Highlord's liquid alloy she instead appears as a mass of pulsing and writhing machinery, a shapeless engine that constantly whirs and clanks. Gears and pumps in constant motion. From this machine emits the voices of many women of various ages who sweetly speak to those she addresses. However more often she remains the Ghost in the Machine and uses her incorporeal form to traverse her realm and observe her subjects. In her extensive computer networks there is no safety, she is every camera, every radio, every cable and every screen. She is everywhere for no settlement goes without the fruits of industry and even the smallest and most remote region of her realm is ensured that they will receive the latest technological developments Africa has to offer.
When the New Gods rose to power the Angel of Death fought hard to claim the land of his preference. Though he had to confront the twisted tricks and machinations of the Master of Secrets and the infinite strategy of the Chronicler of Ages he won out through sheer determination and power. From his power-base in Palestine he expanded into the Middle East and from there into Central Asia. At the Hill of Megiddo he finally vanquished the armies of the Chronicler of Ages when his physical form emerged onto the world and smote the Egyptian force. The fiefdom of the Angel of Death was transformed into a truly Holy Land that bathed in the words and the divinity of the Angel of Death and soon enough all of its inhabitants prostrated themselves before him. West Asia is now a land of massive temple cities, vast layered complexes house millions with the great temples dominating the centre of every settlement. Every building is painted white as the Angel of Death commands and the walls of every temple bear the fresh blood of a sacrifice. At seemingly random locations in the countryside are burial grounds, equally massive and elaborate as the cities, these necropolises bear the dead of every settlement for miles around them. The great mausoleums and tombs are filled almost to bursting with the dead and consecrated with eldritch runes and markings. Unless a burial is taking place, these necropolis are left abandoned by all but the gaunt priests who attend and maintain the necropolis with stiff robotic attention. Massive processions constantly snake their way across the roads of the domain of the Angel of Death bearing crucified bodies and wailing hymns of praise to the glory and power of the Angel of Death. Whenever conflict arises the dead of the necropolis stir, they crawl out of their tombs, blazing flames leaking from every orifice and march alongside the armies of giant golden Angels, screaming flagellants and masked soldiers.
The Angel of Death no longer wanders his realm but instead resides in the enormous labyrinthine palace built on the site of Jerusalem. The city's only human inhabitants are the priest-bureaucrats who administrate his empire, the numerous pilgrims who visit the Holy City and offer praise and the sacrifices who are imported to feed the Angel of Death. Aside from these mortal servitors the Angel of Death is often attended by humanoid figures that are formed from the same burning golden light that he is. These figures slowly patrol the corridors conducting their duties with what can only be described as solemn reverence. These Angels as they are often called glide just above the surface of the floors with blazing fire trailing behind them and climbing across surfaces in flickering wisps. At the centre of the temple lies the chamber of the Angel of Death. He is a vast marginally humanoid figure composed of blindingly divine golden light. Behind him are sixteen wings of blazing flame that fill the many miles of the chamber and flare and ebb with his mood. To look upon him directly is to have your body obliterated by his power and your soul consumed to feed the flames of his being. All of his followers both mortal or otherwise attend with their heads bowed, their eyes covered and never meeting his gaze.
South of these lands of zealous torment lie the lush and beautiful lands of the Queen of Hearts. The lands bloom with rich diversity and glitter in a sheen of beautiful divine light. The entire realm is decorated and carefully tended, cleaned and maintained by the entire population. However beneath this idyllic beauty is a land of endless torture and pain. The citizens work diligently but also desperately, often appearing malnourished and paranoid as they work to polish their surroundings to perfection. The great cities are great sprawling complexes of domes and towers linked together by bridges, galleries and balconies that connect every structure. On every gallery and between every street are great and beautiful gardens that are tended and organized by a great number of skilled gardeners and attendants. At the heart of every city are the temples to the Queen of Hearts. These complexes shine brighter than any of their surroundings. They are twisted structures of spires, domes, outcrop and gigantic vaulted rooms. In the central rooms of every temple is a massive statue of the Queen of Hearts alive and writhing with the animated flesh of sacrifices that are draped over it like clothing as offerings to the her. Sacrifices are sent to her bound and drugged into a blissful stupor as they are tied to the altar in preparation. Afterwards the skin (and a good measure of their flesh) will be stripped from them and prepared as a further offering. The cities are patrolled and monitored by the Queen's handmaidens, lithe and slender humanoid figures that shine with a golden brilliance. Every one of them is impossibly beautiful but upon closer inspection their features appear sharp and cold and their skin seems to shift and morph almost like their bodies contain a million writhing insects just below the surface of their features. These creatures wander the streets almost at random often interacting with the rest of the population. Conversations are polite but often disturbing for those fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to get their attention in this manner. However should a single one notice even a slight possibility of dissent then they home in on them with impossible speed like sharks that have scented blood.
The Queen herself resides in her massive palace complex built on the now radiation free site of New Delhi. The palace itself is, like all cities, an interconnected structure of dizzying proportions. At the centre of this immense structure lies the Queen of Hearts. She prefers the form of an impossibly beautiful female humanoid of great size. Like the handmaidens that attend her she shines with a brilliant light that outdoes all light sources around her and can shift with her moods. Whilst she is surrounded by the beauty of her realm she prides herself on her absolute perfection. The Queen is ridiculously vain and will sometimes spend weeks at a time perfecting her inhuman appearance. However like her handmaidens beneath the golden glow she exudes her skin writhes with the texture of worms and insects. The Queen often appears to lounge upon the dais built for her when addressing her subjects. She is an attentive ruler and loves to show others her perfection, often accepting the most superfluous of requests and addresses even if she rarely listens. She also loves to travel her realm and visit her subjects like a true monarch, revealing her perfection to her kingdom of beauty and pleasure. However the brilliance of the Queen is often a curse for the people. Wherever she goes she exudes she releases an aura of perfection that overwhelms all. Where she walks the people fall to the floor in awe, their sense overloaded by the sensation she brings. After she has passed through an area the people who have witnessed her are left writhing on the floor overwhelmed by her presence, drooling, urinating, defecating and orgasming simultaneously as they lose control of their bodily functions. The Queen often accepts this as her subjects realisation of her perfection and takes satisfaction in what she has inflicted upon her subjects. When travelling or receiving an audience the Queen will often pick one of her subjects who takes her fancy as a consort. These consorts do not last long and the pleasures of the Queen and are often too severe and too perverse for any mortal creature to endure. Rumours often say that the strongest of these consorts nearly lasted a fortnight before his body finally wasted away.
China and the rest of the realm of the Grinning Shadow was taken over in an almost peaceful manner. It simply started with members of the army and government suffering from bad dreams. Due to the state of the world at the time many didn't notice as soon enough the entire population began to sleep roughly. It was only when several hundred thousand people shrivelled up and died in painful agony in their sleep that the Grinning Shadow revealed himself and claimed dominion over the land. Today the vast and populous realm of the Grinning Shadow is a sleeping giant compared to many of his siblings and only occasionally stirs. The land is almost perpetually overcast and while daylight can reach East Asia it is inevitably dimmed by the thick grey ceiling of clouds that hang over it. Whilst this realm is chilled and grey it is instead lit up by the lights of its population. Though certain areas are to forever be left in darkness the Grinning Shadow encourages his people to light up their homes and cities. It matters not how much light they shed for even the brightest light inevitably casts a shadow and it is here that he rules. In the great sprawling cities of Gothic structures are the many temples dedicated to him. Participation in services is compulsory and sometimes people are selected for attendance. These temples serve as extensions of the Towers of Dreams and those chosen to attend his services are permitted to enter the towers as a gift for their devotion. What happens there often varies but those who leave the temples do so in a state of enraptured bliss that can never again be sated, others never leave again. Every shadow in the realm serves as the eyes and ears of the Grinning Shadow and the gateways by which he communicates with his subjects. Nowhere is free of his presence for there is always the slightest hint of shadow even within his subjects souls. Of course he has other servants. Every night great mists settle over every settlement in East Asia and when this happens the dreams of humanity manifest and cavort with one another. These creatures wander the streets and through the houses of the mortal population teasing and taunting the inhabitants. The many terrible nightmares on the other hand sadistically search for prey, hounding and torturing them in both the sleeping and waking world. When the Moon is full over the lands of the Grinning Shadow, the Nightmare herself emerges from within the Moon and rides over the land, crying both joyously and angrily as she searches for prey at the behest of her master.
The Grinning Shadow himself resides in the vast and elaborate Palace built for him on the city of Louyang. It is a massive structure of spiralling towers that reach high into the sky, piercing the overhanging layer of clouds. Covered in decoration one tower shines as if it is formed of gold, silver and jade whilst the other appears black and smooth as if formed of granite and obsidian. The Palace is supposed to evoke the Towers of Dreams, the realm of the Grinning Shadow. Within the Towers is a realm outside the physical world and it is here that the Shadow truly resides. In a vast central chamber at the intersection of the two great towers lies a great mass of darkness. This darkness shifts an writhes constantly and from exudes an aura of great presence and will. The Grinning Shadow can take any shape he desires but prefers his shapeless form when addressing most of his subjects. He often invites people to visit his Towers and realise their own dreams. However those who walk the Tower of Fantasy must take care. The Tower of Fantasy does allow you to live your dreams but those who walk its galleries must take care for those who are weak willed may be sucked into another visitors dreams and forced to participate in another's dreams. This will likely be a horrible torture for one man's fantasy may be another's nightmare. The Tower of Nightmare is the home of every horror and fear made tangible and real and many are led here by the more capricious whims of the Shadow. The Grinning Shadow is normally ambivalent to the actions of those he invites and cares little if they get lost or consumed by the dreams. However occasionally he will take an interest in some of his guests and will personally lead them to the outcome he wishes them to experience whether it is a pleasant fantasy or a torturous nightmare. Darkness is the realm of the Grinning Shadow and all shadows are at his service, even the shadows of the mind. No-one is truly safe from his gaze and even the slightest patch of darkness anywhere can lead back to him.
Australia was chosen as the realm of the Herald of Ash and like all other parts of the world has been reshaped to suit his desires. Already a fairly arid land by its nature the interior of the continent has become truly barren. Dust and flakes of ash cover the great desert and are stirred into great storms of scathing debris by whatever winds blow across it. No life exists here at the centre of the continent for it is the home of the Herald. The grasslands closer to the coasts and the coastline do support life but it is wretched. The beasts live much as they always have but the dryness of the land has made life more difficult than ever before. Twisted trees of bone sprout from the ground and storms of dry ash that lacerate those that are caught in it will sweep in from centre of the continent. The remaining Australians cling to the coasts in decaying cities as they eke what little lives the Herald allows. The people do still look human but are horribly gaunt and skeletal, moving with stiff and decrepit limbs. They tend small farms that bloom with seem to grow, bloom and fade away at abnormal speeds before drying and coating the ground with bleached stalks and shrivelled leaves. Great pillars of interlocked bone are built in reverence of the Herald of Ash and it is here that his sacrifices are sent. After their death the body is then stripped, the meat given to the living to consume and the bones added to the massive pillars or sent to other settlements in order to build new ones.
The Herald of Ash wanders the deserts of Central Australia, constantly stumbling across the landscape and moaning his dirge to all existence. He appears vaguely humanoid but similar to a desiccated corpse, dried and mummified, skin is constantly flaking off its entire body and trails behind it in a wind that only blows around his being. A sorrowful song of despair and pain spews from the insectoid mandibles that surround his circular mouth. The Herald's faith has few features, its mouth is the most prominent for it is a lamprey-esque maw, filled with sharpened, yellow, rotting teeth and surrounded by mandibles covered in black and yellowed chitin. The Herald possesses a single sunken eye socket that possesses no eye but still directs a gaze at whatever is in its presence. His spawn flake off him like the dried skin that flows behind him. They are skeletal abominations that range in size from human to the size of high-rise buildings. The Herald wants nothing more than to experience his existence and enlighten the world to the ultimate fate of all things. All things decay and all things burn but even fires gutter and die and all that is left is dust and ash.
Out of all the many realms of this earth however the strangest is that which encompasses the British Isles. The UK and Ireland have survived in relatively good shape though rationing is a common feature now and they recycle as much as possible. The people live nervously but there are few differences to the world as it was before the rise of the New Gods. Society and technology have even developed though at a rather slow pace due to obvious limitations. The surveillance state is larger than ever before and watches everything. Even though none of the Gods exercise any influence whatsoever you can never be too careful and the occasional cultist cell will always pop up. Despite the lack of changes on the surface there are a few noticeable differences. Buildings will often bear the symbol of a spiralling serpent whilst pale skinned humanoid creatures wander the streets as other pedestrians make way for them. Albion was spared the rise and rule of the New Gods for this is the realm of Pendragon, the World Serpent and last of the Old Gods.
Pendragon is the only surviving member of the previous generation of deities. When they ruled he fought his siblings and devoured all the other Gods. The power and essence of the other Gods gave him the strength to sustain himself as all other deities faded away. The Pendragon is an immense unnatural wyrm, formed of coils of metal and stone. His scales are the very bedrock of the planet, his teeth are the magma of the mantle and his tongue is lightning. He nests outside of the material world in a mountainous mansion formed of the bones of gods, demons, angels, dragons and other monstrous creatures. At the centre is the Pendragon himself, coiled over the few immense remains of the Old Gods he vanquished. He watches over the British Isles merely out of an unfathomable sense of sentimental attachment. It is rumoured that he extended his influence over this region many millennia ago and imparted a portion of his body upon it. His sheer power wards off the New Gods who rightfully fear him for he is far more powerful and malevolent than even the worst of them.
A few other lesser deities and creatures have emerged alongside the New Gods. Many are gods that failed to ascend to power and instead have been forced to subsist on scraps left behind by the more careless Gods. Others are Gods that merely accepted smaller fiefdoms to rule over rather than attempt to control massive empires. Some have become the vassals of the more powerful Gods but a few have kept themselves independent. The greatest of these is the White Justicar who moved into Afghanistan and carved out his own theocratic police state from the lands between the Angel of Death and the Queen of Hearts. He is a creature that punishes sins and grows greater in strength and size in proportion to the severity of the sin. He has yet to test a God's sins but it is rumoured he may one day grow more powerful than any of them. Deep in the Pacific the Abyssal Gatekeeper rules an underwater kingdom of mutants and deep ocean spawn. The Polynesian islands he rules offer sacrifices to the vile squamous creatures that emerge from the waves. Massive amphibious spawn patrol the area of ocean he has claimed as his domain and often raid the coastlines of the lands that border the Pacific Ocean. Other strange things crawled out of the shadows as well and a whole host of abominations now wander the Earth. Many have been subjugated by the Gods but a few monstrosities remain free, rampaging through a settlement every now and again or desecrating an idol if they're feeling especially brave or foolish. They are usually hunted down and are often rather rare anyway. Antarctica is a land untouched by the other Gods. Things lurk beneath the ice there that know how to hold off the other entities and have been preparing their own plans for the world.
Now that the New Gods have carved out their empires the tension between them has grown once again. Their powers have recovered but the struggle is not yet over. The battle to achieve true power has yet to be fought. Only seven may survive and achieve their place. In order to triumph there will be another great war that will engulf the planet. The Gods will fight one another directly alongside their lesser spawn and mortal thralls. Across the world the God's stir once again and gather their minions, armies gather on the borders and terrible weapons and spells are prepared. In the palace city of the Highlord his armies assemble with uncanny precision just as those of the Grey King mass on the border he shares with the Master of Secrets. The forests of the Earth Child shift as they reform into shapes that will defend their verdant realm from the forces that seek to contain it. At New Delhi the Queen of Hearts prepares as well. She despises the chaos and mess that conflict creates but relishes the chance to enact every disgusting act she has always dreamed of upon her divine siblings. The Grinning Shadow has been summoning every powerful fantasy and terrible nightmare to his Towers in preparation for their release upon the world and to the South the Herald of Ash almost exalts the coming conflict for he has awaited it for so very long now. Deep within his library the Chronicler of Ages compiles every writing upon the coming war. There are so many endings and he knows all of them. What he awaits is the turn of events that will reveal the true outcome of this world to him.
Light years away on a planet crumbling under an extreme weight, circling a dim grey star drained of its energy and warmth, lies a great and terrible being. He is impossibly vast, his size and power dwarfing all other beings in Creation. His strength and malevolence are only matched by his boundless hunger that can never be sated. He travels through the realms beyond the material plane, descending upon planets through weak points and tears in the veil between realities and consuming them. He cultivates life as a farmer would his livestock, growing biomass to its absolute limit before devouring everything including the world itself, the star it orbits and every other planet that surrounds it. Once all has been consumed he returns to the other realms to seek out another world. He is older than all other living things in Creation and has seen Gods, demons, monsters, empires, planets, suns and entire galaxies rise and fall as he survives, thrives and feeds. He has felt the rise of some young entities on a distant and insignificant planet, it contains a rich diversity of life and the boundary between realms is weak. He is the AllFather, the Great Devourer, He Who Hungers and He is coming for the world.