The Hyperion Uprising

Within a few centuries of its founding, Blackmire's growing population and own internal crime began providing them with enough workers to mine the ore without needing to import criminals from elsewhere. While mining for ore is still brutally hard work, the survival rates rose dramatically as terraforming gradually made the mountains more hospitable. As the mountains became more livable, the inmates were relocated to living quarters closer to the mines. Initially, they expanded the prison quarters as needed. But eventually, Blackmire began to run out of space for their own prisoners.

The original subterranean colony wasn't an option. Most of it had long since been refitted as sewage works. And the parts that remained had been taken over by vagrants, outcasts, some wild fae, and the occasional lesser demon. So Blackmire constructed a floating prison. They bought derelict battle airships and refitted them for a new purpose. They named their prison Hyperion, after the one of the first airships in their fleet.

The fleet of interconnected airships was staffed with a skeleton crew of automatons with the mission to perpetually circumnavigate the globe. While common criminals dig for ore in Blackmire's mines, the most violent and dangerous criminals were sent away to Hyperion Prison. The automatons pilots kept the fleet high above the oceans that cover most of the northern hemisphere. Except for a few secure areas guarded by battle automatons, like the bridge and areas essential to the ships' operations, the prisoners were allowed to roam freely amongst the interconnected airships. The only escape was to fall to one's death in the waters below.

No one knows the first ship in the Hyperion Prison fleet was originally commissioned by Vastienne, an ancient demigoddess of magic who rules over the city from the shadows. She needed it to imprison a wild demigod, a giant boar with immense strength and zero impulse control. The demigod moved into the valley containing Blackmire's farms. The High Council begged her to intervene.

The beastly demigod was extremely territorial, and it thwarted Vastienne's relocation attempts time and again. She couldn't kill it, not that demigods can't die, but demigods killing demigods sets an extremely bad precedent. They learned their lesson from the Gods' War that destroyed their old world. So Vastienne built an inescapable prison for him, one floating high above the earth from which he drew his strength. It was such a good prison, Blackmire began exiling all their dangerous elements there. And then the other city-states began paying Blackmire, handsomely, of course, to take their own mortal refuse and lock it away in Hyperion.

Blackmire sent criminals and supplies to the prison every six months, when its course brought it relatively close to the city, but otherwise the inmates were left to stew on their own. Over the centuries, they developed their own society, of sorts, a strict hierarchy based on strength and power. Nearly a thousand years ago, it was taken over by a powerful sorcerer named Thiriophon who had the power to control beasts.

At first, he started out controlling the rats that had infested the ships, inadvertently introduced during supply drops. And also cats, which were intentionally introduced to help with the vermin problem. Using an army rodents and cats as protection and weapons of terror, he rose through Hyperion's ranks. As his powers grew stronger, he could control the livestock used to feed the prisoners, causing stampedes and anarchy as needed.

But then he discovered a secret prisoner caged in the bowels of the Carnifex, the oldest and strongest airship in the Hyperion Prison's fleet. His bestial magic drew him down there, where he discovered a wild demigod with immense strength, shaped like a giant boar. It took years, but eventually Thiriophon's powers grew strong enough for him to subdue the great beast and forcibly bond with it. With a familiar that strong, his sorcery grew even stronger. Stealing power from the demigod still hidden in the unbreakable cage holding it, Thiriophon tore his way up through the Hyperion ranks with his bestial army, and declared himself king. His strength, and the strength of his descendants, drew followers seeking safety, power, glory, etc. and the "House of Hyperion's" influence continued to grow. Until eventually they were considered divine.

Only the most powerful sorcerers in Thiriophon's bloodline were able to control the demigod's power, though. The weak who tried to bond with it were slowly driven mad. The latest god-king of the House of Hyperion, Thiriophon IV wasn't strong, and his sanity was sapped away over the years by his constant struggle to control the beast. When he looked into the demigod's eyes, the demigod looked back, and it found him wanting.

Thiriophon IV told himself he was the one in control, but he was blind to the truth. He knew, deep down, that he wasn't powerful enough. His obsession with amassing power became all consuming. He was a brutal god-king, slaughtering his own subjects at the slightest suspicion of disloyalty.

His paranoia, although born of growing madness, wasn't entirely unfounded. As the population had grown, some through added inmates, but more so through breeding, the supplies Blackmire sent were not lasting as long as they once did. Though they bred their own livestock and had started growing crops in terrace gardens, there were more and more mouths to feed and dwindling space. But even if there had been enough food to go around, medical supplies were in short supply compared to the population.

The ministers who actually conducted the business of running the fleet, had long since instituted a policy of rationing. The higher ranking members were of course given priority, and hoarding food and other supplies was common. New arrivals found themselves on the bottom of the totem pole alongside the lower ranks and the weak. Between illness and starvation, the "commoners" were on the brink of revolt.

After his own son died of an infection from rat bites, Thiriophon IV blamed Blackmire for the shortage of supplies and medicine. It wasn't hard to stir fervor among his people, and so they began preparing for war. Thiriophon IV's ministers tried to convince him to set his sights on Blackmire's fertile farming valley. But Thiriophon IV wanted to get his hands Blackmire's true source of wealth and power, the ore mines.

With the ministers' direction, the population, which had already turned scavenging, reusing, and upcycling into an art form, began building weapons and tools to overpower the automatons that still controlled the fleet's course. After a successful, but bloody, coup, the inmates of Hyperion Prison finally ruled the entire fleet. They turned south, towards land, and began raiding their way east towards Blackmire's ore mines.

When Blackmire discovered their outposts and territories were being attacked by their own prison, they too began preparing for war. Blackmire had its own military might in the form of the Metropolitan Guard, but Hyperion had the distinct advantage of higher ground. And Blackmire's merchant airships would be no match for Hyperion's armada of reinforced battle airships, which had been resupplied during their raids. So Blackmire hastily assembled a militia, conscripting able-bodied, and usually unwilling, soldiers from civilian ranks.

The militia was originally intended as just cannon fodder, obstacles to throw at the Hyperion fleet to slow their progress towards the mines. The High Council just wanted to buy time as they scrambled to find ways to take down the Hyperion airships they had spent considerable money on refitting in the first place.

While Blackmire's leaders rushed to arm and armor merchant airships, they sent the militia upstream, into the breach on ill-equipped airships the city had commandeered. But the Blackmire militia was filled with the descendants of criminals, not to mention actual criminals hauled from prison cells to fill ranks. The militia had their fair share of crafty operators. They began using guerilla tactics, sending small strikes teams under the cover of darkness to reign terror among their enemies. Despite their lack of proper equipment or back-up, they had a huge impact on the enemy's morale.

It took over two years of painstaking, bloody progress, with heavy losses on both sides, but Hyperion eventually made it to the skies above the mines. By then Blackmire's forces were better equipped and their airships actually stood a chance against the Hyperion battleships. The Guard was still absent from the frontlines, though. They were held back by the High Council to protect the city during air raids from Hyperion ships separated from the fleet and sent ahead to raid and demoralize.

After a total of three years spent fighting, the Hyperion Uprising was finally stopped when a small militia force penetrated the flagship, the Carnifex, and assassinated Thiriophon IV. Then they set his ship ablaze with some kind of magical blue fire that burned cold. It incinerated all living things in its path but leaving non-organic material like metal, glass, and treated wood untouched. As the strange, terrifying flames spread, the remainder of the fleet retreated in panic. The Hyperionites tried to break apart the interconnected ships, but they didn't succeed in time. The flames spread throughout the fleet. Some were spared, safe behind closed bulkheads the fire couldn't penetrate. But their safety was short lived. After drifting for days without pilots, the burnt ships finally crashed into the desert wilds below the mountains.

Thousands upon thousands of Hyperionites died in those few days, either in the flames, the panicked mayhem that followed, or the crash itself. Only a few hundred managed to survive. Those who had been sent to Hyperion as inmates were recaptured and condemned to death for insurrection. Most of the remaining survivors had been born in Hyperion, the descendants of the prisoners, and they were not allowed in Blackmire. They had nowhere else to go, so they stayed in the wilds where they landed, trying to eke out an existence in the cold, barren desert.

It's been forty-three years since the Hyperion Uprising. To this day, no one knows the source of the fire, but those who witnessed it and survived will never forget. Few speak of it, and when they do, it's in hushed tones, as if afraid they will draw its attention.

All that remains of Hyperion is a salvage operation. A handful of roughnecks live in a Blackmire outpost in the low hills at the base of the mountains. Hyperion refugees live in a shanty town called New Hyperion, built among and around the wreckage itself. Any materials of value and/or use are scavenged, bought, sold, stolen, and fought over. 

Immortal Clans

Except for hellions, most immortals tend not to have large families or large populations. Because of their long lives, immortals tend to reproduce excruciatingly slowly. And since most of their kind were confined to the netherworld after the Gods' War, it will take an even longer time to expand their population. Between slow breeding, interbreeding with humans, recessive abilities, and powers skipping generations, it's not uncommon for certain types of immortals to be the only one of their kind they know.

Since they lack family ties of their own for community and protection, most immortals form alliances among themselves in the form of clans. Instead of biological and marital relationships, the immortal clans are based on loyalty oaths. Just like real families, each immortal clan is different. In Blackmire, immortal clans are more like street gangs or mafia dynasties. Though their individual schemes vary, most clans operate protection rackets in their territory, demanding "tribute" from the locals and even lower ranking clans.

Vastienne's clan is the most powerful and occupies the highest levels of the city. She runs her clan like a royal court with strict hierarchy and elaborate rules of etiquette. While some clans use tattoos to denote membership, Vastienne's clan members wear elaborate bespoke jewelry bearing the clan symbols.

The Leviathan Street clan's territory covers the River District, the lowest levels of the city, known locally as Downside. They're more like a family. A violent, but extremely loyal, family. Their members are tattooed with an elaborate, moving leviathan curling around the forearm. The bigger the leviathan, the higher the member's rank within the clan.

Achenar: the lion-headed god of war and vengeance.

Achenar is a lion-headed god with silver fur, cerulean eyes, and a roar like peals of thunder. He was once a wild storm god of fire and the forge. He was a weaponsmith to the other gods. He could pull lightning from thin air and shape it with his hammer. The thunderous roar of his hammer reverberates across the land, lightning singing from the beaten steel, water from his quenching drum raining down.

He was perfectly happy being a weaponsmith until his contention with another god turned to his heart towards war and vengeance. He fell in love with a a half-human demigoddess named Evani. They eloped against the wishes of her divine father, a lunar god of fertility and agriculture named Ketsukon. Evani was Ketsukon's only child. She was his heart, and he didn't want to lose his only child to an Elder God. And when Evani died giving birth, Ketsukon blamed Achenar for her death.

Wanting Achenar to feel his pain, Ketsukon condemned Endellion to die screaming in childbirth like her mother. Achenar dismissed the Ascendant God's threats as the empty words of a grieving father. Surely, Ketsukon wouldn't curse his own grandchild.

But as Endellion grew, so did Achenar's worry. Which each passing year, Ketsukon grew more and more bitter. He became a dark and demanding god. He punished those who didn't worship him to his satisfaction by rendering them infertile or plaguing their crops.

When Endellion eventually married and grew heavy with a child of her own, Achenar begged Ketsukon to spare her, offering his life to Ketsukon in her place. Ketsukon laughed and declined. He plunged a dagger into Achenar's outstretched hand and left his granddaughter to her fate. After Endellion died in blood and pain while giving birth to a stillborn child, the weaponsmith went to war.

Achenar's first sentinels were called Tempests. They were playful and mercurial, roaming the skies and bringing lightning and fallen metal to their god's forge. But when Achenar hardened his heart and steeled himself for battle, he made new sentinels. He wanted soldiers, warriors. He wanted Furies. Forged from cold fire and tempered steel to be the instruments of his vengeance.

Achenar sent his Furies to tear their way through Ketsukon's own army of sentinels. The Furies were wild and violent, possessing a ferocity that surprised even Achenar. They weren't particularly obedient, but they threw themselves at their god's enemies with abandon. Their battles shook the netherworld. The heavens raged and rained blood as Achenar's Furies slashed and scorched their way through Ketsukon's own sentinel army, without restraint and regardless of their own safety. Their battle-fueled rage literally set their blood on fire, producing cerulean flames that burned cold. It was uncontrollable, cremating anything organic in its path and leaving the rest untouched.

With the path clear, Achenar faced Ketsukon alone. Even if he hadn't been fueled by rage, Ketsukon was no match for an Elder God. Although Achenar was victorious, he felt no satisfaction. Even as he lay dying, Ketsukon crowed, his eyes shining with a feverish madness. He bragged that the dagger he used on Achenar's hand was coated with the blood of a Royal Demon. How Ketsukon got his hands on the blood from a Royal Demon, no one knows, but it explained why the wound in Achenar's hand wouldn't heal, and why his blood had turned orange, like that of demon spawns, the mixed-breed offspring of demons and mortals. (Full blooded demons have toxic yellow blood.)

And then to add insult to injury, Ketsukon cursed Achenar's bloodline with his final breath. Every woman with even a drop of Achenar's blood in their veins would meet the same fate as Ketsukon's daughter, Evani. (Although he no doubt meant to target only Achenar's offspring and direct descendants, the curse also affects Achenar's sentinels.)

Between Ketsukon's Curse and the potent demon blood flowing through his veins, Achenar's bloodline was thoroughly tainted. The demon blood in his system also explain why his Furies were so different from his Tempests. But Achenar's Furies were never normal, not from the moment he quickened them to life with his mutated blood. Normally, gods know exactly where their sentinels are, as aware of their sentinels as they are of their own limbs. His Furies were independent, even defiant. And as time went on, it became harder and harder for him to sense them. Eventually, as the demon blood in his own system continued to change him, he couldn't sense them at all.

He suspected his Furies were abnormal from the start, but they were also unbelievably effective warriors. They were cunning and unyielding, and they reveled in battle. Achenar was too focused on his rage at Ketsukon to question their existence. Until Ketsukon's final declaration, that is. Afraid he had created abomination when he unknowingly infused divine sentinels with demon-tainted blood, Achenar destroyed every one of his remaining sentinels he could find. When he realized the Furies had orange blood too, he was convinced he was taking the right course. Not even his uncontaminated Tempests were spared. He wanted to wipe away any trace of himself.

However, unbeknownst to Achenar, a few of his Furies managed to escape his wrath. Without the ability to sense his own sentinels, he could only only track them, like any other quarry. Not that many of them were particularly hard to find, anyway. The Furies had scattered after the war with Ketsukon, bored with their god. But after Achenar slaughtered the first few, the others came looking for him, only happy for a challenge. Although their ferocity presented a challenge for even Achenar, they were still not equal to the task.

A wise handful decided to stay out of the fight altogether. They traveled through the Veil into the mortal realm, deciding to following their own paths. No other sentinels before or since were able to abandon their god without Falling. They were careful not to draw too much attention to themselves, though, unwilling take the risk an Elder God couldn't breach the Veil should he learn there were survivors.

Once he thought he had exterminated the last of his sentinels, Achenar banished himself to the twelves hells. He turned his back on the rest of the netherworld, a self-imposed exile to punish himself the sin of failing to protect his family. Although the moniker is wildly naccurate, he became known as the Demon God. Some call him the Bleeding God, which is much more accurate since the wound on his hand never did heal, still oozing orange blood to this day. There is something about the once light-hearted god that discomforts demons and other gods alike, something unnatural and predatory. Staring into his eyes is like staring into the Abyss, it makes anyone feel incredibly small.

The Knights of Kuroshu.

All living things, even plants, have energy signatures, except for a handful of humans known as Voids, who are born with no spiritual energy what so ever. The rarest of all humans, Voids have no magical powers or gifts of any kind, but neither are they affected in any way by immortal abilities, magical powers, or mortal gifts.

Only one human in five hundred thousand is born a Void. And of those, few survive to adulthood. Immortals, and Weavers to a lesser extent, consider Voids a threat, an aberration, an abomination to be destroyed. Because Voids have no spiritual energy of their own, they must feed on the energy of others in order to survive, absorbing it through their skin like some amphibians absorb oxygen. Simply by touching them, a Void could potentially drain all the power from an immortal, Weaver, or even gifted human. Rendering them mundane mortals if the Void stops in time. And killing them if he or she doesn't.

Despite their rarity, though, Voids are not generally hard to find. The gifted, Weavers, and immortals can immediately sense it when they're in the presence of one. Just like they can usually sense power emanating from others, like energy radiating from a tiny sun, they can also sense the black holes that are Voids. Even mundane humans and animals can sense Voids to some extent, even if it's just a general feeling of unease when in the Void's company. Perhaps it's an extant predator sensor.

Voids are born only to pure human parents, but once they reach adulthood, they stopping aging like any other immortal. Voids have their powers since birth, but only to a limited extent. They still need the energy of others, but they lack the strength to drain anyone to death. They tend to be sickly children, pale and anemic because their ability to siphon energy from others is barely strong enough to sustain themselves. But they're immune to any normal human illness and rarely die of natural causes.

Most of them are unaware of what they are until their powers start to grow during puberty. They tend to be thought of as weak and tiring children. Few parents would believe their child to be an ultra-rare Void. Most mundane mortals think Voids are a myth.

Although Weavers fear them and immortals hunt them, there are some who believe Voids are the gods', or perhaps nature's, way of providing balance to the world. The priests and priestesses belonging to the temple of Kuroshu in particular believe this. The servants of Kuroshu, a goddess of justice, scour the planet for Voids, hoping to gather them into the protection of the temples ahead of any immortal's blade.

Reapers, the sentinels belonging to the gods of Death, guide the souls of the dead to the netherworld. But it's Kuroshu who determines where each soul ends up. In statues and other art, she is portrayed with four arms, the head of a horned owl, and feathered wings billowing behind her like a cape. She is bone white, except for her ink black eyes, beak, and talons. On the right side of her body, she holds a sword in one hand, pointing accusingly down at anyone kneeling before her. In her other right hand, an anatomically correct heart is held aloft, with rivulets of blood rolling down her forearm. On the left side of her body, a feather is raised aloft in one hand, held above the set of scales held outstretched in the other hand.

It is believed the heart is the seat of one's soul. And the weight of the deceased's heart determines whether the soul spends eternity in the elysian fields of paradise, the hallowed halls of heroes, the cold, barren wastelands of purgatory, the frozen depths of hell, or somewhere in between. All souls can choose to be reincarnated, however, and return to the mortal realm. But the heavier one's heart, the lowlier a creature they are in their next life.

Despite her fierce appearance and the fear she inspires among mortals, the priests of Kuroshu believe their patron deity is not a vengeful god. Like the scales she holds, Kuroshu represents balance. And the priests of Kuroshu believe it is their role, and their duty, to uphold balance. Especially among the immortals, who tend to believe their powers render them above mortal laws.

And so these warrior priests and priestesses have taken it upon themselves to police the immortals, with the help of their Void charges. In most places, temples are considered sacrosanct and operate nearly autonomously. (And those few places that have tried to bring the temples under the control of local ruling bodies have usually met with revolution. Temples wield immense power, and often immense wealth, and those who forget are quickly schooled.) And so when a temple decides to enact a vigilante policy, there's not much the local authorities can, or will, do to stop them.

In some places, the priests of Kuroshu are the sole sources of law enforcement. But all temples, even those dedicated to the same god, are generally operated independently, and they can vary wildly between locations. In Blackmire, the temple of Kuroshu only steps in when the High Priestess believes the Guard hasn't made sufficient effort. Guards aren't particularly pleased when Kuroshu priests step on their toes. And they're especially displeased when the Voids leave the temple grounds. But the Metropolitan Guard has a general policy of noninterference regarding temples and their priests.

These priests and priestesses refer to themselves simply servants, but mundane mortals have romanticized them as the Knights of Kuroshu. Some consider all of Kuroshu's priests and priestesses "Knights," but some only use that title when referring to the Voids in particular.

Regardless of what they're called, the servants of Kuroshu strike a fearsome sight when they're on a mission. Like their goddess, they are adorned in white robes (white is associated with death.) Their natural skin tones are hidden beneath the ashes of their fallen brothers and sisters. Their faces are covered by helmets made to look like the heads of horned owls, and their armor is white steel shaped like bones. Their finger nails are grown long like talons, then sharpened and hardened with black lacquer.

Whether mundane mortal or Void, all of Kuroshu's priests are trained in the martial arts. The ageless Voids grow ever more proficient with time and experience. They are slightly stronger and faster than the average human, especially after a "meal." But their only real defense is their ability to render immortals impotent.

Ravenna Cho: the demigod leader of the Leviathan Street clan.

Ravenna Cho is the commander of the Leviathan Street clan, and one of its founding members. She oversees the clan's tea house out of an airship named the Iron Lotus, where patrons can enjoy tea, alcohol, fine dining, and gambling. The Iron Lotus is a former battle cruiser Locksley & co. captured during the Hyperion Uprising and brought home with them.

Cho was born in Blackmire a few hundred years ago, in a temple dedicated to her father, a god of oblivion and death named Arunikai. Although he is known as the Slumbering God, Arunikai is not one to be underestimated. He is an Elder God, and his strength is not dependent on the prayers of his followers. His power comes from the Abyss from whence he came.

Demigods born to Elder Gods are extremely rare. Even before the Gods' War, the Elder Gods rarely took interest in individual mortals, or even visited the mortal realm. It was the Ascendant Gods who returned to the dally with mundane mortals. Many of the younger Ascendant Gods were actually born in the mortal realm. They were never mundane, though. They were strong and ageless, growing more and more powerful through conflict and experience. The most powerful immortals attracted followers of their own. The attention and spiritual energy of their supplicants only added to their strength, allowing them to transmogrify intos gods.

The gravely ill and the infirm have always gone to Arunikai's temple for a quiet end to their suffering. A dignified, ceremonial death with the assistance of Arunikai's sedate and scholarly priests. After the supplicant is vetted by the high priestess, he or she makes an offering to Arunikai at sundown. They pass their last hours in a calming purification ceremony that lasts the night. As the sky starts to lighten with the approaching sunrise, the supplicant is given a consecrated elixir called the Tears of Arunikai. And then the supplicant gently succumbs to a permanent slumber under the warm light of the rising sun.

Despite its highfalutin name, the so-called Tears of Arunika is really just a potent type of morphium. This particular opiate is made from a rare, delicate, red cactus flower cultivated on temple grounds.

Cho grew up treated like royalty, with all the respect and deference due a demigoddess and heir apparent. She was raised to be a ruler, a high priestess like her mother, Ursula. Cho was always practical, though, and never had any interest in such finery or ceremony. She saw the temple as nothing more than a gilded cage.

When Cho was in her late teens, she ran away from her pampered life, preferring the excitement, danger, and anonymity of Downside. She had developed a fascination with death during her time in her father's temple, a macabre fascination she took with her when she left. Along with two friends she met in Downside, Cho founded the Bone Scythe assassin guild.

Over the centuries, Cho became less and less pleased with the way her guild was being run. The management structure she and the other founders had set in place to run the day-to-day operations was becoming increasingly autocratic. Management had begun placing their own agendas over the welfare of their guild members.

When Cho discovered Management had sent a team to assassinate a civilian in order to kidnap the daughter of a late guild member, she decided it was time for the Bone Scythes to be torn down. But Cho has never been one to act on impulse. From an early age, she showed a proficiency in Zheng Fu, a three dimensional board game of skill and strategy.

(The object of Zheng Fu is to capture the opponent's most important game piece, the citadel. The rules are relatively simple, but the game's innumerable possibilities of moves makes it the most complex game on the planet.)

Cho is patient and cunning, and she always looks at the bigger picture before making her move. When Management ordered Dia's death, she decided it was the perfect time to act. She passed along Management's internal memo to one of her favorite students, Locksley. Knowing Locksley's protective nature and propensity for violent impulses, Cho ignited the spark that would raze everything she once built.

A few years later, while Blackmire was embroiled in the Hyperion Uprising, the denizens in the lower levels of Blackmire suffered the most. While Locksley and some of the others were conscripted into the militia, Cho stayed behind to battle the growing desperation and lawlessness in Downside. She roused Dia to action and they started recruiting people with skills, people who wouldn't let laws get in the way of doing what was right. And then they started rooting out the corruption.

When Locksley & co. returned to Downside after the uprising had been deafeated, they discovered Cho and Dia had been fighting a war of their own. The destruction of the Bone Scythe assassin guild left a power vacuum, and even worse elements were attempting to fill the void, but with fewer rules and more violence.

Now they had the numbers to firmly clamp a lid on their pot before it boiled over. They began systematically engaging the local big baddies, and took over Downside for themselves. The band of immortal criminals evolved into the Leviathan Street clan, sealing their covenant with loyalty oaths and matching leviathan tattoos.

Varga Wrathbone: the ogrish brother-in-arms.

Varganoth "Varga" Wrathbone is one qarter ogre. He's 6'5", with rough, gray skin, and broad shoulders. He has shoulder length dark hair, over which he often wears a beat up, old leather bowler hat. When he "ogres out," transforming into a full ogre, he has a large head with little pointy ears on top of massive shoulders, long ape-like arms, and short, tree-trunk legs. His lower canines stuck up out of his mouth like tusks. And his hair bristles from his neck and shoulders in a dark ruff.

He was born and raised in the Warren, the tunnels beneath Blackmire where the prisoners were once housed. Now it's mostly filled now with sewage works. The rest is filled with outcasts and mongrels. In the dark, the strong prey on the weak, and blood is the coin of the realm.

When Varga was fifteen, his half-ogre father was killed by a riot automaton sent into the Warren to clear the path for a maitenance crew. Enraged by his father's death, Varga ogred out and ripped the automaton apart.

More automatons were sent in, and he was eventually subdued, arrested, and charged with Anarchy. He was sentenced to die in the arena for the entertainment of the citizens. But he excelled, becoming one of the baddest creatures in the pit. His masters kept him pliable outside of the arena by force feeding him laudanum. Or when he was really injured, straight opium mixed with brandy.

Varga nearly lost his left eye in a fight with a manticore, leaving him with a thin, jagged scar bisecting his eyebrow and curving along his cheek under his eye. He can still see out of it, but he lacks peripheral vision. To compensate for his blind spot, he always tries to keep trusted Leviathans on his left.

He survived the fights for an unprecedented six years, but his days in the fight pit were numbered. But when the floating city of Hyperion attacked Blackmire, the city began looking for cannon fodder. Criminals could win their freedom by volunteering for the militia, and Varga signed up with all the rest. The vast majority of the criminal soldiers either died in battle or were executed for desertion, but Varga was fortunate enough to be assigned to Locksley's unit. He became a highly valued member of the team.

Between the head injuries and opiate-induced euphoria, Varga's personality changed a bit over the years. He still enjoys a good fight, but he's gotten a bit squeamish about blood. It makes him queasy. Sometimes he throws up, or simply faints.

Despite the prevalence of mechanical innovations in all of their daily lives, Varga is not a fan of technology. He is, however, a huge fan of alcohol. He has a series of intricate, carefully constructed stills hidden in an out of the way area of the plant.

Varga is one of the few members of the Leviathan Street clan who can handle sparring with Locksley, and vice versa. Even when not in the dojo, they rough-house constantly. Often to the annoyance of other clan members and occasionally to the detriment of their surroundings.

Chenzi Ames: the demonic, mechanical ghost seer.

Chenzi Ames is part demon. She grew up with Locksley and Jules in the Bone Scythe assassin guild. She appears around 21 years old, 5'7", with porcelain skin, dark eyes, and short hair. She runs the Leviathan Street clan's garage/chop-shop in Downside. She's the go-to for sky racers and anyone wanting serious machine work. She's the top source for high quality, if stolen, parts. She's both a clockwork artiste and a mechanical Doctor Frankenstein. She's always cannibalizing other machines for the parts she needs, often without permission.

In addition to being a masterful tinkerer and a brilliant weapon smith, she can also see ghosts, but that's a skill she'd be ecstatic to be without. Ever since could remember, ghosts were always trying, and sometimes succeeding, to possess her body in order to resolve whatever issues they had tying them to the mortal realm. Various healers, priests, shamans, witches, mages, and sorcerers have all tried to help her, but with little success.

The only one who was ever able to help her was a nine-inch tall familiar with sorcerous aspirations. A demon minken named Hex spent over a year perfecting a complicated protection spell to keep them out. When it was finally finished, the spell was tattooed in five vertical lines, from the hairline on the left side of her face, down her throat, to her heart. The spell prevents ghosts from possessing her body, but nothing can stop her from seeing them. Whenever a ghost gets too close for comfort, the shield spell activates. Once activated, her tattoo, which is normally only visible under ultraviolet light, turns black, as if ink is oozing from her pores.

Chenzi's demon blood comes from her mother, Anlai Ames, a highly skilled thief. Anlai's partner, both in business and life, was a human named Gyan Tor. There wasn't a ward Anlai couldn't get past or a safe Gyan couldn't crack. They made an impressive team, and were well respected in certain criminal circles.

When Chenzi was five years old, her parents left one night and never returned. They stole from the wrong person and died trying to escape. With no other family, Chenzi was cast out into the streets. She survived by selling trinkets. She scoured garbage bins for parts and created clever toys out of scrap metal. She slept rough, earning just enough to feed herself. She had only been on the streets a few months when a charlatan tarot reader who called herself Madame Dulcineia discovered Chenzi had the real, and exceedingly rare, ability to talk to ghosts. Dulcineia took in Chenzi and set her up with all the mystical trappings of a Ghost Seer. People from all walks of life would pay good coin to speak to their long lost loved ones.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, perhaps, Chenzi was discovered by the Bone Scythe guild when she was nine. They had no interest in her ability to see ghosts, though. They were only interested in her stellar mechanical ingenuity. She blossomed in to a remarkable weaponsmith, earning her a distinguished position in the guild. Until Locksley declared war on the guild, that is. And then Chenzi's weapons helped Locksley and Jules bring about the guild's demise. Unfortunately, none of her weapons could have protected them from the demons the guild sent.

Always seeing challenges as simply problems waiting to be solved, she wouldn't let an amputated arm slow her down. She designed and built herself a mechanical prosthesis made out of a high tensile titanium and tungsten alloy. The new biomech arm was fused directly into her shoulder socket, responding to her will no differently than her flesh and blood arm.

She possesses a wonderfully creative mind, but she's not remotely organized. In fact, she's a bit of a hoarder. Among her stacks of notes, bins of pieces of metal and gears, she also has stacks of newspapers, and towers of books.

She's always scribbling notes on random scraps of paper. If no paper is within reach, she'll simple write on someone's arm. Not her own, of course. She'll just grab the nearest Leviathan and roll up their sleeve. The scraps are then tacked on the wall or strewn across her work area with no apparent rhyme or reason. At least a quarter of her time in her workshop is spent trying to find the right note or tool for her current project. It doesn't help that their house spirit is a mischievous grimling named Ratchet, who takes great pleasure in moving things around when no one is looking. Not that Chenzi tends to notice, anyway.

She two pets. One is a lazy, three-legged pit dog named Chowder who rarely leaves her side. He's much too friendly to be any sort of effective guard dog, though. He's more of a therapeutic companion, helping her through traumatic experiences with the lingering dead.

Her other "pet" is a mechanical octopus, or rather, an "octomaton," but unlike real octopi, he has an aversion to water. It makes him rust. His name is Rodger, and Chenzi built him when she was twelve. She had intended him to be her assistant, but she didn't count on his artistic nature. He spends the majority of his time on arts and crafts, but he will deign to hand her the odd tool between brush strokes.

One of his favorite pastimes, though, is knitting. He spends hours lovingly creating sweaters, scarves, mittens, and socks for the Leviathan Street clan and Auntie Cora's orphan misfits. His color blindness is a bit of a hindrance, though. He chooses balls of yarn based on the aesthetics of the names of their colors, which tends to make for some rather garish combinations. The clan and children love him, though, and they wear his monstrous creations with pride.


Located near the east coast, just above the equator, the independent city-state of Blackmire is a bustling, steam-powered metropolis. It's one of the earliest settlements on New Terra. Originally a privately owned, underground penal colony, it was carved into an archipelago in the Leviathan River gorge high in the Tidao Mountains. With limited ground area, the city had to expand upwards as its population grew. Mega towers rise from the rocky is-lands and buildings were carved into the steep rock walls on either side of the river. The city is divided into vertical districts, and districts are divided into levels.

The mega towers and rock buildings were continuously added on to over the years, becoming an agglomeration of various architectural styles and materials. They're all interconnected by a web of bridges and aerial tramways. Within mega tower islands, messages and small packages are delivered via a network of pneumatic tubes. Between islands, people communicate through telegraph wires, flying automatons, and couriers. There are portal hubs for transportation around the city, but the cost is exorbitant, and only the extravagantly wealthy in the highest levels can afford to use them.

While traditional boats navigate the multitude of tributaries and canals crisscrossing the city, steam powered and solar sail airships chug or glide through the airways between buildings. The hum of machinery and soft ticking of clockworks is as constant and reassuring as a mother's heartbeat.

Beautiful and intricate autonimals tread the highest levels. They are far more powerful, and considerably more expensive to own and operate, than the live animals that roam the lower levels. The denizens of the upper levels tend to look down their noses at live animals. They are noisy, smelly, and considered temperamental. They are also considerably less expensive to own. Autonimals are hand-crafted and require costly maintenance. Whereas live animals only require food and water. In a river city, water is plentiful, and balcony gardens provide plenty of greens and grains.

Magic is as much a part of daily life as mecha. Practicing magic legally requires as much training and licensing as practicing medicine or the law. There are temples dedicated to several gods, and even demigods, spread throughout the city, but Blackmire's patron deity is a goddess of magic named Sorcharine.

Blackmire is notorious for corruption and has earned the nickname "Sin City" by other New Terrans. Justice is a spectator sport, and money is often the chief determinate of innocence. Metropolitan Guards and judges protect those who can pay the most. There is stiff competition for civil service jobs. Bribery is simply part of the application process. The only true crime in Blackmire is getting caught, and the punishment is nearly always hard labor in the city-owned and operated mines in a nearby valley upstream. The ore rich valley has made Blackmire one of the richest city-states on New Terra, which attracted throngs of mortals and immortals alike with unrealistic dreams of wealth, or at least opportunity.

It was the ore, highly coveted in a world filled with metal mecha, which first brought people to the Tidao Moun-tains. But the ore-rich valley was high up, where the oxygen levels were even lower than in the wilds, the mountains provided little food and had poor soil in most places. And even with proper supplies air shipped in, mining the ore required hard, dangerous labor, and few were willing to risk it. The costs far outweighed the possibility of profit, so the merchant and master craft guilds who would have benefited the most from having the ore mined seemed out of luck.

But there were some guild leaders with more foresight than their competitors started a clever enterprise to mine the ore. Thirteen guilds pooled their resources and had the Tidao Mountains carefully surveyed and mapped. It was expensive and it took years. The other guild leaders considered the thirteen foolish. They thought the mountains were too dangerous and so the costs too high. They expected the thirteen guilds to end in a mire of debt and bankruptcy. But the thirteen guilds, who flippantly named their first territory Blackmire in response, were playing the long game. They could see the potential, and they risked it all by buying claims all along the Tidao mountain range.

The thirteen Blackmire guilds borrowed heavily from other guilds, who were only too happy to indebt their competitors. And then the Blackmire guilds dug deep burrows, where it was warm and safe from the elements during those early days of terraforming, into a rocky archipelago in a steep gorge downriver from the ore-rich valley. The other guilds were delighted in what they perceived to be the Blackmire guilds' stupidity.

But the leaders of the Blackmire guilds were far from stupid. As in most colonies, growing populations tend to lead to growing crime, which often outpaces the local law enforcement. The Blackmire guilds saw the rise in crime as an opportunity to be seized. In those stone tunnels, they built hundreds of prison cells. And then they invited cities and settlements from all over New Terra to send them their criminals. The Blackmire penal colony would imprison all of New Terra's criminals, for a relatively small price: food.

The other New Terrans were only too happy to send their criminals high into the mountains, out of sight, out of mind. Sending airships filled with food supplies to the penal colony high in the mountains would be considerably cheaper than having to build prisons and accompanying institutions needed in their own territories.

And so, the Blackmire guilds found their source of labor to mine for ore. The prisoners didn't have much of a choice, if they wanted to be fed, they had to work the mines. Thousands of prisoners died in the harsh condition, but the Blackmire guilds, and most New Terrans, didn't care. They were convicted criminals, and therefore expendable. Besides, the ore pouring out of the mountains was worth the cost of life.

The Blackmire guilds quickly paid off their debts and grew unbelievably wealthy. As terraforming continued over the centuries, Blackmire grew warmer and the mountains grew more habitable and fertile. The rivers were seeded with all kinds of aquatic life, and fish is one of the city's staples. Downriver, a valley that was once little more than scrub was constantly fertilized and enriched with nutrients until the soil was ready to sustain crops. Lined with terraced farmed rice paddies, fruit orchards, and vegetable patches, it's become Blackmire's own rice basket.

Eventually, Blackmire evolved into a regular city-state, requiring infrastructure and governance. The original thirteen guilds still run the city in the form of a High Council comprised of their guild masters. The High Council is led by the Chief Councillor, who is elected by the others with at least nine out of thirteen votes. Bribery, coercion, and even assassinations are common tactics in gaining the coveted position of guild master, especially among the original thirteen guilds.

The Metropolitan Guard.

The Metropolitan Guard deals with crimes both supernatural and mundane. They are a small army of netherworld guardians (Machairodus infernos,) commonly known as hellions. They're giant, demonic predators with dagger teeth, scythe talons, sandpaper fur, bullwhip tails, and ember eyes. In Blackmire, they spend most of their time in their humanoid form, though. Some refer to them as "hellhounds," but that's a bit of a misnomer. They do hunt in packs, but they're more closely related to the felines than canines.

Once responsible for controlling the inmates of the Blackmire penal colony, the Guard's duty has evolved over the centuries from brandishing martial law into filling out forms in triplicate. Bureaucratic as they may be, their weapons are no joke.

They still wear armor, encasing themselves in bionic metal exoskeletons that increase their already inhuman speed and strength. Each guard has a bespoke suit of armor that works for them and them alone. The plating is filled with tiny, powerful clockworks allows the armor to transform along with its occupant and mold itself to the hellion form.

The highly classified technology inside their armor also allows them to teleport, adding to the air of mystery and intimidation of the Guard. But they can only do so within their line of sight, or they risk reappearing inside something solid.

They live in garrisons throughout the city, but there are far fewer than the citizens of Blackmire realize. The majority of boots on the ground are actually automatons. While none of the metal "Copperpots" could never be mistaken for living creatures, their abundance creates the illusion of police presence.

The automatons get bigger and scarier the farther down one travels in the city. There are small, adorable automatons for patrolling the upper levels of the city where the upper-middle and upper classes live. The largest and most intimidating automatons patrol for law enforcement and crowd control in the ground levels, where the poorest of the poor and the most dangerous criminal elements dwell.

Jules Khando: the vulpine partner in crime.

Julin "Jules" Khando is part fox sprite and one of Locksley's oldest friends. They grew up together in the Bone Scythe assassin guild. They trained together, they fought together, they killed together, and they burned the guild down together. She's a dead shot with anything remotely resembling a projectile. She's 5'9", with honey colored skin, hazel eyes, and dark, wavy hair with blonde and pink highlights. She's only a year older than Locksley, but whereas Locksley could pass for mid-teens, Jules appears to be in her mid-twenties.

Jules has two fox tails, and she generally hides them beneath short bustle skirts. Fox sprites have reputation for being untrustworthy, and Jules would prefer not to be judged on silly superstition. Her canine teeth are sharp and her ears are pointy, but not enough to draw undue attention. She has the lithe grace of a dancer, the long, slender fingers of a pianist, and the right hook of a champion pugilist. Despite her willowy build, she is considerably stronger than she looks.

Jules' mother was a four-tailed fox sprite named Amara Khando. For years, as far as Jules knew, her mother sold her to the guild when she was eight years old, and then left the city. Amara was born and raised in Downside, the lowest district the city. She was a beautiful, but impoverished, young woman with remarkable hand-eye coordination. Despite her beauty, she was ostracized because she was half fox sprite. In stories, fox sprites have a reputation for mischief and malice.

Her ancestry didn't bother the owner of a local spectacle, who took Amara in and trained as a professional knife-thrower. She never missed, and as Amara's fame grew, so too did the number of her admirers. One of her favorites was a handsome young man named Caston Takai. He hailed from the top tiers of the city, visiting Downside with his elitist friends in disguise to "slum it."

He was extremely wealthy and extremely married. But Amara wasn't interested in his money, as she was acquiring her own. And neither was she interested in any sort of serious relationship, so his marital status wasn't an issue. Until their contraception failed, and they wound up with an issue of their own. Amara was content to raise the child on her own, but Caston had no intentions of abandoning his responsibility.

His wife was barren, and after years of failed fertility spells, he was delighted with the prospect of being a father. He had no intention of leaving his wife, though. Caston and Amara mutually decided to end their dalliance, but he continued to visit his infant daughter in secret. He would steal away from his wife and head to Downside incognito as a lowly airship sailor (in order to explain away his intermittent visitations to Jules as she grew older, without immersing her in his complicated life.)

Caston doted on his baby daughter, and he spent more and more time in Downside. His wife, Adosinda, began to notice his increasing absence, and grew suspicious. She had him followed and was furious to discover his "other family." Instead of confronting him, she decided revenge would be more satisfying.

Adosinda began poisoning him with trace amounts of lead. As the toxins built up in his system over the next few years, Caston began showing more and more signs of instability. He started suffering from memory loss, had difficulty concentrating, and was increasingly irritable.

Caston's behavior grew more erratic, and just as Amara was considering cutting him out of their daughter's life, the decision was made for her. Adosinda had bribed a doctor have Caston committed in an upscale, respectable "health sanitarium," which was really just a private mental asylum for the wealthy.

Amara was actually relieved. A few months passed, and Amara and Jules settled into a new routine. And then Adosinda bought the spectacle under an assumed name and had Amara dismissed. It didn't take much for Adosinda to blacklist Amara from every spectacle and every other job opportunity in Blackmire. And then Adosinda bribed a number of officials in the port authority to make sure Amara couldn't get any travel papers to leave Blackmire.

Then Adosinda bought Amara's building, raised her rent, and made sure no one else would rent to her. Although Amara had some money set aside, and Caston had tucked away some money for Jules, it didn't take long to burn through their savings on Adosinda's astronomical rent. Amara and Jules were turned out onto to street, and their neighbors shunned them, afraid Amara's "bad luck" was contagious, muttering among themselves that perhaps the stories about fox sprites were true.

After Amara spent a few months digging through the garbage to feed her daughter, Adosinda approached her with a proposition. Adosinda offered to give Amara her job and apartment back if she agreed to sign over her parental rights to Adosinda.

Amara thought long and hard about the right thing for her six year old daughter. There was no way she'd be able to care for Jules as long as Adosinda was doing everything in her power to destroy Amara's ability to make a living. The idea of finding a new family for Jules had already been foremost in Amara's mind, but the thought of her daughter being raised in the home of such a cold, manipulative woman churned her stomach.

It was clear Adosinda wouldn't stop until she finally took the one thing in the world that meant the most to Amara. But instead of giving up and giving in, Amara chose to give her child up to the most dangerous "family" in Blackmire, the Bone Scythe assassin guild. They had approached Amara several years earlier, before Jules was even a twinkle in her mother's eye. Impressed with Amara's knife-throwing skills, they had tried to recruit her, but she politely declined.

The Bone Scythe guild offered a handsome price for Jules, who had inherited her mother's remarkable aim. But Amara refused their money, and took her payment in the form of Adosinda's death and a set of travel papers. The guild agreed to Amara's terms, and assassinated Adosinda that very night.

While the guild arranged the travel papers Amara needed to leave the city and start fresh, she spent a few days in the guild's luxurious compound. Ignoring the ache in her chest, she spend every precious moment with her daughter. On the day her papers were ready, Amara couldn't bring herself to say goodbye. She waited until nightfall, and then kissed her sleeping girl goodbye, her eyes burning with unshed tears. Though it broke her heart to leave Jules, Amara truly believed the guild would safe guard her daughter. She couldn't remain in the same city as the child she would never see again. So she joined a traveling circus as a knife-thrower once more, and never set foot in Blackmire again.

Despite the reputations of fox sprites, Jules is one of the most dedicated and loyal members of the clan. She will sacrifice herself for any other member of the clan without thought or hesitation, regardless of how little she may know the other member. She considers anyone who has earned the leviathan tattoo to be family. But anyone who betrays her or the other Leviathans does so at their own peril.

Auntie Cora: the matriarch of a band of criminal orphans.

Coralai Wu, known as "Auntie Cora," is the Faginesque matriarch of a large, criminally minded band of orphans who make up her network of lookouts and spies. To outward appearances, she's a sweet little old witch who runs the wildly popular chain of sweetshops called Coralai's Confections. Coralai's Confections doubles as a front for her highly illegal deliveries and fencing operation. Stolen goods, secret messages, and cash are smuggled to and from buyers and sellers, hidden among sweets delivered by her orphans.

Auntie Cora's familiar is a giant wombat named Mister Toffee. He's short, rotund, furry, and utterly adorable. He's also sarcastic, constantly hungry, anti-social, and prone to swearing. He wears a bow tie and nothing else but fur.

Mister Toffee's gruff, if adorable, exterior, hides a warm heart, though. He refuses to admit it, but her loves Auntie Cora's wards just as much as she does. He's a closet knitter, lovingly creating sweaters, scarves, mittens, and socks for the children. His color blindness is a bit of a hindrance, though. He chooses balls of yarn based on the aesthetics of the names of their colors, which tends to make for some rather garish combinations. The children love Mister Toffee, though, and they wear his monstrous creations with pride.

New Terra

It's been almost nineteen centuries since the first colonists arrived on this dying red planet, fleeing the chaos and destruction wrought by a war between gods, demigods, and demons back on Earth. In the spirit of fresh starts, the colonists named the planet New Terra. Using a mixture of magic and technology, they began terraforming their new home.

The colonists' original base of operation was the spaceport on an artificial moon. Named Anteros, the artificial moon is much larger and denser than New Terra's own two small moons, Phobos and Deimos. With the added assistance of Anteros' tidal forces, demigods and magical mortals restarted the dormant volcanic system to reheat the planet's core.

Although the slowly heating core was naturally producing a magnetic field, it would not likely generate a magnetosphere strong enough to protect against stellar winds and space radiation. In order to compensate for New Terra's relatively low density, the colonists's engineering mages tunneled deep into New Terra's crust, building an underground global mechanism to bolster the burgeoning magnetosphere and artificially increase New Terra's gravity.

Even nearly doubled from it's original force, New Terra's gravity is still only two-thirds as strong as Earth's. However, if the colonists hadn't locked all three moons into their orbits ahead of time, the increased gravity would have eventually pulled them inside the planet's Roche limit and torn them apart.

In order to heat and thicken the atmosphere, colonists combined industrial ice farming with the magic of demigods and sorcerers to melt the frozen carbon dioxide at the ice caps. While tunneling into the crust to build their gravitational mechanism, the colonists also mined for other chemicals, like methane, ammonia, and nitrogen, needed to help increase the atmosphere.

As the greenhouse gases thickened, the arid planet was protected enough to prevent liquid water from escaping the atmosphere into space. Between melting the polar ice caps and the permafrost aquifers in the southern highlands, the colonists eventually released enough water to inundate the northern lowlands, covering almost half the planet in water. Vast oceans now take up almost the entire northern hemisphere.

Witches and agrarian demigods helped extremophile microbial lifeforms, such as phytoplankton, algae, lichen, and cyanbacteria, take root and spread to produce oxygen. To speed the process of creating a breathable atmosphere, the colonists also built oxygen factories.

As centuries passed and the planet became more and more habitable, and more refugees arrived, the colonists began to build upwards and outwards from the underground colonies scattered across the planet. Small, isolated outposts grew into towering, sprawling surface metropolises that evolved into independent city-states.

New Terra been drastically altered over the centuries, but it's terraformation is far from complete. Currently the sky is the color of wisteria flowers, gradually getting turning more blue as the atmosphere continues to thicken and the oxygen levels increase.

Each city-state is surrounded by its own insulating atmosphere, the result of local oxygen factories, abundant terrace gardens, and water vapor from the steam works that pulse throughout the city. These localized ecospheres keep the cities much warmer and the air thicker than in the surrounding wilderness.

The conditions in the vast, open spaces between city-states are similar to high-altitude areas on Earth. It's chilly, often windy, and the air is thin. Most people require the use of rebreather masks to prevent hypoxia. However, there are plenty of hardy plants, animals, and even a few pioneers, that have adapted to the unforgiving environment outside city walls.