Forrest Cameranesi, Geek of All Trades

Lievus Meij

Thousands of Earth years in the past, the alien Ehrban people have just barely survived the near-destruction of their homeworld Ehrba, thanks only to the use of symbiotic nanotechnology that affords them effectively magical powers. Several generations ago their world was all but destroyed in an attack by a threat from the sky that none alive now remember. Their single large moon was shattered in the assault, fragments of it raining down across their world in an ongoing meteoric bombardment that ruined their once-great civilization and devastated their entire biome, causing a mass extinction nearly unparalleled in the world's history. The Ehrban themselves survived only in a protective bubble around their holiest of temples, maintained by a constantly rotated team of "mages", individuals symbiotically imbued on the cellular level with their most advanced technology, as the world outside was ravaged by global fires and then storms of ash and snow before settling into a perpetual winter. In this time, "magic" has been essential to ensuring the survival of the Ehrban race, trapped inside this tiny artificial biome, and so nearly the entire population has been trained as mages, though to varying degrees of success. The nanotechnology also links them loosely into something like a collective consciousness, called Geiana, over which the more skilled mages have greater influence. The greatest mage of them all is now one of very last born before the fall, though even he was too young to remember it: Lievus Meij, the only child of Keius Meij, the creator of the technology that saved their race. It was Leivus' mother Tatia, Keius' only lover, and the head of the school of magic based out of their ancient temple, who spearheaded the efforts to save the temple and everyone around it when the end of their world came so unexpectedly; and it was she who trained the people they saved in magic, and lead them through this time of crisis. But she is recently passed, and de facto leadership falls now to her children. Besides Lievus, Tatia had also another child: Kadia, who takes after her more closely, and is seen by some as the more rightful heir. Ehrban are hermaphroditic, their genders given here merely our human perception of them, and they may have complex parentage. While Lievus was borne by Keius after mating with Tatia only, so Lievus takes more after Keius, Tatia herself bore Kadia as the product of her many mates, and so Kadia takes more after her. Kadia, like a minority of the survivors, has inherited from one of her mother's mates a mutation that affects the way their brains interface with the nanotechnology, allowing them to control their own nanites and so to perform "magic", but preventing the nanites from exercising any control over them in return, shutting them off from both their own ancestral memories, which the nanites grant other mages, and also from the influence of the collective consciousness Geiana. And while Lievus is the presumtive heir to the figurative throne in the eyes of the majority of survivors (linked together through Geiana over which he, as the most powerful mage, wields the greatest influence), Kadia is meanwhile the preferred authority of that minority who are not so bound to the will of the majority, and who would prefer to be allowed to act in accordance. But as half-siblings and both wise elders of their closely-knit community, Lievus and Kadia are far from rivals, and when the independent minority begin to agitate that the harsh world outside has calmed enough that they should be allowed to form a breakaway colony apart from the old temple, Kadia comes to Lievus to speak in earnest with him and convince him, and through him the rest of the majority, to allow it. Lievus is hesitant, not out of any desire or perceived need to maintain control of those who seek independence from him, but out of concern for the very survival of their species. They are very few in number, barely a viable breeding population, and their have greater strength united together working jointly for their continued survival than they would have split and scattered, however socially prefereably it might be to go their separate ways. Kadia argues on behalf of the independents that it may, conversely, be better not to keep all their eggs in one basket, and that a separate colony apart from the old temple might turn out to be an invaluable backup in case something terrible should happen at the temple; and likewise, the breakaway colony can still always fall back to the temple for support, if they need it and Lievus and the majority under his leadership would allow it. Lievus sees some wisdom in that, and Kadia likewise the reason of Lievus' arguments, and the two begin to reach a compromise where they will wait a few more years and see if the milder climate persists or improves, and if so then a second colony will be established, with its own local governance and a new layer of federal government to mediate relations between the old colony and the new. The independents are not happy with this compromise, and as Kadia tries unsuccessfully to persuade them to accept it, it looks like violence may be about to erupt. But that is thankfully stalled when, unexpectedly, the weather turns the warmest on record since the fall of the moon, the snows melt, and the first spring in living memory blooms in the country outside the temple. Lievus declares that this is a sign that the time is right to start resettling their world, this new Ehrba, or as he dubs it in their language, Niarba. (More details).

A decade or two later, the second colony has been established and is so far thriving. There has been a baby boom now that the climate is improving and resources seem more plentiful. Lievus has feelings of reservation about that, fearing that the improved climate may be a temporary phase in their world's uneven recovery, and that a possible future contraction of resource availability may spell tragedy for the now-increased population that depends on those increased resources. His feelings echo throughout Geiana, and what was once the majority of survivors, those without the mutant gene disconnecting them from Geiana, correspondingly reflect those sentiments, and consequently are less taken up in the baby boom than those with the mutant gene. Consequently, the mutant population expands much more rapidly in the baby boom than the non-mutant population, and becomes a slight majority; and even though most of that new majority are still immature, Ehrban children are precocial and so make functional enough workers to build out the new colony and support their own increased population. Most of the mutants, of course, moved out of the temple to settle the new colony free from the control of Lievus and those who are part of Geiana, so it is that second colony that has grown most rapidly in the baby boom. The combination of their mutant resistance to Geiana and lack of "ancestral spirit" (inherited memory) guidance, plus the overall immaturity of the new colony's population, make many of the non-mutants in the old temple anxious about the general temperment of the new colony. But under Kadia's leadership, the new colony has remained in peaceful relations with the old temple as independent co-equals under a nascent federal government uniting them. With the population of the second colony expanding so rapidly, some families from it have even begun to move away from there and gone into the newly-opened countryside to establish their own additional colonies. Two of them have managed to achieve material independence thus far, with no small amount of help from some non-mutants from the old temple who had also begun spreading into the wider countryside and lent a helping hand to their neighbors in their times of need. Both of the newer colonies, the mutants among them at least, initially sought complete political independence as well, to be completely apart from the old temple's civilization and not a part of the new federal government. But in cooperation with Lievus, and the influence of those emigrants from the old temple, Kadia has sought to gently bring them back into the fold. She gladly supports their independence from the second colony and her leadership, and makes it clear that this is not about her or her colony retaining control over them. Rather, it is only about maintaining a preestablished structure for the peaceful resolution of possible future conflicts between the equal and independent colonies, and that as a third or fourth state of the federation, these additional colonies would have a voice in the federal government equal to the second colony or even the old temple. Thus far only one of them has seen the light of that reasoning, and joined as the third state of the federation. While negotiations with the last independent colony about their membership in the federation continue, Lievus' fears about a sudden reversal in the climate prove prescient, and a terrible year nearly without a summer leaves the growing Ehrban civilization facing a dire food shortage. Being both the most well-established colony and, thanks to Geiana, the most well-coordinated and cooperative, the old temple fares that season the best out of the four, but the others all fall into varying degrees of troubles. Kadia's second colony, though well enough established to materially survive the bad year if its people would band together and work cooperatively for their common good, can't manage to do that, finding food riots and subsequent civil unrest making their problems even worse. To save her people, Kadia is forced to declare a state of martial law over the colony, and to make difficult decisions about how to allocate resources and punish offenders against the state. In the two newest colonies, things go even worse for the absence of such a strong leader, as families fight for control of the scarce resources and the more magically powerful of them rise up as warlords, or "warlocks", raiding the countryside, taking what they want and killing whoever stands in their way. When the hard year ends, those warlocks remain in control of their feudal fiefs, and as resources become more plentifully available again, they begin to war with each other for control of them; and to war against the first two colonies that had managed to weather the bad season. Kadia and her second colony adopt a fierce isolationism, a "to each their own" philosophy now unconcerned about whether those who have declared themselves enemies out in the country should live or die the next hard year. But the old temple under Lievus, on the other hand, decides that this has gone far enough, and begins using its superior resources to conquer the petty warlords by force and establish sound government over the countryside again. It does this through an action of the federation of which Kadia's second colony is still a part, but with their diminished population after the hard year, a minority part unable to sway the vote on the matter. The entire federation is to be reorganized under the more centralized leadership of the old temple. That is something Kadia's people will not stand for, and they secede from the federation, which does not recognized their right to do so. Despite their familial relation and mutual desire to avoid this fate, Lievus and Kadia become the leaders of opposite sides of the ensuing civil war that threatens to tear apart what little still remainds of the Ehrban civilization on Niarba. (More details).

Though initially reluctant to engage in war against each other, Lievus and Kadia are polarized in opposite directions by the influence of their respective peoples and their reactions to how each other change. The mages of the old temple, the non-mutants, begin to see the mutants — whom they now blanketly refer to as "warlocks", even the ones in the still-domestically-civil second colony — as a kind of unholy abomination, literally soulless and godless for their lack of inherited memories and disconnection from Geiana. Though not going so far himself, Lievus comes to hold that the mutation is in objective fact counter to the intended purpose of the magic technology that his father Keius invented, which was used to unite their once-great people and prevent a war that threatened to destroy them all. Kadia, on the other hand, sees the Geianan mages as a kind of hive-minded cult seeking to destroy all individuality, and echoes opinions passed down through the generations that what Keius did before the fall was a great evil aimed as usurping power over all Ehrban and setting himself up as a messianic figure, the one true prophet of the god that he created. With these increasingly incendiary opinions aimed at each other, peaceful negotiation between the old temple and the second colony proves impossible, and a terrible war lasting years erupts. In that war, the more powerful magic users on either side are the primary soldiers, and so die out in the greatest numbers. Both sides remain civil enough not to attack non-combatants, and so those who are magically inept become an increasingly major segment of the dwindling population. In the final days of the war, the second colony is finally conquered, and Lievus himself spearheads the charge into the city, where Kadia stands ready to defy him. A titanic battle between these two most powerful mages ensues, while the remainder of the old temple's forces search the city for Kadia's children and any other powerful leaders who might organize a resistance to their occupation. In the end, Kadia is slain by a saddened Lievus; and her children are nowhere to be found, having fled the city during the battle, each of them leading a small contingent of warlocks into the deep wilderness, abandoning the colony to be seized by Lievus and the forces of the old temple. With the second colony taken at last, and the two smaller and newer colonies having since been occupied as well, the takeover of what was once a nascent federation is complete, and a unitary state centered on the old temple under the rule of Lievus is established in its place. The remaining populace of that state, though lead by wizards, are predominantly non-magical after so many magic users died in the war. Many of the non-magical users are mutants, though it is harder to tell mutants from non-mutants among non-magic users as non-magic users are not in any conscious communication with their ancestral spirits at all, so it is difficult to tell whether they are wholly uninfluenced by it or merely unaware of its influence on them. It does have a statistical effect on their behavior over time, however, as those unknowingly in communion with Geiana are steered toward cooperation with each other and tend to drift inward into the more densely parted centers of the colonies, while those free from her influence tend to wander farther afield. They are also more aggressive and competitive on the whole, and as another generation passes, they once again outbreed the non-mutants, filling the countryside beyond the main settlements with a growing sea of mundane Ehrban. The wizards of the old temple send their trained members out into the fields to watch over and guide the growing Ehrban civilization, but they are increasingly a minority among them. Those wizard rangers also are constantly on the lookout for any warlocks, magic users unconnected to Geiana, many of whom survived in the wilds after the war and are whose hidden existence is being constantly incroached upon by the spreading mundane population. It becomes increasingly clear that this new population cannot be controlled in a single unitary state from the distant old temple, though Lievus continued to try to do so for the rest of his life. But upon his death, his successors in the leadership decide that it is wiser to nominally devolve rule to the scattered local settlements, and instead just try to keep wizards trained at the old temple interspersed in their populations to subtly guide them over the course of history. (More details).