Forrest Cameranesi, Geek of All Trades

Meij Endaren

Centuries after the death of Darak Meij and the witch queen Mav, and the formation of the Council of Nations, the more advanced among the Ehrban nations have developed back to the space age at last. Niarba's sole hyperpower, rivalling the collected power of the entire Council of Nations (of which it is independent), is the Nurbal, an isolated nation in the far north. Having already made settlements on artificial satellites above the rings left from old Ehrba's shattered moon, and colonized other planets and moons of their solar system, they are developing plans for their first interstellar mission. This prompts the secretive society of mages, now colloquially called the Ancients, to emerge out of the fierce isolation in which they have hidden for centuries. They come to warn the Nurbal and the rest of the Ehrban of the dangers awaiting them in space, now remembered only as legend and dismissed as superstition by most modern people: the Berol, the aliens who all but annihilated their homeworld thousands of years prior, who would have exterminated the Ehrban if not for the efforts of the ancient mages to preserve their peoples under the leadership of their founder Lievus, son of the legendary creator of magic himself, Keius Meij. The Nurbal dismiss these warnings as the meaningless mythology of an outdated religion, and proceed with their plans anyway. Sincerely fearing for their entire world, the Ancients respond by sabotaging Nurbal developments, and this gradually develops to the brink of all-out war between their nations. As the Ancients provoke the Nurbal further in their acts of sabotage, and prove more than capable of defending themselves against the Nurbal counterattacks, the use of violence gradually escalates to the point that the Nurbal consider the use of nuclear weapons against the Ancients, who seem committed to an unyeilding total war to stop the Nurbal from dooming their entire world again. But the Ancients demonstrate that they possess magical abilities comparable in destructive power to nuclear weapons, having learned to draw nearly limitless amounts of magical energy through a "cosmic egg" as the Nurbal mockingly call it, a relic of the "gods" of whom their goddess Geiana is the offspring. With this level of destructive power at hand, the other nuclear powers of the Council of Nations threaten to retaliate upon any nation that engages in the use of such weapons, forcing the conflict between Nurbal and Ancients into a global cold war fought largely by proxy in the fringes of the less-developed world outside the core of the Council that has by now united most of it. Besides low-level long-term proxy wars in those places, espionage becomes the name of the game in the more direct conflict. In one of their most daring missions ever, Nurbal secret agents manage to kidnap an egg of the ruling Meij line, the child Endaren. They plan to use him and his connection to the Ancients' collective consciousness to the Nurbal's advantage in the war, controlling him by connecting him to their own nascent mental network as well, using their own far less sophisticated nanotechnology and a primitive artificial intelligence called The Machine, something that verges extremely close to another Ancient religious taboo dismissed largely as superstition by the modernized world of Niarba. Endaren is hatched among the Nurbal and raised like one of them, including being injected with the nanites that connect him to The Machine. Through both that connection and more conventional education he is groomed his entire life to be a military commander, and heavily indoctrinated in Nurbal values of science and progress, and to view the Ancients as a backward traditionalist society of religious extremists who would impose their superstitious primitivism over the whole world if they had a chance. His whole life he feels a vague sense of suffering and discomfort, like the distant wailing of people dying on the battlefield. He is told all the while that this is from his connection to the Machine, which unites all Nurbal together into a glorious technological unity at the speed of thought, including the many Nurbal who suffer every day at the hands of their enemies, the Ancients. But when Endaren at least reaches maturity and is introduced to command on the battlefield of the intractable war that has now enveloped the entirety of Niarba, he begins to correlate the ebb and flow of the cacaphony and discord wailing in the back of his mind not with his people's defeats in battle (their forces being remotely controlled automatons by and large), but rather with their victories over the Ancients. He eventually realizes that the source of the pain he has felt his entire life is the suffering of the other Ancients that he can feel through his connection to their goddess Geiana, of which he is every much a part as they are. Increasingly haunted by this realization, and correspondingly pressured and seemingly mistrusted by his Nurbal superiors, he eventually flees from the Nurbal in a daring escape into the frozen wilderness of the northern lands, which he survives only by using the magic he has thus far been completely untrained in, guided gently by a voice in his mind, not the voice of Geiana but a more singular one, though all of Geiana echoes the voice's words. (More details).

Guided by that voice, he finds in the wilderness far enough from Nurbal territory a young woman near his own age, the apparent owner of the voice that all of Geiana seems to echo. She introduces herself as Daria: Meij Daria, his twin sister in a way, though more technically his mother. As they walk together still further from the Nurbal territories, she elaborates. Long ago, the last of the great Meij line, their ancestors, descended straight from the inventor of magic himself, Keius Meij, was killed defeating Mav the Witch-Queen, the last of the warlocks, evil wizards from before the industrial age and enemies of the Ancients and the non-magical mundanes alike. The other wizards feared Meij's power, however, and so when an egg grew forth from his corpse (as is normal for the Ehrban) the Ancients placed a magical time-stopping effect upon it, keeping the mighty new Meij as a kind of secret weapon for times of great need. Over the centuries, the need for a backup of their secret weapon was realized, so the egg was allowed to hatch, and another egg prematurely extracted from that newborn child, who was immediately placed back into magical stasis, while the premature egg was tended to stability and then placed elsewhere in stasis itself, effectively cloning the newborn Meij child in a naturalistic way. That infant child held so long in stasis was Daria here, and her 'clone' egg, her twin or child, was Endaren, who was stolen by the Nurbal, after which time the Ancients released Daria from stasis as well. As heir of the most powerful line of wizards and so of immense influence over Geiana, she has risen to a natural position of leadership within the Ancients, but has been groomed by them her entire life specifically to counteract Endaren when he was inevitably brought to use as a weapon against them by the Nurbal. She was consequently overjoyed when Endaren felt the pain inflicted upon Geiana and defected, and against the wishes of the rest of her people she can come out here to rescue him and bring him back into the fold. The other Ancients are expectedly hesitant to allow Endaren to join with them, despite Daria's influence over them. But he is able to convince them to accept him when he reveals that he still retains an irrevocable connection to the Nurbal central intelligence, The Machine, which does not control him, as the Nurbal are justifiably paranoid about their artificial intelligence taking over, but it does continue to act as an informant and advisor drawing from the entirety of the Nurbal's collective databanks. He basically has a built-in spy on the Nurbal internet feeding him any information he wants, and will gladly use that to the Ancients' advantage. And through that connection, he soon learns that the Nurbal have themselves a bioengineered clone of Endaren, named Amouch, that they have been raising as a backup to him his entire life, one with an enhanced version of the warlock gene he has only a weakened version of that allows him and Daria to selectively engage with Geiana, the stronger version of which will keep Amouch from being so influenced by the goddess as Endaren was, while still allowing him to listen in on her thoughts and even exert influence over her as Endaren was intended to do. This pushes the Ancients over the edge into accepting Endaren as desperately needed. Once accepted, Daria begins to train him quickly, with the help of telepathic magic guiding his reflection upon the inherited memories of the entire Meij line that they share, on mastery of his inherent magical abilities. She and the other ancients also bring him up to date on newer magic than that which old the old Meij family would remember: a kind of magical technology, various artifacts and magical constructs, that the Ancients have gradually invented in parallel with the technological development of the mundane world, studying also their holiest of relics, the Orb of the Minded-Worlds, said to be the metaphorical egg from which Geiana was born, which divinely inspired the mighty Keius to create their magic, and from which they now draw magical power unparalleled in previous generations. Among the powerful new artifacts the Ancients have created is a pendant that can summon the very souls of the dead and imbue them with control of otherwise-inanimate artificial bodies, primarily to serve as soldiers on the battlefield to lessen their casualties in the face of the Nurbal's unending army of automatons. The body of the deceased must be largely intact, such as one in a coffin in a grave, for the dormant soul still bound to it to be recoverable. The artifacts can then summon the soul into themselves and then, at the soul's direction, magically animate a body molded from materials like clay: a golem. If the soul was that of a mundane, a non-wizard who did not have direct magical control over their own soul in life, then the golems can be magically commanded by wizards through Geiana, and so make perfect soldiers for the battlefield. Endaren finds the entire process morally repulsive, but it is argued that these people were already dead before, and only mundanes whose souls do not live on through their descendents in Geiana like wizards, so no further harm can be done by having them die again to prevent the wizard deaths that would occur otherwise. Endaren is taught that wizards are not to be resurrected this way, for with their two-way communication with Geiana they would taint the spirit of the goddess herself, and through her all of wizardkind. Like his short time in command of Nurbal armies, Endaren attempts to push through his objections, to what he is told to do, but in the end decides that neither the Ancients nor the Nurbal are the moral superiors in this war, and something must be done to end it for all without aiding either side to victory; something that will unify both sides together. In a moment of mad inspiration, he decides to steal one of the resurrection stones, and following memories inherited from Darak Meij, he tracks down the body of Mav the Witch-Queen, to resurrect her and set her up as a common enemy against whom both the Ancients and Nurbal must unite, a battle in which he intends to lead them. (More details).

Ressurecting Mav the Witch-Queen quickly proves to be a terrible decision. Having lived her life almost solely dedicated to the eradication of the Meij line with whom her family had feuded for centuries since the earlier resettlement of Niarba, she almost immediately attacks Endaren once she realizes who he is. Being a magically talented spirit controlling an unliving body through an artifact powered directly by what is effectively the source of all magic, she is ridiculously powerful and easily overwhelms Endaren, sending him fleeing back toward the Ancients' capital all while telepathically calling on Daria for help. She meets him en route with a force of golems, not realizing at all the severity of the threat they're facing, as Mav easily dispatches the golem army and continues to overwhelm both Endaren and Daria, driving them both back toward the capital again. As they near it, a team of expert mages converge on their location to stop Mav with a greater show of force, but even they are beaten back further, as more and more mages join the battle against her. Eventually, as Mav begins to bring increasingly more powerful magics to bear upon her increasing opposition, the mages are forces to resort to a spell they have not used for millennia: the magical shield with which they protected their ancient temple during the hellish final days of their ancient civilization, only now powered like Mav herself by the Orb of the Minded-Worlds. It is only by mercy of that extra power that the Ancients are able to save the temple from an attack comparable in power to a nuclear bomb that Mav drops on the Ancients, devastating the lands surrounding the temple. Forces to devote their efforts to maintaining the shield, they Ancients can do nothing about it, but unable to reach her prey through their defenses, Mav is discouraged and instead decides to target the weaker of the enemies she remembers: the Council of Nations, which formed around Darak Meij and his quest to destroy her in her first life. Travelling across the sea from the Southerlands where the Ancients live to the Otherlands where she once hailed from and where the capital of the Council still resides, she drops out of the sky unexpectedly and drops the magical equivalent of a nuke directly onto the capital, annihilating it in a flash. The whole world suddenly leaps to the brink of global thermonuclear war as the other Council nations, believing the Ancients to be responsible for the attack (because it was a magical attack just like the kind they threatened the Nurbal with, carried out by one of their magically animated golems), prepare to counterattack against the Ancients, targeting multiple of their settlements besides just their barely-protected capital. It is only the Nurbal, of all people, who manage to stave off this doom, knowing as well as anyone that a global thermonuclear war will spell the end for everyone. They quickly inform the Council that according to their satellite surveilance, the Ancient capital was hit by just such an attack shortly before the Council capital was, and so they believe the Ancients and Council both are victims of an unknown third party. The Council stands down, and Amouch uses his connection to Endaren through The Machine to communicate with him and find out what the hell is going on. Endaren admits complete fault for his dumb idea of resurrecting Mav, and absolves the Ancients of any wrongdoing, even offering to surrender himself to the Council in atonement for this crime. Amouch instead asks Endaren to help him prevent the next attack, which their surveillance suggests is targeted at the Midlands, the most densely-populated region of the world and the heart of civilization on Niarba. Assuming that Mav herself does not know the shield spell the Ancients used to protect their temple from her attack, Amouch believes that they can destroy Mav with a tactical nuclear strike of their own, but only if she can be caught still enough somewhere far enough from populated areas. He asks if the Ancients can somehow use a variant of that shield spell to contain Mav and draw her away from civilization, then through Endaren communicate that location to the Nurbal so that they can send in their strike to destroy her. Daria tells Endaren that a powerful mage would have to personally go to where Mav is to enact the shield spell and contain her, and would in the process be extremely vulnerable to her attacks and likely die within minutes just from that, never mind the nuclear strike that would follow soon after. Knowing time is of the essence, Endaren wastes not a moment volunteering, and has Daria teach him the shield spell telepathically as they begin travelling to intersect Mav. The Nurbal meanwhile send a swarm of automatons to slow Mav's progress. The entire rushed operation is barely in time: just as Mav nears range on the Midlands, fighting off an unending swarm of Nurbal automatons, Endaren reaches her and enacts the shield spell to contain the two of them together, dragging her straight up to the edge of space high above the Midlands, while a Nurbal tactical nuclear missile targets Endaren's location. He dies from Mav's attacks, dropping the shield spell in the process, just as the nuke reaches them, and obliterates Mav as well. In honor of his Endaren's sacrifice, Daria and Amouch negotiate a truce between their two peoples. If the Nurbal really want to explore interstellar space, the Ancients will reopening the wormhole that connects the Ehrban system to the interstellar empire their people once ruled, and anyone on Niarba who wants to explore space is welcome to join them on the trip. However, the wormhole will be forever sealed behind them so as to protect their world from whatever threats still lie beyond, and anyone who remains on Niarba will be under the jurisdiction of the Ancients, who will finally develop Ehrban society into the harmonious unity that their founder Keius Meij originally intended. (More details).