Hellbound Europe

Thousands of years ago, there was a time before angels and demons. There were still stories of holy creatures and wretched devils, so faeries took their shape, but the Divine and Infernal Realms proper did not exist. In this time, the world was dominated by the powers of Magic and Faerie. Great kingdoms and empires wielded vast supernatural powers to advance their societies and wage war while smaller groups received direct assistance from spiritual patrons. The power of the Protogonoi ran through the world, and their vast knowledge could be tapped into by sorcerers powerful enough to impress them. But everything changed when ([strike]the fire nation attacked[/strike]) a group of daimons, some as powerful as to number among the Kosmokrators, stumbled upon Heaven.

It wasn't much to look at at the time, merely a cloud-like apparition on which a couple hundred spirits rested, but what it represented caught the daimons' attention. These humans' belief in a singular all-powerful entity had combined the Faerie power of stories with the Magical ideal of perfection of form, and this realm was thus a combination of the Faerie and Magic Realms, with power outstripping both. Seeing this as their chance to advance their own power, these creatures declared to the spirits that they were angels of their "God," thus tying themselves to the realm through their belief, before they started spreading the message of the "one true God" to the humans still on earth to bolster their own status. And indeed, the influence of monotheism grew, and with it did their power... But it changed them, as well. While they still had minds, as they originated as Magic creatures, their Faerie natures were exerting the rules of their roles on them, and they were shaped into the benevolent angels they had made themselves out to be, their goal changing to protecting the souls coming to them and allowing the humans below to reach the paradise they erected on this spectral cloud in the Realms. Thus was the Divine Realm birthed.

However, there soon came to be an ideological divide among the angels due to their new-found benevolence towards the humans and their spirits. Many of the angels considered it their duty to continue deceiving the humans so that the humans could have this paradise and powerful enough angels to protect it, but a significant minority of them, headed by former Kosmokrator Lucifer, believed that humans should be allowed to see the truth so they could choose their own paths without deception. They were also motivated by their own desire to protect the humans, as the growing superiority of the Divine made the Protogonoi feel threatened, and Lucifer surmised that they were ready to strike out against the growing Heaven. Eventually, desperate to enact change and unable to placate the Protogonoi any longer, Lucifer rallied his supporters into rebellion against the leadership of Heaven.

Eventually, after much fighting, the rebels were defeated, and the leadership of Heaven sought a permanent solution to the problem of this rebel ideology and the still-valid threat of the Protogonoi now that these angels had been defeated. They knew they didn't have the power to do anything on their own, but their followers on earth supplied Heaven with Divine power... They sacrificed much of the power of the rebel angels in a ritual to create the Faithspring, the world's true "God," which collected the Divine power people sent up through prayer and put it into a form the angels could use. Now that they had this immense source of power, they created Hell, binding the former angels to it to use as a prison. It was initially meant as no more than a prison, but in their haste to prevent any sort of break-out, they made a place so thoroughly divorced of Hell's holy properties that it became unholy, tainting the weakened fallen angels into demons. Their twisted glamors, now sympathetically resonant with the antitheses of virtue, became able to temporarily manifest in the world near the sites of evil acts. The angels could do little about this except become even more driven in discouraging those behaviors in their followers, so they began to address other problems...

They then turned their power against the Protogonoi by creating the "Light of Creation," a metaphysical barrier which divided the Realms more distinctly and put a seal over the boundaries between them, preventing the demons from attempting to restore themselves (as they were "divided" into seemingly-permanent Infernal nature) and pushing the Protogonoi into the deepest parts of the Realm of Magic where they began to slumber until the day they could reach out and affect the world again.

Thus did the world slowly progress through history and become what it is in canon 1220. And things seemed set to stay that way for a long, long time...

Until 1294.

Anora ex Trianoma, a powerful maga specialized in Mentem, appeared at the Grand Tribunal, coming before her fellow magi to tell them that the world was about to change. After a fairly complex series of events (prequel saga, hooray!), Anora had found out about the true state of the Divine and Infernal Realms and managed to restore the Divine nature of a powerful demon. They began researching how to restore all the other demons (the first restoration method was lengthy and could only practically be reproduced two or three more times, so they needed a new method) and eventually found a way to break the Light of Creation so that the demons could regain their angelic nature and separate from the leadership to spread the truth to the world. So Anora had given him a (quite literal) piece of her mind while he went to do that, as she herself went to address the Tribunal about how to deal with the coming storm and the Order's status once they could act without fear of "God's" wrath.

The plan went awry, however, as Anora and her restored companion had miscalculated how powerful the Light of Creation truly was, and only the seal between the Realms was broken, not the strong divider. This allowed demons to pour rampantly into Heaven and steal back the power that had been used to create the Faithspring without being able to use that power to restore their angelic natures. Instead of causing a war that would only affect Heaven followed by announcements by angels that would help dissolve the Church and the Order's fear thereof, as Anora had hoped, the demonic hordes had grown much more powerful and could now physically manifest in the world far more easily. Still devoid of virtue, the demons turned their sights to enslaving the world, while the angels above lost the near-limitless power of miracles they could've used to stop them...

So demons did begin pouring into the world, and the discussion of the Grand Tribunal rather rapidly switched to how the Order of Hermes would respond to this. (Along with quickly exiling and attempting to kill Anora, who escaped soon after delivering the news of what had gone down.) Eventually, it was decided that most of the Order of Hermes would dig in and focus entirely on protecting itself, with the exception of a few covenants which would be cut off from most forms of contact with the rest of the Order with various purposes based around assuming that this would be a full apocalypse scenario; gathering the remainder of Gifted children to filter into the larger Order while there was still time, finding and preserving any artifacts in an effort to keep some of the relevant Magical history of the world alive, so on and so forth. Outside those few covenants, the Order of Hermes sealed itself away. Some groups within the Order still sought ways to reverse this apocalypse, but at this point the Order was mostly focused on self-preservation and continuing to develop in even more seclusion than usual.

Their main point of contact was the place where Anora's restored companion had entered the nexus of the Realms and attempted to break the Light of Creation... The covenant of Draco Palatium, in the northernmost part of the Greater Alps Tribunal. The covenant was crushed under the sudden siege, though several of the magi and some others managed to escape, and the demons proceeded to scatter out across the landscape, crushing human territories and any covenants that hadn't hidden themselves fast enough or prepared a powerful enough Aegis or other means of stopping them. The other kingdoms and empires of the world received word of the destruction even as demons who had once meekly hidden in spirit form now took physical form and assaulted the land.

In lands the demons successfully took, the surviving non-combatant humans were enslaved and forced into back-breaking work, the former warriors and once-hidden diabolists were given Infernal power to continue the charge against the other humans, and the dead were reanimated or had their spirits bound as if already damned to Hell. Seeing the horror spreading out before them, the Christian kingdoms quickly signed into a mass alliance and stood together against the tide of darkness, though the limited number of church folk who could perceive the demons in their spirits forms or unveil their disguises meant that demons could often have their way in subterfuge when preparing to lay waste to those left standing. The humans alone stood little chance against the demonic hordes, who outnumbered them, were far stronger than mere mortals, and could so seamlessly destroy their enemies from within...

But the humans have not been left to die. While many angels are still warring against the demons within Heaven itself, some have come to earth to help prevent it from becoming a living Hell, keeping people's faith strong and using their Divine power to nullify demonic advantages where they can. A number of Faerie and Magic creatures, aware that a full Infernal takeover of the world would mean trouble for them as well, have come to the aide of humans as well, though this is far from universal and the majority remain in their usual neutral or downright antagonistic roles. Along with creatures of Might, such assistance has taken the form of pagan priests, hedge wizards, some of the not-dug-in Order of Hermes magi, and perhaps surprisingly a number of diabolists, especially since many of the demons focused on temptation have prey to find within those desperate for the strength to fight back against the demonic hordes. (Con of still having no capacity for virtue: working together is just as difficult as before.)

It's been fifteen years since then. Despite the best efforts of the coalition against the demons, the demonic hordes have expanded into and are strongly dominating central and eastern Europe and have conquered small pieces of other parts of Europe, giving them multiple fronts there. Large branches of the Infernal legions have smashed their way into the Middle East, which has struggled to form a united front the way the kingdoms of Europe have. Beyond the concentrated masses, demons are still acting on their own as they always have, with much greater abilities to both manipulate and slaughter people. Most of the demons outside the main legion are still relying on subtler methods than directly murdering the much-less-defended non-levy peasants and similar such noncombatants left behind, but this both isn't universal and isn't as much a blessing as it may seem, as the prolonged time levies are forced away from their homes combined with the much more powerful natural disasters, plagues, blights, and other such Infernal machinations of suffering and harvest destruction mean that angels, saints, and powerful holy men have to spend as much of their time and strength preserving the fields and healing the sick back in the supposedly peaceful parts as focusing on the war just to keep resources from running dry completely.

Europe, and perhaps the world at large, has been bound to Hell...

It's up to some heroic PCs to save the day, eh? Or maybe not. Either way though... Here's the overview of the setting I'll be using for my next saga, coming after the prequel saga I mentioned a few times and may or may not actually get around to converting from logs to a coherent story. This isn't the whole fully-detailed picture (I mean, I've got vague terms like "central and eastern Europe" that really need to get solidified into what's going on where) but it's what I've got for an overview so far. If this gets any reception, I'll post more elaborate stuff, especially on how particular medieval organizations and the like would've developed in light of this. What do you guys think of it so far? Anything that works well, anything that doesn't, anything I need to fix or stuff you want to suggest that I consider more thoroughly in regards to resources, taxes, the responses of certain groups, what have you? Anything that totally throws you off ("I really don't think the Order of Hermes would buckle down like that, they should know better/not know that well"? Stuff like that)?

I like it. :slight_smile:

The only bit that seems artificial is the part about stripping the fallen angels of all virtues. This seems especially unbecoming of the good angels, which after all are still good as their roles imply. I would suggest the Divine angels originally intended to merely imprison the Infernal angels, but inadvertently created a prison so mystically removed from Heaven that it became Hell, which corrupted the angels trapped within, turning them into demons. You might want to look to The Death Gate Cycle series of books for inspiration there - this is part of the background story there, about how the "good" wizards/angels trapped the bad ones in a prison that was meant to enlighten them and instead corrupted them.

Another off bit is how and why the demons could get to act in the real world, once they have been imprisoned. I would suggest that this, too, was unintentional. While the prison remained impervious to demon's attempts to get out, the unexpected mystical bond with lack of virtue allowed the demons to manifest aspects of themselves around acts of human depravity and lack of virtue. The same ties also bind the souls of sinners to hell, allowing hell to swell and grow with each one's death.

Finally, I think the onslaught of demons appears too organized as you describe it. Beings with no virtue will not be able to coordinate so well. Instead, have it initially be an outpouring of a disorganized host of demons, into both heaven and the real world. In time, demonic warlords will come to dominate other demons (and aligend forces) locally, especially as the few demons capable of patience and cunning will be able to exert their influence. A kingdom led by diabolists may also arise; as they can have some virtues, they may, with enoguh Infernal power, outplan and outmaneuvere the true demons.

I would also would like to learn more about this "Light of Creation", especially as in how it's related to a covenant in the Greater Alps. One of my past designs was to have the Realms separated by Faerie powers during the Titanomachia; in that setting, the Heavens were separated from Earth in the Pillars of Hercules. (Tartarus was separated from Earth in a Zoroastrian site in Persia (possibly the bridge of souls in the Elbruz mountains), Oceanus was separated in the Isle of Rugen, and the fires of Hel in the Pyramids of Egypt; thus all four elements, and with them the entire Magic Realm, were separated from the mundane world in the four corners of the world.) Is there some similar focus for the "Light of Creation" at the covenant's site?

I think it is a bold take on creating a coherent background still compatible with Ars cosmology and history, so cudos for the work.

I won't challenge your background history because it is what you need to tell your Saga.
Two things jump to my mind:

  • Considering Tremere preparation for war and their strongholds in Transylvania Tribunal, it is likely one of the safest place. The house is probably levying heavy "residence" taxes for magi looking for protection there. Not in virtus or silver, but in knowledge and seasons of work - foreign magi are allowed to stay as long as the contribute to the war effort;
  • As SG, you should think on how powerful are demons powers: if they are able to tap into the "Divine" energy, does it make them all-powerful, potentially bypassing MR ? Does it grant them power of creation ?

Anyway, interesting take on the world cosmogony.

If you are asking for honest opinions, I will be honest and say I don't like it. I mean, it is innovative and creative. But aesthetically, it rubs me the wrong way. It makes the Divine a generic fantasy concept, like the gods of lawful good from AD&D. And it resembles nothing of the Divine from Holy Scripture.
Now mind you, I am a religious sort of guy. Greek Orthodox. Christian. In Ars Magica, I accept the fictionalized version of religion as part of a fictionalized setting. To me, drawing inspiration from real world religion is part of what makes Ars Magica special. A generic race of super beings or higher spirits does nothing for me.

Now, as a SciFi concept, if you and your troupe are into that, then great. I do admire the creativity and innovation behind it. Sorta like saying "I think you are a great painter, and I can see that in your work. This particular portrait is not at all attractive to me, but maybe someone else will buy it".

Not trying to stir argument or debate. Just giving you my own personal opinion. Out of respect.

It's quite appreciated! I do want honest opinions. If I could be so bold as to offer a rebuttal, though? I think Ars Magica was already starting to drop a ball that I've simply finished dropping. It never rubbed me the right way that monotheistic religions got to be "basically true but your God doesn't really think X is sinful" while pretty much every other religion got "lol, your gods are fake soulless spirits made out of the stories you told of them." And I happen to like myself a bit of cynicism in my settings, so the direction I took it was making monotheism less reliable rather than making every other religion moreso (which also would've required a lot more work on my part, if I can confess to some laziness).

So there's my reasoning. But I do appreciate your viewpoint.


Oooh. You know, I like both of these ideas, they don't seem quite as forced as what I was going with. I'll probably end up implementing them... Thanks!

Demonic warlords and diabolist army leaders are probably something that would've started coming about over the fifteen years after the event... The reason for the unity of destruction in the beginning was, more than anything, the simple fact that the demons had all popped out in roughly one spot and sort of just fawned out from there to do their dastardly deeds.

Well, this'll be a longer answer, so just know your curiosity is noted and these questions will be answered when I make a more thorough article on the Light of Creation (and probably a few other features of the supernatural world while I'm there).

Thanks! It takes a bit of tangoing, though I think I did it on "easy" mode. :stuck_out_tongue:

Oooh, very interesting thoughts, especially since transylvania is so closeby for the destruction... They'd probably be able to capitalize on magi who didn't have time to run anywhere else or who wanted to rely on the strong military preparation of the Tremere. I'll definitely consider this when writing up what's going on with the buckled-down Order.

I don't think I'd have them bypass MR for stylistic and balance reasons, which I have justified at the moment by saying they basically shattered the Faithspring to get their power when they invaded Heaven. More of what they got back was the power they had lost when the Faithspring was made, rather than stealing the power of miracles, especially since any "miracle" power they got would either be divided among all the demons (in which case each demons has like one person's prayers worth and it's pretty flimsy) or it just got divided among the biggest bossy demons like the false gods and princes of Hell (which would actually be kind of interesting as a setting element but wouldn't affect the abilities of most demons directly).

Thanks for the compliment. :slight_smile: