The Starblood Scourge

Alteris is no stranger to illness and disease. There are dozens of afflictions, many with no cures, that can befall adventurers and citizens of the Kingdoms of Atleris. But the most terrible affliction of the past century is without a doubt the Starblood Scourge of 820 ME.

At the beginning of 820, the year appeared as any other. By the end of it, nearly every nation of Alteris had suffered incredible hardships at the hands of the unexpected outbreak of an unknown, magical illness. It began simply: the clouds above the Osoroshi Ocean turned heavy and dark, and from them fell a thick oil, opalescent and shining. The shoals of Osoroshi to the Tulang Coast of Filenfoe were awash in the unusual material, which quickly came to be called starblood.

It was found to have incredible magical properties, allowing for fast transference of earth magic to anyone who was exposed to the substance. At first, it was viewed as a blessing from the gods, quickly becoming a commodity traded amongst the magical communities of Alteris. But those who used it did not fully understand the risk they were taking in their exposure to starblood.

Early side effects of starblood exposure included clairvoyance, increased magical aptitude, and precognition. Within three weeks of exposure, people began to complain about headaches, nausea, fever, and confusion. It is in this stage that the illness became contagious, but the community at large was unaware of this fact until much too late. Over a period of two months, exposed persons could no longer sleep, they pooled sweat and they described uncontrollable pain throughout all of their body. The final stages of starblood exposure began at three months, and left the afflicted bedridden. More than half of the victims succumbed to the illness entirely at that point. For those who survived, recovery was a long and painful road.

Starblood Scourge led to a total travel ban all throughout Alteris. As the Healers Union of Filenfoe struggled to fight the effects, their numbers dwindled, their own healers succumbing to the terrible plight. Magical societies across the world gathered their best casters, in hopes that they would be able to purify the disease, or at least halt its progress. In the end, the only solution that could be utilized was to establish a new magical community, dedicated to the destruction of the starblood. There was only one known method of destroying the substance though: for an individual to absorb it. Otherwise, the fluid would remain a threat. It was even tested to just dump the starblood into great pits, but doing so leeched into water sources, or corrupted the natural world around it, killing plants and animals.

The new order formed for the purpose of ending the Starblood Scourge called themselves the Star Scarred. They took upon themselves the terrible task of absorbing the oil into themselves, and faced the consequences thereof. Many died. It was found for those who undertook this task that continued doses of starblood would prolong their lives. But the contagious nature of exposure remained. The Star Scarred have since removed themselves to an unidentified island somewhere in the Orsoroshi ocean, where they operate a magical conservatory dedicated to ensuring no more starblood ever makes it to the shores of Alteris.

Recovery for the world of Alteris has taken time. Only recently have roadways been reopened for travelers to embark upon. But so far, there have been no more instances of the unusual oil appearing on the shores of the world. It is unknown where it came from or why. Some suggest it was a curse, one that drifted into the world from the edges of the Dark Dimension where the hastu fight the dark gods. Some think it could be a left over magical storm from the ancient Dragon Wars before the Fall. But whatever caused the Starblood Scourge, one thing remains clear: that without the sacrifice of the Star Scarred, there would be no respite from this terrible affliction.

The Narë-Ka-Han

Along the Old Silk Road from Silg to Filenfoe, there is an old brick and timber building called the Tavern Hodlestone. In its heyday, it was a bustling location, with hundreds of merchants and adventurers stopping in day and night to fill their bellies before taking the long and dangerous journey toward the lands in the east, where fortune and legacy untold were said to wait for them. But those long forgotten rumors turned sour centuries ago, and the tavern now stood almost always empty, save for a few unfortunates who chanced their luck along the desolate path headed toward the city Ziggurat in the deserts of the ancient hastu lands.

It was at this old tavern that another great revelation came forth, on scale with the Revelation at Spade collected by Sachii the fordrin scholar just a year before. It is well known throughout all of Alteris that there is a magical world all around us. This magic often manifests in forms easy to understand, such as elemental phenomena, spiritual beings, even visions. However, one aspect that has to this point been lesser understood by all but the hastu is that of realms.

Realms, or parallel dimensions, for the most part throughout Alteris history are considered little more than legends of a “Dark Dimension.” However, among the hastu people, they are a major part of their culture. It is well known that the hastu reappeared in Alteris about 1600 years ago, after having vanished from the world for millennia. They have held that their people were in another realm, fighting against dark gods and beings who lived there, to keep our world safe from their influence.

Some hastu continue the practice of Poek Pamatang, or the Dark Hunt, where they return to this realm and continue their fight against the darkness there. But no other being, save a hastu, had ever been to this realm; this lead many to believe it to be little more than superstition. Until the revelation of the Narë-Ka-Han at Tavern Hodlestone, where the first being appeared to have come from the Dark Dimension that was not a hastu.

In hastu tongue, Narë-Ka-Han translates roughly to the word “fracture.” In the year 815 ME, there began to be people appearing in Alteris who claimed to be from ‘other worlds,’ the first of whom appeared just outside the Tavern Hodlestone. Each time one of these interlopers appeared, there appeared with them a member of the hastu, who explained that these individuals were in essence, refugees. They called the event that lead to the appearance of these refugees the Narë-Ka-Han, and explained that they appeared in the Dark Dimension by some misfortune of a magical cataclysm.

The Narë-Ka-Han Revelation has given more insight into the Dark Dimension than ever before revealed in Alteris history. It is a real place, and it appears that many hastu still live there in fortress cities of their own design. As these refugees appear in the Dark Dimension, some lucky few are rescued by the hastu, and are educated well enough to migrate to Alteris. But before they are allowed to enter, it appears they are sworn to a binding spell of influence; they cannot remember many details of the Dark dimension.

There have not been many instances of Narë-Ka-Han refugees in Alteris. But each instance has been accompanied by the same story. These refugees have unusual stories to tell of their own: vague memories of their time wandering the Dark Dimension before a hastu found them. In their tales, they describe the Dark Dimension as a world of eternal twilight, where the lights of the cold north play in the sky constantly. There are no stars there, nor moon, nor any constellation or light to guide oneself through the dark land. Some have described being torn between time, aging rapidly and then suddenly finding themselves a helpless child, or losing touch with their corporeal forms all together before their hastu saviors found them and helped them return to their true selves.

The Dark Dimension appears to be a place where magic is so palpable that it can and does change the world around it at rapid speeds. When pressed for information, some hastu have described that survival in the Dark Dimension is nearly impossible without strong resistance to the natural influencing magic which is in the air of that world. Given the incredible difficulty of survival there, it is unknown how many Narë-Ka-Han refugees are never found by hastu, and perish in the magical wilds of the Dark Dimension.

Narë-Ka-Han refugees do not all come from the same place. Most describe worlds that are vastly different as their places of origin. This suggests there are many realms beyond the Dark Dimension, but how many is impossible to know. What can be determined from the information we have is that the Dark Dimension appears to act as a border world for places that have experienced a fracture due to some magical cataclysm on their side.

Most nations have freely offered asylum to these Narë-Ka-Han refugees. However, Silg and Udai have established strict immigration policies, allowing their entry and integration only after they have proven their loyalty to the nations. Since the first documented cases began to appear in 815 ME, there have been less than a hundred Narë-Ka-Han refugees in all. But the presence of these travelers from other worlds has sparked great interest all across Alteris. Why are they finding themselves in the Dark Dimension? And does whatever drew them there pose a threat to Alteris itself?

The Elkenhammers of Mul Debbon

In the world of Alteris there are many groups people choose to align themselves with. These groups are often referred to collectively as societies. Some societies have incredible influence in their regions. Others are more secretive. Every nation of Alteris, including the territory of Tandavar, is home to hosts of societies, each fulfilling different roles in their respective niches.

In Mul Debbon, the most prominent society is the Order of Elken. They are a religious conclave of warrior monks, often referred to collectively as Elkenhammers. They follow the teachings of the god of nature, Elken, which is called called the El Kund. While the members of this society are often referred to as Elkenhammers, there are in fact three distinct castes with their own roles to play within the Order.

The first caste within the Order of Elken is the Tavors. Becoming a Tavor is no small feat. One must first pledge themselves to the service of Elken by releasing all their attachments to property; they may own no land, or any possessions other than their clothes. Then, they must begin their education in the rites and rituals of the Order. This process can take decades. When they are not memorizing their sacred texts, or training in the arts of self defense, they act as merchants throughout Mul Debbon, managing the trade goods of farmers and artisans to sell on their behalf.

Tavors are trusted with this duty to ensure that precious commodities, such as food and clothing, are never sold at costs that would put undo burden on the people of Mul Debbon. Finer items such as jewelry are not under the purview of Tavors. Tavors may marry, and have children. Some members of the Order of Elken choose to be Tavors for the remainder of their lives, marrying and raising a family of their own.

Tavors become Elkenhammers once they have completed all the initiate rites of the Order of Elken. With the transition from Tavor to Elkenhammer, members make another sacrifice: a life long vow of celebacy. Any marriage they were part of before transitioning from Tavor to Elkenhammer is at that time dissolved. At this point, they complete the Warriors Rite: creating their weapon. Every Elkenhammer carries with them a short handled war hammer, etched with runes from the Bibila El Kund, their book of sacred scripture. These war hammers are powerfully enchanted, and are said to be vessels for the magical essence of the owners soul.

Elkenhammers are the most recognized caste among the citizenry of Mul Debbon. Elkenhammers act as a police force in the nation of Mul Debbon. They are also frequently called upon for matters regarding the execution of religious rites among the citizenry of Mul Debbon. Elkenhammers are both priests and patrolmen, their sole purpose to protect the freedom of the people, according to their belief in the balance of nature.

Elkenhammers spend their lives continuing their education in the finer arts of magic, traveling the countryside as wandering arbiters. Many Elkenhammers find townships to call home, where they act as law enforcement or judges. Most who become Elkenhammers remain in this position until the end of their lives.

However, there are some few Elkenhammers who transition into another stage of leadership within the Order. These venerable elders are called Parriarhks. The process of becoming a Parriarhk is called the Final Rite, and it involves letting go of the last of their earthly attachments; namely eating and sleeping. Parriarhks enter a new state of being as they transition from life to death. Some Parriarhks have been known to live as long as ten years without eating or sleeping in that entire time, sustaining themselves only through their connection to the magic of nature.

Parriarhks act as the ruling council among the Order, and although most Elkenhammers are given autonomy to do as they please within the confines of their duty, occasionally specific assignments are divined by the Parriarhks as they commune with nature. Parriarhks act as oracles, providing spiritual guidance for the members of the Orde as well as the people of Mul Debbon.

Citizens of Mul Debbon are free to believe whatever they choose, and are not compelled to worship Elken. However, most citizens of Mul Debbon choose to either out of a sense of family tradition, or their own conviction toward the god of nature. Either way, the nation of Mul Debbon remains an Egalitarian Theocracy centered around the practices safeguarded by the Order of Elken.

The History and People of Alteris

KINGDOMS is a Live Action Role Play that takes place in the world of Alteris. It uses its own unique rule system for gameplay, and those rules can be viewed here. But The world that the game of KINGDOMS takes place in has a long and varied history of gods, magic, wars, and contentions. This post will give a crash course in that lore, helping new players to learn how it all fits together, and where they can fit in as well.


There are three main eras in the world of Alteris: The Dawn Era, The Fall Era, and the Modern Era.

The Dawn Era covers the period of creation, and the Age of Apotheosis (where some beings achieved godhood), yet most of that time is little more than myth, with much of the writings being either lost entirely, or of such antiquity that no one of the Modern Era pays them much attention. Most beings living in present day Alteris focus their historical attention of the ‘beginning’ of recorded history, starting with the Fall Era when the race of man settled into nations and ended their centuries long strife with the dragons, and each other.

The race of men were created by the Dragon God Sherrphoght, and were made to be a powerfully magical race. They were the first beings who could harness the power of magic to bend it to their will. This event is called the First Dragon War. Sherrphoght used the race of men to subjugate the scargs to his rule, until the race of man rebelled against him, and destroyed him. In retaliation for this act, the Dragon Goddess Tset created the hastu to fight on behalf of the dragons. This marks the beginning of the Second Dragon War.

The war between the humans and the dragons raged for eons, until eventually the ancient humans allied with the power of dark gods to overthrow the dragons. Through these pacts the hastu were weakened, becoming two separate elven races. This fracture of the hastu society ultimately lead to the victory of the humans in their war, driving the Dragon Gods to extinction in Alteris. The hastu, as well as the remaining gods, left Alteris to wage war against these dark gods in an adjacent dimension. As the gods departed, they took from humanity their awesome magical power, leaving the humans and the fordrin to war among themselves. After centuries of chaos throughout Alteris, a consequence of humanities pact with the dark gods, they eventually formed new nations and settled into the Fall Era, where they had to relearn their magical traits, and find better ways to deal with their problems.

The Fall Era is a period of eight hundred years taking place before the Modern Era. It is unclear how much time passed in the Dawn Era before the Fall Era begins. The general consensus is that the Dawn takes place over a period of eighty thousand years, with the creation of man by Sherrphoght taking place thirty thousand years ago. The period directly after the end of the Second Dragon War likely takes place over twenty-five thousand years, but again, there are little to no records from this period. The wars which ravaged humanity during that time also lead to the destruction of nearly all written records of those days, and most of what is known are only the stories passed on by word of mouth through the ages.

The nation of Silg came into being in the first century of The Fall Era, as did Udai. But the regions of Mul Debbon and Filenfōe have their roots in the Dawn Era, stretching back into the forgotten past. Many events took place during the Fall. Too many to mention adequately here. But a few key events are the Silgen Grok War of 115, the Silgen and Debbonese occupation of Filenfōe from 290 to 400, the first trade routes into Udai in 298, the return of the hastu in 312, the Trade War between Silg and Mul Debbon in 340, and the Magician’s Crusade in 798.

The Magician’s Crusade is of especial importance, and not only because it is the period directly before the Modern Era. In those days, a powerful dark magician named Hybris made a pact with the same dark gods ancient man misplaced their faith in. They granted him awesome power, and he drew a mighty army together in an attempt to conquer the world. He nearly succeeded, save for the efforts of the Hero Alkanet and his fellow adventurers.

The Modern Era begins after Alkanet destroyed Hybris, and brought the world into a new era of peace. The current calendar year is 821 ME. The modern world is comprised of four main countries and the archipelago of Tandavar to the north. The Countries are Silg to the west, Mûl Debbon in the center, Udai to the east, and Filenfōe to the south. At the beginning of the Modern Era the hero Alkanet, when their adventure was done, vanished into the Tandavar archipelago.

Alkanet left the land with one wish: that the nations work together instead of against each other. To honor this request, the lands still hold a tenuous peace between them. Each nation continues to be governed by their own counsel, and they maintain their unique cultures, and political and cultural intrigues. 

There have been many revelations throughout this era. Mankind has made great strides in their understanding of magic, bringing the practice of spell casting back into use throughout all their lands. It has been a period of relative peace, save for a few civil wars in Mûl Debbon, and the continued political coups of Silg and Udai.


In the Modern Era of Alteris, the human race is the most common species. There are five races, altogether: the beast races of the scarg and grok, and the rare, enigmatic fordrin and hastu elves, and the humans. They can be found among every nation, both as friends, and as enemies.

Scargs are an anthropomorphic race, who have animal attributes, called Beasthoods. A scargs beasthood grants them animal features. They are highly magical in nature, being born of magic, and have a natural immunity to the effects of spell casting; however, this affinity prevents them from being able to summon magic to use in spell casting. In ancient times, many scargs achieved godhood, becoming beacons among Alteris. Scarg gods such as Elken, god of nature, Tamra, goddess of healing, and Grukscava, god of the hunt remain the focus of religious practice among many nations.

Scarg gods have made up the bulwark of deities for nearly all the beings of Alteris throughout history. A rare race, the Scargs tend to dwell away from the cities of other races, preferring the company of their own kind. Many Scargs have found themselves caught up in human affairs, as the human nations around them will frequently conscript the beastmen into their wars and contentions. They are prone to wandering the land in search of other Scargs, as they are so near extinction. 

Groks have similar characteristics to their scarg cousins, but they are not of magical origin. They are born of flesh and blood in the egg; they are reptilian, looking very much like a hominid crocodile. Groks have thick hides to protect them in battle, like a natural armor, and live in communities of hunters called tribes. Their race generally worships Grukscava, father god of their race and patron god of the hunt. Groks who venture out of their tribes are usually doing so to obtain something of value to increase their standing within their communities.

Among Groks tribes there are no contentions for land or resource, as they see every Grok as a brother or sister. This isn’t to say there is no conflict. Small fights over mates, food, or possessions are known to occur, but these are usually settled in one on one disputes. Most disputes among Groks are settled with trading of verse, in a form of aggressive poetry. The first Grok unable to continue the rhyme against their opponent may either seek retribution through combat or concede. Groks have no natural sense of humor, and generally very little art other than spoken verse or tales of the deeds of their tribe mates

Fordrin are the ruling race over Udai. In ancient times their ancestors intermingled with the human race, but due to a magical cataclysm before the Fall Era they were burdened with a potent magical touch, that would burn their human counterparts on contact. After this cataclysm, the fordrin withdrew from the public eye, forming a secret society that hid in plain sight, controlling the hierarchy of the empire of Udai. Fordrin are therefore secretive, powerfully magical, and prefer the company of their own kind.

They are a people who seek knowledge not from myth, but from tangible records of the past. They do not worship the Old Gods, neither the new, but instead consider themselves cosmically minded, seeking truth from the nature of things as they are. They believe in the eternity of each being, an eternity linked to the energy which makes up all things. This belief system leads them to frequent inquiries into the sciences, engineering, and the deeper arts of magic, and has also influenced the belief systems of the human residents of Udai.

Hastu, much like their cousins the fordrin, are an enigmatic race. Their culture is largely split into two factions: one being fearsome warriors who practice Poek Pamatang, or translated, the Dark Hunt; they seek out dark magic and destroy it if they can, even across other dimensions. The other, larger hastu faction is more nomadic, abandoning their ancient practice of Poek Pamatang and instead forming tribes or adopting themselves into the human nations around them.

Their race once ruled all of Filenfōe hundreds of millennia ago, before moving into an adjacent dimension to wage war with the dark gods who lived there. Around thirteen hundred years ago, the hastu returned to Alteris to find themselves now refugees without a true home to call their own. Legends say the hastu were created by Tset, the Dragon Goddess, though few hastu continue to worship the Old Gods, preferring to create their own beliefs among their diverse tribes.

Humans have a long and varied history of war, enterprise, political intrigue, and a wide variety of beliefs. Native to all lands of Alteris, as they are a pioneering species driven by a deep, abiding need to explore. Their cultures vary according to their region of birth, but generally they are strongly devoted to their natal ideals and customs. Each human is unique in their habits and beliefs, even among a single cultural segment. Legends say the race of man was created by the Dragon God Sherphoght at the end of the Age of Apotheosis. 

Humans are as diverse as the regions they occupy. While many other species have solidarity with one another, humans do not always find this same communion. Their national lines often act as battlefields, creating barriers to their bias. Hundreds of years ago, a human hero named Alkanet rose up and defeated a tyrannical human magician who sought to enslave all of Alteris. After that event, there has been a lasting peace between the human nations. This has not not absolved their old rivalries, however. There are four primary nations in Alteris: Silg, Mul Debbon, Filenfōe, and Udai, with the first three of them being ruled principally by the human race, and the fourth having many humans as citizens.

Throughout all the ages power has changed hands constantly. From the scargs ruling time back in the Dawn Era, to mans rule in the Modern. With the centuries of recorded history in Alteris comes centuries of stories. Too many to fit into a single article. If you want to know more, you can read the story so far in The Book of Lore: A Kingdoms Compendium.

The Tandavaran Archipelago

North of Silg and Mul Debbon there is the Garic Sea. A tumultuous waterway, full of great winds, leviathans, and all manner of dangerous and wild magic. And in that sea, nestled on the northern most regions where man and beast and elves dare go, is a great and varied number of islands. They are called Tandavar, from the old tongue, meaning lands of birth. For in these lands, the legends of men claim their natal home, and all wild magic is also believed to have been borne from the belly of this region on the charts of the Alteris.

In times long past men came to the lands south, and peopled the regions of Alteris with many kingdoms. But there are, in the islands of Tandavar, people who have called it their home since time immemorial. They hold no kinship with those of the Kingdoms of Alteris. It is for this reason they are often called barbarians. This is not to say they are without civilized manner. Neither is it to distinguish them as lesser, though many would make this claim. The naming of these clans as barbarians derives from the ancient use of the word, meaning simply people of a community or tribe not belonging to one of the Great Kingdoms of Alteris.

Tandavar has hundreds of islands of varying size, and the exact number of of islands is a matter of debate. Some even claim that the lands appear and vanish from time to time, leaving many sailors and would be explorers wary of the region. These reports are unsubstantiated, however. There have also been islands discovered farther to the east, near the northern coasts of Udai, that are referred to as part of the Tandavaran Archipelago. And on nearly all the islands found throughout the archipelago, a community of the barbarian clans can be found.

A native home of one of the Barbarian Clans

Each of these clans have some similarities. They are all sea faring people, with great understanding of their waterways and the dangers therein. They hold traditions and beliefs in gods not found elsewhere in Alteris. And they do not like outsiders interfering with their business. Few people have had interactions with the natives of Tandavar without conflict. Generally, the barbarian clans of Tandavar are viewed as a warlike people, driven by conquest even among themselves, their warbands often sailing against neighboring clans for their wealth and resources.

There have been several recorded instances of these clans sailing outside their archipelago, and making landfall in Alteris to wage war. Once, a clan lead by one calling himself Godking Angren actually made a serious effort in conquering Mul Debbon. Nearly half the nation was ransacked before the final battle left the armies of both the Debbonese and the Godking completely laid waste, with Angren and the Debbonese ruler amongst the dead. Since this invasion, the navies of Alteris have kept tighter control of their northern borders.

In times of antiquity, the ancient kingdoms of what is now the Udai Empire also had colonies in the land Tandavar. Over the centuries of war and intrigue that lead up to the eventual unification of Udai under a single flag, those colonies fell to disrepair, either being abandoned, or conquered by the native barbarian tribes, leaving only ruins of the fledging villages now scoured beneath vines and time. In the last fifty years, however, Udai has once again sent colonials to take up residence on those islands. The current capital of the Udai colonies in Tandavar is Onsen, a smaller island farther east on the archipelagos reaches.

There are also many ruins of civilizations long forgotten in Tandavar. There simply are no records of who they were, or where they went; all that remains are the stone and rubble of their ancient homes. Archeological societies have spent decades researching these ruins, and have determined they date back before the end of the Dragon Wars, but little more than that can be determined. Many believe these societies were humanity in their infancy, during the time when they lived among their dragon gods in peace. Many of the ruins are considered highly dangerous, as ancient magic still protects these keeps from would be thieves.

The Casdridia Ruins of Tandavar Island

No nation of Alteris has any claim on Tandavar as a territory, however. Even the colonies of Udai, while financed and supported by their motherland, are considered independent. There has been no official decree among the nations preventing these lands from being annexed; their collective decision to not lay claim to them, however, is influenced by the Request of Alkanet, a treaty pinned after the death of the dark magician Hybris at the beginning of the current calendar. As the land Tandavar was the natal land of Alkanet, each nation lets the archipelago remain a land unfettered by their flags. It has thus become a land of opportunity for many people who seek a place to begin anew.

This does not exclude Tandavar from the foibles of the mainland, however. Criminal syndicates, pirate fleets, and many other unsavory sorts use the autonomy of Tandavar to shield themselves from the governments of Alteris. The need for order in Tandavar was one of the main reasons for the foundation of the Warrior’s Union. This union is a collection of trained combatants, of many nations, who form a military corps with the purpose of keeping Tandavar free and safe. Founded in the year 175 M.E. on the island of Tandavar by Wei Shinzo, a master warrior in his own right, the Warrior’s Union has maintained peace through countless conflicts in the past centuries. But the story of the Warrior’s Union is a tale for another time.

Uniquely Human Behaviors: Part Three

Not everything that is unique to the human race is a positive. Alteration of our natural environments may be the first thing that comes to mind with this statement. However, this is not a uniquely human behavior. Granted, no species has had the same effect that humanity has had, with our production of plastics, abundant waste, and other ecological terrors, but it is the habit of almost all organic life to fill its niche as much as possible with its own, and to alter the environment to suit its needs along the way. Viruses and bacteria will do this so effectively that it kills their hosts with their waste products and chemical alterations. Some species will even fill their environment so much that they cause famine, leaving them with massive die offs and even extinction events. This is the balance of nature in action. No, what I am speaking of is cruelty.

Cruelty is callous indifference to or enjoyment of causing pain and suffering. You may think that other creatures also engage in this behavior; cats will play with mice before they eat them. But this is not the same. Applying the label of here simply anthropomorphizes the creatures. Humans have shown through their history that they will do much worse, for much less.

A perfect example is found in 19th century France, where a young woman, Blanche Monnier went missing for 25 years. After an anonymous letter came to local authorities, they searched the house of Monnier’s mother, to find that Blanche had been held captive there for that entire time. Her mother had imprisoned her over an argument they had had regarding Blanche’s desire to marry. Blanche was severely malnourished, and had not seen another person other than her abusers for 25 years. Blanche lived another twelve years after gaining her freedom, but the depravity of her mother remains a stark reminder that human beings, regardless of expectations or familial bonds, cruelty can come from any person, anywhere.

There are countless tales of killings, brutality, and horrifying acts by our species. However, another behavior quite unique to our own species is kindness. Again, this isn’t to say animals cannot show kindness. Whether they can or not is a subject for another debate. What I am referring to is how humanity has shown an incredible capacity to do good for their own species. There are anthropological records of human bones that have been broken, then reset, and allowed to heal fully. This is not an easy process. For most creatures, a broken bone is a death sentence. Whether their fellow creatures want to save them or not makes no difference, they lack the resources of intellect, dexterity, or understanding to help their fellows survive without putting themselves at risk. Wherever their is human cruelty, there is also human kindness that rises up to stop it. Our moral sense of duty, of right and wrong, and our capacity for empathy, allow us to see where there is hurt, and desire to correct it. To end suffering and bring safety and peace to our family, children, friends, and neighbors.

Overcoming hate allows us to achieve greater good for our entire species. There is nothing that humans cannot do so long as we work together. We’ve achieved space flight. We’ve cured previously incurable diseases. Extended the lifetime of our race by decades. Reduced child mortality the world over. But there is still so much to do. I encourage you to take time to find how you can help contribute to the end of cruelty. There is much every person can do in this effort to make a better future for our species.

The Guild of The Hunter-God

Summers were always so hot in Lestmarsh. The air hung about Jesri like a cloud of mosquitos. No wait, those were mosquitos. He swatted at them absentmindedly as he waited for the officiator. It was three hours past noon now, and the officiator was supposed to have arrived at one hour past. The hot sun was stinging Jesri’s neck as he noticed a small, squat man walking up the road toward him.

“Jesri?” The small man shouted. Jesri nodded. The man smiled broadly and waved for him to approach. Jesri obliged.

“Are you the officiator?” Jesri said curtly.

“I am,” The old fellow said. His face was deeply wrinkled, like a carven marble statue weathered through heavy winters and ice. He was blind in one eye, a broad scar running down the left side of his face. The milky iris unsettled Jesri.

“My name is Tolm,” The old man continued. “I’ve been an officiator for the guild for, oh, fifty years now.”

“I am glad to have this meeting,” Jesri replied mechanically. He wanted to make a good impression, but his frustrations were high, having had to wait so long and all.

“Don’t interrupt,” Tolm said evenly. His tone was kind, but his rebuke left Jesri feeling all the more hot. “The guild is an ancient society. No one joins it lightly. This process will be difficult. It could kill you. Or leave you terribly wounded.”

Jesri found himself staring at the scar again.

“Tell me,” Tolm continued, “Why do you seek to join the guild?”

Jesri straightened. He recalled the many hunts he’d embarked on throughout his young life. The loss of his father to the grok war parties, the hunger he felt to be in the wood, one with nature, combined with the beasts who sought also for their prey.

“I am a hunter,” Jesri said firmly. Tolm smiled and nodded.

“And do you know whom you serve?” Tolm asked.

Jesri frowned.

“Our guild serves Grukscava,” Jesri said. “God of the hunt.”

“The guild?” Tolm said, “Or you?”

Jesri didn’t respond.

Grukscava. The god of the hunt. God and father of the groks. Jesri wanted to join the society, to be with those who thought and lived as he did. But to serve the god, would that be an acceptance of the death of his father? Could he do so lightly?

“Your thoughts are clear,” Tolm said. “Perhaps you are not ready.”

“No!” Jesri replied. “No. I am ready. I desire to join the guild. I serve the hunt.”

“Then you serve the god,” Tolm said heavily. “This is no small matter. Grukscava is father to the hunt, to the grok, and to the dragons. And dragons are father to man. We are brothers, all of us, connected through the lineage of the hunter-god who created us. The hunt is more than the kill. It is the true way of life. To seek out and claim your own part of this world, on your skill and hunger. Just as Grukscava did, in the age of gods.”

“But do we not also hunt the groks?” Jesri asked.

“Our guild seeks the hunt wherever it takes us,” Tolm replied. “The groks are our skin-brethren. They represent one of the great hunts for our people. To hunt the grok is to hunt a hunter. But remember, the hunt is not driven by anger, or revenge. If you are here to exact revenge on the grok, you are not welcome.”

Jesri was quiet for a while. Tolm regarded his silence with silence, and allowed the man to ponder how he would proceed. It was nearly evening before either of them spoke again.

“My father was taken from me,” Jesri said, “By a grok hunting party as we sought mastodon for our celebration of Sun Return. Since then, the hunt has been my only relief. He was my only family.”

“A difficult experience,” Tolm said. “And one not unfamiliar to our brothers in the guild. So long as the hunt is your desire, your one true desire, then you will be welcome here.”

“I am a hunter,” Jesri said once more. Tolm nodded slowly.

“Then you shall hunt,” Tolm said. “The trial begins now.”

Tolm removed a satchel from his belt. The leather of it was as ancient as his face, wrinkled and thin like an old paper bag. He held it out to Jesri.

“Within is what you will need for the hunt,” Tolm said.

Jesri opened the old pouch. Inside was a cap of fungus, violet and black, streaked with red spores.

“This is the bait?” Jesri said.

“No,” Tolm replied. “This is for you. You must eat it.”

Jesri chuckled. Tolm did not.

“You’re serious?” Jesri said.

“You will not die,” Tolm replied. “But the beast you hunt will seek out those who have eaten this toadstool.”

“What am I hunting?” Jesri asked.

“You will know when it comes to you.”

Jesri’s mouth felt like sand as he walked in the dark of the Lestmarsh forests. The fungus had raised his heartrate, and even in the cool of the encroaching night he sweat freely. His breath came and went in ragged spurts, even though he walked slowly and without great exertion. Occasionally a biting pain errupted in his gut, but it would subside quickly. Jesri stopped and sat on a large, flat stone. He didn’t know where he was going, or what he was hunting; only that it would come to him. He examined his gear has he tried to calm his blood with a drink of cool water from his flask.

He carried with him two hunting weapons: a bow and a spear. Since he knew the beast would come to him, and would likely come upon him without him seeing it first, he knew the bow would prove ineffective. So he readied his spear. He also carried a third weapon, a sword. It was his fathers, the one he’d used to defend their home many times from groks and men and beasts. Aside from his weapons, he carried a small amount of food, a bed roll, twenty feet of fine rope, and a folding knife which he used to fashion snares and traps when hunting smaller game.

Whatever he was going to face, Jersi knew it wouldn’t be small. It couldn’t be. The Guild of the Hunter-God was known throughout all Silg, even the whole world, for their daring and skill in hunting the most dangerous creatures the world over. So where was this beast? He’d been walking for what felt like hours, but his perception of time was hard to be certain of; the fungus was playing tricks on his mind as it continued to digest, lights and spots materializing in his vision as he closed his eyes. But he knew he mustn’t sleep. The beast would be here, soon.

He stood once more, finding it harder than he’d anticipated, and moved deeper into the woods. There were many things he could be facing in those dark woods. A bulkan, with its razor horns and brute power. Or an arachnin, quiet and slithering, its faint whispering language on the still cold air as the pungent smell of its venom wafted on the night breeze. He shuddered. His fingers tightened along the shaft of his spear, hoping to see the beast before it saw him.

And there it was. At first he thought it was an illusion. A faint black smudge on the dark of the night air. But it moved toward him unlike any shadow should have; it was a creature, alive. Jersi aimed his spear, leveled, with his hips turned parallel to the creature. It was smaller than he’d expected; and it was unfamiliar. He’d never seen anything quite like it. The creautre was about the size of a mountain cat, but covered in thick skin, almost like armor. The plates lay across one another, forming a sort of mail that rose to points facing toward the aft of the creature. It had no visible eyes, no mouth, only claws and spikes and horns.

Jersi shouted at the beast, brandishing his spear. But it didn’t move. Jersi drew a deep, labored breath. The hunt had begun, and he would claim his prey.

He lunged with his spear, the bronze blade glowing like fire in the starlight. Jersi aimed his blow to strike between the plates of the beasts armor, where it should be weakest. The blade shattered like glass, and the spear splintered as though it had met with an immovable object. The force of the blow resonated through his body, and the bones in his arms ached. As he staggered back, the beast came forward. Its head opened, revealing rows upon rows of crooked teeth. Jersi fell back, rolling head over teakettle through the leaves as the beast bucked and roared past him like a bull.

Jesri rose once more, uneven but undaunted. He drew his bow and nocked and arrow. The beast turned, as if to make another charge, but it paused. He let fly an arrow, but it, too erupted gloriously as it met the hide of this terrible beast. The creature charged, Jesri quickly loosing more arrows, but to no affect. The beast gored him with its horns, tossing him to the ground. The wound in Jesri’s leg seeped as he turned over in the loose soil. The beast reared on it’s hind legs, pawing at the air toward him as a horrid hiss escaped its nostrils. He looked about himself; his spear was broken, his bow missing, and his sword had fallen from his hip as he’d tumbled through the air. He reached into his pocket, pulling out his hunters knife and flipping the blade into position. Jesri winced as he pulled himself to his knees, but the beast was already upon him again. Its weight was colossal. His body buried into the soft peat soil under the pressure as he struggled in vain against the immovable creature. It raised its forepaw, the claws and spikes there still glistening with Jesri’s lifeblood. There was nothing he could do. He jutted the hunters knife forward and held it there, a final defense against the end.

As the creature swatted its mighty paw toward him, the hunters knife cut through the digits like cheese. black blood oozed from the opened knuckles of the creatures paw as more violent, breathy hisses roiled from its nostrils. it writhed and withdrew, the enormous weight lifting from Jesri as it went, his breath returning in hungry gulps.

Jesri rose and found himself alone. The creature had fled. What had happened? He was certain it had him, yet somehow it was wounded. He hobbled to a nearby stump, where he quickly bandaged his leg with staunching moss and velvet leaves. After the bleeding had stopped, Jesri stood and went to the site of the tussle. The creatures claws still lay in the mixed blood and soil, splayed out like silverware at a macabre table. Jesri picked up one of the claws, and found it deceptively lightweight. He took his hunter knife and scrapped at the claw. The blade chipped. Confused, he lowered his hands together, the claw grazing against the blade. The claw was cut. Jesri looked on in wonder.

He placed the blade between his feet, the edge facing up toward him, and he dropped the claw onto the blade. It split in two, as if it were soap. It became clear to him. The creature, for whatever reason, could only be harmed if its own force was used against it.

He pocketed the claws and his hunter knife, and rose. His sword was not far off, laying in the soil where it had fallen from his belt. He took it up, and removed the sheath. The long steel blade glimmered in the now risen moon. But how to use the blade? One wrong move could leave it shattered and broken, like his spear. No, he couldn’t risk the blade moving at all, if he wanted it to strike true through the creatures thick skin. A trap was in order.

Jesri selected the spot for his trap: a stone outcropping with an incline. It would serve his idea well. And with any luck, it should provide a good escape path for him. He quickly set up his snare, as time was already against him if he wanted to take the prey.

He returned to the site of the scuffle, and searched for tracks. They were faint, as if the creature left almost no mark on the world, but there was one thing it couldn’t hide: the blood. ribbons of oily blood trailed off to the east, and Jesri set to the work of tracking the beast.

No more than twenty minutes had passed since the creature attacked. It couldn’t be that far off. As he walked, his stomach churned. The fungus rose in throat, and he vomited the partially digested toxin onto the forest floor before him. The process took him back to the quickened heart beat, and his sweat began to flow once more. As his eyes cleared, he could no longer find the trail of blood. Cursing under his breath, he turned himself about, trying to regain his direction. As he about-faced, he found the creature once more. He didn’t know how long it had been following him, but it was there, and close, within twenty paces.

His adrenaline rushed. The quickening of his heartbeat was now a boon, the rushing of his sweat a cooling anticipation of the moment to come. His body screamed for him to run. But his mind fought against it. He clutched his short knife in his white knuckled hand, between him and the creature. So long as the blade was still, he was a threat to this creature, and the slow and measured movements of the beast showed it understood this as well. Carefully it sidestepped around Jesri, regarding him with its eyeless head, the black and blue sheen of its scales glinting in the light of the setting moon. Slowly it moved, paw over paw, until it was just to Jesri’s right.

Jesri burst into a sprint. The bandages on his leg came loose. The staunching moss slowed the blood, but the flow started once more. He followed his footsteps, back to where his trap lay. The creature huffed behind him, gaining faster and faster as it gave chase. Jesri pushed himself all the harder, his lungs alive with the frigid air of the Silgen night. He could see the trap ahead of him, the stone outcropping he’d picked for the snare. Up the incline he heaved himself, the beast not far behind. At the crest, he took the rope he’d hung and swung out over the small ravine. The beast jumped after him, its final mistake.

It caught hold of his pantleg, which tore away at the weight of the creature, and cloth and creature together fell into the stones below, where Jesri had placed his father’s sword. The beast fell onto the blade, which split its hide like a wire through hot butter. The creature shuddered, releasing a final, long hiss, and went still.

Jesri dropped down from the rope with a thud. His legs gave out beneath him as he hit the earth. He managed a weak chuckle as he examined his trophy, and drifted from consciousness like a dry leaf on a stream.

Jesri awoke in a soft bed, laid beneath a sheepskin. The room was unfamiliar to him, until he noticed the insignia embossed on the curtains of the window beside him. He was in the Hall of the Hunter-God. A sense of relief washed over him. His trial was passed.

He found his leg bound with a fine bandage, and it was healing quite well. He found beside his bed on the nightstand a pitcher of water, and his thirst became apparent to him. He drank deeply from the pitcher, his dry throat singing with gulps as the water refreshed his parched flesh. The door to the room where he lay opened, and Tolm entered.

“You’re awake,” Tolm said jollily. “The guild will be pleased to see you.”

“And I will be pleased to see them,” Jesri replied, rising from beneath the sheepskin. He felt sure, confident. He felt like he was home.

Uniquely Human Behaviors: Part Two

I’ve already discussed the unique behaviors of humanity once, with the focus on our use of plants in ways that no other species on earth does. The intentional planting and harvesting of these plants isn’t our claim to fame, as many species of ants also do this. For an action to be uniquely human, in my opinion, it must fit a level of scrutiny. Birds and many mammal species construct homes of wood or grass. Many creatures show signs of familial attachments, even social structures not too unlike our own. To be uniquely human, it must be more.

Language doesn’t even qualify. Whales show signs of using unique sounds and calls to signify names, places, even times. Chickens and geese will make noises to alert each other of approaching danger, predators, or food. Bees use a form of sign language via dance to indicate distance, position, and type of flowers to harvest for their pollen. There is one aspect of language that is uniquely human however: Writing.

The written word is among humanities greatest achievements. By recording knowledge, we are able to pass on what we have learned to future generations. This transmission of knowledge allows our species to continue in progress that would otherwise be impossible. Sometimes it can be generations before what was recorded before becomes usable, but by keeping these forms of records, our species can overcome the entropy of time that keeps many other creatures firmly held in their stasis of habitual living.

The first instances of recorded language date back to approximately five thousand years ago. This is not to say we as a species didn’t have great achievements before this advent. Human history begins long before that, with the first indications of civilization beginning roughly twelve thousand years ago. Even more than this, there is anthropological evidence to show that humans have advanced language and social structures as far back as sixty thousand years ago. Advancement in our species is multiplicative. Each one we make builds on the next ones, increasing the rate of development at every step.

Written language has shown significant improvement over time. Earliest records are difficult to understand, perhaps because we do not understand the context, perhaps because they were so rudimentary that they no longer show much relevance to us. Whatever the case, we have continued to improve our use of the written word as time has progressed. Interestingly, while written language is largely attributed to being first developed by the Sumerians, it appears to have developed independently among many different people around similar time frames in human history. It’s no wonder why the use of written language took such hold on our early species. It enabled people to learn new things without having to experience them first hand. It allows for greater specialization for our species. Writing may seem commonplace to us. We used it every day. But it is this commonality of the written word that solidifies it as one of the most uniquely human things you can do.

Along with this desire to record our experiences is the record keeping of our history. Where other creatures may find the bones of their forbears a warning to stay away, humans actively search these ruins for clues of where we came from. This curiosity is a unique feature of the human race. Now, do not confuse my words. This is not to say curiosity itself is unique to our species. Many creatures show curiosity. But the curiosity toward where we came from, what was once normal for our ever changing species, that curiosity is very human. It is hard to say whether this would occur in other species if they left behind the sorts of remains that we do; cities, monoliths, foundations. But so far, where other mammals have left foot paths through generations of use, there has been no sign of the deer or elk who walk them showing any more interest in them than simply to use them.

Even our own fellows may show such behavior. How often do we consider how the computer came to be? Yet many of us use them daily. So perhaps curiosity is more of a behavior engaged in infrequently, whenever the moment is right. Either way, it is because of the written word that whenever a human decides to chronical how something came to be, any of us can go to it and read it, discovering more about our heritage and place in this world.

The Phantom of the Opera: A Story of Surviving Abuse

Coming originally from author Gaston Leroux, The Phantom of the Opera is a staple story that many could discuss without having ever read the book or seen the films. It pervades our time with its narrative of love, loss, and suffering. Many may simply view The Phantom of the Opera as a simple love story. Three hopeless lovers caught in the classic triangle. But this story is so much more than that. It is a story of not only surviving abuse, but overcoming it.

One may assume that the abuse survivor here is Christine Daae, the young woman who is caught in the wiles of the Phantom. Yet, while she does survive a terrible ordeal that is abusive, she is not the person of interest in this observation of the story as one of overcoming abuse. The Phantom himself is the abuse survivor. Let me explain.

The Phantom was born with a facial anomaly, and it started his life immediately on a path of rejection and abuse. He described himself in one scene as having his mother’s fear and loathing. We also see that early on in his life, around the age of twelve, he is an unwilling sideshow in a circus, where is facial difference is the subject of ridicule and and torment. He is beaten by his captors, and treated with below human dignity. The severity of his situation is not unique to this story alone. Thousands of children suffer in like manner, to varying degrees, all over the world. The study of the effects of this on the minds and well being of children has lead to recent revelations on what is called Childhood Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or CPTSD. Even long after the abuse is over, the survivors of this abuse continue to register in their brains that the danger is around them. Triggers of all kinds can lead to disregulation, violent outbursts, and more. Seeing the life given to the Phantom in his early youth shows he was afflicted terribly, and made to feel he was unloveable, a monster, even evil.

The Phantom meets Christine in a Graveyard

As the Phantom matured, he remained isolated. And it is this isolation that continued the abuse long after his former abusers were dead or gone. The greatest abuse, however, isn’t physical. Many studies have shown that emotional, psychological abuse does greater damage and is harder to heal from than any other abuse. The Phantom lead his whole life believing he was unlovable. Even when he was protected by a young Madame Giry, who gave him assylum in the opera house, he was not shown affection. Given that he continued to wear a mask throughout his life, it is even possible that Madame Giry reviled his appearance, perhaps even encouraged his wearing of the mask.

The mask is a symbol of hiding. It is to cloak your true self, either to hide wrong doing, or to blend in, or become something you are not. Over time, the Phantom, believing the lie that he was a monster, became one. He acted in violence to get what he wanted. He claimed Christine was his. This narcisistic behavior is a relfection of who he believed he had to be to be accepted. It was a plea, a call to be heard, to be human, if even only as a villain in another person’s story.

The turning point for the Phantom, where he learns the truth, is when Christine is his captive, and he threatens to kill Raoul unless she stays with him. It is the Phantom at his most monsterous. Yet even with all that hate, Christine still shows him genuine compassion. Compassion is something he has never yet known. But it is what he has been missing. The Phantom, a survivor of decades of abuse, isolation, and loathing, had never known that even with all that was wrong in his life, he was still worthy of human kindness and decency.

It isn’t Christine that frees the Phantom from his cycle of abuse. She only opens the door by showing him compassion. In the end, it is the Phantom who saves himself. After years of abuse, he is finally met with the one message his mind had never been given: that he was loveable, as he was. That he was enough. Overcome by this emotional release, he lets both Christine and Raoul go. He is seen next, singing a somber rendition of “Masquarade,” as he regards a toy which recalls his lost childhood. He is sad not because of what he lost with Christine, but because of what he never had as a child. This moment is a reflection of his true self. He is unmasked, both physically and emotionally, and finally free. In this scene, he is crying at the release of those years of pain. He is himself for the first time. He lets go of who he became to survive, and is once again the twelve year old boy who longed to belong in the world. He is free.

As the film closes, we see that many years later, the Phantom is still alive, and likely living a normal life. This is shown by there being a ring and a rose left at the grave of the now late Christine; these were items he had held on to as reminders of his love for her. She showed him his first experience with true compassion. And from that, he was freed to lead a life not as a monster, but as a man.

Abuse manifests in many ways. But escaping the pains of it requires personal growth and serious effort. The process is painful, but the freedom is worth it.

Uniquely Human Behaviors: Part One

Many of the things which we may think are activities only humans participate in are not ours alone. War, animal husbandry, and agriculture are all activities that many species of ants have as staples of their societies. No, the things that are most uniquely human are not strictly for survival in the ways that food production and defense of the colony are. There are many traits our species have that only we do, and they are largely a result of our ability to think differently than other creatures.

Our brains are designed to solve puzzles, connect patterns, and manage incredible details that for many organisms would seem completely without value. But that is not so. It is in using these unique abilities that we have become the species we are today. We have overcome trials that have left other apex species in the fossil record, and with luck and tenacity, we will continue to do so.

The first uniquely human behavior I want to address is the use of plants. That may seem a strange thing to bring up first. But this is more than simple agricultural usage. I’m talking about discovering the properties of plants and using them to our benefit. While ants have been seen growin fungi to provide crops to their colonies, and many species of mammals have been recorded consuming medicinal plants to deal with different ailments, only humans have discovered the means to identify those effects, and to harvest the ingredients needed to create more powerful tonics.

Our endeavor to understand plants has yielded the medical technology that we use today. Using this science has erradicated many harmful diseases, and others are now so uncommon that few people alive today have ever known anyone to be afflicted with them.

Plant usage extends beyond the medical and the food crop variety in human history. Poisons have been derived to aid in hunting and pest control. Plants have also been used to create a variety of tools used by both modern and ancient peoples. Ropes woven from plant fibers, resins harvested from conifer trees.

Even fire, considered mankinds most important discovery, is bolstered by our usage of plants. Our kindling is properly dried grasses, and wood is the fuel. Certain woods such as hickory release flavorful smoke, that can be used to cure meat, increasing its self life significantly. And through the combination of fire and plants, humanity learned to extract plant oils, and create tinctures to cure ailments or reduce pain. This deep understanding, and resource managment of plants is a uniquely human behavior.