The Setting

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The History

Millennia ago, Manceus, the god of magic, grew unhappy with the gods’ constant meddling in human affairs. Manceus felt that people needed the opportunity to be themselves, to develop their own civilization. He gathered a group of his followers and poured all of his power, all of his magic, into the creation of what he called a moon pool.

His followers, who grew to be known as thaumaturges or “turges,” learned to gather the power of the moon pool and use it for their own purposes. Before the rest of the gods figured out what was happening, the turges had created a shield that blocked the influence of the gods from the world, putting the fate of humanity in the hands of people for the first time.

The turges became the new gods of humanity, growing ever stronger over thousands of years. Every emperor, every king, every minor-league despot was a thaumaturge. The apprentices who couldn’t handle the power ended up settling in small villages, performing simple magical acts of healing or crop enhancement for food. They were known as hedge wizards. The few demigods that where caught on the wrong side of the shield when it went up found themselves powerless. Most went into hiding. The rest died.

A huge capital city grew around the moon pool, built with the magic the turges channeled from Manceus’ creation. It was the greatest concentration of wealth and power in the history of humanity, ruled by a council of turges. About 400 years ago a thaumaturge named Thuridan became the leader of that council. After 50 years of consolidating his power, he wiped out the rest of the council and assumed the title of emperor. His supremacy has been unchallenged ever since.

Mnemosyne

The tiny village of Mnemosyne has been nestled in a mountain valley since before the days of the moon pool and the turges. Accessible only through a steep-walled mountain pass, the world tended to flow on past Mnemosyne without changing their way of life. Visitors were rare. Every spring, some hardy bard would make his way over the pass with a small trade caravan to bring them news of the world, only to find a largely uninterested audience.

The only ones really paying attention were the town’s hedge wizard, Ixius, and a diverse group of nine women who would gather together at the biggest table in the Ox & Feather tavern. The nine seemed as different as different could be, but they called each other “sister,” and would barely leave the tavern until the bard had moved on.

Today, that annual caravan pulled in to town. Trading was heavy during the day, and the drinking began before dusk. This year’s bard, a halfling named Wilkin, seemed anxious to mount the stage at the Giggling Wizard, and the proprietor finally gave him the nod when the seats had filled and the tables groaned under trenchers of food and overflowing mugs of wine, ale, and cider.

“I come with momentous news,” Wilkin thundered in a resonant bass voice that didn’t seem right coming from his tiny body. “Emperor Thuridan is dead!”

Conversation ceased except for a few excited whispers. For once, this was news of the outside that the people of Mnemosyne wanted to hear!

“How?” came a voice from the bar. Without hesitation, Wilkin began to sing.

Before the crowd stood Thuridan in radiant royal vest;
His wife, sweet Amadea stood by meekly, quite undressed.
“Behold this man,” she loudly cried,
“And cheer for him with pride.”

And at her words, the crowd went wild, leaping to their feet.
She took his hand and held it high, her look was bittersweet.
Her other hand went to his cheek,
With fingernails so chic.

“Thuridan trusts nobody; that’s why he’s ruled so long,
“That’s why I’m naked,” she explained to all the teeming throng.
“No weapon can I hide on me,
No killer could I be.”

“He’s ruled us for 400 years, my husband and my friend,”
Her smile broke out as she announced, “Today will be the end.”
Across his face her nails did slash,
And left an open gash.

And as the poison took effect, he couldn’t speak or move,
“I’ve killed him now,” she effervesced, “our country to improve.”
“Rise up now, my friends allied,
For this is regicide!”

The room was silent as he continued the song, speaking of the long-planned rebellion that slaughtered so many overconfident and unprepared turges in one carefully-timed campaign. He told how the empress was killed as she kneeled by Thuridan’s body, and leaderless, the capitol city fell into chaos. He told of when the emperor’s elite guard broke into factions, following various improvised leaders, and the rebels turned into rioters and looters, destroying everything in sight. As Wilkin was launching into the final verse, the ground began to tremble. mugs feel from tables and a great rumble was heard from outside.

The trembling stopped, and people stood looking around the room and tried to figure out what was going on. Ixius, the town’s hedge wizard, was pale and shaking. The nine sisters rose as one from their table, broad smiles breaking out upon their faces. One of the sisters, a middle-aged peasant woman with graying hair, leaped to the stage. Though short for a human, she still towered over Wilkin the bard. She held up a hand and her clear contralto voice cut through the hubbub.

“IT IS DONE,” she cried. She appeared to be transforming before the crowd. This unremarkable woman’s dirty robes turned into a bright white gown. The gray hair became auburn and the dirty ribbon holding back her shoulder-length hair fell to the ground as her hair doubled in length. The other eight sisters were going through similar transformations, stretching and grinning. “THEY HAVE DESTROYED THE MOON WELL. OUR POWER RETURNS, SISTERS! SONGS WILL BE WRITTEN ABOUT THIS DAY!”

Ixius ran for the door. One of the sisters, dressed all in black, started to pull a vicious looking dirk from her hip, but another, a smaller woman in pale green, laid a hand on the other’s arm and quietly said, “Let him go, Melpomene. He doesn’t matter anymore.”

“I am Calliope,” the sister on the stage stated in a quieter voice that nonetheless penetrated to every corner of the room. Before she could finish, one of the townspeople burst into the tavern.

“The pass,” he gasped. “The earthquake caused a landslide. The pass is blocked. There’s no way in or out.”

Calliope raised a hand before panic could break out.

“This is a good thing, my friends,” she said calmly. “The blocked pass will keep rioters and scavengers from the town as we get our feet back under us. For a long time, my sisters and I have been ordinary people like yourselves. As our powers return, each of us will select an acolyte that we can inspire to greatness in this new world order. Someone we can teach and infuse with a portion of our powers.”

All eyes were locked on her. She and her sisters had faint golden auras forming around them. The nine of them were scanning the room, each seeking something different. Their gazes seemed to penetrate the souls of the townspeople.

“Yes, this will work, my sisters. I choose…”

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