This is a reality in which the boundaries between realms are constantly disrespected. The one most effected by this is the one least equipped to protect itself, the once-normal space known as Caprinda. The ways in which Caprinda’s worlds have been altered by the other realms vary wildly; some flourish with the gift of magic brought to them, others have been left wholly barren as their populations were enslaved by Altum Demons. One world in particular currently hangs on the edge of its fate, an outlier which was invaded by those of Altum and yet still survives. The people of this world, Aztarna, are now tasked with learning as much as they can about the other realms if they wish to continue remaining and rebuild what has already been lost.
It should be noted that there is no single, conventional way to pass through the boundaries between realms. Since the spaces are not physically connected, the matter of getting from point A to point B is quite complicated. Even if one were to figure out the most commonly used portal magic, that in itself doesn’t allow the caster to know where point B is. For Altum Demons, this would be a problem as their invasions would be quite pitiful if their method of travel saw them randomly scattered throughout the vastness of their targeted realm. They needed something in the other realms to lock onto so they could stabilize their exit points. The more innovative of their ilk managed to find the solution; by devising a method of peering into the other realms using the medium of stars.
Stars are hailed on many of Caprinda’s worlds as being deific in nature due to the heat and light they give off which fuels life. They’re appreciated, celebrated; only for the Altum Demons to appropriate them for a more evil and selfish cause. Aztarna was one such world whose culture heavily revolved around a faith in which they renowned a sun god named Luz. Society formed such that twelve families became Luz’ chosen who would eventually birth the deity’s avatars. The rise of these families was expedited by their discovery of magic, even before the age of Demons befell the world. For a time, they acted to ensure that only they knew of magic’s existence, but Altum’s invasion soon made their selfish task impossible.
The families of Luz dealt with the first Demons who appeared, finding them to a scattered and inconsistent threat initially. Dread befell them when it turned out that those first were merely scouts whose deaths meant nothing as their souls simply returned to Altum to be reconstituted again. The families were only willing to risk themselves to an extent, against the true army of Altum their priority became preserving themselves as they still believed in their purpose of birthing the manifestations of Luz. The Altum Demons did as they did with all the worlds they targeted; they smoked out all intelligent life by burning the world around them and corrupting the bodies and souls of plants, animals and objects to turn them into monsters.
With the knowledge of magic having been kept from them, the people of Aztarna could only do so much to fight back. Slowly and meticulously, the Demons reduced the inhabitable portion of the world down to just a single continent. It seemed an uncontested victory was assured for them, until the rise of three powerful heroes. One, the heir to a rich family whose wealth meant nothing in the face of doomsday. The second, an assassin with a reputation for being unstoppable even if he was seen. The last, a holy man who had become the last to carry the teachings of his faith. These three, largely by themselves, faced the Demon invasion with only their own abilities and came out victorious.
At the climax of the war, the holy man dove into Altum itself to rescue a single girl and survived. Meanwhile, the heir and the assassin, having found that the Demons were somehow using the sun far above, sought a method of cutting them off. Slaying them was one matter but so long as they had their gateway they could keep coming back. With the aid of the families of Luz, the assassin attempted to bind his soul to the sun in an attempt to hold whatever gateway they were using shut. Unable to handle the energy of the sun being channelled into his body, however, resulted in him being burned down to a charred-black skeleton. The heir took a different approach, binding her soul to one of Aztarna’s moons and moving it so as to maintain an indefinite eclipse.
This latter method proved effective as the consistency in which Demons successfully managed to reach Aztarna became less and less. After some months of occasional incidents, they stopped appearing altogether. Their impatience had gotten the better of them, there were plenty of other worlds to target thus they deemed this one a wasted effort. A fortunate fact for Aztarna, as developed life on a world without light can only survive for so long. Time was almost forgotten during the age of eclipse until the heir, who had come to be known as the Dark Lord, allowed the moon which was bound to her to return to its orbit.
Though the Demons did not return, the Dark Lord still brings about an eclipse for one month every cycle. A method of assurance to remind the Demons that her world is still protected, though the people of Aztarna have come to appreciate her efforts less with time. The assassin, whose soul was rebound to the body that should have died, established a new kingdom dedicated to rebuilding all that was lost. Given new hope, the survivors of Aztarna flocked to this kingdom and helped to turn it into the source of countless innovations. The people were driven to make something better from the ashes, to move on now that the threat had passed. In the eyes of these people, the annual darkness brought about by the Dark Lord is bleakness which has passed the point of necessity.
The Dark Lord, of course, has her own kingdom as well. Although, it is not nearly as progressive and glorified as the assassin’s. Suitable to to the perception of her as a harbinger of bleakness, her kingdom is one where those who lost everything come to live out their days in quiet mourning. The settlements of the Dark Lord’s territory are invariably mute in atmosphere, where any sound is carried an uncanny distance away. This sombre peace is strictly upheld by powerful figures who have sworn their allegiance to the Dark Lord. Every one of the Dark Lord’s personal elite are respected and feared as being among the greatest warriors of the new era, the ones who will hold the world’s fate in their hands if the apocalypse is born anew.
That is the idea of a ‘hero’ in the Dark Lord’s territory, it should be expected that the definition changes when one returns their focus to the kingdom of glory. The masses were at last given the opportunity to learn about and explore magic and, as with all things in this kingdom, it ended up becoming heavily glorified. Not all people are compatible with magic, in fact those who are able to just naturally wield it are in the vast minority. From analyzing these few, it was found that magic manifests differently in everyone, deeply tied to the mind and mentality of the user. These users didn’t end up becoming known as mages or casters, they were dubbed more eccentrically as superheroes.
Instead of founding academies of wizardry and magecraft, schools which taught heroism and justice were built instead. The objective of these specialized institutions was to educate those who were able to use special abilities to use them the right way without alienating those who don’t. Anyone can join one of these schools, so long as their aspirations put them on the path of righteousness. In an age where villains have the room to rise again, such lessons have been deemed necessary by the governing leaders of the kingdom. Having once been an immoral man himself, the assassin who finds himself king knows this to be true better than anyone.
The holy man, though he physically managed to return from his venture into Altum, had his soul altered by his brief time there. He still stood for the teachings of his old belief, one which formerly stood adjacent to the religion of Luz, but it was as if his empathy had been burned away. He hailed a goddess of light named Caecus whose teachings centred around humbleness and purity. In the holy man’s eyes, the image of a pure world was what it was before the age of Demons and not what it had become after. The implementation of things like magic into greater society was dirty to him, as if it were some form of corruption.
Empathy stripped, he came to see any who acted contrary to his religion as an enemy. Simultaneously, he desperately wished for his beliefs to flourish once more and would do anything to make that happen. Even if that meant creating dolls of flesh given artificial life just so they could be believers. Even if it means abducting completely innocent people and altering their minds to be totally loyal to Caecus. The holy man continues to build his unfounded following and, if left to his own devices, he will soon aim to enforce his will through less covert means.
Though a majority had hoped to settle back into an age of peace, anomalous events of various scale suggest that Aztarna cannot yet afford to fall into complacency. The ocean to the east of the last continent has disappeared without a trace. Rumors have spread of a woman who yet communes with the Demons of Altum. Various magical items of unthinkable potency have been uncovered with seemingly no source. These are but a few of the incidents which have brought a new wave of anxiety to the survivors of this world. Their only peace of mind comes from the fact that, this time, they have heroes they can rely on.