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A Brief History of The War


Sifting through varied accounts of how the War began does little to yield a coherent picture. Stories vary wildly even between people of the same elemental affinity. Any of those who fight on the front lines, raised to the old Elemental traditions, have only one thing in common when they relate the tales passed on to them: anyone but those of their own element are responsible.

Most accounts agree that up until the year 2011 or 2012, by the pre-war calendar, humans rather than elementals made up the bulk of the world's sentient population. The vast majority of these were unaware of the existence of elemental magic at all. Elementals tended to keep to themselves, in small groups of the same affinity. Some tribes lived off the grid, in patches of wilderness kept wild by magic, and moved from place to place if their sanctums were breached. Others integrated themselves into human society and met in secret to practice their abilities, using both technology and magic to maintain their clan ties.

Something cataclysmic disturbed this equilibrium. The most common stories are that such-and-such tribe (of a different element from the teller) attacked another without provocation, and the other retaliated, dragging in old allies and enemies. The elementals broke their concealment as they used their powers to reshape the landscape, meeting in titanic battles that leveled cities and drained oceans. Humans died, literally by the billions. Those not of elemental descent who survived fall into four categories:

A very small portion used technology to defend themselves. Sophisticated armaments, heavy bunkers, and other military equipment could hold against elemental forays which regarded humans as an afterthought. It is possible to find, especially in first-world countries like the former United States, scattered military outposts populated only by humans. They tend to regard all elementals with suspicion, if not outright hatred, and blame them for the destruction of a better world humans created.

A somewhat larger portion was defended by isolation. Some places simply escaped being battlegrounds. Most of these have become agrarian societies that have no communication with the rest of the world and a medieval level of technology.

Possibly even fewer humans were defended by elemental patrons. Friends before the war occasionally turned out to be from powerful elemental lineages, and would claim and defend pre-war relationships.

Most who survived discovered elemental affinities, weak enough to have been suppressed by society and disbelief. These 'new elementals' were ignorant of the old traditions, but were able to lay low, using their abilities to not die. Some eventually joined with others of their affinity, learning the old ways and taking up arms in the conflict. Most remain ignorant, grouping into their own loose villages and clans. They teach each other what they have discovered through trial and error, and most of their attention is given to living from day to day. By now, with the war calming and drawing near a tired close, they are considered a working class, peasants to the aristocracy of old elementals descended from the pre-war tribes.

Why this elemental conflict was able to do so much damage is puzzling, however. If elementals had this power, why did they believe themselves so weak they needed to hide from humankind? One of the most reasonable theories is that magic runs in cycles, and that the beginning of the new millennium marked an upswing, boosting the power of existing elementals and causing a large portion of the human population to manifest elemental affinities. This is also consistent with the discovery of 'places of power,' where a very pure, concentrated form of a single element exists; many of these places are within former elemental territories, but were reportedly not discovered until before or during the war. In this case, the cataclysm can be seen as inevitable; it is now once again the age of the Elementals, as it was in the golden past the old tribes still tell stories of, and some day in the distant future humans will come to ascendancy again.

There is, however, one other theory for the root cause of the war, suggested independently by Ryan McCormick, a higher-up in a sinister organization made up of humans and elementals of all affinities, and Sasha Treschev, who claims to be a rogue agent from the same organization. According to them, a globe-spanning conspiracy of elementals instigated the war by provoking the tribes into battle with each other, simultaneously, all across the world. Their goal was to bring about an age of elemental dominance by extinguishing unaffiliated humans in the crossfire. As absurd as this sounds, it does fit all the evidence, and would even explain the conflicting stories about who began the war. Furthermore, this does not invalidate the 'cycles of magic' theory, since the conspiracy may have timed their actions to coincide with the strengthening of magic, making them agents of an inevitable change rather than the malevolent destroyers they might otherwise be seen as.


No one can seem to agree on what the current year is. It has been at least two generations since the war began, since no one alive today (at least, no one who has lived a normal human lifespan) saw the beginnings of the war.

The war continues, although with less than its initial furor. Government of the world appears to be feudal. For the most part, no single entity can claim territory of the size countries used to be, since there is little instantaneous communication. A few nation-states have circumvented this, either with salvaged pre-war technology or elemental tricks. The most common sort of state is a single city with several outlying villages, all populated by people of the same elemental affinity, providing food. Neighboring city-states of opposing elements frequently come into conflict, causing many personal tragedies. However, with so much attention dedicated to the war effort, resources are becoming scarce. More and more, elementals must give up fighting in favor of farming and crafting, simply to survive.

The level of technology varies drastically from place to place. At one end of the spectrum, one may find a city which not only has municipal services such as electricity and running water, but even continues to manufacture sophisticated electronics. At the other are cities which have returned to a medieval level of technology, living better than humankind during the Dark Ages only because they can supplement some of their losses with magic.

Our story focuses on the area around the city of Valhalla. Valhalla is one of a small handful of cities scattered across the globe where people of different elemental affinities dwell in something like harmony. Only those ardently opposed to conflict have so far sought it out. Although the city itself frequently mirrors the structure of the larger world, with neighborhoods generally allying to one element or another, the peacekeepers have so far sat on outright brawling hard enough that the tension is kept to a manageable level and the city does not destroy itself. It doesn't manufacture any sophisticated technology, but does have electricity, water, sewage, and so on. It accepts all currencies, although coin and barter tend to be preferred to pre-war euros, pounds, etc. The governing of the city is somewhat opaque, although recent events have suggested an elementally neutral 'Council' runs things, making certain that each aspect of municipal services are run by those it is most suited to – earth wielders utilizing their abilities to provide enough food in rooftop gardens and outlying farms, fire wielders generating steam for the power plant, or feeding electricity directly into the grid, water users handling the distribution of clean water and disposal of waste, and air wielders monitoring the city for crimes and conflicts so the volunteer guard can stop fights before the entire populus is drawn into them.

There are villages with elemental affinities scattered around Valhalla, most loosely allied with the city or at least opposed to the war. Valhalla trades with these outliers, usually for food, but sometimes for magical items or other goods that are not manufactured in the city proper.

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