Humanity, Dead and Alive

Mankind has come a long way. Swords and lances have given way to bolt-action rifles and machine guns, to poison gas and thunderous artillery. Factories manned by the dead work tirelessly with coal plants burning day and night to power the relentless drive forward.   Science and magic are the same, pushing humanity to ever greater heights of industry and discovery.
 
  Even as the Great War spreads to ever more of the world, humanity basks in the glow of their achievement. They have tamed electricity, built factories, crossed the ocean on great ironclads; and conquered death.   Out of all mankind's inventions and innovations, none has been as important as that of magic.      

Dawn of the Dead

  There has always been magic in the world but it was not until humanity mastered electricity and learned to fuel their spells that it could change the world. No longer were wizards figures of myth or skulking in secret societies. Magic became a science like any other and humanity put all of its ingenuity to work in this brave new world.  

  Mankind has always feared death. Chief among the early pursuits of magic were ways to cheat it and from that, the art of Necromancy emerged. More mundane concerns of day-to-day survival were likely the first catalyst for the early stages of the necro-industrial revolution, as even arch-mages have to eat. It is not known when the first merchant made the deal or what necromancer first put the risen dead to work, but the idea caught on and spread like wildfire.    
Eternal Life   The cause of magic was helped by the fact that it did deliver on their promise of immortality... In part. To those who can afford it, Necromancy offers an unreliable avenue of life-extension. Failing organs and withering flesh can be made to function when they should not. Even mortal injury or disease can be staved off, though at great expense.   The immortal spend their days in sarcophagi of science and magic, subject to constant electric discharge to renew the spells anchored to their flesh.
    At first, some resisted. They called it blasphemy, an act of desecration - but others saw not abomination, but opportunity. The lure of wealth became difficult to ignore, with workers who could labor day and night without rest, without food and without care for comfort. Those who resisted found their fortunes falter.   Once the first nation overwhelmed their neighbor in a wave of undead, the rest knew they had to adapt to compete- or be devoured.   This necro-industrial revolution saw mankind transform. Farms and mines, later factories and assembly lines, were increasingly crewed by the dead and lead by the living. There were riots- entire wars- fought by those displaced but they were inevitably ground down beneath the inexorable treads of progress at any cost. Their corpses joined the hordes they had railed against. Nations knew they had to change but there was enough of bounty to buy peace with bread and entertainment, both provided by the very undead who had made them necessary.    
Death-Mask   It is common for undead workers to be fitted with simple masks that cover their face. This shields any relatives or friends of a squeamish disposition recognizing their dead kin.   The Obryad Federation in particular makes use of elaborate masks, while the Shinomas Magocracy tends not to bother at all.   In war, time constraint and the volume of dead makes such adornment impractical and rare.
    Now, much of humanity has a culture of corpses. There are no cemeteries, no funerals. The dead walk among the living; they work the fields, fight their wars and entertain the masses. What was once feared and abhorred has been commercialized.  
Death has become a business transaction.
     

The Great War

 
It'll be over before winter's end. Those fools don't stand a chance against us!
— All of the Great Powers
  The world is at war. The mightiest nations in the world have plunged into a conflict that has now spanned decades and cost millions of lives. Every slain soldier are raised to fight again, every corpse blasted to pieces have had their limbs collected and used to reassemble new undead. War and death have reached an industrial scale.   Most of the fighting now rages in Cascera, a once prosperous nation that was the fifth Great Power. It is now a gas-choked wasteland of muddy fields, barbed wire and bombed-out craters. While the mortal soldier number in the hundreds of thousands, the undead in the war now number millions.      

The Occultarum

 
Scraping, scratching, itching. It's like my dreams are trying to come out of my skull as I sleep, clawing at the insides of my s̢͘ķ͠ư̵̧ll̛.
  When mankind first ignited the spark of magic, they drew the attention of the Occultarum, ancient and cosmic parasites from the void. For an eternity, they have fed upon the ashen debris of the universe. Now, their hunger has turned towards the mortal world where magic has weakened the shroud that separates the two realities.    
    For almost two centuries, they have clustered around the world and haunted the nightmares of mankind. The weight of their presence warps the world and the land itself has begun to change where the Occultarum gather. The shroud weakens with every corpse forced to rise again and with every new nightmare.    
Just as they have changed the land, the Occultarum have changed mankind. Through visions in nightmares and drug-induced stupors, some catch glimpses of the Void beyond the shroud and the parasites who live there. Others are trapped in places where they linger to feed and feel the pressure on their mind, until they snap.   These, and many others, are the ways the cults begin. Those who worship the Occultarum without fully realizing the nature of the gods they chant and call for.
    As mankind descends ever deeper into savagery in the fields of Cascera, the shroud grows thin. Arcane horrors are glimpsed in the flashes of lightning in thunderstorms, their braying call heard together with the shrill cry of artillery shells.   It is only a matter of time before someone sees them clearly - or before one of the parasites claw their way through the shroud and into the mortal plane.
by Giorgio Baroni
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by Mike Hawthorne
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Cover image: Iron Harvest by Jakub Rozalski

Comments

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28 Aug, 2018 18:38

Death has become a business transaction.
I adore this line and feel like it needs to be given greater importance somehow, because out of the entire article it's the one that highlights just how dispassionate the whole thing has become.   It's hard to think of a question that your other articles haven't answered, but what happens to people who don't like the status quo? Are they common? Is there still a poor working class or is everyone benefiting from this slave labor?

Admin of the WA Codex & Discord

Ethnis | Ko-Fi | Twitter

29 Aug, 2018 06:54

There definitely are people who are less then thrilled with the situation, but they're in the minority most of the time. Most people are benefiting but... Some benefit a whole lot more then others. So there is a working poor class, and they're usually stuck with the most unpleasant parts of reanimation work; gathering body parts after a battle, embalming, assembly-line style gutting and removing organs the zombies won't need. I would say the poor working class is probably *smaller* though, in most great power nations.   Poorer nations, with less necromancers and less industry.. Less fortunate.   I'll see what I can add to the article about it. They are some real good questions! <3


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
29 Aug, 2018 17:22

It must suck to be a corpse-cleaner. I imagine one of the big threats is getting sick from exposure to the dead or getting attacked by one of the zombies on the line.   I imagine there isn't much protection for the workers, huh? After all, you're easily replaced by someone else desperate for a job, and his first task could be cleaning your corpse after you've died from something you contracted...

Admin of the WA Codex & Discord

Ethnis | Ko-Fi | Twitter

29 Aug, 2018 17:44

If you die, they'll raise you and put you back to work. It's a very real case of "as valuable alive as you are dead" for poor people working the offal-pits, yeah.   Free zombie-labor has made life better for a lot of people, but for those who have left behind.. Chances are it's become significantly worse, instead. Disease being a great example of that, yeah!


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
artificial_infinity
artificial_infinity
29 Aug, 2018 13:13

Wow! This is a unique concept and you've explained it beautifully. I only noticed one small grammatical error, in the Occultarum section you wrote 'they have feed', which should be 'they have fed'. Other than that, it's amazing. I love the images in the sidebar and the little details like the Death-Mask - they really help ground the idea. You mentioned that some resisted at first, are there still any organisations that resist the use of necromancy for work?

29 Aug, 2018 13:35

Thanks! I fixed the grammatical error! :)   There are and since I still have some words left, maybe I'll try to fit it in somewhere. What kind of organization would you imagine, as a first reaction after having reading it? As a curious experiment. :D


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
artificial_infinity
artificial_infinity
29 Aug, 2018 13:46

I would picture a sort of Necro-Worker Rights group, similar to the Animal Rights groups we have today, that would be opposed to using necromancy purely for the purpose of work. I imagine they would probably be a fairly minor force in the face of industrialisation but people would know of them and their work.

29 Aug, 2018 21:33

I like all the art in the sidebar, it feels like a news paper.
I love all the one liner quotes, they're so good.
And I like the ominous impending eldritch threat that is the Occultarum

30 Aug, 2018 20:21

Thanks! The Occultarum article was pretty fun to write too


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
Grandmaster King_Nix
Joshua Lancaster
3 Oct, 2018 03:19

I like the idea of magic as a science, reminds me of alchemy in Full Metal Alchemist (one of the few animes I've watched, and also my favorite) in that regard; I also like the WWI aesthetic used, just personally, and I think it works well with the story being told. One question I have is if technology has stagnated in WWI era tech or if it's moved on (perhaps that answer lies in another article, which I'd be glad to read are there nuclear devices? Jet engines?

3 Oct, 2018 06:47

It's still roughly in WW1 times, plus HUGE MECHANICAL LANDSHIPS.   Some areas are evolving, but others are slower. Magic really throws a monkey-wrench in traditional progress, and also mean they are really interested in ways of generating more electricity cheaper. We'll see if they survive long enough to see more happen, though.   Landships are talked about in the Purgatio-3 article. :)


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
Grandmaster King_Nix
Joshua Lancaster
3 Oct, 2018 17:23

Sounds awesome, giant landships are one of my favorite sci-fi/sci-fantasy vehicles.

3 Oct, 2018 06:29

With Necromancy becoming so prevalent, does that mean that spells and efforts to extend life has become more cost effective? With so many nations using this method of magic and with dying becoming nothing more than "a business transaction", I can see classic healing becoming an avenue available to the privileged. Meanwhile those with less funds are kept active with necromantically infused organs until the poor become patchwork near undead beings going to work with an undead lung, set of kidneys and a dead left arm that "hasn't been the same since the factory accident of aught-six."   Of course I can be completely wrong about this fitting in your world but it was one of the ideas that jumped out at me as I thought of a "necro-industrial" revolution.

3 Oct, 2018 06:43

As more electricity becomes available, magic will become more and more commonplace. It's not there yet, but if they survive long enough to build nuclear power plants for instance, this is a setting that's going to look very different. The main considerations for costs are the availability of electricity and the availability of magicians. Since Magic is a skill that can be taught to anyone, no special traits required, there'll probably be more mages around eventually.   I like the idea of a patchwork person and medicine being essentially gated off, though. That seems to hit just the right tone of "everyday/horror" dichotomy that the setting has going on for it. It's a pretty awesome thought you got there :D   Right now, those people are probably the rich people, with magic still being.. Not really expensive, but not exactly what a factory worker could afford easily.


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
3 Oct, 2018 13:18

Man you just aced this article. So beautiful, so well-designed, and great worldbuilding. I have a question though: if magic is so spread throughout society and powered by electricity, why do they need coal still?

3 Oct, 2018 14:50

Gosh, thank you! That is high praise. I am glad you liked it :D   They burn coal to get electricity. Power plants run on something and at this point in time, coal's the cheapest and most readily available fuel. Magic has sky-rocketed the demand for electricity, too. :)   It's a society that's going to become *real* weird and interesting once they figure out nuclear power plants and stuff like that.


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.