Pirates, and Dragons, and Magic, Oh My!
A few days ago I was reading the Wikipedia article on manifolds, which gave me an idea for another story. Without going into too much of the math, a manifold is a mathematical object, and to describe it you use these other mathematical objects call "charts." A chart represents part of the manifold (i.e. the surface of the earth) using a standard Euclidean space (i.e. drawing a map of part of the earth on a piece of paper, a 2D space). For most manifolds, more than one chart is necessary to describe the whole thing, and a collection of a bunch of these charts that cover the whole thing is called an "atlas." The cool thing about charts is that there are cases (in fact, most cases are like this) where two charts overlap to describe the same region of the manifold. When this happens you can make what's called a "transition map" that can use the manifold to hop from one chart to another.
Well all of the usage of the terms "chart," "map," and "atlas," and the idea of using the manifold to hop from one Euclidean space to another, spurred in my mind the idea of a mythical form of travel. Suppose Earth itself were merely a chart of some higher-dimensional manifold? Because of the nature of manifolds, it would be very likely that there were other similar charts out there, like other worlds. Then, if an inhabitant of a world could find something to act as a transition map, they could travel between worlds where the charts overlap.
So I'm imagining something like a Pirates-of-the-Caribbean-style world in which there are these extremely rare and mythical objects called "Charts" that act like the transition maps I talked about above. However, like a transition map, each Chart will only be able to take someone between two worlds, so in order to travel anywhere one pleases in this vast universe, one would have to gather a complete set of Charts, otherwise known as an Atlas. Of course, Atlases are even rarer than Charts, and no one has ever heard of anyone possessing more than three Charts, much less a complete Atlas.
The crux of my story will take place on a ship called the Dawn Malcolm, captained by Captian Malcolm (called "Black Malcolm" or "Pirate Malcolm" by authorities of various types). The relevant crew of the Dawn Malcolm are as follows.
- Captain Malcolm - Captain, Human
- Master Q - Quartermaster, Human
- Chief Pearson - Chief Navigator / Sailing Master, Manifold Denizen
- Seamus O'Reilly - Mate, Undead
- Seraph Tremain - Crow's Nest Lookout, Fae
- Janyks - Carpenter and Boatswain, Dragon
- Germck - Master Gunner, Gremlin
Originally gifted to Captain Malcolm in its unmodified form, the Dawn Malcolm is a modified Galleon-class ship. All of the modifications are done by Janyks himself and most of those are for speed. It has lost 5% of its original cargo space in this endeavor, but this was made up in the conversion of the previous gunners' quarters, as the gremlins don't need sleep.
The overarching antagonizers are a fleet of pirate ships under the command of Commodore Rawkas. The commodore wishes to obtain an Atlas of his own so he can build a pirate empire to span every world. Thus the overarching mission of the Dawn Malcolm is to beat the pirate fleet to a Chart, or to retrieve the Chart from the fleet if they are too late.
The way this all sits in my mind, I could make many, many stories out of this idea and the outline above, however let's start small.
Specific Plot Outline & Notes
- A young busboy, Wayne Wright, of a local port-side tavern overhears talk of a Chart in a place called Isla Achihuran. He makes his presence known and is chased to the docks by the two men where he is subtly guided on board the Dawn Malcolm.
- The boy attempts to hide amongst the cargo, but he is spotted by Seamus and brought before the captain, who worms the Chart information out of him.
- Under much of the boy's confusion they set sail for the Canary Islands.
- Isla Achihuran is a Spanish-like name for a fake eighth island modeled after the names of one of the major gods of one of the major peoples of the Canary Islands. Rather than reference an actual location for the Chart, the name itself is a clue leading to the next clue as to its whereabouts. By the choice of the Canary Islands, it signifies that the next clue is at a launching point for expeditionary travels, and by making it reference a place that doesn't exist, it signifies that the next clue isn't on Earth at all, but on the world that is itself an inter-worldly launching point for expeditionary travels: Sídhe.
General Plot Notes
- The Dawn Malcolm is currently in search of a Chart that links parts of the far eastern swampland coast of Niflheim to a near western desert of Sheol. Such a Chart would allow a force of arbitrarily large size to sneak into Niflheim, undermining its inter-worldly defense based around small attack forces.
- The Chart is in the possession of a powerful Netherworld vampire (I have yet to name him, so for bookkeeping purposes he will be "V1" and this naming convention will be adopted for ever major participant without a name.) who has kept its existence as secret as possible, knowing its potential and wishing that never to be fulfilled, as most of the draconic nations are currently peaceful allies of most of the vampiric nations.
- V1 is currently the scholar-king of a semi-minor vampiric nation, which is allied with a semi-minor draconic nation led by D1 who knows of the Chart's existence. D1 also knows much about the Manifold and of Pearson's mission. He personally believes Pearson to be a native of the Manifold, but has no proof of any kind.
- D1 has thus bestowed a Chart upon the elf Brown that links Brown's small (in number of mountains, not size of individual mountains) northeastern mountain range to D1's nation in Niflheim.
After a few days of literary stagnation, I realize I'm once again caught in the quagmire I had ressurected this site to avoid. I've jumped to plot and specifics before fleshing out the world in which the story takes place. So I will leave what I've done so far up above and continue my world building below.
Some Charts (Name; Native Intelligent Species; Native Magic; Notes)
- Earth; Humans; Science[*]; 1
- Sídhe; Fae, Elves, Trolls/Goblins; Fae, Elven; 2, 3, 4
- Nidavellir; Dwarves, Gnomes; Gnomish; 5, 6
- Gigantes; Giants; <none>;
- Annwn, Hades, Netherworld, Niflhel, Sheol, etc.; Vampires; Necromancy; 7
- Pangaea; <none>; <none>; 8
- Niflheim, Tanina; Dragons; Draconic;
- Britannia; Gremlins; Gremish;
[*]: Nothing about science in the chart of Earth is different than the real world. Physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, etc., are all exactly the same.
- Earth is the most well known of all the charts, known to every other chart, and so the rest of the list is ordered by decreasing knowledge of the chart by Earth scholars (i.e. Earth scholars have more factual information about Sídhe than Niflheim).
- The fae resemble more their ancient folklore counterparts (near human appearance, including size, though wiser than humans) than contemporary portrayal, though they may magically shape-shift to assume almost any form. Their magic always has a visible manifestation of sparkles of light around the hands of the caster. It's not meant to be subtle.
- Elves, too, are human-sized and reflect the Old Norse description of elfpeople. They are all stark white, but more luminous than pale, with hair color ranging from blond to red. Elven magic, in contrast to fae magic, is entirely subtle, bearing no outward appearance unless the caster desires, and seems more an innate ability rather than a craft.
- The elf known simply as Brown and his small workshop of tiny fae is the source of the human myths about the creatures called "brownies." Brown alone is the guardian of the dragons, and the Chart between Sídhe and Niflheim is in his possession.
- Though dwarves lack a unique form of magic themselves, they have mastered the skill of forging weapons, armor, and other items bestowed with temporary or permanent magical effects and abilities.
- Gnomes, on the other hand, have their own very distinct form of magic. Gnomish magic has two lines: long (from one hour to a full year) naturalistic rituals or short technomagical spells. Though long and elaborate, gnomish rituals carry with them a special property not seen in any other magic; where other magic performed incorrectly tends to backfire and cause negative results, a failed gnomish ritual simply does nothing. Thus where time is not critical and care is, one's best route for success is a gnomish ritual. Gnomish technomagic, on the other hand, tends to backfire more than any other form of magic. Technomagic was first sought as a means to expedite rituals, but when technomagic's flimsy nature was discovered, hastened rituals were dropped in favor of technomagical quick-fix spells. Technomagic is employed when a gnome wishes to unlock a lock for which he's lost a key, or blow apart a pile of rubble blocking his path.
- The vampires are a peaceful, spiritual people composed of the dead of the other races. They consist of the beings with strong intuition, imagination, intelligence, persistance and willpower. They are souls who glimpsed a higher purpose and higher existence in life and failed to achieve enlightenment, so in death they continue their pursuits. Being devoid of any life energies of their own, when they come near to a living being, they are often overwhelmed with a voracious hunger and desire to return to life. This is the source of their negative portrayal on Earth. They can use transition maps like any other being, but all roads lead to a living chart, so they tend to decend into madness in their lust for life upon entering such lands. Thus, such travel is forbidden to them by their own society.
- Pangaea resembles Earth as it was about 100 million years ago, but there are pronounced differences. First, there are no major bodies of water. As such the thickest patches of life consist of moderate jungles nestled in valleys between the tallest mountains, and there are many vast stretches of desert. Therefore, while there are many familiar species (most dinosaurs and ancient mammals), there are many new species as well, the best known being the Ridged-back Land-surfer.
Notes on Magic and Science
Science as it is known on Earth exists only on Earth. The further away one travels from the Earth chart, the less science on that chart resembles science of Earth. There is still a science on each chart, but it consists of its own laws and quantities. As such, there are many times when traveling to a new chart that arming oneself with the latest in technological protection turns simply into useless dead weight.
All forms of magic, on the other hand, function exactly the same on each chart (that is, unless part of the magic requires one to perform it at a certain location). So when an elf comes to Earth, all of his or her abilities remain intact. The one difference is that if a being is normally born on its chart with certain innate magical abilities, those abilities do not manifest if it is born on a different chart. It must return to its native chart to gain access to its innate powers.
- Baba Yaga - Manifold Denizen
- Baba Yaga is a manifold denizen who has mastered elven magic, chart-hopping without (visible) transition maps, teleportation, and shape-shifting, and along with having a strong oracular ability she tends to appear very fickle and bipolar, but these traits are merely a façade put on to further her own goals. She is the only known manifold denizen that can look into the future (or the past) without actually traveling there. As according to legend, Baba Yaga lives in a log cabin that stands atop a pair of giant chicken legs. She cannot be found if sought, but she makes herself apparent to those who she deems in need of her aid. She is easily angered by what she considers foolish questions.
- Baba Yaga is very old in appearance, with the classic large, bent witch's nose and skinny legs. She owns a giant, magic mortar and pestle that she can ride in to fly.
- Yu the Great - Manifold Denizen
- Yu is a manifold denizen who acted as China's first dynastic emperor from 2194 BCE to 2149 BCE. After this reign and after successfully seeding China with what would later become Confucian doctrine, Yu retired to live as a sage in the mountains. He has since watched over China throughout the millenia.
- Before being made emperor, Yu headed a 13-year campaign to solve the flooding problem of the Yellow River throughout China, bringing the Chinese agriculture and other technologies in the process.
- Alcides (or Heracles or Hercules) - Manifold Denizen
- Alcides was an ancient Greek hero. Purported son of Zeus, he spent a significant portion of his life taming or destroying many incredible beasts of the Iberian wilderness.
- He accompanied Jason and the Argonauts in the search for the golden fleece. He worked to keep the group on task.
- In actuality, he did help tame the Greek lands, but in a much more subtle way. Alcides brought the Greeks more efficient agricultural techniques and refined the Linear B script before adoption of the Phoenician alphabet. When the Greek civilization began to flourish and bring war upon its neighbors, Alcides retreated to the mountains in sadness and disgust. He has not been seen since, and is the most reclusive of the remaining denizens.
- Bilgames (or Gilgamesh) - Manifold Denizen
- Ancient Sumerian king of Uruk from about the 26th century B.C.E., Gilgamesh is akin to a Mesopotamian Hercules. "Two thirds god, one third man."
- In actuality, he refined the Sumerians' cuneiform and taught them agriculture. Like Alcides, when the Sumerians used their flourishing culture to bring war on others, Gilgamesh faked his death and retreated into the wilderness.
- Sunjata (or Sundiata or Sundjata) - Manifold Denizen
- Sunjata is a manifold denizen who founded the Mali empire of western Africa around 1235 CE. Prior to his appearance there, he spent significant time in Niflhel, learning various magics from various vampires.
Qualities of a Chart
- An inanimate Chart cannot be damaged or destroyed. Once it is completed and its powers bestowed, its existence is locked in place. Though, if made of an otherwise flexible medium, it will retain most of the properties of that medium, including the ability to fold, to bend, to crease, etc., excepting properties that would allow it to be destroyed.
- Charts made of living beings are likewise indestructible and thus immortal, but come with additional properties.
- First, if the Chart was made from a youth of the species, the youth will continue to grow as normal for its species, but once it reaches peak maturity its age will freeze.
- Second, when the Chart reaches maturity (but not before), it will no longer require intake of food, air, or other source of chemicals or energy, nor will it excrete any waste products. It becomes perfectly immortal. It can survive any formerly-harsh regions, where others of its species cannot, without any damage to itself whatsoever.
- Third, if the Chart discovers its true nature (which will come automatically at maturity, but can be shown to it before), it can activate itself any time at will, since it is always in contact with itself. Additionally, it may travel to its respective represented area of the Manifold, taking with it a bubble of reality from its own world, protecting any comrades from the harsh environment of the Manifold. It may banish this bubble, but since it is perfectly immortal, it is itself still protected.
- Charts may only be made or unmade on the Manifold, with one exception. The item to be made or unmade a Chart must be taken to the Manifold for the magic to be cast and may not be created remotely. The one exception is the duplication of a preexisting Chart. A Manifold denizen may duplicate a Chart onto another suitable form of inanimate or animate matter, not necessarily of the same form as the source Chart, if the denizen, the source Chart, and the product material are all within the same one of the two regions covered by the Chart.
- The Chart is activated by a sapient species touching a specified area of the Chart and exerting its will to activate it. This area is always marked but may not be marked obviously. The creature activating the Chart willfully specifies what other matter is accompanying it on the journey besides its own body, but this matter must all be connected, with "connected" defined similar to a mathematical sense.
- Two atoms are "simply connected" if there is less than 1 nanometer between the centers of their nuclei. Two atoms are "connected" if there is a continuous line of simply connected atoms starting from one and terminating at the other.