It is a fool who thinks that an ancient power like the chiropteran god Belial would not punish those who interfered with their great plan. After gunning down a notorious crime-cult known as the Sons of Belial, every member of the Augusta police department was touched by that vengeful god and marked as his playthings. Each officer was cursed so that they could only exist as things shifting in form, somewhere between the winged creatures of Belial’s realm and the darkened aspects of the people that they once were.
At first, these transformations were uncontrolled and painful, but over time many of the department learned to control it and even use their newfound strength and abilities in the line of duty as they continued to try to serve the city. Such is not the purpose of the Bat God, however, and as the police under Lieutenant Jim Dugan’s command respond to criminality with their newfound preference for brutality and lethal force, they unwittingly continue to carry out Belial’s great plan in the Shadow War.
The story of the Custos Crypta begins in the year 700 BCE at the height of the Kushite Empire when the authority of Pharaoh Neferkare Shabaka was considered absolute. Shabaka was said to be blessed by the ancient Egyptian Goddess Khepera.
It was in Khepera’s name that Shabaka ruled, from Nubia to the Nile Delta and a blood sacrifice was made daily in his name. For this tribute, the Kushite Empire was gifted the service of the Custos Crypta, a sentient insectoid species that acted as both guardian and custodian of Shabaka and his people. But time and the treachery of humankind are the only constants in this world and Shabaka was murdered by his nephew Taharqa.
The remaining Custos Crypta were entombed alongside their Pharaoh in the pyramid at el-Kurru, there to remain for the rest of eternity. At least that was the plan…
Servants of the Sunken Pantheon, the Hidden Ones make their home in coastal towns and villages around the world. Through corruption and interbreeding, the Hidden Ones irrevocably link their community to the sea and to Dread Father Dagon, Deep Mother Hydra, and the other ancient deities that they worship.
The rise of sterile cities has forced the Hidden Ones further into the shadows and has pushed them towards the isolated communities where it is easier to go unnoticed. The families can prey on their neighbours, considering them little more than talkative sheep ready for slaughter.
Food is not an issue for these ancient bloodlines that hide amongst the rest of us, and their numbers are growing with each cycle. In this Shadow War, the Hidden Ones are underestimated by their enemies. It will prove to be their enemies undoing.
There are many different branches of the Federated States Marshal Service that uphold the law across the Union, from judges in courthouses to the roving Rangers, organised police municipalities, and local sheriffs with their deputies. When the Shadow War leaves its mark on civilization through Mythos or other supernatural or otherworldly ephemera, something more is needed to uphold justice. When darkness truly falls, and the stuff of nightmares crawls out beneath the clearing skies, only one group can shine a light on the taint and corruption to enforce the Law.
Particularly active in the Shadow War are the Infernal Affairs team led by the indomitable Marshall Helena Miller. Miller uses her aero-pack to nimbly avoid trouble, her stormthrower pistols responding to threats in kind. Miller has a rational mind but has seen too much of the weird and worrisome in her career to not be a true believer in the paranormal and inexplicable. For Helena Miller, the Shadow War is the arc that links many of her investigations. It is a thread she would desperately like to pull on and tie off once and for all.
The master of her own ship and crew, the self-styled Captain Nimue has earned a substantial bounty on her head for the audacious theft from the Barrow Shipyards of a prototype Morgana class submersible. Nimue has rapidly built a notoriety for using the stolen submarine, which she had christened ‘The Nautilus’, to make lightning raids on European shipping. While this brought down the ire of the Crown and their allies, her exotic looks, and penny-dreadful fuelled reputation made her popular with the press and the public.
In her apparent obsession with obtaining antiquities from across the globe, Nimue became aware of the Shadow War as the various forces in play often competed with her for artefacts and arcanum that she liberated from tombs and museums with equal ardour.
After realising that she is the reincarnation of the Lady of the Lake after undergoing regression therapy at the hands of Nathanial Lazerus, Rani Nimue’s quest to uncover relics of bygone eras has increased almost to the point of mania. How far into madness will her loyal crew follow her?
The future may not be read with impunity. The threads of destiny for a person are wrapped through the days of their lives, known only to the omniscient beings known to their followers as the Fates.
The secrets of the Fates are hidden from the eyes of mere mortals and only those with the gift of Mythos may begin to lift that veil. For the Odani people, as servants to the Fates, the gift of foresight is passed down through the female line.
From Mother to Daughter, the ability to see that what will be has allowed the Travellers to remain healthy, wealthy and wise. Of course, it has the added benefit of staying one step ahead of any authorities that wish to limit their nomadic lifestyle.
It is a great and noble thing to devote a life to the pursuit of knowledge. Some are obsessed with knowledge for its own sake and push the boundaries of understanding within their chosen field of study. However, there are those who seek the power to dominate others through their knowledge.
Chester Barreman is a man such as that. Even in his youth, Chester had an interest in history, more specifically in ancient civilizations and their religions. He was fascinated by the various interconnected beliefs of people across the globe stretching as far back as the written word, hieroglyphs or even cave paintings allowed. It was only as his studies matured that he realised he was at the beginning of a very dangerous path. A path defined by a single word: Chronozon.
Knowledge is power, so the adage goes. To the adepts of the Priory, this is a literal truth as they have been curating their knowledge of Mythos for generations. It is the power by which humanity will be saved from the predations of the Old Ones in the Shadow War.
Over the millennia, shamans, soothsayers, skalds and scholars held the keys to the power of Mythos but were unaware of its greater purpose. Those fortunate few used it sparingly and merely glimpsed behind the curtain to barely retain their sanity.
As humanity became increasingly arrogant in their own manifest destiny, this precious lore of Mythos was discarded in favour of technology, and the illusion of safety created by our increasingly modern world. So the Priory have been charged by their mysterious coordinator Madame Adrestia to remember the old dangers that still lurk in the darkness and to fight it at every turn so that the Priory emerge victorious in the Shadow War.
The common man of the Union knows that Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Booth, such an important event has been covered in newspapers and spread like wildfire from coast to coast and has been essential in vilifying the enemies of the ideals of Manifest Destiny. Unbeknownst to all but a select few, the assasination was a pretence. An illusion performed to the public that allowed Lincoln to leave the position of President and focus on something that had been playing on his mind for some time. Files and dossiers had been arriving at his desk that seemed out of the ordinary, even for the wonders of the Dystopian Age. A report here, a statement there, eventually Lincoln managed to piece together mentions of a ‘Shadow War’ and an ephemeral element known as ‘Mythos’.As he gathered disparate events and found the links between them he understood that this was something deeper and more widespread than he originally conceived.
Now, Abraham Lincoln, with the help of Robert Pinkerton has established the Secret Service. A task force that looks into, and deals with, any enemies that have connections to Mythos or the Shadow War. In their quest they have even developed weapons to fight against this oncoming darkness. Milo Jefferson has found that ‘cold iron’, a Sturginium-Iron alloy, can be used to great effect against some of the more unusual entities that they have to fight against. With the will of Abraham Lincoln behind them, the Secret Service will fight against the darkness and, perhaps, with the Shadow War on behalf of humanity.
Like the Custos Crypta, the Silver Venators have arrived in the middle of the Shadow War to find they are in a world much removed from their own. The Venators are a coven of huntresses who travel the angles of time as their master’s demand.
Each Venator is entrusted with a silvered key, an object attuned to their own Mythos energies. With their key, the Venators can travel through a narrow passage of 120 degrees or less through the gates of time. Using the knowledge of their masters, the Venators emerge from that same corner at the preordained point in the past or future.
The Covenant of the Enlightened may not yet fully understand the Shadow War, they are making headway. The larger population of the Enlightened may even be unaware of the goings on in service to the powers at the heart of this secret struggle for power. One cell that does is the Hook and Ladder Club, known colloquially as the Soul Hunters. The sponsor of the club, Lord Buckland, has been handing tasks to Auger Hudson that often seem to put them at odds against the other players of this mysterious game.
Auger Hudson and his associates have been piecing together parts of the puzzle and learning more about the goings on in the Shadow War and attempting to force empirical meaning onto the strange and unusual things they encounter. Jocasta Tobin and Erin Meltzer, both valued members of the Hook and Ladder Club and well educated scientists in their own right, have been documenting their progress. Attempting to describe some of the more esoteric events in purely scientific terms has been a challenge but they are developing further ideas about such things as aether, phlogiston and even the space that is travelled between portals.
Unfortunately they are often brought into conflict with other groups and entities with their own agendas. Auger Warwick is starting to wonder if Lord Buckland has ulterior motives for sending the Hook and Ladder Club members across the world. The eldritch things they’ve seen and horrors they’ve had to put down are becoming more and more commonplace in their missions. Scientific progress was never meant to be this violent.
Naturalists and biologists will say that Nature is a living thing in perfect balance. But what they do not realise, is that such harmony has only been reached through the influence of the ancient force known as the Wyld.
This power was worshipped in its own right in ages past and even today can be found in the roots of many more… sanitised religions.
The Wyldborne still remember the old ways, however, and all the raw power that comes from those who walk in its shadow.