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Waking up every day was a miracle, nothing less. The dreams that frequently wound their way around Dorothea Atlin’s very soul as she jerked into wakefulness, however, were less stunning.

There were two kinds. Less prominent, thankfully, were those that featured her mother. That day nine years ago. If she thought of it too much, it would paralyze. The other sort, despite how she abhorred them, were still preferable.

In those dreams, a faceless, nameless figure moved over her, along with her. The sensations bestowed manifested in bursts of dark oranges, purples and reds, all blending into a pulsating supernova of pleasure. From this, she woke up in a flutter, chest heaving in the searing aftermath of illusory emotions.

This sort was the dream that heralded the start to another day. As she caught her breath, she outstretched an arm towards the ceiling and spread her fingers, looking at the space between them before studying her hand. All intact. Not that it made sense to expect anything else at this point. Just… It didn’t hurt to make sure.

She waited until the heat that had suffused her abated. No one had said that a life of celibacy would be easy. Not that she had consulted or been encouraged by anyone before self-imposing the lifestyle upon herself, but still. Goodness, did it become ever more confusing and difficult the older she got.

Once calm after diverting her thoughts, she sat up and folded her hands, bowing her head over them. “I give my thanks to Extremis for being allowed to live another day. Oh gracious God Zeal… Please help me continue to be strong. Blessings be.” This was usually the extent of her daily worship, in appeals to the Gods of death and love respectively, that didn’t focus on daydreaming or introspection. There were so many other pressing concerns.

The primary worry of this day was the upcoming gathering of the snowbound nation of Sirpo’s council; Dorothea was the leader of this small, select group. The council was responsible for making major decisions for the sparse yet varied population of the neutral territory.

After she had groomed and dressed, she picked up her most valuable preparatory tool, which always remained in its place on her bedside table for nightly reading. The text of An Unbiased and Unabridged Record of Sacer and Ghuria felt neither unbiased nor abridged, but it provided a thorough overview of all conflicts to this date between the warring nations of Sacer and Ghuria as they lay below Sirpo in all their anger and violence. Though she mostly skimmed, as much of the general content was committed to memory and the reading itself was just to help her feel calm, her eyes got caught on one passage in particular.

To close this introduction, we will make our one and only note of the Atlin family line, whose Juncture magic has the capability to alter the very flow of time. There have been sightings of Atlins in each war, confirmed by testimony from surviving veterans and written records: Katya Atlin in the War of Seasons, Lilia Atlin in the War of Domains and the War of Gods, Petra Atlin in the War of Trading, and Mischa Atlin in the War of Blending (notably the first Atlin to have not fought on the Sacerian side, as he was allied with the interbreeding sect). Accounts of the presence of an Ophelia Atlin may only be found for the first year of our current war, the War of Wither, and are considered to be falsehoods among some. We may now only assume that the Atlin line has died out, as there would be no moral excuse for a line with such magic to be completely uninvolved. In any case, while we will provide extensive discussion of all other family lines and their magics in Part Two of this record, the Atlin name will no longer be mentioned.

We cannot rely on such false hopes, after all.

 

Dorothea laughed quietly to herself as she eased the tome closed, taking care to be gentle with a spine worn from use. No moral excuse, eh? Bold words from the esteemed author, Sharee Nobelis, and so much for her lack of bias.

No matter. She didn’t read the book to feel indignant or to question her place in the world. It was a way to know where she had come from and how she and the Atlin line had gotten to this particular point in the current year of 269, the ten-year anniversary of the start of the War of Wither.

But she was indignant! A simple glossing view was in no way able to come close to the genuine emotions of the affairs. Yet that was all the sacrifices of the Atlins were worth, eh? Immoral, they were branded. False hopes. The words didn’t capture the stories, good and bad, of Katya, Lilia, Petra, Mischa, and the Atlins that had passed before and between. There was certainly no way the soul, impossibly beautiful yet fractured in memory, of Ophelia Atlin had been captured.

Dorothea had to take a breath and stop herself before she got too incensed. Regardless, it had felt important for her to review the text one last time before the meeting. Today, the Sirpoan council would re-re-re-discuss their overall position of neutrality in the War of Wither. It seemed that several villagers, primarily more recent refugees from the warring lands, were expressing dissatisfaction with neutrality. Guilt perhaps? Dorothea wasn’t sure, but the final decision rested with her either way, and it was no secret she was staunch towards remaining completely uninvolved.

Part of this was selfish preservation, no doubt, but she also felt it was basic common sense. Any form of aid meant that a side would have been chosen. As in, if they lent support to the Sacerians, the Ghurians could very well label the people of Sirpo as enemies and vice versa, giving license to attack. They weren’t equipped to handle the worst case scenario, so Dorothea constantly opted to stay on the safe side. Most of the council agreed with her position, but she could sense a slow change in the air as the slaughter continued far below Sirpo’s snowy mountains and still lakes. It would be a mite more difficult from now on, she figured grimly, to convince others to see her side of things.

It wasn’t as if she wasn’t sorry that the Sacerians and Ghurians were dying slowly in what had devolved to a war of attrition consisting of battles few and far between but devastating at each turn. It was more that there was no point in trying to help them now or ever. There would always be another war, another demand for sacrifice. The death of so many Atlins before her had proven that.

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About the author

Sara Mullins

Bio: Hi everyone! Hope anyone who reads this is doing well and taking care of themselves. I love storytelling and aim to become better and better as I continue to write and practice. In terms of what I like to write... In truth, though it's what I'm worst at, the goal is just to get to the fluffy romance scenes. The obstacle is only what lies before and between. Alas. Again, take care, all.

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Daniel Newwyn ago

What a detailed account of the Sacerian and Ghurian! I'm fascinated by history, fictional or otherwise, so reading these is always a pleasure. However, in my experience, I think I'm in the minority though. I think the typical reader would rather follow a character this early on instead of macro world building

ArthurScott ago

Welcome, Reader, and thank you for lending your undoubtedly precious time to this work.

The first war known to have been waged between the Sacerians and Ghurians came at a time when the lands of Sacer and Ghuria did not yet exist, nor did our current calendar system. As such, the timeline of this conflict is difficult for this author, a mere contemporary locked in the mindset and knowledge the people of our time are constricted to, to pin down. However, we may safely assume due to the new divisions of Sacerian and Ghurian that appeared after this event (the existence of which is proven by the preserved skeletons of the soldiers who died in battle) that the war was caused by the struggle for superiority between Spring and Summer magics and Autumn and Winter magics. As we can see clearly even in the present day, the former group took victory. This conflict was dubbed in retrospect the War of Seasons. All wars named after this point will be referred to their official titles, named primarily by the Sacerian council.

The calendar familiar to most readers begins after this point, starting at Year One and continuing to the present day. From this point, it is simple enough to organize the wars between the Sacerians and Ghurians into a quick chronology paired with brief explanation. We do not claim for these explanations to capture the suffering of those entailed, but, for the sake of understanding before we go into details with each war receiving its own chapter, we will present an abridged list here.

War of Domains (Year Six to Year Thirteen): A battle to rearrange the territory lines between the Sacerians and Ghurians, begun by the latter who had received lands far less fertile (in many places unfit for life, such as the dormant and harsh areas of the volcanic region) in the treaty for the War of Seasons (the Treaty of Seasons). The Ghurians lost and had their lands reduced in the ensuing Treaty of Domains.

War of Gods (Year Forty-Seven to Year Fifty-One): A battle to spread the religion, now known as the Pantheon of Old, of the Sacerians into Ghurian territory, which had become largely secular by this point. Though the Sacerians won their crusade, efforts to indoctrinate the losers were later ceased, as missionaries continued to disappear under mysterious circumstances. This led to the Battle of Recompense in year fifty-one, considered the last fight of the War of Gods, where the Ghurians were punished without quarter for the aforementioned disappearances. In the Treaty of Recompense, the Ghurians were made to give up their trade agreement with any and all Sacerian villages.

War of Trading (Year Ninety-Two to Year Ninety-Three): A battle waged by the Ghurians to reclaim their trade routes as well as to rearrange territory lines. Their victory, a triumph made possible by the use of an as of yet unencountered and deadly magic known as Wither, makes the War of Trading the shortest in the sects’ history. The Ghurians gained a fertile section of land that absorbed a Sacerian village into their territory. As we will expound upon later, this sudden proximity between Sacerians and Ghurians after a long period of insistent separation and conflict is precisely what led to the next war.

War of Blending (Year One-Hundred and Twenty-Six to Year One-Hundred and Thirty): A battle for rights to intermarriage between Sacerians and Ghurians. This fight is what first established a neutral territory located in the frigid north (a place up to this point uninhabited) of the continent of Atritaria. The people who relocated—read: were banished**—here called the land Sirpo, home of the Sirpoans, and created one expansive village known as Equin where they live to this day.

**This conclusion, outlined in the Treaty of Blending, is one of the few instances in which the Sacerian and Ghurian sides agreed on all terms without dispute, namely the need to locate any “interbreeds” and to where. As you will read later, we partly attribute this rare instance of cooperation between the factions to the fact that a comparatively lasting peace reigned before the next war began.

War of Wither (Year Two-Hundred and Fifty-Nine to Present Day): A conflict caused by an event that came to be known as the Wither Epidemic, where the Ghurian magic known as Wither spread throughout the land in less than a day and effectively halved the Sacerian and Ghurian populations before countermeasures could be taken. This war is currently ongoing as of the publication of this volume, and, upon its conclusion, if these two authors are still here to do so, an updated text will be released.

To close this introduction, we will make our one and only note of the Atlin family line, whose Juncture magic has the capability to alter the very flow of time. There have been sightings of Atlins in each war, confirmed by testimony from surviving veterans: Katya Atlin in the War of Seasons, Lilia Atlin in the War of Domains and the War of Gods, Petra Atlin in the War of Trading, and Mischa Atlin in the War of Blending (notably the first Atlin to have not fought on the Sacerian side, as he was allied with the interbreeding sect). Accounts of the presence of an Ophelia Atlin may only be found for the first year of our current war and are considered to be falsehoods among some. We may now only assume that the Atlin line has died out, as there would be no moral excuse for a line with such magic to be completely uninvolved. In any case, while we will provide extensive discussion of all other family lines and their magics in Part Two of this record, the Atlin name will no longer be mentioned.

We cannot rely on such false hopes, after all.

"The most important thing to remember about back-story is that:

(A) Everyone [everything] has a history and

(B) Most of it isn't very interesting."

- Stephen King

I hate to bring up the man in glasses but I think that would apply here. The opening here I think wouldn't catch many readers' attention. I actually did not read this all because I felt forced; if you start Chapter One with a bang as with the prologue, I think people will continue. I think a great deal of readers will either leave this story entirely or skip this intro, and we don't want either of that. Especially if you're planning to send this on to a publisher; they hate macro world-building. :)

    Corvus Handly ago

    I have to agree with this to a point. There’s a certain niche for hardcore history fans like Daniel, but even he has argued the point that this may not necessarily be in line with fantasy/fiction. ’This’ being the stiff opening to the chapter. I'm with the previous commenter in that the introduction glazed me over a bit, and I'm sure it will happen to others as well. I would recommend splitting this up through a few chapters rather than the first half of the first.

    It's probably my mild ADD, but it was very hard to cope with this historic deluge. Not to say that I don't appreciate it, but even now I can remember maybe half of it.

    The actual writing is fantastic.

enfiejian ago

This is just a suggestion, but I think it would be more entertaining to have us live through a brief dream sequence instead of describing it. It is fine the way it is, but it may grab more readers jumping into a bit of action and can be fun to write. I think it would be a great addition to this chapter since it is mostly information about hwat is happening currently in the world.

I like the background you give in this section. It doesnt feel forced and has a reason to why she is thinking about it.

I would like more description to bring me into this world. What does the room look like? What about the book? etc. you can even add some sounds sprinkled in like the book whines when it closes or her bed creakes as she moves.

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