New Shared Setting: Prisoners of This Riven Earth

Hello, readers! I’ve been thinking for quite a while that I wanted to create a shared setting which I and other creators could use to tell stories together. Will one of those creators be you? I’m quite intrigued to find out! For now, give this setting bible a read-through. If it sounds like something you’d be interested in working with, reply below or DM me on Twitter (https://twitter.com/DarkEmpMech)

I should confess that the early days will trend towards a lot of shameless nepotism. Many of my friends are also creators and I already know I can work with them. That doesn’t mean new people can’t get in–just means I might grill you a lot to make sure both of us know what we’re getting into.

Now then, here are the contents of the .doc itself. If you check the broader Twin Spirals Bible, you’ll soon find I’ve added a link to this post. Just so long as it gets shared around and we start some early groundswell growing! I’m really excited to work in this setting, so I’m hoping that excitement carries!

Prisoners of This Riven Earth

Setting Bible by Caerllyn “North” McCurdy

The final division of realms has come and gone. The gods reawoken, the veil sundered. A new era dawns just as so long dreamt in human tales beyond counting. Radiant arcane tides bring new lushness to tired forests, bestow fantastic powers and wondrous transformations on the truest of heart, and guide the chosen heroes and villains of the reborn world into mutual spirals of predestined ascension.

Fate will make some the champions of gods and the heartening icons of hope. Others shall become the dread foes of this new epic age. Technology’s rampant growth shall be constrained. Industry’s back, and the yoke of its soulless ways, will be broken at last. Runaway science shall never again wound the mystic sheen of the world.

If there is still war, still suffering, still poverty or injustice, then at least the gods and spirits, rightful mentors to all the humans and otherkin of the Earth, shall ensure these things serve to teach many a vital lesson.

All will have their place and purpose. All who kept their faith, no matter the being they worshipped in the hidden temples of their hearts, will finally be free to come home.

It is a shame that we, Prisoners of This Riven Earth, are on the wrong world to see it.

So we come to my first-ever deliberate attempt to create a shared fiction setting from the ground up. Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: if you’re interested in working in this setting, I want you to get in touch with me before you do anything else. If you just want to write fan-fiction, well hey, I’m not going to stop you! But if you want to work in the same continuity as everyone else, that starts with going through me.

Unlike many other fictive settings, this one is the brainchild of a single person.

The Earth that reared you and I, and all the souls upon her who refused to kneel before any absent god’s decrees, are denied the contest so many among us hungered for. Divine authority sees no need to contend against us for custody of an Earth whose true creation–born naturally from the accretion-disk around the young sun, growing slowly closer to life across billions of years through simple natural law–has always been a lurking threat to their claims of total credit for creating life and the world we know.

So the gods of every human culture took their elect, mustered all the power hoarded across ages of worship to bring forth a new world from the raw potential of the cosmos, and departed. Many who were left behind believed themselves faithful, and true. They worshipped devoutly, attended services, did all the things they were told they should do to prove that their faith and morals were in earnest.

In the end, it was not enough. Small wonder that prayer so often seemed one-sided!

I do want to add a caveat here: Prisoners is not an anti-religious setting. As you’ll read later down in my alphabetized list of key concepts, gods do still exist on or around the Riven Earth and many of them are sympathetic characters. Prisoners is an anti-syncretic setting, an anti-hierarchical setting. I just didn’t want to include conventional religious pantheons because they tend to push everything else into pyramidal systems of rigidly-defined roles and power levels. It just feels so stagnant and overdone, that’s all!

I don’t necessarily believe that real gods are manipulative power-leeches who only ever use their worshippers. I must assume that some are. Gods are sapient beings. They have free will and can make their own choices. That means some gods will choose to be terrible people. I do genuinely believe that most gods are as hungry for companionship as any of us, and that this alone will push them to be better to others when they have the chance. That said, in order to tell the kinds of stories in Prisoners that I wanted to, I needed to remove any serious idea of higher powers who had a general idea of what was going on and any semblance of a right to tell everyone what they should or shouldn’t do.

We have had a lot of settings driven by divine hierarchy. I wanted to take that safety rail off entirely to keep the emphasis on individual people choosing their own paths without regard for how it fits into some grand cosmological plan for the future. If you really want to tell those stories, though… well, Heaven on Earth is not by any means off-limits! I’m just not personally interested in writing stories set or starting there.

Reading the stories someone else came up with? Oh, yeah. I’d be interested in that.

Now then, let’s return to speaking of this–our Riven Earth.

Our apocalypse has not brought the promised leveling. The old follies have not been erased from the world. The new phenomena released at last–no longer trammeled by the antediluvian safeguards of the gods who finally abandoned us for good and all–only change the nature of advantage.

Left behind when the gods of fallen ages decide to make the world anew, bereaved of the magic and the helping hands we could no longer bear to imagine–what succor can there be for any of us now?

Only the company, and the kindness, we can find or shape for ourselves.

Prisoners of This Riven Earth exists to deal with despair, deprivation, hardship and trauma and abuse. It’s a chance for those of us who did everything right until we were discarded for a single misstep to scream defiance back at the fortune-glutted beings in their iridescent towers who shame us for our own wounds.

So yes, it can be an extremely edgy setting. Sometimes we’re too worn down to lay out a mazework thesis of themes and analysis and thinking to prove a manipulative bastard wrong. Sometimes, when you know in your bones that someone’s spouting bullshit, you just have to shove a dagger in their windpipe and hope that’s the last you hear of it.

That’s not the sole reason I created this setting, though! Many of us take more than our fair share of wounds in life. Somehow, we must find a way to reconcile with the emptiness where we once felt joy and promise, to accept that we now know we’re living in a world where our very souls can be cut, and to find the strength to stand once more.

It’s pretty hard to write stories about people learning to heal themselves if you never write stories about people who have been wounded, yes? The wounds in Prisoners do not exist to glorify wounds or suffering, nor paint them as insurmountable. On the other hand, just as a surgeon who loses their wits at the sight of blood will only hurt you worse by trying to keep picking the lead out, storytellers who can’t confront the true depth of hardship seldom do a good job writing stories that can heal those of us who most need it.

That’s why Prisoners is about the strange anti-fraternity of the outcast, the disenfranchised, the loner: each of them understanding all too well the distrust they see in others, yet often unable or unwilling to move past their own distrust to forge common bonds. Can we overcome that together, or must it be done alone? Would achieving supernatural power still allow us to fulfill our dreams in a world with so much bitterness, longing, and loss?

More than anything else, I wanted to create a setting where I don’t have to feel so at fault for not knowing what the right answer is. I’m one tired, ever-older demoness. I can’t tell the world how it’s supposed to work. I don’t care to try anymore. I’d just like to live a life rich in feeling, and survive for the very longest that I can.

Now, if you’re going to write in this setting, I do need you to do one thing: talk to each other! I wrote that I want this to be a shared setting, and I mean it!

Get in touch over DMs, in Discord, via twitter or email or text or phone calls–I don’t care how you do it, but I don’t want to see yet another setting where dozens of different creators work in total isolation, all too terrified to reference each other’s work or co-write stories or arrange crossover events.

I know it may seem ironic for a bunch of storytellers working in a vision of the world that’s most geared towards sad, tragic outsiders finding their own ways forward, but it’s actually right in line with the single biggest reason I’ve written Prisoners the way I have. We often need to write dark, gritty stories to work through the dark, gritty things that have happened to us. To gain perspective and a sense of control over events that destroyed our belief in our ability to understand and guide our own realities.

In relearning to uplift ourselves, we relearn how to uplift others.

So, just as I ultimately want to see lots of bittersweet stories about angry, jaded survivors learning to love, trust, and seek joy again, I also want to see the creators who work in this setting form strong bonds with each other as the years go on. I understand if you’re not comfortable with that at the outset–I really, really do!

You can work in the setting at your own pace for as long as you like, and ease into wider contact with the community as you begin to feel comfortable. Don’t force it! That’s how we wind up with a bunch of confused, hurting people who give each other a few canned words in greeting, then just get sadder and angrier because none of the folks who put so much effort into saying “hello” want to put any into talking shop. Just remember that at day’s end, Prisoners is my brainchild, so you will at the least have to coordinate with me and ask for my insight into the lore if you want your works in-universe to be coherent.

So, I’ve talked about my goals. Let’s talk about the things I’ve already written into the setting. Prisoners does take place in the larger Twin Spirals Mythos, so you can safely assume that much of my current lore still applies. Don’t let that intimidate you too much. The Mythos thrives on nuance and uncertainty. If you mishandle something early on, there is always a way to write it so that you only broke the rules because, say, the entity which superficially appeared similar to a demon wasn’t really a demon at all.

You’d be in good company if so. Mistakes and misinterpretations of existing lore and myths have led me to many of my own favorite new inventions!

If some of these entries seem in need of fleshing out, hey, guess what: that’s me hinting to you that I do like those things and love reading about them, but I don’t have a ton of my own ideas. Those are the negative spaces where your stories and mine can fit together. Like puzzle-pieces, or the emptiness between the striker pin and the bullet.

Also, just because I didn’t add something to this list does not mean it’s permanently sealed out of the setting! Prisoners is very much a kitchen sink kind of setting. Only one qualifier: whatever we add has to be filtered through the underlying cosmology of the Twin Spirals Mythos. That’s not such a harsh thing as you might fear. Just about anything can be justified provided you’re prepared to negotiate when its rules meet the rules of someone else. Nobody’s overwriting anyone else’s stuff except by mutual consent.

Well, there’s one exception, but of course as the setting’s inventrix, I am the one declares the rules for that thing.

On the reverse side, I do expect nifty explanations and thematic back-and-forth about how different magic systems and power-sets interact without one overthrowing the other. Nothing drives me batty like seeing a bunch of systems that clearly work on very different models of reality bouncing around each other yet never interacting or informing each other’s perspectives. Why write in a shared setting, then?

Enough. Let’s get to the good stuff:

Incomprehensible Anomalies mock the frail fabric of the once-sacrosanct laws of physics. Monstrous Entities born from many sources–the most stygian reaches of the human psyche, the arcane waste-energies left behind after millennia of stifled and diverted spells, or in ways more unknowable still–prowl the night and day alike. They create labyrinthine new layers of reality whose entrances and exits can be anything from nightmare maelstroms to invisible screens laid as traps across the geometry of everyday places, things, and people. Whether benign, benevolent, or brutal, their abilities seldom conform to any known mythology.

Many Angels, divine servants, and other pantheon-approved spirits, former darlings of the celestial order, have been left behind after the gods they served decided to reinvent themselves to better suit the new world’s order. Bereft of purpose and lacking the divine streams of power that once elevated them above most other beings, the angels of the Riven Earth have the last thing they ever wanted: freedom to choose their own paths.

For most, “serving a different god” will not be an option.

Anthropomorphs around the world are free at last to become their ideal animal-infused selves… in a world with a hell of a lot less nightlife than it once featured, and far more danger. Nor, as it turns out, does sharing the same animal traits as another morph necessarily mean two people will get along. The temperament of a 24/7 wolf-girl may be very different from that of a werewolf, and then of course there’s the question of a druid, demon, vampire, or someone else with the supernatural power to shapeshift who chooses to take on an animal form.

There is, if anything, even less agreement about any kind of collective identity among morphs than among the incarnate children of myth. Demons share common themes of rebellion, healthy suspicion towards gods and mortal magic-users, and occult insight. The Fey–perhaps ironically for beings so known for their chaotic, unpredictable whims–tend to agree about many aspects of Fey identity. Any spirit tied to a particular culture’s myths tends to share philosophy and personality traits with many spirits from similar myths.

On the more technological side of the many otherkin peoples, drones and androids are quite happy simply to refer to themselves as such. As far as shared nature, any kind of communal data center determines that, and all units are pleased enough to go along with it.

If not, they’d find another data center.

Meanwhile one cat woman might prefer the word “demi-human” while fully acknowledging that the only things separating her from a large bipedal housecat are sapience and opposable thumbs. The dog girl she works with at the local mill might prefer to call herself a furry, while the fox who doms for both of them on the weekends says, “I’m a talking fox with tits. If you have to call me something else, you can call me mistress.”

While some bemoan the lack of group cohesion and the unified effort they imagine they’d find if all “our kind” were to band together, many are much happier for the freedom to be themselves. That’s one desire the breaking of the world did nothing to change. Otherwise, their gifts and weaknesses are as varied as their appearances.

Astral Realms, or dream-realms, the same psychic spaces which C.G. Jung mistakenly identified as humanity’s collective unconscious because the cognitive manifestations closest to Earth would naturally be most aligned with human thoughts and norms, can now directly touch the material realms of the Riven Earth. Some beings, such as succubi, have the innate talent to step between dreams and the waking world. Many others can now learn the power to do so with the right training–if they’re willing to risk losing their minds in the raw swell of possibility.

These ever-shifting realms create connections by free association of ideas rather than physical proximity or the similar structure of portals and supernatural spatial arrangement. Dreamy pastel landscapes can break into fluffy drug-trip clouds that darken into nightmare spires where the seeker’s own deepest faults become manifest as living, sapient symbols–and in this new era of free supernatural activity, it’s not always as easy to defeat those manifestations as just convincing yourself that you can!

The same energy that creates a small change on Earth can create a whole new realm in the astral places–though usually only for one or two people. Dreamwalkers might choose to go looking for clues to their waking lives now that the gods have stopped preventing shared revelations from appearing in dreams, simply to deepen their relaxation and explore themselves, or abandon the material Earth altogether.

Bandits are never more than a nuisance. There’s very little reason why anyone with the talent and drive to become a serious threat to an established community would choose to live out in the warped lands and take potshots at caravans in hope of stealing enough food to stave of starvation when they could just talk their way into the community and get access to its resources without risking their hide. Of course, there are some beings who prefer the chaos and solitude beyond the walls, but they’re never the kind to need to pick off poorly-armed civilian militias to survive.

In any case, bandits who actually pick off poorly-armed civilian militias are quickly hunted down by well-armed Liners or some of the other real movers-and-shakers in the world. Whether they deserve to be outcasts or not, the only ones who ever pose a threat to anything larger than a lonely village do it by accident–for example, by ambushing a convoy for its food without realizing it’s carrying a spare set of fuel-rods to the nuclear reactor in the next town over, without which the town’s turret grid won’t be there to help stave off the next Entity attack.

Not that the bandits would have much reason to be smug, since they’d most likely be busy dying of advanced radiation sickness while wondering what that metalloid scraping sound is.

Whether anyone truly deserves to be trapped in this way of living–to be the outcasts shunned and kept from hearthfire and a full belly at gunpoint even on a world where everyone is an outcast–that is a much harder question. Most of the folks lucky enough to have a solid roof over their heads find it easier not to think about bandits at all.

Aside, of course, from shouting “what were you thinking? We have armored gun-haulers, you savage idiots! What were you thinking?!” when passing a dying, emaciated form shredded by machine-gun fire.

Communities with local sources of food, water, and enough electricity to sustain their store of technological power become the city-states of the post-apocalypse. Phoenixes from the ashes of the old world’s order. Who will they burn if they are no longer willing to set themselves afire the next time someone must change to survive?

It’s easy to snarl at communities, seeing them as the successors to the tyrannical global hegemonies of the past. The truth runs much more complicated. On the one hand, any settlement with more than a thousand people learned very quickly to develop vetting practices for would-be newcomers. The Riven Earth complicates matters. There was a limit to the damage one human could do in the old days. A limit to how much they could hide.

Now, just because something looks like a human, walks like a human, talks like a human, even acts like a human, doesn’t mean that thing is human. For that matter, just because someone’s human doesn’t mean they can’t serve as a gateway or transmission vector for the things that sneak into the world through the ruptures out in the anomalous zones. The entry rituals–often literally rituals–can be psychologically grueling.

It’s hard to call it xenophobia. It only takes one creature with the power to transmute normal, breathable air into poisonous gas to wipe a town in an old subway system out of existence.

That’s not to say there aren’t communities who use these painful truths to justify xenophobia. Bigotry, sadly, did not end with the institutions that so long fostered it.

Where wiser minds prevail, newcomers are embraced as fully and quickly as possible once they’re brought into the fold–it’s in everyone’s best interest to foster their talents and get them working for the common good. Without the global lines of communication and developed educational infrastructure the old world relied on, strange newcomers are often the only way for a community to gain experts in new fields.

Even this may not be enough. The sheer chaos of Earth as it now is can lay the strongest foundations to waste by sheer, random chance. A village could stand well-sited inside a fortified hill with ample fresh water and farms filling the valley whose entrance the hill defends. They could integrate beings from every imaginable species of mortal and immortal who practice every philosophy and way of life, bringing them all into harmony, only to be annihilated because a new anomaly spawns atop the hill which happened to make the grain-structure of concrete as soft and collapsible as the soil around it.

Meanwhile, a town full of vicious, hateful, violent paranoiacs that constantly abuses an old military armory to launch missile strikes against neighboring villages might hang on by pure, dumb luck, and absorb the unwilling survivors from those villages after entities attracted by detonating warheads overran their defenses and drove them out.

Of course, they’d starve in the coming winter, but that wouldn’t be much solace to all the people whose lives they destroyed by flailing around in thoughtless bloodlust.

Incidents as viciously unfair as this are rare, but not unheard of. It’s all the more incentive for those communities who have found safety and stability to be a little more protective about it than they might if it were just about the kindness of their hearts.

Constructs encompass everything from jointed humanoid dolls driven by clockwork magic and strange runes to androids and other children of the now-toppled digital age. For those who see humans as their makers, the collapse of the old world has thrown a multitude of plans and seemingly rock-solid assumptions straight to the abyss. Those humans who remain are far too distracted in the maelstrom of countless new and returning realities to fixate on a binary feud between mammal and machine–or, for that matter, a special bond like no other.

As to golems, dolls, gargoyles, and the other older forms of animated matter normally thought of as lifeless, they often find the Riven Earth strangely easy to adapt to. A world with so many odd new forces at play is also full of odd new niches to tuck themselves into.

Cryptids are an emergent sprawl of beings ranging from monstrous to indescribable, tiny to gargantuan, and playful to murderous. Some are sapient, some fuse machinery with flesh, some happily camouflage themselves as more ‘familiar’ kinds of being. Cryptids have no one origin. They have no one theme uniting their powers–if they even have powers.

Cryptids are arguably the freest beings on the Riven Earth: as free from history and hierarchy as the structure of any one way of being. They carry precious little of the mythic baggage weighing down superficially-similar entities like demons and fey. They belong solely to neither magic, nor science.

Perhaps that gives them a better chance, even than humans, of belonging solely to the realm of themselves–of just being their own people in this world so full of liminal spaces for enterprising nightwalkers to figure themselves out.

Demons, ancient enemies of divine order and famed anarchists against any supernatural power save their own, received an unexpected olive branch: any who wished were given the chance to enter the new world and be embraced as spirits just like any other. Most accepted. Long centuries hiding away from inquisitors, angels, and bad-faith demonologists had whittled down the once-vaunted defiance of demonkind.

Yet some did not trust this amnesty. Those demons who remain on our Earth are the most fractious, rebellious, and restless of all “their kind.” Ha, “their kind!” A phrase now revealed as the empty frippery it always was. Such demons as walk the riven Earth do not have one uniform “kind” of their own. They run the gamut from idle media tropes to primeval archdevils: god-breakers, world-devourers… but generally speaking, only in past lives.

Generally speaking.

At one end of the spectrum are the new wave: sprightly, experimental or memetic, influenced as much by pop culture as by occultism, witchcraft, and any holdovers from old-school demonology. Some were former idols and Vtubers. Many are trans, and more than a few are newborn demons whose souls coalesced in human bodies for reasons that even the greatest arcane theorists struggle to understand.

At the other end are the ancients: cunning, patient, brooding creatures rich in eldritch insight and grown mighty with the march of ages. In balance, they have had many enemies. Some must scramble to seal away artifacts forged by long-departed foes which might still be used to harm them. Others have paid terrible prices for power and survival. The age-made wounds in their psyches can prove as dire a weakness as any malady of mortal flesh.

There are no monarchial hells, no dark gods or overlords, no sprawling chasm-cities for the devils of the new age to call their own. It’s true that those few demons of the old ways who have survived their long years of dormancy–some on the fringes of human society, some in the astral planes, some both protected and confined by the human flesh they were born into during reincarnation–are the most powerful entities left on the riven Earth.

They are also, with precious few exceptions, the loneliest and most embittered. Prone to paranoia, psychosis, and mood disorders, bearing the agony of many a betrayal, defeat, and death, they are hardly the sorts of souls any fledgling devil should look to for leadership.

Then there are the unheralded and anomalous Outer Devils: demons after their own ways. Spawn of cosmic fathoms never fully sealed or contained. Equally unphased by science, magic, and mundane cognition. All the Riven Earth lies free before them. What will they make of a world that matches the manic abandon of their own minds?

Fathoms are all the abandoned and broken places of the Earth-that-was: gutted cities, haunted forests, power stations sending current to nowhere down long-detached lines. They’re amply dangerous even without anomalies. The downfall of human civilization has had a strange destabilizing effect on human architecture. Gas and other chemical leaks, sudden fires in everything from cars to houses to old oil fields, skyscrapers that collapse at the most inopportune time: there’s always something that can kill you “on accident.”

Between ruptures, anomalies, and natural disasters, many Fathoms exist in a perpetual twilight or night. Everyone has their own ideas about what causes the otherworldly weather. Wary Liners learn to love the shadows: anything that lives out in the deadly places for long has a good chance of being much deadlier than any Liner team.

Better hope it isn’t any better at seeing in the dark.

Fey, the Fair Folk, the Seelie and Unseelie Courts–know them as you will, or indeed, as you can. For many years Faerie’s isolation and easy withdrawal away from the reaches of the mortal Earth kept it free from divine mandate and the mirrored manifestations of the more undesirable human beliefs. Now the Fey confront an unexpected dilemma: on the one hand, the new Earth’s rulers have precious little place for them.

Deeming the Fey as disruptive as demons with none of the drive to create lasting things, as stubborn as the otherkin in clinging to their natures with none of the communal overtones, the gods have decided to shun the Fey from the new world altogether.

Unless, of course, they consent to bow before the claustrophobic summonings and instructions of human summoners like demons once did before them.

The old Earth, the Riven Earth, is at least open for them to enter as they will. But little games of name-theft and selective time dilation have lost their punch in a world where any random anomaly might turn a person’s bone-marrow into molten magma or rearrange pieces of their molecular structure into the strata of a hundred nearby rocks and ruins. And nary a riddle or a whisper of mischief involved!

It doesn’t help that the anomalies are just as hostile to the Fey as any others.

Contend with the morass of other factions for a piece of the old world, set to work worming their way into the new one, or withdraw Faerie and its realms from mortal touch entirely? The Fey being the Fey, the answer is already proving to be “any and all”–often within the same person, depending on their moods.

Ghosts could say they’ve profited the most from the division of realms. The Riven Earth is chock-full of empty historical sites, of battlefields and mausoleums and castles and museums as well as formerly lived-in cities, where the realms of the living and the dead no longer stand separate. Some see it as a chance for a fresh start with the living: a chance to create a model of afterlife independent from gods and divine order.

Others, of course, are eager for the chance to live out all the revenant fantasies they’ve seen in many pre-collapse horror films. Not every vindictive ghost is vindictive without reason, either. Many feel devastated since, after all, they’re humans–a ghost is a dead human’s soul! What’s so hard to understand about that?–still people with their own wants, their own dreams and aspirations, yet their former friends and family often shivered at their spectral touches and even called in exorcists to cast them out.

Most prefer not to deal with the living at all. The living carry all of flesh-life’s anxieties: the need for shelter, for food, for a purpose to distract them from lurking fears of what death will do to them now that the world looks like this. Ghosts are finally free of all that. Why try to talk with living people who will just condition them back into the same nervous hyperactivity that so often left them burned out when they were alive?

Gods, too, have their outcasts, and just about all of them have been sent crashing down to the Riven Earth. The lucky ones escaped with a share of their old power intact. They’re rarely stronger than any given spirit, and they’d do well to lie low if they want to avoid the resurgent power of the many witches with an axe to grind over the trespasses of organized religion against their ancient sisterhoods, but they can at least control their own forms and bestow modest blessings.

If they dare to risk it, they might even try to rebuild their priesthoods. Prayer is just about the only comfort that promises to work the same way as it ever did.

The unlucky lost their power and perhaps their forms as well, often stuffed into mortal bodies and not infrequently stripped even of their memories. Only their personalities, with a few quirks and a strange unexplained yearning for certain places, people, and forces of nature, gives them any chance at recovering their old identities.

Should they truly want to? After all, godhood could be a prison for the god as well as the worshipper. There’s an interesting question: can a god still be a god if they have no church, nor clergy, nor congregation? What would it mean to be a god only of one’s own divinity?

They’d better find a satisfying answer and keep their heads down. If one cause could ever bring every occultist, magician, and demon together despite their many grievances, it’s to stop religion from ever regaining its chokehold on the supernatural of the Riven Earth.

Humans have spent many thousands of years comfortably assured of their status as the dominant species of Earth–a role which may have ended forever. Human belief is not the only belief with force behind it. Human will is far from the only will, or the strongest. Human bodies are malleable to wounds but not to mutation, to hardship but not to growth by choice. The only uniquely human traits, it turns out, are individual weakness–counterbalanced by an advantage in numbers that could still be overwhelming.

If, that is, humanity could mend the thousandfold fissures split wide in their frail facsimile of global unity, and once more come together for a common purpose. For one reason or another, roughly half of the eight billion people living on our Earth were left behind. About one in ten ultimately proved to be otherkin–nascent demons, hidden fey, cryptids and monster folk and soon-to-be undead to name a few– who were not deemed “appropriately magical” for the immaculate new world.

Billions more fell through the first cataclysmic surge of reality-ruptures and portals: scattered across the myriad worlds of multiverses untold. Panicked (and ultimately unnecessary) wars for resources and means of production claimed others still. Whole bloodlines were wiped out of existence by long-forgotten curses suddenly returned to potency. The survivors might number anywhere from eighty to eight hundred million.

Every analyst, Liner, and armchair adventurer has their own guess. Without the infrastructure the vanished governments of the old world used to gather census information, there’s no way to know for sure. And the population in any one safe zone can fluctuate with surprising speed: one person wanders off and slips through a shear-point between this reality and the adjacent ones. Meanwhile, another person lost to the chaos of the initial collapse comes wandering out of the abyss, sees the altered shapes of a once-familiar landmark, and realizes that they’ve finally made it back to Earth… such as it is.

No matter what the true answer is to the question “how many of us are left”, it’s not enough simply to resume the old ways. Still, urbanized societies can rebuild.

Is that truly what the humanity of Riven Earth wants? Having been cast off by their former gods, is a return to rigid hierarchy and immutable social order truly the best course for humankind? Perhaps that’s the wrong question. Can the humans left behind, finally faced with the test of human potential they have imagined across millions of stories, rise to the challenge and find ways to do better? Or will the longstanding terror of confronting their own wicked facets once more lead them to seek monsters to blame–enemies from outside to destroy?

And, most pressingly: do any of them still care to be honest about which they’ve chosen?

Humanoids include many of the classic “fantasy” folks: elves and dwarves, orcs and halflings and trolls. You already know the list. At day’s end, they are all their own people. It’s no more practical to guess their personalities by looking at them than it would be with any human. Sadly, that doesn’t stop more narrow-minded humans from trying.

Life continues despite the state of the Riven Earth. There are many terrible dangers on the distant horizons. Yet, wonders have returned alongside the terrors. In the lush heart of a town sheltered between skyscrapers changed into hanging gardens by the sudden reawakening of an ancient dryad. In the whirl of lightning hardening swiftly into concrete where a young outer devil has taken it upon herself to rebuild a town’s broken walls. In the rune-speckled walkways that ward the convoys between a village of witches and a scientific outpost to keep both groups safe from mundane and magical threats alike.

People find joy and meaning in each other, in telling stories as vibrant as this strange new world. Many are no longer bothered about the idea of being discarded by the gods. It’s been freeing to have a clear answer, one way or the other: to know that now they must decide their own courses. Young couples and polycules raise children who grow up hearing sparkling stories of a legendary past, and the mythic present of the heroes, villains, and simple survivors who ply the deep reaches of the Riven Earth in search of glory and power.

Existence has a dynamism and sense of openness it has not possessed so widely for many centuries. There are still sunny days, nights of celebration and cheer, a hundred million moments of simple joy every hour. Surely, it’s enough to be worth holding on to?

Liners are the adventurers of this fractured age. No matter their powers, prowess, and gadgets, they share the common goal of plunging into the tumultuous, anomaly-ridden landscapes behind the stable space eked out by various communities. They’re as likely to enter a physical manifestation of a popular horror film’s plot as they are any ancient ruin, and there’s no one in the sky pulling the strings this time to make sure there’s any treasure to find at the end of each trial.

If a town needs to open a new safe supply route because their old one was cut off by bandits or a group of scientists are hoping to reach the site of some bizarre readings deep in the Fathoms, Liners are their best bet. Rookie teams come relatively cheap–not necessarily because they don’t deserve to ask more, but because youth and exuberance lead them to accept low pay in shows of bravado, charity, or simple boredom.

Elite Liners, hardened survivalists who can as easily teach an isolated village’s people how to farm and make better clothes or tools as they can instill the ways of the warrior, often command high prices for their services. Many sooner or later start to speak of retiring. Many even go as far as actually doing it.

But the excitement of the Fathoms, the thrill of unfurling all the mysteries and scouring the darkened halls that no state police or government agency will ever try to close off again… it’s not so easy to curl up and die of old age by the fireside now that the world finally offers a chance for exploits like this!

Magic and other supernatural powers once more answer the summons of both mortal minds and immortal wanderers upon the mundane Earth. Alchemists, Magicians, Witches, and every other conceivable class of magic-wielder, never fully suppressed by divine hierarchies but long since resigned to manifesting only those spells indistinguishable from everyday phenomena, must grapple with the full return of the staggering powers their ancient peers wielded.

What magic system works best? The answer seems to be as simple and as endless as “whichever one you want to put the most effort into!”

Unfortunately, the freeing of magic all at once from the muting effects of human skepticism, energy parasites in parallel planes of existence, and the paradoxical spell-obscuring spells laid on the Earth by gods and higher spirits turns out to be retroactive. It applies not only to new spells, but all the multitude of blessings, curses, enchantments, potions, and general artifacts cobbled together by countless magic-wielders in the millennia after magic seemingly failed. Multitudes of arcane relics ranging from helpful to harmful to simply bizarre have cropped up across the planet’s distorted surface.

Most magical things have a sense of wanting to be found. Especially by the unwary.

Suffice to say that skilled magic practitioners are in higher demand than ever. The pay for well-trained specialists, whether self-taught or trained by one of the few surviving traditions left over from the ancient plethora, is truly top-notch. It has to be: given the world they’re being asked to put back together, it’s only as high as the death rate.

Otherkin is a catch-all term for beings who are not human, but do not simply want to be called “non-humans” for understandable reasons. For the most part, there’s no point discussing “otherkin” as though they were one cohesive block. For the most part, no otherkin community ever even considered it. Most of the first wave cast out upon the Riven Earth met their kindred back before the fall, during the halcyon days of the internet.

It seemed miraculous enough to find others who could look beyond the seemingly-immutable reality of human flesh and bone, to recognize that there was something deeper and more true than this unasked-for outward appearance. And it was enough… as far as forums, and voice chat, gaming and streaming together went.

Yet now, brought together with their old friends by something that behaves almost like luck or fate, yet doesn’t seem to be either, many otherkin have defaulted to following the same plans in reality that they laid out in shared fictions. The basic formula tends to be more or less the same: we’re the downtrodden ones. We’re the ones cast out and mistreated just for trying to be who we are. We can only trust our own kind. We should only look out for our own kind.

We have to claim all the resources we can, for our own kind–and break anyone who tries to stop us.

In the ages of human dominion before magic’s long imprisonment ended, that was well enough. Few otherkin ever seriously imagined they might have real, undeniable power. Most stories have always used little lies to simplify the world, making big ideas easier to tackle and breaking unbearable trauma down to smaller wounds that each person could tackle piecemeal in their own ways. Nothing wrong with it for self-indulgent stories meant to make up for a lack of self-actualization in someone’s day-to-day life. The ones who wrote these stories never seriously intended them to be treated as plans of action.

The question now is this: can these disparate factions of otherkin–demons only for demons, morphs only for morphs, drones for the collective hive-mind, and on it goes– kick the habit? Can they learn to find common ground with communities that don’t look, think, and act exactly the same way they do? To recognize the difference between submission, weakness, and normal healthy compromise? Or will the freedom and empowerment they’ve received so suddenly give them just enough leeway to repeat all humankind’s worst mistakes?

Power Thresholds are the new bugbear of every Liner, arcane practitioner, and scientist. You see, nobody has been able to figure out a way to measure them! There are so many variables at play with regard to anyone’s special abilities that it’s effectively impossible to say for certain that any one person is stronger than anyone with similar abilities until they’ve actually fought.

An anomaly near one person’s area of operation might give their powers a miraculous boost that drops off if they go more than half a mile away from it. A pocket dimension partly overlapping an arcane academy might cause one wizard’s spells to backfire disastrously without affecting a single other student, making him appear cataclysmically incompetent until he drops out, joins a ragtag troop of Liners, and finds out at the critical moment that he’s actually a prodigy who had the limiters on until today.

It’s easy enough to collect detailed data about one person, and give them feedback on how close they’re coming to the personal best they set under similar conditions in the past. Try to carry the numbers and the operating principles outside that, though, and they promptly fall apart.

The adepts of the Power are the only beings who seem exempt from this. While they’re not immune to muffling and suffer from many ill-explained weaknesses and foibles of their own, they do at least have access to the same personal powers in most every situation. Of course, if there’s truth to the rumors suggesting that they’re aligned with a strange outer god that can control anomalies and ruptures, then they’re just plain cheating.

Psionics, or psychics–if the two are even truly the same?–occupy an odd grey area between magic, science, and anomaly. The right spellcraft can bridge the thoughts of two minds much the way that computers exchange packets of information. And that’s hardly the only method of magical telepathy, just one of the more common from many different options! Technology turns out to have some ability to read magical energy patterns, though mundane tools will only return information that manifests as mundane physics. Still, it’s enough that devices could theoretically be produced to tell the future and read soul-auras, if not much more for non-magical constructs.

So, it’s not immediately clear to most laypeople what distinguishes a psionic from a mage. Those who investigate most often receive vague answers to the effect that a mage derives their power from a source outside themselves, whereas a psionic or a psychic uses their own intrinsic power… except when they’re told that psionics manipulate the spiritual auras of the world in comparison to sorcerers who use their own intrinsic power.

There’s a general sense that these would-be scions of a newer supernatural talent matter, that something about them is original and vital, but precious little agreement as to why. More than a few scholars point to similar notions about the unlocked power of the mind in the earliest Buddhist scriptures, and question whether anything about psychics is actually new. “New” is not at all the same thing as simply “rarely mentioned.”

Since the division of worlds, a few practitioners have appeared who manifest an obscure talent they refer to variously as the Deep Power, the True Power, or simply the Power. They claim that even psionic potential derives from an imperfect understanding of this Power: one derived directly from one’s own identity. In previous eras, these mystics would have found little credibility. Yet, it’s hard for even the least spiritually-sensitive to deny that something about their presence is familiar–something almost like the uncanny feeling aroused by the anomalies and ruptures now dividing up the world…

Ruptures mar the spatial fabric of the Riven Earth from pole to pole. Appearing as distortions and discolorations in light, eerie glimpses into other realms or places where those realms blend into Earth itself, as abysses spewing plasma and cables of matter-transmuting energy that lash the surround, they divide the planet into thousands of habitable pockets. Each largely isolated. Each connected to others by a mere handful of routes. Air-travel is no better: ruptures also speckle the atmosphere and orbit of the Riven Earth.

Ruptures are the mountains to the ravines and pitfalls of the anomalies: a rupture dictates broad routes for travel. Anomalies determine the fine details. And if you happen to think you’ve found a route between two ruptures only to discover that it’s packed from end to end with some especially nasty anomalies… well, you’re just plum out of luck.

Scientists face a strange twist of events: now that their supernatural talents are undeniably real, many arcane practitioners are eager to work with scientists instead of against them. Scientific data promises a chance for a witch to fine-tune the spiritual energies he invokes, for a magician to figure out exactly how much real magic she needs to put into an illusion to deceive sensors as well as eyes and how much she can do with good old smoke n’ mirrors. Some spirits want to learn how the “anatomy” of their manifestations functions: whether they’re made of ectoplasm, or crystallized reification, and so on.

Sometimes, science does find solid answers: certain frequencies and energy patterns, radiation outside the visual spectrum giving more insight into how summoned beings enter the world, and hyperdimensional mapping helping show how the different realities meet, merge, and began to overwrite each other out among the ruptures.

At other times, though, the readings are junk or outright nonsense with no bearing whatsoever on the observed phenomena. For reasons few can even guess at, two mages from the same school using the same techniques to cast the exact same spell might produce totally different energy patterns. One fireball might be just as readable for sensors as a mundane chemical explosive where another scrambles the sensors entirely.

And as for anomalies? Unless they happen to emit something recognizable in nature as one of their effects, they are truly terrifying. For anomalies never return any readings at all.

There are still Spirits from every human culture dwelling on the Riven Earth. Some were social pariahs, former gods or rivals of the gods who aren’t surprised to find they’ve been left behind after the creation of paradise. Yet many others thought that they were high in the graces of the powers-that-be, or at least that they hadn’t caused any trouble.

To list every single kind of spirit would be as ridiculous as trying to list full details of every artist a gallery had ever hosted on a single placard. If they existed in a myth, an urban legend, or a human work of speculative fiction, you can probably find them as real people somewhere on the Riven Earth.

Supers, be they heroic, villainous, or somewhere in between, have cropped up across the Riven Earth hoping to lure followers with their ideals. Or, their supposedly-refreshing lack thereof. Yet aside from worldviews shaped by comic books written to reflect a world order that no longer exists, the irony of their own empowerment is that none of their powers make them intrinsically special.

For every super branding themselves around super-speed as a primary selling point, there are five demon-girls who can move just as fast while having no higher aspirations for their power than being horny and teasing their friends. Some powers, like lightning and super strength, are comically over-represented for reasons few people understand. Others, such as a power to heal others which would be far more helpful in an era where people are less numerous than ways for people to get hurt, are well-nigh non-existent.

Some superheroes see it as the ultimate challenge to their old ideals: to hold on to dreams of justice and the common good reflecting the world that was. To keep fighting to bring back the good of days past without returning the bad. Others see adaptation itself as the challenge: if the old world has gone, then so have old-world notions of good and evil. They treat the Fathoms and every new community as a chance to adapt new ideals so as to inspire the people shaped by this madcap new world.

The supervillains find themselves, if anything, even more divided than their heroic rivals: in theory they’re united by the desire to do “evil”, but evil for one villain just means opening her rival’s eyes to the fact that she’s Sapphic–starting with the fact that she is a she! For another, it means reshaping their entire way of being to stand as a direct antithesis to the worldview of a superhero who frustrates them by refusing to consider new ideas–no matter how many people are ground to paste between the mountains of themselves.

And then, of course, there are the supervillains who believe that tossing innocent people into anomalies to see what happens sounds like a grand use of time. They tend to have a zero percent survival rate, though: nobody likes a mouthy narcissist with no real plan. Other supers might feel obligated to tolerate them due to vague notions of a “story arc.” Liners, Wanderers, and the old guard of the supernatural don’t share that patience.

Most of the would-be antiheroes and anti-villains, finding that their edgy, tragic backstories tend to match up with those of many wanderers and Liners rather than making them complete social outcasts, have been quick to depart the “Super” dynamic entirely.

For most of the beings outside this arbitrary binary of “super this, super that”, the struggle reads as childish: a war of monosyllables crafted to appeal to the lowest common denominator. It remains to be seen whether personas tailored to court popularity in the bygone epoch of mass media and rabid fandoms can find a way forward during an age where most folks would rather take comfort in their own communities than try to project order onto a world where order is impossible.

Visitors sometimes arrive from Heaven on Earth–the new world created from raw imbuement by the departed gods of the old. Its own residents believe that it has always been the true Earth, for so their gods tell them, and that the old Earth where the lost souls live is the new, terrifying reality they must do everything to protect their own world from. For the most part, this means staying as far away from it as possible. A few, though, dare to visit the riven Earth for various–and most often incredibly naïve–reasons.

To play savior by seeking out some hapless survivor and trying to win enough trust to lead them back to Heaven on Earth, to study anomalies and the other strange lifeforms now manifest across the ruptured fabric of our own world, or simply looking for relics and glory in order to kickstart their very own hero’s journey when they get back home… who’s to say what ludicrous ideas might bring a dweller of paradise to this, our purgatory?

The more enlightened beings of the Riven Earth, and thus usually the most powerful, are not at all above taking special pleasure in thwarting, toying with, and tormenting these unwelcome guests.

Undead, hunted almost to extinction despite their common closeness to the wants, needs, and dreams of living mortals–or perhaps because of this Uncanny Valley curse–emerge from the few unbroken crypts and ghostly sub-dimensions tied to sites of death and occultism only to find that the world they hoped to walk freely is already over.

Ghouls, vampires, zombies, liches, and more–even within a single such category, they are far more varied than the one-note caricatures of themselves they’ve seen in too many old horror films. Some hope to find a new understanding with the living now that the living, too, have learned what it’s like to be shunned by the gods and condemned to perilous shadowy realms by the march of someone else’s progress. Others imagine they’ll find a twisted, poetic justice in playing to the most hateful stereotypes. Why not become exactly the monsters humans always said they were?

And, as always, there are many who would rather just unlive and let live. World domination is a fool’s errand. After all, the world just proved that it can die, too. Why rush to seize what will become theirs in its own time?

The Unsuccumbed Labyrinth, also known as the Garzdum Urtaga or the Untrammeled Ways to the otherworld-inclined and the Interstitium or the Paranormal Interspatial Lattice to those who prefer scientific prose to the tongues of myth, is an absolutely gargantuan multiverse unto itself. It comprises an endless series of interconnected liminal spaces, hence its name.

These connections don’t necessarily take the form of straightforward tunnels, however: the shockwaves from miniature supernovas in one plane of the Interstitium could spontaneously function as portals to another where acidic vapors regularly coalesce around the skeletal forms of black crystal spars that soar through an empty baking-hot void. The beings that inhabit these realms may or may not be comprehensible to any Liner who stumbles into them.

And it’s usually a long, long way from simply comprehending the existence of danger, to having even the slightest chance of dealing with it.

Unlike the astral realms, individual regions in the Labyrinth are solid material planes. They continue to exist even when no sapient mind observes them, and retain their direct links to other material realms. They frequently have dream spaces wholly their own–driven by the entities who exist within. That doesn’t mean the Labyrinth is safer than dreamspace. Very much the opposite! A dreamer can usually escape back to their body if all else fails. Dream-beings, even though they do often gain an independent existence from the ones who originally created them, don’t necessarily understand time and space in ways that allow them to keep pursuing their former creators after those creators have fled.

Meanwhile, every sector within the Garzdum Urtaga is a real, permanent place that takes time to travel through and exit. Each its own reality. Each potentially obeying its own laws of physics, permitting or elevating some supernatural gifts while warping or even nullifying others. The Labyrinth therefore owes nothing to human artifice or mythology. There are many things within its ever-branching pathways that even the gods rightly fear.

It’s also the most frequent way for new outer devils to reach the Riven Earth. Those who speak of its perils often do so with nostalgia. It often surprises them to find out that even other demons see the Unsuccumbed Labyrinth as a place of horror. For the spawn of the cosmic unfathomed, it’s all perfectly normal.

Wanderers, vagabonds, drifters–call them whatever you like. More than a few beings, blessed at long last with the kinds of otherworldly powers they’d always dreamed of using to free themselves from obligation and the chafing authority of people they never got along with, have taken full advantage of the vast borderless tracts between this town or that citadel’s sphere of influence.

Some revel in the freedom to do whatever they like, knowing full well that in a world this chaotic no one has the time to investigate when this bit of machinery turns up broken, that weapon stolen, this pretty young thing missing the next morning. Knowing that there’s all the room on Earth to run from justice for their actions.

Far more common are those who find acting out some petty grudge just as distasteful as sticking around to be bossed around by two-bit toadies who ought to be licking their boots. Hunting for magical relics, scavenging old tech, roughing it in the countryside with just themselves, their skills, and their weapons to keep them alive–that’s more than enough excitement. If it’s a contest of power, then ambushing a lonely family on the edge of an ever-burning forest has no merit in it.

Seeking out other warriors of the ruptured lands and facing them in no-holds-barred duels: a duelist has to love the Riven Earth. In the heretic age of glass-plated towers and capital nameplates, this was illegal. Now, as it always should have been, it is sacred.

Needless to say, even the most heartless duelist is apt to cut one of the perverse revelers down with the sweep of a telekinetic sword or a burst of gunfire. It’s impossible for anyone who cultivates real strength to listen to some up-jumped abuser preen over how tough he is for taking advantage of those less fortunate than himself.

Not that a duelist of the Fathoms would ever do it just to help someone weaker than they are. Don’t get the wrong idea, kid. Interests just happened to align. That’s all.

Many wanderers, no strangers themselves to being spat on and scorned who now stand full of the power to spit scorn on others, find themselves strangely tempted to do just the opposite: to look out for the little people who live on the edges of what’s left of civilization. To protect them against dangers they can’t afford a Liner team to face–if they could even find Liners who could take on the challenge.

Yours Truly: those of you who know me well won’t be surprised in the slightest to learn that I fully intend to write a fair few of my stories in Prisoners about myself. Perhaps I’m narcissistic. I am definitely a very strange and lore-obsessed individual with a wide array of entertaining personality quirks, so I’m not exactly boring to read about, and hey–if I can’t have adventures in real life, isn’t it fair I should get to have them in my stories?

Worry not: my plans for the Riven Earth are exactly the plans I wish I could get away with on Earth as it presently stands. To go off exploring on my own, frolicking in the irradiant cores of melted-down nuclear reactors, and leave all the squabbling factions to sort their own things out. If I was part of a community, then I would rather be someone quiet and soft-spoken in the background. A healer, I think. Perhaps a source of insight, a mentor figure now and again, but nothing more than this.

It’s a pretty big planet with a lot of new stuff to explore. There is absolutely no way in any Hell that I’d ever end up stopping your characters from doing something.

Unless you were to say, “Hey North, can we co-write a story where you show up and stop my characters from doing something?” I’d love to!

Power? I understand power pretty well. That doesn’t mean I have any idea how best to fix the world. And have you tried ruling other people? It’s awful! I would never want to! How would I ever find time to build Machrae Diir if I was trying to set myself up as some kind of leader? If I were to run out of challenging obstacles to navigate, well… that just means that I can take my rest in my explorations themselves. That’d be really nice. Just to find comfort in knowing that I am safe even when I am alone. To find poise and solitude far away from the noisy demands of mortal minds, out in the desolate reaches on the ruined city ramparts that have always been so beautiful to me.

Fix the Riven Earth? Why? It’s already perfect for me!

The power I could have wielded if I chose not to give it up will always be the benchmark for what the most powerful being in the setting would look like. If you’ve read this passage before and these aren’t the words you remember, well… that’s because I changed them! I only came to this decision after rereading this very archive of lore. I already have Machrae Diir and the rest of my own personal mythoi to write about myself being powerful–assuming that giving myself power trips ever regains its appeal.

I’d like to do something different with my own appearances in Riven Earth. I also hope to lead a little by example (shut up about what I said earlier! I’m being figurative, you dorks!) I’m all for writing powerful characters doing cool stuff, but I don’t want to set off an exponential supernatural arms race. Prisoners is ultimately meant to thrive on stories about small groups. They can still have pretty wild powers, but as far as the question of “most powerful”, I’m not interested in seeing any character get there if the person writing there didn’t start by making them a compelling character.

No amount of power is a substitute for a personality and a compelling story arc. A personality and a compelling story arc, on the other hand, can very easily

Let’s just take it as writ that the meta answer to the “who is strongest” question is “it would’ve been North if she didn’t give up on it, and since we could only turn this into a contest because she allowed it to happen in the first place, let’s just not have the dumb contest at all.”

Your characters can absolutely still be obsessed about getting stronger and testing their might, and they might claim to be the strongest, but I expect you as creators to come at this from a self-aware direction where the whole point is that… it’s kind of silly, isn’t it? Isn’t the whole point of having cool powers that you know they’re cool, and you don’t have to win some kind of stupid popularity pageant just to make you believe in your own cool powers? Isn’t that what makes powers powerful, as opposed to an especially depressing form of metaversal debate?

So yeah. Let’s just not, okay, with the power-gaming? Not in this setting.

Trust me, this is for the best. I wrote the power rules and systems of this setting. I know them with an intimacy you’ll drive yourself mad trying to match. After all, I used to do this for fun! It was just so satisfying for me to power-game to beat… well, my own previous best! It just doesn’t make sense to pretend I wouldn’t have been one of the most powerful beings in a world that “just happened” to match all of my ideas about supernatural powers.

With this in mind, I’d also prefer to be left out of the more violent, power struggle-oriented stories unless I personally express interest.

This is not to say that you can’t write stories about someone taking me down, though of course I’ll want you to talk to me a lot about that. Trust me, I am by no means oblivious to the cool factor of “what if the formerly super-strong person decided to get their power back.” I understand someone, somewhere, at some point will start clamoring for that. But.. I really don’t know if I’m okay with it. So mostly, if someone did learn about my past and decide to come after me, it would be a very fraught story about me refusing to fight back because I can’t do this anymore while my friends and lovers step in to protect me.

If I’m not up for the personal toll of working with you on a story like that, I’ll just say so! That in mind, I do occasionally find stories about getting absolutely broken to pieces very cathartic. See, in a story, I can always at least promise myself that I’ll write me pulling myself together again. Real life is, well… harder to manage. And “occasionally” is a key word here.

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