As we near the release of the third volume of The Mongoliad, we’re starting to pull back the curtain on the larger scope of Foreworld. In the navigation bar of the site, you’ll notice a link to the various eras. Over the next year, we’re going to start a number of stories in these time periods. The first of these is Barth Anderson’s The Book of Seven Hands, which will be out in March.
THE CLASSICAL ERA: Spartan and Athenian combat veterans, exiled from their home city-states but inspired by the ideas of their drinking buddy—a wrestler by the name of Plato—strike out into the north to explore the hinterlands of the classical world. In the mountains north and west of the Black Sea they found a new city-state called Petraathen (Athena’s Rock), topped by a towering acropolis dedicated to Athena Promachos (“Athena who fights in the front line”), an avatar of the Goddess of Wisdom dressed in a helmet and carrying a shield and spear. Conceiving of their duty as primarily defensive in nature, they dub themselves the Shield-Brethren and dedicate themselves to using their martial prowess to defend the ideals of democracy and wisdom personified by Athena and put into practice (albeit very imperfectly) in Athens.
THE AGE OF MYTH AND MIST: The classical Greek world has long since been absorbed by the Roman empire, now in decline and turning Christian. Cut off from its cultural wellsprings and trading partners in the Mediterranean world, Petraathen has dwindled from a self-sufficient city-state to a chilly fortress on top of a rock, making a living by supplying crack mercenaries to local warlords and training their sons in the martial arts. Rome gets farther and farther away, and its new religion brands the Shield-Brethren as heretics. The Shield-Brethren look to the north and forge a deep and fateful alliance with a coalition of pagan priests, druids, and sorcerers banding together in preparation for a long and bitter struggle against the people of the Holy Book. Embroiled amongst warring Goths, Geats, and Huns, the leaders of Petraathen send a team of their best warriors into the far north. Athena Promachos, viewed through a Gothic cultural lens, looks very similar to Nordic myths and archetypes of Shield-maidens, Valkyries, etc. and so the Shield-Brethren find an unexpectedly warm welcome. With local help, they found a new citadel on an island in the Baltic, named Týrshammar.
THE MEDIEVAL ERA: Bowing to the inevitable, the Shield-Brethren and the Shield-Maidens have become Christian monks and nuns. Petraathen and Týrshammar are now outposts of a Catholic military order called the Ordo Militum Vindicis Intactae, the Knights of the Virgin Defender, where the Virgin Defender is simply Athena with the overtly pagan insignia scraped off and relabeled Mary. Along with other military orders such as the Templars, the Hospitallers, and the Teutonic Knights, they have sent contingents to Crusades in the Holy Land and in the north. They are the smallest but the most accomplished of the military orders; as a consequence they have become enmeshed in intrigues and rivalries emanating from the Vatican.
THE RENAISSANCE: It is an era of intrigue and vendetta in the city-states and courts of Renaissance Italy, France, and Spain. The medieval tackle of longsword and armor is replaced by new weapons and styles better suited to the dueling field and street combat. Those who remember the OMVI of the medieval era move through the shadows, endeavoring to keep the virtues of Athena alive and in the hands of those who can make a difference.