It has been a while since we’ve had an Æthursday, so Allen rolled up a great one and fleshed it out a bit better than normal for us. This week’s setting is a Dark Ages dystopia set in a fusion tech opera.
The fall of empires always leaves a vacuum to be filled. Empirical pride falls to the wayside as more immediate dangers are addressed. Great schools are broken, decentralized, or banished altogether. Security and survival become more important than innovation and organization. Rome falls, and city states raise walls to keep out marauders, murderers, and thieves. The decay works slowly, boiling up out of the emptiness left as the empire shrinks. As civilization splinters and becomes more insular, the future looks bleak. The only power strong enough to keep the world from devolving into utter chaos is faith, and the Church has seized upon the opportunity.
They started by bringing the brightest scholars under their wing, sending them off to teach anyone willing to make the lifetime commitment of Holy Servitude. They called all able persons to be part of the Papal army. They used the army to keep trade routes free and clear of bandits. They fostered trade between city states as mediators. They served as moneylenders, creating writs of credit for those in need, accepting vows of service as payment. The Church crept across the known world and into any aspect of life they could. The people rejoiced, as the Church slowly provided the safety that people cried for in the beginning.
It took time. Generations worth. The Church made deals where it could. It injected its faith into the citizenry until it was almost an empire itself. City states and small nations remained sovereign, but The Church was omnipresent. The Church always did what was in the best interest of civilization itself – including saving it from itself.
Unbeknownst to the general public, all but the highest ranking Church officials, and one line of priests, The Church’s scholars have developed a massive energy source. Fusion. Over the generations, it has been refined, miniaturized, and used to power teleportation devices. The Church has kept this a secret, fearing what it could be used for in the wrong hands. Devices are given only to two groups: Church officials so that they can quickly move around the world to keep the peace and security of the land, and the line of priests, called Hounds, vested with rooting out dissenters, criminals, and heretics.
For years, no one questioned the use of the technology or how it worked. But now, something isn’t quite right. Heretics captured by the Church Hounds are supposed to be imprisoned. The worst are sent under protection to Church scholars to aid in research. Now, more heretics are sent to the scholars than are sent to prison, and no one has any explanation why. Officials are making fewer appearances, and their written correspondence has gotten more erratic. Some have met with violent ends that have been explained only as divine in nature. So far, The Church has managed to keep the world in the dark about its internal issue. But the issue is spreading like a cancer.