At first, the Vortex didn’t do much. On an otherwise uneventful day in 1991, as the once gargantuan Soviet Union was reaching its final dissolution, a blue, swirling Vortex appeared in the middle of Siberia.
Scientists flocked to the scene. Some called it a weather anomaly. Many news stations excused it as a hoax. And for the days that followed, it seemed positively benign. Another mysterious phenomenon on a planet of weird happenings.
But it didn’t stop there.
Over the course of the year, things started to happen. It began with a spark. People around the world manifesting weird, even magical powers. Doctors with golden, glowing hands. Homeless people chucking fireballs. And ancient languages now bearing words of power that twisted reality with every syllable.
Scientists tried to study these individuals, even as chaos erupted and people tried to understand these new powers and the ramifications. What they found was a link. A spark within these individuals and the uttering of certain words, and pulsations from the Vortex in Siberia. It was linked, somehow.
It wasn’t long before people started referring to these powers as what they were: magic.
Somehow, the Vortex had created a gateway into our world, releasing magic that came to activate latent magical energy in some people, as well as forming rivers of magic throughout the world that could now empower the channelling of words of power.
But before we could continue to study this magic and use it, the gateway out of our world widened.
Rifts to other realms began to open, seemingly at random, across Earth. While the Vortex only let in magical energy, these rifts were far more noticeable. And larger. Beings crossed into our realm, as they were sucked in from their own.
Elves, dwarves, orcs, faeries, demons…were only a few of the fantastical beings to cross into our realm. With them came gods of myth. Athena, Dionysus, Thor, Odin, Anubis, to name a few. Some of the beings understood our languages. They had traveled to Earth before, on their own terms. But they now reported a flux in what they referred to as the “In Between”. A space between realms. A void, where only the dead, the demonic and the unknowable resided.
This flux accomplished two things. It connected Earth to all the realms. Asgard, Olympus, Stradgorf, Raz’ed, Tartarus, Hell…all of them. But it also made traveling between them willingly almost impossible. Those trapped on Earth during the eruption of the Vortex, or pulled in by rifts, were stuck here.
We began to learn from them. Elves gave us a name for the energy that was manifesting in our world. Wey. We used the term to describe the rivers of magic emanating from the Vortex, and other places of power around the world. Weylines.
We also learnt new ways to channel this magic, as elves and otherworldly beings taught us their magics.
But not all otherworlders were so friendly.
The rifts also brought monsters. Undead, vampires, werewolves, demons, and many more. The appearances of these creatures began to cause untold damages on human populations, depopulating cities and wreaking havoc as nations tried to deal with the geopolitical consequences of Earth becoming a chaotic nexus between fantastical realms.
Many thought it was the end of the world. The Rapture. The Apocalypse. The term that became most common was The Cataclysm.
And one couldn’t blame us for thinking the world was going to end.
The Titan Under the Mountain
In 1992, awoken by the magic of the Vortex and now emanating his own magical energy in great waves, a titan began to awake from its long slumber underneath Table Mountain, Cape Town.
His name was and is Adamastor. A primordial titan banished to the Cape of Good Hope, also known as the Cape of Storms, for falling in love with Tethis, daughter of Doris. Adamastor was entombed underneath Table Mountain, unable to awake as the magic that fuelled him was too sparse in a magicless world.
But with the Vortex, Adamastor could now awake. His awakening caused quakes as he tried to wrestle from his mountainous tomb, as well as major storms. The kind that had given the Cape its namesake.
These quakes could be felt throughout the world, and it was only with the quick action of hastily trained mages that Adamastor was put to sleep. And stays there, as the Titan Magi keep him under close watch, endlessly chanting their sleeping magic.
But the Titan Under the Mountain wasn’t the only symptom of the Cataclysm.
As monsters wreaked havoc across the world, a massive rift opened above Berlin. From it, a colossal black dragon emerged. Fafnir. The dragon of legend. But even more massive than stories about him claimed.
Fafnir lay claim to Berlin, referring to it as his hoard. It was only with the quick intervention of Thor, the God of Thunder himself, that the dragon was slain.
Not all these apocalyptic events were averted, however.
In the far north, among the icy wastes of Greenland and Canada, an army was forming. Not of monsters, but of dead men.
It descended on hapless settlements, ships and homesteads as a shroud of impenetrable fog. A Shroud. Those who survived were traumatised. They reported spectral warriors from ancient times. They were not angry. Not sad. But they fought. And killed. But before they did any of that, they gave every living soul a choice.
“Join us in life. Or join us in death.”
The Army of the Shroud still persists, even as the world stabilised and we began to get used to the magic and the monsters. The armies move slowly, overwhelming parts of Canada, Alaska and Greenland. Even the now separated States of America have had to face the raids of the ghostly hordes.
Some believe they are the abandoned hosts of Valhalla. Others think they’re the Wild Hunt. But what is clear is that they are here to stay. Always fighting. Always growing. And that there is no choice but to serve in death or serve in life.
Nations of the Cataclysm
The world changed after the Vortex caused rifts to open, the sparks to ignite and magic to flood our world. Once seemingly invincible nations split up. Small powers became empires. And even then, some places remain the same. Eerily blending normalcy with fantasy.
The United States didn’t have long to celebrate its victory at the end of the Cold War. It has now split, with only the East Coast remaining as a direct successor of the once mighty United States. Texas is now a more accurate superpower, supporting a coalition of border states against a rapidly expanding Deseret in the west, that holds the San Andreas fault hostage.
Britain was split in two, as a powerful fae calling himself the Highland King has established himself as ruler of a more traditionally clan-based Scotland. The courts of the faeries defend the remains of England, recognising the Royal Family as their mortal regents.
Scandinavia is now ruled as a federation, with a democratically elected Odin leading as Prime Minister.
Europe existed in flux for years but is now consolidating as a newly revived Holy Roman Empire. All the while Russia exists as a transnational protectorate, ensuring that the Vortex is not tampered with by anyone wishing harm upon the world.
The entire world changed. Gods rose, died and came back again. Demons attempted to invade. Angels threatened to destroy Earth to save all the other realms.
But life goes on. The world ended. But we’re still here.
Practicing magic. Living life. And in the case of many, hunting monsters.