Monday, March 31, 2014

NO:LA Nightwatch: A Supers Campaign Seed (Part Two)

More of the background for my NOLA: Nightwatch superhero campaign. Previous post and more explanation can be found here. 

The Second Sunder War
Embroiled in a conflict with Qurac, following a closely contested election and having suffered a near disastrous event in Hurricane Katrina, America in 2006 was ill prepared for what was about to happen to it. Some had seen the signs-- strange omens and portents, the vanishings of key researchers in the field of magic, changes in the alignment of elements around those places with mystical connections. For some time there had been some rare travel between the worlds of our own Earth and that of Empyre and Majestic-- mostly the result of super team-ups and strange events. But in late 2005 the few gates connecting our world to Majestic collapsed. They had been dismissive of our own world and paranoid about contamination, so most assumed this to be deliberate action by the masters of Majestic. Dust Pilgrim, a super who had come from Majestic years before, assembled a team to look into the matter. After several unsuccessful tries, they managed to wrench open a gate and pass through. Most would never be heard from again.

In early 2006, The Perfect Master, traveling in Empyre found himself dragged before the Arcadian Court and told to leave. The gates between Earth and Empyre would be closed forever and anyone who attempted to move through them would be destroyed. Again, given how rare such travel was, most ascribed this to either a political change in that world or simple xenophobia.

Then in early August, Dust Pilgrim returned-- near death, blistered, his body contaminated with a dark force, he managed to reach the super group The Guard and speak with their team leader Magi before collapsing. Lord Sunder had wholly and completely seized control of Majestic. He'd finally laid hands upon the Eclipse Matrix. Even darker, he'd managed to wrest the Crown of Dusk from Empyre-- brought to him by a traitor from among the Seelie. Empyre had shuttered itself, closing its gates in an attempt to keep Lord Sunder from coming through. But Sunder cared little for that world, instead his attentions had turned to Earth and to the third and final piece of the Shadow Trinity.

The Guard spread out to pass word of the impending assault to everyone they could. In some cases they were able to raise allies, in some cases they found infiltrators who worked to stop or distort their message, but in most places they met indifference. Rumors of a super-villain on another world, even one who had caused so much damage before, could not be the basis for diverting resources and changing long-term strategic plans. In the end, all of that mattered little because the Guard only had seven days to rally people to their cause.

On the seventh day, Lord Sunder came through looking for his own. His forces had been refined and developed-- technology seen in the earlier conflict had been adapted and twisted to his own dark ends. Worse still, he had managed to corrupt much of the forces of Majestic-- and now his armies were supplemented by Bio-Mechanical Warriors, Organo-Mechanical Striders, and the Telepathic Corp that had once defended their own world.

Sunder had also planned his strike more carefully-- in Europe, in Russia, in Japan, in any major industrialized nation he struck at the command centers and cut off communications. Those countries not initially struck were given an ultimatum-- remain apart from the conflict or be destroyed. They would fall later-- for now Sunder's goal was the United States and the final part of the Shadow Trinity. Across the United States, major metropolitan areas came under attack. Superheroes came out in full force trying to keep back the dark forces. There were some successes but more often than not these heroes fell. In some cases, Sunder brought them under his own sway and tossed them back into the fray to fight against their former allies.

As chaotic as the first assault wave seemed, it soon became clear what Sunder's target was-- Boston. There he sensed the energy of the third part. As August neared its end-- Sunder drew his diverse forces together and launched wave after wave at the New England city. Within 48 hours it had nearly been laid to waste. But it was then that Sunder discovered he been tricked. Magi and other had worked to create a diversionary signature to draw Sunder away from the real location. Though they'd later be accused of cold calculation in sacrificing Boston, only a city with a potent magical heritage could have powered the diversion long enough to keep Sunder's attention. The question remained if the sacrifice Boston, Magi and the other heroes would prove to be enough.

As the end of August approached, desperate heroes gathered in New Orleans. Many had already fallen to Lord Sunder-- dead, missing or corrupted. Despite the threat, both remaining government superteams-- Interdict and Frontline-- had been recalled to protect Washington DC. Still some defected away and headed south, alerted by various means that the Crescent City would be the site of the last stand.

From elsewhere, across the globe, heroes found themselves forced to make a choice. They could stay and defend their homelands, or they could recognize the threat to all humanity. Although the exact numbers will never been known, surviving witnesses saw the Russian hero Finality stand shoulder to shoulder Iranian Vigilante Honorable Blade, American super Parity working alongside wanted Malaysian Arch-Villain Son of Light. Even from beyond our world they came. A group of rogue warriors from Empyre, known only as The Twelve Blades, came along with a score of others from their world-- all now outcast and barred from returning home. Some few from Majestic gifted with powers who had managed to escape Lord Sunder's dominion came as well.

Sunder's forces marched from Boston, spread out and divided to raise terror and prevent an effective response. To the east, forces led by Sunder's right-hand Servant, Blackvigil, tore along the coast before heading west towards New Orleans. To the west were the diverse forces under the command of the Atomicus, a super villain who had joined Sunder in the early days of the invasion. His forces had worked to disrupt any local military response in the Midwest and beyond. Finally along the most direct route to New Orleans came Sunder himself and the bulk of his forces. They moved with haste despite the destruction of roads and bridges before them.

On the ground, there were those among the resident New Orleans heroes who begged that the Midnight Gauntlet be taken from the city. But the risk remained too great and there still existed a plan as to how Lord Sunder might be fought using his own weapons. The heroes of New Orleans recognized, but did not truly accept, what had to be done. They turned their attention to evacuating the city as best they could. With only limited help from the government-- occupied with Boston and battling Sunder's march, they moved people away. The Watchman and his team traveled from neighborhood, from house to house. Others-- like Bloodmoon, The Concord, Silverstock, and The Riverman-- used their powers to construct barriers, ease traffic jams leaving the city, and turn the very landscape of the region to their advantage.

Sunder approached the city, confident in his powers. His two flanking armies prepared to move forward. The heroes had been quiet in their preparations which they now set into motion. In the east, the terrain had forced Blackvigil's armies to consolidate. It was then that the assembled heroes-- those with mastery of the elements-- let loose the force of nature itself. Rivers and waterways had been carefully and quietly dammed, and the landscape had been reshaped to draw the army into what essentially had become a valley. When they let loose all of the waters at once, combined with the force of a tropical storm a group of heroes died harnessing, the army shattered and drowned.

To the west Atomicus gathered his forces. He'd supplemented those given him by Sunder with any supervillains who would join the cause of destruction. Two days outside of New Orleans Atomicus gathered his troops together on a abandoned military base. Having called his subordinates together, Atomicus quietly declared his allegiance to the Earth and, with the flip of a switch, set off a nuclear weapon-- incinerating the mass of Sunder's forces there.

Despite the losses of his two flanking armies, Sunder pressed on. He had no need for subordinates-- they would all eventually be fodder to him anyway. His power had grown such that only those wholly corrupted and imbued with his essence could remain in his presence for any length of time. Sunder tore aside all natural obstacles in his path, leaving behind any stragglers and pressing on. By the time he reached New Orleans he had perhaps a thousand warriors left to him, each blazing with the light of Sunder's essence.

Conflicting accounts remain of what happened next. The heroes who remained alive in the city were a fraction of Sunder's numbers, but they fought valiantly. Pitched battles along Canal Street, a raging firefight in the Morial Convention Center, a crushing melee that devastated the Irish Channel-- each of these a holding action to keep Sunder from his prize and give those trying to come up with an answer more time.

Time, in the end, would be its own answer-- combined with the nature of Midnight Gauntlet. No one has yet confirmed exactly what happened, but some speculation can be made. The Shadow Trinity granted power which grew as the items came closer together. Sunder had been using his corrupt avatars as power sinks to hold some of that power as he assimilated it. No one is sure who finally took the Gauntlet to Sunder, battled him and forced the energies into him. But it was at that moment that other heroes, led by the Tempus Fugitive, let loose their trap. Somehow they spread Sunder's energies-- held in his avatars across time. They would exist in moments-- trapped and separate from one another but unable to join their power together. As Sunder fell into the void of time he dragged others with him, many of the last defenders who had managed to hold him long enough.

Before the Second Sunder War, few had any solid estimates as to the number of superbeings-- of various origins-- on the earth. What is generally agreed is that at least two-thirds, likely more, died or vanished in the war. More lost their powers, suffered grave injury of simply retired after those battles, having seen too much. Some moved away from herodom into other circles like entertainment and politics.

Today, well over a year after the final battle, New Orleans and the rest of the US works to rebuild. Much has been accomplished. Much remains to be done. It is now that some few, a new generation of heroes, have begun to step up and take the place of those who have fallen. Fewer superheroes exist, fewer super villains are active, but there are still threats out there that require a response.

Next: Media and the World