|Children of Hades|
Followers of the Old Ways
Acolytes of the Beyond
The Children of Hades are an international cult in Aquila. Formed as a confederation of several loosely connected groups who practiced the Old Ways, the Children of Hades arose in reaction to the violent purges of the Final Crusade carried out by state and paramilitary actors in the post-Aether era. They are a collection of black mages, astrologians, assassins, counter-inquisitors, and mercenaries loyal to the cause of restoring the Old Ways to glory as well as destroying its ancient enemies. They owe their namesake to the mysterious Hades the Unseen, the most powerful spirit in the pantheon of the Old Ways who was said to have stolen the power of magic from the celestials to bequeath it to Man, elevating himself to a god in the process.
The powerful magicks of eld have taken many names in the Aquilan tongue, but the most succinct summary of their study and practice is manifested in the arcane religion of the Old Ways, encompassing the scholarly pursuit of ancient knowledge, the use of sorcery, and the study of the universe's cosmological systems and metaphysics. Man has harnessed magic since at least the days of the Testificates, and perhaps even prior if ancient Khotanese mythology is to be believed. Much of Aquila's pre-Xolumir history is still shrouded in mystery, but the earliest recorded practitioner of the arcane arts was the wizard known only by the name of Hades, who, according to legend, tricked the Titan Avus into revealing the location of the Heart of Moros. The mage studied its secrets then brought the knowledge he had gleaned from its obsidian fortress in the Nether back to the overworld, where he shared his newfound wisdom with his cult of fanatical worshipers. Avus quickly grew jealous and slew the "Pretender God," though his retribution had come far too late; Man had discovered the secrets of the celestials, and the shadowy Hades the Unseen had made his mark upon the world.
Whether Hades ever actually existed or his tale was mere fiction is largely irrelevant - the legend of his heroic sacrifice for mankind grew to inspire generations of powerful sorcerers. Three main schools of magic emerged in pre-antiquity: The Tutelars who derived their power from the worship of gods or lesser celestials, astrologians who used mathematics and divination to harness the knowledge of stars and other heavenly bodies, and other unaffiliated wizards or sorcerers who attempted to channel the world's quintessence through their own spirits - creating the most powerful magicks, but at the greatest cost to their own mortal souls. These mages of eld all existed in relative harmony with each other, and the practice of magic was nearly universal - taught as a mere fact of life like history, geography, and mathematics.
The status quo did not last forever, however. When the Titan’s son, Makrozoia, fell to madness in -758, he unleashed the fury of his Nightmare Legion upon the world, initiating a decimating genocide against any and all practioners of magic, whom the new Mad King viewed as a threat to his thousand-year regime. By the time the Mad King hung up his axe at the conclusion of the Hundred Year Darkness, magic had all but disappeared from Aquila, and the arcane arts were collectively simply referred to as the Old Ways - a relic of the past. Still, the influence of the esoteric persisted in the shadow of the Empire away from the gaze of the gradually receding Nightmare Region, with minor heretical cults dedicated to the study of Hades’ teachings springing up gradually in the ensuing 4,000 years.
Over the millennia of his rule, the Mad King became sluggish and lazy, and gradually his once-great empire devolved into a mere shell of its former glory, with the emerging citystates rapidly supplanting Makrozoia’s influence. The arcane returned in full force, spearheaded by a fearsome army of black mages who called themselves the Followers of the Old Ways. Their impeccable command of a new synthesis of purely destructive magicks they called the dark arts was legion, using the lost teachings of Hades the Unseen and his cult to harness the power of the void from the Aether itself. Their worship of a primordial being known as the Ancient Fear was seen as the highest possible heresy at the time, but the power of the Nightmare Legion to effectively curtail their efforts was practically nil. Sensing a potential powerplay, the Mad King’s sons, Notch and Herobrine, assassinated their father with his own blade, justifying their coup with the tyrant’s inability to combat the growing threat of the resurgent Old Ways. The Aquilan Empire dissolved, and Aquila was thrust into a devastating civil war which pitted the two jealous sons against each other - a climactic conflict which came to be called the Kilran War.
The Followers of the Old Ways were initially neutral in the conflict, content to nurture their own bases of power, but its coven were soon forced to pick sides in the escalating battle for supremacy over the charted world. A sect of those who saw wisdom in following Herobrine into battle defected, led by the influential mage Kastor. A smaller fraction instead threw their lot behind the mighty Notch, who urged them to renounce the dark arts and instead swear patronage to him. The remaining loyalists to the cause who refused to take either side went into self-exile in Aphelion to wait out the war, searching for signs of the return of the Ancient Fear.
Though Notch eventually prevailed, the practical outcome of the war was a bitter stalemate which left both brothers dead and Aquila scarred. Kastor led the remaining Herobrine-aligned mages to the crags of Ertdor, forming the terrorist group known as the Gleaming Road. With the Followers shattered, the brief resurgence of the Old Ways ended, giving way to a renewed era of oppression, this time primarily under paramilitary monastic orders such as the Templars and the Knights Thash.
While Kastor bided his time in central Ertdor, another sect of criminals who pledged their service to the Old Ways emerged in nearby Magheim - the Sin-eaters, a fanatical clan of assassins-for-hire who worshiped the “dark triumvirate” of Hades, Moros, and Herobrine. They came to be the eternal nemeses of the ascendant Templar Order, who were comprised of the former Followers of the Old Ways who had renounced the dark arts and swore allegiance to Notch, vowing to exterminate any lingering forces of darkness. While the Templars despised the hardline atheist monks of the Knights Thash for their anti-Notch heresy, they were the natural enemies of the profane Sin-eaters, who seemed to defile the gentle land of Ertdor with their mere existence. The protracted war between the two groups persisted in flashpoints across Kilran for several decades, ending with a pointless stalemate which many now see as an unfortunate rehash of the follies of the Kilran War a mere century prior.
The terrorist Gleaming Road came and went as well, capturing huge swaths of territory through sheer brutality but burning out due to over-extension just as quickly. Their bloody campaign across Kilran is seen as an unfortunate chapter in the history of the Old Ways in which promises of liberation from unjust oppression merely resulted in further bloodshed. Shortly after the Gleaming Road’s light was snuffed out, the Followers of the Old Ways in Aphelion succeeded in evoking the presence of Moros, plunging Aquila into the short but calamitous Aether War and pitting all of mankind against the cosmic threat of the Ancient Fear. Moros was defeated, but his return signaled the approaching hour of retribution for mages across the world - the Old Ways were returning, and the time to strike was near.
As magicians began to rise up across Aquila, fear began to grip the nations of the world who could no longer turn to the Knights Thash or the Templars for holy succor. As a result of the newfound panic overtaking the dimension, the ideology of totalism began to rise in popularity as a reaction to the return of the Old Ways, espousing violent opposition to any form of the arcane arts and idolizing crusaders of eld, such as Triton, the Templar Lionheart, and even the genocidal Makrozoia. The republic of Nova Aquila was the first nation to fall to totalism, with elements of the new ideology emerging in certain spheres of Dreitonese politics as well. The Maximists in control of Nova Aquila declared a “Final Crusade” against the Old Ways, calling upon the pious of all Aquila to rise up against the forces of darkness.
With a string of victories for the arcane across Aquila, including the reconstituted Followers of the Old Ways in Aphelion, the Sin-eaters in Magheim, and the Acolytes of the Beyond in Occa, the religion of the Old Ways had piqued once more to a degree not seen in centuries. A black mage from the cult known as the Oathbreakers, who were engaged in a state of protracted guerrilla warfare with the Dreiton Totalist Party and its state collaborators deep in the Occult Forest, emerged as a much-needed spiritual leader for this latest resurgence of the forgotten magicks: Hastur Oathbreaker, the finest student of a powerful deceased wizard whose posthumous cult made their home in the place of his death in recent years. Hastur, widely regarded as the most charismatic mage of the era, rallied magicians across the world with his victory over the entrenched Dreiton Totalist Party, after which he gave an impassioned radio speech to the oppressed throughout Aquila claiming that it was time for the Children of Hades to emerge from the shadows and rise up against their oppressors. With no other leaders to turn to, the majority of the mage factions rallied around the young black mage, who began to coordinate with leaders of sympathetic insurgent cells across the world.
The new international syndicate of mages, the Children of Hades, began to entrench themselves in hidden bases across Aquila, gravitating towards the dark peripheries of Nova Aquila where they could quickly strike against the totalist government and then retreat back into the shadows. Hastur has been elevated to the status of prophet in a matter of months, exhibiting a singular command of the dark arts and an unrivaled tactical sense which cement his place as the latest Scion of the dark triumvirate. What his leadership will mean for Aquila and how the Children of Hades will make their mark on history is uncertain, but their continued success can only spell danger for those who intend to put down the return of the Old Ways.
Known areas of operation
Owing to their roots as a confederation of independent mage factions, the Children of Hades' operations are quite decentralized, striking from dozens of hidden temples across Aquila in coordinated attacks. Their true base of operations is unknown and likely changes on a regular basis to keep Hastur's location a mystery, owing to his reputation as one of the most wanted men in Aquila.
- Erebus - The former base camp of Herobrine's army in Ertdor.
- Magheim - The anarchist settlement run by the Sin-eaters.
- Anselm - A dangerous city widely regarded as the criminal underbelly of Kilran. Reports of Hadean activities are frequent.
- Codania - A small settlement nominally under Khotanese occupation, de-facto controlled by the Children of Hades after being converted into a shrine for their patron.
- Morstock - An ancient city infused with dark energy, ideal for communion with the spirits of the void.
- Abaddon - A temple to the old gods near the edge of the map. A center for Hadean operations in southeastern Aquila due to its distance from any hostile powers.
- Reunion - An ancient haven for mages, home to its own arcane coven sympathetic to the Children.
- The Occult Forest - A region of great significance for the religion of the Old Ways, strategically within the peripheries of the hostile Free City of Dreiton.
- The Rift
- Nastrond - The most remote port in Aquila. The Children of Hades have virtually free reign to study the dark secrets of the lost continent of the Rift, so long as they share the infrastructure of the town with its pirate custodians.