Thursday, November 29, 2018

The OSR Campaign Apocalyse - The Battle Lines of Ragnarok

When I wrote about Algernon Henry Blackwood's blog entry yesterday I wrote about his reality of fiction merely being the beach head into our world. In the far future the opening chess moves for the battle of humanity's place in the multiverse & its very soul's very existence. Ragnarok is not merely one event but a multitude of mini events leading up to the final confrontations;
The völva describes the state of humanity:
Brœðr muno beriaz
ok at bǫnom verða[z]
muno systrungar
sifiom spilla.
Hart er í heimi,
hórdómr mikill
—skeggǫld, skálmǫld
—skildir ro klofnir—
vindǫld, vargǫld—
áðr verǫld steypiz.
Mun engi maðr
ǫðrom þyrma.

Brothers will fight
and kill each other,
sisters' children
will defile kinship.
It is harsh in the world,
whoredom rife
—an axe age, a sword age
—shields are riven—
a wind age, a wolf age—
before the world goes headlong.
No man will have
mercy on another.

—Old Norse[14] —English translation[14]
This brings me to William Hope Hodgson's House On The Borderlands, Hodgson was a contemporary of Algernon Henry Blackwood. The novel The House On The Borderland transcends mostly anything that H.P Lovecraft put out. And the cosmic themes of the novel are very close to the weird tales material that Arthur Machen wrote. 
We are merely tenants on this Earth & there have been multitudes of races before us many of which weren't human & these were very alien beings. These are the themes of these giants of the literature of the weird tale whose boundaries cross the definitions of science fiction, fantasy, horror, & cosmic horror spun.The House On The Borderland  weaves these themes into " a hallucinatory account of a recluse's stay at a remote house, and his experiences of supernatural creatures and otherworldly dimensions."
Sunrise in the Woods By George Inness

The Ragnarok comes in the last great days of the Earth when the heroes & gods of Earth are murdered & killed across countless cultures. Among countless worlds this happens  in the far future of Earth thousands or millions of years in our future. The recluse sees the victors of these events in The House on The Borderland;

"And then, as I peered, curiously, a new terror came to me; for away up among the dim peaks to my right, I had descried a vast shape of blackness, giantlike. It grew upon my sight. It had an enormous equine head, with gigantic ears, and seemed to peer steadfastly down into the arena. There was that about the pose that gave me the impression of an eternal watchfulness—of having warded that dismal place, through unknown eternities. Slowly, the monster became plainer to me; and then, suddenly, my gaze sprang from it to something further off and higher among the crags. For a long minute, I gazed, fearfully. I was strangely conscious of something not altogether unfamiliar—as though something stirred in the back of my mind. The thing was black, and had four grotesque arms. The features showed indistinctly, 'round the neck, I made out several light-colored objects. Slowly, the details came to me, and I realized, coldly, that they were skulls. Further down the body was another circling belt, showing less dark against the black trunk. Then, even as I puzzled to know what the thing was, a memory slid into my mind, and straightway, I knew that I was looking at a monstrous representation of Kali, the Hindu goddess of death.
Other remembrances of my old student days drifted into my thoughts. My glance fell back upon the huge beast-headed Thing. Simultaneously, I recognized it for the ancient Egyptian god Set, or Seth, the Destroyer of Souls. With the knowledge, there came a great sweep of questioning—'Two of the—!' I stopped, and endeavored to think. Things beyond my imagination peered into my frightened mind. I saw, obscurely. 'The old gods of mythology!' I tried to comprehend to what it was all pointing. My gaze dwelt, flickeringly, between the two. 'If—'
An idea came swiftly, and I turned, and glanced rapidly upward, searching the gloomy crags, away to my left. Something loomed out under a great peak, a shape of greyness. I wondered I had not seen it earlier, and then remembered I had not yet viewed that portion. I saw it more plainly now. It was, as I have said, grey. It had a tremendous head; but no eyes. That part of its face was blank.
Now, I saw that there were other things up among the mountains. Further off, reclining on a lofty ledge, I made out a livid mass, irregular and ghoulish. It seemed without form, save for an unclean, half-animal face, that looked out, vilely, from somewhere about its middle. And then I saw others—there were hundreds of them. They seemed to grow out of the shadows. Several I recognized almost immediately as mythological deities; others were strange to me, utterly strange, beyond the power of a human mind to conceive.
On each side, I looked, and saw more, continually. The mountains were full of strange things—Beast-gods, and Horrors so atrocious and bestial that possibility and decency deny any further attempt to describe them. And I—I was filled with a terrible sense of overwhelming horror and fear and repugnance; yet, spite of these, I wondered exceedingly. Was there then, after all, something in the old heathen worship, something more than the mere deifying of men, animals, and elements? The thought gripped me—was there?
Later, a question repeated itself. What were they, those Beast-gods, and the others? At first, they had appeared to me just sculptured Monsters placed indiscriminately among the inaccessible peaks and precipices of the surrounding mountains. Now, as I scrutinized them with greater intentness, my mind began to reach out to fresh conclusions. There was something about them, an indescribable sort of silent vitality that suggested, to my broadening consciousness, a state of life-in-death—a something that was by no means life, as we understand it; but rather an inhuman form of existence, that well might be likened to a deathless trance—a condition in which it was possible to imagine their continuing, eternally. 'Immortal!' the word rose in my thoughts unbidden; and, straightway, I grew to wondering whether this might be the immortality of the gods."
Its not merely these powers of chaos & evil that wait patiently for the cracks in the universe & the stars to come right. But its their followers that work from within the confines of our own home universes. For example the Egg of Coot whose followers work for one of the multiplicity of pieces of the higher dimensional planar aspects of the entity. An entity that wants nothing more then to tear apart the dimensional structure & replace it with its own flawed order.

Even in worlds such as Bruce Heard's Calidar there are always those who act to unwittingly to allow powers from beyond the Outer Darkness into the realities of humanity. Take for example the Guild of Demonologists. These people have truck with demons from beyond the pale;

"craft is tolerated in Caldwen because of local culture and faith in deities with demonic ancestry. This stance is rooted in the knowledge that the darkest of evils can be redeemed. Demonology does not limit itself to such values, however: it is also about knowledge and power."

Symbol & Seal of The Guild Of Demonologists
copyrighted & trademarked to Bruce Heard.

Knowledge & power are the two watch words that have allowed others such as the Hyperboreans to ascend to power on Earth in the eons  after the events of Ragnarok. Long before the coming of the empires of Clark Ashton Smith's Zothique , Hyperborea was wretched into space.
How could these powers come back into the world & gain such a following among mankind? Through the power of men's dreams & those worlds where they touched. The only thing that prevented the complete extinction of mankind were heroes! Heroes & gods whose sacrifice at every turn secured the continued legacy of humanity.

The Hyperboreans were only a part of the events & after a span of thousands of years did their ancient gods return to Earth stirring even more destruction. The Earth's subjugation under their yoke was dark & very dire.

Hyperborea Players' Manual front cover pencils by Val Semeiks

Heroes & newer gods sacrificed themselves for the fate of humanity as the immortals watched from Mystara & beyond into Greyhawk. Time & space meant nothing to the gods whose lives were snuffed out like candles in the wind of the apocalypse. Only a few heroes & adventurers were left after the cycles completed themselves. They would train another group of heroes as dark powers watched from the shadows.

The victors would sit smug in the knowledge that they would have the upper hand for a while. The ever changing landscape of the planes insured that balance was forever out of reach. Across time & space the next stage was setting itself up. Heroes of course were not confined merely to the dreams of men but across many battle fields.Troubling nightmares plagued the undead dreams of an ageless villain roiling in the depths of a dungeon ancient beyond reckoning.

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