SORCERY AND THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION
by James Weaver
For years, the amateur occultists Percy Grove and William Hawthorne had tried unsuccessfully to contact Satan or some of his minions. Since 1732, when the two had met, they had spent stupendous amounts of money researching various methods of breaching the Gates of Hell, and thereby gaining power beyond imagining, or so they imagined. On the morning of November 5th, 1741, they were finally successful. In an hours-long ritual in a basement in downtown London, they contacted three entities who forced a rift in time and space and tore through into our world. The three creatures were powerful demons, each standing more than a dozen feet high and wielding unimaginable sorcerous power.
Grove and Hawthorne were killed instantly, and the three demons began to rampage through the streets of London. After a two-day battle near the Tower of London, which resulted in thousands of deaths and the ruin of much of that part of the city, one of the demons was finally slain by the Royal Army. The other two monsters fled north through the heart of England, killing and destroying as they went.
Near the city of York, the demons, unsure of their next move, got into an altercation with each other. In the ensuing battle, one was killed and the other plunged into the sea, where presumably it drowned and was never seen again.
The battle over, the citizens of England began to rebuild their shattered lives. More than 12,000 men, women, and children lost their lives in the month between the summoning of the demons and their eventual deaths. Church attendance across the British Isles rose significantly in the months to come, as people re-evaluated their faith. King George II commissioned an investigation into the incident, forming a Royal Tribunal that had carte blanche in determining how such insanity came to be.
But the after-effects of the occultists’ foolishness were far from over. In fact, they were just beginning…
Since the beginning of the year, strange rumors had begun to circulate through London, rumors of impossible deeds and the blackest magic. Crippled children who could now miraculously walk. Strange, ghostly balls of light following people through the streets. Dead men leaping down from the gallows pole and running off into the night. As the Royal Tribunal investigated the reports, they began to realize that all of these inexplicable incidents seemed to be centered on the basement off Uxbridge Road where Grove and Hawthorne had carried out their experiments.
In May, the Tribunal came across their first verified case of the supernatural – an old woman named Lizzie Hatch. Hatch, a former prostitute living in an attic room at her daughter’s house, was now capable of healing the sick and lame. The Tribunal witnessed her touch a man who had been rendered an imbecile by a kick in the head from a horse years before. Hatch’s touch visibly healed the deformity in the man’s skull as well as bringing back all his mental faculties. The Tribunal, horrified, arrested Hatch and condemned her as a witch. She was executed on June 3rd.
In the basement at the center of the whole mess, strange events were still occurring. The walls occasionally wept blood, and cockroaches the size of kittens ran through the alleys surrounding the place, biting and tearing at the ankles of the unwary. John McDonald, a priest of the Anglican Church and the leader of the Tribunal, eventually discovered in late August that the rift the occultists had caused between the Earth and whatever ghastly Hell the demons were from, was still in existence. The tear was much smaller, to be sure, barely even the size of a man’s hand, or demons would have been flooding out of it for much of the past half year. As it was, demonic roaches and tiny man-shaped beings who looked to be made of burnt wood and wire, had begun to filter through, along with who knew what else.
But the tear acted as a slow leak as well, spreading the otherworldly Aether that made up the atmosphere of Hell throughout the mortal plane. In another time and place, the pattern of the leakage would have almost resembled fallout. Flaws in the building where the leak was centered allowed the Aether to carry up into the street outside, and then into the skies, where the wind carried it in a broad, wedge-shaped pattern across all of southern England.
By the end of the year, the Aetheric fallout had blanketed the Channel and had begun to spread into France as well…
Meanwhile, on the Continent, the First Silesian War had just ended, but already the Second was brewing. Alliances changed, it seemed, almost weekly. France’s King Louis XV relaxed in the splendor of his court while inflation ran rampant. Almost a dozen men and women had been jailed since the previous autumn for displaying unnatural powers and abilities. One of these, a 42-year old bricklayer named Jean Limoux was able to summon sorcerous fires that could eat through wood, stone, and even steel.
When Limoux was arrested in his native Le Havre by the local magistrate, Limoux burned through the wall of his cell and inadvertently incinerated three soldiers. Living as a fugitive for the next three months, he was eventually shot and killed near Calais. The pursuit and eventual death of Limoux was sensationalized in several French and English broadsheets, but in the words of essayist Henry Fielding, "It could hardly have been more sensational than that which we have already endured."
This incident, along with many others in northern France and the Low Countries, convinced the French court to seek a Papal decree condemning all practitioners of ‘vile witchcraft’ as minions of Satan. Cardinal Fleury, in one of his last acts, supported the measure, and Pope Benedict issued a Bull in late September, which excommunicated all practitioners of ‘this new English vileness’.
Reactions in other nations were mixed; most of Europe scoffed at the reports of black magic filtering in from the west, laughing them off as religious mania or some kind of English plot to undermine the French.
Back in Britain, the Royal Tribunal completed its findings in late September. The major conclusions they reached were as follows:
-The source of the demonic pollution, which lay like a pall across England, originated mainly from the basement on Uxbridge Road. The entire building was razed and filled in with concrete and huge blocks of marble, then prayed over by priests of the Church of England for three weeks.
-A secondary source of infection was the site of the death struggle between the two demons outside of York, where they had apparently torn another rift during their battle. Though this rift was tiny compared to the one in London, it was also out in broad daylight, suspended in midair, and thus the corruption that poured from it was greater. A temporary shell of steel and concrete had been erected around it.
-Furthermore, ‘pools’ of the corruption had been left behind by the demons in a string all across central England, almost as if their very footprints had poisoned the land.
-The corruption spilling from the rifts was named ‘Aether’ and it was determined not to be directly harmful to human beings. However, Aetheric contamination caused mutations in about one percent and even some animal species that came in contact with it.
-The Aetheric mutations caused the blossoming of supernatural powers. Most of these manifestations were harmless, but some were truly amazing… and dangerous.
-Realizing that it was not possible to try fully a quarter of southern England’s population as witches, the Tribunal instead instituted the Sorcerous Registration Act, whereby every person displaying supernatural ability had to register with the government and keep their local magistrate informed of their whereabouts.
-Certain talents (mainly those perceived to be truly evil, like the raising of the dead, or the corrupting by touch of vegetation and human flesh) were outlawed by the Crown and their practitioners were subject to arrest and execution.
In the American colonies, the news from Europe was met with disbelief and fear. "Were our rulers now merely mouthpieces for Satan?" was a question voiced widely by churchgoers. Though initially inclined to help in the capture of those with dangerous talents who had fled to America, cooperation soured over time as a subordinate office of the Tribunal was opened in Boston and instigated a witch-hunt the likes of which had not been seen in decades.
The clouds of war that had been building between France and England finally burst, and France declared war on England and on Maria Theresa, the archduchess of Austria. The declaration began to take on religious overtones as well as France condemned England for polluting the continent with sorcery.
In London, Frederick, the Prince of Wales, was stirring up trouble by negotiating with the Tories. His son, the future George III (at the time six years old) fell ill in late May with an undiagnosed illness and was hidden away from public view. Fearing for his son’s life, Frederick renounced all ties to the Tories and concentrated his energies on finding a cure for his son. This also had the effect of healing the years-long breach between Frederick and his father, George II.
In July, after almost two months of worrying, young George’s mother, the Princess Augusta, sought the help of a known ‘sorceress’, one Miriam Dalrymple, who had been a licensed supernatural healer (only the third such license ever granted) in London for about ten months. Dalrymple was consulted in utter secrecy, which was just as well considering the diagnosis she made: young George was only the latest victim (but surely the highest placed) of the Aetheric Plague. His sickness was due to his body adapting to its new sorcerous abilities. No one knew exactly how his powers would develop, but the worst was confirmed in September as the boy, now recovered, re-animated the corpse of his favorite pet cat. His powers fell under the newly established ‘Demonic Powers Act’ and as such, he was subject to execution.
Panicked, the royal family kept him secluded on a country estate and told the rest of the nation that he was suffering from a ‘brain-fever’. Madame Dalrymple was placed under house arrest in the same country manor and paid handsomely to act as a nursemaid and healer for George. Though most of the nation voiced its sorrow at the Royal Family’s misfortune, many had already begun to suspect the truth…
Meanwhile, a hidden exodus had begun from England. Dozens of people, their newfound powers condemning them to death under the Demonic Powers Act, fled with their families to Sweden, to Russia, to Austria, even to the Americas, where they tried desperately to blend in.
One such was Gregory Martin, a surgeon from Brighton. His powers were particularly dangerous, for not only could he cause the rotting of human flesh by touching it with his naked hands (he wore thick gloves for the rest of his life, preventing him from performing any surgery), but he could also open up rifts to Hell such as the two, which were currently polluting the British Isles. After opening and then quickly closing one, he realized what a danger he would be if he fell under the sway of someone unscrupulous. Unfortunately, this is exactly what happened.
Resettling with a distant cousin in Smolensk, Martin came under suspicion from the Imperial Russian court after neighbors witnessed strange lights in the Martin’s townhouse. Martin was arrested and brought before Czarina Elizabeth, where her advisors brought forth an interesting proposition: why should the English be the only ones to enjoy these supernatural powers which were, obviously, quite real?
In India, the young Robert Clive arrived in Madras as a clerk with the East India Company. He carried with him a dire secret: he had been Aetherically infected, and lived in constant fear of being found out by his friends and employers, even though his talent was one of the most benign: he could heal nearly any injury or sickness instantly.
As the war between England and France and their various allies entered its second year, the French, under the Marechal de Saxe, defeated the English at Fontenoy and occupied the Austrian Netherlands. In the Americas, the two opposing sides fought desultorily; there were simply not enough troops on the ground (or much worth fighting over) to leave a lasting impression on the land. Eventually, things sputtered to a halt with the Peace of Dresden. Prussia recognized the Pragmatic Sanction, but retained Silesia, a state of affairs no one was particularly happy with, but was unwilling to do much about.
Then, for the first time, sorcery made a major impact on world affairs. Charles Edward Stuart, the ‘Young Pretender’, landed on Eriskay Island in Scotland. After defeating an English army at Prestonpans, he moved south. Near Leeds, he met with complete and utter disaster – elements of his army, scouring the countryside for food, invaded a farm and attacked the farmer’s wife and daughter. The farmer, a victim of the Aetheric Plague who had thus far managed to keep his affliction a secret, bore no love for Charles, and the violation of his family was the final straw.
The farmer, a man named Dougall, had one terrible ability – he could cause the blood of any man or animal to boil and burst into flame. Before he was done, Dougall had annihilated nearly three quarters of the Young Pretender’s army, including Charles himself.
The incident put the King and Parliament in something of a quandary – on the one hand, they had to take steps to contain Dougall, who was clearly a dangerous and perhaps demonic menace. But on the other hand, the man had single-handedly destroyed a threat to the nation. By all rights, he should be a hero.
In August, the government introduced its most comprehensive steps yet in dealing with the ‘sorcery question’. The newly founded Middlesex Hospital in London was taken over by the Tribunal and re-christened the Middlesex Center of Sorcerous Study. It was to become a central registration depot for the entire nation; everyone who even suspected they might have some sorcerous aptitude was required to maintain a current address on file at Middlesex. Additionally, the complex was designated as a training academy for a brand new military organization: the Royal Sorcerers. For this was the Tribunal’s answer to the problem of Dougall and others like him: if they could not be exterminated, at least they could be watched and put to use by His Majesty’s government.
A group of men, those who had attained some degree of control and understanding of their new powers, were put together to act as instructors at Middlesex. They became known as the Cadre, and quickly came to be both feared and respected by all levels of London society.
In Russia, a new horror was being unleashed: a group of government ministers used the captive Englishman Gregory Martin to open a rift to Hell, thereby unleashing a new cloud of Aether, this time in the heart of the Russian Empire. The idea was to infect a select group with the Aether, thus creating an army of sorcerers loyal to the Czarina and Russia. The plan met with the full approval of Czarina Elizabeth, who lately had begun to feel the first creeping signs of middle age and was desperate to retain her youth and health.
Though the experiment was carried out in secret and under what those involved thought were controlled circumstances, things, as they often do, soon spiraled out of control. Martin, mentally and physically abused for months, opened a much larger rift than had been planned for, and then was not immediately able to close it. A swarm of creatures swept though the rift and attacked those present. The things resembled five-foot long eyeless snakes, with heads at both ends and able to float in midair. Their venom was fatal, causing those bitten to go into foaming convulsions and bone-breaking muscle spasms before dying in terrible agony.
Martin was bitten by one of the creatures and, dying, totally lost control of the rift. Massive quantities of Aether, dozens of times more than had been released in England over the last three years, poured into the skies above Russia and began to drift through the stratosphere, trailing a curtain of infection across most of eastern Europe and central Asia. Finally, his body shutting down in death, Martin closed off the rift, but the damage had been done. Rather than creating an unstoppable army, the Russians had contaminated hundreds of thousands of square miles of not only Russian territory, but that of half a dozen other nations as well. Over the next decade, hundreds of men and women developed sorcerous aptitude, and countless Hellish creatures were sighted, both those that had escaped from the Rift into the mortal plane, and those that the Aether had mutated.
Russia was condemned by dozens of nations and became an international pariah for close to a decade; the Czarina was nearly overthrown on three separate occasions, and it was only the power of a group of loyal sorcerers that maintained her on the throne.
ROUGH CENSUS – SORCEROUS POPULATION, JANUARY, 1746
Nation/Region Type One Pop. Type Two Pop. Total Pop.
British Isles 102,000 5100 107,100
France 89,900 1100 91,000
Russia 214,000 4400 217,900
German States 55,000 325 55,325
Low Countries 39,000 210 39,210
Rest of Europe 45,000 250 45,250
North America 1600 85 1685
Rest of World 30,000 300 30,300
Totals: 576,500 11,770 588,270
Type One Sorcerers were defined as those having abilities which are either beneficial (healing, divining, etc.) or of little practical value (creating colored balls of light, animating small objects, etc.)
Type Two Sorcerers were defined as having powerful and/or dangerous abilities (necromantic powers, the creation of deadly fires or energies, mind control, etc.).
As the years went by, scholars both professional and amateur across Europe were beginning to classify the various sorcerous mutations that the Aether had caused, and to learn what could and could not be accomplished with these supernatural powers. In the British Isles, two types of sorcerers were delineated. Type Ones consisted of those having abilities, which were too minor to have any practical value outside of entertainment, or those who possessed beneficial, non-destructive magics of a higher order. Type Two sorcerers were a little trickier to define, and the definition seemed to change monthly depending on the whims of the Tribunal and Parliament. Generally, Type Twos were those whose powers were classified as destructive to human life or property. A third type, known simply as ‘Zeds’, were those who possessed powers, which fell under the Demonic Powers Act.
As of mid-1746, these powers included the following:
-any type of necromancy (reanimation of dead flesh, corruption of living flesh, the causing of any type of illness, such as fevers, delirium, sores, etc.).
-the ability to create rifts to ‘Hell’.
-the ability to control someone else’s mind (often referred to as ‘mentalism’).
-some other unique powers, judged on a case-by-case basis.
Anyone classified as a Type Zed was subject to immediate arrest and execution. Under laws laid down by the Tribunal, they were not given any chance to defend themselves in a court of law. The enforcement of the Demonic Powers Act was problematic at best, however. Short of someone reputable actually witnessing a forbidden act of sorcery, it was extremely hard to prove what someone was or was not capable of.
1746 saw the death of two monarchs, Philip V of Spain, and Christian VI of Denmark. The new king of Denmark, Frederick V, was cautiously in favor of adopting Britain’s rules and classifications regarding sorcery, while Spain’s Ferdinand VI was swayed by Church diplomats into imposing much harsher strictures.
Throughout Europe, the most urgent topic on every government’s agenda was becoming the ‘sorcery problem’. Some states, such as Britain and by 1748, Russia, had well-defined and comprehensive laws and regulations, which guaranteed, if not complete freedom for the Aetherically-infected, at least some measure of protection. France, Spain, Portugal, Austria, and most of the Italian states were much more reactionary. In France particularly, anyone practicing sorcery of any stripe were subject to execution, sometimes along with his or her entire family.
The Catholic Church officially labeled all sorcery as demonic witchcraft condemning its user to the blackest hell. Unofficially, views within the Church varied widely. In Ireland, where Aetheric infection was growing rapidly, most priests turned a blind eye. In Spain, the Inquisition gained new, malevolent life. And in Rome itself, internal squabbling was fast causing serious schisms.
The Orthodox Church was a different matter. Like the Catholics, they labeled sorcery as witchcraft, but declared that those infected were not to be held responsible for their condition and should be pitied, not condemned – as long as they swore not to make use of their abilities. Once they began ‘practicing witchcraft’, the Orthodox Patriarchs considered them outside the pale.
The Ottoman Empire and the other Islamic states remained silent on the issue for the most part, but so far they could afford to; Aetheric infection was practically unheard of in the Middle East and Africa at this point, though after the Russian debacle, that was changing in Turkey and the Empire’s Balkan possessions.
On top of everything else, the War of Austrian Succession was still sputtering on in fits and starts. In our world, an alliance was forged this year between Russia and Austria against Prussia. In this world, the alliance fell apart thanks to the disastrous Aetheric experiment in Russia. The French won a victory at Racoux, and Austria lost the Netherlands.
Aetheric Contamination – January 1746
In India, British troops in Bengal and in the southern cities like Madras had listened with dread for the last few years as reports on the situation back home filtered in. Now, reports of strange doings in India itself began to be heard. The Marathas declared those with sorcerous talent as ‘blessed by the gods’, putting them at odds with the British. Robert Clive was finally forced to admit his abilities in early spring after healing a small child afflicted with typhoid. At first looked on with suspicion not only by his fellow British but by the Indian population as well, Clive eventually began to earn respect by selflessly making the rounds of every hospital, clinic, and leprosarium he could find, healing all those who wished it. By the end of the year, he had become something of a folk hero in eastern India and was invited to tour the Maratha Empire.
But something odd was happening, something that no one had noticed – incidents of sorcery were becoming more and more frequent in areas that Clive had traveled to. If anyone had bothered to connect the dots, it would have soon become obvious that the vast majority of these incidents were caused by people that Clive had healed. For Clive had another talent. When he performed his healings, he passed to the patient, along with renewed health, particles of Aether, which were linked with his healing energies. Just as if they’d been exposed to a rift, some 20% of Clive’s patients became Aetherically infected, and about one percent of those developed sorcerous talent.
In 1747, the first students at the Middlesex Center of Sorcerous Study began a course of study designed to help them explore and control their powers. The Cadre, the Center’s instructors, was for the most part little more knowledgeable than their students about many aspects of sorcery, and most classes quickly became symposiums of mutual experimentation.
Early fields of study at Middlesex included classifying, experimenting with, and categorizing the various sorcerous abilities of the population at large; capturing and studying the various life forms that had escaped into the mortal plane from the rifts as well as those native to Earth that had spontaneously mutated from Aetheric contact; the tracking of Aetheric fallout and contamination zones; ways to completely seal the two rifts which still (albeit in far smaller quantities) spewed their poison into the soil and air of England; and many other areas as well.
Peter Youngsboro, a former Oxford professor, was appointed as the first Dean of Middlesex in February 1747, a post that he held until his death in 1787. The rest of the Cadre, fifteen in total, acted as instructors and administrators, and also as field agents for the Tribunal. In this capacity (which many of the Cadre resented), they were responsible for investigating reports from across the British Isles of any new sorcerous manifestation. By the end of the year, it was clear that fifteen men couldn’t possibly handle this task on their own, and a separate Department of Supernatural Investigation was formed. Technically attached to Middlesex, the Department answered directly to the Tribunal in most instances.
The Tribunal itself had undergone several changes since its inception six years earlier. While still responsible for setting all policy regarding sorcery in Britain, they no longer had the completely free hand they’d enjoyed for the first couple years of their existence. This change stemmed from two sources – firstly, public outrage over several of the Tribunal’s more heavy-handed policies threatened to blossom into something much uglier if people kept being dragged from their homes in the middle of the night and hung. Secondly, the Royal Family itself brought increasing pressure to bear, mainly out of fear of the discovery of young George’s abilities.
Still, the Tribunal held more power than most any other office in the land except that of the King. John McDonald, the head of the Tribunal, was a harsh and uncompromising man who saw it as his duty to stomp out ‘foul sorcery’ wherever he found it. He was opposed to the formation of Middlesex and only relented when directly ordered to by the King. From their offices in Greenwich, they oversaw every aspect of English life directly or indirectly related to sorcery. A myriad of clerks and lawyers oversaw the massive amounts of paperwork that stemmed from all the surveys, censuses, laws, and investigations generated by the Office of the Tribunal.
It was not only the common people who feared and distrusted the Tribunal; many Members of Parliament were heard to remark that ‘our jobs seem superfluous and petty, now’. The second member of the Tribunal, Matthew Harvison, once an MP himself, acted as a liaison between the Tribunal and Parliament, but more often than not the Tribunal ran roughshod over Parliament when that august body sought to introduce reforms and statutes regulating sorcery. All in all, the 1740s were a time of uncertainty and fear in Britain.
In this year, the first incidents of sorcery among the clergy were reported. The first was a nun in France whose name was never made public. Apparently gifted with a minor talent, which she used to make trees, flowers, fruits, and vegetables blossom and brim with beauty and health, she was summarily executed on August 12th by officers of the Catholic Church in Nantes. The incident was simply one of many which added to the general feeling of unrest and fear throughout France. King Louis seemed oblivious to events in his country; many said he was not even aware of the momentous changes that had swept over Europe in the last half decade.
The second incident occurred in September in Wales and involved a young priest named Father George Mayhew. Father George had journeyed to Leeds late the year before to visit family, and had returned to his parish with a newfound ability. He could influence and even create various meteorological phenomena, including fog, winds, rain, and even balls and bolts of lightning. His powers were made public after he used them to divert a storm in Cardigan Bay, saving a ship, which had foundered on some rocks. After an investigator from Middlesex ordered him to report to the Center for a categorization of his powers and possible assignment at Middlesex, Mayhew refused. He was arrested and brought to London, where he became a sensation in the broadsheets and created a national controversy. Did the Tribunal and the Center have the right to order a priest of the Church of England? Did the Church have an obligation to turn its priests over to the Tribunal if they possessed sorcery? These were just some of the questions being asked, and they were unanswered as Christmas 1747 rolled around. Father George Mayhew remained under house arrest in a parish in west London.
Meanwhile, in central Europe, one of the defining moments of the decade occurred: the first intentional use of sorcery in battle. A Prussian commander named Albert von Spetznach formed a unit composed of men (and one woman) whose powers were, in his words, ‘dangerous, deadly, and altogether imposing’. This unit engaged an Austrian force near Soor on June 25th and in the course of two hours, completely routed the Austrians. Reports circulated through Europe of warlocks able to levitate cannonballs and fling them with incredible velocity and deadly accuracy; of lightning called down from a clear sky and igniting powder stores; of living shadows who tore through the Austrian ranks like scythes.
King Frederick II, horrified when he received the news, immediately ordered the arrest and execution of von Spetznach. This went far towards the eventual peace treaty the next year, but the damage had been done; the world had been introduced to the concept of sorcerous warfare. In Britain, the military engineer Benjamin Robins, who had recently spoken to the Royal Society on the physics of projectiles, began a study of possible sorcerous tactics in battle, a study that earned him the outrage of many but was approved of by the Tribunal.
In Russia, the first major attempts at capturing and cataloging the new sorcery-tainted animals, both native and otherwise, was conducted. Scientists in Kiev captured several of the strange little twig-men, which by now infested half of Europe. Called ‘peskies’ by many Europeans, the creatures were tiny, no more than five or six inches high and weak physically, but were possessed of a low, malevolent cunning. They could learn words of various Earth languages, and most could curse fluently in half a dozen languages.
The two-headed snake-things were christened ‘amphisbaenas’ after the mythical Greek serpent. Thankfully, the amphisbaenas seemed ill suited to life on Earth and were dying off in most regions, with the exception of the far north of Russia and Scandinavia, where they seemed to thrive.
In addition, the Aether had warped several Earth animals. These were named for the most part after mythological beasts, and included basilisks (whose gaze, thankfully, could not kill, but could temporarily cause paralysis), cockatrices (able to spit acidic poison capable of eating through skin and leather), and hell-hounds (gigantic, fire-breathing dogs). Other, darker rumors were heard as well: that creatures out of Russian and Slavic folklore walked the swamps and forests; that rusalkas haunted the land; and that Chernobog and the old gods were come again. The Russian Orthodox Church tried its best to stamp out these rumors, but was largely unsuccessful. There were just too many sightings, coming from too many places.
And in Italy, a new kind of sorcerous horror was reported. Starting in May, some ravenous creature began terrorizing the city of Milan, killing, mutilating, and partially consuming more than a dozen citizens. The authorities at first thought it was some kind of Aetherically mutated wolf or dog. They were shocked when, in July, a huge, man-shaped beast was cornered and captured. Battered into unconsciousness, the creature shifted into the form of a young woman who had been reported a month previously by her mother of ‘acting oddly’. The first authenticated sighting of a werewolf had just occurred. The woman, one Maria Trevanta, was found guilty of witchcraft and executed in late August.
As though this incident had released a floodgate, almost a dozen more cases of Aether-induced lycanthropy were reported across Europe. Near the city of Warsaw, a convicted murderer assumed the shape of a huge red-haired wolf-man, broke out of his prison cell and killed a dozen men before being shot dead. In Amsterdam, a teenage boy began to change into what was apparently a bear; halfway through the transformation, he ‘stuck’ and lay in horrible pain for three days, his bones and muscles warped and distorted, before a local priest mercifully ended his life.
In North America, events in Europe were viewed with a kind of disbelieving awe. Many colonists flatly refused to believe what was happening. The Puritans found new life and new converts in the New England colonies, taking advantage of the fear and distrust engendered by sorcery to increase their power base. The leaders of Boston and several other northern settlements outlawed any usage of sorcery, on pain of death. This decree was eventually overturned by the Tribunal, but was in effect long enough to drive practically all magic-using colonists out of New England and south into Virginia and the Carolinas, where they found a marginally warmer welcome. Even after the decree was revoked, countless midnight hangings occurred, and in November, the Tribunal was finally forced to pay more attention to the doings in the Americas after an eight-year-old girl was killed by a Boston mob. Her crime: making a wooden chair dance across her bedroom.
1748 finally saw an end to the conflict that had been tearing Europe apart for much of a decade with the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle. Francis I became Holy Roman Emperor, and the nations of the Continent began to rebuild.
In the Americas, sorcery was now becoming the main topic of daily discussion, just as it had been across the ocean for the last several years. The colonial ‘splendid isolation’ was over. The constant and continuing brutalities of the New England Puritans against sorcerers finally drew the ire of King George and the Tribunal. Tribunal head John McDonald, a devout Anglican priest, was one of those who were more verbally opposed to the Puritans. He subscribed to the belief that to ‘tolerate all faiths without control was to have none at all’. Thus, the atrocities in Boston and other New England cities was the perfect excuse for him to act against the Puritans.
McDonald personally traveled to Boston in April, where he oversaw the implementation of several new laws, including the imposition of indentured servitude, massive fines, and even sentences of death for harm against sorcerers and their property. These laws were drawn up especially for Massachusetts and the other New England states, a fact, which was lost on no one, least of all the New Englanders. Unfortunately, rather than cause a cessation of deviltry against sorcerers, the new laws only sowed the seeds of resentment and hatred which would bear fruit two and a half decades later, during the bloody conflict known as the American Revolution. New Englanders complained that the Tribunal was composed of hypocrites; after all, weren't any and all English women subject to being dragged from their homes for using sorcery? Now the Tribunal told the New England colonists that such behavior was intolerable... in New England, at least.
The Tribunal’s draconian policies were cautiously applauded by the Middle and Southern Colonies, especially Pennsylvania, whose large Quaker population espoused the equality of all men and women, even those afflicted with sorcery. This too had its after-effects, further deepening the divide, which already existed between New England and the other colonies over matters as diverse as trade rights, tariffs, mutual defense treaties, and Indian populations.
In the autumn of the year, news began to circulate among the white colonists of New York of a new solidarity among the Algonquin Five Nations. The Indians were reluctant to speak of what was causing this cultural upswing; most would only say that ‘the Old Gods are returning’. Settlers in the upper Hudson Valley spoke of strange lightning storms in the north and west, of bands of Indians traveling on some mysterious business. British and colonial attempts to find out what was going on met with little success.
The first event of international importance this year was the arrest and trial of Robert Clive, known as the ‘Healer of India’. Agents of the Tribunal had finally connected the mysterious outbreaks of sorcery in eastern India with the travels and healings of Clive. The trial was a five-month extravaganza, and drew support and criticism alike from all over the globe. The outcome of the trial was never known, however, for a band of British soldiers loyal to Clive broke their leader out of prison in Madras and helped him escape into central India, where he gained sanctuary among the Maratha.
This sparked the ferocious Maratha War between Britain and the Indian sultanate, a war that would last over two years. The sorcery-hating French found themselves in the peculiar position of supporting the magic-friendly Maratha, one more necessary move in their eternal chess game with the British.
In Europe, the controversy surrounding magic-using men of the cloth continued. In Britain and France especially, the matter was quickly growing to disastrous proportions. France had taken the simple and brutal path of simply executing any man or woman (including clergy) who displayed sorcery. Understandably, this began to spark anger among the common folk, who saw increasing numbers of their population and now religious leaders burned at the stake. Uprisings and lootings became more and more common all across France. King Louis refused to issue any solid proclamation one way or another. In August, the unrest reached its pinnacle.
Starting in Paris itself, a nation-wide revolution began when a much-beloved priest was burned at the stake along with five nuns, one barely out of her teens. The revolutionary leader Francois Artos rose to prominence, leading the ‘Army of the Seine’, a ragtag group of peasants, townsfolk, and former soldiers, a great many of whom possessed sorcery.
In North America, the first settlers of the Ohio Company broke ground, and Georgia became a Crown Colony. Also in this year, the first documented cases of children born with sorcerous powers were reported in America. This had been common in Europe for at least seven or eight years, but it was a new and terrifying thing in the Colonies, especially New England.
As the year turned, the revolts in France became a true Revolution. Francois Artos’ forces defeated a French Army in battle north of Paris, but were forced to flee when another army arrived from the south. The revolutionaries were granted sanctuary in the city of Rennes, which had declared itself a free city on New Year’s Day. Significant fighting had erupted all over the country – in Normandy, Bretagne, and in the southwest especially.
Meanwhile, Britain, who had landed forces in Normandy ‘in support of freedom’, was warned by Spain, Austria, and the Church herself to withdraw. Britain did so, grudgingly, but remained poised to sweep in once more.
In India, events had turned decisively in Britain’s favor. Without French support (which was sorely needed back in Europe to fight the revolutionaries), the Maratha began to lose ground in huge chunks. By the autumn, most of central and north-central India was under British control. Practically the only reason the Indians kept fighting was the inspired leadership of Robert Clive.
Back in Europe, in the Carpathian Mountains, the mystic sorcerer Baal Shem founded a Jewish sect called Chassidim.
In the spring, the Maratha War finally drew to a close; the Maratha were crushed, and Britain gained hegemony over most of India. Only the Nizam territories, the Mogul Empire, Mysore, and Dutch Cochin and Ceylon remained outside the British sphere.
Robert Clive fled northwards with a ragtag army, which eventually established a state around Lahore (1755).
In Europe, the French Revolution swept onwards like a storm, tearing the nation apart. In June, the western province of Bretagne declared itself an independent republic modeled on the Dutch example. Britain recognized the new republic’s independence in November, followed by Denmark, Sweden, and Prussia.
In Asia, sorcery was finally beginning to make its presence known. Although the Aetheric Cloud released by the Russian experiment six years earlier was now dissipating, it had already spread its contamination all across the central Asian steppes and into Mongolia and western China. The incidence of sorcery rose drastically in Tibet, where some quirk of genetics blessed (or cursed) the population there with a much higher percentage of sorcerous talent than in any other area of the world thus far. China used this as one more excuse to invade Tibet, an invasion that commenced during the summer.
China also closed all of its ports to Europeans and evicted all foreigners, accusing them (and rightly so) of ‘evil contamination’.
Back in Europe, Frederick, the Prince of Wales, suffered from an abscess in March, but was healed by Miriam Dalrymple, young George’s nurse. (In OTL, he died from it.) Unfortunately, his healing drew the attention of various enemies of the Royal Family and of Britain. Anti-sorcerous activists in the south of England decried the healing as proof that Frederick was ‘tainted by sorcery’ and unfit to succeed his father George II.
Frederick, Prince of Wales
To make matters worse, rumors of 13 year-old George’s powers had somehow begun to circulate through the countryside. How the news was leaked was never determined, though it can be assumed that servants in Frederick’s country manor (where George had been sequestered) were responsible. By November, the Tribunal was forced to act. All of Europe waited to see if the confrontation between the Tribunal and the Royal Family would spark a disastrous revolution.
Shockingly, it was George II and his family who blinked first. In later years, George II and his son Frederick would be remembered for many things, both good and bad, but nothing so much as for the act of sacrificing a son, a grandson for the good of Britain herself. On the morning of December 23rd, George II made a public announcement officially supporting the Tribunal’s call for George the younger’s execution under the Demonic Powers Act. Rather than prolong the pain and suffering of everyone concerned, George was poisoned in his sleep by his own father on Christmas morning. Frederick’s second son, Edward, a quiet and unassuming boy, never forgave his family or the Tribunal for his brother’s death. This sowed in him a seed of hatred for all things sorcerous, which blossomed in later years into truly monstrous proportions.
George II was never seen in public after this; he became a sad and desolate man, leaving the running of the country to his councilors and to Frederick. Frederick, by contrast, became a vigorous and powerful leader, campaigning endlessly for increased rights for the sorcerously gifted.
In February of 1752, the first graduates of the Middlesex Center left the school and assumed their first missions for His Majesty, George II. Each sorcerer was required by law to serve a minimum of ten years in the Royal Sorcerers, after which time he could choose to stay on, or pursue other avenues of employment (although each signed a contract stating that they would be available for service in times of national emergency). The few female Royal Sorcerers (four in the first class of graduates) served five-year terms.
TABLE OF ORGANIZATION: ROYAL SORCERERS & MIDDLESEX CENTER
These newly trained, ‘schooled’ sorcerers became the officer corps of the Royal Sorcerers. In 1752, the Sorcerers numbered less than 1000, officially, with the vast majority composed of soldiers and sailors who, thanks to Aetheric infection, now had supernatural powers. This group had received next to no training in the use of their abilities; in part this was due to a simple lack of qualified teachers and a minimum of room at Middlesex, but class distinctions also played a role. For many years, most Middlesex students were from well-off or noble families. There were exceptions, of course, but for the most part, newly-minted sorcerers who came from less than wealthy backgrounds learned how to wield their powers in an ‘on the job’ capacity, tutored by their Middlesex alumni officers.
Ever since it had become clear to the other nations of Europe exactly what Britain planned to achieve with Middlesex – a functioning organization of trained magicians – many states had quietly begun to emulate the British. In particular, Russia, Sweden, and Venice had begun to establish their own schools of sorcerous training, although in Venice’s case, the organization was never publicly acknowledged by the Doge or his government, so as to avoid drawing the wrath of the Church. This did not, however, prevent Papal spies from infesting Venice, hoping to catch the republic in some act of Satanism. By 1752, the tension between Rome and Venice had become quite palpable, and the Doge was on the verge of openly allying with Britain to guarantee against Papal intrigue.
In Rome, a quiet internal war had been waged over the last few years. The few orders that had tentatively supported the study and use of sorcery had been corrected of the folly of these notions, sometimes forcibly. The ‘new’ Church was a leaner, much less tolerant, and far more militant organization. Pope Benedict voluntarily resigned his post in January, the first Pope to do so in centuries. Officially, his retirement was due to extreme ill health brought on by the stresses of the last decade. Unofficially, many believed Benedict was forced to step down by a coalition who was violently opposed to Benedict’s plans to consider other alternatives to dealing with sorcery rather than branding it Satanic outright. The Church’s new leader, Pope Urban IX, was a former Cardinal from Naples named Angelo Morelli. Urban IX shared none of the sentiments of his predecessor; during his Papacy, thousands of Catholics were condemned to death all across Europe.
Elsewhere in Europe, the fledgling Republic of Bretagne gained recognition from several German states, foremost among them Hanover, and the Netherlands. King Louis condemned this recognition as ‘fostering the dissolution of France’, but the crown, by this time, wielded little practical power. Louis himself had been a virtual prisoner in his sumptuous palace at Versailles for the last six months. The palace’s once beautiful grounds had become a muddy, trampled ruin, home to an army encampment who existed in a state of siege, fending off attacks from starving peasants and sorcery-using revolutionaries.
In July, British troops moved into French Canada to ‘protect British interests in America’. Though much of Europe protested the occupation, Britain countered with the argument that France had been planning to seize the Ohio Valley with troops from Canada. Ironically, in our world, this is exactly what would have happened. Here, no such move was planned (even if it had been, France had neither the men or resources to spare, now), but it made a convenient excuse for Britain.
In the summer, the Ottoman Empire, thus far able to ignore most of the goings-on in the rest of Europe, was finally brought into the ‘Age of Sorcery’ – Mustafa, the son of the previous sultan, Ahmed III, became Aetherically infected. His particular power was of little practical use, but it did grant him other benefits. Mustafa, quite simply, glowed. His skin gave off intensely bright rays of light; his hair seemed to be aflame, and his eyes looked like miniature suns. It became impossible to look directly at him without suffering damage to one’s eyesight. For the first few months after his infection, Mustafa took to wearing multiple layers of clothing to hide the effect, and wearing heavily tinted spectacles. However, by the winter, certain factions within the Empire convinced him that he had been touched by Allah and that it was blasphemy to hide his god-touched form.
Not surprisingly, many within these factions had relatives who had been touched by Aether, or had been themselves. In Mustafa, they saw the potential for widespread acceptance of sorcery within the Empire. Indeed, things had already been moving, in some minor degree, in this direction. Many within the sultan’s government saw the vast possibilities that the new magics could afford the faithful of Allah – they already looked enviously upon Britain’s Middlesex School, but now the foundation had been laid for something similar within the Ottoman Empire.
In India, Robert Clive and his army continued to fight a rear-guard action against British forces, retreating farther and farther north, into the Sikh lands around Lahore. Though his army had suffered massive losses, he now began to slowly grow in power once more as thousands of Sikhs, Afghans, Moguls, Nepalese, and Tibetans flocked to his banner.
In North America, many of the native tribes had become decidedly hostile to the European interlopers. Previously friendly tribes became cold and refused to trade with the colonies, and hostile tribes became downright warlike, launching raids against British and French towns on a scale unheard of in years. Rumors had been rampant since 1748 of some new power uniting the tribes, especially those of the so-called Five Nations, but still no one could provide concrete evidence as to what was going on. The only hard evidence of the strangeness was a sigil in the shape of a lightning-bolt worn by many Indians. When asked, they would only claim it represented their allegiance to Hino, an old Iroquois god of thunder, whom they claimed had come back to save them. Of course this riled up the Christian priests in New England and elsewhere, but by and large they had enough problems of their own to deal with, and ‘Hino’ and his followers were for the most part ignored.
Less easily-ignored were the new outbreaks of Aetheric infection in the upper Hudson valley over the last year or two. Hostile Indian war parties made investigation impossible, and it was assumed by the colonial governments in New York and Boston that a sorcerer capable of opening Rifts was loose somewhere. Plans were made to call upon the Crown to send an army. Many colonials, unwilling to wait for help from the other side of the Atlantic, were of the opinion that the Colonies needed a force of officially sanctioned sorcerers of their own, something akin to, but separate from, the Royal Sorcerers (whose American branches were slowly coming up to strength). The Tribunal flatly refused any such plan, stating that ‘sorcery is the purview of the Crown and of the Tribunal, not of private citizens’. Despite this, many colonists, especially those whose farms lay in the less-defensible western regions of New York and Pennsylvania, began to quietly form ‘magic squads’ to protect villages and homesteads against the increasing number of Aetherically-mutated animals and rogue Indian sorcerers.
New England, on the other hand, reacted by violently protesting against the Tribunal’s hated sorcery-toleration laws. Was it not sorcery, after all that was responsible for the bizarre, demonic creatures now roaming the countryside? Vigilante groups began to grow once more, and the midnight lynching of sorcerers and suspected sorcerers became an almost weekly occurrence.
In this year, Benjamin Franklin, who had recently invented the lightning rod and was as a result enjoying a minor celebrity-hood, established a small school in Philadelphia. Its purpose was to tutor sorcerers in the use of their powers, at least to the degree that they could benefit society. Franklin was not himself Aetherically infected, but his brother James was. Franklin’s so-called ‘academy’ drew protests from the Tribunal, but they finally acknowledged that the Colonies needed some kind of rudimentary training center akin to Middlesex. In later years, the Franklin Academy was recognized as the first American college of sorcery.
In Britain over the last year and more, public opinion of Frederick, the Prince of Wales, had radically polarized. One faction saw him as the blackest sort of monster, a man who slaughtered his son because the boy happened to be plagued by an infection not of his choosing. This faction even went so far as to say that Frederick was unfit to sit the throne after his father, and that succession should pass to Frederick’s son Edward. But another, larger, group viewed him as an honorable man, a leader who would give up even his own blood for the good of the nation.
In May, the pro- and anti-Frederick factions almost came to blows with the death of George II. Frederick’s reputation was not helped by the fact that he concealed news of his father’s death for almost a month as the government scrambled to assure the loyalty of Parliament and the Army. When King George’s death was finally announced on May 16th, various Members of Parliament banded together to demand an explanation of ‘this irregular behavior’. This coalition was an uneasy one; composed of both pro-sorcery groups who sought to disband the Tribunal, and a scattering of MPs who had fallen out with Frederick over the years (some were still bitter over Frederick’s opposition to Walpole back in the late ‘30s), the coalition was a threat, but never a truly serious one. They simply lacked the coordination to accomplish much. On the other hand, this saved its members from being branded as traitors when Frederick ascended the throne on May 24th. King Frederick, recognizing the somewhat precarious position of his throne should the sorcerous of England unite against him as they had done in France, began to formulate several measures designed to reduce the Tribunal’s power and to make Middlesex more answerable to Parliament and thus, to the people.
Back in the Americas, an army was finally raised to fully investigate and if need be, destroy, whatever it was that was stirring in the upper Hudson Valley. Composed mainly of Colonial volunteers, the force was led by General James Wolfe and included a sizable regiment of Royal Sorcerers and New York and Pennsylvanian ‘apprentices’.
On August 4th, the newly christened Army of the Hudson marched north from Albany. From the outset, their progress was little more than a crawl – they came under constant and vicious attack from Indian irregulars less than a week out of Albany. News reached Wolfe on August 12th that the small town of Schenectady, on the Mohawk River, had been burned to the ground three days before. When the army reached the town, they found only ruins and cold ashes. There were only a handful of survivors, and they all told the same tale: a force of Indians of many different tribes had attacked the town with ‘walls of fire and clouds of stinging insects’. Undeterred, Wolfe resumed his march, now striking out northeast from Schenectady back towards the Hudson.
On August 30th, the army’s few native guides (those who had been grudgingly pressed into service) deserted during the night with no word or note of explanation. By now the army had lost some fifteen percent of its strength from random attacks, but General Wolfe pressed onwards.
At the same time, the French town of Montreal fell to a native army that used the same tactics as that which had felled Schenectady. The French General Montcalm led a ragtag army composed of the remnants of his own forces and elements of the English forces which had arrived in the spring to announce the new British claim to all French colonies in the Americas. This refugee army, ill-equipped and guarding the remaining civilian populace of Montreal, headed south, hoping to reach Lake Champlain and the few small French and English forts scattered around its shores.
On September 9th, the first major battle of what would later be known as the Hudson Valley War was fought near the Mahican village of Horicon. Horicon, at the extreme southern tip of Lake George, normally had around 1000 inhabitants. When the Army of the Hudson reached it on the evening of September 8th, it housed nearly 10,000, the vast majority of whom were fighting men. British scouts reported ‘a vast red tent’ in the center of the native army’s encampment, from which issued ‘terrible roars and bolts of lightning’.
Despite the misgivings of Major Ronald Howe, who led the Royal Sorcerers accompanying the army, General Wolfe decided to attack without warning on the following morning.
The British lost the element of surprise during the early morning hours, however. Sometime just past sunrise, a massive column of flame erupted in the middle of the British encampment, which lay some two miles south of Horicon. Hundreds of soldiers were dead and dying within minutes, and it was all the Royal Sorcerers could do to erect a protective wall around the army.
The army’s most prized sorcerer was William Kirk, who had the power of teleportation. Using his ability, he carried two other sorcerers with him on a circuit of the encampment. What they found was horrific: nearly the whole of the Indian army had surrounded the British during the night. The sentries were found either dead or in a state of magically induced shock. Although Kirk and his companions were able to inflict some losses on the enemy and gather a significant amount of information on the overall strength and disposition of the opposing army, they were forced to retreat by a monstrous creature that flung bolts of deadly black fire at them.
Back in the British encampment, General Wolfe was frantically organizing his troops, who were now in a near-panic. Major Howe used his powers of levitation to assemble crude fortifications from the trees the troops hurriedly felled. These meager defenses gave the British and Colonials some breathing room, time enough at least to take stock of the situation.
After more than two hours of pitched battle, Wolfe was forced to concede that his position was untenable. The order was given to concentrate an attack on the northeast quadrant, with the hopes of breaking through the native forces. The breakout was successful, and the army fled northward, their hoped-for retreat back down the Hudson blocked by the Indian army. The Army of the Hudson was now reduced to less than 6000 men.
In the north, General Montcalm’s patchwork army had reached Fort St. Frederic, at the northern tip of Lake Champlain. There, they found a garrison terrified and near desertion from nearly two weeks of random sorcerous attacks. It was now apparent that the Indian uprisings were a massive and coordinated effort. Montcalm, despite having less than 4000 fighting men with him was able to bolster the garrison’s confidence, such was his reputation.
On September 17th, the remnants of the Army of the Hudson reached Fort St. Frederic, the native army in pursuit. Eight days of continual marching, most of it while under sorcerous attack, had killed another 600 to 700 of Wolfe’s troops. After a period of tense negotiations, it was agreed that the ‘enemy of my enemy is my friend’, and the British army was allowed into the fort.
Two days later, the native army led by the hulking creature Kirk had seen arrived. The monster was in the vanguard, and was immediately recognizable to those that had lived through the terror in London back in 1741: it was the third and last of the great demons that had come through the first rift. The thing stood almost twelve feet tall, with dark red hide, brutal curving black horns, and a whipping, spike-tipped tail. Black flames curled around its clawed hands.
The Battle of Fort St. Frederic was fought from September 19 to the 26th, when a force from New Hampshire, which had set out two weeks earlier to help reinforce the Army of the Hudson, came to the fort’s rescue. The unexpected British force was enough to take the Indian besiegers by surprise and break up the attack. The fort’s defenders, bloody but not beaten, determined to hold the fort. Wolfe and Montcalm felt that to abandon it would be to give up a strategic position to the Indians and their leader, the false ‘Hino’.
By late November, word of the battles in the Hudson Valley had reached Boston, Philadelphia, and other cities, and more regiments were being hastily assembled.
Back in Europe, the French Revolution ground on. Although royalist forces fought on fiercely, it was beginning to become apparent that the crown was doomed. Louis had too little internal and international support to even defend the few territories left to him, much less think about retaking Bretagne and other breakaway provinces. In Bretagne, a Council of Peers had been formed, made up predominantly of sorcerers. The Council pledged freedom of religion and the freedom to practice sorcery to everyone, a move that made them immensely popular with their citizens, but which less than endeared them to the other powers of Europe.
In India, Robert Clive founded the Kingdom of Lahore in late August. Much as the Bretagnans had done, he pledged equality for all. Proving himself an able statesman, he stirred up much international comment by wondering why Britain supported Bretagne, with its overtly sorcerous leadership, but actively persecuted Clive, a native son.
In Tibet, the Chinese invasion had bogged down as the nation’s disproportionately large sorcerous element slaughtered thousands upon thousands of Chinese soldiers along the northern Mekong and Salween Rivers. China grew even more xenophobic, killing uncounted numbers of its own citizens as Aetheric infection grew. The central government began to lose cohesion by the end of the year, as province after province came under the sway of local warlords who opposed Peking’s draconian policies.
Throughout the spring and early summer of 1754, things seemed fairly quiet in
the Hudson Valley. Only minor skirmishes occurred between British and native
forces as 'Hino' rebuilt his army to the west, in the Five Nations region. The
old Fort Lyman, built at the farthest northern navigable portion of the Hudson
River, was renovated and expanded in the spring. First built back in 1709, the
fort had a commanding strategic position, overlooking both the Hudson and
Champlain valleys. The fort was re-christened Fort Frederick in May, and a
sizable auxiliary fort and stockade was built on an island in the river.
In this year, Mustafa III ascended to the throne of the Ottoman Empire after
the death of Mahmud. Sometimes known as 'the Prophet Reborn', Mustafa quickly
proved himself to be an energetic and intelligent ruler. In OTL, he was eager to
implement modernization programs to help bring his nation up to the standards of
the Western powers, but any major changes were always shot down by the
Janissaries and conservative imams.
In the aftermath of the Hudson Valley War, the British colonies in America were in a state of flux. The divisions between New England and the rest of the colonies were growing. Paradoxically, although New England (along with New York) had been the most threatened by the recently defeated Hino, they had contributed the least to their own defense. Sorcerers were few and far between in Massachusetts and the rest of New England, and those that still remained were careful not to reveal their true nature. Thus, the region was unable to field any additions to the Royal Sorcerers. Also, the attitude of distrust and outright hate for sorcery was growing so strong that only the threat of a direct assault on Boston and the rest of the north should New York fall prompted the colonists to heed Royal decree and join His Majesty’s army for the duration of hostilities.
After the war’s end, the New Englanders were quick to leave the regiments as mutual distrust between themselves and the rest of the forces, temporarily smoothed over, now blossomed once more. These fighting men for the most part returned to their farms and businesses, but a large core remained in place in Boston as sort of ‘border guard’, the Guardians, tasked with policing Massachusetts’ (and in later years, all of New England’s) lands against incursions from ‘undesirables’. At first, these undesirables were understood to be those who practiced sorcery. Later on, however, the Guardians twisted the definition to include any who opposed their policies.
Further south, in Pennsylvania, several prominent Quakers resigned from the Colonial Assembly after that body passed stricter laws governing the licensing, use, and profit to be made from magic use. Many dozens of Quaker families moved west, settling in the Ohio valley, where they hoped that this time they could build a land of true equality and humility.
On the other side of the world, in India, Robert Clive’s position seemed unassailable. Tens of thousands of men and women had flocked to his banner, swelling the population of Lahore and the surrounding lands. They followed the ‘Healer of India’ with almost fanatical devotion. Clive’s policy was strict equality between all of his followers, from the lowest peasant all the way up to the wealthy north Indian merchants and nobles who supported him financially. These same rich men had begun to grow discontented with Clive’s ‘unfair’ taxation upon them in order to finance the defense of his newly-acquired realm, but they could not gain any support against Clive – the man was simply too adored by the bulk of his subjects to be in any danger from them.
As Clive’s legend grew, more and more Indians, of all sects, creeds, and ethnicities, defected to his cause. Revolts against British rule grew more and more violent. Even in southern Bengal, for the last fifty years the seat of British authority in India, uprisings were occurring. In Calcutta, 146 British soldiers were imprisoned, and over the following months, 120 of them died of starvation and disease in the so-called ‘Black Hole of Calcutta’.
In Tibet, Chinese advances, stalled for the better part of the last two years, finally sputtered and died. Peking, occupied with revolts in the east, was unable to reinforce their armies, and China was forced to rescind their claim to most of the lands their armies had bled and died to occupy. About a quarter of eastern Tibet remained under Chinese rule, but the rest remained independent. Tibet, whose leadership had been advised by professional soldiers loaned by Robert Clive, retained close ties with Lahore despite British objections. Britain, in response, now began to cultivate ties with China.
Events in Europe, after a momentous decade, now seemed to settle into a peaceful rhythm. In Italy, Giacomo Casanova escaped from a Venetian prison and fled to Paris. He had been imprisoned the last year on a charge of witchcraft after seducing a local magistrate’s wife. Ironically, he possessed no sorcerous talent, but affected the trappings of a sorcerer to aid in his seductions and intimidate his rivals.
In Prussia, Frederick II began this year to force his nation’s peasants to start growing the obscure and unpopular potato as a new and cheap food source.
And in the Archbishopric of Salzburg, a boy named Wolfgang Mozart was born…
The year of 1757 began with an assassination attempt on Mustafa, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. The killer, despite taking his own life after his shot went awry (he had, ironically, been dazzled by the sorcerous light streaming from his intended victim’s hands) was nevertheless interrogated. This surreal interview was undertaken by Captain Wendell Mosely, a member of Britain’s Royal Sorcerers assigned to the British embassy in Constantinople.
Mosely was a necromancer, a sorcerer whose powers included the ability to converse with the dead. Connections in the Royal Court had led to his exemption from the Demonic Powers Act, but it was thought politic to send him far away from Britain, thus his appointment to the embassy. In his interrogation, Mosely learned that the assassin (who now, in death, and apparently not having ascended to heaven as had been promised him, desired vengeance upon his former masters) had been sent by certain prominent conservative imams, who had over the previous year been growing more and more disaffected by Mustafa and his reforms. Mustafa, acting on Mosely’s information, began a crackdown on these conservative elements, and by year’s end, most of the renegade imams were living as fugitives in the furthest corners of the Empire.
In India, the year was one of uneasy quiet. Robert Clive had begun the hard work of crafting a workable government in his new state. The weakening Mogul Empire in Delhi pledged their official alliance to Clive in May, realizing that their position was bound to become more and more untenable as the British were apparently in India to stay. Padisha Alamgir II, who had deposed his predecessor only three years previously, knew his rule was far from stable and had no desire to see it further weakened. By declaring for Clive, he hoped to keep Mogul lands from becoming a battleground between Clive and the British in the south. Alamgir allowed Clive’s Lahori engineers to construct border fortresses and earthworks upon his territories; these same engineers did much to win the good will of the people by helping to improve the region’s irrigation systems.
The only thing that marred this alliance were the clashes between Clive’s predominantly southern-Hindu army and the Muslims of the Mogul Empire. Though far more tolerant than other Muslim states, the Moguls harbored a long tradition of ill-will against Hindus. Only the threat of the British kept the various factions on relatively good terms.
In Italy, Pope Urban and the College of Cardinals instituted a new and terrible Inquisition, this one aimed at sorcerers. Several north Italian cities, already railing against the harshness of the ‘new Church’, openly scoffed at this Papal decree. After the Pope excommunicated the Doge of Venice and Francis, Duke of Modena, it quickly became apparent that this was no laughing matter. Britain now openly courted Venice as a regional ally, and the Doge, in a furious rage at the Church, granted British ships anchorage in Dalmatia and Venice herself, and set the engineers of the Arsenal to crafting dozens of new cannon ‘in case of perfidious attack’.
The actions of the Catholic Church were a pivotal point of the 18th century; it was here that the two great alliances of Britain-Venice-Prussia-Ottomans and Rome-Spain-Austria began to take form. The Holy Roman Empire, a weakened, shredded shell for decades, if not centuries, could do little to keep certain of its member states from falling into the British camp, despite all the efforts of Francis I.
In Britain, King Frederick continued to relax the Crown’s stance on sorcery. With the Middlesex School now a fixture of London life and sorcery in general gaining widespread acceptance, if not tolerance, Frederick could no longer justify the draconian Demonic Powers Act, and it was officially stricken from British law in November. But after a decade of exile, those whom the Act had made persona-non-gratis in Britain were for the most part unwilling to return to their previous homes. In America, where many had fled, the attitude was one of contempt. Many felt it was only a matter of time before the whims of King and Parliament reversed the decision.