Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Part 1


In the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, peace descended on a troubled Europe for the first time in living memory. It was an age of reason, of enlightenment, and progress. An age where the ingenuity of mankind scaled heights previously unimagined. And yet, it was not science or intellect, nor even conquest that was to change the world. It was the discovery of something older and far more mysterious than anything humanity could have dreamt; something that had lain dormant since the dawn of time…

…the Aether.

The discovery of this wondrous, alien element was heralded as the greatest achievement of the modern age. It brought unimaginable wealth to those who knew its secrets, and allowed the greatest minds of the nineteenth century to realise their wildest theories and create inventions to be marvelled at around the world. And yet the expansion of industry and prosperity made possible by the Aether proved to be a short-lived phenomenon; for it was no natural force, to be harnessed by mankind as they saw fit. With Aetheric experimentation came hidden dangers, both physical and metaphysical, and dabbling with this unknown force was to cost the world dear.

France, 1815-1830
Following Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, the Bourbon monarchy was restored, and Charles X reclaimed the throne of France. Though France finally had peace, few were happy that their dream of democracy and freedom from the yoke of tyranny had finally been quashed. Fewer still were happy that their ruler was a puppet to the British, with whom they had fought for so many years. As Charles X introduced ever higher taxes in order to rebuild his nation, the people suffered, and animosity festered.
            In darkened meeting-houses and taverns across France, a new revolution was planned. A secret order of wealthy industrialists, scientists, free-thinkers and haute-bourgeois radicals formed a covert society, calling themselves the Consulate of Peace. They quickly garnered the support of the old National Guard, who had been disbanded by King Charles; yet although they sought a change for France, the Consulate did not want another Reign of Terror. Instead, they sought to install a new republic based on reason and liberty. Through enlightenment, they argued, France would not only be restored to glory, but also lead a new world order.
Led by the radical politician Adolphe Thiers, and the nephew of Napoleon himself—the bombastic Louis-Napoleon—the Consulate drew support from a veritable army of scientists, explorers, philosophers, writers, ex-soldiers and philanthropists. They began a decade of expansion and exploration, growing ever bolder with each political and ideological victory. They bought land, factories, mines and safe-houses across France; they delved into the history of the nation, recovering lost archaeological relics that told of the glories of the past, restoring national pride and gathering more supporters wherever they went.

The Consulate’s Discovery
It was during such an archaeological expedition near the Jura mountain range that an amazing discovery was made. Ancient caves long-overlooked were accidentally opened up, and the Consulate explorers followed the strange, labyrinthine tunnels deeper and deeper beneath the mountains, until finally they came across a marvel to science. Lying dormant for millennia, a sprawling complex of unknown origin gave up its secrets to the explorers. Who had built the cyclopean palace, none could say. Yet at the presence of living men, glowing lights of unknown design flickered to life, and consoles of illuminated glyphs activated at a touch. The Consulate discovered a veritable city devoted to some alien science; a buried repository of technology and knowledge, its endless corridors and chambers filled with strange devices and libraries… and weapons.
            The seeds of unrest within the ranks of the Consulate were sown. Even a cursory exploration of the devices on display convinced Louis-Napoleon—by then Napoleon III—that they could retake France by force, even with the meagre numbers of National Guard at their command. Yet Thiers had his way, and the Consulate spent many months in their new headquarters, deciphering ancient scrolls, learning to use bizarre logic engines, and making scientific discoveries that would have made da Vinci weep. The greatest of these was a new element, found in abundance at the glowing core of the monolithic facility. It seemed to be the source of power for the entire complex, and everything in proximity to the roiling, crystalline material seemed to warp and twist. They called this element ‘Terrestrial Aether’, and learned much of its practical application.
The complex was greater than the fabled library of Alexandria, and soon the Consulate had learned enough to put some of their new inventions into practice. Giving new instructions to their factories across France, the fires of industry burned day and night. With the application of Terrestrial Aether, metal could be made both lighter and stronger, any number of devices could be powered without coal or oil, medicines of previously unimagined potency could be concocted, and mankind could at last take to the skies in small airships, the likes of which had never before been seen. Most interesting to young Louis-Napoleon, however, was the use of Terrestrial Aether in machines of war. He commandeered a munitions factory in the south of France, and within a week had them producing Aether-powered rifles, gigantic cannons that spat beams of ferocious energy, and armoured, horseless carriages impervious to musket shot. He knew that, for all of their ideological superiority, the Consulate needed his Aether weapons to rid France of the monarchy, and keep her enemies across the Channel at bay.

Revolution and Conquest
When the Consulate of Peace finally revealed their intentions in the summer of 1829, all of France was in awe at their power and invention. Napoleon III, like his illustrious uncle before him, marched from town to town, gathering old soldiers and idealistic volunteers to his banner, and arming them with Aether weaponry. At first, the monarchy and their royalist army resisted the will of the people, but that soon changed when Louis-Napoleon unleashed his super-weapon upon the Palais Bourbon, sundering it with a shot launched from over a mile away, and reducing it to ash. His army then marched into Paris in a display of power, and as the people cheered and shouted for a new Emperor Napoleon, Charles X relinquished the throne.
            Dismayed that the Consulate of Peace had resorted to military might, Adolphe Thiers nonetheless continued his plan. He swiftly set his supporters in place as a new National Assembly, and began dismantling the old monarchy and last vestiges of Catholic power. The cathedral of Notre Dame was rededicated as the home of the Cult of Reason. Charles X was imprisoned for his crimes against the people, but his son, Louis Antoine, Duke of Angoul√™me, was exiled to Britain, under orders to take with him messages from the Consulate. Despite their newfound military might, the Consulate was still determined to establish an era of worldwide peace—albeit one under their yoke.
            Though he secretly harboured ambitions of conquest, Louis-Napoleon did as he was bid. He set about installing his Aether-cannons around France’s borders, as a dire warning to any nation who would attempt to thwart the Consulate’s power.

            And so, under the shadow of unprecedented military threat, Europe’s nations one by one fell into line, signing new agreements of peace and trade with France, and with each other. Armies of all the great nations were curtailed, regiments disbanded at France’s behest, and even the mighty Royal Navy was halved in size. The Consulate continued to experiment with Terrestrial Aether, reverse-engineering almost every common technology and material in a bid to become the most advanced nation on the planet. Slowly, derivative Aether-based technologies began to find their way into the hands of other nations, first illicitly, and then through open trade—although the secrets of the Aether-weapons remained a closely guarded secret. France’s immediate neighbours felt the economic squeeze most keenly and, fearing the return of the French Empire, dared do nothing to anger Napoleon III. The rulers of Spain and Portugal abdicated and fled into self-imposed exile in South America, leaving France no option but to assume rulership of a dispossessed people, hostile to their every move. Prussia, a proud and militaristic state under King Frederick William IV, began to plot the downfall of France, coveting their remarkable weapons for themselves. Great Britain, meanwhile, concentrated on unlocking the secrets of Aether for itself, resentful of the restrictions that France placed on international commerce and its long-standing naval dominance.

More to come tomorrow and every day for the rest of the week.

2 comments:

  1. Enjoyed that back story cant wait to hear more

    ReplyDelete