The Nether Gods were the first. Rising from the swirls of the creation itself, they emerged into a formless universe with inestimable curiosity and immeasurable power. They began to form the Nether to their will, and the darkness erupted with the light of the first galaxies. Stars and planets wheeled overhead, and for a time, it was good.
But the gods were not satisfied with their loneliness, so they began to create life to fill the void. Of the creators, one proved more successful than all others, and it was this world that flourished amidst the sea of failed experiments. Life swam and crawled and ran and flew from highest peak to deepest cave, and for a time, it was good.
Then, to the god’s surprise, the tumultuous symphony of this world gave birth to a new race of beings, forged by the universe itself out of its very fabric. Though these humans were weak individually and mindlessly primitive in comparison, the gods, for the first time, knew fear—for humanity was boundless, as they were, and the only leash upon their potential was time. And their experience of it was orders of magnitude faster than the gods, the rise and fall of entire civilizations being but the blink of an eye.
In panic, for humanity seemed to be growing at an overwhelming pace, the Nether Gods prepared to destroy mankind. Alone, the creator of the world that had birthed them vowed to protect them, yet he could not do it alone. So he chose one man from the teeming multitude to take his power. Using the strength of a Nether God, this chosen one waged war against the heavens, slaying the other gods before they could react. Yet the world was turned barren by the battle, and the chosen one set out bringing life back into it. For this he became known as the Lifemaker, ruling a domain of the world reborn stronger than ever, and for a time, it was good.
Man’s heart had always been open to sin, and it was through this opening that the dreams of the dead gods took root. Though wise and pure, the Lifemaker could not create a utopia for the imperfect, and was assaulted from all sides for his failure. Soon he was slain by his most trusted friends in his most vulnerable state. His power was spread across the globe, open for any and all to grab. Civil war erupted, parent against child, brother against brother, between those who remained loyal to the Lifemaker’s memory, and those who had slain him. No corner of the world was left untouched, no man, woman, or child did not feel the cold hand of war, as the armies of the loyal and the self-proclaimed “redeemers” scorched their way across continents. Even nature, its balance torn apart by the void formerly occupied by its guiding hand, took sides.
At the war’s start, the redeemers, slayers of their own guardian, had overwhelming power. Marching across land, sea, and air, they lay siege to the White City, capital of the Lifemaker’s empire, and threatened to tear down the stones in which his legacy was described. But as before, in times of crisis a hero emerged, and through his leadership the armies of the Lifemaker rallied, driving the redeemers back into the heartland of their resistance, the great underground city of Mongiru Barro.
Blessed peace returned as the world was given a chance to rebuild while the forces lead by the great hero lay siege to the rebel capital over a period of decades. Soon the defenses collapsed, and the hero marched into the city. Yet at the apex of their victory, he was given his greatest defeat. As he fought into the depths of the rebel capital, the enemies that he battled changed—the deeper he went, the less human they became. When he and his soldiers finally reached the palace of the rebel leader, they found a monstrosity, a creature that had lost all its humanity, its veins filled with that magical substance that is the ultimate form of power incarnate: Ichor, blood of the gods.
The hero was defeated, but not slain. Soon, the dreams took him as well, and he became the Slayer. The world was again opened to the horrors of war, but this time against an enemy that, although having its origins as part of the world, had now been turned utterly alien. The Black Wave poured forth from the gates of Mongiru Barro to swell and multiply, leaving no life in its wake. Once again, however, new heroes rose up, and the Wave was defeated, divided and conquered, driven back into the depths of Mongiru Barro, its origins exposed, its secrets given up, and its existence vanquished.
Yet the world was irrevocably scarred. The empires of the past era had faded, their technology and magic lost, and the people of the world had been left to rebuild from scratch. These people would forge new nations on the ruins of the old, to command and conquer. Centuries have now passed, and the Black Wave is now little more than a bygone era in the minds of most. Yet the Dead Gods remain, ceaseless and eternal.
All magic in the world has its ultimate origins in the Nether Gods. However, there are two main “branches” of magic in the world today, classified by the split that occurred during the Fall of Heaven: Life magic, which derives from the power of the Lifemaker, and Death magic, which comes from the deceased lords of the Nether, also known as the Dead Gods.
To some extent, every human is born with some innate degree of Life magic flowing in their veins. This power once belonged to the Lifemaker, but at the time of his death it was released into the world and found homes in every human being. Most people do not possess Life magic in sufficient quantities for it to have a noticeable impact on their lives, but those that do are considered mages, and wield varying degrees of power over the element that they control.
Death magic, contrary to its name, has nothing directly to do with necromancy or ghosts. Although it can indeed be used for such, so can Life magic. In terms of classification, Death magic is merely every form of magic that isn’t Life magic, i.e. innate to human beings. Thus, the powers that Pokemon wield are considered a type of Death magic. The primary way humans can wield Death magic is through Ichor. A rare, glowing, blue-green crystal-like substance found deep in caverns, Ichor can be tapped by any living creature or even inanimate objects as a source of magical power, but they must be physically joined with the user through a process called “infusion” that blurs the line between crystal and user. Although Ichor crystals never technically run out of power, they can only provide a small certain amount of magic at a time, like a thin pipe connected to a vast ocean. When refined into special liquid, Ichor becomes even more potent, but at the cost of volatility; liquid Ichor has a tendency to explode when disturbed too much.
Humans, however, were not meant to use magic, and as such, all mages take upon the risk of corruption. To be a mage means not only to wield incredible powers, but to be plagued by the whispering songs of the Dead Gods. The strength of these songs is directly related to the strength of a human’s magical power; the stronger their magic, the stronger the Call. The dreams of mages are eternally plagued by this song, and in mages that have started to be corrupted they even penetrate the waking hours. No mage gets to live to a ripe old age: either they go insane, turning into inhuman monsters that kill everything in their path, or they die before they go insane. It is for this reason mages are feared throughout the world, and in most places the use of magic is either strictly controlled or banned entirely, with violations usually punished by execution.
Life magic already poses a considerable threat, but for a human to use Death magic is to virtually assure their immediate corruption, for Ichor is nothing less than the blood of the Dead Gods. While it is possible for exceptionally strong-willed people to resist being corrupted for years after infusing oneself with Ichor, they either die or are corrupted soon after. Pokemon and even magical artifacts infused with Ichor also gain its benefits as well as its corruption. Yet Ichor infusion is tempting to many mages who need a quick jolt of power, perhaps to defeat persecutors, and there is a thriving black market for the substance. In dark corners of the world, experiments with Ichor run amuck, the legacy of mages looking for a way to increase their power.
The greatest fountains of magical power, however, are the Dead Gods. These gargantuan corpses, miles in length, are so dense with magical energy that even non-mages can sense the power in the air when nearby. So far, only one has been discovered, but others are surely around, buried deep within the earth. Being near a Dead God for long periods of time is highly unrecommended, and it was the corruption of the miners of Mongiru Barro over generations that unleashed the Black Wave upon the world. Nevertheless, miners continue to sneak into the tunnels of Mongiru Barro through the natural Crystal Caverns to their north to mine Ichor, believing that as long as they do not spend too much time near the Dead God, they will be unaffected.
Knights of the Red Circle
To become a Circle Knight means to set aside all other responsibilities for the supreme one of protecting the realm of Aria from magic. Headquartered in Itum, the Red Circle is viewed primary in two ways: as an oppressive band of hypocritical haters of sorcery, or as the guardians of the people of Aria from the evils of the Dead Gods. Regardless of how one views it, the Red Circle is one of the most powerful organizations in Aria, with branches and great political influence in every city-stated except Venefinia. Officially sanctioned by all governments other than Venefinia, Circle Knights constantly patrol the city and countryside for signs of magic. Most of the time, magic is only legally allowed to be practiced with a Circle Knight supervising, ready to kill the practitioner at the slightest hint of corruption, although this rule is often difficult to enforce. Known mages are cataloged in an enormous book held at the Circle's Itum headquarters, known as "Histre's List," after the founder of the Red Circle.
Circle Knights are extremely dedicated towards their cause. Upon joining the Circle, a would-be Knight enters one of the longest and hardest training regimens in Aria to become one of an elite group of warriors. Contrary to its official end goal of stopping the practice of magic everywhere, the Circle is not opposed to allowing mages within their ranks, although this can be seen as a practical matter as only a mage can enchant the armor and weapons of Circle Knights to be resistant to magical attacks. The Red Circle is also known for its brutal, scorched-earth methods when it comes to rooting out and destroying rogue mages, and often does not care about civilian casualties despite its professed values of caring for all (non-mage) people. For these reasons Circle Knights are often regarded as hypocritical.
The role of Pokemon in the world remains much the same as it always has been. The vast majority of Pokemon live in the wild using the same methods their ancestors did thousands of years ago, with no awareness of history. Domesticated Pokemon are either kept as pets or beasts of burden, forging relationships with masters that can be friendly or cruel. Very few people own more than one Pokemon, as taking care of even a single one can be a full-time job. Nonetheless, Pokemon battles remain one of the most popular sources of entertainment. Official matches, taking place in sanctioned arenas of every city-state, often draw audiences that can number in the tens of thousands. The rules vary from city to city; for example, while it is illegal to draw blood in Parasanti, matches in Mancia often are battles to the death. And of course, there are unofficial battles taking place all of the time, for the business of being a Pokemon battler can be lucrative to the successful.
A special relationship exists between a mage and his Pokemon. Being both wielders of magic, the two sides of this bond find themselves able to amplify the other's power, and in some cases, the mage can even wield the magic of his Pokemon without ill effects, provided the bond is strong enough. In addition, having a strong bond with a Pokemon has a stabilizing effect on a mage's mind, shielding them somewhat from the call of the Dead Gods. Pokemon, however, are not immune to the Call themselves, and experiments with Ichor have shown that although the infusion process will boost the power of a Pokemon exponentially, it also drives them insane. Prolonged exposure to the vicinity of a Dead God has a similar effect.