During the conceptualization process for a story, an author will do either one of two things: a) start with a character, flesh out the character, then build the background setting around the character for her or she to live in, or b) create the world first, then populate it with people, one of whom just happens to be the main character of the story the author is trying to write.
Both are equally valid. In my case however, I practiced the former, but as usually was the case I focused way too much on the characters, and neglected the hows and whys of the world they lived in.
The purpose of this page is to rectify that a bit. Hopefully.
Fair warning, most of the following will be unstructured, semi-train of thought rambling. Most of it won’t likely make much sense (and read as incredibly corny too!), so continue at your own risk!
The World That Is
Let it be known that the stories I’m thinking of aren’t actually set on Earth, though at first it will seem that way. It has a breathable atmosphere of course, three-quarters of its surface area is covered by water, and most of its land mass is divided up in seven continents. It is orbited by a single round moon, and is the third planet in a system made up of several. However there are a few things… off, one could say. The plan is to add little, seemingly inconsequential details that, when put together, will eventually give the reader the realization that, yes, this isn’t Earth at all.
It’s close though, but whatever similarities there is, down to the cultures present, but this was all set up to be this way, though this is something that no one currently alive knows of.
Except the Dragons of course. After all, in this place, the phrase “All plots lead back to the Dragons eventually,” is very much an accepted truth.
What The Scaled Ones Know
All cultures have their own genesis myths, their own interpretations on how the world came about, but all of them agree on a few major points: that the Dragons brought Humanity into the world, that they taught the first peoples the basics of both magic and toolmaking, and that for whatever reason they prefer not to rule, but to watch over the Human race, barring certain ocassions where they deem it necessary to directly intervene.
Despite being muddled by the mists of time, these mythical sagas do get the salient points right, but as always the truth is far more complex than anyone in the present day could ever realize. And obviously the Dragons aren’t talking, much preferring to let the scholars and historians figure things out, or at least try to.
Beyond The Gravity Well and the Oort Cloud
Before we talk about what the creation myths actually got right, lets talk about the Dragons first, or rather, where they came from first.
The Dragons, put simply, are intelligent and sapient bio-weapons, beings born of magic and super-science. The result of a desperate gamble of an unlikely alliance of three galactic powers, the Dragons helped tip the balance in the favor of its creators. The Alliance eventually prevailed, but the galaxy was in ruins. There was a lot of rebuilding to be done, but it would likely take many millenia before things would be even return half-way to normal.
For their part, the Dragons were recognized as sentient beings in their own right, and granted emancipation. They were free to do what they want, and free to wander the galaxy, as long as they didn’t interfere with the recovery process or generally make a nuisance of themselves.
While more than a few dragons gladly took advantage of their new freedom to explore what the galaxy had to offer to them, many more stayed behind, out of loyalty or simply a means of thanks to their creators. Many became part of the Alliance’s space forces, and helped temporarily fill in the gaps left by the ships each alliance member had lost.
Others, in their own way, assisted in the rebuilding process. It is with this segment that the dragons of “Earth” are part of, but rather than simply helping rebuild, they were given another task instead: to be stewards of a small, but important experiment.
Building Trust From The Ground Up
It could be said that Magic helped tip the balance in the Alliance’s favor in the war that it fought. Despite this, its practitioners were viewed with a certain level of distrust, due to the secretive nature of its users as well many many millenia worth of superstition and misinformation. The core members of the Alliance, specifically its largest segment, the Concordat of Mankind, wanted to change things, but old habits die hard as they say, and even its leaders realized that it would be an uphill struggle to change all that distrust into acceptance and understanding.
When the rebuilding started, and steps towards the integration of the formerly-isolated enclaves of magic users into the general populace began, some resources were set aside for an experiment, suggested by the sovereign of the Concordat Herself. The idea behind it was simple: rather than belatedly making a society change its stance towards something it inherently mistrusted — in this case Magic — what would happen if it was made so that Magic was an accepted part of living instead?
An isolated system on the far edge of the galactic plane was selected as the site of this experiment — composed of nine planets orbiting a vibrant young star. It was situated far from the usual shipping lanes, yet still close enough to the borders of the three powers that made up the Alliance for them to intervene if a major threat arises.
As for the experiment itself, it would take place on the third planet of the system, an inhabitable world covered mostly with water, but had several large continents on it, each with varying climates as well as flora and fauna. Designated Maia, the fact that it resembled the world where Humanity originated made it an eminently ideal place to hold the experiment.
With the setting in place, all that was left was to choose the participants, as well as the overseers of the experiment. A random selection of a two thousand men and women, from varying walks of life, were gathered. The were provided with provisions, as well as ships to travel to the world that would become their new home. Escorting them would be several mated pairs of dragons, led by the dreadnought-class leviathans Prism and Mirror. After seeing to it that the ships made it to the world and landed safely there, the experiment would start in earnest, with the dragons taking up the role of overseers.
They were not alone on this journey. Two other Alliance contingents joined them.
The smaller one was made up of the Valin, the elder race of magic users that had been long in decline, yet in the wake of the war seem to be experiencing a slow resurgence. They would set up residence on the far side of the moon orbiting Maia. It would be with through them that the Dragons would pass on news on the progress of the experiment to the rest of the Alliance leadership.
The larger one was composed of members of the Taras Confederacy, the younger and technologically inclined race of the Alliance. These would make their home on the fourth planet instead, and would focus on creating an elaborate web of defenses that crisscrossed both inside the system, as well as its borders.
The Way Things Were
Once the occupants of the ships were disembarked on Maia, the Dragons revealed the conditions for the experiment. Aside from the clothing on their backs, supplies for two weeks, and the most basic of tools, the people would have to fend for themselves. To help ease the burden somewhat, the Dragons would also teach those there the basics of Magic, with the caveat that like the other tools they were provided it was a means for survival, and nothing more. Finally, the Dragons reserved the right to directly intervene when they feel that the experiment was about to go off track, but otherwise would simply watch; any intervention on their part would be indirect and through intermediaries, when it comes to that.
After half a month of acclimatization, the two thousand participants of the experiment were finally let loose from their landing site. The ships they had embarked on lifted up, and rose back into the heavens. From that point on they were on their own.
More than ten thousand years had passed since that point, and the descendants of those two thousand had spread across all corners of Maia, though they have all-but forgotten the fact that they were all parts of an ongoing social experiment.
But the Dragons haven’t. They continue to watch as the experiment proceeds apace, like they’ve always done.