Zero (1/7)

The ones who discovered it were the nomads. Having crossed an endless expanse of sandy dunes with the desert sun beating over their heads, they had thought it a mirage cast by a cruel god. Because there on the dry horizon before them was a strip of brilliant green.

Despite their apprehension, they drew to the area slowly, carefully, as to not break their hope too quickly. Their hesitant approach, however, soon became a mad dash as realization dawned on them. The green strip before them did not fade away into the thin, dry air as they came nearer. No, each step they took made the strip clearer and clearer. It was truly there. An oasis.

Yes, right before the nomads was an endless stretch of green. Treelines reached above their heads and shrouded them from the beat of the sun, and lush grass tickled the shins of their legs. Faintly in the distance paired with the cries of unknown wild animals was the sound of trickling water.

As the nomads ventured into the forested oasis, one nomad stumbled upon a startling sight. At the very center of thicket of stretching trees and swaying vines was a deep pit. A reservoir. A reservoir that gave off a soft, unearthly, unnatural glow and a heat that almost burned the skin.

Yes, right before the nomad’s eyes was a glowing pool of intangible light. A light that, the nomad realized, seemed to be responsible for the miracle surrounding it.

The nomads dubbed this miracle light “vitae”. And for the first time in years, the group found themselves shedding their garments of travel. They set up tents around the area. Tents that soon became houses. Places of permanent residence.

It was not long before other groups stumbled upon the area and settled down as well.

The vitae reservoir became a place of gathering. Connection. Community. Towns soon developed around them. Towns grew into cities. Cities that became places of pilgrimage. Religion.

Outwards this community of nomads expanded stretching out north, east, south, west. And with this circular expansion came the discovery of more vitae reservoirs. Reservoirs which communities then towns then cities grew around. Somewhere along the way this collective of cities, towns, and reservoirs became known as a country. Signum.

Now that the former traveling nomads had satieted their need for food and for shelter, they began to turn their eyes towards the mystery that powered their way of life. After extensive research, they reached a startling realization.

Vitae. The essence that flowed through everything. An essence that was made up of vitae particles which were unveiled to be the building blocks of matter and life. This miracle essence appeared to fall into two categories. Living and non-living, soft vitae and hard vitae. The vitae reservoirs that had been discovered fell into the latter category and had the potential to be harvested.

Not long after their understanding of this essence deepened, they began the development of conductors. Items that acted as a conduit for vitae and allowed it to be utilized. By gathering materials and resources from across their expansive land, citizens of the new nation were able to manufacture these conductors at an alarming rate. With their development, hard vitae from the reservoirs could now be harvested as energy.

This vitae was able to power entire cities. Entire cities that powered the economy and skyrocketed the country to heights never seen before. The economic boom allowed for more diverse professions to emerge. Professions that involved the handling of vitae and the development of conductors.

Wealth blossomed throughout the land. But with wealth and land and economic booms came the need to protect all of these things from outside forces. Thus weaponized-conductors that allowed an individual to manipulate the soft vitae inside of themselves as well as the hard vitae out of the outside world were created.

Those who trained to utilize these weaponized conductors became known as Conductors. Each Conductor could utilize vitae with unique properties that tended to fall into one of six categories: elemental, manipulation, transmutation, external, conjuring, and special. The properties that the vitae of a Conductor from a particular region had tended to coincide with that of other Conductors from the same region. In other words, vitae types and attributes were found to be passed on through generations.

It was not long before the large nation was divided into thirteen smaller ruling states. The intention of drawing these lines had been to allow for better management and protection of the rapidly growing country. However, the drawn lines created a sense of division among the people of Signum. Those within the lines of their state began to separate themselves from those outside of state lines, and a sense of divide began to crack across the nation.

Several states that housed larger reservoirs of vitae grew at a more rapid rate than other states who did not have them. It was not long before these larger states demanded the vitae from reservoirs located in outer states in order to support their exponential growth. These rapidly developing states reasoned that this was a fair demand as their current reservoirs were not enough to support their growth. The other states, however, saw that due to their more gradual growth, they were more in need of the vitae in order to match the growth of the other states.

To those who oversaw this land, this was a petty dispute. A dispute that would resolve on its own. So turning their eyes away from the issue, they continued to enjoy their lavish lifestyle fueled by conductors and vitae. But, in reality, this small dispute was a crack that would fracture the entire country.

Riots followed. Bordering towns turned on one another. Small arguments erupted into violent acts. Violent acts that led to bloodshed. Contempt turned to hatred. Hatred to fury.

It was not long before a war engulfed the entire nation. Countless lives were lost by war’s hand alongside countrysides that were mercilessly ravaged. For over twenty-five long years, war devoured everything in its path like a wildfire.

When the embers of battle faded, twelve countries emerged from the ashes of Signum alongside a central, neutral state that began to operate as an impartial peacekeeper. The countries took on the name of their Ancestral nomads who had led them to the reservoirs.

To the north was the land of Aries which saw endless sunshine that occasionally dried out the land. The warm climate of Aries did not turn its people hardy nor ill-tempered. Instead, their people developed a fierce, determined, fiery passion. Those of Ariesian blood tended to showcase the elemental vitae subset when they trained to become Conductors and were able to produce flames through the use of the weapons. Due to the Ariesians Conductors being gifted with this ability, the Ariesian economy became powered by steel-manufacturing and hardware development.

Bordering Aries was the land of Gemini which soon became home to a bustling trade center as the war drew to a close. Although Gemini hosted the glittering Twin Cities, it was graced also by seemingly endless riversides and riverbanks that wove their way throughout the countryside. Conductors from Gemini tended to fall either into the transmutation or the manipulation category of vitae conducting.

One land over was Virgo. A quiet country of lush forestry and endless rolling green pastures. Enjoying occasional bouts of rain showers followed by clear sunshine, the land of Virgo was one full of exotic plants and animals. A land of mystery. Great, large, natural vitae reservoirs flowed throughout the country; and unlike Gemini, bustling cities had yet to encroach on nature and the reservoirs. Conductors from Virgo manifested the ability to manipulate vitae in a way that fell into several categories. Elemental, conjuring, special. A unique land filled with unique people. Upon the war’s end, Virgo folded away into isolation.

To the southeast was Capricorn. This was a country that had not been as blessed by natural resources and reservoirs as the countries surrounding it. Enduring harsh and cold winters alongside warm and cool summers, those from Capricorn developed a hardy and steadfast nature and a straightforward mindset. Conductors from Capricorn tended to wield vitae in a way that fell somewhere in-between the categories of transmutation and elemental. The war left great scars in the countryside, and the nation developed a militaristic attitude and outlook.

At the center of all these countries was the neutral state of Ophiuchus. This state was not only formed upon the grounds on which the treaty of peace was signed, but it was also formed by the treaty itself. Conductors who sought peace and who had a desire to distance themselves from their respective countries gathered here at the war’s end and joined the ranks of overseers and peacekeepers. Whenever conflict arose between two or more nations, Conductors from Ophiuchus would be sent in to handle the dilemma.

Following the war and these developments, a tense peace held itself over the twelve nations. No country wished for more war but every country wished for something more than the fragile order that had settled around them.

This unquenchable desire acted as the seeds of blossoming conflict. Skirmishes dotted the borders. Underground trade wove its way in-between countries. Just on the horizon, another conflict began to brew.

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