Tuesday, 8 March 2022

Timeline of the Prescience Wars

Its been a few months since, in a fit of reactionary anger, I decided I would write my own Horus Heresy, and it would have literally no satire! 

The Prescience Wars were intended to be the mythic foundational conflict of the Eclipse Knights Paracosm. Their Siege of Troy of Mahabharata. Something that existed deep in the borders between history and myth, and the ending of which set the scene for the more historical dramas, and fundamental nature of their ‘modern world’. 

Its proven more difficult than I expected and, largely, has had trouble reaching the promise of its pretty good first post ‘This Plague of Seers’. Still, some interesting things have come up. 



Since the last part of the Prescience Wars involved a total reality breakdown along with the use of memetic and ontological weapons, working out exactly when things happened is a bit difficult. 

There’s pretty clear synergy between very cubist epistolary storytelling and fictional worlds in which reality breakdown, madness and deliberate editing and obscuring of the record take place. Since these elements exist in the world being described, as well as they naturally would in the texts describing that world, you get the unreliable-narrator describing and equally unreliable reality. 

Interesting effects can be created, and in a more prosaic sense, you can fudge a lot of stuff while you are working things out. 

So, partly because its unfinished and partly for weird time reasons, the chronology if the early wars is arranged in-sequence rather than by date, with estimations of what happened in years-since-this etc. 




This Plague of Seers – Before the Wars 

This plague of Fairytale-like prognostication which seems to dissolve all social and moral bonds. How bad was it and how long did it go on? So far the only real description we have on it is from the unknown writer of ‘This Plague of Seers’. Can we assume they have a Pathist bent? 

It was certainly strong enough to trigger the massive and sustained backlash of the Iron Path. 

What on one level reads like a Fairytale fantasy world turning into a Low Fantasy world, its closest parallels are something like the Reformation or some equally huge mass-consciousness change that people can argue about for ever afterwards. 

The deep question of how and how much knowledge of the future should affect the present is built on an eternal human paradox, one that can never really be absolutely resolved in a general sense. Ends or means? What is free will? How much do we have and how do we use it?



The Early Prescience Wars 


The Canticle of the Iron Path 

 Scratched on a Temple Door in Albarneth, began the Iron Path and arguably, the Prescience Wars. 

Pretty obviously this is ripped off from Martin Luther. Even the technology level is similar. The world of the Prescience Wars might be a little ahead in this case, numerous printers in Albraneth are ready to roll and take the word of the Iron Path out before the initial Pogrom even begins. 

The ‘Iron Path’ develops a pretty logically-sound and practically probably impossible methodology of no-prescience-ever. Ignorance in this case, truly is freedom, or at least meaning. 

The flood of Prescient’s who leave Albraneth just before the Pogrom is a fun touch, but it immediately brought up a question which I am still exploring and have found no bottom to; if you are a Prescient, and you know a giant war against Prescience is about to begin, what do you do? 

The Amber Court is one answer to this question 



The Water-Horse Wars – beginning with the Canticle running to 10 or 20 years after 

Wars which got their name from later historians based on the three battles, which later proved to be decisive towards their end, all of which where strange situations in which cavalry forces assaulted naval forces. A rare event in history. 

These are almost completely unexplored so far. There must be quite a lot that could be done with them though, Reformation/Civil War armies marching about a post-Fairytale fantasyland? Cromwell vs Disney Sorceresses? 

While this is just the start of the modern-seeming Prescience Wars, it would also be the end of whatever culture or world-paradigm came before them. 

The three battles which end, or come close to the end, ofthe Water-Horse wars are all suitably bloody and horrible. They all have fragments stolen from real history too and the climax with the ‘Miracle of Hoogst’ – intended to be the rebirth of High Sorcery in the world. 

The theme of Magic vs Prescience emerges here for the first time. Fate vs Power, with each of them accelerating the other until reality itself breaks down. 

There are mythic references, or at least, references to myths in histories written directly upon these wars which infer a high likelihood of previous ‘Great Workings’, deep in the mythic past even for those writing at the time. The idea of historians of an ancient empire discovering an ancient museum, of time-squared if you will, discovering your legendary ancients also had their own legendary ancients, has always been tantalising to me, and its recursiveness and reference-within-reference seems to fit neatly into the pattern of the Prescience Wars.



The Time of Great Workings – begins 20 to 30 years after the Canticle 

A time of ‘High Magic’. The first being the ‘Miracle of Hoogst’ which ended the Water-Horse Wars. 

Actually the period immediately after Hoogst was meant to be pretty chill. After all there needs to be a reach of time stable enough for people to write history books so that my monk-scribe can find them in libraries in the far future after the Rise of the Black Sun and put them together in the ‘History of the Prescience Wars’. 

There also aren’t meant to actually be many, or maybe any, ‘Great Workings’, until the Amber Court kicks off in a few years time, opening a new phase of the wars and re-starting that arms race of magic and fate again. 

The ‘Early Period’ really dribbles to an end during this decade or so. 




The Middle Prescience Wars 

What happens when you ban prescients and start killing them off? They band together, secretly at first, then openly. Much worse for the Pathists; they organise and they have a philosophy, a unified direction and military forces to back it up. 

If the era of the ‘Plague of Seers’ was about the corrosive effect of unregulated prescience as a general disorganised cultural phenomena, directly randomly, or at least chaotically, differing each time depending on the combination of seeker and seer, the Amber Court is that force curdled into something new, a paradigm the Pathists feared from the beginning and which they adherently helped to create; a Prescient Empire dedicated to guiding the whole of humanity down a particular path. 

Who, or what, is influencing the creation of the Amber Court is considered in ‘Sumthing Lyk a Mowse’.



The Wars of the Amber Court 

Begin perhaps 15 to 20 years after the Miracle of Hoogst, so 30 to 40 years after the Canticle of the Iron Path at Albraneth,  and continuing all through the Time of Great Workings into the Red-Shift Wars and the Last Settlement of Xap. 

(Depending on which chronology we accept this may mean a conflict, or series of conflicts of anything between 60 to 2,000 years.) 

I actually know relatively little about these wars. I know they start with the Amber Court surrounded and outnumbered. It then wins successively, through some chancy battles, and eventually comes close to forming global empire, before the counter-reaction against that in turn leads to world revolution and the unleashing of utterly destructive magics. 

Its WWI, WWII and WWIII all rolled into one, with ontological and reality-effecting weapons taking the place of technology. 

The Five-Hundred Son of the Moon from “All They Murderare Forgotten” operate towards the middle to end of this period. Elements from the same pseudo South-American kingdoms as the Battle of the Metero Falls’, now very much changed and making some kind of deal with spirits for possession or joining in order to create a cadre of soldiers who, when they kill, kill even the memory of their targets. 

The record, always somewhat unreliable, becomes utterly deranged, (from the point of view of our Scholar, the Monk in the Eclipsed Kingdom in the One-Thousand, Six Hundreth Year of the Sleep), mind-plague, the ‘Vermin Tales’ and general ‘Cursethought’ hover round every element. 

Its easy to see how, in battling an enemy who can literally see the future, the Neo-Pathists reached for weapons that would make that self-same power irrelevant, or at least hard to use. Weapons which alter memory, reality, cause and effect, etc.. 

Even the name of the King of the Amber Court cannot be spoken or recalled. 

As we can gather from ‘A Glossary of the Amber Court’, the Court itself becomes more and more decadent over time, developing factions and weird philosophies. 



The Fall of the Amber Court 

Unknown date. The writer of the letter in ‘In theMemories of Stars’ claims to have had a vision of this. 

Whatever happened to finally bring about the last collapse of the Amber Court, it must have been intense and strange enough to effectively break reality and causality. 

Beyond this point and for an unknown, and perhaps unknowable reach of time, there can be no true recorded history as time itself is warped and altered. 


The Later Prescience Wars -  the ‘Red Shift’ 

The Red Shift was a period, or area, or modality, in which not only can no date even be estimated for events of the Prescience Wars, but even the sequence of the events cannot be discerned, causality itself having broken down.

Little can be known in full but according to the writer of ‘In the Memories of Stars’ this period contained; “horror, vague and terrible as if from scripture or nightmare. I read of shapeless legions, of lands I knew yet "turned from any Path and Broken", of rains of corpses, of generations cursed by dark foreknowledge, of lands where the babes were born dead, yet sentient and grieving themselves, of cities tipped into the "Fabric" and make alike unto curses, or worms or dragons of myth;” 

Within the “Red Shift”, the skies are said to have turned red and peoples, persons and places are claimed to have been encountered before, during and after it was possible for each agent to have done so as our understanding of causality would claim.

“Reality Dreamed” of, more prosaically, “Reality was drunk” 

(Imagine a Beksynski-paraverse come to live and flooding across reality).

Whatever records or indications exist of this era, they must be both deeply sought but obsessively feared and controlled by the Monks of the Eclipsed Kingdom. Since they relate to Unreality itself, and describe a period, or place, or era in which mindplague and vermin tales, and who knows what else, roamed freely and likely bread with and interacted with each other, dream and reality blurring into one in a timeless eternity, even the relation of the period ‘later’ might be both incredibly dangerous, but also powerful…



The Restoration 

During or towards the ‘end’ of the Red Shift, He who would become the Sleeping King of the Eclipsed Kingdom is born. 

Now we enter what the Eclipsed Kingdom would consider to be ‘History’, as opposed to myth. 

The King rises and rides through Reality, knitting together what was broken, restoring order, causality and meaning, separating dream from real. 

Many heroic events too numerous to mention; the Binding of Setebos, Conquest of the Otherworld, the Defeat of Summer etc etc 

How exactly this relates to the Coming of Azathoth, I suspect the religious thinkers of the Eclipsed Kingdom have doctrine on. By their telling, the Sleeping King was always the Prophet of Azathoth and all his power flowed from service to that Black God. 


Rise of the Black Sun 

God him, her and itself arrives. This is Year Zero for the Eclipsed Kingdom. 

The Sleeping King takes the thirteen poisoned daggers in his back and enters the eternal waiting sleep in which he still remains. 

God stays in His heaven. The Black Church of the Eclipsed Kingdom says that God is waiting for its Prophet, the Sleeping King, to complete his dream. Which to God, is little more than a moments wait, before it enfolds the world and reduces it to pure chaos.



Years of the Sleep 

672 YS – alleged recovery of ‘In The Memories of Stars’

Said to have been uncovered from the ruins of lost Samaris in the lands once called ‘Frost’ 



732 YS – First Block-Printing of ‘In the Memories of Stars’ 



1600 YS - The ‘Present Day’ 

One-thousand and sixth-hundredth Year of the Sleep 

Date of the writing of the article titled ‘Who Shall Rid Us of These Seers’, presumably 1600 years after the coming of Azathoth and the Sleep of the King. 

Somewhere in a tower of the Eclipsed Kingdom, a monk begins to set down ‘A History of the Prescience Wars’, the mythic pre-apocalyptic era which forms the deep history of the Eclipsed Kingdom. 

Whether, in gathering records and resources of such an infectious and in a way, still pulsating era, is a wise thing to do, we shall see. The Order of St Korbin no doubt would do hard work with their iron staves if they knew someone was writing such a thing. 




Some Questions of the Prescience Wars 

How would a prescience-guided army actually fight? Would its enemies just give up in despair, no matter how superior they were? Can numbers overwhelm Prescience? Is there some calculation or equation that gives you a rough estimate of the “combat power” of Prescient guidance in terms of troops and materiel? So to attack a fortified position I think the traditional guide is you need at least three, and hopefully five times as many as the defenders. Can you even calculate the effectiveness of Prescience? Presumably its somewhat logarithmic base on depth and accuracy. 


Have I thrown in too much jargon and lore for even me to keep straight? Honestly I can’t remember all of the technical terms from the Glossary of the Amber Court 


Why can’t I do character? My ability to create personality is basically zero. 


Deeper questions – is the argument over prescience and its relationship to moral action, which has been a big theme in a lot of mainstream genre stuff in the last decade, feeding into or off some particular strand of something in the cultural gestalt? 


Can I actually say anything sane and useful, or at least interesting, about the possible interactions between the Iron and Amber paths?


  1. I find this all fascinating. Honestly, struggling with being able to create character almost feels like a boon when it comes to writing pre-history: sketch a rough set of gimmicks and wants for each mythic figure and there you go. Zeus is less personality then archetype.

    I'm also interested to see the connections from the pre history into the history- Id love to find out things like: what if anything does the amber and iron paths evolve into? How is their influence or consequence still felt in the setting? And working backwards- what part of the Eclipsed knight setting would you pin to being in part or in total the "fault" of the pre history?

    1. I'm wondering if anything *did* survive... My initial takeaway was near-total cultural destruction enabling re-growth. They may still have ancidents in the cults and houses of the Black Church. The Monks of St Korbin do seem very "iron path"

      Re fault - well they did fuck up reality so badly that they either accidentally summoned or instantiated Azathoth, so pretty much everything.

    2. The parallels to the Iron Men or w/e they're called again also struck me the first time I read through it. There also feels like there's a bit of shared DNA between the old-timy-fairy-tale-all-the-time "amber" side and the more chivalric and romantic aspects of the Knights?

  2. A lot would depend on the "depth" of the prescience. Can they see only the most likely outcomes? How many unlikely but achievable outcomes can they review in a given period of time? Can a strong prescient factor in the decisions of a lesser prescient before they are made?
    On the face of it prescience should favour the defender. But a strong prescient on the attackers side would only attack the places where they could win ... a stronger prescient would only attack the places on the path to eventual victory.
    Roger Zelazny did a take on this in "Roadmarks" albeit in personal combat between two prescient fighters.

    1. I did not know about that book!

      Re; strength/depth of Prescience, the Amber Court is pretty carefully organised so that prescient 'working groups' are isolated from each other, which would indicated that the effect of prescients' on other prescients' is assumed to be highly disruptive. Their methodology seems to largely be deep analysis of chosen fate lines towards a limited cause, with instructions and orders sent out to non-prescient forces on how to execute, with the stronger prescients' in a managerial position, governing collections of influencers who are each working separately to each other. It raises some interesting possibilities.

  3. I think the saddest part is that prescience now just becomes another resource management game in any given conflict. Unless it is strong enough to stop a battle entirely, prescience is just a feature certain units have that gives them advantage in narrow circumstances, especially when it's something that's present on both sides of a conflict. "What's a prescient unit worth," becomes a well defined and understood calculation. Even if you complicated it with a prescience scale, it's no more complicated than calculating the number of arrows you might need for a given conflict.

    1. Well both sides don't have it because one won't use it. The "how much combat power to defeat (probably) prescient opposition" question is something only they have to think about. And probably it won't resolve that way cleanly as, well for a variety of reasons but first of all, how do you know a victory in battle was actually good for you if you are fighting prescient opposition? Any or every win in a conflict could well be simply a trip down the garden path leading you to ultimate defeat.

  4. If I was a monk in the Eclipsed Kingdom I could write a killer manuscript on possible origins of knightly bird-denial in Pathist abhorrence of all augry. Telling the future is wrong -> you can tell the future by watching the movements of birds -> do not acknowledge birds.

    1. It all comes together in the end. It was the birds.

  5. I take it that the 30k to 40k comparison is not supposed to be a perfect guide to the relationship of the Prescience Wars to the era of the Eclipse Knights. No Eclipse Primogenitors running round clashing in repeated indecisive battles.

    The notion of the Water-Horse Wars being attached to the image of Reformation/Civil War armies brings in the Thirty Years War - and with it, the idea of mercenaries. What does a prescient mercenary look like? How do you negotiate with them? If an ordinary mercenary reputedly leaves the sinking ship quicker than any rat, how much more is this so for the prescient? (Is to be prescient at all to have a greater allegiance than to Mammon?)

    The Years of Sleep presumably contain the Crusades against the Haeretici Ferrea, Avis Infernalis, &c detailed in the 'Enemies of God and King' post.

    For what it's worth, I suspect one can be fairly arbitrary when crafting deep-time antediluvian figures from the perspective of the Eclipsed Kingdom. Aronofsky aside, people don't mull over the motivations of Noah and Methuselah much. To make the aforementioned obvious but misleading comparison, consider the first appearances of the Primarchs in the 1990s (I wish I could find a suitable reference). I suspect the generation of Gaiman's Endless was almost as (effortless? glib?) as the naming of Ferrus Manus.

    The question of the cultural gestalt leads to that over-used phrase of 'the End of History'. From the mapped-out bounds of Cold War conflict to golden hegemony to.....uncertainty, a questioning of liberal democratic norms. Of course, dissent and scepticism of the presumed golden path never went away - but they return with renewed vigour. Cue Culture War. Of course, that's my ripped-from-the-headlines, ambiguously-hot-take, so-obvious-it-must-be-wrong suggestion.

    1. No I don't want any Presience Wars characters turning up in the Eclipse Knights 'present day', I hate the way the HH has collapsed the 10k years between the present and the past.

      Freelance Amber-Court castoffs offering their services to small powers during the Amber Court wars would be cool, actually that sounds like an adventure series; Edgy inaccurate prescienct mercenary series.

      Aye the YS is most of the Elcipsed Kingdoms written history. Even the rides of the sleeping king are more scripture and myth than history, though no doubt everyone knows them.

      The Endless do have pretty good personalities though..

      I hope the Iron & Amber Path conflicts don't turn up again in the Eclipsed Kingdom, they have enough to deal with.

  6. "How would a prescience-guided army actually fight?"

    Assuming prescience well short of effective omniscience, I think what you'd get at first with a prescience-guided army (vs. a non-prescient one) is a relatively small, highly-trained group emphasizing decisive, precise applications of force.

    Keeping things on the smaller side means you're more maneuverable, less dependent on supply trains, and thus can react better to the omens you see in bird guts or whatever. Fewer people are probably also easier to predict for than more. The intelligence of your prescience will act as a force-multiplier, scouting without perceivable and trackable scouts - the enemy meets you when and where you want them to.

    The first part of your army the enemy would encounter would probably be light cavalry, hitting them exactly when they're tired, incautious, demoralized, etc. The second would be temporary defensive emplacements, trenches, mantlets, war wagons, and the like, prepared well ahead of time on the paths you've predicted and harried the enemy along.

    I imagine that in the chaos of pitched battle, prescience would be trickier - rather than the one perfect prediction, you'd probably be trying for many shoddier ones that together add up to routing the enemy, where your longer-term harrying and siege defenses haven't worn them down enough. Cavalry charges, ambushes, false retreats, other such big, decisive, singular actions would be biased toward - prescient armies would probably be early adopters of rifling for snipers. Again, drilling the shit out of your army would be important - you might need them to do weird, almost speedrunner-esque tricks on the spur of the moment to win the day.

    What the reaction to this on the part of the non-prescient armies could be: more numbers, more complications - flatter army hierarchies, greater flexibility given to lower-level officers, decisions made by rolling dice, reduce single points of failure as much as possible - probably movement towards more democratic social order in general, or at least more oligarchical than monarchical.

    Having your own prescients seems like it'd be pretty effective too - spirals out fast - gotta predict their predictions of you predicting them predicting you - only so many birds with so many guts in them. Bonfire of the vanities for divinatory materials - smash mirrors, exterminate birds, etc.

    Memetic threats likely force vagueness in prescience - low-fidelity as memetic protection. Begin with straightforward visions, then the anti-prescients get their hands on a Vitreous Medusa and your prescients' eyes turn into venomous polyp-blooms, so you stick to tarot readings or whatever.

    "is the argument over prescience and its relationship to moral action, which has been a big theme in a lot of mainstream genre stuff in the last decade, feeding into or off some particular strand of something in the cultural gestalt? "

    Feeding off a couple strands, off the top of my head.

    The first, the movement of thinking of crime in terms of punishment/personal responsibility to rehabilitation/environment/predisposition - the darker side of that, internal => external locus of control, Ludovico technique, eugenics.

    The second, technology making it increasingly possible, or at least seeming to make it increasingly possible, to predict people's behaviour, and not in the sense that you might be able to predict how a close friend might act, with intimate familiarity and respecting their subjectivity and so on but as an abstract cluster of identifiers within this great impersonal surveillance/cybernetic machine that society has become.

    1. That's an excellent analysis which I will steal freely from

    2. There's a web serial I enjoy in which a future reader (one capable of reading "strands" of the future) is combated by a team making twenty plans, leaving scrawled notes related to the plans scattered between the party, and then mind wiping themselves. If your intent and plans shift drastically moment to moment, future reading reliant on your intent and plans breaks down.

  7. Enjoying this series so far, particularly the Early Modern atmosphere and attention to the horror-like aspects of foresight. A few points:
    (1) On tactics, I think Demiurge has a lot of good points. I'd add that because a prescient army has the luxury of knowing how minor tactical details translate into strategic consequences, a lot of the things it does would seem nonsensical or counterproductive to an opponent e.g. they might use most of their artillery to destroy one small unit of dragoons on the left wing, because they know that its second lieutenant will go on to be a great general in ten years' time. This can lead opponents down a rabbit hole of second-guessing e.g
    "They're surrendering this town very easily, does that mean they've foreseen that taking it will be a long-run strategic disaster for us, or is it a bluff designed to make us think that and retreat when we don't need to?"
    (2) I support your commitment to allow for genuine historical change in the intervening period, by avoiding HH style eternal characters and societal stasis etc. However, I wonder if you might want to work a bit on embedding concrete legacies of this prehistory into the present (at least if you intend this to be of practical importance in a module, rather than a fun self-contained exercise), otherwise there's a risk that it becomes a more imaginative and gorgeously-written version of the first-time DM starting the campaign with "So to introduce the setting, 5,000 years ago the elf lords were destroyed in the first of the twelve Wars of Flame. No trace of them remains...". Especially as there's not an obvious thematic connection between the premise of the prehistory (loosely, 'Cromwell+soothsayers') and of the Eclipse Knights (loosely, 'chivalry+Cthulhu+dreams'); when the series first started, I admit my reaction was "odd, I thought he said he was going to write about the Eclipse Knights, but this is a totally different project". It should be very doable to get important linkages going, as the future sight of the prescients mean they can interact with even very distant descendants through fragmentary surviving prophecies etc, but it's something to think about I guess.
    (3) Finally, again just to reiterate my enjoyment of some rare Early Modern fantasy content. I'm even starting to see the influence of Amber Court assassins in our own world...
    Elizabeth I has always been the Virgin Queen, content to rule without husband or heir. Then why, as she lies on her deathbed, does her memory gravitate to strange lacunae, like empty rooms in the palace that seem made to serve as nurseries? Meanwhile, the pale scholar-king north of the border is being measured for his coronation robes, and a Stratford playwright dreams of a crown bestowed by the prophecies of witches...

    1. "(at least if you intend this to be of practical importance in a module, rather than a fun self-contained exercise)" - its very much a fun exercise rather than being written for production/publication/usage, I work on game stuff all day so this is my time off. Will think about possible linkages.

  8. The pathists seem extremely zealous, which I think is an advantage against prescience on it's own. A prescient may be able to find the path of least resistance, but they can't create one that isn't there. If they're fighting a group that is unwilling to negotiate, give quarter, or surrender; made up of people who are so indoctrinated against you that even intervening before their births can't sway them away from taking up arms; many of a seer's subtle and political options are robbed from them.

    It doesn't rob seers of their military potency, but it is something. I think the solution is not to be more chaotic to confuse them, confusion and chaos only serve the party with more insight. I think the solution is to be more predictable, more resolute. If you could reach a state of mind where absolutely nothing can sway you from your path, the seer must now work around you like a pillar in time.

  9. Although there's a good chance you already know about it, I'd point to Doctor Who's concept of the War in Heaven as a good example of an absolute incomprehensible time-based clusterfuck.

    Granted, the War in Heaven had several other things going on with it in the real world that would require an entire essay to explain, but the less metafictional pieces of Faction Paradox are probably a decent place to pull from.

    (Just to give the uninitiated a glimpse into how fucking confusing Faction Paradox got - The Enemy, the primary antagonist force of the war, has been claimed to be, at different points:
    - Hyperintelligent Mammoths
    - The in-universe fictional character of Dracula
    - Every Tardigrade, at the same time
    - Four-dimensional Mimic Octopi so advanced they could even disguise themselves as ideas
    - The Real-World Author of most of the War in Heaven books