Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Eternals within Divine Blood

This is mostly brainstorming. Eternals are a very esoteric and eldritch aspect of Divine Blood and to be honest, their weirdness has little to no impact on the wider story that is currently being focused on. I have considered the idea of doing a series of stories focusing on the conflict between various Eternals and their machinations behind the scenes of the Divine Blood stories. Featuring alternate time lines and results of various events. But first I want to focus on the story as relates to the humans, Gods and Demons being focused on in the fiction as well as the common situations for the mortals and immortals restricted to basic linear existence within the normal RPG setting.

The first thing to understand about Eternals is that they are not a species so much as they are a phenomenon. An individual Eternal might originate from any sentient species and, in fact, the same Eternal might have pieces that are of different species in different branches of reality.

An Eternal seems to originate from a moment of intense internal conflict. The person in question comes to a point where there are several options for responding to a particular situation and they are confused as to which direction to take. Eventually the conflict reaches to a point of confusion and desperation so great that their mind and soul reach out for all the options they were pondering simultaneously. What happens at this point is a matter of disagreement among those who know about Eternals.

Some think that this scattering of intention causes a massive reality ripple binding multiple parallel timelines through the soul and mind of the new Eternal. Others think the intensity of one instance of the person in question burns to such a degree that their soul slips the bonds of its body and spreads to fill the souls of its analogs in possibility adjacent timelines, replacing the original soul. Others think the same soul reincarnated across multiple timelines experienced functionally the same crisis of decision at a multiversal simultaneous point of time causing all those related instances to be linked across those realities. In general, non-Eternals perceive that the phenomenon has an initial occurrence which is repeated as more pieces of the Eternal join the whole such that any instance of the same soul which experiences a similar crisis of thought will possibly become part of the overall entity.

Eternals themselves have a different perspective. For them, that moment of crisis becomes more and more the only thing they can point to and say happened “first.” They seem to feel the crisis points in the various realities all happened simultaneously and are the starting point for their existence somehow. For example, Eternals often eventually reach the conclusion that their moment of crisis led to their birth rather than the reverse. This is not necessarily an intellectual belief on their part and many Eternals will dismiss such feelings as flights of fancy and espouse one of the other theories of how they came to be what they are. Some Eternals will even expend energy trying to prevent other instances of their soul from facing the same crisis and thus becoming a piece of the whole. These Eternals will point to the times they successfully prevented such a point in time as proof while other Eternals will suggest that perhaps that other instance of their soul had never been part of them.

This perspective that the point of crisis came first may be entirely emotional on the part of these Eternals, it is difficult to tell. What is apparent is that that point of crisis becomes a dominant point in the formation of the particular Eternal's character and personality. Because while every Eternal ends up branching off into multiple potential timelines from from that one particular moment, there are choices which the Eternal did not explore. These often say a lot about whether that particular Eternal will tend to develop towards more benevolent or more malevolent ends over time. The aforementioned Eternal betrayed by a parent figure may become incredibly focused on protecting their own children and being intensely offended by bad parents, for example. Or they might become bitter and hate filled beings of loathing that just want to lash out. Scarily enough, it is possible for alternate multiverses to present mirror versions of the same Eternal who reacted differently to their originating crisis.

In theory, the moment of crisis could be anything so long as the strength of focus and indecision is great enough. It is conceivable that an Eternal could be formed over an intense crisis over where a person wants to eat one day. That said, in practice these points of crisis are incredibly traumatic in one way or another. There is often an intense amount of cognitive dissonance involved such as a crisis inspired when a beloved parent essentially orders the Eternal-to-be to commit suicide due to a perceived sin or shame. In every case, there are multiple possible responses to the moment of crisis. Remember that, right or wrong, many Eternals believe that they are “born” in that moment of crisis and perceive all causality of their life to radiate out from that point. As such, they were always going to face a particular trauma.

Pieces of an Eternal tend to stop aging though Eternals that have their crisis at a young age will often mature to adulthood. Every known Eternal has had at least one piece of themselves outlive a universe and taken to wandering between realities. Usually there are seemingly countless numbers of these wandering pieces which have outlived various universes. This is the source of their name. This status is occasionally camouflaged if a particular piece of the Eternal has some other, more easily identifiable, form of longevity. For example, a Demon or God in Divine Blood is essentially unaging already and thus the immortality of an Eternal Demon or God does not stand out. However, said Eternal Demon or God would also have no need for the sort of psuedo-reincarnation the Immortals go through where they return to childhood as a way to purge harmful subconscious clutter every four hundred years or so. In fact, an Eternal Demon or God that goes through said process would find it really does nothing for them or to them, which might stretch the compartmentalization for that particular piece of the Eternal though still, at least two such Eternals have been able to compartmentalize their native pieces for millions of years while other species would tend to start to break compartmentalization within two hundred.
Most Eternals tend to compartmentalize their thoughts: the piece of an Eternal from reality A tends not to think about events in reality B; enough so that they can often appear to be separate entities. However, if Piece A and Piece B were to meet, they would not have to explain each other’s experiences at all, they would simply already know. Many feel this makes maintaining a relationship with non-Eternals difficult and thus explains why they try to keep their various lives separate both physically and mentally. This can be referred to as “day-dreaming” or “pretending” sometimes in a derisive manner. Regardless of the attitudes of those Eternals who feel it is pointless to engage in this practice, those Eternals that do compartmentalize tend to more frequently have friends outside other Eternals and are almost the only ones to have biological family. An eternal’s children do not inherit their parent’s status even when both parents are Eternals.

No matter how much effort a particular Eternal will make to keep thoughts of one timeline separate from another, bleed over does occur because it is the same mind and soul existing simultaneously in multiple realities. Eternals have often lived through countless replays of the same nearly identical sequence of events and thus can cause them to appear to be eerily prescient with regard to what is about to happen. Because the Eternal is simply remembering other timelines similar to the current one, they do not have a perfect foretelling. Still, if one were to get into a conflict with an Eternal it is almost certain that they have had the same fight or argument with you and your analogs thousands or even millions of times in the past have experienced multiple variations of the sequence of events. This tends to shift odds at least slightly in their favor. Even so, Eternals that heavily compartmentalize might move to ignore these memories and prefer to consider them “hunches” or “impulses”. In other cases, an Eternal might incorrectly identify which sequence of events is about to occur and thus take an improper action for the situation.

Their non-linear existence might also result in them “remembering” the future of a current timeline. Piece A might remember something happening to Piece B “before” Piece B has actually experienced it and Piece B might share that memory and have some forewarning. However, there is little to no way to tell the difference between a remembered future event and a remembered similar event in an alternate timeline. In addition, the mere fact of their remembering it might cause the timeline to develop differently than the memory which essentially causes a Piece C to branch off from Piece B.

Some have compared the nature of an Eternal’s perspective on the causality and order of events to the practice of “save scumming” in video games. It is not a very accurate comparison but it has similar consequences with regard to their fore-knowledge of events. It is slightly more accurate to comparing it to a single tabletop RPG player creating essentially the same character in millions of campaigns simultaneously with perfect focus on each campaign (though occasionally with variations in system, setting, class, race, gender, etc). The Eternal seems to walk through the classic Gygaxian Tomb of Horrors with casual ease to onlookers only because they have previously died within it thousands of times before and now knows all the tricks. Though some Eternals limit their “metagaming” more than others do. Comparing the existence of an Eternal to a Groundhog Day phenomenon is inaccurate because the Eternal has to live with the consequences of its choices carried out by each piece of itself. If a mistake resulting in a friend of Piece A dying, Piece B can avoid that mistake but Piece A’s friend is still dead.

It is also tempting to view the various pieces of an Eternal as separate individuals due to the way that Eternals compartmentalize their knowledge and broader awareness of multiversal reality. However, this is essentially not the case. Each piece is a part of the greater whole. The pieces are not truly autonomous in the manner that each makes its own decisions or knows different things. As with a human being using their hands to perform two different tasks simultaneously, the hands are operating the will of the person and not making decisions. Despite this, Eternals might take on the habit of referring to different pieces as individual beings simply to avoid causing headaches for non-Eternals that stumble upon a little bit of what’s going on. They may even try to pass off their different pieces as fully separate analogs from alter realities.

Eternals cannot directly travel in time, but the pieces of them that exist outside a reality can enter realities at varying points which makes it possible for two pieces of the same Eternal to co-exist in the same timeline. It also means that an Eternal is capable of entering a timeline in which there is no piece of it. This is not without risk, however, and most Eternals will spend what others would perceive to be several centuries trying to identify a piece of themselves that exists within similar physical laws to the target reality. If this piece is already devoted to a life within an existing timeline, the Eternal will usually choose to wait for that piece to be free or to find another suitable piece. At which point they will then spend an extended period of time trying to push this piece of themselves into the reality without breaking anything, this can take hundreds or thousands of years depending on how careful the Eternal is about it. During this time, residents of the target reality might see odd things or experience the occasional vision foretelling the Eternal’s arrival.

Killing an Eternal is something of a difficult task. Oddly, if the perspective many Eternals have that the point of crisis is the beginning of their existence is correct, it would be situation that leaves them most vulnerable to being permanently killed. In such a case, they have a set number of pieces that exist and all it takes is killing all of these pieces to kill the Eternal. The fact that these pieces can number in the billions, trillions or even greater numbers does tend to make this a fairly sarcastic use of the phrase “more vulnerable”. By contrast, if the dominate perspective of non-Eternals, that the phenomenon is continually spreading through other instances of the same soul in other realities, then there are potentially infinite pieces of the same Eternal and destroying them finally would require outpacing their multiversal growth. Eternals have reported encountering an instance of their soul that was not part of the Eternal but it is possible this was a prior incarnation of the soul rather than a future incarnation.

With regards to death, individual Eternals regard it in different ways but most neither dread nor desire death and generally feel a sort of relaxation when in the presence of death seers. As of yet, death seers who are also Eternals are not known to exist, though it is not considered impossible. Eternals bear witness to the death and reincarnation of family members and old friends into new lives several times over though not all Eternals are equipped to recognize the reincarnation of an old acquaintance or relative. Those that are able to recognize the same soul in a new identity tend to be more likely to engage in deep and real relationships with non-Eternals as they consider death to be a transient state of being. For example, if one of their children dies of old age as they continue onward it does not bother them since they expect they will meet the soul of that child again relatively soon.

Ironically, this means that the death of a piece of an Eternal is, in some ways, more permanent than it is for other beings. Since the entity as a whole is not actually dead, the soul does not go free and neither enters the afterlife nor wanders as a ghost but simply retreats to its other physical bodies in other realities. Given the difficulty the Eternals have with entering a reality or timeline from outside, this means that even if a piece manages to enter into a timeline where another piece had been killed, that piece might have picked up habits or behaviors differing from the original piece. Similar to how a person can develop a nervous tick in one hand but not the other.

Morality of Eternals is difficult to describe. Some consider mortal scale philosophies of good and evil to be mere games while others consider such low scale applications to be as sacred and necessary as their concerns for actions on a multiversal scale. Some consider interference in realities to be wrong while others consider it wrong not to interfere. Many believe that interference or non-interference is a thing that has to be considered from situation to situation. A few believe that one particular timeline is real while all others are just fantasies. Those who have biological families may consider those families as unimportant and only play at caring while others might consider each of a billion analogs of the same daughter to be inherently unique and beautiful children of theirs. In the end, even an Eternal who seems to have the most down-to-Earth and understandable code of ethics and morality will tend to have a broader multiversal perspective that non-Eternals find difficult to impossible to understand.

Even ignoring the capabilities each piece of an Eternal might acquire based on its species, training, and experiences (capabilities which will usually be shared with the whole), Eternals can be considered massively powerful. It is possible for an Eternal to cause immense damage and harm to a reality simply by not being careful about how they enter it. For the most part, Eternals find no purpose in doing so, and for the odd Eternal that has no concern about destroying a reality in the process of recovering one thing or person from within it, it is more than likely that other Eternals will be on hand to police their attempts. This causes Eternals to exist in a scattering of factions based on their individual levels of concern for the existence of various realities. Functionally, most individuals will never see the impact of these conflicts as the bulk of the conflict usually occur outside of the boundaries of various realities. The actions and pieces of these conflicts within normal timelines often appear to be mundane and unworthy of note in comparison to other conflicts within that reality.

A lot of Eternals have impromptu titles that they are often referred to by. Some of these are deliberately taken on but others develop from the occasional individual that has glimpses of the Eternals nearby their reality. Among other things, this allows a visiting piece to operate with less risk of breaking the compartmentalization of a native piece. These titles occasionally work their way into the lore of supernatural communities over time. However, given that these titles often come from beings other than the Eternal themselves, they may not be even be aware that these titles refer to them. So if a group containing a piece of an Eternal start researching into “The Hostess” the Eternal in question might not realize they are researching themselves.

The combination of all these factors make Eternals simultaneously and paradoxically massively important and almost unimportant to the sequence of events occurring within a set reality. In terms of Divine Blood’s fiction, there are multiple Eternals within the revealed cast, but most of them are highly compartmentalized and only operating at the same level as a non-Eternal resident of the reality. They exist, but the fact that they are Eternals is not important enough to the story for it to be discussed within the story beyond a handful of hints here and there. This fact has an impact on the decisions made by some characters and explains some unusual behavior, but the behavior in question might simply be taken as a leap of faith even without the influence of an Eternal’s memories of parallel timelines and potential futures. Also, while some of them are massively power, they come by that power within the framework of what is possible for individuals of the setting and are not using abilities that seem to come out of nowhere. The Divine Blood story itself is assumed to be taking place after the resolution of most such temporal and multiversal shenanigans. I say most because there is at least one character with a similarly profound nature whose abilities interact unusually with the nature of the Eternals.

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