Malifaux: Through the Breach
The History of Malifaux
Malifaux is a world aside from our own. Located through the Great Breach, the city is home to monsters and mankind alike. Often, the two are indistinguishable from each other. The true history of this place is lost to the annals of time. Perhaps there are truths buried in the legends told by its native denizens, but for now, the human record must suffice.
While some still keep track of years through the old pre-Guild calendar, most people in Malifaux use the Guild’s timekeeping system instead. The year of the Breach’s opening is 1 PF (post foris, or “after the opening”).
1787: The Year of the Breach (1 PF)
Magic was leaving us. It was becoming more obvious with each passing year. Many men put forth theories. Many believed it to be a natural cycle, a tide of magic that would return on its own in time. Others were fearful that magic was a resource that was forever dwindling. Mystics and healers found themselves unable to glimpse the strands of fate, or heal the sick. Great sorcerers could conjure only the smallest sparks of power.
Great debates filled the halls of academia. Was our society too dependent on magic? Was this, ultimately, for the betterment of mankind? While the world’s finest minds went to war with pen and words, the most powerful practitioners took action. They came from every corner of the globe. Sorcerers, warlocks, soothsayers, and wizards, each came in search of a new source of magic. Only a handful of people have any idea how they discovered the world just outside of our existence, but only the faintest veil kept our two realities apart…
…and all walls can be knocked down.
The assembled practitioners came together in a desperate and noble display of power. They erected a makeshift city, the streets forming the lines of an intricate rune. They called to the world’s magically capable, and even the most minor talent was welcomed. They trained each person in the great spell that would bring magic back to the Earth.
When the greatest minds agreed that it was time, they called the entire city to position. The streets teemed with sorcerers at every junction, each prepared to do his part in the most powerful spell ever cast. A spell to heal the wounds of a planet, and to return magic to the grateful nations of Earth.
The destruction was unprecedented. The life force of the lesser sorcerers was torn from their flesh in a torrent of pain and power. The city was gone, and only a monstrous ragged hole in existence remained. It was called the Breach of the Great Boundary. It was a passage to another world, lit by an alien sun. Between the gash in our reality, and the wound we had torn in the other, lay a lightless void. The blood of the dead had paid for this new frontier, and expeditions began through the Breach immediately.
On the other side we found a city. Its features were both familiar and strange, as if all the capitals of man’s history had been stacked and shuffled. The buildings leaned and loomed over the streets, familiar elements of architecture, twisted and odd, with unknown writing carved in the stone or painted on the doors. The sun was brighter at noon, but darker in the dusk and dawn. At night, the shadows swallowed the dim illumination provided by the twin moons.
Weeks of searching found nothing living. The people of this city had simply vanished. A team of researchers came from the Voynich Institute, and they managed to translate many of the strange markers. Most were simple signs, marking a building as the home of a tailor, blacksmith, or other merchant. Some were odd. What was a “death surgeon” or “mechanical magics”? One thing was clear, however. The city had a name.
1788 to 1796: First Steps
After half a year, the Breach was opened to the general public. They mined into the hills and found soulstone, a glowing gem that radiated magical power, and contained the ephemeral source of magic. It gave practitioners their old magic, and some argued that it gave even more.
A thriving trade was established Earthside, and the harvest of Malifaux’s magical resource had begun. Soulstone was mined to fuel magic, and powerful practitioners were able to use it to work wonders. A new city arose up around the Breach. A thriving boomtown, it brought countless practitioners and their families. An entire population relocated to within spitting distance of a rip in reality. Life continued, and the city boomed. Magic had been saved.
1797: The Closure
It was the harshest winter in the decade since human occupation of Malifaux began. The people huddled together for warmth in taverns and homes, burning anything they could to stave off the wrath of the December nights. Frozen corpses were cleared from the streets every morning, and dusk brought with it fear and desperation.
A mighty blizzard swallowed the city. The Breach began to tremble. The stone archway that had been built by grand masons began to shake and crack. On Earth, there are those that reported that the cacophony of a great battle rumbled through the Breach. And then the Breach slowly began to shrink.
The Breach was uncrossable; those who pushed against it were rebuffed by a cold blast of wind. The thaumaturgists on Earth desperately tried to stabilize the rift, but to no avail. Nearly a ton of soulstones were burnt to blackened husks as they were drained of power in useless attempts to staunch the collapse.
The masonry of the great archway crumbled and collapsed in stone heaps on the ground. Fearful cries of men from the other side of the Breach lasted all evening and into the next morning. As the sun rose, the sounds became silence. The fissure between worlds hung, barely big enough now for a man to pass through.
The Earthside sorcerers huddled around the Breach. They had long since lost any hope of keeping it open. They had no doubt that the citizens of Malifaux would be forever trapped on that alien world. A body came hurtling through the rift, to land at their feet with a sickening thud. On its torso was carved a single word: “Ours.”
The Breach of the Great Boundary lay still for a moment, and then winked into nothingness with a great wail. Malifaux was no more.
1798 to 1814: The Black Powder Wars
A wave of shock spread across Earth. Malifaux was an infinite well of magic one moment, and simply gone the next. There was no corner of the Earth unaffected by the loss. The source of soulstone had disappeared and in one fell swoop it had become the rarest resource mankind had ever known.
There were those, who saw opportunity. Soulstones were stockpiled, and any of their uses that were deemed “non-essential” were cut off immediately. This included both public work and many medical applications. Governments began confiscating soulstones for the national good.
At first glance it appeared that various treaties and trade agreements were soon to be signed, and the world’s governments would stave off calamity. However, talks stalled, diplomats were recalled, and troops amassed at borders. Lines had been drawn and war for soulstone was inevitable.
The Black Powder Wars had begun.
The war was fought with sabre and flintlock, sorcery and cannons. Amongst the musket lines and cavalry charges, practitioners slew entire platoons, or fought arcane duels against one another. Some states even employed crude constructs, while others raised their armies from the dead. When the dust had settled, many of the world’s national boundaries had changed, but there was one clear victor.
1897: The Breach Reopens
One century after its calamitous closure, to the day (some say to the very minute), The Breach reopened. Thousands of soldiers were sent to surround the newly returned Breach. When, after a full month, no invasion from Malifaux came, the Guild allowed a heavily armed expeditionary force through the rift.
The city was empty. As eerily becalmed as it had been when the first practitioners had set foot in it so long ago. Some signs of combat were fresh, as if the battle of a century past had just moments ago been concluded. Hauntingly, the city of Malifaux lacked the corpses of its previous inhabitants. There were throngs of citizens of Malifaux in its earlier heyday, and yet no bodies remained.
With the safe return of its expeditionary forces, the Guild moved quickly to secure the city. The reclaiming of Malifaux was met with mixed emotions. Malifaux, as it ever has, represented great riches and opportunity, but now it also represented a grave new danger.
A bargain of sorts was struck with the great powers of the day. With the loss of Malifaux an assumed inevitability, the political powers of Earth gave the Guild a work force of convicts and the indebted. Poor practitioners and the desperate also came to Malifaux, and it would seem that the city would be repopulated with the dregs of humanity.
In the midst of the empty city sprang life anew. The Guild cordoned off much of the city, dividing her into zones of varying degrees of protection. Some would be well defended and policed, others would have only a scant patrol. The most dangerous (or so the Guild claims) areas were quarantined completely. The first Slums sprang up nearly overnight as people squatted as close to Guild protection as they could manage. New business concerns built structures from the knotwood of the native trees, and the New Construction Zone (which looked more like a frontier town than a thriving metropolis) was designated as well.
The city grew, and in its way prospered, but the old enemies of Malifaux were quick to make their presence known. The Neverborn, twisted mockeries of humanity, stalked the unwary from the shadows. Dark magic permeated the city, and vile undead shambled through the night.
1901: The Present (114 PF)
Almost five years have passed since The Breach reopened. The city has been resettled, and the Guild claims sovereign reign over the city. They are not, however, the only power in Malifaux.
The Miners & Steamfitters Union holds sway over many of the working poor within the city. Some claim that their leadership has close ties to the Arcanists, a band of magical terrorists (if the Guild is to be believed). The Guild has also failed to put down the Neverborn or Resurrectionist threat, and nightly disappearances are growing in number as the city’s population swells. Mercenary outfits have found their way to Malifaux, selling their services to the highest bidder, or acting on their own accord. The desperate and the criminal flock to their banner, along with the disenfranchised.
It is a time of great peril in Malifaux, but some would argue that it is no more dangerous today than it was in years past. One thing everyone in Malifaux can agree on, however…
Bad Things Happen