The chaotic summoners are a mysterious cabal of intellectuals who operate primarily on the Rossberan continent. To fully understand the motives of their actions and the reason behind their name, one must first understand the history behind them.
It was in direct response to Rossberan imperialism that new societal ideas began to emerge in academia. The major coastal powers had expanded inland, gobbling up smaller, poorer, landlocked nations. The only exception was the Martial State of Taressim, which started out as a landlocked nation and moved outward. Once there were no small nations left to absorb, the nine major powers of the continent would find themselves bordering on each other. Expansion of any major power would result in war with another major power. While there were plenty of individuals willing to try this, anyone paying the slightest amount of attention to the international situation knew that the cost of such a war would be enormous. The age of imperialism, therefore, had to come to an end for the sake of peace. What would replace it, however, would be hotly debated.
Two major powers already existed on Rossbera that did not follow the imperial model: the Republic of Breace and the Democratic League of Kantossa. The former was a constitutional republic that broke away from the Arcadian Empire during one of its regular periods of internal strife, when the imperials were far too busy fighting each other to be able to do anything about a separatist movement. The latter, far older, was a mercantilist oligarchy, created as a direct result of a major power vacuum in the wake of Skhara’s collapse. Without the warrior elite, the merchant class took over the remaining city-states on Rossbera’s northeast fingers, forming a powerful trade coalition. However, the exact function of these two unusual countries remained a mystery to outsiders, most of whom considered such organisational structures to be far too risky to replicate. Furthermore, both Breace and Kantossa had expanded their borders through various means, engaging in their own forms of imperialism at the whims of a few power-hungry individuals. Therefore, when pondering what sort of political system should replace the imperial hegemony, scholars all over Rossbera flatly rejected the Breacian and Kantossi models.
The new system, however it was to be implemented, was meant to be a one-size-fits-all solution, eliminating existing class structures. Technically, the Breacian model fit this, as did many smaller nations that no longer existed. However, the Breacian government’s lassez-faire capitalist economy created a great deal of social mobility. There was no entrenched class structure, as any citizen could move up the societal ladder with relative ease, but there were still recognisable socio-economic classes. Granted, the only reason that Breace had recognisable classes was because it was a wealthy and populated nation compared to the likes of Arland or Eisenword, which had become part of Sondor and Taressim respectively. Peret Nokal, a professor of economics in Sondor, thought that he had all the answers. “When it comes to what will benefit the poor,” he said, “it is the lifestyle of the poor that must serve as the model, not the lifestyle of the rich.” Nokal, who later became famous as the “father of social collectivism,” was born in Arland around the time that it was conquered by the Sondorian Empire. “When a poor lavkin has extra money, he spends it,” Nokal observed, “whereas when a rich votrel has extra money, he saves it. This is wrong.” Nokal’s proclamations rang true with fellow “progressive” academics at the time, but not with the people he claimed to champion. Nokal despised the very concept of aspiration, believing that desiring a better lot in life was greedy. For him, there was no greater sin than overcoming adversity – an “original sin” that all members of the bourgeoisie had to repent for. He was eventually murdered in his office by one of his own students, who, ironically, came from a very poor background and gained entrance to university by means of a merit scholarship. Nevertheless, the damage was done, the seeds were sewn for a major paradigm shift.
Collectivism wasn’t a new idea by any stretch. In fact, the term had previously been used by staunch imperialists to brow-beat malcontents in recently-conquered territories, smearing self-described “proud nationalists” and “patriots” with terms such as “insular,” “tribalistic,” and “individualist.” “National collectivism” was one of the many propaganda terms used to bring the recently-subdued populations to heel. This step toward unity was a springboard that launched the social collectivist movement, with the social collectivists getting the national collectivists on board by proclaiming that they were all working toward the same goal, it was simply that national collectivism didn’t go far enough. Through a combination of philosophical wordplay and the passage of time, the abstract social collectivism replaced the concrete national collectivism among the progressive propagandists. Eventually, imperialists abandoned the term “collectivism” altogether.
Social collectivism eventually overtook academia, though it remained confined to the so-called “scholar class” for as long as imperial expansion continued. It wasn’t until the buffer zone between Sondor and Taressim was small enough to cross in a day’s walk that anyone outside of the universities began to take seriously the idea that imperialism had to end, one way or another, and even then, there were far too many old military men who wanted to try out their new toys in a war between empires. Still, tensions were rising not only between the classes, but within them as well. A generation had passed since Nokal’s death, and students from aristocratic backgrounds found themselves in conflict with their professors if they didn’t toe the line of ending imperialism. It was not uncommon practise for students to be asked where their allegiance lay: with their “greedy, imperialist families,” or with the common good. In response to the schools losing tremendous amounts of money from such scandals, there were two basic responses. In Sondor and Alexandria, for example, the schools were nationalised, funded directly by imperial coffers, while collectivists were removed from their positions. In Arcadia, noble families hired professors as private tutors, so that their children would never even step foot in a university. Armen Draess, a noble himself as well as a professor, ended up taking up the role of tutor to Prince Linnus Rodilos, while Crown Prince Vaemus took it upon himself to purge the most prestigious Arcadian institutions of collectivist subversives. Yet, while governments were busy cracking down on what was being taught in their schools, the scholar class was no stranger to purges of its own.
As was to be expected with this paradigm shift, a new generation of intellectual dissenters would soon arise. Rather than a reactionary resurgence of imperialists, however, the new movement was anarchist in nature. The anarchists’ philosophies varied wildly; some merely discontent at the fact that the collectivists were much more conformist in their ways of thinking than the older academics ever were; others felt that the ideology itself was flawed. Whatever the case, just as the collectivists were the edgy rebels a generation ago, meeting in secret to discuss ideas that stuffy “imperial conformist” intellectuals disapproved of, the anarchists found themselves biting their tongues and meeting with like-minded people in secret. The main problem was the lack of like-minded people to begin with. The anarchists all came from highly varied disciplines, and all that they really had in common was a disdain for collectivist thinking. Still, they managed to find each other, sometimes travelling from one end of the continent to the other to meet.
One thing that many anarchists had in common was a fascination with the occult. This alone was enough for mainstream intellectuals to dismiss them as “backward, superstitious country-folk with no place at a university,” (never mind that many aristocrats also found the subject fascinating) exposing a severe flaw in the philosophy of the so-called “champions of the poor.” Thus, the meetings of anarchists frequently resembled book club meetings, albeit about some rather strange and frequently disturbing literature. Those who possessed copies of extremely rare (usually from being banned) books, such as The Eight-Fold Path, the closest thing that anarchists had to a holy book, and Secrets of the Imperial House of Skharnov ended up becoming celebrities within these anarchist circles. Being academically purged became a badge of honour among the anarchists. Those who were purged and blacklisted were sometimes actively sought out by the nobility, who were at odds with the academic institutions. Principled anarchists usually refused whatever offer that they received, but when they were left with nothing and had to mooch off their friends, that’s when they were most likely to meet yet another benefactor.
Chuyinka, being creatures of chaos, solitary and hyper-individualist, are anarchists without exception. To them, anyone intelligent and free-thinking enough to go against both the imperials and the social collectivists was worth meeting. Initial meetings of chuyinka and anarchists were somewhat tense. This was entirely understandable, as chuyinka who willingly involved themselves in mammalian society were usually involved in the arms trade. A disdain for war and conquest was something that the anarchists and social collectivists actually had in common, so for either group to ally itself with a bunch of imperialist arms dealers made no sense, at least until the chuyinka revealed their true motives. How, precisely, a secretive race of duplicitous shape-shifters that wholeheartedly admitted to regularly committing treason managed to convince a group of disenfranchised academics that they were at all trustworthy is a mystery, but an alliance was nonetheless formed. The chuyinka then provided the anarchist intellectuals with a task: to actively seek out like-minded individuals at all levels of society and “recruit” them, for lack of a better word, to the anarchist cause. In turn, they would be provided with everything that they needed for their studies, occult or otherwise, and would be free to experiment in any manner that they desired, no matter how… questionable.
Using their extensive knowledge of the occult, the chaotic summoners were able to craft complex coded messages to broadcast their ideas, usually via newspaper, to potential anarchists who might be hiding in the general population. The subversive messages reached far and wide, even planting the seeds of defection in the minds of military officers, inspiring them to abandon their duties to their nations and form chaos war bands. Of course, the anarchists weren’t the only ones doing this, as the collectivists had been doing similar things for far longer. Each faction had its advantages and disadvantages, and those tended to vary depending on the culture that each group was trying to bend to its will. The chaotic summoners were far fewer in number, and they tended not to be so dependent on their group, which could work either against them or in their favour depending on the circumstances. They also had an easy way out if they ever got caught by the authorities: the star of chaos. The star of chaos, crossed with a ladder, was a common symbol for the various arms dealers all over Rossbera. While common people had no idea what it meant, police usually interpreted it as a sign of impunity. Anyone who wore the symbol was always of a far higher status than they appeared, and not only did imperial authorities always order their release, but the arresting officer was usually found dismembered in a ritualistic manner a few days later. Police learned very quickly to avoid anyone bearing the symbol, and so the chaotic summoners were free to practise their subversive activities in peace, whereas the collectivists were rounded up and imprisoned regularly. As they grew in number, however, the anarchists became increasingly violent and, by extension, visible.
The greatest strength of the collectivists was their ability to purify their groups into thinking as one; the greatest strength of chaos was its ability to infiltrate without being infiltrated in turn. Powers that knew of a chaos presence would frequently kill large portions of their populations just to get rid of one summoner or tiny chaos cult – which they usually missed anyway. The greatest weakness of the collectivists was their prioritisation of conformity over loyalty, let alone ability; the greatest weakness of chaos was that its followers had a nasty tendency to take terror tactics way too far. Widespread purges are off-putting enough; wearing the skin of one’s enemies, even more so.
By the time that all of Rossbera was engulfed in full-scale war, chaos had a fully-fledged army, and the chaotic summoners themselves were operating on Khandar as well. Black dwarf lords acted as recruiters, not only leading their own clans in service to the chuyinka, but also fighting other clans, demonstrating the power of chaos and bringing those clans into the fold by force. Crystal witches, meanwhile, druorns cast out from the mech-cities for techno-heresy, also became chaotic summoners, though they did little in the way of recruiting and focused more on studying neticine, again to the benefit of the chuyinka. There was one notable individual recruited into the service of the chuyinka by a crystal witch, a sartorius guard and secret techno-heretic named Antaria, but that’s a story for another time.