Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Mother Stole Fire Hub Page



 “A man sets out to draw the world. As the years go by, he peoples a space with images of provinces, kingdoms, mountains, bays, ships, islands, fishes, rooms, instruments, stars, horses, and individuals. A short time before he dies, he discovers that the patient labyrinth of lines traces the lineaments of his own face.”

- Jorge Luis Borges, The Aleph and other Stories

What is This?

Very difficult to write a summary of, that's for sure. Art has a habit of getting away from you.

On a practical level, MSF is a personal paracosm originally intended as a homebrew rpg setting. I have never once used it to that end, and so this factor is not particularly important.

The part that actually is important is this: Some years ago, in the wake of my father's death, I read the Slate Star Codex essay "Meditations on Moloch" (I have no love of the author and disavow his works and beliefs in general, but our inspirations arrive as they will). That is a rough essay to read while in a good mental state, let alone in the state I found myself in at the time, but it provided a framework on which to hang the elements of the great sea-change my self was going through during those years.

We live in a world ruled by Moloch. Good men die and the wicked continue on to be rewarded by the systems that feed the weak into the furnace. Zeus - petty, preening, rapacious, murderous Zeus - was king of the gods while Prometheus, the only one who cared for humanity enough to do anything about it, was tortured forever for his trouble.

But the worlds of our dreams need not be so. Here the ordering of the world is reversed - it is a world that has resisted Moloch time and time again, a world where Zeus never came near the throne, a world less poisoned by cyclical abuse and generational trauma. Its long arc of history has bent towards justice. Its gods are not ineffable cosmic forces or abusive deus paters, but the kindly gods of hearth and home and human life.

Of course it is wish-fulfillment; One cannot live for long under the weight of the vision of the pit without something to cling to, after all, and dreams are wonderfully buoyant. In finding no gods satisfactory I went and made my own, and no matter where I go, I always return here, back to the comfortable gravity well of this world and its inhabitants.

All in all, and in short, Mother Stole Fire is this:

It is about the trickster-mother goddess of humanity stealing fire from the dragons.

It is about the long struggle against all the demons of our own making and the hells we build for ourselves.

It is about how, finding ourselves trapped in this world, the only response left - the only way to remain human in the midst of the universe's blind, obscene cruelty - is to plant both feet on the ground, raise a middle finger to heaven, and get fucking angry. And in getting angry to love one another, to do right by our fellow humans and ease their suffering where we may. The world is already cruel enough.

This introduction has gone on long enough. Time to actually get to the stories.


Where Do I Start?

While there's quite a bit of material, the through-line is straightforward and the narrative posts cluster together - you can start with whatever you'd like to read.

If you'd like to read about mythic prehistory and the Gods of Man, start with The Theft of Fire

If you'd like to read about the war against Hell, start with The War of the Bull

If you'd like the life story of a veteran demon-hunter, start with the Ballad of Molly Ironshanks

If you'd like something light and sweet, start with Pen & Tam.

If you'd just like to know about the setting, start with The World.

If you'd like to read through in chronological order, just add The World between Theft and War; Ballad and P & T can be any order.


The Theft of Fire

Dragons ruled the world in those days, and chief among their lords was Hō-ō the mighty Fire of Heaven, who held all the world as his own. In the shadow of his wings the ancestors of humanity cowered in fear and trembling, and offered up their sons and daughters in sacrifice to the Mesozoic King.

Enflamed by rage at Hō-ō's cruelty, Lu of the Forest - trickster-goddess of the ancestors, proud and stubborn and clever - journeyed to the west of west to steal the Crown of Fire from the dragon-king's brow.

This she did, and now both we and she must live with the consequences.




The War of the Bull

"If Hell exists, it is the moral duty of every living being to see its gates torn from their hinges and its prisoners freed."
It is the twilight of the Heliobasileum. The emperor lies dying in his sickbed. A terrible disease spreads through the heartlands. At the far fringes of the empire, a teenage goatherd has a vision of Lu and Tubalkhan, warning of a great plague and a greater war to come. Hell is near, they say, and should it emerge unchallenged it will devour the world.

And so the Sable Maid of Orlei, daughter of poor farmers, accepts what will seem to all others a series of impossible tasks - to lead the resistance against Hell, to liberate the enslaved of the Low Country, to throw off the Imperial occupation, to breach the walls of Dis and raze the city to the ground.

She failed at only the last.

But for a moment, for the briefest and brightest of moments, she held back the inexorable weight of the universe.



The Ballad of Molly Ironshanks

Molly's had a rough life: She fought in the Dayr War against the sorcerer-king Anharugh Paur. She survived the brutal midwinter March to Yaran. She participated in the nightmarish raid on the wizard's tower at Kulvakh. She's served as a demon-hunter for the Order of the Sable Maid for nearly 20 years. She's fought sorcerers, swine-things, dragon cultists, undead and worse.

Through all of this she has pushed forward, scarred and demon-haunted, under near-unbearable burden and near-impossible odds. Forever climbing the mountain, in the hopes that she might one day be free.


Peter Violini

Pen & Tam

Wherein Tam Menadore quits her job in the Wizarding Affairs Department, returns back to her hometown, and finds herself on the doorstep of her oldest and best friend.

This is the one about two women in love (and also there's a used bookstore). It's good for a pick-me-up.

The World

The setting-building posts of MSF can generally be read at your leisure, but the one's I've listed here will help contextualize the narrative works (it helps to have a map)


Additional Posts

Here lies everything else that is about the world, but not of any particular importance to any of the narratives.

Last Updated 10/13/23


  1. This will, of course, be updated and modified as time goes on and I see fit (especially that last section, I think it needs some changes)

    Cut Sentence of the Day: "St. Joan Brown of Arc is so fucking pissed at the existence of Hell that she will personally tear down its walls with her bare hands if she has to."

  2. TEAR DOWN THE WALLS OF HELL would be enough to establish any number of good campaigns; BUILD A LIVABLE WORLD AFTER RECLAIMING HELL'S WRECKAGE is what makes your vision what we need today.

    1. The build a livable world part is what allows you to tear down the walls of Hell in the first place - can't beat Moloch by relying on its own tools.

      Part of how the Maid did so well in the war was because Hell kept underestimating her forces and disregarding her strategy (insert an analogue to your preferred colonial power bogged down in an endless brushfire war here). Hell's strategists firmly believed both that a society without slavery would collapse into violent chaos, and so kept finding that the Maid's forces were better organized and trained than they expected.

      The Liberation completely blindsided them. They were expecting immediate anarchy and an easy cleanup; they were met with unified civilian resistance and a total lack of allies (since the Maid had just removed most of the landowning class from the equation)

  3. I'm familiar with some of Scotts work but any reason you're really against him besides his ultrarationalist stuff?

    1. I'd seen excerpts of him using that ultrarationalist stuff to support eugenicist arguments, and considering some rather yikes bits of Unsong that was more than enough material for me to go "nope, peace, I'm out."

      That and I think that ultrarationalism is itself an anti-human philosophy and more often a tool of Moloch than it is not. Humans are not particularly rational actors, and while that irrationality is source of many of our worst traits, it is also source of some of our best.

    2. I didn't know he made unsong and anything where eugenics is validated doesn't warrant exploring further. Very well said