In the weeks following the Second Stampede and the nuclear detonation that marked the end of the Hiway War, the second war that follows all wars began in earnest. The mass exodus out of Bravo and her outlying territories was only the beginning of that effort. And the hundreds of displaced peoples, uprooted from their culture as much as their homesteads, began to assert themselves on the desolate wastes beyond the borders of their vaporized town.
The first burning season was the worst we’d ever seen. The bomb carved a hole in the sky. Not like the quaint colloquialisms that paint the stars above Lonestar as distant forges, but in a very literal sense. The ionizing radiation ripped a hole in our atmosphere some ten miles across, exposing us to raw starstuff beyond our ken. The sun baked the land black, reducing what little was left by the bomb to flakey, carbonized debris.
Radiation sickness rent through the population like gorehound claws would a lump of tepid butter. Hundreds grew ill, their immune systems mangled by the blast and the fallout thereafter. Dozens died to common illnesses that had no business taking the hardy Bravo folk, while dozens more will live the rest of their lives with the scarred imprint of their clothes on their backs, twisted and marked with nobbly keloids in the places that the initial thermal wave tore at them from behind.
Storms, rendered radioactive and boiling by circumstance, swept over what we now refer to as the “Blastlands” South of Old Bravo. The Oil Fields, as they were called before, were ignited by the bomb and even now, at the time of this entry, burn hot and bright below the black dirt. To rest your feet too long on the Blastlands invites pain, and only with thick and leather soles would this author ever suggest to traverse them. Month by month, they extend further southward as the Texas Tea below ignites; threatening the Imixin people and the various tribes that inhabit the Pridelands and Dead Marches. Ambassadors forged north and spoke widely of a new homeland. Opportunists and criminals accosted the diasporic Unborn as they made the pilgrimage across the burning wastes, forcing the Imixin people to look for allyship in the uprooted and downtrodden.
They found this in the shape of other mutant and gorger strains. Full Dead, Retrogrades, Lascarians, Semper Morts and Tainted; discriminated against in the wake of a disaster that cast any zed-presenting persons as aggressors and and monsters, they began to form a loose association of tribes that would eventually come to be known as the contemporary Grave Council.
Other victims of the war, distraught and displaced, banded together - finding refuge from within. Three hardy individuals, self-titled Widows of the Lone Star, formed an orphanage-of-sorts. A haven for the misfits and the lost. They wore their grief on their sleeves - these common folk that had sacrificed everything in the war against Robb - but there was a fragile hope in their kinship and, as is the case when victims come together in common cause, there was eventually strength and determination.
In the meantime, beyond the blastlands and into the dangerous and virulent forests that characterize our northern Lonestar, the Antler Tribe’s flotilla came to rest at last. After months of searching these itinerant peoples began to craft for themselves a new capital and a new identity alongside the Cervaxi who had saved and hosted them in the wake of their genocide. Queen Jasper, first of the Antlers, proved herself the conqueror she had always claimed and in the space of a few months, the Antler Tribe annexed twelve clans and their power grew to that of a small nation state. Even now the Antlers and her Tribes Disparate rule the northern lands as a matter, not explicitly, but of course.
To the east of Old Bravo there was war, small wars that tore at the identity of the places they were waged in. Insurrection after insurrection as half a dozen leaders rose and fell, each time claiming that their way was the right one - only begetting more death when the the next demagogue climbed up to meet them.
Temple Station, as few call it now, after largely bloodless conflict came to rest firmly in the clutches of Warden Tabitha St. Mercy, the woman responsible if not for the founding, than the actualization of the Prison located there.
While The Clutch, located in the Concrete Isles, ballooned in terms of population. A divide quickly developed in the months following the Second Stampede. The nuclear winter that followed, affecting the entire latitude at which ground zero occurred, isolated a unhappy population to the shorehouses and fisheries there. The riots that broke out killed dozens, most often by the process of exposure when offending parties were thrown from the safehouses into the unforgiving, month-long blizzard uncharacteristic to this southern locale.
When the long winter ended, two factions had developed and one of them left. Called the Junkerpunks - at first a slight against their motley flotilla of repurposed boats, this loose coalition of Saltwise, Red Stars, Remnants, Diesel Jocks and Baywalkers set out to make a new identity along the Spoiled Coast. A kind of freedom-fighting but vicious underdog, they made their name first with blood and made targets of the looming leviathans below the murky waves. In that first year after the blast, the Junkerpunks only began to gain ground.
The Dune Sea to the west remained unchanged. Pitiless miles of sunbaked stone and sand have little to change in the wake of nuclear detonation. Raiders, previously deep-dwellers in the unexplored reaches of the desert migrated Eastwards towards the blastlands. Lured by the object of their worship, these blast-glass festooned and psionic madmen were among the first to brave the radioactive storms that surrounded ground zero for the first eight months following the Second Stampede.
It was only when the storms passed, and the end of the first year approached, that the lands Bravado became remotely livable again. A few wandering Aggies returned, lured by the radiation and the promise of discovery. The Firebrands, raiders as mentioned above, made their first primitive settlements around the muddy caldera that had been Bravo. And a few dedicated and Darwin monks took up residence and the purpose of cataloging and understanding the slow and stately evolution of a land post-nuclear.
Instead of a town, there was now a lake. An imperfect circle of muddy, radioactive water. The air was barely breathable and only the hardiest, fool or otherwise, could live in the Lands Bravado without suffering sterility or sickness.
But it was that they could live there at all that drew them. Radiation takes a long time to leech itself out of the soil, much longer than ten months.
It was in May of the year following the Second Stampede that the discovery was made. A pale and perfect edifice of stone rose up and out of the muddy ground that surrounded Old Bravo. Something older than the town that died there. Something older than any of us.
It was proximal to that obelisk of too-perfect rock that the town of Bravado was re-born.
Concerning the Hiway War and Her Lasting Effects
By: Dr. Perenthius Goodfellow