(I hate that I have to say this, but this is a fictional account of the history of a fictional world. I do not believe these things, nor should you, as I am making them up. If I receive any comments that I did not do my research into these events, you will be mocked.)
In the Agent of Argyre series of books, there is an organization called the Alter Control Task Force. Though ostensibly an organization for policing activities of the Alter race, an attempt to prevent an eventual race war, they are actually representatives of a city-state on the ocean: The Republic of Argyre.
The Republic of Argyre, an artificial island anchored to an oceanic ridge in the pacific, is a city-state established by Alters for the sake of harboring their kind and establishing a relationship with the mainstream human population. Despite being an artificial island and attached to no primary landmass, the city’s structure is capable of potentially supporting all 12 to 15 million active Alters on the planet.
How did a race of people who’ve lived in hiding for centuries manage to construct such a city? Why would they build their city in the middle of the ocean? Where did they get the resources for such a task? In the Alterpedia Historia, we will answer these questions and discover the history of the Alters. Today we address…
The Life And Death of “Saint Nicholas”
Long associated with a holiday he had little to do with originally, Saint Nicholas is one of the most famous Saints in the Christian faith. Having lived in the 4th century AD in the region now known as Turkey, Nicholas was a Greek Bishop from the ancient city of Myra, now a part of the modern city of Demre. Known for his direct manner and generosity, Nicholas has gone down in history for his deeds in ways few other Saints would, becoming famous even among people who would not normally recognize them. However, through time, the truth of Saint Nicholas has long been obscured by the shadow of a jolly fat man in a bright red coat.
However, the truth was that Nicholas was a physically unassuming man of mediterranean complexion. Born to a wealthy Greek family in the city of Myra, Nicholas’ early life was privileged and comfortable. Despite the fact he was Christian at a time when it was still heavily the minority in the region, he was born during the years when the Roman Empire had a policy of leniency towards religious minorities. Because of this, Nicholas was free to follow his faith and was said to observe rituals even others in his family weren’t necessarily devoted to.
This faith would soon be tested when an epidemic swept through the region around Myra. His parents, despite their wealth, were overtaken by the disease and soon both died, leaving the entirety of their fortune to their son who was now a very wealthy orphan. His uncle, the Bishop of Patara, took the boy in from that day forward and continued to bring him up as a devout Christian, his wealth being used primarily to follow his faith and carry out acts of generosity he would be known for later in his life. For many this would seem like a relatively positive outcome to a sad turn of events, but few knew the secrets that had begun to stir inside the young man.
Nicholas was also secretly a minority of another sort, an Alter, and had contracted the disease that had killed his parents. But while his parents had been killed by the disease, Nicholas instead recovered from the infection and began to slowly transform over the remainder of his now extraordinarily long life. Though many Alter transformations can be rapid and sudden, Nicholas’ case was particularly slow, noticeable only to himself for the first several years, and left the young man time to plan for his future. But, while he was the one one to notice, the changes that overcame him were particularly troubling for such a devout believer. For Nicholas, with his greek heritage, also had a bloodline within him that could become terrifying to a religious man. Nicholas was slowly turning into a Krampus.
Understandably, given his religious upbringing, Nicholas was terrified by the features he started to see take shape. The animal-like traits were easily covered by robes at first, something that was easy for a man who spent his years in monasteries and on religious pilgrimages, but the appearance of them at all terrified him. Having been devoted to every rite and observance he could, Nicholas felt as though he must have done something wrong in the eyes of God for such a curse to befall him. It was because of this that Nicholas used his faith to begin a new mission – to find redemption.
Nicholas decided to follow in his uncle’s footsteps and go on a pilgrimage to the holy land. Seeing himself becoming more noticeably different over time, he chose to make the trip on a boat where no one knew who he was. On this ship his wealth, how he originally appeared, and where he came from would be unknown and perhaps he could find his redemption quietly. However, on this ship he did not find the smooth sailing he originally sought out. Shortly into the trip, he felt the oncoming of a storm that no one else could sense, his Alter senses making him acutely aware of things that even the seasoned sailors could not see.
Thanks to Nicholas’ warning, the sailors were able to brace the ship for the oncoming storm, but not all was well at the end. One sailor in particular was gravely injured by a fall, appearing to be dead to the others. Nicholas, having the best education one could have in the age, was the only one who realized the man was not actually dead. From onlookers, it appeared as though he had knelt to pray over the man, but rather it was his attempts to awaken him. Either way, Nicholas was recognized as having saved the ship with his timely warning, a fact Nicholas soon recognized himself.
Discovering a man who looked similar to himself on his pilgrimage, Nicholas saw an opportunity to do good for both of them. The man, similar in age, build, and appearance, was from a lower class, living on the streets and with no records of ever existing. Living in unfortunate circumstances, forgotten by the world, Nicholas took him in and gave him the opportunity of a lifetime. To ensure no one could see his terrifying visage, he would have this man become his stand-in and live as the public face for all his deeds. Strange as the deal may have seemed, a life of wealth and comfort was too much to turn down – even if it did appear to come from a demon.
Together they eventually returned to Nicholas’ home with a renewed desire to help others in any way they could. Examples of his generosity, generally carried out quietly in the cover of darkness, spread through the land. And, while he had now fully changed into the creature he feared he would become, his stand in did what he could to conceal the secret of the man who cared for so many others. And this was particularly necessary for some of his greater deeds. While the powers of a Krampus let him do things few other humans could do, the most valuable resource available to Nicholas was his personal wealth which required a slightly friendlier face to deliver.
One such example of using his resources was carried out during a great famine. With the locals unable to feed themselves, Nicholas took it upon himself to travel to meet with a cargo ship and make a deal with them. The crew, familiar with his actions saving fellow sailors years prior, were willing to hear him out but had little room to negotiate. Their wheat was to be delivered to the Emperor and was to be weighed when they arrived, and any attempt to give away the wheat would be met with severe punishment. Nicholas, however, was able to cut a deal with these men at great personal cost while also assuring them that no harm would come to them. The crew were hesitant at first, but something about the kind man’s words seemed fairly confident and his reputation for divine acts was well known. They left enough wheat for Myra to feed its people and sow new seeds, then carried on to their destination.
To their surprise, when they arrived there was no discrepancy in the weight. Somehow, despite leaving enough for the town to survive for a considerable time, the cargo weighed no different than before. Little did any of them know that as they spoke with the kind, unassuming Bishop, a great Krampus cut its way through the Anatolia to reach Constantinople long before they could by ship. Having been in the middle of a great famine, no one could have possibly made more grain magically appear, but few government workers could refuse the demands of a Krampus carrying a great deal of money. Using his fearsome appearance and ample wealth, the true Nicholas managed to buy the crew’s safety while ensuring the welfare of the people of Myra. It was one of many instances where, despite Nicholas receiving credit, people only knew the actions of the stand-in rather than the true man behind it all.
Over time, however, his stand-in’s health began to fail and Nicholas’ secretive actions became far more apparent. Even more simple acts of generosity soon required elaborate efforts to avoid notice. During one encounter with a poor man and his three daughters, Nicholas came to realize that the man’s poverty risked dooming his daughters to an unfortunate life. Without the money to pay for a dowry, these girls would go unwed, a status that would cause them to slide further down the social and economic ladder – potentially even forcing them into prostitution. Unable to assist them in broad daylight and unable to depend on his stand-in due to his failing health, Nicholas had no choice but to deliver the money the man would need under the cover of darkness.
To ensure it went to the proper cause, he timed deliveries of three purses of gold to when these girls would come of age. Able to move quickly and quietly at night, he was unseen during the first two deliveries, able to drop them off with little problem. But the father, while grateful, wished to see the face of his benefactor and prepared to catch him in the act on the night of the third delivery. Nicholas, able to scale the sides of homes easily and spending much of his time traveling rooftop to rooftop, instead dropped the third pouch down the chimney, an act that would mark his legend for centuries to come.
It was a close call for Nicholas and made him consider what the future held. While he had spent much of his life able to hide who he was with the help of his look-alike friend, the failing health of that friend was difficult to ignore. Though already well into the later years of his life at 73, Nicholas was still as healthy as when he had been in his youth and came to realize that he would outlive his companion. When that man finally died, Nicholas had no choice but to let the world think he had died with him, leaving is home of Myra and allowing his friend to be considered a saint in his place. In Nicholas’ view it was well deserved, without his life-long friend and look-alike, he never could have done many of the things he had. Centuries later, wishing to take a look at Nicholas’ remains, researchers discovered that Saint Nicholas, a well-to-do religious man, somehow had a broken nose at some time in his life. Only one person in the world really knew how such a thing could happen – the true Nicholas, still alive thousands of years after his supposed death.
Despite losing this friend, Saint Nicholas has spent much of history since doing his best to serve people from the shadows. Though not the Santa Claus of popular depiction, Nicholas is known for acts of anonymous generosity year round, but particularly in the dark, cold winter nights where he’s least likely to be seen. When not traveling along rooftops he is known among Alters for his acts as a conservationist and philanthropist. He has rescued hundreds of laborers from polar camps operated by another Krampus, maintained charities for several lesser known Alter breeds, and prevented the extinction of the rare Kirin – often mistaken for Reindeer from a distance.
To this day, he continues to leave behind money for those in need. Though living for millennia on the wealth left to him by his parents, he had wisely invested in many smaller businesses over the centuries and lived frugally. As a Krampus, he didn’t need much, able to survive with little shelter on a diet of twigs and berries with the occasional baked good left by grateful families. Others have attempted to take his name, even use his reputation for personal gain or as a marketing ploy. But the original Saint Nicholas, moving through the shadows…
Is more than happy to let the world believe what they may.