Ok: the world of A Study In Emerald. [link]
The Moon is always red as blood.
The sun is more variable, sometimes reddish and dim, other times white and painfully brilliant, alternately obscured or focused by the odd, immaterial hazes which swirl in the upper atmosphere. It often looks swollen or lopsided. Sunsets and sunrises are usually a riot of mad, almost obscene colors. Not that anyone pays heed to these peculiarities.
After all, it having been some seven hundred years since the return of the Great Old Ones, these have been normal atmospheric effects on the tainted Earth. In any event seeking for signs and portents in the skies is strongly discouraged by the rulers of the world: if there are to be signs and wonders, they must come from either the Great Old Ones themselves, or the mysterious Outer Gods. In neither case are humans to put words in their (often metaphorical) mouths.
The world was not actually conquered all at once: a certain density of worshippers (and sacrifices) was desired, and large areas of Africa, interior Asia, Australia, etc., were largely left to go to hell their own way for a while as the Great Old Ones battened on densely populated areas of Europe, the Middle East, India, China, Meso-and-Andean America. The remaining bits were divvied up over the next few centuries, often settled with colonists forcibly resettled from elsewhere to make a near-wilderness a rich feeding ground. Some horrors fond of cold and solitude settled in the icy polar areas, ranging outwards to feed on the subjects of other Old Ones, often causing annoying disruptions: this eventually led to the curious case of the Antarctic colonization, deep in the dark places beneath the ice.
The world is nowadays mostly divided up into various fiefs under the rule of the GOOs. China is the province of the Goat with a Thousand Young, Russia of the Czar Unanswerable, the Black Pharaoh (who publically adopts an almost human form) Egypt and surrounding areas, The White Lady (hardly a lady) the frozen Antarctic, The Glorious and Victorious Queen over western France, the British Isles, and territories scattered across the globe, The Great Water Lizard over much of SE Asia, The King in Yellow over the South of Europe, the Swallowing Darkness over the North, (and territories elsewhere), Iran and Mesopotamia by the Unquenchable Flame, etc.
The leader of them all, the warrior-priest of the Outer Gods, the Master of Dreams, He who Presides Over the New World, controls the largest territory, almost all of the American continents from the arctic isles to Patagonia. He rarely visits, though, ruling from his Black Throne in R’lyeh at the center of the risen continent of Mu, which has been settled with human subjects from every corner of the globe, and is the most cosmopolitan and most terrible of nations. Rarely stirring from Mu, he rules the Americas through monstrous (and, in a couple cases, more or less human) viceroys, which he can stamp flat the moment he sniffs disloyalty (keeping secrets from Him is difficult, since the sleeping human mind is an open book to the Master of Dreams), but generally leaves alone as long as there is a steady flow of sacrifices and funds to build big-ass temples to the Outer Gods (along with slightly smaller ones to Himself and much smaller ones to his fellow Old Ones). His time is mostly taken up in religious duties, arcane magic, monster-making, hideous temple design, sacrifice-eating (yum yum!), and keeping an eye on the Black Pharaoh. The Americas are a patchwork of Amerindian territories and European or Asian settlement where the local population was low at the time of the Return.
Other Old Ones are more hands-on, in some cases rather physically so: several mate with humanity, producing great numbers of half-breed monstrosities that serve as a noble class, and often travel abroad to find work as necessary government staff for abominations who either will not or cannot mate with humans and whose offspring are not suitable for mingling with humanity. The Glorious and Victorious Queen is particularly fecund and influential in this aspect, and half the petty abomination nobility of Europe is of her blood.
The Warrior-Priest has a number of children among the horrors ruling the world, and also is assisted by his asexual Spawn, which all look exactly like him save in dimensions, varying from King Kong to convenient office manager size. (Surprisingly, such are preferable to many human bosses: objectives are realistic, instruction clear, promotion untouched by favoritism, and if your brain gets sucked, it’s almost always because you really _did_ screw up an important assignment).
Not all of the Old Ones have fiefs they rule over; some serve greater Old Ones, while others simply go about in the world and walk up and down in it. The Burrower Beneath burrows and occasionally swallows a small town or two (she is the patron of the worm-men, but they mostly just stay out of her way): the Walker on the Winds only really rules Greenland, Iceland, and the northern bits of Scandinavia, but roams south in winter in search of prey and occasionally mates. There are of course certain rules about this sort of thing: one doesn’t rampage too visibly in another Old One’s territory, avoid consuming rich, powerful and loyal humans whenever possible, and respect temples dedicated to other Old Ones or the Outer Gods. The Lurkers in the Angles are sometimes employed by the Great Old Ones as agents of their wrath, but generally stay away from this world full of uncomfortable curves and blobs.
And then there are the rebels.
Various minor daemons who had controlled various dark places on the earth before even the return of the Great Old Ones resented suddenly becoming mere servants of greater Things. Some primal beings of earth and stone and the inner worlds felt they had precedence. And some of the Great Old Ones did not feel they had received a far share of the spoils. In any event, although the major Old Ones generally avoid conflict among themselves, such malcontents have brought about a number of wars over the centuries, and ownership of millions of human beings have changed hands, sometimes more than once. Some have been forced to accept humiliating peace terms (the elephant-headed Master of the Hills, who once ruled much of India, is now merely the ruler of the northern mountains – roughly OTL Nepal). The fighting, and the dying, in such wars has generally been carried out by lesser hybrid horrors and monsters, and by human soldiers: the Great Old Ones do not lower themselves to direct personal confrontations.
Others have proven more intractable. A big chunk of the American desert west and north Mexico still resists the rule of the Lord of R’lyeh, thanks to the powers of the Lord of the Snakes and his servants, the sorcerers of the Underground Kingdom of K’yn-Yan, and certain primal subterranean god-things of Mexican origin who are not happy with the purging of their priesthood and its replacement by the Cult of the Master of Dreams. The Nameless Loa is entrenched in the black, lightless jungles of central Africa, where the soil itself sometimes sucks down the unwary. The chthonic deities of the mountains of Afghanistan provide powerful assistance to local tribes and clans seeking to remain independent (or at least merely subject to their own local, familiar horrors). And beyond the world of the physical, in the place known as the Dreamlands, the Elder Gods of Earth maintain one small escape for mankind, one area not entirely dominated by the Great Old Ones.
Still, this is all fairly localized (and in some cases unknown) and the human inhabitants of, say, London, can feel quietly confident that their rulers know what they are doing and are guiding the world towards an era of greater prosperity and peace. Over the past few centuries the Old Ones have embraced the principle of technological advancement for their subjects, which means the human herd can be greatly enlarged over time, and an increase in material comforts will give them more to lose in the case of violent change. Not that a rebellion has any chance of success, but the Old Ones prefer to savor the consumption of human lives rather than slaughter en masse; most of both the flavor and the nutritional value are lost. And there’s always the wee, tiny possibility that these smart little monkeys might be able to piece together enough of the Elder Lore to do something very, very stupid, like summon up one of the more uncontrollable Outer Gods…
Technology is roughly up that of OTLs late 19th century, a bit of a coincidence since the year is in fact 1881. Indeed, there are some odd similarities to our world, and places like Britain or Russia or Manhattan (the great port city of the European-settled parts of the northern New World) would be curiously familiar to someone of OTL, given that there was a POD some seven centuries back. There are those who say that this world is a shadow of ours: others say that it is in fact our world which is the shadow.
The Great Old Ones and many of their children are mentivores, mind-eaters. Some enjoy human minds raw, so to speak, but most prefer to flavor them with terror and/or madness before consumption. Half-breed nobles and horrors physically able to make it about a human city without either paralyzing the population in terror or getting stuck in doorways are fond of visiting madhouses in search of some new and interesting insanity. (Nobody with mental problems seeks help outside close family and friends: there is always the fear that one may have become appreciably tastier to the ruling classes, and “nut-catchers” working for the asylums have among the most despised of occupations). The greater Old Ones require quite a few human beings a day, and the demand from kings and queens and nobles at times runs ahead of what is available in terms of condemned criminals from jails and madhouses, so Special Measures to round up Undesirables have to be taken, but it’s not as bad as, say, Aztec Mexico. And as long as one follows the rules, one’s life and property are generally a lot more secure than before they arrived.
From East to west…
Japan, of course, is ruled by a couple of Old Ones who are pretty much all tentacles. Having never gone through the civil wars or the Tokugawa Shogunate, Japanese culture is less sword-and-Samurai oriented, highly sophisticated, flowery, cultured, and creepy decadent even before you get to the sex with monsters bits. Modernization is going on at a busy rate, and the first public electrocutions recently amused the Kyoto crowds.
China is poisonously fertile, land and people, and particularly rich in foul hybrids, the Goat with A Thousand Young, the bisexual abomination which rules from the Palace of Ten Thousand delights, being promiscuous in its matings with men, women, and others. Curiously enough, this has led to an odd degree of bonding between humans and monstrosities: those more than half human by blood or a quarter or more animal are looked down upon by those born directly of the Goat’s matings and rarely take place in the blasphemous new version of the Confucian exam systems. They are unified with pure-blooded humans (which, to be honest, probably aren’t a majority by this point. If you go back enough generations, there’s probably a monster in the woodpile in most families) in their distaste for the upper classes, and generally mingle pretty freely. It is a somewhat backwards empire compared to other regions of the globe, technology not being an interest of the Goat, although It’s subordinates are working so that the Empire can catch up with places such as Japan and Britain.
Nearly half of the SE Asia-Indonesia area is, as mentioned before, the realm of the Great Water Lizard: most of the rest is the dominion of the Weaver in the Abyss, with a few bits and pieces going to minor abominations. If there are a lot of kitten-sized spiders crawling about, you’re in the Weaver’s territory. (The spiders are harmless until injured, so watch where you sit. It also might be a good idea to take up the local habit and go barefoot, unless you are always confident about where you are putting your boots). The Great Water Lizard is generally a God which rules with a light touch as long as the Hideous Rites are properly performed under the gibbous Moon, but It sometimes walks the isles by night and those who see the towering bipedal Shape with its row of spiny back plates and fiery eyes are most often consumed by madness.
Victoria Gloriana had some footholds in India from the start, especially Ceylon, being an entity with an eye (or eyes) for the future: with the disgrace and fall of the Master of the Hills and his misshapen kin (most of which he ate himself) she has expanded her holding all over the Indian peninsula (swapping some European territories with the King in Yellow in exchange for His support) although the place is currently a bit of patchwork, with various local abominations and in some case loyal human rulers retaining certain local autonomies. In a manner of hedging their bets, the Indians worship every one of the rulers of Earth, the Outer Gods, local minor horrors of mountain and jungle, and every obscure horror circling distant suns or inhabiting outer voids they catch a rumor of, some of which are hardly known even to Victoria. Indian holy men are a scary bunch, and Indian temple carvings can take years off your life.
Some of the Great Old Ones are more temperamental than others. The domains of the Unquenchable Flame can be described as Emo Steampunk Zoroastrian Persia, the gloom coming perhaps from their ruler’s occasional tendency to materialize in a “sinful” town or city and burn everyone and everything to ashes. Most of the territories of the Czars of OTL are ruled over by the particularly horrible being known as the Czar Unanswerable, whose courtier-priests make Rasputin look modest, clean, and sensible. The Russian people tend to be a nervous bunch, and drink and fight and have sex with the urgency of condemned criminals: of the status of the serfs which make up half the population, it is best not to speak. Inhumanly tall, skeletal things in uniform walk the streets, human Cossacks in tow, sniffing for traitors and subversives. On the other hand, the streets are safe for those with no Bad Thoughts, and nobody goes hungry, although sometimes it is best not to ask what goes into the Borsch.
Egypt and a broad swath of Africa and the Middle East are ruled by the Black Pharaoh, who often walks among His subjects in nigh-human form, performing strange and terrible miracles. The Pharoah is looked upon with some suspicion by the other Old Ones: he is Other in ways all his own, for he is herald to the Outer Gods that his fellow GOOs worship, their occasional mouthpiece and translator. He is resented by the Warrior Priest, for while the Outer Gods do not speak directly to Him, their head worshipper, they at times speak through the Black Pharaoh – who will at times openly mock the very Gods who speak through Him. He mocks the other Great Old Ones, and humanity, and all things, and plays complex games with lives and souls and destinies, sets the other Old Ones against each other without their ever seeing the puppeteers hand, and never lets anyone or anything know what cards He holds or how deep the well of His power. He has amused himself by building in His territories an Empire rich and strange, combining elements of the Islamic culture whose god is no more with elements of ancient Egypt (which He knows as one which watched as the very first stone for the very first pyramid was laid), an empire of fantastic cities of massive stone, vast necropolis in the desert, gardens and luxury and mad drugs and a great many secret cults, some of which hatch dreams of destroying the Pharaoh, and all of which exist for His amusement. It also features trains and telegraphs and electric lighting, for He is fond of technology, which has all sorts of amusing possibilities.
In the mountainous lands of eastern Anatolia there stands a mountain carved into a colossal dark temple. Deep within, a sleepy, furry Old One snoozes between sacrifices, governing mostly through his two monstrous sons over the mountainous lands between Russia, Persia and western Anatolia. He is content with His modest realm, and aside from the regular flow of sacrifices, the varied people of his realm generally are left to their own devices. The one forbidden thing is to stir up a ruckus of war between the many peoples of His realm: troublemakers will soon find themselves, and their towns and villages, swallowed up in the earth. Other Old Ones might be surprised to find the number of visitors who come to the Temple: Armenians, well-informed with their vast trading networks, are supplemented by mole men and lizard men coming by ways underground, along with eyeless black winged things from the Earth’s interior. Lazy the Old One who reclines on His Stone may be: but He’s no Old One’s fool, and he keeps a sleepy half-open eye on the comings and goings of the world.
Africa is divided up between some minor local Horrors and the land grabs of bigger GOOs from beyond its shores: aside from the Nameless Loa and the Black Pharaoh, the vast slug-thing which resides in what in another world would be Lake Victoria and is served by armies of the dead is the only “local” of importance. A bit neglected south of the Sahel and Ethiopia for some centuries, Africa is currently being briskly “brought up to code” and modernized with plenty of forced labor. (Not that there’s anything racist about it – just that the local economy isn’t really advanced enough to get quick results through less strenuous methods. The half-human governors of the area really don’t discriminate, and a European never-do-well might well find themselves out in the sun in their underwear, hacking a road through the Savannah next to a Masai warrior or a Congolese peasant.)
Europe between the Queen’s territory and that of the Czar is divided between the North and South: in the South, the King in Yellow rules from a greatly expanded Constantinople, and in the North the Swallowing Darkness rules from, curiously enough, a former small town known as Berlin, which It choose as its new capital for unknown reasons a couple centuries back. The South is decadent, corrupt, with a backstabbing nobility which includes a number of debauched and distorted human families, a land of masked balls, gorgeous pageants, occasional famines and strange plagues, strange sorceries and hideous vices. Unlike the Black Pharaoh, whose Empire, if cruel and often a bit insane, runs with a certain efficiency, the realms of the King in Yellow always seem at the point of collapse, yet somehow stagger on for another year: the situation is always fatal, but never serious. The King in Yellow is a Lord of Misrule, and what goes on in the vast Palace in Constantinople (and his little 15-acre “summer home” in Rome) would gag the most corrupt of Roman emperors.
To the north, all is cold efficiency, and a pale, shaven-headed bureaucracy of vast extent presides over an empire of steam and steel ruled over by a mixed-blood nobility in which the features of Queen Victoria Gloriana mix in an un-charming way. Berlin, the Dark City, is perpetually covered with a sun-obscuring black cloud, but its glittering stone and metal towers are brilliantly illuminated by electricity, and the inhabitants are making too much money and brilliant (if often Monstrous) art to be bothered by their inability to get a tan. The Thing which dwells in the Fortress of Black Iron has ambitions, and territorial expansion in Africa has not sated them. It envies the political savvy and skill with which the Glorious and Victorious Queen has expanded Her initially modest holdings over the centuries, and her expertise at sucking up to the Lord of R’lyeh.
Said Queen is easygoing as Abominations go, and many of Her human subjects are actually somewhat fond of Her, considering all the growth and progress they have seen over the years, and the low risk of Random Smiting. Of course, there is the steady flow of human sacrifices, but hey, people have always had to give up their lives for Queen and country, right? Wars and such? London is a great center of science, industry, finance, etc. It looks rather like OTL Victorian London, even down to the fashions. (Spring-heeled orthopedic shoes have admittedly arrived much earlier than OTL: they are available at very reasonable prices, along with hats, eveningwear, etc. from Jack’s Men’s Fashions – most pooh-pooh rumors about “curses.”). There are some notable differences: public buildings are built larger than in our London, sometimes grotesquely so (*Buckingham Palace is three times the size of OTL, mostly to accommodate the huge private quarters of the Queen-Empress), the public monuments and statues often include personages that are most hard on the eyes, and often enough, especially at night, one glimpses some living anomalies of the most alarming sort. When the fog is a right old pea-souper, it is recommended to not look too closely at certain great buildings and areas of town: rather disturbing faces tend to form in the fog near them.
Still, the locals take it mostly in stride, and are proud of the way their Empire is a byword for progress. If some of your neighbors may be monstrosities and the Nobility has too many eyes and limbs, well, it takes all sorts to make a world, right? Stiff upper lip, no complaining. Indeed, many locals are more bothered by the increasing number of human immigrants from the Indian and African territories. The nobility may be monsters and there may be inhuman things lodging down the street, but at least they’re British monsters and inhumans.
What sort of monstrosities, what sort of inhumans? It is not only Type 1.0 humans, Old Ones, and hybrids thereof which inhabit the world. (Indeed, the term “hybrids” needs to be unpacked: there is a big difference between the hideous half-OTHER noble progeny of one of the Great Old Ones and the sixth-generation human-indistinguishable file-clerk descendant of one of Them who just woke up to find an eyeball growing on his butt…). Other things have come out of the darkness to worship and serve. Ghouls walk the night and provide…funerary services. Vampires creep from tombs to run bloodbanks and provide medically approved blood lettings. Slimy things part man, part frog, and part fish crawl from the seas to trade fish for flesh and seafloor gold for waterproof surgical tools and icons of Mother Hydra and Dagon sealed in glass. And then there are the worm-men, the mole-men, and the snake-men, all of which make underground excavations more complicated than in our world (the paperwork is worse, for one thing). There are unpleasant goblin-like things in parts of Asia, and the mischief-making little men (for lack of a more pungent name) of the Amazon jungles. Even in the domains of “safer” Great Old Ones, people move about at night in groups with bright torches.
Vampires are often seen in the daytime, in offices so bright and clean and well lit that one fails to notice the lack of windows. Fat, pale, greasy-skinned, the men bald, the women sagging, never showing their teeth when they grin, and dark glasses hiding their terrible eyes. For their loyal service they are allowed to dip into the blood till, and rarely hunt for food in the “traditional” way, which for these vampires involves a distinct lack of seduction and rather a lot of lying immobile in their earthen beds while their vaporous astral forms go forth to batten and gnaw on sleeping humans. The more visibly non-human ghouls, with their snouted faces and claws and rubbery hides, stick to the shadows, the tunnels that extend deep beneath most large cities and at times connect certain shuttered houses: they are generally uninterested in feeding on live humans they may meet at night, but are known for occasionally playing particularly brutal practical jokes. Snake-men usually go about masked when they travel among the primates, and the mole-men and the worm-men rarely venture above ground (a good thing, say those who have seen them).
There are various states in the Americas, and their cities range from the jungle temple complexes of the Amazon to the crowded urban warrens of the Mississippians, clustered around the great mounds, to the Chinese and Japanese-settled California coast, where red and orange-robed Asians dance madly to the sound of kettle drums, crotala, and horns atop the terraces of black pyramids. But the most important nations are the Toltec Empire of Mexico and the Atlantean Republic. The first is a bit Steampunk Aztec, albeit with suspiciously 19th century Mexican-looking outfits (with extra jade and feathers), and the sacrifices are mostly blood-free (indeed, the majority aren’t consumed locally but shipped alive to Mu). The Warrior-Priest’s local representative is a vast abomination that lives beneath Lake Texcoco. Communicating by dreams with lesser horrors and human priests, it is rarely seen save on the occasions when a single vast tentacle emerges from the lake to smite the houses of those who have offended against Itself or He Who Presides. (It’s a bit nervous-making, but the capital is where you have to go to make it big, and anyway the rents are low).
The Atlantean Republic is an extensive area in NE America settled by Europeans due to the low density of the local population and their excessive objections to sacrifice, although a fair minority of Amerindians remains (one good thing the Great Old Ones did was to arrest the progress of European plagues in the Americas, although the method – which involved being stung by swarms of monster flies and ticks in lieu of inoculations – was not really appreciated at the time). It isn’t a very democratic republic, the presidency mostly switching back and forth between a few ancient families with more than a little Great Old One blood, but it is one of the very few places on Earth where humans more-or-less rule themselves (a fanatically devoted worship of He Who Presides Over the New World helps). Not entirely trusting, the Warrior-Priest keeps quite a few of his Spawn in the Republic, where they work jobs from office management to crowd control (AKA crowd stomping). Manhattan has ambitions of eventually displacing London as a world city. There is a sizeable population of human-Deep One hybrids, a major city of the Sea-Born being not far off the coast, and mingling having long taken place with coastal villagers looking for some insurance in the risky seafaring trades. On the downside, the northern territories are not infrequently raided by the Wind-Walker and Its spawn: the generally benign neglect of the Lord of Dreams also means less in the way of protection from the malice of other Old Ones. The current president is a jolly figure, a happy fat man whose partly nonhuman ancestry is probably why he easily carries around his close to 700 pounds. (His bodyguards try to keep people from patting his stomach for luck. It would be bad for his image if his belly bit anybody’s fingers off).
Antarctica is inhabited by a large population, mostly living in vast underground caves that extend to a dark inner ocean. These subjects of the White Lady have been habituated over the generations to cold and darkness, and generally can no longer survive for long at temperatures over 70 degrees. Pallid, blubbery, and with a tendency to waddle, they have come to somewhat resemble the giant, albino penguins they herd. Some of the deeper abysses are inhabited by strange, polypous beings, and the White Lady washes her (for a lack of a better word) hands of those foolish enough to penetrate those deeper darks.
The World Of Nature is enhanced, so to speak, by a variety of monstrous beasts, some summoned from the interior of the planet or the deeps of the seas by the Great Old Ones, others the result of certain Great Old Ones being unable to keep it in their metaphorical pants. Regional authorities are often annoyingly slow to mobilize forces to put an end to the monster which is eating the villagers, due to the necessity of making sure that none of the nobility is closely related enough to object. Vast and strange things are seen in the Oceans, and only lately have steam liners grown large and fast enough that the passengers cease the old habit of dropping small treasure overboard in hopes of winning the aid of the Deep Ones for a safe passage. Also, as a result of the mere presence of many of the Great Old Ones, plants and wildlife mutate in strange and unhealthy ways, and although most such mutations fail to breed or even live very long, there are a number of species which do not match anything on our earth: some, like the Red Upas Tree or the Colossal Tick, are rather serious annoyances, while others, like the Perambulating Cactus or the Uniped Sheep, are more sources of amusement.
Aside from the normal technologies of the late 19th century, there exists a whole parallel world of technologies based on Weird Science and sorcery. Some of these are strongly suppressed by the Old Ones, with only their most obedient creatures (human and otherwise) allowed knowledge of them – for instance, the various methods for reviving the dead. (One Victor F. of Bavaria, whose experiments led to some unpleasantness in his former homeland, is currently travelling England touting his “electrical revivification” treatment for those out of sorts. Clients reports feeling more alive than ever before, if slightly magnetic. Victor F. keeps on the move: his further experiments have kept him going even as he has passed over nine decades in this world, but he needs fresh spare parts ever now and then.)
An extraordinary variety of odd drugs exist for those with the patience and resources to track them down, some of which alter or enhance ones senses in the strangest of ways. Many of them lead to madness, and not always in the most expected way: a certain potion brewed in Darkest Egypt expands ones time sense so a minute may take an hour to pass, while an overdose can lead one to spend a year between each beat of one’s heart and ten thousand years waiting for the effect to pass. Others may allow one to sleep away a decade unchanged, or give perfect recall, or see the things that crawl through our universe as if it were an impalpable mist. Then there is Mr. Henry Hyde’s interesting little formula, which allows one to deal with spiritual constipation by letting the Inner Man out for a while: habitual users are to be warned that with abuse the Inner Man can become the Outer Man for good.
Chemistry tends to blend oddly into what one might call alchemy. A number of strange new elements and products have been developed over the years through methods rather different from those of conventional science. Wonders of modern science, along with railroads and the telegraph and *Pasteurized milk, now include special methods to harden gold to the point it can be used as a structural material, and harden stone to the point where sky-scraping structures that would require steel frames in our world can be built in stone without collapsing, make glass malleable and make gemstones that can be melted and resolidified, and other lost magics of the ancient world.
Medical science is in some ways more advanced than OTL 1881: transfusions for purposes mundane and horrific have been normal for a long while, and means of transplantation, limb grafting, etc. are well beyond OTL. Epidemic disease remains something of a problem: strange pestilences can breed in the bodies of part-human hybrids…people use a lot of soap and disinfectants.
The general rise in living standards and lifespan over the last few centuries nowithstanding (which takes place even in the realm of the King in Yellow, where progress is merely masked by sudden and alarming, if temporary, reverses) there is a great deal of discontent: the well-educated upper and middling classes of the more advanced nations have perhaps reached the point where a revolution of rising expectations might take place in a world not ruled by immortal monsters. After all, modern industry, finance, etc. is generally run by humans: could progress not continue to take place if the ruling non-human and half-human elite were, er, go on an extended holiday? Such notions are generally kept private and not acted on, but there are a number of secret societies with ambitious goals and the willingness to act. Some carry out murders of the hybrid nobility with knife and bomb: others spread propaganda: some even work to set Old One against Old One through misinformation and deception. Many, alas, kill far more purely human (or at least not visibly monstrous) “collaborators” than they do inhuman noblemen. And not all are confined to purely mundane tools: while only a few Great Old Ones allow their human subjects to learn the darker sorcerous arts, and then only those which are carefully vetted and controlled (human mages make useful servants, but there always risks: see paragraph 10), a few always have managed to slip through the cracks. The Underground includes not just normal humanity but wizards and witches, discontented part-monster hybrids not monstrous enough to get a government job, the occasional hideous freak resulting from Old Ones carrying out experimental sorceries on humans and failing to properly clean up the mess afterward, the priests and servants of rebellious local god-things. Russia is particularly troubled by a nihilistic terrorist movement which call themselves the Nezhit, for they consider themselves men and women already dead.
The few remaining Christians and Muslims, who hold their religious ceremonies in secret and pray for an eventual divine liberation from their suffering, generally stay away from terrorist action: they survive through invisibility, and religious terrorism would be painting a big ol’ target on themselves.
Things have abruptly changed.
On March 13, while the Czar Unanswerable was reviewing It’s army, an explosive device of unknown nature detonated with the force of thousands of tons of normal high explosive, producing incredible heat and leveling everything within a mile radius. It apparently had been built into the colossal reviewing stand upon which the Czar crouched. Fortunately, the review had been held outside any major cities, so deaths were under 70,000, mostly human, mostly military.
As for the Czar Itself, it is currently uncertain as to whether It is still alive: psychic messages have been received which indicate the Czar’s consciousness still survives, but its physical form has been too badly dispersed to recombine anytime soon. Whether alive or not, the Czar is in no position to enforce Its rule at present, rebellions are breaking out in various parts of the Empire, and cities are burning. The other Great Old Ones are, to say the least, in one hell of a tizzy, and the security crackdown is pretty much global, even as plans are being formulated for the proper disposition of the Czar’s territories until It returns, if It can. Anti-GOO groups world-wide are celebrating this great victory, even as security services round up anyone there has ever been even a breath of suspicion connected to.
In R’lyeh, the Warrior Priest finds no savor in his latest sacrifices.
Riding the winds in pursuit of Wendigos, the Lord of the Great Abyss lets out a huntsman’s howl.
And in a dark palace by an ancient river, the Black Pharaoh laughs and laughs and laughs…
 Or those who are claimed to have offended, anyway. As human tyrants always have known, a certain amount of random, unpredictable smiting helps promote the awed terror thing.