The Lost Ages
Chapter 0 - The Lost Ages
When the Earth was young and even the Gods themselves were but an unrealized possibility, beings of power raw and roughly‐formed held dominion over the land. The Titans, they were called, for they were the very definition of might. Kronos, the greatest of them, and Gaia, his wife, ruled them and in turn they were masters of all the Earth. Tethys, Bor, Themis, Atum, Hyperion, Oceanus, and many others made up the ranks of these Lords of the Lost Ages.
For time untold, Kronos and his fellows in power ruled unquestioned. A multitude of mainly-forgotten beings and creatures walked the lands, some created by the Titans themselves, and all paid homage to the unquestioned lords of the eternal Earth. Two amongst these races are of concern to us, for they were chief among the servants of the Titans and their influence persists even today, many Ages hence.
First, the Elemental Dragons. Winged creatures of fearsome and fundamental power, each of a type – Fire, Ice, Earth, and Air. Upon these ancient monstrosities the Titans rode to war against armies we know – the Shadow Legion foremost among them – and forces we know not even the rumor of legend.
Next, the diverse folk of the Faerie Folk. Noble and callow, beautiful and hideous. If the Elemental Dragons were steeds of the Titans, the Faerie were the stable masters and the sergeants, the priests and the princes. In all their forms, the Faerie were filled with the pure, chaotic potency that characterized those who managed to survive the wild, brutal Lost Ages. The Faerie differed greatly in both form and ability, and there was a roughly‐enforced hierarchy among them with King Oberon and Queen Titania ruling their race and reporting directly to their Titan emperors, and the lowest of the Faerie, whom the rest deemed fit only to perform menial tasks, chief amongst these being the Cyclopes.
Beyond Oberon and Titania, though, lay one Faerie that exceeded them in power, and to whom all Faerie owed allegiance and perhaps eventual survival: Agalarna, the Spirit Mother. The Faerie had been created by Hyperion, and the first born to Hyperion’s craft was Agalarna. Potent beyond any Faerie after, the Spirit Mother was nearly a God in her own right and though she did not exercise formal authority over her people, even the Faerie King and Queen treated her as an object of adoration and near‐worship. From her, it seemed, the strength of the Faerie blood flowed, and for this reason Hyperion deemed this first Faerie creation a mistake, for he saw that Agalarna might serve the Faerie as a symbol around which to rally and perhaps as inspiration to be more than servants to the Titans.
With time, the Faerie did indeed grow discontented with their state of servitude. “Why should we serve? They may be greater in power but we are far greater in number. It is time for the Folk to chart the course of our people.” Rumors of rebellion reached the ears of Hyperion, their ultimate father, who brought it to Kronos and all of his kin. They met in council, and debated the fate of their chief servants.
The Titans were nothing if not capricious and arbitrary in their power and they determined that the Faerie would best be punished for their impudence by sending their Spirit Mother away. They could not slay her, for her death would greatly diminish the power of their Faerie servants and perhaps even ruin them as a race. By exiling the beloved Agalarna, the greatest power among the Faerie would be safely removed from the influence of the others, and the strength in the blood of the Folk would be muted enough to serve as a harsh reprimand. Hyperion, taking the defiance of his creations more personally than did the other Titans, also demanded that one of every five Faeries be executed, to drive home their status as servants rather than free beings in control of their own destinies.
The Titans gathered the Faerie and informed them of their collective punishment. Dismay swept through the ranks of the Folk as well as an emotion new to them: Fear. On all the Earth, only the Titans exceeded them in power and only the Elemental Dragons rivaled them. The Faerie were servants, it is true, but they were first among the servants of the Titans and heretofore had never needed to be disciplined by their creator and masters. Those to be executed were taken and slain on the spot. The Faeries wailed in anguish and gnashed their teeth, but what could they do against the combined might of the Titans?
Despite losing one‐fifth of their race minutes before, the cruelest blow was still to come. Kronos himself took Agalarna, the Spirit Mother, and placed her on a comet that was passing by Earth. He sent the comet off in space, on a straight line, such that it would never return to Earth. Agalarna would recede further and further away from her people with every passing moment, for eternity. The Faerie Folk felt a blow to themselves as they had not believed possible. With time, as the comet the Spirit Mother was on sped away from them, they felt the potency in their blood diminish somewhat and become muted. Though still fearsome in their strength, the Faerie knew they were now less than they had been, and that they would never be what they were when the world was still young. Never again would they bask in the glory of Agalarna, the first of their kind, and forever would they languish in servitude to their cruel Titan masters.
The Titans celebrated their own wisdom and judgment, feeling they had done well. The Faerie Folk had been put in their place and the Spirit Mother would never serve as a rallying point for their servants again. They were wrong. What Kronos and his fellows could not know is that they had erred, and erred greatly. It was not the plan of sending Agalarna into exile itself that would return to plague them; rather it was the execution. Despite their intention to send the comet on which Kronos had placed the Spirit Mother straight away from Earth, even Kronos, the Lord of the Titans, did not achieve perfection in this endeavor. He did not propel the comet in a straight line but in one that curved ever, ever so slightly, such that eventually the comet was destined to return in a loop and pass close by the Earth again. The Titans had sealed their fates, though it would be uncountable years before they would be haunted by the specter of their actions.
The Coming of Djall
Millennia beyond measure passed. Great wars between the unknown inhabitants of the Lost Ages raged. The Maar built their Orean Symmetry, imprisoning themselves in its time‐warped influence. Nations with names our greatest scholars may have encountered only once in a lifetime of study rose and fell. Who among us today knows anything of the Rik’tul Horde or the Celestial Empire of the Sumar? Above all these reigned the Titans and the Faerie who served them, and for all this long time the Faerie were diminished by the absence of their Spirit Mother and made sorrowful by the thought of her alone in the empty void that lay beyond the boundaries of the Earth.
They were right to fear for Agalarna, but not because she was alone. Out there in the blackness and emptiness she had acquired a companion. This companion was unsought for and surely unwelcome, for he represented such concentrated evil as the Earth had not yet seen. Yes, the Titans could be cruel and capricious, and the mortal denizens of the Earth could be as good or terrible to each other as they are now, but no being of the Earth had previously encountered anything that had the kind of hideous malevolence that what hitched itself to the huge ball of compressed silt and ice Agalarna sat on possessed. It was a mind with a will to terrorize, use up, and consume the essence of all that was beautiful, hopeful, or bright about what was around it, and the Spirit Mother shone like a flame to it, cast against the uniform, empty background of the deep void as she was.
It was Djall, the Dark Lord, and while he didn’t know where the comet was going, he knew that Agalarna was something powerful and beautiful, and that he must corrupt, torture, and twist her until she was a husk and he had sated himself upon her essence. He is a parasite and a predator, feeding off the essence of those he conquers with his power. For dozens of millennia she was unable to escape his torments and predations, and bit by bit, the Spirit Mother was broken and sapped of a good deal of her power.
Eventually, inevitably, the comet we now know as Djall’s Hammer returned to the vicinity of Earth, bearing with it the beaten and shattered Agalarna, who could not leave the comet, and Djall himself, who saw in the Earth a bounty of near‐endless proportion on which to turn his crushing malice. He could no more have resisted the Earth than a starving wolf could resist steaming, fresh meat placed in front of it, and so he crossed the gap between himself and the Earth, leaving the Spirit Mother to fly off away from the Earth once again. But while Agalarna was close to Earth, the Faeries felt as if the strength in their blood had been renewed. They were stronger than they had been since the days before their Spirit Mother had been cast off into the great void, though now it faded again as Djall’s Hammer flew once again away, away into the unknown.
Djall sensed immense power in some of the beings that called Earth home, and he fled to the interior of the planet, deep into its core, where even the Titans did not go for the presumption that there was nothing there. He watched. He learned. As he passed time within the depths, he discovered the entrance to Tartarus, a place lying outside of our reality. Peering in, he saw that this was an inhabited plane, but much poorer in life than the Earth he was hiding inside of. A race who called themselves Daemons lived within, still young and primitive as a people.
Though he could peer into Tartarus through this, the Tartarin Door, and see within, the door would not permit him through. It was as if this metaphysical door had a small viewing window built into it but the rest of the door was fully shut and locked. He struck the door, cast alien magics at it, and attempted to find a way to widen the ‘window’ that permitted him to see what was on the other side, but to no avail. Then he noticed that in the center of the great door lay a small ‘key’ of pure power given physical form. Its aura was somehow muted and Djall could barely detect it, but nonetheless there it was. Manipulating it with his own power, for touching it physically would surely be a poor idea, he turned this key and opened the door.
Djall entered Tartarus to discover what he could. Within, he found an endless ruined landscape of blasted rock and grey ash, and Daemons picking a meager survival from what little else lived or grew there. There was, to Djall, but one notable thing about Tartarus. Far from its portal to the core of the Earth was something massive that radiated power as a God might. The Starscythe, it was called, for legend among the Daemons held that it had come from the stars, falling through the sky like a flaming scythe cutting through cosmic wheat.
Djall traveled to the Starscythe, killing all in his path, and drew the great weapon from the ground. As he did so, he ripped a hole in reality with the planar‐splitting edge of the Scythe while his hands began to smolder from the sheer power unleashed. Djall screamed a rolling wave of pain that blasted across all of Tartarus, and beyond, through the tear in reality that the Starscythe had created and into the realm of Hell, where Ur, the King of Demons, reigned.
Ur was a mighty force, supreme on the plane of Hell, but had not encountered planar rifts previously. When Djall’s scream revealed to Ur that there were places the might of Ur had not yet been felt in, the infernal Demon King reached through the rift to see what he could see. He saw the masses of pitiful Daemons and noted with surprise that they bore a resemblance to many of the Demons. This raised the question of their origins, but it was a mystery to be pondered another day, for his attention was immediately drawn to Djall and the single most powerful object of power Ur had ever seen – the Starscythe – lying at Djall’s feet while Djall continued to writhe in pain.
The Lord of Hell rushed forward and grabbed the Starscythe, for he feared neither fire nor flame. Raising it in triumph, he struck at Djall, thinking to kill him. Though wracked with pain, Djall possessed enough awareness to dodge the blow and flee back towards the Tartarin Door. Leaping through, he slammed the door shut, turned the key, and locked it, bringing Ur up short. Djall had escaped, but with knowledge that he felt sure no being of Earth had. He would use this for his dark purposes.
For centuries, Djall nursed his wounds and continued to watch and wait. The Titans were mighty beings indeed, but Djall had power of his own and had a major advantage: He knew of the Titans, but they did not know of him. For a thousand years, Djall managed to play his familiar parasitic role and leeched potency bit by bit from the Titans, who did not notice, for they wasted their vast oceans of might as one does who feels that a resource is unlimited. He knew that it was but a matter of time until he was noticed, and laid his plans, to be hatched upon the eventuality of that time.
It was Gaia who discovered him, in the end, for among all the Titans she was most attuned to the subtle ebbs and flows of the natural world. Djall’s alien, corrupting presence eventually flowed, however weakly, from deep within the Earth where he hid to the surface world, and eventually Gaia felt the tapestry of life become warped ever so lightly. Enlisting Kronos and the other Titans, they discovered Djall as he knew they would. He was prepared.
He allowed himself to be captured, and wove an enthralling tale of the power to be gained in Tartarus as represented by the Demon King Ur, and of the Starscythe itself. He showed the Titans his still terribly wounded hand and they believed, for they were a greedy race and they wished to believe. They were much tempted by the tales of Djall, and he struck a deal with the Titans to show them how to enter Tartarus in return for a place among them, as an equal. Djall, of course, had no intention of merely being an equal to these ancestors of our Gods. He intended to reign supreme and suck the essence out of the Earth and everything in it or on it. He would be far more than a Titan if his plans were realized.
Djall led the Titans to Tartarus, but for Gaia who did not trust Djall and said as much to her brothers, sisters, and husband. Though powerful even amongst such a worthy assemblage, the other Titans viewed Gaia as somewhat weak for her strong ties to life on Earth that they viewed as below them. They ignored her advice as over‐cautious and followed Djall to the Tartarin Door.
Djall unlocked the Door, and first Kronos and then the other Titans rushed through, eager to gain advantage over the others by gathering power to himself or herself first. Djall merely waited until they had bulled past, shut the Door, and locked it. With a single stroke he had caused all but one of the greatest powers on Earth to be sequestered away into another reality. For all practical purposes, he had killed them. Nobody else on Earth knew the location of the Tartarin Door, and Djall was certainly not going to tell. It “locked” only from the Earth‐side, and Djall managed to rip the key out, permanently shutting the Door.
The Gods Awaken
He surveyed the Earth. He had leeched away enough power from the Titans to be at least the equal of Gaia, and he was ruthless. Dark of soul, and ruthless. He began to corrupt those of the Lost Ages, of whom no record survives, and his power increased. Within mere decades Djall, now the Dark Lord of the Earth, was worshipped by more than one nation and Gaia knew she had to move quickly. She mourned the loss of her husband Kronos, and her fellow Titans, but her first loyalty had grown to become the Earth itself and the beings of good will who inhabited it. She moved to counter Djall.
The Titans, especially Kronos, had many children, but Kronos, Hyperion, and the other eldest among the Titans were wise enough to know that the next generation might seek to supplant the previous one, and so they put their children in a place called the Nexus Void, where time does not exist. There, the nascent children of the Titans – beings we know as the Gods – rested there unconscious and unaging, held in stasis, for perhaps millions of years in the case of the first‐born among them, such as Odin, Zeus, Hera, and Ra. There were dozens and dozens of these children of the Titans there in the Nexus Void, and Gaia awoke them all. She was mother to many of them, and aunt to the rest. She awakened them with a purpose in mind: Drive back this new, alien force called Djall.
The God Wars
The newly‐born but nearly fully‐formed Gods swarmed out of the Nexus Void that had served as their cradle for so long, grateful to Gaia for their freedom but full of righteous anger at their interminable imprisonment. With the Titans locked away, there was only one target for their rage: Djall, who sought mastery of this world that they felt was now, by rights, theirs.
The Faerie Folk, who had been overjoyed by the disappearance of the Titans saw that one way or another, they were going to once again be relegated to the second tier, either as slaves to Djall or, at best, servants of these upstart Gods, provided they could even survive the budding war of the great powers of the Earth.
They fled to a place near to the Nexus Void, which was both of the Earth’s reality and yet set apart from it, and of which they became aware only when Gaia awoke the Gods. The Faerie settled on its outskirts where time was slow but yet flowed, and built a new realm for the Folk to dwell in and await the inevitable return of Djall’s Hammer and the return of their Spirit Mother, that Faerie might may wax once again.
Their new home was a wonderland of the odd, for the Faerie are a diverse folk and they had diverse desires. Forests in deserts, areas built to be inhabited by giants, bizarre colors and discordant music. They called it the Otherworld, and from within its center, from the massive Elysian Court, Oberon and Titania ruled the people of the Faerie. The years outside flew by while the Faerie endured and multiplied.
The war between the Gods and Djall lasted for time untold. Gods fell and died, and Djall was wounded again and again by the Gods. Much life on Earth was scoured clean from the sheer power released in the clashes between the Gods and Djall. The Faerie had been wise to flee. The Elemental Dragons were co‐opted by both the Gods and Djall, and nearly all perished in the endless conflict.
The Earth became quiet as the peoples of it fell, some as innocent bystanders, some while participating in the war, either fighting for the Dark Lord or against him.
Finally, after endless aeons of Earth‐scorching war, it was clear to Gaia that what life remained on the Earth was at risk, that she could lose everything she cared about. The Gods were weakened and even the mightiest of them had been worn down by battle after unending battle. Djall had accounted himself mightily, fighting against the Gods and Gaia both, but he himself was exhausted from the struggle.
None know, and perhaps none will ever know, how Djall and Gaia came to some accord, but at some point the war simply ended. The enmity between them did not diminish, but open warfare directly between them, or directly between Djall and the Gods, ceased. Henceforth it appeared that the war would be conducted largely indirectly, through agents of one side or the other.
It bears mentioning that the White Priests of Atan believe that the Great Mother and Lord Djall are but servants or manifestations of powers even greater than themselves, known as the Creator and the Demiurge. We have multiple pieces of evidence to indicate that this may be the case. Certainly, many scholars believe that there must be powers greater than Gaia or Djall to whom they are beholden, but in matters of the great Powers it is difficult to ascertain truth.
The Age of Legend
Chapter I - The Age of Legend - Beginnings
Many aeons ago, at the very beginning of the Age of Legend, Gaia perceived a threat and was possessed by a need. To sate her new desire, she caused the Amanita to awaken from their slumber in the shadows of the forests, and filled them with purpose. This we know from the Amanita themselves, whom we commonly call Shroomies today. What none have ever discovered is what the purpose the Great Mother awoke the Shroomies for was. It remains an inscrutable first move in her renewed war with Djall. They appear to search for something, but the few Amanita that will even acknowledge our presence do not seem to understand the question when asked what it is they seek. Precious little can be said with surety about anything between the awakening of the Amanita, and the awakening of the Treekin many thousands of years later except for one act whose influence continues to be felt today: The creation of Salamanzar, the Protolich, by Lord Djall, a seemingly much more powerful first move than Gaia’s.
Salamanzar, the Protolich
The first of what we now know as the Undead was birthed by the darkest of powers in the time before the Beasts arose in the Age of Legend. Salamanzar. His very name inspires dread of the most primal kind, for he and his progeny have been a plague on this Earth since before our kind arose. A surviving fragment of an ancient history written by Al‐Idrisi, one of the fabled eight Mystarchs, says this concerning Salamanzar's birth:
And so it came to pass that Lord Djall saw the creations of the Earthmother, Gaia, and was displeased. He fell to brooding for many days, deep in thought as to what he should do in his dwelling below the surface, in the vast caverns and tunnels of the UnderRealm. The creation of the Amanita seemed a direct challenge to Djall's will to power. That something so momentous should happen outside of his control demanded answer.
As he thought upon what Gaia had done, he became wroth with anger. Thus possessed by rage, he clenched his teeth upon his mighty fist and bit down, rending the very flesh from his hand and spitting it aside. When his blood had cooled and the mad rage had passed, he gazed upon his discarded, still-quivering flesh and saw the answer to his problem. For the flesh had life without blood.
For many days and many nights he labored without pause and with singular purpose. At midnight on the seventh night, he stepped aside and gazed upon the product of his energies. "Go forth," spoke Djall, "and do my bidding. You are he who shall cast this world into darkness in my name, and they shall know you and feel fear. I name thee Salamanzar, and command you thusly." And the world knew Salamanzar.
And the world knew fear.
Though Salamanzar now walked the halls of the UnderRealm with footsteps that would echo throughout time, he was yet young in his power, and the world above remained blissfully ignorant of the grave threat below. During this time of innocence, the Treekin, like their distant brethren the Amanita, awoke in the forests of the Earth. Children of Gaia more so than even the Shroomies, the Treekin have walked in the light since their birth, acting as powerful agents for the protection of the forests and jungles of the Earth – the greatest bastions of uncorrupted pure life that we know of.
Djall saw what Gaia created and laughed. The Amanita had done nothing but wander the Earth, appearing to search for something but never finding it. The Treekin mainly kept to the forested swaths of the land, and while they certainly had power, they did not have numbers, nor did they seem to possess the inclination to do aught but protect the forests. These were no match for the might of Salamanzar.
Many millennia after the forests first heard the arboreal voices of the Treekin our true history begins, for it is here that our earliest forebears awoke: the first Beasts. Intended as a wild card in the war against Djall, the Taurians, Atavians, Bandicoons, Felines, and all the rest were created by Gaia but granted a nature unlike that of the Shroomies or Treekin, whose fundamental natures are very similar among their kind. Gaia imbued Beasts with a strong will and a questioning nature. The Beasts were born loyal to Gaia but had the freedom to choose their own destinies. It's unknown how many types of Beasts there were, but many did not survive the Age of Man, and are lost to us forever. No doubt many more are unknown to us, living in foreign lands that we may never see.
And what of the Gods? There were many more Gods then, in the Age of Legend, than now, for so many fell just a few hundred years ago to the might of the God‐killing Sphinxes. Odin, whose brothers Ve and Vili had perished in the fight against Djall, the leader of the northern Gods. Zeus and Hera, Ra, Marduk, Hades, Curnon, Aegir and many others among the elder Gods. Soon, they had children and multiplied, bringing forth such as Thor and his half‐brother Loki. Apollo and his twin sister Artemis. Bast, Sethis, Ares, Nemesis, Danae, Anubis, Pan, and the many who are no longer with us, from Baldur and Freya to Hephaestus and Aphrodite, to Isis and Horus. The Gods each gravitated to certain areas of the Earth and the Beasts who lived there began to worship them for the protection they offered from the forces of Djall who, in turn, vowed to work to twist what Gods and Beasts he could to serve his cause. He whispered in Salamazar’s ear and set events in motion.
Chapter 2 - The Undead Genesis
The rise of the Beasts did not go unnoticed in the UnderRealm. In these new creatures, Salamanzar saw a future in which they could vex him as he carried out his Dark Lord's will, and was troubled. Our love, compassion, courage, and kindness were evident, but so also were our greed, hatred, violence, and fear. Here were beings that, unlike the Amanita, the Treekin, or Salamanzar himself, were possessed of both good and evil natures, something not seen before. Djall commanded Salamanzar and he, in turn, pledged that the Beasts, who quickly came to outnumber the Amanita or the Treekin, would either be brought to heel as his walking cattle or must be wiped out. Retreating to his abode, he dwelt for many years, communing with Lord Djall and preparing.
The Abyssian Locus
When he deemed himself ready, he descended into the deep places of the Earth and there sought out the Abyssian Locus, the very place where the hand of Djall was first felt. Only here would even Salamanzar, who was now the most powerful being to walk the Earth, be able to command the power necessary to set his plan in motion. Here, at the place on Earth where Djall's influence had longest been felt, Salamanzar was able to exert his immense might and create unlife, as his Lord had done to bring him into existence.
First formed was Abidan, which means "My father is judge" in the Old Tongue, and then Abiel, or "God is my father." These were the Archliches: dark beings of great arcane power whose loyalty to Salamanzar could not be questioned. Salamanzar looked upon what he had wrought, and deemed it good. There in the Abyssian Locus, he taught his cruel new captains how to form unlife, and commanded them to create an army with which to scour the sun‐lit world of all those who may oppose him.
The Host of Salamanzar
For centuries the undead lords practiced their art in secret, using the evil energy of the Abyssian Locus to craft foul beasts of great power and wicked intent. Many were the lesser liches formed in their image, and many abominations too terrible to name were birthed and chained in the black pits of the UnderRealm, awaiting Salamanzar's war. Still, the armies of the UnderRealm were unprepared for a direct conflict with the sons and daughters of the Earth, the Beasts. Fearsome liches and great mindless fiends they had, but even the powerful magic of the Archliches could not conjure a host of unliving soldiers to match the sheer numbers they must face should the Beasts prove incorruptible, for the Beasts had truly multiplied quickly. For years Abidan and Abiel labored within the Locus, honing their skills and seeking a way to create a nigh‐endless army of undead, while Salamanzar communed with Djall and sought even greater power.
How terribly ironic that it was the Beasts themselves which provided the solution to this problem. It was during these dark times that a small band of curious travelers stumbled across the entrance to the UnderRealm and cautiously began to explore it. Their names and origins have long since been lost to history, but their tale is timeless in its horror and depravity. All too quickly, the liches sensed the presence of intruders in their demesnes, and in a few short days the small band of intrepid Beasts found themselves caged in the very heart of those black caverns: The Abyssian Locus itself. For ten long years these Beasts were subjected to trials best left undescribed as the Archliches sought ways to pervert and twist their very essence. In the end, none of them could endure the constant assault upon both flesh and spirit, and each Beast breathed his last breath in that dark pit.
But the Archliches had learned what they needed, and discovered the secrets which would allow them to match the children of Gaia in battle. Two races of great evil, easily bred, were raised from the corpses of the beasts. From Abidan arose the Mummies, beings of great strength and great magic, corpses preserved by finely cured wrappings and dark incantations. Suten‐Hamu, first raised, was named lord among them and given the secret of their further creation. In time, he and his high priests were to raise a great army of mummified warriors.
From Abiel arose the vampires, wicked creatures long of tooth and fleet of foot, hearts burning with hatred and instilled with a ravenous desire to feast on the blood of the living. The first-formed was called Vinga, first Palatine of the vampires, and he ruled his Broods with an iron fist as they raided the living to increase their ever‐swelling ranks.
As time passed and the Beasts grew ever more numerous upon the face of the Earth, so too did the forces of darkness in the UnderRealm. Salamanzar saw great potential in the creations of his captains, and was pleased. By his command, the dark legions began construction of a massive city in Golgotha, the largest and deepest of the UnderRealm caverns. Here, near the Abyssian Locus, was to be the seat of undead power. After three centuries under the watchful and unwavering eyes of the Archliches, their labor was completed and the city was finished. Naming it Sheol, Salamanzar took the throne and continued in his preparations for war with the children of the Earth.
Chapter 3 - The Early Beasts
Time has erased many of the events that transpired during the Age of Legend, but the early origins of the more numerous races, primarily from Europe, have survived in the oral traditions passed down from our forefathers. As the diverse groups of Beasts arose and began to populate the Earth, the beginnings of civilization took root. The Ursines of Midgaard and the Felines of the Nile were the earliest to arise that we know of, and their cultures also ranked among the great of the Age of Legend. Soon after, tribes and communities of Beasts were to be found all over the known world, from the Frozen Wastes of the North to the harsh deserts of Africa.
The frog‐like Anura are a singular exception among the races of Beast in that we know exactly how they came to be, and when. As told in the Mystarch Dominion section of the history, the Anura were created as slaves by the Mystarch Tarchon, and how they rebelled against him when the Beasts rose against the Mystarch rule. When the Covenant was formed, the Anura were judged worthy by Gaia the Earthmother and were granted full Beasthood, after which they eagerly bound themselves to the Covenant. Since that time, so long ago, it has not been uncommon for some Anura to be almost fanatical in their devotion to Gaia and to the good of Beasts. Though they never had a homeland, the Anura have, in recent times, begun the first steps in constructing a city of Anura and for Anura, in the Polissya Swamp, which they are calling Moonfall.
The sharp‐eyed and sharp‐taloned Atavians can trace their ancestry back to the cool oceanic coasts of western Tartessian Peninsula. Here, their feathered forefathers made nests along the beaches and inland mountains, and spent their time fishing and trading with other primitive Beasts. While their primary diet consisted of fish, hunting parties also frequently scouted into the mainland and preyed upon the lesser animals. Their enemies knew them as swift and fearful foes, and their cunning was legendary. Many of their legends tell of Ariviir, who single‐handedly felled great dire wolves from the north by feigning fearful chase and leading his pursuers into snares, whence the hunted became the hunter. It is often said that he and his tribe were the inspiration for the modern Cazadorians and their fight against the second Anubian invasion. Later, the descendants of Ariviir begat the nation of Tartessia, of which little is left today but the name, though it is known that it had contact with the Dog Soldiers of Amizeh across the narrow sea.
East of the Great Forest, in the rolling hills and woods of the northern mainland, in the area we now know as the Blighted Wood, lies the ancestral home of the Bandicoons. In those days, of course, the taint of the Rotted had not been dreamt of yet, and the forests here were still the domain of the Beasts. The early Bandicoons were quiet, peaceful beings who loved learning the secret paths and many plants and trees of the woods and hills. Their children would often play with the Treekin to the west, who taught their kind the powerful druidic magic that has sustained the Beasts through many a hard time. Though jovial and good‐hearted, the ancient Bandicoons kept largely to themselves, preferring the simple comforts of hearth and home within their villages to the dangerous and noisy life of adventuring. Any foe wandering into their territory quickly learned the difference between peaceful and harmless, however, for though the earliest Bandicoons built no cities nor dreamed dreams of conquest and martial glory, they were and are cunning and fearless in defense of what is theirs. The legend goes that these early Bandicoons were not dispersed from their homeland until the Bleakness, and even then resisted the rampaging Undead for decades through the power of an artifact claimed to be from the Lost Ages. Some stories call this artifact the Stygian Eye, some the Boncairn, and some the Trillium Shard. There's no agreement on what this magical relic did to protect the Bandicoons, but in the end, it was all for naught, as they succumbed to the Bleakness and scattered to the four winds like virtually all Beasts in those terrible times.
The earliest of the Bounders awoke on the isle of Hibernia, far to the northwest. As the Emerald Isle was then devoid of threat, the Bounders' days were idyllic and filled with leisure, abundant food, and friendship among themselves and with the occasional Hart or Broccan visitor from the isle to the East. The Bounders had everything they needed readily available and had no need for leadership nor commerce. They affectionately referred to their king‐less realm as the Emerald Kingdom. So things were on Hibernia, relatively untouched by events beyond their little world, until the vivacious Bounders were finally driven out of their Emerald Kingdom by the Primal Invasion, never to return.
Famous in the stories for both their strength of arm and great courage, the warrior clans of the Broccans hail from the Scotian highlands. While many of the Broccans practiced farming and formed small communities there, the young warriors spent most of the year in small raiding parties organized by their individual clans and headed to the lowlands to hunt the wild cats and brown bears that could be found there. Occasionally the clans would range far to the south and raid the settlements of the Whitestone Harts, but these rarely resulted in anything approaching open warfare. Honor was paramount within the warrior clans, and Curnon save the Beast that insulted that honor. Though the Broccan clans were not scholars and kept few records, modern Broccans claim that their early ancestors were the first to take up worship of Curnon, God of the Hunt and it is true that in modern times, the High Priest of Curnon has been a Broccan more often than any other race.
High in the peaks of the Carpathian mountains, the goat‐like Capricans carved their early homes out of the very rock and dirt of the mountainside. The conditions must have been harsh indeed, but the first of the Capricans were a hard people, known for their stubborn natures and strong will. An old saying, perhaps from as far back as this time says, "Better to try and squeeze blood from a stone than move a Caprican." In fact, they lived quite happily in their mountain home. They spent their days growing what little food they could in the rocky soil and mining the caves of the Carpathians, in which they built towns and villages. When traders would visit, the Capricans managed to do quite well for themselves by trading gems and precious minerals for necessities they lacked and luxuries to make the stinging bite of the mountain winters more tolerable. Though we know they built small cities in shallow cave systems to hide from the winter, none have survived the ravages of time, aside from one important exception. Two centuries ago, when Janus Redclaw and his band of vampire hunters found what they named the Warren, they found a ruined city that they were able to determine had been a city of the ancient Capricans named Kar Luthin.
The Fangren history is largely shrouded due to the unfortunate events which eventually befell their people. The few scraps of legend which have survived trace the Fangren origins back to a small tribe led by two great warriors, Romulus and Remus. Stories say that they founded a glorious city in the heart of the Tiber Valley. The legend states that their city was built on the western bank of the river Tiber, but once completed, a quarrel erupted as to who would be the leader. Remus was said to be the wiser brother, but Romulus the stronger, and also the firstborn. Their debate raged for days, but the city's people began to lean towards the eloquent Remus. Acting quickly to protect his birthright, Romulus sent assassins to slay his brother. Warned of the coming treachery by a spy Remus had placed in Romulus's household, Remus fled to the eastern bank and quickly gathered his forces to him. Some say that there is no bad blood such as that between those of the same blood, and this proved sadly true. They warred for half a score years, brother against brother, Fangren against Fangren, until at last Remus was forced to flee, and disappeared from even legend. Romulus, victorious, built his city of Roma into one of great wealth and power. The early Fangren were said to be a noble and courageous people despite their tumultuous beginnings, and great warriors besides, widely respected for their strength and wisdom both. They loved life, and honed their minds as well as their bodies. This makes their destiny all the more tragic, for these same qualities were what ultimately attracted the vampires to them, to decimate the Fangren and birth the Ferals. Their people thirsted for blood no more than a common sword does, and yet the cruel hands that twisted and wielded them bathed them in it for centuries.
Felines first arose on the banks of the Nile long ago, among the rushes and reeds. There, along the life‐giving river, they formed the Badarian Dynasty ‐ perhaps the earliest real nation of Beasts known to us, though the Ursines of Midgaard would take issue with that claim and it's uncertain as to who takes pride of place. Half‐remembered stories and legends make cryptic references that some have interpreted as indicating a true Feline civilization very early in the history of the Beasts, but none can place a name to any Beast before Beowulf of the Ursines. It's likely the matter of which came first ‐ Midgaard or Badaria ‐ will never be decided, for the deeds of those days have washed away in the storm of time. The Badarians grew, for their time, rich in culture, and began to master the magical arts, which Felines seem naturally well‐adapted to. They took up the worship of Ra, the Sun God, and basked in the light of his glory. They grew rich and powerful, and inspired envy in the Beasts around them, and they became arrogant, and decadent. Though it's not certain how the war started, the Badarians and the Dog Soldiers of Amizeh, to the West, went to war. Perhaps they warred over some great wrong one side committed against the other, or perhaps it was simply the natural evolution of a civilization grown wealthy enough to attract the attention of its neighbors, or perhaps they simply didn't like each other. Whatever the cause, the Badarians and the Dog Soldiers warred for nine generations before the Felines were swept from the Nile. The surviving Badarians fled and after a long journey which cost many lives, they arrived in a land far to the north of their former home, sandwiched between two giant inland seas. They named their new home Hayasa and settled there, resolving to live humbler lives and avoid the attention of potential enemies. It's often opined among historians that this choice of location represents, through no fault of the Felines, one of the most unfortunate decisions in the history of Beastdom, for Hayasa is strategically situated, and is directly in the path of any southern movement by the hosts of the People of the Skull. The history of the Felines is largely one of sorrow as a result of this decision, though the last one hundred years or so represents a happy exception.
The kingdom of the Foxen is remembered more as an idea than a history now. It is said, and passionately felt among many of the Foxen, that the Border Holds, so‐called as they lay the furthest east of friendly Beast nations known to those of the time, were among the most civilized of Beasts, skilled in the arts of war, art, commerce, and lordship. Located where the Ranger Kingdoms are today, the citizen‐soldiers of the Border Holds were apparently widely known as great hunters and travelers who ranged near and far, gathering a unique culture to them that drew upon the influences of all around them. Unfortunately, little more is known about these early Beasts. All we know of them comes from third‐party accounts in the stories of other nations of that time, though they were one of the few nations of Beasts to survive the Bleakness. Their civilization was scoured from the land by an invasion of the People of the Skull sometime in the latter part of the Age of Legend and the infamous citizen‐soldiers of the Border Holds disappeared from history. Modern Foxen honor their memory in the Ranger Kingdoms, but do not claim to be anything other than the spiritual successor to the Border Holds.
Travelers to the southern coast of Anglorum often stand in awe of the majestic and unique cliffs which line the beaches and inland valleys of the region, known for their strange and mysterious color: white as new‐fallen snow. It was here, in the forests near these cliffs, that the ancestors of the proud Harts first revealed themselves to the pages of history. Taking their name from these same cliffs, the Whitestone Harts quickly spread across much of the great island and formed small communities where they lived in relative peace, aside from fighting off occasional small raids by the Scotian clans of Broccans to the north. Legend tells us that when the Treekin first approached the Harts, they were astonished by the natural aptitude of the beasts for such magic. Druidic rites and rituals gained great popularity throughout Whitestone and were taught to the young Harts from an early age so the most skilled could be chosen as village leaders. The Whitestone Harts gained wide renown during the Age of Legend for their great skill in healing, second only to the Treekin themselves, and even erected a large stone ring on the south of the isle called Stonehenge, to aid and focus their druidic magic.
Though many stories are told of the wandering Longtails, much of what is said is fiction and hearsay. No one knows for sure where the first Longtails arose, but they roamed through central Europe for much of the Age of Legend, never staying in one spot for long. They earned their bread by performing shows where they exhibited great acrobatic feats and clever sleight of hand, and doing odd jobs like mending pots or chopping wood for villages they would stop near. At night they built enormous fires and gathered around them to tell stories, play music, and dance by the hypnotic firelight. Because of their nomadic lifestyle, they were often blamed when something would go wrong in a community. Invariably, if they were not outright accused of theft or violence, the mutterings and whispers would start and they would move on before any real trouble could occur, for the early Longtails had no love for fighting and combat. It's quite ironic then, considering the ill reputation of the Longtails, that much of what we know of the Age of Legend and the origins of the other races comes directly from the stories passed down verbally from parent to child around those iconic campfires. It's precisely due to their nomadic nature and oral tradition that we have even the scraps of knowledge of our history before the Bleakness.
The early Noctari were a people both hearty and wise, living in the land of Hellena, at the base of mighty Mount Olympus, near the Aegean Sea. Though their nation was not so ancient as Badaria or Midgaard, Hellena arose soon after those ancient nations. Unlike either the Felines or the Ursines, though, the Noctari were not governed by a central authority, instead preferring to live in distinct settlements that were loosely allied with each other. Early on, the Noctari worshipped the Gods of Mount Olympus, and each of their villages would typically adopt a patron God or Goddess. It’s known that the Noctari occasionally warred against each other under the influence of competing Gods, for although they were a people who valued knowledge and good judgement, they were also a proud people, and quick to anger when they felt their local God had been insulted. The exception to this rule was Zeus the Father, who was respected and honored among all Noctari of Hellena, except perhaps by the Priestesses of Hera, whose devotion to Hera and Hera alone was legendary. Hellena prospered greatly, and its cities grew strong, resisting even the Bleakness as well as any nation had, and was one of the few civilizations to survive more or less intact until the Age of Man. Our great debt to these ancient Noctari, as modern Beasts, is the library they built in the heart of Mount Olympus, which survived, in secret, even through the Age of Man. Though most of what we know of early Beast history comes from the Longtails, it was through the knowledge gained from the great Library of Athena that the Beasts of Europe were able to restablish civilization relatively quickly after the fall of Man. Philosophy, politics, the study of the trees, rivers, and animals, the secrets of curing disease: All these have their roots in the knowledge we gained from the re‐discovery of the Library of Athena.
Of early Taurians, little is known, for they kept few records. They have always been renowned as great hunters, even then, and what records have been found of the early Taurians do not tell us much about them save how many creatures this Taurian slew, or how many captives that Taurian took in his last raid against a neighboring tribe. It's believed that they first arose in the southwestern portion of Taurania, in the Taurus mountains, for when mighty Sargon first makes his mark upon history many thousands of years later, the Taurians had not yet expanded beyond the mountains of their racial youth.
The Tuskens originated in the woodlands that covered the foothills of the eastern Carpathian mountains. Warriors they were, but not barbarians. Though they left few records and were no scholars or artists they had an iron discipline. They called their homeland 'Eremantus' which expresses the idea, in the Old Tongue that, "In discipline lies freedom." The ancient Tuskens spent their days training in the arts of battle and serving as mercenaries for causes just or not. They themselves sought no territory and did not demand or take great shares of treasure, serving in trade for raw iron, cloth, food, and other necessities but primarily motivated by the glory of battle. There the Tuskens stayed, living simply in forested Eremantus until the Vampires came and drove them out of the Carpathians so that they could establish their Blood Kingdom.
It is debatable whether Ursines or Felines formed the first true nations among the Beasts, but there is no doubt that the first Beast whose name we know was an Ursine: Beowulf, fabled first King of Midgaard. Though little is known for certain, and much is no doubt exaggerated about this semi‐mythical figure, it is accepted that Beowulf was a real Ursine, likely a young chieftain of one of the tribes of Ursine before forging that race of Beasts into a nation. The legends say that when Beowulf was a chieftain, a great monster known as Grendel roamed the countryside, despoiled the forests, and drove off or consumed the moose that the Ursines hunted for food. Beowulf, resolving to slay the foul creature, ventured forth, found where it lay at night, and slew it in a great battle full of thunder and fury. When Beowulf returned, all hailed him as a great hero, and soon he was held first in esteem among tribal chieftains. Three moons later, another, even greater monster appeared, despoiling the forests, driving away the moose, and even raiding villages of Ursine to sate its hunger. Once again, Beowulf went forth to hunt the monstrosity, finding the cave within which it dwelt. Though the creature was not there, Beowulf found within it the rotted corpse of Grendel, and realized that the monster he hunted now was Grendel's mother. She had retrieved her child's corpse and brought it back to her lair. Beowulf gathered up the corpse of Grendel, climbed up the hill within which the cave mouth opened, and there hung the corpse over the opening. When Grendel's mother returned from feasting on a moose, she saw the corpse hanging over the cave mouth and grew possessed with the greatest of rages. Charging forward, she roared her fury at the defilement of her son, and fell into a great pit which Beowulf had dug. She was howling with rage as Beowulf, hidden on the hill above the cave mouth, pushed boulders off the ledge he rested on, crushing Grendel's mother in the pit below. Beowulf climbed into the pit, hacked off one of the creature's horns, and brought it back to his people as proof of his victory, after which they hailed him as a conquering hero and proclaimed him the first King of Midgaard, and Lord of the North. For half a dozen years, Beowulf ruled the Ursines of Midgaard wisely and well, and the nation prospered. Few spoke a word against him and those chieftains who challenged his right to rule were quickly taught otherwise, for Beowulf was ever a mighty warrior, and was quick to swing his mighty axe, which was called Frostfang, and whose handle was forged of the horn he took from Grendel's mother. It was then, as the Ursine's sun was just beginning to rise that the Dvergar first struck, rolling like a wave over northern Midgaard, crushing and burning all in their path. Beowulf led his people in many battles against the Dvergar, but here history becomes unknowable in a jumble of war and chaos. It is said that Beowulf fell in battle, a ring of Dvergar bodies lying around him, but no knowledge remains of where he fell or indeed, of Midgaard at all for almost a century after.
Chapter 4 - Sigmund of Midgaard
Two generations after the death of Beowulf, Midgaard still suffered the frequent predations of the vicious Dvergar of Nidavellir. A new hero arose called Sigmund, and soon he was King. Many adventures did he have, and trials did he endure in order to find some source of power to defeat the enemies of the Ursines, but they were in vain. One night, during a full moon, while wandering the forests of Midgaard, Sigmund encountered a crippled beggar who asked him for food. Sigmund agreed, and shared his jerked meat with the beggar. The beggar, who named himself Tinian, proceeded to ask Sigmund to help him uncover the treasure he had buried long ago. Sigmund agreed, and set about digging a hole twice as high as he was before the beggar Tinian proclaimed that he had misremembered the location of the hole. Sigmund was wroth with anger at this clear deception, but held his tongue, for he pitied the beggar and his station in life. He said, "Friend Tinian, I have fed you, and helped you amuse yourself for honor's sake, but do not trifle with me again for I am no saint possessed of patience unending." The beggar chuckled madly and replied, "King of snow, noble lord of the North, I know you, but you do not know me, and why would you? I am nobody. But do me another trifle." Sigmund replied, "I will do you one more favor, friend Tinian, but pray do not make a fool of me." "I would not think of it, my lord," said the beggar. "Then be on with it, and ask of me what you will," said Sigmund. The beggar asked, "If it please you then, there is an axe mired in the very rock of a cave a day's journey north of here. I have not the strength to draw it out, but I see that you are mighty of sinew. Will you come with me, and draw the axe I have discovered out for me?"
Sigmund pondered it and decided that there was little harm in taking a day to help Tinian, who was a pitiable being at best. After a day's journey, they arrived at the cave which Tinian had described, and there the axe lay, stuck in the uneven rock wall. Sigmund grasped the haft of the axe, and pulled hard, but it would not come loose. He braced himself and pulled with all his might, but the axe still would not loosen. Despairing, he leaned on the axe and it suddenly slipped loose. Astounded, Sigmund wielded the axe and looked to Tinian, only to find that Tinian was no longer with him. One instant there was Tinian, and the next there was a godly being with one good eye and two ravens on his shoulders. Mighty and waxing in his might, he proclaimed to Sigmund that he was Odin, called the Allfather, and that he could offer Sigmund power over the enemies of Midgaard.
"You have proven yourself worthy, Sigmund," said the Allfather. "That you are a mighty king and warrior is known to all, but you showed yourself good-hearted when you fed me. You showed yourself patient when you did not seek to slay me for my prank with the hole, and you showed yourself trustworthy in agreeing to come with me to this cave. Only those who can give trust are worthy of receiving it in kind." "Pledge your fealty to Asgard," proclaimed Odin, "and my kin and I will deign to cast our favor upon you. Stormbringer, that axe is called, and with it you will serve victory to your enemies." Sigmund eagerly agreed, and took the axe he withdrew from the cave wall into battle, whence he proceeded to cut down the Dvergar like butter before a hot blade. Rallying behind their fearsome warrior‐King, the Ursines of Midgaard began to push the forces of Nidavellir back, until they had reclaimed almost half of what the Dvergar had conquered in the previous decades. Sigmund's pledge of loyalty to Odin and his brothers and sisters had been justified, and his people proclaimed him the equal of Beowulf, feting him for a full month in feast and celebration. As with all great warrior‐Kings though, Sigmund's fate was not to die in a bed, doddering with age and decay. He fell on the field of battle in the prime of his adulthood, driving the Dvergar back to the frozen hell from which they come. As he died he summoned forth his remaining strength and delivered blow after blow to the Dvergar around him, until he lay surrounded by Dvergar who proceeded him in his departure to the afterlife. When the saddened but victorious Ursines found his body after the battle, Sigmund's mighty axe, Stormbringer, lay broken in pieces around him, losing its life as its King lost his.
Chapter 5 - Sigurd of Midgaard
Sigmund had fathered many children, as was proper for a King, and the eldest of these was called Sigurd. A hero in the Dvergar wars in his own right, Sigurd was among those who found his father’s body lying broken on the battlefield. It was he who gathered the pieces of Stormbringer and brought them to Regnin, greatest blacksmith of Midgaard, and asked him to reforge the blade of Stormbringer into a warhammer, for that was the weapon favored by Sigurd. Regnin accepted the charge solemnly, for he had been the personal blacksmith of Sigmund, and if he hadn’t forged Stormbringer, he had forged the weapons of all of Sigmund’s lieutenants. This was to be his greatest moment; his monument to the finest Beast he had ever known. Firing his forge, he set to work, but was soon caught in despair as he found himself unable to work the metal. No fire he could bank would so much as mar the metal, much less melt it. Regnin sought out Sigurd and told him of his failure. Together, Regnin and Sigurd, who was by then King, approached Thor, son of the Allfather and God of Thunder, and begged his help for the sake of their people. Thor agreed to help Regnin learn the secret of forging Stormbringer’s metal in return for a favor that he would request from Sigurd at some future time.
The God of Thunder told Regnin that the metal Odin forged Stormbringer from is called ‘dragonsteel’ and that it is formed from the powdered ash of dragon bones. He told Regnin that once forged, dragonsteel is nigh‐impossible to break and that Stormbringer shattered was evidence of some alteration to the weapon made by Odin in tying Stormbringer’s life to Sigmund’s life. Reforging a weapon from the pieces of Stormbringer could be done in only one place that Thor knew of, and that place was not of this world. The son of Odin led Regnin deep underground looking for a particular part of Yggdrasil, the World Tree whose myriad branches are entire worlds, and whose roots stretch through all realities. Finding the root he sought, Thor uttered something Regnin did not understand, and the two of them – God and mortal – were whisked from this world to a place of smoke, flame, and brimstone.
Barely able to breathe in the noxious environment, and suffering singed fur from the overwhelming heat, Regnin had no choice but to trust in the Lord of Thunder, who appeared unaffected by this inhospitable place.
“My lord, pray tell me, to what place have you taken me?” asked Regnin through his strangled coughing.
“Whether the devils that populate this place have a name for it, I do not know, but my lord Father simply calls it Hell,” replied Thor.
“Be watchful, for the masters of Hell are mighty enough to test the mettle of the Lord of Thunder, and even their lesser lieutenants would make short work of you.”
“We must seek out the Pit of Neraka, the source of the very fires of Hell,” said Thor, “and there I will teach you the secrets of dragonsteel.”
To the great Pit they journeyed, across a land that belched fire and spit flame, and in which the air seared even as it barely sustained life. Twice they came across hunting packs of Izariel demons with Woe Jackals at their side, but they proved no match for Thor’s anger, and were quickly dispatched. Once they encountered a traveling pair of Knights of Hell, with their Greater Demon foot soldiers: a trio of the magic‐using Rum’el and a pair of the monsterous Reavers favored as shocktroops by the Knights. These proved somewhat more troublesome, but while Regnin was able to dispatch two of the Rum’el, it was Thor’s irresistible might that drove their demonic assailants back, and took their cursed lives as they fled. A son of Odin is not one to trifle with.
The Pit of Neraka
Arriving at the Pit, Thor revealed, as promised, the secret of forging dragonsteel to Regnin. Setting to work while Thor stood guard, Regnin sweated and pounded, pouring his heart and soul into this monument to his beloved dead King. When he finished, he had produced the greatest work of his lifetime, and surely the finest weapon any Beast had ever held. Even the mighty Thor stood silent, in awe of the perfection of the hammer.
“You must bestow a new name upon this weapon,” said Thor, “for it is Stormbringer no longer.”
“I name it Mjolnir, my Lord.” declared Regnin.
Thor pounded Regnin on the back and said, “A fine choice! ‘Lightning’ in the old tongue. It is fitting that Stormbringer should spawn such progeny.” Thor and Regnin journeyed back to the root of Yggdrasil which they had traveled along to arrive in Hell, and once again Thor uttered words in an unknown tongue, and they were whisked away back to Earth, deep underground from which they came.
Returning to Sigurd, Thor prepared to return to Asgard. As he was to set off, a sly look crossed his face and he said to Sigurd, “Have you forgotten that you are promised me a favor, young King of Midgaard?”
“No my Lord of Storms,” replied Sigurd. “The honor of my father is mine as well, and I hold true to my word. Name your wish. I am yours to command.”
“I would have Mjolnir,” said Thor flatly. “Stormbringer was ever my desire, but my Father gifted it to your father. It should have been mine, and now its child shall be mine. The Lord of Thunder will wield lightning made dragonsteel, and the enemies of Asgard shall despair.”
Sigurd paused, but knew that he was honor bound to obey. With a longing glance at Regnin’s memorial to his great father Sigmund, he handed the weapon to Thor and said, “My lord, know that my people and I are ever loyal to the Gods of Asgard, and would dishonor ourselves before we would you, but are we to lose the power of Mjolnir‐once‐Stormbringer that my father used to drive back the Dvergar? Are we to lose the symbol that has propelled us, if not to victory yet, then halfway down that road?”
“My lord,” pleaded Sigurd, “would you abandon us in our time of peril, when our gains stand on the razor’s edge? You have taken our mightiest weapon. Is there no help you can give in return?”
Thor sighed, for he had no patience for speeches and parley. “I am forbidden from doing battle on the Earth, friend Sigurd. What would you have me do to help you?”
“Though forged by Odin, Stormbringer‐now‐Mjolnir is dragonsteel. It was dragonsteel that put fear into the eyes of the Dvergar. Dragonsteel could do that again.” said Sigurd cautiously.
“Do you know what you ask, little mortal? Do you know what you ask? The armory of Asgard itself contains but five score such weapons.” replied Thor impatiently.
Sigurd thought but a brief moment before kneeling and proclaiming, “Great God of the Storm, of Thunder, and of Lightning, wielder of Mjolnir, and son of the Allfather, if you but find a way to help us in this manner, my people will praise your name above all your brothers and sisters, holding only Odin Himself above you in our esteem. We shall be your people, mighty God. The Ursines of Midgaard will be the Northern Storm moved by the hand of Thor.”
Thor laughed and boomed, “That is well and good, Sigurd, and I will be happy to accept your people’s fealty, but I will require one more personal favor from you. Grant me this promise and I will bring Regnin enough dragon bone ash to forge many weapons of dragonsteel with which to battle the denizens of Nidavellir.”
“Lord Thor,” gasped Sigurd, still kneeling, “what you ask is yours. My people will be forever grateful, and yours to command, and you need only call on me and I will give you the favor that is yours.”
“Then rise, my Storm King, and go to your people. I will return with what I have promised.” With that, Thor was gone. A month passed, and the territorial gains that Sigmund had made against the Dvergar hordes began to crumble. Sigurd led his army valiantly, and was wounded many times, but without the power of the Odin‐blessed Stormbringer, the Dvergar did not fear him the way they feared Sigmund. Slowly, the armies of Nidavellir advanced once again.
The Forging of the Three
Finally, Thor returned, bringing with him great bags of dragon bone ash. He would not speak of how he had acquired it, but the lingering gashes and burns that laced his body told their own story. As forging dragonsteel from the bone ash does not require a journey to the Pit of Neraka, Thor was able to show Regnin how to create it in a huge forge the Ursines built at Thor’s direction, the better to withstand the enormous heat required.
Once more, Regnin sweated and pounded, forging three mighty weapons that are certainly among the finest weapons ever crafted by Beasts. First forged was an enormous axe, which he called Soulreaver. The axe head was said to be black as night, and wreathed in blue flame. Next forged by Regnin was a longsword, bright of blade and sure of hilt. This he named Calaburn which means “slices steel” in the old language. Finally, Regnin forged another warhammer as sister to Mjolnir. This hammer he named Torand or "Thunder", to Mjolnir’s Lightning. Presenting Soulreaver, Calaburn, and Torand to Sigurd, Regnin declared that the forging of Mjolnir and these other weapons had placed a weight on his soul; a great weariness that he could not shake. Though there was yet dragon bone ash with which to forge new weapons, Regnin could do no more, and no other smith had the skill necessary to work the dragonsteel.
Resolving that if his father could push back the Dvergar with just Stormbringer, blessed by Odin though it was, he could similarly advance with the force of the trio of dragonsteel weapons Regnin had poured his soul into. Arming himself with Torand, and his chief lieutenants with Soulreaver and Calaburn, Sigurd led his army forth to sweep the Dvergar from Midgaard. Once again, the foul creatures knew fear as their hordes were cut apart by the huge Ursines armed with dragonsteel. After a year of great victories, Sigurd’s wife bore him a son, Hakon, and a year after that, a daughter named Sigrun. In battle after battle, Sigurd fought victoriously for his people, and for the future of his children. Time after time, he personally led the attacks until he had taken back all the territory that Midgaard had held at the apex of Beowulf’s reign. Sigurd and his generals began planning to go further, to invade Nidavellir itself and rid themselves of the threat of the Dvergar once and for all.
As they made their plans, letting their armies build up their strength, Thor returned to Midgaard in person once again, telling Sigurd that he had come to claim his favor. Sigurd readily agreed, prepared to sacrifice something personally valuable to him, but wholly unprepared for Thor’s request.
“Storm King, you have done well and you have pleased me,” said Thor, “but now it is time to grant me my due. I would have one of your children. Make your choice, and say your goodbyes, for you will never see the child you choose again.”
Sigurd wept, for this was a hard, hard thing Thor asked of him. Though fearsome on the battlefield, he loved his children greatly. Nevertheless, he knew he had no choice. Hakon was to be King as first‐born male. As his wife wailed and clutched at Sigrun, Sigurd took his baby daughter from his wife’s arms and, still weeping, handed her to Thor. “I know not why you ask this thing of me, my Lord of Thunder, but I do not do it gladly, even for you, to whom I and my people owe much. I know not what you will do with my daughter, but I pray you keep her safe.” said Sigurd with sorrow. “Goodbye, my daughter.” “It is not for you to know why I do this,” replied Thor, “but know that none of what I do is needless.”
And with that, Thor departed for Asgard, taking Sigrun, the infant daughter of the Storm King, with him. Sigurd was taken with sorrow over the loss of his daughter, and his taste for war dimmed. Though he still planned to invade Nidavellir, he told his generals that the time was not right yet, that they must wait for Regnin to recover his strength so that they may forge more of the great dragonsteel weapons. His generals muttered quietly among themselves, believing that now was the time to strike, with the Dvergar on the run, and that their king had lost his nerve.
And then…tragedy. Regnin, still trying to overcome the weary burden his soul felt, fell in his own home to the blade of a Dvergar assassin, sent to ensure Soulreaver, Calaburn, and Torand were the only weapons of dragonsteel that would cut them down in the event of an invasion by Midgaard. With the loss of his Regnin, the last link to his father Sigmund, and the only source of dragonsteel for the Ursines, Sigurd cancelled his plans to invade Nidavellir. He had managed to take back and hold onto all of Midgaard’s territory, which was in itself a great victory, but his spirit never truly recovered from the loss of Sigrun and the murder of Regnin. The Dvergar retreated unharried back to Nidavellir, and Sigurd lived out the rest of his life never able to forget his baby daughter’s smile. Here, good readers, we leave the story of Midgaard for many years, for though Sigurd’s son Hakon became king after Sigurd, history records no great deeds done by him, and the line of Sigmund passes into obscurity.
Chapter 6 - The Rise of the Mystarchs
The Rise of the Mages
As the years passed, the nations of the Beasts grew in power and grandeur. They practiced the arts of war and healing, of great magic and clever political machinations. Armies were raised, border wars fought, boundaries shifted, and the many were the great deeds of courage and skill performed as the Beasts explored the lands of the Earth. Despite this, the times were largely peaceful for the Beast Kingdoms. It was a golden age of learning and discovery.
In those days, druidic magic was old, of the Treekin, but the mystical energies of arcane magic were still new to the Beasts. The earliest recorded mages were Treekin‐trained druids who sensed alternate sources of mystical energy to tap. These early druids successfully harnessed the latent energy they found, and became the first of the Beast mages.
As this new style of magic gained popularity among the growing nations, arcane universities were established to teach young mages the mystic arts. Like druidic magic, arcane energy required no inherent talent to use beyond a keen mind and stalwart spirit. Anyone with the knowledge of its workings was able to become a mage, with enough practice. As such, many young mages went out into the world seeking more knowledge to increase their own power and the power and prestige of their kingdom.
The Mysterium Primordial
Many of the relics from earlier ages had been ignored by the Beasts until this point in history, when it became clear that some of them could provide insight into the use of arcane energy. With this discovery, great effort was put into searching for such items, and those Beasts who had acquired them as oddities grew quite rich by selling them to power‐hungry mages. It was during the wandering and questing of these early mages that the first pages of the Mysterium Primordial were discovered.
Legend tells us that it was a young Badarian Feline who found the first scroll. His name has been lost to us, but we know that he was an unskilled mage who had barely passed his arcane tests to earn the coveted title. While out walking in the hills near his city one afternoon, he stumbled and fell into a deep ravine. His imperfect mastery of magic probably saved his life, but he was not powerful enough to lift himself out. Traveling along the ravine floor, he came across a mysterious cave, which was sealed by a large rock covered in strange symbols.
As he drew near to it, intrigued by the symbols, the rock started glowing and pulsing. He sensed his own life force pulsating in unison with it and grew very frightened, but was entranced and could not pull away. Closer and closer he came, until finally the stone surface was mere inches from his outstretched hand. As he reached out and gently caressed the central symbol on the design, the world exploded around him in bright light and he fell to the ground, unconscious.
When he awoke, the rock was shattered and pieces of it were strewn about the ground. He stepped into the cave, fearful and curious, and saw a few musty scrolls. Opening them revealed nothing, as they seemed to be gibberish. Disappointed, he gathered them up and returned to his simple quarters at the mage guild to ponder what had happened and study them further.
The Mysterium Translated
Several months passed, and tales started to spread to the other kingdoms of a surprisingly powerful young mage whose talent outstripped anything seen before, and whose teachers had badly misjudged him. He was performing feats of magic that were only theoretical at that time, and sharing his secrets with the other Felines of Badaria.
The other universities pressed the Badarians to reveal the secret of their great leaps in magical prowess, and it was revealed that the translated scrolls were pages of the Mysterium Primordial, an immensely powerful book of great magic that was written in a very old dialect of the old tongue by unknown beings from the Lost Ages. The information within those pages was incredibly difficult to translate, and even harder for the Beasts to understand and apply, but the little they could grasp was enough to grant them enormous arcane power. Furthermore, it soon became clear that these were only a few pages of the complete text.
With that discovery, the universities and powerful mages of the lands began to search in earnest for the pages of the Mysterium Primordial. Ignoring whatever reasoning had caused the tome to be divided and sealed away to begin with, they sought similarly warded caves throughout the land. The hunt for the power of the Lost Ages had begun.
Chapter 7 - The Rise of the Mystarchs Part 2
The Eight Mystarchs
The power of the mages grew greatly with each new page of the Mysterium Primordial that was uncovered. Although only small bits of each page could be translated, these fragments provided the foundation of the arcane universities that would produce some of the most influential and powerful Beasts in the known world. Where once they could bring forth a few sparks, now they could conjure a raging storm of fire. Where once they could chill the skin at a touch, now they could cover a city in ice. To be taught the secrets of the Mysterium Primordial was the greatest honor, and the universities overflowed with students of the highest caliber.
The most powerful and most knowledgeable of the mages were those wandering souls who sought the pages of the Mysterium Primordial itself. Funding their travels by tossing the universities scraps of information gleaned from translated scrolls, they searched across the world for these pages, leaving no stone unturned. In time, eight great mages emerged from the searchers who proved to be the wisest, the most capable, and the most powerful mages of their generation, and perhaps any generation, though many would take issue with such an extreme claim.
They called themselves the Mystarchs and sought each other out to work together to seek out the coveted scrolls. Through skill, persistence, and even trickery and bribery, they managed to gather large parts of the Mysterium Primordial, hoarding them to themselves and outpacing their former peers to become masters to their students. They were well known and greatly respected in their time for the magical arts were the popular fashion.
Each of the Mystarchs had a particular specialization of which they were typically the greatest practitioner in the known world, which, to be fair, encompassed a smaller area than we’re familiar with today. They considered themselves equals, yet there existed among them an unspoken acknowledgement that Al‐Idrisi, a commanding Atavian noble whose word was highly respected, was the greatest of them. He cared little for the more destructive aspects of the arcane arts, and instead focused his efforts on teleportation and travel magic. Many of the advances that we take for granted today come from his work.
Heraclitus and Macha
Next was Heraclitus, a Noctari who was said to be a great master of the burning art of fire magic. He and the Hart Macha, known for her prowess with battle magic, would frequently travel together in search of the Mysterium Primordial pages, seeking them out in the perilous regions of the Earth.
From the southern lands of the Dog Soldiers came Jezebel, skilled in the mystic arts of planar magic. She was able to see beyond what normal mortal eyes could see, and her divination skills were legendary. She often journeyed and worked with Al‐Idrisi, and many accounts of history claim that he loved her deeply, although she did not return his love.
The Bandicoon Tarchon was the master of enchantment, and was known for weaving beautiful gardens of illusionary flowers and charming the young maidens of his homelands whenever he had the opportunity. With equal ease however, he was able to teach his enemies that phantasms of little substance can burn the mind and change the purpose of armies.
Jarnsaxa and Zahaak
Jarnsaxa, an Ursine, and Zahhak, a Taurian, frequented the far regions of the north that the other Mystarchs found too inhospitable. Jarnsaxa combined her great powers of the cold with Zahhak’s mastery of the air to ward off the numbing cold and icy winds of the barren reaches. Their searches proved to be most fruitful, as they went where others would not or could not go.
Finally, Nefritari was a Feline who studied the magic of death. She traveled alone in her journeys, and while her fellow Mystarchs respected her wisdom, she was quietly feared. In many circles, and never in her hearing, she was called the Mistress of Death, although she did not consider herself evil. These eight Mystarchs used their collective power to construct a great stronghold in the Alpine Mountains where they could plan their travels and study the Mysterium Primordial in peace. Through the aid of their considerable powers, they were able to locate and obtain nearly all of the pages belonging to the great tome within two decades.
With the blessing of the arcane universities, the Mystarchs began the work of translating the complete Mysterium Primordial in earnest, applying what they learned to their studies. As they labored, it soon became clear that the tome was intended to be used in a certain, specific way. There was, for lack of a better word, a code that they needed to unlock the true potential of the Mysterium. They began to call this code the Enigma Primal, and bent all their efforts and will to discerning it. All advances they’d made so far had been, while impressive, apparently trivial to the lost authors of the Mysterium. It was, as they believed, with the inevitable discovery of the Enigma, that they would take their deserved places as lords of the Earth, bringing Beasts into a new Age of Paradise.
Chapter 8 - The Mystarchs and the Shadow Legion
The years flowed on. Winters followed summers and passed again to winter, and the Enigma Primal did not present itself. Despite their dedicated effort, some of the Mystarchs began to fear that they would never realize the full potential of the Mysterium Primordial. In time, they began to return to their previous pursuits and studies. The translation of the full tome provided many new insights for them to work with, even if it could not be used as intended.
While the other Mystarchs remained largely sequestered in their personal chambers and laboratories, Al‐Idrisi’s interests had always been inclined towards his travels. He grew restless in the Alpine Mountains, and he longed to see new sights and explore new lands. Jarnsaxa’s tales of the Ursine histories had always intrigued him; in particular the ones involving Yggdrasil, the World Tree. Were there truly other worlds? If so, might an older, wiser race know more of the Mysterium Primordial?
Al‐Idrisi resolved to find out for himself. Jezebel had spoken at times of glimpsing other worlds in her divinations, but she knew not whether they were true sight or past visions of this world. Still, he told her of his plans and she agreed to accompany him again on this journey. Through her second sight, they found the entrance to the deep parts of the earth, where the roots of Yggdrasil wind their way through soil and stone with equal ease. For two months, Al‐Idrisi studied them and experimented carefully with all he knew of traveling magic.
Finally, he thought he saw how to use the roots to access the branches of Yggdrasil, which are all worlds in all universes. Uttering the words of magic over a selected root, Al‐Idrisi saw a portal open before him. He found himself looking at a mirror image of himself, which grinned and waved back at him. Overcome by surprise and triumph, he closed the portal and slumped back, lost in thoughts of power.
He understood the secret of planar travel now. Over the next months, he and Jezebel journeyed through the reaches of the UnderRealm, avoiding or battling the denizens of the darkness as they could. They sought roots of Yggdrasil that might lead them to branch‐worlds that differ greatly from Earth and they found many. Some branches were worlds nearly exactly like our own, and some were so different as to be utterly alien and hostile to life as we know it.
In one world, they encountered the mighty Sphinxes, although these future Godslayers knew nothing of the Mysterium Primordial. In another, the very air seared their eyes and sulfur assaulted their nostrils while in yet another no sound could be heard nor made, but an inhuman wailing pervaded all. As they explored, Jezebel began to sense a pattern in the arrangement of roots and which worlds were accessible to them as a result. She was soon able to guide them towards specific ones, and they decided to narrow their search to those worlds where they might receive assistance in locating the Enigma Primal.
On and on they traveled, through many realities and worlds until they came to a group of worlds that were, for lack of a better term, on branches of Yggdrasil that are “close” to each other. Something was wrong, though. Jezebel had begun to sense an evil presence, and with each new world her uneasiness increased. They began to see signs of corruption in the worlds they were visiting. The people, the landscapes, were… wrong. Twisted. They traveled more quickly through each new world, no longer sure if they were seeking the Enigma Primal or the source of whatever power it was that seemed to be perverting whole worlds.
Finally, they arrived in a plane where the air was thick with the smell of rot, and half‐imagined voices whispered terrible things in their ears. All was bleak and the barren landscape hung forever on the edge of twilight. No beings were to be found here, but Jezebel immediately sensed the presence of the Enigma Primal – the key to the Mysterium that they had long searched for.
The Enigma Primal
She and Al‐Idrisi gathered their courage and ventured out of their portal. Jezebel guided them far from the root of Yggdrasil that anchored their portal, and took them to an ancient ruin of crumbled and broken stone. In the center of the ruin, on a pedestal and guarded by wards, stood what they had crossed worlds and planar boundaries to find: the Enigma Primal, index to the Mysterium Primordial.
As Al‐Idrisi stepped forth into the ruin to claim the prize, the half‐heard whispers intensified to encompass agonizing shrieking and mad laughter. In between the babble, one word could be heard echoed over and over: “Shadow…shadow…shadow.”
Visibly shaken, Al‐Idrisi reached up and used his arts to dispel the wards. Grasping the Enigma Primal to his chest, he and Jezebel turned to leave as quickly as they could. Flowing essence, black as the darkest night, began pouring out of the cracks of the ruins and bubbling up from the ground around them. The half‐heard whispers were half‐heard no longer, and the shrieks and laughter pierced their ears. Snatches of the insane mutterings could now be made out: “…such power…masters will be pleased…it begins anew…follow…follow…shadow”
Al‐Idrisi and Jezebel stared in horror as the blackness began to form shapes around them, mirror images of their own two bodies but black as pitch and reflecting no light. As the shapes lurched towards them, Al‐Idrisi and Jezebel remembered that they were hardly defenseless and began lashing out with the most terrible and destructive magic they knew. The shadow beings fell back before their might, screaming and shrieking, but more of the fiends poured over their fallen brethren and the defeated shadows merely reformed themselves to continue the assault.
The two intrepid Mystarchs steadily retreated from the ever growing army, and finally Jezebel used most of her strength to call up a blazing wall of fire, temporarily separating them from the creatures. She collapsed, unconscious, and Al‐Idrisi took her and fled in terror back towards the root of Yggdrasil from which they had come.
Arriving at the root, he hastily opened a portal and leapt through it, still bearing the unconscious Jezebel. Turning back, he saw thousands upon thousands of the shadow forms, leaping and rolling over one another like great waves in a sea of darkness, quickly closing the gap between them. Seized by terror, Al‐Idrisi closed the portal and collapsed to the ground in exhaustion.
Awakening some hours later, though greatly relieved that they had escaped with their lives and the Enigma Primal both, Al‐Idrisi and the recovered Jezebel were freshly horrified to see thin, weedy tendrils of solid shadow reaching out from the root through which they had come. They immediately set off for the fortress in which dwelt their fellow Mystarchs, in the Alpine Mountains, determined to use the Enigma Primal to unlock the full potential of the Mysterium Primordial and combat this new threat.
The Mystarch Council
Soon enough, the eight Mystarchs were gathered in the heart of their Alpine fortress with the Enigma Primal and the Mysterium Primordial spread out before them. Al‐Idrisi and Jezebel talked to them of the Shadow they had encountered, and of the finding of the Enigma. As Al‐Idrisi opened the Enigma for the first time, there among the greatest Beast minds of their time, there was a collective gasp of dismay, for though most of it was blessedly intact, the first page, the key to the key, as it were, was missing. In fact, it had clearly been torn away willfully. The Enigma was thus worse than useless to the Mystarchs, for attempting to read it without the key would risk insanity and worse for the reader.
The frightening conclusion was inescapable: The Enigma had been a trap, placed there by the shadow beings, whom the Mystarchs began to collectively refer to as the Shadow, or the Shadow Legion. Even more terrifying was the theory proposed by Tarchon: the Shadow had set the trap not to capture whoever found it, but to follow the seekers back to their home world, presumably to take it for their own. Jezebel and Al‐Idrisi confirmed for their fellows that they had encountered worlds ‘near’ to the one on which they had found the Enigma that showed evidence of wholesale corruption by the Shadow.
The Mystarchs debated and argued for days as to the proper course of action, and eventually came to consensus that they lacked sufficient knowledge of the Shadow. Resolving to learn more, Al‐Idrisi and Jezebel agreed to seek out the Shadow once again, this time with all of the Mystarchs backing them up save Zahhak, who felt someone should stay behind and seek a way to recreate the missing first page of the Enigma.
he Mystarchs set off to seek knowledge of the Shadow Legion, and while much could be written of the trials and travails they endured in their search, they eventually found the knowledge they sought.
On a forgotten world far on the fringes of Yggdrasil, beings of Shadow arose. Whether this was long ago or yet sometime in the future is not known, for the Shadow does not move through the currents of time as we do. The Mystarchs were able to discover only that the first of the Shadow Legion to arise grew mighty and dominated the others of their kind.
These masters of the Shadow were and are called the Darklords and though their ultimate goals are not known, it became clear to the Mystarchs that Tarchon’s frightening theory was correct. The Shadow was looking for a way to a new series of worlds to conquer, and the Enigma had been set out as a trap for any beings capable of crossing the boundaries between the worlds. Al‐Idrisi and Jezebel did not truly escape after all. They were permitted to leave, and the Shadow followed them to Earth, though imperfectly.
The trail that Al‐Idrisi and Jezebel left was not…wide enough…for lack of a better expression, for the Shadow to come through in true strength yet but there was little doubt among the Mystarchs that the Darklords would be bending their will to expand the channel that Al‐Idrisi and Jezebel had inadvertently created between our world and the worlds of the Shadow Legion.
The Madness of Zahhak
Returning to their Alpine fortress, the Mystarchs found a scene of nightmare. Bodies, torn in half, lined the fortress walls and pools of blood dotted the courtyard. Inside was even worse, and in the center of the nightmare stood Zahhak, cackling insanely.
Though the other seven Mystarchs were able to subdue Zahhak, they found him possessed of a wild mystical strength he had not previously exhibited. Imprisoning him underneath their fortress and placing warding spells on him to prevent him from using magic they began to question him. Through his incessant cackling they were able to learn that while they were gone, he had made significant headway in recreating the key to the Enigma Primal, but was never able to complete it. Believing that his partial key would suffice, Zahhak had attempted to read the Enigma, to the doom of his mind. It revealed to him the true scope of the Shadow and drove him mad in the process.
Zahhak had begun to kidnap Beasts from the surrounding area to perform what he called his experiments on them. In his now‐twisted mind he believed he was trying to learn some great secrets that would serve as weapons against the Shadow. Score upon score of Beasts met their demise at his hands while the other Mystarchs journeyed the reaches of Yggdrasil searching for the truth of the Darklords and the Shadow.
The Mystarchs knew little of the mind and had no method by which to reverse the damage done to Zahhak. They resolved that they must keep him imprisoned until such time as they could find a way to cure him, but given that they now felt they must devote themselves to the coming threat of the Shadow Legion, it seemed likely that Zahhak would live out the rest of his days as a madman in a cell.
A year went by, and then another and the only sign of the Shadow were the tendrils still reaching out from the root by which Al‐Idrisi and Jezebel had brought back the Enigma Primal. A decade passed, and while the Mystarchs grew in power, no new signs of the Shadow made themselves known. Perhaps the Darklords had turned their will elsewhere and no longer sought this world?
Chapter 9 - The Mystarch Dominion
The years had not been kind to Zahhak. Imprisoned beneath the Mystarch fortress for over a decade, his mind had broken down further and further. Eventually, most of the other Mystarchs gave up attempting to help him and even stopped visiting him. Only Jezebel was willing to see him, out of pity and guilt. She felt responsible for his miserable condition. If only she and Al‐Idrisi had not gone searching for the Enigma Primal they would not have found the Shadow and therefore not needed the others to search for information. Perhaps Zahhak would not have been driven mad with someone to stay and help him resist the temptation of power.
And all was for naught, anyway. In all these years, the Darklords had done nothing. No threats had been made. No Shadow Fiends walked the Earth. The Mystarchs had only their own fear and failure to contend with, and Zahhak was the constant reminder of that. So each year Jezebel would descend into their dungeons, hoping to see some trace of sanity restored to his tortured eyes.
Fifteen years had passed while Zahhak rotted in his chains. At the start of the sixteenth year, Jezebel made her annual, mournful visit. But what she encountered was not at all what she had expected. Instead of his usual cowering, slavering, pitiful self, Zahhak was calmly sitting cross‐legged on the floor, watching her enter. His eyes were lucid.
He explained to Jezebel that he had been visited by an otherworldly being of great power. Calling itself a Dor’kana, it had healed his troubled psyche and taught him the secrets of a new kind of magic—that of the mind. The Dor’kana had come bearing this knowledge for one reason: The Shadow was coming to Earth, and soon. He charged Zahhak with preparing the Earth for the coming battle, and taught him to manipulate minds.
The sad reality was that Zahhak was only slightly less mad as a result of the Dor'kana's ministrations, and that Zahhak had employed this new mind magic, which was not taken into account by the warding spells the Mystarchs had placed on his cell, to convince Jezebel that he was sane again.
She freed him and they went to speak to the other Mystarchs. Only Tarchon and Macha were at the Mystarch stronghold at that time, but when the rest returned they found Tarchon, Macha, and Jezebel supporting Zahhak and agreeing to his demands without question. Zahhak claimed that they must first unite the known world against the Shadow, by force if necessary, and then finish what he had started 15 years before: decode the Enigma Primal.
The others were unconvinced at first. Al‐Idrisi spoke most vehemently against forcing the Beast nations to unite, arguing that to do so would not only be impractical but would make them illegitimate kings and queens. Jarnsaxa thought it foolish to delve back into the Enigma Primal, which had driven Zahhak mad. But in the end, the unwavering conviction of four of their peers won them over. What good would a free world be if it could not stand against a threat to its existence? What good was sanity if they lacked the power to defeat the Shadow and defend the lives of everyone they cared about?
With great reservations, the Mystarchs voted unanimously to prepare the known world for the coming battle. Then, Al‐Idrisi revealed his news: In his latest travels, he had found a civilization far to the east, in mountains much greater and older than the Alpines, called Kathmand. Their people spoke of an ancient prophecy, pulled from the caverns beneath their home, which was eerily similar to the parts of the Enigma Primal that were comprehensible.
The Kathmandi claimed that it had been written by no Beast, and dated to a Lost Age. It seemed that the key to the Enigma Primal might have been hidden on Earth after all. Al‐Idrisi left with Jarnsaxa and Nefritari, and journeyed east back to investigate it further while the others prepared to unite the Beasts. The Beasts of Europe were initially resistant to the message of the Mystarchs, but in time, most acquiesced. Some kingdoms agreed to unite out of fear of the Shadow, and some out of respect for the obvious power and wisdom of the Mystarchs.
Some, however, were not willing to hand over their self‐determination so easily. Several kingdoms acknowledged the threat of the Shadow and pledged their assistance when the time for battle came, but were not as willing to submit to Mystarch control as the other nations. In particular, the Taurians of Taurania, the Bounders of the Emerald Kingdom, the Dog Soldiers of Amizeh, and the Broccan clans in the Scotian Highlands were resistant to external rule. This resistance angered Zahhak and sent him into fits of rage but he was unable to sway his fellows. Having shared the secrets learned from their early studies of the Mysterium Primordial, the Mystarchs faced in the mages of Europe a combined force that could outmatch them, without even considering the armies of the nations of Beasts that would stand against these would‐be overlords.
Meanwhile, in the east, Al‐Idrisi and his companions had returned to Kathmand and discovered the ancient caverns which were said to contain the prophecy. They entered with great trepidation but found precisely what they were seeking. Finally, the key to the Enigma Primal, and thus the Mysterium Primordial, was theirs! It appeared that it had been written by a long‐lost civilization as a kind of super‐weapon to be used at last resort against imminent defeat. Perhaps the enemy was the Shadow. Perhaps the long‐lost civilization would have been an enemy. The Mystarchs did not know, but in a few months time they had studied it and copied it, and then returned to the other Mystarchs in the Alpine Fortress.
We may never discover the true extent of the glorious powers the Mystarchs discovered when the full potential of the Mysterium Primordial was unlocked, for they did not share their secrets with the other Beasts this time. We know their power was immense, and no Beast before or after them has been capable of wielding such raw energy. Bound by their previous resolution to use force if necessary, the Mystarchs brought the last of the resisting Beast nations under their control. A few displays of their newfound power were enough to cow the stragglers and cement their dominion over their fellow Beasts.
The Mystarchs now had political power to match their mystical power, but all was not well, for Zahhak's madness festered, unseen by his fellow Mystarchs but all‐too‐apparent to the ambassadors from the subjugated Beast Nations, whom Zahhak saw as beneath him and thus saw no need to bedevil them with his mind magic. Why ensorcel the peasants when you control the Kings and Queens?
One use that the Mystarchs put the unlocked Mysterium to bears mentioning. The Mystarch Tarchon felt that with his newfound power it would be fitting to have suitable servants to attend to him. Why not a new race of Beasts? Tarchon, now mighty his puissance, deemed himself fit to emulate the task of Gods and journeyed to the eastern end of the Mystarch empire, to the Polissya Swamp and gathered creatures of the murk.
Many were his failures with some of the more exotic of the swamp creatures, and finally he exerted his mystical will upon a breed of large frogs living in the Polissya. This time, the result was not a hideously deformed freak or simply a dead animal, but upright creatures that resembled a true Beast though were not quite that. Tarchon named them the Anura and set them to the most demeaning and most odious tasks of manual labor.
Tarchon, feeling that as the creator of the Anura he was their God, further demanded that the Anura worship him, and sacrifice one of their own every fortnight and burn the body on a pyre, in offering to him. Though they were brought into the world by Tarchon, the Anura were as any other thinking creature and resented their lowly status as well as their cruel master and creator. They had no allies though, for none cared for the Anura and few Beasts were even aware they existed. For now, the Anura had no choice but to permit themselves to be abused lest Tarchon decide to simply wipe out their budding people.
The Unbending Treekin
The last pocket of resistance to Mystarch rule in Europe were the Treekin, who were impervious to Zahhak's mental trickery. For the first time in history, Beast and Treekin battled and incredibly, even the Treekin fell back before the combined might of the Mystarchs. While once the Treekin lived in enclaves spread across Europe, now the Treekin retreated to the Great Forest along the Western end of Europe and gathered there, concentrating their ancient arboreal power to bar the forest to those they sadly looked upon as enemies now.
Zahhak was determined to penetrate the Great Forest, believing that none should stand against his will to save the world from the Shadow, and that those who would must be convinced of the error of their ways. Yet, though the Mystarchs threw their full might at the Great Forest, the defenses held. Attack after attack was repelled, and armies broke upon the walls of the forest, struck down by the trees themselves, it is said. The spells of the Mystarchs were for naught, for they were simply absorbed by the forest. Even Al‐Idrisi, the master of travel magics, was unable to use his magic to move within the Great Forest of the Treekin.
Finally, recognizing that while he could not prevail over the combined Treekin but that the Treekin were now confined to the Great Forest, Zahhak and the Mystarchs called off the attack. Meeting in their Alpine Stronghold, it was agreed that each Mystarch must rule a section of their empire and prepare it for the coming of the Shadow.
Chapter 10 - The Fall of the Mystarchs
Preparation for War
The new kingdom was divided into seven sections and each Mystarch took control of the region nearest to his or her own people, but for Zahhak who ruled over the others from their Alpine fortress. Despite this return to the lands of their youth, the Mystarchs found no welcome homecoming upon their arrival in their appointed regions. Word of Zahhak’s cruel and dismissive rule had spread throughout all of Europe and the Mystarchs, once widely viewed as noble protectors of the land and people, were now seen as the vassals of a mad overlord. Still, the nations were obedient, if grudgingly, for they had experienced the power of the Mystarchs in the noon sun of their power.
With each passing month, Zahhak’s demands became stricter and more absurd. By law, all public talk by state officials was ordered to be of the upcoming “War with the Shadow.” Each Beast was asked to sacrifice his freedom and happiness for the safety of the world, and told that not doing so was a crime against all Beasts everywhere. Secret tribunals and private enforcer squads were formed, and anyone suspected of being a dissident to the new order simply vanished or worse. The smiths and forges worked around the clock to produce weapons and machines of war for the upcoming war, which even the opponents of the Mystarch rule granted was of grave concern.
All Beasts without a trade to benefit the war effort were forcibly drafted into Zahhak’s private armies and sent far from their homes for rigorous, and often fatal, training. Females of childbearing age were expected to be pregnant with new young for the war effort as often as possible, and those who spoke out against such demands were brutally shown the error of their ways.
Appeals to the other Mystarchs fell on deaf ears, for they were firmly in Zahhak’s grasp. Emissaries from the people, lamenting the plight of their fellow Beasts were ignored or imprisoned. The once‐great reputation of the Mystarchs had become a distant memory. Eventually, many gave up hope of reasoning with them. Mutterings of revolt and violent revolution were heard in the night, and in the back rooms of taverns. Zahhak’s private enforcers redoubled their efforts to root out any dissension but a righteous idea is hard to extinguish and all love their freedom. The rule of the Mystarchs had become worse than the threat of the Shadow in the minds of so many Beasts.
Soon, talk gave way to action. The Dog Soldiers of Amizeh, Jezebel’s territory and homeland, erupted into revolution, striking down those of Zahhak’s army that had oppressed them. Their victory was short‐lived. Zahhak’s orders to Jezebel were swift and merciless. He sent a contingent of his private army to Amizeh, and with their assistance Jezebel made an example of her fellow Dog Soldiers, brutally crushing the rebellion and putting one in two to death.
This atrocity did not have its intended effect, however. Instead, it unleashed a pent‐up torrent of anti‐Mystarch sentiment that had been largely hidden and suppressed until now. If their lives were to be miserable, short, and ended for speaking out, why should they fight for the world? What joy in living was there to be found in Zahhak’s kingdom?
Two years after the first Dog Soldier rebellion, Amizeh flamed into revolution once again, but this time they did not stand alone. The proud Tauranians, ashamed that Zahhak was one of their race, joined the Dog Soldiers as did the wild Broccan clans of the Scotian Highlands and, surprising all with their fierce resolve, the Bounders of the Emerald Kingdom.
Acting swiftly before Zahhak might be alerted, squads of Bounders made the short trip by boat to the Scotian Highlands and there rendezvoused with war parties from the Broccan clans. Replete with mages and druids as well as warriors, they journeyed south with all speed and soon tracked down and subdued Macha. Many died, for even a lone Mystarch was nearly a force of nature, but the Beasts had nothing to lose now. They fought like ones possessed, incensed by years of brutal domination.
The Tauranians attacked the Feline capital of Hayasa, and similarly captured Nefritari. Finally, the Dog Soldiers used trickery to surprise the unsuspecting Jezebel in her sleep and took their vengeance for their slaughtered friends and family. She survived the night as a valuable political prisoner, but bore the scars of her punishment until she was lost to history.
With three of the seemingly all‐powerful Mystarchs in the hands of friendly Beasts, the other regions were spurred into action. The whole of Europe rose up in defiance of the Mystarchs’ rule, starting with the Anura whose sudden defiance took Tarchon by surprise, and caused him to be the next to fall.
Chaos reigned supreme, and in the ensuing confusion a strong and purposeful army from several nations struck into the heart of Europe. In a decisive and bloody battle, they defeated the private Mystarch army and captured Zahhak. With his mystical power blocked by arcane shields, Zahhak’s control on the minds of the other Mystarchs was lifted.
They were sick with guilt over what they had done. Al‐Idrisi, realizing that he could never live amongst the Beasts again, used his arts to leave the known world and disappear. The next morning, Jezebel’s cell was found empty. Most Beasts believe that Al‐Idrisi had finally mastered boundless teleportation, and used it to rescue Jezebel and escape.
The Trial of the Mystarchs
With Europe in turmoil, Jezebel and Al‐Idrisi vanished, three of their number still captured, and the full guilt of their actions weighing upon them, the remaining Mystarchs surrendered and gave themselves up to the Beasts, hoping for mercy. They were given communal trials by a committee made of representatives from all the Beast nations, and led by the legendary Solomon, a Hart.
For three months, evidence was presented and the charges were examined. The Mystarchs were each allowed to speak in their own defense. Most sat sullenly and said nothing, though Zahhak seethed and spat obscenities when his turn came. Jarnsaxa was the only Mystarch who spoke at length, and told the tale of the Dor’kana and Zahhak’s mind magic. In the end, there were two classes of punishments handed out: Tarchon and Macha would be executed for their initial support of Zahhak’s plan, along with Zahhak himself. Nefritari, Jarnsaxa, and Heraclitus would be exiled to the ends of Earth, with death as the punishment for their return.
The exiled trio took their leave the same day, and left the lands of the Beast Kingdoms separately under guarded escort, to wander the Earth. Many swore the stink of their shame could still be smelled days later.
The morning of the scheduled executions was a grim one. The sky was overcast, and both Tarchon and Macha sat in their separate cells, contemplating the fate that awaited them. Zahhak, as ever, was mumbling and cursing softly to himself.
As the guards escorted them to the platform where they were to be hung, a low buzzing could be heard and an energy began to crackle in the air around them. With no more warning, a rectangular portal of light slid open next to the prisoners. Macha and Tarchon watched mutely as a trio of Dor’kana leapt out of the portal, slew the guards holding Zahhak, grabbed him, and vanished back into the portal, which snapped closed. Zahhak was lost to them. The Beasts were outraged that their most sadistic and most hated prisoner had escaped their justice, but there was nothing to be done. The executions of Macha and Tarchon proceeded as planned.
The era of the Mystarchs had come to an end, but questions remained. What were these Dor’kana, and what was their purpose? Were they related to the threat of the Shadow? Why had they assisted Zahhak both by teaching him the mind magic and by rescuing him from execution? What was to be done with the Mysterium Primordial and the Enigma Primal now? Would the Beast Kingdoms remain as one or go their separate way as disparate nations?
Chapter 11 - The Covenant and Solomon's Line
With the fall of the Mystarchs, the Beasts were faced with a difficult choice: Where to go from there? While the rule of the Mystarchs had been harsh and terrible, the Beasts had suffered together during these times and grown accustomed to thinking of themselves almost as one people, one nation. The idea of splitting themselves back into disparate states was not an attractive proposal, especially with the threat of the Shadow still looming over the known world. And for what purposes had the Dor’kana taken Zahhak? Would they find Zahhak leading an army of vengeance backed with the strange Dor’kana at their doorsteps when the sun rose tomorrow? With so much unknown, it was urgent that the Beasts prepare for the worst.
A great council convened to discuss these issues, with the wise and powerful from all the diverse nations that had been subjugated by the Mystarchs attending. The Treekin, now living in the Great Forest, sent a delegation, and even the Anura, pseudo‐Beasts that they were came en masse, for they had nowhere else to go. Finally, a consensus was reached: The Empire must be preserved for the sake of the common defense. It was agreed that Solomon, who had wisely presided over the trial of the Mystarchs and had been universally acclaimed for it, be declared the first Overking of a new Beast Empire which would encompass all of the former Mystarch‐controlled territory. The Treekin would be valuable allies but would, of course, remain independent.
Solomon agreed to take this burden upon himself, and named advisors from each of the regions to aid him in restoring order and justice to the Kingdom. Solomon’s first act as Overking was to gather the High Druids together and declare a holy Covenant prohibiting any Beast from spilling the blood of his fellows. With the High Druids, he prayed for days to the Earthmother, begging her to sanctify the Covenant and grant it power. He had despised the suffering and violence that had been visited on his people by Zahhak the Mad and intended to at least ensure that his people would need fear only those not of the Covenant.
Though we do not know the mind of one such as Gaia, we know that in the instant before she sanctified the Covenant and bound the Beasts to it, two historic events occured. First, the Outcasts – Beasts who did not wish to join the Covenant – were formed. We surmise now that these types of Beasts, which included the Carrionites and the Stone Lions among others, were simply not of a nature to join the Covenant and so were not made part of it. Perhaps Gaia could not change their natures enough. Perhaps she did not wish to. Perhaps they did not wish to be changed. Regardless, the paths of the Outcasts and those of the Beast Empire split in this fateful moment, never to meet as brothers again.
The second momentous event that took place in the moments before the sanctification of the Covenant concerns the Anura. As they were created by Tarchon they were not true Beasts. Yet, few could deny that they walked, talked, and often acted like Beasts, and had they not brought down a Mystarch? Gaia probed their hearts and knew them to be true and worthy but lacking...something. Some final spark of life that even a Mystarch armed with the Mysterium Primordial was not able to imbue was missing.
The Earthmother forever endeared herself to the Anura in this moment for she filled the missing piece in the essence of the Anura, changing them from pseudo‐Beasts to full Beasts, right and true. The Anura rejoiced and eagerly agreed to join the Covenant, enormously proud to be counted among the ranks of Beasts.
With the blessing of Gaia herself, the Covenant was woven into the very blood of the Beasts of the Beast Empire, binding them and their progeny to it. To attempt to harm another Beast of the Covenant would be as to cut off one’s own paw needlessly. It was now against the most fundamental nature of these Beasts to visit injury upon each other willfully.
Solomon’s second act was to outlaw the use or teaching of any arcane magic, punishable by lifelong exile. All Mages in the kingdom were invited to join the ranks of the Druids, and all but a few gladly gave up their use of the arcane arts. Magic was now much feared and it was widely agreed that this decree would prevent another Mystarch‐like reign of magically‐enforced terror. The Mysterium Primordial, the Enigma Primal, and the Index, with their terrible power, were hidden by Solomon himself to prevent any from laying hands or eyes upon it.
The Solomnic Age
With a wise and just King, the Covenant in place, and magic outlawed the Beast Empire was revitalized. Solomon built his great capital city of Oromar on the Plains of Parvia, south of the central Alpine Mountains. After years of oppression and tyranny at Zahhak’s cruel hands, the people were free to live as they wished and to prosper. In time, the old generation gave way to the new.
The Shadow, the uncertainty surrounding the disappearance of Zahhak and the Dor’kana, and the legacy of the Mystarchs slowly faded into history where most were all too happy to leave them. Solomon’s reign was celebrated yearly throughout the land and gave way to a new age of prosperity, widely called the Solomnic Age, though of course it was only a relatively small part of the Age of Legend.
After a long and happy life, Solomon died in his sleep and was succeeded by his son, Lysander. It is known that before his death he revealed the location of the Mysterium Primordial to Lysander, charging him to pass the location only onto his own heir when the time came, that it may remain safe and hidden away from all.
Lysander was a ruler in his father’s image, and greatly respected by the people. He continued the work that Solomon had begun, and worked throughout his life to bring peace and justice to the Beasts. Under his rule, Oromar grew into the grandest city in the Empire, which entered a wonderous age of culture and accomplishment by the Beasts. Great wonders of stone and marble were constructed, and the fine arts flourished. Arcane magic had been virtually forgotten, though Druidic magic was widely practiced and highly honored. Beasts of all races made their home in Oromar and all faiths were welcome.
Temples to Gods and Goddesses ranging from Apollo, the Noctari God of the Sun to Curnon, the Anglorum God of the Hunt to Sif, the Ursine Goddess of Battle were erected, but none were larger than the grand temple to the Earthmother, and all paid her homage.
When Lysander eventually joined his father in the afterlife, he too was succeeded by his son, and Solomon’s line continued through many generations of the glorious Beast Empire. The 23rd ruler of Solomon’s blood was named Tammam, meaning strength and perfection, and his glorious kingdom stretched across all of Europe, Taurania, and even most of the territories we now know as the Anubian Empire. It was a shining testament to the glory of the united Beasts of the Empire but, their eyes blinded by that very glory and the hundreds of years of peace and prosperity that they had enjoyed, the Beasts forgot why Solomon had been made Overking and why Tammam was now Overking: The threat of foreign invasion, whether by the Dor’kana, the Darklords of the Shadow, or more terrestrial enemies.
Chapter 12 - The Primal War
During the 8th year of Tammam’s reign, barbarous invaders arrived by ship, raiding and pillaging the Emerald Kingdom first, then the Scotian Highlands and Anglorum, driving almost all Beasts from those shores. Indeed, the invaders completely depopulated the Emerald Kingdom, forever displacing the Bounders who once called it home, and despoiled much of Anglorum before landing their fleet on the mainland across the narrow water, near the Great Forest.
Reports from the fleeing survivors of Anglorum and the Emerald Kingdom had already begun to trickle inland, but now they came in a flood ‐ tales of powerful Beasts like none seen before, in great numbers, advancing forcefully into the Beast Empire. Tammam, who had personally led skirmishes against the Outcasts that had occasionally harried the Beasts of the Covenant, resolved to lead a small expeditionary force against the invaders directly, to take their measure and halt their advance.
What they found when they arrived near the shores of Europe shocked and disturbed them. Here were sentient Beasts, like they… but different. These Beasts were larger, savage, and exceedingly violent. Bound by no Covenant, they killed with impunity and took few prisoners. Tammam’s records of the invaders describe monstrous twisted wolf‐Beasts, larger and darker than the Fangren, reptilian Beasts with razor‐sharp teeth and wicked spines on their heads, and strange cat‐like Beasts with fangs as long as daggers.
Naming these creatures “Primals,” Tammam engaged them in a poorly planned skirmish in which he was decisively defeated and routed. Retreating back into central Europe, he made plans to raise a real army for the first time since the Beasts united against the Mystarchs, twenty‐three generations earlier. He, Tammam, Overking of the Beast Empire and heir to Solomon himself, would drive back these Primals to wherever they had come from.
After this, little is known. The lists of battles and much of the history of the Primal War has been lost to us. It was a time of great chaos, and the records from this period are incomplete at best. What is known is that the Primals savaged much of Western and Southern Europe for a period of some years before eventually withdrawing without a clear reason as to why. It is also fairly certain that Tammam was slain by a Primal arrow, not long before the end of the war.
The Primal Withdrawal
Soon after Tammam’s death, it appeared that the Primals simply decided to leave and return from whence they had come. Why? Those of that time and after did not know. Certainly, the Second Alliance of Treekin and Beasts was proving stiffer opposition than the Primals had previously faced, but history did not indicate that the Alliance was doing more than holding its own against the invaders.
What was known was that Tammam’s only heir, the seven year‐old former Prince, now Overking, Ir’asa simply vanished. Many speculated that he was somehow captured by the Primals during their withdrawl, as he was with his father’s company learning the art of strategic warfare.
The easy answer was that they were after one of the two Beasts who might know the location of the Mysterium Primordial (though none could be sure that the knowledge wasn’t lost long before Tammam’s time), but as the records did not speak of the Primals using magic at all, and as there was no mention at all of contact with the Primals previous to this, it was hard to see how they might know of the Mysterium or why they would want or need it. Perhaps they were simply raiding for the sheer sport of it, or for the sake of pillage.
We have come to know the truth, however, as related to us by some of the Cyclops that served the Faerie. The first place the Primals landed was the Emerald Isle and during the Primal War the comet, upon which was Agalarna, the Spirit Mother of the Faeries, returned to the vicinity of Earth for the first time since Djall first came to this planet. Whether this went unnoticed to the Beasts of the time or not is unknown. There was enough chaos with the war against the Primals that it may have simply gone uncommented upon.
The Faerie certainly noticed and felt it coming for years in advance. From their Otherland home, at the edge of time, they watched the Earth. They saw the coming of the Primals, and they saw the kidnapping of Ir’asa, who knew of the location of the Mysterium Primordial. They witnessed the Primals taking Ir’asa to the Emerald Isle and sequestering him away there to begin the search for the Mysterium.
Even in the time of the Titans, the origins of the Mysterium were unknown. In the most ancient myths of the Faerie Folk, the Mysterium was whispered of, and was already old beyond legend. They didn’t know where it had come from but their Titan masters had coveted it and had tantalized the Faerie with the secrets held within.
When their Spirit Mother was as close to the Earth as possible and the power of the Faerie was waxing higher than it had since the Lost Ages they broke through the thin membrane that separated Otherland from the Earth. They stormed over the Primals on the Emerald Isle, killed them all, and took Ir’asa for their own, disappearing back to the Otherland.
The leadership, such as it was, of the Primals had been decimated by the Faerie attack, and, spooked by these unknown beings and dismayed at the loss of Ir’asa, who was their goal, they retreated. All this went completely unnoticed to the Beasts at the time, who were mystified by the withdrawl of the Primals.
With the loss of Solomon’s bloodline, Europe was plunged into chaos. Confused and conflicting accounts of this time period exist as the Beasts of Europe entered a Dark Age of which very little is known. The Primal War had destroyed cities, displaced entire populations, and ruined the greatest Empire the Beasts had ever known. Though the Gaia‐blessed Covenant still held strong, the Solomnic Age was over, never to return.
Chapter 13 - The Vampire Revolution
Though the history of the Beasts from the early days of the Mystarchs through the bloody war with the Primals stretched out interminably in the minds of mortals, the eternal beings of the UnderRealm took only passing notice of such events. Time has little importance when one does not face inevitable death, and the undead had had better things to do than pay attention to the squabbles of beings whom they saw as little more than armed vermin or livestock with claws.
For thousands of years the undead armies had been massing throughout the UnderRealm. The Vampires and Mummies had quietly culled the living Beasts throughout their history and taken just enough of them to keep the ranks of their wicked armies steadily growing while remaining on the fringe of the Beasts’ awareness. They existed in the mortals’ minds as a legend, a bedtime tale to scare children.
The skill and strength of these ancient and lifeless armies was no mere tale, however. While the Beasts had alternating periods of peace and war, and the warriors of one generation gave rise to the artists and scholars of the next, Abidan and Abiel had been working tirelessly to spawn new and horrible creations and hone their undying horde towards a single razor‐sharp purpose: war and destruction. No natural death after a mere century of training awaited an undead soldier. Each passing year brought the warriors and death‐mages of the UnderRealm more power, more skill, more knowledge and more bloodlust.
Vinga, Palatine of the Vampires, had been particularly relentless in his pursuit of greater and greater power. He sought out the darkest corners of the UnderRealm to ferret out secrets of the old world of the Lost Ages, put innumerable captured Beasts to the question to learn all he could of their brand of power, and built a great army composed solely of Vampires who were loyal first and foremost to him. He grew in cunning, and he grew in strength for he was driven by a call to glory that he alone of the creations of the Archliches seemed to hear.
While Abiel and Abidan focused most of their efforts on the creation of new undead at the Abyssian Locus, Vinga was focused only on his own advancement. In time, his power and armies began to rival that of his creator, Abiel, though none of them could match the power of Salamanzar, father to them all.
With such strength at his command, Vinga began to writhe under the constraints imposed by the Archliches. Why was he not allowed to prey on the Beasts more fully? Why did the Undead hide in the dark reaches of the UnderRealm, like worms, while the children of Gaia roamed freely on the surface, blissfully unaware of their presence? Abiel and Abidan’s endless admonishments to remain patient, continue training, and wait for their armies to grow further before the inevitable battle with the Beasts began to sound hollow in the ears of the Palatine. He had honed his strength for thousands of years. He nearly rivaled his own creator in power. And now he was told to wait, like a faithful dog, when all of Europe was in chaos in the wake of the Primal War and the Beasts were more vulnerable than they had been at nearly any time since they first awoke?
Vinga decided at that moment to become the master of his own destiny. No longer would the Vampires serve the Archliches. They would strike out at the Beasts in force and perhaps Vinga would show Salamanzar that it was time for the new generation to supplant the old. He, great Palatine of the Vampires, would in this single bloody stroke, show the father of all Undead that the old ways of Abidan and Abiel made them weak, and that Vinga, not the Archliches, should serve as chief Lord of Salamanzar’s Hosts.
When the time came for Abiel to make his ten‐year visit to observe the vampires’ progress and preparation for the war, Vinga struck. He and his strongest lieutenants confronted Abiel in Vinga’s personal chambers and there slew the Archlich who had created them by treachery. Powerful indeed were Vinga and his army of Vampires but they could not stand against the combined strength of the UnderRealm, and all, regardless of station, feared the Protolich.
The Blood Kingdom
The Vampires left the UnderRealm by the same tunnels which they had historically used for their raids upon the Beasts. Vinga had long planned for this day. He immediately set out for the Carpathian Mountains, recognizing them as a very defensible location to found his new empire, the Blood Kingdom, and to make his plans to enslave or destroy the Beasts.
Upon arriving in the Carpathians, the Vampires set about terrorizing and slaughtering the native Tuskens of Eremantus and the Capricans who dwelt in the high places of the Carpathians. Displacing the Tuskens and Capricans was merely an enjoyable prequisite of the necessary work that would be done by the Vampires to establish their Blood Kingdom and would serve to swell the ranks of the Vampire army at the same time.
Meanwhile, in the UnderRealm, Abidan was just then receiving word of the coup against Abiel. The death of his Lich‐Brother was viewed as an unimportant detail which merely served to secure his position at the right hand of Salamanzar, but the disobedience displayed by Vinga could not go unpunished. However, Abidan’s power did not yet extend to the lands surrounding the Blood Kingdom. He resolved to establish his own base of Undead power on the surface of the world from whence he could carefully watch Vinga’s progress in the Carpathians and move against him when the time was right.
Suten‐Hamu, the Mummy King, was sent by Abidan with a legion of his cloth‐wrapped undead to the lands of Abydos, in Egypt, where they rose from the dry desert sands to slay the Dog Soldiers which had settled there. The few survivors of the initial attack fled to their ancestral home in Amizeh to escape the brutal conquest, and Suten‐Hamu quickly established himself as the ruler of now‐empty Egypt.
From there, Abidan kept a watchful eye upon Vinga through the reports of Suten‐Hamu, who gathered his intelligence from the poor Beasts that fled to the south to escape the terror of the newly established Blood Kingdom, and traded one tragic fate for another.
Chapter 14 - The Undead War Part 1
For over a century, Vinga and his legion of Vampires built their Blood Kingdom free from any opposition or signficant resistance. Now that they lived upon the surface of the Earth, they were able to make regular raids on the communities of Beasts living near the Carpathians. Their numbers grew exponentially along with their reputation as ruthless and powerful killers. The Carpathian Mountains themselves were now known far and wide as the exclusive domain of the Vampires.
With a free hand in their own destiny and a steady supply of Beasts to practice on, the Vampires developed many new "tricks" based on Abiel's original technique for vampiric creation. They learned how to feed upon the Beasts without killing them, and how to make several forms of lesser Vampires; simple, mindless servants which obeyed unquestioningly and hunted with blind instinct and savage intent. Any Beast brave or foolish enough to venture into their demesnes was quickly made a slave to the elder Bloodkin.
Few Vampires were made in the traditional way during this time, and Abiel's method for new creations soon became known as the Old Way. Only Beasts of great skill or strength were turned using the Old Way, to prevent the weak from ascending to true power.
Despite these advances, Salamanzar was displeased by Vinga's actions. He had not yet ordered Abidan to strike Against Vinga, curious to see if the Vampires would prove their strength and earn their newly acquired independence by swiftly conquering Europe for him. Instead, in his view, the Vampires cowered in the Carpathians while word of the new foes and intruders upon the surface spread slowly among the Beasts. Salamanzar knew that given time to organize, the Beasts might well drive back the Undead horde. He had not wished to reveal their presence so quickly without a decisive strike. Vinga's impatience and arrogance had now put his own plans in jeopardy.
Salamanzar decided that Vinga's rebellion could no longer be tolerated. Her ordered Abidan to put an end to the charace and remind the Vampires who their masters were. Abidan had not sat idly by while Vinga built upon the surface. Hearing of Vinga's new creations, Abidan too had bent his will to creating new kinds of Undead. His experiments had produced two new types of creatures, the skeletons and the zombies, which were easily and quickly raised from the fallen bodies of foes. While the strength of these creations was not remarkable, they served well as shock troops which could easily by thrown at an enemy in wave after wave.
Abidan had been building an army of these troops in secret, and was now prepared to strike out. Suten-Hamu and his Mummies were called from Egypt and returned to the UnderRealm. There, they combined forces with the skeletons and zombies to form an army created to do one thing: Dominated the sunlit world above. Preferring to remain in the UnderRealm himself, Abidan named his greatest lich-general, Shabaka, as the commander of the army and sent them up and out of the UndearRealm through a cave system in the lower Alps to prepare for their attack upon the Vampires.
While making these preparations, Shabaka began to receive reports from his lieutenants about frequent skirmishes with what were described as "strange Beast-like creatures", covered in hair and very strong. He immediately sent a scouting party of Undead futher up into the Alps to investigate these claims. The scouts never returned, but three days later Shabaka's army came under heavy assault by the native denizens of the Alps; the Yeti. We speculate that these fierce creatures were perhaps created as the result of one of Zahhak's experiments but in truth, none know.
Furiously territorial, the Yeti had guarded their Alpine home jealously for centuries and were beside themselves with rage to find an alien army boiling up from beneath the surface and camping in their hunting grounds.
The ruling Yeti Matrons (for their females are larger and stronger than their males) gathered the tribes together and together they fell upon the Undead army, taking it unawares. The strength of sinew and the savage rage of the Yeti combined to roll over Shabaka's legions that first day of battle, but the Yeti suffered terrible losses in doing so.
Though they are mountain warriors of fearsome power, the Yeti were ultimately no match for the Undead horde, which sported great lich-mages among its numbers, against whom these relatively primitive snow creatures had no counter.
The Hunters Become the Hunted
The Yeti attack was broken on the third day, and Shabaka, furious at the delay and the lost soldiers, ordered the Yeti punished for their actions. The Undead proceeded to hunt down the fierce snow creatures and slaughter every last one they could find. Though known for almost total lack of fear, the Yeti now knew fear. They ran, higher and higher in the mountains until finally the surviving remnants of the once-flourishing tribes of Yeti had escaped into the topmost reaches of the Alps and hid there in the snow and ice.
Satisfied that he had suitably demonstrated his displeasure, Shabaka completed his preparations and ordered his newly-blooded army to march to the Carpathians, there to take the Blood Kingdom and discipline the rebellious vampires. As he marched out of the Alps, the Outcast Beasts who made their home there in the lower elevations - Carrionites and the Stone Cats - fled from the army's path. Word had reached them of the decimation of the Yeti people and they knew they could not face this horde. The Undead army marched on, despoiling a path from the Alps to the Carpathians three miles wide, and slaying all Beasts unfortunate enough to have remained in its path.