Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Stone and the Flame

In the years before the Third War of Reality, a girl was born in a far flung, rural region of one of the ancient human kingdoms.  From almost the moment she could walk, her deep red hair attracted the attentions of the people near parents' farm.  She explored the forests near her home incessently.

Before she was very old, her brother was born.  Even as an infant, he was large.  The bond between them was instantaneous.  By the time the boy could walk, his sister was taking him on her adventures.

Both siblings developed a stubborn streak as they grew, often taking on difficult tasks and refusing to give them up until completed.  For her creativity and inquisitiveness, the girl was often called the Flame, for fire has often been the companion of inspiration and wisdom.  The boy, who had grown sturdy and large to match his stubborness, was called the Stone, for few things are more steadfast than rock.

Together they worked their parents' farm, far from the politics and pressures of the Human kingdoms.  Still, their mother told them stories of how one day a War would come and reshape the very Reality of their lives.

In the last days before the War, an army began to rise from within the lands of the Humans and the Fae.  It carried allegiance to no one land, but honored them all.  Led by the Great Sorceress and the Child of Light, the force was the Watchtower, the army founded by the Heroes of the past two Wars for Reality.  They called to all the citizens of the lands they crossed, asking for those who would pledge themselves to maintain the balance of reality, not raising up one race over the others.

Having been told of the War and the exploits of the Watchtower time and again, the girl called the Flame and her brother called the Stone left their home and their safety to pledge themselves to the cause of the Artifacts of Fate.

And so, like so many of their generation far across the Human and Fae lands, they went to War.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Devourer

Once there were two mighty sisters of the Fae.  One was fair of hair, like the sun high above.  The other was tressed like the night of the new moon.  Together they fought across ages, decimating their foes with potent magics.

At the advent of the Second War of Reality, the city of the sisters stayed neutral.  They were not needed urgently and were powerful enough to defend their home with minimal aid.  Or so they thought.

A great wave of Kobolds, fresh from their conquest of Brute territories, swept into the kingdom, pillaging until they lay suege to the capital.  The sisters, certain as they had been of their defenses, found it too late to call for aid.  The Kobolds pressed at many fronts, stretching the forces of the Fae and Human Alliance to their limits.  The siege continued.

Finally, the Kobolds broke the city defenses.  The streamed through the streets, killing indescriminately.  The sisters, who were the city's rulers, descended to the streets and began laying waste to the Kobold forces.  For a brief time it looked as if the tide would turn, but then Kobold reinforcements appeared.

Enraged, the canine-humanoids, sought to break the city forever.  By day's end they had killed near half of the city's population, dragging some of the bodies away for foul purposes.  The dark-haired sister was among the missing.  The fair-haired sister grieved and prepared for the end.  But at the fall of night, great horns sounded, as an army led by great Heroes and the Child of Light marched toward the Kobold flank.

The remaining battle was a rout as the furious Fae if the city rose up and the Kobolds were pinned by the forces of the Child of Light.  The entire marauding band was destroyed.  The fair-haired sister, called by some the Sky Queen, pledged her aid to the Child of Light, but set out on a campaign to disrupt and defeat the Kobolds in vengeance for her presumedly dead sister.  As she fought, Heroes rallied to her cause, punishing the Kobolds for their depredations.

But the dark-haired sister lived.  Tornented by the Kobolds, she watched as they used a magical device to twist the world around them.  Soon, she became obsessed with the power of this Chaos Rune.  It beat in time with her soul, calling to her in every moment.

Chaos, she realized, was the natural state of Reality.  Consumed by this thought, she swore to return Reality to that state by destroying civilization wherever she found it.  She would create an utopia of anarchy.

After a time that could have been years or decades, she found her opportunity, breaking from her captivity and freeing the Chaos Rune from the hands of her captors.  It drifted from her reach, but she felt its call and followed.  It is not known how many times the dark-haired sister, now the Devourer of Civilization, laid her hands on the Rune, but the evidence of her passing is often clear.

In the wake of the Third War of Reality, she came to the Island Home.  There she found the Rune, secreted within the vaults of the Island Home, and a young prince, hungry for an eternal rule.  She came to him, offering herself as a quiet adviser.  And as his trust grew, she began to whisper to him of a chance at a rule lasting longer than the cycle of Reality and War.  A rule which would make him the most powerful individual in that Reality.

He accepted, becoming twisted by her touch and the touch of the Rune.  He fed on blood and the lifeforce of his people.  He usurped his father and was denied the use of the Sword of Kings by the spirits residing therin.  But this his people did not know.  They trusted him, and such was their downfall.

The Turned Lord brought down the Island Home.  He allowed the Devourer to lay the wards of the Island asunder.  He allowed his people to fail in their duties.  And the Island Home sank, sank beneath the waves forever more as the magical swords of its defenders were cast into the earth in a desperate bid to remove them from the reach of those twisted by the Turned Lord.  The Devourer had struck a blow in her campaign to sow chaos, crushing one of the bastions of Humanity, a holdout from the Third War of Reality.

Fortunately for the Human kingdoms, she lost the Rune in the collapse of the Island Home, but it would not be the last time she neared possession of it.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Dark Fae

Long ago, before the Second War for Reality, there was a movement within the young Fae to better understand the Undead.  They began to examine their innate connection to life and Magic.  Some among Fae society spoke out against their study, but the prevailing belief was that more knowledge of the enemy could only help the Fae in their efforts to protect Reality as it was.  They moved into a great fortress on the edge of the border between Fae and Undead lands and set to their research.

The young Fae, convinced they needed to examine their subjects from all angles and captured several Undead, ranging from weak individuals to a powerful commander.  The young Fae, who had begun calling themselves the Kilandrans, tested the captive Undead.  They pushed the limits of their prisoners, and sought the source of their connection with death.

None know just what the Kilandrans discovered, but the results of it were clear.  They tapped the powers of the Undead, and as a group fell out of communication with their fellows.  The fortress they had claimed for their own fell silent with the doors barred.  Suddenly, it descended into chaos.  Strange lights appeared throughout the fortress.  The laws of Reality seemed to flow awkwardly from the normal into twisted half-truths.  Sounds of battle and madness echoed into the nearby forests.  And then the doors opened.

From it emerged a group that still appeared Fae, but tainted with chaotic energies.  They seemed to have mastered them, appearing calm and focused.  But they were cold in a way their fellows rarely were.  There was a sense about them of restrained rage and joy.  The Fae welcomed their fellows back into their society, but watched them closely.  As a result, the Kilandrans began to use a second epithet: the Dark Fae.

As the Second War neared, the second generation of Dark Fae rose and neared the age at which they would join the forces that would fight alongside the rest of the Fae nation against the Brutes and Undead.  Each of them, at almost the same time, went mad.  They lashed out at all others around them, warping and twisting the world and their allies.  The Fae wanted them killed, but the elder Dark Fae drove them into exile.  Months it stretched on.  A year.  Two.

And then they returned, like their forefathers, restored to sanity.  The second generation of Dark Fae were the first to describe this period of madness as being Berserker.  The Fae had come to realize that this state was a natural state of progression of the Dark Fae's life cycle.  During the years-long Second War of Reality, the third generation of Dark Fae came of age and their Beserker state was used as a weapon against the Undead, Brutes, and Kobolds to great effect.  It had a mighty impact upon the Fae's Human allies, as well, with some learning to enter a fugue state similar to that of the Dark Fae's Beserker state, creating their own berserkers.

From then on, the Dark Fae were an integral part of the forces of the Artifacts of Fate, often working closely with She that Wields the Shadows.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Artifacts

What? This isn't a piece of a novel, it's just some short story! What's going on here?

Before there was the War for Reality, there was no need for great generals.  Certainly generals arose; the fighting between Brutes, Undead, outside invaders, and the Human-Fae Alliance gave many commanders the experience they needed to lead their troops competently and with honor.  But the prize of the War changed all this so great was the power it provided.  But the Alliance was outnumbered by the Brutes and the Undead, who reproduced easily and rapidly, and matured into fighting ability with haste.

Seeking to combine the Fae's ability to tap Magic instinctively and the Human's ability to learn and grow far beyond their first interactions with the world, the Alliance worked tirelessly to forge a general who would be a master sorcerer, a child of both light and shadow, gifted with a great strategic mind and immense power.  This general would be dubbed the Artifact of Fate, a warrior who could lead the Alliance in their times of trial and in the face of overwhelming odds.  But their first attempt failed.

With time running out and no chance to complete the project as originally intended, the Alliance determined to split the powers of the Artifact into three vessels.  The first would be the Child of Light, a magical force with a mind for strategy.  The second would be the Great Sorceress, full of knowledge and able to tap into the hearts and minds of her followers.  The third would be She that Wields the Shadows, a master of subterfuge and the darker aspects of Magic.  This Trinity would be the new Artifacts of Fate, each holding a smaller amount of the power that was intended to be bound into the original Artifact.

This time, the attempt was successful.  Three leaders arose instead of one, bound intimately to one another.  The struck out, driving back the overwhelming forces of first the Brutes and then the Undead.  They pushed until they won, and then, task completed, they debated what changes they should make to Creation as a result of their victory.

Ultimately, though, the wisdom of the Great Sorceress won out.  They restored the world to the state it had been in before the War.  They did not punish the Brutes or Undead, as some advocated.  They did not elevate the Humans or Fae, as others demanded.  They simply left the world as it was.  To do otherwise, they reasoned, would be to take value from the world that had created them.

Time and again, the War would come.  Time and again, the Artifacts would rise, reborn into the world to defend their people against those who would destroy them.  They remained bound to one another, friends, siblings, spouses through the eons.

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Bond

What? This isn't a piece of a novel, it's just some short story! What's going on here?

Once, there was a great and powerful Sorceress.  As was her Fate, she led the armies of Fae and Humans in a desperate effort to stave off the warlike Brutes, dangerous Undead, and consuming Kobolds.  She led the armies not to change Reality, but to preserve it in a balance.  Such was her nature.

The Great Sorceress, before being forced to lead her armies in desperate battle, had a consort, once, called the Child of Light.  He had led the armies and she had cared for the people.  She had taught them of Magic and of Fate, giving them moral guidance.

Amd then the Child of Light died.  His enemies had isolated him and he fell beneath the desert sun.  And so the Great Sorceress was alone.  Her forces, demoralized and outnumbered, appeared in dire straights.

A prince from a great Human kingdom came to her, seeking to offer his services in leading her armies.  He was from a long lineage, trained in magic and war.  All he sought, he promised, was the Great Sorceress' hand, just as the Child of Light had.  She declined.

Spurned, he launched his campaign in her behalf without her consent.  The Human nations rallied and their Fae allies surged to their support.  The Prince was a great leader, and sure that soon he would win the hand of his intended.

Still she would not have him.  He raged at the thought.  He grew determined to supplant her claim on the changes to reality which lay ahead.  Determined to be the leader who ended the cycle of conflict forever.

He saw the cycle which had been caused by the conflict between Formed and that which was Unformed.  Saw that Magic had been bound into Fate by the Formed.  And he grew angry.  They had risked his world for their battle.  A plan formed in his mind: if Magic was gone from Creation, the war could not return.  Surely then none could question his wisdom.

He announced his plan to those who had rallied behind him.  The majority roared their approval.  He had rallied them and they tired of war.  Only those who had always served the Great Sorceress and the Child of Light dissented.  The Fae grew concerned aware that the loss of Magic could cripple or destroy them.  These forces drew back, determined to defend the Sorceress so she could complete her task.

The Prince challenged her to a duel.  Wanting to spare her people from firther bloodshed, the Sorceress agreed.  Some of her people would go to an isolated island, to create a redoubt against the changes the Prince sought.  Others would guard her against treachery.

The Prince had no magical strength of his own, but he had found a solution.  He had struck a bargain with the forces of that which was Unformed.  They would neutralize the strength of the Great Sorceress.  He was certain that he could affect the changes he intended and escape his deal with that which was Unformed through the severing of Magic from Creation.

Some from his forces learned of his deal and attempted to warn the Sorceress, but she could not go back on her word.  The duel was set and bound to go forward.  Her powers blocked by that which was Unformed, the Great Sorceress was no match for the fighting skill of the Prince.  She was defeated.

The Prince's changes were bound to the loom of Fate.  He did not escape his deal, though, and was snatched away by that which was Unformed.  Dying and knowing her world was ending, the Great Sorceress called upon her allies, the Fae, Humans, and other folk who would stay beyond the changes wrought by the Prince.

With her last breaths she bound them to the souls of her followers.  When they were reborn, this bond would connect them to those they lost.  In time the Bond might grow strong and what was lost might be relearned.  And the harm the Prince had brought might be healed.  The Bond is the key, the last bastion against the fall of Creation.  The Bond is the last hope for what was lost to return.

The Heroes

In war, men and women are tested. Some collapse.  Some hold steady.  Others rise to notable levels and become heroes.  In the War of Reality, these Heroes could rise a point at which they become bound to Fate.

The first heroes rose in the wake of the appearance of the Artifacts of Fate in the First War of Reality.  These Heroes were a small, elite group.  They turned the tide in several key battles, driving back attacks by the Brutes and Undead time and again.

Like the Artifacts, the Heroes became bound to Fate, spun out into the world in times of need.  By the time the Second War of Reality dawned, the Heroes had lived hundreds of lives, fighting one another and the forces which would threaten their world.  It was almost bot enough.

The Kobolds were summoned by the Brutes shortly into the War. They subsumed the Brutes and cut a savage path into the world.  They consumed, driving deep into Fae lands and corrupting their essence.  Brute bands, fleeing the fall of their bretheren, stormed into human lands.

A beautiful and powerful Fae queen took up the cause after her sister was lost and a great city destroyed.  Gathering a cadre of heroes, set made war upon the Kobolds, killing droves of the canine-like humanoids.

Other groups of Heroes formed bands which hunted the rogue Brutes, ceasing their efforts to rape and pillage in human lands.  When the Child of Light fell, these Heroes rallied to the Great Sorceress and decided the outcome of the War.  New members joined their ranks and a few faded away, but as a group they remained vital.

Once more the Heroes were bound to lives of meaning time and again.  When the Third War of Reality began, they were a highly skilled force.  The War was a difficult one, though.  The Kobolds had completely supplanted the Brutes, and children of that which was Unformed roamed freely in the darker forests of the world.

Many of the Heroes fell.  When the Child of Light fell as well, they were too few to turn the tide in favor of the Great Sorceress.  Some work with She that Wields the Shadows to destablize the Undead.  Some departed to create the defenses which would preserve the Island Home.  Others rallied to service of a haughty Prince.  Those who remained worked at the behest of the Great Sorceress to protect the people and re-unify their peers.

Ultimately, their efforts were not enough.  The Prince changed reality to his whims.  Since that time the Heroes remained the agents of Fate.  They have fought across many nations, still driven to defend their people.  Many have fallen, never to rise.  Others have fought their bond to Fate.  And some have embraced their role despite the fact that their reality is gone and the one which replaced it rings hollow.

These Heroes have fought the Devouring Mother.  They have inspired the tales of gods and heroes.  They have fought great battles and discovered new knowledge.  And in the times to come, they will be needed.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Rune

What? This isn't a piece of a novel, it's just some short story! What's going on here?

Eons ago, all was Chaos and the void.  Then came Creation and all that which was Unformed and all that which was Formed.  There came the sentient creatures of Creation and the primal force of fate called Magic.  War came time and again, fought over the Fate of Creation.  Creation was remade time and again.

A seed of these remakings, born of Chaos, drifted through the eons.  It appeared as a rune, a pictorial representation of a protean concept.  And so it was called a Chaos Rune, a link to the time before Fate, before Magic had form.  While it was a tool, ancient and powerful, its very nature forced it to be lost and found in an endless cycle.

It came to rest, for a time, on a world very much like our own, but with only the lightest caress of Magic.  Here it became bound a key.  The key stood taller than a man, with a long shaft and a blade two hands long.  And the key called to a man.  A man shunned and ignored.  A man who felt betrayed by one as close as his brother.  So he took up the key and challenged what had been touched and Formed.  He sought that which was Unformed.

As that which was Unformed touched his world, their newest children, small and fierce entered the world.  They were like vermin.  They were like men.  Their skin drank the light and their bodies pure in the way in which the void is pure.  From the key they flooded, coursing out against the world of men.

But friend stood against friend and brother against brother.  Two, evenly matched, they clashed and the key was broken.  The link to that which was Unformed was severed.  And the man ignored was drawn into the void of the Rune, swallowed by Chaos.  In time, his nemesis, his friend, would follow.

The sign of Chaos drifted, stopping now and again until it found new and willing hands.  Like locusts, they moved from world to world, using, devouring.  Like hounds of war they went, crushing and enslaving.  Consuming.

Kobolds they were called.  The found allies in the desperate and depraved of dozens of worlds.  They taught them how to open the doors to the worlds of the Kobolds.  And when the hungry army marched through, the foolish allies were the first to be trampled.

Eventually, the ever-hungry army found a world in which Reality was rewritten in a grand cycle.  A world from which they could change their fortune.  A world they could enslave and renew when its resources were near exhausted.  The Brutes brought them.  And using the Rune, the Brutes the Kobolds replaced.  But their kind was slain in droves when the other natives of the world sought to drive them out and they lost their weapon, the sign of Chaos.

The Rune drifted, settling in the hands of one born of Life and broken of spirit.  She sought only to enhance her own station, to survive the dying of the Magic of her world.  And so she carried the Rune with her as she traveled to the last bastion of Human Magic, the Island Home.

She twisted them, becoming a new Mother of Monsters.  She experimented, strengthened by the power of Chaos.  A young prince, seeking an eternal rule, came to her.  She gave to him what he sought.  A hollow undeath, vampiric and barbaric, but one which would extend his rule forever.

But the soldiers of the Island Home could not bear the corruption at the heart of their land, the last bastion of Human Magic.  They rebelled and the magics of the island failed.  It sank, waters swallowing the island lost in time and Fate.  The Rune was lost.

For generations, she sought it.  At times she came near, perilously near to regaining it.  But always it eluded her grasp.  It appeared in many lands over many years.  It two brothers apart, driving one mad and the other to justice.  It taunted the heroes of a great war, leaving them lost at sea.  And then one of a circle of many found  it.

Found it and bound it away.  His spirit he bound to it, to force the Chaos Rune to wait.  But in time, it would be free, for such is Fate.