“Here is the accounting of our travels; the trials and dangers we faced, the many tragedies and the few triumphs. We have suffered through the decimation of entire towns, nations, and ways of life; we have witnessed the deaths of powerful gods. We have triggered events with far-reaching consequences, and learned truths the world would rather we kept hidden. As yet we know not our purpose in this ruined world, and the end of this age draws ever closer.”
“It began with a small caravan on the road to grim Cold Harbor. Among the first was the young martial adept named Derek, who has now irrevocably altered this world and gained power to rival the gods. With him were Cadence Felstrike, a fledgling sorceress, Norsam, whose heart was darker than his calm exterior, the elven bard Miranda of equally dark intentions, and two other elves – violent Shek’Tah, who now belongs to the demons, and reclusive Elendel, who is now dead. Others also died along the way, victims of dark and convoluted conspiracies.
“It was there in the twisted, accursed forest that barred their passage that Derek was infected with an evil malady constructed by Devil-worshipers and the avatar of Plagues, and corrupted further by Miranda and the Demons she served. This combination of three dark magics would have utterly destroyed another, but Derek’s will subdued the plague and made its power his own. Yet he vanished and the remainder of the group struggled on, beset by malevolent spirits and the betrayal of their own - for the plague was released by Norsam into the town of Cold Harbor and in the span of a few days its population was decimated, although Derek saved the children - at a great cost.
“Yet out of this tragedy came two significant players in this cosmic game – Samantha Thatcher, undercover guardswoman whose bravery was to make her the Chosen of Helm, and Selarenia Corleis, healer and beloved of the god Ilmater. Selarenia was stalked by a powerful madman in the employ of the demons, who sought to destroy all Ilmatians - and Selarenia in particular, for she was spoken of in prophecy (although she did not yet know this.) She escaped with her life, but the madman Kinmare was not defeated.
“Derek gathered Cadence, Samantha, Elendel and Shek'Tah, and Selarenia once more, to seek The Book of Ascension, an ancient tome that might hold the secret to controlling his unruly powers. Out of gratitude they did so, for he pledged to find and destroy Kinmare for good. Along the road to the shrine where the book was rumored to rest, they rescued a merchant named Conner, who also sought the book. But they found that the tome had been stolen and taken to Dravina, the mountain kingdom of which little was known.
"Soon after, the book’s creators – the Authmoth, an ancient and powerful race – were released from their god-constructed punishment. That was my doing, for in my search for knowledge I unknowingly followed in the footsteps of Derek’s friends, and discovered that the Book of Ascension was no mere book but rather a forbidden record of the Words of Creation, the true speech that forms the very structure of the Universe and until now has remained hidden from the eyes of all but a few.
“With this dangerous book now stolen, I hastened to Dravina myself. I discovered, like the others, that it was a place of warped and unspeakable evil, an entire nation devoted to serving Asmodeus, chief of the Devils. Newcomers were drugged and imprisoned to serve as a flesh-tax to their lord. Some of us suffered imprisonment at that time, but all escaped eventually and joined the underground resistance headed by the warrior woman Maloria and her superior Kalem, the very wizard who had once schooled Cadence in the magic arts. But before I had truly a chance to meet these people who would figure so prominently in my future, they were betrayed not once, but twice: this time by Conner, who served a purpose of his own – and Shek’Tah, who left the side of his beloved Selarenia in order to save her from a curse. It was well-meant, but he fell into the clutches of demonic Miranda and in doing so betrayed them all.
"Then tragedy struck once more as Kinmare, thought dead at Derek’s hand, reappeared and murdered Selarenia before the eyes of her companions. The god Ilmater himself came to us then, to honor the death of his most beloved worshiper, yet he was as shocked as we when the healer returned to life on her funeral pyre. The consequences of that one miracle changed the future irrevocably, as we are yet learning.
“The book was still in the hands of Dravina’s rulers. I joined Selarenia and the others to retrieve it from the Nightspire palace itself, disguised as the retinue of nobility – although my aim was not to deliver it to Derek’s hands, but to destroy it. While there, we encountered an old enemy - Norsam, long thought dead but now revealed to be Lord Nightspire, ruler of Dravina. In a final confrontation in the high reaches of the palace, we fought his cohort who revealed herself to be Talona, the avatar of Plagues – and despite my best efforts, the book came to Derek and in the blink of an eye, he was changed utterly.
"Infused with the power of the Words, he destroyed the Avatar with one blow and brought on the wrath of both Ilmater and Helm in the aftermath. Amidst all this the entire nation of Dravina was destroyed when the Nightspire peak erupted, and Norsam, betrayed by Asmodeus with this act, renounced his allegiance to the devil with the help of Derek’s frightening new powers. Reluctantly the others acknowledged his pledge to protect Selarenia from the continued threat of the Demons, although Samantha in particular remained unconvinced.”
“Shaken by the mass destruction of Dravina, we parted ways for a time. I returned to report on what had transpired to the great council of my people, the Tasaoth (known as the Book Traders among the rest of the world), who had gathered in the plains of Jameo; in the meantime Norsam joined Selarenia, Cadence, and Samantha in their journey to the abbey of Ilmater’s Mercy, where they were immediately compelled to fend off a demon attack. In the process, they discovered that the gathering of the Tasaoth nation was to be the next target, on a much larger scale. They sought to warn us before it was too late; in the end their warning made little difference as wave after wave of demons battered my people into near oblivion. I was exiled for my perceived part in the tragedy.
“Worse yet – yes, even worse than the destruction of my own people, for the repercussions reached to every corner of the world - came the death of another deity: no mere Avatar this time, but one of the Elder Gods, the powerful beings who keep this world ordered. Ilmater, lord of Healing and Pain, whose dark past as a god of Suffering was only just now beginning to reveal itself, was slain by none other than Derek - who believed he was saving Selarenia and his own beloved, Cadence, from the deity's dark designs. But with the death of Ilmater Selarenia was utterly crushed, and Derek was trapped in a nightmare realm of pain as a result of his terrible mistake.
“Amidst the aftermath, our disheartened companions formed a curious alliance with the former traitor Conner, who promised us answers. He took us to his masters, an Order of ancient roots that worked to prevent the end of this world. We learned a great deal there, and many of the secrets guarded by my people were also revealed at last. We were asked to seek out the Dragons, who were to be the final targets of the Demon Horde, joined by Conner and the lady Chrysta, an emissary of the Dragon Lands. In the meantime, as we began to discover, a new form of the plague was spreading like wildfire, one which could not be cured by any means – neither Divine nor Arcane, nor even the Words of creation.
“On the road to Katar, the human kingdom allied with the Dragons, we encountered an illusory village; the strange events therein served both to tie us against our will with Kian, the Avatar of Superstition, and to delay our arrival to the doomed city of Shallon, where we would certainly have been destroyed in yet another demon attack. Some outside force was at work, for there we also learned a plague cure that was driven by powerful Words but bore Kian’s trappings. Strange benefactor notwithstanding, we finally made our way to Katar, where a great gathering of forces commenced to stave off the impending demon attack – Helmenites chief among them.
“But there was another purpose to our presence in the Dragon Lands, for we sought an artifact known as the Dragonheart, prophesied to be the only means to the final destruction of the Demons. We discovered our guide Chrysta was also a Dragon, whose mentor was none other than the Eldest of all the Dragons; on his plague-ridden deathbed he told her how to find the artifact in his study in the heart of the mountains. Selarenia, Cadence, and I went with Chrysta to find it, accompanied by Braiden, human prince of Katar. Conner did not go, but instead provided us with an expert trapsmith by the name of Jasper.
“It was well he did, for the Eldest’s so-called study was fraught with danger – traps of all kinds, and constructs the likes of which the world has never seen. Selarenia, still inexplicably connected to the power of Ilmater, stumbled upon divine artifacts containing powerful memories of her god’s past self, the dark god Raviv, and through them we learned startling truths about a past age we hadn’t known existed. The artifacts also ultimately led us to the Dragonheart, which contained the most powerful memory of all: the ultimate transformation from Raviv to benevolent Ilmater, and the creation of a new age – our own.
“We also learned that the artifact’s true potential could only be unlocked by Ilmater himself, and that the Eldest and his mate, back in the early days of Ilmater’s bright new age, had experimented upon it to disastrous results – nothing less than the creation of the Demons. In the midst of our discoveries we were viciously attacked by the Authmoth, who had grown in power since I freed them – and showed themselves to be more evil than I could have imagined. We barely managed to escape with our lives and souls intact, but we managed to take the Dragonheart with us nonetheless.
“That harrowing experience was rapidly followed by another, as the return of the Dragonheart to the world triggered bitter fighting among the dragons, the gods, and my friends. In the end we learned the artifact would do us no good in the hands of any – even the gods themselves. Amidst our despair, we suffered an even greater blow - the death of yet another Elder God. Unbeknownst to anyone, Helm, god of Justice and Wrath, somehow contracted that powerful plague and passed it to his Chosen, Samantha. His death was both terrible and terrifying - when even the gods cannot prove immune, what chance has the rest of the world?
“And now it seems that all events – small or cataclysmic – are coming to a head in the Dragon lands. Selarienia faces a prophecy pointing to her ultimate sacrifice in the face of the Demons. Samantha's time is running out. Indeed, all of our days are limited, for Cadence was given a frightening prophecy by none other than Asmodeus himself: that the world would end in seven days. All sources point to this, and I fear it may mean the triumph of the demons. In the days that have followed that prophecy, events are spiraling out of control and earth-shaking new truths are coming to light.
"It is the sixth day. No one knows what is truly to come tomorrow...not even the gods.”
Mourning of Doves
"The end of days came and went. Those of us who remain have paid the price, and it was grievous to be sure. That joy followed that day is a miracle, though I cannot help but wonder at the cost of this peace, the one that's lasted for the last long six months and was bookended in weddings.
"And yet, it was not peaceful for some. Through some amount of trickery and skill, we managed to steal Tobias's soul out of the Pit and now, he resides in his feline companion's body. He cannot stay there forever, as I highly suspect that Chel would tire of him and cast him out. So I've taken it upon myself to research a way to free him, and defeat the demon prince once and for all.
"If this were all, I would consider us blessed. The shadows grow ever darker, and the Nightmares gather. Gods lean down from heaven, taking notice of the mortals below, and I fear that having escaped one Apocalypse, we have just begun to sense all of Tulmayas drawing its breathe before the last and final plunge into madness and terror.
"I would pray to the gods, but it is not my people's way. Instead, I will pick up my pen and make a record of the end of an Age."
- Scholar Ruvria Tamar, exile of the Tasaoth Nation
*Murder of Crows began 7-14-2006 on the Giant-in-the-Playground boards.