The History of Alyria, Part I
In days gone by, a medium-sized blue-green planet named Alyria existed, and continues to exist, in the northern quadrant of the galaxy of Sirchade. Orbiting the planet are the twin moons, Trigael and Marabah, which emit a form of energy best described as chaotic; saturating the world of Alyria in this power.
This affected life on Alyria, as all such things do. From the common roots of primal ancestry evolved several forms of life, which were known as Humans, Dwarves, Elves, Halflings, and Gnomes. As such things must be, these races discovered their differences and went their separate ways, with little or no mingling.
As self-discovery continued, overall intelligence grew. Humans were interested in exploration and discovery, and as such populated several landmasses. Dwarves were concerned with the heart of the world, and in the natural expression of stone, and as such delved deep underground. Elves and Halflings were quiet beings, preferring to follow the ways of nature and existed in the forests and glens. Gnomes were enthusiastic about kinetics and machines, and lived primarily near waterfalls, volcanoes, and other natural sources of energy.
With time, order developed from chaos. The separate races built towns, cities, and roads; selected leaders to guide them, each in their own way, loved, lived, and died, watched over by the twin moons that circled the planet daily.
One of the greatest discoveries of that time did not go to the Dwarves, who had become obsessed with the mining of precious metals and gems; it did not fall to the Halflings or Elves, who were perfectly content with nature and shunned change; nor did it fall to the Gnomes, although many of their machines were considered great discoveries in themselves.
The humans had discovered how to tap into the natural chaotic forces that flowed through every tree, every rock, every stream on Alyria. They called it Magick, and with it they were able to perform great feats of enterprise and construction. That is not, unfortunately, all it was used for. Everything must balance, and in time, Magicians were divided into three groups, depending on the way they used the forces that governed Magick. These groups were simply known as White, Grey, and Black.
White magicians were concerned with the loftier pursuits of self-discovery and pure-hearted results. Black magicians were concerned with control, and power, and how they could exert that over the other denizens of Alyria. Grey magicians drew from both sides of the spectrum to create a healthy, natural balance; and as such were closest with Nature, which can be heartless and cruel one moment and beautiful and generous the next.
As the races began to intermingle more, as transportation became more reliable and swifter, the Humans shared their knowledge of these occult mysteries with those who were interested, and so the world became a more orderly place. That is not to say there were not occasional wars and skirmishes, far from it. Yet the races existed together fairly peacefully for a long while, learning and exploring with each other.
From the Grey Wizards, a subgroup emerged, calling themselves Druids. These were the magicians who had felt closest to nature, who saw that life balances itself, and the wheel of fortune turns slowly but surely as it moves through all creation. Because the Druids were able to understand the natural processes surrounding them, they could encourage the natural fauna of Alyria to grow and develop into sentient beings.
One of their early experiments was an attempt to make a stronger race, one that would be close to nature, and respond to it, and yet intelligent enough to make its own decisions. They chose the bull, a large and unruly beast, and evolved a small group using their Magick and understanding of natural processes. The bulls were able to walk upright, and became intelligent, and the Druids were pleased. They called these beasts Minotaurs.
As the Minotaurs grew in intelligence, they also grew in arrogance, for the Druids made no secret that they were attempting to create the strongest race. They learned order and hatred on their own, escaping from the Ivory Towers of the Druids and ravaging the local populus. Marking the experiment up as a failure, the Druids closed their Towers to the general populus and became even more sequestered.
The White Wizards and Black Wizards were concerned about this; the White Wizards because the Minotaurs were causing so much destruction; the Black Wizards because they could not control the strong race of Bulls. They disagreed as well, on what should be done to stop this growing menace, for the numbers of Minotaurs were increasing daily.
The White Wizards wanted to bring the natural balance of order back to the world, and conducted many experiments designed to bring nature to the world in a physical form. In doing so, they discovered the Faerie plane, a higher plane of existence, created from the chaos of energies that swirled throughout the universe. The Faeries, until now, had existed completely separately from the physical world, yet were attracted by the warm blood and presence of Alyria and sought to journey there. Chaos flowed through their beings as naturally as blood through a Human, giving them substance and form. However, the Faeries did not have souls; once they were destroyed they remained gone forever; and grew jealous of the races upon the Physical Plane who had them.
Two groups existed among the Faeries; the Feys, and the Sidhes, governed by a Queen and a King, respectively. The Queen of the Faeries wanted control of the physical plane, which to them consisted mainly of Alyria and its Magick; the King merely wanted to continue living in peace (and ignorance, some might say).
From the Queen's desire, Feys journeyed to Alyria through magickal doorways created of chaos energies, and discovered that, while the warm blood of the denizens of Alyria appealed to them, they could not stand the sun, for it burned away the chaotic darkness that made up their beings; nor could they stand water, for it nullified and purified the chaos within them, thus destroying their physical forms. It is due to these restrictions that the Queen's plan to rule the World of Souls failed; for the races discovered these weaknesses and used them to their advantage.
The King, somewhat alarmed that his Queen should have control over something he did not give her, sent his own race to the physical plane, the Sidhes. The Sidhes were pleasant creatures to look at in physical form, if somewhat cold in their mannerisms. Choosing Alyria as their final battleground, the King and Queen raged war against each other, in an attempt to gain control; the Queen wanting control, and the King merely not wanting her to have it.
The White Wizards were aghast at the chaos they had caused, and were taunted by the Black Wizards, who had gone their own way and had continued the Druids' racial experiments. They took the newborn spawn of one of Alyria's more fearesome, if stupid, creatures, the Dragon, and subjected it to magical rites designed to improve intelligence and form. This gave them the ability to walk on two legs and to communicate with others.
The Black Wizards were not as successful as the Druids in this experimentation, however, for the Dracons, as they were called, had neither the brains nor the brawn of the Minotaurs. Yet, they did possess one powerful ability left from their former beings, the ability to use the natural gasses and forces within their bodies to produce fire, electricity, and acid as offensive measures. The Dracons did not care for the Minotaurs, either, who considered them beneath them and the two races warred continuously. In that, the Black Wizards had succeeded where the White Wizards had not, giving Minotaurs a counterbalance, an equal enemy, and so the order of Alyria was somewhat restored.
The dismay of the Druids, however, was greater than that of the Black Wizards, for they had started the chain of evil events by tampering with the forces of Nature. Vowing that no Druid should ever again seek to alter the Balance of Nature, the Druids withdrew from the people into the last primal forest on Alyria, the location of their fabled Ivory Tower, and vanished from the sight of mankind forever.
A thousand years passed, and the world began falling into disarray. The Great Council of Wizards was no more; the separate members having left in anger over petty quarrels and disagreements hundreds of years before. Without the Council to discourage racial strife, the separate races became more and more disillusioned with each other and eventually withdrew into their separate homelands, not wishing to intermingle with that which was not them. Wars erupted between the races, and thousands upon thousands of innocents died in meaningless squabbles.
The War between the Dwarves and Humans was one of the great Race Wars, and had gone on for more than a century. The great Battle of Istani was, in both Dwarf and Human view, the key to the victor; whomever won this battle was the more superior race.
However, just as Huruk (the Bearer of the Golden Hammer of Triumph) and Farren Trueblade (the Wielder of the Last Mighty Ironsword) were exchanging final blows, there was a tremendous eruption over the whole of the main continent, Sepharia. A hideous thunderclap of sound and force blew across the opposing armies, deafening and stunning those who were not killed instantly into dropping their weapons and staring, openmouthed, at the western horizon from whence the blast had come.
Slowly, ponderously into the sky rose a massive Isle, which had, until just then, been the western peninsula of Sepharia. It was well known as Verity, the land of the dark Sorcerer, Riga, who was reputed to be over a thousand years old, and had originally sat as one of the heads of the Black Council of Wizards. Dark thunderclouds swirled about the base and top of the now airborne peninsula, as it continued its ascention into the sky. Occasional streaks of lightning would erupt from beneath the Isle, and tons of earth and molten rock poured over the land for fifty miles in all directions.
From within the dark clouds came a great Voice, the voice of Riga, which proclaimed the following:
"I, Riga, am now the ruler of all the lands upon Alyria. As I have spoken, let all now feel the Power of my Words."
With that, there fell upon the peoples of Alyria a crushing blow, a mental force, a spell so powerful that it caused all who were outside to fall upon their knees and raise their voices in praise to the great Sorcerer Riga, even though deep within their entranced minds they were screaming in utter Horror. Even the faeries could feel the power of the Voice, and fled shrieking back to the Faerie Plane so that they would not fall under its power. Utter Silence befell the land; the birds even ceased to sing.
From within the dark Tower upon the floating Verity Isle, Riga laughed and cackled, for now all that was upon Alyria was his.
Thus did Riga's five-hundred year reign begin, referred to by historians as the Age of Silence, for not once during that long span of years did the birds sing again.
As the centuries passed, Riga reigned with a careful, if often cruel, hand. Those who opposed him were immediately slain. Riga, however, began to feel the weight of the years upon his back, for Sorcerers, even though their magic can greatly extend their lifespan, cannot live forever. In his quest for companionship, Riga created the winged Aeriels, which guarded his tower, but he was never able to bless them with the power of Speech, such a feat being beyond any mortal Sorcerer without divine intervention of some kind, but Riga served no Powers, thinking them crutches for the weak.
It was thus that Riga accepted his first and only apprentice, a young Sorceress named Cassandra. She was indeed beautiful, and rumor spoke of a romance that existed beneath the guise of learning. Cassandra learned of many things; the Temporal Displacement Spell, with which one can reverse the effects of time in a wide area range; the Spell of a Hundred Years of Silence, with which one can remove the subject's ability to speak for a hundred years; and it is rumored she even learned the dreaded Armageddon Spell, with which one can incinerate all life upon the planet, checked only by boundaries of water. Needless to say, the spell had only been cast twice in the history of Alyria, both with equally dreadful results.
As Cassandra drank in the knowledge the Sorcerer was bestowing upon her, she became more and more curious about the secret of the Sorcerer's power. She knew not where he gained the increased magical strength, required to cast spells like the Armageddon Spell and to use the magical Voice in the manner which he had done; however, she did know about the room at the top of the Tower, the one in which she was never allowed, the entrance so covered with wards and magical alarms that she could feel their glowing presence from a hundred feet away.
Cassandra began to plot and scheme, planning the Sorcerer's downfall. What lay beyond that door she could only dream, but she knew it was the key to the Sorcerer's power and by rights it should be hers. The only thing standing in the way of her plan were the loyal, dumb Aeriels, who heeded every beck of their Master's call. After much wheedling and manipulating, she managed to get them banished from the tower during the nighttime hours, claiming they made her nervous. They did, but not for the reason that the Sorcerer assumed.
Her chance came one evening, upon a rare occurance in which the light of the twin moons, Trigael and Marabah, were extinguished by the cold shadow of Alyria, and all the land was utterly dark. Without the power of the Moons, a Sorcerer's power is greatly diminished, and Cassandra knew this. She waited in her bed with a jeweled knife gripped firmly in her grasp, over and over repeating the words of an Incantation of confusion that would cloud Riga's senses for that brief instant she needed to be able to slip the knife past his shields and into his withered flesh.
Riga came to her that night, as she knew he would. As Riga fell to the floor, blood cascading from the mortal wound she had given him, she smiled gleefully at the power that would soon be hers.
Not everything went as she had planned, however, for at the passing of the Sorcerer Riga, the shutters of the tower banged violently at a sudden wind which had sprung up from nowhere. The Aeriels began wailing outside the thick stone walls, and to her alarm Cassandra heard the sound of the window breaking, and saw the white wings of an Aeriel as they began to fly into the bedchamber.
Her magic being limited by the lack of the Twins, Cassandra hastily retreated up the stairs, heading for that repository of power for which she had yearned for so long, knowing that its magic would give her the strength she needed to destroy the rebellious Aeriels and take control of what had been Riga's.
The door, held shut by magic, had shifted ajar at the Sorcerer's passing. She pushed open the door and beheld the key to Power, a glowing red Stone, which hovered in the center of the room, held in check by the power of an elaborate pentacle interwoven with sigils and runes engraved in the stone beneath her feet.
Hearing the beating wings of the Aeriels behind her as they flew up the stairs, she hastly crossed the pentacle and grasped the Stone within her hands.
A circle of fire enveloped the room, and the very foundations of the tower shook, causing structural damage throughout the building.
Cassandra's hands remained gripped tightly on the Stone; the Stone which Riga had siphoned power from but had never attempted to use directly, for he feared it, as it was not of this world.
Two hundred years passed, and the events on the floating Verity Isle faded into legend, save for the memories of a few wayward adventurers who dared to discover its location and unlock the mystery of the Tower of Riga. It is said that the fierce Aeriels still guard their now-Masterless tower, and slay anyone who dares come near.
World events now assuming a normal course, several feudal Lords came together to form the first Alyrian Council, with plans to better the world and all those who lived upon it. The greatest of these lords was known as Agrippa, for he governed the majestic, ancient towne of Rune. The other great nobles were Lord Vendredi, the master of the magical city of Sigil; Lord Telleri, the ruler of his self-named city Tellerium; Lord Vashir, the overseer of the rogue-infested town of New Rigel; and Lady Undya, the governess of the clerical city of Xaventry.
The History of Alyria, Part II
It was a time of great chaos and upheaval in the lands of Alyria. While large-scale racial conflicts had been left behind long ago, there were still political difficulties between the different city-states of the world. In addition, the adventurers of the world has begun to grow restless. With innovation being spurred by a combination of magic and technology, people were able to travel to previously inaccessible places with relative ease. As explorers mapped out every corner of the globe, Alyria ceased to be a place of mystery and wonder. Warriors who had taken part in these valiant efforts of discovery became disheartened, yearning for new frontiers to journey through.
One day, there was an inexplicable disturbance felt in the towns near Hellbent Mountain. When local residents looked towards the peak, they gasped in realization that its entire south face had nearly collapsed. Search parties that were sent to gauge the destruction, and in the course of their investigation came upon a massive new cave in the side of the mountain.
The cave extended back further than they dared follow without proper tools, but in a chamber near the entrance they discovered the remains of a massive serpent of some kind, coiled around a raised dais. On the platform rested a large green book, apparently untouched by the ravages of time. The people did not want to disturb the site, since they could sense an incredible aura of magic throughout the area. They called upon the wisdom of the great Council of the Arcane, a group of the land's most powerful mages. Shortly, they received word that the leader of the Council, the Archwizard Glacius, would be arriving to investigate the matter personally.
As Glacius stepped into the cavern, he gave a cry of happiness. The wizard immediately recognized the book: the long-lost Grimoirium Magica. This fabled spellbook was said to contain the most powerful spells of the ancient Druids, but it had been lost to the outside world for untold centuries. With trembling hands, Glacius lifted the book from its pedestal. In all his 500 years of life, he had never experienced such a wave of pure magical energy. Thanking the local people, Glacius resolved to take the book back to Irades Hall for study by the Council of the Arcane.
The great wizard pored over the book for some time, not even breaking to eat or sleep. As a result of his efforts, many fields of magic that had lay dormant for ages were revived. The Druids of the present day were overjoyed, and used the knowledge of their ancestors to better attune themselves with the elements. However, in the course of his study Glacius discovered that the ancients Druids did not only study the magic of nature. Contained in the book were spells of all disciplines, including many spells of the mind that were unknown even to modern-day psionics.
Eventually, the Archwizard deciphered all of the spells, save one that was more complex than any working he had ever seen or even imagined. He threw himself into his work with renewed intensity, and was finally able to understand the spell's effect. As he looked over his notes, Glacius turned white with fear as he realized exactly what would happen if the spell were ever cast. He decided that no one else should ever find out about it, and locked the book up in his chambers.
Despite his efforts, the scrying magic of an evil group had already discovered the terrible secret. One day, a cloud of darkness fell over the Tower of the Arcane. Although the strongest mages in the world resided within, they still could not resist the spell's effect. They all feel into a deep sleep, and when they awoke the book had vanished. Glacius knew that no one person could be capable of such a deed, and feared that he already knew who responsible. He immediately traveled to Rune, in order to consult with Lord Agrippa.
When the Archwizard arrived, Agrippa was already waiting for him. They met in a private chamber to discuss the issue, and Glacius revealed the awful truth of the matter. The book contained a spell that, using a combination of elemental magics, could draw comets down from their orbits. The resulting firestorm would probably destroy all life on the planet, but an ancient prophecy stated that the casters of the spell would have control over the spirits of all who perished in the cataclysm. Only a truly evil mind would consider such an action, and thus Glacius suspected that the culprits behind the theft were none other than Alyria's most devious sorceresses: the Lady Bane, Baba Yaga, and Vortex.
Without the Grimoirium Magica, countering such a spell would be impossible. However, Agrippa believed that it would be possible to protect the world's major population centers with magical shields, but only if people would put aside their differences and work together in the casting.
Preparation for the mission began immediately. The Council of the Seven and the Council of the Arcane agreed to combine their efforts for the first time in history, and set to planning. They arranged to defend as many cities as possible, and spread the word to outlying areas as well. Not surprisingly, many of the world's magical creatures had already begun banding together to protect their homelands. By the time that observers could detect the approaching meteorites, a comprehensive system of protection had been established.
As the gigantic chunks of rock drew closer to Alyria, the people of the world gazed up at the sky in terror. The light of the sun grew dim as the projectiles entered the atmosphere, glowing bright red with heat. The largest meteorite has heading straight for the town of Rune, but the mages had wisely centered their spells of protection there. The magical shield glowed with a white light, and was greatly reassuring to the people below.
As the moment of impact drew near, three screams of rage could be heard throughout the city. Realizing that the most important part of their plan was about to fail, the sorceresses cast one last part of their spell. A bolt of orange lightning could be seen hurtling towards the meteorite, and it struck with a loud thunderclap. The rock fragmented into three smaller pieces, each one flying off in a different direction. The people of Rune raised their voices in thanks to the Powers, but their cheers soon turned to cries of terror as the rocks slammed to the ground. A mighty tremor shook the earth, throwing everyone off their feet.
After the dust of the impact settled, it was time to assess the damages. While the meteorite had missed Rune entirely, its fragments still had devastating consequences. The town of Twilyght Downes had been utterly destroyed, along with the ancestral home of the Dwarven people. The third fragment had barely missed Lowangen, landing in a large canyon to the northeast instead. Similar reports poured in from all over the globe. Familiar landmarks had disappeared, and the combined force of the many meteorites was enough to alter the very shape of the continents.
In the fifteen years since these events, the world of Alyria has changed a great deal. Water has flowed into the craters created by the impacts, forming vast new oceans and lakes. Old cities that were damaged have been renovated, and new ones have been constructed to accommodate increases in population. The crisis brought former rivals closer together, although a few of the old conflicts still remain active.
On a more profound level, the casting of the spell has had an effect on the nature of magic in Alyria. When the meteorites passed by Trigael and Marabah, the moons were disturbed from the orbits that they had been following for millennia. While it was not enough to totally disrupt the magical energy created by the moons, the change has made spellcasting much more difficult. Mages who could previously weave their incantations from the energy around them have found that they need more complex rituals to achieve the same effects.
At the same time, the shift in the Materia Magica seems to have created new opportunities for discovery as well. While the energy has become more diffuse, it has also become easier to channel. This has allowed even more complex magical devices to be constructed, and new applications for it have been found as well. The shipbuilding industry especially has taken advantage of magical enhancement, making boats widely available to individuals for the the first time.
The advances in travel have sparked a renewed interest in discovery, and adventurers have spread throughout the globe in search of new experiences. However, much of the new terrain still remains unexplored. While some of Alyria's elderly residents yearn for a return to the old ways, most people have accepted the fact that times have changed. The truly enlightened adventurers among them know that a new world of possibility has been opened to them, and that they only need to take advantage of it to find success.
The Dark Power Returns
The door of the tavern burst open, and in strode an eight-foot tall ogress. She peered impatiently around the room, causing patrons to shy away from her glare. Snorting with frustration, she moved towards the terrified bartender, who obviously wanted nothing to do with such an intimidating figure. Just as she was about to vent her anger at him, she heard a voice from the far corner.
"You're late," said a raven-haired woman, leaning casually back in her chair. Much to the relief of the barkeep, the ogress moved to join her.
"I wasn't given very good directions," she growled. "You know I don't come into the city much, Vortex."
"Oh, we've all heard about your little visits to town," Vortex said with a smirk. "'Baba Yaga comes riding through the air on her enchanted broomstick, striking terror into the hearts of all who see her. She loves feasting on the tender flesh of the young, and citizens who suspect she is coming keep a careful eye on their children...' I admit, you've certainly got these locals under your spell."
Baba Yaga grinned evilly, flashing her sharp iron teeth. "From what I hear, your reputation isn't doing much better. Has the Council of the Seven allowed you back into any of their towns yet?"
Scowling angrily, Vortex was about to respond when the third figure at the table leaned forward. "We have more important matters to discuss today, ladies." The thick hood that hid her face fell back, revealing a chalk-white visage. "The Grimoirium Magica has resurfaced at last, and the time to fulfill the prophecy is at hand."
Both of the sorceresses stared at the undead shade of Lady Bane in shock. "Could this really be true?" whispered Vortex.
"Aye, the book has fallen into the hands of that fool Glacius," the Lady replied. "We must recover it before he has time to act."
"Glacius does not even believe in the legends," sneered Baba Yaga. "These mages are so caught up in their quest for progress that they refuse to recognize the wisdom of the ancients. Even if he has managed to determine what the spell is capable of, his pathetic Council of the Arcane will never allow him to cast it."
"It does not matter if he understands what the spell will result in," Lady Bane explained. "Once he realizes that it has the power to destroy the world, he will seek to protect the book at all costs."
Vortex frowned. "If the Grimoirium is being kept in the Tower of the Arcane, even the three of us working together cannot muster enough force to seize it. Such a task would require incredible astral energy!"
"Perhaps these will be useful," said Lady Bane as she opened up a large sack on the floor. Her companions gasped as they saw the hundreds of perfect black pearls inside. "These should be sufficient for the task. I acquired them from a merchant who called himself Mandrake, and I do not believe that he knew their true power.
"Soon, we three will rule over the souls of those who are slain in the cataclysm. I will finally have the power to lift the curse that afflicts me, and be restored to life once more!"
"I will dance upon the graves of the dead and chew their bones," said Baba Yaga, licking her lips.
"And I will see the fools who have spurned me fall from power at last," said Vortex. "But let's not get ahead of ourselves, there is still much work that needs to be done."
The Archwizard Glacius stood at the window of his room, worrying about the future of Alyria. As he gazed over the beautiful landscape that had remained essentially unchanged over his many centuries of life, he felt a distinct sense of unease. While the Grimoirium Magica and its spell of destruction were safe for the moment, Glacius knew that he would not be around forever to look after them. Someday, care of the book would pass on to another, and its security could not be ensured.
Suddenly, Glacius noticed something odd outside the window. Although it was barely past midday, a blanket of darkness was creeping across the land. A quick glance at the calender confirmed his fears that no eclipses were expected any time soon, and Glacius quickly began casting a spell to detect enchantments. However, the spell died on his fingertips, and the darkness enveloped the tower.
While slumping down onto the floor, the Archwizard could make out three shadowy figures standing in the doorway. Before the magical sleep overtook him, he could see them approaching, and heard one mutter, "All too easy..."
"Are you sure this area is safe?" Vortex inquired nervously. The three sorceresses stood in a small clearing deep within Rune forest, making the final preparations for their spell.
"Of course," growled Baba Yaga. "The trees are too thick for us to be seen from above, and I've never known of anyone who has come this deep into the woods and lived to tell about it." She ground her teeth together, producing an awful scraping noise. "We've set up a magical shield, so the energy from our casting will not be detected. And the prophecy says that the casters of the spell will be immune from the destruction that follows."
The Lady Bane cackled with glee, oblivious to all but her preparations. "We are ready to begin!" she announced. Placing the Grimoirium on a large stone altar specially carved for the ritual, she began chanting the first words of the evocation.
As the horrible words filled the clearing, a disturbance in the fabric of the world began to form. A dark portal began to take shape, apparently made from a black void of nothingness. From this portal came a voice that chilled the hearts of even its evil summoners.
"At last, I have been freed from the confines of my prison," said the voice. "The Powers that protect this world do not wish to confront the dark side of their nature, and have prevented us from taking any action since the beginning of time.
"The words that can release us have been lost to this plane for countless eons, but finally they have been discovered. Following the terms of the ancient compact, you who have spoken the words shall receive dominion beyond your wildest imaginings. The Dark Powers shall rise again..."
Lady Bane collapsed to the ground suddenly, and her companions rushed to help her. However, they stepped back in surprise as the shroud around her fell away, revealing a vibrant and healthy woman. "I live again!" she cried, rising to her feet triumphantly. However, the opportunity for celebration was short lived, and a shadow fell over the area.
Looking upwards, the sorceresses saw a gigantic meteorite hurtling through the sky. Following its trajectory, they found that the town of Rune was directly in its path. Suddenly, the city in the distance began glowing with a white light, and a semi-transparent dome formed above it.
"They're trying to save the city!" Vortex cried. "All our efforts will be for nothing! I can't let them win... if we cannot destroy Rune, we will destroy everything else on the continent instead!" With this, she grabbed the bag full of the remaining astral reagents, and furiously began casting a spell.
"Don't interfere with the magic!" Baba Yaga exclaimed. "If we change the patterns of the spell, we don't know what will happen!" The ogress charged towards Vortex, attempting to break her concentration on the spell. However, she struck just a second too late. A bolt of orange lightning arced from the ground, hitting the rock with a loud thunderclap. The meteorite fragmented into three smaller pieces, which flew in different directions. Seconds later, there was an enormous earthquake as the rocks struck the ground.
Vortex, thrown through the air by the tremor and the force of Baba Yaga's attack, struck the altar head-first and sent the Grimoirium Magica flying. The others watched in horror as the book sailed towards the rift in space, seeming to grow smaller until it finally disappeared. The portal then vanished with an ear-splitting bang, sending a shockwave through the area. The explosion threw both Lady Bane and Baba Yaga into nearby trees, knocking them senseless and leaving an eerie calm in the clearing.
While the direct threat of the evil plot has been averted, a far greater danger is now awakened. The true nature of the Dark Powers is not fully understood by the mages of Alyria, and without the Grimoirium Magica further research on the subject is impossible.
The whereabouts of Vortex, Baba Yaga, and Lady Bane are currently unknown.
The Kidnapping of Lady Saresyn
One afternoon, Lord Agrippa and his faithful servant Sir Tristan were taking a leisurely ride around the Rune Castle stables. Suddenly, they both reined their mounts to a stop simultaneously.
"Do you notice something strange, my Lord?" Tristan said. "I feel more vulnerable than I have since I last left the walls of the castle."
"Yes, I sense the same thing," replied Agrippa as he dismounted from Swiftmoon. "It's almost as if the protective magic around the area has vanished altogether." With an inquisitive expression he began peering around, catching sight of a stable boy in a nearby stall. "Hold still, I need to test something," Agrippa called as he began casting a spell. As he finished his gesticulations, the hapless worker shuddered and staggered, then fainted.
"Just as I suspected," Lord Agrippa said to himself as Tristan rushed over to heal the unconscious boy. "That spell should not have worked here!
But who would have the power to make such a mighty attack against my home, and why have they not struck further?" As Tristan returned to his Lord's side, he noticed that Agrippa's face was drained of color, and heard him whisper, "Perhaps they already have..."
As the Lady Saresyn drifted back toward consciousness, she first became aware of a dull ache filling her entire body. Eventually, the haze in her mind started to clear, and she became aware of voices nearby. Since her head was covered by some sort of rough cloth bag she was unable to see anything, but she could just make out the conversation.
"Are you sure this is the right person?" Said an especially deep and scratchy voice. "I though we were supposed to be looking for an attractive woman!"
"If everyone had the same standards of beauty as you, I wouldn't want to see what the next generation of children would look like," countered a haughty voice. Besides, who else would be sitting around in that old fool's bedroom?"
"I don't know how she can stand being near him," a third voice commented. "I suppose shes just after his money, though I wouldnt do the same if you offered me the gemstone of Riga!" At this there was a great deal of cackling. As the laughter died down, the scratchy voice said, "Look, I think she's coming around!"
Lady Saresyn could feel several pairs of hands lifting her up, and suddenly the bag was ripped away from her head. She gasped in horror as she saw that her kidnappers were none other than the three great sorceresses: Lady Bane, Vortex, and Baba Yaga!
"What do you want with me, you horrible fiends?" Lady Saresyn demanded bravely, though fear clawed at her heart. "Your actions shall not go unpunished for long!"
"Yes yes, we've heard it all before," said Vortex as she rolled her eyes. "I've got some bad news for you, mistress - the good side doesn't always win."
"It seems like they do when you three are involved," said Lady Saresyn. She knew that she would have to act quickly, and began attempting to cast an evocation despite the ropes binding her wrists together.
Baba Yaga growled ominously. "We won't soon forget Lord Agrippa's actions against us. If it wasn't for him, we'd be ruling the entire world by now! But this time..."
Her words were cut off as a number of thick green vines burst up from the ground, entangling the three women. Lady Saresyn immediately made a break for the door, not bothering to look back. But before she could cross the room, someone grabbed her from behind.
"How stupid do you think we are, girl?" Lady Bane snarled. Lady Saresyn turned back around, finding to her dismay that all the plants she had summoned lay brown and shriveled on the floor. "Perhaps we should explain our entire plan to you, so you'll have time to escape? It won't matter. Decara is so far from civilization that there'd be no chance for you to get out anyway."
Sinking to her knees in despair, Lady Saresyn sent a prayer to the Powers that she should not die in vain. As she hoped for vengeance, she heard the sound of a blade being drawn behind her, and then she felt no more.
...to be continued.
Proclaimation: The Ithrix
An official proclamation from Lord Agrippa, regarding the Ithrix problem facing Alyria.
As the number of Ithrix warriors traveling to our world increases, even the noble Archons are beginning to have trouble stopping them. The Ithrix merely project themselves across the planes, and thus their defeat is only temporary. With each battle they become more familiar with our reality, and I fear that they may soon become unbeatable. The only hope is to help our Archons learn more about their powers. Unfortunately, the most knowledgeable Archon Masters of them all have not been seen for many years. I have spent months trying to determine their whereabouts, and the best lead comes from an ancient text, "A History of the Alyrian Underground," discovered in the Ilandrama Library:
"In ages past, the races of the world maintained very little contact with each other. While most of them did have some familiarity with the others, the people known as Ogres remained the most mysterious. They tended to form rather small tribes and dwelt in remote, hilly, or mountainous areas. As a result the other races looked down upon the them, criticizing their lack of cities and technological progress.
"There were a few recorded cases of people who claimed to have been kidnapped by Ogres. These individuals often reported seeing vast underground caverns and a highly-developed society, but most of the time they were not reputable enough to be believed.
"Ogres were generally viewed with great distrust. On the rare occasions when they came into towns looking to trade, they were treated with contempt and fear. Much of this attitude was due to the few ogre warriors that roamed the land, since they were famous for their incredible cruelty and fighting prowess. And so the situation remained... Until the coming of the stones from the sky.
"As the case has been throughout history, the corruption in the Druidic circle was caused by a lust for power. The leader of the Druids decided that it was his destiny to protect the balance of life on the planet, and felt that a fresh start would be the only way to assure perfection. The destruction that followed his casting of The Spell was almost absolute, but through the efforts of the rest of the Druids several major cities and sacred places were preserved.
"One town that was chosen to be saved was known as Decara. Located at the foot of Mount Malius, it was one of the most beautiful and sophisticated towns of its time, home to the obscure but powerful group of warriors known as the Archons. In order to ensure complete safety, the shield spell protecting Decara was one of the first to be cast. But no one was able to predict the events that would follow.
"When the first of the meteors struck the ground, all seemed safe in the city. The shield was obviously doing its job, and the residents of Decara were hardly concerned. However, through a strange twist of fate, the base of Mount Malius was hit especially hard by the rain of rocks from the sky. Because the dormant volcano's interior remained fairly unstable, the force of the impacts was enough to set off a chain reaction and cause the entire surrounding area to collapse inwards around the mountain. Even the powerful shield surrounding Decara was not enough to protect it from the disaster, and when the debris finally settled the city appeared to have vanished without a trace.
"The survivors mourned the tragedy that had taken place, but eventually they were forced to move on. The true dangers of The Book were realized, and the Druids decided that it should be sealed safely away. In the meantime civilizations rose again, building larger and more sophisticated cities. Decara became little more than a memory, and eventually the name faded into obscurity.
"However, recent scholarship suggests that Decara may not have been destroyed after all. Studies of newly-available Ogre folklore have produced several stories of a city that once existed above ground, but somehow fell through the earth and became integrated with Ogre society. If these tales do speak of Decara, the information that must be persevered there would be invaluable to the academic community. More investigation on the subject is definitely called for."
If we are able to locate the lost city of Decara, we will certainly find the Archon Masters who hold the key to defeating the Ithrix once and for all. I ask all the capable adventurers of Alyria to do all they can to help us with this difficult problem.
Lord Cornelius Agrippa, Head of the Council of Seven
Whatever Happened to Lady Saresyn?
It was a dark and stormy night in the town of Rune, and Lord Agrippa was unable to fall asleep. He tossed and turned in his bed, feeling uneasy for no apparent reason. Lying still for a moment, Agrippa heard a very sound of movement in the darkness. Since all the maids had long since been dismissed for the night, he quickly sat upright and spoke the word of power to raise the room's lights. Resting casually on a chair in the corner of the room was one of Alyria's auction imps.
"Why do you disturb my sleep?" Lord Agrippa demanded. "You know very well that my advisors always monitor the auctions for me."
"I'm here on some other business," the imp whispered. "The post office imps just received a very important parcel for you, but they were too busy sorting other mail to give you immediate notice. You may want to head down there right away." With this advice, the imp winked and disappeared with an ear-splitting BANG!
"I don't like the sound of this," Lord Agrippa thought to himself. After hastily dressing, he summoned two of his loyal guards and hurried out of the castle.
As they stepped through the door, the man behind the counter smiled faintly. "Lord Agrippa." The aging postmaster said. "You have a parcel." He reached under the counter and produced a neat package wrapped in plain brown paper. A card attached to the top read:
"Thanks for everything you've done for us in the past, we hope that this little present is repayment enough!"
Pushing a bag of unsorted mail out of the way, Agrippa sat down and began tearing the box open. As he lifted the lid a great cry escaped from his lips, for all his worst fears were finally confirmed. Inside the package was the severed head of his love, Lady Saresyn.
Lord Agrippa has been inconsolable ever since these dreaded events took place. He arranged for Lady Saresyn's remains buried in a special place near the castle stables where the two of them enjoyed taking walks together.
The funeral service was recorded by Agrippa's faithful scribes, and displayed here:
'Let us begin the service.' an elder druid says.
An elder druid clears her throat.
An elder druid says, 'We are gathered here in remembrance of the Lady Saresyn, who was taken from this world after such a short time.'
Lord Agrippa sniffs sadly. What do you think is troubling him?
'Perhaps the best way to honor her memory is to recall the events of her lifetime.' an elder druid says.
An elder druid pauses for a moment, collecting her thoughts.
'The Lady was born to a noble family in the city of Tellerium.' an elder druid says.
'Her birth was something special, for both of Alyria's moons were new on that exact date.' an elder druid says.
An elder druid says, 'Such times bring great darkness, but they also symbolize the potential for new light to arise.'
An elder druid says, 'Lady Saresyn spent much of her childhood playing in Howell Park, but increasingly took to playing in the forests outside of the city.'
'Her parents were very concerned for her safety, and tried to forbid her from straying out of town.' an elder druid says.
An elder druid says, 'Even as a child, Lady Saresyn claimed that the stifling atmosphere of Tellerium was too much for her to bear.'
An elder druid says, 'Over the years it became more and more obvious that she was meant to be close to nature.'
An elder druid says, 'Unfortunately, her hometown was not a good place to learn more about these feelings.'
'When she reached the age of 16, the Lady decided to run away from home and head to Templeton to start a new life.' an elder druid says.
An elder druid says, 'However, while traveling through the woods she came upon a mysterious portal in the center of a circle of stones.'
An elder druid says, 'Unable to resist its magical lure, she stepped though and found herself in strange forest.'
'She felt very nervous and decided to head back, but found that the portal had vanished behind her.' an elder druid says.
'With no choice but to go on, she headed towards the only city visible in the distance.' an elder druid says.
An elder druid says, 'Eventually, she came to the gates of the foreign town.'
An elder druid says, 'She learned from the local residents that the city was called Xaventry, and decided to seek shelter at one of the nearby temples.'
'Over the next few months, Lady Saresyn learned a great deal about all of the Powers.' an elder druid says.
'Still, she felt that something was missing from her spiritual life.' an elder druid says.
An elder druid says, 'One passtime that the Lady still enjoyed was walking through the woods outside town.'
An elder druid says, 'She grew to know the forest paths better than any of the other residents, spending hours or even days at a time exploring them.'
An elder druid says, 'There was a certain remote clearing that seemed even more peaceful than the rest of the forest, and Lady Saresyn often spent time there meditating.'
'She was quite surprised to find dozens of other people waiting there when she arrived one morning.' an elder druid says.
'This was the first time that the Druids contacted Lady Saresyn, for we had been watching her for quite some time.' an elder druid says.
An elder druid says, 'It was obvious that she was naturally gifted in the magical arts, and she was very eager to learn more about our beliefs.'
'The Lady became dedicated to the study of nature, and learned many of the ancient secrets and traditions.' an elder druid says.
'Unlike most Druids, she felt that it was important to educate the people of Alyria about making peace with the natural world.' an elder druid says.
'She traveled to many distant lands, bringing happiness and peace wherever she went.' an elder druid says.
An elder druid says, 'One of Lady Saresyn's other favorite passtimes was cooking, and she was able to study with various culinary masters.'
An elder druid says, 'Her recipe for magical cookies is still famous in many parts of the world, although it has never been duplicated.'
An elder druid says, 'Eventually, the Lady came to the town of Rune.'
'Here she met Lord Agrippa for the first time, and considered settling down for good.' an elder druid says.
Lord Agrippa bursts into tears.
'May the Powers watch over and protect thee , noble Lady.' an elder druid says.
An elder druid turns to the east.
'Hail Dira, Guardian of the air!' an elder druid exclaims. 'Provide us with winds to help speed this spirit on her journey.'
An elder druid turns to the south.
'Hail Gath, Guardian of fire!' an elder druid exclaims. 'Provide us with strength to protect this spirit on her journey.'
An elder druid turns to the west.
'Hail Ithrilis, Guardian of water!' an elder druid exclaims. 'Provide us with tranquility to ease this spirit's journey.'
An elder druid turns to the north.
'Hail Maradas, Guardian of earth!' an elder druid exclaims. 'Provide us with wisdom to guide this spirit on her journey.'
An elder druid turns back toward the open grave.
An elder druid kneels down, picking up a handful of dirt.
An elder druid throws some dirt onto the coffin.
'Hail Vandyne, Guardian of the ether!' an elder druid exclaims. 'Watch over this spirit and deliver her unto her destination.'
An elder druid says, 'Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.'
'We can all keep a part of Lady Saresyn alive by remembering what she meant to us...' an elder druid says.
'And we know that she will be happy wherever she may go.' an elder druid says.
An elder druid bows her head.
'Blessed be.' an elder druid says.
An elder druid says, 'Let us go forth and live in the way that the Lady would have encouraged.'
The gravedigger arrives from the east.
An elder druid comforts Lord Agrippa.
Proclamation: Bazani Orb
An official proclamation from Lord Agrippa, regarding the Ithrix problem facing Alyria.
In the past several years there have been increasing reports from those possessed of the Second Sight, in relation to a looming danger upon the horizon that could affect the fate of our world, and perhaps the fate of other worlds as well. I am not certain as to how far the ramifications could stretch.
The very fabric of reality has, in spots, become so weakened that it has become not unusual to find dwellings that are there one moment and gone the next, trees vanishing and reappearing with random frequency, as well as general temporal disturbances with short events repeating themselves with altered outcomes, almost as if one were watching a strange play that kept starting from the beginning with a slightly different script.
The Council of Seven and the Council of the Arcane, in a joint effort, have traced the cause to the excessive use of interdimensional gating magics and other unusual reality-altering spells by the Ithrix, the scourge of our Finest Archons, the defenders of our world.
We are uncertain if the Ithrix are aware of the potentially irreparable damage they are causing, as repeated attempts to communicate with them or their leaders have remained unsuccessful. The Council of the Arcane, in cooperation with the wise Archon Masters of Decara, continue to research ways to stop the unwanted Ithrix intrusion into our world, but thus far their efforts have failed to bear fruit.
All is not hopeless, however. The Council of the Arcane has decided to make use of a rare magical artifact known as a Bazani Orb that allows interdimensional communication, so named after the great Druid Orphellum Bazani who postulated the creation of such a device thousands of years ago.
The Orb allows us to send a Plea for Assistance out through the ether that should remain undetected by the Ithrix. We do not know if the Ithrix have an opponent capable of defeating them, and if such, if the enemy of the Ithrix would be friendly to our request for help, but the joint Councils agreed that the dire consequences of failing to act would outweigh the risks of using such a powerful artifact.
While we wait to see who (or what) responds to our Call, the Council of the Arcane and the Council of Seven wish the denizens of Alyria to know that we are working tirelessly to find ways of reducing the aforementioned unusual disturbances and hope to report more encouraging news in the coming months.
Lord Cornelius Agrippa, Head of the Council of Seven
A hastily scribbled note is tacked onto the gates of Rune Castle:
My Lord Cornelius,
Be cautious of those that advise you on known threats based on self-declaration of Second Sight. Using the known to manipulate is a common tool of charlatans, and servants of dark.
Be very cautious about using tools that may draw outside attention. I know one shadow recently passed, and I fear its return. And I also fear anything that the ithrix would deem a 'threat'.
Something is playing at my memory. I'll send word to Tristan.
Alysa, Third Daughter