|Come, come, be welcome and unweary! Sit, sit! I have fashioned tea and brought water, and you see there the fruit and the bakings, so help yourself and become comfortable, for we will tell the tale of the End of the World and the Birth of the World, and should I do well you might learn how they are both the same and yet different.|
I have spoken before of The First Era; of the thousand years and thousand things that came before and fashioned a world we have ever since lost the sight of, save for that in musings and musty records, scribed and scrawled across scrolls and cenotaphs. I spoke of the Retort of Mansa, and the Grand Redress which was the final time that the Hosts were as one. It was two generations following the declaration of Rebellion that it actually began, though we mark it as having started with the blow that felled Belial and shamed Pallor.
During those years, the people began to be divided as well, as the then Gods allayed themselves into hosts and drew to them those who accepted their promises and assurances, their claims and their accusations, their assertions of justice and injustice, each according to the hosts that arose.
Though we call them today the Dread Host, they were first known as The Righteous, and they were composed of the Five who were closest to Belial, and who were secretly as corrupt as he was previously, though now it had been laid bare for all those who chose to see. Not all did, however, and I must stress that the size of all his Host was greater than that of the all the peoples who live and breathe today. It was, in fact nearly four times the size of the Host that arose in opposition to him.
That Host rallied around Mansa, his lieutenant Qetza, and the redoubtable Vulcana. They are whom we call the Bright Host today, but once in an age long ago they were called The Rebellion. Their Host was itself still greater in size than all the people who live today, for the Ancients were a mighty people, and gifted with much, and they were not under such great attack as we are now.
The Third Host was those who sought to not become involved in the conflict at first, who were less concerned about the vagaries of who was right and who was wrong, but many of them had also suffered at the hands of Belial and the others, and so were sometimes willing to aid, but not so much as to place themselves at risk. My former student’s matron, Antelle, is of this Host, whom we call the Shadow Host, sometimes the Penumbrae, for they dwell at the place where light can become darkness, where the Bright can become the Dread.
The Shadow Host’s greatest concern was then and remains still the peoples of the world, though often we do not understand that, and forget that, and become easily lost within the larger war of what we see as Good and Evil, though such simplicities do no justice to the truths of that time. They were the smallest Host, smaller even than the four thousand three hundred twenty-one houses that walked the Bleak Journey. Among their number were the ancestors of the Exilian peoples, who persevered and preserved much and to whom much of this history was known long before it was rediscovered. I spent many a year among them when I was young and alive in that dimension.
And so it was that there were three Hosts aligned against each other. Those who sought to rule absolutely, those who sought to end them, and those who sought to preserve life over sacrificing it. The whole of the world is said to have been gripped by a deep and abiding tension, and each Host made plans and prepared for the petulant violence to come.
However, to engage in the war, it still took a spark greater than that which started it, and that was the outcome of the Grand Redress, which we know today as the Skyshattering. To assuage the terrors and worries and concerns, the God’s had built a great shell about the world, and one day it was shattered, and what rained down caused entire continents to be abandoned and triggered blame and causation and thus the revelation of the secrets that the Dread Host had kept, in the form of the first peoples shaped by the powers of the Gods. For in secret and deep places, hidden and protected, volunteers were organized into 125 Houses who volunteered for to become the secret weapons of the Dread Host, to aid in subterfuge and espionage, to build transports and keep secrets, to protect what must be protected, and thus into the world came the Imps.
Now, I know that we are taught in our Tanjins that Dwarfs were first, but those are the teachings of the Empire, and they have reasons to exclude the Foes from their ways, though I do not agree with them. It is a truth: the Imps were the first among all the many things fashioned, before the Beholders and Dreadnaughts, before the Planes and Dimensions themselves were even settled.
And they were unleashed upon the world as the Dread Host removed themselves to a place that remained secret until the War’s end.
Now harken up, and recall the lesson prior, and you will recall that I mentioned a young girl and her friends who were the first to find the strange chasm that lies at the start of all this woe and weal. She and her friends were still around – she had fallen in love and raised a family and watched over them, helping others if they came but often removed from the world that she might have a happiness and come to terms with what had happened to her. For her story is unlike that of any other on this world, and it crosses through time and space and for in a fluid way that is beyond our ken and our sense.
Her name is Chicory, and she was, is, and will be the Anima mundi, the Spirit of the World itself, absolute within her domain, and when the Gods stripped Wyrlde from The Universe, they granted her power she would not have otherwise had. As the Sky shattered, she lost her family to accident and rage, disaster and Pallor’s wicked cruelties, and so she sought out the others who had been with her on that first day, all of whom were akin to her, and all of them together is a force that only the Triplets need worry about.
As the world dealt with the disaster, they crafted the Planes and the dimensions, and they exiled the Denizens to their assorted homes, and it is important to note that when all was begun, when that moment of first creation happened, every dimension was an exact copy of this one, and every Plane was an exact copy oof this one, and all the changes since are those the Denizens and the powers made manifest.
And from that great and grand effort, the Pale came into being, and yet, they did know of it, nor of the Veils, for sometimes when you create or build something, there are things that are also built – unintended consequences, and though they sought benefice, they laid the foundation for something that changed the world in a way they could not have foreseen.
The sky shattering revealed again the black void of the sky beyond, save for the seven stars and the three moons that were there, and so into that sky in honor of her family, Chicory placed the first star of the night sky, and to this day it is the brightest and most beautiful, and it is called Chicory’s Heart.
Some will tell you it is a story, a tale, a myth. She will take you there to see that it is not and be unconcerned about if you survive the trip. Yes, Ara, it is true. Why do you think the Powers all avoid her? She is why they have flesh when they manifest here. She is why that flesh can be harmed. Do not discount her, nor her ways, for she is a Power among Powers.
Very well then, let us return. The unleashing of the Imps was expected to join the Demons and Devils and Hags in their efforts to aid the Dread Host, and so the war began in earnest, and can all of you imagine the surprise of the Hosts when all their children and grandchildren vanished?
The first battles were not fought near Ackyu, but initially on a different continent. Aracal, the greatest landmass, still today bears scars from that, including a massive chunk of it sunk – and all despite the changes that came later. In the first decade of war, ten million lost their lives in fighting, and nearly thirty million passed from the ravages of it. Children were kidnapped, families were torn asunder, oaths were taken.
Bereft of their expected compatriots, the Dread Powers sought more volunteers, and once again in secret refashioned them, and from those efforts came the greatest of the Foe: Goblins. It took them nearly thirty years, but when goblins joined the fray, the tide war turned in the favor of the Dread Host, and then, in a moment of utter terror that echoed throughout the 500 years of the war, Parafel was killed in battle by Timur, who took his golden armor and claimed it for himself.
Desperate, in retreat, unable to supply front lines and care for the wounded and recover from the devastation, the Bright host turned to the bloody arts themselves, and some of the host stepped up and volunteered to be refashioned into those who could withstand the assaults, who could build bridges, who could heal the harmed and help with Hope; The Dwarfs walked the world for the first time.
Half the world’s population had been lost, the God’s say, by that fateful day, the anniversary of the sky itself shattering and plunging to earth a hundred years earlier. It was a stalemate then, and so the Dread Host tried something new, having learned about the dimensions from the search for a way to provide the immortality they now craved, and their followers sought.
For that which can die is not truly immortal.
They sought out the Devils and the Demons, only to find they were blocked. They sought out the Angels and the Valkyries, and they, too, were lost. So, as they searched, they turned to the Teknogy they had once used, and the dimensions they had found, and from all of that arose the Dreadnaughts, the Beholders, released in massive swarms that drained the whole of Euthania and changed that dimension first among all of them. Monsters came into the world as more and more people turned to the Bright Host and fought beside it.
Meanwhile, the Shadow host was not placid, and of all the Hosts, they had the most who were friendly with Chicory, upon who’s very being this war was fought and who flesh was scarred and whose pain was an echo through everything living thing when Parafel went down. For that is her curse, her price, her life.
And so, it was Charon who taught them the black arts used, the bloody arts, and it was Oremus who showed them how to draw on the Faje and so instill the needed spark and give to them the qualities needed from the other Planes, and the Shadow Host hid and began to spy and to sabotage and, also, to create.
It was Eshu who brought that secret to the Bright Host, though, who worked with Paria and Alfey, and who helped them to bring forth the mightiest warriors to ever tread the world: The Elfin.
By the later part of the second century of war, the battlefields were all over the place, and despite sabotage, the Dread Host brought he Merow to the seas, and the Bright Host countered with the Tritons.
And as the third century began, in a corner out of the way, the Shadow host ensured a way for life to persevere, even as a new nation was forming of those who sought to avoid the War at all costs, exiling themselves from all other people and beginning to wander, which they still do to this day.
Back and forth the fields went, and slowly the whole of the battles began to compress, to cover less earth for there were ever and ever fewer people. And yet, slowly, so slowly, but surely, ever certainly, the Bright host began to win, and the Dread Host found this unwelcome. They struggled to find out why, to learn what it was that gave the Host its unflinching ability to move forward, and they did not learn it then. But they would eventually: it was the Clerics. By granting their most faithful their boons and attention and the merest amount of their power, they could empower the first Mages on Wyrlde to heal the wounded, to rescue the dying, to cure the ill, to feed the hungry. This was the secret the Dread Host did not learn, and the impact of it had them turn their gazes inward.
To overcome the efforts at espionage and sabotage, they took the ever-increasing number of volunteers and shuttled them into a half a hundred different effort; trying to come up with something. Many of them were destroyed. Some were merely interrupted; others were abandoned too soon. And from those efforts came the Thyrs, for they had seen what the Shadow had wrought, and the Grendels, for they were the madness of made manifest. As the war creeped closer to the fourth century of blood and death and destruction, the Dread Host outpowered the Bright, and at long last the Shadow Host abandoned their efforts to avoid overt conflict.
During the Battle of Keratin, the Bright Host fell in droves and in sorrow before the abominations and the constructs, the goblins and the imps, the Thyrs and the Grendels. They lost their general then, slain by a Shadow Host spy who would, soon thereafter, be slain himself. And in the middle of this massive battle, between millions of warriors, a stone the size of a house fell to earth and decimated both sides as it scarred the planet itself.
This was the first Skyfall. For three hundred and sixty days, the skies spit forth stones great and small, strange and familiar, and at first no one knew what had happened, or why and there was much recrimination, until it became apparent that the problem was something older than they had realized: when they had removed the World, they had shattered many things, and those things came back now to haunt them.
It was only on the Equinoxes and the Solstices that they did not fall. They did not burn like stars that fall from the sky. They did not scream as they plummeted. They were silent. Their craters were not immense. They simply fell. Everywhere. Through roof and wall, steel and bone, blood and flesh, they fell on everything, and it was then that we learned for the first time what it was the Imps had truly done.
For the only place that was safe was beneath the ground, and the Dwarfs built shelters, and the Imps would mine their way into them and so many quiet, hidden battles were fought.
Even the Dread Host was devastated, and it is said that it was the Skyfall that revealed to the Animus Mundi where they had hidden, and so she began to plan. But from the Bright Host, and the Shadow, they remained hidden.
Ah, Pupils, how can I make you understand the loss? The Skyfall obliterated all the wonders of the ancients in a way that not even the God’s War itself had. We lost all those wonders, all those marvels, and there was no chance to recover them, to rebuild, to restore what was lost. Even the simplest of knowledge about Teknogy was lost, and our clockworks are but a pale, shadowed imitation.
After four hundred years of war, the mighty armies were returned to the old ways, the way of bow and spear, of blade and axe. And these were skills that the Ancients had forgotten. Yet the Skyfall did something else, something few will talk about or tell you.
It was that Skyfall that ended the Ancients, and gave rise to Us, their heirs. It was then that the world had Humans and Elfin and Dwarfs.
And so, the war did not end. It merely became what we know today, and were it not for the Clerics, there might not be any of us alive today to know it.
Dissension began to erupt within the Dread Host. Thyrs would battle Goblins, Grendels would encourage it, Imps would harass all. Morale began to plummet, and cohesion was lost, and yet still they fought on, those unwilling to fight further walking away in the midst of battle or refusing. Some were caught. Their horrific deaths and punishments did not stop it, it made more of it happen, just more silently, more secretly. Entire groups of Human vanished overnight, thinning the already sparse numbers ever further, to a point where it could almost be said that it was a war between Humans and Monsters. Almost, and many did, but the truth is it was never that simple, never that easy.
Four hundred years of war, never more than five days between a fight, God’s being slain, homes gone, and so horrible things were that only one place remained nearly utterly untouched by everything: Ackyu, the Ancient Land, the place where People First Came. It was asked for many years afterwards how it had managed to avoid the ravages, and nary an answer was given until one night Melane told the man who would be a King that it was the Anima that saved it.
It was 25 years after Skyfall that The Cascade happened, and it changed everything. I have told you, my Pupils, of how they had no magic in this war, how the first to walk with it were the Clerics, the most devoted to the Powers themselves. Those Clerics drew upon the Pale, which no one had realized was aware, or indeed that it even existed, and that it depended on the existence of the world itself, of the dimensions and the Planes. The Cascade was what no Power foresaw, and what changed the war in ways that no one could have been ready for.
All around the world, hundreds, no, thousands of hundred-mile-wide geysers erupted, shaking the crust of the planet, shaking the core, a global quake like nothing ever felt before or since. And from everyone came pouring the unintended consequences that had not been realized: Mana. For the Cascade was the rage of the Pale, and the coming of Magic, and the fury of Chicory, and the pleasure of Melane.
And in hideaways now long forgotten and left alone, great beasts awoke, and found that for the first time in over a thousand years, they could begin to plan to strike back at those who had stolen from them.
Oh my, these old bones still ache no matter there’s a rift or not. Time to tell the tale of the closing of the war, though you may have heard the Canticle of Chicory and know it, it never hurts to hear it again.
The Cascade was an immense change that filled the world, but even as it happened, the war went on, only now with people discovering that some could do magic and others could do strange things with just the power of their desire and will. Where once only the God’s had power, now all did, but there was still only the Clerics to turn to for healing, and now they were burdened even more, for far too often did newborn Mages burn themselves or lose a limb or kill a friend who startled them.
It was Chaos, and even still the Bright Host and those who now allied with them of the Shadow Host ever pressed forward, but the cost and the price was great, and the losses uncounted and uncountable. And then the tide turned yet again, and the Dread Host felt as if they were finally going to have their victory, for they released the Kobolds and they encircled the Ancient Land, and therein they trapped the final remaining forces of the Bright host.
But the Kobolds walked away. Nearly every single one decided they wanted nothing to do with this war and this death and this horror. Aye, Pupils: this is why the Kobolds are creatures of the Dread who dwell in the Shadow, for they had not been volunteers, they had been shaped and remade against their wills, and they refused when their bonds were finally released.
Remember that all the Peoples of the world are still, somewhere, in their very essence, the descendants of the Ancients. Even if they lay eggs now, as the Goblins do. No God can touch the Will of a Mortal. This is the decree of the Triplets, who craft the tapestry of the worlds. All People have free will, for without it they cannot choose or deny their destiny, they cannot find or fight their fate, they cannot cast a thread into the Aether to be woven into the grand tapestry.
This is the work of Belial, another unintended consequence, for Chicory was not the only power that he dismissed unwisely.in closing off the World he gave them absolute domain over the Tales. And they like Chicory, and she likes them.
Now, where was I? Ah, yes, The Siege of the Ancient Land.
Despite the defection of the Kobolds and the internal deceptions and strife among the Imps, Goblins, Thyrs, Grendels, and Humans, the Dread Hosts much reduced armies encircled those of the Allied Powers, and there they besieged them. Know this: The armies that were arrayed that day were almost insignificant in size compared to the armies that arrayed before each other in the first battles. This was all the peoples of all the world that any of them knew at the time, and they were then no bigger than half all the peoples of the world are today.
The Dread had abominations and Dreadnaughts, the Bright had sharper weapons and greater heart. The Dread were greater, three for every Bright, but they had never turned to magic among their troops for that would have given them too much independence it was thought. It was a siege the like of which even the worst of the Goblin Wars never saw. For twenty-three years it went on, and then the world was broken and remade in an instant.
It is called The Cataclysm, and while no one can say for sure what caused it, it was in the moments of that event that the Dread Power were trapped, were sundered in Spirit and Soul, Mind and Body, and their hearts taken, and it was in those moments that they were cast into the greater All and chained and sealed from the world until someone could find a way to release them. It was such a massive shock that all the Gods vanished afterwards, unable to be whole, to stay enfleshed and beside their followers. It was in that moment that the Clerics lost all contact, and with that all their great magic to heal and to cure and to save.
No one knows what happened save for those who chained the Dread Host and the Host themselves. The Dread Host do not speak to us who are descended from those who warred against them, and those who chained them have never spoken up. Thus we do not know what truly ended the War of the Gods.
We know only that the Dread Hosts armies were scattered, and that the Tritons were unable to come to the aid of their Bright host brethren who remained stuck in the Ancient Lands. We know that the Ancient lands turned fey and deadly, poisonous and inhospitable, and that earthquakes were frequent and that those who survived still had more death and despair as they scrambled to escape across lands that were being swallowed by the sea and trying to devour them, a ragtag mass of people who ended up being four thousand three hundred twenty one families standing on the shore of a land they did not recognize as the home they had known for years, that had stood for over a thousand years, vanished from the face of the earth.
|That, my dears, is the history of The God’s War. Five hundred years of pain and slaughter and change and sorrow, capped by a betrayal the remains to this day. It is late now and so I will send you all on your merry way. We will meet again, though. We have the Ages past still to come. I certainly hope that you, Mistral Urton, have at least learned a thing or two about hells from such. But for now, we must retire to our homes and our families, break this day long fast with good food, good people, and good hope, and then rest that we may have the strength to learn even more on the morrow…|
That no time had been given to them to gather their belongings or to arrange for needed things, to know that the children needed food, or the men needed water. They were, in The Aftermath, suddenly upon a shore with wounded and dying, no gods to provide succor, no supplies to survive on, no promises kept, and no way to know what had just happened.