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Embark on a journey as Yoshiko to become a renown hero; this brave new adventurer is forced to travel beyond the comfort of her village, in hopes of unlocking the mysteries behind the evil Demon Queen, Eraanthe!
Act I: Burning Heart of Foraminis
Yoshiko and Hitomi find themselves in the Province of Almedia.
Lend aid to the village of Kadra or travel South to the Human capital, Ivor, where the infamous Adventurer's Guild awaits those brave enough to seek the title of Hero.
Act II: Avetica & The Tree of Life
Select Reading Material
The Vitae ClanAn in-depth look at the origin and history of the 'Sea Elf' species.
'A work of compiled research by top scholars of Lum'dor and Almedia'
Eraanthe's Domain 15:4
It seemed that the day would be like any other, not holding much promise of anything but mundanity and low expectations. Her grunts and footsteps echoed across the castle, an acapella of violence and death.
Eraanthe held the title of Demon Queen over the realm of Wrath, the dimension for those who were exceptionally violent in their waking, mortal lives. The home of murderers, abusers and pillagers. A tiefling, a demon, her skin was a velvet smooth crimson, her hair a sickly shade of dark-emerald and was neatly tied back into a long tail, leaving a pair of bangs for both sides of her face. She possessed the curved ram horns and the sickle pastern legs of her race. Her eyes were a fiery emerald, and in that moment in time, radiated animalistic fury.
The wooden dummy had seen much abuse; its left arm was gone, its right one was partially ripped, and its face, once that of a handsome human, was now tarnished by deep sword cuts. Eraanthe’s strikes were fast and swift, which was nothing short of commendable given the fact that her chosen weapon for today’s session was Sinew, her trusty longsword, a cruel heap of metal responsible for the peril of many beasts and adventurers alike. A long hilt and cross-guard with a sizable blade made of refined mithril. She was clad in minimalist attire as to not impede her speed, just bare garments made from cultured Naga silk, covering her breasts and groin; it stuck to her body, its presence totally unnoticeable, she was feeling as if she was fighting bare naked. Her body moist, her sweat trickling down her forehead, burning her eyes and the taste reaching her lips. When thrusts and slashes got too tedious, she’d vary her attacks with castings; black pyromancy, her specialty. Concentrating, she bent the rules of the realm to generate a small surge of flame that burst from her palm aimed right at the dummy. A short ranged but intense blaze, strong enough to peel flesh off bone. The dummy was scalded beyond recognition and the scent of scorched buloke filled the air, heavy and malign. She resumed her swordplay, pieces of burned wood flying aimlessly.
The title of Demon Queen carries great weight with it, so the bearer must be prepared at all times to defend it, whether it be regicide from her rivals or the final quest of some arrogant adventurer. She was taking her body to the limit, speed and fury that knew no rival. Of course, it meant sacrificing protection for the sake of swiftness and might, but if one manages to deal with their foes as promptly as possible, then armor is nothing more but a troublesome hindsight. Finesse and power combined in a graceful dance of death.
Eventually, having grown weary of the wooden dummy, she altered Sinew into the Chaos Hammer, a barbarous gothic accented tool. With a single rapid swing she shattered the puppet’s skull, its wooden contents falling on the polished marble floor like trickling needles. Her tired scream sang across her sanctuary. With the slaughter done, her sword reverted to its normal form. Flaming up like a vernal star, melting and molding its mass back to normal. She dropped it before sitting down. Her lungs burned for air, her body ached, and her head felt feather light.
Small flapping wings could be heard from the other end of the hall and were coming closer.
“You really shouldn’t tire yourself like that, Lady Eraanthe.” said the little maroon imp, her voice a muted shrill. Etna was Era’s servant imp, one out of an entire colony housed in the castle. Slavery is a profitable trade and imps are the cheapest of labor. Etna was, like her brothers, enslaved by the inhabitants of the realm before Eraanthe “liberated” her, and by liberated, she meant purging the settlement in which she was chained to and claiming the imps as her own. Under her wing, the imps were tasked with maintaining the castle. Hard work, but they had the luxury of beds, hot baths, decent meals and the absence of chains, the very things all civilized creatures take for granted. Etna worked twice as hard to repay her master’s kindness, whether it be polishing silverware or keeping up the infrastructure. Her pious work paid off, for she received recognition and was assigned as Era’s personal servant. And besides, her master thought her efforts were cute like a little puppy trying to garner attention.
Era would communicate telepathically with her, but at other times, her screams were sufficient enough. Etna’s small satchel was flung over her left shoulder and was dangling near her small stubby feet. The imp rummaged through it and retrieved a white towel. “If anyone was to invade us right now, you’d be in a particularly precarious situation.”. Etna gestured for her mistress to take it.
“When that happens, I guess I’ll just have to fight harder, Etna.” said an annoyed Era, wiping the sweat masking her face. “By the way, is my bath ready?”
“Your bath’s been drawn, and the lavender has already been mixed in. Do you want me to summon my brethren to brush you?”
“That won’t be necessary. I need to relax at my own pace now. What you can do is keep me company while I inspect the castle grounds in the afternoon. I have the feeling that we might be expecting visitors, thus a warm welcome will be most apt.”
“You can already sense them, my lady?”
“No, but it has been quiet for too long. Some overly hubristic pack of fools is bound to arrive any day now.”
Eraanthe picked up the sword and got up. She gently hurled it at the unsuspecting imp. Etna instinctively stretched her hands forward to catch the blade but was brought down as the sword hit her body.
“Do you know why I altered Sinew to Chaos Hammer, Etna?”
“Because…you like…grand…finishers…?” huffed a fallen Etna, sword pressing to her chest.
“Because I got tired of using this pathetic patchwork. Even before I started training I realized that the sword hasn’t been sharpened properly. I’ll tell you again, the blade is forged using purified mithril ore, and thusly it deteriorates slower than most blades, but also means it requires more attention to keep it up to snuff. Tell me, how long did you hone it?”
“Five hours…I think.”
“Not good enough.”
The Demon Queen started walking off to the garden for her bath as the little imp struggled to get up.
“I’m not entrusting you with metalwork anymore. Summon one of your brothers or sisters, someone more adept and tell them I want the sword honed as soon as possible. And prepare my attire for when I’m done.” said Era, wiping the cooling sweat off her body, her steps echoing across the room. She had a decent amount of work ahead of her.
For the settlements in Wrath, most of the water is either sourced from rivers that run through the forests like the capillaries of a large organism, or, for the desperate and the foolish, sourced and refined from the sea. The waters of Wrath are clear, the shores sandy and critter infested like any other hell dominion. But if one were to go further into the sea, within that expansive ocean, one would stumble upon the arrivals. Wrath is the realm of the damned inflictors, reserved for those that displayed glorious fury when they were still alive. Judged by Minos, they are dropped from the skies to land on the freezing waters of Wrath.
Nothing animate floats in the sea. Every single soul, fatty mass or skin stretched over bones, is dragged down to the bottom. The souls are trapped in a constant struggle to stay afloat. The strong will manage to fight their way past the hordes of bodies. They’ll reach the surface and taste air but not for long; the other wretches pulling, clawing and biting, trying to anchor themselves up. The strong will float, but only the strongest will manage to swim to the shores or claw their way up Charon’s barge.
While the souls were towed to drown, Eraanthe swam freely to the bottom of the pool. The pit was black as the cosmos, fading away into a deep blue, shifting into a saturated amber further up, the colors of the early morning horizon. She held her breath, her finger tips touching the bottom. She turned around on her back; skin peels of lavender petals blocked out part of the light. She relaxed and waited as her body was lazily pulled to the top, enveloped in a womb of warmth and comfort.
She ascender up the pool; she saw her reflection stare at her among the armada of violet petals, those emerald eyes, her gaze reflecting a history of violence and conquest. In the early days, whenever she had to prepare for an invasion she felt a sense of euphoric thrill surge through her body; she gladly welcomed the challenge, the prospect of combat bringing a sincere smile to her face. She remembered the warm feeling of her own scarlet essence trickling down her body, the tired lungs, the demon that just barely managed to survive.
Those were the days of old; now, these challenges felt like simple chores that she had to overcome. She became stronger than ever, yet very few adversaries proved themselves worthy of her time. Every once in a while, whenever she trained, inspected her dominion or was stuck in a brawl with an adventurer, she’d sometimes question the purpose of her existence. She was fighting for herself, she lived only for herself, she only had herself through most of her being. If one already achieved ultimate self fulfilment, that is becoming governor of a circle of hell in this case, then what was there to do next? The question kept her up at night. Nonetheless, she enjoyed her dominion over the realm, just wished for something to squeeze in more substance in her spirit.
The pool. This was one of the few moments where her mind and body could rest.
She ascended further. She faced her doppelganger. Their faces met, their bodies mixing together. Era emerged from the pool, floating on her back stark naked, petals stuck to her body.
Although the castle was made to accommodate the aura that radiated within the realm of Wrath, the Garden was one of the few chambers that bore mortal realm semblance. In the center was the pool. From either side, there were erected statues of the Demon Queen. In both she was clad in her favorite emerald cape. On her left, was Courage, and to her right, was Will. Courage stood tall and majestic, her cape flinging behind her, wearing her traditional bare attire, wielding her trusted Sinew which was jabbed in bedrock. To her right, was Will; kneeling, clad in her wicked altered armor, both hands clinging to the hilt, her head pressed on the blade and her body bearing the gashes of vicarious combat; the hot purifying waters seeped through the impaled stone of Courage and through the wounds of Will, meandering down a trenched path that seeped into the pool.
Some time ago, one party of invaders was a clan of mountain dwarves; clan wars are common, and this tribe, being one of the losers, was forced to give away their land and resources to the victor. They invaded her castle in hopes that slaying her might regain their prestige.
“Your head will pave our way back to greatness, hell spawn. We’ll make sure the Ashen clan will be remembered for all eternity!” said their grey bearded leader. They charged at her clad in their classical dwarven heavy armor and wielded their cumbersome war hammers and axes. Ten dwarves. It took only a few minutes to dispose of them, her Sinew cutting through them with ease. Those who still had enough limbs to function properly were resurrected as zombies and given the complex task of building and integrating the statues. Once the structures were finished, she disposed of them for good.
The Demon Queen always returned the bodies of her victims to their homeland. The realm was already riddled with ghouls and damned to serve in her dungeons. Sending them back in caskets would strike fear in the people and, hopefully, weed out the cowardly elements.
Other than the statues, the Garden was ripe with various flora. Red blaze, the typical hell tree: bark as crimson and flaky as dried blood, sprawled branches nurturing scarlet leaves. Shale rough paths running through the soil which housed the flowers: Iresine Bloodleaves huddled amongst Sedum and Dark Center Poppies. The soil was shoveled straight from the old battlefields; the legion of corpses that had decayed beneath it had made the culture quite rich.
The room was a dome. The chandelier illuminated everything. The plant life, the pool, the queen, and the sacred walls. The walls were decorated with her history, spanning years. Her birth, her training, her trials and conquests neatly painted like holy text.
She heard the familiar sound of wings. Etna dropped her bag on the edge of the pool and sat down dipping her feet in the water. “Your clothes are dried and ironed madam Eraanthe, and Sinew is already being taken care of. Where are we going to start our inspection, if I might ask?”
Her queen didn’t respond. She was looking up at the chandelier, lost in thought.
“Lady Eraanthe? Are you not well?”
Eraanthe lazily moved her head to the side, her cold gaze centered on the imp. She sighed and swam towards her. She heaved herself up and sat next to the little creature.
“I’m fine, Etna.” said Era. “Just contemplating the longevity of my existence given the current circumstances.”
“You’re afraid someone might overthrow you?” asked Etna, playfully cocking her small head to the side.” I highly doubt there’s anyone in the realm, or any other realm for that matter, that can stand a chance against you.”
Eraanthe sighed again and removed a lock of hair that was covering her right eye. “That’s the problem, you peon. It’ll go on and on, this struggle of mine, no new thrill can be siphoned out of this current predicament unless someone substantial shows up. Get my things out.”
The little imp complied. She retrieved a new towel, a set of the same clothing her master used for training but with the addition of her cape.
“What kind of magic is that anyway? Some sort of alteration enchantment?” asked Era, drying herself with the towel.
“It’s a small family heirloom, passed on from generation to generation. Besides the fire tome, it is the only thing I managed to save before you “liberated” me. Not really sure about the magic behind it except that its ancient.”
Once Eraanthe finished drying, she groomed her hair with a brush Etna had provided her. “We’ll start off with the Perimeter, then the Catacombs, and we’ll finish with the Mechanical Tower. Essentially the key locations, the ones that require the most attention.”
“And I take it you’ll finally rest afterwards?”
Era tied her hair back. “No, no I won’t. I’ll resume my training, hopefully with a more adamant blade.”
“But this level of exertion is detrimental for your health…”
“It can always be worse. Dying due to my own fault is always worse.”
“But lord Era-“
“Etna.” snapped her mistress. She put on her clothes and slung on her cape. “I appreciate the concern and everlasting loyalty, but I need to do this lest I become laughingstock in the eyes of the other lords or to myself.” she knelt next to the imp, brushing her silken furred cheek, her eyes seeming big and warm. “Look, you’ve made my life easier and I’m thankful for it, but my wellbeing regarding my mundane life should be the only concern for you. Don’t torture yourself. I’ll manage. Understand?”
The little imp nodded and her master patted her head. “We’re burning daylight. Let’s get this over with, shall we?”
And with that, the duo left the Garden and started their inspection of the grounds.
Lady Eraanthe’s castle was positioned on the steep mountainous region of the realm. The castle exterior was made of metamorphic granite, smooth dark grey walls sparsely decorated with her draping crimson banner and high erected battlements with stationed ballista. The entrance was high arching to accommodate the more hellish and sizable of visitors with an iron portcullis, the square spacings jagged to prevent small intruders, fairies or shapeshifters, from entering. Hot oil was prepped to spurt through small machicolations in the walls.
Eraanthe had an assortment of minions at her disposal, but when it came to outer guard duty, she tasked the Damned Legion. Undead soldiers clad in tarnished silver plate mail, their faces masked with the image of their long dead king; failing to protect their lord in their waking life, the protectors were exiled to become bandits where they committed unspeakable acts. The authorities captured them in due time and publicly executed them. However, their souls were not for the ocean of Wrath but for Limbo, their essence reserved for the highest caliber of torture; reliving again those days of bloodshed and decay and self-hatred, tormented by apparitions of those they had failed and wronged. On one of her visits to the threshold, Era took notice of their agony and found a more appropriate punishment for them. To guard her castle for all eternity.
Faint sprays of light passed through the mosaic windows of the main hall. Cubic illustrations of Era, clad in her enchanted armor, fighting, on her throne and many other different poses. Made of glass slates of red and grey tones.
The sound of hooves and flapping wings filled the air. The floor, a smooth marble, the walls polished and possessing tight archer venues. The torches that were connected to the pillars reeked of crude oil. With the daily polish done, the imps, sans Etna, returned to their bed chamber which was an old tower in the back of the castle now converted to a colony.
Passing through the ward, the duo reached the entrance. She signaled the Legion to raise the gate. A steep granite bridge ran through the great chasm between the entrance and the Perimeter.
The Perimeter spanned only some kilometers in length and served as the primary defense initiative in case any adventurers got this far. It was her guarded section of the forest and the first real trial for any incomers, tall oaken trees huddled together, their long branches extending into one another, allowing only glimmers of light to pass through. The dark and damp atmosphere was ideal for the Herders; grotesque, stubby little trees that roamed or hid among their taller brethren and bushes. Their twig fingers were sharp as needles and their bark poisonous to the touch. Weak and small, they compensated with their numbers. They spied on them and whispered among themselves as the duo waded through the moist soil paths.
“The lady has arrived.”
“The lady is inspecting us.”
“We’re obedient, your lordship.”
“Hush, brothers! Speak only when spoken to.”
The Herders were one of the many inhabitants of the Perimeter. The only useful flora that grew here was the medicinal Bloodweed and the odd mushrooms, but the rest of the produce was venomous. The berries, the flowers, the other exquisite shrooms. Mild stomach pains at best, total organ failure at worst.
Besides Herders, the rest of the creatures that roamed the area were your typical mongrel stock; the occasional lost zombie, the arm length black leeches, carrion crows, exotically azure-black marked vile toads and plague rats. Eraanthe had little interest in them. She was looking for the guardian of the Perimeter. Albion, the Black Dryad.
Etna, quivering, hovered right next to her master. Even though she ventured outside on plenty occasions, she never really grew accustomed to the wilderness. A little imp like her is a quick and easy afternoon snack for the forest dwellers. As long as she remained firmly by her lady’s side, she’d be away from harm. Going deeper into the heart of the forest, they reached a sudden meadow, a sizable patch of long dead soil amongst the expansive forestry. Etna landed next to her mistress’s feet and huddled herself next to her, quivering like a frightened child.
“Do be brave now, little one.” said Era.
Eraanthe turned her attention to the meadow. She took a deep breath and shouted. “Emerge Albion, I seek an audience! I know you can hear me, Dryad!”
The bird song abruptly stopped. Far off in the distance came the sound of something incoming. Something fast, high in number. The noise was moving past the leaves, past the branches and the bushes. From all the corners of the forest came the incognito inhabitants; flies, centipedes, roaches, worms, all tones of black and grey. Etna squeaked and climbed up her master’s leg as the stampede brushed past them. Reaching the center of the meadow, the insects climbed on top of one another. As the pyramid of bodies kept expanding further, the creatures slowly started to decompose into fleshy onyx mold before their eyes. Starting off as a small ball of vile mass, the substance started taking shape, bleaching into an ashen grey from the bottom going up to the top. The metamorphosis was starting to take form of a humanoid with the skin bustling a coarse, whitish-grey texture. Cloth was formed from the leftover skin. Legs, groin, chest, arms, a neck and a head still unfinished. The blob of black gorged itself into unimaginable proportions, bending outwards where the “face” should be and a crude jagged mass protruding from both sides of the head. Bending like molten plastic, the “face” took shape. The mass formed into a long slate white bone, exposed chipped nasal bridge, empty sockets. The erect mass bent inwards. Ram horns. The rest of the black substance flaked off to the wind. Etna clenched Era’s leg tightly, the latter feeling her cold shivers. Slightly annoyed, she ran her fingers through the imp’s mahogany hair to calm her down.
Albion the Black Dryad was the groundskeeper of the Perimeter. His skin was a chalk light grey tone and rough. He wore only tanned wolf skin leggings. His built was slim but firm, fine muscle clearly visible. His tar black locks were resting on his shoulders and his head was that of a ram, skin and flesh peeled off to reveal pristine bone. Prior to joining Eraanthe’s ranks, Albion was a necromancer back in the mortal realm, specializing in the art of soul binding and animation. A mercenary for the highest bidder, he and his pets had fought in many wars, his ego inflated from the fame and his purse fat from the profit. He saw life and death as his playthings, like mere tools; he put a leash on both of them and freely commanded them like war hounds. Many good men have found themselves mauled by his ghouls, crushed by his clay golems, or torn to shreds by his rabid carrion swarm. Feeling that he might shift sides at the offer of higher pay, his former employer, a zealous king, had him assassinated in his tent after battle. In the dead of night, one clean swing was all it. Minos sentenced him to Wrath where he was supposed to drown, but his will was too strong. Reaching the shores, he wandered off into the forest and used his magic to bind his soul to the surrounding nature and become a Black Dryad, creating the Herders and wretches. He challenged Era when she first ventured in his “territory” and, as expected, stood little chance. In a vain attempt to save his own life, he offered his allegiance in return for mercy.
“You summoned me, your lordship?”
Eraanthe pushed Etna away and slowly circled around the Dryad, her steps long and graceful.
“It’s been a while since we’ve had any visitors, Albion. I’ve got the feeling that our predicament is going to change sooner rather than eventually, so I decided to do a small inspection of the grounds with Etna here. Your defenses are satisfactory as always, swarming with your critters at every corner, but I feel as if something grander will be required.”
“You’re not satisfied with my performance?”
“You could say that.”
“Would you like me to create golems instead? My Herders can fetch plenty of clay from the shores, so yield will be high.”
“Hmm, no, not clay, something hardier.”
“I can sacrifice the Herders to make a mightier variant, but at the expense of fewer numbers.”
“No, no…” Era stopped behind him. She rested her head on his right shoulder and wrapped her tail around his legs. She sensed the strong musculature of his back.
“Tell me, back when you were known as Albion the Wretched Necromancer, you exercised different forms of reanimation, is that right?”
“That is correct my mistress.”
“I realized something. If you are the first line of defense against invading parties, we might as well make you the foremost line of defense. You ever rarely manage to deal with pests before they reach the castle walls; even the smallest of input from you must, ironically, be considered a success. Some of them were exceptionally weak and considering your might and minions, it begs the question; how’d you let them get this far?” Era slowly slid her left index finger down his spine, then back up, sensing his muscle and bone.
Albion remained composed. “Your highness, the forest is vast. I might be a Black Dryad, but I’m only one man. Someone is bound to slip past me…occasionally.”
“Back to my point. Considering the caliber of adventurers you let through I highly suggest you remedy that.” Albion jerked forward as Eraanthe jabbed her nail into his back. Sharp, like a needle going through his spine. Etna’s eyes widened with fear. “If I’m going to battle someone, I want them to be worth my time. You’re a former necromancer, Albion, send your minions to fish out some bodies from the sea or check in with the undertaker. Reinforce your saplings with flesh golems, preferably Graverobbers if you can and position them as effectively as possible. If I’m going to inevitably face someone, I want only the finest of adversaries. Is that clear?”
“Yes… my mistress…” grunted Albion. “I’ll aid the Herders…with Graverobbers.”
“Good!” exclaimed Era. She pulled her nail out of his back, tarnished with his black blood.
The Dryad grasped his wound and turned to his mistress. “I can…but beware, its going to take a while… fusing multiple bodies to form Graverobbers is no easy feat…its intricate biology and magic after all…”
“Then I suggest you get on with it NOW, Albion. Provide me with a specimen and we’ll see if you can start mass production. I hope your performance will be satisfactory. Go, you may leave now.”
The Dryad grunted. His body rotted way into the insects and scurried off into the wilderness. Etna dreaded each single step.
“That was scary, both of you.” squeaked Etna. “Did you really have to hurt him?”
Era shrugged. “His duty is kind of important. Can’t have the first line of defense pissing on the job. Handkerchief please.”
Etna handed her a handkerchief from the bag. “Besides, a little bit of physical discipline every now and then is a good way to raise morale. It did wonders on me.”
“Yeah...not really a fan of the “I’m hard on them because I love them” attitude.”
Once she wiped away the blood they proceeded back to the castle. The Herders, once respectful and eager to serve, now scurried from the Demon Queen. The next stop was the Catacombs.
Right underneath the castle and the forest was a the vast catacomb infrastructure spanning throughout most of the region. Hallowed ground stained by years of spilled blood and magic. The Catacombs were meant to serve as an escape route for her servants incase the castle was overtaken. Nowadays it was used mainly by adventurers to sneak inside. Although Era did deliver the dead back to the living, there were some warriors too valuable to just let go. Deep within the Catacombs was the Burial Chamber, an expansive room filled with numerous steel sarcophagi. Warriors of the highest distinction within her custody to be used for the direst of situations. Some say that being resurrected to fight as a Revenant is a fate worse than death. Others accept their outcome as punishment for their ill transgression whilst some, mad or devious, jolly at the thought of serving a higher power. For Eraanthe, the victor deserves the spoils of war, and the spoils happen to be the bodies of her most trying opponents.
The Catacombs also served for storing the more mundane equipment of her adversaries, while the prized loot was kept hidden and locked within the castle.
Etna cast a flame to light a nearby torch. “Lemme guess, we’re going to pay a visit to the arachnid queen, are we?”
“That is correct.”
Etna clumsily heaved it from the stand and tried her best to hold it straight. “You know, I always wondered why you won’t just assign zombies to take care of the catacombs. You’ve got plenty of corpses in your forest, and in the realm in general, so why not utilize those buggers? Like the body of a serial killer or a politician. They can help us do the chores. Well, the dirty work that is, we want to justify the roof over our heads after all.”
The little imp found it increasingly hard to hold the torch as they walked through the darkness. She wobbled to the sides, trying her best to keep her composure. “Look, all I’m saying is that you could be a little bit more efficient with your-“
She ultimately couldn’t hold it any more. Eraanthe grabbed it as it was about to fall on the ground. “Maybe because zombies are stupid? Maybe because they’ve got the attention span of an inbred animal? Or maybe because their body parts are prone to falling off while working? Or maybe because they are just plain dumb. Remember what happened the last time we enlisted a zombie?”
“Hmm, I dunno. Did it try to eat one of your swords?”
“It dropped a torch in gunpowder and blew up the armory.”
“Oh… I guess I kind of forgot about that.”
“So, as you can see, zombies and chores don’t mix. At least you imps have some common sense in you.”
They grazed through the darkness. The walls of the catacombs were made of basalt, engraved with old demon lore. Given the sprawling size of the maze, it was the perfect place to set up some traps. Pressure plates that ejected venomous darts, fake floors leading to a pitfall of spikes or a den of Skeleton Warriors, teleportation enchantments, dropping guillotines and spiked floors. The traps were temporarily shut from the Mechanical Tower as to make the inspection easier. Besides the assortment of loot filled rooms, the catacombs led to several distinct paths. Only one of the paths lead to the basement while the rest were red herrings leading to the den of Jorogumo, the guardian of the catacombs.
Traversing the veins of the underground, the Demon Queen and her companion reached one of the many fake exits, the most civil route, that is if you consider forced teleportation and trap traversal as civil. Going down a rocky flight of stairs and through the meandering tunnel, they found themselves inside a large chamber. A beam of white light was cast from a hole in the ceiling and the floor was scattered with leaves and twigs. On the edge of the hole, one could make what appeared to be a piece of cloth, armor or an indistinct mangled bone.
“Do you think she’s here?” whispered Etna. “She might have ventured on the surface to hunt.”
“Only one way to find out. Jorogumo! Emerge!”
The sound of rustled silk could be heard above their heads. A helmet fell. Then a sword. Then a skull. On the edge of the beam, one could make out the silhouette of a large six-legged figure. Its back hanging on a stream of tough silk, the body lowered itself down. The creature landed smoothly on the bed of leaves and skulked its way towards Eraanthe. Etna hid herself behind her mistress.
Under the guise of the torch was the face of a young woman, her hair a long smooth sun-blonde with locks covering her naked breasts. Her eyes were an immaculate sky-azure, her lips a pulp pink, a thin nose and chin, a face unaffected by age or combat. Her beauty rivaled that of Eraanthe but looking down where her legs were supposed to be, was something totally opposite of beauty.
The upper body of a young maiden and the lower half of a spider. Starting at her pelvis, she possessed the abdomen, spinneret and legs of a woodland wolf spider, tone and fur a dark brown as the soil, pincer like endings on her chitin legs. She smiled and cocked her head playfully to the side.
“Doing your usual inspection, Era? It’s been way too quiet these past few days, I was beginning to worry that our prey might have forgotten this about this place. We get so lonely here in our chambers, no one to keep us entertained.”
“Us? Did they-”
“Yes, they did. A few days ago, actually. Don’t worry my lovelies, she doesn’t bite, come on, say hello to the nice demon lady.”
Small figures crawled up the spider’s back, peeking from her shoulders. Little spider mites enough to fit in a palm. Some had her blonde hair, others had a shade of light brown.
Era raised an eyebrow. “And their father…?”
“Oh, the boy managed to climb his way out through the ceiling. He wasn’t very fond of me being his wife.”
“Of course he wasn’t. You forcefully mated with him.”
“Apart from being your dungeon guard I’m also a romantic at heart. I’ve got needs and wants like anyone and it just so happens that one of the adventurers that I stumbled across hit me right in the heart. Still-“she plucked her young and placed them on the floor. “-it is good that I won’t have to live on my own anymore. The loneliness is unreasonable, you see. Go play, my sweeties.”
The spiders scattered throughout the chamber. Etna, mesmerized by their semi-foreboding semi-adorable appearance, tried to follow them.
“Don’t worry, everything is fine. I expanded the tunnels as you told me to, I keep killing everything that wanders through my chambers, except my deadbeat husband that is, and delivered any valuable loot to the proper rooms. So yeah, everything is dandy.”
Etna searched for the little spiders in the dark. She jumped as she felt their legs crawl up her back, on her arms, legs and head
“Spry little mites. That’s one thing they took from their father. They are pretty adept at hunting critters too. At least I don’t have to wake up early in the morning to feed them, not anymore at least.”
“What about burrowing and growth?”
“They can burrow. Not deep but they can burrow enough to hide. The males of my kind are bigger than the females. My boys will grow larger than me, and beware, I’m an exception.” Jorogumo’s expression changed from a cheery smile to a sour frown. “Let me guess, you’re already planning on ways to weaponize them, am I right?”
The spider closed her eyes and sighed. “Era, must you really do this to me?”
Etna flew around trying to get rid of her attackers.
“Joro, even in the realm of monsters and killers, your kind is despised and hunted. You came to me when you were at your weakest, when you narrowly escaped a hunting party. I gave you a home in return for your eternal loyalty, and in a way, if I dare say, I inadvertently helped you acquire a family of your own.”
“You’re cruel, Eraanthe.”
“I’m not cruel, I’m sincere.”
“I promised you MY eternal loyalty, not the loyalty of my children. You’re not going to use them as weapons. You don’t get to do that, you don’t have that right.”
Etna crashed on the floor.
“They are free to leave, either now or when they grow up. But you know what awaits them on the surface. Trust me, this is better for them. They’ll have a home, they’ll be with you. They’ll grow to be mightier than you and no adventurer will stand a chance against them. It is only fitting that they defend their home.”
“It still doesn’t change the fact that you’re putting my children in harm’s way.”
“Were you planning on hiding them as you work? All the way to adulthood, when you start greying and withering?”
Etna pulled them off her, but they jumped right back on her.
“Listen, Joro, they’ll have to fight eventually but for now they can do simple tasks like spying. They’ll be prepared for when the time comes, belive. This is your home, you don’t want to be exiled by some cocksure adventurer, right?”
“So, stick with the program. Make them spy in the tunnels, for now at least. We’ll worry about their future when they reach puberty.”
“Excuse me!” screamed Etna. “But can someone get these minions off me!?”
“Get off the little imp, children.” said their mother. “She isn’t food.”
The sprites got off and scuttled back on their mother’s back. The spider rubbed her eyes as if trying to stop the reality of the situation from flowing in. She sighed in defeat. “Hard to come to terms with reality, but fine, they’ll join you in battle or whatever cruel scheme you have in mind when they age, free will be damned. I will warn you though, if anything happens to them while I’m still alive, I’ll be holding you accountable. I just might be inclined to do something very foolish in the heat of the moment.”
“Like trying to rip my head off with your bare hands?”
Era clapped her hands. Etna brushed off the dirt and flew beside her queen.
“Maintain the usual affairs. If someone comes in here, scalp them and send in anything valuable. Remember, spying for now. I’ll send in an imp to check up on their growth. See you in the near future, dearie”
Jorogumo glared. If she didn’t have a debt to pay, she would’ve attempted to decorate the walls with her entrails. As the Demon Queen walked off, one of the babies peeked from her mother’s shoulder.
“Go-oodby-e-e M-iss Era-a-a-a.”
Only one more locale left for now, the Mechanical Tower. Back in those damp tunnels.
“You know, you could paraphrase yourself a bit better next time.” muttered Etna. Her cheer was surprisingly, gone. “If you keep antagonizing your guardians you might end up defending your castle on your own, but I have the gutsy feeling you’d like that, you glutton for punishment.”
Eraanthe smirked. “You think they’ll rebel?” she asked giddily.
“They might at this rate. Will it kill you to be friendlier, and don’t give me the “pain builds character” excuse. You’re getting a kick from all of this.”
“Careful, careful. That was close to sounding hostile.”
“Just trying to remind you that you don’t have to turn the people closest to you against yourself. I know you’ve got your moments but please, try to keep them at a minimum. Bad for your health, bad for our health if you catch my drift.”
“Etna, as I told you earlier, I’ve got my own problems to worry about, and you should only worry about the mundanities. It’ll make both of our lives infinitely easier.”
“Your life is my life, you know. Your wellbeing is my wellbeing.”
Eraanthe found it hard to say the words, their weight was like stones. “No. My life is my own, and mine alone.”
They were closing in to the exit that led through the basement. A quick glimpse at storage and the forge wouldn’t hurt.
“I am fully capable of self-reflection and I’m aware of what I’m doing. They can hate me all they want but all of this is for their benefit at the end of the day. What do you think will happen if I were to be defeated? You’d continue living here as usual? You’d either be slayed, enslaved or driven out. You don’t want that.”
Eraanthe pressed a small pressure plate embedded in one of the walls. The sound of clockwork turning could be heard from within the wall, rusted metal scratching against rock.
“What is yours is yours and you should fight for it. Ruthlessness wades out the chance of failure and leads to efficiency, devoid of second doubts and regrets. Instilled through hatred, it will lead to might. I want the guardians to be as merciless as possible when facing our would-be adversaries, all for the sake of preserving my haven. Our, haven.”
Etna smirked. “Don’t come crying to me if they revolt.”
“They can if they want. Won’t do them any good though.”
The slab of rock sank into the ceiling. A small passage leading to the basement, the air was smelling of mold. The tunnel led them to a staircase illuminated by a torchlight from the top. As the Demon Queen walked up the steps she pressed the closing button near the entrance of the basement.
“Try to be just a little bit kinder to the next soul, Era.”
Unbeknownst to most visitors, the castle and all the mechanisms present in the chambers are controlled by the Mechanical Tower. Clockwork integrated within the walls of the castle, countless tons of wheels consisting of varying sizes all working together to ensure functionality. The Mechanical Tower, an obelisk at the end of the castle, was the starting point for all mechanisms. A steam engine of commendable size powered the core clockwork, which in return, enabled all the other subsystems. The tower was created by the original architect of the castle, the first ruler of Wrath. Centuries of maintenance have made the structure quite efficient. Like the outer walls, the Mechanical Tower was guarded day and night by the Damned Legion, supervised by Hrothgar.
An automaton, Hrothgar resembled a man of Olympian qualities, possessing a tall well-built body and short curled hair. His skin was made of polished brass and his skeleton was an assortment of pipes and wheels designed for motion. His joints were compact to enable fluid movement. His body was strong, strong enough to rip the limbs off anything that stood in his way but juxtaposed to his menacing figure was a voice as sweet as an angel. Caring and soft, muffled as if his very living essence was trapped inside. Hrothgar always gave his prey a chance to run. He was tied to the history of the castle, for he was the first ever adventurer to try his fortune and the first to die. The lord back then, known for his twisted sense of humor, transferred the dying Hrothgar’s soul into the brass figure, cursing him to forever serve the masters of the castle. With each new master, he was melded back to functionality, his soul plucked from its temporary reprieve in Limbo.
The duo did a quick checkup on the basement. The storage units full of food and loot were under lock and key as necessary. In the forge, the blacksmith was still attending to Sinew, sharpening the mithril blade on a bench grinder.
“A few more hours, m’lady.” said the old greying imp.
The Mechanical Tower was on the southwest side of the castle while the imps’ living quarters were located southeast. Going through the courtyard, which offered an unobstructed elevated view of the realm, was riddled with numerous statues of Eraanthe, the former lord statues moved to storage. Before leaving the forge, Eraanthe told the blacksmith’s assistant to set up some sparring dummies for when she returned.
“Don’t you get tired from all this training? Don’t you think it’s a little bit quixotic?” asked Etna.
“Not really. I’ve been doing this regime for so long; my body has adapted to endure.”
“You’re that desperate for a challenge, aren’t you? Ever thought of doing something constructive with your life after you achieved supremacy? Like I don’t know, painting or sculpting?”
“I find the thrill of combat more enthralling, dear.”
“Ever thought of marrying? Maybe having an heir?”
“Reasonable and noble, but I’d really much rather not.”
“Because marriage is like a really cheesy comedy-drama novel, full of all kinds of nonsense. If I had a spouse, our love life would be passionate at first but then we’ll have to fill it will all kinds of nonsensical roleplay just to make it interesting again, and even that will get old eventually. We will have petty squabbles about nonsense, like what color should the walls be or whatever else. And god bless the JOYS of childbirth. He’ll cheat on me and tell me its my fault he sees other women. I’ll grab my sword and tell him it’s his fault I am stabbing him. But a cheesy comedy-drama novel lasts a few pages. Marriage lasts for eternity.”
“That’s… a very dark interpretation.”
“Just putting your suggestion into perspective, sister.”
The Demon Queen and her servant reached the front entrance of the mechanical tower, tall and majestic. One could hear the deep hollow sound of turning machinery from within.
“Open up!” shouted Era.
Usually Era could hear footsteps from the other side the second she gave the order. But that wasn’t happening.
“Open up!” she repeated. Nothing was happening.
“I said open up! Hrothgar! Legion! Open the damn door!” shouted Era.
Nothing. This was starting to get peculiar.
The gate was tall, made of thick reinforced steel. Like the tower itself, it was completely mechanized, prying itself open with the pull of a lever on the other side. Eraanthe grabbed the handles of both sides of the gate and tried to pull them apart. The gears of the gate creaked as they were forced to move. She grunted, managing to make a slight opening for now.
“Open up you steel piece of trash…”
She kept on slowly prying it open, her body tense and beginning to sweat. A loud click and the door started opening on its own. Etna emerged from the other side and landed next to Era’s feet, looking smug.
“How did you…?”
“I’m an imp, silly. I can fly. I can go through windows and high openings.”
“Oh…good to see you’ve got initiative.” said Era, trying not to look embarrassed.
Etna put her tongue in her cheek. “Yeah yeah, keep telling yourself that, m’lady.”
They ventured inside. At night they set up the torches but during the day the only source of illumination was the sunlight that drudged through the small windows of the tower. Looking up, Era saw a battalion of cogs and wheels, some shifting, some remaining still. They encompassed the walls and went through the soil reaching throughout the domain like the roots of an ancient tree. A crude beam of cog machinery was protruding from the middle reaching all the way to the top with the staircase leading to the five floors spiraling around it.
Era’s yell echoed throughout. “Hrothgar! Legion! Are you there!?”
Etna moved behind her master. “You think we’ve been invaded?” she whispered.
“If someone had entered we would’ve found out.”
Or so they thought. Without warning, a heavy mass landed beside the duo, scaring the imp to cower behind her master. Eraanthe was more surprised than startled. It was the body of one of the Damned Legion. Its mask gone revealing a wide gash down his gaunt face, the skull hollow with the blood and marrow long dried to dust. Its disheveled armor bared several punctures and gashes and its right arm was missing.
“I guess that answers that.” murmured Era.
Etna peeked behind her shoulder and squeaked.
“One of the Legion, yes.”
“But the door was closed from the inside.”
Eraanthe looked up, scowling the scenery. The body came from a hole on the first floor. “Indeed. Which means the rest might be… up there? Probably.” Eraanthe turned to face the imp. “Etna, fly off to the colony and alert your brethren to hide. I think we might be dealing with something ethereal.”
“I’ll summon the rest of the Legion.”
“No. They’ll perish for sure, and don’t bother calling Albion to resurrect the trespassers, they’ll just get in the way. Just hide, go to the catacombs and don’t come back until I summon you. If I summon you.”
Etna looked her straight in the eyes. “You’re doing this for the thrill, aren’t you?” she said pitifully.
“Etna. Just. Go.”
The imp, looking more sorrowful than ever, flew off, trying to contain her tears as best as she could. Era’s curiosity peeked and her inner desire for challenge sparked, but as the distance grew between her and her companion, tucked away in her heart and mind and from the eyes of anything that looked at her, was a sense of worry and doubt. She was ready to face whatever menace fate dished her way, but there was always a tang of doubt and sorrow. What if she failed? What would the consequences be? Maybe she wasn’t alone?
She prayed that whatever fiend entered the Mechanical Tower was still present.
The air of the tower was cool. Small ripples of light reflecting on the polished wheels while years of natural decay have chipped away the wooden floor of the levels, leaving chasms.
Era took the flight of stairs, each step slow and prepared. The first floor revealed the indication that a long battle had been fought here. Her men rendered to pieces, split and contorted like the toys of some mad child. All their heads were split open, the brain damaged, one of the few methods of dealing with undead. She picked up the Spatha of one of her fallen and ventured further.
In her mind she was contemplating whether this was planned. The Tower is an essential part of their defenses, controlling the gates and traps of the entire castle, so disabling it out would be logical. The Legion had their training drilled in their heads and their bodies, although undead, were as durable as a sentient being. Whatever did this was powerful, every single floor up until now was decorated with the bodies of her soldiers. All except Hrothgar.
His voice echoed from the top floor. “Whoever you are, don’t come any further.”
Defiant of the warning, Eraanthe ventured to the top of the tower. Slowly emerging from the staircase, she saw her champion Hrothgar lying on the floor in the middle of the room. His pristine brass body had been rusted and had begun chipping away like bark peels. His legs were rendered asunder and totally useless, his inside frame revealed like poking bone. His beautiful face was cracked and popped like an egg.
“My master!” he exclaimed, clawing his way towards her. “You must leave immediately your highness, it is not safe here, not anymore.”
“Hrothgar, in god’s name what happened?”
“As much as it pains me to admit it, we were ambushed by an unknown party m’lady. It seeped out of nowhere and dispatched me and the Legion within a manner of moments. In my disheveled state I ordered the men to regroup with the rest of the battalia but even if my heart is ever burning with optimism, I can tell they probably didn’t get very far.”
“You’re right on that account. They managed to reach the first floor and that’s it.”
“Oh…I guess my efforts to maintain it were futile. Looks like the poor souls were destined to purgatory after all.”
Era treaded lightly towards him. “Hrothgar, what was it that did this to you?” She had a feeling of what it might be but had to be sure. Alas, it was exactly as she had predicted.
Before her servant could answer, something outwardly lifted him up. By his neck. It lifted him until he was standing upright, all the damage his metallic body had sustained clearly visible like fresh gashes on meat. That unknown something started to materialize from thin air; a hand devoid of skin and muscle was beginning to form, starting from the blackened marrow and ending in bleached bone. Fingers, then a hand.
Eraanthe stepped back and prepared her Spatha.
“From what I’ve concluded this soul is truly misguided. Like all Darkwraiths, it is drawn to the stench of death and violence like flies on fresh carrion. Considering all the souls that perished on these grounds it was only a matter of time until we received our first visitor.”
The hand grew into an arm before morphing into a shoulder. Small flesh shavings started to grow from the wrist downwards, the outer layer of skin peeling off to form a black rippled cloth. Eraanthe caught the sudden stench of decay; of sour food and stinking corpse lilies. It made her gag.
Hrothgar was beginning to decay right where the wraith held him. His smooth brass skin was turning to tarnished rough turquoise. He smiled.
“In any other circumstance, I’d consider this a failure. But given the fact that my physical body is being destroyed beyond repair, I accept this as a kindness. I can hear him calling me…”
“You’ll die. For good this time.”
“Yes, I will. My soul was pure when I came here but it was tarnished by this cursed spell. I shed unimaginable blood under my servitude of the castle but now I am free to be judged and placed where I belong. I only hope that Minos will act accordingly and fairly.”
The man chuckled as his head was chipping away. “You enlist all these scared, lost souls to preserve your kingdom. Quick labor, yet there is noble intent in your actions. I must commend that, giving a home to the homeless, a sense of purpose to the lost, as dubious as it is. My queen, may you survive this debacle, and reign long.”
With his final words said, Hrothgar exhaled his final breath. The wraith squeezed tight, shattering his head from his body. His beautiful face was now scattered in fragments, the rest of his remains withering away to dust. Era let go of her cape and tightened her grip over the sword.
The creature had fully materialized. A hooded figure. Patches of flesh on his arms, clad in a black drab, its head covered by a tarnished sack with a coin for each eye socket. A rusted, crude broadsword materialized into its right hand.
As the now deceased Hrothgar said it, the grounds of the castle have seen much combat. Sometimes, the souls of those who have been defiled in any form, manage to manifest their outrage into a spirit of its own. A Darkwraith, the byproduct of unimaginably culminated agony, a soulless being so entrapped in hatred and fury, that it seeks grounds of chaos with the sole intent of inflicting that which had caused its birth.
With a loud hiss, the creature lunged at her, swiping its sizable sword at her face. She jumped back just in time. The creature was fast. Admittedly, as fast as her. The wraith lunged at her and again she dodged it. Going for her face again. Her eyes narrowed on the specter; as it swiped again at her face she narrowly managed to crouch below his attack and strike him in the chest with her blade. He didn’t bleed nor was he phased. He regained his composure quickly and tried to plunge his sword into her. She ripped out her blade and rolled away just in time. The strings of cloth bound themselves together.
“Hardy little bastard, aren’t you?” muttered a furious Era.
The creature attempted to bury its weapon in her chest, but she dodged his attack yet again and with all her might, cut off his arm with a quick downward swing. As it flew in the air, it disintegrated to dust. A new appendage and blade replaced the lost.
The creature blindly attacked her, and she avoided every single strike. It didn’t give her time to breathe, let alone cast spells or summon her armor. She started feeling that same old thrill she felt so long ago; the emotion known as urgency. Like being pushed to a wall and forced to defend yourself. It was invigorating.
One strike was too fast so Eraanthe was forced to deflect it with her blade. The force of the blow was strong, strong enough to knock her down. Her Spatha had started to decay, just like Hrothgar did.
“Not an enchantment since the others would’ve gone to waste. You’re siphoning.”
She had started to sweat and her heart was fast pumping hot blood. She rolled away from another strike and got up on her feet. Jumping down the flight of stairs she picked up a decadent Harlberd and as the wraith charged at her, buried it deep in its face. It grabbed the blade with its freehand and it immediately started to wither. Without a chance of retaliation, its cloak split into a dozen appendages, ensnaring Era’s arms and legs. A tight painful grasp like having one’s limbs caught in a bear trap.
“You filth!” she screamed.
She struggled to get out of her bondage, but it was too late. Like the spasm of a muscle, the appendages contorted back towards their owner. Such speed, such a sudden cold sensation. It was only when she felt her own essence trickling down her legs that she realized what had happened.
Straight through the gut. A clean pierce.
The creature removed its hold over her but didn’t make it easy on her even when its victory was so close. With its freehand it grabbed her by the neck, twisted the blade, pushing it deeper. It chuckled as it buried the blade further, savoring every second of her agony. Its laughter ceased as Eraanthe giggled.
“You know… you’re not the brightest of creatures, are you?”
With her remaining strength, she grabbed its hooded face with both hands and cast fire. The hood flaked off in an instant revealing a partially-skeletal partially-mauled face that was now being scorched to oblivion. Skin peeling off from the heat, muscle blackening and shriveling like burning plastic, marrow boiling and popping through the bone. The remainder of its attire caught ablaze and soon the Darkwraith was howling in torment, flailing, falling down the flight of stairs in a blind frenzy. The sword, which was still present in her gut, began to flake away. Now she was free to bleed out. Her blood soaked through the wooden floor. She clenched her wound tightly and groaned.
A demon is one of the hardiest creatures around. Accelerated metabolism made sure the gash would clot quicker than most metahumans, albeit loosing a fair amount of blood. Her body was still pumping adrenaline, so the pain wouldn’t kick in for a few more moments.
This was her first encounter with a Darkwraith, more powerful than most of the malign specters she had encountered. A valuable encounter since experience is the best tutor; little room for error. She had hoped that traditional means would weaken him enough to finish the wretch with fire, the universal opponent to any magical being. But alas, her lack of knowledge regarding her foe got her maimed, but it was the wraith’s arrogance that brought him to his knees; Eraanthe’s fighting spirit encompassed might and swiftness and a daring, almost self-destructive cunning. She appreciated the encounter nonetheless; a good foe, one skilled enough to harm her, is a rarity. The fiend spiced the mundanity just a little, albeit the encounter’s short longevity.
She tried to heave herself up from the floor. “Mess with the Demon Queen… and you’ll get the horns…” she chuckled.
The wound swelled, the bleeding was more contained after a few moments; regeneration was slowly kicking in, a wet scab was going to form any moment, but the real challenge was the internal damage. A good potion, miracle, or cleansing at least, would go miles. She drudged her way down the stairs in agony, the adrenaline wearing off and the pain sticking out its ugly head. The only remnant of the wraith was a scorched body mark on the still popping wooden floor. Had it not slaughtered her men, she would’ve considered enlisting it. Would’ve. Eraanthe tried to contact Etna through telepathy but her body and mind were weak from the blood loss. The thought of the safety of her people gave her a morsel of strength to walk on.
Walking outside the Mechanical Tower, the Demon Queen was greeted by a brush of bone chilling wind. She thought it was nature’s way of congratulating her for coming out victorious. A bitter victory. Although the wraith was taken care of, his handiwork has left a most egregious problem to the Demon Queen; with Hrothgar having perished and a sizable chunk of the Undead Legion disposed, she’d have to recruit new blood to defend the Tower. Resurrecting the corpses in the Catacombs came to mind, but she brushed the idea aside; too valuable for patrol work. She needed someone begrudgingly more expendable. Raiders, trolls, orcs?
As her mind was coming up with different solutions to the issue, something sinister was going on behind her back. The wraith, wounded, humiliated, fuming with hate and despair, emerged from the scorched wood; his cloak gone, he was revealed to the world for what he truly was. A levitating, legless carcass. His flesh decayed, patches of his muscle were visible, and they were blackening, and to top it all off, his skin was warped into a sickly white. Like a rabid, demented animal, the outraged specter summoned his blade and charged at the Demon Queen intent on finishing her off for good. Eraanthe turned and saw the strife ridden abomination charge. Weakened as she was, her pride and sense of loyalty was strong even at the face of imminent danger. She was willing to risk it.
As she was about to cast a flame on the monstrosity, it was suddenly enveloped within the searing blast of a fireball. The creature, strong but vulnerable, screamed its final scream before its body became weightless ash, carried away by the wind.
The forever loyal imp. Her servant. Her friend.
Tales from the Blighted Lands
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The Final Days Of The War – Paletongue
Horns And Antlers
Ravings of a mad Demon
Summary of Magic
Blood Magic, White and Black.
(Although training in magics depends on many circumstances, schools, tribes, cultures, there is a commonly accepted standard for formal training.)
The Final Days Of The War – Paletongue
Accounts of Allister Paletongue, former lieutenant of Demon Queen Eraanthe, Hellfire Archers Division.
I was sitting on the edge of a makeshift bed while an imp tended to my shoulder wound, a wide gash the size of a cleaver slice, courtesy of the spear tip of an Archangel. We were providing suppressing fire for the Queen’s front lines and had to retreat thanks to an Angelical ambush. The imps, those frail little balls of fur were flying back on forth feeding us fresh supplies of obsidian arrows, “blessed” by our monks with the gift of toxicities. We were called Hellfire Archers because the arrowheads were enchanted with a special kind of Hellfire magic; if the blade made contact with blood it’d build up heated emissions, so intense it could render muscle and skin membrane to sugary glue. It didn’t matter how specialized you were with archery; you just had to land a hit and the arrow would do the rest.
I was relatively young for a demon, a fledgling, my body still needing to mature and my training not yet complete but with my predecessor’s sudden departure from the war and its growing intensity, concessions had to be made. Most of my men were the same age as me, still green, not in the literal sense mind you. But we were doing well for a while. No friendly fire, no blood spilled other than the blood of the Cherubim and the Seraphim.
As I shot my last arrow, I saw a white feather innocently fall on my hand. It was then when the Archangels poured down from the grey skies above us like comets. One of them, a fair haired one, her body Amazonian, ushered her spear at my heart. Fortunately I moved out of the way and only managed to gash my shoulder. We held them off until the Horsemen arrived, those were her riders, Death steeds.
With my shoulder fixed (if you can call having your flesh seared and stitched together “fixed”), I refilled my quiver and ventured out of the tent to join my brethren. Get out. Take a deep breath. Smell the ashes of angels and demons.
We had set up tents on the northern part of Avarice, way before the gate was erected. Back then, most of the world was in its natural form, rocky and with nature, before we scorched it. Supplies were flowing in and out via carts, the smiths were churning out munitions, armors and crafts at wicked speed, wounded were carried to the tents and the dead were given apt treatment; those who were too mangled were put in the heaps. The less fortunate were given to the necromancers to be either raised as undead or converted into Graverobbers, a misshapen, hulking mass of flesh and bone kept together through vein strains and membranes of cancerous mutation. Whether this was a sign of desperation or our Lord exercising practical usage for the corpses, I do not know.
She was emerging out of her tent, the blood had been washed off her body and her armor, dented and chipped last time I saw her, was like it had just been crafted fresh. Her presence, her attitude towards the war, her beautiful yet towering demeanor, clawed my heart, pulling out slivers of hope.
The blood of angels stuck to me like tar, cooled by the winds. I was young back then. Not as powerful as I am today, but still a force to be reckoned with. The former Demon Lord fell by my hand and thus I was heralded as the new ruler of the Dark Expanse, and subsequently, was appointed responsible for the armies of Hell.
I had forgotten the bitter taste of fear since my childhood years and I’ve become attuned to the way of the world. Maybe not the world in its entirety, but the world to which I was born in. One torn between light and dark. A world of absolutes. I questioned these absolutes, weighing the luxury of having a grey area, but ultimately came to the conclusion that to achieve True Freedom, an absolute would be the cause. Something indefinite, understandable, undeniable. Of clarity and without room for doubt.
In the battlefield, mixed in with the lesser breeds, my blade carved through the Angels with ease. I had just created Sinew and was getting the hang of it, but alas, spear tips whizzing past my head proved to be good motivators. Most of my men were slaughtered and although I did not want them to perish in such a manner, I reminded myself that the new world that I would enact did not have space for the weak; I know it’s a horrible mentality, but nature is cruel and savage. It’s a fact. No point in denying it.
I had only some moments of “respite, if you can even call it that. Some time to eat, maybe clean my wounds and the blood and sleep, or do a little bit of training and flesh pleasure. War has the habit of bringing the best and the worst out of everyone; some of my men took my weakened state as an opportunity to claim the land as their own. They tried to cut my throat in my sleep, stab me in the back while I indulged in a harlot. They only became material for the Graverobbers.
The Angels, when their father is whispering words of encouragement into their ears, can become as cruel and maniacal as the thing they despise the most. Do you know how many of my people were gutted like pigs? Organs flailed on the outside, limbs contorting in unnatural ways, chunks of fat flying in the air burned by divine light. Centuries later news reached me of the atrocities the humans committed in the name of their Lord. I could only snicker. It was funny.
They day of their retreat was unexpected. The blood and ash stuck to my body like glue. My blood. The blood of my people. The blood of His children. A new barrage was about to land down on rocky earth, but they halted. The Angels stopped, pausing above our heads, their golden and silver armors gleaming from a spiral of sunlight emitting from a sea of grey tones. Their collective expression changed from shock, to denial, to painful acceptance. Their weapons and armors showered down, naked and cold, they fled to the skies. Women of God going to him, but a single child, a young Cherub, landed at my feet, her fear as tasteful as forbidden fruit.
“The Council has put much thought on the matter, Demon Queen.” said the sapling with her gem like eyes locked into mine. “The new species will be taking our place in the war, as a deterrent.”
The word was like rocks coming out of her throat.
“Humanity. The bastard is pitting apes against me, child?”
“We…we are confident in their capabilities as a race. They are his children, and…and he has faith that they’ll deliver equilibrium to this world. They are free, they are capable of so much beauty and good and miracle. The Choir apologizes for not informing you in advance, the decision was established rather hastily but-”
“Go to your father. Thank you for this offering, little one.”
Horns and Antlers
If the Demon Queen is in your presence, then her servant is only an earshot away.
He’s learned to skulk quite well, that man-deer. He’s in the shadows, collected and watching, knowing exactly when to emerge from his shadowy abode. His body has seen years of punishment and his eyes gleam with experience, yet his voice bears a surprising softness, like the soothing words of an experienced bard. He’s a good dog; he questions his orders sometimes but never out of reluctance. He always treats his master with respect and although he questions her, always commits with determination. In return, she gives him his treatment to make him even more obedient. He enjoys his bone very much. I watch him, scanning his scars across his body, staring right into him. He always stares back.
Some fools tried to take her throne. Assassins. They materialized from thin air, maybe some kind of spell. They didn’t stand a chance against her. Her movements were swift and precise, almost mechanical even. I dropped the wine and cowered to the nearest pillar. He came from behind, brandishing his sword even if you can call it that. He went for their legs and arms, mutilated them, then dragged them off to the dungeon.
Ravings of a mad Demon
This note should probably be found in Avarice or in the Dark Expanse. Could be used as a quest to unlock a unique item providing a unique spell. I’ll develop it more if you guys are on board.
Every time I close my eyes, I can hear my sister whispering in my ear.
Sometimes she’s reminiscing about our childhood, or she’s crying and begging for forgiveness, other times she’s screaming at me like a hound, trying to claw my eyes out and wishing that I was in her place. I can’t blame her.
We were twin scholars. We were inseparable as children, inseparable as we enlisted in Lady Eraanthe’s army centuries ago as teens, it seemed logical that we be inseparable as adults. We drew strength from one another and managed to achieve so much after we were discharged when the Angels gave up. We contributed our fair share of magic to her collection. So much power and creativity. So much beauty in our work.
But Shadow…no, Shadow was too much…
It devoured my sister. I devoured my sister. I can never forgive myself.
I need to go to the place where it all began. I need to devour Shadow again. I need to do it.
The single water molecule is made of three atoms; one oxygen atom and two hydrogen atoms. Those specialized in water magics can bend the atomic structure of water, thus allowing it to take temporary shape or shift from one locale to another.
The first thing every water mage is taught is the act of moving the water from one container to another, relatively simple given the basic atomic structure. Once the process has been mastered, mages will move on to more complex liquids, fatty acid based materials like oils or hydrocarbons like tar.
The next step is control; each tier of material will be used to temporarily create different forms, starting from abstract creations, balls, cubes, caricatures, to mundane everyday items. Mages need to maintain the form for a given amount of time before proceeding to the next. If the form is broken during the time period, the mage must try again. The test of control is over once the Mage has managed to create a golem for a set amount of time.
Once manipulation and control training are over, mages are left to experiment with the capabilities of liquids, changing atomic compositions for healing spells or poison vapors.
Water magic and its practices are linked to Blood Magic, although the latter is heavily frowned upon given its unethical nature.
Fire is the result of the chemical reaction known as combustion, when fuel (flammable material), heat and oxygen combine. Flames consist of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, oxygen and remnant water vapor.
Unlike water, flame is a more complex material to control given its finite lifespan and atomic structure. Similarly to water magic training, one must first learn to manipulate and control flames before further training can commence. For fire magics, one must carry a naked flame hovering above their closed palms from one locale to another. If the flame burns the flesh of the wielder, the test must be retried. Like water, a trial through golem summoning would be the final part of initiation.
Flame can be utilized for many things. Given its nature, it’s the prime choice of battlemages and warlocks.
Earth magics focus on manipulating and controling the biological mass of flora, of chlorophyll-based lifeforms (green plants), parasitic, carnivorous counterparts included. Chlorophyll being the unique green pigment inside plants essential for their food process, photosynthesis.
Mages within the field use arcane energy to manipulate the biological structure of plants; an increase in metabolism, utilizing sunlight more efficiently to produce greater output, or directly controlling the biomass for desired movement through cell manipulation.
Over the years, Earth magic has expanded to not only control the plants themselves, but also the minerals and nutrients they are surrounded by, hence why many Earth practitioners are capable of controlling rocks or piles of earth.
Black Necromancy, otherwise known as traditional Necromancy, is the act of manipulating the biological structure of deceased lifeforms.
Biologically, Black Necromancy focuses on forcefully reviving certain portions of the brain by rapidly interjecting energy to said portions. Limited amount of energy syphoned into the brain activates the basic portions of the mind, hunger and simplistic motor function. Additional energy syphoned will allow the necromancer to activate all functions of the mind, allowing full motor control, intelligent thought and complex decision making. The soul has long departed from the body, thus the entity inhabiting it is merely a duplicate of the soul, with full memories and personality (unless the brain is damaged). However, reviving the metabolism is impossible, thus the body is susceptible to natural decay.
The more socially acceptable department of Necromancy, although the extent to which it is tolerated is debatable.
Unlike traditional/Black Necromancy, this form focuses on specifically communicating to spirits, either through an item/substance or by offering a host body as a temporary vessel.
Divinity is one of the most complex forms of magic, some even arguing if it can even be considered an acceptable school of magic.
Divinity is the religion brandished by the humans, clustered into different branches from zealous to open minded. Orthodox Divinity is the original form of Divinity, first coming into fruition when the humans rebelled against the elves. The Templars were the warriors of Divinity. Humans attuned to arcane energy created spells based on the powers of Angels, powers of harm and healing. Those that were delusional or overly protective volunteered to become Ascendants. An Ascendant is a human who has rejected their humanity and used magical means to transforms into an Angel, a desire to serve their Lord beyond the physical realm.
Although the information regarding Ascendants is limited, it is presumed that they share many of the physical and arcane capabilities of His warriors, but their minds, as devoted as they are, are still vulnerable to corruption.
Every single native of Hell has some demonic arcane flowing through their veins.
Children of Sin, they are imbued with the power to destroy and corrupt. Simple creatures, like pigmy imps have limited capabilities, most of their magic manifesting in defensive fire arts, obscurity or other castings to ensure their survival. Greater organisms, alpha demons like the Demon Queen, are born with an inherent strength which can only grow through training and conditioning. Chaos magic, hellfire, demonic weaponry, illusion, corruption, possession, bending flesh and bone.
The Vitae Clan
The Sea Elves are the reclusive cousins of the mainland Elves. Unlike their land counterpart that can wield all kinds of magic, the Sea Elves specialize solely in aquatic magics. Additionally, unlike their land counterpart, they resemble the children of the sea to an extent. Bodies of scales and different texture, of many features and designs one would consider alien, or even dare call demonic or eldritch.
The elves not only fought against the humans, they also fought against themselves.
Before mankind became a threat to their rule the elves combated each other over land, prestige, economy and most importantly, knowledge of the arcane. Like any intelligent people, a sense of nationalism and independence were spurred, which in return gave way to gall and ambition. Although elves, like the other mundane races, are capable of specializing in all sorts of magics, clans were erected based on select affinity with the spell colleges. Water, Earth, Fire, Mental, Light, Dark, etc. They still operated as a whole body when it came to outside party ordeals, but the elven community would remain segregated and independent from within. Laws were dictated through democratic means, and through democratic means were the disputes resolved, either through tooth grit and compromise or through blade and blood.
Once defeated, reparations would be dictated through the clans, yet the winning party would have the most sway.
The Vitae clan, currently known as the Sea Elves, were one of the many defeatists spawned by inner elven quarrels. The leader of the Vitae clan was as arrogant as her brethren and she’d much rather lose everything than admit defeat, a fine specimen of unadulterated elven pride. Or stupidity for that matter. They fought in the clan grounds and the water practitioners slowly and steadily lost chunks of their land, treasury, and worst still, their culture. The council of clans dictated the terms. As they lost land the people inside it were forced to convert to their new parent culture, which meant forgoing their studies and practices. With their leader having perished and unable to cope with losing themselves as a people, the Vitae clan ventured deep into the sea and created Tal’Roha, the great elven city of the deep. Through deep sea excavation they forged their own utopia and recruited the residents of the Sister Isles to help them with the construction and provide food to maintain the colony until the elves could make their own.
Separated from the outside world, they set up their own society and with the previous matriarch having perished back in the mainland, the sea elves adopted a new monarchy, the Queen being the most adept of their kind. Originally the dark of their species, years of living below the surface of the sea, not to mention the breeding with some of the more “sociable” natives of the sea, resulted in the creation of a brand new race of people. Their roots are inscribed within the coral yet they do not show any enthusiasm about rekindling with their former people. The random news does manage to slither its way in through the inhabitants above.
As appreciation for their assistance during the initial colonization, the Sea Elves agreed to serve as the protectors of the inhabitants of the isles. They quell mother nature when the sea becomes rough. They’d clear our the sirens to help the trading ships.
Much like the citizens of Tal’Roha, the natives of the isles are descendants of refugees, escapees of the elven and human wars. With their homes torched and conflict rising they had little choice but to run, and in that moment of desperation the uninhabited isles were the most peaceful place for them to go. They settled in, building a small community that flourished on its own, opening a trade route with Lum’dor and Mirrowood, if the sirens were kind of course. Their admiration of the Sea Elves is visible in the statues they chipped and the tomes of tales and holy text they devoted to in their name.
Sea elf fertility ritual.
Disenchanted from their mainland brethren, the fledgling nation forewent most of their religious practices in favor of the laws of the deep.
The inhabitants of the sea live in perilous conditions where the cycle of life can prove to be short and more often than not, filled with immense hardship. In the early days the Sea Elf population was small, its size not big enough to accommodate the constant vigil required over the colony. Worse still, their bodies were not conditioned to cope with the sicknesses hailing from the bottom of the ocean. Vile Weed, a rare but prudent flora, was responsible for rendering many of the hunters and scavengers infertile. Mages to keep up the water barrier seals, workers to craft the structures, farmers to grow their food and hunters for food and cloth. The topside people could only help so much.
With their existence threatened the elves turned to the gods. Jarada is the sea goddess of fertility, the very embodiment of love, pleasure and motherhood. Some of the girls devoted themselves entirely to her, building a temple in her honor and offering treasure as tribute. As a gift for their diligence, Jarada bestowed the females of the race with the gift of indefinite fertility. Combined with meddling with the bottom sea gene pool, adult females have the potential of becoming the finest examples of breeders. Sizable bosoms, the nectar packed with a surplus of vitamins and protein for the growth of their young. Wide hips for easy childbirth and tolerance to pain.
The temple of Jarada is the ground where the annual fertility ceremony is being held and is inhabited by the Tal’Roha practitioners of fertility. The ceremony is a giant orgy where everyone is free to indulge in the pleasures and products of flesh bonding.
The Novices are the ones in charge of preparations. They are young, their bodies having not fully developed to the standards brought about by Jarada. They oil and massage the bodies of the attendees as a taste tester for what is yet to come. It is the Priestesses that see to that.
The Novices are fledglings, young and inexperienced, while the Priestesses are matured in both body and mind, decorated with the markings and metal ornaments of Jarada.
While attendees are free to engage in sexual activity with the Priestesses, only the Queen is allowed to conceive life with the High Priestess, for their love is strong and the new heir to the throne is already planned.
Traveller's Guide to Lum'dor & Averice
Greyrock/ The Grey Settlement
Greyrock, or otherwise known as the Grey Settlement by the people of the region, was once a elven reservation camp erected shortly after the final human-elven war had finished, housing the civilians and the wounded vanguards. As peace talks commenced between the two races, the elves were moved from the slum to the woodlands where they could feel more at home and connect again with their culture and grounds, albeit with most elven land being either conquered and reworked by the humans or otherwise completely destroyed. With most of the guests departing, what little life remained within Greyrock converted the locale into an actual village, the remnant elven population soon receiving an intake of humans, dwarfs, and other settlers. With access to both the sea and the mainland, the Grey Settlement had become a small checkpoint hub of commerce, with the only other form of income being the specialists, the recreational services, fishing, mining as well as harvesting the local monster population for medicines or trophies.
Although the population does not seem discriminatory based on face value, if one would stay long enough they’d see how much hostility the two dominant races have for each other; although the general elven population has acknowledged their faults in bringing the wars, there is a vocal few that, much akin to a certain elven father and clansman, still refuse to recognize humanity as an equal race. The village guard do their best to quell any tension and penalize the doers but could not stop the gangs from forming.
The Rak’Dur are a group of elves opposing the current order of the world, clinging on to past elven values and the century old rhetoric that they are superior to humans in every aspect, which to a degree, is true. What was once a small minority of disgruntled elves were now an underground militia, working in the shadows, growing in strength and number. The Grey Settlement is just one of many locations they plan to “liberate”, and by liberate, a collar around the neck of every human man, woman and child. The militant leader of this remnant of a bitter nation is called Valtiel, whose name means “God’s attendee” in old elvish. Valtiel was one of the soldiers who fought in the wars and like so many before him, was struck down and scarred, the scar that slid across his left cheek a constant reminder of their failure and hardship. He was stationed in the reservation and watched as it flourished into a village but at the same time corrupted by the human presence. In time, he grew tired of hearing his comrades talk about their faults, tired of living the life of a commoner at the mercy of a human King, tired of seeing his people be reduced to a workforce. Like so many elves before him, he lost what was close to him, and for that, he would never forgive that lesser race. Working as a lieutenant of the guard during the day and as a would-be warmonger in the night, Valtiel waits for the right time to strike. He and his kin zealously guard the elven ruins near the village. He might speak softly, but carries a sharp dagger at all times.
The Crimson Gate
(The pages have been removed from this section of the book.)
Old dwarven burial grounds.
Many dwarves have worked with rock and metal their entire life. It is only fitting that they devote themselves to their trade even after death.
Dwarves are a race of keen thinkers. With their composition shorter than most creatures, they have learned through out the years that a keen mind can sometimes be the greatest weapon of all. Thus, they labored, and they studied. Unlike the elves who specialize mainly in the arcane, or the adaptable all round humans, dwarves are some of the greatest architects of modern technology, having devoted almost exclusively in technological advancements. Understanding the composition of materials and the process needed to bend them to their will, the dwarves have experimented and learned, creating some of the finest crafts ranging from armors, to weaponry, architecture and machinery.
What dwarves missed in height and agility, they made up in strength, intellect and crafts.
Clad in the toughest armors and wielding the greatest blades, humorously larger than themselves, when it came to fight. A lifetime of excavating ore has made them muscular albeit their size, strength that can rival that of a human, orc or an ogre.
It is not only the humans the old elves detested; the elves and dwarves had been at each other’s throat long before humanity came about. Their cultures were polar opposite and each of them had a strong sense of pride, although the elves were the ones to flaunt. Elves were tall and beautiful, dwarves were small and built. Elves favored magic and inscriptions, dwarves favored metals and practicality. Elves were dreamers, the dwarves were work ridden and thus were rarely confrontational. Like the humans, they did understand their lives were long but finite and like them they had the need to progress as much as possible. New machinery, new metals, new breakthroughs.
Perhaps the greatest dwarven achievement was the discovery of mithril.
Deep within the Earth’s crust atop of Mount Khan came the discovery of mithril. A metal that can be shaped like clay when heated to flesh bubbling oblivion, naturally light as glass, but when cooled, was nearly indestructible. A good conductor that could be enhanced with magics, tougher than Demonic Iridium or refined platinum or titanium. The dwarves created all manner of things with it, heavy war axes and swords, automatons, armors and shields, even going as far as to recreate the King’s throne with the material. Thanks to the material’s export and craft, the dwarven economy was boosted and for a brief moment the small stubby race held a monopoly over the war market. Kings and warlords got in line for the latest batch of dwarven war fuel. That was back then. The dwarven fortune wouldn’t last long of course.
Mithril was only found below Mount Khan and to everyone’s dismay, was the most finite mineral on the whole mortal planes. The dwarves dug deep, deep down where the Earth is hot and the inhabitants have never seen light. Like a well in the desert, the supply ran dry. Back then a single piece of mithril was worth over twenty times its weight in gold, but with the absence of fresh supply, any remaining raw ore is now priceless.
With the last piece mined, the dwarves refused to export or craft anything from the material and religiously safeguarded it. Only the alchemists were permitted access to the material in a vain attempt to create a duplicate element. Their attempts were naught and their reign over the market ceased. With the precious metal dwindling and the vicious inhabitants of the mountain having awakened, the dwarves of Khan left.
Centuries of hibernating have left the beasts hungry. They dwell in the halls and in the rooms, waiting for the random fool to walk in.
Gorrister Blackmore was only a mere child when his mother hurried him out of their mountainous home. While his brothers and sisters were dwarves, he was human, at least mostly. Every once in a while, mountain dwarves will venture out for supplies or commerce and it was through adultery that he was conceived. He possessed the strong build and slow aging but not their height. They shared the same mother but not the same father. The survivors mixed in with the humans and in his boyhood, he realized he wasn’t the same. His supposed biological father was nowhere to be found and the patriarch of his brothers and sisters had passed away while he was still in his mother’s belly, buried in the ancient dwarven burial grounds back in Khan. His brothers and sisters moved out but he stayed with his sick mother, using his funds as a blacksmith to treat her ailment. Ash Lung they called it. A tumor formed after prolonged exposure to ore residues in the mines, developing over a period of years.
On her deathbed, he’d sit next to her and give her company before she waded to slumber. One day, tear innocently trickling down her cheek, she asked him for one favor before she crossed the worlds; she wanted her husband’s locket. A mithril locket she placed atop his sarcophagus before they had to run. He’d retrieve it but that would mean leaving his dying mother alone.
High up in the Northern Mountains is Balrog’s Keep, its namesake being a former General of the Demon Queen's forces, Balrog the Judged. Small squalor settlements around the tall ivory towers, the Keep was reconstructed by the enslaved people of the North. The wolves, the slimes, and the undead roam this region.
They say that the old Lich Kings used to dwell here centuries ago. They were necromancers who harnessed the life of others to extend their own pitiful existence. Their castles were now laid in ruins, ready to be scooped up and rebuilt again.
Balrog was one of many who tried to take over the throne. Like Eraanthe, they shared the same blood, the same fiery eyes yet they were not direct kin, merely members of the same tiefling race.
The most popular religion practiced by the
humans is Divinity, based on principals
left behind by the Angelical Choir. Divinity
was originally purist in nature, where the
rules were laid by the angels and the humans
were left to decipher their meaning. The rules
were straightforward but the mythology about
mankind’s inception remained convoluted, thus
the population adapted it as literal as they could.
Most practitioners of Divinity were purists
in the sense that it required absolute faith and
conformity, but as mortals evolved intellectually,
enriched themselves, and garnered a desire for free
will, Divinity was either brushed aside completely,
replaced with a different religion, or alternatively,
interpreted in a different individualist/collectivist
This would lead to some societies focusing on
specific schools of magic and occasionally go
down the forbidden path of Necromancy and
Demonology. A small segment of mortals, most
notably dark practitioners have adapted
Demonism as their leading religion. Although
their reasons vary, many have concluded that
humans are in fact, more akin to demons based
on behaviorism and their capabilities.
Those devoted enough often separate
themselves from the rest of their species. They
understand the reason as to why humanity was
forsaken by the angels and thus choose to live on
their own as means of gaining communion with their
lords and living their lives peacefully.
Branches of Divinity
Purist Divinity - The original form of worship
dates back to mankind’s first landing.
This school believes that mortals are the
product of 'God’s' perfect engineering and that
they must become beacons of light in a world of
demons and ignorance. All other forms of
worship or vile and the religion must be forced
upon others so that they may prove themselves
as the champions of God. The most strict and
somewhat hostile interpretation of Heaven.
Orthodox Divinity - The most popular and
lenient of divine worship practiced. This
believes that instead of being directly
influenced by Angels, the higher beings simply
provide mortals with direction and encouragement
in their endeavors. Kami will not forsake them for
she is loving regardless of their actions. The most
compassionate interpretation of Heaven.
Angelical Divinity - Close to Orthodox
Divinity in regards to principles, this one
focuses on studying the Angels and does not
weigh its entire belief system on whether or
not one all-powerful Deity governs the Angels,
Seraphim, Cherubim and Archangels. This sect
of Divinity focuses on shifting to the physical
realm to the divine, where the bodies of the
worshipers become part of the realm of light.
Passage to the Angelical Choir however, does
not come without sacrifice.
Restorationism - This interpretation of
Divinity believes that mankind’s birth is
unrelated to a Deity or the Angelic Choir. It does
not reject the existence of a Deity, but rather,
believes that the faith is meant to help mortals
find their own purpose in life and through
hardship. Restorationists, or Sages, use these
teachings through Earth and Water magic and tend
to be more in-tune with Nature.
Making a Tasty Potion
1 Prepare Slime Globe
-Taste the slime first to familiarize yourself with its flavor base.
2 Bring Cauldron/Pot to Boil
3 Boil Altering Contents ALONE!
(bat wings, hair, mushrooms etc.)
4 Add Preferred Flavoring Based on Slime
*celery root w/ red and green globes*
*citrus flavors w/ yellow globes*
*parsley, chives, lemon juice w/ blue globes*
*figs & dried meats w/ black and toxic globes*
5 Let Mixture Cool and Stir Into Slime
-Use 1:1 ratio for best effect and remember, drink responsibly!
Long ago Tiefling's existed in large numbers within the realm of Mea'ternum until an event occurred which most refer to as Purgatory or 'Eema's Wrath'.
A young Tiefling was born with a very rare crimson complexion, the mark of hell as many common folk called it whom were already reluctant to tolerate the horned species.
After being outcast from her home and being forced to wander and grow up in Averice alone, she ventured to the north-most region to seek refuge and answers. None of the towns or villages would take her in out of fear of her being possessed by a demon. Tieflings were already looked down on due to their traits but the crimson touch was particularly stigmatized- unfortunately for them what she found in Northern Averice was a gateway to hell itself.
*Several pages appear to have been torn out*
After several generations passed it was rumored that a crimson touched Tiefling claimed dominion over Balrog's castle and began to mobilize an army. A mortal at the helm of the hellish forces? This marked a new precedent. After denizens of several kingdoms found out through Divinity propaganda, they began killing off the horned species indiscriminately. They were forced to either submit to Eema and practice Divinity, being reborn in light, or be executed.
Purgatory marked a new chapter in the war against the Demonic Legion. One more violent and prolific than anyone could have imagined.
Mysterious Mission Log
(This notes details on the mission of a squad of Orcs and Goblins from an ominous amazonian faction dwelling within the bowels of the earth - the Iron Division. Many of the names included appear to be scratched out of the oily parchment, except for the leader of the squad, a half-Orc half-Demon warrior known as Zan the Bonebreaker. Before the mission report, a block of text describes the composition of the squad, as well as their equipment, which seems to be highly advanced, including firearms powered by unknown magical crystals on top of other artifacts and conventional martial gear. After that, a simple objective is presented - establishing contact with the Demon Queen located in the overworld and present an offer of alliance. Although Zan led the squad towards her Dark Castle, it appears that the report was written by her corporal, a Goblin scout:)
Phase One We left camp and began our long journey, just as instructed by Grand Earth Mother (the following name is scratched off). With the Demons surrounding us left in disarray by our sisters' attacks, we did not meet any organized opposition while trying to break out of the surrounding caverns. We have encountered a couple stray Demonic beasts, but managed to avoid contact as instructed by our commander, Zan. The provided maps and recon information turned out to be precise and helped us navigate the caverns smoothly during the course of the first couple of days. During the third day, however, we were required to expend some of our explosives in order to clear out cave-ins and pursue the objective, which we have reached on the fourth day. Zan ordered Reaver (name is scratched off) to map out the surroundings as we approached the entrance to the castle's forgotten catacombs.
Phase Two Against all our preparations, we made contact with an army of the same Demons we are at war with that appeared to be besieging the Queen's domain from the same position we were intended to make our covert entry from. Zan assumed that the Demonic presence there was an important target of opportunity, and ordered us to move in and break the siege from behind. We've managed to surprise them and capture their underground encampment, slaying all their backup forces, then proceeded to move forth into the catacombs, making our way up towards the castle. Although recon did not mention the existence of any conventional defenders, we encountered numerous seemingly trained spider beasts fighting with the Demons. However, they were heavily outnumbered and the besiegers eventually managed to break through. Zan made contact with a large wounded Dryder which appeared to be in service of the Queen, and offered her some of our healing supplies as a sign of benevolent intentions. In exchange, she gave us information about the above castle's layout which helped us push forward, butchering the Demon invaders without suffering any significant damage. We cleared a path towards the main citadel where we expected to find the Queen, who was indeed fighting the invaders inside her throne chambers just as we joined her and put an end to their attack. In the confusion, the Queen almost struck down Grunt (name is scratched off), but Zan managed to block her attack and briefly push her away.
Phase Three Our aid did not seem to well dispose the Queen, as she immediately ordered us to leave her premises or risk a swift execution. If it weren't for the invading Demons we cleared out, she would have likely outright attacked us, but Zan managed to stave off her fury, and present our offer of alliance. The Tiefling agreed to have a close diplomatic talk with Zan, presenting a degree of personal interest in our commander, but in return we were ordered to leave her castle, and return to the camp. We do not know what Zan's current situation is, but she is the only one who can conclude our mission now, and return with news.
Meet the Team
Skyward Foundry is a small independent team with the goal of creating a compelling fantasy RPG set in the rich lore of the Dark Castle Universe; driven by engaging gameplay, character romances, and compelling story. The project is done in collaboration between artist/game designer Eraanthe, programmer/game designer Areving and dialogue/story writer Wendigo.
If you enjoy our work please consider joining our patreon
as every little bit helps us move closer toward this project's completion.