Alternate T9A Lore

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    • Alternate T9A Lore

      I'm going to fill this thread with an alternate version of ninth age lore. Will start with a map.

      Sailing east, a ship will arrive in the storied Orient. In those strange realms, the rajahs of Inja bow down to the beast-herds, the king-in-yellow of Khitai reigns from a palace of jade and the lords of Shanchan leash sorceresses like dogs. To the west lies the Sea of Sorcery and the dazzling isles of the great elves. A blasted and frozen wasteland engulfs the north, wherein dwell foul creatures and barbarian tribes who bow down to forbidden gods. In Gondwana of the south may be found illimitable jungles peopled by lizards that walk on two legs like men; they who gather skulls to adorn their primordial fanes. No ship has circumnavigated dusky Gondwana.

      The League of Sonnstahl, the splendid kingdoms of Equitaine, Mosskoyvy, Destria and others comprise the ancient empire of Mas Vetia. Here the dwarves have abode under the mountains since time innumerable. Fey elves yet stalk the deep woods, fighting their eternal war with goblin and beast kind. It is an age of woe and shattered swords, a bloody age, an age of battle and glory with the might of man destined to inherit the world.


      New map incorporating some of the excellent artwork from the official version. The equator runs through the Straits of Wrath, so this isn't even a full hemisphere. Also, the planet is larger than earth.

      Edit: The southern continent, formerly Ophir, is now Gondwana. Ophir is a good name and can still belong to somewhere. Maybe that enormous island in the middle left of the map.

      The post was edited 4 times, last by Reliquary: updated map ().

    • Unspeakable beings made war upon each other. The mind of man or elf cannot fathom these beings. It would be futile even to ask whence they came, what they desire or of what strange matter they consist. They exist beyond thought and reason.

      One of these beings was sorely wounded in struggle with its own kind. Whether it died, who can say? Death to such as those is not as death to us. The wounded being drifted for an eternity. Then, all in screaming flame, it fell from the outer void to crash in terrible ruin at the sullied heart of Mas Vetia.

      For many long ages, this god slumbered, while nameless and forgotten races crawled upon the pale faces of the world, flourishing and fading in their own time. The dwarves grew strong and then man raised up his own towering cities. In the extant inscriptions of this most ancient age but one moon hung in the sky for the unseen masters had not yet brought the verdure moon.

      But the unseen masters wound their torturous route through distant stars, following the path laid by the dreaming god. Their saurian servants fell upon our world in pyramids of eldritch metal that descended regally from the heavens. Man bowed down to these creatures and worshiped them but the saurians had not come for man. Over millennia, the lizard-folk erected towering edifices and arcane engines. When they had fully readied their machinations, they attempted to steal the essence of the dreaming god.

      How they failed, I know not. I know only that their efforts pierced the dreaming god and his essence bled out like the effluvia from a fresh gash. Thus, the hateful powers of magic entered the world and worse. In darkness, some of this essence congealed into the powerful yet insane lesser beings that we call gods and daemons. You who so foolishly divide divinity into good and evil do not begin to understand that one great and maleficent being behind them all, whose awakening will consume us all! I only, who have wandered the trackless jungles of Ophir and pondered the ancient sigils, I who have learned at the knees of the cuatl, I alone know the truth!

      The swirling storm of magic scoured earth and sea, as all things were subjected to the meaningless whims of an inscrutable god. Immense monsters crawled from the bubbling waves and their lineages continue to this day. Man became beast and man perished and man rose hungry from death. There were lordly kingdoms of our race, united by proud descent and common civilization. Between dawn and dusk they fell, when the tombs opened and mummified hands dragged down the living. Some fled to the forests but there the winds of change twisted them into beasts. Only those few who sought refuge in the mountain fastness of the dwarves survived that dread day.

      The dwarves believe they prevented the waking of the dreaming god although they swore never to speak of it. The dwarvish kings whisper this secret story to their newly crowned and will speak of it only under the most exquisite tortures. The common dwarves, like men, know nothing that such an age ever was. How the ancient dwarves halted the catastrophe, nor how they ‘narrowed the wound,’ I was not able to learn. Perhaps they fear one in possession of such knowledge could reverse their work. The world was scarred for all ages but not destroyed.
    • I like the implication that 9th age takes place on a different planet in the same universe as... ah... well, we all understand. In the old setting, the 'unseen masters' left long ago, but here they might still be lurking in the otherworldly jungles of the green moon. It's conceivable that players might reach the green moon to fight the Saurian Ancients but most conflict with the SA would take place on the continent of Ophir.

      'Ophir' isn't my invention but it's not anyone's IP either. There's a disagreeable fantasy tendency to make everything sound like Latin, which is why the name changed to Mas Vetia. Conan Hyborian Age style of names would be even better: Zamora, Brythunia, Koth, Zingara, Shem, Stygia, Cimmeria. Another possibility is using simple germanic root English. Instead of 'Vetia', the 'Elder Realm.' We were all pretty happy with Old World back in the day. Latin, for all its qualities, is a language of formalities and technicalities and it doesn't set the right tone.

      In the same way, I used 'Khitai' for the China analogue. Not creative but superfluous creativity should be shunned. Sometimes, it's stronger to use the associations inherent to an existing word rather than the unfamiliarity in a new and flashy word. 'King-in-Yellow' derives from the Lovecraft mythos but doesn't (to my knowledge) fall under the emperor's divine copyright. Best not to have too many 'emperors' running around.

      The map could use work.

      The post was edited 1 time, last by Reliquary ().

    • Elves sailed out of the west, from seas under strange stars. The isles of the western seas lie in puzzling juxtaposition. A ship may sail three days from Athel Essil to Amanwë, seven days from Amanwë to Saa Elorim and two days from Saa Elorim back to Athel Essil. Athel Tethrïs lies twelve days sail from Athel Essil, save in summer, when the journey may be made in four days. Nor do their seasons align with those of Mas Vetia or Ophir.

      These ancient elves settled upon Mas Vetia. Their shimmering cities blossomed on coastlands around the world. An elf does not see matters as we do and will speak much in riddles and parables. They do not speak of their own antiquity, for it sorrows them. Their history is difficult to decipher and I will not attempt to do so here. Yet they flourished upon Mas Vetia a long age.

      The barbarian tribes of man endured in the frozen wastelands of the north until a dark champion subdued them and ruled them by his runed axe. His armies broke down the elvish wall which divided the north from the rich lands of the south. For generations, man fought elf and elf fought man. In the end, man triumphed while the fair ones dwindled. Elvish enclaves persisted but the barbarians multiplied. They imitated elvish arts and developed their own decadent and cruel civilizations where the innocent died upon bloodstained altars. They too ruled for a bloody age of their own, until the orcs sailed from Ophir.

      The orcs were an aboriginal beast folk dwelling in the southern jungles when the unseen masters descended from the stars but they were not then as they are now. Whether the wounding of the dreaming god changed them or whether they were merely hardened to war by the catastrophe, I do not know. That they love warfare more than all others; that I know. They toppled the crumbling citadels of mankind and besieged the strongholds of the dwarves. All the world slowly sunk under the green tide.

      In the west, there still dwelt unconquered a tribe of men who had, under the influence of the elder races, forsworn the dark gods. The chieftain’s son dishonored a certain woman named Sunna, a famed beauty, though some of the ancient tales have it that she was also a shield-maiden, after which, she took her own life. When the people saw the chieftain would not punish his son, they rebelled. Sunna’s brother Tsun, himself a famed warrior, sewed her image upon his banner and slew both chieftain and son. Then his people proclaimed him king.

      Tsun gathered an army of those who fled before the orcs. Calling upon new gods, he routed the greenskins at the battle of Ebon Wood. Ten years of peace followed before the orcs returned in strength. Tsun swore a pact with dwarf and elf. So long as he had strength to lift a hammer, he would ride to the aid of his friends. For the rest of his years, the threefold pact raged across Mas Vetia, founding the first empire in the clash of iron. The domination of the orcs was ended.
    • When the barbarian tribes of man wrested Mas Vetia from elvenkind, many chieftains, warlords and heroes desired a fair elven wife. This led to a mixed kind, whom we today name the Dread Elves but have long named themselves the Morwën. These inherited many blessings from their elvish side but not the barbaric vitality of their forefathers. Though their lifespan exceeds the lot of mortals, it attains not to the seeming immortality of the elves, and this much preys upon their mind. The division between their two natures sets the heart of these half-elves at war with themselves. From his early years, one of the Morwën grows caustic and solitary. They tend to blood-hunger and cruelty. It is rumored that many torture their own bodies with needles and poisons, but they jealously guard their privacy and the wise do not inquire too closely of their customs. Many of this dark kindred descend into murderous madness.

      They prefer seclusion in quiet towers or manses in distant mountain valleys. They rule no great kingdoms, for they give their friendship to few even among their own kind, and such reticence leads not to statehood. Each lord has the right of absolute dominion over his household but lone Morwën often adventure in the kingdoms of men in such professions as they deem honorable, as warriors or artisans. Each hopes to gain great wealth and thereby found his own household. They particularly love to fight in the arena. More than anything else, they crave fame and that their name and reputation precede them. They often murder those who have seen them in moments of weakness or failure, so as to keep word of the event from spreading. Each of their great lords carefully cultivates his reputation, commissioning bards to sing tales of his deeds and keeping an official record of his life, which he alters at his pleasure. The worst insult to a dread elf is to contradict his account of himself. They will kill, and worse than kill, if possible, to avenge such slights.

      Their women often flaunt their vanity by lascivious dress. Many call them more beautiful than mortal women but they cannot endure the ravages of time. Sacrificial blood cults and dark magic are common, for by such they strive to stave off their pressing mortality.

      The Morwën have little regard even for their own kind and none for others. This should not be understood as a lack of concern for lives, for they are a practical sort. They have little love for gods or ancestors, both of whom they hold to have failed them, but they expect their own slaves to worship them. These slaves, often captives taken by force, perform the dread elves' tedious and common work, such tasks they view beneath them. Some gossips hold that, among themselves, the Morwën consider torture an art. I learned that they have a secret prophecy wherein a dark messiah will lead them to glory and domination over the whole world. He who told me this was reluctant to do so but I was able to persuade him.

      Whereas they conceal their feelings towards others, the dread elves openly hate their highborn kin. Their envy and grief and lust for revenge is not hidden. I must end this by confessing that there have, in the annals of history, been a few of the dread elves who overcame their bitterness and rose to true heroism.
    • In ancient days, when elves sailed out of the west, they found the bones of the earth soaked with evil magic. Many of the trees had awoken. They dreamed. They felt. They looked upon the world with eyes of amber. They walked like men. And they shook with hate for all things. The dwarf-kind long feared the woods and felled trees to fuel their fires. At first, the elves did likewise but the trees-that-walked entranced their elvish hearts. So, they began to nurture the saplings, drawing away the wicked magic, singing to them, filling them with a fey spirit.

      Over a long age, the trees flourished. The elves created many varieties of tree-kind. More than any of the others, they loved the dryads, those spirit women of ever shifting form and temperament. A mortal man or dwarf could not endure the presence of a dryad, for though she is lovely to look upon, he will, without meaning, give offense and she will tear him apart in her wrath. Only elf-kind possesses the kind of dancing wit that will placate these flickering spirits.

      When the barbarian tribes of man conquered the elder kingdoms, many elves hid themselves in the deep forests and the secret groves. They mingled their blood with the dryads and gave birth to a new kind: the sylvan race, the wild elves, silent, deadly and fathomless.

      The unsullied race of elves, which has retreated into the west, looks upon the wild elves with horror beyond even what they hold for the dread elves. Never had they intended for their descendants to mix with the sorcerous creations they had distilled from tree-kind. The highborn elf considers himself the master of the world; the patient gardener, the aloof yet kindly lord. The wild elf, in contrast, lives moment by moment with fierceness and savage intensity. He also hates the powers of darkness but he considers himself part of the world, rather than master. The wild elf bears a deep suspicion for all things intricate and artificial. Such things are very often tainted by evil and certainly of lesser value than pure nature. He will not slay a man on sight but he will put an arrow through a man who lays axe to a good tree.

      The wild elves do not love the company of other races and, in return, are little trusted. They live apart in the far woods, warring always with the beast herds or feasting in hidden sunlit glades.
    • From the Revised and Sanctified Dogma of Divinity:
      The High-and-Holy-Prophet found man ignorant and woe begotten, bowing down to and worshiping many strange gods. The High-and-Holy-Prophet enlightened man with the teaching of seven-fold divinity. There are not, as the heathen believe, many gods squabbling and petty, adrift on the chaotic sea. There is only the god of gods who encompasses all perfection. Thus are the holy aspects of the god which are themselves gods: humility, liberality, chastity, mildness, temperance, happiness and diligence. These seventh-gods have their own names, their own temples, their own will and nature, and their own lesser aspect-gods. Thus it is no sin to speak of the seventy-fold divinity or the seven-hundred fold divinity.

      The demons despise and fear the god. The seven chief demons have fashioned themselves into a mockery of the seven-fold divinity: pride, greed, lust, anger, gluttony, envy and sloth. These foul entities lack the unity and harmony of the god. They war with each other as much as with divinity. For many a long age, they snared the souls of the dead in their gibbering webs and imprisoned them in the utter-dark. Then came the High-and-Holy-Prophet, speaking with the voice of the god, who commanded the souls of the righteous to come forth and led them from torment unto the high-bliss.

      We remember and preach the sayings of the High-and-Holy-Prophet who has gone before us to illuminate the righteous path. To escape the clutches of the demons and ascend unto divinity, a man must dedicate himself to one of the seven aspects. If he can present himself blameless in humility, liberality, chastity, mildness, temperance, happiness or diligence; then the aspect-god will accept him into one of the seven heavens. If he has become a saint, mastering seven-fold righteousness as did the High-and-Holy-Prophet, then he will enter unto the high-bliss where he shall shine forever and ever like a star of the firmament. A soul that has given into sin is mere prey to the demons. They will drag him down into whichever such of the seven hells has most tainted his deeds or even into one of the thousand lesser chaotic hells. Woe unto them who shall suffer the torment eternal.

      The post was edited 1 time, last by Reliquary ().

    • Eldan wrote:

      I think starting with names taken from other fiction (King in Yellow), just from the real world (Khitai) or both (Ophir) is really not a great look if you say you want to start something original. Or from GW (Athel).
      I specifically say otherwise:

      Reliquary wrote:

      In the same way, I used 'Khitai' for the China analogue. Not creative but superfluous creativity should be shunned. Sometimes, it's stronger to use the associations inherent to an existing word rather than the unfamiliarity in a new and flashy word. 'King-in-Yellow' derives from the Lovecraft mythos but doesn't (to my knowledge) fall under the emperor's divine copyright. Best not to have too many 'emperors' running around.
    • From the Child's Imperial Primer:
      Tsun and Sunna, brother and sister, man and wife, emperor and empress, were created when the God breathed them forth full-grown upon the world: the perfection of man and the crown of woman. With hammer and sword, they crushed orc-kind and laid the foundation of the eternal empire. Then the God blessed them. So long as the imperial line continued, the veil would divide the demons of the outside from the mortals of the inside, for the veil is the cloak that rests upon the shoulder of kings.
      Tsun and Sunna reigned a hundred golden years ere they returned to the god of gods. Always has their eternal empire grown and prospered. The Eldermun were the first tribe, strong and clean of limb, three yards in height. Other tribes swore fealty to the Empire: the fierce and regal Equitanians, the Merovechii, the Zingaarim, the Sonnstahl to whom the son of Tsun came, the Argessites and more. All of mankind bowed to the emperor and Mas Vetia knew peace.

      Then the orcs sailed again from far Ophir, determined to burn and ruin. The beast herds screamed with blood-hunger from the uncharted forests. Chittering vermin, great rats on two legs like men, rose from under the earth in a flood to devour. City after city fell. Land after land burned. Men cried out to their gods but the temples were silent.

      A heinous and depraved creature, a vampire, a wretched necromancer and not a true descendant of Tsun, usurped the imperial throne. He disbanded the dawn legions and ruled the land with skeletal hordes. He closed the temples and forbade the adoration of divinity. He persecuted the imperial line, seeking to stamp it out, for, in his folly and unbelief, he understood not that this would part the veil. Nonetheless, he was a cunning master and he drove back the enemies of mankind to the darkness, to loathsome and distant haunts. For an entire age he ruled, growing so evil, the sun hid its face rather than look upon him. Man was cattle to the vampire.

      Then arose the High-and-Holy-Prophet, a man so humble he had no name. He taught the true nature of divinity to the people. Half the gods honored in temples were demons and the other half mere aspects of the god. In fasting, in lashes, in tears and sackcloth, the Empire turned from its wicked way to the embrace of the God. The vampire-emperor sought to catch the High-and-Holy-Prophet but, by the power of the God, he escaped the undead claw.

      The vermin swarms had husbanded their strength for an age. They released a horde of hordes across the empire in a night of terror. Many provinces fell before dawn but the vampire-emperor was yet strong. The skeleton legions counterattacked and the war ground, day to day, week to week, month to month, year to year. In the struggle between rat and undead many innocent mortals perished, even the last of the imperial line, which had been in hiding.

      Then the veil was torn and the demon-tide raged into the world. Vermin and undead alike crumbled before the onslaught and captive mankind knew suffering such had never been. The dark gods laughed their triumph as they carried the vampire-emperor wailing into darkest hell.

      Prayer purifying his lips, the High-and-Holy-Prophet stepped through the veil. Untouched by sin, he freed the trapped souls of the righteous and opened the gates of the heavens. In agony, the demons let the veil fall again for they could not endure to look upon the light. And so does the High-and-Holy-Prophet stand forever in the midst of the veil, a bulwark and a seal against the demons.

      With the Sunnic line ended, the lord-generals of the empire swore a covenant together. As brothers, they would stand shoulder-to-shoulder against the enemy. They slaughtered the vermin and crushed the skeletal hordes. Since that day, they have ruled justly and wisely in the Imperial Senate.

      Am envisioning a single continent wide empire including Sonnstahl, Equitaine and the Dread Elves. Possibly the Dwarves and Sylvan Elves. In the present day, it is no longer a real empire but rather a tattered mess. There is no emperor and the senate, or exalt-council, has no true power beyond the throne city. The imperial legions are autonomous military forces, shadows of their former might. Different factions openly fight each other. There's a vague similarity to Japan under the Shogunate, where deposing the emperor was just as unthinkable as the emperor wielding actual power.

      The post was edited 1 time, last by Reliquary ().

    • Translated from the elvish Lays of Amanwë:
      When the world was no more and the dragon of the earth was drowned, when the sky wept madness and the sea turned to dust, when the ancient throne fell and the sword-of-ending sang again for ruin, then the north and the south were one. Adrift on tides of unreason, our fathers wove sorcery to bind the shattered seas between what was, what is and that which is yet to come. Thus we dwelt upon the elder isles of uttermost west, on broken shores that were fragments of an older world.
    • Inscribed upon the golden ziggurat:
      Here, miles beneath the skin of the earth, we raise our city. Below the deepest delvings, below the nameless things that gnaw at the roots of the world, lies the lake of fire, the heart of the dreaming god. Here, on the isle of black basalt at the heart of the flame, we erect our palace. Here, in the innermost portion, the heart of hearts, we lift up the golden ziggurat: the soul-crucible which stills the dreaming god.

      Here we bind ourselves, our sons and the sons of our sons forever, unto the end of ends. In this cavern, we bind ourselves with the oath that cannot be broken, to silence and duty. Never shall we speak of this place to those above, nor lead them hither, save those whom we bring to feed the crucible. Never shall we speak our duty to any save our own blood. Never shall we stray from our holy task: to forestall the waking of the god.

      So be it unto all eternities.
    • From the personal notes of Lewis Munster:
      All orcs are murderous brutes, uncouth and savage, reveling in crudity and destruction. Yet it is well known that certain greenhide tribes exhibit more mannish traits. These take a more slender form, though still hulking and broad as compared to our kind. They show a cleverness unknown amongst common orcs, though still dull as the most rustic peasant and they can muster a simple speech beyond a few words and vehement gruntings. Most notably one can distinguish between the male and female, which is impossible with other greenhides.

      These half-orcs, for so the ignorant call them, though they are not the product of matings with mankind, inevitably dwell near our lands. To my mind, these are not a distinct breed at all. I believe, orcs who live near civilization, or their offspring, I cannot be certain, will, within a matter of years, develop into half-orcs. Lord Lurwin Esselmie, the notorious Dread Elf, once defeated a stooping orc clan and took the survivors in chains to work his fields and mines. Like all of his kind, the elf jealously guarded his private affairs, yet four years later, it became known that all of his chattel were half-orcs. In another well attested incident, an Equitanian king drove out a half-orc from the borderlands of his territory. The greenhide survivors took refuge on an isle of the coast. Years later, the island was discovered to be inhabited entirely by pure orcs.

      Two possibilities present themselves to my mind. Either the greenhides races adapt both mind and bodies to their circumstances with frightening ease or the half-orc represents an atavistic reversion to an earlier type. Which is the truth, I dare not hazard.

      Display Spoiler

      A background excuse to include orcs of this style:

    • Report to the Exalted Imperial Council:
      The Sonnstahl call themselves the sword of Sunna, for she is their fore-mother. They alone hold the privilege to invoke her as 'our holy mother.' They were the founding tribe of the empire, though the center of power later drifted out of their lands to the more numerous Eldermun tribe. This present age, the ninth, has seen a flourishing of the Sonnstahl. Their population has multiplied. They have developed numerous sciences: metallurgy, chemistry, astrology, ballistics and other such practices profitable and useful. They have amassed much wealth through shrewd and daring ventures. Their shipwrights craft ever more impressive frigates and galleons which have reach half forgotten continents across the great oceans.

      As a merchant people, the Sonnstahl dwell mostly in the great cities, where they often make the greater fraction of the inhabitants. Some of them, it is true, farm or tend goats, and these too are hardy and clever. Most of the Sonnstahl live in the northern kingdoms, provinces, dukedoms, suzerainties, etc. but they may be found in the south as well. Along with thriftiness and industry, they pride themselves on their courage. They make the bulk of no few armies. Such is their widespread influence that the Sonnstahl dialects have supplanted Old Imperial as the most common tongue of the empire.

      Some priests accuse the Sonnstahl of less piety than other peoples. Broadly speaking, this seems true, but there are, of course, many notable exceptions. They prefer to worship the founding emperors Tsun and Sunna, usually Sunna, over the aspect-gods and even that with short and quick prayers. Perhaps the Sonnstahl temperament tends to wholeheartedness, for those who are pious often find themselves caught up in flagellant or puritan sects. A madman whipping himself along with loud cries of sin and judgment is more likely than not a Sonnstahler.

      Their nobles and merchant-princes belong to an illegal yet public confederation which they call the League of Sonnstahl. Imperial Decree banned this heinous organization a century past but we have, in our wisdom, declined to force its abolition. This League exists principally to facilitate trade and to wage campaigns against common enemies, ostensibly orcs and the beast herds but they have clashed with imperial citizens as well.

      To my mind, this demonstrates a lack of respect for the Exalted Imperial Council. We would do best to levy taxes and sanctions and to raise more legions to enforce such rules. The Sonnstahl have festered to rebellion, though they pretend otherwise.
    • The imperial emissary smiled coldly, as one unhappy in his situation who nonetheless wishes to show himself at ease. The Sonnstahlers could kill him, of course, but they that would violate their word and a merchant who could not be trusted made little. That these merchants had grown so powerful repulsed the emissary. What kind of life was haggling and appeasing your enemies, trying to win them over for the sake of a few coins?

      For his part, Gunther took the letter with unease. He did not dare present the emissary to the Elect-Prince, the lord of the League of Sonnstahl, not in times such as these. The Exalt-Council of the Empire liked to use assassins. Considering the questionable loyalty of the legions, it was not surprising the rulers of the empire preferred the use of more easily controlled tools. Everyone knew the decadence and treachery of the imperials, yet they feigned to be offended when the League said their trustworthiness was bad as their credit. Still, the empire was mankind; the shield against the daemons, the embodied will of the God, a few could imagine Mas Vetia without it. An apocalypse had fallen upon the world when the line of the emperors failed. If the empire itself should fail, the world would drown in darkness.

      Such was the common sentiment. Gunther, like others of the Sonnstahl, pondered whether there was another way. Modern knights wore full plate armor superior to that of former ages. The Blackpowder Guild provided powerful and deadly new weapons. Wizarding Orders explored new and powerful magics, very useful, no matter how the priests promised them damnation. The League itself had prospered under a series of capable Elect-Princes. After the previous Elect-Prince had suffered a series of setbacks in suppressing the orcs and dealing with the imperials, the electors had replaced him with Matthias. Now there was a man to be admired. Born into a humble, if steady, burgher family, he had gone for a mercenary, won numerous victorious, moved into trade and worked his way up until he could subscribe to an electorship. He had wed Queen Sophia of Destria and, even aside from his position, had several personal armies at his command. No one foresaw the electors removing him.

      Gunther entered the Elect-Prince's office.

      "A letter from the Exalt-Council, m'lord."

      Matthias broke the seal and quietly read the message. By rights, men of Sonnstahl ought to occupy half the seats on the Exalt-Council but the imperials had banned Sonnstahlers two centuries back as sanctions for their refusing dissolve the League. Sunna's sons forbidden from sharing in the governance of the empire she had built! It was simple blasphemy. Imperials loved to sit in the high places of the temples and utter long prayers before the aspect-gods but their piety extend to honoring the divine will.

      "If I may, m'lord," said Gunther, "we ought to sweep into Avras and take our rightful places on the Exalt-Council." He hesitated. "Maybe even the Sunnic throne. We're her sons, after all and we've the strength to take what belongs to us."

      According to the chronicles and the imperial edicts, only a direct descendant of Tsun and Sunna could sit upon the Imperial Throne. Some Sonnstahlers said all of their race was descended from Sunna and therefore all qualified. The temples condemned this as heresy.

      Matthias sighed.

      "The empire is weak, yes, but Avras stands behind ancient walls and the remainder of the empire's strength, gathered to defend the Exalt-Council, would be formidable. Avras cannot be starved without control of the sea and even if one could effect a blockade, the Imperial Granary holds vast stocks of corn. They say the gods won't let it rot. Then there's the treasury. For all it's bankruptcy, the empire still possesses the holy trinkets and the vault of relics. Anyone who relieved a siege of Avras would be richly rewarded.

      "We're merchants, Gunther. I understand the desire to put an end to the yapping of the dogs but it's just not good business. It's curious, though. They have to yap or they would lose what power remains to them. An Exalt-Council that doesn't pronounce its own authority is no Exalt-Council. They occupy that position due to history. If we were to conquer them, all the provinces would rebel. They'd want us to prove our strength, though they know we're stronger than the empire. A curious world, Gunther."

      "I suppose." Said the adjutant. "Shall I draft a response?"

      "Yes. Be polite but tell them no. Their sun is falling but ours rising and, in their hearts, they fear us."
    • The Necronomicon of Abdul Alaahazarad wrote:

      I was a boy in Achaemenia which is lost. Those were the high days of gold and spice. We slept on silk and supped on ices. The emperors feared us in those days, for we were mightier than they. Many times did the armies of the padishah make imperial legions march under the yoke.

      I remember.

      The city of my birth is gone and forgotten. It sat by the river, in the shadow of pyramids that still lingered from a forgotten age. Even my master did not know the name of this civilization and he was an adept of the forbidden arts. He said those who had made the pyramids and carved the sandstone monuments and built the tombs rich with treasure had lived and died before the gods brought magic to the world. The master kept a number of mummies in the library in whorled glass boxes.

      One day, he hired a caravan and took his best students with him to the black jungle of the south. No student was ever more talented than I. I would learn the lesson even before he finished teaching, inferring the solution from first principles. He feared me.

      And perhaps that is why he sold me and my fellow students to the lizards that walk on two legs like men. Even night, they would take one of us and cast him into the pit of writhing serpents. Who can say why? At last, only I remained but I had deduced the principles of the living flame. I burnt the lizards to ash; every one who stood in my way. I did not flee their city but stalked it like a vengeful god. At the heart of the city stood a stepped pyramid of gold, in shape and material both unlike the pyramids of my youth, that stood half a mile in height. I entered therein, incinerating the ceremonial guards, and stole the key-of-all-gods.

      Then I returned to the city of my birth. I tore out the soul of my master who had betrayed me and bound it with flame to writhe forever, for such was the power of the key. The saurians in cold blooded rage hurled armies against Achaemenia. Therefore, I thought it wise to travel and master the wizardries of the north but this was not enough and I voyaged to the highborn elves of the shattered seas and the flesh-singers of the orient. When I had mastered the sorceries of earth, sea and sky, I gathered disciples.

      We undertook to resurrect the dead civilization that raised the pyramids and the sandstone monuments, for I coveted their power also. Our ritual shook the very pillars of the earth. There was no wizard who did not feel the sigh of the great work, even those who stood at the far corners of the world. This was not as the petty necromancies of those who came after. Bones that had been dead and still many a long age arose. They were clothed with flesh and filled with the breath of life. The river took an elder course. The ruins grew young. The very hills took on an aspect of an earlier age.

      And the dead men awoke.

      The city of my birth and the rest of the land about the river, the southern march of great Achaemenia, was reduced to ruins, as if their civilization were the one ancient and long dead. The skeletons of merchants and soldiers lay dusty in tumbled streets. The dead men who had arisen were filled with confusion and terror. In madness, they sought to slay me but bronze spears could not stand against my powers. I burned only those who threatened me, for I was not a fool to undo what I had wrought at such expense.

      In time, I learned the speech of the ancients. They called their land Naptesh. Their histories chronicled more than ten thousand years, though in my day, none could read their hieroglyphs. Their magic was mere superstition. They wielded no true power. I easily compelled their pharaohs to bend the knee. They knew nothing of orcs, elves, wildhorns, daemons, the rat-kind, ogres, vampires and many other commonly understood creatures. They knew dwarves, halflings and saurians well. They remembered their civilization ending with the dead arising and devouring them in a day of terror.

      With the pharaohs as my servants, I led forth the armies of Naptesh. I subjugated Achaemenia and forced the padishah to pay tribute. I went into the black jungle and humbled the saurians. None could withstand my power. My disciples taught the lesser magics to the hierarchs of the Napteshim, that they might prove useful in battle. For nine years, I ruled.

      The Napteshim grew discontent, for they did not age. A child remained a child. A young man remained young. An elder remained old. Barren as mules, they could sire no offspring. When they died in battle, my disciples raised them again. Then the hierarchs and the pharaohs formed a conspiracy against me. On the tenth year, they crept into my harem when I lay drunken abed and cut out my heart. They took my other organs and mummified me. Each carried away an organ in a canopic jar to his own palace. They praised each other's courage and boasted they had overthrown the tyrant. The great pharaoh took the key-of-all-gods and set it on his crown.

      From that day, they began to decay. Their flesh withered. Day by day, they withered to shriveled mummies in browned wrappings. The common folk turned to bones. The river returned to its latter course and their monuments crumbled again. None of their petty magics could halt the decay. Slow despair engulfed them. At last, they became as they were before, save that they walked and thought and spoke. The common folk could only walk and obey, though the thought and speech of the great ones was preserved through desperate necromancy.

      And so Naptesh became the land of the Undying Dynasties. Without my power and mastery of the key-of-all-gods, they could not sustain fleshly forms. Those of my disciples who survived the purge fled to other lands and became the first necromancers, often allying themselves with vampires to study their instinctive command of the dead. But none of their powers approached the awesome reach of my ritual. For, truly, I am greater than all those who came before and all who shall come after!
    • From the Destrian Chronicle:

      The saurians assailed the west gate with lethal swiftness. The garrison had heard of the lizard-kind, the natives of the colonies, but they did not connect those distant beings with their ferocious cold blooded attackers. Indeed, they barred the gate only by a fingernail’s breadth. The reptiles charged out of the wood, over the fields and farms with no forewarning. There had not been even a rumor of their entrance into Destria. Leathery winged lizards attacked the towers at the same time, releasing a band of darting creatures which attempted to open the gate from the inside. They cranked the portcullis up before a sergeant of the guard overpowered them.

      In the aftermath of the incident, the interrogation of several shepherdesses, a vagrant and a peddler brought a curious fact to light. That morning, a few miles to the west, a new island appeared less than half a mile from the coast, verdant and green. Weighing the estimates of the sources, it seems to have stretched a mile across. As best the scholars could surmise, the saurians had conjured up the island with themselves on it. Dissenting cartographers bring up the phenomenon of ghost islands—well attested by sailors. Seamen who find unfamiliar shores in familiar waters consider it bad luck to land upon them. It may be that the saurians somehow untether islands and float them over the seas.

      With their initial assault failing to capture the gatehouse, the saurians advanced in force. Thousands of blue scaled reptiles advanced to the beat of primal drums. Some few of them carried bows but they mainly sought to gain entrance with a simple log ram. With crossbow, arquebus and cannon, the garrison beat them back. Again, the saurians advanced.

      What happened next is uncertain. The reptiles left an ark of dazzling gold by the gate and withdrew across the cultivated field to the wood, according to a messenger sent to the keep on the other side of the town. The messenger swears he saw this ark with his own eyes. While he was making his report to the Lord Mayor, they heard a boom like a thousand cannons a saw a blinding flash. When their eyes recovered, the stumbled onto the parapets of the keep and beheld the entire western wall blasted down and that quarter of the town crumbled or aflame. A great cloud filled the sky in the glaring shape of a toadstool.

      In general panic, those of the townsmen who could fled through the other gates. The Lord Mayor barred the keep and beseeched all the aspect-gods. After three days, the saurians stormed the unguarded breech and ransacked the town. They paid no heed to the keep but dismantled the colonial museum brick by brick. Whether they found what they sought or whether looters had already stolen it is uncertain. Regardless, they withdrew and were not seen in Destria again.

      The spite of the saurians may be seen in that they were not content with the destruction of warfare but left also a unholy curse. Many of the survivors suffered a strange ailment. Their hair fell out and they skin sloughed off before they painfully expired. Many children thereafter were stillborn or malformed or died in their youth for no apparent cause. The Lord Mayor commanded a double wall be built, that the saurian sorcery might not again so easily overwhelm the defense.

      Summarized from the notes of Fritz Stuhn, archaeologist:

      In Malloreaux stands an ancient temple dedicated to the aspect-god of liberality. Judging by the megalithic stonework of the inner sanctum, the temple predates the city. The priests teach their god himself raised up the stones. If so, the craftsmanship of man in latter ages exceeds that of gods in former ages.

      Every year, at the high feast of the aspect-god, eight priests bear a golden ark out of the inner sanctum. They recite the ancient holy tale: that good King Jacques gave all his gold to the temple, to be bestowed upon the poor. Then, so they say, the aspect-god appeared and ordained that the gold be hammered into an ark, that the king’s generosity might stand as a reminder for all his descendants. A pretty tale.

      Unfortunately for the pious, I have attended this high feast. The ark in no way resembles early Equitanian craftsmanship. Nor is it such an artifact as could be produced by the Stone Age megalithic culture of the preceding barbarians. To my expert eye, this ark is undeniably a creation of the saurians, though I cannot imagine how it came so far north in antiquity. I would dearly love to examine it more closely but superstition will not allow such scholarship.

      From the Hectoriad:

      So then, when Hector of the shining helm had slain the king of the reptiles, the gods were well pleased. For nine days, the reptiles wept and beat their shields of ox-hide. Hector bound the corpse of the king to his chariot and dragged it nine times around the walls but this shameful treatment pleased not the gods, for the king had fought valorously.

      Thus Serapis, lord of thunder and fire, spake unto Hector:

      “Many a time did the reptile king honor me with drink offering and steam offerings, thigh bone of fatted ox. In nowise did he fail in the things I love. Wherefore ought though accept the ransom of the creeping kind, the lizards who walk on two legs like men.”

      But Hector hardened his heart and would not heed even godly Serapis. Then did thunderheads and lightnings threaten Trojas for the disobedience of the son of Prius. All the people entreated Hector that he turn from his stubborn course.

      “So I shall offer up bronze scaled Chokek for a kingly ransomed,” said Hector, “for the begging of both gods and men.”

      Then did bright-crested Smakax, before whom strong men quailed, bear away his fallen lord.

      “You shame a fair and mighty king,” said Smakak, “but I honor my master with a ransom that exceeds even his worth.”

      Wherefore he did offer up a jaguar all of carved gold posed upon a box of gold and gold enameling. And the shape of the jaguar was like unto a living creature. And the nine panels of the box depicted the nine years of the war, each with many hundreds of figures carved distinct, all inlaid with gems. And the Trojites bethought to themselves: if the reptiles bear such wealth as this, how do they resent the loss of one scepter? What king with a golden hoard goes to war over crumbs?

      But proud Hector scorned Smakax.

      “Were it not for the god’s request, I should not surrender the body. It is more fit to feed dogs and crows than to enter unto the afterlife.”

      But the people took the golden jaguar into the city. Then the gods grew wroth with the vainglory of Hector and they smote deep walled Trojas with the divine fire.