His Majesty’s Service #1, Prologue Start

Millenia ago, on a calm afternoon of azure blue, a rain of fire fell from the sky and shattered the world into before and after.  The world as it was known then, was instantly torn apart in fiery death and ash.  After burning sky had faded to inky black, the stars disappeared–and when after the death and darkness of the world of before had ended, they reappeared—but they were not the stars of legends and lore and stories told as long as any race could tell. Some of the stars were gone, some had moved to the wrong side of the sky and some were new. It was an alien night, without a day. The earth and the sky had changed. The world was not as it was. This strange night was all there was.

Not much is known of that time. What is known is that the world before that long dark night faded from existence, forever. All that was before is now lost to us.

And those that survived should not have. But some did. Because that is what life does. Even in the dark and the cold, it sleeps and it hides. And it waits.

 

For those who crawled out into this new world after the fires abated, there was untold suffering. But life struggles on and these folk found to their fortune that after a generation of people had passed, a small light had sprung from the horizon. A new day had dawned at long last. Black, dim grey and charcoal turned to crimson.Yellow and then white. And then, the greens of the world, the deep hues of pine and the lighter shades of lime and olive returned.  For the animals and folk were not all that had hid and sheltered. The seed of the world’s mighty flora had lain dormant too. Years passed and the horizon’s clear lines of sky grew earthen teeth of green. Once more the great trees and forests had returned.

Those people that survived had split in two tribes of men. The first of these came forth from their hiding places and returned to the light—they stayed upon the surface of the world—a new paradise gave them a bounty and they multiplied. At night, now fearing the darkness, they hid when the sun set and worshipped the sun as it rose each morning.

Those of the second group, had grown to dwell in darkness.  Thus, they fled into caves and fissures, escaping from the burning heat of day. They  stayed in the darkness. They carved out great pathways and built great cities deep in the earth.  For them, their bodies now unaccustomed to the light of day, the darkness was now their home. They shrank from the light. They stayed deep , hidden and safe. They would dwell in darkness.

Generations of man passed and tribes of people multiplied upon the surface. They waged war, and made peace, and the races there built great civilizations. They made monuments of stone. They discovered great magic. The light had returned so fiercely, so powerfully, that their crops grew in abundance, and their livestock and stores of food became bounties.  There was a raw power in the light, and energy that they harvested in seed and in flesh. They multiplied until they spread over the land  and they prospered, and the darkness that had once scared them so was forgotten. Until night came.  When they slept, they huddled in their beds, locked their chamber doors, and bore talismans to keep them safe against the absence of light, against the shadows they still feared. But when the light rose each morning, they arose with it, and they were masters over the world.

 

And that is how the world was, for many generations of time. So many passed that the memory of that great cataclysm had been forgotten. Until one day, the stars began to slink across the sky again. The weather grew cold. Or hot. And the crops began to die. Sages proclaimed solutions. Great kings and queens gave sacrifices to gods and goddesses in hopes of salvation that wouldn’t come.

And despite their rituals and their worship and their talismans, the stars appeared each night, little by little, in a different place in the sky. Some stars now hid until the late night when they would appear in new places, not their rightful home. Others were new, known to tribes elsewhere, but never before seen.  And each morning broke later and later than it had. And then, one cold morning, the races of men emerged from their locked chambers, cold feet upon the ground, they stood and waited for the warmth of day to spread across their hills and fields and on their crops, to give heat to the valleys and to send the shadows back into the crags and crevices. But it didn’t come. And they tried to console themselves, and they prayed to their gods and goddesses to save them. But none did.

And then, under a strange dark sky of strange new stars, they discovered that they were no longer alone on the surface of the world.

The night dwellers, the great diggers, those that now called the darkness home deep in their hidden cities below, had learned of the sun’s demise. They had arisen.  And those of this darker place found that those who had once dwelt in the light, had power that they knew not of.  And they discovered that it was a power of great strength. And so they took it for themselves, being now in a position at long last to do so.  As much of it as they dared, for their lords had grown wise in the desperation that the darkness demands on those who live within it. And knowing that even a farmer must keep seed, to replant again, they culled their stock, and took a mighty share for their foul purposes. In the darkness, they made their dread harvest.

#

And so the lords of darkness below, became the lords of the surface above. In the dim light of strange stars, they took the power of those who had once taken the power of the sun. And while in the always night, they forgot about the time in which they feared the scorching of the lighted day. They took their new slaves’ great monuments and works for their own, remaking them into images of their own gods and goddesses, those lords of the deep who they prayed to. These lords did then arise too  and they made themselves manifest over all the land that was once known as Kasille. They enslaved and conquered. And they became masters of both the surface and the abyss. But this age did not last long.

For in but a generation once more, as suddenly as the darkness had come on, a light appeared upon the horizon, faint and dim. A morning had returned, such as hadn’t been seen in near a generation, and then another as well. Slight at first, edges of crescent pink hues. Over what was once thought of as years, the sun climbed higher each morning in the sky. Crimson and orange turned to yellow and then to white.  And the dark dwellers, who had hunted down their prey, who had grown omnipotent off their harvest, risen to conquer both their great underground cities, but also the surface—they slunk now from the light, back into their fissures. When the burning heat of day returned, the lords of darkness returned to their ancient cities deep in the earth. But they did not hide as those who had feared the darkness had. And they did not forget the harvest that had made them satiated.

Not all though had been enslaved during the time of darkness. Those who had once dwelt in the light, who had avoided the dark lords and the hunters and slept through the long night, crept out of their hiding places, and found their light returned, but their world desecrated. Day by day, they scavenged their ruined temples and monuments, hiding by night. Leaders arose, and proclaimed themselves alone in the light again. Warily, others followed them, until in confidence they felt as masters over their domain once more.  Generations passed and the stories of their dark masters turned to legends. Legends turned into myth, and myth became superstition.

They planted, and harvested, and rebuilt their monuments, casting down the images of the dark lords.  Conviction and triumph, promulgated by priestly knowledge and divine mandate, replaced fear and dissolution. The stars appeared each night,  lighting their way home on long journeys. Even the night eventually became their domain once more.

And all the while, at dinner times, at festivals and ceremonies, old men, and women, feeding the superstitions of the young, told of the great evil doers of the darkness, those who had risen, who had hunted them, who had defiled their works. And standing in their great fortresses, on top of the stones once defiled by the monsters of myth, men and women imagined and listened wide-eyed, and because generation after generation came and went, the lands below their feet no longer scared the brave and the grown. They forgot their fear. And they called the place from which the stories came Ket, the place of the damned.

They who now dwelt in the darkness deep under the earth once more, did not forget though. Those dark lords of Ket remembered their time as masters above. And they wrung their hands that they had been effaced from their new thrones upon the surface of the world. And they hid deep down in their ancient cities, their bellies now rumbling again for power, they slumbered deep and silent, and they waited for the light to leave again. And when it had, they awakened, rose, and they took their fill of the feasting table awaiting them. For once more, they found it had been laid before them.

#

And from the feast that followed, and after many generations of sleep later–after waiting deep in the dark empire below the surface of the earth again, the darkness returned once more, bringing with it another harvest.

And then, as before, another.  With regularity that spanned eons, came a cycle of slumber, and feasting for those in the darkness–a cycle of progress  and then slaughter for those in the light. Most lived and then died without knowing of the dark days that lay before them. But those who did lived in times of chaos.

And the lords of the darkness, now masters over both below and above, kept record of the cycle, and their harvest, whereas those on the surface, who had no place to go when the light left them, who were set upon, with a sky of strange stars, foretelling dread events, did not.

And it was as such for many eons until one who dwelt in the light found a record of the past, hidden and kept secret through one of the darkenings.  It was a wealth beyond measure, made available to those who crawled out to find the sun had returned. A great library of knowledge. And they had an age to study it.

And so it was that this time in the light was different than the times that had come before it.  And the people in this time called themselves Kasille, for that was the name of the library which they had found.

 

And for millennia, they prepared against the rising of the darkened lords.  For generations, as their sun warmed their crops, and their people multiplied, they did not make great monuments nor gave time for artistry, but instead prepared great weapons against their foes. These became their new monuments, their new art.  Now, armed with a resolute and sound commitment, Kasille’s leaders, a council of seven–chosen each for their virtues that those of the age valued most–would lead the surface world against the world beneath it.  Kasille, enslaved these many years, would decide their own fate at long last, instead of cowering at the mercy of Ket when it awoke.

#

Great laboratories of magic, big and small were built. Great tomes of spells researched, and perfected. With the aid of ancient and new knowledge alike, the Kasillians prepared for their foes’ return. They made great weapons, and learned that among these were the weapons that resided in flesh. They, like their enemy, made their own monsters.  Chief among these, the great wyrms harnessed magic themselves, for they were a new breed of creation. These would do their bidding for they were not wholly distinct from them. Kasille’s guardians would fight for them in the darkness when they themselves could not.

And in this great time of preparation, which spanned nearly a century of time, there was a great schism in Kasille. There were those who would fight, and there were those, numbering more still, that would hope to keep safe through the darkness.

Those who would battle their foe believed that their enemy would be weak when they came crawling upwards again. In need of their harvest of souls, facing a prepared force, they could be defeated, even in the absence of the light. The prey would become the predator. Fortifying themselves through arcane and divine might, these brave souls believed they could attack and destroy their enemy when Ket rose to the surface. The lighted folk would need not fear the darkening again, once Ket was destroyed.

Those who would hide, thought differently. They believed that their enemy, waking after a slumber and although hungry, would nevertheless be strong, still. Like a bear from it’s den, they believed Ket’s hunger would be insatiable, and it’s power impossible to stop. They believed their greatest weapon was not their new inventions, but the knowledge they had gained. They wished to build great magical arks, to safeguard the goodly folk from the dark lords. Denied their harvest, the darkened foe would not feed, and thus be weakened. Lasting through the darkening, they, those in the light, would be strengthened, while the enemy starved. For the first time since the world had been thus made into periods of light and dark, those of this group, believed they could arise on the other side of the darkening as masters of their world—their enemies would be reduced and vulnerable.

And so the two groups made their preparations. One prepared for battle, while the other planned for an elsewhere and an elsewhen.

#

And there came a time when there was a great schism in the  council of seven, as in the populace. For three of the leaders, along with the highest of the council, The Great Mother, had decided upon the safeguarding of the people, trusting to the knowledge they now possessed and the magical discoveries of the age. These became known to their followers as the four great heroes, and the populace worshipped them steadfastly. The last of the three however, led the forces of those willing it, in preparation for war. Their followers, in equal measure, worshipped the three for their humility, their temperance and their generosity, and each were attributed the name of Fate, for in these basic virtues could mankind battle those of pride and avarice.

And for each of the seven lords, and their people, was made a great ark, and for each was given a magnificent artifact to combat the darkness in the world, and within themselves as well. And finally, to each was assigned a pair of guardians, perfected in power and menace, to watch over them as they prepared—for one thing both factions agreed upon was that the moment for which each prepared may never come again.

And so too might this chance at victory become their doom.

And the seven led the people in their important work, until such time as either could consider themselves ready for the darkening.

And then one evening, the stars began to shift in the sky as they had in the ancient times, and the times before them. And the world grew too cold. Or too hot.

And the denizens below the great cities and sunlit pastures of Kasille began to stir from their slumber.

But Ket, like a great cat in a house of mice, had slept with one eye open. They sent their scouts, those lesser kin to them who could bare it, to trespass upon the great constructions of what they saw as their slaves.  The clandestine spies of the dark lords learned that their prey had made a discovery, and that they were involved in great schemes against their sleeping masters.

And Ket thus knew that if either of their great plans were successful, the great lands below would not just be destitute of their power, but return to a world of groveling, and debilitation. And even though it was not in their nature to do so, they banded together, against their slaves would-be revolt.

And thus aligned, they awoke in full, and set about their machinations early and with renewed fervor. Chief among these  were the surreptitious infiltration of the source of their slaves’ newfound power, the seven lords mankind above worshipped.

#

Then as now in the darkness below, were two vastly different worlds. Deep, deep into the furnace of the Earth lived the lords of Ket.  Down into the heart of the world, where there was warmth and fire, their dread palaces stood in dimly lit chambers hewn from steaming rock. But closer to the surface, in the hollows, and the cool, damp chasms made from eons before, there was the land of Erebus. Great highways of tunnels and chambers, laced with fissures, connected vast caverns– and here dwelt the great armies and servants of the Ketian lords. And the stir of battle was upon the armies now, and to the warriors above, was this fact made known. Through cunning and deceit were the three Fates lured into the cracks and fissures and into Erebus. But as of the four, none could be enticed.

In that great battle that followed, the lords of Ket made known to the three Fates their power. The three knew then that they could not defeat their enemy, nor could they persuade the rest of their council to rise against them.

And this was the moment that the devils and demons of Ket had plotted for. This was the moment they would make a vile offer to the three, deep in the underdark.  And the Fates, knowing their destruction would be upon them if they refused, agreed to betray their own.

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