His Majesty’s Service #1, Prologue Start

1

In a time long ago, in the midst of a calm blue sky, a rain of fire shattered the world in two. In a blink, was the world that came before and the world that came after.  That before world is nearly unknown to us, but the world that came after was hell incarnate–burning death, and choking ash–a firestorm which scoured hill and valley.

When the tumult settled, a quiet darkness settled so complete, that the stars themselves could not be seen above. And when the stars at last did return, they were not the stars of any legends nor of any lore. Some had simply vanished. Some stars had, as if by some malign magic, simply moved to a new position. The heavens were now an alien night to those who crawled from their hiding places, survivors of the cataclysm of fire. And when they saw what had become of the lands, and the heavens, they wept.  This strange new world, and this lingering night under strange stars, was all there was now.

For those who crawled out into this perpetual night, there was untold suffering. But life struggles on, and these folk found that a welcome orb at last had begun to show itself on a distant horizon. A new dawn at long last was here-a new day for a new people.  Each morning, the black dim grey of fear turned to crimson blood, and then to golden wheat, and then eventually to an unfamiliar yet wonderful purest of white, above the tops of mountain peaks. And in those days, the greens of the world, the deep hues of pine and the lighter shades of lime and olive, at last returned with it.  The seeds of the mighty flora, the forests of legends long thought impossible again, had laid dormant too. A new world of living things emerged-both familiar and foriegn. 

In that time there grew two tribes of men. The first of these came forth from their hiding places and returned to the light and 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.  In the darkened fires, their forebears had fled into caves and fissures, escaping from the burning heat of day. There they dwelt.  They carved out great pathways and built great cities deep in the earth.  For them, their bodies and ways now unaccustomed to the light of day, the darkness was their home. They shrank from the light. They stayed deep , hidden and safe. They would dwell in darkness.

Generations of man passed and the tribes of both light and darkness multiplied upon the surface and into the dark realms too. Of the surface races, 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 and of their very will-a strength they found beyond any other. 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.  And 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. Then, when the light rose each morning, they arose with it, and they were masters over the world once more.

And that is how the world was, for many generations of time. So many years thus 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 too cold. Or too hot. And the crops died in barren fields. Sages from new civilizations spread throughout the world 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 familiar stars appeared each night, little by little, in a new place in the night sky. Others, known to tribes elsewhere farther south or north, farther east or west, appeared where they should not be above.  And each morning broke later and later. And then, one cold morning, the races of men emerged from their locked chambers, cold feet upon the ground, and 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, and they begged for their kings and queens to save them. But none did.

And then, under a strange dark sky of strange new stars, the light that did not come made night last endlessly once more. And soon, in this new dark world, they discovered that they were no longer alone on the surface of the world. 

Because 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, the darkening that had come anew. They had watched and waited and now 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 in the very souls of those above 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. 

2

Those who once feared the scorching light, now ruled the dark lands above. They took their slaves’ great monuments and works for their own, remaking them into images of their own vile gods and goddesses. These  dark lords did then arise from the depths too, basking in the worship of their dark underlings, 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 a light appeared again in the darkness, upon the horizon, faint and dim. A morning had returned, and then another as well. The sun climbed higher each new day in the sky-crimson and orange turned to yellow and eventually the sun climbed above the mountain peaks and became searing white heat. .  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—slunk now from the light and 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 forget the harvest that had made them satiated, nor that it would come again.

As to those few who had avoided the dark lords and the hunters and past the long night hidden, they 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. Soon as before, 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 once more. The green of pine and olive of forests returned, and these folk as before planted, and harvested, and rebuilt their monuments, casting down the images of the dark lords.  In each land, new Kings and Queens arose just as they had so long ago.  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, which was no more than mere hours, 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, they forgot their fear.  And they called the place from which the stories came Ket, the place of the damned, the place of the before time.

But those dark lords of Ket, unlike those who now dwelt in the light, remembered in stark detail 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.

There followed an untold 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, nor the dark days from which they had come.  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, many cycles of harvest and dread until one who dwelt in the light found a record of the past, hidden and kept secret through one of the darkenings.  A wealth beyond measure, a great library of knowledge. And the people  in this time called themselves Kasille, for that was the name of their library, vast in ancient knowledge,  which they had found.

3

And for an age, 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 or for idle work, but instead prepared great weapons against their foes. These became their new monuments-war became their new art. Arcane knowledge became their new poetry.  Now with a resolute and sound commitment across the goodly races, 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.

To that effect, great laboratories of magic were constructed. Great tomes of spells were 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 to harness the divine will of their virtuous might. And they, like their enemy, made their own beasts of war.  Chief among these, the great wyrms, who could harness magic themselves. These magnificent beings, these dragons as they were called, would serve the goodly races. Kasille’s mighty guardians would fight for them in the darkness when they themselves could not.

And in this great time of preparation, there rose 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 awakened. 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. 

Those who would hide however, thought differently. They believed that Ket, although just awoken, would nevertheless be too powerful to defeat. 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 of incredible strength, to safeguard the goodly folk from the dark lords during the time of darkness. 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.

And so the two groups made their preparations. One prepared for battle, the other for fortification.

4

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 greed.

And for each of the seven lords, even for those Fates deciding upon war,  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. And the seven led the people in their important work, until such time as either could consider themselves ready for the darkening.

And this was when again the world grew too cold. Or too hot. Stars vanished or moved in the night sky. 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 had 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 possible destruction. 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 and set about their machinations early and with renewed fervor. Chief among these  was the infiltration of the source of their slaves’ newfound power, the so-called Seven Lords of Light.

5

Then as now in the darkness below, were two vastly different worlds. Deep, deep into the furnace of the Earth, in a hellish land called Tartarus 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 to do battle, believing the lies that Ket lured them with. But as of the four, none could be enticed.

In that great battle that followed, the lords of Ket, united in secret, defeated the fated three. 

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, there in the Underdark.  And the Fates, each once a part of the lighted races as a branch is to a tree, knowing their destruction would be upon them if they refused, agreed to betray their own.

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