Era of Change
 

The Incessancy

    The world is indivisible as long as there is nothing to divide. But if the world itself already exists, is really not worth fighting for?...”


Rich in fossil fuels, fertile soils, healing waters, and illuminated by the tender radiance of the star of Mirrow, the world of Faeo was not dissimilar to Eden, the garden of Paradise, in which there was no room for Machiavellian schemes, perfidious plans or cruel wars. But the ideals of the higher powers, which decided to create the world without observing the law of equilibrium, were not realised. The world balanced itself: love was counterbalanced by hate, honesty by lies, good by evil, peace by war.

 

    The Elts Vale became a place of tragedy, a by-word for the failure of the hopes of the Creators.

 

    The hard-working Gnomes and the studious Dwarves peacefully coexisted together on the same land, not quite loving each other, but not quite hating each other enough to stir up discord. Both were far too busy with their own affairs. Using the same blessings which had been generously gifted to their world, they sculpted, constructed, mined, studied, learnt about their world and simply enjoyed life. And like this they lived for a long time until…

 

    Early one morning, when Mirrow’s rays had barely touched the stems of the cyclamen plants, terrible news reached the inhabitants of Elts: the healing spring waters had been poisoned! Whose hand had desecrated this sacred place, whose heart had become so hardened that it was capable of such an act? No one knew. But this event sowed the first seeds of suspicion which flared up in the minds of the Gnomes and Dwarves. Each of them suspected the other of committing such a heinous crime, giving rise to distrust, detachment and fragmentation.

 

    By now, the spirit of war had already forced its way into the peace-loving world of Faeo in the form of the lazy, eternally belligerent Orcs, whose own way of life was nothing to be envied. According to the history books, the Orcs settled on lands but quickly exhausted all the resources through misuse. As such  they diverted all their efforts to securing the natural resources of others. The Orcs, considering such circumstances unfair, unwilling to work more than others and spurred on by their innate aggression, decided the best way, in their view, to solve the problem was to invade the lands of other creatures, intimidate the inhabitants, and seize their territory. Through such incursions they sowed the seeds of enmity between the races. Hatred began to stalk the air.

 

    The Elts Vale was as desirable for the Orcs, as it was unattainable. They understood that while the Gnomes and Dwarves were united they would not be able to conquer them. The Orcs decided to act with a bit of cunning. During the dark night, when the God of Dreams was in charge of the consciences of the Vale, an Orc spy crept up to the spring and slipped a poison into the life-giving waters. The Orcs’ plan to sow mistrust and enmity among the Gnomes and Dwarves was perfect. It worked exactly as planned. With increasing frequency, arguments flared up and factions emerged between the various representatives of each side. While they fought amongst themselves, the Orcs simply attacked the weakened races and captured their lands, piece by piece.

 

    Weakened by the petty in-fighting and the Orcs’ incursions, the Gnomes, having lost their lands and silver mines, decided they had suffered enough loss and deprivation. They gathered everyone together and by night dug a huge ditch demarcating the Gnomes’ territory from the Dwarves’, leaving the springs on their own side. When the Dwarves saw what had happened the next morning, they were overcome with anger! A war, a military conflict, the cruellest way of settling a conflict, bloodshed, an intifada...was declared! The courageous Fawlius became the leader of the Dwarves. His mother had been suffering for some time from an unknown illness, with only the springs’ healing waters keeping her alive. Blinded by rage, patriotism for his people and the fear of his losing his mother, Fawlius gathered together all the men of his race and led them to war against the Gnomes. A horrific battle broke out, heads flew, blood flowed, children were neither noticed, nor spared, and all the while the heart kept silent and reason was suspended, frozen in time. It was a war in which everyone was his own master of truth and lies. The terrible slaughter, which snuffed out thousands of lives, destroyed the world and its resources, and laid the foundations of eternal civil war, became known in history as The Incessancy. The Elts springs, the very reason for the struggles, ended up belonging to no one. Flooded with blood, they lost their miracle-working powers. The lands of the vale dried up and the air became rancid with the smell of death.



The Battle of the Humans and the Dark Elves. The Murder of Phyonius the Sage.

Long ago, when Faeo was still a blank canvas, barely touched by the flames of war, somewhere beyond the mysterious Snowy Hollow near the thick, primeval forest, the City of Leyton was founded. It was a city of the Human race, which was sedately and unhurriedly acclimatising to the world of Faeo.


The Humans, having arrived in this world, used the extensive forests as a source of raw materials for construction work. They collected berries and roots and killed the wildlife for food. The years went by, the city gradually grew and in the outskirts deposits of fossilised, wooden walls were found turned to useful stone.


The Humans began to feel more and more at home amongst their surroundings and penetrated ever deeper into the forest, which they simply and unpretentiously called Leyton Forest.


    With each passing year, delving deeper and deeper into the forest, the Humans began to stumble across strange occurrences and started noticing incomprehensible signs and tracks: the trees were decorated with cryptic symbols and there were inexplicable clearings which, when entered, caused the Humans to be seized by an unaccountable fear making them want to run as far away as possible, neither looking over their shoulder, nor thinking about where they were going. In addition to that, the Humans began to uncover the unmistakable presence of intelligent life in the forest.


Rumours began to circulate in the city. People began to talk about how entering the forest would leave you with the feeling you were being watched by someone, by some hostile being. As many Humans went into the forest hunting and gathering berries, it was not entirely unknown for Humans to disappear…What can you do, it happens? The person would get lost or a Cave Gordt would rip him to pieces, such is life in the forest, the wild hinterland of nature. But now, in light of the recent discoveries, these disappearances began to take on a new, more sinister meaning. There was a noticeable change in the atmosphere in the city. Humans went to the forest less and less, as a result of which the city’s provisions became scarce. The City Council, headed by Elder
Phyonius the Sage, decreed to organise a special armed detachment to gather provisions.


For some reason, no one has considered the fact that, apart from stories and a few strange goings-on, the theory of an alien creature has not been corroborated by anything,” Phyonius declared at a session of the Council. “But, nevertheless, if Humans are scared, we will provide security. We should not allow silly Human fears to interfere with the city’s supplies. I suppose I can accept the idea that somewhere in the forest there is a cursed place in which the still powerful remains of an ancient magic lies. But in any case we must first find this place, so that we can find out what to do.”

    The first detachment went at daybreak and returned towards evening with a healthy collection of supplies. No one had felt the incomprehensible fear, nor the penetrating gaze of someone, something. The strange signs on the tree, on this latest examination, appeared to be merely root patterns and entwined branches. The guards soon got used to the work and gradually city life returned to normal.


    However, one night, as darkness approached and the city gates were being locked, a look-out from one of the city’s watchtowers noticed a strange creature, crawling along the road by the side of the city. A mounted patrol was dispatched to investigate. The strange creature turned out to be Letzest, one of the guards sent to the forest earlier that day. His armour was bloodied, he recognised no one, was talking gibberish about walls of water, living trees and a sinister, mysterious tree, from the base of which instead of roots had grown gigantic bones.


Rumours immediately spread across the city. An emergency session of the Council was convened. Letzest was brought to his senses and taken to the Council, where they demanded more details. From his confused and fractured speech it became clear that the whole detachment, gatherers and hunters included, was most likely already dead.


    Having penetrated deeper into the forest than usual, the detachment had come across a lake, in the middle of which grew a gigantic deformed tree. The roots of the tree had emerged from the water and intertwined to form a series of isles. It was decided to strike camp here. Some of the Humans went to bathe in the lake, others pitched tents, chopped firewood and collected provisions. Everything was going well until Letzest decided to chop up a withered stump, jutting up near the water, for the camp fire. With the first blow of his axe, a wild howl rang out and he was hurled aside, striking the nearest tree. Before losing consciousness, he saw the water in the lake begin to rage and rise up into a wall, forming a chalice-like shape, which came crashing down onto the camp, sweeping it all into the lake. The roots of the gigantic tree, having turned into a yellow, bony tentacle, began to seize the Humans who were in the lake and any who were left on the shores. When he regained consciousness and how he made it to the city, Letzest could not remember.


    Having heard Letzest's story, the Council decided that this cursed place and the killer tree presented a real threat to the city and its inhabitants. Then Ander the Councillor suggested burning the strange tree, at the same time liberating the whole of Leyton Forest, using the recently discovered flammable liquid.


The next day, a significant detachment of archers left the city and set off to Leyton Forest. The detachment carried with them several barrels of liquid. Towards evening, Ander, who was leading the operation, returned without the rest of the detachment to report the results to the Council. The cursed place had been destroyed and Leyton was safe.


    Everything had turned out to be much simpler than first thought and a festival was declared in the city.


    But the next morning Leyton was woken by the beating of drums. Not knowing what was happening, the inhabitants took up their arms and rushed to City Square. A great bustle reigned across the square as the city-dwellers were hurriedly formed into detachments and sent off in all directions to the city walls. No one knew what was happening, only the rumble of the battle drums indicated that trouble was nearby. The city walls were crowded as the militia ran around, weapons and armour jangling, the archers took up their positions and the catapults were primed. Not far from the city gates, the cause of all this activity could be seen...


    Organised regiments of savage warriors, in lightweight black armour and armed with complex longbows, were approaching.

 

It's the Dark Elves,” said Phyonius, watching the whole scene from the central tower, “the servants of darkness, a long forgotten magic. But, as far as I remember, they refused contact with the outside world, devoting themselves to the study of magic and the transmogrification of themselves into higher beings, capable of leaving Faeo which, for some reason, they do not consider their native home. It is strange, they appear to have been antagonised by something. I will try and talk to them to ascertain why.”


Phyonius stepped up to the parapet of the tower and began to speak in a strong, loud voice.


Why have you come to the walls of our city with weapons in your hands? We are a peaceful people, we simply want to live, disturbing nobody, but we also wish to live without being disturbed by others. I know you, you are children of the forest, we are children of the cities and fields, we have nothing to share with each other, we can live together in peace and even help each other, exchanging knowledge.

 

    A tall elf, dressed in silver armour, emerged from the ranks and began to speak. And though he spoke quietly, his voice penetrated the ears of every inhabitant of the city, his words sowing only fear.


Your peace proposal is too late, Elder. All these years we have lived in peace with you, imposing neither our friendship, nor our problems. We did not begrudge you the forest, it is huge and there is plenty, both for you and for us. But you Humans have ruined everything. You have killed the sacred tree, Zorgal Mitael Latunakhe, the heart of the forest. Now the forest is dying and we will perish with it. And soon, so will you. But we won't wait for your end, we shall bring it to you.”


But, wait...


    A thin, quivering arrow struck Phyonius in the chest, cutting short his speech, and he stumbled back into the hands of the councillors standing behind him.

 

    This first arrow was the signal - the Elves raised their weapons and the air began to drone with the sound of bending bows. As the arrows soared upwards it was as if the ground and road in front of the city had suddenly been covered by a storm cloud. The storm cloud poured down on the city walls like a deadly rain. The defenders tried to respond, but the range of their bows and arrows and their ability to handle the weapons simply could not match that of the Elves. The Humans lost scores of fighters, the thin arrows finding their victims even through heavy armour, penetrating between the joints. Even the lightest wound caused by an arrow proved fatal because the Elves had used some sort of poison on the tip. The catapults fired from the city walls, doing there best to even out the number of victims. Heavy stones crashed into the light armour of the Elves, smashing it to pieces together with the bones inside.


    Only Ander was left alive from the Council and he took command of the battle, in spite of the missiles raining down. Having ordered the majority of Humans to hide in the towers, leaving only the master catapultists on the walls, he began to think about what to do about the worsening situation. He wasted no time reflecting on what had already happened, he did not regret the burning of the heart of the forest, he thought only of what should be done at that very moment to save the city and the Humans.


Suddenly it came to him! Why not crush the enemy, superior as it was in numbers, in the same way the tree had been destroyed?


Stepping back toward the east corner of the tower, the embrasures of which led to a giant ravine, he issued orders to two of the catapultists. Firing suddenly stopped and the Elves formed up into their columns again, creating some sort of symbol. Strange, plaintive, mournful sounds drifted over the ravine. It was as if the wind had suddenly grown sad and decided to let the world know about it. A strange song lingered over the ravine and the city walls suddenly began to buckle. The roots of a strange form emerged from the masonry, penetrating the mortar, as if gorging itself on it. Ander was the first to grasp what was happening and, having run from the tower, he leapt onto a horse in front of the cavalry who were awaiting their orders. He saw a look of condemnded resolve on the faces of the horsemen, their swords shaking nervously in their hands, betraying the knowledge of blood that was soon to flow.


Brothers,” said Ander turning to the cavalry. “For the sake of our children, for the sake of their future, it is our time to die.”


    The city walls began to crumble under the pressure of the roots growing within and whole blocks of stone began to tumble down.


We must hurry,” cried Ander. He waved his sword, giving the sign to open the gates.


Their armour gleaming, the cavalry flew out of the city gates like a bolt fired from an arbalet, finishing its flight among the elvish ranks, as they sang their song. Then the song stopped, yielding its place to another, the “Song of the Sword”. The doomed cavalry fought bravely, cruelly trampling the enemy under the horses' hooves, slashing at their heads and hands.


To the east!” ordered Ander with a wave of his bloodied sword, and the remnants of the cavalry regiment turned to follow him, hacking their way through to the nameless ravine. The regiment galloped along the edge of the ravine, losing horsemen as it went. The Elves chased after them, firing their arrows. Having dashed into the ravine, the regiment dismounted and took up defensive positions, displaying their serrated bloodied swords. Such a formation would have looked most amusing, especially to the Elves, offering as it did such a pathetic defence. But Ander had his own plan. When the surviving Elves entered the ravine and surrounded the handful of warriors, the small catapults would fire from the eastern tower. It was not stone that they were primed with, but flaming fireballs... Ander lowered his sword, looked to the heavens and smiled. Some of the ammunition fell across the entrance to the ravine, more fell on the dregs of the elvish fighters themselves. On landing, the fireballs spat their tongues of flame everywhere.

    The flames spread everywhere, surrounding the Elves who, in their horror rushed about trying to find an exit from the devil's lair in which they found themselves together with those who had led them there. Ander stood in the middle of this hell and simply laughed...His Homeric laughter drowned out the moans and cries of the Elves and Humans, imprisoned by fire. He just laughed and laughed until the flames swallowed him up and the wail of a terrible death carried across the ravine. And the catapults continued to fire, turning the ravine into a lake of fire.


    The elvish attack was repelled and the city remained standing. But it was not the same city as before. The burnt and blackened wound of the ravine under the east tower was a permanent reminder of what had happened.

 

    Leyton Forest, the source of life for the city, soon became depleted and retreated further and further. No one expected the words of the elf, spoken before the battle, would come true. But so they did. The journey to the forest became longer and longer, birds and beasts became less and less, the population of trees dramatically shrunk. The huge Leyton Forest just melted away in only a decade. At the same time, the ravine, which the Humans nicknamed Death, began to grow. The new Council did not wait for the complete death of the city. The Humans abandoned the settlement and, having given up their breeding place, left for the west where, beyond the river Smira, they founded a new city, the city of Basturiongrad. Where Leyton once lay, there remained only the massive black ravine, now known as Death Vale. Leyton Forest disappeared, as if it had never existed, and in its place there is now an empty plateau, where the wind always blows strong, carrying strange and mysterious sounds from Death Vale.


The Magmar Empire. The Human Empire.

History forgets. Now, when everything hangs by a thread and the fist of uncertainty squeezes the hearts of thousands and thousands, there are few who remember the past greatness. Who remembers how it all started? Who threw the first stone of war, which rolled across the world of Faeo, crushing everything that had been built with so much toil... The big, clumsy, powerful Magmars were never drawn towards the exact sciences. Like their culture of tribal dance and drumming, their whole way of life, based on sustenance living and studying the art of war, was only a shell behind which something else was hidden, something far deeper and far more significant.


    In the Faeo which existed in the post-Era of Change world, and had already been struck by the arrows of enmity, Magmar life was simple and frugal. They engaged in work that required no thought, only labour. Simple creatures, they produced only what was necessary for them to live. Working in the foundries and quarries, serving the mercenaries of various armies, the Magmars were satisfied with their fate. That was until...


One night, which had little to distinguish it from others, on one of the small settlements in the suburbs of Magrimar, a boy was born. His mother died in childbirth and the boy was named Andelvan, meaning “living the life of another”.


    Andelvan's father was rarely home because he belonged to one of the largest guilds of mercenaries and after the death of his wife he appeared even less, spending his time on campaigns. Andelvan's upbringing fell to his maternal grandmother, Egiam. Andelvan did not know that his grandmother was chosen by the gods as the keeper of the Rod of Fire, in which was contained the power of the Magmars. Knowing she did not have long to live, knowing she had done nothing for her people, Egiam decided to educate Andelvan as the new keeper of the Rod of Fire. In his grandmother's tales, which the young Andelvan loved to hear, the Magmars were depicted as a wise, powerful race, born not to work for others, but to command all others. The boy absorbed these stories like a sponge and when he came of age, his grandmother revealed to him the secret of the Rod of Fire.


    “I have lived a long life but was always captivated by a fear of what must be done, preventing me from using the powers given to me. I hope that you, my grandson, will not fail to lead our nation to its true place in the world of Faeo. And now this rod is yours by right. You should know that we Magmars are capable of mastering magic, but while our nation sleeps, so does this ability. In skilful hands this rod is capable of rousing our nation's sleeping knowledge.”


As Egiam passed the staff to her grandson, she noticed how the usually dim, hallowed crimson halo of light surrounding the finial suddenly blazed brightly as Andelvan's hands touched the Rod. The black flames rushed up his arms, embracing his whole figure.


Once he had grown up, Andelvan entered the guild of mercenaries as a recruit under his father's patronage. Feeling the hateful gaze in conflict of those who fought for an idea, for a truth, he re-evaluated the meaning of his life and the life of his race as a whole. Andelvan gathered together a group of like-minded Magmars, who had similiarly reflected on the state of things in the world. His ideas found passionate support amongst them and soon the state of affairs in Magrimar and its outskirts began to change. For a start, relying on the support of the guild, Andelvan took the role of city ruler. His reforms, aimed at improving the lives of simple Magmars, earned him popularity. Using the power of the Magmars, the Dwarves and the Gnomes were forced to pay their workers a fair wage. The majority of the mercenary guilds, supplying the living elements of warfare, were united into one. Now Andelvan himself set the price of war and chose his partners. It seemed that fate itself was smiling upon the keeper of the Rod of Fire. His decisions were always well-considered and thought through, and his actions correct. Nobody guessed that Andelvan was setting in motion someone else's will.
 

    At night, in his dreams, incoherent images came to him and a voice, which he had once heard in his youth when Egiam passed him the staff, spoke lucidly to him. In his dreams he understood that he was sleeping and that a voice was telling him what to do in various situations, what decisions to make. Then, when he woke, he would carry out the words of the voice, firmly believing he was acting of his own volition, making his own decisions.


    Gradually, from a disjointed, uncoordinated race, the signs of a developing empire began to manifest themselves. The city of Magrimar became the centre to which Magmars from all corners of Khair and Ogriy aspired. The empire grew, having spread its influence across both continents. Andelvan was compelled into a reckoning with the remaining races who had once reigned supreme in the world of Faeo. When the news came that a huge army of warrior Orcs was advancing from the Mentaliya Mountains, heading for Magrimar, Andelvan did not wait. An army of Magmars, personally led by Andelvan, met the Orcs on Kerarsk Plateau.


    In the savage massacre, Andelvan's star shone even brighter. It shone as bright as the army of Orcs, routed by a magic unknown to this day. The Rod, which Andelvan always carried upon his person and which not once aroused puzzled questions from his retainers, demonstrated its power. The Kerarsk Plateau was turned into a giant crucible in which Andelvan's fame was forged. After the battle, the plateau became known as the Scorched Lands.


    But the strengthening of the Magmars' position caused disquiet amongst the other races. The leaders of the Humans and the Elves were unhappy that the simple-minded Magmars had suddenly grown wiser and acquired power and strength. They did not want the Magmar race to have the right to the final say in the world of Faeo.


The representatives of the different races were fully aware of the fact that the Magmars were powerful as long as their spiritual leader, Andelvan, lived. The Human wise men, invoking the voice of the gods, had foretold the destruction of the world “at the hands of a fiery creature with a flaming staff in its hand”. That was all the motivation the Humans needed and, having come to an agreement with the Elves, they resorted to the services of the renowned school of hired assassins,
Maasdar. The fee for the service was very high and nobody knows exactly what the school's supreme hierarch, the best assassin on both continents, Goh Zanar, charged the Human and Elf representatives for his personal services. But everyone knows what it led to.


 

At the same time, the Human race began to actively develop, dictating its laws to the world of Faeo. Expanding quickly, the young Human race spread across the whole of Ogriy and parts of Khair. The Human cities, which denied their inhabitants the chance to understand what it was to live in harmony with nature, were like ugly mountains, peppering the continent of Ogriy. Each city was like a mini-state with its own laws, culture and basis.


    The biggest and most developed was Basturiongrad. This city's council was young, ambitious and wise beyond its years. Osmol was unhappy with the fragmentation of the Human race. Intelligent and tough, he understood that only by uniting their forces could the Humans become the dominant race in world of Faeo. Once he had reinforced his city and created in it one of the strongest armies, Osmol set about uniting the Humans. Ogriy was in a state of unrest, with Human settlements time and again being attacked by hordes of Orcs. When a small village near Basturiongrad was razed to the ground, Osmol had seen enough and took decisive action.


    Basturiongrad's army was divided into several mobile and well-armed regiments. A highly unambiguous directive was given to the regimental commanders and the regiments dispersed across Ogriy, leaving only a people's militia to garrison Basturiongrad. The regiments tracked down and destroyed Orc settlements, sparing no one. Often a regiment would arrive in time to help some small town which had been seized by Orcs. The councillors of these cities were ready to kiss the feet of Basturiongrad's envoys. But no such flattery was required. The proposal to unite was always met with joy and the saved city, having become the next outpost in the growing empire, began to consolidate and recruit soldiers. On the Berona Prairies and the Luan Coast, in the Silent Steppe and on Anger Heights seeds were sown, which should have led to abundant crops. In the large cities, which did not require Basturiongrad's help, Osmol preferred to act with diplomacy, cunning and bribery. In Grand Fort and on the Triver Gulf in Triverness, where the city councils, headed by military leaders, did not want to submit, the services of Maasdar school were used. The years passed and gradually the empire, the centre and capital of which was Basutrion, began to take a well-defined shape. But Osmol understood that the complete submission of all cities to a single centre required war, not local skirmishes and the rescue of filthy settlements from even filthier Orcs, but a global, triumphant war. A war, in which the empire would finally be tempered and internal political currents would stop shaking it. For such a war, a common enemy was required. The Magmars, whose cities were also found on Ogriy, arrived just in time. Osmol knew that the different races of Faeo would never live in harmony together, especially when it came to the business of intergovernmental relations. They were too different. But before beginning a war with such powerful opponents, a little meddling was necessary, in order to bring panic to the Magmars and disrupt their everyday lives, if only temporarily. A delegation of Elves, visiting Basturiongrad as part of a diplomatic mission, proposed an idea. The Elves, living in the forests, did not like how quickly these two once weak nations had risen. But the Humans were still spiritually closer to the Elves and, in particular, had not interfered in the Shuar Forest, the Elves' ancestral lands. Furthermore, the Elves believed that war between the Humans and Magmars would weaken both races, thus returning the Elves to the position of dominant race in the world of Faeo. The Elves suggested depriving the Magmar empire of its leader, by killing Andelvan. It was well known that not anyone could successfully undertake the role of Andelvan's assassin and so it was decided to turn to tried and tested methods. The Maasdar School, located in Hell's Pass, did not stop its work even in such troubled times, although its prices had risen somewhat. After negotiations with the teacher Goh Zanar, who was the school's supreme hierarch, an agreement was reached. The price was great, but it was worth it, thought Osmol, particularly as Goh Zanar said he himself would fulfill the mission, and not even the dead doubted his abilities as an assassin...especially the dead. Did Osmol know what it would lead to? Did he know what horror and chaos he was plunging the world of Faeo into? It is doubtful! He thought only about Human greatness, and he was prepared to do anything to achieve his aim.


The Assassination of Andelvan

Andelvan was deep in sleep. His recent dreams had become a kaleidoscope of delirious somnolence. Clutching the Rod of Fire to his chest, the finial resting under his chin, he had an endless argument with the voice that spoke to him in his dreams. In his dreams he realised that the voice did not come out of nowhere, but that the Rod was forcing him to perform one act after another. But when he woke, he forgot all his realisations and merely followed the instructions of the voice, resonating in his head as if his own thoughts. That night, the voice demanded the impossible from him.


    “The Magmar race,” said the voice, “is now in a dangerous situation. Our irrepressible rising is disagreeable to many and there will soon be war with many dissatisfied races. We must strike the first blow.”

    “You have trained in part your closest friends in magic. We are stronger now than ever before and perhaps than we ever will be. Deal with the other races as you dealt with the Orcs on Kerarsk Plateau,” the voice instructed.


    Andelvan tossed about in his bed and gritted his teeth. Images of burning Orcs, flailing around, entered his dreams. The destruction of the Orc army in such a way was completely senseless and savage. Of course, they did not come in peace, but still.

    “I will help you,” said the voice. “The more the power of our race grows, the more powerful I become, and you with me. Soon the forgotten magic will awaken and find its masters. Our race will rule the world, and we...”


    Andelvan was suddenly awoken by a noise. He remembered the conversation in his sleep, remembered the words spoken to him, and was suddenly struck by a realisation, enfeebling him, that all this time he had not being living his own life! He was a puppet, ruled by higher powers! The present from his grandmother Egiam, the Rod of Fire, turned out to be an evil gift, enslaving the mind of those who possessed it. Andelvan sat on the bed, through habit resting his chin on the finial, but a powerful blow to his throat knocked him flying backwards. The blow was delivered from below and a little to the side. The Rod did nothing to restrain the blade-wielding hand of a strange, freakish creature. The blade split the staff, severing the finial from the lower part and piercing Andelvan's larynx, reaching all the way to the brain. Andelvan died instantly. From under his body rose a figure, wrapped in a cloak, changing its colour and form with every movement. On the breast of the dead Andelvan lay a semicircular finial, shining with a dull crimson light. Goh Zanar stretched out his hand and took the filial. Barely had his hand touched the finial, than it blazed into a bright light and black flames ran up the assassin's arms, embracing his whole body. Goh Zanar grinned, then, swinging round, stepped straight through the wall and vanished.

 


If the Humans and Elves thought that the Magmars, without their leader, would no longer be able to wage war and would be simply tossed aside by the armies of Basturiongrad, they were severely mistaken. The death of Andelvan, foully murdered in his bedroom, roused the indignation of all Magmars. They had lost their leader, but not their government or the army's iron discipline. The Magmars set about taking their revenge.


    It was clear that the assassination had been instigated by one of the other races. But which? Many of them had their reasons. As such, Andelvan's associates took the decision to destroy them all, sparing not one soul to avenge Andelvan and show their might! The crimson flame of conflagration engulfed both continents. Several Magmar armies led, as they called it, a cleansing war, sacrificing thousands and thousands of lives for the sake of their dead leader. Only on the continent of Ogriy did the Magmars meet any resistance. Osmol's army acted defiantly and skilfully. Nevertheless, the Magmars were not possessed of the same refined intellect, which was inherent to the Human race. But they successfully filled this gap in knowledge by turning to magic. They burned and smashed the cities on both continents and in the fire perished Osmol's dream of a great Human empire.


    The Magmars, having met such fierce resistance, transferred to Ogriy all the most battle-worthy units, mistakenly assuming that there was nothing to fear on Khair because almost all the opposition races had been destroyed. But the remains of the shattered Human, Elf, Gnome and Dwarf armies, having united their remaining forces, advanced on Magrimar and Faytvor. It was an act of desperation. Magrimar did not hold out. At the moment that the remains of the united army tore into the city, the leader of the city's defence, the Magmar Ogrend, one of Andelvan's closest friends, used a terrible incantation, of which the key element was the heart of the executor. But a weak knowledge of the laws of magic played its role – the incantation, directed at the attacking army, ending up covering the whole city! Rocks burned and melted, Humans and Magmars suddenly turned to ash. It was as if the star of Mirrow had descended from the heavens, choosing Magrimar as its residence upon Faeo.


    The second army division followed the Gnomes through a secret underground path in the Ruan Mines until they found themselves under the city, built above a giant cavern. Using the Gnomes' ability to hack even the toughest rock to pieces, they attempted to bring down the whole city. They succeeded. The displacement of soil, caused by all these actions, turned the cavern into a communal grave for all who were present on that fateful day.


When this mournful news reached Ogriy, the Magmars lost their heads. The strength of those left alive was intensified many times through the hatred and grief that took root in their hearts. The river Smira, for centuries carrying calm, cooling waters, turned into a river of fire, the burning, meandering belt a giant scar cutting across all Ogriy.


    The small Human cities were completly destroyed. Of the biggest, the first to fall were Grand Fort and Triverness. When the towers and walls of Basturiongrad began to collapse, Osmol led the remains of his army into decisive battle. He knew that it was the final battle, but was determined not to sell his life, and the lives of those Humans following him, cheaply. The blow of the enemy's fiery arrows did not even leave Osmol's ashes. All that was left of him was a memory in the hearts of others, a memory of a person who wanted the Humans to rule the world of Faeo. A terrible fate also struck the Maasdar School in Hell's Pass — it was flooded with clay, turning it into a giant crypt, burying the students and teachers alive.


    The world of Faeo burned and a civilisation created over thousands of years was brought to its knees, living out its final denouement.

The war, senseless like all wars, seemed to have one aim – the complete destruction of reason in the world of Faeo. Rag-tag gangs of bandits, roaming the two continents, were all that was left of the once mighty armies. As a result of these upheavals, the creatures of Chaos began to break through the weakened fabric of the world. The spawn of this destructive magic, used so recklessly by Andelvan's friends, began to occupy Faeo – zombies, vampires, evil spirits and other creatures, so awful they do not even have names in this world. Humans and Magmars were reborn into a new irrational, aggressive world. Only the arrival of Sheara, Mistress of the Dragons, a messenger of the Gods, served to partly repair the state of things, which had done nothing to eradicate war, only endowing it with meaning and purpose.



 
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