The Final Age
“Red stains the ground and orange lights the heavens under the fires of war.” - Prophet Everias, the third Elvin seer, Queen to Termias the Wise
“Gold is red and greed is God.” - An Ancient Proverb of the Second Age
In the Second Age, Daerval is a world on the brink of ruin. Chaos and corruption rides on the seven winds—from the sprawling cities, to the vast, nearly uninhabited wilds, the lands churn in turmoil as the Twelve Kingdoms vie for power and dominion. Nine of the twelve, called the Great Kingdoms, are Cities as ancient as time, bearing the sigil of old, one of the nine elements—wind, water, fire, flesh, stone, tree, metal, moon and sun. Yet the Nine struggle to hold their dominion as three new kingdoms rise to power. Using deception, they align themselves with a mysterious power, a dark and nameless city that rises from the ashes of war.
In their quest for power and land, a wake of treachery and depravity seeps from every household, filling the once-safe streets of the great Kingdoms. Thrones disappear within the night and the elemental beings, Dryads, sprites and giants that once flourished throughout the lands, vanish almost entirely. Bountiful kingdoms like Menari and Tegard are left desolate, burning in the high sun. Men are twisted, turned to shells of their former selves, as others wander the lands, hollow and bedraggled.
In this time, the elves rise to stop the tide of darkness, stepping out of their sacred forest, Eldas. Yet even they find themselves quickly outnumbered as their lands dwindle. Their forest and plains kindred soon fall to annihilation, and it seems all is lost as the might and greed of the human kingdoms encroach from all sides, and the power of the shadowy city is too much.
In a last attempt to slow destruction, before they retreat into their magical woods, the elves construct a great wall, a Gate that divides the lands—Farhaven, a land of magic, from Daerval, the land devoid—all in an attempt to keep the power of the three kingdoms at bay. But the corruption is too deep, and the power of the dark kingdom is too great.
All is feared lost.
In this moment, a figure arrives, some say from the far east, beyond the Burai Mountains, crossing through the endless deserts, while others say from the west, appearing over the water, walking without ship or sail. Yet nine men follow at his side. The robed stranger is greeted in fear, yet wandering, desolate souls begin to follow his steps, a light entering their hollow eyes as more flock to his side in droves. With a legion of the lost at his side, the robed figure makes his way across the land—in his wake, wars are halted, and armies part by his mere presence. And for a moment, even the dark cities halt their plotting in curiosity.
Seeking the leaders of the nine, true Great Kingdoms, the figure presents an offer. A gift of nine magical swords in return for a binding oath—an oath that binds the nine men who follow him as the rightful bearers of the swords, and the right-hand men to the future kings and queens. Moreover, he imparts a prophecy that must be engraved within each city for all to see for all time:
Upon the fires,
The Ronin ride,
Their tale to sing,
One of pride.
But mark this tale,
For all will fall,
With the Kage’s Call--
Pride will twist to fear.
The Return to come,
To cast all in burning red--
Yet one to see through scarlet lens,
With sword of gold, upon the Gate must hold.
To fight the Crowns;
The dark citadel;
And the men who are not
What they appear to be.
At last, to lead the Nine all as One,
Against the Giants whose strength is won,
There is no hope ‘gainst peerless beings--
Yet the weapon true stills rests
To unsheathe the light of sanctity.
In return, the robed man promises their rule, along with the oath, will end the rebellion through the land and silence the three dark cities.
The Kings, men of reason, and at their wits’ end, quickly concede. Word spreads of the binding pact, and the people of the land, filled with hope, return to the cities, and soon the dark whispers that once plagued every ear are snuffed; then, with the nine men at their side, the Nine Kingdoms band together with all their forces, and ride to war to quell the treacherous dark three. The battle is fierce, but with the Ronin at their side, the tide is swiftly turned. The world rejoices as the great kings burn the evil cities to the ground, and leave the dark war machines to rot in the open sun, never to speak of them again.
Peace ensues, and the nine men who bear the magical swords are deemed the rightful heroes, sung on every bard and minstrel’s tongue, from every low tavern to royal inn. They become the peacekeepers of men, elf and all other kind, known by one name only…
Several years pass, and some attempt to revert to their old ways of greed and injustice, though each is dealt a swift retribution, and at the hand of the Ronin who storm the cities to the throne and dispatch the head of any ruler, be it King, or Queen who attempt to threaten the peace of the land. Soon they are no longer men, but legends larger than life.
In this moment, peace is found, and the age is deemed the Final Age, and as the era ensues, all seems destined to live in peace forever. Yet, the pain and sorrow, not long behind them, threatens to rise again as all things are destined for change…
The Great War
In the wake of the dark cities treachery, the world of Daerval and Farhaven find solace. However, the lands continue to divide: Daerval becomes a land of those who greatly fear magic, and Farhaven, a land filled with magic, that holds most of the Great Kingdoms.
Time passes and the lands rebuild. Five centuries later, the world is a civilization at the pinnacle of its age. Once ravaged villages along the coasts begin to prosper, while towns and cities inland spring from the ashes, rising higher than ever before. Even the magical beings, thought to be lost, begin to reappear. Harmony spreads throughout the lands: from the blood tribes of the wilds, to the rival kingdoms of Menari and Tegard.
All as a result of the Ronin.
The Ronin’s presence ushers peace, their steps a symbol of sanctity. With the might of the magical blades in their hand, and a strange power at their call, none dare to upend the tranquility. They hold a power unto themselves, and even the Great Kingdoms fear to upset their entrusted advisors.
United, the Great Kingdoms also stand as a symbol—a glorified bastion of hope, sprawling over the lands, ushering peace and prosperity. Each kingdom embodies one of the ancient elements: Wind, for the mighty kingdom of Morrow, in the windy high cliffs of Ren Nar that oversee the world; Water for the kingdom of Seria within the glorious falls, often called the City of Tranquility; Tree for the Kingdom of Eldas, a magical and enchanted woods with the glowing city suspended in the vast trees; Stone for the impenetrable bastion of Lander, their walls purported to be thicker than small cities, fortified within the rocky Crags; Moon for the city of Narim, coveted in the dark hills—half above, and half beneath the land’s crust, a vast, subterranean gem; Rising Sun for the shining keeps of Vaster, like alabaster jewels, always in the dawn’s light; Metal for the city of Darmin, back against the Deep Mines, a land of billowing steam and gleaming steel, forged by the million strong that man the forges, including the Grand Forge within the Golden Hall; Fire for the dark Citadel whose incantations ignite the night sky—a Reaver’s blood burns with fire; and at last, the kingdom of Flesh, a city of men and women, and beast, who labor tirelessly day and night and spread the tenements of the Mortal Being, the largest spiritual sect of all the lands. The Great Kingdoms each called the Shining Jewels, all glowing in the dawning sun of civilization.
Yet all was not meant to last, and those that rise the highest, have the farthest to fall. In this time of glory, a strange shift occurs. In the dark night, one of the nine magical blades is stolen. The theft creates panic and dread among all people and cities—fearing the stories of the chaos that had erupted before. The Ronin, the guardians of the blades, are blamed for the theft in an attempt to quell the rising fear, and they are banished from the lands. Peace lasts for a short while, until a strange malevolence spreads its way through the minds of many, and soon cities turn upon one another in their fear.
The Great Kingdoms are helpless, and soon, even they turn on one another.
The Ronin, still outcast, have no part, as the once Shining Jewels split, then clash in war with all their great and terrible might. Two alliances are forged—one called the Alliance of the Righteous, and the other, called simply Sanctity, dividing the nine kingdoms. Wars and battles rage fiercely for nearly two hundreds years as the great commanders and legions shed blood on the once-green lands.
Then, in the midst of chaos and destruction, a strange and terrible strain of darkness grows. Beasts appear from the east, from a blighted land most had forgotten, massive creatures heard only in stories, and tall frightening nightmares. They side with the Alliance of Righteous. Swiftly, with the creatures at their side, the tide is turned, and the once human legion of the Alliance is turned to a tide of black. Over the course of more bloody battles, strange nightmares appear, beings seemingly made from mist that no mortal can slay. Shortly after, striding out of the darkness and death, emerge nine men. They lead the dark armies, taking the place of the commanders; they are more like nightmares than men, with their faces cloaked and wreathed in black.
They become known by one ill, feared name—the Kage. Their strange powers seem to match the Ronin’s and with the dark armies at their back, all seems lost once again.
At this time, a last gathering is called.
The Ronin, the once-outcasts are beckoned, begged to attend the gathering held in the Grand Temple, the great hall within the Kingdom of Wind. By now, it is well known the armies of Sanctity dwindle quickly and all seems lost. The great commanders plead the aid of the Ronin, for all know the forces of the Alliance are too awful and great with the aid of the beasts.
The once-sung heroes, knowing this, join the side of Sanctity.
In an all out effort to stave off the Alliance and their nightmarish horde that know no limit of cruelty, Sanctity unites the last of their forces under one banner with the Ronin at their head, and upon the rolling Green Hills, they make their last stand against the endless sea of the dark army. However, in this moment, the leader of the Ronin, Kail turns mad, according to all accounts and leaves the Ronin, his brothers. Some say he disappeared into the Lost Woods, others, to beyond the Gates for safety, turned by the loss of a beloved or by the sight of too much blood. Either way, he becomes known as the Traitor.
The battle ensues and the dark army with the Kage at their front, clash with the remaining forces of good… yet a trick was done, and the armies of good vanish as if they were never there, and in their place, stand only the eight Ronin, fighting the unstoppable tide of darkness.
The last armies of Sanctity, with the precious time the Ronin afforded them, flee the field of battle and head for Death’s Gates. There, they close the Gates behind them, and hold off the dark legion’s advance. Two hundred years the battle at the Gates rages, turning the Gate’s White Plains red with scarlet blood; the gates become known as Death’s Gates. Yet the dark forces are halted at the Gates, as they cannot enter Farhaven without the key. The darkness known as the Kage and their horde, sift away, fading into the winds and into the land.
Yet there is little cheer—while Farhaven remains, Daerval is destroyed, now a crumbling remains of a once-glorious land. Slowly, the few survivors rise from the ruins to rebuild the land, yet fearing the chaos still. For the darkness waits for another age, to finish what they began, what bards and prophets deem The Return…