For the release of Armies of Myth, we decided to describe some of the places that have played important roles in the living history of Entrath. Perhaps you will even be able to visit some of these places in the upcoming campaign…
|Ambling Mesa||The Cave-In|
|The Wrathwood||The Pyramid of the Exalted Emperor|
“It is difficult for us, today, to imagine human society as it existed before Hex. We have always been farmers, masons, scholars, merchants, bureaucrats, and soldiers. We built our villages, tilled our fields, raised our children, and looked to our kings and queens for guidance and governance.
Humans are not an innately magical race. Unlike elves or coyotle or even orcs, everything that humans have accomplished came from our own innovation and determination. If a wall needed to be built, all a bricklayer needed was mortar and a trowel. If an arrow needed to be fired, an archer would pull back the string using the strength he was born with, nothing more.
If you can believe it, humans of that time actually looked down upon the “magical” races. They felt that an innate aptitude with Wild Magic made the elves aloof and their culture stagnant. The coyotle were our close allies, but they were also seen as too complacent, too mired in archaic traditions. Human achievement never manipulated nature’s fundamental laws.
Then, 2300 years ago, Hex arrived.
The ground swayed and buckled, reducing even the most magnificent structures to rubble. Entire seas sloshed over their banks, flooding the lowlands. Billowing plumes of ash turned the sky an inky gray, hiding the sun and causing crops to shrivel. There were years of extreme unpredictable weather, famine, and rampant disease. Starvation led to social unrest, with the fires from the riots further blackening a dark sky. Carloth seemed on the brink of ruin.
King Herold IV was a good man and a caring monarch, but wholly unequipped to deal with the devastation that the impact of the meteor caused. In truth, nobody could be.
On a frigid winter morning, a shivering farmer stumbling amongst his fallow fields found a glowing red gem amongst the dry soil. It was hot to the touch. Desperate, he brought the ruby into his home and used it to start a cooking fire, warming his family and heating his soup pot.
A chunk of diamond had landed on the outskirts of a remote hamlet. The villagers found that when they stood close to the clear white gem, the aching symptoms of their ailments would diminish. The town elder soon discovered that when certain kinds of wounds were pressed up against the diamond, they would be completely healed.
A young boy playing in a wood found a brilliant blue sapphire. If he held the gem in his hand and waved his arms in a certain pattern, his feet lifted from the ground and he floated towards the treetops.
The Elder Council of Adamanth summoned the most astute thinkers to the capital city of Carloth with the mandate to study these bizarre gems. They soon realized that while it was possible that the arrival of Hex could doom humanity, the colored gems the meteor’s impact had been scattered across the lands could be their salvation.
The scholars and scientists that had gathered in Adamanth to study Hexing Gems soon became known as the Cloister. Their mandate was to learn as much as they could about the alien gems in the service of humankind. More than 23 centuries later, we are still learning about the inconceivably vast power of Hexing Gems.
Over time, a stone tower was built for the Cloister that would become one of the largest human-built structures in the world, rivaled only by its neighbor, the majestic Citadel of Adamanth. While the scholars that the Cloister houses still consider themselves to be intellectuals, the intensity of their devotion has taken on an ecclesiastical bent. A life of study in the Cloister is one of piety and sacrifice.
The humans of B.H. (Before Hex) scoffed at magic. Now, it is an intrinsic element of human life on Entrath. The gems cure our diseases, inspire us in battle, and allow us to manipulate natural laws to our advantage.
One must wonder if we have perhaps become too dependent on the Hexing Gems. We still do not fully understand them and I doubt we ever will. What if their power is finite? If they all were to stop working one day? Would humanity be able to return to a simpler life? Could modern humans function without our diamonds, rubies, and sapphires?
Have the Hexing Gems merely delayed our inevitable ruin?”
The mesa wanders. Its destination and reasons for wandering are unknowable. It wanders, and that is all we know, all we need to know.
It has ambled for centuries. If the Mesa is trying to get somewhere, it is in no rush. It moves about the length of a fox’s tail every turn of the moon. It may spend a few decades crossing the Howling Plains, then turn around and wander back where it came from for a few more decades. Or suddenly turn west, or south.
What it never does is stop.
A tight-knit community of coyotle live on the mesa’s back. It is large enough to have a field to grow a few crops, a small lake for drinking water, and several tipis to shield the mesa-dwellers from the elevated winter winds.
It moves slow enough that from moment to moment, the folk who live atop the mesa feel no sense of motion. But as the months and years pass, the wandering of the mesa have taken them somewhere. There is a certain liberation in knowing that even if you stand in one place, seemingly motionless, you are still being carried someplace else.
In a way, we all stand upon our own ambling mesa. We are being carried elsewhere, even if we stand still. We may think our own feet control our path, but really we are being borne along by something larger and more inexorable than we can understand.
There is no real destination, only the journey.”
EMILIA: How now, where hath I been brought by my careless wanderings? The trees loom, the sky fades to darkness. Not a squeak or squawk to be heard. What manner of infernal grove dost this be?
[ALONSO enters stage left, stumbling and bleeding. He falls. EMILIA crosses to him.]
EMILIA: Good sir, thou art grievously bruised! Here, mayhap a sip of water shall revive you from your injurious stupor!
[ALONSO sips from EMILIA’s waterskin and coughs.]
ALONSO: Forsooth, good woman. Thou art my savior. I didst believe my life to be forfeit! That I would never escape the Wrathwood to see another living face, let alone one of such exquisiteness.
EMILIA: Prithee, sire, didst I hear thee rightly? Thou hast fled from the Wrathwood?
ALONSO: Aye! This cursed glade abuts the fabled bleak forest itself. Dost thou not know … [coughs] I beseech you, m’lady, for another sip from thy waterskin?
EMILIA: Of course, of course. Drink thy fill. I doth be ashamed to admit that in my afternoon reverie, I payed little care to the path of my travels. Tell me, sire, how didst thou find thyself amidst the Wrathwood?
ALONSO: My thanks, again, for sharing thy drink. I am but a humble merchant, one of a caravan on its way to Aryndel Palace. I parted from my compatriots for what I thought would be a brief respite to answer nature’s call, but soon I found myself amongst unfamiliar surroundings. Lost and alone, with darkness pressing upon me!
EMILIA: What a ghastly predicament! Oh, poor sir!
ALONSO: Aye. I know not how many days I drifted, but what sights I beheld! Each step brought me towards a unique horror with homicidal intent. Trees that walked and swung at my head with their heavy branches! Squirrels twice as tall as me that spat fire from their hideous maws! Elemental creatures made of earth and water and lightning formed into a brutish shape chased me unrelentingly! And the deer … the deer!
EMILIA: Did the deer of the Wrathwood take on an indescribably monstrous form?
ALONSO: No. There were just a lot of deer.
EMILIA: My poor sir, it sounds as if you have survived the trials of the damned.
ALONSO: Indeed, good woman. The Primals themselves would fear venturing into the Wrathwood. Now that I have, by their grace or by luck or both, emerged from the cursed wood with my life intact, I pledge to be far more careful with my wanderings and never again diverge from the well-trod path.
EMILIA: And yet, thou still carries thy gold purse. In thy enfeebled condition, thou shalt never reach Aryndel Palace carrying such a heavy load. Here, good sir, allow me to assist you by relieving thee of thy burden.
[EMILIA snatches ALONSO’s gold purse. She runs offstage, dancing and laughing.]
ALONSO: Thieving mountebank! Thou honey-tongued swindler! Come back! Come … back …
[ALONSO collapses to the ground. CURTAIN.]
“Mazat”, in orcish, means “path to the core of the world”.
The crater is a ten-mile-wide hole on the southern edge of Quash Ridge. Orc garrisons are stationed along the perimeter of the crater to defend against invasion from below. The vennen made a few feeble attempts to crawl up from the muck of their underground bogs a long time ago, but we beat them back so decisively that they haven’t tried it again. Of course, that doesn’t mean they never will again. We must remain vigilant.
Each of the high watchtowers built around the crater has an orb blown of thick glass and filled with flammable gas. In the event of a vennen invasion or some other nasty creature decides to crawl up the side of the crater from below, the orb can be lit in an instant, alerting all the other garrisons around the perimeter to the presence of trouble.
Orc legends say that Mazat was Kog’tepetl’s original resting place. Back then, the surrounding lands were flat and bare, with only Kog’tepetl’s head jutting up from the level plain.
The orcs of that time took their lives for granted. The farmland soil of the flatlands provided bountiful harvests and the local creatures were easily tamable. The orcs gave their blood offerings to Kog’tepetl, but over time, their diligence became lax. Their lives held too little struggle, so they got used to the idea that sacrifice was not necessary to sustain their existence.
Enraged at the dwindling number and volume of blood offerings, Kog’tepetl pushed himself up from the ground and went on a rampage. He destroyed the orcs’ farms, ate all of their animals, crushed their comfortable shelters to splinters. He repeatedly smashed his fists upon the ground, forever burying the lush and fertile soil beneath layers of gray rock.
By the time he ceased his frenzy, Kog’tepetl had transformed the formerly flat landscape into the jagged mountains of Quash Ridge. He settled himself amongst the peaks, keeping his head help up, the highest of them all.
The orcs, humiliated and forced to eke out their existence in the now barren rock of Quash Ridge, swore that never again would they allow their god to go unappeased. From that day forward, Kog’tepetl would never lack for blood or sacrifice, a promise we have held to this day.
Mazat Crater is the hole that Kog’tepetl left behind when he decided to make his displeasure known. It serves to remind us that provoking the Mountain Father’s ire has grim consequences.”
It’s a question that has plagued human scholars for centuries. If necrotic are formed from the corpses of humans native to Entrath, how was the first necrotic “awakened”?
It all began, ironically enough, with a human cleric.
His name was Brother Erasmus. He lived in the time we now know as B.H. (Before Hex). A more pious, charitable man has rarely walked upon the face of Entrath. He was a devoted educator, specializing in the study of human royalty. He enthusiastically taught children of the long and glorious history of the kings and queens that built the human realms of Carloth.
Brother Erasmus began to have unsettling dreams. When he closed his eyes at night, he saw a bizarre, multi-colored chunk of crystal sailing through the night sky, then slamming into the ground at his feet. The dream, which recurred for months with only slight deviations, felt so real that Erasmus began to question which part of his life was reality and which was the dream.
Over time, the dreams would gain added details, such as the impact of the massive crystal scattering gems of various sizes across the landscape in every direction Erasmus would turn.
Erasmus told nobody of his vivid night visions, fearing the deterioration of his sanity.
Then, the dreams began to change. He now saw himself walking through a necropolis of ancient tombs, floating above the scene as if he were a ghost. He watched himself gathering pieces of glowing white gems he knew were diamonds into a satchel. He then saw himself push aside the lid of a sarcophagus. Inside lay the corpse of King Alfred IV, known as “Alfred the Astute” before his death when Erasmus was a child. He saw himself placing two of the diamond gems into the empty eye sockets of King Alfred, then watching the corpse sit up and look at him with a knowing expression.
This dream occurred again and again, with the only variation being a different ancient king or queen he would “awaken” with the strange gems. Erasmus became convinced that these visions were being sent to him by the spirits of the ancient kings themselves. The dreams meant that the ghosts of his beloved monarchs would soon demand of him a great and noble deed.
Then Hex arrived, exactly as Brother Erasmus had seen it in his dreams. He realized the time had come to fulfill the visions given to him by the ancients. He set out to find the necropolis he had seen in his dreams, collecting diamond gems along his way.
Erasmus found the massive chunk of Hex that had settled deep underground near the entrance to the ancient crypts. Excited and humbled to be finally serving the will of the noble spirits, he promptly began opening tombs and placing diamond gems in the eyes of all the kings and queens that had not yet rotted completely to dust.
As they had in his dreams, the corpses of the ancient monarchs “awakened”. Brother Erasmus was pleased to discover that they could move and even speak. But when Erasmus would talk with the awakened kings and queens, they seemed to have no recollection whatsoever of their former lives. Though they still looked like their former selves, the beings he had “awakened” each had an alien consciousness and an agenda that had nothing to do with him.
Erasmus felt betrayed and humiliated. The dreams had not come from the ancient kings after all. The visions had lied to him.
Once the creatures he had unwittingly “awakened” began creating more of their number from other corpses, Brother Erasmus realized the enormity of what he had done. He committed suicide by burning himself to death, ensuring that his corpse could never be used as an “awakened”.
The massive diamond that still sits in the Necropolis is what we necrotic now call Volosolov. We thank Brother Erasmus for finding it and allowing his blind devotion to his beliefs to obscure his wisdom and help us “awaken”. The Underworld, and all we have achieved, would not have been possible without him.”
I will say this, though. This whole project comes down to one thing: timing. You collapse a few forests, or hell even a whole continent, you’re going to cause a lot of destruction, maybe even wipe out a civilization or two. But you’re also going to have a lot of survivors. They have a fair chance of escaping somewhere else, some place safe.
The trick is getting the entire surface of the planet to collapse all at once. That way, ain’t nobody got no refuge. It all falls down in one fell swoop, boom, the end. And that’s gonna take timing.
So yeah, we’re digging, but we gotta be careful not to dig too much in one place at one time. We gotta keep it all propped up so that the ground feels nice and solid to those surfacers … until it ain’t anymore.
Of course, if we stay too quiet, those surfacers up there start suspecting we’re up to something. So we gotta keep ‘em busy with a War Bot Dropship attack here, a cannon volley there … you know, make sure their attention is diverted. Don’t want them figuring out what’s actually happening just below their feet.
Yeah, I realize that the Cave-In is gonna kill a bunch of our so-called “allies”. Ask me if I care. I’m getting tired of those necrotic bossing us around, they ain’t even from this planet. The shin’hare never stop blabbing about how wonderful they are, and the vennen are just plain creepy, if you ask me.
That’s why a robot is always your best ally. A bot knows when to keep its mouth shut and do what its told.”
“Mortals are mortals. Primals are primals. One has never become the other.
And one never will, if I have any say in it.
There are five major noble houses in shin’hare society: Tsaun’junn, Moon’ariu, Winda’jin, Eurthu’kin, and Mist’oromo. For centuries beyond memory, these noble houses have been connected by the Spirit of Harmony.
According to the laws of the Spirit of Harmony, when an Exalted Emperor dies, a shogun from the next noble house in the circle is chosen to become the next Emperor. So, if an Emperor from House Moon’ariu dies, a shogun from House Winda’jin is selected to become the next Emperor, and on and on the wheel turns.
Most Emperors are chosen near the end of their lives, so they typically serve for 10 to 20 years before they are claimed by death. A rare few lived beyond the typical lifespan, but no shin’hare Emperor in history had ever held the position for more than three decades.
Our current Exalted Emperor, Ito, comes from House Tsaun’junn. He has been Emperor for 150 years.
Ito’s life has been extended beyond all natural laws through Blood Magic rituals overseen by his warlock brother, Yazukan, who some claim is even older than his sibling.
What I’m about to tell you is highly treasonous. I expect you to keep your mouth shut unless you want your throat sliced open. There have been whispers amongst powerful and disgruntled members of the noble houses that the time has come to restore the Spirit of Harmony. Of course, this means Ito has to die.
In truth, it should come as no surprise to Ito and Yazukan that the other noble houses are conspiring against them. Several generations of Moon’ariu shogun have lived and died waiting for their turn at the Emperor’s throne. Their impatience is understandable, let alone my house, Winda’jin, who have not sat upon the throne in more than two centuries.
It is obvious that Emperor Ito and Yazukan seek immortality. Perhaps they even have delusions of raising themselves to the level of Primals. The idea seems laughable, but so is the idea of forever halting the Spirit of Harmony.
Deep in the Monsagi jungle, shroomkin slaves are constructing the Pyramid of the Exalted Emperor. Note the singular form of both “pyramid” and “Emperor”, as if they assume that there shall be one of each in perpetuity.
Some noble houses believe patience is all that is necessary, that the Ito and Yazukan will eventually lose control of their deviant Blood Magic rituals and be consumed by them. That hasn’t happened yet, and some of us believe it never will. Waiting is not the proper course of action.
Speaking of assassinating the Exalted Emperor is beyond treasonous. It is blasphemous. But the Spirit of Harmony must be restored. My blade is ready.”
-Monsuun, Shogun of Winda’jin
One of the stories it tells is how the Lake of Blood that lies at the bottom of Mazat Crater was formed. We believe it is the blood of Xum the Weaver, who created existence by weaving the stars in the sky and the stone of the ground.
When Xum was finished weaving reality, she pierced herself with her own leg. The blood from The Weaver’s wound flooded the world and kept it submerged for 8000 years. Eventually, the tides of The Weaver’s blood ebbed. What remains of the flood still exists today as the Lake of Blood.
A massive spear, 50 feet high, sticks out of the lake. Different races have various theories about what the spear is or where it came from, but we vennen know the truth. The “spear” is actually Xum’s leg, the one she used to stab herself.
The Lake of Blood is sacred to our people. We built the glorious city of Nazhk on its shores. Xentoth is the Primal of Blood Magic, and the lake is the living source of Her Dominion.
The shrieks of heretics echo amongst the city’s stone walls. If you listen carefully, you can occasionally hear the muffled groans of the incubation slaves providing sustenance for the spiderlings, also known as Xentoth’s infants.
Speaking of slaves, the orcs have a ridiculous belief that Mazat Crater was formed when their so-called “Mountain God” stood up and started walking around. It is a childish story believed by dull minds. Mountains don’t just wander away. Of course people who worship rocks would come up with such a ridiculous tale.
The Arachnomicon says that the Crater, like all of Entrath, was woven by Xum the Weaver exactly as it is today. Blessed be the creation of the Weaver. Blessed be her blood. Blessed be Nazhk, the city of the Spider Mother.