Monday, January 01, 1990

In The Beginning...

[Chapter 2]
(Back to Introduction)
(Back to A Word on Theme and Mood)
(Forward to The Sea of Mist)

Legend speaks of another world, far from the shores of Alyria. Perhaps it was another planet. Perhaps it was Heaven itself. There the Progenitors lived in peace and harmony. But it was not fated to last. For the Outsiders rose up against the Progenitors and cast them from their home in the vault of the sky. Here, the legends conflict—some of the stories claim that the Outsiders descended upon them from the vast emptiness of space, but darker legends claim that the Progenitors delved into forbidden lore and released the dark menace. Whatever the source of these terrifying beings, the Outsiders drove out the Progenitors, forcing them to flee across the vault of Heaven to hide from their enemy.

Some of the Progenitors found this world: the world of Alyria. When they arrived, Alyria was formless and void. The air was not breatheable, and the land was desolate. Yet the Progenitors were not dismayed, for they brought with them many instruments of power. The Progenitors delved deep into the earth and constructed machines of great might to shape the world to their desires. To control these machines they built a great computer named Pheric. Many of the Progenitors operated this computer, maintained it and supervised its terraforming activity.

Slowly the land was tamed. The atmosphere became breathable. The violent storms that battered the land were tamed, bringing life and rain instead of destruction. Soon forests and grassy plains spread across the land. Where once the newcomers clustered in massive concrete bunkers or arcologies, now they built villages and cities, exulting in the wonder of the world which they had built. Yes, the raw, unfiltered atmosphere remained poisonous to them, held only at bay by Pheric and its terraforming machines—yet within the sphere of Pheric’s control, all was calm and peaceful.

The Progenitors built a culture of life and peace. Knowledge increased as scholars gathered into schools and built universities. Beauty was honored, and the cities were filled with trees and blooming flowers. No war was fought, as each man cared for his neighbor. The Progenitor culture reached its height with the construction of Kryshana. Once this city had been a harsh, sealed environment dome, with functional architecture. Now Kryshana was transformed into a beautiful city. Shade trees lined its avenues, where the scholar could walk, lost in thought, and young, carefree lovers strolled. Golden buildings rose towards the sky, welcoming the sun with upraised heads. And overhead arched the crystalline dome of Kryshana. No longer necessary, the dome was retained as an object of beauty and a monument to the past. Many were the poems written of this glittering gem of the Progenitors. Of all their creations, surely Kryshana was their greatest. It was a city of light, of beauty, of justice, of goodness, of truth.

And it is for these reasons that it was shattered.

No one understands the true nature of the dragons. Some state that they were the oldest lifeform native to Alyria and that the coming of the Progenitors disturbed their slumber. Others claim that the dragons are the darkest traits of mankind given physical form. Still others mutter that the dragons are demons, released from Hell before the proper time. Perhaps they are all correct. For in those joyous days, the dragons awoke. From their dwelling place deep in the Sea of Mist on the planet’s true surface, they felt the arrival of the Progenitors and hated them. For the dragons do not feed on flesh and blood but on the hatred, fear, and pain of others. The gentle reign of the Progenitors did not provide sufficient sustenance for them. So they began to weave their dark schemes to bring about the downfall of the Progenitors. It was far too easy.

For no man can be truly good, and even in this time of light and joy, darkness yet gnawed at men’s hearts. Some sought more power than their station permitted. Some wished more riches or land and grumbled in discontent. Others, it must be said, simply reveled in the thought of bloodshed or pain caused to another. The dragons could sense the darkness in these men’s heart. Appearing to them in their dreams, the dragons promised to fulfill their dark desires. Power to the power-hungry. Wealth to the greedy. Pain to the sadistic. And so it was, as the Progenitors’ golden age spread over the land, a dark force arose to oppose it. The cancer of the dragon cultists spread throughout the land, and when the moment was right, they struck.

A thousand thousand pages of agony and woe would not suffice to tell the tale of those days. Across the continent, the dragon cultists launched one coordinated attack, knocking out communication stations, destroying electrical generators, disabling terraforming processors, and disrupting roads and transportation. Resistance was weak at best. During the long ages of peace, the Progenitors had largely forgotten the harsh arts of war. So the dragon cultists had their way. In Kryshana, a worse desecration was performed. Cultists discovered the biological weaponry of the ancients that had been sealed away and detonated a bomb filled with ripper plague in the streets of the city. The trees withered, and the people began to die, ravaged by the terrible disease. Winds spread the plague far and wide. And then the dragons themselves attacked. Thousands poured from the Sea of Mist, ravaging and slaughtering. It is said that the sky rained fire and blood in those days. Men killed their loved ones before killing themselves, trying to spare them the horror of the ripper plague. Cultists mad with blood lust, swarmed through the ruins, raping and slaughtering, destroying and desecrating while overhead the dragons themselves hurled fire and drank deep of the carnage. The forests burned. The cities convulsed. And in the shattered ruins of the dome of Kryshana, a few survivors prayed for death. Legend claims that the crystal rain of shattered glass in Kryshana sounded like weeping as the city mourned her lost children and her own death.

It was not a war. It was not a conquest. It was a rape. The Rape of Alyria.

In the mountains, the scientists that tended Pheric saw what was happening. They saw their world being destroyed around them. Yet they knew that if there was to be any chance of victory, any chance of rebuilding, Pheric must survive. They made their difficult choice. Gathering as many refugees as possible, they retreated to their subterranean strongholds and sealed the entrances with explosives.

Yet not all was lost. The Progenitors still maintained their military force, ever vigilant for an attack from the stars. The stunning surprise attack destroyed much of their ability to communicate, yet here and there small units of troops resisted. Many were overrun. Yet some were successful in pushing back the cultists hordes. Many soldiers rallied to Kryshana, where the five supreme commanders of the armed forces personally led the defense of the city. For three long days battle raged in the streets of Kryshana. Bodies smouldered in the streets as howling lunatics raved in the burning ruins of the parks, their minds shattered by what they had seen. One by one the defenders died. Slowly they were pushed back. Slowly they were slaughtered.

And then the Lord of Pain arrived to take personal charge of the fight. If any could be called the leader of the dragons, it would be him. His mere presence was overwhelming. Men fled screaming as he swooped upon them, tearing them apart. But one man did not run. One man did not flee. As the Lord of Pain bore down upon him, he held his ground, waiting. And as the huge dragon bit him in half at the waist, he released the fusion grenade that he held. The explosion shattered the Lord of Pain.
Without their leader, the dragons were disorganized and confused, bereft of will and focus. Screaming with rage, they retreated into the Sea of Mist. Without the dragons, the cultists faltered in their attack. The defenders were able to rally. The cultists were cut down in droves. Soon they were in mass retreat, seeking refuge in the forests and hills of the wilderness.

But what remained to the survivors? The colony was shattered. Communication between cities was severed. Kryshana lay in smoking ruins. The dragons had been driven off, but their goal seemed to have been achieved.

The five generals took charge. They knew that no one could be spared to discover the fate of the rest of the colony. They would have to survive on their own. The generals made some difficult decisions. Kryshana would remain under martial law for the duration of the emergency. All food and critical supplies would be under military jurisdiction. Hoarding would be punishable by death. Every man would be required to perform part-time military service. Anyone demonstrating symptoms of the ripper plague would be summarily executed to prevent the disease from spreading. One day, they hoped that these measures would not be necessary. One day, life would return to normal.

One thousand years have passed since the Rape. Under the rulership of the Five Noble Houses, the Citadel has risen from the ruins of Kryshana. Within its walls, men bow down to Pheric, the god of Iron and Thunder, and pay homage to the Keepers, priests of this fearful god. Where trees and gardens once grew, now there stand factories, clanking and hissing. In the streets, animated by Pheric’s divine power, the Restored dead walk again. Above the city hangs the Web, a city within a city, a refuge for the criminal, the outcast, the Misbegotten, the Blessed. Mistships once again sail on the Sea of Mist, seeking new lands and new discoveries. The Citadel once again puts forth its might.

But all is not well in the world of Alyria. Far to the east, another nation has arisen. Tales speak of the Ark, where all the people wear masks to hide their faces and have no names. Monsters roam the wilderness, ravaging isolated villages and destroying trade caravans. Dragon cultists still worship in dark and hidden places and infiltrate the halls of power, seeking to return their masters to the surface. A schism has torn apart the Keeper faith, turning brother against brother and threatening to reveal the true nature of their god. The world is balanced on a knife’s edge.

And one night as the Dragon Winds howled through the Citadel, a new moon rose above the horizon. A red moon. A blood moon. And as it passed through the sky, a rain like blood fell upon the land, and those that saw it wept. For the sign was clear. The ancient enemy from the stars had discovered them. The Outsiders had returned.

Welcome to the world of Alyria.

(Forward to The Sea of Mist)


Post a Comment

<< Home