Harbingers

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Dillia's diary.[2]

I was a child when they first appeared in the night’s sky. At first there were three distinct lights. Not quite the brightest in the sky, but they were bright enough. My mother told me that they were a sign from the Gods, that the world was about to change. She had a sense for these types of things. A long line of women in my mother’s family were Oracles. Written on one of the many tablets in the Great Halls of King Grimlaey, is the story of my Great-Grandmother, the Royal Court’s Regent Oracle, and how she foretold the rise of the Undying during the Great War.

As the days grew to months, and months into years, the lights in the night’s sky grew in number. The priests in the temples began to refer to the lights as Harbingers. Upon my graduation from the Master Stonecutters University, the lights numbered 16. Each passing month, the lights grew in brightness and size.

It didn’t take long for things to change in Dünheim. Families that I had grown up with, began to move away from the city in the heart of the Mountain. Travelers became less common, and temple services were filled every day with new converts seeking answers about the Harbingers and what they meant. My mother wanted to leave the city as well, but my father wouldn’t hear it. His auction house is what kept food on the table, and my brothers were both in the Council Guard. There was no way my father was going to be seen leaving the mountain. Honor and respect meant more than life itself, and my father had great pride in my brothers. Despite my mother’s persistence to leave the city, we stayed.

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Ashes of Creation Apocalypse lore

Chapter 1: The Exodus

Week 1

Entry 1 - City Havoc
The worst thing that the Harbingers brought was not the Others, but the corruption that they spread. It twists and distorts everything it touches. It whispers in the ears of men, and guides their hands toward terrible ends. There does not seem a means to stop it - our prayers do nothing, our spells are ineffectual. The awful truth is that the Others could simply watch as we burned Verra to ash ourselves.[3]
Entry 2 - Terrorwraith
The Terrorwraith is a creature of nightmares, in the most literal sense. It takes form from those who sleep during a manastorm - essence made life through the incomprehensibly strong emotions present during these moments. Once it takes its first breath, the Terrorwraith seeks out more prey, desperately hungry for those emotions that created it. It can be killed, but it cannot be stopped, for it is born again the next night. Be as the Terrorwraith, and never stop in your hunt.[4]
Entry 3 - Cleric Training
Avenita followed Creation devoutly, and took her charge seriously. When He-Who- Groveled snatched her dear friend up in one of those massive tentacles and ate him in one quick slurp, Avenita wasted no time. She pierced the beast's belly with a lance of golden light, shoved her hand into the entrails, and pulled out her friend's lifeless corpse. She then channeled the energy of Creation, bringing his spirit back to his body, and sent him back to the fight.[5]
Entry 4 - A Blunt Instrument
Brother Balmo's mace was a special thing, having been crafted at the Godforge and blessed by the seven High Priests of Creation. It did the kind of dirty work that was necessary in these times - the weapon seared the flesh of Others who merely glanced in its direction, and when one of his blows connected, well... the results were gruesome. It would not be enough, he knew, but the Lightpact had set him to his task, and he would do what he could to ensure Verra's survival.[6]
Entry 5 - A Treasured Find
Deep in the Fallow Hold, a long abandoned keep in the western foothills, there is said to be ten priceless treasures sealed away from mortal eyes. They were left by the ancient wizard king Atrax, and include his staff, his sword, a golden chalice, and his crown. Each of these items, if the provenance is true, could earn a treasure hunter their own kingdom, several times over. The Fallow Hold keeps its secrets, however, and none who have ventured into its depths have ever returned.[7]
Entry 6 - Seeking Penance
The Starchild stands atop a hill, her dark radiance turning day into night. She points at a small home in the village below her, from which a beam of silvery starlight erupts. A family of three dies in that moment, penance given, penance taken. The village does not ignore her whispers again.[8]
Entry 7 - War of Towers
In the War of Towers, two great armies clashed in a final gambit on the misty fields of Lemlong. Equally matched, Kaelar against Kaelar, the battle raged on for hours, and then days. Neither gave quarter, and neither considered surrender, even in the face of massive losses. Fire rained down from the sky, as mages from each side sought to gain the upper hand. Friend and foe alike burned alive in their armor, and still the battle continued. In the end, only fifty survivors lived to tell the tale, and both sides were conquered shortly afterward by an Empyrean empire biding their time.[9]

Week 2

Entry 1 - Let Us Remember
The Lightpact was an alliance created by the four major races of Verra in order to solve the mystery of the Harbingers. Until that fateful day when the stars fell, chaos reigned, and corruption spread, the Lightpact worked together, and put aside all enmity. For the first time in a very long time, no wars were fought, and peace became a way of life. For a time at least. Let us remember.[10]
Entry 2 - Dragon Lines
Eremus ran his fingers along the delicate dragon inlaid upon his favored implement. It was a symbol of power, of elements given form, and these types of symbols resonated along essence lines and channeled their violence. He sighed as he placed the wand in its sheath, and continued to pack his travel gear. The road would be a long one, and he might never return. Such is the price the Lightpact would demand.[11]
Entry 3 - Savagery
Rikashi the Blackened Ember dashed inside the creature's reach, her two blades a flurry of motion. A thousand cuts in single breath, the beast did not realise it had died until much later, and only felt a peaceful rush of warmth as life spilled from it. Rikashi planted her foot on the chest of her opponent, and pushed hard, sending her through the air toward the second lumbering monster. The first blade cut deeply into what could charitably be called a neck, as the second pierced through one of its many eyes. As both horrors fell, she wiped clean her short swords, and proceeded down the cavern.[12]
Entry 4 - They Cannot Hide
Gellchrist held a lantern in one hand, and a club in the other. His children were with his wife, in the cellar. The pounding on the door got louder, the unearthly gibbering grew in number, and then they were at the walls, the windows - scraping, clawing, throwing their bodies at the structure. The door shattered and splintered, the walls gave way, and Gellchrist threw his lantern at the floor, where it exploded into a great fireball, fueled by oil and pitch. Better ashes by his own hand than whatever the Others had in store for him.[13]
Entry 5 - Working Steel
They worked tirelessly into the night. An army of smiths, deep in the heart of the mountain where the magma flowed and was captured by the Obsidian Forge. There was an endless parade of broken swords and damaged armor making their way down to the Forge, and just as many pristine, perfect specimens heading back up to the battlefields. The Others were relentless, but the Dunzenkell would do all they could to survive this last stand.[14]
Entry 6 - The Arrow's Mark
He whispered a prayer to whatever gods were still listening and drew back the string of his bow. Creation had fallen, the portals were closed, and the End was here. Survival did not seem possible, but Phaedrim would not travel into that dark night willingly. He took a deep breath, held it for a moment, closed his eyes, and let loose. Even with his eyes closed, the light was blinding. His arrow became a giant beam of light, piercing one, then two, then three of the behemoths currently tearing the city apart. It seemed that someone still was listening.[15]
Entry 7 - In the Face of Inevitability
Nothing is ever final, not with the gods watching over us. At least, that's how it felt before The Harbingers arrived. Now, it feels as if everything is final. That we are merely holding onto the edge until our strength gives out, our fingers slip, and we fall into the abyss. There are those who would fight and struggle, but the end remains inevitable. We will all die at the hands of the Others, better to make it quick At least, that's what the whispers say...[16]

Week 3

Entry 1 - An Alchemical Answer
Cashitan's fingers trembled as he added a fine blue powder to the alembic. Normally, he wouldn't do this by hand, and would just let the process complete on its own, but the potion was needed now, and it needed to be much stronger than his usual fare. It was a risky thing he was doing, and if his measurements were off, this simple potion of healing would level his entire workshop. A lesser alchemist might even take out the entire village.[17]
Entry 2 - An Evolution of Power
The Dünzenkell are known to be masters of engineering. Their best artisans meld magic and metal seamlessly, and the best of those are lionized above everyone, even kings and queens. It was one such artisan, Kaelmuir, who invented what would later be known as the crossbow. His design was based on the great ballistae often used in sieges, but cleverly miniaturized with a mixture of exacting fabrication and the gentle touch of essence. Kaelmuir's likeness can be found near the hearths of many a Dünzenkell.[18]
Entry 3 - Rarefied Ingredient
In the construction of the four great Divine Gateways, there were required exceedingly rare and powerful materials. In a different time, they would have been difficult and dangerous to acquire, but The Harbingers made this almost impossible. In spite of that, the Lightpact sent out teams of hardened veterans to find and retrieve these materials. Those who comprised these teams were specialists in their trade, with strong minds capable of resisting the call of corruption. Most didn't return. But enough of them did.[19]
Entry 4 - Here One Moment
He raced toward the edge, leapt from the cliff, and spoke the words that carried him as a feather upon the wind. His foe, a hardened Knight of the Blue Rose, stopped short, surprised by this unexpected turn of events. Dyvek used his momentum to spin around, and let loose a spray of dark ribbons from his scepter. These ribbons were unanchored from reality, having been feytouched, and had a tendency to confuse the universe about where in space things ought to be. So when they wrapped around the Knight, Dyvek watched him fall to his doom from the safety of the cliffside.[20]
Entry 5 - Lion's Peace
Theron was a Paladin of the Herald, sworn to take no life, to uphold the creed of his order, and to keep these lands safe. Even with the corruption whispering deep in his mind, he maintained these values with a strength of will girded by devotion to his god. When three of the Others began to terrorize a small village he happened to tarry at, he slew them with his mythical sword "Lion's Peace." He did this without hesitation, and without mercy. The Others did not live in the sense that he lived, and so Theron's vow remained unbroken in his estimation. The gods seemed to agree.[21]
Entry 6 - Going it Alone
Deep inside one of The Harbingers, Rikashi was so incredibly still an observer might have thought her a carved piece of stone. No breath, no fibre of muscle twitching, no strand of hair shifting ever so slightly. Not even a heartbeat. She called this technique Not-Being, and it required both physical and mystical mastery. She was surrounded by hundreds of the Others, but none of those many eyes could see Rikashi, instead sliding over her presence as though it was a part of the landscape. She would wait them out.[22]
Entry 7 - A Champion Appears
Most cities had at least one arena, and some larger cities had two or even three. Theater, symphonies, sports and more could entertain thousands of people on a given night, but the event that drew the largest crowds were the Celestial Games. This was a competition that took place every seven years, where the best of Verra would participate in seven different events, testing might, mettle, magic, and mind. The winner of these games would be crowned the Celestial Champion, and their name would become known the world over.[23]

Week 4

Entry 1 - Divine Gifts
A good chest is solid, sturdy, non-descript, and can be secured with a lock of your choice. Those left on Verra after the fall are somewhat different. For one, they glow and chime, as if they want to be found. As if they want to be opened. Nary a lock can be found, and there is always something inside. I'm not sure who left these caches of powerful weapons, but in the face of the Others, I'll call them god-sent.[24]
Entry 2 - Old Reliable
Hrngnir thought to himself, "The nice thing about axes is that even when they're dull, they still kill really good." He wiped down the axe-head with a grimy rag that he kept for just such an occasion, pulled out a whetstone, and set about restoring the blade. It had cut through the first set of armored soldiers passably enough, but he felt his effort increasing on each opponent after that. He changed tactics with his changing weapon, aiming at heads, legs, and places where the crushing power of his axe was maximized. The axe did what was required - and while he was still alive, he was no closer to escaping the hell that Verra had become.[25]
Entry 3 - Cairon's Wing
Mollee put the finishing touches on her current masterpiece - the Cairon's Wing. It was a set of super-heavy plate, imbued with mithril lines which channeled the ambient essence of the environment. This magical filagree could then flex and contract the dense alloyed plates in response to the motion of whomever was wearing it, giving them unparalleled strength and mobility. If she could find a way to fabricate Cairon's Wing en masse, it would change how war was waged forever.[26]
Entry 4 - Hand of Fate
The signs and symbols of magic have a way of weaving themselves into the fabric of reality. They can make metaphor material, as they did in Ashlar's case. He was someone, who, even from a very young age could be described as "smoldering," or "fiery." He had no particular affinity for the elements, however, until deep in his second year at the Academy. What began as a simple elemental conjuring by a first year, turned into a blaze that threatened to consume the entire west wing of the school. Ashlar, in a moment of magickal inspiration, gathered the essence of the fire into himself. The incredible energies suffusing him lifted Ashlar into the air, and witnesses describe two great wings of flame emanating from his back as he ejected the fire harmlessly into the sky.[27]
Entry 5 - A Moment of Crisis
Now, in this moment, they had to get up, or all was surely lost "Get...up..." she managed in a croaking whisper. She felt for their strands of essence, unable to see, unable to hear, all of it having gone wrong in this terrible place. "Get. Up." she said more forcefully, but still little more than a murmur. Avenita finally touched an essence strand that was familiar, warm, and she felt friendship, and love and all the things that let her know this was one of her compatriots. There was very little ambient essence in this area, so it had to come from hers. "GET UP" she yelled, as her fist closed on that strand, and a fifth of her life drained into it. Four more to go.[28]
Entry 6 - Stereotypical Mages
A wizard's tome is a common trope in many bard tales. It's not without reason though -while many mages can cast their spells without one, the very act of reading a properly inscribed spell focuses and channels essence in a way that recalling from memory does not. While the symbols and signs in one's mind can be made sharp and precise, it takes concentration and attention that may be in short supply on a battlefield. The longer and more complex a spell is, the more likely you are to see a mage holding a tome which contains that spell.[29]
Entry 7 - The First and the Last
They were gathered in the great hall, awash in the eerie glow of everlights. Those in their seats were silent, as the leaders of the Lightpact discussed amongst themselves which of those present would bear the mantle of the First Light. It was this group that the hopes and lives of every single living being on Verra were to be pinned. It would be the greatest honor ever given, and perhaps the greatest curse ever bestowed. Everyone and no-one wanted to be chosen. When the meeting adjourned, Verra's fate was sealed, and its champions crowned. They all hoped it would be enough.[30]

Week 5

Entry 1 - The Water-Bearer
Carrying water up the slopes to the small temple was an all-day chore. Though the path was steep, the days often hot, and the thorns a persistent annoyance, to be chosen as the Water-Bearer was viewed as an honor. Children who were of age often begged to be the one chosen for the next day, and it was believed that a child delivering the water was especially auspicious. In exchange for this daily sacrifice, those who were sick or hurt or even dying could make a pilgrimage to the little temple, drink from the water in the pool, and find themselves healed. At least until the Harbingers arrived.[31]
Entry 2 - The Better Part of Valor
It wasn't often that Theron ran from an opponent, but he found himself fleeing towards the cavern's exit, away from the towering, bladed... thing that had just torn a hole in his armor. The armor that had been blessed by Creation and had taken many such blows before without so much as a chipped pauldron. Theron knew fear then, true fear, deep within his soul, and he was consumed utterly by it. But when the cavern began to shake, and stalactites crashed to the ground around him, and the cavern's exit collapsed, Theron found himself again. He turned slowly, readied his weapon in a defensive stance, and found faith in himself once more.[32]
Entry 3 - Facing Fear
The panic, that was the worst. There were a hundred thousand people or more, stampeding through the streets, desperately trying to reach the Divine Gateway. So many would die on those streets, trampled by friends, family, neighbors. Staein was just a guard, one man - all his instincts were telling him to join the crowds, to give into that feeling in his throat, his stomach. He was on these streets to keep order, but the screams, the noise, the Others - there was simply too much to focus on anything. When he saw the man ripped from his daughter's hand and pulled into an alley by four thugs, he was finally jarred from inaction. This was something he could fix. He drew his weapon and followed them.[33]
Entry 4 - A Broken Mess
His body barely held together, breathing ragged, blood trickling from what felt like a thousand wounds, Theron dragged himself to the edge of the town. The guards, having caught sight of him, rushed to Theron's side, and helped him the rest of the way. They called for help, and requisitioned a bed from the nearest freehold. They began the arduous process of removing his armor - it had been bent, and rent, and pieces of it seemed almost fused to his flesh. They had never seen armor so mistreated, so completely ruined, so apparently useless against whatever it had been that Theron faced. Yet somehow, this man was alive, and they would do what they could to keep him that way.[34]
Entry 5 - Walls Come Tumbling Down
The walls of the city were strong in the way that the ancient's work generally was. They had held for many hundreds of years, against sappers, against trebuchets, against magical agents. Now, they were crumbling at the hands of the Others. Hundreds of towering shadows, looming over the parapets, crashing through each layer, making holes that the smaller ones could steal through. It was only a matter of time before thousands of them were in the streets, able to bring the fight to their doorsteps. They could only hope that the last of them made it through the Divine Gateway before that happened.[35]
Entry 6 - What's in a Name?
This space was strange - the sound otherworldy. As if his footsteps were not his own. As if his boots were far, far away, in a dream somewhere, barely remembered. He could not recall his name, or his family, or his wife. This fact did not seem important to him however, for he knew his true purpose, and he could see what it was he came to find. His hand reached out, and touched the intricately carved bow. In that moment, he felt one with everything, with all of Creation, and he knew the names of the fauna, and the flora, and the fowl. Not just what they were called by men, but their true names, as they were known by the gods.[36]
Entry 7 - The Bonds of Corruption
The First Light ranged long and far. Their charge was impossible, but their friendship ran deep and held the center. It was one of the reasons the Lightpact had chosen their particular group. Those who had come together by circumstance, or by creed, or by purpose would not be able to do what was needed. They would fracture and then fail -the corruption was too strong for it to be any other way. Only those who had bonds forged by something more could hope to face the Others, deep within the red mists. Those bonds would be tested in ways which no mortal could conceive, and even then, would likely not be enough. But it was enough for hope, and so it was.[37]

Week 6

Entry 1
[38]
Entry 2
[39]
Entry 3
Theron charged at their front lines, head down, behind his shield, and felt the bone shaking impacts of their missiles, and the heat of their sick green flames. And yet he did not lose his footing, and did not falter. Soon his shield made contact, exploding in a white divine light that threw his first opponent a hundred yards into the air. His longsword, glowing in hallowed spirit, struck out at two more of the Others, cutting deeply and setting them afire. He heard their otherworldly screams, and knew that they felt the anger of Creation.[40]
Entry 4
Roanold was relaxing at his post, in the calm light of the day. The pastoral environment and its distance from the capital meant that the dark rumors coming from that direction felt far away, in some other land, and not relevant to the people who called Grimsale home. His thoughts were interrupted by a faint red glow at the horizon. He squinted, unable to make out what was causing it. Slowly, it rose like another sun, casting the whole vale in a vermilion light. His thoughts became confused, his heart beat another step, and he grabbed his halberd and rushed back into the town, frothing at the mouth, his eyes unseeing.[41]
Entry 5
The tower was safe, at least for now. The corruption seemed to grow from under the earth, and so the very height of her tower provided some protection against any... changes... to her mind. From her balcony she could see the armies of the Others making their way toward the capital, marching only as fast as the corruption grew. A few words and a moment of singular concentration later, she felt the lines of essence burst from the tips of her fingers, through the air, across the plains, until they reached two of the Others at the vanguard. She severed those lines of essence with a sharp expenditure of will, and they fell to the ground. A pebble in the ocean.[42]
Entry 6
It was madness. It had to be. It's the only way he could describe what was happening outside the town's walls. Hundreds of people, maybe even a thousand or so. They were attacking their fortifications, not with weapons, but with their bare hands and bodies. Their eyes were empty, and some of them... well some of them had strange red crystalline... growths. It felt wrong, what he was being asked to do - these were his countrymen - but there seemed to be no other answer. Their mayor had gone out to talk to the crowd before this frenzy started, but they rushed him, and tore at him, and killed him. So Annoch drew his bow, asked for forgiveness, and fired into the mass of people.[43]
Entry 7
He had been hiding in the darkness, in this little secret closet, for days now. The world was burning, people were going mad, and there was nowhere to go. And so he hid. As the world burned, he was silent, quiet, like a mouse, moving as little as possible, lest a creak or a crack give him away. He was hungry now, and thirsty, and exhausted, and sore. But he did not leave, such was the fear of what he had seen. This was not the way he had pictured the end of his life. Instead he dreamed of a peaceful passing, surrounded by loved ones, and in his bed. But there were no loved ones left, and he was truly, utterly alone.[44]

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