The monks of Turstarkuri watched the rugged valleys below their mountain monastery as wave after wave of invaders swept through the lower kingdoms. Ascetic and pragmatic, in their remote monastic eyrie they remained aloof from mundane strife, wrapped in meditation that knew no gods or elements of magic. Then came the Legion of the Dead God, crusaders with a sinister mandate to replace all local worship with their Unliving Lord's poisonous nihilosophy. From a landscape that had known nothing but blood and battle for a thousand years, they tore the souls and bones of countless fallen legions and pitched them against Turstarkuri. The monastery stood scarcely a fortnight against the assault, and the few monks who bothered to surface from their meditations believed the invaders were but demonic visions sent to distract them from meditation. They died where they sat on their silken cushions. Only one youth survived--a pilgrim who had come as an acolyte, seeking wisdom, but had yet to be admitted to the monastery. He watched in horror as the monks to whom he had served tea and nettles were first slaughtered, then raised to join the ranks of the Dead God's priesthood. With nothing but a few of Turstarkuri's prized dogmatic scrolls, he crept away to the comparative safety of other lands, swearing to obliterate not only the Dead God's magic users--but to put an end to magic altogether.
Queen of Pain
The Ecclesiast-King of Elze nursed a desire for pain--forbidden pain. In a less prominent political figure, such desires might be considered unwise, but in a monarch of his stature, to satisfy such thirsts would have threatened the virtue of the Divine Throne itself. Therefore he turned to his dungeon full of demonologists, promising freedom to whoever could summon a personal succubus of torment and bind it entirely to his service. The creature who arrived, Akasha by name, visited upon him such exquisite torments that he named her his Secret Queen, and he began to spend all his spare moments submitting to her clever torments--eventually abdicating all his responsibilities in his pursuit of the painful pleasures that only she could bring. Queen of Pain could bring him to the brink of death, but she was rune-bound to keep him alive. At last the King's neglect of state brought on an uprising. He was dragged from his chamber and hurled from the Tower of Invocations, and at the moment of death, Queen of Pain was let loose into the world, freed from servitude--freed to visit her sufferings on anyone she deigned to notice.
The sibling rivalries between Lina the Slayer, and her younger sister Rylai, the Crystal Maiden, were the stuff of legend in the temperate region where they spent their quarrelsome childhoods together. Lina always had the advantage, however, for while Crystal was guileless and naive, Lina's fiery ardor was tempered by cleverness and conniving. The exasperated parents of these incompatible offspring went through half a dozen homesteads, losing one to fire, the next to ice, before they realized life would be simpler if the children were separated. As the oldest, Lina was sent far south to live with a patient aunt in the blazing Desert of Misrule, a climate that proved more than comfortable for the fiery Slayer. Her arrival made quite an impression on the somnolent locals, and more than one would-be suitor scorched his fingers or went away with singed eyebrows, his advances spurned. Lina is proud and confident, and nothing can dampen her flame.
Priestess of the Moon
Born to a royal family, a blood princess next in line for the Solar Throne, Mirana willingly surrendered any claim to mundane land or titles when she dedicated herself completely to the service of Selemene, Goddess of the Moon. Known ever since as Princess of the Moon, Mirana prowls the sacred Nightsilver Woods searching for any who would dare poach the sacred luminous lotus from the silvery pools of the Goddess's preserve. Riding on her enormous feline familiar, she is poised, proud and fearless, attuned to the phases of the moon and the wheeling of the greater constellations. Her bow, tipped with sharp shards of lunar ore, draws on the moon's power to charge its arrows of light.
When Verodicia, Goddess of the Woods, had finished filling in the green places, having planted the coiled-up spirit in the seed, having lured the twining waters from deep within the rock, having sworn the sun its full attention to the growing things, she realized that her own time had reached its end, and like one of the leaves whose fate she had imprinted in the seed, she would fall without seeing the fruiting of her dream. It pained her to leave the world bereft, for the sprouts had not yet broken through the soil--and they would be tender and vulnerable to every sort of harm. She found in her seed pouch one last seed that she had missed in the sowing. She spoke a single word into the seed and swallowed it as she fell. Her vast body decomposed throughout the long winter, becoming the humus that would feed the seedlings in the spring. And on the morning of the vernal equinox, before the rest of the forest had begun to wake, that last seed ripened and burst in an instant. From it stepped Tequoia, Nature's Prophet, in full leaf, strong and wise, possessing Verodicia's power to foresee where he would be needed most in defense of the green places--and any who might be fortunate enough to call him an ally.
The western forests guard their secrets well. One of these is Lyralei, master archer of the wood, and favored godchild of the wind. Known now as Windrunner, Lyralei's family was killed in a storm on the night of her birth—-their house blown down by the gale, contents scattered to the winds. Only the newborn survived among the debris field of death and destruction. In the quiet after the storm, the wind itself took notice of the lucky infant crying in the grass. The wind pitied the child and so lifted her into the sky and deposited her on a doorstep in a neighboring village. In the years that followed, the wind returned occasionally to the child’s life, watching from a distance while she honed her skills. Now, after many years of training, Windrunner fires her arrows true to their targets. She moves with blinding speed, as if hastened by a wind ever at her back. With a flurry of arrows, she slaughters her enemies, having become, nearly, a force of nature herself.
Once a Grandmaster of the Demon Witch tradition of sorcery, Lion earned fame among his brethren for fighting on the side of light and righteousness. But adulation corrupts. With powers surpassed only by his ambition, the mage was seduced by a demon and turned to evil, trading his soul for prestige. After committing horrible crimes that marred his soul, he was abandoned. The demon betrayed him, striking better deals with his enemies. Such was Lion’s rage that he followed the demon back to hell and slew it, ripping it limb from limb, taking its demonic hand for his own. However, such demonoplasty comes at a cost. Lion was transfigured by the process, his body transformed into something unrecognizable. He rose from hell, rage incarnate, slaying even those who had once called him master, and laying waste to the lands where he had once been so adored. He survives now as the sole practitioner of the Demon Witch tradition, and those who present themselves as acolytes or students are soon relieved of their mana and carried off by the faintest gust of wind.
Even the most contented Skywrath is an ill-tempered creature, naturally inclined to seek revenge for the slightest insult. But Vengeful Spirit is the essence of vengeance. Once a proud and savage Skywrath scion, Shendelzare was first in succession for the Ghastly Eyrie until a sister's treachery robbed her of her birthright. Snared in an assassin's net, Shendelzare tore free only at the cost of her wings, limping away in the ultimate humiliation: On foot. With her wings broken, she knew the Skywrath would never accept her as ruler; and in the highest roost of the Eyrie, inaccessible except by winged flight, her sister was untouchable. Unwilling to live as a flightless cripple, and desiring revenge far more than earthly power, the fallen princess drove a bargain with the goddess Scree'auk: She surrendered her broken body for an imperishable form of spirit energy, driven by vengeance, capable of doing great damage in the material plane. She may spend eternity flightless, but she will have her revenge.
In the Fields of Endless Carnage, far to the south of Quoidge, a corpulent figure works tirelessly through the night--dismembering, disembowelling, piling up the limbs and viscera of the fallen that the battlefield might be clear by dawn. In this cursed realm, nothing can decay or decompose; no corpse may ever return to the earth from which it sprang, no matter how deep you dig the grave. Flocked by carrion birds who need him to cut their meals into beak-sized chunks, Pudge the Butcher hones his skills with blades that grow sharper the longer he uses them. Swish, swish, thunk. Flesh falls from the bone; tendons and ligaments part like wet paper. And while he always had a taste for the butchery, over the ages, Pudge has developed a taste for its byproduct as well. Starting with a gobbet of muscle here, a sip of blood there...before long he was thrusting his jaws deep into the toughest of torsos, like a dog gnawing at rags. Even those who are beyond fearing the Reaper, fear the Butcher.
A wiry silhouette hitches forward--uneven of feature and limb, bizarre of gait, relentlessly criss-crossing the battlefield in search of that vital weak point where his talents can do most good, and most harm. Whether broken or mismade it is not clear, but still, none can doubt the power carried in his twisted physique. A long staff thumps the earth as Zharvakko the Witch Doctor advances, deploying a terrifying arsenal of fetishes, hexes and spells. It is a body of magical knowledge learned and perfected over several lifetimes in the island highlands of Arktura, now wielded with precision accuracy against his enemies. Zharvakko can be your best friend or your worst enemy--healing allies and laying waste to all who oppose him.
Leshrac, Tormented Soul, is an entity torn from the heart of nature, a liminal being that exists half in one plane of existence, half in another. His penetrating intelligence is such that he can never ignore for a moment the agonizing horror at the heart of all creation. Once a great philosopher who sought the meaning of existence, he plumbed the depths of nature with the haunted Chronoptic Crystals, and was forever altered by the hideous mysteries thereby revealed to him. Now the darkest depths of his enlightenment are illumined only by the fitful glare of his arrogance. Like other elemental characters, he is completely at one with nature, but in his case it is a nature lurid and vile. He alone sees the evil truth of reality, and has no use for those who believe the cosmos reserves a special reward for those who practice benevolence.
The sands of the Scintillant Waste are alive and sentient--the whole vast desert speaks to itself, thinking thoughts only such a vastness can conceive. But when it needs must find a form to communicate with those of more limited scope, it frees a fragment of itself, and fills a carapace of magic armor formed by the cunning Djinn of Qaldin. This essential identity calls itself Crixalis, meaning 'Soul of the Sand,' but others know it as Sandking. Sandking takes the form of a huge arachnid, inspired by the Scintillant Waste's small but ubiquitous denizens; and this is a true outward expression of his ferocious nature. Guardian, warrior, ambassador--Sandking is all of these things, inseparable from the endless desert that gave him life.
Like a golem or gargoyle, Earthshaker was one with the earth but now walks freely upon it. Unlike those other entities, he created himself through an act of will, and serves no other master. In restless slumbers, encased in a deep seam of stone, he became aware of the life drifting freely above him. He grew curious. During a season of tremors, the peaks of Nishai shook themselves loose of avalanches, shifting the course of rivers and turning shallow valleys into bottomless chasms. When the land finally ceased quaking, Earthshaker stepped from the settling dust, tossing aside massive boulders as if throwing off a light blanket. He had shaped himself in the image of a mortal beast, and named himself Raigor Stonehoof. He bleeds now, and breathes, and therefore he can die. But his spirit is still that of the earth; he carries its power in the magical totem that never leaves him. And on the day he returns to dust, the earth will greet him as a prodigal son.
It is said that Nevermore the Shadow Fiend has the soul of a poet, and in fact he has thousands of them. Over the ages he has claimed the souls of poets, priests, emperors, beggars, slaves, philosophers, criminals and （naturally） heroes; no sort of soul escapes him. What he does with them is unknown. No one has ever peered into the Abysm whence Nevermore reaches out like an eel from among astral rocks. Does he devour them one after another? Does he mount them along the halls of an eldritch temple, or pickle the souls in necromantic brine? Is he merely a puppet, pushed through the dimensional rift by a demonic puppeteer? Such is his evil, so intense his aura of darkness, that no rational mind may penetrate it. Of course, if you really want to know where the stolen souls go, there's one sure way to find out: Add your soul to his collection. Or just wait for Nevermore.
When the gods have nightmares, it is Bane Elemental who brings them. Also known as Atropos, Bane was born from the midnight terrors of the goddess Nyctasha. A force of terror too powerful to be contained by sleep, he surfaced from her slumbers, fed upon her immortality, and stole his vaporous form from her inky blood. He is the essence of fear. Mortals who hear his voice hear their darkest secrets whispered in their ear. He calls to the hidden fear in every Hero's heart. Wakefulness is no protection, for Bane's black blood, continuously dripping, is a tar that traps his enemies in nightmare. In the presence of Bane, every Hero remembers to fear the dark.
No one has ever seen the face hidden beneath the mask of Yurnero the Juggernaut. It is only speculation that he even has one. For defying a corrupt lord, Yurnero was exiled from the ancient Isle of Masks--a punishment that saved his life. The isle soon after vanished beneath the waves in a night of vengeful magic. He alone remains to carry on the Isle's long Juggernaut tradition, one of ritual and swordplay. The last practitioner of the art, Yurnero's confidence and courage are the result of endless practice; his inventive bladework proves that he has never stopped challenging himself. Still, his motives are as unreadable as his expression. For a hero who has lost everything twice over, he fights as if victory is a foregone conclusion.
Drow Ranger's given name is Traxex--a name well suited to the short, trollish, rather repulsive Drow people. But Traxex herself is not a Drow. Her parents were travelers in a caravan set upon by bandits, whose noisy slaughter of innocents roused the ire of the quiet Drow people. After the battle settled, the Drow discovered a small girl-child hiding in the ruined wagons, and agreed she could not be abandoned. Even as child, Traxex showed herself naturally adept at the arts they prized: Stealth, silence, subtlety. In spirit, if not in physique, she might have been a Drow changeling, returned to her proper home. But as she grew, she towered above her family and came to think of herself as ugly. After all, her features were smooth and symmetrical, entirely devoid of warts and coarse whiskers. Estranged from her adopted tribe, she withdrew to live alone in the woods. Lost travelers who find their way from the forest sometimes speak of an impossibly beautiful Ranger who peered at them from deep among the trees, then vanished like a dream before they could approach. Lithe and stealthy, icy hot, she moves like mist in silence. That whispering you hear is her frozen arrows finding an enemy's heart.
Sven is the bastard son of a Vigil Knight, born of a Pallid Meranth, raised in the Shadeshore Ruins. With his father executed for violating the Vigil Codex, and his mother shunned by her wild race, Sven believes that honor is to be found in no social order--but only in himself. After tending his mother through a lingering death, he offered himself as a novice to the Vigil Knights, never revealing his identity. For thirteen years he studied in his father's school, mastering the rigid code that declared his existence an abomination. Then, on the day that should have been his In-Swearing, he seized the Outcast Blade, shattered the Sacred Helm, and burned the Codex in the Vigil's Holy Flame. He strode from Vigil Keep, forever solitary, following his private code to the last strict rune. Still a knight, yes…but a Rogue Knight.
Through a process of divination, children are selected for upbringing by the Sisters of the Veil, an order that considers assassination a sacred part of the natural order. The Veiled Sisters identify targets through meditation and oracular utterances. They accept no contracts, and never seem to pursue targets for political or mercenary reasons. Their killings bear no relation to any recognizable agenda, and can seem to be completely random: A figure of great power is no more likely to be eliminated than a peasant or a well digger. Whatever pattern the killings may contain, it is known only to them. They treat their victims as sacrifices, and death at their hand is considered an honor. Raised with no identity except that of their order, any Phantom Assassin can take the place of any other; their number is not known. Perhaps there are many, perhaps there are few. Nothing is known of what lies under the Phantom Veil. Except that this one, from time to time, when none are near enough to hear, is known to stir her veils with the forbidden whisper of her own name: Mortred.
The victim of a longevity spell that backfired, the Skeleton King Ostarion, has built an empire from the bones of his enemies. He lives only to extend his reach, for as long as he is perpetually building and adding to his domain he cannot die. The walls of his palace are formed of fired bone; the streets are paved with bones of every sort of creature and every enemy; and even the wood and other natural features of his land have been swept away and replaced with replicas formed of bone. From the Ivory Forest to the Ostarion's towering Throne of Bone, nothing happens in the Empire of Bones without the full of knowledge of its Skeleton King.
For dark eons the comet circled. Held in thrall to a distant sun, bound by gravity’s inexorable pull, the massive ball of ice careened through the blackness between worlds, made strange by its dark journey. On the eve of the ancient war of the Vloy, it punched down through the sky and lit a glowing trail across the night—a sign both armies took for an omen. The frozen ball elted in a flash of boiling heat, as below two forces enjoined in battle across the border of a narrow river. Thus freed from its icy stasis, the Morphling was born into conflict, an elemental power at one with the tides of the ocean, capricious and unconstrained. He entered the fight, instinctively taking the form of the first general who dared set foot across the water—and then struck him dead. As the motley warriors clashed, he shifted from form to form throughout the battle, instantly absorbing the ways of these the strange creatures—now a footsoldier, now an archer, now the cavalryman and his mount--until, by the time the last soldier fell, Morphling had played every part. The battle's end was his beginning.
Storm Spirit is literally a force of nature--the wild power of wind and weather, bottled in human form. And a boisterous, jovial, irrepressible form it is! As jolly as a favorite uncle, he injects every scene with crackling energy. But it was not always thus, and there was tragedy in his creation. Generations ago, in the plains beyond the Wailing Mountains, a good people lay starving in drought and famine. A simple elementalist, Thunderkeg by name, used a forbidden spell to summon the spirit of the storm, asking for rain. Enraged at this mortal's presumption, the Storm Celestial known as Raijin lay waste to the land, scouring it bare with winds and flood. Thunderkeg was no match for the Celestial--at least until he cast a suicidal spell that forged their fates into one: he captured the Celestial in the cage of his own body. Trapped together, Thunderkeg's boundless good humor fused with Raijin's crazed energy, creating the jovial Raijin Thunderkeg, a Celestial who walks the world in physical form.
Born in a temperate realm, raised with her fiery older sister Lina, Rylai the Crystal Maiden soon found that her innate elemental affinity to ice created trouble for all those around her. Wellsprings and mountain rivers froze in moments if she stopped to rest nearby; ripening crops were bitten by frost, and fruiting orchards turned to mazes of ice and came crashing down, spoiled. When their exasperated parents packed Lina off to the equator, Rylai found herself banished to the cold northern realm of Icewrack, where she was taken in by an Ice Wizard who had carved himself a hermitage at the crown of the Blueheart Glacier. After long study, the wizard pronounced her ready for solitary practice and left her to take his place, descending into the glacier to hibernate for a thousand years. Her mastery of the Frozen Arts has only deepened since that time, and now her skills are unmatched.
As The Admiral of the mighty Claddish Navy, Kunkka was charged with protecting the isles of his homeland when the demons of the Cataract made a concerted grab at the lands of men. After years of small sorties, and increasingly bold and devastating attacks, the demon fleet flung all its carnivorous ships at the Trembling Isle. Desperate, the Suicide-Mages of Cladd committed their ultimate rite, summoning a host of ancestral spirits to protect the fleet. Against the demons, this was just barely enough to turn the tide. As Kunkka watched the demons take his ships down one by one, he had the satisfaction of wearing away their fleet with his ancestral magic. But at the battle's peak, something in the clash of demons, men and atavistic spirits must have stirred a fourth power that had been slumbering in the depths. The waves rose up in towering spouts around the few remaining ships, and Maelrawn the Tentacular appeared amid the fray. His tendrils wove among the ships, drawing demon and human craft together, churning the water and wind into a raging chaos. What happened in the crucible of that storm, none may truly say. The Cataract roars off into the void, deserted by its former denizens. Kunkka is now The Admiral of but one ship, a ghostly rig which endlessly replays the final seconds of its destruction. Whether he died in that crash is anyone's guess. Not even Tidehunter, who summoned Maelrawn, knows for sure.
As Chief Curator and Head of Acquisitions for the Arcane Archives of the Ultimyr Academy, Demnok Lannik was tireless in his pursuit of lost, rare and forbidden tomes. No cursed temple was so foreboding, no cavern path so treacherous, that any concern for his own survival could dissuade him from entering if rumors hinted that some pamphlet of primordial lore might still survive in its depths. However, so often did his investigations trigger the wrath of protector entities, that he finally found it necessary to master the arts of magic. He bent himself to learning sorcery with the same thorough obsessiveness that marked his quest for incunabula, becoming the most powerful Warlock of the Academy in less time than most practitioners required to complete a course of undergraduate work. Almost as an afterthought, he carved a staff of Dreadwood and summoned into it a captive spirit from the Outer Hells. And anticipating the day when he will have recovered every last lost spellbook, he has commenced writing his own Black Grimoire. It will undoubtedly be instructive.
Lord of Olympus
Lord of Heaven, father of gods, Zeus treats all the Heroes as if they are his rambunctious, rebellious children. After being caught unnumbered times in the midst of trysts with countless mortal women, his divine wife finally gave him an ultimatum: 'If you love mortals so much, go and become one. If you can prove yourself faithful, then return to me as my immortal husband. Otherwise, go and die among your creatures.' Zeus found her logic （and her magic） irrefutable, and agreed to her plan. He has been on his best behavior ever since, being somewhat fonder of immortality than he is of mortals. But to prove himself worthy of his eternal spouse, he must continue to pursue victory on the field of battle.
Among the emblematic powers that populate the Underscape, Razor the Lightning Revenant is one of the most feared. With his whip of lightning, he patrols the Narrow Maze, that treacherous webwork of passages by which the souls of the dead are sorted according to their own innate intelligence, cunning and persistence. Drifting above the Maze, Razor looks down on the baffled souls below, and delivers jolts of scalding electricity that both punish and quicken the souls as they decide their own fates, hurrying on toward luminous exits or endlessly dark pits. Razor is the eternal embodiment of a dominating power, abstract and almost clinical in his application of power. Yet he has a lordly air that suggests he takes a sardonic satisfaction in his work.
While Puck seems at first glance a mischievous, childish character, this quality masks an alien personality. The juvenile form of a Faerie Dragon, a creature that lives for eons, Puck spends countless millennia in its childish form. So while it is technically true that Puck is juvenile, it will continue to be so when the cities of the present age have sloughed away into dust. Its motives are therefore inscrutable, and what appears to be play may in fact hide a darker purpose. Its endless fondness for mischief is the true indicator of Puck's true nature.
Each young acolyte to the Dezun order must complete a series of rites before becoming a shadow priest. The final rite, the rite of shades, is a harrowing spiritual journey through the Nothl Realm, an upredictable domain from which not all visitants return. Of those who do, some return mad. Others return with strange aptitudes. But all who go there are changed by their experiences. Driven by the need for enlightenment, Dazzle was the youngest of his tribe to ever request the sacred ritual. At first the order refused him, saying he was too young. But Dazzle was not to be dissuaded. Sensing something special in the headstrong young acolyte, the elders relented. Dazzle drank down the sacred potion and sat by the fire while the rest of his tribe danced through the night. In this ethereal dimension of the Nothl Realm, the properties of light and dark are inverted. Thus his brilliant healing light, beautiful to our eye, is actually a sinister kind of evil; and the darkest deeds are done in a dazzling glow. The elders intuition was prophetic: Dazzle returned to his people as a Shadow Priest like none seen before. With the power to heal as well as to destroy. Now he uses his power to cut down his enemies and mend his friends.
Rattletrap belongs to the same race as Sniper and Tinker, and in much the same manner he has offset his diminutive stature by beefing himself up with a suit of powered Clockwerk armor that makes the knights of other lands look like tin cans by comparison. Rattletrap is alive with devices that not only protect him from harm, but allow him to rappel from point to point while firing rockets and strewing the terrain with traps. What time is it? It's Clockwerk time!
Strygwyr the Bloodseeker is a ritually sanctioned hunter, Hound of the Flayed Twins, sent down from the mist-shrouded peaks of Xhacatocatl in search of blood. The Flayed Ones require oceanic amounts of blood to keep them sated and placated, and would soon drain their mountain empire of its populace if the priests of the high plateaus did not appease them. Strygwyr therefore goes out in search of carnage. The vital energy of any blood he lets, flows immediately to the Twins through the sacred markings on his weapons and armor. Over the years, he has come to embody the energy of a vicious hound; in battle he is savage as a jackal. Beneath the Mask of the Bloodseeker, in the rush of bloody quenching, it is said that you can sometime see the features of the Flayers taking direct possession of their Hound.
Coming to life as a chunk of stone, Tiny's origins are a mystery on which he continually speculates. He is a Stone Giant now, but what did he used to be? A splinter broken from a Golem's heel? A shard swept from a gargoyle-sculptor's workshop? A fragment of the Oracular Visage of Garthos? A deep curiosity drives him, and he travels the world tirelessly seeking his origins, his parentage, his people. As he roams, he gathers weight and size; the forces that weather lesser rocks, instead cause Tiny to grow and ever grow.
In life, the frost-mage Ethreain （not yet a Lich） had used the threat of destructive ice to enslave entire kingdoms. His subjects, aided by a few desperate magicians, eventually grew bold enough to ambush him. Armed with enough charmed rope to bind him forever, they tied the frost mage to adamant weights and dropped him in a pool known chiefly for being bottomless. It wasn't. He only fell for a year or so before an outcrop snagged him. There he rested, dead but undecaying, until the geomancer Anhil thought to verify the legend of the supposedly bottomless Black Pool. Anhil's plumbline snarled with the ropes that bound the drowned magician, and up he hauled an unexpected prize. Thinking that by rendering the dead undead, he could question the Lich about the properties of the pool, he removed the bindings and commenced a simple rite of resurrection. Even the descendants of Ethreain's enemies were long forgotten by time, so there were none to warn Anhil against imprudence. But he learned the error of his judgment almost immediately, as Lich threw off the shackles and consumed him.
In the realm of Pugna's birth, near the vents of the Nether Reaches, there stood a lamasery devoted to the Arts of Oblivion, which drew its power from the nether energies. The Grandmaster of the temple compound had himself passed into Oblivion several years prior, leaving his academy without a leader. From the moment of their master's death, the regents of the temple began rites of divination to identify their master's reincarnation, and eventually all signs converged on the immediate neighborhood. Several villages squatted in the shadow of the temple, their alleys and plazas full of the laughter of squalling children. Pugna, a mere thirteen months of age, was but one candidate among the local brats, and on the appointed day he was presented at the temple alongside two other promising tots. The lamas offered a jumble of worn relics to the children, treasured possessions of their former grandmaster. One boy reached for a porphyry wand that had belonged to the lama…and put it in his nostril. An impish girl pulled out an amulet that had also been the lama's, and immediately swallowed it. Pugna regarded the other two coolly, gave a merry laugh, and blasted them with gouts of emerald flame, reducing them to ashes in an instant. He then snatched up the wand and amulet, saying 'Mine!' The regents hoisted the beaming Pugna on their shoulders, wrapped him in their grandmaster's vestments, and rushed him to the throne before his mood could change. Within five years, the temple itself was another pile of ash, which pleased Pugna to no end.
Darkterror the Faceless Void is a visitor from Claszureme, a realm outside of time. It remains a mystery why this being from another dimension believes the struggle for the Nemesis Stones is worth entering our physical plane, but apparently an upset in the balance of power in this world has repercussions in adjacent dimensions. Time means nothing to Darkterror, except as a way to thwart his foes and aid his allies. His long-view of the cosmos has given him a remote, disconnected quality, although in battle he is quite capable of making it personal.
The Tidehunter known as Leviathan was once the champion of the Sunken Isles, but his motives are as mysterious as those of his people. We all know the importance of the Drylanders' shipping lanes, how empires may rise and fall according to who controls the open water. Far less is known of the submarine lanes, and how the warring tribes of the Meranthic Disapora have carved out habitations through endless undersea skirmishes. In the fragile treaties between the Mer and Men, we can glimpse the extent of the drowned empires, but their politics appear complex and opaque. It would seem that Leviathan tired of such petty strife, and set off on his own, loyal only to his abyssal god, Maelrawn the Tentacular. He stalks the shallows now in search of men or meranths who stray into his path, and with a particular loathing for Admiral Kunkka, who has long been his nemesis for reasons lost in the deepest trenches of the sea.
Riki was born middle child to the great dynasty of Tahlin. With an older brother groomed for the throne, and a younger brother coddled and kept, Riki, the small middle son, seemed born for the art of invisibility. It was an art he cultivated, and one which ultimately saved his life on the night that his people were betrayed and his family slaughtered. Of all the royal line, he alone escaped--small and agile, unassuming, using smoke as cover. He cut his way out of the royal grounds, using the advantage of surprise, quietly slitting the throats of one enemy warrior after another. Now free of his royal responsibilities, Riki uses his talents in service to a new trade: Stealth Assassin. He silences his enemies, sharpening his skills, hoping to one day take revenge on those who killed his family and robbed him of his birthright.
Nothing is known of Enigma's background. There are only stories and legends, most of them apocryphal, passed down through the ages. In truth, Enigma is a mystery for whom the only true biography is description: he is a universal force, a consumer of worlds. He is a being of the void, at times corporeal, other times ethereal. A beast between the planes. There are stories that say he was once a great alchemist who tried to unlock the secrets of the universe and was cursed for his arrogance. Other legends tell that he is an ancient being of strange gravity, the abyss personified—a twisted voice from out the original darkness, before the first light in the universe. And there are older legends that say he is the first collapsed star, a black hole grown complicated and sentient—his motivations unknowable, his power inexorable, a force of destruction unleashed upon existence itself.
Boush the Tinker's diminutive race is known for its intelligence, its cunning, and its prickly relationship with magic. As a matter of pride, they survive by their wits, and use only those powers of nature that may be unlocked through rational methodologies. Even this forbearance has led to a great deal of trouble, as Boush can attest. Once a key investigator of natural law, Boush the Tinker led a vast intellectual investigation into the workings of nature, founding a subterranean laboratory in the rumored, mist-wreathed wastes of the Violet Plateau. While scorning mages for the dangers they visit upon the world, Boush and his Tinker associates haughtily wrenched open a portal to some realm beyond comprehension and ushered in some nightmares of their own. A black mist rose from the cavernous interior of the Violet Plateau, shrouding it in permanent darkness from which sounds of horror perpetually emanate. Boush escaped with only his wits and the contraptions he carried, the sole Tinker to survive the Violet Plateau Incident.
Kardel Sharpeye was born deep in the mountainous valleys of Knollen where, since time immemorial, the folk have survived by hunting the strange, cliff-dwelling steepstalkers above their village--killing them from a distance and collecting their carcasses where they fell. Sharpeye was among the best of these strange folk for whom projectile weapons are but another appendage, and to shoot is as natural as to touch. On his day of summoning, when he was to gain full standing in his village, Sharpeye took the ancient test: a single shot from the valley floor to strike a beast down from the cliffs. To miss was to be dishonored. With his entire village standing vigil, Sharpeye took his shot. A steepstalker fell; the crowd cheered. But when the carcass was collected, the village grew silent, for the elders found that the bullet had pierced its glittering central eye then fallen to be clenched in the steepstalker's mandibles. This ominous sign was the literal opening of a dark prophesy, foretelling both greatness and exile for the gunman who made such a shot. Sharpeye the Sniper was thus, by his own skill, condemned to make his way apart from his people--and unwelcome back among them until he has fulfilled the remainder of the prophecy by attaining legendary stature on a field of battle.
In a time of great plague, an obscure monk of dark inclinations, one Rotund'jere, found himself promoted to the rank of Cardinal by the swift death of all his superiors. While others of the order went out to succor the ill, the newly ordained cardinal secluded himself within the Cathedral of Rumusque, busily scheming to acquire the property of dying nobles, promising them spiritual rewards if they signed over their terrestrial domains. As the plague receded to a few stubborn pockets, his behavior came to the attention of the greater order, which found him guilty of heresy and sentenced him to serve in the plague ward, ensorcelled with spells that would ensure him a slow and lingering illness. But they had not counted on his natural immunity. Rotund'jere caught the pox, but instead of dying, found it feeding his power, transforming him into a veritable plague-mage, a Pope of Pestilence. Proclaiming himself the Necrolyte, he travels the world, spreading plague wherever he goes, and growing in terrible power with every village his pestilential presence obliterates.
Karroch was born a child of the stocks. His mother died in childbirth; his father, a farrier for the Mad King of Slom, was trampled to death when he was five. Afterward Karroch was indentured to the king’s menagerie, where he grew up among all the beasts of the royal court: lions, apes, fell-deer, and things less known, things barely believed in. When the lad was seven, an explorer brought in a beast like none before seen. Dragged before the King in chains, the beast spoke, though its mouth moved not. Its words: a plea for freedom. The King only laughed and ordered the beast perform for his amusement; and when it refused, struck it with the Mad Scepter and ordered it dragged to the stocks. Over the coming months, the boy Karroch sneaked food and medicinal draughts to the wounded creature, but only managed to slow its deterioration. Wordlessly, the beast spoke to the boy, and over time their bond strengthened until the boy found he could hold up his end of a conversation--could in fact speak now to all the creatures of the King's menagerie. On the night the beast died, a rage came over the boy. He incited the animals of the court to rebel and threw open their cages to set them amok on the palace grounds. The Mad King was mauled in the mayhem. In the chaos, one regal stag bowed to the boy who had freed him; and with Beastmaster astride him, leapt the high walls of the estate, and escaped. Now a man, Karroch the Beastmaster has not lost his ability to converse with wild creatures. He has grown into a warrior at one with nature’s savagery.
In the Acid Jungles of Jidi Isle, poison runs in the veins and bubbles in the guts of every creature that scuttles, climbs or swoops between fluorescent vines dripping with caustic sap. Yet even in this toxic menagerie, Venomancer is acknowledged as the most venomous. Ages ago, an Herbalist named Lesale crossed the Bay of Fradj by coracle, searching for potent essences that might be extracted from bark and root, and found instead a nightmare transformation. Two leagues into Jidi's jungle, Lesale encountered a reptile camouflaged as an epiphyte, which stung him as he mistakenly plucked it. In desperation, he used his partial knowledge of the jungle's herbal bounty, mixing the venom of the (swiftly throttled) reptile with the nectar of an armored orchid, to compound an antidote. In the moments before a black paralysis claimed him completely, he injected himself by orchid-thorn, and instantly fell into a coma. Seventeen years later, something stirred in the spot where he had fallen, throwing off the years' accumulation of humus: Venomancer. Lesale the Herbalist no longer--but Lesale the Deathbringer. His mind was all but erased, and his flesh had been consumed and replaced by a new type of matter--one fusing the venom of the reptile with the poisonous integument of the orchid. Jidi's Acid Jungles knew a new master, one before whom even the most vicious predators soon learned to bow or burrow for their lives. The lurid isle proved too confining, and some human hunger deep in the heart of the Venomancer drove Lesale out in search of new poisons--and new deaths to bring.
The malevolent familiar of a sadistic wizard who captured and hoped to tame him, Viper was curiously glad to have been sprung from the sealed and unchanging subterranean Nether Reaches where his race had lived for millions of years, after tectonic slippage had sealed off the Netherdrakes in luminous caverns. Viper spent some time appearing to submit to the wizard's enchainments, hoping to learn what he could of the dark magics the mage practiced. But he soon realized that few spells were as deadly as the toxins that were his birthright. Exuding an acid that swiftly ate away the bars of his cage, the Netherdrake slipped free of his confines, spit poison in the old spellcaster's eyes, and soared out to let the world know that it had a new master.
After years on the trail of a legendary Eldwurm, the Knight Davion found himself facing a disappointing foe: the dreaded Slyrak had grown ancient and frail, its wings tattered, its few remaining scales stricken with scale-rot, its fangs ground to nubs, and its fire-gouts no more threatening than a pack of wet matchsticks. Seeing no honor to be gained in dragon-murder, Knight Davion prepared to turn away and leave his old foe to die in peace. But a voice crept into his thoughts, and Slyrak gave a whispered plea that Davion might honor him with death in combat. Davion agreed, and found himself rewarded beyond expectation for his act of mercy: As he sank his blade in Slyrak's breast, the dragon pierced Davion's throat with a talon. As their blood mingled, Slyrak sent his power out along the Blood Route, sending all its strength and centuries of wisdom to the knight. The dragon's death sealed their bond and Dragon Knight was born. The ancient power slumbers in the Dragon Knight Davion, waking when he calls it. Or perhaps it is the Dragon that calls the Knight...
Fast when he needs to be, and a cunning strategist, Ish'Kafel the Dark Seer requires no edged weapons to vanquish his enemies, relying instead on the strength of his powerful mind. His talent lies in his ability to maneuver the fight to his advantage. Hailing from a place he calls 'The Land behind the wall,' Dark Seer remains an outsider here—a warrior from a realm beyond the veil of this reality. Once a great general among his people, and a valiant defender of the god-king Damathryx, Dark Seer’s army was wiped out by a much larger force in the final days of the Great Boundaries War. Facing certain defeat, he made one last desperate act: he led the enemy forces into the maze between the walls. At the last moment, just before capture, he crossed over—then sealed the walls forever in an explosive release of dark energy. When the dust settled, he saw that he had saved his people but found himself blinking at the sun of a different world, with no way to return. Now he is committed to proving his worth as a military strategist, and vows to show that he’s the greatest tactician this strange new world has ever seen.
Aiushtha appears to be an innocent, carefree creature of the woods, and while this is certainly true, it is hardly the sum of her story. She well understands the suffering of the natural world. She has wandered far, and fared through forests bright and drear, in every clime and every season, gathering friends, sharing news, bringing laughter and healing wherever she goes. For in worlds wracked by war, forests are leveled for the building of ships and siege engines; and even in places of peace, the woods are stripped for the building of homes, and as fuel for countless hearths. Aiushtha hears the pleas of the small creatures, the furtive folk who need green shade and a leafy canopy to thrive. She lends her ears to those who have no other listeners. She carries their stories from the wood to the world, believing that her own good cheer is a kind of Enchantment, that can itself fulfill the promise of a verdant future.
In the dungeons of Devarque, a vengeful wizard lay in shackles, plotting his escape. He shared his cell with a gibbering creature known as N'aix, a thief cursed by the Vile Council with longevity, so that its life-sentence for theft and cozening might be as punishing as possible. Over the years, its chains had corroded, along with its sanity; N'aix retained no memory of its former life and no longer dreamt of escape. Seeing a perfect vessel for his plans, the wizard wove a spell of Infestation and cast his life-force into N'aix's body, intending to compel N'aix to sacrifice itself in a frenzy of violence while the mage returned to his body and crept away unnoticed. Instead, the wizard found his mind caught in a vortex of madness so powerful that it swept away his plans and shattered his will. Jarred to consciousness by the sudden infusion of fresh life, N'aix woke from its nightmare of madness and obeyed the disembodied voice that filled its skull, which had only the one thought: To escape. In that moment Lifestealer was born. The creature cast its mind into dungeon guards and soldiers, compelling them to open locks and cut down their companions, opening an unobstructed path to freedom while feeding on their lives. Lifestealer still wears the broken shackles as a warning that none may hold him, but on the inside remains a prisoner. Two minds inhabit the single form--a nameless creature of malevolent cunning, and the Master whose voice he pretends to obey.
Purist Thunderwrath was a hard-fighting, road-worn, deeply committed knight, sworn to the order in which he had grown up as squire to elder knights of great reputation. He had spent his entire life in the service of the Omniscience, the All Seeing One. Theirs was a holy struggle, and so embedded was he in his duty that he never questioned it so long as he had the strength to fight and the impetuous valor that comes with youth. But over the long years of the crusade, as his elders passed away and were buried in sorry graves at the side of muddy tracks, as his bond-brothers fell in battle to uncouth creatures that refused to bow to the Omniscience, as his own squires were chewed away by ambush and plague and bad water, he began to question the meaning of his vows--the meaning of the whole crusade. After deep meditation, he parted ways with his army and commenced a long trek back to the cave-riddled cliffs of Emauracus, and there he set a challenge to the priests of the Omniscience. No knight had ever questioned them before, and they tried to throw him into the pit of sacrifice, but Purist would not be moved. For as he faced them down, he began to glow with a holy light, and they saw that the Omniscience had chosen to reveal Itself to him. The Elder Hierophant led him on a journey of weeks down into the deepest chamber, the holy of holies, where waited not some abstract concept of wisdom and insight, not some carved relic requiring an injection of imagination to believe in, but the old one itself. It had not merely dwelt in those rocks for billions of aeons; no, It had created them. The Omniscience had formed the immense mineral shell of the planet around itself, as a defense against the numerous terrors of space. Thus the All Seeing One claimed to have created the world, and given the other truths revealed to Puritan on that day, the knight had no reason to refute the story. Perhaps the Omniscience is a liar, deep in its prison of stone, and not the world's creator at all, but Omniknight never again questioned his faith. His campaign had meaning at last. And there can be no question that the glorious powers that imbue him, and give his companions such strength in battle, are real beyond any doubt.
Emerging from the throes of the sacred Nothl Realm, Huskar opened his eyes to see the prodigal shadow priest Dazzle working a deep incantation over him. Against the ancient rites of the Dezun Order, Huskar’s spirit had been saved from eternity, but like all who encounter the Nothl he found himself irrevocably changed. No longer at the mercy of a mortal body, his very lifeblood became a source of incredible power; every drop spilled was returned tenfold with a fierce, burning energy. However this newfound gift infuriated Huskar, for in his rescue from the Nothl, Dazzle had denied him a place among the gods. He had been denied his own holy sacrifice. In time the elders of the order sought to expand their influence and Huskar, they agreed, would be a formidable tool in their campaign. Yet becoming a mere weapon for the order that denied him his birthright only upset him further. As the first embers of war appeared on the horizon, he fled his ancestral home to find new allies, all the while seeking a cause worthy of unleashing the power his total sacrifice could bring.
Of Balanar the Night Stalker, there is no history, only stories. There are ancient tales woven into the lore of every race and every culture, of an impossible time before sunlight and daytime, when night reigned alone and the world was covered with the creatures of darkness—creatures like the Night Stalker. It is said that on the dawn of the First Day, all the night creatures perished. All, that is, save one. Evil's embodiment, Balanar delights in his malevolence. He created the primal role of the Night Terror, the Boogeyman, and as long as there have been younglings, his is the specter summoned to terrify them. This is a role he relishes--nor are these empty theatrics. He does indeed stalk the unwary, the defenseless, those who have strayed beyond the lighted paths or denied the warnings of their communities. Night Stalker serves as living proof that every child's worst nightmare....is true.
For centuries, Black Arachnia the Broodmother lurked in the dark lava tubes beneath the smoldering caldera of Mount Pyrotheos, raising millions of spiderlings in safety before sending them to find prey in the wide world above. In a later age, the Vizier of Greed, Ptholopthales, erected his lodestone ziggurat on the slopes of the dead volcano, knowing that any looters who sought his magnetic wealth must survive the spider-haunted passages. After millennia of maternal peace, Black Arachnia found herself beset by a steady trickle of furfeet and cutpurses, bold knights and noble youths--all of them delicious, certainly, and yet tending to create a less than nurturing environment for her innocent offspring. Tiring of the intrusions, she paid a visit to Ptholopthales; and when he proved unwilling to discuss a compromise, she wrapped the Vizier in silk and set him aside to be the centerpiece of a special birthday feast. Unfortunately, the absence of the Magnetic Ziggurat's master merely emboldened a new generation of intruders. When one of her newborns was trodden underfoot by a clumsy adventurer, she reached the end of her silken rope. Broodmother headed for the surface, declaring her intent to rid the world of each and every possible invader, down to the last Hero if necessary, until she could ensure her nursery might once more be a safe and wholesome environment for her precious spiderspawn.
He that burns and is not consumed, devours and is never sated, kills and is beyond all judgment—Lucifer brings doom to all who would stand against him. Bearing away souls on the tip of a fiery sword, he is the Fallen One. A once-favored general from the realm behind the light, cast out for the sin of defiance—he would not kneel. Six times his name was tolled from the great bell of Vashundol. Six and sixty times his wings were branded, until only smoking stumps remained. Without wings, he slipped loose from the tethers that held him within the light and fell screaming to earth. A crater in the desert, Paradise lost. Now he attacks without mercy, without motive. Lashed by inescapable needs, twisted by unimaginable talents, the Doom Bringer carries his own hell with him wherever he goes. Defiant to the last. Eventually, the world will belong to Doom.
The fabric of creation needs constant care, lest it grow tattered; for when it unravels, whole worlds come undone. It is the work of the Weavers to keep the fabric tight, to repair worn spots in the mesh of reality. They also defend from the things that gnaw and lay their eggs in frayed regions, whose young can quickly devour an entire universe if the Weavers let their attention lapse. Skitskurr was a master Weaver, charged with keep one small patch of creation tightly woven and unfaded. But the job was not enough to satisfy. It nagged him that the original work of creation all lay in the past; the Loom had done its work and travelled on. He wanted to create rather than merely maintain--to weave worlds of his own devising. He began making small changes to his domain, but the thrill of creation proved addictive, and his strokes became bolder, pulling against the pattern that the Loom had woven. The guardians came, with their scissors, and Weaver's world was pared off, snipped from the cosmic tapestry, which they rewove without him in it. Skitskurr found himself alone, apart from his kind, a state that would have been torment for any other Weaver. But Skitskurr rejoiced, for now he was free. Free to create for himself, to begin anew. The raw materials he needed to weave a new reality were all around him. All he had to do was tear apart this old world at the seams.
Even among magical beasts, a twin-headed dragon is a freak. Equal parts ice and fire, cunning and rage, the creature known as Jakiro glides over charred and ice-bound battlefields, laying waste to all who would bear arms against it. Pyrexae dragon clutches always contain two fledglings. Famous for their viciousness even from the first moments of life, newly hatched dragons of this species will try to kill their sibling while still in the nest. Only the strongest survive. In this way is the strength of the Pyrexae line ensured. By some accident of nature, the freak Jakiro hatched from a single egg, combining in a single individual the full range of abilities found within the diverse Pyrexae species. Trapped within the armature of its monstrous body, the powers of ice and fire combine, and now no enemy is safe.
There is no such thing as harmony among the creatures of the Yama Raskav Jungle. By bite, or claw, or pincer, or hoof, even the slightest sign of weakness means a swift death. They say the Rider was just a lad cutting chaff in his family’s field when he was taken, swept up by a massive morde-bat looking for take-out. But this boy had a better idea, and wriggled his way from his captor’s grip, onto the beast’s back, and hacked it down with his tools. Emerging from the bloody wreckage and intoxicated by the thrill of flight, the boy realized he’d found his calling. The boy grew, and every summer he’d return to his family’s field, often setting out into the bush seeking to reclaim that first thrill of facing death in the form of jaws or a fatal fall. The years went on, but his fire only grew stronger. He studied the overgrowth, plunging deeper with each expedition, until finally he found his way to the caves at the heart of hostility. They say the Rider, on the eve of a scorching summer night, had nothing but a rope, a bottle of liquid courage and a burning determination to feel the skies once more, when he plunged inside...
Kaldr, the Ancient Apparition, is an image projected from outside time. He springs from the cold, infinite void that both predates the universe and awaits its end. Kaldr is, Kaldr was, Kaldr shall be...and what we perceive, powerful as it appears to us, is but the faintest faded echo of the true, eternal Kaldr. Some believe that as the cosmos ages and approaches its final moments, the brightness and power of Kaldr will also intensify--that the Ancient Apparition will grow younger and stronger as eternity's end draws nigh. His grip of ice will bring all matter to a stop, his image will cast a light too terrible to behold. An Apparition no longer!
The sacred science of Chymistry was a Darkbrew family tradition, but no Darkbrew had ever shown the kind of creativity, ambition, and recklessness of young Razzil. However, when adulthood came calling he pushed aside the family trade to try his hand at manufacturing gold though Alchemy. In an act of audacity befitting his reputation, Razzil announced he would transmute an entire mountain into gold. Following two decades of research and spending and preparation, he failed spectacularly, quickly finding himself imprisoned for the widespread destruction his experiment wrought. Yet Razzil was never one to take a setback lightly, and sought escape to continue his research. When his new cellmate turned out to be a fierce ogre, he found just the opportunity he needed. After convincing the ogre not to eat him, Razzil set about carefully concocting a tincture for it to drink, made from the moulds and mosses growing in the prison stone work. In a week’s time, it seemed ready. When the ogre drank the potion, it flew into an unstoppable berserker rage, destroying the cell bars and exploding through walls and guards alike. They soon found themselves lost somewhere in the forest surrounding the city with a trail of wreckage in their wake and no signs of pursuit. In the tonic’s afterglow, the ogre seemed serene, happy, and even eager. Resolving to work together, the pair set off to collect the materials needed to attempt Razzil’s Alchemic transmutation once more.
Born in the godless Hazhadal Barrens, Chen came of age among the outlaw tribes who eked out an existence in the shimmering heat of the desert. Using an ancient form of animal enthrallment, Chen’s people husbanded the hardy desert locuthi, a stunted species of burrowing dragon that melted desert sands into tubes of glass where twice-a-year rains collected. Always on the edge of starvation and thirst, fighting amongst their neighbors and each other, Chen’s clan made the mistake, one fateful day, of ambushing the wrong caravan. In the vicious battle that followed, Chen’s clan was outmatched. The armored Knights of the Fold made short work of the enthralled locuthi, who attacked and died in waves. With their dragons dead, the tribesmen followed. Chen struggled, and slashed, and clawed, and perished--or would have. Defeated, on his knees, he faced his execution with humility, offering his neck to the blade. Moved by Chen’s obvious courage, the executioner halted his sword. Instead of the blade, Chen was given a choice: death or conversion. Chen took to the faith with a ferocity. He joined the Fold and earned his armor one bloody conversion at a time. Now, with the fanaticism of a convert, and with his powers of animal enthrallment at their peak, he seeks out unbelievers and introduces them to their final reward.
Just as higher states of energy seek a lower level, the Spectre known as Mercurial is a being of intense and violent energy who finds herself irresistibly drawn to scenes of strife as they unfold in the physical world. While her normal spectral state transcends sensory limitations, each time she takes on a physical manifestation, she is stricken by a loss of self--though not of purpose. In the clash of combat, her identity shatters and reconfigures, and she begins to regain awareness. She grasps that she is Mercurial the Spectre--and that all of her Haunts are but shadows of the one true Spectre. Focus comes in the struggle for survival; her true mind reasserts itself; until in the final moments of victory or defeat, she transcends matter and is restored once more to her eternal form.
In its earliest, and some would say most potent form, magic was primarily the art of memory. It required no technology, no wands or appurtenances other than the mind of the magician. All the trappings of ritual were merely mnemonic devices, meant to allow the practitioner to recall in rich detail the specific mental formulae that unlocked a spell's power. The greatest mages in those days were the ones blessed with the greatest memories, and yet so complex were the invocations that all wizards were forced to specialize. The most devoted might hope in a lifetime to have adequate recollection of three spells--four at most. Ordinary wizards were content to know two, and it was not uncommon for a village mage to know only one--with even that requiring him to consult grimoires as an aid against forgetfulness on the rare occasions when he might be called to use it. But among these early practitioners there was one exception, a genius of vast intellect and prodigious memory: Garral the Invoker. In his youth, the precocious Garral mastered not four, not five, not even seven incantations: He could command no fewer than ten spells, and cast them instantly. Many more he learned but found useless, and would practice once then purge from his mind forever, to make room for more practical invocations. One such spell was the Sempiternal Cantrap--a longevity spell of such power that those who cast it in the world's first days are among us still (unless they have been crushed to atoms). Most of these quasi-immortals live quietly, afraid to admit their secret: But Invoker is not one to keep his gifts hidden. He is ancient, learned beyond all others, and his mind somehow still has space to contain an immense sense of his own worth...as well as the Invocations with which he amuses himself through the long twilight of creation.
Krobelus was a Death Prophet--which is one way of saying she told fortunes for a price, but only for the noblest and wealthiest of those who wished to look beyond the veil. After years of inquiring on behalf of others, she began to seek her own fortune. More and more often she gazed into the face of death to see if it knew her, and what it might have in mind. For her clients, who wished to know not only their living fate but what awaited them beyond life's exit, no price was too great to pay, and she passed along to them the cost of her investigations. But the ultimate price, her life, proved insufficient. Death disgorged her again and again, always holding back its deepest mysteries; and in her soul the greatest of jealousies grew. Others could die for eternity--why not she? Why must she be cast back on the shores of life with such tiresome regularity? What was it that haunted the realm of death, unknowable, yet so set against Krobelus that she could not prove herself worthy of the one thing all other living creatures took for granted? Still, she would not be discouraged. After flinging herself into the abyss times beyond counting, she began to make some headway. A minuscule shred of her substance, she believed, was lost to the grave and replaced with the faintest whiff of ectoplasm. She gave a little of her life with every demise. Did this mean that the end was in sight? Could Krobelus win this war of self-attrition? With her dedication to death redoubled, and no client other than herself, she threw herself ever more fervently through death's doors, intent on fulfilling the one prophecy that eluded her: That someday Death Prophet too would be no more.
When the huntedtell tales of Gondar the Bounty Hunter, none are sure of which are true. Inwhispered tones they say he was abandoned as a kit, learning his skill intracking as a matter of simple survival. Others hear he was an orphan of war,taken in by the great Soruq the Hunter to learn themaster’s skill with a blade as they plumbed the dark forests for big game.Still others believe he was a lowly street urchin raised among a guild ofcutpurses and thieves, trained in the arts of stealth and misdirection. Aroundcampfires in the wild countryside his quarry speaks the rumors of Gondar’swork, growing ever more fearful: they say it was he who tracked down the tyrantKing Goff years after the mad regent went into hiding, delivering his head andscepter as proof. That it was he who infiltrated the rebel camps at Highseat,finally bringing the legendary thief White Cape to be judged for his crimes.And that it was he who ended the career of Soruq the Hunter, condemned as acriminal for killing the Prince’s prized hellkite. The tales of Gondar’sincredible skill stretch on, with each daring feat more unbelievable than thelast, each target more elusive. For the right price, the hunted know, anyonecan be found. For the right price, even the mightiest may find fear in theshadows.
Ulfsaar the Warrior is the fiercest member of an ursine tribe, protective of his land and his people. During the long winters, while the mothers sleep and nurse their cubs, the males patrol the lands above--tireless, vigilant defenders of their ancient ways. Hearing dim but growing rumors of a spreading evil, Ulfsaar headed out beyond the boundaries of his wild wooded homeland, intending to track down and destroy the threat at its source, before it could endanger his people. He is a proud creature with a bright strong spirit, utterly trustworthy, a staunch ally and defender.
Born in the Bleeding Hills, Rhasta was just a starving youngling when picked up by a travelling con-man. For two pins of copper, the old con-man would tell your fortune. For three, he’d castrate your pig, for five, he’d circumcise your sons. For a good meal, he’d don his shaman garb, read from his ancient books, and lay a curse upon your enemies. His strange new youngling, part hill trowle, part…something else, worked as assistant and lent an air of the exotic to the con-man’s trade. Always one step ahead of cheated customers, one town ahead of a pursuing patronage, the two trekked across the blighted lands until one day the con-man realized that the little youngling could actually do what he only pretended at. His ward had a gift—a gift that customers valued. And so the youngling Rhasta was thrust before the crowds, and the trade-name Shadow Shaman was born. The two continued from town to town, conjuring for money as Shadow Shaman’s reputation grew. Eventually, the pair’s duplicitous past caught up with them, and they were ambushed by a mob of swindled ex-clients. The con-man was slain, and for the first time, Rhasta used his powers for darkness, massacring the attackers. He buried his beloved master, and now uses his powers to destroy any who would seek to do him harm.
Barathrum the Spiritbreaker is a lordly and powerful being, a fierce and elemental intelligence which chose to plane-shift into the world of matter to take part in events with repercussions in the elemental realm that is his home. To that end, he assembled a form that would serve him well, both in our world and out of it. His physical form borrows from the strengths of this world, blending features both bovine and simian--horns, hooves and hands--as outward emblems of his inner qualities of strength, speed and cunning. He wears a ring in his nose, as a reminder that he serves a hidden master, and that this world in which he works is but a shadow of the real one.
Part of the seventh and final generation of a careful designed pedigree, Nortrom was bred by the ancient order of the Aeol Drias to be the greatest magic user the world had ever seen. He was the prophesied one, the culmination of two-hundred years of careful pairings, a war-mage who would bring glory to the order, and destruction to their sworn enemies, The Knights of the Fold.
Raised with other young mages in a hidden cantonment within the hills overlooking the Hazhadal barrens, the order’s preceptors waited for Nortrom’s abilities to manifest. While the other students honed their talents with fire, or ice, or incantatory spells, Nortrom sat silent and talentless, unable to cast so much as a hex. As the day of final testing approached, he still hadn’t found his magic. In disgust, the preceptors berated him, while the other children laughed. “You are no mage,” the head of the order declared. Still, Nortrom did not slink away. He entered the day of testing and faced down the order young mages who had mocked him. And then his preceptors learned a valuable lesson: a lack of magic can be the greatest magic of all. Nortrom silenced the other talented young mages one by one and submitted them in single combat, until he alone stood as champion of the Aeol Drias, in fulfillment of the prophesy. Afterward, Nortrom set out into the world with a new name, Silencer, on a mission to silence magic wherever he encountered it.
At the base of the Bleeding Hills stretches a thousand-league wood—a place called The Hoven, where black pools gather the tarry blood of the uplands, and the king-mage Sutherex sits in benevolent rule. Once a sworn protector of the Hoven lands, Clinkz earned a reputation for his skill with a bow. In the three-hundredth year of the king-mage, the demon Maraxiform rose from sixth hell to lay claim to the forest. In response, the king-mage decried an unbreakable spell: to any who slew the demon would be granted Life Without End. Unaware of the spell, Clinkz waded into battle, defending his lands against the demon’s fiery onslaught. Clinkz drove Maraxiform back to the gates of sixth-hell itself, where on that fiery threshold the two locked in a mortal conflict. Grievously wounded, the demon let out a blast of hellfire as Clinkz loosed his final arrow. The arrow struck the demon true as hellfire poured out across the land, lighting the black pools and burning Clinkz alive at the instant of the demon’s death. Thus, the mage’s spell took effect at the very moment of the archer’s conflagration, preserving him in this unholy state, leaving him a being of bones and rage, caught in the very act of dying, carrying hell’s breathe with him on his journey into eternity
One of a lordly and magisterial race, Harbinger prowls the edge of the Void, sole surviving sentry of an outpost on the world at the rim of the abyss. From this jagged crystalline Outworld, forever on guard, he has gazed for eternities into the heavens, alert for any stirring in the bottomless night beyond the stars. Imprinted deep in the shining lattices of his intellect lies a resonant pattern akin to prophecy, a dark music implying that eventually some evil will wake out there, beyond the edges of creation, and turn its attention to our world. With his whole being focused on his vigil, Outworld Destroyer paid little attention to events closer in to the sun. But at last the clamor of the Ancients, and a sense of growing threat from within as well as without, sent him winging sunward to visit the plains of war. Harbinger's place in our own prophecies is unambiguous: he must be considered an omen of worse things to come. But his arrival in itself is bad enough.
Among the sovereign Demons with explicit access to this world, Doom Bringer scarcely bothers with the affairs of Noninfernals and Lesser Spectral Consorts, while Shadow Fiend passes through almost exclusively on collecting expeditions. The Shadow Demon, however, has always taken a deep and abiding interest in the material plane, as if sensing that mastery of this gritty dimensional nexus might be the key to total domination of all realities. Summoned first by minor wizards, the Shadow Demon granted every wish and put on increasingly impressive displays of power until he had the full attention of the greatest demonologists, and through them the various lords, tyrants, autarchs and heirophants who depended on sorcery to buttress their mundane power. So great was his deception that all his summoners considered themselves the master and Shadow Demon the servant; meanwhile, he eroded their identities and made their minds his own. In the end, most members of the cult were hollow puppets, extensions of his evil will. What Shadow Demon's next step would have been remains open to speculation, for around this time, Nevermore the Shadow Fiend bit into a particularly nasty-tasting soul and discovered that it held nothing but a foul nougat of Shadow Demon's essence. Alerted that a coup was underway, and that the ancient equilibrium of the Umbral Pact was about to be destabilized, Doom Bringer and Shadow Fiend briefly joined forces to destroy the burgeoning cult. Combining spells of incredible force, they undid Shadow Demon's centuries of patient work, reducing his cult to smithereens--and all its members to a bloody splatter. Nothing remained except a tiny speck of demon shadow. Immortal and irreducible, this mote of evil was enough to seed the Shadow Demon's next scheme, and in fits and starts, over further centuries, he began to regroup. Whatever that speck of shadow touched, it tainted, and its influence gradually grew. A chaos of damaged parts pulled together, reknit, and combined to give Shadow Demon a form even stronger than his former. He is all but complete now, and his plan for infinite dominion lacks all of its former weaknesses. It would seem that such a being of pure malice and malevolence, a threat to all creation, would be forever out of place in our world...yet Shadow Demon does not lack for followers.
Banehallow was noble-born to the house of Ambry, the greatest of the landed castes in the old kingdom of Slom. Before the Fall, as the King’s wants grew strange, and his court grew crowded with sorcerers and charlatans, the house of Ambry was the first to rise against the avarice of the throne. No longer willing to pay homage and fealty, they instead sent six-thousand swords into the capital, where they were wiped out in the Massacre of the Apostates. And then came the teeth behind the old truth: When you strike a king’s neck, you had better take his head. Enraged by the betrayal, the king exterminated the vast Ambry bloodline, sparing only the lord of the house and his youngest son, Banehallow. Before all the royal court, with the disgraced lord chained to the ornate marble floor, the King bade his magicians transform the boy into a wolf so that he might tear out his own father’s throat. “Do this,” the king said, “so that Lord Ambry will understand the bite of betrayal.” Powerful magic was invoked, and the child was transformed. But though his body was changed, his spirit remained intact, and instead of biting the exposed neck of his father, he attacked his handlers, tearing them to pieces. A dozen of the King’s knights perished under the wolf’s teeth before they managed to drive it off into the night. Lord Ambry laughed from his chains even as the King ran him through with a sword. Now the heir to the lost house of Ambry, Banehallow wanders the trail as the Lycan, part warrior, part wolf, in search of justice for all that he lost.
Long before the first words of the first histories there rose the druidic Bear Clan. Wise and just they were, and focused in their ways to seek an understanding of the natural order. The arch forces of nature saw this, and so sought the most learned among them. Wise old Sylla, clan justiciar and seer, stepped forward for his kin, and to him was given the Seed with these words: 'When all of the world has dimmed, when civilization has left these lands, when the world is slain and wracked by the endless deserts at the end of ages, plant the Seed.' As he grasped his trust, Sylla felt his years recede and his vitality returned. Vast knowledge burst into his mind.
He found himself able to project his very will into reality and, with some concentration, alter his own physical form as well. Yet subtle whispers and cruel ears brought word of the Seed and its power to other peoples, and a terrible war crashed upon the Bear Clan. As his ancestral home burned, Sylla took his burden and fled to the wild places. Ages passed, and time and myth forgot the Bear Clan, forgot Sylla and the Seed, forgot wondrous civilizations that rose and fell in Bear Clan’s wake. Through the eons, Sylla has waited, waited for word from his deities, waited for peace to come to the ever warring realms, waited in exile and in secret for the end of all things and for the conclusion of his sacred commitment, preparing himself always to face and destroy whatever would dare threaten his purpose.
早在有史可考的年代之前，德鲁伊巨熊部落就已经形成了。他们天生就是智者，专注于探索和理解自然秩序。自然之力注意到了他们，并找到了他们中最有学识的一位，睿智的老悉拉，巨熊部落的先知 和仲裁者，脱颖而出。它走到悉拉面前，将生命之种交给了他，并且告诉他：“当世界变得昏暗，当文明不再繁荣，当荒漠延伸到世界的尽头，那就种下这粒种子。”获得了自然之力的信任以后，悉拉 感到自己的活力又回来了，岁月的痕迹也消失无踪，他原本渊博的学识更加广袤。
同时，他发现自己能够将自己的意愿变成现实，甚至，在专注的情况下，能够改变自己的物质形态。然而，关于生命之 种的谣言却给他的部落和人民带来了灾难，恐怖的战争席卷了整个部落，将其毁于一旦。家园被毁，悉拉带着自己的责任，逃到了荒野。随着时间的流逝，巨熊部落以及生命之种的故事已经在岁月长河 中被人遗忘。几万年来，悉拉一直在等待，等待神谕，等待永世争斗的结束，等待他流浪宿命的终结，等待他神圣使命的实现，同时准备着消灭那些敢于阻挠他的事物。
Deep in the Wailing Mountains, in a valley beneath the Ruined City, the ancient Order of the Oyo has for centuries practiced its rights of holy reverie, communing with the spirit realm in grand festivals of drink. Born to a mother’s flesh by a Celestial father, the youth known as Mangix was the first to grow up with the talents of both lineages. He trained with the greatest aesthetes of the Order, eventually earning, through diligent drunkenness, the right to challenge for the title of Brewmaster—that appellation most honored among the contemplative malt-brewing sect.
As much drinking competition as mortal combat, Mangix for nine days drank and fought the elder master. For nine nights they stumbled and whirled, chugged and struck, until at last the elder warrior collapsed into a drunken stupor, and a new Brewmaster was named. Now the new, young Brewmaster calls upon the strength of his Oyo forebears to speed his staff. When using magic, it is to his spirit ancestors that he turns. Like all Brewmasters before him, he was sent out from his people with a single mission. He wanders the land, striving toward enlightenment through drink, searching for the answer to the ancient spiritual schism—hoping to think the single thought that will unite the spirit and physical planes again.
The remote village of Pole had no knowledge of the wars raging in the heart of the kingdom. For them, the quiet of spear fishing, and a family meal were all that a full life required. Yet war came for them nonetheless. Joining the able-bodied conscripts as they filed past their homes, the humble lancer Azwraith vowed to bring peace to his kingdom, and in so doing, his people. Placed with his kin in the vanguard of the final assault against the Dread Magus Vorn, the cost to his fellows was absolute. As the charging force battled toward the fortress, Azwraith alone among his kind remained standing, and he alone was able to infiltrate the keep. Focused and infuriated by the slaughter of his brothers, Azwraith bested each of the wizard's deadly traps and conjured guardians. Soon the simple fisherman arrived at Vorn's tower sanctum. The pair dueled through the night, pike to staff, as chaos raged below, and with a deafening cry Azwraith pierced his enemy. But the wizard did not simply expire; he exploded into uncountable shards of light, penetrating his killer with power. As the dust settled and the smoke of combat began to clear, Azwraith found himself standing among a throng of his kin. Each seemed to be dressed as he was, each seemed armed as he was, and he could sense that each thought as he did. Aware that his allies were approaching, he willed these phantoms to hide themselves, and one by one they began to vanish into nothingness. As the soldiers came upon the sanctum, they found the warrior that had bested the wizard. When they approached their champion, the lancer vanished. The pikeman who had stood before them was no more than another phantom. The real Azwraith had fled the field, ashamed of his anger, heartbroken at his loss, and all the more determined to ensure peace for his people through the wars to come.
Far to the west, in the mountains beyond the Vale of Augury, lie the remains of an ancient power, a fount of eldritch energy nestled deep in the high woods. It is said that the things that grow here, grow strangely. To the forces of nature this is a sacred place, made to stay hidden and unknown. Many are the traps and dangers of this land--all-consuming grasses and crossbred fauna and poisonous flowers--but none are so fierce as the mighty Treant Protectors. These ageless, titanic beings, charged with keeping the peace in this dangerous land, ensure that none within encroach without reason, and none without poach their secrets. For time untold they tended to their holy ground, uninterrupted, only dimly aware of the changing world beyond. Yet inevitably the wider world grew aware of this untamed land, and with each passing winter the outsiders grew bolder. Soon they arrived with tools to cut and with flames to burn, and often the Treants would ponder: who are these fragile, industrious creatures? What now had become of the wild, green world? There came and went an age of questions and of doubts, a thousand summers of long traditions set to scrutiny, while more and more the outsiders died and fed their earth. When all that bloomed had finally finished their say, curiosity had overcome caution. It was decided: a lone Protector would be sent into the wider world, and instructed to wander until the glaciers arose once more, to observe the changing land and its creatures, and to discover what unknown dangers could threaten their sacred ground.
He ordinary ogre is the creature for whom the phrase 'As dumb as a bag of rock hammers' was coined. In his natural state, an ogre is supremely incapable of doing or deciding anything. Clothed in dirt, he sometimes finds himself accidentally draped in animal skins after eating lanekill. Not an especially social creature, he is most often found affectionately consorting with the boulders or tree-stumps he has mistaken for kin （a factor that may explain the ogre's low rate of reproduction）。 However, once every generation or so, the ogre race is blessed with the birth of a two-headed Ogre Magi, who is immediately given the traditional name of Aggron Stonebreak, the name of the first and perhaps only wise ogre in their line's history. With two heads, Ogre Magi finds it possible to function at a level most other creatures manage with one. And while the Ogre Magi will win no debates （even with itself）， it is graced with a divine quality known as Dumb Luck--a propensity for serendipitous strokes of fortune which have allowed the ogre race to flourish in spite of enemies, harsh weather, and an inability to feed itself. It's as if the Goddess of Luck, filled with pity for the sadly inept species, has taken Ogre Magi under her wing. And who could blame her? Poor things.
The veteran of countless battles on a thousand worlds, Chaos Knight hails from a far upstream plane where the fundamental laws of the universe have found sentient expression. Of all the ancient Fundamentals, he is the oldest and most tireless—endlessly searching out a being he knows only as “The Light.” Long ago the Light ventured out from the progenitor realm, in defiance of the first covenant. Now Chaos Knight shifts from plane to plane, always on the hunt to extinguish the Light wherever he finds it. A thousand times he has snuffed out the source, and always he slides into another plane to continue his search anew. Upon his steed Armageddon he rides, wading into battle with maniacal frenzy, drawing strength from the disorder of the universe. A physical manifestation of chaos itself, in times of need he calls upon other versions of himself from other planes, and together these dark horsemen ride into battle, as unstoppable as any force of nature. Only when the last Light of the world is scoured from existence will the search be ended. Where rides the Chaos Knight, death soon follows.
Lanaya, the Templar Assassin, came to her calling by a path of curious inquiry. Possessed of a scientific bent, she spent her early years engaged in meticulous study of nature's laws--peering into grimoires of magic and alchemy, recreating experiments from charred fragments of the Violet Archives, and memorizing observations of the Keen recordkeepers. Already quiet and secretive by nature, the difficulty of acquiring these objects further reinforced her skills of stealth. Had she been less retiring, she might have become notorious among the guilds as a thief-scholar. Instead her investigations led her into far more obscure corners. As she devoted her furtive talents to unlocking the secrets of the universe, she instead unlocked a secret door that exists in nature itself: the entryway to the most Hidden Temple. The intelligences that waited beyond that portal, proved to be expecting her, and whatever mysteries they revealed in the moment of their discovery was nothing compared to the answers they held out to Lanaya should she continue in their service. She swore to protect the mysteries, but more to the point, in service to the Hidden Temple she satisfies her endless craving for understanding. In the eyes of each foe she expunges, a bit more of the mystery is revealed.
High on the wind-ravaged steppes of Druud, a gifted young stormcrafter called Disruptor was the first to unlock the secrets of the summer squalls. Constantly under assault from both seasonal storms and encroachment from civilized kingdoms to the South, the upland Oglodi have for centuries struggled to subsist atop the endless tablelands. They are the fractured remnant of a once-great civilization—a fallen tribe, their stormcraft strange and inscrutable, cobbled together from scraps of lost knowledge which even they no longer fully understand. For those on the high plain, weather has become a kind of religion, worshiped as both the giver and taker of life. But the electrical storms that bring life-sustaining rains arrive at a cost, and many are the charred and smoking corpses left in their wake. Although small for his kind, Disruptor was fearless, and driven by an insatiable curiosity. While still unblooded and without a stryder, he explored the ruins of the ancestral cities—searching through collapsed and long-moldered libraries, rummaging through rusting manufactories. He took what he needed and returned to his tribe. Adapting a coil of ancient design, he harnessed the power of electrical differential and now calls down the thunder whenever he wishes. Part magic, part craftsmanship, his coils hold in their glowing plates the power of life and death—a power wielded with precision against the landed castes to the South, and any interlopers who cross into ancient Oglodi lands.
Any mage can cast a spell or two, and a few may even study long enough to become a wizard, but only the most talented are allowed to be recognized as a Magus. Yet as with any sorcerer’s circle, a sense of community has never guaranteed competitive courtesy. Already a renowned duelist and scholar of the grander world of sorcery, it had never occurred to Rubick that he might perhaps be Magus material until he was in the midst of his seventh assassination attempt. As he casually tossed the twelfth of a string of would-be killers from a high balcony, it dawned on him how utterly unimaginative the attempts on his life had become. Where once the interruption of a fingersnap or firehand might have put a cheerful spring in his step, it had all become so very predictable. He craved greater competition. Therefore, donning his combat mask, he did what any wizard seeking to ascend the ranks would do: he announced his intention kill a Magus. Rubick quickly discovered that to threaten one Magus is to threaten them all, and they fell upon him in force. Each antagonist's spell was an unstoppable torrent of energy, and every attack a calculated killing blow. But very soon something occurred that Rubick's foes found unexpected: their arts appeared to turn against them. Inside the magic maelstrom, Rubick chuckled, subtly reading and replicating the powers of one in order to cast it against another, sowing chaos among those who had allied against him. Accusations of betrayal began to fly, and soon the sorcerers turned one upon another without suspecting who was behind their undoing. When the battle finally drew to a close, all were singed and frozen, soaked and cut and pierced. More than one lay dead by an ally’s craft. Rubick stood apart, sore but delighted in the week’s festivities. None had the strength to argue when he presented his petition of assumption to the Hidden Council, and the Insubstantial Eleven agreed as one to grant him the title of Grand Magus.
How had she been reduced to this? She was once the Scourge of the Plains, a merciless leader of men and beasts, and able to sow terror wherever she dared. Now she was far from her homeland, driven half mad from starvation and months of wandering, her army long dead or turned to worse. As she stood at the edge of an ancient forest, a pair of glowing eyes spied on from an elder branch. Something beautiful and deadly sought a meal in the wilting dusk. Without a sound, it turned and left. Fury overtook her. Clutching a rust-eaten dagger, she charged after the beast determined to reclaim even a shred of her past glory, but her quarry would not be caught. Three times she cornered the creature among the rocks and trees, and three times she pounced only to witness its fading shadow darting further into the woods. Yet the full moon shone brightly, and the creature’s trail was easy to follow. Arriving in a clearing atop a high hill, the beast’s massive feline form sat in the open, attentive and waiting. When the woman brandished her dagger, the creature reared and roared and charged. Death, it seemed, had come for her at long last in this strange place. She stood, calm and ready. A flash of movement, and the beast snatched the dagger from her hand before vanishing into the forest. Stillness. Hooded figures approached. In reverent tones they revealed that Selemene, Goddess of the Moon, had chosen her, had guided her, had tested her. Unwittingly she had endured the sacred rites of the Dark Moon, warriors of the Nightsilver Woods. She was offered a choice: join the Dark Moon and pledge herself to the service of Selemene, or leave and never return. She did not hesitate. Embracing her absolution, she renounced her bloody past, and took up a new mantle as Luna of the Dark Moon, the dreaded Moon Rider, ruthless and ever-loyal guardian of the Nightsilver Woods.
Wisp is everywhere, and in all things. Denounced by enemies as the great unmaker, worshiped by scholars as the twinkling of a divine eye, Wisp occupies all planes at once, the merest fraction of its being crossing into physical existence at any one moment. Like the great twin riders Dark and Light, and yet another ancient traveler whose true history is lost to the ages, Io the Wisp is a Fundamental of the universe—a force older than time, a wanderer from realms far beyond mortal understanding. Wisp is nothing less than the sum of all attractive and repulsive forces within matter, a sentient manifestation of the charge that bind particles together. It is only in the controlled warping of these forces that Wisp’s presence can be experienced on the physical plane. A benevolent, cooperative force, Wisp bonds its strength to others so that the power of allies might be enhanced. Its motives inscrutable, its strength unimaginable, Wisp moves through the physical plane, the perfect expression of the mysteries of the universe.
How long has it been since he lost his name? The torn ruin of his mind no longer knows.Dimly he recalls armor and banners and grim-faced kin riding at his side. He remembers a battle: pain and fear as pale hands ripped him from his saddle. He remembers terror as they threw him into the yawning pit of the Dead God alongside his brothers, to hear the Dirge and be consumed into nothingness. In the darkness below, time left them. Thought left them. Sanity left them. Hunger, however, did not. They turned on each other with split fingernails and shattered teeth. Then it came: distant at first, a fragile note at the edge of perception, joined by another, then another, inescapable and unending. The chorus grew into a living wall of sound pulsing in his mind until no other thought survived. With the Dirge consuming him, he opened his arms to the Dead God and welcomed his obliteration. Yet destruction was not what he'd been chosen for. The Dead God demanded war. In the belly of the great nothing, he was granted a new purpose: to spread the Dirge across the land, to rally the sleepless dead against the living. He was to become the Undying, the herald of the Dead God, to rise and fall and rise again whenever his body failed him. To trudge on through death unending, that the Dirge might never end.
After serving through a lifetime of wars, upheaval, riots, and revolutions, the brass figured Aurel had seen enough. But in addition to a few trinkets and his considerable pension, the erstwhile engineer left with something far more interesting: a long-forgotten, incomplete schematic for a Gyrocopter, the world’s first manned, non-magical flying device. Retiring to the tropical obscurity of the Ash Archipelago with little else but time and money, he set to work building the device. As the years wore on and the remains of failed prototypes began to pile up, he began to wonder if mechanical flight was even possible. A decade and a day after his retirement, on a sunny afternoon with a southerly breeze, Aurel sat in his latest attempt bristling with indignation and expectant failure. With a grunt of effort he pulled the ignition cord and covered his head, waiting for the inevitable explosion. However to his great surprise he began to lift and, following a few panicked adjustments, stabilize. Within an hour, he was ducking and weaving with the breeze, level with the gulls, and Aurel found himself filled with the breathless wonder of flight. As dusk settled in he set a course back to his workshop, but no sooner had he turned his craft when a cannonball tore through his tailfin. Disentangling himself from the wreckage, he swam toward the nearest piece of land in sight, and cursed to see the ship responsible for the cannonball collecting the debris. Days later, when Aurel returned to his workshop, he set to work on yet another gyrocopter, this one capable of carrying a much heavier, more dangerous payload.
Among the high-sworn of the Slitherene Guard there is a solemn vow often repeated before battle: No Slitherene may fail. In truth, these words are equal parts oath and enforceable covenant, for those who fall short of their duty are banished from the order. To fail is to be other than Slitherene.Once most highly esteemed of her race, Slithice for many years commanded a battalion of her fellows, using her formidable voice as her greatest weapon. Powerful, sinuous, serpentine, she led her deadly Guard in defense of the Deep Ones, and the great wealth of the sunken cities. But in the final battle of Crey, her forces were driven back by a marauding army of leviathans intent on finding tribute for their god Maelrawn. After the long and bloody onslaught, as the bodies were cleared from the sunken halls, a single jeweled chalice was found missing from the trove. Of her hundred Guard, only a handful survived, but their bravery and sacrifice were of little consequence. What mattered was that treasure was taken. Honor destroyed. And so Naga Siren was cast out. Banished to search for the stolen chalice. Though she might add a hundred times her weight to the golden trove, she is doomed to live apart until that day she returns that which was taken. For no amount of gold is equal in honor to the honor she lost.
Upon a pale horse he rides, this spark of endless suns, this Keeper of the Light. Ezalor long ago escaped the Fundamental plane, separating from the other ancient forces to which he was bound within the great Primordial harmony. He is a power grown sentient in the dawn of the universe, and now rides forth in all planes at once, one step ahead of pursuing chaos, bearing his gift with him at the end of a radiant staff. His majestic truth lies hidden beneath the outward appearance of a slightly doddering old man who barely stays in the saddle. However, when faced with the challenge of chaos, or the forces of darkness, his primordial light bursts forth, and his full power is revealed, transforming him once again into a force to be reckoned with.
Perched atop the entrance to the Narrow Maze sit the looming shapes of sneering gargoyles, the paths into the hereafter forever in their gaze. Beasts and birds, men and monsters, all creatures that die and choose to travel beyond must someday pass beneath their sight. For an untethered spirit, the decision to journey through the veil of death is irrevocable. When chance comes, and by craft or cunning some restless soul escapes their hells and heavens, it is the dreaded gargoyle Visage, the bound form of the eternal spirit Necro??lic, who is dispatched to reclaim them. Ruthless and efficient, unhindered by the principles of death and fatigue, Visage stalks its prey without mercy or end, willingly destroying all which may give shelter to the fugitive essence. That which flaunts the laws of the afterlife may never rest, for while it is true that the dead may be revived, it is only a matter of time before Visage finds and returns them to their proper place.
Deep in the Archive of Ultimyr, shelved between scholarly treatises on dragon cladistics and books of untranslatable spells, there is an ancient tome of entomological curiosities. Compiled by scholars, the book describes the telepathic talents of the zealot scarab, a strange species of social insect with abilities unique to all the seven planes.
Unlike most grubs of his colony, Nyx Assassin did not arise from metamorphosis with the plodding thoughts and blunted appendages common to the worker caste of his kind. For his was a special transformation, guided by the grace of Nyx. He was the chosen one, selected from the many and anointed with an extract of the queen goddess herself. Not all survive the dark blessing of the queen’s chamber, but he emerged with a penetrating mind, and dagger-like claws–his razor sharp mandibles raking the air while his thoughts projected directly into the minds of those around him. Of all zealot scarabs, he alone was selected for the highest calling. After his metamorphosis, he was reborn, by grace of Nyx, with abilities which shaped him for one thing and one thing only: to kill in the name of his goddess.
"If you ask me, life is all about who you know and what you can find. When you live up in the Riftshadow Ruins, just finding food can be tough. So you need to cut corners, you need to scrounge, you need to know your strengths. Some of the beasts up there can kill you, so you need a way to trap the weak and duck the strong. On the upside, the ruins have history, and history is worth a lot to some people. There used to be a palace there, where they had all these dark rituals. Bad stuff. If you survived the ceremony, they would shatter a crystal and split your soul into pieces. They made great art though! Sculptures and such. Let me tell you: sometimes you stumble onto some of those old carvings. Take a pack full of those to town and sell them, then get yourself food for a few weeks. If luck is really on your side, you might find a Riftshadow crystal. Get it appraised and start asking around. Someone always knows some crazy fool looking for this kind of thing. If all else fails, sell it to a Magus the next time one's in town. They love that stuff. Still, whatever you do, be careful handling those crystals. You do not want one to go off on you. It really hurts."
The master-smiths of Mt. Joerlak agree on only a single point: that the horn of a magnoceros is more precious than any alloy. And of all such horns, the largest and sharpest belongs to the beast they call Magnus. For half a generation, Magnus took easy sport goring hunters come to claim the treasures of his kin. Each time he would return to his cave with hooves and horns stained red, until his Matriarch urged him and all their kin to seek refuge to the north beyond the shadow of the mountain. But Magnus scoffed, having never failed to defend his people. The magnoceroi would stay, he decided, for a magnoceros does not believe in chance… nor does it ever change its mind. But when Mt. Joerlak erupted without warning, and half his kin perished in the fire and ash, Magnus changed his mind after all. The survivors pushed north, until they reached a blockade watched over by a hundred hunters armed with bow and steel. Magnus expected no less. He led his fiercest brothers and sisters in a charge against their enemies, and fought with a ferocity matched only by the fire-spewing mountain at his back. Meanwhile the magnoceros elders, mothers, and calves vanished into the drifts. The master-smiths are divided about what happened next. Some say Magnus reunited with his kin, while others claim he suffered mortal injuries and expired alongside the body of his Matriarch. Neither theory is correct. Magnus did vow to rejoin his kin…but only after seeking out those responsible for the eruption of Mt. Joerlak and watching them die upon his horn, for a magnoceros does not believe in chance.
It's said that a centaur's road is paved with the corpses of the fallen. For the one called Warrunner, it has been a long road indeed. To outsiders, the four-legged clans of Druud are often mistaken for simple, brutish creatures. Their language has no written form; their culture lacks pictographic traditions, structured music, formalized religion. For centaurs, combat is the perfect articulation of thought, the highest expression of self. If killing is an art among centaurs, then Bradwarden the Warrunner is their greatest artist. He rose to dominance on the proving grounds of Omexe, an ancient arena where centaur clans have for millennia gathered to perform their gladiatorial rights. As his fame spread, spectators came from far and wide to see the great centaur in action. Always the first to step into the arena, and the last to leave, he composes a masterpiece in each guttering spray, each thrust of blood-slickened blade-length. It is the poetry of blood on steel, flung in complex patterns across the pale sands of the killing floor. Warrunner defeated warrior after warrior, until the arena boomed with the cheering of his name, and he found himself alone, the uncontested champion of his kind. The great belt of Omexe was bestowed, wrapped around his broad torso, but in his victory, the death-artist found only emptiness. For what is a warrior without a challenge? The great centaur galloped out of Omexe that day with a new goal. To his people, Warrunner is the greatest warrior to ever step into the arena. Now he has set out to prove he is the greatest fighter who has ever lived.
Little known to the inhabitants of the dry world, Dark Reef is a sunken prison where the worst of the sea-bred are sent for crimes against their fellows. It is a razor barbed warren full of murderous slithereen, treacherous Deep Ones, sociopathic meranths. In this dim labyrinth, patrolled by eels and guarded by enormous anemones, only the vicious survive. Pitched into Dark Reef for crimes unknown, Slark spent half a lifetime without kin or kindness, trusting no one, surviving through a combination of stealth and ruthlessness, keeping his thoughts and his plans to himself. When the infamous Dark Reef Dozen plotted their ill-fated breakout, they kept their plans a perfect secret, murdering anyone who could have put the pieces together--but somehow Slark discovered their scheme and made a place for himself in it. Ten of the Dozen died in the escape attempt, and two were captured, hauled back to Dark Reef, then executed for the entertainment of their fellow inmates. But Slark, the unsung thirteenth, used the commotion as cover and slipped away, never to be caught. Now a furtive resident of the carnivorous mangrove scrub that grips the southern reach of Shadeshore, Slark remains the only successful escapee from Dark Reef.
Rizzrack could still hear the screams in his mind. He worked, frantically turning wrenches, twisting screws, building and carving and forging. Sleep eluded him; he only built. Months had passed since he had shut himself in his uncle's workshop, and his deliverance was nearly complete. He rubbed his back as his eyes drifted shut, and saw a blanket of flowers floating on the placid waves of Augury Bay before exploding into a cloud of pollen that silenced lives as it seized the lungs. He woke with a choking start. For hours the rhythmic sound of a whetstone filled the shop as he sharpened a set of massive blades, his mind filled with images of strangling vines garroting neighbors, enwrapping homes. The flooding of Augury Bay had been nothing compared to the violent horrors the waters left to take root beyond the city walls. But the saw-suit would make him strong and safe he thought, allowing himself this sliver of hope before the full might of his fear crashed into his fading mind. Branches and bark and blood. When the city fell, Rizzrack fled trees that walked, and fought, and killed. Trees had shattered the gates and swarmed into the city. Trees had crushed and thrashed and stomped the last that Augury Bay could muster in defense, and stalked the few fleeing refugees. In addled silence Rizzrack unspooled the thick chain from the suit's arm, his hands quaking as he inspected each link and ran a trembling finger along the claw attached at its end. The saw-suit was ready.
With his hand trembling he sparked the bladed machine to life. Terror drove him, terror of what awaited him and of what he would have to face to have any hope of calming his mind. As the saw-suit shuddered to life he knew he must face this fear, and he knew he wouldn't like it one bit.
Beauty is power. This thought comforted Medusa–the youngest and loveliest of three beautiful Gorgon sisters, born to a sea goddess–because she alone of the sisters was mortal. It comforted her, that is, until the day masked assailants invaded the Gorgon realm and tore the two immortal sisters from their home, unmoved by their beauty or by their tears. One of the invaders seized Medusa as well, but then cast her aside with a disgusted look: 'This one has the mortal stink upon her. We have no use for that which dies.' Humiliated, enraged, Medusa fled to the temple of her mother and cast herself before the goddess, crying, 'You denied me eternal life–therefore I beg you, give me power! Power, so I can dedicate what life I have to rescuing my sisters and avenging this injustice!' After long thought, the goddess granted her daughter's request, allowing Medusa to trade her legendary beauty for a face and form of terrifying strength. Never for a moment has Medusa regretted her choice. She understands that power is the only beauty worth possessing–for only power can change the world.
2011-11-18 14:41 来源：其他 责任编辑：chenjiancheng