The Midnight Watch

Holding on 'til the next shift.

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#1 2017-01-31 00:28:32

Registered: 2013-05-16
Posts: 143



    During the Age of Darkness, a powerful wizard named Mondain bound the world of Sosaria to the Gem of Immortality, allowing him to achieve godlike power. In the world's darkest hour, the Stranger (or 'The Avatar of Virtue') appeared and slew Mondain, only to discover that Sosaria had become inexorably tied to the Gem. Seeing no other alternative, he shattered the Gem of Immortality, freeing Sosaria proper from its power. This, however, had the unintended side-effect of creating a perfect copy of Sosaria within each and every one of the hundreds of shards of the Gem of Immortality. Furthermore, the shattering magically divided Sosaria's surface, with each facet of each shard containing one of the planet's continents. After the moment of the shattering, the history of each shard diverged wildly.


    On one such shard, a man named Cantabrigian British succeeded in uniting the city-states of Sosaria in the wake of Mondain's defeat, forming the Kingdom of Britannia. Under Lord British's banner, the remainder of Mondain's minions were decisively defeated at the Battle of the Bloody Plains, and the Kingdom was set to settle into an era of peace and prosperity. This came to naught, however, with the mysterious disappearance of Lord British a few short years later. In his absence, unrest grew in the northern city-states, culminating in the proclamation of the Republic of Vesper. Without the mutual threat of Mondain and deprived of Lord British's talented diplomacy, the Royal Council was unable to resolve the crisis peacefully. Unwilling to let the Kingdom disintegrate, an alliance of Vesper's Royalist counterparts mounted an invasion, sparking what became known as the War of the Crown of Thorns.
    As the war dragged on, Royalist demands for military and material support, combined with repeated trespasses by both Royalist and Rebel armies, eventually provoked the neighboring city-states of Cove and Minoc to enter the war on Vesper's side. This decisively tipped the balance of the war in the Republic's favor, and the Royalist Alliance withdrew from the region shortly thereafter. While sporadic fighting continued on the borders and no formal peace treaty was ever signed, the withdrawal of the Royalists from Vesper effectively ended the war. Vesper announced the incorporation of both Minoc and Cove into the Republic shortly thereafter.

    Peace in the north was short-lived. Seeing the weakened state of the northern city-states in the wake of the recent war, a horde of orcs gathered in the Glenmore highlands. Catching Cove at unawares, they overran the town, scattering the small garrison with ease. When a local Covian nobleman, Octiovus von Richter, approached Vesper to ask for aid in driving the orcs from his land, he was sent away empty-handed. Vesper would not risk her army to save Cove.
    Returning home, Octiovus rallied the Covian peasants and, assisted by foreign volunteers and mercenaries, decisively defeated the orcish invasion. By the end of the campaign, the new Covian Militia was a large and seasoned fighting force, vastly disproportionate to the civilian population of the village. Backed by his new army, Octiovus declared independence from Vesper.

    Over the next few decades, the "Royalist" and "Rebel" city-states fought dozens of wars, great and small. Minoc changed hands between Britannia and Vesper no fewer than five times, while the Baron of Cove expanded his holdings by siezing the border provinces of Altmere, Blackwell, and Templewood. Shifting alliances, civil wars, and invasions by outside forces all combined to keep Sosaria in a state of constant warfare throughout the period. With the Royal Council unable to maintain order, the Kingdom's largest vassals - the Duchy of Trinsic, the County of Skara Brae, and the Protectorate of Yew - each pursued vastly policies. At various times, individual Royalist provinces were even known to ally themselves with one Rebel city-state to fight against a common foe. On occasion, united by their shared Avatarian faith, Yew and Cove even found common ground under the banner of the Church, embarking on notable crusades against both Trinsic and Vesper.

    Shortly after the ratification of an alliance between Yew and Cove, the Republic of Vesper launched a pre-emptive invasion of Yew, fearing that the allies were plotting an attack of their own. After devastating the Yewish coastline the Vesperian attack was repulsed, and a Covian-Yewish attack on Vesper was similarly defeated the following month. Over the course of the war, each side launched attacks on the major population centers of the other, and each attack was decisively defeated. Vesper, however, was much less capable of absorbing the losses, and began to grow increasingly desperate for any advantage that could be gained over her opponents. By the time the war ended, Vesper had embraced a myriad of unsavory practices, ranging from Necromancy to Daemonology. In part as a reaction to this, Cove and Yew signed the Crossroads Pact, extending their alliance indefinitely and inviting Trinsic, Skara Brae, and Templewood (ceded back to Britannia some years prior) to join them.

    Shortly following the signing of the Crossroads Pact, a mysterious arcane anomaly destroyed the village of Arrow's Point in northeastern Yew. Yewish Militia detachments sent to investigate found the region overrun with undead, and were quickly overwhelmed. Survivors trickled back to Yew with news of a vast horde marching on Stonekeep. What's more, many of these survivors had been infected with a virulent plague which, in its advanced stages, transformed its victims into cannibalistic madmen. Stonekeep was slow to ask for aid from her Royalist and Covian allies, being loathe to damage her political standing by admitting to a need for assistance from Cove. By the time the Yewish authorities formally asked for aid, the Plague was already well out of hand, having claimed a vast portion of Yew's population.

    Hearing of the crisis in Yew, the Cove dispatched a large force to the aid of her ally. Unfortunately, because of the gulf of foes lying between the two nations, the Covian Army was forced to reach Yew by sea, and this delay proved disastrous. Upon landing on the beaches of Yew, the Covians were forced to fight their way through a veritable tide of undead to reach Stonekeep, which they found beset on all sides. The plague zombies had begun to mutate into hideous masses of rotting, bonded corpses, forming what the survivors termed 'Plague Beasts'. More troublingly, the hordes seemed to be becoming more and more organized. Eventually, the allies were beaten, the walls of Stonekeep breached, and the sacred Empath Abbey desecrated.
    Only a fraction of the Yewish population had survived to reach the relative safety of Stonekeep. Still fewer survived its fall; for, in their last valorous act, the remnants of the Yewish Militia fought a doomed last stand as rearguard to the retreating Covians, who succeeded in escaping back to the coast and evacuating with the small handful of civilians who could be saved.
    Yew was lost.

    As the survivors of the Covian expeditionary force reached Cove with the Yewish survivors in tow, so too did the realization of the depth of humanity's peril. Further decimated by the ruthless culling of any displaying symptoms of Plague, the survivors were eventually allowed to resettle in Cove, though the stigma of the perception that the Plague was a product of Yewish uncleanliness haunted them for the rest of their days.
    The matter of containment now came to the forefront for Cove. Finding the Knights Templar unwilling to cooperate with the harsh measures favored by the Baron and the survivors of the Yewish Expedition, the Covians took drastic action. West Altmere was swiftly reoccupied, the bridge over the Templewood River razed, and the population of Templewood relocated. Those who resisted were put to the sword, and every building was looted for any useful supplies, then burned to its foundations. A vast desolation was created several kilometers deep, extending from the river into Altmere, all in a vain effort to prevent the Horde's attention turning to Cove next.

    In the years to follow, the Plague seemed to have spent its fury in the eradication of Yew. Alas, none accounted for how the weakening of the realms of men had empowered their foes. Creatures that had long been contained by the might of the Great Powers now ran unchecked. Orcs bred in the mountains and hills uncontrolled, and invaded the countryside. Harpies and Gargoyles, Lizardmen and Trolls, Ogres and Ettins, and every manner of foul beast besides preyed on outlying villages as the governments of the city-states withdrew and consolidated their armies around more densely populated areas.
    Within a few short years, travel and trade became nigh impossible. Orcs waylaid caravans, wanderers ran afoul of hill trolls, and the armies' scouts found themselves unable to roam far afield without suffering grave casualties. Those humans made refugees by these attacks all too often resorted to brigandry to survive. All contact between the nations was lost, or became hopelessly unreliable. Mankind ceased to exist except in a few scattered pockets adrift in the unknown and surrounded by foes.

    Throughout the Age of Strife, the power of the Avatarian Church has been waning. Because of the Church's uncompromising ruthlessness, the petty disputes of doctrine between branches, and the growing perception of the Church as corrupt and tyrannical, the Faithful had become few in number. In many cases the charges of corruption were well-founded, and so the bonds of trust between Church and flock weakened, then broke entirely. The perceived failure of the Avatar and his Church to defeat the Undead proved the fatal blow. While the Church retained considerable political power due to the support of the support of the Baron of Cove, its moral authority faded into non-existence.
So it was that, some thirty years after the Fall of Yew, the Order-Militant of the Covian Branch of the Church, the Templars of the Order of Saint Celestine, announced a new Crusade. They would cross the River and drive through the wasteland into Yew itself. There they would discover the source of the Plague and end it, or else recover the bodies and relics of the Saints, and thus regain the favor of the Avatar - and thus, deliverence from the ongoing apocalypse.
    Unsurprisingly, very few answered the call to arms. The nobility was unwilling to risk life and limb, the militaries were occupied with the basic defense of humanity's last bastions, and the commonfolk were too far estranged from the Church for the Templars to make any headway. But the Templars went anyway; for an oath, once sworn in the Avatar's name, is sacred and inviolable, and they would not be dissuaded.
    The Templars had barely made it across the River when the Plague Hordes swarmed against them in numbers never before seen nor imagined. Faith and steel and fire could only carry them so far in so hopeless a fight, and one by one they fell, the plates of their armor ripped away or crumpled to the point of uselessness by repeated blows. The Grandmaster of the Order fell, the arteries of his neck severed by a plague zombie's bite, as did every Preceptor, and all save one of the Order's Seneschals.
    The battered remnants of the Church beat their way back to the River. There, those who were wounded opted to make the ultimate sacrifice, remaining behind so that those few of their comrades who remained unscathed could escape, and so that the unholy infection would not be carried across the river.
    That day, the Church Templars functionally ceased to exist. Scarcely two dozen now remain in all the North, and many of those are now far advanced in age, or else inexperienced apprentices of men who were themselves inexperienced apprentices at the time of the Crusade. The Church has been broken, and their flock has been left to stray.

Last edited by Linaeus (2017-03-31 00:48:01)


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