The Fall of the Empire

In 820 AI, Saint Kûlan was born. His was the first in a series of births that would bring about the end of an Empire.

His birth went largely unheralded, except in the usual Dwarven manner. He studied in the art of warfare like many Dwarves, and before long excelled as a leader and a warrior.

When he was 80, he left the Dwarven halls to find his fortune. What he found was a level of tyranny beyond anything he’d imagined. The hand of the Empire was lighter inside the Dwarven kingdoms. He was not prepared for what awaited him in the outside world.

As Kûlan searched the world for hope, the other players in the last days were born. Saint Nonet grew up and studied running an inn under his father. Saint Alric became a man and attended the Academy of Warfare.

In 956, Prince Octarus was born and began learning the rule of the Empire from his father Acius. He learned the proper forms of diplomacy and tactics. He also learned torture and other forms of brutality.

Around 958, the Herald Valonius was born. The exact circumstances are lost to time,
but the year of his birth is deduced from statements about his age made later in his life.

In 969, Ephestus was born. He joined the guard when he came of age and worked his way through the Imperial army until he was assigned to the palace.

When Octarus was 18, his father died. Rumor maintained that Octarus was responsible. Octarus took the throne.

The Herald, on the other hand, set out on the roads of the Empire at age 18. He studied under every great spiritual leader of good in the known world, including the Atavists.

In 988, the Herald revealed himself to the world. He preached to the masses, telling them they’d strayed from the true path. Unfortunately, most of his teachings are now lost. He converted them by the hundreds, by the thousands. The Herald’s flock swelled with believers. He was so effective the Empire itself took notice of him.

The generals of the army called to them the Empire’s favorite son, the Centurion Alric. They gave Alric the task of taking the Herald into custody and bringing him for judgment before the throne.

Alric and his hundred men came before the Pulpit of the Herald in the lost city of Carumius. There he ordered the Herald to surrender. The Herald’s followers created a wall of bodies before him, but the Herald ordered them part and let the warrior through.

Alric ordered the Herald to give himself up. The Herald refused. Alric approached and raised his sword to strike, but he could not bring himself to cleave the true messenger of God. He instead struck him with a mailed fist.

Alric’s heart suddenly swelled with guilt and remorse. He knew then that he had struck the chosen Savior of the world, Angenus returned.

Alric fell to his knees, weeping in horror at what he’d done. He begged the Herald to allow him to throw himself on his own sword, then attempted to do so anyway when the Herald refused, but the Herald’s followers stopped him.

Then the Herald spoke the words carved over every shrine of the Marshal. He said, “Thou knowest what thou must do next.”

Alric rose from his knees and gathered his men upon him. He strode from the city and set about overthrowing his Emperor.

The early days of the rebellion did not go well for Alric. Though the world was ready to join him, and recruits flocked to him in droves, the Imperial army could take the Emperor’s Roads and attack anywhere, harrying Alric wherever his men gathered.

Things looked bleak. The Imperial Army harassed him everywhere he went. They’d learned from earlier ebellions, learned the best time to strike was while the army still formed.

While Alric fled from the armies of the Emperor, he happened upon Nonet’s Inn on a little known road in the middle of nowhere. He bivouacked his men at the Inn, starving and cold, and tried to figure out a way to pay for food.

Nonet refused to accept payment. He fed the troops and offered his inn as a safe haven for his troops. He hid the troops in the countryside behind the inn and only told those he trusted most of the army’s presence.

Alric puzzled over what to do for years. He’d taken the Emperor’s Roads before, but he had never been of high enough rank to gain the secret of using them.

It was at this time that Kûlan found Alric. Here was the man Kûlan needed. The man who would save the world. Kûlan signed on immediately, and became Alric’s most trusted military adviser.

Meanwhile, Alric and his most trusted mage, Vamasius, studied the roads, trying to find a method of opening them. After over a year of research, they succeeded.

Alric burst onto the world scene at this point. He had the mobility to match the Emperor and the ability to gather men from throughout the Empire.

He grew in strength like a juggernaut. He struck seemingly at random, but with great purpose. Alric became an unstoppable force, liberating cities throughout the Empire, then moving before Octarus had time to react.

Meanwhile, Nonet protected and fed the troops until Alric was able to get his logistics under control. Nonet fed the entire army from his tiny larders before he died from malnutrition.

The Marshal Alric kept moving, and soon Octarus fought a defensive battle. By the year 997, Octarus knew he needed to take drastic action.

Until this time, he’d placed more of his energy trying to stop Alric than the Herald. No one knows why such a competent diplomat and strategist would make such a glaring mistake, but the churches of the world claim it was divine will.

Finally, Octarus moved on the man converting the masses and producing the troops Alric harvested. Finally he moved on the Herald.

The legions captured the Herald and brought him to Durelius. News reached Alric of the Herald’s capture, and he knew that he had to take the capital quickly. And so he took his entire army into the Emperor’s Roads.

But Octarus knew that this would be the case, and so he sent his army into the Roads as well. Alric won, but all connection between the Emperor’s Roads and Durelius broke.

Now Alric had a much harder task ahead of him. He had to march on the capital and take it by siege. The Imperial Wizards would make certain that with the Roads severed, Alric could find no magical way into the capital.

Octarus placed the Herald in a cell in the Imperial dungeons. Though Octarus ordered that he be kept in good health, he never checked in on the Herald, and the head of the dungeons neglected the man.

Ephestus was the guard in charge of the Herald. Not knowing the Emperor’s orders, he watched helplessly as the Herald dwindled and died. Ephestus converted during his conversations with the Herald. He knew from what the Herald said the Savior needed to be martyred to complete his job on Belkanâth.

Meanwhile, the Marshal laid siege to Durelius. It was a close battle. If Octarus had not left the Herald unchecked as long as he did, Alric would never have enough men to take the capital, defended by more experienced Imperial troops.

In 998, Alric achieved the capital. For some reason, Octarus had postponed killing the Herald. While the capital fell, he ordered the Herald tortured to death in the town square.

But the Herald was too weak to move. Ephestus knew that he would die on the way to the square, and he knew that it was necessary the Herald’s death be public. He laid hands on the Herald and prayed to God for aid.

The prayer was answered. God granted the Herald enough strength to walk to his execution.

Troops poured through the city. Guards placed the Herald on the blocks where the torturer had prepared his tools. In a city the size of Durelius, he would have about twenty excruciating minutes to work his art on the Savior.

But Octarus had one moment of compassion. He looked on God’s messenger and ordered the torturer to stand back. He took up the executioner’s ax and in front of the assembled crowd, ended the Herald’s life quickly.

Shortly thereafter, several mages, inspired by the courage the Herald had shown in death, opened gates to allow the crowd to escape, thus the Herald’s martyrdom, and his ability to inspire compassion even in the cruelest of men, was carried to the world.

Now troops fought a running battle in the streets. Alric led his men through the remaining resistance in an attempt to catch the Emperor. The chase brought them to the Palace, where Octarus released his final revenge.

In the bowels of the palace his Lord High Wizard Reyn had built a magical device with the power to destroy the world. Octarus gathered his most trusted advisers to him and together, they detonated the device.

It released a blast of chaos that roared outward from the palace. Alric saw this moving toward him, and his mage Vamasius opened a gate. Alric’s men rushed through and the Marshal stood on the brink of the gate, when he heard the voice of the Herald in his ears. The voice told him that he witnessed the end of the world, and only the greatest faith and the greatest sacrifice could even slow it.

And so Alric refused escape. Instead, he threw himself into the oncoming wave of chaos, applying his great faith and his great discipline to the chaos. The chaos slowed and soon stopped. The world had been saved, for now.

The Empire was dead.

The Fall of the Empire

Echoes of Heaven Danieleben