Discover the rich history of Sarnaut!
- Introduction: What is the Astral?
- Chapter 1: Sarnaut, a Peaceful and Thriving Planet
- Chapter 2: The Great Cataclysm and Birth of the Allods
- Chapter 3: The Schism & Conclave of the Great Mages
- Chapter 4: Tiny Things are often the Most Important
- Chapter 5: The Invasion of the Astral Demons
- Chapter 6: A New War Begins
- Chapter 7: The Great Astral Campaign
- The Legacy of the Junes: Astral Demons - Part 1
- The Legacy of the Junes: Astral Demons Part 2
- The Tep Experiment – They Shall Be Called Arisen
- The Tep Experiment – Tensess’ Gift of Life
Space is filled with a substance, or else this substance is space itself. This substance is in motion, evolving over time, absorbing anything that enters into its influence and behaving as if it were a dynamic, living organism. It is known simply as the Astral. If one could move far enough beyond the Astral, and look back upon it, some believe it may look like a massive, blue cloud, stretching across light years. It is so immense, however, that no one can truly know.
The Astral is both a creative and a destructive substance. At times, entire worlds are caught in the tides of these forces, and torn apart among them. Other times, this destruction will trigger a balance, and the Astral will nurture and heal that which it has destroyed. This is simply the course of nature, or so many believe.
Somewhere within the Astral there once was a world called Sarnaut, and it was home to many peoples who lived and died and evolved for aeon upon aeon: life within life, within the living Astral. When the tides of destruction shifted, the planet shattered into countless islands. The shards of this once thriving world were called allods by their inhabitants.
Separated by the gulf of Astral between these shards, only the Great Mages knew the ancient and secret art of magical teleportation. This afforded them uncontested control over any and all movement between the allods, until an accident uncovered a way to protect travellers against the Astral. History teaches us that tiny things are often the most important.
With the discovery of unrestricted Astral travel, the crumpled remains of the Sarnaut society began to rebuild. A new era of conquest and discovery emerged as Astral transportation was made available to everyone. However, this was not without consequence. Ancient factions and new allies began fighting for control over this newly liberated space, and the allods descended into an age of endless war.
For those who once lived on Sarnaut, travel and commerce, conquest and conflict, and the discovery of new allods are all part of daily life. The Astral, with a life of its own, continues to hide unimaginable perils, with the lurking Astral demons an ever-present danger to those who would venture out into the Deep Astral.
The cultures of the shattered Sarnaut have been consigned to history books, replaced by this new Age of the Allods. Only one truth remains unchanged: the Astral is eternal, and will endure long after all else has faded and died.
The planet Sarnaut was once a thriving world, where many societies lived, grew and fought together; warring for larger territories where settlers established thriving agricultural and mercantile economies. Several fertile continents stretched across the planet where civilisations prospered and expanded. The largest of these was Yul, divided among three of the most powerful races. The seat of the ancient Elven kingdom was Airin, in the northwest of Yul, where their strong political system allowed them to extend protection to their surrounding allies. The Zem tribe wandered the southern desert until they were utterly destroyed by a plague during the June Curse. And the Orcs warred in the east, following the teachings of their tribal ancestors.
The first human kingdom in the world of Sarnaut was created by the Junes. A peaceful people, they lived beside the Elves for many centuries before succumbing to a mysterious curse. They all but disappeared, leaving behind only a ruined kingdom and the puzzle of their demise.
As time passed, a new people, from the Aro tribe came to the crumbling remains of the June kingdom. Sensing weakness, the Orcs poured in from the east, waging a fierce and bloody war against these newcomers. Under the leadership of the Great Mage TENSESS, the Aro triumphed, and established the nation of Kania.
Everything changed in the year 4015. The Great Cataclysm utterly destroyed Sarnaut and led to the formation of the allods – the shards of land left floating in the Astral afterwards. The people of Sarnaut were thrown into chaos and despair as the Astral began to consume the last of their homelands. Countless died until the Great Mages discovered a way to hold the Astral at bay, supporting life in their protective shield. Slowly, civilisation began to rebuild.
No one is sure what caused the Great Cataclysm, whether it was a natural mechanism of the Astral or whether it might have been a deliberate action by some deeply powerful being. If the destruction of Sarnaut was planned, no one could imagine who would do such a thing, or why.
The matter is often debated among scientists and magicians alike. The official explanation according to the Conclave of Great Mages states:
In the beginning, there was the Astral – creation and destruction in one omnipresent substance. When I am creating, I am destroying. When I am creating, it is from the pieces of that which has already been destroyed. This is the Astral.
What was once called Sarnaut was a piece of this cycle, constructed from the shreds of the destroyed, the world appeared and life grew upon it.
Now, that word has lost its meaning, it was marked for destruction and would have been lost utterly if not for the strength of the Great Mages, who halted these forces, held them at bay, and allowed life survive and to flourish once again.
It is the mission of the Great Mages, who were able to command the Astral, to make it serve all living beings in Sarnaut…”
The Conclave of the Great Mages was established shortly after the fall of the Junes Kingdom. At its inception, the Conclave comprised of 40 mages, 7 of which were members of the Council and were the leaders of the Conclave. While only the wisest and most ancient mages were members of the Council, any mage could attempt to become a member of the Conclave. The test was perilous and required exceptional magical abilities.
Those who passed the test and were accepted as members of the Conclave gained protection from other mages as well as unrestricted access to the secret knowledge of the Conclave: unpublished libraries and unparalleled minds of that society were opened to these new members. In return, one had only to respect and obey the laws of the Conclave.
In the third millennium of the Old Era, Skrakan lead the Conclave of Great Mages as the head of the Council. He had many mages study under his tutelage, but his best pupils were TENSESS and NEZEB.
Five centuries after the conflict between the Kanians and Xadaganians, led by TENSESS and NEZEB, Skrakan managed to re-establish the power of the Conclave. TENSESS and NEZEB were brought to heel under his control. This tenuous balance was maintained until shortly after the Great Cataclysm, when a schism began to immerge within the Conclave. The Council split in two, half favouring TENSESS and the Kanians and half favouring NEZEB and the Xadaganians. Only Skrakan remained neutral, and in the year 356 of the New Era, the Conclave of Great Mages dissolved completely. Communication between the two schisms could only occur with Skrakan as an intermediary.
As the conflict between the two Great Mages escalated, other nations had no choice but to align themselves with one of the mighty men. In the beginning of the 8th century of the New Era, two opposing factions were formally created: the League and the Empire.
The Gibberlings tell many tales of the legends of their people, but few are so loved as the story of Swen, a humble fisherman who changed everything. He was called Swine by his friends, for he loved nothing more than to visit the tavern until all hours, pouring drink down his throat.
She locked away his nets and fishing rods and Swen, being a stubborn man, snuck away from his home to the tavern, where he could complain loudly about the cruelty of his wife. After many, many drink and much talk, he remembered who would be waiting for him upon his return home.
Fearing her retribution, Swen thought of a plan: he would go fishing and return triumphantly with a feast. As everyone knows, no one gives out about a good thing.
His equipment locked away at home, Swen improvised a fishing line at the riverbank. Instead of a hook, he used a bent, rusty nail and weighted it with a stone he had found on the ground. Please with himself, he jumped into his boat, dropped his line and promptly fell asleep. When he woke a few hours later though, he swore he would never drink again. His boat had drifted over the edge of his allod and was now floating in the emptiness of the Astral, yet somehow he was still alive! His fishing line was glimmering with strange colours coming from the stone he had found on the riverbank, and the mysterious rays cloaking his boat seemed to be protecting him from the Astral.
Swen pinched himself to see if he was awake, but he wasn’t dreaming. He was floating all alone in the Astral abyss.
He rowed back to his allod as quickly as he could, swinging the magic stone as he went. By the next day, all the villagers were scampering about the river seeking similar stones. Within a week, the sound of axes and saws could be heard across the village, building a fleet of new boats. The boats were brought to the Astral shore, filled with provisions, and the village was soon abandoned.
Swen’s drunken excursion had begun the Era of Astral Travel. Tiny things are often the most important.
A new means of travel, discovered by a humble Gibberling fisherman named Swen, led to the Astral War. The League harboured a deeply entrenched vendetta against the Empire over several contested allods, and when a new means to attack their enemy arose, without the use of Great Mages, there was no hesitation. The key to this new method was in an iron meteor buried in the depths of the Astral – the secret to Astral protection. Unfortunately for the Imperial allods of Kirah, it was brimful of this particular metal, and therefore became a new target.
As they began the complex ritual to sustain life on the allod, both armies were simultaneously attacked by the demons. Both leaders ordered an immediate evacuation. Yasker opened a portal to Igsh, allowing a few in his army to flee, but it was difficult to maintain and most were left behind, dying where they stood. Most of the League soldiers were able to escape to their ships, but only one ship survived the ensuing onslaught from the demons.
After that fateful night, many allods and countless lives were utterly lost. Smaller demon invasions followed, though never again as large and devastating. With this new, common enemy, the League and the Empire entered into an uneasy alliance. For 15 years, both factions awaited the next invasion of demons, but it never came.
In the year 957, after nearly 5 decades of peace, relations between the Empire and the League once again descended into war. A fleet of Imperial Astral ships, armed with new and deadly technology, attacked a League territory. The League fleet, led by their Mages, fought valiantly but were doomed in the face of such unmitigated power. They had no choice but to retreat, leaving the territory undefended.
With an Imperial blockade looming around their allods, the League Mages reverted to the use of portals, allowing them to maintain a measure of control. The forces remained at this impasse until, eventually, the League managed to defeat and capture an Imperial ship. Elven mages studied the new technology extensively and discovered the its secret, reverse engineering the weaponry to suit the League’s fleet. In the year 962, after 5 years of continuous blockade, the League finally broke through the Imperial lines, ending the Empire’s monopoly of Astral space and launching the war into a fiercer, deadlier phase.
Meanwhile, demon invasions, which were an infrequent but constant danger, increased in frequency and intensity. Among the peoples of the allods, a new belief system arose, a cult of Humans, Orcs and Arisen who welcomed the demons as just punishment for the inhabitants of the allods. They believed that if they helped the demons accomplish their goals they would be spared. This cult slowly gained popularity and visibility, spreading across the allods.
In the year 965, a book titled “The Revelation of Tka-rik” fell into Skrakan’s hands.
Within its covers, the origin and nature of the demons were explained. The book claimed that they were an evil from another world, whose fundamental purpose was destruction. Tka-rik, and the whole of the Junes civilisation, had been searching for new sources of magic and his experiments unleashed the demons upon the world. The only way to stop the rush of demons, he discovered, was to shut the gates to this other world, and his methods were detailed within the book. Skrakan brought this knowledge to light, and the war between the factions ground to a halt.
The following year, 966, Skrakan and Nezeb signed a peace treaty, and sent a joint reconnaissance mission to the location of the Junes’ Gates. They discovered not one, but several gates, and the two Great Mages were brought to their thresholds. After a pitched battle with the demons, the alliance gained control of the gates and the allods they sat upon.
The Great Mages attempted the rituals, and failed three times. Their fourth attempt was successful: the gates were sealed. But as the Mages celebrated their victory, the skies above them were split asunder with a mighty Astral Storm. All those within the storm fell: the armies, the ships, and the Mages. Only a few ships on the edges of chaos managed to escape and bring the heavy words of bitter-sweet victory home again. Both factions had lost their leaders, and this changed everything.
The leadership of the league passed to the Conclave of the Great Mages, comprised of the Five Great Mages. Aidenus, the Great Mage of Kvatoh, led the Conclave and the League.
Despite the success of this Astral Campaign, and despite the sacrifice of Skrakan and Nezeb, the Astral remained a perilous place, hiding demons and other monstrous and terrible Astral creatures. These risks, however, did not hinder travel and trade but rather encouraged it. With one threat gone, another rose to replace it: Astral pirates began to terrorise League and Imperial ships alike in search of treasure and profit.
Astral demons... These are words which strike fear into the hearts of even the most courageous and valiant warriors. These horrifying creatures from the depths of the Deep Astral are harbingers of death, chaos and destruction.
The cause of their sudden appearance remains a great mystery, lost to the annals of time. The wisest of the allods have strived to uncover this secret for centuries without success. All that is known is that the demons target the Great Mages, and the allods they protect within their shields.
Information about these creatures is rare, and often embellished in the retelling. All that is known with certainty is that they inhabit the deepest reaches of the Astral, which nourishes them. Outside of this Astral, their protective cocoon, the demons weaken becoming susceptible to attacks.
They do not appear to be intelligent, but that does not mitigate the unwonted damage they cause. Their combat tactics are straightforward, and they will attempt to overwhelm their enemies with numbers and sheer force, rather than with tactics. They first appeared during the battle of Kirah, washing the battlefield with terror and panic.
In the year 930, the demons staged another invasion. While much less powerful than the previous assault, it seemed that the demons were testing the defences put in place by the allods’ inhabitants. Allied against this common enemy, the League and Empire defences held, and the invasion was repelled. Instead of retreating back into the depths of the Astral, however, the demons remained, wandering the Astral shores and attacking those ships foolish enough to approach.
Over the next three decades, the Astral demons grew in number and so too did the number of their cultish followers.
With powerful and relentless enemies upon their gates, the leaders of the League and Empire realised that only through a united front would they be able to overcome the next, inevitable invasion. The Great Mage Skrakan was among them; having faced the first demon in 576, he knew the reasons for their appearance were buried in the ancient histories of Sarnaut. His suspicions were finally confirmed when he discovered a book written by the Great Mage Tka-Rik, the last of the lost Junes.
For thousands of years, Tka-Rik was the Great Mage of a small, lost allod called Gipat. Living a hermit’s he shunned the companionship of the others on his allods, and of the Great Mages. He faced the demons alone, and failed. Mortally wounded, he contacted Skrakan and told him of the book he had written in his solitude: “Revelations on the Nature of Sarnaut.” It would later be known as “The Revelation of Tka-rik.”
The book, he told Skrakan, could be located on Gipat. Tka-rik had spent his life shielding the ruins there, and he strove to shield them still after his death. As he lay dying, Gipat was torn apart, the northern and western lands ripped into the Astral and consumed. Only a small allod remained, protected by the Will of Tka-rik, and that was where Skrakan sent his troops to search. In the year 965, a League ship finally stumbled upon the tiny, virtually unknown allod and the captain led an expedition deep into the ruins. Within a few weeks, the Revelations were delivered to Skrakan and he was astonished at what he found inside:
I am the last of the Junes, and it is long past time for me to repent of my sins. Two thousand years before the Great Cataclysm shattered our world, the Great Mages of our civilisation opened a door to another world. They were seeking power and authority, and they found a world filled with a primordial pulse of energy that would give us what we required. We used that energy and from that place the demons, our Curse, came forth. It harboured within it the pure, elemental spirits of Evil and Destruction.
We were taken by surprise, when they came. The Great Mages of the Junes, myself among them, managed to close the gates, but we were too late. Those who had broken through the barrier wreaked havoc on my nation: killing men, women and children wherever they dwelt.
For hundreds of years we hunted the demons, but we were ourselves hunted. Our eventual victory cost us dearly, the Junes were all but annihilated and we hid their fate from those who came into our lands later.
When the Great Cataclysm broke the world, the shielding spells were weakened, and the gates reopened. I understood once I saw the Astral swallowing great swathes of Sarnaut: the Astral itself was the primordial pulse, the energy that fuelled their world and the demons themselves.
I ran to Gipat, and I hid. My cowardice fed my silence, I was afraid to shoulder the blame of my nation and so I failed to raise the alarm about the demonic threat.
Three hundred years ago I fought another Astral demon alongside Zak, my final companion. Now he is dead, and I am the last of the Junes. When the demons attacked again in Umoira, I knew my course.
I cannot keep this secret any longer. The Fall of the Junes must no longer remain a mystery, their crime must be revealed. The Astral demons will remain, and they will strike again.
Skrakan brought “The Revelations of Tka-rik” public, and as understanding dawned, the conflict between the League and Empire melted away. The name of the Junes became as a curse, and all races realised the need for unity was great. A great campaign would venture forth to meet the demonic threat.
Approaching the ships, they faced fierce opposition from the demons before them. Soldiers from both sides fell, but the force was unstoppable. At last they reached the Junes’ Gate, and the armies held the demons at bay while Skrakan and Nezeb struggled to complete the ritual. Time and time again they failed, but they persisted until at last, the great portals slammed shut. The victory, however, was double-edged.
Those waiting back at home saw the ships on the horizon and cheered. Their heroes had returned and they were victorious. It was only when the ships approached the port, and the great, black sails could be seen clearly, that the mourning began.
When the gates closed, all those who stood upon the allod perished. And all those ships above the allod were swallowed in a great Astral storm, only those at the edges of the battle managed to escape. But the loss of so many lives preserved so many others. With the gates closed, the threat of the Astral demons began to dissipate. While they still thrive in Astral space, they are not nearly so powerful or numerous as they once were.
Near the time of the Junes curse, a great and powerful necromancer, Tep, solved the mystery of life and death. His research discovered that every living substance is composed of a common, basic component: the Spark of Life. This Spark resides in every living being until such time as a “death” occurs, at which point it leaves the corporeal body.
Many years later, the Great Mage Tensess was slain during the battle with a battle with the Astral demons and his spark, too, became trapped with the pyramid prison. His Spark, however, was more powerful than any other, and he was able to overcome the will of Tep.
His Spark summoned spirits, who became known as Servants of Tensess, to help guide the Sparks trapped in that prison back towards the living. Soon, all those upon the allods knew their fate: death was not an ending, and their Spark would allow them to exist even after their bodies had died. Anyone who performed the rite of purification in that purgatory would be returned to their bodies alive and well again, and well able to fight another day.
Tensess bestowed this gift upon everyone in the allods, Empire and League alike. It was his heart’s desire that old enemies would unite in the face of their common foe: the Astral demons.