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$_ARTHAN

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PostSubject: TAK manual stories   Mon Feb 20, 2012 12:51 pm

***Introduction: The Chronicles of Darien

- Many thousand of yers ago, the world of Darien was united into one; the Kingdom of Kandra.
- The Kandrans were a race as old as Darien itself, and their strict but benevolent rule stretched to the most faraway corner of their dominion. This rule was exceptional in one respect — it was not upheld by a vast bureaucracy, an omnipresent spy network or garrisons of soldiers in every little town and village. The Kingdom of Kandra drew its power from the Kandrans’ mastery of Mana, the currency of magic.
- The Kandrans were masters of magic — even an average Kandran was capable of such simple, useful feats as turning water into beer or dissolving an ugly body wart. It is believed that the Five Wizards of Kandra held enough power to destroy the entire universe. At least part of this power was believed to come from a secret artifact known as the Heart of Thesh. It was rumored that the Heart of Thesh gave its possessor the ability to summon a devastating force, a force against which there was no defense.
- Fortunately, the Five Wizards of Kandra were as wise as they were powerful.While they instantly knew of any transgression of their code — called the Laws of Life — and doled out appropriate punishments, the Wizards never abused their position. They knew that any bending of the natural rules inherent in the manipulation of Mana would have disastrous consequences. And so, any personal joy derived from their immense powers was tempered by the weight of equally immense responsibilities.
- Kandran Wizards practiced their magical arts at special, sacred sites that enhanced the power of the magic. These sites, marked by a circle of standing stones, probably contained extraordinary concentrations of Mana. It is an established fact that these sites retain special magical properties even today. When Mana was used on a truly massive scale, a rare mineral would sometimes result. This was known as mogrite — a substance that gives mere humans immense magical powers, as well as immortality.
- The Kandrans were quick to recognize the value of mogrite. All of the five mogrite stones ever found were incorporated into items known thereafter as the Five Legacies: a pendant, a bracelet, a scepter, a ring, and — a throne.
Four of the Legacies symbolized the four elements — Earth,Water,Wind and Fire — while the fifth stood for the amalgamation of the four elements into one entity: the world. Thus, the pendant containing the mogrite stone known as the Stone of Darien symbolized Earth, and the bracelet with the stone known as the Soul of Kandra symbolized Wind. The scepter topped with the stone known as Angvir’s Flame symbolized Fire, while the ring with the small but incredibly pure Macha’s Tear symbolized Water.
- The biggest mogrite jewel, symbolizing the world as a whole, was known as Modron’s Eye. It was mounted on the top of the Throne of Ludd, an imposing throne sculpted from blackstone, a Darien rock as hard as steel.
The Five Legacies were put in the custody of the Five Wizards of Kandra. Each Wizard was responsible for a particular Legacy for a single year.At the end of every year, the Wizards exchanged the Legacies among themselves. This was meant to underline the fact that the Wizards were not owners, but merely custodians, of the Five Legacies.
The Kandrans thought that putting the mogrite Legacies under the Wizards’ care would ensure continued peace and security. Alas, they were wrong.
- As time went on, the Wizards realized that possessing a mogrite stone meant much more than greatly increased magical powers. Mogrite also gave its possessor such benefits as immunity to sickness, almost instant healing of wounds and injuries and incredible longevity. It also turned out that the mogrite stones incorporated into the Five Legacies were of unequal power.Modron’s Eye stood out, in particular, for it gave its owner — or custodian — practical immortality. The uniting principle behind the Five Wizards was their equality as regards one another. Now, the custodian of the throne with Modron’s Eye was more fortunate than the others.
- What’s more, the Wizards’ new, long lifespan wasn’t that pleasing to all the Kandrans. The resentment arose very slowly; the Kandrans were a people who enjoyed long lives in general — the average Kandran could hope to live well in excess of a hundred years. But after two generations of Kandrans had gone by, and the same set of Wizards continued to govern the kingdom, eyebrows were being raised and questions asked.
- They were asked most loudly by the five acolytes chosen to succeed the reigning Wizards. It took thirty-six years to train a talented Kandran for the Wizards’ post; the training was very strict, conducted in conditions similar to solitary confinement. One set of acolytes had already died without ever putting their hard-gained knowledge into practice. And so, the candidates-in-waiting whispered and grumbled, sometimes publicly, which was a scandal without precedent in Kandran history.
- In happier times, the Five Wizards would have instantly been aware of the discontent. They would have righted the wrongs, punished the wrongdoers — if any — and things would have returned to normal. But the Wizards were increasingly involved in a power struggle. By that time, they all had their favorite Legacies, and of course the most coveted prize of all was the throne with Modron’s Eye.
- The final calamity struck without warning. There are no records, no evidence of what exactly led to the catastrophic collapse of the Kingdom of Kandra. Was it a Wizard making a vicious bid for ultimate power? Was it a bitter acolyte, a frustrated Wizard-in-waiting, putting his hard-gained knowledge to devious ends?
- No one will ever know.
- What we do know is that exactly 427 years — to the day — after the Wizards took custody of the Legacies, Darien was struck by the ultimate disaster. All natural laws suddenly ceased to work. Farm animals swelled and burst as their bodily fluids instantly transformed to gas. People died horrible deaths, bones snapping as their bodies twisted into impossible shapes, eyes popping clear of their contorted faces as their heads swelled and cracked open like overripe grapefruits. In the Kandran capital, the enormous belusa trees lining all the main streets shriveled and split lengthwise, spilling smoking sap. Seas and lakes hissed and steamed, rivers became rocky canyons, and mountains roared and crumbled into stony plains.Finally, the land itself groaned horribly, and a devastating earthquake swept Darien far and wide.
- It was all over in a couple of heartbeats. A terrible silence fell over the tortured land of Darien, and then a bloody rain came down and fell for three nights and days.
- Incredibly, handfuls of life survived — among them, a few dazed witnesses of the cataclysm that had just passed. They did not know why they had been spared and didn’t dare to speculate. For immediately following the catastrophe, Darien was blessed by a period of incredibly clement weather that lasted the better part of a century. New water springs burst open across the land, deserts slowly filled with seas of swaying grass and birds began to twitter yet again, perched on the branches of young saplings.
- It was as if Nature had decided to nurse the world back to health; slowly, the scattered survivors of the disaster grew into clans and tribes. But however far away and out of touch they were, all those freshly born pockets of civilized life shared one belief,one attitude: an absolute abhorrence of the magical arts. Merely speaking about the existence of the Kandran plaything that had laid low the land meant severe punishment.
- The enormous store of magical knowledge accumulated by the Kandrans was lost.And as hamlets grew into villages, and villages into towns, there developed a new faith: a belief in the essential rightness of things as they were. If something was a certain way, that was the way it was meant to be.
- The healing of Darien took thousands of years. The newly emerged tribes had adopted a new calendar, starting with the day of the Great Calamity as Day One. And so we know today that agriculture became possible again in Darien towards the close of the First Millennium; that the Second Millennium ushered in the appearance of numerous new species of flora and fauna; and that by the end of the Third Millennium,most of Darien’s scars had overgrown with lush fields and forests. By the middle of the Fourth Millennium, nearly all of the tribes inhabiting Darien had reestablished contact with one another. This spurred progress, and many areas of knowledge grew by leaps and bounds, not least because finally the various surviving crumbs of Kandran knowledge became available to all.
- However, one area of Kandran knowledge was left untouched. Of course it had to be the most important matter of them all: Kandran magic. To the creators of Darien’s new civilization, magic was a Pandora’s box of misfortune that would devour anyone who dared open it.
- By that time, laws prohibiting magic-related activities weren’t necessary. To most of Darien’s new people, admitting so much as an interest in the magical arts was the social equivalent of confessing to a fancy for gruesome murder. This was how things were.
- Until Garacaius.
- It was a special day — the last day of the Fourth Millennium. Pesco the fisherman was busy poling his boat along the thickly wooded shore. It wasn’t easy — a mist had settled on the water, and Pesco had to watch out for floating, dead wood, a task made even more difficult by the occasional screen of reeds. He was in a great hurry though, because the evening was to be full of festivities to mark the coming of the New Millennium, and this hurry was his undoing. The flat-bottomed boat suddenly reared up like a startled horse as it struck a half-submerged trunk, and Pesco got very wet.
- The water wasn’t deep. Pesco stood submerged to his waist, spitting out curses and wringing out his cap.When it was dry enough to put back on his bald head, he did so, and took stock of the situation. It quickly dawned on him that all the fish he’d caught earlier were enjoying newfound freedom — he’d humanely but unwisely left them alive. He was about to start cursing again when he heard the baby cry. He listened, staring wide-eyed into the mist; the cry came again.
- He waded through the water, then hesitated, standing knee-deep before a twisted tree bending from the shore; he had never seen a tree like that before. The third cry came. Pesco was suddenly seized with a grim foreboding of something about to happen.Dark-eyed with fright, he didn’t even notice the drops of water that ran out from under his cap and down his face. The clammy air was still. Then Pesco’s arm shot out as if of its own accord and grabbed an overhanging branch. Moments later, he was treading carefully through the moss and tangled grass — he was barefoot, and the ground was covered with sharp, dry twigs.
- He found the baby almost right away — he practically stepped on it after he pushed past through a pair of prickly bushes. The baby lay on a patch of open ground, naked as nature had made it, with nothing but a tiny leather pouch tied by thongs to the baby’s foot.
- Pesco’s thick, scarred fingers untied the thongs with amazing deftness. He pulled the pouch open, peered inside and reacted as if he had just looked death in the face. He jerked his head back and flung the pouch into the forest as far as he could. Those pale, softly growing grains — they had to be something magical! The infant had a pouch of some unnatural substance attached to its foot!
- Pesco’s breath came in ragged gasps as he scrabbled around, looking for a suitably large branch or rock.He found his weapon and stood over the baby, trying to summon the determination he needed.
- The baby! He could see it was a little boy.
- He already had nine children of his own. Even if he’d found this one untainted by evil…he just couldn’t afford another mouth to feed. But he could find someone else to take care of it, couldn’t he? But there wasn’t any sense thinking about it.
The pouch…
- Pesco grasped his club firmly. He raised it and held it high for a moment.
- But…the baby! The baby, the baby, the baby!
- With a shriek of dismay, Pesco threw the makeshift club after the pouch,hearing it crash and tear through the shrubbery. He cursed as he picked the baby up, cursed as he carried it back to the boat, and cursed most of the long way home.
- Pesco had always cursed a lot, and that was why he fished alone.
- It is recorded that on the fifth day of the sixth month of the sixteenth year in the Fifth Millennium, a youth named Garacaius passed the final examinations at the Ugarit Academy and left this famous school under a cloud.
- Before graduation, each student was required to submit an essay on an extracurricular subject. The subject didn’t really matter — what mattered was the student’s ability to argue a point in a logical and convincing manner. Prize-winning essays included “The Joyful Fly: An Examination of the Relationship Between Selected Household Insects and Wildberry Jam,” and the sensational “Stories My Mute Father Never Told Me: Adventures in Carpentry.” Young Garacaius, however, had dared to write a treatise on…Mana, and the role of magic in the natural world!
- To many, this confirmed Garacaius as a suspicious character. To start with, it was well known that he attended the Academy through the help and protection of the Leimar clan, which practically ruled Ugarit. Yet he had repeatedly stated that he was not a member of the clan, most recently when tensions between the Leimar and the Balistan clans briefly flamed into armed hostilities.When asked about his birthplace, Garacaius claimed to come from a fishing village south of Ugarit. But a couple of students passing through that very village quickly found that none of its inhabitants had ever heard of Garacaius. In short, he was already somewhat suspect by the time he submitted his scandalous paper. All over Ugarit, doors leading to prospective employers firmly slammed shut.
- Garacaius did not ask for anyone’s help. He left Ugarit and made his way to the fishing village he thought he’d come from. His Leimar “relatives” had told him about the poor fisherman who couldn’t afford the upkeep of a child. He found Pesco, by then bent with age, though still cursing as fluently as ever. To his chagrin, the old fisherman refused to answer any questions about Garacaius’ origins.
- Garacaius had nowhere to go, so he stayed. He went out fishing with old Pesco — the first person ever to do that — and the old man was quietly grateful for a companion who did not object to his rude manner and helped with tasks he found increasingly difficult.What was more, before long the young man showed a flash of talent that amazed the fisherman.
The boat Pesco used had a flat bottom, like all Darien craft. Its shallow draft meant it could easily skim the waters on calm days and penetrate any encountered river with ease. However, the slightest storm could be extremely dangerous.
After a lot of nagging, Pesco agreed to help Garacaius build a new boat with a revolutionary design featuring a deeper draft. Almost half of the hull was to be underwater! Pesco argued a boat like that would be difficult to steer, slow to gather speed and slow to stop, and that the submerged hull would never be watertight. But his arguments were in vain — Garacaius was as stubborn as a mule, and in the end the old man gave up.
- By the beginning of the next fishing season, the boat was ready. To everyone’s amazement, it was almost as easy to maneuver as the traditional flat-bottomed craft. What’s more, its superior stability allowed the use of a sail in relatively strong wind. Before long, Garacaius and Pesco were making long voyages to hitherto inaccessible fishing grounds.
It was during one of these longer trips that Pesco finally told Garacaius how he had found him, as a baby abandoned in the forest. It isn’t clear whether he mentioned the magical pouch. What is known is that Pesco and Garacaius began returning from their trips with immense hauls; in one voyage, they would net more fish than all the remaining fishermen in the village.
- For the first time in his long, hard life, Pesco had enough money to spend every weekend in the village inn, drinking as if there were no tomorrow and pinching any shapely female bottom within reach. One weekend, staggering back home after a night of libations, poor old Pesco fell into a roadside ditch half full of water from a recent rain. Mean tongues said he was asleep before he hit the water.
- But there were also whispers that Pesco said Garacaius had used unnatural talents to secure a rich catch on every fishing trip, and that there was an ugly argument, a fight. The fact is, Pesco the old fisherman was dead drunk, and drowned in ankle-deep water. Suddenly, Garacaius found himself resented. Pesco’s family held him partly responsible, although just a month earlier they couldn’t praise him enough for his role in turning around Pesco’s fishing fortunes.
- A week after Pesco’s death, Garacaius loaded his few belongings onto his boat and sailed west out of the village harbor and into the open sea. The fishermen mending nets at the end of the pier glanced up from their work from time to time and looked at the solitary sail. It grew progressively smaller, lingered as a white spot on a sea lit golden by the setting sun, then disappeared.
- Irgiron, an island located right in the center of Darien, had always been an important trading center. At the dawn of the Fifth Millennium, Irgiron was home to a dozen trading houses that kept a firm grip on most of Darien’s intercontinental trade.
- The merchants of Irgiron weren’t as well off as they could have been, because the flat-bottomed trading vessels in use at that time were notoriously unseaworthy. As a result, the merchants lost as many goods to the sea as they managed to trade.Therefore, the appearance of a young man who claimed to have invented a truly seaworthy boat excited a lot of interest.
- Within a short time, Garacaius had all the support he needed to begin building an ocean-going ship. He retained the oarsmen — Darien craft were traditionally powered by seamen’s arms rather than wind — but added a large square sail. As he explained to the merchants, the stability provided by the ship’s deep draft allowed the use of a sail in almost any weather. Furthermore, the deep hull offered the possibility of large cargo holds — Garacaius claimed his vessel would be able to carry as much merchandise as half a dozen of the traditional craft, and carry it in safety.
- He was right. Within a few years, Irgiron’s population doubled. New manufacturers popped up almost weekly, and the Irgiron merchants grew fat and happy.
- As for Garacaius, he had established trading posts of his own in all the principal ports of Darien and became one of its richest citizens.He established his center of operations in Estoril, Irgiron’s largest town. He built a magnificent house for himself, containing what was said to be the biggest library in Darien.
- But Garacaius did not seem to enjoy the fruits of his efforts — more and more he left business affairs in the hands of trusted associates and disappeared for months on private expeditions.He explored all of Darien’s seas and was rumored to have set foot on some of the unexplored, strange lands beyond Darien. He made long voyages inland — on one of those, he reached the lost city of Waleph; its inhabitants had been cut off from the rest of Darien for five thousand years.
The men who accompanied Garacaius on these voyages were very close-mouthed. On occasion, especially when they had just returned from another journey and the relief had loosened their tongues, they described many extraordinary things.
They spoke of ghost cities, and stone houses along paved avenues populated by no one but birds and wild animals. They described strange creatures, some half animal and half human, and others that clung to life although their eyes had rotted out of their sockets and most of their flesh had decayed and fallen away. The men spoke also of strange places — circles of immense stone slabs where the very ground glowed with a soft, moist light.
- But the very next day, when asked to explain or to elaborate, the men that had sailed with Garacaius would shake their aching heads and mutter denials. However, one thing they were all happy to say, whenever asked, was that Garacaius was an exceptional man and that they trusted him with their bodies and their souls. This strange mention of the spiritual sent shivers down the backs of most inquirers, and discouraged further questions.
- The longest of Garacaius’ expeditions, which took him to the heart of Zhon, lasted nearly two years. When he returned, his retinue was increased by a new companion: a beautiful woman, as dark-haired and dark-complexioned as Garacaius was fair. Normally this would have excited much comment, and Lasha, the dark-haired beauty, would have been the object of many inquisitive stares. But times had changed during Garacaius’ latest absence. Things weren’t normal. The whole of Darien had been swept by the flame of war.
- It all started in the land of Taros, the land Garacaius had left so many years earlier to seek his fortunes at sea. The clans of Leimar and Balistan had one of their periodical skirmishes, only this time the House of Ontinor felt obliged to put in its two coppers’ worth. The Ontinor was linked to the House of Aidenfel in the land of Aramon, and in the scuffle Aramon’s House of Buriash took the opportunity to seize some disputed land. And so it went.
- Within the year, every single clan and noble house of Darien was engaged in hostilities of some sort against one or more enemies. The web of communication Garacaius had woven with his ships spread the disease of war to every shore.
- Garacaius tried to remain uninvolved, but it was hardly possible.Within a month of his return, his trading post on the island of Caora was raided by sea brigands, and the islanders were put to the sword. Garacaius led a small army of volunteers out to punish them, and before he knew it he was involved in half a dozen squabbles with various armed factions.
- The Great Civil War of Darien lasted eight years. For the first five, it wasn’t so much a full-fledged war as a series of ongoing skirmishes — short intervals of peace were interrupted by bloody flare-ups that lost their fire after a couple of furious battles.
- However, by the fifth year of the war, things changed. The numerous independent factions, most of them grouped around the noble houses, clans and tribes of Darien, finally merged into four distinct sides. Three of these contestants wanted to pursue the conflict to its bitter end. The fourth — a federation of island city-states sought immediate peace and the settling of differences through negotiation. This pacifistic attitude was not surprising, for the island cities were constantly fighting hostile forces, having found themselves caught in the middle of the global battlefield.
- It was no surprise that the city representatives elected Garacaius the leader of the island federation. After all, the islands had been his base of operations for many years, and he was widely respected.What was significant was that the federation adopted the name of Veruna, an ancient Kandran word signifying deep regard for the truth.
- It soon became apparent that the Kandran link went beyond the name. Veruna’s forces, led by Garacaius, repulsed all attackers with astonishing ease. In the sixth year of the war, one of the noble houses of Aramon, the Dernhest, suddenly declared itself an ally of Veruna, and by the end of the year the entire continent of Veruna was in Garacaius’ hands. In the seventh year of the war, Garacaius took the southern land of Zhon. But there were also growing rumors that the leader of the forces of Truth had used magic to subdue his opponents.
- In the eighth year of the war, Garacaius invaded Taros. His army came ashore not a mile from the fishing village that had been his home. But the village was lifeless — its inhabitants had fled, expecting to be massacred. That evening, the great leader was thoughtful and sad as he stood at the edge of his army’s camp,watching the sun set over the lifeless houses.
- It was an appropriate portent for what was to follow. The Tarosian campaign turned out to be the most savage of the entire war. The noble houses of Taros ceased all infighting and presented a united front to the invading army. Hopelessly outnumbered, the Taros nobles turned in desperation to that old, secret weapon of the Kandrans: magic.
- Taros had always had an unfair share of Darien’s magic potential. There is a theory that attributes this to the active volcanoes in the Kaf range, which forms the continent’s rocky spine. The cells of the Judicial Palace in Elam had always contained at least one unfortunate soul put away for showing an unhealthy interest in the magical arts. Now, with the armies of Garacaius quickly advancing inland, these wretched aspiring magicians were hurriedly pulled out of the dungeons and ordered to save the forces of Taros from a certain defeat.As luck would have it, with their very first effort, the newly appointed Wizards managed to blind a cavalry detachment scouting the approach route to Taros’ capital, Elam.
Historians agree that Garacaius was beside himself with fury upon hearing the news. He immediately ordered a forced march on Elam, and demanded an instant, unconditional surrender from the city’s defenders. When it was apparent that a surrender was not coming, Garacaius retreated to his tent and emerged wearing a ring no one had seen before. Stepping out in front of the line of his troops, he raised his arms and cried out words in a strange language, then quickly knelt down and bowed his head. To a man, his entire army, fifty thousand strong, did the same.
- Witnesses said a strange, dark mist then descended on Elam, silencing the jeers and insults of the soldiers lining the fortified walls. A long and terrifying silence fell, and at long last the mist began to dissolve. A moment later, Garacaius rose from his knees and led his army into a deserted city. The entire population had vanished into thin air; it was a very quiet occupying army that marched in. Each throat was gripped by realization that Garacaius was a Mage, a Mage whose powers equaled those of the infamous Wizards of Kandra.
- After this final victory, there was no question as to who should rule the newly united world of Darien. There was only one possible candidate: Garacaius.
- He moved swiftly, establishing the new Darien capital in the city that had been his home for some time: Estoril,on the island of Irgiron. He was probably at least partly motivated by sentiment for Irgiron, for that was where he had made his fortune. More coldheartedly, the central location of the island conferred various strategic advantages. Garacaius’ already magnificent house was rebuilt and expanded into a true palace.
- On the day he assumed power,Garacaius made a famous speech to the Darien nobles assembled in the new parliament. He revealed that he had been actively pursuing magical knowledge for many years, and that in the course of his expeditions he had recovered all Five Legacies, the heirloom of the Kandrans. In a famous speech known later as the Oath to Darien, Garacaius swore never to abuse the magical knowledge he had acquired, and to use it only in the direst necessity and in accordance with the wishes of his people. Moreover, Garacaius swore never to use magic for personal advantage, no matter the circumstances.
- In the years that followed, Garacaius kept his oath. His new empire suffered many growing pains. Civil war flared occasionally, as participants of the Great Civil War settled scores now long overdue.Never, not in a single instance, did Garacaius reach for the awesome weapon at his disposal. All conflicts ran their course, all disputes were settled by very earthly means. There were even those who grumbled that a timely spell was preferable to having one’s insides pierced by cold steel.
- The first years of the rule of Garacaius were also marked by a personal note. The First Mage Emperor (a title he was said to detest, but which had been conferred upon him by a fearful, but grateful populace) became officially betrothed to the dark-haired Lasha, whom he had met on his last expedition in the land of Zhon. Four children resulted from this union, and their appearance was held to be a miracle of harmony.There were two boys and two girls, and one of each was fair; the others, dark.
- By the time his children were of age, Garacaius had quelled all remaining unrest; Darien was in a state of total peace. He began devoting more and more time to his children, and it seemed to suit him. Garacaius had always been a somewhat restless man,with a face that reflected the tensions running through his soul. Now he appeared relaxed, at ease… almost happy.
- Tragedy struck as it always does: out of the blue. One day, Garacaius took his family sailing in the first boat he had ever built, the vessel that revolutionized ship design in Darien. It seemed safe enough; he didn’t intend to venture beyond the Estoril harbor. The weather seemed perfect — sunny and windless. But at sea, weather can change in the blink of an eye, and, after all, Estoril and the island of Irgiron lay in the middle of a vast ocean.
- The squall hit the harbor like a striking snake. One moment, the water was as placid as a pond. The next, foamflecked waves reared up as savage blasts of wind whipped and slashed at the sea. The children panicked, and the boat capsized. Garacaius was an excellent swimmer and managed to save the four children, but his beloved wife, Lasha, drowned.
The squall passed as swiftly as it came, but things had changed forever. Garacaius could have saved everyone by using magic.Possibly he wanted to,but hesitated to break his solemn promise. By the time he made up his mind, it was much too late.
- That morning, as the family clambered onto the boat, Garacaius was a man in the prime of life — and thanks to the Legacies in his possession, he could look forward to many years of perfect health. That evening, Garacaius was a crushed old man. And in the days that followed, he sank deeper and deeper into grief, tortured by his conscience.
- Time passed, but did not heal the wound. The Great Mage Emperor seemed to lose all interest in the well-being of his empire. Trouble followed trouble — across Darien, old wounds were reopened and new ones were made. Garacaius acted ignorant; he dismissed agitated couriers with a weary wave of hand and returned to his private hell.
- Eventually a deputation from all of Darien’s tribes and noble houses assembled in Estoril. After a day of debate, the gathered nobles decided to present Garacaius with a demand: Rule, or step down in favor of one of your children. In this way, the nobles hoped to avoid the possibility of infuriating Garacaius — one does not pick a fight with a mighty Wizard. And if Garacaius’ successor would turn out to be wise, all the better. If stupid, he or she could be manipulated.
- Garacaius instead chose a compromise. He did not resign, but he put practical control of Darien into the hands of his children. To each, he gave part of the empire that he thought most appropriate. To his daughters, he gave what best agreed with their temperaments; to his sons, what best fit their abilities. As he made the appointments, Garacaius also gave each child one of the Five Legacies. Possessing them would ensure that the new rulers would command more power than any scheming nobleman could ever hope to achieve.
- His first-born son, Elsin, called Elsin the Fair,was renowned for his open and just nature. Practical, down to earth and honorable, Elsin was nevertheless somewhat less than brilliant — his desire for justice outweighed all other considerations.The one area where he shone was the science of engineering, with its straightforward, unbendable laws and rules.
- Elsin received dominion over the land of Aramon, perhaps the finest of them all. Aramon was the most developed of Darien’s continents, and Elsin quickly proceeded to develop it even more, founding new cities, building roads and bridges, and establishing the famous Aramon Academy of Engineering and Design in the newly built provincial capital,Kaluen.To cement his grip on power, Elsin received the Legacy with the mogrite Stone of Darien mounted into a pendant.
- Garacaius’ second-eldest child was a daughter named Thirsha. Strikingly similar to her black-haired mother, Thirsha loved the land of her mother’s birth, the land of Zhon. She was happiest when hunting deep in the bowels of an untamed forest, and spent whole weeks out in the country with just a single groom for company.
- Thirsha received dominion over her beloved Zhon, the wildest and least explored of Darien’s continents.With it, she received the bracelet containing the stone known as the Soul of Kandra. It was particularly appropriate, for the forests of Zhon contained many mysterious ruins dating from before the Great Cataclysm. As with Elsin and Aramon, sending Thirsha to Zhon was an inspired choice. Before long, the stubborn, half-wild tribes of the continent were firmly under her control, and the tribesmen reverently referred to her as the Huntress.
- Garacaius’ younger son and third-born child, Lokken, had shown great promise. But after Lasha’s death, much of his early brilliance seemed to be replaced with many undesirable traits. Garacaius dearly loved the dark-headed Lokken, perhaps even more so than Elsin, and he believed a hungry mind, when not fed properly, turns to feed on itself. So he decided to give Lokken plenty to think about. Lokken received dominion over Taros. This ancient continent, some of whose tribes proudly claimed to predate the Kandrans, was almost constantly troubled by disturbances of one sort or another.The four noble houses of Taros all harbored grievances against one another, and much of the land lay wasted by years of fighting.Together with Taros, Lokken received the scepter with the stone called Angvir’s Flame. Once again, it seemed to be a wise appointment — within a year, Lokken had quelled all unrest with a brilliant mix of diplomacy, brutality and magic.
- Garacaius’ daughter Kirenna was his youngest child, and the one that most resembled her father. The resemblance included a love of the sea that survived her mother’s drowning. As soon as she was old enough, Kirenna left Estoril for long trips onboard trading ships visiting the farthest corners of Darien. Her co-sailors quickly dubbed her the Sea Mage, for Kirenna had an uncanny knack for anticipating changes of weather and piloting a ship safely through the thickest fog.
Kirenna received the dominion of Veruna and the ring with the mogrite stone known as Macha’s Tear. Among her first decrees were the abolition of all internal taxes and the doubling of wages paid to experienced seamen. The inhabitants of the islands that formed the federation of Veruna had a ruler who instinctively knew what her people did best; within a short time, Veruna came to command a virtual monopoly on sea trade.
- Garacaius remained to oversee the first years of his children’s rule. He was a forlorn figure in the Estoril palace, a sad old man seated on the fifth Legacy, the blackstone Throne of Ludd. Although the mogrite Eye of Modron topping the throne assured health and vitality, each new day aged Garacaius by a week. He seldom spoke, and most of those who tried to talk to him received no more than a sad stare in answer.
- Ten years passed. All of Estoril prepared to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Four Coronations. Among the scheduled attractions were a sea parade featuring the finest ships from Veruna’s fleet; the inauguration of the Darien Exhibition, featuring awe-inspiring machines and other examples of fine engineering from Aramon; and the opening of a gallery called The Wonders of Zhon, exhibiting unique handicrafts and works of art from that exotic land. After night had fallen, the assembled public was to be treated to a performance of the Fire Eaters of Taros, a group of artists skilled in manipulating fire in all its shapes and forms.
- The day of the great celebration began with a rosy dawn. The white stone floors of the Estoril palace seemed to be lit pastel peach and orange as Gudnor, personal groom to Garacaius for the last forty years, walked from chamber to chamber in search of his master. He was determined to restore at least some dignity to the man he had loved and served twoscore years, for on this day Garacaius would have to make several public appearances.
- It seemed Garacaius had not slept in his bed, and now, as Gudnor approached the Throne Room, his brow was furrowed with concern. It would be unfortunate if his master had chosen to spend yet another night alone on the throne, staring at the night’s shadows with unseeing eyes. Such night-long vigils left him looking even more frail and finished. Gudnor’s hand tightened on the box of pomade given to him by Kirenna, and he entered the Thone Room.
- A moment later, his agonized cry shattered the morning peace.
- For Garacaius was not in the Throne Room. The Throne of Ludd was empty.And where the stone known as Modron’s Eye had been, a cavity yawned mockingly.
- It has been 1527 years since Garacaius disappeared. His children, all of them granded immortality by the legacies in their possession, continue to rule their respective domains.
- However, all this is about to change.
- For the last couple of centuries, the differences between the four monarchs have become more and more pronounced.
- The emergence of four different “state” religions is another sign that the former unity of Darien has been shattered beyond repair. Previously, all Darien worshipped the same gods. Now, most citizens of Aramon wear rings bearing the silver Hand of Anu, Lord of Light, while the people of Taros worship a terrible dark deity called Belial. All religious inhabitants of Zhon worship Tammuz, the Goddess of the Hunt, and the patron saint of Veruna is Lihr, a mighty sea god.
All four kingdoms have previously fought one another, but now a great divide is opening between West and East.
Ever since Garacaius disappeared, the kingdoms of Aramon and Veruna have been loyal to Garacaius’ great oath renouncing the use of magic in any but the most extreme circumstances. They have concentrated on building their power through economical means — where Aramon excels in industry and internal development,Veruna is a trade powerhouse. Both Elsin, ruler of Aramon, and Kirenna, the Sea Mage of Veruna, insist that their father’s law be obeyed — or else.
- In the East, Taros is in open rebellion against the constraints imposed by the long-absent Garacaius. Lokken initiated his reign by using magic to subdue and terrorize the rebellious noble houses of Taros.Emboldened by his success, he has been practicing magic with growing intensity, going so far as to reshape the land to his pleasing. This has resulted in unexpected consequences. The Kandran Laws of Life stated he who manipulates Mana is like a swimmer borne along by a swift, powerful current.While one may use it to one’s advantage, trying to control or alter its course leads to tragedy. Lokken insists everything is going according to plan, but that’s not how it looks.
- South of Taros, deep within the woods of Zhon, Thirsha the Huntress is also a regular practitioner of magic. Proudly independent, the Huntress has responded to the demands of Elsin and Kirenna with haughty scorn. She will not be told by anyone when it is appropriate for her to practice magic, and she supports Lokken in his right to do whatever he pleases in his domain.
- The preceding centuries have already seen several bloody conflicts between the sibling Monarchs. Aramon has fought Veruna over the barren land of Kuvera in the northwest, and over several islands in the Sea ofMannan.The pirates of Zhon prey on Verunan ships and slaughter their crews. Zhon tribes repeatedly raid the rich coast of Aramon, whose Monarch retaliates by launching punitive expeditions deep into Zhon territory.A seemingly implacable hatred exists between Taros and Aramon, who have fought several full-scale wars on ideological grounds.
- Each side has many valid grievances against the others, and tempers have reached a boiling point.The Four Monarchs are assembling armies and readying for imminent war.

ARAMON

- You stand on the steps of your palace in Kaluen, the city you designed and helped build with your own hands.You reach out and touch one of the two columns flanking the entrance. You remember the stonemason showing you how to hold the chisel, how to strip the stone away in thin, even flakes.
- You always believed in leading by example. All of Darien knows that Elsin is a king whose deeds follow his words. It wasn’t so in the beginning. Do you remember the day you started building your city, Kaluen? It had been a long march to the building site, and you led the column of workers on foot, sharing their hardship.Yet on the first night after your arrival,when you walked among the tents and listened to the voices coming from inside, you heard scorn, not praise. What fool would walk when he could ride? Why would anyone build a new city for a capital?
- That first morning you saw three men struggling with a small boulder. You pushed them aside, lifted the pick you held in your hand and with one mighty blow split the stone in two. Then you picked up both halves in turn and threw them onto a waiting cart. You didn’t say anything, merely throwing the three workmen a look of quiet contempt. That evening, whispers of the feat of strength replaced the grumbling from the tents. It had been a lucky blow that had split the stone, in more ways than one.
- It took many years of hard work, but you have succeeded. All of Aramon came to enjoy prosperity. Kaluen has become one of the most admired cities in Darien. No army can be considered equal to Aramon’s steel-clad warriors, and even the unruly noble houses of Aramon have finally accepted you as their unquestioned ruler.
- But now, things have changed. Your brother Lokken, as always, disobeyed the rules laid down by your father. He has been using magic with wild abandon and terrifying results. You’ve heard he’s raising an army of undead to invade Aramon.
Lokken and the army of Taros aren’t the only threat. Your sister Thirsha, the ruler of the wild continent of Zhon, has grown increasingly hostile in the preceding years. She has hidden herself in the mysterious city of Ulasem, deep within Zhon’s wilderness; all contact has been lost. It seems you’ll have to fight Zhon as well as Taros. Fortunately, Kirenna and the mighty navy of Veruna are likely to be on your side.
- Victory in the approaching war won’t be easy. The eastern coast of Aramon is horribly exposed — both Zhon and Taros lie just across the water. And there’s always the possibility of treachery. It took a long time to reconcile the noble houses of Aramon to the fact that they all must bow to Elsin, the Mage King. The House of Buriash was especially bitter — its lords had ruled Aramon in the past.
- Take the time to review your forces. You need to know them well, if you want to win against the Tarosian undead and the wild beasts of Zhon.

VERUNA

- Viewed from the window of your palace, the Lendran harbor is a forest of masts. Each day, several dozen ships come in or leave on voyages to distant shores. You are the true inheritor of your father’s maritime talents, for no other nation in Darien can match Veruna’s fleet.
- From your earliest years, you’ve loved the sea. As a child, you’d spend hours staring at the blue-green water swell up and crash down on the sandy beach just a short walk away from the palace at Estoril.You would stand in the wet sand at the ocean’s edge, feeling your feet sink a little deeper every time the water kissed your ankles, leaving little rings of foam. You refused to bathe after returning to the palace; you enjoyed the sticky skin, the salty taste you felt when you licked your forearm in secret.Your room faced the shore. You fell asleep and awoke with the sound of the sea in your ears.
- Then came the sea voyages as you grew older. At first, the sailors laughed, but within a couple of years, you could navigate by the stars like a veteran captain. You knew the sea’s mood; you could sense a storm approaching even when there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. It was as if the sea was you and you were the sea.You knew where to find schools of fish and where rocks lurked, even if you had never been to that particular spot before.
- Recently, things have become strange. At times, looking to the horizon from the hilltop palace above Lendra, you feel a mixture of dread and apprehension. There are strange monsters stirring somewhere in the waters. There is danger headed your way.You know this, for the sea speaks to those who listen.
- There has always been animosity between you and Thirsha — she never wanted to share in any of your pleasures, preferring instead to wander the forests of Irgiron. After she had taken the crown of Zhon, she banned your traders from that continent and actively encouraged Zhon pirates to attack your ships. Then Lokken turned hostile. It started with his raising customs duties, impounding goods and charging progressively higher anchorage fees. And the captains who have recently visited Taros speak of terrible things — empty ports, abandoned towns and corpses risen from the grave and wandering among pools of hissing lava. Several ships that had sailed for Taros have disappeared entirely. It’s fortunate that the skirmishes you’ve had with Elsin haven’t destroyed your friendship, for you can feel war coming, lurking just beyond the haze.
- You turn away from the window; there is much to be done.Your dominion is a collection of islands populated by seafarers, not soldiers. It’s essential that no enemy army ever gain a firm foothold on Veruna’s shores.You must control the seas, and it’s time to review the tools that will let you achieve this goal.

ZHON

- This was once the heart of the Kandran empire. Now, monkeys screech where priests have prayed and tangled vines cover crumbling altars. You stand on the crumbling steps of an ancient temple and smile at the scorpion that scampers by your foot. For no wild, living thing will ever harm Thirsha the Huntress, the Mage Queen of Zhon. They are all your friends.
It has always been so, from the first time your shaky legs carried you out of the Estoril palace. You can still see the lemon tree in the corner of the courtyard and remember the scent on your fingertips after you’d rubbed the leaves. It was like a woman’s perfume, yet infinitely more alluring and elegant. Suddenly, you felt love for that tree, pure, true love, and felt loved in return. The others — Elsin, Kirenna, even Lokken — laughed when you told them. So you never told them anything again, not even after you’d made friends with the wolves inhabiting the Irgiron forests. Once they ceased being frightened, they behaved like big puppies…
- Arriving in Zhon was like a dream come true. You disliked busy Estoril, its streets packed with people and vehicles.Was it your sensitive sense of smell, with all those body odors forcing their way into your nostrils, that made you feel slightly nauseous? Was it your keen eyesight that made you see what was in those faces — because there were many faces, faces everywhere you looked, talking too loudly, smiling falsely, grimacing. A thousand misused masks. You thought, when a wolf wants to bite, it bares its teeth. And so do people, in a smile.
- The burghers of Estoril called the inhabitants of Zhon savages. You found those savages the best company you’ve ever had — human enough to share complex thoughts, animal enough to remain pure and simple. And sensible enough to understand that magic is part of Nature, just like the morning dew. Elsin and Kirenna, with their fixation on material things, could never comprehend that or resist meddling in other people’s business.
- Expeditions from Aramon have repeatedly forced their way into Zhon, ostensibly to look for ancient artifacts. Veruna’s traders are constantly trying to convert your people into slaves of the material world. It’s time to put an end to that.
The forests of Zhon are your fortified walls, its craggy mountains, castles. Your forces aren’t armed with swords and guns, but with natural powers and brute strength. And now that you have forged an understanding with the beasts of the sea, you have a force that’s as effective in the water as it is on land.
- With Lokken planning to invade Aramon, you’ll probably have to take on Veruna. If victory is to be yours, it has to be achieved quickly — Veruna and allied Aramon command vast resources.

TAROS

- You didn’t intend things to turn out this way. But they did, and there is only one possible explanation. Someone else has been casting spells against you. Not quite powerful enough to damage a potent Mage King, but enough to twist your magic around. And who could it be? Once again, only one possibility: Elsin. That sanctimonious liar.
- It’s hard to believe you could have made mistakes all by yourself. You’ve always been the most adept magician among the four royal children. You remember the day your father took you to the site of an ancient battle. There were the remains of a skeleton under a thorn bush. You looked into the dark eyeholes of the grinning skull and suddenly saw beyond, into the world of spirits. Since then, this other world has been as much of a home as the one you were born to, the world of living flesh.
- It became your goal to throw open the doors between the two worlds. It was obvious that magic was the only key, no matter what laws said. For no laws would be needed once the spiritual and the material joined into one.
At first, everything went so well. As punishment for your willfulness, you received the inhospitable land of Taros as your dominion. But within a few years, things had completely turned around. The bloodthirsty clans of Taros put away their weapons, and thanks to your knowledge and use of magic, grassy meadows and sparkling streams appeared where before there had only been rocks and dry canyons. Only the ultimate spell, the one to unite the two worlds, remained.
However, all the positive transformations on Taros had been watched with jealous eyes. Yes, your dear brother and sister weren’t happy with your success. Accusations were followed by threats, as if anyone could dictate terms to an independent Mage King! And then, when threats didn’t work, sabotage. Filthy, insidious sabotage. Land transformations ceased to work, and a terrible plague swept the land. Only one option remained: to return the dead to life, and make sure no one stands in the way again.
- It may seem Aramon is the most powerful dominion in Darien, but are material forces a match for legions of undead aided by magic? However, you cannot underestimate the secret reserves Elsin is sure to have. Veruna will probably be busy battling Zhon — it’s entirely up to you to defeat Aramon. You must strike first and make it instantly clear to the other side who is doing the losing in this particular fight. One factor in your favor: the noble houses of Aramon aren’t entirely supportive of their Mage King.
- Before you strike, prepare yourself by reviewing your forces.

THE MAJOR FAMILIES OF DARIEN

*The Noble Houses of Aramon
The four Noble Houses of Aramon generally maintain good relations with each other; armed conflict is the exception rather than the rule. All four Houses had, at one time or another, control over all of Aramon. Thus they regard each other as equals and were initially resentful at having Elsin’s rule imposed upon them.

THE HOUSE OF BURIASH
The House of Buriash is probably the most powerful of the four Noble Houses of Aramon. Its lands occupy most of northwestern Aramon, and its nobles ruled Aramon immediately prior to the coronation of Elsin as Aramon’s Mage King. The present Lord Buriash is rumored to retain grievances about the way his family was removed from power. The Lords of Buriash have always been warriors by nature, and peasants inhabiting their lands don’t have an easy life.

THE HOUSE OF DERNHEST
This House is said to have come into existence as a result of a union between Verunan sailors and the fair maidens that northeastern Aramon is famous for. Traditionally, the Lords of Dernhest have acquired wealth through commerce rather than warfare, so there may be truth in this.However, the present Lord Dernhest is determined to make his mark as a military leader and certainly has the talent to become one.His one weakness is an inordinate fondness of good food and drink. The Dernhest House is probably the most loyal to Elsin; its lords seem to have little political ambition.

THE HOUSE OF HELDAIN
The lands of the House of Heldain lie deep in the interior of Aramon. Its nobles traditionally aspire to become chivalrous knights. The morality of the Heldain lords may be questionable on occasion, but there is no doubt that this noble house produces the finest cavalrymen in Aramon. All men of the Heldain House seem to have an instinctive understanding of their beasts, the rider and the horse acting as one in combat. The House of Heldain has been somewhat divided in its attitude to Elsin. Interestingly, the Heldain noble most famous for his independence, courage and intelligence. Joreth, has always been a staunch supporter of Elsin.

THE HOUSE OF AIDENFEL
The House of Aidenfel,whose lands lie in eastern Aramon, claims to be the most ancient of the four Noble Houses. It has produced a large share of Aramon’s artists, men of learning and inventors. There is a rumor that the House of Aidenfel is directly descended from the Kandrans, and certainly this is the Noble House with most links across Darien; its men and women often take spouses from overseas. The most recent of these intercontinental marriages, that of the current Lord Aidenfel to a beautiful Taros aristocrat, has added to tension between Taros and Aramon. It’s said every Tarosian noble dreamed of possessing this particular beauty, and there have been drunken boasts of taking her back by force.

*The Noble Houses of Veruna
The four Noble Houses of Veruna have almost always coexisted amicably, the one exception being a short war fought between the House of Aenir and the House of Iuli, brought about by a territorial dispute. Otherwise, the most warlike measures the Houses ever take against one another are temporary commercial boycotts. Veruna had been the adopted home of Garacaius; in contrast to other dominions, the houses accepted its Mage Queen with enthusiasm.

THE HOUSE OF AENIR
Aenir is one of the two Houses that share lands on Veruna’s biggest island, Vidara. Originally a clan of hunters, the House of Aenir entered the commercial scene later than its rivals. Its relatively weak commercial presence is compensated by the fact that the House has produced the majority of Veruna’s fighting men —most of the archers on board Veruna’s fighting ships come from the lands of the House of Aenir. The House of Aenir has been an especially loyal supporter of Kirenna, hoping to score points over its closest competitor — the House of Iuli. It has also been recently successful in having an old territorial quarrel resolved mostly in its favor.

THE HOUSE OF YDDYN
The House of Yddyn originated as a clan on the island of Athri, on Veruna’s eastern flank. Gradually, it moved on to colonize the neighboring islands of Caora and Gudrun. In later years, its ill-timed attempt to establish outposts in the barren land of Kuvera led to a sharp, short war between Veruna and Aramon. The House of Yddyn is said to produce Veruna’s finest navigators, endowed with an almost supernatural sense of direction.However, this is not really surprising once one learns that Veruna’s easternmost islands are covered by mists much of the time.

THE HOUSE OF JATHA
Most of Veruna’s thinkers and government officials come from the House of Jatha. Its lands occupying just a few small islands on Veruna’s southern fringe, the House of Jatha had always sought to spread its influence through wise diplomacy rather than commercial or military power.However, the members of this illustrious House are no meek pacifists. Present command of Veruna’s war fleet lies in the hands of Lord Il-Jatha. The House of Jatha has close ties with Aramon. After the Great Civil War, many Jathans settled around the city of M’Hari on Aramon’s northeastern shore. The close relations between this noble house and Aramon’s House of Dernhest have greatly contributed to the creation of an alliance between Aramon and Veruna.

THE HOUSE OF IULI
The moment Garacaius “rehabilitated” the Kandrans, confessing that he had been a student of their sciences, at least one noble house on every continent began to claim blood links with the mysterious, ancient race. In Veruna, it was the House of Iuli. There is some evidence to support the claim that the House of Iuli was Veruna’s first merchant house, dating back long before the islands were united as one nation. The House of Yddyn might have produced the finest seamen Veruna ever had, but it was the House of Iuli that made all those voyages profitable. Originating on the island of Vidara, the House of Iuli led the colonization of the island of Irgiron, establishing Darien’s then-premier city, Estoril. Several centuries later, when Garacaius arrived on the island, it was none one other than the First Lord of Iuli that gave the future ruler of Darien help and support he needed. In recent years, the power of the House of Iuli has waned. Its reluctance to pay the taxes needed to maintain Veruna’s war fleet has earned the house Kirenna’s disfavour. As a result, a disputed village passed into the hands of the House of Aenir, and the house also lost control of the Office of Customs and Commercial Taxes.

*The Known Tribes of Zhon
There is much uncertainty surrounding the exact number of tribes inhabiting Zhon, as most of them have the nasty habit of killing all visitors. However, thanks to lucky explorers who managed to observe and escape, four tribes have been positively identified. Their shared feature is hostility towards any outsiders that dare set foot on Zhon. Zhon’s cities aren’t agglomerations of living people. Rather, they’re ruins dating back to the time of the ancient Kandrans. Because of that, Zhon is rumored to be the hiding place of many ancient artifacts, including the mysterious Heart of Thesh.

THE URU
The Uru is a tribe of hunters of exceptional ability. They inhabit forests along Zhon’s western coast, and some centuries past were eager to trade animal skins in exchange for tools and weapons. Since then, the Uru have become increasingly hostile and xenophobic. The hunting skill of the Uru tribe makes the tribal members natural warriors; they make particularly dangerous foes when fighting in their thick home forests. The Uru were responsible for initiating the cult of Thirsha, worshipping Zhon’s Mage Queen as a Goddess in her own right.

THE IHOM
The Ihom tribe inhabits the northern part of Zhon. These fierce warriors spend their time attacking ships passing through the narrow straits between Zhon and Taros, or alternately fighting a fellow Zhon tribe, the Kinik. The conflict with the Kiniks is so old, it has passed into tribal tradition. To achieve manhood, an Ihom boy needs to bring a Kinik head. Since the Kiniks have a similar custom, it is only the extraordinary fertility enjoyed by the women of the two tribes that prevents Zhon from becoming seriously depopulated.

THE KINIK
The Kinik are the traditional adversaries of the Ihom. They occupy most of eastern Zhon, with the heart of their territory lying behind natural barriers even other tribes find difficult to traverse. From behind this semi-impenetrable barrier, Kiniks launch raids on Ihom territory. With an uncanny sense of timing, they often take place right after the Ihom are heavy with loot from successful pirate attacks. It is thusly suspected that Kiniks have magical, supersensual abilities. The few successful attempts to trade with the Kinik revealed that this tribe has a rich source of precious gems and metals. However, the last nonviolent contact with the tribe took place centuries ago, and little is known about its present wealth.

THE SEIRN
The Seirn are the senior race of Zhon.Although savage by average Darien standards, the Seirn appears to be the most advanced of Zhon’s four major tribes. Unfortunately, the Seirn is also the most secretive, and reports of the tribe’s advanced knowledge of magic cannot be verified. It’s known that Thirsha’s closest advisors come from the Seirn, and that they are respected by other Zhon tribes, for even the battle-mad Kinik give the Seirn a wide berth. The Seirn is also the guardian of the lost city of Ulasem, reportedly Thirsha’s residence and Zhon’s de facto capital.


*The Noble Houses of Taros
The Noble Houses of Taros are a very bloodthirsty lot, outdoing even the Kinik of Zhon on several counts. For many centuries, Taros had been a continent where treachery and murder were commonplace. Things improved, briefly, after Lokken was appointed its Mage King. The last century has seen a series of catastrophic events overtake this unhappy land. While a full-scale civil war hasn’t erupted yet, the only way Lokken can prevent the Noble Houses from running amok is by directing them at a common enemy.

THE HOUSE OF ONTINOR
Ontinor is the least violent of the Noble Houses of Taros. Most of Ontinor lands lie on a large, semi-isolated peninsula on the western shore. This piece of geographical good fortune has meant that Ontinor has escaped involvement in most of the bloody quarrels that have turned Taros into a constant battlefield. The lands of Ontinor lie right across the water from Veruna, so its not surprising that this Noble House is the principal importer and exporter of Taros. In addition to supplying other Tarosian Houses with imported goods and weapons, Ontinor maintains relations with most of the Noble Houses in Veruna and Aramon — or at least it did until recently.

THE HOUSE OF VENTAR
The House of Ventar is engaged in almost perpetual conflict with the House of Balistan. Originally, the issue was control of the commercial rights in the Taros capital, Elam. Since then, individual vendettas that have accumulated on both sides are enough to keep a war aflame forever. The current uneasy peace between the two Houses is the result of Lokken’s brutal intervention. Occupying isolated and barren territory in the northern part of Taros, the House of Ventar has never mustered enough power to become prominent in Tarosian affairs. Instead, it tends to ally with whoever happens to be at odds with Balistan. So far, this policy has brought little reward.

THE HOUSE OF LEIMAR
Leimar lays claim as the oldest and most aristocratic of the Noble Houses of Taros. As usually happens with such ambitions, the House of Leimar is said to be descended from a family of Kandran aristocrats that miraculously survived the Great Catastrophe. All members of the House of Leimar have some knowledge of magic, and are proud of the fact that it was the Leimars who supported Garacaius until he reached adulthood so many centuries earlier. The principal noble of the House is Baron Leimar, a man of outstanding cruelty and deviousness. Recent reports indicate he commanded the Tarosian forces that pacified the island of Zakum, which dared to declare itself autonomous in the face of the wave of horrors sweeping Taros.

THE HOUSE OF BALISTAN
The House of Balistan is famous for the bloodlust of its sons. Legend has it that many centuries earlier, the founder of the House of Balistan had a vision in which he saw Paradise. The contrast with his own living surroundings inspired such hate that he turned into a homicidal maniac and subsequently passed the appropriate genes to his sons. There is a saying that the sons of Balistan will arise from their graves if there is more blood to be shed. Incredibly, most of Taros believes it’s true.
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PostSubject: Re: TAK manual stories   Wed Apr 25, 2012 5:50 pm

Hi Arthan!

How are you? My name is VikingGirlTBird! and it is VERY nice to meet you!

How do you ACTUALLY KNOW so much about "Total Annihilation: Kingdoms!", "Total Annihilation Kingdoms!: The Iron Plaque!", The Land of Darian, The Darian Emperor Garacaius, King Elsin, Queen Kirenna, Queen Thirsha, King Lokken, The Twenty Seventh Sage of Creon: Medalos, Aramon, Veruna, Zhon, Taros, and Creon?

The reason that I am asking you because the movie clips from "Total Annihilation: Kingdoms!" and "Total Annihilation Kingdoms!: The Iron Plague!" DON'T provide as much information about the two games as you do.

Are you taking the all the information from the movie clips from the two games and just "expanding and embellishing on the information" or did "Cavebone!" originally published all of this information before they ran out of business? Just wondering!

THANKS SO MUCH! KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK! BEST OF WISHES AND GOOD LUCK TO YOU! PEACE! Very Happy
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PostSubject: Re: TAK manual stories   Wed Apr 25, 2012 7:46 pm

Your name is VikingGirlTBird? lolxD

The text comes from the original TAK manual made by Cavedog

Which can be found here http://www.mediafire.com/?jnjvjz3lhfds3om

Also there are others downloads (including more TAK histories, e.g. TAK Atlas) that can be found here http://takuniverse.tk/
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PostSubject: Re: TAK manual stories   Thu Apr 26, 2012 2:43 pm

VikingGirlTBird! wrote:
Hi Arthan!

How are you? My name is VikingGirlTBird! and it is VERY nice to meet you!

How do you ACTUALLY KNOW so much about "Total Annihilation: Kingdoms!", "Total Annihilation Kingdoms!: The Iron Plaque!", The Land of Darian, The Darian Emperor Garacaius, King Elsin, Queen Kirenna, Queen Thirsha, King Lokken, The Twenty Seventh Sage of Creon: Medalos, Aramon, Veruna, Zhon, Taros, and Creon?

The reason that I am asking you because the movie clips from "Total Annihilation: Kingdoms!" and "Total Annihilation Kingdoms!: The Iron Plague!" DON'T provide as much information about the two games as you do.

Are you taking the all the information from the movie clips from the two games and just "expanding and embellishing on the information" or did "Cavebone!" originally published all of this information before they ran out of business? Just wondering!

THANKS SO MUCH! KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK! BEST OF WISHES AND GOOD LUCK TO YOU! PEACE! Very Happy

Dear VikingGirlTBird, really thank you for your kind words here! The truth is as Landherr(GameOver) says. There is a lot of story hidden in the manuals of the game (too bad we only have the one from the Book of Darien, we actually miss the Iron Plague's manual) and there is also TAK Atlas which contains all these side stories and a detailed map of Aramon as well. Best of wishes to you too! Long live Total Annihilation:Kingdoms!!!
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PostSubject: Re: TAK manual stories   Mon Apr 30, 2012 8:37 pm

Hi Arthan!

How are you?

I read the TAK Manual and I have a question. How did the Beasts of Zhon and the Undead of Taros originally came into existance? Are they descendants from the Ancient Kandrans of the Empire of Darian also and have evolved into their own seperate and unique Darian races (Before Queen Thirsha and King Lokken were ever borned.) or were they created by Queen Thirsha and King Lokken themselves?

The TAK Manual suggests that the Beasts of Zhon were descendants from the Ancient Kandrans of the Empire of Darian and did evolved into their individual and unique Darian race but, it does NOT suggest that they were created by Queen Thirsha herself.

Also, the TAK Manual suggests that the (EARLY.) Undead of Taros were descendants from the Ancient Kandrans of the Empire of Darian and did evolved into their individual and unique Darian race and also suggests that some of the (LATER.) Undead of Taros (The ones who were NOT actually descended from the EARLY Undead of Taros.) were raised up from the dead and were created by King Lokken himself.

PS: Also why is King Elsin and Queen Kirenna using magic (In the game.) when they say that they uphold the "No Magic" oath of their father and try to pesuade Queen Thirsha and King Lokken to NOT use magic and uphold the oath as well? Just wondering!

THANKS SO MUCH! Smile
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PostSubject: Re: TAK manual stories   Tue May 01, 2012 6:31 am

VikingGirlTBird! wrote:
Hi Arthan!

How are you?

I read the TAK Manual and I have a question. How did the Beasts of Zhon and the Undead of Taros originally came into existance? Are they descendants from the Ancient Kandrans of the Empire of Darian also and have evolved into their own seperate and unique Darian races (Before Queen Thirsha and King Lokken were ever borned.) or were they created by Queen Thirsha and King Lokken themselves?

The TAK Manual suggests that the Beasts of Zhon were descendants from the Ancient Kandrans of the Empire of Darian and did evolved into their individual and unique Darian race but, it does NOT suggest that they were created by Queen Thirsha herself.

Also, the TAK Manual suggests that the (EARLY.) Undead of Taros were descendants from the Ancient Kandrans of the Empire of Darian and did evolved into their individual and unique Darian race and also suggests that some of the (LATER.) Undead of Taros (The ones who were NOT actually descended from the EARLY Undead of Taros.) were raised up from the dead and were created by King Lokken himself.

PS: Also why is King Elsin and Queen Kirenna using magic (In the game.) when they say that they uphold the "No Magic" oath of their father and try to pesuade Queen Thirsha and King Lokken to NOT use magic and uphold the oath as well? Just wondering!

THANKS SO MUCH! Smile

Dear VikingGirlTBird,
The nearmen (beastfolk) and the various undead species were in existence before Queen Thirsa and King Lokken were even born, since they appear in the journeys of Garacaius. Please, have a look here (parentheses are mine):

The men who accompanied Garacaius on these voyages were very close-mouthed. On occasion, especially when they had just returned from another journey and the relief had loosened their tongues, they described many extraordinary things.
They spoke of ghost cities, and stone houses along paved avenues populated by no one but birds and wild animals
(Ancient Kandran ruins in Zhon). They described strange creatures, some half animal and half human (Zhon beastfolk), and others that clung to life although their eyes had rotted out of their sockets and most of their flesh had decayed and fallen away (undead creatures). The men spoke also of strange places — circles of immense stone slabs where the very ground glowed with a soft, moist light (sacred stones).

It seems that nearmen and the undead were created as a result of the great calamity which destroyed the ancient Kandran civilization. Everything magical or unnatural is considered "Kandran", maybe that's why people thought of undead as Kandran descendants. However, the newer undead are created by Tarosian necromancers and Lokken himself. 'The Tale Of Grandmother Eder' story has full description of the events that happened in Taros right before the great war.

About the use of magic in Aramon and Veruna kingdoms, yes, magic is a forbidden art when used for mundane things, but if the need arises the use of magic is actually allowed. Here are some other parts of the chronicles which show what I've just written:

"Taros had always had an unfair share of Darien’s magic potential. There is a theory that attributes this to the active volcanoes in the Kaf range, which forms the continent’s rocky spine. The cells of the Judicial Palace in Elam had always contained at least one unfortunate soul put away for showing an unhealthy interest in the magical arts. Now, with the armies of Garacaius quickly advancing inland, these wretched aspiring magicians were hurriedly pulled out of the dungeons and ordered to save the forces of Taros from a certain defeat. As luck would have it, with their very first effort, the newly appointed Wizards managed to blind a cavalry detachment scouting the approach route to Taros’ capital, Elam.
Historians agree that Garacaius was beside himself with fury upon hearing the news. He immediately ordered a forced march on Elam, and demanded an instant, unconditional surrender from the city’s defenders. When it was apparent that a surrender was not coming, Garacaius retreated to his tent and emerged wearing a ring no one had seen before. Stepping out in front of the line of his troops, he raised his arms and cried out words in a strange language, then quickly knelt down and bowed his head. To a man, his entire army, fifty thousand strong, did the same.
Witnesses said a strange, dark mist then descended on Elam, silencing the jeers and insults of the soldiers lining the fortified walls. A long and terrifying silence fell, and at long last the mist began to dissolve. A moment later, Garacaius rose from his knees and led his army into a deserted city. The entire population had vanished into thin air; it was a very quiet occupying army that marched in. Each throat was gripped by realization that Garacaius was a Mage, a Mage whose powers equaled those of the infamous Wizards of Kandra."

(here Garacaius uses magic for war purposes for the first time)

Here is the famous rule for magic, made by Garacaius and followed by Aramon and Veruna (but not followed by Zhon and Taros), which says that magic can be used in critical situations for the greater good, but must not be abused in mundane situations for selfish reasons:

"In a famous speech known later as the Oath to Darien, Garacaius swore never to abuse the magical knowledge he had acquired, and to use it only in the direst necessity and in accordance with the wishes of his people. Moreover, Garacaius swore never to use magic for personal advantage, no matter the circumstances."
(A large-scale war is obviously a "direst necessity" situation and magic is allowed for the greater good of the nation, that's why Elsin and Kirenna use magic themselves and they also have a small number of spellcasting units among their mundane army.)


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PostSubject: Re: TAK manual stories   Sun Jan 06, 2013 9:22 pm

So much history.... the land of Darien sure has a lot to offer. Very Happy

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