Sunday, 14 April 2019

Vision: The Backstory

While working on the Mirage timeline article (which I will publish directly after this post) I ran into the problem that certain older websites were not only down on their original location, but that the reposts I had been linking to in my older articles have also disappeared. So to prevent link rot in the future, I'm reposting those to my blog now, so I can always point to these entries if they come up in the future.

Second entry: Visions: the Backstory. The archived version of the page can be found here.

Visions: The Backstory

The war for Jamuraa has raged for over a year.
Femeref has been invaded. Suq'Ata has closed its borders. The Zhalfirins are being pushed back across the plains into their heartland. Of course, Kaervek feels assured of victory.

But his ally Jolrael has doubts. Originally, she had only wished to prevent Mangara from dominating Jamuraa, but over time she had begun to wonder if her choice of allies was a wise one - Kaervek seemed bent on exterminating all three nations. He used Jolrael's palaces and creatures as if they were his own, and legions of evil spirits roamed the land at his behest. Jolrael had secretly tried to release Mangara from the amber prison that trapped him, but she had been stopped by wards Kaervek had set, a clear sign of his distrust of her. It was only a matter of time before Kaervek discovered her attempt; she had to find help, and she had to find it now.

Searching the lands in spirit form, Jolrael discovered an energy signature from the isle that had first drawn Mangara and Kaervek to Jamuraa. It was the ancient Zhalfirin royal mage Teferi - a planeswalker powerful enough to crush Kaervek. She magically transported her physical self to the isle, and there she assured Teferi that she bore him no ill, confessing her part in Kaervek's invasion and begging for the planeswalker's aid. Teferi refused to intercede: his experiments were very fragile and if left unattended could threaten Jamuraa far more than Kaervek's plans.

Instead, he offered to guide the leaders of Jamuraa through dreams and visions. He would show them the location of Mangara and the key to unlocking the amber prison. Jolrael's task would be to distract Kaervek, and for that Teferi had just the thing . . .

Dreaming of VictoryWithin weeks, Asmira, Rashida Scalebane, Sidar Jabari, and Hakim Loreweaver met near the Zhalfirin capital Kipamu. Driven by dreams, none of them knew why they were there - except for the prophet Asmira. She explained that destiny was driving them to rescue Mangara, who was held in enchanted amber in a palace deep in the Mwonvuli Jungle. Asmira's visions were known for their accuracy and clarity; she had been the only person to foresee this war, though her warnings had been ignored.

To free Mangara, the group had to distract Kaervek and his troops. Rashida formed an elite guard for the rescue mission with Asmira as the guard's guide, while Jabari and Hakim set about creating a sufficient distraction.

The opportunity came when Kaervek's armies attacked the Zhalfirin border city of Ufunguo. The attack crippled the city; only the martyrdom of Sidar Mwigo and her troops allowed the citizens to escape. Led by a dream, Jabari led the survivors to Tefemburu, a city already dangerously overcrowded. Soon, Jabari knew, Kaervek would focus his attentions on Tefemburu, leaving a window of opportunity for Rashida's elite guard.

As Jabari had expected, Kaervek's armies of undead, fell spirits, beasts, and dragons pressed at the city gates. Attackers were cast back and any fliers were cut down by archers, but the sheer numbers of the enemy guaranteed the city would not survive the week.

Hakim kept the citizens' spirits up by telling tales of ancient wonders; finally he began a new tale, of how the inhabitants of a city escaped a siege - a tale not even he had heard before, a tale rooted in a dream. The tale wove a spell that caused the creatures besieging the city to vanish completely at dusk. Hakim and Jabari told the gathered people to flee.

In a hurried meeting, the guildmages decided to leave Tefemburu magically trapped. As dusk fell the next day, the armies of Kaervek reappeared. Unaware of the evacuation, they charged into the city looking for the people that should be there. The trap sprang - a sphere of crackling energy enclosed Tefemburu and exploded, destroying the city and Kaervek's armies.

Shocking Visions
Kaervek was awoken from a week of scrying distant lands for later conquest by the psychic scream of the death of his armies. Panicked, he summoned reinforcements with his remaining powers. He knew that the citizens of Tefemburu had escaped the explosion, but he could not divine how, so he magically searched Jamuraa. He found that the isle which had drawn him to Jamuraa two centuries before was newly inhabited, and he knew that those newcomers must be responsible for his defeat. He gathered Jolrael and his remaining forces and sailed to Teferi's Isle, leaving Purraj and various minions to guard Mangara.

Kaervek's confrontation with Teferi was short-lived. The planeswalker made short work of Kaervek's armada, sending most of the evil mage's forces to the ocean floor. During the battle, Jolrael turned upon Kaervek, severely injuring the mage in a heated arcane battle. Kaervek's ship was capsized by a colossal wave, but one of Teferi's drakes was able to grab the unconscious Jolrael from the wreckage.

Kaervek managed to crawl ashore and limped to the nearby Uuserk marshes to draw upon its rich mana, but he encountered there a vast floating city controlled by the Shaper and Shadow Guild. The guild had created this city, called Aku, as a portable tomb for Zhalfir's nobility. Sensing Kaervek's presence, the city's keepers assumed he had come to seize the city, and they prepared for a fight.

Meanwhile Asmira, Rashida, and the "Scalebane's Elite" group had ridden hard for the Mwonvuli jungle, but frequent encounters with the enemy had slowed their progress. Asmira feared they would not reach Mangara before Kaervek's return. But hope came from above - Sisay and her flying galleon, the Weatherlight, landed before them. Grounded for repairs after a dragon attack, Sisay had felt the strangest compunction to head in this direction. The others understood, much to Sisay's surprise.

The Cost of Hope
The Weatherlight reached Jolrael's palaces in under a day. The amber prison was guarded by Purraj and a variety of foul creatures, and the Elite closed with them. Asmira could not break the prison, for it had been protected with a relic ward. Rashida saw that she and her troops were losing, so she donned a dragon mask to imbue her with superhuman strength and speed. She was able to strike down Kaervek's forces in a dizzying attack before falling to the ground stunned, horrified at what she had to become to succeed. The only survivor was Purraj, who leapt for Asmira. Asmira ignored the lethal blows and managed to complete the ritual with her final words. Her sacrifice was accompanied by a blinding shaft of light that shattered the prison, freeing Mangara.

While imprisoned, Mangara had continued to scrye upon Jamuraa, so he magically transported himself to the Uuserk Marshes to face Kaervek. Kaervek was taken by surprise. The wizards lashed at one another with spells, but the surrounding abundance of black mana gave Kaervek the upper hand. The mages of Aku released several djinn to attack Kaervek, but he stole control from them and turned the djinn upon Mangara - exactly as they had hoped, for the djinn would allow Mangara to gain strength from their attacks. Mangara summoned a unit of Quirion archers, which cut down Kaervek's forces. Kaervek was downed by the first of their arrows; before he recovered, Mangara pinned the mage and sealed him in the Amber Prison.

Across Jamuraa, the combined armies of Jabari and Rashida drove the few remaining allies of Kaervek towards the mountains. Sensing defeat, the Viashino and their dragons returned to the Great Desert.

With Kaervek gone, his few remaining forces went into hiding. Mangara rebuilt Zhalfir and Femeref, aided by the new trust between the two countries. Suq'Ata appeared to be unchanged except for the presence of the Breathstealers.

The martyred Asmira is now honored with the title "Holy Avenger." Purraj is believed to have died in the explosion that released Mangara, but no corpse was ever found. Jolrael has returned to the Mwonvuli, her only company her animals and the occasional visit from Teferi.

Jamuraa lives on, but the corrupting influence of the Burning Isles remains. The people may see the dawn of a new age, but the shadows in the gutters will be darker still.

No comments:

Post a Comment