To the People of the Land:
To the Emperor of Shi-Inkahan, Your Majesty Xiao-Ken in Kiotoi and Masters of the Bashumatsus, at the Shimpo Ryu Temple
To the Elegions of the Five Countries of Candenord, Del Japor, Alquepor, Mosgrov, Corpis and Belrun
To the Baron Mazhek, of Drakavia
To our Governor in Ardenia Lord Auris.
To Vice Chancellor Orum in Arpaksad
To Marcus and the leaders of West Grom in Njordstrom and East Grom in Njaradbad.
To the loyal Jorkana and Governor Dornis in Araistan
To the Vaxian Colonies in the Southern Ports Miser and Ish-Lavin, in the Western Abyss, Dawnport-Crystal, the plains, Tesaria and Iskrania the feuds of Nebrak and the House of Cygnus, and Simril the Dwarf in Kundul in the Iron Desert.
To Nazhmarshin, as a plea.
To anyone who lives and preserves life:
We come to you...in our time of dearest need. My name is Drathan I am.... a vaxian. I live in Ramsalon.
It is not the Ramsalon you knew, or respected or feared anymore. It i s not, Ramsalon the Conqueror, Ramsalon the Cold, Ramsalon the cauldron of greed and power, blood, iron and magic. Not anymore. Now.... it is Ramsalon the Black, Ramsalon the Humbled.. needing of help.
All of you know of the wars with the Grom, and it might still be news to you to know of their daring attack to our piers. What you probably don't know, and I assure you there are those who don't want you to hear, is that my city won the war in the last of the cold strategies, and like an omen, got its own dark retribution some days after that. Our prided War Man, self-appointed First General of the Black Dragon Army, Augustus Razzaine, and his feared Royal Forces, were notably absent last week, during Grom's attack on the Piers. Hundreds died, and the graves were still unsettled in Crow's Island, that became a base of sorts, for the Grom invasion. One grey morning, I counted up to 8 ships stationed there, through the fog, as I looked from the height of Emil Barak and more were coming. Contrary to my beliefs, I was about to ready for war myself, when word came from Razzaine, in the form of a messenger.
The proclamation that ended the war, was both an act of the highest treachery, and wit. Razzaine and his Royal Forces, were not there in the Grom Invasion, because they were busy. Busy in Grom territory, in Njordstrom itself. As the general expected, only women and children were there when he arrived, for all the men, had left to war. Still, our General did not touch a single soul, for all I know, I believe he spared their lives, to give the gromites a reason to come back home for. And still, Razzaine burnt the Grom fields, to ashes. Destroyed the houses, the shelters, and the farm lands. Only churches, museums and other monuments, he respected. Winter, in his mind, was his strongest ally, and without staining his sword with any blood, he achieved his purpose. That grey day the news arose over the warring men in the Black Pier, swords fell to the ground, and men held their breaths. The Grom invasion stopped, because the warriors now had no time to lose to run back home, and shelter their families, now in disgrace, from the coming winter. I appreciate of Razzaine, that no blood was shed. But I despise, that he placed innocent women and children at risk. I despise that he waited, until the Grom forces were far from home, before pulling his move, putting in risk all the Ramsalon citizens who fought and died in the piers. Up until the Habrin Bridge, they went, and in the east, I saw them from the Emil Barak, and down, in Ewan Dans Avenue. And then.. the news came, and they went back to their ships, cursing and gloom of heart. Like I said.. the last of the Ramsalon moves over the land.
It was soon to be paid back in full wage. Three days later I saw my fears come true, and my efforts fail, as the Black Oil plague, that my friends and I had been fighting so intensely, finally sprouted out in completeness, near the Black Pier as well as in Shanty Town. ... hh.. I will always carry in me, the weight of the irony, of the cure I had. Poison Number Five, was the cure. Long ago I discovered the yellow dust of the Poison Number Five can turn Black Oil into dust. But never, for the life of me, aye, the life of the people, could I figure out, how to remove its deadliness on humans. Hours later, moved by pure despair, I tried it on a group of infested soldiers, and.. true enough, the Black Oil died, but so did the soldiers, at exactly 5 minutes, with a yellowish color in their eyes. ...hh.. there are many things that happened that night, that I will never forget. Many scenes..h..
Everything happened too fast. The news of Shanty Town being under the Plague were still making their way into Town Green, when the trumpets and marching sounds of Razzaine's Army stormed down Habrin Bridge, decided, to.. remove.. the plague. To eliminate it. I bet Razzaine felt glad that he had kept his Royal Armies fresh from the Grom Wars, seeing the rest of the guard beaten down tired. Am sure also, he thought of it as an easy battle.. his fresh and strong Royal Forces versus the Grom tired and poor inhabitants of the Shanty. hh.. Heavens.. am so sure.. he then regretted every step of his march, and every knot in his train of thoughts, when near the Crawfang Tavern it erupted the Great Confrontation that many noble haters, and shanty haters, had foreseen so long ago. But not in these circumstances. Always having a plan B, Razzaine went to me. To me, .. to ask me for the Poison Number Five. To cure Shanty, he said. But I knew too much already, else I would had fallen prey of his words, like men before me. He wanted the Poison Five to win his battle against Shanty.. but it was too late.
We were able to show him, through the magic of my wife, how his own men, were being corrupted by the Black Oil.. and the Black Oil reigning sovereign in the Chaos of both armies. But fate gave us a graceful blow even still, a last card made to seal our tombstone: The Whirler.
I will never forget when in the fray of the battle I saw the demonic machines emerging, with drills and blades and spines, and limbs like spiders and bodys like shinning orbs of silver undestructible, and automatons that walked on two feet like us, but killed like nothing I had seen before. I think, that is also the time, when Razzaine started to lose it. Me, I had lost it already, long before him. I thank my wife for her wisdom and support.
She begun flying innocent victims to Crow's Island for Safety. I just wish we had checked with Grom forces stationed there first. I will never thank enough, those who were with her, and talked the Grom captains, as hurt as they were, into helping us now, in our deepest despair. Thank you to Cecil Brax, to Chardin Grey, to Scar.
By the time Razzaine and I arrived back to Habrin Bridge, S.O.R.S.A was already gaining back the control of the situation, at a heavy price of blood, guts and steel, which seemed to be the only currency that night, and commander Tardach is to be commended. I just wish we could had prevented that bomb coach exploding and bringing Habrin down.. Why did they do it? I think the Green House was behind it. What do I know. It mutilated communication to Shanty and sealed their doom. Oh, but it was not even near.. not even near, of the worse of moments.
Whirler Machines were chaos bringers, and nothing could stop them, men or magic or steel, except the Black Oil itself, which fought everyone and everything with ferocity yet to be paired by an organic living thing. Louise Vixan was the only star in the black sky that night, a blue light bringing people to safety, as many as she could.
Desperate as I was, I ran in the direction of the fires, but I was too late. The First Hospital was .. almost in the domain of the netherworld when I saw it, and I will never forget the screams, and the smoke.. and the smells, and the pain. Many nurses went back into the fire to rescue more patients, and many never made it out. Doctors, struggling to find an opportunity to lay down the patients in sheets in the walkway outside, were constantly faced with death and mutilation from silvery spiders, iron men and other devices of evil. Some defendants appeared, and this priest by the name of Pero, healed so many people, and I haven't met him since, but if he reads this, I wish to.
If he remembers me, I was the man in the black long coat who kept flying in and out of windows carrying people out, and crying in despair as I could not be as fast as the flames were, nor as greedy to those who awaited me immobile in their beds. I tried to quench the air room by room by means of magic, but I was already too spent that night. And still, so little I knew of the things to come. It took the strong advice of an old friend, to tear me away from that place, to save the Orphanage, that could still be saved. Rynry bless those souls that I abandoned, they will heave in my conscience for as long as I live, for then I flew to the Orphanage to save the children instead. They are now, in Kanestronia Cathedral spilled across the floor, like ash flowers, in that dark marble hall that never knew the voice of young, till it cried last night.
Aye.. shame on us. Shame on us. Shame. The tears froze in my cheeks for the last time, I thought, and curse my skin for its magical coldness, it was nothing compared to the spectacle before my eyes as I stared and rang the huge bell, on top of the Rectory in the White Rose University until it fell. Flames or oil, or machines, or mad men, or swords and blood, and deadly rays of magic, flooded the landscape in those places where Darkness wasn't merciful enough to hide the chaos from my sore eyes.
Then it came, the earthquake. Some have told me, they believe it was because the Black Oil was corroding the pillars and the very roots upon which our city has been standing, since the longest time. Others, told me this morning, it was the wrath of the gods. I remembered myself, my old prophecy of doom, about the Cold Lady, the White Lady, Lady Death, coming to claim from me all the lives I once took, blinded by the Drad life, Unlife and the Black Hand Curse in my heart. The Earth shook, like in my nightmares, and buildings fell, many of them in part, but some of them, completely. The prison walls fell, and through the wide open hole , I saw a contingent of people running out, only to be met by a smaller, but deadlier army of machines, only to start another bloody fight, as the Shields arrived, and Polaris started slashing iron, like I had never seen.
...hh.. many of the events that night, are better suited for tales of heroes and demons.. .. the greatest cowardy and the greatest courage, the greatest good will, together with evil greed, they all lit the land that night, for the sky was pitch black.. let me now, go to the end of my story.
I guess, some of the gromites must have come back on their own, to kill Razzaine in revenge. And I guess Razzaine himself, was re-evaluating not only his strategy, but by all heaves, the meaning of life, and living it. When I saw him, he was still by Habrin Bridge, many a wound I saw in his arms, and his sword was dancing in his hand like a slow lightning, bringing prompt death to the machines like no one else could. But he was infested with the Black Oil already. Must have gotten it in Wayward Ho, earlier that day, I believe he was fighting a lone Grom army. Do not know. His eyes, usually radiant of sheer power and coldness, resembled now, the depths of the Snar abyss, or the sky upon us.
I finally came back to my senses, and the memory of Mortaries, fighting the chess board, came to me, to tell me to go to the root of things. Merguth. And to get to Merguth again, which I feared, but not more than I craved, I needed Razzaine.
Only the Heavens know what happened to them in the cave of Necromos. They came in one day, long ago, to look for a certain something, it eludes me what it was, but it promised, to the beholder, immunity from all magic. They said, Razzaine The Warrior came out of the cave first.. and ever since, he has been immune to all magic, quite indeed. Merguth The Wizard, who had, together with Razzaine, extended the empire of Wyndham to the far ends of the land.. who had conquered East Grom while Razzaine took West Grom.. who has built Arpaksad, from design, who had created the Drads and the Black Hand ritual, Merguth the Great, the only thing on the face of earth that I fear.. he also came out of that cave.. with a slash above the knees.. crawling and bathed in his own blood, immune to all magic. Even healing magic. Forever.
I remembered all that, when I hurried down the river path, to see the General. I remembered Merguth going back to his cave under Kanestronia, to never again surface after that event... and I remember, Razzaine.. taking over Arpaksad, and everything else at the reach of his might hand, now, the most powerful hand in the land, after what happened that day, in the cave.
When I found Razzaine, he was already changed. He was fighting, shoulder to shoulder, with some Shanty people, I could recognize from the Crawfang Tavern. I never thought it possible. But the General, was actually, fighting the whirler and fighting the black oil, for the people.. with the people. There was precious time still and I did not spent in congratulations. I tried to convince him, to come with me, to the undergrounds of Kanestronia Cathedral.. to the Wizard, for only he could retire from the city, the Black Oil Plague he had himself created. I saw Giants in the horizon, and remembered old promises made, and clenched the pommel of my sword, as if it would do any good.
Razzaine rejected me. He hates me. And I dont blame him.. I was in the end of my rope as well.. so I went to Kanestronia alone.
hh.. as I reach the end of this tale,.. sitting here in the balcony of the Emil Barak.. I cant fight cold tears to form again in my eyes. Below me.. is the dear garden my dear friend Elanus cultivated with his care and love, before he passed away some months ago, defending us from a demon. This morning, we found half a dozen people, sleeping among the plants, curled up in cold. We just had breakfast. .. hh.. h.. they.. they said.. . that last night.. when they ran into the garden for protection... h... the plants defended them... and.... h...and they said that while the plants were fighting for them. they could hear a voice... singing... a far, strong voice... singing a war hymn....with valor and.... I just couldn't keep my eyes from shedding tears.... h.... Elanus....
Forgive me. Back to the narration.. I found the Wizard in his grave.. and he was, as usual, under the largest tombstone man has known, which is the Kanestronia Cathedral. Merguth never regained used of his legs. He sits in a wheel chair made exclusively of white bones, arranged in such way that it looks like a giant scorpion, and has a large sting shadowing high over his head. He probably is too old to keep his head still, so his head rests on either of his shoulders. He speaks with trouble, age has been bad for him. His life has been consumed in study and travel to planes, I will never understand. And I dont blame him. There was not much for a man in a wheelchair to do in -this- plane. But to plan.. and scheme.. and revenge and put us all, to judgement.
Words were of little use. His heart was torn bitter against us, and his eyes had nothing but the coldness of the Black Oil, his creation. He was merely passing judgement, and being an emissary of Justice, he said, bringing it over our heads, the fate we had all dutifully waved all these years, in the darkness. And Darkness was the reward.
I must admit.. I felt helpless. I left the Kanestronia Observatory in rage.. all around me, the horizon drenched in blood and oil. I tried again.. I .. tried to save the Temple of Zeikahu, but only to come back to Kanestronia again, this time, to discover Merguth had gone deeper underground. And Razzaine was there. He came after all. He was not alone, and he was not infested anymore. A Grom soldier was with him. He had been sent to assasinate Razzaine. But then Razzaine said before Merguth, his life had been spared. The assasin had given Razzaine the only known and scarce antidote against the Black Oil. And Razzaine was cured. And the man testified, for Razzaine, he vouched for him. Razzaine was pale, because he had been giving doses of his own magic-inmune blood, as components to an antidote, until he discovered, they did not work, and he was infested himself. Then, the assasin came to him, but.. somehow the General talked him into giving him the cure... and this was moving, to Merguth. During a small earthquake when the room was shaking, and his wheelchair trembling among the small scraps falling from the ceiling, a thunder fell, and the wizard, conceded.
He.. retired... the Black Oil, with nothing but a command of his tired old voice. And the oil slipped through sewers and rivers, back to the sea. Not much was left, of the Whirler army, though it had caused horrendous damage. It was dealt with, by members of clans, who finally got together, and the people of Shanty, survivors, and nobles, who for one night, for one hour, fought together side by side and not against each other.
People of the Land. I saw you. I saw you all, in Shi-Inkahan and Candenord, I saw the shores of Ardenia, and the red sands of Kundul, I saw you all, when the dawn came, over Ramsalon. It was a small, pale sun, clother in wraps of fog and smoke. But it was the sun! And the spectacle under my eyes, as I stood by the gargoyle side in Kanestronia, was not that of a ruined city, but of life, resurfacing, and helping one another. People of the land, when the sun stroke first the heights of the Barracks, I saw you, Belrun. When the broken statues of Ziekahu had fallen across the street, turned white in the light of dawn, I saw you, Kiotoi, I saw you, Nebrak. You shall unite as well. We are all brothers, brothers in need, brothers in disgrace, and in the world, we are one.
Come please, and help now, people of the land. We are hungry.. we are ill, we are tired, and poor. We have paid our sins.. and regret what happened, but will embrace it with all the strenght of our arms when it brings a better, fairer future. The Dream can live. Come make it true.
Come People of the Land.
Day 1, of the first month, of the first year, after the Darkest Night.