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Chapter 3: The Awakening
A tale of cults and kingdoms
FROM THE BEGINNING:
The elves woke to a world that was both new and familiar, as only scattered fragments of the lost time remained. They could remember the birth of their children, and the loss of loved ones, but the finer details of Shar’s corruption and the Demyx invasion were, at best, clouded.
Collectively, the elves still feared Shar–perhaps even more so than they had previously. In most cases, the elves chose not to speak of him, possibly believing that they would strip him of his power by letting him fade into obscurity. There were, however, those among the elves who continued to revere the demon king in secret–Demyx who had kept their betrayal hidden and thus avoided the purge because they never fell victim to the corruption that plagued others of their kind.
These traitors remained in hiding searching for a way to free their brethren, and their master, from the plane of chaos, colloquially referred to as the Underworld. Now, I know what you’re thinking. This is entirely unimaginative, and I suppose you’re right, but I encourage you to stop and think about how things in your own world were named. It’s perfectly normal to be a little on the nose.
Before the purge, Shar and the Demyx built their civilization deep within the caves of Kirtar, and the common belief among the surviving Demyx was that Shar and his followers were simply sealed away–that a barrier was erected within the caves to keep them locked inside. The Underworld was so named because they naively assumed it to be a place that existed somewhere deep below the surface.
In the years that followed what the elves came to know as The Awakening, the remaining Demyx were able to make contact with their brethren in the Underworld, and though the details of the rituals have been lost, the results are more well known. They formed the Order of the Grand Covenant, a cult dedicated to learning all they could of the Makers so as to free Shar and the rest of the Demyx from their prison and ultimately conquer creation.
It’s important to note, however that those trapped beyond the veil did not see the Order as allies. They were cowards who never truly pledged themselves to Shar, and the true Demxy (as they called themselves) resented the Order almost as much as they did the rest of the elves.
Unlike the Demyx trapped with Shar in the Underworld, the Order of the Grand Covenant did not seek to destroy creation, but rather to bring about a new world order under the freedom that Chaos offered. They believed that Shar, and the rest of the Demyx could be redeemed and set about looking for ways to achieve that goal.
Working in secret, members of the Grand Covenant were able to create tears in the veil that separated the planes, and through these tears, they were able to summon imprisoned Demyx back to the mortal realm.
Unfortunately, the process had mixed results. Though they were able to pull individuals out of the Underworld, what arrived on the other side of the veil was something—broken. The process of passing through the veil was an excruciating ordeal that severed the connection between body and soul, and the creature that emerged on the other side was just an echo of its former self, driven entirely mad by the process. These spectres were motivated by a singular, overwhelming thirst for vengeance.
They wanted revenge against the elves for exiling them, and they wanted revenge against the Grand Covenant for being too cowardly to stand beside them during the Makers’ purge. No living thing was safe from their wrath.
To understand the threat these spectres posed, you first need to understand what they were capable of. The spectres were so named because they were just an echo of their former selves. For lack of a better explanation, they were like living shadows. Spectres possessed the ability to shift in and out of a corporeal form, and could use darkness as a means of travel.
This gave the impression that the creatures were able to teleport, as it was nearly impossible to track them when they were in their shadow form. Spectres possessed all the memories of their former life, but their negative emotions were amplified to destructive levels making them exceedingly hostile.
Despite the advantages their shadow form offered, spectres were limited by two distinct weaknesses. First, they required a tether to remain in the mortal realm. Second, it only took a single blow to defeat a spectre. One strike, however small, was just enough to sever the connection to their tether—the tricky part was landing that blow, as spectres could only be struck while in their physical form.
Tethers usually took the form of trinkets imbued with chaotic energy. Once connected, spectres needed to remain within a certain distance of their tether or else their connection to it would break, and the moment a spectre lost the connection to their tether, it would be pulled back through the veil to the Underworld.
Of course banishing a spectre was never permanent. Once the soul had been severed from the body, subsequent journeys through the veil became significantly easier. They only needed to wait for someone to open a tear.
Now, that brings us back to the elves. It was around this time that two young elves, Santor Vahniir, and Tobias Kahl began their campaign to unite their society under a single banner. At the start of their journey, Santor and Tobias, like most of the elves, had no idea that a Demyx resurgence was happening right under their noses. They simply thought unifying their people would benefit everyone. For a time, most settlements were opposed to the idea of a unified kingdom, but Santor was persistent, and the rising spectre threat was beginning to win people over.
Throughout the region, the Grand Covenant was building makeshift shrines in secret places to house the tears created by their summoning rituals. These shrines were then filled with assorted trinkets that could serve as tethers for summoned spectres, and their proximity to elven settlements allowed the creatures to wreak havoc among the population.
It was said that being killed by a spectre would spread the curse to the victim, severing their soul and dooming it to an eternity in the Underworld. The Grand Covenant took advantage of this superstition and helped perpetuate it. Though many of their own members fell victim to the spectres’ attacks, they believed they were bolstering Shar’s army, and saw these deaths as sacrifices rather than tragedies. If nothing else, it only made the elves more afraid.
In time, the elves began to fear the darkness as there may be spectres hiding around every corner. It was considered bad luck to be caught outside after sundown, and many towns enforced strict curfews to keep their residents safe from the spectre threat. The elves would scatter candles around their houses and burn them through the night so as to eliminate opportunities for the darkness to creep in.
This extra level of precaution would ultimately be their undoing, however, as it allowed the Grand Covenant to operate away from prying eyes. Members of the cult began weaving chaos-infused trinkets into their clothing, which served as makeshift wards against the spectres. They weren’t fool proof, but they offered at least a shred of protection, as a spectre would sometimes choose to tether itself to the trinket rather than attack the individual wearing it.
Though the Grand Covenant worked to remain hidden, rumors still bubbled to the surface, and those rumors drove more and more people to back Santor’s push to unify the elven cities. The Grand Covenant took notice of Santor’s growing popularity, however, and attempted to stop him in his tracks. In an unexpected turn of events, the Grand Covenant came forward and admitted that they had been summoning the spectres—claiming that it was part of an ongoing effort to better understand and ultimately defeat them.
There were plenty of skeptics who doubted the Order’s motives–Santor and Tobias among them—but there simply wasn’t enough evidence to prove anything, and so the cult continued to grow while Santor’s dream of a unified kingdom started to fade.
Building Aluron is just one part of the multi-faceted disaster. There’s plenty to see and plenty more still to come. If you want to hitch a ride on this chaotic rollercoaster, subscribe now!