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Thread: Tales of Amra - The Gates of Bardin

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    Tales of Amra - The Gates of Bardin

    “Alright Will, careful now,” Gerard Arcus said. He stood over his latest project with his arms outstretched, an intricately carved oak mantle held in taut suspension over an equally intricate set piece. Beneath him, a young William scrambled to fit the retaining bits into the mantle so that the piece would solidly lock into place.

    “Got it,” William yelled as he wiggled the last bit into place. Gerard grunted his confirmation and slowly lowered the mantle into place. William watched the piece just long enough to ensure that the bits were settling into the right place before he rolled out from under the work bench. He was dusted with wood shavings when he stood up and wasted no time in shaking and slapping himself to get it all off. Opposite him Gerard released the mantle and, when it didn’t topple over, stepped back and looked the entire piece over with a critical eye.

    “You missed a bit,” the woodsman said tersely. William froze and looked at the carving in horror. His father was a master craftsman and the pieces of the pedestal were carved so neatly that once the mantle settled onto the retaining bits in the base it would be almost like the entire thing was carved from a single block of wood. There was no going back now that his father had fitted the two together. And William had been so sure that he’d done his job right this time.

    “W-which bit did I miss?” he asked hesitantly, a sinking feeling growing in the pit of his stomach.

    “You missed this bit,” his father replied, reaching out to ruffle the shavings off the back of William’s hair.

    It took the boy a moment to understand that he’d been duped, but then he let loose with a laugh of pure delight as only a child could. His father joined with his own chuckle and the two of them went back to examining the wooden pedestal.

    It was a massive thing, nearly four feet tall and equally as wide across, and Gerard had put over forty hours of effort into shaving and sculpting the precisely dictated reliefs around the base and over the surface. The exact nature of the work had been dictated in exhausting detail by Gerard’s client, the exiled noble Sado Fendrel. Even in exile the name of House Fendrel held respect, and a project of this nature would bring a lot of business to Gerard’s doorstep.

    William helped Gerard put the finishing touches on the pedestal, polishing and wrapping the piece in oiled wool before transferring it to the plain wooden box which would protect the pedestal in transit. Finished, the two of them slumped onto the bench just outside Gerard’s shop to watch the afternoon sun move lazily towards the treetops.

    “So what story do you want today?” Gerard asked, letting the stress of the job slowly ebb from his sore muscles. It was a ritual of theirs that William would help Gerard with his work and then the two of them would sit and William would get to ask his father for a story. It worked out well for Gerard, who didn’t begrudge any time spent with his boy, and it worked equally as well for William, who not only got to learn the family trade, but got to learn a little bit more about the outside world with each passing day.

    “I want to hear about the Gates of Bardin,” William said excitedly, wasting no time.

    Gerard gave a gruff grunt of acknowledgment and then slumped down onto the bench, putting his arm out around William. “The Gates of Bardin, eh? Alright, that’s a good one.”

    “So this story takes place a long time ago … “
    "I have looked upon all that the universe has to hold of horror, and even the skies of spring and the flowers of summer must ever afterward be poison to me." - Call of Cthulhu

    David vs. Goliath: History's first recorded critical hit.
    JC Thread - The Bitter King

  2. #2
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    This is a tale of the times before.

    “Before what?” William blurted, interrupting immediately. Gerard stopped and looked sideways at William, a frown of disapproval turning down the corners of his mouth.

    “Before what? Before everything, boy. Now do you want me to tell you the story or not?” William clamped his mouth shut and nodded at Gerard with wide, eager eyes. Gerard cleared his throat and shot William one more look, though this one was decidedly more lighthearted.

    This is a tale from the early days of the land, when the name Amra wasn’t even a ripple downstream in the river of time. These were the days when the spirits lived in harmony with everything that dwelt beneath their knowing eyes. These weren't the spirits that you would recognize today. Ours are foul things, tricky and guarded. But these spirits were new. They were young and trusting things. Their light and laughter causing the soil to burst forth with life and the waters to run icy cold, pure and sweet.

    And living beneath the spirits beneficial arms were the first people of the land. Yes, there were people here long before the land was even itself. And like the spirits of then and now the first people were a far cry from the people of today. The first peoples built their cities high and open to anyone who wished to come and go. They had no walls, for they never warred, and they had no need of taxes or tolls, because whatever they needed was freely provided by the land itself.

    The first people spent their days laughing and living their lives as all men were meant to, free from worry and want. Their greatest loves were for learning and creating, taking everything that the spirits had to offer and using it to enrich everything around them. And they were apt pupils, growing far and wide to cover the land that loved them.

    It is said that a rising tide raises all ships, but no tide could raise the first people because they were already at the top.

    “But there’s a problem with being all the way at the top, Will. And do you know what that is?” Gerard asked.

    William shook his head in the negative, still unwilling to speak lest he lose the rest of the story.

    “The problem, Will, is that nothing lasts forever. And though you have nowhere to raise to when you’re at the top, you have everywhere to fall.”
    "I have looked upon all that the universe has to hold of horror, and even the skies of spring and the flowers of summer must ever afterward be poison to me." - Call of Cthulhu

    David vs. Goliath: History's first recorded critical hit.
    JC Thread - The Bitter King

  3. #3
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    One day the land was as it had always been, and the next the elder evil was there.

    The violence of the elder evil’s arrival wounded the land in a way that it had never known before. Merely existence in the presence of the elder evil was anathema to the spirit realm. The echoes of its arrival were a blighted wound that devoured everything which came near it. Where there had once been only light and harmony, now there was chaos and death.

    “And physically,” Gerard gestured while William watched enraptured. “Physically the land buckled and cracked under the weight of the elder evil’s arrival. The smooth lines of the land and the cities of the first people shattered and crumbled, only to be thrown up once more into what we now call the Stryoss Mountains.”

    “Where the Gates of Bardin are!” William shouted, his excitement overriding his earlier fear. But this time Gerard didn’t scold him, instead matching the boy’s enthusiasm with his own.

    “Exactly,” he said. “But not yet, that comes later. Much later.”

    But though the elder evil caused such devastation on its arrival, it did nothing more than lay at rest in its mountainous cradle after that. As powerful as it was, you see, the elder evil was only a babe. It rested, dormant and hungry, devouring everything that came near it, but nothing more. There were many, both spirit and man, who sought the elder evil out, hoping to learn from it as they had learned from all things before. Those who ventured too close were never seen again, and even those few who turned back were changed by the experience.

    The damage of the elder evil had been done, and the golden age of man and spirit had come to an end. The spirits were no longer the carefree generous beings that they had been, the elder evil’s presence had changed them. They were skittish things now, and no longer provided endlessly for those living beneath their watch.

    The first people were likewise affected, now both by the elder evil and by the way that the spirits changed. Faced with a new mortality, humanity had to learn to be selfish and cruel. Learning and creation were no longer the favored pastimes, at least not for those who wanted to eat. Working in the fields became the new way of life, the remnants of the first people each looking to ensure that they had enough even if it meant that their neighbors didn’t. The beautiful cities and wide open lands became a thing of the past.

    This was the way of things for a long, long time. Humans struggling to survive amidst the ghost of their former glory while the spirits of the land hid themselves away. And this is how it would likely have stayed. But then the Old Masters arrived.
    "I have looked upon all that the universe has to hold of horror, and even the skies of spring and the flowers of summer must ever afterward be poison to me." - Call of Cthulhu

    David vs. Goliath: History's first recorded critical hit.
    JC Thread - The Bitter King

  4. #4
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    William nodded eagerly. He knew many of the stories about the Old Masters and the strange powers that they’d commanded. Of course he’d heard this entire story a dozen times before, it was one of his favorites.

    “You have to remember that the Old Masters might have looked and acted a lot like us, but they weren’t human,” Gerard continued. William grinned. Though he’d had his father tell him the story a dozen times, there remained a magical fascination that made each telling feel like the first.

    Because they looked so much like us, our ancestors thought that the Old Masters were the same. Some tried to attack the newly arrived strangers, but those who did died in strange ways. Most simply ignored them, concerned more with their own lives than with the comings and goings of strangers. But when the Old Masters claimed that they’d come to study the elder evil, everyone laughed. There was no studying the elder evil, the people knew that. A nothingness worse than death awaited those who tried. But the Old Masters demanded to be taken to the elder evil’s resting place, and gathered thirteen of our ancestors to show them the way.

    These thirteen people wept and cried out in fear, for they knew what the elder evil would do, but the Old Masters commanded them and they had seen the horrible things that happened to those who defied them. Knowing they had no choice, they left to show the Old Masters the way.

    “And when I say that they had no choice but to lead the Old Masters, I mean that they had no choice,” Gerard said. He turned to William and gave him the intense, frightening look which another adult would immediately read as an over-dramatization, but that children believed with all seriousness. William played his part, shrinking back onto the bench and shivering, unable to take his eyes off his father’s.

    “It is said that two of the humans even tried killing themselves to escape from the Old Masters but that the Old Masters powerful magic kept their spirits from leaving and brought them back to life. According to what the Old Masters believed there was a special power in the number thirteen, and they wanted all thirteen people of the land with them when they went to see the elder evil.”

    Still, all of the people of the land were expecting to vanish into nothingness, as all who had sought out the elder evil had before them. They were this land’s children and if the land would not defend its children from the elder evil’s hunger, then what chance did these foreign sorcerers have?

    “As it turned out,” Gerard said, “The Old Masters held a secret that the people of the land did not know. For the Old Masters, with their mysterious and powerful magic, had created the elder evil.”
    "I have looked upon all that the universe has to hold of horror, and even the skies of spring and the flowers of summer must ever afterward be poison to me." - Call of Cthulhu

    David vs. Goliath: History's first recorded critical hit.
    JC Thread - The Bitter King

  5. #5
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    The sun, in its slow march toward the evening horizon, was just now reaching behind the tops of the trees. The light pushed long, grasping shadows out towards William, emphasizing the dark words that his father spoke. Even though it was a coincidence that the story had just reached this point, William still saw the twitching finger branches as proof that he wasn’t the only one listening to Gerard’s words.

    “It seems incomprehensible that mere creatures like the Old Masters, even as gifted as they were, could create something like the elder evil,” Gerard went on, drawing William out from under the hypnotic grip of the shadowy claws. “But know that no matter how powerful you think the Old Masters were, they were even more so.”

    It had happened during one of their experiments that the Old Masters had been able to open our world to the space beyond space. When they looked out into that open vista they were surprised to discover that, like everything in the land, the stars themselves had spirits.

    Spirits possess great power. And the stronger the spirit, the more focus that has been put into it, the more power that spirit will possess. And the stars are among the greatest of these. The Old Masters knew a terrible magic that would bind a spirit to their will, and with this power they opened the space beyond space and stole the very spirits from the distant stars.

    But hunger begets hunger, and in their desire for more power they turned to the spirit of an ancient star on the verge of falling into death, for even the stars must die. And so it was that at the exact moment of this star’s fall, the Old Masters reached out and bound its spirit with their magic. However, even as a newborn, the elder evil was stronger than the Old Masters had expected, and it tore free from their grasp and plummeted into the space beyond space, tracking the Old Masters trail back towards their world, our world.

    But the elder evil stumbled and came to rest in its cradle rather than the land of the Old Masters. It had taken the Old Masters a long time to track the elder evil down, but they finally had, and now they were prepared to use their magic to capture it and to add its terrible power to their own.
    "I have looked upon all that the universe has to hold of horror, and even the skies of spring and the flowers of summer must ever afterward be poison to me." - Call of Cthulhu

    David vs. Goliath: History's first recorded critical hit.
    JC Thread - The Bitter King

  6. #6
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    The legends say that at the moment the expedition broke the threshold between the end of the land and the place of the elder evil they were set upon by its terrible hunger. They felt the cold numbness pulling at the very core of their presence threatening to consume them in a way that would go deeper even than the destruction of their souls. But despite their fears the thirteen guides did not vanish into nothingness. Using their mastery over both the physical and spiritual realms, the Old Masters wove a barrier between themselves and the elder evil.

    “They used pneumancy, didn’t they,” William asked, breaking the flow of the story. Gerard paused, caught between the flow of telling the tale and the abrupt nature of having to turn his attention to his son. William laughed at the funny look that came over his father’s face.

    “Not exactly,” Gerard answered finally. He shot a playfully annoyed look at the boy. “The magic of the Old Masters was the precursor to that evil magic, but even the greatest of the Soul Lords couldn’t compare a single one of the Old Masters.”

    William looked skeptical, as he always did during this point of the story. The Soul Lords of Amra had been powerful enough to challenge the God-Spirits in their heyday. Each one commanded enough spiritual energy to almost make them gods themselves. It was hard to believe that the Old Masters had really been that magically powerful.

    “Anyways,” Gerard said, smiling fondly at William’s familiar reaction. “It’s getting late, do you want to hear the rest of the story before your mother calls us in for supper?”

    “Yes, sir,” William replied instantly.

    “Then you’re going to have to stop interrupting me.”

    “Yes, sir,” William said again and dutifully hunkered back down into the corner of the bench.

    The expedition slowed to a crawl once they passed the threshold. Though the elder evil had lain dormant since its arrival sheer violence of the event had broken the land. The entire space was filled with molten earth and pathless mountains. Every step of the way had to be marked and smoothed for the passing of the sensitive alchemical equipment that the Old Masters had brought with them. Focused as they were on shielding themselves from the elder evil’s hunger, the Old Masters were forced to rely on lesser means for making their way across the shattered landscape. Our ancestors.

    Gerard paused his tale as he looked out into the fading light. “It was in this way that the first seed of Amra was planted.”
    "I have looked upon all that the universe has to hold of horror, and even the skies of spring and the flowers of summer must ever afterward be poison to me." - Call of Cthulhu

    David vs. Goliath: History's first recorded critical hit.
    JC Thread - The Bitter King

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