Two hundred and ninety five years ago, a long period known as the Sundering came to an end with a series of apocalyptic events, vast storms flecked with a terrible golden energy devastated Aestis and faith that most Aestians had in Aruhvianism
, the religion of the Keeper, collapsed. The Sundering was a moment in the history of Aestis unlike any other, because it signified the final death of the Keeper, a god who, whilst venerated by many of the people across the Arclands and beyond, had descended into vanity and egoism long before he finally disintegrated. This article explores the story of the Keeper and his children, the Graces.
In the Aruhviad, it is claimed that the Keeper created all of the known universe from his mind, a claim that is only partly true (though believed by almost everyone across Aestis). The Keeper shaped the universe, but did not create it; the Keeper's actual origins are unknown, but he first discovered a universe of pure chaos and shaped from it a new realm of pure order and light called the Celestial Realm, also known as Celestium. In the Celestial Realm he brought into being seven creatures of immense wisdom and power, the Athervannir, whose vision he used to order the universe to his liking. It is claimed in the Aruhviad that wherever the Keeper found a low or foul spirit, he cast it into a second realm called Damnation. To claim that the Keeper did the building of these realities is something of a misunderstanding in itself. He brought into being an army of great smiths and crafters called the Lotharvannir, who understood their master's mind and built the worlds of his dreams. The Keeper was very happy with all he surveyed, and the Aruhviad claims that he then created his final offspring, the Tralanvannir, or the Graces. The reality is very different indeed.
The Keeper's first lie
The Keeper was alarmed to find that at the very edges of the Celestial Realm, new forms of life began to spontaneously emerge. These were the Tralanvannir, who were the product of the Athervannir's universe spanning vision, which seemed inexplicably to create life from chaos. The Keeper felt deeply threatened by their arrival and decided to decieve the Tralanvannir, claiming it was he who had created them, and claiming that they were his children. The Athervannir, knowing this to be a lie but unable to defy or criticise their master began to experience doubt and fear, their sanity paying a heavy price for holding the Keeper's deception. The Tralanvannir flocked to the light of their new celestial father, but a doubt still lingered in the Keeper's heart. He feared the day that one of the Tralanvannir might see through the deception and so he created enforcers, the Shuravai, who looked just like the Tralanvannir and lived amongst them, listening for doubt and dissent. When this inevitably emerged, the Shuravai killed those who questioned the story that the Keeper put forward, and eventually a Grace called Thaladican discovered this deception and led many of his brethren to the Keeper's court at Asavaa-Tao to demand justice. The Keeper reacted to this with cold fury and assembled an army of loyal Graces to wage war against the upstart, who led his own army called the Thaladic Graces. Just as the Celestial Realm was close to a bloody civil war, an unexpected calamity saved the Keeper's rule.
The Devourer War
As the Thaladics prepared to do battle with the Keeper’s loyal Graces the eternally clear skies of the Celestial Realm began to darken and many of the Losivaa islands were engulfed and a terrifying, rolling black storm. Into the perfectly ordered world of the Keeper and the Graces a relentless force of destruction emerged, one which the Keeper had not anticipated and seemed to have no explanation for. The Thaladics and the Phalanx quickly realised that their war would have to wait as a new and terrifying foe swept all in its path. All Graces united behind the Keeper and the lord of the Celestial Realm sent emissaries to Damnation to entreat with the Legion, who the Keeper had thrown into darkness many eons ago. The lords of that infernal realm were just as much at threat of annihilation by the Devourer and recognised that an alliance of pure expedience was necessary with the hated Graces. During this war, the Keeper discovered two other realities that he had not previously been aware of, the world of Elkharad, created secretly by the Lotharvannir and the Red Waste, which were ideal places to draw the Devourer to in order to battle it, thus preserving the Celestial Realm.
The Battle of Damnation
It was in Damnation, however, that the final battle with the Devourer was fought. The Tralanvannir formed one mighty army which stood side by side with the armies of the Legion at the great plain of Locaris, along with a mighty caste of interdimensional warriors that heard the Keeper’s call to arms and joined the battle at the last moment, known as the Furies. The Devourer, a force of pure destruction and chaos which seemed only to exist where there was order and harmony was finally defeated by the combination of the Keeper, the Graces, the Furies and the Legion and was cast out to an unknown plane of existence, though the Keeper was terribly wounded in the battle. He summoned forth a portal back to the Celestial Realm, initially giving his exhausted army hope that they would be saved by their lord and master and transported back to the remains of their home, but the Keeper’s final betrayal was about to be enacted. He allowed a handful of his most faithful Phalanx to cross through the doorway and then commanded the Shuravai to close the portal to Damnation forever, signalling to the Legion that they could do with the remaining Tralanvannir as they chose. The Thaladics and other Graces fought bravely but were overwhelmed. Many were slain, others were taken prisoner and tortured brutally, including the ill fated Grace Y’Vestan, who was used as a burning torch high above the citadel Orog Ka-Rul. Some Graces struck bargains with the Legion and joined their number seeing the Keeper for the fraud and the tyrant that he truly was. A small number escaped Damnation and discovered an entire new reality that had been created by the Keeper following the vanquishing of the Devourer. They found and hid themselves in the Mortal Realm.
The Graces and the Mortal Realm
The fugitive Graces hoped that the Keeper had no knowledge of their escape or that he might have forgotten about them. They scattered across a new and unfamiliar universe, inhabiting different worlds and as they journeyed through the Mortal Realm, they sought to learn why the Keeper had created such a place. The worlds they inhabited slowly began to fill, most unexpectedly, with life. On the world of Hermia they saw mountains and oceans form, watched as life grew and finally as humans, Fey, Firg, the Jaraki and other forms of sentient creatures emerged. Throughout the many millennia of the Hidden Age that the renegade Thaladic Graces existed in the Mortal Realm, some used their immense power to guide and shape civilisations. The first of these great civilisations was that of the Fey, who found an instinctive affinity with the Thaladics. The Keeper and the Shuravai waged many centuries of war against the Fey, who were also secretly helped by the Athervannir and Lotharvannir. When the Fey civilisations went into decline, the Shuravai looked to humans, whose civilisations were first emerging to replace them as the dominant society in on the three continents of Hermia. During the last war against the Fey, an unexpected enemy, from the darkest edges of Damnation came to the Mortal Realm, calling itself The Marshal of the Night, and the combination of his attacks on the Fey realms and that of the Shuravai led to their fall.
The Shuravai and the loyal Graces visited humans, giving them the power to form mighty civilisations. It was this guidance that saw the rise of the Vannic Empire and the beginnings of the Aruhvian religion; the hidden purpose behind both these institutions was to prevent the Thaladic Graces from having any role in the world or from building up resistance to the Keeper in the Mortal Realm. The Keeper relied on the Athervannir to use their sight to find the renegade Graces, but the Seven actually deceived the Keeper that they could no longer see their children. As the Athervannir descended into madness, Tharaxes, known as the Wayfinder Grace found the deception too great a burden to bear and his consciousness fragmented into countless shards, dissipating into the Mortal Realm. Aspects of Tharaxes emerged in countless different worlds, but in Hermia, manifested themselves as various powerful entities, including the Old Man, the great sea god worshipped by the people of the city of Gol. Many of these shattered avatars slept in eternal slumber, but some re-awoke during the time of the Sundering.
Some of the Thaladic Graces, unaware of the protection from their Athervannir parents, were too fearful of the Keeper to risk being seen. They used the fragments of magic they could draw from the weave that were not in the control of the Keeper to protect and hide themselves or pass themselves off as mortals. The Keeper was still suspicious that his enemies might still live and sent his enforcers and assassins, the Shuravai. They infiltrated the Mortal Realm and searched relentlessly for their master’s enemies. Some Graces formed cults, factions and other secret organisations to protect themselves, to further their own goals and to uncover the secrets of the Keeper, hidden across Hermia and the Shuravai responded by corrupting mortals with their own metallic blood, spawning the Stahlka, their secret army of metallic monstrous helpers.