The land is rife with turmoil. What once was a land dotted with homes and cities like stars in the night sky, The Gift now burns like a raging wildfire. The minds of men and beast have clouded with hatred, distrust, and rage. War has separated the many races of the world for countless centuries, but nothing compares to the absolute chaos that washes over it now.
The faintest ember of hope remains for the humans, however, for they are led by a most remarkable man: Emperor Raum. Beloved is he by every last citizen of his empire, from the lowly indentured farmers to the most pompous of nobles. Under his reign, the Sidastr Empire prospered, with no belly empty and no crime unpunished. Times began to darken, however, with the reemergence of the Beast Hordes.
No one knows where the Beast Hordes came from or what drives them on, nor do many care; the only shared concern that most have is just survival. The Beast Hordes come like a crashing wave, leaving nothing in their wake but destruction and the corpses of those foolish enough to stay behind and fight or too slow the keep up.
In a desperate endeavor to save as much of his Empire’s citizens as possible, Emperor Raum sent Riders out to every village between the capital city of Lindron and the furthest frontier towns. Every last one of these messengers knew the probability of making it back alive, and to their credit, such was their love for their Emperor, not a single one hesitated when it came time to mount up. They rode until their horses’ hooves crumbled beneath them. And when their steeds failed them, they ran. They ran until their feet bled. And when their own bodies failed them, when the only thing that kept them from continuing on was the physical impossibility of the act, they passed the message on so that the ember of hope could live. The message was haven. The message was safety. The message was “Come home”. And so they did.
But the Emperor knew well that many would perish in their migration, regardless of any haste they made, and an Emperor was nothing without an Empire to rule, so he gathered his armies and his most decorated commanders. After great deliberation, the plans were made. Raum and his commanders, trailed by thousands of highly trained soldiers, set out from Lindron to buy time for their people to make it home safely. Not a single soul in Raum’s army was conscripted; every last one of them volunteered for the mission, knowing full well that many of them would never see their home again. However, they took solace in the fact that for every one of them that fell in battle, countless others made it home to safety.
Raum’s Children, as they came to call themselves out of affection for Raum himself for he had born none of his own, marched from dawn well into dusk every single day, barely stopping for rest or sleep. Such was their stoic determination that none felt fatigue or weariness fall upon them as they marched on. They knew they drew near the end of their journey as the smoke grew thick on the horizon and the carrion stench of death lingered on the breeze. Absolute silence blanketed the land, as if every form of life at every level of sentience had packed up and headed for safer territory. Not even a bird’s song carried itself on the wind. It was here that Raum’s Children would make their stand and do their best to halt the advance of the densest portion of the Beast Hordes.
Records vary from person to person about the specific events of the great battle that was waged on that fateful day. But one thing that every soul in attendance agreed upon was the horror and futility that filled their core upon not only the sight of the Beast Hordes cresting the horizon, but hours later when they bore witness to the Emperor being pulled under wave after wave of countless enemies. Spurred on by pure adrenaline and lack of self-preservation, every soldier who caught sight of their Emperor falling cleaved their way through dozens, if not hundreds, of green- and black-skinned monsters to reach Raum and, if not save his life, at least retrieve his body.
Borne on the wings of unfeeling fury, Raum’s Children were able to retrieve their Emperor. He was alive, but just barely. They all knew they had to get him back to Lindron, and they all instinctively knew their part. Some would stay and fight to buy more time, while others would mount up and ride home with Raum in tow.
When the Children returned with the Emperor slung limply over the back of a soldier’s saddle, word quickly spread throughout the city and panic ensued. The soldiers spoke of the sheer brute force of the Beast Hordes to the councils. Every able-bodied citizen was ordered atop the wall with bow and arrow at the ready. Those that were unable to fight were put to work fletching arrows, repairing old armor, and any other activity that increased the odds.
Emperor Raum was brought to the palace where every competent healer in the city was gathered. But his wounds were severe; they far surpassed the current level of medical knowledge Lindron possessed. So they looked elsewhere for answers. The Magisters of the court began delving deep into the libraries, even the forbidden and oft forgotten parts, in order to reignite the ember of hope that had begun to fade when the Emperor fell.
* * * * * * * * * *
Back on the field of battle where thousands had fallen to the unrelenting tide of the Beast Hordes, there was no movement but from flies crawling across a sea of corpses both Man and Monster. Then, one by one, fallen soldiers with an unimaginable variety of fatal wounds slowly began taking to their feet. They each shook off thick layers of confusion as they searched their surroundings for missing limbs and equipment. After the initial shock of the situation had passed and their senses fully restored, they simply stood for a while, staring at their brothers, and took stock of the situation. Something had happened that would give them a chance at redemption.
To the last, they turned and began their long march home. Nothing would stop them from securing their Empire, not even their own deaths.