At the start of the fourth summer since the first moon dragon hatched, Creaton and the followers of his Black Crown encompassed more territory than any of the dynasties of the western taigas, the sachas of the southern deserts, or the clans of the eastern plains. After Creaton unified the earth elves of Tadloe and fended off the crusading demon harpies, he sailed south to liberate the fire elven slaves in the continent of Batloe. They defeated the two factions of snake-like people known as sechers, forcing those that survived to flee on boats south, into unknown waters. Once the fire elves were liberated, Creaton gave the land to Chane who set his people above the other races, the molemen and the chicken dragons, enslaving them. The Black Crown Pact’s appetite still hungered. They surged east into the grasslands of Sondor, into the domain of the human clans.
The strength of Creaton’s elven army, now a combination of earth and fire, swept up the southern end of the continent and subjugated the villages of Mannistan, dominating the Cormac and Eninac clans. As the Pact reached into the territory of the Cage Clan, their progress slowed. It became obvious that mass amounts of blood would be spilled, still Creaton and his pointy eared warriors would have pulled through if not for the desert people of Koustan. With their dying breaths, the Cages sought the help of the Kou Clan from the north. With their assistance, the humans forced the Black Crown Pact back to the Eninac River, ending Creaton and Chane’s campaign in Sondor.
By now, Creaton had no interest in the war but his men were rowdy from their losses against the humans of Sondor and there were not enough spoils with which to console them. Thus, he looked west to the frozen legs of Iceload. As the snow was beginning to thaw, the Black Crown Pact arrived in Az-Uran territory, a bearn dynasty in Azunu, the southern peninsula of Iceload. They captured the settlement of ancient Southpoint, modern day Fort Zannon. Before the Pact arrived, the bearns knew of the war waged across the eastern continents from the word of fleeing refugees but had not expected Creaton’s appetite to include the harsh cold lands of their native taiga. They were completely unprepared. As the fire and earth elves fought their way north, the Az-Uran could do little to stop them. The Az-Uranian bearns that lived further up the peninsula fled to their brothers, the Az-Naru, and warned them of the coming doom. The Az-Naru had no plans to bow to the Pact but knew they would not be able to oppose Creaton alone so they asked for help from their northern neighbors – the electic elves.
There had once been an elven dynasty called the Etihw which clung to the same river, their namesake, as did the Az-Naru and, long ago, these elves had taught the bearn’s to speak their tongue. With the defeat of Kor by Zannon, Cannon, and Bluff, the Ipativian’s had used their military might to gain control over what elven lands they had lacked. When the bearns came to the Etihw for aid, they found Ipativian officials. Fortunately, Ipativy had also adopted Etihwy and thus communication was easy. Unfortunately, the Ipativy were not as friendly as the Etihw. The Az-Naru urged the Ipativians to join with them to defeat Creaton together because, if they did not, Creaton would destroy the dynasties of Iceload individually. Unfortunately, the Ipativian war lords saw this as an insult to their own power and denied the bearns aid. But the Etihw knew the bearn’s warning to be true. So a man, by the name of Bale Morain, led a ragtag band of Etihwy elves south into Azunu in hopes of casting the Pact out aswell as finding a new home out from under the Ipativians among the Az-Naru.
– – –
“Bale Morain!” Joe exclaimed, “Didn’t you say that was Bonehead’s real name?”
“You’ve got a sharp memory!” Ekaf declared.
“Judging by the looks of him now, I’d wager that he and his men weren’t that helpful to the bearns.” Joe guessed.
“Many historians would agree with you, though my opinion differs. See, if not for the help of Bale and his elves, the Az-Naru would have fallen as swiftly as the Az-Uran but thanks to Bale they were able to inflict such grevious wounds on the forces of the Pact that by the time Creaton reached the border of Ipativian lands his men were too tired and discouraged to bluntly force themselves into the Etihwy region.”
“So Creaton killed Bale Morain and made him a boneguard?”
“No, he did not become a boneguard until later. Bale Morain was captured by Creaton and forced to become an advisor to the Pact’s campaign in Iceload in exchange for the safety of the Etihwy men that had fought and been captured along with him. Creaton saw that the people of the Etihw had no real allegiance to the Ipativians and sought to exploit that in Bale by making him his right hand man.”
“I thought Chane was Creaton’s right hand man?”
“Well, Chane had sort of pissed Creaton off. Creaton had been content with Tadloe, yet Chane convinced him to attack Batloe – to free his people. They found such easy victory in the desert, Chane gave Creaton grandiose dreams of capturing the entire known world and putting it under his noble rule. They went to Sondor next but there they suffered more of a defeat than a victory and the soldiers returned home bleeding and bruised. His Pact was on the verge of dissolving as men demanded payment for their servitude and all the spoils of their past successes had already been distributed. To avoid a civil war between his generals, he had to keep the war going and Iceload looked to be the only place left to attack.”
“It seems like Chane is the real bad guy here.” Joe noted, “If it weren’t for him, Creaton would’ve merely unified the people of Tadloe and saved them from the harpies.”
“If not for Chane, Creaton might’ve never left Valleyshore. If not for Chane, Creaton’s Black Crown Pact probably never would have existed.”
“What an asshole.” Joe muttered.
“Indeed,” Ekaf nodded, “unfortunately, the written account by which most know their history portrays Chane as playing only a small part in the growth of Creaton’s empire. Now, shall I continue?”
– – –
After Bale Morain’s capture and the fall of the southern bearn dynasties, Creaton fortified his men in Azunu and met with Thor Ipativy and the other elders that governed the Ipativy dynasty in Condatus. They agreed that the current border in the south would remain and neither empire would dare to cross it . Both leaders claimed to not want war, though both coveted the other’s lands. Thor planned to stockpile troops along their southern perimeter and eventually, maybe a dozen years from then, over power Creaton and force the Pact out of Iceload. He hadn’t counted on Creaton maneuvering through the Vanian Mountains to attack Ipativy at the heart of the empire.
Creaton made contact with the three minotaur dynasties that dwelled in the mountains, the Kurr, the Lunas, and the GraiLord. He knew that a war against the minotaurs would be as bloody as a war against the electric elves but he had another plan. Up until this point, Creaton had not revealed his power over the bones of the fallen. As he had learned in Tadloe, when it was known that he could control skeletons many cultures instantly perceived him as evil. Through Bale Morain he learned of Christianity and how it was spreading from the minotaurs and spirits to the northern elves, the Sentry. What intrigued him was the similarities between the Islam of the elves in Tadloe and this foreign Iceload religion. After many meetings between he and the minotaur leaders, one being Mycenae GraiLord, he realized that the minotaurs would never bow to him if he were but a secular being. If he wished to conquer the minotaurs without drawing blood, he would have to convince them that he was holy.
Under his guidance, he trained Bale Morain in the art of necromancy then instructed him to guide a troop of necromancers with an army of undead into battle against the Kurr minotaurs. The minotaur war party was so horrified they could not fight to their full potential and by Bale Morain they were defeated. Battle after battle, the Kurr fell to this treacherous elf. Word spread up the Etihw River that Bale Morain, in an effort to stop Creaton, had succumbed to evil magic and, blinded by a thirst for blood, lost sight of his original goal. The Lunas were petrified and they were next in line. As they prepared to face Bale and his undead militia in a valley beside the Etihw River, Creaton appeared in between the two forces. He approached his men and killed Bale Morain on the spot, turning him into the first boneguard, then commanded Bale and the other mancers to unanimate the skeletal army. The Lunas celebrated Creaton as a savior as did the Kurr once Creaton returned their freedom. They paraded him through their cities and provided feasts in his honor as his earth elven soldiers spread the word of Creatonic Islam.
Before Cretaon’s invasion of the Vanian Mountains, the earth elven Muslims had struggled for years trying to translate their holy text. The book was passed down over the ages from family to family but the symbols and letters had been forgotten over time. All that was known of the religion came from the lore stored in the minds of the elders and it had been that way for decades, maybe centuries. Miraculously, the language from the Quran, this alien tongue, was no different than the language of the river elves: Etihwy – a language many of the minotaurs could speak. This coincidence only furthered the earth elves belief in their leader. He had delivered them to a land that could read their most sacred artifact. The minotaurs were impressed and village after village they bowed their heads to Creaton and began to read and worship his holy text.
– – –
“But I thought Etihwy was English?” Joe asked.
“It is, yes,” Ekaf nodded, “we call it common tongue, as I told you before, but-”
“But the Quran was written in Arabic!” Joe replied.
“Do they not have Qurans in English on Earth?” Ekaf asked.
“They do…” Joe frowned, “but didn’t you say that the Quran arrived in Solaris shortly after it was written – which would mean long before it was translated into English?”
“I said that is what our Muslims believe,” Ekaf explained, “they do not know of Arabic, all they know, or believe rather, of Earth is from what they have read in their book and what assumptions they have drawn from the pages. Assumptions like the Big Boom, assumptions like the Mahdi, assumptions like-”
“I may be beginning to agree with your belief that the Quran arrived here through some key facilitated shinanigans.” Joe stated.
“And the Bible?” Ekaf asked, “After all, it was not originally written in English nor was it published in the state it is now until centuries after the events it documents…”
Joe thought as Ekaf rambled on. If the Quran was brought here in a secular manner, then it would make sense to think that the Bible was too…unless the Bible arrived here by divine intervention and someone sought to taint that narrative by hopping between worlds and bringing over the Quran. He looked at the Knome still lost in his monologue. I wouldn’t put it past him. Then Joe realized the inverse of his logic. If God brought a modern twist on the Gospel to Solaris, could he have not done the same with an English translation of the Quran? Maybe the Big Boom is false, but that doesn’t mean that either religion is. It simply means that we mortals have gotten it wrong yet again. Satisfied, Joe switched his train of thought and interrupted Ekaf.
“Where was Zannon, Cannon, and Bluff during all this?”
“I was getting there when you interrupted me earlier…”
– – –
Zannon, Cannon, and Bluff knew Creaton was up to no good from the start. First off, Cannon had witnessed the ravages of the Black Crown Pact in his homeland and, second off, Bluff saw Creaton as the dark figure from his dreams. They spent most of this time trying to convince the elves to break the treaty and go to war against Creaton and while they had swayed their friend Thor, he could not disobey the elders of the Ipativy family who sought to stay out of Creaton’s way until they were sure that victory could be swiftly achieved. So, in the midst of July, the three went to the minotaurs to attempt to convince them to go to war against Creaton.
When they arrived in Recercoff, they found the soldiers of the Black Crown Pact were already there. Mycenae told them that they might be wrong about Creaton. That Creaton had saved the Lunas and had come to usher in a new era of prosperity, an era of unity of all nations beneath Solaris. Mycenae warned them that Creaton planned to attack the Ipativian capital of Vanii and urged them to have Thor convert to their Islam or bow to the Black Crown before blood was spilled. Discouraged by the side their friend had chosen, the three sought out Creaton themselves. After a short conversation, violence broke out. Cannon and Creaton fought as Zannon and Bluff tried to keep the surrounding soldiers back but, in the end, they had to flee into the mountains. Their first thought was to go back to Vanii and warn Thor Ipativy but Creaton foresaw this. As the soldiers of the Pact prepared for an invasion of the electric elven lands, Bale Morain with his army of necromancers guarded the mountain road, keeping their eyes out for the three heroes. Instead, the Warriors of the Blue Ridge were forced to head west for the island of Icelore.
The nellafs of Icelore had intense love for the trio after they liberated them from the hold of the reptilian deity. Once the leaders of Icelore heard of the viral spread of the Black Crown Pact they, like Thor, saw that Creaton’s quest would not end until his grasp encompassed the entire known world – including the frostbitten mountain island. The warlords entrusted the Warriors of the Blue Ridges with a battalion of nellaf soldiers under Captain Heimdallure Darkblade. Wasting no time, they crossed the waters of the frosted coast, plunged back into the Vanian Mountains and met Creaton’s forces just as they began their hike to Vanii. The battle was bloody for both sides but thanks to a rare summer blizzard, Creaton and his men were forced to flee back to the minotaur city. Those that survived were horribly wounded and Vanii was closer than Heimdallure’s home across the sea so they retreated to the Ipativian stronghold to recooperate.
Under Thor Ipativy’s supervision, Zannon, Cannon, Bluff, Heimdallure and their men licked their wounds and told the elven commander of the arrow Ipativy had just dodged. Thor took this to the elders of the family but still they demanded they obey the treaty – after all, Zannon, Cannon, and Bluff had been in foreign soil during the attack and if the minotaurs sought to join Creaton that was their own decision. The alliance between minotaurs and the Pact boded well for the Ipativians, after all, Mycenae, the hero of the Vanian Mountains, was a Warrior of the Blue Ridges. All Thor could do was secretly station scouts along the mountain pass so as to alert them if Creaton were to try it again. Unfortunately, Creaton’s men had found another way – through the spirit village of Grantara which they had found when Zannon, Cannon, Bluff, and their nellaf allies fled through it.
At the beginning of August, Godi Morain came to Ipativy claiming to be the soul survivor of Bale Morain’s rogue regiment of Etihwy warriors. Though Creaton had promised to free them, the Moon Dragon Man had Chane recapture them once Bale headed into the mountains. Godi, Bale’s brother, heard from Chane of the plan to pacify the Ipativy and sneak through the mountains to attack Ipativy at the heart: Vanii. Finally, the elders believed the warnings and sent word out all over the empire for aid but it was too late.
The day after Godi’s arrival in Vanii, the Black Crown Pact’s warriors arrived. Locking the city’s great walls, they prepared for a siege that never came. Godi Morain hadn’t told the Ipativians everything. He hadn’t escaped, he had been released. Like his brother, Creaton had struck a deal that if he betrayed the Ipativians then he would free the rest of the men from his war party, those who had refused to fight for the Pact. All Godi had to do was open the gates when the Pact arrived. As the Ipativy were preparing to wait for reinforcements, they found Creaton’s men already within their walls. The ensuing battle resulted in the first fall of the Ipativian Dynasty.
Civilians and soldiers fled the city with their leader Thor and their heroes Zannon, Cannon, and Bluff along with the nellaf Heimdallure north, into Sentrakle. They were going to make their last stand among the rebellious Sentry which had allied with the northern bearn dynasties: the Nevomns and the Drebs.
Creaton was forced to halt his northern progress in order to solidify his control of Ipativian lands. The resistance kept up the fight against his northern border, fortifying north of the Black River and pushing south to gain more land with each battle. The Pact had over extended and their day of reckoning was fast approaching. Rahsai, Cannon’s spirit wife, managed to sneak through Pact territory to find her husband and brother and make known the demise of Grantara. Grief overcame Bluff but it quickly turned to horror as Rahsai finished her tale, explaining that the surviving spirits had led Creaton to the Stone of Krynor in order to earn their freedom. Rahsai doubted they would be freed for only the spirits knew how to instruct one to build a legendary weapon using the giant grain of void-dust. The heroes feared Creaton would find a way to make weapons similar to those forged by Zannon and, even if he didn’t, once he finished his subjugation of the Ipativian lands, he could focus all of his attention on the northern resistance. This would be their only chance to strike, while the Pact was drawn out and not yet filled in. So they devised a plan to sneak a large force of well trained warriors through the mountains to face Creaton in a battle of last resort at Mount Krynor.
– – –
“How the hell did they ‘sneak’ an army into the mountains?” Joe demanded.
“They took a troop of the remaining Ipativians, some Sentrys and bearns, and went back to Icelore with Heimdallure. Then the Warriors sailed from Icelore into the backside of Iceload where they were able to slip between the vertebrae of the Vanian Mountains.” Ekaf answered, “Just as they had before when they intercepted Creaton’s army-”
“They just left the north defenseless?”
“No, no, no, Baldure Ipativy, Thor’s brother, stayed behind with a large force incase Creaton managed to push them back but at this point Creaton’s men were busy consolidating. They were struggling to maintain their hold on their already conquered lands south of-”
“Sounds like the Pact was crumbling on its own.” Joe stated.
Ekaf nodded, “Many historians believed it was a matter of time. Zannon, Cannon, and Bluff merely acted as the catalyst. Yet, others argue that if this last ditch effort failed, Creaton would’ve had time to stabilize his newly gained territories.”
“Interesting,” Joe waved his hand, “alright, keep going.”
– – –
Upon their return to Icelore, they were met with a mix of gratitude and anxiety. Word had spred to the bleak island of how the war was going and it was as obvious to the Icelore as it was to the mainlanders that this battle could be their last chance. Heimdallure let his surviving men return to their homes and stocked up on a fresh squad then they returned to the boats. It was late September when they arrived in Grantara. The soldiers of the Pact were caught completely offguard and those that avoided slaughter fled into the mountains to freeze to death. One of these hopeless deserters was our dear friend Bonehead who had already experienced his metamorphosis into a dinosaur in the caves of Mount Krynor. Before he fled, he told Zannon that Creaton was still inside the mountain with a flock of spirit prisoners. The mountain was heavily guarded by undead with a select few necromancers-turned-boneguards of equal deformities as Bale Morain.
They fought their way down the road to Mount Krynor and, once there, Zannon, Cannon, and Bluff took the back way that they’d been shown during their early adventures with Mycenae GraiLord. Thor Ipativy and Heimdallure Darkblade fought their way openly towards the mountain top and in their valiant ascention, Thor met his match to the hands of one of Creaton’s boneguards. The interior of Mount Krynor was a frozen draconic crypt – a natural memorialization of when the Warriors of the Blue Ridges ridded the caverns of their dragon inhabitants. Zannon and Bluff fought with a handful of Sentry and bearn soldiers so that Cannon could face the Moon Dragon Man alone. Finally, Creaton had found an adversary that could equal his skill with a blade and could defend from his spells with the magic engrained in the Mystak Blade. Neither man had the upper hand and it seemed they would fight on forever. Yet, Heimdallure and the rest of the soldiers had fought their way into the mountain and soon reunited with Zannon and Bluff. Creaton was alone and surrounded – he was doomed. He would have been captured or executed if not for the Stone of Krynor.
Legend has it that the stone spoke to him just as the stone he wore around his neck had when instructing him on how to heal Ali-Iyah years ago in the woods of Tadloe. Whether the stone sought to save him or not, Creaton turned to it just as Cannon had the Mystak Blade poised to strike him and as Cannon swung crying, “Slither back to the shadows, you bastard!” Creaton struck the Stone of Krynor with his blade and disappeared. Just like that, two heads of the Black Crown Pact in Iceload, Bale Morain and Creaton Live, were no where to be found.
Baldure led the Sentrys and northern bearns to reclaim the Ipativian lands and met with Zannon, Cannon, Bluff, and Heimdallure in the ruins of Vanii. There they founded the city of Ipativy, in honor of the late dynasty, as the Sentrys became the ruling elven power in Iceload. The GraiLord admitted their betrayel in their acceptance of the Pact and, mostly due to Mycenae’s leadership and his sorrow for the fallen Ipativian warlord, they assisted in the expulsion of the Black Crown Pact from Iceload. In doing so, Mycenae died in battle at the hands of Chane. Despite the minotaur’s compliance, the GraiLord’s bond had been with the Ipativy who now, through Baldure, ruled only a few cities and had little to no say in the rising power of the Sentry Dynasty. An anti-minotaur, anti-muslim resentment grew among the Christian electric elves. In the coming years, the majority of the GraiLord would abandon Christianity completely. With each decade, the elves would take more and more land from the minotuars. Eventually the elves and minotaurs would become sworn enemies and the hatred would last for many, many years. Though Creaton and the Pact had been booted out of Iceload, the bloodshed would not end for days to come and the Void War itself was far from over.
– – –
“Why wouldn’t Zannon, Cannon, and Bluff defend the minotaurs? Were they pissed they kinda abandoned them?” Joe asked.
“Not at all. Before his death, Mycenae had begged the boys for forgiveness and, as friends tend to do, all was forgiven. But then he died and they left Iceload.”
“Well they couldn’t just let the Pact stand, they rightly figured the Pact would want avenge Creaton’s defeat in Iceload. And Zannon needed to make good on his promise to Cannon.”
“Beating Creaton wasn’t enough?”
“Not even close, remember Cannon came from Batloe and when Creaton took over Batloe-”
“Oh yea, the fire elves enslaved everyone, right?”
“Right. So they pursued the Pact east. They defeated the fire elves and followed them to Sondor where, with the help of the humans, they cast the red-haired elves out with their leader, Chane, and sent them sailing south towards unknown lands. Finally, the Warriors of the Blue Ridges came to Tadloe and found the earth elves were as tired of the wars as they. A large portion of their population had been distributed between Iceload, Batloe, and Sondor and most of them never returned. Zannon, Cannon, and Bluff along with a force combined of electric elves, molemen, chicken dragons, and the northern humans known as the Kous, fought a handful of battles against the Fou. After a particularily bad defeat, in which their leader Farak Fou died, the new leader Lakatu Fou immediately agreed to sign a treaty stating that Tadloe would never again be the aggressor in an intercontinental war. This was considered the end of the First Void War which lasted five years, from the dawn of history to the signing of the Nonagression Treaty in December. Many-”
“What’d the three do after that?”
“Sick of the violent memories that Iceload, Batloe, Mannistan, and Tadloe represented, Cannon and Rahsai went to the deserts of Sondor in Koustan. A somewhat more modest Zannon operated a smithing shop in Yelah, Iceload and did his best to influence the politics taking place around him though he quickly became apathetic as the people grew deaf to his opinions. As for Bluff, he led the church in Iceload until his death. Bluff and Zannon tried to stop elven aggression against the minotaurs but by this point, the heads of the Sentry Empire cared little of the two hero’s opinions.”
“What about Heimdallure, Thor’s brother, Bonehead, Bonehead’s brother, and Creaton – where’d the stone take him? How did he get back?”
“Those will have to be stories for another day, its nearing time for us to leave the cave.” Ekaf said, “In fact, from the smell of it, I think Bonehead has made us a pre-mission dinner and I don’t know about you but I am starving!”
And before Joe could argue, the Knome pivoted and trotted out of the room. Joe’s stomach growled, there was no denying his own hunger, but he still wished the long winded story teller could have continued. If I’m to fight for this planet, I have to know what I am fighting for! But there was no debating with Ekaf Emanlaer Reppiz. No, he would have to be patient and absorb what little information Ekaf did supply as it came to him.