A decade before the end of the first recorded millenia, as a hurricane ravaged the shores of Panta, an un-manned vessel washed up on the beaches. The Pantanese, water elves, searched the ship and found piles and piles of bodies. It seemed as though the dead hadn’t died on the high seas nor during the storm but had been taken on board, stacked in an organized manner, and cast out upon the ocean as if the ship was to be their tomb. But there was one survivor. A little seven year old gmoat boy, drenched and shivering amongst the corpses. He was the first gmoat to ever be seen in the Southern Hemisphere.
Not long after the ship arrived and the boy was taken into the city, a sickness began to spread. Some died within a week of contracting the symptoms, others lasted months, a select few even survived but most of these fortunate individuals found themselves back in the midst of the illness within a couple weeks. After six months, less than half of the population of Panta was left. The water elves had never left Panta. They’d been visited by foreignors and had maps of other lands to the South and West, but never before had they felt the need to leave their home until now. They split into two groups, one sailing in the direction of Munkloe and the other in the direction of Sondor. They left the sick and dying with the boy, who they named Iahtro – meaning the Cursed One.
In Munkloe, the elves were able to make a new home. The small continent was not united but instead was populated by a multitude of independent villages of bearns who lived in the tree tops. Though the bearns didn’t let the elves up from the jungle floor – the water elves continued to contract the sickness on their journey and had the integrity to warn the bearns of their misfortune – some bearns were brave enough to descend to them. These few missionaries helped the refugees survive and searched for ways to cure their sickness but to no avail. Fortunately, the isolation of the villages and the separation of the bearns and the elves seemed to keep the spread of the mysterious disease low in Munkloe though – even for bearns that had claimed not to have left the tree tops – the epidemic seemed to pick its victims at random.
Aside from bringing what would soon be called the Plague, the water elves brought two other things. They brought a religion. The reason adventurers first called the Pantanese water elves was because their Delian faith and their blue skin led explorers to assume the inhabitants of Panta must’ve evolved from the peoples of the Aquarian Ocean. The second thing the Pantanese brought was crows. The occasional sightings of crows in Munkloe, timed with the arrival of the refugees, led many to assume that the birds were the way the Plague spread from the dirt to the canopy.
The Plague had a far greater impact on the more interconnected societies of Sondor. Just as the Ipativians and Sentry constantly warred, the Cage and Kou Clans of Sondor often butted heads and when the Pantanese Refugees washed up on the Crowned Coast – a title the coast did not yet have – the Cage seemed to be winning the rivalry. All the Kou had left was a narrow strip of jungle, mountains, and beach along the northern edge of Sondor. Egavas Kou, the warrior queen of the Clan, demanded they explain their sickly condition – even in their short voyage, half the pilgrims had come down with the illness, this was blamed on the crows they kept spotting on the ship – and then, worried for the wellbeing of her people and their already delicate claim to sovereignty, she slaughtered each and every last one of them, hoping that this might spare the Kou. It did not. Even as she quarantined herself, staying on the ship, those off the ship began to fall ill.
Ironically, the Plague may have saved the Kou. For not only did it spread quickly among Egavas’ soldiers, it spread quickly to her nemesis’ – Zenobia Cage – troops too. Though Zenobia was forced to call off the current campaign, she did not retreat. Her men and women remained stationed in a line opposite Egavas’ as she shut down all of northern Sondor. Seeing the potential of the epidemic to threaten the civilians of her clan further south, she blockaded the Kou Mountains and permitted no one to cross into Koustan nor leave it.
Sick as she was, Egavas still had a people to protect and a land to reclaim. Thus, she took the plague ridden ship she’d quarantined herself on and sailed it around – past Cage territory – to the Cormac Clan stronghold of Coridahk. From there, she traveled through the swamp that separated Cage Town from the Polestand Mountains (where Coridahk was). Cage Town was the ancestral capitol of the Cage Clan and she died of the plague on their city streets. Within weeks, the entire continent of Sondor was under attack by the disease. Chaos ensued as those once in control lost it and those without power took the opportunity to seize it.
Unlike in Munkloe where the spread was somewhat manageable, as the Plague devastated civilization in Sondor, other states noticed. Lu Row, the ruler of Tadloe, cut ties with the outside world. This had global consequences. Lu had been supporting nations all over the Southern Hemisphere. While withdrawing her support from the Kou Clan didn’t contribute much to further destabilization of Sondor, it significantly impacted the peoples she’d aided in Iceload. For centuries, the Ipativy and Sentry had been at war (in fact, the entire conflict was already being called the Centuries War) and early in the war the two dynasties had sought to bring other areas of Iceload into the mix by forcibly colonizing them to demand their resources for the cause. Tadloe, anxious that one side might win and then look across the Aquarian Ocean, had come to the defense of the Etihwy and Oreh elves and Aznaru and Azuran bearns. Without Lu getting in the way, the Sentry and Ipativy hurried to invade the nations of Middle and Southern Iceload. Many bearns in Northern Iceload had fled to Munkloe to avoid having to pick a side but now as they saw the attention of the Centuries War shift away from Thorakle and Sentrakle, they began to migrate back into their homeland. Suddenly, crows began to be spotted throughout the icy continent.
Stable empires outside of the Centuries War but inside Iceload followed Lu’s model, blockading their borders and pulling out of foreign endeavors. This included the GraiLord who controlled the Vanian Mountains and the Icelore who controlled the island of the same name just off the spine of Iceload. Another powerful empire not much farther from the war than Icelore, Aquaria, instituted a lock down of their ocean floor society. The last major state in the Southern Hemisphere, Batloe, did not entirely follow suit.
Just as Iceload and Sondor had been at war before the year 990, so too had Batloe. The molemen of the north had been fed up with the magical-knowledge hogging chicken dragons of the south. This led to the Magic War. Ever since Batloe had been liberated by the oppressive rule of the Black Crown Pact in the First Void War, the chicken dragon sachas quickly monopolized on knowledge of the Sacred Tongue and made sure not to let it into the hands of the molemen (and the poor – most chicken dragons knew no magic too). This was not popular among molemen.
In the 980s, molemen civilians – calling themselves the Magic Moles – took matters into their own hands. Using the technology developed in Space City, they began to terrorize the unfortunate chicken dragons who lived in northern and central, predominately molemen populated, regions. Their techniques included bombings, kidnappings, and attacks on chicken dragons in broad daylight, on city streets. The Queen of the Wings (the chicken dragon nations), Razel Oturan, demanded the Queen of Fire (the moleman nations), Donum Gesche, to stop the violence. Donum claimed she was doing all that she could – though she’d essentially told authorities not to prosecute moles for crimes against chicken dragons – and that if Razel wanted the violence to end, all she had to do was share the Sacred Tongue.
Not all moles supported the Magic Moles and many molemen were incidental victims of these attacks. A moleman named Uthemarc Shelba lost his parents in a street bombing. His sister took over the role as parent. She began to speak out against the violence and Donum’s role in promoting it. No one imagined the true extremity of Donum’s involvement. One day, a group of radicals kidnapped Uthemarc and his sister. Donum was actually among the terrorists, she even revealed herself to Uthemarc. The Queen put a knife in his hand and, grabbing his arm, forced him to take his own sister’s life.
– – –
“No wonder she became a curse word!”
“Oh, just wait!” Lo warned, “She get’s worse…”
– – –
Rather than killing the young Uthemarc, he was forced to join the military which merged with the Magic Moles in 989 as the Fire Nations went to war against the Wing Nations. Despite the fact that Donum started the war, Razel was the first to launch a major attack. She laid siege to Space City – the crown jewel of the Fire Nations. Uthemarc’s regiment was involved in a campaign to force Razel off of Space City by raiding and exterminating villages in the Three Part Desert of central Batloe. After their first raid, Uthemarc was mortified. He’d been unable to move – for which he was beaten by his officers – as he watched his supposed-comrades defeat the local guardsmen then proceed to massacre the civilians of the village. When they approached the next village, Uthemarc was warned that if he froze up again, he would be executed as a traitor. Instead, he turned on his allies. He helped the local guard fight off the molemen and then, as his fellow troops retreated, his new comrades locked him up.
When word spread of what this young, scared moleman had done, Razel Oturan came to meet him. She did not want this war. Her strategy had been to capture Space City, hoping that Donum would surrender without it. Donum did not. Razel had been willing, from the start, to share the Sacred Tongue however, her supporters and the vast majority of chicken dragons, abhorred such an idea. Her hands were tied. If she’d been brave enough to do it anyways, she would’ve been ousted by her people and war would’ve broken out nonetheless. Yet now, as war ensued with no foreseeable end, Razel was desperate to find a way to sneak magic into the Fire Nations. She specifically wanted to get the Sacred Tongue into the hands of the moles that continued to resist Donum’s vulgar strategies – those members of the movement Uthemarc’s sister had been a part of. Thus, she came to Uthemarc, let him live comfortably – though hidden from the public – in Space City where he could learn the Sacred Tongue and communicate with mole allies far away.
However, not long after he began his education, near the end of 991, Donum did the unthinkable. She sent soldiers to Iceload to kidnap a couple Plague-infected bearns from a hospital and sneak them into the chicken dragon city of Shametown. The Plague quickly swept across Batloe and, much like in Sondor, it was impossible to discern whether the move had improved the chances of victory for either side. The war would be won not by strategy but by endurance and the authoritarian-Donum knew that she, unlike Razel, did not have to fear diminishing popular support.
By 992, crow citings had spread to every major nation – even those that had tried so hard to secure their borders. The Plague devastated all of the Southern Hemisphere. By 995, almost half of the population had fallen victim to the strange disease.
– – –
“She’s evil!” Joe exclaimed, “Is she the Queen of Darkness?”
Lo laughed, “A moleman?”
Joe shook his head, “Looks like you’re a little bit racist, Lo.”
“Hey!” Lo raised her hands in defense, then lowered them in defeat as she realized she had no excuse, “Yea, I guess that was sort of racist.”
Joe nodded then asked, “So who was the Queen of Darkness?”
“We haven’t gotten there yet, but soon!” Lo promised, “Shall I continue?”
– – –
That same year, 995, a twelve year old Iahtro attempted to escape Panta. His timing was unfortunate. He wound up sailing straight into a hurricane. The boy had a melt down, suffering from flashbacks to the storm and the corpse laden ship he’d taken to Panta. Though his vessel survived the weather, his mental state had been bludgeoned. He would’ve died by self-neglect, alone on his boat, if a fisherman hadn’t stumbled across him. The fisherman dragged his brain up out of the depths of post-traumatic stress and took him to the nearest land mass: northern Sondor.
At this time, Hou (pronounced Hah-ooh) Row, son of Lu Row, was meeting with Acaep Kou, daughter of Egavas Kou, as she sought to convince him that – despite the epidemic – they still should send aid. Soldiers brought Iahtro to the two, he was a gmoat, a species of being not yet seen in the South, and it was quickly made known that he had been amongst those that had brought the Plague to Panta. The popular consensus was to kill the boy. Even Acaep was in favor. But Hou, despite the fact that his own mother had died to the disease, stopped them. He believed the boy might hold some sort of cure – after all, everyone on his ship and nearly everyone from Panta had died while he remained healthy. Not only did Hou convince the Kou to spare Iahtro, but he convinced Acaep to raise the young man as well (he had no intentions of ever being a parent).
Acaep wasn’t much of a parent either. She shared the task with her new wife, Zenobia Cage, who quickly became like a mother to Iahtro. Though Acaep and Zenobia were ethnic rivals, through the Plague induced chaos they had not only fallen in love but they and their people had banded together to combat the rising threats of barbarians that came out of the South.
The South, a region called Mannistan, was separated from Coristan by the Eninac River. It contained two main clans: the Eninac and the Meriam. The Eninac inhabited the Dahgo Woods region and the Meriam the Draeb Mountains. The forests were separated from the hills by the Barbarian Plains and it was there that a multitude of “lesser” clans dwelled. Prior to the Plague, these lesser clans rarely held significant power in Mannistan and earned the title of barbarians for their seemingly constant attempts to upset the authority of the Eninac and Meriam and their warrior-style patriarchy that conflicted with the trend of atriarchy in Mannistan. Thanks to the Plague, one of these clans succeeded in overthrowing the “greater” clans and quickly came to dominate Southern Sondor. This clan was the Yelkao.
By 995, the Yelkao were led by a woman named Einna Yelkao and their Clan had control of Mannistan, Coristan, and Cagistan – her authority stopped only at the Kou River where the Cage and Kou Clans had teamed up to oppose her. But in the early 980s, she was hardly more than a slave raised among the barbarian leaders to become a concubine in adulthood. Orphanned by the pillaging of Yelkao bandits, she was kidnapped as a child. Childhood for young female orphans amongst the barbarians wasn’t so bad. They were taught to fight and invited to join in the raids. However, there was no secret as to what their fate would be once they turned thirteen. There were ten warlords and probably a hundred or so women exchanged between them like commodities. Einna would turn 13 in 993 and she could not imagine such a fate.
In the summer of 992, Einna attempted suicide. One of the warlords stopped her – this was a fatal mistake. As he consoled her, promising that she would be his favorite concubine, she realized how selfish her escape plan had been. She had nearly abandoned her sisters to endure a fate she considered worse than death. So she killed the man that saved her then fled into the wilderness.
The bandits would’ve come for her had they been able to successfully track her. She killed every warrior that managed to come across her trail. Giving up on revenge, they placed a bounty on her head and continued their campaign. Having consolidated Mannistan, they now crossed the Eninac River and began to rampage through Coristan. Meanwhile, Einna, who had been known as a prodigy with the bow, followed the war parties of the Yelkao and carefully assassinated each and every last warlord. By the time only a few were left, Yelkao came to the concubines and the women led a revolt. They slaughtered the last two barbarian despots then addressed the warriors of the Yelkao tribe.
The newly 13 year old Einna Yelkao captured the hearts of the barbarians. She was one of them but, unlike their previous leaders, she was not just a brave warrior but also a person of integrity, someone with a sense of justice and with a determination to carry it out. Rallying behind her, the Yelkao conquered most of Sondor in the midst of the chaos instilled by the Plague. While empires around the world struggled to maintain their authority, Einna was the only leader able to consolidate her power and expand.
As wars continued across Solaris, so too did the Plague. By the year 1000, 5/8s of the population that had existed before the Plague had died. New infections were less common, but still very real. Iahtro was now a man, going by the name Iahtro Cage, and one of the most able Kou-Cage warriors, if not the ablest. Because of this, when one of his adopted mothers, Acaep Kou, was dying of the Plague, she included him in the holy ritual that made it possible for her to hand over the Mystak Blade. When many of the Kou elders criticized such a decision, she reminded them of the risk of passing off the blade to another Kou – if one were to die with the blade, no one would ever be able to weild it again. Iahtro seemed the most likely candidate to be able to avoid the deadly grasp of the disease that was now being called the Crow’s Plague. He took the sword at the turn of the century and Acaep died shortly after the ceremony was completed.
After Acaep died, Zenobia fell ill so Iahtro took leadership of the troops. They had come to love and trust him on the battle field and their loyalty proved fruitful. After a series of defeats, the Kou-Cage forces were backed against the Kou River when Iahtro took over. He turned the tide. With each new attempt to push them back, Iahtro’s soldiers held their ground and repelled Einna’s barbarians. This was not the result of Iahtro’s skill as a commander alone, part of his success was due to tragedies within Einna’s organization.
Einna, and many of her military and civilian leaders, contracted the Plague. While she sought to continue leading her people until her dying breath, her advisors begged her to think otherwise. They knew that without Einna, their young empire would collapse upon itself and Iahtro would unravel all their warrior empress had accomplished. They even suggested a solution – the Doom Warriors. They were desperate. One of her advisors proposed that she travel to Iceload, seek out the infamous Flow Morain, and obtain his secret to immortality – even if this meant she would return to Sondor as an immolated skeleton. Einna resisted the plan until the advisor, who’d been one of her fellow orphan-sisters, made it her deathbed request.
She traveled to Fort Dunvar on the Middakle Penninsula of Iceload and found Flow Morain. According to Einna, he initially refused to help until after she bested him in combat – beating him back with her bow alone. After nearly succumbing to her arrows, he challenged her to a duel in Total Darkness. She claims to have bested him again, though most folks believe otherwise. Whatever happened in the dimension of the dead, Einna Yelkao emerged as a banshee. Many point to the fact that she left Fort Dunvar arguably-alive as a proof that she truly had triumphed over Flow. Only one thing is for sure, she definitely gained his respect otherwise he would have killed her dead rather than baptizing her in the unholy flames of ghosthood.
Einna Yelkao returned to Sondor as a banshee and she quickly converted the sickly among her loyal followers. Though the Yelkao Barbarians had endured nothing but defeats since Einna’s departure, their fortune shifted only for a short time upon her return. Within a month, they’d pushed Iahtro and the Kou-Cage forces back against the Kou River but – soon after that – the ranks of the Yelkao began to fight amongst themselves. As their flesh began to rot, so to did their humanity – or so it seemed – as old friends attacked one another and ghostly inferiors rebelled against their superiors. Once again, Iahtro was able to push Einna south, preaching the evils of Einna’s cure with each victory.
The barbarians weren’t the only one with a cure, in Batloe – where the Magic War continued to be waged – Razel Oturan’s multi-racial committee of scientists and magicians in Space City had developped a complex cure by the year 1001. They discovered that the Plague was not a biological disease, but a magical curse. After years of experimentation, they’d devised a spell that could stop the curse. Unfortunately, the spell took an entire book of text, a day to cast, and a well-rested magician with impressive stamina. The first wizard to cast the spell successfully was Uthemarc Shelba – the orphaned moleman that had desserted the moles in the early days of the Magic War – only two others had tried but both died. While the team continued to work on making the cure more efficient, Uthemarc could only cure a victim every other day (requiring a day of rest and meditation in-between).
Razel Oturan sent invitations to world leaders, describing their discovery and offering foreign citizens spots in the lottery that decided who got to be Uthemarc’s next patient. However, not every nation was invited. Iahtro had not made the mailing list. As the Yelkao Barbarians imploded, Iahtro continued to bombard them and expeled all those that resisted his authority. Even Einna had been purged, being defeated by Iahtro in the light of day and under Total Darkness (leading Iahtro to claim that he was a greater swordsman than Flow Morain – sparking a rivalry that would last for centuries). Einna and those still loyal to her fled to Razel Oturan. Razel had welcomed them, believing her scientists and magicians might learn from Einna’s condition. By the time a cure had been developped, Razel and Einna had become friends thus Iahtro – the big bully of Sondor – was not someone that Razel had a high opinion of.
Iahtro’s ally, Hou Row, fell ill with the Plague shortly before the end of 1000. When Razel’s invitation was extended to Hou, he immediately sent word back asking to be cured. Razel, a woman of principle, apologized but asserted that there would be no favoritism, he could throw his name in the hat but he would have no advantage over anyone one else afflicted. Hou then asked if he alone could apply for the lottery, competing equally with Batloens but excluding his fellow Tadloens. Again, Razel denied him. Once his pleas became known to the public, many Tadloens were outraged. There were those that defended Hou, as their king, his survival was of major significance to the rest of Tadloe – but there were also those that saw this as a gross missuse of his power. Many of the offended were descendants of the Fou Tribe, the largest ethnic group in Tadloe. Their leaders joined the Sentry invaders and claimed to be a part of a revolution, a revolution to oust the royal family and replace them with an elected monarch.
– – –
“The Sentry invaders?”
Lo nodded, “Did I forget to mention that?”
Joe shrugged, “Guess so.”
“In 995, I think it was, the Sentry invaded Tadloe. I told you how Hou’s mother had been defending people in Iceload from the Sentry and Ipativians, right?”
“Yea, the…” Joe scratched his scruffy chin for a moment, “The War of the Centuries?”
“Close enough,” Lo said, “The Sentry and Ipativians had started conquering their neighbors to keep their war against each other afloat. Ipativy went South then West. Sentry went South then East.”
“And the Fou thought the Sentry would let them rule Tadloe if they took over?” Joe scoffed.
Lo shrugged, “I doubt the Sentry would mind so long as the Fou gave them what they wanted.”
“And,” she added, “Razel Oturan liked the Sentry, so when earth elves from Tadloe joined up with them, Razel put their names in the pool for the cure.”
“Ahhhh, that makes more sense.”
“She called it the Cure Confederation.”
“Well, by the middle of 1001, almost every nation vying for the cure was at war and half-hazardly allies: the Icespear, the Sentry, the Fou, the Yelkao, even Razel herself.”
“It’s like a world war of civil wars!”
“Folks thought civilization was going down.” Lo agreed, “If the Plague didn’t finish them off, their own bickering would.”
“So when’s the Queen show up?” Joe asked.
“At the start of the new year, 1002, but before we get there I’ve got to take you back to Icelore in 995…”
– – –
In early Icelore, there was caste system of sorts. Most of the population lived as peasants, these nellafs were called hellbrutes. Long after the castes crumbled, the hellbrutes remained as an ethnic group of sorts and they adopted the surname Hellbrute as a, “Farak you!” to the descendants of the more prestigious casts. Centuries later, a family of these Hellbrutes had come to garner considerable influence in Icelore after years of hard work and clever decisions as merchants. By the 900s, the tension between Hellbrutes and the Icelores and Darkblades was almost nonexistent – that is, until a petty conflict spiraled out of control.
Supposedly, Gjallarhorn Darkblade stole, killed, and cooked a wooly chicken he snatched from Helene Hellbrute. When she ran into him at a bar, she confronted him. He denied her accusations and swung on her. Rather than swinging back, Helene pulled out a knife and stabbed him repeatedly until he died (172 times total). Then she fled for the mountains. Gjallarhorn was Ivy Darkblade’s husband and when she heard about this she went and found Helene and dragged her into court – or tried to. Helene’s family came to her rescue. They thought they could over power her, but they could not. She may have been the daughter or a wealthy politician but she was also the youngest of ten siblings. Ivy had grown up fighting. Bare handed she fought off the dozen or so that had come to Helene’s aid – accidentally killing a few, including Helene, in the process.
Content that justice had been served, Ivy went home. Even the Hellbrute’s seemed done with the conflict. But across the Great Straight of Heimdallure, the fighting had attracted Ipativy’s attention. A general in the Ipativian army had been in love with Helene and, in response to her death, when Ipativy sought to decide where to expand next, he voted ardently for Icelore. Seeing their options divided between Icelore and the Vanian Mountains, they were also partially persuaded by the limited feasibility of invading and conquering the GraiLords as compared to the Icelore. However, in Ipativian lore, they invaded Icelore to liberate the Hellbrute’s from the oppressive Icelore and Darkblades.
The Icelore fought off the Ipativian invaders and Hellbrute traitors for five years before fleeing across the straight to seek asylum in the Vanian Mountains. Before they became refugees, however, a refugee washed up on their mountainous island. His name was Yak Habba and he was a goblin – a race that had left the South hundreds of years ago – and he claimed to know the cause of the Plague. It was, in fact, because of a bird, but not a real one. Just as Flow Morain was known for turning into a wolf and Creaton Live would come to be known for turning into a fox, there was a woman banshee from the Northern Hemisphere that would take the form of a raven and it was she that was spreading the Plague – not as a disease, but as a curse, a curse fueled by the death of its victims. This was interesting information, but the nellafs of Icelore had little use for it at the time.
– – –
“You said Raven.” Joe interrupted.
“Don’t you mean crow?”
“Nah,” Lo explained, “those crow sightings were really raven sightings.”
“Then why’d you say they were crows?”
“Because crows are trash birds and everyone hates the Queen of Darkness.” Lo stated, “So even though we all know she was turning into a raven, we continue to call her a crow and her plague the Crow’s Plague.”
“Isn’t that kind of petty?” Joe laughed.
“Yea,” Lo shared Joe’s smirk.
“I wonder why they don’t call Creaton a rat…” Joe pondered aloud.
“That’s a good question…” Lo thought for a moment then got back on topic, “I’m getting tired, I’ll get us to a good stopping point and finish the story later, alright?”
– – –
Once the Icelore arrived in the Vanian Mountains, Ivy Darkblade introduced Yak Habba to King Theseus Icespear and the minotaur revealed his own refugee: a fishfolk named Thompthou Gill. He’d fled from the Aquarian Ocean south, through the Dragon Gulf, around Iceload’s Azunu peninsula, and up the Frosted Coast before braving the surface. He’d traveled so far for safety because he feared that the minotaurs were the only one’s that could keep him safe.
A woman calling herself the Queen of Light, though his people spitefully called her the Queen of Darkness, came to Aquaria in the form of a raven with an army of bestial banshees. She offered a cure from the Plague in exchange for subordination. Some of his people bought into it, but Thomphtou and his followers chose sovereignty instead. Unfortunately, they were no match for the Queen’s forces. Most of his disciples contracted the Plague but he was immune due to the curse (the Gill family inheritance) that plagued him already. When defeat became apparent, his men made a final stand so that he might make a run for it. He feared the Queen would come for him, using that infamous banshee spell, he even heard the thunder, but he never found himself trapped in that dark, dismal world, and he made it to the Frosted Coast unscathed.
As the Ipativians began preparing to invade the GraiLord, Theseus Icespear sent Yak Habba and Thompthou Gill to Razel Oturan, hoping they could help develop the cure. Less than a year later, Razel’s team had succeeded and the cure lottery began. The Cure Confederation offered the people of the Southern Hemisphere, demoralized by the Plague and the civil wars, a tiny ray of hope – but only for about a year. The Queen left the seafloor early in 1002 and came straight to Batloe.
At this time, a Knome, named Zipper, had just won the cure-lottery. The Queen and her army of banshees stormed Space City – her goal to kill Uthemarc. Using her own banshee vision to spot him – she was in the city streets far below where the wizard sat, Uthemarc had just finished curing the Knome in a room near the top of a star pillar – she aimed a blade at the wizard and cast Total Darkness. At the last second, almost by chance though now we know it to have been out of pure, unadulterated heroicism, Zipper the Knome hopped in the way.
A moment later, the Queen and Zipper emerged from the darkness, still sparring in the tower top. Suddenly aware of their peril, Yak Habba and Thompthou rushed Uthemarc out of the tower as Zipper kept the Queen occupied. With the help of Razel Oturan’s forces in Space City, commanded by Einna Yelkao, they escaped Batloe and flew immediately to the Blue Ridges. There, Theseus, Ivy, Einna, Yak, Thompthou, and Uthemarc sought to make their stand, protect the cure, and repel the Queen of Darkness, but the Queen was in no hurry to confront them. When Zipper the Knome found them in Iceload, he told them this. The Queen sought to conquer the Southern Hemisphere and save the GraiLord for last. Unlike Flow Morain, who failed to destroy the GraiLord defenses and who’s forces crumbled from in-fighting beneath him, the Queen’s banshee army was resolute.
Her soldiers had been bound by a magical pact to remain loyal – a pact they eagerly accepted as only those who passed her test, the Catechism, were permitted to live underneath her rule. Yak Habba had fled the examination as it slowly chewed up and spat out those that survived her Plague in the Northern Hemisphere. Her goal wasn’t merely world domination but rather her goal was to enlighten intelligent life beneath Solaris and bring civilization into its final stage: ghosthood. A world without war. A day deprived of disease.
There was something tempting about such a utopia but also something deeply unsettling, something that made the whole idea seem unstable. However it would have turned out, after the Queen of Darkness stormed Space City, Zipper, Thompthou Gill, Theseus Icespear, Yak Habba, Ivy Darkblade, Uthemarc Shelba, and Einna Yelkao decided they’d rather die than be immortal, they decided to stop the Queen of Darkness.
– – –
“Isn’t it kind of weird that yall’s biggest bad guy just wanted to make everyone immortal?”
“Not everyone.” Lo corrected, “Not even most people.”
“Yea, but, everyone who was willing to go along with it…” Joe scratched his head, then chuckled a bit to himself, “If she won, everyone would win. Folks that wanted to live forever would live and folks who wanted to die would be dead.”
“That’s a weird way to put it.” Lo stated, not sharing Joe’s humor, “Do you not see how her plan was a bad idea?”
“I mean,” he shrugged, “the whole Doom Warrior thing. Everyone killing each other off.”
“Yea,” she nodded, “and so if that happens, even if the Queen killed those causing the trouble, the people would be gone, never to be replaced. In the Queen’s world, there’d be a finite number of people. It could only go down.”
“Oh yeah,” Joe realized, “you wouldn’t be able to make babies.”
Lo went back to being silly, raising an eyebrow, “Why are you worried about me making babies?”
“That’s not what-” Joe cut himself off and rolled his eyes, “So in a way, she’d guarantee the mortality of life, yea?”
“Intelligent life, yea,” Lo nodded, “whereas, if folks continued being mortal and folks, like you and me, “she smirked, “continue making babies-”
“Continue?” Joe smirked back.
“Then there is a chance somewhere on down the road that we die out – Solaris explodes or something – but there is also a chance that we’ll dodge it.”
“May be on a whole bunch of different planets by then.” Joe agreed.
“Exactly,” Lo concluded, “as mortals, there is no finite number of people, no guaranteed final generation.”
“Someone should’ve told the Queen that.”
“I don’t know,” Lo shrugged, “but I’ve always had the feeling that she didn’t really want immortality.”
“Yea…I think she wanted to kill us all. To do with people what Creaton wants to do with empires.”
“I don’t know.” She admitted, “Don’t you?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know enough about her yet to have a clue.”
“Ah,” Lo paused to yawn, “tomorrow. Now, scoot over, let’s get some sleep.”