Transcript – The Harbinger and the War of Destruction

[Theme music plays, then fades into a soothing ambiance.]

And so, we arrive at our conclusion, the event that caused more damage than any other since the making of the world. When cities were shaken from their foundations and reduced to rubble. Whole civilisations, millennia in the making, were brought to nothing in a matter of weeks. Peoples were displaced, nations were undone, and the world itself was all but razed.

The Harbinger’s Desolation, the War of Destruction.

How did it come to this? A world in ruins, so much lost, never to be found again. So much knowledge, wisdom, culture and achievement gone up in smoke.

It began with a great victory.

Fjalik Uzen Loreniak, the mastermind of the legion of steel, who built the darklight engines that fed upon the fae portals at the peaks of the Lighthouses, had been defeated. His automatons were dismantled, his fortress in Dol Ilnas was destroyed. And across Irdaliin, the forces and supported of the Union celebrated.

In Narolin, the crystal towers rang to the sound of the silver bells while in the marble streets, people danced and feasted day and night. In Cavernvault, Caras Aeglir, Domstol, Halfport, all the great cites that had been threatened by the Steel Legion, across the continent the air was filled with ecstatic cheers and song. And nowhere more so than the grand courtyard around the Gailesgar Lighthouse.

The allied armies of Ardh Narasant and Aladia, who had borne the brunt of the fighting around the Nara Sea, now stood side by side once more. But not to fight, this time they were there to celebrate a triumph.

From a balcony built into the side of the Lighthouse tower, made for this very purpose, the hero of the Lamplight War, the new Arch-Mage of Irdaliin, looked down upon those who had fought for the survival of their world who roared in triumph and celebration at the sight of him.

Beside the Arch-mage stood the Lord-Commander of the Aer-Maethor, the only survivor of the ritual that had made their victory possible, along with the lead emissary of the Sealed Court. And they shared in the Arch-Mage’s glory and revelled, as he did, in what they had accomplished.

But while others dwelt upon what had come before, on that day on the Arch-Mage looked ahead to the future.

They had saved the world, stopped the veil from tearing beyond repair, but the world had been flawed long before Fjalik had sent out the Steel Legion. There was greed, oppression, inequality and injustice across the face of the world. Such things might not be as obvious a threat as Fjalik’s conquest but they were still a rotting canker at the heart of society.

And the Arch-Mage thought of all the good he had achieved with the power he had been given. What more could he achieve if he were able to tap into such power again?

And so the Arch-mage returned to the Marble University and immersed himself in the ancient lore and knowledge that lay within the vaults. What exact stores of learning he tapped into, what he found, who he consulted… these things are hidden from us. But we know that, over the years he withdrew from much of the wider world, so that even those closest to him hardly saw him.

But while we do not know what happened, we can take an educated guess.

Like Saeriath, Orcanor, Seregoth, Scarend and many, many others, the Arch-Mage heard a voice in the dark of his soul, a whisper that only he could hear. This voice whispered of the failings of the world, repeating what the Arch-Mage had thought himself many times. The voice seemed to share the mind of the Arch-Mage, believing as he did that such evils in the world must be removed so that all might profit from it.

And then it began to say things that, once upon a time, the Arch-Mage would not have listened to, but now seemed to make whole and logical sense.

You cannot build a new house upon the rotting remains of the old, it whispered. Before a new house is built, the old must be Levelled.

And why would the world be any different?

And the Arch-Mage dwelt on the words he heard in his mind, finding great wisdom in them. Of course, he thought, it made sense. The world as it was could not be made pure, it was too far gone, its people too used to the evil that lay upon it. They would not see as he saw, could not know that to make the world better, the rot that now lay upon it had to be removed. Which, unfortunately, did mean that everything that was already there would need to be wiped away.

But, as he had seen himself during the Lamplight War, sometimes sacrifices had to be made.

And so, the Arch-Mage turned to new study, to ways that he might acquire the power necessary to achieve his goal.

He had learned from the mistakes of Fjalik. For his designs, he would not need the power of every Lighthouse, but rather the absolute mastery of one. And for the claiming of the Tower, the Arch-Mage forged for himself a talisman, an amulet of gailicalcum with a thing unknown to the world at its core. And with this, the Arch-Mage rode to the Lighthouse Gailesgar. He went alone, for he had no need of a guard in his own land, and when he arrived he was welcomed with open arms.

After all, who would suspect the hero of the Lamplight War?

Alone, the Arch-Mage ascended the Tower. If anyone wondered at his intent or motivation, none asked. None stopped him or questioned him. Why would they? He was a beloved hero.

He climbed and climbed until he arrived at the very peak of the Lighthouse, where the great portal to the Fae hung in the air, the otherworldly light shining bright through, with magic heavy around him. And the Arch-Mage raised the talisman he had forged, that he had called the Torthaluth. For with it, he shackled the Light of Gailesgar to his will so that no other mage might draw on the light.

What the Arch-Mage had done was felt across all of Ardh Narasant like a shockwave, rippling through the very fabric of reality itself. At first, none could believe what they had felt. It could not be.

Then the Arch-Mage descended back into the Tower, and there he worked his next great sin.

The power that had whispered in his mind worked through him, infecting into the material world. And the Arch-Mage guided it. This dreadful influence crashed through the tower like a wave. The elves who dwelt there were spared the worst of it, they were merely killed. Those who were left were not so lucky. Every human, orc and half-elf that resided in the tower was twisted by the influence of the power that had whispered in the mind of the Arch-Mage. Their minds were filled with terrible music, a song of rage and destruction.

Every trace of who they had once been was wiped away. It was worse even than the Warping that had changed the tharvan elves into the orcs. These poor unfortunates charged en masse from the tower, their minds filled with nothing but the desire to break, to destroy, to tear down everything in their path. And at their head rode the Arch-Mage, the Harbinger of the world’s ending.

Far and wide the Horde rampaged, toppling villages, towns, cities, strongholds, and everywhere they went, their numbers grew. For the mad rage that filled their minds infected those around them like a virus.

Only the elves were unaffected. It might be that the magic they drew from the Fae shielded their minds from the fury of the Horde. I can certainly think of no other explanation.

Though this did not save Narolin, the glorious capital of Ardh Narasant, from being engulfed by the barbarism of the horde. The crystalline towers were toppled, the storehouses left in flames, its once beautiful and elegant buildings left as rubble.

That the Harbinger could do such a thing to his own home left no one in any doubt… That the Harbinger meant to destroy everything.

Of course, there was resistance.

Long before the Union was formed against Fjalik, the armies of Aladia and Ardh Narasant had been bonded closely, both by oath and by friendship. And as the Horde moved west, messages passed between the elven princes and the lords of the west, carried by the Fae.

The Sealed Court had decided that the Fae would not interfere directly this time. Many tried to convince them otherwise, but they would not yield. However, they did agree to continue acting as messengers, carrying word through the Fae between the mortal rulers, which was an undeniable help.

It was agreed that the Aeari host, reinforced by whatever other allies they could muster, would join with the Aladians in the north of their country, near the mountain range Orod Eiliant. There they would form a bulwark against which the Horde would crash like a wave against rock.

All was prepared and the shining hosts of the elves stood in the shadow of the mountains, directly in the path of the Horde. They stood with the dwarves of Angzhal, and orcs, dwarves, halflings, humans and gnomes who had been able to reach them in time, from Nan Sirion, Glen Gladach and Esgardor.

None came from Sarnor.

It was a host ten thousand strong that stood against the Horde that day, but the commanders knew even that might not be enough. Fortunately, the Aladians would be there with them. They would wait in reserve and reinforce the line anywhere where the fighting became desperate. With their intervention, the Union could win.

That was what the plan had been. But when the battle was joined, the west flank began buckling to the relentless pressure of the berserk fury of the Horde. Quite why the Harbinger directed so much of his army’s aggression on that flank, we may never know, but it was the kind of thing I’ve only ever seen done out of hatred, or sometimes fear.

But the fighting there was the hardest, and the elves turned to look for their allies, waiting for the famous cavalry of Caras Aeglir to trample their enemies beneath them. But they were gone. Alaric, the crown prince of Aladia, had led them away, leaving the rest of the Union army to its fate. And the west flank broke to the Horde, and the day was lost.

The Battle of Bloody Tears. That was what they called it. The Dagor Niragar in the elven tongue. And since that day, that place has been named the Fields of Niragar. And few people ever go there.

It was to have been the battle that ended the threat of the Horde. But it failed. And with so many lost that day, there was no longer an army in Irdaliin that could stand against it. And so, the Horde spread into new lands. They soon replenished the losses they had taken in the battle, and then some. There continued to be those who resisted them, but there were never again enough to really halt their advance. And at the Copper Hills, what was left of the Resistance fought, and fell. And by then all of Irdaliin lay in ruins.

There were some hold outs. Cavernvault was protected by how deep it had been built, and the same was true of Kapulbaur. Sacara was shielded by the mountains that encircle it. Much of Lhain was spared, but there was never much there in the first place.

Stonehelm was protected both by its great stone walls and the harsh cold of Weisscrag. It now stands as the last great elven city. The Ashen Plains were already a volcanic desert and as for Khran Dur… Well, even the Horde could not do much against the fury of the orcs when they defend their homeland.

So, the Lands of the Light fell. And the Horde kept on going, out into the east, the north and the south, bringing low everything they came upon until they could find nothing else.

And when the Horde could find nothing else to destroy, it turned on itself. Destroying one another until the once unstoppable Horde had fragmented into small clans. They are now known as Wasters.

And the Harbinger, well… he returned to where it had all begun. To the Tower of Gailesgar, though that was now named the Dannengwath, the Tower of the Fallen Light. And from there he rules the new world he has created. Or, so they say.

And so, our tale comes to an end. Toor is broken, Levelled, with only a few remnants of civilisation holding on. Creation itself is now at threat from the Enemy and there is little that can be done to stop it.

But there is always hope. In fact, in such desperate times, Hope becomes a much more powerful thing. There is one chance, one final chance, of blocking the Enemy and saving Creation.

But of these things, we shall talk another time.

[Theme music fades up, credits.]