Prologue: Once Upon a Time
There were wondrous kingdoms of men, so great that when they fell, nothing of them remained, as if history itself could not bear the memory of their loss. They survived only in the fantasies of those who do not die, who left our earth long ago for a distant place beyond the Veil. Those who remained, the ones with their finite lives, could only share vague memories to be told around the campfires of what once was.
It came to pass Avalyne, vanished forever into the mists, forgotten in every way save the faint traces of sensation whenever one happened along its places of power. Of the Sacred Three, only man the Explorer remained. The Immortals, being the elves, retreated to their realm, as did the dwarf Builders, who returned to Tal Shanar, and appeared no more. Without the Immortals to teach them, the short memory of mortal men did not remember the stories of what had been. As always, their flames burned brightly, but fleetingly.
As time moved on and Avalyne disappeared from their minds for all time, they went on believing themselves alone. They regarded the earth as their chattel, not a home they shared with anyone. Their cities rose and fell. Their empires spread out across the land in conquest and then retreated again until they were conquered themselves. Man’s reach spread to the four corners of the globe and though they sensed something in them was missing, they did not know what it was. Yet they could feel the longing for the magic that once filled their eyes with wonder.
Avalyne, the golden age of man, was dead and no one remembered it.
The glorious kings of past, like their kingdoms, faded into the ages. Existence became a bitter struggle, devoid of wonder and magic. The sons who followed in the aftermath were of a unique breed from those that emerged from Lake Tijon where the Celestials gave them life. They were ambitious and driven to master their domain in every manner possible. If there was land, they conquered it. If there were beasts, they tamed them. They destroyed their enemies with such savagery, it might have given even the foulest of goblins pause.
It seemed man’s grandest moments often accompanied his bloodiest.
They still craved the beauty of Avalyne, even if they carried no real recollections of it. In their hearts, they felt its absence and often wondered when the starlight vanished from their lives. They sought to recreate it in their endeavours, either in reaching for impossible goals or replacing it with myths of their own. Ill constructed, too often these led to more bloodshed and violence, lacking any actual value. Man concluded there was no such thing as magic, that it was a fanciful illusion best abandoned.
Innocence burned away and what remained, instead, was indifference.
Once abandoned, man continued his existence with a juggernaut of change, not always for the better. An insatiable need arose to conquer all frontiers, and when exhausted, the snake began feeding upon itself, nearing implosion. It was only a matter of time before someone took advantage of this chaos to turn the march of industry into the spiral of Armageddon.
It was the hunt for the very thing they lost in themselves that allowed this catastrophe to find its root in the present long after Avalyne.
The quest for magic had birthed evil.
Behind the Veil, separating one world from another, the Immortals lived in a strange stasis. They enjoyed beauty, tranquillity and peace in a realm unchanged over a hundred thousand of years. For the most part, they were content. Every so often, some took to leaving their enchanted world. The curiosity of the outside world compelling them to see what became of Avalyne in their absence. Most returned soon after, others did not return at all. The stories brought back discouraged those who might wish to indulge the urge to journey abroad from doing so.
The Immortals came to the firm conclusion the race of men spoiled the world, and it was best to wash their hands of it.
Eventually, all journeys past the Veil halted for good. The elves, filled with their need to visit the realm beyond, no longer wished to dwell on times long past in a present with nothing to redeem itself.
They devoted themselves to their own pursuits, becoming removed from the harsher realities than ever before. The tragic times of the early ages melted away into a distant memory. After a while, it was almost difficult to remember they once battled such creatures as Mael, his servant Balfure and their Primordials. While the Celestials became even more unapproachable with the passing ages, the elves who shared the Veil with them were a little more grounded.
They remembered with fondness the world left behind and mourned the changes suffered since their departure. They thought well of men, understanding it was unfair to judge a race whose lives were so finite when they possessed all the time there was. Mortals were not evil, they were young, and the nature of their existence ensured they would never live long enough to gain true wisdom. Even when the Immortals roamed Avalyne, they accepted the younger races as children needing guidance. Sequestered behind the Veil for almost a hundred thousand years did not change this belief.
Perhaps it was because they were so removed from danger and evil, it took them by surprise when it appeared. Tremor of chaos rippled so through their land, not even the barrier separating their realms kept it away. It was like the sun stealing behind the clouds for a moment, taking with it the heat and leaving a brief interlude of cold. All suffered the chill, even the Celestials. Although they remained ignorant of what caused it, they knew something was emerging, something dark and terrible was taking root in the outside world.
In the incident’s aftermath, there were many rumblings of discourse emanating from the High Castle, the mansions of the Celestials in the sky. The Immortals held their breaths in anticipation as the Celestials debated what to do. While the cause of the disturbance was unknown to them, its urgency was undeniable. For the first time since the Primordial Wars, it shook their gods out of their complacency. Though what might cause this was something the elves could not fathom.
After much deliberation, Enphilim the King God, chose his most trusted servant to go forth into the world once more, to deal with the danger capable of consuming all the realms. He set this task to Tamsyn, a seraf who distinguished himself during the downfall of Mael’s black servant, Balfure. As always, Tamsyn accepted the duty before him without question and prepared for his departure across the Veil.
The warrior prince Aeron offered to accompany Tamsyn on his noble mission, but the seraf declined. The world beyond bore no use for elves and may not receive Aeron well. Tamsyn suspected Aeron’s presence would complicate an already perilous quest, and so he set out through the mists alone.
He did not return.
For a while, the Celestials could sense their agent in the other world, could sense his mind and thoughts as he conducted himself on their behalf. Without warning, their connection to Tamsyn was severed. From then on, he became as profound a mystery to those behind the Veil as the one prompting his journey. They knew he was not dead, for only a seraf’s soul would return to his Celestial masters in such a situation.