The Kingdom is home to the remaining humans loyal to the Creator’s original vision. The symbol of the Kingdom is illustrated by three intertwined chain links that represent Discipline, Obedience and Loyalty. These are the three Pillars of Civilization, which the Kingdom rigorously enforces in law as well as custom. In the fortress city of Westfort, the people of the Kingdom are ruled by the seeress-monarch Queen Elyzabet, Incarnate Serenity of the Creator. From birth, the citizens are raised on the Pillars of Civilization. Before reaching maturity, children of all backgrounds are schooled in warcraft and formation combat.
The army of the Kingdom is based on solid ‘regiments of foote’ and devastating knightly charges. Professional and well-trained, these defenders of the Kingdom are supported by elements such as militia from the Hinterkeeps, Worldwalkers and Free Riders, Longhacks and Royal Sappers, plus the bombards of the Artificers’ corps and spell casters from the Royal Court.
Listening to the teachings of the Liberator, the Ascended have discarded obedience and the unthinking dogma of the Creator for a more enlightened approach to knowledge. The Ascended seek the secrets of the universe in many diverse ways, cleaving to exotic philosophies and using esoteric means to uncover the mysteries that lie beyond the veil of ignorance. Each of the Ascended city-states has its own beliefs, hierarchy, religions and military but they are all characterized by an expansive and predatory outlook on other societies and races. Some Ascended societies practice slavery while others espouse freedom for all, and even take in dissidents of other city-states. Some societies are run with iron control and brutally enforced codes of belief and behavior, while many are barely-functional anarchic states where the most ruthless or charismatic rule for a short while. The Ascended city-states have one thing in common – an insatiable hunger for resources. Some simply need food and workers while others lust after the study of beasts and monsters unleashed by the Day of Wrath, or the accumulation of history and wisdom.
Most armies from the Ascended city-states comprise a mix of mercenaries, indentured levies, and household troops belonging to the army leaders. Occasionally, a sage-sorcerer or high prophetess will accompany an army to lend magical power and authority to a campaign. Sometimes an army of the Ascended will entreat a demon to join them. These unworldly behemoths rarely care for the ambitions of mortals and frequently turn such deals to their own agenda. Ascended armies are commonly mobile with a core of well-armed and hard-hitting cavalry and infantry, but lack discipline and staying power. Levy troops are numerous, but disposable. They are just as likely to get in the way of the professional troops as they are to hurt the enemy. Typically, Ascended armies fight hard and continue to fight well as long as the battle is going their way. However, morale will soon unravel if the tide of battle turns on them.
The Liberator and those that had been cast as demons into the outer darkness laid their touch upon humankind and made the orcs. The touch of the demons filled the orcs with a mutual hatred of the Creator, or as they called him, the Tyrant. The orcs were an unstoppable force, righteous in their destruction of all that the Tyrant and humans had built. Upon the eve of their great victory, as the last city of the Tyrant lay within their grasp, the orcs were betrayed by their allies. The city held and the Tyrant unleashed the Day of Wrath, slaying many orcs and tearing asunder the world. Following the Day of Wrath the Liberator disappeared, leaving the orcs alone and without purpose. Many have become common brigands, while a number still hold to their original mission, to purge the land of all the Tyrant’s mark. Some are nihilistic destroyers, known by other orckind as un-orcs or fallen orcs, willing to fight for anything, to die for nothing, but with nothing to live for either.
When an orc tribe dispatches one or more battle-clans, it sends a force that is hard-hitting, disciplined and determined. The orcs are tough, skilled fighters in a one-on-one situation, though their strategy is often brutally simplistic, bulldozing the enemy with sheer violence and bloody-mindedness! The orcs are highly effective slavers and beast masters, and can break nearly any creature to their will. Orcs ride ferocious lizardine mounts and many frequently drive into battle on chariots pulled by even bigger reptilian beasts. They make wide use of hunting packs, as well as larger monsters such as trolls, ogres and even giants, and rarer creatures like basilisks and venom-spitting carcosaurs.
Nobody knows for sure where the Hollowed Ones first came from. These vampiric creatures appeared shortly after the Day of Wrath, but unlike the other monsters that were released from the Rift they appear to have a purpose and an agenda to fulfill. The Hollowed Ones have earned their name because they contain no essence or spark of life left over from when the Creator brought the world into being. In order to survive, the Hollowed Ones must consume the essence of other creatures. Even angels and demons can be drained of their essence by a suitably powerful Hollowed One. This is a “True Death” for the unfortunate victim. It is rumored that the Hollowed Ones can make another of their kind if they choose. Certainly, they seem to be growing in numbers in recent years. Many theorists agree that the lack of essence and grotesque physical features are linked to the imprisoning of the demons. Some even believe that the Hollowed Ones are the physical remains of the Liberator trying to gather enough essence to reincarnate itself.
Mortal remains drained of their essence remain animated by the presence of the Hollowed One that created them. These re-awakened are mindless slaves to the will of their maker, but their lack of independent thought makes them crude servants and warriors. More valued by their masters are the ghoulish humans that have fallen into thrall to the vampiric lords. These fiends have fed on flesh denuded of essence and in turn their own bodies have become twisted mockeries of what they once were. The lynchpin of any exanimated army is the Hollowed One that created it. The vampire is the center of a cloud of consumed essence that controls and instills un-life into the ex-animated, able to make dead warriors fight, repair damage inflicted upon their creations and themselves. They can even bolster their ranks with a deadly touch, or in the case of the most powerful Hollowed Ones, even a glance. Hollowed Ones are incredibly fast, strong and tough – more than a match for most mortal foes and even a few immortal ones.
The Dwarven Kind
As the armies of the Creator and Liberator brought ruin to the lands, one divine servant called The Maker grieved for the wounds inflicted upon creation. The Maker allowed its essence to be absorbed into the ground itself. This act gave rise to the race of dwarves, imbuing them with a fierce disposition and desire to protect all things of natural creation. In giving birth to the dwarves, The Maker gave up its immortal existence and now lives on only in the souls of its creations. The dwarves are at one with the world and its ways. They are at home equally in the deep caves as they are the dense forest or upon the icy peaks. Imbued with the raw essence of The Maker, dwarves have an affinity for the beasts and birds. This kinship allows them to capture the Maker’s natural energy and weave it into all manner of artifacts. They do this through the art of applying detailed marks and patterns called Oggra.
The dwarves scattered during the great war, seeking out groves, mountain passes, sacred hills and other locations worthy of their protection. These became the clans. Dwarves are of the earth, and if returned to the earth they will be reborn. Dwarves can only truly die when their essence is taken from them, or their bodies become so mutilated that their essence has nothing to rebuild.
Dwarves fight mainly to protect their homes and other sacred areas. Dwarves share an exceptional kinship with each other and will stand and fight long after others would have fled. A dwarven warrior is strong, compact and tough. Dwarven Oggraic hexes are used by Foe-cursers to confound the enemy by numbing their sword-arms, confusing their thoughts, and sowing fear in weak minds. Oggra weapons, armor and talismans turn an already fearsome dwarf warrior into a formidable prospect. Oggraic runes can also be used to unleash lightning strikes, give life to the inanimate, conjure ravines, and strike down the foe with a raging tornado. The dwarves have many allies in the animal kingdom and frequently ride to battle on the back of larger beasts such as bears.
Part-Angel and part-mortal, the Elves are the foremost power of the Creator in the world. The Harmony binds together elven society, ensuring that no elf feels alone or abandoned, and equally prevents any deviation of thought or disenchantment that might breed disobedience or selfishness. The elves live in their own cities high in the mountains, but a good number spend time in the Kingdom, ensuring that the citizens do not pursue forbidden knowledge. Some elves – the Skyborn – are so blessed by the essence of the Creator that they have wings. This is taken as a sign of leadership and nobility.
United in purpose and movement by the Harmony, elven warriors fight with unparalleled timing and precision. While storms of arrows descend unerringly on the foe, flights of Skyborn take to the air. With them, giant eagles and phoenixes swoop down with beaks and talons. Elves use the Harmony to channel the essence of the Creator to their Spellbinders, who unleash this energy as devastating blasts, protective shields and mind-controlling Words of Will. The elves also possess many arcane items dating back to the great war, forged by the mightiest artisans of the Angels. With such weapons and armor their heroes are a match for foes many times their natural size and strength.