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The world of Earth is a place fraught with mystery even to its inhabitants, and no one truly knows how many ages have passed over the land and vanished into the ambiguous mists of the past. The second age of Earth’s time recorded in the histories of humankind is the age of the Pact, ennumering 1700 years of the Pact. It is so called because of a profound event 1800 years past during wich the first druid, then representative of mankind, forged a pact through friendship with the leader and king of the fey, clasping together the two races in a bond of alliance and coexistence which would come to characterize the balance of the Earth thereafter. Before that time was a chaotic, shadowy age full of much hardship and struggle as humans built their civilizations and grew as a race. The fey, the Elder race, descended upon humans in times of confusion, curiosity, and even fury, and were like in the eyes of mortal men and women to gods. Some begat war with their mortal brethen, while others felt compassion towards the younger and more fragile human race. The younger race regarded the fey, who they called the Hidden People, with fear and awe, and would avoid them at all costs, many times surrendinging offering unto them, accosting them with violence, or cowing from their blatant glory.
In the stories it is told that a man named Noah, an exceptional prophet of his tribe, looked upon the face of the Elders with interest and insight rather than terror, and he boldly met with the feykind and came to understand their ways. In this way he was confronted by the immortal king of Faery, their eldritch realm, the lord known as Kadmon. Noah and Kadmon forged a bond of trust and kinship, and Kadmon acknowledged Noah as a friend of his people and gave him to bear the mark of Faery. From that time, Noah was known as the first of the druids, the fey-friends, and he acted as liason between his people and the mystical hierarchy of the Hidden ones. He and his clan eventually brought about peace between them. His lineage followed in his ways and created the tradition of druids who wore the mark of favor and served as intercessories between the two worlds. Eventually, even those not of Noah’s blood came to enter his heritage.
It was told that the fey were the first of beings created on Earth by the Creator, and that when humans were born, it was given to the fey to watch over them and guide them. While this relationship was strained and immature for perhaps thousands of years, it was by the Pact of Noah and Kadmon that the two grew to exemplify peace and enlightenment. The fey of the wild lived in harmony with the humans who dwelled among them, and for over a thousand years human cities and cultures sprouted up around the firm foundation of the leadership of Faery.
Little is truly known about Faery, but even of all variety of fey that have been recorded, more still are said to dwell beyond sight in the Hidden Kingdom. They are ruled over by the immortal King and Queen, Kadmon and Rhea Hecate, who are as father and mother to all their people. Some believe that Kadmon and Rhea are not specific individuals so much as archetypal powers embodying an everlasting essence of fey rulership and benevolence, passed down from ruler to ruler like a vestment. They are said to assume many likenesses, and the early images of worship portrayed by primordial man bear the markings of the Elder King and Queen, wielding terrible glory like the inexplicable forces of nature they were feared to command.
Worse still than the unpredictable fey in the hazy days of human life were three beings named the Betrayers. They are described as humans who had mastery over strange supernatural powers, and they gave over their humanity and their beating hearts to the allegiance of unearthly ills. In doing so, they became as demons, though in their human origins more ghastly and dreadful than any devil of myth. It is believed that many instances of evil fey in the old days were the machinations of the Betrayers, who seek the downfall of all life and who bear such a revulsion of human and fey alike that love nothing so much as the thought of their domination. The formation of the Pact meant hope against the powers of the Betrayers. The heroic people described in legends, warriors and druids, combined with legions of fey under the command of Kadmon and Rhea, and overcame the might of the Betrayers. In their defeat, the King and Queen locked them into an impenetrable prison from which they could no longer sway the fate of any living on Earth. Peace seemed to have prevailed, and the humans grew ever more as the years passed.
The age of the Pact seemed to herald new life throughout every layer of existence. After over 1600 years of the Pact, and untold centuries before, an event came to pass whose signifiance is as of yet not fully understood, but is nonetheless miraculous. Never before had Kadmon and Rhea Hecate borne their own children who were the true heirs of their bloodline. But it came to be that they conceived together and had a son and a daughter, inheritants of all of their parents’ power and mystery. They were the children of blue hair, foretold in tropes and shadows in the tales of both men and fey, the prince and princess of Faery. What import they bore was not openly fathomed, even by their parents. The daughter and son were given the respective names of Jubelon and Jari.
Peace seemed to have prevailed, and the humans grew ever more as the years passed.
However, the harmony and power of the Pact was irreparably shattered in the culmination of sin and folly. In year 1700 of the Pact, a mighty conflict coalesced that violently rent the link between the fey and the humans, and set them at odds more severely and surely than they had ever been. It is accounted that there was a young woman named Vespertina, a humble shepherdess who hailed from a rural village in Madrepoor. One day while in the field, she was approached by a radiant vision of the lord Kadmon, appearing to her as a beautiful youth who shone like the sun. He said that she was a woman more pure and strong in spirit than any other, and that she was to be mantled the herald of change and truth in the world of men, and to bring about some unforetold, but undeniably great, passing. Whether it was one of jubilation or cataclysm was not shown. Catalyzed by this vision, she set off on a journey, in the course of which she came to known the world round as a woman of profound wisdom, capable of performing great miracles, whom peace and truth followed by her side. She was respected by Faery more than any other human, and was named the High Druid, Saint Vespertina. Legends frequently praise her as a hero.
However, Vespertina gave rise to something even more grave than she herself was glorified. Tales account that she had fallen in love with the lord of Faery, Kadmon, and that he returned her love. It is rumored that they exchanged their passion in secret, though this would not have been so dangerous as what transpired because of it. Kadmon made way for Vespertina to enter into Faery. Never before had a human being stepped into the Hidden Realm. This came to be known as the Sin of Kadmon and Vespertina.
Now that entrance had been given to a human, the way was opened for more humans to find their way into Faery. As it became known that was possible, druids, witches, and other people entered into the Hidden Kingdom. They ventured to see the truth of the stories, to garner mythical power, to uncover the mysteries of the fey, or even to seize the majestic treaures of the realm. Though this caused much disquiet among humans and fey alike, there was not much time before there came the exposure of not only the sin, but its dire and indelible consequences. A siege was led against Faery and its royal citadel. It was led by a great band of druids, traitors of their Pact, who commanded legions of witches and warriors to overtake the Elder people and all that they secreted away in their legendary homeland.
The battle between the invaders and the defenders of Faery lasted for several months. At first, the fey were confused and did not wish to cause undue harm to their younger brethen, and fought only defensively. As such, it seemed as though the humans would be successful in their siege . . . until the final flame was lit and the power of Hell itself seemed to unfold from the throne.
Vespertina ventured into Faery to find Kadmon, to assure each other of their safety, and attempt to ease the conflict. Kadmon and Rhea were sheltering their children in the sacred citadel, and in the haze of battle, Vespertina echoed her earlier sin by accidently making way for the invaders to enter the palace, as they followed her through the secret passage she used to meet with Kadmon. The leaders of the horde stormed the throne and kidnapped the prince and princess Jari and Jubelon.
As this transpired, Rhea came to know the truth of the matter. Her children stolen, her husband having given his love to another, and witnessing the folly of Vespertina in creating opportunity for the siege, Rhea was transformed into a figure of might and rage as yet unseen in all the annals of lore, even in the faces of the Betrayers. It is believed she overpowered her supplicant husband and banished him to an unknown fate, either of imprisonment or disempowerment. Vespertina may have been killed, though she could also have been sealed away or cast to some other vengeance. Rhea Hecate rose in nightmarish glory over the battlefield and laid waste to the invader’s forces. More terrible than demon or dragon, she was like a great caucophony of heat, sound, light, and fury, a storm of such dread that even beheld at a distance it could quail the heart of the observer with overwhelming horror. The phalanx of fey were like bolts of lightning among the storm, and they savaged the attacking army with such virulence that the very earth was scorched bare. Rhea was as something mindless and animated by violence, shattering the wind with uncontrollable force. The remainder of the invaders fled as swiftly as possible, but the damage had been done. Kadmon was gone, and Rhea had been changed entirely into something wild and elemental, scouring the heights and depths for her lost children. Her passion unleashed a storm so fierce that even today its winds warp the skies of Earth. She appeared to have been splintered apart, broken and mad, by a rift of grief and outrage that would not be healed.
At last, the Knights of the Royal Court found and rescued the prince and princess. They knew that Rhea was too far riven to hear of or understand calls for calm, and certainly would not recognize her children. The children were only babes, and the King and Queen were both gone. The children were transformed into changelings, given unassuming forms, and were delivered into the human world so that they might be safe. Only when they had both grown and were able to fathom what had transpired would it be possible for them to involve themselves and salvage Faery. Let alone the world.
The storm Rhea created washed into Earth and persisted for over a hundred years. It still gathers around the South Pole of the world as a malignant vortex of wind and lightning, giving birth to fearsome weather all over the planet. It is known as the Roaring Dance. Sylves from all corners of nature fight against the Dance’s pull, but many succumb to it and become part of the gavotte, consumed by the mad throws of the gales, doomed to dance in unison with the wrath that spawned it. Globe wide, the fey began to turn on mankind. Those connected with Faery, or those who evacuated, unleashed assault upon assault on the humans, driven by a vengeance that would not be slaked. Others who were not directly involved in the war were affected as though by ripples of chaos, becoming more and more feral. Some fey still behave rationally and act alongside humans, including the noble Pari, grieved by the chaos, and the ambiguous Selkies, who remain surprisingly disinterested in the conflict.
With the rending of peace came the advent of two strange and powerful beings in the world – the malefic and puissant fey sorceress naming herself simply Hecate; and the mysterious and terrifying entity known only as the Howler. It is believed that Hecate is the shadow of the old Rhea, all that remains of her consciousness, the residue of her spite and wrath towards humans for bereaving her of her husband and her children. Hecate began to slowly appear more and more often, laying sadistic curses over the peoples of the land, proclaiming herself the Hangman of Faery, set with the task of appeasing the immense woe rotting the heart of the Earth by meting out punishment upon the humans.
The Howler is not truly understood, but it manifests as a vast and potent force lurking in the abstract limbo between the world of matter and that of spirit. At first, druids began hearing the call of an ominous voice in their dreams, like the wailing torment of the bereaved, at once jarring like cries of rage. They believed it to be the spirit of the Earth crying out in pain as its thews were being uprooted. But soon, witches, prophets, dreamers, priests, and even common folk began to hear the call, and many of them were bereft of their wits by its grievous moans. Some people saw visions of a tremendous form looming across the horizon, blotting out the sun with an insidious fog, unfurling preternatural screams into the darkness that shook the stars from the sky like tears. As fear spread, more and more fell victim to sleep loss, night terrors, clairvoyant episodes, and gradual psychosis, becoming obsessed with images of the being they again and again named the Howler, clouding the heavens with unending night. Even while awake, sometimes whole cities would be beset by the very silhouette of the Howler, wailing through the gloaming at dusk and shrieking loudly, reaving peace from the inhabitants until its shadow finally faded into daylight. Some say that the Howler is the heart of Rhea, confined at the hellish eye of the Roaring Dance, sending her spirit out through the darkness, ever searching in vain for her son and daughter.
Only those who are yet druids appear to be unaffected by the screams of the Howler. They hear them more acutely than any, and yet are not driven to distraction or horror because of it. This may be because they are merely more resistant to it, rather than immune, and eventually will succumb themselves. The druids still bear the aura of Faery, and retain their peculiar powers. Over the century, new druids have been made by passing their teachings on to those able to understand them, even though the favor of Faery has long since lost its meaning. Druids who once were peacemakers now act as vigilantes who defend their fellow humans from attacks of the fey. It is because of their insight and power that the humans were able to quell the fey’s might and vanquish some of their armies in the mortal world. The druidic arts can ease the torment of the Howler’s influence, though the effects seem to be weakening slowly over time as the power of the Howler waxes. Likewise, the Roaring Dance grows only larger and more violent as decades pass, and eventually may lead to the destruction of all civilization, consuming every region of the Earth.
The outrage of the fey and the menace of the Howler and Hecate are not the only consequences of the Sin. As the power of Faery fell, and the order of it citizens dissolved, the ability of the fey to ward the Earth was all but eliminated. It was believed that the fey served to protect the Earth and humans against the evils that drifted in the outerworlds of the many heavens: demons, malign spirits, djinn, and even more perilous beings. And not least, the untethering of Betrayers. During the siege of Faery, when Rhea demolished the attackers, it was seen that the four leaders of the attack faced the brunt of her might, and through some strange sequence they were cursed by a forbidden power. Their humanity was rent from them, and they, too, were changed into demons. They became the second generation of Betrayers. And as a reult, the imprisonment the King and Queen wrought for the Betrayers was undone. Their whereabouts are unknown, but many fear that they lie in hiding, nurturing the machinations of the newly awakened first Betrayers, plotting a scheme more vile even than the current disarray.
It is no longer the age of the Pact, but is now the age of the Thorn, for the Earth itself has been bitten by its own virulence. It is the one-hundredth year of the Thorn.
Druids continue to fight valiantly to preserve their race, but other powers are at work in the world now. Before the Rift and the Sin, humans had begun a New Birth of thought and exploration, expanding their understanding of nature and their prowess with magic and technology. Some believe that it contributed to Rhea’s madness and grief that humans were coming to show slackened reliance on the fey’s benevolence and developed societies and sciences that seemed to subvert nature rather than balance with it. After the Rift, the druids were the champions of mankind, but more and more people fell back on new magic, and as the defenses of humans grew more stalwart, they built up security in their own power. Great academies sprang up, throngs of inventors and investigators, magicians and occultists, rallying to solve the problem of the fey, and benefiting from their tremendous advancements. Thinkers in such circles announced that it would not be druidry that would triumph over the fey and the Dance, but command over nature through technology and magic.
Independent, caballistic covens grew in frequency and popularity as people gathered towards sorcery to further themselves. A powerful and striking coven rose to power, a collective league of witches calling themselves the Court of Rhadamanthus. They meet as a secret order, and communicate through signals and letters stamped with their mark, the image of a burning flower in red ink. They call themselves such in honor of the mythical figure Rhadamanthus, lord over fire, symbol of intelligence, knowledge, power, and the cleansing of the old and the decayed.
The Court of Rhadamanthus seeks to not only thwart the fey, but to once again gain access to Faery, and finally claim whatever lay hidden there. And in the secret workings of their cabal, they have designs to reach the Betrayers, and subvert even them in their quest to gain mastery, to factualize humans as the dominant force on the Earth, perhaps even in regions beyond. The extents to which the Court of Rhadamanthus are willing to go for the sake of their goals have not yet been revealed.