Far in the past lived a race that knew neither age nor sickness. They paid no heed to the ancient Silver Empire that once ruled three continents, and took no notice of its laws. As with all the races, they had their worthy and their wicked, but in the eyes of the Imperial mages and nobility, their existence itself was an evil. The nobles feared them and wished for their abolition.
The Everliving Emperor wished to remain at peace with them, and counseled his vassals to patience, but their fears could not be calmed. They made their own decision and studied the ways and arts that would allow them to subjugate the hated race. Their research produced mysterious spells and dark curses which could cause damage that no previous magics could achieve, and spat out weapons too awful for the eyes of the just to witness.
They showed the Everliving Emperor the fruit of their secret labors and again counseled him to eliminate the threat, but he would not be moved, for he still desired to reconcile with the ancient race. So they sought the ears of the Amber Prince and showed him false evidence of evils committed by their hated foe. He moved in anger and took up their fiercest weapon, to avenge those who they claimed had been so wronged.
Thus did the Amber Prince go into the midst of the foe. He effected great suffering to many innocents and terrible damage to the hills and gardens and forests of the ancient race. In their anger, the ancient race rose up against his father’s empire in retaliation.
And so the Everliving Emperor, though he lamented the falsehoods that began the war, went forth with grand armies of Elves and Dwarves and Merrow, and the races of nature and the multitudes of Humanity, and fought mightily to protect the commoners who had done no wrong, and suffered due to the foolishness of their lords.
But the ancient race was a power he could not defeat, and on that terrible and disastrous battlefield, the Emperor laid down his life of so many millennia amidst the pools and rivers of blood.
And the Amber Prince, though he now knew that he had been deceived, saw, for the sake of the innocent peasantry, that he must return to the villainous nobles and receive the rest of their loathsome weapons. And with the last remaining knights at his side, he faced the ancient foe again and let loose the hells that the Emperor had disdained.
When the awful attack concluded, the Amber Prince witnessed the destruction and lamented, saying that though many innocents in the Empire were saved, those on both sides who had paid the price for that salvation had done so because of his own wrongdoing. And in his despair, he had his knights turn the weapons on the mages and nobles who had created them, and thus, the Silver Empire came to its end.
The curses he let loose had killed all but a few, of both the ancient race and the Imperial aristocrats, but those few escaped with their hearts twisted and their bodies distorted, to become in their hidden places the beings we know as Demons and Monsters. Because they moved in the darkness, the recesses of the Earth and the Forest and the Night and the Watery Abyss became their realms.
In the dark times after the Empire fell, one survivor of the ancient race lived on, in loneliness and fury, for he knew no future worth hoping for, yet had no desire for his own end. So he lived, in a murky forest, for many centuries, until the place where he dwelled became first a farm, then a hamlet, then a town, at last a city.
And in that city, a poor maiden struggled to find food, because her family had passed on, and the survivor who lurked in the alleys of that place found her and thought to consume her, because devouring the descendants of his enemy was his greatest joy. But while facing her end, the maiden wept and bade him only eat her body, to allow her soul to rejoin her family.
He asked why she did not beg for her life, as that was a thing he enjoyed when hunting his enemy, and she said that she had often been hungry, so she sympathized with his need. But she taught him that a soul would not sate his hunger, and asked him to leave that one small thing alone.
Because he marveled that among his enemy lived a maiden who could be kind to even her final foe, he agreed and consumed only her tender body, blessing her soul and letting it go free and uneaten.
That night, in his dreaming, he met a goddess who told him he would be given a task, to look after the soul he had spared, for her kindness was needed in that dark world of those times. He feared the goddess, for his heart still held a bare glimmer of light, and agreed to obey her. And when he awoke, he found the same maiden he had devoured the night before, asleep at his side.
When the maiden awoke, she feared him, as is natural, for she could remember him dining upon her flesh. He told her of his dream, but she could not overcome her fear. So, he made with her a contract, that in return for the meal that she had provided him, he would become her property, and accept her authority as her contracted demon.
Under his protection, that maiden grew into a woman of beauty and wisdom, who led knights and vassals and assumed command of the city. And she ruled in justice and kindness and made that city the capital of a pleasant kingdom, which he taught her to fashion in the image of the ancient Empire, and to rule in the manner of the Everliving Emperor, for he knew that such was the only government under which her Human brethren had known peace and justice.
But in the way of all humans, she passed on at last and rejoined her family, and the demon came to serve her child. The kingdom continued in prosperity for five generations, until a foolish and greedy king came to power, and used the being to crush his opponents and steal from the neighboring countries. The being counseled against his actions, but the king paid no heed, and continued his ways until his enemies rose up and destroyed him.
The being foresaw that the king’s son would become just as vile. Unable to break the contract, he sealed himself in a stone, so that he could not hear the commands to commit evil, and declared he would not come out until a descendant as pure as his original owner came to free him.
And that kingdom passed, and that city fell, and the stone’s location became forgotten. But to this day, our own land, the northern reaches of her kingdom, remains to carry on the ancient Empire’s promise, and wait for that day when a wise ruler and a contracted being again raise it to greatness.
# # #
“Alright,” I said, waving the paper I had just read. “Was this just a way to trick me into a history lesson, or was there a point?”
Melione was still asleep, and Lute had gone to fetch some water for us, so Arken had decided to finish briefing me. He started by using his [Scribe] spell to write this… story?
Arken has an amazing gift for memorizing such things word-for-word– I understand powerful memory is a common ability among elves– so I assume he had read this somewhere.
He smiled slightly, and shook his head. “As history, it’s questionable. This is part of the foundation myth of this kingdom. There are things that are pretty doubtful in it. The ‘Silver Empire’ covering the three continents never existed, although it may refer to the empire of Talerién. He was an elve who created an empire almost four thousand years ago that did have holdings on all three continents. Who this ‘Amber Prince’ is, is unknown. And no records remain from that far back that mention monsters or demons, so we have no idea whether the claim that they originated in this story is true or not.”
“So, like I asked, was there a point in me reading this?”
“It’s interesting for two reasons. First, there are ruins on the surface all around the Carael Mines of a city over three thousand years old and Hamagaar has existed in one form or another since that time. Which means those ruins are of an old, forgotten Hamagaaran city. Second, the demon rumor we were chasing was about a demon that appeared after an ancient monument was mysteriously destroyed.”
“Why does it matter where the demon came from?”
“Is he part of the Demon Lord’s plans, or is this just a random, unrelated event? We’re currently gathering intelligence on him, so we have to know. And you need to know what you are facing, if you go to rescue our friends. We don’t know why they haven’t returned, but if it is because this thing is as powerful as this legend suggests…”
I nodded, “But ultimately, it’s just a powerful demon.”
“I hope so. I’m worried about what this ‘ancient race’ might be, and whether he is a member of it rather than a demon. The legend mentions demons, but never calls him one. And it’s interesting that one major race is never mentioned on the ‘Silver Empire’s’ side of the conflict. Did you notice which race is missing from the list?”
“Tiana, it should be obvious to you. Where are your mother’s people in this story?”