‘It is not the sufferings of winter that cause us to quail in this world
It is the evil of warped good, and the secret slaves of the false god.’
As the shadow of the South creeps ever closer to the realms of men, Winter grows more furious. The forests at the Edge of the World begin to gnarl and die, giving way to flood and landslide. The rivers grow sick with grief, and mountains are torn asunder for the stones and minerals within. Wealthy factors in the cities increase the price of wheat and corn, as Lords tighten their belts and raise their taxes. The ‘Dorian Alliance is tested to its limits as delegations stop visiting the Grand Councils and Calls to Summons, becoming more suspicious of their neighbours. Priests and monks of the Old Faith still attend solstices and celebrations, but pilgrims and fanatics come in lesser number. Corruption in the Temples is rife.
This is an age of cynicism. Trumpets of doom are blown. Brother grows suspicious of brother, peasant collectives begin to fragment and turn against their own interests.
Avagoth raids intensify on the borders, the steeds of many warlords reaching as far as the Inner Cities. With diminishing armies and plummeting morale, the Alliance brings in ever more desperate measures – Orcish mercenaries to quell the anger of their own people. It is a short-term solution bound to spread resentment. People start to question where their civilization is going and whether there truly is an eternal, celestial order to things. Those few who profit from the increasing struggle are the only ones with any power, their miserable souls slowly evolving into demonic aspect, their fangs feeding on millions of poor and desperate.
Only Gylfanon, the Dark Prince of Gylfanys, goes on the attack. Looking to expand his Kingdom, he forges links with the Lorcanians of the sacred wood. He avoids the worst of Avagoth raids by promising his barbarian “friends” power and land in his new domain. Turning warlord against warlord, Gylfanon’s knowledge of Avagothic clan politics spares him much grief. In his own lands he makes it illegal to raise the price of grain, and threatens the wealthy factors and their private guards with his furious league. Many flee to neighbouring lands, and Gylfanon’s council take their wealth and estates, distributing much of it to the needy. Yet more volunteers step forward to take up spear and shield for their prince, yet more weeping maidens stitch great banners of valour to be carried into battle.
At first he only aimed to frighten his neighbours into compliance, but quickly Gylfanon gained in confidence. High-Priest Furion secretly joined him, and advised he begin the Dark Crusade of Vengeful Truth, to turn the armies of evil away by any means possible – even turning the weapons of evil against itself! In a moment of revelation, Gylfanon realized how much his own inner-darkness and suffering was a source of strength. Caused by the evils and inequalities of men, it is rage enough to overturn his oppressors. Deep inside that nihilistic tendency lay the fearlessness to face death.
As news spreads and champions gather beneath the black and red Gylfan banners, the five brothers of the Turcans respect the brazen might of bold Gylfanon and his wise council. The Scyldlings send him gifts from the Northern Ice, mighty frostblades, and a pair of armoured mammoth to serve as his battle-steeds. Many creatures emerge from the deeps, drawn to his pulsing soul, understanding the speech of his beastmasters. And much are his loyal volunteers, among them Thugul and Au Ko, and even a few companies of the hardy Dalf Byorn tired of the decline around them.
On the attack, Gylfanon gains momentum, and the Dark Prince is seen as a hero of Hy-Selasia, even by his enemies. But those enemies are great; The six warped, mind-controlling giants who rule over the still, ancient domains of Ivis. And the King-in-the-Crystal, the single most powerful man of all. He commands no army, yet his believers are many, and they have many armies. Their hearts gripped by tightening despair and irreverence for nature, they know only anxious obeisance to their cruel King.
It is almost time to put ideals to the test. It is almost time for battle.
Gylfanon hands his diamond broadsword to his lieutenant, the silent and bold Halbard. Delving to the depths of the ancient armoury of the Nagothi, he seeks a greater treasure. A dark creature of Elvish aspect waits there, hidden beneath a robe of samite, and he holds in his naked hands a long, serrated sword. Clutching Nightcleaver to his chest, Gylfanon prepares for the ultimate battle, not against the true, inevitable darkness, but against the warped light which casts an even greater shadow.