The first age of Pox was a time of wonder. Colossal cities dotted the maps of the four great empires of the world. Their golden libraries containing the collective knowledge and wisdom of centuries. Then a terrible blight spread across the face of the world in a wave of suffering and death. Entire races, their names lost to the ages, were wiped out in in the blink of an eye. The survivors begged and pleaded with the Gods, each hoping to be granted a miracle. But none came.
The Firk of the mighty Octopian Empire were not left untouched by the evil that was spreading across the land. One night, the Firk High Priestess Teuthia was visited in her dreams by Xom, the messenger of the Gods. On behalf of Lord Arzon, King of the Gods, he told her that the Blight was his master’s doing. That Lord Arzon had grown tired of seeing his youngest son Roa, the God of Darkness, shunned by the people of Pox. If the Firk wanted to avoid total annihilation, they would seek Roa’s favor.
Teuthia immediatly woke and traveled to the capital to seek an audience with the High Council. She told of her encounter with Xom, and relayed his holy message. The council dismissed the dream as the Dementia induced ravings of an elderly Priestess past her prime. Teuthia would not be impeded by the fools on the council. She had been charged with a holy crusade. Even if it meant her execution for heresy, she would do as she had been commanded. For surely dying in the service of the God King himself would assure her a place of prominence when her name was read from the scrolls of the faithful.
Teuthia returned to the temple in her home province of Strass, and gathered the other priests. She told them of her encounter and of the council’s decision to ignore it. She then shared with them her intention to disobey the old fools. The temple Priests went out amongst the cities and villages of the empire, and began to tell of Teuthia's holy epiphany. As a result, millions turned to the worship of Roa. They fasted, sacrificed, and prayed for six days and nights. On the seventh day, Xom appeared to them. He told the priests that Roa had heard their plea. That, in a gesture of his love for them, had personally blessed the lands of the Octopian Empire, cleansing them for all time. The Firk rejoiced. Truly they were the chosen of the Gods. Word of the great miracle quickly spread to the other great empires of the world. Soon millions began turning from their Gods to the worship of Roa. One by one their lands all began to recover from the evil that had plagued them for so long.
Pox had finally been cleansed. The survivors declared a month of celebration in honor of Roa’s miracle. The people of Pox feasted and sang songs of praise to their new Savior. All seemed well in the world. Decades passed and the four empires enjoyed a golden age of peace and prosperity. Then one afternoon, the Octopian Emperor, Pendax, was conducting his annual ceremonial hunt. The hunt had been fruitful with many beasts falling to the Emperors blade. The group had just entered a clearing when without warning, a shaft of golden light erupted from the heavens and engulfed the Emperor. The light was blinding in it's intensity. Finally it faded, and he heard a voice in his mind that was both comforting and terrible. “We are the voice!” It said. Reverberating through his mind. “We are many who speak as one. You have turned from the worship of those who created and cared for you and now worship only one. This will not stand! You will begin making sacrifices to the multitude immediately or we will wipe you all from the face of Pox and begin anew!”
“We are aware that the people of Pox have been deceived. Xom spoke not for the multitude, but for Roa himself! We will deal with the traitors and any who refuse to turn from their worship. The Gods are patient and loving. But even our patience has it’s limits. When you return to the palace you will spread our holy message to the entirety of Pox. Each household will sacrifice it’s oldest child upon the temple alter. In exchange, the Gods will see fit to forgive the rest of you for your sin. But be warned, failure to do as we say will result in the destruction of all!” With that the light vanished. The rest of the hunting party quickly rushed to their Emperor's side. He told them of his divine encounter, and of his resolve to follow the instructions given to him by the Gods. The hunting party quickly returned to the palace where Pendax drafted a proclamation to the Empire telling of his encounter. He instructed his subjects that anyone found to be worshiping Roa exclusively would be immediately executed. Teuthia and her followers dismissed the Emperor's words as blasphemy. Why would the Gods speak to the Emperor instead of the Clergy, as had always been the way of things?
Teuthia immediately instructed her subordinates at the temple to disregard the Imperial proclamation. She was the conduit of the Gods, and through her alone would their word flow. The priests spread the word to the surrounding villages. They instructed the people to continue their worship of Roa. They claimed that the Emperor had been bewitched by heretics intent on overthrowing the monarchy.
Their efforts did not go unnoticed by the other Gods. They had summoned Roa and Xom to answer for their crimes. The pair stood defiant before their kin. Roa declared Arzon to be a fool. That he and the others were unworthy of the mortal's worship. "We both know you will not kill us Father. It has always been that no God shall strike down another. Whatever you do I shall rise up. Greater, and more beloved than any before me!" said Roa. There would have to be a reckoning. After all, Roa and his lackey Xom had attempted to wrestle the adoration of the people away from the other Gods. Though he may have been a traitor, Roa was right. No God could ever kill another. However, the crime could not go unpunished. Lord Arzon pleaded for mercy on his son’s behalf. But nothing would shake the resolve of the others. So the Gods used their collective power to banish the two usurpers and their blasphemous followers to the Ninth Realm. There the heretics would be forced to reflect on their sins for the rest of eternity.
It came in the dead of night. Without warning, a giant shaft of brilliant light erupted from the heavens. It completely engulfed Teuthia's temple and the surrounding villages. The light seemed to linger for a moment before disappearing again. The next morning, a caravan of merchants from the neighboring province journeyed to a village near the temple to trade. However, the village appeared to be empty. Assuming the people must have gone to the temple for their morning prayers, the merchants set up on the road coming from the temple. But by days end they had yet to encounter a single villager. Puzzled by the lack of activity, the chief merchant sent riders to the temple and the neighboring villages to seek answers. When they returned the next morning, the riders all reported the same thing. The people were gone. There was no sign of anyone for miles. Meals had been left uneaten on tables. Piles of soiled clothing waiting to be washed laid near the stream. As the merchants debated the possible fate of the missing villagers, a voice called out from the heavens. "Those who once lived here are gone. Banished to the Ninth Realm to suffer for all eternity. Let their fate serve as notice to all who would defy the will of the Gods!" Then it was gone. And the silence that followed was as deafening as the voice that had preceded it.
In the weeks that followed, Emperor Pendax ordered the Temple of Strass sealed, and declared the entire province to be a forbidden place. He stated that the sins of the people there had been so great, that the land itself had been forever tainted with their evil. Furthermore, the borders of the entire Octopian Empire were sealed to outsiders. For it had been their Hubris that had nearly led to the destruction of every being on Pox. They would remain behind their own borders and silently contemplate their role in the world. It didn’t matter how long it took, they would atone for their sins as a race.
Millennia passed in Pox. And as happens with all things, the three remaining empires slowly succomed to the ravages of time, either conquered in war, or made increasingly irrelevant. Eventually new races, such as the Elves, and the Dwarves came to prominence. None knowing the great peril the world had so narrowly avoided.
The centuries were even harder on Roa and his followers. As time wore on, Roa became more and more outraged. There was no way he could hope to confront the other Gods and hope to survive. He would need to gather more power to himself. Only then could he hope to make the others suffer for their crime.
That’s when the solution came to him. He would use his remaining power to force a fissure in the barrier separating the Ninth Realm from Pox. He would make it appear in the vicinity of a powerful Nora well. Through the fissure, he would siphon all of the Nora on Pox. His best chance of success would be his temple in Strass. As it was off limits to the Firk he knew he’d not have to worry about one of them discovering it. The Gods would never find it because they would never think him capable of such a feat. Still, he would have to do it very slowly over the course of millennia. Otherwise he would risk gaining the attention of those he hoped to destroy.
He began to gather Nora to himself. It took millennia, but slowly he started to become more and more powerful. Roa also knew that he would need an army. It wouldn’t be enough for him to simply grow more powerful. He would also need warriors that could be the instruments of his righteous vengeance against the people of Pox who had turned against him. How fortunate that his enemies had supplied him with just such an army. Teuthia and her followers would see their loyalty rewarded. Xom would also be rewarded for his sacrifice. As a symbol of his gratitude, Roa would share a small fraction of the Nora with him. After all, Roa was responsible for Xom’s current predicament. The former messenger to the Gods would now serve as Roa’s right hand. He would help to administer Roa’s new Kingdom when the time came, and Teuthia would serve as his prophet. She would ensure that the people would follow him for the rest of time.
Meanwhile, the other Gods of Pox remained ignorant to the growing danger. However, the time was quickly approaching when even they would take notice. And on that day, all would bow before the awesome power of Roa. It had been nearly ten thousand years since the events that had led to the banishment of Roa and his followers. In that time he had grown powerful. The day was nearing when they could claim their revenge, for Roa to take his much deserved birthright, and become master of all creation.
Skyf’s mind returned to the present. A firk’s sixteenth birthday is an important one, it marks the end of their adolescence and is when they receive the memory of the Sundering from the eldest member of their family. He was just given the memory by his Grandfather who had been a page in the Imperial court. It wasn’t simply a part of their history, it was also (and perhaps more importantly) a cautionary tale to future generations on the dangers of betraying the will of the Gods. Being powerful psychics, the Firk lack the ability to communicate verbally. When a thought or a memory needs to be expressed, it is simply shared with the intended recipient telepathically.
Ten thousand years later, not a single person had dared violate the Emperor’s edict concerning Strass. However, times do change. And not even the will of the Emperor can stop an inquisitive child. Excited by his Grandfather’s story, Skyf wanted to see the forbidden province of Strass for himself. Skyf convinced his friend Kroot to join him and set out the very next day.
The two boys journeyed for three days before reaching the outskirts of Strass. Upon their arrival, it was clear that time had not been kind to the area. Whole villages had been reduced to ruins after a millenia of neglect. More than that however, was the unshakeable feeling that something terrible really had happened in that place. In the distance they saw the massive temple of Teuthia. The two boys pressed on. The nearer they journeyed, the more apparent it became that their earlier feelings of dread were not unfounded. Despite being at the height of Spring, it seemed that all of the vegetation in the area was dead or dying. This grew worse the closer they grew to the temple. Not only that, but they began to also find the remains of animals that seemed to have simply laid down and died. Within hours they had reached the temple. Clearly this was the epicenter of whatever evil had befallen this land, for there was not a hint of life of any sort. Seeing the entrance to the temple, they quickly decided that having come this far, it would be a shame to turn back now. So, lit torches in hand, the boys became the first living souls to enter the temple of Teuthia in nearly ten thousand years.
The two boys moved chamber by chamber throughout the ancient temple. With every room they entered, they were fascinated anew by the wonders contained within. Beautiful, ornate sculptures of the ancient Gods were scattered throughout the temple. There were even scrolls that had survived the ravages of time contained in beautiful marble jars. After several hours of exploring the temple’s interior, They found themselves in the temple’s sanctuary staring up at the effigy of a God they knew from the memory to be Roa. Something strange was happening though. A fissure had formed at the base of the statue. “Not unusual considering this place has been abandoned for so long” thought Skyf. No, the strange part was that the Nora well directly in front of the statue seemed to pulsate every few minutes. When this happened a bit of Nora would lift from the well, and gently float over to the statue. It would then seem to hover for a moment before disappearing into the fissure.
Baffled by what was taking place before them, the boys moved closer to the statue. Skyf, overwhelmed by curiosity, decided he needed to touch the fissure. Kroot begged him not to. Kroot knew that whatever the crack was, it was most definitely evil. But Skyf would not waver. Desperate to stop his friend from making a terrible mistake, Kroot grabbed Skyf's other arm and tried to pull him back from the statue. But it was too late.
In an instant, Kroot's body simultaneously erupted in blinding agony, and total bliss. His mind was filled with the thoughts of thousands. “Rise!” they said. The thought was followed by a series of images showing an army of Firk marching across the land. Horrified, Kroot watched as the whole of Pox fell before the onslaught of this new threat. And at it's front, commanding this terrible force, was a being both strange and familiar. Two things became clear to Kroot in that instant. First, the being at the front of this army was the fallen God Roa. Second, that this was a vision of things to come. Kroot quickly broke the connection. Knowing that they must return home to warn of the coming attack, he began pleading with Skyf to similarly break the connection. But Skyf was unable, or unwilling to break his own connection. Kroot grabbed Skyf's arm and tried with all his strength to force his friend to pull away from the statue. However, try as he might, Skyf's hand had actually fused into the statue. What was even more terrifying, was that his arm seemed to be disappearing deeper and deeper into the fissure. Kroot fell to the floor and could only look on in horror as his one friend disappeared.