Kroot knew there was no time to mourn his lost friend. It was imperative that he warn his people immediately. Upon arriving back in his village, he shared the memory of his encounter with the fallen God and his followers. This came as a revelation to the town elders who insisted that Kroot be taken to the capital at once. He was then brought before the High Council, who upon hearing the tale, called for the Chief Priest Krypol. They demanded that he investigate the matter further. After experiencing the memory, Krypol sequestered himself in his chamber. There, he fasted and meditated for three days and nights. On the evening of the third day he experienced a vision. In it he found himself clad in finest linen, and standing before the throne of Lord Arzon himself. Realizing the enormity of his situation, Krypol quickly dropped to his knees. A powerful voice echoed through his mind. “Rise and hear me Krypol, chief priest of Arzon. You will bear my words to the people of the world!” Krypol was honored beyond reason. “My Lord!” He cried. “I will burn your holy word unto my breast, and carry it with me for the length of my days.”
“Very well.” Said Arzon. “The memory brought to you by the boy is real. My son, Roa the fallen, is alive. He and his ilk have been living in the ninth realm these many millenia. The whole time siphoning the world’s supply of Nora in a mad attempt to overthrow his betters. In our boundless wisdom we have chosen you to stop him. There is still time to defeat him, but you cannot do it alone. You must reach out to the other races. Each one must send a champion to the Temple of Roa in Strass. They are to gather on the night of the full moon two months from now. There they will enter the ninth realm and battle the fallen. They will have victory, or they will have death. Which will be nothing in the face of the vengeance that my son will visit upon this world for what he sees as sins perpetrated against him and his followers.” Krypol was overwhelmed. “But my Lord!” He said. “Our empire is but a shadow of it’s former self. We have had nothing but limited contact with the outside world for centuries. They have no reason to trust us!” “That does not matter.” Said Arzon. “Only if the nations of this world work together do they have any hope of defeating Roa’s army. It is imperative that you convince them to do so. Otherwise we are all doomed. Now wake yourself, and carry my words with you to the waking world!”
Krypol awoke with a start to find himself back in his chamber. His body ached from being in the same position for so long. His stomach growled with hunger, and his throat burned with thirst. He forced himself to wave his arm over to his attendant Arden, who had been waiting in the corner of the room. The young boy quickly ran over with a cup of water. Krypol drank greedily, his thirst nearly consuming him. "Quickly!" He said to the attendant. "Send word to the council. Inform them that I need to meet with them immediately!" "But Master, what shall I tell them?" Asked the attendant. Krypol turned and looked in to the young Firk's eyes. "Tell them I have found the way to save us all." Within hours, Krypol was sharing his vision with the council. At nearly two thousand years in age, he was the most respected Priest in history of the Firk. As such, Krypol's words were accepted without question by the council. The next morning they dispatched diplomats to the far corners of the world. Each one charged with the difficult task of convincing the various (and often antagonistic) races to cooperate in the face of this new threat. Because if they didn't come together to fight Roa and his horde, they would fall separately.
And so they went out among the many races of Pox. Each bearing the message given to them by Krypol and the council. Surprisingly enough, most of the factions were receptive to the message from the Firk. Not so surprising however, were the two factions that required multiple messengers. Both the Forsaken Wastes and the Shattered Peaks responded to the initial message by returning the first several Firk messengers in pieces. Finally, both Serkan, and Sceian were convinced to be present at the meeting of champions.
Many weeks later, Talgar Ironfist smiled to himself as he looked at the brave Dwarves assembled before him. He had believed the Firk Diplomat’s tale, and his promises of safe conduct. However, he was not nearly as trusting when it came to some of the other champions he knew would be present. As a result, he had brought a battalion of his best warriors commanded by his adopted son Faolan. Though young and rash, Faolan was a skilled warrior, and was greatly admired by those under his command. He was also a loyal and loving son. All attributes which made him ideal for this particular assignment. For Talgar knew that if the Firk or any of the others had betrayal in their hearts this day, Faolan would see to it that Talgar would be avenged.
Finally the time had come. Talgar looked over at his son. “I must go now. The others will be waiting for me.” Faolan turned to meet his father’s gaze. “At least allow me to send along a small squad to act as your honor guard.” Talgar shook his head. “No.” He said. “Each of us agreed to come to the gathering alone. I will not be the one to break that agreement.” Faolan’s shoulders dropped. “Very well. But know that I will see to it personally that they all suffer if you do not return to us.” “Ha!” Laughed Talgar. “Of this I have no doubt my son.” With that Talgar turned and began walking in the direction of the old Firk temple. His men, all loyal Dwarves, saluted him as he passed. Reaching the edge of the camp, he noticed a young Firk male in priest’s robes waiting. “I take it you are my escort?” The young priest simply nodded in response, then turned to walk away. Realizing he had little choice, Talgar followed suit. As they journeyed to the temple, Talgar thought of his own father, and how he would have responded to this same threat. A mighty warrior in his own time, Talgar’s father had always warned him to be mindful of the Firk. “Talgar my boy, the Firk may not be our enemies. But neither are they our friends. Never turn your back to one. Lest you find his blade in your back.” “Good advice no matter who you’re talking about.” Thought Talgar as he continued walking.
After nearly an hour of walking he finally found himself standing before the great temple. After many centuries without care, it had been partially reclaimed by the swamp in which it stood. Looking over at the entrance, Talgar noticed that the others had arrived already, and were gathered in a semicircle around a roaring fire. Whom ever this Roa was, Talgar nearly pitied him. There were the brothers Grimlic of the Underdepths, and Menalaus of K’thir Forest. With them, Talgar also saw Judge Torien of the Sundered Lands, and Sceian of the Shattered Peaks. Over to his right, near the temple entrance were also Juya White Eyes of the Savage Tundra, and Kartch Finlord of the Forglar Swamp. Individually, the assembled champions were a formidable presence on the battlefield. The thought of having to face them collectively was a sobering thought indeed. Talgar found himself attempting to figure out who would emerge victorious if the assembled warriors turned on each other. He was measuring his own fighting prowess against that of Sceian, when he heard the sound of feet shuffling through the dirt behind him. He turned to see a pair of Firk emerge from the entrance to the temple. The taller of the two had the grayed flesh of an elder Firk and wore the garb of a senior priest. The other, clearly younger, wore less ornate ceremonial robes.
“I thank you for heeding our call.” Said the priest. “The threat you are about to face will destroy us all if not dealt with immediately.” “So you have said already.” Said Juya White Eyes. “But I am still left to wonder how even this group of warriors can be expected to kill a god.” “Particularly a mad god bearing a grudge against the whole of creation!” Grimlic stepped up and glared at the priest. “I’m forced to agree with Queen J’orea. Formidable though we may be, even we would find it nearly impossible to destroy a god!” The priest nodded, clearly understanding the group’s concerns. After all, this was no small task that he had set before them. “I am not ignorant to the danger that lies ahead of you. But things are not as dire as you believe them to be. Though Roa is indeed powerful, he is not invulnerable. I truly believe that this group has the only chance to defeat him and his army.” Talgar felt anger building within him. “But what of the gods?” He shouted. “This is their mess! Why are we the ones left to clean it for them?” Once again the priest simply nodded in acknowledgement. “Even the gods are bound by the oldest law in the universe. It is in fact the only unbreakable law of existence. No god may harm another. Were this to happen, reality would unmake itself. Now I understand you have many questions, but we do not have the time. Please follow me in to the temple. It is time to begin.”
Moments later, the group found themselves in the ancient temple’s sanctuary. If any of them had doubted the validity of the Firk’s tale, then what lay before them in the chamber dispelled any lingering suspicions. Talgar could scarcely believe the sight before him. A giant statue of Roa sat in the center of the room. At it’s base, was a crack they had been told was a schism in the fabric of the universe. Though it was considerably larger than it had been just two months ago. Where before it had been the size of a small rodent. It had since grown to stretch from one side of the base to the other. “It is as you were told.” Said the priest as he gestured to the crack. “This is to be the means of your transport to the Ninth Realm.” Talgar heard someone scoff in the back of the group. He turned to see a look of incredulity on the face of Kartch Finlord. “How are we all supposed to fit through there?” Asked Finlord. “And how are we supposed to get back if we succeed on this mad quest of yours?” The priest turned to him. “The gods have promised that they will return you to this realm once Roa is defeated.” “It would seem that we have only your word to assure us of this.” Cried a voice from the back of the chamber.
Talgar turned, grabbing his weapon as he spun to face the speaker. And there, in the back of the chamber, was Serkan of the Forsaken Wastes. Talgar could feel his skin crawl as he gazed upon the Necromancer. “You must believe me!” Pleaded the priest. “There is no other way. Please! If you do not go now, then the Firk who serve Roa will sense your presence. They will warn him and your quest will be over before it begins.” “Very well.” Said Menalaus. “I will go. Who is with me?” “I will go!” Cried Talgar. After all, he couldn’t very well let an Elf get all the credit for what could be a glorious battle. Within moments the entire group had volunteered to step into the schism. Led by Menalaus, the group stepped up to the statue of Roa. One at a time, they reached a hand in to the schism. With each person that did, there was a brilliant flash of light. Talgar looked at the Firk priest. “Please seek out my son Faolan and tell him that I will return soon. Tell him to wait, and to not do anything foolish. I fear what he will do if I am absent for too long.” “Talgar Ironfist, you have my word. I will find your son, and I will share with him what has happened here today. Now go!” He said. “And know that you fight for us all!” With that, Talgar stepped up to the statue and reached his hand toward the fissure, disappearing in a blinding flash of light.
Krypol and Arden emerged from the temple just a short while later. The old priest stood, eyes closed, bathing in the light of the full moon. As he enjoyed the feel of the night’s cool breeze, he began to utter a silent prayer of thanks to Arzon. “Arden my boy.” He said. “Can you feel it? The winds are changing. Perhaps there is yet hope that we will yet survive this mess.” “Perhaps you are right.” said Arden. “However, you will not live to see it.” Without warning Krypol felt a sharp pain in his side. He reached down to find a small dagger in his side. Bringing his hands up, he could see they were covered in blood. Krypol could already feel his life starting to fade as his blood continued spilling on to the ground. He looked over to Arden. “Why?” Arden fixed him with a hard stare. “Because.” Arden said. His voice taking on a cold, and emotionless tone. “It is the will of our master, Lord Roa.” Krypol was confused. “I don’t understand. Our Lord?” “Yes.” Said Arden. “We are the Sundered. This form serves as the vessel by which we speak on behalf of Lord Roa. Know that your death will ensure that the other races of this world blame the Firk traitors who caused our banishment. They will send their armies against you. And the world will drown in the blood of the Firk!” Krypol then watched in horror as Arden reached up with his blade and slit his own throat. With that, it was if the psychic chord connecting the Sundered with poor Arden was severed. The last thing Krypol would see was his young friend dying in a pool of his own blood.
Days passed, and Faolan Ironfist continued to wait patiently for his father’s return. Finally, after nearly a week of waiting, he sent a pair of scouts to the temple. When they returned, they reported that there was no sign of any of the champions. What they had found however, were clear signs of murder. They reported finding blood stains near the entrance to the old temple. They also reported no signs of the “fissure” they had been told about. It was clear now to Faolan that his father had been betrayed. He would fulfill his promise to Talgar that anyone who had a hand in his father’s death would find themselves at the point of a Dwarven blade. It would soon turn out though, that similar assumptions were being made by the other races who had sent champions to the meeting. Within months, leaderless armies were spreading out across the face of Pox. Wherever they went, chaos and bloodshed followed. When they weren’t busy fighting each other, they would turn upon themselves as various groups within the races vied for dominance. Roden, an Elven poet would go on to call this the time of the Ronin. After the disgraced warriors of old who would wander the world seeking to reclaim their honor by committing acts of valor. But some believed the champions sent to the temple that day were alive. That they were battling Roa and the Sundered in the Ninth Realm. Some believed that one day, once victorious, they would return, bringing with them the start of a new era.