Relics of the Lowlands
The Epic Backstory
The land of Firth has many legends. Dragons, undead kings, the bereft angels of gods long dead, and magics so great and terrible that men have died to prevent their discovery.
But, perhaps the most potent of these legends is the story of the Relics of the Lowlands.
According to the fable, the desert now known as the Kingdom of Rant was once lush, vibrant plains. Animals now extinct grazed on grass the height of small men. Monthly rains fed the land, and abundant rivers created easy trade routes. The land was full the the brim with people of many races. Many small villages dotted these plains, and even the metropolis of Rant was only a small castle. Wherever there are people, there are always disagreements, but the times were largely peaceful.
Then, the Relicmakers came.
Some say they were fallen angels. Some say they were beings from a different dimension. Some say that they were wizards who sold their souls for immense power, so addicted to magic that they became immortal, feeding only on the release of magical energy.
Whatever they were, they knew how to imbue places and artifacts with incredible power. Tales are told of shields that could block passage to an entire province, arrows capable of hitting their targets from miles away, summoning rods that commanded demons and devils, and even powders that could overcome death itself!
The first Relics were fairly benign. The Althulus province commissioned a seeing portal that allowed them to forecast the weather with great accuracy. Tyrnus acquired a mill that worked without wind. But in every populace lurks some nefarious evil. And the Relics began to be created for more malodorous purposes.
The Relicmakers created mighty weapons of war, magical explosives, torture devices, and even portals that could unleash the living dead, eager to take vengeance upon the living. Wands were imbued with implosion spells that could destroy villages whole and leave nothing but ash. Every military force in the land recruited a Relicmaker for its armory. Death and chaos rose hand in hand with the vast gold reserves of the Relicmakers. The Relic Wars began in earnest. Circular bloodshed seized every life, from newborn babe to grieving widow.
The Rise of Adelor
Hope was in death throes when one such grieving widow stepped forth. Her name was Adelor Riverford. Her husband had been killed, along with his entire squadron, by a powerful Relicmaker spell. Her teenage son had sworn vengeance, had joined the army, and was slain in much the same way. Yet, she was a light in the darkness. When others around her lost faith, her strength alone kept them from going insane. A story is told of a bandit party that came to raid her village: with nothing but women and children, anyone old enough to hold a pitchfork, she drove the bandits away. She had no military training, but the echoing voices of her dead husband and child empowered her with such rage that few dared face her in battle, especially after tales of the routed bandits spread across the countryside. With her growing reputation, she managed to forge an alliance between her home village and nearby villages.
She became a force to be reckoned with. No Relicmaker could sell her any weapons: she slaughtered each of their agents who approached her. While the other warlords favored massive armies and huge magic arsenals, Adelor’s followers used guerrilla tactics and sneak attacks to make commanders think twice before accepting orders to attack her.
The lands under her protection began to prosper again. But she would not be satisfied until all the bloodshed ceased.
Some of Adelor’s spies learned of an upcoming meeting of several leaders from one of the many fractured and unstable alliances that geography had thrown together. Adelor went alone to this meeting and snuck her way in, pretending to be a servant girl.
Once she had successfully made her way into the meeting tent, she pulled out a concealed knife and held it to the neck of one of the generals. “Are you all so blind,” she said, “that you plot the slaughter of your neighbors, while the real enemy laughs and takes the money you have extorted from this land? I pity you for if that is truly the case, then you are as dead inside as the corpses laying on the battlefield.” At this, one of the other leaders sprang to his feet and asked, “Woman, who are you?” She replied, “I am Adelor. And I am either your worst nightmare, or the sign you have been waiting for.”
The leader of that meeting wisely gave her his place at the war table, and there Adelor and the generals talked late into the night. By morning, they had forged an alliance against the Relicmakers.
The next few months saw Adelor’s forces grow larger and larger. Those whom she could not sway, she defeated.
The Relicmaker Onslaught
The Relicmakers did not take kindly to Adelor’s aggression. At the year’s anniversary of Adelor’s defense of her village, they had marshaled armies of vicious mercenaries, many of whom they drugged with magic so powerful that they would do anything the Relicmakers commanded. Entire divisions of mindless combat machines lay at the Relicmakers’ disposal.
When the war juggernaut of the Relicmakers was released, Adelor’s forces could not hold them back. Territory after territory was lost, burned to the ground by the legions of enemy marauders. The tables had been turned once again. Fear and the shadow of defeat hung over the once high morale of Adelor’s bands of warriors. After the loss of a key stronghold, Adelor was forced into a risky plan.
The Last Hope
She and a few of her most elite and trusted conspirators would strike out deep into enemy territory, and head for the Relicmaker keep of Odessel. Adelor’s spies had revealed that the Relicmakers were working on some kind of doomsday device there. Adelor planned to steal control of this device, and use it against the Relicmakers. With their death, Adelor hoped that the Relicmaker war effort would be broken, and order restored.
Adelor and her comrades first slew some members of the Relicmaker army, including one high-ranking officer, and used their armor and regalia to feign Relicmaker allegiance and move further towards Odessel without difficulty. They told anyone who asked them their purpose that they were bringing an important message to the Relicmakers at Odessel, urgent news about an imminent attack by Adelor. As they pressed closer and closer to Odessel, each interaction with real Relicmaker mercenaries became more harrowing.
At last, they made it to the keep. The device was rumored to be contained in the highest and most heavily guarded tower in the keep. Adelor and her comrades forced their way in and barred the entrance behind them.
As they battled to the top of the high tower, strange magical energies filled the air. The ground shook violently, and a deafening silence closeted even the loud clang of steel on steel.
As Adelor mounted the final step and reached the open top of the tower, she saw several of the Relicmakers with arms outstretched around a pulsing, blue-white orb of crackling electricity and magic. An invisible cone of force surrounded each Relicmaker, which deflected even the strongest blows that she tried to administer. Below the orb was an ornate glass sculpture of what appeared to be a demon. As Adelor watched, the sculpture began to breathe and grow.
In that moment, she knew what had to be done. She raised her great hammer, and dealt a smashing blow to the sculpture. At once, the silence was released, and a thousand mutilated, howling screams burned through the air like flaming arrows. The sky became instantly clear as the pulsing orb flew higher and higher, until it seemed that it covered the sun and threw everything into orange-red darkness.
Then, a bright white explosion enveloped the tower and the keep.
Nothing was left of the Relicmakers, Odessel, or Adelor’s party.
Adelor’s hopes were realized. Without leadership, the Relicmaker war effort was fractured and easily blunted. Relicmaker minions who had been used to their magical drugging either died from withdrawal or returned to their senses and surrendered.
Although sanity was restored to the land, a terrible price was paid for the cataclysmic end to the Relic Wars. The tremendous release of magical energy at Odessel forever changed the climate. A drought of epic proportions squeezed everything dry. Thousands died because of famine. As the vegetation grew sparse, sandstorms of great size grew and seized any sand or dirt they could find. The whole of the land turned from lush plains to arid desert within a decade. Law and order ceased to mean anything in this new world: every man needed to protect himself or perish.
Although the time of the Relic Wars and the Relicmakers is long past, legends still tell of old Relics, buried in the sands of this desert, waiting to be found and used once more. If these stories are indeed true, should the Relics once again be unearthed, pray that they do not fall into the hands of the greedy and the evil. Pray with all the fervor you can muster.