February 2017 - Prologue
In the Guildhall Museum of Antiquities on the Isle of Lore a small commoner boy learns about history.
Little Phillip pressed his hands against the glass and stared at the hat beyond the pane with eyes of wonder and mouth open wide. This trip across the Bay of Knowledge to the Isle of Lore, to the most famous museum in the realm was the best birthday present ever. He’d always wanted to see the old artifacts, especially the Hat of Karthis.
In awe of the cloth object with its little brass bells that jingled slightly even when still, he read the plaque on the case to his mother . . .
“This is the Hat of Karthis, the God of Laughter who named his Five-Sworn Jesters, who was always ready with a jest, or trick, or a practical joke, and who did not understand the meaning of War. He was wearing this hat when he learned of the deaths of Lumina and Natallis, and the disappearance of Noctis, and of the army of Orcs, Klactons, and Pythians that laid siege to the Crystal City of Evermoore.”
“Karthis was wearing this hat and blowing a kazoo as his brother-god Solnus marched forth to face Grotar, God of the Orcs, in single combat within a Circle of Challenge. Karthis and his Jesters cheered and laughed, waved pennants, and blew their silly kazoos, as the rest of the people in the besieged city watched in silence and prayed.”
“The god of tricks and his jesters were blind to the truth, perhaps believing this War to be an elaborate ruse, or some grand practical joke to pay him back for all the minor annoyances he caused. To the bitter end, Karthis could only see the good in people and the laughter in their hearts.”
“But as Solnus fell mortally wounded by Gortar, Karthis cradled dying brother in his arms and realized the truth. It was said that as Karthis held his brother’s corpse, he realized the folly of his ways and understood the meaning of War. As tears streamed down his face, as the armies of the Orcs, Klactons, and Pythians surged over the walls of falling Evermoore, the last of the Five pulled this jesters hat from his head and tossed it to the ground where it was trampled into the mud by the boots of charging Orcs.”
Karthis took up a new mantel and became the God of Fire and Chaos. Karthis renamed his followers Illriggers, and burned a path of fire and flame through the besieging armies so that the survivors of shattered Evermoore could escape into the desert that would later bear his name. He swore a War of Vengeance on the world who shattered the Dream of the Five and he prophesized an Age of Chaos in which he would destroy the world with fire and flame.”
“In the Karthydian Desert the survivors of shattered Evermoore wore black robes, to suffer in the sun, making themselves stronger, and reminding them of their purpose in the Age of Chaos. The black robes were called the Robes of Mourning, as all Karthydians mourned the passing of the Age of Life and the death of the dream of peaceful cooperation. When the signs are right, the Karthydian Nation swore to wear the robes of red, to signify the blood that will be shed in the coming of the Age of Chaos.”
“The hat was found by Kendrick Kane, a former Charter Sponsor of Evermoore, and the Guildsmen of Evermoore, who after a lengthy investigation lasting almost a year, overcame great hardship to recover the hat from a terribly overgrown and blighted place known as Pasttimes Park. The hat was placed into this museum with the permission of Emperor Al’tar Shariz, ruler of the Karthydian Desert and founding Charter Sponsor of Evermoore.”
Phillip leaned close to the plaque, and stared in shock. Next to the name “Al’tar Shariz” someone had scratched the world “traitor.”
That was confusing. Al’tar Shariz is a Guildsman LoreMaster Cleric, or maybe wasn’t. Phillip had heard some people say Al’tar renounced his Guildhall Oath when he became the leader of the armies of red robes who awaited the Age of Chaos. That made sense, because he heard the red-robed fanatics planned to destroy Guildhall and the world.
But Phillip had also heard that Al’tar Shariz only became Emperor to prevent other more dangerous red robed leaders from controlling the Armies of Chaos. So Phillip did not know the meaning of the word, “Traitor.”
Who was Al’tar Shariz betraying? Guildhall or his own people? Neither? Both?