Pangaea is a world divided. A mighty mountain range slashes north-to-south, dividing the continent into two parts that have been kept separate for as long as time itself remembers.
A Legend Of Gold
On the night outside time, between the old year and the new, a boy child was born in the Ititshi kingdom of Kayalana, to the far west. This dark night, when no gods are watching, spirits are rumoured to roam and the dead haunt the earth. According to tradition, no creature then born may live – who knows what manner of soul would inhabit it? But the dark custom was set aside by the old king Tenotaka, for the sake of his beloved son and the newborn grandchild.
They named him Rylerion.
When the boy was a few years old, his father, the crown prince Shayari, embarked on an endeavour never attempted before in the history of the known world – to reach out to the alien Arani, the mythical golden people living beyond the great mountain range, with a dream of fostering peace, prosperity and cultural exchange. Bringing along with him his wife, Islinn, and his little son in a gesture of good will, hoping for the future generations to grow up as friends, Shayari finally set out to meet with the Arani king he had cautiously corresponded with, to make real his vision for peace.
But tragedy struck as a mighty earthquake hit without warning, bringing the mountains down upon their retinue in landslides and avalanches. Only the royal couple and the boy survived, sheltered in their sturdy litter. The known paths blocked and unstable, they pressed onward into unknown territory, through snow and bitter cold, desperate for food and shelter. Finally they came upon a remote little Arani village, but their welcome was far from the dream of peace Shayari had nurtured. Superstitious and afraid, the villagers thought the pale strangers to be ghoulish undead of legend, and to protect the village, the Ititshi were overcome, captured and put to gruesome death.
Only little Rylerion was spared, claimed by the recluse trapper Gramo, a pragmatic hunter who looked upon the villagers’ irrational fear with contempt. Watching his parents burn alive, the child kept crying out in absolute terror, stranded and alone in a hostile world not his own, far far away from home.
The Last Of His Line
When word of the earthquake and the obliteration of the entire Kayalana entourage reached the capital, the court was in shock. Despite endless search efforts, only some few mauled remains were pulled from the wreckage, and all were believed dead. Retiring from court, the old king could not bear the loss of his beloved firstborn son, and died of his broken heart only a short while later, leaving his neglected younger son, Rannon, thrust upon the throne. Only fourteen, and utterly unprepared for rule, the young king had to begin his reign with funeral ceremonies for all his closest family.
But determined to step up to the challenge, and refusing to give into the schemes of ambitious jackals at court, he appointed Tajkhan, Shantu of the Lion Circle as his mentor and closest advisor. With the highest military leader of Kayalana, commander of the Karakali warrior caste, at the king’s side, any scheming jackals soon thought better of their manipulative plans and dutifully fell in line.
Forced to learn quickly of the complexity of politics, gaining the respect of his court and his people was an uphill struggle for the untested young king. But having struggled all his life to live up to the image of his adored older brother, determination came naturally to him, and through his sheer stubborn dedication, Kayalana persevered, and even flourished.
At The Heart Of The Mountain
Unable to remember anything of his past, Rion grew up with his forbidding caretaker in the wilderness of the mountains of Carryn-yehl. Thought not-quite-human by the Arani, he learned young to work hard and ask for little. Knowing the villagers would no doubt come for the boy one day, to make sure he would never grow old enough to become a threat, Gramo kept him out of their sights as much as possible – a brutal master on many accounts, in his own way he did still care for the odd little creature in his care.
Learning his way around the untamed wilderness, Rion‘s life was not all misery, and the deep forests welcomed him, becoming his sanctuary and second home.
One day, after they had caught a rare, precious ylvain in their snares, he came across an orphaned pup as pale as himself, and in a heady small act of rebellion, he decided not to tell his master what he had found. Nurturing the pup in secret, he named her Lylacra, after the bright guiding star in the sky, and whenever he was sent out alone to hunt and forage, she always followed by his side.
The years passed, and as Rion approached adolescence, his grizzled keeper began feeling his years, thinking about retiring from the harsh wilderness to the small town where he journeyed alone each year to trade their goods.
On a long hunt, tracking down a preciously rare keysha deer, they one day came upon a crack in the mountain, opened in the earthquake all those years ago, and glinting in the silt of the small stream trickling forth were a handful of ancient silver coins.
Making half a promise he would bring the boy with him, away from the valleys of the superstitious villagers, if he could retrieve enough treasure for them both, Gramo sent Rion inside. Elated with both hope and fear, the skinny boy crawled through the dark, ever deeper into the mountain, until he reached a cavernous mausoleum, brimming with treasures and dominated by a throne holding a hooded stone statue.
Frightened by its ominous presence, he nonetheless began collecting handfuls of silver, only to instantly have the flame of his lantern go out, plunging the hall into absolute darkness. Terrified, he cowered for what felt like an eternity, certain he had angered the frightening powers of the underworld.
But in that dark, he glimpsed a faint glow, like afterimages of light, near the face of the statue. Knowing he would never find his way outside in the dark, he swallowed his fear and approached, finding the not-quite-light emanating from an amulet on a chain around the statue’s neck, and the moment he laid his fingers upon it, the dark seemed to shift, and he could see clearly again.
Clenching his hard-won silver coins, he finally gave into his fear and darted away from the dark chamber, back towards the outside world and real daylight.
But what should have been triumph turned his mouth to ash when he emerged to find Lylacra snared and about to be slain. Still holding onto the dark amulet, Rion wished in that moment to save her at any cost, and awakened by the fierceness in his heart, it latched onto his wish and sent the man who raised him falling dead to the ground.
The Dread Warlock Rises
Slowly learning to control the seemingly limitless powers of the medallion, Rion felt a dark hunger for vengeance awaken in him, to strike back at the people who had taken everything from him and forced him to live in dread all those years.
He returned to the village he had so recently wished to flee forever, and unleashed the same fire that had slain his parents upon each house and every last person, until nothing but ashes remained.
Shocked himself by the destruction he had wrought, he made his way to the place of his parents’ death, to tearfully assure them he had avenged them at last.
Then he turned his back on those cursed valleys, and set out to make a new life for himself, Lylacra ever faithfully at his side. Using his powers he granted her the gift of speech, and as long as they were together, his now lonely existence didn’t seem so bad.
But wherever he went, he was met with superstition and threats of violence, forced to respond with violence in turn, growing increasingly more furious with the people who kept hurting him so, until he did not even try to make peace with them anymore. It was a war, to him, that the Arani had started, and one that he did not intend to lose.
Wherever the hated Arani came to confront him, he rained fire and destruction upon them until they all either fled before him or lay dead on the ground. Caught up in an avalanche of black hatred, he raised a soothing legion of shadowbeasts and living ashes to go before him, clearing the land of people as he went.
At the capital city Kherann they awaited him, an army of those who remained, to defend their kingdom against his dark assault. But joined with the divine powers he now controlled as easily as breathing, he sent forth his hordes of living shadow. The army of men crumbled and fell before him, and on that battlefield, the noble king Carryn died with Rion‘s own blade through his heart.
Carryn-yehl had fallen, and he sent his dark creatures forth to clear the entire land of any humans that remained.
Finally, in bitter, vicious solitude, he knew he was safe to live his life at last.
Slain By The Sacred Blade
Having grown into a skilled politician over the decade that had passed since his brother’s and father’s death, Rannon ruled Kayalana with confidence, still with Tajkhan as his foremost advisor and friend.
Despite the people’s misgivings and his lack of experience, the young king had gone out of his way to prove himself, and it was a prosperous Kayalana of rare grandeur that flourished under his guiding hand.
But then, in Z’enta’s year, came the drought. The crops began failing, rivers running dry, fields turning into dust whipped away upon the cruel warm winds. Soon the people began to hunger, and when a second year of drought followed, countless died of famine and the sickness that followed. The remaining people gathered in desperation, rising in revolts, demanding aid. But there was no aid to give, and in a dire bid to sacrifice the few to save the many, the king drafted a brutal but necessary plan; to uproot entire communities and leaving others to die, that Kayalana as a whole might survive.
But never entirely convinced of the younger prince’s worthiness to rule, the conscientious Karakali warriors were appalled by the order, and refused to carry it out.
Furious, and running out of time, Rannon was outraged at this brazen defiance of his authority. In a final attempt to avoid outright rebellion, Tajkhan came to mediate between his brethren and his king, hoping to reach a compromise. But feeling twice betrayed that not even his trusted mentor seemed on his side, Rannon declared him a traitor, and swore that if he would not carry out his given orders, he would be executed and replaced with someone who would.
Slaying his closest friend with the blade once given him as a symbol of their eternal friendship, Rannon unwittingly cut at the very heart of Kayalana, and enraged by the death of their honourable leader, the powerful Karakali warrior caste rose in open warfare against their king.
The Civil War had begun.
The Unicorn Prince
When hunting in the deep forests in his youth, king Carryn came upon a woman of great beauty and a voice as soft as the wind in the trees. Enthralled, he fell hopelessly in love, long-forgotten the political promise to another, and he made the woman of the wilderness his queen.
Her name was Neyrika, and she bore him a son, given the name Corrin. But soon after, the queen vanished back into the wilderness as mysteriously as she had arrived. To the king it felt as though waking from a pleasant dreamer’s haze; he missed his queen, but it was almost as though she had barely been real, but for the child she left behind.
A seed of light had been planted in the human world, to help it regrow after the wildfire that was to come.
A gentle soul, the young prince grew up at court with his father, with little knowledge of his fey mother’s domain. But even so, it soon became apparent he had inherited from her many gifts. Empathetic and kind, he turned out to have a healer’s touch, striving always to ease suffering wherever so encountered. But the greatest surprise was when he learned he possessed the ability to shift shape, into the form of a snow-white unicorn.
Heartbroken and terrified, the prince only barely escaped the onslaught, racing in his unicorn form towards the southern border, to seek sanctuary in the desert kingdom of Sirn.
He was welcomed by the royal family as one of their own, given a new home in Sirn, but every single day his heart ached for his lost homeland, and he never stopped hoping to one day set it free. He met often with king Hanoyhl and asked for the military aid to free shadow-cloaked Carryn-yehl once more – but fearing to bring the Warlock’s dark powers down upon Sirn as well, the monarch ever gently but firmly turned him down.
Watching her all-but-brother’s dejected grief, the Sirn princess Relonia found her heart burning ever fiercer with the desire to act rather than sit by doing nothing, and finally she offered him a plan. To attempt with subterfuge what the Carrysh army’s might had failed to do all those years ago; for them and a small elite retinue to strike at the very heart of the dark kingdom, vanquish the Warlock and set Carryn-yehl free.
Uncertain, but unable to turn his back on the suffering of his exiled people anymore, Corrin agreed.
Together the prince and princess set out in greatest secret, and with his unicorn senses and knowledge of his land, they managed to make their way all the way to the now-twisted castle that had once been Corrin’s home.
The Land Of Shadows
Heady with power, Rion reveled in all the wonders of the human world he had never known before. Fascinated with the people he had only ever been allowed to witness from without, he picked at their bones, marveled at their grand buildings and the hubris of their cities and gardens.
Lylacra was ever at his side, as curious as he, and together they claimed the wealth of riches, comforts and culture that the exiled people had left behind.
But not everyone had surrendered and left, and those few who remained paid a hefty price. Slaughtered by the shadow monsters or the merciless Warlock himself they were all rooted out – Rion‘s heart was as full of hatred as ever, and he allowed none to disturb the desolate peace of the kingdom he had made his own.
With his powers, he created for himself two dragons, given the names Rashka and Khata, and they became his executioners as much as companions, patrolling Carryn-yehl’s borders and rejoicing in savage destruction whenever they came upon humans intruding on their master’s domain. Growing increasingly distressed at her loved one’s darkening heart, Lylacra implored him to cease the carnage. But still very much at war, Rion refused – for all his life, he had had to cower in fear at the whims of the Arani. Now the land was his, and the power, and they would suffer the same. And suffer they did.
Grown careless in his arrogance, after several years of twisting the fabric of the universe itself to obey his every command, he was amused more than alarmed when he learned of the prince and princess coming to slay him. Allowing them safe passage all the way to Kherann and his castle, he chose to meet them face to face, to show once and for all the fate awaiting any Arani foolhardy enough to challenge his might.
But as their blades met, the princess Relonia heard the siren whisper of the amulet call out to her, and between one blow and the next, she reached out to snatch it from its chain. The moment her fingers touched it, it eagerly turned against its former master, unleashing all its dark force in a blinding lightning strike, and the Warlock of Carryn-yehl fell.
The Deep Dark Waters Below
Leaving the Warlock’s lifeless body with two of their few soldiers, Corrin and Relonia pressed on into the depths of the castle, scouting out remaining threats or still-alive prisoners.
But the moment of connection before the amulet was snatched away had been brief enough that Rion still lived, slowly surfacing from the dark depths of death to know instantly that his powers were gone, his body weak – and that Lylacra was in grave danger.
Rising as a serpent he caught the guards unawares, and in a single sweep slayed them with their own stolen blades, then hurried towards his private chambers where Lylacra would be waiting, not knowing yet of the danger.
To be continued.
— this page is still a work in progress!