there have come soft rains
The Scourge ended everything. When the magic level of the world got high enough and the veil between our world and that of the Horrors was torn away, they vaulted across the remains of that barrier in unimaginable numbers. They came not to escape their world, but to destroy ours. To corrupt it. To devour it. To annihilate it and feast on our suffering as they did so, for only such sustenance can truly nourish the Horrors. Magic allows them to live; terror allows them to thrive.
The Namegiving races of our land, Barsaive, built what shelters we could to wait out the Scourge, to hide from the Horrors until the high point of this cycle of magic came to an end and the Horrors were forced to retreat back to their own plane. Haughty Elves, industrious Dwarves, adaptive Humans, diminutive Windlings, reptilian T’skrang, pugnacious Orks, clan-bound Trolls and the eternally-patient stone Obsidimen—we put our ancestral differences aside, our politics on hold, and constructed great fortresses called kaers from pure elemental earth. Hundreds of yards thick, we layered upon these edifices our greatest enchantments, our most powerful wards. We burrowed into the earth and built enormous underground gardens, substituted magelight for sunlight, tapped reserves of elemental water and air for just enough of what we needed to survive.
For some of us, it was enough. The great kaers weathered the Scourge year after year, decade after decade, and as a people we all watched for a sign that it had ended. The Elemental Clocks, they were called. A perfect sphere of elemental fire suspended over a perfect disc of elemental water. When magic had died out enough that it was safe to re-enter and reclaim our world, the enchantment separating the two would faulter; the fire would fall into the water, and where that light was extinguished, a new fire would kindle in our souls, one that would compel us to leave the safety of our homes and take back what was left of our world.
For many more of us, though, even the kaers did not prove impervious. Some were simply demolished by Horrors so strong that their mighty domes were collapsed under just a few blows, their inhabitants subjected to torments from even which our gods, the Passions, could not save them. Other kaers fell not to brute force, but to magical assault, the enchantments of the relatively-young Namegiver races felled like saplings before the eldrich hurricanes of the Horrors. Still more fell from within, infiltrated prior to their sealings by “weak” Horrors, nameless monstrosities with no true arcane or physical force, their only power derived from their ability to manipulate the emotions of those around them. Mad mothers murdering sons, enclaves within the kaers turned upon one another, wizards succumbing to promises of power if they would only speak the words of unsealing.
It is said that in Barsaive alone, nearly 200 kaers were constructed. Since leaving mine, I have found five. And within those five, I have found no survivors.
Brog No-tusk, Troll, Captain of the Airship “Manifest”, memoirs
Yar, ‘s a great time t’be alive. Jail? Dey gottar catchyar first. Annat means dey gottar be strongar anfasteranyar, too. Annat only means iffnyar equally stronganfast, dey gottarave moar mennanyou. We’re stronganfastanlots. Nojail forus. Only deadmen chasinus. Iffnyarwannit, yartake it. Iffn deycan stoppus, dey will. Iffn deycant, warnt dares t’ginwith.
Morgum, Ork, “Head Ork” of the Dred Ighwaymen, recruiting speech
You’ve got me confused with my great-grandfather again. He was born to rule. He was born into a kingdom. With a king. His father was that king. When he himself became king, that kingdom was already going into hiding. By the time his own son was born, he was not born to rule. He was born to hide. As was his son, and his son after him, and now we have come to me. I was born hiding. That time has ended, but that fact alone does not mean I was born to rule. I was born to reclaim, to reunite. Perhaps my son will be born to rule. But me—I am only here to rebuild.
That is why I cannot accept this alliance. Your fealty however, I will treasure.
Darrien Stonebuilt, Dwarf, King-In-Legacy, refusing the alliance of a once-subjugated people because such pretense would make them equals
T’skrang don’t fly. That’s impossible. But we don’t burn, either, and that’s by choice. Given the choice, then, I choose the impossible.
Jaskall, T’skrang, Sky Raider, abandoning a burning airship
Who cares? Jump! Jump, goddammit! Jump and build your wings on the way down!
Kite, Windling, Sky Raider, much more effectively abandoning a burning airship