Part IV: The War of the Crystals
Part IV: The War of the Crystals
30 TC – 55 TC
As has been recorded elsewhere, Aruthien I returned home to become a King, and spent the next decade setting his realm back to rights. Thought sparsely population compared before the invasion, the people were all well armed in the Aruthien fashion and managed to maintain their enclaves of civilization against the encroaching wilderness. Though raids by bandits and other creatures flared up from time to time, the realm itself faced no great external threat. Then the Horde came. Descending from the north in a tide of dark bodies, the defenses of Wycor and Tir Caspan were nearly breached in the first rush. Raiders penetrated as far south as Tantathia before the armies of the Aruthien managed to rally and crush the Horde.
For months Aruthien I and his Paladins cleared the field of foes, yet hundreds more fled back through the Grimwall Gap, into Arnland. Grimly, the forces of the Kingdom buried their dead and increased their defenses. The Horde came again the next spring. They were fought off, though it took most of the summer. Then they came again, and again, every spring for the next seven years.
Finally, in they year 50 TC, the King realized that Aruthien alone could no longer turn back the Horde. The proud Aruthiens were forced to call for aid. Messengers went out to every part of the Kingdoms, asking Aruthien I's old allies in the war against Nagul to come and lend their strength to the defense of his Kingdom. Though times were not easy in the other Kingdoms, they sent what they could. Great bronze Ehrenlanders, not seen for decades in the Kingdom, came northward. Dark-skinned Tantathians. Wise Barlozians. Spaarthans on their splendid steeds. Amazons from Sabatia. From all realms came those who would fight for Aruthien. The next spring, the Horde came south again, larger than ever. With the aid of a Sea Elf named Navalus, Aruthien's strengthened armies managed to crush the Horde in the Grimwall Gap in a three-day battle. Moreover, a small band of picked Rangers managed to sneak into Arnland and defeat the Ice Queen herself - the master of all the invading armies.
The evil Queen was taken to Barloz, where it was hoped that the masters of the arcane there could forge bonds strong enough that she could not break them. The Ice Queen’s incredible power and her mastery over such a host of diverse creatures was not sourced in her own ability, however. The Rangers who had captured her in her lair discovered the existence of the Crystals of Power, and realized that the Ice Queen must have possessed the Crystal of Ice – the source of her incredible magics. Moreover, they discovered the reason for the invasions of the Horde – the other Crystals were hidden to the south of Aruthien, and the Ice Queen’s armies had been intent on reaching the other artifacts and bearing them back to their mistress. Thus the Rangers began a quest to seize these relics – for they could only be used by casters of arcane power, and all of them were held by forces hostile to the Kingdoms. From Aruthien came Arn, the swordsman. From Tantathia came Honden, the highlander. From Barloz came Cristoph, the arcanist. from Spaartha came Qahle the horseman, and finally, from Ehrenland came Alt, of the invisible sword. These five quested across the Kingdoms. In Tantathia, deep within the volcano of Fum, they recovered the Crystal of Fire. They wrested the Crystal of Time from (text unreadable). Traveling far to the south, they recovered the Crystal of Life from the overgrown ruins of Elysia, the Elven Kingdom which had been wracked by civil war. The Crystal of Ice was recovered from the ruins of the Ice Queen’s fortress. The Crystal of Earth from (text unreadable) Finally, the Crystal of Air was taken from a great flying castle, and the Crystal of Lighting from the Mad Wizard in far western Aruthien. It is said that the Crystal of Water is held by the Abomination, Gahl-tath-Urok, breeder of monsters that lurks deep beneath the sea. The Crystal of Light was said to be destroyed, and the Crystal of Shadow held by an ancient Liche-King somewhere in eastern Barloz.
With so many masters of the Arcane slaughtered by Nagul, only a handful of wizards were available to take over the Crystals on behalf of the Kingdoms. Thadus, King Aruthien’s old advisor, first mastered the Crystals, and is the only wizard still living who mastered more than one. Thadus realized that so much power would be beyond his will to bear, and so kept for himself only the Crystal of Time. Arn, who had developed some small talent for magic, took for himself the Crystal of Lightning. Cristoph, who being of Barloz was far more skilled with magic, took the Crystal of Air and the flying fortress for himself. The Crystal of Fire was given to King Alhandro of Barloz’s old friend and advisor, Gantha. The Crystal of Life was given to Alhandro’s bride, Queen Alhanna. The Crystal of Earth was granted to Thingar Oathbinder of the Dwarven Dethgar Hold. The Crystal of Ice, deemed to dangerous to wield, was kept locked in a vault deep beneath the city of Perdaith.
The Crystal Bearers found themselves in possession of power far beyond those of ordinary spellcasters. Their command of their element was complete. Even a weak wizard became extraordinarily powerful when armed with one of the Crystals. Moreover, the Crystals halted ageing among their bearers, granting them near-immortality. Since they were so far beyond other mortals, the monarchs of the Kingdoms titled them the Crystal Archons, and charged them with the defense of their realms. Among the Rangers, only Arn and Cristoph took a Crystal for themselves. Honden returned home to a quiet life of religious contemplation. Qahle came back to his homeland and in his old age singlehandedly quelled the Spaarthan civil war. As for Alt, he and his invisible greatsword returned to Ehrenland. By means of a Wish, Alt had restored the razed cities of Ehrenland to their former glory, though they were now empty. Alt declared himself King of Ehrenland (it is said he enforced his claim by simply knocking down anyone who claimed he was not King) and brought Ehrenland to its first and thus far only period of order. As for the Crystal Archons, for a time they devoted themselves to the Kingdoms. For a quarter century, the Kingdoms sheltered beneath their power, recovering slowly from the depredations of Nagul and the strain of fighting the Horde. For a time, there was peace. Like all days of peace, however, it would not endure.