From the Lands of Lore: Guardians of Destiny Guide to the Lands and Lands of Lore: Guardians of Destiny Official Guide chapter "Of Gods and Men".
Guide to the Lands
There can be little doubt, even among the skeptics, that ancient Gods once visited our earthly plane. Records are rare or non-existent (after all, this was a very long time ago), but the persistence and urgency of the various legends keeps the memories alive. The creation mythos of virtually every known civilization credits immortal beings in some form for laying the foundation upon which our mortal existence is based.
So, we can be fairly certain that something special did happen, but just who were these Gods, and why are they no longer here? The answer are to be found in the story of the Guardians of Destiny.
Most theologians propose that the great immortals either came or fabricated our world as a means for them to create the one experience unavailable to omnipotent beings: Not Being In Charge.
The life of an Ancient God is, unfortunately horribly boring. There are no surprises for an Ancient God, no mysteries. Everything that happens is caused by them.
Our mortal world is then perhaps like a vacation spa for the gods, created in order that these all-powerful creatures could find a seam that allowed them to leave their powers behind and experience the feeling of Not Being In Charge (This phenomena is also known as being At Effect, in counterpoint to being At Cause.) Being At Effect is certainly a delirious good time to an individual who has had a slog through the monotony of endless eons of being At Cause. Pleasure itself is, as an emotion, impossible for an All Powerful Being to experience. And therefore, our world, a dude ranch for the Ancients, was created.
Although divine intention was required for the creation of our universe, at some point in time it became common knowledge that such an arrangement, such a mixing of mortal and immortal, could only function if left alone by the Immortals. Effect cannot work if constantly interrupted by Cause.
And so, by agreement among the Immortals, our world, the world of Effect, was not to be interfered with by the all powerful Gods. Effects could be watched as it slithered over the surface of our new planet. Effect could even be experienced by those individuals who chose to leave their immortality behind and join with the mortals, but no God was allowed to reach into the fishbowl and bring his powers to bear on the mortal plane.
After additional untold eons, the novelty began to wear thin, and certain individuals among the Gods, indifferent to the delicate balance between mortal and immortal life, began to think of making the toy even more exciting.
Proscriptions, prohibitions, and the heavy weight of moral concerns notwithstanding, the unthinkable did occur: One particularly evil Ancient God was the first to break the sacred rule of non-interference, His name was Belial.
Belial, in an effort to add sport to his jaded existence, looked down and selected the Dracoid race as those mortals who would be favored with his attentions. A sickly sweet smile on his face as he strolled among the awestruck Dracoids, the horned Ancient dispensed fabulous new weapons and bits of Ancient magic as if they were lumps of candy thrown to mobs of adoring children.
Heretofore, the mortals had been content to settle what national disputes there were with the equipment at hand: bows and clubs were fashioned from the wood that could be harvested from the forests, spearpoints and swords were forged from the metals dug from the earth, and even the mundane natural magics were summoned for the efforts of defense.
But now the new weapons and awesomely powerful Ancient Magics fanned the dormant flames of militarism among the peaceful Dracoid, and they became a people possessed. War ruled their thoughts and conquests filled their dreams.
Ancients Gods are not in the habit of criticizing each other, and so Belial's first ventures with the Dracoid drew little notice among the other Immortals. But as the favored Dracoid race began to lay waste to the other nearby civilizations, certain Gods politely requested that Belial desist, and stop his interference among the mortals.
As so often happens, courtesy has a strange reversing effect on malevolent souls, and the more politely his fellow Gods requested that he mend his ways, the more savagely Belial equipped and encouraged the now warlike Dracoids.
Even the official censure form the revered Council of the Ancients drew nothing more then a contemptuous chuckle from Belial, and his visits and gifts to the Dracoids did nothing but increase.
The closest neighbors to the Dracoid were the Hulines, and they bore the brunt of the fierce storm that swept out of the Dracoid lands. Valiant though their warriors were, the mundane Huline weapons were no match for the awful and wondrous new magics the Dracoids threw at them. Wave after wave of courageous Huline troops fell in a futile attempt to protect their homeland. But their struggles were to no avail, and soon what had been a glorious countryside smoldered like the last embers of a dying campfire.
The pathos of the Huline cause did arouse sympathy among the Ancients, but the credo of non-interference still held firm, and no immortal could stoop to lend a hand.
Several generations passed, and still the heavy weight of the Dracoids and their powerful Ancient Magic weapons ground the remnants of the once-proud Huline race into the bloody mud of the battlefields.
Finally, when the Hulines were reduced to a meager few individuals, and the possibility of total extinction became a probability, another of the Ancient Gods could stand by no longer. Anu, known later to his mortal acquaintances as the Draracle, determined to save the Huline race from annihilation. Ancient magics now found their way to the Huline camps as well, and the fighting lost its lopsided character.
As right and just as this action may have been, it was still a violation of the immortal code of non-interference, and the Draracle paid a heavy price for his assistance to the Huline, for now his hands were stained as well, and in the eyes of the Ancient law, both Belial and the Draracle were equally guilty of the crime of interference.
As equal as their crimes were in theory, the Ancients did understand the good intentions of the Draracle. But Belial's crimes could not be rationalized, and his actions embarrassed the entire community of the Ancients Indignant that their official censure had been so rudely ignored, the Council of Ancients met again, and determined to take whatever steps necessary to end Belial's mortal interference forever.
No Ancient had ever taken the life of another, but nonetheless a resolution was passed which sentenced Belial to death.
To wrap up their solution in a tidy package, the Draracle was chosen to carry out the execution. After all, his hands were already dirty, and what more efficient means could be found? The Council of Ancients would use one criminal to erase another, and leave the rest of their community unsullied.
Knowing that his execution was imminent and unavoidable, Belial developed a plan that would allow him to be resurrected after his death. In his chambers beneath the magnificent City of the Ancients he created a huge magical Mother Beast.
This Mother Beast was intended as an enormous antennae which would accumulate the radiations from the magic of the Ancients. When sufficient Ancient Magic was acquired, the Mother Beast would focus this power towards the creation of a new god, and Belial would be reborn.
The problem in Belial's plan became apparent when, after his execution, the Immortals decided to leave the City of Ancients, and the mortal plane, entirely.
Without Ancients nearby, radiations of Ancient magic became extremely scarce. When no sufficient amount of Ancient magic was available, the Mother Beast lapsed into a state of dormancy, and waited. all of the Ancients departed, and the City of the Ancients sank beneath the waves.
One Ancient,, however, did stay behind. The Draracle, convinced that someone should watch over the moral plane to insure that Belial would be unable to fulfill his resurrection plans, took it upon himself to be that watcher.
Determined that our world would enjoy its own fate, unmolested by the further machinations of an Evil God, the Draracle appointed himself the Guardian of our destiny.
The hibernation of the Mother Beast and the vigilance of the Draracle continued uneventfully for several thousand mortal years. The Draracle left the Southern Continent and took up residence near the human kingdom of Gladstone, and spend his time dispensing cryptic agricultural advice and weather predictions to the local farmers. Over the years all mortal knowledge of the Ancients was forgotten.
Spurned as a lover during her youth by the then Prince Richard of Gladstone, Margarithe Fiston nursed a natural grudge against the royal house. she eventually married a prominent local landowner, and bore him a son named Luther.
After years of peace, the war between the evil Dark Army and the opposing White Army of Gladstone flared anew. One of the first victims was Luther's father, slain by a raiding party as he accompanied the wagons to market along Gladstone's main road.
Margarithe was enraged. Blaming the lax security of Gladstone for the loss of her husband, she combined this hate with her previous grudge to form a psychosis that deprived her of all normal reason. Turning enthusiastically to the dark side, she took the name Scotia, and buried herself in studies of the dark and magical arts.
Poor Luther, then but halfway through his teens, kicked casually at the weeds for a year or so, but then left the farm and the unpleasantness of Gladstone to seek his fortune elsewhere. His mother Scotia proved a good student, and soon her magical skills and unswerving hatred for Gladstone earned her the respect of all the Dark Army. She reigned supreme as the most powerful sorceress of her time. still, her success brought her new talents to bring about the death of King Richard.
Richard was no fool however, and access to his person was guarded jealously, lest a traitors Dark Army agent should poison his food or engineer some such treachery. Scotia's attempts to get close enough to do him hard were all in vain.
Acting on rumors mentioned in several of her magic tomes, Scotia began hunting for the legendary Ancient Magic artifact known as the Nether Mask. Surely the powerful Shape changing properties reputedly bestowed upon the possessor would finally allow her the disguise she required to kill Richard.
Unbeknownst to Scotia, the Nether Mask was one of the last major sources of Ancient Magic left in the world. When she finally unearthed the mask from the deep mud where it had lain safely for centuries, the Ancient Magic radiation emanating from its activation awakened the long dormant Mother Beast.
Just of the verge of complete success, Scotia saw her evil plans fail, and she was herself slain by one of the heroes of Gladstone. In her dying moments she attempted to send her most valuable possession to her son Luther. But the transmission became garbled in the ether, and Luther received a mangled version of the Shape changing magic.
Struggling back to Gladstone to seek a cure for his affliction, Luther was captured by soldiers of thew White Army, and thrown into the Gladstone dungeon. Confused, and in great pain, Luther lay stunned in his cell, imprisoned for the crimes of his mother.
As we come to present times, the Mother Beast is still eager to accumulate enough Ancient Magic to resurrect Belial. Awakened from her slumber, she has begun to spawn her lesser children as a prelude to her final maternity. Grotesque spider-like creatures drop from her womb and tunnel to the surface to search for any remaining bits of Ancient magic.
Aided by a timely change into a powerful beast, Luther has escaped the dungeon, and made his way to the Draracle, hopeful that this strange oracle can guide him towards a cure. Still conscious of his pledge of non-interference in mortal affairs, the Draracle has directed Luther to the Southern Continent.
The Gladstone mystic Dawn, alarmed by reports of the strange new creatures plaguing the Southern Continent, has come to the Draracle as well. Unsatisfied by his cryptic mumblings, she too has traveled south to forestall this danger before it threatens Gladstone directly.
Both Good and Evil need the ancient magic of Luther's curse. Belial's mignons are anxious to kill Luther and acquire the Ancient Magic within his curse in order that Belial can complete his resurrection. Dawn and her allies are equally anxious to acquire the Ancient Magic in order that they may use it to prevent Belial's resurrection.
While Luther will be the key to this puzzle, he is yet to learn his part. He may never get the chance.
Of Gods and Men
It's a terrible thing to be a god.
Imagine it. The supreme Cause of all that happens in your world, spending eon upon slow-passing eon, bored out of your omniscient mind because nothing ever happens that you do not ordain! Eternal life, eternal power, eternal knowledge, after all, is nothing so much as a perfect prescription for eternal and absolute boredom.
Perhaps this was why, in the remote and unknown mists of the Dawn of Time, the Ancient Gods created this world, a place where they could abandon for a time the trappings of divine and absolute power and enjoy a world where things occurred that they did not ordain, a place replete with that one quality that so delights and diverts the eternally divine - surprise.
Of course, a surprising world, an interesting world, will remain so only so long as its creator keep their all-powerful hands off of it. To this end, a sort of divine, non-interference pact was declared in which the gods agreed among themselves to watch, to enjoy, but not to meddle in the naturally unfolding affairs of the mortal world. And so it remained throughout the ages when the Gods walked among men.
At last, though, one of the Ancient Gods could stand the boredom - or perhaps it was the temptation - no longer. Mortal beings, after all, made tempting game pieces, and their affairs could become even more interesting with a little outside help.
This god's name was Belial.
He chose as his special diversion the affairs of the Dracoid Race, a species dwelling on the Southern Continent that until now had dwelt in harmony with nature and with their neighbors, the humans and the Hulines. By appearing in their midst and by giving them tokens of his divine pleasure, he goaded the formerly peaceful beings onto the path of war. Armed with Belial's powerful magics, the Dracoids swept out of their former dominions like a vast, fiery storm, slaughtering their neighbors, burning cities, enslaving whole populations. The peaceful Hulines were very nearly driven into extinction.
Indeed, the only thing to save the Huline was a second act of divine disobedience. Anu, the Ancient God later known as the Dragon Oracle or Draracle, count not stand by while the Huline were annihilated, regardless of what the pact amongst the Ancinet Gods might decree. He intervened in the war, saving the Hulines at the last possible moment by giving them some of the Ancient Magic that until now had been accessible only by the Dracoids.
The Ancient Gods acted slowly, with a deliberation that might seem glacial to mortal minds, but even they knew now that something must be done... if for no better reason than the fact that war among the gods themselves was now a distinct possibility. The mighty Council of Ancients convened and declared the unthinkable: Belial must die!
But how to carry out such a decree? For one immortal to deprive another of his immortality was as unthinakable as... well, as intervening in mortal affairs. Yet the deed had to be done.
Anu was the obvious choice for executioner. After all, he had already broken the law. He would carry out the Council's sentence, and the hands of the other immortals would remain clean.
In due time, Belial was slain. Not long afterward, as the gods count time, the Ancient Gods, disillusioned by what had happened among the mortals, left the world. Their titanic city, the renowned City of the Ancients, was allowed to sink beneath the waves, until only its tower tops remained gleaming in the light of the sun.
And this, it seemed, was the end of the story.
Except that Belial had found a way to cheat his executioner.
Before his death, Belial, had worked devious magics deep within the bowels of the earth, fashioning an immense and obscene Mother Beast, a kind of organic factory that could draw the radiations of the Ancient Magics from the air. The Mother Beast would bide her time across the millennia, slowly drawing in Ancient Magic power and storing it until, in the fullness of time, she could give birth to Belial, enabling the evil god to rise reincarnated from the dead. Belial's timetable was upset somewhat by the fact that the departure of the Ancient Gods deprived the world of most of their magic. The Mother Beast lapsed into a kind of long-sleeping dormancy, awaiting the appearance of power from which she could draw her creative energies.
The mortal world, meanwhile, remained an interesting place. The Dracoids, abandoned by their evil god of war, fell into decline. The last Emperor of the Dracoids, oppressed by the shame of an entire people, sought with his dying breath to purge the memory of the Dracoid's pact with Belial. Eventually, all the Dracoids were gone from the South Continent, and only their spirits haunted the dismal expanse of their cemetery and the black catacombs beneath their dust mausoleums.Meanwhile, their vast city at the artifice of the penitent Dracoid mages, sank deeper and deeper into the earth, now inhabited solely by the savage, reptilian creatures known as Ssar, and the obscene horrors known as stone squids. It may have been that the Ssar were creations of the dracoid, or pets, or both; the full story may never be known. Those savage and blood-minded creatures that remained, however, worshiped a fell and vastly evil monstrosity, a Great Worm that lived in an enormous subterranean lake near the ruined Dracoid capital. The remnant of the hulines slowly re-established themselves and their culture, their numbers growing once more this time. Some of the younger members of the species eventually ventured across the Bane River, establishing for themselves a separate community where they could pursue the ways of their primitive ancestors, distinct and separate from their soft and pleasure-loving kin to the west.
A vacuum invites filling. In the absence of the Ancient gids and the Dracoids, other powers gathered, hungry for power, for magic, for domination. In the south, a strange race of parasitic entities, the Ru-Loi, established their foothold on this world in an eerie and alien Citadel. There, they experimented with their own alien magics, killing all males who ventured near and abducting and enslaving any females they could find for dark and sinister magical purposes not clearly understood.
And in the northern continent, in the land of Gladstone, war came again to the Lands of the humans when the Dark Army marched against the White Army of Gladstone. It was a near thing, this war, with secret enclaves of the Dark army established almost within the shadow of Gladstone Castle itself. Nearby, one alone of the Ancient Gods took up residence. Anu - now the Draracle - had remained in the mortal realm in self-appointed exile. So far as mortals were concerned, he was no more than a strange and frustratingly obscure oracle, remote from human affairs or politics. He seemed to take little interest in the war or in the ebb and flow of mortal issues like right and wrong, and contented himself with dispensing weather predictions and ambiguous minor prophecies for the local population. An outcast from the company of his peers, he was concerned about Belial's plans for rebirth and had remained behind voluntarily as a guardian of the world's destinies.
Margarithe Fiston, see Scotia, meanwhile, a twisted woman once spurned by the man who eventually became King Richard of Gladstone and leader of the White Army, delved deeply - too deeply - into tomes and artifacts of Ancient Magic, becoming in the end the arch-sorceress Scotia of the Dark Army. Seeking a means of getting close enough to Richard to kill him, Scotia sought an artifact of Ancient Magic known as the Nether Mask, which held the power to transform it's wearer into any shape, any form. Finding the mask, she was on the point of realizing her psychotic ambitions when she was struck down by the hero of Gladstone, an epic event chronicled in the first Lands of Lore.
As she died, Scotia wrought one final piece of magic, attempting to send the Ancient Magic of the Nether Mask into her son, Luther, a young man empty of political ambitions or hatreds. The magic, unfortunately, was garbled in the passage; what Luther received was less the blessing of power than it was a terrible curse. At random and unpredictable intervals, he transformed into either a lizard or a hideous, lumbering beast.
There was another beneficiary of the struggle for the Nether Mask's power. Raised from the mud where it had lain hidden for uncounted years, the artifact once more became the source of powerful, Ancient Magic radiations, radiations that were sensed and absorbed by the long-dormant Mother Beast. Deep within her labyrinthine caverns, the Mother awoke and began giving birth to nightmare horrors.
Those horrors took many shapes. There were spidery creatures called Hive Warriors that tunneled through the earth, emerging in the upper world to seek out anything and anyone possessing even scraps of Ancient Magic. The Hive Guardians were larger, more powerful entities that remained within the Mother's caverns, tending her needs and protecting her from intruders.
And there were other, stranger and darker forms as well - the so-called Hive Lords, which anticipated the birth of Belial himself. The first incarnations were crude work indeed, blunt and stupid, malformed and badly smudged images of Belial possessing some part of his will and being and lust for corporeal existences, but lacking both his keen intelligence and his physical and magical strength. Each incarnation was better, more powerful, more intelligent than the last, but each was a dim anticipatory echo of the horror still waiting to be born.
One human, the mystic Dawn, was alarmed by the weakening of the magical defenses girdling Gladstone and by the appearance of the spidery horrors from the subterranean deeps. She was determined to learn the source of this plague and stop it, if she could, although she was frustrated by the Draracle's vague orations and less then candid prophecies. Accompanied by a four-armed agent of Gladstone named Baccata, she set off on a quest to recover the source of the black powers that were eating at the foundations of her world.
Meanwhile, Luther, hurt, confused, and terrified by the beast- and lizard- morphing curse he now bore, had been imprisoned in the Gladstone Castle for crimes committed by his mother, Until then, he'd been a farmer with no ambitions beyond bringing in the next harvest, and he certainly shared none of his mother's pathological hatreds.
Indeed, he had nothing but very little in the way of magical talent... and the hated curse.
And that is where the new story begins...