Arcanium: A story of Arzu
“Arcaniums are more than monuments. When we gather here, we honor our fallen and the sufferings of our past. And with every battle fought, we lay the foundations for a better future." - Auric Ironmayne, 16th King of Everia
THE WATER AGE
Antiquity (Year –50,000 PA)
First came the world, Arzu, molded from dust by the song of the spheres. Then came Illuna, the white moon, whose radiance filled Arzu with magic and life. Last came the black moon, Umbra, a bottomless pit in the night sky. In those first days, these opposing forces rained destruction upon Arzu, calling forth typhoons, volcanic eruptions, thundering tsunamis.
When the chaos finally settled and reached a balance, the Great Spirits of Arzu opened their eyes to the world: Sansea, the Mother Tree; Zakar, the Great Storm; Shalomar, the Burning Lady; Sirrus, the Living Mountain, and; Argos, Lord of the Depths.
Under Illuna’s guidance, all five spirits gathered to create the mortals, the denizens who would inherit Arzu as their home. Each spirit gave gifts: breath (Zakar), body (Sansea), thought (Sirrus), passion (Shalomar), and time (Argos). From Illuna, they received the gift of dreams, source of all magic.
Umbra, displeased by this creation, gave nothing and bided its time.
In the eons that followed, the mortals formed tribes and grew in number. For a while, all was good.
THE STONE AGE
Founding the Provinces (Year –4,000 PA)
In time the largest tribes banded together for safety and influence, giving birth to the Provinces. Valoria arose in the west. The southern deserts saw the rise of the Uzir Caliphate. Norsca laid claim to the frigid north. Aerie and Mythra shared the mountains, Meridia and Nova the coast. Anador settled in the central forests while Zennegar took to the jungles. Finally, Elysia tamed the east.
While some Provinces allied with one another, Valoria and Elysia rivaled each other in terms of riches and influence. However, Valoria proved the more successful, gathering Province upon Province unto itself until nearly the entire known world joined under its banner. The Valorian Empire maintained a peace unbroken for hundreds of years.
At last, Umbra found something worth destroying.
THE STORM AGE
The Sundering of Elysia (Year –1000 PA)
Calamity descended from the skies. A portion of the dark moon broke off and fell to Arzu, trailing smoke and fire in its wake. It crashed into the very heart of Elysia, and so great was its impact that the land split, the mountains shifted, and the sea rushed in to fill the crater.
A stream of survivors fled Elysia. While some were given succor, Valoria turned hundreds of thousands away to scratch a living out of the remains of their once-proud nation.
Elysia was no more. Only the Scorched Lands remained.
Archmagus of the Scorched Lands (Year – 520 PA)
In the final days of the Storm Age, there was born in the Scorched Lands a young wolf named Galian Wulfgar. Believed to possess great magical potential, his family sold him to the Order of the Eternal Spring, who made him their acolyte. Wulfgar showed great promise, excelling in his studies and in stature. His tutors said he would go far in their Order, but for the void in his heart.
Wulfgar could not hide his deep hatred for Valeria and its criminal neglect of his people. He cursed the grinding poverty that drove his family to sell him off. Each day, he would beg the head priest for the power to fight Valeria, and each time he would be denied.
One night, as he lay sleeping, Umbra whispered in Wulfgar’s ear. For months on end, the black moon filled him with dreams of conquest, dominion, and murder. It seduced him with the power to pursue his vengeance. “You shall be my chosen one,” said Umbra. “You shall be my Champion. And by your hand, all shall come to fear and love the dark moon.”
Driven by his hatred, Wulfgar welcomed the darkness without resistance. That night he jumped aboard a wagon departing the city and never looked back. Alone and friendless, Wulfgar traveled the Scorched Lands for months, guided only by the voice of Umbra in his head. He then came upon a massive crater, and at the bottom he discovered the Black Shard, the fallen piece of the dark moon, and his new Master. The Shard had lain dormant for years, hidden by magic. But now it wished to be found.
The moment Wulfgar’s hand touched the stone, he was consumed in a blast of dark energy as Umbra transferred a part of its essence into him. Days later, a tall, skeletal figure crawled out of the crater. Wherever he walked, the ground blackened, rivers fouled, air turned to miasma, and minds and hearts were tempted to wickedness. Thus was born Akhan, Archmage of Umbra.
At the heart of the Scorched Lands, Akhan erected the Shadowhold, a fortress to shelter the Black Shard. Through Akhan, the Black Shard’s influence spread like a plague. Within a mere decade, Akhan had gathered enough followers to raise his own legion: the Scorched Army.
THE FIRE AGE
The Great War (Year –500 PA)
The Scorched Army crossed into the neighboring Anador Province, overrunning its capital in a matter of days. The Provinces of Mythra and Uzir were next. Zennegar was tempted by the Scorched Army’s rise and freely joined their banner.
As Akhan’s forces spread across the land like fire on a dry field, the Valorian Empire hastily gathered all remaining Provinces into the Arcane Alliance. Together, they swore to destroy this upstart rebellion before the turn of the season.
The resulting Great War would last 400 years.
The Heroic Age (Year –140 PA)
Driven by the Black Shard’s power, Akhan’s sorcery knew no equal. Anador had been all but destroyed. The mountain realm of Aeria fought off a perpetual siege, and each day the Scorched Army pushed deeper into Valoria herself.
As more cities fell and the dead mounted, the Great Spirits decided it was time to act. They selected a Champion from each Province in the Arcane Alliance, giving each Chosen gifts of strength, magic, and wisdom. Swearing a mighty oath to defeat the Black Shard, the Champions led the Alliance to war. Many an epic tale has been told of their battles, but they are better left for other sages to tell.
The Great War soon reached its breaking point. In a final blitz towards the capital, the Scorched Army overreached itself. Akhan fought a wizard duel with the Champion Talyana and both slew each other at the gates of the Imperial City.
At last the Scorched Army was broken, its forces in retreat. But this victory came at a terrible price.
War’s End - An Alliance Shattered (Year –100 PA)
The Great War had killed untold millions and leveled several cities to dust. Valoria had been driven to its knees. Already the Provinces of Nova and Meridia had seceded from the Empire to forge their own paths.
The Spirits too suffered enormous losses. Argos, Lord of the Ocean, grew disillusioned with mortals and retreated to his depths. Shalomar, the Burning Lady, disappeared without explanation and could no longer be contacted even by the other Spirits. And in defending Mythra, Sirrus, the Living Mountain, was shattered into a thousand pieces.
Still, the Scorched Army was pushed all the way back to the Scorched Lands. Total victory was near. But as the exhausted Alliance stumbled towards the old Elysian border, they were stopped by no less that Shalomar herself.
The Burning Lady decreed that destroying Elysia a second time would be a grave injustice, and that, while wicked, the denizens of the Scorched Lands serve the universal balance and must have a place to live. She appealed directly to Illuna, and to everyone’s shock and outcry, the White Moon agreed.
Under the blessings of Shalomar and Illuna, the Alliance built an invisible border—the Witch Wall—between Anador and the Scorched Lands, then they returned home. And for the first time in 400 years, Arzu knew peace.
THE WOOD AGE
Rise of the Arcaniums (Year 0 YT)
The three remaining Spirits—Zakar, Sansea, and Illuna—formed the Sacred Trinity, and together vowed to aid the Provinces rebuild. The spirit of Sansea came to dwell as an enormous tree in the heart of Anador, protecting its borders from all despoilers. Meanwhile, Zakar guarded the skies of Norsca, Aerie, and Mythra, while Illuna itself kept watch on all the Great Spirits.
Soon the horrors of the war began to fade: the cattle fattened, windmills turned, wounds healed. The devastated Anador Forest grew lush and wild once again. From the Valorian Empire rose a new kingdom—Everia, a bastion of truth and righteousness.
To celebrate the first century of peace in the Realm and the end of a decades-long siege on the capital, the first Arcanium was built in the Everian capital of Vangaard, right over the site of the famous duel between Talyana and Akhan.
The Arcanium served a purpose—to preserve the history of the Great War and honor its fallen. In this, the kingdom spared no expense: murals depicting the war adorned the entrance, and a shard of Sirrus himself formed its foundation stones. To reenact the gathering of the Chosen, each province selected their own Champions to fight for glory in the Arcanium. And, bitter sentiments aside, representatives from Zennegar and the Scorched Lands were also allowed to compete in deference to Illuna’s decree.
When the Arcanium was completed, avatars of the Sacred Trinity appeared. They each gave their blessings and announced that each ritual combat performed in the Arcanium would reward not just the champions but the kingdom entire.
Thus, more Arcaniums were built on other places of great significance: the sites where each Champion met their end, areas of glorious victories or bitter defeats, and lands blessed by spirits or cursed by demons. The echoes from those past events vibrated in a form of spiritual energy that could be stored and harnessed by an exposed Sirrus Stone laid in the arena’s center. Within the walls of the arena, each champion may feed on the energy in the Stone and channel it into devastating strikes or spectacular feats of magic.
The surrounding lands also benefited from the Arcanium, for the excess energy generated by the battles were used to turn windmills, empower mages, alter the weather, grow crops, and run the economy. Thus, Arcaniums proved an important resource and became tied to the welfare of each realm. Cities formed around them like chrysalises, each one eventually growing into a megalopolis.
While all the Arcaniums hosted champions constantly, one particular battle holds the greatest importance. When the two moons Illuna and Umbra align in the sky, the finest champions from every Province travel the realms to fight in the grandest celebration of universal balance: the Lunar Tournament. Victors are given the greatest rewards and the blessings of the Sacred Trinity. This tradition endures to this day.
THE MOON AGE
The Present Day (Year 500 YT)
Arcaniums form the heart of each Province, with every event reaching epic proportions as crowds swell the arena stands. Each month the tournaments attracts hundreds of champions from all over. Thanks to this wealth of energy, civilization in Arzu has reached its zenith. For now, it seems, all is calm.
And yet, rumors abound. The Scorched Land’s forces stir behind the Witch Wall, and some say the Black Shard has found a new Akhan to lead the Void. Tensions run high in Meridia as pirates, borne by the tides of the black moon, prey on trade and passenger ships. Norsca has released a warning that a mysterious cult had stolen a Sirrus Stone for some unknown purpose. Violence is rife in Uzir—some say the Burning Lady has been corrupted by dark forces and plots a second Great War. A new spirit, Telos, has arisen in Nova and has proclaimed that magic will end with his Age of Steel. A prophet of Argos stated that the Lord of the Depths will soon return, and with his coming the oceans will claim all of Arzu. And in the night sky, the black pit that is Umbra looms larger than ever.
The Sacred Trinity has issued a call—the world needs more champions. The Arcaniums are now proving grounds for new warriors. The Provinces must be strong enough to face an unknown calamity, and every champion must be ready for the worst.
Once again, it will be an Age of Heroes.
-Written by Mark Aragona