I The Rise and Fall of Astoria
Two millenia ago, the great Empire of Astoria grew into a prosperous and Utopian realm. The people lived happily in servitude to their Lords, and everyone lived in peace. War and violence had nearly been forgotten. It had evolved into an amoral society, since there was no cause for question or need for change. The land was ripe with fresh soil, clean water, and abundant ores, and the people prospered without fear of tribulation. Even religion was no longer needed. The people cast out their gods and had long forgotten who created them. With an abundance of resources and wealth, the people happily obeyed their Lords and their Emperor and lived merrily in the decadence of the Age.
But in their complacency and arrogance, the lords and nobles made secret bids for power of a different kind. For them, politics became a senseless act, since all people were treated equally and shared land, wealth and food. Instead, they began to trade talents of mystical value – the arcane arts of which the most powerful kind were obtained through ancient and forgotten magical rites.
As a way to ascend the ranks of nobility and win the acclaim of their peers, those with arcane gifts would trade knowledge of magical powers with each other. Eventually, the rituals and magic used began to draw the attention of disembodied visitors from realms beyond the fabric of time and space. These beings “purchased” the blood of mortal beasts with promises of secret knowledge that even the old rituals could not compare.
The noble lords believed they struck a real bargain: Trade a few pints of fresh blood for a glamorous spell and gain audience to dinner with a more powerful lord. But as time went on, the price began to escalate. Tricked into offering more than just warm blood from animals, the nobles were eager to offer the blood of humanoids. As competition soared between rival houses, some even wagered their own kinsfolk into the bids as a sacrifice for power. And as the debauchery spread to every noble house and courtyard, the nobles swelled their minds and hearts with rituals of drunken lust and bloodletting, and gatherings held in these places soon began feeding the visitors with enough blood currency to use as a means to transmogrify into physical form.
Corrupted by their consummate greed, the noble houses of Astoria had literally sold their empire to a secret growing legion more terrifying than anyone could ever imagine. As the high lords willingly gave up their living souls, their fattened bodies were possessed by unseen forces and used as puppets for a much grander scheme.
The visitors, claiming to be from distant worlds were in truth, malevolent entities, growing in power as more and more souls were claimed. They were the generals and soldiers of Tartaros, an alternate dimension of unspeakable torment and chaos. Abbadon, the Grand Duke of Tartaros had long been eager to claim Astoria for his own. As the lords became thrall to the will of their possessors, they were able to manipulate and harness the long-forbidden secrets of connecting the physical world to the dark hells. Eventually, all of Astoria pulsed and throbbed with these Gates, and they spewed forth innumerable hordes of nightmarish creatures.
Hell itself followed as Astoria collapsed under the reign of a grand demonic invasion, which persisted to enslave the land in a systematic slaughter of millions. Those who resisted were dragged kicking and screaming through the Gates to be ripped apart by the ravenous creatures dwelling beyond. For this Legion, it was all too easy to conquer the Shining Empire of Astoria.
The Legion brought with it a blight that spread throughout the land. The infection spread like wildfire, poisoning the land in its wake. Lush, green forests became putrid and rotting habitations for the Legion. Tranquil rivers and lakes ran thick with dark blood and rich farmlands became as vast pools of living sludge. The dark laughter of Abbadon and his Legion echoed within the burning halls of Tartaros as he marched forth into the world of the living.