II The Prophecies of Doom
Survivors and refugees of all of Astoria gathered together under the guidance of a brave noble warrior known as St. Ezriel. Under his banner, Ezriel formed a brave coalition of mercenaries. They lived as nomads, traveling from land to land, always fleeing from the presence of the Legion. Eventually, Ezriel’s people plundered the depths of Iron Hills Keep, where the dwarves lost their hold to the Legion many months before. Now the keep lay in ruins, its vast halls devoid of life and deafened by eerie silence. Beneath the halls lay an enormous cache of discarded weapons and armor. Ezriel’s forces would now be able to fight back against the demons; but even though they were armed, the people still had no knowledge of fighting. Ezriel spent many weeks in these dark halls, teaching his men and women how to use the newly acquired arms they found.
Across the land, Ezriel and his mercenaries traveled, until deep in the heart of a dying forest, they came upon the ruins of a grand ancient temple. Inside the ruins, they discovered many ancient papyrus scrolls. They were awed by the old writing, which predicted a time of chaos and turmoil, in which the land would become torn asunder and brought to its end in order begin a new life for all the races.
Not only did the scrolls speak of an apocalyptic invasion and an end to peace forevermore, they also contained cryptic words of powerful magic that no one could decipher. Anyone who could read the words would be able bring about an end to the demonic invasion. But the people of this time had cast away their faith and knowledge of the divine so long ago, and any understanding of the powerful words was lost to them. Thus, the prophecies would be meaningless to them.
Dismayed by this and feeling as if his people were destined to be enslaved by the Legion, Ezriel left the temple in solitude to drink from the last river that flowed with clean water. As he drank from the pure water, a spectacular vision appeared before him, reflecting its light in the swirling ripples. A woman appeared before him; pure light streaming from her body, and flames of white light danced upon a gleaming crystal sword in her right hand. She had the feathered wings of an eagle and her presence illuminated all around her. She spoke in a voice that seemed to fill his mind with such despair and grieving within his mind that he fell to his knees and wept as she spoke. Ezriel’s followers began to gather around and also wept as they heard the being’s voice.
“You have forgotten the Heavenly Hosts, the Pantheon from which came all life, and you are now diminished. You should envy the dead as your days near an end. You have abandoned the Source and the Prophets. Denying the existence of the Pantheon, you have shamed them all. And yet, I wonder. Could you be the one to prove them wrong, the Sacred Warrior? The one spoken of in the Prophecy who would regain the Pantheon’s mercy? Are you the one to call them forth with the very Words of Power you have exhumed from this holy place?
“If you seek such a thing as hope, then do this, mortal: Gather up the scrolls and lay them out upon the altars in the heart of Rithlanna, the seat of your possessed Emperor. It is the Emperor who knows how to read the Words of Power. With his knowledge, your hope will come to pass. That is, if you can find a way to break the demons’ control over him.
“But beware, for the hope you seek will also bring great destruction. The Words of Power are not to be taken lightly. Spoken aloud upon the altars, the words will grant you the attention of those your people have forsaken so long ago, and they will be full of wrath. Choose otherwise, and your world will be lost forever."
The avatar vanished into the sky, leaving Ezriel to weep in contemplation. With new hope for the future of Astoria, he and his mercenaries boldly marched through sewers and dungeons to reach the heart of the capital city of Rithlanna, where Astoria’s possessed Emperor held command over the city. The dungeons were teeming with patrolling demons, and were packed full of prisoners. Luckily, with only a few casualties, Ezriel’s forces marched up into the High Seat. Battling the Emperor’s personal guard (most of them possessed men, others actual demons), they finally wrested the old man from his throne and bound and gagged him to prevent him from using magic or calling for help.
Ezriel’s forces then took the Emperor to the city’s long-forgotten Temple of the Pantheon and barricaded all entrances. For days, they scoured the abandoned building for any books or scrolls that would reveal ways in which to exercise a demon from a person’s mind. Alas, a book of holy incantations taught Ezriel the precise words to speak, and after a grueling day of repeating the words, the demon inside the Emperor yielded and fled his body. But it was trapped within the temple and would soon find a new host.
Fortunately, the Emperor survived his exorcism and gratefully offered his knowledge of ancient languages and with little time to spare, helped Ezriel prepare the scrolls for recital of the Words of Power. Clearing off debris from the long-forgotten holy altars, they laid out the prophetic scrolls for all to see. The Emperor began to read aloud the Words of Power hidden in the prophecies and the walls of the temple began to tremble. His voice echoed out through the temple’s halls and the words resounded even up into the High Heavens.
During the recitation of the Words of Power, the disembodied demon began to possess the mortals. The being swept from one host to the next, possessing each person to kill mercilessly. Time was running out in a grueling melee of friends who did not want to maim each other. And as the Emperor read the words, their location was discovered as demons began breaking down the doors to the temple. Ezriel’s forces were caught in a chaotic struggle to defend the temple from demon soldiers pouring in and also from each other, never knowing who would become possessed.
As the battle for the temple seemed to be losing, Ezriel’s forces were reduced to a few hundred men, elves, and dwarves. But the Pantheon heard the final Words of Power and knew they had not been completely abandoned. Avatars of all the deities converged upon the broken temple, beings clothed in bright fiery light – each wielding different aspects and weapons. The sight of them drove all the mortals into a frenzy of hope and high morale, and they fought more desperately and victoriously. The disembodied demon was driven out or annihilated, and the city was reclaimed as the Pantheon forged ahead to drive the Legion out. But the Emperor was not so fortunate. After reading the Words of Power, his mind and body were exhausted completely, and his aged heart failed him.