III The Sundering
The Shining City was reclaimed, but the rest of Astoria needed to be freed from the clutches of Abbadon’s legions and from a blight that infected the land. There was also the matter of a Gate waiting inside Rithlanna’s citadel. Thus, the citadel was sealed up with the divine power of the Pantheon, so no demons could escape into the city or beyond. The Avatar of Palanthedes spoke with Ezriel and set upon him a grand, holy quest.
The unholy Gates scattered throughout the land needed to be shut down, but the only way to do so would be to obtain an ancient, powerful relic called the Zephyrion. With its return, Ezriel was entrusted to use the device inside Rithlanna’s infernal Gate and destroy the Nexus which powered it. And so, Ezriel set forth into the world upon his quest.
But the blight sickening the land was spreading too fast to do anything beyond extreme measures. The Pantheon returned to the High Heavens and began a powerful ritual of cleansing. Fire rained from the skies, setting vast stretches of wilderness ablaze, and the oceans swallowed up entire portions of land, flooding the coasts. Mountains crumbled down, burying ancient kingdoms beneath their ruin. The most infected lands were severed from the earth – those places where the infernal Gates stood open. Those were cast out to sea, set adrift and isolated from the lands that were being purged.
Ezriel took with him only a handful of his most skilled warriors to claim the Zephyrion. In the fiery pits of a distant volcano, they discovered only one portion of the Zephyrion, for it appeared as if it was broken apart. The shard was guarded by a sleeping red dragon. Entering the lair, Ezriel was not able to seize the shard without awakening the beast. While they were not able to slay the dragon, Ezriel’s party was able to subdue it and retrieve the shard.
As the world burned and collapsed around them, Ezriel and his people sought out the remaining shards of the Zephyrion. Each portion was guarded by a great slumbering dragon of a different aspect: White, red, green, and blue were the evil chromatic dragons which attempted to slay him for intruding upon their hidden lairs. The dragons were never slain, and could not be due to their sheer power, but they were in turn subdued, and impressed by the tenacity of mankind, each offered up their guarded treasure.
But the metallic dragons were noble and demanded riddles and tests of will and strength instead of murderous combat. Each test was met with success, but they were never easy. In return, Ezriel was rewarded by each and every dragon with a shard from the artifact. By awakening the dragons of the world, Ezriel bolstered his own ranks significantly, for as the dragons learned of the struggle between men and demons, they would not allow the Legion to take hold on their territory and corrupt their minds.
The powerful beasts issued forth a frail treaty among each other and agreed to join the mortal men against the Legion. The treaty would not last long, however. Tempted with promises of power, the Chromatic Dragonflight betrayed the treaty and sided with the Legion. As the world burned down and broke apart, dragons of every aspect waged destructive war against each other, adding to the destruction of Astoria.
Ezriel returned to the Shining City with the assembled Zephyrion in hand. Just as the city was being severed from the land, he was granted access into the citadel, where he battled hordes of demons on his way toward the Gate.
Inside the Gate, Ezriel discovered the Nexus therein, a foul heart beating and pulsating with unholy ichor. He managed to destroy it with the artifact he held. But his sword shattered upon the armor of his enemies, and he was lost to the world as every known Gate in Astoria began to seal shut forever. As Rithlanna broke away from the main continent and drifted up into the skies, chaos and war continued to plague the rest of the world.
The Legion was broken, their morale shattered as their generals were slain. Abbadon was forced back behind his Gate, never to achieve his dream of domination. The dragons fought each other but eventually took their battles to further reaches of the world and eventually took refuge back into their secret lairs to slumber once again.
Ezriel’s surviving armies slowly marched out into the world, taking back the empire, region by region, their ranks swelling as hope returned to mankind. The cleansing rain of fire and quaking earth abated, and the dust began to settle across the realm. Rithlanna was lifted up into the skies and there it drifts as a shining monument to the power of the Pantheon and the resolve of mortals.