|he fabric of creation is a fragile one. With the changes brought about by Patos and then the new Patos-Cypher entity, Carnac itself began to show gradual signs of change. At first it was the insignificant changes, the smell of flowers fading, the seasons being more unpredictable and ground water occasionally coming up brown, as though rusted. These things men took little notice of; there was no need for explanations for sometimes things "just happen".
All these things were not Cypher's doing however, for he himself was too busy lavishing in the attention of his new found subjects. Years later, humankind had divided themselves up into the six great kingdoms, war monger Hellsgarem of the Deserts, Buegrant with its ports and ships of steel, the white city of Arrdeam, Planisad famous for magnificent harvests, Brisbia the center of commerce, and finally El Morad at the farthest end of all the kingdoms.
It was around this time when strange creatures began appearing all over Carnac. At first, they were thought to be wolves, bears and others animals whose intentions could be violent. But they were not, they were different. And with each passing year their difference just grew and grew. Some began sighting beings of stone, magic, and worst of all, those who used to be friends, now resurrected into animated corpses bent on bringing all life to the level in which they understood, death.
Before long, these "hellish creatures" had grown in such numbers that even human cities with their high walls and staunch defenders could not repel their might. The first to fall was Planisad, thus food resources were scarred. Soon after, Brisbia and Arrdeam fell. Even the mighty babarian kingdom, Hellsgarem did not survive, torching their own city instead of letting it fall. The few survivors flocked aboard the ships of the Buegrants who themselves were abandoning their city, fleeing for El Morad by sea.
King Manes, then ruler of El Morad, took in the refugees without prejudice. Those able were given places in the army, further bolstering the defenses of the city which had not yet been attacked. New battlements were raised, and before the attack came, supplies were brought in, weapons forged and armor polished. The citizens of El Morad were determined not to let their city fall and those who had already fled were resolute in their loyalty to their new home, for if El Morad fell there was no one else to turn to. Through a turn of events, the insignificant El Morad had now become mankind's last stronghold. Should it fall, the seeds of humanity would cease to exist.
Having been prepared, the defenders repelled what should have crushed them. After that initial trust, random sporadic attacks continued to come. For seven long years they fought and for seven long years King Manes prayed to the gods who seemed to have turned a deaf ear and a blind eye to the sufferings of their children. Though history will tell little beyond their suffering, our heroes after the first two years of fighting had grown accustomed to the random attacks. They were even prospering, to a fashion. They again dared to venture beyond the safety of their walls. Tunneling into the mountains behind the city they had a source for metals, wood they harvested by sending armed bands into the forests. Food proved a problem at first, but by relocating much of the populace into the mountains and underground, enough space was vacated for crops to be planted.
By the third year, seasoned veterans had begun hunting these monsters. Traveling in small numbers these parties sought out and killed the weaker creatures and those which had strayed too far from the others. These warriors brought back stories of adventure and glory. Soon these parties organized themselves into what would be known as the Pianna Knights. They lived apart from El Morad and dedicated their lives to their work, some of them would even learn the arts of magic and healing. Arts long lost when men gained mortality.
On the last night of the seventh year, something extraordinary occurred. Red rain began to fall over El Morad. Far away, a green fog inched ever closer. A warning had sounded and for the first time in years, all had run for the gates and more than one would admit that they were afraid.
King Manes once again prayed to any who would listen. This time Cypher answered.
"It is you, for so long I have prayed. Why do you only now answer?" King Manes asked. The gods had never answered before, and many doubted their existence.
"There was no need," came the reply.
"Everyday my people die, is there no greater a need?"
"There is no need."
Determined to see salvation, the king begged, "You have the power; at your will, all will be right again, we are but your humble servants."
"Servants are not free from consequence. This day I show myself for the end is near. Though I did not will this destruction, its flatters me to admit that my power brought its beginning."
The King grew angry, "You may be a God, Cypher. But nothing can not be brought low." Standing, the king drew his sword and pointed it in the direction of the voice, "If you will not help us, we shall meet our doom, together." But Cypher was no longer there.
"There must be something we can do," one of the council members said wiping sweat from his brow, while another beside him tried hard to suppress a yawn. It was late afternoon and the lords and leaders have been discussing the matter since the night before, when Cypher appeared.
A Planisadian lord stood and repeated his intent on escaping the encroaching green fog. None of the scouts had yet returned and he believed it sound to escape first then reevaluate the situation. It would take days to move everyone and time was already growing short.
"No, we stand and fight, kill Cypher and all should be well again," said an overly bold Erenion, sweeping his hand in an arc nearly knocking over a weary servant who was refilling his goblet. "We have run enough."
The council was in uproar, it wasn't the first time someone suggested this and while they all knew it was the only solution, they were reluctant to fight a god. "Are you mad?" someone shouted, "Cypher is a GOD"!
"We will stay, but we will not fight."
The room was stunned into silence. To stay but not fight? Then what should be done? Just die? Surely some believed that the king had finally lost his senses. Already many had to be persuaded just to believe that Cypher truly did speak to his majesty.
"Send for the Pianna Knights."
The Pianna Knights rode through the castle gates amidst the cheers of the entire populace. Here were the heroes of legend, those who would save them all. Brandished In their newly fashioned armor and armed with their polished swords, they looked every bit the story book heroes of old. Not one who saw them believed that they would fail.
Near two hundred strong, they rode in search for Cypher. Legend had it that he had built a monument of glass centuries ago and that he resided near it, tended by his early followers who saw to his every need.
Guided by no more than stories told to young children, the Pianna Knights rode into the wilderness and further away into the most obscure of human settlements, which of course were now nothing more than ruins. In the forests they killed every creature they encountered, but those were few and far between. It was as though each and every one of those vile beings had been picked up and stored away. One may even take a walk in the moonlight and return unharmed.
One night a wave of fatigue washed over them and they each in turn fell asleep.
They dreamt of a place near a valley; there were people there. And at first, their semi-conscious selves were elated, for they thought they had reached their destination at last. But as their dreams were guided closer, they saw the despair in the faces of the people, how tired they looked without an ounce of joy in their souls. But they did not understand, here was a peaceful place, an uncomplicated haven of rainbow colors which shone when light struck the edifice of glass. Realization dawned upon them, here was the lair of Cypher and those humans were not his adoring subjects but his slaves. Their consciousness turned towards the monument, at the foot of it a fortress stood, it was of dark stone and it absorbed the lights as though it never existed. They drifted closer, but as they neared the structure they felt rather than saw a hand reach out and block their view.
The dream ended, but they did not stir till morning.
While the Pianna Knights were troubled by what they had seen, they were no less determined. However, their knowledge was not limited to what they had. They were being drawn to the west as though they knew it was where they had to be. And in their minds and hearts rang a verse, a prayer long forgotten:
We are your children,
Though long forgotten,
Do not forsake us.
Towards the west they rode, as quick as the wind, never had they been inspired so. They rode without stopping for days, neither they nor their animals felt hunger or exhaustion, they rode until a sight caught their eyes. An enormous monument which sparkled like a diamond stood miles away. Even having seen it up-close in their dream did not prepare them for the magnificence before them. The neighing of one of their horses snapped them out of their reverie and again they continued.
By dawn the next day they reached what appeared to be an impassable barrier, with the monument just beyond. There was nothing there but the horses refused to go beyond the invisible line. Even the knights that dismounted found themselves unable to bring themselves to cross it. It was as though the desire to enter that "zone" left them the moment they approached. One would account later that the feeling was akin to one looking at his favorite dish. He knew he wanted it, but yet opening his mouth, he lost his appetite.
By noon, none had passed but the terrain was changing. The forests and grass which enveloped them dissolved as though nothing more than an illusion. The ground seemed to dry up leaving nothing but dry earth behind. It dried so quickly that it began to crack, scarring its smooth surface. Suddenly, the ground on which the Knights stood gave in and all fell into the crevice. Many were injured in that fall and some even lost their lives. But the remaining Knights now found themselves in a dark cavern, and found they had landed in the middle of a host of every monster they had ever faced, and some which they have never before laid eyes on. Standing there so tall as to almost reach the stalactites was Cypher himself. They did not know him, but they knew they were facing whom they sought.
With the barest of a nod, the Pianna Knights were assaulted from all sides. They formed a circle of shields, holding back the enemy as best they could while protecting the injured and the healers within the ring. The Knights were skillful in war craft and they only lost a brother with the felling of beasts ten times that number. But as the battle wore on, their numbers had dwindled significantly and there seemed to be no end to the attack from their tireless foes.
When the Knights were down to less than fifty men, the beasts stopped their assault. They backed away as Cypher approached. Seeing him up close for the first time, the Knights saw what Cypher truly was. Besides his gigantic form, he looked little better than an old man. He wasn't the fierce warrior god all expected him to be.
"Welcome, Knights-Pianna. I see you must be tired," he mocked.
The Knights did not reply. Instead, those inclined to sword play each picked a target and rammed them thru. Those gifted in the mystic arts opened themselves up to their powers and fire and lightning scorched all those who stood in their path. So fierce was the attack that Cypher could only watch as the few hundred beasts he had left were killed mercilessly. More men were lost but it was all over, not a single creature stood standing, and those that were still alive lay bleeding on the blood-soaked cavern floor. They circled Cypher, but to defeat a god by sheer physical strength and the little magic they could command was sheer folly. Cypher knew this and he was unafraid. Already the corpses of the fallen Knights were stirring. Soon they would rise again, but would remember no face be it friend or brother.
As the very first of the zombies closed his hardening fingers on a fallen sword, words of fire burned in the minds of the survivors. Without knowing the reason, they began chanting the prayer which had come to them before.
We are your children,
Though long forgotten,
Do not forsake us.
More and more of their fallen brethren were standing and rearming themselves. Never in their lives had the Pianna Knights felt such fear while feeling such hope. They continued.
We are your children,
Though long forgotten,
Do not forsake us.
Louder and louder the words echoed through the cavern, resounding off the ancient walls and reverberating off the shivering stalactites. More verses came out of their mouths.
We are one again with you,
You can hear us,
Listen to our plea.
Cypher, unheeding their pitiful prayer, flared his powers. The ceiling began to collapse on the heroes and more than one was crushed by the falling granite. Yes, they stood unwavering.
It is the end,
We wish to return,
Welcome us home.
Like lighting there was a flash of light as something streaked from the heavens. Logos, the Creator, lifting his mighty bow had let fly a bolt of energy fueled by the long prayers of salvation from generations past to present. The bolt pierced the clouds, the cavern ceiling and struck the startled Cypher above the shoulders. In a brilliance that would have blinded all that had not the blessing of Logos, Cypher was no more. Only his final cry for vengeance vibrated softly on the walls.
"Anyone who has persecuted me will be cursed with my black blood."
Another voice more subdued but so clear and so full of love said.