Deck One

Above the plains of Doren there floated the City of Angels, proud and pure and true. Far below this city lay the human settlement of Brax. The humans in Brax worshiped the inhabitants of the City of Angels; their love and devotion powered the angels, and kept the City of Angels afloat. From the heavens, the angels protected the humans, and kept Brax a flourishing oasis in the otherwise barren flats.

Within the city of Brax there lived a woman named Keto. Her husband, Seus, was deeply devoted to the angels, and he instilled this reverence within their two children: Neer and Fahr. One day, the angels visited the city of Brax to warn the humans of the growing power of the creatures situated in the nearby mountains, and ask them for their service in a preemptive strike against the mountain creatures.  Seus, unquestioning of the angels, volunteered. Keto begged him to stay, but Seus was confident that the angels would take care of those that were loyal to them. Seus and countless other soldiers perished in that battle, but the angels told the humans that their mission was a success, and that their sacrifice had secured the future of Brax.

The mountain creatures quickly repopulated, and wave after wave of varmints began flooding the plains of Doren. The angels and the humans continued to fight together, but as the humans’ faith in the angels waned, so did the angels’ strength. The City of Angels began to crumble to the earth, and sicknesses began to plague the town of Brax, infecting Keto’s children.  Keto prayed to the angels to protect what remained of her little family, but still her children succumbed. Grief-stricken, Keto denounced the angels and dragged Neer and Fahr’s bodies across the plains of Doren all the way to the swamps of Pancae, where she wrapped their bodies with vines and sank them. Keto vowed to never return to the plains again. She pilgrimaged far into the swamps, where she survived on strange fruits and oily flower nectar.

One day, deep within the lonely swamps of Pancae, Keto became aware that she was being watched by a strange serpent in the shadows. Deprived of interaction for so long, she called out to the snake, and to her surprise, the animal seemed to obey. From then on, the snake followed Keto through the swamps. The longer it followed her, the more she would talk to it, and the more she talked to it, the closer it would follow her, until finally the day came that the snake slithered directly alongside Keto– and talked back. It told Keto many things, but Keto was most interested in the serpent’s tales about Harfr, Crois, and Dreden, the great and powerful demons that lived in the deepest, darkest swamps of Pancae.

The time spent with the snake had altered Keto. Her blood ran cold and the taste of the swamp fruit that had sustained her now sickened her. Occasionally the snake would share its kills with Keto, but more often than not, the serpent would just bolt back its food unceremoniously. Nearly starving, Keto smelled something delicious on the breeze. She followed the scent to a rotten log which sheltered a hideous baby bat. Keto longed to devour it whole, but when she felt it trembling in her hands, she decided to put it in her pocket instead. Kato was unimpressed when the bat decided to bite her, but the creature radiated such a lovely heat that she allowed the animal to stay and lap up the blood that trickled from the wound. That night, the bat flew out of Keto’s pocket and into the sky, returning at dawn accompanied by another bat. Both bats clutched rats in their claws, which Keto eagerly snatched away and swallowed whole. Keto allowed the bats to crawl into her clothes to feed every day, and every night the bats would bring more recruits and more delicious rats.

During this time, the City of Angels had nearly fallen completely from the heavens. Fewer and fewer humans looked to the skies for help, but still the angels watched over the earth. Keto’s transformation was of particular interest to the proud and vain angelic sisters, Diffu, Prote, and Infli. Inspired by the strengths Kato had leeched from the swamp, the sisters asked the angelic elders to consider new means of defense against the shifting tides of war. They begged the elders to reawaken the fabled temple that lay between Doren and Pancae to harvest the dark and powerful forces within the swamp. The elders denied the existence of the temple and denounced the sisters for their willingness to participate in the dark arts. The elders stripped the angels of their ranks and forbid them from interacting with and potentially corrupting any humans.

The sisters, desperate to save their way of life and resentful of the elders, decamped from the heavens in search of Keto. They asked Keto if she would help them harness the darkness of the swamp to help defeat the mountain creatures and preserve Brax. Kato refused– until the angels offered to bestow some of their powers upon her. The black magic coursing through Keto’s body hungered for domination, and she agreed to help them in exchange for their gifts. The sisters imbued Keto with the ability to give life and hurriedly returned to the skies; the angels did not tell Keto the limits of the magic that they had shared with her.

Keto returned to the place where her children lay and awakened them. The swamp had preserved their flesh well, but their skin was grey, their eyes dull. Fahr, the youngest, was repulsed by her mother, her brother, and herself. She could not understand how her mother could have transformed into such a dark being, or how Keto dared to use such black arts to disturb the peaceful rest of her children. Fahr donned a mask to hide her pale skin and sunken eyes, and she left the swamps to roam the plains of Doren.  Neer was tormented by the thought of his sister wandering the plains by herself for eternity. Knowing that Fahr was too deep in her denial to accept him, and unwilling to disavow his mother, Neer stealthily followed his sister as far as the lands between the swamps and plains– lands called Ade. From within these desolate woods, Neer could be close to both his sister and mother, so within these woods he remained.

The unrelenting desire to reanimate surged throughout Keto’s being. She sent her snake to the mountain to retrieve the body of her husband, but the serpent returned only with his sword. From within the sword, Keto sensed remnants of Seus’ soul. She thirstily drew his essence, a swirling misty vapor, from the steel. Once he had seen his new form, Seus chided Keto for using dark magic. The spiteful Keto told her husband that her ungainly gifts were given to her by his precious angels. Seus, repulsed by the darkness, yet repelled by the light, was drawn to the neutrality of Ade. Hidden within these woods, Seus discovered an old temple, the gates of which bore the markings of both light and dark. Realizing that this shrine was at least partially constructed by the angels, Seus ventured deep within it tombs in search of redemption.

Seething with resentment and fury, Keto sent her bat army swarming to the mountains to retrieve the bones of the fallen.  As they returned, one by one, Keto hungrily revived the skeletons until she had amassed an army of undead. She took up her husband’s sword and marched her legion to the darkest depths of the swamp, where she invoked the powerful demons that dwelled there to commune with her. Keto beseeched the demons to help her save Brax for the sake of the humans that the angels had exploited for so long. Harfr, Crois, and Dreden were most pleased to be receiving the opportunity to be worshiped by humans again after spending so long confined within the swamps of Pancae. They longed to bask in the humans’ fear and reverence– and to rebuild their strength with it once more.

 

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