Chapter 1: Unity
I'll first speak of the era that existed even before my time. Our stories tell tales of green lands and bountiful pastures, a world in which we could prosper and grow happy with our families. This was the era that existed even before the Elyos and the Asmodians existed, when we were simply known as humans. Atreia was one. A whole. As we were one with each other, there was no divide, not between our worlds, nor between our people.
Years passed like this, and by all accounts our ancestors were content. I cannot help but feel anger at this, that they did not celebrate this paradise they were given, and that there was even a notion that this world was taken for granted. However, knowing what has happened since this time gives context, and perhaps it is only through the benefit of hindsight that we can understand those treasures that we once had. Perhaps even this wasteland that we now call home is a paradise compared to some other land, though I find it difficult to imagine a place more trying than this.
Things would soon change though. Little did we know the horror Aion had in store for us, as our world was about to see a great and lingering nightmare come crashing down, baring vicious teeth and an uncontrollable thirst for war.
Chapter 2: An Ungodly Creation
These nightmares I speak of, they were called the draken, and were terrifying creatures to behold. Huge and heavy, our makeshift weapons were useless against their toughened hides. Worse still, they could spread their wings and take to the skies in a moment's notice, rendering our meager defenses useless in a heartbeat. Soon our people learned to hide from the draken, and without a natural predator, their numbers and confidence grew in equal measure. Before long, their darkened silhouettes, once created by Aion to rule our world, were a common sight in the sky.
Their desire for power was insatiable; entire species withered and died under their fury as the draken descended. They brought burning infernos with them and in their wake left little more than charred and ruined lands. Soon after the initial carnage these beasts started displaying their intelligence. After realizing the warlike tendencies of the Krall and the Mau, the draken chose not destroy them, but instead subjugated their remaining numbers, saving them only after they had sworn eternal allegiance to their new masters. It was around this time that the draken experienced something of an evolution, as some of their numbers started to grow larger, stronger and more intelligent than their peers. These creatures were called Dragons, not draken, and of their number, five took command of the rest. These five became known as the Dragon Lords.
These five, now awakened, quickly reorganized their forces, established military-like ranks throughout their society, and chose to rename their people "The Balaur". With their new title, these beasts attacked again with renewed vigor, decimating the few remaining groups who dared resist submission.
Still they were not satisfied, and in seeking more powerful opponents, turned their attention to the god of Atreia, Aion, and demanded the same powers that our creator wielded. When Aion refused, the Balaur, blinded with rage and driven by greed, turned on our god, and gathered their forces for an attack on the great Tower of Eternity.
Chapter 3: The Millennium War
Aion's hand was forced, and in retaliation, the god created twelve figures named the Empyrean Lords. These creatures possessed a beauty and strength far beyond anything we had ever seen before, and, like the Balaur, could take flight using the power of a strange and curious substance called Aether. Our faith in our god, and our devotion to Atreia had been recognized: these creatures were created in our image, and had come to save the world that so many of us had learned to call home.
The inevitable battle started, and soon turned into a long and bloody war. We had found protection around the tower, inside the Aetheric shield our Empyrean Lords had created for us. However, the shield was small, and the land outside of its boundaries stayed under the control of the Balaur. Outside of the Aetheric shield our Empyrean Lords were weakened just as the Balaur were weakened inside it, and once the Balaur realized this, they would line up innocent creatures just outside its boundary and butcher them in an attempt to lure our Lords out. They were cruel creatures, and their actions only solidified our hatred for them.
This was the time which we later came to call the Millennium War, a time in which we humans could prosper once again under the protective wings of our Empyrean Lords. This was also the time during which I was born, and by the time I had grown into a young man, I found the Aether that Aion granted this world had a drastic affect on me. The Aether responded to me, and I to it, and soon my talents were noticed by others who our people had only seen on occasion. These others, these Daevas, were human at birth, but possessed an innate ability to manipulate the Aether that was used by the Empyrean Lords. Slowly but surely I learned to master these abilities, and while at first I could only chill the air around me, within months I could freeze opponents into place, and summon balls of fire to engulf the Balaur. I found myself revered, much like a god, as those who had once held me close to their breast now placed me on a mighty pedestal. The feeling that I, the son of a simple farmer, could cause suffering to these Balaur was intoxicating - this was a blessing from Aion that I could never even hope to repay.
Soon the number of Daevas swelled enough for our Empyrean Lords to mobilize us into a fighting force. I joined the Legion, and progressed quickly through the ranks, leaving my child, an infant boy named Phalaris, behind.
Chapter 4: Cowardice
I progressed further through the ranks. My skills as a sorcerer were superior to many of the other Daevas and within the year I was granted control of a full legion. The fighting was fierce, and while we were often placed in danger before the Balaur, our Empyrean Lords were always careful to protect us. Our skills and tactics improved, and eventually we were able to start killing their younger, more foolish dragons, where before we would be forced to retreat behind our Aetheric shield. These were small steps, but as every parent knows, a child must learn to walk before they can run.
Then came the day that sent us all staggering.
Lord Israphel, one of the two Guardians of the Tower of Eternity - Lord Israphel, who despised the Dragon Lords like no other - declared that we should make peace with them. The purpose of the war, he reasoned, was not to annihilate the Balaur. It was to protect Aion.
I was astonished; astonished that one of our saviours had lost his resolve so easily, astonished that his courage and fierce determination had slipped so... so suddenly. There was consternation among the Empyrean Lords at first. At that time, even the prospect of making peace was unthinkable... a travesty. It seemed we were all of one mind. Israphel's proposal was absurd.
And yet, it was not long before the weaker Lords showed they had never truly had the stomach for the fight, and longed for the burden of honor to be lifted from them. Lady Ariel was the first to capitulate, and with honeyed words she spoke of Israphel's wisdom, his seniority, his bravery - bravery! - in daring to propose peace. She had the audacity to tell us how we, as Daevas, should think and act.
How quickly she and her camp followers forgot the sacrifices of a thousand years. What petty value they placed upon the shed blood of so many of our kin.
But others of the Lords still had true steel in their spirits. As a Daeva I had grown to know some of our Lords, and the one with whom I worked best was a great and dignified Lord named Asphel. His resolve was always strong, and it was on his missions that we always had the most success. His manner and his ability were an inspiration to many of us; and so when Ariel's insipid pleading began to sway some, and I saw the grimace on Asphel's face, I knew where my own allegiance lay. He stood to speak, and we stood with him. He berated Ariel for her disdain for the honored dead, and blasted the peace initiative as a naive and misguided waste of time.
The hall erupted with fury. It still rings in my ears... the roaring, the confusion, the words of accusation and hate, as each side railed against the other. Beyond, I saw Israphel speaking impassioned words to Siel, who listened gravely. Israphel insisted that we could defend Aion by working towards peace, rather than through constant warfare. To my horror, Siel was nodding.
To preserve some fragment of concord, all of us agreed to depart the grand hall and leave the Twelve Empyrean Lords to their discussion. I went with comrades-in-arms who knew Lord Asphel's side to be the only just one; but others went slinking off into the night, in the company of their fellow cowards, in groups of their own. Already we were forming into separate camps, according to whether we sided with the worthy or the weak.
We waited patiently for the outcome that night. I remember it well; I recall looking across our world, seeing plumes of fire burning in the distance, and knowing there was no way that peace would ever exist between the Balaur and us. I thought back and remembered the decades of perpetual fighting, remembered those dark soulless eyes, unblinking and unrelenting as they massacred my friends and my family, for no better reason than a simple, bestial desire for domination.
I knew Siel would reject Israphel's proposal. I knew that Asphel would argue his case, our case, and that the others, even Lady Ariel herself, would see sense and agree. I knew this; and yet when the Empyrean Lords eventually emerged, the decision that was made shook my nerves, and left me and my legion reeling. Lady Siel had succumbed. For all our protests, she and Israphel, as Guardians of the Tower, held final authority over the Twelve. The decision was final. We were to treat with the Balaur. Already I heard Ariel's voice raised in jubilant triumph, and the sound of her four cohorts singing some inane chant of peace.
Asphel came forth, his face pure fury. As he left, I took flight after him, a significant number of my fellow Daevas in tow.
Chapter 5: The Epic Cataclysm
So, within days, the misguided peace conference began. As a mark of respect to the five Dragon Lords, the Aetheric Field around the tower was lowered, and they were invited inside this colossal structure for the negotiations. A lifetime passed in the space of a few minutes. I looked into the eyes of my legionaries, and saw the mistrust and anger that our convictions had been so weak as to let these beasts, which would have us kneel before them even now, treat with us. I turned to my most trusted centurion, and went to speak with him, when, as quick as a click of a finger, everything changed. There was shouting, confusion, a rout. One of the Balaur had fallen, and Lord Asphel was standing ready to fight, his eyes blazing.
The Balaur attacked. Voices screamed for Siel and Israphel to raise the Aetheric Field once again, but for the second time, they failed us. Lost in the tumult, they could not act in concert to defend the Tower. Under the Balaur's raging claws and weapons, the Tower began to splinter and fragment.
I remember Israphel's tortured face, wracked with guilt, as he directed Lord Asphel and all his Daeva legions to the north, while Siel marshalled Ariel and hers to the south. There was one remaining hope. Working in two groups, one at each end of the Tower, the Empyrean Lords would do all in their power to prevent the Tower's collapse.
We held fast. Those in the South, we now know, did not.
In an instant our world was plunged into darkness as the tower's light was snuffed out. The people turned, screaming as they ran in all directions.
I remember that moment as though it were yesterday; I remember looking up and watching shards of the tower snapping and falling, illuminated only by the flickering light of the great structure. I remember standing there, rooted to the spot as a huge fragment splintered from the tower, and began to fall towards me. I remember that day well... it was the day I found the other gift that being a Daeva granted me: immortality.
I awoke, looked across our great world, and saw Atreia shattered into two halves. The lower half had been engulfed in a fierce and bright light, while ours had been plunged into cold, desolate darkness.
The peace conference was over.
Chapter 6: Aftermath
Slowly our eyes adjusted, and slowly we found each other. Our people were distraught, terrified: no-one knew how we had survived at all. I told the people that I could find to make camp and stay warm; I then set off towards the stump that was the base of our tower.
It was there that I found a blessing: the five Empyrean Lords who had been sent to hold Aion intact, still alive. They gathered us all together, told us that our world had changed forever, and told us why. Worse still was the cost of this attempted peace: we had lost millions, and Siel and Israphel, the two Guardians of the Tower, had sacrificed themselves so that we might live in their stead. In life they had committed a great folly, but their deaths had not been without honor, and in silence we remembered them.
I returned to our makeshift camp soon after and helped to construct a huge fire to attract other survivors. Over the next few days, thousands would come to us, battered, bruised, and distraught at the events that had transpired. I was fortunate enough to find Phalaris, my child, amongst the survivors, though no-one else that I had known from my settlement had survived.
Days passed, then weeks. It became apparent that our world, our shattered world, had stabilized, and our destiny was once again in our hands. Aion, it seemed, had departed, as had the Aether that had empowered me. For the first time in a long while, I felt vulnerable again. Not wanting to let fear take control of my wits, I spoke with Asphel, and set about plans for founding a new home for us all.
Seven hundred and fifty long years passed, and in that time I saw a great many things change. We soon ran out of firewood, though our eyes were already adapting to the encroaching darkness. Our town was built, named Pandaemonium, and soon expanded into a great city. I saw our people flourish, adapt, evolve against all odds, always under the direction of our Shedim Lords.
Our evolution took on physical characteristics too; our skin grew pale in this engulfing darkness, and the hard ground, littered with razor-sharp debris, turned our feet into claws. Our hands, too, acquired graceful talons, as if to say that none of our race would ever go unarmed again. These marks were once difficult for me to accept, but if they were necessary for our survival, and they were, then we had no choice but to carry their burden. To us, they were the price of Israphel's attempted peace, which Ariel had been fool enough to support.
In that time I also saw Phalaris grow old and die, along with his children, and theirs. Such is the life of a Daeva.
Chapter 7: The Abyss
One day a curious thing happened. The shards of the great tower that had plunged into our soft land started emanating light again, and then pulled themselves from the ground and into the air around us. Asphel ordered the Archons, the strongest of our Daevas, and the unit of which I was now a part, to investigate.
We left straight away, and found a portal of some description which took us to a world, somewhere between Asmodae and the lower half of Atreia, where pillars of rock floated in the air. This was a world where the Aether that I relied on for my powers was present in abundance, and I felt a sense of enormous relief upon finding my abilities still intact. I returned to Pandaemonium and told our Shedim Lords what we had seen. Asphel immediately ordered other Archons to guard this portal, and when I asked why, he did not answer, but instead simply gazed up at the sky, towards the lower half of Atreia.
Two days later, while we were planning a second expedition through the portal, we noticed our guards stationed in Morheim had not reported in to us. Zikel, one of the Shedim Lords and our god of destruction, took the remaining Archons, including myself, to investigate.
We hadn't travelled long when we found a group of men, claiming to be from the lower half of Atreia, standing in their stead, their weapons drawn. These beings looked like angels, and though they said little, they cast judgment on us instantly. Imagine - being judged for a crime that they, not we, had committed! It was not us who had been soft-hearted cretins, welcoming the Dragon Lords into our tower during full-scale war - it was them!
Zikel's rage was more than evident, and he threw these "Elyos" to the ground, demanding they curse Nezakan, one of the Empyrean Lords who was weak enough to call for peace with the Balaur. Time, Zikel spat, had proven which side was at fault. Would these Elyos acknowledge their Lords' mistake, and condemn them for their foolishness?
Their leader, a man named Deltras, refused. With the pride that we now know is the taint of all the Elyos, he piously refused to blame his own Lords, cursing Zikel instead. Swords were drawn, and we charged, cutting them down like the cowards that they were. Still, some of their numbers escaped; most fled towards our home city where in their anger they butchered our women and children before we finished them. Two fled back to their homeland, bloodied but not vanquished. Not yet.
Chapter 8: A New Enemy, an Old Enemy
We returned to Pandaemonium that day, and straight away set about gathering our forces for a war against these Elyos. The very next day we met in combat again, and full-scale war broke out between our people. Soon, a further test would present itself as the Balaur, long exiled inside the Abyss, found a way out from their prison. Their thirst for blood was just as insatiable as before, and with their old allies by their side again their power should not be underestimated.
Now, though, we have discovered that which has given our mission a true sense of urgency. With every passing breath, our planet hemorrhages Aether out of our atmosphere. We spent many months searching for the source of this bleed, searching throughout the Abyss, and Asmodae, when it was right in front of us.
It's the two towers. A mighty resonance still exists between them, vibrating invisibly between the two halves of our sundered world. As if in memory of the lost Tower of Eternity, they cry out to each other across the void, and it is this reverberation that has created the Abyss.
The Abyss absorbs Aether, draining it away like water pouring into a crevasse. Now the Aether is spread thinner and thinner with each passing day, and will soon start affecting our Daevas, and our planet. Atreia is still only held together by the Aetheric ties Siel and Israphel created when they drained their own ethereal bodies of Aether, a process which effectively ended their own lives. Soon the Abyss will start to weaken these ties, and if they were to break, our atmosphere would collapse, and everyone on this planet would perish.
There remains one viable tactic. The resonance cannot continue if only one stump of the tower survives. Our path is clear: we must destroy the Tower of Light. Only then will we end this bleed and safeguard the lives of the Asmodian people from the arrogant tyranny the Elyos threaten us with.
We will not hesitate this time. There will be no staying of our blades, only a brutal and irresistible wave of destruction that will finally rid our home of the arrogant and naïve fools which still infest our lands.
Our fate is once again in our own hands. This time, we will not fail.