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You fight with courage, you fight with honor... But why do you truly fight?

To understand our war, and why our Knights battle, we must seek the knowledge of things forgotten by most. The roots of our conflict go as deep as the very nature of the universe. The World was not always as it is today.

In the age before time as we know it, there was only the mystic void and the ancient, unformed energies. What initiated the change is beyond understanding, but the ancient energies began to gain substance. And out of this fabric of developing substance, a thread, a very special power, gained consciousness.

Logos was this being, and his impulse was to create a reflection of himself. It was he who shaped what would become the world of Carnac with its tall mountains, deep valleys and blue skies. Logos conjured water to carve the rocks, flood the valleys and fill the oceans. Soon the world was marvelous, like a turquoise jewel hanging in the mystic void. Logos was not satisfied, however. He felt that there must be others to experience the splendors of the rivers, oceans and lakes. The rocks and mountains were grand, but lifeless.

Drawing from the energies he had used to fashion the mountains, Logos created life. There were now fish to swim in the water, and trees to grow out of the dirt. Next appeared animals of the land and soaring birds to grace the sky. And lastly, Logos made humans, whom he created in his likeness. Humans were as Logos in that they too had the power to mold the world to suit their needs.

For a time all was well. Logos, called a God by the humans, was content and all of his creations rejoiced and prospered in the world bestowed to them.

It was soon to be undone.

In his haste to create humankind in his own image, Logos left a piece of energy half-formed. It lay forgotten in the darkest valley and there it stayed for centuries, waiting for its turn to be molded into something beautiful.

At first it was patient.

"Logos has a special plan for me," it thought to itself. "Maybe he has not yet decided what to mold me into."

However, as with all conscious beings shown some attention but then abandoned, its patience waned and it grew bitter. Instilled with a mind not so different from Logos, the forgotten piece of energy slowly willed itself into full shape. Not limited as humans were in their finished form, bit by bit it developed beyond them. With each transformation it grew ever more powerful, and ever more hateful of having been forgotten.

By the time Logos recalled the Forgotten One, it was far too late. An entity which named itself Pathos had come to be. It rivaled Logos in power and contained none of his compassion. Instead, it longed to twist what Logos had painstakingly created. As revenge, Pathos' first act was to infuse the world with Change.

From Pathos' act came the four seasons, day and night, life and death. This was not enough for Pathos as he wanted Logos to experience the pain and abandonment he had felt. Taking a handful of sand, Pathos infused within every grain what would be known as the sins of humankind, filled with sentiments and impulses as dark as those in Pathos. Each grain he took and planted into human nature. And with that act, people turned away from Logos. They learned greed, lust and a desire to dominate and destroy.

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Logos' vision for an enduring world retaining its splendor for all eternity had been shattered by Pathos' introduction of death. Logos had the power to create but he did not posses the power to renew. And while it was not Pathos' intention, the distinction between life and death brought about a new being. The duty to recreate life from the energies left behind by the dead fell to a new God: the Goddess of Life, Akara.

Akara was in constant contact with every living being. She watched the old wither and die and she nurtured the young to take their place. She learned to understand the creatures which inhabited the world in ways Logo could not. She loved them as her own even though they paid her no homage. Over time, she felt Logos grow ever distant in his grief; she knew that Logos now neglected his creations for he could not bear the pain of how they had been changed, especially of how they died. Akara despaired that life no longer prospered as it once had under the guidance of the creator.

The people would sometimes pray:

We are your children, Though forgotten, Do not forsake us.

"Perhaps," she thought, "I should adopt these children as my own."

Logos sensed Akara's thoughts, and feared that he would lose his creations completely. He promised Akara that he would resume his responsibilities, and the Goddess was satisfied for the time being.

Just as Logos began fulfilling his promise, Pathos re-emerged. This time he decided to pervert the earliest of Logos' creations, the very mountains upon which Logos had first felt the winds and touched the clouds. Pathos called up fire from deep within Carnac's core. Horrified at the destruction of his beloved mountains, Logos was unable to stop Pathos. Destructive forces flowed to ignite forests and boil rivers. Humans stood petrified at the horror unfolding before them, and many lost their lives.

Logos again retreated into his own despair and cared not a bit for the world that was no longer his own.

This time Akara was determined to take over Logos' responsibility. And since she knew he would never give it up easily, for the good of life itself, she conspired to rid the world of the weak-hearted Logos and the ruthless Pathos.

Akara's twisted desire resulted in the creation of a new God: Cypher. This being knew nothing but destruction and deceit.

Akara went to Logos and told him of this new God, "He has the power to destroy, nothing more, nothing less. Using his power, you can be rid of Pathos."

Upon hearing this, Logos was elated and immediately left to seek out Cypher. As he left with dreams of his world returning to its prior form, he failed to see the Goddess' smile.

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Cypher was not the image of power Logos had envisioned. He was the antithesis of magnificence, frail and worn. Regardless, Logos trusted the Goddess of Life and proceeded to ask for help.

Unknown to Logos, Akara had already approached Cypher and had told him of the opportunity to destroy the other two Gods. "You should kill Pathos first," she advised Cypher. "Logos is idealistic and weak; him you can kill at your leisure."

In preparation to confronting Pathos, Logos reached out and drew the clouds around him. From the clouds he fashioned a blade so beautiful it masked its deadliness. This blade he gave to Cypher, and together they journeyed to the deepest valley of Carnac where Pathos resided.

As they approached, Pathos stepped out from the shadows and brandished a spear of supernatural wood. It radiated life itself and there was a feeling of serenity that came from it. There was only one who could have created such a weapon, and she watched from a distance.

The battle was swift yet furious. No words were exchanged by the combatants as Cypher charged, his gleaming sword held high. Pathos blocked blow after blow. Logos watched the fight unfold, praying Pathos would meet his end. Evenly matched, the gods turned to their individual powers to give them an edge. Pathos swept away the sun and the stars sending the world into darkness. Cypher was momentarily blinded. Pathos lunged, his spear grazing the shoulder of his opponent, and the spear glowed green. Yet the light from the spear gave Cypher the vision he needed and he severed the left arm of Pathos.

Pathos thundered in pain, and fell to his knees, his lifeforce draining out of him. While Cypher and Logos looked upon him triumphantly, subtle changes occurred within Pathos and Cypher. Although appearances did not change, lifeforces changed places, transferred from one to the other. Pathos through the means of changing magic now resided in the body of Cypher, whereas the essence of Cypher now lay in the torn body he had wounded only moments earlier.

Though in great pain, the spirit of Cypher refused to die. He hurled the spear he clutched at what had once been his own body. Pathos was so caught up in celebrating his own genius with changing bodies that he did not see the throw. The magical spear went through the God's heart, and destroyed him.

Pathos lay dead, while Cypher lay dying. Cypher then realized his powers were no longer confined to destruction. Because of the change of souls, with some effort Cypher could induce change much like how Pathos once could. Focusing his fledgling abilities on his severed arm he first stopped the blood from flowing. He then pulled at sinew and bone making them expand until they eventually took the shape of the missing limb.

Fully recovered, he stood, and with new strength he shouted for all to hear, "I am reborn! Fear me for I am now unmatched!"

As a display of strength he shattered the valley and out of the rubble fashioned a monument not of stone but of glass. Its sharp edges reached out in all directions.

In time, humans flocked to marvel at its construction and pay homage to its creator, the new and powerful Pathos-Cypher entity.

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In the disturbing wake of the battle between Pathos and Cypher, and the coming into being of the Pathos-Cypher entity, Carnac itself began to show signs of change. Flowers lost their scent, the seasons became unpredictable, and ground water occasionally rose up brown, as though rusted. And more changes were coming.

All these things were not the doing of Pathos-Cypher. He was too busy enjoying the attention of his new found subjects.

Years passed, and over time humankind divided into 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.

As these Kingdoms formed, changes in the world affected not only existing creatures, but? other things. With each passing year, there were more and more sightings of enormous creatures that looked like wolves and bears but were more terrible and more violent. Even more surprising were beings of stone and magic. Worst of all were the animated corpses bent on bringing all life to the level they understood: un-death.

Before long, these hellish creatures had increased to such numbers that even human cities with their high walls and staunch defenders could not repel them. The first to fall was Planisad, thus food resources were scarred. Soon after, Brisbia and Arrdeam fell. Even the mighty barbarian Kingdom, Hellsgarem, did not survive ? it was they who torched their own city instead of letting it fall. The survivors flocked aboard the ships of the Buegrants who themselves were abandoning their city, fleeing for El Morad.

King Manes, ruler of El Morad, took in the refugees without prejudice. Those able were given places in the army, further bolstering the defenses of the only city which had yet to be attacked. New battlements were raised, supplies were brought in, and more weapons were forged. 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. El Morad had become humankind's last stronghold. Should it be lost, humanity would be doomed.

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For seven long years they fought the undead masses and other monsters and all those years King Manes prayed to the gods who seemed to have turned a deaf ear and a blind eye. Meanwhile, the people withstood, and even became stronger.

After the first two years of fighting, those in El Morad had grown accustomed to attacks. Their position was strong and they improved in the ways of war. Eventually, they dared to venture beyond the safety of the walls. Tunneling into the mountains behind the city provided metals, and wood they harvested by sending armed bands into the forests. Food proved a challenge at first, but by relocating much of the populace into the mountains and underground, enough space was vacated within the walled city for crops to be planted.

By the third year, seasoned veterans began hunting the monsters, rather than just waiting to repel attacks. These warriors brought back stories of adventure and glory. Soon these parties organized themselves into what would be known as the Knights. They lived apart from El Morad and dedicated their lives to their duty; some of them would even learn the arts of magic and healing. The years passed, and the Knights grew in power.

On the last night of the seventh year, something extraordinary occurred. Red rain began to fall upon El Morad. Far away, a green fog appeared and inched closer to the city. A warning had sounded. 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 a God answered, and asked, "What do you wish from me?"

"Everyday my people die. Please help us."

"There is no need," was the reply.

"But everyday my people die. And now there is this terrible rain and fog, which many think signal the end of all. Is there no greater 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, and servants of mine you shall become. This day I show myself not to hear your prayer, but to tell you that your end is near."

The King grew angry, "If you will not help us, we shall meet our end together."

But the God had already gone. The King did not even know which God it had been. Had it been Logos? Akara? Or Pathos-Cypher?

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"There must be something we can do," one of the council members said, wiping sweat from his brow.

Another beside him tried hard to suppress a yawn. It was late afternoon and the leaders had been discussing the matter since the night before, when the God had responded to the King.

A Planisadian Lord stood and repeated his intent on escaping the encroaching green fog. "We can't just stay here and be engulfed by this horror creeping closer each day."

None of the scouts had returned and the Lord believed it best to escape while there was still time.

But others argued that it would take days to move everyone and that they would be caught while trying to escape and thus not even have the protection of their fortified city.

"No, we kill the God and all should be well again," said a bold Erenion, sweeping his hand in an arc nearly knocking over a weary servant who was refilling his goblet.

"Yes!" A Barbarian agreed, passionately. "We ran before, and only survived thanks to making a stand here. We fought before. And so fight again, we shall. Let them come!"

The council was in uproar. It was not the first time someone suggested battling a God. And while many felt it was the only solution, they were reluctant to fight one.

"Are you mad?" someone shouted, "Cypher is a GOD"!

"It is Pathos, fool! Don't be deceived!"

"I suspect another God is truly behind this," said one of the lesser nobles, one known more for reading books than anything useful.

Then the King stood. He told them all, "We will stay, but we will not fight. Send for the Knights."

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The 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. In their newly fashioned armor with their polished swords, they looked every bit the storybook heroes of old. Not one who saw them believed they would fail.

Near three hundred strong, they rode in search of the God. Legend had it that a God had built a monument of glass ages ago and that he resided near it, tended by his followers who saw to his every need.

Guided by no more than stories told to young children, the Knights rode into the wilderness. In the forests they killed every evil creature they encountered, but those were few and far between. It was as though almost all of the vile beings the Knights often hunted had moved elsewhere.

One night a wave of fatigue washed over the Knights and they fell into a deep sleep. They dreamt of a place near a valley; there were people there. Their semi-conscious selves were at first elated, for they thought they had reached their destination. As they came closer, however, they saw despair in the faces of the people, how tired they looked without an ounce of joy in their souls. Realization dawned upon the dreaming Knights: Here was the lair of the God and those humans were not his adoring subjects but his slaves. They drifted closer, but as they neared the monument 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 Knights were troubled by what they had seen, they were no less determined. More importantly, their knowledge was not so limited now. 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 that had somehow come to them as a result of the dream. It was a prayer long forgotten:

We are your children, Though long forgotten, Do not forsake us.

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The Knights rode without stopping for days. Neither they nor their animals felt hunger or exhaustion. It was the dream. And the prayer. It gave them strength. They rode until a fantastic sight came into view: an enormous monument which sparkled like a diamond. Even having seen it up-close in their dream did not prepare them for the magnificence before them.

Yet they seemed to reach 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.

By noon, none had passed but the terrain was changing. The forests and grass which surrounded them dissolved as though nothing more than an illusion. The ground dried so quickly that it began to crack. Suddenly, the land on which the Knights stood gave in and they fell into a great fissure.

Many were injured in that fall and some lost their lives. The remaining Knights found themselves in a cavern surrounded by every monster they had ever faced, with some they have never before laid eyes upon. Here is where the bad things of the forests had gone.

Standing tall above them all was Pathos-Cypher.

With the barest of a nod from the God, the Knights were assaulted from all sides. The Knights 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, but as the battle wore on, their numbers dwindled and there seemed to be no end to the attack from their tireless foes.

When the Knights were down to less than fifty, the beasts stopped their assault. They backed away as Pathos-Cypher approached. The God wanted the mortals to see him before they met their doom. Seeing him up close for the first time, the Knights saw what this God truly was. Besides his gigantic form, he looked little better than an old man. He was not the fierce warrior all expected him to be.

"Welcome, Knights. I see you must be tired," he mocked.

The Knights did not reply. Instead, those inclined to swordplay each picked a target and rammed their blade through. Those gifted in the mystic arts opened themselves up to their powers for one mighty attack, and fire and lightning scorched all the remaining creatures. So fierce was the attack that Pathos-Cypher could only watch as most of the beasts were killed. Men were lost but after it was all over not a single creature stood, and those still alive lay bleeding and helpless on the cavern floor. The remaining Knights circled Pathos-Cypher.

But to defeat a God by sheer physical strength and the little magic they could command was sheer folly. Still, they had to try something.

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Pathos-Cypher knew he was stronger than their swords and spells, and he was unafraid. He waved a hand, and the corpses of the fallen Knights stirred. Soon they would rise again, and slay their once brothers. As the first zombie closed its wretched fingers on a fallen sword, words of fire burned in the minds of the living Knights.

They began chanting the prayer which had come to them in the dream.

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 Knights suffered 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.

We are one again with you, You can hear us, Listen to our plea.

Pathos-Cypher, unheeding their pitiful prayer, flared his powers. Yet, the Knights stood unwavering.

It is near the end, We wish to return to what once was, Welcome us home.

Like lightning, a flash streaked from the heavens. Logos, the Creator, lifted a mighty bow and let fly a bolt of living energy fueled by the prayers for salvation and some greenish magical power. The bolt struck the disbelieving Pathos-Cypher in his twisted heart.

With the last of his essence, Pathos-Cypher cursed the Knights, "Anyone who has persecuted me will be cursed with my black blood!"

With a brilliance that would have blinded all that had not the blessing of Logos, Pathos-Cypher exploded into light that was then sent to the mystic void.

Two voices so full of love said, "For a long time we have been on our way back to you. Welcome home."

Some of the Knights whispered the name, "Logos."

A few also muttered, "Akara."

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With the defeat of Pathos-Cypher, the red rain ceased and the green fog lifted. The triumphant Knights rode home to find the whole of El Morad in celebration. The war that had lasted seven long years had finally ended with victory. Tales of the Knights' mighty deed spread quickly among the people. Shrines and temples dedicated to Logos and Akara were raised. Many scholars debated on just how these two Gods might have reunited. What had happened to bring that about?

Humanity began to prosper once again? and no one remembered that Pathos-Cypher had vowed revenge through a terrible curse.

Now that peace reigned, many ventured out of the city. At first, little farms sprang up just beyond the walls and battlements that once protected them. Later, plantations extended farther out, growing crops of every kind. Villages to support the farmers mushroomed. The population migrated and the civilized world expanded.

But peace was not to last long in the land of El Morad.

The Knights who had started a new life gave birth to children? children carrying the cursed, black blood of Pathos-Cypher.

The evil contained in the black blood caused sickness among the people and a plague hit the Kingdom. The people were outraged when they learned the cause of this illness. Some of these deformed and frightening children were sent into the wilderness and some had to live in the dark and damp sewers of the city to hide from the public. People called these cursed children Tuareks.

The priests of El Morad captured the Tuareks, believing them to be evil. Children of Knights now lived as slaves in El Morad, the very city their parents had saved.

Soon, one rose amongst the Tuareks to lead his kind out of bondage. He struggled to bring them to a place where they would not have to live in constant fear and shame. He taught the Tuareks fighting skills and how to survive in the wilderness. His name was Zignon, the hero and spiritual leader of the Tuarek. Zignon proceeded to lead his followers north. Along the way, they had to constantly fight off the remaining servants of Pathos as well as the El Morad soldiers who pursued them.

Often starving and always shivering from the cold, they followed Zignon farther north. They crossed the mountains of Eslant, which was said to be the end of the world. On the icy plain over the mountains was Luferson Castle. This was the same place where Pathos' destruction had begun. It was safe from the El Morad soldiers, and so Zignon established a Kingdom around Luferson Castle. He called his Kingdom the nation of Karus. But a lot of Tuareks died because they could not adjust to the harsh climate and many of those managing to survive resented Zignon for leading them to this mean land.

Zignon prayed to Logos to save the Tuareks but Logos did not answer. Logos had not created these changed ones; he had created the humans. Though children of humans and descendents of heroic Knights, the Tuareks were ignored and felt betrayed.

However, one God responded to Zignon's prayers. She did not state her name, but only smiled, and said, "My schemes have finally turned to truth. Now I too have children of my own."

With this mysterious God's support, Zignon pledged to overthrow El Morad in revenge for the humiliation and oppression he and his kind had suffered.

And thus, the Forever War began.

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Many heroes have fought and died in the Forever War between Karus and El Morad, but no hero has ever matched the courage and ferocity of Ronark. This El Moradian Mage was renowned for fearlessly charging headfirst into battle, and could be heard crying, “For Logos!” Ronark decimated all foes who dared to oppose him with his unmatched magic techniques, but even great heroes with immortal fame have mortal bodies.

Where this powerful mage was said to have perished in battle was christened the “Land of Ronark” in his honor. However, Ronark did not fall. The Goddess Akara, witnessing how no Tuarek was able to defeat him, stole him away from his duel and imprisoned him in a magical sphere. Ronark called out to Logos for help, but it seemed his prayers fell on deaf ears. Despite seeming to be abandoned by his god, Ronark’s will and faith in Logos could not be crushed. Finally, one night in sleep, Logos came to Ronark in his dream as a vision and blessed Ronark with the ability to absorb his magic cell and contain its power within his body. Upon waking, Ronark set about to start the magic spell that would free him. After much time had passed, Ronark was finally able to completely absorb his cell and escaped from Akara. Having the strength of a mighty god’s powerful spell within him, Ronark’s body was immortalized and he was transformed into a god.

Now, the Forever War rages again in the Land of Ronark. Something drives the nations of El Morad and Karus. A powerful voice has been heard rising above the noise of the bloody conflicts proclaiming:

“Beware, Akara! Your trickery took me from battle, but your magic has made me a god! Carnac, a god of Knights exists! All must come and fight!”

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Ronark's transformation gave him immortality, but it did not make him all powerful. He could kill the most powerful champions of Karus, even several of them at once, but even he could not hold off an entire army. With fierce tactics and discipline, Karus was able defeat Ronark, but each time the undying energy within the hero would resurrect him. Each resurrection was a torment and Ronark became angry at Logos for the endless prospect of pain, and at Akara for imprisoning him. He saw his immortality as a sick joke instead of a blessing, and at times even wished he had the destructive powers of Cypher or Pathos.

Ronark began probing the mystic voids, feeling for any residual power left from the destruction of Cypher and Pathos, hunting for that terrible power. For nights and weeks he searched, yet he failed to find it. Then, one night, just before the sun began to rise, he found it - not in the heavens as he had expected, but in a valley where El Morad's troops had assembled for battle. Ronark roared with triumphant pleasure, for at last he could have the power he had sought for so long, and crush Karus once and for all. Today would be the beginning of their end, and then he would settle his grievances with Logos.

As the sun crested the mountains, Ronark strode through the ranks of El Morad and into the center of the battlefield. He provoked the Karus army, shouting of how his ultimate power would crush them all and bring the same miserable end to their families. Karus gave the human's brazen confidence no heed, and of a single mind they rushed Ronark, intent on cutting him down yet again. As they closed on him, Ronark turned to his countrymen and commanded them to stand down; they were about to witness the greatest act of war the world would ever see.

Ronark was killed once more.

His resurrection pain was more excruciating than any other time. Further enraged that his supposed discovery of the power of total destruction was merely an illusion, Ronark realized that what he had found was only a small portion of the essence of Cypher and Pathos. Ronark immediately set himself about the task of finding and gathering up all the pieces of their power that had been scattered across the lands of Carnac. It had been absorbed like light by the plants, which were in turn ingested by creatures. Ronark found he could not simply capture the power of creatures that had ingested it; they had to be killed. So he commanded his men to kill with reckless abandon, knowing that with their help he would eventually succeed in absorbing all of the power.

Sensing Ronark's growing power, Logos and Akara were left with no choice but to imbue another, a rival, with the same abilities as possessed by Ronark. They needed this other to have the power to beat Ronark and yet not possess the desire to destroy them. They found Girakon, a young warrior undefeated in battle, lustful for revenge on Ronark, yet not ambitious for absolute power. In the battles at Ardream he had become renowned for his ferocious ability to rally his men and overcome his foes, even under seemingly impossible odds.

Girakon's mother had been one of the first Pury Tuarek to flee from El Morad, and he grew up knowing that he and all his people were on the brink of destruction. Girakon took as his purpose the eventual liberation of his people from El Morad's tyranny and injustice - a goal considered weak by many of his peers. They wanted complete victory over El Morad and a reversal of their fortunes. Girakon simply wanted peace, but that was before the Sharine Raids. His mother, along with hundreds more, were brutally killed. El Morad called the Sharine Raids "a cleansing of the land", but to Girakon they were his call to complete and utter vengeance. From that point on, Girakon's resolve to rid the world of their oppressors became as cold and hard as the deep ice of the Northern Reaches.

To match Ronark, Akara gave Girakon immortality and Logos gave him the same power -absorption spell. They commanded Girakon to search out and absorb as much of the remaining power from Cypher and Pathos as he could possibly take. They directed all of Karus to kill creatures in the hope that Girakon would be able to absorb the exposed power before Ronark could. His strength grew quickly, and he never paused in his search for scattered bits of the power.

Both El Morad and Karus knew that whichever side helped their hero recover the most power left behind by Cypher and Pathos would permanently put an end to their bitter enemies.

If the Forever War was a fierce and never-ending battle for revenge, it had become a raging storm fueled by the absolute need for sole survival... for whoever lost would perish.

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With every able bodied knight slaughtering creatures to release trace amounts of Pathos' and Cypher's essences, both Girakon and Ronark quickly grew stronger. Yet some worried about how the heroes increased in power. With every gain, Ronark grew frenzied for more, seeming to care for nothing else. Girakon, very unlike himself, displayed an aggression toward his own warriors. It was whispered in back rooms and dark corners that there was something twisted and wrong about the powers the heroes were absorbing.

And then the last bits of Pathos and Cypher were absorbed. Girakon and Ronark were far too evenly matched for one to forcefully extract the power from the other. Both could foresee a final battle that would decide their own fates as well as the fates of their people. With grim determination, each side laid plans for what they knew would be the most defining event since the flight to Moradon.

For weeks, the armies of El Morad and Karus fought. Ardream and Ronark Land witnessed vicious battles, and the hatred of one side for the other continued to build until both armies gathered on opposite sides of the Lunar Valley. When they charged, the roar they let loose reached even Akara and Logos, who watched from the heavens.

In the midst of the heaviest of the fighting, Ronark and Girakon met. Both summoned the powers of hell to scorch and freeze the other, but that was far from what was needed to destroy them. The following moments were a blur of ground-shaking blows and the vicious shrieks of otherworldly beings made of ice and fire. The battle began to center around their duel, slowly rotating in a massive vortex of combat.

And then Ronark landed a critical blow. Girakon stumbled, and that momentary opening was his downfall. Ronark laid the finishing hit, releasing the power contained within Girakon. As Ronark absorbed the power, a change came over him. He darkened. The lost powers of Pathos and Cypher were reunited and gained some form of consciousness within the body of Ronark. The Pathos-Cypher entity was once again whole.

Suddenly, Messengers of Pathos materialized and surrounded Ronark. "We have finally found you, master. We could not find you for so long. We have gathered the anti-energy as you commanded. It is waiting for you to claim at the Crystal in Moradon." The minions of Pathos were drawn to the essence of their former master. Ronark called with a voice that was heard across the whole of Adonis, "Hear me, people of Carnac! Today I will claim my rightful power. To Moradon!"

When he arrived, Ronark marched straight to the enormous crystal at the center of the city. Messengers appeared as he began the spell to absorb the energies contained within it. Attempting to stop him, knights attacked the Messengers, hoping to break their line and kill Ronark, but they did not stand a chance.

In the midst of the ensuing chaos, the cool voice of Akara resounded, "I will not allow you to destroy my people. Today I will imprison you for all eternity!" And the world turned to fire.

Volcanic Rocks from the molten core of Carnac exploded from the ground, great in number, and all of them fell upon Ronark. Their combined might was too much for even him to hold off, and he disappeared under their crushing mass. They dragged him down, burning through the innumerable strata, heading deep below the surface.

Following close behind, Akara infused the very earth with a life and will to keep Ronark imprisoned. In her haste, however, she neglected to command the Volcanic Rocks to follow. Without direction, they mindlessly laid waste to the entire city of Moradon. In horror, Logos watched the events unfold. He blamed himself, for they were a result of his scheming with Akara. Once again his creation was falling apart, and Moradon's ruin was proof. His remorse urged him to retreat into the mystic voids, but his feelings of guilt compelled him to first recreate Moradon.

The land was reconstructed, plants restored, creatures given new places to roam. The new city was drawn up from the depths of the earth, the purest of minerals used in the forging of the walls and towers. Grand streets opened into vast courtyards for the assembly of Carnac's finest heroes. To see to the rebuilding of trade, Logos appointed Kaishan, and under his leadership Moradon would prosper. When Akara returned several days later, she took in all that Logos had done and she became enraged. It seemed Logos was scheming to steal her people's loyalty. To foil these plans, Akara injected the pure force of life itself into the Center Artifact of the castle in Delos, emitting an irresistible pull to all knights. Furthermore, she began to reward fights to control the castle. A knight's renown could now grow in Delos

0

When Akara visited the battlefield where Girakon had fallen, she noted with concern that he had not revived. The violence in which the essence of Cypher and Pathos left Girakon had burned out. His body was still immortal, but his essence was gone; he would never be the same. Akara's grief was strong but her anger stronger. As one, the masses of dead Karusian soldiers around her sprung to life, infused with the power she commanded. But to her horror, Girakon remained still. In desperation, she called on the last vestiges of ancient souls long laid to rest and focused them into his body. She would not lose this hero.

Deep below the surface of Carnac, Ronark's prison was complete. The walls were alive. They watched him with interminable patience, calculating how they might counter his every attempt at escape? and attempt he did. He called on his powers of destruction and vaporized colossal volumes of rock, leaving caverns that could house the largest of ancient cities. His powers of change converted rock into water that drained through the massive fissures carved out by his destruction, but the rock grew back. It always grew back. Akara had contrived the perfect prison.

In time, Ronark discovered he could just touch the surface of Carnac with slight tendrils of his power. The living rock could not see him wielding certain powers, so he would pretend to sleep. Each time he reached the surface, Messengers of Pathos would rush to that point, eager to hear word of their master's condition. During these brief encounters, Ronark learned of the outside world.

Akara's efforts to resurrect Girakon finally succeeded. He walked again, though his body was severely aged and his spirit for revenge was gone. He did not remember much, but what he did recall had a dark cast. Sometimes, late at night when the air was still, he felt an inexplicable draw in a certain direction. He did not understand why, but there was something familiar and comforting in the power that drew him.

Akara's plan was simple yet profound: heal the Karusian knights and watch them steadily overwhelm the tiring El Morad forces. Without a champion or a god to help them, they would not stand a chance. And in the end, her people would finally reverse their fortunes. All of El Morad would be enslaved. "This is my time. This is my world. And my people will finally receive the glory they deserve."

Through the Messengers of Pathos, Ronark heard of the tireless Karusian knights, and he could discern Akara?s intent. He knew his people?s only hope lay in him escaping, so he set about finding the weak point in his prison. It would be a long, hard-fought task, but he just knew that living rocks had to have a weakness. Once found, he would have his Messengers deliver any outside help he needed.

0

At first, Akara's goal was simple: bring justice to the plight of her people, the Karus. She only intended to help them take enough land from El Morad to live prosperous lives and be able to defend themselves. Things changed.

The first battle had been a route, with many El Morad casualties, and the successive battles yielded ever larger slaughter. The carnage of the battlefield had an unexpected effect. It released a huge amount of life force which Akara was able to manipulate, and in fact, she discovered a certain joy in changing the very fabric of life itself. Indeed, going beyond revenge, her desire had become the systematic destruction of El Morad.

And destruction it became. All the way up to the walls of El Morad Castle, much like in the early days, it became the last bastion of an all-but-defeated nation.

One day... or night... he could never tell the difference, Ronark began the long, arduous task of trickling a thread of power up through the living rock of his prison. Very slowly, deliberately he felt out a path up to the surface, and once there he began signaling his Messengers. Just as he began receiving word that Akara was moving on El Morad Castle, a massive feedback of a strange power coursed down through his precious link to the outside world. With no time to react, everything went blindingly white.

There was intense heat. And burning. His eyes hurt. With a start, Ronark realized it was the sun that was the source of his discomfort. Collecting his racing thoughts, he began to probe his immediate surroundings, searching for what he expected to be some sick prison. But there were no walls, no traps. Nothing was amiss... except a cool void that seemed to absorb his flows of power.

Flat on his back, Ronark let his head fall over so he could face the source of the void. A dark figure, even in the noonday sun, sat cooly observing him. A moment later, the figure rose smoothly and stepped toward him, offering a hand. A gravelly voice thick with an unfamiliar accent said, "Come. There is much to be done. You may enjoy this."

The hand was rough, stronger than he had expected, and it easily lifted him to his feet. The dark stranger muttered something under his breath, and to his interest a blurry mist surrounded the two of them.... And then he felt the bone-shaking impacts of catapult shells hammering the walls of El Morad Castle. The dark stranger turned toward the shimmering expanse of Karus warriors marching toward the walls and in a quiet voice said, "So it has come to this."

"Akara has been doing what has been expressly forbid by Logos. She has actively engaged in killing so she can manipulate the released flows of life. Her actions have so weakened the bonds of this world that I have sensed it even from as far as my lands. Should she be successful today I suspect there will be little even Logos can do to prevent the unraveling of the very fabric of existence that is Carnac."

"If you have had grievance against Akara, may I suggest you harness that rage. You shall be in need of it. Akara is not the petty goddess you have experienced. She has grown very much in power, and she is drunk with it. Today we fight not merely for your people. Today we fight for all of Carnac."

Then Ronark noticed his dark companion had been steadily drawing power into a shimmering globe between his hands. And with a touch from his gauntleted finger a thick crimson ribbon began weaving its way to the center, but before he could figure out what it was, his friend spun and hurled it out over the wall at the oncoming Karus army.

Ronark knew he and his dark companion could occupy Akara, but the combined rage of all Karus focused on the final destruction of El Morad would require monumental courage to repel. He wished he could be with his knights in that first, explosive clash when the battle lines closed. Before he could dwell any longer on these thoughts, Akara unleashed the full fury of a storm focused entirely at him. Confident and determined as he appeared, there was a still lingering doubt if his beloved Carnac could be saved.







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