Forrest Cameranesi, Geek of All Trades

The Rising of the Darklight

Ages after the Human conquest of the West, the Chalman empire has since fractured. After the Gem of Fire, which the Chalman prince used to inspire and intimidate his subordinates, was lost at the climax of the Great War, those subordinates in the East almost immediately rebelled and turned back to their own national interests. Thus the East fractured back into, more or less, what it had been before the war. But the commanders of their armies in the West, now ruling over the conquered Orcish lands, were hesitant to so quickly abandon the unified army that still held the Orcs in thrall, and so when their support from their homelands was withdrawn, they turned to each other and the Orcish labor at their command to build a new empire greater than any of their original homelands. So while Orcs remain the slaves of Humanity, they have grown rarer in the East over time, while the West retains prodigious numbers of them. The Western empire has since grown idle and inattentive to matters outside its borders, turning inward toward building itself up on the backs of Orcish slave labor. The East meanwhile, fractured into its original feudal states again, remain only loosely affiliated to each other through a shared allegiance to a church that sprung up for exactly that purpose. The Church was founded by a human, John, a veteran of the war, in honor of the "Eldest Wizard" Thomas, a wizard claimed to be older than even the Elves, who died during the war in service of a god more ancient than even Fire and Ice, remembered as the Eldest. In addition to its human followers, the Church is staffed by many half-Elven Wizards, who revere all things Elvish, and exhort Humanity to embrace more Elvish ways of calm dispassionate reason. The Wizarding branch of the church has since become dominant, but a small group of fundamentalists protest that under the Wizards the church has lost sight of its core mission of honoring the Eldest and His prophet Thomas. Fearing for the future of the world, the nominal leader of the Church, the descendent of John the Father of the Church, departs into the wilderness seeking hope that an ancient prophecy may be fulfilled: that by some chance Vampires may have survived hidden somewhere beyond civilization, and that by brokering an unlikely peace between them and the Elves at long last, the long-lost love of the Eldest may be freed from the prison in which the evil goddesses Fire and Ice set her, and that she in turn may have the power to free the Eldest and restore the world to its rightful state. Into this setting, a rare being is born from highly unusual circumstances. A formerly Human man, having been transformed into an Orc by the embrace of a Vampire Queen, and sent forth by her in a trance state, forces himself, in his Orcish body and bewitched state of mind, upon the unwilling Queen of the Elves. The Orc man is transformed by her magical embrace back into the Human he once was, but not before the vile deed is done. She is burdened with child by the act, and though the man is wrought with shame for what he was compelled to do, the Elves are by nature dispassionate and forgiving, and neither the Elf Queen nor her husband hold him to blame for his actions, nor do they feel any shame for her bearing a child out of wedlock. Still, the man feels the need to atone for his actions and to seek vengeance against the one who compelled him to commit them. Against the counsel of the Elves, who see such passions as fruitless, the man returns to the wilds from which he came, to hunt down the Vampire who did this to him — to them. In due time the unprecedented child is born, the first known pairing of Elf and Orc, a half-elf unlike any of the Wizards of half-human parentage: a being like the original inhabitants of this world, the last of whom, Thomas the "Eldest Wizard" in whose honor the Church of the Eldest was founded, died in the last great war. The child, named Murdock at his human father's request, is raised by the Elven royal family as though one of their own children, his unruly human passions quelled by the power of the Gem of Ice still borne by the Elven King, until he reaches adulthood and is released from its sway so as to freely choose his own fate. He chooses to venture out into the Human world, to the homeland of his father, in Esplanadia, in search of his heritage. There in Esplanadia he finds ongoing turmoil among the feudal states of the East, and is drawn into the efforts of the Church to mitigate it. The Church takes special interest in Murdock because of his species, some of them whispering rumors about him being the second coming of Thomas, or at least a new prophet of the Eldest. But Murdock knows nothing of any of that, and is more concerned with the practical threats to his homeland and the general peace. Chief among the threats is again the state of Chalmany, on the march seeking to reclaim its lost glory. The Chalmans employ an army of Orcish slaves, and seek to supplant the authority of the Church entirely and establish themselves as the head of a new Eastern empire; and from there, to reconquer the West and unite the world under Chalman rule, as they believe it should have been since the Great War. Given those objectives, the Church and other Eastern nations find the origins of the Chalman Orcs a suspicious mystery, as Orcs in the East are generally purchased from the West, who would of course be hesitant to supply a foreign nation openly intent on their conquest. Investigating that mystery, Murdock and his associated from the Church find that the entire Chalman war effort is a ploy manipulated into being by the very Vampires whose queen turned Murdock's father, who have been turning Humans into Orcs with their embrace, and who would seek by their supernatural sway over Orc-kind to usurp command of the Orcish army, and thus the entire Eastern world, after Chalmany's victory. (More details).

The discovery of the Vampiric backing of Chalmany is enough to galvanize the rest of the Eastern nations into united action against Chalmany, especially when the Church throw their support behind Murdock. Vampires have been thought long extinct by humanity, and with a being akin to Thomas, namely Murdock, arriving right as the bloodsucking monsters from the mythic past have at long last returned, many come to believe that this is some kind of divine tribulation from which Murdock has been sent to save them. Stern and gruff Murdock uncomfortably shrugs off the religious mantle being laid upon his shoulders, but is more than willing to take up military command of the East's combined armies at the behest of the Church, and lead them into battle against Chalmany. In a swift and decisive military action, the combined armies of the East march under the Church's banner on the heart of Chalmany, cutting their way mercilessly through the Chalman army of Orcish slaves, until Murdock himself can lead an elite battalion into the Chalman capitol building. The Vampire Queen is spotted fleeing the building with a small entourage, but the battalion are prevented from pursuing her by a rearguard commanded by her lieutenant, a powerful witch. Most of the rearguard are slaughtered by Murdock's battallion, and the lieutenant manages to flee herself with only her personal Orcish bodyguard, but Murdock pursues them alone. He is struck down by the witch's fiery magic while in pursuit, but finds to his surprise that he lives on in a ghostly form that quickly rematerializes as his old body's ashes blow away: the unique immortality of his unusual kind. Using this to his advantage, he stalls the witch in battle long enough for his battalion to catch up. As they are about to slay the Orcish bodyguard, the witch then stands forth to protect him, calling him her father. Knowing from mythology that warlocks were bred originally from vampire-orc pairings and have been thought extinct since the Great War, and that no half-elven wizard would ever work for a vampire, he quickly surmises that this witch is not only the Vampire Queen's lieutenant, but also her daughter; and her Orcish father the Queen's... husband? He orders his battalion to take them both captive, alive, back to custody at the Church. Back at the headquarters of the Church in Esplanadia, Murdock has word sent for Elvish advisors on the matter of dealing with warlocks and vampires. An Elvish ambassador soon arrives, and is very surprised at what he sees when he is shown the captives. He tells Murdock that the Orcish bodyguard is none other than his father, whom the ambassador witnessed in Orcish form a generation ago when Murdock was conceived. It follows from there that if the witch is this Orc's daughter, then she must be Murdock's half-sister. The ambassador is taken to the witch's cell next, only to find, to everyone's surpries, that she has killed herself with magic while unattended. While most are perplexed by this, Murdock has a realization: if she is his half-sister, perhaps she is not a warlock after all, half Vampire and half Orc; perhaps her father was Human when she was conceived, still under the Vampire Queen's thrall but not yet turned by her embrance, which would make her a being like himself, with their unique form of immortality. By becoming an immaterial ghost, she could escape her imprisonment, and when her body decayed she could become corporeal again, but now free. Expecting her to mount a rescue of their father when this occurs, Murdock asks the Elvish ambassador to send for his adopted father, the Elf King, to come with the Gem of Ice, to turn his father Human again and break the Vampire Queen's trance on him. When this is done, the Church leaders are stunned to realize that the entranced Orc they had held captive was in fact none other than their lost leader: Murdock's father is the Church father who set off into the wilds looking for Vampires to make peace with the Elves, and he set off into the wilderness not out of vengeance as the Elves assumed but to continue that mission again. His father restored, Murdock orders his half-sister's body burned, making her corporeal again immediately. As expected, she soon returns, alone under cover of darkness, attempting a rescue surrepetitiously. But of course she is expected, and her once-again-Human father, now free of the Vampire Queen's spell, tells her he will not escape with her, but instead pleads with her to stay, to help them to understand why she and the vampires are doing all of this. She claims it is a movement for Orcish independence, with the goal of toppling the aggressive, domineering Human empires and returning the tranquil peace under which Orcs once lived. Murdock, who has been secretly observing the whole conversation, chimes in at last to say that the Church, which has thrust him into a leadership position, is nominally against Orcish slavery, and preaches the equality of all species under the Eldest; while Chalmany, who she has been helping, are exactly the domineering slave empire she claims to hate. She protests that of course the plan was for the Orcish slave army to overthrow the Chalman leaders after the East had been conquered and then to free the Orcs of the West with their might. But Murdock and their father plead with her to try backing the force that's explicitly for equality; and though it will be a hard sell to the humans, the Church's teachings technically say that even Vampires are equal under the Eldest, so maybe, with her help, peace with the Vampires could be established as well. She reluctantly agrees to consider it, and to arrange a meeting with the Vampire Queen in due time. But meanwhile, realizing the scale of threat they are facing, if Vampires have somehow survived in hiding for all these ages, and seemingly have the lost Gem of Fire if they are able to put such trances upon Humans and Orcs and compel them to serve evil, the normally-languid Elves finally mobilize for the first time in untold aeons to do something about it. Having learned the location that the Vampires have been hiding, in the dry northern desert from which Murdock's father first ventured when all these events began, they rally their long-dormant armies and gear up for war. But as the Elves prepare to march, an Orcish uprising is sparked in the West, no doubt orchestrated by the Vampires to distract the most powerful parts of Humanity from possibly joining in the effort against them, which they likely see coming now that they have been discovered, Chalmany has been defeated, the East is united under the Church, and Murdock's father and sister have been captured. The Church leadership scrambles to decide how to react to the Orcish uprising, with the faction who worship Murdock arguing that it is a sign of the times and a herald of the equality he has been advocating since the return of his sister, and the more conservative faction arguing that it's just a dangerous slave revolt that threatens all of humanity. Meanwhile, Murdock and his sister are more concerned with the impending battle between Elves and Vampires, word of which has only reached them after the Elvish army departed. They race to the battlefront to try to stop the war and broker some kind of peace, having their respective ties to the Elves and Vampires to leverage, but they are too late. The battle is brutal and many die on both sides, but at last the Elven King confronts the Vampire Queen... and is magically seduced by her under the power of the Ring of Fire, being taken from the battlefield even as the battle is nominally won by the forces of the Elves. (More details).

The Elvish forces, victorious on the northern battlefield save the loss of their king, are forced to return to their homeland due to the threat posed by the Orcish rebellion in the West, nearer to their home than to the human lands in the East, still quibbling about what stance to take on the matter. The Elves, not strong enough to stand against the entire West's combined Orcs by themselves, implore the Church to once again unite all of the East and lead a force to put down the Orcish rebellion in the West, out of the mutual self-interest of both themselves and their Elvish allies. But Murdock's father, as both the nominally rightful head of the Church and the father of the rising messiah figure that has the entire congregation atwitter, weighs in against the Elvish counsel. Citing the Church's own scripture, he preaches the equality of Human and Orc beneath the Eldest, and suggests that they can both help their allies the Elves and also do the morally right thing, by announcing to the West that they will officially support the Orcish rebellion, and abolish slavery in the East themselves, if the Orcs in the West will leave the Elves in peace and promise equality for the Humans in the West after the revolution is over. The suggestion is taken as outrageous by the dominant Wizard faction of the Church, and by some of the more slaving of the Eastern states, but the small vocal fundamentalist faction rally all the more fervently around Murdock's father, and a handful of more progressive Eastern states where those fundamentalists dominate pledge their support. Civil war consequently breaks out both within the Church and among the nations of the East; the Orcish rebellion goes unimpeded by Eastern intervension; and the Elves go unsupported in the efforts to protect themselves from the rebellion's attacks on their borders. Meanwhile, back in the savannas of the north, Murdock and his sister hunt after the Vampire Queen, to try to rescue the Elven King from her thrall and then, with their combined connections to each of them, hopefully try to negotiate a peace between Elves and Vampires, just as their father had originally set out to do. It is a difficult trek through the untamed wilds of the north, with the hot desert eventually giving way to a dry savannah inhabited by primitive, bucolic orcs who are nevertheless fiercely devoted to the Vampire Queen, who stop the travellers from pursuing her through their lands until Murdock's sister explains that she is the Queen's daughter, and then they escort them the rest of the way instead. They are lead through a thick jungle in which they would be lost if not for the Orcish guides, who Murdock does not entirely trust until they are lead at last to the Vampire Queen's remote laid in the farthest north. Though skeptical of Murdock's presence, seeing him accompanied by her own daughter and a trusted Orc convinces her not to kill him on sight. Murdock asks where the Elf King is, and the Queen explains that he is safe and unharmed. His sister explains to the Queen that they have come seeking to broker peace between her and the Elves, and Murdock adds that his own father had sought her out for that same purpose, before she bewitched him and made him do monstrous things. The Queen explains that all of these machinations were inspired by their father's explanation of the ancient prophecy. She seeks to fulfill that prophecy by mating with the Elf King, as they each bear the Gems of Fire and Ice, and in doing so conceiving a child who will be the reincarnation of the world's true goddess, the lost love of the Eldest himself, and that she will in doing so become the Mother of God, and through her child make all right with the world, restoring all of its people to what they were meant to be, beautiful immortals like Murdock and his sister. She explains that, after conceiving such an immortal daughter herself by their father, she sent him back to the Elf Queen to create another, Murdock, hoping that that would bring the incalcitrant Elf King himself to her at last, where she could then seduce him and finish the plan. But that didn't work, and so this plan was hatched instead. Murdock is none too happy with the Queen's methods, but at least agrees with her ends of fulfilling the prophecy, and at his sister's urging, and the Queen's assurances that the Elf King will be released unharmed after the act is done, and with no real power to do anything about it by himself, Murdock accepts the circumstances and what is about to happen. That night, while Murdock and his sister sit up elsewhere in the Queen's castle, she mates with the Elf King, each of them bearing their respective Gems, fulfilling the prophecy at last. But the manner of the prophecy's fulfillment is beyond all her expectations. By the Elf King's embrace she is reduced herself to a Human in the process; and worse still, her embrace drains him of his life entirely, fuelling the conception of the prophesized child. To her great surprise, the child inside her grows before her eyes, and in moments she is swollen and driven into labor. As she screams in childbirth, and the child emerges from her, her own body is then consumed in magical flame, fuelling the immediate maturation of the newborn child into a fully grown adult woman: the Queen of Hell. Possessing within her very being the powers of both Gems of Fire and Ice, she is a being of incomparable power, more than the ancient immortals who were like Murdock and his sister, Thomas, and so forth, she has all the advantages of both Elf and Vampire and none of their weaknesses, being both totally invulnerable and longevously immortal, with the power to give or take life with a touch, strength greater than an orc and superhuman intelligence. She is unstoppable by any means known... and she is furious, having been imprisoned in a deeper hell within this world that is already hell itself for untold ages, imprisoned by the Eldest himself and then betrayed by the goddesses Fire and Ice in turn. She magically destroys the Vampire Queen's castle immediately upon her rebirth, killing Murdock and his sister in the process, though of course they soon get better. Seeking vengeance on both the Eldest and the goddesses, she departs to the far side of the world, magically subborning a green sea dragon to deliver her there against the machinations of the angelic Merfolk who still protect that realm from approach by the corrupt mortals on this side of the world. Murdock and his sister pursue her on a conventional ship, convincing the Merfolk to enable their journey by impressing upon them the direness of the situation and highlighting their uncorrupted species. They find the far side of the world bathed in perpetual Darklight from the crashed Sword of Darklight, and therefore uninhabitable by either Elves of Vampires. Instead, it is sparsely populated by feral Dwarves, the offspring of Humans and Orcs who can only survive in Darklight, and so are found nowhere in the rest of the world. And haunting the entire land are the disproportionately powerful ghostly forms of deceased Dwarves, called Demons, terrifying beings of pure darkness, who have stunted even the Queen of Hell's approach to the Sword of Darklight itself, buying Murdock and his sister time to catch up. But they are impeded even more so than her, and in due time she reaches the Sword, takes control of it, returns it to the skies, once again destroys the sun and moon, and the goddesses Fire and Ice with them. This restores Darklight to the whole world, immediately killing all Elves and Vampires alike, but worst of all, allowing the Demons to spread from this far land to the whole of the world, or at least where she, with control of the Darklight they depend on, will allow them, thus beginning her godlike reign of terror over the entirety of that reality, a terror which only immortals like Murdock and his sister could possibly hope to survive. (More details).