The Darkness and The Light
I want to take today’s lecture to discuss two unconnected events which happened during the Fall of the Empire and the Rise of the Demon King. Where our past lectures have been in chronological order, today’s stories fit into the timeline we have established thus far. Today we are going to talk about how the lands of Arelean became known as the Demon Lands, and the fate of Ceradome.
Let us start with the land of Arelean, the Imperial District. As you may recall from past lectures, Monatobe and Kotkala formed Arelean as part of the establishment of the Empire. Overall, Arelean was a temperate grassland, being more mountainous and cold to the north, and a bit warmer and more plains-like to the south. It’s horseshoe shape made it a giant harbor, and port towns dotted it coasts.
From my own childhood, Arelean was a beautiful land. I grew up in the northern regions, in a farm town surrounded by beautiful forests. I spent most of my childhood and early years as an adult in Arelean, and my family traveled little. We did spend some of the summer holidays on the coast, where we could camp along the beach.
Corruption Not Creation
We have not spent time talking about the nature of Demons, so I will have to teach a bit ahead of myself in order to continue this story. Through the study of Demons by scholars and Mages, we have come to understand several things about these creatures. The most important is this: Demons do not create anything on their own, they corrupt the things around them.
Consider the Demon Soldiers and other castes as an example. The Demons do not reproduce, like us humans or other animals. Nor do they grow like plants or fungus. Rather, the creation of Demon Soldiers is a ritual which transforms a Human into a Demon Soldier. Corruption.
Why does this happen? It’s not fully understood, but everything that a Demon does, or touches, corrupts the things around them. Which brings us to…
When the Demon King assumed power he centered himself in the Imperial Palace. Over the months following his take over, the palace grounds began to die out. A blight centered on the palace itself began to spread outward. At the same time, as the Demon Princes moved out to the other parts of Arelean and established control over the Imperial District, their presence began to have the same effect.
What we now know as the Blight starts with all the local vegetation dying off. Then some vegetation will grow back, but what does is twisted and weird. Crops may yield food, but it will be bitter and hard to digest. Some plants will come back with razor edges or spikes, and feed on blood. Nothing remains untouched. The more Demons present or the stronger their influence, the worst the effect.
Over time, as the Four Kingdoms massed at Nendar Moor in 1023, the Blight was spreading all through Arelean. Crops failed, and the land began to transform. Early on, the food stores kept everyone alive, but as the Demon King’s reign extended, things became more desperate in Arelean.
The Demon Lands
Jumping ahead a few years, the Blight extended over all of Arelean, turning the once fertile lands into a weird wasteland. Overall most vegetation died off, leaving a hardpan ground. Those things which thrived in the lands became corrupted and twisted. There are strange animals, and slimes, which stalk the landscape. The flora is as dangerous as the fauna.
Even the landscape became weird. The most notable are the floating rocks in the North. These rocks, some the size of small mountains, float above the ground. Those with arcane gifts can even make these rocks move under their will. Eventually the Demon Lords began to use these rocks as a way to travel. While this is not a topic for an entire lecture, the floating rocks will appear a few times in some of our future lectures.
Those humans who did not flee, and there were some who chose to remain, were also corrupted. Their children started having strange looks and abilities. Two generations later, those born in the Demon Lands are different in look than people born in the Four Kingdoms.
Today, the Demon Lands remain a strange wasteland and a dangerous place to travel. As we continue our discussions we will come back to the Demon Lands and talk about some locations and some of its citizens. But for now, let us leave the darkness and talk about…
The Church of the All-Father opposed the rise of the Demon King. In a previous lecture we talked about the clergy in Arelean, and how they fell to the Ebon Blades. In the Four Kingdoms, the rest of the Church of the All-Father was intact and also in opposition to the rise of the Demon King.
The Demon King was also opposed to the Church. In Arelean, the Demon King had outlawed the worship of the All-Father. The Demons arrested any worshipers and took them to the Demon Forges to be transformed into Demon Soldiers. In the Demon Kingdom the lesser faithful gave up their worship, and the more faithful went underground.
After the Massacre at Nendar Moor, the Demon army moved west for Ceradome. The Demon King gave orders to sack Ceradome and destroy the center of the Church.
Ceradome, as you know, was the cradle of the Church of the All-Father and the home of the First Father. For more than a thousand years, the Church resided in Ceradome, with the First Father (and Mothers) leading from the Grand Cathedral.
The Demons arrived in full force to find a city without a wall. Ceradome had a small local militia, but mostly for handling the small crimes the city faced. The city relied on the mystical barrier known as the Seal.
For the people of Ceradome, and for the people of the time, the Seal was a myth. Since the formation of the Empire, no force had ever tried to attack Ceradome. No one had tested the Seal.
Now the city militia along with able-bodied citizens had gathered inside the city and erected what small defenses they could as the Demon Army closed in.
The Demon Siege
First Father Aori, who had met Ebnus a year earlier, came out to be with the small defensive force. He was unarmed and wore no armor. He stood out in front of the makeshift battlements and read from the Sacred Scrolls, telling the tale of Jaalom and the Seal. Yards away, the Demon Army stood, ready to to strike.
The Demons did not wait for any dramatic pause, they began their march at Ceradome. The First Father paid them no heed, and continued to read from the scrolls. The first wave of Demons reached the edge of the city, their black scimitars shining in the desert sun. They stepped one last time, and were reduced to ash…utterly destroyed as they tried to enter Ceradome. The Seal was not a myth, it was a true gift of the All-Father.
The Demon Lords ordered additional assaults, but they were equally futile. They tried their magics, and still watched the destruction of their forces as they reached the edge of the Seal. Within the day, the Demon Army stopped its assault and began a slow retreat.
The citizens within Ceradome rejoiced, and there were several days of celebrations within the city. The word of the All-Father had been made true.
The Fate of Ceradome
Word reached the Demon King of the failure at Ceradome. Worse yet was that word had spread through the Demon Kingdom and the Four Kingdoms of the presence of the Seal, and its ability to destroy the Demons. It gave hope to the people, and a new round of riots broke out in the Demon Kingdom.
The Demon King gathered his Princes and Lords and they came up with a new tactic. They regrouped, and in the Winter of 1024 a new army of Demons arrived, this one with a number of Demon Princes and Demon Lords. The citizens of Ceradome had no defense raised, no militia poised for counter-attack. In fact as word reached Ceradome of the approaching army, the citizens held a festival to the All-Father in defiance to the Demons.
The new Demon army surrounded the city, but never moved near the Seal, having learned their lesson. The Demon Lords and Princes began to cast spells, not directed at the City, but just outside of it. Their rituals caused black stone walls to rise from the ground, surrounding Ceradome and sealing it off from the rest of the world. There was nothing the citizens could do, for stepping outside of the Seal would leave them unprotected.
The Four Kingdoms, having surrendered to the Demon King after Nendar Moor, were in no position to resist the Demons’ efforts, and watched helplessly as they continued their works.
In a month, the Demons had constructed a fortress surrounding the City using their magics. The fortress was unique, as it had walls and battlements facing both directions. Nothing could get into or out of Ceradome without having to go through the Demon army.
The sole source of defiance to the Demon King was now a prisoner of the Demon King. It was devastating to the morale of all humans, and more so than ever, the futility of fighting the Demon Army weighed upon all humans.
The Blight destroyed Arelean. Even today, the Demon Lands remain a twisted place, that seems so different than life in the Four Kingdoms. For those who live in those lands, the Four Kingdoms seem a world away. Scholars and Mages speculate if the eventual destruction of the Demons would repair Arelean, or if it will always remain how it is now, a scar on Elhal.
As for Ceradome, its fate seemed sealed at the time. It will be some time before we talk about its ultimate fate. But in order to do that we will need to discuss the final human rebellion and the rise of the Great Heroes, including The Vessel. Those discussions will be had in the months to come.
For now, we will take rest from telling the history of the Demon Kingdom and spend the next few lectures discussing the Demons themselves, including their castes and their magic.