Wherein the Humans kill the Elven King Inioch and conquer the Elven Court. Princess Julia fights to reclaim the Valley of Wonders while foiling the evil schemes of her brother, Prince Meandor, who dreams of killing all of the humans, reclaiming the Elven Court for the Dark Elves, and raising King Inioch from the dead.
Keepers of the Valley
In the earliest days of the world, before days mattered and were meticulously counted by short-lived things, the Elven Court ruled all living beings upon the Blessed Continent, where the Wizard-king Inioch governed from the Valley of Wonders. He maintained a delicate balance of light and shadow and saw that the life of each subject in his Kingdom was not burdened by any great evil.
The principal members of Inioch's Court were a popular, yet scholarly and restrictive, society called "The Keepers." Dedicated to preserving order and maintaining peace for all the fair races in Inioch's Blessed Kingdom, they grew to considerable influence and power. The Keepers were hailed as the "Fruit of the Elves," and symbolized all that was good and right about Elven rule.
Children of Chaos
Yet for all their studies, the Keepers could not foresee the future any better than any other Seer. And so it was that they sought to shelter and nurture a fledgling race called "Humans." The Humans that have an evil sense of ingenuity, had nevertheless been banished from their "Garden," and sought a new home. The Keepers recognized that providing the short-lived beings such a home was an ideal opportunity to expand their influence and prosper in the ways of good.
Humans were different than any other race in the land. For some races, by their nature, good came speedily and without effort, while for others, by their nature, alein threatened to plunge them into a void. For Humans, the path was not so clear. Unruly and restless, they possessed many savage qualities. And while there were other races in the land that were neither good nor evil, the Humans were the first to seek Inioch's sanctuary.
Debate and Consequences
Inioch's Court bubbled with debate, but ultimately the Keepers prevailed, and the Humans were given a place within the kingdom to settle, with the stipulation that the Humans would be strictly monitored. Should they disrupt the good balance of the rich kingdom, or if they ignored the edicts of the kingdom, they were to be removed.
Five years passed and the short-lived Humans grew restless and chaffed under the strict Elven rule. A rebellious group of Humans rained down upon the Elven court without warning or mercy. Lord Inioch was cut down in cold blood. Queen Elwyn , Inioch's second wife, managed to flee the Court with her daughter, Julia. Prince Meandor, Inioch's son by his first wife, was left for dead. The Court lay in ruins. The bodies of the fallen Elves were callously heaped into a mountain of dead and left to rot. Soon thereafter, Humans drove all the remaining Elves, and any other non-Human, from the Valley of Wonders, claiming it as their new home. During the sacking of the Elven Court, young Prince Meandor hid under the bodies of fallen guardsmen, watching helplessly as the Humans slew his relatives and closest friends. When the carnage finally ceased, Meandor, first-born son of Inioch, limped from the Valley of Wonders, beaten and abused. Though he would heal physically, his soul remained scarred and red with anger. He could hear nothing but the song of vengeance.
The fall of the Elven Court sharply divided the remaining Elves' vision for the future of their humbled race. Some Elves, intent on restoring peace to the land, sought only to rebuild. Others, led by Prince Meander, saw only one recourse: the extermination of the Human race. He gathered his allies into the shadow of his torment. The Elves who shared his unquenchable hatred left the company of their brethren and set off on their own to plot their revenge.
Unable to maintain order after the fall of Inioch and the Elven Court, the Elves established secluded realms throughout the lands. Queen Elwyn made her new home on a remote island, where Princess Julia grew up and was schooled in history, philosophy, and the arts, as well as armed combat and magic. Upon reaching adulthood, Julia was introduced to The Keepers, a secret society established to protect the earth, make peace and prevent bloodshed, while maintaining as much of the legacy of the Elven Court as possible.
The Rise of Vengeance
When the Elven community split into two opposing philosophical camps, Meander sought out the Dark Elves. Here, he found support for his hatred for the Humans and his repulsion for those Elves, especially his stepmother Queen Elwyn, whom he felt had forsaken him.
Dark Elves, who had long grown their forbidden colonies in secret, deep within the black earth, joined him. With the weight of his royal descent behind him, Meander's promise of vengeance, bloodshed and power proved a siren's song for the ferocious Dark Elves. And so a new political faction was born from the ashes of Inioch's Court. So zealous in its goals was the faction, that even its followers considered it a religion, and named themselves the "Cult of Storms." They demanded that the world heed Meandor's call for vengeance, no matter the cost to Elven life or soul. With aid from the other races of darkness, the Cult proceeded to organize a global campaign of terror against the Humans, Elves and anyone that opposed their dark ideals. The Cult employed any means necessary to inflict havoc upon the usurping Human race, which held the Valley of Wonders and grew steadily in power. War poured over the earth. Still the Humans grew and persisted and found ways to survive, as if inspired by the afflictions they suffered at the hands of the cruelest of torturers.
The Rise of Sacrifice
Humiliated by their terrible failures among the Humans, the few Keepers that remained kept their allegiance quiet. Popular opinion held that the Keepers sought to destroy the Court to grab power for themselves. Many Keepers were stoned and their libraries burned, as the Elves tried to do something to appease the hurt in their hearts.
Only Queen Elwyn, Inioch's second wife, believed the Keepers' credo that the Humans could turn to the ways of peace and good. Having escaped the slaughter in Inioch's Court-bringing along her newborn daughter, Julia-she witnessed the sacrifice of the bravest Keeper Heroes. Elwyn knew the popular opinions were false, and so, she defiantly protected the fragments of the group that remained, though it cost her potential subjects. As soon as she could find shelter for her refuge-seeking followers, she set to helping the Keepers accomplish their mission.
That shelter comes from the Halflings of the United Cities, who donate the Isle of Aldor to the Elves. After nearly thirty years of wandering and fleeing, Queen Elwyn and her refugees found a new Court. She is proclaimed rightful ruler over the Elves. The Elves of Aldor accept her as ruler, and the Halflings back her appointment with unprecedented enthusiasm.
For the next two centuries, the Keepers slowly worked to rebuild their hopes for a peaceful co-existence with humanity. Most races viewed the Keepers with suspicion, but the fair races of the surfaces feared Meandor for the dark scars upon his soul and his fearsome allies. Using Elwyn's meager resources, the Keepers made every effort to counter the damage done by the Cult of Storms. Elf slew Dark Elf; Dark Elf slew Elf in bitter battle.
A Child of Hope
Elwyn's child, Princess Julia, grew. She learned to foster the hope of peace, and many of the people in the land looked to her as the hope of a true heir to Inioch's fallen Kingdom. Inwardly they prayed that she might be the key to return the world to balance and stop the endless wars. She grew quickly among the Keepers, every day more eager to learn. They taught her the tokens and signs that controlled the very powers of Life.
Yet, despite her training, for two centuries the lands bathed in blood. Julia grew in the harsh realm of adversity, and came to know the workings of war, diplomacy, magic and power, but at the same time she learned to cherish the times of tranquillity, celebration, and joy that flitted about her in the form of dear friends. She knew the power of love and the dangers of hatred, and so it was that she learned wisdom.
Wars without Number
Every race allied with other races, and every race betrayed other races. At the center, the Human forces swelled and ebbed, yet always managed to hold the Valley of Wonders. Other factions gathered at the edges of the Chaos, hoping to steal the riches of Inioch's former kingdom, only to find the Humans an indomitable foe. The dead rose from their graves and strangled life. The earth was blackened with conflict. Famine and pestilence withered the many factions, but the fighting continued.
Silence before the Storm
A volcano erupts near dusk on the fifteenth day of a particularly violent and extended battle. The races--battered and exhausted--mutually retreat under the clouds of thick ash that cover the land like a grey snowfall. The next day no battle came, and the next. For ten years, war ceased, and the races built their arms, rebuilt their tattered cities and strengthened their holdings, expecting the other to attack, and still nothing came. They forged alliances, and plotted their subtle schemes, but for a decade all in the land poised ready, in silence, waiting for a sign to strike.
Signs and Wonders
The sign came in the form of a brilliant new star that mysteriously appeared in the Eastern night sky; a beacon shining high in the sky directly over the ruins of Inioch's Court. From every point in the lands the star could be seen. Seers and Sages muttered cryptic warnings that the end was near, and could only explain it as an omen of change or doom. Within days of its appearance, Keeper spies spotted Meandor walking among the shadows of Inioch's ruined Court, searching for something.
Return to the Valley of Wonders
As leader of the Keepers, Julia gathered her closest advisors and set off for the Valley of Wonders to rebut whatever conspiracy her half-brother had in mind. The Cult of Storms was rumored to be plotting the resurrection of Inioch and the rule of a New World Order, which would include the extermination of the Humans. But despite their many ears, the Keepers could only guess when and how the storm would be unleashed. Unsuspectingly, Julia had already fallen for the first part of Meandor's plan to cripple the Keepers forever and obliterate the menacing race known as "Humans."