A continuation of the previous posts.
A New and Terrifying Age – In the wake of dying Tzyan and the Tempest’s birth the world shuddered and groaned. For decades there was silence, and the Iron roads of Sybarra went untrod by soldier’s feet as new kingdoms reeled and regrouped in the wake of the Calamity and the breaking of Sybarra.
In the capital of old Sybarra rose Karaash. Led by its hereditary priesthood, who carefully harnessed and interbred all those scions of god and mortal that still survived after horrid Tzyan, they managed to retain some splinter of Sybarra’s ancient might. Though the gods were slain and the proof of their demise roiled and writhed balefully on the distant horizon, they continued on as they had before, impaling all dissenters. Karaash would inherit the wisdom of Sybarra and continue the tradition, led by scions of divine blood, unchanged, unrelenting, heedless of the horrors of a changing world. And though every generation more knowledge was lost, their inbred ruler-caste grew more unstable and deformed and more cities fell to famine, plague and anarchy, the legacy of Sybarra was long and mighty indeed.
In the distant North, Great Muir stretched languidly as its now leaderless bureaucracy gleefully enriched itself, in patient anticipation of its next overlord. After an initial panic at the appearance of a tempest of hideous witch-fire in the distant south and the death of all the worlds gods, it quickly became lost in the intricacies of its labyrinthine laws, culture, religions and history and soon forgot the outside world all together.
The Sial-Atun, men and women that had once formed the secret police of an empire that spanned the globe, now a people driven in exile, carved out a kingdom in the twilight of the Tempest. Bereft of food to even feed their children, they sold their blades for gold and food to any who would offer.
Of Hadar, Ursk and the Golden Kingdoms in the East, few things are now remembered, but in that bright evening of the world their majesty outshone that of the sun itself.
In the unbearable light of the Tempest, flesh and stone ran molten like wax, and strange, nightmarish things were birthed that could not bear the light of day. Nightmarish creations of the extinct Tzyanese wandered the wastes, baying for blood and souls. Others horrors, older then man and long held back by the mandate of heaven or the might of empire, surged forth from the crags and fissures of the earth or the boundless ultramontane abysses and Beyond to wreak terrible havoc on the world of men.
Sorcery as man had known it had changed. Once calm and fathomless like a vast lake, now it surged and roiled like an ocean in storm, terrible and fickle, but a thousand times more potent also. Where once the might of a council of archmages was needed to wreak the greatest of spells, now even a half-illiterate conjurer of middling ability could unleash their potency.
Slowly, village by village, city by city, the world of the Age of Summer fell into darkness, savagery and ignorance. Sages, lords and kings swore oaths and banded together to push back the tide of darkness, and rebuild what had been lost so long ago. For some time the tide of encroaching horror was kept at bay, ancient ruins were plundered of their secrets by brave men and great libraries were stocked with what knowledge remained. For a while men dared to hope for better times.
Then came the Harrow Kings.
The Reign of the Harrow Kings – It is not known what they were or from whence they came, or how great their numbers were. Some say they emerged from the Heart of the Tempest. Others say they fell from the heavens on chariots made of jet-black metal. What is known is that they unleashed a reign of atrocity and horror upon the kingdoms of the Land of Autumn the likes of which cannot be conveyed in words or even imagined.
Their edict was terror and Final Night. They preached no creed nor worshiped any god, and all the world was ashes to them. With contempt they broke the heroes and sorcerers arrayed against them, crucifying them upon the ruins of their cities. They burned their own soldiers on pyres of ancient knowledge, offering their lives to nothing. Even roads and bridges they wrenched from the soil and sundered. Plagues and curses and mutilation were their only legacy. It is said that three out of five of every man, women and child in the Lands of Autumn succumbed to their horrifying reign. When begged or asked why they did as they did, those that deigned to answer in their grating tongue, which has no roots in the Lands of Autumn, said only “It is what is necessary.”
Some were spared. The Free City of Muir opened the gates for the legions of the Harrow King Skraegh Eohoeth, and by his edict was every statue in the city maimed and made ugly and deformed. His draconic reign ended up reinvigorating the cob-webbed ministries and guilds of Muir, and his reformations purged many who were corrupt and self-serving. Untypical among Harrow Kings, he is looked upon charitably in the Age of Dusk (but only in Muir).
The Sial-Atun stayed true to their vow to serve all with coin to afford them and marched willingly under the banners of the Harrow Kings. The brutalities they committed in those brief decades formed the foundation of their legendary prowess in the Age of Dusk today. Cities and people fell to their swords, and they themselves were reforged on an anvil of unimaginable horror. Everything soft was cast aside, and only tempered steel remained.
Of the Weapon, it is not known how they regarded it and why, for the motives of the Harrow Kings remained oblique. Some attempted to assail it, leaving their hosts upon the wastes of glass. Others travelled into its interior, pursuing objectives that bear no resemblance to those of sane men. It is known only that when the Reign of Kings had passed, the Weapon remained as it was before.
Only Karaash, ancient, obstinate Karaash, with its endless legions and its ancient cities, resisted the onrushing tide of night and horror. Cities burned and peoples were wiped off the face of the earth, but Karaash would not succumb.
Karaashi boast that for the legions alone the hordes of the Harrow Kings gave way. Others claim less charitably that the Harrow King Skraegh Hannoeth was moved by their defiance, yet others that he grew weary of monotonous butchery. But all agree he turned aside then.
The reign of the Harrow Kings lasted mere decades, for though they seemed impervious to age and sickness they spent their strength frivolously and destroyed most that they took, and always did they hunger for further conquest. When all of the Lands of Autumn were trampled under their iron-shod feet, they could not contain their hunger for further degradation.
Some fell in battle against older and greater powers that lingered in the forgotten places of the world, greater even then them. Some took their hosts into perilous realms beyond that of man, to match blades against the legions of the infinite. These merely vanished, never to be seen again. Others still, the greatest and most ferocious, turned their hunger upon their kin, and Harrow King fought Harrow king in the charnel fields of the Age of Dusk.
The last of the Harrow Kings is said to have died by treachery, stabbed with blades coated with strange toxins, rent asunder by his own retainers, his empty armor entombed in molten lead, to be cast into the Hungry Sea. As toxins distilled from a the heart of a falling star consumed the non-flesh of his being, his last words were said to have been ‘There is nothing.‘
In the wake of the Harrow Kings, the world as it had been had died, and only distorted fragments of prior ages remain to haunt the world of men. The Reign of Harrow Kings is dimly remembered, for few kingdoms could bear to consider for long the horror and degredation they inflicted on their forefathers. Only in Karaash, obstinate, enduring Karaash, do they keep records of that misbegotten epoch, and most of those self-serving lies.
In their wake rose petty kings and fiefdoms, and men took stones from the ruined cities to rebuild houses lost in war, but of rebuilding the empires of greater ages, there could be no question. Too much has been forgotten, and too little time remains. The world quakes and shivers, horrors walk the earth and men feel dimly the approach of Final Night.
So it is in the Age of Dusk.
6 thoughts on “[Age of Dusk] Meditations on the importance of a Timeline for a Last Age Pt. III”
Interesting. I was thinking the Harrow Kings were another of Trazyn’s weapons. Thing along the lines of eugenical brought up servitors or biological robots. Did not even think of them as space monsters/maybe gods or things birth by The Weapon, ripping their way into existence. This completely changed my mental image of them.
“Others claim less charitably that the Harrow King Skraegh Hannoeth was moved by their defiance,”
Why is this a bad thing? Unless Kaarash went crossed the line that The Hadra refused to.
The King remind of the Abyss from Dark Souls. Especially the Locust Priests.
In general when I write Age of Dusk shit I try to take into account what comes before so its Anaghakhorem + Sial-Atramentar –> Tzyanese —> Weapon or Arguably Weapon —> Anaghakhorem + Sial-Atramentar –> Tzyanese —> Weapon but I wanted the Harrow Kings to explicitly be something that had not been encountered before, separate from the slow chain of consequence that I have outlined so far. I’ve left it open whether the Kings are ascended men or something altogether, which seems appropriate. A lot of fantasy tries to explain too much.
[Creations of the Tzyanese]
I have a sort of headcannon for Age of Dusk where every monster I make for it has some sort of origin but I try to mix it up otherwise you fall into a wizard did it too often. Tzyan is a good bet since its both a very recent power and as written it has a very in depth understanding for the soul and the divine, coupled with a contempt for anything higher then they are. I might go into Ion at some point or I might not. I still have a lot of notes and I hope to someday edit all of that stuff down into a few PDFs that people can use in their games.
Its less charitable because in one interpretation Karaash repelled the Harrow King and in the other the Harrow King was touched by their defiance and took pity on them.
I think the Dark Souls aesthetic and scope works really well for the Harrow Kings (The Four Kings?). It’s a breath-takingingly beautiful and atmospheric game (and I am thinking of buying a new gaming rig while this corona shit is ongoing so I might revisit it once Palace is done). My first visual inspiration for the Kings was the Witch-King of Angmar from the Return of the Kings movie.
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I don’t know. I think the Dark Wraiths or Black Knights work better as a fit than the Four Kings.
Super glad there’s more detail on the Harrow-Kings. Probably one of my favorite parts of the Age of Dusk, and I’m glad they are something separate from Tyzan and the Gods. Sometimes it seems like the effort to tie everything into one monolithic evil takes away from the horror factor, as it becomes explainable. The Harrow-Kings just are. Potent, implacable, and irredeemably bad dudes, they make for great antagonists and boogeymen in the lore. These timelines are awesome and they feel alive, because nothing beyond the big picture is set in stone, there’s enough open to interpretation that even a half capable GM could run with this. History written by the victors, or at least, the survivors.
It seems that the theme of the Age of Dusk is failure and entropy. Everything falls, everyone eventually fails, nothing is eternal. Is this something intrinsic to the Sword and Sorcery genre, or what you set out to to do when you dreamed this up? Regardless, I am loving this, and can’t wait to hear more. Fingers crossed, there might be a Harrow-King in future adventures, waiting to be awakened from the grave, their evil to potent to lie forever dormant.
That’s a good question. I don’t know for sure. The inexorable rise and fall of civilizations is a recurring theme or motif in Howard’s Conan/Kull and Lovecrafts ouvre and is present in most of the S&S stuff I’ve read. S&S tends to be focused on individual motives and accomplishments and is less about the fate of nations but you will find cycles of civilization in plenty of S&S (Faffhrd & The Grey Mouser, Kane, Grey Maiden etc.).
[Harrow King in Adventure]
I like adventure writing but I need to work on my release speed without affecting quality. If I ever do a Weapon module I might put one in.
[Rise and Fall in S&S]
You make a good point of the mostly character focus in typical S&S stuff, but I suppose it comes from the historical backdrop of which they were written and what the author pulled from. A lot of them have a Rome-expy or the existence of some ancient nigh-monolithic empire that many of their cities and areas are built on the bones of, like London or many areas in Europe. I like that you can sort of see the historical influence in the works of the masters. I wonder if you could do S&S without the existence of former empires and tombs to plunder. I suppose it pushes to what are the staples of the S&S genre.
[Return of the Kings]
Personally, I say take your time. To much crap comes out rushed. Waiting for a good project is worth it. You do mention [Harrow King Saergkhan Haerg and his personal guard of animated suits of armour (The Hollow Constabulary)] in your previous write up on the Weapon. That sounds like a dope ass adventure, but it males me wonder how the hell anyone would adventure there? Makes all those previous arctic crawls you reviewed seem like a stroll in the park