The war long past, I find myself regretting many things. I regret the deaths of my kinsmen, the cause of the war, and the actions I took to help end it. With those things said, I choose to recount my story here in this book. Hopefully, as time passes, the mistakes of the Fey and Fomori will serve as a lesson to all.
Let us see… the beginning? I suppose the beginning hinged on one critical moment in the history of Eirinn. I’ll explain the players in the story first. Most importantly, we had the race of Fey called the Tyrinvinians. They would one day be known as the Fomori, but we’ll get to that in a moment. The Tyrinvinians were the best and brightest of the Fey. Their skill knew no equal and they were staunch defenders of the realm. When they went to battle against the enemies of Eirinn, all would turn out to hold a parade and celebrate the upcoming heroism of these warriors. They were the golden children of my kind and they will never be equaled again.
The Tyrinvinians had a great chieftain, known as Balor. He was the mightiest of all his kind and knew no equal in combat in all of Eirinn. Strong in magical arcana, he was only eclipsed by Oberon himself. Indeed, Balor was the General of Eirinn’s military forces and the Dark Queen’s personal champion. Balor was as near to perfect as one can get, but he did have that one flaw: love.
The Dark Queen of the Fey, Titania, as she is sometimes called, was a beautiful creation to say the least. In secret, many hoped to win her heart, but they feared the wrath of the King, Oberon. The lustful and wicked queen would not be denied and mercilessly toyed with these poor Fey. Eventually, she landed the biggest fish she could, the aforementioned Balor. In hindsight, the tryst was as plain as the veins on my face, but Oberon did not detect it until there was no going back. When he found out, the halls of Eirinn shook with his rage. To compound matters, he was unable to strike Balor down, because of the Tyrinvinian’s own power. Oberon had a trump card up his sleeve though. He had the power to exclude or banish any and all Fey from Eirinn.
In his anger, Oberon called the Summer and Winter Courts together for council. His diatribe was memorable, but he declared, with near unanimous consent, to banish the Dark Queen, Balor, AND the Tyrinvinians. Two things stand out here: I) Oberon ruled over the heads of the Courts II) Oberon banished an innocent people in the Tyrinvinians. I was the lone voice against this action and I was shouted down by all. This is the genesis for the disgust I have for Oberon and future matters would only compound it. That day was a tragedy that will live with me for all time. It was Oberon’s first betrayal.
With the Tyrinvinians exiled, Oberon sulked and pouted for many, many years. His precious pride had been wounded and that was the worst thing you could do to our ‘noble’ King. I relished his suffering and wished more upon him.
The absence of Balor’s people left a huge hole in the armed forces of Eirinn. Numbering more than 10,000, the Tyrinvinians comprised the better part of our armies. They were certainly the most capable and daring. Because of this, Oberon decided to reforge the military. In this effort, he drafted all capable Fey into service. He then restructured the command system and formed what he called military Orders. They were named after colors and consisted of the Gold, Grey, Green, Blue, Red, and Black. Each Order had a specialty, but two stand out for me: the Black and Red. The Black Order was a cavalry army, while the Red Order was an infantry army. In those days, I was a skilled warrior and had personally been part of many operations against the varied enemies of Eirinn. I was developing a reputation and it did not go beneath Oberon’s notice. He drafted me into the Red Order, specifically into a unit called the Red Banner, for which I was named captain. The purpose of this unit was to fulfill ‘suicide’ missions and take care of ‘special’ missions. Orders came directly from Oberon and ironically, the Red Banner consisted completely of people that had issue with the King. It is my thought that this was his way of quieting dissenters.
Many were the enemies of Eirinn and we knew our fair share of warfare. Those beyond the Opal Sea coveted the treasures they imagined locked away in our vaults. Others desperately sought to improve their lives with our wealth. Others still merely had a racist agenda and wanted to purge Tyrra of the Fey kind forever. In any case, they were all deflected by the shield of Eirinn, the military Orders. Throughout these struggles, membership in the Red Banner would fluctuate. Some died, some apparently gained the good grace of Oberon, and others simply disappeared. The one constant was our expertise. We were forged in the fire of combat and proved to be the strongest of blades.
Then passed a time of peace. In hindsight, it was more like the calm before the storm. From the sea came our exiled brothers and sisters. They sent a captive Fey ashore with a warning. The Tyrinvinians, now calling themselves “The Fomori,” were there to make war. Incidentally, “Fomori” is Tyrinvinian for “Regret.” What came next would be the hardest fight for survival Eirinn would ever face.
The Fomori, led by none other than Balor, had somehow become infused with the very essence of Chaos. Coupled with their already formidable skillset, this corruption made them nearly unstoppable. They savagely attacked the western shore and destroyed many villages before the Red and Black Orders could be mobilized to fight them. Gold, Grey, and Green were held back to guard the heartland, while the Blue was set asail to fight them at sea.
In a great tragedy, the Blue Order was decimated by the might of the Chaos-spewing Fomori. What few survivors made it to shore either joined with the Red or Black or fled back to the Treespire. Cowards. After that defeat, the war became a hideous carnage of death and destruction. Red and Black were pressed to their limits and suffered heavy casualties. Yet, in spite of it all, we managed to hold the line. Specialty units in the two defending Orders were tasked to an extraordinary degree, but met with success on many occasions.
The majority of the Fomori forces, fighting on the beaches, continually pushed us back into the island. As you know, Eirinn is not a large island, being perhaps twenty miles in width, so the danger was imminent to the heartland. It was during this fierce fighting that a peculiar order was delivered to me. From the hand of a Sylvan named Carsis, I was directed to infiltrate the Fomori flagship and disable something called the Crucible. The orders were vague and I had not the slightest idea of how to accomplish the mission.
Deciding that the entire Red Banner must embark, we developed a plan for executing the mission. There were many Fomori boats lining the shore and we determined that we should use one and float our way to the enemy fleet. By night, most of us crept stealthily into the boat, while the remainder pushed it to sea. Covering ourselves with tarps prevented anyone from seeing us. We bored holes in the side of the boat, just above the water line. Men in the back pushed oars through the holes and gave us steady, but slow, propulsion. Eventually, we floated to the hull of the ship and made our boarding in secret. Fortunately, the deck was empty and we made our silent entry unmolested. Our intelligence told us that the Crucible was below decks in the hold. Oiling the hinges to the hold-gate prevented undue noise and I crept inside, while the others maintained a vigilant guard. Why did I go alone? I’d like to say that it was from a sense of heroics, but it was a practical matter. Only I was capable of interpreting the design and properties of an artifact, so the duty fell to me. If I failed, the Red Banner was instructed to drop the Crucible into the sea.
I crawled, oh so slowly, into the hold and found a warded store room. Archaic runes had been scrawled along the door seam and the ward key was not present. Placing my hand on the door, I muttered a standard incantation and the ward evaporated. While it’s not my specialty, I checked for traps, but could not see any. I had the thought that this was going too easily. Just then, the sounds of combat erupted from the deck of the ship. The clash of swords rang through the night and I knew that we were discovered. It wouldn’t be long before the alert spread to the neighboring vessels.
Calmly, I pressed on with my mission. Having no choice, I pushed the door inward and cringed awaiting the imminent explosion or gout of acid. It did not come. Instead, my eyes suddenly adjusting to a bright light, I saw a room filled with glowing candles. They were everywhere and cast out the shadows. In the center of the room sat a plinth made of some dark stone, perhaps basalt. Upon the plinth sat a sort of chalice, undoubtedly the Crucible, and it glowed with a dark light. Standing behind this arrangement was a Fomori of short and very thin stature, her face ravaged by the horrors of Chaos. Her horns curled back into wicked hooks. She was robed in a dark crimson cloth and bore runes like those upon the door. Upon her chest was the ever so familiar mark of Chaos. Her eyes were closed and she held her bleeding wrist above the Crucible’s bowl. She was not aware of my presence and I slipped my dagger from its sheath and made toward her. Not that I’m proud of it, but I deftly sunk my blade into her heart and killed her. She crumpled like a ragdoll and I was alone with the Crucible.
I examined it closely, but did not dare touch it yet. It had strange, swirling images etched into the side. There was no form, just twisting… well, Chaos. Such a strange thing. Inside the bowl was the black blood of the fallen Fomori. It filled the bowl perhaps three-quarters of the way. Faced with uncertainty, I resolved to identify the magical properties of this device. Summoning the spell innately, I reached out and touched the Crucible.
Agony. I was filled with the sensation of being torn apart. I could feel the Chaos ripping through my veins and destroying my form. My very soul felt as if it were being torn asunder. Through it all, I caught a glimpse of the dread purpose of the Crucible. If it were filled to the edge, and the contents were drunk by a Chaos-spawn, a tremendous explosion of Chaos-magic would burst forth. The effect would go for miles, encompassing my brethren on the shore. This device was meant to kill every being within five miles, if they were not tainted by foul Chaos.
Tearing my hand away, I looked down upon it. Veins, twisted and black were now prominent. I felt this way all over and knew that I had crossed a irrevocable line in the sand. I was now a Chaos-spawn. I stowed away the tragedy and focused on the matter at hand. Based on what I had gleaned from the identification spell, I knew that the Crucible must be ‘detonated’ before it was filled with blood. I tried pouring it out, but the blood would not pass from it. I tried shaking it out, but met with similar failure. My heart sinking, I knew that I must drink this ichor to complete the ritual early. For Eirinn. For Eirinn I would do anything. I mustered the courage and drank the contents in great gulps. I was wracked with agony yet again. My guts were on fire and I vomited furiously. While I was in my death throes, nearly unconscious, I made note of two things. The first was the sounds of combat had settled into an eerie silence. Second, I could hear rapid footsteps heading toward the door.
As I realized these things, the Crucible exploded. Wave after wave of pure Chaos washed over me, but it didn’t affect me in the slightest. I was, after all, one with its very essence. In my heart, I knew I had just damned my brothers and sisters to the same fate I had just suffered. But, they lived! That was the most important thing, wasn’t it? The door slammed open and all I could see was the hulking form of our dreaded enemy, Balor. His face was torn with rage as he became aware of my presence and what I had done. He held forth his hand and coalesced a ball of Chaos energy. Hurling it at me, I made for a quick dodge, evading the bolt. It struck the side of the hold behind me and tore a great rent in it. Seeing my opportunity, I grabbed the Crucible and leapt into the churning sea. Even though I was deep underwater, I could hear his rage. He called me by name and cursed it soundly. But I was free! I had undone his master plan! Sorrow filled me as I became certain of the fate of my fellows on the ship. They were dead and I was the last of the Red Banner. In disgust, I let slip the Crucible to be taken by the depths of the ocean. It is still there, I am certain.
Though it took some time, I swam my way back to the shore, only to find myself amidst a vicious Fomori onslaught. I skirted the enemy and found our line. It was in chaos and rapidly disintegrating. What light the moon gave showed me that my fellows had been twisted much like I had. They were in a state of shock and panic and it was causing a rapid breakdown of our forces. The Fomori now had a killing field.
Suddenly, front behind the front, a bright light soared in the night. A shimmering wall snapped into reality. It curved toward the top and seemed to form a dome over all I could see. Then, like the snapping of my fingers, it vanished, taking most of the island with it. Eirin was gone! It simply vanished! From somewhere in my tortured soul came the realization that we had just been abandoned to the fight. Likewise, my fellows realized this, too. Like a slap in the face, they regained their composure and set about reforming the line. The tides turned for us. The Fomori’s dreadful magic would no longer work on us. Instead, it healed the very wounds the Fomori blades carved into our bodies.
As the battle swung in our favor, we began to decimate our enemy and push them into the sea. They made retreat and launched their skiffs and boats. We slaughtered them by the score. Balor would never allow his minions to flee, but he is a smart general and understands the value of retreat. It was called in full as the Red and Black surged to victory in a mindless, berserker fury. From behind the ships of the Fomori, a great rent was torn in the fabric of the night. Behind it swirled the familiar and enticing realm of pure Chaos. We captured launch boats and fought our way to the ships, boarding many. By then, our numbers had dwindled from around 6,000 to less than 2,000. Fomori deaths were much more significant. Nonetheless, we captured many ships and followed the Fomori through this rift into Chaos.
That battle is a story for another day, but suffice it to say that we fought for what seemed like an eternity.
So… the compromise. It was the decision that I was forced to make. Allow sweet death to take my brothers and sisters, or permanently stain them with Chaos? You now know which path I took and it still pains me to this day. What hurts the most, however, is Oberon’s betrayal of two full orders. I suppose he made a compromise, too. Faced with the overwhelming invasion of the Fomori, he had chosen to take Eirinn out of the fight. Like me, Oberon would do whatever it took to preserve the realm. In this case, it meant betraying his kind and kin. I understand it, but I will forever hate that bastard for what he did. I will forever hate myself for what I did. We are both unforgivable.
Hopefully, by the time you read this Eirinn will have been restored. Perhaps the stain of Chaos has been removed from our bodies. Is it possible that we have come home? Over all, I hope you never have to make such a compromise.
(Art by George Alwyn Marston)