As many of you may know, before it became the backdrop for fantasy fiction, the Legacy of Ash world began as a D&D roleplaying setting.
We thought it would be in keeping with our roots to take part in the brilliant Absolute Tabletop #My30DayWorld challenge. We hope you’ll follow us over the next month as we reveal a little more about our world and the characters who bring it to life.
This post will cover the first 5 days. We’re doing them all separately over on our Legacy of Ash Facebook page, so head over and give us a like.
3/20. The “Elevator Pitch”
Calus Rukan is a land twisted by war, sorcery, and hell itself.
Broken coasts and shattered continents mark a land divided. The old empire of Aul Rukara was cast into darkness and devastation, though its legacy remains. The people of Calus Rukan – scholars and adepts, warriors and thieves, beggars and princes – strive to build new civilizations upon the ruins of the old.
But three thousand years after the sundering of the world, although light has returned to the darkness, ash still veils the sky.
3/21. What is the Name of Your World?
To the descendants of Aul Rukara, the world is known as Celduras, although almost all of our work so far focuses on the region known as Calus Rukan.
Sages are divided on the name’s origin, but some speculate that Celduras was derived from the proto-Rukaran word for “home”.
3/22. Who is the most nefarious villain in your world?
So for this one, there are two. Æsc and I will both talk about our most nefarious villains. James’ villain is Ceuthida, colossal kraken and Lord of the Deep. Æsc’s villain is Sarcta Tenumon Yscandros, the Deathless Emperor.
Ceuthida, a Kraken and Elder Being
There are many villains and antagonists in the world, including mortal men, barbarian warlords, and dreaded necromancers, but for me the most nefarious is much, much larger…
In ages past, the great krakens were the absolute rulers of the Calus Rukan. Birthed at the beginning of time, they are the first race, eldest in all creation. Able to dominate lesser minds with ease, their dominions once spread across every ocean and sea. Now, they are all but forgotten, little more than myth and folk tale. Most were killed by the dragons, but Ceuthida survived, imprisoned but not destroyed. After waking from her millennia long slumber, Ceuthida hunts the Aechetian Ocean, building her forces in an attempt to recreate the dominions of old.
Ceuthida is an ageless and immortal creature capable of dominating mortal minds or remaking the corpses of drowned sailors into undead servants. She is colossal, and more than just an animal hunting the high seas. Physically, she is a giant squid. Tentacles, a mantle, and a beak nestled within it all. (I prefer the look of a squid to some krakens with a more humanoid appearance.) Her tentacles can reach across small cities, destroying everything in her path. Half mad from her imprisonment, Ceuthida seeks vengeance on the descendants of those who sealed her away.
But there are gods old and new to match her power and even mortals who fight against her rule. In addition, the dragons remain. Old rivalries quickly return. Ceuthida needs minions to command if she hopes to rebuild her dominion, followers and mortal slaves to carve out her new empire. It is in the city of Soften that she faces the first taste of resistance, and here that she recruits a mortal vessel to be her voice.
The tale of her attack on Soften is told in the short story ‘Soldier, Kraken, Bard’:
Sarcta Tenumon Yscandros, the Deathless Emperor
“It was said that the necromancer came from the barren open sea, where the only sounds are the soughing wind, the hiss of waves, and the cormorants’ cries.
It is further said that he crossed the Sule Basin upon a raft of living corpses; and that even the keening Belsfalow storm-winds could not drown out the howling voices of the damned as he carved through the surf. His sail was fashioned from flayed human skins, tattooed with savage runes. Upon his brow burned a crown of black fire, which some tales claimed he had stolen from hell itself.
According to fragments of stelae which date from the reign of the fifth House of Chraelix, he made landfall just west of Asherach’s capital of Skoraigne [where the city of Kilaon now stands]. The armies of Asherach, alerted by the destruction of their fleet, were arrayed upon the Semnissa Hills overlooking the strand. The stelae show that Asherach’s legendary armoured war-tigers were in the vanguard, but they apparently panicked when a full legion of fleshless warriors marched ashore from the bottom of the bay. Although the entire military might of Asherach was marshalled against him, the necromancer prevailed. For with each Asherachi warrior who fell, the necromancer’s army gained a tireless new recruit.
The tides out in the Bay ran red, it is said. And when no living thing remained in the Semnissa Hills or upon the strand, only the cormorants were left to cry.”
– from ‘Chronicles of the Bone Wars, Vol. 1’ by Sivaulcha Pryn, Sentinel-Acolyte of Partha Raxides, circa 1093 A.S
“That night, Yscandros crowned himself – becoming the Deathless Emperor, his Dread Revenancy Sarcta Tenumon Yscandros. Skoraigne became the capitol of the Empire of Asherach. Hordes of undead were raised from the crypts beneath the city to serve the new tyrant. Yscandros summoned undead armies from ancient battlefields and sent them pouring into the neighbouring lands.
Within his own realm, he ruled his subjects fairly but sternly. Awakened corpses and skeletal labourers were assigned menial physical tasks around the city and countryside, relieving the common labourers from their drudgery. It became common for most families to possess at least one mindless undead to perform household chores. Time passed, and Yscandros continued to rule – apparently ageless. For almost a thousand years surrounding nations warred with Asherach, but each battle provided the Imperial priests with more undead warriors. Only sacred tribal magic kept Yscandros from extending his borders further.
The names of his undead generals became legendary: Jherraida of the Bloody Grin, Ilxannon Dusk-touch, Semphaarle the Unburnt, Akurazziak the Thrice-Broken, and the dreaded wraith known only as Sorrow. A stylized representation of Jherraida’s rune-carven skull still adorns Kilaon’s official silver piece. It is with good reason that the coin is called a ‘grim’.
Eventually however, the Deathless Emperor, his Dread Revenancy Yscandros was betrayed; the Unholy City of Skoraigne, capitol of Asherach, destroyed. The emperor’s body was never found, though it is said that he yet slumbers beneath the ruins of his city. Led by the cunning warrior-prince Tenias Noonfall, the emperor’s loyalists fought a running battle from the ruins towards the city of Tennur Nal. Pursued by the barbarian holy warriors of Ruka Den’Aul, the emperor’s undead legions were finally defeated at the foot of the Cethur Mountains. The Revenancy of Asherach was purged of most undead but, lacking a strong leader to unify it, the empire fragmented into small territories fought over by feuding local warlords.
Too solemn and ascetic to be aware of the irony, the holy warriors of Ruka Den’Aul declared the Revenancy dead.
Or perhaps, like the legendary Yscandros himself, it merely slumbers…”
– from ‘Under Kilaon’ by Tevan Orissos Ondwe, Royal Amanuensis of Kilaon, and amateur historian, circa 3406 A.S.
3/23: Who is the Most Renowned Hero in Your World?
“The 3rd Legion had fallen to the kinasahr horde. Karsenna Valley was burning, its people slain in their beds by the barbarian tribes. To the west, the remnants of the imperial forces were scattered. Legate Jethyll had been butchered by the kinasahr warlord, the last lines of the empire’s northern defence all but lost. All that was left was a small company of mercenaries, men and women from across Ildestra. Convicts and killers, brutes and thugs.
They called themselves the Lions of the Broken Moon, their leader a master strategist called Badon Veis’senur.
The kinasahr horde was driven back not by the fearsome Ildestran Legions, but by this small band of mercenaries. The battles that swept across the ruins of Karsenna were worthy of song. The leader of the Lions defeated the kinasahr warlord not by might, but by strategy. By the time the 6th Legion arrived, there was little left of the kinasahr horde. The barbarian warlord was dead, his head mounted before the Lions’ camp, the tribes returning to their lands, broken and defeated.
You, as descendants of Ildestra, owe your lives to the Lions of the Broken Moon. You owe your lives to their leader, the man called Badon Veis’senur, who would one day become an emperor.”
– ‘The Rise and Fall of Ildestra, Volume II’ by Aestelian Quan Demrithan
Badon Veis’senur was born in the year 2760 AS. Little is known about Badon’s early life or childhood. It was not until his rise within the ranks of the Lions of the Broken Moon that he began to draw the attention of his fellow mercenaries. After the battle at Karsenna Valley, he was noted by the Empress herself and awarded with the silver star of Ildestra. Soon after, the Lions were officially made soldiers of the empire, and Badon was given the rank of legate.
For years he served well, his mind able to work out strategies that baffled friend and foe alike.
It was in the year 2797 AS that the empress was assassinated, along with all family and heirs, leaving the empire leaderless. Legate Badon was loved by the people, respected by the legions, and tolerated by most of the senators. Badon was made emperor, and for decades he ruled justly, bringing together not just the fragmented Empire of Ildestra, but uniting nearly the entire continent of Alrend’ris.
Under Badon’s rule, Ildestra flourished. He brought together the broken continent, from southern Kilaon to the great northern jungles of Carias Deil, and from the Inner Rukari Sea in the east to the Aechetian Ocean in the west. Not since the Sundering and the breaking of the world had Alrend’ris been united so completely, and it was all due to the greatest hero in history, the mercenary, legate, and emperor called Badon Veis’senur.
Badon is kind of like my Alexander the Great. Considered a brilliant strategist, Badon united (or conquered) nearly the entire continent. He is a historical figure in the stories, rarely mentioned but integral to the development of the societies and countries that continued on. Most people consider him to be a hero, though in the end Ildestra fell, the empire crumbled, and the emperor himself was assassinated. For many, Badon Veis’senur became a saint, a god, his name whispered before weathered altars and faded icons. Many people believe he will return one day, reborn to the world to unite the broken countries once more and lead them all into another age of prosperity.
3/24: What Event in Your World Altered its History?
“We were told the war was over. We were told we were victorious, that our enemies had been defeated, that the dreaded Ter’anor were broken, fleeing back to what remained of their homeland. We were told we could go back to our lives and families. But we all felt that something had changed. The world, we knew, was different. The demons attacked soon after we returned home. Only five of us escaped our small village, farms burning, friends and families slaughtered as we ran. We fled to Ambasadh, the closest city, fighting for our very lives until we reached the city’s great walls. Hundreds were already there, desperate and frightened like us, clamouring against the gates, begging for shelter from the demons.
With us, one of five to escape our village, was Teisal Reng. Our mayor. The Reng family was wealthy and well connected. Teisal’s cousin was on Ambasadh’s royal council. When he was admitted into the city, I was not surprised. Teisal promised he would send for us once he was within the city’s walls, but I never saw him again. The demons attacked us three days later, driving us from the walls and into the night.
I’m not sure how long we hid, crouched in the forests, the valleys, the ruins of our homes…I’m not sure how long it took for the people in the cities to decide to run, or utilize their sorcery to flee into the sky. But when the ground shook, when the very forests quivered and the mountains wept, we knew that something terrible had happened.
When we saw them, the first of the auls breaking free, our cities rising up from the horizon and into the clouds… we knew we had been left behind.”
– ‘Trials of Sorrow’ by Eimas Shoi
The Sundering was an event three thousand years before our stories, an event that shattered the world. In an effort to defeat an enemy nation, the people of Aul Rukara decided to open the fabric between world and let loose a demonic horde onto their enemies.
This act won the Rukarans the war, but once unleashed, the demons could not be contained. The hordes spread without mercy. And so the Rukarans turned once more to sorcery for salvation. In a world-wrenching feat of power they tore their very lands – the realms that housed and fed them – from the face of the world and raised them to the sky above. An archipelago of floating islands – “auls” in the Rukaran tongue – drifted above the blighted surface.
They divided their people, leaving behind those they deemed lesser, the poor and injured, the sick and desperate. Once safely above the world, the cities continued for centuries, while the lands below were ravaged by the demons. But the world is not populated by only Rukarans. The others races, as well as the Rukarans left behind, hid when they could, and ran when they could not. For more than one thousand years the demons ruled, until at long last the mortal races began to take back what they had lost, driving back the demons, finding light once more amidst the dark.
But the land was forever changed. The demons remain, but the attacks are so few that most consider the tales to be fables or lies, stories designed to frightened children. The Sundering broke the land itself, valleys now exist where none should be, mountains rise up from broad, dry plains, and the auls themselves still drift unreachable in the sky.
It was this event that gave Calus Rukan its calendar. The years are noted as AS, referring to ‘After Sundering’, though the accuracy of this is argued by scholars across Calus Rukan, as many decades were lost while the remnants of the mortal races fought against the demon onslaught.
The Challenge will Continue…
Over the coming weeks, we will be posting more about Celduras and the continents that compose Calus Rukan. There is a lot more to reveal. Magic, faith, and sorcery. Politics and travel. Monsters, violence, soldiers, and war. This has been the first five days, but stay tuned for our second post for the next 5 questions.