Back then, the vast Laphite Empire stretched from coast to coast, and was home to all people. The three heads of the mighty dragon gazed down from the Imperial crest, symbolizing the three fully autonomous provinces united in a single, powerful state. Even then, the climactic differences between the three lands led them to not only choose different paths of development, but also different ways of life.
Although it seemed sudden, hindsight shows that the change was inevitable. First, the weather turned strange and harsh. The rain hammered down more and more often, and when the sunlight finally broke through, there was no escape from the scorching heat. But that was only the beginning: hail, snowstorms in summer, acrid smog, hurricanes... it seemed nature itself had lost control. Finally, on a day like any other, it happened - the event that changed the world forever.
The heavens opened up, the earth gaped wide open, and gushing out on to every living thing came a previously unknown substance - a thick, cyan-colored liquid. It quickly became apparent that it had extremely powerful properties; properties that enabled it to transform matter beyond recognition. In high concentrations, it was lethally poisonous for all living organisms. The new substance turned out to be the decisive force that shaped the new world order. People named it “Prime,” and started to learn how to live in their changed habitat - each province in its own way.
The southern territory, located on a peninsula, came under bombardment from all sides by the elements. Massive waves of seawater and Prime flooded these lands. With a thundering groan, a rift opened across the earth, and the southern province split off from the mainland. Nothing more was heard of the south, and for a long time it was thought that it had been swallowed by the sea.
In the North, for the first days of the cataclysm, the population rushed to the mountains, further away from the Prime-saturated areas and fumes. A scientific observatory became the temporary provincial center, a hardened fortress high up in the mountains. Naturally, the observatory was used to carry out experiments to study the new substance. Soon it became clear that, despite the danger it posed to living organisms, it contained the key to previously unimaginable technological advances. Scientists developed a system that protected people from Prime-effects, and methodically went about stockpiling Prime as a new resource. The scientific and technological exploitation of Prime formed the backbone of a new society, and later, a new state.
In the Southeast, people’s first encounter with Prime was quite different. The province was located in the lowlands, and the moist, marshy environment soaked up the Prime like a sponge. There was no way of avoiding contact with the new substance, and the first days of the new age were dark indeed, with a heavy death toll. The Prime entered the bodies of the area’s inhabitants, and as it metabolized they felt a great power over the material world. The “New People” were able to create and transform material objects using their imagination and emotions. It was a new, intuitive magic, powered by inspiration - and Prime. The people of the South went about honing their new skill.
Life didn’t return to its former rhythm, but instead found a new one.
The Prime didn’t just become a part of everyday life, it became a crucial resource for survival. People adapted to this new world any way they could, but with the unknown comes great fear and suspicion. Some of the inhabitants of the Laphite Empire treated Prime with overzealous caution, and used it only to power their technological advances. To their horror, they saw others using Prime as an organic matter, physically interacting with it to achieve a an unheard of level of pure creative magic. These opposing views began to tear the empire apart, and the Laphite Emperor fell victim to the cataclysm. Shortly after, the governors of the provinces declared sovereign states: The Dokht Imperium in the North, and The Keepers of Adornia in the South. The Prime Zone, the region on the mainland which was most heavily affected by the cataclysm, formed a natural border between the two new countries. In this bizarre, desolate region, the Chud are often encountered - strange beings, so heavily affected by the Prime that it is unclear who they were before the Cataclysm: people, beasts, or something more terrifying. Now, both sides visit the Prime Zone, but they don’t go to gawk at monsters. Although the initial fallout caused people to flee from Prime, now in present day, everyone is looking for new Prime deposits to exploit and bring home.
Over the decades that have passed since the cataclysm, the flood of Prime has gradually dissipated into the earth, air, and water. Its concentration changes depending on various conditions. Now, it isn’t highly concentrated. However, in certain places, due to the relief of the land, pockets of Prime remain at its original concentration. On the hunt for this new resource, the inhabitants of the new world learned to find and exploit these deposits. The Imperium builds mines, while the Keepers use special trees to harvest it from the land.
Prime deposits quickly became national treasure in both states. It didn’t take long for all the extraction points for this new resource to be discovered, and divided up among the aristocracy of this new world. These are the Lords and Ladies, and their control over the Prime deposits extends to the territory upon which their property lies.
Since Prime has become an integral a part of life in both countries, they carry out constant searches for new sources of the resource. More and more, both the Imperium and the Keepers steel themselves to enter the depths of the Prime Zone, a place that hides the secrets of the past, the mysteries of the present, and the hopes of the future.
Prime is the past, the present, and the future. It is the source of everything: strength and might, miracles and magic, danger and power in this new world, and no one will survive without it.
The Strength of Unity
The Fog that densely veiled Praia had become the symbol of a new era. At first, both heroes and people received the news with hope that the Fog would cleanse the earth, marking the end of the Second Cataclysm, and lift the next day. Yet, the Fog did not dispel with the rays of a new sun; it did not clear the following days either. People’s joy gave way to anxiety, and then fear. The cyan puffs of Fog remained just as dense as on the day it appeared. It had blended with the world of Praia.
Yet, this confusion could not last forever. “If you cannot change the circumstances, research them and change your attitude!” announced the Dokhts, while the Keepers drew inspiration from their past accomplishments: “Since our ancestors managed to work with Prime, we will cope with this Fog; all the more so, Prime was deadly dangerous, and that’s just fog!” However, quite soon they all realized that the Fog could be dangerous too, mostly because it bends space and distorts the topographical properties of the land. It did not penetrate into towns and castles, but all settlements were surrounded by a dense wall of Fog. Nobody who entered the Fog could predict where he would end up. The first scouting groups disappeared and appeared in neighbor lords’ castles, hundreds and thousands miles away from their entry point. The roads that existed before did not bring you to the expected destination, routes became empty, and maps charted in the old age lost any sense, not only for planning military strategy, but even for the simple purpose of traveling. Some people who entered the Fog in its first days did not return, and it was unclear whether they ended up in the remote parts of Praia and were trying to find their way home or just disappeared forever. The Adornian queen Isabel, proud and capricious, became one of the first victims, having entered the Fog despite the warnings from her servants. Her fate is unknown: some say that she died, others—that she dissolved in fog, others—that Gods themselves summoned her for service.
With the vanishing of spatial limits, state borders began disappearing too: more and more frequently, the servants of the Dokht Imperium ended up in remote parts of the Adornian kingdom, and vice versa. At start, the hostility of states that lived in their hearts and minds, made them fight each other. But then gradually the came to understand that the war of states in Fog and in the conditions of constantly changing topography is impossible, and all effort should be primarily directed at studying the nature of Fog, or at least the possibilities of moving inside it.
One month later, the Dokht Emperor Ferraut declared that he had managed to solve the mystery of the Fog, and even came up with an idea how to get rid of it to return integrity to its Empire. It was a huge experiment: a few dozens of enormous machines and a great number of artefacts were gathered in the palace hall in order to dispel the Fog with a massive burst of energy and “liberate the Dokht people from foggy rule.” However, either Ferraut miscalculated something, or something just went wrong, but in the course of the experiment, a huge explosion took place, which buried all the people present in the place and the emperor himself alive. The Fog turned out to be stronger than the emperor. Ironically, many ill-wishers now whispered that they indeed got liberated from the foggy rule, even if in a different sense than thought the emperor.
That was the end of the two countries. The thrones of both palaces became empty, and every day fewer and fewer people wanted to take them: crown lords understood that it was impossible to maintain the authority of the state rule without the support of people, who ended up scattered across the whole continent and whose minds were now occupied with personal survival in new conditions. A more important task was to protect their throne, their people, and unite the nearby provinces. More and more often one could meet mixed patrol groups in lords’ castles and villages: a Demonologist and a Doctrine, scouting castle surroundings, were of no wonder anymore. Heroes began to swear fealty to lords, based on their own preference and independently of the color of the lord’s banner. Lords started to unite into clans to protect their interests. Mixed parties of heroes from different factions quickly became a norm, just like alliances of lords who previously fought each other on opposite sides of the barricades. Yes, their castles retained the red and blue roofs, and lords still had an inclination towards science or art, a scientific or emotional approach to the world, but it stopped being a reason for hatred. The Fog eliminated the borders, allowing lords to freely communicate with each other, exchange experience, and fight on one side.
The Fog… Scientists and magicians joined their effort to find out more about its nature. Priests, who again had the blessing and support from the gods, tried to reach for the truth in a prayer. The revelation of the Angel and the Demon that appeared on the eve of the Second Cataclysm, went from mouth to mouth and found its affirmation: the danger that could be felt from Prime on the days before the catastrophe, now vanished. In the end, the previously unimaginable intertwinement of science, magic, and religion suddenly gained strength and unveiled the secrets of moving through the Fog. It turned out that the Fog absorbed not only the cunning and unpredictability of Prime, but also its violent determination to divide and unite people in fight for power: castles of spiritually close lords ended up near one another, even if earlier divided by thousands miles of road. And, surely enough, if lords were joined by a clan, no matter what state they served earlier and how far away their castles used to be, in Fog they … near one another.
The thrones of clans gained more importance than state thrones. Clan Houses obtained a much more significant role, and Clan Thrones became the symbols of power and unity. The purpose of lords and heroes in this new world was to bring their clans to a higher new level. Heroes, for whom the battlefield was a second home, now fought not for the colors and honor of states, but for the colors and honor of clans. Peaceful life could not be possible: too much destructive strength the heroes possessed, and too accustomed to battles the lords were; yet, it is always better to fight for well-defined interests rather than for some abstract concepts. The Gods thought the same way, giving the participants of clan battles their special blessing, which materializes in physical and energetic objects that could be obtained in a Clan Shop. However, to move forward, clans needed allies: weaker vassals, whose support was still of great importance, and stronger overlords, whose power directly influenced the support of Gods in Clan Shops.
The more military glory the vassals gained—be it the number of battles or victories over stronger opponents—the more generous the Gods were, to their overlord as well. The mightier the overlord, the more the Gods’ blessing was felt in his Clan Shop, which was also available for his vassals. The strongest clans had access to the Castle of the Ancients; they say that when the world was so young that Gods lived among humans, they dwelled in this castle. In support of this legend spoke the fact that the Castle of the Ancients appeared in Praia right at the foot of the Sacral volcano. Though the castle could be seen by anyone, only the chosen few were allowed inside. These were those who achieved the highest levels in clan rivalry and who did not have an overlord clan, since their overlords were Gods themselves.