Recovery of Amicas: damn demons!
Welcome adventurers to Amicas.
A place decimated by war and disease. A place that thrived 4 generations ago, but which now survives by a thread and the grace of all the gods.
Your great great grandparents enjoyed an almost utopian existence filled with music and wine, competitions and contentment. Education and research was valued more than work because the Amicas city-states mostly understood that work get’s one thing done today… while research can accomplish many new things tomorrow.
No one really knows what happened or why. Maybe someone asked some questions which shouldn’t be asked, or decided that they wanted power instead of knowledge. Governments did exist back then – but those in them did not join for personal power, and the kings of the time were humble men who realized that by lifting others up they lift themselves up as well. And so they served their populous as leaders should be they kingdom or republic.
Today they are all gone. The people, governments, the social structures, and most importantly the knowledge. Now survival is hard and hard-won. Today’s law is ‘survive today’, tomorrow is not here yet. And no one really knows why this happened?
Demons just appeared. Not all at once, but more like they flowed from an endless bucket being poured onto the land. A dirty scourge that consumed all in a vile hatred born of inner chaos. No justification or rationale. No need for anything except the immediate visceral gratification of hurting others and destroying. That was their hunger.
They appeared from nothingness and took everything they could. They came really close to taking all. The first kingdoms and republics to encounter these entities were hit hard. Cities burned and it’s occupants consumed in great feasts like cattle. And there was little that could be done to stop the advancing hordes because countries were not skilled in the art of war and defense. There had been no need for such things.
Runners, people who escaped cities under attack, fled to their neighboring kingdoms and warned those who were next on the menu. And then continued onward to warn the next kingdom and the next. At first – the neighboring kingdoms did not believe the runners. “That is preposterous!” they would say. “That could not possibly be true!” And soon that city/state would be consumed as well, adding it’s runners to the list of escapees. One small group of runners could be ignored but multiple groups representing multiple kingdoms saying the same thing… the story became more compelling.
So the kingdoms did the best they could to prepare themselves for battle. Inexperienced and with their lives on the line they fought with abandon and fear, using whatever was at hand to defend themselves. But it was to no avail as demons brought weapons and armor.
After several city/states fell the runners urged the kingdoms to empty! Emtpy and hide! Starve the demons out! If they have no food a horde of that size would eventually turn on itself out of hunger and desperation. Take all that is edible with them and abandon their cities! Leave the demons nothing!
And so they did. The next city/state did just that. It took it’s thousands of people and it’s food and left the comfort of it’s civilization behind heading to a neighboring kingdom where they found a nights refuge. And then combined with the inhabitants of the new city they moved onward, into the west.
The demons were surprised when they arrived at a city which had no one living in it. But being demons they burned it to the ground anyway and danced and sang songs dedicated to the joy of killing and maiming and the occasional needlepoint project. It wasn’t hard to tell which direction a city/state’s worth of people moved off in, and so they followed the trails to the next city.
That city too was empty. Again they burned and sang… but something was wrong. Their hunger grew. They needed to feast to satiate it.
And so it went… entire cities moving west and abandoning their homes and cities to the advancing horde of chaos and enmity. The demons becoming more and more desperate to feed. Some turned on each other… while others turned to eating trees and stones in hope that these would alleviate the pain and frustration of their hunger. But they marched onward. No longer searching to simply do harm but instead hunting to survive, desperately.
And then the inevitable happened. The continent was crossed. A wake of destruction in it’s path reducing thriving civilizations to iron age cavemen. Libraries burned, research facilities destroyed, farmland desolate and windblown.
It took years, but not lifetimes for this to happen. Around the continent monuments to past accomplishments dotted the landscape. Bridges, stone retaining walls, aquaducts, cityscapes. But no people. No inhabitants. Everyone fled because that was their only option.
Until the day that the fight came. Thousands upon thousands of inhabitants had fled as far as they could. The Midlandfield Ocean was at their backs and they did not have enough boats. But they were well fed because they brought food and water with them. Approaching from the east, a massive swarm of demons. Big and small. Ugly and terrifyingly beautiful. But all desperate. All fighting for their own survival, backed into a corner by their lack of knowledge of life in this plane and on this planet and the terrible burden of this hunger unfullfilled. This would be the final battle.
And so they fought. The inhabitants of this land. They fought their hunters – the demons and their allies. The humans and elves, the dwarves and the half-orcs and halflings and gnomes. All fought. Farmers and physicians, wizards and mothers and children. All fought the demons. Spilling great swathes of both human and demon blood. Bitter vile reek filled the air that day as rotting corpses covered the land like grass does the plains in spring. Carrion birds ate their fill of both human and demon.
The inhabitants won, but there was no victory. Masses had died. Few of either side remained and the humans, better fed and strong, hunted the last of the demons till none remained. Their war of attrition had succeeded but at the greatest cost of all. Everything was lost. Civilization must start anew.
And so they returned to their cities and their farms and their towns because they knew nothing else to do. Basic survival skills had to be re-learned. How to build a fire. How to hunt. How to make farming equipment. They lived in the stone fortresses of their immediate past and struggled to survive just as their forefathers had done thousands of years ago. But while their knowledge was lacking, their broad minded educations allowed them to develop the skills required to live as small communities fairly quickly.
Within a generation a quiet egrarian life had been established. Farms had been established and hunters brought in enough food while herds could be replenished and crops harvested. The people that survived had not lost their advanced educations nor their individual knowledge. But now, research was not nearly as important as the work of making sure that food was available, and water. Medicines and magics were employed to help immediate needs not explore what were once the boundaries of knowledge. And education was about teaching the next generation how to live on a daily basis. Basic maths. Basic magics.
And over time and a generation, life returned to a more peaceful pace. Simpler. Great concerts in majestic halls were replaced by flute and violin around community campfires. Medicines once created in great feats of engineering and magic were replaced by the usefulness of local flora and fauna.
Every day was a work day. And every night was another opportunity to be thankful for having survived and been around to work another day.
But below it the sadness remained of all that was lost. The culture, the knowledge of countless generations, and more importantly the people. Parents and grandparents, children, both husbands and wives. Most were gone. So while some were content during the day doing their work and enjoying their communities in the evening, at night – alone and lying in the dark they would shake, tears streaming down faces at the thought of those they would never see again.
And some were lost without being killed. For some had been covered in so much demon blood during that final battle that they were lost in different ways. None lost in exactly the same way… some became mute and stared at walls eyes wide with an unseen fear, others sat in corners and rocked themselves continuously or repeatedly drew strange symbols on floors with their fingers until the symbols became painted in their own blood. Others spouted inane prophecy and gibberish. But all of these unfortunate souls were lost.
The horror will never be doubted because on that battlefield little grows. And what does grow is either twisted and mutated by the blood of the demons, or was not previously known.
As the decades have passed communications have been restored between distant communities by traveling bards which bring music and song and messages from one community to another. Needs/skills available/and excess to be traded will be passed by means of postings located on community boards such that as soon as a bard arrives in town – if they do not post their list to the community board immediately the local inns will not serve them food nor drink until they do. For communication with the outside reminds people that they really aren’t alone.
Then the merriment and drink and song and tales from other places can be enjoyed. And the messages to the community elders can be passed at civil conversations over tankards of mild spiced ale and “special brews”.
Unfortunately, most of the secret knowledge was lost. Magical or engineering knowledge that was held quietly by one or few individuals. Trade used to take place with other lands far far away via forgotten routes. Important commodities such as medicines and rotatable crop seeds and fabrics made from plants which do not grow in these lands but which are much stronger than those locally available are no longer easy to come by.
It is assumed that the people who knew those trade routes from the other side are dead as well given their generational absence. What is not known is “were the other lands destroyed as well”, or “were the traders who knew the route killed because they walked into the middle of a demon swarm”?
So many questions are unanswered.
Which brings us to your story, young adventurers. For you get to add your own chapter to this book.
Young and adventurous, you and your friends have decided to make a name for yourself by seeking out knowledge of these trade routes. Your motives are both selfish and altruistic. Yes, you are brash and young and seek adventure… but also, you hope that you may find medicine to help those you love who suffer from “the sickness of being lost”. Grandparents and parents who had children when younger… all families have some that are sick. It breaks your heart to see their grief.
So you set out on your quest, with the backing of your fellow community members. You are supplied well for your quest with steeds and food and some very minor leather armor and bows and arrow and swords as you will be traveling hundreds and hundreds of miles. The supplies will not last the entire journey, and where you will go eventually the horses and cart will need to be stabled, but they should get you to a stabling community where you can head off on foot. Bandits are not much of a concern as anyone prone to highwayman activities would be doing so against people who are battle tested and tough as nails. The few that have tried banditry as a profession have provided inspiration to others not to try this as a profession due to 1) the lack of community support, 2) the very short life expectancy and 3) the somewhat painful and embarassing ways that they would get to spend that very short life expectancy when they are subdued by a grandmother who personally killed 40 demons and isn’t in the mood for your games.
Your journey takes you via a well known path (“Rangers Run”) through 300 miles of plains and forest to the community of “Austir”. A small agrarian community that is known for being friendly and hospitable, and is also on the edge of a sheer rock wall of a jutting mountain range. That is your destination. The entrance to “The Stoney Mountains”. No dirt and tree covered hills in these mountains. Just walls of granite rising from the planes, some a mile in height. Only one pass in known into the Stoney Mountain Range. And from that point no maps exist as they were all lost in the war. Rumor has it that existing maps may actually be useless as the Stoney Mountain range as it consists of 2 ranges (that we know of) separated by a very peculiar marshland known as the Mirrorless Marshes.
The Mirrorless marshes – so named because the water within (for some unknown reason) does not reflect light, making the water looks solid and mute, almost like brushed leather. The marshes can be traversed in boats but many watermen have died here as the properties of the water are so different that many dangers are not recognized until too late.
It is here that you find yourself slowly mapping, on the edge of the Mirrorless Marshes, next to the walls of granite reaching upward into the sky, on thin strips of land where vegetation and trees do grow. your days are spent mapping and exploring another crag or another hole in the wall, searching for any kind of secret that may be hidden there. You know that there is something here, but to be blunt you had no idea being an adventurer would be so effing boring! Really drawing maps all day! Knowing that your maps are going to be used by travellers across the land you have started naming geographic waypoints. Originally, you gave them names to honor others. Names like Filinous Ridge, and Bakers Spring make way to other names, so named out of boredom. Trolls Naughty Finger, and Gnome Boobies are scrawled across the map. “Eh, whatever… you will have to copy the map later anyway. You will give them real names then” you figure.
After a few weeks of mapping and not bathing are regularly as you probably should (leading to 2 cases of armor rash) you spy a glade within a wide granite depression. Grateful for the end of another day looking forward to a warm fire, hot drink and to have a really long piss you head into the glade and stop.
Ahead of you, within the glade is something that you can’t quite make out. Your eyes have not adjusted yet to the shade below the trees after being in the late afternoon sunlight but you definitely see something moving. You freeze in place and watch, waiting for the eternity that it seems to take for your eyes to adjust to the darker spaces.
And there… in front of you, all facing a rift in the granite wall are 7 creatures you have not seen before. Short and squat yet massive for their height, just looking at them hurts something inside your heart. These creatures radiate hatred and chaos. But this makes no sense. They can’t be demons? Can they? Those were all killed years ago. But then you understand as an 8th demon appears from the rift. Pulled from the gapping rock hole like a baby born from it’s mother’s womb to a pack of very evil and very nasty looking midwives. The hole sizzles and cracks, energy sparking as the demon emerges, burning one of of the original 7 demons on an arm – who steps back from the pack and slaps at his arm to extinguish the sparks burning his flesh. As he spins around he sees you and stops.
Your group and this one demon stare at each other, speechless and both unexpected for what seems like a lifetime. You look at him, at them and realize they are armed with clubs covered in spikes. Mostly likely they are not here looking for a trade route. They look like they came for other forms of business.
Finally, the stunned surprise of your sudden appearance wears off and the demon howls – alerting the others to your presence. All spin around and face you. 8 demons. 8 creatures who want to eat your flesh, drink the fluids of your liver, and use your ribcage as a wishbone.
You look at your friends and realize this may be the last day you see them or they see you.
You and your friends spin around as fast as you can with 8 demons in hot pursuit.
“Shit” you mutter. “RUN!”