CHAPTER 3

2 EVENTS UNLOCKED

WAR COUNCIL

The mysterious Prophet of Thorns plays a key role in the Uprising – but who is she? Why is she held captive by the Empire and not simply executed? We asked our community to tell us – and now we know! What are your two favorite aspects that we will turn into event cards for the game?

This poll has ended (since 27 days).
The Prophet is the last living God-touched, interwoven with a god herself. Her skin grows thorns and blossoms.
22.69%
The Empire believes that the Prophet is the key to resurrecting the Emperor.
21.75%
She is the heir to the Ancients. With the help of the Old Gods, she plans to reconquer Azuhl.
21.60%
The Prophet was the Emperors' favorite Inquisitor but she turned on him after the Curse.
14.55%
Everyone that falls in love with her (including the son of the Emperor), becomes one of her thorns, fighting for her until he or she dies.
12.99%
The Prophet is gaining her followers through her forbidden song - don't ask further, it's too dangerous.
6.42%

*Please note that we have to playtest these thoroughly, so they might change a bit.

Below are the stories written by fellow rebels, to continue the tale of Kha’al and Syndra. Click on the name to read their contribution to the Lore of Azuhl. Please keep writing this story with us!

– Who is the Prophet of Thorns? –

Despite speeches of brotherhood, united purpose and duty to their chosen Old Gods, there had always been a loose hierarchy within the ranks of the Druids. Sometimes this was gauged by number or fervor of acolytes, by the rate of success one would have in swaying their God, or by innate personal power. In all of these the undisputed lead was held by the one known as The Prophetess of Thorns.

She was the first Druid attuned to nature that felt the throb of power emanating from the Vast Western Forest. Drawn to the Great Bristle Pine she reached out to commune with this massive being but only received silence to her expressions and entreaties. This was unusual to her, for she could hear the voices of all the other trees and animals near the Great Pine. Determined to come to an understanding, she sat herself on one of the large roots that had erupted from the ground around the base of the Great Pine, placed her hands on the rough bark and meditated.

In time other Druids arrived under the eaves of the Forest. The first arrivals were stunned to find a young woman with closed eyes and a serene expression sitting on the root of a massive tree, encased in vines and thorns. Attempts were made to speak with her, but she was as uncommunicative as the great tree itself. They tried to release her from the vines and thorns, but every time the vegetation grew back faster than it could be removed. In despair the Druids called out to the God of Nature to save the woman, performing rituals, incantations, and inscribing runes on stones; for any time they tried to carve into the bark of the Great Pine the wounds would close instantly.

The greatest of the Druids , the one called Forest Heart, knelt before the entombed woman. Having exhausted all his knowledge, the knowledge off the other Druids, their acolytes and the very trees surrounding them, he began to weep in sorrow for the fate of her he could not help.

“Why do you cry?”

The voice was youthful and bright. With a start Forest Heart looked up and saw the open eyes and quizzical look on the woman’s face as she looked down on him. He was unable to answer her. Though his jaw opened and closed no sound would come from his mouth. Closing his eyes and pressing his palms together, he gave a silent prayer of thanks to the God of Nature. Taking a deep breath to calm himself he explained what he and the other Druids had been doing, their many attempts to free her from the encircling thorns.

She laughed. “But why? As you can see they are not harming me. I am not sure why the Bristle Pine has decided to cover me thus, but I assure you I am perfectly fine. Honestly, why would you all go through so much trouble? I’ve only been here a few weeks, attempting to commune with this ancient one.” Her face turned to the Pine and she smiled slightly.

Once again the shock took the words away from Forest Heart. With an effort he took control of himself. “A… few weeks? But lady, we have been in this forest for months, almost to the change of seasons, trying to free you from your prison.” It was now the woman’s turn to be shocked. Eyes wide, staring at the other Druid all she could say was: “Oh.”

Forest Heart asked gently, “How long have you been here, lady? When did you enter the forest?” She replied that it was in the 20th year of the 15th Emperor. He was aghast, it had been nearly two hundred years! It took him a while to convince her that she had been in meditation for so long, having to detail the successions of emperors and world events she had missed ending with the resurrection of Aezher shortly before he arrived in the Western Forest himself.

“But now that you’ve returned, we must release you from the Pine. We’ve tried everything, but the solution has evaded us.” Smiling at him sympathetically she said: “I appreciate all the effort you and your companions have gone through for me. I wish I had been aware of it, for I could have told you it was unnecessary.” With no perceivable effort on her part, the vines and thorns surrounding her unfurled and she lifted her arms, her former ‘prison’ dancing and writhing behind her like a cape in a strong wind. All around her gasped and bowed low, acknowledging her power, and began to call her The Woman of Thorns.

For many years Druids and disciples would venture to the Vast Western Forest to look upon or speak with this woman. And in this time she also found new abilities within herself. In addition with perpetual youth, she found that no longer needed food, water or sleep, as long as her feet touched the soil. She was also able, with some effort, to commune with any tree she focused on, no matter where it grew. At first she thought this was unique to the trees of the Western Forest, but through experimentation, she found she could reach out and learn of happenings the world over. She was only saddened by the fact that the one tree she truly wished to talk to stayed forever silent, the Great Bristle Pine. Conveying what she heard from her tree friends far and wide, her listeners declared her a prophetess and thus the Woman of Thorns was crowned the Prophetess of Thorns.

Being told of ‘a woman forever youthful who could see things unseen’ by his Inquisition, the Emperor commanded them to capture this creature, knowing that the power she wielded would make his bid to destroy the worship of all other Gods infinitely easier. In addition to this, he had been told that the Forest she made her dwelling was also harbored many Druids who were still faithful to the Old Gods. What better way to kill two birds with one stone than to raze the Forest to the ground while wiping out the disciples of his divine opposition. He made it clear however, on pain of a fate worse that death, that no harm may come to this ‘Prophetess of Thorns’. She must be captured alive, and brought before him.

In a time where all flowers have gone, the prophet of thorns is the last rose on a wide field of frozen bushes.

She is that lovely, that also the son of the emperor tried to pick that rose. But as he tried to reach her, all he got were thorns under his skin.

In fact, her magic turns around the mind of many men and women. And everyone that falls in love for her, becomes one of her thorns, fighting for her until he or she dies.

How does she bewitch her thorns do you ask? It’s a forbidden song about her and the art of love. But don’t ask further, it’s too dangerous.

The inquisition itself has imprisoned and silenced her. But some days before the son of the emperor run into her when she was sitting on a lifeless tree, singing her song. At this moment he lost his mind, he lost his soul, he lost his heart. Nobody knows where he is now. There are rumours that he and his man are part of her thorns now, the raging soldiers that try to free their rose. The emperor has forbidden to harm the prophet of thorns until his son is back at home and cured from her witchcraft. Poor fool, as love could be cured…

To solve that event, you have to enter the capital, free the prophet of thorns and bring her to a haven where she could join her thorns. Do that before the empire has killed 4+playercount units. (Or something else that would damage the balancing less)

The Prophetess of Thorns is actually the only true and last heir of the Drakh.

She’s also the Old God’s voice, the answer to Aezher’s blasphemy when he declared himself a …. God. The Drakhs always controlled the knowledge given, never really trusting the Drakorean who did not deserve so much power. Aehzer was the proof of this immature civilization, eager for war and control.

The Emperor did though cause irreplaceable damage while desperately trying to bring back Aehzer to life, fracturing at the same time the thin and fragile boundaries of the world of the Living and the Realm of Chaos.

From the lost civilization of the Drakh, true master of Knowledge, rise the Prophetess of Thorns. With the help of the Old Gods, she’s here to reconquer this World and the Nethersea Gates.

But the remains of the Empire now on the Islands of Azuhl refused to let go of their power, still believing in the improbable return of their Last Emperor. Among the High Priests was a well-known prophecy about his return. It was said that Aehzer was not dead but on the other side of the Rift, into the World of Chaos. He would come back to guide them again, in the Empire’s name and Glory.

The high priests and the remains of the Empire in the Capital also knew that with the death of the Last Emperor, their knowledge would now be limited and it was only a matter of time before the rebellions started.

With the news of the Prophetess of Thorns, the high priest found what they were looking for. Getting back the knowledge of the Ancients. And with it, be able to reopen the rift and get their Leader back in the World of the Living.

The Prophetess was then “captured” by the Empire, though people believe that she deliberately came to them, not the other way around. It is also believed that under the Capital, lies the remains of one of the Greatest city of the Drakh where invaluable artifacts could be found, capable of stopping once and for all, the Chaos.

… and that was her plan, all along.

Cyran approached the fire. “Is she always in that bad of a mood” Cassara responded, “yeah, typically. What were her orders? Her exact orders”? Cyran realizing he might have been a little eager and made a mistake confronting his new commander in wanting to be a part of the plans for the ambush. Cyran said reluctantly, “her orders were for me to go back to camp, sit by the fire and wait”. Salem then spoke up with a grin on her face, “ that’s it”? Cyran embarrassed and also frustrated responded, “well there was something about keeping my juvenile ignorant ass from screwing stuff up”. Salem and Cassara both started laughing, “yep that sounds about right”, Salem chimed in between her laughs. Cyran now frustrated, sure he was the newest recruit for the inquisition, but he was chosen for a reason to be placed on the most prestigious squad that reported directly to The Inquisitor herself. His skills with a sword were unmatched and rumor has it that he was one of the youngest recruits ever to be asked to join the inquisition. Taking his mask off and throwing it down next to him, he let his frustration get to him, “what makes her so special she doesn’t look that much older than me and I bet I could take her in a fight.” That is when for the first time Karver reacted through this whole conversation.

Karver was the oldest one in the group of four inquisitors that were under the direct command of The Inquisitor. “Listen kid, you will pick that mask up and keep it safe. Sounds like the Empire is getting more relaxed in the history department when training these recruits and you need a little history lesson.” Despite Cyran’s frustration with the females in the group teasing him, he let that all go, as Karver was more of a man of action rather than words, so if he was talking everyone had better listen. Karver continued, “first you need to know that when I joined the Inquisition back before any of you three were even thoughts, The Inquisitor had already been leading the Inquisition for years, even possibly from when the Imperial Inquisition was founded. So Cyran I would not go on talking about her age because when I joined she looked the exact same, and she probably has more knowledge of war tactics than anyone in the Empire and some sort of dark magic is keeping her around.”

Cyran yearned for more information as there was no history teaching in Inquisitor training and as far as he knew there never was. Cyran thought, was that Karver trying to joke? He asked Karver, “So what makes this Prophet of Thorns so special that the Empire’s best recruits are hunting down some druids in order to keep her imprisoned? Why don’t we just kill her and move on?” Karver looked at Cyran with a prudent stare and caution in his voice, “Look Cyran, I will tell you everything I know, because I think you show promise, but the way you keep acting will most likely get you killed by The Inquisitor herself. You need to tread carefully, and know that a lot of mystery surrounds The Inquisitor’s story and past. So most of what I will tell you is based on old rumors.” Cyran simply nodded, and Karver noticed Cassara and Salem also listening intently.

“As you know we are hunting down Druid’s that once worshiped the ancient gods before the great dormancy. From what I have been told, this was a time of great bloodshed, as each god would manipulate their followers into fighting one another. As the Empire rose so did peace on Azuhl. If a Druid showed worth a god would bestow upon them a portion of their powers and would become Prophets. These druids were considered, God Touched. The Prophet of Thorns was once a Treemother druid and now is the last known living God Touched. They say that one touched by a god’s power changes you, and I don’t just mean on the inside. The Prophet of Thorns is said to appear part plant with thorns and blossoms growing from her skin.”

Karver paused for a second took a drink from his water skin. Cyran noticed that he was almost taking this opportunity to look around and see if The Inquisitor was near. Karver continues, “Rumor has it that our fearless leader was also once a Druid or even possibly God Touched herself and that she used her knowledge as such to build her reputation as the best Druid slayer and captor in the land. They say that Emperor Aezher using his dark magic and The Inquisitor using knowledge of the ancient gods were able to harvest the Prophet of Thorns Blossoms and turn them into a dark magic toxin. This toxin helped Aezher control the population and turn them peacefully away from their false gods. The Inquisitor on the other hand imbues our masks with the dark magic toxin which helps us place fear into our enemies as we fight them, so that mask you threw on the ground needs to be better taken care of. Yes we are some of the best skilled fighters, but no matter how you look at it we aren’t anything without the aid of dark magic and The Inquisitor herself. That is also why we need to keep the Prophet alive and within our possession and these Druids need to be eliminated.”

Just then The Inquisitor started to approach just as the sun started to rise. Karver, Cyran, Salem, and Cassara all stood at attention. “We are ready”, The Inquisitor stated. “The Imperial units will attack from the front giving us the distraction we need to get in, and kill all the Druids. We will have many losses in the distrating force but they are expendable and will be worth it to silence these heretics.” The Inquisitor looked directly at Cyran, “so don’t screw this up.”

The five of them snuck off into the woods led by The Inquisitor. The small unit could see the camp but The Inquisitor waited patiently. Cyran watched intently, when suddenly there was a sharp whistle, and with the whistle came the rain of arrows onto the camp of the enemies of the Empire. The distraction seemed to work as most of the apparent warriors charge the units firing upon them. That is when the true Imperial Inquisitors completed their work and fast.

The Inquisitor, Karver, Cyran, Salem, and Cassara moved in, took out the druids and got out. As Cyran started to retreat he passed over The Inquisitor’s target and noticed the carnage of the Druid’s body that she basically cut in half. Their job finished, the other imperial units started to retreat. Cyran has just finished his first mission on the most renown Inquisitor squad in the Empire and quite successfully at that. Cyran grind but it quickly faded when he noticed The Inquisitor was also grinning, however it was the most evil grin he had ever seen in his life. Cyran thought to himself. What is the deal with The Inquisitor’s mysterious deep hate for the druids?

Only a few alive still remember that the Prophetess of Thorns had been the Emperor’s very first Inquisitor. Originally known as the Aezher’s Aegis, the Prophetess had originally helped Aezher discover and decipher the code that revealed how to perform the great ritual. In fact, it was Aegis’ own blood that was used as one of the key ingredients in the spell. But something went wrong. She didn’t know it would become a Curse, and she had been lead to believe, as had many of Aezher’s loyalists at the time, that the ritual would stop the foretold coming wrath of the Old Gods. Realizing that Aezher had hid this from her from the beginning, she quickly turned on him and attempted a rebellion that was over almost as quickly as it had began. Aezher had already knew it was coming, and he had been prepared. But there was something he didn’t count on. With her blood used in the Curse ritual, it also connected her uniquely to the Chaos. She suddenly became able to see into the Chaos and had visions of the future -and one of those visions revealed how the Curse would eventually be lifted and a coded vision of “Chaos wrapped in thorns”. Realizing this, Aezher coudln’t kill her… at least not until she revealed everything she knew.

– The Great Bristle Pine –

The Vast Western Forest was the domain of the Great Bristle Pine; guardian, life-giver, father of all living trees west of the Empire’s capitol. For millennia the woodland was avoided by the peoples of Drakorea due to fear and superstition. This did not dissuade the Druids who, truth be told, were most likely the cause of many of the rumors and unexplained happenings that kept others away. They held their conclaves and Circles under the boughs of the great trees, communing with the Old Gods with little fear of man or beast. In this place, the Great Bristle Pine was first among the Old Gods worshiped by those Druids and their acolytes who revered nature over all else. The power of the great tree could not be denied. All who communed with it were left feeling invigorated – cured of sickness and feeling younger than they had in years. God status could never quite be attributed to the Pine however, as it never communicated directly with any of its disciples. Stoic and singular all that could be determined for certain was that it exuded energy and strength beyond all normal reason, bestowing life to everything surrounding it.

In the time of Aezher the Immortal, many Druids in the western lands attempted to escape into the depths of the forest, entering through Darkboughs or Needledowns. Fleeing from the Inquisition, they set traps and cast wards, or befriended flora and fauna to halt Imperial advance. Instead of dissuading their foes however, the soldiers of the Empire, goaded by the Inquisitors, burned and desolated vast swaths of timberland, burrowing ever deeper into the heart of the forest. Many Druids died or were captured attempting to halt this advance, their numbers quickly dwindling.

In time the Last Emperor called away his legions to suppress other Orders, the Druids having all either fled across the sea or hidden so well they could not be detected. Much of the Vast Western Forest lay in ruin, but many miles of woodland still remained. Slowly new saplings, bushes and other plant life began reclaiming the ground that was lost, the power of the Great Bristle Pine reaching forth to repair the damage done by man. This was curious – or would have been considered so if any had still remained within the wood to notice it – for while all other Gods were losing power and falling into slumber the Great Pine did not appear to be effected.

Given time, the Vast Western Forest may have returned to its full glory. Alas, the Curse ended all that. As the wave of darkness and destruction consumed life on a heretofore unprecedented scale the Forest withered away into nothingness. The last to fall was the Great Bristle Pine. For nearly a full day green clung to its branches. But finally, even the Great Pine could not survive the dark magic unleashed by the Last Emperor and the final needle dropped from the twisted boughs. Yet, unlike all other trees of the woodland, the carcass of the Father of Trees still stands. Solitary and naked, in a waste of corrupted earth the huge, gnarled body can be seen even from the coasts of the western Azuhl islands. Will the Great Bristle Pine awaken again when the Old Gods have returned to this world? Or was it ever a God at all?

The Prophetess of Thorns is the key to restore the cosmic balance upset by The Curse. Through her, the old gods will reawaken, forests will flourish, and warmth with return. Aware of her purpose, The Inquisition holds her captive, staving off the return of the old gods. They also believe that they would be able to raise Aezher from the dead (assuming he’s dead because the main page said “decided not to die alone”) by redirecting the prophetess’ powers. They seek to reassemble Aezher’s essence that had been embedded and scattered when The Curse had been cast, integrated with the millions of living beings that he had abused as their life forces still linger in the world, fading slowly (kind of like the after effects of a nuclear explosion).

– The Vast Western Forest –

Before the Curse, a great forest stretched across the Western expanse of the mainland and extended to the isles off the coast. Darkness reigned beneath the branches of myriad trees. The forest went mostly unexplored because the animals within were hostile and not very good for eating, and it was whispered that other, more vile things made their home deep in the woods where it was ever-night. From time to time single individuals or small groups would venture into the forest, either out of foolishness, bravado, or trying to escape punishment. Rarely did any stay under the sighing branches for more than a few days. Those that didn’t return were never heard of again.

In the North, the Duerkhar called this forest the Needledowns, as this part of the wood was filled with Fir, Cedar and Pine. In time ‘needledown’ became a euphemism within the Clans for one who was a real pain in the ass, likely stemming from the many pricks and scratches suffered as they were forced through the trees escaping Mohyar raids and Imperial adventurism. The enemies they knew proving more frightening and more capable of killing them than the rumors and whispers of what lurked in the ‘downs, the Clans braved the unknown, pressing ever further North and West until coming to Azuhl, and the highland mountains they would call their new home.

The Mohyar also had a name for this part of the woodland. The Forest of Tears. They would claim it was so named for the weeping of those cowards they hunted within, but was that the real reason or mere bluster? The soft covering of fallen needles on the forest floor had on many occasions masked the foot falls of guerilla warriors of the Duerkhar who killed many of the loud, brash invaders, afterwards slipping away undetected; becoming the silent stalkers and slayers they had so feared lurked among the trees.

In the South, the Ytuma would seldom look toward the West from their grazing plains. They called the woodland Darkboughs and would rarely venture to its edge. The Willow, Laurel and Ash trees darkened the horizon and featured more in cautionary tales to children than in stories of adventure. All that changed as the Curse came. Eroding the life out of their fertile lands, the Herd was forced to move into the perpetual twilight of the darkling wood. When the trees too began to freeze and whither they moved ever further west, coming to and crossing the frozen sea, finally arriving in Azuhl to be greeted by an island with trembling Willows dipping their branches into the frigid surf. Now the Herd no longer looks to the East. Not for fear of the wood – this last remnant of the Darkboughs. But in fear and sadness of the desolation that once was the Singing Plains.

Neither the Tribes of the Krowh, nor the Noble Houses of the Hokqan, knew the extent of what they called the Netherwood. Rarely did they venture to the eastern coasts of Azuhl, but when they did they couldn’t realize the vastness of the great Oak forest that was a mirror of their own on the islands. It was the Krowh who first called their eastern timberlands the Netherwood, shunning it, for it was a favorite ambush site for the Hokqan. The Krowh favored open battle in the meadows and grasslands further inland. It was, then, a rare sight to see masses of Hokqan leaving the trees, bows raised above heads, on the day they sought to sue for peace. They had been witness to what happened to the Netherwood on the mainland and the sea that separated it from their shores. Further infighting among the island dwellers would only weaken them in the face of the coming chaos.