Although the Parosean refugees—human, mor and awakened—arrived in Alm as one group, they were never unified.
The followers of the White Staff religion had always preached that arcane magic, the tool used by the Overseers to create and enslave humans, was a corrupting influence that must be purged with divine fire. But other refugees thought the opposite—that seizing the very means of their subjugation was a clear route to freedom, even a tool to understand their own creation. Still others thought both sides foolish.
These factions existed before the insurrection, and lasted well beyond the exodus. And, once the refugees successfully negotiated with the Brands for a land of its own, their disagreements naturally came to a head.
The Two Kingdoms
In an attempt to avoid starting their own war, the refugees divided the newborn land of Novelis into two; most of it would belong to the secular majority, but the Church would have its own city-state, where its adherents could live according to their beliefs. The Church called its land Aurion, the Kingdom of Light, and for a short time all was well.
However, it was not long before the peace was disturbed. Aurion’s population swelled, and its land was less fertile than the surrounding river valleys. Its antagonistic attitude to its neighbours meant it suffered badly in trade, which only reinforced its belief that it was being persecuted for its faith. The unbelievers were unwilling to cede more land, however—their numbers had also grown significantly, and they were loathe to help the Church spread its incendiary teachings, particularly their hatred of the mor. Inevitably, there would be war.
The Establishing War
Aurion was well prepared for hostilities. Despite being relatively impoverished, it had on its side a population who were—if not White Staff zealots themselves—certainly convinced that this would be their only chance at a better life. This combination of self-righteousness, fervence and desperation—and the significant benefit of entire legions of warpriests—delivered them huge gains in the early days of the war. They soon controlled of fully one third of what had once been Novelis.
At this stage, there arose a dangerous dispute between the leaders of the unbelievers. The man they had made king—Lucius, a powerful awakened well known for his dedication to arcane studies—argued that they should cede nothing to Aurion’s assault. He spoke openly against the Church of the White Staff, calling it a faith that preached hatred and instilled ignorance, and begged his people not to yield to it.
His opponents, including a number of high-ranking generals and a significant portion of his army, argued for cutting their losses. The king in their eyes was young and soft, far too idealistic to turn the tide of a losing war. If their armies fell back, they contested, Aurion would spread itself too thinly and its desperate energy would flag. Good soldiers were falling in droves to the Aurites—why not give them land instead of lives?
Much of the king’s army stood with his detractors, but its mages, awakened and mor—and anybody else the church deemed abominable—largely stood with him. Unable to reach an agreement, the unbelievers suffered a schism. The detractors fell back, abandoning the others and establishing a new border west of the capital. They declared a third human nation, officially allied with nobody in the war.
The Shadow Rift
King Lucius, with his supporters and what remained of his army, was now trapped between two hostile forces. The war seemed impossible to win with his forces so dimished—yet, the price of surrender was impossibly high. In desperation, the king turned to his studies for answers, and found a grim solution.
Evading even his most trusted advisers, the king made a secret journey to the front lines of the war. Here, on ground drenched with his soldiers’ blood, he performed a ritual that rent the very fabric of reality. He ripped open a passage to the Shadowfell, the plane of death uderlying the material world, and bathed his fallen army in its power.
The Aurites received no warning. Of course, a skilled necromancer could raise an undead creature—but the horde which now set upon their army was without precedent. Their force was devastated, and by the time the sun rose, barely a dozen survivors had managed to flee back to a safe border.
In the aftermath, the king tried to mend the rift he had created. But it was too late; the damage had been done. He had saved his people, but in doing so he had created a scar to Alm itself that would never be healed.
The Fragile Peace
As the ashes of the Establishing War settled, the three nations found themselves in a tenuous state of peace. Aurion was more horrified by its neighbours than ever, but the fear of their new power had done its work; for now, there would be no more invasions. They would have to be content to heal their wounds, preach their faith, and bide their time.
The defectors looked on grimly at the king’s gruesome victory. In their minds, this was proof of their wisdom. A future where Aurion had expanded would have been uncertain, but surely it would have been better than what this foolish king had wrought. They reinforced their border with a towering wall, from which they would take their name—Kalyvas, the Kingdom of Steel.
The king’s supporters agreed that they, too, were no longer part of the first human nation. What had been done in their name would change them, but they would survive. In recognition of what had transpired, they called their land Tenebrae—the Kingdom of Shadow.
Alm, too, would be forever changed. Where undead had once required a summoner to create and sustain them, the Rift would now cause them to rise unbeckoned. This new danger has shaped the lives of all Almish people, but none so much as the Tenebrians themselves, who live where the rift is strongest.