The sparkling gem of the fey paths it is called, radiant Sil’Tessa, ever verdant, ever vibrant, bristling with faerie nobility, a world of ever-soft light where night holds no sway and dreams walk the land.
An eternal summer eve with occasional gentle rains and tender breeze shrouds the cities of the fey, allowing the damsels of the fey to dress in but jewelry and translucent silk, and live out their romance in the open wilds. The carefree amongst them can enjoy a life of luxury and entertainment, debauchery and frivolity by some standards; forests carefully tended by self-sustaining sorcery bring forth a myriad of wondrous fruits, while the servant races, Halflings, Gnomes, Humans, and a plethora of strangers who have lost their sanity, will and very self to fey sorcery tend to the rulers need, fawning, flattering, waiting rapt with anticipation upon the next call or ring of a bell and following enthralled the ladie’s and gentlemen’s latest dalliance and coquetry.
For those amongst them possessed of a spirit less than idle the over-abundance of sorcery allows for a steep ascension, for those who study the arts mystic and arcane become veritable nexuses of energy, bending ley lines around themselves until magic becomes their body, enchantment their touch and their will limit sole and only. No foe from the outside dares to assault Sil’Tessa to mar any of its facets of beauty and disturb the sweet fragrance of its air, as the wrath of the faerie lords is swift, relentless and knows no remorse, no limit when awakened.
Kivan Cassavante, Memoirs of a World-Walker
While honest work and productive labor steels the character, power corrupts and ennui likewise. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. With no gods to preside above them, the fey took their place, yet kept the hubris and folly of races lesser and less powerful. With no one to judge them, they believed their whim to be law, word to be truth and judgment to be infallible. Their minds were less than divine, thus incapable of utter truth, infallible judgment or just law, indeed, the path they took led to naught but madness. Their debauchery, decadence and depravity knew no demarcation, no border; no depth was left to descend further.
The skies were set ablaze with eldritch fire as those lords still anchored in reality battled their brethren who were blinded with madness. Iorana of House Keiran was defeated by her sister and lover, Viona; Perthes of House Maaluk by Sartan of Druaa, and Malev of Melar by King Sondor himself - a series of epic battles it was, as some elder fae still recall.
Iorana’s wings were blades of light, remorselessly cutting a swathe through the minions her sister, lesser in years and power, had assembled hastily. Faster than a streaking star she stood before her kin, eyeing the youngster’s armor with pity. What feeble sorcery was Viona’s when she had the need to hide behind plate? The younger fae lifted her blade, yet with mocking laughter her sister’s wing lurched forward, burning the hand and searing the forarm save its bones to coals. The clatter of the falling sword was followed by the squeal of metal, as Iorana ripped through her sister’s forged shroud to expose once more the flesh that was her territory before she sent it to the lands of the dead.
With a roar, the scattered host rushed to Vionas aid, to no avail: what were once wings of light became lucent serpents, sweeping through the soldiers ranks, wrapping around them to leave but ashes behind. And Iorana laughed, delighting at the pain and terror she so easily caused, at her sisters tears and her frail quivering body she so easily held. Bereft of another weapon, Viona rammed the bones of her forearm into the neck of the one whom she loved and hated with a passion unlike any other, bit that neck she used to kiss with all strength she had, and clawed at those unfathomable insane eyes.
Direly wounded, Iorana fell.
Perthes had assembled many sycophants to aid his power, to act as living shields, emergency snacks and to flatter his immense ego. Sartan knew well enough that his foe’s might was manifold greater due to their presence, so he wove sorcery to entwine their minds himself. Alerted to the assault, Perthes reinforced his enchantments, to reclaim the wills of his faithful. As the waves of magic swapped hence and forth, the minions tuned upon each other, last second’s staunch ally becoming hated foe in an instant. Their fragile minds could not withstand the chaos that was wrought upon them, and embraced insanity as the sole escape. Perthes’ festive halls were turned into a charnel house, with beasts that once fey were wandering them aimlessly, their sole intent to kill. The manor’s lord was able to keep control of a select few minions, and made his way to a portal to safety. Great was his surprise when he found Evyn, his favorite slave, unharmed and sane, hidden in a cupboard. Even greater it grew as she ran him through with a dagger during their embrace; indeed, it was none other than Sarthan disguised. Clutching the hilt of that fateful weapon, Perthes the Peacock dropped to the ground.
Unrivalled was Malev in the command of the elements and forces, stark raving mad as well, wandering the land to so destruction and reap death, for to unmake all that did not bow to him he sought. By the dozen he slew all who would bring him to justice.
King Sondor himself rode upon the winds to put and end to the rampage, and found in Malev a foe more than worthy. As they released the full fury of their might, the landscape between them was rent asunder, rock became glass, all that lived ashes, mountains floated in a crazed dance and water was frozen steam that flowed uphill. Battering the king’s wards with salvo upon salvo of eldritch fire and utter cold, Malev drew ever closer, preparing for the kill. From the deepest abyss he called forth the forces of unlife, darkness and chill, and unleashed them upon his sovereign.
Waiting for a chance, the king uttered a spell of travel, and switched places with his foe just as darkness descended upon him.
Malev bore the full brunt of his own sorcery, an evil nothing of this world was meant to survive; yet, in his heart it found something akin to its blackness, and let him live - barely. Half-molten, charred, and hideously malformed Malev sobbed in a pool of his gelatinous flesh, and raised his twisted hands asking for mercy.
Yet, justice was to be done, in a harsh and lasting form.
Crowning the Heveran mountains with its dominating presence, the Shadowfang is a towering mass of jagged stone, appearing much like a mass of competing clawed hands reaching out to grasp the sun and drag it down. Close to its summit, there can be found the sole glacier in Sil’Tessa. The mad were to be bound there, forever more, so that their souls cannot enter the cycle of rebirth again and wreak havoc never more; for their sins, Malev, Perthes and Iorana were to be locked away in this unholy place, devoid of magic and the blessing of life, experiencing but chill, a raging sky and bleak stone forever more.
I hammered iron spikes into the stone, binding the corrupted with sturdy chains made by our slaves, for iron is bane to all fey, and could see their flesh sizzling where the metal touched them. Their gazes were piercing, and hatred immense, but the presence of my sovereign comforted me, and gave me the will to withstand their malice. A steel net I cast over Iorana, and anchored it to the stone - her dim wings faded wherever they touched it. The same I did for the other two, then I took a barrel of water from the last in a long chain of servants. A thin layer of ice had already formed on its surface. I poured it over Malev, then the next one, and saw that strange thing called ice forming, covering his distorted features. Fog formed before my mouth as I poured barrel after over them, until they were but chunks of ice, vaguely resembling their covering forms. All that hinted at who was below the frozen surface were three pairs of malevolent eyes, seemingly burning through their prison.
Justice was done, merciless and lasting, and I applauded the wisdom of my king. In silence, we departed that dreadful place to never return again.
Squire Eowariandil, testimony
Peace reigned, and Sil’Tessa lost little of her pride; soon, all scars the corrupted had wrought were healed, and it shined radiant once more amongst the worlds.
Would the generals of its victorious armies believe that its crown was to be taken as they marched their hosts across battlefields on five score worlds? Certainly not.
Would the fey maidens believe their gardens were to become fallow as they ran their fingers across their lover’s silken skin under the emerald boughs? Most unlikely.
Would the legions of their servants believe that soon their masters were to be poor in the most essential of things, and face a foe even more dire than the corrupted? Unthinkable.
Yet, as a malevolent fate dictated, it was to be.
A young gardener was the one to learn something was amiss, still unaware of the magnitude of the calamity whose first witness he was. Sven was his name; fifteen years old would he be if Sil’Tessa had anything like a change of seasons. His mistress had allowed him to wash her divine curves that morning, and nothing could bring him more joy. Then, she sent for her favorite fruit, the juicy produce of the magical Olwen tree. Young Sven was overjoyed to serve, but the icy talons of fear dug into his heart as he entered the gardens - the tree had shed most of its leaves, the rest of them were yellow and lifeless; likewise, its fruit had fallen to the ground, and would not please a fey lady. Distressed, he saw that the sickness has not befallen one but several trees.
Mages were called to cure the mysterious ill, yet all they could do was to watch as more and more of the nourishing trees went barren. In Sil’Tessa, the concept of food stocks was unknown. Butchers had to cut into the herds, and displeasure ran rampant as fresh fruit, tree-bread or even simple salad became rare. The weather was capricious and chill, with heavy morning fog; the sun lost all color and the land was grey.
Seers predicted that the Grey had to come to an end, and indeed it did. Clad in a finery unseen before, a terrifying crystal beauty, in death’s pale banner, the land was white. Winter had come to Sil’Tessa.
Game became scarce and the herds thin, furthermore assaulted by stray dogs who became white as the land and grew to unsettling size. Lords had to trade their treasures to other worlds for simple grain, and many fled Sil’Tessa for greener pastures. Those who stayed were faced with a challenge unfamiliar and unexpected: as the chill spread, so did magic ebb away, leaving the mightiest mages at a fraction of their power, and the weaker fey unable to light a fire or move a feather with their sorcery.
As the court grew fractioned, the nobility scared, the servants hungry and armies disarrayed, so did Sil’Tessa’s enemies grow bold, and seized what they could, for many of the World-Gates failed and no force could be sent against them. No foe was more terrifying though than the Blizzard Rider who chased the fiercest storms across the land, and showed no mercy to any in his path - avalanches were his companions, and creeping ice his humble servant, breaking apart the palaces of the fey. No enemy was more unsettling than the White Queen whose light was seen streaking across the winter night sky, blinding eyes and maddening livestock, freezing wells and lifeblood alike. The howling winds brought whispering voices and madness, sleepless nights and nightmarish days, vaguely intelligibly promising doom and suffering, preaching hopelessness and a false salvation; the weak of mind ventured out into the cold, most never to return. Those that did were more horrifying still, as ice was in their veins and their eyes were white, their voice repeating the whispers of the wind, their hands intent on murder and ruin.
King Sondor accosted the Blizzard Rider, challenging him to single combat, and to the death fight they did - the ruler pierced his foe, and in turn, the dreaded rider cut through the monarch’s chest with a sword of clear ice. The king fell, his blood frozen. His foe rode off into the raging storm, heedless of the gaping hole in his armor.
The winter abated, and the spring was greeted by the survivors, as was the return of magic - briefly. As the Gates sprang open, connecting again to worlds that had been unreachable through the winter, no aid poured forth, no relief forces, nor supply wagons; what came were hordes of savages thirsty for vengeance for oppression, greedy for the fabled wealth of the fey kingdom, or bent on enslavement and conquest. War raged and Sil’Tessa bled.
Those amongst they fey who believed that the time of chill was an unique catastrophe were horrified at its return, fleeing like rats from a sinking vessel before the gates fell shut. The fierce winter tore like a raging bear into the attacking hosts and the defenders alike. What little stocks they could amass in brief respites from the fighting, the fey soon depleted; before thaw, they were forced to eat the bodies of their foes to survive. The attackers, cut off from their supply lines, fared far worse, dying in droves. The maddest of fools were some of the fey nobles, who sought personal gain even amidst such ruin and in face of utter destruction, squabbling pettily when unity was called for.
Far darker nightmares awaited in the frostbitten night than the plain terrors of war could aspire to. Fey who were claimed by the ice came forth, to descend with great fury upon their living kin and conquerors alike; the ice claimed some of the attackers as well, twisting them into shapes hideous and unnatural; beasts turned feral and grew hostile, some displaying the chill’s twisting influence as well. Wolves were the worst by far, cunning beyond a mere beast’s limits, seemingly appearing out of nowhere and devouring all in their way, only to vanish as soon as the work of ruin was done.
Once more did the ice withdraw, hiding in the mountains and dark places to sally forth again as soon as the time was right. Compared to a mere five hundred days ago, only one of twenty souls in Sil’Tessa was alive.
A queen on her deathbed, a fair maiden’s face ravaged, a diamond shattered is Sil’Tessa, monuments to its faded glory protruding from its once well-kept forests in tarnished spires of marble, copper and gold.
What once was filled with chatter, music and laughter now harbors shrieks and feral howls, and those who once wore silk and gold have learned the merits of armor and fur. Past are the god-kings of the fey, save in legend: those who call Sil’Tessa home today are hardened by countless battles and winter’s savage chill.
Still, it is a treasure trove, for many works of art and sorcery remain unclaimed, sometimes concealed too well, sometimes too bulky to move. Tomes of arcane knowledge and secrets of the fey lords await to be uncovered, the mortal danger the sole deterrent.
Claim them if you dare.
Magran Velltorn, Of fallen pride
This is a setting of high adventure, and survival in the face of dire odds. Taking the roles of fey heroes or able foreigners, the players can explore a world that while not fallen, is hanging from a cliff by its fingernails.
Whether facing rivalry amongst the fey, marauders from abroad entering through one of the many gates or the minions of Malev, who sends them forth from Mount Shadowfang in his nightmare-ridden death-sleep, the protagonists will meet many a challenge.
Summer and winter are vastly different in terms of plots and tone: when ice crawls back up the mountains, suddenly, a myriad of tasks abounds. Supplies have to be secured, tools of power sought, the cold’s lackeys rooted out, holds fortified, an invaders battled. The fey heart demands romance as well to keep beating, and spring is the right time as well.
Winter is a time of darkness, yet also one of unity: all that are trapped in Sil’Tessa until the thaw must learn to set aside differences to survive. It is a time of mystery and horror, for the cold finds new and imaginative ways to assault life. Strange creatures abound and seek warm blood, and it is uncertain who will live to see one more spring.
While brought closer to nature and having become rougher through their ordeal, the fey of SilTessa are still creatures of emotion, be it passion, pride, or a yearning for new horizons. They will have to prove themselves many times before their tale is over and the book closed.
Sil’Tessa’s sorcery is a vibrant force, unused creation left by the gods. It is what life and souls are made from. That is why it comes so naturally to the fey - it is highly compatible, for their origins are the same. Some claim that the abundant magic was actually energy meant by the Creator to bring life to gods to govern Sil’Tessa, like they do on so many other worlds, yet something went wrong, and none came to be, leaving pure magic behind.
It is a living force, propagated by the abundant life of the world, carried in rivers and stored in trees, eaten with their fruit and breathed with the pollen of their blossoms.
In winter, all of nature stalls, and so does this highly natural magic. The fey weaken with every day of winter, deprived of fresh fruit and the vibrant power of nature. Small doses of magic can be obtained from fruit that keeps fresh long, yet that is a trickle instead of the torrent that is sorcery in summer.
Their punishment seemed final and irrevocable. It would have been, if not for the festering evil that Malev unleashed in the final moments of the battle with King Sondor. Inside his mutilated body, it grew and festered, and flourished in the lifeless badlands that were the heights of the Shadowfang. There, it spread through the ice, and the other two entrapped, and fed on their dark thoughts. It is their souls and reflections of their bodies that the darkness rides into the valleys in days of winter, and they resemble their former selves, for the force of unlife takes inspiration from their darkness within. As Sil’Tessa is a land imbued with divine power, the corruption can suppress natural order and call forth the chill only for periods of time, but it wishes to corrupt all, spread, and flourish.
It uses the darkness within, for it itself is without imagination. It manifests fears and twists what it can claim. While it is the driving force behind the winter, its minions are far from united, as it can but twist, and not command. To that end, it relies on the three entombed on the frozen summit, who also have their differences.
Prime amongst them is Malev, who came to represent the destructive force of winter. Perthes is the one who speaks madness through the ceaseless winds, and brings back to life those lost to the cold as twisted reflections of themselves; still, many of his creations break free, and come to loathe him, for he wants to claim all, yet fails to exert sufficient influence over most due to spreading it too thin. Iorana is the blinding light of the snow, the chill beauty of winter, the flickering colors on the winternight sky, the harsh queen of winter. She enthralls young men and women alike to lure them into the snows, where she feasts on their rapidly cooling bodies.
More than anything, they wish to be freed and returnd to life proper, unmaking the other fey in the process, if possible at all, and enslaving those they leave alive.
My old man had told me of Sil’Tessa when I was a wee child; how he had servd there a dozen years, and was rewarded with gold, an enchanted bird that laid eggs that grant a long life, and a night with a goddess made flesh. Let me tell you, while it may have been true that day, it is a wholly different fairytale today, one I would not tell my children. I too served the fey, with sword in hand and a hundred men behind me. Like my father, I did return with gold, and memories of a maiden ethereal and unreal, yet only sixteen of my men came back.
You would not believe me if I told you of the white malice that shrouds that forsaken land for months unending. But, it’s the reason why I live in this steampot nowaday. Pearl of the South? Forget it. It’s a stinking mosquito treat full of lunatics, but I wish to never see an accursed snowflake again. They have faces, every one a different one, and they all are filled with hatred.
- Captain Redthorn, retired mercenary