Crafty Christmas Day 6: Epoch Preview!

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We are all that is left.
Our families — sold into slavery.
Our tribes — broken by greed and corruption.
Our land — frozen and withered by the footsteps of demons.
We are a people unmade.
But we are not dead, so long as our feet trod the barren earth and our lungs breathe the chill air and our eyes scan the cold horizon.
We are not dead, so long as our fingers grip our axes and draw our bows and strangle the life from our enemies.
We are not dead, so long as this song is sung and remembered and passed to our children.
We are a people unmade.
But we may yet be born again.
— Elven harii battle-chant

Hear me, brothers! Tomorrow we may die, rent by the claw of Brood or cloven by the blade of Taken. Such is the lot of the warrior caste, and an honorable one at that, for many of our people never have the luxury of dying on their feet! They are slain in their beds, waste away in bondage, rot by plague. They are touched by magic, consumed by greed, turn on their peoples. For them, for us, for what is left, we fight. That is why we are here, forsaking our tribes and families against all sense or selfishness. That is why we are harii.

For seasons I have fought, seen my battle-brothers sent to the Other Land by claws of demons that grow ever bolder as the glaciers creep across our lands. Their worshippers, those we call Taken, raid and burn our villages and camps. They drag our women and children to the City of Slaves where to toil at the anvil and mine until their last feeble breaths. They plunge the knives of their weirds deep into our earth, polluting the land, poisoning our crops, and drawing up still more of the Brood to wage war upon us. Our tribes are disappearing, one by one, and though I fancy my people more noble and resilient than others, we elves are drawn to and corrupted by the lure of gold and civilization just as easily as any other — man, dwarf, or ogre.

Our tribes’ shamans have met in council, and they believe that the Brood’s corruption seeps into the very earth from which we all were made. Crows Laughing says the demons of the Brood are the Third People and that the foul magic of the Taken has brought them forth, leaving only a twisted mockery of all we have ever known. I say I care little what happened — only how we may defeat it. The Great Ancestors left us their knowledge, but only we can determine our fate.

Should we give our bodies over to the cold earth, to join the giants and their desecration at the City of Bones? Never! We are survivors — hunters, warriors, thieves, scoundrels, rebels, and chiefs — and there is but one thing we can do, the thing we know best, brothers, and that is to fight. Our freedom, the freedom of all our peoples, will be determined not by piety or peacemaking or flight, but by the sharp, bloody edge of resistance!

So as the world freezes, as our culture slips away, as the herds of bison grow thin on the steppe, as everything we’ve made and loved in our lives faces the End, we have only one thing we can rely on: our axes and bows, our spears and knives, our slings and shields. The choice is easy, and the rewards are great! Each day we live is another day we stand together, free men to the last, and take to the fight back to their homes. It’s time! It’s time we slay them in their lavish beds, in their stone palaces and blighted cities. It’s time we ravage their crops, slay their priests, and desecrate their temples! It’s time we learned from the mighty sabertooth, that tireless and deadly hunter, savage and fierce, and stalk the land like we own it again! We need to strike terror in their hearts! If we can do that, if a demon can cower before us, then we cannot fail.

Tomorrow, we take the battlefield at Ghula na Saagh. Tomorrow, we may die, rent by the claw of Brood or cloven by the blade of Taken. But ours is no sacrifice, for when we die, we die as free men, on our feet, and we will take many with us. We shall meet their foul steel with obsidian knives! We shall break their bronze armor with copper axes! Our story will join the Song of Doom, but it will live in the history of those yet to come. That is why we are here, forsaking our tribes and families against all sense or selfishness. That is why we are harii.
 
Sword and Sorcery
“Sword and sorcery” is a much-abused term in fantasy entertainment, often conjuring disdainful images of low-budget, low-quality fantasy shlock, but as the spawn of 20s and 30s pulp, the genre actually predates most “traditional” fantasy, including Lord of the Rings. Like the genre’s most iconic characters — Robert E. Howard’s Conan, Fritz Lieber’s Farfd and the Grey Mouser, Michael Moorcock’s Elric of Melnibone, and Glen Cook’s Black Company — the heroes of Epoch are outcasts, thieves, rebels, and others brave enough to buck or live outside the system. They thrive and perish by the sword and fumble through an exotic, primal, and unforgiving world.

Though sword and sorcery is often referred to as “low magic,” magic is a critical component of the genre. As the ultimate power and man’s greatest technology, magic corrupts, in Epoch’s case absolutely. In all its forms — cursed weapons, ruinous destructive spells, and horrific monsters — magic directly threatens the heroes and everything they care for. It’s so pervasive that it’s physically twisted the land, further empowering the unearthly Brood and their enslaved Taken. It fuels evil’s conquest of the world, so it’s no wonder that few heroes rely on anything beyond a good weapon and a strong arm to accomplish their goals.

Like the pulps, sword and sorcery games avoid grand plotlines and sweeping actions, focusing instead on character-centric, fast-paced, and brutally visceral action. If traditional fantasy is about wonder and grand choices, sword and sorcery is about excitement and raw heroism. Characters face down hostile worlds with little but a keen blade and a sharp mind at their side, and Epoch is no different. The First and Second Peoples struggle every day to preserve their way of life in the face of overwhelming odds. They may not ultimately change the world, but their legend will live forever!