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Twilight Crusade

From the time that we are born to the moment that we die, our lives are marked by the passing of days, darkness giving way to light, the sun chasing the moon. So it is easy, then, for us to imagine that things were always thus, and will always be so.

But the world of tomorrow is not the same as the world of yesterday. In the space of a month, what was once a bud becomes a flower only to fall into decay and unbeing. In the passing of a year a child may be born of nothing, and in a few short decades more return to nothing. And in the turning of the centuries an acorn may rise to an oak, only to fall back into the ground it sprung from. What is may not always be, and what was is often no longer so. And this is true of things we consider eternal, even as it is clearly seen in the fleeting, the ephemeral.

Believe me, then, when I tell you that the world was not always as it is today.

For once, all light and all darkness, all day and all night, were held separated in two spheres; a land of Always Light and the land of Ever Darkness. Yet all is ever in motion, and gradually, these spheres moved closer together. Until finally a narrow ribbon of land between them was revealed, land which was touched by both light and dark, but neither burned by the one or blighted by the other.

These were the Lands of Twilight.

It is hard to believe that anything could live in the Ever Darkness, or survive in the Always Light. But even as there are fish which live so far beneath the waves that no light can reach them, and even as there are creatures who dance within the very flames of the sun itself, so there sentience, of sorts, in the darkness, and there was life, of sorts, in the light.

And where there is life, and where there is sentience, so too there is struggle, and there is strife. So it was that on occasion beings were cast out of the light, banished to the Twilight, and so it was that on occasion beings escaped the darkness, fleeing into the Twilight.

Once there, being no longer entirely of the light nor entirely of the darkness, they met, fought, lived, evolved, and on occasion even loved. From these strange beings came our most ancient of ancestors. And from our ancestors, came ourselves.

 

The Nether Lands

Along the western edge of the Lands of Twilight are the Nether Lands, where the Twilight Coast gives way to seas beyond which it is believed that the lands of Always Light lie, though none have skill enough to fashion vessels capable of making such a journey, and even if such were fashioned, only a fool would man them. And it is here that the Twilight Peoples were to be found.

Theirs is a society of castles and fortresses, walled towns and keeps, ruled harshly by those who understood that survival necessitates such iron regimes. Or at least, that is their excuse for the conditions they force upon their subjects. There is no single ruler of the Nether Lands, rather they are formed of many smaller kingdoms controlled by independent warlords, each determined to maintain their independence, even as each is determined to increase their lands. Many attempts at unification of the Nether Lands have been made in the past, but all have failed, the peoples simply too divided to submit to a single ruler. Often such discussions broke apart due to racial hatreds, but even on those few occasions when the various races had been persuaded to put aside their ancient feuds, the political manoeuvring of the land- and power-hungry lords ensured that failure was inevitable.

 

The Dark Lands

Less than ten in number are the Shadow Masters, the Dark Lords, the Vessels of the Dark Spirits. Cast out of the lands of Ever Darkness – for surely none could imagine them born of the Twilight Lands themselves – they dwell in the eastern mountains of the Lands of Twilight, as far from the light as is possible. From there, they look to increase their hold upon the Lands of Twilight, and lengthen the shadow of the Ever Darkness. Since few would come to serve them willingly, they use their magics to turn the minds of men, and worse, to raise up Husks, imbuing them with the barest semblance of life and thought, enough to do their bidding and fight their wars, but little else. Each of the Lords, it is said, is but a part of the Dark Master. Through defeating the other Lords each seeks to become that Master, and with the power that infers, assume sole dominion of the Lands of Twilight.

 

The Iridescent Forests

It is said that even evil cannot control chaos, and that the darkest of spells will only bring about rebellion of the very nature that they seek to control. So it is in the Lands of Twilight. Many centuries ago, one of the Dark Lords tried to improve their husks, seeking to merge their forms with the spirits of animals in order to fashion Changelings, and so imbue them with greater cunning and instinct that they might fight the better. But his new creations escaped, fled the Winternight of the east into wilds of the Iridescent Forest in the centre of the Lands of Twilight. There they grew, and there they multiplied, and there they dwell still, the Packs of Wolfin, the Prides of the Maratasen, and the Clans of the Bearack, awaiting the arrival of someone, or something, to unite them. 

 

The Starfarers

So it is in the Lands of Twilight. In the west, the peoples of the coast look for guidance and inspiration to the lands of Always Light they believe lie somewhere beyond the sun’s sinking. In the eastern mountains, the servants of darkness dream their dark dreams of death. But with the tangled forests of the central interior serving to separate the two, there is, if not peace, then at least not war.

But now there has arrived another people, newcomers to the Lands of Twilight, whose very presence threatens to shatter the balance. And they came not from the Always Light or the Ever  Darkness, but rather, it is believed, from the stars themselves.

But a few short months ago, strange vessels descended from the skies. From them emerged a people never seen before in the Lands of Twilight. They were small and slender like elves, but with dull grey skin, huge dark eyes set within huger heads, and almost no mouth or nose. Grey Walkers, they were named by those who saw them first, and the name has stuck, though it was never their own.

From their ships they brought forth great swirling grey spheres, which hovered above the ground unaided. And then they left, without speaking to or even acknowledging the presence of the native peoples who had gathered to watch.

The spheres were solid-seeming, but the curious discovered that they could reach into them, meeting with no resistance, as if they were made of nothing but air. Within could dimly be seen strange scenes and vistas, and a brave few discovered that on stepping into the spheres they were transported to distant parts of the Lands of Twilight. So that suddenly, the peoples of west and east, Nether and Dark Lands, were no longer separated by the central forests. And the tenuous peace that had held for so long between them seemed likely to be broken.

Whether this was the sky strangers’ intent, none could say. But perhaps their plans were not completed. For one night a short time after the portals appeared, there were seen in the sky bright blazing lights, accompanied by vast explosions and thunderclaps, as if the very gods warred there. A number of those lights then fell to earth, half burying themselves in the land. They were huge metal hulks, each the size of a city, and bearing on their sides their names, writ huge in immense lettering: Golden Aurora, Silver Nebula, Red Shift, Black Hole.

From them emerged the Grey Walkers, aloof no more, but seemingly keen to interact with the native races. From what motive, none could say, for they would not tell. But one thing was certain: the Twilight Lands would be forever changed by their coming.