It is said that the one thing that separates humans (and, for that matter, Tonk, Lugians, Empyrean, etc.) from other animals is our free will. Rather than acting on base instinct, we are able to take in knowledge, consider it at great length, and pick the best course of action in response. However, like much in the human condition, choice is a double-edged sword. For any one person who chooses an act that benefits himself and his fellow man, there is likely another who chooses that which will harm others. Both choices were made during the time that has come to be known as the Shard Vigil.
Ages ago, the Hopeslayer Bael’Zharon was defeated by the Yalain when he was sealed within a crystalline prison. That prison shattered into six fragments, which were secluded in protected vaults across the length and breadth of Dereth. Centuries later, during our early days on this island, we Isparians stumbled across these vaults, overcame the defenses within, and destroyed five of the six crystals, unwittingly bringing Bael’Zharon to the brink of freedom. The sixth and final fragment, dubbed the Shard of the Herald, was at long last located deep beneath Ithaenc Cathedral, but in order to prevent interference by the likes of the Dericost Undead, Bael’Zharon’s forces had the portal leading to the vault. Only Isparians who had sworn loyalty upon an Altar of Bael’Zharon were allowed entry, and it was feared that dozens of the Hopeslayer’s followers would make there way through the depths and shatter the remaining crystal.
However, this tactic would quickly be turned against the attackers. Kneeling before one of Bael’Zharon’s Altars meant forsaking the protective spells Asheron had put in place that prevented Isparian from harming Isparian. That meant that those who wished to stave off the crystal’s destruction were able to engage its attackers directly. Soon the stage was set for one of the greatest battles in Dereth’s recent history, as those loyal to Bael’Zharon joined forces with those looking to profit from the crystal’s destruction against defenders seeking to protect the crystal, who were aided by the Shard of the Herald itself, which was proven to be capable of providing some measure of defense on its own. For days and nights the battle raged, with attacker and defender alike quickly returning to the fray after each death in battle. However, what began as a stalemate soon turned to the defenders’ favor, as they slowly drove the attackers back, inch by precious inch, from the dungeon. For a few brief moments, it appeared that their victory was at hand and that Dereth would be spared the Hopeslayer’s wrath.
But the Shadows loyal to Bael’Zharon had planned for such an occurrence. Months earlier, they had snatched up several of the most powerful monarchs in the land and deposited them on a distant, unknown island. Those willing and able to survive the brutal gauntlet of unforgiving terrain and formidable beasts would be granted power beyond their wildest dreams in exchange for unwavering loyalty to their new lord. Of these monarchs, only two, by the names of Vidorian and Blackthorn, were able to complete this task, and the new “Dark Masters” entered the Hopeslayer’s services.
Now, on the eve of their master’s release, they were called into action. While the Shadows were unable to locate Blackthorn, Vidorian heeded their dark call. At the head of an unholy army, Vidorian swept back into the vault and against the defenders. Though they could not directly harm the Shard, the creatures at Vidorian’s disposal were more than a match for the humans that stood against them, leaving the crystal itself to the Dark Master. Seemingly detecting its impending demise, the Shard of the Herald appeared to grow even more powerful, putting up an even greater struggle against any attack, but after a long struggle, Vidorian was finally able to overcome its power and shatter the crystal. After millennia of imprisonment, Bael’Zharon was free, and Dereth, as well as all who lived upon it, would be forever changed.
The efforts of Vidorian–and, for that matter, all those who fought on either side of the Vigil–still echo to this day. Not only had an ancient force been unleashed, but also a series of smaller, perhaps equally profound, changes had come to be. For the first time since our arrival on Dereth, large numbers of Isparians had raised arms against other Isparians, and many found that they had developed a taste for such bloodsport regardless of the prize at the end. Countless people had fought against one another on both sides of a great struggle, calling into question the so-called unity that our people had displayed since the end of the Olthoi days. Most importantly, it was shown how much impact any common warrior–not a legendary hero or a noble armed with the implements of godlike beings, but ordinary, everyday fighters–may have upon the world, as so many had swung the fate of the world in direction and then another. In the years since those hard days and dark nights, the Shard Vigil has come to embody all that life on Dereth entails. Truly, it was a symbol of the power of human will, and all the joys and horrors that come as the result of our choices.