Earlier, I made mention of the efforts made by the Dericost Undead engaging the forces of Bael’Zharon, the Hopeslayer that once terrorized the Yalaini people, in the hopes of hastening his defeat, and I fear that I may have given the improper accounting of the magnitude of their efforts. While labors of the undying nobles did play a significant role in bringing an end to the first Shadow War, they in no way lessen the hardships the Yalaini people themselves endured in order to achieve victory in that prolonged struggle. Much toil and many sacrifices were made simply to reach the point in which the Dericost offered their aid, and many more would be made to complete the task. This is the story of that sacrifice.

The Shadow War had been raging for centuries, with no end in sight. Many lands of the Yalain had fallen under the sway of Bael’Zharon’s Shadows, and countless citizens had been either slain in the battles or turned into creatures of living darkness. The battle seemed hopeless, but the Emperor Caerlin would not yield. In a last desperate act of hope, he called together the finest scholars, researchers, and mages in the whole of the Seaborne Empire and tasked them with finding a means with which to defeat the seemingly endless armies of darkness. Among this Council of Five were: Lady Maila Realaidain, headmistress of the Knorr Lyceum and widow of the great warrior Lord Atlan; Viceroy Uweden Kormar, Steward of Gelid; Lady Rajael Fellarien, former Protector of Marae Lassel, stripped of her rank and imprisoned for crimes against the very nature she was sworn to protect, but released in order to aid the council; Lord Kerenth Portenaer, member of the Order of Hieromancers, the most formidable war mages in all the Empire; and Lady Adja, prophetess of Falatacot descent and leader of the Ithaenc Cathedral. Joining them was a young adept gifted with equal parts raw talent and bravado, Maila’s son Asheron.

For decades the Council struggled in their appointed task. Though along the way they succeeded in slaying Elytra, one of the Hopeslayer’s generals, at Dermal, it was, in the grand scheme of things, a rather small victory. Finally, however, a new hope was discovered. While combing the texts of an obscure mage named Facial, Asheron uncovered the spark of knowledge that would eventually grow into portal magic. With this information at their disposal, the Council at long last devised a plan: They would construct an array of six crystalline structures that, once brought together, would imprison Bael’Zharon within a tiny fragment of portalspace, sealing him away forever and, without their leader and source of power, leaving the Shadows vulnerable.

The components of the crystal array were grown deep within the Nexus facility, and they were brought to the Jailne Lyceum in western Ireth Lassel. There the Council worked their magic upon the fragments, empowering and preparing them for their final purpose. That purpose was ready to be fulfilled as Bael’Zharon reached the Lyceum and stormed within. He and his forces had been occupied for several days by the Dericost, but upon sensing the nearly-completed array, he turned his attention towards this new, unknown source of power. As Bael’Zharon tore through the halls of Jailne, laying waste to its defending forces, the Council members each slid a piece of the array into its final resting place. One by one the crystal fragments joined with their brethren, and as the Hopeslayer finally reached the central chamber and loosed his wrath on the Council themselves, Asheron set the final crystal into place.

The energy released by the completion of the array was indescribable. The Shadows that had besieged the area were instantly annihilated, and both Jailne and the surrounding countryside were devastated, the land scarred black as obsidian for miles around. Only Asheron survived, the result of a ritual performed by his mother and Lady Adja in the moments before the crystal array was completed. Lady Maila knew they would not survive the completion of their task, but she would not see her son’s be cut short alongside her and her comrades. And so she and Adja performed an ancient Falatacot ritual transferring the life force from mother to child, protecting him from the explosion that destroyed the Jailne Lyceum and inadvertently extending the span of his life by untold centuries.

The sacrifice of the Council of Five was not in vain, for the most part, for Bael’Zharon was indeed imprisoned for a time. And their sacrifice still resounds with us to this very day. The site of the former Lyceum where they made their final stand still bears the scars of the explosion that heralded the end of the Shadow War; we now know it as the Obsidian Plains. The research that led to the creation of the crystal array continued after the Shadows’ defeat as well, and it eventually led to the advent of portal travel that brought us, along with countless other beings of many descriptions, to this world. However, as much as we are able to still feel the hand of the Council in our lives, there is perhaps no one who feels it more strongly than Asheron Realaidain himself. He alone still recalls the countless years spent toiling in a desperate attempt to stave off the tides of darkness. He alone can remember the site of those he knew and cared for brought down by a beast born of pride, hate, and vengeance. And he alone truly understands the burden that sacrifices place upon those for whom they are made. His very life is the embodiment of that burden.

For more on the night both the Hopeslayer and Council fell, check out the “Communion” lore article.

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