The Lorestaves: Background

The Lorestaves
Morvia the concept of Dean Martin
Lorestaves Adventures concept by Dean Martin and Fraser Ronald
Written by Fraser Ronald

The Lorestaves was to takes place in Morvia, the default setting for Sword’s Edge Publishing’s Arcane Kingdoms line. In the Lorestaves adventures, the player characters find ancient staves, items forgotten even in legend. These staves have the power to release ancient gods imprisoned by the one god now worshipped, Herotus. The adventures will occur throughout the Divided Duchies.

The Church of Herotus is the accepted religion of the Divided Duchies and most of Morvia. Though the Church accepts magic as its divine right, it categorizes any magic used outside the Church as evil. While many adherents to the Church accept this as fact, folk tradition remains strong in the countryside. Many a village still harbours a hedge wizard, a midwife or a seer. Still, even with this connection to supernatural folk traditions, the common people view magic with unease. While a witch might supply a potion that saves a sick child, that same witch might curse one’s cattle for some imagined slight. Villages might harbour a warlock and request aid of him in times of trouble, but they do not love him or his craft.

The nobility and rulers are no different. Magic is powerful, and if one can harness such power to one’s own ends, so much the better. But like the common people, the nobility retain a reactionary fear of magic. While the sorcerer is a potent weapon, he can turn on one. Some might believe the Church’s doctrine that all magic outside the confines of the Church is linked to evil. Some might not care.

Though practitioners of magic may find themselves the target of abuse or perhaps even violence, there are powers in the world that protect and nurture users of magic. The greatest of these holds the title of the Magus. There is only one Magus, one master wizard, and that individual resides in the massive fortress of Highstone. When the Church gained prominence, it launched a crusade that crashed against the walls of Highstone. The Magus stood forth and laid waste the land for leagues. Armies died. Never again was Highstone assailed. Usually a Magus will choose a successor, a powerful wizard of strong character and deep loyalty, who will take up the title when the master passes. Should a Magus pass without an heir, there is no mechanism to choose or elect a new master. Such times are dangerous. At this time, Nicodemus Magus rules in Highstone, sheltering and teaching users of magic.

The legends say that in ages past, nine great demon lords threatened to plunge all the world into darkness. Herotus entered Morvia to save this world and its people from the terror of the demons. Twelve great kings of men, the mightiest warriors alive, swore themselves to Herotus. As a symbol of their bond, they carried greatswords, forged in the heavens and each etched with the name of a demon lord. These virtuous knights led the armies of righteousness against the evil hordes amassed by the demon lords. Their holiness made these knights invincible.

At last, these knights, sworn to Herotus, faced the nine demon lords of the outer void in a great battle lasting 108 days. By the grace of Herotus, his knights triumphed, slaying the corporeal forms of the demon lords. Herotus gave his champions long lives, but all men pass. Almost a century after their great victory, Herotus’ knights died, all on the same day, a day without sun.

On the night of their deaths, the priests of Herotus took the swords of the knights. These holy blades were placed in the temple of the Holy Mount, where legend insisted Herotus handed down the blades to his chosen knights. The bodies of the knights were likewise interred on the hallowed ground of the Holy Mount. Due to its reputation as both the resting place of the knights and their storied swords, the temple grew in size, wealth and importance.

Soldiers, commoners and knights came from all over the world to live at or near the temple, to protect the relics of the chosen knights of Herotus. These guards formed the Blessed and Loyal Military Order of the Holy Mount, now known in the Divided Duchies as the Knights of the Holy Mount, or the Holy Knights. Only 100 knights are accepted into the order, and one may only advance to become a knight on the death of knight. One may become an Initiate of the Order, but not a knight.

While legends insist that the bodies of the holy knights and their swords remain in the Temple of the Holy Mount, there are no tombs and no swords. There have not been in living memory. The One True Church of Herotus tells of a prophecy that without the swords in the hands of the Church, the demon lords will return and destroy all the world. The Knights of the Holy Mount believe evil minions of the demon lords stole the swords more than a century ago, intending to pave the way for the return of their masters. Scholars believe they have unlocked some of the secrets of the swords’ whereabouts in the writings of the 23rd Abbot of the Blessed Order. He wrote that the minions of the demon lords could not destroy the swords, but hid them, disguising them as simple staves.

For almost fifty years, the Knights of the Holy Mount have searched for these staves, hoping to return them to the temple, where they will once again be revealed as the weapons forged in the heavens, weapons to protect Morvia from the ravages of the demon lords.

This is what the Church of Herotus claims. This is not, however, the truth. Many in the Church, including the Abbot of the Blessed and Loyal Military Order of the Holy Mount, know this story is false. They know the truth about the staves and about the ancient gods, but through faith, belief or self-interest, they have hidden the truth from the world at large.

The truth is that Herotus was once a lesser power. He seduced other lesser immortals, minor deities and demigods, to aid him in overthrowing the ruling pantheon. They schemed and lurked and undid what good the gods offered those beings in their care. Finally, the key to vanquishing the Old Gods was offered to Herotus.

Take the gods’ worshippers, and you take the gods’ power.

Into the world came the one called the Wanderer, the Divine Voice and the Shining Prophet. The Wanderer brought word of the One True God—Herotus. Herotus would protect the world from the evils of those demons who masqueraded as the divine. The priests and adherents of the Old Gods disputed the Wanderer, some even fought him, but the Wanderer could not be dissuaded, could not be harmed, and his magic always proved more powerful. The world turned from the Old Gods and soon Herotus became the One True God.

Herotus is a jealous and paranoid god. Soon after he defeated the Old Gods, he destroyed those deities who supported him and were powerful enough to threaten him. The others, he bound to him, using magics that could easily destroy worlds. He feared the return of the Old Gods. He did not know if he had succeeded in destroying them or if he had merely weakened them. Should those Old Gods return, Herotus did not believe he could conquer them again. He strove to ensure they would never return.

The world changed. The Church hunted down those who used magic and burned them as heretics. Only those within the Church could perform magic without fear of reprisal. Rather than offering magic to its adherents, the Church jealously guarded it, sometimes offering it for the use of powerful nobles or kings. The people still turned to their village witches, but those witches had to tread softly. If word reached the ears of a priest or loyal adherent of the Church, that witch would likely find herself at the stake. She could expect no trial and she could expect no mercy.

What no one knew then was that the Wanderer was Incarnos, a Deva—a guardian spirit of the Old Gods. He had seen the suffering of age and disease and wished to save the world from such pain. He had believed this was a curse of the Old Gods. For centuries he studied the Planes of Reality, seeking an answer to his dilemma. Herotus found him, promising to release Morvia from the bondage of the Old Gods. Incarnos believed him, and helped him turn the world against the Old Gods.

He quickly learnt Herotus had lied to him.

Trapped in an immortal body, devoid of his powers, Incarnos walked the world. With the same diligence with which he had planned the downfall of the Old Gods, he sought some way to contact them, perhaps release them. Why had they not stood against Herotus? Why had they proved so weak?

Finally, Incarnos has learnt the truth, but Herotus—and the Church sworn to him—does not wish this knowledge to survive. The Church has sent its hounds to find Incarnos and kill the unkillable. Incarnos, though, cannot release the Old Gods. Only mortals may. The secrets are trapped in enscorceled staves created at the dawn of time—the Lorestaves. The Knights of the Holy Mount, sent out to find Incarnos and the staves, believe he is an evil minion of demon lords and that the staves hold the key to finding the lost weapons of the holy knights.

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