Erenfel had since passed away, and her daughter, Queen Erensol, now ruled. She, and what remained of the population of Allyon fled northwards. Thankfully, their strange foes did not pursue them beyond their city, as they seemed content to ransack and destroy it along with the surrounding countryside.
Their capital city in ruins; their homes decimated, the atia had little choice but to find solace elsewhere. They were pressed northwards, out of their forests, and into the planes beyond.
Upon these planes, on a platform of jagged rock, stood a city called Zanth. Zanth was the southernmost of the great cities of the dwarves, and at that time it was ruled over by a baron called Lorthor Firebeard.
When he saw the long procession of refugees at his door, Firebeard had little hesitation in opening the city and allowing them inside. He ordered that provisions and quarters be provided, and made special arrangements to meet with queen Erensol.
What she spoke of made Firebeard, a usually stoic and hardy character, to tremble with dread. They spoke of a host of demonic creatures, all gibbering and maddened and wielding terrible magic, which were destroying all in their path.
Firebeard assembled a war council. He sent birds and runners to the northern dwarf holds, and he sent emissaries to the tar’chii.
Dwarf scouts reported that the forests and settlements of the atia were being laid to waste by terrible creatures, and with it more atian refugees arrived at Zanth in ever greater numbers. Soon, a shanty down of tents and temporary dwellings – a far cry from the elegant structures the atia were used to – grew up around the city in the following weeks.
Shortly afterwards a council came to be held. Present were representatives from many of the dwarf holds, the atia, and the tar’tchii.
The king of the tar’tchii at this time, Ianis, spoke of how the atia’s meddling had caused this, how they had dabbled in things that they should not, and how the arrogance of Erensol and her mother before her had led them all to be brink of ruin.
He was correct, of course, but the words infuriated Erensol nonetheless. Perhaps even more impatient and ambitious than her mother, she was driven by the desire to see the atia rise to greatness. Somewhat fortunately, before hostilities erupted between those involved, scout reports arrived on the demon’s activities.
The demons had used the Flux to open further gates into the realm of Inferis, and were increasing their numbers by drawing more through into the world.
With such an army, they would easily overrun Zanth and everyone within. Thus the council had a clear decision to make; flee or fight.
The demons, as they were now referred to, had indeed utilised the Flux. They recognised it as the instrument of their inception into this strange world, and understood it to be their best chance to return home.
In the weeks after their victory over those who guarded the Flux, they experimented with the device and tried to manipulate it to return to Inferis.
Using such a strange and unfamiliar device in such strange and unfamiliar surroundings did not bring them success however; their attempts led only to them creating rifts which caused more of the denizens of Inferis to flood into the world. Despite many attempts, they were unable to create a rift stable enough to take them back to their own realm.
It was these attempts that the atian forces reported to Zanth; the demons were opening further portals, swelling their ranks and building their strength for the next stage of their terrible campaign. It could only be assumed that the malformed creatures intended to press northwards and continue their violent aggression.
The council gathered in the meeting hall within Zanth; Erensol and her representatives, Ianis and his retinue, and the barons of the dwarvern holds held a meeting which would decide the fate of the world.
Both the dwarves and the tar’tchii launched scathing accusations at Erensol, stating that it was her and the atia’s meddling which had led to these turn of events. There were dwarves who said they should be at the very least arrested, if not outright killed right there and then.
Erensol’s thoughts on the dwarves were that they would be little threat to atian sorceries, but even she had to admit to herself that the tar’tchii possessed the power to counter this strength. Thankfully, she had other assets to ensure her safety.
The Flux was the key, she told them. With it, they could rid the world of their foes by driving them back to the realm beyond. The atia had created the flux, and used it for many years. They had also studied the magics which the demons utilised. They could combine this knowledge to defeat the host which was gathering, but they could not do so alone.
To capture the Flux back from the demons, they’d need the help of the other two races. The dwarves would need to field an army to counter the horde and physically capture the Flux, while the tar’tchii would need to counter the demonic magics with their own divine incantations. With the demons contained thus, the atia would then have time to utilise the device and seal the victory, damning the demons back from whence they came.
It was a risky, daring plan the atia proposed. This was likely their best time to secure the Flux; while the demons were still in the open and forming their full strength. Many dwarves wished no part of this, saying that their holds were strong; strong enough to oppose dragons even, and they were best placed to fight the horde from them. Leave the atia to their fate, and let the tar’tchii defend with their magic as best they can.
It was Firebeard who changed their minds; reminded them that the hold’s walls would do naught against starvation and disease, and the spread of the dark magics. This was their only chance to rid the demons of their strength before it reached its apex.
The dwarvern military was mobilised; their armies armed and marched south. Many thousands of dwarves, armed with spear and axe and sword, made their way both overground and underground to the city of Zanth.
Never before or since had such a host been assembled. The finest mages and warriors of the tar’tchii, the top tier of atian hierarchy, dwarvern nobles, and an army of dwarves ventured into the remains of the atian heartlands.
What they found there sickened the atia. Huge areas of the lush forests covering their homeland had been burnt to cinders, outposts used by atian scouts and scholars left in ruin. Yet it was only when they saw what had become of Allyon did they comprehend true horror of what had transpired to their civilisation.
The city had been raised. Not a single spire, building nor wall stood intact. A mass of swarming, gibbering demons scuttled and writhed where it had once stood, proud amongst the trees. In the centre foul magical energies swirled, as the demons utilised the Flux for their own ends.
The dwarves attacked immediately, spearheading the assault. The demonic creatures were initially caught by surprise by the manoeuvre, and hundreds of them were crushed beneath dwarvern hammer and boot. The alliance struck deep into the ruins of Allyon, atian and tar’tcii mages ravaging the horde with magical attacks of their own, driving the demons back away from the centre of the ruined city and away from the Flux itself. The tar’tchii’s attacks were especially devastating – their Light magics were polar opposites of the chaotic nature of the demons, and contact with it shattered their bodies and boiled their minds, causing untold casualties among the denizens of Inferis.
The ch’karth reeled with fury. So close had they come to unlocking the secrets of the Flux. So close had they been to opening a rift and escaping this cursed realm.
With ferocity they counter-attacked, driving against the blinding energies of Light which were being erected before them by the winged assailants. The dwarves and the demons were locked in martial combat within the ruins, steel weapons and chain mail meeting with tooth and claw and leathery hides. The demons were numerous almost beyond measure, and despite the size of the dwarvern host it was still swamped by a tide of gibbering creatures.
Demons launched terrible attacks against the lines of dwarvern warriors, who assembled shield walls to protect themselves from the waves of attacks. Their assault became a defence, as their advance lost momentum and the demons rallied and turned back against them.
Yet they had succeeded in their objective and the Flux had been secured. It was now up to the Atia to play their part in these terrible schemes.
Erensol and her closest retinue of mages gathered around the Flux and began to cast the most important incantation of all time. The runes on the Flux glowed with a deep red hue; the air shimmering around it as the atia chanted. Around them, the horrors of battle were lost to them as their concentration grew, the Black Arc energies building around the Flux as it swirled into the air above the battlefield, causing the skies to ripple with unfathomable energies which the atia only barely contained.
The tar’chii’s sorceries had laid waste to innumerable foes as their magic rained down from above, and the ch’karth themselves soared into the skies above the battle to confront their fiercest foes. Light and Dark battled over the mass of bodies below, with incantations lashing both sets of combatants.
Bodies of slain tar’tchii fell unceremoniously to the ground as the unstoppable host closed in around the atia; the dwarves giving way under the sheer weight of bodies being pressed upon them as ground was lost with each passing moment.
Suddenly Black magic shot forth from the Flux around the sky above the battlefield, darkening the clouds, transforming the clouds so that they rippled like water, so it seemed like a great lake of thick, black blood hung inexplicably over the battlefield.
The black blood sky boiled, and as it did so waves of Black magic were sent pulsing from it. The earth shook with massive earthquakes, splitting the ground and sending tremors rippling throughout the earth. The effects were felt for hundreds of miles, as the lands cracked, entire seas heaved, and the world was changed forever.
Most of the demons were sucked into the vortex when it was opened as it seethed over the army like a giant maw, ready to devour everything. Demons in droves were sucked upwards into it, screaming, gibbering, laughing, some even more insane than before, banished from whence they came. And in the portal, shapes moved... huge shapes - even greater demons, greater than even the ch'karth. Yet the sorceries of the atia held strong.
Thus the ch’karth finally returned to Inferis. Yet during their time on the plane of Iiosia they unwittingly left traces of themselves which could be followed by those who sought them. Their towers within the deserts of Ch’karthamoré, the towering colossus of Khralos, still held their essence within them. When time passed they’d find themselves pulled into the realm of Iiosia once more.
The atia finally stopped their summoning, seeing enough done - the remaining demons would not be able to press further. The war was over.
The Treachery of the Atia
Now was the atias time to strike! Erensol and her closest circle of mages had planned for this moment. They knew that the tar'tchii were weakened from battle, that they were all close, and that the Flux was charged with awesome power. In an act of terrible treachery, they turned the Flux upon their noble allies.
Black magic blasted violently out of the Flux in a shock-wave up into the sky. It struck the tar'tchii, who, screaming in agony, were bathed in vile energies. The atian queen and her sorcerers betrayed the tar'tchii, letting them be tainted at the last moment by the very essence which they fought to expel from the world. Erensol could not live with the atia being inferior to them - she had risked everything, the whole world, for a chance to destroy them and leave the way for atian supremacy.
But it did not end there. She had misjudged the power of the magic she unleashed. The tar'tchii, hundreds of them - the most powerful among their race - fell to the now body-strewn battlefield. Even in their decent, they were changing. Their pure white skin became blackened, their elegant angelic wings either fell off, became shrivelled, or changed bat-like and leathery. Their features became beast-like, their fingers and toes turned into claws. Their eyes turned red and nocturnal, half-blind in the dim light as the storm cleared. They became the tar'tchii of Iiosia - twisted creatures of blackness, lurking in the dark and in the night.
It was a change Erensol had not expected at all. Thinking they would have been obliterated in the wave, they had not. The tar'tchii, now powered with dark energy and massive strength, fell upon their atian allies, ripping them to shreds. The exhausted atia’s weapons and spells almost ineffectual against these new manifestations the Black Arc, Erensol and her entourage were set upon and slain, and the other atia nearby would have followed but if not for the breaking of the clouds.
The sun’s rays filtered down upon the battlefield, striking the tar'tchii and sending them into a wild, screeching frenzy as their skin burned under it. Agony coursing through them, they fled to find shelter from the scorching sun which they had loved so much, and thus, the tar'tchii went underground - a sad end for such a beautiful and brave race of people.
The wave of Black Arc magic which came from the rift blasted around the world, boiling seas, causing earthquakes, turning rain into acid, smashing landmasses, destroying small islands, thrashing coastlines, dissipating as it went. This was The Sundering, and it changed the face of the world forever, killing untold numbers of lives as it came and went.
It caused the most massive earthquakes ever known, which ripped through the Skybreakers; the mountains of the dwarves, and destroyed many of their strongholds. Those cities it did not decimate were left severely weakened, since many dwarves had been sent southwards to battle the demons and were killed in these events. Over the following years the dwarf race abandoned all of its outlying settlements, retreating to their capital of Vordaal, which remained the strongest dwarf stronghold.
The Dwarves brought the Magic Flux, left charred and abandoned on the battlefield, back to Vordaal, where they would guard it for all time. They feared destroying it, thus they locked it away, ensuring it could not be used to re-open the portal or be used to do such terrible things again. They placed it in their deepest, darkest vault, and sealed it away forever under tonnes of rock.
The dwarves were only race to keep a record of these events. They were added to the Great Library of Vordaal, which charts much of the world's history. The secret of the flux and the war is not one to be carried lightly, and while much of what had transpired in the Great War was lost in time, the dwarves will never forget.
In a misguided attempt to cure themselves, some of the tainted tar’tchii returned to their fabled city, Ch'tielira.
It was a grave and terrible error to do such a thing, for the remaining pure tar’tchii, and the very city which housed them, could not withstand the taint of foul magic they brought with them. In returning to their homeland, the tar’tchii only accomplished the infection of the rest of their race. The city’s walls became as blackened and warped as the bodies of its inhabitants; Ch'tielira was reduced to a tower of darkness and corruption.
In great irony Erensol had doomed her race rather than save it. Most of the atia settlements were destroyed in the Sundering or during the war, and Allyon lay in ruins. The atia had no infrastructure left with which to rebuild their civilisation, and thus they became a shattered and nomadic race. Allyon was never rebuilt. Eventually, the ruins would be lost within The Wound - a deadly desert of poisoned land within the realm which became known as Ghrea.
The huge majority of the atia were not aware of the plan to curse the tar'tchii, and, ashamed by their treacherous queen, never tried to elect a new one. Over the following generations, the true history of the atia was chosen to be forgotten; no atia put quill to parchment to write of the events, and very few had the urge to tell the tale even to their offspring. Thus the race that spawned the demonic tar'tchii and caused The Sundering are totally oblivious to it.
The world had been saved from the demon invasion, but at a terrible cost. The world had been forever and irreversibly changed. The black arc would come to taint many areas of the world and those who came to live there. With the three great civilisations naught but wiped out, a power vacuum emerged. A vacuum which the race of humans, slowly emerging from their caves in the deep wild forests, came to fill. Over the coming centuries, humankind emerged as the dominant race of a new, chaotic world. A world full of war and strife, a world of monsters tainted by the Black Arc. The world of Iiosia.