Bardass! Prologue – The Legend of the Seven Heroes
Darkness descends upon darkness. Only seven years have passed since the start of Balken’s oppressive rule. Like a plague upon the world, his legions spread and overwhelmed the 12 kingdoms, now rapt in the Dark Lord’s iron grasp. But for each year of his rule, a hero arose. Now, at the apex of his age, the seven lights of salvation, phantoms of their once-great, once-rival nations, unite and shout, “we live.”
The grandest of all, Astoria, was the first kingdom to fall. Prince Kruseid is the one remaining relic of its former glory. In his travels across the continent of Rym, he encountered allies of like destiny. In the plains of the Sakarlands he met the princess Meuri, a skilled Cleric. In the wilderness of the kingdom of Verdant’s vast forest, they encountered a former Verdant noble, Roegen, a self-trained master of archery who had become leader of a bandit tribe when Balken removed his family from power. In the ashen ruins of castle Lorath, the group fought Duvall, a curse wizard and master of over 600 hexes. He is the only survivor of his kingdom, which was set ablaze when its king refused to submit. An unexpected teammate was discovered in the Rhean highlands: the nine-year-old Rhean princess Chelsea. Only a toddler when Balken’s forces stormed the castle, she was taken as far as the Rhea Falls before her retainer succumbed to the venomous arrows of Balken’s battalion. She was raised by the Guardian of the Forest and gained the ability to tame wild animals, in addition to a wild and unpredictable fighting style. Near the frozen ice peaks of the Harl Kingdom was a mighty general, Arbel, who refused to bend to Balken’s will, even after he was banished from the land he swore to protect. Lastly, the stealth assassin and desert prince, Raven, joined the group and led them through an underground labyrinth that brought them into Aria, Balken’s capitol.
The path to Balken was not easy. The seven were tested as soon as they entered the heart of darkness. Navigation of the deadly traps of Lodi the Trap Artist would have been impossible if not for the experience of Roegen and the blades and intuition of Raven. The famed strategist met his end from one of his own snares and a single clean arrow shot. Balken’s strongest general, Cyrus the Berserk, was held at bay by the equal might of the heavily-armored Arbel. When both axe and armor failed, the two resorted to grappling, their match undisturbed by Balken’s own soldiers who lifted not one finger out of respect for the valiant warriors. The potent poisons of Ranka the Venom Mistress were countered only by Meuri’s healing arts. The lone cleric urged her allies to continue on to Balken while she alone stood in Ranka’s realm of death. Even in the face of the summoning rituals of Caden the Necromancer and his summoned Lich, Chelsea and her wild friends would not back down. Even the conjured undead was but flesh and bones for growing beasts Rio the dragon pup, Susie the firebird chick, Bea the tiger cub, and Bob the fiesty snapping turtle. Although they barely seemed a threat, Caden’s overconfidence caused him to overlook the hex master Duvall casting a spell that turned the Lich against his master, bringing doom to them both.
Left to carry the burden of his allies, Kruseid alone stepped into Balken’s throne room and challenged the Dark Lord to a life or death duel. However, Balken had yet one more ally to aid him: his familiar, the Night Dragon Arco. A construct of dark magic, Arco felt no pain from Kruseid’s blade, and the black flames it spat at Kruseid melted even the marble pillars of the Arian palace. With one swipe of its talon, the Astorian prince was crippled and left helpless, staring up at his executioner.
“Distortion of Truth!”
The dragon, affected by a master-class hex spell from Duvall, attacked a pile of rubble.
The light of Meuri’s prayers reached Kruseid and repaired his limbs. Raven, Roegen, Arbel, and Chelsea, all victorious, reunited with their comrade and fought the magical dragon Arco, while a renewed Kruseid once more charged at the Dark Lord.
However, Balken was not granted that title by chance. His strength and skill was among the greatest of all warriors, living or otherwise. He was also a powerful sorcerer, but it was perhaps Kruseid’s good luck that the Dark Lord’s magic was concentrated on maintaining Arco’s dragonic form.
The long battle exhausted all who took part in it, but in the end it was the heroes who remain standing, victorious, over the fallen shell of Balken. That day, Balken received something he had never granted to his own enemies…
Six years later…
Perfect peace was attained by the seven heroes. This did not come easily. After Balken’s demise, the remnants of his army formed under the banner of his generals. One after another, they fell to the combined might of the united kingdoms. Balken’s name was taken up by imposters and independent armies that had no true affiliation to his kingdom. In the aftermath of the war now known as Genocide of the Imposters, it was revealed that nobles from all kingdoms backed the false Balken armies in an effort to gain control for themselves. It was here that the Seven Heroes turned on their own kin.
If peace was to be attained by becoming the villain, then so be it. The seven heroes would become the seven lords of vengeance.
Kruseid the Just is a classic overlord, reigning over New Astoria with a rebuilt army of soldiers that feed on the toils of the poor.
The Sakarland plains are permanently stained red with the blood of its enemies. Atop a throne of skulls sits Queen Meuri the Immortal, the most-attacked of the seven heroes.
Roegen the Survivalist has scarred the majestic forest of Verdant, ordering more trees to be cut down to construct arrows for his elaborate traps. Few have survived long enough to meet him one on one.
Chelsea the Feral reclaimed the throne of the kingdom of Rhea, where criminals or the unlucky become meals for her four closest friends and advisers: Susan the Phoenix, Beatrix the White Tiger, Riona the Torrential Dragon, and Bob the Gargantuan Snapping Turtle.
Lorath remains shrouded in darkness. Refugees and wanderers are promised a safe land in its borders, but Duvall the Afflicter has little tolerance for trouble. Cross him in any way, even a perceived one, and you will become his test subject to advance his development of new hexes.
The frozen Harl mountains were mined out to craft the strongest armor in existence for Arbel the Immovable. Compared to the other heroes there are relatively few complaints under his rule, at least as long as he is sober.
Raven the Unseen succeeded his father and immediately indulged in the vices associated with his position, especially his harem. He was assassinated within a week… or so his would-be assassin thought before his throat was sliced open. It has become a tradition in his land for a young man to be selected to be his stand-in. It would be the greatest job in the world if not for the high rate of mortality. Raven himself seems to enjoy the game, remaining disguised from everyone, making royal declarations designed to anger the citizens, witnessing his stand-in’s murder, and killing his assassin.
It should be noted, however, that it is entirely possible to live in peace in this realm if you can manage the difficulties of living. Even in the darkest ages, adventurers journey from their homelands to seek out fortune and prestige. Those not foolhardy enough to take on the seven heroes are content to seek fame through smaller but ultimately less fatal achievements such as slaying an ancient dragon or discovering lost treasures. Adventurers are organized into several classes depending on their fighting style: Cleric, Monk, Mage, Thief, Warrior, etc.
One such adventurer has high aspirations. His name is Brier. Unlike other adventurers, he has tasted life at the top until he was forced into living a life of mediocrity. His hands carry the brand of Duvall, and he is unable to lift a weapon. His throat carries a similar brand which prevents him from chanting a spell. He is a low-level Bard, but he claims he is a “Dark Bard.” Together with his familiar, the salamander Arco, he travels the world in search for a legend of his profession: the Ultimate Inspiration. With it, he intends to conquer his curses and the world once more.