Stories are supposed to start at the beginning, once upon a time. Not so with this one, need something a little more unique. This one’s got to start years before the beginning, then jump strait to the end. This story’s got its own way of talking, not that you haven’t heard some of it before. So, before we get to the kids story, let’s take a few steps back, hundreds of years ago, right where this story takes place, at the foot of Mt. Ebott.
Back then, humans weren’t the only people trying to scratch a living in this world. Monsters, as they called themselves, lived right next to humans, working and living like everyone else. Might have given you a shock if you had seen them, with all their shapes and sizes. Some small enough to fit into a crack in the wall, others so tall they could touch the tops of the trees. Every shape imaginable: from frogs, cats, and bugs to dragons, slimes, and skeletons. Back then, humans didn’t much mind, other than the few folks that thought monsters were evil, or made by the devil himself. It’s those folk, those few bad apples, that caused this whole mess we’re in. Those folk, that is, and one man named Orion.
Orion was a strong boy growing up, in both mind, body, and soul. He always wanted to be a Breaker, hunters who hunted both animals and, when no one else could get close, criminals with their weapon, the Breakers Bow. He trained for years, hunting everything he could until he could pin an elk to a tree from a mile away. When he tried to join up, however, they turned him down at the gate. See, a certain kind of person is needed to become a Breaker, someone who wants to uphold both the law and the balance of nature. They’d been watching him train, killing everything he could get an arrow in, and destroying areas once fertile with life. He had killed so much, and with such carelessness as to what saw it, that the prey had started to shy away from the hunting grounds. He also didn’t have the right kind of mindset for the job, all he wanted to do was kill and kill bigger and bigger game. So they turned him away, telling him he would never be good enough for the Breakers. He didn’t say a thing, just walked back home in a daze. His whole life he had been working towards this goal, this life, and just like that it was dust in the wind. When he got back home, he just sat on his bed and cried.
Later on, after that fateful day, Orion was a different man. He didn’t laugh, didn’t smile, and just went where his feet took him. The town didn’t even have a distillery yet for him to drink his troubles away. He just stewed in his negative thoughts and emotions until, one day, he seemed to just snap out of it. There aren’t any records of why this happened, just that he seemed like a new man that day. But whatever was driving him, it was no force of good. First off, the tried to join every other guild in the town, from the Trappers to the Constables. All of them for, one reason or another, refused to let him join, saying that he would never succeed in his life goal. This never bothered him, almost as if he had planned for this to happen. After all of the guilds in the area turned him down, he packed some food, water, and his old bow, and left for the capital.
This part is well documented, from his arrival at the gates with a dead bear on his shoulders to that bears delivery to the king as a gift. Orion played his cards well, working with the king day after day, slowly growing closer to him and, more importantly, his daughter. Soon, when it was time for the daughter to marry, Orion stepped forward as a suiter. The king, while wishing with all his heart to allow it, had to go with tradition, for fear of the population turning on the royal family. The Judge, a monster who could see into the hearts of men, would be tasked to judging all suiters wishing for the royal hand. Orion knew he would have no chance if this were the case, for those who had turned him away had been of the same kind as the Judge. The only way for him to be king would be if he could prevent his judging. He had thought of the perfect plan, years in the making, and executed it flawlessly. That old bow he had? It was a Breakers Bow, given to him by his father when he was young. The arrow he had spent years bribing, cheating, and stealing to gain? Made for hunting monsters, those that used their magic to get away from the law or to hurt others. At the time, the Breakers were being investigated for the killing of an innocent monster, one that just looked like their target. This put strain on the relations between monsters and humans, both kings watching the other carefully. Putting an arrow through the eye of a human skull from three blocks down is nothing to pinning an elk a mile away. That arrow found its mark, and when a pile of dust, a Breakers arrow, and the robes of the Judge were found in an alleyway, it sparked a fire that would burn the world. Orion’s new goal in life? To rid the world of the monsters that had destroyed his dream.
With no Judge, and no monster wishing to fill the role, the king had to choose whom his daughter would marry. Naturally, he chose the one person he thought he could depend on, Orion. Not much is known as to what happened between this point and the king’s death. Hostilities between monsters and humans escalated, monsters fleeing human cities to live in the forests as they once did. The monster king closed the boarders neighboring the humans, preventing them from obtaining the resources they once had in spades. Human towns within monster territory, including Ebott, were kept under constant observation, given only basic rights for fear of retaliation. This stalemate lasted until Orion was crowned king. It was then that true war started.
His first action was to pardon the Breakers, restoring the order and stating that they were only working for the benefit of the kingdom. He then gathered the head of the guilds, all of which feared he sought revenge for what they had done. When he instead called a Great Hunt, their fear turned into confusion. When a Great Hunt is called the heads of the guilds gain the power over all, a form of martial law. Only the king is above them, acting as a balance to their power. Why give them this power? In order to destroy an enemy so powerful, that no one guild could take it down. There has only been one other Great Hunt, when the dragon Bahama and his kin fought both humans and monsters for control over the Ebott area. Both sides stood as one to prevent his reign. It was in this war that the guilds were formed, and the Breakers showed their power. To call a Great Hunt against the monsters, for everyone knew that they were the enemy, would be a black mark on the king. The monsters had been the ones to suggest, and indeed help form, the guilds and Great Hunt, so to call it against them would be a declaration of betrayal, as if the monsters had been the ones in the wrong. It was then that Orion revealed a tragedy, one hidden away from the public to prevent panic. The queen was dead, burnt to ash by some form of magic not possessed by humans, whose magic was clumsy, and needed much preparation in order to be cast. The outrage within that room was so great, it was said that the monsters shuttered as one at that very moment. The monsters would not just be wiped away, no, they would be punished to such a degree that the gods themselves would shake in abject terror. It was then that the Reckoning came to fruition.
The first act of the Hunt was to clear a path from the human’s land to Ebott mountain, which was only just inside monster territory. This proved simple, as there was only a small force of monsters to keep the town Ebott in check. Those monsters never even saw the arrows coming, dusting all of them in the space of ten seconds. The area around the mountain was then cleared, stations set up at key points in order to defend the mountain while work was done. Then the mining began. While the war raged on, the mountain was mined, huge areas hollowed out. While the resources gained from the operation were great, that was not its goal. All entrances and exits into and out of the mountain were sealed, but for one huge stone door, reinforced with steel and magic. A great ritual was being prepared, one that would make even the strongest of men weep in pity for the monsters. Once the caverns were hollowed in the mountain, an area of over four hundred square miles in total, sunless plants and animals were distributed within them. The river Aurora, named after the fallen queen, was diverted into the mountain, such that it could not be scaled back out again. This was all done in order to make the mountain as livable as possible, while being as hostile as well. The plants and animals were bitter and thin in nutrients, the water sour and gritty with silt and waste. A great pool of magma sat in the lowest chamber, providing heat and one of two sources of light in the entire mountain. Thorns and bristles, bread to not need the rays of the sun, were placed in every chamber. Ebott flowers, poisonous but beautiful, were placed in a single point made just for them. Above, a single hole, barley a foot wide, placed so that the sun could leek through into this hell. All this and more done to provide a prison for the monsters the humans fought against. All this, in revenge for not letting one man into a guild. Monsters did not kill Aurora. Her lover, her friend, her husband, killed her. Burnt alive by the fire used to create the Barrier, a magical trap made from the dust and ash of seven humans and monsters. The dust and ash, however, were special. They came from the seven mages who created the Barrier, and from the seven Judges of the guilds, all skeletons, all of which turned Orion down.
You know the rest of the story. Despite the hunting prowess and powerful magic of the monsters, fighting on their home turf, the monsters were beaten and slaughtered. Those that were left were herded to Mount Ebott, to the Great Gate of Man. Once inside, the Barrier was closed, and with it all magic was trapped underground. Orion was heralded as a hero, and a great celebration was held in his honor. Unbeknownst to the humans, magic did not simply disappear with the monsters. Forced underground in long lines stretching the planet, it built and built for years and years. Without the monster draining these ley lines, they began to push up into the world. At first, it was minor things. Changes in the weather, animals acting odd, people having weird dreams, it could be explained off. That was, until those ley lines burst. In a matter of day, walls of pure magic tore from the land, huge swaths of land cut off from one another. Animals began to mutate, first small changes like sharper teeth, then complete metamorphosis. Bats and rats morphed into the maraks, blind creatures with long pincers and wings. Deer lost all fur, growing armored hides of chitin and iron with spines, growing bladed teeth, and a thirst for blood while retaining most of their original shape. Dogs grew savage, reverting to grotesque facsimiles of wolves called pseudo dogs. Bears seamed to disappear, only to be found as huge masses of living bones and fur known as gore-mounds. Overnight the world changed into a horror of blood and death. As for Orion? Well, when the corpses of loved ones from the graveyards swarmed the capital, he was found dead. Turns out Aroura had a thing for irony. No one knew how, but she pushed him into the fireplace and locked the grate before crumbling to ash. Thus ended the tale of Orion, the mad king who caused the Reckoning.