New Lore Journals for Extinction

I wrote a series of lore journals to build out the world and backstory of Extinction, a new action adventure video game from Iron Galaxy and Modus Games. The journals are written from the perspective of the Monk, the mentor of Extinction's protagonist, Avil, and set just before the events of the game. The lore journals originally appeared at MMORPG and GameSpace - here they are in their entirety!

From the writings of the Old Man

1042 Dolorum Reckoning

The boy doesn’t know it yet, but he is our last hope.

The province of Gular was the first to fall, forgotten hens coming home to roost in the ruins of our ancestors. A millennium or more of blissful ignorance had passed, humanity slowly recovering from an age of war and consigning to oblivion the peril that stalked at the periphery of our world. The inexorable passage of time had erased the last vestiges of cultural memory, taking with them all but the most meager folk tales about the Ravenii, and those who were sworn to defend against them.

When they returned, spilling from their dark portals with the promise of death on their lips, it was as though an entire civilization’s nightmares were made manifest. Humanity would pay the price of their negligence, calling out in vain for Sentinels that had long ago been condemned to a wayward existence in an era of peace.

Gular was the first city to burn.

I found the boy outside the walls of Gularram, standing in solitary defiance of the onslaught, a mercenary fighting for a kingdom that had discarded him. His companion, Xandra, lay injured behind him, a child who had known only conflict as though it were her birthright. The Ravenii and their Jackals pressed around him, threatening to overwhelm the youth and take the capital city for their own.

I could not save the city, but an uncounted number of conquerors and their minions would lay at my feet by midday.

To his credit, the boy fought like a demon, his moves unpracticed and unconventional but fueled by an altruistic rage that threatened to overwhelm him. He protected his companion at the cost of his own safety, Jackals piling up around him as he fought wave after wave of the monsters that outnumbered the city’s defenders by a hundredfold. Had I not encountered him when I did, the darkness would have surely swallowed him, a storm of claws and teeth and flesh overtaking Gularram in a matter of hours.

He was reluctant at first, the fires of rebellion smoldering in his eyes as I pulled him and his companion from the rubble.

“You’re not taking us anywhere,” he protested, good sense outweighed by the courage of youth.

“I can kill you with a word,” I said, allowing the smallest thread of power to enter my voice.

He had little complaint after that.

From the writings of the Old Man

1042 Dolorum Reckoning

To say that the Ravenii’s return to our world was unforeseen is utter folly. The very existence of the Sentinels should have forestalled any doubt about the existence of the world-breakers, but humanity was quick to erase the conquerors and their minions from record. The Sentinels themselves collectively became a relic of a distant time, relegated to the position of spectator in the Council of Kingdoms. Gular, Callum, Multnomah, and Guin fought and squabbled for a century, seeking to divide and distribute territories that, in the bloodthirsty minds of the Ravenii, would always be borrowed lands, ready to be re-claimed.

Gular was the worst of the lot. Vulturous ambition had stumbled upon the ruins of a previous civilization, and the result was a den of thieves that had more resources than it knew what to do with. Treasure hunters poured in from far and wide, stumbling over themselves in an attempt to plunder the lost fortunes of a sunken city whose name had been forgotten an age prior. Brothels and saloons fought for supremacy in attracting the attention of mercenary companies, and not a few adventurers found their fortune – or their fate – in the depths below Gularram and its environs.

It was into this chamber pot of a province that Avil was born, and Gular’s cynicism has stayed with the boy. It colors his view of the world, providing him with an uncompromising moral compass that is jaded from first-hand experience with the dark side of humanity. Avil’s memory of his early life stays his hand with mercy for some, and drives him to ruthlessness with others. He has an innate, if untempered, skill with the sword, and his mind and body respond well to his training despite his penchant for recklessness.

Would that I had a hundred Avils when the Ravenii came for Gular.

From the writings of the Old Man

1042 Dolorum Reckoning

If Gularram was a house of snakes, King Mathias was its master. He left most matters of state to a cadre of advisors, each known publicly as the head of one of the city’s most prominent mercenary companies. Comfortable in his lush sandstone palace that oversaw the province of Gular from an appropriately aloof perch, Mathias believed his city to be unassailable by human or beast. He was half correct.

By the time the Ravenii portals opened just outside the city, Mathias and his mercenaries had become fat with complacency. They were confident in their troops’ abilities to thwart any of the belowground ruins’ monstrous denizens, and easily dispatched the half-hearted forays by neighboring kingdoms encroaching upon Gular’s wide borders. An uneasy truce had been forged between Gular, Callum, and Multnomah, and the magicians of Guin had so far withdrawn into their towers as to be considered a non-entity when it came to conquest. Dolorum, which still stands as of this writing, was one of the only kingdoms who adhered to the old ways and sought peace among its own borders rather than war at the doorsteps of others’.

Gularram fell within a handful of days, its walls better suited for deflecting wooden arrows and burning pitch than the onslaught of creatures that dwarfed its buildings by tenfold. In the end, Mathias’ impenetrable palace was no match for the casual sweep of a Ravenii’s fist, and the thieves’ den quickly met the same fate as the civilization that preceded it.

I saved whom I could, strapping civilians onto horses and sending them careening into the wilderness towards Dolorum with the city crumbling into ash behind them. The dust had not yet settled when I left with Avil and Xandra in tow, forcing them to keep moving as I brought them to the Sentinels’ last fortification, knowing they would be humanity’s last defense against the onslaught that would ensue.

In our flight from Gularram, I turned back once to capture an image of the once magnificent city in my mind. I expected to see Mathias’ palace in pieces, the ruins of the city’s buildings and spires reaching out like skeletal fingers grasping feebly at the burning sky.

There was nothing. The entire city had been razed to the ground in a final push by the Ravenii, who towered over the ruins – new and old – calling to one another triumphantly in their demonic language that quailed even the stoutest of folk. I knew then, as the last of my line, that I would have to impart all of my knowledge, and the collective records of the Sentinels, to my new wards for Gular’s neighboring kingdoms to have any chance of survival against extinction.

I do not like our odds.

From the writings of the Old Man

1042 Dolorum Reckoning

When Avil and Xandra first came into my keeping, the boy thought as most do – that the Ravenii are a nameless horde of monsters with no thought for civilization. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Annals of Ashderaku, my predecessor and one-time record keeper of the Sentinels, detail a quite complex, if brutal, caste system to which the ogres adhere, destroying everything in their path of conquest to remake it in their own image.

Aesthetically, not much distinguishes the ogre castes, known in their brutish tongue as Urtuk’al, at least to human sensibilities. Ravenii breeding laws constitute the only porous aspect of the Urtuk’al system, ensuring that the ogres bent on destroying our world come in all shapes and sizes, irrespective of caste. In all other spheres of society, the Ravenii adhere to an extremely strict pecking order, signified only by which types of armor they are allowed to don into battle.

On one end of the spectrum, there are the Korreysh, known simply as “nameless,” who are the youngest among the Ravenii, or those who have disgraced themselves in battle. The Korreysh are considered to be unblooded, and must prove themselves in warfare to earn their names and first pieces of armor. In some circumstances, even the highest ranking among the ogres may fall from grace in eyes of their peers, and are stripped of their name and caste to return to the Korreysh, fending amongst the scraps left behind by the more senior Ravenii.

Just above the Korreysh are the Saz’tri and Jorgreh, who are permitted to wear items made from wood and thorns, respectively. The former are the laborers and smiths of the Ravenii, while the latter serve as scouts for their war parties.

Then come the Raz’rabi and Portun, who pass for something along the lines of administrators, and wear iron and gold armor. The Raz’rabi direct construction of the ogres’ rudimentary establishments, while the Portun oversee the jackals and vultures that comprise the Ravenii’s minions.

The Kar’rabi and Lazgar, identifiable by their brightsteel and spiked armor sets, are part of the upper echelon of the Urtuk’al caste system, and serve as the ogres’ strategists and assassins. Most of the decision making occurs between these two castes of tacticians and commanders, who represent the peak of Ravenii strength and battle prowess.

At the apex of the Urtuk’al are the Ravenii-Korrum, the “name stealers.” As much of Ravenii society is built around pillage and plunder, a central ideal is the practice of taking the names of one’s enemy. The Ravenii-Korrum are those who have wreaked such havoc on one of their subjugated worlds that they are said to have stolen the names of an entire civilization. They occupy the highest station among the Ravenii, and send their factors, the Shastrush, as advisors in their stead, donned with the bones of their adversaries.

In writing this chronicle, I realize belatedly that perhaps Avil’s naivety trumps the Sentinels’ preserved knowledge of the ogres and the Urtuk’al. At this apocalyptic moment in humankind’s history, the inner workings of Ravenii society matter little in comparison to our will to fight them, irrespective of their castes and armor. All that matters in this moment is survival.

Yet, I hope there is something, however minute, within these records that will provide us with the means to defeat our enemies, or hold them at bay long enough for us to make our exodus.

There has to be. There is no other choice.

From the writings of the Old Man

1042 Dolorum Reckoning

An epoch ago, when I was still an initiate in Ashderaku’s keep, I came across a traveling minstrel group from Ushibaresh, a kingdom far to the east of Callum. My mentor would take us on the long march to Petral a handful of times every year, trading with the caravanserai for goods and spices that would feed the whole monastery for months at a time. As initiates, we would create small baubles and magical gewgaws as we learned our craft, and the local folk would happily empty their coffers for a glowing necklace or a ring that boomed like the sea. We would fill our packs with hard bread and soft cheese, dried fruit and meats, only staying long enough to make our trades before hiking back across the Plains of Ennio and home.

One such trip, the Ushibareshi were performing for passersby in a corner of the caravanserai, plying their trade expertly upon instruments of the most fantastic and strange designs. The minstrels wore a motley arrangement of robes and colors, looking for all the world like court jesters equipped with brass, steel, and copper lutes, horns, and snares. They pranced from one end of a hastily constructed wooden platform to the other, circling about each other with such merriment that even nearby shop owners left their posts to clap and dance along with them. A small crowd had formed around the minstrels, townsfolk stepping in time with the energetic music and tossing coins into a colorful basket at the front of the platform.

I have seen nothing like the sight before or since. The Ushibareshi were as different from us as a sparrow is to a frog. Their skin was golden brown, and clear almost to the point of shininess, protected as they were in their rainforest cities from our sand and dust. Their hair, wrapped in brilliantly dyed scarves or under colorful hats, peeked out in hues of red and yellow, sometimes orange. Yet, what caught my attention more than any of their dazzling features were their eyes, all some variation of emerald, olive, or jade, winking luminously like the lush trees of their homeland.

I will never forget those eyes.

It strikes me as amusing, even ironic, that in this most dire hour of humanity’s struggle for survival, my mind wanders to those moments in Ashderaku’s care, seeing the Ushibareshi work their craft to the joy of all who participated in their revelry. I wonder about the state of their hidden cities as ours capitulate one by one to the Ravenii, and find myself hoping against hope that their music continues unharried. Our past kings, great-grandfathers of the likes of Mathias and Yarrow, long ago pulled away from the eastern demesnes of Ushibaresh, as they did with the Orugathi to the north, the Lefari to the south, and the Elegareth far across the sea to the west. Gular, Dolorrum, Callum, Multnomah, and Guin were all too happy to close their doors to foreigners and squabble among themselves over the admittedly vast amount of resources that our region has always had to offer.

Now, in this darkest time, we have no one to turn to, and no one to blame but ourselves. The Ravenii are here, and I know not the fate of the Ushibareshi, nor of their emerald orbs that once sparkled in the Petral sun.

The only fate of which I have surety is our own. The Sentinels have long borrowed against their past dealings with the Ravenii, and the ogres have come to collect. Humanity will pay the balance if we can’t find a way to stop them, or delay them long enough to make our escape.

We must prevail.

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