In the Great Temple at Arthis, the central hub of the Golden Hammer religion, there is a relic that true believers come far and wide to admire; done in such exquisite detail, and on such epic scale, this finely woven tapestry truly brought the Great God and Beloved Goddess to life. Miss Martha Tillman had never seen such beauty or experienced such awe in all her days and so she lingered a bit longer than her traveling companions did, kneeling before the great tapestry for hours to just silently admire this great work. The faint breeze from the open windows made the deities seem to breathe, and in some moments, some scant seconds of wonder, she could almost believe this was no stitched creation made by Man, but a window straight into the Divine Realm itself. She bowed her head, breathing deep of the incense-scented air, and began her prayers.
Some time later, Martha rose from her meditative state to find herself utterly alone. She hadn't been meditating that long, she was sure, but the watery moonlight from the crescent moon above pierced the dimly lit room and spoke of hours past. She rose slowly to her feet, wincing at the pain in her knees. The incense had long since burned out, the robed priests who had been attending to the visitors were nowhere to be seen. She considered calling out - surely they wouldn't have left her completely alone - but something about the atmosphere for the room stopped her. It wasn't just her reverence for the tapestry, nor her faith in the God and Goddess, but something... else. A Knowing, that this was not the time or place to draw attention to oneself.
Feeling more and more unsettled by the moment, Martha began to limp for the exit on still-numb legs, ignoring as best she could the sharp, shooting tingles that chased her every step. She wasn't but a few feet from the door when she heard it, the softest whisper of cloth. Terrified but unable to stop herself, she turned slowly towards the tapestry. With a gasp, she fell to her knees, bowing as low as she could manage. Veiled Ymius had risen from her throne, and though Martha could not see the eyes beneath her shimmering cloth, she knew instinctively that the Beloved Mother was looking right at her.
"P-P-Please, Beloved Mother, what is it you ask of me?" she managed, unable to raise her voice above a whisper. The air in the room was heavy, so full of power that her vision quivered at the edges. What had she done to earn such a precious gift, a visitation from the goddess she so admired?
"Raise your head," said the goddess in the tapestry. Martha froze, a wintery chill raising down her spine as a cold sweat broke out on her forehead. This was the voice of a goddess, the voice of someone so far beyond what she could imagine that it nearly fractured her mind to try, but... Ymius did not speak. It was never expressly written in the Sacred Texts that she was incapable of speech, but in all the people Martha had talked to, in all the experiences she'd read about, Ymius had never once spoken to a single soul. "Do not make me repeat myself, Human."
Martha shuddered, her suspicions deepening. She couldn't bring herself to lift her head, but this goddess wasn't giving her a choice - something cold and strong gripped her chin and forcibly lifted her head. She snapped her eyes closed, but against her will her lids snapped open. She let out a quiet moan of fear, unable to do anything else. Ymius' veil had been pulled to the side, revealing endless black eye sockets. Darkened veins stood out at her temples, crawled down her cheeks like tears, and the teeth she bared were dark. When she breathed, Martha felt buffeted by it, engulfed in the stench of blood and decay.
Abruptly Ymius dropped to all fours, skittered spider-like up the steps to where Hivhur sat, still motionless and empty in his throne. She surrounded him from behind, taking hold of his shoulder and his head. Ymius smiled at Martha, her expression almost benevolent, and then she dug sharp black teeth into his neck and pulled. Martha screamed, breaking free of the terrible hold on her and throwing herself back to the ground.
A pained sigh came from the tapestry, the change so dramatic that Martha stopped crying almost instantly. She tentatively lifted her gaze, and found Ymius - the true Ymius, as she'd always known her - kneeling before her. Ymius' bright blue eyes were visible through the soft folds of her veil, filled with compassion, sorrow, and regret. One hand reached for Martha... and then she was gone. The tapestry stood empty, only the blood pooling down the steps to prove the God and Goddess had ever even existed.
Martha got to her feet, dazed, confused, and unbearably tired.
"Let it be known that the first lock has been undone," boomed a new voice, its gender or age indeterminate. "Only five more stand between the goddess and her revenge. Her rage is her key to the lock, and freed now it seeps forth into the world - those who have wronged her will wither in her light. Go forth, Martha Tillman, and tell them what they've done."
Martha felt herself turn on her heel, march straight to the door and out into chaos. People were running, screaming, as far as the eye could see, and above them was darkness, the crescent moon still hanging high above.
"Head Priest," she managed, grabbing the orange and yellow robes of the man as he hurried past.
"Not now, Miss Tillman! We must consult the-"
"Why did you leave me alone in there?" she asked in her hoarse voice, tears clogging her throat. No, no, that wasn't what she wanted to say!
The man frowned at her, brushing her off with a stern sweep of his hand. "What are you talking about, Miss Tillman? I only just left your side, to deal with," he gestured broadly around him.
Martha frowned. "Why is everyone panicking?" she asked unsteadily, growing more nervous. "Did they see the tapestry?"
"Tapestry?" the man repeated. His expression was growing more annoyed and more concerned at the same time. "Madam, it is 1:30 in the afternoon! Does this look normal to you?"
Martha's jaw fell open, the voice coming back to her mind at once. "Like the tapestry said... Those who have wronged her will wither in her light," she whispered, leaning heavily against the closed door of the temple.
The Head Priest took hold of her upper arm, his grip and expression more gentle than before. "Miss Tillman, I think you'd best tell me everything."
Martha nodded weakly, allowing him to escort her into the temple. How could she explain this to him in a way he'd understand, a way he'd believe? She was no priestess, no special person, so why was it that she'd received this message. But her task was made easier as, as one, she and the Priest looked upwards towards the tapestry, still bloodied and empty.
"If those who have betrayed Ymius will wither in her light, in moonlight, then what does it say for those who thrive in her light?" This was the question posited by Sir Vulca Darin, just moments before he revealed that he, along with many other members of staff at Moonlight Academy, were, in fact, Sanguinists - hybrids who have been blessed, or cursed, with traits not unlike the legendary vampire. For hundreds of years, we'd thought them extinct. They'd gone to ground, retreated away from our bigger cities in fear that they might become "the next Valka" - persecuted, rejected by human society, and punished for their differences.
But now that perpetual night had fallen all across the country, perhaps even on the whole world, the Sanguinists began to come forward, to expose themselves as our friends, our colleagues, our family members. Many, the majority even, just seek to claim their own place in society, to be able to be true to themselves, and to pursue the opportunities and adventures they wouldn't have been able to do while hiding their true nature... But others were emboldened by their newfound freedom, forming packs that hunt the cities and the wilds alike.
To combat this terrifying new threat, another unexpected twist: a secret society calling themselves Hunters has appeared on the scene. They promise to eliminate packs menacing the people - but their services don't come cheap, and their true motivations remain foggy. Are they really here to help, or are they even more sinister than the rogue vampires? And the select few really watching, really listening, are left to wonder: were they the ones to imprison the goddess in the first place?
We realized it far too late. A strange being has wandered Ognos these past three years, spreading chaos and Blight in its wake, and we trembled but we did not see. We were shaken to our very core, our lives disrupted. Some fled while others geared up for war, but both found their efforts largely fruitless. No single force could stop the giant, that much was clear. So for the first time, after so many years of bloodshed and strife, the Valka and Humans became allies against a common foe, and all across the country unlikely alliances were formed for protection, for safety, for hope.
When the titan disappeared as suddenly and as silently as it'd come we breathed a sigh of relief, and still we were blind. We told ourselves we'd passed the test the gods had put before us: the fragile peace between the two races had held. Until our eyes were ripped open against our will, the horrible truth so cruelly revealed: the giant's presence was just the beginning, nothing but a mindless, monstrous herald of what was to come.
This next foe is so much fiercer, so much smarter. It does not stride mindless across open fields and desolate plains, a passive disruption one might, eventually, learn to live with. Oh no, no, we are not so lucky this time: this thing has wings, and teeth, and the savage intelligence of an apex predator to which we are a mere rung on the foodchain.
We don't know if there is just one or if there are many, for attacks and sightings have been reported in all five territories. If only we knew what it was, perhaps we would know how to fight it, how to kill it. Maybe we could end its reign of terror before something worse happens... But to know it we must see it, and to see it is to die a gruesome death. We are helpless, hopeless, and afraid.
Commoner and noble, Valka and Human, Shade and Spirit, this creature weighs heavy on all our minds. But for some among us it is an oppressive cloak of iron, a collar growing ever-tighter about their throats. Because they know something the rest of us don't: about the goddess raging in her prison in the sea. They know the locks are coming undone.
They know, of course, because they were the ones who put her there...