- Tritonia, Home of Swords and Sandals
- The People
- The World Before
- Swords and Sandals: Pirate Lords
- Swords and Sandals I: Gladiator
- Swords and Sandals II: Emperor’s Reign
- Swords and Sandals Crusader
- Swords and Sandals III: Gladiae Ultratus
- Swords and Sandals IV: Tavern Quests
- Swords and Sandals V: Grail of Antares
- Swords and Sandals RPG : Constellation Mirror
Over many years of developing the Swords and Sandals series, a semblance of a story, characters and places has sprung up. All good RPGs need a setting, a cast of characters and so on – even something as simple as the first S&S had the island of Doomtrek, some pirates and 7 arena bosses with names like HeChaos and Wolfgang of Shackleford. While they seem random, there is actually more to the games than first appears – those characters and locations actually have more to them.
There is, in fact, a whole world behind S&S that was born in my mind but has started to ebb out into the greater community as the games increase in popularity. People sometimes ask me questions like ‘Does Crusader take place before S&S 3?’ , or ‘Did the hero from S&S 1 turn into Emperor Antares’ , and I find I have to stop and think about these things – because until now, the world has been pretty loosely documented and mapped out. This document is an effort to improve that, and of course it will expand further as the series does.
[Author’s Note] There is a Swords and Sandals wikia page online managed by some very dedicated fans. Please feel free to use information from this tome of lore to that wikia, with my blessings.
The events of Swords and Sandals all take place on the world of Tritonia, a small Earth-like world in a system of five planets surrounding two suns, a large yellow and a smaller blue sun. One large pale moon orbits slowly. Tritonia is dominated by 85% ocean and three continents that make up the rest of the planet.
- Brandor, the largest and only known settled continent. All of the Swords and Sandals games thus far have taken place here. Being home to the Constellation Mirror, it is here that the Precursors landed and all known civilisations can be found.
- Eldor Hath, a smaller, mysterious continent far to the south. Its borders are fiercely guarded and foreigners looked upon unkindly. It is said that Emperor Antares of the Itha peoples hailed from these dark lands.
- Segallis, a landmass that theoretically exists in the western hemisphere. Very few who have sailed across the Cycladian Ocean in search of it have returned, and their tales remain wild and dubious.
The game takes place in this central area of Brandor. To the north, the world is bordered by vast mountains. To the south, the heat of the desert keep all but the most hardy traveller at bay, and to the west and east, trackless oceans ( storms and winds will prevent you from sailing any further in any direction.)
Tritonia’s twin moons (Eoe and Uriel) make sea travel perilous – the tides are unpredictable and storms are many.
Future games in the Swords and Sandals series will introduce the other two continents of the world, Eldor Hath and Uveria.
Major World Locations (natural)
- Desert of Despair
- King’s Tear Mountains
- Greater Sledgia
- Galaxy Lake
- Blue Goat River
- Cavaldar River
- Grey Gauntlet Mountain
- Edden River
- Hela Haxxus Desert
- T’Kash Desert
- Plains of Handroth
- Terror’s Tale Mountains
- Green Shroud Forest
- Shark Tooth Bay
- Bay of Barons
- Ironspire Forest
- Falsewood Forest
- Thalassis Lake
- Gladiae Island
- Island of the Sorcerer
- Port Meade
- Spheracleon Island
- Itha Tuscus
- T’Kash City
- Suul’s Gateway
Phaetor is the largest city in Brandor. Set in a large field of green and bordered to the north and south by a large forest and to the west by a great lake . Clean, with wide streets lit by lanterns , gardens with fountains and well maintained homes and shops. Castle Conodier lies at the city’s Eastern edge. The home of King Lionel.
A large port city in the east of Brandor, bordered by the ocean to the east, rolling golden hills , vineyards and farmlands to the south. Wide squares, statues and stately buildings can be seen through city, which also boasts tall marble columns and olive tree lined streets.
A grim cluster of red brick buildings surrounded by high walls and towers. The imposing Citadel of Turbulence dominates the skyline and the sounds of beasts echo through the streets. To the south, waves crash onto jagged cliffs. The home fortress of HeChaos.
[Author’s Note] Maps and much more information to come on this section. Here is a rough sketch of the realms of Brandor.
Precursor Races – These races were the first fleets to sail through the Constellation Mirror and settle Brandor. They came from four planets in a distant solar system escaping a dying sun.
Two of the races were lost very early on and a third vanished across the sea.
- Phaetorian / Kingdom of Phaetor
- Braxian / Free State of Braxis
- Eddites / Protectorate of Eddengarth
- Drakons / Church of Drakondier
- Vondroks / Vond Empire ( extinct within a generation )
- Tolots / Tolot ( extinct possibly underground)
- Uverics / No home city (sailed south on arrival and never returned. Their disappearance and some old Precursor books have led to the theory of another continent far to the south called Segallis.)
Secutor Races – Each of these races arrived through the mirror in the 600 years that followed. ( There are other, lesser known creatures who have come through the Mirror such as the Floralisks and Golems but they are not considered populous enough to be considered a race.)
- Klergish / Gelegrath Caverns
- Cycladians / Pilthian Coast
- Xantec / Xteltac Province
- Gunterians / Warmhaven
- Hexl / Hexalus
- Sledgars / Greater Sledgia
- Itha / Itha Tuscus
- T’Kashi / TKash Desert (Desert of Despair)
[Author’s Note] More detailed information to come on the peoples of Brandor.
Before the advent of the Constellation Mirror, Tritonia was a lush but mostly empty planet. Native fauna and flora of various sizes roamed freely, but no creatures of any particular intellect called the planet their home. Some six hundred years ago, everything changed. A great portal appeared, shimmering and black. Through it, the night sky could be seen, a lake of stars and galaxies.
The Constellation Mirror is a sentient wormhole that opens every half century and emits a beacon, pulling through it creatures and civilizations from other parts of the universe. The Mirror observes and learns from these creatures but thus far has remained neutral, learning of good and evil over the years.
Through this mirror, the first races stepped. They were the Precursors. They built cities, fought, explored and settled. Some of the Precursor races flourished, like the Phaetorians and the Braxians. Others vanished into antiquity. And still, at the height of summer every fiftieth year, the Mirror would blaze brightly and new creatures would step through and forge themselves a life in this brave new world. Some were terrible beasts like the giant Sledgars, terrifying giant men with mighty ice hammers. Others, great sailors like the one-eyed Cycladians, who would begin to chart the four mighty oceans of the world.
For over six hundred years, the Constellation Mirror has opened, each new arrival shaping the fortunes of the world.
SWORDS AND SANDALS PIRATES:
YEAR 587 CM
The years that kicked of the classic Swords and Sandals era were dominated by a great nautical struggle to control the four oceans of Tritonia. In the year 586 CM, the naval dominance of the Phaetorian Armada collapsed, when over 95% of its fleet was wiped out in a series of planet shaking storms.
A mad scramble began as the new year broke out. Islands and colonies rid themselves of Phaetorian rule and began to revolt. A generation of self-styled Pirate Lords appeared on the oceans and waged great and terrible battles against each other for control of the new ocean boundaries.
Such luminaries as Wolfgang of Shackleford , Sir Belgrave, Emperor Antares and HeChaos began their adventures here on the high seas.
After just three months, the resource war was settled and Phaetor reclaimed control of the oceans, though many new individuals would rise to fame and power thanks to the great bounties of the sea. This conflict would come to be known amongst the people as the Four Oceans War, even though it would only last less than a hundred days.
Author’s Note: S&S: Pirates info to follow!
In the 588th year since the opening of the Constellation Mirror, a sailor aboard the good ship Calamitious found himself adrift at sea after a terrible storm. Lost for days, he floated across the vast Uveric Ocean until chance found him at Doomtrek, an island home to the infamous Arena of Death.
Doomtrek and its arena had been established three years earlier by a charismatic but unstable young Eddite man named HeChaos. He claims to have won the island in a card game, though it is more likely the original inhabitants of the island were met with foul play. In any event, he then set up the arena for a considerable profit.
The sailor-turned-gladiator fought his way through a series of duels, rising in popularity and fame – he would come to be known only as The Gladiator. Eventually he found himself face to face with HeChaos himself. After a mighty battle, he defeated HeChaos and won enough riches to buy a ship and sail away. HeChaos begged him to stay, promising a command position in a mysterious ‘Legion’ he was assembling. The Gladiator declined – noting only that HeChaos seemed ‘wild and unpredictable’. His whereabouts remain unknown to this day, though some say he found his way to the fabled lands of Segallis.
There were seven notable gladiators ( better known as Arena Champions ) who took part in the gladiatorial games here.
- Wolfgang of Shackleford: Following his hard luck story at the close of the Four Oceans War, Wolfgang was drawn to the Arena, where a man could live a simple life, fight, drink and die. Seeking solace in the bottle, he slew gladiator after gladiator, aimless and disenchanted. After his defeat and own brush with death at the hands of the Gladiator, he was visited by his oldest and dearest friend Sir Belgrave of Drakondier. Belgrave saw Wolfgang was a broken man who needed a cause. Belgrave took his friend from the accursed place and brought him to Drakondier to recover and face sobriety. Under his friend’s watchful eye, Wolfgang recovered and once again reclaimed his rightful place as a Baron of Braxis. His story, detailed in the events surrounding Crusader and beyond, was a tale of redemption. Wolfgang would also feature as one of the boardgames participants in Swords and Sandals 4 and in upcoming S&S adventures.
- Bo’sun Smythe: A salty sea-dog and one of the first Arena Champions to become popular at Doomtrek. It was said he reeked of rum and barnacles. His longtime goal was to win enough money to buy a ship, but alas for him, he always drank away the profits from his victories.
- The Slave Driver: A great, hulking brute who stank of sour mead and dressed in dark leathers, he would hide his face in an executioner’s mask – many say it was because he was secretly ashamed of his nasty ways, though the truth was sadder. He was once a kind, gentle child who loved nothing more than tending to wounded animals in the forests near Sharpsdale. One particular winter, he was riddled with a pox and nearly died. Though he recovered, his face was badly scarred. Years of merciless teasing followed, and as a teenager he donned the mask to make them stop. He grew larger and filled his heart only with hate. As the world had treated him cruelly, so he would return the favour.He grew mean and mocking, with a nasty, sneering laugh. He found himself in Doomtrek some years back, recruited to oversee the slave force constructing the arenas for HeChaos’ gladiatorial games. He treated them badly, denying them decent food and even the smallest of creature comforts. By day he would fight his slaves in the arena, by night he would whip them mercilessly. He was first defeated in battle here by the Gladiator, though he would live to tell the tale. He would go on to appear in Swords and Sandals 2.
- Nine Cat Jack: A cruel pirate lord who faced mutiny at the hands of his crew and washed ashore Doomtrek. He died from his wounds at the arena and was buried in a pauper’s grave.
- Stylonius of Southport: A narcissistic boor, though somehow wildly popular for his theatrics. A Klerg from the Gelegrath Caverns, he broke many Arena Championship records until his death at his own hand, tripping over his own ego and falling into a spiked pit. Surprisingly, his will and testament specified he *not* be resurrected on account of “There being no need, as nobody could ever kill me anyway”, but his legacy lived on in S&S 2, with his firstborn child, the aptly named Son of Stylonius.
- Lord Talah’udin: A great champion from the T’Kash Desert. Little is known of him, though it is said he lost his kingdom and his life when Arglaxx and the Beastforce conquered the Desert of Despair during the Crusades. Here at Doomtrek he fought with honour and compassion. His nephew, the Maharaja Sa’eed would make an appearance here in Swords and Sandals 2.
- HeChaos: The final, and greatest of the Arena Champions. Upon his defeat, he would lose his grip on the Arena to a mysterious stranger known as Antares, who declared himself the first ‘Emperor’ of Doomtrek and seized control. Antares enslaved HeChaos and forced him to fight for his own amusement but kept the games running. HeChaos’ story continued in Swords and Sandals 3, Crusader, Swords and Sandals 4 and Swords and Sandals 5.
Author’s Note: As you may notice, when you play S&S games, you actually *kill* the Arena Champions. For the purpose of story lore, it can be assumed that most Champions are either wealthy or popular enough to afford magical healing, and can be resurrected in the same way the hero can. Some Champions ( such as Nine Cat Jack, Pigsus or the Slave Driver ) are too hated by the general population to warrant resurrection and thus, stay dead.
SWORDS AND SANDALS II : Emperor’s Reign
YEAR 590 CM
Under the recent acquisition of the arena under the enigmatic Emperor Antares, the island of Doomtrek’s popularity and notoriety exploded. Antares had six new arenas built, each grander than the last. Gladiatoral combat took place day and night, drawing thousands to the island in search of glory on the arena sands. Even more were brought to the island as slaves, shedding blood and sweat building the mighty colosseums. These slaves were kept in terrible conditions in a catacomb of tunnels under the Imperial Colosseum.
With so many of Brandor’s greatest fighters dying on the sands so fast and so often, Emperor Antares pressed slaves into gladiatorial service with vague promises of their freedom. Each gladiator received some gold and a basic dagger, but most would die within days of their release.
One such slave, a recent capture known in popular folklore as The Nameless, won his freedom when he showed potential as a fighter. A stoic gladiator with a quiet disposition and great gift for battle, he advanced quickly through the ranks and won fame by defeating local meat merchant John the Butcher in combat in his third day in the Arena.
Not so The Nameless. He would quickly rise, winning renown by defeating Arena Champion after Arena Champion. Early on, he befriended a local candlemaker who told him tales of Doomtrek citizens being pressed into slavery, forced to dig tunnels under the arena. Investigating further, The Nameless discovered a vast subterranean labyrinth of crypts, stone pits and dark altars – though he could not guess as to their true purpose. When Antares’ thugs killed the candlemaker and burnt down his shop, The Nameless realised he was being watched.
Soon after, the noble young knight Sir Belgrave of the Templar Church arrived in Doomtrek. Seeking audience with The Nameless, he explained the Church’s suspicions of Antares. They had been tracking him since the Four Oceans War, his breathtaking army of skeletal warriors proving to be of great concern to the undead-fearing church. Although Antares was defeated at sea, his powers of necromancy had grown and he was now a fully flenched undead power – and he had used his new wealth to construct the vast arenas and catacombs beneath.
Belgrave theorised that Antares had acquired Doomtrek in order to use the Arena and its inexhaustible source of gladiators for nefarious purposes. Through his powers of necromancy, Antares had raised these poor souls from the dead and kept them imprisoned in great chambers deep under the ground.
Fighting in the arenas by day and exploring the tunnels by night, Belgrave and The Nameless made their way deeper underground until they discovered vast halls of skeletal warriors – at least eighty thousand or more. Belgrave, sensing the worst, implored The Nameless to somehow gain audience with Antares and bring his evil schemes to light. The knight then travelled to Brandor’s capital Phaetor to warn good King Lionel to prepare for war.
Through his many arena victories, The Nameless would rise in power and skill. After defeating one of Antares’ more powerful lieutenant’s, the demon prince Zeerzabahl, he would come to the attention of the Emperor himself. When confronted about his plans, Antares gloated. His army would soon be complete and unleashed upon Brandor. Antares sought not just to conquer the realm, but to make his way to the Constellation Mirror itself and use it as a gateway to unleash his terror on other unsuspecting worlds.
Sensing potential in The Nameless, he offered him a position in his newly formed Death Imperium. When The Nameless refused, Antares merely laughed – for he knew as soon as Nameless fell in battle, necromancy would press him into service – a choice every Arena Champion before him had faced. Antares dismissed Nameless, warning him the time to choose would soon be nigh.
At this same time, the sorcerer Bargle appeared in the Arena. Using powerful magic, he convinced everyone he was indeed an Arena Champion and organised a battle with Nameless. Though Bargle was infinitely more powerful, he would throw the fight and upon defeat, hand The Nameless a message in a scroll before disappearing. This would not be the last time Bargle would meddle in the affairs of the realm, though his purposes always remained a mystery.
Inside the scroll was a declaration of aid from the great sorcerer. Bargle had devised a plan to negate and contain the skeletal army, but the sorcerer also knew Antares could negate his magic if confronted directly. If somehow the Emperor could be distracted by combat with a worthy foe, he could indeed be vulnerable. All The Nameless needed to do was to engage Antares in battle – Bargle would do the rest.
With a choice to make, The Nameless wrestled with a decision. He had secretly craved power himself – for before he was a slave at Doomtrek, he had been a lawless buccaneer on the high seas of Tritonia’s oceans. By his own admission, The Nameless’ life had been less than heroic. Emperor Antares offered the chance to bring the world to heel, the muscle to enforce his will upon any who stood in his way.
On the other hand, Bargle’s choice involved sacrifice and an almost assured death. Victory here would end his days as an Arena Champion and thrust him into an uncertain world. The Nameless was on the verge of accepting Antares’ offer when the Archangel Sandalphon, a powerful envoy of the god Suul the One, appeared before him. Sandalphon warned him his actions would end in a world forever changed and inhospitable to life as he knew it. The Nameless fought Sandalphon to a standstill on the Arena sands before the Archangel, in frustration, returned to the Heavenly Plane.
With the Archangel vanquished, the Nameless was invited to the Emperor’s Royal Palace to do battle against the greatest gladiators in all the realm as Antares himself looked on. In secret, the sorcerer Bargle made his way to the palace and saw for himself the inner struggle The Nameless faced. Through a powerful spell, he created an evil mirror image version of The Nameless which represented all that was flawed in the heroic champion. When The Nameless overcame his evil self, he saw the error of his ways and resolved to defeat Antares once and for all.
Finally, that hour came. Emperor Antares invited The Nameless to a private audience and demanded his loyalty. When The Nameless once and for all refused, a great battle took place. With Bargle’s aid, he was able to defeat the mighty Emperor in one of the greatest gladiatorial duels the world has ever known. As Antares fell, his essence disappeared into a terrible black cloud and a darkness fell over Doomtrek, before disappearing into the ether.
Bargle and The Nameless raced to the catacombs beneath the arena, where the sorcerer saw the vast undead army begin to stir from their eternal slumber. Using all of his magical powers, Bargle cast a Void Gate spell on the army, entombing them in a shimmering opaque prison, shielded from Antares’ mind control. For indeed, Bargle had discovered one of the secrets to Antares’ power. The more souls under his thrall, the greater his own essence grew. With the army cut off from their master, Antares grew too weak to maintain a corporeal form. The army would be held here, not indefinitely, but long enough to give the leaders of Brandor time to raise their own armies and do battle against this terrible new threat.
Both heroes knew in their heart Antares was not defeated, for both of them had seen his essence disappear, both had heard his mocking laughter in their ears. Bargle returned to his tower in the Cragenbach mountains to study. Word was sent to King Lionel of the Kingdom of Phaetor Lord Vraynes Galrin of the Templar Church to prepare for war ( a war, of which, would be later known as The Crusades )
It would be several years before he used his magics to send word to The Nameless, who had since wandered far and wide, exploring Tritonia for his own inscrutable purposes. He was now to buy passage on a galleon ship and sail north to Suul’s Gateway, where he was to meet with Sir Belgrave of the Templar Church. Rumours spread of a dark presence under the vast mountains there, and it was there The Nameless himself would disappear.
The gladiator games would continue in Doomtrek, as John the Butcher took up residence as owner and overlord of the island, but for now the Arena there would play no more part in the Swords and Sandals tale.
There were 20 notable Arena Champions to feature in Swords and Sandals 2.
- The Fearful Prisoner: An old man who had been a slave so long he had forgotten everything about his past. He had the misfortune of being chosen by The Slave Driver to match up against SS2’s protagonist, The Nameless – who took it easy on him and in fact, freed him from his servitude after Antares’ defeat. Having a taste for combat, the Fearful Prisoner would later train as gladiator and find fame and fortune as an Arena Champion at the Cliffs of Carnage in Swords and Sandals 3.
- John the Butcher: A self-styled ‘pillar of the community’ and owner of the popular Woolridge’s Meat Emporium, John the Butcher was also a musician in his youth. He had a minor hit song many years ago, “Every Time You Go Away (You Take A Piece Of Meat With You)”. After the events of Swords and Sandals 2, he would take over management of the Doomtrek arenas and become fabulously wealthy. He would also go on to make an appearance as one of the boardgame participants in Swords and Sandals 4, and had a quick cameo in S&S 5, buying the carcass of the giant minotaur Big Moo off the hero.
- The Evil Ninja: This sneaky gladiator was actually two people; a father and daughter duo from Drakondier who took turns donning the infamous black ninja outfit and competing in the Arena games. It was a long held rumour that the daughter was the fabled Princess of Drakondier, who vanished one stormy night many years ago – but in fact, this is false as Drakondier has not had a royal family in several hundred years. The father ninja, out of disguise, sang in the Doomtrek Village Choir, and his daughter was a local chess champion too. After the arena games, they stayed on in the arena for many years before the father was caught stealing from a wizard’s tower and turned into a Sagan Blob.
- Son of Stylonius: The son of legendary Klergish gladiator Stylonius of Southport, and if possible an even more boorish and egocentric braggart. Also a world reknowned food enthusiast, he wrote a popular column in the realms’ favourite newspaper, the Brandorian Herald. Son of Stylonius claimed to be avenging the death of his father – which is curious because his father in fact died by accident when he tripped and fell over his own ego. Son of Stylonius, too, would meet the same fate. His young son watched on from the stands, and it is possible the Grandson of Stylonius is out there somewhere, waiting to avenge his ancestors.
- Lieutenant Dantus: Dantus rose to infamy in the early days of the Arena, being instrumental in helping HeChaos overthrow Doomtrek’s first inhabitants. He was a famed lothario and sleaze, being blessed with good looks and charm – but he also a ruthless commander and a vain man. It was rumoured he was the brains behind HeChaos’ Legion of H – HeChaos himself being far too volatile to be a good military strategist. When Antares took over from HeChaos, Dantus was enslaved and forced to compete in the Arena games. He would escape with HeChaos mid tournament and go on to play a significant role in the Crusades, eventually being killed in battle by Xanfar the Haunted, a commander in Antares’ Death Imperium.
- Wizard Sagan: The former star pupil of legendary sorcerer Bargle, the wizard Sagan was a spectacular showman and incredibly talented conjurer. He also had a chronic gambling addiction and was a notorious cheat – two traits that saw him kicked out of Bargle’s Wizard Academy at Arkmagius. Penniless and with a heavy price on his head, Sagan found himself fighting at Doomtrek somewhat reluctantly. When Bargle visited the Arena, he took pity on his one time apprentice, gifting him with a sizeable amount of gold. Sagan promised to mend his ways and returned to his studies. He would go on to join the Iron Republic in later years where he became a cruel magician, experimenting on both human and animal alike with his wicked magics. When the Iron Republic fell, he weaselled his way into the Wizard Academy once more and rose to great promise. Here at the academy, he was just as cruel. When Evil Ninja (father) was caught stealing magic scrolls from the Wizard Academy, Sagan turned him into a gelatinous mass known as a Sagan Blob. Years later, the Evil Ninja (daughter) took revenge, assassinating Sagan as he visited the wizard Bargle.
- The Great Beast: A huge, hulking minotaur-like creature, the Great Beast first appeared in Tritonia over three hundred years ago when it stumbled through the Constellation Mirror. There were other Great Beasts, but they died out – this one made its home in a cavern in deepest Eldor Hath and until the games at Doomtrek was believed to be more myth than real. Antares subdued and enslaved the Great Beast, transporting it first by land and then by sea to the Arena with no small difficulty. Eventually the beast would be killed in battle by The Nameless. Its skull would later become one of the prized possessions of HeChaos, adorning his throne room at Eddengarth. HeChaos would always claim he himself killed the beast, though the 85,000 fans that witnessed the battle knew he was not even in Doomtrek at the time.
- The Pharaoh King: A charismatic charlatan who arrived at Doomtrek clad in a strange, exotic costume and claiming to be a living god. He quickly gained followers and what became as a small cult quickly spread to a powerful religious faction on the island. Eventually, Antares tired of the Pharaoh King’s influence and had him enslaved in the Arena. Many cultists died trying to free their lord and saviour, but to no avail. The Pharaoh King himself would die on the arena sands, but his cultists returned him to life through dark necromancies. His current whereabouts are somewhere in the T’Kash Desert, where his cultists slowly try to spread his Word.
- Spheracles: One of the last of a race of giants known as the Titans ( though their true names were the Enclaenids ), Spheracles was a jovial and thoroughly entertaining character. Famous for carrying around a giant marble pillar, he was a marvellous juggler and storyteller. He claims to have been punished by his gods to forever juggle, but this seems to be a ficticious tale. Once a year, he would travel from his home across the sea to the Arena to entertain the great crowds and do battle. He seemed to care little if he won or lost, seeking only the pure joy of an adoring crowd. Spheracles lost his life in battle with the Dusk Harlequin, the fearsome Shadow Guardian Antares summoned during the Crusades.
- Gaiax: A giant, dimwitted shepherd from Pilthia, Gaiax was tricked into competing in the Arena games by an unscrupulous snake-oil salesman called Antimidas. Antimidas told Gaiax the games were a farmer’s market, and when the dim one-eyed brute arrived at the arena after several months at sea, he was dismayed to find it was not so. He took his rage out in the arena, proving to be an unstoppable force for quite some time. Eventually, he would be subdued. He would appear again in Crusader, fighting alongside the Sons of Frost; though later he would grow to such a size as to be considered one of the eight legendary Colossi of Brandor. He lost his life to the Dusk Harlequin during the Crusades.
- Maharaja Saeed:
A nephew of the great Lord Talah’udin, the flamboyant Maharaja originally hailed from Taj Brandhir but was forced into exile with his family when the Beast Force took over his lands. His family moved far south to the lands bordering Eldor Hath, where they lived in relative luxury until the funds ran dry, in no small part due to his lavish spending. Famed for his great turban, love of chess and large, flowing moustache, Saeed fought in the tournament for both finance and fame, like so many others. He wielded his uncle’s legendary curved blade but coated it with a deadly scorpion poison that many foes succumbed to. After his days in the Arena, he aided the forces of Drakondier in the great battles against the Beast Force before returning to restore Taj Brandhir to its former glory. He died at the ripe old age of 130 years, rich and surrounded by his many descendants.
- The Daughter of the Blades: A legendary swordswoman from the Ak’Kash steppes, she appeared in the Arena one sunny morning claiming to be the greatest wielder of the sword in all Brandor. She spoke little, and when she did it was with a lilting rhyme. Proving undefeated in the Arena for several months, she eventually faltered in battle when the glare from her blade blinded her temporarily. After her days in the Arena, she went on to defend her people against the onslaught of the Beast Force during the Crusades.
- Ultra Flavius: A professional wrestler from Braxis, he was best known for his staged, choreographed battles and musical prowess. He claimed to be the first to harness the power of lightning to play an instrument, creating an incredible, searing noise. A hugely inflated ego proved his undoing, his showmanship unable to make up for a lack of basic fighting techniques. After a crushing defeat at the Arena, he retired and turned heavily to drink and decline. In his latter days he would cruelly be referred to as Regular Flavius.
- Luminesca: The sorceress Luminesca is credited for being the creator of the popular spell Orb of Luminesca, a beacon of light to many adventurers in dungeons deep. One of the greatest young wizards of Arkmagius, she was banished from the academy for her willingness to endanger fellow students during her spellcasting. In her years in exile, she competed in the Arena to perfect her magical abilities. She eventually returned to the Wizard Academy some years later, older and wiser and took Sagan Z’s place as head of the Academy ( in Bargle’s absence, of course).
- Tutuki the Volcano: Tutuki the Volcano was a loveable and gregarious gentle giant from the Vau’i islands in the Uveric Ocean. Best known for forging his own armour in a volcanic crater, he was also famous for his infectious smile and brilliant impromptu dance routines. He fell in with the wrong crowd in his time in the arena, racking up significant gambling debts and living well beyond his means. After a chance encounter and heart-to-heart conversation with the Daughter of the Blades, he saw the error of his ways and turned his back on fighting. He returned to the Vau’i islands and lived out his days in peace.
- The Slave Driver: First appearing in S&S 1, the Slave Driver rose to power and prominence working as the construction overlord of Emperor Antares huge new arenas and colosseums, replacing HeChaos’ rickety and dilapidated old buildings. By day the slaves would build, or fight, and by night he would whip them mercilessly, denying them basic human rights. One such slave, The Nameless, would not be quelled. In one off the great fights of lore, The Nameless would rise up and kill him in the arena.
- Daimyo Katsumodo: A legendary general from Drakondier’s storied past, he originally hailed from an island in the Cycladian Ocean. He was instrumental in the Templar Church’s rise to power some years ago, and as an older man would travel to the Arena to test his formidable sword skills against the best the realm has to offer. A quiet and reflective man, he kept a travel journal of his adventures, Katsumodo’s Guide To Brandor, which became a bestseller. He would go on to fight one last time in the Crusades, winning many great battles for Drakondier before falling in battle in Eddegarth, the victim of a Legion of H phalanx charge.
- Archfiend Zeerzabahl: Zeerzabahl was a mid ranked Demon Prince from a plane of existence way beyond the mortal realm. Ambitious and calculating, he worked his way up through the demon ranks and was the first to make contact with Emperor Antares, offering him a deal that would guarantee eternal life in return for Antares agreeing to help bring Zeerzabahl’s master through the Constellation Mirror. Their pact led to Antares’ terrible rise to power, and Antares would summon Zeerzabahl to Tritonia on several occasions to do his bidding. Eventually, Antares began to toy with the Demon Prince ( having outgrown him in power) and used him as a spectacle in the Arena. Zeerzabahl, powerless to stop, reluctantly fought, and eventually was slain in the arena – but he returned to his own plane, somewhat lesser in power but filled with a terrible rage. There he waits, plotting a revenge on Antares. Giant, red skinned with black bull horns, he naturally reeked of sulpher and radiated with an intense heat.
- Bargle: The legendary wizard Bargle is probably Brandor’s most famous citizen, more myth than man. All youngsters know of him through ‘The Travelling Tales of Bargle’ , a wonderful collection of stories. The truth of Bargle is even stranger. He has lived for hundreds of years, being in fact one of the original Precursors who came through the Constellation Mirror. He possesses magical powers and technology long forgotten in the realms, and has meddled in the affairs of men for many years. His purposes on Brandor are still inscrutable. He aided The Nameless in defeating Antares during a small cameo in Brandor, and would go on in Swords and Sandals III to forge an alliance with the powerful cybernetic race of Automatons, before disappearing into the stars. He would return in Swords and Sandals V, aiding Sir Belgrave and HeChaos in vanquishing Antares once more.
- Archangel Sandalphon: A Primarch of the Heavenly Halls, he was not of Tritonia, but from an entirely plane of existence. When demons started appearing in Brandor at Antares’ behest, he intervened and aided Bargle in countering them. He gave his strength to The Nameless to defeat Antares, . Known as the archon of justice and retribution, he appeared in Brandor each year to judge those who may be worthy an event he called only The Great Crusade. He fought alongside King Lionel during the Crusades in Swords and Sandals 2: Crusader, though many believed this was not the crusade he referred to, as rumours of a battle in the stars have long existed. He was the younger brother of the incredibly powerful Archangel Arcturus. At this stage, she has not entered our story, but will be a major player in the RPG Swords and Sandals: Constellation Mirror in the far future ( some years until I make this game, though the plot is in development!)
- The Nameless Shadow: A magical being created by Emperor Antares to test The Nameless. It embodied all of The Nameless’ strengths and flaws, and only though knowing himself fully, was the Nameless able to vanquish his shadow self. Foolishly, Antares, in a way, made The Nameless stronger – for by conquering his demons, he gained the courage to fight the Emperor himself.
- Emperor Antares: Brandor’s greatest villain and the scourge of many a gladiator, Antares story is long and dark and will be told in more detail soon. In the days of Swords and Sandals 2 , Antares used the Arena at Doomtrek to enslave, kill and create and army of undead warriors with the purpose of unleashing a great crusade on the realm of Brandor. Antares’ early years are mostly unknown, though it is believed he came from the dark lands of Eldor Hath, far to the south. He first made his name in Swords and Sandals: Pirate Lords, unleashing a small skeleton army on the small island nations of the Four Oceans. He grew in power in this land grab, and did battle with the young knights Sir Belgrave and Baron Wolfgang on numerous occasions, though he himself was not the power he would become. In the year 589 CM, he arrived in Doomtrek, overthrow the Arena’s former master HeChaos. His plans would eventually be undone by The Nameless and the great sorcerer Bargle. Upon his defeat, he could not be killed – for he had a demonic pact with Zeerzabahl, but he was greatly weakened in the form of a magical mist. In this moment, Bargle captured his essence in the first thing he could find, a jewelled chalice. The chalice was shattered into 5 pieces, which Bargle hastily buried under the mountains of Suul’s Gateway while he thought of a better plan for them – something he never got round to.Author’s note: In the original S&S 2, Sir Belgrave was a champion who could be fought, but in the Redux, he only features as an NPC in the Chapter texts, replaced by new Arena Champions. This is because Belgrave’s role in helping the player discover Antares’ plans was better suited as having him an ‘off-screen’ player and not someone the player should fight against.
Though many outside of Doomtrek had not heard of Emperor Antares, his downfall at the hands of The Nameless would have great ramifications on the continent of Brandor. In the year 591CM, Brandor had enjoyed thirty years of relative peace. Most of the action in the last few years had been during the great naval conquests colloquially known as the Four Oceans War. With Phaetorian forces stretched thinly across both land and sea and recovering from a series of terrible naval disasters, rival powers saw fit to attempt a power grab.
There were eight major players in the Crusades.
- The Kingdom of Phaetor, ruled by King Lionel IX
The major military and political power in the realm, it has been King Lionel Injade and his ancestors’ rule that has seen the many citizens of Brandor exist in relative peace. Their capital city of Phaetor has stood for over 400 years. King Lionel IX himself is a wise, fair man beloved by his people. His rule is just, his mercy great and his courage unquestioned, but he tends to overestimate the goodness of humanity and can be somewhat idealistic and naive.
- The Templar Church, led by Sir Belgrave Rhykier
Drakondier is a Kingdom ally, a solid and stalwart champion for a unified Brandor free from tyranny and slavery. The Templar Church is the spiritual heart of the realm, and if it falls, many believe all hope is lost. Commander of the armies of the Templar Church, and fresh from two years at sea and a spell in the Arena of Doomtrek, Sir Belgrave Rhykier is fearless in battle, honourable to a fault and a powerful knight. He lives and fights by a strict code of honour, but has become jaded and world weary.
- The Free States of Braxis, led by Baron Wolfgang
Phaetor’s largest ally in the realm, an independent collection of towns and cities unified under the one banner. Their capital city of Braxis is even older than Phaetor, having been first founded by the Precursors shortly after the events of the first opening of the Constellation Mirror. Baron Wolfgang of the Free States of Braxis, is a charming rogue and a skilled politician, although his struggles with the bottle are well documented. Wolfgang had previously led Braxis during the Four Oceans War before falling upon hard times and fighting in the Arena for a while. A dear friend of King Lionel and the knight Belgrave, he is a loyal and trustworthy ally of the Kingdom. A bold if somewhat reckless leader, he has been known to lead his forces perilously close to the edge of oblivion.
- The Iron Republic, led by Celen Helmguard
Gallowstones, capital of the Iron Republic is a grey and foreboding city of great function and little charm. Lord Celen Helmguard is a brutal and violent man, once an ally of King Lionel. In a recent coup, he along with his sister Marie duPont and a group of powerful nobles, seceded from Kingdom rule and established the Iron Republic, under the socialist pretenses of equality and community. However, the republic under Celen’s stewardship has become as self-serving and bitter as Celen himself, traitors scrambling over barren lands and limited resources. He seeks to overthrow both the Kingdom and the Death Imperium and bring Brandor to heel under Republican rule.
- The Sons of Frost, led by Bors the Mighty
In the grand spirit of ‘Let’s make do with what we have…’ did the Sons of Frost appoint Bors the Mighty their leader to conquer the world. Situated in the frozen north of the world near Suul’s Gateway, the blue skinned Sons of Frost are a nation of hundred barbarian tribes who exult in battle and the call of adventure. A shrewd opportunist and great warrior, he is also a poor and impatient tactician. Bors seeks to take advantage of the chaos sweeping the land. He sees the south as a land ripe for the picking, a realm of weaklings to be relieved of their wealth and farmland.
- The Beast Force, led by Arglaxx
Arglaxx was once Battle Master of the Arena at Eldor Hath until Emperor Antares was toppled. Fleeing to the lands of Taj Brandhir in the south, he quickly rose an army of animals, mercernaries and vicious beast men, seeking to take advantange of the chaos in the realm. Arglaxx is a fierce fighter, great tactician and inspiring leader. If he has a fault , it is his inability to show mercy or weakness, and the unpredictable nature of his simian troops.
- The Legion of H, led by HeChaos
The Legion’s home city of Eddengarth is a vast maze of red brick and iron. What superlatives can possibly be added to the legend of the nefarious HeChaos the Scourge? He is a madman and a tyrant in control of a legion of fanatical supporters. Long has the fiend wished to wage war on the realm and his years of scheming and subterfuge have finally led to this moment. Though he is a vastly overconfident and certifiably insane, his underhand tactics are not to be underestimated. The Legion of H is loosely allied with Antares and the Death Empire.
- The Death Imperium, led by Emperor Antares
Emperor Antares, recently defeated at Doomtrek, is but a shell of his former self. His essence trapped by the sorcerer Bargle, Antares now uses what little magic he has left to inhabit the skeletal remains of one of his former Royal Guards. Though weakened, he remains a formidable and terrifying force. Antares only apparent goal to return the Malevolence to Brandor through opening the Constellation Mirror. Antares commands a soulless fighting force made up of warriors who died in gladiator combat in his brutal colosseum. The undead never retreat from battle, fear nothing and will not stop until Antares’ dark plan is realised.
The events of the Crusades were complex and often contradictory. Some historians record events differently, victories as losses and exact dates are lost to the ages. Most historians have divided them into eight Acts, as follows.
Act I: Lion of Phaetor
Our story began far to the north, where good King Lionel, noble lord of the Lion Kingdom, was awoken by an envoy from the Wizard Academy. Sagan Z, star pupil of Bargle Yarg, came with a message. The wizard informed the king that a great undead army was lying dormant under the arena island of Doomtrek. Bargle’s hold upon them was weakening, and soon the realm would have to prepare for war. Lionel was skeptical, but rumours of skeletons rising from the grave and ghosts gliding across the moors late at night seemed to verify Sagan’s word. Donning his battle armour, he sought to learn more.
After many years of relative peace, a weary Kingdom fresh from the Four Oceans campaign had disbanded their standing army and let the realm enjoy a breath of peace. But in the days that followed, rumours began to grow in the lands of the dead rising from the grave, of skeletons entering houses and ghostly horses galloping along the King’s roads. At first the King dismissed the talk as superstitious prattle, until his own royal chamber was entered by the spiritual form of the sorcerer Bargle who told the king the sorrowful tale of Antares and the many souls harvested at the Colosseum. Bargle had entombed the gladiator army in a Void Gate, but the spell could not hold for much longer.
Newly rich from the great bounties of the sea campaign, Lionel began to reassemble the Kingdom Armies. Over the months that followed, ghosts and skeletons continued to be seen wandering the moors, killing cattle and scaring villagers, in greater and greater numbers. This was deeply troubling for the superstitious folk of the north, who have not seen a war in years. Not only that, but the barbarian lord Bors saw an opportunity to add to the chaos, dressing his men up as spirits and revenants and plundering local villages. This continued until Lionel was forced to take action, sending more and more soldiers north to quell the troublesome horde.
Though they would fight many small skirmishes with the Kingdom, Bors grew bolder and his attacks more reckless. Soon entire villages were put to the torch and the northern city of Suul’s Gateway fell to Bors’ armies.
Soldiers armed and ready for battle, Lionel realised he needed to send a message to Bors and his Sons of Frost, whose forces now numbered among them mighty Polar Barbarian troops, brutish cavalry troops who ride great polar bears. With much of Lionel’s forces still returning from the Four Oceans, he was outnumbered, but in a decisive battle at Ettania, the Kingdom was able to send Bors back to Warmhaven with a taste of Kingdom bravery and resilience.
Late in the month, Silver Circle Knights returning to Brandor via the deserts in the south brought tales of wild tales of beastmen and great apes. Arglaxx, former overseer of the gladiatoral arena of Doomtrek was himself raising an army to seize power in the south. The Knights also brought with them the fabled Book of Sandalphon, a holy relic which may allow the Kingdom to petition the mighty Archangel Sandalphon to fight for them should the need arise. Lionel contacted Vraynes Galrin, leader of the Templar Church, sending him the Book.
Templar Church priests from Drakondier studied the book for some time before eventually making contact with the Archangel Sandalphon. For his own inscrutable purposes, Sandalphon agreed to join the Kingdom cause. And not a moment too soon, for Arglaxx and the Beast Force began massing in great numbers on the vast dry Ak’Kash Steppes. Rumour spread about a mighty colossal ape, some seventy feet high. Arglaxx, it is well known, was an ally of the fallen Emperor Antares. It fell to Kingdom and Templar Church forces to muster the army and march south. Only by confronting Arglaxx would they discover the reason behind such warmongering.
In a battle for the ages, Sandalphon and the Prime Ape meet on the field. The heavenly warrior was victorious, and a mighty cheer was raised as Arglaxx surrendered to the Kingdom. He was taken to Drakondier’s dungeons for questioning, and although he said very little, he would famously utter three words that perplexed and troubled the King. Antares Has Returned.
Act II: Swordhand of The Knight
The Beastlord’s words echo long into the night. Antares had returned. The news was dire. Many in the kingdom had lost a relative to the sands of the arena, but few yet know of Antares attempts to raise an undead army from the souls of the thousands of fallen gladiators. How he had returned from death is a mystery, but it did not bode well. King Lionel, unfamiliar with the dark arts of necromancy, sought council with his allies the Templar Church. Upon his arrival at the Holy City of Drakondier, however, Lionel walked into a political storm. High Marshall Galrin, head of the Templar Church, had died and the knighthood had erupted in chaos as rival factions and families fight for control of the Church. Our story continued with Lionel’s childhood friend, Sir Belgrave Rhykier, freshly returned from the Four Oceans campaign.
With the death of 85 year old Vraynes Galrin, a power struggle erupted in the Templar Church. Many knights had long been waiting for the High Commander to die, and heated debate and discourse filled the Hallowed Cathedral of Light. Knights such as Thordan Byrine, Ultravaine Hubertus and others all began their campaigns, for in a month the Templar Cardinals would vote upon the next Commander.
As one of the most promising young knights in the order and a friend of the king’s since their youngest days, Sir Belgrave was a favourite to realise his ambition but until this day had been too humble to put his name forth. King Lionel implored his childhood friend stand for the leadership. Belgrave knew he had raise support quickly and set out on his horse with a small, loyal retinue. They rode all through Drakondier and won the support the crucial voting chapters of the Templar Church. With a majority swearing loyalty, Belgrave was elected to the exulted position of High Marshall.
Upon his swearing in, Sir Belgrave was summoned to the court of King Lionel IX, his trusted ally. In recent weeks, the BeastlordArglaxx escaped from his cell and had stolen crucial blueprints on both Castle Conodier and the Holy Citadel. If these documents were not recovered quickly, the Templar Church and its allies faced grave danger. Led by Lionel and Belgrave, Kingdom forces rode out and fought Arglaxx at the Battle of Falsewood. In defeat, Arglaxx proved to be a slippery character. He fled into the desert lands, shadowed by simian archers, but not before the Kingdom could wrest the battle plans from his simian paws.
The Kingdom continued to pursue Arglaxx south, but meanwhile factions in the Templar Church demanded Sir Belgrave take action against the heathen barbarians in the north. The Sons of Frost had long mocked Suul The One, god of the Templar Church. Missionaries in the north were often killed and churches set aflame. Bors the Mighty himself had in recent times called Suul a weakling and a bedwetter. A crusade was declared against the Sons of Frost,with the edict that those who will not be converted would be put to the sword. In a matter of weeks, the Church had Bors and his forces surrounded at Warmhaven. Decimated by siege, the cowardly barbarians broke rank and abandoned the city, fleeing northward rather than facing the judgement of Suul.
Later that night, a vision came to Othello Hardcastle, a Templar Cardinal. In the dream he saw a golden chalice in the desert, wreathed in light and pulsing with a vast aura of power. Othello recognised this chalice as the Grail of Suul, a legendary artefact which he believed would summon to the Templar army the awesome power of the great colossus, the Grail Knight. He petitioned Belgrave to search for the grail, knowing that other colossi were stirring in the realm. After a long search, the chalice was found in the TKash desert and the Grail Knight pledged its allegience to the cause. Othello and Belgrave wept with joy as they raised the Grail of Suul, for they knew that the enemies of the Church would kneel before the glory of Suul.
Meanwhile, the evil Beast Force had rallied around their own colossus, the mighty Prime Ape. Indeed, the Grail Knight had arrived with nary a moment to spare, for Arglaxx’s forces marched upon Drakondier and laid siege to the city. The two great colossi met on the fields outside of Drakondier’s walls. The ground shook and men wept to see the mighty conflict. but eventually the Grail Knight was victorious, slaying the Prime Ape. Once again, however, Arglaxx’s forces broke and they fled into the desert once again.
Act III: Baron of Wishful Drinking
As Sir Belgrave and King Lionel pour over the tomes seeking clues as to Antares’ whereabouts, our story turned to the east and the port city of Braxis, centre of the Free States. Somewhat incredulously, Baron Wolfgang, notorious rogue and drunkard and former prisoner in Antares’ arena, has risen to General of the Free States after a remarkable showing at sea during the Four Oceans War. With the vast wealth from the sea, the Free States had of late enjoyed great prosperity, but it would not last. HeChaos of Eddengarth, an old rival of Wolfgang’s, had begun recruiting new soldiers from Free States lands while the Baron was away summering at an island in the Cycladian Ocean.
The nefarious HeChaos was a tyrant in control of a legion of madmen, had done battle on the high seas against Wolfgang time and time again. When the Four Oceans War ended he found himself both master and slave, having run the Arena at Doomtrek and then enslaved by Antares. Eventually he would be freed by his legion and return to Eddengarth to build up his forces.
Now once again his army is on the move and actively trying to recruit forces to the Legion of H. Wolfgang and HeChaos, in fact, went back many years. They were childhood friends, until they fell out over the affections of a girl. HeChaos, known back then as Hector Carolis, never forgave Wolfgang and plotted against him time and time again over the years.
Knowing the danger Legion infiltration in the Free States would pose, Wolfgang knew he could not let HeChaos succeed in drawing new legionnaires from disgruntled Braxian citizens. Such a move would greatly destabilise the area. Putting down his tankard and kissing his lovers goodbye (for now), he caught the first ship back to Braxis. Quickly marshalling the Free States armies, he launched a surprise counterattack on HeChaos and sent the Legion reeling. Discouraged, HeChaos retreats to his fortress at Eddengarth with many fewer new recruits than he had hoped for. Naturally, Wolfgang celebrated the victory with a rather messy night in Braxis’ Port District.
Incensed by the defeat, HeChaos began to step up his attacks. Spies from Phaetor reported Legion forces crossing the Kingdom into the Free States. The gates of Eddengarth were open and legions had gathered in large numbers. Several villages in the surrounding area were reported burnt to the ground and HeChaos seems to moving northward. Wolfgang chose to meet the army head on before he could gain a foothold in Braxis. At Sharpsdale, two great armies clashed and once again the legion were routed. With the defeat, serious damage had been done to the strength of the Legion, and although HeChaos escaped, it would be some time before he threatened the Free States again. Wolfgang celebrated by turning the local Templar Church into a makeshift tavern for the week.
Act IV: Heart of Tempered Steel
In the months before the Four Oceans War, Lord Celen Helmguard led a coup against the Kingdom of Phaetor. Long had Helmguard disagreed with the feudal system, an archaic and out-of-touch system of government in his eyes. King Lionel’s reliance both Braxis and Drakondier also worried Helmguard. The Kingdom should not rely so heavily on outsiders, he reasoned, and should exert their dominance more!
Along with twenty other lords, he renounced his fealty to King Lionel and stormed out of Castle Conodier. Riding north to the abandoned city of Gallowstones, they set up the new Iron Republic, a land of justice and equality (or so they claimed).
However, in the three years that followed, all was not well. What began as a bold strike against the Kingdom had now become a shaky and disorganised mess. The lords who had once pledged support to the rebellion had since wavered, some had even returned to King Lionel and begged for forgiveness. Forces and supplies bound for the new Iron Republic were not forthcoming, no new lands had been gained and the rebellion looked like it would not last long. He was a man in charge of a city nobody wanted, so unimportant the rebellion was not even considered a threat. Phaetor had watched with interest as the Iron Republic lay dormant, kingdom troops stationed on the border staying vigilant but not pressing in on Gallowstones for whatever reason – Lionel’s amusement perhaps?
Lord Helmguard, along with a rag-tag bunch of loyal soldiers found themselves holed up in a dank, cold castle with barely an army to speak of. Realising they would not last the winter, he rode out of the city with his best men. Travelling from village to village and town from town, he spoke with passion and gravitas. In time, he was able to sway ten northern provinces, all of whom pledged once again to join the Iron Republic and send valuable troops and resources their way. As he famously said at the time, “Why should a plough be worth less than a crown? This is a victory for the common man. Never again shall a farmer bend the knee to a king!”
That day, he renamed Gallowstones as Helmguard City and proclaimed it a city of the people. There would be no throne room in the castle, and all would be welcome in its halls.
With Phaetor’s attention taken by the Beast Force to the south, the forces of the new Iron Republic grew, but Helmguard knew they would need something greater if they wished to truly compete on the grand stage. Whilst in in the service of King Lionel, he often heard rumours from the wise folk about of legendary artifact known as the Iron Colossus. It was deemed lost to history, having been built by the Precursors many hundreds of years ago. None alive had seen any trace of it.
Perhaps this machine, a vast and complex kit of cogs, steam pipes and engines, could be found and assembled to forge a powerful weapon? Such a towering force would inspire the new Republic and give the people faith in the cause! Helmguard and his troops searched the land for many days. Close to despair, he found himself drinking in a tavern at Port Skulden, where an old pirate known as Tavington claimed to know where it lay. For a sizeable sum of gold, the pirate led them down a rocky path to a vast cave by the sea.
In the cave they found the wreck of a massive ship, its cargo still intact in a hundred metal crates. In each crate, countless parts of varying sizes and shapes. In one such crate, they found a massive ear, in another, a nose of pure iron. Indeed, the colossus was found. In the weeks that followed, and with considerable expense, the colossus was shipped by sea to Sharpsdale and then brought overland to Helmguard City. There, however, Lord Helmguard encountered his next problem – none knew how to assemble the damn thing!
However, as luck would have it, the Wizard Sagan was sympathetic to the republic’s cause. He turned up in the city mysteriously one day, inspected the machine and said he could rebuild it, given enough time and money. Poverty being one of the great struggles of the fledgling republic, the reclamation project brought the Iron Republic right to the brink of financial ruin. All the bounty from the Four Oceans War was now gone and the warchest was empty.
Worse still, attacks from the Kingdom began finally. Kingdom forces clashed with the Republic along the border, ground was won and lost and the republic grew a name for itself despite barely having enough gold to even feed its citizens. Like a vulture the evil HeChaos joined the fray, leading Legion forces from the west and entering into skirmishes with an already stressed republican army.
Finally, however the colossus was complete. Lord Helmguard dubbed it The Machine of the People, some 70 feet high and weighing over two hundred tonnes. This soulless killing machine would surely give the people the edge in the fight for control of the realm. In its first battle, it easily dispatched a force of Legionnaires, forcing HeChaos to retreat south once more. In its second, it severely damaged a heavy calvary from the Kingdom and allowed the Iron Republic to move further into Kingdom territory. The Machine was a triumph!
Brimming with patroitic pride, Helmguard gazed up at his prize. “This, surely, is the greatest of all the colossi in the world,” he thought. “Greater than King Lionels pathetic archangel or the stinking Prime Ape. Faster than Spheracles and stronger then Belgrave’s Grail Knight.”
In a show of great hubris, Celen sent the Machine of the People on a march through the realm, seeking the other colossi in battle. It fought well, severely leaking the Prime Ape, sending Spheracles into hiding and fighting the Grail Knight to a standstill. Badly damaged in that fight, however, it returned to Gallowstones without taking on the mighty Archangel.
With foes of the Iron Republic reeling from the wounds to their colossi, Helmguard knew now was the time to strike. With the Archangel still serving and dangerous, the Kingdom were too strong for the Iron Republic – but the Templar Church, weary from constant battles against the Beast Force and the Legion, were the perfect target. The Iron Republic knew they needed to strike now, destroy their capital at Drakondier and strike a blow to the very heart of King Lionel and his most powerful ally.
The assault was swift and brutal. The Grail Knight, still recovering from its battle with the Machine of the People, was unable to repel the republic colossus as it scaled the mighty walls of Drakondier. Siege engines would follow, and then the walls were down. When Iron Republic troops rushed in, they found the city largely unguarded, for the Templar Church was stretched on so many fronts in the southern wars. In the days that followed, Drakondier’s churches were sacked, its statues broken.
Rushing back to Brandor from the southern deserts to find their home city occupied, Sir Belgrave travelled to Phaetor to implore King Lionel for aid in reclaiming the Templar Church’s holiest of places.
The Kingdom had been greatly weakened, and with the prize of Drakondier, the rise of the Iron Republic was complete. Arise, Lord Helmguard, Protector of the Common Man.
Act V: Thawing of the Frost
Further still to the north, trouble was brewing. Gunteria, Messeth and Warmhaven were home to a group of barbarian warrior tribes who until recently had kept to themselves. When the Phaetorian Navy collapsed, an opportunistic tribal chief known as Olaf the Unhinged led forces out to sea, causing great damage to many factions in Brandor before eventually flaming out themselves. Olaf himself was killed by a bold young chieftain known as Bors the Mighty, a seven foot warrior, leading rise to a more loosely organised group of tribes who dubbed themselves the Sons of Frost (much to the ire of the many valiant women who fought and died alongside them in battle.)
Most of the great warriors of the tribes had died in the ill-fated Four Oceans War, leaving the Sons of Frost with an army of troops barely out of their childhood years. However, the young warriors were brave and strong. Bors knew he must raise a disciplined, united army from amongst their ranks. It was a dangerous game though, for while the Sons of Frost were weak they knew they needed to avoid raising the suspicions of the nearby Iron Republic and Kingdom forces.
Bors travelled far and wide, into the deepest valleys and far into the great steppe country. Through caves, into lands seen by few. He spoke of the glory of battle, of fertile lands to conquer and settle. He spoke of the ancestors and how they tamed the steppe on their mighty horses.
And they followed, from far and wide. At first a small group, and then a long column of warriors, young and old, all on their way to Bor’s home country of Warmhaven. Some rode horses, some rode great Polar Bears, but all were ready to fight.
A mighty bonfire raised up, sending sparks into the night. Before Bors stood the young army of the Sons of Frost. Some had seen battle, and some would not survive to see their next birthday. Bors surveyed the army before him, campfires glittering under the night sky, and he knew he needed more.
The elders often told stories of mighty Gaiax, a colossus who once roamed the mountains of the north and was a kindred to the ancestors of the Sons of Frost. Gaiax apparently went on to become a Champion in the Arena at Doomtrek, killing many foes before eventually losing his eye in battle and becoming a sad recluse.
Bors knew that if Gaiax’s eye could be found and retrieved, perhaps the mighty colossus would be sympathetic to the Sons of Frost’s cause? The young barbarian lord set out to track down the colossus. He supped with village elders, sought rumours in taverns far and wide until his path took him to the Vale of Shadows. There in a field lay a great eye half covered in moss. The eye looked at him, for it was still living! Heaving the vast sphere on his mighty back, he trekked north, far into the mountains beyond Suul’s Gateway.
In a cave deep beneath a nameless peak he discovered Gaiax, alone and blind by a large bonfire. Returning the eye to the giant, he stepped back and waited while the beast acclimatised to the light once more. Within minutes, Gaiax was on his feet, towering and jovial once more. Bors took this moment to demand Gaiax pledge allegiance to the Sons of Frost, and challenged him to seek revenge on those who took his eye. The giant accepted at once and swore fealty. They returned to Warmhaven together.
With the colossus on side, the Sons of Frost swept out of Warmhaven and began its conquest of Brandor. However, alas their timing was woeful, for at the same time, the dread Emperor Antares left Eldor Hath with a vast undead army at his command. Bors learned that Antares was taking a direct route through the least populated lands of Brandor, travelling mainly by night.
With horror, Bors realised Antares was bolstering his army with the corpses of dead enemies, especially those in the frozen north where corpses did not rot so fast. Knowing that his own army was still the weakest in the realm, Antares would be sure to strike at his home city first before sweeping back around to tackle the major powers.
Bors set out to conquer key provinces in the realm before Antares reached Warmhaven. Riding swiftly across Brandor, he was able to capture strategic points in the north, south, east and west – even if Warmhaven fell, the Sons would live to see another day. Bors even faced Antares on the field in the swamps of Messeth. Appalling weather conditions forced both sides to abandon the battle, but Bors grew more confident – he had faced Antares and survived. As the weather made the northern passes nigh impossible to cross, Antares gave up on Warmhaven and turned his dark gaze elsewhere, to his true enemies, Lionel of Phaetor and Belgrave of Drakondier.
Stories of the great Battle of Messeth drove new recruits to join the Sons of Front, and Bors gladly accepted them, though he knew now he would need to capture more farmland to support the ever-growing army. He looked to ‘breadbasket’ lands of Braxis and swiftly seized valuable swathes of land, taking advantage of Wolfgang’s forces battling in the south and west.
As the winter snow thawed, news came that the mighty polar bears and their hardy barbarian riders were headed south to join the cause, adding a much needed cavalry to the forces.
Everything was in place for an assault on Drakondier, for Bors had not forgotten how the Church had harassed his people, branding them heathens and unbelievers. The much beleaguered city was currently in the hands of the Legion of H, much to Bors’ surprise, and when they came to claim the city, they met with heavy Legion resistance. The siege lasted several weeks, but Bors was ultimately victorious, wresting the Holy City from legion control. With a major city now in his control, he turned his eyes northward to Phaetor.
Act VI: Age of Beasts
Meanwhile, Arglaxx and the Beast Force were reeling from their failed Siege on Drakondier the year earlier. The simian forces were smaller in number than all the other armies, and with the defeat, many had scattered back into the jungles from whence they came.
Arglaxx knew the first step back on the road to recovery for the Beast Force was sorting out why the Prime Ape kept getting its giant simian booty kicked in battle. Through a series of grunts, the Prime Ape communicated that its skill in battle had been severely undermined by lice. Arglaxx realised he had to find a cure, the proverbial Great De-louser to relieve the Prime Ape of his woes.
After many days of searching, Arglaxx met with the sorceress Luminescia, who for a princely sum created such a potion – ’twas a vial the size of a bathtub! Arglaxx dragged the Great De-louser back to Taj Brandhir and with great difficulty, gave the Prime Ape a bath in the lake beside the city. Lice free, the Prime Ape’s mood lightened and roared with approval. Indeed, the campaign could get back on track with the legendary colossus ready for battle again.
Hearing the roar of their colossus, the scattered troops of the Beast Force marshalled once again in Taj Brandhir and united under Arglaxx’ banner.
The Prime Ape, freshly de-loused and with a new lease on life, communicated to Arglaxx through a series of grunts and crude gestures that it wished to prove its strength agsinst the other colossi in the realm. Realising he needed time to plan the Beast Force’s invasion plans, Arglaxx granted the Prime Ape permission to do battle against its rivals. A great victory here would send a message that the Beast Force was to be feared and respected!
A month later, the Prime Ape returns to Taj Brandhir, bruised and battered but wildly successful. It grunted again that it shown complete dominance of the other colossi it faced, though a few rival colossi had shown fear and refused to face it ( though the Prime Ape would not name names, as it could not, of course, speak).
The victory greatly improved simian morale and beastmen everywhere continued to flock to the Beast Force. Arglaxx’s plans were ready and he signalled the order to march upon Brandor. Their first stop, Eddengarth – home of HeChaos.
Though technically the Beast Force and the Legion served Emperor Antares, it was generally acknowledged that HeChaos had grown a little too big for his boots – disobeying direct orders, sending his legions hither and thither with little planning and so on.
Appearing via a crystal ball, Emperor Antares ordered Arglaxx to intercept and strike down the largest of HeChaos’ legions as they marched north. The attack would have to come swiftly and with precision, for as soon as HeChaos learned of the betrayal, no doubt the rest of the Legions would turn their fury upon the Beast Force.
Arglaxx, fearless and obedient, did his master’s bidding and with a large campaign force, set out to chase down HeChaos’ Legion. The overconfident fool, thought Arglaxx, did not even see the Beast Force coming – one moment he was marching towards the Kingdom, the next his best legion lay defeated in the middle of a field. The Legion has been weakened and the Emperor was most pleased, sending wagons of gold and food to Taj Brandhir as a reward for his loyal minion.
In the weeks that followed Antares and King Lionel continued to dance around each other, refusing to engage in direct combat on the field. Seeing Antares stalling made Arglaxx uneasy, his animal senses tingling with the fear of betrayal. Knowing what Antares had ordered done to HeChaos, he figured it would not be long before the Death Imperium turned on the Beast Force.
Realising this, Arglaxx ordered his forces to strengthen their hold on southern Brandor whilst he still could. He rode out with the simian army and conquered valuable lands in the south, including the provinces of Arkmagius, Pilthia and Falsewood.
Arglaxx braced himself for Antares’ inevitable wrath – for the Emperor would realise soon enough the provinces were now in the hands of the Beast Force. Betrayal was imminent, and the cunning simian now held valuable lands and food supplies that could turn the tide in the wars to come.
What happens next, in fact, suprised nobody. Late one night, skeleton warriors attacked the palace at Taj Brandhir and attempted to assasinate Arglaxx. The mighty simian hero dispatched of them easily, but it was clear Antares had turned upon the Beast Force. Rhesus spies gave news that Antares’ vanguard army had separated from the bulk of his skeletons due to a failed river crossing in Falsewood. Antares seized upon this and acted to strike down the Emperor while his forces were few. A huge number of Beast Force troops mustered in Taj Brandhir and marched north to the stone forests of Falsewood.
At the same time, the Legions of Eddengarth, seeking vengeance against Antares, marched west also. Under the hundred foot granite trees of Falsewood, three armies clashed. Weakened from exposure to prolonged sunlight, Antares’ skeleton warriors fared poorly and were routed, though the Emperor himself escaped and remarkably chose not to resurrect his dead forces, nor cast any powerful magics to alter the battle. Instead, the Legion and the Beast Force battled it out until the Legion too, were defeated after three days of tiring battle.
HeChaos fled to Eddengarth as a mighty cheer went up. For the Beast Forces, this was a grand day indeed. Arglaxx had won the greatest victory of his career, proven he could stand without the axis of villainy and sent a strong warning to Antares that he would neither be betrayed nor cowed into submission easily.
Act VII: Scourge of Eddengarth
Around the same time as Arglaxx set out for the Prime Ape, the madman HeChaos lay awake brooding in the Citadel at Eddengarth.
It is no fun being a mad tyrant, he thought. More betrayals than hot dinners, it seemed. Legions of disgruntled, barely competent Eddite troops who didn’t respect him, haughty and overpaid commanders who disobeyed his orders. What he needed was an *enforcer*! Every enemy leader seemed to be in possession of some hulking great colossus that always seemed to thwart the Legion’s plans.
That night, HeChaos was confronted with a vision. His mind swirled, and the Archfiend Zeerzabahl, a mighty demon prince, appeared before him. Zeerzabahl offered HeChaos a bargain: Find and break the Seal of Disapproval, a legendary artefact, lost to history and buried somewhere deep underground. Break the seal and the demon would manifest itself in Brandor and fight for the Legion of H.
All Zeerzabahl wanted in return was another small shard of HeChaos’ soul. It seemed a fair trade at the time, for HeChaos’ soul was already not his own, having been given to Zeerzabahl long ago in exchange for power and, of course, madness. A bargain was struck, and a cohort of legionnaires was dispatched to find the Seal.
Weeks and months past, and the exhausted legion returned. They had climbed the highest peaks, scoured rivers and valleys, the darkest forests and the driest deserts. It was then HeChaos remembered something … he already was in possession of the Seal, having been granted many years ago when he was given his magical (and cursed) Crystal Falchion.
In typical HeChaos fashion, the seal was in the most unlikely of places, locked in a box under his bed. Hilarity ensued as HeChaos informed his consuls that they had wasted their time searching all Brandor.
At any rate, the seal was broken and Zeerzabahl appeared in Eddengarth, a mighty towering red demon, wings as vast as the night and with eyes of burning volcanic fire. For now, the Legion had their own colossus.
With Zeerzabahl onside, HeChaos turned his attention to sleights from the past. He had still not forgotten the insult Baron Wolfgang had dealt upon him long ago. Once a friend, Wolfgang had stolen a girl from HeChaos and for that he must pay the ultimate price. With some delight HeChaos learned that Wolfgang has taken Braxis back from the barbarian lord Bors, and was struggling with the monumental task of rebuilding the ransacked city. It might be fun, thought HeChaos, to raze it to the ground.
With three of his best legions in tow, he set out for Braxis and took the city in a great battle. Somewhat tragically though, his showdown with the former hero Wolfgang, was less than epic. When HeChaos breached the walls of Braxis, he found Wolfgang slumped over a table in a tavern, barely able to recognise his former friend through his drunken stupor.
Somewhat strangely HeChaos found in that moment a strange and most unlikely sensation … pity. He allowed Wolfgang to escape, rescued by Braxian soldiers as they retreated from the city. For all his rage and hatred, HeChaos could not bring himself to kill a once beloved childhood friend.
With Braxis now under Legion control, HeChaos began to plan an assault on the hated cities of Drakondier, Phaetor and of course Taj Brandhir, for he knew Arglaxx would betray him given a moments notice. ‘Plan’, of course, a term used in the loosest sense, for HeChaos was not known for careful planning of anything. In truth he wandered the city, sampling local foods, visiting museums, learning to dance local jigs. His trusted consuls and praetors sat in war council and prepared their next big assault.
Meanwhile, his colossus brooded. Zeerzabahl was a proud, vain demon. Which, of course, is to be expected when one stands eighty feet tall, wreathed in flame and death. Zeerzabahl constantly boasted of his strength to HeChaos, day and night. After a week of this, HeChaos finally snapped and demanded the demon to prove himself.
In a fury, he yelled at the demon to go and challenge the other colossi in the realm and give him a moment’s peace and quiet. Zeerzabahl left at once, confronting and goading the other mighty creatures in the land. All but the Prime Ape and Antares’ Dusk Harlequin agreed to fight him, for his charisma and guile were hard to resist.
Zeerzabahl talked a big game, but he certainly delivered. Colossus after colossus fell to the demon’s fury and fire. All would be out of action for some time. The carnage proved Zeerzabahl was a force to be reckoned with, and that the time was right to continue the Legion’s assault upon Brandor. HeChaos grew emboldened with the new victories and decided the time was right to betray Antares, who had grown too powerful for the tyrant’s liking.
Legions from Eddengarth were dispatched to Bog Stench, Gallowstones and the Vale of Shadows, all strongholds of Antares. However, disaster struck upon the field when at the last minute Zeerzabahl arrogantly chose to sit out the battles, considering them beneath him and unworthy of his time.
HeChaos suffered defeat in all three provinces and his legions were greatly weakened. Worse still, Antares had now set his sights fully on destroying the treacherous Eddites.
Time was against HeChaos, and he knew it. He needed to take another city to go with Braxis. In a rare moment of leadership and clarity, he assembled his five best legions and marched upon Drakondier.
The thunderous sound of a fully assembled Legion was truly a sight to behold.
Unfortunately for HeChaos, he slept in on the morning of battle and missed such a sight. Frantically riding to meet the legions, he barked out orders and set his sights on Celen Helmguard, the current ruler of the much fought-over city.
Zeerzabahl destroyed the Iron Giant in battle, Helmguard and his men broke quickly and after a day of fighting, the city fell. At last, the Holy City was in the hands of the Legion and a great blow had been struck upon Phaetor and its allies. Standing in the Radiant Cathedral, drinking from the Grail of Suul and wiping his mouth on religious tapestries, HeChaos grinned to himself.
Life was good…relatively. There was still of course the issue of Antares, whose vast armies of skeleton warriors were spotted on the march mere days ago.
Act VIII: Harvester of Souls
In the shade of his vast spectral pyramid, Antares stirred. Cooled by the unnatural light the pyramid allowed, he studied the map of Brandor before him. One by one, the realm’s cities fell to the Death Imperium. One by one, allies retreated to the capital’s three pillars of Drakondier, Braxis and the capital Phaetor. Despite the betrayal of the curr Arglaxx and the fool HeChaos, the lich lord knew Brandor would soon fall. With each victory, the vanquished dead rose again to serve in the ever growing skeletal armies.
Since his defeat at the hands of the Nameless, Antares was much weakened. His original body had been shattered in battle and the vast reserves of his power trapped by the sorcerer Bargle in five shards of a chalice buried deep under Suul’s Gateway.
And yet … the power of his will remained. In the early days following the defeat at Doomtrek, Antares existed only in shadow form. He could not travel by day, nor cross large bodies of water. Able to possess the bodies of small vermin and carrion birds, he would devour their flesh and life force and move around in their animated skeletons. This way, he gradually regained his strength until he was able to leave the island on a ship, having possessed the body of a ship’s cat. By the end of the month long voyage to mainland Brandor, he had grown in power and possessed the body of his first human, a sea captain called Calisto Morlans.
Docking at Port Skulden in the south east of Brandor, he travelled as the skeletal form of Morlans until it disintegrated, upon which he took over another body, and another. Eventually he regained the power to raise others from the dead. At a desert crypt north of Eldor Hath, he resurrected one of his most powerful and loyal Royal Guards, a seven foot giant of a man known in life as Xan Sleeneth.
With this powerful new ( and still skeletal ) form, Antares commandeered a fleet of ships, headed back to Doomtrek and broke through the weakened Void Gate that Bargle had used to keep Antares’ skeletal army of gladiators trapped under the Arena. Many of the skeletal gladiators had decayed beyond resurrection, but Antares was able to raise over 5000 skeletal warriors to his cause.
And thus began a campaign of terror and carnage that swept across the realm. From this starting force, Antares devastated town after town and grew the newly formed Death Imperium in size and power. As chronicled above, the Kingdom and its allies were forced into battle. Other factions soon joined the fight, some allying themselves with Antares, others choosing to fight independently for their own gain.
Where we continue this tale, Antares had suffered his first major defeat at the Great Battle of Falsewood , where he took the field against former allies Arglaxx and HeChaos. Without a colossus of his own, his skeletal forces were routed by the demon Zeerzabahl and the Prime Ape. Although his own magic was great, he knew he needed assistance.
Only recently had Antares regained the powers to commune with his otherworldly benefactor, the mysterious Malevolence – the terrifying deity who had given Antares eternal life. In return, It had demanded Antares grow in power until strong enough to weaken the Constellation Mirror and allow the Malevolence to enter Tritonia and do battle against its ancient enemy, Suul the One.
The Malevolence was greatly displeased with Antares’ repeated failures, first at Doomtrek and again at Falsewood. Each misstep delayed an entrance into the world significantly. When Antares made contact with It across the vast astral planes another bargain was struck, though to this day there are none alive who know what dark pact they made. Nonetheless, The Malevolence promised aid in the form of one a Shadow Guardian known as the Dusk Harlequin. A mind map appeared before Antares, instructing him to find an artefact known as the Decanter of Tears.
Late at night in the deep moors of Messeth, Antares searched where The Malevolence had instructed. With the newly recovered Decanter, Antares summoned the Dusk Harlequin. The air grew heavy with a shroud of despair and regret and from the fog the vast Shadow Guardian appeared before Antares and pledged aid to to the Death Imperium.
As all learned historians know, Shadow Guardians cannot exist in the mortal world for long without feasting on life energy. The summoning had left the Dusk Harlequin in a weakened state, and Antares realised the guardian needed to devour large quantities of life if it were to prove successful on the battlefield.
One by one, the Dusk Harlequin was sent across Brandor to fight and defeat the seven mighty enemy colossi of the realm. It is said the whole world shook for days as the giants battled. All fell before the Dusk Harlequin, though the Grail Knight inflicted a near mortal wound upon it – a fortunate blow that many historians say would later turn the tide in the great battle against Antares in the months to come.
The Shadow Guardian returned to Antares victorious and strong with the life energy of the defeated colossi. Shadows gre over Brandor like strangling vines around an oak, and with Antares new powers he was able to raise from the dead many powerful fallen Arena Champions to the cause; fiends like Stylonius of Southport, Xanfar the Haunted and Marksman Dante would command armies in the name of the Imperium.
Finally, Antares knew the time was right to begin the final attack on Brandor. From Messeth, he turned the great army westward towards former allies, Arglaxx and HeChaos. It would be Arglaxx who suffered first. The siege of Taj Brandhir lasted only two days. On the night of the second day Taj Brandhir was reduced to smouldering ash under the desert moonlight. Arglaxx and the Beast Force fled into the wastelands of the south. They would never again be a player on the global stage of war again, though Arglaxx’ story was not yet complete.
HeChaos, somewhat surprisingly, held out for longer. The Great Siege of Eddengarth lasted nearly a month. The Citadel’s high and thick walls proved near impossible to breach and the Legion defended with great ferocity, a trait rarely seen in forces under HeChaos’ command.
HeChaos unleashed wild chaotic magic upon Antares’ forces, powerful lightning storms that swept across the plains of Eddengarth and decimated many skeletal warriors. With each spell however, HeChaos descended further into madness and soon he was nowhere to be seen on the front line.
Many credit the defenders’ success to the leadership of one Lieutenant Dantus, a former Arena Champion who had fought alongside HeChaos in the gladiatorial games at Doomtrek. Dantus rallied the Legion troops for weeks, repelling attack after attack until he himself was killed by a fiend known as Xanfar the Haunted.
With Dantus gone, Eddengarth’s morale soon crumbled. HeChaos was yet again nowhere to be seen when the city fell, having abandoned his men when they needed him most. It is said that when the Archfiend Zeerzabahl returned to its own plane of existence after defeat by the Dusk Harlequin, it took a piece of HeChaos’ mind with it. HeChaos, of course, would still play a part in shaping Brandor’s history, as told further on in this tale.
With the Beast Force and the Legion of H shattered, Antares’ revenge upon the traitorous allies was complete – though his forces had taken significant losses in the conflicts.
Ash swirled, bones crunch underneath Antares’ boot as the Emperor stepped out of the ruined city of Eddengarth – but there would be no rest, for the dead need none. Marching northwards to Helmguard, he immediately set siege to the Iron Republic’s major city.
Celen Helmguard proved to be an unworthy foe. On the first day of the siege he appeared at the gates of his citadel and begging for his life. He was unceremoniously sent to the torture chambers beneath his own city to wait out the siege, which lasted barely four days. With Helmguard fallen, the Iron Republic crumbled and would no more trouble Brandor.
Again, Antares continued to march. Skeleton armies moved north through the freezing mountains to Suul’s Gateway and then onto the stronghold of Bors the Mighty, who showed much more spirit in defending his people than Celen Helmguard had. Polar barbarians fought like warrior poets and caused the Death Imperium much anguish, but Bors too was eventually crushed and his villages covered in flame. As he fell to the ground dying with dozens arrows piercing his mighty chest and back, Bors cursed Antares and said the foreign north would outlive Antares – a statement which, although he could not know it at the time, would prove rather prophetic.
Thus too ended the days of Bors the Mighty and the Sons of Frost.
Ever onward Antares marched, this time heading back south bringing sorrow and death to Brandor. With each army that fell, new skeletons rose from the fallen to join the Death Imperium against their will.
Finally, Emperor Antares found himself on the borders of Kingdom lands, and on the precipice of extinguishing the last resistance that remained in Brandor. All that stood in his way was the three allies Lionel, Wolfgang and Belgrave – and thus began the greatest chapter in Brandor’s storied history.
The final showdown between Antares and King Lionel lay ahead.
Act IX: The Battle for Brandor
Antares had long foreseen what was to happen next – a trio of swift and decisive attacks on Brandor’s final remaining strongholds. First the Death Imperium was to raze the Holy City of Drakondier. Second, crush the port city of Braxis and lastly, march upon the heart of power in Brandor, the shining city of Phaetor.
The next month proved to be one of the bloodiest in the history of the realms as Antares unleashed his final attacks.
At Drakondier brave and desperate soldiers sacrificed their lives so that common citizens could escape the burning city. On horseback and mounted with powerful lances, ancient Templar Bishops side by side with young Knight Initiates, united against wave after wave of reckless hate. Again and again they repelled the onslaught of a relentless army who now numbered over a hundred thousand strong.
Led by High Marshall Belgrave Rhykier the Templar Church drove Antares away time and time again, but they were too few. Noble lord Thordan Byrine died in single combat against undead champion Stylonius of Southport, just metres away from reaching Emperor Antares. Another great knight, Gamblis Wolfus, nearly ended the war for good when his spear struck true at Antares’ helm, but the heavy projectile glanced off just inches from its target, damaging the Emperor’s helmet only.
Eventually, an exhausted Templar Church was forced to abandon the city. Sir Belgrave sounded a retreat on the dawn of the twelfth day of battle, and as one the bulk of the army fled via secret tunnels under the city, leading them through the mountains and north to Phaetor. A brave and selfless rear guard sacrificed their lives to stall the attackers and detonate the tunnels so none could follow. Drakondier had fallen once again, perhaps for the final time.
The Emperor, as he had done so many times during the crusades, gave the order not to pursue the fleeing army, as the one flaw of the Death Imperium was prolonged exposure to sunlight. As usual, great magical shrouds of dark cloud were conjured for the skeletal army to seek refuge from the sun’s deadly rays. Antares had long ago learned to deal with the frustration of waiting – eternal life teaches patience, if nothing else. The conjuring of these clouds left Antares exhausted, though the lich lord had endured much and was used to great hardship.
At Braxis, ordinary men and women fought like the heroes of old. Though they were cut down in the hundreds, they did not break ranks. Day after day, Arena Champions and Death Knights thundered down upon them, breaking bones, shattering souls and condemning the fallen to an eternity of servitude. Led by gallant Baron Wolfgang, the Free States of Braxis employed hit and hide tactics to confuse and disrupt the enemies, the hilly regions outside the capital proving an advantageous place to wage war on the Death Imperium. Brave heroes such as Suriella Blueham, Galvaris the Strong and Bon Hagar inflicted great damages to the enemy for many days, but even their mighty strength ebbed against the seemingly inexhaustible might of Antares’ army.
With great regret and after three weeks of brutal fighting, the Free States realised the battle was lost. Climbing the magnificent Ceres Tower, Wolfgang sounded the Great Horn of Freedom thrice. The signal was given to retreat, and the Braxians fled deep into the heartlands of the Kingdom.
With Braxis and Drakondier conquered, Emperor Antares turned his head to the final battleground and the last bastion of resistance in the realm, King Lionel and the Kingdom of Phaetor.
It was the height of a blistering summer that weary Baron Wolfgang stumbled into the court of his dear friend King Lionel. There he found both the king and a haggard looking Sir Belgrave waiting for him. Through the week the city of Phaetor had opened its gates, letting in thousands of refugees from both Drakondier and Braxis. Healers and priests worked day and night to heal the wounded. Armourers sweated at forges to repair broken weapons and armour and engineers worked frantically to improve the city’s siege engines and fortify walls. All knew the Death Imperium were several days from the city’s borders. All knew this would be the last stand.
In the King’s war room, the three commanders pored for hours over maps with other great generals and military minds from the combined might of the three forces. It was well known that the fiend Beastlord Arglaxx ( with the unwitting help of the meddler HeChaos ) had inflicted the only defeat of Antares’ military campaign at Falsewood, though none there in the war room had witnessed the battle with their own eyes.
Generals and priests spoke publicly of hope, for Antares *could* be defeated. Privately though all knew the situation was dire, for the Death Imperium forces were several orders of magnitude larger than at the Battle of Falsewood. The citizens of all three allies were brought within the inner squares of Phaetor’s city. Most were armed with whatever weapons could be spared. Many were moved to the crypts and dungeons beneath the city – ostensibly for their own safety, though all knew if Antares breached the city walls there would be no refuge.
It was at dusk on the ninth day since the fall of Braxis that scouts reported the Death Imperium had reached the outer borders of the city. The clarion trumpet call rang out throughout the city to prepare for war.
The tactics of the battle itself are retold in Surdus’ magnificent Defenders of Brandor : A History of the Crusades and any retelling here will not do them justice, save to say the sight of Brandor’s three greatest generals standing on the parapets, united against the realm’s darkest enemy is forever etched upon every soul who was in the city that day and has endured as an iconic image even to this day.
To briefly summarise Surdus’ account of the battle, the day of battle was a glorious Spring day. The three infantry forces of Braxis, Phaetor and Drakondier assembled in low flat fields east of the city walls. Behind them, the mighty Archangel Sandalphon and the Grail Knight stood, magnificent and unyielding though greatly wounded in their battles with the Dusk Harlequin. All still wept at the loss of beloved Spheracles, Braxis’ colossus who had lost his life at the Shadow Guardian’s hands.
Belgrave led the mighty Templar Cavalry on the left. Wolfgang’s heavy Braxian infantrymen shored up the right and at the center, shining like a great beacon of righteousness stood the great man, Lionel himself stood amongst his strongest troops, the Knights of the Silver Circle – each mounted on majestic royal lions.
Antares stood across the verdant green grass of the Phaetorian capital. Flowers wilted under the feed of the skeleton hordes, most of whom stood silent as the grave. Mounted atop a huge Nightmare, Antares commaneded the vast force from the rear. Great and terrible Arena Champions surrounded him as bodyguards. Evil lich sorcerers prepared warding spells and enshrouded the army in dark clouds to protect them from from the effects of sunlight.
To the war drums of doom, they marched forward and battle began.
It was the colossi who engaged first, the Grail Knight saluting and then charging to meet the Dusk Harlequin in single combat. As they exchanged blows, the fields shook. The Archangel Sandalphon descended from on high to weaken the evil Dusk Harlequin with bolts of holy fire. This battle raged on for hours, and troops from all armies gave them a wide berth.
After the colossi made their move, Belgrave quickly broke to the left in an attempt to outflank the Death Imperium’s skeletal hordes. Anticipating the attack, Antares showered the knights with volley after volley of arrow fire, though they did not falter. When the Templar Knights reached them, they sliced through the artilery forces down as if they were butter.
Meanwhile, Wolfgang’s heavy Braxian forces charged to the right, attempting to draw fire away from the cavalry. The Braxians did not fare so well, suffering horrific casualties as they ran headlong towards their enemy. Wolfgang ran in front of them, sword in one hand, tankard of whiskey in the other as if he were a man possessed. Miraculously he was not cut down himself. When he reached the frontline of the Death Imperium, he cut down a skeletal Champion with a single blow. Seeing their fearless leader fight so hard, the Braxians were inspired and fought with renewed intensity, forcing the Imperium to close ranks, their advance halted.
Though these heroic acts of individual valour are best remembered from the battle, Surdus tells us it was in fact Bargle and his apprentice the wizards Sagan and Gantuulga who turned the tide of the battle. In secret, they had been working on a powerful spell to change the very weather itself. The sun grew hotter and brighter. The Death Imperium’s protective dark shrouds withered away and in the intense heat of the midday sun, the skeletal warriors stiffened and weakened – allowing the kingdom forces to gain advantage as the battle raged on.
Antares would not be done in so easily though. Unleashing one of his most powerful and devastating spells, Molten Death, he unleashed searing hot stones of magma and brimstone upon the center of the defenders’ forces – King Lionel’s Silver Circle. The Knights and their lion mounts were all killed instantly. It was only the heroic sacrifice of one of Lionel’s oldest friends, Sir Gamblis, that saved the King’s life. Gamblis shielded the king with his own body, paying the ultimate price in the process. Lionel was still badly wounded but thanks to his friend’s courage, remained alive.
Seeing his most elite forces cut down so tragically, Lionel fought through tears of grief, pain and shock. He lifted his magical broadsword and muttered the Lion’s Oath – pointing the sword at Antares across the field and then waving it in a wide arc. The great King did something extraordinary at this moment. Blessing each of his comrades, he walked slowly foward, shirking off the aid of Phaetorian infantrymen who tried to come to his aid. He whistled three times and the whole battlefield seemed to go quiet.
From the woods to the west, a massive armoured lion roared and sprang out. This lion, known to all as Black Mane, was one of the oldest and most powerful of the great cats who had long ago sworn allegience to the kings of Phaetor. Black Mane had not been seen for many years, leaving many to believe he was but a myth.
Quickly moving across the field, Black Mane knelt before the King just a moment, allowing the injured monarch to climb up and mount the saddle. The two charged forward and right into the bulk of the Death Imperium’s forces. None could stop them on their path of righteous fury.
As the king and his lion charged right towards the Death Imperium’s command tent, Antares himself advanced to meet them. He drew his Blade of Eternal Night and began to spin with unnatural speed. Several high ranking bodyguards who were too close were beheaded. Others were knocked off their feet thanks to the awesome power of the wind.
Black Mane roared, slashed and bit at the Emperor, but could not find a weak spot in the whirling dervish. Sensing his steed was in danger, Lionel leapt from the lion and ordered the beast to guard his flank. In a brave but risky move, Lionel rolled underneath Antares and struck at Antares’ boot. The Emperor tripped and staggered forward, breaking out of his whirlwind for just long enough for King Lionel to unleash his own series of powerful sword attacks.
The single combat that followed was legendary. Not since the Nameless had fought Antares in the Arena at Doomtrek had such a sword fight been seen in Brandor. Time seemed to stand still as the two mighty figures struck blow upon blow on each other.
King Lionel fought Antares to a standstill but could not gain an advantage. It was, however, at this time that Sir Belgrave broke through the Death Imperium’s lines on foot and joined his liege in the fight. The great knight deflected Antares’ most powerful attacks, allowing the king the crucial seconds he needed to strike back.
Eventually the king struck a killing blow, severing Antares’ head from his shoulders. A terrible sigh and a freezing gale blew through the fields as the Emperor fell to the ground. So too did his armies, crumbling into dust in mere moments. The souls of trapped gladiators and soldiers, finally free from servitude, left their earthly prisons and faded into the summer air.
The enigmatic Bargle appeared at King Lionel’s side as he stood over Antares’ defeated figure.
The day was won, Brandor was saved from evil. It was a remarkable battle in that the Death Imperium never even reached the castle walls of Cavaldar. There was no extended siege, casualty numbers amongst the kingdom forces were low.
And thus the Crusades ended. Antares himself would lie dormant until the events of Swords and Sandals V, chronicled later in this tome. Phaetor and its allies would rebuild their damaged cities. The Iron Republic would never rise again, nor would the Sons of Frost. HeChaos and his legions would rise again, but that was a tale for another time.
The realm was at peace, for now.
Tome of lore on this game coming soon!
This game is set during the events of Swords and Sandals 3: Gladiae Ultratus.
The sounds of the Arena rang out. Screams of swords cleaving into bone, day and night. Arena champions rise and fall. Only the rare few could defeat all challengers in the mighty tournament that is the Gladiae Ultratus. For the vast majority of gladiators who escape battle unmaimed and alive, life would be challenging. Wounds took time to heal, armour and weapons weren’t cheap and camaraderie was hard to come by in a town of scoundrels and fiends. The Ye Olde Tavern, on the edge of town, provided the ordinary gladiator with a welcome respite, a few brief moments of solace and entertainment in a brutal world.
A glass of ale, a loaf of hot bread and a good roast chicken to fill the belly and the world seemed a better place just for a few hours. A popular new game had spreading throughout many taverns and pubs throughout the lands of Brandor. A game of chance, cunning and skill, where even the lowliest knave could be a hero, where the weakest fool could survive a battle without injury and the cheapest miser would share pots of gold. Created by a small, rotund entrepreneur known only as The Little Fat Kid, Tavern Quests was the smash hit game of the year.
Author’s Note: Swords and Sandals IV was very much a spinoff game to the series, and one I wish I hadn’t given an official ‘numerical’ title. Much like how Crusaders was not an arena based fighter, neither was Tavern Quests and thus should have just been Swords and Sandals: Tavern Quests. It is unlikely this game will ever be re-released. I didn’t particularly enjoy the development process and was very much at odds with its creation ( commercial interests, a quick sequel etc, getting in the way of true quality ) , but there are some longterm and loyal fans that speak to its entertainment value, so that provides a little comfort for me!
Tome of lore on this game coming soon!
An Ultima VII style classic RPG through the world of Brandor. Coming one day… in the far future!