CHAPTER I

The Creation and The Fall


Many legends exist about the creation of the most powerful race to walk this plane. This forgotten realm that some say was a byproduct of a powerful being’s whimsy. There is one certain legend, that speaks of a brother killing his brother, and it was that first act of malice which bled through to the forgotten world and cursed the brother to an eternal existence of loneliness.He was cursed to be the Originator of this forgotten realm.

And so it was that Abel’s blood and Cain’s eternal suffering gave rise to the Originator’s most dangerous creations. “And they shall be called the Icchorians, and they shall be a testament to my power. They shall be rulers of the night, and their only curse will be the Sun.” And from that first creature born of blood and fire, the Originator multiplied them with merely one word. Some he fashioned as Elders, old when they were just created, having known no birth or childhood, no experiences of suckling a mother’s breast, or growing up and learning about the world. And some he fashioned as eternally young, to be servants and blood sacrifices in his temples; others he created to be consorts of Death across his cursed plane. The Code of Life of the Icchorians was this: a bond must be formed with a Human to slake the bloodlust. This bond was spiritual in nature, reaching across space and time.

However, as the firstborn son of Man sinned and slay his brother Abel, so the Icchorians began to sin and refuse to bond with the Humans. Their bloodlust grew great, and they began to turn on even their own, even on the gospel of the Originator himself. And the Elders grew angry, and rallied together with the strongest and oldest ancestors, and they hunted these savage beasts, their own brothers, and dressed them in enchanted gold adornments to bind them. And while they were yet beautiful, the Golden Ones were a threat to their own kind, and forced to form their own society.

And one-third of the Icchorians fell in this way and refused to bond with a Human.

However, it came to pass that even the peaceful Icchorians were in danger. Those who were charged with being blood sacrifices—willing to give their blood to their brothers to slate the thirst for mortal blood—were growing fewer, and could not keep up with the demand of Icchorian bonds. The Originator, in his imperfection, failed to create an eternal supply of blood sacrifices; and the common Icchorian population was ever-increasing. And so it came to pass that more and more Icchorians, though willing to form bonds with Humans to suppress the truest form of their being—that beastly rage formed from the first Sin—were not physically able to drink enough blood. Thus as Sin on Earth increased, and the Humans fell further into depravity, the Icchorians were forced to wear more and more golden armor.

However this could not last. It was then that the Elders cried out to the Originator, and the whole world fasted in subjugation. Mother separated herself from child, and husband separated himself from his wife. So it came to pass that the race born from Sin and Suffering was crying out for relief, for blood, for peace. “Save us” was their cry. And the Elders wept, for there was no more blood in the realm except for each other. The original blood sacrifices died out, for their blood was drained too quickly by the masses.

And finally, after two thousand years of suffering and hurting each other, the Originator heard their plea. The Originator began to bring whole civilizations of Humans from the other plane to the Great Realm. He was familiar with these Humans, and not the beasts born from his Sin. “The Humans and Icchorians will be able to form personal bonds now, instead of fragile bonds spanning space and time,” he thought to himself. And the Great Realm was a poor reflection of the other plane, a mirror world, a nightmare plane, soiled from the Icchorians’ destruction of their fragile civilizations. Their bloodlust could not be calmed. And the Humans did fear the Icchorians, the beasts of which they knew nothing. They lost all faith in their god and rebelled more than they ever had on the other plane. And Icchorian killed Human, and Human killed Icchorian, blood for blood, suffering for suffering.
And thus began the Great War.

CHAPTER II

In The Council of Elders


It was one hour past nightfall when the Elders gathered together—seven hundred and seventy-seven Elders, all created at the beginning of the world, eternally ancient and wise. They met in the first temple that was built to their god, deep in the catacombs that housed the long-dead blood sacrifices. The Originator had not been seen or heard from in years. Rumors widely spread that he had abandoned his creations altogether, while others said that he was in a deep sleep and would awaken to bring cleansing to the blood-soaked realm. Still others said that the Originator was preparing his heavenly armies to wage war on the Humans and Icchorians alike who disobeyed him.

The torches flickered and danced across the cavern walls. They had yet to really speak, although a few had grunted greetings to each other. It had been centuries since they were all gathered together in one temple. Worship of the Originator had given rise to resentment from some and abandonment from others. War had been nonstop in the realm for almost as many centuries, Humans versus Icchorians. Beasts breaking free of the gold adornments, Human civilizations developing new and more advanced weaponry—spears, bow and arrow, crossbows, and more recently, catapults. But they still came, under the cover of darkness and far from dense Human areas. Elders usually traveled with many attendants, bodyguards and servants—however, this meeting had none of those luxuries waiting above. No. These Elders, for the first time in their memory, traveled in secret, and alone. The fate of the world, of the Icchorian race, rested in their hands.

Once every Elder was accounted for, the First Elder spoke. He that had been first from Cain’s blood-soaked ground, from the first wisps of the Originator’s breath. “Be,” the Originator had said. “Thou art an Elder Icchorian.” And thus Michael was created. The Originator’s Right Hand, he was called. He was spoken of in hushed whispers in public. He was the most revered being in the Realm.

“Thank you all for coming,” he said. His voice was as velvet, and every Elder was immediately put at ease once they saw his smiling face and long, grey hair. “No doubt that we are a race divided, so I will not beat around the bush, as the Humans say.” He saw some wince at the human turn of phrase, but he continued. “A race divided,” he repeated. “We cannot continue to live as we have been these past centuries. We cannot allow brother to kill brother, and lover to turn against lover. We must come together as it was in the beginning. We must return to our origins.” “But how?” Another Elder, Batukhan, spoke. “We require a bond to keep the beast within us under control. You know as well as any of us that we were doomed from the start. We are cursed in the daylight, becoming bedridden and weak for days. When a human sins, we require blood to continue living. The more they sin, the hungrier we are. The Humans are wicked, and we are uncontrollable. Our sacrifices died long ago. Lord Akil has not shown his face in one millennium.”

“Not to mention that the Humans are getting stronger,” Vania, the third Elder chipped in. He was a Seer, able to predict the future of certain realities. He could see everyone’s near-future but his own, and he refused to tell the future of the Icchorians to the other Elders. He was known for his smirk and his callous attitude.

“Then what are we to do?” asked Rueben, the quietest of the Elders.

Everyone was muttering amongst themselves now. Seven hundred and seventy-seven. The Originator’s perfect number repeated three times. The Elders, who once controlled the world, were now reduced to ancient relics that only few Icchorians actually respected.

“Quiet!” said Michael with a quiet firmness. “What do we do, Rueben?” He adjusted his golden headpiece. “We must unite again. We must rebuild our civilization. We must band together—we must bond with each other. We must not let these humans get the better of us. What does it mean to be Icchorian? To be Golden Blood?” Michael gestured to himself, to his two arms, five fingers, two legs...to his humanoid form. “Now I look as one of them, as do most of you.” He nodded to a few Elders in the back of the cavern who remained as beasts, as the pure, savage nature they were created with. “That is our true self. The beast. What does it mean, I ask again?”

In’nakki, one of the Icchorian beasts, answered in the ancient tongue, which would have been perceived by a Human as a series of growls and grunts, but it rang clear to all of the Elders. It was the true language. “It means power.” Michael nodded. “Power, you say, good In’nakki. Who else?’

Voices rang out amongst the Elders: “Blood,” Suffering,” “Longevity,” “Cursed.” Finally, the last of the Elders spoke out.

“Peace.” The Last Elder, Mukesh, spoke. His short black hair stood out among the heads of silver and faces full of wrinkles and crow’s feet. He was old, but also the youngest of them all, created to be middle-aged and not ancient, as the others were; and as number 777, he was seen as nearly perfect, almost as a god himself. He was considered the wisest of them all, even comparable to Michael. Michael was the Alpha, but Mukesh was the Omega. And his word, though last, was the one most remembered.

A hushed silence filled the catacombs. The torches were burned to almost a crisp now, but still all of them stared at him in the dim light. Peace. A word not uttered nor conceived of since the beginning of their world and their race. And in their hearts, they knew he was right, but how could it ever come to fruition? How could the Icchorians ever be anything different than blood-seeking monsters?

Raj, also a Seer, spoke. “There is a prophecy. The Originator came to me in a dream about fifty years ago. He told me we would meet here. And he told me about his wish of peace. There will rise four descendants of Abel to cleanse the world. One of them will be influenced by a Human and will turn the tide of history to that of peace. And in that peace, our curse will be lifted.” “Can’t you be a little more specific?” One Elder grumbled, a sour-faced old woman named Saachi. “That’s the extent of my vision, and if you don’t like it, you can go climb a tree,” Raj spat back.

“Silence!” Michael shouted over the growing cacophony of angered voices. “So now listen to me!” And as though by some mystical force, heavenly light began to flood the dank tombs. The torches were snuffed out completely, and a holy glow filled the cavern. All of the Elders found themselves enveloped in a glittering, spiritual mist. The light wasn’t dangerous to them—in fact, it renewed their old strength, causing them to feel vital and useful once more.

Michael’s voice got deeper, and shook with righteous command as he addressed his brothers: “And so I command, as the Originator has commanded me — that we band together in unity and mend the torn bonds between our families. That we rebuild and restore our cities, our families. We will wait for the Chosen One, and when he or she arrives, we will rally our forces to them and begin living in an Era of Light!” And though it was not raining outside, the Elders’ mountain temple shook with the force of ancient thunder, and the sky rumbled with the holy words of the Originator, spoken through Michael, the Alpha Elder.

Little did the Elders know that the First Icchorian, the one who had avoided death, was just outside of the temple walls listening to that secret meeting in the catacombs. And he grinned in the night, and whispered to himself. “Oh, yes, the prophecy: the descendants of Abel will rise and cleanse the world. Fate is not so kind, and I will not allow it to change.”

The Elders continued their meeting for two more weeks before they disbanded and journeyed back to their respective settlements. Among those Elders were Elysia and Dicion, fair-haired warriors from the isolated North. They were the only Elders who represented their small country. They sat quiet in thought as they rode their horses home from the desert.

“So, peace,” said Dicion to his wife. “Do you think we will ever see that time?”

“I hope so. For our future generations. I hope they can learn from our mistakes.” Elysia patted her slight belly. “For our future generations,” she repeated.

“Do not worry about our son. He will grow up to be strong, a worthy successor to my place.”

“Do you really think our time is at an end? The First Elders? The seven- seven-seven disbanded forever. Who would the people look to for guidance?”

“Our realm is changing, darling.” Dicion looked up at the full moon that shone on them as they plodded across the endless wasteland. “I believe that the time has come for a new group of Elders. Perhaps we old antiques can still give counsel. But there must be a new seven-seven- seven, in time.”

Elysia sighed. She knew that her husband was right. The War was changing the Great Realm. The Humans and Icchorians could not live together peacefully without radical change, a radical solution, a radical savior. What that solution was, Elysia could not fathom. She could only hope for the best, pray to the Originator, and raise her child to fight and defend the clan. She was too tired to think; the secluded two weeks in the southern temple had tested both her mental and physical limitations. It was not easy to make the journey of over 1,400 miles while pregnant, and Dicion had argued against her coming, but Michael would not relent. For the Originator to bless and hear the Council of Elders, who hadn’t met for at least three thousand years, all had to be present. Dicion had made his anger with Michael quite clear several times during the meeting, but he seemed not to notice, too wrapped up in his delusions of grandeur to care about one pregnant Elder. Elysia wasn’t as angry, being well aware of her duties, with or without child. When Dicion had pleaded for her to stay home and rest, she broke out into her beast form with all the vigor of a youth, cursing him for trying to tell her of her duties. “My duties are to our golden brothers above all else, and to the Originator.” Elysia knew her limitations, and she knew that it’d take more than a few weeks’ journey on horseback to kill her or her unborn. . .