Very little has been revealed of the Shroud of the Avatar story that Tracy Hickman and Richard Garriott have been crafting. They are ready to start revealing snippets of that story a little at a time. Here is the first tantalizing morsel:
“Few know the tales of the dark times, much less what happened before them. Since the great Cataclysm 400 years ago the world has slowly recovered but much was lost…”
Where do we start, when telling a tale? We would start at the beginning, but so much of those days have been lost to us. We can see the fragments of the world that came before all around us; under a hill near a quiet village there might be a ruined building, made of alabaster and marble, speaking quietly of days past and glories lost. Occasionally an inscription can be seen carved in a wall, a fragment in a language similar to ours, yet different enough to be unclear.
The ruins of the world past tell us little, so we turn to myth, prophecies and legends retold. They speak of a cataclysm long ago, when the sky burned and the ground tore itself apart, and the long years afterward, the cold, dark famine. The stones of the past tell little of who survived and how. The legends tell us only that so very few did.
We know a little more of their children, the men and women who rebuilt our world from the shattered past. They were a practical people, those who passed through far more than we can imagine. They left few grand monuments; you could say that their greatest monument was their own survival.
And of their children, we know more. The desire for power and control returned, as it always does, to consume the weak and the strong. Wars were fought then, amongst the ruined cities of their forefathers. New magic came to the world then, as warlords vying for power sought any advantage over each other. New, terrible monsters thought only whispered legends began to walk the earth in those days, serving their purpose in the endless conflict, even if that purpose was only chaos.
And their children understood it could not continue, and united to defend themselves against the warlords and the sorcerers. The city states arose in those days, and we learned that together we could defend ourselves. Yet still the darkness and the chaos pushed at us.
We are still a practical people, traveller. We do not think much about the why, only the how. We are young, after all, and it has not been very long in the shape of things that we have had the luxury to breathe. We are still building our world back to where we can shape our own monuments of alabaster and marble.
Legends and myths tell us little traveller, but they are very specific at times, and those are the times when legends can frighten you. I tell you this, because there is one legend in particular that should interest you. It tells that the world will begin its next cycle, led by a power horrible and great. It is very specific as to the year, traveller. And I think you can guess which year that is foretold.
And that, traveller, is why we fear you…