In the year 1249 A.D. during a war of succession in Central Europe, a young lord by name of Corvinus Darrow was well on his way towards victory. Seizing lands throughout the Carpathian Mountains, victory was almost assured until assassins stole into his camp in the dead of night and butchered his wife and children. The loss of his family was devastating, and the brilliant tactician floundered during a key battle, and lost terribly to the Hungarian forces he was facing. Distraught and alone, Lord Darrow wandered the woods until he heard a voice calling to him. It was a sweet and gentle sound, much like his late wife's voice. He followed dutifully and found a great tree in the midst of an open glade.
The voice called from within the bark and the roots, whispering secrets and plans to the lord. Corvinus listened all too eagerly when it promised him a way to throw open the gates of Heaven, and bring his family home. The heartbroken Corvinus wanted nothing more than to be with his family again, and with the last of his loyal men, his funds, and anything he could scrape up – he built a tower in the glade, around the queer tree. Following its directions and plans to the letter. He found himself renewed in the promises of the trees while his men voiced their concerns for the lords state of mind and the fervor of his tasks.
When the tower was complete, Corvinus hosted a great celebration at the base of the tower, in the warmth of the still green tree that grew happily in the stone cage. Lords and knights, soldiers and peasants gathered, drank of wine and mead and gorged on food. A fitting last meal. By the twelfth hour of the night, all but Corvinus laid dead at the base of the tree. Poisoned in their cups and their food, none survived, and Lord Darrow's true work, began. He cut the hearts out of a hundred men, and bled them upon the roots of the tree, and in so doing, sealed the fate of our world as we knew it. He ascended to the highest point of his tower, runes and spells carved into each stone. From his balcony he chanted the words the tree spoken to him, the skies darkened, thunder rolled, and the earth itself quaked.
A great beam of light erupted from the base of the tower and pierced the heavens as he was told would happen, and for a brief moment, hope swelled once more within the lord before the tower and all within it, were obliterated. The gates of Heaven had not been thrown open, they were sealed, alongside those of hell, condemning all souls on our fair world to languish upon the earth forevermore, the dead would never again find rest in the afterlife.
The blast of dark magic from Lord Darrow's spell, crashed across the land, sewing destruction for a hundred miles in every direction. Dark magic permeated the earth and corrupted plants, animals, and any unfortunate souls caught in its path. When the dust settled at last, large portions of Hungary, Poland, and Russia became an inhospitable wasteland, devoid of life or warmth. Near the center of the devastation a great and wicked tree stood alone, its bark black and gnarled, and its leaves stained red as blood, it's twisted roots chewing into the land.
Origins of the Shadowfallen and the First Exodus
Lingering souls coalesced with the dark magic staining the land, and creatures of darkness rose from fetid pools at the roots of the tree. These aberrations became the first of the Shadowfallen, and within weeks of the blast, began to stalk out from what would later be dubbed the Blightlands. Within a month, thousands had perished or gone missing altogether, and the First Exodus had begun. Refugees poured into Western Europe en masse, aiming for the verdant lands of France and Spain, while others diverted towards Rome or the far North into Norway and Sweden.
The countries of Western Europe struggle to accommodate the surge in people and many incidents and quarrels break out among the myriad factions of people trying to find home. An emergency council is called and leaders of all countries congregate at the Council of Paris. Realizing the threat they faced, an alliance formed in the interests of survival, and within a month armies of men gathered in Austria under their different flags, each prepared to drive back the shadows. In France, refugees took up work building great walls to fortify the borders of the land, and create a safe network for trade and farming. This would lay the foundations for the first Megacity, The Walls of Eden, some years later.
On the Austrian Warfront, the armies of men stole into the Blightlands and waged bloody war upon the monsters they found within. The attack ended in disaster, and of the 100,000 men gathered, less than 12,000 returned. The Blightlands were deemed forbidden henceforth, and man cowered behind his walls, growing complacent in his security and ignorance as time wore on. Other such cities began to take form in other countries, England turning her shoreline and large swaths of land into defensible fortress like structures, high walls and gated districts. Norway formed an impressive and formidable harbor-city in the area of Oslo, using the lands natural hills and cliffs to their advantage.
The harshest effects of the Shadowfall lasted some 100 years, give or take, before they began to diminish. With the constant threat of extinction gradually dissipating mankind began to thrive once more, creeping beyond the Walls of Eden to sew crops and build towns. Men still vanished in the night, and monsters still stalked the dark places of the world.