Fallen Empires

Finding yourself with no responsibilities for the day, you decide to head toward a patch of trees in the distance. The weather is warm and bright, and you hope to rest in their cool shadows, away from the bustling sounds of motion and activity. This particular grove has grown in an oblong shape a short distance from the woods, creating ample shade away from bony roots that might otherwise disturb your respite.

As you approach the small thicket, a figure catches your eye at the edge of the forest headed in your direction. A tall and lean form, it moves with the pace of an elephant, unhurried and unconcerned with its surroundings. As you arrive in the cover of trees, the physique sharpens into Issar Roon.

Unsure of his intentions, you lay down before looking again to see if the old man will pass you by. He does not.

My, my. I was out taking a stroll to clear this stuffy head of mine, and what do I find? my young pupil doing the same.

Deciding that you would not mind a story from the old man, you motion for him to join you. Before you can finish, the old man flops on the ground, belying his earlier shamble as a product of age.

Why, thank you! It certainly has been a while since I have been outside of those stone walls. Can you believe I used to travel the planes? Now here I am! Stuck in a valley surrounded by wood and stone shaped by a man’s hands!

The old man calms down as quickly as his words became indignant.

If I am to live in one locale for the rest of my days, this is far from the worst of places. It could have been the dirty sewers of Ravnica, the jungles of Naya, or even the island of Sarpadia! Ahh . . . Sarpadia is surely one of the most horrid of places in the Multiverse, not a land many would enjoy. It is perhaps only beaten by Mirrodin in its current state. In fact, I shall tell you a little of why it is so horrid, and perhaps you can learn something from it.

It is not the most interesting of openings to one of the old man’s tales, but you don’t mind. The grass is soft and cool beneath your body, and you are free to close your eyes as the old man talks.

Sarpadia lies in the southern hemisphere of Dominaria, far from other civilizations and lands. Perhaps that is best, for Sarpadia is now overrun with thrulls, a race that improves and evolves with each new generation bred. Nothing is left of previous civilizations other than ruins, the thrulls, and a few roaming thallids. That is why one would never wish to retire there.

Of course, like all things in the Multiverse, Sarpadia was not always a hellish place. It once held five great cultures, each supported by a color of magic. A balance, though not peaceful, held them together, and allowed each to flourish.

When the island was first populated I cannot say, but its downfall began during the great Ice Age. Many saw the end coming and attempted to fight back, but it was to no avail. That was when Sarpadia became known as the Fallen Empires.

The old man pauses, pondering his story for something beyond your reach.

I should begin with the civilizations of Sarpadia, not their end. Understanding the ingredients will allow you to better understand the resultant reaction.

The most removed of the five cultures was the Vodalian Empire, spread throughout the seas and rivers of Sarpadia. Many centuries before the Ice Age, the Vodalian Merfolk had been a peaceful race, trading and communicating with the other races on Sarpadia, but as time passed, they became militaristic and combative. Though they did not wish to make enemies of the other Sarpadian empires, they selfishly expanded their borders in the sea. One would have trouble finding a single drop of water within many leagues of Sarpadia that was not ruled by the merfolk.

As a result of the Empire’s new expansion, the artisan class, once holding a position of status and renown among Vodalians, were thrust out of society. They were given an ultimatum; join the new military class or leave the Empire. With no wish to see their culture become one of blood and conquest, they left to establish a new home. Strangely enough, these banished merfolk were the only ones to survive the end of the Fallen Empires. Once again, I get a bit ahead of myself.

When the Ice Age came to the southern hemisphere of Dominaria, so too did cool waters. The aftereffects of the Sylex Blast reached every corner of the plane, and Sarpadia was no different. Sarpadian waters had always kept a steady warmth thanks to a temperate climate and small undersea vents, but the vents were not enough when the Ice Age came. The temperatures were not dangerous in and of themselves, however. Vodalian Merfolk were hardy creatures, and adapted quite easily to their new environment. What brought their civilization around Sarpadia to an end was what came with the cold.

As the waters cooled, creatures from the far South began to impede upon the Vodalian Empire’s territory. One race was stronger, and came in much greater numbers, than the Vodalians had ever experienced. These creatures, called homarids, looked similar to what you call lobsters and crabs on this world, only much larger and leagues more intelligent. Overwhelmed in numbers, the merfolk fell quickly.

The remaining population was able to escape with the Empress Galina III through a portal that would take them across time to the sea south of Aerona several centuries in the future. Remember the merfolk artisans who had fled Vodalia in the past? The new refugees appeared right on top of the old, in a place called Etlan Shiis. There they had rebuilt the old Vodalian culture, and represented the last remnants of Sarpadia.

The old man’s voice begins to fade into the distance, only fragments of his story entering your mind.

The more militant merfolk easily . . .

. . . but these Vodalian Merfolk are all that remain of the Fallen Empires. . . .

Here they remain, quickly killing any homarids that . . .

You fight to hear the rest of the old man’s story, but feel yourself falling farther from his voice. Soon, silence takes you.