The Order of the Ebon Hand

You swim through the murkiness of your own mind, aware of a distant sound—a man’s voice. A voice that carries the weight of generations upon it. It calls your name silently between each word spoken. Knowing of no other direction, you pull yourself toward the staccato.

Words gain meaning.

. . . receding . . . Voda Sea . . . coldness . . .

Then phrases form.

. . . the merfolk . . . were not the only . . . each color of magic . . . some from within . . .

The words become sharper, clearer. You suddenly remember where you are: under a grove of white birch, listening to Issar Roon.

Did you hear my words? Or did you fall asleep on the soft grass?

When you fail to answer, a frown falls across his weathered face.

Very well, I shall repeat myself, but do not expect me to do so again.

The merfolk of Vodalia were not the only civilization on Sarpadia to have troubles. Each nation would find an enemy knocking on their door, some from within and some from without. Those on land, oblivious to the merfolk’s plight, fell all the same. Some historians even say they fell deeper, into a hole that may never end.

The nation that is perhaps best documented among the few recovered tomes is that of the Order of the Ebon Hand. Black-aligned, the Ebon Hand was the only group on Sarpadia that accepted humans and nonhumans alike to join its ranks. Though desirous of power, the Ebon Hand was not in direct confrontation with the civilizations of Sarpadia, save for the Order of Leitbur. Instead, they worked toward converting as many as they could to their religious cult, believing they would conquer the island when the fates chose.

Little is known about their origins, but various clues point to a cult of Gixian worshippers. A small remaining drop of the corruption Gix attempted to spread across Dominaria. I cannot say that this is truth, but there is no evidence against such a possibility. Gix’s influence reached far and wide, and took a millennia to scrub away.

One fact is clear, however: The Ebon Hand was begun by a man named Tourach. While he lived, they followed The Dark One devoutly, but in death, he was hated. He had swelled their ranks, and what had begun as a religious cult had grown to be a force feared throughout Sarpadia, thanks in no small part to his Hymn.

One final detail that may be of interest to you: though The Dark One sewed shut the lips of any who mentioned such a thing while he was alive, some who lived during the age of the Fallen Empires believed that the Ebon Hand was forged from the same blade as the white-aligned Order of Leitbur. Why this would be I cannot tell you, but there were enough that believed so to suggest the possibility. A historian must know all possibilities when sifting through the sands of time. Else, the truth may appear like another grain of sand, forgotten beside so many others.

The old man’s face lights up with a warm smile. It is the first time you have seen such an emotion from the old man, but it does not appear strange after considering it for a moment. He cares deeply about his imagined profession, and to know its tricks must surely be a happy thought.

I have talked at length about its origins, but what of the Ebon Hand’s descent? Was it as violent as the merfolk’s? Did it spread, or was it self-contained?

Have patience, young student. I will explain it all in as much detail as this old mind is capable of. Then you will know what happened to the Order of the Ebon Hand.

Just as their rise was by the hand of one man, the Ebon Hand’s fall can be placed within the hands of another. Endrek Sahr was an ambitious wizard, and a devout follower of the Ebon Hand. When the Ebon Hand encountered difficulties, he took pride in solving them with his skills and magic. His greatest contribution to the religious order was also his most devastating, creating an obstacle that none in the Ebon Hand could solve.

Endrek Sahr created thrulls as a solution for the Ebon Hand’s diminishing supply of sacrifices. The Ebon Hand’s leadership did not wish to begin a costly war, but had no means of replenishing their stock without a supply from beyond their borders. When Endrek Sahr came to them with the ability to create living creatures from dead flesh, they showered him with support and funding.

Thrulls were devised as a race of slaves for the Ebon Hand. In an order based upon the ideas of sacrifice and ritual, they were a godsend. Living creatures, thrulls released black mana at the time of their sacrifice, an important attribute required of the Ebon Hand’s practices. But other uses were quickly found for the demure servants.

Endrek Sahr delighted in his creations, and experimented incessantly upon the thrulls. He created armor thrulls to equip the Ebon Hand’s soldiers once shipments of dwarven steel dwindled, and then actual warriors as an expendable fighting force. Some thrulls were given higher levels of intelligence to assist wizards in their research, or take part in their rituals. This experimenting did not stop, and would be the downfall of Endrek Sahr and the Order of the Ebon Hand, though each took a separate path.

Endrek Sahr’s final creation was a thrull he called a derelor. Larger and stronger than any previous thrull, a derelor was considered the most powerful of the Ebon Hand’s weapons. Unfortunately for the wizard, it also required a constant source of black mana or it would decay and die. This obligation taxed the Ebon Hand’s resources, and drove its leaders to turn against Endrek Sahr. Sentenced to death, the thrulls’ creator fled into a time rift, much like the merfolk of Vodalia. He, however, was the only one of his nation to survive.

After Endrek Sahr’s disappearance, matters spiraled into a maddening descent for the Ebon Hand. A disgruntled and unhappy member by the name of Reod Dai began to whisper in the ears of the thrulls. Speaking to the more intelligent breeds, Reod Dai convinced the thrulls that their position could be improved, and to turn on their masters. Thus began the Thrull Rebellion.

What Reod Dai unleashed upon all of Sarpadia is better left for another day. I fear you may fall asleep again, and have no desire to mutter my tales to an unconscious body.

A bit saddened to hear that today’s story is over, you consider speaking up, but you find yourself too comfortable to do so.

I shall be on my way, but I will tell you of the other Sarpadian nations the next time you wish to hear my tales.

With no other words, the old man leaves the small grove of birch. You open your eyes for a moment to gaze at the leaves above, sunlight filtering through a net of green. A pattern seems to hide just beyond your grasp, but as you search for its meaning, you find yourself falling into the darkness once again.