The Empire of Sand has always been a bit of an enigma. Rumors abound. Facts are in short supply. Here is what we know:
- Situated squarely in the middle of the Continent, it occupies several hundred square miles of space but remains hidden behind Greffon’s Wall – a mysterious magical barrier surrounding the whole area.
- The Wanderers have dedicated their lives to watching the border, ensuring that nothing ever makes it across.
- Some of the Wanderers have issued sworn statements that there are figures inside the Wall, watching them.
- The last known ruler of the Empire was King Mandias, also rumored to have been called the Mad Mage.
That’s it in a nutshell. The Wanderers take a strict vow of secrecy and never speak to anyone outside their order, started by the man who created the Wall itself – Greffon.
Once, the Empire of the Sand was a paradise. The rich and famous (or infamous) from all over the world often chose to visit the many oases, rich with water, wine, wealth, and companionship. Magic was practiced freely. There were few rules. And King Mandias made sure things never got too out of control.
Unfortunately, when you flirt with the edge of “out of control” one too many times, it catches up with you.
Mandias was performing an experiment in his tower at the dead center of the dunes, far from the rest of humanity where he felt safe to explore the realms of magic few dared to tread. This experiment opened a dimensional rift to a region crawling with strange beetles as far as the eye could see. And the longer he held the portal open, the worse the images got – beetles crawling over one another, consuming one another, battling to stay at the top of the heap…
So he closed the portal.
But not before a handful of beetles made it through into his laboratory.
” You can hear them, in the darkness. The scrabbling of tiny feet. The tearing as they find some piece of meat to devour. The silence as they pause to find their next victim… Each tiny beetle must consume its weight in food over a 24 hour period. It then moults, growing slightly larger each time. The largest of their kind spotted has been nearly two feet wide, with dagger-like feet and an appetite for destruction.” — Greffon’s Journal
He quickly fell to the task of fighting off the mad creatures who turned to attack him. They were hungry.
He got all but two. And they devoured his flesh. Somewhere in that same desert, his tower lies open to the elements and his skeleton is watching the world burn with empty eye sockets. (His spirit escaped, but that’s a tale for another day.)
This is the tale of what happened once the beetles were free.
They have come to be known as Hellbeetles, for that is what they leave behind. Hellish devastation and ruin on the living.
Those who have faced them and lived describe them as easy to kill individually. But the problems arise when you face a swarm. Sure, you may kill a few but you’ll be overrun before you get them all.
A pair of mages – Harima and Greffon – declared it their mission to destroy the swarms, but after Harima was killed… Greffon knew it was never going to happen. Instead he raised a magical barrier around the Empire and began blasting areas with fire. The Flames of Greffon still burn in some parts of the desert where an eerie oil has risen to the surface.
Some areas have been baked to glass, reflecting the sun’s rays back to the heavens. But there’s always the possibility that part of the swarm survived so the fires have never been extinguished.
It’s rumored that after King Mandias left his mortal form behind and the swarms ran amok that some people of the Empire made a deal with dark gods to ensure their own survival. Is it possible? Sure. But why would they not reach out beyond the wall? What did they have to sacrifice to survive?
And what happens if Greffon’s Wall ever falls?