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Katia's Folly

Legends of the lands
By: Raneth

Ages ago, a city-state occupied the land where now only the crater lakes can be found. The city-state was called Pearlen, the namesake of the greatest lake in our region. While the capital itself was not heavily industrialized, even for those ancient times, it was the largest, and most prosperous, city of the time for its agriculture. Winding white roads gleamed like diamond between farms that cultivated acres of food in verdant green fields. The fields of Pearlen supplied the entire region. Pearlen was a peaceful city, and never refused trade. It was ruled by a wise leader named Katia, who had overseen decades of abundant growth.
     
      One evening, a man approached the gates of the capital, which was called Emerlis. He had with him strange beasts. One was a horse with a mane like lightning, and the other was a small cat with fangs as long as a man’s arm. He wore tattered robes, and Katia knew immediately he was a mage, seeking refuge from the wars mages waged on each other in lands to the east.
     
      But back then, the dangers of magi weren’t known, and the wars were distant. The man was granted entrance, and a place to sleep at Katia’s mansion. His beasts entertained the children of the village, the horse providing rides in the fields and the small children petting the strange cat-like beast. He even took it upon himself to teach some tricks to those in the village who had magical abilities of their own. Katia considered beginning a study of magic in Emerlis, as the mage had a deep understanding of the soil and the life that sprung from it.
     
      But it was only weeks later when Katia’s folly became clear. One night, the air grew dry, drier than even the height of midsummer. A great roar shook the air, rousing the inhabitants of Emerlis from their beds, and it is said that even farmers miles away heard the sound.
     
      The mage stood in the middle of the small city. His horse had begun to glow, electricity sparking down its mane and hooves. And the cat was a small cat no longer, but a great beast as large as a house.
     
      A dark shape filled the sky—a lizard-like creature with wings of tattered bone and sinew, its body made of nothing but bones and flame, looking for all the world like it had already died. But fire spewed from its mouth, engulfing the mage. Another robed man stood in the creature’s talons.
     
      The mage was unfazed by the fire. He raised a hand, the earth shaking beneath his feet, and lightning arced from the sky when his horse struck a hoof to the ground.
     
      Katia despaired at the sight, knowing what would occur. She had invited a guest, and he had brought war to her home.
     
      Emerlis was destroyed in one night. The lizard like creature vomited purple flame over every house, every grain silo, and the horse made it worse with lightning called down from the sky, the earth laying fallow wherever the lightning touched. The cat grew to unfathomable sizes, its claws tearing gouges in the ground that can be seen to this day.
     
      The war only got worse from there. More magi came, and their monsters with them. More flame-spewing beasts that burned acres of wheat and rice, or creatures that burrowed below ground and collapsed the earth into sinkholes the size of lakes. Some magi drew magic from the earth, using it against their foes, and the riches of the Pearlen soil gave them all the power they needed. Pearlen, for all its wealth, had become a battleground for mages, and the land suffered terribly.
     
      Farmers fled the region. Katia had to shepherd survivors away from the aftermath of a war she had no part in starting. The surrounding farmland, too, fared no better, and light from blazing fires illuminated the night sky for months. The magi battled through spring and summer, flashes of heat and light and storms terrorizing the region, and earthquakes were felt as far away as Theia. Those from Pearlen who had magic of their own tried to join the fight, to defend their home, but they were no match for magi already seasoned by war, and they fell in the battles.
     
      When winter came, the battles subsided, the magi and their beasts moving on, but the damage was done. Inhabitants of the once great Pearlen streamed into the city states of Triathe and Theia looking for shelter and sustenance. But without the stores of food from Pearlen, there was none to be had. The only relief was Katia’s arrangement for fruit shipped from Taggelisk, but even that was not enough for the thousands of refugees.
     
      When the snows melted, people hoped to return to their farms and restart their old lives. But underneath the blankets of snow, what once was rolling green fields had become lifeless soil and rock. The earth itself was charred to glass in places, and craters dotted the ground, filled with water that none could drink. Bones from the monsters the magi had used to destroy the earth littered the landscape, and not even merchants would trade for them for fear of the power they might still hold.
     
      Due to the power of magic and the danger of magical beasts, Pearlen was destroyed in one season. Katia searched for the mage who had brought the wars to the region, but he was never found—perhaps killed in the battles, perhaps not.
     
      While new farms were founded near Triathe and Theia, and Katia worked throughout her life to help the people who had once been her subjects, the lands in the area never recovered. Katia was the last ruler of Pearlen. It is said that she often wondered if the mage she invited into her fallen city had truly meant to fight his battles there, or if he had just tried to hide from the war and failed.