Bitter Road: Heralds of the 13th Age
n the shadow of empires, the past echoes in the legends of heroes. Civilizations rise and crumble, leaving few places that have not been touched by their grandeur. Ruin, time, and nature claim what the higher races leave behind, while chaos and darkness fill the void. Each new Age must make its mark anew on the world rather than build on the progress of its predecessors.
Numerous civilized races populate this wondrous and riotous world. In the early days, the mightiest among them ruled. Empires based on the power of giants, dragons, and even devils rose, warred, and eventually fell, leaving ruin and a changed world in their wake. Later, kingdoms carved by mortals appeared like the glimmer of stars, only to be swallowed as if by clouds on a black night. The ebb and flow of progress leaves its mark on the land, along with scattered peoples and settlements.
Where civilization fails, traces of it remain. Ruins dot the world, hidden by the ever-encroaching wilderness, sheltering unnamed horrors. Lost knowledge lingers in these places; ancient magic set in motion by forgotten hands still flows through them. Ordinary folk shun these areas, fearing what might lie within. Cities and towns stand where inhabitants seek shelter from the dangers of the wider world. Few common folk ever wander afield, trade and travel being the purview of plucky merchants, brave souls, and the desperate. The wilds are fraught with peril; monsters and strange events, frequent enough in places near settlements, are all too usual outside of them.
Magic is ever on the periphery of common lives, a great and terrible power that everyone fears and no-one understands. While the common folk may benefit from the hedge mage’s time-worn charms, the wise woman’s herbal cures, and the priest’s blessings, these minor dabblings are akin to a child dipping a toe in the water, not fathoming the crushing, inky blackness of the vast sea beyond — a vast sea that could at any accidental provocation rise up and swallow the world.
Like these minor magicians, warriors are widespread enough that most villages enjoy adequate protection from day-to-day threats. Most are simply people old enough to carry a sword who seek to protect what they have wrested from the wilderness. Many soldierly types trace their skills back to the armies of long-gone kingdoms, while others carry on the martial tradition of their people that dates to ancient times. Still, others combine the old and the new, or simply learn to fight as necessity dictates, creating a unique path.
Truly special individuals, however, are fewer than these others. An extraordinary few master their arts in ways beyond what is required for survival or mere protection. For good or for ill, such people rise up to take on more than any mundane person dares and walk the bitter road that leads to something more. The fate of the world pivots on the actions of these individuals, a delicate knife-edge balancing act where any misstep could plunge the world into darkness.
This is the story of those people. This is the story of the Heralds of the 13th Age.
Read this or your characters die
Why You Are Heroes