The Cycle Page History Shared Origins Long ago, in an age now enshrouded in the mists of time, the elves and the orcs were as one. They walked this world as a single race when men still dwelled in caves, having only just mastered fire. The exact appearance of this race remains a mystery, as the world seems purged of nearly every trace of their civilization. Some clues can be gained from the primitive human cave art found in the East – they appear to have been very tall, at least the height of two men, and yet more slender than even an elf. They are shown as having a smaller third eye in the middle of their foreheads, the purpose of which can only be guessed at. The accuracy of this crude art is impossible to gauge, but it has always fascinated the elves and many Eastern merchants have made a fortune selling them imprints and sometimes entire slabs of stone adorned with the ancient depictions. Much to the chagrin of many unscrupulous human traders, the elves nearly always see through attempts at forgery. Only a handful of humans are aware of this shared origin between elf and orc, as it is one of the most closely guarded secrets of the elves. If the orcs possess this knowledge it seems to have little meaning to them, as they have always proven indiscriminate in the slaughter of humans and elves alike. And yet there is an even deeper layer of truth to this fundamental secret, known only to the eldest of elven mystics and vigorously suppressed even amongst their own kind. This is the forbidden knowledge of The Cycle.
The nature of the catalyst that divided the ancestor race of the elves and orcs may never be known, but it seems to have occurred in a relatively short period of time, within the span of a century or less. Elven legends can be difficult to decipher for outsiders, but there is a creation myth that tells the story of Dhelsana the Golden, Goddess of Balance. One day she decided to cull the decadent ancestors of the elves, separating the worthy from those who could no longer be redeemed. Exactly what became of those considered unworthy is not known, except that they were “banished to an untamed land beyond the eastern sea.” However, in order to sustain the Ultimate Balance, one of the most important concepts in elven religion, Dhelsana issued a warning that one day she would return to “reverse judgment,” turning “fallen into unfallen and pure into unpure.”
The exact meaning of these words can only be guessed at, and this creation myth is but one of at least seven recorded in the elven Chronicles of Time, none of which are considered false even though most seem to contradict each other. This myth, however, is the only one that offers some insight into what has been happening with both the elves and the orcs for the past several decades. Unrest Among the Elves For over a thousand years, the tranquility of the elven kingdom in the Silver Forest was without equal in the lands of men. Crime was extremely rare, murder almost unheard of and there were few external threats. The handful of armed human expeditions that ventured into the forest were dealt with swiftly, leaving no survivors. The message was soon understood and the humans kept away, save for the traders and merchants who were permitted to enter some of the southernmost elven outposts at the very edge of the forest. This balance was maintained and the elven kingdom prospered until a few decades ago. Unrest started brewing among the youth in some of the northern cities and the old ways were put into question. Minor birth deformities began to occur across the entire kingdom at an alarming rate and soon armed clashes between bands of elves erupted on the streets of many cities. This was a common enough sight in most human cities, but for the elves it was a shocking display of reckless aggression. The instigators of this civil disorder were quickly imprisoned and martial law imposed, but the damage had already been done. The signs were everywhere. The elves were changing. To the elven mystics this could mean only the one thing they had feared and dreaded the most. The Cycle, begun so long ago by Dhelsana, was coming full circle. It would take decades still, maybe a century or more, but the events were in motion and the elves were turning into beasts. The Rise of the Orcs For the orcs the change was the opposite. They had raided the human empires in the East for centuries as savage barbarians. When they weren’t fighting humans they turned on each other and it was a rare sight indeed to see more than twenty or thirty orcs grouped together unless they were locked in a wild melee. But slowly, things began to change. Chieftains rose into power, displaying more intelligence than anyone had ever given orcs credit for, organizing their fellows into larger and larger warbands. The human imperial armies of the East, accustomed to having the orcs charge headlong into their spears and shield walls, were suddenly being drawn into ambushes as the orcs feigned retreats. Powerful siege engines were constructed, modeled after captured human examples, and soon the first cities began to fall. The humans fought back fiercely, but for every defeat the orcs seemed to grow more cunning, emulating the human warriors and learning from their own mistakes. The warbands turned into armies, and the armies united into a common front against the human empires. For the first time in history, the orcs stood together as a single people. There was a time when the prospect of an orc using magic seemed about as likely as a horse joining the Conclave of Wizards. Magic users were rare among elves and rarer still among humans, but not one had ever been witnessed among orcs. And yet now, in what was another first, stories were spreading among the retreating human armies of orc battlemages hurling fireballs and calling down thunder and lightning from the skies. Just as the elves, the orcs were changing, but in a very different way. The End of Times The prophesized End of Times seems to draw near for the elves. They stand to lose everything they have ever built, all that they, as a race, have accomplished. Will this cycle repeat itself again in the future? Has this happened before? Did the elves of today crawl their way to civilization at the expense of the orcs millennia ago? Those among the elves who see what is happening and understand it for what it is are becoming increasingly desperate. There isn’t much time, but if there is a way to break the cycle it must be done, whatever the cost. If that means dooming the orcs to a state of perpetual ignorance and savagery, then surely that is a small price to pay for the salvation of their entire race…
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