Welcome adventurers to Amicas.
A continent decimated by war and disease. A place that thrived 4 generations ago, but which now survives by a thread and the grace of all the gods.
Your grandparents enjoyed an almost utopian existence filled with music and wine, friendly competitions and contentment. The Humans dominated the land and the Dwarves the earth, although many different races filled this continent. Education and magical research were valued more than physical work because the Amicas city-states understood that “work accomplishes one thing today… research accomplishes many new things tomorrow.”
Large scale governments did not exist back then as the city states had abundance. When the population has all of its needs met, there is little need for powerful government. Those that served in the government did not join for personal power but out of a desire to serve. And the kings of the time were humble men who lifted others up, believing it lift themselves up as well.
Today that is gone. The people, governments, the social structures, and most importantly the knowledge and the research. The citizens of the continent now survive day by day. Today’s law is ‘survive today, as tomorrow is not here yet'. No one really knows why this happened. “Demons” just appeared. Not all at once, but more like they flowed from a small leaking endless bucket. A little bit here. A little bit there. Then more and more. A dirty scourge consumed with hatred and inner chaos. There was no evidence of a justification or rationale in their actions. No need for anything except the immediate visceral gratification of hurting others and destroying. That was their hunger.
The first kingdoms and republics to encounter the demons were hard hit. The demons burned the cities and its occupants were consumed in great feasts like cattle. Satiated, the demons moved out in waves and there was little that could be done to stop the horde's advances. No countries were skilled in the art of war and defense. There had been no need for such things.
Kingdom after kingdom began to fall. Runners, people who escaped attacks, fled to their neighboring kingdoms and warned as many as they could.
At first – the neighboring kingdoms did not believe the runners. “That is preposterous!” they would say. “That could not possibly be true!” And soon that city/state would be consumed as well, adding it’s runners to the survivors. Eventually the number of runners became too large to ignore. One small group of runners could be dismissed as 'charlatans, tricksters, or unwell'... but multiple groups representing several kingdoms saying the same thing? Their story became compelling. Scouts were sent out and returned verifying the reports. The governments started to believe. So the kingdoms did the best they could to prepare themselves for battle. Inexperienced, they fought with abandon and fear using whatever was at hand to defend themselves. But it was to no avail as demons brought weapons and armor and a love of killing.
After several city/states fell the governments began to urge the kingdoms to empty! Emtpy and hide! Starve the demons out! If they have no food a horde of that size would eventually turn on itself out of hunger and desperation. “Take all that is edible and abandon the cities!” Leave the demons nothing!
The next city/state did just that. It’s thousands of people took what food they could carry and left the comfort of their civilization behind. They burned their excess food, their livestock and their crops, and headed to a neighboring kingdom where they would rest, explain what is happening, then combine with the inhabitants to do the same and continue moving into the west.
The demons were surprised when they arrived at a city which had no one living in it. Burned out libraries, food storage in flames, cattle burned to a char. But being demons they danced and sang songs dedicated to the joy of killing and maiming. It wasn’t hard to tell which direction a city/state’s worth of people moved, and so they followed the trails to the next city. That city also was empty. Again they sang… but their hunger grew. Some began to realized that they were being starved out. That the best weapon of war that the enemy had was their ability to flee and they were using it well. And so it went as the population of entire cities moved west and abandoned their homes, leaving behind the burned out husks of buildings.
The demons become more and more desperate. Some turned on each other… while others turned to eating trees and stones in hope that these would alleviate the pain and frustration of their hunger. But they marched onward. No longer did the demons search to simply 'do harm' but now they hunted to survive.
Then the inevitable happened. The continent was crossed and before the inhabitants of Amicas lay a vast ocean. A wake of destruction had been laid across the continent reducing thriving civilizations to iron age cavemen. Libraries burned, research facilities destroyed, farmland desolate.
It took years, but not lifetimes, for this to happen. Around the continent monuments to past accomplishments dotted the landscape. Bridges, stone retaining walls, aquaducts, cityscapes. But no people. No inhabitants. Everyone fled or died because those were their only options. Finally there was no where left to run and time had run out. The Midlandfield Ocean was at their backs and they did not have boats. But they were well fed because they brought food and water with them, and they were tougher than when this began because they had just survived a forced march.
Approaching from the east, a massive swarm of demons. Big and small. Ugly and terrifyingly beautiful. But all desperate. All fighting for their own survival, backed into a corner by their lack of knowledge of life in this plane and on this planet and the terrible burden of hunger.
And so they fought. The inhabitants of this land fought to live and the demon's fought to eat. The humans and elves, the dwarves and the half-orcs and halflings and gnomes. The Farmers and physicians, wizards and mothers and children. All engaged the demons. Spilling great swathes of both human and demon blood.
At the end of the day, a bitter vile reek filled the air as rotting corpses covered the land as completely as grass covers the plains in spring. Carrion birds ate their fill of both human and demon, and blood sank into the soil.
The inhabitants won, but there was no victory. Most had died. Few of either side remained and the humans and their allies, better fed and strong, eliminated the last of the demons. Their war of attrition had succeeded but at the greatest cost of all. Everything was lost. Civilization must start anew.
And so the victors returned to their cities and their towns because they knew nothing else to do. Basic survival skills had to be learned: How to build a fire, How to hunt, How to make farming equipment. They lived in the houses of their immediate past and struggled to survive each day just as their forefathers had done thousands of years ago. But while their knowledge was lacking, their broad minded educations allowed them to develop the skills required to live as small communities fairly quickly.
Within a few years a quiet agrarian life had been established. Farms had been created and hunters brought in food while herds could be replenished and crops harvested. The people that survived had not lost their individual knowledge, but now research was not nearly as important as the work of making sure that food was available, and water. Medicines and very minor magics were employed to help immediate needs, not to explore what once were the boundaries of knowledge. And education was about teaching the next generation how to live on a daily basis: Basic maths, Hunting, Farming, Crafts. Magical knowledge was gone. The world became a much smaller place.
And over a couple decades, life returned to a more peaceful pace. Simpler. Great concerts in majestic halls were replaced by flute and violin around community campfires. Medicines once created in great feats of engineering and magic were replaced by the usefulness of local flora and fauna.
Every day was a work day. And every night was another opportunity to be thankful for having survived and been around to work another day.
But below it the sadness remained of all that was lost. The culture, the knowledge of countless generations, and more importantly the people. Parents and grandparents, children, both husbands and wives. Most were gone. So while people were content during the day doing their work and enjoying their communities in the evening, at night – alone and lying in the dark they would shake, tears streaming down faces at the thought of those they would never see again.
And some were lost without being killed. For some had been covered in so much demon blood during that final battle that they were lost in different ways; although no two lost in exactly the same way… some became mute and stared at walls eyes wide with an unseen fear, others sat in corners and rocked themselves continuously or repeatedly drew strange symbols on floors with their fingers until the symbols became painted in their own blood. Others spouted inane prophecy and gibberish. But all of these unfortunate souls had lost connection with this world.
The horror of what happened will never be doubted because on that battlefield very little grows. And what does grow is either twisted and mutated by the blood of the demons, or was not previously known.
As the decades have passed communications have been restored between distant communities by traveling bards which bring music and song and messages from one settlement to another. Needs/skills available/and excess to be traded are to be posted on community boards as soon as a bard arrives in town – if they do not post their list immediately the local inns will not serve them food nor drink until they do so, for communication with the other villages reminds all people that they really aren’t alone. Then the bards eat and bring merriment and drink and song and tales from other places which are so enjoyed by all.
Unfortunately, most of the deep knowledge of the world was lost. Magical or engineering knowledge that was held by learned masters. Trade routes used with other lands far far away are now long forgotten. Important commodities such as unique medicines, and rotateable crop seeds, and fabrics made from plants which do not grow in these lands but which are much stronger than those grown locally are no longer easy to come by. It is assumed that the people who knew those trade routes from the other side are dead as well given their generational absence. What is not known is “were the other lands destroyed”, or “were the traders who knew the route killed because they walked into the middle of a demon swarm”?
So many questions are unanswered.
Which brings us to your story, young adventurers. For you get to add your own chapter to this book.
Young and adventurous, you and your friends have decided to make a name for yourself by seeking out knowledge of these trade routes. Your motives are both selfish and altruistic. Yes, you are brash and young and seek adventure… but also, you hope that you may find medicine to help those you love who suffer from “the sickness of being lost”. Grandparents and parents, older brothers and sisters… all families have some that are sick. It breaks your heart to see their grief. There must be a way to help the 'lost ones'. A medicine. An herb. A magic. There must be a way.
So you are to set out on your quest, with the backing of your fellow villagers. You are supplied well for your quest with food and some very minor leather armor and bows and arrow and swords as you will be traveling hundreds and hundreds of miles. The supplies will not last the entire journey, and where you will go eventually the horses and cart will need to be stabled, but they should get you to a stabling community where you can head off on foot. Bandits are not much of a concern as anyone prone to highwayman activities would be doing so against people who are battle tested and tough as nails. The few that have tried banditry as a profession have provided inspiration to others not to try this as a profession due to 1) the lack of community support, 2) the very short life expectancy and 3) the somewhat painful and embarrassing ways that they would get to spend that very short life expectancy when they are subdued by a grandmother who personally killed 40 demons and isn’t in the mood for their games.