Song of Ishvarra

Gather round, young ones, and listen well.

The cities of Ishvar have fallen, and our books and our tablets have crumbled to dust; but we the people of Ishvar endure, by the grace and mercy of Ishvarra we endure, and so long as we live we will remember.

There was once a time that was as different from today as day is from night, as summer is from winter. There was a time when the Ishvar people prospered and were strong, and we raised great cities in the open plains, magnificent temples to honor our god. Our people grew greatly in wealth, in wisdom and in kindness, and though our arm was strong, we were at peace with the people in the surrounding lands.

Yes, we were at peace even with the Amestrians, a smaller people in those days; they greatly admired us, and travelled many miles to gaze on the splendor of our cities, and from us they learned many great Arts.

But the tree which sits too far from the sun will wither, and the hearts of the Amestrians shrivelled with envy and became jealous. They sought more knowledge, more crafts and devices, and ever more power; they searched deep into arts that had long been forbidden by the sages of our lands.

They plumbed the waters of their lands, and mined the deeps; they covered their land with iron bands and filled the sky with choking smokes. And in their greed they delved too deep, and broke into the underworld where the demons of hell reside.

Great shocks broke the earth when the demons came, for hundreds of miles around; even the foundations of the great temples of Ishvar trembled. Amestris fell into chaos and flames, the iron bands snapped, the water ran wild, and whole cities vanished without a trace into the stone.

And in the disorder the demons arose unseen and walked the earth, eating their way into men's hearts until they ruled all that kingdom from the invisible world beneath.

Now the people of Amestris became corrupted, all unknowing; their minds were filled with lies and cunning and their hearts drowned in avarice. The demons of the underworld taught them such dark and foul arts as humans were never meant to wield, and they proliferated like ants, boiling across a land that had once been green and fair.

Forsaking their gods and churches, the Amestrians turned their hearts to their corrupted desires, twisting the world that Ishvarra made to their selfish wills. Fire they wrenched from air, and forced air from water, tortured water from the earth until it burnt beneath them. They filled their libraries with the symbols of demons, drew circles of occult power on the very ground; where they touched, the ground cracked and demons escaped into the world.

Armed with this unholy power, never again content with their own lands, the Amestrians turned their greedy eyes on the lands holy to Ishvarra.

They came first as envoys, speaking honeyed words of peace and prosperity, but their eyes and mouths and hearts were as full of lies as a deep well is full of water. We who had once been their teachers and friends, they now hated and feared, and jealously plotted our downfall even as they extended a false hand of welcome.

And one night, with stealth and cunning they entered our temples, and cruelly slew our greatest sages as they stood before the altars unarmed; their blood ran like rivers on the temple floors. In one hellish night they slew our leaders, in one mortal blow depriving us of our wisest and most powerful men and women.

Then, too late, we saw the hideous face behind the smiling mask, and awoke to our danger; but without our learned holy men of Ishvar, we had not the knowledge nor the power to seal the earth against their circles, against their demons.

At the last hour, we took to arms; but the legions of Hell were already on our doorstep. Desperately we fought, and oh, my children, more uncounted than the stars in the sky are the brave men and women who gave battle and fell as martyrs in defense of our homeland. Their graves lie now unmarked, unshriven; but not unmourned, and not forgotten, for as long as we live, we people of Ishvar, we will remember them.

So great was the might and the valor of the people of Ishvar that the Amestrians foundered in their first advance, and retreated. Before there was time for celebration, however, they came again; casting aside the pretense of mortal warfare, they brought the devils, the devils who bore countless demons within their breast, who would storm the very gates of paradise.

The names of the devils too we still remember, for all that few still survive who looked on them. Their forms were barely human, their countenences monstrous, and the earth and air scorched and groaned and shuddered around them.

There was the Black Ogre, a creature of metal and blood, who could fill the sky for miles in each direction with tearing fragments of steel. There was the White Ogre, so huge and terrible that the stones cracked under his feet, and the touch of his gauntlet would crumble the vastest fortress to rubble. There was the Fire Devil, whose skin burned with all the heat of the forges of Hell; merely to look on him would blister your eyes to blindness, and the snap of his fingers could bring a night sky to conflagration.

There was the Witch Doctor; a haggard old man to those who saw him, but with the powers of necromancy hidden in his twisted hands. He could touch the lifeless corpses of the Amestrian soldiers, and they would rise to life again, returning whole once more to the battle untouchable by bullets. There was the Hag, an evil female of hideous beauty who spread poisons along all the underground waterways and plague among the sickbeds.

And then there was the Red Devil, whose name we speak only in whispers even now; the wickedest of all the devils, the cruelest of demons, who vomited flame and belched fumes and whose touch was hideous death. He had a hyena's mouth in a man's head, the crazed eyes of a wolverine; and blood dripped endlessly from clawed hands and fanged mouths. It was said that mothers would slay their own children lest the Red Devil come upon them, and perhaps that was true.

Where the Devils walked towers broke, earth scorched, glass shattered, and the hallowed cities of Ishvarra crumbled into dust. For seven years the warriors of Ishvar had held the gates against the Amestrians; in seven days all had been brought to ruin. The once fertile plains became no more than sand. No water flows in Ishvar now, no tree or shoot will grow, and no human heart can flourish.

There are some who will tell you that Ishvarra left us during this time but oh, my children, I tell you it is not so. Ishvarra was with us then, as she is even still; her outstretched arms protected the survivors as they fled from the ruins, and embrace us as we wandered from our ancestral homelands, seeking refuge and peace.

Wherever we fled that holocaust, to the north, to the east, even those of us who came to the West and found ourselves at the foothills or our most hated enemies, Ishvarra walks with us; and she will not leave us so long as even one of our people remembers and speaks her name.