Hubris breaks good men on a rack of certainty. Certainty in their cause, their faith or sometimes their altruism lead a good man down a dark path. Herrick’s tale is one of self-sacrifice, willful blindness and utter devotion to the good people of Krollis. In the quest to empower all of Krollis Herrick broke the world and unleashed centuries of misery. Some call him fool, zealot, a few forgiving souls speak the term “misguided” softly lest the the church punish them for forgiving “The First.” For Herrick carried the first Burden and damned all of Krollis with him.
Four-hundred years ago, Herrick, Imperial Engineer, explorer and scientist found himself dying high on a plateau in the “God’s Test” mountain range. A small expedition of porters, students and Herrick left Rethel intent on surveying new mineral deposits in the mountains. An unseasonal blizzard choked their path, froze his porters and students into the next life and sapped his strength. Within a few days, a black-toed, dying Herrick left the remains of his camp and headed down the mountain hoping to escape this towering, frozen grave.
Frostbitten and weak, Herrick lost footing and feel deep into a crevasse. Bouncing off razor sharp outcroppings and eventually colliding with bone-snapping solidity. Agony twisted perception and the glow surrounding him seemed more hallucination than reality. Cold shredded his flesh and broken bones, like white spears erupted from his twisted body. Death neared.
Herrick, ever the scientist, realized that the cavern floor was not stone, but a carpet of glowing, yellow crystals, slowly pulsing with light. “How beautiful,” thought Herrick “it is a tragedy my body is broken and no one will ever see this beauty.” With that simple thought Herrick saved himself and damned the world. For the light of Burden flowed from the crystals, healing his body in moments. Surrounded by the vile beauty of what is now called Burden, Herrick laughed and played with power never meant for men. Any thought became real. He healed his body, enhanced his mind, created food from nothing and bent reality. Herrick found the greatest power in the world and he meant to share it with everyone.
Days passed of careful experimentation and a basic understanding of “Godlight” emerged. It was not a limitless power source. Taking a crystal outside the cavern allowed Herrick to perform some small miracles, but the lone crystal quickly dimmed. Over time it slowly regained its power, but the smaller the crystal the more slowly the light returned. Placing two dim crystals near each other cut the charging time of both in half. Three crystals recharged even faster and within the cavern, surrounded by millions of crystals, Herrick possessed nearly limitless power.
Those few that argue Herrick was just misguided and not evil point to his next decision as proof. Herrick chose to give his power to the only person worthy of it; his Emperor. Gathering a pack full of crystals and notebooks, Herrick made his way back to the High City of Rethel. Imperial advisers immediately decided that such power belonged in the High City and only the Emperor should control it. Factions at the court sought to control the Godlight, but the Emperor was no mere figurehead and Herrick with his new-found powers made a powerful ally. Tales are still told of the palace intrigue and disappearances over the next few weeks. Given the authority and military might of the Empire, Herrick returned to his cavern and mined every crystal. Many tons slowly made their way across the God’s Test to the High City. Carefully guarded by the most loyal men and a slow drowning penalty for anyone that dared touched Godlight.
As each stone arrived, Herrick carefully placed each stone into his finest work; a tower of perfect Godlight crystal centered in a garden at the center of the High City. Over 17 years passed since that first moment of discovery and the Emperor preened at his growing tower of Godlight, occasionally tapping its energy to do a good work, improve the city or physically strengthen trusted warriors and renew his own youth. Herrick grew powerful from Godlight and the Emperor’s political patronage. Though dedicated, Herrick had time to start a family and father a son, Zil. Zil joined his father as a youth and worked tirelessly on the Godlight tower for his Emperor. In Zil’s 19th year, the supply of Godlight from God’s Test failed, the mine exhausted.
Though a sad day, the Emperor took it as a sign the Gods wanted him to use the full might of their gift. With fanfare worthy of the Gods, the Emperor called a celebration on the longest day of the year. He invited his entire court to the Godlight tower to witness his gift to Rethel. Herrick beamed at his side. Rethel often suffered grueling heat in Summer and floods in Spring. The Emperor deemed this unacceptable and ascended the tower. Standing at its apex, arms outstretched he said one word.
Godlight flowed like a river, burning brightly even in the light of the noon sun and Rethel rose, slowly, impossibly higher. A great plateau formed beneath the city, gently raising it high above the heat and flood. It took four hours for the city to rise and at the end an exhausted Emperor beamed pride at his great work. For the briefest of times, Godlight fulfilled its name until its unholy price fell on the shoulders of all men and became Burden.
Few noticed the black, undulating, viperous slit in the side of the tower. Most thought it a trick of the light, but it slowly grew. Widening, soon all saw the gash for what it was; a tear in the world and in an explosion of horror, the first Gate opened.
Reports from those near the gate are unreliable as most died instantly, the few survivors tormented and mad. A river of madness and death sprayed forth, flowing like an endless river of evil onto Krollis. Poisonous ichor and beasts of unnatural origin flowed across the newly-raised plateau, forming a moat of foul miasma around the great city.
As the horrors spread, the First Krythali Empire died and Krollis itself teetered on extinction’s edge.
Trask, The Last Tyromancer