Thursday, 19 January 2017

Background Backdoor: Guardians of The Ages

  - Among my people, when I had a people, it was said that a man who had never felt fear was one who had never truly lived. [...] The fear of starvation, of daemons in the night. The fear of pain, as your enemy's blade draws close. The fear of... surviving, where others died. -

  I paint models only after deciding who they are, where they come from, which battles they have won and how, and which ones they've lost and why. Sometimes I create traditions, history, words with particular meanings and more... I know that many of us do the same, making wonderful backgrounds for our battles and campaigns on the tabletop. Well, this is our corner!

   In this occasion we are going to see how, and why, a human tribe lost millennia ago in the waves of time, the Aefar, has been chosen by Sigmar himself to become a powerful Stormhost. Named Guardians of The Ages, they bear a strange bond with an ancient Realmgate: the Chrono Gate of Hysh, ultimately a Time's threshold.

Aefandrun Bear of Esca, Time Templars Lord-Celestant, with Veive, his merciless dracoth

The Fall of Talisa

   During the Age of Chaos, or at its beginning, no one can say, in the fathomless Realm of Hysh, where night and day, as light and darkness, mingle in each other replacing with a wistful dream the very fabric of reality, was built a shimmering city, Talisa. Settled on the brink of a large time anomaly, it was blessed by a mighty ancestry: powerful and open-minded people, naturally keen on magic and war, gifted with a longer life than common humans; all traits that would have been shared by their posterity, until the days of our heroes. 
   Alas, those days would also have been the last for the rich commercial city, for too long a time the forces of Chaos were on the prowl, ready to stir and finally seize such a bulky prey. Talisa, however, had witnessed the utter destruction of many of its peers, under Khorne's warriors' bloodied axes and chains, and still endured. Its army was huge, its Lords' wealthy legendary and its walls tall and wide. 
  For such reasons the Dark Gods found an alternative way to brutalize the city, corrupting its leaders and its people from within.
   Only one household, Aef's family, managed to abide away from the touch of Chaos; and when the Dark Gods turned their masterplan loose, Aef and his sons, alongside their warriors, were ready to escape the doomed Talisa, just to fight on in the immediate future... they couldn't imagine how long that so-called future would turn out to be.

   Aef ruled his people for over fifty years, finding them another home, struggling in a world torn apart by war and violence and forging a brand new blunt legislation: a system bare enough to fit those times of suffering and privation. By this way the Aefar became masters of war, learning how to survive against the Age of Chaos' horrors, turning themselves from rich dwellers in a city full of comforts to uncompromising heralds of moderation and stoicism.
   Their legendary leader guided them relentlessly, with his sons Aefaras and Aefirin, and his two grandsons Aefarron and Aefandrun, until they eventually found a place to hide, to start again, like a rock in a sea of madness, eventually establishing a realm of their own.
    During this time, as alliances were sworn between those wretched communities, scattered islands in an ocean of blood, the Dark Aelves' agreement stands worthy of mention. To grant himself the aid of the immortal Aelves, Aef allowed them to take his son Aefirin hostage... although when the storm raged louder they retreated behind magical gates, waiving their pact and their honour. 
    In a supreme act of courage Aef eventually gave his life in his last battle, just to extend his dream a bit longer. In his last instants he asked for his son to pick up the Aefar's burden, and carrying it on from father to son until the utter demise of Chaos. And Aefaras swore, becoming the new King.

United We Stand, Divided We Fall

   Aefaras, nevertheless, took his oath with too much zeal, turning his sacred task into a whirlwind of bloodshed, seeking only his personal revenge for Aef's death. In this way, for such a time, the Aefar became hunters instead of prey, learning how to destroy and attack as well as they had learned to build and defend.
   Eventually that war of vengeance, lasting more than ten years, drove their King mad, manic in his intent, and its sole outcome was to increase the power of the God Khorne, for Khorne cares not whence the blood flows, only that it flows. Eventually, little by little, despite their stoicism, all his warriors and even his two sons were infected by his unnatural fury. Only two Aefar endured this new danger: Tlarte and his sister Tlerya, Aefaras' wife and Queen of her people; she tried to make her sons, Aefarron and Aefandrun, aware of the presence of Chaos lurking in their father's mind: but it was only when a dark and unfathomable stranger approached them, that many within the ranks of the tribe started to realize they had been deluded and misleaded by a vicious sorcery, and that they were tossing down in the dust their ancestor's sacrifice.
   Legemon, the stranger, was a sort of priest, and his God was named Aesigmaer. Relentlessly, for years, he worked side by side with Tlarte and Tlerya to reach a capital position near the King and tried - eventually and desperately - to save him. But Aefaras was well beyond any salvation and Legemon realized that he could't kill him, for the sake of his sons and wife and for the very bond he felt with him. When the King moved war to the Dark Aelves princedom where his brother Aefirin had been taken hostage, just for the purpose of destroying another kingdom in his wake, Legemon decided to stand against him, starting a schism within the Aefar. He managed to carry with him Tlarte, Tlerya, Aefarron, Aefandrun: and with them thousands of men and women followed, half of the remaining members of those glorious people.
   Aefaras, instead, left with all the ones he claimed "brave enough"; just to continue his foolish war against everything.
   Aefarron was made new King of Aefar, for his father was "lost forever", as Legemon declared during the investiture.

The Chronogate

   Aefarron led his tribe away, according to the teachings of his grandfather Aef, moving in search of a new home. Following Legemon's advices they found a vale, located on the top of a high mountain, in the east of Hysh. In this vale they built, once and again, a fortress, calling it Esca-Talisia. Being literally Different-Talisa, "not the same Talisa" in their language, this meant that the new town would never suffer the same mistakes from its dwellers, as the original did.
   Despite this new time of recovering there was something that unsettled Legemon's and Aefarron's own peace so they decided to follow a vision beheld by the King, towards a strange building, similar to a door, but colossal in size.
   After a few months spent in searching they found, a few miles from Esca, a towering Realmgate. The two warriors talked briefly to each other and chose to cross the shimmering and constant-moving passage's surface. In the blink of an eye they knew they had been moved not in space, but in time. The place was the same, but at a different level of time... past or future, they couldn't say; undergoing the experience, they eventually moved to Esca, eager to know in what exact moment of time they were.
   However only Legemon's incredible spiritual grit allowed them to survive the vision of Esca in what turned out to be the near future... for Aefarron had already torn off his blade from the sheath, weeping and shouting furiously, ready to join the battle. Legemon dragged his friend away, back to the gate... they had witnessed the slaughtering of their people by the very own hands of their brothers; Aefaras, Aefarron's father, would be back, this time fully under the Dark God's control, to erase them from history.
   When they came back to their present, they started to study the time-monument, now called Chronogate, building another fortress around it, for they easily understood what a destructive power that artefact would prove to be in the wrong hands. 

The Watch Eternal

    The primary goal, for Aefarron, was to find a way to get back in the past and confront his father, preventing him from destroying Esca in the next future. So when they thought to understand the gate well enough to travel with, he mustered an army, the most formidable army Aefar ever had, and crossed the gate. 
   Alas, they were transported in the wrong time... a few years after the destruction of Esca.
   They tried time and time again to use the gate, but everytime they were brought in the same moment. 
   So Aefarron realized his own destiny and his own mistakes... he couldn't cope with the memory of his mother, wife, children and people slaughtered without defence, just for his wrong decision to seek his father in the past... just for his inability to use the Chronogate, just for his stupidity.
   To endure and survive such a burden he made a vow: he, and his men, would be the guardians of the gate until death.

   "We are wretched, brothers. We have suffered the deepest disgrace, we have lost our families, our city, our purpose. I think nothing of what happened after my grandfather's death could in any way be called accidental. It is nothing short of destiny. Destiny. Those were all trials, tests, and we have overcome them. Now the last barrier: to lose our identities. We are bound forever to this Gate, we are tasked of its care; this artefact now is the only thing that make us humans... it is our home, our memories, our family, fortress and shelter, for we have already lost them all. From this moment on we are no longer Aefar, we are Nala-Metis, they-who-are-without-past."

   Countless were the battles they won defending the gate; and Aefarron knew that his last decision was the right one when they slowly found out they simply couldn't die for the passage of time and that they were bound to the gate really forever.

The Age of Sigmar

   Years turned to centuries, centuries to millennia... until He came. Despite Legemon acted as he'd always known, the Thunder God sought immediatly for Aefarron and talked with him for a long day. After their speech passed a certain time (near the gate it was always hard to determine the flow of time) during which the King didn't talk to anyone, not even the priest.
   By the time Sigmar would came back, he'd knew what to answer.
   A chance to better defend the gate; restore their honour; quench their thirst for vengeance against Chaos. This should be. This was going to happen.

   They would be the sons of Thunder, They would be Immortals once and again. In the name of their ancestors and for Sigmar's will, they would be Stormcast Eternals.

Guardians of The Ages

   From the remaining few thousands of Aefar's warriors Sigmar forged a new stormhost, of second forging: the Guardians of The Ages. They are a strange example of Stormhost, because, due to their peculiar story, it is allowed for them to avoid some strict rules followed by (almost) all the other Stormcast's armies.

   -They are not based in Sigmaron, but in the Realm of Hysh, in the fortress that circled the Realmgate, in a place just a step over a huge time's anomaly...
   -They have already lost almost entirely their memories, because of the immense span of time passed guarding the gate, but it is allowed for them to visit, occasionally, the "Book of Aef", where one of their Lord-Relictors, Legemon, carefully kept each lost memory for consultation.
    -They only have Seven Chambers, 2 Warrior, 2 Extremis, 1Vanguard, 1 Harbinger and 1 Exemplar, though only 1 Warrior Chamber, 1 Extremis Chamber and 1 Vanguard chamber are to be considered "operative": Aefarron's Ancestral Hunters, Aefandrun's Time Templars and Aefirin's Epoch Hounds. All the other five chambers are permanently stationed in defense of the Chronogate.
    -Few other minor differences, such as heraldry and war tactics.
    In this post we'll see in depth the Ancestral Hunters, Aefarron's operative Warrior Chamber, known by its merciless and cold methods, hardest discipline and endurance.

Elke's Temple Liberators

   The Nala-Metis help themselves remember their past and their mistakes, as well their greatest triumphs, by naming their war conclave with the names of their lost kin. For the Ancestral Hunters those names are drawn from the soldiers' wives and consorts; those brave women who stood fast against the storm of Chaos that wiped out the first Esca.

   For the Guardians' Redeemer Conclave it was chosen the name Elke's Temple, after Aefarron's wife. Indeed the Liberators are maybe the most important unit in his strategies.

   Of course they are armed with all the weapons designed for Liberators, but Aefarron prefers the configuration with shields and hammers... although a few retinues are instead armed with shields and swords. Normally these "squads" are trained directly by the Lord-Celestant, without a doubt one of the best swordsmen of the Stormhost.

Lachina's Temple

   Judicators from Guardians of Ages are trained from the expert hunters and gunners of the tribe. Even if they have more than once suffered from starvation during their wanderings in the Age of Chaos, in one way or another the hunters have always managed to keep their people alive.

   Although their Lord-Celestant tends to use Boltstorm Crossbows in the majority of battles, due to their great firepower at close quarters, many members of Lachina's are trained to use Skybolt Bows for those fights where entering melee must be avoided for as long as possible.

Brogan's Temple

   Any configuration of paladins is allowed and used within the ranks of the Ancestral Hunters, although Retributors and Protectors are surely more common than Decimators.

   Retributors are often led in battle by Lord-Castellant Tlarte or by Lord-Relictor Legemon himself.

   Protectors instead are fielded to cover and protect Lord Aefarron, most of the time, or to fight the gigantic horrors of Chaos.

Kerrig's Temple

   Used as spies, rangers and killers, Prosecutors are very important in any strategy Aefarron uses and are fielded with Celestial Hammers, as well shields and Javelins if necessary.

   Raining death from above, they are really feared by the servants of Chaos, especially Khorne's worshippers for their lack of ranged weaponry.

Lord-Celestant Aefarron, Wrath of the Ages

    Aefarron was the last hope of his people, and eventually saved them... He found the strenght to deny his father Aefaras and establish Esca. He, and he alone, spoke to Sigmar himself to grant their people entrance to the Eternal Halls of Azyrheim: now he sits among the greatest warriors and generals of mankind, close to his God, forming the head of a powerful spear that will demolish the reality itself to wipe out Chaos from the realms.

   His deeds are countless in defending the fabled Chronogate of Hysh during the whole Age of Chaos, and in recent times, during the Heldenhammer Crusade, he succeeded in a two-year war against the Skull Fiend, one of the most important and strong Bloodbound's warbands. His task was to cripple that giant over and over, and prevent it from reaching the main body of the crusade guided by Vandus. Eventually, after defeating his enemies in a brutal battle, he joined his fellows in the glorious siege for Ghal Maraz' rescue.

   Uncompromising, fierce and brilliant he is second to none in the entire Stormhost and every warrior, knight, templar, or Lord carefully listens to his rare words, when not his very orders. Great warrior and outstanding strategist he defines himself as just a ruler, a king, a chieftain like his grandfather Aef, in the full service of his people, once, and of Sigmar, nowadays.

Lord-Celestant Aefandrun, Bear of Esca

   Younger brother of Aefarron, the tall and hardy Aefandrun is a peerless warrior. During the Aefar schism he was the most complicated to separate from his father, just because his thirst for battle, and the joy he feels during a fight, are verily his reason of life. Though more simple than his brother he is a great commander too, for centuries of waiting forged his patience and taught him to utterly control himself. He embraced the re-forging as a Stormcast Eternal with the deepest joy and without any concern, in spite of his brother... the old Bear of Esca only needed to fight Chaos.

   He guides the Time Templars, the operative Extremis Chamber of the Stormhost, though often fights alongside his brother in the ranks of the Ancestral Hunters.
   A charge led by Aefandrun is something that no one would want to witness: in the heat of the battle he becomes a devil and together with Veive (vengeance in the Aefar tongue), his dracoth - which shares a common mettle with - the carnage he's able to unleash is beyond words.

   It was his purity of soul and purpose that led Veive to him; and for the same reason Dracothion's kin answers to his claim. It is said that Aefandrun's spirit is more alike to a Stardrake's, than a human's or a stormcast's, for their fury are very similar.

Lord-Relictor Legemon, Tome-Keeper

   The one and only Nala-Metis that is not from the original Aef's household, Legemon is a mistery to his own brothers. He brought the words of Sigmar millennia before the God would talk to Aefarron and, although he never said where he came from or why, he fought alongside Aefar, saving them twice from the touch of Chaos... nowadays he remembers each memory of each of the thousands warriors from the stormhost, whereas they forgot them, and still doesn't talk of his own. A millenary life spent in its every second for the others: he is a holy icon for the other stormcasts, an unbreakable piece of stone descended from the heavens to help them find out their destiny.

   He is truly important for Guardians of The Ages, for he keeps the "Book of Aef", a tome where every single chronicle of history of those-who-are-without-past is noted. That book, as well as the Chronogate itself, is the last anchor for many of those Nala-Metis, who lost their way, to get back in action. Sometimes just a name, back from the fogs of time, could give a warrior a strenght for a hundred battles. Legemon knows it very well, and he cares for the souls of his brothers, as Sigmar taught and commanded him, as well as their minds.

Lord-Castellant Tlarte, Time-Watcher

   Tlarte is Aefandrun and Aefarron's uncle, and brother of Tlerya, the last Aefar's Queen before Elke. He was, in life, a man of knowledge, not only a warrior: and it was thanks to his skills that the Aefar thrived, building cities, fortresses, aqueducts and generally not forgetting science.

   He has such a brilliant mind that many stormhost's leaders ask for his advice in crucial situations, Lord-Celestant Aefarron at the forefront. On the battlefield he is the second-in-command after the King himself, for his mental abilities are very keen.

   His has the task to control and set the defence of the Chronogate and, everytime he is not in battle with the Chamber, he stands fast on the bulwark he has built gazing at the horizon for attackers, with his loyal and mindful Gryph-hound, Wing-lin.

   Called the "Emissary of The Cold Wind", Wing-lin is Tlarte's companion. He stands for his kin, and could in any time ask for assistance from the Cold Wind Kingdom of Hysh.

Knight-Venator Tlarme, Tale of Hysh

   Son of Tlarte and Kerrig, Tlarme was the most gifted of all Aefar inheriting the sharpness of mind of his father and the passion for the bow and sweet nature from his mother. He originally used to find fighting in battle and committing violence repulsive, so he learned the art to fight from a distance just to defend himself.

   That was until his mother's death. From that moment on he started training himself in the hardest and brutal way, becoming a ruthless killer. A man of very few words, he is the only Nala-Metis to leave Esca with his loyal star-eagle Culsu (winged demon in Aefar tongue), and wander far and wide in the shifting realm, hunting legendary beasts and horrors, sometimes saving kingdoms, preventing crimes and so on. He thus gained his nickname, Tale of Hysh.

   He answers only to commands from his Lord-Celestant, Aefarron. In that case his supernatural killing skills and his bottomless knowledge are priceless weapons against Chaos.

.... the story is over, for now....

Thanks for reading!

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