Asthalon the Black, also
called Asthalon the Cursed, lived from 1683 b.S. to
1649 b.S. He was the third son of the ruling family of
Delv and the last Highking of the dynasty of Delv of
Aca-Santerra. He became Highking
during the Year of Darkness
and ultimately drove off the Murmillion invasion that followed a prophecy of
ancient times but only ruled for less than a year. After the war he disappeared
in the shadows of the Burning Mountains of Ehebion obeying the call of the
Priests of Barkhas.
Though he saved the Highkingdom from certain destruction his reputation was always shadowed by his dark destiny and a life full of doubtful accidents and selffulfilling prophecies. His life and destiny is also described in the “Legend of the Stoneking”.
Biography. The following passages are excerpts from the Chronicles of the Highkings, from the Sacred Realm:
Picture description. Asthalon the Black on his last ride to the Eferan'ypheró. Image drawn by Fiorellina.
Asthalon was born in a stormy night in 1683 b.S. - the new moon
was just forming. He was the third son of Narn the Blue, King of Delvynnar,
chosen Highking of the Realm and Gaeraevynn, Priestess of Barkhas. Following the
tradition of the nobility of Aca-Santerra
the destiny of the child was foreseen by the seers to determine the God that has
chosen him and thus the temple he would be connected to.
In Asthalon's case the prophecies were clouded and the seers feared the child because its future meant the rising of a new God among the great Gods of the kingdom. It was said this child was Chosen by Mari, the Goddess of Oblivion and the Underdark, a Goddess only worshipped by the minority of Murmillions living in Santerran territory.
The priests of Barkhas and the other main temples of Angus and Retarra feared that this prophecy was destroying the spiritual balance of the kingdom and thus the child would bring great misfortune to the realm. The Highpriestess of Barkhas even demanded to abandon the child but Narn the Blue, though bound to Barkhas through his own allegiance, had created a strong rule over the kingdom and refused to follow this call to protect his child.
This decision brought a severe break between the Highking and the priests of Barkhas as well as the seers of Thalisien, Mari's counterpart. In their eyes the child had to be kept away from the throne at all costs and though the reign of Narn the Blue remained a time of prosperity and peace these shadows of the future as well brought great sorrow to the king.
As we've already told Asthalon the Black - he received this title for the pact with Mari - was only the third son of the king. His eldest son Faenil the Red was chosen to become the next Highking of Aca-Santerra and Mardu the Blue was chosen for high ranks in the Santerran society as well.
The priests thus had no problem with keeping Asthalon away from the seats of power as well as from his destined temple. In the years following his birth the three great temples hunted and expelled the cult of Mari wherever possible to prevent the bond of a Heir of the Throne to a temple of a foreign cult at all costs. Only the watchful eyes of king and queen prevented more direct actions against this black mark in the kingdom's palace.
While kept away from any responsibility an ascending Santerran nobleman usually has to take, Asthalon had a rather peaceful and uneventful youth taking the time his brothers were taught to become future kings and princes of the Highkingdom to travel through the realm and learn more about land and people first hand.
It was on one of this travels that he crossed the moon hills, the unsecure borderlands to the lands of the Murmillions where he first met his destiny. When he sought shelter for the night in one of the many small but fortified hamlets he recognized a girl wrapped in black robes lurking from the shadows of a small passage between the houses. Asthalon was struck by the beauty and unlimited depth of her dark eyes, a depth that could make a man forget all his sorrows. Here in a forgotten hamlet he met the true power of Mari and following the girl over a small mountain pass. There he found the last shrine of Mari left in a small valley, untouched by the Horathrari of Barkhas. And it was there that he not only learnt more about the hidden cult of this Goddess but also that the Murmillions had split into two factions over the true meaning of Mari's prophecies.
The pure power of Mari's manipulating nature frightened the young Asthalon but also lured him deeper into the secret tellings of the Murmillions. He stayed weeks in the small community and either bewitched by the dark powers or chosen by destiny he closed the bond between himself and his deity.
The marriage between Asthalon the Black and Esté Geru of the Murmillions took place in secret and they kept their secret till very late on their paths. Esté following him seemingly as a simple servant they returned to Delvynnar, still the old capital of the kingdom and the winter palace of the Highking. Asthalon was seventeen years old at this time and though he kept his marriage to himself the watchful eyes of Barkhas grew more suspicious with every day.
In 1666 b.S. suddenly the Highking died from a strange sickness and Faenil succeeded on the throne of Delvynnar and Altyr and became Faenil the Red Lord. Faenil was only six years older than Asthalon when he became king and thus had a very weak stance towards the other noble houses of the kingdom and also the priesthood wanted to exploit his weakness to finally get rid of the dangerous child of Narn.
But in Santerran society the loyality of the family is unquestionable and lacking trustable allies Faenil had to appoint his brothers into high ranking positions even against the will of the priesthood.
Mardu became admiral of the High Fleet and Asthalon was commanding the troops on the continent, in terms of the king's advisors a less important but nevertheless strong reserve of the loyal faction in case of civil war.
It took Faenil nearly a decade till he brought everything his father had conquered back under his banner. In this time Asthalon was able to use and increase his knowledge about the lands of the continent to ensure peace and order in the border provinces around Altyr and gained a reputation in the ranks of his soldiers. His companionship with Esté also helped to cease the growing unrest of the conquered Murmillions.
While being always the suspect in the eyes of the priests Asthalon had a close relationship to his brothers and so it was a common game between them to compete with each other over the mastership of the sword.
But in 1657, when Asthalon grew 26 and Mardu 28, the curse of his destiny again fell upon Asthalon the Dark, how he was called by now,as he killed Mardu in a fencing accident who stumbled over a rock and died days after the incident from the head wound. Accused of murdering his brother, a Lord chosen by Barkhas, the blue temple did not forget this. Rumours spread that he killed Mardu and plans to kill Faenil next to become new Highking of the kingdom and change the order of the temples.
At the very last these rumours also reached Faenil and though he believed firmly into the loyality of the family the whispered and demanding advises of the priests finally darkened his heart. He had too much to lose and decided to remove Asthalon from the court and from the regions where he was gathering more and more support and fame.
So he sent him and his loyal commanders to the island of Delm too secure the Santerran demands towards Korweyn who claimed the ownership of this island as well. Far away from the centers of Santerran politics and recognition he hoped that his only left brother would be left isolated and forgotten.
In 1655 b.S. the situation about Delm escalated but Faenil refused to send reinforcements hoping that a final defeat would break the loyality among the soldiers towards their general. But even outnumbered Asthalon accomplished to hold his position and fiercely fought back. In one of the battles his right eye was struck by a sword blade and blinded him. Nevertheless he remained undefeated but the lack of troops finally forced him to withdraw from the islands but to one port on the island. Faenil was satisfied, Asthalon seemed weakened and so he could bring his attention to other problems as unrest and rumours spread through the northern lands of his realm.
The Murmillions were the descendants of those that followed Kyras the Dark and with him ruled a powerful realm for centuries. Now they rose up against the Santerrans that had managed to subdue various of their territories and a prophecy spread that the Murmillions would rise to power once again.
In the meantime Asthalon remained as the military commander of a now unimportant island at the border of the realm forgotten by most within the Santerran society. But it is rumoured that the loss of his eye blessed him with Mari’s powers of foresight and his destiny unfolded before him.
In the year of 1650 b.S. the Murmillions started their attack on Aca-Santerra in a fanatic frenzy believing in the return of their God and the return of their empire. One city and army after the other fell before their overwhelming numbers and fanatism. Faenil the red rallied all his troops and allies to challenge the Murmillions on the fields of the Jerrah but at the day of the battle – like a bad omen of sorts – the sun did not rise again. But Faenil took the challenge and his last battle is still honoured till the very day. He was slain in the first battle line as he tried to break through to the Murmillion leaders.
As he was brought back to Altyr by the remnants of his troops all lands between the Moon Hills and the Jerrah had fallen and the High Kingdom stood before its greatest defeat, without a Highking to keep together the various lords and leaders of the Santerrans the High Kingdom fell into chaos. The Murmillions laid siege to Altyr and only its heavy fortifications made an immediate capture of the city impossible.
In 1649 b.S. it were only the priesthoods that were able to claim loyality from the lords and keep the lines together but without a leader the situation remained desperate. That desperate, that the High Priestesses of Barkhas, Angus and Retarra took unusual steps to return at least hope in the darkness of these days. Under great sacrifices the Priesthood of Retarra ignited the vulcano of Zigorath which lit the realm of Aca-Santerra like a candle in the night throughout the darkness. And under the first day of the artifical light the Highpriestess herself and Horathri landed in Altyr. Never before a temple was willing to provide its guards and powers directly to the High Kingdom, but the priesthood feared the return of the highest God of the Murmillions which would destroy all their hopes.
Only the seers of Thalisien saw a last solution that could turn the tide of the war, the most unexpected help one can imagine. For there was another Aca-Tar among the Santerran pantheon though never mentioned and never worshipped. For Mari, the Goddess of the Underworld was seen as the beloved of the Dark God but only she - the seers told - was the one that could bring a glimpse of hope to the Santerran kingdom.
Asthalon saw similar visions in his dreams and at the peak of the siege of Altyr he decided to abandon the island of Delm with his most trusted men and headed for the endangered city at the Jerrah without anyone knowing. Mari, through all the false paths her wrong promises and dreams created, revealed him the right path to safe the kingdom he had always been loyal to and which always had denied him.
For the kingdom was near its defeat. In the end only the powers of the Sea, the High Priestess of Barkhas demanded under her command drove the enemy from the walls and defended with dozens of ped high waves the city against the much larger army of the Murmillions. They even had to break off their siege and seek refugee on higher ground thus devastating were the storms Angus and Barkhas unraveled to defend the kingdom. But this only brought some time and the continuing darkness lay heavy on the High Kingdom.
The fleet of Asthalon landed on an island near the city of Altyr and was hidden so that it couldn't be spotted from the coast. Only with a few companions Asthalon landed with a small ship in a city at war. With him was his wife Esté who had grown to a great priestess of Mari. While the power of the priesthoods of Aca-Santerra is unquestionable they nevertheless knew that the kingdom could only reunite under a worthy leader. But Asthalon’s allegiance was not forgotten and thus the priestesses doubted that he might represent the chance to overcome the threat that could very well mean the end of the kingdom. But Asthalon swore in the Chamber of the Winds in the temple of Altyr that he’d do anything necessary to safe the kingdom and bring the balance of power back to the Aca-Tar and that Mari was leading his way. The High Priestess of Barkhas was about to object letting her most-hated rival let lead the nation in what she suspected was its doom. But among all Aca-Tar only Mari and Thalisien shared the powers of foresight and so the seers supported the cause of Asthalon despite all hatred they felt for Mari, the great deceiver, themselves. - And so Asthalon was appointed to Asthalon the Black, High King of Aca-Santerra.
Only days later the fleet of Asthalon reinforced the sparse city garrison. The first Year of Darkness was about to end and mysterious rumours spread over all islands of the High Kingdom. It was the first time Mari not only appeared as the great deceiver and liar among the Santerrans but also as the Goddess of Hope whispering about the return of the sun and the victory it could ensure if the Santerrans would be only willing to take the challenge.
The return strengthened the heart of the battleworn soldiers who remembered him and his deeds on the northern border and so Aca-Santerra prepared for the last battle. How much of his future Asthalon already could anticipate is unknown but at the day the sun returned he rode alone before the gates of Altyr, clad in black armor and black helmet challenging the Murmillions and their leaders, accusing them that they would bring great evil to the world if they’d succeed. The tribes living in the Moon Hills considered his words closely as a man aligned with one of their priestesses and not believing in the righteous cause of the leaders from the North.
He held a great speech to the Murmillions that they should return to their lands now as the Gods have abandoned them for their wrong allegiance. And not few of the Murmillions felt doubt. And as if he was a messenger of the Aca-Tar himself the sun rose at the horizon with the last words of his speech.
But Asthalon was never a man who trusted words alone and so his men had left the city on secret ways and with them the Horathari, the warrior priests of Barkhas, Angus and Retarra. This was one of the few times these knights marched together with the common soldiers for a common goal. An as the leaders of the Murmillions saw that their armies were uncertain about the sudden rise of the sun and that they were impressed by Asthalon’s speech and his bravery to come alone to the edge of their camps they ordered to group for the attack. But Asthalon’s men had only waited for this signal and attacked from their hideouts and the surpise, the anger with which they fought and the powers of the Horathri soon turned the Murmillion army into chaos and into full retreat. A far underscored army of Santerrans had won over the greatest army of contemporary Nybelmar, only by the word of their leader and with the help of the Aca-Tar.
Many of the Murmillions knowing Asthalon and his wife Esté laid down their weapons and pleaded for mercy for their wrongdoing as they now recognized that Mari was with the Santerrans and not with them.
But the Murmillions of the North were still many and though they were driven back they still thought that victory was near. But more bad news arrived only days after. The great king of Therigal had gathered all troops of the islands of the Northeast and brought them on shore at their flanks. He united his troops with those of Asthalon though he could not believe that the last successor of Delv, the doomed, was now in charge with the blessing of the High Priestesses. But he obeyed their decisions though not liking them at all. On the plains of the Jerrah the next battle was fought that lead to the complete withdrawal of the Murmillions out of Santerran territory - one year after all lands were liberated and Asthalon had become the savior of the High Kingdom.
But it is not here that this story ends. Plagued by visions Asthalon knew that Mari demanded another sacrifice from him. Alone and only with his loyal warhorse he should leave the Santerran Kingdom heading for the very heart of the free Murmillion lands seeking the origin of the false prophecy that caused this war and haunted his fate for decades. In the end he bid a good farewell only to his closest officers and his wife Esté, now High Priestess of Mari, the sixth Aca-Tar of Aca-Santerra. Knowing that Mari had chosen a fate for Asthalon that would separate them for more than only one mortal’s lifetime she gave him a white scarf ornamented with prayers to the Goddess of Hope and under tears bid him a good farewell.
Clad in the black armor in which he had brought victory to the Santerran armies at the first daylight after the year he mounted his horse and headed all alone to the lion’s den the Eferán’ypheró to seek the one divine artefact on Nybelmar known to be created by the Dark God: The Throne of Menemrónn.
Thus is how Asthalon the Black, last High King of dynasty of Delv vanished from the memories of the Santerrans, but not the last legend heard from him. His deeds during the journey to the Ehebion and to the dark caverns of these cursed mountains, through enemy territory and wild lands became legendary as the “Tales of the Stoneking”. It is told that eventually, after years of search and after many dangers, he found the throne of Menemronn and took a lonely seat in the deepest cavern of the Ehebion to guard the throne and the Darkstones.
He became known as the "Stoneking" and is said to still guard the throne till the end of all times or till a more worthy man will relieve him from his desperate and dark duty.
Importance. Though Asthalon was Highking of Aca-Santerra only for less than two years he became one of the most legendary leaders of the High Kingdom. Not only ended with him a long line of grand kings and it marked the end of the dynasty of Delv – which was followed by the dynasty of Therigal -, it also marked a great shift in the spiritual world of the Santerrans.
Mari, once only a great Goddess among the Murmillions became a great Aca-Tar among the Santerrans as well. A fact that not only helped the integration of those Murmillions that were part of the Santerran kingdom but also meant that the Santerrans widened their view and tried to recognize the religions of other tribes as parts of their own.
Though Mari still remained a disputed Goddess with strength and weaknesses she became an as important Aca-Tar as Thalisien whose counterpart she is in many ways.
Information provided by Koldar Mondrakken