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The Exodus of the Flaems

by Ripvanwormer

Most worlds begin with primitives, savages grunting over fires or taking shelter from the weather.

Not Alphatia.

Alphatia was founded by the Immortals themselves, who brought humans to the world in their full civilized glory. Some say these humans were their children, placed there in hope that, in that world of ultimate magic, their children would ultimately become Immortals as well.

This is the story the Alphatians tell. No mortal knows, at this late date, if it's true or not, although it is popularly assumed that Immortal intervention is the only possible explanation for humans appearing on both Mystara and the Alphatian homeworld long before Landfall.

Alphatia had two great civilizations, the Alphatian and the Cypric. If it had others, they did not survive the world's destruction. The "pureblood" Alphatians originally looked to a pantheon of Immortals representing weather and the sky, fierce storm gods and benevolent bringers of fertility, as well as the four winds. The Cyprians worshiped Immortals of sun and light, tricksters said to have stolen fire from the heavens, and gods of invention and the forge.

Over the centuries, as they grew in magical prowess, the unified Alphatian-Cypric civilization forgot its patron Immortals, but they did not forget the two rival forces that they represented: Air and Fire. Where once fanatics and inquisitors enforced the cosmological views of one faith or the other, now they emerged and reemerged as abstract philosophies, political movements, and mystical schools. One, the Followers of the Fire, representing a cosmos born in a primal explosion and celebrating radicalism, unchecked progress, modernism, progressive social ideals, and unchecked monarchial power. The other, the Followers of the Air, proposing a "steady-state" eternal cosmos, rotating and in flux but with nothing truly created or destroyed, celebrating conservative social ideals, innovation checked by careful consideration and due honor given to the past, forethought, traditional ways, and a strong parliament checking the ambitions of the chief executive.

These two largely contradictory philosophies, normally resolved peacefully but not always, defined Alphatian history. The conflict between Fire and Air was the dynamic that kept it turning, the Followers of Air mitigating Fire's ambitions, and Fire keeping Air from becoming stagnant.

As the Alphatians spread throughout their solar system and the planes, they were exposed to new ideas they had not considered on their own world, meeting exotic peoples who believed in the supremacy of cold mechanistic matter rather than thought or energy, or who believed in time or entropy and their associated elements and ideals with equal fervor. Various Alphatian factions on the planes adopted these new ideas with relish, but on the homeworld, only the schools of Fire and Air remained dominant.

As the followers of Entropy aver, all things come to an end. The planar empire of Alphatia waned, its wizards growing introverted, consumed with their own domestic politics at the expense of being able to manage colonies abroad. The colonies mutated, growing their own identities, no longer considering themselves to be Alphatian but something new. The centuries passed. Alphatia allowed itself to be forgotten. And an emperor sat on the throne bold and foolish enough to attempt to end the eternal dispute once and for all: Alphas IV, in response to violent unrest, banned the school of Air entirely, and plunged his world into civil war.

The war raged on for decades, stripping the lands of their resources, plague spreading with the corpses and refugees, toxic gases in the trenches and death camps. Xanomedes, a follower of Air, tried to end the conflict by invoking a terrible devastation that consumed the Center Sea region, transforming its lush forests into barren steppes, turning its blue waters to salt flats, and causing the jeweled Five Cities to vanish without even ruins remaining. In retribution, the ruling council of the Followers of the Flame (leaderless since the banishment of Alphas IV) conjured a rain of invisible fire that transformed the Eastern Plains into toxic dust.

Things only escalated from there. Bane after bane, woe after woe, was conjured. Stars were torn from the heavens to smash against the planet's fragile crust, the air was filled with toxic fumes, continents were covered in ice or flooded by hurricanes that filled entire oceans. Finally the Followers of the Air conjured a storm in the system-wide atmosphere they created, a whirlwind bigger than the planet itself, and tore the entire world to shreds.

By then, the Followers of the Air had assembled those they could and were well underway in an emergency evacuation. In practice, it was mostly the wealthy and well-connected families that were saved, but still hundreds of thousands of Followers of Air were gathered in space-arks the size of cities, to begin their long journey across the stars to a world where their divinations indicated their civilization could begin again. On the way, other colonies were occasionally started, but all ended in failure. Only Mystara, at the end of the journey, proved viable.

As for the Followers of the Flame, trapped unprepared as their ruined world broke apart, they rediscovered something they had thought gone forever: religious faith. Under the leadership of the doomsday prophet Flandros, they called to their forge-gods and star-gods to save them as the world cracked open and countless millions fell screaming into the whirling void. In the end, only a few thousand would survive, abandoned by gods and men, on the tiny asteroids remaining, but thousands more - the followers of Flandros, those who would become known as the Flaems - were whisked away by the Immortals at the last minute to join them on their home plane. The surviving myths of that time are contradictory, but tell of a flight of shining celestial beings, perhaps multi-headed feminine archons, who carried the repentent Followers of the Flame bodily into the heavens just before the planet fell apart. Because of their faith, they were told, they had been spared the doom that claimed most of their people, but because this faith had been rediscovered so late and only under fear for their lives, they were not entirely forgiven. The present generation, said the celestials, would never find a permanent home - they were doomed as a people to wander until all the Alphatians alive at the time had either died or acheived Immortality.

So it was that the first plane occupied by the Flaems after their homeworld was Draesten, the primary plane of the Sphere of Energy. Beneath the flickering, bejeweled rainbow of a sky, Draesten is a landscape of unending change: seas of water becoming seas of flame, mountains of ice rising from flat plains before transfiguring themselves into shimmering clouds of colored gas, everything a riot of untamed foliage and life. Transversing it is difficult for mortals, requiring an effort of will to bind the wild energy of the plane into something that can be even understood. Thanking their gods for their salvation by sacrificing several of their own on an altar of flame, the new nation of the Flaems began to make its way across the surreal environment to find a place they could find their own, despite the warning of their saviors that such a thing was not meant for them.

Many, many died on this journey, devoured by the native predators of Draesten or torn apart by environmental hazards in their sleep. At last, guided by the oracles of their distant patrons, they came across a shining, angular city built through the force of pure will from the raw substance of the plane: Shr'akt'lor, the home of a gaunt, monastic race who called themselves the githzerai. The Alphatian refugees were allowed to take shelter there reluctantly; the githzerai permitted them only as far as the city's outer ring, where travelers and traders built temporary shelters to exchange necessary goods and services with the isolationistic githzerai people. Crowded in makeshift tents, suffering from hunger and outbreaks of disease, closely observed by stern githzerai sentinels, the Followers of the Flame used their time there to learn more about the strange environment they had found themselves in, and plan their next move. When they departed several months later, no love was lost between the refugees and their begrudging hosts, but much of value had been learned from planar traders during their stay, and they had used their arcane and primitive clerical skills to trade for enough supplies to last them on the next leg of their quest. Accompanying a caravan of mixed races, the refugees set off toward one of the mysterious monoliths known as guidons, said to be the only way to navigate the shifting dimensions of Draesten.

For generations (but how would they have marked the time on a plane as unpredictable as Draesten?), if the chronicles handed down over the generations can be believed, the Followers of the Flame wandered between the guidons between islands of solidity, through forests of light and oceans of sound, trading with people who were sentient colors or musical tones or pure magic, battling with bizarre conglomerations of chaotic forms and with fierce humanoid toads, with beings of vapor and beings with a hundred mouths who fed on spells in the untamed jungles and fetid swamps of the plane. In a particularly ignominious episode, they were driven away by tribes of zealous hinfolk defending the source of their mysterious blackflame, which the Alphatians had attempted to steal. The Followers of the Flame even discovered settlements of people they believed had originally been Alphatian colonists, founded during their world's age of planar empire but no longer looking to the philosophies of Air and Fire but to radically new philosophies, celebrating ideas of transcendence, universal harmony, mentalism, entropy, strife, madness, redemption, pragmatism, sensory deprivation, and a hundred other creeds. Despite their distantly Alphatian appearance and language, they did not recognize the Followers of the Flame as kin, and each settlement turned them away whenever they requested refuge.

Yet over the decades, the Followers of the Flame grew stronger, better adapted to their new environment, more knowledgable and canny, slowly rebuilding their arcane knowledge and improving their relationship with their Immortal patrons to develop clerical powers as well. And so there came a day when under the leadership of the warmage Malnasu, the Followers of the Flame conquered a crystal city whose reclusive inhabitants had been utterly dedicated to precepts of nonviolence and pacifism, sacrificing the natives on their fiery altars and claiming the settlement for their own. After generations of wandering, the Followers of the Flame finally had a home.

The Flaems, as they had begun to call themselves even then, made the most of their new residence, reconcecrating the temples in the name of their own Immortal patrons and turning the city's old libraries of peace into academies of military magic. Growing their strength and numbers rapidly, they looked toward neighboring city-states with an eye for conquest. To the east, the golden-skinned, stony-faced men of the Kelmain prepared for a possible Flaemish attack. To the west, the tall Eldren with their strangely tapered limbs prepared their vulture-faced lions for battle.

After their first year in the crystal city, two travelers emerged from the ever-changing wilderness to knock on the gates. They claimed not to be ordinary men, though they were human enough in appearance, but messengers from the Immortals themselves, warning the Flaems that they had remained in one place long enough and that it was time for them to continue their journey. The Flaems laughed at the hubris of the strangers and ordered them to leave or be forced to join the Immortals they claimed to serve, if only in spirit after their bodies were incinerated in the city temples. The strangers left, looking concerned.

Exactly one year later, they returned, this time accompanied by single-headed archons carrying trumpets and gongs. With cacophanous music playing in the background, the strangers demanded that the Flaems abandon the crystal city and return to their wanderings. While many in the city were now convinced that the strangers were telling the truth, they had already grown to love settled life and refused to go. "For generations we wandered," said Malnasu, speaking the concensus of the elder mages and priests. "We fought for this city, sacrificing much of our blood and lives and hard-won magic to claim it. We have more than earned a respite. We say enough; there will be no more wandering. This is our home, and we will not leave it."

"So be it," said the strangers. "But we will not tell you a third time." And the strangers left with their archons.

On the third year, the strangers returned, at the head of an archon army. This time, true to their promise, they spoke no words to the Flaems, but simply signaled as the archons rained destruction upon the crystal city, reducing it to shards and fragments. Those Flaems who survived were forced to flee with nothing but what they could carry. They no longer doubted the authority of the Immortals who had saved them, but the gratitude they had felt for their salvation in earlier years was now replaced by resentment and fear.

Seeing their weakness and rejection by their own Immortal patrons, the Eldren and the Kelmain, fearing the Flaems might still regroup and attempt to conquer them as they had the people of the crystal city, sent troops to harry and exterminate the threat they presented once and for all. Surrounded by enemies bent on their annihilation, the Flaems decided to flee the plane of Draesten entirely. For generations it had been their home, the sacred land given them by the Immortals themselves, a natural fount of magic and unending cruel wonders, but it no longer felt like home anymore. Entering a region of wildness so absolute that even the strongest of wills could not tame it, they made their way to a gate leading to a new plane of existence: the stable plane of Brynn, less magical but also said to be less dangerous. There, they hoped, they could recover and begin their lives again.

A settlement had built up on Brynn's side of the gate, specializing in trade with that other plane. The town was random and lawless, quite unlike the ordered grids common on most of Brynn. Both the town's ruler and the location of the gate seemed to change from day to day. Not willing yet to venture far from the gate, the Flaems made themselves the leaders of the town for a time. They left, however, after less than a year, still chastened by their experience in the city of crystal and continually thwarted by the nature of the town itself, which actively resisted rulership and stability. When they wrote down edicts and commands, the words changed on the scrolls and plaques. When they built halls and palaces to rule from, they quickly decayed and crumbled, or they burnt down, or became so mysteriously hard to find that no one could locate them for days at a time. When they mustered troops to defend them, the soldiers soon fell into brawling among themselves, or fell asleep on duty, or deserted. Whether it was more from fear of Immortal wrath or frustration with the unrulable city, the Flaems soon set off into Brynn proper, hoping to find another place where they could pause for a time and begin to recover from their still-aching losses.

Brynn was heavy, ponderous, and lush with life. Trees tended to naturally grow in grids. Mountains were often conical and smooth. The Flaems, accustomed to chaos, found it profoundly irritating. It was, at least, less dangerous. Towns were bucolic and friendly, even if the natives were often giants by their standards. The Flaems traded with them humbly and moved on, staying on the outskirts of towns inhabited by humanoid ants or beings whose bodies were quicksilver or stone. They helped repair the inhabitants of a city where everyone was powered by clockwork, but whose maker had died long ago, leaving with many treasures and magical knowledge given freely in payment. They occupied a town populated by porcelain dolls, selling its inhabitants into slavery at a market run by lizardlike creatures when the dolls would not reveal the secrets of their creation.

For years they crossed the seemingly infinite flatness of Brynn, battling with goat-bodied centauroids or stupid, hairy giants or creatures like metallic statues with glowing eyes who seemed to exist to enforce their interpretation of cosmic law. On some stops their power and knowledge grew, and on some stops they came to blows with the natives and some of them died, their bodies transforming after death to become one with Brynn's landscape. Still the Flaems continued on, not knowing what else to do, having nothing but the hope that one day the Immortals would consider them to have served their penance and grant them a home.

Eventually they noticed something odd: none of them were aging. Every one of them, even the infants, looked exactly as they did when they entered the plane. This might have seemed wondrous, except they remembered that they were doomed to wander until those who had been alive on Alphatia had completely died out. The younger generations grew rebellious and resentful. The elders, those who had managed to remain alive through magical arts during all the decades in Draesten, began to fear for their unnaturally extended lives. Some fled in the middle of the night, taking what they could. Some were pursued, hunted down and killed in fierce magical duels. The knowledge, wisdom, and lore accumulated by these elders was lost with them. The Flaems grew more ignorant and barbaric.

Then they discovered something even worse: they could no longer produce children. The same quality of Brynn that prevented aging also prevented the development of fetuses in the womb. Their numbers were growing smaller with no way to reproduce them. It dawned at them that they had never seen children in any of the other settlements they had visited either, or if they had, the children seemed unnaturally wise and experienced, as if they had been children for an unthinkably long time.

The surviving elders took the opportunity to convince their people that the plane had to be abandoned. The dreams some of the younger Flaems had of immortality in a glorious new Brynnish home once the elders were gone were just that: dreams. Eventually they all would die, of accident or violence, and no Flaems would be born to replace them. Brynn could never be their people's true home.

Casting mighty divinations, the Flaems demanded to know where their final home might be. The heavens split open. Archons appeared, sent by Pharamond and Razud. "Your remaining journey is long," intoned the archon who had been sent by Razud. "I can show you your goal, but it might be crueler to show you your promised land only to take it away."

"You do not have to choose this destiny," advised the archon who had been sent by Pharamond. "You can remain in the outer planes forever, and prove the Immortals wrong when they say only the Prime Plane matters."

But the Flaems demanded to see the land that Razud had prepared. A portal was opened, and some of the leaders were allowed to enter, seeing a barren valley from which the glaciers had only recently retreated. They couldn't know, but this was the land that would one day be known as Glantri. It was the year 800 before the crowning of the first Thyatian emperor.

"This is it?" cried the Flaems. "This barren country, scoured by ice! This is the promised land you would have us wander for centuries more to earn?" They returned through the portal to Brynn. "We reject your destiny, Razud! We reject your help, Pharamond! We will find a home of our own, owing nothing to either of you!"

A portal to a new plane was located: resembling a gigantic root, it was said to lead to a tree bigger than a world, whose roots and branches extended to nine other worlds. With the elders no longer fleeing for their lives (and some rejoining the group after their divinations indicated that everyone had calmed down), now was the time that some of the younger Flaems abandoned the tribe, more concerned with their personal immortality than working to help continue their people. Some, too, remained behind to hunt down the remaining elders who had not yet rejoined them: if they would not willingly re-enter the flow of Time, then they would be forced to. They could not be allowed to delay the ending of the Alphatian curse indefinitely. The Flaems restocked their supplies with fish, mead, and bread purchased from those who lived near the root, and crossed the gate to the new plane.

The crossing was treacherous, with prankish giant squirrels and fierce giant spiders waylaying them along the journey, the roots and branches often slippery and steep. Not all of them made it, but the reward, the elders assured them, would be worth it: a new world where their own patrons had no power over them, for an alien pantheon held sway. There, they hoped, their wandering would cease. They finally descended at a point where a root buried itself near an ancient well. "Midgard," they breathed, eying the soaring mountains (the bones of a giant, they were told) and tall pine forests. Home at last.

So it was for over a century. In the steep valleys between the mountains that wind and weather had carved from a giant's bones, the Flaems built sturdy towers of stone in which to preserve and study their hard-won lore, well-protected from the primitive peoples who surrounded them. Their elders grew shrunken and wizened, their coppery skins dark with age and tattooed with runes meant to stave off death. Now that they had their homeland, the younger generations were happy to allow their elders to live as long as they liked, hoping they could acheive the same in their own golden years. Children were born and grew to adulthood, expanding the tribe. For a time the Flaems were at peace.

Beyond the heavens, in the outer planes, the fiery Immortals of Old Alphatia argued with the cold sons of Odin, asking permission to act against their disobediant servants. The request was denied: Midgard was sacrosanct, the personal dominion of the Aesir and the Vanir. No other Immortals could interfere. So the Flaems cheated their former patrons, for a time. In their sole remaining temple, a single flame burned, honoring no one and nothing but the concept of fire itself. They turned their backs on the beings who had saved their people from annihilation, no longer needing them and feeling no gratitude toward those who would have kept them wandering without rest.

But beyond the world, on other branches of the World-Tree, another tribe of Immortals stirred. Giants of fire and frost, they viewed Midgard as a world that Odin and his brothers had stolen from them unlawfully after they slew the father of giants and countless of his descendants. They hungered to win it back and give their ancestor's corpse the rites it deserved. They sensed the Flaems and their alien power, and they wondered if they could be made to serve the giants' ends.

An old, bent woman came to the castle of the Flaems. Distrustful and even hateful of outsiders, the Flaems did not let her in. "I am Elli," said the woman. "You will allow me in." She stepped forward, and one by one she broke the wards and spells that barred her entry. She touched the castle gates, and they crumbled to rubble. Every guard that blocked her way aged and died. She confronted Hammurandes, the Smoke Mage, the eldest of the Flaemish elders, and his protective runes faded from his skin. He shriveled and crumpled and, with a small sigh, became dust. "I am Elli," she said to the remaining elders. "All fall before me. I was sent by Śtgarša-Loki, who desires an alliance. Should you agree to hear him out, however, I will stay my hand for now." The elders of the Flaems eyed the dust that was mighty Hammurandes and agreed to her proposition with noticable haste.

The meeting, it was decided, would take place in Jotunheim, and so the six most powerful of the remaining Flaemish elders followed Elli back to the roots of Yggdrasil. Memandius, the Phoenix Mage, had been a merchant before the destruction of Alphatia, and the closest friend to Hammurandes. Elandris, the Ember Mage, had been a young beggar adopted by Memandius in the latter years of the war. Oroch, the Magma Mage, had been a warrior in the army of Alphas IV. Anerdres and Meradron, the Lightning Mage and the Ash Mage, were the two brothers of Memandius. Finally there was Neru, a pacifistic scholar known derisively as the Spell Leech for his ability to drain magic from any source to fuel his unnaturally extended life.

The archmagi came to Jotunheim, and from Jotunheim they walked the roots to Muspelheim. Muspelheim was the most primal and fiery of the Planes of Energy, but its flames parted for the Alphatians. On his throne of iron, the giant Surtr glowered down on them, his skin as black as coal as his hair and beard living flames. By his side was his consort, the so-called Mistress of God.

"Centuries ago," boomed Surtr, "A spell was cast. A Rain of Colorless Fire swept across the world of Alphatia, reducing much of it to dust and ash. I want that spell. You will teach me its secret, that I may use it to overthrow the Aesir."

The Flaemish archmagi protested. The ones who had developed and cast that spell were long dead, they said. Surtr seemed unconvinced.

"It was your people who created it. You are the greatest magi remaining among your people. You can create it again. Or you can die."

The Flaems, not surprisingly, agreed. For years they labored in Muspelheim, taking advantage of the rare tomes and strange runes the fire giants had to offer. Eventually, feeling the constant pressure of Surtr looming over them, they said they were done. Surtr, delighted, had his minions examine the spell for flaws, and found none. Soon the invasion of Asgard was to commence. Surtr and his cousins Śtgarša-Loki and Thrym would supply legions of giants, and the six Flaem archmagi would accompany them to cast the spell.

Unbenownst to the giants, one of the archmagi, Neru the Spell Leech, snuck off, replacing himself with a simulacrum and making his way to the Aesir, determined to stop the slaughter. Bowing before the throne of Odin he revealed the giants' plan. Furious that the Flaems had taken advantage of his hospitality only to betray him, he sent valkyries and einheriar to abduct the remaining archmagi before they could cast the spell, and to drive the remaining Flaems from their growing colony in Midgard (though one family, it is said, fled to the south, naming itself after the amber jewelry that had been their specialty). Once more the Flaems were homeless wanderers, and Neru was an outcast. While the Flaems had not wanted to be slaves of the fire giants, neither did they wish to be wanderers again, hated by the giants, the Aesir, and their own gods alike. Neru could not be forgiven, so he could never return to his people.

Fleeing the realms of the World Ash and once more reunited with their remaining archmagi, the Flaems took refuge in the City of Brass on the Elemental Plane of Fire, where they traded the spell of Colorless Fire for temporary shelter. The spell would be rediscovered in the city centuries later by the Baklunish mage Han-Gra-Dan, but that is another story. The Flaems remained in the City of Brass for generations, guests of the efreet, until an excess of half-efreeti children and pressure from the Great Sultan's fire giant allies forced them to be cast out once again, back into the Outer Planes to wander, scorned by all. It is said that Nemu dwelled in the City of Brass at the same time, serving another efreeti faction, and it was the civil war the Flaems started that was the final straw. They spent time sailing the sky-rivers and temporal currents of Entrem, and built thought-palaces in the plane of Mirage. They sailed across the Astral Plane in the saucer-ships of the planar spiders and the galleons of the githyanki. They harvested centuries from Rocta and wandered the deserts of Simoom, passing through Orcus's Gate to the frigid plane of Uligor. And now they moved faster than ever before, hiding from vengeful servants of the giants and the gods. They cursed the name of Neru and sometimes sought to find and kill him, and Neru the Leech, Neru the pacifist, responded by sending minions of his own that he gathered in his own travels to harry and torment them, to warn them away from his lairs. Many more generations had passed, generations of hardship and fear. Harrowed by fear and depression, the Flaems passed deeper and deeper into the entropic planes, moving from Thorne to Chasm, to the Isle of Night to the corpse-worlds of Pyts.

It was in Pyts that they received a message in the form of assassin-warriors wearing the colors of Neru. When Memandius moved to kill them they exploded, detonating some spell that wrote words in their blood, and Memandius's blood. "This dance has gone on long enough," read the words. "Meet me in the Red Prison."

Passing through a portal made from the bones of Temrin, an Immortal slain by Thanatos long ago, the Flaems entered a plane made up of red glowing planets strung together like pearls, and there, spread before them, was an army vaster than any they had ever seen. The warriors wore antique armor from all periods in Alphatia's long history, and their faces were corpses.

"Nemu!" called Anerdres. "Show yourself!"

And Nemu did, but by his side was a taller figure, dressed in the imperial robes of an Alphatian empire. "It is not Nemu who has called you," said the tall man. "But your emperor, Alphas IV, long exiled to this plane. Grown in power but half-finished, I have waited for my people to return to me."

The Flaems, most of whom had never known the world that Alphas had ruled, looked upon the majesty of their long-gone king, the man who had begun a war that destroyed their home. "What do you want of us?" asked Anerdres.

And Alphas smiled. "Only your obeisance. Bow to me, reaffirm your fealty, pray to your god-king for salvation, and I will let you live."

And the Flaems, lost for centuries and now with no allies, felt they had at last, in a twisted way, returned home. Yes, Alphas had been a tyrant, but he had been their tyrant, not one of the hated Followers of the Air. Yes, he had begun a war, but he hadn't finished it. It had not been him who had shattered the world. As one, the Flaem people knelt before Alphas, praying that he, at least, would save them.

Alphas IV grinned triumphantly as the power of the prayers filled him up. He grew taller, horns sprouted from his head, wings spread from his back, and his body burst into flames. "At last," he murmured. "Those who banished me have acknowledged me their superior. My banishment is over." The ground began to shake and the red planet began to split, and Alphas looked toward the heavens. "Great Thanatos, have I completed the final path?" His grin spread wider, becoming elation. "And now," screamed the emperor. "I banish you! I need you no longer, for I shed my mortal coil and become Alphas IV no longer. From now on I am Alphaks, an Immortal!"

The Flaems fled the destruction of the plane, back through the gods-bone portal as Alphaks rose to glory. And as the plane shattered, another long-imprisoned entity emerged from the broken shells, a crystalline mass that called itself the Overlord. For now it noted the fleeing Flaems, but did nothing, climbing through the scales of reality to cooler climes.

The Flaems, for their part, found themselves back on the gloomy plane of Pyts, more broken than ever. The greatest among them, even Nemu, had died during Alphaks's apotheosis or shortly thereafter. But in the ensuing years of desolation and sorrow, a child was born whose mother named him Anathanis. As he grew, all the signs showed he was a youth of great portent: his prismatic eyes, his virgin birth, his mysterious ability to foretell events before they came to pass. Those ancient Flaems who had been priests decreed that he was a prophet sent by Razud, a sign they had suffered enough and that they were forgiven, that their time of wandering was over. Anathanis knew where they should go, and the desperate Flaems followed.

In Pyts, Anathanis found a monolithic construct, a thing of vast stone gears and obscure mechanisms that, when activated by a string of alien words, opened up to reveal a portal back to Brynn.

In Brynn, beyond a golden gateway to the east, lay a desolate waste where criminals and noncomformists were exiled. Once the gate is exited, it could not be reentered, for it was guarded by terrible sphinxes and a sword of fire. Exiles in the waste remained immortal, but wandered forever. There, said Anathanis, was where the Flaems must go. In the middle of the waste, it was said, was the ruined ghost of a city, populated only by flickering dreams of what once was. Within the city was a gate of ivory and a gate of horn. Through the gate of ivory is the plane of Dal Quor, where false dreams scheme domination over reality. Through the gate of polished horn is the plane of Mirage, where true dreams sent by the Immortals begin.

And so they returned to Mirage, crossing the foggy dreamlands from Mirage to Entrem, from Entrem to Draesten, their journey taking years, sometimes stopping for decades while Anathanis waited for a particular portal to open. From Draesten they traveled to Rylum, back to Rylum's hot desert world of Simoom, beneath its red sun, begging the native Isiidi for enough supplies to make the desert crossing to the baak, a living monolith that Anathanis said guarded the next gate they sought. For months they suffered in the desert, but with new determination, new hope, for they knew Anathanis led them, and Anathanis knew the way.

The monolith soared in the sky, ebon stone laced with diamond veins, and behind it an arch made of similar material cast its shadow on the stony ground. Anathanis's eyes flashed with fire, and he led his people through the living monolith. "The key is blood," he said solemnly, and cut his arm with rather more drama than was strictly necessary. The droplets of boiling liquid fire spilled onto the stone, which drank it greedily. Beyond the portal, the terrain seemed to shift and bend, and where the desert of Simoom had been was now the wavering image of a dense city. Anathanis walked through, and was gone. The others followed, making small cuts on themselves or, if need be, on children too young to wield knives themselves. As a great crowd, they moved into the alien metropolis.

Towers blocked out the sky; some were built of the same black, diamond-veined stone as the monolith, while others were made from brilliantly colored crystal, from polished steel, from chill, unmelting ice, from solid air, from volcanic rock, from fire and light, from thought and time, or from bizarre mixes of materials. Between the towers were lesser buildings: temples, houses, apartments, shops, nests, hives, burrows, all crowded together into an incomprehensible, mazelike whole, the shadowed streets between paved with cobbles made from a thousand kinds of rubble, worn smooth by the passage of millions of feet. They recognized architectural styles from throughout the planes they had traveled: the glowing crystal cities of Draesten, the stone cities of Brynn, the floating cities of Entrem, the gloomy bone-cities of Pyts, and the misty dream-cities of Mirage, the simple shacks of the Isiidi, the thorn-villages of the phanatons, the cliff-cities of Chasm, the spiked fortresses of the githyanki, the alien webs of the planar spiders, as well as structures that look like they could have been inspired by the lost cities of shattered Alphatia, and other places and styles the Flaems had no names for. The cityscape, chill and choked with smoke and haze, stretched on and on, curving upwards on all sides. The weary Flaemish refugees were overwhelmed by the sights and the sounds and smells of the busy crowds that packed them stiflingly together, people of a thousand races and species, people that trotted on hooves or floated on whispering cloaks, people whose complexions were dusky olive, bright blue or green, pale white or deep black, even people who look like they might have been descended from the plane-traveling Alphatians of old, chattering at one another in a thousand languages and accents. Only Anathanis seemed certain of his path, crossing a certain street or ascending a certain winding stair to a new level above the shops, then descending again to cross beneath the streets, or across a bridge connecting buildings, or through an alleyway or glowing portal connecting distant portions of the metropolis. The others hurried to keep up.

"This is the City of Doors," said Anathanis in his ringing voice. "There are said to be doors here to any world or plane that exists, if only we can find the key that unlocks it. Perhaps even a door to our destined home. But it is only permitted for us to use one door at this time." Standing on a roof of baked mud, several levels up, between shops and galleries of a variety of styles, he gestured at a cluster of crystal shards that only vaguely resembled a building; in the center was an opening. "There," said Anathanis. "The key is a word." He spoke the word - harsh, brittle, something from an alien tongue - and beyond the opening, the landscape shifted...

The Flaems found themselves in the Draconic Cluster. They crossed the endless waste of the Great One, were swiftly driven from the shining fields of the Star Dragon, crept through the winding caves of the Sun Dragon, and hiked through the twisted mountains of the Moon Dragon. And through it all, Anathanis led them.

And finally, at long last, the desolate, far-flung plane of Veydra, where the Overlord had conquered after being freed by the ascension of Alphaks. The Overlord revealed that it, not the scorned Alphatian Immortals, had been the source of Anathanis's prophetic visions. Dominating their shattered minds, the Overlord welcomed them into its bizarre legions, letting them take their place among the beholder-kin and chokers and giant beetles and gemstone dragons. The Flaems, who had been the first beings the Overlord had met when it first became free, had long been a special project of the Overlord's, and it had its own destiny for them independent of anything their Immortals may have desired. On a world called Mystara a strange radiance shone, a radiance that even now left something of its mark on those Flaems who had briefly visited it in BC 800. In due time the Overlord took some of the Flaems and erased their memories of imprisonment on Veydra, sending them to investigate this Radiance and its power.

And in his own distant halls, Razud smiled, for the last of those who had known Alphatia had died, and it was time for the Flaems to come home.

Some more thoughts on this.

They didn't always stay together
A number of times in Flaemish history, there are periods where there's no strong unifying force, and the Flaems split into subgroups and travel to a number of different places simultaneously. Some may never have rejoined the main group of Flaems, and may still be out there, perhaps under the guidance of Pharamond. Many of them may have rallied together due to some charismatic leader or external threat.

There's plenty of things to breed with
Besides the efreet, there are times when Flaems might have interbred with fiends, celestials, other human groups, and more. At various times in their history, some of these "half-breeds" might have been cast out for not being "true" Flaems. Again, some of these exiles might still be out there. Some of them might be plotting vengeance against their cousins in Glantri, while others might show up one day expecting to be welcomed into Glantrian society.

Weirdness in Entrem
I skimmed quickly through the Entrem parts because at that point in their travels they had plenty of motivation to keep moving and didn't need a separate story to justify it. There's lots of fun things that could have happened then, though: spending subjective centuries traveling on Entrem while only a few years passed on Mystara, spending a few subjective years traveling on Entrem while centuries passed on Mystara, meeting their own past/future selves and fighting/intermarrying with them, accidentally erasing a portion of their history there or elsewhere.

Certain Flaems became masters of a secret craft called Chronomancy, though the secrets of this particular art didn't make it to Glantri. Glantrians who seek knowledge of this craft are advised to go to Entrem and explore the abandoned time-citadels left by the ancient Flaems.

Weirdness in Mirage
The thing that comes immediately to mind is the Flaems becoming tormented by their own nightmares and lost in their own fantasies. Both may linger on in the plane to this day.

Certain Flaems developed the secret craft of illusions while on this plane, and they brought the secrets with them all the way to Glantri.

The infamies of Elandris
Youngest of the elders who had lived in Old Alphatia, and the only one to survive Alphaks's massacre was Elandris, the so-called Ember Mage. Elandris had been named by his mentor Memandius for his potential: "You are only an ember now," the old merchant had told the boy. "But one day, your power will be a blazing inferno." Overshadowed by older members of the elder caste, Elandris never outgrew his nickname. No matter how proficient he grew in spellcasting, the name stuck, until he was left unexpectedly as the leader of the shattered Flaemish people in the wake of their emperor's apotheosis.

With no other direction and the Flaems fragmenting, Elandris elected to repeat something that his predecessors had failed at: colonizing the mortal world. He led his followers to an unknown planet, where they quickly began to have conflict with the local druidic folk. Elandris allowed the conflict to escalate until soon the Flaems had wiped the nature-worshipers out completely, perpetrating the very first Flaemish genocide.

On the night of the slaughter, mysterious mists poured in from the nearby swamps, obscuring the Flaem settlement from the outside world. When they had cleared, the Flaems were gone, spirited away to a plane known as the Demiplane of Dread.

The Flaemish people remained trapped in that nightmarish realm for years, battling the reanimated corpses of the people they had annihilated every night after the sun set, until one day a youth with prismatic eyes, born in a tiny Flaemish settlement in the outer plane of Pyts, entered the demiplane and sat with Elandris in his castle. What transpired between them none knew, but when they emerged Elandris was weeping while the youth, Anathanis, simply stared at him with a compassionate look in his rainbow gaze. The following night, as the living dead rose to reenact their vengeance, Elandris took his own life, using his fire magic to make of himself a blazing inferno. The mists covered the land and when they cleared, the Flaems were free to follow their prophet to their destiny.

Fitting it all on to a timeline...

BC 1000 The old world of Alphatia is destroyed. The space-arks of the Followers of the Air soar toward Mystara, arriving (thanks to a portal) the same year in their new home. Meanwhile, a small number of Followers of the Flame, the followers of the prophet Flandros, are spirited away to the plane of Draesten just before their world's destruction. Flandros dies in the years or decades following the Flaems' displacement, and is replaced by the warlike mage Malnasu.

BC 850 The nomadic Flaem conquer a crystal city and declare it their permanent home.

BC 847 The crystal city of the Flaem is destroyed by wrathful Immortals. The Flaem flee to the plane of Brynn. By this time, 153 years after the destruction of Alphatia, the number of elders who remember the old world, their lives artificially extended by a variety exotic magics (and some of them may be undead), is relatively small, limited to those with exceptional skill in magic and lore, and they form a ruling class.

BC 810 The younger Flaemish rebel against their elders, terrified that as long as they remain, their wandering will never end. Many are killed; others escape into the Brynnian wilderness.

BC 800 Seven Flaemish elders - Hammurandes, Memandius, Elandris, Oroch, Anerdres, Meradon, and Neru - (the others are dead or missing) return to the now-barbarous Flaems and convince most of them to return to their guidance. Briefly, the Flaem visit the Glantrian Highlands just after the retreat of the glaciers, but reject that land and return to the Outer Planes. The Flaemish people leave Brynn and immigrate via Yggdrasil to the world of Midgard, where they are once again able to grow in population.

BC 700 Elli, a personification of old age allied with the rulers of Jotunheim (possibly an aspect of Hel), visits the Flaem in Midgard, slaying their leader, Hammurandes, as a demonstration of her power and demanding the others come with her to Jotunheim. From Jotunheim they go to Muspelheim, where Surtr (almost certainly an aspect of Zugzul) commands them to replicate a spell used to devastate part of Alphatia with invisible fire. The six elders, with the help of their apprentices, and their apprentices' apprentices, and so on, work diligently on the spell.

BC 690 The spell is complete, but before Surtr can lead an invasion of Asgard, Neru betrays him to Odin, who abducts the Flaemish elders, banishing their people from Midgard. Some few families remain, fleeing south beyond the influence of the Aesir to become the ancestors of the d'Amberville and McGregor families. The rest are led by the remaining elders back to Yggdrasil to the Astral Plane, and thence to Hestavar, Ixion's city, a planar port that can supply plane-crossing ships, and thence to the City of Brass in the Elemental Plane of Fire, where they buy influence with efreeti patrons with the spell intended for Surtr. Neru travels to the City of Brass as well, becoming the adviser to a different efreeti noble. Neru and his descendants become entrenched in the politics of the City of Brass.

BC 500 The cold war between Neru's house and the rest of the Flaem becomes intolerable to the efreeti sultan, who banishes all of them from his kingdom, except for those genasi with efreeti blood, who are permitted to stay. The others leave through portals to the City of Dis and Sigil, ending up on Entrem, while Neru and his clan - who become known as the Oudekirk family - make their base in the plane of prisoners, traitors, and exiles, Carceri, sending out assassins and mercenaries against their kin for centuries to come.

BC 470 A Flaemish family, the Maarstens, returns to Sigil.

BC 465 The Maarstens are driven out of Sigil by minions of Neru. They return to Entrem.

BC 460 Two Flaemish families, the Vyldeaars and Maarstens, abandon Entrem for the city of Hestavar, where they find work as merchants, shipping goods from that city to other upper planes.

BC 450 One of the tribes of Flaem, the Aalban led by Oroch, is caught in a civil war with their own future selves on the plane of Entrem.

BC 440 Another group of Flaem on Entrem, the Vlaardoen led by Meradon, vanishes from history and is stranded three thousand years in the past.

BC 430 A group of Flaem, the Veerbyn led by Anerdres, vanishes on Entrem, reappearing 500 years in the future.

BC 400 A Flaemish family, the Brecht, masters the art of chronomancy. They immigrate to the plane of Rocta and remain there, never rejoining their kin.

BC 350 Oroch's tribe vanishes from Entrem and appears 100 years in the past, where they go to war with their own past selves.

BC 300 The survivors of Oroch's war rediscover the distant descendants of Meradon's tribe. Meradon is long dead, but the Vlardoen family's memory is long, and they agree to reunite with Oroch's tribe and continue their journeys, buying passage on the saucer-ships of the planar spiders to Mirage.

BC 280 On the plane of Mirage, the Aalban family is trapped in a castle spun from nightmares for the next fifty years. The Vlardoen family is trapped by their own fantasies in a castle of bliss.

BC 240 The Vyldeaars and Maarstens are driven from Hestavar by servants of Ixion, who is angered by rumors of infamous acts spread by agents of Neru.

BC 230 The Aalban family finally frees itself, becoming the first masters of the secret craft of illusions. They free the Vlardoens as well, but they are not thanked for it. The Vlardoens immigrate to the plane of Thorne, where they are joined by the Vyldeaars and Maarstens.

BC 150 The Flaem are driven by angry planar spiders from Thorne to the plane of Chasm.

BC 140 The Flaem emigrate from Chasm to the Isle of Night.

BC 130 The Flaem emigrate from the Isle of Night to the world of Simoom on the plane of Rylum.

BC 120 The Flaem emigrate from Rylum to Uligor, the home plane of Orcus.

BC 100 The Flaem emigrate to Pyts. They travel from city to gloomy city, act as mercenaries in fiendish wars, interbreed with death demons, and in general have a bad time of it. Neru's minions continue to harass them.

AC 60 The Veerbyn family reappears, not a moment older from the time they vanished on Entrem. They hire githyanki vessels to join the Aalban family on the plane of Mirage.

AC 100 The Flaem are driven from Mirage by an army of phantasms created by Neru. They flee to Thorne, and then to Chasm, to the Isle of Night, to Rylum, to Uligor, and finally to the plane of Pyts, where they reunite with the Vlardoen, Vyldeaar, and Maarsten families. They have a bad time of it, but find Pyts very difficult to leave.

AC 200 Hoping for a final showdown with Neru, the Flaem enter the plane of Carceri, where their long-banished emperor Alphas IV surprises them. He demands they kneel and worship him, which they do, fueling his final ascension to Immortality as Alphaks. The cataclysm caused by Alphaks's apotheosis causes the deaths of the remaining elders, except for Elandris. As the Flaem flee back to Pyts, the Overlord escapes from Carceri as well.

AC 210 The Overlord conquers the plane of Veydra, which has been home to the gemstone dragons since the age of Blackmoor, and begins luring further minions to itself.

AC 211 Elandris, last of the elders, leads the six families - all but the Oudekirks, Nemu's house, who remain on Pyts - to the world of Aelos on the Prime Plane, where they colonize a fertile valley inhabited by peaceful nature-worshipers.

AC 220 The Flaem wipe out the last of the nature-worshipers. Mists spirit them away to the Demiplane of Dread, where they must battle the living corpses of their victims every night.

AC 230 The prophet Anathanis is born on the plane of Pyts to the Oudekirk family.

AC 250 The prophet Anathanis travels to the Demiplane of Dread and redeems Elandris, last of the elders, who immolates himself in penance for his role in the genocide of a race of nature-worshipers. Anathanis leads the Flaem out of the Demiplane of Dread and back to Pyts, where they reunite with the Oudekirks.

AC 251 The Flaem follow Anathanis to Brynn.

AC 252 The Flaem follow Anathanis to Mirage.

AC 300 The Flaem follow Anathanis to Entrem.

AC 350 The Flaem follow Anathanis to Draesten.

AC 380 The Flaem follow Anathanis to Rylum.

AC 381 The Flaem pass from Rylum to Sigil, the City of Doors, and thence to the plane of the Great One in the Draconic Cluster.

AC 382 The Flaem enter the plane of the Star Dragon.

AC 383 The Flaem enter the plane of the Sun Dragon.

AC 384 The Flaem enter the plane of the Moon Dragon.

AC 385 The prophet Anathanis leads his people to the plane of Veydra, where they are brainwashed by the Overlord.

AC 395 The Overlord sends the first of the brainwashed Flaem to the highlands of what will one day be Glantri. These seven families (the Oudekirk, Aalban, Vlaardoen, Veerbyn, Ardelan, Vyldeaar, and Maarsten) trace their ancestries back to the seven elders who first led the Flaem from the plane of Brynn.

AC 513 After the defeat of the Overlord, the remaining Flaem settle in the Highlands.