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Sundsvall - the Great Gameby Jeff Daly
"For in the latter days, the demon Ohnsambry'll will rise up from the depths and shatter the lands of Alphatia. In this day will much of the old give way, and Destruction will be the dance in Haven, and the people of Randel will sing the Song of Blood.
"And these signs wilt thou see: A fiery harp played by no man, a sword found, a dragon slain. Twelve little grey men will be recovered, and the hero will be crowned on the Cloud Throne. Of noble birth but hidden, will be that hero. And great will be his song, and powerful will be the rejoicing of his parents.
"But to he, that most magnificent he, the one who trains up the hero, great will be his triumph indeed. For his lot will be cast and survival of he and his hero will mean being set, not above all men, but above the gods!"
--from the Prophecy of Alatorill, circa 10AY
"The Great Game? The Great Game is a concept lad, a foreigner such as yourself is not likely to understand. No, I mean no offence, but realise there are thousands of years of history to know. I admit, there are some few foreigners who know, and even attempt in some crude way to PLAY the Great Game...but fellows like Étienne and that fellow who licks the boots of Thincol .. can't remember his name...hm? Oh no! I did not mean any offence at all!"
--Master Terari attempting to explain the Great Game
"There are some victories to fear more than defeat..."
--retired Emperor Tylion IV
The Great Game
It is rare to find someone who knows of "The great charge" of Alphatia. Rare in Alphatia itself, and rarer still outside. Taking those few who are aware, and dividing them among "those who know detail" and "those who know only vague generalities" will yield a significantly smaller number of those in the first group.
It has been said, that it is the demon, who is responsible for the lack of psionic ability in Mystara...
Somewhere below the palace in Sundsvall is a vault with no door, nor lock. Just a window serves the Empress (for only she is allowed down there) to look upon a vast chamber in which sits a resting form. He sits upon a throne fully 40' high, his eyes staring back at the Empress. Hatred is there, hatred mixed with contempt and the ultimate knowledge that he will some day be free. But his mouth...that is the most hideous aspect of all. For his mouth is fixed in a constant grin, despite the message of the eyes. The mouth has never been seen to not be smiling, though the expression relaxes somewhat from time to time. It has been said that the smile began with his imprisonment, 2000 years ago.
It was shortly after Landfall, that the Alphatian refugees found a native people on a huge continent, worshipping a demon named "Ohnsambry'll". Those who know the difference, have sometimes argued that the demon is better known as "an Outer Being", but such philosophical vaugities are best left to the philosophers.
Now, historical wars can be waged in the schools of Alphatia, Thyatis, and Glantri, as to whether the refugees did what they did out of moral duty, or out of justification...but suffice to say, their decision was the right one. For this demon was ready to set himself as a ruler on earth, and great would be suffering of all Mystarans, had Alphatia allowed this to come to pass. Defeating the savages, and imprisoning this demon (which cost the lives of many on the early Great Council), the Alphatians set their capital in Sundsvall, on the site of their victory.
Now, know that at this time, there were diviners among the Alphatians. One such, a member of the now much reduced Great Council, was named "Alatorill". At the time of the demon's imprisonment, he was struck with the vision, written above. So angry was the imprisoned demon, that even in his bonds, he was able to lash out at this and all Alphatian diviners. Nevermore would the power of prophecy come so easily to Alphatia.
It is easy to see why, given the power and need expressed in the prophecy, so many Grand Council members strive toward its completion.
"Rules" of the Great Game
1. A given player in the Great Game, must be a mentor to a hero. Gender (though expressed in the prophecy) is not specified of either the mentor or the hero. Age is not a requirement either (though truth to tell, most mentors do tend to be old, bearded men).
2. The hero must be born of noble blood, and hidden away from his parents while young. This has given rise to many kidnappings over the centuries. Understand, most kings and queens are aware of the prophecy, and often do not mind the thought of their child possibly growing up to be the great hero...who will be crowned emperor. This doesn't mean they will ignore a kidnapping, and most often will willingly go along with a trade (much like a dowry arrangement) for a non-spellcasting child. Of course, the spellcasters are more highly prized by both sides, and would require higher dowries...or a kidnapping. One might wonder why a mentor would bother with a non-spellcaster at all. This is because of the long shot possibility of the empire being so desperate (as those REALLY in the know anticipate great cataclysmic changes when the demon finally breaks out) as to accept a non-spellcaster on the throne long enough to defeat the demon.
3. The hero must find a weapon. Most often this weapon is a sword, but not any particular sword...usually the mentor has one in mind though.
4. The hero must defeat a dragon. This does not mean the hero must do it alone. In fact, at all stages the hero may have companions, and most likely will.