The year is SC10 and the Forsaken find themselves blessed with a level of technology and civilization unimaginable to their grandparents. For a decade the Prevailers have ruled from New Ashkelon and a network of spies and confessors has cemented the authority they have built from faith. Their power seems unassailable but all around the unruly Saints watch for any weakness. In the west Saint Mark broods, his body and ego bruised more than any other by his masters in the capital, yet still unwilling to accept servitude. In the south Saint John leads his vast army into the swamps, though no one can say if he marches to glory or death. In the north Saint Mary fights a desperate war among the wind-sculpted dunes. Few are aware how much she sacrifices every day to protect the Forsaken, yet she is more than just a shield – she is a human being whose need for revenge flows like blood in her veins. Who knows how far it will drive her, or what will become of her if her plans are frustrated? It is from the east however that the greatest danger to Prevailer rule is rising. Saint Luke, long believed dead, marches back from his crusade into the volcanic mountains. Earthquakes and other omens herald his approach and, in spite of his associations with Heresy, many Forsaken fanatics prepare to welcome his return. Many among New Ashkelon’s elite would also secretly be glad to see an end to Prevailer rule and the next few months will be crucial if civil war is to be avoided.
Then there is Johann, the Heretic, the Great Enemy who fled into the northern wastes. The Forsaken clergy has long spoken of “devils wearing the skin of men” and nowhere is this more true than in the ruined laboratories and outposts of the Great Expanse. From the savage cannibals of the Skarrd Johann is building an army. The sinister adherents of the Toxic Cult have allied themselves to him in order to sustain the life of their foul and terrible warlord, Father Curwen. Meanwhile the merciless Blood Cult prepare for the greatest hunt of all time and the kill that their leader, the demented Father Mayhem, believes will make him immortal. He sees the mountainous region of Talen as a huge trap, baited with rich resources, into which all the peoples of the north will be drawn into an orgy of killing. Time, however, is running out, every year the Rotten Cult grows stronger and the Skarrd leaders know these are more than just diseased madmen haunting the dunes but spell the doom for all Samaria’s humans.
Among the Dragyri a shadow is growing, an evil that lurks in the deepest caves where the darkness is so thick it begins to take form. There they have waited for long centuries, gradually increasing their power, hungry to corrupt and destroy their brethren. Now, more than ever before, the Dragyri need to stand together if they are to endure the coming darkness. Instead they are scattered, the wounds of a war long over still fresh, their grand cities and crystal gardens crumbling. The Fire Caste have been exiled into the distant east, Water has retreated to lonely dams and echoing caverns, waiting for the tide to turn, Earth is besieged by the Elementals of the Apocalypse, as yet unable to fight their way to liberty. Only Ice and Air remain free and whilst the former struggle against their new enemy “Those-Without-Honor” the latter teeter on the brink of dishonor, only the careful, balanced step of their Arbiter saving them from disaster. All the while the Shadows walk unopposed.
In the murky swamps of the south the Brood Mere has spent centuries watching the development of her children. Now they find themselves at war, drawn into a conflict she has long planned but could never prepare for. The Creator Gods have entered her world and the nightmare has come alive. Already the Forked-Tongue River is choked with corpses and the Brood ready themselves to cross into the Greenbelt in force. They stand just a few miles from John’s southernmost outposts but the crossing will be more challenging than anything they have yet faced. They have seen the face of their Gods and witnessed their terror and weakness but they have also felt, through their nebulous hive consciousness, the dread in the mind of their mother. Like the human soldiers from which they have inherited their culture the Brood respect authority and fear the breakdown of the chain of command. Yet the further they go from the swamp the less they can feel their mother’s presence and the more their minds turn to madness and disarray.
For centuries the humans of Samaria have been little more than tribal scavengers, living by raiding one another among the crumbling ruins. That age is passing as the Forsaken co-ordinate their efforts, driving out bandits and bringing civilization to the wastelands. Many resist the change however, unwilling to trade their independence for the oppression offered by the Prevailers. Religious dogma drives the Forsaken to vehement loathing of these godless Outcasts and whole villages have been slaughtered in retaliation against bandits or to seize valuable resources. The very name “Outcast” has come to be synonymous with heresy, crime and a hatred of progress among the people of New Ashkelon. For those living in the wastes however it means freedom, as precious as clean water – and like so many things on Samaria – worth dying for.