The kingdom of Mertha is the sole desert of El-Rah, a bleak, desolate expanse of shifting sands and unyielding heat. However, it was not always so.
Mertha was once a vast expanse of tropical jungles, abundant in natural beauty and resources. The people of this land were entirely self-sufficient, needing nothing from the other kingdoms, and eventually being able to sell their own goods, which were in high demand. Exotic fruits, spices and meats were exported from Mertha, as well as rich deposits of precious metals and minerals, mainly gold.
As they grew more rich and powerful, the people of Mertha became arrogant and spoiled. They cleared large swathes of land to build opulent and extravagant cities, towering monuments to their prosperity. They stopped worshipping and respecting the gods, as they believed they had risen to power not by the grace of any god, but by their own intellect and ambition. The gods were indifferent at first. The people of Mertha had stopped worshipping them, but they were not actively seeking to disrespect them, so it was of little consequence.
The final straw came when the Merthian king at the time, Kyllion Makusha decided that they were superior to the gods, and demanded that the other kingdoms, as well as all the gods, pay homage to them, as well as deliver regular tributes and tithes to their superior nation. Upon hearing this, the gods were outraged. They descended upon Mertha with a vengeance.
They stripped the land of everything that had once made it a paradise. Macchia took all the fertility and nutrients from the earth, ensuring nothing would ever grow there again. Bajeed caused the sun to shine down with a merciless heat, drying up all the water that had once flowed freely. Athoms sent a wave of null energy sweeping across the land, wiping out the essence of all living things aside from the Merthians themselves. In an instant, every plant and animal in Mertha lay lifeless. Mosath then brought about a great decay, as everything slowly rotted away until there was naught but ash and dust left. Fathkah aged all of their buildings to crumbling ruin, destroying years of architecture in an instant. The lush, vibrant rainforest was no more. In its place there now lay an endless landscape of scoured sand. Finally, the gods lay a curse on the entire people. They were doomed to never leave the desert, to stay forever in the wasteland that was once their home. The wrath of the gods was complete.
The Merthians struggled for the first time in their history. In the next few months, they died in thousands, unable to cope after living in opulence for so long. Yet eventually, some found ways to live off the desert. With their remaining jewels and trinkets, they were able to purchase plants and livestock from the other nations which would survive the desert climate, as well as what little they were able to claim from the desert outskirts. However, even after they had managed to stabilise, there was a divide amongst the Merthians.
Many of them had been humbled by their harrowing experience, believing that what they were experiencing now was a just punishment for their arrogance and hubris. However, some Merthians, mainly of noble descent, were angered by the gods’ actions, and sought to find a way to have their revenge. After much arguing and the threat of a civil war, it was decided that the two groups would live separately.
The first group came to be known as the “Muak’Lau” (Moo-ack-lau), “The Silent”. They knew they had done wrong, and that they deserved their fate. They dedicated themselves to humble, peaceful living, in hopes of one day earning their freedom from the curse they had been burdened with. Over many years, the gods eventually came to see that these people were genuine in their sorrow and repentance, and carried no ill will towards the gods. The gods offered them a reprieve: If they agreed to worship the gods and provide priests and other individuals to carry out their will when required, their people would be allowed to leave the desert. They agreed, dedicating a significant portion of their lives to the service and worship of the gods.
The Muak’Lau eventually flourished, establishing several cities outside of the desert, while some remained in the desert, as it had become as much a home to them as the jungle they had once known. Many of the Muak’Lau now serve the gods, either in worship or deed. However, there are some, chosen at birth by a ritual, who are destined to become nomads, people who roam El-Rah, looking for a place to call home. In this way, the main kingdoms of the Muak’Lau remain connected to the rest of the world, as these nomads send information home about the state of the rest of the world.
Those who hated the gods came to be known as the “Kryul Akash”, (Cry-ool-ah-cash) “The Profane”. They wandered off into the desert, intent on finding any way possible to escape the gods’ curse. They studied for years, learning every spell, enchantment and invocation known. A cruel fate was theirs, knowing how to accomplish nigh on anything, except for the one thing they wanted most. They turned to alchemy, herbalism, even spiritualism, but in spite of their formidable grasp of the arcane, they simply couldn’t come up with a way past the desert barrier.
One day, a figure arrived at their town. It was cloaked in robes that seemed to be made from the very stuff of twilight, hiding its form and almost recoiling from the touch of the sun. He offered the Kryul Akash a deal. He would give them magic that was forbidden in the world at large, possibly allowing them to get through the Gods’ barrier. In return, they would agree to travel across El-Rah, undermining the gods and working towards the eventual return of the demons. The Kryul Akash agreed in a heartbeat, setting their fates in stone.
With forbidden magic at their fingertips, they were some of the most powerful spellcasters the world had ever seen. Working together, they could conjure Great Plains of hellish fire, rain down acid and even summon shades from the afterworld at a whim. However, their real breakthrough was discovering how to manipulate life, death, and the soul.
They learned to take the soul out of a willing participant and move it into another vessel. They all agreed to do this, convinced it was the only way to escape the gods’ curse. So each fashioned or found a body for themselves to be transferred to. Some took on the form of regular people. Others carved themselves golems of stone and metal. Others still assumed the form of horrible monstrosities, creatures from their wildest dreams that did not exist, and never should have. With their souls thus encased, they were finally able to escape the desert.
However, their triumph was short lived. In their new forms, that found their magic was much decreased, and they no longer had the strength to transfer their souls to other bodies. They were still beings of great power, and still had all the knowledge of that magic they once had, but their diminished souls no longer had the power to sustain such magic. Furthermore, their transference has left them all infertile, with no way to propagate. They were immortal in their new forms, yes, but they could never grow into the legion they had hoped for.
So now the Kryul Akash wander the world in their myriad forms, causing chaos and discord wherever they tread, and always, always searching for a way to recover their power, so that one day they might rival the gods themselves.