Secrecy and tragedy sprinkle the history of The Anemoi. At the center of it lays a great cathedral. It is here that stories are told, and legends are recorded about The Stone. Secrets such as the great power contained within. Legends about those who have tapped into that power. The tragedy is of those that enter the great cathedral to perform the Rite of Balius. It is performed by the house of Zephyr’s most loyal subjects and mightiest heroes. Long considered the greatest of honors, those deemed worthy by the ruling Duke are allowed to enter with their eldest child and receive the blessing of The Stone. The Rite, this tragedy is the source of The Stone’s power. This is the story of that tragedy and the origin of our great duchy.
For as long as the citizens of The Anemoi can remember, the story has been told. Before there was even a simple hut for miles, there was The Stone. The Stone was first discovered by the patriarch of the house of Zephyr. A humble hunter seeking new and exciting animals; he stumbled upon paradise. A herd of animals was gathered around a partially buried boulder the size of a mansion. As Zephyr quietly approached, he noticed the unusual combination and quantity of animals all gathered in one place; predator and prey all together, perfectly calm. Among the living were carcasses of long dead and recently eaten animals. This scene went against everything he knew about his trade. The closer Zephyr crept, the more compelled he felt. He had to touch the boulder, to sit upon it, and to share the glory of “The Stone.” Zephyr returned back to camp where his family awaited the fruit of his hard day’s labor. Although he came home empty handed, Zephyr’s family was intrigued by his story. Upon waking up the next morning, and after much discussion, it was decided his family must see “The Stone.”
When they reached The Stone, the animals were all still gathered, but a small path was clear between the family and The Stone. As one, the family approached, drawn to it. They had to touch it. They had to feel it. Soon The Stone was within reach and Zephyr knew what he had to do. He embraced his eldest son, Balius, in a strong fatherly hug, the likes that a son might receive upon building his first wagon. Without warning, Zephyr shoved his eldest son face first into The Stone bashing his skull wide open. The silence that followed this sickly thwack was far too peaceful for the horrifying violence that just occurred. The remaining members of the house of Zephyr calmly watched as a vicious looking four-legged beast slowly approached, knelt down, and began to feed upon Balius’ still warm corpse. The beast chewed and slurped until it was sated. After licking its lips clean, the animal approached Zephyr, plopped on its hindquarters alongside him, and began to nuzzle against his outstretched hand. It was upon this day that Zephyr knew that The Stone demanded obedience and sacrifice.
The story tells us that for the rest of his days, Zephyr was accompanied by that very beast and it served him as a loyal guard and companion for the rest of his natural life. In fact, it was upon that place that our forefather built Zephyros and founded The Anemoi. History tells us that many in his great line have been accompanied by great beasts as docile as a broken mule. It has been many generations since the time of these ancestors, but The Stone still stands. The Stone still watches. Every few generations, a member of the house of Zephyr will decide it's time to be rid of The Stone, yet nothing they try seems to damage it. They have dug as deep as they have skill and have not found the bottom, nor have they been able to chip it with a chisel or pick.
It has been four generations since the downward spiral of The Anemoi. The Duke had seen his three eldest siblings given to The Stone and grew tired of the tradition of human sacrifice that his ancestors had put into place. Not wanting to sacrifice his own offspring, and believing the legend was simply superstition, he outlawed all interaction with The Stone. It was stricken from all historical texts. It became a crime to utter once common phrases about The Stone.
With each generation that passed, The Anemoi fell further behind its neighboring Duchies in both wealth and power. The legend of The Stone was quietly kept alive by criminal fanatics hidden in hovels. While keeping to the shadows these fanatics quietly passed their knowledge down.
Duke Zephyr XI, his wife, and all their offspring save one were killed during a tragic accident attempting to tame a breed of animal recently found within The Anemoi. This led to the last remaining heir to the house of Zephyr being named the twelfth duke of The Anemoi. As the ninth son, Nimb was never groomed or prepared as an heir; a circumstance that generated a more casual feel between him and the people. Upon the death of his immediate family, he reluctantly took his place as Duke Zephyr XII.
Straying from tradition, he chose advisors from the common folk to assist in the everyday running of The Anemoi. Among these new advisors was one of the fanatics of a religion time forgot. This fanatic, by the name of Traios, was like an uncle to Nimb. Traios had recounted Stories of The Stone strategically as spooky tales to Nimb around campfires since he was but a boy.
To the surprise of Duke Zephyr XII, he found a single obscure reference to a relic within his father’s private journals. He became obsessed with this relic. After much research, Nimb discovered that portions of the family’s wealth had been siphoned off by various administrators over the years to send supplies to a location long forbidden within the city. In addition to the supplies, he uncovered the location of hidden tunnels beneath the duke’s manor.
It was Traios, Nimb’s closest confidant, who accompanied him on his first visit through the tunnels. They were shocked upon exiting the tunnels as they had arrived at an immaculate cathedral. The small collection of priests that they found inside were just as surprised to find someone inside the cathedral as they were.
When the priests had calmed down, they explained that they were all that remained of the attendants of the relic. As punishment for faithfulness to The Stone, their ancestors had been locked inside this cathedral. Those in power and still loyal to the stone had continued to send resources to the priests over the years. Fear of further punishment had kept them from making any drastic attempts at escape. Apologizing for his interruption, Traios hurriedly explained the details of the fanatics and their life outside the cathedral. Nimb was confused but excited by the possibility of the stories told by his friend. Knowledge that any still held the beliefs of the past heartened the priests. It was then that they led Traios and Nimb to the innermost sanctum of the cathedral where The Stone stood still.
The wave of raw power that washed over The Duke upon first seeing The Stone shook his very soul. He felt the hunger, the craving, the need. All in the room will remember the next moments until their death. An expression of fanatical joy came over Traios’ face as Nimb repeatedly slammed, bashed, and cracked Traios’ head into The Stone. As Traios’ now limp frame slumped against the base of The Stone, the priests rang out “The Stone Wills it!” Deep inside Nimb now knew what had to be done, what needed to be done, what would be done. And so it was, The Stone was returned to its rightful place of honor.
As atonement, those who had worked against the Stone were made sacrifice. The Cathedral was restored, the priests returned from exile, and the once fanatics were given seats of power. Within one season, beasts were again in great number, docile, and the backbone of The Anemoi’s economy. Many traditions were restored, yet others were changed. The Duke opened up access to The Stone, and for a small fee, even the lowliest farmer could receive the blessing. What was once a power shared only by the elite was now available for all. This only served to strengthen the power of The Stone and its influence.
Today, The Anemoi are inexorably tied to The Stone. When something grand occurs, the crowd rings out “The Stone wills it!” and upon tragedy strikes muttering of “The Stone Abides” can be heard.