They say that when the world was young, a race of people lived in what is now the Ozark Desert. These people were wise beyond words, stargazers without peer and masters of their domain. The forest which grew there was lush, warm and bountiful. Truly, there was nothing they went without.
Years passed and these people began to bend the fabric of the world to their will. Using an art of magic they termed lesthran, which means ‘cool-headed’, they learned how to calm their minds and manifest their will upon their local environment. Lifespans began to extend as comforts only dreamed of were made manifest.
With their growing knowledge of magic came a thirst for knowledge, a need to learn all about the world around them in order to better master it. The philosopher-magicians, or yentai as they called themselves, began to build greater and greater structures, reaching ever for the skies above them. The more they learned of the world, the more they wished to know of the stars.
It is possible that, had their downfall not brought their culture crashing down around them, they could have reached the stars and tamed even those celestial bodies. But all things come to an end, even civilisations as enlightened as theirs.
It began slowly at first, as these things do. Societal shifts and currents changing the direction of their learning, schools of thought which began prioritising one form of knowledge over another. No-one can say for certain when it happened, but we know with whom it started.
Xiteha, one of the most senior philosopher-magicians of the yentai, woke one day with a dream burning behind his eyes and a passion in his heart. No more would he strive for the stars, no more would he be content to examine the world within their trees. He would lead his people on a new course. The concept he struggled to understand had never before existed in his people’s language, so he invented a word to describe it: kon-oo-es, the coming-of-the-storm. It is from this word we get our own for Xiteha’s revolutionary concept: conquest.
Whilst his fellows in learning looked upwards, he began to walk among the people and telling them that the world beyond their borders was a place of wonder and they should explore it, bringing their civilisation to any cultures they met there. It took many years, but his ideas began to take root, grow and spread.
Fourteen years after his dream, Xiteha stood at the head of the first expedition, a heavily armed and armoured force of the yentai’s finest warrior-magicians, a new caste created for this very purpose. Their magic was one of destruction and relied on their ability to focus their rage into a weapon of great magical force. With a bow to his son, now the yentai’s leader, he strode into the forest.
The people of Starspire have their own records of what happened next, as, I suspect, do those who live at the southern end of our continent, but for the people who would become the desert-folk, centuries of slavery lay ahead.
Like a wildfire, the yentai expeditionary force spread, uncontrollable and all consuming. Any clan, tribe or people caught in its way was subsumed, becoming part of the growing yentai empire. This was the way of things for centuries: conquest, slavery, forever pushing the borders of the empire out from Omnis and into other lands.
But as with all works of artifice, time, and fortune, brought it crashing down.
Far away from the watching eyes of the Emerald Court, the seat of the yentai emperor, rebellion brewed. Officers of the Expeditionary Force of the Fang, an elite legion of yentai warriors, looked around themselves and saw that the Empire depended upon them. They asked each other what the Emperor had ever done for them and turned their eyes homeward.
Moving swiftly, and confidently, they marshalled their forces and struck.
Although a force to be reckoned with, their magic, tied inextricably to their rage, was not flexible enough to deal with the monsters, storms, illnesses and other, worse, things summoned, conjured or otherwise controlled by the philosopher-magicians and in one terrible week of civil war, the Expeditionary Force of the Fang was wiped out. Other branches of the Empire’s military soon followed as the people of the Emerald Court realised that they held very little actual power whilst the military still existed.
Three months after the rebellion, the yentai empire collapsed, its borders undefended and its jungle homeland a blasted wasteland, scourged by fire and magic.
Vowing to never again succumb to the rage and ambition which had fuelled the military, the yentai fell upon old routines, prioritising a calm mind over all and developing stronger and stronger magical abilities.
Generations passed and the yentai became a people of cold hearts. The records we have of slaves from this period tells us about a cult of snake worship expanding within the Court, the cold-blooded serpents epitomising the calm the yentai so desperately sought.
It was perhaps inevitable that the yentai would begin emulating the snakes they worshipped. Their magics became focused on transmutation and the conjuration of potent toxins as the people began undertaking rituals, powered by the blood of their slaves, designed to merge snake and yentai into one pure being.
It is at one of these rituals that it happened. Maybe the sorcerer leading the spell-casting chanted the wrong words, maybe a flash of inspiration struck an aspirant as they drew the final rune, but the yentai magicians made contact with a creature, a vast serpent from beyond the stars who promised them immortality and freedom from emotions and the pains of the world.
Decades were devoted to summoning this creature, whom they dubbed Osart and after whom they named the remnants of their empire, and finally reached their culmination with a ritual spanning the fragmented remains of the yentai empire. By this time, the wasteland surrounding their homeland had become a desert, the harsh sunlight allowing them to thrive in their new snake-like forms.
By constructing magic circles at strategic points within what domains they still controlled, a sizeable portion of Omnis by all accounts, the yentai began.
Days of thunder and ice followed as the cold between worlds was forced into ours. The sky tore asunder in ribbons of light. People screamed in the night as vision of hellscapes danced in their nightmares. The slaves from which we are descended struck as the ritual neared its peak, killing their masters and earning the freedom of all the desert-folk.
With no-one to control the magic summoned by the yentai and bound within the circles, it flared wildly and wrought terrible miracles. Beings no-one had ever seen before or has ever seen again were brought into the world, given life by the frustrated will of Osart.
One of these creatures, a massive winged serpent is said to live beneath the sands of the Ozark Desert still, its wrath and hunger manifesting in the ozarks which regularly scour these lands.