Once , the gigantic Masked God Menoth stalked Caen. In the shadow of his looming shape mankind came into being but the Creator abandoned them to the hungry and thorny world, chasing after his ultimate prey, wishing only to hunt the Great Beast that prowled in the tangled forests and flashed across the rocky peaks of the new world: the Devourer Wurm. The Beast of All Shapes and the Creator of Man waged a never ending war with one another, both unable to overcome the strength of their opponent. Consumed by his desire to win this unwinnable war, Menoth had no time for trifling concerns like humankind.
Thus Humans learned to live without their Maker, hiding in caves and cutting their own path through the snarled realm in which they had been left alone. They gathered into families and clans and tribes. In time Humanity spread all across the land living, hunting, and striving together against the unforgiving world. They were freethinking and uninhibited. Each and every one among them was able to hunt and love and die on his or her own terms. They wandered where they pleased. Every day was a new opportunity to explore and experience Caen. All lived according to their own desires and needs. Their spirits became strong because they had survived, wise because they had learned from one another, and fierce because the weakness was purged out of them by the uncompromising world. What they seized from the world they savored, and their songs rang out beneath the moons and stars. When they died, their souls left their flesh behind to be untethered and free.
However Humanity drew the eye of Menoth away from his hunt. Already many had turned to the worship of the Great Beast. Worst of all, beyond even these worlds a greater darkness greedily waited, and like ravenous spiders that hide between the walls, the Infernals were eager to add human souls to their collection. Thus he built a vast and beautiful city in Urcaen for the souls of his worshippers who could reach. Soon it was sprawling larger than a continent, bordered by high walls of alabaster stone clad in bronze and shining gold. Then the maker gave four gifts to man, the Flame, the Wall, the Sheaf, and the Law. When they died and their souls passed to Urcaen, all those who claimed the gifts would join in the war of souls against the Wurm. 
The Defiers Edit
Thus civilization was born and soon in turn gave birth to Icthier. Cinot, founder of this city, was in truth the first and greatest of Menoth’s servants. All in Icthier would bow before him, surrendering their freedom, their thought, and their very souls. But not all those who were offered the Gifts were so eager to hand over their freedom. The first to rebel was The Child, then came The Wanderer, The Dreamer and the King of Nothing.
The defiance shown by these rebellious ones enraged Menoth. And so Menoth kindled the power within the most devout of those who had accepted his gifts and abided by his laws, and these were elevated as priests and kings. They emerged from their cities to put the torch to all of the Creator’s children who chose to act against him. Their names were uplifted as golden pillars of the civilized. After Cinot arose Golivant, Khardovic, Thrace, Belcor, and Geth. But there was one who came before even Cinot, one who was erased and stricken from all records. He was first, the highest and became the lowest. His name is gone, replaced with a word that transcribes his very essence— The Heretic.
The Heretic was once a great Priest-King but he saw the divine for what it truly was and realized all mortals have within them a touch of divine power. He learned that his might wasn't bestowed upon him by Menoth but had simply kindled that which was always there within. The Heretic knew himself to be singular and special, and he began to dream that beneath the mask worn by Menoth was hidden a face identical to his own. But in this revelation he also saw the world as flawed and ill-made; Menoth’s gifts were a gilded cage to distract humanity from the truth that they were all enslaved in death. If he truly was the inheritor of power to rival Menoth’s own, the Heretic knew he must reshape the world into a new form and shatter the chains of bondage. Most of all, he saw that Menoth was not a just god. He did not punish the wicked, those who wielded his Gifts like weapons against their neighbors, nor did he reward those who selflessly cared for others with no material benefit to themselves. Menoth rewarded only obedience, punished only defiance. The Heretic refused to wield his power in Menoth's name, using it to his own purposes instead. He refused to be Menoth’s puppet, knowing himself to be his Creator’s equal, if not his superior. He harnessed his own divine might and stoked the spark of godhood within him to a roaring flame.
The Heretic gathered a massive army joined by the Child and the Wanderer and marched upon the first city, Icthier to tear down the oppresssive edifice Menoth had made while the Dreamer drew deeper into her chosen realities, spilling echoes of her dreams out into the world. The King of Nothing withdrew even further from all other living things, his aching need for solitude becoming so great that even others could feel it. Menoth could not stand for this rebellion by one of his own, to whom he had given such power and authority. Thus he unleashed his his fiery wrath upon them. Acrennia was struch with an earthquake and cursed the land to be poisoned forever after. The leaders of the Heretic’s armies he burned to ash, their souls condemned to wander the ruins of Acrennia. The rest were bound in agonizing chains of burning brass, forced to watch their champions receive divine punishment.
The Defiers were cast down alive to the hell of Urcaen but as they fell the Heretic issued a prophecy and declaration against Menoth’s great works vowing to return to Caen. In the hells of Urcaen their nightmares gained solidity and will, their fears given life anew to chew at their flesh and slowly took on new and stranger bestial forms. Their bodies and minds were warped and were suffered at the claws, teeth, and blades of their tormentors. However their resolution remained and the torture burned away any weakness or fear becoming stronger and after centuries of suffering they rose out of pain and fear and madness. They learned to harness and shape their unique powers and to control the spirit world around them, even learning to shackle even their own nightmares forcing them to yield to their will.
Birth of the Grymkin Edit
The defiers were remembered by those who witnessed their banishment and their legends were retold across generations as cautionary tales. Away in their prison, the Defiers heard the echoes of the tales that grew around them and in turn, they passed their own stories through dreams brought on by fevers and visions. As years went by and the stories grew and multiplied and changed, the Defiers saw others passing through the veil that separates Caen from Urcaen. These were the souls of the deceased. While each pious soul hoped to arrive safely in Menoth’s ever-expanding city in Urcaen, others wandered lost and doomed in the trackless wilds. These wayward souls drew the attention of the Defiers, especially the Heretic. By their very nature these lost souls were drawn to the Defiers, their wandering paths not as directionless as they thought. Tales told of the Defiers on Caen had paved unseen roads to their realm in hell, routes of least resistance opened by the fears and doubts of those who were wicked in life and whose fates were already linked by the legends of the five. Men and women who had committed sins against their fellows feared facing the Defiers after death, and that fear forged an unbreakable chain pulling them to their inevitable punishments. 
Tainted souls such as doubters, the lax, the selfishly cruel and the lazily greedy arrived in the afterlife far from the realms of the gods and became easy prey for monstrous creatures. In their terror they took what seemed the easiest path they saw and all of these paths took them straight to the Defiers, who waited for them in vast dreamscapes they had carved for themselves. Each of these wayward souls was seized and scrutinized, laid bare by the Heretic or another of the five who read the history of their lives and transgressions engraved into their very being. Lives were peeled back year by year like the layers of an onion, revealing secret hopes, deep-dwelling fears, and long-buried regrets and humiliations. These souls confirmed the truth of the conclusions they had drawn at the outset of their rebellion, mortals had been spoiled by the foul fruits that thrived in Menoth’s civilization. The Defiers saw what each soul was truly made of, and with the power they had seized, they saw fit to pass judgment on them. The Defiers acted as a fractured mirror for the spirits before them, reflecting their iniquities. In those reflections the souls saw themselves as the wretched beings they were, having lived their lives at the expense of others. They had wielded the Gifts of Menoth like weapons, using them purely to better their own selfish lives. In the plight of their victims, the Defiers saw a reflection of their own unjust suffering at Menoth’s hands, and the righteous anger of the five helped to fuel their transformation. The essence of the wayward souls was reshaped to better match the sins within each, the powers of the Defiers allowed these spirits a different sort of afterlife, one that would eventually permit a return to Caen. Fueled by the Defiers’ judgments, the natural laws that preserve a soul’s coherence were overwritten and replaced. This gave these spirits new and grotesque bodies and minds, utterly removed from their past lives. Hearkening to the old stories that cautioned against the very sins for which they had been judged, and guided by the Defiers’ mad dreams, these souls took on wholly new forms. Each was bound up with some old story or legend, a folktale or child’s rhyme.
Thus the Grymkin were born. These grymkin were not as firmly bound to Urcaen as either the Defiers or the ordinary spirits of the dead. Each time a new soul crossed from the land of the living Urcaen, its passage left a temporary pinprick in the barrier between these worlds. These small gateways soon closed of their own accord and were too small to allow the passage of anything in return, especially the powerful Defiers. Yet grymkin, with their peculiar and chimerical forms, could slip through the smallest pinprick with ease. Every time a dead spirit passes, there is a small chance a grymkin will leap back into the world of the living, balancing the scales. The Defiers instructed the grymkin to lie in wait for these small doors to open and to return to Caen at every opportunity, in some instances such as massive battles a throng of grymkin could rush back through the other way. The Heretic studied these passages and learned that nights when the moons were dark or the stars aligned in certain ways let more powerful grymkin through, as did the deaths of innocent men and women who fell victim to Menoth’s cruel justice. While most failed to cross each who made it through was a small victory. Grymkin used the wars of humanity to their own advantage, slipping through unnoticed like bilge rats stowing away in the hold of a great ship. 
For many years numerous grymkin crossed over from Urcaen. Each was filled with a desire to bring mischief and danger to the world of the living, to invoke fear and nightmares, to punish the wicked. They felt compelled by their very natures to seek those whose souls had been marked by the same corruption that defined their own shaping. Each kind of grymkin hungered for a certain flavor of sin, a specific variety of blemish and weakness. Murderers sought out murderers and thieves sought out thieves. Some grymkin even possessed the power to transform others to become like them, spreading their nature like an infection. These inspired even more folk stories. Those who happened to witness the grymkin claiming their victims would share their tales and in time, through trial and error, people learned some of the rules grymkin must abide by, their often peculiar vulnerabilities. These too were passed down through generations. As cities rose and grew, pushing back the dark forests and hidden places where the grymkin lurked, the truth behind these tales was slowly forgotten. But hidden within most nursery rhymes and bedtime stories were hints of truths about the grymkin, though not their origins or deeper purpose. The grymkin sowed the seeds of the Wicked Harvest for centuries, seeds the Defiers and their army of nightmares would reap when the time was right.
The Old Witch and the Wicked Harvest Edit
The Old Witch saw the Defiers stand against Menoth and listened to the Heretic’s pronouncement as they were thrown into the hells of Urcaen. The unmistakable ring of prophecy prickled at her ears. The Heretic’s words were more than mere words. The oath the Defiers swore that day was a pact that would be burned indelibly into their souls, fueled by their hatred for the corruption that spilled out of Menoth’s civilization wherever it grew. This act caught the attention of the Old Witch and she stowed away the memory in her vast library of thoughts and dreams and left it there until a need for it arose in the world.
Long after Menoth locked the Defiers away, a young woman called Thamar and her brother Morrow discovered the power to ascend as a god. When the Orgoth came and put the people of her lands to the whip and chain, Thamar was asked by Morrow to make a pact with the sinister oathmakers dwelling in the dark beyond to empower her people with sorcerous gifts. The bargain she offered these entities demanded a payment that Thamar knew could never be paid, one which might threaten the very nature of the balance between Caen and Urcaen. Like the Old Witch of the north, this self-made goddess knew the Defiers waited in hell. She knew that when they ultimately escaped, they would be anathema to the degenerate humans the creatures of darkness need in order to thrive. So, with the dark masters from beyond eager to bargain with her and unaware of the fate that awaited them should the Defiers one day be freed, the woman agreed to their terms.
As decades and centuries went the dark masters found people in the world who were as foul and greedy as they, and they made inroads into the world through shadowy pacts with these men and women. Such wicked humans were living testaments to the warnings the Defiers had uttered, proof in the flesh of the seeming flawed fruit Menoth’s gifts had wrought. While the weakness in humankind that Menoth introduced may have helped precipitate the dark masters finding open and vulnerable souls, the unfathomable threat stood clearly apart from Menoth. Even in hell the Defiers were observing the events in living history for the first time since their imprisonment, and they watched the influence of those bound to the darkness spread. In time, the number of those willing to pledge their souls to the dark masters swelled. The greed in their hearts, fed by the luxuries their power granted them, grew until they were willing to swear it all away for more power, more wealth, more comfort in life. Hiding at the fringes of the settled places, they worked in shadow toward their own ends, but all the while they gave their dark masters the opportunity to look upon the world of mortal men. With clear eyes, these inscrutable beings scouted the lands and prepared to claim the world and all human souls as their own.
Zevanna Agha foresaw the darkness that was coming and knew that she alone could not stop it. As the number of its agents piercing the barrier between worlds grew, she knew an apocalypse was coming. The armies of humankind had grown vast and commanded weapons built of technology married to magic, but even them and their mightiest champions would be inadequate to face the horrors shaped by the outer darkness. The armies of the wilds are at one another’s throats. They had learned to wield might and magic and to command terrifying beasts, but they were too easily distracted with old squabbles and schemes to help hold the darkness back. Instead, the Old Witch turned to the Defiers. If she threw open the doors of their eternal cage, whatever they had become, whatever emerged into the physical world once more, would tear at the roots of the Iron Kingdoms to find the corruption within. The murky border between civilization and the wilds was a common hiding place for wicked men and women working in the shadows. If the Defiers set loose their harvest, they were certain to claim the malfeasants who were the greatest allies the dark masters had on Caen. As the grymkin took their toll, they would provide a warning to others who might fall to similar corruption. In unleashing them upon the world, Zevanna Agha knew she would be injecting poison into a sick body in the hoping it would kill the deadly parasites before it killed the patient. And despite the work of the Wicked Harvest, there would always be corruption in the hearts of humans. There would always be an abundance of foolish mortals seeking power. But the Defiers and their motley throng could slow the encroachment of the darkness into Caen and give her more time to prepare for its arrival. The Old Witch considered the benefits and troubles the Grymkin may bring and finally, she made her choice and threw open the doors of Urcaen. But the witch was always sure to stack events in her own favor, so she carefully set aside individuals who would one day help her drive back the Defiers and their children should their menace prove to be greater than their aid to her and her designs.
Zevanna Agha scoured the world for clues about the Defiers. She captured grymkin and pulled them apart in her claws to discern their makers’ marks ,consorted with madmen who claimed that voices in the walls spoke to them unfathomable truths, watched cultists of the Defiers, listened to the prophecies of fortunetellers and sages, hearing within their divinations occasional seeds of truth and piece by the Old Witch pulled together her plan. With a host of minions she had cajoled, bribed, and manipulated, she would build a great device to rip at the warp and weft of reality. The most difficult part was to communicate with the Defiers and find the hidden patch of Urcaen they claimed as their kingdom. While she could force grymkin to obey her will, their capriciousness was so deeply rooted in their essence that they proved useless as messengers to reach their creators. The solution came in the form of a young noblewoman called Lady Karianna Rose who resided in an institution for the insane driven mad by loss and grief. She had drawn a flock of invisible grymkin to her side amd she treated the little things like her own children, who were now dead in the grave. The love she felt for her grymkin was genuine, and they would do anything for her in return. Zevanna Agha whispered into Lady Karianna’s dreams and the hopes and fears spawned by these whispers affected her grymkin companions and eventually perceived by Defiers, especially the far-roaming mind of the Dreamer. At times a death was required to allow a grymkin to return with a cryptic message to its greater masters, which seemed to the Old Witch a small price to pay. In this indirect way, these ancient and unknowable powers conspired through the sleeping babble of an insane woman.
The Old Witch had other conspirators to assist with the completion of her great machine, foremost among them was the founder of the Strangelight Workshop. The device they built enabled her to crack open a gateway to hell through which the Defiers could return to the world. When the time was right, Zevanna Agha pierced a hole in the veil between worlds, and the Defiers emerged with a deep and primal hunger that reached down to their very souls, a burning need to fulfill the promise they had made so long ago to reap their due from the debased hearts of civilized men. The world was much changed since their banishment, but the corruption they foresaw resided in every corner of the land. The Defiers had much work to do, but they would not be alone. The moment the five emerged from hell, every grymkin in the world felt an irresistible tug. They abandoned their mischief, leaving cruel tricks half-finished and clever traps unsprung, and journeyed to meet their makers.