Chapter One: The Beginning of the End
It began as a rumor – a wild story that was whispered among the inhabitants of Travian, not too loudly though, lest it come true. They said the Natarian hordes had returned, but no one was entirely certain about the reason why. Some claimed that the vicious, warring race wanted to reclaim the land it had left behind, so many years ago. Others worried that the barbaric blood coursing through the veins of these savages would not find peace until all had been destroyed: until every last structure had been razed to the ground, every field burned to ashes and every man, woman and child slain by their cruel sword.
The more practical of the lot refused to believe that such an unthinkable turn of events would ever come to pass. Turning a deaf ear to the rumor-mongers, they proclaimed that they, mighty warriors of the noble Roman, Teuton and Gaul races, would command the glorious world of Travian and everything it held, until time itself ceased to be. It was they who were the rightful rulers of this world. Nothing and no one, not even the most spiteful mythic tribe could seize this right from them.
And so it continued, until that fateful day when a wild-eyed messenger returned from the Eastern frontiers. His feet bleeding, his body covered in dust, festering wounds and exhaustion, the messenger had barely made it to the palace gates before he collapsed into a heap of semi-coherent babbling. When revived, he demanded speak only to the King and none other.
The King was curious. What could this lowly messenger possibly want? And what great calamity had terrified him so that he had run all the way back from the Eastern Gates without stopping for food, rest or water?
The courier was summoned. Bending low to the ground until his forehead nearly scraped the floor, he chanted: “My King! Over many winters I have stood watch over the Eastern Gates, as had my father and his father before him. I have reported spies from enemy lands try to steal into our lands in the dead of the night. Troops moving in when they thought we were wrapped in peaceful slumber. Gallant, but foolish, heroes throw themselves against our pikes. But never have I witnessed a sight as terrifying as what I am about to report.
“There have been strange movements in the Eastern moors, the desolate boundaries where land rises to meet the skies. Shrouded in a poisonous mist, caravans move ceaselessly, carrying with them bounties of ore, lumber and other materials that I have never, in all my living years, laid eyes on. Their beasts stumble under the burden of their load, but they carry on, relentlessly. Their carts bear the Forbidden crest; their flags are as black as their hearts. No soldier has been able to stop their carts for question, and many have tried – those that survive the poisonous mist and reach the guards have mysteriously turned to stone. They are a cursed lot, My King, and they will bring nothing but doom and misery to our lands!”
The courier’s speech set tongues aflutter. Ministers wondered if this wasn’t the rambling of a half-crazed man that had been driven to lunacy by years of solitude. The Admiral angrily clanked his shield, exclaiming that the guards at the Eastern Gates hadn’t been strong or brave enough; if the King approved, he would go in personally to make sure that these merchants, whoever they were, knew better than to trespass on the kingdom’s property again.
But then, she spoke. The Oracle. No one had seen her emerge from her sacred quarters in more than a hundred years. And yet, every prophecy she had delivered had always come true. She was the King’s most trusted advisor and she had never been proved wrong.
In her quavering voice that sounded as old and gentle as the summer breeze, she said: “It is as the prophecy claimed. They have returned. And with them, they herald the fall of a free land.”
The King’s face was ashen. The Oracle’s words needed no explanation. Generations of kings before him had spoken of them – the Natars. Each warning his successor that it was only a matter of time before they returned. The Natars. The King smiled ruefully. So, the rumors had been true, after all. Turning to the Oracle, he asked, “So, what do we do now, O Wise One? What do the runes say? Shall this night ever see the light of dawn?”
“Our fate is but a blend of what is foretold and what best we make of what has been handed to us. The burden of our fate rests upon you, My King, for it is your might and valor that will show us the way ahead.
The legends tell of a glorious structure, as strong as the heart of the earth. With iron at its core and bound by the strongest lumber, encased in an armor of glittering gold. Bejeweled with every precious stone known to man – the rarest and the most exquisite. This structure holds a power far greater than any known to man: it bestows upon its builders the unquestioning loyalty of, and undisputed rule over, the entire world of Travian. The Natars are preparing to build their Wonder. You must prepare to build yours, meet them eye-to-eye.
Build fast and build strong, My King, for your assertion of your might will not be without challenge. They will come My King, and they will attack you with forces mightier and more terrifying than you can fathom. So form your allegiances and pick your battles wisely. This is but a race to the end!”