Preface to readers,
First, an acknowledgement: this book would not be possible without the sacrifices of many, including Librarian Thegan and his team of scholars who were the ones to acquire the original artifacts from their keepers in what is now Ironwrought lands. Thegan, his team, and their guardians were all killed by the devious Cabal when the Firstwrought was sent to track them through the wastelands of our former cities, but not before placing the most important artifact and the translation key they had created in safe hands. Although incomplete, the key would later prove invaluable in translating and correcting a proper Imperial Text out of what is perhaps our greatest enemy’s most sacred relic. Their sacrifice shall never be forgotten.
Second, a warning: the Cabal, using the Firstwrought as their mouthpiece, declared a barbaric crusade upon us shortly after Thegan took the relic into safety, presumably to steal it back and conduct more of their inhuman rituals upon it. The Wrought are mindless constructs following the orders of their masters, and therefore have no concept of the rules of war or mercy. With this crusade, however, the Cabal has shown it lacks that understanding as well. Whole villages have been rendered desolate and uninhabitable with their fields burned and inhabitants butchered in their homes and streets. Cities depopulated as their citizens are converted into horrific Stonekin and Fleshwrought, or towering monuments and watchtowers of bone, sinew, and metal used to rain great and devastating energies upon our liberating armies. The Cabal are monsters that must be destroyed.
Lastly, a request: to my fellow Librarians: I implore you to find a way to destroy the original Book of Flame, and the rest of the Cabal’s works. My research has confirmed the existence of a link between the texts and their replications. The Cabal are not reproducing them by hand, but rather by some dark ritual. The destruction of the originals should render their blasphemous library nought but ash and break the spells upon our poor enslaved citizens, allowing them to turn upon their would be masters. No doubt the Wrought are reinforced in a similar manner. Finding and destroying the ritual sites and materials would turn much of their army into inert hunks of metal and stone. No attempt should be made to read their infernal texts lest your mind be stolen and your body used as fuel in their machines.
Let it be said, then, that we are the final border between civilization and barbarism. Should the Shield Cities fall, the Capital falls, and with the Capital, the Empire. As a nation and as a people we must repel this threat in our darkest hours or perish.
Chief Librarian of Tanis
Servant of Her Imperial Majesty
To my Lady Empress,
It would appear our worst fears have been realized alongside our greatest hopes. The Forgemaster herself wrote the Book of Flame, but it was her creations who made the rest. Constructs, writing original works and distributing them of their own volition. It would be preposterous if it weren’t real. The nature of the threat has changed. We are no longer dealing with some cabal manipulating unseen threads of magic to turn our tools against us. Our tools instead have declared their will to see us all made as monstrosities. We are seeing the Fall of the Old Kingdom from the eyes of Kenebrae and Vaulos, and will soon know the despair of the poets unless we act swiftly and with purpose.
The old king ordered the crystal gardens sealed rather than risk the desolation of his lands, in the hope that his uprisings would starve without access to their supply of energy. It is my belief that it is this inaction that led to the Fall, rather than the acts of the Horde. We must unbury the gardens and harness their power to destroy the Wrought and their Forges, for they devastate the land far more than any magestorm. The Firstwrought will see us and our works undone and fed to his mistress’ gods-forsaken forge as fuel.
I ask your permission to create and staff an expedition to the Archives of Talok, that we may delve as deep as we need. It will doubtlessly be expensive, as the Sentinel guards the deep secrets zealously. Any price is worth it for the gardens and our victory, however. I and my closest aides will command the expedition, and request some number of knights and soldiers to safeguard our travels. I have acquired the promise of some nobles for funding, provisions, and lodging and therefore require minimal support from the crown save for confirmation.
Your eager servant,