It was the year 4713 of the Absalom Reckoning. The sixteenth day of Arodus, the eight month. A Starday; the seventh day of the week. Arodus was a warm month in most places; in some, it was the hottest of the year. But here in the northern reaches of Avistan, in a relatively small strip of land known as Mendev, it was mild.
Mendev was a study in contradiction. It was a kingdom built on equal parts pride and desperation; a nation of crusaders standing against an unending army of demons. The best and the worst of humanity found themselves in Mendev; noble heroes hoping to stem the tide of evil, glory seekers looking to make a name for themselves. Criminals looking to redeem themselves in service. But also deceivers, secret demon worshipers, fallen heroes, and fanatics fueling the fires of fear and prejudice.
Not that there wasn't much to be afraid of. Across the West Sellen River was a land corrupted. A land befouled. A land that had been violated and torn asunder. A hundred years ago, Mendev's neighbor to the northwest had been known as Sarkosis, a wild land of free faith and many gods, worshiped by people at one with the land; druids and barbarians, both brutal and noble had communed with all manner of spirit and took many powerful entities – benign and malign – as their gods.
In doing so, they had courted demons. Deskari, Lord of the Locust Host, demon lord of swarms, had infested Sarkosis with his cult. While they had been put down thousands of years ago by the living god Aroden himself, the demon retained a foothold in the land, and the very year Aroden died, one of Deskari's last remaining disciples – the witch Areelu Vorlesh – tore a hole in the fabric of the planes, letting Deskari's forces through. Thus the Worldwound was born.
The kellid barbarians native to Sarkosis fought bravely and viciously, but were driven back. In the century since, the Church of Iomedae and other goodly gods rallied to fight the demons in four great crusades; the second of which errected the Wardstones along the banks of the West Sellen and Moutray rivers; these great artifacts prevented the spread of the abyssal energies of the Worldwound and prevented the demons from physically crossing their barrier without a great force of will.
That the Worldwound still existed, and that the demons still ruled it, however, spoke to the limited effect the crusades had achieved. During the third crusade, Mendev had become mired in corruption and internal strife. The war had taken it's toll on the minds of many, the atrocities the demons committed testing their faith to the breaking point. As the war dragged on with no end in sight, many fell to despair. Demonic cultists infiltrated the crusader's ranks, stoking the fires of suspicion, paranoia, and fanaticism.
All the while, the demons laughed as the crusaders wasted their energies in fruitless, often self destructive pursuits, blind to the wolves among them.
Today was the sixteenth day of Arodus; the first day of Armasse, a week-long celebration. Once this festival had honored Aroden, but that god was a hundred years dead. Iomedae the Inheritor, Aroden's herald – who had once been his greatest mortal champion before ascending to godhood – was now the focus of this holiday. While it had once been a time of scholars and the study of history, this was a darker time and Iomedae a more militant and righteous god.
Now Armasse was a time of preparation. Commoners were taught the sword. Boys became squires. Squires became knights. Initiates were ordained as priests into the church of the Inheritor. Jousts, mock duels, and reenactments of glorious battles of days past entertained all who partook.
And in no other city in the whole of Avistan was Armasse so anticipated as it was in Kenabres. Kenebras stood on the banks of the Sellen, a fortress city weathering the storm of the war with the demons, famed for it's heroes and infamous for it's witch hunts, Kenabres was a hard, solemn city, full of downcast eyes and furrowed brows.
So while in many parts of the continent Armasse had devolved into a week-long indulgence in debauchery, here it retained it's religious significance and with it, it's dignity. Here it offered a distraction while at once boosting the strength of the city along with it's morale. And in a city on the front lines of perhaps the most horrible war the world had ever seen, there was nothing more important than what Armasse represented to the people of Kenebras: Hope.