Armello, a land of peace, prosperity, fortune. Four clans united under one noble king. But, a dark force stirs, the King is driven mad… This short story will tell you how it came to be.
Disclaimer: This story is based in the world of Armello, a video game. Inspiration for the story comes from a number of cards/images present. This is not a “factual” story, based on the game’s lore, but rather my own creation.
Sources of Inspiration: Sorcerer, Poisoned Drink (goblet in the background).
Armello, a land of peace and prosperity. Four clans and its people united under one noble king. The Wolf Clan, of noble warriors and hunters. The Rat Clan, of cunning rogues and tricksters. The Hare Clan, of inventors and explorers. The Bear Clan, of those closest to the magic of the Wyld. A king who was fair, wise and brave. All that he ever stood for was just, and the people loved him. The Lion King, the hero, the builder. The enemy of all evil.
When he came to power the clans rallied to his coronation. A magnificent crown was forged, in a united effort by all of the clans. Each clan aided the King in some manner. The members of the Hare Clan created weapons and armor that would serve the King and his men well. The Wolf Clan trained his armies, and stood ready to answer any call to action. The Bear Clan guarded the wilds from any signs of corruption and evil, blessing the lands with life and fertility. The Rat Clan, the ears of the King, made sure none would ever conspire against him.
With the aid of the clans and his advisers Armello prospered. All were happy, there were no shortages, disease or hunger. Traders and travelers from far and wide came to Armello, bringing new ideas and goods. It was truly a golden age for its people.
But even in a land as beautiful and rich as this there were always those who sought more. These were perilous times for those of dark hearts. The king kept a close eye on his lands, and any sign of corruption would be rooted out. Many brigands and bandits were locked away. Witches and Cultists who would seek to prey on the weak were also captured. The King’s Guard was dispatched at any sign of trouble, and with the aid of the four clans any peril could be overcome.
Something had to be done.
In a dark room, behind locked doors, those noblemen who were not pleased with what was happening, plotted. Their faces hidden behind dark hoods, the sigils of their houses concealed under thick robes. They looked for a way to break this order apart, give them an opportunity to grasp more.
The choice of their meeting place, an Inn called the Toad’s Croak. One of the conspirators was also the owner of this fine establishment, a frog-man who was simply known as Mister Slimes, because he put his slimy hand on whatever he could. A ruthless if a bit dim-witted criminal.
Many of those present were of similar ilk. Noblemen who were jealous of the King’s power. Rogues who sought to steal what they could not have. Those who sought a quick way of ascending the social ladder. Those who benefited the most from a state of unrest, mercenary lords.
The dozen conspirators who met discussed in detail the events of the past year. Things were becoming far more difficult. The more the people followed the King’s example the less they could be manipulated. Though there would always be a need for illegal goods, thievery or murder it was on a decline.
So, the only thing that could be done, was to do something about the King.
“There is no way!” one of the gathered gave a rat-like squeak, his pointy nose sticking out from his hood “My spies tell me those closest to the king cannot be bribed! I tried! No gold or riches worked!”
Another hooded figure nodded, calm and collected, features hidden entirely by his hood “My own network is feeling a tight noose around its neck. I am losing gold trying to sneak by another shipment. The King’s dogs seem to uncover all of my operations.” The figure reached for his goblet of wine, taking a small sip from it. “Demand has also fallen, not like that is much of a surprise.”
“I even tried to… lure him into a trap of my own.” this time a feminine voice spoke, with a soft purr. “But to no avail… My charm and tricks do not seem to get past that crown of his. And whenever I would come too close one of his “friends” would show up and pull me away. Tsk…”
The conspirators continued to share their failed attempts at shifting the King’s power. Suggestions of future plots were each time rebuffed, attempted before. Gaining the loyalty of the guard, of the clans. Every single idea failed because the King had a way of dealing with it. A hopeless situation.
What of stirring unrest in the populace? There was no way of achieving that either, without invoking the King’s gaze. There was nobody who could receive the blame, and a close investigation would uncover the truth regardless.
The night dragged on, fresh wine was delivered, the plot continued.
“If only we could kill him.” said the rat-like voice again. “That would upset the balance.”
This time a heavier, louder voice spoke, with a snarl, “Your assassins would have to kill him, somehow, and he is no mere pup. There is a reason why he became King. Besides… the uproar would see all of us destroyed.” The speaker behind the voice matched it, for he was tall, wide, and a lupine snout was present from the hood, bearing visible scars.
“If we cannot kill him, and we cannot sway him… what is left?” asked the familiar shape of Mister Slime.
A feint knock came to the door. It was too early for new refreshments so it could had only been something important. One of the conspirators approached the door and opened it slightly, a feint “Yes?” being heard. He soon stumbled back however, screaming, when through the slightly ajar door slithered in a horde of worms, large in size, black. They crawled over the furniture, the walls, spreading throughout the room. Some screamed, panicked, others tried to fight this strange enemy. But there were hundreds, thousands of them? And no claw or boot could harm them.
The door suddenly slammed shut by the mass of worms that pressed against it. Then, as if of one mind, they crawled to the table that stood in the center of the room and began to pile up, forming some manner of shape. Taller and broader it became, until it seemed to implode on itself, disappear. Where once the menacing slithering of worms stood now instead appeared… somebody.
The woman was not familiar to any of those present, and she had a very strange, exotic look about her. She was of medium size, black and white fur. A bit like a cat, but not exactly. A creature from an unknown land. She wore strange robes, which gave her an appearance of a witch, something that was given away by her headdress as well.
She spoke with a quick, a bit of an annoying tone, as if mocking all those around, “So, did you find a solution? An answer? Hmmm?” she sat down on the table, as if it were the most normal thing in the world. The conspirators looked to each other, until the wolf took off his hood and drew his blade, snarling menacingly.
“Who are you? How dare you enter this meeting?!” he pointed the blade to the sorcerer, but she did not seem to care.
“I know you know nothing. Yes, yes. The worms told me, so I am here! With a cure to your ailment.” The sorcerer grabbed the tip of the blade, trying to push it aside, but the wolf kept it aimed at her.
“A cure? You speak of the King?” Slimey asked.
“We should be careful, who is she?” the purring voice asked again.
“A messenger!” the sorcerer suddenly interjected. “I bring a gift, news that things will change, for the better, yes?”
“And how is that?”
The sorcerer took out a wine bottle, but it was filled with a white liquid, similar to milk. “A gift for the King. A great gift!”
“Poison?” the featureless hooded figure asked.
“Of course not! We would not want to poison the King, no no. It is a gift! We do not kill, we gift!” the sorcerer continued with her ramblings.
Another one of the conspirators, who remained seated and did not speak much up to this point finally spoke up, his voice frail and old “You are a follower of the Worm.”
The sorcerer’s ears perked up, and she crawled, still sat upon the table, toward the old man. “Yes we are! All of us are, though we do not know it.”
Some of the gathered repeated the simple phrase, ‘Worm”. Many knew the old stories about the Worm, the Darkness. In the old days, followers of the worm would spread disease and madness. Making entire lands collapse into chaos, eventually leaving nothing behind. The Worm would corrupt everything, and then slowly rot it away.
“Why would we side… with you?” the mercenary wolf spoke out. “Are you trying to trick us? Make us kill ourselves?!”
A few whispers were exchanged, as everybody’s attention was focused on the Sorcerer.
She lifted her hand up, and spoke. “If you do not act you will all eventually be caught, die in a dungeon, or worse. Just moments ago you wished for the King to die, yet you could find no way.” she tapped the bottle with her hand. “Give this to the King, and I promise you an age of chaos and death that will fill your coffers to their brim. After that…” here she paused for a moment, “There will be peace. When a new King will rest on the throne. We will be of no more threat to you, believe us.”
But it was all very hard to believe.
“If we asked you what you wanted, you would likely say nothing. If we are to allow the Worm into Armello… Tell us why.” the old man spoke.
The Sorcerer’s face grimaced and she looked to each of the gathered.
“You are stupid, all of you. The Worm warned me, yes.” she paused suddenly “You can help us do this, and be rewarded with the chaos you seek so much, or you will be against us, and you will perish with the rest.”. The sorcerer paused again, feeling the angry gaze of the mercenary wolf once again. She brought up her hand and a wound suddenly appeared on her open palm. From it worms, maggots began to crawl out, squirming and writhing toward all those gathered, but they seemed to be held back by something. “You will cooperate… or in a moment I will infest you all with the plague. You will be covered by rot until you are nothing but lepers, seeking to spread the plague further…”. With the open wound still visible, and the worms squirming maddeningly she looked once again around the room. “So, we are clear, yes?”
Even the wolf was frozen solid. The plague was no children’s tale. In some corners of the realm those blighted by it still existed, but they were no longer truly alive. Shambling around mindlessly. To be infected would mean a fate worse than death.
Satisfied with the lack of further interjections the Sorcerer closed her palm, the worms disappearing, “Good! Deliver this to the King as a gift. He will sip from it and be driven mad. For a time there will be civil war, panic, chaos, and all of you will profit from it. So too will the worm. Speak of this to anybody, and you will share your King’s fate…” she hopped off the table and walked to the door, opening it slightly and waving back, “Ta!” and slamming the door shut.
Though few knew at the time what the brew would do, its effects soon became apparent. The King seemed to be driven mad. Soon he closed off the palace, and guidance from the four clans was all but ignored. Unrest grew when the King’s Guard were sent to attack villages for supposed treason. Witches and cults renewed their efforts, unhindered. Those who tried to find aid from the King were turned back. Something bad had happened and none knew for certain what.
From the deepest caves and dungeons Banes arose once again. Creatures that sought nothing else bu to destroy the living. They descended on villages and towns during the night, causing death and destruction.
The people called out to their King, and he ignored them.
Chaos ruled throughout the land, and the twelve conspirators soon found their hands full of gold and work. Murder, theft, corruption. It was like the good old days
But as the kingdom was falling apart the four clans took action. A new king had to be chosen, the kingdom reunited. But would it be a just king? Would it be a kingslayer, or a purifier of corruption? Or perhaps the Worm would rule once again, and corrupt the new king just as it did the old?
And what happened to the Sorceress? The one who caused an ancient evil to resurface once again? She was not seen again, yet her presence could be felt. For whenever all would seem to go too well, when peace would seemingly be restored, evil, in some form, would appear once again.
And the conspirators? Like any men who profited from others misery, they lived on. In their mansions and dens, richer than ever, more powerful than before.
Would the land ever know a lasting peace again? Could the clans be united, the evil banished and balanced restored? To so many questions we sadly might never know the answers to.
Where this story ends your tale in Armello begins. Will you be a just King? Will you purify the land of evil? Or will you turn to the Worm for aid?
Writing: WriterX (Myself)