A Fragment From: The Chronicle of the Red Duke
There arose in Vallacyha a noble of singular martial prowess and implacable will to power. Many called him callous, merciless, and worse. His name is perhaps lost to time, but more likely deliberately expunged; whether by his enemies or his own hand, none can say. Today, as it has been for centuries and more - he is simply called, The Red Duke.
What can be pieced together of his history is fantastical, sometimes conflicting, and altogether terrifying if but a tenth part of any of it is true.
Sages have said that he has set himself upon a quest greater than his seeming cruelty, greater than his sins. Priests have said he is cursed by the gods (which ones, they do not say - and others claim it is no less than all of them) to a geas more terrible than mortal minds can compass. But it is the bards who may have the right of it - for they spin endless tales of despair and hope, triumph that never leads to total victory, and a tragic figure who inspires in them and their audiences equal measures of fear and reverence.
Of how he came to be; who, and what, he is - there are a thousand stories. Each may hold some grain of truth, or none. The tales go back in time for far longer than a mortal man, or even a sorcerer could live, but weirdly seem to spin through time itself. At all points in history, The Red Duke seems ancient. How this can be, is a mystery that has kept many a sage occupied his whole career, and driven many more completely mad. Some knowledge is best left buried.
In the War of Hell’s Light, the Red Duke rode at the fore of the Legion of Saints. The city of Kyrand thought certain this was some ally of the Darkspawn tide that besieged them - and, it is said, so did the Archlictor Balsarng’ith when the crimson armor of the Duke hove into view at the vanguard the most feared mercenary company in the Known Lands.
Black and sapphire flames burned in the empty sockets of the Duke’s deathless visage. With the Red Helm’s silted visor raised and the flicker of those flames reflecting back into its darkness, the Duke radiated an aura of ultimate, inexorable doom. A hush fell upon the walls, and the field, as Balsarng’ith rode to meet the Duke. It is well known what happened then. The Kyrandis still sing of it on the Day Hell Fled, celebrated in that city every tenth year. The Duke raised his black sword high, and a dark radiance fell from the heavens. The land was blanketed in shadow no torch could banish, and those brave enough to still be on the walls at that time could only dimly perceive the flashes of steel, fang, and baalfire that ran rampant across the battlefield then. Haunted, most were ever after, by the cries and snarls and worse sounds heard that day. Through the false night and into the true darkness it continued, and at the dawn, there was silence. Upon the field lay blood and scorched patches where men and things had stood and fought. Fallen hellwrought blades scattered the emptiness before the walls of Kyrand...but of the Legion and the Red Duke, there was no trace.
And a thousand times ten more times has it been thus. Sometimes in favor of the righteous, and other times as if sent to be a scourge upon the people of the Known Lands. What stays his hand, or guides the drawing of his terrible blade, none have ever been able to say with any conviction. Many have sought to paint the Duke as a savior, blaming even the most terrible slaughter on some hidden wickedness of the slain...and they could be right - but none know. The Sign of the Sundered Helm gives pause to all when it appears, and even Priest Kings have questioned their righteousness when the Red Duke approaches.