Bring forward the Sacred Scrolls, and hold them high. Unbind the scrolls and look upon them: there you shall see the saga of our race back unto the beginning: in those graven words the deeds of the Mighty and the Wise shall live forever. Hearken to my tale, for in it the hooves of fallen Heroes and vanished Cohorts still echo. Hearken to the breeze - in it you can hear the voices of the Paragons, guiding us to glory and honor. You have come to me for knowledge, Son of Man, and I shall gladly give it to you. Long we waited for the birth of your people, foretold by the Father of All, and when the Titans were born we rejoiced at the news. Listen, then, and learn: twice before our elders shared their wisdom with your kind, and we shall do so until the ending of the World. It is up to you to hear, and listen, and learn. I pray to the All-Father that it may be so.
The tale is long, full of glory and despair, but it is the legacy of every Centaur to remember it, and keep the Watch. Without wisdom, how shall we know the Path? Without the examples of our Heroes, how shall we know Honor? Listen to me then, and learn of the Burden that Kenaryn our father placed upon us. But enough of the future: that is not ours to know. Now I must look to the past, to times of joy and glory. Set aside the scrolls, for I have no need of them. Age has taken my eyes from me, but rest assured: there was a time when I could see; and I have seen.
I look back now to the Beginning, when our race was born to Twilight. Many are the tales of Kenaryn, the God you Humans know as the Hunter. Indeed his greatest love is the hunt, but he is also the Protector: it was his arrows that held the hosts of Chaos at bay before the creation of the world, when Kolaur the Demon Prince shed even the All-Father's blood in battle. Bravest of the Companions, Kenaryn slew the Dark Lord, and took his mighty spear, Callanthyr, as his prize. When the world was new and empty Kenaryn raced over its face, sprinting to every corner and running even among the stars. As Braialla awakened and the new world flowered, the Hunter made his way to Saedril, the Silver Moon, and there found out mother, Saedron, entombed in a column of ice. At the mere sight of Saedron's beauty Kenaryn's heart was enthralled, and his love for her has never wavered. Kenaryn's hot tears melted the Saedron's icy prison, and the Fate Weaver woke when she heard his honeyed voice. And so our Father and Mother found each other, but born was a love that would be tinged with sadness.
Kenaryn longed to return to Aerynth, to serve his master Helgeron, the Father of All who the Elves named Pandarrion. But Saedron was loath to leave her icy home, for to linger too long away from Saedril would mean her death. Finally the Silver Goddess consented to Kenaryn's wish that their children should be of Aerynth, and so Saedron came down from the skies and the first Centaurs were born on Aerynth. The first of our kind were the Paragons, strong and true, in whose veins flowed the blood of Gods. Never again shall their like be known on the face of Aerynth: Ennon the Thunderer, Olroi Shadowchaser, Nandra Goldencoat, Trilius Truespear and many others rode as the First Cohort. Mighty were their deeds!
Our Mother taught us Wisdom, and gave to us the art of writing, so that acts and words might never fade. Beyond this, we knew little of our Mother's ways: indeed, She showered many more gifts on our cousins the Sidhe. But the Paragons felt no envy or spite, for truly we Centaurs have ever been our father's children. Thurin the Shaper, second only to Kenaryn in his devotion to the All-Father, taught the Paragons the ways of stone and iron. Our eyes were not so keen as those of the Firstborn Elves, so Thurin taught us the secrets of fire, and we kindled great lamps and torches to banish the gloom. Kenaryn taught us the skills of the hunt, the love of the chase, and the ways of the bow and spear. The Hunter taught us also song and sport, and wondrous were our revels in the Age of Twilight, when the Gods walked among us.
Of all the things that the Hunter taught us, there are two we Centaurs cherish most. The first was our place in this world, which we learned early. For the Children of the Gods were not alone in the long twilight. Beasts appeared and lurked in fen, thicket, and forest: Kenaryn was quick to teach us their ways, that we might hunt them. "For the Beasts," Kenaryn told his children, "are born of no God, and their lords are terrible and treacherous. All that the All-Father and the Seven Gods have wrought they would corrupt. It falls to you to confound the savagery of Bear and Wolf, Boar and Snake. Of all the Children of the Gods, the Centaurs shall be the wardens and protectors: you must keep the Beasts at bay." And so we joined the High Watch, which we keep to this day. And the second lesson Kenaryn taught the Centaurs? We remember it as Ennon's Chase. Of all the tales of that age, it is the most important story of all.
Ennon the Thunderer was the greatest of our kind, first born of the Goddess and the first Tiros of our race. Countless legends echo with his strength and valor, and it is said that he was the swiftest thing ever to run on four legs: Ennon once outraced an arrow shot from Kenaryn's bow, just to prove he could. His gifts made him prideful, and then brash. Ennon challenged all of his brothers to tests of strength and speed, and humbled them easily. He then rode to the glades of the Sidhe, and mocked his cousin Elves when they could keep up with him. When one of the Sidhe challenged Ennon, the mighty Centaur kicked the Elf to the ground. The Elves were roused to anger, and Gillestin Keeneyes shot Ennon with her bow, grazing his perfect face. Thus was the First Blood spilled upon the soil of Aerynth, and this act moved the very Gods to action.
Kenaryn chided Ennon, and warned him of the dangers of false pride. "But my pride is not false!" the brash Tiros replied, "I am better and stronger than Paragon or Sidhe â€“ who then shall oppose my will? I can do things that even you cannot do!" Kenaryn scowled, but then he smiled. "So my son. You have grown swifter, stronger, and more cunning than I? Prove it â€“ chase you the wind, and snare it, and bring it back to me alive." Ennon laughed at the challenge, and sped away like lightning. And so Ennon's Chase began. The All-Father had not yet fashioned Time, and so there is no way to measure how long Ennon rode in his quest, but it was long indeed. From the pillars of ice in the utter north to the boiling fens of the south Ennon ran, but he hunted in vain. And so the first Tiros learned the Ways of the Wind, and learned the difference between Pride, always born of virtue, and Hubris, which can only destroy virtue. Ennon learned that there is a Right beyond mere strength, and that only Honor brings true glory. By the time Ennon returned to his people, he had found a wisdom to match his strength and speed. With tears in his bright eyes he humbled himself before Kenaryn, and then rode to the Sidhe he had wronged. King Giliandor forgave Ennon his earlier slurs, and in the spans that followed Gillestin and Ennon became sure friends, and Ennon bore the archer Sidhe on his back in many hunts and quests. Gillestin's kin were less forgiving. The Elves kept to their mistrust, and so the Centaurs and Elves came to dwell far apart. Unto the end of his days Ennon bore the scar upon his face with humility, and never again questioned his father's will. The Paragons and every Centaur born of them shall always strive to follow Ennon's example.
Ennon did many great deeds in the Long Twilight, but the memory of them is tinged with sorrow, for we also remember Ennon's fall. The Centaurs lived far from the Sidhe in those days, but the Elves were not the only ones who suffered when the Dragon stirred in the deeps. Tremor and storm ravaged our cities, and Kenaryn rallied the First Cohort, shouting that some unknown doom was at hand. And so our father led us out onto the plains, and we raced the wind to bring aid to the Elves. From afar the Paragons saw the light of the Dragon's flame, so bright that it dazzled their eyes. They saw the Golden Moon consumed in flames, and heard the dying wails of Volliandra. Their hearts were filled with despair at the sight, but that despair soon turned to terror, for before Volliandra's screams had even ended we heard Saedron scream in pain. A black mark appeared on the Silver Moon, and something hideous fell from there onto the face of Aerynth, into the midst of our devastated cities. The cries of their women and children tore the hearts of Ennon and the Paragons. "Look to your own!" Kenaryn called. "I shall aid my Lord!" And so Kenaryn raced away with the speed of a ray of starlight, to drive the Dragon away with his mighty spear. Ennon and the Paragons ran back to their broken hearths, and found Grallokur waiting for them. I will not speak of that horrible battle, except to say that when it was done our race had lost more than half of its numbers, and Ennon the Thunderer was dead. Even the might of the Paragons could not slay Grallokur, but they did manage to wound it, driving the terror away into the wilds.
When Kenaryn returned to the first city from the field of Hennan Gallorach, his despair and rage knew no bounds. After burying Ennon with honor and dignity, the Hunter cried out to the heavens for vengeance, and began the Long Hunt to take revenge against the Devourer. Many of the Paragons went with him, but only the swiftest and cleverest could match their father's pace. The Long Hunt continues to this day, and each year the champions of the Karredani Games, bravest and brightest of our race, leave the Cohorts to seek the Hunter and join his chase. No mortal can tell how many times Kenaryn and Grallokur have faced each other, or how many hunters have fallen to the Terror's venomed claws. At the End of Days the Long Hunt will finally end, and Kenaryn will face Grallokur in a final battle to determine the fate of Aerynth. The Centaurs have trained for that final battle since the first age of the world, and we shall be ready.
And what of Saedron? The pain She felt at the death of her twin, the pain that manifested as Grallokur itself, has driven Her to madness. It broke Kenaryn's heart to learn that His beloved was the source of so much pain, and our father and mother have rarely spoken since. Some Paragons wise in the ways of healing journeyed to the Silver Moon in the wake of Grallokur's attack, ferried there on the White Ship of the Sidhe. They found Our Mother raving in her sleep. Their arts could not calm her, and the prophecies that flew from Saedron's lips terrified them. Thirteen Dooms Our Mother spoke, so the legends say. The wisest of the Paragons have kept them secret, and in all the Ages since these prophecies have not been revealed until they come to pass. Alas, far too many of them have. When Our Mother awoke, She was not Herself. She banished the Paragons from Her silver palace, telling them that Saedron, Mother of Night, had no children â€“ especially none so twisted and ugly as these. We remember Our Mother, and we honor Her, but the Ages have given us precious little reason to sing Her praises.
And so our ways changed. The Centaurs were transformed in the light of the newborn sun from one cohort to many, and each Tiros led his band far into the wilds, to hunt beasts and search for traces of the Devourer. The new sun singed the face of Aerynth, giving rise to deserts that divided our lands from the Elves. We have always dwelt apart from the other Children of the World, for this is the place Kenaryn ordained for us. Whenever dire threats have risen to imperil all of Aerynth, however, the cohorts have always left their mark on the history of the world.
The first time came near the end of the Age of Twilight, when the Sidhe turned their back on the All-Father. In our distant cities we heard rumor of the wickedness of the Elves, how the despair the Dragon left in its wake poisoned their souls. For a long while we did nothing. But when the Tiroi of the Cohorts learned that the Deathless Empire had taken traffic with the dreaded Beast Lords, we acted. Our emissaries to Emperor Sillestor were met with scorn, and the Elves denied their very heritage, claiming a Beast Lord as their father. The offense was too grave to be endured, and so all the Cohorts assembled, and we made war against our cousins. The Elves called Demons to their aid, and Elemental spirits, and even the Beast Lords themselves took the field. It was too much for the Paragons to endure. Many of Ennon's kin fell in that dreaded war, and our people suffered losses second only to the coming of Grallokur. The magic of the Elves was too powerful, yet our faith never wavered. Golladar Grimhelm, Marshall of the Cohorts, managed to hold the Elvish armies at bay with his tactical genius, while Olroi Shadowchaser raced through the wild seeking our father. Olroi found the Hunter and brought him back to the wide plains, but even the Hunter's strength could not turn the tide, for He was but one God, while the Beast Lords attacked in legions. All hope faded, and Golladar sent word to all our armies that there was nothing left to do but to die well. But at the last our faith and our virtue were rewarded: Helgeron the All-Father returned to Aerynth with His Archons, and His wrath tamed the Beast Lords and broke the Deathless Empire. The treason of the Elves was punished, and their blasphemous ways were mended. The few Centaurs who had survived withdrew to the vast plains, and there we took up the Great Watch and the Long Hunt again.
It was long before our people regained a shadow of their former strength and glory, but our diligence never wavered. When the All-Father set the Sun in motion and began the count of time we Centaurs rejoiced and praised his name. We realized soon after that all Centaurs born to this new age had lost the immortality of the Paragons, but still we praised the All-Father. Our scouts and hunters had seen the Burning Lands, and we knew all too well the threat the fixed Sun posed to all of Aerynth. Grallokur and the Taming had taught us the necessities of sacrifice. In those early days we met the Titans of Ardan, wandering in the wilds, and we taught them archery, hunting, and the way of arms. We also taught them of the All-Father, and told them tales of the Dragon and the Taming and the treachery of the Elves. We also met the Dwarves, Thurin's sons, who of all the World's children are closest in their temper to us. In time the men of Ardan came to war with the Deathless Empire, but we knew little of that conflict, for we dwelt far away across endless deserts and plains, and our attentions were diverted. Other things awakened on that first dawn, things far fouler than Titans.
The Paragons had found many strange and wondrous places while they roamed the long twilight: strangest of all were the ancient places, sprawling ruins of grim pyramids and monuments. The forlorn heaps of stone seemed older than even Braialla's awakening, and Kenaryn could not tell whose hands had raised them. We stood watch over them, for they were places of ill omen. Thus it was that we were there when the builders of those forlorn monuments awakened, stirred from sleep by the beginning of time. They were the Scaly Ones, tall reptiles that walked like men, and they were quick to move against us with dark weapons and foul magic. Many Centaurs were captured and sacrificed by these elder horrors, and we were shocked to learn that these Scaly Ones worshipped the Dragon, and called themselves Its children. The Cohorts quickly gathered, and we rode to war against this new enemy. The effort took years, but finally our virtue bore us to victory. We put all of their hideous priests to the sword, burned their libraries and pulled down their cities. But even in our victory we were guided by virtue, and still knew mercy: Trilius Truespear, last of the Paragons and Marshal of the Cohorts, decreed that the last of the Scaly Ones should be spared. The warriors and servants of the scaly breed were strong and valiant, and knew little of the dark paths their masters walked: Trilius deemed their lives worth sparing. Once the reptilian theocracy was broken, the few Scaly Ones that remained descended into savagery, withdrawing into the marshes and jungles. The Scaly Ones are still fierce, and hostile to all who enter their lands, but their dark ambitions pose no threat to Aerynth. Should this change, the cohorts will be quick to ride to ride to war again.
There were other conflicts fought in those days, unseen by the Men of Ardan or the Elves. Many cohorts launched raids into the Burning Lands against the Khalinviri, the forsaken Elves who, in their madness, had also taken up worship of the Dragon. Trilius Truespear met his end in battle with an exiled cult of Ardani wizards who sought to open the Gates to Chaos. The last of the Paragons had died, but their memory lives on in song and scroll. Every Centaur lives their life in the hope that we may prove ourselves equal to their shining example. Long was the Age of Days, and most of it passed in peace and harmony for our kind. Then we found the Free, wandering Humans who had escaped the yoke of Elvish slavery. They told us their story, and in turn we taught them our laws and the ways of the All-Father, for all of Humanity had forgotten. The Wise Ones looked to Saedron's prophecies, and found the answer to this riddle: the Blood Curse of the Elves had ruined Ardan and humbled the Titans. We told our new charges all that we remembered of Ardan and their lost heritage, and armed them so that they might take their vengeance. Many Cohorts rode with them when the time came to strike back at their masters, and Torvagau the Liberator was borne to battle by Hyrkos the Huntmaster, one of the mightiest Centaurs of that age. The Cohorts were so scattered in those days that it took years for the word of the Human's plight to reach them. But the messengers rode hard, and the Centaur legions gathered again for war against the Elvish Host. The war that met us, however, was not the fight we had expected.
You are a student of history, so you must know of the Irekei and the Chaos Gate. With sorrow in my heart I look now to the War of the Scourge. Countless Centaurs died in that bitter war, and our cities were laid waste by hordes of demons. The crucible of war forged many heroes, and doomed most of them. The Dark Lords twisted the very flesh of Aerynth, and it looked as though all the World's Children might perish. Our wisest called to Kenaryn for aid, but our father did not come, and we feared that the Hunter had fallen to the scourge of Chaos. Never have we known a darker hour.
The Tiroi gathered in a great council, and most believed that a good death was the only hope for our people. A young Tiros named Vargos spoke last, and turned the tide of history. Vargos counseled that the only hope was an alliance of all the races of Aerynth, that the friendships we knew of old must be rekindled. The other lords heard his wisdom, and so began our greatest mission. For most of a decade our emissaries sped across the hideous battlefields, trying to gather the lords of Aerynth while the Cohorts fought for their very survival. The way was hard and fraught with many arguments, but Vargos finally succeeded in forging the Grand Alliance. The Sons of Men came quickly to our side, and in time even the Giants joined us. The Elves, their hearts still full of spite, were the last to join the common cause. Alas, the Dwarves never emerged from their hidden holds. Their strength might have turned the tide, but it stayed hidden.
The Grand Alliance was our greatest triumph, but alas, even it came too late. The Dark Lords were too many, and too strong. Our generals rejoiced when we heard the news that Shadowbane, the Sword of Destiny, had been recovered against all hope, but the treacherous Elves turned on Beregund and took the blade. Their folly caused the mighty weapon to be lost, and the dark deeds nearly shattered the Alliance, but wisdom prevailed. All hope was lost, but then Aerynth was delivered, just as it had been in the times of the Taming. Helgaron the All-Father came again to Aerynth, and before His strength and the might of the Archons no army could stand. Kenaryn returned to fight at his Lord's side, and at last the Centaurs were reunited with our father. When the All-Father invaded the very pits of Chaos, a phalanx of the mightiest Centaurs rode in the first ranks of the assault. Alas, Malog's treachery nearly sold them all to doom, and Vargos died by the Traitor God's hand, blocking the axe stroke meant for Helgaron Himself. The All-Father and most of His legions escaped the Maimed God's trap, and the Chaos Gate was shut.
On the fields of victory Helgaron praised the Cohorts for their valor and their wisdom. It pleased Him that we had aided the Men of Ardan, and forged the Grand Alliance. As reward He gave our kind dominion over all the plains and the wilds, but elevated Men above all the other races. The Elves were bitter at His word, but the Centaurs felt no spite: our cousins were truly the All-Father's favored children, and who were we to dispute His will? Your race has always seemed young to us, young and brash. There is much you have to be prideful for, but too often your pride becomes hubris. You have yet to learn Ennon's lesson. When at last you do, there could be no greater rulers upon Aerynth. May that day come soon!
As we had advised the Sons of Men before, so the Centaurs offered counsel in the new age, the Age of Kings. Our Sacred Scrolls served as one foundation of the Holy Church of the All-Father, and we were overjoyed when the Human, Elvish, and Centaur churches united into one body. Many of our folk serve the Holy Church to this day. Some foresaw that the Age of Kings would be a time of harmony, with the Grand Alliance keeping the peace and the All-Father's vision of plenty and happiness finally fulfilled. Alas, it was not to be.
While the Elves withdrew into the courts and the Sons of Men scattered across Aerynth, we Centaurs returned to the wilds and the vast plains and took up the Great Watch again. Some three hundred years after the War of the Scourge ended, new threats cast their shadow over us. Grallokur returned to civilized lands, leaving havoc and death in his wake. Kenaryn roused the mightiest among us, and they drove the Terror away, but at a terrible cost. As Kenaryn and many of the Cohorts chased the Terror, and new threat revealed itself in the depths of the wild. The Beast Lords, long barred from Aerynth after the Taming, had at last found new ways to make their mark upon our world.
As Saedron's prophecies had foretold, the Beast Lords were no longer content with their mundane children, and bore new spawn: Beast Men, hideous fusions of their forms with the shape of the All-Father, their greatest enemy. Wolf, Bear, Bat, Wolverine, and many more now walked on two legs, and turned claw and fang on all the Children of the World. The Tiroi sent warnings to the lords of the Alliance, but there was little heed â€“ the Elves could not be stirred from their reverie, the Holy Church was slow to act, and the Sons of Men were too embroiled with their own feuds and troubles. At last the Cohorts dealt with the beast spawn ourselves: after all, Kenaryn had set his children to the Great Watch, and never have we neglected that duty.
The hunt was long, and our numbers were too thinned by the hand of Chaos for complete victory. We broke the petty nations of the Beast Men and scattered their dark cults, but the effort pulled us far from the lands of the Grand Alliance, and in the end only drove the beast men into every corner of Aerynth. Victory eluded us, but our next war would have a different outcome. As all the World's children know, in the eighth century of the Age of Kings, Malog returned from Chaos, bearing a new name but filled with old hatred and treachery. He brought hordes of new horrors with him: Orcs and Grobolds and mighty Ogres, and was quick to find new allies on Aerynth. The Minotaurs flocked to his dark banner, as did several clans of Giants and even some savage Men. Again we warned the lords of the Grand Alliance, and this time they all roused themselves. As it had been at the last age, so it was in the War of Ashes: the Children of the Gods stood together, and finally Kenaryn himself fought beside Torvald the Titan in the final battle. Their efforts sent Morloch to his richly deserved doom. But victory brought little comfort, for ancient tensions poisoned the friendship between Humans, Elves, and Men. The Holy Church grew narrow in its views, and our wisest ones found more quarrels with the Patriarch than commonalities. The Cohorts withdrew from the affairs of Elves and Men, and we withdrew our advice and counsel from our cousins.
All too quickly the Deathless Empire fell to warring with the Ten Kingdoms of men, and the Cohorts renounced the Grand Alliance. The Tiroi were so entrenched in their grief at its failure that they were blinded to the consequences of their actions. Tired of bickering and vendetta, the Centaurs returned to the Long Hunt and the Great Watch. We thought that what we did was just and right, for we were only following our father's will. Alas, without even seeing it, hubris had corrupted us. It was not pride that led us to make our gravest error, but despair. For the Eighth Prophecy of Saedron came to pass soon after, and Aerynth shattered when King Cambruin fell. And with the Turning came plagues unimaginable: pestilence, isolation, cataclysm, undead, new beasts, all were unleashed.
The Cohorts found themselves cut off, scattered across the fragments of our world. But each wise one and each Tiros knew what we must do â€“ the shock of the Turning shook us from our Hubris. If our wisdom and our voices had been present in the courts of the Elves and the halls of Cambruin, might not this disaster have been averted? Who were we, the sons of Kenaryn, to grow impatient with the hubris of Elves and Men, both the children of Helgaron our father's lord? To withdraw and despair, that is the Elvish way. To rage blindly against hardship is the Human way. We have always followed a different path. And so, as the Gate roads opened, we have returned from our seclusion to help drive back the darkness.
Ours is a mighty destiny, fraught with hardship and sorrow, but we Horse Lords have always borne it without complaint. If we do not, who can? Darkness and Chaos have always stirred, thirsty for blood and souls. Without the Long Hunt and the Watch they would surely have triumphed long ago. Indeed, the test that awaits this generation shall be the darkest ever known, and many of our bravest and wisest deem that we cannot win the coming battle. So be it. The Centaurs have faced dire odds before.
There are many who think us fools, that we Centaurs live for ideals that have no place in this world. That may be, but I say this: the world is as the Gods have made it: all we who are mortal can do is to live our lives with honor and strive to fight for virtue. If all we can hope for is to die, then we must die well. To do less would mean betraying the Father of All. It is a hard course we ride, but we shall not waver. We seek an ideal, as intangible as the wind itself. But so long as the winds blow, we shall chase it, and we shall never tire.