Where now all that remains are ruins and the desolation of ash, once stood a great, prominent and prosperous civilization. Cities of stones and gold, rich lands of plentiful harvest and, of course, the prodigious race of Man. Kingdoms were built, warmongering at first but peaceful in time and as such, wars became stories of the past as men learned of empathy. And, in the center of it all rested the Silver Capital of the human world, built upon the very birthplace of mankind: the Cradle of Humanity.
Alas, the sacred tenets, these virtues written by men ironically guided them against their own nature, thus the Taint of Ash spread across the lands, foretelling the end of the human race in its entirety. As the bodies and flesh of the living turned into cinders, their minds too began to rot. The ones that were not consumed whole by ash slowly crumbled into lifeless husks, spared of the grasp of death only to wander amidst a world asunder. Years after years, the great crowns that once guided humanity forward splintered and fell to chaos, as the desperate kingdoms led their afflicted armies towards the Cradle of Man. There, they hoped to find an answer to their undeserved suffering. Yet the watchful knights of the Silver Capital, even in their pitiful state of ashen flesh, incessantly carried their eternal allegiance towards the protection of the birthplace of Man, sovereign and unyielding. In the end, war destroyed all that ash did not. It seemed there was no hope left for mankind, for indeed the very Soul of Humanity was tainted beyond recognition.
Some, however, were not. These very few souls were known as the Untainted Ones, for they had not fallen prey to the curse that had been set upon Man. Neither years nor steel could kill them, as each time one passed unto the next world, their spirit reemerged elsewhere.
In the deep chasms of a lost dungeon, darkened by the ash-covered sky, awoke a fallen knight, a wandering warrior, carrying a worn armor of plate dusted by time. His sheathed sword spelt rust, and his helmet sorrow. For a brief moment, the man chose to fall into slumber, as to never have to live and die again. Yet, when the crying plea of an infant echoed through the dark chambers of his prison, the fainted eyes of the knight opened anew – and the dungeon was silent once more. Again, the Untainted One arose, for after each death the thought of giving up seemed oh-so very enticing, yet each time was chased by the sombre memory from a bygone era.
The unnamed knight had done this before. His soul was forever fated to live again, destined to find the unseen path to the scarred corpse of his belongings in a perpetual cycle of rebirth. This time was no different. He stood up, and walked. Walked amidst the abandoned corridors of an ancient prison, crushing the bones of the dead beneath his boots, and to the wooden doors leading outside, to a desperate world left to ashes. As he opened the portal to unwanted freedom, the fresh wind of the sea stirred his torn cape, for the dungeon tower he had found himself in was built on the verge of a perilous cliff. The reborn man sat his gaze inland, standing over the vast plains of the once great empire of mankind, a world of endless desolation.
“Why am I here ?” muttered the helmed knight, as he took out of his pouch an iridescent powder of curious nature. As if it responded to his words, the powder shaped into hovering specks of light above his gloved hand, like a strangely antizing ember floating in the air. At the voice of the fallen knight, the mysterious sparks of light took flight and drifted east, towards the destiny of every Untainted One.
Even more fleeting than the strange light was the memory carried by the Untainted. The knight could remember his mortal existence, in a remote age before the world had fallen prey to the Taint of Ash, but had little to no recollection of his previous lives, nor the manner in which he had died each time. Always, for every death and rebirth, the Untainted Ones were guided by light, by use of an odd powder litting up their path towards their unknown goal, towards the Cradle of Humanity. None knew the purpose of their immortality, nor the reason for their purity of flesh. Either they could choose to fall into eternal slumber, losing themselves completely and, doing so, joining in likeness the fate of the tainted carcasses wandering the ruined kingdoms… or they could choose to perpetuate in their journey, blind, towards the light, nearing, with each life and death, their untold destiny.
In this new life, the fallen knight first traversed the desolate ashland of the west, vast fields that once yielded bountiful crops and abundant harvest. In the distance, dark figures hovered the plains of cinder, scarecrows, whose silhouettes hidden amidst the storm of ash appeared now more terrifying to men than to the black birds who had taken over their outlines.
The fallen knight stopped by an abandoned farming cabin before sundown, less the darkness of the night swallowed his path whole. The shack was not inhabited, as the knight found, on the ash-covered bed, the bones of a father, a mother and a child. He was no stranger to loss himself, and in thought fell to slumber.
As the first light of day shone through the dark clouds of the ashen sky, the knight was awoken by the same plea coming from the mouth of an infant baby. Once again he rose, and continued down his journey westward, inland.
On his path, the fallen knight came upon the lost village of an unknown nation. Few remaining inhabitants feared his arrival, while others praised him, prophicizing the Untainted as the saviors of mankind, the fighters of all evil, the enemies of the Taint.
“Untainted One. I recognize your attire.” said a blind old lady, her very chest, ridden by ash, on the verge of collapse.