This article on Avathor contains spoilers for Dead World, book 7 of the Kat Drummond Series.
The In Between contains countless realms, containing even more countless dangers and denizens of this magical and unfathomable existence. But even within the infinite confines of the In Between, there are worlds that brush up against our own.
Many of these realms infuse our myths and legends. Olympia, Elysium, Asgard. Throughout our history, aspects of these realms have dripped into our world. But this was never a one-way street. As we received the monsters and magics of other realms, others received something from ours.
And so was born Avathor. A land of knightly things. A land of blood, torment, honour, valour, and destiny. For Avathor was born through death, and so too would it end.
Origins of Avathor
The origin of Avathor as we know it does not begin on that doomed realm, but in our own. It begins amid the death throes of the Roman Empire of our Earth. As the Roman Empire collapsed, new powers began to rise across Europe. Among these were the Saxons, who began their invasion of Britain in the 5th century.
The Romans had long since abandoned the island. Oddly enough, they had left peacefully. But the power vacuum of empires is seldom peaceful for long. The native Celtic Britons soon had to face the Saxon invaders.
This was not just a battle for the sovereignty of their homeland, however. For centuries, the Celts of Europe had been hunted to extinction in a now all but forgotten genocide. The Celtic Britons were the last of the Celts. And knowledgeable or not of this fact, its importance rang out across the In Between.
A greater fae of considerable power took notice of the dying people. Utilising a gateway realm that existed in flux between realms, she brought her island onto Earth and found a chosen one to become her champion and defender of his people.
The fae was named Nimue, and she had brought the island of Avalon from its own ageless realm into the realm of men. And to defend this people that she had taken such an interest in, she anointed a petty warlord to become something more.
To become King of the Britons.
His name was King Arthur Pendragon. And his legend would cross realms.
King Arthur fought against the Saxon invaders with the help of the Lady of the Lake, the sorcerer Merlin (who held a genuine spark in an age where magic was practically dead) and a dying civilisation.
But there were darker conspiracies afoot. Rivals of Nimue, petty demons, and dark gods wished for an end to the Celtic people, who for so long had resisted their ultimate demise. The Celts had a culture intertwined with nature and the primal notions of purity. And this was abhorrent to the chaos lovers that had taken an interest in Earth.
The magical and mundane threats to the Celtic Britons became far too much, and Nimue realised that her chosen people would not survive on Earth for long.
Using Avalon, she created a rift to a new realm, and allowed King Arthur and as many of his people as possible to find a new land away from the darkness of the world.
This new realm was dubbed Avathor.
The Rise of Arthurian Avathor
Nimue was unable to aid her people on their new world. While Avalon could exist within Earth, its connection to Avathor was far more tenuous. For the people who had travelled to this new realm, it was a one-way ticket.
Despite Nimue’s new powerlessness, her people still worshiped her as the Lady of the Lake. Or often simplified as just: The Lady.
She became the new faith of the people of this realm – almost completely replacing Christianity and becoming syncretic with Celtic paganism.
The faith preached many virtues. Honour, valour, kindness, and charity. But also established a primal drive in the humans who followed it. A sense of manifest destiny whereby the humans of Avathor believed this land was now rightfully theirs. A gift from the Lady herself.
King Arthur led his people across untamed wilderness, encountering many threats. Orcs, goblins, trolls, and many other beasts previously unknown to them. Through this journey, they fell on hard times – until they were rescued by tribes of elves.
The elves cared for the sick and hungry people and led them to a valley where they encountered dwarves and more elves inhabiting unimaginably splendid cities of perfectly cut stone, carved out mountains and impossibly gigantic tree-cities.
The Celts lived alongside the elves and dwarves, rarely leaving the preestablished cities to build their own villages and homesteads. With the defence of the elves and dwarves, and the bounty of this fertile land, their population soon grew. Until humans now outnumbered the elves and dwarves.
Soon, space became unavailable for the growing human population, and they were told that they needed to leave and establish their own settlements. And so, they did. But without the natural magics of the elves or the engineering of the dwarves, these settlements became places of squalor
King Arthur’s life had been extended by Nimue’s magic, but even he was nearing the end of his life. Seeing how his people had fallen, he asked for an audience to meet the closest thing to the elven ruler – the Sunseer.
The King of the Britons travelled past the mountains of the valley which they called home. And was never seen again. Some say he was killed by orc bandits. Others say that the pains of the journey pushed him into the void. But the consensus among his people was far more sinister.
They believed him betrayed by his elvish hosts. And they demanded revenge.
In truth, King Arthur was slain by the dark forces that had threatened his people back on Earth. They had followed him through Avalon, and sought to bring doom to this doomed people. Once and for all.
This truth was never revealed to the people of Avathor. King Arthur’s trusted confidants, generals and lords became enraged at the perceived betrayal of the elves and committed themselves to a war with the elves.
Across generations, the growing human population of Avathor chipped away at the elvish civilisation – until it was no more. The once great dwarven cities became inhabited by humans. The tree domains were turned to cinders.
Humanity were now the hegemonic rulers of Avathor.
Life on Avathor
Technological progress on Avathor was held back by the relative isolation of the new Avathorian civilisation. While commerce and the exchange of ideas led to progress on Earth, the people of Avathor had no such trade partners. They had wiped them out.
Technology peaked at the equivalent of what on Earth would be called the early Renaissance. Steelwork and metalworking received a lot of attention, but mass production was held back by a lack of trade routes and navigable rivers. The majority of production took place in petty cottage industries.
Despite wiping out the elves and dwarves, Avathor still held many terrors. To face these threats, knightly orders formed. These orders supplemented the irregular conscripts and levies of the motley dukes and barons of the land. They specialised in particular aspects of war. Cavalry, shield-walls, sieges, magic. On paper, they were sworn to uphold the laws of valour and honour that pleased the Lady herself. In practice, they became mercenary bands fighting for the highest bidder.
No one claimed the title of king after Arthur’s death. For centuries, the highest power in the land was the High Duke of Concord – a once bustling dwarven city and now the seat of humanities’ power. Under the High Duke were a roster of dukes and barons that held power over the land in a feudal system reminiscent of Earth’s.
For most, life on Avathor was very much like life in Medieval Europe. Peasants cultivated the land, paid tax to a lord, were pressed into service, and fought in constant territorial disputes between lords.
Where it differed was that there were no major plagues on Avathor. The Black Death did not follow humanity across Avalon, and the elves had left a tradition of healing magic that rendered most ills and injuries simple inconveniences. There was also no need for fertiliser or technological advances in agriculture, as Avathor’s soil was magically fertile and could sustain the growing population.
This left Avathor populous but technologically and ideologically static. A society stuck forever in remembrance of its lost god and dead king.
The growing population of Avathor led to discontent despite the plentiful food and access to healing. With little to do, and a strict adherence to a tradition that meant little to the young, Avathor’s people began to fall into darkness.
Wars were common between the petty fiefdoms of this land, with refugees flocking to the cities and forming vast swathes of slums. These slums became dominated by gangs and criminals. And soon after – cults.
These cults varied in their beliefs. Some simply opposed the blind orthodoxy of Arthur and Lady worship. But others were far more sinister. Cabals of necromancers and dark mages that, above all, desired power.
One such cult came to be dominated by one of its acolytes. Alain Avicin, once a member of a petty street gang, rose to become an adept necromancer and then the ruler of a cult that would eventually lead to the destruction of civilisation on Avathor.
Under Alain’s leadership, the cult insidiously infiltrated almost all levels of Avathorian society. Only a few of the most close-knit and devout Knightly-Orders were spared from this subterfuge.
In the shadows, a vast army of the undead was created. Alain used this army to create an external threat to Avathor. He used this threat to encourage the High Duke of Concord to seize more and more power and eventually bring Avathor under totalitarian rule. Mages were considered enemies of the state and blamed for the darkness. This resulted in a swift and brutal civil war called the Spark War – where most of Avathor’s mages were killed. Only those hiding in the Knightly-Orders survived.
Simultaneously, Alain fomented rebellion against this dictatorship. This caused a three-way war between the undead, the High Duke and the rebellion.
But as the undead threat became more and more pressing, the war between the living faded.
The Knightly-Orders, notably the Orders of Albin, The Lady, Knights-Purifier, and Eiron, united against their common foe. For years, they hunted down necromancer cabals across the valley that had kept humanity safe for so long. But the source of the darkness was not located inside the fertile valley – but across the wastes and wildernesses that had once almost killed their ancestors.
Many knights were lost while seeking the source of the darkness. But others returned, telling tales of monsters and pure evil. Of a lich of immense power – and the numberless army of undead at his back.
But the land they returned to was not ready to face this evil. Devastated by civil war and undeath, the once great duchies of Avathor were left leaderless and in shambles.
The Knightly-Orders, led by Arden of the Order of Albin, led an effort to unite the surviving peoples of Avathor into a coalition to stand against the approaching army of the dead.
The call went out and a host of hungry, exhausted and desperate souls assembled by the mouth to the valley that held their homes. Their army was the largest this world had ever seen. The dead doubled their number.
The battle was brutal, full of acts of self-sacrifice, valour and honour. But it was for nothing. The living perished. Not a single soul retreated. Not a single soul gave up their position. But it was too much for them.
The army of the dead crossed the threshold and brought destruction down about Avathor – and finally extinguished the light that Nimue had fought so hard to keep lit for so long.
But life did not perish on Avathor. For humanity is resilient. Motley groups survived outside of the valley and within.
A decade after the Fall of Avathor, a mysterious Otherworlder arrived on Avathor. She banded together with the ragtag survivors of the village of Ithalen and stood against the remnants of the army of the dead. This gave the women, children, and some of the young men of Ithalen time to settle in Concord.
With the army of the dead gone, life was allowed to return to Avathor. Slowly and surely. And now, with knowledge and dreams of a brighter future for humanity. One with visions of technology, of science, and of a world ruled not by superstition and darkness – but by progress.
For it is no longer the Lady that the people of Avathor worship. But the woman wearing the flaming coat. The Otherworlder. And it is in their name that they spread past the mountains of their valley, bringing steam engines, gunpowder and steel to the rest of their world.