The Song of the Qui-Chi
The time of magic
A special group of beings appeared during the Rebirth. These beings had the characteristics of all the new races, plus great powers that set them apart. They were called the pyreen. Whether this race sprang into existence by accident or was the direct result of the manipulations of the nature-masters is not known. There were few of them, and they lived an extremely long time. The pyreen hid themselves from the other races, content to stick to their own agendas and stay out of the affairs of the rest of the world. But one pyreen was unlike his brethren. He called himself Rajaat, and while he had much in common with the pyreen, he was also different. Rajaat was deformed and ugly of both heart and body In his youth he had high ideals and great plans, but these became as twisted as the body and spirit that housed them. By all accounts, Rajaat was hideous. He had a huge head with a fiat, grossly elongated face. His eyes were half-covered by flaps of skin. His long nose, lacking a bridge, ended in three flaring nostrils. His small, slitlike mouth was marked with tiny teeth and a drooping chin. His body was contorted and weak, with humped shoulders and gangling arms. Even so, Rajaat was blessed with certain advantages: He had a supreme intellect and great command of the Way. During the earliest days of the Green Age, Rajaat explored the world. He traveled the wooded lanes on the floating ivory platforms of the mindbenders, wandering from the majestic towers of the human cities to the sylvan citadels of the elves, from the gloomy metropolises of the dwarves to the tiny pockets remaining to the halflings. He spent centuries trying to reconcile his brutish appearance with his humane spirit. But in the end, Rajaat could find nothing positive to sustain him. He came to revile himself as nothing but a deformed accident. . . . Even an accident, however, can find a grand purpose. Rajaat discovered “magic” about 8,000 years ago, that strange and mystical science that had heretofore not occurred on Athas. He could only accomplish small things at first, but he eventually found a place of power where he could experiment in secret. It was an idyllic glen surrounded by a forest of green and intersected by a river of glistening blue, and it was located at the base of the Jagged Cliffs. Here, secluded and hidden from his fellow pyreen, Rajaat learned to draw energy from life itself to power his magic. But in doing so, the meadow turned into a dire fen, a swamp of foul proportions-and the First Sorcerer was born. For almost 200 years Rajaat worked in that dire marsh, learning to draw energy from plants. He experimented with magic that drew its strength from the world itself but he couldn’t control such raw power. The results of these experiments with the world’s life force fouled the swamp and almost destroyed Rajaat. When he recovered, he left the fen behind and went to search for the last great creation of the ancient halfling nature-masters. Rajaat went to find the Pristine Tower, for his dreams were haunted by the whispered tales of halflings. The First Sorcerer took possession of the abandoned tower, altering it to fit his own needs. He plundered the place, and soon its secrets were his own. With the power of the Pristine Tower to aid him, Rajaat refined his control of sorcery into two spheres-preserving magic and defiling magic. He went on a quest then, seeking students to pass this knowledge to. Many came to learn about this new source of power-humans, elves, gnomes, and others-but Rajaat selected only students who were human. On the surface, his acts looked like a beneficial enterprise, but Rajaat hid darker motives behind an altruistic front. In public, he taught one group of students how to use preserving magic. In secret, he showed a select group of others how to use defiling magic. Of these students, he kept watch for powerful mindbenders, for his ultimate plan required those who could combine psionics with defiling magic to transform themselves into a new type of being . . . a being of dark power. Eventually, Rajaat sent all but fifteen of his students away With the nature-manipulating powers of the Pristine Tower, he turned these fifteen students into his Champions. Drawing energy from the yellow sun, Rajaat imbued each of his Champions with immortality and the ability to draw magical energy from living creatures through the use of obsidian orbs. This, combined with their own psionic powers and defiling magic, would have made them nearly invincible. But Rajaat did not stop there. He hinted that there was a level of existence beyond that which he had granted them. “Through sorcery and psionics, you can become as gods!” Rajaat promised, and his Champions believed him. As the Pristine Tower channeled the sun’s energy into the Champions, the yellow orb changed. It turned crimson and dark, signaling the beginning of a time of blood and death of unprecedented magnitude. It signaled the start of the Cleansing Wars.