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Preface


"Greetings, traveler!

Pull up a chair and rest your weary feet! The long road to Vantis takes a toll on all but the heartiest of adventurers. Would you like some ale? Perhaps milk? Judging from your ghostly pallor, maybe a glass of chilled water would be more suitable.

Most folks that travel this way are here for business, but you seem different from the others. Maybe it's because you are different. Maybe it's because I just can't take your face seriously. Either way, stay with me for the evening. Take a moment and listen to my tales. I need the company and you look exhausted.

No seriously, you look terrible, sit back down. Geez, man. Why the attitude? No, we don't have any clocks in here, stop looking for one.

I promise you, this won't take long. Sit back and enjoy the history of our fine city-state, Vantis!"

-The Bard

 A Wizard on High

Long ago, or perhaps far into the future, there was a wizard by the name of Sheez. This wizard, Sheez, was delivered into the world by a bright flash of light and a crashing wave of sound. Though only an infant, Sheez's intellect was far above that of a fully developed human. It would be some time before the mystical youth could take full advantage of his breathtaking brain power, but that did not deter him from trying.

Lbolt

The world that Sheez was born into was dangerous and primal. Civilizations were only beginning to spring up from the disparate tribes that dotted the various landmasses. One would think that an infant could not successfully survive alone in such an untamed and hostile wilderness; one would be right. Sheez was not alone for long, however.

By the first night of his lonely existence, the fates decided to provide Sheez with a companion to protect him and teach him the ways of magic. This companion was Fonjo, a humanoid badger with the head of a beautiful woman. Sheez had cried to the heavens in frustration at being trapped in such a tiny and useless body and the heavens answered with thunder. The night sky was illuminated with fiery lightning and the mountains echoed with spine-shattering sonic blasts. Oceans boiled and savannas quaked. A strange heat radiated from the small boulder that Sheez's small, infant body rested on and Fonjo was born from the stone.

There are some folks that argue about Fonjo's true nature. Is she a familiar of the wizard's creation? An experiment in transmutation gone wrong? Sheez has denied these claims. Perhaps only the two friends know the truth in their origins. This is but one of the many mysteries that surround the city-state of Vantis.

As time progressed, the wizard and his guardian would travel the world seeking power, knowledge and riches. Eventually, this path would lead them to their true home.

Deep Cave Toodlesnacks

Still living on the primal world on which he was born, Sheez was now a young man. The wizard's intellect had sharpened over the years and his affinity for the elements was becoming apparent. Fonjo educated Sheez on the ways of nature and how to survive in the harsh wilds. Sheez learned to track, hunt, trap, fish, build shelter and create fire by mundane means. After the young wizard learned the basics of survival, Fonjo spent the evenings teaching lessons about complex maths. Let it be known, never trust a badger to teach you maths. If not for his incredible cognitive flexibility, the student might have never overcome that learning barrier. Rest assured, Sheez is likely very skilled in the realm of mathematical practices; that, or he is sufficiently cunning enough to fool everyone into thinking that he is.

What's that? Vantis, you say? Hold your horses, dragons, large chitinous arthropods, or whatever animal you use on this world for transport and hauling goods. Horses? How mundane. We will get to Vantis. This is what storytellers like to call foreplay. Don't worry, you have plenty of time, I made sure to reschedule your appointments. Anyhow, where was I? Oh yes, the cave!

Cavtood
The pair were travelling through a dense forested region during an unusually foggy morning. A humid pall wafted through the air and the oppressive heat drew sweat from the wizard's pores. Fonjo didn't sweat. This is likely due to one of two things: being a mystical beast or being incredibly lazy. Who knows? Not I. Pardon my distraction! Let's get back to that nasty, hot forest.

So there they were, waist deep in overgrowth and tired from long weeks of travel. The expedition had been Fonjo's idea. Though Sheez was one to question everything he encountered, he had learned to trust his fantastical caniform friend.

Together they crawled through the mud, chopped through vines and weaved through valleys. After what seemed like an eternity, their destination materialized before them like a fever dream in the tropical haze. It was a cave. In fact, it was the deepest cave. Deep Cave Toodlesnacks! In your world this name might seem silly. For our people, however, this a very serious name with gravitas and respect.

Fonjo and Sheez stopped at the gaping maw of the most holy of caverns. The wizard stepped forward but Fonjo did not move to follow. She raised her paw and, with a bored look on her gorgeous face, explained to him that he would need to plumb the depths alone.

Sheez began his journey into the cave by gently adjusting.... OK. Fine. I get it, I do. We will move on for now so the story of Vantis can be told. But first, an abridged summation.

The young wizard delved into the tomb like caverns, was quickly injured by an infant manticore, became paralyzed from the waist down, spent two years crawling through lizard feces, cured himself of paralysis, learned the secrets of channeling magical forces by a colony of cave Gnomes, tamed a tiger companion, gained dark-vision, was befuddled by the seductive songs of a rogue bandersnatch, walked in circles for three weeks without food, learned to enjoy the flavor of tiger meat, tried Gnome once and didn't like it, cut a deal with a married couple of scorpion-folk, acquired the techniques of artisan cave-pumpkin farming, and eventually reached lowest point within the cave.

Tigercave

The final chamber of the cavern was pitch dark but Sheez had managed to adjust well to the darkness. Standing before him was an ornate pedestal. It appeared to be naturally formed from an intrusion of vishnu schist. The metamorphic stone was cold to the touch. Upon the pedestal was a very generic wizard's hat, you know the kind. Sheez lifted the hat and placed it upon his crown. Unintentionally, by doing so, the greatest treasure of all was revealed. Resting in the spot where the hat had been was a single, glorious Toodlesnack. The wizard was hungry and decided to go ahead and eat the thing because no could have possibly been watching.

A lightning bolt stuck Sheez. Thunder echoed through the caverns. The sound of an angry bear's roar filled the shaken wizard's ears. In that instant he was transported back to the opening of the cave with a flash of blinding light.

He had been in the cave for three years.

The hat was itchy so he threw it on the ground and left it behind. It had also smelled of farts.

A Blink in Time

Without going into too much detail on what happened between the cave and the wars, a summary will be provided.

Sheez reunited with Fonjo outside of the cavern and the two continued their adventures. Upon eating the Toodlesnack, the wizard had unlocked the vast amounts of arcane potential locked away in his expansive mind. The true nature of this power would be realized later but the early results were chaotic and formative. After travelling for a week and witnessing nothing but wilderness, Sheez began to consider an alternative to the world that he currently resided it. In the young man's mind there was so much more potential for humanity. He imagined a world with large cities and well established trade routes; people working together for a greater purpose and shared prosperity. This was impressive if you consider the implications of a child being born in a world with no such frame of reference. No cities, no civilizations; only huts, holes, and tribes. Fonjo witnessed the thoughts of his friend, as usual (telepath and all), but this time things were different.

The world shimmered.

An oppressive heat and humidity that once plagued them was missing. The forest had cleared. Before the two a rolling plain was spread across the land like a silk blanket. Lush grass with grazing animals and the occassional solitary tree. They did not know at the time, but they had arrived in the Midlands. The Midlands were a central region of a large continent in another world. Sheez had traveled through space and time.

The War of Nations

War is common in the multiverse and it was only a matter of time before Fonjo and Sheez found themselves embroiled in their first. Due to unfortunate timing, the two friends arrived in the second world during a period of incredible political turmoil and strife. Cities dominated their respective biomes but not in the way that the wizard had imagined they would. The earth was marked with craters and scars from the many battles that had taken place before their arrival. It seemed that cooperation was not in the cards for humanity.

Several decades were spent exploring this realm and learning about the cultures entrenched. Pirates controlled the seas to the south-west and the cities along the coast were constantly harassed by their growing numbers. Along the western edge of the continent, a city of men that slept during the day and built at night constructed a citadel near the cliffs. They subsisted mostly on barbecued shrimp and kept mostly to themselves.

To the north of that cliff was a great, dense forest. The roots of an impossibly huge tree riddled the landscape and dangerous monsters thrived in the claustrophobic foliage. A city of curious bird-men resided in the heart of the region and were obnoxiously protective of their borders.

Further north was a primordial jungle blocked off by a series of mountainous bluffs. A great wall was built to divide these lands and protect the short, industrious folk that lived within the earth. Continuing to travel in the same direction would lead to caverns very similar to those that had been explored by Sheez; however, less cramped and not as diverse in habitat.

East of the hollowed earth existed a great basin in the sea. Pillar-like mountains reached skyward from the shallow seafloor of the deep basin. The walls of the basin were as tall as the mountains and water flowed down from all sides. Regardless of a never ending flow of seawater from above, the basin never filled. Ancient buildings clustered around the mountains here, and a sprawling city was situated central to the cratered sea. This city was known for its massive libraries, labyrinthine construction, and veritable horde of undead wizards that resided within its walls.

Further east, located in a picturesque mountainous pine forest was a large but abandoned city. Rumor was that a single boy was left behind to maintain the structures but a freak accident with lightning eventually extinguished his life. The furthest regions of the north-east were populated by several known political entities; most of which were more recent in settling the continent. Their folk were hardy and dangerous but the infighting of the region over limited resources in the frozen tundra was enough to keep them in check. Not to mention, the undead mentioned earlier would often raid the northern nations to replenish and stockpile their material wealth.

So, if you were to head south, keeping in mind the type of soil present in this region... oh? Are you nodding off? I forgot we were on a strict schedule. It will ruin the story a bit but I suppose there is no way to avoid it. Let's skip the other half of the continent and get to something more interesting.

Sheez and Fonjo spent a lot of time in this world. Both learned quickly how important it was to train for combat. By the end of their first decade, the two had become grizzled veterans and acquired allies from many of the nations present in the world. The companions struggled to survive for almost twenty years before horrible information came to light. Their new home was doomed.

The Rise of the Thunder Bears