"...What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water."
--T.S. Eliot, "The Waste Land"
The twisted, blasted land known only as The Waste is simultaneously a place of mystery and enigma as well as a place of soul-crushing madness and terrible, unknowable secrets that flay the mortal mind. It is horror and insanity and power and temptation all twisted together.
Worse, many who have studied the Waste claim it shows many signs of being an intelligent, semi-aware entity with a purpose and a goal.
Worst of all, nearly all of those driven mad by the twisted, corrupting, insane power of the Waste agree, calling out to the Waste as if it were a sentient being amid their insane gibbering and screams.
The Waste is aware; the Waste is alive; the Waste is growing.
Nobody knows what created the Waste. Various theories about the origin of the Waste include:
- A careless war between two arch-mages who perished in the magical backlash of their final battle.
- Where the blood of Tath-Kithsani, King of the Titans and Lord of Corruption and Chaos, fell upon the earth during the Godswar before his death or imprisonment.
- An epic artifact of Aquilon rests in the waste, its magic seeping into the land and twisting all that it befouls like poisoned water.
- Where the Sidhe Lords of Faerie tore open the Veil between the natural world and the Otherworld and exiled the ancestors of the elves into the world—the destruction and poisoned magic there is the remnants of that epic ritual to sunder the two worlds and cast out an entire race.
Regardless of the source, no record indicates that the Waste existed before the Breaking of the World—an event that also happens at a similar time to the elven exile from Faerie. There may be truth to any or all of the scholar’s ideas, but nobody who desires their sanity intact studies the Waste for too long.
For generations beyond count, the kingdom of Logres was the land that sat at the border of the Waste, and the people of Logres were dedicated to holding back the blight that slumbered within those twisted badlands. In ancient times, the kings of Logres built a titanic wall across the two major passes that allowed the creatures of the Waste to attack. With the aid of the now-extinct giants, they constructed a barrier of stone fortified by castles and watchtowers.
Early on during the invasion of Brittanis by the Tiberian Empire, the Waste began to stir and the Queen of Logres asked the Imperial governor for help. The troops sent to assist the incursion was nearly wiped out and only the assistance of a group of mighty heroes allowed all the people of Brittanis to send their warriors to aid Logres in repelling the invasion of twisted, tentacle horrors from beyond the blasted lands. From that point on, an entire imperial legion was stationed in Logres to defend against the Waste. When the Empire retreated from Brittanis, that legion left and the mutated, corrupted beings from the Waste immediately began increasing their attacks. It was as if the Waste knew the people of Brittanis were no longer able to defend against it.
Then, 44 years ago, the Waste awoke from its ages-long slumber.
In the dead of winter, a horde of gibbering, mutated, corrupted monsters poured itself against the under-manned, poorly-armed soldiers manning the wall of Logres. They were overwhelmed and slain in less than a day—the mighty drawbridges were demolished and the squelching horror that issued from the foul heart of the Waste crawled its way across the soft, unprepared landscape of central Brittanis.
The last Queen of Logres was named Ceinwyn, according to legend the most beautiful woman of her generation. Though many had thought her a mere figurehead, in the final days of her kingdom she proved both an able ruler and capable strategist. As soon as she knew the wall was lost, Queen Ceinwyn marshaled all her people down the oldest greybeard and began a campaign of attrition against the horde of mutated, chaos beasts. They fought battle after battle, and all the while Ceinwyn’s messengers begged the other nations of Brittanis for help against the horrors of the Waste.
Some stories say that Queen Ceinwyn was betrothed to a warrior named Julius Ambrosius, and that Queen Ceinwyn sent her lover to the High Council of Brittanis to beg for her people’s lives. These same stories say that the High Council betrayed Logres and waited to send aid until they knew the entire kingdom would be lost forever.
Regardless of the motivation behind it, The High Council of Brittanis, like all councils full of old men, worried and argued and eventually decided to send troops to help Queen Ceinwyn. By the time troops crossed the southern border of Logres, however, it was too late to save either the Queen or her fallen kingdom. The High Council had elected Julius Ambrosius as the dux bellorum, or war-duke, but by the time the allied armies reached Logres the Queen and most of her warriors were slain in a holding action against the horde.
Some stories say that Julius was consumed by grief and rage against both the monsters of the horde and the High Council and forced them at sword point to choose him for king, others that the Council elected him Pendragon (High King) as reward for pushing back the horde of alien, mutant beasts into the Waste itself. Regardless, Julius allied the kingdoms of Brittanis long enough to survive the Wastewar, as it became called, and for nearly 50 years the lands around the mouth of the Waste have ben desolate, monster-haunted wilderness.
Now, however, the sightings of terrible, tentacled and corrupted beasts outside Logres have increased. Sages, mystics and astrologers say that a time of shadow, madness and terrible, unknowable glory is upon us. They say that the Waste is awake, and it plans for the future. These star-haunted madmen say that a being they call the Crimson King walks Aerys, seeking to free his master, the Lord of the Waste.
The Waste is madness, chaos and corruption. It is unknowable and terrible and horrific in ways the minds of mortals cannot comprehend.
The Waste is alive; the Waste is aware; the Waste is hungry.