Chapter One: The Beginning of the End
It began as a rumor – a wild story that was whispered among the inhabitants of Travian, not too loudly though, lest it come true. They said the Natarian hordes had returned, but no one was entirely certain about the reason why. Some claimed that the vicious, warring race wanted to reclaim the land it had left behind, so many years ago. Others worried that the barbaric blood coursing through the veins of these savages would not find peace until all had been destroyed: until every last structure had been razed to the ground, every field burned to ashes and every man, woman and child slain by their cruel sword.
The more practical of the lot refused to believe that such an unthinkable turn of events would ever come to pass. Turning a deaf ear to the rumor-mongers, they proclaimed that they, mighty warriors of the noble Roman, Teuton and Gaul races, would command the glorious world of Travian and everything it held, until time itself ceased to be. It was they who were the rightful rulers of this world. Nothing and no one, not even the most spiteful mythic tribe could seize this right from them.
And so it continued, until that fateful day when a wild-eyed messenger returned from the Eastern frontiers. His feet bleeding, his body covered in dust, festering wounds and exhaustion, the messenger had barely made it to the palace gates before he collapsed into a heap of semi-coherent babbling. When revived, he demanded speak only to the King and none other.
The King was curious. What could this lowly messenger possibly want? And what great calamity had terrified him so that he had run all the way back from the Eastern Gates without stopping for food, rest or water?
The courier was summoned. Bending low to the ground until his forehead nearly scraped the floor, he chanted: “My King! Over many winters I have stood watch over the Eastern Gates, as had my father and his father before him. I have reported spies from enemy lands try to steal into our lands in the dead of the night. Troops moving in when they thought we were wrapped in peaceful slumber. Gallant, but foolish, heroes throw themselves against our pikes. But never have I witnessed a sight as terrifying as what I am about to report.
“There have been strange movements in the Eastern moors, the desolate boundaries where land rises to meet the skies. Shrouded in a poisonous mist, caravans move ceaselessly, carrying with them bounties of ore, lumber and other materials that I have never, in all my living years, laid eyes on. Their beasts stumble under the burden of their load, but they carry on, relentlessly. Their carts bear the Forbidden crest; their flags are as black as their hearts. No soldier has been able to stop their carts for question, and many have tried – those that survive the poisonous mist and reach the guards have mysteriously turned to stone. They are a cursed lot, My King, and they will bring nothing but doom and misery to our lands!”
The courier’s speech set tongues aflutter. Ministers wondered if this wasn’t the rambling of a half-crazed man that had been driven to lunacy by years of solitude. The Admiral angrily clanked his shield, exclaiming that the guards at the Eastern Gates hadn’t been strong or brave enough; if the King approved, he would go in personally to make sure that these merchants, whoever they were, knew better than to trespass on the kingdom’s property again.
But then, she spoke. The Oracle. No one had seen her emerge from her sacred quarters in more than a hundred years. And yet, every prophecy she had delivered had always come true. She was the King’s most trusted advisor and she had never been proved wrong.
In her quavering voice that sounded as old and gentle as the summer breeze, she said: “It is as the prophecy claimed. They have returned. And with them, they herald the fall of a free land.”
The King’s face was ashen. The Oracle’s words needed no explanation. Generations of kings before him had spoken of them – the Natars. Each warning his successor that it was only a matter of time before they returned. The Natars. The King smiled ruefully. So, the rumors had been true, after all. Turning to the Oracle, he asked, “So, what do we do now, O Wise One? What do the runes say? Shall this night ever see the light of dawn?”
“Our fate is but a blend of what is foretold and what best we make of what has been handed to us. The burden of our fate rests upon you, My King, for it is your might and valor that will show us the way ahead.
The legends tell of a glorious structure, as strong as the heart of the earth. With iron at its core and bound by the strongest lumber, encased in an armor of glittering gold. Bejeweled with every precious stone known to man – the rarest and the most exquisite. This structure holds a power far greater than any known to man: it bestows upon its builders the unquestioning loyalty of, and undisputed rule over, the entire world of Travian. The Natars are preparing to build their Wonder. You must prepare to build yours, meet them eye-to-eye.
Build fast and build strong, My King, for your assertion of your might will not be without challenge. They will come My King, and they will attack you with forces mightier and more terrifying than you can fathom. So form your allegiances and pick your battles wisely. This is but a race to the end!”
Chapter Two: A Rude Awakening
The King sat uneasily upon his throne. His crown felt too heavy. The fate of his land, his people rested upon him, upon his warriors. They were giving this war everything they had. Boys were handed swords instead of quills, men forsook their ploughs and tongs for spears. All the kingdom’s riches were poured into building stronger weapons, training more men to withstand the atrocities of war. And to learn to fight to win.
But the resistance was much too strong. The Natarian forces fought with a brutality that he had never witnessed before. Every blow was stronger than the last, the weaponry more sophisticated. They weren’t fighting to win; they were fighting to vanquish, to obliterate their enemy. Which was him and his people.
Emissaries from the war-torn front brought new, disheartening news every day. While the Natarian armies swelled, their Wonder drew closer to completion.
The kingdom’s masons were toiling hard and long to build the grandest structure they would ever build. Every day, merchants plodded to and from kingdoms that had sworn their allegiance to the King. Tales would be told of this victory once the Wonder was completed. If it could be completed in time…
The ministers were silent. They knew their kingdoms were doing everything they could to win this war. Every street, every alley of the cities echoed with the wails of widows and orphans. It was a dark time. And it would be a dark end very soon if something wasn’t done in time.
Their melancholic thoughts were interrupted by the sound of running feet. The grand doors of the royal court were thrown open to a scruffy man, a commoner it seemed from his clothes and overall appearance.
But the King knew better. During war, there was only kind of able-bodied man that still donned civilian garb – a spy. As he rose from his seat, his ministers saw what they thought was some color returning to his ashen face. Perhaps the spy brought good news. God knows they needed good news after what felt like endless days of counting their losses.
But the spy’s face was wooden. Marching straight to the throne, he announced without any ceremony: “My King. The Natarian Wonder of the World has reached Level 75. They recalled all their troops home and are already rejoicing a certain victory.”
The King’s fierce roar struck fear in the heart of even his most hardened generals.
“We cannot head the war from within the Palace walls any longer. The time has come for us to fight shoulder to shoulder with our men. This is our freedom, our very life that we are fighting for. Prepare my chariot. Shine my armor. Send word to our allies. Today, the King shall go to war.”
Chapter Three: The Dawn of a New Empire
The first rays of the morning sun hit something magnificent, something golden that caught the light and glittered brighter than the sun itself. The masons had worked through the night yet again as they often did these days. Behind them, couriers stood by, waiting impatiently for the final brick to be laid, the final strike of the hammer that would signal that the prophecy had come true.
In front of them, the Wonder stood tall and proud, a beautiful thing that burned with the light of a thousand flames. As the sun marched up the sky, the beads of sweat that lined the masons’ brow twinkled as brilliantly as the precious jewels that crowned the Wonder of the World.
The Natarian General paced to and fro, anxious for the masons to work faster. They had waited long for this day, made countless sacrifices for this victory. Their opponents had been strong, their battles fierce. Every fallen soldier was more than a number, a statistic – he was a memory, a person who had given his all to protect the sovereignty of his land. He hoped there would be no more sacrifices to make, no more lives lost and that this would end quickly.
He could not understand how and why the King was so calm. His ruler stood atop a small mound, surveying the battlefield where the last of the retreating troops had amassed, possibly to regroup, to rethink their strategy, and to plan their next move. The Natarian King smiled. He had seen several such battles before. For as the rumors claimed, he was indeed immortal.
A shout from behind him attracted his attention. A nameless mason, a boy who had only just stepped into the prime of his youth, shouted excitedly for the King. “It is done, My Lord. The Wonder is complete!”
The fanfare of a thousand trumpets proclaiming the achievement drowned out any further words or thoughts. All around, courtiers cheered, women wept and children laughed away the shadows of war. The streets were a riot of gaiety and color as large processions of dancers and revelers donned their festive wear and painted their faces with happy smiles.
The courtiers demanded for their King to speak to them, for it was he who had led them to this moment of glory. A hush fell over the crowd as their statuesque ruler clad in his robe of scarlet and gold made his way to the mound from where he would address them.
“Men and women of the mighty Natarian clan. It is with great pride that I stand before you today, heralding the beginning of a new Empire – our Empire.” A cheer rose from the crowd, but he raised his hand to silence them.
“You have worked and fought hard for this time of peace, for this promise of plenty. And it will come true as the scrolls have foretold. We, the Natars, were born of this land as its safe-keepers, its guardians. When the mortal tribes came forth to stake their claim, we let them grow and prosper. We forsook this land in search of new pastures, for just as it is in the mortals’ spirit to conquer and explore, it is in ours to nurture and grow.
“So why this war, you may ask. My dear brothers-in-arms, freedom is not a gift to be trifled with. It is won with great valor and is a crest that only the deserving shall don. The mortals are still young, their war fuelled by foolish heroism and petty rivalries, rather than in pursuit of a greater tomorrow. They will learn. The Wheel of Time will soon turn and we will stand again, at the brink of war with those who still fail to understand us. They will not. They must not.
And until such time, we will uphold the law of this land, be the bearers of a glorious tomorrow and revel in the bounties of all that Travian has given us. Let today be the dawn of a new empire, an empire that is free, content and unafraid.”