In the land of Tavos stands a hill, and set into its side is the door to a secret prison. Only this door stands between the physical realm and its destruction, for the prison was constructed not to contain men but an ancient evil. Its name is Hunger, and it cannot be held by mere bars or chains.
It was the Flame, the great Flame that burns behind the sky and lights every star, that cast Hunger to the ground and locked it away from the rest of the world. But this was not enough; he knew that the evil being was not without allies in this world or any other, for many lusted after its power. Therefore the Flame set the men he had placed in Tavos as a guard to ward off any such enemy. He gave to them flaming brands and bronze weapons to arm themselves along with a warning to never open the door. These men made their towers around the foot of the hill where they kept vigil day and night, and Tavos entered into a time of peace.
As is the way with most peaceful times, it did not last.
One day near the end, a guard was preparing to leave for home after his evening watch. Now the sky had just started to grow dark so the stars could be seen shining. As the man looked up toward them, he beheld a bright light like one of the stars themselves becoming larger and larger in his field of vision. His eyes widened and his jaw dropped as realization struck; the light was not growing but drawing closer with great speed.
He rang the bells of the tower to raise the alarm before rushing outside, though what was happening he knew not. Every man, woman, and child from the nearby village ran from their houses to see what was the matter, asking one another if they knew why the bells had been rung. But when the crowd saw the light, silence fell over them all.
It was white-hot and burned more brightly than any fire they had seen on earth. If it was anything more than a ball of light they could not tell; any features it possessed were blotted out by its own illumination. As it descended, it became clear that the light was streaking toward the door. The villagers pulled back from the area, desperate to get away from the point of impact.
The falling light struck the ground just in front of them, punching a shallow crater there. The earth shook so the crowd staggered and cried out in fear; some couldn't see the ground in front of them from the brilliance. But gradually its light faded, and the ground stilled. The people looked up tremulously to see what fallen glory had disturbed their quiet lives.
A creature unlike anything the world had seen knelt in front of the door. She was like a woman, but if she were standing she would be taller even than the tallest of their men. Her skin still shone so brightly that none could make out her features but for the three pairs of wings that stretched from her back. From her stooped posture, it would seem that she was injured.
The villagers all stared at her in awe, dumbstruck by her glorious appearance, except for the wary guard. He immediately stepped forward with one hand on his sword, eyes narrowed. "Who are you, and what business do you have in our lands?"
The creature raised a hand toward the man in supplication. It was oddly clawed like the talons of an eagle.
"Spare me, kind sir, for I come bearing a message."
The voice broke over his ears as sweet as birdsong. The apprehension of a moment before dissipated, and the crowd drew slowly closer upon hearing the melodious voice. The guard's hand fell from his sword hilt. "And from whom does your message come?"
"From the great Flame kind sir, may he always shine brightly." The creature lowered her wings in respect, though she didn't fold them. An excited murmur rippled through the crowd, but the guard did not lose his head just yet.
"If you were sent by the Flame, why did you fall into our camp? Couldn't you have flown down instead of streaking toward us like a falling star?"
But the creature shook her head, the movement almost mournful. "I am gravely injured. A servant of Hunger ambushed me while I was yet descending and managed to break my wings." The appendages in question flexed so that ugly black cracks could be seen spiderwebbing across their surfaces. "I drove him away, but the damage had been done. I fell."
One of the crowd, the town healer, frowned in concern. "Is there anything we might do for you?" she asked.
"There is no need." The creature pulled her wings back in toward her body with a stiffness that spoke of quietly endured pain. "Once I have fulfilled my duty here in Tavos, I will be taken back to the Flame to be healed."
"Then by all means deliver your message," declared the guard. "We will listen."
Ever so carefully, she rose to her feet. The people waited with bated breath for the celestial messenger to speak.
"The Flame has one final weapon for one of you to wield against the evil in your world, and it lies behind this door."
The guard's sword was out in an instant, the bronze flashing with the creature's reflected light. "You cannot deceive us. The Flame told us himself that we were never to approach the door, for a great evil dwells within."
An odd silvery laugh came from the creature's throat. "You are truly worthy to be called a servant of the Flame, good sir guard. But you must listen to my message; the Flame told you that an evil lay within because in the wrong hands it would cause great evil to come about. Why else do you think you had to guard it so closely?"
The crowd murmured again, and the guard hesitated. "How are we to know that you haven't come to usurp this weapon for yourself, if what you speak is true?" he asked uncertainly.
"Because I cannot open the door," she replied. "I would not if I could. In fact, only one person besides the great Flame himself can wield this weapon."
"Oh? And who would that be?"
The creature was silent for one long moment, apparently contemplating her answer.
"The only one who can open the door is the most powerful person in your village."
Now the guard was known for being a very strong man, and he was proud of this fact. His chin lifted at the messenger's declaration. "I am the most powerful man in the village, for no one here is stronger than I am. However--"
But then one of his fellow guards stepped forward, a soldier who was without match in battle. "You have the greatest strength of any, that may be true, but I have greater skill with a sword than you. None can stand in my way in battle; I am the most powerful."
Yet another guard stepped forward, a young man with wonderful vision. "But I have the keenest senses. When our enemies approach, I am the first to raise the alarm. Without me, you would not know when they were coming or in which direction to attack. I am the most powerful in the village."
The healer, a woman known past the boundaries of the village for her knowledge of medicine, shook her head at this. "But when one of you gets injured in battle, he is brought to my house so I can revive him. I am the most powerful, for I save your lives."
Different individuals in the crowd began to shout their claims to the role of most powerful person in the village, for everyone had a skill or a position in which their boasts lay.
"It is I, for I grow the crops you eat!"
"It is I, for I dig the wells you drink from!"
"It is I, for I keep your streets clean!"
"It is I, for I am the chief!"
"It is I, for I am the chief's wife!"
As he listened to the competing claims, the guard began to grow angry. He was clearly the person the creature was referring to, but it seemed he would have to prove it. He strode past the messenger, took hold of the door, and turned to face the crowd. The rabble and shouting was growing more and more intense; none but the creature noticed the man's actions.
The guard stood as tall as he could and shouted so all could hear him above the chaos. "If I was not the most powerful of you, then I would not be able to do this!"
And he wrenched the door open.
A gust of foul wind blasted its way up through the passage like airborne decay. Seconds after came a grinding and a howling as though the earth itself were gnashing its teeth in anguish. The crowd's angry shouts turned to cries of fright, and they all began to retreat into the forest.
The guard reeled back with watering eyes as the blast of dead wind smote him in the face, the full shock of what he had done settling into his mind. But one clawed hand gripped his shoulder from behind, preventing him from retreating with the rest of the village. It was the false messenger.
She cackled, the sound more like the harsh croak of a crow than birdsong now. He was close enough to just make out her face. It would have been beautiful, but the features were twisted with a malice and a cruelty that was more monstrous than any physical disfigurement could have been.
"Come forth Hunger, and see how your servant has freed you!" she cried.
The howling from inside the earth grew, and the guard was horrified to see a monstrous dark shape like the space between stars coming closer and closer to the doorway. But even as he quaked in his terror, he recalled the duty that the Flame had set to him, to guard the door and keep the sealed evil from contaminating the world. He had failed miserably, but he still had time to act.
His hand closed on his sword again, and the messenger's claws dug into his shoulder to restrain him from lashing out at Hunger. But instead the guard spun around, his sword suddenly shining out with a fire that made the creature's light seem like dirty rags. She only just had time to stare at him in surprise, and he struck her once! Twice! And with a shriek like the wind tearing through a narrow valley she fell in three pieces, the glow of her skin fading until it was no more.
The guard turned back toward the door to see that the dark shape had drawn much nearer. With a fast, silent plea to the Flame for strength and courage, he thrust his weight against the door.
Hunger pushed back.
It raged against him with a might beyond anything he had ever seen or felt, bellowing like a stampede of bulls and pushing like a great tidal wave. The guard held firm as well as he could; indeed, his own strength was nothing compared to the monster's. He could feel the Flame working through him, adding to his own mortal strength to keep Hunger at bay.
But even in the short time the door was opened, darkness seeped out from around the hinge and the crack at its edge. It gathered around the guard and choked him with its rotten stench. His breaths came in ragged gasps as though he were drowning; his own strength ebbed away. The guard closed his eyes, let out a wild cry, and gathering every ounce of power left in his body shoved the great door back.
It slid back into place, the latch clicking shut. At the same time, the guard's final breath left his body. He slumped lifeless just outside of the threshold, the still gleaming sword clattering to the ground.
The dark vapor that had escaped from the prison gathered around his corpse. Separated from the rest of its power and form, this portion of Hunger took hold of the body before it would disperse and lose any potency it had left. The corrupting power wasted the muscles and pulled at the skin until the guard's body was unrecognizable as anything but the corpse of a starved man, but the structure held. Hunger rose from the ground.
The three pieces of its Servant stirred at Hunger's feet, talons twitching and curses coming in feeble hisses from its mouth. Under its dead gaze each started to change, stretching and regrowing what it was missing until each was a separate entity, whole in body yet not in essence. And when each could see the fiery sword that had cleaved their original form asunder, she flew with a shriek as far away from the implement as she could.
Now each of these was like their progenitor in appearance, but each only had one pair of wings instead of three. One had become a gaunt creature, her wings dark like shadows. This is called Rook, and she fled to the east where the separated states and tribes are now located. The second had a hard face and wings that seemed to be formed from red vapor. This is called Plague, and she fled to the west and to the north where the great Empire of Edra now stands. The last kept much of the pleasing features of the original being, but her wings took on the appearance of a shattered mirror. This is called Shard, and she fled to the west and to the south where the fair land of Veliath can now be found.
Known as the Sisters because of their shared origins, these creatures continue to war with one another over the position of Hunger's closest advisor and the general of its army. It is said that they will only cease once one has conquered the other two in the final days of the world and the three are reunited into their original form. In these days the door will be opened once again, and the piece of Hunger embedded in the guard's wandering corpse will meet back with its full power so that the world can be delivered into its hand.
But to this very day the sword lies burning in front of the door, and neither Hunger nor its servants dare approach it before their alloted time.