Part 112: Story Recap & Speculation
The story of Myth is spread out among the manual's backstory, cutscenes, briefings, in-game action, and even some bits in unit flavor text and the manual's glossary. It probably hasn't helped matters that I've spread it out over several months too; so, here's my best shot at a recap of the story and a little speculation about the ambiguous parts. I've tried to not include any material from the sequel games or from GURPS Myth, only from TFL.
The Narrator posted:
He claimed the world is double-sided and constantly spinning, like a coin tossed in the air, and the living and the dead are held to its surface by sorceries too powerful for humans to master. "...And so the light and the dark hold dominion successively, and the land belongs in turn to men, or to the undead."
In the world of Myth, golden age alternates with dark age in a great cycle. Roughly every millenium, something -- or more accurately, someone -- reverses the tide of history.
This is also a world where certain men and women, a select few with the necessary will and skill, can accumulate great power and live for centuries (or more?). Unfortunately it seems that any ancient wizard you have the bad luck to encounter will be amoral at best, and likely insane. Power corrupts.
These themes come together in a particularly ironic and horrible fashion: the saviour who ushers in a golden age is likely to be the monster who destroys it, one thousand years later, taking the role of "The Leveler". Whether this is literally the same person surviving to the next era, or some recreation or resurrection of the erstwhile hero, is unclear.
Around a thousand years before the game begins, the hero Connacht broke the millenial domination of the Myrkridia, imprisoning them in the Tain, and ascended to the throne of the Cath Bruig empire. Afterward, in an effort to break the cycle, he and his trusted lieutenant Damas sought to find and then hide or destroy the great magical artifacts, including the Eblis Stones and the Total Codex. Decades later, both Connacht and Damas vanished.
A few hundred years before the game begins, a wizard and war-leader calling himself "Balor" rose to absolute power in the east. He created a vast army of the living and the undead, and he rallied to his banner other wizards: Soulblighter, The Deceiver, The Watcher, Shiver, and two not named in our story. Balor and this inner circle became known as the Fallen Lords.
Fifty years before the game begins, the Fallen Lords defeated the Cath Bruig empire and razed its capital Muirthemne, turning a large area east of the Cloudspine mountain range into desert. At the same time, the dwarven capitals of Myrgard and Stoneheim were captured by the ghôls.
The Fallen Lords then began to look westward, and Balor either claimed or was given the name of The Leveler.
The alliance of the western human nations -- eventually joined by the fir'Bolg and dwarves -- dates from seventeen years before the game begins. The forces of the Light are led by the warrior-mages of The Nine, also called avatara: Alric, Rabican, Maeldun, Murgen, Cu Roi, and four others. Their leader Alric is (or was?) also the king of the Province, greatest of the western nations.
By any conventional standard, Alric is the hero of the war. However the game is only tangentially concerned with Alric, choosing instead to follow the exploits of small detachments from the Legion, the professional core of the armies of the Light.
In the prologue video we see an agent of The Nine retrieving a mysterious head (from a ruined city... Muirthemne?), disembodied but still alive. Rumor among the Legion is that The Nine have obtained something that can "change the course of the war".
As the Legion harasses and engages the Dark around Madrigal (capital of the Province, the last free major city in the west), Rabican kills Shiver in a "dream duel" using insight provided by The Head. The Head also tells The Nine where the Total Codex can be found in the Dark-sacked remnants of the city of Covenant, and a detachment of the Legion retrieves it, evading the occupying forces commanded by The Watcher.
The focus of the war then shifts to the passes through the Cloudspine as winter approaches, since the armies commanded by The Deceiver are attempting to cross into the west. The Legion manages to stymie The Deceiver, but the volcano Tharsis erupts nearby and will keep the passes open through the winter. And The Watcher is returning from his western rampage.
Alric is captured by The Deceiver and interrogated by Balor after embarking on an expedition into the eastern desert. Rescued by heroes of the Legion, Alric now doubts the loyalties of The Head, who had sent him on that mission.
It may be around this time that Alric determined that Balor was in fact Connacht returned (and Soulblighter, Damas). He mentions that The Head lost its body in a previous conflict with Balor, and he may have been referring to something that occurred when Balor was still Connacht. In any case this is known to be when Alric discovered that the armies of the Dark were personally bound to Balor, and that killing Balor should win the war.
After his rescue, Alric first directs the Legion to Silvermines (informed by the Total Codex? or by The Deceiver or Balor?). There they retrieve the lost arm of The Watcher, which Alric intends to use in a magical attack against that Fallen Lord. They barely beat The Deceiver to it; despite being nominal allies, The Deceiver and The Watcher appear to have a personal grudge.
Events turn against the western armies at the Cloudspine when they get caught between the armies of The Deceiver and The Watcher, who crush Rabican's forces on their way to attacking each other. After the battle between the two Fallen Lords, the passes seem to be temporarily clear, so Murgen and Cu Roi lead a Legion force across the Cloudspine into Forest Heart to try to convince the forest giants to return to the fight. There however they are surprised by Soulblighter, who traps many of them within the Tain.
Inside the Tain, the Legion troops see signs of the Myrkridia, including a Myrkridian battle standard and skull platform, but no Myrkridia themselves. They manage to escape from the Tain, but at the cost of some lives, including Murgen and Cui Roi. In the process they shatter the Tain, startling Soulblighter, who retreats.
The Watcher has gone back into the east now, but The Deceiver has returned to the Cloudspine and crossed into the west, defeating Maeldun's army. Back home, The Head has claimed power and provoked a civil war, killing two of The Nine. The narrator makes a joke about them being "The Three" now; it's not clear whether Rabican and/or Maeldun are counted with Alric among the survivors, or whether the narrator is referring to one or more of the unnamed members of The Nine.
Alric declares that the west is lost, and that the Legion must attack Balor directly. The Legion heads northeast.
As the Legion passes near Myrgard, some of the dwarves split off to attempt to retake their city from the ghôls. The rest of the Legion presses on toward Balor's fortress, which has been raised on the site of the ancient trow city of Rhi'anon (which was destroyed long ago by Connacht). The Watcher has forces waiting ahead of them. However, Alric and the fir'Bolg craft magical arrows from the bones of The Watcher's arm, and use those arrows to paralyze The Watcher so he can be hacked to pieces by a suicide squad of berserks.
With the way clear to the fortress, Alric sends the bulk of the Legion in a frontal assault, to draw the defenses away. Meanwhile Alric penetrates Rhi'anon alone, activates a world knot there, and draws a small strike force through; they fight through light resistance to the very shadow of the fortress. There Alric raises the Myrkridian battle standard taken from the Tain and draws Balor's attention.
Seeing the symbol of his old foes, Balor comes to challenge Alric in person. The Legion forces dispatch Balor's guard, and Alric uses an Eblis Stone as a momentary source of extra power, holding Balor frozen as the Legion's berserks add another evil wizard to their tally.
Separated from Alric, a small group of Legion survivors trek to the Great Devoid to cast in Balor's head, to prevent his resurrection. They are intercepted there by Soulblighter, but they manage to carry out their task, causing a great magical eruption as Soulblighter attempts to flee.
One of the "unsolved mysteries" of Myth is the identity of The Head. We don't hear anything more about it after news of the civil war (which presumably The Head lost). In practical terms it was a MacGuffin to drive forward some bits of the plot, but that's not very satisfying.
Even the motives of The Head are unclear. It could just be an agent of chaos, but it's tempting to try to find a method in its madness. If we apply the principle of Cui Bono, "who benefits?", then I can see a couple of possible answers. One is that The Head was just out for itself, trying to balance Light against Dark so they would damage each other sufficiently for The Head to rise to power. Or we could observe that Soulblighter, assuming he survived the Great Devoid incident, is the major power left in the world after the events of Myth:TFL; Soulblighter could have been in cahoots with The Head to eliminate his rivals, betray his master, and also stomp down those annoying westerners.
Anyway, The Head could just be another of the various powerful creatures and wizards in this story, and his actual name doesn't matter. But on the Principle of Conservation of Magical Severed Heads, I've always liked the idea that this is in fact Balor's head, not destroyed by the Great Devoid but rather cast far back in time, and then surviving up until the events of the game. I'm sure Balor would enjoy helping to destroy everyone who failed him or defied him in his previous life/timeline, and as far as memories from that life are concerned, he probably never knew anything about The Head or its exploits (including the failed civil war).
This theory can undoubtedly be shot full of holes by Myth lore experts (who have some odd theories of their own; cf. myth.bungie.org). For one thing, it doesn't mesh well with Alric's statement that The Head was decapitated by Balor/Connacht, unless Alric is being overly "meta" and philosophical there. But it entertains me.
Myth 3 actually does definitively answer who The Head is -- and no it's not anyone we have met or heard of yet -- but most don't considered Myth 3 to be canon.
A book "in which is written the fate of every creature that will ever be born" is a significant intelligence asset, or at least it would be if it had a nice index. But it drops out of the story after we acquire it.
I suspect that at least some of the various revelations that Alric lays on us are Codex-assisted, but the game is mute on that point. The Total Codex will take more of a foreground role in Myth 2.
A man may be duty-bound to struggle against fate, but what if he actually wins? Isn't that a bit odd? This was the "Dark's turn", and yet Balor lost. It raises a question as to whether he actually was The Leveler; maybe the true Leveler is yet to have his moment of triumph. An unsettling thought, if Soulblighter survived.
P.S. Hint hint the full name of the sequel is "Myth 2: Soulblighter".