The age of man would define much of the world of Ashen and the many regions you’ll explore throughout the game. However, long before Gefn’s children built their glorious cities and palaces, the Bral and Listeners lived several lifetimes and fought many battles over the Ashen during the first two ages of light.
The coming of the Ashen and its light would change those who lived in the once endless dark. The light consumed the Bral endlessly as they fed on it, despite how the light would burn them. While the Listeners revered the light, building temples to worship it and using the light to manipulate the ash. The conflicts between the Bral and Listeners may be ancient history, but they are as important today as they were in the first age of light. Learn more about their histories and lore in Mark Lawrence's original writing for Ashen below.
The history of the The Elder Dark and the Listeners
The Bral who were drawn to the dying Ashen and burrowed among its plumage found the creature so vast as to be a world in itself. They lived, bred, and died time and again in the age of one Ashen breath. They craved the light, even as it burned them and as their skins sloughed away, crumbling into ash. They took the light into their bodies, consuming it in the smallest fragments, reveling in the strength it gave when annihilated in the dark core of their being.
There were among those races of the night individuals older and more powerful than their brethren, dark ones who burrowed deep into the dying body of their host. Legends grew around those few, and for three of them those legends hardened into faith, and thus were the new dark gods of Ashen born.
In the long wars among the twisted descendants of the Bral, the Listeners prevailed and drove their rivals back out onto the plains of night. They kept little of their dark ancestors about them save a light-less core of melancholia, and three black gods:
Ukkoto Umberhand, Eater of the Light.
Ukkoto showed a near endless capacity for quenching light, painting blackness in his wake. Wherever he laid his hand it would leave an indelible stain. Servants of the Umberhand seek to extinguish the light so that the Ashen is brought wholly into darkness.
Riak, The Nightstorm.
Where Riak walked darkness rained from the skies. Riak sought to find the Ashen’s heart and bring it into the shadows so that the new incarnation would be a creature of the Bral.
Sissna, Spinner of Shadows.
Sissna spun her webs of night-stuff out across the land, catching and snuffing any free particle or spirit of the light. She was subtle, understanding the power of lies and winning over the minds of those about her. Some say Loki dallied with her mother and Sissna is one of the daughters he seeded among the Bral.
Power and wisdom are both sides of the coin of knowledge, and for knowledge one must listen. Darkness or light may colour the whispers of the universe but neither can silence them. The only true death is silence.
The Listeners’ enemies have always underestimated them, thinking that to listen is weakness, thinking that by listening they give space within their minds to the words of their foe and may be swayed by them or tricked or intimidated. But the Listener hears more than words. The Listener hears the beat of your heart, the flutter of your breath, and sometimes … the content of your soul.
There was a golden age when the Listeners reveled in their power having driven the Bral and all their spawn from the Ashen or into deep hiding. Some held that among all Bral only the Elder Dark had remained, rooted in the Ashen’s cooling extremities where it sprawled across the plains onto which it had fallen. But on the surface the Listeners held sway and rejoiced in the light that had given them the strength to defeat their enemies, for alone among the descendants of the Bral the Listeners could endure the brilliance of the light and hear the beauty of its song.
They built temples to the light where their prayers to the Ashen were intoned so that they might be heard by their great benefactor. The light burned most fiercely in the Ashen’s veins and so they carved their holy places into the flesh about them.
A priesthood grew and the secrets of the ash were learned, for in this mix of darkness and light both elements were held in harmony and could be shaped to many purposes. With the right handling they could wake both night and day from the ash or mould it to construct wonders, even golems that seemed to hold a life within them though without soul or purpose.
But as the light faded a change fell upon the Listeners, a cancer of despair, for without the light the ash would become dark-tainted, a tool their enemies could shape, and the exiled Bral would start to crawl back from the plains of night to renew their old conflicts.
The Listeners dug ever deeper, mining dungeons, following the Ashen’s dry veins, trying to follow the light as it retreated. But in the end they found only sorrow.
As the light failed the Elder Dark emerged from their lairs amid the Ashen’s ruin. Some wrought destruction and were in turn destroyed, but the Elder Dark priestesses of Sissna spoke with soft voices, whispering of betrayal, and of abandonment. They said that light had shaped the Listeners then fled, leaving them as prey for their old enemies among the Bral.
Enemies who would surely return with vengeance in their hearts. The Elder Dark offered alliance to their prodigal children. They claimed only the right to be worshiped and in return they would stand with the Listeners to claim the Ashen’s corpse when full night descended, and hold it against all comers.
In the near darkness of the last breath men came, another treachery heaped upon the Listeners. This one by the foolishness of just one of their number who bred with Gefn allowing her to spawn a race in the Listener’s image but with a very different soul. Men multiplied and prospered even as the echoes of Ashen’s brilliance died away. Outmatched the Listeners retreated into the last of their strongholds, and splintered into factions.
The Ashen died, the light fled. Darkness washed over the Ashen and even the great cities of man were laid low. Nightmares from the black and endless plains swarmed across the Ashen’s corpse.
By the time the first glimmer of light returned little remained that was not in ruin, few survived among men or Listeners. But the light did come, and the worst horrors of the night fled before it, abandoning the Ashen once more.
Want to learn more about the overall history of Ashen? You can read about it in our first Ashen lore blog post ‘The Lore And Story Of Ashen’.