The Five Free Cities are a traditional kitchen-sink fantasy setting, with influences from many D&D settings and Appendix N sources. It’s a post-apocalyptic mishmash of Bronze Age culture meeting invading aliens struggling to keep at least an Iron Age level of development. Magic is rare but powerful, and monsters are rare enough to be noteworthy but never far. I’m getting ready to run a game for my wife in ACKS, and I’ve run games in this setting in DCC and The Burning Wheel Gold. In the past I’ve thought about or fiddled with conversions for almost every fantasy game to cross my bookshelf. There’s nothing Earth-shattering here, but sometimes that’s good, that means you can borrow and steal bits and pieces liberally for your favorite version of Advanced Bugbears & Ballistas©!
The world is named Thressa; it circles a golden sun named Alsian, and is circled by a silver moon named Duola. The action in this campaign takes place primarily on the continent called Eparra, in the western Trackless Forest region. Sea travel to the Spicewind Islands is fairly common, as well as to the exotic southern Tesh Para peninsula. To the east, beyond the White Mountains, lies the Onyx Desert.
- Each hex on the map above is 6 miles across. This gives us the following distances.
- Bhairsin to Thenalem: 72 miles (12 hexes), 3 days’ travel.
- Bhairsin to Songshare Port (22 hexes), 5-½ days’ travel.
- Gwaethyr to Thenalem: 60 miles (10 hexes), 2-½ days’ travel.
- Gwaethyr to the ruins of Viskan: 3 miles (½ hex), less than a day of travel.
- Gwaethyr to the Stronghold of the Scroll: 3 miles (½ hex), less than a day of travel.
- Jenseen to Hraustren: 6 miles (1 hex), a day and a half of travel.
- Jenseen to Thenalem: 175 miles (25 hexes) by the northern route, a little over 6 days’ travel.
168 miles (24 hexes) by the southern route, 6 days’ travel.
- Malthireon to Urraim: 42 miles (7 hexes); however, this is steep terrain, and so takes 50% more travel time, about 3-½ days’ travel.
- Malthireon to Ksyros: 42 miles (7 hexes), a little less than 2 days’ travel.
- Thenalem to Urraim: 168 miles (24 hexes), 6 days’ travel.
- Urraim to Gwaethyr: 154 miles (22 hexes), 5-½ days’ travel.
The travel times above are based on the Dungeon Crawl Classics rules on pg. 308, where a character can cover 24 miles (4 hexes) per day on foot or riding in a cart, or 48 miles (8 hexes) in a sailing ship.
The first map above shows the 24-mile and 6-mile hexes. This map shows the specific political regions; green for the Five Free Cities, yellow for Malthireon, blue for the Spicewind Isles colonies, purple for Tesh Para, and red for the distant amazon city of Malazost.
Until roughly 200 years ago, the entire region around the Five Free Cities was ruled by the cruel and merciless Viskani Empire, ruled by the inhumanly evil Viskani race. A lot of the action will take place in one of the cities, Gwaethyr, the Accursed City.
The Five Free Cities Themselves
Gwaethyr lies in a hilly region, along the Sweetwater River, not far from the ruins of the Viskani capitol and built of its accursed stones. Gwaethyr’s industries are farming and goat-herding, but there’s fishing, leatherworking, trade, and lots of other industry as well. The city and its surrounding region has a population of about 5,000 people.
Image credit Rhysgriffiths on Deviantart: https://goo.gl/I3trhn
Gwaethyr is the City of Goat-Herders and Accursed Stones. The other cities in the Five Free Cities Compact are Thenalem, City of Witches and Horse-Breeders; Jenseen, City of Mines and Prisoners; Bhairsin, Port City; and Urraim, City of the Mountain Pass and Desert Trade.
Religion and Magic
The Way of Nature
The culture of the Five Free Cities was founded by slaves who escaped from the Viskani, and some of these humans found safe haven among the Elves of the Trackless Forest. The humans founded a loose order of druids called the Way of Nature, adapting Elven philosophy to traditional human beliefs. In particular, each season was assigned a hero-god and hero-goddess from the greatest to live before and during the Ogre Wars. Herbalists healers of the Way of Nature are fairly skilled.
The Church of Sun and Moon
The official religion of Malthireon, the Church of Sun and Moon worships the celestial gods Alsian and Duola, and the prophet Yshial who became the archangel Gloriant, and spread their gospels. The Church of Sun and Moon is patriarchal and ritualistic, and its military arm is the Crusading Order of the Golden Aura, a holy order of paladins.
The Fraternal Order of Cinnabar
The Fraternal Order of Cinnabar is an order of alchemists and wizards, mostly male, who collect histories and mystical lore. Based in the Stronghold of the Scroll outside Gwaethyr, their semi-official role is to collect Viskani artifacts, catalog their powers and use, and protect the dangerous items from misuse. Most of the spellbooks in common use in the Five Free Cities use spells stolen from the teachings and vaults of the Cinnabarites.
Thenalem is ruled by an order of witches called the Sisterhood of the Seventh Sight, and they have covens in several other cities. The Sisterhood teaches both divine and arcane magic, but they completely reject any use of Viskani spells or artifacts.
Image credit Xiaofe Ye: https://goo.gl/sWqvte
During the Ogre Wars, the people of Eparra had achieved a Bronze Age level of technology. During their enslavement by the Viskani, the people learned the smelting of iron and steel, but not a lot else. Occasionally, some fantastic technology is discovered in ruins or arrives from afar in the port city of Bhairsin, but these new machines rarely catch on.
The mines in Jenseen provide most of the metals for the Five Free Cities, and it’s carried via trade caravans to the rest of the cities.
The most common meat animals raised in the Five Free Cities are goats and sheep, and to a lesser extent, cattle. Grains include wheat, barley, flax, and hops. Fishing is common in Gwaethyr, Bhairsin, and Thenalem, and there is talk of founding a fishing village south of Urraim, at the mouth of the Greenrushes River.
Spices are rare and valued. A large amount of salt is shipped north from Bhairsin, and other spices are brought in from faraway Tesh Para and the Spicewind Islands.
Most of the folk wear wool and linen, but there’s a limited trade in cotton from the Spicewind Islands, and silk from Tesh Para. Yellow, red, and purple dyes are available from Tesh Para as well, and local dyes in brown, green, white, and blue are also available. Most people wear muted colors, saving bright and warm colors for festival days.
Furs and leather are very common, both hardened leather and soft, supple hides. Because of the occasionally winters and the occasional chill wind, most people keep fairly well-covered. However, the people of the Five Free Cities have great joy for life, and treasure beauty, and so there’s no particular aversion to showing skin in spring and summer, or when indoors.
Gwaethyr is ruled by Mayor Skaldiman, an aging former farmer, ropemaker, and volunteer city guard. he lives with his wife Aldari and his daughters Gemmaline and Aldria. His sons Dathan and Thaldras live in the city also. Though he presents a stern mien, if anything, is too gentle and merciful, frequently relying heavily on Reave Noland and others to keep order.
The mayor is advised by an elected council. The councilors must be retired or prosperous enough to remain in town, and are supposed to represent a mixture of occupations. The council currently includes Magister Nurreold of the Fraternal Order of Cinnabar, Reave Noland, Bragmal the Smith, Father Egelmort of the Way of Nature, and Lazzara.
Legal judgments in Gwaethyr are made by the so-called “hooded judges”, some chosen by lot, and some personally chosen by the councilors, to preside over court cases. The people aren’t allowed to know what judge presides over what case (although it’d be a simple matter for a dedicated sneak to find out). Each of the Five Free Cities choose their judges in different ways, but most of the laws are pretty similar, as spelled out in the Free Cities Compact.
Assault, murder, theft, and the like are illegal. Blasphemy against any god isn’t illegal, but discouraged by tradition. Slavery is illegal in Gwaethyr, since many of the people are descendents of slaves of the Viskani, but indentured servitude is legal, and a common punishment for more serious crimes. Spousal abuse is punishable by heavy and rapidly escalating fines, ending with dissolution of the marriage and banishment of the abuser (a virtual death sentence).
The worst punishment is slow dismemberment, but the only punishment that merits this is unsanctioned tampering with Viskani artifacts. The most common lethal punishment is death by hanging, but most serious criminals are sent to work the mines in Jenseen. Most punishments simply consist of hefty fines.
Noland is the Gwaethyr city Reave, a largely ceremonial position that mostly consists of training the city’s volunteer guard force, and collecting the city’s taxes. Noland was an adventurer for year, but lost his left hand, and suffered several telling facial scars, in a battle with wandering raiders. He wears a hook around town, but attaches a metal hand to his armor for battle.
A thieves’ guild based in the Trackless Forest. The Ratwalkers are led by a man who claims to be the son of Insiphes, the Malthiri Rat-God. Most doubt this fact, but aside from the many humans who follow him, many Rodement rat-people skulk and steal for him as well.
The Seal of Red and Black
The Seal of Red and Black are a band of assassins based in a ruined city in the Onyx Desert. The Seal is secretly led by the insidious Tethmere, a half-Viskani, one of the last around that still has Viskani blood. The Seal grew out of the Death Chanters, an order of religious ritual assassins from the Viskani Empire.
Art credit Vadim Marchenkov on Artstation: https://goo.gl/rceYfN
Mercenaries and Freelancers
The Guild of the Ruby Shield
The Guild of the Ruby Shield is an expensive but skilled and capable band of mercenaries that’s particularly favored by the Lethmere Caravan Company. The Guild is based in Gwaethyr and earned great fame when their leader rescued a number of children from hungry goblins of the Irontooth Tribe a few years ago.
The Company of the Clawed Gauntlet
Far less ethical than the Guild of the Ruby Shield, the Clawed Gauntlet Company charge less money, but only honor the letter of the contract, if that. They’ll abandon their client to bandits if they think it’s not worth the money, and especially if the client won’t be missed too badly. Smart traders don’t hire the Clawed Gauntlet, but unfortunately there are plenty of stupid traders that keep giving them work.
Rangers, scouts, bounty hunters, and wanderers, the Far Walkers are an informal brotherhood that follows the hero-gods Kardamin Walks-By-Night (psychopomp and traveller) and Valkmir Iron-Eyed (stern judge and winter-god). They receive some funds from each of the Five Free Cities to help keep the roads safe, and are the closest thing there is to inter-city law enforcement.
Image credit Valkyrie Profile: https://goo.gl/BI1Sel
The Oak and Holly Guild
Travelling minstrels and carriers of news and information, the Oak and Holly Guild are welcome almost everywhere they go. The bards can be paid to carry news or messages from one city to another when there is no convenient caravan making the trip. It’s considered unwise for a ruler to mistreat or anger one of these bards, as they soon find themselves ridiculed in popular song soon after.
Age and Adulthood
An individual is considered an adult at the age of fifteen, although if they’re going to be apprenticed, they’re typically given up as early as five. Most people live to be about 50, although there are a few that live until 70.
Money and Trade
The Five Free Cities mint silver pennies in Jenseen that are accepted all throughout the region. Most trade consists of haggling, though, especially for smaller amounts.
Malthireon maintains its own mines and coin presses at Ksyros. In Tesh Para, all coin flows forth from the Imperial City.
The only bank in the Five Free Cities is the House of Silver. It’s based in Jenseen, but has branches in all of the Five Cities. You may deposit coin in a bank in any city, and may remove coin at any branch up to one week later, with presentation of a receipt at a branch. The one week interval allows all of the branches to communicate the value of their accounts with the central bank in Jenseen; when the roads are bad, each branch is authorized to not honor receipts from other cities.
Trade with Malthireon
Malthiri gold, copper, and iron coins are accepted in most places, as one of the tribute stipulations. The Malthiri gold coin is worth ten silver pennies, and Malthiri traders are considered very rich in comparison to most people of the Five Free Cities. Malthiri notes of exchequer are accepted at the Houses of Silver, as well.
People may pursue any occupation they wish, but most follow the calling of their parents by tradition. It’s not unheard-of for a women to hold a “male” profession, such as a scholar or warrior, and there is no substantial social penalty for doing so, most of the time. The Viskani Empire enforced many prohibitions based on caste, gender, and so forth, but the proud, freedom-loving people of the Five Free Cities work hard to prove themselves different from their former slave lords.
Most people in the Five Free Cities are farmers, herders, fishermen, or craftspeople. Although about a quarter of the people have some degree of literacy, there isn’t much of a need for scholarship in the Five Free Cities, and so most scholars belong to the Fraternal Order of Cinnabar, or one of the larger shrines of the Way of Nature.
Sex, Gender, and Marriage
On reaching the age of adulthood, age 15, it’s considered normal for one to begin seeking a spouse within the next few years. Bachelors and maidens over the age of 25, are somewhat rare, unless they’re firmly committed to a guild or craft.
Monogamous marriage is considered normal. Some of the Splinterclaw tribesmen take on multiple wives, or among the Elves or in Thenalem multiple husbands, but this is a rarity in the cities themselves. It’s not technically illegal, just against custom.
Art credit Matt Rhodes on Artstation: https://goo.gl/lYYNcQ
The Splinterclaw tribesmen engage in bride-raiding among one another, but among the city folk, a man typically pays a bride-price for his wife, and the head of her household gives her away. The price is largely symbolic, a fine dagger, a bolt of dyed silken cloth, or a well-made lute or harp. It’s considered very crass to actually pay coin for a woman’s hand.
A marriage may be dissolved at any time by either party. The woman typically returns to her family’s household, and typically takes the children with her. A woman may run away from her house to join her lover, but this act means she leaves her family behind forever. If her marriage doesn’t work out after she runs away, she may be disallowed from returning home, and usually ends up on the streets.
Temple prostitution is tolerated, and carries no shame except in cities and villages like Urraim and Pearlport where the Church of the Sun and Moon are strong. The love-priestesses follow the hero-goddess Seolsha Silkenstep, and joining such a temple is moderately common for young widows. Regular, non-religious prostitution is common as well, and the Way of Nature has no strictures against it.
Sometimes male prefers male, and women seek women, for both pleasure and companionship. Homosexual and lesbian relationships are slightly unusual, but tolerated in Gwaethyr, Bhairsin, and particularly in Thenalem. Jenseen has no laws on the matter, but same-sex relations are frowned on. In Urraim such relationships are a crime, owing to the cultural influence of intolerant Malthireon. Mostly, no one cares; the fiercely independent people of the Five Free Cities tend to mind their own business, and trust each person to find their own happiness.
Non-Humans are relatively rare in Eparra and the Spicewind Isles. They have their own pocket city-states and mostly keep to themselves, but are not unknown or unheard-of. Most of the Five Free Cities have a handful of non-human citizens, but very few in most places.
Elves were once very common on Eparra, but the Viskani occupation thinned their numbers immensely. Most Elves were taken by the Viskani as pleasure-slaves, and were killed in the earthquake and insurrection that led to the collapse of the Viskani Empire.
The last remaining major pocket of Elven civilization is the hidden city of Ravensvale, located somewhere in the Trackless Forest. Ravensvale is so hard to find that some believe it magically changes location with every full moon. Ravensvale maintains a permanent portal to the idyllic Elven world known only as “The Sunlit Shores”. Elves refer to many other potential homeworlds as well, such as the gloomy, mist-shrouded Silver Peaks.
A few Elves can be found in Gwaethyr and Thenalem. There are indications that more Elves are being exiled from the Sunlit Shores, perhaps because that world’s magical defenses are slowly dwindling.
As hard as the occupation was on the Elves, it was much harder on the Dwarves. The stout folk once held mighty secrets of Rune Magic, and the Viskani tortured the Dwarves, eliminating entire clans, to obtain the secrets of rune-crafting for themselves. Those secrets are now either lost or shunned by the Dwarves, and they limit themselves to their deep holds at Hraustren, coming forth into daylight mainly to trade at Jenseen. Unknown to most, they also patrol the alien ruins beneath their halls, where lie interred the Viskani’s ancient enemies, the hideous Throng.
Waves of plague have hit Eparra over the years, from even before the Viskani dominion. Originally, the Five Free Cities were six, but the city of Nylune was all but wiped out by the Moon Fever Plague. Halflings lived along with Humans in Nylune, and the Plague was blamed on the Halflings, who proved more tolerant to the disease than Humans were. Today, Halflings are hated and feared as plague carriers, unwelcome in any civilized place except occasionally as beggars.
Gnomes have never been common on Eparra, and they live primarily among Dwarves, puzzling out the alien technology they find among the Throng ruins. Wild tales from Bhairsin pubs speak of a faraway island called Samaravah, where Gnomes are common and they’ve made muskets and steam power common, but most inlanders regard them as impossible confabulations.
Since the Ogre Wars, goblinoids have never been welcome among Humans. Some of the Splinterclaw Tribes welcome orcs and half-orcs among their number, however.
Throughout Eparra, the main calendar used is the Calendar of the Fall, which begins at Year 0 when the city of Viskan was destroyed. The current year is 212 PF, or Post-Fall.
The 12 months are named after the hero-gods of the Way of Nature, and several other lesser heroes and famous figures. Urraim also commonly uses Malthireon’s calendar, based on the gods and angels of the Church of the Sun and Moon, but no one else in the Five Free Cities does.
Each month has around 30 days in it. No one except scholars understands why the months have different days, and most assume it’s just because Hegrith the Ink-Stained, the scholar who made the calendar, was a perpetual drunkard.
-------------------------------------------------------------------- Month (Five Free Month Cities) (Malthireon) Seasons Days Holidays -------------------------------------------------------------------- Valkian Alsianost Late Winter 30 1st: Year's Birth. Ambellian Drenivost Early Spring 30 Seolshan Kellivost Mid-Spring 29 Ajandrian Gloriost Late Spring 30 23rd: The Feast of the Ascension (Malthireon). Ithimirian Alloriost Early Summer 32 Beolgian Tyvoriost Mid-Summer 29 15th: Midsummer Day Deondrian Thressost Late Summer 30 30th: Every 6 years, the Festival of the Compact. Tessorian Jaddorost Early Fall 32 Hyallian Kadorost Mid-Fall 29 10th: Chrysalis. Garthian Insiphost Late Fall 28 Kardamian Jikallost Early Winter 30 1st: Harvesttide. Fetharian Dualost Mid-Winter 31 15th: Midwinter's Day. 31st: Year's Death.
- Year’s Birth: The first day of the year. Children born on Year’s Birth are said to be exceptionally lucky.
- The Feast of the Ascension: A celebration of the Prophet Yshial rising into the heavens to become the Archangel Gloriant. All children born on the Feast must be given to the Church of the Sun and Moon, to be raised in the priesthood.
- The Festival of the Compact: A celebration of the signing of the Five Free Cities Compact. Held in Gwaethyr, the weeklong Festival is celebrated with music, singing, feasting, plays, and (boring) recitations of the Compact in full.
- Chrysalis: An Elven festival adopted by both calendars, that celebrates transformation. People are encouraged to swap clothing and jobs with one another for the day; the cobbler chops meat, while the butcher makes shoes. Women dress as men, and men women; children teach classes, and adults pensively sit and listen. At sunset, everyone gathers in the city square and (symbolically) trades identities back, and then retires for beer and sweetmeats. Not dissimilar to Hallowe’en.
- Harvesttide: A feast day that celebrates the end of the harvest.
- Midwinter’s Day: An Elven festival day, of somberness and reflection.
- Year’s Death: A day of gift-giving and thankfulness to the gods. Also a day of judgement; criminal executions for the year are performed at Year’s Death, unless the accused is judged too dangerous to let life for that long.
There are 7 days in the week, named after traditional household activities.
- Songday: Visiting village neighbors and chatting, if not in the home then in the pub.
- Stoneday: Sharpening knives and plows.
- Plowday: Beginning of hardest work of the week.
- Sewday: Mending torn clothing.
- Thanksday: Giving thanks to the gods for their bounty.
- Brineday: Setting aside provisions (like pickles) for the winter months.
- Feastday: At-home feast with family.
Each of the Five Free Cities has a large stone calendar in the central courtyard showing the days of the current year, and the folk take etchings off of it for planning. The common folk usually count the weekdays of the month rather than the days of the month. They’d be more likely to say “Third Sewday of Ajandrian” or “First Plowday in Kardamian” rather than “the fifteenth of Ithimirian” or “the second of Beolgian”.
People with blue eyes are mistrusted, because most of the Viskani had bright red or blue eyes. This is less common in cities with a great deal of traffic like Bhairsin, but is taken very seriously in Urraim. The strength of the prejudice varies between disdain and rejection, to drunken beatings in rowdy inns, with the occasional back-alley knifing thrown in.
Most villages have one or two water-clocks. It’s custom for a child to walk through the city with a staff with bells at the end of each watch of the day or night. The position is chosen randomly, and is said to bring good luck; the child is traditionally given a small donation, a coin or two, by passersby. The child’s family traditionally keeps half, and the rest is supposed to be kept for a fund to go to buying the child’s admission to a guild (all too often, though, the patriarch of the family drinks the profit away at the local inn).
Gambling is Sacred
The people of Gwaethyr love to gamble, and there’s a common prayer to Ambella the Unruly that they invoke before each game of cards or dice. Their cards and dice games are often raucous, drunken affairs, but they take gambling debts very seriously. Most people would rather be considered murderers than let it be known that they failed to pay a gambling debt.
- “A rotting apple may still feed a starving man.” — Roughly equivalent to “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”
- “Bold as Beolgran.” Not only speaks of bravery, but also of shamelessness. Beolgran was as mighty as ten bears, and jokingly said to have been about half as smart. Compare “Pretty as you please.”
- “Pale and proud, but never loud.” From a children’s rhyme about Elves, speaking of their quiet manners. Soldiers repeat it nervously, knowing how stealthy Elven archers can be.
- “Sand in his/her shoes.” An often-muttered reference to unwelcome Malthiri visitors, and any worshipers of the Church of the Sun and Moon. Also “Sand in his/her tracks.”
- “Through the Gates.” Means “a new beginning” or “in the beginning”. Source unknown.
Conflict and Adventure
- The Ruined City of Viskan: The ruins of of the Viskani capitol city, not far from Gwaethyr, are still haunted by monsters and demons, and there is still plenty of magic and artifacts to be had. The Fraternal Order of Cinnabar sends periodic expeditions to retrieve dangerous artifacts for them to assess and store, and Gwaethyr and Jenseen often provide criminals when volunteers and mercenaries can’t be found.
Image credit unknown.
- The Tower of the Cackling Conjuror: One expedition to Viskan went particularly poorly, and a Cinnabarite wizard named Frabdan Wald went insane after watching traps and monsters eviscerate most of his party. Wald retreated to an old Viskani tower in the Trackless Forest, where he has his own, dangerous cache of Viskani artifacts, which he wields with reckless abandon.
- The Alien Ruins Beneath Hraustren: An alien spacecraft, belonging to the tentacle-faced Throng, lie beneath the Dwarven city of Hraustren, not far from the mining pits of the city of Jenseen. The aliens sleep a long cold sleep for the most part, sealed in glass tubes in metal rooms, and the dwarves have kept these monstrosities hemmed in, but if they were all to awaken, the dwarves and human mine prisoners would be in great danger.
- The Forgotten Metropolis of Arota Zoth: The great and forgotten city of Arota Lan was a city of peace and prosperity, where elves, dwarves, humans, and other races lived together in harmony. Some long-forgotten disaster drove the dwellers in the city to lower their city into the depths of the earth for safety. Gradually they forgot about the surface, and when the Viskani invaded, they took the renamed Arota Zoth as their greatest stronghold. The city lies beneath the deadly Moon Fever Marshes, and is one of the few places the Viskani and their dark elf slaves may still hold power.
- The Crystalline Gates: Humanity is not native to Thressa. Humans came to this world long ago, walking though magical crystalline gates. Many of these gates are still active, and occasionally, strange things come through, hungry for flesh and souls.
- Not content with charging a bitter annual tribute, the king and Pontifex of Malthireon are more interested in annexing the Five Free Cities every day. If the Cities remain tightly unified, they can hold out against the theocratic kingdom for years, but one thing the Five Free Cities are not good at is working together.
- The Splinterclaw Tribes roam the Trackless Forest, humans who never settled down into cities after escaping the Viskani. They claim blood descent from the hero-god Beolgran the Bold, and prize strength and aggressiveness. Peaceful trade with some of the tribes is fairly common, but fighting is not at all rare.
Goblins and Orcs of the Irontooth Tribe roam the Trackless Forest as well, remnants of the vast armies led by the High Ogres of the northerly Xistaxan wastes, and others roam the White Mountains and prey on trade caravans. The Ogre Wars nearly wiped out Humans, Elves, and Dwarves, and only the intercession of the Viskani saved them … at a terrible price, enslavement. If a new army of goblinoids arose like the last, the wars would be long and bitter.
- Long before the Ogre Wars, thinking machines scoured the surface. This robotic scourge was called the Skenzeth, the “Shining and Unholy”, and it may be this threat that humans fled from when they came to Thressa. The great heroes of the time tricked the machine intelligences somehow into sending their forces through the crystal gates, where they are now trapped on the dark side of the moon Duola, winding down as their solar batteries slowly discharge. If they ever found their way back, the organics would likely be massacred.