Divinity's Twilight: Rebirth's Cover is a literal work of art that showcases the grit of its leads, the harshness of the world, and the tenacity and inventiveness of its people. Vallen Metellus and Sylette Farkos face outward against an unknown foe across a cracked wasteland dominated by a majestic, glimmering fortress. Flitting airships, their shapes and formations indistinct, crisscross the sky as evening falls and the twin moons rise. Is this the start of a battle? Its conclusion? Why is this location important, and how does it play into the story Rebirth begins to weave?
It would be easy to explain exactly what's transpiring in this gorgeous image. Of course, that would also entail revealing an airship-load of spoilers, which would be no fun for anyone. Instead, I've decided to present you with the same resource my superb illustrator, Christian McGrath (https://www.christianmcgrath.com/), first received when he agreed to place his genre defining seal on this project. Like everything I write, it's suitably obtuse and ambiguous, so any potential foreshadowing should remain in the realm of speculation. Enjoy!
On Aldona Fortress – An Artistic Overview of an Engineering Marvel
By Archivist Bentriax Gilkhov
Brown. It stretches as far as the eye can see. A flat, level plain of dust and clay broken only by the occasional weary hillock or wind scoured plinth of stone. Cracks extend across its surface in all directions, desiccated fissures prowled by hardy adders not yet shriveled by the sun's merciless rays. No spindly trees dot the bordering escarp; no rugged shrubs nor brittle grasses either. The earth is hard and the soil is dead. Salted so that nothing may ever take root again.
But who would do such a thing? This valley, a narrow pass between the towering mountains of the Great Divide, was sad and lonely to begin with. Even when dry weeds dotted the basin, the land lay abandoned, being unsuitable to habitation or farming. It was merely a stopping point. A post station sitting beneath sheer cliffs whose mist shrouded peaks, distant and enigmatic, have never been beheld by living eyes.
Yet that is exactly what gave it value, and why the Terrans on either side coveted it so desperately. Try as they might, the twisting, turning paths of the Great Divide rebuffed their advances, going as far as to claim the lives of those foolhardy enough to persist in the endeavor. So they sought out other routes. Seas that may be plied. A lake that could be forded. And two isolated passes - one in the east, one in the west - where the central continent's jagged teeth gradually eroded away to bare ground.
Blood proved to be an inadequate fertilizer. Liords of it poured from the men who fought there, enough to fill the depression several times over were it not greedily guzzled by the land itself. Corpses bloated and rotted in the day's heat, and by night were picked over by carrion who came to roost in the neighboring hills. Still nothing grew. Perhaps it was because of the magic the combatants used, or their fire flinging siege engines, or simply the trampling of their iron heeled boots.
It was the Darmatians who decided to change the pass forever. Thousands of workers died in the undertaking. Countless more soldiers lost their lives in defense of their labors. But these sacrifices enabled the Kingdom to construct the greatest engineering marvel Lozaria had thus far seen: Aldona Fortress.
Over a hundred meters tall, stretching from one side of the valley to the other, it served as a cork stemming the tide of Sarconian aggression. Pristine white marble formed its thick walls and battlements. Cutting edge pumping techniques drew its water from deep underground. And, provided it was never breached, food, ammunition, and men could be shipped north from Darmatia proper without impediment. Aldona was truly invincible. A barrier that could not be successfully besieged.
The initial construction was expanded as time went on. One fortress wall became two, the second ringing the central bastion in a hexagonal pattern. More barracks were built as the garrison expanded to include an entire infantry division, and a town began to take shape in the outer citadel as secondary services were brought in to support the units stationed there. Gates on either side, though part of the original design, were not improved until after several decades of tense peace elapsed. While the trade they facilitated was sluggish at first, it eventually picked up steam, leading to the establishment of a bustling market beside the castle-town.
Other adaptations were added as technology advanced. Squat towers blossomed along the flanking walls to house lume generators whose scintillating energy barriers would be far more effective at rebuffing cannon fire than mere stone and mortar. Magtech shields were also placed into the bastion's principle minaret and four cardinal keeps which, while gorgeous when viewed against an evening backdrop, had thus far served no tactical purpose. These lofty positions enabled them to extend their effective range several hundred meters beyond the walls themselves. Time was proving to be Aldona's friend, as it became more impregnable with each passing year.
Of course, there were those on the Darmatian Council of Overseers who disagreed with the percentage of the military budget still being spent on the fortress. Their argument, delivered by Dr. Archimas Redora Descar, the head of airship research and development, was simple but effective:
Open hostilities with the Empire are a thing of the past. Not a single invasion attempt has been made in a century. Why continue pouring geldars into a stationary defensive structure that has outlived its usefulness?
Though the issue was tabled by the Council, it soon reared its head again in a most unexpected way . . .