The Tree of Harmony
The massive and mystical Tree of Harmony is the symbol of peace across all of the realms. Its origins are unknown, although the legends tell that a benevolent spirit planted it and nurtured it until it was a sapling and began to thrive on its own.
It is from the Tree of Harmony that all of the realms of Orchardia took shape. As the roots of the tree spread across the barren stone sphere of the world they transformed the lifeless rock into rich soil, and from this soil the realms grew and the citizens began to appear.
First of the realms to appear was Brightbough, closest to the Tree and home to the Apple clans. The citizens of Brightbough were brave, noble and wise and they learned to tend to the Tree and encourage its growth.
Second to appear was the realm of Tropicala, where the verdant land meets the warm blue waters of the sea. The gentle folk of Tropicala could hear the pulse of the world within the crashing of the waves and told of it in poems, stories and songs.
The third and youngest realm appeared, a land of rolling hills and craggy mountains. Nestled in this majestic setting, the realm of Highland Acres thrived. It was home to the vegetable clans –hardy and practical, their openness and love of company made every visitor to their realm feel welcome.
All was peaceful amongst the realms, and the Tree grew, its power growing with it. The roots of the Tree plunged deep below the surface of the world until one fateful day they broke through the ceiling of an enormous cavern that was the home of the Squirming Host. The vast horde of squirming, writhing creatures was led by a being named Nephridus, an evil spirit consumed by the need to destroy and conquer who had long ago enslaved the other denizens of the The Underdirt, the cold, lightless realm beneath the surface of Orchardia.
Driven by his lust for power and destruction, Nephridus led his swarm up the roots of the Tree and attacked the realms, leaving a path of devastation before them.
The Tree sensed what was happening and summoned citizens from each of the realms, imbuing them with powers and transforming them into Heroes. The citizens of the realms rallied behind their heroes and drove back the hordes, defeating Nephridus and the Squirming Host in a cataclysmic battle at the foot of the Tree of Harmony.
Faced with the unified power of the realms and their heroes, Nephridus' armies fled back beneath the surface, and Nephridus was sealed within a block of amber created from the sap of the Tree of Harmony and cast into the depths of the world. As he fell into the darkness, he vowed one day to return and exact his revenge on the realms and on the Tree of Harmony…
In the damp shadows of the caverns far beneath Orchardia known as The Underdirt, an evil force has been waiting. Danger lurks in the form of the corrupted legions of Wormwits, controlled by the ancient and powerful entity known as Nephridus. Once a benevolent elemental spirit, Nephridus was inadvertently trapped for a thousand years within amber created by the hardened sap from the roots of the Tree of Harmony.
The imprisonment beneath the Tree of Harmony drove Nephridus mad, and he vowed revenge against the Tree. When a hapless earthworm inadvertently burrowed into the cavern, Nephridus took control of its will and forced it to gather all of its kin in the cavern, where he used his powers to convert them into Wormwits, mindless drones to carry out Nephridus' evil plans. His magic gave them abilities beyond mere worms, and he used them to chip away at the amber that held his essence prisoner. After years of hard labor, Nephridus was free, and he immediately entered and took control of the body of the strongest of the Wormwits, claiming it for his own. Now that he was free and had an army of slave warriors, he was ready to wreak vengeance on the Tree of Harmony that had held him prisoner for so long.
He and the Wormwits burrowed into the trunk of the Tree en masse, reaching its center before the Tree realized what was happening. Nephridus used his power to spread corruption outward from the core of the tree along all of the branches and roots, and transformed it into a twisted vestige of its former self. With the Tree's protection gone, Brightbough fell quickly to the Wormwit invasion. Soon Nephridus turned his attention to the other realms, and the conquest of all of Orchardia...
Lord Cortland's Gambit
Lord Cortland was a mighty apple warrior who had led his army to victory against the invading Curculio Beetle hordes. Despite terrible losses against overwhelming odds, Lord Cortland snatched victory from the Beetles by tricking them into chasing his apparently retreating forces into a narrow canyon that dead-ended at a sheer cliff overlooking the Western Sea. Cortland and his troops exited the canyon via a blind passage, and the Beetle forces, half crazed with battle-lust, swept past the blind and on down the canyon. Once they were past, Cortland gave the signal and he and his Hard Corps (elite battle-hardened knights) thundered after them, causing a ripple of panic that spread through the horde like wildfire.
Thousands of the horde perished as they charged full-tilt down the canyon, failing to notice the abrupt and deadly end. Those who did try to stop were swept forward as the rest of the horde was driven onward in panic by the savage fury of Cortland's rear attack.
By nightfall it was over. The Beetle horde was no more, either lying broken at the bottom of the cliff or slaughtered by Cortland and his Hard Core knights. The toll on the Apple forces had been terrible - more than half of Cortland's army was dead, but they had won.