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In 1349, the Black Plague swept across Europe, killing millions. Or so history tells us.
In truth, it was an epidemic of vampirism originating in China that was running rampant across the continent. Helpless to fight an enemy whose ranks swelled with each death, the church turned to the dark arts. Their inquisitors pried the secrets of sorcery from witches, and used it to bestow primal magics upon six champions. Primal magics meant only for the hand of woman, never for man.
These champions were altered by the magics, each gaining powers related to one of the primary senses. These Warlocks, as they came to be called, used their sorcery to combat the vampires, driving them back to their master's lair.
The church, fearing both the vampires and the increasingly inhuman Warlocks, decided the world would be safer without either. Using rites learned from the witches, they cast a spell banishing both Warlocks and vampires from the face of the Earth. 
Now imprisoned within the nightmarish Ashen Realms, the Warlocks turned their powers towards dominating their new home. Within a short time, they had conquered the land and all the fell beasts within - the shapechanging weres; the necrophagic hobgoblins; and more. They stripped the world of all its natural resources, and turned their attentions elsewhere. Even as these Grimwalkers (as they were sometimes called) grew more powerful, a thirst for vengeance at their betrayal burned eternally in their hearts.
At some unknown time, one of the Warlocks disappeared or rebelled against his fellows. Ever since, the group has often been referred to as "The Five Who Were Six."
Another member of the group, the most inhuman - Devour - has not been seen in some time. 
In 1923, the warlock Fetor was accidentally summoned to the Earth by a group of magicians calling themselves the Covenant. He was banished by them, but not before he killed almost all of their group. Only Barnabas Sinclair survived. 
The damage had been done, though. The Warlocks now knew that a return to Earth was possible, and they turned their attentions fully towards that goal. They sent their agents to prepare the way, and scoured the Earth of its few remaining witches, for only they could defeat the Warlocks in battle.
Finally, in 2001, the Warlocks made their final move. Their servants killed Claire Vala, who was prophesied to stand against Vigil in a final confrontation. They destroyed the Elemental Lords and upset the primal balance so that the Earth would once more be hospitable to their presence. And they opened a gateway to return, and take their vengeance upon the world.

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