The Defiant do not care whether the gods abandoned the world or not. To them, this entire planar convergence disaster is the gods' fault in the first place. Indeed, as soon as things went from bad to worse, the gods suddenly and inexplicably disappeared.
So while the Guardians run around Telara building temples, sticking their noses in everyone's business, and desperately praying for a miracle, the Defiant plan on actually delivering one, even if it means being branded as heretics and operating outside the laws of the land.
Above all else, Defiants are rugged individualists who love technology. Mixing technology with magic offers amazing opportunities for innovation, personal power, and cultural progress. If used correctly, these advancements could also be turned into spectacular weapons to fight the looming darkness. The Defiant absolutely believe that the best defense is a great offense - something the Guardians will never understand.
With the help of enough eldritch war machines and magical innovations, Defiants believe the people of Telara will have the power to destroy the dragon gods themselves, without needing to rely on outdated religious dogma. When Telara is saved, the Defiant will be at the head of a new technomagic age, in which every facet of life is touched by their innovations.
While some Defiants might reluctantly acknowledge that their methods are dangerous, potentially posing risks to the integrity of the world, they will be quick to point out that the world seems to be ending anyway, so everything is worth the risk. Besides, if the world is destroyed, who will be around to complain about it?
Devotion to the five gods of Telara has never been universal or absolute. While none denied the gods’ part in the miracle of the Ward, not everyone believed this the only solution to the problem of the Blood Storm. During the wars to imprison the dragons, the ancient Eth used sourcestone to fuel eldritch machines. These weapons dealt devastating blows to the Blood Storm and their followers, but when the war finished, the gods decreed that use of sourcestone technology should cease. The Eth refused, creating a lasting enmity between those who obeyed the gods and those who forged their own path.
The Eth would, in time, destroy their machines to keep them from falling to the Dragon Cults, and the great empire this technology built fell into the sands. This is not to say that all desire to revive magitech vanished, but the inquisitors of the newborn Mathosian Empire did everything they could to snuff out its use. Even owning sourcestone technology became punishable by death, and it was not utilized again for many centuries.
The Dragonslayer Covenant formed as an organization of Telarans sworn to watch over the Dragon Cults and foil any attempts to release the Blood Storm. A self-policing force for the scattered Eth and their allies the Bahmi, the Dragonslayers worked to prevent the abuse of magitech. At the climax of the Mathosian Civil War, the Covenant discovered King Aedraxis’s dire plot to bring Regulos back into Telara. They sent Asha Catari—their finest agent—to deliver this intelligence to Prince Zareph’s forces, but barely too late. Aedraxis splintered the Ward protecting Telara, Death Rifts rent the battlefield, and Asha died with the other heroes who stood against the traitor-king.
As the High Elf, Dwarf, and Mathosian survivors fled with Zareph to Port Scion, they were accompanied by many Eth and Bahmi who had fought against them. During the Civil War, Orphiel Farwind had promised these Bahmi and Eth a rebirth of sourcestone technology if they fought under Aedraxis’s banner. Orphiel had been one of the greatest proponents of the return of magitech, bending the ear of King Jostir Mathos when he served at court as a tutor to the princes (and a young Asha). Orphiel and his followers were as surprised as any when Aedraxis turned their machines against the Ward, and many died fighting the horrors they had unwittingly released.
Large numbers of the other refugees did not wish to allow the Bahmi and Eth—and especially Orphiel—into Port Scion. Cyril Kalmar, leader of the newly Ascended Guardians, was especially vocal. Prince Zareph, however, decreed that they would be given a chance to atone. Their world was in shambles, he argued, and every able body was needed for the fight to come. Already, reports of monsters tearing through rifts in the Ward were coming from all corners of the empire.
When explorers unearthed an ancient Eth workshop in Freemarch, Orphiel began a project to bolster Telaran ranks. Documents revealed that this workshop was built to delve into the very nature of life and death. The Eth had been trying to build “resurrection forges,” machines capable of returning departed souls to Telara. Orphiel and his assistants studied these forges vigorously, working to rebuild and retrofit. Time and time again, the machines activated and failed. Finally, Orphiel brought someone through, and Asha Catari sat in the machine before them.
Wielding the great power of the Ascended, Asha seemed proof of Orphiel’s theory: it was possible to create Ascended synthetically, without the blessing of the newly-formed Vigil. Though Cyril and others decreed her an abomination and affront to the gods, Zareph could not be more pleased and allowed Orphiel to continue his work. Unfortunately, everyone Orphiel returned from the dead after Asha was disappointingly mortal.
During this time, Prince Zareph enforced an uneasy truce between Orphiel’s followers and Cyril’s Guardians. This would shatter when Port Scion was lost, and Zareph with it. An Ascended Guardian, Alsbeth, handed the city over to the Destroyer as its protectors were distracted elsewhere. Zareph had recently allowed Orphiel to fit Port Scion with technomagical defenses. Alsbeth turned these weapons against the sourcestone shield protecting the city from planar incursions, letting in a massive Death invasion. Zareph sealed Port Scion from within, keeping the horrors trapped inside from spreading further, but vanished in the process and has not been heard from since.
The events of that day created an impassable divide between the factions. Both blamed the other for the loss of Port Scion, and when Orphiel and Asha refused to halt their pursuit of magitech, Cyril decreed that the Guardians would stand against their every effort. As they parted ways that day, the Defiant were officially born.
Many years later, in what may or may not become the future of Telara, a group of desperate holdouts of the Blood Storm’s successful invasion finally perfected Orphiel’s Ascension process, and perhaps more miraculously, the technology for limited time travel. Defending their laboratory at a final bastion of resistance called Terminus, they sent their heroic dead back to the moment where RIFT begins. These are the Defiant Ascended, back to keep their future from ever coming to pass.