When the King first decided to exploit Albion he did it as cheaply as possible. Criminals serving long sentences or awaiting execution were given the choice to become colonists instead. Other undesirables, from those with ancient blood ties to the King’s enemies, to the odd noble that had fallen out of favor, were also encouraged, firmly, to serve overseas.
Only men were sent in the first expedition. The King didn’t intend this to be anything other than a short-term measure and knew that if such a volatile bunch were able to put down roots, they might become a problem in the long term.
For four years the colonists managed to survive. Albion was tough on them and took its toll as they learned which things were safe to eat and which might eat them. Divisions soon emerged and the group splintered off into various sub-factions. The largest of these was led by a man called Gibson. A butcher by trade, with a good head for figures, Gibson had got on the wrong side of the King due to his outspoken views on taxation. He was a methodical man, who knew how to divide things fairly and wasn’t afraid to speak out. He was also handy with a meat cleaver.
As the colonists prospered, they drew the attention of Albion’s more dangerous inhabitants. The simple fences were more than adequate to keep out hungry wolves but when the Keepers and their giants came, it was a different story.
Turfed out of their own home and forced to flee into unknown areas, it was only a matter of time before the weak bonds between them started to break. Their enemies possessed strange powers, turning the very land against them. And as they ventured deeper into Albion, they came across fresh horrors: the walking dead, huge knights armored in fire and black iron, and wild beasts straight out of legend.
As they looked from bloodthirsty giants and axe-wielding berserkers on one side, to wicked cultists and their soul-drinking demons on the other, their leaders came to an irrefutable conclusion: Albion was a place of nightmare and it, along with all of its inhabitants, had to be destroyed.
The Old World had cast them out and Albion had rejected them, so they would burn it all and start again.
They began to work their own weapons, crude things that could only hold the weakest of Albion’s magic. Even so, it was significant, the first step in a much greater plan. Falling back on old survival skills, they laid low and sent out spies to observe Albion’s natives.
From a distance, they observed strange rituals and rites. Daring raids secured them scraps of knowledge from the other factions. Some of them tried to recreate the rituals with limited success, others attempted to tap into the magic of the land in their own way, without training, and were never the same again. Though they could not equal the power of Albion’s other magical factions, they did succeed in creating their own staves and artifacts, empowering their first mages.
The growth in power reflected their growing madness. Even the pragmatic Gibson was affected. One night he simply wandered away only to return a month later, changed, proclaiming himself a ‘Heretic’. Shortly afterwards all contact was lost between the colony and the Old World.
The Royal Expeditionary Forces arrived a few years later to find their countrymen had rejected the Old World and were calling themselves Heretics. Diplomacy between the two groups never even started as the Heretics attacked anyone they encountered on sight. Albion had driven the Heretics to embrace the worst parts of themselves and everyone was poorer as a result.
While they share a title, the Heretics are not one single faction. Indeed, they are as likely to attack each other as they are any of the other groups.