Part V: The Dark Times (Asylon Supplement)
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During the 3,000 years between The Cataclysm and the rise of the Doxim lineage, the land of Aina made the slow crawl towards recovery. The legends coming down from the first 600 years of this era focus mainly on the rise of the Vethier, the Oathkeepers, their stewardship of the continent, and their vigil over the Shattered Soul, the chain of islands that are all that remain of the heart of the Theran Empire.
It was Vethier culture--perhaps under the blessing of Utsirte and the Aenen--that flourished most quickly in these times, and in the beginning it was growth in harmony with nature. They established a religion focused on Utsirte but honoring all of the Aenic pantheon, and cultivated the sprawling, colossal forests of southern Aina. They were humble and repentant, but also not without power: for generations they worked unopposed by any other race, and when other races began to rise out of barbarism and brutality, they were still no match for Vethier unity and determination.
One example of their prowess involves the namesake of our glorious empire, the Atralonian Empire of antiquity. Founded around 3e 502 by Mori the Cruel, it was little more than a tribe of barbarians with delusions of grandeur. Mori had occupied the city of Atralon, itself one of the best preserved strongholds of the Therans, and proclaimed himself Emperor, not unlike many of the tribal leaders at the time. Mori and his descendants managed to hold the tower until 3e 724 (this is no small feat; the next most enduring kingdom during this first millennium lasted for a paltry 80 years by comparison), and in that time accomplished feats of butchery and enslavement that would shock your average citizen today.
After over 200 years of this cruelty, the Atralonians occupied most of the southern and central regions of present-day Atralonia, and began to entertain dreams of expansion, which included conquering a region held by the Vethier. Within a fortnight of their first attack, the Vethier had completely obliterated the "glorious" Atralonian Empire, and allowed the ancient Atralonian's slaves to inhabit the fortress.
Also throughout the first millennium of the Third Era, the races of Men took their stand and solidified into their present groups. It is certain that the Geats arrived on the shores of Aina in 3e 584 in a firestorm of pillaging and conquest. Because they confined themselves to the northeastern shores of Aina they were left alone by the Bosmer, and were more or less free to exert their warlike influences on the peoples in the area. There are a handful of legends which suggest that the Geats--or rather, their ancestors--are actually the progenitors of Men. There are no commonalities between these legends, some stating that the Geats sent their prisoners and outlaws across the sea to the shores of Aina, others stating that the Geats began in Aina, left its shores long ago, and came back to find their people radically changed after The Cataclysm. Because of these disparities, some scholars maintain that they are rather simply residue left over from the Geatish propensity for bragging.
Before Mori and his barbarians began their terrible reign--centuries before the Geats were carving out kingdoms for themselves in the North--the varying peoples of modern Atralonian stock were beginning to work the lands of central Aina, existing for the most part in small, agrarian villages. They led predominately peaceful lives, usually only having an armed militia to fend off roving bandits. There was an overabundance of these bandit groups during the first five or six centuries of the Third Era; it was simply easier to take from others than to work the land and try to provide for oneself. They lived nomadic lifestyles, and weren't seriously weeded out until after the 12th century 3e. Like all groups of men, these bandits varied from pushovers to sadistic butchers.
The Kronians, on the other hand, have remained a steadfast community in their highlands for as long as any records indicate. They have likely held that forsaken ground in their stubborn way since before the Cataclysm, and are bound to defend it until Moiar's Eye rips asunder and drowns the world in power. The only concrete facts about their culture is that they hunt wild cattle, struggle with monstrous incursions in their lands in the north, raid Atralonian settlements in the south during particularly hard winters, and forge unparalled blades.
This was the state of things at the dawn of 3e 1000; humans with all their particularities had settled into a few dozen feudal kingdoms and nomadic tribes that were constantly bickering with each other for land and other resources. They rose and fell countless times until the rise of Valde Doxim, may his reign last forever.
As has been stated, Vethier had gained a strong foothold in the south of Aina long before humans became prominent players on the world stage. They had developed a network of closely-knit villages when the humans had yet to tie sticks together over their heads; while humans were scrounging for roots and throwing rocks at deer, Vethier had begun work on the finer points of culinary preparation. They were just as promising as their magical ancestors, but were determined to develop in accord with and with respect for Utsirte. This was the state of their culture from the 3rd or 4th century 3e. They would tend to the cultivation of the southlands, working quickly to overgrow those ancient Theran fortresses that weren't totally destroyed by Utsirte's power, and stamping out magical uprisings when they occurred. Legends indicate that whenever a being was found using magic, a special branch of Vethier Society known as the Kaana Maka would make haste to the location, silence the offender by whatever means necessary, and set up a presence in the area for the next 20 years to make sure no more individuals began to use magic.
This all changed with the Sunderings beginning in 3e 1207. For decades, Vethier society had been alight with debate over the inherent danger of magic versus the tendency for a person to use magic dangerously, and finally hit a breaking point. The Holomua or "progressives," proposed that magic ought to be made into a tool of the Vethier to make sure lesser races didn't misuse its power. This camp was radically opposed by the Malama, the oathkeepers, who thought the use of magic would lead their people back into the depths of depravity and sin. The culture split in two, with the Holomua proclaiming themselves Althier and journeying into the Northern plains. They knew full well that Utsirte had forever weakened mortals' connection to the Aether, and that any magic they could perform would never be able to wreak the havoc it once had. Of all the Vethier, the Kaana Maka were the most insistent that magic ought to be used, angry over their loss of life when confronting magic users around the continent. Since the rest of Vethier society made up the common people of their race, they were powerless to stop the departure of these Althier and instead chose to begin new traditions of upbringing.
In addition to a list of other provisos, this new generation of Vethier would shun the use of metal and renew their Oath every year in a ceremony called the Ho'i Hou Pono, the Return to Virtue. This redoubling of their determination caused a blessing from the gods; they prayed to Aohine (whom we know as Utsirte), to Huaka'i (Daraith) and Kaulike (Sarga-Tol) for strength, and to Nani (Aseyri) as a sign of their love for the earth, and they were rewarded for their fealty. The Divines blessed the faithful Vethier, bringing their communion with nature to even greater levels, the fruits of which we can see today in their earthy features and their Holo Laa'au ritual, whereby they miraculously pass into their next phase of life as trees. They all but forsook the world outside, and to this day the Vethier defend the lands the Therans once called home, and have never allowed any other Mer or arcane magic user to cross the Lau Palena, the Green Border of their homeland.
Althier society grew at a remarkable rate, quickly moving away from the primitive, communal nature of Vethier life into the state of high culture it exhibits today. They took quickly to magic, and while they couldn't accomplish anything close to the wonders of the Second Era, they found ways to make their lives more comfortable. By 3e 1257, a mere 50 years after embracing the ways of magic to defend against magic users, the Althier had not only adopted a new language and new styles of clothing, architecture, and aesthetics, but had also determined that Magic could never be harmful enough to warrant such strict control, and gave up their vigil. As shadows of their ancestors and armed with the knowledge of magic's slippery path, they forged a collection of city states that kept to their own affairs and avoided the use of outside help; to be seen as slavemasters would place them too close to the position of the Therans, and the Althier were no heathens or monsters.
After another 72 years, in 3e 1329, a rift appeared amongst the Althier, this time not only about magic, but also about religion. One group calling themselves the proikis, the "gifted," held that magic didn't have to be studied in order to be mastered. Instead, they found that it could be harnessed innately if the teachings of the various Draenic cults were embraced. This was seen as an abomination by the katharos, the purists, due in no small part to the role the Princes played in the creation of Asylon. Quite unlike the first Meri Sundering, there were plenty of warriors and casters on both sides of this disagreement, and it inevitably turned into a civil war. For two years the proikis battled the katharos, unleashing increasingly powerful offensive spells all the while. It is commonly thought that the vast majority of every spell in the evocation and conjuration specialties were developed during this period.
After two years of war with no clear victor, there were nonetheless clear signs of change. The proikis in their bid to gain more power became more and more devoted to worship of the Draenic Princes, and this eventually turned their skin and eyes to the ashen gray and blood red we see today. Conversely, it seemed exposure to increasingly more powerful magic caused the katharos to gain more regal statures and golden skin, suspectedly more akin to the visages of the ancient Therans. The two factions ruthlessly fought for control of what is now Lilandor, eschewing regard for the races of men in the lands at the time until the intervention of the Vethier in the Battle of Three Kindreds.
There are more than 40 legends and no less than 15 songs recounting this battle, and all invariably relate how the Vethier arrived unlooked for in greater numbers than any other race had thought possible and soundly defeated both opposing armies. All the peoples of the age were astounded to hear reports of a surprise force of Vethier, wielding magic and calling whole forests of trees into battle with them. It was decades later that the Vethier revealed that their powers were granted by faithfulness towards the the Divines and not from the Aether. It is said that the Vethier fought with such passion and vigor that the Althier were swept away from the battlefield almost immediately, with the katharos fleeing into their plains strongholds, and the proikis beating a hasty retreat into the East to gather around their sacred volcano and lick their wounds.
Very little is known about the history of the feykind. They kept to themselves throughout the millennia of the Third Era, and while it is certainly suspected that the Vethier had known of the Ra'Virr early on, they weren't discovered by the majority of Ainans until around 3e 1876. The Hressh are suspected to have been onetime slaves or students of the Dothier, but weren't discovered on the world stage until 3e 2854, well-remembered by some of the more venerable Althier.
In this way the races of Aina flourished and changed during the Third Era, with the races of Men squabbling out their small kingdoms, the races of Elves splitting and carrying out their epic struggles, the beast races propagating in secret, and all the while tales of heroism and villainy across the land. It was a transition from the basest of living to the heights of adventure and fantasy, often called The Dark Times, but also the Age of Heroes for it's many tales and legends.
|I suspect that the later centuries of this Era would be preferrable for a more "general" campaign. The rise and fall of kingdoms was so frequent and numerous and the consequences so forgiving that it's completely possible to create a believable scenario for an adventure or even an entire campaign.|