The Age of Mists
Before the Age of Spears, there came a time in the prehistory of humanity that has been almost wholly lost to human records. Thousands of years before the present day, before humanity had spread across Leng, they found themselves as refugees. Fleeing from the south in great numbers, they escaped the harsh desert that is now known as the Plains of Dust; in living memory, it had been a lush and fertile land. Their journey is known to old legends as the Great Exodus.
Some struggled to survive on the northern borders of their old homeland; others tried to remain in the Plains of Dust and eke out a living there. Many more, however, fled north in search of new lands - and distance from the dark spectre of their past. The shadow of the Searing loomed large over the humans of this time, and mankind was divided many times over before the Age of Mists ended.
Although the broken cities of Alta remain, as do the oral traditions and tales of the Karpathi and the shalafi, this is a period that should properly be considered prehistoric. It is remembered by ancient folk legends, ruined cities and forgotten monuments. Although there are many legends - some more fanciful, some more credible - there is little concrete history of this time outside of the oldest archives of Grey Elven history. For this reason, it is known as the Age of Mists; a dark age of terror and fear after the golden age that came before it.
- The Great Exodus
- The Dragon's Curse
- The Ancient Frontier
- The Awakening of the Dwarves
- The Rise of Humanity
The Great Exodus5,300 BE
The Searing rendered the armies and cities of Andruith into sand and blasted rock, and completed the transformation of Andruith into the Plains of Dust. Once-lush fields had been torn up in the raising of armies and burned in the fighting of wars. Now those fields were seared from existence, burned into blazing sands. The survivors of the Searing had only three choices: adapt, escape or die.
Many did die. But others found their own path, during a period known to scholars of prehistory as the Great Exodus - the single greatest migration in the history of mankind.
The first group to fall by the wayside in the Great Exodus never left the Plains of Dust. Despite everything that had transpired there, they could not bring themselves to leave their homeland. For some, it was fear of the unknown. Others still held some loyalty to their fallen fey gods - perhaps thinking that if their gods still lived, then those who stayed would be greatly rewarded. Still others began their journey, but found some hospitable pocket before joining the Great Exodus - a hidden oasis, a cave system fed by subterranean rivers, or something similar.
For the vast majority of those who stayed, however, death was the result. The Plains of Dust was a harsh and inhospitable land for those accustomed to rolling hills and green fields. Those who survived called themselves the shalafi - the "forged". For the Plains of Dust were as a crucible. Those who chose to stay there were changed by it - by a nomadic way of life whose only objective was to see another day through. In time, the shalafi of the Plains of Dust would learn the secrets of the desert - and find new gods and superstitions along the way, becoming a new people entirely.
The Reclamation of Alta
A decade after the Searing, a vast wave of refugees from the Plains of Dust had made their way north, fleeing the desert. For ten long years they had made their way through an expanse of sand that seemed without end, finding water and sustenance when they could and dying when they could not. After ten long years, finally they came across the end the desert: the Lifeblood River, which flows from the Oshokthespen Mountains. Though the ground was hard and caked and burnt the feet, it was not barren and dead as the sands were.
By the side of this river was a ruined city; a city which once had been important, but which had fallen to ruins early in the War of the Searing. The name of this city was Alta, and it represented the first division in the peoples of the Great Exodus. As they took shelter in this city and revelled in the lifegiving waters, it is said that a charismatic leader came forth amongst them. His name has been lost to time, but he is known to those in modern times as the Dragon of Alta for the symbol he later took for himself. His title has become infamous for reasons that will be detailed later.
About half of the 10,000 or so who had originally fled the Plains of Dust were swayed by the words of the Dragon. He preached deliverance; that their long struggle had come to an end. They had found a place with flowing water, strong walls and earth to bear fruit. Why continue their misery any longer? Had they not been punished enough? Others, though, disagreed. They were led by a man named Karpath, who believed that Alta was too close to the Plains of Dust. It was ill-fated to stay in that doomed city, to attempt to rebuild what the gods had seen fit to destroy. Rebuild Alta and you will repeat its mistakes, he said.
So it came to pass that the Exodus split. The Dragon and his Altans remained in Alta to rebuild and settle, while the Karpathi crossed the Lifeblood River and continued their journey north.
After they left Alta behind, the Karpathi spent another ten years journeying into the wasteland that is now known as Qolor. Although the desert was behind them, the land they now found themselves in was not much more hospitable. Their numbers had dwindled to a mere 3,000 souls, the rest taken by the harshness of their new life. As they had endured these hardships, something of a philosophy had grown in the hearts of the followers of Karpath.
The Karpathi came to believe that the vice and arrogance of the Andruans were responsible for their present condition. The gods had seared the Plains of Dust to wipe the earth clean from this corruption, they said, but it had survived. One need only look to the south - to Alta - to see the seed of that corruption taking root once more. Just as the Plains of Dust had cleansed this corruption from the land, however, Qolor could cleanse this corruption from the spirit.
In short, the Karpathi saw the Plains of Qolor as their punishment. Though harsh and barren, with dangerous fauna and little in the way of water, Qolor was livable to those who had become hardened to it. By dwelling in such an inhospitable land, with only a knife's edge between life and death, the greed and arrogance that consumed Andruith would never be repeated.
The remaining refugees were not united in this, however. Not all believed that the advancements of Andruith were responsible for all their woes. This group departed from their brethren and scattered in every direction - the Plains of Dust had an end, and so must Qolor. Abandoned by and abandoning the desert, their fellows and their gods, this group was named the Forsaken by the Karpathi who remained.
It was the Forsaken - scarcely 500 souls scattered into small groups - that would sow the seeds for all the human civilisations which would come later. Some went west. but most followed the rivers east towards the Sea of Flails. The Karpathi bade them go freely, but with a warning: "No king will ever rule in Qolor. Come here with the instruments of war, and you will not find quarter in the harsh lands of the Karpathi."
The tale of Forsaken is a long one, far too long to recount here. It is the history of humanity on Leng, for they would go on to found all the nations of Leng. Arelon, Astinas and Agatea; Lorknir, Vingaard and Kharolis; all these lands have their roots in the Forsaken and their descendants.
The Dragon's Curse5,200 BE
The man who would come to be known as the Dragon caused nearly 5,000 people to turn aside from the great Exodus and rebuild Alta. As the Karpathi struggled in Qolor, the Dragon and his followers dwelt in Alta. When the Karpathi ended their journey and the Forsaken scattered to the four corners of Leng, still the Dragon and his followers labored to rebuild the city. By 5200 BE, a century after the beginning of the Great Exodus, the fields of Alta were well irrigated. Though food was scarce, none starved in the city and the city's inhabitants fared well compared to those who had made the harrowing journey north.
Even with prosperity and rebuilding before them, however, the Dragon's charges could not help but notice the strangeness of their leader. Though he first rose to prominence through sheer charisma, whispers began to be spread of the strange powers at his disposal. Some even claimed that he was a Custodian in disguise, come to safeguard the remnants of humanity and ensure they could rebuild in peace. Whether deity or not, it was said that the Dragon - not a young man when Alta was first resettled - had not aged a day in a century.
It is believed that the Dragon was Leng's first known Wilder - a human so strong in their magical talent that, even without training, his powers had manifested themselves. Other scholars believed that the "Dragon" of ancient legend was in truth a vampire, perhaps one cursed by the ancient gods for evil deeds, who took advantage of the witless Altans. He himself claimed that the blood of the Altan kings ran in his veins, claiming it as his right to rule Alta. With the power and charisma that had placed him there, few cared to oppose him - and as long as his rule was benevolent and his strange powers were used for their benefit, the people of Alta did not object to their new ruler.
However, it is said that the aspect of the Dragon began to change. His legendary charisma, it is said, was the first thing to go. He began to brood, so much so that his advisers and fellows feared for his mind. It is said that he would wander the halls of his palace, or even the ruined streets that had yet to be reclaimed, and speak to the empty air - sometimes laughing, sometimes furious. Eventually, as quickly as they appeared, his strange moods ended. He would take people into the palace - to seek the blood of Alta, he said, and find others like him who could protect and enrich the city and its people. Many were not seen again.
Though it happened so slowly as to be unnnoticeable, a strange miasma came over Alta. People reported hearing mournful weeping and voices in those same streets that the Dragon had muttered to himself in. People became distrustful and furtive of one another. Precious crops withered in the fields; buckets and pots were abandoned for the sandstorm to crack and ruin. It was as though the same spirit which had overtaken all of Andruith during the War of the Searing had reared its head once again in Alta. Through it all, the Dragon retreated to his palace and was not seen in public.
People began to leave Alta while they still could. Some begged succor from the shalafi, returning to the Plains of Dust. Others ventured north into the Plains of Qolor, seeking to reunite with the Exodus. At around 5150 BE, Altan clerks recorded in Andruan Knife-Marks that the Dragon had grown vengeful and bitter, terrifying his servants with tirades against those who, as he perceived it, had betrayed everything he had worked so hard to build. And even as his anger grew, the shadows infesting the streets of Alta seemed to grow longer.
The tale of the Dragon has no end. Whether he was a creature of the night, a Wilder, or something else entirely is unknown - though scholars are fond of using the Dragon's legacy as an example of the danger of Wild Magic. All that is known is what has become of Alta today: a ruined, broken city that even the most foolhardy adventurers will not enter willingly. The very stones and windows of the gutted city whisper of evil, and the shadows are long. None who enter by night ever return, but it is said that, from the hills that overlook the city, terrible lights can be seen in the windows of the ruined palace - and awful shrieks carry on the night air.
The Ancient Frontier4,500 BE
The continent of Leng, once the domain of monsters and fey beings, was greatly changed by 4500 BE. First driven forth by the Custodians, and then by the Searing of the Plains of Dust, by this point only the eastern half of the continent truly retained its wildness - in the west, the legacy of the eldritch beings that once inhabited the continent was found only in isolated pockets and forests untouched by man or their gods. Even in the east, many of the most powerful and bizarre of Leng's inhabitants had fled, returning to their own realms - they knew that the processes set in motion could not be stopped. Whether it took a century or a millennium, Leng was no longer a fitting place to be their playground.
Even the east of Leng was not left unsullied, however, for in 4500 BE the first humans made the journey through the perilous mountain passes of Dagrenoth Ur, coming into what would now be called northern Lorknir. Perhaps the humans of Andruith would have found the land too fearful to brave, before the Searing had hardened them. It brooded with monsters and beasts: creatures such as werewolves, dragons, behirs and shambling mounds, and many more besides. More subtle beings lurked in the shadows of the forests, strange elusive creatures with otherworldly origins.
Even the most straightforward of the wilderness's inhabitants - the Grey Elves - were imposing in their own way. Possessed of long lives, unfathomable natures, and impressive magic, they lived in harmony with nature and were deeply suspicious of human interlopers. Having encountered other humanoids - mostly orcs and goblins from the north - they initially assumed humans were of the same ilk. Humans were tolerated on the borders of the wilderness, but those who entered the forests were met with a hail of arrows or with terrifying beasts loosed on them by the elves.
The Interloper Wars
For hundreds of years, humanity eked out a hard life at the edge of the wilderness. Troubled by beasts, goblin-kin and the bitter mountain winters, humans nonetheless spread across what is now called "the Ancient Frontier" by scholars - though few have performed much archeological work so close to the Plains of Death and the Monstrous Lands. Despite their initial mistrust, the Grey Elves eventually realised that humans were not quite as violent and brutish as the orcs and goblins they had previously encountered, and settled into a wary tolerance.
Although they spent centuries eking out a living on the frontier, by 4300 BE humans had thrived and spread beyond what the land could support. As they grew in numbers, their encroachments into the wilderness became ever more necessary - whether wood for houses, iron for tools or simply the land itself, even the threat of the Grey Elves was not enough to hold them back. Previously content to leave them to their devices, Grey Elves found themselves in conflict with humans more and more frequently - conflicts which invariably resulted in crushing defeat for the humans. Yet the Grey Elves, long-lived and slow to breed, were baffled by the willingness of mortals to throw their lives away - and the speed with which they multiplied.
Nonetheless, the Grey Elves possessed millennia of history and knowledge. They possessed superior weaponry and magics that humans could only dream of. Although they could not stop human encroachment short of exterminating humanity entirely, the Grey Elves were able to stem the tide until 4100 BE. This period is referred to in ancient elven histories as the "Interloper Wars" - though it is unlikely that the human clans of this time saw them as wars.
The Awakening of the Dwarves4,300 BE
Even as humans and the Grey Elves were clashing in the northern reaches of Leng, something of momentous importance was happening deep beneath the earth. Ancient mountainhomes long since sealed off were buried beneath miles of stone. These ancient dwarven cities were dead and empty - intentionally destroyed thousands of years before in a last, desperate attempt to ward off the primeval dragons that threatened to eradicate them entirely.
The mountainhomes that survived are as follows:
- Uzan Rith, east of Dagrenoth Ur mountains
- Nilun Ebbek, center of Dagrenoth Ur mountains
- Edem Azmol, north of Dagrenoth Ur mountains
- Rukon Zon, west of Tamora
- Zon Sacat, Sacatmorul mountains
- Oshokthespen, Oshokthespen mountains
Sequestered in these empty citadels were the Ancestor Forges - marvellous artifacts of Law that kept the surviving dwarves of Morus in stasis for millennia. In the year 4300 BE, the first of these Ancestor Forges activated and the elders of Uzan Rith awoke. That the humans and elves of Leng were wholly ignorant of their presence is not surprising. The dwarven elders, having awoken in the ruins of their once-great civilisation, did not immediately reveal themselves.
The next century was spent by the dwarves of Uzan Rith in secrecy, rebuilding their crumbling homes. Much of their ancient lore had been lost in the crumbling of their homes, and the elders who had built the Ancestor Forges did not survive long after their awakening. It was left to their children to relight the ancient forges, delve new mines and unearth old tunnels to restore the former glory of the dwarves of old.
As the centuries drew on, the other Forges would activated one by one, slowly reviving the remnants of ancient dwarven society. It is believed that all of the dwarven civilisations awoke during the Age of Mists, though it is difficult to say. The attentions of the other five mountainhomes were turned entirely inwards during this period; they were not even aware of what transpired in the world above. Uzan Rith, however, had a somewhat different fate.
The Rise of Humanity4,100 BE
In 4100 BE, the "Ancient Frontier" was still held in place by the ancient Grey Elves. Desperate humans were willing to risk much to improve their lives - infringing on the forests with their axes, walking in forbidden glades and facing elf and fey beast alike. Despite their bravery and persistence, however, the Grey Elves were able to keep them at bay. By this time, they were well aware of the threat that mankind could pose them if left unchecked, and considered themselves to be at war. There was even talk of exterminating humanity entirely, but the Grey Elves could not quite bring themselves to do so. Two important events spelled the end of this stalemate.
The Treachery of Redoran
The High Magic of the elves, along with the various forms of natural magic that elves have always been adept at cultivating, was one of their most useful tools in keeping humanity at bay. Yet the Grey Elves maintained their superiority through skill and knowledge, not through raw power. It was always humans who possessed the raw talent. Only among humans does the power run so freely that they can become Wilders - mages who, without any training or control over their abilities, can nonetheless unleash devastating powers upon the world.
Most dates in the Age of Mists are fuzzy, but 4095 BE is clearly recorded in the annals of elvish history; even millennia later, the elves have never forgotten the treachery of a young elven apprentice of only a few hundred years named Redoran. Redoran, contrary to most of his brethren, was fascinated by humans. He was said to often use magic to change his form and walk among them, observing and wondering at their short and frenetic lives. He experienced the effects of human Wilders firsthand - and was horrified at the results.
Over the years, Redoran became convinced that Wilders were far more dangerous to the world than any mere vendetta between elves and humanity. Such raw power combined with such utter lack of control could only spell disaster. Though he knew what the result could be, Redoran felt he had no recourse but to reveal himself to mankind and share the knowledge of High Magic with them.
So it came to pass that Redoran came to live amongst humans. By him, the first half-elves were born, and the secrets of sorcery were shared with mortals. Even today, it's said that the Blue Elves of the Daggerwood in northern Lorknir are the descendants of Redoran and share his ideals of friendship with humans. Though Redoran - a mere apprentice - possessed a fraction of the arcane knowledge of the Grey Elves, humans gaining the power to harness and control their magic was the first of two nails in the Grey Elven coffin.
Unlike the other five mountainhomes, the dwarves of Uzan Rith did not cloister themselves for more than a couple hundred years. After an initial period of rebuilding, they delved tunnels to the surface and once again rejoined the world in 4050 BE. There, in the eastern reaches of the Dagrenoth Mountains, they did not encounter elves. Instead, they found themselves in a strange position: with goblin-kin to the north and humans to the south.
Unlike the elves, the dwarves of Uzan Rith were not standoffish to humans. Still weak and rebuilding, they nonetheless immediately went to war against the goblins, orcs and bugbears who had begun to build their strength in the Monstrous Lands. They found their human neighbours more than eager to fight and die alongside them, and saw no reason to turn down their aid. Humans suffered more than any from orcish raids, and the superb armaments created by dwarves were greatly coveted by them. Together, humans and the dwarves of Uzan Rith joined in what came to be known as the War of Ill-Omen by dwarves - named for the sorrow that it would eventually lead to.
Nonetheless, in the short term this was a time of triumph. Together, human and dwarvish armies marched into the Plains of Death and made war upon the monstrous forces gathered there. By 4000 BE they had achieved complete victory. Humans and dwarves returned to their own lands, but a lasting friendship was forged between them. Even though humans came to the brink of extinction in this time - fighting a war in the north while the elves harried them daily in the south - those who returned were forged in the crucible of battle. With superior weapons and blood-soaked hands, they returned to the frontier not as settlers, but as soldiers.
The Time of Conquest
The defeat of the Grey Elves was not immediate; it was a slow process that took more than 700 years. Most of the events of the "Time of Conquest" have been lost to history, but their marks can be clearly seen. Humans returned to the wilderness with their logging axes, and this time they had magics of their own to weave against elven sorceries. When the elves felled them with arrows, humans met them on the field of battle. Loyalties rose and fell, and warlords gained fame and died. Though still more humans fell than elves - by far - the elves found that the nuisance in the north had become an existential threat.
Instead of "stemming the tide" of humanity, the Grey Elves now found themselves bitterly attempting to hurt the barbarian invaders as much as possible before being forced to retreat. It is at this time that elven historians consider the Grey Elves as a people to have gone extinct; somewhere around 3500 BE, a mass exodus departed from the isle of Savensaros, hundreds of white-winged ships disappearing into the mists. The elves that chose to remain in their forest territories of Murthrid and Lurkmoor are known as the Wood Elves and the High Elves, respectively.
The Age of Mists is generally considered to have come to an end by 3000 BE. By this time, elves had all but been driven from the massive region now known as Lorknir. Though still a wild land filled with beasts and strange things, Lorknir was no longer ruled by them. In logging villages, frontier settlements and wooden forts, Lorknir was a human land ruled by human warlords. So it came to pass that the Age of Mists ended and the Age of Spears began.