The Age of Mysteries
Shrouded in the obscurity of the past, the Age of Mysteries is a time before humans and their mortal brethren first landed on the shores of Leng. The dwarves still slumbered in the Ancestor Forges, and the gnomes had yet to make their long voyage through the Planes of Earth and Water to find their way into the sunlight of Morus. In that time, the continent of Leng was a vast, sleeping giant ruled by primordial forces.
In the frigid north, connected to Leng by a bridge of ice, the Aesir and Vanir made war on the giants in the icy tundra. Their war spanned the planes, and brought many foul and strange things into Morus from other worlds: trolls and giants, and monsters of many kinds. On Leng, a vast and endless forest was lovingly cultivated by the Fey, the Eladrin and the Faerie Elves that had come there from other worlds. It was not peaceful, however. It was a land of elemental spirits and werewolves in the night; and one which was constantly at war with the linnorms dragons that vied with the forces of nature for domination. And between each other, as well, the capricious Fey fought.
This was a time long before the age of mankind, when stories were told that had nothing to do with mortal beings. It was a time when Leng was ruled by spirits, not by souls. The world was new; it could remember a time when it was not a world at all, but a place of the Elemental Planes. Yet even in this era, the winds of change were stirring in the south.
7000 - 6000 BE
- Before Morus (7000 BE)
- The Ancient Masters (7000-6500 BE)
- Ascent of the Moredi (6850 BE)
- The Firebirth (6470-6300 BE)
6000 - 5000 BE
5000 - 4000 BE
- The War of the Gods (4500-4450 BE)
- The Colonisation of Khazath (4450-4200 BE)
- Arrival of the Latecomers (4400-4000 BE)
- Construction of the Citadel of Penance (4200-4150 BE)
- The Loss of the Starjewel (4150 BE)
4000 - 3000 BE
- The Great Migration (4000-3500 BE)
- The Ventari Civilisation (3500-3200 BE)
- The Andruith Civilisation (3300-3000 BE)
7000 - 6000 BE
Before Morus7000 BE
The Elemental Planes are neither Lawful nor Chaotic. They are uniform, and thus Lawful. They are without structure, and thus Chaotic. They are Neutral. In practice, of course, they vary - some places are ordered and structured, while others are tumultuous and unpredictable. There are both shining cities and raging maelstroms. In some places, however, quite by accident, a curious kind of balance comes into being - but not between Law and Chaos.
In these places, the so-called semi-elemental planes, many forces find themselves in perfect balance. Fire, Water, Earth and Air find themselves present in perfectly equal proportions. If left alone the "bubble" will eventually burst, and one element will overwhelm the others. Until it does, however, the conditions in such places are remarkably similar to that of a Material Plane.
It was to one of these semi-elemental planes that the Ancestor Dwarves arrived. An endless Underdark extended into Earth, and it was via these tunnels that they came. Above it, an endless sky extended into Air. In the west and east, an endless ocean extended into Water. In the south, vast plains of magma extended into Fire. It was broken by a vast continent, larger than every known landmass of today combined (though not infinite). Far from being barren, it was lush and verdant with life: in hospitable places such as this, the fey and elemental spirits make merry, and they bring the bounty of nature with them. From scorching desert to raging ocean to towering jungle, it was a place of great extremes. Fey spirits and elementals roamed the wilds alongside magnificent beasts the like of which are not seen today.
The Ancestor Dwarves did not come here by coincidence: they were elite servants of Moradin, the dwarven god of the Forgotten Realms. Powerful clerics and wielders of an ancient form of runelore, they had been sent by their god to seek just such a place as this, and to establish the power of Law there. They named this semi-elemental plane Morus, after the god who had finally led them to salvation from the ruins of their home world.
The Ancient Masters7000-6500 BE
For a time, the Ancestor Dwarves made Morus their home, building great mountain citadels and erecting wondrous temples of Moradin with the full might of their runecraft. Every action, however, has an equal and opposite reaction. Perhaps their magics were misjudged or they moved too quickly. Whatever the cause, they awoke a powerful presence which their carvings refer to only as "Stone Serpents" or "Ancient Masters". These beings, which seemed to be avatars of changelessness and infinity itself, came to crush them.
Ultimately, the Ancestor Dwarves were not doomed to be successful. They grew desperate, and many became faithless and fled Morus in the wake of the onslaught. Only a few craftsmen remained, withdrawing deep into the earth to protect themselves. Knowing that their time was limited, they channelled all of their craft into the construction of a series of wondrous devices: the Ancestor Forges. Interred within, they entered a state of suspended animation in the hopes that one day they would emege into a safer world.
Ascent of the Moredi6850 BE
The runelore and craft of the Ancestor Dwarves was immense, and the Ancestor Forges were their crowning glory. Not all of them chose this route of escape from the Ancient Masters, however. Many fled into the Underdark or back into the planes from which they originated. Others attempted to find alternate ways of escaping the looming threat. The Moredi Dwarves were one such group.
In many ways, the chosen approach of the Moredi was quite similar to the dwarves working on the Ancestor Forges. Instead of looking downwards for a safe haven, however, the Moredi turned their immense runelore towards the heavens. By 6850, their project was complete - a reproduction of a device told of only in ancient texts. Known as a forge helm, this device was powered by the creative energies of the dwarves themselves. With it, they were able to quite literally move mountains.
So it came to pass that in 6850 BE, while the other Ancestor Dwarves were making their preparations, the Moredi ascended from the surface of Morus into the sky and thereafter into the void of Wildspace. Since they did not retreat to the Ancestor Forges and lose the greater part of their race's wisdom, these spacefaring dwarves - if they are still out there - could have all of the lost knowledge of the Ancestor Dwarves. They have never returned to Morus, however.
The Firebirth6470-6300 BE
Every living dwarf on what would become Morus was destroyed or driven out by 6500 BE, save those that hid in the Forges - their war with the Ancient Masters was ultimately futile. Something happened in the wake of the war, however: something that bounded Morus and made it a Material Plane, three decades after the retreat of the Ancestor Dwarves.
Even though the dwarves were no longer able to see it happen, their objective was finally obtained. Morus broke away from the Elemental, changing from an infinite plane to one bounded within a crystal sphere. Sky, earth, and ocean were bounded into a vast sphere, cut off from the infinity of the elemental planes and plunged into the darkness of Wildspace. More dramatic than any of the other three elements, though, was the bounding of fire.
The great plains of magma in the south rose up and swept over the sky, raining fire down upon Morus. The great continent was split and scattered across the globe, and the fire finally settled on the southern continent. There, it became a globe of light the size of a city, and it scorched everything around it for 100 miles. This was the Firebirth, when the Great Soul came to Morus. The Ancient Masters were fearful of the Great Soul. On the newly-reborn world of Morus, bounded and finite, they saw themselves for what they now were: the linnorms, primeval dragons and the avatars of infinity on a finite world. Desiring to return Morus to an infinite realm, they flocked to the Great Soul to destroy it, but they found it guarded.
When it had come to be, the heat and light of the Great Soul destroyed all living things nearby. But some were able to withstand its radiance: the elemental spirits. Taking on parts of the Great Soul, they diminished its radiance. Now a combination of soul and spirit, they assumed physical forms and became the First Gods. It was these that the linnorms found, whom they fought - bitterly - before being defeated and scattered across Morus.
From the stone bodies of the linnorms, the First Gods constructed Altea, the first city. While they were building, the wild beasts that had shied from the light when it was brighter now approached and took smaller souls from the diminished orb. Like the First Gods, they transcended and became the First Mortals: the beast-people. These would be the progenitors of the humans, the orcs, and all other mortal humanoids that carry souls in their chests - besides those who, like the gnomes and dwarves, came to Morus from other planes.
6000 - 5000 BE
The Diminishing6000-5000 BE
For a time after the Firebirth, there was peace and order in the kingdom of the First Gods. The wilds, filled with terrors, were a dangerous place for mere mortals, and in those days the nights were far longer. But the First Gods, fuelled by great souls and the devotion of their disciples, protected them. They were benevolent rulers, who built great cities and empires so that their subjects could live in peace. And when they saw that the mortals' bestial forms were inadequate for their sharp minds, they reshaped them in their own image as an act of divine mercy. Occasionally, some great danger from the wilderness would threaten their charges - but when this happened, they needed only to draw a little more power from the Great Soul to put it to rest.
After many hundreds of years, however, the First Gods became concerned. Every time the Great Soul was drawn from, it diminished. In the early days, this was scarcely noticeable, but now it had been tapped many times. There were scores of gods, and some were so powerful that they stood as tall as giants. Some took great pride in appearing as the fearsome linnorms did, and frequently made great displays of their power to remind the mortals of their strength - to the dismay of those who thought such posturing unnecessary.
As a consequence of all this, the Great Soul had shrunk so small that some of the larger gods could reach their arms around it and clasp their hands together. In the years to come, some of the more altruistic gods would sacrifice bits and pieces of their power to sustain it - but it soon became clear that this was not sustainable. The remaining gods were loth to give up any more power, for fear that their followers would realise that they had grown weaker. The Selfless One gave herself up to the Soul entirely, and her death - the first death of a god - solved the problem for a time. For a thousand years to come, the Great Soul's energies would be sufficient. But it did not solve the problem forever.
5000 - 4000 BE
The War of the Gods4500-4450 BE
The mortal servants of the First Gods felt the weakness in their protectors, even if they did not know the cause. The light did not extend quite far enough; the time between purges of the wilderness was just a little too long; resources were just a little too scarce. Just a little - in the beginning. What had once been shining suburbs eventually scrabbled and fought for sustenance, unable to protect themselves or provide for their families. In desperation, mortals sought out other protectors. Black arts were practiced and deals with the fey were made. Those mortals who were descended from the more predatory beasts had never been far from devolving into wildness, and now nothing held them back: brigandry and banditry arose, and crime came to exist on Morus.
The Gods became desperate. They had become learned in Sorcery, and particularly the knowledge of the soul, in their millennia of experimentation. They had long since realised a fact of the new world: like attracts like. Before the Great Soul came, there were no souls on Morus that belonged. But now that there were mortals with souls on Morus, they could bear children - creating souls seemingly from nothing. The obedience and faith of their followers had always been enough for the First Gods, but now they became greedy. Looking into their cities, they saw only a mass of souls, waiting to be plundered. Just as one does not lament for the beast that provides for your table, the gods thought it better for a mortal to join with a god than live a meagre, sorry life as a lesser being.
An atrocity was committed. Rituals were conducted in the secret chambers of Altea, city of the First Gods. Thousands of lives were snuffed out in an instant, and the Great Soul swelled. The Second Gods rose up against the First, decrying this abuse of their subjects. The gods went to war for the first time in millennia: fire rained from the sky once more on the southern continent, fragmenting it. Seeing that this war could only end in sorrow, the Second Gods used trickery to steal the Great Soul from Altea and fled the continent to escape their former brethren. They made for the north with their human followers, but the First Gods caught up with them and a great battle ensued over the waters of Morus. The attackers were driven back, but many died in the process, and the Great Soul plunged into the depths of the ocean and was lost.
The Second Gods, with their human followers, came to the southern shores of Leng; their mortal followers called them the Custodians from that point onwards. More waves of refugees would come from the south, but they were scattered across Morus as the Great Soul dissolved into the sea, and the Boiling Ocean came to be. So it came to pass that mortals came to Leng, and the other continents of Morus.
The Colonisation of Khazath4450-4200 BE
In the aftermath of the War of the Gods, the ancient continent on which the First Gods built Altea was sundered by hellfire, and the Great Soul turned the oceans into a boiling, seething cauldron as it dissolved. These impassable waters, which nothing can pass and survive, completely cut the northern hemisphere of Morus off from whatever may have become of the First Gods.
When the Custodians first landed upon the southern shores of Leng with their human charges, they were at a loss. The trauma and horror of what they had endured was fresh in their minds, but they could not afford to wallow in their loss. After having sacrificed so much for the protection of their mortal charges, they were intent on ensuring their survival. Over the next 250 years, the Custodians did all they could to ensure that the humans had the best possible chance of survival in their new home in Khazath. The entirety of of Leng was still a place of wildness, where fearsome fey and elemental beings of immense power ruled the untamed jungles and expanses of the ancient world.
It was during this period that many of the Custodians performed the great deeds that are remembered by those who worship them to this day. Dain of the Sunrise burned swathes of jungles to ash and reshaped the land itself into a more convenient shape. Lugh the Longarmed and Mielekkar the Huntress dragged monsters kicking and screaming from the dark places of the world and, laughing, dispatched them. Khemri the Hawk-Rider flew high above the clouds, ever vigilant for threats. And amidst all this, the people of Khazath grew and thrived in those warm and wet southerly lands.
Although the memory of the recent past was fresh in their minds and life was a constant war between the Custodians and the forces of nature, this was an era of peace and prosperity for their human charges - one in which they grew and thrived. Just as before, the Custodians knew they could not exert their power forever without consequences. Eventually, they would be forced to leave their wards to fend for themselves.
Arrival of the Latecomers4400-4000 BE
Although the Custodians and their charges were the first to arrive on Leng from their south, they were not the last. Over the course of 400 years, while they were carving out a place for humanity in Khazath, others were arriving on Leng. The next group came in 4400 BE, when the oceans were beginning to boil, and strange winds threw them far off course. They landed in the northeast, in what is now the gnomish kingdom of Tamora. From these inhospitable mountain lands, the migrated into the lush fields and rolling hills of Nevermoor - right into the heart of Leng. Their people has lived there ever since. It is not clear whether they were halflings when they left the mysterious homeland of mortals, or if centuries of hiding from dangerous monsters and consorting with the fey made them so. Either way, the halflings of Nevermoor have always been closer to the fey than all other mortal races.
The halflings were the second great wave to come from the south. After this, only stragglers and refugees came, in dribs and drabs. Those who waited latest of all were those were the most hardy, the most accustomed to bloodshed and misery. These were the monstrous humanoids, changed for the worse by the War of the Gods. When they came, the Boiling Ocean was nearly impassable, and few survived the journey at all. Those who did were thrown furthest off-course of all - they came in small numbers to the area now known as the Uncharted Lands, or the Monstrous Lands. They did not share the fear and reverence for the fey that humans did, and spread defiantly across nothern Leng. Though hopelessly outmatched by the incomprehensible and unknowable magic of the fey, they were numerous and tenacious. It was their presence and their murderous nature that prompted the first retreat of the Grey Elves - the first of many to come.
Construction of the Citadel of Penance4200-4150 BE
By 4200, many of the Custodians had begun to feel the effects of the second Diminishing - the waning of their power. The belief of their servants was enough to sustain them, but not enough to fuel their constant exertions. While some of them - in particular, Lugh and Mielekkar - were happy to continue their crusades until their own death, the others began to devote less and less time to the world of humans. Instead, they turned their attention downwards.
The Custodians were filled with sorrow over what had happened in their past - a deep, enduring sorrow that time could not heal. Dain of the Sunrise, in particular, had come to feel very strongly that the power they wielded could only eventually bring calamity to mankind. So they delved great vaults beneath Khazath and constructed the Citadel of Penance. Though no mortal ever laid eyes on it, it was said to be a mirror copy of Altea, the city of the First Gods, to serve as a reminder of the sins committed by their kind. The only entrance to the citadel was a single great door of burnished bronze, which they sealed with powerful Sorcery, interring themselves within. Their folly had been to rule as kings and walk amongst mortal men; the Custodians knew that their duty was to be protectors, not masters.
Before they sealed themselves within, they made a pact with the people of Khazath: "Honor us and protect the entrance to the Citadel of Penance. Do this, and we will protect you always." Then, in 4150 BE, they sealed themselves away, never to be seen again. To this very day, thousands of years later, the Citadel of Penance stands closed, and the city of Tael Leilan has grown around its entrance. The Shedoleth, or "Honor of the Custodians" is the oldest religion in Leng.
The Loss of the Starjewel4150 BE
In the 50 years between 4200 and 4150 BE, the Citadel of Penance was under construction by the Custodians. Most of them spent their time within, delving and shaping the great halls. But others - notably Lugh and Mielekkar - were not ready to leave behind the humans. Lugh the Longarmed frequently went on long expeditions into the trackless north - home of fey, elementals and dragons that had descended from the timeless linnorms. Armed with his mighty spears and the Starjewel - an artifact of Altea and a sliver of the Great Soul - he dragged his foes laughing into the light and slew them. It is said that Lugh felt personally responsible for the loss of the Great Soul, and fought so tirelessly to forget his mistake.
It was on his final expedition that Lugh lost the Starjewel. He was fighting on the very day of the sealing of the Citadel of Penance., in the land now known as the Duchy of Tarovich in Vingaard. There, he encountered Zargothrax. Still a young red dragon at this time, Zargothrax was nonetheless steeped in the lore of his ancestors, the linnorms. He had visited his grandfather, the linnorm known as Stone-Tearer, in the north - where Mielekkar had slain him and created the Isle of Black Glass. He was filled with a burning desire to reclaim the power of the First Gods and reassert draconic dominance over the world - and the Starjewel was the object of his desire.
In times gone by, the defeat of a relatively young red dragon would have been a simple task for Lugh the Longarmed. But he was already tired from his exertions, and the Diminishing had affected him - who worked so tirelessly for the humans - more than most. He was shocked to find himself relying on his magic spears to evade the dragon's passes, when once he would have easily wrestled it into submission. Finally growing desperate, he drew power from the Starjewel to send Zargothrax hurtling into the earth.
However, as the dust settled, Lugh realised two things. Firstly, that Zargothrax had been buried under a mile of rubble by the force of the impact. Secondly, he realised that the Starjewel was gone. Even as he came to this realisation, he heard Dain summoning the Custodians to the Citadel of Penance. Although he knew he should not leave the Starjewel behind, he could not move the rubble without it. Dain could, but Lugh have the heart to admit to Dain that - again - he was responsible for the loss of a piece of the Great Soul.
So it came to pass that Zargothrax and the Starjewel were buried beneath what would someday become the city of High Tarus.
4000 - 3000 BE
The Great Migration4000 - 3500 BE
For 150 years after the sealing of the Citadel of Penance, the entirety of the human race remained faithful to the Custodians. They kept to the pact they had made with their gods, protecting the entrance to the Citadel of Penance and flourishing in the lands that had been prepared for them. But humans are a changable and heterogenous people - without the gods to lead them and lay their path for them, their faith became weak.
Those tribes around the Citadel of Penance - what is now Khazath - kept their faith. But others found these lands crowded and looked with avarice to the untamed wilderness around their home. Ever a race unwilling to rest on its laurels and unable to resist the call of adventure, many young wanderers dreamed of finding new lands and rebuilding them in their image. Still others remembered all too well the trials their people had been through, and wanted nothing more than to put any vestige of the old gods behind them.
For these reasons and others besides, the people of Khazath began to spread across the south of Leng. They ventured into the jungles of the Untamed Lands and Blackreach, and into the verdant fields that are now a blasted desert - the Plains of Dust. The memory of the First Gods and their treachery made the wilderness - once so dangerous and hostile - seem like a refuge. The primal capriciousness of fire, the fury of the boar, and cunning of the wolf - all these things were predictable and natural. They did not seek to build kingdoms, or capture souls. The fire cares only for fuel; the wolf, for its next meal.
In these distant lands, the Custodians and their worship fell by the wayside. For most, reverence was held for the primal spirits of the elements and the wilderness, a form of animistic shamanism. The Druids are the only tradition that survive these traditions today - the practice of revering Animal-Gods and the Elemental Spirits is no longer common on Leng. For now, though, the tribes of the south trusted in their spirit-gods, and lived a pleasant and easy life in the vibrant jungles and crystal shores of southern Leng.
By 3500 BE, the Great Migration was drawing to a close: the humans of Khazath had spread as far north as the Sacatmorul Mountains and as far to the west as the jungles of Blackreach. They would remain confined to this corner of Leng for the forseeable future, for this was as far as the Custodians had prepared the land for them. Beyond was the unknown of the true wilderness, inhabited by strange and terrifying beings. Though some humans worshiped them, they were not so foolish as to enter the "otherworld".
The Ventari Civilisation3500 - 3200 BE
After the Great Migration spread them across southwestern Leng, the human tribes of Khazath began to diversify even further than they already had. None became so different from their neighbours as the Ventari tribes, who settled in the jungles that are now known as Blackreach. Though the jungle was beautiful and often profitable to the wandering hunters of the Ventari, those who chose to dwell there were isolated from the rest of humanity: only by dangerous mountain passes was it possible to enter these jungles. Treacherous at the best of times, these routes became entirely impassable once the snows of winter settled. The result was that the Ventari were almost totally cut off from their cousins in the east, save for a trickle of trade.
Even amongst the most erudite scholars of the modern day, almost nothing is known about who the Ventari were or what happened to them. They existed and thrived in the jungle, forming a successful civilisation that endured for 300 years after the end of the Great Migration. In that time, they learned many crafts that were unknown to other humans - strange forms of magic and the construction of the mysterious stepped pyramids that can be found even today in that dangerous jungle. Then they died off mysteriously, and the jungle was ruled by wildness once again.
As remote and dangerous as the jungles of Blackreach are, few have braved them to investigate the legendary ziggurats that this ancient culture left behind. Until this dangerous mantle is taken up by some worthy explorer, the strange gods and mysterious doom of the Ventari is destined to remain shrouded by mystery.
The Andruith Civilisation3300 - 3000 BE
In 3300 BE - a mere 200 years after the end of the Great Migration, and a century before the Ventari would vanish from the face of Morus - a new society was beginning to arise in the lands now known as the Plains of Dust. Older than any in Leng but the Ventari, it is known by scholars of the present day as the Empire of the South. To the people of that time, however, they were further north than any had ever dared to go - and they simply called themselves the Andruith. They differed from their southerly neighbours in many ways; bravery, for one. The people of Khazath had ever feared the north, knowing it as the domain of faeries and elemental spirits. It was the Andruith who blazed the trail, drawn inland from the coasts by the promise of verdant fields and a bountiful land of plenty.
The Andruith found their dreams fulfilled: in the green plains and valleys of the north, they were able to grow an abundance of grains and other crops. So much so, in fact, that they could give up their nomadic lifestyles and settle in one place. There were villages in Khazath and the Untamed Lands at this time, but never before had humans settled in such great numbers as the Andruith. As news of this wondrous land spread, humans began to flock to the previously untamed fields; villages and hamlets had sprung up throughout the land by 3200 BE, supporting far greater populations than there had ever been in the nomadic tribes of the south.
With time, the Andruith civilisation would only grow larger and more sophisticated. The largest and most prosperous villages grew into towns, bringing with them the innovation and industry afforded by this new lifestyle and needed to sustain it - irrigation canals, pottery pipes, metallurgy. There was conflict at times, and brigandry from those down on their luck or unable to find a place in the new way of life, the natural abundance made these conflicts relatively rare; it was a time of growth and prosperity for the Andruith people, when small settlements stood resolute against the vastness of the wilderness.