Sunday, May 12, 2013

Warlords of Lingusia IV: Some History from the Dark Ages to the Present

Continuing my Warlords of ongoing project, really. I found a couple annoying issues I needed to correct after posting, which is sort of the point of this force me to focus more on this work. It's tough having to periodically update and revise a world setting due to dramatic in-game changes perpetrated by players, but ultimately well worth it, some of the best games I've ever run. So if you read this and hear tales about time-traveling agents of Huuarl, some tale of the old timeline involving the Cataclysm, or the era of the Reckoning....know that each of these, and many more, were the direct focus, result or byproduct of prior campaigns and the actions of the player characters!

The Dark Ages and the Warlords Era
    The time after the Plague Years was one of struggle and rebuilding as so many people had perished that entire civilizations lay crumbled and forgotten. Eventually humanity and its kin pulled themselves back up, though every culture was left scarred by the experience, wary of the terrible threat the undead represented toward the living.

   By 3,500 a.w. the world has at last risen from the era of the Long Night and the dark ages following the Plague Years. In this new modern era, the present-day kingdoms of Lingusia are in strife as the old power structures have been shaken to the core. Old empires are long gone, new young empires rise to power, warlords seek to consolidate or expand their power base and no one knows who will come out on top.

   In the present, most men are largely ignorant of the ancient history of the world, as the traumatic events of the Long Night followed by the Plague Years did much to erase man’s knowledge of his long history in the world. It is only through the efforts of groups such as the Esoteric Order of Warenos that the lore of the world has been retained.

   As such, most men and women of LIngusia are driven by a sense of personal empowerment and a desire to forge their own destinies. Most of the current kingdoms of the world are forged by the might of muscle and sword, and the elite aristocracies of old are a dim memory. The greatest forces in the world today are warlords who have seized power, now kings who have inherited it.

A Note About the Lost Histories
   The chronomancers of Huuarl know that the world was once destined for a different future, one in which the entire planet and then the cosmos was consumed by 4,000 a.w., the apocalyptic date of no return. In 3,500 a.w. Huuarl dispatched his relic of time to be used by a handful of brave adventurers, to return to the ancient past in a veritable thanatos gambit, to stop the one action that set all of the events in motion toward the apocalypse.

   The scholar Andrithar had studied much ancient lore, and was readily seduced by the discovery of profane tomes in the name of Slithotep. He had become a student and priest of the dark god, and in time grew to crave more knowledge. Slithotep was eager to strengthen the forces of Chaos and to ultimately become supreme rule of the chaos pantheon, but could not act directly. He bade his scholar to journey abroad, and for Andrithar to seek the means of the world’s end.

   Andrithar stumbled across the slumbering mind of the Kraken, the greatest of the twelve Skaeddrath. There he made contact, and the Kraken was able to send him visions in dream. The Kraken gave Andrithar the necessary clues to find the ancient entrance to his subterranean prison, and Andrithar followed. Once there, the bond was sufficiently strong that the Kraken began to weave a terrifying ritual spell, feeding it to the eager scholar in the form of a spoken prophecy. That spell, once completed, would have filled the enire tome, called the Somes Malificus Oraculum, the Book of Evil Prophecy. With this tome Andrithar would go on to cast the most potent, destructive spell ever known, burning himself out in the process, but creating a series of seven linked prophectic events that would, like cosmic keys, unlock the seven events necessary to lead to the destruction of the prison gates to the Skaeddrath and their terrifying freedom.

   Thanks to the agents of Huuarl, this never happened. Unfortunately, the schemes of Huuarl did not go unnoticed; the vestige of Unarak, lurking in the domain of shadow since his sundering that ended his plague, was waiting for this opportunity, and stole away with the heroes chosen by the god of time to stop the ritual of prophecy. Unarak’s vestige lacked divinity and was but a shadow of itself, but like all undead was nigh unkillable. This vestige  in time, made its way to its mortal self in this era, the young but aspiring wizard and conqueror known in this time as Anharak, freshly victorious from seizing power in the Silver Mountains. There, it proceeded to bond with it’s younger, living self, to at last set in motion plans of a more certain victory…or so it thought.

   One of Unarak’s first tasks was to find the very ancestors of his most hated enemy, the one who struck the blow which sundered him: Thalion, the avatar of the Sun in this alternate future. Unarak’s agents quickly hunted down and killed all of the distant relatives of Thalion’s line, ending the avatar’s lineage prematurely. It is considered a certainty by the chronomancers that much that happened during the Long Night was due to Unarak’s own schemes in this time. Many such actions have gone undocumented, but there are moments where the distinct absence of key figures in history suggest that Unarak has been at work.

   Some of the chronomancers of Huuarl note that it is clear that time has a certain resilience; the loss of Thalion changed things, certainly, but in his place arose the avatar Kazdenar, a bearish warrior who served Hargameth. In the end, it was Hargameth’s blows that sundered Unarak.

   Aside from Unarak’s schemes affecting the timeline, the erasure of the creation and use of the Book of Evil Prophecy led to the expurgation of many legendary events historically. The following is a catalog of those events which occurred in the original timeline, but which are now either absent or happened in distinctly different fashion:

The War of Strife
   This war may have transpired, though the specific details of how and why it came about are uncertain. It is believed, for example, that Xarion was not revived in 2,068, for indeed he may not have perished in a manner consistent with the original tales of the Dark War. Likewise, the events surrounding the restoration of Corrigan the witch-queen unfolded much sooner than in this era, due to the manipulation of the time line; she is believed to have manifested (and lived) much longer, during the Dark War era, as an ally to either Unarak or Xarion.

   There are records suggesting that Bellasko Strallikus, the lead figure in the War of Strife, still rose to power and did indeed lead a fanatical jihad against the Hyrkanian Empire. It is believed by many that this was the first major blow against the Empire, leading to its decline and eventual collapse.

The Fate of the Last Prehunates
   Unarak apparently learned of these three and took advantage of that knowledge to gain his own spark of divinity. Though the events by which he achieved this are unknown, Unarak managed to somehow find and awaken, then capture Eskandar, Diannysos and Zelkarod. Many event surrounding these three happened differently in this new timeline; Diannysos, for example, arose from her remote realm in Chigros to journey the world and eventually discover Nekro’Zahn, the fabled Well of Creation, giving her the necessary lore to formulate a plan by which she and the surviving prehunates could at last destroy the gods in revenge. In the new timeline, this never came to pass; the exact details remain unknown, but Dianyssos is said to have been absent from the scene until sometime in late 2,400 when she appeared as one of the undead shadow gods in thrall to Unarak,along with Eskandar and Zelkarod.

   The prehunates being caught and changed by Unarak in to his divine thralls, perhaps even willingly if Unarak convinced them his plan would allow them a final revenge against the gods they so desired, caused a series of events to disappear from the timeline. Specifically:

Eskandar’s release from the amulet in which is soul was trapped was performed, ultimately, by Unarak and he was not released in the region of Thylanalien as a weapon by the ashtarth of Modra.

Diannysos did not discover Nekro’Zahn, nor did she later concoct the scheme to destroy it (the Cataclysm).

Zelkarod did not unite his companions in an effort to hasten the departure of the gods from the mortal plane in the events of the Reckoning.

As the Reckoning never occurred, the war of order and chaos never ceased; likewise, the gods never departed to the Outer Realms of the Celestial Kingdoms, and thus were not severed from all contact by the Cataclysm.

The Absence of the Reckoning and the Cataclysm, and the Greater Significance of the Shadow Conflict and the Plague of Unarak

   The legendary event of the Reckoning was a time when the war between chaos and order was exposed as a done deal; this may not have been so (for the elemental chaos was all pervading) but the implication was that the essence of Malakor, the first chaos entity, had dissipated and was no more. Centuries later it was told that the Red Dragon Comet would return (around 2,470) and unleash his essence once more, but before that time it seemed as if the lords of Order had at last won. With the Skaeddrath seen as safely locked away, the Orbs of the Cosmos united in power, and the war over, the lords of Order retreated to higher dimensions of existence, far beyond the mortal realm and the planes of reality, to dimensions undreamed of by ordinary minds.

   When the Cataclysm struck in 2,476 it was due to the manipulations of the prehunates at last attaining their ultimate revenge; the Orbs of Existence had been hidden for centuries, and when at last they were found the potent Orb of Oblivion was used to destroy the Well of Creation, which destroyed the power source linked to the planar realms, severing Lingusia from the planes and simultaneously shattered the barriers of the Skaeddrath prisons. The twelve chaos titans could at last awaken.
   In the new timeline, none of this happened. The prehunates were detoured by Unarak from their intended goals, which were themselves only a manifestation of the Book of Evil Prophecy and its dire ritual. Without the ritual spell to prompt the actions of the world to lead to these two great periods of change, they did not happen.

   The net result was that the gods have remained more vigilant in insuring the mortal plane remains intact, to prevent their prisoners, the Skaeddrath, from ever awakening. The cults of the Skaeddrath still exist, but they are few and far between; the world has countless millennia before it before a new crisis could lead to the destruction of the world at the hands of these chaos titans.

In spite of the chronomantic intervention which led to the dramatic alteration of the timeline, one commonality between this timeline and the prior one was the eventual rise of the sea waters caused by the mass melting of the polar ice along the edges of the world. This period, called the Deluge, took place over a century and wreaked havoc on the coastlands of the world, as well as the Island kingdoms of Karaktu, reducing the landmass of that region and forcing the exodus that led to the founding of Golmadras. The exact reason for this transition, once believed to have been caused by the Cataclysm by those few agents of Huuarl who still recall the history of the old timeline, remains unknown.

The Red Dragon Comet of ,2470-2,476
   One major event did transpire much as it did in the original timeline: the Red Dragon is a comet of terrible import, and it has always existed. The comet did pass through the solar system from 2,470 to 2,476, and is foretold that it will do so again in another twelve centuries, as it always has. When it passes by chaos-meteors rain down upon the world, and the forces of chaos find themselves again on the rise. Each appearance of the comet predicts a great disaster; as it turns out, the very seeds of Unarak’s grand Plague came from this comet, and so Unarak, already risen to power as part of his Shadow Pantheon, was waiting for its arrival, to hasten his own dark shadow upon the world.

   The red dragon comet has previously appeared in 1,268-1,274, and before that in -3 to 3 a.w. during the War of the Gods. It will appear again in 3,672. There is already a rumor among some prophets that Unarak, once defeated, will rise again as a new plague sweeps the world at that time.

The Rise of New Empires
   Agasar, Golmadras, Nordamar, Enarrion…all are new kingdoms and empires in their own right. The kings and emprerors of old are largely forgotten, though nearly legendary in their own rights; tales of the Emperor Usyllyses and his successor Gilrad and Phyxillus are legendary to this day. No one knows what happened to these heroes of old, but many tales are told of their fantastic deeds.

The Fall of the Thargonid Empire
   The Thargonids were a potent force of trolls united under the powerful queen Invidia. The Thargonids eventually threatened all of old Hyrkania during the original timeline, but less so in the current timeline. The trollish empire was demolished during unrecorded events of the Long Night, though it is certain that the legendary emperor and empress Gilrad and Phyxillus were responsible. The Thargonid Mountains, though doomed to be eternally monster-haunted, are now the location of the new capitol Hyraphon, of the northern kingdom Nordaman. Here, the Nordaman king rules. This kingdom is a much smaller domain, and consists of the loose city-states of the north, who all still remember their lost heritage as the greatest empire of man. 

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