Warrens of the Middle Realm
THE CAMPAIGN SETTING "THE WARRENS" BY JAMES ANDREWS BASED ON THE WORKS OF GARY GYGAX
I. "HISTORY OF THE SOUTHERN KINGDOMS", BY BONOFIN GANDLER, MASTER OF GNOMISH HISTORY AT THE TOWER COLLEGE OF ECTOBAHANA
The Great Calamity 14000? years before
It is hard to begin speaking about our world without starting with the Great Calamity. A work of arcane horror it was, obliterating nearly all life in our land. It is by itself the only thing we can be certian about in the times predating the Faynosian Calendar and the recollections of the Arch Prelates of Dar Es El carved into hard resins and preserved for millienia, but sciences and the curious preisthoods of our land have provided clues to what came before.
Our land was called by some the Southern Kingdoms, or the Southern Country. It was a rich and fertile place inhabited by people who called themselves Aderians or Bankluns. Connections have been made between these people of prehistory and the Des'Krall Nomads, or the Southerners of Bryar'lun and Kosholfen. That being the entriety of our knowledge, it is fair to say and people or peoples were unhappy with their prosperity, because what came next destroyed their civilization utterly leaving the barren streches and grey wastes we know today.
The Great Calamity has been referred to in some texts as "The Rain of Colorless Fire" but none have as of yet been able to attach any meaning to the words. We are able to surmise at this point that it took place some fourteen thousand years ago, and that it's devastation was nearly complete. Entire countries were obliterated, empires erased and peoples smashed beyond any returning. We know from archeological record that the race of the Old Elves, sometimes called Fair or High Elves, dissapeared from our land around this time. Wether they were destroyed in the calamity or diven off elsewhere because of it is unknown, but it is clear that the Dark Elves of our modern time are not the same. High Elves were good and gracious, it was said in legend that they knew magics that no other race could wield, were advisors to kings and often heroes. Children to this day pretend to be Fair Ones in their play, mimmicking the legends parents tell them.
There may have been other races that crumbled away with the calamity, but of them obviously there are no legends, and the memories of our current denizens; gnomes, dwarves, humans and halflings are far too short. Sometimes it makes being a historian an effort in futility, but I promise to share all that our efforts have brought to light.
The Age of Dust 12000? 14000? years before
Immedeately following the calamity there is a significant hole in the record during a time known coloquially as the Age of Dust. Again legend is the main source of our findings, but during this age the land was awash in huge desert like dunes of sand. In these sands terrible worms of amazing size prowled out of sight, and man sized burrowing insects made any travel extremely dangerous. The grip on life was tenuous as the moving dunes, but in places the land was less touched by the dust. Plateus of arable land stood out in the sands like islands where men and halflings built the first settlements. Life continued in this way, it is assumed, for thousands of years as people began to tame to world again. Slowly the dust receded and men could walk again of solid ground in some places, and when men found the first warrens in the earth, the humaniod races joined us soon after.
Spilling out of the darkness in a sickening tide came goblins, orcs, trolls, ogres, bugbears and all manner of other nightmares. They hid in the dark during the calamity, so our burgeoning civilzation was shocked by their numbers and strength. Wars hundreds of years in length pock marked the Age of Dust, humanoids fought against the surface races unendingly. Each time we drove them back into their holes, but they always found others from which to exit and harras our villages. The constant fighting made men stronger, dwarves tougher, halflings handier and gnomes craftier. In that conflict the shape of things to come was clearly decided.
The First City, El-Almarin 12000? years before
In a time probably some twelve-thousand years before our age, a group a learned men (for the time) drew to them the hardiest fighters possible. They were interested in how these humaniod creatures lived, and wondered if there was a way to defeat them hidden somewhere. Together they entered what was known to be the largest warren at the time and fought back the monsters there until they were afraid to dwell there any longer. In the empty hollows the learned men began to find strange artifacts and substances unknown to the world. Again and again the went into the warren and over an over they fought back the monsters. So often did they go into the warren and come out with valuable baubles and metals, a town soon formed there.
In that town those learned men became the first alchemists. In a time before magic, they harnessed from their findings the power to create life from thin air, siphon energies from other dimensions, govern the weather, and turn substances of all kinds to gold and silver, or anything else for that matter. People from all about prospered from their science, and the town grew larger and larger still. Over a hundered years El-Almarin grew under the watchful eyes of the alchemists, and in that time they entered aggrements the the hardy warriors who fought for them. These of course were the first contracts probably ever signed, and thus the beginnings of the Delver's Guild, although mention of them does not officially occur for a few thousand years later.
At that point El-Almarin was the center of the world, and the Alchemists the gods of that world. None could stand before them, and their rule was informed but harsh. Any who stood to oppose them were treated with total prejudice. It is said that were no jails or dungeons in the first city as it was truly a time before law. Nonetheless all the people of the age flocked to the first city as serving the Alchemists was one of the best ways to escape the harsh living in the rest of the world.
The Dwarf Wars 9400? 11500? years before
From the beginning of this time the dwarves were always the quickest to fraternize and the quickest to force others away. Already they kept their settlements away from El Almarin, digging their own channels into the earth seeking riches and knowledge. Some hundreds of years after the alchemists came to prominence, the Dwarves became their enforcers and armies in the outside world. Thousands of dwarves marched under the banner of the alchemists, fighting humanoids werever they were found, and taking any others as slaves for the greater glory of the First City. Any other cities of the era were eventually besiged and sacked by dwarven warriors. In El-Almarin the finest craftsmen amongst the dwarven nation toiled under alchemical dweomers and created the first magical weapons.
Legends with names like Beregor Braueven and Kelios Stormthrower are dwarven heroes from the time of the First City. They slew some of greatest of the primordial evils that dwelt in the land and even staved off invaisions from the demonic Abyss. With the dwarven legions behind them the world was further shaped by the all powerful Alchemists. The dark things of the world withdrew further into their holes. For what could be less than one thousand years, the dwarves warred against the enemies of El-Almarin above ground, under ground and in other dimensions. Then a force broke the earth apart and created a crater, and out of that crater came the armies of the Drow Heierarchs.
The opening of the Moro-Tul Warren is the first event for which we can venture a yearmark. Primitve calendars allow us to estimate that it was given air 6425 years before the first King of Faynos took his crown. (some scholars cling to the erroneious notion that the old dwarven symbol for "jhekh" in the context it was derived could make the date 6725 years before the Faynosian calendar, but they're WRONG) The Drow Heierarchs had heard tales of the miracles created with the surfacelander's alchemy and had come to retrive it for themselves. Parlezine Kaffonais was the name of the elf with the command of the drow army, and he made his intentions clear to the alchemists of the First City through a series of messages. Naturally, the alchemists refused to reliquish the secrets of their power and hostilites began in earnest.
The War Under the Earth 9122 years before
This war between the Drow and Dwarf armies was the most savage and bloody the world had yet seen. Lasting a mere 46 years, the drow soldiers were never the match of the alchemist's dwarf bezerkers, but the elves had new weapons to bring to bear on them. Fireballs, lightning bolts and the entire host of arcane spells that we know today at that point were sole providence of these fell elves. Understandably these new magics held the dwarf hosts at bay. Alchemy proved to be a poor defense against metor showers and walls of fire especially on the open plains outside the Moro-Tul Warren. Ground was not gained or lost for many years.
The Dwarven Commander of the El-Armarin host, named Lonteras Stonehand, begged the alchemists to allow the dwarves to fight in the warren itself, a place where their natural predilicions would help them win the day. With their leave, Stonehand began to assemble the first human armies from the city's strongest stock. The standing numbers of the El-Almarin host quickly doubled and the whole of the dwarven nation formed the spearhead of the final counterattack. Tens and tens of thousands of soldiers died before they did actually reach the mouth of the warren, and then the strongest of the dwarven armies went to the van and charged into the heart of it's darkness. This part of the war encompassed the last 17 years of the conflict, and in that time the dwarf armies fought under the earth while humans protected the city.
Finally in a time when the only dwarves left in the city were the young and the infirm, the Drow used forbidden spells to shatter the warren they had created, cutting off any pursuit of their final retreat. The last two dwarven clans sworn to El-Almarin, in fact the last two intact clans of dwarves anywhere, were then trapped under the ground as well, the Vorkarst Clan and the Lighthammer Clan. In dwarven histories this war is called Last Defeat of Dwarvenkind, the name speaks to the lesson they learned in the Moro-Tul warren, that they would never soldier for others again. It was the "last defeat" because any battle they fought for themselves and lost was far better than a war they won for anyone else. The Vorkarst and Lighthammer clans never served the alchemists again.
The aftermath of the war saw the humans enter the role as El-Armarin's defenders, and the city was stressed to a point unknown before. The alchemists themselves, at this point in time a botherhood of only nine men, began a time of intense study and introspection. Drow magics had stunned them, and they were determined to have alchemy that was more than a match for it should they attack again. As a result they spent less time on the concerns of the populace and the economies of the city began to sag horribly. The human commanders were never as zealous as their dwarven counterparts when it came to controlling the thralls of the alchemists, so when these harsh conditions caused many humans and halflings to leave the city; striking westward across the wastes, often they were not harrased as they might have once been. Thus began the first major diaspora of the early world.
The Time of the First Kings starting 8750? years before
As the people of the Southern Country spead out into the world, they encountered many hardships. Much of the earth was barren and without water. Many of those who went south never even reached the White Stair so terrible were the outlands. One saving grace was that the humanoids who terrorized the surface world in the years before the war were still in large part missing, coming out only sporadically for they still feared the Dwarven armies of the Alchemists. Over many years the diaspora continued and the settlers organized into ragged tribes. El-Almarin abided this evacuation for a number of generations, but eventually built a wall around their domain to keep the talented and wealthy from leaving for the outside world. Of course, it was too late by then as these cities grew to sizes rivaling their progenitor.
The new cities were places where people could finally determine their own fates without interference from the Alchemists, and as was their wont they rose up their own to lead them. The first kings, many of their names are lost to us now, ruled over three grand city-nations; Gabelzand, a city parked on the edge of the Greenmaw Forest, El-Barad-din, a city of trade on the Goronel river, and beyond there Zohkol, the city of science and agriculture located near to the location of what is now called Berentslaw. Gablezand was vastly rich, harvesting the wood and other goods of the forest. Many of the surviving dwarves made their homes here, aiding the new city with their deft craftsmen. Their kings were shrewd men with an eye to the west at all times. Consequently they eventually tamed the griffons of the mountians and made them their war steeds. None could think to sunder them easily.
El-Barad-Din was at the new center of civilzation, and grew fat on trade and slavery revenue between the cities, but could never produce a strong monarch. Infighting in the middle realm was so bad that kings were raised and fell in the same year, and the city went without a king as often as not. The mightiest merchants formed an unstable oligarchy for most of the city's existence, and that fact eventually led to it's destruction at the hands of El-Almarin and the vengeful King of Stars sometime later.
The last of the cites to be founded was arguably the strongest. Zohkol was settled on the most fertile ground ever found, and as a result large scale agriculture took hold in the far west and allowed the poplulation to grow to size that some thought was greater than that of El-Almarin. Surplus food wasn't the only reason they were the most successful city although. When King Vantilis slew the former king in Zohkol, he brought with him a survivor from the War Under the Earth. A dark elf named Maledoric was his bosom ally and advisor. Documents recalling the era stated that this revelation nearly cost Vantilis his young throne, but that Maledoric swore his life to Vantilis and the city of Zohkol, and then donned a slave's collar and chain in an act of contrition. His vows were clearly enough for the city leaders, as soon he was sharing the secrets of his elf magic with a group of select apprentices, and Zohkol had ten mages to defend their interests in a little under fifty years. With Vantilis and Maledoric leading them, the city grew to a prominence that clearly chaffed El-Almarin. Were it not for the one thousand miles between them, war would have been a certianty.
Zohkol did make war with El-Barad-Din though from time to time when the poplace cried out for justice in the face of the Oligarchs profiteering. Though the land was fiertile in the west, all manner of other ressources and finished goods had to be brough in by caravan for the elf magic was never as good at creating wealth, rare minerals or medicines as alchemy. For another five hundred years the world stayed in relative peace. Vantilis and his advisor Maledoric used their magic to extend their lives and they ruled through those years with only occaisional opposition.
Gablezand's Folly 8097 years before
Nine Hundred and forty-six years after the Moro-Tul Warren was closed up again by it's creators, a king named Borgorus rose in Gablezand. Stories said that he was part dwarf, others just said that he hated El-Almarin. In either case the massive Gablezand Army began to mobilize for war against the Alchemists. If there was any true cause for the conflict, it has been lost to time or discression. The leaders of the age knew that fighting El-Almarin now meant not facing them on their terms at some later point. Many joined the Gableian's cause against the First City, El-Barad-Din sent thousands of mercenaries and Zohkol lent them five of their most powerful wizards, but all knew that the crux of the attack had to be the famous Gabelian Griffon Cavary.
One of the achemists themselves took control of the army they were to field that day, and he is one of the only ones that is known by name, in history or in the current age. Kholser the Wise was said by some to be a pacifist, sending gifts and envoys to the proud people of Gablezand. Every one returned short one head. The standoff lasted for three years and then Kholser with the words, "Our hand has been upon you always." launched the attack against the meat of the Gabelian force. When the cavalry went to their steeds they found them all sick with a wasting disease that sapped their minds, making them all dangerous and unrideable. A day after battle was joined the Gabelian dwarves marched to the frontline. They were comparitvely few, but still the strongest warriors to take the field. It is said that when the dwarves reached the El-Armarin forces they began to yell and call for help, but as yet no blade had touched them. The dwarven shock troops became berzerkers in a matter of a few minutes and began tearing into the flank of their own army with ferocity that hadn't been seen in a thousand years. Even fifteen generatons later the power of the Alchemists was still alive in their one time servants.
These surprise attacks ended the war almost before it began. In ten days the last reminants of the Gabelian host fled into the Greenmaw. Kholser was compassionate and allowed the city's folk to live, but only after smashing every fortification and taking everything of any concivable value from the city. Borgorus was said to have been taken captive and brought back to El-Armarin where he served the household of Kholser the Wise as a butler until his death hundreds of years later. Gablezand became a lawless freehold and eventually nothing more than a backwater. The other two cites of the world made careful note of the defeat and began tithing to the Alchemists sporadically.
In these years other smaller cities began to spring up further south as the land was starting to become more hospitable. Hasenguul, Dar Patorim, Dar Es El, Vengilem, El Madras and in the far south came Kosholfen. Most of these were too small for the northern cities to care about but that time was coming to an end.
The Prophet's Star 7975? 7980? years before
In small town outside the city of Krador in the land we now know as Leandor, legend says a great fireball came from the heavens and destroyed the home of a moss farmer. The blaze that ensued killed his two sons and his wife, but in the flames he heard a voice. It is said that the voice of his wife, Bala, came from the ruined house and spoke of the man all would someday know as "The Prophet". She said that he would come to the world in Dar Es El, and reveal the nature of good and evil to all. Bala said that he had travelled farther and longer than anyone had ever before, and would arrive soon.
All throughout the lands of the Southern Kingdoms stars seemed to be falling from the skies and telling the folks who witnessed their devastation to go the Dar Es El and await The Prophet. It was an amazing phenominon that caputured the citizens of all cities in it's mystery. Of course a mass pilgrimage began to the Des'Krall Plains and the nomadic freehold of Dar Es El, much to the chagrin of the leaders in Zohkol, El-Almarin, Hasenguul and others. Some cities tried to stop the exodus, some tried to profit from it, and further still others tried to take Dar Es El for themselves, all these attempts ended in failure. In those twenty years Dar Es El became a mighty city of belivers as the land yeilded to their presence. Water became plentiful, as well as food, and all manner of rescources came into the hands of Dar Es El by luck or providence depending on who was writing the account.
Finally the arrival of the Prophet was at hand as a glowing ball of light decended from the heavens over the course of three days until it finally touched down at the spot now known as the Prophet's Landing. It was 7964 years before the current day when his foot touched the earth and he spoke the Word of Ascendance, and died only seconds later. We now know that the Word of Ascendance was actually just one word, and that it's utterance connected our world with the world of the divine. That day all who witnessed the Prophet's landing instantly knew of gods and worship, prayer and salvation. They were the first converts of the first gods; Moradin, Yondalla, Heronious, Kord, Obad-Hai, and Baccob. Some reckon that the evil gods took thier own in the dark places of the world at the same time, others say it happened later in reaction to this event. Either way none can deny the effect of evil on the world today.
The Rise of the Holy City 7964 years before
Calling the growth of Dar Es El in the days after the Word was spoken incredible would be an understatement. With the influence of the gods the land grew green and more fertile in the entire Des'Krall area. It was also said that all regions fared better, but here it was especially pronounced. The population easily trumped that of El-Almarin in only 50 short years. The meat of the new clericies came from the prophet's adherent masses, all the gods became quite prominent with the exception of the Obad-Hai and Baccob, who's belivers never sought worshippers. The followers of Yondalla became prominent in the day to day govenance of Dar-Es-El, and the followers of Heironius went to defending the city from harm. The wise dwarves who came under Moradin's care made sure that taxes were collected and the city's economies were not abused. Kordites became the city guard with nearly automatic grace while seeding the city with the first warrior monks. It was a drastically successful formula that lasted nearly 3000 years and saw the Holy City through it's most prosperous ages.
While this was most amazing, Dar Es El was not the only place where amazing things were happening. The gods illuminated all of their worshippers the world over. Moradin struck the curse of the Alchemists out of his children, forever making them free of their influence. Yondalla revealed to her little followers that Halflings were created as servants of the Gnomish peoples, that they were not inferior but just the 'younger race'. Many halfings chafed at this 'revelation' but many many more felt the truth in it and sought out Gnomes to work for. This naturally made belivers out of many who could not serve in Yondallan temples, since gnomes are not allowed to become clerics of Yondalla. This duality of the Yondallan faith has never been explained and still persists today. Druids came out of hiding in this time a went forth worshipping the Obad-Hai by defending the natural world.
Everywhere the gods were worshipped the land reacted favorably and popluations grew in all areas as a result, except of course in El-Almarin. The Alchemists did not trust gods any more than they trusted their own people. Many of them went to the Holy City to seek knowledge of this new power but temples and worship of any kind within the walls of the First City was prohibited. It has been rumored in the secret halls dedicated to Baccob the Uncaring for millenia that some Alchemists grew fond of his teachings and went to give him worship but were violently rebuked. If this did happen it would explain much of the angst that passed between the two cities. El-Almarin was slowly losing it's prominence to a number of other cities, but the divine power of Dar Es El was something they could never hope to emulate. Well, not until much later on anyway.
The Call of the Dragons 7600? years before
It is said that the greed of dragons is boundless, so it is no wonder that these terrible beasts came unto us after the dust was driven away and life became easier for people. In the deep south, the stories from an old fortess town called called Caldinai said it was grappling with an unstoppable monster that demanded gold and took hundreds of slaves. It set these slaves to plundering nieghboring communites and amassing more wealth. It's skin was like stone and it's breath could kill scores instantly. Naturally the city fathers of Caldinai sent word to El Barad Din (their rulers sat there) for help. They sent a customary coulmn of one hundred horse cavalry, but none of the group ever returned, and Caldinai was reduced to ruins in less than a year.
Similar tales of horrific beasts demaning tribute came from other cities; Vengilem, Karakur, Gablezand and Hasenguul could all claim that they had seen dragons. Of fighting them there was no way so either first cities were gracious and gave what they had, or they were laid waste. Too many of the younger, smaller settlements were delt the latter fate and this enraged many. This is not to mention wherever these monsters tread, the dark races of Orcs, Goblins and Gnolls rose again from the warrens the ancient dwarves chased them into. Hobgoblins crossed the Crystalmist Mountains in this time as well, and raided the lands below the Moro-Tul Warren. The presence of dragons gave heart to all things evil in those days. The cleracies of Heronious and Kord sent champions to the besiged cities, but to no avail.
In a letter to El-Almarin, Maledoric the elf-sage of Zohkol(still living, tho aged) said that there were weapons that would lay a dragon low in the warrens sealed up by his kin. He bade them to return to their old ways; seek in the Moro-Tul warrens, and steal these weapons from the fell creatures there. It is surmised that the Alchemists did not need fear dragons but their populace might, as well as the rest of the Southern lands. In a reach for glory the Achemists called upon the Delver's Guild for the task. The guild had been a part of El-Almarin in a official capacity for nearly a thousand years, and in that time had tamed even the most terrible threats in the White Warrens under the city. It was said that child could travel there alone and not come to harm. The Guildmaster at the time was a man named Fazi Ogot, whose family were once nomads and had made a vertiable fortune out of horseflesh. That year he and his most trusted followers went to the edge of the waste and built the gargantuan red stone tower that would one day become the icon of the fortress town of Redwatch. From there they began the first stages of the assault.
The Return to the Moro-Tul Warren, and the rise of the Guild of Delvers 7511 years before
When the rest of the city-states heard the plan of El-Almarin, all with the notable exception of Zohkol voiced against it. El-Barad-Din even threatened to stop them with force, but naught came of it. Hasenguul sent assassins to murder Fazi Ogot, and Dar Es El called upon the adherents of the gods to oppose the madness of the Alchemists, but the amazing Fazi did not die and even the follwers of Heironius were no match for the experts of the Devler's Guild. They were to construct a base of operations and house the whole of the guild, almost 200 experienced delvers. The tower town would have a garrison of around three thousand, and no small number of Zohkol wizards were on hand to defend and give teleport spells to the delvers.
In less than a year the Delver's guild returned to El Almarin with the knowledge of the weapon that could lay a dragon low, an orb of destruction. It has been guessed that it was this very same power that sealed up the warren during the elves retreat, but it is still not known for sure. It also was learned that elves not only dwelt in the warren that was their home but also had begun spying on the surface settlements, using elf magic to blend in and live amongst normal people. The Guild created a group from their best elf-hunters, named it the Invisible Lantern and put it directly under the command of El Almarin. It is not known what became of the elf spies, but one can only assume that they were rooted out seeing as the Lantern persists to this day.
Maledoric recived the plans for the weapon in Zohkol soon after, but creating it was proving harder than expected. He wrote letters to the Alchemists asking for aid in obtaining the necessary components. All manners of matter large and small were theirs to give, but they knew that Zohkol was desperate for the Orb becase dragons were sighted in their lands not too long ago. El Almarin exacted a steep price for cooperation. They demanded that first all mages be given the right to join the Delver's Guild and ply thier knowledge however they wished once they did, and secondly that a group of promising young mages be tought the manner of the creation of the Orbs of Destruction and released from servitude to Zohkol so that all cities could benefit from the power equally. Zohkol relented and did as it was bade, releasing it's wizards from service and lifting the spells that ensured their faith. The first orb ever created shook the western lands 7551 years ago, killing the dragon Siverinux. The world rejoiced as they were sure now that the tryanny of dragons could be fought.
The events following the first ever dragon slain would be very important in shaping the polarities that shape the world we live in today. Months after the young wizards created the first orb they created another and brought it to El Almarin. Upon reception of the gift the mages swore feality to El Almarin and the Alchemists. The Alchemists refused the oaths after a nights pondering but entreated upon them to join the Delver's Guild instead as they had arranged for all mages, and so they did. The guild magisters named them the Arcane Axis, and set them upon the other dragons of the land.
Between the Invisible Lantern and the Arcane Axis, the Guild became a power in it's own right. Building on the power they already had they began hunting up all the most talented people the cities had to offer, and not just fighters and wizards. Craftsmen, builders, trackers, spies, assassins, bards, beast tamers, sages, seers, and even some clerics were tempted by the guild's gold. As it turned out the warrens of the earth had many treasures to impart the brave, making the guild richer than in their wildest dreams. With the gold they began to buy favor in El-Barad-Din, Hasenguul, Gablezand and in the south as well where they could rule more like lords than was possible in the north. There Fazi Ogot founded the city of Dantredun, now known as the City of Theives. Shortly after this, Fazi seemed to run out of tact when dealing with his superiors in El Almarin. It earned him a death at the hands of his own Lantern agents, after which another was hurredly chosen for guildmaster.
This guildmaster's name has been lost to time, but the things he did have not. Some have speculated that he was a alchemist himself because he was very long lived. He is primarily responsible for the guild system in use today; systems of contracts, balanced teaming, talent scouting, and guild tiething were all given form during his nearly 200 years in power. These advances cannot be under emphasized. Where armies are good for smashing rebellions and more organized forms of evil, the guild gave people access to 'specialists' for dealing with more insidious problems, for the right price of course. This new income also helped to flush the coffers of the Alchemist's in lieu of El Almarin's economic problems, and the influence that the guild helped the Alchemists exert on the world was nearly as strong as it had been in older times. Thus began another, more subtle age of Alchemical influence. An age that some could argue we are still living in today.
The Crimson Court and the Burning Age 7121 7180 years before
In this time dragons were already far more organized than anyone had yet imagined, and as casualties on their side began mounting, they began to plan their imminent counter attack. In the mountains of the North rumors of a King of the Dragons began to circulate, a great powerful wurm who's power rivaled that of the gods. The validity of these reports seems highly doubtful given the nature of dragons in general, but none can deny that the beasts began to act in concert. The concerted attacks began in El-Almarin. Nearly daily attacks by great red dragons, sometimes two or more at once. As before they came for wealth and slaves, they came now simply for wanton destruction attempting to lay the cities of the 'new' races low. The First City was contantly burying their dead, and Zohkol's fertile fields were blackened in a few short weeks. Gablezand gasped it's last under the flames of the dragons as did many other smaller towns, and El-Barad-Din was nearly paupered in the act of appeasing them.
The orbs were of much less use since the dragons had began to change their tactics, hitting and running before the fell devices could be brought to bear. Also it was learned that when they were used, it left the land for miles around cursed in a way. Food would not grow there and any offspring birthed in these places came into the world with strange deformities. With these costs in mind the Kings became less and less enamored of the new technology, and used them only when victory was assured.
In this era it was Zohkol once again who began to decode the dragon's riddle. Maledoric's magic was tuned ever so carefully to warring with the great wurms. And again a momentary truce with the First City created new orbs that didn't destroy dragons but could force them away if controlled with enough will. These new 'dragon orbs' were not terribly reliable however, so something else had to be done and quickly.
The lands directly under the control of King Vantilis bordered on a massive marsh. A wetland that extended for nearly 700 miles and most of it at that point unexplored. It was a terrible and dangerous place where only the hardy or the desparate could choose to live. Maledoric's scouts and sages had heard rumors of dragons that lived in the swamps. The were smaller and less destructive than the red mountian lizards but had a knack for arcane studies, especially necromancy. It was surmised that the city of Zohkol might be able to strike a bargain with them somehow for protection against the red dragons. It took Maledoric almost 10 years to gain access to the dragons, who were highly territorial and secretive. In the marshes they were impossible to find and even when cornered destroyed all comers without question no matter how potent they were. The manner in which this parlay began is truly a mystery but talk they did.
It was said that King Vantilis himself spoke directly with the greatest dragon amongst them, called Melskalac. Many of the writings cited for reference to this moment in our history are curiously lost, defaced or perhaps destroyed. Only being a humble historian I can only tell you what I have heard whispered or alluded to in other documents, for I have no arcane science to uncover these events no matter how much I will it to be so. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
-writers note: On this I have thought long and decided that the recititation of rumor and heresay is not only antithetical to this empirical document, but also to my personal integrity as a historian. Please forgive this indisgression. B.G.
The agreement decided upon and Vantilis' councils appeased, if only for the moment, the black winged wurms took to the skies over the city of Zohkol. For a time the swamp dragons were savaged by the red terrors, but over the course of time the wiser blacks chose new tactics. Using their greater numbers, elf magic, trickery or some combonation of all three of these things the red dragons were slowly ground into submission or drawn into contact with Zokol's orbs. The gamble that Vantilis made started to bear real fruit in less than a year and after a few more, the scourage of the red dragons was gone. The First City saw Zohkol's success and enslaved two powerful dragons who's scales were green from the forests and made smaller strides with them, basically keeping the fighting away from the city whenever possible.
To this point in the conflict more than 40 red dragons were slain, but the city states paid dearly for every victory. No true accounting was made, but in that time is was often written that it seemed that there were as many dead as were left alive. The economies and normal processes of every city were brought to a halt. Starvation and sickness were the rule, and unrest was rampant. When the dragons looked to depart again for the north, there was much celebration. None really knew why they quit their war. Were they pleased with the amount of destruction they had wreaked? Were the treasures and riches they had hauled away to the north filing their caves to their openings? Or had the little men, dwarves, halflings and gnomes somehow fought them to a stalemate? It certianly didn't seem likely, but when queried on this subject the wise Melskalac only said, "They have been called back to their crimson court." Many have guessed that this statement was metaphorical, others tend to belive that the old legends of the King of the Dragons were possibly true.
Nonetheless after 33 years of firery torment, the Burning Age was over. Life for the average citizen began to resemble some normalcy, and those youngsters born into the Burning Age entered a time of wonder.
A Time of Growth 6356 7120 years before
In the time after the Burning Age, the world as we understand it largley took shape. Settlements sprang up in many places. Everywhere came and went the clerics of the various gods, bring with them wisdom and hope. The land seemed blessed too, as the ground yeilded much more than had been possible before thanks to new kinds of irrigation from Zohkol and foreign seeds brought to the north through El-Barad-Din. Labor saving beasts such as oxen and mules came to our lands in this time as well. The city of Hasenguul allied itself with Zohkol and created formal links, putting both cities under the watchful eye of the ancient King Vantilis. Soon after this was done, the wise king Vantilis did pass away as Maledoric's magic could no longer sustain him. His son, Pascale Vantilis, a longtime student of Maledoric's, acended the throne the next year. Unfortunately for the people of the new Zohkol Nation, his reign was not to be as long as his father's.
El-Almarin was seemingly quiet in these years. Thinking it best for the people's hearts and minds, the Alchemists appointed a trusted fuctionary as the new 'King' of El-Almarin, and created a monarchy to support him. His name was Dalgus Otros, and the house of Otros was to rule over the lands controlled by the Alchemists while they concentarted on their sciences. It was a popular move, and Otros was seen to be a good ruler. During his reign this Halfling city of Bantakos was brought under the banner of El-Almarin.
El-Barad-Din was seeing intense competion from the cities further south, namely Kosholfen and Dantredun. The war for the control of the trade routes from the South was anything but secret, and the northern cities had to struggle to get the items they needed and not get drawn into the conflicts. The Delver's Guild was deployed continually to make sure that supply lines remained open to El-Almarin, and the power of the Guild in the South grew.
Dar Es El was also seeing much growth. In these times the clerics learned greater and greater powers from their gods. Diseases and poisons could be turned back, the most grievious of injuries healed and finally 6590 years before the present day even death itself was conquered. Ressurections were now possible on a very limited basis. Also in these years the orders of warrior monks took a firm root in Dar Es El. Some worshipped gods, and others practised simple philosophies but none could deny their clarity and good works. Soon they were part of the fabric of the Holy City.