Well, isn’t this a treat! Back for more, are ye? I hope your break was wort it. I hope even more you are ready to learn the next chapter in the Story of Us. Shall we begin? Now, where was I? Ah, yes, King Eleantra!
It turns out that Lady Kings were not particularly popular in Sibola five hundred years ago. Nor was she, in turn, particularly fond of the Court and the nobility, all still adjusting to the new laws, often bitterly and with much conflict. It was not a happy time for Sibola, and this may be why it was that the Sea War continued, as she tried to force order and uproot corruption.
In the end, it was her throne or her life, and she chose her life. She laid down a mighty prophecy in a full Court, before all the nobility:
See me before you In garments of war
Know now I speak true My lands are scarred
You dare to defy me To strip away my crown
A woman, you say, shall not be King
And I say to you, release the Hounds
Should blood be shed upon this floor
Know that one day again Men shall rule here no more
For the House of Usher has fallen.
The royal Hounds at that time included several small people, secretly in the King’s confidence, and ‘twas true enough that blood was shed, and that night the King abandoned her people and fled to seek out her cousins to the far south. That was how, ultimately, they landed in a quiet spot during the calm of a storm, and there founded the most secretive of all the Realms: Qivira.
I see by our faces that you thought as you were taught, that Durango was first. No, I am afraid that that was not the case, for you see Durango was born of the Succession wars, as the many greedy and grasping Nobles, chief among the Karovian line, raised their own armies and fought a war for a dozen years to see who would claim that throne, and then fought again and again.
A relatively minor noble from the House of Wikof, an Usher on his father’s side, from a line that traced to the Despot King himself, a bastard Usher, as it were, managed to rise to the top and claim the throne for himself. This led to many of the Nobles and their followers fleeing and declaring themselves a new Kingdom, Durango, named for the former Duke that had been their figurehead.
The new King recalled his navies, raised fresh troops, levied harsh penalties and taxes, and set out to make them bend the knee. First, he reclaimed Akadia, putting it more firmly under his thumb. Then he quelled Durango in a conflict so bloody it was the Syndics who surrendered, not the nobility, setting the nature of that city ever after. Then he besieged Qivira until it capitulated, and now, with four kingdoms under his belt, he turned to Aztlan, only to be repelled for he had not made peace yet.
He was in his middle years by this time, and he did something that changed the world in a moment of Spite, and declared himself to be the King of Kings, The Emperor of Sibola, and so the First Empire was born. The Sea war continued, and as he lay dying, he turned to his heir and commanded him to win that war and free his spirit from regret lest he be trapped in Quietus.
The second Emperor died on his feet, on a ship in the Silent Sea, learning why in a very personal way why it was called such. Few can withstand the grasping reach of the sea’s dead, after all.
The third Emperor outlast his forbear by a day. He was murdered in his sleep by an Envoy from Duat, with whom he had sought an alliance after a bloody encounter between his sailors and the Grendels. Ah, you had forgotten about them, hadn’t you? They may not have had the seamanship of the Thyrs, and I have questions about their being on ships at all given how much they enjoy what they call play, but aye, they had not been idle as they saw the Thyrsian fleets sailing and the Merow struggle against the Tritons for the ocean floors. So, they reached a bargain, and this is when the Merow ceased to be quite as feral as they had been once. If you have fought them, you know them to be just as vicious and stalwart as their Goblin kin, but they are a seafolk, and beneath the waves they have massive cities of coral scattered about, as the Imps have done with their world of Agartha. And so Duat made a treaty with the Merow and became yet another sea power. However, instead of joining in the sea war, they raided corsairs and sent fleets to raid the Goblins and seek out their mythical lost brethren, the Kobolds.
They succeeded in all of that, though they never heard that they did from those who found the Kobolds. Bermuda had been slowly built up over the centuries, but to describe it as up ignores the nature of the Kobolds, who do not want visitors, do not want trade, do not want the outside to bother them, and are rather pointed about it. Ask Ara – she’s been along on more than one attempt.
They await a chosen one, a giant Kobold, who will lead them into the world at large. That is why. And they follow the Old Ones, not any of the Hosts. Indeed, they are more likely to be harsh with those who follow a host, including the Goblins, for they are even more bitter about the end of the war and the aftermath than we are. It is said among them that the very land they live on was moved like a Kress tile on a board.
The Fourth Emperor was a fool who insulted a Therian Chieftain. That led to wars with them. He, too, found out that Envoys are a very dedicated to their profession sort of group, if your profession is diplomacy or death. The fifth Emperor was a bit smarter, as he banished all Envoys from the realms. He also tried to make peace with Aztlan but found his reception bitterly cool as his Embassy was met by most of the Envoys he had exiled.
He feared invasion by land, feared assassins in the night, feared the Mages in Akadia, the secrets in Qivira. He spurned the Clerics and swore to Pallor. He died of an infection from a cat scratch one of his pets gave him when he squeezed it too hard during an audience. The poor white cat reached up and clawed hm across his left eye. He ruled for 6 years.
The sixth Emperor of the Old Empire was six years old when he was crowned. He was six years and six months older when he died of dysentery from poorly maintained castle facilities. Since that day, six has been the unluckiest number in all the lands, because of all of the emperors of the First Empire he was the only one who tried to do right.
But his forebears had been cursed by the Powers That Be, and so once again the nobles fell to internecine squabbling while fighting two wars and trying to keep an empire together.
This was the Second Interregnum. During it, the realm of Lyonese was founded by a group of Dwarfin Nobles and their kin, all pushed out of the other places for being a little too keen to explore and experiment with things. To this day that continues, with the clockworking of Lyonese being the most remarkable. And it was in Lyonese that the first Meka appeared, after all. It was rather violent there at one point, but the Meka did apologize and explain themselves. I forget the name – you told it to me, as it was after my time Ara, dear. Of no matter, though.
Now, you may be wondering why this time period is the Age of Legends. If not, you should be. For you see, it truly was an age of Legends. The Paladin Jonathan, the warrioress Panthesilea, the Dread Pirate Roberts, the anti-magic Fellowship that tossed the Imperial Signet into a volcano, this was a time of Legends, and the period when the less famous of them banded together and created the Adventurer’s Guild. Bet you didn’t know that. There are ten thousand legends of this Age, and for a good reason.
While the War between Hyboria and Sibola, between the Seaward Kingdoms and Hyboria, between Duat and everyone, between Thule and Aztlan, there were some people who had been forgotten by almost everyone, and they had long planned and prepared and massed. It is likely that Duat knew, for they did begin to turn much of their efforts to destabilizing everyone else. Stealing ships and using them to attack those who thought they were allies, making raids on small coastal villages that only took the young and only killed the very old, and the like.
On Snowy 14th, in the heart of winter, during the giving festival, at the very walls of Qivira, Durango, and Sibola, an Army of a million Goblins burst forth from secreted warrens carved over the decades deep beneath the earth by the Imps creating Agartha, and the First Goblin War began.
What we are today is shaped by what we were in the past, and history many hundred years ago to you may not be exciting but I trust you realize that those who lived and died in it found it too stimulating. They would gladly trade for this warm fire and pleasant company. The first Goblin War is why so many hate goblins. They came in numbers that no one had seen since the War of the God’s, and all of those were so long dead that their bones were dust.
If you want to know why Imps are found in cities or why Goblins raid from bases that weren’t there a month ago, this is why. Agartha, The Underdark, the unending city carved through the bones of the earth. Though Aztlan and Sibola both reside on islands, proper, both are reached by bridges, and where there is land, there is Agartha. The center of it is their actual capital, believed to be in the wilds north of Lemuria, but they are everywhere, and it is important you understand this is not an exaggeration. For nearly five hundred years we have fighting to close off those labyrinths and mazes so far beneath us that even Lyonese engineers have been unable to do more than find a few entrances. They fill them in, you see, they camouflage them, and no one ever locates a base immediately adjacent to one. Imps and Goblins may be strong allies, but if Imps had the appetites that goblins do, we would not be having this conversation.
Of those many legends, more than half are about the Goblin Wars, which last thirty years. It is difficult to truthfully say that the Bright lands won, but it would be just as truthful to say that they lost It was, in the end, more of a draw, but also a proof that the Goblins still existed, that they still ate the dead on the battlefield, that they still took slaves and committed atrocities. And that walls were still needed to keep them out.
But if nothing else, the Goblin War did bring about the most positive change, and one we should all be grateful for. Among the many Legends and the stories and the lines was the importance of the Realm Codex, for within both Sibola and Durango’s Codexes was a name of an heir that all could agree on, and all could put faith in, and the name belonged to a man about who the same was said, even if he himself did not know his origins. He was hidden away at birth, raised by a foster family, taught by a strange woman who wandered the world, gifted with one of the might Foeblades of the God’s War, the potent Caliburn, and his name was Arturia Usher.
He went by Artur, lest anyone discover a secret that was kept until he passed. He bore three children during his long reign. He defended the great cities, he made peace with the Seaward Kingdoms, he turned his navy on the Thulian raiders and the Duatian instigators, he pushed Hyboria back beyond the Tangled Pass, and he followed the laws the entire time. He meted justice, and he had a group of thirteen great Warriors who stood by him and commanded his troops and kept his secret despite many trials and tribulations.
He is said to have created the Rite of Variance, and he lived for his full spans, dying peacefully in his sleep at the age of 107 on Rest 28th by the Calendar that he instituted, restoring the seasons to how they had been before the God’s War.
His passing ended the Age of Legends. His children became the Kings and Queen of Sibola, Durango, and Lyonese, and with that, the Fall of the House of Usher ended, and the Line was restored.
Some have said that Arturia was the one that closed the Prophecy, but harken well, for the portents speak true: Arturia was not the Prophesied one.
I must attend my garden, and the weeds within it that wriggle, and so tomorrow we will close out the lessons, and I will hope you are ready for it, as the Age of Heroes is a doozy. As you know since you live in it.
|At last, we come to the era that is closing, the time of our lives, the history we know the best. It begins on the first day of the fiftieth year of the New Empire. The day after the passing of the First Emperor of the new Empire, Arturia. We have journeyed through much history thus far. The thousand years before the God’s War, the War itself, the seven hundred fifty years that include the Bleak Journey and the Ages of Fable, Myth, and Legends. This is the Age of Heroes, and it draws to a close soon, but all of you will be known in the Age of Icons. I ask you if you will go forth and face that future with a weapon, or with hope? Ah, yes; yes, I suppose that both is a good answer. Very well, let us begin again…