A Brief History, Part Two

A Brief History, Part Two

Age of Fable

Ah, isn’t a good breakfast worth the wait? I may dislike mornings, but I do adore a breakfast. Alright then, let’s see, where were we?

Four thousand three hundred twenty-one families stood upon the green shore of a furious unknown sea, wracked by storms, great hailstones hurling, and they had neither shelter nor safety, and through the whole ordeal, no help, no aid, no promises fulfilled.

Drawing inland, the took shelter in a great forest, and as the weather settled, they began to take stock of what they had. Nearly 28,000 people, they were all that had survived of the Bright Host. In a hundred years, less than 1% of the population was left. They were only Elfin and Dwarfs and Humans, though, with a few halflings – the Tritons had been left to fend for themselves alongside only around 5,000 Islanders. Those who had gone into Exile before ethe war suffered horribly during the cataclysm, reduced to only around 49 small families.

Among the Foe, things were only marginally better, but they were dropped away from the battlefield unprepared, unaware, and scattered on islands and the regions that would become Lemuria, and Duat, and Thule almost overnight. Across the tossed sea, the survivors and peoples faced their own insignificance before the true power of whatever it was that had done so much.

The Foe isolated, licked wounds, and their small numbers allowed them to begin to forge the cultures and peoples that they became, even as the people would become Thalasians and the Tritons and their halfling children regrouped in the sunken halls of Keris and the long, rounded homes of Islandia. On the fields of Hyboria, a people looked to the sky as the storm’s clouds began to recede and began the first stirrings of moving into the seven sects that would define them.

This was the state of the world in the days following the end of the God’s War.

Bereft of resources, of belongings, of shelter, left to their own devices with wounded and the elderly and children.

Six Gods had died, and the face of the world was shattered and crushed, as was the hope of all the peoples.

Know this: in those moments, those few initial days, the former Bright Host turned its back on their Gods, though even they had to acknowledge that they were indeed, Power in the World, and that their wills could change everything, and so that was when they stopped being Gods, and became the Powers That Be.

Those who survived the Siege notices that they had the sea before them, and cliffs with a narrow, rubble strewn path behind, and between were the things they needed to begin to build a home. Yet, before they completed the first home and planted the first fields from the seeds and other things, they were attacked by a beast the like none had ever seen before in all the history of the world. Immense it was, a mountain with wings that blotted the sky around them. Claws as long as the arms of a full-grown man, teeth larger than the tallest man, a massive maw the exhaled flames that burned even if they were only close.

This was a Dragon, and it was not the last that would harass and hound them in the many years ahead, but after the first one left, two came the next day, and three the day after that, and the people decided they would use the plants for seeds and the trees for wagons and carts and weapons and then they climbed the cliff, all of them, and so six months after the Siege, they began the Bitter Road, The Bleak Journey, that was to define them for a thousand years.

Travelling with hand drawn carts and wagons, the elderly and children, the need to rest, the need to find ways of surviving like the creation of wagons that could hold crops, and wagons filled with barrels for water; the valley they moved through, ringed by mountains and sheer slopes, was a scrub land, a near desert, fiery hot in the summer and bitterly cold in winter, sometimes snowing a dozen feet in a storm. Rain fell sporadically, often just in the smallest amounts. It was slow, and it was grueling, and after five years of this slow, grueling slog, they became a more solid, a more unified people, but not yet the indomitable sorts. A decade in, and strong leaders had formed, able to guide and look out for those that fell into their charge, and the needs of the many were divided and so it was that slowly but surely what would become the Five Hundred Families came to be, and for the next century they would define the way the people responded to threats and chose leaders and survived. They told themselves and their children, their grandchildren and great grandchildren, that one day this Journey would end, and they would come to a sea, and there they would build their own paradise.

At one point in the long journey, though, division did set in, for the wide valley was inhospitable and the leaders bickered and differed and finally, one night, an entire cadre left and sought their own path, their own way, one that wasn’t slow and plodding one that was filled with strength and adaptability, and they found a pass, a small side vale, and they overcame a dragon to enter it, the corpse of the monster left in their wake, and they vanished.

As they struggled onwards, they were fell upon by swift, animalistic raiders, dragon attacks, horrible storms, and through all of it they persevered, though soon all they had were rotting carts and staggering people and death was a constant companion. It is said that no mile of the Bleak Journey was not marked by the deaths of many, through all the long years.

And then, about halfway through their bitter road, the world shook and cracked and shuddered and sighed once again. The skies turned stormy, and lightning and thunder would flash and strike and yet the air would be as still as the people themselves.

For eighteen moons this went on, and they knew not what was happening, what was going on. And they would not learn then, for soon all things calmed and the skies cleared, and they began to march once more. It was then that the Powers That Be remade the world, and fixed the Dimensions, and set the planes, all part of work they would do for decades to come.

And though many guessed, all knew that such things meant that they had been forgotten, and abandoned, and betrayed.

The land within the valley would let no crops grow, the sky would let little rain fall, the mountains would let no one pass. It was forward, ever forward, a trudging, monotonous movement that cared not for the ill nor the infirm, that ravaged them with disease and allowed the Dragons and the Salathen to attack and slay and maim and scar the very hearts of the peoples.

Barbarian hordes of half-human, half-animal people would raid and steal away children, leaving sticks and woven grasses in their place, steal rations and water, steal weapons and fabric.

Snakes and desert wolves, the hot sun, it was so horrible a time that what finally stumbled out of the Fiery Desert at the Pass of Despair was barely alive, malnourished to an extreme never seen since.

It should be said that the skies changed almost daily during the long march. That the earth shook. That the stars themselves changed – legend says that at one point they were not even there in the sky. The Mountains that defied them and left them stuck among the treachery of the ever-changing path they took trembled and on some days were taller, on others shorter. But above all else, it should be noted that the world that had been was gone, erased, the remains and the leavings were erased, and over the three generations, the knowledge of the Ancient Land, Ackyu, was lost.

The Bleak Journey was generations long, miles of the barest food, merest water, slimmest chances, most meager survival as those few, said to be less than one percent of all who had lived before the God’s War took knowledge and life and history with it, sought a refuge to begin again.

No Powers That Be came to help. No children were spared. No hearts were soothed, no balms were given. Abandoned to a world that did not want them there any longer, the people struggled and to this day we have learned the lessons of that era of Dread. Those fashioned in the war were left to their own devices, second thoughts. They were never able to form their own communities, their own “homelands, so they do not have some of the things most people might think they have. Elfin and Dwarfs became part of the mass of people who struggled in the aftermath. Who suffered alongside everyone else, who were relegated to the back of the vast chain of humanity as it snaked along.

But they were not forgotten. Around the 118th year, generations which had only ever known the Bitter Road, entire lives spent on a march that had to be done because there was no place else to go, stumbled around a bend in the valley, and spread out before them was The Garden. Within it were fresh wagons, fresh water, fresh food, meat, which many had never known, fish, farm animals, and more than enough for each family to have the needed stock. Some tales speak about how there was even lumber. But there was also a warning: The Garden could only be stayed in for three years. Thus warned, those who led the Five Hundreds, as they called themselves in those days, trained by the rigors to use sparingly and treat with care, remained for only the three years, before continuing the bitter road beyond the Great Respite.

Now, many will say that the Bitter Road could not have taken so long, they will point to maps, and they will say that it was not that long, that the valleys are far wider than the ancient tales say, that the mountains are not nearly so tall. They will be the young that do this, the newly learned, and they will have forgotten that the path one can suspect may not have been the path that was taken, though most believe that it is merely what is left of the path, for did not the whole of the world change? Were not the lands sculpted and changed beyond recognition? What they see, and some still dare to traverse, is what was left of the great Journey, after the End of the World.

Births and deaths, life and loss, fathers to sons, mothers to daughters. Four thousand three hundred twenty-one families went in, 28,000 strong. Five Hundred Families came out, 17,000 strong, generations away from those who had walked in. They were a hard people, a tough and strong and determined people. They were a people that had never fought nor seen a Goblin, heard of Kobolds as myths, thought Thyrs were a boogeyman meant to scare children, and mocked at the idea of Ips. They had fought dragons the size of Villages and defeated waves of raiders from the sure foot mountain beast folk, whom we today call the Lost Sect. They were the Bright Peoples.

They emerged into the woods of Sibola and began to face the wild beasts and strange remnants, always moving forward because they knew not how to do anything else by that time, until, at long last, they came to a sea, where, to a person, they wept.

There they made a camp of scant thousands. So was Sibola founded, among tents and wagons along the shore of a vast sea and beside the waters of a river. A monthlong celebration was held, and fresh fish were caught, and fowl downed and roasted, and woven reed and wood strip tents were laid out, and at the end of it, the one who led them from the Garden was chosen to be King, and he named the city they began to build after his daughter, and that is how the House of Usher rose from the Fall and became the Kings of Sibola.

In Sibola they teach to use the Glaive and bear the Shield, they pass their knowledge and skills, they defend what they have and protect what could come. They learned that they do not need the Powers That Be, and so from that Bleak Journey, the Humans became the Imperials of this world, and knew they needed no Powers That Be who would murder them all, knew they had a power that rivalled all, knew they could reshape all the things needed.

Lunch time already! I will go and get the breads, so why don’t you start with those vegetables over there. A heavy breakfast is always best served by a light lunch, so we will just do some light little finger foods and such; we have many a year to go as yet!

Age of Myth

The Age of Myth is said to begin with the Crowing of King Usher.

Haldane Ushe’Sher, more properly, but such is hardly known these days. Like much of this era, it has faded into myth.

Twenty-five years after the founding of Sibola, a Cleric of Kybele was visited in a young mother whose husband died tragically, and it was in that time that the people knew, the Power That Be had returned. Over the next dozen years, Clerics were chosen, and though leery, those in the greatest need offered to worship, and gained small boons for it, though it was not how they had heard it had been in the old days of the War.

It was not much, and not enough, and yet, it was a start. Across the way, the sprawling camp of Kahokia was laid down and planned for years to come, the spiral a way of knowing one another. Islandia began to build boats again, and to explore the islands they had been left. In Lemuria, they began the building of a vast Black Tower, while in Duat they began to build the interconnected homes that would one day be covered by earth, and all but invisible.

The Exilian came upon the builders of Sibola, and gave maps and seeds and many useful things, but dared not step into the city, for it was not the fabled Atalanta they seek. The now many hundred-year-old meeting place called Hyboria found that one of the seven Sects was gone, and to this day they mourn that loss, for they were the far travelers, and surefooted, and powerful raiders.

Thule began to explore. It was a task that would serve them well in the years to come, for it is said no one knows the seas better than them among the Foes, and they learned early how to avoid and defend against the Tritons and how to summon the then-feral Merow. They would learn the rivers and the seas, and they would strike when they could, but it would be long yet before they found the Shining City.

Sibola grew. Fields were full of bounty, the sea gave its all, the wilds were full of game, and they found the many kinds of cattle that had survived and re-tamed them and so they began to recover. As they grew, they expanded, and they were not shy about using magic, and in particular they founded a college for it there. It was, at first, a wonder, but it was also fearsome, and it had been built far outside the original walls of the city, built then to protect from wild animals and the occasional monstrosity.

The plans were made and drawn to use an island, to bridge to it, and to carve it, and that island is what became the Sibola we now today, shaped by magic, and the walls that ring it were raised from the earth, such that they could not be undermined, such that they would not fall, and in all the many years since, they never have.

When this was finished, it is said the Lord Collegiate, the grandmaster of the College, the greatest Wizard of the age, was a young man, and ambitious, and though he was well rewarded by the King, by then the elderly son of King Usher, he was insulted and jealous and greedy. And as the people filled the city, he schemed, and he drew to him many other wizards and warlocks, witches and sorcerers, and they determined that as they had done so much for the city, it should be their city, and the people therein should serve them, for were they not the most powerful people there?

Who could stop them?

And the Grand Master Akade smiled, and so the Akadian Coup began.

The Prince of Sibola, young Lord Mikel, was forewarned by his squire, a young girl who had trained in secret, dressed as a man, of the secret plot to steal his kingdom, and together with a Rogue from the streets they turned back and revealed the first two attempts, but the third was nearly a master stroke, for it involved capturing all three of them.

The old King, however, was not a fool, and knew whom he could trust and whom he could keep close, and among his many friends was the ikon of Kybele. She taught he and his court, his advisors and even some common folks, the secret that saved Sibola, and set forth the one thing that all such Mages fear to be used against them: Ritual Magic.

And among the many rituals they prepared, among the many magical items they crafted, was a summoning, the circle for it still exists in the depths of the Castle, alongside many others, and they summoned Akade.

Now, you may not be familiar with how a summoning works, so I should tell you that if done properly, a summoner can compel those who are summoned. That is correct, this was not a letter delivered and demanding a visit, this was a forcible taking of another sentient being, and while no records exist of what was done to this traitor, we can imagine much.

The remaining members of the secret group were rounded up and forced to watch their college be torn down. They were tried and sentenced to a one, and for ten years the use of all magic was banished from Sibola, and the many Mages were put under the aegis of the King’s chosen champion and exiled across the sea.

There they were forced to establish a realm for themselves, subject only to oversight by the King, but left very much alone, for the King knew something that they did not yet again.

The Powers That Be had taken a dim view of the Co, and the powers of mages. They could do nothing about the powers, or not much, we surmise, but they could do the one thing that has since limited much of Akadian efforts: they made it so that magic does not always pass to one’s own issue. The children of the Mages would never have magic of their own, and to this day, that still stands within those families, the power skipping two generations among all of them, such that no living heir to the secrets of a Grand Master will be of their own line.

And so it was that Akade got his wish, of a sort, and of a way, and Akadia was founded, and it truly is the Magiocracy he had dreamed of. He just never expected to have to run the place. If nothing else is true, the point we should always remember from his miserable victory is that one can escape many things, but one can never escape consequences.

Those mages Loyal to the king remained, and they used ritual magic over the years, despite its slowness, under his allowance until the horror hit again. In doing so, it let Astrologers know that this was something to expect, to plan for, to be aware of, and so immense was the disaster that the ban on magic was later removed, and new laws passed.

But even today no one can predict them, and we must expect that includes the Gods, as if they were the product of some mad mind’s whim and vengeance. I speak, of course, about the Skyfall that killed the King, that fixed what the Powers had done, that toppled the mighty Lemurian tower and that shattered and erased many of the islands of much of Islandia, creating the Sea of Silence.

That loosed the Dreadnaughts once again.

It was just as bad as the first one, destroying much, but worse than it was that despite a grandmother who had been not only a Queen but a Grand Master Champion, the young king that rose to power following it, having grown during the rebuilding and watched the untimely collapse that killed his parents in his apprentice year, began to pass laws and rules that limited women, that took from them things that had been theirs, and this in turn led his sister into her own rebellion – The Women’s War.

And War it was, brutal and bloody, and the victors of that War, having taught lessons that few would ever forget but many would try to ignore in the years after, took the entire navy of Sibola – every single ship, from small to large – and sailed off in the Sea of Tears. They chose a horrible time, and they underwent many difficult perils, facing sirens and single eyed giants and tossed hither and yon by storms and winds and waves, until at last they saw a great and broad river, and seeking to be as far from Sibola as they could get, they sailed down it to find a land that was as pastoral and warm as they could have hoped for.

And so it was that Aztlan was founded. They sailed down the River of Dreams, the linkage between the Sea of Tears and the great oceans beyond and found a place they could be themselves.

Now, as I said, it was the Victors who left. That is, the Women won the Women’s War, and few are foolish enough to forget that. But this split the great House of Usher, and split many other Houses as well, and that has led to why it is that every realm keeps a great record, that we may always be able to know whence we came, and to whom we are bound by duty and obligation older that the world as we know it.

Years later, a small village outside of Aztlan proper was struck by terrifying raiders, like massive bears, wearing armor and wielding great curved blades and coming in ships with triangular sails dyed blood red and a black flag with a skull upon it. Runners nearly died delivering the news, and the Queen herself and her great Army feared it was the Sibolans, come to fight for what her family had fought to build (for ever has it been that Aztlan Matrons will speak of Sibolan Patrons seeking to take their wealth).

It was not, and never in living memory had anyone fought such horrific beings. Seven feet tall, covered in fur, raring and swinging their great swords in complex arcs and cutting down warriors and families with equal aplomb and when the two groups clashed it was then that both sides learned a critical lesson.

Aztlan is not the only Matriarchy on Wyrlde; Thule is as well. For these were indeed the Thyrs, raiding for supplies while they made their way into the Sea of Tears, aiming for what they had scouted already: Sibola itself. For the people and warriors of Aztlan, it was as if a childhood nightmare had come to life, things which were myths had stepped out of the past, the ancient Foe that their grandparents had told only faint memories of stories that were old when they had been young. For the Thulians it was just as nightmarish, for the most implacable of their foes were well represented among Aztic Warriors: Elfin Maids in gleaming armor with shining swords passed down through generations, meant to bite and drink deeply of Thyrsian blood, artifacts from the times that perhaps only the Elfin remembered as well, passed as teachings among their communes.

Aye, pupils, it was indeed the first time that the Dread Host and the Bright Host had met in battle in hundreds of years. You can be assured that it was quite a shock to all sides, for none alive then had seen the others since the Day the God’s War ended. Facing an army of warriors equal to their own and of a greater size, the Thulian Matrons pulled back and fled to their ships, and there they encountered another thing they had not been prepared for – and something no Aztic craftswoman would have expected in those days either. It was, unplanned, a brilliant trap among three groups who had not seen each other in centuries, for when they set foot on their ships, they found themselves in a battle with Islandian warriors, who had followed them, and this battle is what that unreadable stele at the docks of the village of Emberton commemorates. So long ago that the winds and salt and sea have all but erased the etchings upon it.

A tentative peace was set between Aztlan and Islandia. Trade began, for Islandians had no metals then, and over the years that followed the Tritons came as well, linking Keris, Islandia, and Aztlan together and setting the basis for the defense of the Sea of Tears that holds to this day.

Do not underestimate the importance of Aztlan. They found it by chance, but it lies on the most critical route for trade and attack in all the world. They are the gate between the Empire we know today and the Seaward Kingdoms, the only waterway from Duat, Lemuria, and Thule into the Bright Lands. While Qivira now controls the north of it, they maintain forts and holds the length of it, including islands within the Hearth Sea.

This is why Aztlan is so powerful, despite being so far away from Sibola. Why the Skyships have a gantry and the Train is a-comin. Oh yes, yes, I keep up with the news. How do you think my old pupil could find me so easily and get this to happen? I have great grandchildren, after all.

When word of this battle reached the ears of the then King of Sibola, he was not impressed. And when the first Kerisian merchants came to Sibola, in his later years, he allowed his spoiled Prince to handle them. This would prove to be his downfall, for that same child murdered him and took the crown and became the first of the worst, the Despot King, and he declared war on the Seaward Kingdoms and Aztlan and did what had long been feared.

They took Fort Tearside and razed it to the ground – you can see the ruins on the sea cliffs still, their inner chambers hidden. The massive Sibolan Navy, large then than even Aztlan’s, poured through and turned the Hearth Sea and the Sea of Serpents and the Sea of Amity into battle fields among the waves, and it was then that the first Corsairs came to be, which is why even those of the land tend to adopt seaworthy habits.

The Sea War drained the kingdom as the Despot King raised taxes and conscripted troops, to this day, the notion of a press gang is still called a Sibolan Invitation, as many unlucky men and youths were kidnapped from villages and towns and forced into service in the war. Akadian Mages bolstered the Navy, and trade stopped; it is said that Aztic coffee once sold for the equivalent of a crown a cup, unless you had the right contacts with the right Corsairs.

This unreasoning desire to assert his will over the world far beyond his reach was too much for his cousin, who at the time was the Baron of Morovia. He received a visitor one afternoon during his regular audience, an unremarkable woman who delivered to him a series of laws. With her was a very much remarkable man: Mansa. The patron of Sibola. They told him to depose the Despot King and set forth the following laws, which would be inviolable on pain of the wrath of the Powers That Be.

He was unimpressed by Mansa, but he was terrified of the woman.

Six months later, the First Interregnum happened, following the death of the Despot King at the hands of his closest advisors, all of whom he had been secretly planning to execute the following day. It was 20 years before an heir was chosen, and it was the Princessa, not her older cousins or brothers, that they chose. The first Lady King of Sibola, ending the Interregnum.

The Sea War continued. As shall we, but on the morrow. It is dinner time and a light lunch always makes you want to have a good dinner, does not? Until the next time, my pupils.

Age of Legends

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:

Elantrea’s Prophecy
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 is 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 the 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.

Age of Heroes

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…

Emperor Kalderan was Crowned as the Second Emperor of the new Empire, and his reign was marked by a few items of note and interest. First, he received, one day, a delegation from a land none had ever heard of, a people none had ever known. No records of them could be found, and they spoke a strange native language that was difficult on their ears of the Sibolan Court. But they had watched for many years, and they had learned the language, and so they came. They were the Many who are One, the children of the Spora, the Kahokian Tribes. They wore strange clothes fashioned of hides, and carried bows and axes, but not swords, though their knives where large, with heavy blades that had jagged back edges. They came to trade, and to make either war or peace, they did not care which, so it was up to him to decide. To celebrate new friends and to reunite those who had taken the road less traveled, they held competitions and feasts for three days.

This is why Kahokian Bows are used by all the Imperial Guards in Sibola.

Second, his most faithful Duke, who had served his parent with honor, dignity and renown, came and begged leave to found a new Kingdom in a desert where they had been discovered some needed materials. His name was Leto Eld. He had a thousand people who would travel with him, and then later brig their families, and he would tithe to the crown, but begged leave that it be his, for he had come to see a different way of leading and being a noble from the study of laws and letters.

And thus was Dorado born. Nor did that come too soon, for it was very soon after that it was discovered by his son the secret that makes the Guns of Dorado roar, and far too soon they were needed in battle.

The Emperor passed away naturally after a good life, and his reign was peaceful and healing. Some say that even Kybele wept at his funeral.

Emperor Comorant was his second son, and his reign began because his older brother was slain by Goblins before his crowning, and that marked the start of the second Goblin War. Now, some will argue that it is still going on, but I do not think of small bands poking and prodding, testing and tying as a continuation of war, but the Second goblin War lasted for fifty years, nearly every month featuring a battle among one or more of the many realms, and even as it went on there were overland attacks on Akadia by Thyrs and sea raids by Duat and Merow allies.

The Goblins learned much from the earlier wars, and they learned ever more again during this seemingly endless series of assaults, feints, and battle. And yet, as it went on, so too did life in the Bright Realms.

It was like a ramped of version of the way things are today, far more raids, focused efforts, diversions, and traps – it was like a game of Kress on a massive scale, with living people as the pieces.

It likely would have continued if it were not for what followed it: the last Skyfall.

Once again, the whole of the lands were crushed beneath the onslaught of the stones from the sky, and once again those thing changed many things – it was then that there came to be the many strange colors of hair and eyes, and it was then that we saw far more of the Fae, and the dimensional spaces were thinned somehow, making it slightly easier to move among them.

Unlike his predecessors, Cormorant immediately stopped fighting and began to aid his people during h year of the Skyfall, and it was his way of doing that which became held against him, for he tended to Sibola and left the others to fend for themselves. The effort of reconstruction, though, crippled and ultimately killed him from sewer rot.

From the third (sometimes called the second, because the first is buried beyond Myth) Skyfall, there arose a lot of discord as the new Emperor was crowned, and though the ruble and disaster had halted the Goblin attack, it sparked a long series of cruel and wicked wars among the different Cities, spanning the reign of two emperors. Heroes arose like the legends of old, from the Goblin Wars to the rebuilding to the internecine fighting that had an unintended side effect.

It took from the gods some of their worshippers. They did not react poorly, however. They did react, and it was something else.

The fourth Emperor, the father of today’s, tried to negotiate peace with all the other cities, to set forth a standard and way, and the fighting was intense. This was called the Great discord, and he had watched it tear down two prior Emperors who tried desperately to hold tight to an Empire of diverse people.

And then, he heard reports from sailors of an island raising in the seas south of Sibola. Crafted by the Gods. The other lords and nobles also heard of it. For six months it rose, and it built itself, and the fighting drew to a pause, and the schemes and plots were stopped, and then one day the entire retinues of all the rulers and the rulers themselves vanished.

They had been transported to Zefir. Many of the courtiers and staff spoke of the wonders of it, but also that within the great hall all the nobles faced fifteen of the Powers that Be who gave them quite exacting instructions.

That was the beginning of the Convocations. Held every year now, they are where those struggles and rivalries, petty feuds and the business of kingdoms are hammered out, and at that first one, no one was allowed to leave until they did. This increased resentment against the Powers That Be, especially as they hadn’t backed anyone in any of their particular righteous efforts, but thus it was, and so it still is: peace.

And, because of that, there as a sudden upstart that arose. You will surely hear about it – a city found by exiles, by wanderers, by criminals and explorers, and it was called Antilia, and it is not a part of the Empire. It became a rumor, and we still await the envoys in many of the great cities, thought they are a strange people with strange ways.

As he settled in, the last Emperor set the tithes and signed the Accords that ultimately united Kahokia and Hyboria, Islandia and Keris into the Bright League, and so doing set the world of the Seven Cities for the era we now are in and that draws to a close.

Well then, I do suppose that this concludes our little adventure in the wilds of time. Here, take a cookie. I baked them special for you. And don’t worry about the vase.

Ah, see, I said don’t worry about it. History is filled with much that we can wonder upon, and much of our world’s history is ever so dark, and ever so dreary, but worry not. By the time you finish that cookie you’ll feel right as rain.

Yes, Mistral Urton, even you. Be off with you all now, I am an old lady and haven’t the strength to keep up with such energetic sorts as yourselves.

Age of Icons

I want to thank my old teacher for her time and her devotion and her memory. As you have now learned, there is a great deal of history to the world, and that it has left us where we are today, in a strange place where the is an Empire but no one gives it much thought, where there are many things in common and even more that are not.

For the last seven years, Sage, Oracles, Seers, Astrologers, and more have warned us that we have come to the end of an Age. It is the 299th year of the New Empire. As we converse, it is the 26th day of Rest, and soon the new Year will be upon us, ushering in the Age of Icons.

Much of this history has spoken of the many powers, including that horrible supposedly all powerful lady. As you may have gathered, there are many Powers in the World, and they have an immense impact. I am the servant of one, and I say to you that they tried their best, and they do care, and they want you to know they will be there for you if you but give them a whispered prayer and accept their baptism.

But there are many reasons to not trust them, and so we must earn it back.

Goddess of Change, Mystery, Wonder, and Fun
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