THE AGE OF THE ANCIENTS (1,200 BSC – 700 SC)
A handful of Mortal cultures clawed their way back from the barbarity of the Dark Age, each undergoing several centuries of expansion but all were finally brought down by the multitude of mankind’s enemies, shrinking back to little nations or disappearing altogether. Meanwhile the rest of humanity survived as barbarians competing for hunting grounds against other races, monsters and beasts of the wild. Allied with and integrated into human societies since their creation were the ogres – a fellow race of mortals, and distant cousins to mankind.
Sometimes neutral but more often threatening were the Elemental Races: Dwarves of the earth, Niads of the waters, Firedrakes of the magmalands, and Sylphs of the skies. These races were ancient in comparison to mortals and they had weathered the Nine Woes and Dark Age far better than humans, for they had the protection of the great Vanitan gods whom they worshipped. As Mortals bred so much faster than the Elemental Races, their former superiority slipped away, and in most cases they fostered alliances with the mortals in order to safeguard their future upon Calydorn.
At times Mortals came in contact with even more ancient peoples – the Elder Races. These folk lived among the wilds and avoided contact with mortals but were merciless to those who trespassed upon their lands. It is said that they were ancient even when the Elemental Races came to Calydorn. They are the giant Gurloth, the Makaar, Cacklars, Scarabs, Vulpines, Chitnacs, Mustelors, Batrachians and others. The Elder Races lived in harmony with nature as its guardians, frequently coming into conflict with the expansionist Mortal Races who seemed to despoil nature for their own ends.
As the barbarian tribes of mortals expanded, they encountered new enemies – the haughty, fey Aetherions and demons of ancient evil. Both were multi-dimensional beings of incomprehensible mentality and frightening power. Demons preyed upon mortal weaknesses, gathering to them hordes of mortal worshippers from which they derived greater power. The Age of the Ancients was a time when Mortals sought to challenge some of the mighty demon realms which had metastasized across the world of Calydorn, at times successfully, but in most cases the demons crushed the upstart kingdoms.
The past of the Mortal Races and perhaps their future too are bound together with the fey Aetherions – tall humanoids of tremendous grace, skill and intelligence, possessing a detached demeanor wholly incomprehensible to three-dimensional beings like humans. Myths say that once they were the teachers of Mankind in ages past, but since the Everkill War have sought to enslave mankind. Though many Aetherions migrated back to the outer dimensions after the Everkill War from whence they came, still the world of Calydorn contains several powerful Aetherion realmsThe Aetherions sought to enslave and slaughter Mortals to avenge wrongs done them in ages past – wrongs still fresh in the minds of the these immortals, but lost to Mortal cultures in the annals of antiquity before the Dark Age. After conquering all of Calydorn and waging war on the Asrae, they had been afflicted with racial sterility. During the Age of Ancients, they struggled to rebuild their former greatness, while guarding their borders ruthlessly. These nations – Hamtatra, Maluria, Nimburia, Ellyssar and Malentis pursued a policy of isolationism for the most part, until the Blessed Age came, when they were forced to confront the bitter fruits of the tree of hate they had planted.
Though most Mortals abandoned the gods during mythical times, there were minorities who had kept their faith. The Annyr, Skannfyrd and Kalkokitans of Ghorn were three of those peoples, living in exile in the mountains and swamps where they had been driven like dogs by the wicked mortal empires prior to the Halcyon Age. These three Blessed Peoples were spared the full brunt of the Nine Woes, and each was watched over by a separate pantheon of the Asrae. In time, they were judged to be worthy, and so the Asrae gods set about grooming them for greatness. Avatars of the Asrae walked among the blessed peoples, teaching skills lost during the Dark Age: Agriculture, pottery, forging, and masonry. All across Ghorn, these mortal pantheistic cultures thrived. A new pact was forged between the priests and leaders of these cultures with the Asrae. Representatives from the five Blessed Peoples and many other faithful cultures made a Pilgrimage to the Asherah Sea where the Asrae has first awoken on Calydorn. There Avatars of the gods pledged to mankind their protection in exchange for their worship. Days of devotional rituals were performed according to each of the many pantheistic faiths sealing the bond which came to be known as the Second Covenant. The dates of the pantheistic cultures are measured from this date and abbreviated as SC and Before Second Covenant BSC.
The Kalkokitan people who lived in southern Ghorn were given the title by the Asrae of “Halo-dynes” – meaning “mighty souls”, and before long the Kalkokitans assumed the title as the name for their people. These Halodynes descended from the Cornucopian Mountains like avenging angels, their phalanxes of hoplites liberating ancestral lands from the Kassobari khanates around the Agros Bay. There they erected glorious cities, and upon the island of Theonitis, founded twelve head-temples – one for each of the primary Asrae deities in their pantheon. Each god of their pantheon possessed its own individual cult and priesthood which permeated throughout all of the Halodyne city-states.
The city-states went from strength to strength, and settlers spread out across central and southern Ghorn, carrying with them the Halodyne culture, within which was worship of the Asrae.
Though devoutly religious, Halodyne culture embodied much more than just worship – theatre, poetry, athletics, sculpture, architecture, and learning were important parts of a citizen’s life.
WYLDFOLK OF ANNYR
In north-western Ghorn, another of the Blessed Peoples – the Wyldfolk of Annyr – ventured from their sylvan lands in Zephyr, settling the sub-continent of Annyrion in a long and brutal campaign, whereby the descendents of the wicked empires of old were converted, expelled or executed. Druids formed the upper level of the new Annyr society, appointing kings and leaders of tribes and nations.
During this period mortals discovered that the mythical past had been a time of unbridled violence. Across the land were dotted huge plateaus which they named godlands, and in the skies above floated islands of rock which they called skylands. According to myth, they are both the remains of another world which was smashed during a war in the heavens, the pieces of which fell to Calydorn