THE AGE OF WOE (1,800 SC – 2,930 SC)
Far to the west, in the Azure Ocean lies the fabled continent of Malentis, inhabited by Aethrions. It is said to be ruled by a matriarchal line of empresses – the Court of the Sable Swan. Their scarlet-sailed slaver galleys often raid the coasts of Ghorn, and today hundreds of thousands of Mortal slaves form an underclass laboring for the Malentians, enabling a culture of decadent and privileged hedonists whose carnal pleasures and intellectual pursuits can be indulged unfettered by the necessities of toil. What Mortals cannot do, the legions of enslaved demons perform, for the Malentians are the masters of demonology, incorporating their former enemies as thralls within their armies. Aetherions are innately endowed with a mastery of sorcery – an art which is but a mere facet of their mythic heritage of reality creation. Malentians focused on their own self-aggrandizement through the pursuit of arcane power and occult philosophies. It was a path lined with the dangerous fruits of reckless ambition and hubris. Neither good nor evil, the Malentians are amoral, possessing value systems far more elaborate and embracive than mortals, for they are four dimensional beings able to mold reality, and what is good and evil but a facet of reality.
To the east, the Golden Kingdom of Nimburia prospered for many thousands of years, but during the Blessed Age, was assimilated into Jendor’s Threxian Empire. Over the next few hundred years of occupation, the proximity of the two races brought about inter-breeding between Aetherions and humans, forming a hybrid people. The Threxian Ogre dynasty of Jendor ruled the Golden Kingdom for the next 900 years until a group of pure-blood Aetherions assassinated the entire royal family. A new hierarchy fell into place, with pure-bloods as rulers; hybrids forming the middle class, and Mortals constituting the under-class. The resurgent Golden Kingdom fought a series of wars with the Threxian successor states – the 12 Holy Sees – conquering three of them, and sweeping ever westward with the desert winds towards Ghorn. The Nimburians worship of their creators – the Dawn Gods, enhancing their esoteric traditions of reality manipulation, enabling them to alter time and space.
THE MORTAN EMPIRE
By the beginning of the Classical Age, the Dolmatinine Mountains at the heart of Ghorn were home to various ethnic peoples, the sediment left after the waves of imperial conquests during the mythical Halcyon Age. Predating all of these empires was a group of nine Philosopher Lords from the continent of Zephyr known as the Godeaters, slumbering within the heart of Mount Ashgod. Now they awoke from their millennia of sleep, and among the tribes of the Dolmatinines they went in secret, preaching the virtues of logic, technology and liberty, while denouncing the gods. In order to prolong their mortal bodies, the Godeaters delved into the secrets of death, thereby exhuming the craft of Necromancy and becoming undead liches. In the next centuries their bodies withered to animated corpses, but their souls were those of demigods, and together, the 13 were more than a match for an entire pantheon of Asrae. Thirteen city-states were infiltrated and raised to greatness. At this time the Asrae were busy shoring up their collapsing Blessed empires and unconcerned with the heartland of Ghorn which they assumed to be steadfastly pantheist.
It was then that the 13 mighty states united into a single forbidding nation likes the cogs in a machine, and during the following period of consolidation an empire was born – the Mortan Empire – led by the 13 lichelord emperors. By the time the Asrae became concerned, it was already too late, for the Godeaters were formal mortals who had gorged themselves on the souls of deities and demons and confrontation was deemed too costly. The Asrae relied on Mortal worship for their greatness, and a new anti-theist culture spreading malcontent among mortal cultures at a time when their kingdoms had been humbled represented a grave threat. Ignoring the burgeoning empire proved unwise, but by the time direct confrontation through mortal proxies was organized, the Blessed Empires had fractured and were being assailed on all sides. The tight organization of the Mortan Empire provided the Lichelords with a decisive advantage over the disarray of the broken Blessed Empires in an 800 year campaign in which they seized large sections of the Threxian and Annyr lands, emerging as the most powerful nation on Ghorn.
Built upon the cornerstones of Necromancy and Alchemy, the Lichelords employed the darker side of technology to fashion a constrictive and militant regime. Mortan citizens took to ancestor worship, communing with their forebears, and drawing on the power of family revenants. Supporting the Mortan military were necromancers and undead legions. State by state they conquered the ancient people of the Medartha Peninsula and moved southwards capturing the Asherah Basin, Gelion Rift, and Jalanon Sea, opening up a new theater of war around the Middle Sea. Each time they faced defeat, the Mortans innovated. To their arsenal the alchemists and engineers of the Technostratum added acid bombs and naphtha-flamers and war-machines like the Scorpio bolt-thrower and Cataclysm Catapult.
THE NIGHTFALL GODS
Troglodytes claim that during the mythical ages their Vanitan gods of shadow killed the sun and that the dead godsoul of the sun was reborn as a pantheon of gods of Darkness known as the Nightfall Pantheon. Now these deities of the new element called Darkness had grown strong enough to stand beneath the Red Sun. The Nightfall Gods went forth among the Troglodytes and Stygian races of Nagas, Gorgons and Webwidows, wherein they found willing servants. As worship spread throughout Troglodyte society, the Traditionalists fought back, declaring it heresy. Pogroms and civil wars reshaped the Troglodyte kingdoms into lands of Traditionalists led by Shadow Mages, and Darkdawn Crusaders following the Stygian gods.
On the central continent of Ghorn, the Stygian goddess Garasha, became God-Empress of the Troglodytes of the Cephalos and Cragspire Mountains. Numerous realms of Stygian creatures pledged themselves to Garasha, and she became the single most powerful entity on Ghorn. Inevitably, the Shadow Troll traditionalists pushed back and war erupted across Calydorn between these two opposing factions, engulfing neutral lands in chaos.
In the south of Ghorn lay the ruins of the legendary empire of Minaxos. Since before the Dark Age, it had been a vast stronghold of Minotaurs, Fomorions and other foul brood. According to myth, the last princess of the Mitras dynasty was affected when the empire was cursed and turned to the malformed monsters men call today Banebrood. It is said that she gave birth to a minotaur child. During the Age of Woe, a Minotaur claiming to be the descendant of the Mitras Dynasty of Minaxos gored his way to power, conquering all of the warlords of the former kingdom, and crowning himself Bull Emperor, beginning the Tauran Empire. For several centuries, hordes of Banebrood swept outwards, crushing forever the neighboring Khanate of Kur-Karesh, and the Holy See of Threxia. The Tauran Empire went on to conquer the Halodyne city-state of Cephalon and half of the Amazonian lands.
PERIL OF PROPHECY
The Asrae were outraged at Valokh’s slaying of Aesys and had long sought vengeance for the destruction of the Blessed Empires. To this end they fashioned a prophesy for the coming millennium; harnessing the will of their worshippers to meld reality. And so it was that the great heroine Syratha NiMourn was born among the Wlydfolk of Annyr – the Bringer of Hope, the nemesis of Valokh. According to the widely held prophesy, Syratha was destined to triumph in the ultimate confrontation, but the Face of Madness deviously lured Syratha back in time. They emerged in an age before the prophesy existed, where its power was null, and there, hope itself died as the Nemesis Child was slain.
While Valokh did survive, all was not lost, for the Empress Shenretsha of Malentis had scried the outcome of the prophesy, and seized a chance. In the instant of the avatar’s victory, Shenretsha stepped from the shadows and struck an immortal blow with the Godslayer she wielded shattering the avatar’s essence into infinitely dividing slivers dispersing across time and space.
Besides Humanity, other forces in the cosmos were also determined to destroy Valokh, for he threatened all of existence. A second Face of Valokh was hunted down and devoured by the mightiest demon-lords of Azrathul. The two Banebrood gods Kellgore and Gorian Banemane hunted the third and entombed it within the Amber Moon. Valokh sought with renewed vigor to free its body trapped within the Black Eye. It came to realize that the bars of its prison were dependent upon the power of the gods maintaining it, and that the power of the gods rested in turn upon the worship of Mortals and Elemental Races. So began its eon-spanning scheme for apocalyptic freedom by undermining the power of the Asrae. All across Calydorn bizarre cults sprang up, waxing daily in power. Anarchy seized some lands and other began a slow descent into the debauchery and decadence of a new age.