THE BLESSED AGE (700 SC – 1,800 SC)

Now that the seed of faith had sprouted upon Ghorn, the Asrae cast their gaze to the neighboring continents, where the Dark Age persisted. As the Darklands these were known – seething pits of savagery, where civilization survived in isolated pockets amidst hordes of Troglodytes, Banebrood, demons and other foul fiends. Champions the Asrae would have, to carry forth the torch of faith. And thus the five Annointed Champions were born unto Mortals.

Aesys, King of the Halodyne pantheon, came to Princess Cassiopeia of the Ogre kingdom of Threxia in the Halodyne lands, and fathered with her a child named Jendor. Riding the black dragon Grundemion, and wielding the Godslayer Exscorior, he set out to build a holy empire on Calydorn, reflecting the glory of the Asrae above. All of southern Ghorn and northern Notara fell before the trident-wielding hoplites and rhino-cavalry of his Ogre armies, and the Sunlands crowned him Pharaoh. His armies wheeled east, conquering untold numbers of Banebrood and demon lands, as well as the jewel of Volturna – the Kingdom of Nimburia, where the enigmatic Aetherion inhabitants crowned him god-king. Jendor’s march reached a dead-end at the borders of Akaran where his forces collided with the Malurian Sea-kings – a nation of decadent Aetherions. During the final struggle, the Sorcerer-Lords of Maluria took to the field and cursed Jendor with a fatal rotting disease. Jendor died of his affliction, and the daughters of Aesys descended to the underworld of Hadon, to resurrect his soul, but once reborn, he again fell victim to the wasting disease, dying after 30 years. For seven centuries thereafter, he sat brooding upon the Phoenix-Throne as the reincarnating Corpse King, resurrecting each time at the moment of his death.

Amid the heyday of this same age, the second Anointed Champion arose, born unto the Skannfyrd of Nordgaard. Hargan Isenwolff was his name, a half-ogre, standing in high favor as first champion of the Dwarven High King Gjaghorn. Isenwolff’s accomplishments would rival even Jendor. Upon pacifying Tartovara he sailed the Dragonship Armada across the Azure Ocean to the western continent of Zephyr where his Fyrd-host embarked on a sixty-year offensive carrying them to the far shore of the fabled Dawnfire Lands. Throughout this saga of untold feats, the Fyrd-Host was replenished by the children and grand-children of his warriors.

The Pendragon named Uthyr Songsword is accounted the third Annointed Champion. His exploits included the conquest of all of Annyrion and Tartovara. Having then led the Annyr to conquer Kassobar, Uthyr Songsword’s quest led him into the Feylands to recover the lost mortal realms which had been trans-located there during the cataclysm centuries before. Many tales are told of his exploits there, and he returned riding upon a red gryphon, with a Sidhe wife and a half-breed son. Though the gods abandoned him, Uthyr went on to build a cohesive empire in the lands he had conquered, known as the Empire of the Red Gryphon. Later in life, when his Sidhe allies in the Otherworld fell under attack by forces of the evil arch-god Valokh, Uthyr led his armies into the Feylands to aid them. It is said that there he was confronted by his brother Dolan who had become a general of Valokh’s armies, and the two brothers slew each other.

Distant legends also tell of Kashnu from the Seloise Islands; the fourth Champion who replanted the seeds of civilization in Ilvarta (southern Zephyr), Pharalan, the Dawnfire Lands, Tonatopa and the southern archipelagos. On the other side of the world, the Tiger-Queen Mwenda expelled the Malurian slave-lords from Anzugua and brought faith to all the lands around the Turquoise Ocean. Her blessed empire became famed as the Holy Realm of Umbagwe.

To the north, in Annyrion, a momentous event unfolded. According to the myths of the Elder Races, the Great Mother, as they call her, had long since been slain by the lord of demons from beyond the Cosmos. During the Celestial Death, a part of her innermost consciousness had cast itself into the force of nature which fills all living things. There in the deepest, wildest places, a portion of Dhannyas essence had survived. The Prophet Sheelin discovered this anima and proclaimed that it sought to awaken and regain sentience! She travelled the wilds of Western Ghorn, preaching The Awakening, and pledged her people to the sacred task of enabling the rebirth. From that time forth, the forest folk became known as the Tuatha de Dhannan – the Children of Dhannya.

In death, Sheelin joined her very soul to the anima, and pioneered this path for her people to follow. Over the next century, several thousand Tuathan followed Sheelin in death, entering the Eternal Circle of Life, and thereby adding sentience to the anima. It was not long before tree-spirits of sacred groves awoke to self-awareness; the Tuathan named them the Dryads.

Mankind first learned of the abomination named Valokh towards the end of the Blessed Age. According to myth Valokh was a god born by accident during a cataclysmic ritual of ancient sorcerers. Formed from the shredded remains of a million agonized souls, this consciousness was madness beyond comprehension. The gods learned in time that Valokh possessed a dual nature – its physical form writhed endlessly, trapped within the Black Pit at the centre of the cosmos, while its consciousness could permeate all existence. It learned how to focus its thought to form avatars of flesh, and thus were created the Three Faces of Valokh – Madness, Agony and Terror – each avatar mightier than scores of Asrae combined.

As worship of the Asrae gods increased exponentially, so did their power, due to the faith-bond of which joined mortals and gods. Valokh regarded the waxing might of the Asrae as a spider regards flies struggling in a web – a web which permeates all reality, and he was willed to assay their newfound power. The Face of Valokh which men name Agony lured Aesys, king of the Halodyne Pantheon, into battle, and Aesys’ godsoul was utterly extinguished. The Corpse-King Jendor, son of the god Aesys, gave chase, hunting the avatar across the heavens to the Mossdown Moonlets, where Agony and Madness unmade his soul with slow delight. With the final death of Jendor, his empire was thrown into chaos. Following a century of intrigue, the fractured Threxian Empire solidified into twelve states known as the Holy Sees, each controlled by one of the Halodyne temple-cults.

Valokh’s plans were frustrated, and in response it wrought havoc among the worlds and realms in the centuries to come. From behind the veils of time and space it plotted the downfall of the Asrae. The first step was the eradication of the other Blessed Empires which he initiated by slaying the remaining four Annointed Heroes – Isenwolff, Uthyr Songsword, Kashnu and Mwenda. Across Calydorn he orchestrated the dissonance of disorder, setting the successor states of the Threxian Empire, the Gødermark and the other Blessed Empires to warring with each other. Amplifying the dissonance of his Symphony of Chaos he caused the enemies of humanity to muster – Troglodytes, Banebrood, Demons and Aetherions picked at the bones of the empires like vultures. As quickly as they had blossomed the flowers of the Asrae had withered; the Blessed Age was over. The Asrae now saw Valokh as the greatest threat to themselves and the future of the cosmos and they deliberated long on a plan to thwart it