Prehistory: The Period Before Recorded Time

On Arcanis, the earliest instance of recorded history comes from a sentient reptilian race known as the ssanu who set down the story of their migration northwards over ten thousand years in the past. The ssanu were accompanied by other reptilian races subservient to the serpent men, such as the ss’ressen, iguadons, the enslaved kobolds and others. Collectively called ssethrics, they founded the Yahssremoran Empire, then embarked on a centuries long series of conquests, enslaving those that would submit to their rule or exterminating those that did not.

These Wars of Extinction wiped out several races upon Arcanis, and would have continued apace were it not for the il’Huan, a distant relation of the issori. These sentient beetle-like creatures possessed powers of the mind and proved more than a match for the ssethrics.

After suffering terrible losses, the great sorcerer Ss’koreth was tasked with solving the il’Huan problem. After a few false starts, it was decided that a new servitor race was needed, one infused with the power to withstand the il’Huan onslaught. The ssanu contacted four powerful elemental lords from other planar realms, and with the Emperor’s blessing, entered into a foul bargain with them. By combining a fraction of their elemental essence with that of the personification of the world of Arcanis itself, an entity known as Belisarda, a stable matrix was crafted and the five elorii bloodlines were born.

With the infusion of fresh elorii troops into the ssethric ranks, the scaled juggernaut overwhelmed the il’Huan and eradicated the species.
Why the Elemental Lords allowed the elorii to suffer the yoke of servitude under the coils of the serpent empire is unknown. Passively, they remained aloof and watched as their tacit offspring committed atrocities under the orders of the ever-expanding Yahssremoran Empire and their ongoing Wars of Extinction. In all, twelve sentient races were wiped from the face of Arcanis by the efficient elorii, a shame they still bear to this day.

The Elorii Rebellion

For centuries, the ssethrics grew fat and decadent as the elorii and other enslaved races handled the more unpleasant or difficult aspects of empire. As their indolence grew, so too did the ssethrics’ need for diversion, which was filled with acts of cruelty and depravity. When the elorii were subjected to unspeakable experiments by the Black Coil, the premier group of ssethric magi, the elemental scions had had enough.

The spark that ignited the empire-wide rebellion began when Salos, an elorii servant of the ancient ssanu sorcerer Ss’koreth, was discovered practicing sorcery. The magical arts were not only forbidden to the slave-race, but thought to be impossible of the elorii. The battle between Ss’koreth and Salos erupted from within the infamous Tower of Gettulus to its threshold, where all could witness the battle.

No match for the Arch-Mage, the elorii was cut down before a large crowd, including many elorii. Seeing that his fears were at last realized, for he had warned the Emperor to be wary of allowing the elorii too much freedom, Ss’koreth ordered that every elorii in the great capital be executed.

Unfortunately for the old serpent, the elorii reacted quicker than their scaled masters. The rebellion swept out from the capital city of Yahssremore outwards, with those ssethrics not slain forced to the furthest edges of their empire. The survivors finally settled in the far corner of their territory, a deep swamp known as the Kraldjur Morass, where its bogs, dense foliage and uneven, flooded ground gave them an advantage against the elorii.
The Ssethregoran Empire would never again rise to the heights of its predecessor’s glory and power, but remains a deadly spear pointed towards the very heart of the continent to this day.

The Eloran Empire

After the overthrow of the Yahssremoran Empire, the elorii systematically tore down the hated capital city and built upon its foundation the city of Belestor. There, mankind’s knowledge of that period of time would have ended were it not for the discovery of a sealed urn found deep beneath the First City. Within it was a brittle and cracked scroll known as the Fragmentos Alenares, which spoke of a hegemony, for they had no desire to rule over sentient races, given their deep shame and guilt the elorii felt over their actions during the Wars of Extinction.

Human scholars presume that, with the exception of one final war against the resurgent Ssethregoran Empire, a war that finally shattered the ssethrics’ dreams of resuming their place of dominance in the world, the elorii led a peaceful existence alongside their deities, the four Elemental Lords and Belisarda.

That idyllic existence began to end on the day when storm clouds, literally and metaphorically, began to gather in the eastern horizon.

The War of the Gods

There came a day when a stranger appeared, filled with divine light so powerful that the Goddess Belisarda felt compelled to welcome Him and his followers. She named him Umor, which meant the Tattered and Sad Lord, and gave him succor. After many years had passed, those chasing the strangers finally arrived upon the shores of Onara. Met by the elorii, these new visitors called themselves Man, and were protected by divine beings of such power that even the Elemental Lords were given pause.

Discovering that they were pursuing Umor, they quickly called out to Belisarda and found that She, as well as their guest, were missing. Enraged by this betrayal, the Elemental Lords joined forces with the Gods of Man, and searched throughout their empire until he and his followers were discovered.

A great battle ensued and though outnumbered, Umor not only held them off the combined power of the divine beings arrayed against him, but pushed them back.

As above so below, and the humans and elorii found themselves fighting side-by-side against the followers of Umor. The God Illiir feared the battle would be lost, when a new player came onto the field. Calling Herself Anshar, She claimed to be Illiir’s long lost sister, and whispered in his ears how to turn the tide of the battle and defeat Umor. What she suggested made Illiir blanche, but he knew the stratagem she proposed was their only hope.

Crestfallen, He bid four of His fellow deities to betray the Elemental Lords, and take from them their power. The four Gods did as they were commanded, attacking their erstwhile allies, devouring their essence. So empowered, the Pantheon of Man turned to their foe only to find him vanished, the Other had escaped them leaving his followers behind.

Suddenly feeling the presence of their deities disappear, the elorii were further shocked by the sudden onslaught perpetrated by their allies. Commanded by Illiir to turn on the elorii, their children quickly became butchers, and bathed in the blood of the Eternal People. They toppled an empire and quickly took it for their own.

Devastated by the sudden turn of fortune, the elorii fled from the ravening horde of humans. The survivors fled into the Vastwood there to remain, unseen and unheard for millennia. Clinging to the promise of their remaining goddess that their day of vengeance would one day come.

As for humanity, they now had a new continent to conquer, as ordained by their gods. They tore down the ruins of Belestor, the capital of the elorii, and rebuilt it to their Gods’ liking, the First City of Man.

And from this time and place began the Age of Man.

The Imperium of Man

Considered the Golden Age of Man, the Imperium of Man spanned most of the continent, with a few regions of notable exception, such as the Vastwood where the elorii of Elonbé held dominion, as well as the far western portion controlled by the Ossarion Empire. The Imperium also included holdings in other planar realms, as well as settlements in other parts of the world, though where and what these were is unknown.

According to the scriptures of the Holy Canticle, following the founding of the Imperium, the Gods bid several of their Valinor, celestial servants of the deities, to lead this new age of man. From this edict the val race was born. Tasked with governing over humanity while the Gods attended to other duties requiring Their attention, the various val families ruled over the Imperium at times brilliantly, frequently competently, and oft times disastrously.

For almost two thousand years the Imperium persevered and thrived, but it is the nature of things to decay, and so it was with the Imperium. Over the centuries it grew indolent, self-indulgent, and corrupt. During one of these phases, the ruling val even enslaved one of their own, the val’Virdan, the scions of Nier, for a perceived betrayal. Used as janissaries to put down rebellions and fight endless wars for them, the val’Virdan slowly became the weapon of choice of their captors.

These Nierites fought and died in blood soaked fields, slept in mud filled ditches, and chafed under the yoke of slavery for generations but never prayed to Nier for salvation, for they knew He would be disgusted by the weakness. Instead, they bided their time, knowing that their stoic suffering would one day be rewarded. It was with the birth of Leonydes val’Virdan, the Sword of the Heavens.

The Theocracy of the Cleansing Flame

By sixteen years of age, Leonydes was taller than many adult warriors, and had slain as many foes as many veteran Nierites. By nineteen, outlawed Nierite priests took him to undergo the Trial by Fire at one of the Holy Pillars of Flame, said to be the burning blood of Nier shed during the Devouring of the Elemental Lord, Keleos. Within a year the young Leonydes val’Virdan, proclaimed the prophesied Sword of the Heavens, led a rebellion against the corrupt rulers of the Imperium.

Blessed by Nier, Sword of the Heavens’ army was said to be unbeatable as long as it was led by him. Leonydes routed legion after legion, putting the defeated to the flaming stake, while reinstating a more orthodox and stringent interpretation of the Holy Canticle.

For three years the Imperium burned as the Sword of the Heavens marched upon the capital built long ago upon the ruins of Belestor. The First City was gripped with panic at the coming of the val’Virdan army. Sending away the imperial family, the last imperator, Orismandros val’Assanté refused to abdicate the Throne of Man to a val’Virdan mongrel and instead ordered the imperial throne room sealed to deny Leonydes his prize. As the final key was about to be turned and the stone doors sliding on the greased rails, the Sword of the Heavens swept into the Imperator’s shrinking field of view. In one fluid motion, Leonydes grabbed a spear from a dead legionnaire and threw with such force that it sailed through the narrow opening and impaled the last Imperator of Man upon his throne even as he was sealed away.

Though Leonydes val’Virdan was declared Imperator and continued to call the conquered empire the Imperium, though modern scholars almost universally refer to it as the Theocracy of the Cleansing Flame. The period was known for the horrific toll on life that was inflicted on all those that strayed even a fraction from the religious doctrine imposed upon the populace. In addition, the val’Virdan took this opportunity to redress every slight and wrong inflicted upon them during their enslavement.

The Sword of the Heavens’ harsh rule made his reign an unquiet one, with an endless string of bloody rebellions and equally vicious reprisals. So numerous were these insurrections, that it is said that he barely spent a day of every year of his reign in the First City.

After thirty-three years, the beginning of the end came when the ancient city of Nishanpur overthrew their Nierite overlords and nervously awaited the arrival of the Red Cloaked armies led by the Sword of the Heavens. It was then that a stranger arrived, swathed in a dark sable cloak, with a possible solution. History records this stranger as a sorcerer of great power, named simply Amanth, who proposed a trap for Leonydes, one which involved great sacrifice while he enacted a terrible ritual. Preparations were made, and they awaited his arrival.

Eventually, Leonydes and his army arrived on the plains of Nishanpur. The Nierites’ patience was frayed and wished nothing more than to stake the leaders of the rebellion and return home. Yet while his army was continuously engaged by forces that refused to give the Nierites a proper face-to-face battle, Leonydes was attacked by wave after wave of warriors that engaged him in single combat.

Unable to be defeated while he was wrapped in Nier’s holy flames, he slowly became enraged as an endless number of combatants stalled him, as Amanth and several Sarishan sorcerers enacted their grand ritual. Finally, as his last opponent fell, the spell was completed.

With a crack, the holy flames that protected Leonydes solidified, sealing him within a block of flame frozen in time. The sight of their divine leader defeated, broke the spirit of the Nierite army, with the survivors fleeing east. Word spread quickly that the unbeatable Sword of the Heavens was no more and the long-suffering citizens of the Theocracy of the Flame quickly revolted, putting their oppressors to the fate many of their fellow citizens experienced, impaled on a stake and set ablaze.

With the end of Leonydes’ reign, so too was the final twinkling light of civilization snuffed out in the Known Lands. An age of ignorance and darkness descended upon humanity as the Shadowed Age was ushered in with death, hatred and ignorance.

The Shadowed Age

Within a century, mankind went from being the absolute masters of the continent, wielding the power to shape the world, to digging into the hard earth, scrounging for tubers just to survive. In the Known Lands, this time became known as the Shadowed Age, one where the light of civilization attempted to reignite numerous times, but all were too weak to lead the way towards a re-enlightenment. As the decades stretched into centuries, the extant settlements of humanity became isolated islands surrounded by savage seas of barbarity.

The rich and vast religion venerating the Pantheon of Man dissolved, as the remoteness of each settlement, as well as brutal wars took their tolls. Few, if any, copies of the Holy Canticle remained complete and intact, leading the desperate cities of the Known Lands to worship their own city’s patron God over the rest of the Pantheon.

The Rise and Fall of Empires

Many tales of woe and misery can be told of life during the Shadowed Age, such as the fall of the Sky Kingdom of the kio, the Myrantian-Eryunellian War, and the invasion and brutal enslavement of the populace of what is today the Hinterlands and Milandir by the merciless Auxunite Empire.

Many fledging nations attempted to forge a new civilization, though none lasted for more than a few generations before internal and external strife tore them apart.

From these ruins and wars was born the Republic of Altheria and the stage was set for larger darker things to come.

The Time of Terror

The Shadowed Age ended, not with a triumphant cheer as humanity reclaimed its former glory, but rather with a scream of terror and madness. Centuries after the Myrantian-Eryunellian War, the Sorcerer King returned to the shores of the continent. As his foot was about to step upon the land, the curse of the last Necromancer Lord rang in his mind – that should he return to Onara, Hell would greet him.

Without a confident step the Sorcerer King strode forth and the very edges of reality frayed and ripped asunder. As the boundaries between the mortal realm and the Hells dissolved, infernal denizens swept through, not just where he had landed, but across the continent, perhaps even the world.

How the Sorcerer King survived that horde is a mystery left to time but he was driven back to the Isle of Tears as hell erupter on the Mortal Realm.

Devils, demons, fiends, and other inhuman creatures rampaged across the land, leaving nothing but ruin and woe in their wake. Unprepared for the sudden onslaught, the people fell to the infernals’ depredation. From the savage rapine inflicted upon the female populace would come the tiefling, human beings touched by their infernal progenitor’s foul taint.

From this time rose a man whose name and image remains lost to the ages, but henceforth has been known as the First Emperor of Coryan. Rallying the men and women of the city of Old Coryan, they banded together and stood vs the horde that plagued the world.

After more than thirty years, the Coryan pushed those infernals that had fallen to their crusade up into the north, their backs against a small mountain chain. In a final confrontation known as the Battle of Hope’s End, the First Emperor and Uhxbractit, the Devil-King leader of the infernal horde, faced off in single combat. Legend says that the contest between the two lasted days, when finally a poisoned barb laid the First Emperor low. At this, both sides rushed towards each other, pulling back their respective champions and preparing for a final confrontation at dawn.

That evening, slowly dying from the demonic poison coursing through his veins, the First Emperor prayed to the Gods to not forsake their children. Before the first rays of light brightened the sky, two Valinor appeared and told the massed army that the Gods had not forsaken them, and all would be well. With that, they flew the First Emperor up into the heavens.

As dawn broke and the infernal horde prepared for a final onslaught, the land beneath their feet shook, the mountains soared up four times their original height pushing the demon masses back, trapping them behind the impassable Wall of the Gods.

The Age of Enlightenment

Anointed by the First Emperor before his death, Almeric val’Assanté became Coryan’s second emperor and began the arduous task of forging an empire from the banded together crusaders. Throughout the following hundred years, the Coryani Empire grew and came to see itself as the successor state to the ancient Imperium of Man, going so far as adopting its military traditions and attempting to reconstruct the unified religion of the Pantheon. The formerly independent city-states of the time were so embattled and terrified by the infernal invasion, that they readily joined the empire, first in a loose alliance, and then quickly as provinces of the sprawling nation.

Though there was the infrequent rebellion to quash as the empire settled, its greatest challenge during its early period was the creation of the Mother Church of Coryan. While not without its flaws, the solution created the largest and most stable religious body in the Known Lands. Though it too would eventually fracture, with first the Canceri Church of the Dark Triumvirate, and later the Milandric Orthodox Church breaking off centuries later.

The Coryani Empire

While many events rocked the empire since its founding, the Khitani wars losing much of its territory, and the miraculous return and subsequent disappearance of Leonydes val’Virdan, the Sword of the Heavens, none impacted the rest of the Known Lands like the Coryani Civil War. A war incited due to differing ideologies and religion rather than political maneuverings, the Civil War ripped the empire, as well as families and allied races, apart.

In 1026 I.C., before many of the citizenry of Grand Coryan, Emperor Calcestus val’Assanté accused Patriarch Felician val’Mehan, head of the Mother Church of Coryan, of collusion with the heretical Church of the Dark Triumvirate of Canceri, and promptly executed him.

Turning to the stunned crowd, the Emperor stated that a Valinor of Illiir had appeared, informing him of the Patriarch’s treasonous action. After declaring the seat of Mother Church and the Empire would be merged, with him as the head of both, a statue was unveiled, one so tall that it eclipsed that of Illiir on the top of the Temple of the Pantheon. The statue depicted an imposing figure, topped with the likeness of the Emperor himself. The meaning was clear – the position of emperor had risen above that of the Gods.

Moments later, far off in the northwest, a low rumble turned into a mighty crash as a cataclysmic avalanche signaled the fall of the impassable Godswall, leaving mankind exposed to the infernal threat caged since the Time of Terror. The Emperor’s actions, claimed to be at the behest of an Illiric Valinor, set off a series of events that threatened to tear the empire apart. The northern provinces and their legions rebelled, eventually joined by Cafela and the dwarven enclave of Solanos Mor. Hundreds of thousands died, both innocent civilians and legionnaires on both sides with the war being mirrored on a celestial level. Fully two-thirds of the Valinoric hosts battled one another, one side allied with the Illiric Valinor known as Manetas, the Pride of Illiir, and the loyalist forces of the empire, while the other moved to check their divine siblings. As the walls of Grand Coryan were breached, and the rebel forces battled in the capital city, the combined forces discovered that Emperor Calcestus had been impersonated and deposed by Manetas.

The cost for the civil war was massive as many of the Known Lands’ greatest heroes perished in the battle, including the true Emperor Calcestus val’Assanté and General Menisis val’Tensen. Leaving wounds in the empire that a still healing and a deep distrust in the church and the nations.

The Modern Era

Over forty years have passed since the Coryani Civil War ended. During that period of time, the infernals made an incursion into the Hinterlands, causing Milandir to respond by calling forth the Fifth Crusade of Light, a brutal war between the Altherian Republic and the elorii of Entaris was fought, the territories of Ulfila of the Coryani Empire and the Milandric Duchy of Moratavia peacefully secede from their respective motherlands to form the new nation of Almeric, and almost immediately falls into a bloody civil war over questions of rulership, and a schism within the Mother Church of Coryan precipitates the creation of the Milandric Orthodox Church.

Details on these and many other events can be found in the individual entries of each nation. With the rumblings of a full infernal invasion from the north, the whispers of prophecy by the idiot priests of Illiir of the ‘Coming of the Destroyer’, and the return of a great scourge to ravage the Known Lands, it’s clear that the time for Heroes has never been greater.