The Elder Age Edit
It is not known whether it was indeed the Southern Kingdoms who were the first beings to set foot on Laria, but the oldest manuscripts all hail from that realm, so it is widely assumed so. The “Southern Kingdoms” is a vague term, still used today, to describe the loose network of patchwork kingdoms that cover the southwestern portion of Laria. Ever has the southwest been the seat of the power and might of Laria, home to its most vibrant and flourishing kingdoms throughout history. From the perspective of those who have written the histories, these kingdoms have traditionally been the seat for the forces of “good”, and the chief architects of law and order that made Laria a livable realm. Although the Southern Kingdoms undoubtedly brought order and stability, whether or not they always were good and just in their actions has always been a matter of debate. Nonetheless, they have played a central role in the mythos of Laria, and all the greatest kingdoms of today can trace their heritage back to these first nations.
What is stated here is but a general overview of the Elder Age; enough to give the reader a broad outline and a basic understanding. There are many more tales that cannot fit here.
The Beginning Edit
The records of the beginning are very scant and often incomplete, coming from a handful of crumbling manuscripts. The earliest tales tell of exploration and expansion, revealing that the very first peoples lived along the southwestern coasts and slowly expanded inward and northward. Hardly anything is known about how the first kingdoms were founded, how they lived, or what they believed, but their names receive an almost mystical reverence from scholars. Kingdoms such as Ulatha, Kirn, Volstok, Elebrith, and Silaya are the among those who will be remembered for all time as some of the founders of Larian civilization. In these first centuries, much of their efforts were put towards taming the wilderness of Laria. At first many dangerous creatures walked out in the open, and there were no roads or safe havens. The first kingdoms sacrificed much to make the realm safe and livable for the future.
As the centuries went on, many more cities and small nations were founded, and as the region became more stable, there was less focus on mere survival and more focus on pursuits of the mind and spirit. Approximately 500 years after the earliest records, the first magic orders were founded, as well as the first temples. In Laria one can feel the gods right beneath the surface, they wrote, and the very fabric of reality seems on the brink of bursting. It is said that in those times, magic was more easily summoned and manipulated than it is today. Although that claim is impossible to verify, the Elder Age saw some of the most powerful magic users ever known. There are many great names from those times who laid the foundation for ages of study into both arcane and divine magics. Grand arcane universities and huge, resplendent temples were built, and far more of the population practiced some form of magic than they do today.
Next follows a series of tales which describe how the many regions of Laria were shaped through the Elder Age and going into the Dark Era. Beneath each is a brief description, but aspiring scholars are encouraged to follow the link to more thoroughly research the specifics of each. These collections are in a somewhat chronological order, but many happen alongside one another and intertwine.
Rhodan the Conqueror and the Harrowing of the Midlands Edit
Main Article: The Harrowing of the Midlands
The warrior-king Rhodan unites the Midlands under one banner and defends the region from many indigenous threats. Rhodan gains the love and loyalty of his people and rules the region many decades, but in his old age he becomes stubborn and arrogant. His relations with the Southern Kingdoms deteriorates over several years, until he foolishly declares war on the more powerful and numerous southerners. One of the greatest strategists of all time, Rhodan surprises the south by inflicting heavy casualties and lasting far longer than they had thought, but his armies are eventually destroyed. The Southern Kingdoms commit a terrible atrocity known as the Harrowing of the Midlands, where, in ruthless vengeance, they raze every city and village in the region and slaughter much of the civilian population. Today, the Midlands still lack any large city or ruling power. However they are proud in their independence, and are a hardy people. With their warrior tradition still strong, some of the greatest swordsmen in Laria hail from Midland.
Of the Elves and the Settling of Tieryf Vale Edit
A large portion of the early peoples of Laria were elves, and when the vast forest realm of Tieryf was first discovered, they were naturally drawn to it. Many also remained behind as part of the Southern Kingdoms, but the majority of elves slowly filtered into the forest and set up great kingdoms of their own. The elves have stayed to themselves for most of the history of Laria, preferring not to get involved in the doings of others. But they will become involved if they consider something worth fighting for, such as their assistance to the Southern Kingdoms in the Demonic War. The council of the wise elves has always been highly valued, and even today the words of their kings and leaders carry heavy weight.
Founding of Ythria and Discovery of Dark Magic Edit
A magic-based kingdom is founded in the mountains where magical study is paramount. Many advances are made in all schools of magic, but the Ythrians were the first to discover dark magic. At this time “dark” magic was not considered evil but merely an antipode to light, much like fire is to water. Their approach to dark magic was more scholarly and innocent, regardless of the later ramifications of their discoveries. An open society, they openly disagreed with the Stratification Laws (discussed later) and supported rebel factions against the Southern Kingdoms. The south declared war on Ythria, and, knowing they could not defeat the south alone, they made a desperate attempt to summon forth dark beings from another plane which could help tip the scales. In their naivete of the true nature of dark magic, the ritual backfired and summoned forth an army of demons which destroyed the kingdom forever and started the Demonic War. At the conclusion of the war, the demons were defeated (but not eradicated) and the Keepers were founded. Most Ythrian survivors (those who had been away when the demons came) ended up living in the Bitter Heights with the marginalized peoples and rebels who had fought against the Stratification Laws, where their descendants would help to found the Kingdom of Uldurok.
The Arcane Renaissance and Stratification Laws Edit
The Kingdom of Ythria generated an explosion of magical knowledge which spread quickly throughout Laria. During this “Arcane Renaissance,” nearly every aspect of magic was revolutionized and dark magic was first studied by non-Ythrians. At this time, the general ethos of Larians regarding magic began to become very liberal and unrestrained, where all types of magic were explored to their fullest extent possible. The use of magic was so highly valued that over time, society began to be stratified into those who were skilled in it and those who were not. This led to the Stratification Laws, which mandated that citizens be treated differently according to magical ability. This created much tension within the southern societies, and there was social unrest which led to protests and even active rebellion. Ironically, it was the Kingdom of Ythria who took a stance against these laws, and secretly was funding and aiding the rebels. Once the Southern Kingdoms discovered this, they declared war on Ythria. The Ythrians, knowing they could not defeat the more powerful and numerous southerners alone, made a desperate attempt to summon dark beings from another plane to help tip the scales. This ended in catastrophe, destroyed the Kingdom of Ythria and led directly to the Demonic War.
The Demonic War Edit
A swift, terrible war between the Southern Kingdoms and a huge legion of demons which had been inadvertently summoned by the Ythrians in desperation. The Ythrians lost control of the summoning ritual, and a huge rift in the fabric of the material plane opened, spewing forth fel energy and legions of demons. Ythria was completed destroyed, and waves of demons spilled out into Laria in all directions, some moving even to the farthest corners of the continent. Even today there are still demons lurking in the darker places of Laria, hailing from this time. However the majority of demons and creatures summoned that day headed towards the Southern Kingdoms, whose armies were actually on its way to sack Ythria. The southern armies were caught at unawares, and were terrified and completely routed. The demons were not under any leadership, merely seeking death and destruction, and the organized southerners could often use their wit and planning to best the creatures. However within a few years the Southlands were ravaged and countless people had died. Had it not been for the assistance of the elves, who decided to come forth from their cities in Tieryf Vale and help fight back the evil flood, the Southern Kingdoms may have been destroyed. After a few years, the demons were pushed back towards the portal in the mountains. The greatest arcanists of the south then closed the portal for good, and the war was over. After the war, the Keepers were formed, an order of learned wizards and sorcerers who enacted the first laws governing magic use, and began jailing dark mages.
The Formation of of the Keepers Edit
The Keepers were an order of learned mages who formulated and helped to enforce the first laws governing the use of magic. Formed in response to the Demonic Wars, the Keepers declared that magic was in reality a dangerous tool and had to be approached with the utmost caution and seriousness. Controls were placed on all forms of magic, but they abhorred dark magic most of all and completely forbade it. In addition to enforcing these new laws, the Keepers took it upon themselves to sniff out practitioners of dark magic and bring them to justice.
The Great Exodus Edit
After the Demonic War, the Stratification Laws remained, and the rebels, no longer able to rely on Ythria for support, decided to leave the Southlands once and for all. In a Great Exodus, the marginalized peoples migrated northwards. Among their ranks were mostly commoners and warriors, but there were also dark mages (many of them Ythrians who had been away when the demons came) who were fleeing the powerful Keepers. The friendship between Ythria and the rebels was not forgotten, so the exiles helped to conceal the identities of these dark mages until a safe haven could be reached. Finally, after many years of wandering and constant harassment by the Keepers (for the Keepers knew the exiles were hiding dark mages among them), they came to the Cliff Wall, and scaled it to reach the Bitter Heights. Here they were isolated, and the Keepers could not easily keep an eye on them. They developed alone for many centuries, and their friendship with practitioners of dark magic played a part in the formation of the Kingdom of Uldurok, near the end of the Elder Age.
The Rebuilding Edit
The demons defeated, the south engages in rebuilding. It is a time of fear and uncertainty for much of the rural population, for some stray demons still wandered the countryside. The Keepers are busy hunting demons and dark mages mainly in the north, where they have constructed their new seat of power, the towers of Krol. With no Keepers to fend off stray demons in the south, the first demon-hunting guilds are formed. Cultural attitudes develop that reflect a hatred of dark forces and embracing of light. Growth in the number of paladins, clerics, and temples to ‘good’ gods. After several decades, the towns and villages are rebuilt, and the population rebounds after many successful harvests. A new generation of hopefuls emerges from the wreckage of the war.
The Second Migration and the Eastern Kingdoms Edit
After a century of relative peace, the new generation of Larians emerging from the Demonic War begins to feel the wanderlust. A second wave of expansion occurs. As the northern wilds become somewhat more secure from the presence of the Keepers, migrants begin moving northwards and turn east after the end of the Nahl Mountains. A second group of migrants move through the Karog Pass, between the Nahl Mountains and Tieryf Forest, emerging on a vast, untouched fertile plain in the east of Laria. In this plain several kingdoms are founded, but the most important are the kingdoms of Narga in the southeast and Esterloc in the middle east. Aside from Midland, these are the first kingdoms to be separate entities from the Southern Kingdoms, although they remained on friendly terms with their former home.
Battles in the North Edit
As people pushed northwards to settle all of Laria, they came up against barbarian tribes who had been living there since the days of the Great Exodus. Most of those exiles had settled on the Bitter Heights, but a substantial portion had instead moved to the northern tundra, a cold, hilly woodland realm. Many years after the establishment of Esterloc, its explorers began to encounter barbaric tribes of hardy warriors, often lead by wisemen or shamans who practiced dark magic. The barbarians were highly territorial and protective of their lands, and as Esterloc wished to expand its territories there were constant skirmishes in these northern lands. Esterloc did not realize that these northern barbarians were the descendants of the same exiles which had fled the south centuries earlier, and had lived meager lives in the frigid north, led and protected by dark mages of Ythrian descent.
The Northmen and the Founding of Uldurok Edit
The exiles from the Great Exodus which had occurred two years ago had since developed a barbarian culture of their own and split into two main groups: those that lived in the northern tundra, and those that lived on the Bitter Heights. Both had been led and protected by dark magic practitioners since the beginning, living austere and primitive lives in the frigid north and slowly transforming into a warrior-culture. They were now referred to as the Northmen, a people apart. So different had they become that few realized that they had once been southerners. The Northmen in the Bitter Heights, being in a far harsher and colder environment, were shaped into a tougher and hardier breed. And their sorcerers, who were mostly of Ythrian descent, had established multiple enclaves in the frozen forests where they could study in peace and make further advances in power. Thus it was in the Bitter Heights that there were the most powerful dark sorcerers and strongest warriors, and the barbarian tribes there were the most vigorous and strong. Seeing the potential of such a people, and having already gained their trust, the most powerful dark sorcerers began to unite the tribes of the Bitter Heights through conquest. Once power was consolidated, a great black fortress was built at the tip of the peninsula. The kingdom named itself Uldurok, and it was the first of its kind. It was the first kingdom that embraced darkness openly but operated like a true state, with a monarchy, a rigid set of carefully crafted laws, a court of nobles, a populace with a strong sense of identity, and an army. In its highest towers were formed the first schools devoted to dark magic since those of Ythria, except this time their intentions were to seek greater power rather than simply to learn. The first century of Uldurok’s existence was spent in a sort of brooding incubation, where they slowly built their power.
The End of the Elder Age Edit
In the final century of the Elder Age, the kingdoms of Laria were at relative peace with one another, while the north was considered a dangerous place. The Eastern Kingdoms, with a large, untouched and fertile realm at their disposal, grew in might and splendor until they matched their western counterparts. Most ominous were the warnings from the Keepers, who knew of the growing threat of Uldurok.