History of Aetaltis: Part IV

Witness the birth of the legendary Deepland kingdoms of the dwarves, and marvel at the discovery of rune magic. But beware, for war is at hand as the Dark Hordes of Endoren prepare to strike, heralding the coming Age of Darkness.

A scribe copies the Adventure's Guide to Aetaltis for an aspiring hero. (Art by Mitchell Malloy)

Click here to read the previous installment of The History of Aetaltis.

The Dwarven Age

The Ritual of Limitation did little harm to the dwarves and their kingdoms. They’d always maintained a strong tradition of working without magic, as the insubstantial nature of spells made them uneasy. Dwarven minds prefer tangible concepts. From the solid stone walls of their Deepland halls to a firm love of tradition, the dwarves tend to look to that which is immovable and unchangeable.

This non-reliance on magic meant the dwarven kingdoms were perfectly positioned to fill the cultural and political void left when the power of the fey courts waned in the wake of the changes wrought by the Ritual of Limitation. The dwarves prospered in this new world and quickly expanded their Deepland holdings farther and deeper than ever before.

The Discovery of Rune Magic

Although the enari felt the impact of the Ritual of Limitation, they were not immediately aware of what caused the change in magic. In an effort to unravel the mystery, King Mordket IV of the Donaren Mountains, a range known today as the Donarzheis Mountains, ordered his sages to discern the specific ways in which the magic of the world had been altered.

Learned dwarven scholars studied legendary artifacts, performed arcane experiments, and pored over ancient scrolls and texts in search of an answer. Although they were unable to determine the exact nature of what had happened, by a quirk of fate they stumbled upon something far more important.

While conducting one of their experiments, the scholars created an arcane symbol through which they could channel the now seemingly uncontrollable raw essence. The result was an effect remarkably similar to that of spells prior to the Ritual. The early results were relatively minor, and the magical effect of that first rune was little more than a soft blue glow, but it was the first controlled manifestation of arcane magic since the Ritual.

The sages were quick to explore their discovery. They found that they could vary the effect produced by altering the symbol’s physical form. By combining a series of symbols and then channeling essence through them in succession, they could create more complex and longer lasting magical effects.

Over the next few decades, the scholars of the Donaren Mountains developed a lexicon of these designs. Each one was devised to make a specific change to the essence channeled through it and to function in set ways when combined with other symbols. They called this new method of manipulating essence rune magic.

With the discovery of rune magic, the dwarves further solidified their position of power in the lands surrounding (and under) the Amethyst Sea. Soon they added the creation of rune inscribed objects to their arsenal of arcane secrets, which allowed the dwarves to create not only spells but enchanted devices. This furthered secured their control of the region and their place as masters of the age.

The Rise of Darkness

The Enaros believed they’d seen the last of Endroren. They hoped that after his banishment he’d leave the world, never to return. Instead, Endroren used his powers to creep unseen back to Aetaltis. To avoid discovery, he descended into the Deeplands. Down and down he climbed, past the deepest dwarven halls, until he reached the core of the world.

Alone in shadow, Endroren’s anger consumed him like a cancer. Bit by bit, it corrupted his spirit, until all that remained of his divine soul was a bleak darkness. Endroren had been transformed, an Enaros no more, and with his transformation he gained awareness of ancient secrets known only to those who have Fallen. Where Endroren had once been the Lord of Magic, now he became the Lord of Darkness.

Using his new powers, Endroren contrived to build an army of minions to serve him. Sculpted from pure Darkness, he called these beings abomonae. He sent them to the surface and gave them orders to bring back samples of the living things the Enaros created.

The abomanae soon returned bearing gifts for their master. They brought animals, plants, insects, enari, and more. Endroren set to work experimenting on the captives. Calling upon Dark powers never seen on Aetaltis before, Endroren twisted the prisoners’ minds, bodies, and spirits, transforming them into Dark shadows of their former selves.

At first his efforts were less than successful. The monstrous results were more than even Endroren could bear to look on. Some of these abominations he cast out, others he destroyed, and still others he locked away in hidden Deepland prisons. Despite these failures, Endroren’s gre more adept at manipulating the powers of Darkness with each passing day.

THE FORGOTTEN ONES

It is said that a few of the first hideous monsters Endroren created are still alive today. Some may still be locked away in their Deepland prisons, waiting for an unsuspecting fool to free them, while others are believed to prowl the deepest of the Deepland halls. Others still are thought to have made their way to the surface where they lurk in the Dark places of the upper world waiting for victims to stumble on their lairs.

The Creation of the Endrori

When Endroren received enari prisoners from the abomonae, he set out to thoroughly corrupt their bodies and spirits. In whatever way the enari was beautiful, Endroren made his creation terrible. Where the enari was kind, he made his monster cruel. If the enari was refined, he made his fiend brutish. He twisted and experimented upon them until he perfected their Dark opposite. He called these monsters his endrori, which means “Children of Endroren.”

Next Endroren bred these foul creations. He raised their offspring with violence, pain, and cruelty. The weak were culled, and only the most terrible of the endrori survived. He bred them over and over, until he'd created an army of monsters.

Endroren called his armies the Dark Hordes, and he armed them with cruel blades, fiendish armor, and evil spells. When all his preparations were complete, Endroren threw open the gates of his lair. The Dark Hordes surged forth into the Deeplands like a deadly plague.

Their orders were brutally simple: destroy everything.

The Siege of the Deeplands

Only the very oldest dwarven kingdoms had descended to the far depths of the Deeplands. For centuries, these venerable kingdoms had tunneled into the deepest Deepland caverns, and unbeknownst to the dwarves, this placed them perilously close to Endroren’s sanctuary. These dwarves felt safe from their enemies beneath miles of stone. They had few defenses, and what defenses they did have protected against an enemy attacking from above.

The dwarves never suspected that the greatest danger lay beneath them. When the Dark Hordes roared out of the core of the world, the dwarves of the deep kingdoms were caught unprepared. Their defeat was swift and bloody, and very few dwarves managed to escape. Within a matter of days, the deep kingdoms had fallen.

Alarm spread through the Deepland halls. Warriors were called to arms, armies were raised, and hasty defenses were erected against the evil surging up from the depths. On the surface, the events transpiring below were little more than distant rumors, and for the moment, the other enari remained unconcerned.

The dwarves, however, were fighting for their lives. For every endrori that fell, Endroren sent forth three more to take its place. No matter how bravely the dwarves fought or how long their defenses held, they could not hope to win.

Despite the hopelessness of their cause, the dwarves continued to fight. All the while, the enari on the surface ignored the rumors coming out of the Deepland kingdoms. The rulers of the surface nations were content to let the
dwarves deal with the danger, not wishing to become involved in the Deepland war, certain that the enemy, whoever it was, would never reach them. When the Stone Gate fell and the Dark Hordes erupted onto the surface, however, the other enari could no longer ignore the threat.

Victory of the Dark Hordes

The Stone Gate was an enormous Deepland entrance carved into the Stonegate Mountains. Over a hundred feet high and three hundred feet wide, the great gate led straight into Deepland halls.

THE STONE GATE

The gargantuan Deepland entrance known as the Stone Gate was an essential component of the dwarven trade system. A majority of dwarven trade, even that originating in distant Deepland nations, passed through the Stone
Gate. Over the centuries the Stone Gate became the primary point of connection between the surface and the Deeplands.

The name isn’t dwarven in origin. Among the dwarves the gate was known as Barator Bayithdor, which translates “The Settlement at the Mouth of Bayith,” but merchants who traded with the dwarves at the entrance christened it the Stone Gate. The name stuck, and over the years the gate became so important that the name came to represent both the dwarves of that region and the mountains they lived in.

When the last of the Stone Gate’s defenses failed, the Dark Horde had a clear path to the surface. Like a torrent of pure evil, they burst through the great gate and into the unsuspecting surface lands beyond. First hundreds, then
thousands, then hundreds of thousands issued forth from the open door of the Stone Gate.

The Dwarven Age had ended, and the Age of Darkness had begun.

Coming next....The Age of Darkness!

 

Holy Symbol of Toletron, Enaros of Knowledge (Art by Ashley MacKenzie)

 

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