History of Aetaltis: Part V

Shudder as you witness Endroren's cruel revenge during the dreaded Age of Darkness, gasp at the clash of the gods during the Great War, and marvel at the arrival of the Atlan Alliance and the birth of a new age!

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 Age of Darkness

When word of the Stone Gate’s fall reached the other dwarven kingdoms, a gathering of dwarven kings was called. Most of the deep kingdoms were already overrun and those near the surface were nearing collapse. At the meeting’s close they decided that the dwarves had no choice but to fall back from the rising flood of the Dark Hordes.

Only the dwarves of the Donaren Mountains refused to partake in the planned exodus. They swore that they would die in the deep rather than give their homeland to the vile endrori. As dwarves around the Amethyst Sea basin prepared to evacuate their halls, the dwarves of the Donaren Mountains reinforced their defenses.

On the surface, the state of things was no better. The Dark Hordes were moving west from the Stone Gate, destroying everything in their path. One by one the eastern kingdoms fell, unable to hold back the advancing endrori armies.

Accompanying the Hordes were a multitude of Endroren’s other creations. Abomonae, bound undead, and all the twisted monstrosities he had forged in the deep. The enemy the enari faced was truly a host from hell.

Faced with a seemingly unstoppable foe, the enari tried to rally a defense. Surface armies joined with dwarven refugees and they combined forces to confront the oncoming Hordes. The enari fought valiantly and slew many of their enemies, but they could not hold against the massed minions of Endroren.

When the last defense broke, the enari fled for their lives. Those that could went into hiding, the rest were either killed or enslaved by the advancing Hordes. So much of the land was burning in those bleak days, that smoke and ash blackened the sky and blotted out Lensae’s light. In this unnatural darkness, the endrori reveled in their victory.

Even with the defeat of the armies of the Amethyst Sea, the endrori were not finished. Led by the abomonae they began hunting the lensari and the Elders. Even these powerful beings were hard pressed to stand against Endroren’s servants.

The Amethyst Sea was not alone in its suffering. In the east beyond the Stonegate Mountains, were fertile green plains where the Drothmal dwelled. Endroren’s minions transformed these plains using powerful tainted magic. The once tall and graceful grasses were twisted into blade edged stalks that sliced into the flesh of anyone who brushed against them.

In a final bloody march for their lives, the Drothmal fled their homes through this gauntlet of pain, retreating to the frozen reaches of the Icebound Plains. In the south beyond the Scythaan Wall, was a country of lush tropical forests where the scythaa lived. When the endrori reached this land, they set it ablaze with arcane fire. The fires burned for seven years and when the flames finally subsided all that was left was ash.

The Dark Hordes were not finished with the scythaan homeland. Next the abomonae came, and they turned the soil into sand, dried up the rivers, and shattered the hills and mountains into dust. All that remained when they were finished was a desolate wasteland.

The Keepers of Hope

Despite the horrors the enari endured, somehow hope remained alive. While most of the enari were killed or enslaved, a few managed to remain free. These brave souls fought from the shadows, striking at the Dark Hordes swiftly then retreating to their hidden bases. Without the efforts of these courageous warriors, it is unlikely that any of the enari would have survived the Age of Darkness.

It was only a matter of time before the Dark Hordes spread across the globe. Their victory complete, the Hordes raised their voices in a vile cheer that was heard across the land. They praised Endroren in all his unholy might and called out to their Dark master to join them.

Endroren heard their cries.

Using all of his corrupt Dark magic, Endroren cracked the world to its heart. Out of the gaping wound he climbed, until he emerged on the surface for the first time since his banishment from Lensae. On the edge of the chasm he constructed a black fortress from the burned bones of the dead, and from this Obsidian Throne he ruled all of Aetaltis.

The Great War

The breaking of the world shook both the physical and essential planes. The disruption was felt all the way to the Halls of Lensae, and the Enaros were alerted that something terrible had happened. Looking down on Aetaltis, they saw with horror what had befallen their world and their people.

The Enaros called their Avatars and armed them with war gear forged by Modren. When all the preparations were complete, trumpets sounded and the gates of Lensae were thrown open. Wreathed in divine power, the army of the Enaros charged out to make war on Endroren and his Hordes.

When the battle began, the Enaros found themselves hard pressed to make headway against the Dark Lord. During his rule, Endroren’s minions had multiplied, and each time one of them died, their tainted soul was drawn into Endroren, making him stronger.

There were many battles in the war, but the final confrontation took place in the land of Goloth. It was there that Endroren had broken open the world and constructed his fortress and throne. On the scarred plains below the walls of Endroren’s castle, the Enaros gathered their armies.

The Avatars formed ranks, along with the Elders and lensari that had escaped Endroren’s hunters. Even the surviving enari gathered to join the fight. Hopelessly outmatched in this war of gods, the enari still refused to give up hope.

The battle that followed was awful beyond imagining. Avatars fell, Elders and lensari lost their lives, and the brave enari who stood before the Darkness were all but obliterated. The immortal Enaros were the only ones who were free from the threat of true death, but even they suffered grievous injury during the ferocious fight.

After many weeks of hard fighting, Zevas, Vale, and Alantra broke through the enemy defenses and fought their way to Endroren’s great hall. There they found the Dark Lord sitting haughtily on his throne. He seemed not to care that his defenses had fallen or that his armies were collapsing in the plains below. He was simply smiling, a look of strange satisfaction on his face.

The three Enaros demanded that Endroren surrender to them, but the dark lord spoke these words, the meaning of which remains a mystery to this day.

“Take me back into your arms this night, and I will aid you against the true evil.” he said, “For you are so immersed in the Light, that you are blind to the true Darkness within.”

Vale, Alantra, and Zevas ignored Endroren’s strange proclamation. They grasped him by the arms and legs and bore him out to the walls. When the remnants of the Dark Hordes saw their master held by the Enaros, they broke and fled the battlefield. The Great War had come to its end.

The Judgement of Endroren

The Enaros assembled amid the wreckage of Endroren’s fortress and formed a circle around their fallen brother. All were wracked with sorrow, for they were tormented both by what Endroren had done to the world and by the fact that they must, yet again, mete out punishment against him. But the crime he had committed could not be ignored.

After much debate, they agreed on a punishment. Since he had cowered for so long in the depths of the world, they would return him there. With chains forged by Modren in the fires of Lensae, they bound him to the world’s core so he might never turn his evil against the world again. Once his chains were linked, they closed the chasm he had created and sealed him below for all eternity.

When the few dwarves who had survived the war heard what the Enaros had done, they cried out in anguish. Any of Endroren’s minions who survived the war, from the most powerful abomonae to the weakest endrori, would clamber for the Deeplands to be near their master.

The Enaros knew this to be true, for already the surviving creatures of Darkness were scurrying into the Deeplands after their Dark Lord. Sadly, it was too late to change the course of things. Alantra attempted to comfort the dwarves. She told them that they would be given the richest land of the surface world, and that the Enaros would bless them and all their children.

The dwarves spat on the ground. They wanted no blessings. They wanted no surface lands. They wanted their ancestral homes, the grand kingdoms they had carved with their own hands from the very heart of the world. Their halls had been stolen from them forever and would now become a realm of nightmares.

Tearing the holy signs of the Enaros from their breasts, the dwarves flung them to the ground. They swore that they would never follow the Enaros again. For eons they had worshipped the Enaros with faith and devotion, and the payment they received was betrayal. As the dwarves left the field of battle, the hearts of the Enaros broke, for the greatest casualty of the war had been the love of their dwarven children.

Sealing of the Deeplands

Although Endroren’s creatures wanted to stay by their master’s side, most could return to the surface if they wished. This was especially true for less powerful beings like the endrori. These lesser creatures are not so tightly bound to the Dark Lord, and can easily surface if they desire. To prevent the Dark Hordes from escaping to cause mischeif and pain on the surface, the Deeplands had to be sealed.

Alantra called her surviving clerics to her, and she taught them powerful spells of warding. With these spells the clerics sealed the Deepland halls to prevent any of the minions of Endroren from endangering the surface world. These clerics were the first Warders of Alantra.

One ward, Alantra personally raised: the ward for the Stone Gate, the massive Deepland entrance from which the first Dark Horde had risen. Alantra sealed it with a sheer wall hewn from the cold stone of the night sky. Black, smooth, and harder than any substance found in Aetaltis, the enormous seal would stop even the most powerful Dark creature from escaping. Because of this seal, the Stone Gate earned its new name—the Black Gate.

The Dwarves of the Donaren Mountains

For the dwarves, who had already lost so much, the final tragedy was yet to come. In the Deeplands of the Donaren Mountains, the last surviving dwarves of that once great kingdom still fought against the endrori. Throughout the Age of Darkness these dwarves had survived all the trials they faced, and they weren’t going to abandon their homes now.

When the Warders came to seal the Donaren entrances, the dwarves there insisted they leave them open. If the Warders allowed this, however, it would pose a terrible danger, for if the dwarves of the Donaren ever fell, the endrori would have an open passage out of the Deeplands. The Warders prayed to Alantra for guidance, but in the end could find no other answer. The Deepland entrances of the Donaren had to be sealed.

The people of the Amethyst Sea basin sent word to the dwarves there and begged them to come out. If they did not, they would surely be trapped with the endrori for all time. The Donaren dwarves refused, shouting back that the mountains were their home now and forever. They would never leave.

The Enaros sent Modren himself to talk with the king of the Donaren dwarves. Modren had loved the dwarves more than any of the other enari, and he begged the Donaren dwarves to come out of their Deepland halls. The dwarves of the Donaren spit on the ground. They called Modren “betrayer” and ordered him to leave their realm.

Alantra relayed this to her followers. With heavy hearts and no other choice, the Warders sealed the Donaren Mountain gates with the dwarves still inside.

The Donarzheis Mountains

No one knows what happened to the Donaren dwarves, but legend says that they were slain by the endrori and their spirits haunt the mountains. This is how the Donaren Mountains earned their new name. Today, they are called the Donarzheis, which means “Spirit Home” in the old dwarven tongue.

The Pledge

The Enaros looked over their ravaged world, and contemplated all that had occurred. They only now realized that Endros and Aros had been right. Darkness creeps into even the most well lit hall, and once it gains a foothold it spreads quickly, like a deadly disease. The Enaros underestimated the power of Darkness, and their children and the world had paid the price.

The Enaros pledged that from that day forward, they would keep constant watch over Aetaltis. They swore that they would walk among their people, listen to their prayers, and personally aid them whenever they could. They would not do everything for the enari, for as Droth reminded them, trial builds strength, but they would never turn their attention completely away from Aetaltis again.

Gods Among Mortals

The Enaros are sometimes seen walking among the people of Aetaltis. They usually travel in disguise, only revealing themselves if absolutely necessary. Their influence is felt stronger now than it ever was in the past, suggesting that the Enaros have indeed remained true to the pledge they made at the end of the Great War.

Age of Shadows

Dark times lay ahead for the enari. Their world was in ruins, their kingdoms shattered, and most of their people were dead or worse. Many endrori were locked in the Deeplands, but many others were still on the loose, as well as darker, more dangerous monsters.

Even the renewed pledge of the Enaros to keep their attention focused on Aetaltis was of little aid. Endroren’s long rule had tainted the very Essence of the world, and only the Enaros could cleanse it. It would be centuries before they could fully turn their attention to the needs of an individual enari.

As for sealing the Deeplands, the Warders of Alantra were stretched to their limits. The dwarves had excavated an uncountable number of Deepland entrances over the years before the Darkness, and these were scattered across the world. What is more, during the Age of Darkness the Dark Hordes added new tunnels when they invaded the surface world.

The Warders of Alantra

The tales of the Warders’ selfless courage in those dark times remain an inspiration for paladins and clerics to this day. Warders roamed the monster infested mountain slopes for months at a time, beating back the evil things they found there and sealing the passages behind the beasts.

The Warders of today, while a stalwart and noble order, are but a shadow of those legendary heroes from the Age of Shadow. It is the dream of every modern Warder to live up to the example of their predecessors. To be compared to one of the Warders of old is the greatest compliment any modern Warder can receive.

The Stoneholds

With so much danger around them, the surviving dwarves constructed immense surface fortresses called stoneholds. Some they carved from natural stone outcroppings while others they built from cyclopean blocks of cut stone. Part castle and part enclosed town, the stoneholds applied the communal living concepts the dwarves perfected in the Deepland Halls to a surface settlement.

Designed as a self-sustained community, stoneholds could be sealed off from the outside world for months or years at a time with little added hardship for the inhabitants. Any enari who found a stonehold and wished to enter was welcome, so long as they were willing to share in the community’s work. Thanks to the stoneholds, many enari were saved who might never have survived the Age of Shadow.

Prior to Endroren’s imprisonment a stonehold would never have held against the Dark Hordes. Powerful dark creatures like the abomonae could bypass such a defense with impunity, tearing it open for invading forces. After Endroren’s imprisonment, however, most of these powerful beings were destroyed or had retreated to the deepest Deepland caverns.

The endrori still on the surface were limited to conventional seige engines. Against a mundane seige, the stoneholds were virtually impregnable. The safety a stonehold offered, however, came at a price. Life in the fortresses was often hard and unpleasant. The fungus farms that served as the primary food source required constant grooming, the unchanging diet of dried, ground mushrooms was painfully monotonous, and the dour gray walls of the fortress could trigger claustrophobia in the hardiest souls. The tight quarters of the hold also put strains on even the closest relationships. Combined with the constant vigilance required to guard against endrori attacks, the stoneholds were a short term solution at best.

The Stoneships

There were some dwarves who wanted more than survival. One group of these dwarves headed south to search for a new homeland. They’d heard tales of a rich land beyond the Stonegate Mountains, uninhabited and untouched by the Dark Hordes. What they discovered were the corrupted, blade grass infested plains that were once the homeland of the Drothmal. The dwarves named this strange place the Blade Sea.

Those were desperate times, and where a person today might have turned back if faced with such an imposing obstacle, those dwarves did not. Surely, they thought, the land they sought must lie somewhere beyond this deadly plain. But they needed a means of crossing the Blade Sea, for no mortal or mount could survive a long journey through the deadly, blade-like grass.

Observing the strength with which the wind raced across the open grasslands, the dwarves came up with an ingenious solution. They constructed a fleet of small, wooden ships and outfitted them with wheels. They rolled them out onto the open flatland, unfurled the sails, and caught the whipping wind. The ships took off across the plain at incredible speed, carrying their occupants safely above the deadly grass.

Some of these dwarves eventually settled in a distant country across the Blade Sea, while others built homes on the wide plateaus that dot the plains. To this day the descendants of those dwarves sail their stoneships across the open plains. The routes they established in those early years remain vital to trade to this day.

The Drothmal

The drothmal had retreated to the frozen north during the Age of Darkness. Their shamans told them that the Age of Darkness was punishment from the Enaros for the decadent lifestyle the drothmal lived before the coming of the Dark Hordes. Now the drothmal lived under the rule of Droth,
Lord of Trial, and that trial would only be lifted when He saw fit. Their suffering was his blessing, and only through suffering might they someday be forgiven.

Before the Drothmal

The original name of the drothmal is lost to the ages. Many scholars have sought this name, and for some it has become their lifework. The origin of the name “drothmal,” however, has its seeds in the Age of Shadow.

When the Age of Darkness ended, and the Age of Shadow began, the drothmal saw no sign that said their trial was complete. In the early days of the Age of Shadow, it was decided that until the sign came, they would become a new people. From that point on, they would be the drothmal, meaning “servants of Droth.”

Hints of Hope

Despite the successes of this Age, few enari experienced anything but hardship in those early days. Most of the settlements on the Amethyst Sea were little more than scattered pockets of survivors, trying to hold off the remnants of the Hordes while attempting to scrape a living from the ravaged land. Eventually, however, time brought healing.

Over the years more and more Deepland entrances were sealed and attacks by the endrori decreased. Trees and grass sprouted from the fire blackened soil, rivers ran clear once more, and the taint of Endroren’s power faded from all but the most damaged places. Life was still hard, but a level of normalcy returned.

Eventually they reached a balance in the battle against the remaining Dark creatures. The good people of the world carved out enough of a hold that they weren’t easily dislodged by the remnants of the Dark Hordes, but the endrori still had great enough numbers that the enari could not achieve a complete victory. For the next few centuries, this stalemate persisted.

Arrival of the Alliance

On a bright day just over 400 years ago, a young halfling shepherd was tending his flocks in the foothills of the Dragontail Mountains. His family had moved to the highlands from the city of Gelendor in search of a simpler life. Fate had different plans for them.

As the shepherd sat beside a river, playing on his reed flute, a strange energy filled the air. It was more of a feeling than a physical sensation, but it was as palpable as the spring breeze. The boy was about to investigate when a deafening roar shook the trees. All around him a sea of light filled his vision and as he tried to see through the dazzling light, he spotted strange forms moving in the glare.

As suddenly as it had started, the strange display ended. Standing in the glade beside the shepherd were three figures. The first looked something like a halfling, but he was tall and gangly, like a thick-limbed elf. The second was of a similar height as the first, but he was much thinner with skin the color of stone, and a cold, featureless face. The last, was a monster of gigantic proportions. It was over nine feet tall, as wide as a cart, and had the appearance of a hideouslydeformed giant halfling. These were an atlan (also called humans), a Newardin, and an orog respectively.

Gathering his wits about him, and realizing that just staring at the strangers was terribly discourteous, he welcomed the newcomers and invited them back to his home for supper.

The story above is, loosely, the halfling account of the Atlan Alliance’s first arrival on Aetaltis. The full halfling story involves numerous polite welcomes by important local leaders, humble shepherds preparing sumptuous feasts, and all the other elements of a good halfling hearthtale. As with all hearthtales, there is likely some basis of truth to the story, although the majority of it remains suspect.

The important point is that around 400 years before the present day, a small group of explorers arrived on Aetaltis. These beings were members of the great civilization known as the Atlan Alliance. The Alliance was a powerful empire that used mystic gates to travel between worlds. Some worlds they simply explored, others they colonized. Aetaltis was chosen as an Alliance colony world.

Coming next....The Age of Atlan!

 

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

 

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