The Myth of Veranen
Long ago this world was one of tumultuous and chaotic forces. Naught but unbridled fires, and churning, saw-like rock made up its substance. Through the ashen skies of Creation Primordial, the gods came from beyond the ether, new and formless. Looking upon this roiling realm, they saw potential for great beauty, great strength, and the chance to learn their own place in creation.
Thus, divine hands formed the First Children, the elves, created with physical grace reflecting the gods' own divinity, to walk the verdant lands and know the music of the blue skies. A second creation was wrought – the dwarves, a hearty people intent on taming the land, filled with the craft and invention of the divinity beyond the ashen void. A third people were given life: the humans, endowed with the hearts of passion that burned as brightly as their spans of life were short, filled with the celebration and laughter of the hands creating them.
Other creations followed as the many races of Aeratora were given form from the boundless inspiration the protean gods expressed. These Children of Creation walked the land, and as their knowledge grew they attempted to build. But the land was fierce and treacherous, and the children were largely dashed and consumed by the elements. Sorrow filled the hearts of the gods while these first raves continued to struggle against a land that did not want them. The Children looked to their creators for guidance and protection. The gods gave to them gifts, lending their own power to their children to create and shape the world around them; these were the first divine magics.
Thus, the various peoples began to learn how to bend the angry earth to their will: to temper the fires that burst through, to tame the floods that threatened their abundance, and to foster seedling into fruit and beast into meal. Language became commonplace, culture was born, and governance replaced anarchy. The Protean Creators, the divinity beyond the ashen skies, saw progress and saw that it was good, yet fragile and in need of guardians.
So were born the First Protectors: The Dragons Metallic. These protectors watched over the fairer races. The realm grew quieter, the people expanded, and new races were given form and life. As culture grew, and the people further understood the world around them, they too looked up to their Creators and gave them worship, gave them form, gave them title, and purpose.
But this realm did not wish to be tamed. Quaking cliffs roared in defiance. Seas swelled and swallowed. Flames erupted from underneath the lands. Beneath the elements, unknown to the Creators beyond the ashen skies, lived ancient beings who had already taken this world as their home: the Primordials. These great Elemental Titans that once dwelt deep within the land now rose from their unseen domain to sunder the land once more. The gods watched as their children – their joy – were largely dashed against the broken rock or fed to formless terrors unleashed in the wake of destruction. Demonic entities spilled from the umbra of the Abyss to feast on the carnage, called forth by the violence and released to pick the carrion clean.
Some gods were so full of grief and anger they wished to abandon this world for another, trying to convince their divine kindred to join the Primordials in reclaiming the realm for chaos so they could move on to start anew. Others of the Creators wished to remain and subdue these native Primordials, to tame the land for the sake of their creation and joy. This caused a divide among the gods. Some left the family of the Creators to give into madness, joining their song and sword to that of chaos and destruction, taking and twisting their children in the image of their intent. Celestial sentinels locked into war with the chaotic forces of the Abyss fell to hate and tyranny, forging the Hells under a fallen angel now claiming lordship.
The remaining Creators, wishing to salvage their home, their creations, and their realised selves, were forced to take up arms and learn new methods of protection to defend the faithful among their creations. These gods are referred to as the Prime Deities. They organised their followers and taught them how to draw from the very powers of creation: to build, to change, and to destroy, all for themselves and without the aid of divine power. Creation learned to defend itself through practices such as alchemy or by autonomously bending the very fabrics of existence, though not on the scale of the gods' works.
This gift was the knowledge of the first arcane magics. With these newly granted capabilities, the good children drove away their traitorous kin, banished the Betrayer Gods to their own prison-like planes, and ultimately destroyed the Primordials while scattering the chaotic elements to their own planes of existence just outside of this one. Peace finally blanketed the world for the first time since creation, and the first real civilisation took root and grew into a grand city called Vasselheim. The Cradle of Creation. The Dawn City.
Cultures developed anew, the races ventured beyond to explore and discover their own lands, and great music filled the air to give name to this world once and for all: Veranen.
The Age of Arcanum
Over time, some of the peoples grew arrogant. Seeing their arcane gifts as proof the gods held no sway over their fate, some began to believe that, with enough understanding, they could become as powerful as the gods themselves. As such, many began to shun faith for their own pursuits. Though this hurt and surprised the Prime Deities, they understood the wilfulness of their creation and endured out of love and hope for redemption.
Great kingdoms sprang up. Castles were built in a day, accelerated by he arcanists' newfound power. Even though magic could be used to complete the most difficult tasks with hitherto unknown speed, magic-users strove always to innovate. As mages practised and perfected their powers of creation, they soon unlocked the secrets of life itself, giving birth to wondrous, dangerous new forms of life and power.
The advent of the arcane seemed to be the key to a bountiful age of plenty, but also proved to threaten it, as prosperity soon gave way to greed. Petty squabbles erupted over resources and wealth among the elite, while the rumour of immortality through perfected arcanum began to drive the greatest mages wild with a lust for power unending. one mortal mage, her name either lost or struck from history, crafted now-forbidden rites to challenge the God of Death, felling him and taking his place among the pantheon, making her the first and only mortal to ascend. One powerful archmage, Vespin Chloras, was inspired by this display. Driven by his hunger, he sought the guidance and power of the banished gods, rending open the gates of their prisons and releasing the betrayers into the mortal world.
In their imprisonment, the gods of Hatred and Despair twisted their prison into their own image, spawning unthinkable horrors that lived only to transform peace into suffering, and righteousness into arrogance and greed. The Hells and the Abyss began to push their way into Creation. The Betrayer Gods and their hateful children, unbanished and allowed re-entry into the Creation that had exiled them, discovered the world unspoiled, save for the avarice of mortals. The urge to ruin was now replaced with the desire to dominate, and the Betrayer Gods turned their sights first to the Archmage Vespin who freed them, making him their first thrall. the Betrayer Gods sought out the remnants of their offspring, scattered across the world, and created with them a mighty and terrible new kingdom on the far end of the world – Ghor Dranas.
In this land of evil, where the twisted power of the lower planes seeped into this world, the lords of darkness tainted the minds of mortals, hungrily welcoming those who had forgotten their way home, and offering great promises and boons to hears easily swayed. These poisonous seeds found fertile ground in the hearts of mortals obsessed with the unlimited power of the arcane. With a legion of the damned behind them, the Betrayer Gods soon made their presence known to the world with an assault on Vasselheim itself.
Though much of the city was reduced to rubble, Vasselheim weathered the initial assault, saved by the intervention of the gods. The Prime Deities descended to trade blows with their former brethren. The battle between divinity and mortalkind, heroes and demons raged ceaselessly for twenty days and nights until the dark forces, their surprise attack thwarted, were forced to retreat.
Evil was repulsed momentarily, but with the revelation of such a terrible foe, a dangerous arcane arms race began. Trust was shattered indefinitely: If mortals could fall under the sway of the Betrayer Gods, who was an ally? If ruin like this could be unleashed under the watchful eyes of divinity, how were they relevant? Not trusting any but themselves, the self-interested and singular humans beat their instruments of celebration into instruments of incredible power: artifacts that could be wielded by singular heroes. The dwarves' fascination with rock and earth turned towards isolation as they burrowed further into the mountains, using their divine gifts to animate legions of autonomous golems to protect their ancestral halls. Elves used their understanding of creation's beauty and intricacies to weave spells of unimaginable destructive force, the likes of which Veranen had never seen before.
For the first time since the Primordials, the focus of magic was warfare. The gods themselves agreed to join their children on the field of battle, descended from the heavens to take up arms once more for the war now referred to as "The Calamity".
No record remains of the terrible war that followed, but its effects are still felt today. The sheer magnitude of the energies unleashed in the ensuing battles of gods and mortals alike was enough to fray the boundaries holding back the elemental chaos, spilling unbridled destruction into the world. It completely rearranged the known flow of magical ley energy across Veranen. The dark kingdom of Ghor Dranas was brought to ruin, but the conflict devastated Veranen's peoples, reducing most cities to ash, inspiring in many a desire to flee from this plane of existence entirely. So great was the loss of life during the war that historians believe no more than a third of Veranen's population survived, leaving the only remaining bastion of civilisation: the Dawn City itself, Vasselheim.
The world entered a long, dark period of recovery, when history had to be recovered and purpose had to be restored. The Betrayer Gods were banished once more to their realms of deception and hate, but the threat of their return weighed heavily on the world. The Prime Deities felt that their involvement in mortal conflict was to blame for the cataclysmic damage inflicted upon Veranen. They knew that while the divine gateways were left open, the prison planes that held the banished Betrayers would remain imperfect and temporary.
Thus, in hopes of ensuring such ruin would not befall Veranen again, they left their children to fend for themselves within and beyond the walls of Vasselheim. The Prime Deities returned to their own realms, dragging both Betrayer and Abomination with them and sealing the pathways to the mortal realm behind them with the Divine Gate. Only in this way could they prevent their corrupted brethren from physically returning to the material plane. Sadly, for the Prime Deities, this action also carried with is a self-imposed sentence of exile. They would henceforth never be allowed to visit Creation.
The disappearance of the gods is known by many names: "The Second Spark" for those who study the arcane; "The Penance" for those who seek closeness to their gods; but the most common name for this time of warfare and separation is "The Divergence", and it marked the end of the Age of Arcanum.
Much time has passed since, and the world has been reborn once again. The gods still exhibit their influence and guidance from beyond the Divine gate, bestowing their knowledge and power to their most devout worshippers, but the path or mortals is now their own to make. New cities, kingdoms, and cultures have retaken the world, built over the ashes of the old. New songs fill the air, and the hope of a brighter future drives people day after day, while buried ruins and forgotten relics remind all people of a darker time of mistakes that should never be repeated.
The History of Aeratora
Following the creation, and subsequent razing, of Veranen, a post-Divergence world was now left to rise from the ashes and begin a new era. While every region has had their own rebirth since the terrible destruction of the Calamity, the focus of this campaign will be the continent of Aeratora.
Not more than 800 years ago, what is now known as the continent of Aeratora housed the germinating seeds of a restored civilisation. It was the hardy, dependable dwarves who best weathered the war between gods and mortals, and within the Stormcrest Mountains, the dwarven clans built the subterranean city of Kraghammer. The proud clans were the first to reclaim the riches of the earth, and nestled in its safe embrace they founded expansive mines of rich metals and minerals, ensuring a prosperous foothold under the banner of the ruling Clan Jaggenstrike.
Far to the east of Kraghammer lived the elves. In the wake of the Calamity, the surviving found shelter in the otherwordly peace of the Feywild, returning a generation later, united under the guidance of an elven sorceress named Yenlara. The elves rallied to her both for her defiant strength and her compassion in the face of adversity. It was under Yenlara's wise rule that elven society once again began to reform. She led her people eastward to the Vesper Timberlands, an untamed forest born from the surging, post-Calamity energies left untouched by the Betrayers' evil. Calling themselves wood elves, Yenlara's people began to construct a new home for elven culture in these lands. This reborn home was given the name Syngorn.
The new elven society came to call this land Gwessar – in their tongue, the Fields of Joy – and they refer to the continent of Aeratora by that name to this day.
The dwarves and elves are long-lived people, and when they struggled to rebuild their civilisations, there were those among them who still remembered the world that was. The humans were not so fortunate. Their histories, written by warmongers in fading ink on waterlogged parchment and vellum, did not survive the years. yet humanity endured. Several centuries after the Jaggenstrike dwarves began this period of renewal, a clan of humans braved the angry Ozmit Sea and sailed to what is now western Aeratora from distant Issylra.
These people had the sea in their blood, and sailed from island to island for generations, but something called them to Aeratora. The ruins of their first settlement still stands today: the port city of O'Noa. From O'Noa the seafarers expanded outward, until all the western shores fell under their banner. In the north, they found fertile fields unsalted by the nearby sea against an inlet unmarred by looming rocks and dangerous reefs, and they began to build. They did not know their city would become the heart of a great empire. They did not know the glory and sorrow that would surround their city of Neverwinter.
The Iron Rule of Drassig
The rise of human colonies vexed the elves of Syngorn. Forests that had stood for centuries fell under the axes of creatures who lived only a scant few decades. These tensions did not rise to war, but the humans gnawed at peace like termites.
As the first human civilisation on this part of the world after the Calamity, a handful of self-entitled noble houses arose in Neverwinter and established law and structure, but those who designed the game stacked the deck in their favour. Corruption spread through the upper echelons of Neverwinter, and power-hungry politicians seized each new and valuable resource that was discovered in their bountiful new kingdom. The turned their citizens against each other, forcing them to fight for scraps while they hoarded the lion's share.
Neverwinter was apolitical war zone, and the greatest warrior of them all was a loudmouth braggart and cunning oligarch named Warren Drassig. The chaos and mistrust in Neverwinter allowed Drassig and his agents to seize power and transform the realm into the Kingdom of Drassig, with Warren himself as its supreme monarch. Drassig was quick to sever any remaining connections with the elves of Syngorn and make new alliances with the dwarves of Kraghammer, marrying Drassig's autocratic power with the dwarves' immense wealth.
The elves were furious, but the ambassador from Syngorn to Neverwinter, an idealistic grandson of the still-living Yenlara, hoped to resolve this diplomatically. Upon arrival, he was apprehended, tortured, and slain. This final act of treachery sent Syngorn into arms, and the continent erupted into a long and terrible war between Yenlara's kin and Drassig's bloodline known as the Scattered War.
The Scattered War
The Scattered War lasted for thirty two years and is colloquially known as the "Time of Shrouds". The war spanned throughout the Stormcrest Mountains and into parts of the Verdant Expanse, with the human colonies spread throughout the soon-to-be-warring territories. The settlements, towns, and cities had no means of long-range communication, and could not warn each other; Drassig was able to attack each one with little resistance. He taught his soldiers to infiltrate their enemy, listening from the shadows to uncover their weaknesses, determining the best point of attack and how to best destroy the morale of any obstinate insurgents. With the groundwork complete, one of Drassig's generals would strike at the weakened masses with swiftness and savagery. Drassig's shadow tactics were uncouth, but while viewed as highly irregular and dishonourable, proved extremely effective in preventing widespread uprising.
Cities crumbled beneath the shadow of Drassig's rule. The lights within settlements of humans and wood elves alike were snuffed out, and this creeping brutality lasted more than nine years. King Warren Drassig eventually sent his troops to what was believed to be the nearly abandoned village of Torthil, rumoured to be a haven for refugees. warren led his men throughout the ghost town, and they scattered about to look for survivors. As they regrouped in the town square, Warren delivered an inspiring speech on utility of fear and shadow in worthwhile victory. It was at the height of his arrogance that the first arrow struck, followed shortly by a volley that clouded the sky. It appeared that after nine years of darkness and slaughter, Yenlara's wood elves and the rebellious humans of the scattered colonies joined forces and formed an alliance on their own accord, outside the need for civil agreements or political treaties.
After Warren Drassig fell, his first successor and son, Neminar Drassig rose to power. Neminar shunned the brutal methods of his father, instead finding his interests in more sinister powers. He became known as "Neminar the Black Fingered", as his dabbling in necromancy left one arm withered and useless. However, his militarising infernal magics and forbidden rites elevated the threat of Drassig's war machine. Neminar led his army back to the town of Torthil where his father was executed, to exact his hideous vengeance. In the town square, he piled high the corpses of the elven and human traitors to make pyres that lit the night. Torthil was burned to ash.
By far, the darkest days of the Scattered War were during Neminar's rule. He introduced tactics and magics to fuel his soldiers beyond human limits, leaving their bodies altered and mutated by foul, dark, necromantic magics. Their minds became warped and twisted to favour mindless bloodshed and domination. Drassig's forces became the perfect weapons of war, their ranks blessed by the unholy touch of the Betrayer God known as the Strife Emperor.
In the face of such terrible power and wilful tyranny, the rebellion of men and elves continued to bolster their ranks with vengeful orphans and eager heroes. one such hero who came to be instrumental in the coming conflict was called Zan Aeratora. A human who rose from the harried streets of Syngorn during such dark times, Zan quickly proved to be both a mighty warrior and an inspirational leader. Rallying the broken ranks of the resistance, Zan lured Neminar and his vanguard into the mysterious brush of the Vesper Timberlands, a realm where fey magic was to work in Syngorn's favour.
Having unleashed their forces upon what they thought was the Syngornian outpost known as the Shifting Keep, the illusory magic of the locale left the army without a target, and vulnerable to ambush. The retribution of the forest merged with the weapons of Zan's warriors, striking with enough ferocity that Neminar and his blighted soldiers were crushed, signaling a shift in the tides of war. As word of Neminar's defeat and death spread, hope grew for all the oppressed peoples of the realm.
Even so, the last years of fighting were still ahead of them, for Warren's youngest son stood to take power, and was sworn to avenge his family and protect their seat of rule.
Battle of the Umbra Hills
King Trist Drassig, second-born son of the despotic Warren Drassig, took the throne, envisioning the end of the Scattered War, and tasting victory on his lips. Trist was neither as brilliant nor as charismatic as his father; his armies were stretched thin and his people rose up. The rebels, led by the young warrior Zan Aeratora, found themselves winning one minor victory after another. Soon, King Trist's army had its back to the imposing base of the Stormcrest Mountains east of Kraghammer.
Riding the tide of certain victory, Zan and her rebels, allied with the elves of Syngorn, pursued by Drassig to a valley in the Umbra Hills, but fiends fought in the ranks of their enemy. The spawn of the Betrayers had returned to the world from beyond the mountains and spilled into the battlefield like a river of nightmares. The surrounding hills ran dark with blood and ichor, and the bodies of humans and demons alike littered the battlefield. yet, against all odds, the hero Zan ended the Drassig bloodline, and with it, the infernal pact it had made. The grass and flowers of the now-named Umbra Hills grow black and burnt as an echo of this battle, their sap coursing with the searing blood of the demons that was spilled that day.
The Rise of Aeratora
Society had all but collapsed during the war. The leaders of the Verdant Expanse assembled a council of trusted and proven minds, but the people were accustomed to a singular leader, a king. The council nominated the war hero Zan Aeratora to take the seat, and she humbly accepted, but rejected the title of King or Queen, instead wishing to be addressed as Sovereign if a title was required.
Despite Zan's protests, the council unanimously agreed the realm should be renamed "Aeratora". With power divided amongst the Sovereign and the council, Neverwinter's leaders cleared their realm of most corruption and brutality. The leading clans of Kraghammer claimed they had been manipulated, and spent many years making amends, but the trust between the kingdoms was long to heal.