Shades of Shadora
Mythos and History
The First Light:
In the beginning there were the five elements – Earth, Fire, Air, Water and Darkness. The great shadow Shadora, from whence the world draws its name, enveloped and contained all within her great black cloak. Shadora was complete in her darkness. She was within and without all things.
Then Kala, lord of fire, pierced the darkness and demanded to be seen. The great shade retreated from the blinding light to wait and watch. Kala’s flame kept the darkness at bay and shone across still waters and silent air that filled the world basin formed by the Ring Range mountains reaching up from the edge of the great disk.
Below the deep endless sea, the earth mother Natrala was awakened and warmed by Kala’s fire. She stretched her great arms and fingers skyward and dark mountains rose from the water’s depths. Vordoro, lord of water was still no more. He drove great waves against the rising plains and mountains. Agustus, the air lord, also resented the intrusion of Natrala’s mountains which impeded his motion and he voiced his discontent with torturous winds that hammered against her great peaks.
Natrala mocked the wind and stood unyielding under the great blasts. In desperation Augustus partnered with Vordoro and stormed great furies upon the hills and mountain ranges. Some of Vordoro’s waters fell high and froze into glaciers under the violent winds. Those driven inland covered the low places of the earth, leaving them forever hidden from the warmth of Kala’s flames. Still more trickled down to form gullies and rivers carrying off much of the earth’s strength.
In retaliation, Natrala sank the Ring Range at the edge of the realm where the waters had made the largest gains. The waters of the great ocean began to spill from the disk and the tips of submerged mountains once again rose from the water’s depths.
Shadora, emerged from the shadows and called for peace between the elements. “What has been lost is lost, that which is gained is gained. Let no element ever move directly against another again at the risk of our mutual annihilation.”
Kala agreed and the others followed suit. A great compact was made in which each element swore not to move against any other. Kala and Shadora also came to terms. The world would spend half of each day bathed in Kala’s light. The other half of the day, Kala would retreat into the depths of a great mountain which Natrala crafted for him and Shadora’s cloak would cover the world in darkness.
Thus the great world disk remains as it was left, crafted by the struggles of the elements themselves.
The Rise and Fall of the Journeymen:
After the forming of the world and swearing the compact, the five elements decided to work together to create a powerful race of immortal beings to inhabit the new world and worship them as their gods and creators. Each secretly thought that these immortals would eventually grow to admire them above all others and provide the means to grow powerful enough to establish their element as the dominant force in the world.
A mated pair of dragons were created by each element. They were the teachers of the Journeymen and came to be known as the Lore Givers. The dragons spawned many clutches of lesser dragons that learned from their sires and became great Keepers of Secrets. As with the dragons, a mated pair of giants was created by each element. They were the messengers and enforcers of the laws of the elements came to be known as the Lore Wardens.
These immortals, who came to be called the Journeymen, surprised the elements by spreading throughout the world and taking the powers of all the elements and distributing them equally across the great disk. Their labors established five realms of elemental dominance, each dedicated to a single element. They also created a series of runes of power with which to enchant their greatest works. These works were staggering and generated enormous outlays of mana and all the elements grew in power equally. The Journeymen also used the mana to grow their powers and created a sixth realm, the realm of submission, where none of the elements held power.
At the height of their power the Journeymen disappeared from Shadora forever leaving behind the ruins of their great works scattered about the world. There are many myths as to the nature of this disappearance. Some think that the Journeymen used the realm of submission to rebel against their elemental masters and had to be destroyed by the elements to save the world. Other believe that they destroyed themselves and their works by becoming both too powerful and too careless. Some scholars speculate that the dragons taught the Journeymen too much, such that they threatened the elements themselves, and that the elements sent the giants to destroy their civilizations. However, the most popular legend suggests that they grew more powerful than the elements and left the world, journeying out on some great quest to become gods in their own right, thus gaining the Journeyman name.
The Birth of the Gods
After the departure of the Journeymen, the elements realized that when they work in concert the results are unpredictable. And yet, they did not want to leave the great disk barren as they had become accustomed to being worshiped and drawing power from that worship. It was agreed that each element, working independently, would create an array of gods to serve them and be a conduit of their powers within the physical world.
The Journeymen had created a powerful Law rune in the shape of an equilateral triangle. Its three sides represented the three virtues of Law: truth, justice, and equality. The law rune was the foundation upon which the the Elements built the gods. Each god was empowered with dominion over three broad domains represented by mystic runes. The first rune is always that of the element that spawned them. All Elements agreed that each god must be bound by their element. The second and third runes would represent their unique abilities and establish their runic triad. The elements then sat as all-fathers or all-mothers to the array of gods that they had created.
For nearly a thousand years the gods walked the great disk and created commanding houses within the regions of dominance that the Journeymen had previously established. They tended to their works and built strong bonds with the gods sharing their elemental rune. They respected their neighboring elements, but that did not stop petty squabbles from breaking out along the borders. These border regions between the elements became known as the contested realms as no one element ever held sway there for long.
The elements soon established the elemental court to preside over these squabbles and insure that the disputes would not escalate into a war of the gods. Each element presided over the court for a limited time and world came to have seasons that reflected the powers of the element in control of the court.
The gods petitioned the elements to establish a race of worshipers for them. The elements, remembering their failure with the Journeymen, announced a great contest wherein the the gods of each element would create their own worshipers. The gods readily agreed and set to work using raw materials provided by their parent element. Their labors produced the eldar races and initiated a golden age.
The earth gods created the Lir, Dwarves and Elves to inhabit the grasslands, great mountains and forests of the land. The darkness gods created the Xern and the Trolls to fill the cold, dark swamps and caverns in the realm of shadow. The fire gods created the Fel and the Lazuri to live in the world’s rain forests and vast deserts. The air gods created the Vrawks to seek out the world’s lofty plateaus, and the Nein to run free across the great plains. The water gods made the shape shifting Agualans to swim the oceans depths. These races immediately set about worshiping the gods, supplying them with a rich source of living mana, and performing great works in their name.
The Chaos War:
The eldar races were still in their youth when Guha, the cosmic joker, collected up the leftover scraps that had fallen from the table of making and blew the winds of change over them. Seeking only to create a gross parody of the races so lovingly labored on by his fellow gods, Guha instead created Chaos and set it loose in the world. The short lived peace amongst the gods was suddenly broken as some, unwilling or unable to abandon even these malformed versions of their creations, sided with their chaotic ilk and fled after them as they escaped from the Elemental Court.
The Elements held council and decided unanimously that the chaos set loose in the world must be destroyed before it could spread. The gods of chaos were few, but their worshipers were many. They law gods enlisted the greatest champions among the Eldar races and imbued them with their powers to help them fight the struggle that raged across the disk. In this way, the first rune masters were created.
The great halls and houses built by the gods during their golden age were turned into fortresses and centers of command. The Chaos War waged long and bitter across the face of the great disk involving both the gods and their worshipers. The gods led their hosts into battle against their former brothers and sisters and both sides suffered tremendous losses. Some gods like Teral, father of dwarves, were slain outright. As they fell, the surviving gods subsumed the aspects of the fallen deities and gathered up their worshipers, making them their own.
The endless fighting brought death to the world and the Twin Gods Artol and Mortalan were assigned as Lord of the Dead and Gate Keeper to the Underdisk respectively. To keep their worshipers fighting, the gods had to use the underside of the disk, or underdisk, to build their great halls of the dead. In this way those that fell were insured that they would spend eternity with their god as long as they upheld their tenants.
Mortalan became the last of the chaos gods when Guha convinced him to free a single dead elven prince from the bonds of death by cracking open the gates of the underdisk. Not one elf, but a huge host of the dead pushed their way through the gates. Guha sneezed the winds of change over them when the grave dust from their burial wrappings tickled his nose. In this way the first vampire, leading a huge host of undead horrors, escaped into the world. In a rage, Artol slew his brother for this act and then leaped to help Guha seal the gates of the the underdisk. When the gates were sealed, Artol and Guha searched for Mortalan’s corpse, but found that his newly undead minions had carried it off. Mortalan rose shortly thereafter as the god of vampires and lord of the undead.
The Chaos War changed the landscape of the great disk forever. The energies released as the gods and their rune masters battled across the elemental domains were both awesome and terrible. Mountains were thrown down, huge cuts and gashes were scored in the land, whole forests were burned down to stumps and roots. In some lands, the magical energies released either drained or tainted the land forever creating vast wastelands.
Eventually the armies of chaos were trapped and either destroyed or scattered. The gods of chaos were brought before the Elemental Court to stand for their crimes and be judged. They were all stripped of their elemental rune, which broke their runic triad, and sentenced to serve as slaves in the houses of their former brothers and sisters. Being stripped of their element drove them mad and before they could be restrained they fled the courtroom and disappeared into dark and hidden places, there to scheme and plot their vengeance.
The gods learned a painful lesson from the chaos war and decided that they would no longer interfere directly with the affairs of the disk. They took up the great concordance in which they vowed to work in the world only though their worshipers. They made the concordance known to the mad gods of chaos and warned them that if they did not abide by it the sane gods would once again go directly to war against them and this time there would be no quarter given.
As a loophole around the concordance, the gods began to provide divine intervention to their worshipers whenever they called. However, it was soon discovered that when the sane gods provided divine intervention, the mad gods found it very easy to conjure chaotic horrors from the depths of the void. It seemed that the concordance had its own way of maintaining the balance. The gods of order continue to provide divine intervention to their worshipers today, but only to their most devout and only when they are in dire need.
While in hiding, the mad gods decided to create a new element and restore their triads. They claimed that chaos itself was an element and in their madness convinced themselves that they could be made whole by pooling their powers and creating an entity of elemental chaos. They twisted and perverted the law rune to create a chaos rune and willed Lurkolaze into life. Lurkolaze had no form to speak of, only a shifting shape that appealed to the eyes of the mad gods. His voice spoke to them from the void, whispering of bizarre paths to power that minds had long ago rejected. Lurkolaze led them down these demented trails and exposed them to horrors beyond imagination. In the process it established itself as elemental chaos and lord of the mad gods.
Slavery and The Curse of Time
The Eldar races found themselves in a state of perpetual war with the remnants of the forces of chaos. Famine and disease were common and many of the great works from the Gods Age fell into disrepair and ruin. The survivors fell back into their strongholds, secure in their mother element, but unable to venture beyond in safety.
The Eldar races petitioned to the gods to free them from their woeful plight. Having just recently agreed to the concordance the gods knew they could not act directly on the behalf of their worshipers. The gods pleaded their case before the Elemental court and the Elements took pity on their creations and agreed to devise a solution to the problem. Working together once again, despite their past failures.
The Elemental Court created the Human race as a slave race in response to the pleas from the gods. They sought to create a subservient race that could function within any elemental realm and so embodied the humans with a wide range of abilities and adaptations. The humans served against their will in this capacity for uncounted generations. Many times they rose up against their masters in bloody rebellions, and every time they were struck down and harsher measures were put in place.
Despite these setbacks, the human race flourished and their numbers soon began to outpace those of their captors. The Eldar races again petitioned their gods for intervention and they, in turn, sought out the Elemental Court for an answer to their dilemma. One final time the elements labored at the great table and created the curse of time to cast upon the humans. But as often happened when the Elements worked together, the curse proved more wide sweeping than intended and affected all living things on Shadora, including, though to a lesser degree, the Eldar races.
With the curse of time freshly laid upon them, many bands of enslaved humans realized that entire generations would live and die in captivity and they became enraged. They spoke out that they must break free now, or die trying. Others among them counseled caution and patience, fearing the unending retaliation that must surely accompany a failed attempt. Thus the debates went on in hushed whispers over scraps of bread during a break or under cover of Shadora’s cloak within the slave barracks after a days work.
The First Age: Emancipation
Finally, an event occurred that shifted the consensus towards revolt. In each region, one after another, a new slave was brought in. He called himself Varnos and he came with a plan. It was perfectly devised and amazingly complete. Many marveled at his strategy and wondered if he was divinely inspired. He claimed allegiance to no god, saying that their labors and those of the elements put man in the pits in the first place. Instead he claimed that he had mastered the elements and those who stood with him could learn to do the same.
Varnos and his generals would infiltrate a region’s slave pits, isolate the weakness of the system, devise a plan, and rally the bulk of the slave population to their cause. Varnos unleashed awesome magics to aid his followers, the likes of which have never been seen before or since. The ferocity of the assault and the brutal and ruthless slaughter of the overseers that occurred during these rebellions left a scar on the psyche of eldar races. It is a wound that has never healed. A wrong that has never been forgotten.
After each successful revolt, Varnos lead his newly freed followers to the edge of their elemental domain and made them decide their fate. Those who had stayed behind in captivity had already chosen and they kept the name of Thrall, meaning man of use. Some chose to stay and exist on the fringe of the element that they had once served, determined to challenge the eldar races for dominance in their own realm. They became the Nargai, or elemental men. Others stayed deep within their old domains using the skills of their former masters to carve out a simple, if primitive, life. They became the Ahay, or ancestral man. Most chose to stay on with Varnos the Emancipator, and took on the name of Valkim, or man unchained. These he boarded onto waiting ships and sailed to where none had ever gone, the very heart of Shadora, the forbidden isle of Egur where no element holds power. They renamed the island to Emancia, the free land, and began their exploration. Thus were born the four tribes of man.
The Emen took Varnos as their king and organized themselves in to 5 separate clans under him. They built Varnos a great city on a mountain top named Freehold ruled over them from the Throne of Man for 50 more years, living an unusually long life for a man. He took no wife and had no heir so he planned his succession carefully and Emancia was settled via expansion of the clans over the next few generations.
Beyond Emancia, a great many small wars and skirmishes were fought between the newly freed nargai and ahay and their ancient masters. The conflicts stretched across many decades and man finally succeeded by fighting a guerrilla war of attrition. Human birth rates are much higher than those of the eldar races and they decided it was more prudent to make peace than to continue the struggle. They receded deeper into their ancient realms and abandoned the fringes of their holdings to the free men.
It was found that Emancia was riddled with Journeyman ruins, the largest collection ever found. Many of these sites were remarkably intact and contained vast amounts of ancient Journeyman lore and wisdom. The largest was in discovered in the mountains beneath Freehold. From these wondrous vaults were gleaned the foundations of sorcery. The Emen saw sorcery as their birthright as it was magic powerful enough to dominate both the gods and the elements themselves. For three generations the smartest and wisest of poets, sages and scholars labored to build a system wherein all free men could gain access to this new knowledge. Thus was born the Emancian University system.
After another generation of relative peace, squabbles began to break out and border skirmishes became more prevalent as disputes over territorial lines became heated. The First Age drew to a close with the last King dying without an heir and the opening blows of a civil war being struck.
The Second Age: The Realm of Man
As Emancia was being settled, the Eldar Races had not sat idle. The elves and dwarves jointly devised a plan to attack the forbidden isle and seize Freehold. They sailed the Spinward Sea, made land fall and captured Pelandale, the capital city of Narcia. The fledgling country soon forgot its petty squabbles and moved to drive the invaders back into the sea. The Narcian War was short, less than a year and the elves and dwarves were driven off, but not before they had scouted much of Emancia. They had learned that even though the island had been declared forbidden by their priests, they could still reach their gods from and work their spells.
After throwing off the invaders, the khan’s of the clans formed the Council of the King to choose and advise the king. A new king was chosen and the civil war forgotten. The Valkim learn a painful lesson on just how tenuous their grip was on freedom.
The runemasters of the trolls created the Enthrall ritual turned their remaining slaves into docile sheep. They raided and captured a Valkim vessel and found that the ritual would work on any human. They spread the knowledge of the ritual across the disk to the rest of the Eldar races and a booming slave trade emerges within the span of but a few years. The emen begin to fear that it is only a matter of time before Emancia is attacked.
The sorcerers of the Emancia University issued a strong warning to the Eldar races in the form of an oath. They swear that they will destroy any clan, tribe or nation that enthralls free men, be they nargai, ahay, or valkim. The Inquisitors were formed as a secret inteligence gathering network to spy on the eldar races, seek out users of enthrall ritual, and report back to the Throne of Man.
Over the next few centuries the eldar races tested the Oath with disastrous results. The Harzarg clan of Trolls was completely destroyed by the sorcery of the valkim in the first Oath War when the eleven shades of grey, became ten. After carrying off an entire village of shepherds, the Wingreach aerie was razed and smashed by the sorcerers of Emancia. The ruin still sits untouched atop the high mesa and is held in great reverence by the vrawks as a holy shrine haunted by their ancestors.
Not all humans were happy with the university system and how it avoided using the dark arts. In fact, much of the Journeyman lore laid untranslated, unused and unexplored. A master sorcerer by the name of Dengon led a cabal of disenchanted sorcerers into the vaults below the city where they slew the guards and escaped with much of the untranslated lore and the documents judged by Zelen as too sinister for use in the university.
Gregor, the king of Emancia offered up an olive branch to the Eldar races when he allowed the first temples to the gods be built in Freehold. The temples were weak copies of those in the elemental domains, but they were still built. Many Nargai migrated to the island, which was what Gregor hoped for. He wanted runemasters loyal to Emancia to fight alongside his sorcerers. Along with the Nargai, came the first of the eldar races, mostly exiles and criminals, as settlers in the new land. Gregor had also hoped for this as he felt the Eldar races would be lest likely to attack their own.
After Gregor opened the Realm of Man to the temples of the gods, he instructed the sorcery university started an outreach program to spread their new found learning to other men outside of Emancia. They encouraged their students to venture out and explore the world, keeping dues and duties to a minimum. The students gathered for instruction at guild halls established in the major cities. The eldar races complained that these wandering wizards were just spies for Emancia and its University.
Dengon and his dark circle resurfaced in the realm of fire where he found allies in a blasted gods age city destroyed in the chaos war. He learns much about the nature of chaos from the twisted denizens of that poisoned place and becomes enamored. He declares that the ascendancy of chaos as an element is incomplete and that he had found ancient rituals in a lost journeyman ruin on the edge of the world that explain the secrets for creating an element. He sends a a call out for students wishing to study in what he calls the University of Chaos. his siren’s song seems to work as forms are seen to move across the Desert of Dawn and Dusk in the shadow of night, seeking out the unholy city and it’s dark master.
As the second age draws to a close, the focus shifts from the Realm of Man to the Realm of Fire and the Lazuri Empire. Emperor Krassh Crimsonclaw’s only clutch of eggs is destroyed when his son Grak Razorclaw is the first to hatch and immediately destroys all the other eggs of his clutch. A single egg containing his brother, Trask Greattail, is secreted away by a clutch tender.
The Second Age ends with the human slave trade relegated to the shadows, Emancia’s strength no longer in question, and great change looming on the horizon for the Lazuri Empire.
The Third Age: The New Lazuri Empire
At the start of the 3rd Age, the 8th and last emperor of the Old Lazuri Empire, Krassh Crimsonclaw, died of mysterious circumstances and his sole heir, Kraash Razorclaw, is called to the Obsidian Throne as 9th emperor of the Lazuri empire. Kraash declares that his empire is the “New Empire”.
The old Lazuri Empire was a venerable if bloody establishment that could trace it’s ancestral roots back some 800 years. However, at the start of the 3rd age the empire underwent radical changes and became the New Empire. The first act of young emperor Kraash was to appoint a human sorcerer named Dengon as his Grand Adviser and invited him to sit at the council of five. The council of five had historically represented the emperor’s most wise and trusted advisers including military, civil, and religious leaders. The council of five became the council of six much to the uproar of the religious quarter. The very next day the high priest died under mysterious circumstances and a new, clearer thinking, appointee was ushered into the council chambers.
Kraash and Dengon started a cleansing campaign to rid the empire of any dissenters. Thousands are put to the knife as blood sacrifice becomes a regular part of the worship of Lazur the lazuri patron god or war. Within a decade the new empire declares victory over what it considers to be the last of the significant resistance.
Man’s Sorcery University outreach programs focused their attentions on the contested zones, far from the centers of elemental power. Over the span of many years, members of the eldar races themselves applied for acceptance at the various colleges and were accepted openly. The emen were eager to share their knowledge and promote peace with the eldar races.
Of all the eldar races, the Dwarves showed the most aptitude. The years of study and exacting rituals appealed to the logical and rigid minded dwarves. With the death of their patron god in the gods war, nearly the entire dwarven society gave up worshiping of the earth gods in favor of sorcery. The dwarves became obsessed with ‘progress’, ‘efficiency’, and towards the end of the age, with a new religion they called ‘technology’. They harnessed the power of steam, developed gunpowder, and constructed crude firearms.
As the university leaders saw the power of what the dwarves were creating, they applied external influence on the dwarven leadership to share their knowledge. The dwarves conceded and created the College of Inner Workings. Here the dwarves taught the basics of physical forces and their applications. Their graduates are highly sought after as Mechanicians and Engineers. The dwarves were not as forthcoming as the sorcerers and held back their knowledge of steam and gunpowder.
As the Sorcery University system expanded, the Lazuri finished work on a significant naval force and use it to lay claim to the Warmearth realm of conflict. The Cohort from the great city of Thenga Velu rode into the field and stopped their advance into the realm of earth. This border conflict continues into the present day.
This defeat did not stop the new empire for within a year Kraash’s armies invade the contested Firestorm realm and slaughter the Nein by the thousands. Dengon had built up a powerful sorcerer’s circle and he unleashed hellish energies that obliterated Kraash’s foes. As the empire is about the crush the Nein, they are attacked from the rear by the forces of the Fel. The remnants of the Nein escape to the high plains as the Lazuri turn a vengeful eye to the Fel. Over the next 8 years the Lazuri hunt down and drive the Fel to the brink of extinction and the retreat to the hidden temples deep in their rain forests.
With no fear of a sneak attack from within their own borders, the empire took up their campaign with the Realm of Air. The Nein had not been idle and they fielded a vast army of Nein, Vrawk, Men and Elves. The empire fought a bloody series of battles over the next 3 years relying on the sorcery of Dengon’s circle to win the day again and again. Nein, Vrawk and Man surrendered when Dengon set the sky afire and burned the Vrawk from the sky. The prisoners were quickly bound by terrible loyalty oaths to their new masters. As a test of loyalty, the Lazuri ordered the conquered air temple armies to destroy StormHold, a major storm elf city, as a test of their loyalty. It’s said the Gardeners and Woodlords cursed all who were present for their treachery with endless nightmares of the event. Those that received the curse became known as the Volga, the tormented ones.
With their defeat on the field it is not long before the survivors surrender Thenga Orana, the great city of air, to the empire. With the air realm subdued, the lazuri set their sights on their greatest foe, their opposing element, water. The Lazuri fleet lays siege to the Isle fortress of Thenga Sharu, center of power for the Agualans, and are soundly defeated. The fleet rebuilds and then attacks the earth city of Thenga Velu. After a three year siege the empire meets defeat once again.
The Present Day
The present day finds the Lazuri Empire a vast and growing civilization bent towards a dark and ominous purpose. They have made a mysterious pack with the forces of chaos to aid them in their quest to build a sixth element and change the structure of the great disk itself. The sorcerers of Emancia have so far been content to let the Eldar races destroy themselves. Many sages wonder if they will sit on the sidelines wringing their hands until it is too late.