Journey through the shadowfell
The time has come to tell a tale that must be retold many times. We must remember we had a home far away from here on Rhe’yorel. Our new home echoes the old, but only vaguely. This home began as port cities founded by the human kingdoms in their strength, important trading and diplomatic stations, but as tensions rose between the great empires, concerns with these faraway lands and uncivilized peoples faded. These ports became sleepy cities with the facades of great empire. Now, these cities are alive again, but with a life much different than before. Here we remember where we came from and what we had to leave behind. Here we remember the goodness of the gods and the terrors of evil. To do so is to tell the great tale of gods and mortals and heaven and earth.
There were once two great empires in the world: Abeir and Bael Turath. Among the human kingdoms, the nobles of Bael Turath rose by demonic pact to dominate the lesser peoples north of our lost Atullan’s Dragonspine mountains. To the south, Dragonborn allied with other free races to form the great empire of Abeir. These two empires competed tumultuously in all things, even to the involvement of higher powers, but amid all the noise of rivalry, no one noticed the silence. A well-known seer of Ioun, and many of the other mediums, had fallen silent. Gods and men carried on their politics, but, unseen, the realm of the devils began to fall oddly still and orderly.
Vecna’s Cunning & “The New Line”
Vecna had taken Ioun’s seer that through torture and corruption he might wrest the secrets of prophecy. He learned of a plan still barely bubbling in the minds of only the strongest devils: to put aside their squabbles and ally with Zehir in order to bring about a ritual powerful enough to overcome their prison and bring themselves into the mortal world. Vecna saw personal opportunity in their plans and began his schemes amidst both great empires, revealing for the first time how terrible his cunning is. First, he lead a highly influential Tiefling family into a new pact, infusing vampiricy into their already strongly demonic bloodlines. This family remained loyal to the greater empire, for now, but they called themselves “The New Line” and kept their unholy hunger secret. Second, Vecna sent agents into the noble Eladrin kingdom of the Dragonborn empire to seduce noblemen and academics whose taste for power and fear of death had made them wander from their Eladrin brethren and were ready to form an elite cult of capable liches. Fear and bitterness and hate secretly ripened in Eladrin hearts til ready to be used.
The War of the Gods
Ioun, blessed Diviner, also saw the devil’s plans, but almost too late. The devil’s ritual required powerful divine blood in order to bring them into this world. Zehir poisoned Bahamut to leech the essence of his blood, but Ioun had alerted the other gods. Pelor, Kord, and Moradin made war upon Zehir and the devils. Zehir was interrupted before he could complete his bleeding of Bahamut, but Bahamut was greatly weakened, and so, by extension, were his patron peoples. Moradin and Kord slew Zehir, Moradin crushing the snake’s head. It was true the devil’s plan had been interrupted, but it was not entirely lost. Though they lacked the essence to bring their most powerful into the world, they could still extend their influence here on this mortal plane in preparation for a future day when they might rule the world in person. They knew that the time to secure that future had arrived. With the godly powers that supported Abeir weak and mending, the echoes of the god’s war thundered down onto the mortal world.
The Great War (of Mortals)
The tense peace between Tiefling and Dragonborn empires erupted into brutal conflict. Martial law became the only law. The fierceness of the war was surpassed only by its length. Army after army marched through the land, never to return, but always replaced by another. Lands were razed again and again. First the mountain passes and borderlands became desolate, but as years of war passed, the centers of power in both empires receded, leaving a wilderness of desolation. The losses were innumerable. Tiefling armies were organized according to family lines, and as the years of warfare passed, entire families were lost. The New Line, meanwhile, used its influence to survive the war as much as it could, consolidating power and waiting for orders from its dark master. Much of the Eladrin forests were burned and liches spread ever greater fear and hatred. After years of warring, Bael Turath desperately used the essence of Bahamut to summon a pit fiend and scores of war devils to lead a massive army. The great army marched on the Dragonborn capital and was stopped at the very gates only with the loss of many of the strongest dragons and countless soldiers. Even more countless souls swelled the gates of the Raven Queen’s stronghold over decades of war. Malcontent grew in the vassal kingdoms of both empires as they were emptied of able-bodied men and women, though each nation, each city, knew its fate was tied to its empire and desperate fear drove loyalty to overcome dissension. Sadly, it also drove many to wicked acts. Opportunists preyed on the weak. Conquerers raped and pillaged while the conquered commit suicide rather than surrender. Even entire contingents cannibalized their enemies for survival. Famine took the weak left behind, and as the war reached its later decades, desperation left depleted realms lawless. The war then was all either empire knew or cared for. Dark powers continued to fuel the desperate war and also broke it apart. In-fighting between the new and old lines was leading Bael Turath down the path of unavoidable collapse, but decades of war, fear, and famine had left both deteriorated empires dangerously close to failure. Fearing the worst, both empires mustered all their remaining military strength. The two mighty armies were posed to meet near the largest pass between the empires. Both went ready to end the Great War, but no one could imagine the horrors that awaited them.
The Death Unleashed
Asmodeus and Vecna had planned for this moment for ages. Both sought to rule what remained of the empires and shape them into their likeness. Gods too had all planned for this end of the war. But gods and devils were not the only ones scheming. As these two armies approached each other, darkness swirled in the skies overhead. Lightning pealed and the ground rumbled. Before the armies opened a planar rift linking this world to the land of shadow. Channeling the dark energies and death left by a century-long war, Orcus opened a rift to the heart of his forces in the Shadowfell. Legions of zombies, wraiths, and aberrant creatures poured through, throwing themselves upon both armies, feeding off the slain to grow ever stronger. Orcus emptied nearly the entirety of his forces in the Shadowfell, bringing them all to bear upon the earth. The carnage was unspeakable, but it was also only beginning. The rift lasted for days, and as undead legions marched off across the land in search of warm flesh and the chance to revel in greater suffering, the land at the heart of the rift turned black and twisted. A plague upon the land was poured into the world that day, and in the years following, it would spread corruption across the continent. Death spread from this cancer at the heart of the continent faster than most fleeing men. Within a few short years it would cover all of Atullan. The Great War turned into a war of survival among all peoples in every land against undeath itself.
Crumbling Empires & Exodus
The already divided empire of Bael Turath had already broken into civil war and the wave of death caught settlements totally unaware. With so few left to defend the empires, undeath washed through even fortified cities, raising even more legions as they went. The capital cities of both empires were soon overrun. When it was realized that nothing could stop the onslaught, all peoples began fleeing to the furthest lands. What remained of the Eladrin kingdom made plans to leave their ruined home behind and sail to a new home on Rhe’yorel, but Vecna’s liches tragically burned the shipyards, dooming their people to the undeath, all for the power of their new god. The New Line declared itself the new rulers of Bael Turath, Vecna had gained his dominion, but thanks to Orcus it is only a twisted shadow of Vecna’s dreams. Abandoning the welfare of their empire for the preservation of their line and Vecna’s glory, they enslaved thousands of tieflings, humans, and demons in order to preserve the precious living blood they needed to survive in land now covered in death. The great dwarven halls fell silent and their fate remains unknown to this day. As refugees arrived in the furthermost ends of the continent, to the very northeast and southwest corners of Atullan, the human kingdoms made whatever plans they could to leave that now horrid land and sail for Rhe’yorel. Thousands of refugees fled Atullan, some only just in time, some all too late.
A New Home & Aftermath
It’s been 80 years since those last ships arrived in Rhe’yorel. Our refugee fathers crowded into what were once sleepy coastal outposts, having left behind the most horrifying of dangers. They brought with them a small part of once mighty empires, a small part of their academies, order, ambitions, lore, history, and belief. These we must remember. We’ve used our inheritance to build our sleepy ports into great cities. We have expanded outward, taming the wilderness. Order is again returning to the cosmos. Bahamut, now recovered, shelters the few remaining dragons to ensure their survival. The Raven Queen exerted her influence in the Shadowfell unopposed, gaining more power over her domain than ever before. We see her sending agents into the mortal world to preach the proper place of death and repair the imbalance of life and death by preserving the remaining life and preventing undeath. Pelor sends light and emissaries to all who’ll hear. Ours is an age of hope and glorious beginnings. We are not without our troubles, to be sure. There is disagreement about old and new, old enmity that should be forgotten, and over-concerned Elves and gnomes that do not understand what great civilization brings with it, but all these too are opportunities to begin again. Many fear the fervor that arises from opposing ideologies will lead to conflict, but many more seek a diplomatic solution. We come from many lands, with many ideas, even as children of enemies, and yet, we can work together to form the greatest age of them all.
-Santonio Holmes, Lord of New Bah’rhan