History of Aetaltis: Part VI

Hope springs anew as the armies of the Alliance go to war with the last remnants of the Dark Hordes. Witness the the full power of Alliance's military machine, marvel as Glyph Casting returns true spellcasting to Aetaltis, and shudder at the revelation of the orogs' dark secret!

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.

Age of Atlan

After their initial contact with the native Aetaltans, the Atlan Alliance swept into the Amethyst Sea basin. Within two years, an army of scouts, explorers, scholars, and workers descended on the Halfling Dalelands. Under any other circumstances, such an influx of strangers into a settled land might be viewed as an invasion. There is one simple reason that this wasn't the case with the Alliance; the Alliance had the ability to wield magic and they shared it.

For the first time since the ritual of limitation, true spellcasting had returned to Aetaltis. No runes were required for these spells. All that one needed was the innate talent to wield essence and the proper training.

The Return of Spellcasting

The spellcasting techniques used by the Alliance wizards were completely different from those used by the enari during the Age of Magic. Alliance spells involved complex formulae, complicated mental exercises, and well-practiced rituals. Most of their spells seemed unaffected by the Ritual of Limitation, and they bypassed many of its restrictions.They called their technique Glyph Casting.

Scholars and theologians have long debated why the Enaros allowed this to happen, expressing confusion as to why this form of spellcasting was allowed but others were not. Some claim the Enaros believed that the enari had learned their lesson, and the Enaros no longer wished to stop them from using spells. Others claim that the ability had been within the enari all along, and they simply hadn't discovered how to create spells under the new rules imposed by the Ritual. Whatever the reason, the Alliance’s methods triggered a renaissance in spellcasting on Aetaltis.

There were still spells that didn't function properly. These were limited in scope and mostly dealt with the movement of people and things instantaneously from one point to another. Even these limitations were sometimes bypassed using specialized rituals and tools, as in the case of the Alliance world gates.

In exchange for assistance establishing their colonies, the Alliance taught the enari their spellcasting techniques. The enari were quick students, since by their nature they were tied to the magical power of Essence. Some enari shunned this new art, fearing the wrath of the Enaros. Most did not, and soon Glyph Casting spread throughout the Amethyst Sea basin.

The Dark Threat of Arcane Magic

Despite magic’s utility and power, there is an underlying and often unspoken distrust of it among the people of Aetaltis. The simple fact that Endoren was the master of magic before his Fall leaves a seed of doubt in many people’s minds about whether any arcane magic is truly safe. This is reinforced by spectacular arcane spellcasting failures, the magic soaked ruins of the old Alliance cities, and the strange demeanor of many who are drawn to the arcane arts.

The more cosmopolitan a settlement, the more likely they are to downplay or ignore these worries. This is thanks in part to improved education in these communities and a greater breadth of worldly experiences. In many remote settlements, however, arcane spellcasters may receive a cold welcome—or worse.

The Founding of Norentor

Even with their magic, the Alliance still had a great deal of work ahead of them. Their first course of action was to establish a permanent camp. They selected the site of the modern city of Hawk’s Crest at the mouth of the Gray River for their first settlement, and they named it Norentor. The leaders of the Alliance marked the founding by declaring the year as Aetaltan Cycle 1, or 1 AC. Later, when the Alliance rose to dominance in the region, this marking of the years became the standard. It is still used to this day.

Next, Alliance explorers began the construction of Aetaltis’ first world gate. These strange devices were the heart of the Alliance’s power. In an instant, people and goods traveled back and forth between Aetaltis and the Atlan home world. Messengers were dispatched, military reinforcements were sent to support local troops, and supplies could be instantly ferried to the colony.

The construction of that first world gate, which was conducted by the Alliance race known as the newardin, took two years to complete. Throughout this time, word of the otherworldly travelers spread, and envoys from settlements throughout the Amethyst Sea were sent to meet with the Alliance representatives.

Friendship and Conflict

Although the dwarves and halflings got along well with the Alliance, initial encounters between the Alliance and the other enari were not as positive. When the Alliance first ventured into the Icebound Plains, the drothmal assumed that they were some new form of endrori. Inevitably, this led to violent encounters that left many dead on both sides.

The elves, the dominant race among the fey, actually went to war with the Alliance on a number of occasions. The Alliance’s expansionist tendencies didn't sit well with the elves, particularly when it came to the forests the elves had nursed back to health after the Age of Darkness. When Alliance settlements encroached, the elven response was swift and merciless. This prompted the Alliance to retaliate. It was decades before a lasting peace was finally reached between the elves and the Alliance.

The Dark Hordes Return

In the years immediately prior to the Alliance’s arrival, the remnants of the Dark Hordes still on the surface were relatively quiet. There were still many endrori living in the mountainous areas of the Amethyst Sea basin, and few enari dared to dig a well or try to build a deep mine for fear of striking an endrori infested Deepland hall. Most of the endrori, however, were now far from the fertile lowlands where the enari settled. Some areas, such as the Halfling Dalelands, were so free of endrori that they had become almost peaceful.

It was a false peace. The Hordes were merely biding their time, growing their numbers, and waiting for the right moment to attack. That moment came two years after the establishment of Norentor. Although the enari warned the Alliance about the Dark Hordes, the absence of them in the Dalelands led Alliance leaders to write off the threat as little more than legend and superstition.

When a Dark Horde swept out of a previously unknown and unsealed Deepland entrance in the Dragontail Mountains, it caught the Alliance unprepared. The Horde swept through the countryside, burning halfling villages and fields and either killing the residents or taking them as slaves to send back to the Deepland mines. Within a week they were racing toward the Alliance colony.

The colonists scrambled to prepare a defense, but it was clear that they wouldn't be able to stop the surging mass of endrori. An advance Alliance force went out to test the strength of the onrushing Horde. The Horde crushed it in a single skirmish. Even with their magic, the Alliance could not stand against the sheer numbers of the Horde.

The Alliance, however, was not without resources. As soon as word of the advancing Horde reached Norentor, they sent a message to their home world. Each day that passed, the Horde advanced closer until finally they were camped within sight of the Alliance settlement’s walls.

The colonists begged their leaders to use the world gate to evacuate them, but the leaders refused. The home world had commanded them not to activate their gate. The pleading colonists became an angry mob, but just when it seemed a battle would break out inside the walls of the city, a low hum rose from the center of the colony. The noise was the sound of the great world gate being activated.

The crowd rushed to the gate thinking that they were being evacuated at last. The massive stone pillars that encircled the gate platform glowed with a white hot light. With each low thrum of the gate, the pillars pulsed, brightening with every resonant beat. Meanwhile, a bellowing horn sounded from somewhere deep within the ranks of the Dark Horde that had massed in the plains beyond the walls.

As the Dark Horde advanced toward the colony, a legion of Alliance warriors marched out of the gate. Swordsmen, archers, cavalry, battlemages, and whole units of monstrous orog mercenaries. Without stopping they marched straight through the city, out the front gates, and onto the field of battle.

With calm precision the Alliance warriors formed up into ranks. Once they were in place the Alliance commander, the now famous general Corvin Drakewyn, gave the command to charge. With a triumphal shout, the Alliance legion surged forward. When the two armies met, it is said that the crash could be heard as far south as Gelendor.

The battle that followed was costly for the Alliance legion. They’d never faced such a truly evil foe, and they were unready for the innate cruelty of the enemy. Despite this, the Alliance prevailed. The Horde broke, and its wraethdari leader fell at Drakewyn’s hand.

Unfortunately, this was only the beginning. Something was happening in the Deeplands, and the Hordes were rising again. Having made a commitment to their Aetaltan colony and their enari allies, the Alliance did not retreat. Instead, they established more settlements, constructed more gates, and set out to defeat the menace of the Dark Hordes once and for all.

The Horde Wars

The Alliance spent the next few years fighting the minions of Endroren. Dark Hordes were rising all across the Amethyst Sea, and the enari knew too well the horrors of a Horde attack. Walls were constructed, weapons forged, and throughout the Amethyst Sea people prepared for war.

Whenever word of a risen Horde reached the Alliance, their military commanders dispatched armies to confront them. Bolstered by thousands of Alliance troops from the Atlan home world, the combined forces of the Alliance and the enari were turning the tables on their attackers.

Rather than waiting behind stone walls for the attack, they met the endrori in the field. The wraethdari that commanded the Hordes were not ready for such strong resistance, and the endrori battle lines faltered in the face of the combined Alliance and enari armies. For the first five years, this trend continued, and it seemed that this recent rise of the Hordes would be short lived.

The Fall of the Orogs

There was one flaw to the Alliance’s strategy. With all the worlds they had traveled to, the Alliance had never encountered a true force of Darkness. They’d fought creatures that are evil, and they’d certainly seen all manner of cruelty and treachery. What they were not prepared to contend with was the pure, unadulterated Darkness of Endroren’s power.

Imprisoned inside the core of the world, Endroren could exert little direct control over the surface world. He tried to escape from his prison again and again, but all his attempts failed.

Endroren discovered, however, that he could sense the seeds of Darkness that lay within the spirits of some mortals. Normally a person could keep their personal Darkness at bay, but this seed, if encouraged, had the potential to grow. If allowed to grow unchecked, in time it spread throughout the person’s spirit, and eventually corrupted it completely.

Endroren realized that while he could not have a direct impact on the world while imprisoned, he could nourish these Dark Seeds wherever he found them. With each failure of the victim’s will, the Darkness would grow, and when one was finally overwhelmed by the Dark power, they fell forever into Endroren’s grasp. The unfortunate individuals that survived this process were called the Fallen, and they become eternal servants of the Dark Lord.

The Enaros had created the enari in such a way that the Dark Seed was rare among them. The people of the Alliance, however, were much more likely to have a Dark Seed. This proved especially true for the warrior born mercenary race known as the orogs. The seed was strong in the orog spirit, and it took little effort for Endroren to encourage its growth.

One by one, orogs fell into Endroren’s grasp. Often the fall occurred in the midst of battle. An orog warrior fighting alongside an enari or other members of the Alliance, suddenly turned on his allies. The dark influence seemed to spread as well, for when one orog fell to the Darkness, the other orogs around him soon followed.

It was some time before the Alliance realized that these were not isolated incidents. All across the Amethyst Sea basin the orogs turned on their masters and allies. These fallen orogs called themselves ogres. Many crossed sides and joined with the Dark Hordes, bolstering the enemy’s forces and weakening the allies at critical moments in a battle.

When the Alliance finally understood what was happening, they ceased bringing orogs to Aetaltis. This was a blow to the allied armies of the Alliance and enari, for the orog mercenaries made up a major portion of the military hammer used to strike at the endrori. Not all orogs fell to Darkness, and those that resisted are the ancestors of the orogs that live among the civilized people of the Amethyst Sea basin today.

Most did fall, however, and the offspring of these ogres remain with the endrori.

The Last Horde

Despite this setback, the Alliance and enari recovered from the loss of the orogs. Slowly they fought the endrori back into the Deeplands. As the Hordes retreated underground, Warders swept in to seal the passages. In the year 22 AC, just north of the newly founded Alliance settlement of Erinor, the Alliance and enari conquered the last Horde at the battle of Valen Creek.

That is not to say that the land was suddenly safe again. Scattered tribes of endrori still plagued settlements on the outskirts of civilization, strange creatures twisted by magic regularly clawed their way out of the Elliyen Wilds, and the rest of Aetaltis’ mundane threats still existed. The day of the organized endrori Horde, however, had passed.

Coming next....The Rise of the Alliance!

 

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

 

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