Sunday, December 8, 2013

New Setting, New History: The Eastern Isles

Perhaps unwisely, I am developing a brand-new fantasy setting, directed at (generally speaking and more or less) an old school style of play. This setting may end up folding in material from my previous world designs, or being itself incorporated into one of those creations, but that's neither a priority nor a consideration at this time. For the moment it's simply a new fantasy setting with traditional underpinnings but some twists.

I have a sketched map already, posted a few days ago to G+ and included below for those who have not seen it. And I have written a brief and very skeletal history for your perusal. It is a bit bland at this point and there are some gaping holes in it, but it gives me enough structure to hang additional work on. You'll notice in this history an abundance of placeholder names, which is the very next thing I plan to address.

In some remote era the ancient Elves, fair and terrible, came to the Eastern Isles and established a dominion there. It is believed that Men and Dwarves already dwelt among the Isles at this time, but few records remain from that day. The works of the Elf-Lords were great but today lie in ruin. In legends passed down to Men there are whispers of a great citadel somewhere among the isles, but no trace of this is known today.

After an Age the Elves dwindled in number and majesty, and their Lords departed to the east across the trackless seas. Those who remained were a diminished people both in stature and in the exchange of their immortality for mere long life. Some few of these remain on the Isles, in isolated clades dwelling deep in forested wilderness. The eldest among them harbor, it is said, the dreadful secrets of the cruel Elven deeds of long ago.

With the departure or fall of the Elf-Lords the might of the Dwarves waxed. Three great Dwarf-Kingdoms were established: the eldest and greatest at Khanuk-Khaz and the lesser realms of Azakh-Ghar and Aruk-Khai. At the same time there arose in great numbers some malignant remnant of the earlier era, the fierce and deadly race of Orcs. Between Dwarves and Orcs there was and remains great enmity. Over the span a five centuries a series of brutal conflicts were fought, called the Ironhold Wars by Men. The final Dwarven victory was decisive; the Orcs were diminished for a millennium. Yet the cost was very great; Khanuk-Khaz had been destroyed utterly and Azakh-Ghar had suffered such devastation and loss that before a single generation had passed its great gates were sealed and its remaining population dispersed. Those Dwarves who today dwell among Men mostly trace their ancestry to the once-proud clan-holds of Azakh-Ghar.

How long humans have lived in the Eastern Isles is not known, but they had dwelt in the Isles in small numbers at least since the time of the Elf-Lords. Of varying origins, some tribes had brought agriculture and husbandry with them from the Erenian mainland. Over time they assimilated into a something resembling a single ethnotype, and this “indigenous” race is now called the Cythric people.

At Aruk-Khai the Dwarves retreated into near-total isolation. With the Orcs crushed, humans, having learned writing and magic from Elven remnants and metallurgy and stoneworking from the Dwarves, rose to prominence on the Isles for the first time.

For some centuries a patchwork array of petty kingdoms and isolated strongholds lay scattered across the Isles. This era ended with the nominal union of the Isles under the rule of the first of the High Kings, seven in number.

In the age of the third High King (about 600 years ago) the King's Peace was disrupted by the first of several waves of Dariscene invaders from the mainland. The population of the Smaller Isle was quickly swamped by the newcomers but Big Island was far more formidable, with humans under the High Kings resisting the invaders as well as goblins and even Dwarves in a few isolated cases. By the age of the fifth King the invasions slowed and an unsteady peace emerged, with a number of Dariscene petty "kings" ruling alongside the High King and nominally swearing fealty to him.

Under the sixth (Mad) King the Orcs began to re-emerge as a significant power and threat under a great war-leader called the Al’Hakh. Too, beneath the King’s despotic rule unrest began to simmer, culminating in civil war. After a year of brutal strife the Mad King was killed by his own knights. The seventh (Doomed) King took the throne and began a concerted effort to drive back the Orc hordes, only to face a new wave of Dariscene invaders from Eren. Pushed to the brink of utter ruin, an agreement, the Great Pact, was forged between the High King, the Dariscene Kings and the Temples of Korbrak and Velkyra (the Dariscene and Cythric war gods, respectively) to fight against the great tide of Orcs.

At the end of a long and destructive but inconclusive campaign a great battle was fought at a place called the Stones of Corialen. Of this battle many tales are told, and not all can be true. But what is known is that at the end the Orcish Al'hakh lie dead amid tens of thousands upon the field and the King was not seen again by the eyes of men.

A century of ruin and struggle preceded the rise of new Kings, of a people among whom the distinction between Cythric and Dariscene had largely been erased, at least on Ketemar.