History of Zion’s Abyss
In the beginning, the book was blank, and all was dark.
Then the Storyteller arrived, and opened the book. And, because there is nothing as sad to a storyteller as a blank page, the Storyteller dipped his pen into the well of darkness and began to write.
And as he wrote, the world formed.
The First Age
The First Age was the Age of Creation. The seas flowed, and the continents rose. On those continents, and in those seas, life began. For what is a story without characters?
It was also the Age of Dragons. These majestic, powerful creatures were the first of the Storyteller’s children. Their might and intelligence allowed them to rise above the other creatures, and they soon formed the first rudiments of a civilization, albeit a loose one. No great cities were built, but laws were developed to govern the great Dragon Clans and to ease their dealings with one another. Religion came into being, as they offered thanks to their creator. In homage to him, stories became the first currency, and laws developed governing this as well. Still and all, the dragons valued their independence and free will. So the laws were limited. And thus, law and chaos were tamed, and balanced.
But all was not completely peaceful, even in these early days, for a tale without conflict is no tale at all. Schisms arose between the great clans. Some looked at the world and thought there was plenty for all. They sought peaceful coexistence with the other creatures, though even these saw themselves as the undisputed rulers of the realm. But it was a benevolent rule they were after, and worked toward that end. Others looked around and saw lands ripe for the plucking. Greed and avarice ruled their souls, and they desired more…and more. All other life survived at their whim, to serve them or to be destroyed. Thus, the battle lines were drawn between good and evil, and the Dragon Wars were fought.
Dragons are exceedingly long lived, so it only fitting that their wars rage for great spans in time as well. For ten thousand years, dragons fought and died with neither side gaining advantage. Finally it was decided that an impasse had been reached, and a new type of warfare came into existence: intrigue. The Clans negotiated, plotted and schemed for centuries, settling themselves so that neither side was unhappy. But neither were they entirely happy. It was enough, however, for peace to return.
Alone in the heavens, the Storyteller desired companionship. So leaving his creation for a time, he traveled between the stars, seeking out friends he had known, in one guise or another. “Come,” he invited them. “Come and see this new world that I have made for you. Give it more life, and be a part of its tale.” And so the gods came to the world, bringing with them their hopes and fears, their ideals and their prejudices. Upon reaching the world, they set upon the task of populating it, each with their chosen peoples.
So, five million years after the world’s creation came what the dragons termed the “lesser races” These were elves and dwarves; gnomes and halflings; the savage races of orcs, goblins and their ilk. Many other races, too numerous to mention here, were brought forth by the gods. But when the time came for humanity to join the throng, the Storyteller said no. “Their time is not yet come,” he said, a faraway look in his eye, a knowing smile quirking his lips.
Far below, on the world, the dragons took the new races under their wings, each clan according to their whim, and the Dragon Empires were built. Now great cities rose, and monuments to the gods and to the dragons themselves. For five million years more, the Dragon Empires flourished, for good and for ill. But slowly, resentment began to grow in the hearts of the subject races. Even in the lands ruled by the good clans, they began to realize they were little more than servants to their Overlords. The dragons, content in their own affairs, noticed little of this growing turmoil and this would prove their undoing. All that was needed was a spark to ignite the flames of rebellion, and a leader to fan those flames.
The Second Age
Called the Age of Dreams, the Second Age began with the birth of an elf named Noamuth. Noamuth dwelt deep in the lands controlled by the Sarcucalchax Clan of red dragons. The reds were brutal overlords, and Noamuth watched helplessly as friends and family were ground to dust under their talons. Early in life, the elf vowed that all this must change. He began his revolution slowly, observing and biding his time. After a century and a half, he came to his conclusion. He realized that while the dragons were indeed powerful, they were relatively few in number compared to their subject races. If someone could unite the other races, the dragons had little chance of maintaining the status quo.
He began to travel through Sarcucalchax lands, always moving, preaching his message. Everywhere, he gained followers, though they were few at first. His best friend and chief counsel was a dwarf by the name of Durnin. Durnin maintained that while Noamuth’s words were powerful and filled with hope of a better future, it was action that would sway the mass of people to their banner. They would have to slay a dragon. Noamuth agreed with his friend, deciding that no one would suit their needs better that the Clan Father, an ancient wyrm with immense power.
The task was as near impossible as made no difference, but the gods were with them. They, too, desired change for their chosen peoples. One dark night Noamuth, Durnin, and a small band of their compatriots snuck into the Clan Father’s lair. A fierce battle ensued, but eventually the dragon fell. But the cost was a high one, for Noamuth himself was among the fallen as well. He died in Durnin’s arms, asking the weeping dwarf to finish what they had started and bring the Dragon Empires down. The dwarf readily agreed, and after burying his friend and the other fallen heroes, he took his axe to the Clan Father’s head. He and the remnants of his band took the head to the chief city of red dragon lands and fought their way to the top of the highest tower there. Durnin held the severed dragon head aloft and issued a call to arms for all the subject races. Magically enhanced, his challenge was heard throughout the city.
The result was instantaneous, and the revolution spread like wildfire. In the lands controlled by the evil Clans, war broke out with no quarter given on either side. The Second Dragon Wars, as they came to be known, were brutal in a way never seen before, nor since, even in the dark days of the Third Age.
In the lands ruled by the Clans of good, the dragons realized that their time had passed. They stepped aside gracefully, offering their aid against their evil brethren. The offer was readily accepted by the Alliance. The Second Dragon Wars lasted 50 years before the last of the evil Clans capitulated and the Empires fell.
The dragons would remain in the world, but never again in the numbers they had enjoyed in the First Age. The Clans as they had been were gone as well, as the dragons turned for the most part to individual affairs. With the collapse of the Empires, the other races went their separate ways cordially enough, and began to build their own kingdoms. Of these attempts, the elves and dwarves were most successful. The gnomes and halflings were content to dwell within and on the fringes of these new nations. The savage races, having found a taste for war, decided they enjoyed it and broke into various tribes, constantly raiding and warring with each other and the other races.
Aside from these skirmishes, and a few border disputes between neighboring lands, peace settled throughout the land, and an age of enlightenment began. Great centers of learning and the arts arose. New magics and technologies flourished. It was a time of plenty for everyone, blessed by the gods. For a thousand millennia, peace and prosperity ruled the world. Of course, all good things must come to an end.
The Third Age
The Third Age would go down in history as a dark age for Zion’s Abyss. However, it started with a great deal of promise. Late in the Second Age (scholars debate exactly when) humans arrived in the land. Starting life as little more than scattered tribes of barbarians, the new race quickly adapted to their surroundings. Borrowing, stealing and learning from the elder races, the humans wasted little time in establishing their own kingdoms. The elder races looked upon the humans’ rapid development with a mixture of awe and trepidation, but could do little to stop it, or even slow it appreciably.
While scholars debate just when in the Second Age the humans arrived in the land, they are in complete agreement that the Third Age began with the signing of the Elvedon Compact. Elvedon was one of the earliest human kingdoms established, though not the earliest. The burgeoning region was sandwiched between two of the elder races. The Elves bordered her to the south, and the Dwarves to the east. Where other kingdoms had expanded at the expense of their neighbors in border skirmishes and bloody wars, Elvedon did not. Aerick Elvedon, the man who had united the kingdom that bore his name, was a peaceful man, and a skilled diplomat. Even the unification of the tribes and city-states under his banner had taken place with a minimum of bloodshed. When his borders began to abut those of his neighbors, he halted his armies and sent out his ambassadors.
The result of the meeting between representatives of the three races was the Elvedon Compact. Not only did the document settle the question of borders peacefully, it also included clauses allowing for free trade and mutual defense between the three peoples. More importantly, it was the first time the elder races dealt with the humans as an equal. To be sure, the Compact had its detractor on all sides, but the core of the agreement would last through the Third Age and beyond.
Things began going badly with the rise of the dark god, Calimar. Calimar Sholindar had been one of the greatest champions of good that the human race ever produced. He was a shining example of all that was noble and pure in humanity. On his last great quest, however, he was attacked by a creature cursed with vampirism, and succumbed to the curse himself. His descent into darkness was long and torturous; a testament to the strength of his heart and will that he did not immediately give into the evil growing within his breast. For months, he pleaded with the gods of good to help him, to remove the curse from him. No answer came. When Calimar finally succumbed to the bloodlust, he vowed revenge on the deities who had, in his mind, abandoned him. He raised an army of undead and other fell creatures and carved himself a kingdom to dominate. This was not enough, however, and he began to research darker and darker magics. Eventually, he discovered how to kill a god and take its power for his own. He wasted no time in doing so, and soon took his place in the land’s pantheon. The Rise of Calimar was complete.
It was shortly after this that the Storyteller disappeared. No one is certain where he went, or why. What is certain is that without his balancing presence, the gods began to war with one another. It started slowly, and with little effect on the world at first. As time passed however, their influence was felt throughout Zion’s Abyss. Nearly two millennia of wars and atrocities began, punctuated with brief periods of peace. To be sure, not all of the deities took part in the conflict. Those who didn’t did their level best to limit the amount of damage being done to the land. Their efforts were somewhat effective, keeping the Godwar from dragging everything down in its wake. Still, the Third Age was quickly dubbed the Age of Blood.
The worst failure came during an elven civil war that came to be known as the Mage Wars. The conflict lasted six decades, culminating in a wave of magical destruction that laid waste to the human kingdom of Taren’Vel, as well as annihilating both armies. The utter destruction of an entire kingdom gave the gods pause, and for close to five hundred years peace reigned. New gods rose to replace those who had fallen, and the balance between good and evil was maintained. Still, though, there was no sign of the Storyteller.
The nation of Taren’Vel rose from the ashes under the auspices of various churches. The strongest of these was the church of Malachai, a god of law, whose followers had done a great deal to rebuild the devastated nation. Malachai was a stern god, who had thus far stayed separate from the troubles of other deities. However, the straits of his followers and their kingdom made him unhappy, particularly with the elves that had caused the destruction, and with the magic that they wielded with such unthinking ease. His church took up this line of distrust and dislike. When Calimar began whispering poison ideas into Malachai’s ear, it took little persuasion for distrust to become outright hatred, and for the rule of law to become tyranny.
In the last decade of the Third Age, peace shattered. In the year 2460, Third Age, Taren’Vel descended on their elven neighbors in what can only be described as a holy war. Their aim was nothing short of genocide. At the same time, Calimar made his move as well, a bid for world domination. Out of his kingdom, the Shadowlands, poured a massive army; hordes of undead, tribes of goblinoids and orcs, and Calimar’s own human followers swept all before them. Those who weren’t slain outright were enslaved. The forces of good marshaled their own armies as quickly as possible, and the entire known world found itself drawn into the conflict.
Knowing that the state of affairs would continue unabated unless the Storyteller returned, the gods Talabrina and Damion set their attentions to finding him. Not wishing to have their hands seen in this endeavor, they enlisted the aid of a variety of adventuring groups, from this and other planes. Eventually, one of these groups succeeded. The Storyteller was found on the front lines fighting against Calimar’s armies five years into the war, having no memory of whom or what he was. Once his memories were restored, he wasted little time in returning to the heavens after rewarding those who had helped him. While he despaired for the elves, he nevertheless concentrated on the greatest threat: Calimar.
Plans were set in motion that once again required the aid of a band of adventurers. After a decade of war, the end game began. Subtle machinations goaded the Storyteller’s chosen champions on their path. In addition, he enlisted the aid of one of Calimar’s chief lieutenants, promising her the dark god’s place in the pantheon when he had fallen. Talabrina and Damion also assisted him, mainly by keeping Calimar’s attentions focused on them rather than on the small band of heroes growing ever closer to defeating him. After many trials of mind, body, and soul the Storyteller’s Chosen succeeded, and Calimar was defeated. Even in death, however, Calimar lashed out…
The Fourth Age
The Third Age died in blood and fire. The fall of the dark god Calimar sent catastrophic shockwaves careening across the world. Earthquakes, firestorms, tidal waves, and other disasters both magical and mundane swept the planet’s face. The chaos lasted for days, and when it was over everything had changed. The survivors, shaken and afraid, knew without being told that the old Age was done, and a new time had come. Even the gods looked forward with uncertainty. Nevertheless, the world needed rebuilding, and so it was done.
The birth of the Fourth Age was a messy affair, as births so often are. Wars were fought as new nations arose at the expense of old. Some kingdoms, including Taren’Vel, withdrew from the world for a time, to concentrate on rebuilding within their borders. Others sent envoys and assistance to those in need. Capitol, economic and political, changed hands with a speed envied by hummingbirds. For those few brave or foolhardy enough to seek out adventure, it was the beginning of a golden age. Mercenary work was easy to find, and there were ruins aplenty to plunder for riches and lost secrets.
Now, a quarter century after The Fall, some semblance of order has returned to the world. Peace reigns across much of the land, though there is still much to be done. After all, the Fourth Age has barely begun, and there are many stories yet to tell…