Campaign of the Month: October 2010
Wyrmshadow Campaign Setting
Wyrmshadow History: The Age of the Gods
The Age of the Gods
ca. 20,000 – 2,000 years ago
The war against Asmous and his dark legions had taken a terrible toll on Wyrmshadow. The Legendary Wyrm itself was lost, the race of man had been reduced to alarmingly low numbers, and even the Elders, now known as Gods, were dealt tremendous and irreparable damage. In fact, from their unique vantage high above in the realm of Arcadia, Aos, Nus, and Phi realized that they themselves would soon die from their injuries if not for a drastic course of action.
Each of the Gods sought out a soul on Materia that exemplified their own ideals. Once found and properly tested, these souls would become vessels through which the Gods could continue their works far beyond their own deaths.
Aos, the Elder God of Nature and the Balance, chose for her new host a Wood Elf from the forests north of Quae Elfien. This Wood Elf, a noble ranger named Oerne, had been a friend to the animals, a true child of the wild, and had recently sustained deadly injuries of his own in defense of a pack of wolves from the encroaching Demon armies in their march south from Muhar. Upon the moment of his death, Aos summoned Oerne’s soul to Arcadia, informing the fallen Elf that he had been chosen as the host of Aos’s knowledge, memories, and powers. Oerne jumped at the opportunity to serve in maintaining the balance beyond his mortal years. Thus Oerne became the God of Nature and the Balance, and Aos, the former Ancient, would be immortalized through her bond with Oerne and each successive host she would choose.
Nus and Phi, similarly, would find candidates to carry forth their will upon Wyrmshadow. Phi, the God of Justice and Order, would choose for his new host a noble, disciplined Dwarven warrior, H’Ruyn. H’Ruyn’s death was in battle against traitorous Dwarves who had chosen to side with the demons during their occupation of the Dwarven kingdom of Kordoth. His committment to protecting the righteous, avenging the wronged, and punishing the corrupt were ideal features for a future God of Justice.
Nus, the God of Death, chose a Weren Avite named Raelok. Raelok was a wize and powerful wizard in his own right, a master of the Elven arts of magic, but most often found himself delving into the mystical properties of mortality. Raelok was an Avite, capable of taking the form of a giant black raven, or that of a hybrid of raven and man, at will. His magical prowess and obsession with the dead had grown so legendary that, to this day, sight of a raven immediately inspires dread and thoughts of one’s mortality. Raelok was stoned to death by frightened townsfolk who believed his powers must have meant that he was in league with the demons. Of course, nothing could have been further from the truth, as Raelok had been a heroic force against the Infernal invasion of Wyrmshadow. Thus, upon his death, Raelok became the first host of Nus, the new God of Death.
The Gods had their work cut out for them. Monsters still roamed the land, byproducts of the Demon War, and they were multiplying and cross-breeding at an alarming rate. A plague also started sweeping across the globe at this time, the work of Asmous’s agents, who were also still at large. Several races, such as the Gnomes of the northern lands and even the Dragons, were affected by horrendous curses that would affect their bloodlines for ages to come.
While dealing with all the myriad crises erupting and developing throughout the world, the Raksha strengthened their stranglehold over their Muhari slaves, the Sarazi. Among the Sarazi slaves, downtrodden and devoid of hopes for freedom, there arose a hero, a Sarazi who would take the oppressive Raksha to task for their many atrocities against his people. Once again, the Ancient Phoenix had resurrected itself in the form of the returning hero.
In a magnificent display of power, the mighty Ra’Hazul, whose name literally translated to Fire-winged God in Muhari, rallied his fellow slaves and succeeded in driving the Raksha slavers deep into the deserts, liberating the exotic city of Muhar and declaring it as their own. In his ultimate show of force, Ra’Hazul grew to take on Ancient proportions, becoming a titan 100 feet tall with massive fiery wings and a 30 foot scimitar whose blade seared white hot with his righteous fury.
Not content with mere freedom, the new Pharaoh Ra’Hazul began to amass a mighty army to march north, from whence the Infernal invaders had come centuries earlier, to the scarred city of Imperia. Once there, the Imperians offered little resistance to Ra’Hazul’s forces, and the Muhari Empire had begun. This event did not escape the notice of the Gods, who recognized the return of the Phoenix was at work, and that his presence had to be for a reason.
As it turned out, Imperia was a hotbed for Infernal influence in Materia. As the site of the original Hellryft, Imperia was an ideal place from which the archdemons could unleash havoc and chaos on a vulnerable world, hoping that, through attrition, Wyrmshadow would not be so prepared for the next Infernal invasion force. Now, with the resurrected Phoenix in Imperia, the demons entrenched there were forced to either flee back to Infernia or, as the archdemon Fa’zael decreed, turn the tables on the Muhari insurgents. Fa’Zael and her agents began to spread word of atrocities this invading Muhari Pharaoh had begun to visit upon the innocent humans of Imperia. Demons within the royal families of Shidi Ma took notice and played along, declaring that “All humans are Imperian”, then building and launching the most advanced and impressive naval force of the time to sail to the aid of the invaded people of Imperia. It was, however, a clever ruse meant to gain Pharaoh Ra’Hazul more enemies than he could keep track of.
The ruse was a success, to a degree. In a moment of weakness and confusion, Ra’Hazul was said to let his guard down, allowing a demonic assassin to claim his life. As he died, in his throes of pain and anger, he incinerated all of Imperia and the surrounding lands, killing not only every human there, but also all the demons, including the treacherous archdemon Fa’zael. In light of this fact, the archdemon Testament decided to make good a retreat back to Infernia so that he might plan the next step in the invasion without fear of such dangers. So it was that the resurrected Phoenix fulfilled his purpose and died once more. The gods knew that he would return again one day to face another such threat to creation, and silently prayed that they would never have to face the wrath of the Phoenix themselves.
The numbers of dead were a growing problem, especially in light of another of the demon’s curses on the world: the undead. In order to prevent the fallen from becoming everliving blights upon the world, Raelok began to pull the souls of the dead up from Materia to join the Gods in Arcadia immediately upon the moment of their deaths. It was not the original intention of Arcadia to serve as an eternal haven for the souls of the demised, but soon it became apparent that this was the best solution, as the undead problem began to diminish. As a result, the faith of the people below grew substantially, and so, too, did the power of the Gods flourish. Eventually, as the centuries passed, each of the Gods would choose new hosts more in-tune with the current state of the world below, giving the souls of the former hosts a reward of rest in the eternal memories of every host to come.
To aid them in maintaining control of both the residents of Arcadia and the overwhelming task of watching over Materia, each God hand picked souls among the Arcadian risen to become the first of the Angels. As divine spirits, these Angels would carry out the will of their respective Gods both in Arcadia and beyond. Among the Angels there were several groups selected according to their chosen role. Each of these groups, called a Chorus, was populated by the souls of the Materian fallen who had fully come to terms with their worldly demise and, out of genuine desire to be of service to the Gods and those they left behind in life, volunteered to become angels.
The Cherubim, for example, were charged with ensuring new souls arriving in Arcadia were made as comfortable and welcome as possible. They were known by the peoples of Materia as Angels of Mercy. They were also responsible for encouraging the peoples of Wyrmshadow, whose numbers had dwindled so much over the past few ages, to be fruitful and multiply. These angels served directly under the God of Nature and were led by the Archangel Nysael.
The Seraphim were in charge of carrying out the will of the God of Justice, maintaining order both in Arcadia and Materia. They would come to be known as Guardian Angels by the people of Materia, though to their enemies they were also known as Avenging Angels. They were responsible for delivering the will of the Gods unto the people, aiding those who protected the innocent, and helping those who punished the wicked. These angels were led by the Archangel Belthazar.
The Sephirim were bound to the God of Death and carried out the duties of finding the fallen souls of Materia and escorting them safely to their new home in Arcadia. They would come to be known as Angels of Death, though due to the negative connotations carried by death, many in Wyrmshadow would not soon believe them to be angels at all, but Demons. It was a distasteful reputation, but one for which the God of Death had long since grown accustomed. “There is no evil or good in death. It is simply a voyage that we all must make” is a quote from the God of Death early during the Age of the Gods, and one that aided the Sephirim in carrying out their depressing, morose duties. These angels were led by the Archangel Kimaela.
The Age of the Gods saw three more recurrences of the Phoenix’s return, and the Gods began to suspect that there had been many more in the past that went beyond their notice. Every time, the Phoenix would return in the form of another mortal, usually, but not always human, who would rise to power and defeat some great threat to creation, only to fade away again until the next such need would arise. It was a pattern that did not go unnoticed by the demons, namely Orius, whose lover Fa’zael had fallen to a previous iteration of the Phoenix. Reporting this knowledge to Testament back in Infernia, the demons began to plot in earnest a way to deal with the threat of this Phoenix King on a permanent basis, leaving Wyrmshadow vulnerable at last to their triumphant return.
Over the course of thousands of years, the Gods changed hosts several times, each new host growing more wizened and powerful than the last. Also, it was decided that, to further aid them in their management of the many races of the world, representative angels from each race would be chosen, elevated as Lesser Gods of their respective races, and allowed certain powers in exchange for their aid in serving the faithful. Thus, the three Gods of Justice, Nature, and Death would come to be known as Elder Gods, with a pantheon of Lesser Gods beneath them, one for every race in Wyrmshadow.
H’Ruyn, a Dwarf descendant of the original vessel for the God of Justice, would become the first God of the Dwarves. He descended to Wyrmshadow to live among his people, nurturing their beliefs and aiding in their triumphs, much as the Lesser Gods of many races would come to do. This was the Age of the Gods, when it was not uncommon for divinity to mingle and converse with mortal kind.
As a consequence of the presence of these Lesser Gods, the remnant forces of demons were prompted even further into exile, the number of monsters roaming the world began to diminish, and an unheard of era of peace and tranquility began to reign. However, soon there was a paradigm, a shifting of the natural order, that came as a result of the Gods’ presences on Materia for such an extended period of time. The Phoenix revived once again in the form of a small child-like elf girl named Visay. Visay was so powerful that she traversed the realms and entered Arcadia itself of her own volition, calling the Elder Gods to task. Try as they might, the Elder Gods could not force Visay to leave Arcadia, and instead were forced to pay heed to her words.
She told the Elder Gods that they must rescind the Lesser Gods to Arcadia, allow faith to blossom in the absence of proof, otherwise their own powers would continue to diminish, the balance of the world would be forever tainted, and reality itself would tear itself asunder. She told them that, though their direct impact on the people must come to an end, they could act through the people, lending priests the power to heal and abolish evil as if a funnel for their divine power. She said that the time of the Gods had come to an end, that the Age of the Phoenix was about to grip the world, and there was not a thing the Gods or Angels could do about it but sit back, watch, and answer the prayers of the faithful… from a distance. With that, Visay collapsed and died, her body erupting ablaze, rendering her unto ashes on an unnatural wind that blew them down to Materia, where they turned into a rain of red-gold glowing feathers that fell for a period of three days. This event would hence forth be known as the Dawning of the Phoenix.
There was some serious debate over the ramifications of the Phoenix’s demands, specifically between Belthazar and his father, the God of Justice. Belthazar strongly felt that it was their right and responsibility to decide how best to nurture and protect order on Materia, and that the Phoenix was merely a tool for that end. Listening to the demands of that tool was, to his mind, a preposterous notion. Belthazar had always advocated more of a hands-on approach to the defense of Wyrmshadow, whereas the God of Justice saw the wisdom in a more measured, cautious diligence. Phi did, after all, have the perspective from his time as an Ancient to witness the dangers of such powers used recklessly. Phoenix was right, the God of Justice asserted, that their influence was so powerful as to require respectful discipline in its use. Otherwise, even with good intentions, those powers might be abused and inadvertently tear apart what they had finally built. Memories of the Age of the Ancients came rushing into his mind, remembering all the Ancients who, believing themselves to be working in the interests of the Legendary Wyrm’s legacy, wound up obliterating much of it. Hubris. The constant danger inherent in possessing the power of a God.
Belthazar pleaded with his father to reconsider, but the God of Justice would not hear of it. In frustration, Belthazar left his post as the Archangel of Justice, allowing that distinction to fall to Lacan. Against the wishes of the God of Justice, Belthazar and several other Seraphim made the descent to Materia, disguising themselves as mortals and awaiting the day when they could prove themselves right, that with divine power comes the right and responsibility for direct control of the faithful. This was a dark presage of events yet to come, as Belthazar would become perhaps the most heinous villain in the history of Wyrmshadow.
The stage was set, and the gods, elder and lesser, settled into Arcadia to bear witness to the works of the returning hero. Meanwhile, in Infernia, work had begun on the creation of the weapon that would destroy the Phoenix once and for all, paving the way for the permanent invasion and occupation of Materia.
The Age of the Phoenix was here.