The Bitter Fruits of Victory
A Brief History of Ayatha
(This is the story of the world of Ayatha, as told by Humans. Other races, especially Elves and Eladrin, will have a very different tale)
The campaign began in the early fall of 1244. All dates given are AK (Annum Korumi), which begins with the founding of the Koric Empire.
Thousands of years ago, the people of the world were under the sway of the Old Gods. They were harsh and cruel. A number of their greatest servants, seeing the injustice of the Old Gods’ rule and the suffering of Ayatha’s peoples, were finally stirred to rebellion when they could stand by no more. At first they worked subtly, blessing the people of the seven kingdoms of Theros so that their culture and civilization grew to become a light to the barbaric world. They excelled in poetry, philosophy, and art. They also grew in excellence at warfare as the kingdoms fought among themselves, for Theros was a mountainous and harsh land which could give little to its people except to make them resourceful and as rugged as the land itself.
The Old Gods began to struggle amongst themselves for power, bringing chaos to Ayatha. When the servants of the Old Gods saw that the time for their rebellion was close at hand, a child was born and given the greatest blessings of each servant. This child, Kamerand, was the youngest son of a mighty king. He rose above his siblings, though, becoming first the king of his homeland and then uniting all seven of the kingdoms of Theros under his rule. Just as importantly, with his rule he brought worship of the New Gods, those great servants of the old ones and champions of the mortals of Ayatha. The Old Gods began to notice this new worship and realized that their servants were rising against them. Enraged, they struck out against their former servants.
Now the Old Gods were battling the New Gods as well as each other and this great war in the realm of the gods and was mirrored on Ayatha. The Septarans, as the unified people of the seven kingdoms of Thoros became known, turned all the vigor they had brought against each other outward and began the conquest of Ayatha. Under Kamerand’s leadership, blessed by the gods as he was, they were unstoppable. Even the ancient kingdoms of the dwarves and elves were forced to surrender before his might. He established the Koric Empire, stretching all the way from World’s End in the east to the Sigyar Plains in the west, bringing worship of the New Gods with him as he went. His capitol, Kor, was fed by the wealth of the whole empire and grew into the greatest city that has ever existed in the mortal world. As worship of the Old Gods was suppressed and faith in the New Gods spread, the balance of power shifted in the realms of the gods and the New Gods, also known as the Septaran Pantheon, banished them and their influence from Ayatha. Kamerand presided over a golden age of twenty years of prosperity that echoed the victory of the New Gods. He suddenly and mysteriously vanished, however, at the age of 45 in the year 28AK. Some say this was a plot by the Eladrin in revenge for his conquest of them. Others say that he was taken by the New Gods into their realms as reward for his accomplishments and service to them. Some even whisper hopefully that he will come once again when the people of Ayatha’s need is greatest and that he will bring peace and justice for all. Whatever the case, the greatest mages and clerics of the Koric Empire were unable to determine his fate. The Eladrin of Illyndria broke free of Koric rule under his son, as did some Dwarven realms, but otherwise the empire he created lasted for many centuries.
Their great wealth eventually brought corruption and weakness into the rulers of the Koric Empire. First there was a rebellion by Vecna, governor of the province of Addakai and the greatest mage of the Empire. Neither side was able to gain decisive victory and the rebellion went on for decades until Vecna, close to death from old age, chose to become a lich rather than let his ambitions go unfulfilled. There was a great battle between the armies of Addakai and the Empire on the slopes of Elrood in 587AK in which so much magical energy was released that the mountain itself exploded, killing both Vecna and the emperor and ravaging their armies as well. Many barbarian tribes, taking advantage of the weakened state of the Empire, began to move into Koric lands in the 600-700’s. Vecna’s followers also brought him back to Ayatha by unholy means and put him back on the throne of Addakai. A century of chaos and collapse followed in which great kingdoms rose out of the shattered Empire. The Koric Empire was eventually reduced to a much smaller kingdom in the south, now known as Korum.
Koric Emperors still dreamed of extending their power once more over the vast new kingdoms of Addakai, Segova, and Voudenay. This dream ended when the Plague of the Dead destroyed the last of their northern holdings. This was a metaphoric plague and not a literal one and its causes are generally unknown, defying all attempts at divination. In any event, in the year 1048AK what has come to be known as the Illyriconian Cataclysm began when all the corpses buried in the catacombs beneath Illyricum, the northern capitol of the Empire, suddenly rose up and slaughtered the inhabitants of the city. Each slain person rose up to join the undead horde. They overran the Koric holdings in the north but were eventually contained by the combined might of the new kingdoms. The crusade against the undead lasted almost two centuries, with the balance of the war shifting back and forth.
The crusade took an unexpected turn in recent decades. Around 1215AK the Red Blade orcs of Klest organized the other mountain orc clans under a mysterious new diety, He Who Walks the Night, and banished Gruumsh worship. The mountain orcs were bigger and fiercer than ordinary orcs and more organized as well. Once united, they quickly conquered the small human realms of Klest and turned their attention south. In 1227-29AK they completely overran the kingdom of Segova. The destruction of Segova could have been disastrous for the crusade except that it seems the orcs had come to wage a holy war of their own against the undead and Segova had simply had the bad fortune to be in the way. The Red Blades used the resources of Segova to fuel their holy war and in fact fought much harder against the undead than Segova had in a century. The Red Blades and Voudenay maintained an uneasy alliance and were able to push the undead forces back. The defeat and slaughter of several legions of Addakai soldiers in the east gave the undead a sudden influx of reinforcements, however, which they moved to surprise Voudenay to the west and the orcs to the north in 1243. The undead broke the orc and Voudenay offensives and laid siege to Muriah, the Voudenaise capitol. Just when it seemed the city would fall and the undead would pour across Voudenay in a rampage of slaughter that could spell the doom of the crusade and perhaps all life on Ayatha, the undead armies suddenly crumbled back into bones and corpses, leaving only a few of the most powerful standing. No one is entirely sure why this happened any more than they know why it began. Some say that the mortal world was delivered from extinction by the gods. Others say that a “Child of Destiny,” foretold by a secret prophecy, defeated the source of the Plague in Illyricum. The common folk whisper that it was the work of Kamerand, awakening from his slumber to save the people of his former empire. A few even say that a bold group of adventures lead a small but elite force of orcs, Eladrin princes, and Laranian knights in a wild, desperate journey across the realms of the gods, gathering an army of dragons along the way, to confront the old god of Winter and destroy the portal through which he reached into Ayatha to wreak his vengeance and regain his power, but such ridiculous stories of outrageous heroism are just fodder for talentless bards and cannot be taken seriously.
The success of the crusade has brought its own problems in its wake. The Deadlands are now open to whomever can claim and hold them, laying temptingly in the center of Voudenay, orcish Segova, Addakai, and Korum. Suspicious former allies may soon turn on each other as they grasp for it. The vast wealth the church of Larani has accumulated to fight the crusade causes jealousy among the great Voudenaise nobles and no one can predict what its fortunes will be. And no one can be sure what the Red Blades will do now that they have achieved their objective. Ayatha lays on the brink of something, but no one can say what.