Monday, July 21, 2014

Tales of Urth - Book 1: Prologue

- Prologue -
The Hell War
Over five thousand years ago, the world changed. Curious men of great intellect and even greater hubris, through folly and blindness opened gateways to another world. They seemed like fantastic phenomena of the natural world, but they were anything but. Tiny tears in the fabric of reality soon opened into great chasms.
It is human nature to be curious, and mankind watched the gates as strange creatures poured out of it. At first it was strange plants and fungi, then larger creatures. Bizarre insects, foraging beasts, and even prowling predators. But unseen to those watchful humans, the gates poured out something far more powerful. In a world once governed by science and reason, the very elements of magic spread across the world. Particles of thaumaturgical energy enveloped everything. The great machines that man had come to rely on began to break down. Society and civilization were soon to follow.
Before the human race could turn upon itself in its time of darkness, a more foul and strange thing emerged from the gates of magic. A being, tall and red skinned. Its features were angular and sharp and its glowing reptilian eyes searched the landscape of its new world. The humans called it "daemon" and "devil" for its horned head and long leathery tail reminded them of every depiction of their god's adversaries. The lone scouts were only the first. They searched, observed and reported back to their masters, unseen beyond the veil of the gates.  Then they disappeared, just as quickly as they had come.
Months went by and no sign of the scouting creatures were seen, until suddenly, nearly twenty-five years after the gates had opened, they reemerged. But it was not sole scouts or wandering beasts that emerged. The full force of a daemonic army poured out upon the world. On a scale never seen before by the human race, the armies of Tartarus invaded. From every known gate across the planet, the marching armies of hell came. They took days to flood out of the open rifts.  Nearly countless in number.

They came with a single purpose. Conquest. The humans called them Tartareans, denizens of the underworld. They were a warrior culture, bred and force fed as a society of violence and domination. Their kind were strictly hierarchical. With military-like ranks developed into rigid castes. They ruled over each other with as much cruelty as they did over their many slave races. Bred from a single species, the slaves of the Tar were now a multitude of shapes and sizes. Each bred to serve a particular purpose under the conquering might of their masters. They ranged from diminutive, two and three foot creatures, to mighty ten foot hulks. Their only shared trait was a primate-like skull with pronounced brow ridge and angular yellowed teeth, and their green hued skin that seemed well conditioned to the heat of their homeworld.

The Tar used everything within their means to quickly take control of the land surrounding the gates. Their highest ranking officers rode atop strange and horrible creatures as they growled out orders to their ranks in an alien abyssal tongue. With the might of skilled warriors as adept in the skills of war as they were in the tactics of cruelty, along with the strongest of the slave races, they fought in a worldwide war against the human race.
In those first decade of the Hell War, mankind fought hard. Using what remained of their technology they were able to hold off the invaders. Most battles ended in a stalemate, but the true loss was the number of human casualties. The Tar were reinforced from beyond the gates as quickly as they could be destroyed. As the magic took hold of the world, and technology continued to fail, the humans began to lose hope. As their ability to manufacture the projectile throwing weapons they relied on in combat, they began to lose. The supply of weapons and tools of war available dwindled and the sheer number of daemons and their slave races allowed them to simply wait out the defending humans.
By the end of the first decade of war with the Tartareans, mankind began to decline. The great cities of the world fell to war and disease. The humans had to resort to hiding in difficult terrain, fighting with crude weapons and guerilla tactics to stay alive. The world was a dark place, only to get darker as the Age of Night set in.
Twenty years after the invasion of the Tar, the earth itself dealt mankind a devastating blow. In the western plains of what is now known as the continent of Lominore, a silent monster had slept. The shell of the planet shook as the monster tore through the mountains and plains, unleashing its own hell upon the world. A great volcano, largely unknown by the people of Urth, screamed out in a cry of pain and anguish. Its violent destruction ripped apart the continent throwing clouds of ash and fire high into the sky. Nearly half the planet was thrown into darkness. The climate changed as the life-giving sun disappeared from the sky. The wintery storms of the Age of Night was just as devastating for the Tar as it was for the humans. Their home world was a place of heat and deserts, a barren and unforgiving place. The Tar struggled to survive in the deep snows and intense cold. Though the great catyclysm destroyed much of the remaining human colonies in the west, it also helped to regain balance in the Hell War. The sun returned to Urth nearly thirty years later.
As the war saw the end of its first century, what remained of mankind were once again steady. The Tar seemed more content in their established colonies. They brought forth their young and their weak, building permanent homes in Lominore. The great volcano in the west had created a harsh desert wasteland. The Tar, and their subjugated races, were well adapted to an environment so like their home and the largest fortified Tar cities were built in the northern and eastern regions of the Great Desert of Nebrask.
The war raged on. No longer did the Tar send out entire city-sized army to conquer and destroy, but they were far from finished fighting. When human and Tar did cross, battle ensued. When battle was not easily sought nearby, the fighting was often found inside the Tartarean colonies. Apart from the bickering in-fighting common among the slave races, a growing number of Tar were growing uncomfortable with the rigid social structures of their homeworld. Their culture had adapted to living on a new world, and as they established homes and families in Lominore, their allegiances began to waver. A rebellion was brewing that would weaken the warrior strength of Tar culture that made them so skilled in battle.
- - -
The human race were in strikingly small number. They were spread thin across the planet in tiny communities well hidden, but well defended from the scrying eyes of their enemies. Humans have always been a strongly adaptable species. They thrived where they could, finding pleasure in the simplest things. They were no longer great empires and massive cities, but you couldn't tell that from their spirits. They survived. They adapted to the changing climate. They fought hard against the monstrous beings of Tartarus. Even without technology, mankind found a way. Their courage, spirit, and ingenuity spawned great works and even greater heroes.
More than mere men, these beings had almost preternatural powers. Born into a world rich with the energy of thaumaturgy, their bodies and minds were changed. Warriors of immense strength, cunning, and prowess. Almost overnight, mankind had a new weapon against the enemy.
Among the first great heroes of Lominore, though their equals were spread all across the continents of Urth, were two powerful twins. Born to the lovely Vera, who has come to be venerated for her beauty and strength, the two strong sons were called Ulric and Toren. Their lives would be filled with countless tales of courage and adventure. Their stories have since passed into legend and myth in the five millennia since they helped change the tide of war.
The emergence of such great heroes lead mankind on the offensive to take back their world. In the final centuries of the First Age of Men, the daemon hordes began to fall under the might of human swords. The morale of the invading forces faltered. A division had emerged within the Tar colonies and soon rogue groups, tired of war abandoned their protective cities and their old war-mongering culture. These groups sought freedom in Lominore, a battle they continue to fight to this day. The slave races found opportunity to flee their cruel masters. Without the oppressive force of a united Tar army, the orcs and their goblin-kin fled into their nearby mountains and deserts seeking independence and freedom from a life of servitude and war. The weaker kobold race, a creature not related to the goblinoid slave races, stayed behind out of fear. Though commonly found throughout Lominore now, the small red-skinned reptile-like creatures were once thought to be distantly related to the Tar. Their three foot tall, slender frames made them easy to dominate, but not particularly useful. Eventually the Tar, in their weakened state, abandoned all care for the kobolds and they fled merely for their own survival.
Nearly two and half centuries after the opening of the gates, the heroes of mankind finally found a way to undo their ancient mistake. Heroes of immense intelligence had emerged and they proved as useful as the heroes of great physical strength. Their study of the workings of thaumaturgy and the anima forces it created, allowed them to manipulate the magical energies. These great heroes were the first mages and sorcerers.
 One of the most important of these magical humans was a man who  has since come to be known as Tume the Wise, the great and powerful hero worshipped across the continent. A century earlier and he would have been a great scientist, but as the First Age of Men drew to a close, he set his inquisitive mind to something else. Magic.
Tume, in his wise old age, a tangled grey beard tumbling nearly to the ground, stumbled upon a strange secret held within the thaumaturgical energies released upon the world. His ability to alter and change the fields of magic grew in strength. Considered one of the first great mages, Tume began to compile books of spells and magical skills to teach a growing army of wizards. It would be magic that would not only help them end the war, but to reshape the world into something new.
Months before he departed from the world of the living, Tume the Wise discovered the greatest secret of all. He found the magical key to close the great gates to Tartarus. With army of apprentice magicians behind him, he set out upon the world to spread news and teach the skill to all of mankind. Long after his death, and nearly three hundred years after the war had begun, the gates all over the world began to close. The Tar of Urth were cut off from their homeworld. With no way to resupply from their own dimension, or garner new recruits and reinforcements, the Tar who still recognized the war, began to disappear. Their cities and fortresses fell from attacks inside and out. The war was finally over.
Great heroes had fought and died to create a chance for mankind to survive. Mages sought life's newest secrets to aid them in their pursuit of shaping a better world. The old world was gone and a new age dawned. A world of magic and adventure. A world where mankind would once again thrive in abundance and prosperity.

The Second Age of Men

With a new era, mankind rebounded. Their small hidden communities, once again grew into towns and cities. Humans spread across the continent once again, their ability to live and adapt to nearly any environment allowed them to survive. All around the globe, human's once again took control.
New governments and nations began to develop in the aftermath of brutal devastation. The number of heroes began to grow. Greater and greater numbers of the population began to show signs of mankind's changes from thaumaturgical influence. The descendants of the great heroes, over just a few generations had become like races unto themselves. Across the world, new forms of mankind had emerged. People of all colors and religions began to take on the features of the new races of men.
These new races of men soon grouped together, first within their own communities, but soon forming entire cities and nations of their own. The light-footed and long lived elves, who preferred the serenity of nature to the rigid structures of men. The stout and hardy dwarves, born of stone and might, found refuge in the mountains that bore them. Even the descendants of the remaining daemons took on more human-like features. Though much hated by the rest of the world, the Tar managed to find some solitude in their own communities or in the more accepting and diverse cities.
New cultures and religions developed in the following millennia, a truly new dawn had risen. What were once the heroes of old, soon became legend and myth. Great men transformed to venerated idols and eventually deities of newborn cultures.
Not only the races of man emerged at the dawn of the new age. Powerful magical creatures were born out of the thaumaturgical influences of Urth. Intelligent beings and formidable monsters filled the spaces upon the earth and below it. A great alliance between man and dwarf burgeoned into strong empire that spanned much of Lominore. It united the peoples of the continent for over three thousand years before its ultimate fall. The lands of the empire were then divided amongst the dissolved empire. Small baronies and shifting kingdoms dotted the continent. Lacking the military strength and singular focus of a united empire, much of the human kingdoms have fallen into states of political bickering and even war.
Now, over five thousand years since the dawning of the Second Age, the landscape of Lominore has drastically changed. An era of adventure and exploration has begun, as new heroes strike out upon the world for fame, fortune, and excitement. New threats have emerged, in a newly formed world of magic and wonder.
This is where our stories begin. The continent of Lominore is filled with buried secrets of its long forgotten past. Mysterious creatures walk the earth, and delve deep within it. Powerful forces have been found deep within the darkest recesses of this new world. These are new and dangerous times. A time of intrigue and adventure. And like the thousands of years before it, this is a time of heroes.
These are the tales that will turn into legend. The tales of a new age in a new world.

The tales of Urth.

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