A Brief History of the Lands of Paskanah until the time of the Revolt of the Black Cult
This history being mostly concerned with the events of the Imperial Age in Paskanah, only short mention will be made of the two ages of civilization which preceded it.
The Lost Age
Civilized life first appeared in Paskanah hundreds of thousands of years ago, but little is known of the first society built by humans. All that they had constructed was destroyed in a cataclysmic war which left no trace of their culture and only a few survivors. The Desolate Years followed.
The Elder Days
Called thus because of their relationship in time to the current Imperial Age, the Elder Days began some thirty thousand years before the current era. Humanity, which had been united as one race during the Lost Age, split during the Desolate Years that separated the two periods in time. When the world had healed itself of the damage it had sustained, humans returned to the world under the sun in many forms, the most predominant being Men, Grinuaollis, Qilivs, Chitzos and Chetu'uls. Other creatures appeared as well for the first time during the Elder Days, such as Ogres, Hobgoblins, gobblers and the like. In those days, the Lords of the Races walked amongst their races and they divided the spaces of the world amongst themselves. For the Grinuaollis, Bulëenion Carandelothion took the forests and glades and for the Chitzos, Amarantha Greenhand the Protector took the pleasant farmlands. But Tror the Mountain Builder, First One of the Dwarves, and Grûbkrish, the First Chetu'ul, both claimed the mountains and the secret places underneath them, condemning their races to eternal war for those domains. The race of Men had no Lords for they had survived from before. They claims all the lands of the world as far as the eye could see and their numbers were great so none contested them.
For many millennia, society progressed, developing from primitive cave cultures to urbanized society. The Grinuaollis and Chitzos settled the forests and fields of their world, while the Qilivs descended into the bowels of the mountains, driving the Chetu'uls who contested their hegemony into the north. They built three great realms: Gornodon in the midst of the land, Arnodon in the north, and Klerodon in the south. The Chetu'uls settled and built up Zehal Island. Soon they became known by its name, the Zehalime. The race of Men ruled everywhere, taking possession of much of Paskanah, forming many small kingdoms and duchies. Nine thousand years before the beginning of the Imperial age, the evil Valcor, a mighty wizard who had returned from death as the first Undead, appeared. From his fortress in Cirshasa, just north of what would later be called the Great Lake, he sent forth his forces under the command of his lieutenants, Kar the Terrible, a spectre, Omas Bloodlust, a vampire, and Quentasa Darksoul, a ghost. All three were mighty in their own right and under them the Living in Paskanah were enslaved to the Undead Overlord, Valcor. For a thousand years he ruled the land, uncontested, breeding the Living only so that they might die, feeding his power and swelling the size of his mighty armies. Then, eight thousand years before the Imperial Age, a mighty Grinuaolli warrior named Garnel Ironheart united the surviving Men, Grinuaollis, Chetu'uls and Chitzos into the Great Alliance. Together, they rose up against Valcor and delivered many defeats to his armies. They drove him back to Cirshasa where he made a desperate stand and succeeded in routing many of Garnel’s legions. In desperation at the thought of having victory slip away from him, Garnel Ironheart opened negotiations with the Qiliv king, Cor-eff, who had kept his race out of the war. Garnel begged the king to commit his armies to the fight against the evil one, but Cor-eff dismissed him out of hand. As he left, he uttered a curse. He decreed that, should Valcor be destroyed, the Qilivs would become the scourge of society, the lowest of all races, never again to rise to their great heights of power. Many of the Qilivs, upon hearing this, begged Cor-eff to change his mind and help assist the other races but Cor-eff laughed at them. He knew that the Qilivish realms were strong and that, no matter who won the war, they would survive.
From Gornodon, Garnel returned to his armies and marshalled his soldiers. They marched on Cirshasa again and slew the Undead who stood in their path. The great warrior fought his way to the very steps of the fortress but at the crucial moment, when victory stood before him, Valcor himself joined the fray. With ease, he slew the great Ironheart. All seemed lost and the hearts of the Living were filled with dismay at the loss of their leader. But just when all seemed hopeless, the mysterious Wizards of Dallner, who had been known only through rumour until then, and have never been seen since, appeared and engaged Valcor in battle. A story has survived from that time which tells of Valcor having trained with them in his youth. Perhaps they felt responsible for the destruction which had been visited on the world. The power of that battle was felt throughout Paskanah and would be called the Night of Utter Devastation by those few who survived it. When it was over, the entire continent had been laid to waste, bringing to an end the Elder Days. In the aftermath of the battle, Valcor’s body was turned to stone and broken into many pieces, all of them presumed lost. No life walked on the surface of the world for almost eight thousand years.
The Imperial Age
While the rest of the lands of the world, including the Zehal Island, Marn, and the great islands beyond the eastern horizon, flourished, Paskanah lay dead and silent, covered in blowing dust, the only thing left after the final battle. Only a few Men, Chitzos, Chetu'uls and Grinuaollis had survived, ironically those held in the prisons Valcor had maintained far under the ground. The Qilivs also survived the Night, having sealed themselves in their mighty fortresses. So it was that, slowly, life returned to the continent. At first, plants and trees reappeared across the land, then small animals and birds. Finally, the descendents of the survivors of the Night re-emerged into the world above and slowly began to rebuild their society. The time they had spent underground had been difficult for them and little of the history of the Elder Days was known to them. Only the wisest Grinuaollis, for their lives are long, and the Qilivs, for they were unaffected by the cataclysm, kept the stories alive.
Unlike the previous age, little in the way of organized society sprung up early on. Cities were built from time to time, and then abandoned, all the races of the world except the Qilivs and Chetu'uls preferring to live in scattered villages. In the north, the Zehalime built a strong empire and the Qilivs remained sealed within their fortresses, convinced that nothing would come of the Curse of Garnel Ironheart but not so convinced as to tempt their fortunes in the Upper World, as they called it.
As word spread far to the south and east that life had returned to Paskanah, the descendents of the survivors of the Night of Utter Devastation began returning from the Islands of the Sea to which their ancestors had fled. These descendents, unscarred by the years of hiding in the depths and the absolute misery that had accompanied it, brought a new attitude with them. They settled along the eastern coast, in the lands of Korvella and Naferium that were surrounded by the Forbidden Hills. The inhabitants of these places soon developed them into countries with all the trappings of the state, including governments and armies. In time, their population and strength grew and their leaders, realizing that it would be foolish to make war with one another when an unclaimed continent laid before them, formed a political union. Thus is was that the two states merged and chose a joint leader. They called their new country the Great Empire and crowned their mightiest warrior, Marten Lupon, the first Emperor. On the day of his coronation, the Imperial Years were declared. During his reign, the Empire organized itself, readying itself for what it believed it was its manifest destiny, the control all of Paskanah. It was Lupon who commissioned the building of the first Imperial Palace and the capital city of Imperius. The process took many years and it was not until well into the reign of the second Emperor, Marten Lupon II, that the Army felt ready to undertake this task.
But the day finally came when the Emperor assembled his finest troops and spoke to them in the Great Square that lay before the Imperial Palace. “My soldiers,” he said on that fateful day, “our destiny is to rule over all we see, and our vision is clear and strong. Go forth and bring all the land under our sway.” With that, the Army marched through the passes of the Forbidden Hills that few travellers had ever travelled through before and emerged in the open country of Paskanah beyond.
They found a land still almost empty, with only the occasional farming settlements scattered about. The Lord General of the Army immediately founded a settlement, Rafek Atihsah, in western Landdon to symbolize the Empire’s presence in the land. After that, their forces began to spread far and wide, bringing much land under the Emperor’s control.
In the north, the Zehalime had grown mighty as well. Under the leadership of Gartuk the Great, they had, early in the Imperial Age, travelled south across the Canal which separated their Island from Paskanah and settled across the Northwest. They founded cities and towns wherever they travelled and while Naferium and Korvella were yet fledgling states, the Chetu'uls ruled from Gornol and Darnellia in the north until Dallner in the south and Varn in the east. Their navy carried their armies across the Grand Bay and they came unto the Yoram Mountains and the lands of the North. There they found the Qilivs of Arnodon and, mindful of the ancient rivalry between their two races, strove to destroy the fortress and eradicate its inhabitants. Before they could do so, Orbaygeon the Terrible, a mighty red dragon from Dracos, came and descended onto the battlefield. The Chetu'uls fled before him and he smote the Qilivs with his long fangs, sharp claws and the terrible flames of his breath. He claimed Arnodon and his treasures for himself and the Zehalime did not contest him. The Qilivs of Arnodon fled north to Senolia and south to the Plains of Hydrogia and Rishna, vowing one day to return but cynical in their hope, for they realized the Curse of Garnel Ironheart had brought defeat on them.
In time, the Zehalime society grew decadent through its wealth and three tribes emerged from what had once been a unified society. The most numerous were the Krafek who were the most human of the Chetu'uls and believed in developing peaceful civilization. The Tar-fen, evil Chetu'uls who viewed all other races as fit only for extermination, rose up alongside them and soon took control of society from the Krafek. It was under their leadership that the Chetu'uuls spread even further south and east across Paskanah, slaughtering those Grinuaollis, Chitzos and Men they conquered and destroying many fair lands. A third group, the Frischassar, despised both groups, viewing them as traitors to the original ideals of Grûbkrish One-Eye and they left Zehalime society, settling Greatwood where they could practice their black arts in secret. This continued on for centuries as the Empire in the south continued to grow in strength. Then Gordak the Slaughterer arose and become Leader of the Zehalime and Inheritor of Grûbkrish. He marshalled the forces of the Tar-fen and led them into Greatwood in an attempt to destroy the Frischassar and end any competition to the rule of the Tar-fen over his race. In Greatwood he found no trace of his rivals. Arrogantly declaring victory, he marched his army back to Gornol where he found many of his cities had been sacked and burned to the ground in his absence. On that day, he passed a law that even the Empire would, in its time, come to observe, declaring Greatwood forbidden to all for there the dark things lived and threatening them would only bring death and destruction to those who did.
In the south, the Empire continued to expand, unhindered by any appreciable military rivalry. Behind them came the new civilization, cities and towns, roads and canals, as society finally began to progress again, picking up where the Elder Days had left off. In the far south of Paskanah, they found the Qilivish fortress of Klerodon. The Qilivs within sued for peace, heeding the news of the fate of their brothers in Arnodon, but the Curse drove the Empire’s armies into a maddening rage and they sacked the fortress, leaving only a handful of Qilivs alive as slaves.
Finally, the front lines of both armies, Imperial and Zehalime, reached Rockbarren Divide, the great mountain range in the midst of Paskanah, and began to cross it. In the year 1932, the two armies met and immediately engaged each other in a struggle for control of Paskanah. The Great War had begun.
It is little known that the first battles of the Great War were not between the Zehalime and the Empire but rather between those two powers and the Qilivs of Gornodon, the last, and mightiest of the Qilivish fortresses. Both armies descended on the halls of the ancient race and destroyed them, slaughtering many Qilivs and carrying the rest into exile and slavery. The Qilivs fought with great strength but the Curse that afflicted their people delivered them into the hands of the enemy and they triumphed not once in the war that ended their independence. Cor-Enn, descendent of the great Cor-eff who had declined Garnel Ironheart’s requests for aid, was killed by the Imperial General Algon in his very throne room. With Gornodon destroyed, the Empire and Zehalime turned their attention to one another.
Initially, the Zehalime drove the Empire back for the mountains were their heritage, so they claimed, and they fought with great skill along the peaks and passes of Rockbarren Divide. They conquered the range and prepared for an invasion of the eastern lands of Paskanah but the Empire countered by bringing up vast reinforcements from its garrisons spread throughout the land, as well as hordes of mercenaries from Marn, lured by promises of fighting and treasure should they defeat the Chetu'uls. After eighteen years, the Empire counterattacked and retook the Mountains as well as storming across the Midlands to cut off the Zehalime from escaping north.
In response, the Chetu'uls retreated west, then north, redoubling their strength and hoping to hold the Empire back but their fortresses were overrun. Centuries of being able to bully weaker races around them had ruined the Chetu'ul’s fighting skills. Everywhere they met on the battlefield, the Empire’s well-fed and well-equipped soldiers put the hapless Zehalime to flight. Finally, in the year 1983, the Empire drove the Zehalime out of Paskanah and back to their Island, save for their colonies in the Storm and Yoram Mountains.
Over the next three hundred years, as the Zehalime retreated into the darkness below the mountains, the Empire grew and prospered all about Paskanah. The Age of Conslidation had began as the Empire adjusted from being a conquering to a ruling power. Infrastructure was built to allow all parts of the Empire to be in contact with another. The Imperial Navy ruled all four seas surrounding Paskanah and their ships sailed far and wide, even unto the farthest Islands of the Seas. And in the year 2361, when their strength had grown sufficiently, the Emperor’s Armies marched upon the Storm and Yoram mountains, destroying the Chetu'ul strongholds they found there. Many Chetu'uls died, and still more descended further into the bowels of the earth when the Empire could not find them. The Empire spread its forces throughout the mountains, hoping to eliminate any remnant of opposition to its hegemony but unto Arnodon they did not come for they also feared the power of Orbaygeon the Terrible who dwelt in the ancient halls of the Qilivs there. With the final defeat of the Zehalime, peace came to the land. The Emperor ruled supreme over all of Paskanah and none dared contest his rule.
It was in the chaos of the final battles that the Qilivs of the north decided to make a stand against the dark wyrm that inhabited their home in Arnodon. As the Zehalime retreated from Senolia back across the Grand Bay, they assembled what forces they could, taking Qilivs from all three domains, and assaulted Orbaygeon in their ancestral home. Many Qilivs died on that time, almost as many as had died on the day of his coming, but in the end, the dragon was slain and Arnodon lay before them. The Qilivs who survived the battle swore until one another to rebuild Arnodon in secret lest the Empire find out about its existence and come and destroy them too. Even their own kind, living in misery about them, was not told of this one triumph.
Many things did the Emperor do during the Age of Consolidation. A line of fortresses stretching the shores of the Canal was built to ensure that the Zehalime would never emerge from their Island to threaten the lands of the Northwest. The Empire was divided into dozens provinces, each ruled by a governor whose job was to ensure the well-being of his subjects and who reported directly to the Emperor. The military forces were organized into nine different Armies, each of them responsible for one part of the continent. They were each ruled by a Lord General who answered to the Emperor and whose power could, at time, exceed any of the governors. The capital was moved from Imperius to Imperius-on-Great-Lake in the 3009 when the new Imperial Palace was completed.
In the year 3684, the Black Cult appeared. First seen in Cleator, they soon spread throughout the lands of the Empire. Little was known about them but they were easily distinguished by their grey cloaks and hoods which hid their bodies and faces. They recruited members slowly and always in mysterious ways until their numbers had grown formidable, yet still they gave no indications as to what their beliefs or goals were, until 3706 when events took place which would change the face of the Empire forever.