Thelahar

Contents

Known Pre-History

Before the War of Daishevar, the land of Thelahar was an uncharted continent covered by vast forests and wide, unforgiving tundra.
In those days, it was known as Greyborne – the realm of ghosts – and it was thought to be a kind of purgatory; a doorway to the next world believed to harbor the
souls of the recently deceased. These souls, as yet unjudged, wandered this frozen land until the Gods opened the portals and allowed them to walk the road to the afterlife.

In reality, Greyborne was just an untouched wilderness that presented humanity – then in its technological infancy – with too harsh an environment to make colonization realistic. The mountains were a formidable barrier, and the narrow sea channel that spanned the shores between Lagunis and Auraton broadened along the reaches of Greyborne into the Eden Sea. These waters, known for their squalls and even hurricanes, kept fishermen and foreign explorers at bay. Stories told by seafarers driven ashore during such storms spoke of a wild, uncivilized landscape where monstrous beasts roamed and devoured all trespassers.

Such fearful tales soon gave way to supernatural belief, and for centuries, early human tribes stayed well away from Greyborne’s borders. But eventually, a few human clans put aside their superstitions and began settling in the country’s northeastern mountains. Here, a natural pass through the rock (later known as Sithion Pass) made it possible to cross the Uvanha during the summer and humans soon stepped from the mountain slopes and made their way into the unspoiled countryside.

Human intrusion into the heart of Greyborne was limited prior to the war, but from early artifacts dug near Tartak, historians know that the first human denizens entered the country around 7000 BDW. They were probably hunter gathers, but the remnants of crude, mud huts and basic tools suggest the beginnings of later, more complex clan cultures which herded sheep and raised crops.

As civilization spread, these early colonists became aware of another native culture known as the Sylphan1. The earliest human glyphs, which can still be seen today – scrawled on the walls of Sithion Pass and its openings, refer to the Sylph of Greyborne as “The Peoples of the Forest Wind”. Supposedly, they lived deep within the country’s massive woodland and legends claim that they were a warrior culture; servants of the Gods who guarded the doorways between Calamia and the netherworld, ensuring that only chosen souls crossed into the incorporeal domain.

Early Thelaharian texts speak of their incredible civilization as one perfectly in tune with nature. The Sylphan ruled the continent peacefully alongside both the dwarves and the deshiven. As lords over the Great Eidolon Woods2, they oversaw and protected its creatures – from the tree loving Mir3 who filled its canopies in the millions to the graceful Kojintora who prowled the forest floors alongside their ancient brethren, the Vanisk4. They worked in harmony with the Gnomes to build fine temples, harnessed the trust of the Centaurs with whom they supposedly rode into battle, and even gentled the suspicious nature of the Orcs who constructed their roads.

But this peace was not to last. Human carvings and scripts dating to the War of Daishevar, describe a great cataclysm that broke the Sylphan’s power and sent their world reeling into chaos. As one writer depicts it: “Fires consumed the forests, monsters ravaged the land, the skies of Greyborne turned to ash, and when the Sylphan fell … there was eternal darkness.”

In the aftermath, devastated by the assault, the region became dormant for several decades – controlled only by the beasts of the plain and the birds of the field. In this wild, uncivilized world, scattered tribes of Orcs and Goblins wandered. The Deshiven, driven from their mountain nests, ran rampant amid the trees, and suicide troops – Vespiers, Gargoyles, Vampires, and lowborn Athdraki left behind after the Israidian withdrawal – eked out a brutal existence. The continent became unstable and too dangerous to travel through.

In time, however, as memories of the war faded, civilization began to re-emerge. In 60 ADW, using the Sithion Pass, the first dwarves and humans began to return to their former homelands. From this point forward, nothing more is written of the Sylph. Many scholars believe the race was wiped out by the Israidian hordes and that their homes and temples were razed. Today, the only remaining testaments to the Slyphan kingdom are a few dilapidated roads that head west into Nemiseia.

The Recovery and the Rise of the Barren Trace

With the demise of the Slyph, humans and dwarves spread out into Greyborne unimpeded, growing at an exponential rate between 67 and 90 ADW. Thousands moved into the new land and soon renamed it Thelahar. During these early years, mankind remained near the mouth of Sithion Pass, comprised mainly of small, warring groups who struggled for prime territory. Feuds were so common that, were it not for the dwarves, human culture might have stagnated. Like humans, many of the dwarves had fled the country during the war and a better part of their civilization – from books to cities – had been turned to dust. However, the dwarves had no intention of letting petty rivalries and struggles for power jeopardize the reformation of their society.

Instead, they established a number of keeps and fortresses in the Uvanha Mountains (like the Citadel of Caerlin) and began to trade stoneware and gems vigorously with the Lagunians. They created lavish labyrinths under the hills and spent an exorbitant amount of ryn employing humans as servants, pages, and loggers, but most of their money and effort focused on expeditions into the western woods. Here again, humans were enlisted as scouts, trackers, and mercenaries. Horsemen were paid to ride out and map the terrain and wagon masters were employed to shuttle goods between the keeps and Stoneveil as well as outposts, such as Mytesia, which the dwarves had begun building along the edges of the Ice Mountains to the north.

Since they knew more about the continent than their new human allies, the dwarves also utilized the old Sylphan roads – sending men out to locate the stone paths, clear away rubble and vegetation, and repair any damage. In time, these routes became known as the Old Wilder Trails and were readily recognized by the large, heavy boulders that marked them. The dwarves, intent on reclaiming their former mountain territories to the west, tried on many occasions to use the roads to cross the wilds of Nemiseia, but were repeatedly rebuffed by the territorial swarms of goblins, orcs, and trolls – among other creatures – who now lived there.

Fortunately, by 67 ADW, the Elsyven of Lagunis had become well established in Stoneveil and a free trade route between the fledgling human and dwarf communities was established. With the help of the industrious dwarves, men ventured forth into Thelahar, driving out the Deshiven, Orcs, Goblins, and Israidians (whom they called demons) from the northern and eastern ranges. In time, the dwarves managed to cross the northernmost forests of Nemiseia, following the snow line of the Ice Mountains, and forged their way across a huge “break” above the western frontier. It was a difficult trek and many of the expeditions, both human and dwarf, were lost on the frozen tundra, but those who survived found their way to the western mountain range. There, in 116 ADW, the dwarves settled within the Phalderi Mountains and began building a stronghold called Obsidian Keep.

During the rise of the Keep, the Thelaharian clans worked hard to keep the savage route – known as the Barren Trace – between the Phalderi and Uvanha Mountains open. In its heyday, from 116 to 185 ADW, it was an impressive caravan journey, as dangerous as it was beautiful. The task of manning this trade route soon laid the foundations on which the Thelaharian nation would be built as quarrelsome chieftains discovered that profit with the dwarves was a far better prospect than war.

In time, lead clansmen began to shirk territorial skirmishes for peace treaties. They offered grants of land in exchange for the oaths of good, capable men and a large, well-trained force was established to waylay the hordes of Nemiseia. Inevitably, the warring clan leaders joined forces and their people kept the dwarves supplied with spices, lumber, textiles, and paper. The dwarves themselves carved granite and stone out the Phalderi’s peaks, but the Thelaharians – an intelligent people with a knack for invention – forged many of their tools, including several interesting, if old fashioned, pulley systems and pivots. This solidified their relationship with the dwarves and when Obsidian Keep was finished, the dwarven leaders promised to build their allies a magnificent city.

The Age of Espia and the First King of Thelahar

By 121 ADW, the Thelaharian clans had grown significantly in strength. Humans had colonized much of the land near the Sithion Pass and were beginning to press north and west. As the fringes of civilization spread, the centralized eastern territory, a land known as Espia, began to gain influence. The Espians5 were a frugal people descended from a continuous series of tribal alliances formed between rival clans. They became a powerful group during the age of the dwarven conquest and spent many years protecting travelers en route to Obsidian Keep from goblins and deshiven. These labors increased their wealth and influence. Gradually, they pushed their way south, driving the wild folk, including the troublesome orcs, before them. By 132, they’d forced many of their enemies across Thelahar’s massive central river and seized control of a large portion of the eastern forest, but territory disputes were never fully quenched.

Despite the continuing conflict, the Espians flourished – unifying themselves under a single leader named Kristopher Wolfe, an orc slayer and popular hero, who united the two strongest Espian family lines – the Clan of the Wolf and the Clan of the Moon – by marrying Eliaideah, a princess of the Moon clan. As a gift to his bride, Lord Kristopher selected a sight on the beautiful shores of Lake Rueon, also known as God’s Heel, for a capital city to be built.

Two years later, on the 1st day of Firedawn 134 ADW, as the glimmering stone crenels of the city’s central tower rose above its white, crystalline walls to stand, reflected in the water, he was crowned the first King of Thelahar. Over the next four years, dwarven engineers – who’d been engaged to craft many of the city’s architectural wonders – labored painstakingly alongside gnome and human craftsmen. Finally in 137 ADW, the dwarves of Obsidian Keep, true to their promise, completed the capital city of Estessavale.

The king was so moved by its clean, white beauty that he raised a flag devoted to the wolf and the moon and the Espian empire was born. The capital – a flawless, pristine city – was dedicated to the advancement of culture and learning. Some say its complex layout and unique design were inspired by Slyphan architecture, but no one really knew for certain. Historians agree that many of the city’s structural features were ahead of their time, but they continue to speculate as to how the dwarves managed such advanced construction techniques. The stonework itself is unusual and there is disagreement as to where the raw materials used to build the city were quarried, especially the massive granite pillars that form the six obelisks. These tall white stones, which sit at “Three Points”6, are covered in ancient glyph. The dwarves never discussed their significance, but many believe they contain the first decrees of the king.

No one can read these glyphs today, but legend has it that when the obelisks were set in place, Lord Kristopher forbade the killing of wild creatures for sport and set aside forest land for sanctuary. So began the reign of the Wolf King.

The Reign of the Wolf King

The Wolf King ruled Espia from 134 to 176 ADW. These were glorious years, the height of the pure Thelaharian culture. Learning abounded and the Espian kingdom grew, spanning hundreds of miles from the Uvanha Mountains to the Midriver and as high as the freezing northern peaks. Lord Kristopher worked hard to unify the Kingdom of Thelahar and earn the trust of the dissenting clans that remained. He eventually abolished the system of clan warlords, replacing it with a more complex, but similar hierarchy of titled land owners (feudal lords) and nobility.

He enlisted men to staff the royal army and build forts along the Midriver, including the oldest, Ft. Belarus, named for his brother. A series of organized militiamen were also incorporated into large villages and Lord Kristopher set up a system of taxation to help pay for public projects such as the construction of roads, canals, public buildings, and schools. Laws and histories were codified and written down by scribes and, by the end of his reign, the various regional dialects were merged into a single, official language. These changes ended the influence of small, fractional kingdoms and brought all of eastern Thelahar under Espian rule.

In tune with her husband’s higher thinking, his queen Eliaideah (Ele-ah-daya), encouraged the education of the masses and even founded the first magi university. She founded and chaired the university’s first council of ministers, oversaw the construction of its grounds and great library, and wrote a magical codex – a great book that outlined the basic teachings of the magical disciplines and created guidelines for their use, refinement, and study. Her school, which grew to immense scale over the centuries, later became widely known as the Solus Imperium. A powerful organization, even in its early years, the Solus Imperium quickly became allied with royal power and laid the seeds for the first magical renaissance.

But in the south, not far from the capital city, the Espian civilization drew rein. Here, the country bordered Rithorim, a wild, disputed region ruled primarily by the orcs. Long had the Espians coveted the lands beyond the Midriver’s southern fork, but the region was infested with demons, deshiven, and other wild creatures who’d fled the initial human expansion. The orc clans, who mocked the Wolf King’s pledge to respect the wilds, scorned humans and looked on their dwarven alliance with contempt.

Fearful of an orc-demon alliance, the Espian’s mounted a frontal assault on Rithorim’s borders in 172 ADW. They pressed along the lower Midriver toward the southeastern mountains, expanding their territory toward the sea. By 173 ADW, they’d seized control of the Midriver delta and successfully cut the supply lines between Rithorim and its sister clans to the west. Weakened and divided, the orc clans on both sides fell back and the Espians claimed not only the southwestern edge of Rithorim, but a small portion of the western front as well. The victory buoyed Kristopher’s soldiers, who built a bare bones seaport along the Midriver delta and named it Messina in honor of the king’s tall, black-haired daughter.

In 176 ADW, however, Lord Kristopher was slain during a battle near the town of Ise. The body was briefly hidden in a village silo to prevent enemy warriors from taking it as a trophy, but the king’s signet ring7 was stolen. Kristopher was later buried in the royal catacombs beneath Estessavale, but the ring – bearing a wolfen crest sewn in blue and gold – was never found.

Queen Eliaideah immediately assumed the throne to stem public panic and hold the country together. Under her government, Espia retreated from Rithorim, striking a treaty with the orcs that created a firm border along the lower Midriver, maintaining the ceded lands to the southeast, and allowing boats to ferry goods between Espia and the now isolated city of Messina. In the peace that followed, Eliaideah instituted many revolutionary social reforms that enhanced her husband’s vision. She expanded government funds toward the creation a formal public education system, set-up regulations for money lenders, merchants, and tradesmen, created libraries open to all classes, and standardized the courts.

She also proved to be a strong advocate of women’s rights and eventually passed a series of laws that gave women the freedom to own land, run businesses, inherit property, marry independent of their family’s wishes, and divorce unfaithful, abusive, or lazy husbands. Unfortunately, many of these changes were revoked in later years, but some of Eliaideah’s social systems remain in force to modern times. As queen, she ruled until her death in 194 ADW.

The Children of the Wolf and the Moon

Kristopher and Eliaideah had three children, two sons and a wayward daughter. The eldest was Messina, a tall, raven-haired beauty with eyes as green as a forest. She was Kristopher’s favorite and, in an age where women were typically confined to the roles of wife and mother, she held a great deal of freedom. Classically educated and sharp as a tack, she was a match in wit for any man and kept a ready hand in the politics of the royal court. This shocked the nobility, but her mother’s liberal thinking and her father’s willingness to endure scandalous opinion, forestalled reprisal.

Thus Messina grew to be a formidable tactician, arbiter, and problem solver, earning surprising favor among her father’s generals and a wide following within the warrior class. That she’d been trained from an early age alongside her brothers and could fight and ride as easily as they gave credence to the army’s adoration. Moreover, it was not uncommon to see her dressed in full armor and proudly sitting a black charger, as she rode alongside her father into battle. She was jokingly referred to by the provincial lords as the warrior queen. Although few of them took her seriously, they disapproved of the king’s lax regard for traditional values, which kept women in defined places. He ignored them and many stowed their worries, secure in the knowledge that the king had two sons.

But when Kristopher died and Eliaideah took the throne, Messina’s growing political and military clout brought noble concern to a head. While the king had lived, the nobility had grudgingly ignored the princess’ antics, passing her off as one of the king’s whims; a part of the royal extravagance. However, few had anticipated Eliaideah’s success as a monarch and when the queen began to forward the rights of women at large, the nobles were, for lack of a better term, threatened. They feared the power of Eliaideah’s rule and, while circumstances and a lingering respect for Kristopher prevented them from challenging his wife, Messina garnered little of that appreciation.

Traditionally, only sons could inherit, but Messina was the eldest child and bolder by far than both her brothers. She was beloved by the warrior class, and even among nobles her charm, eloquent speech, and good judgment were undisputed. She had all the makings of an exceptional ruler with the military and political potential to enforce her claim to the throne. As a result, when Eliaideah’s health began to fail, the nobles pressed the queen about the line of succession. But Eliaideah remained mute.

Then in 193 ADW, while making her annual pilgrimage to Ise to honor her father’s memory, Lady Messina vanished. Court scandal and rumors vary as to the details, but most generally agree that she crossed the border into Rithorim, drawn by a tale concerning her father’s missing signet ring. She was reputedly murdered by orcs, though her body was never found.

And so when Eliaideah passed away, her son, Lord Kristopher II, succeeded his mother, and the male line of Kristopher was hailed by the nobility. Unfortunately, the young king’s rule was short-lived. He died of typhus only a year into his reign and his brother, Lord Alfred, took up the throne from 196 to 200 ADW.

Alfred was the youngest child of Kristopher and Eliaideah, but he lacked the experience and boldness of his siblings. Where Messina had studied law and argued in the courts as a teenager, Alfred had wandered field and dale – wooing maidens and escaping the daggers of angry fathers. He had no interest in politics, much less the concerns and responsibilities of a monarch, and this made him such an inept leader that the nobility finally deposed him and rejected the claims of all his sons and bastards.

For two years, the throne sat empty, while several members of the royal family disputed the line of succession. In the end, Princess Asandene, the daughter of Lady Messina, successfully rallied enough noble support to take the crown. Like her mother before her, she was a quick, intelligent woman, beloved by the warrior class and gifted with political savvy. Though the nobility attempted to slur her name, claiming that she slept with half the royal court to acquire her seat, Asandene shamed them all by instigating sweeping reforms that not only undid Alfred’s financial blundering, but popularized her with the common people.

Much to their indignation, she reigned surprisingly well from 203 to 221 ADW before dying in childbirth. Her infant son was immediately accepted as the rightful heir. His throne was held in trust by the Queen’s consort, Lord Kendal, a favored member of the local nobility thought to be the child’s father.

During Lord Kendal’s governorship, one of Alfred’s more ambitious sons, Sir Jeremy Reynolds, incited a coup in 212 ADW. The twenty-two year old lordling, who owned lands in northern Espia, had come to Estessavale the year before and swayed a few members of the court still loyal to Alfred. With their support, he managed to surprise the royal guard and overtake part of the castle. The royal family was forced to flee and in the insurrection that followed, Reynolds declared himself king. Lord Kendal, however, was a formidable man. He overthrew Reynolds within the month, had the man beheaded, and then hung the body from the usurper’s home town as a warning. The town later became known as Kendalstowne.

The boy king, Lord Kristopher III, assumed the throne in 235 ADW at the age of 14 and ruled Espia until 278 ADW. When he died, his two sons, Henry the Elder and Lord Alan of Susah, both very popular gentleman at court, competed for the throne in a duel. The Lord of Susah won, stabbing his brother Henry through the heart. Lord Alan ruled from 279 to 340 ADW, but he was a womanizer who never married and had no legally recognizable children. The throne was then passed to his cousin, Lord Acre, the last living descent of Kristopher Wolfe. Unfortunately, Acre was promptly assassinated by an Alfredian loyalist during his coronation in 345 ADW.

War and Expansion: The Beginning of the First Magical Renaissance

Following Lord Acre’s death, a forty-five year battle for succession ensued. Numerous members of the nobility fought for power and then, in 390 ADW, a fresh orc invasion caught the country by surprise. The city of Messina was captured and the orcs took back much of the territory they’d lost along the southeastern border. Rattled into unity, the nobles choose a young general, Lord Vladier Bythannas, to lead the country in 396 ADW. Bythannas proved a capable king, driving the orcs back and restoring the nation to the former peace and glory it had known under Lord Kristopher. Bythannas ruled from 396 to 442 ADW. Although he’s best known for his military prowess and successful border expansions, he spent many of his later years overseeing the construction of a massive dam at Riverbend, and funding projects to clear farmland in the east.

His son, Lord Darhan, continued his father’s work revitalizing the country. The young man, though not the warrior Bythannas had been, was well read and had a classical education. Impressed by accounts of Queen Eliaideah’s exploits, he began to revive many of the old laws lost during the struggle for power, and in 447 ADW funneled money into an academic revival. He built many cultural venues such as theatres, galleries, and parks. He also supported think tanks, charities, and private businesses, and established trade, naval, and agricultural colleges. Classical architecture rebounded, sparking a renewed interest in engineering. Men began to apply their studies of literature, geography, and science toward government and secular advances. The rich and wealthy took full advantage of these new outlets, but commoners, though permitted to attend, rarely did so. Most peasants had little time or money to spare on higher education.

By 454 ADW, a renewed interest in magite and the magical arts sparked the beginnings of the first magical renaissance. With the support of the king, several talented scholars and teachers established magic schools and began channeling their arts among the populous. These academies grew rapidly over the next two decades and dramatically increased human interest in magite. The Solus Imperium headed this expansion, producing hundreds of magic users in every magical discipline.

The growing popularity of magic also helped Obsidian Keep re-emerge as an important landmark for the folk of Thelahar, particularly when the dwarves discovered a significant vein of magite deep within the mountain’s slopes. Word of the raw stones caused a deluge of travelers to journey along the old Barren Trace and across the “southern break”. The trace, however, proved to be extremely dangerous and trade between Obsidian Keep and Estessavale, which had dwindled during the years of royal feuding, remained precarious.

Then, in 457 ADW, Edwar Benwall, a renowned explorer and naturalist, forged his way through the frozen northern mountains and found the Pass of Benwall. Edwar explored much of the northern tundra and later discovered the Icenia Pass. In his wake a flood of hopeful men and women, eager miners and merchants hoping to strike it rich in magite, braved the harsh climate and migrated through the pass and into the north. Edwar’s three sons – Hjortis, Farin, and Perse – later established the town of Benwall after their father’s death. They began to ferry travelers through the pass between Benwall and the northern outposts beyond the mountains and along the coast. Their descendents still continue the family business to this day.

Meanwhile, the free flow of magite into Thelahar had begun to increase the Solus Imperium’s fame. Many fervent academic scholars and teachers sought the purified stones and, as the disciplines evolved and grew more refined with the years, a separatist attitude began to emerge. Some mages became extremely biased toward their own magical specialities and the Imperium’s traditional teachings began to suffer as academia grew more prejudiced. Worse, Eliaideah’s magical codex – the bible of the Imperium and the guiding force behind the teaching of the disciplines – had become dilapidated over the centuries. Imperium leaders chartered scribes to copy the aging text, but some sections had become so illegible that liberal interpretations had to be employed. This instigated a domino effect wherein historians and philosophers argued bitterly over the codex’s language and interpretation.

Such free thinking, though a staple of the renaissance, caused intense debate. Differing schools of thought regarding the codex began to infiltrate the university and crack the foundation Eliaideah had so careful crafted. University students formed clubs specific to their discipline and competitions were held so that individuals could test their strength and skill against their peers. In 460 ADW, the Imperium itself began sponsoring yearly games in which teachers, students, and alumni could compete.

These early events were harmless, but as the years progressed many academies and organizations developed into elite hierarchies, particularly among the elemental schools, and heated rivalries evolved. Admission to the Imperium became limited and students were carefully screened. Peasants were denied entry and certain disciplines were only taught to the privileged and the powerful. The arts became divided, pressing mages into an informal caste system that slowly expanded until it was out of control and the Solus Imperium found itself at the center of hierarchical war.

Then, at the peak of the magical renaissance in 491 ADW, six exceptional young sorcerers – Millenius Hesberon (human), Lysander Indiatis (human), Tomas Laurinam (gnome), Claude Anadyr (elsyven), Hurritt Morvensire8 (dwarf), and Zahavah9 Naryn (human) – began their studies at the Solus Imperium and everything changed.

The Blight and the Six Elemental Guilds

Originally, the founders of the six elemental guilds were all members of the Solus Imperium and, contrary to popular belief, they were also friends. The seat of the group’s bond lay in their mutual love for magic and the strong opinion of their leader, Millenius Hesberon, who felt that mages should be above petty differences. As a student, Millenius disapproved of the Imperium’s lax regulation of competition, scorned the popular if informal caste system, and made known his opinion that mages should compete, not to prove the superiority of their own magic, but to identify their art’s natural strengths and weaknesses. Refined magical techniques and teachings, he argued, should be open all students and not left as a privilege of the few.

His views were hotly contested, but Millenius was a strong personality and he rebuffed his critics sharply. His friends, who generally agreed with his sentiments, shirked the caste system and together, they rallied for magical unity – calling upon the beauty of the classical age wherein the Solus Imperium had been founded. Millenius wrote several magical treatises based on Eliaideah’s systems of regulation and supported the opening of joint elemental and higher magical schools to ease tensions. His belief that all schools of magic should be taught without censure was upheld by his friends and when they graduated from the university in 495 ADW, they formed the Unified Guild of Elemental Teachers. The Guild offered classes in all magical disciplines, refusing to limit students to a single path or deny entry based on class or race. It defied the university’s ranking leaders who viewed it as a blasphemous group intent on twisting Eliaideah’s codex for profit. The friends ignored their naysayers, firm in their belief that magic was a free art. Unfortunately, their belief in one another was about to be tested.

In 499 ADW, Sevarelith Delameth, a cruel, nomadic man who became known to history as the “Blight”, swept into Espia leading an immense army of more than ten-thousand soldiers. Rumored to be the spawn of a demon and a human, Sevarelith both hated and feared all magic users. Intent on destroying those gifted by sorcery, he crossed the Wandering Heroes and arrived in the land of Espia by sea where he leveled the port town of Messina.

Following the bank of the Midriver, his army traveled along the Espian border, crushing the resistance troops from Ft. Belarus and paralyzing much of the country’s military force. Reaching the shores of Rueon Lake, Delameth laid siege to Estessavale. Within the capital, the guild members tried to unite their brethren to help defend the city, but the Imperium’s scholars and teachers resisted. Divided by decades of bitter rivalry, they were unwilling to stand shoulder to shoulder with lesser mages and their leaders belittled the guild members, certain that the walls of Estessavale and the remnants of the Thelaharian army would hold.

Unable to convince the Imperium of the need for unity, the six guild members decided to defend the city on there own. Unfortunately, they were all still very young. None of them had ever experienced a battle and they could not agree on how to deal with Delameth.

The situation was further hampered by a bitter triangle that existed between Millenius, Lysander, and Zahavah. During their formal training, all five of the male sorcerers had come to respect Zahavah. She was an exceptional fire mage and, according to all reports, a stunning woman with long, decadent red hair and eyes as emerald green as the trees. Each man had, at one point or another, found himself falling in love with her, but of the five, Millenius and Lysander fell the hardest. As the years passed, Tomas, Hurrit, and Claude slowly gave up the quest for Zahavah’s affections, but Millenius and Lysander drew themselves into an open competition for her. They were, of the group, the two strongest magite users and the school saw many brilliant displays of lightning and ice magic in the years they jostled for Zahavah’s love.

Had Zahavah been wiser in those days, the quarrel might have ended peaceably, but the young fire mage was exhilarated by the attentions of her suitors. She thrilled to their growing aggressions and, like many maids, knew only to flutter her lids and play coy. Of the two, she returned Millenius’ feelings with the most zeal for he was a strong, forthright man, who spoke with clear intention. Though he was young, he was more man than boy, being well educated and worldly.

He spent long days in the company of books and trained with the strict observance of a priest. Zahavah found him to be a wonderful counsel and teacher, the kind of man a woman grows to appreciate with time, but he was so serious in nature that there was little fun in him. Zahavah, by contrast, was still very much a girl. She was a committed student and quite strong in her talent, but she lacked certain disciplines. Millenius understood her whimsies, but determined to have her. He loved her deeply and held great hope that she would consent to be his wife. Still, his less than subtle attempts to woo her in that direction made her shy.

Lysander, on the other hand, made her bold. Unlike Millenius, the brash, young, lightning sorcerer had a flare for the dramatic and could easily amuse Zahavah with tricks and idle conversation. That he loved her was obvious, but he did not consider her an equal. She was a woman – the most beautiful woman he had ever seen – but Lysander was a proud, contentious man. He respected Millenius, but he also coveted his friend’s strength and power. Thus, his attachment to Zahavah was born as much of envy as it was of love.

Throughout their years of schooling and well into their early days as fledging masters, the two men vied for Zahavah’s heart. Unable to choose between the them, she doted on them equally which sparked a fiery battle for her affections.

Thus as the siege progressed the six sorcerer’s argued and relations became strained. Tomas felt that the mages should evacuate the city rather than fight. Claude suggested that they rally the masses by depicting the coming battle as a kind of competition. Hurritt sneered at this idea and demanded a frontal assault wherein the bodies of the uncooperative could serve as the first wave. Zahavah rejected all these ideas, hoping to convince her companions to offer the approaching army an overture of peace. The men all viewed this as ridiculous, though they didn’t say so.

Millenius and Lysander agreed with Hurritt, but the three were of different opinions as to how such a strike might be achieved. The quarrel deepened as the hours passed and, ultimately, disorder reigned. Delameth breached the walls of Estessavale on the third day and Lysander and Millenius, hoping to win Zahavah’s love, split from the group to fight the madman’s troops alone. Tomas, Claude, Zahavah, and Hurritt also attempted to thwart the attack, but without the support of the Imperium mages, the guild leaders and their followers were not strong enough to keep the invaders at bay. Estessavale was sacked.

The Exile of the Mages: End of the First Renaissance

Barely escaping with their lives, the six elemental sorcerers slipped into hiding. Many members of the Solus Imperium fled with them and magic users became hunted creatures, constantly harried by Delameth’s followers. His troops fanned out over Espia, gutting villages and torturing peasants in a four year inquisition that crushed common faith in the government. Magic users were rooted out and killed in the thousands. Delameth spread propaganda, slurring the names of the Solus Imperium’s chief consulate and offering wealth and treasure to anyone willing to join his army.

Among mages, former disputes were temporarily suspended as the refugees struggled for survival. In time, the guild leaders were able to pull their remaining brethren together by providing a sense of order and safety that the Imperium’s walls could no longer maintain. Hard feelings and disagreements, however, plagued the group and complete unity proved elusive.

The mages understood that they were responsible for the city’s demise and this shame increased their division. They began to blame each other for their collective failure. Throughout their exile, Zahavah tried to be the voice of reason, but the two men who loved her fought constantly and this only agitated the ill will that had rooted itself amidst them all. Sides began to form and internal dissension threatened the safety of the group.

Finally, weary from the conflict, Millenius declared his love to Zahavah and asked her to choose. Although she loved him best, Zahavah could not bring herself to injure Lysander by admitting her feelings openly. Disappointed, Millenius gave up his pursuit and left the group, taking those who would follow him and traveling far from Estessavale into the cold tundra. In time, his people merged with the northerns, nomadic groups who had traveled the snowy corridors of the arctic since the time of the old Barren Trace. These collective people became known as Colidrians (meaning Northmen) and the region was aptly named Colidria.

Zahavah was devastated by the loss of Hesberon and fled into the wilds of Nemiseia with a loyal group of fire mages. Lysander, disgusted, gathered his would-be followers and escaped to the continent’s southern peninsula. Some say he was following Zahavah, but others claim that he helped rebuild Messina before sailing to an unknown country where he used the stormy waters to create a solitary fortress. Messinian sailors reported violent scenes of lighting for years after his disappearance and named the turbulent gulf between Messina and the western peninsula the Bay of Storms. In later decades, one merchant ship claimed to have witnessed the formation of the mysterious Cloud Rocks – a stretch of land off the Nemiseian peninsula shrouded in fog. It is now a graveyard for ships, as told by the residents of Messina, for storms cast the unlucky upon its jagged stones and tear the hulls of ships open.

Eventually, Tomas, Hurritt, and Claude separated as well. Hurritt returned to his home near Obsidian Keep and established the earth guild. Tomas walked down the path of the Uvanha Mountains and built a keep for the water guild along the shores of Lake Ibion. Claude set out for Sithion Pass, hoping to return to Stoneveil and the serenity of his elsyven brethren. He never made it. For decades, his family believed him lost and then word spread among those who traveled the Benwall Pass of a mysterious citadel that had risen within the Ice Mountains. A few tried to reach it, but all failed. The castle was too distant and often went unseen for months because of snowstorms and violent mountain winds. Sometimes, when the wind dies down and the snow ceases to fall, travelers can see it from a distance. It is now thought to be the guild of the wind mages.

Although many refugees followed the guild leaders into exile, some returned years later to report to the Solus Imperium. The texts there note that all six leaders established their own independent guilds of magic. These Guilds continue to exert great influence over the teaching of magic in Thelahar, but their power is siphoned through students who leave the walls of the guilds to travel the world. The citadels themselves are all relatively remote and only three – the ice, earth, and water guilds – are easily found today.

The Dark Period and the Time of the Rogue Kings

Estessavale’s civilian survivors returned to their ruined city in 500 ADW and began reconstruction after Delameth moved on through Espia toward the mountains. Even after the Blight, the city remained a place of beauty, knowledge, and creativity, but the power of the Solus Imperium had been seriously weakened. Mages became reclusive during Delameth’s four year rampage, hidden within the guilds and later behind the walls of the Imperium. The caste system solidified in the harsh years that followed and the university’s enrollment shrank until only the sons and daughters of the Imperium’s consulate and scholars maintained the art. Crippled and isolated, it wouldn’t return to its former glory until many centuries later.

In 504 ADW, Delameth moved across the Uvanha Mountains towards the lands of Lagunis, to the kingdom of Narovia, where he placed its capital Calora under siege. Calora defeated the tyrant with the help of its allies and Delameth was captured and beheaded for his atrocities. After his death, his generals began quarreling and eventually destroyed one another in a series of lengthy battles near the Uvanha Mountains. Those that survived the carnage fled; dispersing themselves throughout the continents. Some say that their descendants became gypsies, wanderers by nature.

Thelahar experienced a dark period after the Blight. Delameth’s attack had decentralized the kingdom, killing not only magic users, but a good portion of the nobility. The royal bloodline was also severed, leaving a huge gap in Espia’s leadership, and small, fractured groups of royals and pretenders developed. Disputes surrounding succession were often violent and from 510 to 590 ADW the kingdom lapsed into a state of anarchy. Individual fiefdoms emerged during the strife, limiting the power of the kings to Estessavale’s white walls. The unity of Espia fell into doubt.

Then plague and disease hit the continent, spurred by repeated bouts of drought and poor harvests. Severe climatic changes made the winters unbearable and as the death toll rose, labor grew scarce, industry faltered and, economically, the Espians fell into a slump. People began migrating, leaving Espia in droves and crossing as refugees into Lagunis. Some groups traveled south and a few even entered the western frontier, but these immigrants either met resistance from the Orcs or simply disappeared into the fauna, never to be heard from again.

When the droughts began to ease in 589 ADW, religion took hold of the common people. Many peasants, despondent from years of hardship, clung to men of faith. These wanderers, claiming to be messiahs with the ability to bestow the blessings of the Gods upon all true believers, soon formed religious sects throughout Espia. As they grew in strength, they spread religious revivals, demonizing the remaining nobility, and undermined efforts to reestablish a cohesive government. These men, known as “the rogue kings”, traveled the land preaching the power of faith and calling for a return to an ecclesiastical order. They encouraged the populous to disavow the physical and focus on deeds that would ensure them a place in the afterlife. Immortality, they claimed, manifested itself in the appearance of angels and could be obtained only through a covenant with the gods. Humankind had been brought to suffering because the gods were displeased, holy men proclaimed, and the mortal world, fraught with sin and debasement, would fall to demonic forces should the people fail to demonstrate their loyalty to the Almighty. This period, between 589 and 736 ADW, became known as the “Time of the Rogue Kings”.

Incited by these religious fanatics, thousands of men and women abandoned the principles of the magical renaissance. Magic users were viewed as devil worshippers, artistic expression outside religious formats was banned, technological advancements derived from the Slyphan were seen as instruments of demonic possession, and non-humans were persecuted and enslaved. The faithful built numerous temples, including barrows and necropolises to house their dead leaders. Many of these massive structures, with their towering, gothic architecture and vast internal catacombs, were carved directly into cliffs or hillsides. As religious worship at these sites swelled, the church fathers grew bolder in their power, elevating themselves above the law and disputing the rule of the Espian kings. The orders became riddled with corruption and power hungry monks and bishops began to cast aspirations upon the white towers of Estessavale.

In 731 ADW, the weakened government of Espia lashed out against these religious groups. The fervor was sparked when one revivalist, a man named Cersarn Livey, incited an uprising in Estessavale. He and nearly two thousand followers journeyed from Susah to Asandene where they began to organize God’s Army. Marching down the river they stormed Bythannas, calling for revolution and a return to pure faith that would end the power of the Solus Imperium and its demonic children, bringing forth a new age devoted to the soul. The throng demolished the state houses and hung every nobleman in the city, including men, women, and children, before setting the town ablaze. Crossing the lake, the revolutionists entered the capital. Here, the Espian army met them head on and the streets turned red with blood. Many peasants were killed, brought down beneath the well-trained swords of the government’s soldiers.

The current King of Espia, Lord Wenlay, who had spent the better part of a decade trying to stabilize the country, initiated martial law within the city and its surrounding provinces. He was sickened by the battle, which left the streets of Estessavale littered with bodies, and vowed never to let such religious fanatics rise again. The king ordered the corpses removed and his soldiers carted them out of the city to be buried. But there were so many that the king’s soldiers couldn’t find enough graves in the densely populated areas surrounding the capital. An ingenious and perhaps cynical soldier suggested that the army create a mass grave at Cersarn’s own necropolis to the east. The remaining corpses were stuffed into wagons and buried there in mass graves, then the necropolis itself was looted and burned. All that remained after the desecration were stone catacombs and the rear temple wall, built directly into the cliff.

Between 731 and 740 ADW, the Espian government underwent a rapid rebirth. Fighting continued between noble and religious leaders, but with the slowly emerging wealth garnered from renewed trade and lush harvests people began to disregard religious speeches about death and damnation. Government rule began to supercede that of the smaller fiefs. And churches, who’d become dependent on the sword strength of local lords, were forced to reinvent themselves. Taking advantage of this sudden shift in influence, Lord Wenlay began to pass laws restricting religious organizations in 741 ADW. There was little resistance to his reforms for troublemakers who sought to dispute the changes were quietly assassinated.

Churches, once spared property taxes and government censure, were now carefully observed. Money was funneled from their coffers and Espian officials instituted the first government-run shelter systems to provide relief for the poor, who had been easily manipulated by the religious fanatics. Church groups were forced to register with the government, which began to document the names of their leaders, review copies of their doctrines, and keep records of church locations and congregation numbers. Churches also had to apply for government approval before they could hold large gatherings in excess of three hundred people.

To further the end of the religious revival, Bythannas was rebuilt in 745 ADW and Lord Wenlay turned it into a military haven. The Espian King spread a massive propaganda campaign, reaching out to young people and inspiring them with ancient tales of war and valor. His efforts produced a renewed sense of patriotism and people swarmed to join the royal army. Lord Wenlay established a military academy in Bythannas to meet the demand and built nearly a hundred forts along the borders of Nemiseia and Rithorim. His military academy in Bythannas eventually became highly praised, drawing students from all across Calamia. However, despite his best efforts, he was unable to crush the spirit of the churches entirely and in remote regions, such as the sub-states of Sciantha and Sienthar, church leaders continued to preach and hold some power.

Reformation and the Edict of Rosamond

By 800 ADW, Espia was a very different place. The days of the Wolf Kings were now over and the kingdom was a fitful mixture of warring secular and religious groups. It was a poor place for non-humans, who still suffered persecution, despite the fall of religious fervor. Even mages were only safe inside the cities despite the Imperium’s tight connections with royalty and support of the government. Slave markets had become common and there was a growing circus culture that lived off the peasantry’s fascination with “old world” creatures and freaks.

Lawlessness abounded for while the Espian government had successfully reabsorbed many of the fractious fiefdoms produced by the dark period, its power was founded solely on its troops. Lord Wenlay’s military push had stalled the hopes of his rivals and reclaimed the country’s shattered pride, but the independent fiefdoms bowed to him grudgingly and neither he nor his successors proved strong enough to force absolute compliance. Thus government troops, though present in many areas, were too occupied with national concerns to be bothered with small scale crimes against personal property or freedom.

Then, between 823 and 1106 ADW a smaller religious revival began. This revival proved less violent than its predecessor and was slow to establish itself, but it did have an important impact on Thelahar. Church leaders grew in influence again despite the crippling restrictions laid down by the noble classes of Estessavale. Reformation had created a new breed of believers – men of education and faith who took their savvy interpretations of the law into the political arena. Mostly lawyers and magistrates who’d found solace in the words of their priests or taken exception to the Espian government’s indifference toward provincial concerns, these men used classical knowledge to inject religious values into the Espian political system.

In 1091 ADW, Queen Rosamond Bethia of the Lily, who had been crowned in 1066 ADW, created the Consulate of Ministers, a party of semi-noble lords representing the interests of Espia’s many provinces. These ministers were permitted a voice in the government, replacing the age old system of feudal lords with a system of parliament, and a few eventually held the ear of the queen. Drawn to opportunity, religious leaders began to exert their influence. Guiding the provincial ministers under their sway, they began a subtle campaign to expand the freedoms of the church.

Lord Wenlay’s former restrictions were gradually undone and corrupt officials throughout Espia were quick to succumb to the temptations offered by religious leaders. Money and power were diverted toward church goals in exchange for papal favor. The political machinery used to corrupt the local ministers began to sew avarice and suspicion within Rosamond’s court, setting opposing nobles at each other’s throats. Church fathers allied themselves with members of the consulate who favored their ideas. They sold divine scripts, the forgiveness of sins, and places in the afterlife to the superstitious members of the government. Some even utilized the addictive properties of herbs, powerful hallucinogens imbibed by priests to have divine visions, to sway the minds of unbelievers. A booming drug trade sprang up in Estessavale. Nobles bartered tracts of land, goods, and slaves in exchange for the potent chemicals.

Rosamond herself was subject to these manipulations and, at one point, church sympathizers convinced the Queen to retract the authority of the Solus Imperium, alleging that the Imperium’s ministers and followers were plotting to overthrow her. It was a preposterous allegation given the Imperium’s complex relationship with the monarchy, a bond that had remained constant – despite war and suffering – since the days of Eliaideah. But Rosamond, weak and ravaged by her addiction, believed these advisors. She ordered the Imperium’s council dissolved, its stores of books and coffers of ryn confiscated, and sent out a decree calling for the arrest of all magic users.

The history of Thelahar had begun to take an ugly turn when the conspirators made a fatal mistake. In a bid for power, the church fathers decided to unite in 1106 ADW. They took control of Estessavale and threw Rosamond into prison, placing a pretender on her throne. She spent six months in the castle’s dungeons, half mad from withdrawal, before the leaders of Imperium succeeded in rescuing her from its grim confines. Rosamond – now free of her drug stupor – was furious. She joined forces with the Imperium’s exiled leaders, who called forth not only the queen’s remaining loyalists but a force of nearly five hundred mages. The unity the Millenius Hesberon had so hoped to inspire four centuries earlier had finally come to pass.

Estessavale was reclaimed after a bloody two-year civil war. The Espian government purged its ranks of all religious sympathizers and passed the Edict of Rosamond. This document banned all non-government sanctioned religious services and retracted the authority of every pulpit leader in the country.

The Edict drove many ecclesiastic activities underground and these congregations became dark sects who worshipped their gods in secret. Though religious leaders had once again been thwarted, the second revival left a permanent mark on Espia, especially the country’s northern lands. Throughout the remainder of the 1100s churches continued to convert the local nobility, including prominent members such as Lord Sienthar and Lord Sciantha who – at that time – controlled most of the fiefdoms in the north.

In 1150, church leaders, hidden behind the swords of these northern lords, began drawing away from their fellow countrymen. The Espian government resisted these efforts and fighting broke out throughout the northern hills. Small skirmishes and disputes continued until 1153 when the Espian army finally permeated the region and instituted martial law. Lord Sienthar and Sciantha were arrested, put on trial for treason, and – after a lengthy debate in the courts – spent the next thirty years in prison.

The Pax Gregatim: 1201 ADW – 1767 ADW

The next several centuries witnessed a quiet period in Thelaharian history that later became known as the Pax Gregatim or “Great Peace”. Thelahar changed very little culturally during this period and the succession of kings, for the first time in history, proved mundane and uneventful. These years were among the most prosperous for the non-human residents of Thelahar. The Espian government still carried a longstanding hatred for the orcs, but due to the quelling of religious fervor other humanoid races became fairly well tolerated. Racial intermingling was not uncommon. The Great Peace also allowed Thelahar access to the world at large. They initiated trade with Auraton by cutting out a slim passageway through the Uvanha Mountains, made up of labyrinths left behind by the dwarves, to reach the head of the great southern bay. Unknown to the orcs, the Thelaharians built ships in this bay, known as Goddess Bay for its womanly shape, and traveled down to a sandy hook near the edge of the continent. Here they established a rudimentary sea town called Chance Point.

Thelaharian merchants ran the gauntlet from Chance Point through Goddess Bay for many years. The route wasn’t the easiest, but it was cheaper and more direct than running goods through the Sithion Pass. Their culture and savvy monetary practices brought a new measure of equality to the Thelaharian masses. Farmers took up trades and became merchantmen, particularly in the southeast. The nation as a whole became less isolated and more aware of worldly affairs. People began to travel extensively between countries and Thelaharian products such as textiles, pottery, and jewelry became very popular trade items.

By 1767 ADW, the Thelaharians had grown so rich and dependant on foreign trade that they sent a wave of ships through Goddess Bay, around the southern horn, and landed on the shores of Rithorim. Here, in a terrible battle, they assumed control of a small fifty mile area and built a port called Faldarlin. Orc unrest plagued the area throughout the latter 1760s and 1770s, but the humans stubbornly held their prize.

The Age of Expansion: Into Nemiseia

When the Pax Gregatim ended, Thelahar stepped into an age of expansion. Knowledge of the outer world had spurred invention and a desire to explore the unknown reaches of Nemiseia. Border issues with Rithorim and internal strife had kept the Espians from the western frontier for centuries. Now, lulled by peace, the old legends of demons and devils seemed little more than foolish stories designed to scare children.

In 1815 ADW, one of the northern provinces (part of modern Sienthar) tested the waters of the upper Midriver and crossed the line between Espia and Nemiseia. They were fortunate in that they entered near a fork where the river swept down dramatically, almost creating an island between its shores. This isolated gap was a fertile place and farmers migrated via a rudimentary bridge built by ferrymen, who’d forded the upper Midriver between Ft. Darhan and Riverbend for generations. Towns sprung up in this area like weeds and by 1817 ADW there was a thriving Thelaharian community.

The success of these expeditions prompted other border provinces to cross the Midriver. Human colonies sprung up in droves from 1817 ADW to the early 1820s. At first, they encountered little trouble, then on Earthsleep 23 in 1822 a family of three who’d crossed the river near Ft. Belarus, bound for the town of Keisha vanished. After an extensive search of the area, Espian soldiers found the bodies torn to pieces and strung up in some trees. It was the first in a series of gruesome warnings. More families disappeared throughout 1822, 1823, and 1824 ADW.

Soldiers scoured the wildness, searching for the perpetrators, but no evidence of the killers was ever found. In 1825 ADW, a small cohort of Espian soldiers vanished. Two months later, a town twenty miles from the Midriver delta was raided and burned. These incidents continued throughout the 1820s and 1830s until finally, in 1843 ADW a massive horde swept through countryside and slaughtered every human settlement in their path. The mysterious army pushed the Thelaharians back across the Midriver, shaking the Espian government to such a degree that King Lythania forbade further incursions. Fearful that the Nemiseian hordes would cross the Midriver into Espia, he pleaded arms from Lagunis. The Calorians sent him troops and armaments, but the hordes never came.

The western frontier beyond the Midriver became a prohibited zone in 1852 ADW, a wild land that belonged to non-humans such as orcs, trolls, and goblins. As a consequence, however, the Thelaharians became less tolerant and more suspicious of other races, particularly Israidians such as celestials and Calamian humanoids like the Bahkyar and the Kojintora. Bounty hunters and purist groups became extremely common in the later 1900s and these groups forced many non-human races, who had once lived side by side with humans, into hiding.

The Peasant Uprisings and the Great Famine

Espian control over Thelahar snapped during the Peasant Uprisings of 2021 ADW. Prior to the uprising, corruption and wasteful practices among the noble classes had caused the government to fall heavily into debt. Foreign leaders from Auraton and Lagunis offered Thelaharian nobles loans, but the nobility spent this funding on lavish homes and gardens instead of defense, town maintenance, and economic stabilization. In 2018 ADW, now infamously known as the year of the Great Famine, unusually hot spring and summer months produced an overabundance of insects. These flying swarms devoured hundreds of acres of crops and although a few plants managed to survive, many more wilted in the heat. Poor harvests rocked the country. The shortage of grain raised the price of bread, fruits and vegetables became scarce, and livestock starved or fell to disease.

In Colidria, record high temperatures were recorded, but the melting snow and ice created a massive upheaval in the ecosystem that threatened the continent at large. Loose ice flows threatened fishing ships in the Greyborne Sea, arctic deer became plagued by flies which spread parasites and disease, and avalanches in the Ice Mountains buried the main channel of the Benwall Pass, barring trade for months.

By mid-summer, the excess water from the glacial caps had surged into central Thelahar. The Midriver overflowed and flash floods hit every city and town along its banks, bursting the dams at Riverbend and Susah. Roads became stream beds. Fields turned to marsh. Lakes swelled into miniature seas. Even Lake Rueon escaped its banks, creating a fresh gullet that turned the small, southwest point of the country between Estessavale and Ise into a virtual island. Hundreds of people drowned and the economy sat on the verge of collapse.

As the flood waters receded, Espian leaders struggled to deal with the damage, but in 2020 ADW, the government folded and the common people paid the price. Foreign moneylenders foreclosed on farms and homes, took public buildings, and even wrested precious historical treasures from temples. People were forced onto the streets, homelessness spiked, and thousands of families starved. Pushed to limit of their resolve, the peasants rose up and a civil war began. From 2020 to 2026 ADW, Thelahar was an impenetrable war zone.

At last, peace was made in 2027 ADW. A new king was named and the former territories of Espia were divided into districts, each with a representative who could speak for the common people. The noble ministry, deposed during the war, was replaced by the modern council of Thelahar – a group of chief representatives from each region who traveled to Estessavale four times a year to advise the king. Espian rule, which had endured for over two thousand years, came to an end.

The Second Magical Renaissance and the Cultural Revolution

In the years after the Great Famine, Thelahar began to take on more of the shape we see today, but the era between 2030 and 2409 ADW was one of cultural upheaval. Nearly two thirds of the country’s population had either died during the famine or in the war that came after and the land was sparsely populated. Opportunistic foreigners, seeing a means to recoup the losses they’d suffered prior to the war, claimed roles in the new government and began the process of revitalizing the country.

These new leaders infused funding into construction, commerce, and trade. They cleared roadways, financed farms and businesses, and imported livestock and horses. The forts and towns that had once bordered Nemiseia left a vulnerable gap in the country’s defenses and orc attacks rose. In an effort to stem the invasions, the new government also turned its attentions on improving military architecture and design. Flooding had permanently redirected many sections of the Midriver and some towns and fortresses, like Asandene which now lay completely underwater, had to be reconstructed further offshore.

The mass construction sparked a building boom that drew laborers and farmers from across Calamia. Immigration peaked and a wave of hopeful new peoples, eager for life in a fresh landscape, converged on Thelahar. Outlanders flooded the cities and fields and within fifty years, gypsies, sharecroppers, caravan runners, and foreign mercenaries began to outnumber the native population.

Old traditions and morals, engrained for a millennium, clashed with the new and a cultural revolution took Thelahar by storm. The distinct, Espian culture – one of tight knit families bound by land, class, and religion – began to unravel. Non-humans emerged from hiding and the Solus Imperium raised its somber head from the ashes. Once more, the consulate sought to create ties with the government. Their centuries of service to the Wolf King and his heirs was well known abroad and they soon reclaimed their place as the right hand of the royal house.

By the 2200s the new government had become firmly entrenched. Wealth and prosperity spread, carried on the shoulders of foreign influence, and the old religions metamorphosed into a diverse series of monastic orders. Faith was no longer a cause for war, but a means of discipline, restraint, and self-discovery. Devotion to the Gods was shown through charity, peace, and education. Priests and monks founded schools where they preached harmony and tolerance and taught children how to read and write.

By 2400 ADW, the country had been completely transformed. This was an age of bards and wandering circus troops, who thrilled audiences with tales of classic literature, music, and magic. Stories of the Wolf King became celebrated much as Earthen peoples speak of King Arthur and Camelot, and these legends incited interest in the inventions of antiquity. As cultural reform diluted prejudice and opened the potential of young minds, a second magical renaissance began to bloom.

Wealthy merchants – hoping to own a piece of history – sponsored research into the past, funding archeological expeditions throughout the countryside. These excavations uncovered pottery, weapons, tools, and texts that hadn’t seen the light of day since the age of Greyborne. Archeologists were awed by these finds, many of which had Sylphan origins, and scientific study of these old world materials produced incredible advances in technology and thought.

But exploration truly took wing when Queen Elsia assumed the crown in 2515 ADW. Elsia was a woman of humble birth. Her grandfather was a foreigner who’d come to Thelahar to seek his fortune and married an Espian woman. Her own father, a wickedly intelligent businessman, later formed powerful friendships in government circles and when the king died without an heir, he seized opportunity. The idea of a foreign bred princess was poorly received, but supporters stalled these objections by touting claims that Elsia’s family line could trace itself back to Lady Messina!

This created a fantastic series of rumors. People whispered of long dead scandal wherein those ancient nobles had tried to commit murder, but failed. Messina had, in fact, escaped their treachery, crossing the border into peril where she was saved from the orcs by a brave, young soldier. Fearful for her life, Messina fled into seclusion and the common soldier later became her husband. Her children, the stories claimed, had passed the decades in secret until now.

Critics rolled their eyes, marveling sarcastically that the bold warrior queen of legend had settled for a peasant’s life, especially after Asandene assumed the throne. Debate was sharp and Elsia’s doubters were many, but the idea the Lady Messina had given up royal privilege for the love of a common soldier inspired a romantic vision among the populous. They adored Elsia and, although the story of Messina was likely rubbish, it was enough to smooth protests.

Queen Elsia, like her famous predecessor, respected the art of magic and encouraged education of the masses. Her influence invigorated the populous and brought the Solus Imperium back from the brink. After centuries of seclusion, the university opened its doors and scholars, philosophers, and historians thrilled to the vast tomes that had been hidden away in its great library. Eliaideah’s ancient codex was revived and the caste system was deemed archaic and uncivilized.

By 2553 ADW, the movement was in full swing. People clamored for learning and there was a massive revival of ancient architecture, engineering, philosophy, science, and music. Trade in exotic objects became so lucrative that treasure hunters started traveling from town to town in search of relics and texts. They uncovered a wide array of family heirlooms that had been passed down from father to son or mother to daughter for generations. Inevitably, the demand became so great that the townspeople began to cash in on the excitement, even when their family treasures grew scarce.

False artifacts, maps, and jewelry were so common by 2612 ADW that the government instituted a system of checks, wherein treasures had to be authenticated by royal scholars before hunters were praised or paid. But even with these restrictions, the trade barely slackened. Foreign visitors and pilgrims, drawn to cities like Ise and Bythannas, bought trinkets and replicas like candy. Everyone had an “authentic” version of Kristopher I’s signet ring, for example, although the designs varied extensively. To this day, the look of the true ring is unknown, but merchants still make a mint selling forgeries.

The second magical renaissance reached its height in 2703 ADW before it gave way to the romantic pre-modern age. Some of the lost knowledge from ages past, such as the printing press, blast furnace, and the water pump were rediscovered. The creation of the catapult, crossbow, and lighter, swifter ships were the high points of this era. The Thelaharian army also developed modern war tactics – and began using mages as well as archers to better defend their infantries.

The Romantic Age

The period between 2700 and 3000 ADW, known as the Romantic Age, was a brief stint in history, but its significance had a profound effect on modern Thelahar. Following the high cultural revolution of the second magical renaissance, people eased themselves into a life of leisure. Philosophy and scientific advances gave way to dripping literary expression and sexual freedom. Poets wrote extensive sonnets about enduring love and romance, shirking the practical tenants of marriage in which both men and women had done their duty for the sake of alliance … or a cow. Couples began to marry for love and less for family. Laws bore out the results of these unions by defining the age of consent, limiting arranged marriages, setting penalties for adultery, and allowing divorce.

These changes ushered in a utopian perspective. The days of hard labor and tight purses were things of the past and common men, buoyed by the renaissance technology, had more free time to revel in personal extravagance. Existentialism was explored in art, and the pleasures of the simple life – governed by hill and dale, harvest and feasting – were extolled in everything from paintings to opera.

Magic too was swept up in this utopian narcissism. Those with magical talent were associated with the beauty of fertility and growth. They bore the blessing of the goddess who laid her hand only upon the worthy and gave them the gift of foresight. Monks too traveled extensively, leaving their schools to preach faith and spread this new enlightened perspective. Unlike generations past, however, the scrolls they carried now contained the pious teachings of both their gods and the magic guilds. Warriors, imbued with faith and magic, began to appear and heralded the rise of heroes. It was a wonderful period to be a magus or knight, if one believed the poets, for there were a lot of maidens.

Though adventurers of this kind were commonplace throughout the late 2900s, their numbers increased dramatically when the demon hordes began re-emerging in 3027 ADW. These small hordes lacked the strength to overwhelm large human settlements, but they caused a great deal of trouble in outlying areas.

Farmers and herders were ill-equipped to deal with horde attacks on a regular basis and while towns could mustered their militia, trained mercenary forces were routinely engaged to curb the threat. Soldiers and private swordsmen soon became welcome visitors and bards sung tales of their exploits.

They were called Damon-Morder – the demon killers – and by 3072 ADW, one of the most well known was a Veluralan named Huvath Sagrel.

Huvath Sagrel and the Order of Devout Knights

How and when Huvath Sagrel came to Thelahar is a matter of some conjecture. His personal history is sparse, but historians do know that he was born in Ethardowan around 3052 ADW. In his youth, he was a soldier who fought deshiven for the Veluralin government. Some scholars have suggested that he was a member of a Veluralan army troop hired on by the Thelaharian government to help quell the unrest that plagued the country in the late 3070s, but these ideas have yet to be substantiated because many documents were lost or burned during this period of civil unrest.

Need for men of Huvath’s skill began in early 3050 ADW when two ambitious brothers – powerful politicians who owned a vast swathe of land in the north – decided to revolt against the government and tried to break away to form their own kingdoms (Sienthar and Sciantha). Their declaration of independence ignited the Paithanien War which raged from 3050 to 3063 ADW. Unable to stop the rebels on their own, the Thelaharian government began supplementing their forces in 3061 ADW with Veluralan mercenaries. With this added support, they crushed much of the resistance and the two ring leaders were on the verge of defeat when orcs attacked from the south.

Hoping to take advantage of their human neighbors – so embroiled in their own conflict – several large clans of orcs raided the southern border in 3063 ADW and nearly swarmed the capital. The Thelaharian army and its Veluralan allies were forced to abandon their campaign against the rebel states to face this new invasion. For seven years, human-orc skirmishes readjusted the Thelaharian border, almost on a daily basis, and the country knew little peace. Guerilla warfare raged and the orcs raided and destroyed much of the southern border, cutting off the mountain trade route to Faldarlin. The seaport became completely isolated and the people there, mostly merchants and sailors, were forced to fend for themselves. Finally, in 3070 ADW the orcs retreated and the Veluralan forces were released from their service.

Perhaps, some returned home to their native land of Ethardowan, but some must have stayed. Among them, obviously, was Huvath Sagrel a brash, young warrior who took to riding the hills with a group of Veluralan army veterans and slaying orcs and demons wherever there was need. By 3072 ADw, the group was referred to as the Order of Devout Knights and over the next eleven years they became popular folk heroes. Huvath and his followers wandered the land, dedicating themselves to the destruction of evil. They saved the lives of countless people, often asking little in return, and word of their accomplishments spread far and wide.

Fame brought them more than notoriety, of course. Many men and women, human and non-human, from all across the world joined the cause and the Order’s numbers gradually swelled until they became a formidable force throughout Calamia. And well they were needed, especially in Thelahar, for the Orc Wars had crippled much of the Thelaharian army. After the conflict, the army’s numbers shrank as soldiers retired or turned in their commissions to follow more peaceful pursuits. Recruitment too steadily dropped. Tales of valor failed to impress a fatherless generation, jaded by years of brutal warfare, and young people avoided service.

By 3077 ADW, however, the need for capable soldiers peaked. The Thelaharians were now divided into the separate states of Espia, Sienthar, and Sciantha. During the orc wars, these states had set their differences aside and worked together militarily to combat their common foe. When the orcs were vanquished, a series of treaties recognized Sciantha and Sienthar as states independent of Espia, but almost immediately the three regions began a political partnership. Within a few years, they were again well invested in foreign trade, but use of the Sithion Pass and the dangerous route to Messina poised, as always, financial and political hardships. In 3079 ADw, several wealthy Faldarlin merchants, who’d been cut off from the main land route into Espia since the orc wars, banded together and hired a large army of mercenaries. This force pressed out into Rithorim, cutting out a thin slice of territory that later became the state of Asentia. Under the guiding arm of Bernard Losiln, a merchant who had become extremely wealthy selling marble to Rionia, the group used their money and influence to rebuild the old Westward Road. They expanded the Citadel of Urathel – a fortress that had long defended Faldarlin, hired mercenaries to protect the road, and established caravan towns along the route.

Initially, the mercenaries they hired were random men, often warlords or ex-militia that specialized in the killing of orcs. But later, as the region became more established, the Thelaharian government offered the merchant state its aide. Political negotiations brought Asentian merchants seats in the government as well as military support. The Order of the Devout Knights (and later the Dominion) began to monopolize the trade route, pushing out other mercenary groups, and asserting themselves as its sole guardians. The merchants were pleased, of course, for the Order charged very little for this avid protection.

Thus, Huvath and his followers were a much appreciated group of warriors, which the Thelaharian government slowly became more and more dependant on as the years progressed. Unfortunately, the glorious days of Huvath’s order were not to last.

The Rise of the Dominion

In 3083 ADW, a young man named Sirin Althenore joined the Order of Devout Knights. Though he was a racist individual, he rose quickly through the ranks, acquiring such influence that he began to challenge Huvath’s leadership. In 3090 ADW, this struggle for power came to a head and the Order broke into two factions. Althenore’s faction, later known as the Dominion, proved to be the strongest and, with the help of a man called Vincent Markovin, Althenore assumed control of the Order’s armies throughout Calamia. (See Dominion History for more specific information)

In Thelahar, the Dominion rose to prominence without much resistance. The government in Estessavale had long been dependent on the old Order’s mercenaries to maintain border defenses and trade routes. They were in no position to disapprove of Althenore’s takeover and Dominion influence gradually spread throughout the state of Espia and later into Asentia, Sienthar, and Sciantha.

Although the Dominion’s scope and power extended well beyond the borders of Thelahar, the country was subject to some of the Dominion’s worst racial and political scourging. By 3092 ADW, Althenore had awarded control of the Dominion’s second legion, which oversaw Thelahar, to Vincent Markovin as a reward for assisting him in the coup against Sagrel. Markovin was a cruel, sadistic man who lived an very secretive, underground lifestyle.

He ruled the second legion with an iron fist, propagating Althenore’s racist outlooks and making life for humans and non-humans alike very difficult. Rumor held that he was fascinated by the ancient occult and, because people who stood out against him regularly disappeared or were imprisoned, commoners believed that Markovin practiced black magic on these unfortunates. His policies were certainly harsh. A person could be sentenced to imprisonment for as little as stealing bread or staying out past curfew, and hung for committing an act of desertion, evading trial, or concealing items of military interest. Few of his challengers survived an encounter with him, as he was an excellent swordsman, and his avid racial profiling slowly eroded the open acceptance cultivated by the romantic age. Priests and monks, who’d previously spread peasant education, were intercepted and converted. Those who refused to join the Dominion were hunted down and tortured or closely watched.

The Dominion had its own religion – one of human purity – and viewed other denominations as demonic or false. Their doctrine portrayed priests as deceivers and con men who sold false artifacts and taught the will of demons. These ideas were widely resisted in pastoral areas, but Markovin used history to his advantage in cities and urban areas, reminding cautious government servants of the church’s former turbulence. The Thelaharian government agreed to watch religious orders, but balked at the Markovin’s attempts to have spies infiltrate the Solus Imperium. The Consulate, though hardly a concern to the Dominion’s plans, still had centuries of union cementing their ties with the royal house.

Of course, both Althenore and Markovin desired more than the humbling of a few charlatans and magic users. They craved Thelahar’s wealth of resources, especially its magite. The division of the Thelaharian states in conjunction with their dependence on the Dominion’s military allowed Markovin the freedom to control much of the black market trade for Althenore, but the guilds withdrew from Dominion’s sweet political entreaties and refused to trust the organization. Moreover, Colidria, with its harsh, snowy white death, stood between the Dominion and the dwarves of Obsidian Keep. Althenore and Markovin spent many years trying to woo magic users and northerns into their fold, hoping to overcome the barrier these stubborn groups presented, but soon other challenges arose.

One came in the form of an ambitious soldier. Kenneth Mordishant was born on the cold, white plains of Colidria in 3079 ADW. His father was Lord of Farin, a former plainsman turned manor lord who’d grown wealthy raising herds of deer and selling their meat, milk, and hides. In 3094 ADW, Mordishant’s father was severely burned in a village fire and the responsibility for Farin fell to his son. But Mordishant had little desire to rebuild or raise deer. Instead, he took up an apprenticeship with a wandering mercenary who eventually introduced him to a secret society known as the Oracle Knights. Mordishant spent six long years under their tutelage, but he lacked the patience required to study magite. His temperament was ill suited to the ways of assassins and he was too ambitious to simply remain an obedient follower. He wanted to advance, to lead men, and have his name known throughout Thelahar.

The Order, sensing his defiance, released him from their service, but the young assassin challenged their right to discard him. Its leaders, fearing of his ambition, sent his former teacher to kill him. Mordishant, however, had become a fine swordsman and his teacher was now old. Reluctantly, he killed his mentor and was labeled a murderer by the Order.

On the road once more, he returned to Colidria and served a few years as a captain with the northern guard outside Hesberon and later as a sword for hire along the old Barren Trace. In 3103 ADW, he decided to join the Dominion. Because of his past experience with the Colidrian guard and knowledge of the northern terrain, he was considered a valuable asset. His commanders saw an opportunity to gain influence in the north using his reputation and Mordishant was quickly promoted.

By 3107 ADW he was a lieutenant colonel, but as with the Oracle Knights, Mordishant had grown discontent. He was an ambitious man who held aspirations well beyond that of a simple soldier. He wanted to govern. He wanted to be a king. The Dominion, by this time, had a clear hold over the Thelaharian military and Mordishant was well aware of the organization’s potential to usurp the power of the king. When he was entrusted with the restoration and repair of a battered citadel in the Uvanha Mountains, he saw his chance to outwit his leaders. The Citadel of Caerlin was a former dwarf stronghold that hadn’t been used in years and it was the perfect hideaway for a secret force.

While Mordishant plotted to overthrow Althenore, a new threat began brewing in Estessavale when Palenom Xirran was named the new high visor to the king of Thelahar in 3109 ADW. Xirran was a crafty individual, a match for Althenore’s talents, and he had his own vision for Thelahar. The Chancellor left his mark on the royal city of Estessavale, dramatically improving in city’s defenses, setting standards of beautification, and improving the health and well-being of its people. Althenore, who had a growing interest in the High Chancellor’s encroachment into military affairs and political adjustments, traveled from Lagunis to Thelahar in 3114 ADW to investigate. By this point, the five Dominion Legions were suffering heavy losses from horde attacks and dissension had begun to build throughout the organization.

Mordishant took advantage of this discord, using the growing unrest to proliferate the idea that Althenore was an unfit leader. For years he spread a quiet vein of propaganda, drawing other soldiers and mages who’d become discontent with the current leadership. In 3112 ADW, he assumed command of the Fifth Legion and was sent out to Shanar to establish Dominion outposts. However, his Legion was recalled to Thelahar in 3118 ADW when orc and demon unrest in Asentia threatened the Westward Road and weakened the second’s legion hold on the area.

Then in 3119 ADW, Rionia fell to a major demon assault and the Dominion’s third legion, under Roland Cyen, was forced to retreat from Auraton into Thelahar. Cyen had hoped to retain control of the northern portion of Auraton, despite his losses, but with horde attacks pressing against the first and fourth legions in Lagunis and Ethardowan as well, Althenore insisted that he fall back. Cyen, a warrior of frightening skill, was shamed by the defeat and looked on Althenore with angry eyes.

He retreated, grudgingly, to Faldarlin, but his compliance was overshadowed by doubt. With three feuding legions crowded inside Thelahar’s borders, the distrust and suspicion hit a breaking point. On Florarest 13, 3119 ADW, Kenneth Mordishant rose up against Sirin Althenore and the two sides met in what was to be the first of many battles. A Dominion civil war had begun and the fate of Thelahar hung in the balance.

A word about governments in Thelahar

In ancient Thelahar, right after the war of Daishevar, the region was controlled by clan chiefs or warlords (groups like the Huns). When Kristopher Wolfe assumed control, he merged these clans and created a feudal system of lords and vassals. This system was maintained throughout the years in which his descendents ruled until the time of Queen Bethia Rosamond of the Lily. Rosamond instituted the Consulate of Ministers, provincial lords who came to court as representatives of their lands. This system, very similar to a noble parliament, endured throughout the Pax Gregatim until the end of the Espian empire. After the peasant uprisings, the first version of Thelahar’s modern government emerged. This government was also a kind of parliament, but without the burden of noble influence. The king serves as more of a prime minister than a monarch and local representatives advise him on policy. This government went through various evolutions until it grew into the modern council of Thelahar. The modern council is composed of various state and district representatives. There are three chambers: The Royal Chamber – composed of the King and his visors; The State Chamber – composed of officials elected by the populous to represent the states: Asentia, Espia, Sienthar, and Scianthia; and The District Chamber – composed of officials who represent specific districts of these states.

Together, these three chambers decide issues of law, war, and peace. It should be noted that while these states work together, they claim to be independent of each other (separate countries). The truth, however, in modern times, is that they’re co-dependent on one another. The reason is simple. No one state produces enough resources or has enough military strength to remain completely separate.

One may notice that the state of Colidria is an exception. Colidria maintains and has always maintained a separate government. These peoples, only recently converted from nomads to farmers, share friendly discussion with the Thelaharian governments, but they are considered a separate country. This separation occurred early on since tundra people had to be tough and self sufficient. Colidria was first colonized in the early 170s when use of the Barren Trace was at its height, but few people passed beyond the southern break until the 460s when Edwar Benwall discovered the Benwall Pass. Early colonists were miners and explorers who adapted to tundra life. Over the centuries, the Ice Mountains and severe weather kept their descendants separated from the outside world, though popular use of the Benwall and Icenia Passes now allows a steady flow of trade today.

Colidrians relied a number of local resources (deer, fish, seals, arctic moss, bearberry) to maintain their lifestyle and their culture remained very simple for hundreds of years. When Millenius Hesberon entered the region in the early 500s, the country’s independence soared even further. His ice mages spread basic education and the use of inventions from the first magical renaissance as well advances in building and magic. Hesberon, though he never claimed a title of king or lord, was technically the country’s first governor. He instituted many laws and gave the nomadic clans their first push toward town life.

The city of Hesberon is the largest in the country and is now the seat of government. Unlike the states of Thelahar, this government lacks a parliament structure. People are governed by a system of local clan laws that are overseen by officials in Hesberon. These chief officials can override clan laws, but rarely do so. Fortunately, the clans are all closely related by blood and so their cultural values are fairly universal. The Colidrians have a free society where women are equal in stature to men. Non-humans, mages, and the diseased, maimed or unusual are not persecuted here. In fact, anyone with the willingness to work hard and be an honest citizen is welcomed provided they don’t cause trouble.

A word about the Solus Imperium and its hand in government

The Solus Imperium was created by Queen Eliaideah as a university, but from the time the first Imperium council met, its hand in government was sealed. During the age of the Wolf King, a member of the Imperium served as counsel to the king and queen. In later years, these advisors grew in number to seven and they basically represented the Imperium’s interests in matters of state and finance. For example, a university needs funding to survive and during the first magical renaissance much of the money that went into Edwar Benwall’s explorations came from the government, a matter pushed by the Solus Imperium to increase the flow of magite. In the same vein, Imperium leaders also milked money from the nobility by granting noble sons and daughters admission to the school and teaching them to be powerful mages. This issue, of course, reached a head during the late 400s and is one the underlying reasons that the caste system began to emerge.

When feudal power ended with the formation of Rosamond’s more parliamentary government, the Imperium sat several of its members on the consulate and held a prominent position with royalty both in and out of the public eye. Marriages between royalty and mages were not unheard of and the Imperium worked quite hard to keep itself in the bloodlines. After the peasant uprisings, the Imperium’s royal connections naturally snapped. By the time of the modern council of Thelahar, Imperium leaders became less involved in government activities and more focused on structured, academic pursuits. However, they continue to play a minor part in politics.

A word about the Six Elemental Guilds

The Six Elemental Guilds were established in the early 500s after Estessavale fell to The Blight. Fearing for the survival of their arcane knowledge in the face of Sevarelith Delameth’s crusade against magic, they all fled Estessavale together, taking their students and their scrolls with them. Later, the six elemental masters spread out across Thelahar and eventually established their own schools. The schools were eventually named after their founders and today the current leader of each the school takes on the founder’s name as a kind of title. The schools can be found in the following locations:

Guild Earth

  • Location: Near Obsidian Keep in Colidria
  • Races: Mostly dwarves, but open to humans, gnomes, and other races
  • Character: Stubborn

Guild of Fire

  • Location: Citadel of Naryn in Nemiseia
  • Races: Unknown, though thought to be selectively human and female.
  • Character: Secretive and unfriendly

Guild of Ice

  • Location: The City of Hesberon in Colidria
  • Races: Humans and dwarves, usually from Colidria, but open to other races (Dominion are scorned!)
  • Character: Practical

Guild of Lightning

  • Location: Citadel of Indiatis in Nemiseia
  • Races: Humans mostly, but others can be admitted if they prove themselves worthy
  • Character: Elitist

Guild of Water

  • Location: Citadel of Laurinam on Ibion Lake, Asentia
  • Races: Run by gnomes, but open to all races
  • Character: Open and casual

Guild of Wind

  • Location: Citadel of Anadyr on the Northeastern Coast, Colidria.
  • Races: Primarily run by Elsyven, but open to many races
  • Character: Spiritual, though, initially, not easy to approach

Creation, Spirit, Illusion, Light, and Dark do not have separate guilds. They are available in varying degrees at all guilds. Some do not have all five. All magic schools are available at the Solus Imperium.

The six elemental guilds are resistant to Dominion influence currently, however, since they are divided they have not taken any major steps to curb the spread of Dominion influence in Thelahar. The Dominion’s recent acquisition of black market trade in magite has opened the door to negotiations that were previously rejected out of hand.

The most accessible guild is the Citadel of Laurinam, home of the water mages. This guild is very open and will accept students of any level or background. The earth guild, located near Obsidian Keep, is also relatively open, though the majority of its students tend to be dwarves. The ice guild, located in the city of Hesberon, is more standoffish and most students come from regions of Colidria to be trained as warriors who defend the “southern break”.

The other three guilds are less accessible. The wind mages of Anadyr, for example, are very secretive and keep to themselves. Word of their exploits was first carried through travelers who began to encounter emissaries from Anadyr along the Benwall Pass in 562 ADW. The Citadel of Indiatis, which hid itself away for nearly two centuries, remerged in 673 ADW when they initiated sea trade with Messina. The Citadel of Naryn almost never contacts the Imperium. It’s exact location is unknown to most Thelaharians, but rumor has it that this guild degenerated into a feminine cult that despises men. Fire mages from this guild are rarely seen, but their appearance invokes awe and sometimes suspicion. They are thought to be the only people with the ability to travel unhindered through the wilds of Nemiseia.

Despite leagues of separation, the six guilds have never forgotten the downfall of Estessavale and their bitterness has continued over the centuries, growing stronger and more unreasonable with time. Today, few of people understand what led to their ancient schism, only that the members of these six elemental guilds do not get along and are prejudiced against one another.

It should be noted that while the six elemental guilds are not the only magic schools in Thelahar today, they do set the standard for the teaching of the elemental disciplines. There are numerous deviations, of course, but because many early, independent magical schools were formed by second, third or fourth generation students of the guilds, most can trace their lineage back to the original six masters. This ancestral pedigree is a popular means of legitimizing magical schools today and serves as a form of propaganda. Therefore, even schools that have no connection to the guilds, tend to claim that they’re affiliated and will emulate the forms and methods of the guilds. Thus guild influence, though it has waxed and waned over the millennia, remains strong throughout Thelahar.

*If you’re interested in playing a character with a guild background, please contact James or the GM’s first.


Regions of Thelahar: Modern Era

Espia |
Sienthar |
Sciantha |
Asentia |
Colidria |
Rithorim |
Nemiseia |
Snowy Downs

 


Espia is the largest human controlled territory in Thelahar. This was the first region settled by humans and dwarves after the War of Daishevar. When humans first colonized the area it was an exceptional place with vast plains, forests, and low, sweeping hills. Human expansion, however, leveled much of the forest to make way for farmers and livestock ranchers. The northern part of Espia, near Kendalstowne and along the borders of Sienthar and Sciantha, is still wilderness however. Areas surrounding the lake near the capital are densely populated. Bythannas, for example, is a cultural mecca for soldiers. Where Estessavale teaches the best and brightest mages, clerics, historians, and artisans, Bythannas recruits and trains militia for the Thelaharian government at its elite military academies. Riverbend is an important point of launch for travelers and merchants following the old trading routes between Hesberon and Faldarlin. The city of Ise is a major center of trade, as merchants chance the waters of the lower Midriver’s to ford their way to and from Messina which, like Faldarlin, is a critical seaport. Fort Belarus, the forward most defense garrison in the region, serves as a strategy point, protecting the ferries to Messina while also serving as a barrier between the capital and Nemiseia. Tartak, an ancient city dating back to the 300s, is the largest human settlement near the Sithion Pass and it is a popular rest stop for caravans traveling to and from Lagunis. It has a large, open market and one can find many lavish elsyven goods there since the city has connections with the merchants who visit Stoneveil. This city is a very interesting place from an archeological perspective since it is so old and it draws many treasure hunters and explorers. Stories of its history abound and many residents make a living telling high tales and selling artifacts. One popular yarn claims that the city was actually attacked, at some point, and held by demons in ancient times. Bards in the romantic period created a number of songs and poems depicting the legendary battle that ensued between the Espian army and these invaders. The demons, of course, were defeated as the story goes, but historians are at odds as to the validity of such songs.

Major Products: Produces most of the country’s food supply – everything from grains such as wheat, oats, rye, and barley to vegetables like potatoes, turnips, cabbages, kale, carrots, and small, leafy herbs. The area also produces meat from cattle, goats, and pigs. Horses are big business too, particularly near Bythannas where stud farms are plentiful.

Dominion Presence/Influence: Very Strong. The Dominion has a solid hold on most of Espia, particularly in the south and the west along the river where the Thelaharian government relies on them for military reinforcements.


Sienthar is one of two former provinces lost by the Thelaharian government during the Paithanien War. It is the sister state to Sciantha. The two collaborated in their revolt against Espia, but today their relationship is less hospitable. Many border disputes that began after the war were never fully settled, particularly concerning the trade routes leading to the Pass of Benwall. The natural boundary dividing the two countries – the Kyree River – is a volatile place to live. Sienthar, however, currently has control of the Town of Benwall and guards the entrance to the Benwall Pass jealously. Ft. Darhan, the country’s principle militia center, houses one of the largest Dominion garrisons in Thelahar and is a major recruiting center. The soil is very acidic and the steep, rocky ground is not well suited for farming. To the north and east, the state is all woodland, but to the east and west the land tapers down into the Midriver and open plains have replaced forest. Because timber cutting is so common in Sienthar, the government has banned free range logging to the north. Instead, it sponsors tree farming in the southwestern portion of the state near Asandene.

Major Products: This sub-state cuts a lot of timber, but it’s main monetary source stems from tolls and fees procured from travelers headed into the Pass of Benwall.

Dominion Presence/Influence: Significant. The Dominion is very interested in controlling the Pass of Benwall, both for general trade and to control the flow of magite.


Sciantha is one of two former provinces lost by the Thelaharian government during the Paithanien War. It is high country, sporting low hills and valleys that primarily cater to sheep farmers. Wool is its main export, but woodsmen also trade the pelts of wolf and deer. Far removed from Estessavale, the people in this area are much more isolated and thereby more ignorant and superstitious than their fellow countrymen. Here, legends of the old world of Greyborne abound and the mountains are rumored to harbor the descendants of Sylphan warriors. Poverty is common in Sciantha and while most people make do with selling produce, wools, and furs, the economy often suffers when there are harsh winters or droughts in summer. This region is very medieval and religion has a strong grip on the populous even today.

Major Products: There are a lot of sheep farmers in this sub-state. The land is too rugged for beef cattle, but some farmers do maintain milking herds. These cows are stringy compared to the more robust animals in central Espia and goats are more favored as one travels further into the hills. Trappers also profit from fur trading and farmers produce vegetables from hardy cool climate plants such as radishes, squash, and peas.

Dominion Presence/Influence: Growing. This state is less important to the Dominion because it’s mostly hilly sheep country, but the region does supply the group with recruits. Propaganda easily sways the young here, many of whom simply want a better life away from the hard labor of the fields and sheep pens.


Colidria is all tundra. It’s a very harsh land with short summers and long, brutal winters. Only the toughest human clans can survive there. Surprisingly, it’s fairly well populated thanks to the Pass of Benwall, which serves as trade route between the magic guilds, the Thelaharian states, and Obsidian Keep. There are mountains to the west and the east, which form a solid barrier against other nations. This natural armor in conjunction with the cruel weather has kept the Colidrians very independent. If you go to Colidria, you’ll meet a lot of ice and wind mages – often called Northmen. They’re an aloof people, highly intelligent and brusque in nature, but loyal to their clans. As a result, they’re the most united of the Thelaharian peoples. But then they have to be, for on the border of Nemiseia there is a wide opening in the mountains known as the “southern break”. The wild creatures of Nemiseia, though relatively uninterested in the cold expanses beyond the hills, sometimes pressure this area. The Colidrians guard this break with their own army to prevent invasion. Most Colidrians are still nomadic people who live in clans, but with the establishment of a firm trade route between Obsidian Keep and central Espia, some have settled down and formed towns and farms.

Major Products: Despite being covered mostly by barren tundra, Colidria is actually a major production center. The state produces a lot of meat and cheese because the savvy Northmen, some of who remain nomadic despite the rise of modern towns and manors, maintain herds of arctic deer. The deer provide meat, milk, and hides. Textiles are produced from deer hair, cheeses from deer milk, and even musical instruments, which are fashioned from deer antler. Colidrians are fantastic musicians and their flutes, pipes, and tamburs – stylized and individually carved from deer antler – are very sought after. They also make drums using animal skin and stringed instruments from animal intestine. In addition, fish and seals are caught in the Greyborne Sea. The towns of Valgale, Perse, and Noelani are a vast fish and blubber market that draw tradesmen from all over Calamia. Seal blubber is an important commodity for the Colidrians since it is used throughout Calamia for heating oil, ink, and candles.

Dominion Presence/Influence: Poor. The Dominion is still trying to wheedle its way into Colidria, but because most of the denizens are descendants of the ice mages, Dominion are more likely to be run out of town than welcomed. Northern soldiers are coveted by the Dominion for the Northmen are fierce fighters and of good stock.


Asentia is a merchant state built from the ground up by a group of wealthy traders. This land, which borders Rithorim, is almost a military state. Though composed primarily of merchantmen, who use the old Wilder Trails (now known as the Westward Road) to ferry goods between Faldarlin and Estessavale, the area is under constant threat from orcs. Mercenaries patrol the roads in force and though they’re supposed to provide protection, unwary travelers often find themselves paying a sizable toll to secure their own welfare. The terrain is made up entirely of low valleys and hills and only flattens out around Faldarlin near the sea.

Major Products: The city of Ibion, which sits on Lake Ibion not far from the water mage guild, is a major point of trade for those brave enough to ford the lower Midriver. The city is a market and ferrymen carry products from Ibion to Ise and then on to Estessavale or Messina. Erul and Anton, established by merchants, are points of passage along the Westward Road and serve mainly as rest stops. Most people who live there provide hospitality services for travelers in the form of hotels and taverns. Some fine beer and whiskey are produced in Asentia and a few herdsman raise sheep, but the area is so unstable that most people live in fortified towns. Orc raids are common and unwary travelers can be killed, captured and ransomed, or enslaved along the road by bandits, orcs, and all manner of wild creatures. Faldarlin is probably the safest part of the state, being a major port and fishery. It has a large number of gambling houses, several huge market squares, and numerous cultural and architectural attractions. The Citadel of Urathel, a former mercenary stronghold that is now controlled by the Dominion, guards Faldarlin and the fifty mile swath of farmland surrounding it.

Dominion Presence/Influence: Growing rapidly. Dominion soldiers are very common in Asentia, but while the organization has a strong military presence their political clout is limited. At present, most of their efforts are focused on protecting the Westward Road. This job is very intensive and the soldiers have little time for anything beyond protecting the road and collecting their fee for escorting merchants along it. As a result, many of the smaller towns that do not sit directly on the road are fairly free from the Dominion’s social and political agendas.


Rithorim is a region controlled primarily by Orcs. This place is still relatively untouched by mankind, though some humans do dare to live there and it is, by no means, as dangerous as traveling the Wilder Road into Nemiseia. Much of Rithorim is scrub forest. The land is very flat and low and as it leads one south down to the sea, the terrain swells into marshland (not unlike the Florida Everglades).

*Note if humans live here they are either orc slaves or in hiding! Players interested in exploring this area should contact the GM’s first.

Dominion Presence/Influence: Non-Existent.


Nemiseia, also known as the Western Frontier, is a heavily forested and dangerous region of Thelahar. There are very few human settlements here, if any, and the region has no government. It is literally wild and a wide array of creatures, including but not limited to deshiven, orcs, goblins, trolls, kojintora, centaurs, and demons, live there.

*This area is restricted. Characters from here or traveling through here must get GM approval first!

Dominion Presence/Influence: Non-Existent.


Snowy Downsis a small strip of land beyond the Phalderi Mountains that faces the Wandering Heroes. This region is technically part of Nemiseia, but because the mountains provide a barrier, the land is not quite so wild – populated mainly by kojintora and a few human explorers from Colidria. The town of Snowcap is the most remote settlement known and rumor has it that here, one can cross the barrier between worlds and pass into the great beyond. Here too, one can see wonders such as the stunning northern lights, large white bears, seals, walruses, and Vanisk. As you move south, the tundra gives way to forest and, on the coast, soft beaches. Kojintora dwell here in the hundreds, most living peacefully with little human contact. A few joint settlements exist, including Virsythnar, Fuer, and Burrsen, but many kojintora in this part of Thelahar can go their entire lives without ever seeing a human.

Major Products: None.

Dominion Presence/Influence: Non-Existent.


Footnotes

1 Sylph, in real-life mythos, were invisible air elementals first referenced by Paraclesus, a 15th century alchemist, but they’ve been written about in various forms throughout fiction. They’re commonly thought of as Faeries, but for the purposes of the Dark World story this notion will not be used.

In Thelahar, these creatures existed before the War of Daishevar, though their reputed connection to the Gods is a dubious claim at best. Surviving texts from that era are few, but those that remain describe the Sylphan as sly, willowy creatures that could appear and disappear at will. The texts are nondescript concerning their appearance, but a few diaries containing eyewitness accounts depict Sylphan as having dark purplish-black skin with pale, white manes of hair, and long, stick-like fingers. Their eyes were a bright, fluorescent green that glowed at night like a host of fireflies. Beyond this, almost nothing is known about their physical characteristics, but it is universally understood that they bear no resemblance to humans.

Texts conflict as to the Sylphan’s nature, but they were definitely a tree-dwelling species. Later historians speculated that they were larger, smarter versions of the Mir, but there is nothing in the ancient texts to support this hypothesis. In fact, some authors, writing as early as the first years of the war, spoke of the Sylphan as “one and of the tree; long and sable skinned with eyes of emeralds” and “poor, wingless beasts sought for their hallowed flesh”.

Though not malevolent, Sylphan were, apparently, quite mischievous beings that could be downright vindictive at times, committing acts such as petty thievery and even murder. They were good tree climbers, which may account for their ability to vanish at will and, possibly, the idea that they opened doors to other worlds.

Their civilization was reportedly immense and very advanced, as opposed to humans at the time, but descriptions of it border on the fantastic and are written from such an archaic viewpoint that little can be clearly understood. Modern archeological digs have found traces of Sylphan technology, such as highly advanced crossbows discovered during the Second Magical Renaissance, and few strange building footprints in northern Espia that later inspired modern human fortifications. This would seem to indicate that the Sylphan were archers who had some level of military organization, but historians can only speculate. Sadly few other Sylphan artifacts survive today except a series of old stone roads.

Dwarves and humans used these roads, later known as the “Old Wilder Trails”, in the aftermath of the war. Today, few of these roads remain intact as most succumbed to the ravages of time. Those that do, such as “The Westward Road”, are clearly marked by large, stone boulders. In the winter, these stones are usually half-buried by snow, but in summer they serve to mark the trail and are a reminder of the both Orc and Sylphan ingenuity.


2 The Great Eidolon Woods was a magical forest planted in the heart of by the Gods. At the time, only the northernmost reaches were thought to be fertile and that the south was bare sand and desert like Shanar. One day, the eldest of the Gods took pity on the land and its creatures. The northern rivers rose up at the call of the God Evithanon, who set his heel in the earth and formed a great lake called Rueon – Mother Spring – and the south became lush with forest. Lake Rueon is also called God’s Heel. These are legends for it should be noted – the word “eidolon” means delusion.


3 Mir are small, mischievous sprites; the Calamian equivalent of gnats. They’re very small and annoying because they scent mark everything and they bite whenever unsettled. Although human legends claim that they look like tiny women with wings, this is untrue. Granted, the Mir do have a pleasing shape with fair skin and hair, but they don’t resemble humans beyond the fact that they have two arms and two legs.

Their limbs are long and angular, easily double jointed, and they have thin, sleek little bodies with small, nub-like tails and soft, downy hair that runs from the crown of their head down their back to their ankles. Their underbellies are bare and pink, their paws and feet have long fingers; good for gripping tree branches, and their wings are petal-soft, transparent plumes – with three sections – that are very butterfly-like. Touching the wings can easily tear or damage the sails, which are protected by a light, powdery substance that appears as gritty dust on a person’s hands. Any rough handing can injure a Mir and a Mir without wings is at a grave disadvantage.

Because they are tree dwellers, living off the fruit, seeds, and nectar of the canopy during the warm, summer months, they rely on their wings to sail from tree to tree. It should be noted, the Mir are gliders, not flyers. Their entire life is spent in the trees, sailing between one roost and the next. They venture to the ground only when winter approaches to bury themselves in vast networks of catacombs beneath the forest floor. Each year, as winter lapses, they emerge from hibernation, and climb up the trunks of trees into the canopy.

The best physical “earth” representation of a Mir would be a lemur. The Mir, of course, are much, much smaller – only averaging between 2 to 3 inches in length – and lack the raccoon-like tail, but they have the same dexterity with their paws. Strictly speaking, they’re not very intelligent as far as species go. Naturally, they can find food, evade predators, and reproduce, but they don’t have a society or any kind of technology. They communicate with one another through distinct cheeps, clicks, and taps, made in part by their vocal chords, but mostly by slapping their wings against their bodies. They do not has the ability to learn human speech or form words. Mir spawn in late spring and early summer, then lay gelatinous eggs in the breaks and hollows of trees. These eggs harden through the summer months and eventually burst, releasing thousands of young. Most are eaten before they reach maturity, but the birth of Mir is a tremendous sight – the only real time you’ll see many of them gliding together – like dandelion fluff borne on the wind or a large school of fish swimming synchronously beneath the cool surface of the sea.


4 Vanisk are big, forest dwelling cats. They’re very like snow leopards – having dark, spotted fur usually gray or a dull brown – and they enjoy colder climates. Today, most of these animals live in northern Thelahar in the region now known as Colidria, but before the war they lived as far south as Estessavale and some still roam the uncharted areas of northern Nemiseia. These cats are big and dangerous – weighing in around 200 pounds. They hunt deer, wild boar, horned sheep, and occasionally humans. They’re highly prized for their pelts, although hunting is a risky business, and Vanisk trappers are well paid for their labors. Myths prevail about them, since they are such secretive beasts, including one popular and tragic yarn about an Elsyven boy who fell in love with a beautiful Vanisk and made love to her. According to legend, the pair’s child – a half cat, half Elsyven – became the progenitor of the kojintora. But these are only stories.


5 It should be noted – the Espians are Thelaharians. They’re not the only Thelaharians, but in ancient times they were the most powerful faction and so they controlled many things. Espia is now a state in Thelahar like Sciantha, Sienthar, and Asentia, so referring to oneself as an Espian in the modern age is kind of like an American saying that they’re from New Jersey or California. Still American, just from a specific state.


6 The name “Three Points” refers to the three royal gardens located within Estessavale. Two obelisks sit within each of these gardens.


7People have searched for Kristopher’s signet for generations and many fakes of this artifact have been made since its disappearance. During the second renaissance, it was greatly sought by treasure hunters and the town of Ise became a kind of shrine and tourist stop until the Orc Wars. Today, hopeful explorers still come in search of the ring and the townspeople make thousands of ryn a year selling maps of the local area. For a few ryn more, one can buy a guide and even, if you ask nicely, an heirloom skin containing the secret location of the true ring. The information in these skins is completely bogus, of course, but there are suckers born every minute. The locals know the truth, but Ise is populated with swindlers who sell such “treasure maps”.


8 Hurrit literally means “handsome” and Morvensire means “son of Morven”. So literally – the handsome son of Morven.


9 Zahavah means “golden daughter”.