Authors: Cantil, Neurotico and Daemion
Before The Ice
Since the dawn of time and beyond there have been five elements: Fire, Water, Earth, Air and Magic. Each of these elements occupied one "plane of existence", lacking a better explanation. Each plane was inhabited by elemental gods, who warred upon each other across elemental rifts in space (and still do, for all we know).
At one point of time, a long time ago, the elemental planes suddenly clashed together for a tiny instant, causing a cosmic cataclysm of hitherto unwitnessed proportions. The product of this clash was a sixth plane, a plane containing traces of all elements. This plane took the shape of an endless universe, teeming with galaxies, star constellations, solar systems and planets. In the early beginning of this sixth material plane, the elements were like stormy seas intermixing; at times, parts of the plane could be totally dominated by one element and so forth. After a while, though, the elements settled down in a quite even mix all over the plane.
The planet Aegic (Icesus is situated upon this planet) is but one of many planets in this plane, but it was somehow chosen to be the place where life was to be born for the first time. Dozens of races were born out of the raw force of the five elements. Some races absorbed more of one element than others, much depending on the place of their birth, and the time of it. Most race births occured during the period of time when the elements were in disorder; therefore, a race could be born solely of one element if that element dominated the place and time of the birth of the race. Some of the early races have died out, while others have managed to survive and reproduce. Still others have divided to two or more branches that are somewhat alike, but still quite different.
Meanwhile, on the five other planes, elemental gods discovered the new, sixth plane and ventured to it, curious and hungry. One god of each element came to Aegic, where they picked up their age-old battles. And when elemental gods do battle, they mean business; mountain ranges rose and were smashed to dust, earthquakes ripped the ground apart and hurricanes tore through the atmosphere. The elemental gods didn't care much for the living life of Aegic either, it was below them.
All in all, Aegic wasn't that friendly a place for mortals. They endured for centuries, but finally some courageous individuals stepped forward to challenge the elemental gods themselves, and demand justice. These individuals were the ancestors of the priests of today.
The mortal races begged on their knees and offered the elemental gods vast gifts. They also promised to be faithful believers and worshippers for all time; this prospect was new to the gods, as they hadn't had any worshippers before. They grew curious and finally accepted the mortals' offer. They forgot their internal differences for some time, being occupied with the mortals. Meanwhile, the priests who had convinced the gods to leave Aegic in relative peace grew to become revered individuals among the mortals.
This went well for a number of centuries. The mortals relaxed and built kingdoms and empires, ruled by great kings and queens. Even though racial differences grew during this time, in some cases to outright hatred between races, it wasn't as bad as it had been. As it always has been in history, though, life wasn't so bright for everyone; some mortals, mostly chaotically minded, had opposed the priests' plans of making peace with the gods. These individuals saw peace as a form of stagnation that had to be avoided at all costs. After the peace had been made - and they had lost - they went underground to bide their time, lurking in the shadows. After a few centuries, however, they again rose in opposition of the establishedmortal races. They were loosely organized in a group called The Red Wind, led by a former snakeman priest. This group, though small at first, gained in numbers as those unhappy with the present rule joined their orders. They plundered, ravaged and sacked all they came across. The rulers of the established kingdoms were unable to do much; the followers of the Red Wind were like berserks, fighting for the sake of war alone. The rulers called upon the priests to ask for their help.
The priests were more than willing to help, since they had received most profitable positions in society during the past few centuries, and were none to keen to see society turned to ashes by these villains. In order to thwart the Red Wind, they decided to form an army of holy knights called the Templars. By swearing a holy oath on the Elica Stone - a priceless gem which contained equal amount of energy drawn from all five elements - the Templars could draw power from all of the elements. The Elica Stone was guarded by five priests at all times, one for each element. The stone had never been used and would never again be used for anything else than the iniating of Templars, since its usage required the consent of all five patriarchs. The Templars, after being initiated, then recieved training from priests of all five elements, and thus they were able to cast spells of all elements. While it is thought that one could train a Templar without the holy oath and the Elica Stone, it is certain that they would be much less powerful in all elements.
The Templars became the perfect weapon against the followers of the Red Wind; with their fighting skill and spell-casting capabilities they were almost unbeatable, and crushed the Red Wind group in a matter of months.
So, another threat removed. The mortals settled back and daydreamed for a few centuries more, and forgot about both the terrible time before the peace with the gods had been made and the ravagings of the followers of the Red Wind. The gods were slower to forget their internal quarrels, though. The old war between the god of Water and the goddess of Fire came up to the surface again when the god of Water allied himself with the god of Magic and waged a war against Fire. Fire was at this time considerably stronger than both the others, though; the god of Magic was utterly destroyed while the goddess of Fire was weakened to the point of banishment: she returned to the plane of Fire to regenerate her strength. The god of Water suffered too, though not as much as the two others. Throughout this intermezzo, the gods of Earth and Air stayed neutral.
The destruction of an elemental god causes a massive discharge of energy, and when this happened to the god of Magic a massive rift was torn open in the very fabric of space. The god of Water used this rift to channel power from the plane of Water to regenerate the powers he had lost in his war against Fire. He was successful and opened an aqueduct from the plane of Water to himself. Along with the raw elemental power transferred through this channel came massive amounts of water to the planet of Aegic, slowly at first but later with ever increasing speed.
Since the goddess of Fire had withdrawn from Aegic, the very element of Fire was weakened too, and Aegic cooled down. The mean temperature sank by so much in a few years that the stream of water from the elemental plane of Water turned into a glacier creeping across the surface of the planet.
The mortals, of which most had built up great empires and cities teeming with life, were forced to hastily pack up their belongings and flee to the equatorial regions of the planet. They knew, however, that they would be doomed sooner or later; nothing seemed to stop the onrush of the ice. They banded together, racial differences - even hateful feelings between races - were put aside as they sought some means of survival.
The mortal races reached a vast plain with the ice right on their heels. They decided that here was the place to make a stand if anywhere. The priests of Fire came up with a grand scheme; they would, in conjunction with the priests of Earth, raise a great mountain range around the plain, and on the plain itself create volcanos to heat it to a pleasant temperature. A barrier screen would be put up above the plain, to serve as a greenhouse of sorts. The volcanos, their effect largely increased by the greenhouse effect, would also melt the ice nearest to the mountain barrier, thus preventing the ice from slowly grinding the mountains to dust. With a great amount of help from the elemental god of Earth they managed to do it; they were saved, at least for the time being.
After The Ice
The Ice that had threatened to wipe out all life on the planet of Aegic had been stopped by the priests, who erected a barrier of mountains around the plain of Dhasus to stop the advance of the Ice. Volcanoes were created by the fire-priests, effectively heating the valley and melting the ice closest to the barrier, thus preventing it from slowly grinding the barrier mountains to dust.
The numerous peoples who had fled into the valley rejoiced at being saved, and the priests were held as saviours and heroes. They became the leaders of the exiled peoples, ruling above former kings and emperors from the period before the Ice.
After a while, though, the true meaning of their situation dawned on the peoples of the valley. They had lost everything. They looked to the priests for guidance and leadership, and the priests thought up a plan. Each race (for there were many races packed into the valley) would select a spot in the valley and settle there. There was a good reason for this; before the Ice had come, there had been a great many prejudices, even hate, between races, and while those feelings now lay at rest, they might wake up any moment. It would therefore be safest to place each race as far from the others as possible, the priests thought. After a while, when the settling down was completed, the process of uniting the peoples could perhaps slowly start - under the guidance of the priests, of course. The priests had already sketched up a grand plan of making the whole of Icesus into a theocracy.
So, the different races settled down, in hastily built villages, all around the valley. They started to look around at their surroundings, and decided to give the valley a new name: Icesus.
In this early beginning, all seemed well. The villages continued growing, standard of life was raised, and trade (albeit in tiny form) commenced. Most villages had a leader, a "mayor", who was almost always a priest. Here and there, loose alliances and unions of numbers of villages were formed.
After the people had gotten the sheer impact of the catastrophe the coming of the Ice had caused into the back of their heads they - of course - gradually started squabbling amongst themselves. Old conflicts, hatred and prejudices from the time before the Ice came up to the surface again. Many started eyeing their neighbour races with suspicious and envious eyes. The priests handled these conflicts pretty well in the beginning, but restlessness grew all the time. The biggest problems were between dwarves and derros, between thri-kreens and cancuns and between elves and dark elves. It was between these age-old enemies the worst conflicts erupted. The priests of the various races were hard pressed to keep their fellow racemates in check. They soon started talking openly about their plans on uniting the peoples of Icesus under one rule, which was met with varying enthusiasm from the different races. Some liked it, others did not.
As if these problems weren't enough, goblin races started raiding peaceful people at this time of crisis. Some lesser goblinoids had had their homes in the valley before the Ice, and more had fled to it. They had kept themselves hidden, afraid of the other races. They had bred like flies, though, and now dared raiding for food and blood. The ferociousness of these raids grew steadily - at first the goblins didn't dare raid during daytime, but they soon started attacking peaceful villages at noontime, armed to the teeth. The early attacks were repelled easily enough, but people were still worried, for the goblinoid races grew in power quickly.
One race who had taken hold of the situation were the elves. They had met up and selected a new leader, the queen Eriliane. The elves could not accept being united with all the rest of the peoples of Icesus, as this meant they would have to live next door to their mortal enemies, the dark elves. The elves sought to ally themselves with friendly-minded races, and because they possessed great skills of administration and leadership, they viewed themselves as the natural leaders. Getting others to follow their lead wouldn't be that hard, they thought; after all, what everyone wanted was security - from racial feuds and goblin raids - and there is strength in numbers. What they needed was someplace to settle, a city preferrably, where they could gather other races, and rule as an aristocracy.
This scheme had one flaw, though; the elves had never been good at building cities fast (rather wishing to let nature have a hand in design). After some discussion the elves turned to the dwarves, who were known as master builders. Of course, letting the dwarves first build the city and then come there and settle would mean that the elves would have to give up some of the administration to the dwarves, but as Eriliane pointed out the mightiest empire the world before the Ice had ever seen had been ruled jointly by elves and dwarves. This could be a descendant of that empire, she figured.
At the same time, the priests were getting nowhere. Racial prejudices came creeping up among their ranks as well, and they started squabbling about petty things. They still retained their goal, though; to unite all races under a council of priests. When the time for the elves to contact the dwarves had come, Eriliane chose to get in touch with a dwarf named Gurzum, a prince before the Ice and second-in-command (after the priest) of his village (which was one of the largest and best built in the whole of Icesus). Gurzum was a bit surprised by the offer, but he accepted, seeing the advantages of the plan. He quickly sent out messengers to all the other dwarf communities in Icesus, and persuaded almost all of the other dwarves that joining up with the elves was a good idea.
So, after a short while, the elves and dwarves started searching for a good spot to build their city. They chose a location at the foot of a chain of mountains, where the back of the city would be protected by the cliffs, and building material would be close by. The dwarves started building, and the elves begun laying up administrative plans for their new home.
Meanwhile, the priests' plan about uniting the races of Icesus completely fell apart. This was largely due to the fact that two of the main races, along with their priests, allied themselves and marched off to create a new home. Soon, the priests lost their status as wordly leaders, too, as old nobles remembered how good it felt to rule, and conveniently forgot that it was the priests who saved them from destruction. A feodal community emerged, in which people gathered around the strongest leader of the area. Races became more secluded, and as a result, racial conflicts became more scarce.
After a few passings of the seasons, the dwarves got the city erected, at least so much so they could go settle down in it. Of course, it was far from finished. What was important, though, was that the city wall had been erected, and stood shining in the dawn light. The walls looked strong and capable of withstanding any kind of threat.
Before the elves and dwarves actually settled down, the dwarves handed a contract to the elves for them to sign. The essence of the contract was that elves and dwarves would be equal in all aspects of governing the city. The elves muttered a bit about this, but had no other choice but to sign it (and hold it - breaking an oath made to a dwarf is not a wise idea). There was much celebration as the elves and dwarves started inhabiting the city, and it was named Vaerlon ("Shining walls" in an ancient elvish dialect - the dwarves had used a rare kind of rock for the walls which they had found in the mountainrange. The rock shone at dawntime when the first rays of the sun hit it).
So, the elves and dwarves settled down inside the walls of their new city. The dwarves continued perfecting the buildings and constructions of the city, and the elves set about gathering other races to come live with them. Inviting the gnomes was a natural decision: the gnomes were long time friends of the elves, and the innovativeness could prove useful. Their demands for power were also small. The halflings were a natural choice for the same reasons. The leprechauns and brownies would fit fine in Vaerlon, too: they were much smaller in numbers than the elves and dwarves, and had no interest in administration. The firbolgs were invited too, mostly because they had both brain and muscle, and could provide excellent allies in an eventual future war.
The invitation of shadowpersons and spellweavers caused much debate; they were known to master the offensive side of spellcasting well, and the dwarves held great distrust for magicusers of that kind. The elves persuaded them with reason; it wouldn't be a wise strategy to keep magicusers of that magnitude on the other side of the walls of Vaerlon. Any outsider was a potential attacker, in their minds. Being a city with magic would serve Vaerlon better. The dwarves finally agreed, but demanded that there should be some rules for the use of magic in Vaerlon, especially offensive battle magic. Having so decided to invite spellweavers and shadowpersons, it became necessary to invite the thri-kreens also. Thri-kreens and shadowpersons had been allies before, and had renewed their pact recently.
One invitational issue remained: whether or not to invite the humans. The elves were sceptical; their long memories remebered old wars fought long ago agains some of the evil clans of humans. In their eyes this had cast a doubt on the intentions of all humans, good, evil or neutral. However, the humans had been one of the largest races before the coming of the Ice, and were also fast breeders, growing in numbers quite a bit faster than the elves or dwarves. The elves figured they would be outnumbered soon enough.
The dwarves, on the other hand, were not as prejudiced. They had a long and good history of trading and working with humans. They argued for sending invitations to the clans of humans who they trusted well. They said humans were good soldiers and workers, just what Vaerlon needed. Of course, there was the risk that the humans would try to grab power from the elves and dwarves, but the dwarves thought them to be honorable enough so that they wouldn't rebel as long as they were treated well. After long discussions the humans were finally decided to be invited.
So the invitations were sent out. The gnomes, leprechauns, brownies and halflings accepted immediately and gladly; they were easy targets for goblins, and needed protection. The thri-kreens and shadowpersons came too; every single one of them stepped into Vaerlon but days after the invitations had been sent out. The spellweavers came too, their alien minds eager to study magic in peace.
But what about the humans? The invitations had been sent out to two clans only: the clan Irlonn (led by an aging man called Trimond) and clan Erwat (led by Wamar). Trimond was known to the dwarves as an honorable man, and his clan had settled near by his camp. The clan Erwat had only good to say about dwarves, too, so the invitation was recieved well - they had been old allies of the dwarves. In both clans the leader called for a meeting among the eldest of the clan to discuss the invitation. However, word of this spread quickly among the humans and soon the whole human population of Icesus knew that the two clans had been invited. Of course, the other clans were a angry about being ignored. Trimond and Wamar decided that they should accept the invitation, but at the same the other human clans called for a grand meeting of all clan leaders. Trimond and Wamar went there too.
In this meeting the invitations were brought up and discussed at length. Finally the leaders arrived at an agreement: the human race must stand together so that it wouldn't be oppressed by others. It was decided all the clans would march to Vaerlon together. "We will stand united, as one human race", as Trimond put it. This proposal was met with cheers amongst most of the other clans, but there was some that didn't like the idea of being ruled by elves and dwarves for the rest of their lives, as they saw the situation. These were mostly those of evil alignments. They voiced their opposition loudly, and things came near to a full-scale fight as tempers rose. But as those opposed to going to Vaerlon were a minority, they did not dare go that far, and finally marched off in anger, already planning other alliances.
The bulk of the human race, the two invited clans plus everyone else, then marched off to Vaerlon. They camped outside the gates while their message was delivered to the elf and dwarf leaders: all humans who had come to Vaerlon shall live in it, or no humans at all. This caused quite a bit of unrest among the elves and dwarves, but they didn't seem to have any choice; the humans had a sizable army camped outside the gates, and if they were insulted by being refused permission to enter Vaerlon, they might attack the city and sack it. The elves and dwarves set up a few rules for the humans, though; they must among other things be ruled by some council of human leaders, which would stand under the rule of the Vaerlon elf and dwarf council. Also, the city of Vaerlon was not large enough to contain this vast amount of humans (it was already swelled to the maximum with the other, new-come, invited races), so the humans must for now live outside the shining walls of Vaerlon, in something like suburbs. Dwarven engineers hastily erected some basic buildings on the flat ground in front of the city, and another, peripheral city wall, a lower version of the inner wall.
Forming a council to rule the humans of Vaerlon was accepted graciously among the humans, but the fact that they would be confined to the suburbs caused angry voices to shout out. The humans accepted this too, though, after receiving a promise of the safety of the inner walls in times of danger. So now, all the new inhabitants of Vaerlon were settling down in their new home, and noone was complaining all too much. Yet.
In the rest of Icesus, the races left out of Vaerlon looked to the city with worried eyes, especially the evil races. All those people flocking to one place looked like an army buildup to them, and an army was a threat. Lacking a strong leading force, though, no efforts of allying themselves with one another else were made.
The dark elves were the most upset about the Vaerlon business. They had spent most of their time and energy after settling down in Icesus on inner conflicts. Their old king had died soon after they had settled down, and many had tried to take the throne, just to find a knife in their back or poison in their wine. Finally, one of the contestants for the king-title seemed to get the upper hand in the struggle; a noble named Tadrhgrun. He successfully managed to blow up the old hate towards elves to gargantuan proportions, and pointing out that wasn't this after all the most perfect time to wipe out those elf scumbags? In fact, this happened at just about the same time as the elves got the idea of building Vaerlon, so the timing would have been perfect for an elf wipeout. The dark elves were not yet united well enough to pull off such a scheme, though, lucky for the elves.
When the elves allied themselves with the dwarves the dark elves suddenly faced two enemies - way too much for them to handle. Internal conflicts among the dark elves came up to the surface again, but Tadrhgrun managed to stop them, and make a quite good dark elf union in the meantime. The dark elves started looking at the elves and dwarves with hatred again, and were certain that they could conquer the whole of Icesus and unite it against Vaerlon, had they but a strong army. The meat for that army would be the orcs.
The orcs had bred explosively during the time after the Ice. They weren't really united, though, and lived scattered about. As a result of dark elf manipulation the orcs were gradually led to believe they could become THE supreme rulers of Icesus if they just band up with the dark elves. They started gathering under the dark elf banner, and the other races of Icesus - the ones left outside Vaerlon - grew worried. Orcs and dark elves couldn't be a good combination from their point of view.
In the meantime, in Vaerlon, trouble was stirring. The humans were growing in numbers rapidly, and succeeded in putting their nose in everything at the same time. The reports of restlessness that streamed in from the outside world also worried the council of Vaerlon, which - after a number of sessions - came up with a grand plan to unite every unitable race of Icesus, thus eliminating the risk of an outside attack on Vaerlon. Most agreed that Icesus needed uniting, and the people of Vaerlon were the ideal uniters.
The decision was made that a massive army was to be created, in order to conquer the world. The army would consist mostly of humans; during a number of secret meetings, the highest ruling elves and dwarves had come to the conclusion that sacrificing the humans would be - although sad - necessary, for the numerous humans were beginning to be a real pain in the backside in Vaerlon. The leaders of Vaerlon assumed that most of the humans they sent out in battle would be wiped out fighting against the vicious orcs and dark elves, as well as the other fierce races inhabiting Icesus. They decided to raise all humans who died in battle to hero status, thus giving them vast acclaim, to compensate for the sacrifice of their lives. If most humans died, the problems of them getting nosy in the administrative business of Vaerlon would be gone too, of course - dead people don't have that many claims for power. The magic-users, too, would get a share; they would get to practice their combat magic, something they could hardly do in Vaerlon, due to the dwarven regulations against offensive battle magic. And the thri-kreen were, as always, eager to do battle for an honourable cause.
So Vaerlon started building up its army, an army consisting to the major part of humans. The elf and dwarf elite army would remain behind, to defend Vaerlon. The humans who rode out to do battle were promised stations of great power in the new kingdom they would form during their conquering, a nation already having been named Valkor. The army marched out to do war.
Naturally, word of this massive army spread like wildfire. The other races of Icesus were now caught between the hammer and the anvil; the Vaerlonites on one side and the orcs and dark elves on the other. In choosing between elven and dwarven rulership against dark elf rulership the choice was pretty simple for most, though. This had a surprising effect; at almost every village the army stopped at, all the inhabitants surrendered and agreed to become a part of the new empire, Valkor. Thus, almost no humans died - much to the distress of the manipulative elves and dwarves of Vaerlon. The army managed to conquer almost the whole of Icesus in but a few weeks. The kingdom of Valkor now stretched across most of Icesus, except for a few villages and recesses in faraway places.
Word of the army reached the dark elf camp too. The dark elves weren't happy at all; the orcs had taken too long time to assemble, they weren't ready to fight yet. Moreover, not all dark elves had united behind the new dark elf king; a few clans remained outside. The dark elves swore at the orcs, enough so that a large part just deserted and went off. The dark elves put a lid on their temper, though, and managed to keep the remaining orcs with them. They decided to attack Vaerlon now that it's human army was in the field. They did so, but the elf and dwarf army resisted, and the city never fell. The army of humans rushed to the rescue, and crushed the dark elf-orc army. Thus ended the first war of Icesus. A new nation had been formed - Valkor - with Vaerlon being its capital.
This called for some celebration, of course, but the elves and dwarves realized that their scheme had failed completely; almost all the humans they had sent into battle were still alive, and could cause rebellion. But the elves and dwarves had promised them power, so there wasn't much to do. A lot of secret meetings and such ensued, during which a new scheme was set up.
After a while, a surprising announcement was made; the council of Vaerlon proclaimed that the orcs could come live in (or at least near) Vaerlon, too, if they accepted prisoners-of-war status. The council explained this by saying that the city needed more muscle fast for new buildings and such. The humans now claimed the power promised to them, but the elves and dwarves explained that there was much planning to do before they could set down exact provincial borders and other rules, so the humans would just have to wait a while yet. Of course, the humans were not happy at all with this, but decided to wait. Now, rumours began to spread, that the orcs would soon try to take over the humans' place in Vaerlon and Valkor. What with their fast breeding rate and all, they could soon do all the work much faster than the humans, and perhaps start claiming some power for themselves. It was a pathetic rumour, of course; orcs claiming administrative power? But most humans believed it anyway.
Those of the dark elves that did not take part in the war were also allowed into the city. The elves thought they had a chance of rehabilitating the dark elves. Noone liked them, though, and the other races of Vaerlon recieved them reluctantly.
At the same time, the orcs began hearing rumours that the humans were unhappy with having to share their lands with the scum they had fought in a war not long ago, and that the humans planned to kill all orcs off in a quick, night-time raid. This rumour caught on with the orcs, and conflicts between orcs and humans erupted all over the Vaerlon area.
The humans weren't stupid, though, especially not their leaders. They regocnized elf/dwarf manipulation when they saw it. They had more or less realized that they were wanted out of the way a long time ago, when the original conquest army was built up. They had accepted being manipulated that time, though, for the power they were promised. The contracts promising this power, which were signed before the army marched out to conquest, were taken out again and examined. After some careful examination, it became clear that the contracts were full of loopholes; nothing was actually promised, it was rather more like visions being sketched up.
This caused massive anger amongst the humans. They had been invited to Vaerlon, then used to the maximum while being given next to no benefits of power at all, and now this; if not a breaking of contract, then almost as bad. They wouldn't be the elves' and dwarves' slaves anymore. Possible means of retaliation were discussed in close human circles, and the idea of upright rebellion was discarded - innocent human lives would probably be sacrificed for nothing, since the humans were still vastly outnumbered by the other races. A rebellion would also call for the support of all humans in Vaerlon, and not everyone was convinced the elves and dwarves had actually been manipulating them. The human leaders started plotting avidly, Trimond and Wamar at the head of them. The elves and dwarves would be made to regret their falseness.