As an avid student of history, I paid close attention to the past of this world. As a teacher and father, I learned to my dismay just how little most other folks care about such things. So what you see here are just the highlights. The following information is widely known to the Lands’ inhabitants, and its accuracy is as firmly believed as most orthodox histories in our world. No doubt it will be proven to be just as accurate, if someday all the facts are known.
Sages are aware of events that took place roughly five thousand years (five millennia) before the present, though much of that knowledge is fragmentary. The pivotal event of ancient times is the Battle of the Razor (Dagnor Rokan in the ancient tongue). This battle is described below and occurred twenty centuries ago. Since that day, the calendar of the Lands is set to Ante Dagnor Rokan, meaning “after the Battle of the Razor”. Thus, something happening in the year 1997 ADR refers to a day nearly two thousand years since the battle.
I. The First Age:
From times of most distant history up until c. 5000 years ago. Also called the Free Times, Natural Age, and Days Without Even Despair.
In this era, the only inhabitants of the Lands were few; herders and simple gatherers, the races had no civilization or aspiration to the greatness of this day. Men and some Elves wandered in all areas, some of them the ancestors of the Northmen and Bedou-uu, some the predecessors of the Bog Elves. Most would assert that Dwarves and Halflings did not exist in this age, as a matter of faith; neither were there garruk. All blacks, Man and Elf, began in this land, Nubians as well as more normal sized beings, and many of them still live as they did millennia ago. These people, known as “rustics” to later sages, lived close to the land, working in stone, wood and sometimes metal. They had peace but no Hope, and worshipped the formless, inhuman power that they saw in the world around them. Some say they knew much of such things, and speak of elemental energies tapped by the leaders of the indigenous races. But this age is difficult to access, due mainly to a lack of writing, and few have any interest in these days.
II. The Second Age:
From c. 5000 to 4000 years ago. Also known as the Age of Despair, Time of Darkness, The Millennia of Tears.
From the West came a fleet of ebon ships, landing a horde of Despair. Led by their three Despair-Lieges, they washed over the land, conquering two parts of every three in a handful of years. With Despair came Evil Men and Elves, and a new race, the Garruk of foul nature and complete obedience to violent commands. Some of the Land’s people they converted; many thousands more they slaughtered and enslaved; the rest were pushed into the worst areas, such as the northern wastes, the Shimmering Mindsea, and the Cleftwash Bogs. Despair built the first cities and used the Land’s richness to work evil wonders; they were unafraid of the abuse of power, and had truck with demons and dragons as well as other foul things from the Earth Below. Much of the world they twisted, and left a scar on the rustic people who lived under their Despair.
III. The Third Age:
From c. 4000 to 2000 year ago. Also called the Age of Arrival, Years of the Balance.
Again from the West came a shining fleet of white ships, bearing Hope. The Great Hopelords with their vassals and allies landed, and used the hulls of their ships to build walls for three great cities, named after them. From there they sallied forth and combated Despair wherever they could, pushing them back from much of the Lands. Wherever they went they brought Hope to the people, helping them and intermingling to bring them up from primitiveness and slavery. For two millennia the forces battled, losing and gaining ground and victories. Roughly 25 centuries ago, the Hopelords waged simultaneous combat and threw the Despairing hordes back on all fronts; then working a great magic, they erected the mountain barrier known as the Swords of Stone fresh from the plains, and locked the evil armies behind a wall of impassable stone. For centuries near the end of this age, all smoldered as Despair attempted to get by this wall; Hope made some progress in repairing Despair’s great damage, but had to remain constantly alert against new incursions.
Finally came the great effort of evil. Pelundrag cast an enchantment through the Swords that split the south from the north, suddenly deepening the course of the Cleftwash River making the Great Cleft; yet all was a feint to draw off the southern Elves. Despair in all its strength came pouring through the sole pass in the north of the Swords; yet Hope was ready and the battle of all time was on.
IV. The Battle of the Razor:
In Ancient, the Dagnor Rokan; the present calendar dates from this battle (Ante Dagnor Rokan, ADR), roughly two thousand years ago.
A battle between the full assembled might of Hope and Despair with the rest of the world’s people watching and some taking part. The conflict lasted ten days, almost completely filled with fighting. All the heroes distinguished themselves conspicuously (the epic poem fragment, The Song of the Silvertongue, contains some details). The actual happenings would fill volumes, but in large respect the outcome was this. For seven days, the Heroes held off the various threats presented by their opposite numbers in Despair, each at great cost in effort and lives. On that seventh day, Despair attacked the part of the line held by the City Brothers, as the four sons of Conar were known. The third son, Khoirah had evidently spoken with the Despair Liege Pelundrag through some agency, and arranged to withhold his men at the crucial moment. His eldest sibling Eko-telh, seeing this, flung himself on his brother, and their forces clashed as well, exposing the entire line to ruin. Despair flooded in, and all seemed lost; but at that moment the middle brother Ekhonon and his wife Aballe rushed into the breach and held a desperately thin line.
The fighting lasted through to the eighth day without pause. Then the Half-Elven son of the world’s only Man-Elf marriage strode back from the mountains, where he had gone to fight the dragon which had supposedly killed his parents. His visored countenance was terrible to behold. Together with his Half-Elven people he not only broke the attack of Despair from behind, but held up their orderly retreat by savagely hacking to all sides, heedless of his wounds. Aballe and Ekhonon protected each other and the front. Eko-telh drove a killing blow into Khoirah, but the youngest of the brothers, Telhol gave the Great Healing to save Khoirah’s life; these acts served to break the will of Despair.
The evil hordes would then have fled, perhaps to return in force. But the Half-Elven Hero Without a Name was not through with his mad vengeance, and now the Dwarves arrived from Mickhel, where they had beaten off the Giants who delayed them. With these forces added to the rear, Despair’s defeat became an unspeakable rout. Remnants of Despair’s army scattered to join other fugitives in places west of the Swords of Stone, where they are hunted still. Over the mountains fled the rest, and no force of them was seen by reliable eyes since, until the Battle of Tor Perite shocked the Southlands in 2000 ADR.
V. Years of Bliss:
From the Dagnor Rokan to approximately 19 ADR. You can refer to the map The Lands of Hope for this period, as the kingdoms have remained almost exactly the same since this time.
For a brief moment, the Heroes had the run of the Lands, healing and building the people towards greatness, evidently in line with a grand scheme under the authorship of the Hopelords. Except for the tragedy of the Half-Elven, and the scars Despair had left upon the Land, all was happiness. Then suddenly the Heroes convened in their towers at Tor Aralte, on the site of the epic battle (this fortress city is now completely engulfed by the growth of the Great Forest). What they discussed is not known and hardly guessed at, but they apparently decided to leave the Land, to head East over the Swords and seek their foes again in search of some critical and final solution. Several Heroes evidently objected to this course; Argens swore to colonize his newly-explored south against the wishes of the Hopelords. The City Brothers, led by Eko-telh, may have moved to parts unknown to found a great city that few, if any, have ever reached. The intentions or final fate of several Heroes has never been established with any certainty; the Half-Elven Hero Who Has No Name, as an example, is thought to have entered the Swords of Stone at this time, but not to have crossed with the other Heroes. Much was lost with their departure, in power and magic and knowledge, and much evil remained (and still remains) in the western Lands; and no one knows what they gained, but Despair has not returned as in the earlier ages.
VI. The Age of Peace:
From c.20-1990 ADR. Also called the Age of Emptiness, Years of Waiting.
Now the races live as best they can without the presence of the Heroes. The kingdoms recoiled from the grand seats of power at Tor Aralte, back to the coastal capitals or inland cities built in earlier ages by their lost lords. The crowned heads of the kingdoms have ruled beneficently but without much initiative; exploration and experimentation practically died out, and in some cases came under suspicion. Rustic peoples rebounded in strength, some mingling, some fighting with the descendants of Hope. The events of these years, while not offering much variation from reign to traditional reign, have been chronicled in detail by the Sages Guild and were published for every year down to the present day. Great evil remained in far places which have only in recent times been uncovered by the efforts of rare and eclectic outcasts, known as adventurers. Over the years, some of these have claimed to enjoy contact with the Heroes of the ancient days, sources of support, salvation and information in times of trouble.
VII. The Present Day
Sages argue about everything, but it would appear that a new age has begun since roughly 1990 ADR, a time some refer to as the beginning of a new Age of Adventure. In recent years many revered traditions have been broken, and stories are told about these events.
A wave of Millennial enthusiasm burst erratically across the Lands and gained strength in 1995 ADR. Itinerant preachers spoke of the ending of the Age of Emptiness, and a new crisis to occur with certain events at or around the year 2000. The rustic Northmen, Bedou-uu, and Nubian peoples all stepped up their activity, bringing increased conflict but also opportunities for detente. Mystics and so-called prophets have claimed all sorts of visions, igniting schemes which caused great confusion. New discoveries in science, spell research, and revelations of even the Land’s highest courts have upset many orthodox theories and forced revision in others. Bizarre creatures, some of immense power and unknown intentions, have been sighted with increasing frequency; strange and foreign individuals, too, roam about on personal agendas which seem to make little sense. Perhaps of most consequence, bands of adventurers have formed in unprecedented numbers, taking on dangers that remind the listener of the Age of Balance. Their initiative and good fortune astound all who come in contact with them, and their activities have left no throne or corner of the Lands unshaken.