History of Avendar
In the Beginning, all matter in the Prime Material existed in a state of primordial chaos. The world lacked form, duration, and substance. Perceiving in this chaos great possibility, three great celestial Powers came to the Prime Material, each seeking to give form to the chaos.
Of these three Powers, the First saw Order as an end unto itself. Unheeding of the final fate of the world he would make from the chaos, the First was content to shape matter into form, and to give law to the motion and being of the universe.
Content with his work, the First looked upon the prime material, and saw that it now had form. The sun burned in the heaven, and the earth stood underfoot. Tall mountains jutted into the sky, and deep valleys cut their way through the ground.
These changes attracted the Second, who was a friend to the First. Looking upon the world, he saw that it was empty. Order governed, but there was no Purpose. Unhappy, the Second set out to turn form into being. He created life, with the power of growth and birth, so that it might spread throughout the world.
When the Second was done, he looked on the changes he had wrought. Through the gaping chasms of the world now flowed the seas, brimming with life. Green plants covered the ground, and rain nourished great forests.
Unbeknownst to the First and Second, a Third came, and had already seen their work. Perceiving a certain cold perfection in the absence, rather than the presence of the material world, he saw in the creation of life the end of his hopes of a final perfection. Life, he realized, had bound up a portion of the primal chaos, using it as its vital force. Fearing the power of life, and foreseeing in it the undoing of all that had been created, he gave to living things the gift of death.
When the Three looked upon they created, the Second and the Third quarreled, seeing that already, they had come to be at odds over the destiny of their creation. Forseeing that conflict between celestial forces could very well destroy all that they had wrought., the First offered a compromise. Rather than risk an all-consuming war among the great powers, they would forge a Compact. The Powers would not intervene directly in the world, but instead act through emissaries and avatars of their power, being bound from exerting their full power on the Prime Material.
In order to realize their competing visions of the world, they agreed to grant life their greatest gift -- magic, and the mind to comprehend it. Spreading a portion of their own essences throughout the world, the Powers gave the world a touch of godhood, allowing life to use it as a tool for good and evil.
In time, the Powers came to be worshipped by the alatharya, the first of Avendar's civilized races. The First became known as the god Iandir, the Lawbringer. The second became Jolinn, Lord of the Sapphire Spear, and the Third became Ashur, Dragon of the Void.
As time passed, the Alatharya waxed mighty. The gods, pleased, began plans for other creations, each a unique creation in their own right. But the Alatharya were not happy with the god's plans to make others - jealous of the thought that other children might bring the god's attention away from them, and coveting the Quintessence, they sought to steal the power of the gods. With their mighty pyramids, and strange rites, their priests and scholars came together one fateful night for a grand design of their own. In their hubris, they sought to steal the power of the gods for themselves, and make of themselves Creators.
But, alas, 'twas not to be. The gods knew of their attempt, and instead of stealing the power of the gods, they brought down their deepest and darkest wrath. All across Avendar, the great cities of the Alatharya were rent in blood and fire - their libraries burned, their pyramids turned to rubble, their homes driven to the four winds. The revenge of a god is not a small thing, and the revenge of the combined might of a pantheon can level entire worlds. So it was that the Alatharya were cast from their pinnacle as the mightiest of races. No more would the minds of the Alatharya follow the intricacies of magic - nor would the Alatharya do naught than strive for balance in their day to day life, fearful of retribution for their ancient crime. And, lastly, the gods sundered Magic from its pure form into its elemental components. Water, Spirit, Wind, Fire, Void, and Earth did it break them, and shattered the mortal dream of attaining the divine through mystic arts.
This sundering of the Magic released cataclysmic storms of magic over the surface of Avendar, changing and altering all that they touched. Of the god's new children, vast changes were wrought, some for good, some for ill. The aelin were granted flight, and the gift of keen reason. The caladarans learned wisdom, and the love of reason and law. At the same time, the brutal srryn were born, spawn of languid swamp and foul hearts. Beneath the earth fled the shuddeni, blind minions of pure darkness, driven mad, some say, by their love of things dark and diabolic. With them went their slaves, the cowed, primitive chaja.
The centuries after the Sundering of Magic were dark ones. It was not until some hundreds of years that civilization began anew, with the proud aelin and their cities in the skies. Striving, perhaps, for a memory of things past, they collected the artifacts of the ancient alatharya, and built cities that faintly echoed the glories of ancient days.
And so it was the aelin waxed powerful, the srryn confined to their torpid swamps and the shuddeni to their caves, and all others brought into alliance with them. For a time, it appeared the world would never again know such a destruction, until, at last, the gods allowed a new race to awaken on Avendar - the humans.
The humans were taken by any and all things, some easily swayed to evil, others relentless paragons of virtue. Some claimed them akin to gods, others to devil-spawn of the Void, others still to reckless children. Nevertheless, the passion that drove the humans lead them, at first, into a reckless alliance with the brutal Srryn.
In their midnight rituals, the Srryn had learned much of the ways of fire. Fire to burn, fire to make their will be done - fire, to destroy. The humans, always more keen of wit, seized the secrets of the Srryn fire shamans, cultivated among their numbers the first Scholars of Fire. Savage men, of an unholy taste for pleasure and power, unleashed their magics across the surface of Avendar.
Securing the yoke about their fellow men, the great Scholars of Fire also trained warlords, or templar of fire, to command in battle with the sword, and yet still reign destruction with the forces of fire. Most of the races scattered before the hordes of humans and srryn that plundered all they found, but the aelin stood to defend their cities, and forged an alliance to fight to keep the humans at bay, lest the night consume all.
Cities were reduced to ash. Aelin died in droves, using their already small collection of ancient artifacts to drive the humans and srryn back. And yet, again and again the armies of fire surged forward. Quick to breed, quick to die, the humans stood at the verge of a destruction that would consume all.
Fortunately, not all among the humans thought as the Scholars of Fire. Small in number but noticeable were humans who sought meaning in more than brute destruction. Acting out of an inherent desire for the good, they sought to bring peace, to heal, to purify. They craved a life spent in other activity than blind devotion to an orgy of chaos and destruction.
Praying to the gods, they were answered. Jolinn, Father of the Seas, Lord of the Sapphire Spear, sent these brave few to seek the titans, who dwelt high in the mountains, where they had slumbered since the Sundering. Waking, they taught the humans of the magics of Water, and of the strength of the Seas. These humans returned, and became the first of the Scholars of Water. Born to bring healing to a troubled land, their love of life quenched the inferno of the fire mages' hate. With their aid, the Aelin drove the armies of Fire back to the swamps, where most of the Scholars of Fire were put to the sword.
Thus ended what the chroniclers tell of as the War of Fire, when men nearly brought ruin once more to the world.
And yet, the aelin were not the ones to come to dominance after the war. The humans, their passion driving them still, slowly grew in numbers across the surface of Avendar, while the aelin remained in their cities, lost in the intricacies of their own life.
Those humans not already devoted to healing learned much of the ways of earth from the god Iandir, who brought law once more to the hills and valleys of Avendar. Men paused in their mad growth, and built cities, homes, places of staying, order, and protection.
And thus, many thousands of years passed. Quarrels came and went, but none so great as a war to drench an entire world in Fire. And so it was that the Republic of the Humans subsumed the known world. And yet, the humans were drawn to more than just the surface, and began their explorations of the nether regions of Avendar. There, they found the great cities of the shuddeni, a race blinded by the night, but who still saw much, and gloried in the horror of the demon sultans who taught them.
Here, human scholars went who wished to learn more. Tortured they were by the shuddeni, but some, a few, learned their ways. Combining the ritual of the shuddeni with the ancient learning of the humans, the discipline of the Void was born into the world at large.
Who can say why the gods suffer such things to exist? Certainly, the gods of the dark revel in the Void, the Things which inhabit it not always of their own creation, but often after their own heart. Certainly, what the Scholars of the Void did was the antithesis of life, and everything living, but the gods of light could not bring an end to them without disturbing the balance of the world.
So it was, those humans who studied with the Shuddeni waxed mighty in their counsels, and taught the Shuddeni much of the ways of war. The Shuddeni culture, grown stagnant in their millennia under stone, was re-energized by the promise of conquest above the surface. On the blackest night, of the darkest day of the year, the humans and their Shuddeni allies road forth from the caves of their dank abyss, to usher in an age of Night the world had never known.
Striking with meaning, order, and purpose rather than out of blind rage, the forces of the Void took cities, rather than burning them, and corrupted them to their will. Mothers were forced to offer their children as appeasement in unholy rites, designed to serve the Things which dwell beyond, some were kept as slaves, but the cities under the sway of the Void lived, even if they were more the corpses of cities than anything resembling a living organism.
The templar of the seas mounted counter-assault after counter-assault. Some times, with success, other times, with failures. Over a the course of a decade, the two sides held sway in a series of enormous battles. With time, though, the Scholars of Water found their magic growing weaker - the Things of the void had grown strong on the flesh of the young, and pressed for more mortal flesh. When all seem darkest, when even great Earendam thought to send its children to the cities of the aelin amidst the mountains, the unthinkable happened in the ranks of the Void.
Their dark rites prepared, their rituals chanted, they brought forth not demons or other Things, they brought forth instead the ch'taren. The ch'taren, whether exiles from the world of dreams or even the fabled astral plane, had used the magic of the void against itself, and had traveled into the Prime Material by means of their gates laid down by the shuddeni.
Bringing with them large numbers and the magics of the Spirit, they routed the dreadlord templar of the void to their holes in the ground, where those that served Fire waited, and picked off the weak among them. Humans learned of the freedom of the Spirit, and everywhere, cast off their chains, and drove the fiends of the Void back once more into seclusion.
And thus ended the War of the Night, where men learned that the candle of hope flickers even in the blackest of times.
The ch'taren settled among men, whose Republic lay shattered. The other races, long secluded by humankind, came forth to a new resurgence. Some sought the freedom of the skies, and brought forth their own creation - the magic of Air, which sought no rule, order, or code, merely meaning in its own chaotic existence.
Thus, all six of the great elemental magics were brought to Avendar. Men, in time, sought to form again their republic, but found the world too vast a place. Ethron, inhabitants of forest oaks, dark-winged Nefortu dangling in their dark places, and even the Alatharya of yore were found, scattered in their diminished form.
Still, for a time the human Republic on the main continent endured, but, in time, these alliances were sundered by the raids of the Kankoran barbarians and their savage tribes. This has resulted in the city-states we see today - Earendam the grand, Var Bandor, and even Ashta Harrud, desert capitol of commerce.
All races today find more meaning in finding their own niche in the struggle for power, rather than a great gasp at one empire. The Houses of Avendar reflect this diversification of thought among the people of Avendar. Likewise, the Scholars' Towers, where even the mages of void and spirit exist in an uneasy detente.
Moreso than any time in history, the world is a wide place, separated by long distances, with opportunity awaiting around every street corner in the great cities. A time, where, perhaps, the future belongs to those who would take it, and dare the Siege Perilous - a time for adventure.....