Previews from The Echoes of Heaven

Copyright Robert Defendi © 2006

Edited by Nicholas HM Caldwell for The Guild Companion

"Then the Humans awoke, and everything changed."

Excerpt: The Rebirth of the Surface World

At the beginning of this age, trouble brewed on the surface, but a mighty dragon named Zenabrfn rose to power. He flew through the Dragon Peaks, uniting all the good dragons into the first Enârôz, a conclave of benevolent dragonkind. This was no mean feat. Even with the rule of Belkunibâr, the good dragons did not wish to unite under the rule of a second dragon.

It took years of work, cajoling, bullying, bribing, wheedling, bellowing and begging to form the first Enârôz. Finally it was done, and they declared war on Belkunibâr and his brood.

As the war raged in the Dragon Peaks and the Fell Hammer carried the honor of the throne of dwarven kings from father to son, God awoke a new race. The elves.

The elves were a nature-loving people, a magical race that delved into strange and mystical forces. Elven druids led the race, and elven mages brought true magic to the world for the first time. Since no books came to the world, just and no tools did, the elven minds held the only answers to some of the great questions of creation.

Saint Zenabrfn was oblivious to the battles going on in the world's great forests between elves and nephilim. He was too busy launching the attack after attack against evil dragons. He had the advantage. Although the good dragons had been slow to organize, once they did, they worked together. The evil dragons were just as slow, and the good dragons had carved a large piece of the mountains for themselves before their enemies fully rallied.

Meanwhile, Bamon still plotted. He took his nephilim and placed some in the ulcer, corrupting them from creatures of beauty and might into the more brutish ogres. The elves were too effective in the woods, their hit and run tactics too devastating against the overlarge nephilim. Bamon thought that these smaller ogres would fight more effectively.

But he had other concerns. The elves had brought incantation and enscorcellment back into the hands of mortals, while the only evil creatures capable of powerful magic were the dragons.

He therefore sent out the most brilliant of all ogres, Shugharz. This ogre climbed high into the Dragon Peaks, looking for a certain forest glade. When she found it, she saw a painfully handsome ogre--a dragon in disguise. They lay together and she left pregnant with the first half-dragon, Nagrakh, the origin of all ogre mages.

God was right to fear awakening all the races in the world at once, because about this time, the first elves had stumbled upon the kingdom of Durandfl. King Balân of the dwarves ordered them captured and tortured.

What he discovered horrified him. The surface was veritably crawling with intelligent creatures, and he was certain that anything on the surface was evil, because anything up there was willing to live under a nighttime sky, like the Fallen in Heaven.

So the dwarves raided out of their tunnels, slaughtering every elf in a one-hundred-mile perimeter of Durandfl. After they cleared this buffer zone, they pulled back.

The elves retaliated in bands, but were not able to pull together in enough numbers to affect the mighty dwarven war machine. Nonetheless, they continued attacking, sure that these dwarves were minions of the Fallen.

Thus the war went on for years. Mostly one sided, after a time, the dwarves took little note of it.

On the surface the dragons waged their wars. Meanwhile, an elven warrior named Perion--an elf who'd been born in Heaven--began uniting the elves, but the task seemed impossible, the elves too individual to unite easily under the rule of one. He realized he needed to accomplish a great feat to win the respect of his people, so he set about bringing peace with the dwarves.

He entered the dwarven kingdom, proclaiming his desire for peace. The dwarves took him prisoner immediately.

While in prison, he was visited by Kagur, the dwarven high priest. Over the next years, they exchange theoretical volleys. Kagur worshiped god through the dwarven savior Ziruk-Nurak while Perion followed the Atavistic religion the elves had practiced in Heaven. After one of these sessions, Perion experienced a tremendously strong vision where he saw the elven Prophet Eldinar and his hand in the Sundering. Perion realized that the dwarves almost had it right, but that Eldinar was the savior, not Ziruk-Nurak. Perion converted to the worship of God through Eldinar, and he and Kagur came to an accord.

After a time, Perion became a full priest of God. Kagur eventually secured the elf's release from prison and traveled freely through the dwarven halls, though he wasn't permitted to leave.

At this time, the dwarven cleric Gharak rose to power. While Perion could remember life in Heaven, there was no longer a dwarf alive who could, and Gharak despised the surface dwellers. It sickened him to see a elf wandering around, freely accepted by the dwarven people. He appealed to Irbindfm, the dwarven king, His pleas for intolerance fell on deaf ears.

In a fury, Gharak raised followers among his people. He led a secret assault on the royal chambers, his goal: to seize the Fell Hammer and declare himself king.

As his followers handled the royal guard, he struck Irbindfm down. As he reached for the hammer, Perion tackled him, knocking him to one side.

They fought for almost an hour, their duel echoing through the royal chambers. The royal guard, meanwhile, seized the stricken king and dragged him to safety.

Finally Gharak struck Perion down, but the hammer was gone, the king saved, and with the duel over. When Gharak heard the guards approaching, he almost hated the elf enough to sacrifice his life to kill him, but instead he stabbed and hacked at him three times, then fled.

Gharak disappeared into the depths of the deepest, unexplored caves with his followers. Perion's wounds were so grievous that Kagur himself came to heal him.

Irbindfm awarded Perion with the highest dwarven honor. He had his greatest smiths forge the sword Kibad-Durag (The Bond of Brothers). They gifted Perion with this blade, second only to the Fell Hammer.

Thus did the dwarven king and an elf become the closest friends.

During the intervening years, the dragon war ended. The good dragons utterly defeated the evil, sending them fleeing from the Dragon Peaks. The cost, however, was great. Zenabrfn lay slain on the rocks of the greatest peak. This peak, its location a secret known only to the dragons, became their holiest of shrines.

For the rest of the age, Perion acted as a diplomat between the elves and the dwarves. Finally, he brought the Elf-Dwarf wars to an end.

This gave him great weight among his people. He united them and they crowned him the first elven king. Under his leadership, he opened trade with the dwarves and taught the elves to work the non-magical metals of The Mortal Realm.

Later, Irbindfm died. Perion attended the funeral, and out of respect ro his father, Prince Uralâd had the elf king, not the high-priest, bestow to him the Fell Hammer. This moment became the defining image of dwarven-elven friendship.

The Gnomes Reawaken

God looked down upon the world and decided that it was time to awaken a new race, that peace between the elves and the dwarves was a symbol of things to come. He awoke Orva, whom he blessed with the ability to awaken all other gnomes with a kiss and a song. Thus, Orva took the role of mother of all gnomes in the new world.

Meanwhile, Perion died. His son, Beledhron, was merely fifty. Deneth, Perion's right-hand-man, wove a crown of laurels and placed it on the boy's head. The boy then declared him regent until he came of age. Years later, Beledhron took over the Kingdom of the Elves and carried on his father's legacy.

Meanwhile in the dwarven kingdom, raiders began appearing from the deepest caverns. Further investigation revealed the culprits as Fallen Dwarves, the followers of Gharak who had lost their divine spark. This began a war between the Mountain Dwarves and the Fallen Dwarves that continues to this day.

The gnomes spread. One of their number was a gnome named Gobach, and he went off to find his fortune. What he found were the elves.

The elves took Gobach in among their number. There, they formed a friendship between the two people that has lasted to this day. In addition, he learned the power of elven illusion magic, which the gnomes had not successfully brought from of Heaven. He took this information back to the gnomes, along with knowledge of the new, savior-based religion. It wasn't long before the gnomish priests had realized that both other races had it wrong, that the Prophet Gyllmoulin had been the actual savior.

In the dwarven kingdom, the dwarves began discussing the future of the dwarven people. With so many surface dwellers roaming around, they decided the time had come to consider preserving the dwarven way of life.

Kfm, the brother of King Sirun, offered to form an expedition to the west, where there was no one but the dragons. After much debate, every agreed that this was the best course of action.

So Kfm gathered some of the best and the brightest dwarves and set off. They traveled through the endless tracks of wilderness. Finally, three years later, the dwarves settled in the west, just east of Belkanâth and began delving the kingdom of Gabad-Dagfl.

There Kfm built the diamond throne and began constructing a place of greatness. In the west, there was no one to challenge them but the evil dragons, and the dwarves lived underground, beyond the reach of the wyrms.

By the end of this age, the gnomes had spread into a niche of their own. They'd restored their knowledge of magic and made it a part of their lives. They prospered and slowly spreading across the world.

Excerpt: The Last Awakenings

The Halflings Reawaken

The era of the Halflings was plagued with upheaval. Fortunately for the Halflings, the Dwarves experienced most of it.

At the beginning of this millennium, God decided it was time to populate the new world with an old race. To this end, He reawakened the Halflings, who expanded throughout The Mortal Realm, building small burrows and setting up villages.

In Durandfl, King Alarazdanal died. His son, Gfl, took the Fell Hammer. The Dwarven warlord Khugraug, however, thought Gfl was too young and weak to hold Durandfl. He gathered all his Dwarven followers and assaulted the throne.

He challenged Gfl in his throne room as his troops attacked the Guard. Young Gfl would have been done for but for the might of the Fell Hammer. He withered under the fury of Khugraug's assault.

Just when Gfl looked ready to fall, loyalist forces arrived and rescued him. Khugraug and his men fled to more friendly areas of Durandfl.

Thus began a terrible civil war. Khugraug begged Bamon for aid and the devil sent a legion of demon wives and husbands to marry the followers of Khugraug. These unholy unions gave birth to the first of the cambion races . . . the orcs. Khugraug and his people must have done little but reproduce over the years, because a half century later they'd given birth to an army.

Soon the tide turned. Within a few years, the war ended. Khugraug took up the Fell Hammer and Durandfl fell.

But Durandfl wasn't the only Dwarven kingdom in trouble.

The dragons hated associating with one another, and yet time after time one draconian side or the other forced their enemies to unite for war. This caused tremendous stress to their independent souls and the dragons had taken to gnawing upon the bones of the earth when hibernating between battles. It had now been more than a millennium since the first Enârôz and the mountains of the world were undermined by a tremendous labyrinth known as the Warren.

While each maze wove through a single mountain range, some tunnels connected one to another. The Fallen Dwarves managed to make their way through the Warrens and into Gabad-Dagfl. There, they hatched a plan.

They used abilities they perverted from captured Elves to create a terrible magical plague. This plague effected the minds and hearts of all the Dwarves, changing the personalities and morales of everyone in the kingdom, seemingly at random.

Chaos ensued. Dwarf killed Dwarf. The kingdom of Gabad-Dagfl fell to ruins. The Royal Guard butchered their own king, Nathal.

Gabad-Dagfl fell from greatness.

As Gabad-Dagfl plunged into chaos and Dwarf fought orc in Durandfl, the Halflings had their first encounters with the Elves. These were peaceful. The Elves liked these quiet little folk. They traded knowledge of magic and cooking. They traded doctrine as well and the Halflings converted to worship through the Savior, although they realized the Elves had it wrong. The Halfling Prophet Nikdin was the real Savior.

Meanwhile, shortly after the fall of Durandfl, Urnon rose to power in Gabad-Dagfl through charisma and diplomacy. He was moderate in all things and had the unique ability to make others more moderate as well.

Through hard work and dedication, Urnon re-forged Gabad-Dagfl. Through diplomacy and sheer force of will, he held it together. He trained his son Khîm to follow him, but Khîm was not as skilled as Urnon, and Urnon feared that when he died, Gabad-Dagfl, with its multitude of moral codes, would revert to chaos.

On his deathbed, Urnon prayed to Ziruk-Nurak, who'd always guided him. He prayed for protection for his son and the deliverance of his people. Ziruk-Nurak answered his prayers. As Urnon passed away, all the Dwarves reverted to their original personalities and values.

As life in the Dwarven kingdom stabilized, the Dwarves began looking outside their kingdom. Although they'd moved to the west to avoid contact with others, Elves, Gnomes, and Halflings had begun to colonize the west as well.

And so Gabad-Dagfl began open commerce with other races. Khîm served as a good king, and after his death, was succeeded by his son, Naglâr. Naglâr reinforced this trade and everyone prospered.

But the evil dragons began to raid the caravans, and as time passed, the terror that they spread grew. Soon, everyone quaked under the raids of these dragons, and trade all but stopped.

And so a single hero named Gulâr set out to stop these raids. Gulâr explored the mountains and discovered that one dragon organized all this, Belkunibâr.

And so Gulâr sought out the greatest of all evil dragons. Bearding the dragon in his lair, he attacked. By the end of the battle, Gulâr stood by strength of will alone, and as Belkunibâr fell, Gulâr had just enough time to realize that he had won. Then he too, died.

As this age ended, things looked up for the good people of the world. Trade prospered. The evil dragons reverted to their isolationist ways and, without organization, no longer threatened entire kingdoms. Things moved at an easy, leisurely pace.

Then the Humans awoke, and everything changed.

The Humans Reawaken

God looked down upon the world and decided that it was ready. It had found peace among the current mortals, but it needed a catalyst to keep things moving. Already, as much time had passed on The Mortal Realm as the entire time in Heaven, and events crept forward.

And so God reawakened the Humans. They possessed a short life span and a corresponding drive. They were impetuous and the needed change. God released them upon The Mortal Realm.

They bred like rabbits.

Meanwhile, in the Elven kingdom of Glarduin, an Elf named Assra was born to the royal family. She was a vain and egoistical creature, the epitome of the Elven deadly sin, but she managed to hide this fact from her father, Erthon. She was aided by the distraction of the first raids of Human barbarians, stealing supplies and the knowledge of forging metals.

After the death of Erthon, Assra began receiving dreams. In these dreams, a lord of Hell came to her and offered her beauty beyond her imagination. The dreams became increasingly frequent, and in them the lord granted her this wish. She began looking forward to these dreams, and before long, she became addicted to them.

Then the lord of Hell appeared to her while she woke. She knew in her heart the lord was evil and refused him over and over again, but the dreams kept coming, and her will weakened. Finally she relented, selling her soul to the Devil Lord Murash.

He answered her wishes beyond her wildest dreams. Murash gave her beauty so intense, so complete, that every soul who looked upon her became mesmerized. Soon she'd enslaved nearly everyone in her nation.

Murash demanded sacrifices . . . horrible, terrible sacrifices. Assra managed to convince her people to perform them and it wasn't long before most of the Elven nation unknowingly worshiped Murash.

But not all of her people had fallen under her spell, and those who realized what was happening fled Glarduin. They escaped to the Kingdom of the Elves, as well as the Elven lands of Celegurth, Maelion and Aranniel. These nations sent envoys to Glarduin, attempting to open negotiation. They were sacrificed at the altars of Murash.

There was a decade of deliberation among the Elven kingdoms. When Assra's followers began to gain converts in the neighboring kingdoms, they decided it was time to act.

The four neighboring Elven kings: Merwen, Laerethiach, Argenwen, and Aramir met behind closed doors. When they emerged ten days later, they wore the trappings of war.

The war was bloody, lasting twenty years. Because the Elves were unaccustomed to warfare, and there were no longer any Dwarves in the far east to train them, the war had many starts and fits.

After the twenty years, the alliance of Elves won. They gathered all of Assra's remaining followers and assembled them in the greatest temple of Perion. Then the high priests prayed.

And the heavens opened up and Saint Perion descended to The Mortal Realm. He was sheathed in mighty armor, dressed for war as he had never been in life. He banished them from The Mortal Realm.

Murash secretly intercepted the exiles, her new clutch of Fallen Elves, as they shifted away from Belkanâth. She sent them back, shielded from Perion's view, into the Warrens.

The Elves, with all their internal troubles, paid little attention to the Humans. The Humans, however, had contacted the Gnomes and stolen books of magic from the Elves. They began restoring their knowledge of sorcery and became masters in their own right.

A mage named Karil rose up among the Humans. He was a malevolent man, and for the first time in post-Sundering history, a person of great evil researched new forms of magic.

He learned how to use magic to effect the life forces of others. He began experimenting with the dead and soon he managed to contact the Nopheratus, which filled him with fell knowledge and soon he'd raised The Mortal Realm's first skeletons and zombies. The plague of Heaven had come to earth.

He studied more of the paths of necromancy than any other mage in history and eventually crossed the threshold into lichdom. It is said that he became a lich of such power that he achieved an apotheosis of sorts, becoming a Demon Lord in (un)life.

The Humans had left their first mark upon the world.

Shortly after Karil became the first lich (within the first couple hundred years), a Fallen Elf named Zinril took to the surface. He waged a guerilla war against the Elves. Killing was the only thing he cherished.

In his travels, he came upon Karil. They were both intrigued by the prospect of the other. Karil saw a powerful underground force with which to ally. Zinril found there were evils on the surface with which he could deal.

Through this alliance, Karil the lich came into contact with the Fallen Elves even as his apprentices spread his teachings among the Humans. He gave the Fallen Elves knowledge of the Nopheratus.

By this time, the Humans had gained great power. They colonized most of the contiguous lands of The Mortal Realm and had scattered kingdoms in almost every locale. They warred amongst themselves.

The Humans slowly drew lines based on morality, not race, but no Humans were designated as "Fallen." Evil Humans were merely evil and they didn't need an earthshattering event to draw them into separate camps.

The good Human nations looked about and realized that they had more in common with the Elves than with the evil Human nations. Diplomats and envoys were dispatched to the Elven kingdoms.

The going was slow at first. The Elves barely remembered Heavenly Humans from legend. Many Human delegates died of old age before the Elves realized that the brief Human life span made quick negotiations necessary. Soon the Elves and the Humans allied. Human and Elven mages taught one-another. Humans converted to worship of God through the Savior, but they realized that the other races had it wrong, Angenus the Human Prophet was the real Savior.

Meanwhile, the Human woman Frierea had been born in the east. She was a shape shifter, like many of her people. She would wear the skins of wolves, and she would become a wolf. She would run through lonely glaciers all night long.

She began to spend more and more time in wolf form. Hunting, stalking, killing. She began to enjoy it more and more. She drifted from the spiritual purity of the act and began to glory in the bloodshed. Then one day, she threw off the trappings of magic, and began turning into a wolf under her own power, the first werewolf.

Thus the curse of lycanthropy came to the world. The Humans had made their mark, yet again.

This age was not only marked by Humans bringing evil into the world. Saint Monique was also born in this age. She revolutionized child birthing, and by the time she passed away, the world was a better place for her having lived in it.

Excerpt: War and Rumors of War

The Dwarf-Human War

At the begining of this age, Zinril decided it was time for his ultimate act of terror, and for the victim he singled out Mendir, the wearer of the Laurel Crown.

He researched his subject thoroughly and discovered that Mendir liked walking alone in his garden without his guards.

Zinril magically hid within the garden. As Mendir took his solitary walk, Zenril struck.

Mendir detected the attack at the last moment and dove to one side.

The battle raged throughout the garden. Mendir, though out-matched in weaponry, managed to hold his own. He ultimately fought his way through the Fallen Elf's guard and struck the Zenril through the heart.

Thus did this Zenril pass from the earth, to become a Demon Lord in Hell.

At the same time, Humans increased in their restlessness. Adventuring became a popular pastime.

One adventuring group, their names lost in the annals of history, took on the most dangerous of adventures. They attacked the most powerful undead creature on the planet, the Lich Karil.

The party delved into his heavily fortified tomb. It is said that the lich drank the souls of all but one of the group, before the last managed to slay Karil. Thus did the Demon Lord descend into Hell to rule.

Glorious deeds like this increased the reputations of all concerned. Brave and courageous Humans sought out these adventures, not knowing that this would eventually bring them in conflict with the Dwarves.

Meanwhile, the Dwarves had watched two great kingdoms, one Dwarven and one Elven, perish from the earth. They had almost been destroyed themselves. It was time to hedge their bets again.

And so they sent out three groups of Dwarves to colonize western mountain ranges. Zfram, Irukhâl and Uzarâg were founded in Belkanâth. Another group of Dwarves traveled into the distant east, to found Khilig-Zfmar near the ruins of Durandfl. This placed a Dwarven kingdom within striking distance of the most powerful Human kingdoms.

The Human taste for adventure continued to grow. In the east, Humans discovered the greatest adventure location on the continent: the ruins of Durandfl.

Durandfl was a hotbed of danger. Having fallen to Orcs, greater and more powerful monsters had moved inside. An Orc king ruled the place bearing the mightiest of all artifacts, the Fell Hammer. The entire place had become an Ulcer.

Human adventures, led by a fighter named Magron, delved deeply into Durandfl. Finally, they confronted the Orc king and retrieved the Fell Hammer.

Leaving Durandfl, Magron set out to build himself a kingdom.

For years, the Fell Hammer was the symbol of power among Humans. The kingdom of Magron rose to greatness. He conquered nearby kingdoms, and it was said that with the Fell Hammer in hand, he was invincible.

In the years to come, Humans used the Fell Hammer to forge a great nation of Humanity, named the Kingdom of Malmic. For five-hundred years, Human power grew and grew.

The eastern Dwarves saw the rise of this Human nation, but they didn't choose to investigate. Within a single Dwarven lifetime, this kingdom united (or conquered) all the Humans of the east.

Malmic was a good place to live. The law was fair and well-enforced. The people prospered. It was a golden age of Humanity.

Near this time, a Dwarven hero named Kharal of Gabad-Dagfl decided it was time to retrieve the Fell Hammer from the Orcs.

Kharal delved deeply into the halls of Durandfl. He fought through hordes of orcs and terrible monsters. He bested a serpent and defeated the most terrible creatures.

But the Fell Hammer was nowhere to be found.

Kharal took prisoners and interrogated them . . . vigorously. The more he researched, the more he came to the conclusion that someone had taken the Fell Hammer.

And so Kharal looked abroad. It wasn't long before he came to Malmic.

Kharal sent word to the Dwarves of the east, telling them that he thought he'd discovered the location of the Fell Hammer. He went to the Human king, then a man named Ezrian.

Ezrian, who was not used to seeing Dwarven envoys, welcomed Kharal. Kharal entered the throne room and immediately recognized the Fell Hammer. He demanded Ezrian turn over the Hammer.

Ezrian refused. Kharal lost his temper and Ezrian ordered him killed. Ezrian's guards struck down Kharal and slew his men.

Back in the Dwarven kingdom, word returned of the location of the Fell Hammer. When Kharal did not return, the Dwarven king Agirâl sent a unit of soldiers to Malmic to find out what happened.

The troops of the two nations clashed. Soon, a war brewed between the Dwarves and the Humans.

The war escalated quickly. The Dwarven warriors were mighty, but the Humans had much more experience, and they greatly outnumbered the Dwarves. Soon the lands of the east ran with blood.

The Dwarves kept coming, wave after wave throwing themselves against the Malmic troops. The feud grew increasingly violent, increasingly brutal.

The Hammer enthralled Ezrian. It wasn't long before he began suspecting everyone of trying to steal it. He accused all who approached him and never allowed it out of his presence. Many belived that it whispered to him, that it granted him dreams.

He became more hunched and seemed to shrink in stature. Eventually he emerged from his chambers and demanded that an honor guard follow him outside the palace. They left Malmic's capital.

When they were outside the city walls, Ezrian threw off his illusion of illness. He demanded to go to the Dwarven kingdom. The kingdom the Hammer had shown him in his dreams.

The Dwarf-Human war did not end through arms or tactics. It was not won on a battlefield or through generals. It did not end through diplomacy or negotiation.

It ended when the king of the Humans, his mind twisted with guilt and paranoia, went to the Dwarves and begged their forgiveness. He turned over the Hammer and the dwarves welcomed him into their kingdom. He served out the rest of his days there in payment for the theft of the Hammer and the murder of a great Dwarven hero.

Malmic had no clear line of succession. With the loss of their king, the nation collapsed. The heads of provinces and houses declared themselves the true king. Malmic was no more.

The Age of Chaos

In the wake of the fall of Malmic, the world collapsed into chaos. Humans leaders became nothing but petty dictators and tyrants.

Meanwhile in Gabad-Dagfl, Clan Malachite decided that it was time to study the art of magic. They sent envoys to the Kingdom of the Elves and opened a dialog.

The Elves agreed. A small group of Elves traveled to Gabad-Dagfl to further learn Dwarven craft. In return, the Dwarves sent a group of their most intelligent to the Kingdom of the Elves.

This group of Dwarves, led by the Dwarf Gfl, soon became adept at magic.

Gfl spent the next few years using his magic to wage a war against the Nopheratus. He became obsessed with hunting down lichs and destroying them.

This obsession with the undead drove him to ever-increasing levels of danger. Finally, he hatched a plan, involving an elaborate magical ritual. It required a participant from each of the mortal races, and if successful, would banish the Nopheratus from the Mortal Realm permanently.

He recruited Filrin, the greatest Elven mage. Traveling west, he found Gwer, the greatest of all Gnomish illusionists. Added to that was Zarannas, the most talented Human wizard in the east. Finally, he recruited Mikkin, the Halfling priest.

The ritual took over a month to cast and on the thirtieth day, they finished.

A tremendous blast, destroyed them all. The ripples from the spell tore the fabric of the Mortal Realm. Vortices floated freely throughout the world, devouring people and spitting some out in random locations. No one knows the fate of the others.

Chaos ensued. Over the next few years, the population of Belkanâth dropped to less than one third of its former number.

The world fell into a state of panic. People disappeared everywhere. The fabric of time and space came apart.

A group of mages came together in secret without the permission of their peers, concealing their actions because the mages of the world were convinced that more tampering would cause the plane to tear apart completely. Their enemies discovered them, and they almost didn't finish. However, lesser members of their order sacrificed their lives holding off the enemy wizards. When the blood and smoke cleared, the ritual had completed. The vortices vanished.

Most of the truly ageless kingdoms survived. The only exception was Gabad-Dagfl, where the entire royal line vanished.

Gabad-Dagfl's civilization collapsed. The line of succession was unclear. The Dwarves worst natures emerged and they fell into civil war. After ten years of slaughtering each other, only a handful of Dwarves remained.

The nearby Orcs heard word of this war. When the Dwarves were at their weakest, the Orcs attacked. By the end of 4,569 P.I., Gabad-Dagfl had fallen. The Fell Hammer was lost again.

The lesser kingdoms didn't fair much better. Half of all the kingdoms in the world fell into civil wars. The rest, seeing their weakened neighbors, attacked. Within a few years, the world fell into complete turmoil.

Over the next few centuries, the Mortal Realm rebuilt. It was slow, but before long the political situation of the world stabilized again.

Just about the time all of this calmed down, Analin rose to power. Analin was a Gnomish illusionist of great power, but her heart was dark and evil.

Analin hated everything. She hated other Gnomes. She hated other illusionists. Most of all, she hated the sun.

She decided that the entire world would pay for her hate. She devised a plan to destroy the light and cast the Mortal Realm into darkness. She set up a tremendous spell, fueling it with the sacrifices of a thousand Gnomish illusionists.

The spell was a success. The entire western half of The Mortal Realm fell into darkness. Crops withered and died. The land grew cold and an unnatural winter set in.

As matters worsened, a group of intrepid heroes set out to destroy Analin. The fate of these heroes is unknown, but Analin's spell broke. They likely killed her, because latter she emerged a Demon in Hell and she's been worshiped by dark cults ever since. But for the time being, the world was saved.

Excerpt: The Five Deadly Sins

Because of their close proximity to the evil created when the first angels fell, every race in the Mortal Realm bears the taint of sin. While this doesn't necessarily doom them to Hell from birth, it does mean that the races have certain inherent weaknesses.

Any time a character confronts his deadly sin, he should roleplay the attraction. If the temptation is great enough (or magical enough) to warrant an RR, then the character receives a -10 penalty.

Deadly Sins by Race:

Dwarf: Greed

Elf: Pride

Human: Wantonness

Halfling: Gluttony

Gnome: Deceit

Excerpt: Bastrin War College

To stand on a wall. To fight the never-ending hordes of Orcs in Uzarâg. For some, these are the heights of warfare.

But defenses fail and armies inevitably take the field. When this happens, only the most talented officers and generals can stand against the Warlord.

The history of the struggles against the Warlord is one of attacks and feints. No patrols or defenses can hold the Great Fiend inside Uzarâg and eventually someone must put him back in his Ulcer.

While bordering cities squat behind their defensive walls, armies range across the land: armies whose sole goal is to destroy the Orcish marauders.

Thus was Bastrin War College established.

Over the years, the singular purpose has blurred. Now it has become a school of general warfare, with an emphasis on fighting orcs. Still, this is one of the premiere strategy and tactics schools in the world. The cost is exorbitant (10 gp per term), but many nobles send their sons here to learn the ways of war.

Bastrin War College has a friendly rivalry with the Premane War College. Every few years the two schools conduct a series of war games to increase their enrollment and put the fire of competition under the students.

Most students attend the school only to pick up some tactical, strategic and logistical skills. Not many students have the wherewithal to dedicate their lives to the school, with its cost and its tremendously competitive studies.

Those who do are rewarded with the advanced skills and wisdom to lead entire armies in battle. The world's next crop of generals will come from these ranks. And rightly so.