Third Age

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The Third Age: The Age of Legends

In the Third Age, the modern races of Fartherall supplant the progenitors. It is the age wherein most modern tales of legendary—told by the races of the age—are set, and is indeed how the age earned its name. It is the first age to possess any recorded history, beginning with the founding of Archaiad.

The ogres, the Olom warrior race, pursue the Wyrmbroods into the mountains that ring the civilized world. The Ord seize control of the territories abandoned by the Wyrms, vastly increasing their domain.

Birth: The Ord and Ald clash over territory and who will guide the legacy races in their development. This erupts war between the two remaining Elder Races, and frames the backdrop of the modern races’ advancement.

The giants—the strongest and largest of the Olom legacy—declare themselves the true heirs of the Olom. They claim dominion over the other Olom legacy races and enslave them. Only the ogres are able to resist being subjugated. With the dwarves, humans, and halflings conquered, the giants pursue another aspect of the Olom life they consider their birthright—immortality.

In exchange for allying with them in their war against the Ald, the Ord promise to give the giants the secret to immortality. The giants agree, and the Ord share the secret: immortality can be achieved by siphoning the life force and youth out of another, a process that ages its victims to death. The giants turn their enslaved races into sacrificial herds to extend their lives. They find the humans the easiest to siphon life from, and abuse them the most. To this day, the humans have the shortest lifespan of any Olom legacy race as a result.

Against the combined might of the Ord and the giants, the Ald find themselves losing the war. Their numbers dwindle, as no more Ald are being born. Since they emerged from the First Wood, the children of the Ald have been born elves or gnomes, inheriting only a fraction of their parents’ agelessness and magic. The Ald makes plans to withdraw from the world with their legacy races.

The elves—who have known no other home, and do not wish to leave—break their vow to the Ald never to share their magic with the lesser races. The Ald share arcane secrets with the enslaved Olom legacy races. With their aid, the slave races break free from the giants and ally with the Ald. To the horror of the elves and Ald, two of the the freed Olom races—the humans and dwarves—use what the elves taught them to exact a terrible revenge against their captors. They throw themselves against the giants, with no thought to their own losses, until they have torn down the giants’ society and driven them nearly to extinction.

As punishment, the Ald exile the elves from the First Wood. The elves vow never again to aid in the development of another race, a promise they’ve kept to this day.

With the giants gone, the Olom legacy races throw their might behind the Ald. Together, they topple the Ord. The Ord reopen the rifts in the sky and flee the world. To cover their escape, they drop their abandoned floating island back into the sea. It lands off the coast of the First Wood. The ensuing tsunami obliterates a quarter of the primordial forest and devastates the Ald.

But not all of the Ord escape. The tidal wave knocks a number of their fleeing vessels out of the sky. The dwarves capture the survivors and dragged them and the wrecks of their ships into the deep places of the world. There, they enslave the Ord and strip them of their secrets and language. They conduct tortuous experiment on the captives, warping and transmuting those strong enough to survive into ideal slaves: powerful, short-lived, with built-in weaknesses. The dwarves build their massive Underkingdom on the backs of these slaves—the sole legacy race of the Ord—who they call orcs.

The Ald, the last remaining Elder Race, sees that the world now irreversibly belongs to the legacy races. Weary and few in number, they withdraw from the world.

With the Elder Races and giants gone, the elves sequestered in their woods and the dwarves isolated, the humans inherit the shattered ruins of the world. Over the millennia, they spread far and wide, adapting to each region and giving rise to a variety of different cultures and languages. Humanity fills the empty places of the world with its offspring, becoming by far the most populous race.

Balance: Archaiad, the great human empire, stretches from Lastport in the west to Transis in the east, and north into the wild Afterlands. Its roads and aqueducts span the continent, and its legions march unopposed but for the incursions of the occasional ogre pride or Wyrmbrood. A cosmopolitan empire, humans of every creed and color are found within its borders. Though it does not nearly approach the fallen Elder Races’ technology or power, the Archaian Empire is a stable state, and one that endures longer than any human civilization in history.

After the founding of Archaiad, the recorded history of Fartherall takes a predominantly human-centered turn. The rapid and often uncontested spread of Archaian civilization, coupled with the intradependence and relative isolationism of the nonhuman races and the Archaians’ meticulous record keeping, were instrumental in this human empire becoming the dominant culture of the era. Readers interested in a more in depth account of the empire’s history, and the heroic tales of legendary set therein, will have no trouble finding volumes on the subject; Publian Harto’s 40-volume “Archaiad through the Ages” covers the subject thoroughly, and in often tedious detail. For the purposes of this brief glimpse of Fartherall through the ages, the bulk of the Archaiad has been glossed over.

In the twenty-eighth century of the Archaiad, the emperor Colaebrian comes to power. The sickly son of a cousin of the previous emperor, Colaebrian inherits the Empire through a series of bizarre and ominous events. The previous emperor, Forfaraxian, dies with his three sons during a slake hunt; as the emperor and his heirs approach to ceremonially cut the horns from the beast’s head, the slake—which had been dead and hauled out of the bay hours before—spasms back to life long enough to crush the four men in its coils. On the very same day, the older of the emperor’s younger brothers accidentally poisons himself while firing bevenomed arrows at captives in a courtyard. When the younger brother runs for help, he slips and falls into the courtyard where he is killed by the captives, who ironically survived (at least until their execution). Colaebrian’s father, the general Kaetemnestres—who wasn’t aware he was the heir to throne, as the fate of the emperor’s younger brothers was not known at the time—leads his legion into the capital to restore order in the chaos following the announcement of the emperor’s death. He removes his helmet to address the panicked crowd, and is struck in the head by a thrown cobblestone. In a period of twelve hours, the emperor and the next six in line for the crown die, an event historians call the Septemiort. When told his is the new emperor, Colaebrian faints and falls into a coma. Calculating generals make plans to seize control should the Sleeping Emperor—as Colaebrian comes to be known, die, Archaiad teeters on the edge of civil war.

It is said that Colaebrian fell asleep a boy, but awoke as an emperor. When he mysteriously wakes up a month after falling into his coma, gone is the sickly and indecisive youth. Possessing of a strange sense of calm and an iron will, the new emperor immediately begins issuing edicts. The first is that the capital be moved from Haram in the fruitful south to Sumbre, the great city-temple that was the empire’s mightiest fortress in the Afterlands. There, he assembles the greatest wizards in the empire and dictates to them the mad and troubling visions he experienced in his coma. The wizards find these visions worrying, and when they inquire about their origin, Colaebrian reports that they were bestowed upon him by an entity he calls the Pale Lady, who sang to him as he slept. On the emperor’s orders, the wizards assemble his recorded visions into a single volume. As no wizard was allowed to view the work of another during the transcription, they realize what the assembled visions are too late to prevent their effect. The collected visions are not the mad ramblings of a fevered mind, but a spell—a massive, 99-page spell with arcane energies so dense that it achieves arcane critical mass and awakens. To the wonderment of the emperor and the horror of his assembled wizards, this sentient speaks its name—Oclysma—and begins to cast itself.

The wizards realize what the spell is meant to do and revolt in an attempt to destroy the Oclysma. The emperor rushes to its defense, ordering his legions to defend his “child”—but he is slain by an elven assassin’s arrow to the heart. Seeing their emperor slain and assuming the elf acted with the rebellion, the Archaian legions attack the wizards in a frenzy. Though the imperial forces are decimated in the battle, the arcane rebellion is quashed. The legions drive the remaining wizards out of Sumbre as the Oclysma finishes casting the first part of itself.

Death: The sun dies. It plummets from the sky and smashes into the ground, setting the far off western continent ablaze and boiling the surrounding seas. No sun rises the next day, or the next, or the next after that. Exactly how much time passes during the Day of No Sun is unclear, though most estimates put it in the realm of one month. During that stretch, crops fail and frost coats the world, presaging the Bittercold, a miniature ice age sparked by the death of the sun. This is the First Movement of the Oclysma.

The surviving wizards regroup with their apprentices and concoct a desperate plan to stop the Oclysma, which has moved into the second phase of casting itself. The wizards forge the Sword of Sundering, a blade capable of severing the most powerful magics, and pour their own life essences into it. For reasons they do not have the time to share before they perish, the wizards task their apprentices with delivering the sword to the elf that assassinated the emperor. The apprentices—who history remembers as the Scions—honor their masters’ wishes. They find the wounded elf on the battlefield outside Sumbre and nurse him back to health. The elf—who has a double crescent moon tattoo on one cheek—never shares his name, so the Scions name him Nostrum. They arm him with the Sword of Sundering as the Oclysma finishes casting the second part of itself. The Necrofont, a geyser of negative energy, erupts from the Heart of Sumbre and bathes the surrounding battlefield in its power. The slain legions of the emperor rise as the first undead Fartherall has ever seen. This army of the dead splits; half remain in Sumbre to guard the Necrofont, and half marching forth to spread the undead plague across the world. This is the Second Movement of the Oclysma.

As the Bittercold spreads its icy tendrils and the Army of the Dead advances beneath a sunless sky, Nostrum and the Scions fight their way through the undead to the heart of Sumbre. They find the Oclysma in the ruined palatial throne room, where it begins to cast the third—and final—part of itself. Nostrum cuts through the Oclysma with the Sword of Sundering, slicing away page after page of the sentient spell. With each stroke, the Sword of Sundering absorbs more of the Oclysma’s power and intelligence. With the final stroke, the Sword of Sundering itself awakens—and the Oclysma explodes, killing Nostrum and leveling Sumbre. The ensuing magical backlash obliterates life for hundreds of miles in all direction, and while it doesn’t destroy the undead, it renders them mindless, turning them into the shambling automatons we know today. The Third Movement of the Oclysma does not resolve.

The next day, a newborn sun rises in the east. But it is young and weak, and not strong enough to push back the ice. The Bittercold continues for centuries until the Young Sun grows strong enough to break it.

The surviving Scions find the Sword of Sundering in the mountains around Sumbre. Sadly, the Sword absorbed so much of the Oclysma’s malice and energy that it drove the newly awakened blade insane. Spitting threats and babbling obscenities, the Sword sings its own prophecy to the assembled apprentices: whoever shall free him from his prison will lead a revolution and kill the wicked kings. The Scions are unable to destroy the mad sword, infused as it was with such powerful energies, so they instead build a trap-laden temple around it and imprison the belligerent blade—which they rename the Sword of Fighting—inside.

The repercussions of the Oclysma are felt to this day. The ice sheets of the Bittercold carve great swaths out of the Afterlands, rendering it inhospitable to agriculture. The great advances in medicine, architecture, and technology of the Archaiad are lost to humanity after the empire fragments. And undeath—unknown before the Second Movement of the Oclysma—remains a reality, a genie that can never be put back in the bottle.

The Archaian Empire loses a quarter of its population and half of its land from the destruction of Sumbre. The Day of No Sun and the Bittercold lead to endemic crop failure and rampant starvation. The remnants of the Archaiad split on regional and ethnic lines and war with one another for resources. The human population plummets. When it recovers, it does so as the disunited Middle Kingdoms, a string of bickering states fighting over the crumbs of the Archaian Empire. Humanity will not unify again until a new threat bursts into the world—an enraged and hungry threat, a race of merciless savages determined to seize a place in the world: the orcs.

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