The History of the Cynosure
The previous age culminated in a world-spanning, apocalyptic war between the gods of light and dark. These gods had been born in Gondolen, the land revealed by the first dawn, and they embodied all that would exist in creation. One aspect of their nature would have a dire impact on the world to come: the gods were divided between good and evil, and they were set against each other in a war for supremacy. The laws written in their birth allowed the gods to change their allegiances, but over the course of history, they discovered that the vacuum such defections left would always be filled, and light and dark remained constant. These gods are now known as the Antipodeans.
For ages untold, the Antipodeans waged their war for control of the world, creating races, magic, and terrible artifacts to serve their purpose. Modern historians can’t say with any certainty for how long the Antipodeans ruled. Every previous age ended when their war reached a crescendo, resulting in widespread destruction and the near total death of civilization. It’s possible that none of the races existing in the modern world had even been birthed in the first ages, though some claim otherwise.
The Cynosure is a region of the world that had been prominent in the last few ages and retains its prominence now. It was here that the Antipodean armies gathered for the final confrontation between light and dark. This war at last brought the end of the Antipodeans’ reign, for that it is called the Gods Fall War.
The Antipodeans had come to regret their nature, and the gods of light had won a crushing, inevitably temporary victory over the gods of darkness. They called the defeated gods before them and demanded acquiescence to their new plan: the laws of their birth would be rewritten in rebirth. The Antipodeans would give up their very identities to forge new gods from their collected divine essence, and these gods would not be aligned with good or evil. They would also exist in their own realm, unable to manifest in the world directly. Any god who refused to be reborn would be stripped of divinity and cast from the heavens. Astonishingly, most gods agreed. This was the founding of the Covenant.
At the moment of its founding, the Covenant appeared to all creatures in whatever form most appropriate to their understanding. Its founding page described the Antipodeans’ determination and set the only divine law present in the Covenant: all gods are equal and must be worshiped as such. False gods must be denied and destroyed. The rest of the Covenant is a collection of stories describing the new gods and their lives in Baalam. The world now knew that a new era had begun, an age of free will and mortal agency.
The Reconstruction, 0 CF – 257 CF
The Gods Fall War devastated the Cynosure, leaving the entire region in ruin and on the verge of collapse. Despite this, the mortal races found themselves invigorated by their sudden freedom from the demands of the Antipodeans. The Cynosure countries entered a period of recovery, but they were stymied by a betrayal from within. The Calpurnian Isles off the southern coast of the Cynosure harbored a seafaring people who had built the most powerful navy in the world in service to the Antipodeans. The Calpurnian leadership had mostly been extinguished in the Gods Fall War, leaving its navy rogue.
The newly independent captains began to terrorize the coastal regions of the Cynosure, raiding and pillaging to restore wealth to their empty coffers. This period lasted for nearly a century, and many Calpurnians grew rich capitalizing on the ruin left in the wake of the Gods Fall War. Over time, some of the most successful Calpurnians began to consolidate their power and, facing the wrath of a sizeable portion of the Cynosure, vowed to reform the Calpurnian Isles, precipitating a civil war that eventually ended with the rise of many of the current merchant prince families. The rest of the Cynosure could do little to exact retribution, but the Calpurnians had earned a reputation for greed and villainy that persists today, though in lessened form.
With the end of Calpurnian piracy, many of the Cynosure were at last able to complete rebuilding, but they found the political landscape radically altered by the addition of two new countries of uncertain virtue. Dragonkind had refused to participate in the Gods Fall War, guarding the refuge they had created for themselves to the east of the Cynosure, Parai Arex. This did not prevent their land from being corrupted in the war, however, leaving bleak regions of stone, ash, and lava.
Most of dragonkind abandoned the mortal world with the founding of the Covenant, but here and there a few stragglers settled. The most notorious of these is the red wyrm Terminax. He resettled in Lilleroan and declared the formation of Reillanwurm as a new Grand Duchy with himself as its ruler. Lilleroan was in no position to deal with this invasion, as it were, so the Grand Duchy of Reillanwurm was born. For the first few centuries of his rule, Grand Duke Terminax brought his new subjects to heel, and once they were in line, he steadily expanded Reillanwurm into neighboring countries.
The dark armies were stranded in the Cynosure without the protection of their evil masters following the Gods Fall War, but now they found themselves as free as those who had followed the light. Primary among the dark races were the orcs, who had always served as the elite to the gods of darkness. They announced the Freebonding of Blood, breaking with their dark past and determined to become members of the Cynosure. The rest of the countries were too focused on their own problems to dispute them, so the orcs founded the country of Gauthe. They harbored any who would accept their rule, ranging from other evil races to the refugees of countries they had destroyed in the Gods Fall War.
By the time the rest of the Cynosure had rebuilt, both Reillanwurm and Gauthe were firmly established and too strong to confront without open war. None would deny them a rightful place in the Cynosure. Besides, all countries found their resources nearly depleted by their rebuilding efforts, obliging them to look outside of their region to restore their material wealth. They reasoned that they had borne the brunt of the Gods Fall War and were owed for their efforts by lands less affected.
Nationhood and Imperialism, 257 CF – 763 CF
The Cynosure launched itself into a period of major transformation. Those countries with the will to do so strengthened their cultural identities, rising as powerful, imperial nations. The Calpurnian Isles had already established extensive trade networks that spanned most of the globe, and with their help, the Cynosure nations colonized several regions around the world, most notably the Southern Ramparts and the Sundown Coast.
Wealth poured once more into the coffers of the Cynosure, but wars over the control of foreign lands soon followed. They raged for centuries, but by tacit agreement, these wars never touched the Cynosure itself. Sentiment began to turn, both internally and externally, against imperialism, and the Cynosure’s efforts quieted, allowing their empires to steadily decay. An uneasy peace descended, the first since the Gods Fall War. In this period, eight nations dominated the Cynosure and by extension, the world. These nations are known as the Polestars:
Wester – Of all the nations of the Cynosure, Wester embraced its desire for imperialism most strongly. The Wester monarchy and its army flourished after the Gods Fall War, allowing their early rise to empire.Wester has a long-standing tradition of a strong monarchy supported by military excellence. The royal bloodline claims descent from one of the old gods, and historically Wester had been among the first nations to pick up the banner for the gods of light when necessary. Wester is credited with originating monarchy in its modern form, which it modeled from the organization of the Antipodeans. The Sovereign Aegis was developed as a church to support the divine right of the Wester monarchy to rule.
The founding of the Covenant at the end of the Gods Fall War meant, of course, that Wester lost the divine patronage it had enjoyed. However, it is recorded that the firstborn of the Antipodeans, who was slain in Gondolen during the war, was the Wester patron deity, and he blessed its line of kings a final time before his fall. The country’s ability to recover quickly from the ruins of the war is said by some to be the result of that blessing.
The Covenant gods have more familial relationships than any formalized ruling body, which forced the Wester monarchs to recast themselves more strongly as patriarchs than absolute rulers. In truth, that change affected the monarchy very little, but the Sovereign Aegis embraced the Covenant with more conviction than many of the surviving churches from the previous age, reconstituting itself as the Brethren of Aegis Inheritors. This move placed some distance between the Wester monarchy and its church, though they remained allies.
Wester’s rise as an imperial power was largely a substitution for its aggressiveness as a force of light in the previous age. Instead of fighting for good, Wester threw its military might behind its colonial efforts with outstanding success. The Wester empire was the most secure of the Cynosure empires, Wester was largely regarded as the victor in the colonial wars on the Sundown Coast, and its crusade into the holy country of Kufiri to protect the holy city of Veristople earned it the distinction of being the only Cynosure nation to hold land in Gondolen.
Lilleroan – In ages past, a dense forest thrived in the lands that would become the Cynosure; here grew the primal forest sprung from the World Tree itself. The forest receded before the advance of the mortal world until only the World Tree remained, and even the memory of this age was lost. But in Lilleroan, the earth still murmurs to those who will listen, for her queen bears the crown of the World Tree itself. Lilleroan and the World Tree lay in ashes by the conclusion of the Gods Fall War, but the Lillians held their faith in the renewal of nature, and their patience and dedication was rewarded. From beneath the cinders of the World Tree sprouted a new forest, not quite so grand as what had been before, but a welcome relief to Lilleroan nonetheless.
In the centuries of recovery after, Lilleroan strove to balance the demands of its growing empire against its stewardship of nature. The Lillian aristocracy relied heavily on diplomacy to meet its goals, and Lilleroan became known for its ability to solve problems through persuasion and occasional guile, an approach it touts as the civilized means to an end.
The Grand Duchy of Reillanwurm – To the east of the Cynosure lies Parai Arex, once the last refuge of dragonkind. Legend speaks of it as a land built by dragons to serve their every need. The draconic magic that had shaped Parai Arex was corrupted during the Gods Fall War, resulting in a bleak land of stone, ash, and lava.
With the founding of the Covenant, most of the dragons departed for lands unknown, giving no explanation to the mortals they left behind. A few elected to stay, however, among them the red wyrm Terminax. He resettled in Lilleroan and declared the formation of Reillanwurm as a new Grand Duchy with himself as its ruler. Lilleroan was in no position to deal with this invasion, as it were, so the Grand Duchy of Reillanwurm was born.
Grand Duke Terminax has never shared the reason for his actions, but he settled into his new role without hesitation. He regards Reillanwurm and everything in it—its people included—as his hoard; therefore, he is fiercely protective of it. Though his rule is draconian at best, his demands on his people are few. Most of the Grand Duchy’s considerable wealth is funneled directly to Terminax, but he uses a portion of it to provide for all of his people’s needs. He expects to find food whenever he leaves his lair to feed, so the farmers of Reillanwurm are careful to provide easy access to their herds.
Terminax tolerates no harm to his people, even from other citizens of the Duchy, so the only laws he enforces are those based around this ideal. Under his rule, the citizens of the Grand Duchy enjoy more social freedoms and a wealthier lifestyle than most others—so long as they do not cross the Grand Duke.
Technically, Terminax is ruler under the auspices of the Lily Queen, but even when Lilleroan was whole, he tolerated no direction from her. The Grand Duchy is in reality autonomous. Lilleroan hoped in the beginning that Terminax would lose interest or die of old age, but throughout the centuries, he showed no inclination to leave his land behind. He instead produced offspring and expanded the borders of Reillanwurm into neighboring lands.
The Calpurnian Isles – Not truly a nation at all but a collection of merchant city-states, the Calpurnian Isles have had a difficult relationship with the rest of the Cynosure. The Isles had fallen into disarray by the end of the Gods Fall War, and for a time, the sizeable Calpurnian navy, left in chaos, turned to piracy and terror. This period lasted for nearly a century, and many Calpurnians grew rich capitalizing on the ruin left in the wake of the Gods Fall War.
Over time, some of the most successful Calpurnians began to consolidate their power and, facing the wrath of a sizeable portion of the Cynosure, vowed to reform the Calpurnian Isles, precipitating a civil war that eventually ended with the rise of many of the current merchant prince families. Though the rest of the world remained wary for a time, never forgetting the source of Calpurnian wealth, the Isles mostly behaved themselves in modern times and enjoyed moderately improved relations with most countries.
During the rush to colonize, however, a few Calpurnian families leveraged a great deal of power by creating a stranglehold on the shipping lanes to the newly colonized territories, a move which created ill will among the growing Cynosure empires and kept the Calpurnian reputation for greed fresh in the minds of their neighbors. The Calpurnians’ ability to grow wealthy from the colonial efforts of their fellow nations recalled too closely the original source of Calpurnian wealth.
Calpurnians are some of the most freewheeling people in the Cynosure, with a financial mindset and easy independence fostered by long and regular journeys away from home. Both their military and preeminent economic power depends on their navy, which is the strongest and best supplied in the world.
Gauthe – Gauthe was formed in the wake of the Gods Fall War. Its best translation from the orcish tongue is “shameful exile.” What existed where Gauthe now stands was not a nation at all, but a stain upon the Cynosure. Beneath the western roots of the Kelsser range lay the blight warrens that had birthed the orcs in ages long past. According to their own traditions, they were a race built for destruction in the service of darkness, and never did they stray from the destiny imparted to them from their fell creators. At times they would find themselves in retreat from the forces of light and nurse their wounds in the blight warrens, at other times they dominated nearly all of the Cynosure lands, their ascendance tied directly to that of their evil masters.
Near the end of the Gods Fall War, the dwarves of Khel Darahl executed a plan to rid the Cynosure of the orc blight forever. The mountains of the Kelsser range are volcanic, and using a combination of dwarven engineering and powerful magic, the dwarves diverted volcanic vents from deep below their mountains into the blight warrens, slaying thousands of orcs and sealing the warrens forever.
Most of the orcish military force was campaigning on the surface, but the dwarves hoped that with the destruction of their women and children, the orcs would die out once the army was crushed. Khel Darahl suffered divine retribution for this act, but it proved to be the ending stroke of the Gods Fall War. Rather than fight to extinction, the orcs, who were the backbone of the dark armies, surrendered. It has been speculated that the dark gods themselves gave this order, and the mercy they showed for one of their favored races may have been a factor in their capitulation to the founding of the Covenant.
The sudden passing of the old gods, coupled with the fact that all of the Cynosure nations had their own problems to deal with, meant that the orcs’ surrender was more of a cessation of fighting than a defeat. The orcs had crushed the small countries that lay above the blight warrens at the beginning of the war, and now they found themselves marooned on the surface with the refugees from these countries.
It was here that the orcs made their historic declaration: the Freebonding of Blood. The orcs announced their freedom from the shackles of the dark gods along with their intention to found a new nation on the surface. The surface refugees were free to leave the lands or stay and become citizens. Similarly, the orcs offered refuge to all the allies of darkness left behind in the Cynosure.
It proved to be a canny move. Many of the former servants of darkness added their strength to the emergent nation, and even most of the refugees, faced with leaving their own lands for others more unstable and fraught with peril, accepted the orcs’ offer to stay. What’s more, the orcs dispatched diplomats to all the Cynosure nations with offers of formalized peace treaties in exchange for the recognition of a new nation in the Cynosure. Their own countries on the verge of collapse and facing extensive rebuilding, few rulers refused these treaties, especially since the orcish military force was largely intact. So Gauthe was born.
Many expected the fledgling nation to fail. It was, after all, little more than a displaced army whose entire infrastructure had been destroyed. Here again the Freebonding of Blood served them well, for the surface dwellers who were now their supporters were farmers, craftsmen, families, and the like who had seen their militaries crushed when the orcs rose to the surface. Without them, the orcs might never have been able to build a surface nation to support themselves. At first, tension ran high, but as the centuries passed, Gauthe grew together as a nation.
The Gauthodes never abandoned their origins, and modern Gauthe is a major military power. They were the only nation to successfully resist the Calpurnians’ piracy following the Gods Fall War, forcing the Calpurnian Isles to deal with them diplomatically.
Genose – Genose, like all the Cynosure, was once a monarchy, but the sacrifices it made to win the Gods Fall War left its government on the verge of collapse. The weakening of their monarchy, combined with the newfound freedom from service to the old gods, enflamed the spirit of innovation for which the Genosans had always been famed. From this was born a great social experiment: the Republic of Genose.
Placing the power to govern in the hands of the Genosans themselves spurred a renaissance. The arts flourished, while the study of magic and science grew seemingly without bounds. Not all the elements of Genosan society embraced the birth of the Republic, however. The Church Radiant’s western arm is based in Genose, and here, too, the church’s staunch ally, the Rosing Academy, trains its elite magisters. Both institutions only reluctantly accepted the changes brought by the Covenant, and they were even less welcoming of the changes in their own country.
These internal conflicts, along with the newness of the Republic, kept Genose from rising as an imperial power alongside their Cynosure brethren. Even so, Genose leads the Cynosure in technology and education. Progress has come at a price, however. While the wealthy and learned push the limits of understanding, decadence and corruption flourish under the light rule of the Republic. The poor and downtrodden face waves of new drugs, starvation, and bizarre crimes on a daily basis.
The rest of the Cynosure watches with skepticism as the Republic flounders under the weight of its troubles. Only time will tell if this social experiment will allow freedom to flourish or open the gates of the Cynosure to forces more sinister than they have faced since the Gods Fall War.
Jeroen – Beneath the oceans of the world live entire civilizations whose histories have rarely touched the land. Easily forgotten on the surface, this fact gave rise to Jeroman power, for the segment of Jeroen visible to the Cynosure was but the tip of a larger nation; most of Jeroen once lay beneath the waves, and the surface Jeromen were simply the conduit through which aquatic Jeroen related to the Cynosure.
A number of aquatic races called Jeroen home, chief among them the locathah. The Gods Fall War echoed into the depths of the ocean, and aquatic Jeroen marched on the side of light while surface Jeroen joined their neighbors on the same side. This division of forces proved to have dire consequences for the country.
Immediately following the war, aquatic and surface Jeroen rebuilt separately. Because Jeroen was an aquatic nation, the rogue Calpurnian navy regarded it as a principal threat. They launched their campaign of terror with an assault on coastal Jeroen that severed the tenuous ties between the nation’s two halves and left the Jeroman navy in tatters. Of all the Cynosure, Jeroen suffered the most in the years of Calpurnian piracy.
Jeroen turned the tide against the Calpurnian Isles with a genius maneuver. The great Lake Kellie forms the northern border of surface Jeroen, a lake deep enough to support oceangoing vessels. On the far side of the lake lay Wester, and the two nations rebuilt their navies in secret on the lake while aquatic Jeroen built a channel to connect Lake Kellie to the ocean. At the completion of the Taghspar Canal, the renewed navies of Wester and Jeroen surged into the ocean. Historians consider this launch to be the end of the Calpurnian occupation of the mainland.
In modern times, Jeroen had realigned its two halves into one whole that, true to the Calpurnians’ fears, rivaled the Calpurnian Isles as a naval power. Jeroen never forgave the Calpurnians for past crimes, and its waters were closed to the Calpurnian Isles. This act prohibited the Calpurnians from easy trade with powerful Wester, forcing them to establish overland trade routes heavily (and gleefully) taxed by the rest of the Cynosure.
Khel Darahl – In ages past, the dwarven citadels of Khel Darahl stood as bastions of might against evil and chaos. The ending campaigns of the Gods Fall War brought destruction upon the dwarves as one enraged god descended to destroy the citadels in retribution for the destruction of the blight warrens. In her wrath, the god obliterated the mountain housing Khel Gloriad, the capital of Khel Darahl, but not before Morghid Hymehl, who would later become known as the End of Kings, wielded the symbols of his office against her. He and the army of the Throneguard killed the god, whose death throes not only destroyed everyone at the battle but also blew the tops from the Kelsser range, exposing the great citadels to open sky.
The royal line extinguished, the implements of the throne lost, and their once secure homes now vulnerable to attack, the dwarves became the Unseated. In the harsh centuries of recovery following the Gods Fall War, Khel Darahl’s power waned. The Unseated now knew a vulnerability of spirit their stolid ancestors would never have imagined. The Unseated barely recovered from the war, rebuilding just enough to keep themselves alive without ever reaching for the greatness they had once held.
Khel Darahl once stretched to the sea, but the Unseated found themselves unable to defend their land from Calpurnian depredation. Not long after the rise of Gauthe, orcish emissaries, who had been refused when they brought the Freebonding of Blood before Khel Darahl, returned with a new offer: they would police Khel Darahl’s coast if only the Unseated would acknowledge Gauthe as a sovereign nation. This time, the Darahlans had little choice but to accept. Gauthe did more than police the coast, however. Over time, they annexed coastal Khel Darahl as part of Gauthe, claiming the Unseated’s southernmost citadel, Khel Behrin, in the process.
A few centuries later, Grand Duke Terminax claimed the northern tip of the Kelsser range, which included the citadel Khel Davian, as part of the Grand Duchy of Reillanwurm under the rule of his daughter, Duchess Cindrellai. She rechristened Khel Davian as Davianwurm, finding little resistance from the Unseated. Under her rule, the Unseated of Davianwurm found new direction. They attempted to reclaim the craftsmanship for which their race had once been famous, and to a large degree, they succeeded. Davianwurm rivals Gauthe and Genose in technological accomplishments, and the Cynosure wonders if the race that had once slain a god on its own has been reborn under the rule of wyrms.
Davianwurm had recently repaired the great underways that connected Khel Davian of old to its southern neighbor Khel Bregharn. With several of the Grand Duke’s children verging on maturity, those Unseated who did not wish to find themselves the subjects of Reillanwurm abandoned the citadel, leaving Khel Bregharn open for occupation.
Until recently, the Unseated found themselves a small voice among great empires, national borders receding and culture withering. Their inclusion as one of the Polestars was more courtesy than reality. One recent event brought renewed hope to the Unseated, however, and marks the beginning of the Cynosure’s destabilization: the recovery of Kullreaver.
Collapse, the Apostate Proclamation, 763 CF – 791 CF
The Last Days of Khel Gloriad, 763-764 CF
In 763 CF, a group of dwarven heroes returned from haunted Khel Gloriad with a fragment of Kullreaver, the fatal right hand of the dwarven kings. Even with only this shattered segment of blade, they were able to work wonders unseen since the End of Kings. The incendiary hope of Kullreaver burned through the Unseated, and scores of heroes risked Khel Gloriad’s tainted depths to find more of Kullreaver, some for personal power, others with the hope that the reforging of Kullreaver would at last end the spiritual night of the Unseated.
Within a year, the excavation of Khel Gloriad reached its peak, but the Unseated made several discoveries that challenged their emerging identity. The dwarves had always assumed that the goddess who attempted to exterminate their race was one of the gods of darkness, but this was not so. The attempted genocide of the orcs was an act so vile that the mother goddess of the dwarves themselves, she who had drawn them from the mountain that was their womb, descended to undo her creation.
King Morghid refused to stand aside for the extermination of his people, instead using Kullreaver to kill her. Her judgment, along with the spiritual backlash caused by this murder, is what truly unseated the dwarves. Now the excavation revealed the dwarves’ shame to the world, and worse, the Unseated would not turn aside from the recovery of Kullreaver, even though many suspected that the weapon was in fact tainted by King Morghid’s arrogance.
The Mother’s divine corpse remained in the ruins, and the Unseated discovered that the former head of her faith had turned against the goddess in Khel Gloriad’s final moments, reaping the souls of the faithful to fuel his transformation into a lich. This lich, Bruhl, had claimed her corpse and gathered the handful of survivors left in Khel Gloriad. He twisted these dwarves over time until they became a new race of beings calling themselves the derro. They worshiped Bruhl and recovered one of King Morghid’s implements for him: the hammer Gemsworn, which Bruhl used to forge lethal adamantine golems. Bruhl was building an army with the intent to subjugate the entire dwarven race to his worship.
Bruhl and the Mother’s corrupt corpse were eventually destroyed by an alliance of excavators and Gemsworn recovered, but many of the derro escaped through Khel Gloriad’s depths.
Another threat soon made itself known. The dwarves of old had crafted the Defile, a prison plane partially submerged in the Abyss. The worst of dwarven criminals over the ages were imprisoned there. The founding of the Covenant had reordered the planes and disrupted artificial planes, allowing the Defile to leak into Khel Gloriad. A number of prisoners escaped the Defile, among them an illegitimate heir to throne, Prince Geron. Geron manipulated events in Khel Gloriad to claim the fragments of Kullreaver for himself, plunging Khel Gloriad and its excavators into the Defile and attempting to crown himself the new king.
Ultimately, Geron’s bid for power failed, and he was killed. Ragnar Esbrecht, the Darahlan politician who had sponsored the excavation, claimed Kullreaver through the accord of the excavators, and along with it crowned himself the first king of Khel Darahl since the Gods Fall War.
King Ragnar’s ascension was not without complication. During the excavation, a force of dwarves from Davianwurm, sponsored by the Duchess Cindrellai herself, had joined the effort. The Embermane Corps, as they were called, had succeeded in recovering a fragment of Kullreaver, and rather than see something so precious leave Khel Darahl, Ragnar executed most of the Corps. He sent a few survivors back to the Duchess with the message that Khel Darahl would no longer tolerate incursions from Reillanwurm, all but assuring war.
It also came to light that excavators sent from Gauthe were searching for a fragment of Kullreaver with the intention of installing a Gauthode puppet king on the Darahlan throne. However, dissidents from within Gauthe exposed the plot themselves, forcing Ragnar to throw the Gauthodes out rather than kill them.
Even more problematic, one of the Gauthodes had been instrumental in defeating Bruhl and stopping the Gauthode plot, earning himself the loyalty of the dwarves he worked with. He and his dwarven companions now held Gemsworn, a powerful artifact, and, wary of Ragnar and the effect a reforged Kullreaver might have on dwarven society, they refused to turn the hammer over to Ragnar. They also guaranteed safe harbor to the Gauthodes who had turned against their own country on behalf of the Unseated.
A schism had developed in Khel Darahl, which continued to grow after Ragnar was crowned and the struggle for control over dwarven destiny began. Khel Gloriad had been destroyed when it sank into the Defile, so King Ragnar took his seat in Khel Venheim, the new Darahlan capital. Khel Darahl entered a period of intense militarization
The Eclipsed Sermon, 765 CF
In 765 CF, news from Gondolen rocked the world. Veristople, the holy city that housed the Covenant Stone, was destroyed by an invasion of the Blooded, abominations born from the death of the firstborn of the Antipodeans during the Gods Fall War. Veristople was the focal point of both the Church Radiant and the Keepers of the Covenant, two of the most powerful religions in the world, and both found themselves scattered and on the run from the Blooded. The Ascendant Sun, spiritual leader of the Church Radiant, died defending Veristople from the Blooded.
The Church Radiant’s western arm, based in Genose, declared that the light of the world had been eclipsed. The Church Radiant in the Cynosure had never been comfortable in the world after the founding of the Covenant, and the progressive politics that dominated Genose had only, in the Church’s estimation at least, allowed corruption to flourish. The Church Radiant vowed to expose and eradicate all evil in the world by any means necessary. The Church began to tighten its control over Genose, frequently finding itself at odds with the leadership in its own nation.
The War of the Twinned Lily, 772 CF – Present
In 772 CF, an army from the Feywild arrived in Lilleroan. The World Tree had been destroyed in the Gods Fall War, weakening the connections between the Cynosure and the Feywild, but these new fey announced themselves as the Court of Spring, come to restore the Cynosure. The head of this Court, Queen Ione Ygrinne, met once with the Lily Queen, demanding that the woman cede her throne to the Spring Court and the supremacy of the Feywild.
The Lily Queen Capucine Aulille refused to step down, initiating the first war to touch the Cynosure in nearly 800 years. Lilleroan found itself on the losing end as the army of the Spring Court poured from the Feywild, a curious mix of eladrin, goblinkind, and even stranger. The sirrol denounced the eladrin of the Spring Court and refused Ione Ygrinne’s demands to join her, remaining loyal to the Lily Queen and their own distant Green Court. Attempts to garner aid from the Feywild failed, however, when the sirrol discovered that their homeland had become treacherous and even wilder still. Familiar landmarks had vanished into the depths of the plane, and chaos ruled where the Courts had once held sway.
In the winter of 774 CF, Ione Ygrinne seized the Palace Verdant and executed most of the Lillian royal court, the Lily Queen included. Capucine Aulille had sent her young heir, the Crown Princess Elodie Aulille, into the safety of northern Lilleroan along with the crown of the World Tree. She had arranged a betrothal with Wester’s Crown Prince Leo Bartell, risking the future security of the Lillian throne in exchange for military support. When the new Lily Queen Ione Ygrinne marched north to claim her true crown, she found herself facing the full might of Wester’s domestic army.
Worse news was on the way for Queen Ione. Reillanwurm had refused to come to Queen Capucine’s aid, regarding the incursion from the Feywild “an internal struggle.” In a sudden reversal, Grand Duke Terminax himself led his armies into Lilleroan with the intent of capturing the Palace Verdant. Typical for the Grand Duke, he gave no reason for his abrupt change of mind. The Spring Court now found itself fighting on two fronts, and two queens ruled in Lilleroan. Ione became known as the Thorned Lily, while Elodie was called the Velvet Lily.
Crusade’s End, the War of Three Lions, 775 CF – Present
Queen Ione’s reign might have been brief if events elsewhere had not already begun spiraling out of control. The bulk of Wester’s army succeeded in capturing the holy country of Kufiri in 775 CF. King Lionel’s official reason for the invasion was to protect Veristople from the perceived threat of Kufiri occupation, but with Veristople destroyed, that reason rang hollow. In truth, Lionel had long been aware that his children had ambitions of their own for Wester, and the crusade had served to stymie those ambitions by tying up Wester’s resources. King Lionel had grown old holding his country together, and when news reached the Cynosure that Kufiri had at last been captured, he died.
One month later, Crown Prince Leo Bartell was to wed the Velvet Lily and assume the throne of Wester. The day before the wedding, however, Leo was assassinated. Flames consumed the wedding grounds, with confused accounts of devils, dragons, and Kufiri mystics circulating in the aftermath. Queen Elodie returned to Lilleroan with a bare fraction of the Wester military to protect her, but for the time being, her throne was secure with Queen Ione’s attention turned to Grand Duke Terminax. The Velvet Lily established her Fallow Court in northern Lilleron but lacked the power to attempt to assume the throne in the Palace Verdant.
Two princes and two princesses remained in Wester. They had been known as the Lion’s Pack, but now they found themselves at odds. The new Crown Prince Brice was accused of orchestrating Leo’s assassination in conjunction with Kufiri, but evidence was slight. The eldest of the Lions, Princess Eoline, declared the rules of succession, which allowed the male Wester heirs to be crowned before any of the females, broken by this turn of events and attempted to claim the throne herself. Meanwhile, young Prince Colben declared his elder siblings villains and presented himself as the true legitimate heir. Princess Margarey refused to support any of the Lions in their bids for the throne, but she herself made no claim to it.
Three heirs called for the loyalty of the Wester nobility, and all gained fractious support. By late 775 CF, all attempts at a diplomatic solution failed, and the War of Three Lions erupted in Wester.
The Albatross Rebellion, 775 CF
Also in this year, civil war broke out in the Calpurnian Isles. An alliance of Calpurnian houses calling itself the Albatross Confederacy opened fire on trading vessels in their own trade fleets and boarded a number of them by force to seize their cargo. The Confederacy had been working with church investigators representing both the Church Radiant and the Keepers of the Covenant to reveal a conspiracy hidden in the Calpurnian trade fleet.
The Confederacy revealed that a powerful faction of Calpurnian pirates had gone underground during the reform of the Calpurnian Isles, lurking in the shadows and steadily accumulating power through black marketeering, slave trading, and drug trafficking. This trade organization called itself the Iron Web, and by the late 700s controlled much of the Calpurnian trade fleet as well as the Isles themselves. The Iron Web had been complicit in a failed scheme to take control of Gondolen’s coast by force and had assisted the Blooded in orchestrating the destruction of Veristople. The seized cargo proved the Confederacy’s claim and revealed the Iron Web’s existence to the world. The Iron Web retaliated immediately, attempting to eradicate the Confederacy.
In the Cynosure, however, this news was greeted with some suspicion. The Albatross Confederacy, in revealing the Iron Web, had shown its own hand to the world, and many of the Cynosure nations realized immediately that the Confederacy had been installing itself in trade networks throughout the Cynosure. Many speculated that the civil war within the Calpurnian Isles was waged between two conspiracies of equal villainy; the Confederacy had simply struck first. The Calpurnian civil war, however, disrupted trade throughout the world and severely weakened the Cynosure’s already tenuous hold on its colonies, all but severing contact entirely. News slowed to a crawl, and suddenly what happened outside the Cynosure became more rumor and hearsay than truth.
The Rise of the Enthroned, 779 CF – Present
In 779 CF, Reillanwurm at last attempted to seize Khel Bregharn and install the Grand Duke’s second child, Kohldrex, as Duke. Terminax was busy campaigning in Lilleroan, so it fell to Duchess Cindrellai and Kohldrex to lead Davianwurm’s forces against King Ragnar. They found, however, that Ragnar had not been idle over the last decade. The Wurm forces were met by a renewed Darahlan military, complete with massive skyships engineered in conjunction with Genose’s Rosing Academy.
The dragons failed to capture Khel Bregharn, retreating to the safety of Davianwurm, but Ragnar followed in their wake to lay siege to the citadel. Reillanwurm reinforced the beleagured Wurms, and the long-expected, full-scale war broke out between Reillanwurm and Khel Darahl.
The Setting Sun Address, 780 CF
In 780 CF, a little-known priest from the Brethren of Aegis Inheritors, Brother Verril Gant, lit the fire of the long-abandoned Watchtower of Lathing and addressed the people of the town. He claimed that the recent events in the Cynosure had been either orchestrated or manipulated by a collection of extraplanar beings with ambitions to rise to godhood and break the Covenant.
The discovery of the dwarven mother’s divine corpse in Khel Gloriad had called into question previous assumptions about the true power and intent of the Covenant, for it claimed that all divine power was held by the Covenant gods, but this was clearly not the case. In addition, the Iron Web had been revealed as conspirators in Veristople’s destruction principally to gain control of a substance known as blood copper found deep in the Dead Plains of Gondolen. Blood copper was imbued with the tainted essence of the slain firstborn Antipodean. Throughout the centuries, tales of cults worshiping devil princes and worse had circulated the world, mostly denied by learned folk. But such tales claimed that these beings grew in power from worship and were able to grant their followers divine power.
Verril Gant explained that the Covenant did not bind all divine essence, and some lingered here and there in the world and the planes. In addition, many beings were able to gain their own divine agency from mortal worship, beings not bound by the Covenant as the true gods were. These beings, collectively known as the Apostates, intended to gain control over mortalkind and supplant the Covenant gods.
Brother Gant also revealed that he belonged to a secret society called the Gloaming, which had existed even in previous ages as agents who watched lengthening shadows for signs of evil to come. The Gloaming now announced to the world that the Antipodeans had failed to eradicate true evil, leaving it in the hands of corrupt immortals and mortals who turned from the light. For the first time since the Covenant’s founding, true evil had risen in a bid for power, and the once champions of light were blind to its rebirth, consumed as they were in their own feuds. The Gloaming would continue to fight in the shadows. So saying, Verril Gant departed Lathing, never to be seen openly again.
Other agents of the Gloaming echoed Brother Gant’s words in most of the civilized world, but their warnings fell on deaf ears. Queen Ione Ygrinne denounced the Gloaming and called for the execution of any agents found operating in Lilleroan, but in Gauthe, the government, particularly the Malachite League, took the Gloaming’s warning seriously. Gauthe alone sent emissaries to Lathing in an attempt to contact the Gloaming, but if they succeeded, they did not acknowledge the fact openly. For the rest of the world, it did not take long for the truth of the Gloaming’s words to reveal itself.
The Apostate Proclamation, 782 CF
In 782 CF, aquatic Jeroen was without warning overrun by a vast horde of elemental abominations. The entire civilization was nearly wiped out in the space of three days, the few surviving refugees fleeing through the Taghspar Canal to the relative safety of Lake Kellie. From beneath the waves, monstrous elementals rose against surface Jeroen, and to Jeroen’s horror, Jeromen cultists, both aquatic and terrestrial, walked among them. Coastal Jeroen was devastated, but here at least the Jeromen, with aid from Genose and the Rosing Academy, were able to stall the horde’s advance.
The cultists revealed themselves as worshipers of the Apostate Laskideon, Behemoth Beneath the Waves, and announced his coming. Laskideon himself did rise from the sea, an armored monster towering over the shoreline. The ocean surged with his steps, and a massive tidal wave drowned the coast as Laskideon set one foot on land.
Jeroen, forewarned by the survivors of aquatic Jeroen, had prepared a desperate countermeasure. The royalty of coastal Jeroen had reigned in cooperation with the royalty of aquatic Jeroen through the Oath of Tides, which had been sanctioned by the Antipodean gods. Great power lay in the Oath, and Maldine Salt-Heart, King of Jeroen, unleashed this power upon Laskideon, petrifying the behemoth in coral. As a consequence for his actions, however, Maldine was petrified as well. Laskideon and Maldine still stand on Jeroen’s shore, the Bwith one foot on dry land and the king with one hand outstretched in forbiddance.
The elemental horde retreated beneath the waves, but Laskideon’s cultists remained hidden in Jeroen, taking the name of the Cult of the Colossus and able to communicate dimly with their imprisoned master. All their efforts were bent on freeing Laskideon from bondage so that he may continue his march on the Cynosure.
At the same time that Laskideon rose from the sea, another Apostate rose as well, this one from the Kelsser Mountains in Khel Darahl, and he was villain already known to the world: Bruhl. The lich survived his destruction at the hands of dwarven heroes in Khel Gloriad thanks to the worship of the derro and his infusion of the mother goddess’s essence. Following the destruction of Khel Gloriad, Bruhl was reborn as an Apostate, a self-proclaimed god of undeath and new father of the dwarves. The derro poured from beneath Khel Darahl, supported by golems forged from Bruhl’s teachings, and they demanded the dwarves’ worship.
Here, Khel Darahl’s schism finally cracked wide open, for the derro attacked southern Khel Darahl, where the dissident heroes of Khel Gloriad had settled. The two southernmost citadels had refused to join Ragnar in his war against Davianwurm, instead turning their attention inward to create for themselves a new racial identity based on true justice tempered by mercy and creation rather than destruction. Great smiths used Gemsworn to craft the first warforged created since the Gods Fall War. These dwarves put aside the name of the Unseated to become the Reforged.
Now, faced with a derro invasion, the Reforged appealed to King Ragnar for aid, but he refused, citing the need to commit his resources to recapturing Khel Davian. Those dwarves loyal to him had also renamed themselves the Enthroned, and they had little sympathy for their traitorous cousins to the south.
The Reforged bore the full brunt of the derro invasion, but they were not as alone as King Ragnar expected. The Boartusk Regiment, those Gauthodes who had exposed the plot to place a Gauthode puppet king on the Darahlan throne, had also settled amongst the Reforged, and they had begun to rebuild their relationship with their motherland. The Malachite League, a Gauthode political group who was most interested in insuring that Gauthe continued to distance itself from its evil heritage, was especially sympathetic to the Regiment’s appeal for clemency, and they had pushed the Gauthode’s military elite to forgive the Regiment’s actions.
When Bruhl reappeared, it was Gauthe who answered the Reforged’s call for aid, and the Malachite League led a Gauthode army from Khel Behrin against the derro. War consumed southern Khel Darahl and Gauthe, but the dwarves and orcs together managed to hold the derro at bay. Bruhl’s cultists were much more forthcoming than Laskideon’s, and they delighted in revealing the Apostates’ existence, confirming that nine Apostates led their fellows in a rebellion against the Covenant, and they named themselves the True.
The Black Lion Betrayal, 784 CF
In 784 CF, the War of Three Lions in Wester reached a new stage. Princess Eoline lost her bid for the Wester throne, and she was forced to flee Wester or face imprisonment. Foreseeing her loss, however, Eoline was prepared. She fled to Kufiri, where the bulk of her father’s army remained, trying to hold a fragile peace in the conquered land. Eoline married General Leeman Surl, a man who had been her father’s champion and was now the defacto ruler of Kufiri. Eoline secured the crusaders’ loyalty and crowned herself the deposed queen of Wester. In Wester, however, where her two brothers continued their war for the throne, she was named the Black Lion.
The Inquisition of Shrouds, 785 CF
The Church Radiant exposed a third Apostate in Genose in 785 CF, the demon Marrowmodes. Marrowmodes fancied himself a patron of the arts and carnal pleasures, and his cult had integrated itself in all levels of Genosan society, preaching enlightenment through physical indulgence. The Marrowmodeons were responsible for the flourishing of tiefling births in Genose, along with the renaissance of arts and magic that had benefited Genose in its recent history. Despite its efforts, the Church Radiant was not able to persuade the populace to turn against what seemed a benevolent patron, causing the Church to tighten its inquisition, ignoring public outcry.
The Apostates had come, as the Gloaming predicted, but the Cynosure stood helpless as their cults grew.
Today, 791 CF
The days of security in the Cynosure are long gone. War consumes every nation, and what few rulers are left are unable to maintain peace beyond their immediate seats of power. Wester, Lilleroan, Jeroen, and Genose suffer from governments so fractious or weak that the rule of law barely exists beyond the reach of the military. Reillanwurm holds secure at its center, but fighting a war on two fronts rapidly drains its resources, and the Grand Duke is not one to tolerate diminishment of his power lightly. The Calpurnian Isles have returned to their rogue state of old as hidden powers vie for supremacy over the world’s wealth.
Khel Darahl’s power grows as King Ragnar continues to stoke the fires Kullreaver ignited in his people, and the Reforged worry that his entanglement with Davianwurm is all that prevents him from turning his attention to the south. Surely, if he could leverage the power, quashing the southern dissidents and reclaiming Khel Behrin from Gauthe must be his next priority.
Gauthe alone has been untouched in this age of collapse, but some speculate that secret allegiances with darkness have preserved the nation, while others suspect that the orcs’ attempts at redemption have earned them a special punishment from the returned powers of evil. The hammer has simply yet to fall.
The light fades rapidly, and night falls cold and long in the Cynosure. Evil walks among men, and cries for help are consumed by howling winds. None have yet risen to challenge the encroaching darkness.