The Beginning

Humans were not always the dominant race of Cerilia. The true natives are the elves and dwarves, the keepers of the forests and the guardians of the mountains. For centuries, they lived peacefully alongside each other, because each had its own enemies to fend off – the humanoids.

Gnolls, goblinoids, and ogres swarmed through Cerilia. Creatures of night and darkness, these humanoids lived where the elves and dwarves shunned. Yet they constantly raided, traveling through the dwarven mountains and the elven forests to take treasure and lay siege to the humanoid encampments. Matters continued in this vein for hundreds, even thousands of years.

Then came the humans. Five tribes, the Andu, the Brecht, the Masetians, the Rjuven, and the Vos, fleeing from the domination of decadent empires and the wrath of an evil god, crossed a ocean into Cerilia from the southern continent of Djynn, and began making new homes. A sixth tribe, the Basarji, joined them from the lands beyond the Dragon Sea. The Cerilian wilderness was thus touched by the hand of man, and would never be the same again.

Cerilia's dwarves, concentrating on holding back the ogre forces, had little time or inclination to investigate or negotiate with the humans. The invaders, likewise busy, had more important things to do than to brave the mountain passes the dwarves called home. The two races eventually developed an unspoken agreement with the other, namely, that humans were welcome in the mountains as long as they caused no trouble and would somehow contribute to society.

The elves, on the other hand, were competing with the humans for the most beautiful land in Cerilia. At first, the elves thought they could live in mutual enjoyment of the forest, and this arrangement worked for a time. The presence of the humans drew the attention of the humanoids that constantly raided through the forest. Despite the ferocity of the humanoids, the humans proved to be resourceful enough to stand fast, and eventually the humanoids were beaten back. Not long after such battles became commonplace, humans began looking to elven lands as places for expansion.

The elves were fiercely resistant to this, for they had fought long and hard to keep their lands. When the humans began to force the elves from their ancestral homes, the elven leaders began the gheallie Sidhe, or Hunt of the Elves. Elven knights roamed the lands held by the elves, slaying any humans they found trespassing in their borders. Woodcutters and peasants gathering firewood were slain as brutally as the warriors that would-be kings sent to conquer the elven realms. It was all-out war between the two races.

Still, the elves were pushed back year after year because of an element they had never seen before – priestly magic. The elves could call upon the forces inherent in wood and water, field and air, but had never worshiped deities and thus couldn't understand this new source of power. The human priests were the deciding force against the elven expertise in magic and combat; the gods favored humans to such an extent that the elves found themselves practically powerless.

The fair folk conceded the plains, the hills, and the coasts to the upstart humans, and withdrew to the sanctity of their forests, concentrating their efforts on destroying any human foolish enough to venture there. The only ones who did were those seeking elven knowledge or seeking revenge on the elves for their atrocities. Only rarely did either kind ever return from the woods.

The Shadow's Arrival

For a time, humans were virtually free to choose their destinies in this new land. Though the ever-present threat of elven retaliation and humanoid incursion lingered, the humans found themselves all but unopposed in their efforts. Kings rose and fell as tribes settled and tamed the land. Five centuries passed.

Then the Shadow came to Cerilia. This god of evil, known as Azrai, made his way to the new land. When he found that humans had prospered in Cerilia, Azrai realized that he would need to muster a significant force to destroy them. First, Azrai took his teachings to the goblinoids and gnolls of western Cerilia, in the land called Vosgaard. By inclination, they had always believed in the power of the Shadow; now he granted them priestly abilities to prove it. Naturally, those of greatest evil inclined toward Azrai's priesthood, and they rose to power quickly among the tribes of humanoid.

Next, the God of Shadow went to the Vos, the humans of the area. Not realizing that Azrai was the Shadow from whom they had fled hundreds of years ago, they took his words of strength and power and made them their own. When the Vos had been thoroughly corrupted by the very teachings they had escaped to Cerilia to avoid, Azrai traveled to the elves and dwarves, whispering to them of revenge against their enemies, the destruction of all things unclean, and the restoration of Cerilia as it had once been. He sought them out in dreams and omens, signs and portents, and spoke to them of the excellence of the past, when no humans defiled the surface of Cerilia.

The dwarves found nothing in Azrai's words to provoke them, and so they steered clear of his temptations. The elves, on the other hand, had burned with the desire for revenge against humanity ever since their exile to the deep woods. They cleaved to the teachings of Azrai and pour their energy into preparations for war. With the humanoids, elves, and Vos to support the Azrai’s demonic forces, his victory was assured.

The War of Shadow

Kings and priests set aside their differences to face the threat of the Shadow. Rogue and merchants brought their resources to the war, setting aside personal rivalries. Even the dwarves joined the humans against Azrai.

The armies of the Shadow, made up of the Vos barbarian tribes, the goblinoids, the beastmen, and the elves, pushed into Cerilia, dominating and destroying everything they encountered. The Anuirean human armies were led by two brothers, Heironeous and Roele, but the evil humanoids overwhelmed them.

The gods knew the final victory of Azrai was at hand. In a desperate attempt to prevent him from realizing goal of annihilating the Cerilians, they gathered their people's armies at the fields of Pesh. Each god chose a champion or two from among their tribes, a champion that exemplified what the god loved best in humanity. All of them withdrew to wait on the slopes of Mount Deismaar. The armies of the Shadow followed, with Azrai himself at their head.

The clash on the slopes of Deismaar was an epic battle, man and monster struggling against each other in the vain attempt to triumph. Nonetheless, despite the bravery and skill of the Cerilian warriors, it seemed certain that the humans would end the day by lying dead on the slopes of Deismaar.

Then, without warning, the elves came across to the human side of the battlefield, slaughtering the Vos and southern warriors as they came. The elven generals had discovered Azrai for the evil that he was, and realized they had been deceived. A handful of elves remained with the shadow, unable to cast aside the blindness of hatred. Of these, Rhuobhe Manslayer is the most famous. The elves’ change in alliance helped to even the odds considerably.

It was then that Heironeous, champion of Anduiras and the Anuireans, stepped forward to do battle with the most powerful of Azrai's champions – Heironeous's half-brother, Hextor the Black Prince, a man who had sold himself to the god of evil. All across the Mount, the gods' champions squared off against Azrai's henchmen. Likewise, on the slopes of Deismaar above, the gods took physical form to try to defeat Azrai once and for all.

The gods poured everything they had into the effort to destroy the shadow that had fallen across Cerilia. The heavens shook; the earth rumbled. In a final bid for freedom from Azrai, the deities risked all by facing each other in physical form. All was chaos; then an explosion destroyed the landscape, leveling the lands for miles around the mighty mountain Deismaar. The olds gods and most of their forces died in the smoking crater of the mountain.

Despite the force of the explosion, many warriors from both sides survived. The divine essences of the dying gods were released in their death throws; this essence washed over the surviving warriors and changed them forever.

The birth of the new gods and the abominations

The survivors of the battle on Mount Deismaar were, with few exceptions, those who best exemplified the qualities the gods strove to uphold. Power flowed through and about them, reflecting the natures of the gods who had sacrificed these energies.

The chosen champions of the gods absorbed much of the divine essence that washed across the land. Standing so close to the gods, and closest to the gods in their ideals, they absorbed enough divine energy to become gods themselves. The new gods were: Heironeous, a noble warrior and successor to Anduiras; Ehlonna, high druid of Erik; Cuthbert, high priest of Brenna; Boccob, high priest of the Basarji and successor to Basaïa; Hextor, champion of Azrai; Vecna, a high priest of Azrai; Erythnul, war chief of the Vostian tribes arrayed under the banner of Azrai; Tiamat, a priestess of Masela; and Wee Jas, the weaver (high magician) of Vorynn.

Others who did not so perfectly mirror the old gods still absorbed some of their energy. Abilities they had never possessed before were suddenly at their fingertips, aching to be used. These survivors came to be known as blooded scions.
A brief but bloody battle ensued as the survivors fought their way free of the battlefield. During these conflicts, scions discovered that they could rip the godly power from their enemies and thereby make themselves that much stronger. This usurpation is now known as bloodtheft.

Those of the gods that hadn’t walked the fields of Pesh in the flesh and though were alive saw that though Azrai had been killed many of his disciples had survived. To stop the shadow from being able to form again the remaining gods, lead by Pelor and Kord, rounded up many of the dark disciples and imprisoned them deep within the creation.

Many of Azrai's other minions escaped to remote hiding places. They emerged occasionally throughout the next hundreds of years to kill those who carried the divine bloodlines. The use of the dark power running through the veins of Azrai’s chosen began to warp and transform them over this time. Their powers seemed to create outward shapes or forms that matched the blight of their spirit. The elves were the first to notice the change, and to realize the cause of it. They called the abominations the awnsheghlien (aun-SHEY-lin), or "blood of darkness." In time, only the uneducated referred to these creatures as abominations. Some of these awnsheghlien survive to the present day, their lives prolonged by the dark powers of Azrai. From time to time, new awnsheghlien are created when bloodlines tainted by Azrai’s derivation happen to breed true. Regardless of their origins, the awnsheghlien continue to be the greatest danger facing Cerilia.

The mightiest of the awnsheghlien was the Gorgon, the remnant of humanity that once was Hextor, the half-brother of Heironeous and Roele. The Gorgon's hatred of his brothers drove him to acts of destruction far greater than those schemed by his followers, and thus his power grew more rapidly than theirs. Even so, the other awnsheghlien were not to be regarded lightly – their power still derived from Azrai.

However, the awnsheghlien were not the only ones who cultivated the powers of their gifts. The children of those who'd been infused with divine essence of the other gods also grew in stature. They, too, gained vitality from their fallen foes – provided their enemies were also of the blood of the gods. Those of the blood who established themselves as lords learned that they could also gain even more might from their populace and the earth itself, as well as increase the power of their kingdoms by pouring the blood back into it. Those with native intelligence, brute strength, or a combination of the two learned how to increase their power through wise rule and the knowledge of when to pound their neighbors into submission.

So it was that the next struggle for domination of Cerilia began. Would-be conquerors now sought the takeover of a kingdom and the death of the previous king, both to ensure the legitimacy of their claim to the throne and to consume the bloodline. The land was torn asunder yet again, this time by power-hungry people of the blood seeking the ultimate power – rule of Cerilia by absorbing the blood of the gods.

The formation of the Anuirean Empire

Though the new gods had made a pact that they would never interfere physically in the world again, they were not above giving advice to their people, for they were still human enough then to feel ties to their old ways of life. Heironeous walked with his brother in dreams, and promised support if Roele would only try to bring order to Cerilia.

Roele chose to use his new powers not to glorify his own station, but to forge an empire of justice that would stand over time. With his friends at his side and using his divine power, he united the southwestern corner of the continent. When he added most of the Heartlands and the Western Coast to his rule, those who saw his power flocked to his banner.

Roele called his kingdom Anuire after those who had first settled the land. Granting lands to those who had first supported him, he ensured their loyalty and thus the loyalty of their vassals. With his core of power behind him, Roele was ready to try to bring the rest of Cerilia under his rule.

The Emperors of Anuire looked next to the south and north, seeking to dominate the Brechtur and Rjurik. Success with the Rjurik was limited, for the warriors of the frozen tundra knew the terrain far better than his knights could. The Empire retreated from Rjurik lands, and instead won their leaders over with kind words and gifts.

Anuire found the sea-faring Brecht a much easier target than the Rjurik. The Brecht eventually capitulated to the Anuirean forces, and the Empire was free to move on to the Basarji. Though the Basarji mages were formidable, the Empire's stratagems and power were enough for the Basarji to be brought under the Anuirean heel. They did not go down without a fight, but they eventually submitted. After the Basarji, the Empire turned its attention west, to Vosgaard where the combined forces of the Vos and their inhuman neighbors turned the might of the Empire.

Although the Roele and his descendents did not conquer the entire continent, they did a fair job of uniting an empire that would stand strong for almost a thousand years.

The ruins of empire

When Roele died, his heirs continued to rule the Empire wisely and well, even granting some measure of independence to the various people within it. Those who possessed bloodlines continued to squabble with each other, challenging each other for the right to rule and the right to continue a bloodline, but the Empire stood strong for a thousand years, with Roele's line dominant above all until, Michael Roele, the last of the line, had the foolish audacity to challenge the Gorgon himself. Michael braved untold dangers to face the most powerful of the awnsheghlien. Unsurprisingly, he was slain by the Gorgon and upon his death the Empire crumbled. Everyone who had anticipated vying for Michael's crown and his Iron Throne found themselves trying to achieve their dreams.

Continuous civil war racked Anuire for many years. Instead of trying to make the Empire cleave together, the powerhungry dukes and lords sought to take land for themselves. The men and women ruling in Anuire sought personal glory, and ignored the needs of the Empire as a whole. The regents and kings sought each other's heads rather than minds, and kingdoms rather than kinship.

The Empire fell apart into so many warring kingdoms. The subjugated people threw off the Anuirean shackles and reclaimed their own destiny. Every ruler sought only his or her greater glory, ignoring the needs of the Empire as a whole. The regents and kings sought each other's heads and kingdoms. After a few hundred years of this chaos, all eventually settled enough that roughly stable borders could be drawn. Bloodlines emerged from this new chaos, as did new kings.

Even now, five centuries since the passing of the last Roele emperor, the land is uneasy and divided, and even peaceful kingdoms must watch their borders against aggressive neighbors. The people yearn for peace. In truth, all the land needs is the hand of a wise and noble leader to guide it, and Empire could be reborn. Every ruler believes that that he is the one, and only one, to accomplish this task. Because of this, the land continues its needless strife, and will until a true leader emerges from the many bloodlines.

 

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