The Southron Age

All that is known about the Southron Age is that which gives it its name: that it took place in the south. Every human culture on Leng today can be traced to region now known as the Plains of Dust, as well as the southern coasts where Khazath still lies. This is where the only remaining artifacts of the earliest humans of Leng can be found. They are found amongst the ancient buried cities and crumbling ruins in the Plains of Dust, the great pyramids and weathered monuments that must once have been surrounded by gentle savannahs. Now, of course, they are surrounded by scorching desert - and only the most intrepid explorers have ventured far into the dunes.

The other remnants of the people of the south are those living in Khazath. Those living on the southern shores are said to be the oldest peoples on all of Leng, and they worship their own gods: gods which they believe were the first gods. Before the Trinity, even before the "Old Gods", were the Shedoleth, they say. They believe that these gods accompanied them on a great voyage across the ocean from the lost city of Altae, which is said to have sunk into the sea. Although they are the saviors of the human race, it is said that they felt a great sorrow for some wrong they had done. And so they interred themselves, it is said, in the Citadel of Penance. This holy site still stands to this very day in the city of Tael Leilan, and those who believe in the Shedoleth, or Custodians, believe that their gods are still sealed within.

No one now alive knows what ended the Southron Age, scorched the Plains of Dust, and prompted the Great Exodus. Perhaps someday some clue from the desert will reveal to the world what happened to the Southron Empire, or what lies beneath the streets of Tael Leilan.

The Ripple

About 7,000 BE

Few of the creatures we call Fey now exist openly on Morus - they are entities of another time, mostly restricted to small and diminutive specimens such as pixies or near-mindless monsters of legendary status. They have, for the most part, departed from Leng; what remains of their once-sprawling demesnes have been inherited by their elven successors. In the Age of Mysteries, however, the Fey ruled supreme over Leng. Despite everything else for which it is known, many associate the first departure of the Fey with the beginning of the Southron Age - an event known to elven scholars as "The Ripple".

The name comes from a metaphor for what exactly happened to the Fey of Leng. The pristine, unbroken wilderness of primeval Leng is akin to a pool of water. The mortal refugees who came to it from the south are akin to a handful of stones cast into that pool. Though they were small compared to the vastness of the Fey wilderness, their presence set in motion an inexorable chain of events - a slow departure that continues even to this day.

The Humans

By 7000 BE or so, the mortal presence on Leng had very much made itself felt. In the south, the Fey had contended fiercely with the Custodians, making war on them as the patrons of humanity carved out a place for their charges to inhabit. The might of the Custodians was like nothing they had encountered before in terms of sheer power, and the spirits of the natural world were driven back mercilessly by them. Much as it would have confused the people of Khazath to know this, many of the Fey of this time were as fearful of human lands as the humans were of the Fey wilderness. This is likely one of the reasons that human settlers found colonising the Andruith Fields - now called the Plains of Dust - so easy.

Having withdrawn, the Fey looked warily into the edges of human lands. The Custodians may have departed, but they had learned the humans were unpredictable and full of surprises in ways completely different from their own inscrutable and capricious natures. This is not to say they left the humans alone entirely - far from the case. Whether through stubbornness or curiosity, many Fey did not flee into the vastness of their domains when the Custodians were doing their work. They stayed, either beneath the notice of humans or in places where men feared to tread - even as today, there are forests and marshes that all know are bewitched by the fair folk.

In the end, the Fey were kept from destroying humanity by a mix of wariness for the Custodians and their own ineffable curiosity for what these strange new interlopers might do. They bided their time in the wilderness beyond what the Custodians had prepared for humankind - allowing no further encroachment, but suffering the mortals to live their lives in the lands now called Blackreach, Khazath, and the Plains of Dust.

The Halflings

In the land now known as Nevermoor, halflings found themselves in a much different situation. Without the likes of the Custodians to protect them, they were small candle-flames in the guttering wind of the alien Fey. Though many perished, it was the halfling knack for remaining quiet and hidden that helped them to survive - and won the kinship of many similar beings amongst the Fey, such as pixies and brownies. Slowly but surely, they made their own niche in the gentle fields and hidden hills of eastern Leng.

Even in the present day, elves are very fond of halflings. Given their ability to vanish beneath the notice of the "tall folk", there are many who believe that the halflings are closer to Fey than the humans they originated from.

The Invaders

The third force to confound the Fey denizens of Leng came not from the south at all, but from the north. Ever since the war between the Aesir and the frost giants, Nordmaar had been a place inhabited both by norsemen and by the monstrous creatures left behind by that war. Separated from Leng by the Ocean of Winter, both Fey and Norse alike were blisfully unaware of each other's presence - until the fimbulwinter.

It is not clear what caused the north of Morus to suddenly grow drastically colder, even amongst those with knowledge of such things. It is possible that whatever forces were unleashed by the creation of the Boiling Ocean had an indirect effect elsewhere, causing the north pole to grow far colder than it had been before. Other claim that the corpse of Thrym, left for dead by the Aesir, still lives - and that the fabled king of the jotunn was responsible for the icy grip of endless winter.

Whatever the reason, the denizens of the north were greatly affected by the descending cold. The Norsemen of Nordmaar were least perturbed - their land had been the most temperate of northern lands. Though it grew colder and harsher, they were a hardy people and had no trouble adapting. The Frozen Wastes to the north were another matter, however. They grew so frigid that nothing could survive there, and the monstrous descendants of Thrym's armies were driven out.

Some invaded Nordmaar, causing a cataclysm for Norsemen that nearly wiped them out. Others crossed the Ocean of Winter on foot and by crude boats and arrived on the northern shores of Leng, where they thrived in the warm climate. It was these that gave the Fey more trouble than anything else, growing and driving the Fey further and further back with each passing year. Even to this day, the northern reaches of Leng are known as the "Monstrous Lands", and are a desolate and dangerous place for any to traverse.

The Legend of Andruith

About 6,000 BE

A full millennium after the end of the Great Migration - and, in turn, the end of the Age of Mysteries - the plains of Andruith were the most densely populated human lands on Leng. Though Andruith came to be known as a treacherous desert land (termed "the Plains of Dust") in later times, it is said that this was not the case during the Southron Age. To the contrary, Andruith was said to be a lush paradise prepared for mankind by the Custodians - a place of rolling hills, gentle valleys and sparkling rivers. The small towns and villages of Andruith were populous and prosperous, sending trade goods along the canals and rivers that criss-crossed the country.

Even the hunter-gatherers of Khazath and the Untamed Lands were not free from their influence, for the technologies born in the heartland spread far and wide throughout southwestern Leng. There were even the beginnings of a written language - Andruan Knife-Marks, the oldest human script in all of Leng. It is from rare finds of ancient artifacts inscribed with this rudimentary language that anything is known of Andruith at all. The picture they paint is one that confuses even the most dedicated of scholars, for they are often conflicting and make little sense. What lore has arisen from careful study of these artifacts, however, tells a dire tale indeed - the tale of the Searing of the Plains of Dust.

The Warden of Eridur

According to inscriptions upon its ancient temple's walls, Eridur was an ancient human settlement, and a poor one at that. Far from the life-giving rivers that supported the major trade settlements of Andruith, Eridur was constantly plagued by drought and dry fields. This went on until one fateful day, it is said, when a humble goatherder struck a life-giving aquifer beneath the earth. To the ancients, this wondrous outpouring of water seemed like the act of a divine presence, and they fell on their knees before it. They were not entirely wrong - for this aquifer, unusually large and deep, was not the home of a god but an undine - an elemental spirit of water.

As new life flowed from the spring of Eridur, the wise men and women of the village gave thanks to their protector and venerated her, naming her Ea. They constructed a great temple around their wells, from which flowed the irrigation channels and canals that gave the town life. By the grace of their patron god, Eridur grew larger than any other town of the Andruith, led by a council of elders and a priest-king to whom Ea spoke directly. Her magics sustained the aquifer beneath Eridur, and those in need of proof needed only look at the clay walls of the great temple - they were said to be covered in webs of steaming ice in all seasons.

So it came to pass that the first city was built. Little did the town's elders realise when they struck that life-giving wellspring that they had set in motion events beyond their control.

The Theocracies of Andruith

By 5800 BE, the theocratic city-state of Eridur was growing from an upstart novelty to a looming presence in the Andruith lands. Its power and influence extended far past the streets and canals of Eridur itself; as a built-up urban center and trade hub, the elders and priest-king of Eridur only grew in power as time passed. Such a large city, home to 4000 souls, was a threatening prospect to its neighbours. It was only a matter of time, they thought, before Eridur grew jealous of the lands around it - then its armies would no longer protect the city from bandits, but ride out on missions of conquest. And the neighbours of Eridur were not the only ones to take note; other, more ephemeral forces had observed the work of the undine Ea beneath Eridur's House of the Waters. Some questioned why she would dedicate herself to the protection of mortals, but others saw the beginnings of an opportunity.

The fears of Eridur's neighbours were well-founded. The surrounding agricultural villages, which had long been vassals to Eridur in all but name, had become part of the city-state proper by 5750 BE. As they continued their expansion, two proximate and large towns merged to become Tarsis-Thule, the second city-state. Between Eridur and Tarsis-Thule there were many conflicts during this period of expansion, but never outright war. Few were willing to risk angering the new god of Eridur without divine protection of their own.

It was at this point, in 5700 BE, that the other elemental spirits began to truly take notice. For while Ea had originally been little more than a protector and patron spirit for Eridur, a change had taken place as the city grew and thrived. The priest-king and his acolytes no longer merely made their offerings to the undine; they manifested powers of their own, turning the power of water into healing light that washed away wound and disease from the faithful. Slowly but surely, the spirits of the wild came to the realisation that somehow, Ea was growing in power - that, in being worshiped by mankind, she was taking on the aspect of divinity herself.

Their reaction was both swift and predictable. In the Andruith lands there were the seeds of a symbiotic relationship waiting to be formed. The elementals and spirits of the wild, desirous of the power that human belief could confer upon them, only needed followers. Meanwhile, the people of Andruith wanted gods of their own to protect themselves from the seemingly unstoppable expansion of the Eridur city-state. So it came to pass that the Theocratic Period began; over the course of the next 200 years, city-states would spring up in fierce competition throughout Andruith, each with their own patron protector deity. It was a time of great tension, and one in which numerous small wars were fought for territory and power.

Throughout this period, the face of Andruith was changed by numerous small wars. The making of weapons and the art of warfare became part of life, an innovation that could not be put back into the box. Though the gods of the Andruith were fundamentally self-interested, city-states with similar deities had formed tenuous alliances for their own mutual success. Although each god remained associated with a specific city as patron, rough pantheons begin to arise amongst these deities.

By 5500 BE, three major factions had appeared amongst the Andruith: the Altans, the Nammu and the Myrukol. The served the pantheons of nature, water and fire respectively and had fought each other to a standstill. Wearied from the constant fighting for land and power, the three factions of the Andruith were happy to establish wary borders and focus on internal politics over warmongering.

The War of the Searing

For 100 years, a tentative peace reigned over the three ruling factions of Andruith. Hostilities had subsided in an uneasy pace between the land's three factions, but the tensions had not ceased to bubble. Three kingdoms had been established, but the central question remained: who would ultimately rule? The land of Andruith, which had once held the promise of plenty and opportunity to the tribes of the south, now seemed like a place of war and treachery. Many of those in the south pointed to the new gods of the Andruith as the root cause of this evil - that men and women who had once coexisted peacefully had become obsessed with earning ever more power and influence. Instead of subsistence or even prosperity, they now strove for subjugation, lasting glory and a legacy.

In the Kingdom of Nammu, power was divided equally. Each of the priest-kings of the city-states retained their title, and together formed a council which made all decisions. Although their gods were in many ways aligned, however, there were many ways in which they differed. Strong disagreement between the rulers of Nammu was frequent, though none dared to risk the wrath of the others by declaring open war. Nonetheless, sabotage and subterfuge between servants of the various kings was common.

In the Kingdom of Myrukol, power was far more centralised. Myrukol was composed of far more city-states than Nammu, small and weak ones without much power of their own. They banded together for their own preservation under the banner of Marad, a powerful city-state that was dedicated to the fire-god known as Myrukol. It did not take long after the end of the Crusade Period for Marad to establish rulership for itself.

It was the Kingdom of Alta, however, that would end the fragile peace. For while the others were establishing their bases of power, Alta remained as fractious as ever. The city-states, unable to agree or work together, began to fragment - the wisdom of the alliance forgotten in the wake of feuds and vendettas. Many of these tensions were centered on the city-state of Alta, which sat on emerald mines that enriched it far beyond those around. By 5400 BE, civil war had weakened Alta enough that Myrukol and Nammu could resist temptation no longer.

A simple squabble over succession within Alta quickly became the pretense for an all-out war between Myrukol and Nammu. Alta itself did not last long - its various factions quickly allying with one would-be empire or the other for survival. So it came to pass that the War of the Searing took place - though it took place so long ago that no scholar of today would know to call it so.

For the next two centuries, war ravaged the once-pleasant fields. Most of the developments that occurred during this period are lost to history - suffice to say that by the time a century had passed, Myrukol, Alta and Nammu were no more. The boundaries and allegiances had blurred too much for such names to have any meaning any longer - there was only the Andruan Empire, and various factions desperately fighting to gain control of it.

A great many people fled north during this period, into lands they had never dared brave before. Such was the horror that even the tales - old legends, by this point - of dark spirits in the north was not enough to dissuade settlers from venturing forth. Cities crumbled, atrocities were committed. Creatures just now filtering in from the north joined gleefully in the conflict - creatures which humans would never have tolerated in times gone by now fought alongside them. Orcs, goblins, bugbears, ogres. As the people of Andruith cast aside all that had made them great and descended into meaningless war, there was little now to distinguish them from these creatures.

The Searing

The fall of Andruith from an idyllic promised land to the war-torn wastelands of the Searing were by no means sudden. From the beginning of the Great Migration in 9000 BE to the emergence of the first elemental deity near 6000 BE to the wars that engulfed the land by 5300 BE, nearly three millennia had passed since humans first left Khazath and the Shedoleth and forged their own path in the world. However slow and inexorable this fall from grace was, however, the result was the same - Andruith had become a dangerous and broken land. However much blood was paid for it, however, the Andruan Empire was not destined to be. For it was in 5300 BE that the Custodians broke their own compact and took action.

Disregarding their oath to interfere no longer in the affairs of mortals, the Custodians acted openly for the first and last time since the construction of the Citadel of Penance. Dain of the Sunrise, leader of the Custodians, came to the Plains of Dust alone - and for the first time in thousands of years, unleashed his power upon the world. The effects were catastrophic. The false fey gods, making war upon the plains, were caught by surprise by the searing light that washed over the land. Lakes dried up and armies were turned to ash. So it came to pass the the once-fertile plains of Andruith were scorched, and the harsh desert now known as the Plains of Dust came to be.

In the aftermath of the Searing, only remnants remained - remnants of men, remnants of gods. The surviving humans were scattered across the Plains of Dust, leaderless and without recourse in the bitter desert. By necessity, they were forced to adopt the nomadic ways of their ancestors, fleeing north to escape the relentless heat of the sand. As for the gods - those who survived the Searing were those who had held themselves aloof from the wars of power and influence. They had been content to abide in their own extraplanar realms and guide their charges from afar instead of fighting wars on the ground. These were gods such as Ea, Myrkul, Molyb, Nimbul and Vashidin - those now known as the "Old Gods".

With the Searing of the Plains of Dust, the Southron Age came to an end.