Ashes of Lost Time
In time immemorial, matter distilled from the surrounding aether into the forms, giving rise to substance. From this substance, the races were born. The races lived in a cycle of harmony with the natural world, a state of bliss and ignorance. This epoch lasted for a time too immense to be grasped by mortal minds.
One day, the old gods arrived. They raised the races up, making them wise, teaching them the secrets of arcane magic, but at the same time enslaving them. Dwelling on the material plane amongst their followers, these dark gods and their armies of slaves built a vast and lasting empire. While this empire was stunning to behold, it rested upon the suffering and misery of the races.
So great was this suffering that it reached the ears of the True Gods, dwelling in their palaces on the distant planes. The True Gods began whispering to those who would listen, and their worship began to quietly spread. Not realizing the danger, the old gods ignored these new “fads” of their minions. Indeed, by this time the old gods were so powerful and so entrenched that they could scarcely comprehend the idea of their followers as sentient individuals, whose lives flashed before them like mayflies in a spring frenzy.
Until the Conversion, that is.
On a cold winter solstice, as the world lay wrapped in the darkness of Long Night, the worship of the True Gods finally became just strong enough. Thus the True Gods were able to thrust their powers across time and space, from the outer planes into the material realm; divine magic was born.
Armed with new and awe inspiring powers, the Prophets of the True Gods converted whole legions at a time, and the new faith spread across the land like a wildfire. Suddenly realizing what was happening, the old gods struggled vainly to reassert dominion over the hearts of their subjects. But it was too late, and the great war was begun.
The war raged for one hundred and one years before the dark gods were cast down and destroyed. The races stood in the smoking, scorched ruins of the old gods’ empire; they were free at last.
It took many generations to rebuild civilization, but the priests of the True Gods were able to work together, and built the First Empire of the Free Races. The First Empire never reached the stunning glory that had preceded it, but was nevertheless mighty. The First Empire lasted for a million days. During this time, no longer as needed as they once were, the True Gods drew back. Though the True Gods were still accessible, the races shifted their focus from wielding divine magic to administering their empire.
Still, not all were happy. The races were free, but many individuals got the short end of the stick, cast in this new society as slaves, servants, and the downtrodden. The First Empire grew old, discord grew deep.
As an ever smaller caste of elite sat upon an ever larger caste of peasants, a longing for the old gods slowly grew. After all, better a slave to a god than your own kind. Rebellion swept the First Empire. The destruction was much less than at the end of the great war, but the First Empire was at an end, fragmented into tiny, warring kingdoms. Many returned to a barbaric way of life, choosing the wilderness over the troubles of “civilization.”
It is now six centuries since the fall of the First Empire. Some consolidation has occurred between the coastally located feudal states. However, no overarching government exists. News travels slow, and much of the land is cloaked in mystery and shadow.
The True Gods still remain distant, and divine magic is rare and mastered only by those few with truly great devotion. The lack of organization and government means knowledge, and thus arcane magic, is rarely shared and much coveted. Despite this the races still struggle to reassert their power, and some dream they slowly make progress towards a better future.