A Brief OutlineIn the Beginning...
Before there was time there was the Cosmic Maelstrom. An infinite storm of chaos composed of all possibilities. Within its primal fury everything was constantly forming and collapsing in on itself. great worlds, powerful beings, the tiniest of mites, all existed for a span both infinite and momentary. It was a universe without Law or Time.
Four great beings came to be and unlike that which came before they managed to endure. These were the Four Elders. Primal beings, each one representing a single elemental aspect. These four watched all around them form and collapse. They began to collect worlds and lesser intelligences for their own amusement. They even crafted their own 'toys' from the elements of the Maelstrom itself. The Four Elders argued over who was the greatest. Unable to come to a decision on their own they made a special child, one who could measure their greatness and give them a fair decision. They called the child Time.
Time drew up a code all had to abide by if her word was to be respected by the Four Elders. The Maelstrom recoiled from her decree because within its strictures Law had been formed. So started the First Age.
The First Age: The Age of GodsWhen Time set forth her measuring the Four Elders all that existed within the Maelstrom began to endure. Worlds continued, lesser intelligences, some made by the Elders, others formed from the Chaos, and a few bound into creation by the formation of Law, these things all remained in existence. Some sought purpose, others reveled in their new found life.
Those that came to Arden found the lesser, mortal, forms of life. These eternal powers so terrified and awed the mortals they understood how the Four Elders must feel when in their presence. These became the Gods of Arden. Some helped the mortals, some made new races of mortals, and others delighted in the pain and insanity they could inflict on the mortals.
In time the gods came to blows with one another. Great cataclysmic fights raged across the world. Unimaginable powers were called down as each sought to gain advantage. Some mortals were so instrumental to the battles they became like gods themselves. This was the downfall of all, because when mortals could become like a god, the Goddess Ashra knew she could strike down her own divine children for a perceived betrayal. Gods could die in the mortal realms. Eternal beings became fearful and so were forced back from the world leaving mortals to their own plots. So ended the First Age.
The Second Age: The Age of LegendWith the gods no longer leading openly, mortals had to find their own way. Priests could channel the power of the gods, some becoming vessels for the power of the divine, but that was not the magic that many sought. The greatest scholars of the Nehar and Drakhai sought the secrets of the Maelstrom itself. Through study and ritual they crafted magics to rival the power of the gods. Their creations were a wonder to behold.
Castles sitting on clouds, skyships, massive golems as big as towers, spirits and gen bound into service, they even created new races to do their bidding, fight their battles. It was a time of glory and terror with power limited only by the morality of the mortals who wielded it. Ancient Neharan texts claim it was the barbaric Vahnir that started their downfall. The humble writings of Drakhai servants claimed it was the fury of the dragons. The Vahnir sagas blame the obscene hunger of the Nehar.
What was known was that the goblins and hobgoblins were freed from the vaults the gods had locked them away in after their arrival from across the heavens. These beastmen ravaged all they could touch. The cruel orc armies were inspired by the wild fierceness of the goblins and turned on their Neharan Overlords. The Vahnir used their own potent magics to raze any Drakhai and Nehar city they could reach to loot for its wealth and secrets.
In the final battles the sun rose and set twice in a single day, firestorms burned across the lands, flying castles fell to the ground. The fabric of the universe had been damaged. The essence of magic had begun to seep back into the Maelstrom, leaving the world forever.
The Third Age: The Age of TrialsWith the civilizations of mortals laid waste and cruel beastmen, barbaric humans, and savage dwarves raiding everything their eyes fell upon, a great darkness came up in the world. Undead powers sought to transform Arden into a neverending afterlife in the mortal realms.
So damaged was the world, even the gods were hesitant to let too much of their power loose again before Arden could heal. The unholy powers of Chaos took this opportunity to try and claim the world for themselves. Pain and suffering were the norm. Elf, dwarf, and human all suffered under this deadly yoke.
It was only when the greatest of the undead powers fell that men began to regain some footing. Alliances among good lords, or at least those who weren't completely corrupted by Chaos, let civilization to begin to grow again. With the crowning of the First Emperor of Kedmere the Age of Trials was brought to an end.
The Fourth Age: The Age of CrownsKedmere was not ruled by the overly cruel, but its lords were also not overly kind. Its power stretched far and wide in the Northlands. Claiming lands of ancient Nehar, the ruined cities of the Drakhai, even the children of the Vahnir were unable to withstand the encroachment of civilization along their borderlands.
Over 900 years have passed since the first emeror was crowned. The great empire is a shadow of its former self. Independent kingdoms forged from rebelling territories, new monarchies claiming kingdoms free and clear beyond its old borders, and the ever present lords beyond the seas serve as a reminder how close the Northlands are to being thrown into brutal wars again.
Only the monstrous remnants of the Age of Trials and the relics and bestial children of ancient ages serve as incentive for the lords to not openly slaughter one another in a cycle of unending death.
But this tense time and the wild lands that occupy it offer glorious opportunity for those brave souls who are willing to seek adventure and fortune. A crown to call their own. Dominion over their own monstrous creations, or simply enough wealth to keep princes in the adventurer's pocket, if they can survive the dangers waiting to be uncovered.