BG = "Before The Gathering" AG = "After The Gathering"
Torin, the god of time, overwhelmed by the four gods, Forin, Wellin, Arden and Eldir, is forced to form three planes. The effort to create a playground for the other four, consumes his very essence. Athien was crafted as a physical plane for the gods, a playground of creation. Between is the realm of Torin himself, while the 3rd, and final realm, was to become the home of the gods.
The four gods used Athien as their playground, creating a hundred different lands and hundreds of races to populate them. Energy flows between the planes, life blooms in Athien, drawing energy from the other two planes.
The beliefs of the mortal races, across Athien, begin to shape the gods themselves, changing their powers and even affecting their psychology. Slowly the four gods come to resemble the four elements (Air, Fire, Earth and Water). In fear of this change the Gods flee to their home plane, leaving the mortal races largely to themselves.
As the gods flee from Between to their plane, their influence on Athien is diminished, however they still dominate the physical world, appearing in its sky as four ever-present stars at the four cardinal directions. When a god's power is in ascendancy, their star literally rises to those who view it from Athien. Torin paths across the sky as a glowing orb that sheds light for the mortal races and paces the days. The mortal plane falls into a rhythm of seasons dictated by the four gods and the mortals come to think of time passing in cycles, with four seasons to every cycle, each season indicating the god in ascendancy for that period.
Having moved to their home plane, the gods learn that they are isolated from the energy flows that are established between Athien and Between, energy that is vital for their existence. However they are still able to syphon energy from Between whenever it returns from the mortal realm, as a of mortals dying. The gods, eager for more energy, in their new home realm, foster religions and war on Athien, to increase the numbers of the dying. They discover that the souls of believers are in some way attuned to their chosen god, and far easier to syphon before it can be absorbed back into the cycle between the other planes.
Hence begins the age of strife and war on Athien, brought about and encouraged by the gods.
Torin, tormented by being formed into the three planes, perceives that the only way to break free is to unbalance the energy distribution across the planes so dramatically that they become unstable and can be shattered. To pursue this end, Torin seeks a mortal to raise into a fifth god, both to weaken the other four and to draw further energy from Athien and Between.
Torin finds a suitable mortal, a young female Minotaur named Edarr. He fosters her powers, allowing her to cross over into his home plane (Between) and draw energy far more easily than the existing gods. Edarr gains power so rapidly that, with Torins concealment to help her, the other gods are caught completely unaware of her pending ascension.
Edarr ascends to godhood, and a new star rises on Athien. A black orb that follows the sun across the sky. The mortals of Athien quickly adopt her as the god of death. Death cults begin to form among the various races and spread rapidly, particularly among the less advantaged races. None more so than the orcs, where Witch Doctors rise in their society as a rebellion against the, traditionally dominant, elemental Shamans.
Life continues to flourish on Athien, drawing energy from Between but now when it should return to Between it is instead syphoned by the five gods. Energy begins to accumulate in the realm of the gods, to the detriment of Between and soon the Gods begin to sense aspects of Torins plan. Edarr due to her previous existence as a mortal, sees an opportunity to completely starve the other gods of power by returning to Athien and harvesting souls directly. If she were to wipe out a significant portion of life on Athien and return to the plane of the gods, the balance between the three planes would be permanently shattered, allowing Torin to break free.
The cults of Edarr, spread across Athien work towards her goal by fostering conflict among the followers of the other Gods.
They focus their goal around the city of Palatheum, a city that had long been the focus of religion within the plane and traditionally a city of harmony between the religions, home to the heads of all four churches.
Through an elaborate plan to foster suspicion between the churches over many cycles the cults of Edarr manage to bring armies of all four churches to camp outside the city. The extreme state of tension within the city is broken on a single night as the cults spread misinformation across the city and assassinate the heads of all four churches, sparking an instant war within the city. The four armies flood into the city and there is chaos as fighting breaks out in every quarter.
The cults use the sudden release of life energy to support a ritual aimed at bringing Edarr to Athien. At the pinnacle of the fighting, as the dead outnumber the living, the ritual reaches its peak and Edarr is summoned back to mortal form.
Edarr, having taken the mortal form of a minotaur (Her original race), gains a surprising following from within the otherwise relatively peaceful race. Needing her generals to serve as paragons of her power on Athien, she births in them a thirst for battle and bloodlust that is counter to their nature. This unnatural twisting of their nature stamps a permanent taint in the bloodlines of her generals that will spread through the generations and has an irreparable effect on the future of their race.
The other gods realise Torin's plan, at last, and marshal their resources on Athien to attempt a desperate assassination on the now-mortal body of Edarr.
Bastian Oriel, a native of Between, crosses over to Athien in an attempt to try and fix the damage Edarr's actions have caused. He becomes trapped on Athien, in his chosen form as a male human, and begins a journey on trying to work out how to get back to his home plane.
Bastian Heroic Tale: Jade Warrior
The forces marshalled by the four elemental gods make a stand against the forces of Edarr and, in the midst of that momentous battle, Edarr is slain. Edarr's death causes her star to fall from the sky, causing massive death and destruction on Athien. Anything immediately under the star's fall is instantly destroyed, as a huge crevasse, stretching for hundreds of miles, is rent on the face of Athien. Earthquakes, tsunamies and volcanic eruptions claim the lives of countless others, as Athien convulses under the impact. The mortal races are left devastated by the damage caused by the fall of Edarr.
The five major races, Humans, Orcs, Elves, Minotaurs and Dwarfs come together with a united purpose for the first time in history. An event that is simply known as The Gathering. The Gathering determines to send a single champion from each race to the shadow plane. Those champions are to work together to challenge the gods with an aim of putting an end to their interference with the mortal races.
The five champions chosen to travel to Between are Krognar (Orc), Bruell (Dwarf), Ista (Elf), Grul (Minotaur) and Tomas (Human). Once chosen they spend a substantial amount of time debating the best way to prepare for their journey, combining the knowledge of their respective races in an attempt to understand what they will be facing once they enter the shadow plane. The minotaurs and humans chose two veterans in Grul and Tomas, while the other race's heroes were champions in their prime.
Upon entering Between the five are confronted by the gods and an epic battle ensues. Even though the five's powers are greatly enhanced on the plane of shadow, they are still no match for the power of the gods and are forced to flee to the far flung corners of Between, and go into hiding.
Initially, some of the five stay in contact with one another in an attempt to regroup, however over they become suspicious of one another and fear for their lives. Even more so when they realise they are trapped on Between and have no way of returning to Athien.
Eventually the five champions feel their powers ebbing and discover that harvesting the souls of dead mortals, as they return to Between, can supplement their powers and deny that power to the Old Gods at the same time.
Time, on Between, has no meaning, however several hundred years pass on Athien. The mortal races assume the five succeeded in their mission to stop the old gods, as things had been quiet for a long time, and the gods, who are now obsessed with destroying the five, have left Athien largely to itself. This is one of the most peaceful periods in Athien's history, which allows the mortal races to rebuild after the devastation wrought by the Fall of Edarr.
The champions have lived to become what they were sent to fight, and are now addicted to the souls of the mortal races that sent them. This ever increasing demand for Souls, and the relative piece on Athien, meant Souls on Between became scarce, starving the old gods and the champions of their power source. The five, now self-styled demigods, begin working on ways to secure the power of souls for themselves with the goal of true ascension to godhood.
As souls become more scarce, fighting between the demigods becomes fiercer, and soon they are afraid to venture too far from their own bases of power. It was at this time that one of their number, Krognar the Orc, was contacted by a mortal of Athien, Zaron Bogdan, and the course of history, for the three planes, was altered forever.
The dwarf kingdom was prosperous and dwarfs were perhaps the most powerful individual race on Athien. Having largely kept to themselves for hundreds of cycles, they were able to make advances in metalwork and engineering that left most of the other races behind. The current monarch, realising the position of strength the dwarfs were in, decided to commit his people to a path of expansion, encroaching on the lands of the other races. This aggressive path forced the other races to form a temporary coaliton that began a war that ran for a dozen cycles. The coalition forces not only repelled the dwarf forces, but drove back deep into dwarf territory and brought the kingdom to its knees, driving the monarchy into exile.
The main reason for the survival of the dwarf race was a timely intervention by the minotaurs, who had largely kept out of the conflict to that point. The dwarfs who remained faithful to the crown fled to the chain of islands off the east coast of the main continent, known as The Spray. The dwarfs that were tired of war and were angry at the king for what he brought upon their race surrendered to the coalition forces and over the course of the next hundred cycles largely assimilated into the broader societies of Athien.
Zaron Bogdan was an undertaker by trade, a part-time scientist, and someone who dabbled in the dark arts of necromancy to extend his life. Zaron craved power, immortality, and yearned to rule over Athien as the gods ruled over the other planes. Zaron studied every piece of literature that existed, about the five who were chosen to venture to Between, as a result of The Gathering. He also researched beyond the common literature to find out every minute detail about their lives leading up to that point. Zaron became obssessed about the five and, above all, he wanted to learn of their fate. He saw them as a means to achieving his goal of immortality.
From his research, Zaron figured that Krognar, the orc champion, would be the most favourable to his cause, so set about creating a device that would enable him to commune with him. After much trial and error, Zaron eventually succeeded, and from that point forward he regularly conversed with Krognar about all manner of things. As far as Zaron new, he was the first Athien native that new the five still lived, and that knowledge, to him, was power.
Krognar considered Zaron's contact as a huge boon for him, and he quickly devised a way to work things to his advantage. The combination of Krognar's powers, and Zaron's necromantic skills, enabled them to create what was, in essence, the first effigy. A device that managed to "summon" Zaron to Between, the plane of Shadow.
Hence, Zaron Bogdan, the human necromancer, was the first mortal to become one of the summoned.
Zaron and Krognar continued to work together researching the possibilities of summoning Zaron to Between. In time, Krognar trained Zaron how to harvest the Souls of Athien's recently deceased, the necromancer's experience dealing with death making him an exemplary pupil who excelled at the task. Krognar's ability to harvest Souls, via Zaron and the Effigy, without leaving the safety of his domain on Between, left him with a decided advantage over his peers, and for a time he threatened to grow powerful enough to destroy them all and claim Between as his own.
The rest of the five did not remain idle during this time and very quickly learned of Krognar's activities. Souls formed an integral part of the network of energy that connected across the entire Shadow plane and concentrated disruptions, such as the effects of the effigy, were quickly communicated to the far corners of Between. To Krognar's dismay, it was not long before the remaining demigods were also able to create Effigies, unknown to him, Torin had lent his aid to speed the process.
Armed with Effigies of their own, the demigods began summoning heroes of Athien to harvest Souls on their behalf, not considering the damage their actions were causing to Between, Athien and the summoned heroes themselves. They were simply focussed on increasing their power, and not being left behind by their peers.
Sir Marcus is one of the highest ranking knights in the militant order of the church of Wellin, the god of Water. The old gods retain faithful followers and their church orders are still some of the most powerful military groups on Athien. Their numbers have been growing since the lows of the time of The Gathering, when many mortals turned their backs on the gods due to the Fall of Edarr. The churches seek to regain the power-base they held before the fall, though they are cautious of raising the ire of those who remember.
Archbishop Gunter, the head of the church, is a fiery traditionalist who sermons from the pulpit rouse the commoners to push back against the rising tyranny of the new gods. Gunter's ability to commune with Wellin enabled him to learn of the demigod's practice of summoning mortals to the shadow plane to harvest souls, and at Wellin's behest, he immediately mobilised the church's knightly orders to hunt them down and kill them, stemming the demigod's power at its source. Sir Marcus was one of most determined to destroy the summoned, taking to the task with vigour and determination. That was until the fateful day when he joined the ranks of the summoned at the request of his god, Wellin.
Despite merely doing the bidding of his god, Marcus hid his newfound status for a time from Gunter, before realising his position within the very church hellbent on destroying the summoned was untenable. One night, he packed his most valuable belongings, including his ancestral armour, and journeyed north to be as far away from his former life as possible, allowing him to completely focus on his god's will.
Istariel Heroic Tale: First Summoned
Zaffen Heroic Tale: The Hunter
Gloom Heroic Tale: Lurking in the Shadows
Zaron Heroic Tale: The Necromancer's Fate
The exiled dwarfs returned to the mainland in an attempt to re-establish relations with the other races and restore the kingdom of dwarfs on Athien. It had been over 150 cycles since they fled to The Spray islands, so all the survivors of the war that brought their kingdom to its knees had passed away. The loyalists had a fresh outlook on life, a new leader in Queen Bermethra and were willing to swallow their pride to try and regain their place in the world.
Thrommel Ironbeard is special envoy of Queen Bermethra and travels with the Queen's son to treaty with the leaders of the other races. Thrommel discovers that those most vocal against the return of the dwarf monarchy are their kin, dwarfs who turned their backs on the dwarf traditions and assimilated with society. While the monarchists had spent their time in exile changing their ways and preparing themselves to return to the Athien mainland, it seemed their brethren’s hatred had been passed on to the next generation.
The elves, through their longevity and intelligence, have risen to positions of power in most of the major cities of Athien. They are the most numerous and prosperous of all the mortal races, however unlike the dwarfs whose expansionist and isolationist designs brought about their downfall, the elves foster a blended society. It is a time of relative piece across Athien and so the Elves work to integrate the other races into their social and political structures, all the while ensuring they have ultimate control.
The minotaurs, despite their visage and size, have maintained an aura of calm and peacefulness throughout the ages. Their current leader, Doenrakkar, is a powerful shaman, who leads his people wisely. The minotaurs have maintained their herd-like existence, roaming the plains of Athien, living without permanent structures or cities of any description. They maintain a spiritual, grounded existence, without the need for technology or commerce. Their main contact with the rest of the world is via their friendship with the dwarfs that remained following the fall of the dwarf empire and the exile of their monarchy.
Thorgar is an anomaly among the minotaurs. Captured at birth, and trained as a gladiator, he has given himself completely over to his race's most base and primal ways. As a direct descendent of one of Edarr's generals, Thorgar's blood carries her mark. Thorgar's masters, mindful of the power and glory he brings to them, not to mention their coffers, begin a breeding program with him as their main bull. Unbeknown to the gladiator pit overlords, their deeds spread the genetic curse initiated by Edarr into the larger minotaur population and, over time, alter the evolutionary course of the entire minotaur race. Eventually this will shatter their peaceful, shamanistic, society and bring forth the bloodlust that turns them into hulking killing machines, devoid of empathy.
The orcs are a divided race on the brink of civil war. Haksa is one of the most prominent shamans and a champion of the old gods. He believes orcs should assimilate with other races and work together for the common good. Kruul is the first in a new line of witchdoctors. While the death cult of Edarr was largely wiped from the race following her fall, they have recently risen again as a church that appeals to the downtrodden of the orc race. Death cultists preach Orc superiority and the rightful place of their race as head of the societies of Athien. The Orcs are one of the most populous races, naturally powerful, and fuelled by their naturally violent tendencies have the ability to subjugate all. This is Kruul’s vision and the source of his drive to lead the orcs to war. At a micro level Kruul chose female orc, Zhonyja, from birth and trained her to become a killing machine. Zhonyja excelled at every trial and task Kruul presented to her, leading her to grow into the embodiment of the "true Orc”, a finely tuned killing machine that was a force of destruction on the battlefield. The struggle between Haksa and Kruul is the defining struggle of the age for the orcs keeping the entire race on a knife’s edge.
The genetic curse of the minotaurs, born from Edarr's touch and spread by the breeding program established by the overlords of the gladiator pits of Zaqai, has spread to the point where the afflicted outnumber the "normal". Minotaur traditions have largely broken down in the face of the blood thirst that sweeps through their population. Elders put all their efforts in trying to curb the behaviour of young bulls however the genetic wiring is a powerful force that is proving too difficult to control.
As a result the once respected and peaceful race have declined into a state of anarchy, filling the lower echelons of society and treated as little more than animals by most of the other races.
Two headed orcs, or ettins as they are called, have become more prevalent and one of their number, the powerful Skoll Bonestorm joins the ranks of the summoned. Orc society remains split between the old gods, lead by the shamans, and the new gods, lead by the witchdoctors, however the shaman faction have gained the upper hand and the witchdoctor faction have been largely forced towards the fringes of orc society.
A powerful necromancer, Xyvera, while not one that possesses the genetic defect, is reflective of the change in the minotaur race. Sinister, dark and brooding, Xyvera begins a quest to discover the origins of the genetic curse. Her reasons for doing so are unknown, however there are many who fear someone like Xyvera having knowledge about the curse.
The dwarf monarchy has established a foothold on Athien's mainland, however they are a shadow of the former dwarf empire. Their main rivals remain their kin, and the dwarfs are essentially two separate races, with 400 years of different customs and climates resulting in profound variances between the monarchist and seperatist dwarfs.
The stocks of Elves and humans have risen dramatically in this time, taking advantage of the division within the orcs, the curse afflicting the minotaurs and the dwarfs still recovering from the shattering of their empire. They hold the balance of power in all the major political centres and are the two most affluent races on Athien.
Skoll Heroic Tale: Soul Burn
Piper Heroic Tale: Pay the Piper
Xyvera Heroic Tale: The Ancient One
The elves realise that the minotaurs, who are now consumed by the genetic defect driving their ferocity, are a danger to all society. They discover the cause of the affliction, a genetic curse born some 800 years ago, and propose a cleansing of the minotaur race by killing or sterilising all who possess the cursed gene. The minotaurs, realising this would result in the death of 90% of their number, rise up against the elves. They are joined rapidly by the downtrodden across Athien as the Elven "solution" becomes a symbol for the callous power the Elves have come to wield across the world. This conflict swells further as old grudges are bought to bear and soon it is known simply as "The Athien War".
Kogan is typical of the ferocious minotaurs from this time and is one of the main protagonists leading the revolt against the elves. He evolves into an inspirational leader and a symbol that the disparate forces can rally around in the struggle against the disciplined forces of the elves.
The minotaurs, along with their allies, manage to overthrow the elves, forcing them to withdrawing from the world and salvage what is left of their society by setting up anew and living in isolation. The vacuum left behind is quickly filled by the most powerful of the Minotaurs who led the rebellion.
The dwarf monarchy sides with the elves in the great conflict, while their separatist kin are more common among the rebels. Defeat for the monarchists ends the dwarf’s royal line and signals the end of the dwarf monarchy forever.
The minotaurs, now in control of society, form an upper class that increasingly shows the signs of their curse. With the curse briefly seen as a mark of honour following the war, it spreads through the remainder of the minotaur population rapidly. The upper class becomes increasingly deranged, violent and oppressive.
As they watch the society they once helped build crumble and rot, the Elves continue to work on their "solution" to the Minotaur curse from seclusion. In hundreds of cycles the Elves recover and surpass their previous technical knowledge, developing weapons that will enable their return.
The Minotaur-led society, despite the best efforts of the few remaining truly sane Minotaurs, falls into in-fighting and corruption. With no unifying government remaining, the Elves see their chance to strike and deploy a genetic weapon that selectively strikes the Minotaur race, decimating their numbers. The Elves emerge from the shadows back into society, bringing with them new technologies that rapidly and drastically improve the standard of living of those who had been toiling under the feudal rule of the remaining Minotaurs.
Zaron Bogdan, who by this time is essentially immortal, discovers Styx, a human displaced by The Athien War who recently joined the ranks of the summoned. Styx's unique powers on Between pique the interest of the great necromancer who recongnises the gaunt human as a potential powerful ally. Styx is enamoured by Zaron, and soon becomes a devoted disciple. Zaron, in an attempt to circumvent Styx's mortality, begins experiementing with replacing his vital human organs with necromantically enhanced mechanical elements.
Loribela & Allandir Heroic Tale: A Tear in the Fabric of Time
Barnascus Heroic Tale: Barnascus' Musings
The elves are by far the dominant race on Athien. They posses the most advanced technology, have created and run the greatest cities and are without peer in terms of military might. Unlike the last time the elves were in the ascendency, they treat the other races more fairly and have proven to be good rulers who have ushered in the most prosperous era on Athien for over a thousand cycles.
The dwarfs fill a solid middle class, providing artisans, labourers and tradesman for their elf rulers. They are completely assimilated into society and are a content people. Most cities have a boisterous and lively dwarf quarter and the dwarf royal line and monarchial history is a distant memory.
Humans are similar to dwarfs, in that they have assimilated into society and hold many prestigious positions in the political ranks. They are a content and largely prosperous race who often share rule with the elves. Inter racial marriages are allowed which has seen the introduction of a half-elf sub race. Half elves are seen as a symbol of the prosperous times and are completely accepted within society.
The orcs are largely outcasts, reverting back to their shamanistic ways. They lead a primitive, yet peaceful life in the rugged mountains and grassy plains of the rural areas of Athien. Orc society is lead by a council of shamans who curry favour with the old gods and help their people to maintain traditions and strong ties with nature and the elements.
The minotaurs are a downtrodden and subjugated people. They are used as beasts of burden, bodyguards and shock troops in the armies of the other races. Their numbers have dwindled and there are has not been a reported sighting of a wild minotaur herd for hundreds of cycles. The genetic curse has been all but eradicated by the elves however the minotaurs that remain have long lost all ties with their majestic past and each generation simply assumes the burden of living out their lives in the lowest rungs of society with minimal rights and hope.
Styx has been tranformed into a true cyborg, and is essentially immortal. He still serves Zaron Bogdan, who is now a lich that has "lived" for almost 2000 cycles. Zaron, and his undead brethren pose the greatest threat to the might of the elves, who hunt down the undead abominations with zeal. Nephenee and Skye are two of the most prominent undead hunters and arch enemies of Zaron. The conflict between the elves and undead is most likely the next great conflict that could well decide the fate of Athien.
Nephenee & Styx Heroic Tale: Lich Dance - Part 1