THE ANCIENT WORD
Aberdar, known by its inhabitants as “The Tragic Continent,” or “The First Continent,” is a vast landmass of diverse topography, with sublime tropical beaches, dense magical forests, and piercing mountains of crystal. Pre-histories tell a tale of an ancient Aberdar, when humans and elves coexisted in harmony. How humans came to inhabit Aberdar is a tale lost to time; some stories say they were born of magic from a fallen elf who was cast out of his house and, seeking companionship, tried to create beings in his own image. Other legends say humans grew, evolved, from wild beasts or animals. Regardless of their origins, humans still stubbornly remain.
Elven lore is better preserved. Their sacred scribes tell of a time when the elves walked across an undisturbed Aberdar. They knew every tree by name, called every creature kin; they communed with the sun and stars, and knew the language of the stones and grass. They heard the ebb and flow of time, and sang with it. And so it was that when the humans appeared, the elves were both curious and apprehensive. Who were these brash interlopers, fiery and strong, yet short-lived? The elves had differing opinions. The high elves believed humans to be inconsequential, hardly worth their attention, while the woodland elves feared that humanity’s impetuous nature would spell doom for their delicate way of life. The druidic elves were more optimistic, seeing the fledgling race’s eager nature, deep soul, and potential for growth. On occasion, the humans exhibited love and strength far beyond their years. They forged loyalties that transcended blood, and perhaps, with the right guidance, they might grow to harness their passions for the good of all.
The words of the druidic elves were persuasive, and so, albeit reluctantly, the other elves agreed to mentor the humans. However, the agreement had one important limitation: No human was ever to be instructed in the elvish magical arts.
A Broken Connection...
And so, the elves took the humans under their wing. They introduced the young race to art and music, mathematics and astronomy, botany and animal husbandry. They lent their aid as the humans spread across the land, establishing settlements and cultivating the land. In exchange, the humans showcased unique feats with what they had learned: With mathematics, they established architecture. With astronomy, they took to the seas. With art and music, they produced drama and tragedy. Although the elves would not often admit it, the humans gave back as much as they received.
The new human clans also took to the outer lands of Aberdar in the ways the elves never had. To the north, humans quickly learned how to mine the land for stone and metals, which they used to forge magnificent works. To the south, the humans discovered countless uses for herbs and spices, and devoted their time to mastering trade and artisanship. The fleeting human lifespan gave rise to an industrialism the elves had never found necessary, and for many hundreds of years, the elves and humans lived, more or less, in harmony.
But not everyone was satisfied – for even with everything the elves shared, the humans could not help taking notice of what was kept from them: Elvish magic. They beseeched their mentors to teach them these secrets, but every attempt was met with a sound rebuff. The elves stood fast by their convictions – their duty was to protect humans, and that sometimes included protecting humans from themselves. Elvish magic was a power not meant for them.
Some humans found the elves’ reply condescending. Many whispered the elves were afraid the humans would surpass them in magic, as they had in all other things. Elsewhere, humans did more than whisper – a small cabal from the human capital city of Warringham organized to smuggle magical items from the elves, working tirelessly to unlock their secrets and wield new power. Scholars and artificers from across Aberdar joined a new human guild called Dinistro (literally, destiny) to test these objects, but they made little progress in their efforts, as elven artifacts were far too complex. Some of the enchanted objects even seemed to actively resist the guild’s efforts to study them, as though they had sentience.
But Dinistro’s efforts were not wholly unfruitful. They did discover a less pure form of magic, one that was raw and unpredictable, but also very powerful. The elves knew this power simply as ‘wild magic.’ The magical energies harnessed, power rippled across the lands of Aberdar, and beyond. Wielders of wild magic called down lightning and razed the earth; they unleashed fire and shaped water, and while their spells failed more often than they succeeded, the guild was convinced that it was only a matter of time before they had full control over their newfound power.
Of course, the elves would have been hard-pressed not to notice. They confronted the leaders of Dinistro, imploring them to cease their efforts. They spoke of the danger of wild magic, how it could lay ruin to the world, and how it could attract the attention of evil from beyond. But the young human sorcerers heard none of it, convinced that the elves only wished to deny them their rightful power. And so the elves, fearing the worst, chose to sever ties with humanity, and retreated to their forests and mountains.
The Second Continent of Cambria...
Yet there was one elf who loved humanity with all of her heart – an old flame long lingering, as she had once fallen in love with a human woman, only to see her grow old. This elf’s name was Eletha, and she sympathized with the human desire to master magic. She had been taught that even the elves had once stumbled through the world blindly, millennia ago when their race was still young. It took time and experience to find one’s way, and humanity deserved the same opportunity.
On the final eve before the elves retreated into their woods, Eletha visited the keep of one Kristoff Carmarthen, the leader of the guild of Dinistro and a powerful human sorcerer himself. She knew his heart and intentions were good, and so she recounted one of the elves’ most guarded secrets to him:
Long ago, there were elves who ventured off Aberdar in search of other lands. Out to sea they discovered what they named Kambreah, a continent full of wild natural magics contained in the land itself, far more magic than Aberdar would ever have. Unlike Aberdar, where magic was mostly elvish, Kambreah held powerful magic in its forests, caves, and soil, if one knew where to look. The new continent was apparently uninhabited, with only wild animals roaming its landscape. Hoping to protect Aberdar from the potential effects of the wild magic in this new land, the elves built a tower to contain, regulate, and mask the magic. The towers acted as siphons, drawing wild magic from around them and housing it in magic vaults deep within the ground, far from detection. Between Aberdar and Kambreah, the elves created a network of subterranean ley lines of magic, a masterful and intricate system of channels to prevent the discovery, power, and potential misuse of wild magic, should it ever be found and mastered by someone of ill intentions.
Eletha noted, however, that the towers were protected by the elves’ most potent spells. She implored Kristoff to sail to Kambreah, find the towers, and show the elves that humanity does indeed possess the discipline and strength to use magic wisely.
And so it was, that a select few of Dinistro set upon the seas towards Kambreah (later Cambria), earnest in their desire to hone their craft and unlock the secrets of the tower. They did find the tower (and it became known as the Tower of Secrets), and in only a few years they managed to learn much. Although full magical control still eluded them, the humans were able to focus their magical energies with more precision and adeptness than before, and having access to the tower gave the wielders far more power than they imagined possible. For many generations, more and more humans immigrated to Cambria to take advantage of its fertile lands, abundant resources, and magic.
The elves, for their part, chose not to interfere during this time, believing that if the humans were bent on bringing destruction upon themselves, they could do so at their own peril – but they did send one small, secret contingent to keep an eye on the yet-fledgling mortals. These elves hid away in a Cambrian forest known to the humans as Everwood.
While the humans of Cambria prospered in these ancient times, not all believed them to be on a righteous path. Out of the Chaos Lands of northern Aberdar arose a general named Malagan, who believed that the humans dabbling in magic would soon result in the fall of both continents. He studied the ancient elven texts carefully, and stumbled upon a source for his fear: There were beings, powerful beasts, who fed on wild magic. Though they lived past the edge of the known world, they could smell wild magic, and they would follow it – and on their arrival, they would wreak havoc, pillage and destroy all of the known world, in pursuit of consuming that wild magic with a bottomless appetite.
Malagan’s message resonated with some of the human population, many of whom took up arms in his name. The general instigated a war – a war to vanish all magic from the known world, and permanently divide the humans from the elves. The war was long and bloody, and Malagan had a brush with victory, but in the end, he was defeated by a coalition of pro-magic humans and the elves of Aberdar.
Although Malagan failed in his mission, he was adamant that his course was the prudent one, and that history would vindicate him. Malagan himself was given an eternal sentence, frozen in time in a magical mirror.
The Birth of Bryn Mawr and The High King…
After the defeat of Malagan, the world lay fractured, various sects of humans and elves still skirmishing over the issue of magic use. Kristoff Carmarthen, the leader of the guild of Dinistro and the human who led the discovery and settlement of Cambria, still lived, with the aid of his well-mastered magic. To further maintain peace for all, Kristoff built Castle Bryn Mawr, the Citadel of Mirrors in the center of Cambria, as well as its sister fortress in Aberdar, the Citadel of Crystals. These two citadels shared a system of reflective mirrors to aid in communication across the sea, and these bastions for peace and wisdom were enchanted such that no person of any intent, good or malicious, could be injured or killed while staying there – aggression would be reflected back upon the aggressors in full. The citadels were an ingenious plan to maintain peace in both realms, and so, for hundreds of years, peace between all was shared.
Several years later, Kristoff’s mortality began to catch up with him. With his magic failing in its ability to keep him well, Kristoff had himself sealed in the magical mirrors of Bryn Mawr, where he took on the new title of the High King, an apparition to oversee the peoples of both realms. Housed in the mirrors, he could be consulted in the reflective surfaces in either citadel.
Kristoff, however, had a brother named Tiernan Carmarthen. Tiernan was ever jealous of his elder brother’s mastery of wild magic, and after learning of Kristoff’s sacred and enteral bond with Bryn Mawr in Cambria, Tiernan entrapped himself in the second citadel’s crystals in Aberdar, thereby preventing and sabotaging Kristoff from ever appearing before his original people in the first continent.
The Great Schism...
Tiernan soon discovered that he simply was not powerful enough to appear in the Citadel of Crystals in Aberdar in the way that his brother was able to in Cambria. This was likely for the best, as unlike his brother, Tiernan sought eternal power. Upon learning of Tiernan’s trapping, the High Elves sealed off the Citadel of Crystals, leaving it ghostly and abandoned. To this day, no one enters the Citadel of Crystals, as the peaceful, reflective power first bestowed upon the citadel by Kristoff is no more. Those foolish enough to enter the citadel quickly find that it has been corrupted, and they are overcome with an irresistible urge to harm anyone who is seen in the reflected surfaces of the crystals, even themselves.
Hundreds of years passed as Tiernan struggled to free himself from his enchanted prison. His frustration grew and grew as none of his machinations proved successful. At last, in a surge of desperation, he severed a large magical ley line that happened to run under the citadel, a last-ditch effort at shattering the crystals and freeing himself with the flowing wild magic. But, this act of sabotage failed, too, and resulted only in leaking a powerful, pure magic essence into the atmosphere, the raw and wild magic that could be smelled by the distant evils the elves and others had feared. At this moment, ancient history came to an abrupt close, and a dark middle epoch was born.
THE MIDDLE EPOCH OF FLAME
Not long after the ley line began leaking, the skies darkened. The beat of great leathery wings filled the air, and with a roar, fire swept down from the heavens. Monstrous reptilian beasts crashed across Aberdar in a tsunami of destruction, and a war was begun.
The human kingdoms of Aberdar and Cambria quickly organized themselves, attempting to repel the beasts with magic. But the creatures only seemed to grow more powerful, gulping down the wild, magical energies. The elves recognized that Elder Dragons had arrived – intelligent beasts that were addicted to wild magic, and they would not cease their pursuit of such magic until the very last drop was consumed. The elves also knew that, in some way, they were safe – the Elder Dragons had no appetite for elven magic, for to them, the power of the elves was tasteless and scentless.
As far as Aberdar was concerned, the Elder Dragons’ strategy was simple: Subjugate Aberdar completely, divide the humans, and prevent complete human-elven mobilization. There was little to be gained from Aberdar, and the berserker beasts were quick to sense the vast pools of wild magic on Cambria – there they turned their interest.
This is why Aberdar was named the Tragic Continent – the Elder Dragons showed no respect for Aberdar’s life; it was a realm fit only to be erased, whereas the dragons coveted Cambria, a land of wild magic fit for a dragon feast.
If Aberdar had been united, its inhabitants might have stood a better chance of defending against the Elder Dragons’ fury. But many human rulers, seeing that the dragons showed no interest in the elves’ magic and left their villages more or less untouched, blamed the elves for the arrival of the beasts. Some even accused the elves of employing a savage means to extinguish humans from the realm. Though the elves pleaded with the humans to listen to them, to wait and allow for proper research of the ancient texts, the humans chose to not delay, and took up arms against the dragons. An envoy was sent to sea to call for the support of the new kingdoms of Cambria, where much of the human population had relocated.
The Sea of Fire...
When the Elder Dragons first set upon Aberdar, a dark pact was made. In exchange for the Elder Dragons giving him the power to finally appear in the Citadel of Crystals, the dark sorcerer Tiernan, Kristoff’s brother, revealed to the Elder Dragons the locations of the elves’ magical ley lines.
With the knowledge of those ley line locations, the Elder Dragons created a ring of fire around the east, west, and south of Aberdar, such that no ship could pass, preventing the supporting armies of Cambria from arriving to aid the human cause. The ring of sea-fire was vast and scorching, and though the ley lines fueling the fire would soon drain, there would be enough time for the Elder Dragons to complete their first campaign. Aberdar was alone and entrapped, and the Elder Dragons asked for Aberdarian surrender. Many of the ancient human houses rejected this demand, and the Elder Dragons, offended, again brought carnage down on castles and villages. The human armies bravely resisted their invaders at every opportunity, even when defeat and death were imminent. Even so, the Elder Dragons left some humans alive -- to either bear a dragonmade curse for all eternity, or simply to bear witness to the horror inflicted on the things they loved most. The tragedy of Aberdar was sealed.
Meanwhile, the elves could not agree as to whether to intervene or not. During the dragon invasion, the elves were politically divided – a rare state of affairs for them, but more common since humans began to dabble in wild magic. The high elves voted to battle the Elder Dragons, the druidic elves voted to try to entrap them, and the woodland elves believed they should simply give over the humans to the Elder Dragons, since they were to blame for the widespread peril. Unable to reach a unanimous decision, the elves remained mostly withdrawn from the conflict and safe within their woodlands. Moreover, Elder Dragons could not pursue them, as their magic was scentless to a dragon.
With little concern for the elves, the Elder Dragons hatched a new plan: To create half-dragon, half-human beings to oversee Aberdar, so the Elder Dragons could focus on seeking out and devouring wild magic. Using ancient dragon spells, untested and certainly unperfected even by the dragons themselves, a grand spell was wrought on some of the humans who had surrendered in the southern peninsula of Wrexham. The hope was to create dragon half-breeds, but the spell failed miserably. Instead of creating loyal and robust draconic people, they created mutated humans, twisted in mind, each graced with an inherent dragon power. These beings became known as the Ruthin, and they proved to be so unpredictable that the Elder Dragons resorted to locking the creatures in the dragon-built castle in Wrexham, with the intention of burning them all alive to rid the world of the error.
However, once word spread of these horrors being inflicted on the humans of Aberdar, the elves finally mobilized. With a unified elven army and the remaining humans now joining their side, and the Ruthin waiting for a chance to rebel in the south, their combined forces marched forth to cast out the Elder Dragons from Aberdar. They bravely struck fierce blows to the Elder Dragons and their lesser serpent armies, such that the Elder Dragons had to flee the continent. Once departed, the dragons again turned their eyes to their primary goal… that of Cambria.
Upon their departure, the Elder Dragons left Aberdar a shattered and broken continent, both physically and spiritually. The few remaining human populations cobbled themselves together and set out to rebuild, but it was not long before bitterness and animosity tore them apart. Some had been cursed, others spared simply to witness terrible acts, some even were no longer human. The lessons of the Elder Dragons scarred into the soul of the people, and they began squabbling over lands, resources, and power. Some resorted to practicing dominion over the vulnerable, while others amassed vast armies and made war against their neighbors. A few sought to unite the people of Aberdar, but their efforts yielded little success. Aberdar became a realm of indifference. Indeed, to this day the only thing that the various houses share in common is distrust. The result for the elves was a long-standing tentative peace with the humans, but the elves themselves could not overlook some of their internal differences. It was at this time that the three grand elven houses were created, each governing themselves but united in a coalition to preserve a semblance of elven unity.
Immediately upon the extinguishment of the ring of fire that divided the continents, the new Elven Coalition made a bold, unilateral decision without seeking human approval. A wall of magic – elven magic – would be cast and erected between the continents, both to prevent the Elder Dragons from ever being able to return again, and to prevent humans empowered by the wild magics of Cambria from returning to Aberdar. To the elves, isolation was the only option for Aberdar. The elves had enough knowledge of the ley lines, and the high elves in particular had the magical prowess to make this magical wall appear. The wall became the grandest of illusions, and it permanently separated Aberdar from Cambria, as if to each continent the other simply never existed. By way of the wall of magic, two worlds were created. Cambria never had contact again with Aberdar, and what was born of the destruction, carnage, and curses on the Tragic Continent would remain unknown to the rest of the world.
The Battle for the Sister Continent of Cambria...
After the Elder Dragons were driven out of Aberdar by the human-elven alliance, the armies of Cambria marshaled a stout and strong defense against the blitz of the beasts. Cambria’s human population was large, and there was still something of a cohesion between the major houses. They had competed culturally and in trade over the past generations, but the military conflict was usually never more than a standoff over land rights. Different than Aberdar, which was primarily a continent split between humans and elves, in Cambria various houses were established to lay claim to resources. This mostly resulted in four significant civilizations, each to the north, south, east and west. If united, these houses stood a chance of victory against the Elder Dragons, simply based on numerical odds that their distant Aberdarian brethren did not possess. As the dragons advanced, humans took up arms immediately in a state of emergency, while the elves of the Everwood Forest, who had never found acceptance among the humans of Cambria, went into a long hibernation.
The Cambrians, too, failed to realize that casting wild magic would only make the Elder Dragons stronger. Moreover, the humans had long ago stopped traveling to Bryn Mawr, and no longer heard the advice and wisdom of the High King Kristoff, who still appeared in its magical mirrors. If Cambria was at peace and affluent, then what need did humankind have for the ancient High King? The Cambrians had become too bold, too confident, and too blinded by their success.
Using magic as a first line of defense, the humans suffered terrible losses. The warriors from the north, the clans of Helfaria, were already wary of magic and warned against its use, but the other houses did not listen. The Elder Dragons immediately seemed to double, even triple in their power! Leading the first charge, the northern clans suffered massive casualties, and the peoples of the north never forgave the other houses for using magic during the assault. A second house, called Bronaber, the hardened warriors of the south, counterattacked the Elder Dragons and, though they lost the battle, successfully slew a young set of dragon twins – a rare sight among Elder Dragons, which resulted in the ultimate reprisal: Once Bronaber’s citadel was taken, the Elder Dragons killed every single man, woman, and child of the house, razed the citadel, and scorched the earth in the lands to the south with a pitiless, blistering fury, incredible even by dragon standards. The south became a place of molten rock and fire, where nothing could grow – thus, the firelands known as the Krag were born.
With the loss of Helfaria and Bronaber, the houses Lancaster and Ardmore surrendered. Ardmore handed over their royal leadership, while the Lancaster hid their royal blood, but relinquished their lush lands to dragon power.
The time of Elder Dragon rule had begun.
The Elder Dragons feasted off Cambria for over one thousand years. They made the northern Helfarians their laborers, the eastern Lancasters their servants, and the western Ardmorians their administrators, granting them a favored status for being the first to cooperate with their new dragon masters. These roles cut deep, and still cause a divide between the houses to this day. The dragons made their home in the ashes of Bronaber, constructing a giant towering fortress there, known as Serpentia. Lastly, the dragons destroyed all records of Aberdar.
And so, the Middle Epoch closes. It has been said that those know they are living in darkness when the only light is an Elder Dragon’s fire.
ELDER DRAGON RULE OF CAMBRIA
The Elder Dragons ruled Cambria for over a millennium. They never returned to Aberdar due to the wall of magic, but there wasn’t much reason to – there was so much wild, natural magic in Cambria that the new continent was the sole focus of serpent rule.
The dragons had not slain all of the human warriors who stood up to them in Cambria. Though the warriors demanded an honorable death in the face of dragon enslavement, the dragons found such a course of action to be a waste – no, they had a different idea in mind.
The dragon routine, as it were, was to seasonally hunt for wild magic, and then go missing, returning off to some uncharted land that was unknown to their new human subjects. But with a great new kingdom of dragon rule, someone would have to remain behind to maintain order in the dragons’ absence. The Elder Dragons remembered their first experiments in Wrexham – though the Ruthin had been an overwhelming failure, perhaps it was time to reattempt those ancient dragon spells.
The hand-selected warriors were first entranced to never recall their human identity or past lives, and then a dragon spell of the highest order was cast upon them – this time, with the leisure to be careful and prevent previous mistakes, it was done to perfection. The warriors were infused with dragon blood, and were biologically and spiritually converted into half-dragon, half-human beings known as Draconians. The vision of the Elder Dragons had come true: Stronger, faster, and of more excellent constitution and lifespan than humans, the Draconians became the new overseers of humanity. They took the thrones once graced by human queens and kings, reaped the spoils of the lush lands of Cambria, and instituted new cultural rights that still exist with the Draconians to this day. By losing their past, the Draconians appeared to have inherited a future of the eternal rule of their lineage and kind. Some Draconians ruled humanity with wisdom and grace, while others through terror.
However, nothing lasts forever, and this understanding gave humanity hope of, one fateful day, ridding themselves of Elder Dragon dominion.
The Revolution -- The Great Extinguishment…
Much like it had been one individual, a heartbroken elf, that changed the fate of Aberdar, it was too one individual, a high Draconian mage named Gitrix the Red, who changed the fate of Cambria.
Gitrix was a child of the Krag. She was of low birth in the Draconian hierarchy, barely a social ladder step above a human, but she was born with natural magical gifts. Many believed that she was a rare offspring born of an unlawful union between a Draconian and human that spawned a child of destiny, one gifted with both dragon and human magic. Her natural talents with magic were apparent from a young age, and she quickly overcame her status to become a high sorcerer within the Draconian ranks. However, Gitrix knew two secrets that the Draconian leadership was not disclosing: Firstly, that the Elder Dragons were bent on draining all the magic from Cambria, magic that also kept the Draconians alive. Secondly, she knew that Draconian blood was weakening each generation, and it would not be long before the Elder Dragons replaced the current Draconians with a newer, fresher young bloodline. So, as Gitrix saw it, the Elder Dragons had to be removed from Cambria, for the sake of the Draconians as much as the rest of the realm.
Gitrix had hoped for a more unified revolution – she knew the Elder Dragons would not leave quietly, and in the end, there might be no choice but to slay them. But the majority of the Draconians did not believe or heed her message – it was the humans that did, seeing the opportunity to take back their homeland.
Gitrix then chose to leave Serpentia, in secret. She traveled north to Helfarian, where she knew she would quickly find allies; the people of the north had been enslaved by the Elder Dragons and Draconians alike, occupying the lowest status in the realm under dragon rule. She found that the industrious northern clans had been long storing arms, and additionally, they had experimented in secret, and graced the vials of blood of their fallen with rage magic from the neighboring Everwood Forest. Imbibers of the blood became very powerful warriors possessing superhuman strength, enough to almost match a Draconian in battle, warrior to warrior.
With her own magic and the Helfarian arsenal at her back, Gitrix marched to Lancaster, where their hidden royal bloodlines finally made their appearance, and amassed an impassioned army. Messages were sent to the sea peoples of Gulph, who had evaded dragon rule by way of life at sea, as well as to the wyvern trainers living in the harsh Krag, humans known as the Wyndons, to be ready for an assault on Serpentia.
Meanwhile, there remained one question, one that would likely decide the fate of the movement: Would Ardmore, the favored human house of the Elder Dragons, join the cause? The people of Ardmore had much to lose if the revolution failed, for their lives were not of servitude, but administration, and they lived more lavishly than their human kin. Ardmore at first did not answer Gitrix, and this became a grave concern.
Gitrix and the human armies timed their strike for the moment days before the Elder Dragons returned to Cambria to feast on magic. This was when the dragons were the least powerful – they would be at their regular strength, and highly preoccupied with consuming magic, competing with each other for it. War was the last thing a hungry, magic-addicted dragon would want.
The strike was an all-out one. First, the Draconian high rulers were slain, either by human assassins hidden in their servant ranks, or by the few bold Draconian traitors who took up Gitrix’s cause. Gitrix had been right, of course – most Draconian leaders’ blood was weakening, and they had become complacent and comfortable, and with the return of the Elder Dragons just days away, most Draconian rulers never would have imagined a revolution would be attempted. Then the human armies made direct assaults on Draconian barracks. These initial attacks were repelled, and word of the human attacks was reported back to the Elder Dragons, who immediately raced back to Cambria to face the human forces head-on.
When the Elder Dragons arrived, it appeared that every single human who had taken up arms against them would be slain. Led by their leader, Vermithrax ‘The Destroyer,’ they annihilated much of the human forces, but at a grave cost, as many Draconians were also killed in the battles. The Elder Dragons were hungry, blinded by their addiction to magic, and acted recklessly -- in their rush to begin their Cambrian feast, they were less concerned with repelling a well-organized revolution, and more preoccupied with putting human resistance down as quickly as possible. They overestimated their own power and the strength of their armies.
Following the devastation of the first wave of human armies in central Cambria, Gitrix used her magic to offer a safe retreat for the human troops, who then fled north toward Helfarian. Vermithrax and his soldiers pursued the human armies, while the other ruling Elder Dragons arrived, Nargus, Karakung, and Charis – and none of them could agree on the grave situation at hand. Charis had ceased consumption of magic long ago, and believed that humans should be given home territory in Cambria, as long as they did not take up arms against the Draconians. He also was sympathetic to the Draconians; as children of dragon magic, he considered it the duty of Elder Dragons to preserve their future, even if their blood was weakening over time. Karakung, however, had her own extreme views, and believed simply that all humans should be annihilated immediately. Nargus believed only winged creatures should inherit the realm left the entire war, and, always a rival to Vermithrax, headed for the far reaches of the west, where he intended to create an army of war wyverns and other winged creatures to lay waste to all in Cambria, human and Draconian alike. With such division and short-sightedness amongst the Elder Dragons, the human cause stood a chance.
Vermithrax eventually caught up to the forces of the north, and there a great sacrifice was made -- the Helfarians promised all other humans of the realm that they would make a final stand. A final plea was sent to Ardmore, but it was not answered. On the banks of the northern reaches, the Helfarians made a brave stand, losing all of their soldiers but striking a severe blow to Vermithrax’s forces. Meantime, the warriors of Wyndon rose up and smashed Serpentia, and breached the fortress walls. Lancaster mounted a cavalry-led attack to the dragon forces that were racing from the Helfarian slaughter in the north to recapture their southern capital, and during this critical hour, Vermithrax was distracted from his vital leadership role by a duel with Nargus in the north, which resulted in the death of Nargus, and the extreme exhaustion of Vermithrax – and a Lancastrian victory.
Even so, the dragon armies and the Draconians almost retook their capital. However, they did not anticipate the war’s end was so near. Gitrix visited the High King in Bryn Mawr and made a pact -- she would sacrifice herself and all of her power if the Citadel of Mirrors could spread all of her magic to every corner of the realm, to destroy the dragon armies. The High King permitted this sacrifice, and Gitrix was able to cast powerful beams of reflective magic that cast the dragon armies’ own fire back upon them. This resulted in the death of Gitrix, but gave the humans the turn of the tide in the war. Just before her death, Gitrix reached out to Charis with a vision: He would have to save the remaining Draconians who desired peace, as the human armies would not relent until all dragonkind were slain.
When Vermithrax finally arrived in the south, he reorganized his remaining armies. Victory for the humans was still not certain until Ardmore, sensing that their time had come, decided to step in and join the human cause. Now, with a united Cambria, the humans began to push out the dragon forces slowly, but steadily. All dragons were slain, and Vermithrax himself, a once powerful but now drained wild magic addict, was killed in a vicious final stand.
However, unbeknownst to the other houses, Ardmore made a pact to allow the Draconians to escape through their lands, under the protection of Charis, who stood his ground to his death to protect the departing Draconians. It was at this time that a new Draconian blood clan was founded, that of Ashbridge, who proclaimed Charis, and not Vermithrax, to be their hero, and who saw Gitrix as their founder.
The Draconians were not seen or heard from for a thousand years, and Cambria was once again a human continent rife with the politics, drama, and conflict that humanity seemed to cycle through with such tragic perfection from generation to generation.
THE MODERN EPOCH
[These years encompass the time period in Dragon Thrones I, II and III, all taking place in Cambria].
History of the Dragon Thrones:
“A warning to all those who choose to reign upon a Dragon Throne:
The Dragon Thrones are living, breathing beacons of raw magical power, imbued with the life-force, the soul, of an Elder Dragon, from the body of which each Throne was cast. Such power can be a beacon of hope to the masses, a means to defend your people and bring prosperity to your lands. However, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Those who choose to misuse this tremendous, titanic, indescribably tempting power... one so great that it can easily warp the most solid of steely minds... beware.
And so, for those who do choose to mount a Dragon Throne, wielding their crown upon their brow, do so with the greatest responsibility, one that thinks of others before yourself. Great queens and kings, high rulers of the land, have fallen victim to their own ambitions, desires, and obsessions when they become comfortably attuned and attached to the unfathomable power of their Dragon Throne. A power so uncanny, otherworldly, and so awesome— it can overtake the minds of those who wish to make their darkest desires a reality.”
Kristoff, the High King of Bryn Mawr
The Dragon Thrones were, originally, the literal seat of power from which the Elder Dragons ruled the world. As they sat, surrounded by their hoards of vast treasures mundane and magic, their thrones absorbed their ambitious power. What we know now as the Dragon Thrones were forged out of the corpses of these Elder Dragons after the wars of the Great Extinguishment, when humankind retook the realm from dragonkind, and these Thrones give the humans who sit upon them control over dragon magic that they wouldn’t ordinarily be able to harness. It is unknown exactly how many Dragon Thrones still exist in the world today.
We have the thrones, as we know them, thanks to Gitrix the Red, who purposely left the spell books and magical items necessary for human sorcerers to forge the Thrones. She hoped to ensure that the Elder Dragons would never be resurrected by dark magic if they were entombed in a Throne, and to this extent she was correct. However, human sorcerers simply could not remove the soul and power of the Elder Dragons from the Thrones, so each Throne, situated in the four major lands of Cambria, to the north, south, east, and west have a Dragon Throne that cannot be moved or destroyed. Some have attempted to destroy them over the years, but their hopes of destroying are always dashed, as the Dragon Thrones always regenerate themselves soon after their physical destruction. The Elder Dragon spirits do not allow themselves to be removed from existence.
Mechanically, after generations of study, the Dragon Thrones are known to wield great but limited power, meaning that a Throne can be used to discharge a great force, a force mimicking the wishes of the ruler that possesses the Throne, but once the Dragon Throne’s power is used, it takes time to recharge. Initially, legend and rumor proclaimed that the Dragon Thrones had one extraordinary power inherent to the region in which it sat – such as the Dragon Throne in the north casting rays and cones of ice, the Dragon Thrones of the west casting wind and storms, the Dragon Throne of the south causing earth-shattering quakes, and the Dragon Thrones of the east casting flame and fiery devastation. Over the years those who reigned upon a throne understood that this was simply fallacy -- the power of the Thrones is far more profound. They can create powerful effects that draw from the desires, wants, and needs of the very high rulers that grace them. To this day, the greatest challenge in Cambria is balancing rulership with the influence of the Dragon Thrones that will always remain in the land.
According to what is currently known, Aberdar is free from Dragon Thrones, as the rule of the Elder Dragons ended in Cambria. However, this is not to say that the continent is not without its own powerful artifacts. Unlike Cambria, which is a realm of wild magic and dragon remnants, Aberdar is a realm of exotic magic and people, such as the elves and the magical creatures of the lands. All bear their own secrets that those in Cambria have no knowledge of, as the sister continents have only just finally been reunited by the fall of the magical wall of illusion that separated the two realms. All peoples hope that the Elder Dragons will never return, but if they someday would, this could lead to more Dragon Thrones being forged out of need, or perhaps greed.
During Dragon Thrones I:
The Draconians returned to Cambria, after hundreds of years of banishment, in an attempt to retake their lost lands. There were massive battles on all sides. The Blood of Vermithrax overran southern Cambria and, despite their sister clan of Ashbridge not taking offensive military measures against the humans, a neutrality pact was signed between them. The human mercenary clan of Yarrow allied with the Vermithrax in exchange for gold and the ability to take over new lands. House Ardmore, after having a marriage proposal rejected by House Lancaster, began a proxy war against Lancaster, with each side attempting to overthrow the other by poisoning lands, water, and crops. House Ardmore also was engulfed in a border war with House Helfarian, as the people in the north believed Ardmore was siding with the Draconians to again become presiding human house of Cambria, as they did during Elder Dragon rule. The wars, political strife, and divisions grew deep, and the Draconians were only becoming stronger until it was realized that the real enemy was a secret sect within the Draconians, the Karakung, that foolishly wished to raise an Elder Dragon using dark, necromantic Draconian magic, only to slay the dragon and use its sacrificed power upon completion of the ritual. This was something no honorable Draconian or human could accept, and all sides united to take a stand against the Abomination known as the Mega Dragon born of dark magic. Together, Cambria united to save the realm from annihilation, and peace, temporary as it was, was had between the house.
Dragon Thrones II:
An ancient fear demon awoke in the north with the fall of the Mega Dragon’s corpse – a terrifying entity that manifested one’s greatest fears into an army of apparitions. Each high ruler of the great houses of Cambria had to contend with the terror and madness caused by the arrival of the demon. Through a series of alliances, the armies of fear were pushed back and finally repelled.
Thereafter, a human magical guild named Pembroke from the Everwood forest (led by a Draconian sorcerer, though he disguised himself with a human appearance) issued an edict that all magical practitioners in the realm would have to sign their name in to a directory of magic, so all beings who were magical could be monitored by Pembroke. Additionally, this sorcerer also demanded that all those who were magical would pledge to the Pembroke Guild. In response, a sect of young mages refused, and took refuge in Lancaster as a series of magical and military battles took place throughout Cambria. Houses and clans often changed sides, depending on how their fortunes in the tide of war were looking. In a final attempt to control Cambria, Pembroke magically transported the Tower of Secrets to the western expanse of Ardmore where a final battle was waged. Pembroke secretly resorted to necromantic magic, a practice outlawed in Cambria called the Tree of Death, a secret practice within the tower’s core, to raise an undead army. Additionally, with the last of their resources, their jaded and now crazed leader paid some of the mercenary armies of the Brothers of Yarrow to defend their Tower in Ardmore. A united army of the Blood of Vermithrax, House Lancaster, and House Helfarian mounted a massive attack against these heinous forces. Ardmore, in its traditional political fashion, once again raised suspicion as they did not join the assault on the Tower that now resided in their own homeland, leading the other houses to believe Ardmore was once again hiding its political hand out of opportunism.
Ultimately the Tower of Secrets, now a Tower of Darkness, was defeated and the people of Cambria returned to rebuilding their citadels and cities. Even though victory against the evil undead forces was at hand, it was won at great cost. Too much magic was used by the greedy Pembroke wild magic users, and when the Tower of Secrets was destroyed, the ley lines to Cambria and the access to wild magic for humans and even the ancient Dragon magic for Draconians was lost. The once colorful continent turned dark, and the houses started to frantically devise methods to have magic returned to the realm, while others fought against magic and its return. With or without magic, peace returned to the land as the majority of the factions of Cambria worked together once again.
Dragon Thrones III:
With magic gone, many houses worked feverishly to bring it back. Magic was seen by most as an essential element for the vitality of the world that they once knew. However, others dissented, believing that magic was ultimately the source of suffering and war between the peoples of Cambria. To the magic naysayers, humans only needed their own reason and ingenuity to prosper, and magic was an evil that should be forgotten.
However, there was one grave outcome following the destruction of the Tower of Secrets – the shattering of the prison of mirrors underneath Castle Bryn Mawr that contained the ancient general Malagan. This general from ages lost to time believed that magic should never have been in the hands of humans in the first place; that magic should stay with the elves and magical creatures, and away from humans. He believed that if it was harnessed by humans, it would eventually lead to the return of the Elder Dragons, for wild magic is irresistible to their insatiable thirst for magical energy. He believed that he could save humanity if magic itself was eliminated, forever, even if it meant slaughtering all humans who practiced or simply supported magic. Malagan raised an undead army he called the Wyr Marchog, which rose from the fallen in every corner of the realm. Suddenly, humans and Draconains shared a common enemy and dark battles waged throughout Cambria. Malagan’s forces were initially triumphant, testing the combined strength of the Great Cambrian Alliance. As he began to gain control of key strongholds and territories, the peoples of Cambria struck back with a vengeance.
Malagan desired a quick victory, but he was forced to divide and conquer, which became his undoing as he underestimated the faith of the people of Cambria. Together in their conviction, they called upon the physical manifestation of the God of Light, Lord Lucent, who took over the body of the king of Ardmore. He personally stuck down large swaths of the undead horde. After the battle of Yarrow ended in a stalemate, the Wyr Marchog lost its most powerful force, the Dracoliches, and its most elite strike teams in an attempt to destroy a Dragon Throne.
As the Cambrians regained control of their lost magics, they began to show Malagan the error of his ways as he was defeated on all fronts. These individuals and houses were successful in restructuring the lay lines, using magical beacons and crystals that were recovered through exploration.
Malagan and the Wyr Marchog were forced to surrender their attempt against Cambria, and agree to live according to the Cambrian laws. Malagan accepted whatever fate or clemency he was to be granted, and until such time, still in control of his armies, he set out to join the rest of the realm in an attempt at redemption, and his secondary objective to right other injustices, namely the enslavement and magical-energy-extraction of captured Draconians at the infamous Trading Post. This led to a final battle, where the undead joined forces with the mortal armies and Lucent himself to eliminate the last true threat to Cambria: The shapeshifters led by the Godfather, master of the underworld.
After the battle was won, Malagan took his most loyal forces and journeyed forth to find other dangers that threatened Cambria. Malagan's various lieutenants scattered to different parts of the continent, into other houses or alone.
Together, dead or alive, magic returned to the land, and so a great rebirth of Cambria and the world came to be.