The Last Kingdom
The Lost Age
Most historical texts begin with the formation of the great Elven Empire, and the dawn of what is known as the First Age. The Ancient Elves, beloved of Corellon, are often credited with creating one of the earliest, and some would argue greatest, civilizations. Yet long before the founding of that legendary empire, another civilization had risen to greatness. Tall, blue skinned humanoids, the atanari lived in great kingdoms that covered Corell from coast to coast. They where an advanced and sophisticated people, knowledgeable in art, architecture, science, and magic. They built great cities filled with mammoth pyramids, towering obelisks, and colossal statues to their gods. Beneath their cities ran labyrinthian catacombs and aqueducts.
Unlike the other races of Aedar, they do not attribute their creation to any of the common pantheon of gods, but to ancient, forgotten beings that where said to exists before the universe was born. They built temples and ziggurats to these gods, and would grant them offerings and blood sacrifices, both human and animal. In exchange for their worship, the old gods granted the atarani great powers. Their leaders where made immortal, transformed into animal headed demigods, each represented the animal totem of a particular elder god. These tonn-su, or emperor kings, were granted great powers by their patron gods. Physically enhanced, they were nearly twice the size of an ordinary atanari, and no mundane weapon could pierce their skin. They did not age, nor were they afflicted by sickness or disease. The dead obeyed their commands, as did the elements themselves. For years they ruled over the many lands of Corell with an iron fist.
The elder gods created a second race to act as servants and slaves to the atanari. Known today as “humans”, they where originally called hor’vas, or “servitors”. The hor’vas served the atanari as laborers, whether building their temples and citadels, or simply keeping house for them, the hor’vas tended to their of the atanari day and night.
Almost all information regarding this period is gone. By the rise of the Great Elven Empire, the atanari kingdom was shattered, and its people scattered to the winds. La’ris, once a fertile river valley in the south of Corell was by that time a cruel and unforgiving desert. Whatever cataclysm befell the atanari, it is said that many fled there, etching out a harsh existence among La’ris’s many dunes.
Rumors and whispered tales do exist that tell of a slave uprising around the same time that the atanari kingdoms fell. These stories tell a tale of a young hor’vas scribe named Vecna, who labored in the citadel of the flacon-headed tonn-su known as Ha-amachis. Ha-amachis was the highest of the tonn-su, and the most powerful. His patron god was Azathoth, god of magic, secrets, and forbidden knowledge. Inside the citadel, Vecna’s spent hours transcribing and organizing ancient scrolls and crumbling clay tablets filled with knowledge both mundane and esoteric.
Not satisfied with his lot in life, or that of his people, Vecna labored to steal the secrets of magic from the atanari, gleaning what little he could from Ha-amachis’s libraries as he labored. Unable to learn enough to challenge his masters without proper training, Vecna grew frustrated and desperate. He gathered together what power and skills he had learned, and called upon Azathoth himself, beseeching the elder god for his help.
It is not clear what was said during that exchange, nor why Azathoth answered the call of an upstart slave. Perhaps he saw something in the promising in the hor’vas even as the atanari civilization crumbled around them. Perhaps Vecna had something of value to bargain with. The few whispered tales of the elder gods portray them as chaotic and half mad. Perhaps it simply amused Azathoth to grant Vecna’s request. Whatever the reason, the man who left the temple of Azathoth was far different then the one who entered it. Vecna’s eyes shown in the night, lit by the thousands of years of magical knowledge that the scribe now possessed. He stretched out his mighty hand and gathered up the essence of the night itself and wove a great cloak which hid his people from the atanari’s eyes. Under cover of darkness, Vecna and his people turned their backs on their former masters, and abandoned them to their fate.
At first, the hor’vas lead a wandering nomadic existance. Soon, however, they began to settle down, building small settlements, then town and cities. They began to encounter the other races of Corell, and where eager to barter for goods, services and even protection. Vecna frowned on any contact with outside races, thinking it only a matter of time before the elves or dwarves sought to enslave them as the atanari did. These new comers began to teach the hor’vas about their gods, gods like Corell and Pelor, gods who did not demand blood sacrifice, gods who spoke of Light, and Love, not Madness and Decay. Vecna refused to turn his back on the gods who granted him so much power. He and his followers left the other hor’vas, now known simply as humans, and lead them over the Mist-Shroud mountains and into the Plains of Bryth, vanishing from history.
In the many centuries since then, no one from the Plains of Bryth have ever crosses over the mountains, and few have dared to enter the plains from this side. The plains are a twisted, dark place, and those that claim to have looked upon them are never quite the same. It is said that Vecna walked among his people for centuries, keeping the faith in the old gods alive, and that when he finally outgrew his physical form he ascended beyond the void to stand at the right hand of Azathoth. His people worship the withered husk he left behind; a dry empty shell that still holds more power then the average wizard could ever hope to wield in his life time. The plains are patrolled by Vecna’s most loyal and twisted followers. Known as the Hand of Vecna, they are the law of the land, each member judge, jury and executioner. They are lead by a high inquisitor known as the Eye of Vecna. Some say that in years past, each new inquisitor would cut off his own hand, and pluck out his own eye during a special ceremony. Then Vecna’s own hand and eye, cut from his withered form, would be magically bound to him, granting him immense and terrible powers. The tale goes on to say that these relics are gone now; hidden away, or perhaps stolen.
In the end, it is all just myth and legend. Few reliable records from the lost age exist today, and fewer still risk traveling over the Mist Shroud mountains to bother whoever or what ever lives in the plains beyond. All that is left are ancient ruins scattered around Corell, especially in the south, and xenophobic desert dwellers in La’ris that most consider a children’s tale.
What ruins exist are mostly old temples, crumbling pyramids and ziggurats half buried by time. The walls of these temples are covered with the indecipherable language of the atanari, and what ever treasure are still left are guarded by dusty mummies and powerful curses.