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Before the Empire

Before everything, there was Chaos only, and the era of creation only a distant spark on the edge of reality, pushing endlessly to come into being.

The Gods teach it was they first who tamed the Endless Dark, allowing worlds and stars and myriads of other forms to fill and inhabit the space left in their wake. They tell as well that Itaire was their most prized creation, for quintessence, the stuff of the divine itself, was the fuel of its shaping and arrangement, unlike the many worlds before it. It was perfection made manifest in its earth and trees and mountains.

It was then that the Gods, content, took thought to populating the world and breathing life into forms akin to nothing they had created before. And for uncounted years they pondered this, and to each came a vision similar to the others. In discussion of this were the first seeds of rivalry sewn in the heavens. And in the youth of Itaire, if the writings are to be believed, awoke many races, of which many do not survive today. Bitter jealousy drove the Gods to weave together countless beasts, winged or many legged, wrapped in fur or scales, to assail the creations of the others in defiance of their original vision. It would be many years, as we count it, before, in their exhaustion and retirement, the Gods would return to pursue their earlier purpose.

Circa 20,000 BE – The Elves and other races emigrate to the lands prepared for them. The Gods take on physical form for the first time.

The next five thousand years are a mix of isolated, conflicting, oft incomplete, records written by much later Imperial scholars that are filled with speculation, conjecture, or dependence on unreliable sources.

It is generally agreed upon that these were formative years for the ancestors of the dominant races, and Dwarven legend points to this time as the Era of the Fathers, when the first Dwarves learned at the feet of divine messengers and raised their first holds.

The orcs existed as a countless number of petty tribes, feuding with one another for food and territory during a time known as The Primacy. Though all were possessed of the same knowledge (all having ultimately the same origin), the tribes were divided by language and tradition. Though revered as mother and creator, Batari was seemingly little involved in the affairs of her children during much of this time.

Circa 15,000 BE – It is about this time that their exists a body of record from which scholars can reconstruct a general understanding of the state of Itaire at this time. Much of what is known is extant through later Elven historians and Dwarven records that survive.

Both the ancestors of the Elves and Dwarves, now wise and mighty with the teachings of their patron deities, fanned out with desires of exploration and conquest across Itaire. This is not to say that the other races did not prosper in a like manner, only that records on such things are not extant or at the least hidden. The oldest and best preserved oral Dwarven “sagas” or “campaigns” come from this time. They recount, in great details at times, the tale of great deeds (such as the raising of a great dam or the expansion of a hold), military campaigns carried out by individual lords (undoubtedly embellished) and decrees set forth by their God.

It is here that the Orcs are initially mentioned. First by Elven cartographers in their exploration of the southern continent (later Suran) and then as part of Dwarven folklore as a cannibalistic and barbaric people that lived in numbers uncounted throughout of Itaire. Admittedly this may refer to any species of subterranean creatures (that resembled orcs) that were a threat to the Dwarven underground roadways at the time..

14,715 BE - The Salnur Migration - Written in the sermons of the fourth Prophet, Bara'un, a combination of natural disasters and encounters with primal beasts drives many orc tribes across the Salnur Current into the lands of southern Suran. Many smaller tribes perish in the crossing or in the passes of the Dolgur mountains. The Shi'ker forest swells with refugee tribes that displace the previous occupants.

14,112 BE - The aged dwarf Raknokar “the Mighty” defeats an alliance of Dwarven lords at the Battle of Carebel Pass, single handedly uniting many of the major Dwarven holds under his rule and becoming the first High King.

Though his rule is recorded as very brief, Raknokar systematizes administration of the holds in anticipation of his successor and sanctions the first order of runemakers and magical imbuers. After his death, leaving several apparent candidates in his stead, infighting immediately engulfs the young Dwarven kingdom. A century of strife and civil war ends when the grim soldier­lord Jefkon Zerengar seizes the capital hold under the mountain of Siraquorey. His household would hold power intermittently until the coming the First Empire.

Circa 13,500 BE – The tribal humans are first mentioned during this time in the histories. According to Elven records, they were united under the great warlord Amundus and would cause grievous harm to the coastal settlements of the Elves (likely the Dwarves as well, but there is no mention of it) before being defeated at the Battle of Cher'haita where Amundus was slain. With the death of their leader, the tribals, unable to raise a suitable replacement, fractured, and would spend centuries in bitter war against one another.

13,257 BE – Chronicled as part of a brief civil war amongst the Dwarven holds, the High King Grentor Helmaral proclaims himself avatar of Akhult and master of all divine offices. Accepting the title of “Grand Crusader”, High King Helmaral accepts a number of priests into his court and assembles an order of clerics specializing in matters of battle and war to be his generals and his bodyguards. From then on, with little exception, aspiring candidates for the office of High King would require approval of the Akhult priesthood, meant to reduce infighting.

Circa 13,000 BE – The Rise of the Mataraan Tribes – Descended of Uruta blood, Matar the “Fire­weaver” forms the nomadic orc tribes of the Shuurgatai desert into a force of powerful warriors and daring raiders. Conquering their neighbors, the followers of Matar become masters of the Shuurgatai Desert and spend the next thousand years in constant war against tribes in the west.

A vision by the twelfth Prophet, Yogen, cites the first appearance of the constellation Agun Batari around this time and the disappearance of the Clebsu tribe to the Ocean of Tamas'ha (thought to be the first tribe to inhabit the He'shani islands).

12,750 BE – Dwarven High King Kale Dres'mure, in company with his high priests, claims visitation from the spirit of Akhult. In its aftermath, the High King commissions the compilation of Akhult's teachings and much of earlier Dwarven history into five extensive volumes.

Circa 12,400 BE – The Guyari: A magical, tree­like people of the forest make themselves known to orc tribes of Shi'ker forest. Named guyari “leaf spirit” by the first tribes to encounter them, they become a source of reverence and wisdom second only to Batari. It is not known what ultimately brought the tribes to war against the Guyari, only that after their brief introduction, they are not seen again until the coming of the Prophets and the time of the Second Sin of Aisho.

Circa 12,000 BE – The Second Salnur Migration: Recorded in several Dwarven sagas and cited by the third Prophet, Hesenmak; a series of orc tribes inhabiting the northern reach of the Great Expanse are crushed by a Dwarven expedition sent to explore Suran. The survivors, now tribeless, flee across the Salnur Current and are exterminated or absorbed by the tribal leaders of Shi'ker forest.

11,993 BE – Several Dwarven sagas from this time point to war with “civilized” orcs. The conclusion of these wars is not mentioned.

11,454 BE – Elven explorers witness an island rising out of the ocean while charting the northern coast of Suran. Little else is known of the nature of this occurrence and scholars remain unsure as to what specific island the records make reference to.

Circa 9,200 BE – The Emerald Shard and the Dragon's Ultimatum – When a piece of emerald washes up on the shore of Salnur Lake, it is exalted as a shard of the goddess Batari's sword, Erudo. Bloody conflict immediately ensues for ownership of the shard, and as the later visions of Hesenmak the Prophet attest, some of the greatest atrocities of the age are committed during these dark years.

After decades of slaughter, Batari herself, at last sickened by the division amongst her children, left her place in heaven and descended to Itaire amidst a storm of hail and freezing rain. Recorded and spoken of by countless sources, Batari went to the warring tribes, her form that of a dragon, winged and terrible. She laid out Erudo, her sword of divine emerald, and it was whole. Batari revealed the discovered shard as little more than a long discarded ornament from foreign lands away to the north.

Before a gathering of tribal leaders, the Dragon chastised them, calling for a cessation of the war. It is written however, she had perceived the hearts of her children, and knew that any peace would not last. The Dragon's final proclamation, therefore, was a warning. The path of Batari was one of virtue and freedom, but also of peace and strict discipline. She warned the tribes that soon she would empower messengers that would speak with her voice and fight with her power, and all orcs would know them as prophets and avatars of the goddess. These messengers would only come in times of great turmoil, their purpose to unite the tribes and remind them of the teachings of Batari. And to ignore or hinder them would bring suffering and distress.

The oldest and most extant account of the gathering was written by scribe named Aisho, supposedly part of an entourage representing his tribal leader. Though Aisho's account is one among many, it is important as it is the oldest written document in 'budo' or 'budonic' script, the ancient precursor to the modern orcish haraxinic script used today.

Circa 9,000 BE – The first orcish history fragments are found from about this time in the form of inscriptions and a precious few written records. Together with a myriad of Elven records and a dozen extant Dwarven sagas, it is believed that the power of the Gods began to wane (or had already been doing so) for reasons unknown. A majority believe that, much of their power having gone out to their servants and the rising of their kingdoms, the Gods had simply withdrawn from the everyday affairs of their creations and worked more extensively through their prophets and other intermediaries.

8842 BE – The End of the Primacy and the Time of the Prophets – When the Mataraan leader Mech'har launches a series of attacks against his desert rivals, what starts as half a dozen inconsequential raids soon erupts into a conflict encompassing all of orc held Suran. The Mataraans are blamed for ending the Dragon's Peace, resulting in a hatred and ostracism of these nomadic and warlike people that endures to this day.

8621 BE – The Fall of Siraquorey and the Vision of Olidon - A massive earthquake beneath the Dwarven capital of Siraquorey triggers a nearby volcano that annihilates the city and much of the surrounding tunnels and underground settlements, including a number of Elven settlements near the mountain range. High King Olidon, away on pilgrimage, returns to a kingdom in chaos. What follows is an extensive recovery effort on the part of the surviving holds to manage the refugees fleeing the destruction and excavate the capital.

Shudders of the eruption and the destruction of Siraquorey are felt as far away as Malisemere and the Mataraan territories of Suran.

8610 BE – The Dwarven colony of Nakrimen forms from the refugees of Siraquorey. They eschew, uniquely, the rulership of a singular lord and instead nominate a council of elders (still answerable to the High King) to rule over the young hold.

7844 BE – Isolated records found in tribal ruins point to here as the forging date of the famous spear Guth, and the gifting of it to the warlord Ottar in his war against the "seven traitorous brothers."

7386 BE - Braegoz, a famous Dwarven scribe, recounts the events in one Dwarven campaign where Dwarven sailors, lost at sea, reunite with their fleet after having made contact with “a short and peaceful people of the hills and rivers." It is generally agreed (as later sources would corroborate) that this is the first time that halflings are recorded in the Dwarven histories.

7230­-7200 BE - An era of relative peace settles on the Dwarven realm. The holds of Tevan Tral, Dervin Baldin, and Nakrimen are founded during this time.

Circa 6390 BE - The Stone People and Fall of Pentalan Eyrie - Dwarven Lord of Pentalan Eyrie, Gudarel “of the One­Eye”, her people responsible for the taming of the Wulkarden, combines the power of her most talented imbuers and stone crafters to create an arcane creation of sentient intelligence. Naming them the Brek'jar, Gudarel, successful, immediately commissions the creation of legions of Brek'jar, intending to use them as workers and soldiers, possibly looking to supplant her neighbors.

It is ultimately unknown what triggered a rebellion of the Brek'jar, and the war that ensued on the streets of the hold did not survive. However after only a brief insurrection, Gudarel's family is captured while fleeing Pentalan Eyrie and cast off the highest towers of the hold. Gudarel herself is tortured by the Brek'jar of her household and, in one last act of humiliation, is converted into a Brek'jar-­like being herself. Now immortal and imbued with powerful magics and a mechanical consciousness, Gudarel becomes Brek'haras “Queen of Stone”, and leads the Brek'jar against the Dwarven realm to this day.

The survivors of the rebellion flee and later build the hold of Pentalan Eske as a bulwark against the Brek'jar. From here they raise the greatest Wulkarden riders in the world.

5235 BE ­ The Tuxen Kal Massacres and the Great Flood ­ When the one eyed orc tribal chieftain, Tuxen Kal, raises an army of marauders and monsters, the halflings are his first target. Without an army to contest Tuxen and the relative isolation of Halfling communities, only a token force of hunters and rangers offer any resistance. In a series of four short lived guerrilla campaigns and pitched battles, the wild armies of Tuxen butcher or enslave thousands of halflings and raze countless settlements to the ground.

Retreating east beyond the Kamuna river, halfling refugees unite under the leadership of Jutera, a farmer turned orc­hunter responsible for slaying two of Tuxen's lieutenants. In a deed long remembered, Jutera, along with a team of infiltrators, assassinate Tuxen and his two sons. Without Tuxen's leadership and the death of his heirs, infighting quickly engulfs the tribe.

5234 BE ­ The Kamuna River Emancipation and the First Matriarch ­ Six months of bloody infighting after Tuxen Kal's death end when his oldest lieutenant, Daido, seizes control. Daido proves a far less capable leader though, and many halflings are liberated from enslavement by Jutera and her experienced rangers. Unable to gather sufficient arms or support for an offensive across the Kamuna river, Daido is eventually ousted two years later, dispersing Tuxen Kal's legacy and preserving halfling civilization.

In the aftermath of the River Emancipation, Jutera becomes blessed by the goddess, empowered as her representative on Itaire. With the halflings entering a new era of peace and her support unquestionable, Jutera the Blessed unites the disparate settlements east of the river and becomes the first Matriarch. Enforcing stringent societal roles and a system of matrilineal succession, supposedly each successor blessed by the goddess, the Matriarchy endures to this day.

Circa 4100 BE - In a massive effort, the Sun God's teachings are organized into a series of several dozen volumes that survives only in fragmented form today. From what can be pieced together, in its entirety, the text is thought to be the largest religious document in Itaire's history.

4050-40 BE - Records from this time point to the first in­depth Elven encounters with the Orcs and their sprawling territories across the southern continent. The Elves adopt the orcish name for the south, Suran. A number of sources seem to imply that the Orc kingdoms were in a state of flux at this time, and the imperial family had either temporarily lost control of its subject lords, or was still in its formative stages. It is specifically mentioned that communication with the orcs proved difficult, and it would be decades before a common tongue could be developed to facilitate any kind of trade or diplomatic efforts.

3620-18 BE - Coastal Kurun tribes unite and launch an invasion against the divided Elven princes of the Golden Island and its colonies on the mainland. Their first target is a string of villages and forts along the northern reach of the Golden Island (Now known as Old Elvenhome), that together form the territory of Bluefort. This act sparked a war known as the First Massacre at Bluefort. Prince Kednor of Bluefort appealed to his neighbors for aid against the Kurun, but was met with indifference or refusal.

The defenders of Bluefort fought bravely but it would be only scant months before the Kurun loosed through the Sandy Strand and massacred or enslaved almost the entirety of Bluefort.

Though the incursion was later turned and much of Bluefort rebuilt, the Massacre was one of several incidents that served as a pretext for the unification of the Elven kingdoms and ultimately the birth of the First Empire.

Circa 3000 BE - The human tribal warlord Treg Zulur unites the tribes west of the mountains and wages a brutal war against the tribals and creatures of the northern wastes. After long fighting, Zulur's host swells on plunder and slaves. The story of his rise, subjugation of the tribes, and subsequent death at the hands of his sons is chronicled in the epic Lut Zulur Tresh, compiled by two then later six servants who traveled in the warlords entourage.

Circa 2886 BE - Accounts left behind by the now extinct Berendal and Hujak human tribes tell of encounters with creatures of the sea that could speak and use magic to vanish into the swamps. Though it is likely the records are referencing encounters with the feral Froskar, later accounts make it possible this was the first significant encounter of human and troll.

2880-75 BE - The Second Massacre at Bluefort - The Kurun return from their watery exile and assail not only Bluefort, but all Elven possessions along the northern coast of the Golden Isle. Weakened by civil war and an ineffectual prince, Bluefort's garrisons and meager armies are butchered and its common people burned. Kurunic shamans, eager for revenge for their past defeat, use powerful blood and proto­geomantic magics to summon a tidal wave that would submerge the remains of Bluefort and weaken resistance to their invasions. The territories of Ghil'Halor, Yel, Kret'al, and Ceryon are utterly destroyed and their princes cast down in the ensuing chaos. A coalition of Elven princes band together and turn back the Kurun at the Battle of Salwe River, driving them back to the underwater ruins of Bluefort, which the Kurun occupy to this day.

2874 BE - The Kingdom of Light - The Elven princes involved in the victory against the Kurun decide to make their alliance permanent. They elect a council of lords and form the territory Kal'toris'ka or "Place of Light", and its peoples were known as the Kahl or Kahltoree. They would become the ancestors of the Elves that would form the first generation of imperials and become the Sun God's favored children.

It is worth mention here that the Jun'selu family, later involved in the fall of the First Empire, rises to power during this time.

2494 BE - The first human tribal corsair fleets appear during this time. These attacks are quite primitive, and consist of ramming boats together in order to fight hand­to­hand. Shoreline defenses are also developed during this time, such as lining tidal river mouths with thick spikes or artificially raising the coastline.

2229 BE - It is agreed that sometime this year the Elven explorer and historian Fedza'han, departs the Golden Isle to journey the northlands.

2221 BE - Fleeing a disaster that devastated their underground homes, refugee Goblin warlords carve out a sizable territory along the northwestern coast of Suran. The use of crude but powerful and mechanical, pseudo arcane monsters prove devastating against the orcish enclaves there.

2199 BE - Fedza'han, famed Elven explorer, returns to his home city of Maran from his exodus into Dwarven lands, bringing with him not only a wealth of Dwarven goods but also the first group of Dwarf envoys seen in over a thousand years. Impressed, the Elven prince of Maran at the time, Kirias, funds an expedition, led by Fedza'han, into Suran later the same year.

2162 BE - Fedza'han returns from his first expedition to Suran, having chronicled as much of the Orcish lands as he is allowed and making contact with many of the feuding goblin overlords and the then­secretive halflings and their matriarch. He records his findings in a memoir type manuscript titled Ma Huru'Kal "My Journey to the Light" or simply "My Journey".

2098 BE – At a great summit held on the peak of Mount Balon, a trade agreement is formed between the Dwarven Kingdoms and a number of Elven princes. Named the Treaty of Balon, after the mountain it was signed upon, it is the first of its kind.

1723-1600 BE - This era marks the first recorded instances of Goblin and Troll pirates, merchants, and raiders appearing in Dwarven and Elven lands in large number. Two Dwarven campaigns, entirely extant, chronicle in great detail the logistical layout of the eastern Dwarven holds at this time. It also details dozens of battles against the maritime possessions of the Trolls and, though biased, offers some insight into Troll society at the time. Raiding parties of human tribal corsairs make their first significant appearance in the south west, competing with troll pirates over Dwarven and Elven colonial possessions.

1550 BE - The Great Zash'hatal - Recorded in several extant Dwarf campaigns from the time, a great gathering of Troll witches and conjurers succeed in dissecting the spectrum of magic into its constituent arcane­borne elements, creating a whole new field of magic called 'elementalism'. The trolls call this day Zash'hatal, roughly meaning "The World's Parting". The arcane knowledge gleaned at Zash'hatal quickly spreads to Dwarven runemakers then to the Elven cities of the mainland. The Schools of Pyromancy, Hydromancy, Thaumaturgy, and Chemistry spring up overnight. The human tribes derive the summoning of elemental spirits, and a new generation of shamanism spreads among the tribals, partially supplanting the traditional art of ancestral and spectral summoning.

1250- 650 BE - These years are marked by internecine civil war amongst the Elven princes and the growth of Elven colonies on the mainland, untouched by the fighting.

1128 BE - A Dwarven campaign, partially lost, chronicles a brief war fought mostly in the Sandy Reach against a small coalition of Elven princes. This is the first recorded instance of significant conflict between the Elves and Dwarves.

Circa 720 BE - The lords of the Kahltoree territories sign the Treaty of Caibon, effectively absorbing many of the remaining Elven principates on the Golden Isle. One prince, Tyran of Mal'jun, forms and leads a confederation of Princes opposed to the treaty and against Kahltoree domination of the Elves.

624 BE - Elven sailors, driven astray by a storm, anchor on the shores off what would become Tash'Lor'ka. Noted for its unusual beasts and undiscovered fauna, a colony is founded here. This is the first record of the Tulmutia tree being recognized and utilized for its unique properties.

556-546 BE - Dai'jun Kahazor Dahn "The Farsighted" - Born into nobility, Dahn was groomed for a future as Dai'jun from the moment he could walk. However, overestimating his fortunes when he came of age, he entered too early the honor­bound and sometimes deadly courts of orcish imperial politics. It was not long before he made enemies at court and even among his distant family. Once the Dai'jun at the time, Tasansur Tem, expressed his dislike for the young Dahn, he found himself exiled to the fringes of orc territory to serve as officer and magistrate for the enclaves there.

A decade later, with Tasansur dying and his daughter a captive of marauders on the desert marches, Dahn returns to the imperial court. Taking on the ancient title of Kahazor "Paragon", Dahn assumes power as new Dai'jun. He would rule for the next forty years, making extensive reforms to not only the military but to the administrative division of the orcish territory. He is remembered most for founding the school of Asceticism, enacting the Gau'sho "Orc­law" (which reestablished the code of honor and was instrumental in the orcish resistance to the First Empire), and allowing the first Elven envoys into the interior of orcish territory.

His name bears mention in later Imperial records as his reforms were believed to have been the key to supplanting the Orc Imperial family and dissolving the Dai'junate in the years following the Elven occupation of orc lands.

Circa 450-150 BE - The Tumult - This time is marked by a series of natural and perhaps arcane disasters that occur over all of Itaire that would shape the landscape, both politically and geographically, until the days of the First Empire. Scholars consider this time an era of chaos that engulfed the known world.

A series of earthquakes devastates much of the Dwarven realm, and in subsequent decades they would migrate to the surface to found above ground holds and cities.

A massive ravine opens and swallows the great Kahltoree city of Parak'cai. Almost all of its inhabitants perish in the catastrophe. It later becomes a site shunned by the Elves and considered a place of unspeakable horror and grief. The First Empire later employed a watch over the ruins, renaming it Mal'sashan "City of Shadow."

148 BE -; The Hush - Many Seers and priests amongst the human tribes experience an event they name “The Hush”. In a collective vision, they witness the Faceless God withdraw from his place in heaven and seemingly abandon the tribes. Met with scrutiny, the exact meaning of the Hush disappears under the weight of denial and reinterpretation.

147 BE - Utilizing a series of powerful and forbidden rituals in the wake of the Tumult, the human elder shaman Bolka leads his tribe in an attempt to summon and bind an avatar of the Faceless God, their creator. The ritual backfires and Bolka, along with much of his tribe, are burned in a magical inferno that consumes much of northeastern Nira, creating the Bonesands.

145 BE - After the failure of Bolka and his followers, old rivalries flare in the apparent absence of the Faceless God. The tribes enter a series of devastating holy wars that only end with the coming of the First Empire.

115 BE - A partially extant record from the, at the time, independent Elven principate of Mal'delya, recounts the destruction of a feral orc army at the hands of the prince of the city.