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  1. #41
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    Aftermath
    The Divinity War had a huge impact on the mortals of Harqual, as well as their gods. Thousands of priests all over the continent lost the power to cast spells. More importantly, the loss of ones god can shake a person’s faith and whole civilizations turned away from them. Cronn’s faith disappeared south of the Greystone Mountains and the Empire dedicated to the Pantheon of Swords slowly deteriorated without its patron. This Empire was reduced to a few squabbling city-states on the Ragik Peninsula, as region after region secede from the Empire.

    Entire tracts of farmland fell into disuse and hundreds of rural towns were ruined, claimed by the wilderness. It became more and more dangerous to travel from region to region as Imperial provinces became isolated countries and then even more isolated city-states. Petty dictators and warlords held sway over their isolated regions as few individuals had the power to oppose them.

    The demihuman races became isolated from their human allies and in less then a hundred years relations between humans and other races deteriorated so much so, that old treaties and alliances were forgotten (mostly by the humans). Wilderness regions were left to dangerous creatures and the remaining faithful of Larea.
    Robert Blezard

 

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    The Interloper Gods
    The Aftermath of the Divinity War left huge holes in both the Pantheon of the North and the Pantheon of Swords. Key members were either destroyed or had their power base greatly reduced. Into this void came the Interloper Gods, a term used to describe all powers that gained influence on Harqual after the Divinity War ended. This term is still widely used today by priests of both pantheons and is almost always used in a derogatory manner; whether the god being referred to is evil or not.

    The first god to come to Harqual after the Divinity War was the Olympian, Apollo. Of all the Interloper Gods, he is the most respected by the priests of the Pantheon of the North. Those priests never refer to him as an Interloper, even though he never officially joined the Pantheon of the North. He is looked at as an honored guest like Corellon, Moradin, and the other Greater Gods of the demihumans.
    NOTE: The demihuman gods are not official members of the Pantheon of the North. However, they are always welcome in any pantheon god’s realm on the Outer Planes or in Cronn’s godly realm, The Heart of Ice in the far north beyond Harqual’s northern shores (Kulan’s North Pole).
    However, the priests of the Pantheon of Swords do refer to Apollo as an Interloper. And he does fall into that category, as his power on Harqual came after the Divinity War. And this is true of all the following gods that came to Harqual as an independent power without ties to the to existing pantheons or their traditional pantheons on the Outer Planes: Ahto, Boccob, Chaeon, Dike, Calphas, Dionysus, Ehlonna, Erythnul, Gruumsh, Hel, Kord, Loviatar, Mielikki, Persana, Ptah, Rán, Uller, Vaprak, and Wee Jas.
    NOTE: Gruumsh and Vaprak have human followers, as well as monstrous followers. These Interlopers are despised by all the gods of the Pantheon of the North and are never allied with no matter what the situation. Gruumsh's faith is extremely influential on Harqual, while Vaprak's followers have been responsible for the start of both Ogre Wars.
    Beyond Apollo, the gods that are somewhat tolerated by the Pantheon of the North, if not completely respected, are Calphas, Dionysus, Ehlonna, Kord, Mielikki, Rán, Persana, and Ptah. Calphas is a strange deity from another prime material world and is venerated almost exclusively in the lands just north of the Great Expanse. Dionysus is considered a good friend of the Pantheon of the North and is often found in Damh’s company or trying to cheer up Cronn in his godly realm (he likes the challenge). Another of the Olympians, Dike, has also become a popular deity on Harqual.

    Persana and Ehlonna tend to avoid conflicts between the Pantheon of the North and the Sword Gods. However, Ehlonna's close ties with Corellon and Yondalla have allowed her to become a close friend with Daghdha and Larea. Kord is a popular god with barbarians north of the Greystones and even has gained Cronn's respect. Kord's faith isn't as well known south of the Greystones, except for in the Barony of Wolffire and is completely unknown south of the Great Expanse. The Finnish goddess, Mielikki has won over the North Gods, despite her heritage. She is so unlike what Hiisi was that she has become a friend of Larea and the Daghdha.

    Ahto and Aegir tend to exist without strife but most of the pantheon would rather not have dealings with the Finnish sea god (because of you know who), regardless of his benevolent nature. Rán is Aegir’s wife and is grudgingly accepted by the most members of the Pantheon of the North. Hel, Lokun’s daughter is in that same category, but her faith hasn’t spread much beyond the Northlands. Immotion dislikes Boccob for his uncaring nature towards those that worship him and Wee Jas for her overly strict and sometimes dark nature towards magic. Erythnul attempts to steal worshipers from other gods, regardless of pantheon or alignment. This has made the followers of Erythnul enemies of almost everyone else on Harqual.

    All of the members of the Pantheon of the North hate Loviatar and would love to destroy or banish the Goddess of Pain and Torture. However, she has never sent her Avatar to Harqual and because of her ties with the world of Toril she is too strong in her own realm. Loviatar has swayed a lot of Nether’s followers to join her faith, which has made her unpopular with the Sword Gods as well. Loviatar and Nether oppose each other in every situation, even if it means working with another god they usually oppose.

    Chaeon, Ptah and Uller are enigmas on Harqual. Very few mortals worship these gods, yet they refuse to leave. Chaeon's worshipers are limited to the desert elves and the dragonnes of the Great Expanse and the god never interacts with other deities unless these followers are at risk. It’s thought that Ptah might be after Mussin’s head because he destroyed one of Ptah’s favorite followers. Why Uller insists on taking a stake in trying to find followers on Harqual is anyone’s guess. He seems determined to try and sway Larea’s followers whenever he can. It is whispered that he might be trying to prove himself to her to try and convince her he’d be a suitable consort. (However, no one is stupid enough to ask one of Uller’s faithful about this, as they’d likely get a crossbow bolt in the forehead.)

    The ‘New’ Interloper Gods
    As time has past, more deities have become aware of the divine climate on Harqual. This has attracted several new gods to the continent from other part of Kulan as well as from other worlds. Below are those that have become known as Interloper Gods on Harqual.

    In the Verdalf Forest, there lies a gateway to the world where the hunter elves (and the docrae) of that forest originally came from, over 500 years ago. (No one is sure when the hunter elves came to Harqual, but it was over 500 years ago that first contact happened between them and the forest elves of Knotwood.) The hunter elves and docrae brought with them the belief of several unique deities: Faunus, Ordana, Sylvian, and Tilla. These deities are unknown to most beyond the Verdalf Forest, although many forest elves, formerly of the Knotwood, have become enamored with Sylvain.

    Olidammara is a roguish god who has only recently come to Harqual in the last 300 years. His followers are scattered but growing steadily throughout the continent. His followers often butt heads with those of the North God Kuil on matters of “honor” and that the followers of Kuil often accuse the Laughing God’s followers of not having any.

    Another deity’s worship has originated from within the Verdalf Forest within the last 250 years. The worship of the deity called Hak, known as The Horselord, has quickly spread out from the Verdalf Forest into the surrounding regions. This Interloper is believed to be a new incarnation of the dead North God Anacoro by farmers and huntsmen. In truth, Hak is simply another deity from the original world of the hunter elves, although the deity isn’t an elven god. Hak is quite popular with the few centaurs living in the Verdalf Forest.

    Heward is another new arrival to Harqual in only the last 200 years, and he has become a friend of Damh’s and is popular amongst bards. His realm is on another prime material world so he rarely does more than manifest on Harqual.

    The gods Halmyr and Valkar have only been heard of on Harqual in the last 100 years, yet their faiths have gained quite the following. Many of the North Gods respect these two and the pantheon is debating whether or not to ask them to join the North Gods.

    Another recent arrival, also within the last 100 years, is the wild warrior god, Konkresh. He is becoming a favorite deity amongst the more bloodthirsty barbarian tribes of the Northlands. This hasn’t endeared him to any of the North Gods.

    No one is sure when or where the worship of the being known as Malotoch first appeared on Harqual, but most scholars believe the demon lord has only shown interest in Lands of Harqual in the last 80 years or so. Malotoch is known as the Crow Mistress and her worship is rarely found in any civilized land. Her most prolific worshipers are harpies and rooks.

    Xan Yae is the most recent arrival, within the last 55 years. This goddess of the mind is also known as one of the few deities to have her realm on the Plane of Twilight. Mainly those races that have some form of psionic potential – a rarity on Harqual – know of her (i.e. duergar). However, she is also a goddess of shadows and stealth and is slowly gaining followers amongst rogues and assassins.
    Robert Blezard

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    The Empire of Swords
    The Empire of Swords was a militaristic, despotic kingdom that held ultimate power over much of the lands of Harqual. (Not including the Great Forest of the elves, the Greystone Mountains of the dwarves, the Storm Jungle of the tabaxi, or the Far South.) The Empire, at its height, controlled all the lands from the Ragik Peninsula on the western coast of Northern Harqual, to the Spirit Rift near the eastern coast of Northern Harqual, to the northern edge of the Great Expanse in Southern Harqual.

    The Empire paid homage to Hiisi’s dark pantheon. It is unknown whether the Empire took its name from the pantheon (likely) or if it was the other way around (not so likely). All that is known is that the Empire of Swords was the largest human empire to ever exist on Harqual. It ruins can be found all over Northern Harqual, lost to time and the ravages of war. For over 1,400 years, the Empire of Swords dominated the continent, no one able to break its dark power.

    At the height of the Empire’s power, King-Priests of Hiisi controlled the Empire of Swords, with each successive King-Priest ruling for their entire lifetime. The power of the King-Priest was absolute and it was rumored that each King-Priest was, in fact, a powerful proxy of the Lord of Darkness. However, this rumor goes against the Dark Ones very nature, as he loathed too give out power to anyone. The truth may never be known. What is known is that a King-Priest could destroy entire legions of soldiers with even the simplest spells and granted powers. They were a terror to face on the battlefield and were protected by incredibly powerful magical enchantments and armor.

    Most of the names of the King-Priests that ruled the Empire of Swords during its existence have been lost to time. All that is left of their legacy are the ziggurats lining the Empirisk River from the Imperial City of Yösydän (now called Vapaa) to the town of Fjärranstade. These ziggurats are the resting-places of the King-Priests of the Sword Imperium.

    Hiisi’s banishment to Carceri left the Empire of Swords without their patron and the Imperium suffered as a result. The King-Priest was powerless against the combined clergy of the remaining Sword Gods. Nether’s clerics of pain took great pleasure in torturing the King-Priest and his followers, while Mussin’s clerics spread disease and destruction throughout the Empire.

    Mussin cared nothing for Hiisi’s mortal followers or the Empire they built and he took great pleasure in tearing it apart. Distant protectorates broke away from the Empire one by one and the Old Sword Imperium collapsed beyond the Ragik Peninsula. The throne of the Empire passed from one petty dictator to another, along the lines of might makes right. However, ruthless warlords held sway over the remains of the Empire and the Emperors had little real power beyond the walls of Yösydän.

    These Dead Emperors, as they were often called by the masses, usually didn’t rule long. Assassins loyal to the dead god Vespin slew Emperor after Emperor, as none of them were “right for the throne” in the eyes of the followers of the Sword God of Thieves and Assassins. The Dead Emperors lived in fear for centuries of the group that would become known as Vespin’s Lost and most went mad. Most of their edicts were simply ignored by the populace, as the Emperor that proclaimed them would soon forget all about it.

    Vespin’s Lost weren’t the only ones that opposed the Dead Emperors, as dozens of ex-priests of the Pantheon of Swords banded together to form the society known as the Yosyntya or the Dark Reborn. Dedicated to raising the fallen gods of the Imperium, this society had little luck regaining worshipers for the dark gods. They still exist to this day but are hunted by the priests of the remaining gods of Pantheon of Swords, not to mention everyone else. Of all of the dead Sword Gods, only Vespin's loyal families of assassins refuse to convert to worship another god.

    In current times, the Imperium Royal House was seen more as a bunch of squabbling fools and had little power over the Ragik Peninsula. The last Emperor (now deceased) was quite mad and had been known to ride backwards through the imperial city on a donkey laughing, “I am all powerful, tremble before me!”

    Unfortunately, an elite force of mercenaries known as the Blades of the Emperor, who once protected the Imperial family, still exist in the Old Sword Imperium. The leaders of this force are no better then petty warlords now, but they still hold power in the region, especially in the Imperiumi Forest. They oppose the changes happening in the lands now known as the Sword Protectorate. (See below, under the current events of the Year of the Return: The Transformation.)

    The ‘New’ Sword Gods
    In recent times, say the last 300 years or so, changes have been happening within the Pantheon of Swords. The pantheon’s numbers were more depleted by the Divinity War then the North Gods. As a result, Mussin sought new allies to bring into the dark pantheon. Thus, three new gods have come to Harqual, not as Interloper Gods, bust as members of the Pantheon of Swords – Battus, Belinik, and Math Mathonwy.

    Battus is the spawn child of Thera and a demon of unknown origin. Battus has reclaimed the realm of Amand, Gaoterlog, in the Abyss. He is known as The Bloody Sword and his followers often work towards the final destruction of the faithful of Hela. Belinik is a vile god from an alternate material plane, as is known as the Prince of Terror and the Lord of Strife. He and Nether often compete for the same followers, which pleases Mussin, as it makes the god more vicious to their enemies. Math Mathonwy is an Old God known across the Outer Planes as the Miser of Magic. He was brought into the pantheon by Mussin to add a needed boost of magic to the pantheon. This really made Xuar irate, to say the least.

    Whether or not Mussin plans to allow more dark gods into the Circle of Sword Gods is unknown. For now, the circle is eight with a place left open for Hiisi. Mussin does this only to placate Angrboda, Nether, and Xuar.

    It is whispered throughout the Sword Lands that the dead Sword God Amand had a dalliance with an alternate material plane goddess of unknown origin. There is a good possibility that a dark grandchild of Hiisi may exist to take the Lord of Darkness’ place in the Circle. If so, this god or goddess would likely see Battus’ as a violator of his father’s realm, which could lead to outright conflict.
    Robert Blezard

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    The Fourth Era

    The Black Wars
    While the Empire of Swords self-destructed from within the rest of Harqual’s human population fell on one another like rabid dogs. For hundreds of years before the creation of the New Calendar, as well as a few hundred after the rise of the Kingdom of the Jagged Peninsula, the city-states of Harqual battled each other and anyone else who got in the way. This time was known as the Black Wars.

    The dark warriors and priests of the Empire divided up the land and warred with each other until nothing was left of the Imperium's legacy. Old alliances and friendships were forgotten and city-state after city-state fell into the bloody conflict. It was almost like the mortal war during the time of the Divinity War never really ended. Human armies simply switched sides, formed new alliances and fought former allies.

    New city-states rose to take the place of the fallen and then crumbled after years of war took its toil. The barbarians of the Northlands isolated themselves from the wars as much as possible but even they were forced to defend themselves from time to time. The elves of the Great Harqual Forest watched in horror as humans slaughtered each other for centuries. Most of the warlords were smart enough to not attack the elves but every dark time has its fools and madmen.

    Three decades before the creation of the New Calendar a truly vile warlord dedicated to Mussin took 5,000 mercenaries into the forest near what is now modern day Thallin and proceeded to sack the Elven Kingdom of Amylinyon before being overrun by the combined might of the remaining elves. The lands around Amylinyon were burned and infested with disease. And all that remains of this region now is miles of vile, haunted swampland and the remains of the elven capital, now called Caer Amylinyon or the Ruins of the Gray.

    Amylinyon was the homeland of the gray elves on Harqual and it widely known that the elves were betrayed by one of their own. The betrayer was said to be a vile female necromancer that supposedly made a pact with Xuar, which would grant her eternal life. In return, she would use her influence and magic to distract her kin when the warlord’s army attacked.

    Amylinyon’s people were either butchered or fled to the lands of the silver elves in Silverleaf or left for other lands across the continent. Some believe that this is how there came to be elves in the desert wastes of the Great Expanse. However, most scholars believe that most of the remaining gray elves left Harqual altogether. Very few gray elves still live on Harqual now and most humans believe that there aren't any left.

    The warlord died, yet the elven necromancer lives on to this day, her real name forgotten. In the present era, this elven necromancer is known by many names and aliases. The Foulsoul, the Betrayer, and the Enigma Sorceress are the most famous of these aliases. If killed she rises from the dead the following evening by possessing the nearest elf’s body, male or female. Thus, she is impossible to recognize based on previous encounters. She is completely loyal to Xuar.

    As the Black Wars continued to rage across the land, more and more demihumans fled or isolated themselves from the bloody conflict. The dwarves of the Greystone and Sunus Mountains withdrew into their mountain homes completely, denying entrance to all, even others of their own kind. The silver elves of the Great Forest placed High Magic wards at the edge of their kingdom to prevent the humans from attacking their homeland. The forest elves living in the southern half of the Great Forest protected their forest home more militantly than their northern cousins did. Human warriors that dared enter the southern forest were usually never seen again.

    The gnomes fled to Southern Harqual (where the fighting was less widespread) while many halfling families joined the silver elves in the Great Forest. In fact, gnomes now exist only in southern lands settling in the Heverkent Forest and the Hinderfall Mountains. These ‘rockwood gnomes’ became steadfast allies with the rakasta, against the few human warlords that dared to ride across the savannas of the southern lands. Most hairfoot halfling families, in the north, weren’t as fortunate, and those families that didn’t seek safety with the elves were either enslaved or killed.
    Robert Blezard

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    The First Ogre War and the Eastern Council
    In 449 N.C., an event happened that would cease the Black Wars and bind humanity together. Hordes of humanoids rose from the deepest swamps and swept down from the desolate mountain peaks, to ravage the cities of the north. Lead by tribes of huge ogres loyal to the gods Gruumsh and Vaprak, these hordes of gnolls, orcs, and goblinoids nearly swept humanity from the face of Harqual.

    In fact, in some places they were successful in destroying entire city-states in less than a week. So busy fighting each other, the humans were taken totally by surprise. The strange part was that the hordes simply took what they wanted each time they attacked and then continued south past the Great Expanse. It was here that the hordes truly overwhelmed humanity as they wiped out human cities, towns, and fortifications in the Far South.

    For a hundred years the First Ogre War, as it was called, raged across the land and humanity hung on for survival. Only with the help of the dwarves of the Greystone and Sunus Mountains did humanity survive in north. The dwarves, who knew how to fight ogres better than anyone, helped organize the human city-states and scattered soldiers into a force to be reckoned with. Soon the humanoid hordes found themselves outmatched; they had spread their forces too thin and retreated to out of the way places to gain strength and seethe in anger (the First Ogre War officially ended in 551 N.C.).

    The dwarven people had hoped that all of humanity would reunite and bring stability back to Harqual. Instead, most of the humans retreated to the coasts to distance themselves from the humanoid hordes and started to build and fortify new militant city-states. The dwarven Thanes shook their heads in disbelief and returned to their mountain homes, vowing that humanity would stand alone the next time the hordes came.

    Only a small group of city-states on or near the eastern coast of Northern Harqual realized that an alliance amongst themselves would protect them all from another humanoid horde. Thus, in neutral lands in the west near the shores of an (then) unnamed lake did the city-states sign the Treaty of Lake Nest and form the Eastern Council (555 N.C.) Binding them in honor and war against any that would threaten even one of them (including other members). No one knows why the lake was given that name by the council or why other city-states near the lake were not offered a chance to sign the treaty.

    As time passed, the members of the Eastern Council became more like countries than city-states and the Kingdoms of the Eastern Shores, as they are now called, has been one of the most civilized areas of Northern Harqual since the end of the First Ogre War. Once dominated by a few kingdoms — Minar, Stonn, Thallin and Wolffire, the power base of the Eastern Council has changed significantly over the last ten years. (See under the Fifth Era section for more details about this change.)
    Robert Blezard

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    An Strange, Uneasy Peace
    The end of the First Ogre War brought peace to the continent, for the first time, for as long as even the elves could remember. Everyone knew it wasn’t going to last. The demihumans knew that the ogres would come again and the humans knew that if the ogres didn’t come soon they would start to fight amongst each other again. It was inevitable — for 150 years it was inevitable.

    No one thought that the ogres would wait that long and that humanity would war with each other way before that much time had pasted, rather than live in peace. Yet, for a century-and-a-half the continent was a quiet, tranquil place (for the most part). Still divided, yes, but peaceful. Old soldiers itched for battle, while younger ones wondered what all the fuss was about. If the ogres did come, they’d be ready for them. Why waste valuable resources and time fighting with each other? This was the viewpoint of the young and it should be remembered that the young decide the future.

    In the Eastern Shores, harsh stability was the rule. As noted above, council members that did try to conquer the others were quickly defeated, their city-states annexed as a warning to other council members not to violate the Treaty of Lake Nest. Soon city-states banded together to form countries and marriages between nobles of different countries cemented the Eastern Shores together.

    In the western lands known as the Sword Gulf Region, it was a little less stable. Over a dozen minor skirmishes happened in 150 years but these conflicts never lasted long. No one wanted to fight a war in the middle of winter and there was always the threat of the ogres. Several city-states rose to prominence in this region at the time, completely oblivious to the civilization that was growing in the Eastern Shores.

    Avion City, Onaway, Halandra, and Steins still stand to this day even though their names have changed countless times since the end of the First Ogre War.

    Even the decadent Empire of Swords lay quiet during this time. Yes, they back-stabbed and betrayed each other but they never invaded the surrounding lands once or fought any internal civil wars. It was eerie to behold if you lived south of the Imperium in one of the many struggling city-states. It was like the Imperium dogs were taking a long nap. And in the lands of the elves and the dwarves, they waited. 150 years was nothing to them. If the humans south of the Greystone Mountains stood together then they would join the fight. If not, they would mourn the passing of a barbaric people they once called friends.
    Robert Blezard

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    The Second Ogre War
    When the hordes came, they came in the thousands. In 701 N.C., ogre scions led the hordes of humanoids once again, descending on the remaining city-states and countries of Northern Harqual. And while places such as the Wild Plains and the Imperium were devastated by the war, the Eastern Shores held on, for dear life. They pushed back the ogres to the fringes of civilization and refused to give in as more humanoids poured out from desolate plains, high mountains and the desert known as the Great Expanse.

    A group of heroes rose to fight the hordes. A young paladin of Jalivier named Jacard Winternight, a family of rogues and mercenaries named Tigerstorm, a stanch soldier named Travathian Dragonguard, a sorcerer named Heward Tallinson, a dwarven fighter-priest named Brekk Thunderstone, a silver elf priest named Menkhar Silversun, a humble forest elf named Minonus Redwater and a barbarian chieftain named Recmair Hault.

    These adventurers turned heroes were key to stamping out the hordes of humanoids and the Second Ogre War lasted for less then a decade in the Eastern Shores. However, the war did not end in the western lands until 713 N.C.

    The ogres and their followers fled back to most inhospitable regions on Harqual but some (most notably gnolls and orcs) stayed behind becoming regional bandits, whose descendants still raid the surrounding lands to this day. In time, the heroes would become prominent citizens of the Eastern Shores. Some would even become the rulers of their homelands.
    NOTE: Jacard Winternight rules Navirosov, Travathian Dragonguard became King of Thallin, Menkhar Silversun was crowned High One of the Silver Leaves, and Recmair Hault built the Barbaric Lands of Wolffire. Of all these heroes, only Travathian Dragonguard has passed away. It is believed that he was murdered by his own son, Varath, who is now King of Thallin.
    In the west, all but Onaway and Steins fell to the ogres and the area is just starting to recover from the war. Cut off from the east for almost 200 year, the west is now reconnecting with the Kingdoms of the Eastern Shores and other eastern lands. Elves are not as welcome in the west, as in the east, due to the fact that the city-states of the Wild Plains didn’t stand together against the ogres and the elves left them to their fate as a result.

    The Imperium suffered the most from the Second Ogre War or one should say the citizens did. When the ogres attacked the rulers and nobles of the remaining city-states herded the people out into the countryside to sate the ogres’ blood-lust. In return, the ogres didn’t sack all the cities of the Imperium. Even some of the remaining dark gods turned away from the Imperium, fearing that the vile humans would drag down the Pantheon of Swords with them.

    Several ogre tribes also tried to conquer the gnomes, Torin dwarves, and rakasta of the south but met heavy resistance and were forced to flee north into the Great Expanse. However, once there they had to flee the mysterious desert dwelling elves of the Expanse, moving further north into the Sunus Mountains or across the waters to one of the many islands that dot the region.

    For years after the war ended, the civilizations of Harqual rebuilt and fortified their lands, building new kingdoms and forming trade alliances with new neighbors. Hoping that the conflict and strife would finally end. They were wrong.
    Robert Blezard

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    The Year of the Dawn (748 N.C.)
    The year 748 on the New Calendar was a year rife with rumors and change. The spring began like any other over the previous decades after the Second Ogre War, a wild peace waking from its slumber. Into this peace came rumors that the Empire of Swords may be on the move again and that a third war against the ogres loomed on the horizon.

    The High Thane of the Kingdom of the Greystones, Ulfgar Blackforge, was killed by a small band of ogres leaving his young, inexperienced daughter, Sannl Blackforge, as his successor. Brekk Thunderstone becomes the unstable child’s sole confidant and advisor as she refuses to listen to anyone else. Eventually, she seals off the dwarven kingdoms from the humans and elves, trusting neither race to the point of paranoia.

    In the capital city of The Kingdom of Thallin, a young band of adventurers is chosen for a mission to travel to Onaway in the western lands and try to solidify a trade alliance with whoever might still be living there. This group of adventurers faces orcs, ogres and a mysterious foe during the journey. Once through the Wild Plains they reached the city-state of Onaway, make a pact with its ruler, Than LaMarche, for an alliance with The Kingdom of Thallin, and uncover a plot to assassinate him.

    Then the forest elves in The Knotwood shocked their northern cousins and the people of the Eastern Shores by sealing off the southern half of Great Forest from all other races. All those forest elves that were currently away from the Knotwood were ordered to return or become outcasts in the eyes of their people. Some did return home but others did not.

    Decades earlier, a wild-eyed old priest of the Pantheon of the North preached the coming of an old evil back to the lands of Harqual. Very few listened or even cared. The people were tired of listening to the old stories, now was the time for change and peace. They should have listened because change was the least of their worries.
    Robert Blezard

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    The Fifth Era

    The Year of the Return (749 N.C.)
    This name, for the year 749 N.C., was assigned years after by scholars in the Eastern Shores. NPCs won't refer to the name 'Year of the Return', as the campaign story line unfolds. As far as anyone knows it is just another year.

    The Tabaxi Return
    1,001 years have come and gone since the end of the Divinity War and the continent of Harqual is about to go through a shocking change. A young, charismatic barbarian-priest of Cronn, living in Twilight Valley, is shown the true nature of the tabaxi through dreams sent to him by the Lord of the North. The young priest tries to convince his elders of the truth. Unable to sway them, the young priest sets of on a journey to warn the rest of Harqual of the return of the tabaxi. (He changes his name to Taith-El or Teller of the Past.)

    This journey leads Taith-El through The Kingdom of the Greystones, The Kingdom of Thallin, and onto The Kingdom of the Silver Leaves. When Taith-El and a group of halfling followers arrive in Silverleaf, the barbarian-priest tells Menkhar Silversun of his dreams. The High One tells the young barbarian-priest that he had heard rumors of a city appearing somewhere in the south. It could be the city of the tabaxi that Taith-El was warned of by Cronn. Silversun and Taith-El pray together in the temple of Corellon together for the entire day, seeking the Creator of the Elves’ consul.

    And indeed, the tabaxi have returned to the Storm Jungle along with their powerful and vengeful god Tu, from parts unknown. Tu has vile-hearted revenge on his mind and has set his sights upon the communities just north of the Storm Jungle. From Avion City to Valora the cities of the Monarchy of Avion find themselves under constant attack by tabaxi led forces including orcs, ogres, and a new creature loyal to the tabaxi. The City of Ilasi takes the worst of this assault, barely managing to hold on. Valora is not so lucky as the tabaxi laid waste to the city dragging its residents into the Storm Jungle in chains.

    East of the Monarchy, no word comes from Nasundria, and Lady Felicia, Queen of Avion, worries that the city is lost. She sends a rider with a message to the City of Nasundria.

    At dawn on the 27th of Zealot, Silversun and Taith-El both receive the same vision from Corellon. Tu is planning to conquer Harqual for his people. Taith-El is warned not to go further south than Onaway by the Elf Lord. No reason is given for this but the barbarian-priest accepts it as the will of Cronn. News spreads through the elven lands of this new threat. Hundreds of silver elves flock to Silverleaf to meet this godtouched barbarian-priest of Cronn. Many of them pledge to follow him in his quest to warn Harqual.

    The next day, the High One contacts Lord Than LaMarche of Onaway to tell him of the tabaxi threat. He is shocked to learn that the southern lands have already had violent conflict with the tabaxi. Taith-El insists that he must go to Onaway and confer with Lord LaMarche. Dozens of silver elves go with him and his halfling followers.

    Taith-El and his followers arrive in Onaway immediately being brought to see Lord LaMarche. The barbarian-priest shares his dream, from Cronn, with the Lord of Onaway. Lord LaMarche magically contacts Lady Felicia in Avion City and tells her of the barbarian-priest’s arrival and dream. Intrigued, she immediately sends an emissary to Onaway to meet with Taith-El.

    News of the barbarian-priest’s dream soon spreads through the populace of Onaway. The citizens start to panic and rioting breaks out in the city, as well as the city of Onaco, down the coast. Taith-El goes out amongst the populace of Onaway to calm them down. The charismatic barbarian-priest preaches a steady hand and patient attitude and wins over many converts to Cronn’s faith. Many of the faithful start calling him Cronn’s Chosen. The small, local shrine to Cronn becomes a popular place to pray overnight. (Unrest continues to be a problem in the city of Onaco, however.)

    Lady Felicia’s emissary reaches Onaway and meets with Taith-El. The barbarian-priest’s prophetic dream from Cronn accounts the destruction of Valora and warns that if preparations aren’t made, all of the Monarchy of Avion and the lands of the Onan Territory will fall. The envoy asks Taith-El to come with him and meet Lady Felicia in Avion City. Taith-El tells him that cannot – that Corellon warned him that he must not go any further south then Onaway or disaster will befall them all.

    Taith-El assures the envoy that he would be honored to meet with Avion’s Great Lady, as he refers to her, but it would have to be in Onaway. The Queen’s emissary journeys back to Avion City to tell her of his meeting with the charismatic barbarian-priest. Several of Taith-El’s loyal followers go with him, as an escort, and to spread his words amongst the populace of Onaco, in order to calm that city. The emissary arrives back from Onaway, on the 22nd of Sialic, and recounts his meeting with Taith-El. To her surprise, the escort of followers proclaimed that they were sent to ensure the Great Lady’s protection – it was Taith-El’s will. They would stand by her side from now on as loyal guards of honor in Cronn’s name.

    Lady Felicia was touched by the barbarian-priest’s concern for her welfare and decides to journey to Onaway with a full escort of soldiers and Taith-El’s followers Cronn’s Pride, as they now call themselves. The caravan is attack by a tabaxi war party and several of her closest advisors are killed. Several members of Cronn’s Pride die, heroically, protecting the Monarchy’s Queen. Lady Felicia’s caravan arrives in Onaway. She immediate goes to see Lord LaMarche and meet the barbarian-priest.

    Lord LaMarche informs her that “Taith-El is currently preaching at the new Temple of Cronn being built where the Lord of the North’s shrine use to be. His devotion is unlike anything I have ever seen before.”

    Intrigued even more, Lady Felicia goes in secret to the new temple and listens to Taith-El preach the word of Cronn. She finds a barbaric, yet intelligent young man, quietly addressing Cronn’s new flock of followers.

    “He speaks with such conviction, such passion, I must meet him.”

    She walks through the crowd, stopping near the simply wooden beach that Taith-El sits upon. Taith-El noticed the woman approach and stops speaking to the crowd. He immediately knew who she was, through the power of Cronn, and knelt before her on the ground like his god Cronn had done with Mirella in the beginning.

    “Ask what you will of me, milady, I am your servant!”

    Everyone present knew the words from the Legend of Cronn and Mirella and a murmur rises through the crowd. Lady Felicia is shocked, no one knew she was one of Mirella’s faithful. Yet to address her in this fashion left no doubt in her mind that this young barbarian-priest was chosen by Cronn himself. And she instantly knew the response she must give in return.

    “No Taith-El, your destiny is not with me but with the land that gave you life. You are its master and slave, you must guard it against those that would destroy it.”

    With that she left him. So great was his sorrow that he could not serve the lady, tears streamed from his eyes to dampen the ground. And thus, a great place of power was created in homage to both Cronn and Mirella. The two would never meet again, as Lady Felicia left for the Monarchy that same day.

    And in the months to come, the news of the tabaxi spreads out from the Onan Territories to the rest of the states of the Wild Plains, while rumors circulate through the Eastern Shores about trouble brewing in the southwest. The question on everyone’s mind is where and when the tabaxi will attack next.

    The following dates detail events related the major tabaxi activity during the Year of the Return:
    • On the 1st of Thorn, an army of tabaxi and strange humanoids appears out of the Storm Jungle, laying siege to the City of Anthmoor. The cities defenders hold off the attacking army but the tabaxi refuse to surrender or retreat. They camp several miles from the city, raiding the surrounding countryside for supplies and slaves.
    • On the 14th of Thorn, the combined might of the tabaxi, their strange griffon-like humanoid slaves, mountain orcs, and ogres attack on three fronts – Anthmoor, Hutmallia and Tallawan. The army attacking Hutmallia breaks through the city’s defenses, captures the city and it’s residences. Tallawan holds its ground with the help of several powerful adventurers. Anthmoor knocks back the invading army, destroying hundreds of enemy soldiers with powerful magic and the aid of the Majestic Bronze Dragon of Harqual, Nethmalinor. The great dragon warns the attacking army: “You threaten my home and the Balance, evil ones. Continue your onslaught on this city and I will make you pay… personally!”
    • On the 16th of Thorn, the tabaxi armies attacking along the coast of the Storm Peninsula pull back into the Storm Jungle, its leaders unwilling to face the epic power of Nethmalinor. The tabaxi occupying Hutmallia refuse to leave, however, entrenching themselves into the city. They watch the sky, praying to Sa, the tabaxi god known as The Tolerant, for protection against the great Majestic Bronze.
    • On the 23rd of Thorn, a huge army of tabaxi and their allies attack the City of Ilasi. The defenders barely hold of the attack hordes. Tabaxi shamans and sorcerers use powerful magic to block the ability to teleport in or out of the city or cast sending spells beyond the city’s walls.
    • On the 1st of Truce, In the City of Eversink, several of the city’s night watchmen notice several strange humanoids skulking through the darkness, in the swamp, outside the city. The humanoids, which appeared to look cat-like, don’t attack but the city remains on guard none-the-less. The humanoids might be tabaxi, or even rakasta, but the watchmen could not be sure what they saw.
    • On the 8th of Truce, a tabaxi raiding party is spotted outside of the City of Shaule, east of Lake Nest. The tabaxi seem to vanish from sight, as if by magic, before any of the guards can inform the city’s ruler, Prince Winston Hallet. Prince Hallet triples the guards on the walls of his city and the number of patrols sent out each day.
    • On the 2nd of Hansa, outside of Avion City, a tabaxi army, which arrived in the night, begins assaulting the Capital City of the Monarchy. The fighting is brutal and hundreds die, on both side. By the end of the night, the tabaxi are entrenched around the city. No one is able to leave the city by land, although the sea is still controlled by the Monarchy.
    • On the 14th of Hansa, in Eversink, several high ranking officials are found dead, their throats slashed and the victim’s scalps taken. The local authorities are sure if tabaxi assassins are to blame or if it is simply home spun assassinations.
    • On the 25th of Hela, an advancing army of the tabaxi and Cronn’s Regiment, as it is later named meet on the field of battle just west of the Hills of the Holds. The battle is short and brutal, as the tabaxi overrun the small regiment of Monarchy soldiers. Two dozen humanoids die for every member of Cronn’s Pride whom falls. The remaining Monarchy soldiers, no more than 50, divide into two groups. One group retreats back towards Nidbor Keep and the other retreats southwest to the Town of Jalmur. The conflict is later named the Battle for the Hills.
    • On the 30th of Hela, the advancing tabaxi army arrives at Nidbor Keep. They lay siege to the fortress with everything they have including foul Necromantic magic, animating the fallen from both sides to fight on in the army of the Priests of Tu. The tabaxi use every sneaky and dirty trick they can think of including summoning monsters upon the walls of the keep and ethereal assassins. The Battle of Nidbor Keep continues on into the night.
    Robert Blezard

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    The Fall of the Knotwood
    On the 9th of Hansa, the High One of Silver Leaves notes during the crisis with Ahamudia that there isn’t word from the forest elves of the Knotwood. He has this feeling that something is wrong by the wind in the air and the smell of the forest. He can feel darkness passing through the branches of the trees weighing down on upon his soul. He sends a small patrol of silver elves to check on the forest elves of the Knotwood.

    On the 20th of Hansa, a few surviving member of the patrol return to Silverleaf battered and bruised. They couldn’t find any forest elves but what they did find chilled their bones. The Knotwood had become deformed and twisted. The local denizens have become a mockery of nature; flesh-eating bears, poisonous lions, undead treants, and worst of all, demons. The High One falls into a state of shock at the news. His advisors order the blockade of the southern half of Great Forest until it can be decided what to do.

    Then on the 7th of Euphoria, a hundred or so forest elves are discovered lying in the Sacred Plains severely wounded or crippled. There aren’t any older elves in the group, which is made up of mostly children. They are all unconscious and most of the warriors are near death. The priest of the Sacred Plain does what he can but dozens die before the day is over. A week later, few of the stronger forest elf males finally recover enough to explain what happened in the Knotwood.

    After the Therani Clan Elders cut off the Knotwood from the rest of Harqual, they started using High Magic to place powerful wards near the edge of the forest to warn of human encroachment into the woods. However, some of the more radical members of the clan took matters into their own hands and placed wards of their own using the Forbidden Art. This was against everything that elven-kind stand for and was kept secret. Then a truly insane elven wizard, named Weikir, summoned a powerful vrock demon directly to his home. The wards placed over a thousand years ago to prevent this sort of thing fizzled due to the powerful dark magic he used.

    He then bound the demon to his service and started using his new ally to destroy his rivals. When word of this came to the attention of the Clan Council they were shocked. Even more so when they realized how far the corruption had spread. They immediately sent several sorcerers to destroy the defilers. Most of the evil elves were wiped out but Weikir wouldn’t be taken alive or dead. He cast two powerful necromantic spells to ensure his survival. The first one caused a dark fog of corruption to spread out amongst the tree homes of the surrounding clans and reshape anything it touched. This allowed him to exert his will on the other clans and he set them loose on the council. By day’s end, most of the council members had either been slain or transformed into what would become known as Blood Elves.

    Then he used the most powerful Forbidden Art spell he knew, dark wish, to merge with the summoned demon. The two minds struggled for control and eventually merged into one mind. This being named itself Wyrknari Vok. It then started summoning other powerful demons into its service and started conquering The Knotwood. It slaughtered or devoured all that opposed it and corrupted half the clans in less than a month.

    Those that survived the first wave decided on two courses of action. The youngest elves of all the remaining clans were taken north towards Kingdom of the Silver Leaves with a contingent of the best warriors and priests remaining. The very old were allowed an honorable death to keep them from the demons (luckily there weren’t many left) and the rest of the clan members would stay behind and protect the rear. A contingency spell was placed on the rearguard that would disintegrate a 5-ft radius when a member was killed. This way the rearguard could hopefully destroy those that killed them after their death.

    The elves that fled towards Silverleaf were fifteen hundred strong when they started out, but they were decimated by demons, blood elves, and summoned undead. Those that survived past the shores of Lake Loch were the lucky ones. The wards protecting The Kingdom of the Silver Leaves saved them. The survivors warn the silver elves that the current wards protecting the kingdom may not be strong enough to hold back the darkness.

    The High Wizards of the kingdom immediately strengthen the wards in the southern part of the forest. These layers of additional wards are placed every 5 miles for 30 miles towards the Knotwood. The High One then orders the High Wizards to place wards on the fringes of the forest near the human lands surrounding The Knotwood. Heward Tallinson, the man known as The Sorcerer, aids them with the casting of several powerful epic spells. The powerful spells keep the demons at bay for the most part but many of the communities along the isolated western edge of the Great Forest find themselves constantly under attack by blood elves.
    Robert Blezard

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