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This is a creative work set in the world of Elanthia, attributed to its original author(s). It does not necessarily represent the official lore of GemStone IV.

Title: Forbidden Knowledge and the Black Arts: Volume I - The History of Necromancy

Author: Xorus

Please note the disclaimer at the bottom of this page on how to use this unofficial document. There is a highlight key for emphasizing references as 100% made up and not canon.

The following are OOC footnotes cross-referencing and explaining the logic and intent of this document: Footnotes

This is a three volume work:

Forbidden Knowledge and the Black Arts

Through my long years of study and field work as an occult archaeologist, I have had much occasion to treat with the dangerous factions and malign forces of this world. There are many black arts and traditions of forbidden knowledge that are ill-known in the more civilized realms of this continent. What follows here is a brief survey in three volumes. It establishes the ways of dark magic in their historical provenance and ancestral propensities, attempting to set these matters into a modicrum of order. It is the bias of this work to frame the evolution of dark sorcery in thaumaturgical and rationalist terms. There may be points which are most reflective of my own opinion, and its iconoclasm will find ways of displeasing even the Faendryl.

The indigenous cultures and dark cults of the lawless regions of Jontara, who engage in what we will call the "black arts," would not characterize their own practices in this way. For this I will defer to ethnographers and religious historians. In this compendium the unifying focus is necromancy in a very broad sense. Various categories and conventions are introduced to make a semblance of coherence from these sinister traditions. It is written with some bias toward more recent history, in its illustrations, to aid in relevancy and practical context.

Lord Xorus Kul'shin
Vice Chancellor Emeritus
Hazalred Thaumaturgical Insitute
30 Koaratos, 5122 Modern Era

Volume I: The History of Necromancy

Necromancy is the art of death and power over the living. It is the manipulation of spirit and the soul. In its oldest definition it would include the religious magic of resurrection, the refashioning of flesh, and the ascension of mortals by the Light and Dark Gods. It took its earliest forms in mortuary rituals and the divination of ancestral spirits. Throughout history it has become an ever darker form of magic, splitting from its spiritual roots. It is now the black arts of foul corruption and the utter debasement of life and death. Necromancy is now one of the foundations of sorcery, as the sorcerous arts are presently understood. But necromancy has never been as narrow as the undead, and has taken many other forms in history.

It would be more accurate to say that the core of necromancy is the total disregard for the sanctity of kinds. More broadly than even life and death, it is the willingness to pervert and debase, to transform and transgress and transmogrify. Necromancers violate the categories of what exists in nature, inventing ever newer and more horrible nightmares. In this way it is difficult to illustrate the whole tapestry of the black arts. Whether a given horror is undead, demonic, or something else, is not always obvious. That is the legacy of necromancers.

I. The Age of Darkness (-130,000? to -50,000 Modern Era)

"For all the privation suffered under the bloodied wings of dragon rule, there was a still more terrible power waiting beyond the veil. The darkness was a blight that cast its fell shadow upon the world, twisting life itself and staining the very earth. They fed on the essence and the soul. Where they came from is not known. But they were legion; and with them, all was sundered. The Demon Lords were of many hideous forms and gave birth to vile perversions, unliving nightmares which haunted the lands. Cruel beyond hatred. So inherent was their primordial corruption -- what we call the Ur-Daemon, the first demons -- it is said they can never truly die. Their remnants linger, in sleeping death. Horrible relics of dreadful power."

- Linsandrych Illistim, First Master of Lore, House Illistim

The Age of Darkness began and ended with the dragons. There came a force from beyond this world, the Utter Darkness, which shadowed over them and their barbarism. With this came the true Age of Darkness. It saw the dragons miscast in the light as saviors, and ultimately, the darknesses destroyed each other. The dragons who survived were driven mad. It is not known how this happened. The more chaotic or demonic realms beyond the pale are incapable of opening portals into higher realities. Whether it was an accident, or they were brought here on purpose, the way was opened. Once they were here, they ripped apart the veil. It was not only a single gateway to some other dimension, but many, and the world was flooded with horrible demons. These primordial demons, thus named the Ur-Daemon, were tremendous and terrible powers. They fed upon the magical energies of the world, and their very presence stained their surroundings.

There was a cataclysmic war between the dragons and other greater powers of this world with the demons. The Great Elementals stormed and the Great Spirits mostly hid or were devoured. It is thought that the war was so profoundly violent to reality that it impacted the surrounding cosmos. Terrible gods were formed in other worlds from the powers unleashed. There were Arkati who hoarded followers, or attempted to shelter lesser races in other places. Those who remained in the forests were consumed by shadows, and the living were warped into grotesque mutants.

The Ur-Daemon were slain or banished from this world in a great battle that blasted the landscape for hundreds of miles. With this accomplished there was a powerful gemstone set near the pole of our world known as the Eye of the Drake. This sealed the interdimensional rift and strengthened the essence barriers separating the worlds. There are legends of "the Great Drake," sometimes thought to be Koar, sealing it as a wound in his very being. The lesser dragons, known as the Wyverns, were tasked with guarding over the more mortal races. But without the Great Drakes lording over them, the Wyverns ignored their charge, and have all but receded into myth. With the failure of the Eye in 5098, Elanthia saw more otherworldly threats. The Vvrael hold the world on the edge of a widening abyss. The Vishmiir were driven back into the Void. Althedeus was destroyed attempting to possess a vessel to bear its chaotic power of shadows.

With the demise of the Ur-Daemon came the opportunity for rebirth, but also the need to heal the world. Their unholy power had perverted the forms of life and corrupted the spiritual forces of nature. There were depraved monstrosities, demonic hybrids, amalgamations that were neither living nor dead. The Lords of Liabo slew the unnatural. Through long years the goddess Imaera worked to cleanse the land of dark essences, much as one might neutralize or remove curses from a gem. The lesser spirits known as the fey, such as the nymphs and sprites and dryads, helped heal the flora and fauna of this taint. The most desecrated fallen realms were too far gone and have remained forever haunted. Spirits in those places were twisted with dark power.

These warped and tormented spirits are sometimes considered undead, and have plagued the world since at least the time of the Ur-Daemon War. Extraplanar undead such as the Vishmiir are at least this old as well. Even the lesser demons, or malevolent powers such as the Vvrael, have made undead minions since prehistory. Unliving abominations were made in the Age of Darkness and were a horror for the survivors of the War. Some of these monstrosities, such as the vruul, survive to the present day. There were perhaps always certain kinds of naturally occurring undeath, such as ghosts, or those who become bound by traumatic deaths such as firephantoms. But it was the corruption of dark essences from the demons that brought the true unlife. The physical forms of the Ur-Daemon are so profoundly unholy, the power of the Arkati is sealed off from them. They are inherently anti-magical, and in some ways, incapable of death.

In the wake of the Ur-Daemon War, those gods we call the Arkati were on top of the hierarchy of powers, and formed a cold war between their factions. Those who "once dwelled upon Lornon" saw the world as their plaything. Lornon is rumored to be a gateworld. Hovering on the boundaries between planes of existence, legend holds its underground caverns were once the workshops of Fash'lo'nae, and early myths held Marlu was imprisoned in the cold moon. It may even be where the Ur-Daemon first entered. There are Faendryl elder historians who believe the spirits of Lornon were corrupted with demonic power, and in this way became darker, thus becoming prone to working with the powers of undeath and demons. The Dark Gods often spend their time residing in other, more hellish planes of existence, fashioning servants that blur the distinction between demons and the undead. Luukos was regarded as the Soul Eater in the Second Age. But he was not singled out as "God of Undeath" until after the Undead War. Most undead are not Luukosian, except maybe in some very religious sense, with the cosmic balances of Life and Death.

II. The Second Age (-50,000 to -20,000 Modern Era)

"Of the first age, little is known, save for one thing -- the dragons ruled all Elanthia. There are no written records of this time, but paintings on the walls of caves, carvings on petrified trees and glyphs found in the Southron Wastes all convey the same desperate messages, of flight, fear, and starvation. Above all, the mighty wings and claws of dragonkind."

- Linsandrych Illistim, First Master of Lore, House Illistim

II.A Ancestral Spirits

The history of the world begins with the written language of the Elves, which was shortly before the founding of the Elven Empire at the dawn of the Second Age. There are only prehistorical relics and proto-writing, cave paintings and petroglyphs, for the times beyond sixty thousand years ago. Knowledge of the Age of Darkness for the most part is limited to the oral traditions of the elves, as the issues of distortion are that much more severe in the more mortal races. Linsandrych Illistim founded her city alongside the Order of Lorekeepers, religious chroniclers of the ancient wisdom of the Arkati. But while the Elves indulge themselves in imagining the accuracy of their own culture tradition, much of the elven dogma may only reflect the beliefs that were widely held at the time of the founding by privileged parts of the society, when the first great libraries were built and books were made and preserved with much labor.

It is without dispute that some of the Arkati guided the elves and other races in the Rebuilding after the Ur-Daemon War. The sylvan and imperial elves in this way both have views of the spirit world centered on the Light and Dark Gods. It is not at all obvious, however, that this truly represents --- even among the elves --- the very earliest forms of religion. Though the goddesses Imaera and L'naere, if indeed those are truly different goddesses, are believed to have manipulated the forms of life, in some legends the elves existed before the Arkati.

Throughout the world there are relatively insulated cultures that might be called "animist," or "druidic," or who hold some flavor of pantheism. Shamans are widely found among many of the more "barbaric" races, whether we are speaking of giants and giantmen, or the orcs and trolls and hobgoblins. It is similarly found among the surviving pre-Kannalan human tribes, such as the Tehir in the Sea of Fire, along with superstitious fears of black shamanism, such as with the Quladdim of the Wizardwaste. There are those who venerate the spirits of nature, and those who worship the elements. There are Illoke shamans and cultists, such as wind witches or fire mages, who are often found with elemental fey spirits like fire sprites. Elemental worship is not always ancient. Sometimes the Arkati are eschewed following cataclysms. Such is apparently the case with the Angstholm gnomes, who survived a great flood, and possibly the Tehir.

The krolvin view other gods as lesser emanations of the supreme god Khar'ta, which is essentially a kind of pantheism similar in vein to some who imagine Koar as the God King. There are dead traditions around the fallen Onarian kingdom of Anwyn, for example, which imagined Koar as a dying and rising god whose revival restores the world. The sylvankind still worship both the Light and Dark Gods in balance. There are even those who adhere to a kind of "One" monism, supporting creation myths where all the greater powers come from intermediary demiurges.

The question is whether such commonalities are the result of convergence, or whether they are syncretism and the vestigial mutations of far more ancient religions. It is beyond the scope of this work to study all of world religion. It is limited to making a crude approximation of the history of the filiation of ideas, so that the development of necromancy from its historical roots may be understood as propensities. History by its nature is the warping of the past through the lenses of contemporary interests. Narrative risks making a fiction of the past. But the history of necromancy is largely one of traditions which were ignored or shunned, twisting and evolving out of the rituals and superstitions of those living outside of civilization.

Very loosely speaking, we refer here to spiritual beliefs that regard all kinds of things as being in some sense "alive," having agency or powers or even sentience and self-awareness. This may involve fetishes, such as totems, or focus on fey spirits such as nymphs and sprites. Often abstract concepts or words, especially names, are seen as holding power. There is ultimately no distinction between spirits and the material world. Illnesses are perceived as spiritual afflictions, and shamans rely on rituals and herbs to drive out the malicious spirits.

There is not necessarily a difference between a wicked spirit and the non-corporeal undead in this view of the world. This is seen with the Tehir, who refer to all such spirits as raamaani. The Sea of Fire has a very high density of spirits, and knowing how to deal with them is an ordinary part of life. Those few who deal with them to a great extent, the Xshitha Raamaani, do so by bargaining with other spirits. Many of the Tehir tribesmen, in fact, regard the Voln mission with disdain. There is a hierarchy of spirits and much nuance in what we call undeath, and unless the tribe is personally threatened, tormented spirits are often regarded as deserving their suffering. In the same fashion the Arkati are often viewed very differently among shaman religions. The Tehir associate the spirit Luukos with a legendary huge snake that surrounds Bir Mahallah, which acts as an instrument of vengeance against those who wrong Creation.

This is important in understanding how it is that necromancy involving the undead arises historically from spiritual magic. There are many rituals involved in making sure the souls of the dead are able to depart, whatever the belief in what happens next, whether that afterlife is in another world or some kind of reincarnation. With the Tehir the custom is to bury the dead as soon as possible, in order to avoid the body becoming possessed by spirits. Vultures are seen as imprisoning the spirits of the dead. Excarnation practices such as sky burials, in contrast, where the flesh of the dead is cut away or fed to wild birds on charnel grounds, form their own basis of perversion for making the undead in necromantic rituals. These sites are often used only up to some limit to prevent ghosts. The very simplest and most primitive way for a shaman to cause undeath is to do the exact opposite of the local traditions for preventing it.

However, while the black arts of undeath arose in the haunted realms from necromancy, it is historical prejudice to conflate them. Necromancy was an art of divination concerned with spirits of the dead, and thus it found special importance in mortuary rituals. Ancestor veneration is often a major aspect of these religions. Those who believe in a transmigration of souls within this world expect ancestral spirits to remain in some way. They are called upon or appeased with offerings. Folk magic is perhaps the very thing Elven materialism was reacting against.

The ambiguity in what qualifies as undeath is rooted in this question of what qualifies as living. When all spirits whatsoever are life forces, corruption makes them malicious. But a spirit that was never anything other than a spirit is not a "cursed soul" to be "released." There are in turn rotting corpses that are animated through some incantation, such as one might with any other kind of spirit servant, which are not eternally bound with a soul that is cursed to the body. While this is unquestionably "undead," such a flesh golem is not the primary concern of Voln, who is mostly concerned with the release of cursed souls. Little more than any other golem that has a spirit trapped within it. There are ambiguities in this as well with "demons," as the separation of demons from wicked spirits is a convention. They may be conjured much like spirits through weaknesses in the veil. These are instead forces of darkness which all pose hazards such as involuntary possession. Warding off particular kinds of evil spirits varies by their individual identities and associations. Thus, this "deal making" and localized view of dark forces gave rise to very different, more personal traditions.

II.B The Elven Empire

"The lesser races live in savagery. It is only with the guidance of our own eternal empire that they shall ever rise from barbarism to enjoy the benefits of civilization. Incapable of ruling themselves, they are rightfully grateful for our benevolence and aid. How can we lead them from this darkness if we live in its shadow? We have forgotten ourselves. It was in unity that we strode forth from the forests, out from under the bloodied wings of dragonkind. It is in unity that we shall reign in peerless supremacy over the troglodytic barbarians who need our leadership as they need the air to breathe. Who among us, then, is more beast than elvenkind?"

- Yshryth Silvius Faendryl, Patriarch XIV, House Faendryl

While the Elves had for thousands of years lived in the great gaps the Ur-Daemon War had rent into the forest, developing agriculture with the aid especially of the goddesses Oleani and Imaera, these early settlements were dispersed and only the size of hamlets and villages. There was cultural differentiation as the Elves migrated to the various kinds of terrain, forming the wicks of what would become the seven candles of civilization. There was ultimately a concentration of power in urban centers with the construction of cities. These early cities came to be named after the prominent leaders of movements, and solidified into monarchies which each ruled over distinct regions. These "Houses" were imagined as great families of bloodlines bound in kinship and mutual destiny. The House personified a sphere of power over the terrestrial world, as the gods of old were each the very manifestation of spheres of cosmic forces.

The early Elven Empire was religious in comparison to the modern city-states, but it was a secular theology that placed elvenkind in a great chain of being. What oral traditions had survived from the Age of Darkness framed the "Arkati," an ancient Elven word meaning a guide or recruiter of the lost, in the Elven image --- as a race of higher beings who inherited the world from its prior masters. The Arkati were regarded as undemanding liege lords, and the monarchs of the Great Houses were the stewards of the world.

As the high born elves were vassals to those who were offered veneration, rather than worship, so too those under them were to be vassals of their enlightened despots. It was taboo to offer piety rather than fealty. As the Elven Empire consolidated its power in the East, the rural surroundings became dependent territories, subject to the rule of the urban capitals. In all times and places throughout history, rural regions are more culturally and religiously conservative, which then tend to lose those of their children with more worldly dispositions. This bred the seeds of reactionary movements. But there was no room for dissidents in the building of civilization itself. Those who were more devoutly religious to the gods and ancestral spirits were backwards, dismissed as regressive throwbacks to a more primitive time of ignorance and suffering. Much as their "sylvisterai" cousins who "married the forests."

There were displacements of the population in this period that are not well recorded, in no small part because the migrants in question were not regarded as important by the elites in the great cities. Those who were ill-suited to the dominant ideologies of the Elven Empire were pushed toward the untamed wilderness in the West. Scholars think these conditions invited the subjugation of other races for slave labor. Thus according to the ruling ideology of the day these were "lesser races," who were incapable of ruling themselves, and so rightly grateful for the benevolent aid and protection of their more civilized masters. To this day even the Illistim notion of "evolution" of races is one of progress toward Elven customs of civility.

The Houses asserted power and claims over the western regions of the continent even before they were formally established, but the control of the Elven Empire in the West was always somewhat limited. It was impractical for the forces of most Houses to directly impose themselves on western territories, due to the geographical barrier of the DragonSpine Mountains and the sovereign lands of other Houses. There was a long tendency for the "lesser races" to settle in the West.

Nevertheless, to the extent that civilization did take hold over the lowlands of the whole continent of Elanith, or Jontara in general, the Elven Empire never held any mastery over the southern wastelands. The Southron Wastes were thought to be where the last great battle between the dragons and primordial demons had taken place, and it was a barren wasteland that was poisoned with dark magic and malevolent powers. The mountainous borderlands of the Southron Wastes have in all times been an attractive hiding place for brigands and criminals. When the Elven Empire was at its zenith, it was one of the only places exiles could go, or those fleeing from the rule of law. The greatest threats to civilization, in turn, have most often come from the southern wastelands. But in the Second Age this threat was still in its infancy. It would not be fully understood until Despana, whose hordes ushered forth the Age of Chaos.

II.C The Exiles

"In those forbidden and blackened wastelands, the ill forgotten places where the dragons and demons of old were slain, many have been the fools who sought their doom. Wanderers in search of the lost secrets of dark powers, they became accursed: sufferers of nightmare visions and the madness born of fever dreams, through them the Night claws its way back from the Dawn. Those who dwell where the demons fell are the anathema. Cursed as the lands are cursed. Cast off from the light of civilization. Of the southern wastes there can only ever be a darkness worse than death. What was once buried there must remain buried. Forever."

- Linsandrych Illistim, First Master of Lore, House Illistim

The interior of the wastelands were far more deadly than the northern marches, and thus became the realm of the worst exiles from civilization. Those who were prone to the worship of dark gods, practitioners of black arts and dangerous magic, and seekers of forbidden knowledge were all drawn to the southern wastelands. This was a haven for the most fanatical cults, and is now a graveyard of forgotten theocracies. Necromancy was twisted there into ever darker forms of magic. Despana was only the most infamous of these innovators.

It was more fundamentally a tradition of malevolent rituals, the utter debasement of life and death, which most often had its roots in the southern subcontinent. This unholy legacy reaches all the way back into the abyss of the Age of Darkness, continuing onward throughout the bloody annals of history, through to the present day with the birth of the Bleaklands.

(1) The Dhe'nar

The most prominent of the exiles to now survive are those elves who became the Dhe'nar. Known to themselves as the "First Born," the Dhe'nar hold an ascension ideology they call "The Way," which they attribute to the Arkati. The Arkati and the Drakes in their view were once races of flesh and blood who had ascended, and so the Elves may ascend with them, provided they follow the true path of "walking with power." According to myth, their founder was the "Best Student" Tahlad Tsi'shalar, disciple of the prophet Noi'sho'rah. They were opponents of the fracturing of elven civilization into Great Houses, and for no longer following the true way as taught by the Arkati. Noi'sho'rah is said to have shrouded his surroundings in darkness, prophesying the fall of the Elven Empire to a woman who would raise the dead against them. He promised fire from the heavens for those who lost the way. With that he vanished, said to have ascended.

While there are profound differences between the Faendryl and the Dhe'nar, they have since formed an unspoken collusion of playing into each other's national founding myths. Their myth makers will agree to basic dubious facts, such as Korthyr as nephew to Tahlad. That there was a single unified elven civilization prior to the "great divide" when the elves left the forests. There might have been an eighth Great House, according to some advocates of this legend, had Tahlad not refused and left the just forming empire with his followers.

This is regarded by more serious scholars as ahistorical in several respects, and a credulous embrace of the "great man of history" myth. The founding of the Great Houses took place over several thousand years, and their namesakes were of entirely different generations. Korthyr Faendryl was quite old. He died not long after construction began on the capital of what became House Faendryl, one of the very earliest of the Great Houses. The Elven Empire was not a meaningful concept in the time of Korthyr. Nor were the Ardenai those who stayed behind. They lived in cities on the forest edges and woodland hamlets, with adjacent croplands, not unlike the Barony of Bourth with its elven settlements in the Wyrdeep Forest. Not only had the elves of the founding period never "left the forest" itself in anything resembling living memory, their distant sylvan cousins continued to live in the middle of the Empire, in the Darkling Wood, for another nine thousand years. It was not until -45,293, several thousand years after the death of Korthyr, and two thousand years after the formation of the last House, that the faction who became the Dhe'nar are believed to have departed. It was, in all irony, around the time the first sylvan city --- Ithnishmyn, first built in -45,400 --- was discovered by the elven city-states, rather than the time of the founding of the Great Houses. The sylvans soon found themselves subjected to religious cults trying to convert them as well as imprisonment by slavers.

One of the more dominant interpretations among Illistim historiographers is that the Dhe'nar began as a religious, reactionary offshoot of Sharyth Ardenai's return to nature movement in the Darkling Wood. Those who had lost the true way of Sharyth were to be left behind, and after a time of trial and tribulation would reach the promised land. In support of this interpretation of "Sharath," the argument goes that Noi'sho'rah or "First Brother" is actually a title and more literally translated as "First Sister," as the feminine is the gender neutral case in archaic Dhe'nar-si. Sharyth Ardenai herself is inconsistently regarded as either male or female in historical records. No one knows for certain if this identification is correct.

The Dhe'nar believe Noi'sho'rah is historical, a true prophet, who ascended as their representative to the Arkati. In some legends Tahlad leads the Dhe'nar away soon before the Houses form, while in others he proselytized for a few thousand years. The ideological disunity between the Elven lineages is thought by Loremasters to be far older than the formation of Houses. In the more cynical view of the "Matter of the Elven Empire," as it is called, devout adherence to "old ways" was a peasant ideology. Where all Elves would rise together as the Arkati had, until their disunity, rather than monarchs as the stewards of eternal civilization. With the fall of the Drakes, and the rise of the Arkati, so too there would be the fall of the Houses.

According to this theory, it was following the time of the death of Korthyr's great nephew Khalar Andiris, who had ruled for six hundred years. His successor Zarish Aeglyn only survived two hundred and fifty years before he was assassinated. This set off a period of violent usurpations for over a thousand years, which began at roughly the same time Zishra Nalfein split the court of Ta'Vaalor, founding the last House in -47,578. House Faendryl went through ten rulers, each of whom was murdered by his successor. This was ended with the usurpation by Geniselle Anaya, the first Matriarch, who held the court stable until the ascension of her son. This was the coronation of the fourteenth Patriarch, Yshryth Silvius, which is regarded as the proper birth of the Elven Empire. Yshryth gave a famous speech speaking of elves having left the forest together in unity --- as an extended metaphor on darkness, sedition, and the hierarchy of races --- for which the traitors to enlightened rule were to submit or be expelled into the darkness. There was then a purge of treason. It was only at this point in the early history of the empire, coinciding roughly with the disappearance of the first founder Linsandrych Illistim in -45,895, that House Faendryl began to truly assume its central role over the Empire.

To the proponents of this interpretation, it is not difficult to see in this the roots of the Faendryl and Dhe'nar accounts of the Tahlad legend --- owing to twisting distortions through oral traditions of the chaos falling from Korthyr's line, on the one hand, and on the other excessively literal translations of Yshryth Faendryl's coronation out of archaic Elven. Where Yshryth infamously executed his own mother for bringing ruin and disunity to the Elven Empire from violating its eternal law. There is no question the Dhe'nar did not assimilate themselves with the sylvans in the Darkling Wood, and that their Way bears far stronger resemblance to the elven worldview in the time of slavery than the Imaera-centered polytheism of the sylvankind.

Regardless of their exact origins, however, it is historical fact that the Dhe'nar came to reside in the Southron Wastes. Archaeologists have found relics in Rhoska-Tor of their spidery runes, which are distinctly in the style of the Dhe'nar warlocks. One cannot speak of the history of necromancy without including the Dhe'nar. Not only for the prophecy of Noi'sho'rah, but for what they did before reaching Sharath. Thousands of years before Despana, the Dhe'nar sheltered in the caverns under Rhoska-Tor, one of the haunted realms from the Age of Darkness.

Our understanding of the Dhe'nar in this period is unavoidably limited by the lack of written records. But much is made clear from the nature of the runes that were left behind, especially as compared with the methods the Faendryl were forced to invent when they found themselves in the same situation. It was necessary because of the hostile environment of Rhoska-Tor to live below ground in the caverns. But there was also a need to ward off malevolent spirits, the banshees and infernal sprites, those twisted and cursed by the dark essence of the lands. The Dhe'nar eventually learned how to intercede on the corruption of the wasteland spirits, allowing them to exert control over the will to seek and destroy the living. In this way they were able to not only prevent the possession of their dead by the pale wraiths that haunt those lands, but discovered they were also able to compel the cursed spirits of the region to possess those same corpses and obey their commands. This was in some respects similar to the spirit calling of animist religions, and in other ways not unlike the summoning of familiars.

It was facilitated, however paradoxically, by their study of the elements. Blazing sand elementals are yet another threat found in the Southron Wastes. With the study of summoning and controlling elementals, the ancestors of the Dhe'nar were able to mitigate that hazard as well. But there are other pure forces beyond the veil than those of the elemental planes. There is a force of corruption in those lands, known as the "shadows" or elemental darkness. It is a power inherent in the Ur-Daemon and a source of the primordials, such as Althedeus, those great demons born of the fear and chaos unleashed in the war with the Drakes. With a mastery over the elemental darkness of Rhoska-Tor comes a key for wielding mastery over the undead.

The Dhe'nar spent as much as several thousand years in Rhoska-Tor. Legend holds that their leader Tahlad, whatever his actual name was, died on the journey to Sharath. It might well be that the journey actually began with the death of the cult leader. Knowledge of the Dhe'nar in the Second Age is very sparse, as they resided in the jungles beyond the Southron Wastes. While the Dhe'nar are thought to have built a "Library of the Way," the Shialos du S'karli, their revisionist Temple caste is said to have seized control of it. It was sealed off from others for up to thousands of years, until the Great Fire destroyed Sharath. Those few of the Dhe'nar who survived from being in the jungles were not part of the elite who were killed. Though they claim to have found the ruined entrance to the library and committed those potentially distorted texts to memory, these oral traditions have likely warped greatly over tens of thousands of years. The prophecy of Noi'sho'rah resembling the Undead War, and the rumors of having left the Book of Tormtor behind, were quite probably corrupted by knowledge of events after the fact.

(2) Witchcraft

In the outlying regions of the Elven Empire, far from the great cities, there were survivals of folk religion. These were superstitious beliefs and practices that were descendant from more ancient druidism, however blended with the more orthodox doctrines held in high authority. Often these would be regional or ethnic customs. Cunning folk would use rituals and herbs to treat illnesses, the "folk healers" of traditional medicines, and perform divination or purportedly helpful wards and charms. They were concerned with arts like astrology, prophecy or signs and omens, and often had religious ceremonial roles related to the seasons or mortuary rituals with the dead. They might be asked to act as a medium for communing with ancestor spirits, such as during the fall, when Lorminstra allows the souls of the dead to visit the living. Charms might be made to protect crops from locusts, or infants from fey changeling kidnappers.

But where there were those of good will, there were also those of ill intent. Witches were those who would use similar methods and traditions to harm others. They would inflict "evil eyes" to impose their ire and scorn, perform ritual hexes and star curses upon others in retribution, and conjure evil spirits to plague or injure those they hated. This was not truly an absolute dichotomy in all times. Jealous former or unrequited lovers, parents of dead children and other sufferers of misfortune, might take their revenge by making hex bags or curse tablets. Such fetishes almost certainly descend from the totems of more primeval religions, ideally made of potent substances, which might range from menstrual blood to baby teeth or amputations. The fear or paranoia of witches led to waves of deaths for the wrongly accused. Witch hunts were most common in places without other forces to blame, such as fey, undead, and demons.

There was then a reliance on religious figures to ward and protect against witchcraft, or with the more mortal races, shunning or persecuting magic in its entirety as the wicked weapons of elven oppression. It would not be right to assume a universal division of the sacred and the profane, much less to conflate that with notions of good and evil. In this realm of traditional magic are the older sensibilities of animism, where the mundane is spiritual, and local spirits may be more important or relevant to everyday life than the more distant Great Spirits.

What is particularly important is that this tradition more broadly is what might be called sympathetic magic. It is not predicated on rational systems of spell laws, magical theory, but is instead rooted in superstitions. It is not the orthodoxy or orthopraxis of formal religion, or at least not in general, but instead informal lay magic from the bottom up. It is what remains of more ancient traditions of spiritualism. From the perspective of orthodox theory, these are still acts of magic, meaning they depend on manipulating magical energies. It is less a matter of witches or cunning folk exploiting the reality of superstitions than it is in causing them to become real. In this way something like blood is only a reagent in the alchemy of realms of power in orthodox magic, while in the descendants of animism there is instead "blood magic," with rules for balances of exchange and potency differences such as blood "freely given."

In sympathetic magic there are esoteric correspondences between similar forms. Similar qualities such as color or shape would impute power over like kinds, and causal links would be formed in contact, remaining bound together however great the physical separation. Voodoo dolls were made in the image of others, for example, which would act as fetishes for giving power over the victims. It would involve using items from the victim to bind them to the poppet. The most powerful way would be using something of their bodies, such as their hair, or especially their blood. There are all manners of superstitious beliefs involved. Such as using the blood of innocents, whether children or virgins, and knowing the "true name" of the person targeted.

Within the modern conventions of magic, this sort of correspondence of forms is related to what is now called mentalism, and witchcraft may even be thought of as a hybrid magic closely related to sorcery or "dark empathy." In the mind oriented near planes of existence, such as the Eternal Dream, there is no absolute distinction between thoughts and forms. Nightmares will physically manifest from the mind interacting with the dream world. This making of realities would be made manifest through actual magic. Burning an effigy would then not merely wish bad luck on descendants, but instead cause victims to burst into flames. There are esoteric practices such as dream walking or astral projection which are closely related to spirit possession. Divination in the form of necromancy, through the malignancy of witchcraft, was twisted into rituals for conjuring malevolent forces to empower the witch or wielding wicked spirits.

With the expansion of the Elven Empire in the Second Age as a civilizing force, along with the backlash against witchcraft or even magic entirely by other races, witches were exiled into the wild woods or darker hiding places. This led to a rising number of witches in the Southron Wastes, where the folk religion blended with the savage tribes of those lands, and witchcraft incorporated the dark forces found in them. Blood magic began using demon blood. Curses began using more corruptive essences, facilitating rituals for causing the undead. Among these would include transformation curses. The body of a victim might be turned into that of an animal, or it might incite an atavism, causing the victim to turn into some monstrous race or that of some impurity in their blood. There was also the development of contagions. Such cursed conditions could spread, like illnesses, the victims inflicting their own curses on others. One of the more familiar examples of this extant are werebears. Lycans are usually humans cursed to the moon cycles, sometimes treated as "unliving," even though they are not actually dead.

Witches of the South would enter pacts with malevolent forces in exchange for borrowing their powers. Whether dark gods or powerful demons. There was often little sanctity in a witch for their own body. They would embrace having themselves perverted, violated against nature, with such forces working through them as conduits. They might have mediating vermin such as maggots or ichor worms inside themselves. Sometimes this would lead to the witch becoming undead, or otherwise accursed, becoming some shadow of their former selves. There was not necessarily any separation between the witch and a dark power, or even their victims, who might be enthralled to them. It was a personal form of magic often placing the powers of undeath and the demonic equally or higher than oneself. Conjuring in this way was in stark contrast to the Elven Empire, where orthodox magic was imposing control over nature, with elves atop the hierarchy.

(3) Cultists

In the Age of Darkness there was always a minority of demon worshippers. Whether the demonic of the wastelands, or the dead gods themselves. There are buried crypts in the Southron Wastes belonging to prehistorical Marluvian cults, which often contain a very ancient kind of undead known as the vruul. Rumors and legends speak of Marlu himself searching ancient crypts, and it is partly for this reason. Petrified trees from when the wasteland was all forest, before the land was forever destroyed in the cataclysmic war, bear markings of terror and depredation. But the reliefs and frescoes of the interregnum are far more hideous in their depictions. They were made as a rule by worshippers of the darkest powers, illustrating gruesome ritual sacrifices. Cave paintings from the Southron Wastes are portrayals of utter madness. Thought to have been made in the delirium of trance states, such murals are often found with trepanated skulls.

Thus, while the Second Age settled over the east and west of the continent with the Elven Empire, the darkness never lightened in the southern subcontinent. There were those who sought the old places of the Ur-Daemon, and worshipped those desolate sepulchers of earth where their blood was spilled. Dark mages who would not abide by the laws of civilization would find freedom in these lands, while fanatics who sought a world ruled by Lornon would found short-lived, sinister theocracies. Mostly unable to oppress and rule over the world themselves, the Lords of Lornon would act through their minions. In time there would be Vvrael cultists, disciples of the primordials, and worshippers of all sorts of other malevolent otherworldly powers.

Warlocks were dark sorcerers who sought to master the corruptive powers of those lands, inventing ways of desecrating the sanctity of boundaries between kinds. Where witches might inflict a transformation curse, it was the warlocks who made aberrations and travesties. They would attempt to fashion chimera monsters with vivisection, or re-mold the forms and qualities of races, and breed unnatural hybrids of the demonic. This would sometimes be done with livestock, or wildlife, but it was without limit. It would be forced upon the imprisoned, slaves, even willing sacrifices. There were those who wished to host demons within their bodies, whether as demonic possession, or serving as a birthing vessel until being devoured from the inside out. There were even cults believing Elves were cursed by the Arkati. That what are now called Dark Elves were the original form of the race, first born as the earthly conduits of the Ur-Daemon.

In this way there was not only ambiguity between some kinds of demons and the undead. There were necromancers who sought to subvert the separation of the living from the demonic. The "voice of Rhoska-Tor," as the Dark Elven tongue is called, is considered a divine language in some cults. Demon worshippers sometimes call it the language of the Ur-Daemon, though its source has never been found by extrachthonic linguists. Cultists of elven descent would use this language to call upon demons, much as a Tehir spiritcaller might for the lesser spirits.

In the wasteland of Rhoska-Tor most of all, there were nightmare visions in prolonged exposure, especially near the protrusions known as Tor. These outcroppings or mounds are mythologically named for each of the "dead gods," which is how the Ur-Daemon are regarded. While such names ought to be the pure fictions of legend, rituals are performed, attempting to commune with the dead Old Ones. Whether it is purely a fabrication of fever dreams, or parapsychic imputing of forbidden knowledge, dark cults grow around these haunted ruins. Cults might at times become extinct, only to arise again, centuries or millennia later. There are many apocalyptic eschatologies among these religions. Those who worship the Old Ones, the dead gods, seek to awaken them. They often believe "lesser demons" are hybrid offspring of the Ur-Daemon, transmogrifications made from the living of this world. Consecrating us with their unholy black blood.

These kinds of sentiments lent themselves to still other forms of necromancy. There were those who sought to induce demonic possession, such as the riders of the wasteworms. Others were "dread seers," attempting to "possess" demons, or using conduits such as the vruul for divination. This is a necromantic form of astral projection for harrowing the outer valences. Some sought to master the power of fashioning the demonic from elemental darkness, or the other sorcerous elements, much as an elemental or dream world manifestation might be willed.

Warlocks were especially responsible for the innovations of demonic necromancy. These would sometimes be abominations that would not, in the narrow sense, be thought of as undead. They were often in reincarnation cults, seeking unnatural forms of immortality. It was noticed very early on that sometimes the curse of the undead was bound to other objects. Tormented spirits might be stuck to the cursed blade that killed them, and if struck down, would eventually reconstitute themselves. It was only with the destruction of the cursed item that they were "released." In time this insight would be developed into more elaborate ways of preventing destruction from violence. These have ranged from the phylacteries of some kinds of liches, soul fragmentation into unwilling vessels, soul transference, and support hosts of various kinds through the blood of demons. Warlocks often seek to transform their own blood with that of dark powers.

These depraved theologies concerning the demonic, especially the Ur-Daemon, are twisted from their roots in ancestor veneration. While these were originally only those demons that descended from the Age of Darkness, or had arrived incarnate through unstable rifting, it would not remain limited to demons which had become trapped in this world. There would sometimes be Faendryl who would escape execution, or the limitations of laws, by hiding in the southern wastes or conducting their work there in secret. These summoners might be converted to dark religions, or make pacts for safe haven. Knowledge of demonic summoning from the outer valences spread in this way. It was also the birth of other forms of undeath, caused by the various kinds of demons.

II.D House Faendryl

In the time of the Rebuilding the Arkati had been credited with providing spiritual powers to the more mortal races of flesh and blood. But the ancient elves had long since turned from worshipping the Great Spirits. In the Elven dogma or "Matter" such as with the myth of Yadzari and Amas, imagined as the ancestors of the Illistim and Faendryl royalties, the dragons were regarded as forces of darkness --- sky monsters, not divine powers, and certainly not bastions of civilization --- which their ancestors had believed were warded off by their gods. The Sylvan tradition is much the same, and has the virtue of memory, bridging to the Rebuilding through the hierophants. Dragons were "the darkness" first, demons became the darkness.

Our elven ancestors may well have been confused on this point --- conflating the dragons with more powerful Great Spirits, such as Koar, who had manifested as dragons --- much as the Arkati mostly take humanoid forms. It may even be that those spirits, the Great Drakes and Wyverns, were shaped by draconic influences. Whichever is the truth, elves hated and feared dragons. In spite of the romanticism of later ages.

In the wake of the Ur-Daemon War where the dragons and demons fought, those gods were reimagined as having been mere servants of the dragons, themselves a mortal race which inherited the world from its former masters. From the Drakes to the Arkati, so it was from the Arkati to the Elves, as it would be from the Elves to the lesser races. In this way there was a secular movement to wield magic as the Arkati did, rather than borrowing their powers as from master to servant. This was an especially difficult mode of spellcraft known as Arcane magic.

(1) Arcane Power

Arcane magic is the wielding of the raw, undifferentiated forces into magical effects. It is what would later be called "flow magic," in its totality, as opposed to the finished spells of "rote magic." This was split by mortals into modes of spellcraft. The direct wielding of essence in exoteric spellcraft is known as thaumaturgy, while exoteric conjuration or channeling is theurgy, whether or not these are "rote" spell effects. Exoteric magic proscribes the irrational from spellcraft. Esoteric magic is mostly an informal cousin of ritual theurgy, with various sympathetic or mimetic traditions, or else the incomprehensible depths of flow magic with cosmic forces. While the Arcane and sorcery are natively esoteric, the Faendryl developed them toward thaumaturgy. Wielders of Arcane power are able, in principle, to cast spells of any of the spheres of magic.

In practice this is very difficult without imparting pre-formed spells into magic items or scrolls, or mastering the spheres of magic separately from each other with "rote" spell circles. Most with a talent for magic have at least a minor capacity for Arcane. It is mostly a thaumaturgical mode of spellcraft, in its orthodox practice, only able to imitate the effects of purely theurgical magic. These were the fault lines which led to the rise of separate spheres of magic.

While the history of magical theory is mostly beyond the scope of this text, it suffices to note there are many schools of thought that fundamentally disagree about the foundations of magic, and this is a philosophical dispute that dates back to the early Elven Empire. It is better to illustrate two very broad categories of metaphysical theory, which have no practical difference, which together influenced the merger of sorcery with the black arts. Loosely speaking, there were the "monists" who believed that "the essence" was undifferentiated in its most primal form, while the "dualists" (or in the present age the "trinitarians") believed magic is naturally divided into separate coequal "realms of power" with their own distinct forms of "mana." In this world view of the "spheres of magic," there were the "elements" wielded directly by mages, and the "spiritual" powers that were "gifted as manna" from the heavens.

It was dangerous to try to wield elemental magic with the powers from spiritual sources. The inanimate world was made of the elements and the animate world was made of the spirit. When the Erithians began making themselves known in Elanith, it became fashionable to regard "mentalism" as its own sphere of magic. This subsumed our various antecedents of sympathetic and astral magic, as practiced by occultists and esotericists, such that some long standing magicks are now regarded as partly mentalist. The spiritual planes of existence that had been characterized as dream worlds now tend to be regarded as mental realms, and so there are three kinds of "near planes" corresponding to purest forms of the three kinds of "mana" or magical energy.

Those of the monist schools of thought dismissed this as sophistry, or impolitely with less charitable words. There were merely tendencies toward elemental and spiritual "phenomena" from wielding the essence in distinct ways. Those who manipulated the flows of essence around themselves were "evoking" the background essence, those who drew their magical powers from other sources were like a fluid "channel" or focal lens, and what we now call "mentalism" is a resonance or "influence" of one's own "aura" or essence personally. One was often prone to "elemental" effects, the other to "spiritual," and the last to forms of self-transformation. It was reading mystical nonsense into magic to think that using ineffective methods spoke to the fundamental structure of the cosmos. Where the separatists hold the material world is made of the elements, that the elements and spirits are themselves wielded directly, monists assert that is only confusing cause and effect. The separatist schools in turn regard preternatural monism as the mystical nonsense, as it was essentially the immanent worldview of druidism, with the words changed and dressed up as theory. These philosophies do not even agree on basic matters of cosmology. Some believe "mana" is inherent to this world, others believe it originates in the other planes.

There is a basic dispute on whether the forces of magic may be freely willed from nature, or if the world is inherently unmagical, with "spells" only briefly altering the properties of this world with otherworldly energies in ways limited by their immutable laws. Some believe the unified fabric of magic remembers the spell patterns weaved into it, others say that "rote magic" is widely found in the wilds simply because it is "cutting nature at its joints." There are at most collapses of metastability in the essence field due to the shifting of cosmic forces. Those who believe magic is inherent in spell patterns often regard mana as a kind of conserved substance, which transmutes between forms and causes the willful manifestation of effects when expended. While others say "mana" by itself is not magical at all, but rather that it is merely the potential of a field, and magic results from imbalances once worked into the background essence reversing themselves back toward normality. Spell patterns are regarded instead as tensions twisted into the field from "extending" oneself, which when "cast" or "released" unleashes effects which are not directly controlled.

Regardless, it was much easier to develop what is now called "rote magic" within the split realms of power, which in the monist view only had the significance of making spellcraft "more tractable" rather than fundamental. This, too, is a subject of disagreement. Separatists often say flow magic was easier in the distant past, and the forces are less flexible now, crowded as they are with spell patterns. Monists dismiss this entirely, saying the low hanging fruit were plucked, and that single realm specialists or "pures" make for weak Arcanists. They hobble themselves by developing their magical ability in narrow ways that are ill-suited to the Arcane power.

Separatists regard each sphere of magic as having its own mode of "flow magic," while monists hold there is only the pure essence, and that the separatist philosophers are reading their own limitations into the cosmos. Sorcerous backlashes occur from spells using the wrong kind of power, interpreted as either the "clash of incompatible powers" or "cutting against the grain," whether or not it is "sorcery." The separatist philosophies became dominant, though mostly out of practicality bias. The work of inventing new spells is done in the mode of "flow magic," and the "rote" patterns that become spells are usually made within these "pure" spheres of magic. These are often codified into "spell circles," the slices making up those spheres.

The terms "realms of power" and "spheres of magic" are almost interchangeable. The former is preferred by those emphasizing cause, while the latter is used by those emphasizing effect. In the separatist view, these are the divisions of nature, with metaphysical verisimilitude. For monists these are "somewhat natural" ways of dividing up the realms of power, but ultimately they are arbitrary conventions. One might distinguish between elemental and lunar mana, or split life and divine mana, or any number of conceits. Mentalism giving proof to the lie.

Hybrid magicks are those forms of spellcraft that fall in between the spheres. In the separatist schools of thought, most "hybrid" arts are usually "a little bit of this and a little bit of that," separately using fundamentally incompatible energies. The exception to this are "fusionist" forms of hybrid magic, such as sorcery, which are interpreted as the unnatural fusion of separate kinds of power. Sorcery is sometimes considered the whole category of fusionist magic, with different kinds of sorcery depending on the forms of power involved, while others use a much narrower definition. Whether sorcery is "pure" is deeply disputed. In the view of the monist philosophies these hybrid forms of magic are historical remnants of when mortal magic was not yet split into separate realms of power. Hybrid magic that might be characterized as "fusionist" is really just "rote magic" that is more or less "Arcane" in some limited way. In the separatist philosophies, it is not a more pure or primal form of unified mana, but instead a violent contradiction that unnaturally reacts in ways prone to metaphysical corruption.

To the extent there is such a thing as "rote Arcane" magic, it is often a transmutability into other spells, universal augments, or reforging magic at its very foundations. Arcanists might take a sorcerous "nightmare" spell, which is a curse --- inflicted on an individual through failing to ward it off --- and transform it into a "nightmare fog" that sweeps through the land inducing madness. Powerful runes or wards might be Arcane in nature, or making more major gateways, remotely sensing things by their essences, or direct manipulation of nodes and flows of essence. Often an Arcane circle, if one were to construct such a thing, has many spells that could be cast within single realms. But it takes Arcanist talent to be so flexible.

The Arcanist pays a price for this fluidity. The more specialist wielders of magic make use of confounds. These are external forces for leveraging the power of magical effects. Often this is an "attunement" to some source of power, which becomes limiting for other forms of magic. Hybrid and Arcane wielders may have difficulty with the more powerful spells of the pure realms. However, when spells on others come from the more versatile mode of wielding the Arcane power, they become more robust against dispelling. This is from their lack of reliance on confounds.

With mages these are the elemental planes, with clerics it is to a divine power and the spiritual planes, with druids it is to the forces of nature. Empathy is an unusual hybrid magic which is historically rooted in traditions of sympathetic magic. Empathy itself is a mentalist confound, with magical effects focused on flesh and blood. Sorcery in the old sense would anchor on the constitutive essence of specific kinds of matter. Witchcraft, blood magic, and black shamanism use mediating substances. Liches infamously make use of phylacteries. Necromancy in the modern sense uses life forces such as animus and spirit, matters of thanatology, and dark sorcery or warlocks attune to realms of sorcerous elements and demonic powers. Thus this trade off exists in fluidity with dark magic. Arcane magic is not inherently dark, or corruptive, but instead is often metamagical or defies categorization. However, it has that natural tendency, for much the same reasons as sorcery.

(2) Sorcery

In the early years of the Elven Empire, the black arts were deemed religious magic and highly forbidden, necromancy and theurgical conjuration of wicked spirits or demons were not sorcery. Sorcery "as Korthyr knew it," what might be called "classical sorcery," was much more narrowly defined. It was a hybrid form of magic that was concerned with the immediate destruction of animate and inanimate matter. That is, it was an effect without mediation, assaulting the matter itself. This involved channeling toward a target and turning its own essence against it. The destruction is specific to the essence of the exact form being targeted. There is even a superficial resemblance to "mentalism" in this when the target is the mind or body.

In the separatist view of sorcery it is inherently destructive because of the chaotic and violent reaction of incompatible forms of power. In the monist view this "destruction" --- which will, or should, come as little surprise --- is merely less difficult than "creation." The essence is inherent in all matter and sorcery is the immediate disruption or annihilation of that matter at its metaphysical basis. These philosophies would both shape the development of Faendryl magic, which attempted to retain a universalist scope, while the other Houses tended toward focusing on specific realms of power. The Faendryl for this reason were always pre-eminent in sorcery --- which was regarded as a highly destructive, but not malevolent, form of magic. There was no stigma to sorcery. It was inherently a weapon in a way other forms of magic were not, but it was not "evil," and one could reasonably speak of it as one would a sword.

Nevertheless, there were fundamental reasons for sorcery and the black arts to eventually merge, in addition to the historical forces driving them together. This is rooted in the nature of corruption. While magical accidents of "pure" spheres of magic can result in corruption, where the essence of a thing is broken and made chaotic, sorcery lends itself to this "cursing" much more directly. Similarly, when dark forces are brought in from what are now called the sorcerous valences, they must be used or even fused with the forces of this world. In this way "dark sorcery" is inevitably and unavoidably corruptive, but "classical sorcery" itself is often able to cause similar effects. Sorcery is especially cruel when inflicted on the living.

During the reign of Yshryth Faendryl's grandson Thanris Akelyn, Patriarch XVI, a thaumaturgical asylum was established and named for his sister Elizhabet Mahkra. While in the Age of Darkness the demonic were seen as evil manifestations of darkness itself, plaguing the old places of the Ur-Daemon, it was understood by the early Elven Empire that "demons" were originally extraplanar entities. They were able to arrive in this world through unstable or unhealing rifts, as a result of backlashes of magical energy or unusual celestial alignments, or powerful mana storms opening portals to other worlds. The ancient metaphor of a "veil" between worlds, referring to such things as the "Otherworlds of the fey" or even "the veil between life and death," was adapted to instead refer to the essence barriers that separated us from other realities. When Elizhabet Mahkra studied the use of sorcery to turn the essence of the veil against itself, or what became called "piercing the veil," she tore the fabric of reality in a way that flooded and shattered her mind with immediate exposure to a very highly alien world.

In this way it would become possible to summon beings not of the "near planes," such as the elementals or spirit servants, but highly alien or malevolent beings from the "outer" dimensions. This was regarded as dangerous, and was one of the taboos to survive into less religious times, not least of which because of how these entities corrupt and taint the world around them. While it is true the Palestra were founded by Thanris' successor --- Ondreian Shamsiel, Patriarch XVII --- nearly twenty thousand years before the Undead War, contemporary propagandists tend to distort this into revisionist history.

The Palestra were specialists in countering the hazards of the demonic, whether accidentally released, or brought forth on purpose by dark cults in the Southron Wastes. The Faendryl of the Second Age did not openly embrace the demonic, unlike today, where minor demons are indistinguishable from house pets. The Enchiridion Valentia is now a semi-public archive of the Clerisy, with whole Palestra academies for handling demonic summoning on wide scales. These academies were not founded until after the Sea Elf War. In those early years the Basilican sorcerers would carefully probe and classify extraplanar threats, so that they could be more effectively countered if those threats were encountered. It was a highly restricted practice and failing to abide by the strict letter of the law would be punished with execution. To the extent that it was a highly cautious and purely defensive study, secrets kept under the strict control of the state, it was not controversial. It was understood that otherworldly forces --- such as the Vismi'irkha, or Vishmiir, a very powerful kind of extraplanar undead --- were serious threats.

But the violence to the veil, with the sorcerous methods of forming gateways, posed inherent risks. The more powerful the tear in the fabric of reality, the greater the likelihood of allowing access to hazardous powers, such as unbound demons or corruptive energies from the outer realms. For this reason an "implosion" that immediately annihilates the air is far more acceptable, even though the destruction is permanent, than an "implosion" that only temporarily vacuates an enclosed space by tearing an unstable hole into the interplanar void.

Moreover, though "the demonic" can be defined any number of ways --- and Faendryl propagandists today often try to characterize all extraplanar beings whatsoever as "demons" --- those "unholy" demons, those fiends of darkness which are profoundly corruptive and whom no one denies are malevolent with an intense hatred of life, are deeply related to the undead. Indeed. There are kinds of demons which can hardly be distinguished from undead. Undead were present since the Age of Darkness because of demons, whether left over from the primordial cataclysms, or more recently arrived through uncontrolled rifts. The role of the demonic in inflicting curses, including undeath, is one of the reasons they were anathema in the Elven Empire.

But it was mostly the southern wastelands in that period that had what is usually considered "the undead." The Faendryl had acquired some knowledge of undeath by the time of Despana. But necromancy in that sense of the word was only an incidental aspect of their approach to demonic summoning. Which was the construction of rational models of the cosmos and systems of rules for the handling of otherworldly forces. One of the earliest models held Elanthia as the center of the cosmos, with mystical shells surrounding it formed by the tensions of cosmic forces, and these outer layers were called "valences." The demonic were imagined as formed by those forces and they hungered for the magical energies of this world. While this "onion shell" model is old fashioned, the word "valences" stuck. It was approached as a matter of scientific inquiry, as though summoners were naturalists, classifying unfamiliar life forms on new continents. In this way it was very unlike the necromancy and conjuration of the southern wastelands, and those traditions would mostly not merge until the Faendryl were exiled to Rhoska-Tor.

(3) Occultism

There were those in the Elven Empire who were sympathetic to the old ways, and sought to rehabilitate "lost knowledge" to the "disenchanted world." Occultists would seek out the surviving remnants of folk magic, or even druidism, and attempt to credulously explain its superstitions within rational world-views in the pursuit of "higher knowledge." These traditions would lead to emanationist doctrines, which describe physical beings as projections of ideal forms, ultimately from "the One" through primeval demiurges. In contrast to the "valences" model, there are higher and lower "planes of existence," where beings exist in these planes simultaneously. What we call the dream worlds supported this, our "subtle bodies" existing across planes. There were mystical ideas, such as microcosm and macrocosm, where what was "above" was reflected "below." The individual was an echo of the world soul and bound within vast cosmic cycles.

This was deeply related to the "great chain of being" worldview, which descends from the divine to inanimate matter, which in turn led to alchemy seeking to transmute matter to higher states. There were attempts to understand the Arkati, and perhaps spirits in general, as manifestations formed in other planes because of mortals. This was used to "explain" notions of the Arkati becoming more powerful by gaining followers, or individuals "ascending" from their physical bodies into non-corporeal forms of existence by striving for perfection. Esotericists would seek immediate apprehension of the cosmos, or "gnosis," through soporific potions and methods of divination. Ancient wisdom was sought as "hidden" in the initiation rites of more "primitive" mystery religions.

What is preserved of folk magic from the Second Age is mostly thanks to occultists. It was a heterogeneous movement that took different and inconsistent forms. House Illistim tended to draw occultists focused on divination and astrology, because of their patronage of "seer" gods, and the style of Lumnis to favor inspiration and flashes of insight. The universalism or cosmicism of the Faendryl tended to foster other kinds of occult societies. Those were more of the flavor of forbidden knowledge and the lack of restraint in its pursuit, sought after through more rational methods. Which was more in the style of Fash'lo'nae. They would look for the "cryptids" of folk religion, and seek out paranormal phenomena not understood by existing theory. But there were others of a more gnostic, even Marluvian bent, who would use sorcerous methods like those of Elizhabet Mahkra to try to "jolt" their minds into the higher cosmic horror.

It is one of the hallmarks of occultism to favor "psychological" evidence over the material world. With its willingness to reverse effect and cause with magic, or indeed even accept the truth of superstitious beliefs, occultists regarded "sympathetic" or "mimetic" magic as not magic at all. That is, these were immediate phenomena in the interaction of mind and action with whatever was beyond the material world, not the manipulation of mana. Natural philosophies were ignorant or self-limiting. This may even be why we now define spheres of magic by effect.

Occultists would collect "lost" or "forgotten" knowledge in grimoires, which were often elaborate forgeries, or shameless plagiarisms and reformulations of much older texts. There would be hierarchies of otherworldly or spirit entities, much as one might find informally with shamans, and these do not necessarily correspond in a straight forward way to the modern categories. "Earth-monsters" in archaic Elven might be some breed of elemental, or some earth spirit, possibly servitors of an earth oriented deity. Grimoires are notorious for unreliability. They were also biased toward the elven traditions of spiritualism, often synonymous with "druidism," rather than the animism of more mortal races which tend to instead be called "shamanism." These are, of course, crude over-generalizations of widely diverse indigenous beliefs. "Shamanism" has altered states of consciousness, and human druidism is ancestral to northern reivers.

However, the esoteric works of the occultists would indirectly capture some dim or far more ancient survivals, and often represent the knowledge that was discarded. The western lands and the mountains, to say nothing of the Southron Wastes, often held heterodox religions. Theological texts found in these regions are often disputed as "apocryphal." But the Arkati have never been reliable sources of truth, which is why serious scholars dismiss the value of asking them questions. They are notorious for allowing cultures to interpret them differently, and for "proving" their legends. Occasionally they even admit it, such as Fash'lo'nae having made the Grandfather Stone. It is very difficult to say one religious legend is more "true" than another that wildly contradicts it. Those who sought the "hidden secrets" of the past would search through such texts, seeking proof of lost lands, relics and gods whose existence were denied.

Because of this cosmopolitan attitude toward knowledge, there was also a backwards flux of methods into the Elven Empire. It was because of the occultists that the summoning circles of folk magic and witchcraft, which were about spheres of protective warding from spirits, were adapted by the Faendryl into methodical systems of extraplanar summoning. The Enchiridion Valentia as a "little handbook" had its roots in occult grimoires. It was also this tradition that somewhat softened Elven materialism, making the Faendryl more open to the study of necromancy.

III. The Undead War (-20,000 to -15,000 Modern Era)

"Thousands of them! Ghouls, zombies and worse, all blackened and half-rotten. They poured onto the plains like a dam-bust of screaming and stink. Now, we were all veterans of the orc wars, and there's not much what could shake us...But nothing could ready a dwarf for the banshee. Horrible! I don't care what them other folks thought. I thank Eonak for them red elves and their demons!"

- The Journal of Rhak Toram, warrior of the Dusk Mountain Clan, survivor of foul Maelshyve.

There have at times been myths that the undead did not exist before Despana, or that it was not knowledge that was in the possession of mortals. There are religious legends about the Arkati in Conclaves and Koar issuing divine rulings, which make far too much of Luukos having once been on a shorter leash. This is as much nonsense as believing Despana made the first undead by reading a book someone else wrote on how to make the undead. There are many kinds of undead, and many were known to exist in antiquity. Those who wrote at the time speak of ghouls and zombies, having known the differences between those kinds of corpses.

Necromancy was not unheard of, neither was demonic summoning. Despana was the first necromancer to make hordes of undead as a vast army, incorporating the dead of her enemies from the battlefields. She innovated methods of hierarchical control, or leverage, as well as for rapidly increasing the size of her forces. What had once been the slow artisan work of individual craftsmen, or the hazards of the demonic, was suddenly sweeping through the land as literal plagues.

III.A Rhoska-Tor

The blackened wasteland of Rhoska-Tor is historically a region of the Southron Wastes. A haunted realm of the Ur-Daemon, it is highly corrupted with dark powers. It is sometimes spoken of as a separate place from the Southron Wastes, or more narrowly is referring only to the blasted plains and badlands surrounding the ruins of Maelshyve, as it has since become more strongly tied to the Undead War. Its history is much older than Despana. "Rhoska-Tor" descends from ancient Elven, or "rha'sha'tor" in archaic Dhe'nar-si, meaning "the giver and taker of life." This land is thought to have been a nursery or breeding warren of the Ur-Daemon, as well as their graveyard, perverting their surroundings with their unnatural cycles. There are profound powers of undeath in Rhoska-Tor because of this foul heritage, as the great demons of old twisted and warped the living, much as they fed upon the life essences of all that was around them.

Rhoska-Tor is geologically bizarre and was drastically transformed in the Age of Darkness. It is a vast limestone plateau with extensive subterranean caverns, but protruded with volcanic rock and vertical faults. It is named for the terrible outcroppings known as the Tor. There are, in turn, pseudokarsts formed from this igneous rock, eaten away by caustic black blobs. It is thought the demons would slumber, or gestate or metamorphose, in the molten rock below oozing black wounds in the earth. These ancient lava fields themselves are artificial.

Theorists have long speculated that the Ur-Daemon were drawn to the volcanic region where the southern subcontinent collides with Elanith. They are thought to have ripped the major flows of essence toward themselves, which they would then feed upon for their own foul purposes. They corrupted the resulting earthnodes with their darkness. This caused essence storms and fluxes below ground, exacerbating the region's underlying volcanism. There were then eruptions toward the surface, and below the surrounding ocean. The boiling sea caused the sea and steam to expand inland, slaughtering vast swathes of marine life, as well as severe floods from unnatural weather. The skies were blackened with ash. The Ur-Daemon would drain the life's essence out of the seas, causing rapid accumulation of marine sediment. Over tens of thousands of years, this limestone was carved away with acidic erosion, forming vast underground caverns. Though it is a high plateau relative to modern sea levels, it is low lying compared to the upthrusted lands next to it, making it into plains with scarps and highlands reminiscent of a valley.

There are untold horrors in the darkest depths of Rhoska-Tor. The Dhe'nar and Faendryl sheltered in the upper limestone caverns. Though the region is unstable, sometimes suffering cavern collapses from earthquakes. Further below ground are unknown ruins and dangerous races. The violence to the flows of essence in this region have caused rifting in the veil, forming often unstable or temporary gateways to other worlds. There are wasteland demons, such as the ebon-swirled primal, which are now all but indigenous to this world because of these hellgates.

There are many demented edifices and terrifying monuments in Rhoska-Tor, owing to its long history of dark theocracies and cults. There are dangerous traps that are long since forgotten, intentional snares for collecting sacrifices, or even for feeding monstrosities that were at one time worshipped. The landscape is as exotic as it is filled with deadly mysteries.

Prolonged exposure to Rhoska-Tor, especially close proximity to the Tor themselves, induces transformations in the living. Giantmen famously went mad with bloodlust when in the vicinity of Maelshyve, and those who survived their madness became more magically adept, founding the Grot'Karesh Hammer Clan. Gnomes become feral and were banned by Patriarchal decree. Humans will be corrupted by the darkness, like the parasitic Collectors, or the Disciples of the Shadows. Most infamously, Elves are subject to "the scorch," becoming Dark Elves. Their features become sharper, their bodies physically weaker, with greater capacities for magic. Their ears and tongues change, producing sounds outside the ordinary range, acquiring an inborn language. The "voice of Rhoska-Tor" is a mode of signaling where meaning is constructed directly from intonations, through layers of overlapping sounds involving no shared vocabulary of words. In spite of the term "scorch," it was only the Faendryl who dwelled especially close to the ruins of Maelshyve whose skin was darkened, while others had become quite pale or other complexions.

The causes of these effects are impossible to isolate because of the profound abnormality of Rhoska-Tor. Blame is widely attributed to the many unusual mana focii, the dark magic of Despana or the undead, the corruption of the demons summoned by the Faendryl, sorcerous backlashes and explosions, the implosion and unhealed tear in reality at Maelshyve, mana storms, the unholy power of the Ur-Daemon, the valencial tears and instability deep underground, and any number of factors. These are all valid, as they are all present. But the scorch is ancient and vastly pre-dates the Undead War.

The Dhe'nar suffer from infertility issues because of it, requiring a great deal of planning by their Temple caste for breeding. There have been cases of powerful, very old Dark Elves, who must feed on magical energies. Not unlike the Collectors. Alabaster from the sulfur-laden limestone of Rhoska-Tor has been almost all transformed by sorcerous energies into despanal. There is an unusually high amount of cursed metals, or those associated with the sorcerous elements, especially urglaes which is found in the ancient lava flows. Deep mines in Rhoska-Tor will sometimes unearth prehistorical artifacts, and mining is very dangerous for multiple reasons. In the present day the Agrestis often relies on hired Palestra as security for miners. There are specialists in sensing and avoiding interplanar instabilities in these excavations, while others who live more dangerously use those same "dowsing" methods to seek out troubles.

III.B Despana

No one knows who or what Despana was. There are as many tavern tales for her origins as there are for the disappearance of Princess Chesylcha. There are cultists who hold she was a demonic demi-goddess, having first called herself Maelshyve, and arrived in this world through the instabilities in the veil below Rhoska-Tor. Others imagine her as having been a human liberator from Elven oppression, achieving some form of undeath. There are works of art where she is imagined as bathing in blood or feeding on it, such as sculptures depicting her as a human woman with fangs, while the Arch-Lich Dharthiir poses as her lover. Her contemporaries believed she was from the jungles beyond the Southron Wastes. There was a known elemental cataclysm there 25,000 years ago, with a rain of fire from the skies turning the forest to ash.

More incredulous scholars dismiss this explanation of the Great Fire and say it was only an eruption. They argue Sharath was founded next to an explosive volcano, noting the high prevalence of obsidian. Others counter this by asserting the mountains in the Southron Wastes are highly unstable, and seem to be unnatural geological upheavals of shale and limestone from the Ur-Daemon War. They doubt the mountain even existed before the Great Fire. The earliest recorded rumors of Despana began in -19,864 shortly after this disaster.

It was said that Despana was searching the old places of the Ur-Daemon for forbidden knowledge and dangerous relics. It is for this reason that she established her base of power in the haunted lands of Rhoska-Tor. In this respect she was part of an established tradition, which had been contained by the Elven Empire for thousands of years. While there were always threats from the black arts of the wastelands, they were never mortal threats to civilization. Despana herself was not regarded as a great threat from the very long precedent of her inaction.

The construction of Maelshyve Keep was finished in -18,756, which was over three thousand years before the Undead War. It was founded on an ancient mound of the Old Ones known as the Torm Tor. It was rumored Despana had acquired a powerful book on undeath, thus named the Book of Tormtor, that was said to have been written in the language of the Ur-Daemon. There is a great deal of ambiguity in what this actually means. In some interpretations it is taken entirely literally. Others interpret it to mean Despana acquired knowledge of the dead language of the Ur-Daemon through esoteric methods, and thereby knowledge of dark magic more immediately through mental contact. Whether through ruins or some lingering presence below the wastes.

Then if the book existed, it was from Despana herself writing it. Still others believe she found her way into the ghostly library of Fash'lo'nae, or that the Book of Tormtor was left behind by the Dhe'nar warlocks 20,000 years earlier. It was a relatively common interpretation to believe that this was actually written in an orthographic convention of the Dark Elven language. While the Dhe'nar were not the only Dark Elves to have come into being in the southern wastelands, these points along with the prophecy of Noi'sho'rah would lead to them being blamed.

There is no sorting this out. The Book of Tormtor was presumed to have been destroyed in the implosion of Maelshyve Keep. However, it has sometimes been claimed to be held by others, most recently by Shar. Her general Nyvelise was responsible for spreading a commonly used spell of animating the dead in the year 5105. There have been countless fake Books of Tormtor over the millennia, ranging from student hoaxes to elaborate forgeries, such as the kind found in the black market of fraudulent holy relics. What is important are the innovations in undeath that were accomplished by Despana, whatever the sources were she built upon. While the undead were nothing new to the world, they had never been wielded as vast armies by necromancers. Widespread undeath had only been encountered when dealing with extraplanar horrors such as the Vishmiir.

Despana was a master artificer of urglaes, harnessing its powers as the metal of elemental darkness. With her creation of powerful lieutenants, along with terrible artifacts for projecting her control, she was able to make a hierarchy of command over hordes of lesser undead. The vast bulk of her horde were mindless rotting corpses that would instinctively obey or follow more powerful forces of darkness than themselves. Ghouls would obey ghoul masters, skeletons would obey skeletal lords, and so on, which would in turn obey greater undead such as liches.

Other kinds of undead such as the cursed fey spirits of those lands, most infamously the banshees, were most likely conjured and compelled with great concentrations of power using urglaes artifacts. Those of the living who died in those lands might be possessed by spirits, or become trapped into undeath by burial in the tainted corruption of the wasteland. Methods were made so that the fallen on battlefields would rise together in mass. Most importantly of all, Despana was a plaguelord, fashioning cursed diseases. Warriors would find themselves afflicted with rotting wounds that would not heal, or the soldiers in infirmaries would transform into zombies from their injuries. These were as the transformation curses of witchcraft, except resulting in the undead. Ghouls would make more of themselves by clawing with their nails. Others were infected through contact with fluids, or through bites, or even through pestilent vapors.

It was for this reason that Despana and her horde, which came to be called "the Undead," had not been taken seriously by the Elven Empire. The rulers of the Houses were aware Dharthiir, the Arch-Lich who was her chief minion, had begun recruiting the barbaric races in the mountains and outlands in -15,497. This was about three hundred years before the siege of ShadowGuard. In those years there were relatively minor clashes with her allied forces, including by the Sylvankind, which then lent precedence to the belief that it was just another police action. There was nothing unfamiliar to the Vaalor in cutting down orcs, or slaying rogue dark mages raising mischief out of the southern wastes. There was much reason to underestimate the weak undead.

Chronology of the Undead War is muddy and sometimes contradictory. Library Aies was badly damaged in the siege of Ta'Illistim by orcish hordes out of the mountains at the height of the war, followed by many years of disarray in terms of the preservation of written records. There was also a surplus of self-aggrandizing accounts by various elven families, which have about the same credibility as the memoirs of criminals. The war is characterized as having lasted a few hundred years, or as little as one year, depending on how the details are emphasized.

The Battle of ShadowGuard is sometimes given as the summer of -15,186, with the destruction of Maelshyve in the late autumn -15,185. Others place the Battle of Maelshyve at -15,188 and then ShadowGuard in some earlier year. It is generally accepted that the war lasted for years. There are even some races who conflate the Undead War with the whole Age of Chaos. There are warped Faendryl pseudo-histories making it sound as if the war lasted for thousands of years. The most consistent chronology is arguably the Battle of ShadowGuard at -15,196 and followed by the Battle of Harradahn in -15,195, where Despana's horde was routed, and a stalemate was reached under Faendryl leadership that held for roughly a decade. What matters is that the Elven Empire did not understand the severity of the threat until the defeat of the elite Vaalorian legions at ShadowGuard. Despana's capacity for rapid escalation was contrary to her own precedent. The Elves were shocked to discover that the Undead, what had been a mere nuisance to be vanquished for vain glory, had within a single day become a mortal danger to civilization itself.

III.C The Faendryl Exile

What the Elves had failed to understand was that Despana had united the malign factions of the southern wastelands, and over those many long years there was a merger of the traditions of the black arts. There was a leap in the arts of necromancy because it was felt as an abrupt revelation. The fall of the outlying provinces in the West was lightning fast, while the southern horn of the DragonSpine was clogged with hordes. In the first month of the invasion into the core of Elven territory, what might be called the Surge, the Undead were regarded as a conventional but mindless force. It was pressing its way through the southeastern outlands, and the Houses wished to single handedly defeat Dharthiir. They would not consent to lend their forces to the glory of another House, nor would they allow the legions of other Houses to cross their borders. House Vaalor was, bizarrely, the path of the invasion. With the benefit of hindsight, it is now believed Dharthiir intended to make his forces be surrounded as a tumor in the very center of the Empire, which at the time was regarded as illogical and suicidal.

The Vaalor soon discovered the Undead were organized under more intelligent leaders, were able to act strategically, and that their own wounded or dead were rapidly being incorporated into the enemy forces. This alarming situation led the Sabrar to make a suicidal strike into the heart of the invasion, with Taki Rassien and Dharthiir said to have vanished from this reality in the clash of their powerful blades. This temporarily disrupted the hierarchy of the Undead. There were then berserker invasions of orcs and trolls out of the DragonSpine Mountains.

With the severe blows to Houses Vaalor and Illistim, and House Nalfein in immediate peril, House Faendryl was able to unify the Elves under their own command. They were able to establish a stalemate the following year at the Battle of Harradahn, having been forced to call for aid from all the peoples who had not been recruited for Despana. However, in what was a supreme irony and reversal of the natural order, time was working against the Elves. The undead had no need for rest, or supply lines, or the ordinary constraints of war. They lacked any instinct of self preservation, confounding the logic of military tactics. Where there were battle lines held in the southeast, there was widespread chaos and death in the West. Plagues were spreading that had been made through dark sorcery. Blights were killing the fields and wildlife. The living were in very serious danger of widespread famine and mass starvation. It was understood by those in charge of the war, which is to say the Faendryl rulers, that the war was almost lost as civilization was unavoidably on the brink of collapse. This was not obvious to the other Houses. To those fighting on the lines, there was only stalemate, and those in the cities were far from the fields. The war planners hid the desolation of the West to prevent demoralization.

The military strategists of the Faendryl came to the decision that the only way to survive the war was to execute a lightning strike on Maelshyve. By decapitating the hierarchy of the Undead, whatever remained would be far more easily destroyed. The fundamental problem was that these greater undead, such as the liches, were very difficult to keep dead. What needed to be done was to banish them from this reality entirely, so that it would be impractical or impossible for them to make it back to this world. The other problem was actually reaching them.

It was decided that the only choice was to summon a great number of powerful demons from the high ground. These would swarm into the plains below toward Maelshyve, shocking and overwhelming the living forces. These demons would be more powerful forces of darkness than the undead lieutenants that were controlling the bulk of her mindless hordes. The rotting corpses would then be broken from their command hierarchy, following either the demons, or instinctively turning on the living warriors that were allied with Despana. They would then retreat inside Maelshyve Keep, and the undead hordes would chase them into the fortress. The Faendryl would then implode Maelshyve and banish all within it with a tremendous tear in the fabric of reality. But the Faendryl ruling class was aware that the other Houses would never agree to these actions. Nor would they even see it as necessary from not knowing the true direness of the situation.

And so it was that the Faendryl lied to their cousins, claiming to have discovered a new form of magic that would end the war. The Faendryl had waited for conventional battle to fail, with the release of the banshees, hoping this would justify the necessity of what was widely condemned as forbidden black arts. Most of the allied forces and other Houses were horrified to find themselves in league with demon summoners. Many of the Faendryl had never cast such magic before, and some of the demons had broken loose, inflicting carnage on their allies. But it was the demons themselves that were the greatest outrage. Tearing the veil so violently in Rhoska-Tor, especially where Maelshyve was built, was regarded as unconscionably dangerous. For all anyone knew this could have caused the Ur-Daemon to return, or some other malevolent power that would be far beyond their ability to stop. It was feared that the Arkati themselves would strike down on the Elves in retribution for this violation. The rulers of House Faendryl tried to argue that there had been no other way, but were unable to convince the other Houses of it.

There was a revolutionary furor in the Elven Empire in the years between the Battle of Maelshyve and the exile of House Faendryl in -15,180. House Illistim had deposed their Argent Mirror, Lanenreat, following the sack of Ta'Illistim. They ended the hereditary rule of the monarchy, shifting to much shorter reigns, and gave much more power to the Council of Thrones. The same trend would happen in the other Houses. The Faendryl monarchy instead became more absolutist. There are now fundamentally contradictory views of this period. Faendryl historians call it a time of fall and regress. Their cousins call it a time of advancement, and discarding outmoded cultural norms. It is fashionable among Illistim scholars to blame the caprice and instability of hereditary rule for ancestral folly. The Faendryl in turn regard this as totally backwards. Patriarchal succession is less incestuous and more meritocratic, they say, precisely due to its undiluted authority. They argue their royal line was always the most stable after the founding era. These cultural factions regard themselves as paragons of progress and enlightenment, and each other as regressions, blind to their own symptoms of decadence and decay. The roots of this are the deep disagreements on whether the forbidden magic at Maelshyve was justified. Monarchs were the core of failure in one view, while it was sedition and chaos in the other. The population was humiliated, enraged, and had a sense of betrayal or "back stabbing."

When the Patriarch Unsenis Ignaas Faendryl unexpectedly died, his replacement Cestimir Xisuthros Faendryl had little clout in the other courts, which were scapegoating House Faendryl partly to protect their own thrones. The Faendryl more cynically believed it was an opportunistic power grab, especially by the more imperial Houses Vaalor and Nalfein. The other monarchs ruled that the Faendryl had caused a massive unhealing tear in the veil at the ruins of Maelshyve, and that it was their responsibility to guard against whatever came or even returned from it.

In this way House Faendryl was exiled to Rhoska-Tor under threat of civil war. Much of the Faendryl population was upset as well, having felt betrayed by their own rulers. It is important to remember Houses were not truly bloodlines, and most Elves were not related to their royals. Elves settle under the banner of ruling Houses, and marry into families of other Houses. It is only a nationalistic short-hand to identify the members of a Great House with its ruling family. These rulers in the present day are not in general the original royal lines. It was decided that those who refused to renounce House Faendryl would be banished with their rulers to the wastelands. Families both immediate and extended were torn apart. Those who were involved in the two crimes against nature had no such leniency. House Faendryl became disgraced, its crest and emblems no longer recognized. The descendants of the exiled could only return by renouncing their heritage. This right of return no longer exists. It was suspended as a result of the annihilation of the Ashrim Isle, and has not been in effect for the past five thousand years.

It was in this period that the Dhe'nar were condemned as Dark Elves, as the Houses decided Despana could only have been Elven in descent. The term "dark elves" comes from the archaic Elven word "Draekeche," which means "Darkness," but the word carries connotations of kinslaying. This was the essence of Yshryth's speech. It was deemed one of the great vices of the Drakes. It was a term used for Elves of dark religions and black arts in the southern wastelands. But it had never been used against a whole lineage. Though "Dark Elves" are now thought of as a race in some sense, that is something that has only emerged in the past few thousand years. The Faendryl were not declared to be "dark elves" until after the Ashrim War, while they had resided in Rhoska-Tor for the past 15,000 years, and had long since acquired what is now called the Dark Elven language. The root of the term is in cultural condemnation rather than bloodlines. The Faendryl have since openly embraced the dark arts, merging them with sorcery, and now "sorcery" is so committed to this paradigm that its foundations are necromancy and demonology.

IV. The Age of Chaos (-15,000 until Modern Era)

"Another deserted village, much in the same state of decay. Any one of these could host the sum of all we have encountered. Skulls, ribs, and limbs litter the ground, discarded human vestiges grown over with weeds. There is no sign of violence, only sudden depopulation. The settlements are graveyards for the whole countryside. The few we have met are deeply pitted, scarred, blinded in one eye. They will not speak of what became of those blinded in both."

- Surveyor journal for northwestern Elanith
Library Aies, Circa -15,180

With the exile of House Faendryl to Rhoska-Tor, the other Great Houses fell into a struggle for power, seeking to assume leadership over the Empire to stabilize their own thrones. This was futile and the Houses tended to withdraw from each other. The Elven armies were mostly destroyed in the Undead War. With the slow replenishing of the elven race, this power vacuum lasted for millennia. It was no longer feasible for the Elves to exert control over the outlying provinces. These declared themselves independent, or turned to outright rebellion. The Houses all but ceded their claims to the lands of the West, which were now at the mercy of warlords and barbaric hordes, and there were many wars in these dark ages that are poorly recorded.

The Elves suffered other setbacks in seeking to restore their power. When enough time had passed that they could once again field full armies, they were forced to fight the kiramon for a thousand years. This precluded regaining lordship over the outlands. In the end the Elves decided there was only one option, and with some irony, most of the kiramon were banished off this world. Fifteen thousand years later, it was discovered beyond any plausible doubt this had doomed the Aelotoi to mutation and slavery, as that was when the kiramon arrived on Bre'Naere.

IV.A New Ta'Faendryl

One of the darkest legacies of Despana was the famine she unleashed with her necromancy. It was not only the sorcerous plagues such as the Red Rot, also known as the Doom of Kalaza, it was the blights poisoning the fields and forests. They were struggled against for centuries as recurring illnesses. It was the cause of insurrections and expansionist wars. There was even one infamous case around -14,800 of the Ardenai king, now descending into madness, ordering his sorcerers to release their own disease curse to wipe out the ponies of the Brughan halflings. The warding against it failed, and the Ardenai saw their own horses die and rot as well.

Still worse was the plight of the Faendryl. The Houses had banished their cousins to a barren wasteland, where for reasons both natural and unnatural, it was very difficult to grow food. Though there were forests near Maelshyve, these were dark and twisted, too dangerous from proximity.

With a whole population of refugees in need of immediate support, and without existing resources to fall back upon, the Faendryl came to regard the exile as attempted genocide. In departing their ancestral city of Ta'Faendryl, they salted the earth, leaving behind various of their powerful magical creations to freely roam. They also summoned Ithzir world conquerors, one of the extraplanar threats they had guarded against, to symbolically lord over what would become the ruins of their shining city. It was to spite Laibanniel Illistim for ordering an energy barrier so only the powerful could return or study what the Faendryl had left behind. These included works of necromancy, such as aberrant mutants, and an undead of legend known as lich qyn'arj.

In the wasteland there were hostile forces on the surface, with uninhabitable heat and drought, and no shelter from the harsh desert sun. There were wild demons and leaderless undead left over from the Battle of Maelshyve, as well as other more sinister survivors of the dark alliance of Despana. Among these latter factions, the Faendryl were the subject of hatred. However, the Faendryl soon discovered entrances to the underground caverns, and were able to erect wards to keep out the banshees and other infernal spirits that are endemic to those lands.

There were attempts to spontaneously grow plants with spiritual magic. But they would emerge twisted and cursed, and were most often poisonous or rotting, or even hostile with a malign will and dark powers. Wide range scavenging and hunting was done in the more distant eastern forests, and the Faendryl mages struggled, attempting to keep imported top soil purified to grow plants in artificial lighting in underground caves. The instabilities in the flows that were caused by the implosion of Maelshyve made it difficult to keep even crude constructs or golems. The Faendryl were forced to resort to summoning minor demons, which would perform the manual labor, lacing the crops and livestock with their corruptive energies. They tried to use the reanimated corpses of their beasts of burden, which was impractical and had milder but similar issues. In the present age they summon minor demons of the outer planes that manifest lowly in corruption, but in the early exile the flows were unstable and more prone to storming near Maelshyve. In time they were able to make working artificial constructs from exotic metals. It would not be possible to even begin considering this on the surface until the situation stabilized.

Those who dwelled in the deeper caverns, those closer to the collapsed ruins of Maelshyve, were affected by the scorch over the span of decades. For others it was centuries and there was not much affect on skin tone for those farther away. While they had to fight off the dark cults and other surviving wasteland allies of Despana in those early years, the demon worshippers began losing their hostility toward the Faendryl as they gained the ability to speak the voice of Rhoska-Tor. Despana transformed more into a myth of she who will one day return.

Over thousands of years the Faendryl expanded their sphere of power over much of Rhoska-Tor, pushing many of the practitioners of the black arts literally underground. The cultists would sometimes infiltrate Faendryl society. This would later foster all sorts of conspiracy theories regarding the Senary. The Faendryl found it useful for many reasons to learn to wield the darker or otherworldly essences in Rhoska-Tor. For those following the monistic traditions, there were philosophies of a cosmic primal power, where the truest form of magic transcended the planes. The separatists instead fashioned many other kinds of "sorcery," where the energies subjected to fusion would define their own categories of sorcery. In this way the Faendryl form of sorcery was expanded, so that the word no longer was limited to the elemental-spiritual dichotomy, but instead those terms were generalized to the material and immaterial as "demonology" and "necromancy." Sorcery was broadened in such a way that it absorbed some of the more ancient black arts. The dark arts were then studied through the paradigm of Faendryl rationalism.

Occultism provided the back door for these wasteland traditions to become incorporated into the dark arts of sorcery. The Faendryl became more comfortable with the casual and personal use of dark forces, such as wearing demons of shadow, or housing necromantic powers of pestilence in oneself as defense in retribution. It was fashionable to embed the demonic or spirits into weapons or other items. There were those who took to a more esoteric or immanent view of the cosmos, harrowing the more dangerous or alien realms through immaterial projections. What the study of dark energies, and the black arts of old, had most to offer was defense against dark forces. The futility of challenging the Faendryl is well known in the Southron Wastes.

They would come to grow food in their outlying lands, along with relatively minor surface settlements. There was even the eastern port of Gellig after some ten thousand years, as relations between the Faendryl and other Houses had improved. While the Age of Chaos is ill-defined in when it ended, as the situation was not even in all places, by five thousand years ago the Elves were firmly in the Modern Age. Princess Chesylcha Sukari Faendryl was best friends with the Illistim Mirror, Caladsal Nellereune, who regarded each other as royal cousins. Chesylcha was to marry a prince of the Ashrim royal family, and her wedding party included the famous Loenthran poet Maeli Gerydd. It was a politically controversial royal marriage, which would have shifted the balances of power. (For reasons beyond the scope of this work, ranging from sea trade, to the nascent airship industry.) When Chesylcha vanished her sisters divined her assassination, which led to the fog of war, spiraling out of control until the obliteration of the Ashrim Isle. The Faendryl losses were horrendous. The Houses declared it a genocide, the Faendryl called it an exile. The war had sought to compel a trial and formal restoration of ancestral land claims. But in the end it turned their allies against them and entrenched the opposition.

It was at this point that the Faendryl were declared "dark elves," and the Faendryl threw off the last of their Old World romanticism. The Patriarch formally dismissed the penance of House Faendryl in guarding the ruins of Maelshyve for the Elven Empire. It was ruled that the exile was illegitimate in its entirety, and that the Faendryl would no longer reside in the shadow of Maelshyve. The Faendryl society was planned and structured from the top down, with a new permanent city to be built on the surface to the northeast of Maelshyve at the edge of Rhoska-Tor. There was then a full embrace of the dark arts, which were regarded as morally neutral. The Palestra academies were founded to support a vast expansion of demon summoning. The "disgraced" House crest was denounced, while a new crest and motto were adopted that are not formally recognized by the other Houses, and the Faendryl dialect by law became the court language.

IV.B The Diaspora

"What's wrong with baby? She looks so still.
The white one comes and eats its fill.
What's wrong with grandad? Screams and moans.
The white one comes and cracks his bones.
What's wrong with momma, what's wrong with son?
The black one comes, eats everyone."

- Children's rhyme unconsciously chanted in fugue states, in the
year 5100, due to Banaltra harvesters for the Feithidmor. Last
hatching survived by sylvans of Yuriqen in the Age of Chaos.

In the collapse of the Elven Empire, the westerlands were opened not only to brigands and barbaric hordes out of the mountains, but to the malevolent factors in the South who had survived the Undead War. There were many dark forces who were not inside Maelshyve at the time of its destruction. With the power vacuum in the West, there was freedom for dark cults and cabals to spread north, as well as undead and other malefactors. This was exacerbated as the Faendryl strengthened their hold on Rhoska-Tor. There was a diaspora of necromancers and practitioners of the black arts out of the southern wastelands. In this way witchcraft had returned to the West, where it originated, but it was now a much darker and more dangerous form of magic.

There was also a tendency of Dark Elves in general, regardless of their heritage, to treat the western lands as a backyard for engaging in abuses of power. This was especially true of the parts of Faendryl society that chaffed under its severe laws and rules governing magic. The Age of Chaos was in some ways the high point for those who wished a certain kind of freedom on the world. One of tyranny, despair, and suffering. It was a profoundly violent time and humans only began building fortified settlements to fight back against the evil 8,000 years ago.

After the destruction of Maelshyve, the Sylvankind dismantled their city of Nevishrim in the southeast of the DragonSpine Mountains, and migrated to the West. They trended northward up the forests along the western side of the mountains over a period of 12,000 years. Much of this time was in the Wyrdeep forest. It was in this period that the sylvans encountered the primordial demon of Shadows, Althedeus, in one of its attempts to pass through into this world in an earthly vessel. The sylvans used powerful Nanrithowan wards and preservation magic to seal in and imprison this dark power in what is now called the Heart of the Wyrdeep. The Wyrdeep forest is uninhabited by mortals in its depths. It is a dangerous realm of fey and direbeasts. The Sylvans would eventually find their way north to the Silver Veil, their "Final Forest," and so established their final city of Yuriqen in -2,985 around eight thousand years ago.

While the Age of Chaos had largely spared the sylvans, as they hid in the woods by themselves, this was not to last forever. Legend holds that a usurping Faendryl sorcerer, or at least one of the Dark Elves of the diaspora, resided with the sylvans with secret malign intent. This Myrdanian was discovered to be harboring darkness within him. The Sylvans had attempted to cast him out. But he built a tower on the south of their forest, and laid siege on them by sending foul beasts and dark magic. It was why Yuriqen was sealed off almost 2,400 years ago.

It was the nature of the Age of Chaos to end in some regions and then survive more strongly outside those borders. With the coronation of the Emperor of Veng in 2,745 there was the birth of the formal Kannalan Empire, whose center of power was concentrated in what later came to be known as Hendor. While the Kannalan Empire was only ever a loose alliance of halflings with human and giantman kingdoms, it was a stabilizing force, which allowed the precursors of feudalism to be dominant in the West. Looser forms of this alliance had existed for a few thousand years. It is because of the solidification of the Kannalan Empire that the forces of dark sorcery had been pressed to the north. It is perhaps for this reason that the Sylvans had troubles with Myrdanian. The most northern reaches of the westerlands were always a haven of dark magic and rebels, dating all the way back to the Second Age with the undeath of the Black Wolves.

The Kannalan Empire abruptly collapsed in the year 3,961. It was the result of internal strife and a surge of humanoid and barbarian assaults out of the mountains. Historians have since speculated this was caused by the Sunfist Pact of 3,945 between the Highmen and Blackfang giantmen tribes with several dwarven clans, as the Kingdom of Dunemire in what is now Bourth was a kingdom of the Highmen. There was perhaps some ill-recorded shift of the balances of power in the mountains that caused "humanoid" races like hobgoblins and orcs to surge into the lowlands. Whatever the case may be, this saw a resurgence of "black elven wizardry" in the south, and a thousand year legacy of dark sorcerous forces in what are now the northern baronies.

IV.C Death Religions

It was in the late Age of Chaos that Lorminstra began softening her treatment of departed souls. The reasons for shifts in the ways of the Arkati are most always opaque, having to do with their internal struggles, or vague considerations of cosmic cycles that make little sense to races of flesh and blood. It is often thought to have been a rebuke or push back on the rise of Luukosian forces and the imbalance of Life and Death fostered by her rival God of Death. In antiquity it was very rare for a true resurrection to happen, by which we mean the return of a departed soul to its body, which was then rebound and actually living. Lorminstra is the only power known to be able to do this to mortals without ascension or cursing the soul. Though the clerics of other gods can revive dying bodies, they cannot resurrect the truly dead. Only a rare few of the high priests of Lorminstra are able to beseech the return of departed souls.

It was the theology of Lorminstra that those who died were to depart through the Ebon Gate and only return on special occasions as a spirit. High priests of Lorminstra could beseech her for resurrection in "lifegiving" rituals. This was a rare power and Lorminstra most often refused. It was only for those who had died prematurely or in insignificant ways. Those whose missions in the world were not yet complete, however conceived of by Lorminstra herself. The very rarest form of resurrection was if Lorminstra took the departed soul and reincarnated its body.

(1) Deeds

Seven thousand years ago, or so, a loophole had formed in her rules. There was a tiny minority of the population, who her priests called the "special children," who had importance in their roles as heroic fighters against chaotic forces. These adventurers were prone to highly risking their lives "making a difference." They were much more rapidly healed with magical herbs than most people, for whom such remedies usually only increase the rate of healing. Traumatic injuries from violence in particular might quickly vanish. Somehow chosen with higher purpose, they had a mission in the world, whether or not they knew it. Lorminstra allowed such heroes to fulfill their unfinished purposes. There were kneeling rituals resembling feudal homage where they would have to sacrifice the spoils of their adventures, proving they valued their lives more than their baubles and treasures. For this "deed" they would be owed a favor from Death.

"Good deeds" had long held special value in the power of Life, and could even transubstantiate into golden liquid in the legendary chalice of Faelyna. But these were deeds of Death. Their sacrifices would substitute other heroic acts for the significant deaths that would leave Lorminstra unable or unwilling to resurrect. The greater the heroic feats to be spared, the greater the sacrifices to be worthy. There is no deceiving Death. Tithing by the merely wealthy to temples of Lorminstra were not worthy deeds. Without accruing deeds, the soul was doomed.

Lorminstra was as a liege lord owing protection and intercession to her vassals, where the fief was the immortal soul of the vassal, which by all rights truly belonged to her in the end. If sufficient fealty were shown in this homage, Lorminstra would aid in the resurrection of departed souls. Their bodies would disintegrate upon the departure of their spirit. There are many religious beliefs in this world for what comes after death, from the Krefkra of the krolvin to the Koargard of humans. For those chosen by the Lady of Winter there is no question. Those who have passed beyond the Ebon Gate describe it as Oblivion, a timeless void of darkness with endless streams of light, where all memory and sense of identity wash away in hopelessness.

In time the goddess Lorminstra will find the soul in this purgatory between the light and darkness, and bring it back to the world of the living at the moment of its death, reincarnating its body with scorching pain as its memories rush back to it. She even has a minor capacity for repairing torn apart or "destroyed" souls. Reincarnation works around some of the conditions that ordinarily prevent resurrection. In the end Lorminstra would discern whether the life is too full, or its mission too completed, or the death too natural to warrant returning the soul even if it was owed favor. It was only certain kinds of deaths that could be substituted for deaths of like kind. Otherwise the rules of Death held without exemption. It is not clear to what extent these matters are choices of Lorminstra, and to what extent she is only the Guardian enacting them. Some claim Lorminstra is "powerless" to aid most souls without deeds.

The precise rules of resurrection have fluctuated over the centuries. There has always been some severity of "Death's sting" in the departed. Those who return from death are never entirely restored. They lose something of themselves, whether temporarily or permanently. Some of this is damage from the decay of the body. While "preservation" and "lifekeep" are often done at the same time, they are actually distinct. Lifekeep binds the soul in the dying. Preservation halts decay of the dead. The extent to which Lorminstra has extended her power in mitigating death has fluctuated. Since the waking of the shadow dragon Kor'Thriss in 5104, "deeds" have had no role in whether Lorminstra brings back a departed soul, they are instead the power of Life that goes into softening Death's sting. The reason for this change in the cycles of Death remains unclear. It may have something to do with the Balance. But the "special children" no longer must perform homage to Lorminstra, and how or why they were chosen remains a mystery. They are often contrary to her own interests, but have some role to play in the unfolding of Fate.

Regardless, the role of these special children in the late Age of Chaos was to be a countervailing force on the darkness, and they may well have been a crucial factor in restoring order. It was also in the Age of Chaos that we see the earliest records of a figure resembling Voln. There was a proliferation of undeath in the westerlands. Often this was at the hands of Luukosian cultists, or those wishing to establish theocracies. It was many years before the founding of the k'Tafali sect. The witch hunters of that age had no use for mercy, or for regarding the undead with compassion. Voln was interpreted as having an undying hatred of the undead, and was the immortal enemy of Luukos, who increasingly came to personify the forces of Undeath.

(2) The Dark Path

But a little over six thousand years ago, following the shift in the cycles of Death, a dark mirror of the Death religion arose in the far north. The Dark Path was a theocracy in homage of Gosaena. It was a heterodox theology, in some ways similar to her Left Hand Path sect, but otherwise highly unusual. It was a syncretic doctrine blending Gosaena and Eorgina, and perhaps to some extent with the savior myths of Despana, as she who ushered forth the darkness that ended the First Age. Imagining this Empress as a dead goddess who had been decapitated, her body was said to have fallen through the black gateway. The dead goddess waited on the other side, outside of time and defying Death, guarding the way to the darkness as a goddess of transformation. Gosaena so imagined was the Guardian of the Forbidden, the "dark path" in purgatory beyond the Gate, promising everlasting existence of undeath or eternity in the infernal demonic realms.

In the cosmology of higher and lower planes of existence, the light was interpreted as a higher spirit realm, and the dark was damnation in the realm of demons and terrible powers of Void. To the extent this bears any resemblance to orthodox theologies of Gosaena, it is one of visions of the death of all things, and the inevitable doom in being lost to the demonic. Gosaena was understood to reign over the end of Lorminstra's powers. Where Lorminstra was powerless to intercede, there would be only Gosaena. This stage of Oblivion was known as the Pale.

This theocracy was founded by a human scholar named Bandur Etrevion, who at one time was a resident of the Library of Biblia. He was caught attempting to steal a rare speaking crystal with words from the Age of Darkness. Bandur was an occultist. He was obsessed with esoteric and forbidden knowledge, which he often acquired in nightmare visions, suffering fits of possession. He was a formidable necromancer, having built a bizarre necropolis for himself, with extensive spatial warps. It was designed with mortuary symbolism from diverse "underworld" religions. He was a master of the black arts. But the corruption of this power was driving him mad. He usurped the throne of his brother Kestrel and slaughtered many of the dark cults in the power vacuum of the north. Among these was a cult of Luukos, possibly led by one of his own nephews, which had an underground stronghold on the coastal cliffs of what is now called Darkstone Bay.

This was only to consolidate power under his own sinister theocracy. The Dark Path engaged in ostentatious rituals under a genteel facade of prayer, making a mockery of the parallel rites in the rival religion of Lorminstra. Where the high priest of a temple of Lorminstra would be titled the Lord High Cleric, the ruler of the Dark Path was fashioned the Lord High Sorceror. Instead of promising resurrection to the pious for their deeds, those who devoutly swore themselves to Gosaena were promised undeath. Instead of sacrificing worldly treasures for continued life, human sacrifices were made in offering to Bandur. Instead of homage freely given, there was thralldom. Utterly mad from having slain his beloved brother, and haunted with prophetic visions, Bandur was unable to drown his suffering. He engulfed himself in darkness below his necropolis, under false tombs, incorporating his future grave robbers in its grand design. This commune with intense darkness caused Bandur to be frozen within solid ice. This was seen later with the Vvrael in 5098 when the halfling Ardo Olbin was frozen in the Chamber of the Dead.

(3) The Broken Land

However, there was an elven scholar in the region who was a contemporary of Bandur, whom he had known from his earlier days. When his work had been recognized by the Order of Lorekeepers. Sage Uthex Kathiasas was one of the greatest researchers of his time, and was seeking ways to aid the forces of civilization in the terrible wars of that period. While Uthex was not aware of the nature of the Dark Path theocracy, which outwardly resembled the worship of Lorminstra, they had discovered a portal underground in what is now called the Lysierian Hills.

Uthex used his great influence to secure access to this portal from Bandur. It was a natural gateway to a parallel dimension of this world, a nightmarish analog or dark mirror of the same places, which causes the body to dematerialize and vanish from this reality. The portal was likely formed by a rare eclipse of Lornon by Liabo that happens over that region. This is known as the "Broken Land" or the "Home of Broken Lore." It is rumored to be on the surface of the moon Lornon. Or perhaps below it. There may be a grain of truth in this as it is apparently an esoteric dimension. There are very ancient Marluvian ruins in the Broken Land, where the Dark Path cultists woke up long sleeping vruul, using foul rituals of desecration. It is in the same vein as the heterodox theology of the Dark Path. The shrine there includes apocrypha depicting Eorgina as a dead goddess, the mother of Marlu, who is called a "spirit born of death."

There is a prehistorical crystal dome in the Broken Land, a shining trapezohedron, which is a siphon stone that concentrates power. It is thought the occult researchers were attempting to fashion physical entities from raw energy, or "power given physical form," and Uthex ultimately went mad with the corruption of dark power. The cultists were trying to make their own form of soul reincarnation, darkly mirroring the reincarnation of souls by Lorminstra. The Sheruvian Order under Draezir seized control of Uthex's old workshop in 5097, and struggled with Shar the following year. Self-resurrection magic for the undeparted spirit was discovered there by Sages of the Order of Lorekeepers in 5107. But the later work of Uthex was high necromancy.

There was potential to transmogrify the soul into extraplanar entities, especially demons, or even "ascend" the souls into godhood. In this way the Dark Path sought to ensure the reality of their depraved Death theology. They had twisted and perverted the work of Uthex into more dangerous forms. But his fellow Sages discovered that Uthex had gone quite mad, and slew him in -1,264 with a devastating meteor swarm, destroying as many of his experiments and records as they could. There was a hidden monastery established to guard the portal, where monks of Kai struggled for centuries with the immortalized cultists. These were astral fights as the portal had been sealed with powerful Runes of Warding. It was a cenobitic monastic order that would come to suffer from isolation and loneliness. The monastery was lost to history, not rediscovered until 5092. The monks had fallen to the very darkness they had struggled against.

IV.D The Modern Age (Last 5,000 Years)

The world was slow to recover from the Age of Chaos. Even in far off lands it was a time of darkness. The continent of Finnia had been devastated by a cataclysm known as the Dark Flood. The Elven Nations were set back with the destruction of House Ashrim and mostly kept to themselves in the East for several thousand years. In time the Kannalan Empire would form in the West and pushed back the foul legacy of necromancers, until it collapsed under the forces of chaos itself, eventually to be replaced by the Turamzzyrian Empire. This more human empire pushed the darkness back into the borderlands of the north and south. But there has been a resurgence of dark forces of necromancy in the past few centuries, and especially the past few decades.

Empress Selantha Anodheles II ordered an ill-conceived invasion of the Faendryl Empire, seeking to cleanse the lands of their darkness in the year 4841. The Faendryl assumed it was a minor border expansion at first, with fortifications built along the northern marches, from Tedronne near the Wizardwaste to Harald's Keep in the east. When Sentinel Jerram Happersett then sacked Gellig, they were infuriated, and eight score demonmasters routed the imperial armies in The Breaking. Sentinel Happersett went missing and suffered a horrifying fate worse than death.

The unnatural hybrid offspring of "the fiends" with the indigenous wildlife became the Scourge. The Faendryl Armata stopped cutting down the demonic emerging from Maelshyve, allowing them to instead wander west and north into the Empire. The Turamzzyrians were forced to build a huge Demonwall intended to cut off Rhoska-Tor, and eventually all of the Southron Wastes. Meddling by the Order of Voln in the Southron Wastes incited the Horned Cabal to begin invading the southern Empire. There has been a surge of greater dark powers since the failure of the Eye of the Drake. The Vvrael and Vishmiir wielded undead horrors. Several of the Lornon Gods supported the Griffin Sword Wars, resulting in the mass slaughter of Elven armies, whose corpses were used to grow a tremendous undead construct known as the Miscere'Golab. There have been conflicts with liches such as Vindicto, Tseleth, and the Council of Ten with their forces of undeath.

The primordial demon of Shadows, Althedeus, had acted through various blood mages, causing the devastating War of Shadows. The Barony of Talador was then obliterated and transformed into a cursed wasteland, similar to the Wizardwaste, in what was perhaps the greatest and most terrible act of necromancy since the Undead War. The roots of this dark magic in the necromancy of demon blood from the Southron Wastes continues to bear fruit in blights and genocidal plagues. There is more yet to come as the Star of Khar'ta is now an artifact of blood and shadow.

OOC Disclaimers

Author's Note

This is the first draft of a document that would have been proposed years ago if the Wordsmiths program were still running or player submissions were solicited on general subject matters. For this reason it reaches further than I normally would into embellishment. It is actually meant to be three documents in separate but interrelated volumes. With Wordsmiths having not been available, it was written in a form that would still be useful as a player character essay. Because it is so very long and systematic, I am belaboring this point for other players: Please do not try to treat, or cite, its contents as official lore!

Ordinarily I would treat that as obvious and not needing saying, but in this case I want to give that special emphasis, because it inter-threads so many things that have only tacit or implicit lore. Parts of it might not even survive QC, or might need to be re-written or further developed, if it were sent through that process. This document is not necessarily static. I might amend it with updated versions to try to stay consistent with future developments.

You can use it for your own RP and in-character perspective. Official documentation on theory of magic and cosmology and NPC black arts at this level of thoroughness is unlikely to ever be written. It is written from the character author's theory-laden and sometimes contrary perspective, so it is biased, and potentially wrong or disputable on points. There are some points that are wholly made up, since it was intended to eventually be a Wordsmiths document. These tend to be highlighted. It is historiographic, not historical. In other words it is interpretation and characterization of history, something like narrative categories which may be disputed as academic fictions. Much is interpretation to synthesize many strands of lore, which are embellishments and extrapolations, or attempts at reconciling inconsistencies and ambiguities. These are not necessarily correct, and may get contradicted later.

There is an attempt to be approximately consistent (especially magic theory) with both DragonRealms and all time points of GemStone from 1989 through 2022, including the magic documentation on the play.net website that remains from Rolemaster Spell Law and everything related to the death mechanics, and trying to make a single coherent framework that works for both game mechanic and storyline premises. It de-emphasizes Luukos in favor of the many-sources-of-undeath in the Order of Voln messaging, along with de-emphasizing the most unrealistic aspects of the "Overview of Elanthian Magic" document. It interprets the death mechanics (including the Graveyard and Broken Land stories) from an IC perspective, but this aspect is especially vulnerable to future disruption, such as from Ebon's Gate festival storylines.

It is written in a purely IC form of postulated conventions or theory, and abstracted historical or cultural tendencies, to give a narrativized layer of insulation of generalization to minimize inventing specific concrete details whole cloth. (For example, it mostly avoids inventing specific NPCs, cultures, religious orders, place names, and so on.) This means other PCs and NPCs may have different conventions and organization schemes, and may characterize the history and various other things differently. This way if things develop inconsistent with it, it just reduces its applicability and explanatory power. Future developments in GemStone may require significant revising or re-writing parts of it, especially if basic premises made in it become especially inconsistent with new documents. Because of this potential, it has version numbers.

Legal Disclaimer

Simutronics has my permission to use or adapt this work into a canonical version in the future without my involvement if I am no longer present. It was originally intended for Wordsmiths, which presently is still defunct. If I am still present, I may be able to provide extensive footnotes offering line-by-line justifications, explanations, and cross-references. It was written to be highly internally consistent, so changing parts of it may create conflicts.

Highlight Key

Full footnotes of explanations would make this unreadable and more than twice as long. I am using highlights to emphasize when things are especially fabricated.

  • Bold highlights are totally made up "facts" and not canon at all. These are mostly made up quotes or book titles, or hard statements about geography or history. (This is not implying non-bold text has zero invention in it. I do not bold things that are the author's views or theorizing.)
  • Italic highlights are relatively strong embellishments or inferences to synthesize and make sense of disparate elements of the world setting. (This is not implying non-italic text has zero assumption or embellishment in it. For readability I mostly italicize the initial premise, not what follows from it.)
  • Bold italics or obvious section title highlights do not mean anything. (Whole sections are only highly made up if there is seemingly nothing established about it.)
  • The unhighlighted text is the IC author's biased view or interpretations, using his framework and conventions. It may be flawed or incomplete in various ways, or have more minor embellishments.

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