The Age of Wonder is a name given to the era of the world which preceded Iiosia. It is a direct translation of the word the atia have given it - tae’lummisae.
It is not known when the age of wonder began or how long it truly lasted; even the most ancient of races – the dwarves – do not hold such records. What is known, and known by only a handful of the most privileged dwarf historians, is that dwarvern records stretch back many thousands of years during this time.
It was an age where much of the world was an untamed wilderness, with vast forests dominating the landscape. The world was full of fantastical creatures the like of which are nigh extinct within Iiosia. Dragons roamed the skies, feeding on herds of wild horses and buffalo. Mighty griffons made nests on mountain ranges, foul hydras lurked within swamplands, and a plethora of other creatures made their homes within the habitats of the world. The race of humans were as children, living in caves as hunter gatherers and only barely grasping the concepts of language and tools.
There were three kingdoms at this time; the dwarves, the tar’tchii, and the atia.
The dwarves occupied a large mountain range called The Skybreakers. Within these peaks, the dwarves constructed mighty holds, which were connected via a network of overground roads and underground tunnels.
A largely sour and reclusive race, the dwarves contented themselves within their stone settlements working and mining for jewels within the earth. The dwarves kept records of all they discovered and observed, and became the world’s historians and timekeepers. Even to this day, the calendar which is used was created by the dwarves.
As well as what little trading they did with the atia and tar’tchii, the dwarves came into contact with dragons as an all-too-regular occurrence. The large, rich halls of the dwarvern holds were tempting prospects to a young dragon, and every few years one would try their luck and attempt to occupy one as their own. The battles between dwarves and dragons have become legendary, as indeed have the dragons themselves.
The tar’tchii were creatures born of magic. Never has there been a more pure, perfect race to grace the world. Their alabaster skin, golden hair, bold features and pure white, feathered wings made their beauty almost painful to behold to other races. The tar’tchii were powerful Light Arc mages, and they spent their time creating music, art, and studying healing.
Their citadel, Ch'tielira, was the most wondrous city to ever grace the world. Created out of a glittering white rock, and made up of slim, tall spires criss-crossed with delicate sky-bridges, Ch'tielira towered over the surrounding forests and was so sacred that even the dragons and other creatures did not go near or behold it any hostility.
The atia were adept mages and explorers. They built many cities within the forests and studied astrology, the climate, herbs and animals. Though physically frail, these tall, slim humanoids possessed a hunger for knowledge which led them to excel. The atia were able to map most of the continental coastlines with the use of their ships, and they made exceptional progress in the magical Nature and Mind arcs within their libraries and study halls of their capitol, Allyon.
So the world was for many thousands of years, and existed as such until the atia’s hunger for knowledge, and power, grew until it incurred a cost far too terrible to comprehend.
The Ambitions of the Atia
The atia were always hungry for knowledge. They had mapped the coastlines, were skilled in alchemy, adept astronomers, and powerful mages. However, their ambitions were never quelled, and their pursuits slowly began taking them down less ethical routes to achieve their goals.
Their experiments on animals led to the creation of Husks – creatures whose life force and free will had been removed. What remained was a useful asset the atia could instruct to perform simple, menial tasks. It was quickly found that human husks were by far the most useful, and could be put to work performing rudimentary tasks such building, farming, heavy lifting, and other distasteful jobs. Soon, husks were widely used, and made a convenient counter to the atias’ own physical weaknesses.
Their queen at this time, Erenfel, epitomised the changing atian methods. She was ambitious, cool-headed, calculating, and manipulative. Erenfel was driven by a desire for the atian race to exceed their past achievements, and to attain higher and higher goals. In many ways, her motivations were also spurred on by her jealousy of the tar’chii. Their beauty, knowledge, and kinship with magic were things she strived for herself, and it was the pursuit of such things which led to the beginning of the end.
She oversaw the construction of a device known as the Magic Flux; a mighty wheel, made of Spirit Wood and imbued with thousands of runes. The Flux drew magical energies to it, acting as a catalyst to aid all atian sorceries nearby.
Hanging over the atian capital of Allyon, the Flux performed as intended for many years. The intangible magical energies which seemed to flow and ebb around the world were drawn to Allyon, allowing mages there to perform more powerful and ambitious sorceries.
The tar’chii objected to Erensol, saying that such a device was unnatural, and there was danger in these practices. This pleased the queen, for she saw their objections as an admission of its power and their fear of it.
On the eighth year after the Flux was created, a mighty storm raged over Allyon. The storm was the most ferocious which had ever been recorded; its winds blew strong enough to uproot mighty trees, it tore the roofs off buildings, and destroyed crops and killed livestock.
As the storm reached its climax, lightning erupted from the skies and struck the Flux. At that point, the first rift to Inferis was opened.
Inferis, a realm of chaos and change, had never before been breached like this. Black Magic seeped into the world, and with it six of the inhabitants of Inferis.
These were the ch’karth, creatures of the Black Arc. The ch’karth, drawn forth from their world into a strange and unfamiliar plane, fled from Allyon and drifted south, where they were not heard from again for many years.
After the storm subsided, the atia still continued to use the Flux. The fact that something had changed; that a new, unstable form of magic now permeated the flux, did not go unnoticed by them. With new powers at their fingertips, Erensol ordered that research and experiments begin immediately.
The Rise of the Ch’karth
Though they would later be called demons, the ch’karth, and indeed all the inhabitants of Inferis, are not strictly evil. They come from a realm of constant change, where the landmasses constantly twist and heave and nothing remains the same for long. A place where there is no day and night, no seasons, no strict geography or discernible pattern to things.
Imagine, then, their reaction upon being forcefully pulled through a portal to another realm where change is much slower, where time is constant, and where there is a general order to things. They neither asked for, nor wanted, their sudden appearance within the world. So, when they were brought through the rift they were lost, confused, and fled from the area of their inception.
The fled to the south, where they found searing heat and rolling sands, which were shifting without pause in the constant winds. This, at least, offered some familiarity, and they stayed there for many years.
Eventually, they took physical form. Being creatures of the Black Arc, their shapes differed depending on their will. They had names, or perhaps chose them themselves:
Scythliea became lithe, and feminine.
Severon became squat, and bloated.
Sil’nith’tei became beautiful and cruel.
Mordessa became chaos, and change.
Maelkith became as shadow.
Vanaus became as war.
The ch’karth were driven half-mad with their new surroundings, but lost none of their control over the Black Arc. They were born from it, and even to this day none since have wrought it so effectively.
The atia’s persistence in using it meant that the ch’karth could draw from it, despite being a great distance away. Their aim was to return to Inferis, but their attempts at creating rifts only resulted in dragging more of Inferis into the world. Unsurprisingly the chaotic energies of their realm were much harder to control than those of their new one, and it came rushing forth like a river whenever given the chance. The land became the homes of lesser entities of Inferis – lesser Demons – as hordes of ulthin came spilling forth from the rifts the ch’karth opened.
Over the years, the Black Arc seeped into the very land itself. As all would come to know, the Black Arc corrupts and changes all it comes across. The sands, already shifting, became a sea of undulating currents, rippling like a river as the magical energies seethed within. Eventually, the energies culminated as a city began to be born. This city was to become known as Khralos, and it would be the capitol of the land of Ch’karthamoré.
Decades later, Khralos had grown to gargantuan size. It sat, squat and oozing, over the shifting sands; demons pouring in and out of it like blood flowing through arteries. Many thousands of demons – ulthin and even stronger manifestations of the Black Arc – swarmed across the desert. The ch’karth erected towers and keeps in an attempt to emulate the Flux and hone the Black Arc enough to find a way back to Inferis.
But all their attempts had failed. They couldn’t concentrate enough energies to return, only to allow more corruption into the world. However, they knew of a way to do such a thing – they needed the Flux.
The Siege of Allyon
Reports of a vast army of misshapen creatures soon reached Allyon thanks to the atia’s sophisticated network of scouts and messengers. Their reaction was akin to any other civilised nation who knew of a monstrous horde baring down upon them – they prepared for war.
Hostilities began almost immediately. Atian patrols opened fire with crossbow and spell as soon as they beheld the misshapen masses approaching them. The creatures of Inferis responded in turn, torching the trees and answering violence with violence. Inferis’ hosts drove the atia back through the forests, inexorably toward their capitol, until the walls of Allyon itself was under siege from the terrible army.
With the Flux at their disposal, the Atia were able to unleash terrible magics at their enemies. The very elements themselves were thrown at the host, with fire and lightning battering the jabbering masses. It was at a cost that they realised that honing the Black Arc against their foes had little effect, and that doing so only seemed to strengthen them.
Yet despite the casualties inflicted, their attacker’s numbers never seemed to diminish, whereas each atia which fell was a telling loss to their collective strength.
After three days, when the walls were finally breached, a large number of Husks were sacrificed against the horde to delay it while the atia made their escape. They attempted to salvage the Flux, which they had used to fuel and hone their attacks until the last moment, but left such an operation far too late. The horde of Inferis overran the city, capturing the Flux along with it, and drove the atia from their burning capital.