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The World of Ilandria
"Ilandria is a young land, and therefore most of its history is not its own. It is the history of the land of Bravia, from whence our forefathers came, and the ancient history of the very world we live in.
Ilandria as you can see is not a world but an island. If the world we live on had a name, it has long ago been lost to the mists of antiquity. The Dwarves referred to this world as Xah'thelos, but this was a nickname or a euphemism. It is translated, roughly, as "The Gameboard of the Gods" although Xah most likely refers to a board used for a specific Dwarven tablegame. Coincidentally, or perhaps not, the name of this land, "Ilandria", is said to mean much the same thing in an Elven tongue.
Still, our world has no proper name. And so much of its history is lost or disputed. The best historians left to us can agree to divide the lengthy known history of Xah'thelos into three Ages. First and longest was the Age of the Thran. The age that followed, the Age of the Dwarves, was shorter. The age we live in is the shortest yet, although of course it is premature to say, as its end is not yet reached; new minted, it is the Age of Men.
The end of each of the two preceding Ages has been marked by a terrifying and traumatic event known as the Culling.
Before the Time of the Culling, indeed since time immemorial, nigh all of this world's people, dwarf, man, elf and the rarer races alike, were little more than thralls. They lived in bondage, enslaved to the far-away empire of the Thran across the nameless seas to the north.
Few or none alive now remember the time of the First Culling, millenia ago. Demons, devils, and primordial Horrors overwhelmed the lands of Bravia. The creatures of the deep overran the surface, while extraplanar horrors appeared from thin air to devour the minds and souls of mortals. Because the Culling was survived, it was predicted by great sages and wizards of the Thran empire.
A school of sorcerers known as the Veil of Shadows was created with the sole task of preparing the peoples of Thran and its Dominions for the Culling, creating great Citadels, underwater, floating, or subterranean shelters hidden and shielded by powerful ritual magics. Even the Great Wyrms went into hiding in their own way. Because of the efforts of the Veil of Shadows, history writes that nearly as many as one in ten survived the Culling.
The Thran and their technologickal Empire survived the First Culling. When they were broken, it was upon the vast continent of Bravia, far to the east. Compared to Bravia, the island of Ilandria is a mere speck.
With their air ships, golems, homunculi, and automata, the Thran--also called the Grey Folk, and believed closely related to the Elves--ensured that Bravian independence could be nothing more than a dream. Pirates, bandits, and raiders, and proud clans of goblins attempted to thwart the endless slaving operation of the Thran and were brutally chastened by superior forces for their efforts.
However, the Culling did two things of tremendous importance to change this status quo. First, the Culling nearly crippled Thran civilization. Secondly, during the hundreds of years of horror, hiding, and death that the time of the First Culling represented for those lucky enough to take shelter in a Citadel that did not fall, the dwarves of Thra'uul had plenty of time, in isolation, to think.
After the centuries of terror that marked the First Culling, the monsters finally withdrew from the surface. On that day, millenia ago, the Dwarves ventured forth from their subterranean Citadels, armed with the Covenant of Thobtunom, a philosophical document guaranteeing the natural right to freedom of every Dwarf, man, and elf.
Soon after the Emergence, the airships of Thran arrived to check on the status of their holdings in their colony of Bravia. The Dwarves of the Bravian Dwarven nation of Thra'uul were waiting with their siege engines and human allies. The war was long, brutal, and ultimately a decisive victory for Thra'uul. Thran was banished from the land of Bravia. By our present age, all maps leading to the lands of the Thran, and all conveyances that could travel there, have been destroyed.
It is known that in gratitude for their pivotal role in driving back the armies of the Thran, the lords of the human houses swore loyalty to the throne of Thra'uul, and in exchange for fealty and tithe, were granted the southernmost lands of Bravia as their protectorate, christened Sutherland and ruled from the Iron Throne at Bravia's southernmost tip. Thus began the Age of the Dwarves.
But, in spite of the fact that it is more recent--or perhaps BECAUSE of that very fact--the events of the Age of the Dwarves are hotly debated by the historians of today. Only the most basic outline of the facts is agreed upon. The Gray Folk of Thran did not venture past their shores, their empire broken. The Dwarves ruled the land of Bravia with an adamantine fist, accepting tithe from the child kingdoms of men and elves, and warring constantly with the barbaric goblinkin of Bravia's Koptik Wastes. The Dwarves in their age advanced the arts of Magick and Mining and Technology by leaps and bounds, and no power threatened their supremacy.
Then the Second Culling came upon the world, and Bravia was lost in the rising tide of horrors. Today we speak of monsters in Ilandria as though they are mere threats or nuisances. But the Culling was different. Without the protection of the Thran and without the Veil of Shadows at full strength (none took their warnings seriously), the Dwarves suffered terrible losses, and far less than one in ten made it to the safety of the magically protected Citadels as demons again swept the land.
Some say they came to punish the hubris of Thra'uul's dwarves, who dug too deep; others blame their appearance on the worshippers of the forbidden gods, and certain scholars called the Cullings a natural event, related to the cyclical increase in magical energy that preceded it. No matter what the cause, the Age of Dwarves was ended in much the same way as the Age of the Thran before them.
More men than Dwarves survived the Second Culling, and they had long tired of the yoke. They overthrew much of what was left of the Dwarven governmental apparatus after the second Emergence, and slew Dwarves and elves alike in brutal pogroms, blaming one or both races for the Second Culling and the centuries of suffering that it had meant for all of Bravia's people.
Bravia is no longer Bravia--in the reign of men, it is known only as The End. It is a harsh and cold place, with most of the Dwarves and Elves dead or in hiding, with their works cast down and destroyed. When not fighting amongst themselves in their kingdoms, the men of the End live in a harsh state of solemn readiness, should the signs indicate that the Third Culling approaches. This time, they will be ready. Fortunately for us all, no such signs have appeared, but we do what we can to maintain the ancient ways of looking for them. Still, no more is known about the affairs of the human kingdoms of The End. For The End is not Ilandria, and Ilandria is not The End.
The birth of Ilandria began with the death of Bravia, at the end of the Age of Dwarves during the Second Emergence. The men of one of the western cities of the Dwarf-tithed human fiefdom of Sutherland waited out the Second Culling in Citadels for generations. As they cowered and hid from the horrors that ravaged the world, they perfected the trade they'd worked at their whole lives. For the men of this city had been fisherman, and shipbuilders. They emerged from their Citadel with plans and drawings for new longships that could take them far beyond Bravia's shores. And saying a curse on elves and Dwarves and their fellow men and most of all the horrors, they departed from the blighted shores of Bravia never to return.
They sailed west into unknown and unexplored oceans, and were storm-beset and starving when they found Ilandria, the land of plenty, and were saved by it. Here they have made a kingdom, ruled by the Valdayn Dynasty and regulated by a Noble Counsel and its agents, the Imperators. But these men, our ancestors, were not the first beings to find the island they called Ilandria, nor the last.
Ancient Dwarven ruins dotted the island--the Dwarves had been to our home before we settled it. The largest of the ruins is the deep underground complex known as Ancient Nadir, a demon-cursed place where it is foolhardy to go. Where Ilandria's Dwarves went is unknown; perhaps they were devoured in one culling, or another.
And not long after Ilandria was resettled by men, contact was reestablished by the citizens of The End. Trade routes were reestablished, with Ilandria paying a token tithe to the rulers of The End, far to the east and the south. In return, Ilandria receives protection from the armies and fleets of The End. While technically a province of The End, Ilandria's contact with that ancient land and its people is small and infrequent. We have no interest to interfere with the politics or affairs of that great continent.
For good or ill, the folk of the newly founded province of Ilandria face the dawning of a new age--the Age of Men, just in its third century--alone, as one civilization. But Ilandria--The Gameboard- is a land of plenty, and the future is bright."
--From: "Ilandrian Antiquity: An Ancient History" by Grimloc Lothbalm.