“The Age of Heroes
Left us aged heroes
For whom time doesn’t care
And whose images now offend;
But History descends her stair,
Aroden’s ghost makes amends,
Relieving us our grey tokens;
Welcome, Age of Lost Omens!”
These words (scribed in the very year 4708 by the halfling satirist, Lethe) offer modern readers a window into the collective sentiment of an era which has recently elicited so wide an interest.
Though surely even the most blissfully self-involved among us know (at the very least) of Aroden, the human god’s most shocking demise in 4606 (Age of Lost Omens, Year 1) remains a curiously weak point in public knowledge. My goal here is, by no means, to present yet another account on such an auspicious event (especially when so many quality tomes exist; those wishing to cure ignorance would be quite highly recommended the twelve-volume Cheliax, a History: From the Even-Tongued Conquest to Fork-Tongued Thrune, Bondal O. Œffewick’s energetic exploration into Imperial Cheliax—and of particular value in comprehending the Chelish role here, or Growing up Elven in a Human World, a literary masterpiece from Pathfinder Severim Talyllatryr, offering a much needed non-humanocentric perspective on Aroden’s fall), but a superficial summary would show a certain prudence.
The Last Azlanti’s death upon precisely the occasion when Pharasman prophecy predicted his return to Avistan, a living god manifest, corresponds to several disastrous phenomena Golarion over: formation of the Eye of Abendego storm system off Garund’s west coast; re-opening of the Worldwound (and subsequent demonic massacres in Mendev); and the majestic Arch of Aroden’s collapse. Surely, the world believed the apocalypse upon it. Yet, existence carried beyond the scintillating Age of Enthronement into the Age of Lost Omens’ confused waters (owing its title, of course, to the failings within Pharasma’s clergy).
“But History descends her stair”—certainly.
Without its divine guidance, Imperial Cheliax was poised for swift collapse. A desperate people rallied behind Sir Björn d’Arhem, well-loved knight-crusader of the Great Mwangi Exploration…and seventy-four seasons aged. (“The Age of Heroes/ Left us aged heroes.”) d’Arhem’s incompetence, however, proved apparent with a misguided command involving lethal force and a dissenting mob. (“For whom time doesn’t care/ And whose images now offend.”) Humorously, it was this very event which shifted public opinion behind Abrogail I of House Thrune, providing her with necessary political favoritism for her infamous absolute take-over years later; d’Arhem (along with several other nobles, many of whom we suspect were in no fashion involved) was executed—and he saw the first use of crucifixion by Infernal Cheliax. (“Aroden’s ghost makes amends/ Relieving us our grey tokens.”) Many other places would see no better in the decades to come. . .
Our story is elsewhere, a century thicker into this mess. Mister Lethe, if you would be so kind as to lead the way? We go to the year 4708.
“Welcome, Age of Lost Omens!”
Brevoy. Rostland’s rolling plains, sterling honor, cocksure Aldori to the south, and Issia’s superstitious Mist-Born living frozen in the north. The two lands were enemies so far back as Taldor’s initial settling of the Rostland colony in roughly 4250 (a date is difficult to place with any deep veracity, one, due to the Rostlander anti-Taldane sentiment after the Taldane withdrawal from north-east Avistan encountered in expressed in expurgated historical documents, and, two, the Dragon Games of 4502 leading to a near absolute destruction of capital Oppara’s High-Crown Libraries). Several costly wars would be fought over the next two hundred-fifty years between the two. The Mist-Born were outnumbered by Rostlanders (and, I should say, Aldori Sword-Lords would help none)—but traditional Issian skirmish tactics would have never willingly brought them afield for battle in the “honorable” Taldane-style arrangement (rank-by-rank), while attacking them in their own lands was tantamount to suicide. It wouldn’t be until Chorale the Conqueror’s invasion in 4499 that the futile wars of attrition would cease.
Chorale Rogarvia’s Two-Throne Campaign poured several thousand Iobarian barbarians dow the Icerime Mountains. During the days the warlord waited on the foothills for his frost giant allies to arrive, Issia was readying itself ready for war. One man—not even an elder—hailing from the Surtovan Breath, Antonin I, did perceive Chorale’s forces as fate’s chosen victor. He knew were Iobarians in such a large concentration forced into combat, the following vengeful pillaging would leave his land little more than a drained husk.Via decisive maneuverings (that we will see parallel, yet superior, exemplifications under the future rule of his descendant, Elder Noleski II), Antonin I had several the more unyielding Elders (Arheimar, Hoskuldr, Oymyakonsky) assassinated, while simultaneously reigning in the remaining Mist-Born nobility. Issia was then essentially presented on a silver platter in what came to be known as the Great Northern Gifting, in return for which the Surtovan Breath was given Chorale’s regency. (Mind you, seeing Antonin I’s actions as sitting astride any notions vaguely resembling benevolence is a minority among Issians, often limited to discerning historians such as myself.) In a mere week had the Iobarian invasion force taken these lands—but Rostland still hung ripe on the horizon.
Battles suddenly flared throughout Rostland’s northern plains. Within but a few days were the Swordlords meeting Chorale’s forces head-on, the Aldori’s tempered troops taut and lethal, metal-clad soldiers butchering Iobarian berserkers effortlessly. However, high spirits carried away with them good sense for cautious tactics. Swordlord Paul Eotvos von Meggyesfalvi (ancestor to the later Herzog Oskar Eotvos von Braunschweig) pursued a routed frost giant jarl into the Icerime Mountains, proceeding to corner the enemy. Taken from the words of one poor soul dying on the battlefield, “Rivers of flame pouring from the sky. Oh, burning men, screaming men… Everyone’s dead and dying by a blink; my flesh is a-bubblin’… Great, red beasts…” This haphazard account would have been taken as a dying man’s fever ramblings in many other histories, but Swordlord von Meggyesfalvi was indeed beset by a red dragon ambush, two adults, nearly his entire sortie (containing a proper half the Aldori fighting school) was slaughtered within seconds in the Valley of Fire incident. Rostland was lost.
Both regions were quickly united into a single kingdom, Brevoy, under Rogarvian rule, with Chorale settling into politics for the next decade. While his military genius was unarguable, victory was no doubt assured by his superior army, regardless. No, it would be in the arena of ruling the Conqueror would display such a unique intellect. Complex ordinances such as the Marriage Laws, or the River Purchases managed the unthinkable in binding these two lands to his ‘Conqueror’s Summit’, new throne of Brevoy. Yet, this seemingly unstoppable horde and its brilliant warlord returned to Iobaria, whereupon Chorale set up another separate kingdom, ruling in Meol until his death three decades later. A monarchy won through genius and powerful allies, to be ruled with habitual prosperity by iron-fisted Rogarvians without any turmoil to speak of for two centuries: even picking through the inevitable fallacies germinated by the heroic status Chorale would endure in both his kingdoms, inexplicable truths are bathed in mystery. Truly, Brevoy’s origins and sustaining politics are a fascinating study, a subject which I fully detail in my text The Conqueror’s Summit: Chorale’s Brevoy. (Suggested reading as a companion to this text would also include any regional manual I’ve written (Rostland, Issia, Iobaria, River Kingdoms, etc.) for additional cultural information.)
Now, we move ahead to 4708, nearly one year after the inexplicable mass disappearance of Chorale’s line (a matter still today shrouded in mystery, difficult to track, and sometimes even dangerous to research). “Elder” Noleski II of the Surtovan Breath proved his ancestral bond, certainly channeling (reference my explanations on the Issian Breaths should comprehension not develop with this subject) above and beyond Antonin I, when he assumed the traditional (yet never before occupied) regency quickly (many would speak of the uncomfortable similarities between the two Surtovan men; comparisons would be made back to the Great Northern Gifting in light of Surtova’s rapidity in assuming his regency), managing to prevent an immediate infrastructural collapse—having just reached his fifteenth season. Brevoy’s next year would prove most trying on Elder Surtova’s capacity for scheming, but his vigilance never strayed, and neither did his rival’s ambitions.
Assuming that some information would eventually be divulged to the Rogarvian exodus, when none surfaced Noleski II was faced with a progressively antagonistic aristocracy, north and south. Hoping to temporarily turn hungry attentions elsewhere than the Summit’s steps, Elder Surtova proposed the bold “Edict of Patronage”. Under this act two elders from Issia, and two noblemen from Rostland would be supported by the crown’s coin so as to settle the untamed Stolen Lands. Colonies established paid fealty to Rogarvian rule ultimately, but its respective noble was to be given increased control over his new holdings (predominantly in the dimension of trade consignments: Rogarvian rule was quite conservative in economic relations). In the largest gathering of the two aristocracies since a king sat the Summit, a great banquet was held in the sprawling wooden capital, New Stetven. There, each noble awarded a settlement charter scheduled to offer his chosen (specified as smaller coteries in the Edict’s infancy to avoid unnecessary complications) expedition at Elder Surtova’s appraisal for a blessing; the Conqueror’s Summit stating an expedition’s legitimacy. Shadowy tensions metamorphosed into complications which fleeced the entire banquet’s execution.
Terms so carnival as “farce” find place in describing the ensuing events: from affront Elder Surtova generated by spurning Grossherzog Reinhard von Lichtenrade’s specially commissioned throne, a masterpiece of the famous Rostlander woodcraft; Herzog Yusanis Vasuvata von Aldorheim’s defiantly late arrival, his thinly-veiled (quite Rostlander) contempt, or when all Brevoy’s nobility witnessed his father, Haroum Vasuvata, reprimand him with a slap; Elder Hvitserk’s hyper-fecundity comprising his entire expedition; strange introductory customs observed by the Issians; an oncoming episode of the socially damning morbus comitialis (epilepsy) in Elder Surtova; or the first time I saw the three men, so poignantly disparate from what our stories describe now…Ho-ho!
Next sitting, I’ll be speaking on my first encounter with Francis, Geabora, Voland, telling ya’ll what became of their first steps into the Stolen Lands!
— Master Historian of the Dwarven Quest for Sky and 48th Century East Avistan, Ptfdr. Erlom “Story Stone” Skyfinder