The Realm of Atlos
History of Atlos
After a prosperous and relatively peaceful two thousand years, the continent of Atlos has been thrust back into chaos following the Tragedy at Linhaven. Four and a half years have passed since the awful event that successfully defeated the draconic terror, Styria, but the incredible loss of life that was necessary has fractured the races of the realm once more, setting them against each other.
The History of Atlos
Recorded history begins in the same place for all races: The Darkening.
Just as civilizations were springing up across the continent and the races of Atlos were separating themselves from the beasts, the sky turned black and filled with soot, ash, fire, and debris, which rained down all over Atlos.
The budding communities were destroyed before they could truly flourish, killing nine out of every ten lifeforms and turning the entire realm into a deadly wasteland.
It took centuries, but the races of Atlos eventually recovered. Humans were the first to bounce back, spreading rapidly across the continent, exploring and colonizing. Their rapid expansion necessitated large amounts of natural resources, and it was only a matter of time before they came into contact with the elves, denizens of the forests and wilderness.
Their opposing views on the utilization of natural resources inevitably drove them into conflict. The elves felt humans had no respect for nature, and abhorred the wanton deforestation humans always performed near their settlements. The humans felt the elves were stuck up, and had no business telling them which trees they could and could not chop down.
It wasn’t long before the two races were at war.
However, this conflict was only the first of many. The bloody rivalry between humans and elves dragged on throughout the First Age. Elves are successful in defeating the humans in the first war (lasting two and a half centuries), driving them back to their settlements near the sea, and away from the forests.
But the humans retaliate a mere two centuries later. This time the elves retreat willingly after only nine years, hoping to utilize their superior longevity and wait the humans out.
Unchallenged, the humans spread across the realm, and settle almost every temperate location south of The Spine of the World.
It was around this time that the first college of arcane magic was founded in the city of Moressley. Until this point, magic was almost completely unheard of in Atlos.
Great human empires rise and fall, and the elves stoically guard their forests. Humans have now turned to one another for war, and have seemingly forgotten the other races.
Dwarves have remained hidden in their cities beneath the mountains for most of the First Age, and the elves have rarely strayed from the boundaries of their wilderness, and are no longer a threat.
The greatest and bloodiest interhuman war was fought between the human nations along the coast of the The Bay of Kings. At the time, there were four great empires that had their capital cities along the shore of the bay, and their proximity to one another, as well as the fact that they all had to share similar shipping lanes, automatically put them at odds. Rivalries formed, alliances were brokered, tensions were raised and, before long, war was declared.
The Forty Years Conflict, as the great human civil war would come to be known, ended in what was essentially a stalemate. One nation was conquered and absorbed by another, and the three remaining empires, exhausted and drained of resources, agreed on a truce and signed a peace treaty.
The elves used this opportunity to emerge from their forest dwellings and attack the weakened humans. And so began the Third Elven-Human War.
The war raged on for six centuries, and every race, culture, and nation is dragged into it in one way or another. Conflict comes in waves, with periods of brutal fighting giving way to stretches of tense negotiations before flaring back up into all-out warfare. Empires of every race rise and fall, conquering their way to power and then being cast down by their enemies or jealous peers. At this point, war is all the realm knows.
Accounts differ, but as the conflict crosses the threshold of its sixth century, arcane magic is used on the battlefield for the very first time. Spellcasters are becoming more powerful, and are now capable of focusing their efforts into offensive magic, instead of just minor illusions and fancy parlor tricks.
After a few decades, magic has become commonplace on the battlefield, but its use is still dangerous and unpredictable. There are many incidental deaths and tragedies, but one particular misuse would change the realm forever. A powerful, but reckless, wizard cast a spell that ripped open a portal to another plane, catching the attention of the Dragon Queen, Tiamat.
Before this, Atlos had been isolated in the multiverse, devoid of gods or deities and hidden from the other planes of existence. The newly opened portal announced Atlos’ presence to the divine, and Tiamat jumped at the chance to rule over an ignorant, unguarded, and unspoiled world, especially one so filled with warfare.
Tiamat wasted no time gathering followers and raising an army, but she did not make her incursion into Atlos unchallenged. Bahamut, Tiamat’s diametrically opposed brother, caught wind of her evil plans in this new realm, and followed her through the portal to combat her efforts. Both dragon gods recruited eleven other deities to help them take control of this new world, and the divine battle for Atlos’ future began.
A land that previously had no concept of gods or faith was now the center of a divine war. Bahamut and Tiamat’s champions fought fiercely throughout the realm, while other lesser deities started flooding through in their wake. Churches, temples, and other places of worship started springing up all over the continent. As the realm was being torn apart by the warring gods, the people of Atlos began to pray for the first time in history.
Ultimately, Bahamut and his pantheon, along with his newly formed army of paladins, the Platinum Order, were victorious. Tiamat was banished to Avernus, the first layer of the outer plane known as The Nine Hells, and thus started the Second Age.
When Tiamat was finally vanquished, Bahamut set about leaving the mark of the gods upon Atlos. Along with gods, dragons had never before been seen in the realm, and so Bahamut introduced dragons and all of their kin, including drakes, wyverns, and an intelligent race made in his image: the dragonborn.
When his followers asked him why he allowed chromatic dragons into the realm, and not just their more benevolent metallic kin, he claimed that all dragons were his children, whether they chose to follow him or not.
The constant warring of the First Age seemed so petty in the presence of gods, and the races of Atlos could finally know peace. After a few centuries of adjustment, most of the Second Age passed in relative peace and prosperity. Even the orcs began to trade more often than pillage, seeing it as the path of least resistance in the hospitable climate of the realm.
There was still, of course, some animosity and tension between longtime rivals; namely the humans and elves. But most of the conflicts amounted to nothing more than sabre-rattling and subterfuge.
The newly created race of dragonborns initially tried to fit in with the other races, but struggled to be accepted into communities that had become battle-weary and mistrustful of outsiders. Ultimately, they discovered they were well-suited to the harsh environments south of the White Shadow Mountains, and withdrew to the desert to live among their own kind.
Two thousand years passed in this manner.
Divine magic was being studied vigorously; mages were eager to see what else could be achieved through the gods, and what knowledge they could bestow upon spellcasters that might increase their power. Pretty soon, both arcane and divine magic became relatively common throughout the realm.
After two millenia of banishment Tiamat finally had one of her escape plans come to fruition. She found an ally within the material planes, a powerful chromatic dragon named Styria, and convinced her to conquer Atlos with promises of riches and godhood. Styria styled herself The Harbinger, and began raising an army of both dragons and humanoids.
The Tragedy at Linhaven
After some time, Styria managed to raise a formidable army. Her hordes mostly consisted of orcs and dragons, but there were several cults made up of various races that flocked to her cause, seeing the return of Tiamat as the first sign of a welcome apocalypse. Styria was also able to bolster her ranks by appealing to the races that had been cast out and forgotten, down in the Underdark. The drow and duergar were initially reluctant, but after Styria promised them Tiamat’s return would bring about an era of never ending darkness, they practically jumped at the chance to exact revenge on their fair-skinned counterparts and reclaim the surface as their own.
The different races and nations of Atlos united against her, and waged a bloody war under the watchful eyes of the gods. Bahamut’s Champions vowed to do everything they could to ensure Tiamat didn’t escape her banishment, but they also agreed to avoid direct interference unless absolutely necessary.
The High Council of Atlos often had difficulty agreeing on a course of action, and knew that their constant debate and discussion would paralyze troop movements and hinder the ability to make effective tactical decisions. Instead, they agreed to appoint one person as Chief General of the United Armies of Atlos who would be responsible for making those choices as necessary, and only seeking the council’s advice when necessary and prudent. The High Council unanimously agreed to appoint the Archmage of Moressley College as Chief General; a man known, at the time, as Grimwald the White.
The War of The Harbinger was a brutal and bloody affair. It culminated in an all out assault on Styria’s forces, who had been consolidated and driven back to a town named Linhaven. Surrounded, bloodied, and losing morale, Styria still had one last card to play. She knew that Linhaven was the site of the very first extraplanar portal, the same one that had unleashed Tiamat upon the world in the first place.
The breach had been sealed after the initial incursion, but the damage could never be fully undone and was a weak point in the barrier that separated Atlos from the other planes of existence. Styria hoped to rip open this scar in the fabric of the multiverse with powerful enough magic, or a powerful enough sacrifice, and send all of known existence into chaos. This would either allow Tiamat to escape, thus achieving her ultimate goal, or destroy all of Atlos, defeating her enemies and exacting revenge for imprisoning Tiamat in the first place.
As Styria was preparing to go through with her final solution, Grimwald the White and the combined armies of every Atlosian nation had Linhaven surrounded. The threat to Atlos was deemed so great that nearly every king and commander sent their full force of standing troops to stop The Harbinger and prevent the return of Tiamat. At the height of the siege, the total strength was estimated to be over four million strong, with Styria’s forces numbering maybe one-tenth of that.
Unfortunately, there is no additional information about what happened at Linhaven during the last day of The War of The Harbinger.
Grimwald the White returned to the High Council of Atlos with news of Styria’s defeat, but also had to inform them he was the only survivor. Further questions went unanswered, and subsequent investigations only confirmed what Grimwald had already told them: that Styria had been stopped, Linhaven had been utterly destroyed, and no one else had survived the incident.
Furious and frustrated, the council stripped Grimwald of his mage designation (The White), forced him to step down as Archmage of Moressley College, and relieved him of his duties as the foremost human-dragon ambassador in the realm. He never once complained, and accepted full responsibility for what happened, but his sole public statement simply said, “It was a grave error on my part.”
After weeks of ridicule and public outrage, Grimwald withdrew from society, retreating into a life of self-imposed exile. No one has seen or heard from him since.
The massive loss of life brought on by The War of The Harbinger and, more specifically, The Tragedy at Linhaven crippled the fighting force of every nation. Races and kingdoms felt vulnerable without an army to protect them and their interests, and they became paranoid and mistrustful of each other.
Ancient grudges and old rivalries that had been subdued throughout the Second Age reared their heads once more, and tensions between the various races seemed to escalate for one reason or another. The united politics and cooperative relations that defined the peaceful and prosperous Second Age were cast aside as races and nations began to look out for themselves once more.
However, the diminished troop presence also made life harder for those trying to rule their people. The growing unrest throughout Atlos has caused multiple riots and minor revolts, mostly over diminishing resources brought about by a decrease in trade. With just city guards, or the local equivalents, to quell potential uprisings, those trying to maintain their political power have had a rough time in the Third Age.
The growing disconnect in national and racial politics is best summarized by the increasing ineptitude of the High Council. As the Third Age went on, they began to squabble and bicker among themselves, even more than usual. The weekly council meetings were changed to bi-weekly, and then monthly. These days, they only meet when absolutely necessary.
As of this writing, it is the 4th Year of the Third Age.