The First Embrian Age began when the eight lawful deities of the Tharybic Pantheon led by the goddess Lodope traveled across the great cosmic void in their sentient vessel known as Diadron the Living Ark. Here are the eight Tharybians, a couple of which have been mentioned already in the narrative (you can read more about the gods here.)
- Lodope (LN) – goddess of death, mourning
- Calydo (LG) – goddess of light, goodness
- Kyon (LG) – god of healing, perseverance
- Om-Striom (LE) – god of defense, protection
- Styre (LE) – goddess of intrigue, espionage
- Ashen (LN) – god of ambition, chivalry
- Altrus (LN) – god of commerce, diplomacy
- Aedis (LN) – goddess of time, mathematics
When they came to this plane, the eight gods found nothing but unmitigated chaos, a wild and formless place desperately crying out for some order. The law-aligned Tharybians obliged. They anchored their vessel and disembarked in corporeal form. Calydo took pity on the mindless, bestial creatures she found cowering within this sad, shattered realm and suffused them with her holy light, transforming them into humans. The gods then bestowed upon humans many gifts – including, but not limited to, the secrets of commerce, justice, politics, defense, medicine, mathematics, personal conduct, and even ensured them the appropriate afterlife. To a chosen few, they taught their divine magics, thus creating the first clerics. In time, Embria swelled with thriving mortal civilizations, all under the guidance and command of the Tharybian gods, who walked among their subjects in the flesh.
Soon they weren’t alone. Other powerful deities came to Embria in physical form as well – gods who aligned themselves not with Law, but with Chaos. To the Tharybians, these newcomers were uncouth outsiders and barbarians, threatening to steal away the worship of their mortal followers. Many of the chaotic gods in turn found the Tharybians’ presence oppressive and too authoritarian. The god Evroul the Overthrower marshaled his own faction of fellow chaotic gods (the Sciorric Pantheon) to try and unseat the Tharybic. The two sides, Law and Chaos, fought bitterly on an epic scale for thousands of years, using mortal armies as pawns. This long-term conflict became known as the Divine War.
Here are the eight Sciorrians:
- Evroul (CN) – god of revolt, rebellion
- Gantra (CE) – goddess of vengeance, fury
- Zady (CN) – goddess of war, hunting
- Mygdon (CN) – goddess of dreams, memory
- Valcian (CG) – god of swordsmanship, dancing
- Cristagren (CG) – goddess of illusion, shape-shifting
- Caolaub (CE) – god of madness, murder
- Brega * (CG) – goddess of travel, luck
((* Although Brega is associated with the Sciorric Pantheon (she was a valued ally of Valcian and Cristagren in particular), she never participated directly in the Divine War. She was focused instead on empowering mortals to improve their own lives and to establish their rights and freedoms. She encouraged them to move towards pacifism and away from tribalism, intolerance, and the pursuit of material gain. She taught that luck was something that came from actions and attitude, and not from waiting for orders from a divine authority. Since she wasn’t involved in the War, she was tolerated by most of the Tharybians and left alone. One exception was the lawful-evil god Om-Striom. He hated Brega with such a passion, it is said he invented bureaucracy and xenophobia out of spite just to make travel harder for mortals.))
Millennia passed, mortal empires rose and fell, and innumerable battles of the Divine War were won and lost on both sides. The mad god Caolaub caused much strife and mischief. But over time, the gods moved their fight with each other out of Embria and into other planes, taking their corporeal forms with them. Their mortal followers were left behind to fend for themselves. Without the gods’ monitoring, many mortal wizards began experimenting with arcane power, pushing it to its limits. The rest of the First Age is marked by three different instances of spell-casters (at different times and in different parts of the world) performing previously forbidden arcane acts that necessitated the attention of the gods. Cautionary tales are still told about the Three Fools (or “Prideful Triad”) and how they showed hubris and were justly punished for it. The three fools were:
- Gwendol – crime: harnessed control of the elemental plane of fire; punishment: banished to Purgatory
- Palaemon – crime: set up a godless democratic nation with free mass-transit teleportation; punishment: crushed by a colossal animated statue of himself
- Mirrorrim – crime: recreated the whole of Embria in duplicate, a separate but identical plane she alone was in control of; punishment: she and her copy-world were turned to glass and shattered into billions of pieces, which rained on the world for three days
It was the Third Fool, Mirrorrim, that became the last straw for the gods. Historians agree the Rain of Sand (as the event of her punishment is called) ended the First Age.
The Second Age, called the Age of Realignment, is the current one. Provoked by the dangerous audacity of the Three Fools, the gods returned their gaze on Embria and began paying more attention to mortals’ actions, ensuring in particular that their magic powers were kept in check. It was early in the Second Age that the kingdom of Paradon was formed. Here, worship of the Tharybians had a resurgence, particularly for Calydo and Om-Striom. The Purity order of paladins and their inquisitors, the Nightwatchers, were founded to prevent the rise of Sciorric influence, which was blamed for the First Age’s vices. Chaotic god worship was pushed to the fringe, with followers labeled ‘waywards’ and their religious practices policed. Druids were lumped in with them and faced even further persecution. Only Bregans were tolerated in the human cities, albeit reluctantly. It’s commonly believed at the current time that the Divine War is winding down, with the Tharybians the clear victors. Its imminent conclusion will bring about the end of the Second Age, and herald the Third – a golden era that will bring order and unity to Embria.
So that’s what Dov knows before he reads the Xan–Hyrkanic Codex.
Dovienya says the XHC definitely appears to be an authentic account – not a hoax. It begins with a recounting of the events of the First Age. There’s the familiar story of the eight Tharybic gods arriving in Embria in their ark and how Calydo fashioned humans from the bestials she found there. One rather bizarre difference to the history, however, is the inclusion of a colossal tree of power named Zurbrugg that, according to the XHC, existed on Embria before the gods’ arrival. The XHC describes how the continent-sized tree acted like a beacon transmitting a welcoming signal into other planes, drawing the Tharybians there in the first place. It was in the shade of Zurbrugg that the Lawful Eight established their first divine base of operations. You also learn that it was Zurbrugg that pulled in the other gods, even the chaotic ones, to settle in Embria as well.
The XHC continues with the Divine War of law gods vs. chaos gods in much the same way as you had always understood it. You begin to wonder what makes this book so heretical. Then the narrative surprisingly shifts its focus to a mortal named Siglain, someone you’ve never heard of. According to the XHC, Siglain was a beloved human champion of Calydo, a paragon of virtue, justice, and goodness – a kind of super-paladin. A leader in the Divine War on the side of Law, he had delivered many victories for the Tharybians. But the Chaos factions were beginning to win, and a desperate Siglain needed a solution. The champion had always believed his destiny was to personally end the Divine War and bring peace to all Embrians, so when he learned of a spell called the opprobrious axiom which could reportedly do just that, Siglain went around Calydo’s back and cast it himself. But Siglain was betrayed, for the spell did more than just end the war. The opprobrious axiom killed all living things on Embria – even the gods’ corporeal avatars and their living ark. The souls of all those instantly-deceased mortals bottle-necked Purgatory, and it pushed all the gods’ divine essences out of the plane, making it difficult, if not impossible, for them to ever return in the flesh. It killed and inverted the great tree Zurbrugg, making it send its vast limbs downward into the earth like roots, with no sign of its existence on the surface. The catastrophic spell not only spared Siglain, it ascended him into godhood, though it made him evil and insane, inverting him into a murderous beast. He became Caolaub, a god of nothing and no one, ruling over a dead and empty world.
At this point in the XHC, the author reveals herself. She is Ozen Zinsa, a member of the Ozen, an oracular order that apparently existed back in this heretofore unknown pre-dawn age. The Ozen were able to foretell the great cataclysm caused by the opprobrious axiom and knew to escape into the stars before it could happen. Zinsa then digresses from chronicling the history, providing instead her theories as to who could have deliberately supplied the doomsday spell to Siglain to trick him. She describes mysterious inhuman “caretakers” that entered Embria clandestinely from another plane and then escaped before the spell was cast. The Ozen, the author regrets, were unable to prevent the total annihilation of all life on Embria besides themselves, but they do hope to thwart the future machinations of these so-called caretakers. Shockingly, Ozen Zinsu includes in the text her research into what casting the axiom spell involved. In other words, there are actual instructions in the XHC for how to cast a spell to destroy all life on Embria while simultaneously making one’s self a god. You know, if you were so inclined. You would have to be an extraordinarily powerful epic spell caster, but still.
So where do humans come from then? The XHC confirms that Calydo did suffuse a race of bestials with her holy light thereby creating what she called “humans”, but are they technically the same race as the ones on Embria now? One possibility is that Brega could have taken Calydo’s plans for humans from the archive in the Tharybians’ ark and rebooted them into being. If that’s the case, there’s no heresy. Or are humans like Dovienya descendants of other “humans” that came through Brega’s gates from other planes, and are therefore a separate race, not Calydo-created? It’s unclear from the XHC one way or the other, so it’s no wonder the paladins of the Purity don’t want anyone reading the text. Not-to-mention the fact that Caolaub is revealed to be Caldyo’s former mortal champion – basically, her son? And even if Caldyo legitimately made all humans, the whole “Oops, my dude killed everyone and a Sciorric goddess fixed it” situation that Ozen Zinsa describes in the XHC doesn’t really make the Tharybians looks good.
All history and religious texts Dov has ever read agree: there have only been two Embrian Ages. What the XHC reveals is that there were actually three. There was a secret age before what everyone thinks of as the first one. It ended in a great cataclysm that destroyed all life on Embria – a disaster perhaps put in motion by a sinister force that may still be active today. In the XHC, Caulaub’s surprise origin is shockingly detailed, and indeed, Calydo’s creation of the humans is put in doubt. Plus, Brega had a bigger role in Embrian history than you or any other Bregan ever imagined. She’s the reason there’s a diversity of beings in Embria and why wizards and sorcerers can access arcane power. She restored the whole world from the brink of death and extinction! The goddess Brega is an unsung hero. And so modest!