LORE
The New World

'Many thought the continent and its inhabitants dead but at length, survivors began to crawl out of their hiding places and faced a land that no longer welcomed them. Magical anomalies, the fallout of The Calamity, as well as changed and twisted creatures now shared their home. Terrible beings entered through the cracks in the tapestry of reality and ascended to rule over the natives. In time, these new powers rebuilt the fallen Empire in their own image, and the Riven Realms, godless and vengeful, rose from the ashes. The inhabitants of the land now eke out a living under the crushing rule of the new Empire. The continent itself constantly resists our every attempt at building a cozy home for ourselves.'

- Agos, old wanderer

For a long time after the Calamity, most of the continent was engulfed in arcane storms that made large regions completely uninhabitable. Most survivor communities spent decades and decades underground or in isolated areas. Around four centuries after the cataclysm, much of the magical anomalies became less intense or mysteriously withdrew to certain regions and have remained there ever since. Some of this may be attributed to the Twelve and their reappearance (and they have certainly taken the credit – in the name of the Emperor of course). At any rate, the inhabitants of the continent started the slow process of repopulating and resettling. However, this proved extremely difficult and time-consuming as the land was practically unrecognizable and filled with danger.

Arcane Anomalies

‘There was a cooking fire at the back of the cave when we arrived. It did give off heat but no sound whatsoever. It was frozen in motion, like a perfect painting of a fire. Items around it, like earthenware bowls and wooden spoons, seemed untarnished - unaging, perhaps? The fact that some utensils were made of metal certainly suggests that the whole set was pre-Calamity. One of our passengers, a young nobleman from Hadrinium, took the metal and wooden bits against our warnings. He became narcoleptic a day later. He got rid of the loot a day after that. Still, by the time we got to Tor’Zag’s Shelter, his hair fell out, his skin got sallow and paper-thin, and he lost most of his teeth. He was twenty-one winters old, yet he looked ninety.’

- From the diary of Vagrus Sekethma

Even though the majority of the devastating arcane tempests that covered the continent after the Calamity receded into several smaller regions a few centuries later, they left behind powerful arcane fallout. This residue of cataclysmic energies still mars the realms, giving rise to innumerable anomalies of magical nature. Many of these are invisible and range in severity anywhere between mildly annoying to deadly. Some anomalies are known to be permanent, others seem to wander. Additionally, the storms often wander into neighboring areas and wreak destruction in their wake.

Mutants and the Taint

‘It killed them all, dominus. All forty-one warriors. I do not know how… they were well prepared, armed to the teeth. They had the support of the sorcerer, too. The thing came at night, the second night, in fact, and attacked from the shadows. Darts hard as steel flew across the camp, slaying a dozen men instantly. It then leapt from the cliff and started to massacre the rest, one by one. The spells of the sorcerer were powerless to even slow it down. They thought of themselves as hunters, but they all became prey. I… saw it for a moment as I was hiding in the crevice of the rock wall. It was like a scorpion fused with a lizard, black as night, nightmares made manifest. I could not move. I couldn’t even shriek. Please, punish me, dominus, just… just don’t send me back there, I beg of you!’

- Iarvo, slave steward of the Acvilai reports to his master on a beast hunt at the family’s secluded estate

Ever since the Calamity, mutations of all kinds are commonplace on the continent. A correlation between the arcane powers unleashed by the cataclysm and the mutations has never been validated by sages or magic users, nevertheless, everyone believes there to be one. Mostly, anomalies can warp living beings into other forms, partly or completely. Thanks to constant exposure to such magical alteration, animals that used to exist naturally have all become changed and mutated. Ecological catastrophe was only averted because these new beings managed to adapt to the challenges of the changed world for the most part. Xeryn is, therefore, notorious for the terrifying, mutated beasts - often armed with magical properties - that roam its wilderness and hunt its inhabitants.

But the greatest cause for mutations is a mysterious arcane disease that people call the Taint. There’s no telling how it spreads or why it attacks the ones it does; its workings have eluded medical science altogether. These days, every third human on the continent is Tainted. Children between the ages 8 and 16 contract the disease more often than adults. Children of Tainted are often born healthy, while even healthy parents can produce Tainted offspring.

The Taint begins with a period of incubation when the victim falls gravely sick and suffers seizures and spells for days or weeks. About half of them perish during this interval. The transformation starts after a day or so following the initial seizure and the changes remain for life, though in some rare cases, further changes manifest later in life. Symptoms are always physical but are often paired with serious mental disorders - either due to the traumatic nature of the transformation or the nature of the Taint itself, nobody knows for certain. The most common symptoms include skin color and texture change, fleshy growths, boils and scars, enlarged or shrunken body parts (never symmetrically), and the merging of the physical aspects of other species (part beast, part human mutants are fairly common). Though high society still shuns these unfortunates, they have become so common that most people don’t even notice them, and a lot of the Tainted can live full lives. Since apparently proximity does not aid the spread of the Taint, pogroms against the Tainted generally ceased all over Xeryn long ago.

Dwindling Resources

‘Where I come from, they’d kill you over that shiny dagger of yours in a heartbeat, friend. Best hide it while we’re here, ey?’

- The advice of Rkovik the Vermin, city guide of Toht, to his new customer

The Empire had been severely lacking in natural resources way before the Calamity. This, according to historians, was the main reason of conquests in the northern continent of Raokan and the chain of islands between it and Xeryn. Only the vast mountain ranges of the west, home to the Dwarven kingdom of Dvendar Tharr, remained rich in ores and coal, and that race was never famous for its willingness to share. A lot of forests were felled without regard for the future. Initially, bad agricultural practices caused considerable areas to become infertile. Game was fewer and more difficult to find.

The Calamity, of course, made matters much worse. Fiery and acidic rains burned down whole forests, causing a shortage of wood all over the continent, except for the jungle-covered Dajmaha and Darkmoor. However, these two provinces are very difficult to harvest from: Dajmaha is extremely remote, practically unreachable over land, with constant storms making sea voyages very risky as well; Darkmoor is home to the Orc tribes, enemies of the Empire. Wood is, therefore, considered a luxury and Imperials tend to replace it with more abundant supplementary materials, such as bone. Wooden carvings and jewelry are often worth more than precious metal.

The lack of fertile soil and sufficient sunlight also makes it very difficult to cultivate land and enough crops to sustain a large population. In addition, clean water is practically non-existent in certain regions, while rains are few and far between. Even if it does rain, it can be deadly due to acid or some other cursed property. People started growing other kinds of food in their shelters during the turbulent times right after the Calamity. Mushrooms have been mutated, cross-bred, and enhanced by magic to provide food and raw materials. Vast shroom fields are cultivated all over the continent, usually in underground caverns and halls. Many kinds of insects are raised and eaten in cities and rural areas alike. The meat of many a strange creature is consumed regularly. To an outsider, these kinds of food might seem strange, but by now they have become the norm on the continent of Xeryn.

Perhaps the most well-known lack of resource in the realms is that of metal. Before the Calamity struck, the Empire was relying on metal mined by its Dwarven allies and by subjugated nations on the green continent. In the new age, both of these sources are extremely rare, with Dvendar Tharr being a volcanic hell and Raokan the greatest enemy. Over the centuries, the Empire learned to use other materials instead of metal where possible, and gained new sources of the precious ores. For tools and weapons - especially those used by common folk - bone, stone, and obsidian are used extensively. Armor is typically made of leather or beast hides and scales, sometimes from the chitinous plates of giant insects. Wealthier people can afford bronze (the ores of which can still be mined here and there) and the truly powerful use iron and even steel. Precious metals like silver and gold carry tremendous value. A single old golden coin from before the Calamity is worth a small fortune. The most prominent sources of quality metal are the Dragonlands, the Outer Realms, and the newly acquired provinces, such as Tark and Vroleah. However, neither of these are abundant or convenient sources for a large variety of reasons, so metal is still at a premium for most people. To a lesser extent, the ongoing war against the armies of the northern continent also provides materials.

Old Factions and New Powers

In the tumultuous millennium following the Calamity, many new and old factions, nations, and races found a home on the reborn continent of Xeryn. Chief among these was the Empire, risen from the ashes of the cataclysm as a dark image of its former self. The Twelve, immortal Lich high priests, are the absolute rulers of the new Empire, though in practice, the Senate and local governors (called Legates) exercise immense power as well. The mandate of the Liches comes from the Emperor himself, who slumbers in a stasis inside the Cathedral of Ascendancy. Since the Twelve also serve as the heads of the church, one could argue that the Empire is now a theocracy. A considerable number of free-willed undead serve the Liches, with legions of the more commonplace unthinking ones controlled by necromancers and undead sorcerers marching in their armies. Many talk in hushed tones about the dead reigning over the living.

The nine Dragonlords and their broods are relative newcomers to the continent, having arrived about 700 years ago to the center of the nearly destroyed realms. Demigods themselves, they cast inconceivable spells on an area they deemed fit to elevate it above the surrounding plains and clear it of magical fallout. This, in turn, also caused fertile soil and abundant mineral resources to be accessible again on their turf. They fortified this country and call it their own ever since. Many flocked to their banners and, after centuries, the first dragonkin appeared: humanoids with draconic and human blood, appearing to be a cross between the two races.

Other newcomers also graced the reborn continent with their presence. The warlike and barbaric Sharduk people arrived in gigantic ships from the east just before the Calamity and barely survived when it struck. Now they live in nomadic tribes, calling the Great Eastern Desert their home. Their reputation as marauders and cruel bandits is not entirely baseless. The Orcs, another barbaric race, are not only a relatively new addition to the continent’s colorful races, but aliens to the world itself. Having been summoned from the Outer Realms and given bodies in a ritual of unmatched sorcerous power, the Orcs were created as the perfect warriors, weapons of the Empire in their war on the north. However, the Orcs soon found out about the deceit of their masters and rebelled against them. In the brutal war that followed, both the Empire and the Orcish tribes were decimated and a tenuous status quo has been maintained ever since.

The Elder Races, the Elves and Dwarves, still inhabit the continent of Xeryn, although at a much smaller degree. The Elves of Dor Anthelas suffered greatly when the Calamity destroyed their forests. Their immortality stripped away, they went half-mad, isolating themselves from other races. Their silent agents are everywhere, however; waiting, listening, watching, but for what... few comprehend. The Dwarves were practically wiped out during the cataclysm when Dvendar Tharr turned into a hell of lava and ash. About 3-4000 of them remain, a dying race that gave up their future long ago. Having forgotten or denied the genius of their forefathers, they wander the realms, peddling scraps and pieces of old technology they do not understand.

Due to the rifts between dimensions, many other races appeared on Xeryn, wandering in or migrating from the Outer Realms. Many, like the nomadic, centaur-like Kal-rish, were fleeing the demonic legions of the Abyss. Others, like the mysterious Ithil, saw an opportunity to do business with the inhabitants of the new continent. Demonkin, a race created by the mixing of mortals (usually humans) and demons are also found here and there: vagabonds of the Outer Realms seeking fortune wherever they can find it. Generally disliked elsewhere, a lot of them find purpose on Xeryn, where their abilities are too useful to ignore.

***

Thus, thanks to anomalies, mutated beasts, dwindling resources, and avaricious powers, the new world is one that actively denies every attempt at rebuilding. In the millennium that passed since the Calamity, economical and infrastructural progress has been very slow. The inhabitants of the green continent to the north - Raokan - believed Xeryn to be completely lost, but what looked like the end of the world was in fact the birth of an abomination. The new Empire and its undead rulers soon turned on the northern neighbors under the pretext of vengeance in a bid to enslave them and strip them of their resources. Therefore, the Empire today is viewed as an aggressor, a fallen but perilous power of the world that is hell bent on wreaking more havoc.

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#calamity #loreupdate #resources #tainted #xerynempire