When Men Ruled Erâth
While the great races of Erâth debated and deliberated on the creating of the Ageless and the balance of the world, the race of men kept itself busy with a seemingly unquenchable thirst for blood. In the beginning, the early men spread out from the forests of Golgor, hunting and gathering their food, traveling with the wild packs and often fighting amongst themselves. They grew and they multiplied, and soon the forests of Golgor could no longer contain this growing population of folk.
So the men of Erâth came out of the forests and down from the mountains, and discovered the great plains where wild corn and barley grew, and they settled here, for there was room enough to build homes and simple villages. Soon the land was cultivated, and folk grew more food than they could eat. They began to sell it to their neighbors, and the hardiest farmers became the richest lords, controlling the distribution of wealth until the first true kingdoms of men were born.
Like any true kingdom, each set itself to defense against the others, and then to offense against those who offended their nature. It was not long before great battles raged at the borders of these kingdoms, the slaughter of thousands the price to pay for the freedom of tyranny. Some of these folk grew tired of such violence, and retreated to the southern deserts, where living was harder but freedom was cheaper. These nomads most often kept to themselves, but even they found themselves soon beset by the expansion of the northern kingdoms, the greatest of which formed sprawling empires across all of Golgor, always fighting for land, and desperate for the discovery of new places.
It was in the midst of these centuries of violence that one man turned to the sea, and wondered if peace might lie across it. His name has been lost to time, but he knew that the empires of men could not continue to grow in Golgor, and they must look to conquer the sea and the land beyond—if there was any. Naval might was scarce in those days, for Golgor could be traversed easily by land, but this man convinced his own empire to look to the construction of great ships to cross the vast distances of the oceans.
At first they would only build ships of war, and within decades a true fleet was born, and it was a terror to the other kingdoms of Golgor, for its ships could travel the coast of Golgor far faster than any army on horseback could hope to match. Other kingdoms tried to retaliate, to build their own fleets, but none could match the might of this first, and their empire became the greatest in all the land.
But this man did not forget his dream of discovery, and at the ending of his life, came to the king of his empire and said to him that they commanded the seas, and so the land: but what of the rest of the world? What else lay beyond, yet unconquered? The king did not see the novelty of discovery, but did feel the greed of power, and so he commanded that three ships be built—great sea vessels that would not sink in the strongest of storms, and could travel for months without sight of land.
And the man took his son, and they went aboard the greatest of these three ships, and set sail from the coast of Golgor and went north, away from home and into the unknown.
These three ships sailed for months, and the weather raged, and the waves came and went, and they pushed forth ever further, hoping desperately to see the sight of land on the northern horizon. They used the stars to guide them (when they were not obscured by cloud), and every night when the sun set the kept it to their left, and so knew that they continued in the right direction.
Soon they began to see new things: as Golgor receded behind them and eventually disappeared, great beasts of the sea came to them, hundreds of feet long and swam beside them, keeping them company. These largest of creatures seemed peaceful, but others were not so: they saw great sharks, and venomous jellies, and any number of strange and vile-looking fish. They would fish when they could, for after some weeks the salted meats they had brought with them began to dwindle, but much of what they caught was foul and inedible.
So the crews found themselves slowly growing hungry, for they discovered they must ration their food, and knew not how much they should preserve for the days to come. They supplemented from the sea what they could, but starvation became a true reality. The crew began to despair at this state of affairs, and said to the man and his son that they must turn back, that this voyage was utter folly, and they were all doomed to die.
But the man and his son consulted with the captains, and they knew a dark truth: they had voyaged so long and so far that they no longer had supplies to last them a return journey. They would find land, or they would die. The captains at first would not share this with the crew, but the seamen were not easily fooled, and began to demand that they turn back, or be told that land was over the next horizon.
So the captains said to the crew that they could not turn back, and the crews raged to know they had been tricked into a voyage to the death. Aboard one ship the crew mutinied, and slew the captain, and took control of the vessel and turned it southward. The other two ships called out to them, crying that they must at the least stay together, for to part was to perish. But the wayward ship’s crew would not listen, and soon were lost to the distance, and never heard from again.
The remaining two ships were equally distraught, but understood the truth that they could no longer return home. So they continued on grimly, and a watch was posted at all hours to look for land in the distance. They rations began to run low, and then ran out, and the crew looked at each other and knew they were doomed.
It was in the depth of this despair that the two ships came upon a thing that would change their perception of Erâth forever. Just as the last rations were being fought over and the crews were ready to throw themselves into the sea for the sport of the sharks, rather than suffer the slow agony of starvation, they began to see that the far horizon was growing closer: to their indescribable joy, the thin line of new land broke the horizon, and they knew their salvation was at hand.
But even as they came upon this new land, the horizon to the east grew even closer than the land, and as they drew upon it they came to realize a foundational truth of Erâth: they had come upon the very edge of the world. So they knew that the world was not, in fact, infinite as had once been believed, but that there came a point where the oceans cascaded into an endless abyss. And it was as they came upon this that one of the ships strayed too near the edge, and became caught in the current of the waters that flowed ever into the void. As the last ship watched in horror, it drew further from them, and in a slow, ponderous movement fell into the oblivion, and was never seen again.
And so the last ship, which housed the man and his son, came to land upon the new soil, and the man was now old, and smiled as he breathed his last in this new place of beauty, and called it Oríthiae, for it was elsewhere from anything that men knew unto that day.
These intrepid voyagers discovered that Oríthiae was a fruitful land, though small, and so they settled and came to build a village where they landed. For many years they lived there peacefully, and soon children were born of the men and women who had traveled so far to find new land, and their small population began to grow.
Eventually, however, they came to realize that they could not sustain themselves entirely on their own, and trade and travel would be needed between themselves and the greater land of Golgor. So there came a day when a new generation of travelers boarded their ship again, and made the long, dangerous voyage back to their homeland. For months they kept south, and finally came to the shores of Golgor once more.
The kingdoms of Golgor, in the meantime, had given up for dead the three ships that had set out so many years before, and were astonished to find a ship arrive by sea from the north. When they learned the origin of this ship, and that it bore the sons and daughters of the three ships that had set out, they were astonished, and asked to know if more ships could be sent to this land now called Oríthiae. So a new fleet was built, one for travel and not for war, and over the course of many decades people fled the lands of Golgor, desperate to find new land, new life and new hope.
In particular came the great minds of men, seeking freedom from the overbearing imperialism of their kingdoms, and these people found a place in Oríthiae to thrive, to grow, and to invent. It became a new center for the world, and advanced faster and further than any empire of Golgor could dream of.
So a great city came to be in the land of Oríthiae, and it was called Viura Râ: the Eternal City. Great buildings of stone, then of steel, and finally of glass, were raised, so high that from the sea below they seemed to touch the very sky itself. The wisest and greatest lords of men would pilgrim to Viura Râ, seeking enlightenment, and there the arts were born, and music sounded through the streets day and night. Soon Oríthiae became a kingdom unto itself, separate from any empire of Golgor, for it was far more advanced than the languishing kingdoms of the old land.
Yet Oríthiae could not keep its civilization to itself forever, and slowly but surely their advancement began to creep back to the lands of Golgor, and so the world of men grew rapidly. The fires of industry began to burn, and coal became a new currency, for it was needed to fire the furnaces of ships and homes alike. The old empires crumbled, and new countries rose, and were at peace with one another, for they saw no purpose in fighting for land when there was clearly so much of the world left to discover.
And this was where the race of men began to expand throughout the world of Erâth, and discovered that Golgor and Oríthiae were by far not the only places in Erâth to go. As greater ships were built that could pass for months through the seas, the world of men ventured ever further westward, discovering first Cathaï, then Thaeìn, and Narün and Faerün, and finally Aélûr. Each new land was settled, and new countries were built, though none could ever match the glory of Viura Râ, for it remained through all this time the brightest point of Erâth—the place to which all men aspired to go, and few ever succeeded.
Of course, with this rapid expansion throughout the world, it became inevitable that the race of men would come into contact with the other races of Erâth, and so they began to be aware of the races of Life and Death, and Light and Darkness. They learned many things from them—healing from the Mirèn, and the power of light from the Illuèn, as well as awareness of the necessity of Death and Darkness. Along with the awareness of these races they grow to know the powers of Erâth themselves, and began to wonder: if there was indeed a race for each power, then which race represented the power of Eternity? And they came to the conclusion that it must be, of course, themselves.
Soon the world was filled with men from east to west, and the race of men came to find themselves in a larger, brighter and more magical world than they could ever have dreamed. And under the influence of the wisdom of Viura Râ, they did not fear these new races, but embraced them instead. Great cities were built throughout Erâth, and they were no longer cities of men but cities of Erâth, where all the peoples of the world could live together, and die together, and be at peace with one another.
Thus came about the first true Age of Erâth, known as the Age of Light, and for all its brevity it was glorious. The many lands of Erâth, though separated by vast oceans, became closer to each other for the swiftness of the travel of men, who could now cross the oceans in weeks instead of months. Each great land, of course, grew in different ways, and while Golgor remained a land of industry of construction, Thaeìn took to the mastery of iron and steel, while the folk of Cathaï lived at one with the natural world, and knew the Portèn intimately.
Some places, of course, remained sparsely inhabited, for they were inhospitable at the best of times: in the northern land of Narün dwelled few folk, and the southern continent of Faerün was left almost untouched, for there was little there but snow and ice year-round.
At the height of this great civilization that spanned the world, medicines advanced greatly and men grew to live for a hundred years or more. This encouraged them to seek for ever-increasing longevity, as was their due: as the race of Eternity, as they had come to believe themselves to be, they surely must be destined to find a way to live forever.
The other races of Erâth, naturally, had their suspicions of such a destiny, and thought the race of men were foolish to seek such an unattainable goal. The Mirèn, of course, were glad to see the race of men prosper and live such full lives, but the Namirèn began to feel cheated, for there was less death among men than ever before. Even the Duithèn said that the race of men were banishing Darkness from the world, and were displeased.
Of course, the one race that could have prevented the tragedy that was to come, the Sarâthen, became blinded by the easy successes of men, and encouraged them to seek answer after answer, to push further into the nature of the world and uncover its secrets. They began to confuse knowledge with wisdom, and so they did not see that the inventions of men, once designed for peace, slowly began to become twisted to instruments of death and destruction: and so the world was built up higher than it had ever been before, only to be brought crashing down into an abyss of Darkness and Death, brought on by the greed and thirst of men for the ultimate knowledge. And the First Age came to an end, not in glory and brightness, but in utter, abysmal despair.
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