Aeramis: Cosmology and Creation
Let’s get one thing out of the way; I’m not Tolkien and I don’t think I am. Hell, this post may be absolute dribble and any connoisseur of fantasy and […]
Let’s get one thing out of the way; I’m not Tolkien and I don’t think I am. Hell, this post may be absolute dribble and any connoisseur of fantasy and […]
Let’s get one thing out of the way; I’m not Tolkien and I don’t think I am. Hell, this post may be absolute dribble and any connoisseur of fantasy and worldbuilding will laugh at it. But I want a mythology for Aeramis, one that wasn’t exactly the same as the common D&D mythos. Nothing wrong with the official settings, of course, but I just wanted something a bit different. As such, this is going to be a meaty post. I’m delving into almost the entire past history of my setting here. It’s almost nothing that will impact the game, but it’s something I want out there, written down for people to see. If you got bored reading The Silmarillion you probably won’t enjoy reading this, I’ll be honest. I have borrowed very heavily from the existing D&D mythos; this is still Dungeons and Dragons, after all. But there are twists, changes, and alterations to events, races, even whole planes of existence. Also note that not every single aspect of the world will be detailed. For example, the lizardfolk worship their own gender-neutral god, Semuanya, who is more ancient than either Bahamut or Tiamat. But, as they are not a prime participant in the world of Aeramis (being how xenophobic the lizardfolk are), they are not mentioned much. This history is not meant to be a perfect interpretation of every single event on the planet. Just the major ones. Note also that, much like Tolkien in a way, I will probably be altering and changing things as the campaign moves along. This will remain the most up-do-date outline of the setting.
I hope, if you do read, that you’ll enjoy.
The Age Before Ages – Approx. 500,000,000 YA to 1,000,000 YA
In the beginning of time Aesgorath, somehow, came into being. Or, perhaps, he always was. Aesgorath is a being so far beyond comprehension that to call him a being (or even a him) is certainly wrong. What is more accurate would be to consider Aesgorath to be the consciousness of reality itself. A decidedly perfectly neutral individual (if even that is correct to call him), Aesgorath is the Primal Architect, the “Prime Mover,” and it is he who created all that is, all that was, and all that will ever be. In this “Time Before Time,” this “Age Before the Ages,” the universe, existed in a state of perfect entropy. It was a plane of pure arcana, light, and energy. Nothing existed save for Aesgorath and the energy. Or perhaps Aesgorath was the energy. It is difficult to say.
The Primal Sundering and the “Age of Primordials” – Approx. 1,000,000 YA to 50,000 YA
About one million years ago Aesgorath stretched out his being, deciding that he wanted to create. The universe was therefore consolidated. Called the “Primal Sundering,” the Pure Cosmos was split and destroyed, creating two new planes; the Astral Sea and the Elemental Chaos. The Astral Sea encompassed most of the universe in this time; a plane of arcana and energy constantly fluxing, a sea of color and light. The Elemental Chaos, meanwhile, was a roiling plane of magic and the elements, newly formed by Aesgorath in the Primal Sundering. Here, low-entropy regions of the Elemental Chaos formed the four Elemental Planes; Earth, Fire, Air, and Water. Aesgorath looked at the new dimensions he had formed and wanted to create more. So he shaped the hearts of each Elemental Plane into new forms, creating four Primordials. These are the great elementals, one for each plane, and from them issued lesser elementals, birthed from their forms. So they existed for many thousands of years, warring due to their polar natures, but they were not truly life but a facsimile of things to come. Aesgorath only watched, doing little to interfere as he always would.
But a third plane was created, quite by accident, far outside of and under the other two. In his shaping of the cosmos, Aesgorath gathered up the initial negative energies of the universe, placing them to the side. These cast-off remnants became the Abyss, devoid entirely of light. And in the deepest reaches of that deep blackness was born Tharizdun. From the moment of his inception Tharizdun loathed Aesgorath and order; his very own existence causing him unbearable pain. He hid away deep within the Abyss. He was yet weak, but overtime fed on the negative energies of reality that continued to seep forth, for Aesgorath did not desire to eliminate them entirely. Demons, too, were soon given form within the dark. Perhaps Tharizdun had succeeded in forming them, or perhaps they were a natural expression of the darkness of the plane (like Tharizdun) or even an extension of Tharizdun himself. Regardless they multiplied, agents of chaos and disharmony.
The Making of the Material Plane and the First Age of Aeramis – Approx. 30,000 YA to 15,000 YA
Time passed. Approximately 30,000 years ago Aesgorath, once again decided he would like to create, and formed the Material Plane. He took bits and pieces from the Elemental Planes to do so. Aesgorath created a planet, borrowing from all four planes to forge it. He then created the sun, later named Galaz, forged from the Plane of Fire, and spun it around the planet to give it light. He then created the moon, Aoede, to reflect the light of the sun and give light to the planet’s nights. Aesgorath filled the planet with new creatures, made of flesh and cells. But they were too much like the Primordials and their elementals for Aesgorath’s liking; though they were made of different things, they had no real life. So Aesgorath removed fragments of his own being, inserting them into his creations, and thus gave them souls.
This was the First Age of Aeramis, the Age of Scales, and it saw the birth of all draconic species, dinosaurs, lizardfolk, yuan-ti and naga, the dragonborn, and all other reptilian life. Aeramis, named by these first inhabitants, at this time was much larger and had only one massive continent with a scattering of smaller islands. Though the true dragons were long-lived, the universe experienced real death for the first time. Aesgorath allowed most of these passed on souls to rejoin him, but some were unable or unwilling to lose themselves into his embrace. As such, Aesgorath decided to once again stretch out his hand and created a new plane, the Ethereal Plane, which borrowed fragments from the Astral Sea. It existing on and within, and yet was separate from, the Material Plane, allowing those souls to remain behind. One could not normally glimpse the other, and it was a realm of spirits and ghosts. Aesgorath’s creation here was not without flaw; though some spirits choose to remain behind others were lost there, unable to rejoin their maker.
The dragons and dragonborn formed a powerful society which ruled over much of the world, named Arkhosia. At the same time the yuan-ti formed their own empire, Mhairshaulk, and the two states warred constantly. This bitter hatred of each other continues even to the present day, even after both countries have been nearly destroyed. The lizardfolk, meanwhile, hid away from their more direct and violent cousins. They were xenophobic, and warred only to keep others at bay.
Aesgorath became the patron of all dragon kind, known to his followers as Io. And around this time, other entities began to form themselves from the thoughts, prayers, and beliefs of Aesgorath’s creations. Lesser in power than Aesgorath, they were non-the-less beings of great stature and might. The god Sseth of the yuan-ti, though most do not know how ancient he is, and many other lesser gods of the scaled races arose in this time.
Some 15,000 years after its creation, in approximately T1A 15,205, the world experienced the Upheaval. Tharizdun had watched from afar, hidden but growing more powerful. In his anger, jealousy, and chaotic nature Tharizdun attempted to destroy the Material Plane. He issued forth from the Abyss, a host of demons with him, and struck against Aesgorath and the great dragon god’s subjects. This Dawn War was long, but in the end Io was slain by Tharizdun after a fearsome battle, ripped in two, and Aeramis was broken in half by the same swipe. A vast majority of the previous residents of the Material Plane were destroyed, though some did manage to survive. Aesgorath, however, was not truly defeated, for he is an entity beyond reality. The broken halves of his body reformed themselves, creating two new deities named Bahamut and Tiamat. Together, these two siblings pushed Tharizdun back to the Abyss. And so ended the First Age.
The Making of the Echoed Planes and the Second Age – Approx. 15,000 YA to 9,000 YA
Aesgorath, though unmade as he was, did not cease to be. His will and consciousness continued to exist within reality. Bahamut and Tiamat together remade Aeramis from its two halves, but the joining was incomplete. The planet was made smaller, and there were remnants left-over. The large continent was ripped apart in the Upheaval, severed into many smaller ones.. The dragons’ capital city, the central power of Arkhosia, lay barely intact on one of the smaller landmasses. Many, though not all, of the dragons were killed in this cataclysm, the few survivors seeking solitary refuge around the world; in fact, very few species larger than a horse survived entirely intact. The surviving dragonborn separated into clans where they could, some serving a living dragon as their lord. The yuan-ti and lizardfolk, by comparison, hid away for many thousands of years, separated from the others.
On the larger continent Aesgorath arranged for new creatures to be made, mammals and birds and beasts of the forest. Treants sprang up, given sentience through the magic that Aesgorath breathed onto the world. So too were created the goblinoids as well as creatures such as monstrosities such as centaurs, griffons, and manticores. Bahamut and Tiamat, despite joining forces to push back Tharizdun and remake the world, fell into dispute. It is a clash that continues to this day. Joining them in the divine was the dark god Bane, formed in this time by the goblins. And Yeenoghu was shaped, a demon of Tharizdun, and from him were birthed the gnolls.
As for the remnants left over from the Sundering, Aesgorath decided he wanted to create a new world. And so he first fashioned a new plane which was called the Feywild, a realm of forests and deep-running arcane magic borrowed, again, from the Astral Sea. Aesgorath separated this plane from Aeramis, though he draped it around the planet, and Aeramis was now the Prime Material Plane due to its central nature. The light from the sun and moon was able to reach the Feywild, and light shone through the many leaves. Here, among the trees, Aesgorath birthed the elves, fairies, and other fey beings. Gnomes, too, were born in this time, though as a race they were elusive and fleeting. And then, satisfied again, Aesgorath watched.
Two tribes were created in the beginning of the Age of Fey, the Second Age of Aeramis. One, calling themselves eladrin, studied and practiced arcane magic and infused themselves with it. They built grand halls and tested the limits of the arcana. The other, the sylvani found purpose in communing with nature and living among the trees. The goddess who sprang from the thoughts of both elves was Sehanine, as they all loved the moon. But each tribe also formed a second god unique to them; Corellon was the patron of the eladrin, and Melora became the patron of the sylvani. The two tribes worked well together, living peacefully in the Feywild. Then in T2A 2,308 a suggestion was made by one sylvani who claimed to carry visions of the universe (it has been theorized by elvish scholars that De’em induced these visions, perhaps hoping to gently coax his new children into setting foot on his original creation) that an attempt be made to reach the Prime Material Plane. In time the eladrin learned how to planeshift, and taught this skill to their brethren. They and the sylvani traveled to Aeramis in T2A 2,439 and began to set up residence there, taking the larger continent for themselves and naming it Astaroth. Attempts were made to reach out to the residents of the other continents, and an uneasy alliance was made between the elves and the dragons. The elves warred with the goblins and especially the gnolls (who would go on to become a most ancient enemy of the elves), so polar where they in their beliefs.
For a time Tharizdun rested, waiting. However, unrest began to seep into his heart again. The great demon had hidden himself from where even Aesgorath could not destroy him, deep in the Abyss as always. Now he had regained much of his strength, and his demons stirred. Some time around T2A 3,200 he worked to destroy Aesgorathm’s creations again, this time less directly. He focused first on the new Feywild. Tharizdun could not harm the plane in the light of the sun, but the shadows were his for the taking. Slowly he manipulated the Feywild, darkening the earth, poisoning the air, and changing its inhabitants forever. The Feywild was broken asunder, and the darkened half was called the Shadowfell. These two planes became like conjoined twins and danced around each other, never quite meeting but always connected. The Feywild rejoices in the light of sun while the Shadowfell shrinks from it. The constant shifting of both planes means that both can be entered only during specific times; the Feywild during the light of the day, and the Shadowfell at night.
The elves in this new Shadowfell became distrustful, angry, and violent. Their skin turned black and their hearts became twisted. Through his corruption Tharizdun had created the dark elves, or drow. They imagined their own new dark goddess, Lolth, and prepared for war in T2A 4,215. Battle was joined both within the “Echoed Planes” (the Feywild and the Shadowfell) and on the Prime Material Plane, the drow fighting on both fronts. Though the goblins and gnolls joined them (fragile alliances, for sure) the drow met their downfall, and thus the Fey Wars ended quickly by T2A 4,240. The drow fled, seeking refuge deep underground in the darkest reaches of the Underdark, which was Tharizdun’s other project. He had successfully corrupted the heart of Aeramis, deep within the rock and earth, away from the light. The beings that lived there had been changed, like the drow, giving rise to illithids, aboleths, hook-horrors, beholders, and other abominations of life. They created their own god, Torog. The goblins and gnolls, like the drow, fled. The largest group of goblins made their new home in the Underdark as well, though some tribes also sought refuge in the deepest parts of the wild. The gnolls pressed into the wild, always able to increase their numbers quickly if needed.
It was sometime during this age that many of the exarchs and arch-angels residing within the Astral Sea, perhaps tainted indirectly by Tharizdun as well, defected from their masters. In this moment Asmodeus, once an exarch of Bahamut, split off from the gods and twisted a segment of the Astral Sea into his own realm, creating a tiered plane known as the Nine Hells. Here is where he and his devils reside, lawful and yet evil, counterparts to Tharizdun’s and the demons’ own chaotic evil natures. Thus it was also during this time that the first tieflings were born, and most tieflings today can trace their ancestry back to a devil and his likely unwilling elvish consort.
With the drow defeated and the goblins driven back the eladrin and sylvani attempted to go back to their peaceful ways. However, a new leader sprang up among the eladrin in T2A 4,765, the Black King. The Black King dabbled in necromantic magic, a branch of the arcane that focuses on the energy of life and had previously been used by practitioners for healing and invigoration. The Black King, perhaps through Tharizdun’s careful manipulations (and perhaps not), discovered black necromancy and with it began slowly corrupting those under his service and raising the dead to fight for him. Most of the eladrin turned away from Sehanine and Corellon, though some eladrin choose to defect from their new king, joining with the sylvani. A long war between the dark eladrin and the so-called “Brotherhood Alliance” commenced. This was the Dark War, sometimes called the Black War, due to the shambling undead that made up the eladrin’s Black Legion. The eladrin, though initially very successful, began losing ground by T2A 5,199 when the scattered dragonborn clans and good-natured dragons joined the side of the Alliance. The Black King, who through all wished to see the eladrin ascend to a higher plane of existence, rounded up his subjects. He promised his followers eternal life, and that the eladrin would be able to ascend to a new state of being if they would only offer themselves to him and his will. All who were still loyal to him joined in the ritual. The energy released in the process nearly shook apart the planet, leaving it permanently scarred but not destroyed, and killing many. When the danger had passed these dark eladrin were gone, completely destroyed. The Black King was no more. This was in T2A 5,205, the last year of the Second Age.
The Third Age – Approx. 9,000 YA to 4,000 YA
Aesgorath, as always, watched and did nothing during these wars. Finally, with this final act of the eladrin done, he decided to set to work again. Some 9,000 years before the present he calmed the planet in the wake of the Black King’s ritual. Then he once again created new races; in this time were forged the dwarves and goliath, the orcs, the giants and ogres, the trolls, and a host of other beings. So, too, were in this time formed the gods Moradin and Gruumsh. Aesgorath also raised up new mountains, more than had been seen before. This was the Third Age, the Age of Rock. The dwarves and elves, not long after the dwarves’ inception, fought; the dwarves were miners and crafters, lovers of the mountains and the forge, and for that they needed wood. The elves, who now called themselves wood elves, of course objected to the destruction of their forests. And meanwhile both races fought off the warmongering orcs.
Like before, Tharizdun’s influence corrupted these new creations. The dwarves were not great in number to begin with, and some delved too deeply within the earth and were eventually transformed into the duergar. After a civil war that started in T3A 1,332 and ended in T3A 1,427 they separated themselves from the laws of King Thuvin Starhelm, creating a society in the Underdark ruled in that time by Groulga Blackshield. Meanwhile, the dragonborn were changed by an influential platinum-scaled dragonborn named Gothrake Orn Darastrix. He united most of the clans, naming the continent formerly home to the Arkhosian capital Drul’Mak.
Unlike the wars of the past, the war between the dwarves and the elves (the Conflict of Trees and Stone) was never a war of elimination; both races simply wished to remove the other from their immediate presence so that each could live as they wished. Though battles were common the bloodshed was nothing compared to those of the Fey War or the Arcane War. The conflict against the orcs and against the goblinoids, however, was (and is today) total and absolute; these races hate each other utterly, the dwarves in particular seeing nothing but evil in the orcs.
Despite these conflicts Aeramis did not see another great war for many thousands of years. Soon even the dwarves and the elves began to form an alliance, signing a treaty (The Treaty of Vel Mar) in T3A 4,500 and falling into quiet respect. The constant battle with the orcs and goblins, however, would prove to be a timeless distrust between these races. Still, the orcs and goblins had learned to avoid the other races, though raids and conflict were still common enough.
The Fourth Age – Approx. 4,000 YA to 2,000 YA
The Fourth Age, thus far the shortest of Aeramis, began with Aesgorath’s creation of humans and, with them, the halflings. Why Aesgorath choose to create when he did is (of course) unknown. Whatever his reasons, humanity began as a relatively benign force of hunter-gatherers. But they developed quickly, learning skills from the older races and becoming competent in many areas. They quite quickly became the dominant force on Astaroth by T4A 1,500, and so the Fourth Age became known as the Age of Man; the elves had grown few because of the many wars the race had suffered through, and the just-as-small number of dwarves had always preferred to hide away in the mountains. Astaroth was renamed Aerlon under the rule of man, and through their minds were created the gods Pelor (patron of humanity), Avandra (patron of the halflings), Erathis, Ioun, and Kord. The Raven Queen also sprang up in time, though what her name was at the time of her creation is unknown now, as did the god of secrets and undeath known as Vecna.
The Astral War – Approx. 5,000 YA to 2,000 YA
Tharizdun, of course, still wanted to see Aesgorath’s creations whither and die. He reached out to Asmodeus of the Nine Hells. Both were dark and evil, yet their natures were still highly conflicted; Asmodeus believed in order and ranks and kept his realm organized. Tharizdun was a being of chaos. They quarreled briefly, but then set upon an agreement to work together for the “greater evil.” They kept their cards close, however; Asmodeus wanted to rule over the planes as its king (and knew, smartly, that Tharizdun was beyond him in strength) while Tharizdun wished to destroy all, even other evil, so much did the order of reality pain him. Soon the other dark joined them; Tiamat and Vecna, Torog and Lolth, Bane and Gruumsh, and even Sseth the Elder Serpent. And then, without warning, came the millennial-long Astral War.
On the other side were Bahamut, Pelor, Moradin, Sehanine, Avandra, Melora, Corellon (who, though weaker, still held form because of the high elves, the ancestors of the eladrin who defected from the Black King), Erathis, Ioun, Kord, and even the Raven Queen. These Eleven fought against the Eight and the Other (for Tharizdun is not counted among the evil gods, as his power is something greater and far more terrible) in a cosmic war that was realized even upon the material planes. Their conflict raged for a thousand years, seeping onto Aeramis in that time. On the ground the rages of battle within the Astral Sea could be seen, vivid during the night, and sometimes threatened to engulf the planet. The mortal races were fearful, for the war of the gods would destroy them. And that is when Aesgorath descended, not to fight, but to inform. He made his existence known to the mortal races, told them of the Tharizdun’s coming treachery, and so a decision was made by the free peoples to forge a weapon which would allow them to end Tharizdun and cease the fighting. The dwarves were master craftsmen, the dragonborn skilled arcanists, the elves in close communion with the earth, and humanity brought them all together. Between them they created a vast construct on Aeramis, capable of great power, and fired it.
Tharizdun, the target of their attack, was laid low. He was not killed, for he had collected too much power over the eons, but he was severely weakened. Weakened enough that the other gods (yes, even the Eight, for though evil they still wished to rule over all existence, and Tharizdun threatened that) sealed the Great Enemy away, jailing him in a Demiplane of Imprisonment. Today, those who know of him refer to him simply as the Chained God. The gods, good and evil, agreed to settle their differences without all-out warfare. The construct built by the mortal races was empowered in such as to be impossible to be removed by the hands of even the gods, and so they moved it away, out of reach of the Material Plane, fearful of what it could do to other divine beings. Officially, the Astral War is considered part of the Fourth Age, starting on T4A 2,045 and ending exactly one thousand years later on the last day of T4A 3,045.
The Fifth Age – Approx. 2,000 YA to the Present
The Fifth Age dawned without the hand of Aesgorath to guide new creations on the world. It has so far gone by the Age of Peace, after the thousand years of unending strife experienced during the Astral War. In practice, however, war continued as it always would. The Kroscalan Empire, one of the earliest human civilizations founded, fell in T5A 256. It’s lands were later absorbed into the Kingdom of Aerlon, which arose in T5A 1,388, though the land is considered mostly desolate today. The small state of Arcanum, too, was taken by Aerlon by T5A 1,502. In T5A 1,940 the dragons Aurumas and Argenta arrived on Drul’Mak, fulfilling an ancient Arkhosian prophecy, and the two remade the Holy Empire of Arkhosia. In T5A 1,982 the Kingdom of Aerlon and the Holy Empire of Arkhosia went to war, the conflict ending only a few years ago, in T5A 2,011, with the sudden and unexpected resurgence of the yuan-ti.
Legends from Aeramis: The Nacre Amulet takes place in T5A 2,013 in late July. Galaz and Aoede (that is, the sun and the moon) are seen in fixed positions equidistant from Aeramis in the image below. The actual reality is that Aoede is *much* closer to Aeramis than Galaz, and both Galaz and Aoede constantly revolve around Aeramis. Aeramis itself spins extremely quickly, creating 24-hour days relative to its sun, while Galaz’s revolution around Aeramis is slow and takes approximately 299.2 days (creating the year). Galaz, it should be noted, is much larger than Aeramis, though in this image it appears just slightly larger than Aoede. Aeramis, like our Earth, has 12 months (January, February, March, April, etc.). However, each of its months is exactly 25 days long, the exception being February which continues to be the least-favorite child of the calendar with 24 days on a normal year (every 5 years is a leap year, when February has the full 25 days). Thus, Aeramis has a 299-day calendar year in most circumstances, and a 300-day year every fifth year. A full week is 7 days long with the same western names we are used to (Monday, Tuesday, etc.), though the week officially starts with Monday. And yes, I had considered making unique names for the months and days (Thursday would have been Karday) but I decided it would be an extra distraction while playing and abandoned the idea quickly. Aoede revolves around Aeramis as well, though much faster than the sun does. It’s speed, relative to both the speed of Aeramis and Galaz, means that the moon goes through an exactly 20-night lunar cycle.
Though the Shadowfell is depicted here associated with the moon, it actually moves relative to the position of the sun only. As such the Feywild and Shadowfell are both also constantly rotating around Aeramis’s center of origin, even as Aeramis rotates on its own axis. Though they are depicted as crescents here, the actual shape of the Feywild and Shadowfell are more akin to half-spheres, and together they form the original fully spherical Feywild originally created. Neither of these Echoing Planes are visible from Aeramis itself; though they cosmologically rotate around it, they do not exist within the same dimension as Aeramis. The same goes for the Ethereal Plane and the Elemental Planes.
Cover art: Hammer-Time by Brandon Moore, 2013
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